Saturday, March 29, 2014

I'd suggest a race

   but we have one

  It is sometimes a strategem
  we can pursue, to tempt all
  others with things we are
  not tempted by, to shield
  what we treasure. It's our
  first instinct on being ac-
  costed for agreement under
  intimidation, and on meet-
  ing other bandits in our
  path. But we also practice
  this in ordinary bargain-
  ing, paying cheap to sell
  dear. We suppose we honour,
  playing fair, praising it 
  as a kind of compass. Then
  what happens if shielding
  can't be done at the same
  time; is shielding even

  That coincidence defines
  our American Conserva-
  tism's notorious failure 
  in playing fair. Out on
  the field we identify it,
  clear as day, as a flight
  from courage. The degener-
  ate dependency on wealth 
  thus comes full circle to
  deprive privilege of the
  indispensable resource of
  its once-dependable train-
  ing. But what happens when
  this deprivation blocks a
  propagation of privilege's
  spectacular advantages, by
  stifling them? Is constant
  demagoguery the price and
  not the cause of courage's
  sequestration? What goes
  wrong with such security?
  Risk the unhinged madness
  of a day of playing fair:
  prove the safe temptation.

              Eventually everyone recognizes that they
              cannot maintain their hostile attitudes
              toward one another without injury to them-
              selves. Thus as a compromise they settle
              upon the demand of equal treatment .. So
              long as the pattern of special psycholo-
              gies elicited by society either supports
              its arrangements or can be reasonably ac-
              commodated by them, there is no need to
              reconsider the choice of a conception of
              justice .. the principles of justice as
              fairness pass this test. 

John Rawls
A Theory of Justice
  Envy and Equality
Harvard University Press, 1971©

Friday, March 28, 2014

Suppose it were Friday xcii: And one could get out soon

    This portrait, possibly taken
    backstage at Burberry, struck
    me for an unrelieved incongru-
    ity between the figure and ev-
    erything else in the frame. I
    didn't see one element to ex-
    plain his presence amidst the
    shabbiness of all around him.

    I caught myself, wondering if
    he senses this; but one could
    see, of course he does. Happy
    is that expectant final gulp.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

"I suppose you are clearing nettles at Eydon"

When last we left our vigilant, cheery Conservatives, they were posturing in the yard, disposed upon a rifle muzzle for a shooting stick, boasting of hiding our concealed handguns from the police. That rarity of cheek deserves, need I say, to be balanced by a nod to the breed's flair for the derivative, which I don't think can be better exposed than by a nifty undergraduate computer scan of their works - never neglecting broadcast transcripts - for quotations handed down to them from the real Augustan age. Or, one could simply plop one of their toadies into a club chair in a lobby bar, and ply his downy maw with trendy physic.

The process of weeding the political garden of nettles - fraudulent authorities and spurious invasions of irrelevancy, i.e., demagoguery - is not worth the bother for its own sake, because as we are advised, nettles do recur. What is advised, is the exorcism of their incubi, as Trevor-Roper put it to Catto, from our own mind. Gardens and politics are inherently nettlesome, the mind is our only resort. Meanwhile the pomposity persists, of poseurs in American Conservatism's clotted patch of precepts, and needs from time to time a virile fork. We'll always have nettles. The notion is to limit their penetration.

    I know of only two ways .. One is sodium chlorate, which
    kills everything in the ground, and seeps, carrying its
    universal death, in all directions, and leaves the ground
    poisoned for six months; the other is digging them up,
    root by root, and all their subterranean tentacles. This
    is by far the best way, and very therapeutic to the mind
    if it is congested by such extraneous matter as Oriel
    College, the Provost, Wyclif, Watergate, etc. Of course
    they come again, but fewer, and then you have the pleas-
    ure of a further spell of therapy.

Trevor-Roper goes on to implore Catto's patience with a number of scholarly questions then confounding him, for lack of genuineness in documents entrusted to his authentication. Then, elegantly, he closes his letter with reference to a lately published denunciation of one pompous poseur by another -- I enjoyed the phrase, 'her ego-ism was a bore'. Here, unwittingly, Trevor-Roper endows our talkshow twits of American Conservatism with a phrase from the satires of Juvenal, which you may rely implicitly on hearing recited very soon, given the recent publication of these letters. A free jpg of my dog's first birthday party, to the intrepid reader who first roots this out. Living in the country, I have no Fox.

Quis tulerit Gracchos de seditione querentes?

Who could endure the Gracchi
complaining of sedition?

Hugh Trevor-Roper
27 August 1973©
Richard Davenport-Hines
  and Adam Sisman, editors
op. cit.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Dep't of gentler pastimes


  Look here, Johnny -

  It says, the new Rolls
  is not a 12. It's a pair
  of 6's, super-charged, 
  with a common camshaft.

  Still goes, though, I'll

I don't doubt it. 
I'm still marvel-
ing at what Enzo 
Ferrari could do 
in just 3 litres.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

My kingdom for a Conservative

Had we noticed, that when a
Federal District Court in
Richmond threw out Virginia's
incongruous prohibition of
matrimony for persons of the
same gender, this was done
over no objection from the
Commonwealth's newly elected
Attorney-General? The names
in that political race are
not important; ambitious law-
yers come and go, and we all
pick up where we left off: a
core tenet of Conservatism,
if ever there were one.

Nevertheless, as readers of
history, you and I will oc-
casionally digress in musing
upon what might have been.
It's true, Virginia's Attor-
ney-General might not have
been elected; and it is my
fate to reside in a voting
precinct likely to have re-
sisted his accession. Read-
ers might enjoy, imagining
with me what might have been,
had his closest rival gained
that office, instead. I have
the authority of that gentle-
man's campaign literature, in-
undating my driveway in those
frosty late October days of
yore, to illuminate our study.
I will forbear to recite his
name. He might have children.
We should call him He, his
most nervously coveted office.

He has earned an A rating 
and endorsement from the
NRA for his solid record
of support for gun owners.

He was instrumental in help-
ing defeat all anti-gun leg-
islation assigned to the Sen-
ate Courts of Justice Commit-
tee this year and in previous

He was chief patron of legis-
lation, enacted in to law this
year, safeguarding the confiden-
tiality of all concealed handgun
permit holders. [Perhaps my fa-

He was chief patron of legis-
lation to strengthen your in-
herent right to self-defense
during a declared state of e-
mergency. [A very close 2nd].

He voted to repeal the pro-
hibition on purchasing more
than one handgun a month.

He is the only choice for
responsible gun owners and
sportsmen. By contrast, his
opponent .. has earned a "D"
.. and he cannot be trusted
to defend your .. rights and
heritage in Richmond.

When we were young, it was
widely trusted that American
Conservatives could not remain
idiots, forever. This straw
of faith, which they endless-
ly ribbed us for grasping, has
tended to weather in the dir-
ection of their pessimism, in
large part because of an ac-
tuarial coincidence on which
they immortally rely.

Children do not live forever.

    And yet is the verdict of well-informed judicious men always
    to be the measurement of man? "Good judgment" is in most
    cases the anticipation of the opinions of others. It is, of
    course, in some degree indispensable for success in any ven-
    ture, but as a virtue it is grossly overrated. The crucial
    shifts in policy which remove injustice, or improve condi-
    tions of life, or even those which realign alliances, are
    seldom made by men renowned for their good judgment. Good
    judgment all too often is the quality discerned in those who
    oppose change until events have either made the change in-
    evitable, or until, after years of injustice and inefficien-
    cy, the older generation of public opinion grudgingly ac-
    quiesces in what the younger demands.

This is Lord Annan, Fellow of Kings, hero of British wartime intelligence, and premier historian of English society in his own time, writing in The New York Review when I was a college boy and there were still 90 days in my brother's duti-ful life. His subject was the latest crop of biographies of a notable Conservative, Winston Churchill; and he was describing why he outlived them all. 

We are entitled to our straw of faith, it seems to me, that we can demand something finer from our ostensible Conservatives, than patronising pretensions to maturity.

Noel Annan
End of the Line
July 10, 1969
The New York Review
  of Books©

Our Age
  English Intellectuals
  between the World Wars
  A Group Portrait
Random House, 1990©

NRA Political Victory Fund
11250 Waples Mill Road
Fairfax, Virginia  22030
Vote Mark Obenshain for
  Attorney General on Tuesday,
  November 5!
No copyright asserted

Sunday, March 23, 2014

And sometimes, a picture's just a picture

    .. seeing nothing
    yet mapping a lane in the brine
      where Oedipus or Lear
    might walk as though they saw:


    For: nothing has been created.
      Nothing. Nothing. All is yet to come.
    The cloud that whirls in the Lighthouse's 
      vector confirms
    the superstitious dream of Adam and the
      geography of danger,
    the staggering keel in the shipwreck,
      the gull's wing bloodying glass.
    The ocean spins emptily. The Lighthouse
      counts three hundred
      and sixty degrees; and the salt
    comedy of unknowing begins.

Ben Belitt
The Double Witness
  Poems: 1970-1976
  Southeast Lighthouse
Princeton University Press, 1977©