Friday, December 27, 2013

U.K. scandal: Sexist locomotives, male train engineers

Thomas the Tank Engine. Hideously male,
 hideously white.

Once a country goes Hard Left, there are no limits to the possibilities for lunacy. Britain is not yet executing political prisoners for thought crimes, but the Labour opposition transport secretary is aghast that there are not enough women engines and drivers in the children's books and TV series featuring Thomas the Tank Engine.
Thomas the Tank Engine is setting a poor example to children and needs more female engines to encourage girls to become train drivers, Labour's shadow transport secretary has said. Mary Creagh described the lack of female train drivers in Britain as a "national scandal" and said that children's television shows and "negative stereotypes" are partly to blame.
Not, you understand, that the U.K. has laws prohibiting women from working as railroad engineers. Nor specifying that all engines must be masculine in appearance. (How would a female engine be indicated? Eye shadow? Earrings dangling on the boiler? High [w]heels?)
Aslef, the train drivers union, is campaigning for more women and ethnic minority train drivers. Just 1,000 women, equivalent to about 4.2 per cent, of train drivers are women. Mike Whelan, the union's general secretary, said: "These figures show that there is plainly something wrong in this era of professed quality [sic]".
For authoritarians like Mary Creagh, it's the government's job to enforce equality, regardless of individuals' choice of work. Sounds familiar, what? Not enough welders in Petropavlovsk? Round up some bookkeepers in Moscow and put 'em on the next train -- with a woman in charge, of course.

I suggest Creagh turn her attention to department store perfume and cosmetic counters. She would doubtless discover -- well, except in London maybe -- an acute shortage of men salespersons. What kind of message does that send to young boypersons dreaming of swimming the English Chanel at Selfridges?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The evidence of things not seen

"Faith is the substance of things hoped for;
the evidence of things not seen."
-- St. Paul

Peace on Earth. Goodwill. Brotherhood. How remote they are to our mortal eyes.

But even in this shattered life, we glimpse something greater.

Faith may be the substance of that "something greater" hoped for, although it seems to me not the substance but the lifeline that keeps us connected, however tenuously, to Spirit. Evidence? Not the kind of evidence presented in a courtroom or academia; but evidence that something lifts us out of our thin perceptions and our fixations in time.

We can draw on another kind of evidence. Beauty, of sight, sound, or intellect -- along with love -- is also a signal path from realms that have no beginning or end, no limitations other than those we cling to.

My wish for you this holiday season is beauty. Beauty never lies. Even in this world of appearances, it is evidence that the higher ideals we seek are real.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

One nation under the God of cultural Marxism

Commenting on public issues these days, one almost has to wish for earlier times when Americans disputed with one another over Communists in government or mutual assured destruction -- subjects for grown-ups. Who back then would have conceived that today's great schisms would involve such items as Duck Dynasty and "Pajama Boy"?

What will it be next year, a shouting match over whether white toilet paper is racist?

Of course the present controversies, especially involving Duck Dynasty, carry a heavy symbolic freight. I had barely heard of the program let alone viewed it, but apparently it is the most popular cable TV show in the country. I'm a stranger in a strange land.

It seems that Phil Robertson, the leading actor on Duck Dynasty, delivered himself of some insulting remarks about gays in a magazine called GQ. It's amazing that the interview was even printed. 

The now-famous quotes I've read are couched in distastefully vulgar language, although no more so than the way many homosexuals speak. No one in the Church of Progressivism would have jibbed at the wording, however, if something similar had been directed against straights. But gays (and lesbians, and trannies) have now been elevated to the cultural Marxist pantheon, along with virtually everyone else except hetero white males.

So the cable network boots Robertson off the program, which tells you something about how deeply the values of the Left have penetrated the entertainment industry -- this organization voluntarily sacrifices its biggest cash cow because an actor has offended a population segment that, I suspect, makes up about 0.002 percent of Duck Dynasty's audience.

Predictably most of the published outrage against the network feeding Robertson to the sharks has a legalistic and defensive tone. His First Amendment rights have supposedly been violated. Nonsense. The First Amendment, among other provisions, prohibits the government from passing any law limiting freedom of speech. How quaint. Legal suppression is irrelevant; private institutions, including corporations, now do the dirty work themselves. They don't have to show you no stinkin' badge.

What most of the defenders of Robertson's nonexistent "rights" do not understand is that the cultural Marxist ruling class wants to destroy them. If they can't do that, they'll at least make sure that the people they see as the yokels in flyover country know their place, and what they can and can't say.

I understand there's a movement to boycott the network, A&E. While I doubt that it will have much effect, it's an encouraging sign that large numbers of citizens are tired of having their brains washed and their mouths taped and are willing to act directly against their oppressors. It's the only recourse they have.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Yahoo! goes full-tilt anti-white

Having long ago lost out in the search-engine competition, Yahoo! has floundered for years trying to find some excuse for existence. The company seems to have reached such desperation that it will resort to any idea that its generation ZZZ management teams can scrape off the pavement. Among other numb-brain moves, Yahoo! looks to be reinventing itself as a "news" outlet.

"Racism Literally Costs America $2 Trillion ... Ready to Stop Payment?" it asks.

It's time to stop payment all right, payment for cultural Marxist extortion. Stop affirmative action hiring of clueless employees because of their skin color, ancestry, sexual orientation, and whatever other politically correct qualifications they bring to the table. Quit spending billions on failed remedial programs to make professors out of kids who'd rather be playing basketball or shouting rap lyrics. (Although probably some colleges now offer Ph.Ds in comparative rap.) Stop paying women to have babies whose fathers' names they can't recall if they didn't write them down somewhere.

But of course that isn't the line Yahoo! takes. It's an "anti-racist" diatribe (anti-racist being code for anti-white).
A more complete accounting of the toll taken by race-based chauvinism has arrived in the form of a W.K. Kellogg Foundation study that shows fallout from racism slashing the country's wealth. The study, released in October, posits that an income gap resulting in part from racism costs the country $1.9 trillion dollars each year.

The study, titled “The Business Case for Racial Equity,” was conducted with the institute and scholars from Johns Hopkins, Brandeis, and Harvard universities and demonstrates how “race, class, residential segregation and income levels all work together to hamper access to opportunity.”
The Kellogg Foundation and the ivy league scholars play a right little game. Copy a bunch of slogans from a 1967 editorial in Life magazine, fantasize some numbers, and voilĂ ! Proof positive that the temporarily most numerous racial group in the U.S., many of whose constituents are out of work or underemployed, needs to shell out more for programs to atone for its racist bigotry that is holding back the Vibrant Fraction.

You would think that a cereal dynasty foundation and alleged scholars from prestigious universities would at least pretend to offer new approaches to overcoming their diagnosis of the problem. You'd think they'd be embarrassed to recycle tried-and-failed nostrums. 

"Among the remedies offered are an emphasis on minority home ownership in neighborhoods with increasing values ... ." Are these lackwits who toss around numbers in the trillions so ignorant they don't even know that leaning on institutions to make home loans to people who would never qualify under sane criteria was a prime factor in the housing bubble, which nearly brought down the nation's economic system -- all of five or six years ago? 

It doesn't matter. Whites must pay. And pay.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Salon writer: Why can't we all travel by bus and subway?

New York City is not the United States, except to New Yorkers. Americans just don't like density! They don't like queueing at bus stops or waiting as self-loading cargo for a subway train to haul them. What the hell is the matter with them?

"Mass transit is doomed in America," says Alex Pareene in Salon, the online think tank for the refined class of modern Bolsheviks. But he doesn't mean a limited system of mass transit for those who cannot afford cars or cannot drive. He wants mass mass transit. He has a dream where we all get to work or the grocery standing in the aisle of a municipal cattle car with as many other unfortunates as can possibly be squeezed into the vehicle.
In New York state, as in the country as a whole, more resources continue to be spent on drivers and roads than buses and trains. One transit blogger has calculated that, according to how Albany allocates transportation money, “every driver is worth as much as 4.5 transit riders.” And while Mayor Bloomberg’s administration has a generally very good record on transit, there’s always been a strange tension between Bloomberg’s pedestrian and bicycle-friendly Department of Transportation and his NYPD, which has a bizarrely antagonistic relationship with bicyclists and which rarely — as in almost never — prosecutes reckless driving, speeding, or accidents leading to the death of pedestrians.
Let's agree that New York City, especially Manhattan, is not built for the automobile. Gridlock is rarely more than one or two additional cars away. Subways and buses serve a useful function, despite being a cruel and unusual punishment for their riders. What to do? Pareene likes the idea of "congestion pricing for Manhattan's inner core." Where exactly is that? The island is nothing but one large inner core. For that matter, so is a lot of Brooklyn, the Bronx, and even Queens (three of the four "outer boroughs"). So, in addition to high gasoline prices and already-high bridge and tunnel tolls, Pareene wants to hang another anchor around the necks of the supposedly rich and privileged who believe they must drive into the central city.

What does he think -- that people drive into Manhattan because they enjoy it? The thrill of the open road as they inch past building walls of concrete and aluminum, swerve around construction sites? Alex, old son, I'll let you in on a secret -- a secret to you, that is. They do it because considering all the possibilities, driving is less dreadful than the madman's nightmare of bus and subway. Or perhaps they don't fancy walking to the bus stop or subway along streets full of vibrancy when they get out of the office at 7 p.m. Or any number of other reasons that they count as rational.
In 2008, Michael Bloomberg proposed congestion pricing for Manhattan’s inner core, proposing an $8 charge for most passenger cars, to be charged only once a day. The money would’ve gone to the MTA, to fix up subway stations, improve bus and subway service, and help pay for extensions to the system. 
Fix up subway stations? A new coat of paint maybe? Face it, the subways were built long ago for many fewer riders, with pure engineering taking precedence over comfort. Nothing can "fix up" the roar and banshee screeching as the trains decelerate or bypass the station on a central track. The multi-level platforms and stairs that twist around like an M.C. Escher engraving will stay. You'd have to rebuild the whole system from the ground down. The way they do things in New York, it would take about 30 years, with a 500 percent cost overrun, and congestion-charge dollars burrowing into the bank accounts of politicians, construction companies, and unions.

But it must be done because cars are elitist.
This should be the most transit-friendly government in the country. A majority of New York citizens rely on public transit for their livelihoods. The city and state are run by Democrats, many of them among the most liberal in the nation. Our incoming mayor, Bill de Blasio, ran as a left-wing populist. But incoming Mayor Bill de Blasio is a driver. Andrew Cuomo has been a driver, or had drivers, his entire life. There are certain richer Manhattanites, accustomed to walking, for whom anti-car policies improve their quality of life, but for most of the political class, everyone they know and interact with owns a car. 
Certain "richer" Manhattanites are accustomed to walking? How far? From Greenwich Village to West 89th Street? It may surprise Alex to learn this, but almost all of us (including non-New Yorkers) who are not "differently abled" walk places from time to time. Not as much as we ideally should, perhaps, but when it is practical and we have time. However, we don't compete to set long-distance records.

How about encouraging travel by bicycle? That makes sense for many, although not generally in huge metropolitan areas. (Amsterdam is a rather compact city much smaller than New York.) But like so many good ideas, it becomes a matter of fanaticism to those who take communion at the Church of Green. The Virginia burb I live in has put up signs that announce it is a "bicycle-friendly community." The signs partly block the view of the tree-lined streets and serve no purpose except bragging, which we look down on when individuals do it. The city fathers and mothers have had bike lanes painted, with wide white cross-hatched stripes, everywhere they can think of -- more distraction and ugliness. Some so-called bike lanes are half a block long and then disappear, I kid you not.

People like Alex Pareene and James Howard Kunstler see the answer to our transportation problems in a national program of densitization. Move everybody into the city and stack 'em up in high rises. As production-consumption units, what do they need open space and yards for? Our new God is Efficiency. Quality of life? What's that?

Your blogger, on the other hand, thinks we ought to (a) discourage population growth, particularly by stopping immigration, and (b) build more and better suburbs, not starve them. Improving suburbia may not be easy, but it's infinitely more practical than rebuilding a mass transit system so it's fit for human beings. Then again, maybe humanity is obsolete.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Calling Nell Gwynn

I used to believe in reincarnation, but that was in a previous life.

Uh, sorry. What I meant was, I used to believe in reincarnation, and that was in this life. Now ... I'm not sure. A little while ago I wrote a post about the alleged spirit of Helena Blavatsky, a founder and popularizer of Theosophy, who recanted (from the Other Side) her teaching that the soul undergoes a series of earthly lives to learn the lessons needed for spiritual growth.

It's not unusual that I blog about something and the subject continues to rattle around my mind for days afterward, until I feel like I must study it more. This was such an eventuality. Not having a bunch of time to apply to it, I decided to re-read a book that had once impressed me.

That was Encounters With the Past: How Man Can Experience and Relive History (1979), by Peter Moss with past-life regression hypnotist Joe Keeton. (More recent editions have wisely dropped the misleading subtitle, which makes it sound like a how-to manual, which it is not.) Rather, it's an account of seven people in modern times who apparently recalled, under hypnosis, earlier personalities they had once been. In each case the past life memories emerged over many sessions, and Keeton was able to shift them to various ages in those lifetimes.

(The usual disclaimer: you can add "alleged," "supposedly" or other qualifiers to such statements. I refrain from the words' repeated use simply on stylistic grounds.)

What makes Moss's book particularly interesting is that, as a witness to the regressions described, he is still willing to question various aspects of the stories told by the "past life recallers" and try to analyze the evidence for and against their veracity. I can recommend two other books on reincarnation: Reliving Past Lives, by Helen Wambach, and Exploring Reincarnation, by Hans TenDam. Both authors are scientific in their research, but seem to take hypnotic regressions at face value. 

Moss is -- correctly in my view -- on guard against assuming that the voices of previous personalities that emerge under hypnosis are literally what they seem to be. And he is continually struck by the contradictory factual status of claims by the people in other incarnations -- some remarkably accurate about little-known aspects of life in earlier times and places where the hypnotized subjects have never been, yet other statements that Moss's own thorough research tends to disprove.

I said in my Blavatsky posting, "In hypnotic regressions, there is usually a curious inability to come up with specifics, such as the person's name in the earlier life, the year, who was the king or president at the time, what the town, city, or country was called, &c." Moss writes, in a similar vein:
There are so few spontaneous mentions of births, illnesses and deaths; hopes and fears, successes and failures [recounted in the "past life memories"] are rare -- just small talk and evasive answers of the dullest kind. Memory, even if from another life, should be of stronger stuff, and it is difficult to explain why, if reincarnation is operating, a brownish skirt or a pot of rabbit stew should have some sort of immortality while the names of parents, a home town and a lifelong occupation may leave no imprint at all.
So where does Nell Gwynn, 17th century actress, mistress to Britain's Restoration monarch Charles II, come in? She speaks to us via Edna Greenan of Liverpool, described by Moss as a 57-year-old housewife who "left school at the minimum age -- then fourteen -- and worked in a number of factories and shops, and in the same time bringing up a family of five children. ...

"Edna would deny any pretension to, or even interest in, literature or history, and though she was aware of the name Nell Gwynn before her regression, she knew virtually nothing of the person nor of the social and political background." (Nell is shown at right in a drawing by Sir Peter Lely, who made a good living portraying King Charles's mistresses with much flesh to be admired.)

Despite what many skeptics think, the vast majority of past-life recollections are not of terms spent as famous figures such as Julius Caesar or Marie Antoinette. Usually they were obscure, boring lives. This is one exception.

Nell Gwynn's origins were humble, to put it mildly. Moss transcribes this dialogue (questions by Keeton):
Q. You are Nell Gwynn with all the memories of a seven-year-old. Where are you?
A. (Instantly in a coarse voice) I'm sellin' bleedin' fish.
Q. How much do you charge?
A. (Shouting out stridently ignoring Keeton) Fresh 'errings ... thrippence ... fresh 'errings ... thrippence.
Q. You don't sell many at threepence do you?
A. Shut yer bleedin' mouth. (Calling out) Thrippence ... thrippence ... thrippence.
Q. Where do you get them?
A. (Pause) Eeeeee. I think Rose [her older sister] gets 'em me. I didn't get them.
Q. Yes, but where does she get them?
A. I don't bleedin' know where she gets 'em. (Calling out) Fresh herrings? thrippence ... do you want fresh herrings, lady ... Yes, I've just chopped their bleedin' heads off ... (Pause then in the normal conversational voice to Keeton) She bought a bleedin' 'errin'.
Although nothing in Nell's speech can be verified historically, it sounds oddly convincing. First, if the 20th century Edna Greenan was totally ignorant of Gwynn's life she would not have known that the girl started her career as a fishmonger. (No one can be sure of that detail either, but all the evidence we have suggests Nell began working in lowly jobs.)

Second, anyone making up a "script" for Nell's "character" would probably not devise such near-comical lines. The rather limited swearing vocabulary seems right for a seven-year-old of the lower classes. But notice also that when she is offering them for sale to the "lady," she pronounces the h at the beginning of "herring," as though knowing that her potential customer, probably of a higher social class, might have been annoyed at Nell's usual pronunciation. Well-bred English people still look down on those who "drop their aitches," although it is now politically incorrect to admit it. But when Nell returns to talking to Keeton, the h leaves again.

"At some time before she was ten the real Nell Gwynn gravitated to the tavern-brothel where her mother worked, running errands, serving drinks and it may be anything that might add a piquancy to customers with specialized interest," Moss writes. Nell would not have been one to tax a lot of her time in defending her honor when she later caught the eye of the King of England.

Keeton advances Nell to the age of eight.
Q. What do you do? 
A. I go to that gin shop over there ... I take gins around.
Q. What do they pay you for that?
A. They don't pay me nowt -- they give it Kate [her mother]. They say I'm making a bonny lass ...
Q. Have you ever had a sip of gin?
A. Yes.
Q. Do you like it?
A. I don't know right (smacks lips several times, runs tongue over lips not very happily for a few moments) Catches yer at back of t'throat a bit ...
But this doesn't feel entirely authentic. Nell was raised in or around London. No one except those whose origins are northern English (like Edna) says "nowt." That "back of t'throat" also sounds like it's spoken by somebody from "oop theah in t'North Coontry." And bonny lass? Pure Scottish as far as I know. Conceivably Nell might have picked up such alien (for London) expressions from a person or persons in her environment, but it's improbable.

The language question is one of the most vexing in past-life regressions. The old personalities seem to talk in more or less present-day English, although there is often a sprinkling of obsolete words. If someone from a previous incarnation speaks through a subject living now, it would not be surprising if the speech pattern was drawn mostly from the mind of the hypnotized subject.

Unfortunately Moss doesn't say anything about "Nell's" accent. He would surely have noticed if it had resembled Liverpool pronunciation, so perhaps it didn't. But even a Londoner from the time of Charles II would have sounded quite different from a native-born Londoner today. I wish our author had gone more deeply into this.

In further sessions, which Moss says tallied up to 80 hours or so, Keeton interviews Nell as she relates the ups and, well, downs of her career -- she says of another of her lovers, " 'E gives me 'undred pounds fer lyin' on me back ... ." Considering all the time spent on regressions, the signal-to-noise ratio is typically poor. 

Still, there are intriguing "hits." Nell frequently mentions her acquaintance with the famous literary diarist Samuel Pepys (whom she knew well enough to nickname Pippy), which is historically correct, as Pepys mentions her in his diary. Of course this could be discovered with a little research, but Edna is adamant that she has had no time to study that era and never read a book concerning it.

Nell also mentions the plot fabricated by Titus Oates, an incident now forgotten by all but scholars of the period. 

In another questioning session, she says:
A. I know ... I know what you'd like to know.
Q. What's that?
A. I told you about Frances ... Frances Stewart -- didn't I? Well ... Charles decided he'd 'ave a new (gropes for the word) ... a new coin ... an half penny ... a new half penny ... an' Frances is on the back of it ... she's sat there 'oldin' something up ... an' something on 'er 'ead ... an' she's sat there.
Moss says, "The new halfpenny of 1672 carried for the first time on the reverse the traditional figure of Britannia, for which Frances Stewart was indeed the model."

But for someone who lived through an intensely dramatic period of British history, including the re-establishment of the monarchy after 12 years of Puritan rule, a king much remembered for his pleasure-seeking ways, the reopening of the theaters, the Great Fire, and the Plague, Nell is vague and mostly sounds unconcerned. "For an event as traumatic as the Great Plague, which must have struck the ultimate terror into the heart of every Londoner, Edna/Nell gives nothing but the stereotyped picture that every schoolchild knows," Moss says.

In one respect Edna's case is almost bulletproof. It is often claimed that so-called past life memories have their origin in information that was read or heard by normal means, but consciously forgotten (a phenomenon called cryptomnesia). According to this view, a few facts unknowingly retained from a novel, conversation, movie or similar source are released from the unconscious and form a nucleus around which the subject creates an imaginative past-life story.

Perhaps that happens in some cases. It seems, though, unable to explain what must by now be tens of thousands of regressions performed by experimenters and therapists. Considering Edna's hard life in Liverpool, England's poorest city at the time and not a center of intellectual life, the chance is vanishingly small that information about Nell Gwynn or the Restoration era came her way.

A lot more could be said about the chapter on Edna's regression, as well as those about the other subjects' regressions induced by Keeton. But this is getting to be a long entry, and you may be pushed for time, so let's stop here and ask: what can we conclude?

Very little. The evidence supports two hypotheses. (1) Something genuinely paranormal does take place. (2) Whatever emerges under hypnosis about previous lives, it is not pure memory, but has been modified by some factor or factors.

We should keep in mind, however, that nothing about past-life hypnotic regression directly bears on the truth or falsity of the reincarnation hypothesis. Even if every regression were somehow shown to be an illusion, it would not disprove that we have a continuity of lives.

I will save for another occasion -- perhaps the next posting -- a description of what might be a fragmentary past-life memory firmly lodged in my mind.