Category Archives: Morality

The Others, by the Man

It’s not just that the so-called elite are cut off from the rest of us, it’s that they’re cut off from life itself. From the Zman at theburningplatform.com:

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”  – The Great Gatsby

While writing yesterday’s tirade about the conservative industrial complex and their poverty pimps, I kept thinking about the weirdness of the people who populate the upper reaches of the conservative think tank rackets. They obviously make enormous amounts of money doing very little, which is not the world of most Americans. They don’t keep regular hours at work, coming and going as they see fit. They live in communities that are set apart from the rest of America. They have little interaction with normal people.

None of this is new. Normal people learn quickly that the rich are not like the rest of us, despite the Hemingway quip to the contrary. The lack of want changes a man. Struggle, fear and the sleepless nights are the crucible of resourcefulness and creativity. The result is not just resourcefulness, but caution and prudence. It is the instinctive understanding of risk that comes from failure, what economists call moral hazard, that is at the heart of prudence. Pamper a man long enough and he loses this.

It is most obvious with our carny folk. Young people go into the circus hoping to become stars, but most spend their youth waiting tables, doing odd jobs and never doing more than some small parts in small productions. Some kick around as extras, making a decent living, but working hard. These are usually very sensible people because they know how hard it is to maintain their spot and they appreciate how quickly it can go away. It’s not an accident that these are the most right-wing people in Hollywood.

Then we have the stars who are magically plucked from the gutter and made rich, glamorous and famous. It’s rare for a mega star to have had a long apprenticeship or have struggled in bit parts for a long time. They tend to hit it big early in their career. Whatever sense they had is quickly squeezed out of them and they become spoiled toddlers, complaining about the unfairness of the world. Meryl Streep is a classic example. She hit the acting lottery and now lectures the peons about our lack of morality.

To continue reading: The Others

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The Existential Question of Who to Trust, by Robert Parry

Probably the best rule is trust nobody until they prove otherwise. From Robert Parry at strategic-culture.org:

The Existential Question of Who to Trust

 

The looming threat of World War III, a potential extermination event for the human species, is made more likely because the world’s public can’t count on supposedly objective experts to ascertain and evaluate facts. Instead, careerism is the order of the day among journalists, intelligence analysts and international monitors – meaning that almost no one who might normally be relied on to tell the truth can be trusted.

The Wright Women: “Loving Frank”, an Architect of Modernity, by Doug “Uncola” Lynn

This is a long but very interesting article about Frank Lloyd Wright, Ayn Rand, Nancy Horan, and Martha “Mamah” Borthwick-Cheney, who had an affair with Wright. From Doug “Uncola” Lynn at theburningplatform.com:

 

Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore it if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

 

For sometimes glimpses on my sight

Through present wrong the eternal right

And step by step since time began

We see the steady gain of man

 –  Welsh hymn, from the poetry of John Greenleaf Whittier

In a search for the quintessential American pioneer and archetype of twentieth-century capitalism, it would be hard to find a better representation than Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 – 1959).  An architect and builder par excellence, Wright designed more than 1,100 buildings during his lifetime, of which 532 were completed.  He was acclaimed as “the world’s greatest living architect” by the American historian and architectural critic, Lewis Mumford; and after Wright’s death; Mumford declared him as “the Fujiyama of American architecture, at once a lofty mountain and a national shrine.”

At an early age, Wright entered into a seven year apprenticeship with the innovative American architect Louis Henry Sullivan, who is known today as the “father of modernism” and the “father of skyscrapers”.  Sullivan entirely rejected the muddled embellishment of European architectural design including the opulent ornamentation of Gothic Revival, French Empire, and Italianate designs which permeated the streets of America’s nineteenth-century cities.  Instead, Sullivan favored cleaner engineering more in line with the maxim he personally coined:  “form follows function”.

Although Frank Lloyd Wright later founded his own firm in the Chicago area in 1893, his tallest building was a mere nineteen-story construction in Oklahoma. Instead of soaring urban towers, Wright consummated his own uniquely American classification of architecture known as the Prairie School, a type of organic design marked by horizontal lines reconciled in harmonic integration with the landscape surrounding his structures.   Wright’s buildings were the result of a philosophy he designated as “Organic Architecture” and it is said the name “Usonian” was developed by Wright while on a trip to Europe, whereby he envisioned a new landscape for the United States to include urban planning combined with avant-garde architectural configurations.

To continue reading: The Wright Women: “Loving Frank”, an Architect of Modernity

The Appalachian Messenger, 4/28/17

This week’s Appalachian Messenger.

He Said That? 4/24/17

From  Noël Coward (1899–1973), English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer, Blithe Spirit (1941):

It’s discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.

Alan Greenspan, Sellout, by David Gordon

Alan Greenspan offered his belief in and advocacy for free markets and laissez-faire in exchange for power, fame, and fortune, and the devil came through. From David Gordon at lewrockwell.com:

Sebastian Mallaby is the Paul A. Volcker Senior Fellow for International Economic Relations at the Council on Foreign Relations. One can be sure, then, that his new comprehensive book, The Man Who Knew: The Life and Times of Alan Greenspan, reflects an Establishment point of view. As if this were not enough to tell us where the book is coming from, Mallaby informs us that he had Greenspan’s full cooperation in writing it. “This book is based on almost unlimited access to Alan Greenspan, his papers, and his colleagues and friends, all of whom were generous in their collaboration.

Though the book is hardly a panegyric to Greenspan, Mallaby views his subject with considerable favor. Nevertheless, the book contains ample material for a more severe verdict: Greenspan abandoned the free market convictions he effectively defended early in his career as an economist. To uphold economic truth was not the path to the power and influence Greenspan sought; and he readily adjusted his beliefs to fit with his ambitions.

Greenspan attached himself to Ayn Rand’s inner band of disciples; but his adherence to free-market economics did not stem from his alliance with Objectivism. Greenspan learned economic theory from Arthur Burns at Columbia University. For Greenspan, like his mentor Burns, statistics had primary importance: economic theory emerged from discerning patterns in the data and was strictly subordinate to its empirical sources. “Burns was the chief heir to Wesley Mitchell’s empiricist tradition, and his influence restrained any enthusiasm that Greenspan might have felt for the new trends that had begun to stir in economics. … Even the cleverest econometric calculation was limited because yesterday’s statistical relationships might break down tomorrow; by contrast, finer measures of what the economy is doing are more than just estimates — they are facts.”

To continue reading: Alan Greenspan, Sellout

He Said That/ 4/16/17

― David Graeber (born 1961), London-based anthropologist and anarchist activist, Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology (2004):

If you have the power to hit people over the head whenever you want, you don’t have to trouble yourself too much figuring out what they think is going on, and therefore, generally speaking, you don’t. Hence the sure-fire way to simplify social arrangements, to ignore the incredibly complex play of perspectives, passions, insights, desires, and mutual understandings that human life is really made of, is to make a rule and threaten to attack anyone who breaks it. This is why violence has always been the favored recourse of the stupid: it is the one form of stupidity to which it is almost impossible to come up with an intelligent response. It is also of course the basis of the state.”