"Restore(s) a little sanity into current political debate" - Kenneth Minogue, TLS "Projects a more expansive and optimistic future for Americans than (the analysis of) Huntington" - James R. Kurth, National Interest "One of (the) most important books I have read in recent years" - Lexington Green
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Posted by Ginny on 19th August 2016 (All posts by Ginny)
Ivanka Trump, mother of three and stunning in a sheath, introduced her father at the Republican Convention. Many argue his kids seem great – certainly they appear loyal, attractive, alert, and sensible. But be that as it may. Both Adams and Franklin disowned sons. For most of us, raising children will be our most consequential task and Trump seems to be doing reasonably well. But it’s a thin reed.
Still, that dress! It represents what moved country after country out of poverty. Causes of that respect across class lines and the rise of a large middle class and greater health for all are complicated: some see the Bible in the vernacular, some see the marriage of the Great Awakening with the Enlightenment, Dutch and English traditions, sea routes. Surely living longer and with more health meant more productivity. Others rightly prize a concept motivating these views, that each has within the divine. Such a belief emphasizes human rights – the free market of commerce, of ideas, of innovations, of speech, of religion. Honoring the dignity and virtuous habits of the bourgeoisie led to a respect for everyman and everyman’s talents. It was huge, that change from 1700 to 2100. And a signifier is a presidential hopeful in the most powerful nation introduced by his daughter in that blush pink dress. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Ginny on 17th March 2016 (All posts by Ginny)
The distinction between rich and poor was large in 1900, less large in 1950, larger again now. My husband’s tax accountant friend keeps arguing that taxes made the difference – so we need more of them. Well, maybe, he knows a hell of a lot more about taxes than I do. Of course, that seems counterproductive. Equally obvious is that large percentages of immigrants will add to the bottom rungs of an open market economy and their assimilation over the next generations (if immigration is lessened for a generation or two) is likely to lessen overall disparities. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Ginny on 15th March 2016 (All posts by Ginny)
I remember my father telling me when I set out for college that I’d meet people with strange habits: to never act surprised, even when they put catsup on their steaks. I never developed the habits they tried so hard (perhaps too hard) to instill, but I’ve never put catsup on my steaks. So, yes, I do find this alarming. (This comes thanks to Instapundit, but the original interview is in the NYTimes, which may have being put on – could they tell? Apparently some of the commentors at Instapundit couldn’t.)
Posted by Ginny on 5th March 2016 (All posts by Ginny)
Yesterday, clicking through an Instapundit post, you would find here the source for their “quote of the day,”
A couple of years ago, [socialist Venezuela’s] then-minister of education admitted that the aim of the regime’s policies was ‘not to take the people out of poverty so they become middle class and then turn into escuálidos’ (a derogatory term to denote opposition members). In other words, the government wanted grateful, dependent voters, not prosperous Venezuelans.”
Not surprisingly this was followed by the ever useful Reynolds’ reference to the Rainmakers: “They’ll turn us all into beggars ’cause they’re easier to please.
Anyone who listens to Sanders arguing medical service is a right hasn’t thought twice about Perry’s argument – that access is far more important than insurance and far more likely to produce good medicine. And Hillary’s arguments are more of the same, of course, but she’s already in the doddering, grasping, authoritarian stage of the Castros. Sanders hasn’t had the power before – we just suspect what he will do with it; we know what she will.
Posted by Ginny on 29th February 2016 (All posts by Ginny)
I don’t read much lately, but my more libertarian daughter listens to Hoover & Cato podcasts. She mentioned one on The Not So Wild, Wild West: Property Rights on the Frontier So I ordered the book. I don’t know much about economics but have come to admire economists because they so aptly describe human nature, and often give arguments for wise institutions. The authors argue that “entrepreneurs of institutions” helped make life relatively orderly on the frontier. For instance, one maximized the profits and minimized the costs by ensuring Abilene was railhead, where the cowboys ended their long contracts of driving the cattle and the railroads took them east. But often it wasn’t a “middleman” as much as the consensus of a group, as they set out in wagon trains or obtained mining rights. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Ginny on 23rd February 2016 (All posts by Ginny)
I like both Haidt and Foster’s remarks. This is a comment that got out of hand.
I would observe that it isn’t like we didn’t know – that we hadn’t been warned. Victimization is of course, more common in a culture of feelings than of thought, of sentimentality than sense. It is old in close knit communities where others can be expected to sympathize (think of the power of the younger, weaker child over an older, stronger sibling in making a case to a parent). I suspect that in the past it has more often characterized a small, closely knit group and the wielders of the power were probably more often women (think especially mothers). The boldness with which women project the claim today probably comes from an assurance that counters the value of the claim itself; we are out of the closet in terms of competitive will but we’ve lost the skill to wield it subtly. As a comment observes, this 21st century feminization of American culture enriches Oprah. But on the founders’ ships, embarking on an adventure in itself signaling virtue, it might have been more powerful if the leaders hadn’t been so aware of human nature and condemned it so clearly.
Posted by Ginny on 16th February 2016 (All posts by Ginny)
Thanks to Jonathan’s earlier post of Kristol’s conversations; whether Kass on education or Kagan on human nature or Gerlenter on art, these are consistently interesting. Here is Valentine’s Day with Petraeus (there’s another with Keene).
Posted by Ginny on 25th November 2015 (All posts by Ginny)
Our family has trouble with memories, mine is beginning. I figured Trump had exaggerated (as usual) but I, too, remembered, celebrations (it was all foggy – I couldn’t remember if it was New York or New Jersey – they are all east). Apparently, my memory has failed- probably merging reports of alleged “tailgate parties” with film from Palestine, as some have suggested he did, Carson did. But I do remember listening to NPR in my office, leaving to teach and coming back to hear more of what had happened. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Ginny on 12th September 2015 (All posts by Ginny)
A friend takes joy in the heroic – finding it near home (her father-in-law’s willingness to volunteer his medical service to cities beset by polio in the fifties and in a Viet Nam hospital twenty years later) and farther. She cheers me. Her take is stoic, but toughness nurtures unsentimental appreciation – foregrounding the half-full glass amidst chaos. For instance, last week she described admiration for the curator and archivist Khaled al-Asaad http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/18/isis-beheads-archaeologist-syria, who, at 82, withstood a month’s interrogation by ISIS, ending in his beheading.
Posted by Ginny on 23rd August 2015 (All posts by Ginny)
I’ve been reading Daniel Walker Howe’s The Political Culture of the American Whigs(1979). It slowly gave me a better understanding, since I started in a complete fog. Like his Making the American Self, here Howe chooses representative figures to give narrative, character & understanding. Just because the book is forty doesn’t mean insights don’t remain. Howe enlivens the Whigs and reminds us our parties still have more than a bit of the Whig & the Jacksonian. But, surprisingly, an anecdote used to illuminate John Quincy Adams reminds us of a spring candidacy.
Posted by Ginny on 6th July 2015 (All posts by Ginny)
Most here haven’t commented on the darting and illusory fortunes of the huge Republican field; I’d mentioned earlier that Perry would have trouble – double or triple BDS syndrome, a bit too much of an Aggie for Texas, God knows for the rest of the country. But that great t-sipper, Kevin Williamson, discusses the case for Perry after a strong speech. That’s worth reading and both Williamson & Perry are worth while.
Perry’s fighting, turning arguments around to free market principles, to the human: he did this earlier on the relatively friendly Fox’s Chris Wallace. Wallace pressed him on the number of uninsured Texans. Perry didn’t fight him on those grounds but on the far more important, far more serious, and far more consequential grounds of “access.” Access in Texas to health care has risen sharply with Perry’s policies. And, let’s face it, if there is enough access, all the assurances of insurance are pretty useless. Or, as Venzueleans found out, Chavez had promised to meet their every need – government promises of toilet paper and oil were there, access was not. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Ginny on 6th July 2015 (All posts by Ginny)
Or, the accurate but revealing title, How Moments Lead to Life Time Prejudice, Unmoved by Research
I loved literature classes. My general fecklessness led to reading 17th century prose on night duty at the mental hospital when I was 20, absorbing little. My choices were seldom sensible – at first I had the excuse of being 17, of hitting college when the world changed fast – but still, I matured slowly. Few I knew experimented with drugs, but we successfully screwed up our lives without them. Simply put, my judgement was lousy in men, jobs, and energy/time management. But I loved going to class (not, mind you, always doing the work – I often hadn’t read the assignment). But in the hot world of adolescence, especially in the sixties, the cool calm of walking into a classroom ordered my days, gave me a separate peace – quiet, cool and cerebral. It challenged my mind as the world outside my emotions.
That’s why I keep distance. My friend describes my teaching as cool – well, yes. I address students by their last names. I’m not their friend nor entertainer; I don’t want to offer me but the work – deep and textured and lovely. That’s where our eyes focus – on the text. So, that old model persists. Harvey Mansfield’s address notes that formality has its place, signals respect. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Ginny on 3rd July 2015 (All posts by Ginny)
I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.
You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. — I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.
Posted by Ginny on 2nd July 2015 (All posts by Ginny)
Some comments here criticized lectures. I doubt that medium is as central as the comments imply. Few who teach skills depend only or even mainly on lectures. Lecturing itself has been marginalized. The passion for “critical thinking” is a theoretic good, but, naturally, pedagogical studies emphasize method over content, new & theoretical over traditional. But, I would argue, lectures are designed to clarify content & connections, to model critical thinking. They are useful. (I’m not getting into content – the understandable complaints about that are topics for another day.)
Not surprisingly, my defense is defensive. I lectured. Apparently I conveyed passion but could also elicit boredom. For some, that love made a bad class bearable, for others, it was meaningful. Most bubbled in positive but not extraordinary evaluations. Probably some felt I was nattering on, then socked it to them on the test. And lectures let minds drift. But I lectured.
Posted by Ginny on 29th June 2015 (All posts by Ginny)
David Foster writes of the “reset” button. I wanted to thank him in a comment, but it lengthened. And as he begins with the mistranslation, I should begin with an apology: I still know no Czech. But a memory from the eighties came so powerfully, I wanted to share it.
In those years, we hosted various musical and academic visitors. My language incompetence was a difficulty: fluent English wasn’t always an aid in getting those visas. Often a scholar or musical group was substituted for the requested one; visa granting was erratic and subject to bureaucratic whims.
But I remember vividly a group sent to a conference, around 1983 or so. One of the local Czechs, a family dedicated to the language (the father had taught Czech at A&M, his brother at UT), invited them to visit their farm. The folk singers were given tea and cake; sitting in the farm’s front yard, with grasshopper pumps near the house and broad land and skies behind that, they chatted. But then, they stood and began singing acapella with deep and strong voices an old hymn – one they knew well, but never sang at concerts, they said. The resonance came from their hearts. I didn’t know the language and decades have come between. Perhaps it was this one (or this) . If not, the simplicity and clarity were similar. It was a breathtaking moment.
Posted by Ginny on 3rd June 2015 (All posts by Ginny)
In freshman composition, I often devoted part of a class to short essays. The arguments I chose for focus interested me – probably more than my students. One was to write an essay prompted by an axiom or song lyric. Generally it may not have worked in terms of academic writing, but writing is writing. and a few years ago, one student responded to this Proverb:
Posted by Ginny on 31st May 2015 (All posts by Ginny)
Arthur Herman, often referred to here, describes in Commentary the context of the pursuit of Scooter Libby. I am curious about how those more knowledgeable than I see the article.
But, aside from his central argument, I was struck by the remarkable picture with which he closes.
On October 11, 2003, when the media witch hunt in the Plame case was at its height, there was a Cabinet meeting at the White House. When reporters were invited in to ask Bush a question about the investigation, Bush said he wanted anyone in his government who knew who had leaked Plame’s name to speak up. Sitting a couple of chairs away was Richard Armitage, the man who had done it. Sitting beside the president was Colin Powell, to whom Armitage had confessed days earlier.
They said nothing—and kept silent for three long years. By the time Armitage admitted publicly that he had been the leaker in September 2006, Patrick Fitzgerald’s monstrously successful and spectacularly dishonest war on Scooter Libby’s job, reputation, finances, and legal innocence was well on its way to its morally depraved triumph.
Posted by Ginny on 16th November 2014 (All posts by Ginny)
Two (almost) dead horses at once: the humanities establishment and Obama’s mis- and un-educated view of his responsibilities from The New Criterion,, which can get cranky but isn’t wrong: Instapundit links Mark Bauerlain’s “Humanities”. Flog away he does, but that’s because dead or not establishment academics still educate the next generation and even now some see Obama as a defender of art and light. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Ginny on 31st October 2014 (All posts by Ginny)
Jonathan’s post reminded me of my daughter’s remarks this afternoon about her acquaintances and our musings about an increasingly polarized student body – the religious and the anti-religious. In the sixties, we weren’t religious but valued it. Today, students are either fervently anti-religious or, more often, quite religious. This may be place – the Midwest isn’t Texas – but I suspect it’s temporal as well.
A more conservative version of Judaism attracts some of our friends. My daughter says the Missouri Synod attracts more Lutherans in her Lutheran city; here the Westminster Presbyterian grows and PCUSA loses ground. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Ginny on 20th January 2014 (All posts by Ginny)
Steve Fromholz died in a hunting accident this week-end. One of the Austin songwriters of the seventies, Fromholz perfected a kind of tough lyricism. The laconic irony was caught in a tag from that time – “a rumor in his own time.” But he was a rumor with legs. His influence on the next generation is obvious in works like Lovett’s.
Fromholz was named poet laureate of Texas in 2007, four years after he’d suffered a stroke and then retrained himself in his art. Perhaps best known for the narrative precision of the Texas Trilogy, which captures the tough (and often rewarding) life of ranching in dry places. Here is a version of the lyrics. It’s hard to get some of those lines out of your head; they reverberate because they work, somehow, intensely; they give us a warm strength (“and cattle is their game and Archer is the name they give to the acres they own . . .”) thinking of those resilient characters. Another obit.And another.
Lovett saw him as mentor and they share that ranching/literary background.
Posted by Ginny on 7th April 2013 (All posts by Ginny)
I don’t know much about Bowdoin. This seems, unfortunately, to be expected. I like the donor’s response – the president’s petty grandstanding is an overreach that motivates. Smugness enrages.
Today we skim over Longfellow, but once readers looked forward to his next narrative poem as an event. Longfellow also took academia and his languages seriously – developing a modern language program at Bowdoin; Harvard then drew him away to develop a similar program for them and he did. As we read a poem or two, I mention his Morituri Salutamus. Longfellow’s theme is similar but he hasn’t the power of Tennyson’s Ulysses. However this occasional poem is personal; his classmates, the classes of 1824 and 1825, at Bowdoin were some of his closest friends all his life. While he was the most popular American poet, a classmate and friend was Hawthorne. The novelist also remained intensely grateful and loyal to Franklin Pierce; a friendship begun at Bowdoin lasted until Hawthorne’s death. A fourth gained his fame more indirectly: Calvin Stowe’s interest in theology was shared with the famous Beecher family; his wife became a novelist with the broad audience Longfellow found. Clearly all were shaped by those years at Bowdoin. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Ginny on 28th December 2012 (All posts by Ginny)
Heather McDonald discusses the choices in job-rich (& self-reliant fly over) Idaho. My syllabus argues if students find themselves not doing the readings, they should probably rethink taking my class. Our lives are enriched by scholarship at certain ponts – at others, it can be a distraction from living. Perhaps lectures are difficult to follow, I observe, because of dehydration after a night in Northgate’s bars. But I’m serious, offering a couple of anecdotes – like a student whose 48 hours of F’s in their teens were followed by life; he came back in his forties, ending with a Ph.D. Unusual, but not all that rare. Neither those bars nor classes slept through are useful ways to spend years of intensity, energy, growth. And, even at our bargain prices, this wastes money.
A student this semester said that paragraph may have led to drops. Well, okay, the purpose is to wake them up – so they don’t drift through another class, getting an untransferable grade. I counseled too many students on their fourth semester of such work.
Posted by Ginny on 7th December 2012 (All posts by Ginny)
The musings on the random and tragic nature of life remind us of how little we know – and control. But it reminded me of the marketing of a step toward more control: how good are the DNA products? My daughter’s friend, visiting for Thanksgiving, sent her spit to 23andme. The results included a genetic tendency toward weight-related diseases, which led her to a diet and gym membership. Not surprisingly, it linked her with her mother, but also with a cousin neither she nor her mother knew existed. They met, looked each other over, compared notes: they were cousins.
Anyway, she sat in our living room flipping through her smart phone (it gives monthly updates); she was vulnerable to diabetes but less so to Parkinson’s. Genetic weaknesses are becoming obvious as we near retirement; unfortunately, we learn our vulnerabilities at every office visit.
Still, has anyone done this or similar ones? How accurate, how useful, and how much does this (or do others) add to the cloud-knowledge of genes & disease? (Other friends used a different site, but learned what human history would say – that they were both from England and before that Africa.)
Of course, whether it is worth the money or not, whether it is accurate or not, ignores the big question: does such knowledge lead us to believe we have an autonomy still not – never will be – ours? Will knowing more of “who we are” mislead or arm us?