Booksellers versus Bestsellers
by John MacBeath Watkins
The popularity of a book is one measure of its importance, but more important and hard to quantify is its cultural impact. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland scores well on the first, but its cultural impact is seldom discussed.
The original press run of 2,000 copies sold out quickly when the book came out in December of 1865, and the book has never been out of print, which is enough to prove its appeal to readers. But it also represented a break with the past. It included parodies of a number of Victorian poems written for children, because Lewis Carroll/Charles Dodgson was not writing at children, he was writing for them.
Children had been told stories from mythology and fables from the oral traditions for as long as there had been story telling, an art form that must have come shortly after the invention of language. Aesop probably didn't write all of the stories attributed to him, but he did write them down. Much the same can be said of Charles Perrault, the 17th-century French writer of the Mother Goose stories. His Sleeping Beauty seems to be based on a medieval tale that had been adapted earlier in the 17th century by Giambattista Basile
If you've read the unbowdlerized versions of folk tales, you know that some of them are terrifying. When I was a kid, we had a little hardcover volume of Irish fairy tales in which there were stories where people joined the fairies in a dance and were compelled to dance until their death, and I vividly recall one in which a girl is captured by a giant, who cuts off her feet to keep her from running away.
But these stories were not necessarily written for children. Perrault, for one, was definitely writing for adults, which might explain the inclusion of the Bluebeard story.
There was a tradition of writing morally uplifting stories specifically for children within Christianity. The Venerable Bede, best known for his history of the Anglo-Saxon church, wrote morality tales for children as well. One might have expected Charles Dodgson, a deacon in his church, to do the same, but he seems to have liked children too well to do this. In fact, most of the poems in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland are parodies of exactly that type of work.
How doth the little busy Bee
Improve each shining Hour,
And gather Honey all the day
From every opening Flower!
How skilfully she builds her Cell!
How neat she spreads the Wax!
And labours hard to store it well
With the sweet food she makes.
How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!
How cheerfully he seems to grin,
How neatly spreads his claws,
And welcomes little fishes in
With gently smiling jaws!
Not only is it funny, it scans better. Who the hell rhymes wax with makes?
Or consider a poem by David Bates, Speak Gently:
Speak gently! -- It is better far
To rule by love, than fear --
Speak gently -- let not harsh words mar
The good we might do here!
Which, in Alice, becomes:
Speak roughly to your little boy
And beat him when he sneezes
He only does it to annoy
Because he knows it teases
Clearly, "Lewis Carroll" was writing to please his audience and make them laugh, not to firmly instruct them on morality. Some of the jokes are hard to get, unless you read The Annotated Alice, in which Martin Gardner provides the background needed.
Other jokes are hard to get without hearing them in an English accent, like the pun, "we call him a tortoise because he taught us." Americans pronounce the "r" and miss the joke.
The humor, whimsy, and fantasy was very different from the terrifying fairy tales people told in the oral tradition or the moralizing of so much of the literature purposely written for children. It represented the invention of a new kind of literature for children, not stories shared with adults (although plenty of adults love reading the book) or the moralizing of people who saw children as objects to be molded.
The parodies were subversive, making fun of the didactic moralizing of the children's literature that had preceded it, but the book was also interesting because it feels like there is a level of meaning below the surface. In fact, Douglas Hoffstadter called his philosophical work, Godel, Escher, Bach: The Eternal Golden Braid "A metaphorical fugue on minds and machines in the spirit of Lewis Carroll." He also used some of the characters from Alice, such as Achilles and the tortoise, in dialogues within his book.
There is an argument that childhood as we now understand it was invented in the 18th century, when the first books really aimed at children were published by John Newberry. Stories like The History of Little Goody Two Shoes, published in 1765,were in theory aimed at children, but for sound marketing reasons were actually aimed at their parents, who wanted them instructed more than they wanted them entertained.
The existence of a professional class meant that there was a new class of children. They were not growing up on farms, where their labor became valuable as soon at they could lift a bucket. There had long been the merchant class, of course, but they put their children into the business as soon as they could, to teach them what they'd need to know to keep the business running.
But if you are a doctor, your patients don't want your kid handing you the scalpel, and if you are a lawyer, there's a long period before you can bring the next generation into the office. Childhood as a time when you went to school and remained in a sort of social chrysalis until your were grown up had been invented. As generation succeeded generation, you soon had parents with a sentimental memory of such a childhood, and a more indulgent attitude toward their children than a subsistence farmer could afford to have.
Not that growing up on a farm was all bad. When they rose early in the morning to milk the cows, my grandfather and my father would recite poetry to each other. Sometimes, they got so involved in it that they failed to shut off the milking machine until the cow reminded them. As such machines took some of the drudgery out of farming, kids growing up on farms could spend more time in school and prepare for a life beyond the farm.
Born from this new chrysalis of childhood was a literature that was designed to give pleasure to children instead of instruction. Alice is pure play, a book for the child to enjoy. But all mammals learn through play, and humans are no exception. Alice gave parents another lesson, that a book children actually want to read is better for their reading skills than a book their parents might prefer they read.
by John MacBeath Watkins
Josh Barro, a conservative writer who has not turned off his brain, notices that Republican economic policy prescription are always the same, regardless of the economic problem:They favor lower taxes, less regulation, government spending cuts, more domestic energy production, school choice, free trade, and low inflation. They often cite these policies as ones that might alleviate recession and speed recovery. They favor these policies now, they favored them in 2008, and they favored them in 2004.That is, conservatives favor the same set of economic policies when the economy is weak and when it is strong; when unemployment is high and when it is low; when few homeowners are facing foreclosure and when many are. The implication is that conservatives believe there is nothing in particular the government should do about economic cycles.
He seems to think this is a bug, not a feature. The thing is, conservatives have become increasingly devoted to the notion that government is the problem, not the solution. In the 1980s, Milton Friedman was the leading conservative economist. He was a monetarist
, which is to say, he thought that monetary policy could do the things Keynesians thought you needed fiscal policy to accomplish, like preventing a depression.
This elevated Federal Reserve Bank chairmen to a high level of esteem, because they were the most prominent figures in monetary policy. But the notion that government could do anything
to make the country work better offends the modern conservative sensibility; they now admire leaders like Ron
and Rand Paul
, who would prefer to "end the fed" and go back on the gold standard.
In fact, they seem to wish to return to the disastrous economic policies
of Andrew Jackson. If Jackson's policies in the 1830s are fairly described as "economic nostalgia," and he was unable to restore the nation of small farms and artisans back then, the Ron/Rand Paul nostalgia has even less chance.
But the ideology which wishes to deny government can do anything to help avoid or shorten recessions is not just a nostalgia for a lost nation of small farms. It is a throwback to an old notion of the relationship between virtue and wealth.
Remember that many of these conservatives are convinced America is a Christian nation, and most are Protestants. One of the most influential protestant notions is the Calvinist idea that wealth is a sign of God's favor. After all, Calvin believed in predestination, so your wealth was not a result of your own efforts, it was a sign that were one of the Elect
This fits very well with the right's admiration for those who possess inherited wealth, such as the Koch brothers, and their efforts to eliminate the inheritance tax. The Koch family is Catholic, but a useful idea is there to be used, regardless of your religion, or the preferences of the leader of your religion
The Koch brothers wear a peculiar expression
, a rather superior, entitled look, as if they know they are better than you because they were born that way. Compare this to the expression typically worn by Bill Gates
, who built his own fortune and carries an assortment of pretty ordinary expressions. Gates comes from a different culture. His father is an advocate for the state of Washington adopting an income tax, which would make its tax system less regressive (the bottom 20% of earners in the state pay a higher percent of the state's revenue
than in any other state.)
And now that he's retired, Gates the younger is running the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is dedicated to the idea that "everyone deserves to live a healthy, productive life."
The Koch family foundations tend to finance
political organizations and think tanks that support the idea that rich people deserve to get and keep more wealth. Oh, and ballet.
The economists who wrote Why Nations Fail
suggested that the nature of a nation's institutions may dictate whether a nation becomes wealthy or fails to. Extractive institutions, they suggest, allow elites to impoverish their nations while enriching themselves. Gates is not a fan of the book, but he himself seems to be working to build an institution that is inclusive rather than extractive.
The point is, it makes a difference what sort of elites you have. Gates, like Warren Buffet, thinks that if the budget needs to be balanced, rich people should pay more taxes
. That in itself indicates a preference for inclusive institutions, which tend to be based on the idea that we're all in this together.
The Koch brothers spend a good deal of money supporting the American Legislative Exchange Council
(ALEC), which works hard on repealing the inheritance tax. It seems clear that they are trying to change our institutions to extract less from them, and more from those less fortunate, which is pretty much a useful definition of extractive elites.
Because elites have an outsized role in shaping their society's institutions, the culture of the elites seems to matter a great deal. The Republican Party, which has an increasingly naked agenda of shaping the country in a way that benefits its donors, always has the same agenda because those donors always have the same agenda. After all, it's not like the Koch brothers are likely to lose their homes when unemployment is high, so why should they ask that the party they help finance adopt policies that help those who might have that problem?
Fortunately, not all of our elites share their approach. Unfortunately, most of those who spend a lot of money on politics do.
by John MacBeath Watkins
It seems I'm not the only one to notice
that we're headed for a economy of servants and rich people. David Cay Johnston of Aljazeera says we're already there, and it's worse than the Edwardian world of servants.
He wrote:A household cook typically earned $10 a week in 1910, century-old books on the etiquette of hiring servants show. That is $235 per week in today's money, while the federal minimum wage for 40 hours comes to $290 a week. At first blush, that looks like a real raise of $55 a week, or nearly a 25 percent increase in pay. But in fact, the 2013 minimum-wage cook is much worse off than the 1910 cook. Here's why: The 1910 cook earned tax-free pay, while 2013 cook pays 7.65 percent of his or her income in Social Security taxes as well as income taxes on more than a third of his pay, assuming full-time work every week of the year. For a single person, that's about $29 of that $55 raise deducted for taxes.Unless he can walk to work, today's outsourced family cook must cover commuting costs. A monthly transit pass costs $75 in Los Angeles, $95 in Atlanta and $112 in New York City, so bus fare alone runs $17 to $27 a week, eating up a third to almost half of the seeming increase in pay, making the apparent raise pretty much vanish.The 1910 cook got room and board, while the 2013 cook must provide his or her own living space and food.
Johnston is saying that instead of a live-in cook, wealthy families are going out to eat. I'm not sure how often the 1% eat at McDonald's, I suspect they eat in more salubrious surroundings, but I'm not sure how much their servers get paid.
But those who do work in the homes don't typically live there. There's little information on domestic workers because Congress exempts them from those professions on which the Bureau of Labor Statistics gathers information, but Johnston links to a study
that shows average domestic workers are spending 60% of their income on housing.
Those who do live in the home they work in are paid less, are less likely to get at least 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep, and are more than twice as likely to be threatened, insulted and verbally abused. (table 4 on the same link
In my first post on this topic
, I recalled the family joke my grandfather learned from his parents, who had both been servants on an English estate: "There are two kinds of people, those who are good to their servants, and those who don't," a cynical take on the way people who employ servants often didn't treat them as people, even if they are "good to their servants."
Based on the research Johnston unearthed, I'd say those who are good to their servants in the current economy are vanishingly rare.
by Jamie Lutton
I came across an astounding story from the world of archeology last month. I mentioned it to a few people, and I seem to be the only one who saw the article, so I am passing it on to you.
Archaeologist Dean R. Snow of Pennsylvania State University, studying the prehistoric cave art in Spain and France, that date back to before 40,000 years ago, has concluded that some or all of the paintings were done by women.
He reached this conclusion because the artists, over thousands of years, left hand prints behind them by blowing paint through a tube at their hands while they held them up to the wall. These prints date back to the same time as the artwork.
Archeologists, noticing that the hand prints were small, thought that they had been left by teenagers, as the prints were smaller than the average 'adult' hand. By which they meant, adult male hand.
But there is a little known tendency for adult male and females hands to have different finger lengths. In most men, the ring finger is longer than in most females hands. So, after a century of staring at these hands, someone finally noticed that they are women's hands.
The very oldest art in the world, art that is found in hundreds of caves, and was painted over tens of thousands of years, seem to have been painted mainly by women. Of 32 prints, 24 were from women's hands, five were adolescent male hands, and three were adult male hands.
One of the problems in the West is the base canard that women do not have the 'genius' or 'creativity' to be great painters. Women were not mentored to be painters, or if they were, they were daughters or mistresses of '''more important'' painters, such as the modern case of Diego Rivera and Frieda Kahlo (though, after their deaths, her paintings are far more important).
With this new information, the text of all the books on ancient cave art will have to be tossed out, and rewritten.
And perhaps we can start telling our daughters and nieces that the greatest and earlier artists of Europe, the ancient cave artists, were women...show them the wonderful books out there with the paintings of bison, and elephants, and giraffes, and tell them that these are your heritage. And you can go and be a great painter, too.
When I was a child of five, I won a contest painting a watercolor of a ''caveman'' throwing a spear at an Mammoth or Mastodon from a cave. It was realistic, more or less; I still have it (my mother had it framed). I have always been fascinated by both the animals of the ancient past, the people of the time, and what they looked like. I still collect books on these subjects.
I own about eight or nine books on cave art; I buy the new ones when they come out, with new photography, and I go to the films of them when they are created.
I find that this news to be a grand example of unconscious bias when only men are writing the book's and doing the research on the history of art. People say, well, feminism is dead, but not when we still tell our girls that 'this is not for them' in any field.
Who knows..perhaps someday we will find...surprise! that some of the beautiful ancient Egyptian art or Sumerian art was created by women. Or the art of the ancient Far East, in China, or Japan.
When men write the books, at least in Western culture, they seem to forget half the human race when they attribute the creation of beautiful or important artifacts of human history.
by John MacBeath Watkins
As the use of English as an international language moves on apace, people who are not native speakers are using it to communicate more and more. In China, the phenomenon of the resulting imperfect translations is called Chinglish, and the government frowns on i
Some of this, as noted in the link above, results from over-reliance on translation software, as in the case of the restaurant owner who ran the name of his establishment run though translation software, then printed up a banner with the result: 'TRANSLATE SERVER ERROR'.
Which I'm guessing was not the name of the restaurant.
Robert Frost said "poetry is that which is lost in translation." But sometimes, translation creates poetry:
I'm guessing that's not far from the author's intent, actually.
Sometimes, the original sense is difficult to divine:
I promise my employees that however troubled I may become, I will not follow this management advice.
There is a naivete that I find attractive in even the most awkward examples:(from this source
But even as this art form is gaining popularity, officialdom is cracking down on it.Late last month, the southern city of Shenzhen launched a two-month campaign intended to remove all Chinglish signs with the help of local English-literate residents. The Shenzhen Daily reported that people were being encouraged to take pictures of incorrect English usage or grammar issues on public signs and use social media to report them to the appropriate people. People who sent in photos were asked to include the location of the signs and detail the mistakes made, at which point the city's foreign affairs office would look through submissions.
I can only imagine what horrible blunders I would make, as a non-Chinese-speaking person, trying to get the sense of what I wanted to say in a sign I couldn't read after I'd had it translated.
An interesting aspect of this is that in international corporations where English is made the standard language of the company, you'd think that being a native speaker would be an advantage. But native speakers tend to use elaborate constructions and colloquialisms that confuse non-native speakers, so perhaps it's better to be a skilled student of the language than a native speaker.
by Jamie Lutton
The best popular historians write about the past in a way that illuminates the present. Barbara Tuchman's medieval history book A Distant Mirror for example, stresses this even in the title. Also the best are those who can be read by the general public, not just by academics. Another historian of this type who I like even more is Norman Cohn, the author of several very good books on the medial and classical world, that illuminate the ideological roots of the wars and genocides of the 20th century.
Like Tuchman, Norman Cohn was not a trained historian; he was a student of languages instead. He was worked for British Intelligence just after the end of World War ll as an interpreter in the interrogation of captured German SS officers and refugees fleeing the Soviets from the Eastern Europe. This shattering experience shaped all of his writings. Using his knowledge of both modern and medieval languages, he read extensively the surviving documents of the religious heretics from 1000 to 1600, to draw a picture of how these 'heretics,' or religious movements, of Europe shaped modern ideological thought, both for good and for ill.
The desire for the poor to improve their lot in the West was blended with and was driven by the New Testament prophecies of a final struggle between Christ and an Antichrist, and the emergence of a paradise. This belief in the perfectibility of the world jumped languages, countries, cultures and centuries to be translated into secular discourse, never loosing its power to jolt the ordinary people and inspire them to rise up.
But unfortunately it also inspired the desire to suppress, harass, and often kill dissenters of all types.
So in essence, this belief inspired both the later followers of Marx and Hitler, for example, in the modern era, and developed a belief in totalitarian thought and action, driving both social aspersions, and animosities.Hitler, for example, seems to be pagan, but still has the themes of an 'elect' (Aryans) prevailing over and dominating/destroying everyone else -- non Aryans, Jews, etc.
This seems to explain why modern totalitarian ideologies often resemble each other closely, political and religious ideologies alike. The best example from today is the curious way conservative Islam resembles our own conservative Christianity, and how they both resemble Soviet Communism in Russia, or, China in the late 20th century, in their mutual absolutism and belief in strict adherence to certain narrow beliefs and goals. Also, sadly, tendency to violence to carry out such beliefs.
Another good book on this subject is Eric Hoffer's The True Believer, which discusses the attraction to such belief systems, and how they seduce people into following them.
For a end of the year gift to a friend who loves medieval history, modern political writing, Marxism, or is interested in the history of the Christianity in the middle ages, I also recommend Norman Cohn's book: The Pursuit of the Millennium and Europe's Inner Demons, The Demonizaton of Christians in medieval Christendom.
I also want to recommend his book Warrant for Genocide, The Myth of World Jewish Supremacy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion
, Norman Cohn demonstrates how this pamphlet was the blueprint of the Final Solution. This pamphlet, which casts a long shadow even today, is dissected by Norman Cohn as to it's origin, the text, and its heinous misuse.
In the modern new era of The Big Lie in American politics, where we again are fighting the agents of totalitarian thought, this book is is an excellent gift for any serious reader.
For this author alone asks the question of where our deepest beliefs come from? And are these useful anymore?
We cannot be horrified by the excesses of, say, the modern Muslim faith without out understanding where they came from, and that we as a Christan culture share many of these same excesses because our shared belief in apocalypse and the persecution of minorities. And that aspects of Christianity morphed into Naziism, State Communism, and other totalitarian forms of government.
The blind belief in the rightness of all that we do and say, and our right to suppress those who disagree with us, in the name of God or security or even just automatically, as a public good.
Our right to wage war on other nations, to jail citizens for private behavior like taking drugs, and to control others' private lives in the name of morality, such as in our marriage customs, birth control and abortion, do not horrify us as they should.
It is about time we understood ourselves better, and faced the insidious influence of these old belief systems on our freedoms, and on reason. For we cannot repudiate that which we do not thoroughly understand.
by John MacBeath Watkins
We've discussed the Star Trek "replicator economy
," but what if a world with little labor needed to support life gave us a "Downton Abbey
I watch little television, but I recently caught a few shows of Downton Abbey
, and was struck by the way it emphasizes the lives of the servants.
Longleat House, an English stately home
Now, it's an odd thing, but even though there are more people descended from servants than from nobility, a great deal of literature talks mainly about the people who hire (or, in the case of Gone With the Wind
, own) servants rather than about the lives of the servants.
And given the growing inequality in our society, chances are that more people will be working as servants in the future.
We face a future in which less and less of human activity pays well enough to support life, and we will find ourselves pushed into the remaining professions. What those professions will be depends in part on what the distribution of wealth is. In a society with greater equality than the one we have, we might make our livings by entertaining each other, or as the saying goes, taking in each other's washing. In a society with greater inequality, we will take in the washing of those better off than us.
My grandfather, Amos Watkins, was a farmer descended from and English gardener and a maid from Scotland, who met while working at an estate near London. He told me the family's morbid joke: "There are two kinds of people in this world, those who are good to their servants and those who aren't."
Because if you are a servant, you didn't count as a person. Which is why they emigrated to America, where their son was able to work for himself as a farmer. (Amos never owned most of the land he worked, so I suppose he'd be called a tenant farmer.)
His maternal grandfather, John MacBeath, had worked for himself, first in a fishing and crofting village that no longer exists, because life there was too hard, later operating a ferry at Inverness (actually a row and sail boat small enough that if it needed to move a cow across the Inverness, the cow had to swim behind while tethered to the boat.) At some point, it became a better deal to leave the poverty of 19th century Scotland and become a servant in England, though my great-grandmother had a strong personality and no doubt chafed at being anyone's servant.
The economic problem is, while most parts of the economy are not going to see a reduction of marginal unit costs reduced to near zero, they are seeing unit labor costs drop. At the time of the American revolution, the most common professions were farmer and sailor. Farming, forestry and fishing now employs about 0.7% of our workforce, according to the CIA World Factbook
. The same source shows that in Afghanistan, more than 78% of the population works in these trades. Our remaining farmers are far more productive, not just per hour, but in most cases, per acre.
Such productivity is part of the reason we are more wealthy than the Afghans are. And what happens when you don't have people working in one sector is, they go to work in another. It wasn't hard to get people to trade backbreaking work on a farm for working in a factory or an office, but what is the next step? Expert systems are making inroads into formerly well-paid, professional work like that done by lawyers, but we will probably still have to pay for legal advice.
What will remain will be "high touch" professions in which the attention of another human being is a big part of the transaction.Commanding the attention of others is the ultimate luxury, the one served by all classes of conspicuous consumption.
Thorstein Veblen was writing during the previous high point in inequity in the U.S., christened "the gilded age" my Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner. Veblen noted that the rentier class spent money on things people would notice, things not necessary to human life, to demonstrate their economic power. This prompted the invention of another term, "invidious consumption," that is, consumption intended to provoke envy.
I've been around boats most of my life, and I see this every time I'm on the water. The smaller the boat, the more it gets used, and the more fun people seem to have with it, so what's with all the huge powerboats loitering at the dock? Their owners value having them more than using them, because of what they symbolize. I recall seeing a man in his 60s making a rare appearance on his big motor yacht with a bikini-wearing woman in her 20s at his side. The women I was with were close to the age of the man, and bridled against the sight, so I made them feel better by saying, "so what if the man wants to go boating with his daughter?"
Men with a trophy wife on their arm are trying to provoke envy. This makes youth and beauty fungible. If the woman in the bikini chose to become a trophy wife, she could gain a life of wealth and ease, and if she divorced well, she could get a hunk to drape on her own arm, and provoke envy for both her wealth and her hunk. If she made her own fortune, the boy toy would only make people respect her less, so beautiful young men find fewer opportunities to advance by marrying well.
Many women, and many men, would not want to marry for money because they consider it demeaning; it is a subservient role which one would not have to serve in a more equal relationship. Even servants, for the most part, do not wish to be subservient in their domestic arrangements. Perhaps this was especially so in the world of Edwardian England, when people like my great grandparents were lucky to have such a good job as to be a servant.
How much more comfort do the people of the Crawley family gain from hiring a second footman at Downton Abbey? Footmen were chosen for looks, and performed duties that were of little importance, but they gave the place a look of class. That's part of the logic of having servants. They are not just there to do things you'd rather not do yourself, like mucking out the stables, they are also there to be your entourage, to make you feel important.
That's going to be the last job technology cannot do. In an unequal society, it is the job much of the population will have to do. That's what a Downton Abbey economy would look like.
by Jamie Lutton
I wanted to write a end-of-the-year column for Capitol Hill. For urban Seattle residents in general. I have noticed that most of us have pets instead of children. Our streets are filled with dogs and their owners out for walks, and I note that many, many people have pet cats, if they can. So I wanted to warn people, at the turn of the year, of a grave hazard to your beloved pets..
Do you trust your nearest of kin? Your friends? Do you trust, say, your roommates or even your spouse? Trust them to do right? Maybe you shouldn't.
A grim story came to my ears a few days ago. A man came in to my business with a flyer with pictures of a eleven year old cat on it that needed a home. He told she was the cat of a friend of his, who had died unexpectedly at age 57, of a heart attack.
Her brother and children came up from California and cleaned out her apartment, and were going to drop this indoor cat off onto the street, on a cold November day. But he grabbed the cat, and is now trying to find a home for it.
The cat was very lucky the neighbor was so compassionate. It might not have made it though the night; and would have died under the wheels of a car, or of the cold, terrified, bewildered, in shock.
I have seen this sort of thing happen over and over. Elderly or middle aged cats -which are very hard to place ending up on the street or dropped off at a shelter. I see this as I am making a bid on the deceased library, and the cat is sitting off in a corner, often with an overflowing cat-box in the apartment. Or I see this when I foster cats. Last year a fostered a pair of middle aged cats, siblings, whose owner died unexpectedly.
(I wish I could take in all these cats, but I do not make enough money to feed them all, and cats do not always get along with each other)
People don't think they will ever die, especially in their fifties as in this case. Or they just don't think ahead. Or they think their immediate family will do the right thing.
Well, they don't. They often do the easy thing.
The family doesn't look at the pet and think 'this is the last living thing that is part of my sister/mother. To honor her, I should take very good care of this pet'. Sadly, this is not common. The pet is thrown out in the trash along with the rest of the possession that doe not have any monetary value. Often the relatives feel aggrieved about all the trouble they are being put to, having to 'deal with this mess' when they have to settle a relatives estate on short notice.
They just don't care.
So, from one who knows. Beware!
I propose for their to be a form of insurance developed where the cat, casts or dogs would be the recipient. A form of life insurance. And have veterinarians suggest it or even provide it for all their clients.
Also..even more likely...what if you end up in the hospital with no one to care for your pet? Your caretakers might just decide, for your own good, to quietly dispose of your pet or pets.
Even if you are hale and hearty, you could die from an illness and accident. Or you could be out of work, and not be able to keep your apartment. For example, the streets of Los Angles were suddenly flooded with chihuahuas and other small dogs shortly after the Crash of 2008..The owners, suddenly out of work, were turning them loose in the streets by the hundreds and hundreds in '09, '10 and after. This kind of dog was very fashionable in the LA area: An acquaintance of mine was involved with a charity that was scooping them up off of the street, and bringing them to the Seattle area to find homes; having tiny dog adoption festivals
But many times, it was too late. LA was littered with the corpses of tiny dogs that starved to death or were mauled by other dogs.
We read in the news about abused and abandoned pets, and think it will never happen to your darling pet.
So, if you know someone who lives alone and hs a pet, show this column to them, and urge them to make arrangements for their pet to be cared for, adopted, when you get sick or die suddenly.
Also, be the person who would take a kitty or dog in, for your friends in case of accident or death, and give the pet a good home.
by Jamie Lutton
Today, I read that the Texas board of Education are fighting (again) about putting the theory of evolution into public school textbooks. They argued until midnight one night, as a few creationists on the board were not happy with natural selection being taught, without teaching creationism and intelligent design along with it it as 'competing' theories.
They also objected to seeing any discussion of climate change being included in the science textbooks, since they believed that climate change had not been proved (or was a liberal hoax).
None of the board members who protested had any sort of science background..
I found this quote from the ancient world that addresses this, from St Augustine writings, in his massive commentary on The Bible, called The Literal Interpretation of Genesis, written in 408 AD.
Check this out.
"Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience.
Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.
The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men.
If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?
Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books.
For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position,' although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion'. [1 Timothy 1.7]"
What we see here is that St. Augustine was dealing with Christian fools and fanatics who refused to accept rational observation that contradicted the Bible. He argues that reason does trump 'mischievous false opinions'.
You note that St. Augustine accepted the miracles or acts of God in the Bible, because the science that could contradict these absolutely had not yet been developed.
But he stated repeatedly that as new knowledge was (attained), opinions on miracles, sin and the nature of man, etc, would and could change. .He clearly favors reason and science over slavish devotion to any belief in the Bible being literally true.
St. Augustine was a convert to Christianity late in life. He made his living teaching and writing. He lived in what is now Algeria, in part of the extended Roman Empire of the early Fifth century, just before it's fall.
What he is known for, outside his philosophical and theological writings, is the systematic training of teachers.
He introduced the idea that there were three kinds of students, and instructed teachers to distinguish between them, and tailor their instruction accordingly.
The student who was (already) well educated by good teachers, The student who has had a poor education, and the student who has had a poor education, but believes himself to be well educated.
Briefly: the first two are much easier to teach and that last. Students who have already been educated, the goal is to challenge them to expand their knowledge.. The poorly educated student the teacher must be patient with, and encourage. But the last must be impressed with the difference between "Having words and having understanding.", and is the most difficult to teach.
This is close to the Buddhist saying that a full cup cannot take any more water, or cannot learn.
I had the luck to be raised by a Christian father who was also a working scientist (chemist),
so I was raised to think science did not conflict with belief in God.
He challenged me.by reading Shakespeare to me, encouraging me to be interested in politics, and giving me books to read. Often I was stubborn, , thinking I knew more than I did. He taught by example, though, best of all, by showing he was still learning. I found his copy of T. S. Eliot's poetry, all marked up in pencil with academic notes. I asked him if it was his 'college copy' and he said no, he had studied it on his own much later. This impressed me mightily. So, I read and try to write about what I have read, and Try to keep learning.
by John MacBeath Watkins
(Update: The senate has now modified the rule: http://www.seattlepi.com/news/politics/article/Democrats-vote-to-curb-filibusters-on-appointees-4997967.php#page-1)
This blog started in March of 2010. The first post was Chaining the Word (blue monkey edition)
and the second was Bust the Filibuster
And here we are again, with Harry Reid, whose name makes me think of cattails (hairy reeds,) sending signals that he's planning to scrap the filibuster
when it comes to executive branch and judicial appointments. This can be done by a simple majority vote to change Senate rules.
His logic is that Republicans have boxed themselves in to the point where compromise is impossible. They have taken the position that President Obama should not be allowed to appoint a third judge to the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, not because there is any defect in the appointee, but because they don't want him to appoint anyone at all, because they don't want him to be able to tilt the balance of the court.
If a Republican president wished to appoint someone to the same court that would tilt the balance in a direction they liked, Republican senators would be fine with that. They simply want to prevent elections from having consequences when Democrats win.
Reid has in the past been pretty lukewarm on changing the filibuster rule. Faced about a year ago with a filibuster of several appointees to executive branch posts, Reid reached an agreement that the Republicans would allow the president to staff the government in exchange for senate Democrats not changing the rules. Now here we are again, with Republicans refusing to let the president staff the government.
Reid has quite reasonably come to the conclusion that the senate cannot remain a functioning institution when the filibuster is so flagrantly abused. But how did we end up with a filibuster in the first place?
You may thank Aaron Burr, who, fresh from shooting Alexander Hamilton to death, gave the senate a farewell address in which he said the senate was a great body, but its rules were a mess. He then went through the rules and pointed out points where they lacked clarity and had duplications. He had a great many recommendations, one of which was to eliminate the motion to move the previous question.
No one realized the importance of this at the time, but it meant that leaders had no way to cut off debate. In an 1841 debate over renewing the charter of the Second Bank of the United States (modeled on the first Bank of the United States, started by Hamilton,) Henry Clay tried to cut off debate by majority vote and was forced to back down because no rule allowed this. The filibuster had come of age.
It would be nice to believe that this rule was invented to preserve the rights of the minority, and
was sanctioned by the founding fathers, but it was a mistake, as Sarah Binder and Steven Smith pointed out in their book, Politics or Principle? Filibustering in the United States Senate
Hamilton was perhaps the most brilliant and far-seeing of the founders, and as a mercantilist
, an advocate of the power of government to develop the country. Burr, at the time of the duel, was U.S. vice president, having been denied the presidency in large part because of Hamilton's opposition. At that time, whoever got the most electoral college votes was president, whoever got the second most was vice president. Burr and Jefferson tied in the electoral college, throwing the election to the House of Representatives, where Hamilton lobbied hard against Burr.
Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel based on a third party claiming that Hamilton had declared that Burr was "a dangerous man, and one who ought not be trusted with the reins of government."
In the duel, Hamilton either deloped
or fired into the air by accident when he was mortally wounded. Burr, true to the way he had been portrayed in the letter he objected to, shot to kill.
The two men were using the rules of the duel in much the same way Democrats and Republicans are now using the senate rules Burr designed, one side attempting to satisfy honor without causing harm, the other to express rage and destroy an enemy. Such an unequal contest cannot end well unless either the rules change, or the side intent on destroying an enemy decides to make peace.
The latter seems unlikely to happen, given the dynamics of Republican primary contests.
So, I expect the power of the filibuster to be greatly reduced. Perhaps it will one day be eliminated. And then, perhaps we will begin to judge government based on what parties do, instead of what the find they cannot do.