Saturday, July 28, 2012

A principle of growth

Beneath the ever-raging, dis-tractingly facile questions of electoral odds in play in the late litigation and ultimate ruling in the Supreme Court, regarding the Affordable Care Act, what is striking about this result is how it does invite us to revisit arguments affecting the act of judicial review - jurisprudence, on statutes - which flicker in and out of ascendant influence in any divided opinion of the Court. Greatly more damaged than the Right's fundamental belief, that no branch of government may intervene to remedy anomalies in the dance of the invisible hand, has been its mantra that if a word is not written in the Constitution, we may not know it.

The simplifications of this neo-originalist bar to human life have snug-gled very warmly in the timid lap of a Clarence Thomas, Sam Alito, and Antonin Scalia, boys who grew up with character disorders and sadnesses they had to project, in time, from a solecism impregnable to complaint. Their dreams reverse the fundamental principle of growth. 

It has been hard to know, whether the vulgarity of their maladjustments or the sanctimony with which their clients have celebrated them, have brought the greater shame to the nation. At last, though, we see signs that their joy in stinginess works not very well, in strenuous economic times. Who could have known, that the scorched earth of their dreams should be so inhospitable to their rest? Americans now threaten to achieve justice in the distribution of the human right to health, and why the plaintiffs risked this suit in a crushing recession, must be asked by cooler heads of a later generation. But now the light bulb is on again: free government may be used.

It cannot be one's purpose here, to catalogue the horrors this portends. Rather, we see that in so far as we are going to have a living Constitution again - in which an anticipation of smartphones, say, can assuredly be inferred - then we must get about the business again, of training ourselves to ride this elegant little machine. We need to know when to resort to it, and how to know what to expect; we need to know how to influence it, and enlarge its vision. But I do not believe that Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, much less Princeton University's everlasting regret, Sam Alito, can plausibly sit up there any more and not be exposed as simply refusing us a progressive branch of government.

'As in other sciences, so in politics, it is impossible that all things should be precisely set down in writing; for enactments must be universal, but actions are concerned with particulars.' 

Hereafter, as before, the changing combinations of events will beat upon the walls of ancient categories. 'Life has relations not capable of division into inflexible compartments. The moulds expand and shrink.' Existing rules and principles can give us our present location, our bearings, our latitude and longitude. The inn that shelters for the night is not the journey's end. The law, like the traveler, must be ready for the morrow. It must have a principle of growth.

Politics, ii
350 BC
cited below

The Growth of the Law
  Lectures at Yale School of Law
Yale University Press, 1924©

Friday, July 27, 2012

Don't you think we'd have heard, Mitt?

  It isn't small-
  government theory
  to speak of changing
  the hearts of Americans.

  If you want to be an
  ass, make sure you get
  permission for the cheek
  they'll let you turn, Mitt.

to the NRA in the tidal
wake of the Batman shoot-
ings, as to dream of any 
remedy as remote as pos-
sible from sanity, the 
completely characterless 
former Governor of Mas-
sachusetts offered witch-
craft as a dike against
the flood of unregulated 
armories in our 50-State

He'll be visited by a del-
egation soon from Mr Mur-
doch, for Mr Corleone. In 
the meantime, Americans
were left to justify the 
denials of the incumbent, 
nattering on about urban 
summer jobs.

Can it be true, what they
say about democracy, that
a people get the fanny
they deserve?

iii  Benjamin Eidem

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The thing has to be able to work

Almost a cacophony of contradiction
in this iconoclastic romp, knowing
or not, the tiresome load of which 
is palpable in every footfall of the 
archaic loafer from the billowing re-
dundantly cuffed proletarian trouser:
if you think dressing is expression,
and who doesn't, you're hoping there
is bathing at the foot of the stairs.

Because, at the end of the day, it
isn't the risible miscolouring of
Hanover against the cheek of the 
Dei Sub Numine Viget seal beneath
the paisley pocket square against
the rowdy plaid laid into a teal
hoodie with strings that don't
draw, never mentioning the waist-
line in which you cannot bicycle.
No, my good fellow, it isn't a-
bout those things at all.

It isn't, is it, Telemachus? It's
about the honour of the house, in
your time to look after it.

Homer makes us think: this is
what they're doing here, with
Odysseus away: arousing anxiety
for the heir based on the vul-
garity of their direction, which
is not ignorant, but deliberate
in inciting this protective res-

At other times, we do the same
thing, because it is about one's
being out there, drawing the heat,
Athena says:

Few sons are the equal of 
their fathers;
most fall short, all too few
surpass them.
But you, brave and adept from
this day on -
Odysseus' cunning has hardly
given out in you -
there's every hope that you
will reach your goal. 

The Odyssey
  Book ii, 309 - 313
Robert Fagles, translation
Viking, 1996©

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Summer home theatricals

Having made the decision that all his guests this Summer would assist in choreographing the theatricals of the final weekend, Gérard had rather hoped to recreate his heroic morning in the loading dock of the Pierre, starkers, when Betty Commilfaux pointed out the narrative deficiency of nothing having happened, until the great 61st Street portcullis shudderingly rose to admit the neighborhood rodents, which she categorically refused to portray. But Gérard, having dined out all season on the story of his nakedness, spontaneous and pristine as it had been, observed that perhaps she had overlooked its valiant existential side.

Quietly enough, it fell to Thorny to broker a triumphal niche for Betty, having been seeing to that necessity for her, ever since his childhood inheritance of the leeward side of Commilfaux Point presented her with a Summer playmate some 10 years her junior, a part for which recruitment had not grown any easier. Inevitably, as Thorny saw it, there would be a meter maid, for Betty to reprise her girlhood Clara to his dashing trucker Prince, tripping Gérard's Grétrian car alarm to frighten the Knickerbocker's porters into the hotel dock, Clara ethereal in Alice Bradian oblivion, as Thorny and Gérard unobtrusively shared civilities and saw to his basics: Petipa's own manuscript and a ribbon for its keeping.

And yet, of Thornhill, what? Ever the guest to pull his neighbor's fat from the fire, for every host they met; of a gravity specific enough to touch base with ground but assuring flotation by the mildest exertion; and yet, of promise, too, as Betty more than once alluded, of the entire crapshoot of Noggin's Neck with one shrewd matrimonial stroke, of self-evident facility. Commilfaux Point was scarcely the half of it; but take it, for are its altitudes and slope not impervious to damp, and its microclimate abjectly panting for Chablisienne development, the occasional anachronistic riding easement no more than an air right's swap away, between gentlemen in town?

And no one else (weighed it not upon Thorny to remember?), owned this environment-redeeming, Bet-ty-mollifying, intriguingly a-musingly complicating, even faintly ribaldly folkloric setting for his life, as no one else ever would. Thorny hadn't the time to sell things; they aggrandised, as it was, too speedily. All he could do, was to spend heroically, and hope for the best. Still, he figured himself in the mix, and was there time to be sure if he would not disappear, even to himself, in this elegant recon-ciliation of accidents of birth? Timing, he didn't read as a market player, but as one of many tonalities in time, itself: prejudicial, possibly, to dis-turb with untoward emphasis. Was it discernible then, that he was close to musing as any groom might 
do, thinking he could be thinking 
for himself?

Monday, July 23, 2012

To roll the universe, again

My father

We have a better Batman to talk about,
who simply know the intimidation to be
faced in all the porcelain of everyday
life. It's a wonder, 'Prufrock' didn't cite the frightening warning on the mattress tag - or maybe this was an enhancement of our direr times?


And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,       
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question ..

Forty years ago Princeton University filed away in Firestone Library an undergraduate thesis of some departmental excitement, To Arm the Revolution, on how the 2nd Amendment's permission for a State militia was simply a negligible sop to resistance to the new nation's radical power, to maintain a standing army. How this transitional gesture, like the 3/5 Clause to assimilate slave states, became the rallying cry of the murder industry was not that writer's concern. He only wanted to explain the existence of a peculiar little zit in the Bill of Rights. 

No one wants to spend his life, entrusting information to resisting psychotics and self-seeking gun merchants, as Prufrock does, one coffee spoonful at a time. Everyone wants something which no American is free, because of these monsters, to enjoy in unimpeded delight, the sweet and natural experiments of a pretty Summer weekend.

The poem conjures real struggle from the elements of superficial placidity, and famously resorts to the natural to portray the greatest risk. What it wants is enactment in the mind in reading it. It is an admitted curiosity, that the text's standard of heroism is so poignant, its morality so luminous that its readers aren't numbered in the millions anymore, or armed with personal howitzers. The scale of human feeling is so perfectly attuned to its natural vessel, that its power probably isn't remarkable enough today, for connoisseurs shaped by our culture. Yet history has gathered such proofs of the genius of reticence - sometimes, a heroism against the self - that this is no longer a poem about a little man we must laugh about.

From time to time we are warned of humanity's displacement by this culture, and yet we write blogs for each other within this expired, human scale. Our subject never has been dictated by this ambient aberrancy, but like Prufrock, we are aware that we are exposed in all our movements, all our gestures, all our aspirations. This is a poem about pressures not of ennui and fatigue merely, but of timidity, also, yet of the purest, most transparently self-knowing kind. It is almost beautiful to contemplate; certainly, it is elegantly wrought, contained, and expressed. We observe the open, tender link to the heart with an almost abashed response, but for its humane and kindly cherishing of our own nature. 

This poem, sometimes the bane of schoolboys' introduction to modern literature, was written by a youth of this age. Eventually, it came to be known as a love song. Again, against our own resistance, we observe, the reading of our gorgeousness must be done; and as it comes down to it, everyone is implicated. But here, and at the page in your mind, we presume a civilisation which we know to exist, which we know must triumph over the hyena of its capture in this culture, any day. Prufrocks, we try not to let it suffer the distortions of militant defense. Let us announce it, let us describe it, let us relish its brilliance, its radiance, its immunity from this time, its entitlement to this place. 

iii, v  Sam Way
ix,  x  Benjamin Eidem