All posts by mallagher

Pulling the Plug on Donald Trump

We are getting close to judgment day (election day) and some things are petty clear. The first and most important is that Trump will only win this election through an act of God. He is behind in too many polls, and as conservative columnist Ross Douthat has written, he has nothing to offer that would appeal to voters outside his core base of support. Put bluntly,, he has missed the boat.

We should not be overly surprised, therefore, that political actors who have something to lose by supporting Trump further are jumping ship. And that may include folks in the White House itself. Today, for example, I noticed this post based on leaked documents from the White House task force. Bottom line: the blame for failing to react to the recent surge is all on Trump – not them. Will this save their reputations? If history is any guide, the answer is a resounding “no”.

Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, Trump appears to be in severe denial mode. He doubles down on the antics that he thinks people love. But they are not winning over voters. For example, who really cares if he is “running angry” or if he thinks that Fauci is a “disaster”. It is just noise.

BTW, so why is Trump doing these rallies? It may be that he has to. Why? While Trump took in over $1 billion in election donations since 2017, he spent most of it already. The campaign is starved for cash at crunch time. So the rallies may be the only way to get out a message. The most galling thing for those donors is that Trump the billionaire spent a good chunk of that money on his own legal bills.

So if you were his campaign chair, would you want him to attend the third debate? The campaign appears to be hedging their bets on that one — on the one hand, complaining about the format that might justify pulling out, and on the other not pulling out — at least not yet. Meanwhile, Joe Biden doesn’t really need that third debate. He could skip it and be just fine.

Watching this, you have the feeling that the roof is finally caving in on Trump world. And it is not a moment too soon. So to be on the winning side, you need to get out and vote. Go for it! Let’s send this dude and everyone associated with him packing!

Fantasy Cars: 300 mph? That Used to be Fast

Of course it still is fast, but it is not the record.

“Earlier this month, the SSC North America headed out to Nevada to see if it could earn itself a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. By the end of the day, the boutique automaker’s astonishingly powerful hypercar had established a new record of 316.11 mph, a number that easily eclipses the 304.77-mph mark previously held by Bugatti’s speedster.”

SSC North America Tuatara hypercar

Wow! I didn’t think this was possible. Robb has the details.

Discussing Clark’s Civilization: Heroic Materialism Episode 13

This is the last segment of this incredible series. And in it, Sir Kenneth Clark takes us through the 20th century up to 1969. He then sums up with his own thoughts on our future.

First – why the modern “celestial city” lacks a human dimension

We start by looking at New York. It reached its current development in about the same time it took to build a cathedral in the middle ages. But it was not built to celebrate God. Instead, it celebrates money. From a distance it may look like a “celestial city” but closer up, things are not quite as enchanting. Grim uniformity and even more grim poverty.

From the start of the industrial revolution, a recognition that humanism was off the rails

It stirs the conscience, and it did from the start of the industrial revolution, which coincided with attempts to improve the human condition. From improving working conditions to ending the slave trade, the life work of Wilberforce. Does civilization need slavery? Perhaps if civilization is just about extracting profit from work. But if civilization is about enhancing man’s creative capacities, slavery is a deadening influence. So too is poverty, illness and the rest of the ills that have best mankind from the dawn of history

From charity to ending slavery to recognizing inhuman conditions.

Up until the 19th century, no one thought these things could be cured. The only thing one could do was to perform acts of charity. But slavery was by far the most horrendous of man’s ills and no charity could help lessen its horrors. Over 9 million slaves died in the Atlantic crossing. And the abolition of slavery was the first achievement of the awakened conscience of the Victorian era. Of course, the Victorians did not have the same resolve in dealing with the social problems right under their noses . the urban poor. The exploitation of the industrial era was massive. Dehumanizing. Burns got it right.

What enabled this? The work of economists such as Ricardo and Malthus were taken as gospels and gave ignoring social ills a certain credibility. It was a case of mass hypocrisy, and by now, our revulsion at this hypocrisy may have taken us too far, as we reject also the virtues of the Victorians as well. Their craving for respectability.

Led to the rise of humanitarianism and kindness as a value

The startling rise in population during this time was itself a major problem causing urban poverty and clumsy reactions. Engels wrote about it. Dickens popularized the same attitudes. Fry with prison reform, Lord Shaftsbury with reform of child labor and health. An expression of humanitarianism – a great achievement of the 19th century. The value of kindness was a new value, not understood by earlier ages. It rose against the urge to protect property rights.

Kindness as an offshoot of a new prosperity brought by engineers

Kindness is an offshoot of prosperity, and anti-materialists find it objectionable. But crating prosperity was a 19th century obsession. The railway helped to “conquer” distance. The engineers were the geniuses of this pursuit – in the use of iron. Suspension bridges are a good example. Brunnel was a leader of this group, who loved to take on the impossible like the great western railway. He is the ancestor of modern New York. This created a new architecture, shapes suited to use and governed by the materials that it used.

And what of art? Courbet, Seurat and Renoir

So what use art? In the great exhibition of 1851 you could see how the engineering of the crystal palace was far superior to the art that could be found within. In France, however, you did find artists who fused their art with social reform. Courbet stands out. Seurat also who created a new style. Renoir as well escaped the tensions that the awakened consciousness had unleashed.

Leading further to an aesthetic of atonement – Van Gogh and Tolstoy

The impressionists did not strive for success – except for Van Gogh. He brought out a need for “atonement” He identified with Tolstoy – who said we must share the work of the peasantry. Tolstoy’s ideas are riddled with inconsistencies. But he was an icon. His death led to a huge public reaction, and his funeral an enormous event that the public officials could not control.

The rise of science as an end in itself changed everything

Within a few years, Einstein and Rutherford had made their scientific discoveries, and created the age that we now live in. The discoveries of people like Edison had been more practical. Science now began to exist for its own right, and achieved the status of the artist. Where will we end up with this? We cannot know. Though we can note our increased reliance on machines – no longer just tools, but partners in thinking. Sadly, abused by authoritarians. And we can note our urge to destruction, seen at full force in two wars that released a flood of evil. Add to that the nuclear weapons we have at hand, one might question the future of civilization.

Is it a new era of barbarism?

Are we headed to a new period of barbarism? Clark says “no”. The isolation, lack of curiosity, and hopelessness of the dark ages are not present now. Instead, the young are full of ideas and convictions – perhaps more so than in any previous era. So it is no surprise that the young do not like the current institutional array. Sadly, we cannot achieve anything without institutions that work.

The way forward – find a new center

So how do we go forward? Clark advances his values. He believes that order is better than chaos. creation better than destruction, gentleness is preferable to violence, forgiveness to vendetta, overall knowledge is preferable to ignorance, and human sympathy is more valuable than ideology. Despite the advances of science, men have not changed much in 2000 years. That is why “history is us”.

Not just that, Clark makes the case for courtesy, to avoid hurting other people’s feelings, and for remembering that we are part of a great whole – call it nature. All living things are our brothers and sisters. Above all, Clark believes in the God given genius of individual, and he values a society that makes those things possible. The series has been filed with great works of genius.

Civilization in the west has been a series of rebirths we need one now

The achievements that Clark has shown demonstrate that western civilization has been a series of rebirths. This should give us confidence in ourselves. Lack of confidence is our main enemy. Yeats brought this out in his poem. “Things fall apart …” That was true between the wars, but not so true today. We are full of conviction but have no center. The moral and intellectual failure of Marxism has left us no alternative to “heroic materialism” and that is not enough.

Clark’s final words are sobering — One may be optimistic but not joyful at the prospect before us.

Covid-19 Update

Of Special Note

  • China’s aggressive actions have enabled it to control the virus
  • WHO says the US and EU are not quarantining correctly
  • Live covid found on a frozen food package in China
  • The surge continues in Europe and the US

From NYT

  • Britain – The mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has spent days warring with Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain over the government’s plan to impose the highest level of coronavirus restrictions on hard-hit Manchester, shuttering pubs, bars and gyms and forbidding all socializing by people from different households.
  • Europe – Museums in Europe have reopened, but visitors have not come back in high numbers. Institutions are reporting only about one-third of the visitors they had last year. Even government bailouts may not be enough to make up for the drop in ticket sales.
  • Poland’s deputy prime minister and de facto leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, is going into quarantine after learning that he had been in contact with someone infected with the coronavirus.
  • Australia – Officials in Melbourne, Australia, eased a lockdown, allowing residents to travel up to 25 kilometers from their homes and permitting up to 10 people from two households to socialize outdoors.
  • Australia. Twenty-five crew members aboard a livestock carrier docked at a port in Western Australia have tested positive for the virus.
  • South Africa’s health minister, Dr. Zwelini Mkhize, said that he and his wife, Dr. May Mkhize, had tested positive for the virus and that he was optimistic they would “fully recover.”
  • China – As most of the world still struggles with the pandemic, China’s economy is growing. It surged by 4.9 percent in the July-to-September quarter, compared with the same period last year, suggesting that a fast economic rebound is possible when the coronavirus is brought firmly under control.
  • United States – President Trump called Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, “a disaster” and said that people were “tired” of hearing about the coronavirus.

From BI

From HuffPo

From The Guardian

Discussing Clark’s Civilisation – The Romantic Rebellion and the Fallacies of Hope

This episode of Clark’s Civilisation series may be the most immediately relevant to our modern times. Clark opens our eyes to our modern convention of artistic rebellion. You might watch, while you follow with the following notes – a sort of score to the opera. Enjoy!

Clark starts with the tension between the reasonable and the emotionaland highlights the problem with finite and enclosed world of the enlightenment.

The enlightenment carved out a “finite reasonable world” with a love of symmetry. The problem was that it was enclosed. An enclosed world becomes a prison of the spirit. And with the romantic movement (Beethoven is an example), European man once again was on the move to strive for something beyond his grasp. The odd thing about this movement is that we are still part of it. We are still “victims of the fallacies of hope”.

He notes the rising passions of intellectuals in the late 18th century Recognition of the possibility of progress led to demands for it to be realized.

All the great romantics were obsessed by the movement one finds in the sea. It was an escape from reason. This escape was needed in order to blast the heavy foundations of European societies. Argument was replaced by vivid assertions (Rousseau on man being born free, Robert Burns, a man is a man for all that,), The tidal wave of this series of assertions was the French Revolution.

And this takes us to the initial bliss of the French Revolution.

This event evolved from a small dissent, to attempts at constitution making, the raw cry of a popular movement. David recorded the scene where the assembly voted on a constitution. The first steps toward revolution were pedantic an. It was pedantic and confused – a holdover from the age of reason. But 3 years later, the mood had become more wildly passionate, and the excitement drew in the most enlightened spirits of the age. Wordsworth‘s expression of bliss and paradise capture that mood – a mood that especially resonated with the young to throw off the corrupt ways of their elders.

Sadly, bliss turned to a sort of madness based upon the illusion that the violence was justified by virtue.

The revolutionaries sharply defined their goals -to change everything, even the calendar. It embodied the love of nature. They wanted to replace Christianity with a religion of nature. But all of this came to grief in 1792 – a savage mob excess, brought on in part by the threat of invasion by foreign powers. And at this time, the leaders of the revolution took on a dangerous attitude – THEY BELIEVED THEMSELVES TO BE VIRTUOUS. Those who lacked this virtue were destined to the ultimate punishment. Anarchy was let loose (an attractive political doctr9ne – in theory only). .David attempted to rescue the dignity of the virtuous cause with his painting of Marat. It could not mask Marat’s own complicity in crime.

And the madness led to the rise of the great romantic military leader – Napoleon

This mood shift darkened the vision of Wordsworth and gave rise to a romantic pessimism that exists to this day. Napoleon emerged out of this morass. Napoleon took the energies that the revolution had unleashed and directed them towards exploration and conquest. We reject the military aspect of the urge to conquest, but Clark argues that it is a part of human nature. Ruskin argued that no great art arose except out natuins of soldiers. Napoleon also was a social reformer. Ingres portrait shows how Napoleon wanted to be seen – as a successor to the great emperors going back before Charlemagne. But Napoleon was carried away by his romantic urge to conquer as we see in David’s portrait of him crossing the alps. He admired (as did Goethe, the poem of Fingel by Ossian (as it turns out a fake). The glory was intoxicating. And perhaps the intoxication of glory is something we should not like to lose in the human spirit.

Those who had championed freedom were silenced. How could things have gone so wrong?

But what happened to those who advocated for humanity during the revolutionary times? Most were silenced by various fears. They gave up on their ideals Wordsworth and Goethe both. But Beethoven and Byron did not retreat. They both believed in freedom.

But not all – Beethoven and Byron were undaunted. They saw that freedom remained worth fighting for, even if it could not be achieved.

Beethoven admired Napoleon at first, but became hostile when Napoleon did not advance freedom. His Fidelio is the ultimate hymn to liberty and sacrifice for high values. Bit the revolutions did not actually provide us with the freedoms that were craved. Beethoven was still an optimist. That man was worthy of freedom. But by 1810 all the hopes of a new era had be dashed. Goya‘s picture of a firing squad gives the image for us. It was a new experience and intellectuals were shattered by it.

But Byron’s embrace of freedom was matched by his despair that mankind was capable of achieving it. Instead, mankind had to embrace the sublime.

Byron became the prophet of this despair. His poem on the opening of Chion, however, strikes a less than optimistic term. “I have learned to love despair”. And yet, there as a positive side – making a connection to the sublime through nature. This was a new dimension to the human spirit.

Nature embodied the sublime. But as Turner knew, it is cruel. And Turner, Jericho, and Delacroix depicted this cruelty. The romantic despair became a meme that we nurture today.

The problem was and is that nature is cruel,. Turner knew this – and painted nature’s wild strength. “The fallacies of hope” was his byline. Jericho also was a prophet of despair. He explored beyond the bounds of reason. His heir was Delacroix who carried on his depictions of destructive energy. He valued European civilisation even more because he saw that it was fragile.

The middle class and the heirs of the romantic rebellion split apart. But while the romantics spurned superficial prosperity without the sublime, they had no alternative path

European society was split. On the one hand was the new middle class with its conventional and defensive morality. On the other hand were the finer spirits, heirs of the romantic movement – and they were cut off from the prosperous majority. But they had no alternative as we still do not.

The last great expression of their defiance was Rodin who produced perhaps the greatest sculpture of the 19th century – his Balzac. To hell with all the constraints!

Rodin was the last great romantic artist heir to Jericho and Byron. He used his heroic poses to capture emotion to violent passion. Hence the burger of calais – romantic man at the end of his pilgrimage. His Balzac strikes the greatest pose defied all conventions that diminish our freedom.

Films: Your Essential Val Kilmer

There is no doubt that Val Kilmer will be remembered as one of the great actors of the last several decades. For me, his depiction of Do Holiday in Tombstone was priceless.

But what about his less well known work? This list of films might get you started ona a Val Kilmer film binge!

I think I will check out The Saint! Val Kilmer as Simon Templar? Cool! Here is the promo

“I might get some flak for this, but I don’t really care; The Saint rules. I’ve watched and enjoyed this movie too many times to count. The Saint is about a talented, international thief that goes by the name Simon Templar. He’s hired by a Russian oil businessman to steal a formula for cold fusion but ends up falling in love with the scientist that invented it and, realizing what the Russian businessman will do with the formula, decides to turn against him, instead.

In my mind, The Saint is the perfect Val Kilmer movie. It has everything he’s known for: Sarcasm, charm, charisma, wit, a tortured soul, action, and adventure. He looks like he’s having so much fun in every scene and shows a great deal of range with the variety of eccentric personalities and accents. Admittedly, The Saint has a shaky script and a schmaltzy romance (maybe that’s why they’re remaking it), but at the end of the day, I think it’s pure Val Kilmer.”

The Saint (1997 film) - Wikipedia