Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Obama lives down to my expectations

Are you really surprised that President for Life Obama has, in Lawrence Auster's words, nominated a "Hispanic racialist, with a Hispanic racialist judicial agenda" to the highest court in the land?

Sonia "I am the Law" Sotomayor is exactly the kind of nominee I would have expected from a man who sees it as his duty to overthrow the Constitution and turn the United States into an unofficial dictatorship of his favored racial, gender, and ethnic groups.

Despite my interest in psychical research, I have no known psychic or precognitive abilities. Nevertheless, I am experiencing a strong sense of déjà vu. It is all unrolling just as I foresaw during the election campaign last year. Besides being a Marxoid product of a corrupt state political mob, His Eminence is boringly predictable. Ideologues like him invariably are.

If Americans allow a blatant Constitution denier to be placed on the Supreme Court, and do not actively take steps to reform the court that is now our ruling oligarchy, they will deserve the serfdom that will be theirs.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Nicolas Freeling

He was acknowledged as one of the finest crime fiction writers in the ’60s and ’70s; continued writing novels long after. He is semi-forgotten now. No matter. As Gustav Mahler said of himself, his time will come.

That might seem extravagant, comparing a genre novelist to one of the greatest composers of classical music of all time. In his own field, though, Nicolas Freeling deserves the comparison.


Freeling was sui generis. An expression that has also faded with the decline of Latin knowledge in criticism. It means, literally, self-generated, and it’s almost the ultimate compliment you can pay an artist. Someone who has created out of his own experience, rather than following models. Everyone has influences, and there’s nothing wrong with that – in fact, it would be foolish not to be influenced by other artists who are worth it. But not many can digest influences and then go their own way.

He had the great fortune early in his writing career not only to be recognized by top publishers (Golancz in the U.K. and Harper in the U.S.) but, more important in our age, by a TV producer. The series Van der Valk, based on his most famous character, Amsterdam police inspector Piet Van der Valk, ran for nearly 20 years in Britain. (As far as I know, it was never picked up in the States. I saw one episode of the show, in which Barry Foster played the detective, and it was above the norm for its type.) Both factors, but I suspect especially the financial returns from being on the telly, allowed Freeling to range in his own eccentric way thereafter in his novels.

Freeling has been compared to Georges Simenon, whom he is said to have admired. I haven’t read enough of the latter to say. But within the crime fiction genre, Freeling is – if not in a category of his own – close enough to make no difference.

After he got tired of writing about Van der Valk, he created a new character, Henri Castang, an inspector of the French Police Judiciaire. Castang inhabits an anonymous city resembling Strasbourg, where Freeling lived in his later days. Both Van der Valk and Castang as far as you can get from brain cell athletes like Poirot or Holmes. Neither solves fiendishly clever murderers by brilliant deduction. The detectives just wade in, get acquainted with everyone who played a role in the victim's life, and start gently messing with people's minds to see how they react. Freeling’s detective novels are not about who did it, or how, but why.


Freeling’s crime novels (not all of which center on detective work) are psychological puzzles, character studies. The author is interested not only in people, but in their families, associates, and cultural milieu. This curiosity extends to major characters and those with walk-on parts.

From Double-Barrel, with Van der Valk, unusually, narrating:

For information about all sorts of eccentric things, often simply because I had noticed something and been puzzled, I went to the burgomaster’s secretary; she was the greatest help. She knew everybody and everything …

From her I learned of the long-standing quarrel between the Head of Parks and Gardens and the Municipal Gas Works. She knew the whole history of the throat-cutting between the contractors for the new Garden Suburb, and the figures of the loss taken by the subcontractor in electrical equipment for the sake of prestige – it had been she who had seen that he had tried to make the loss up by skimping the workmanship. She was illuminating about the solitary Communist member of the council, about the row over the new hospital equipment that all the doctors claimed was inadequate, about too much having been spent on the swimming bath, and got back by cheese-paring on the new dustbin lorries.

He can sketch a personality in admirably few words. In The King of the Rainy Country, Van der Valk is asked to locate – very discreetly – an old-money oddball, Jean-Claude Marschal, who has disappeared with no apparent motive and no sign of foul play. He goes to interview Mrs. Marschal in their luxurious Amsterdam flat. It’s a standard scene in many detective novels, the down-to-earth detective meeting the rich wife, but Freeling refuses to fall into the routine of making her a condescending bitch. Quite the reverse:

A woman in a silk housecoat was standing on the steps. Narrow vertical stripes, olive-green and silver-grey.

‘Sorry – I was staring admiring.’ She had his card in her hand which she gave back to him, with a careful slow look of appraisal.

‘That does not matter in the least. Perhaps we will go in here, shall we?’ She opened a door beyond the stairs and waited for him.

‘Please sit down, Mr Van der Valk, and be quite comfortable. You have plenty of time? Good. So have I. Would you like some port?’

‘Not just by myself.’

She gave him a slight smile. ‘Oh no. I like port.’ She did not ring, but went to do it herself.

And Marschal himself, as Van der Valk gets to know him in absentia:

Jean-Claude Marschal was bored. He had a boring wearisome life, and found it tedious beyond belief. That was plain to grasp: the man simply found everything too easy. He had vast amounts of money, and was good at everything. He could win things without trying, help himself to everything he fancied without effort. If he dropped a sixpence, he found half-a-crown lying on the path. There was not much that gave him pleasure, not even vice, not even crime. To run off just because he was sick of everything was quite plausible.


Nicolas Freeling, 1927-2003

Freeling has perfect pitch for the slightly pompous talk of European officialdom of an earlier time, the '60s through the '80s (maybe it hasn’t changed much since). In A City Solitary, Walter Forestier, whose home in a French mountain town somewhere near the Pyrennes had been broken into while he was at home alone, tied up and menaced, is interviewed by a woman judge. In the French legal system, a juge d’instruction is part of the investigative process.

This animal of a judge was keeping him waiting. The company was not such as to give much stimulus: the usual lady whose nose needed blowing; the usual despondent détenu handcuffed to a black and silver gendarme; the usual businessman, venomous and carefully rehearsed. And how did he look, to these others? He has the feel of greasy steel upon his wrists, and certainly exhales an impression of deserving no better.

At last a clerk popped her head out. A small conniving smile. Walter has a quickly flitting vision of an office unexpectedly gay and decorative.

“I say!” gushing without meaning to, “I like your flowers! Sorry – good morning, Madame le Juge.” A small amused turn to the corners of her mouth. And pretty! …

“Sit down then, Monsieur.”

The clerk, at a side table, is not without merit either: flower-bright with shell-pink horn rims; fair hair in ringlets. Grinning more broadly than her boss.

“We do try, don’t we, Genviève? The flowers help us, from becoming too desiccated? Mm, I’ll come straight to the point, Mr. Forestier. I have a report here from your local brigade of gendarmerie, stating that when questioned on this matter you showed yourself a reluctant and evasive witness. What do you have to say about that?”

“True, I suppose.”

“That is candid. You understand then that I am not a hostile counsel.” Mimicking “ ‘Oho, so you admit that.’ I ask you to explain your attitude.”

“I don’t have one; I’m simply unwilling to testify.”

“I show no surprise at that. But I wish to understand.”

“The police seemed to have plenty of evidence. Or they wouldn’t have come to me.”

“The Sergeant explained that an eyewitness naturally carries weight; with an instructing magistrate – myself; eventually before a court?”

“He put no pressure on me.”

“Reluctant witnesses have in general two sorts of motivation. One is shame towards recounting damaging or humiliating episodes. They may feel they don’t show up very well. Could that account at all for your standpoint?”

“It’s true that I don’t much like to talk about the episode.”

“There is also fear. Of course many people go in fear of the law. Simply of ‘histoires’; of lengthy and tedious procedures. We can eliminate that? Good: fear then of being implicated – of the law’s powers of constraint, coercion, even punishment? I accept your denial. Or lastly, frequent in cases of violence, a fear of reprisals? Or some vengeance visited upon them for helping to shop a malefactor?”

“I’m not, I don’t – sorry, I only mean that’s not my argument.”

Smiling – “I’m waiting patiently to hear your argument. When we’ve got through your objections or hesitations you make a statement, my clerk takes it down, and in all probability the matter’s finished with. Is that so hard?”

Things go too fast, and Walter does not “think”. Later he will think that lawyers, like doctors, like engineers, are so accustomed to their intellectual superiority over all comers that they fall the easiest of prey – it’s classic – to card-sharps, confidence-tricksters and speculators of even the crudest sort.

Forestier is taken prisoner in his own home in the first chapter of A City Solitary. It seems to me a masterpiece of malevolent atmosphere, truly terrifying, even though not a drop of Forestier’s blood is spilled … though he discovers afterward that his dog has had its throat slit.

The generation before mine, thinks Walter, was unusually unlucky. Two European wars, and Spain in between. I have known people who have fought in all three, and what’s more survived them all. Whereas mine was fantastically lucky. Too young for Hitler and too old now for any emotion but complacency. The odd bomb here or there is only Corsican folklore. Europe has become a monstrous suburb and the fox or the hawk are scarcely seen. Only the rats are still there.


Freeling was himself of that generation slightly too young for World War II, but the events of ’39 to ’45 were real and present to him. His books are dyed in places with the authentic atmosphere of a civilizational catastrophe that some managed to live through, while being deeply changed by it. Writing about the Nazi high command that was somehow entwined with the past of a character, he refers to one of the Nazis as “the Fat Man.” He doesn’t bother to spell out that he means Göring. When I was a kid, people still said, “the war,” and everyone understood which.

He’s as deft describing places as people. Background can be terribly boring if an author labors over it, but Freeling is interested in where people live, the furnishings of their dwellings, their taste in books and art. His fascination, expressed concisely and with an eye for the telling detail, is infectious for the reader.

He was in a street on the outskirts of the town, a very French street leading up a hillside to nowhere, made of gravel for drainage, the potholes and bumps nicely levelled with snow, and people’s furnace clinker strewn about to keep it from getting too slidy. The Impasse des Roses, the roses were in people’s front gardens, covered with little plastic sacks against frost.

The houses were French too, amusing and individual. Ridiculous mixtures of the Savoyard chalet, made of logs built out over the hillsides, and fantasies of prestressed concrete, with garages in the basement instead of cows. They all had glassed terraces and double windows, eccentric roofs, tremendous rockgardens and the kind of letterbox with a wooden bird of no known species that nods its beak when you shove an electricity bill in the slot.

Freeling’s style shifted over his long writing career. The early Van der Valks, from the ’60s and ’70s, were reasonably straightforward police procedurals, albeit unorthodox. In the ’80s, when Castang took center stage, the plotting – never Freeling’s strength – became almost completely beside the point, the language often approaching impressionism.

Although many of the Castang novels are as penetrating in their way as those featuring Van der Valk I especially recommend Wolfnight they are a little difficult at times. He acquired a bad habit of making obscure, unidentified references that were surely lost on many readers, myself included. And it has to be admitted that his last few books have only intermittent flashes of the old Freeling cut-and-thrust.


If his reputation is in eclipse, it is partly because he is just too sophisticated for a mass audience. His dialogue is great, but doesn’t consist of the kind of snappy one-liners popularized by Raymond Chandler and carried on by such as Robert B. Parker. The titles of his books are strange, although they are usually quotations, and paid off in the text.

“The king of the rainy country” is Freeling’s metaphor for the wayward millionaire Jean-Claude Marschal, and is adopted from a Baudelaire poem:

"I am like the king of a rainy country: rich – and impotent; young – and very old. Who despises the bowing-down of his preceptors, is as bored with his dogs as with all his other creatures, whom nothing now, neither game nor falcon, can cheer. Not even subjects come to die beneath his balcony. A grotesque song from the indulged clown can no longer unwrinkled the forehead of this cruelly ill man: his fleur-de-lysed bed has become a tomb, and the ladies in waiting, who find any prince good looking, can think up no more lewd costumes to drag a smile from this young skeleton. The expert that makes his gold has never managed to purify the corrupt element in his being, and in the bloodbaths the Romans showed us, recalled to their memory by ageing tyrants, he has failed to rewarm the dulled stupor of a corpse in which blood no longer flows, but Lethe’s green water."

A City Solitary is the remote village in which Walter Forestier confronts evil. The title, we learn, derives from the “penitential psalm known as the Lamentations of Jeremiah, forming part of the old monastic ritual of Tenebrae”:

How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Affirmative action for White House art

"Government's Helping Hand" — Sculpture
to be borrowed for White House lawn

The Obamas may or may not know anything about art, but they know what they like.

The Wall Street Journal reports:
The Obamas are sending ripples through the art world as they put the call out to museums, galleries and private collectors that they’d like to borrow modern art by African-American, Asian, Hispanic and female artists for the White House. In a sharp departure from the 19th-century still lifes, pastorals and portraits that dominate the White House’s public rooms, they are choosing bold, abstract art works. … Their choices also, inevitably, have political implications, and could serve as a savvy tool to drive the ongoing message of a more inclusive administration. …

Last week the first family installed seven works on loan from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington in the White House’s private residence, including “Sky Light” and “Watusi (Hard Edge),” a pair of blue and yellow abstracts by lesser-known African-American abstract artist Alma Thomas, acclaimed for her post-war paintings of geometric shapes in cheery colors.
I can make no quality judgments about the new artwork for the Obamas' house beautiful, not having seen it. But this newer, cooler White House prompts a couple of observations, to wit:

1. The head of a nation ought to understand that his personal tastes are not the only thing that counts in such a situation. Tradition matters where a head of state lives and works. Nineteenth century landscapes by painters of the Hudson River school or Albert Bierstadt or whoever probably mean nothing (other than embarrassing relics of an oppressive society) to the Obamas, but most Americans understand them as part of their heritage.
Steve Stuart, an amateur historian who has been studying the White House for three decades, thinks the Obamas needn’t be overly bound by tradition. “You shouldn’t have to look at Mrs. Hoover’s face over your bed for four years if you don’t want to,” he says.
It is highly unlikely that there is a portrait of Mrs. Hoover anywhere in the White House, the snickering of "amateur historian" Steve Stuart notwithstanding. But why should there not be? She was the First Lady of a lawfully elected president, every bit as legitimate as Michelle the Wrestler.

The president and first lady are entitled to tweak the decor in the executive mansion by adding a few items to personalize it, but not to rewrite the script. The White House isn't "about" Mr. and Mrs. Obama, although they no doubt believe it is, along with everything else.

2. The new choices' political or ideological message is that white male artists are Out. Multi-culti is In. I do not believe there has ever before been a president who redecorated the White House to make a political point. Leave it to Obama to be the first. Soft totalitarianism marches on. In this, as in so many other things, he is signaling that he is not the president for all Americans, only those who pass his prejudiced racial and gender test.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Time out

Nicolai Fechin, Nasturtiums

Your blogger will be away until after Wednesday the 20th, and it is unlikely there will be any posting meanwhile.

Why the Fechin? Simply because I don't want you to feel you have clicked here totally in vain (although I may be totally vain to imagine you would care much), and because Fechin is perhaps the greatest painter in my experience who is largely unknown except to specialists. You have to see the original oils for your jaw to drop to its full range, but Nasturtiums is fine as reproductions go.

Well, okay. Here's another.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Honey, I shrunk the house


Small is in. Beauty is optional.

The Church of Environmentalism is dead keen on making everything micro. A foot that prints less carbon. Energy efficient. Keeping down with the Joneses. And, best of all from the standpoint of meager-is-better environmentalists, literally downsizing everything means we can accommodate lots more overpopulation. Bring on the next batch of serial-pregnancy immigrants. You know small houses are trendy when there's a coffee table book dedicated to them, from Rizzoli, publishers to the arty rich. The Los Angeles Times, in the city that's always ready for the next next next thing, has a photo gallery of pictures from Tiny Houses, by Mimi Zeiger.

"Lucky Drops," designed by Atelier Tekuto. In the spirit of a Gothic cathedral, or alternatively, a pregnant ironing board for those clothes hanging out to dry next door.

Located in New Orleans, with a special hurricane viewing veranda. Fits right in with the neighborhood architectural tradition, too.

Described as "a prefabricated flat-pack structure that yields a 500-square-foot interior," this environmentally sound dream home will turn your too-cool-for-their-world friends green, or Green, with envy. Just hope nobody mistakes it for a dumpster while you're enjoying a mini-cup of tuberose tea inside.

Sustainable living in Oslo. When not occupied while Dad is away on the herring boat and Mom is teaching Pilates classes, the dwelling does ancillary duty as a railroad-siding crash barrier.

Bet you thought the object to the left was the house, didn't you? Ha! The SmartHouse gets 344 miles to the litre and moves on wheels for maximum sunlight exposure. Optional luggage rack/clothes closet available.

Consider the effect of your 4 br, 2.5 ba mansionette on the environment and think shrink. Little things mean a lot.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Robin's remorse

A woman named Robin, from Berkeley no less, describes her conversion from leftism in American Thinker. She is now a recovering liberal, she says, and apologizes to people she has harmed, especially herself:
I didn't know any better. I thought the whole world lived in areas where the streets are filthy, aggressive street behavior is allowed because the perps are victims of capitalism, and where you can easily get mugged walking down a street or eating in a restaurant at noon. (By the way, with the Left in charge, expect gangs, crime, indoctrination of 5 year olds and general anarchy to be coming soon to a neighborhood near you.)

Given that the media is pretty much censored (good luck finding a conservative book in your local "independent" book store or hearing a Republican speak anywhere), you didn't know that a party of grown ups even existed that didn't advocate screaming at others as the preferred mode of communication. So to my dear Robin, apologies for what I put you through, what I deprived you of, and my pledge to do better.
I expect we will hear more than a few such recantations as the attempted remake of the USA into Obamastan gathers steam. But although Robin deserves credit for willingness to change her mind, and for courage if she still lives in Berkeley — I sincerely hope she is not kidding herself about being able to withstand the hatred she will encounter — to judge from her self-description, it is questionable whether she has actually become a conservative. It's rather like she has become angry at liberalism, which is not the same thing.
I started hearing about many other incidents where loyal Democrats were being physically and emotionally threatened for supporting Hillary. A woman in Berkeley had her front window broken because it displayed a poster of Hillary. Randi Rhodes, an Air America talk show leftist, called Hillary a f______ witch. (Rhodes was recently promoted to a national talk radio show, illustrating another disturbing trend: the deafening silence about what Rush Limbaugh has dubbed the new "thug-ocracy.)

An acquaintance had her car broken into, and the only item stolen was a NoObama bumper sticker. A South Park episode featured an episode where a nuclear weapon was being aimed at Hillary's genitals. My local greeting card store sold very flattering cards about Obama, insulting ones about Hillary, and a Hillary "nutcracker." When I complained, the young male manager literally laughed in my face.
Is Robin, at heart, a "loyal Democrat" who is ticked off because Obama supporters disrespected her beloved Hillary? Her diatribe reads like a fit of pique. Perhaps that's not fair to her — she can't be expected to describe her new outlook fully in a short article — but she seems more fixated on settling scores than on principles. It's all about her feeling hurt and insulted.

Taking a stand against the soft totalitarianism of Obama nation is fine, but it would be
more of an achievement to understand what conservatism is actually about, things like belief in limited government, the federal system, judicial restraint, free markets, local traditions, Western culture, and more.

What, for instance, would she have to say about the leftist Establishment's ethnic replacement policy, which no one has ever had the opportunity to vote on, that is transforming California as gleefully described by the Los Angeles Times?
More than 1 million immigrants became U.S. citizens last year, the largest surge in history, hastening the ethnic transformation of California's political landscape with more Latinos and Asians now eligible to vote.

Leading the wave, California's 300,000 new citizens accounted for nearly one-third of the nation's total and represented a near-doubling over 2006, according to a recent report by the U.S. Office of Immigration Statistics. … Mexicans, who have traditionally registered low rates of naturalization, represented the largest group, with nearly one-fourth of the total. They were followed by Indians, Filipinos, Chinese, Cubans and Vietnamese.

The new citizens are reshaping California's electorate and are likely to reorder the state's policy priorities, some political analysts predict. Several polls show that Latinos and Asians are more supportive than whites of public investments and broad services, even if they require higher taxes.
No doubt; many nonwhites will be happy to receive more "services" such as free (for them) child support and healthcare, while sending the bill to California's rapidly dwindling core of taxpaying businesses and middle class people. Is Robin prepared to take a stand on touchy issues involving race and immigration? Or would she revert to type if only liberals had better manners and Hillary rotated into the White House?

Jesus said something about how not all those who cry "Lord, Lord" will be saved. True conversion is a matter of mind and heart, not of the emotions.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Bank "stress test" looks like a sham

The "stress test" to separate the sheep from the goats among banks apparently was wired by the government to present a false picture of their general financial health. The Wall Street Journal broke the news:
The Federal Reserve significantly scaled back the size of the capital hole facing some of the nation's biggest banks shortly before concluding its stress tests, following two weeks of intense bargaining. In addition, according to bank and government officials, the Fed used a different measurement of bank-capital levels than analysts and investors had been expecting, resulting in much smaller capital deficits.

This after a week of carefully "leaked" information from the stress tests to suggest that with a few exceptions, the banks were the picture of health, no time bombs on their books they couldn't deal with. Investing suckers rushed to put their money on the table and bank stocks (along with many related names) were on the hop.

Your blogger was skeptical. Unfortunately there was no way to make money on it, because there was no way to tell how long the suspected deception would go unchallenged, and a short position could unravel quickly if the financials carried on rallying. But as it turned out, the banks' days of wine and roses seem to have run out already.

John Hussman, a principal in the Hussman Funds, says the regulators have failed an ethics test.

To some extent, it is not possible to get full and fair disclosure using the method that regulators used in the first place, since it relied on banks' self-estimates of their potential losses in a further economic downturn. These of course being the same banks that made the bad loans, and have already proved themselves vastly incapable of loss estimation and risk management. Moreover, the Fed only asked for loss estimates for 2009 and 2010, not beyond – “Each participating firm was instructed to project potential losses on its loan, investment, and trading securities portfolios, including off-balance sheet commitments and contingent liabilities and exposures over the two-year horizon beginning with year-end 2008 financial statement data.” This period specifically excludes the window where we can expect the majority of “second wave” mortgage losses to be taken, as it does not capture any losses that will emerge as a result of mortgage resets from mid-2010, through 2011, and into 2012.

The “stress test” procedure also conveniently excludes any potential mark-to-market losses during 2009 and 2010, as banks “were instructed to estimate forward-looking, undiscounted credit losses, that is, losses due to failure to pay obligations (‘cash flow losses') rather than discounts related to mark-to-market values.”

Why should we be surprised? In the minds of the present administration, the stock market is just one more institution to be manipulated by the Obamintern, which hates everything about America except its pliable minorities and its financial overlords.


Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Cloud Appreciation Society


The windy country of the clouds …
— Christopher Marlowe, Dido, Queen of Carthage

One of the few remaining pleasures of air travel is meeting the clouds. I'll even select a window seat on a short flight, just to get a better look. What was, a few minutes before, a symbol of the ethereal and unreachable now seems to draw us up like dew as the airplane climbs. Now we enter the clouds, they surround us, shake us in our seats, envelop us in semi-darkness.

We've climbed through, the air's ceiling is now its floor. Outside the window, seemingly close enough to touch, knowing no laws except those of physics, are those vapor sculptures rippling and curling, sending up tentacles as though to shake hands or wave us good-bye as we leave them below.


I have noticed that even people who exalt the drama of untamed land and gush over flowers can seem curiously blind to the fantastical beauty of clouds. They were treated perfunctorily in painting while Renaissance artists lavished their attention on the intricacies of flora; only with the advent of the 17th century Dutch landscapists, especially the greatest, Jacob van Ruisdael, did they begin to get their due. With the end of the Romantic era, clouds again became personae non grata (gratae? I have small Latin and less Greek) in art.

John Ruskin was typically sensitive, and typically purple prose–struck, when he wrote (quoted on the web site of The Cloud Appreciation Society):
It is a strange thing how little in general people know about the sky. It is the part of all creation in which nature has done more for the sake of pleasing man, more, for the sole and evident purpose of talking to him and teaching him, than in any other of her works, and it is just the part in which we least attend to her. …

The sky is for all; bright as it is, it is not “too bright, nor good, for human nature’s daily food,” it is fitted in all its functions for the perpetual comfort and exalting of the heart, for the soothing it and purifying it from its dross and dust. Sometimes gentle, sometimes capricious, sometimes awful, never the same for two moments together; almost human in its passions, almost spiritual in its tenderness, almost divine in its infinity, it is surely meant for the chief teacher of what is immortal in us, as it is the chief minister of chastisement or of blessing to what is mortal.
Whether the sky and its meteorological phenomena are designed to teach us or delight us, or are designed for us at all, would be questioned by many today. We won't get into that here. But clouds are surely as capable as anything else in nature of allowing the intuition of deeper meaning to seep into our awareness. Wordsworth nailed it, I think:

The unfettered clouds and region of the heavens,
Tumult and peace, the darkness and the light —

Were all like workings of one mind, the features

Of the same face, blossoms upon one tree,

Characters of the great Apocalypse,

The types and symbols of Eternity,

Of first, and last, and midst, and without end.


To return to an earlier question: why are clouds low on nature's hit parade? It can't be because they're rare — in most climates, few days go by without a sighting.

Maybe it has something to do with their constant mutation. A flower alters (Nabokov: "The dandelions had changed from suns to moons"), but not usually as we watch. Mountains present the same face to us throughout a lifetime. Landscapes, where we leave them alone, are comfortingly stable, "One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever."

Not so clouds. They redraw themselves constantly and endlessly. Maybe this makes us unconsciously a little nervous, reminding us of the transience of so much we hold dear — loves, friends, position, wealth, reputation.

But, light refraction aside, it's that fluidity that is part of clouds' wonder. A river in heaven that can never be stepped in twice, nor any person to step in it twice, unbindable.


At a talk by Alan Watts that I attended once, he was trying to convey the essence of Zen, a knowledge that was not a knowledge of any thing, the workless and wordless comprehension of what cannot be grasped. We don't get it as long as we're obsessed with cause and effect, one gear turning another, this must be because that was. Zen is beyond causes and rules, he said (it was a long time ago, but I think I am quoting him basically correctly). Zen is … well, all you can really say it's about is, isness. To get an idea of the spirit of Zen, of a state beyond logic and causation, look at a cloud, he said — and this I do clearly remember — "Have you ever seen a cloud that made you think, no, you can't do that?"

Some clouds, to be sure, are strange because of unusual atmospheric conditions, though they rarely if ever strike us as unnatural. But whether they're odd or the everyday variety — The Cloud Appreciation Society has a wonderful gallery of photographs — clouds remind us that we are never far from the undefined, the ordinary that is unfathomable.


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Another brick in the wall

Britain has announced that certain people will not be allowed into the country because — at least in some cases — it doesn't like the way they think. From The Independent (tip of the hat: Lawrence Auster):
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said she decided to make public the names of 16 people banned since October so others could better understand what sort of behaviour Britain was not prepared to tolerate.

The list includes hate preachers, anti-gay protesters and a far- right US talk show host.

A country is not obliged to admit anyone who wants in. I'd like both the United States and Britain to see off more of the unsavory and dangerous than they do. But who does the Home Secretary consider mad, bad, and dangerous to know?

The list includes hate preachers, anti-gay protesters and a far- right US talk show host. …

The list of the 16 "least wanted" includes radio talk show host Michael Savage, real name Michael Weiner.

"This is someone who has fallen into the category of Hamas MP Yunis Al-Astal, Jewish extremist Mike Guzovsky, former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard Stephen Donald Black and neo-Nazi Erich Gliebe," Ms Smith told BBC Breakfast.

Michael Savage gets on my nerves. His shouting, his endless repetition of every point, his fingernails-on-a-blackboard New Yawk accent … ugh. As far as I know, however, he has never been accused of any crime, except anti-liberalism.

Also named are American Baptist pastor Fred Waldron Phelps Snr and his daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper, who have picketed the funerals of Aids victims and claimed the deaths of US soldiers are a punishment for US tolerance of homosexuality.
I've never heard of either, but if that is an accurate portrait of them — not an automatic assumption, given this is from the way-left Independent — they are contemptible wackos. But that, too, is not itself a crime.

So how is it that Savage, Phelps "Snr" (that means Senior, for Yanks unfamiliar with strange Brit abbreviations), and Phelps-Roper are in the same most-dangerous category as "Hamas MP Yunis Al-Astal, Jewish extremist Mike Guzovsky [a case of moral equivalence?], former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard Stephen Donald Black and neo-Nazi Erich Gliebe"?

Namer-and-shamer Jacqui Smith explains it: "This is someone who has fallen into the category of fomenting hatred, of such extreme views and expressing them in such a way that it is actually likely to cause inter-community tension or even violence if that person were allowed into the country."

Translated from Government Mafia jargon, that means something like: "This is someone who sees Islam and sharia law as threats to Western society. As if that wasn't bad enough, he says so — on the radio, my dear No-God! And since the United Kingdom has encouraged its colonisation by thousands of beheaders-in-training, screaming misfits, and jihad-supporting imams, some of our not yet dhimmified citizens might be encouraged to become a bit tense over the position, which could lead to violent demos by our Muslim community in righteous repugnance at unrestrained infidel behaviour. As we all know, Britain has defended through the centuries, since the very days of Richard the Chicken-Hearted, individuals' right never to have to hear a word challenging their belief system."


Monday, May 04, 2009

What are tea parties protesting?

Reflecting Light is taking a brief vacation from its vacation from politics. I was going to write about clouds today. Clouds refresh the parts of us that concepts cannot reach. But the shocking changes that our country is being subjected to call for comment, however I might wish to turn my attention to symbols of the Everlasting. The nice thing about the Everlasting is, well, that it will always be there. The same cannot be said of liberty, free speech, cultural continuity. Clouds will have their posting here in due course.


Apparently the April 15 tea parties were well attended — I say "apparently" because the mass media, household servants of the Obama machine, scarcely noticed them; you have to read blogs or look at videos on YouTube to get the picture. The lack of coverage may turn out to be a good thing. If you were in the midst of thousands on that day, knowing that there were similar rallies all over the country, and found that it hadn't happened and you didn't exist as far as the Living Dead media were concerned, that might stir further thoughts about the status of power in this country.

The tea parties were encouraging, of course. They were the first time I can remember when large numbers of conservatives — including many who were formerly complacent or apolitical — took to the streets nationwide demonstrating against political malfeasance. It wasn't a long journey, only the proverbial first step.


But what are the protests about? Looking at web sites for the upcoming action, scheduled for September 12, it's not clear. Many, like this, sound generically anti-taxation, like budget hawks with upraised muskets. A few, like this, have a long agenda, mostly items on the conservative shopping list for years. But if the tea parties are to matter, they have to carry the struggle into new territory, because the immediate danger — of our becoming a society in which the State makes every decision and the individual's role is to consume, produce, and obey — goes way beyond traditional liberal versus conservative arguments.

So there are ditches on either side of the road, and the new energy of protest can run into either and wind up with its wheels spinning in the air.

If it becomes just blustering about taxes and Mad King Obama's borrow-and-borrow, spend-and-spend vote buying, it's likely to be futile. It then becomes an argument about economics rather than principles of a free society.


If the tea parties are no more than agitation for various reforms, worthy though many of them would be, they miss the point. There are times in history — and we have been lucky that they've included most of the years of our republic — when reforms, even incomplete, keep the society going reasonably well. This is not one of those times. Not when a radical overthrow of what the United States has meant is happening before our eyes.

If not stopped, it could unfold amazingly fast. Britain has turned into an Orwellian, corrupt, dysfunctional catastrophe, mostly in less than two decades since Labour took over. Here we face the prospect of being reduced to servants of a globalist elite–controlled government with the power to save or kill businesses; dilute the indigenous population with alien tribes that can be easily bribed with welfare and preferment; pull down the foundations of our armed forces and security agencies; and suppress or criminalize blogs, radio, or speech that challenge the party line.

Bring on the tea parties. But understand what we're really up against, and act accordingly.


Friday, May 01, 2009

Un-man-caused disease


A month ago Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, following President for Life Obama's kinder, gentler approach to terrorism, announced that there was no longer any such thing. Acts that we unenlightened proles might mistake for terrorism would henceforth be called "man-caused disasters."

The same progressive approach has been placed in the service of our health. "Swine flu" is officially over.
The Council on Swine-Human Relations objected to the old tag. It has been rebranded "H1N1 flu."

Blinking hell. Now we have to be politically correct so as not to offend diseases.

It's an ill wind that blows no good at all …

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