Monday, January 26, 2015

The New Robber Barons

I try not to get paranoid about the Koch brothers, but this is a little disturbing:
Kochs Plan to Spend $900 Million on 2016 Campaign
What will they find to do with all that money? They only spent $400 million in 2012 and it seemed like ads had already reached saturation point.

Can it be good for a democracy when its rich citizens can afford to spend more on elections than the main political parties?

Will there ever be a point at which this sort of thing starts to turn off voters?

Is all this money changing the political landscape, turning running campaigns into even more of a business, run by consultants only out to line their own pockets with billionaires' money? If so, will that make any difference to the rest of us?

In Greece, a Left-Right Coalition against Do-Nothing Centrism

In yesterday's Greek election, the victor was the leftist party Syriza and its leader Alexis Tsipras; they ended up with 149 seats in the Parliament, just two short of a majority. To fill out their government they turned to populists on the far right, The Independent Greeks, who finished in fourth place with 4.7 percent of the vote. This odd coalition may not last long, but anyway it has been formed for only one purpose, to push for an end to austerity and a renegotiation of Greece's foreign debts.

Efforts by the Greek elite to portray Syriza as dangerous radicals were not effective; the first, third and fourth place parties were all radical groups demanding change, and only 28% of voters opted for staying the course with the current government.

I wonder what happens now? Brussels and Berlin still say there will be no renegotiation of debts and Greece must adhere to the terms of the bailout. The only weapon Tsipras has to force change is the threat of default, which would probably mean leaving the Euro. I think that is the right course but in the short term it would make things in Greece even worse. Do Tsipras and his followers have the nerve? Will they rise up and declare a halt to the 60-year march toward European integration?

And what will they do in Brussels if Tsipras looks set to default? Will they grant him major debt relief, or shrug their shoulders and let the chips fall?

I have a feeling that the most likely outcome is a Greek climbdown after some very minor concessions. No doubt the bankers and industrialists will do their best to make things in Greece as bad as possible during the next few months, trying to turn people against Syriza and create a desire for stability. It would take the nerve of a Lenin or Churchill to say no to Europe at this point, and I doubt Tsipras has it. We'll see.

Mimi Brune: Still Lifes

mimi brune is the pseudonym of Alya Galinovskaya, a chef who lives in St. Petersburg, Russia. All of these were shot in natural light with her iPhone. Lots more on her instagram.

A Watts Mother Mourns While Boiling Beans

The blossoming flower of my life is roaming
in the night, and I think surely
that never since he was born
have I been free from fright.
My boy is bold, and his blood
grows quickly hot/ even now
he could be crawling in the street
bleeding out his life, likely as not.
Come home, my bold and restless son.—Stop
my heart’s yearning! But I must quit
this thinking—my husband is coming
and the beans are burning.

--Etheridge Knight

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Addiction is a Symptom

Jonathan Hari reviews those famous experiments that give rats a choice between plain water and water laced with heroin or cocaine. The rats use the drugged water exclusively, until it kills them:
But in the 1970s, a professor of Psychology in Vancouver called Bruce Alexander noticed something odd about this experiment. The rat is put in the cage all alone. It has nothing to do but take the drugs. What would happen, he wondered, if we tried this differently? So Professor Alexander built Rat Park. It is a lush cage where the rats would have colored balls and the best rat-food and tunnels to scamper down and plenty of friends: everything a rat about town could want. What, Alexander wanted to know, will happen then?

In Rat Park, all the rats obviously tried both water bottles, because they didn't know what was in them. But what happened next was startling.

The rats with good lives didn't like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it, consuming less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated rats used. None of them died. While all the rats who were alone and unhappy became heavy users, none of the rats who had a happy environment did.
Hari follows up this important insight with an absurdly narrow view of human happiness that I think ruins the article, but the basic point stands: drug addiction is mainly a response to unhappiness, not a chemical reaction. Most heavy drug users are medicating their misery. West Virginia has more opiate addicts than the rest of the country, but not because West Virginians have some genetic predisposition to addiction. They have more drug abuse because they have more unemployment and less hope for the future.

Of course drug abuse can become a terrible problem, one that makes it all but impossible to work on the underlying causes. As George Orwell once wrote, "a man may take to drink because he feels himself a failure, then fail all the more because he takes to drink." But once you get people off drugs, what they need is not prison, but friends, family, work and hope.

Swearing and Language Science

Prospero takes a look at swearing:
Taboo words can survive underlying social change. Church attendance has plummeted over the past few decades in Quebec, but a distinctive clutch of swear-words in the local variety of French are still some of the roughest words in the language: chalice (calisse!) and “host” (hosti), for example. The words remain powerfully charged partly because they are simply learnt as taboo words, and serve a special function divorced from their original context. Swearing activates a bit of the brain that is used for other kinds of emotional responses like shouting and crying. The reason it is so hard not to swear in front of a child when you stub your toe is that you haven’t consciously processed the words through the same part of the language engine that you would use to explain a maths problem. Studies have even shown that swearing makes physical pain more bearable.
The discovery by modern neuroscience that swearing uses different parts of the brain than other language finally explained for me the appeal of the whole business. I spent my whole youth wondering why people enjoyed swearing so much, found it so funny, etc. But once you understand that swearing comes, not from the highly rational language centers, but from the emotional organs, it all makes perfect sense. (Some people who have lost all speech because of brain injuries or tumors can still swear.) Obviously you can choose to swear in a perfectly logical way - viz, when you are retelling a story or putting words in the mouth of a fictional character. But no matter how you use them, their connection to deep-seated emotions clings to them like an aura, making them different from all other speech.

Peter Breuer

Peter Breuer (1856-1930) was a German sculptor whose career spanned the transition from neoclassicism to modern, and whose works oscillate between the two realms. Above is my favorite work of his, Adam and Eve (1898).

Aphrodite and Eros, famous work in a park in Berlin.
A lot of Breuer's stuff is still for sale as bronze table pieces; this is a contemporary version of Breuer's Hunting Season.

Spring, another work of which there are many, many small bronze copies.

Breuer had a thing for Beethoven and made many sketches and designs for Beethoven sculptures over the years. In 1920 the city of Bonn announce a competition for a Beethoven monument, and Breuer submitted some of his designs. He won and was finally able to complete (in 1923) his vision. This work divides critics; some like it but others (including me) are put off by the blocky mass of it.

Another view of Adam and Eve.

Dowd, Obama, and the Great Man Theory

Maureen Dowd is a valuable columnist because she articulates, in amusing, readable prose, certain widespread but entirely false beliefs about American politics. To her, everything comes down to the President and a handful of other Leaders, whose personality quirks determine what does and doesn't happen in America. Obama has disappointed her, so she blames all our troubles on his aloofness:
Obama won the presidency by creating a magnetic narrative. But then, oddly, he lost the thread of his story and began drifting. He didn’t get to the point Bill Clinton did, where he had to insist he was relevant, though last summer, some of his frustrated hopey-change-y acolytes talked about having an intervention with the rudderless president. But others argued against it, pointing out that, while Obama might not have the presidency that was giddily anticipated, during the 2009 tulip-craze phase, he was doing what he wanted.

He wanted to do what he saw as right and have the public and the pols come along simply because he said it was right.

But when the Potomac didn’t part when he was elected, he got grumpy and decided not to play the game.

As David Axelrod said, and as Obama concurred, the president was resistant to the symbolism and theatrical aspect of his office. He never got it that the emotional component of the presidency is real, whether it’s wooing lawmakers or comforting the nation.
There are in America these people we call "voters." They have certain powers in our system, and they set real limits on what the President can and cannot do. More immediately there are people we call Congressmen and Senators, who get to vote on most of what a President proposes. The President has no magic power to compel them to act. Nor does the President have any magic power to compel foreign leaders like the Prime Ministers of Iraq and Pakistan to do his bidding. The strictness of the constraints set by all these other factors varies from time to time and situation to situation. It is true that sometimes a President can bend the situation, but not very far. Dowd and lots of other liberals lionize FDR, but if you look closely at his career you see that he achieved what he did by closely following the limits set by public opinion. Roosevelt spent the first two years of World War II desperately searching for some way to get the US into the fight against Hitler, but he never did find a way until Hitler solved the problem for him by declaring war against the US in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. Roosevelt had been trying to delay war with Japan because he wanted to fight in the Atlantic, not the Pacific, so even though he got his war at last it was not quite the war he wanted. Not even the greatest politician can remake the electorate or the world to suit his plans.

This accusation in particular irritates me:
When the public was jittery about ISIS, Ebola and Ferguson, Obama responded like a law professor. He made a stunning speech on race to save his 2008 campaign, but he has stayed largely detached from the roiling race drama that stretched from St. Louis to New York.
People make this complaint about Presidents all the time, not understanding the basic situation: as the nation's chief law enforcement officer, the President cannot mouth off about pending trials. If he gave a speech in which he denounced police behavior, the defense attorneys of abusive cops would say that his speech had prejudiced the jury against their client, and a sympathetic judge might toss the case on that basis alone. On this as on so many other matters, there just isn't much the President can do except mouth platitudes about justice for everyone.

American politics are not as liberal as Maureen Dowd wants, or as I want. But that isn't Obama's fault, or Bill Clinton's, or Al Gore's. The fault is with liberal voters ,who reliably fail to show up on election day, especially during non-Presidential years. Until that changes, Republicans will usually have control of Congress, and liberal dreams will not be realized.

Quit waiting for superman and get to the polls.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Greece, the EU, and the Lame Consensus

Things are terrible in Greece. Unemployment is nearly 30%, and the economy has shrunk 25% since 2008. Against this background the country is holding national elections, and in recent polls the lead is held by a new, left-leaning party called Syriza. Its leader, Alexis Tsipras, is a 40-year-old political neophyte who gives rabble-rousing speeches and promises to renegotiate the terms of Greece's 2010 financial bailout. The reaction of the Greek and European elites to Syriza is telling:
Newspapers and television stations, under the control of Greece’s oligarchs, have fed Greeks a daily diet of frightening stories about what would happen should Mr. Tsipras prevail. His victory would mark the first time that a eurozone country would be led by a non-centrist government, and columnists warn on a regular basis that his ideas and inexperience could have dire consequences for Greece.

Each day, the newspapers deliver a tally of the billions of euros that left Greek banks in recent weeks. “Mammoth Outflow” read one headline on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s latest television commercial resembles a wartime newsreel, predicting a Tsipras victory would bring mobs to the streets by April, bank closings and medicine shortages by May. On Thursday, Sofia Voultepsi, a candidate for Mr. Samaras’s center-right New Democracy Party, suggested on a morning talk show that Greeks should stock up on toilet paper.
Meanwhile EU leaders keep insisting that "Greece must abide by the creditor-friendly austerity policies laid down by Germany."

I think this whole affair exposes the European Union for what it really is: a project of the continent's international elite, the people who drive German cars, wear Italian suits and drink French wine as they jet or ride the TGV from one capital to another, toasting a l'Europe! in the grand salons of Baroque palaces and insisting that Ordnung muss sein. I have always been a fan of order myself, and I despise nationalism. But this New European Order stinks. Nobody in those salons gives a damn about the unemployed people of Greece or Spain, or pays any attention to what voters think. Oh, too bad, they mutter about the unemployed, but the debt to GDP ratio must be reduced. Or what? I always want to ask. Interest rates in Europe are almost as low as they are here, and if there ever was any threat of financial collapse it was controlled years ago. Now the fear of financial turmoil is just an excuse for the bankers and their friends to insist on the austerity that they want anyway. If we don't get our way, they simper, we're taking our capital and going home!

Today's European elite is eerily like those 18th-century kings and aristocrats who fought nice little wars and then met in the same grand salons to rearrange the map, transferring a few hundred thousand little people to the latest victor and then congratulating themselves on keeping order. A splendid little treaty! Come, let us retire to the music room and hear a new concerto. At least they had the style and nerve to build their own palaces and compose their own music, instead of just reusing stuff 250 years old.

The Greek mess is largely the fault of the Greeks, who lived large on borrowed money until the credit finally ran out. But there are two parties to every loan, and I think the banks who advanced the Greek government unlimited funds are just culpable as anybody in Greece. But while the Greek people are suffering terribly none of the bankers who made those loans has suffered in the slightest. When someone like Tsipras says that ordinary Greeks should not have to bear the whole burden of this disaster, and that the banks should be made to suffer, too, there are gasps of horror in Berlin and Milan. Socialism! Communism! Little people getting above themselves! You must understand that the integrity of the banking system must be protected or we will have turmoil! Anything but turmoil!

The currency union was a terrible mistake, but it can't be undone because that would be a "failure" for "Europe." But we spent so much time in grand salons working out the details! Shielding Europe's vulnerable people from the mistakes of their leaders is, it seems also impossible, because -- you know, I'm not sure why. Because German voters despise lazy southerners, or because the bankers insist on some arbitrary spending target, or because it might lead to inflation (which would actually be great for Greeks and Spaniards), or because it would be too much work and cause important people to miss their ski vacations.

Europe's political mainstream has no ideas, just fear of disorder and a quixotic devotion to their grand project of continental unification. If something good does not happen in European politics soon, very bad things will start to happen. Maybe that's what Europe needs to shake this establishmentarian defeatism, and bring people to power who will actually pay attention to what voters think.

Anthony van Dyck, Virgin and Child with St.Catherine of Alexandria

Suddenly, in the 17th century, they rediscovered how to paint babies.

Friday, January 23, 2015

5,000 Stolen Vases

Italian police just announced seizing "5,361 vases, kraters, bronze statues and frescoes valued at some 50 million euros" from an art dealer in Switzerland. Lots of illegal digging going on in Italy.

What happens to these objects now? No museum in Italy has room to display them, so I suppose they will disappear into some heavily guarded government warehouse. I have a suggestion: how about organizing them as a traveling exhibit that would visit places like Montana, Manitoba, Costa Rica and Kenya where people don't get to see much classical stuff? Billing them THE STOLEN CLASSICS or LOOT or some such ought to draw in the visitors.

In Thailand, the Middle Class vs. the Peasants

For twenty years Thailand has been torn by conflict between the urban middle class and the rural poor. Back in the early 90s the middle class rose up and drove the military from power, demanding democracy. At first they won the elections. But when poor people realized that the new government had no plans to help them they gave their votes to populist businessman Thaksin Shinawatra, who bacame Prime Minister in 2001. He proceeded to disperse government money to them through price subsidies for rice and other programs. This infuriated the urban elite and many of their middle class followers, and they organized massive protests (the Yellow Shirt movement) against Shinawatra's "corruption." Shinawatra's followers organized themselves as the Red Shirts to demonstrate in favor of his policies. As the country descended toward paralysis, the military came back and removed Shinawatra in a coup in 2006.

But nobody really liked the military government, and they seem not to have enjoyed holding power very much, so in 2008 they handed power to a new elected government. Both Shinawatra himself and his party had been banned, but this did not soothe the anger of poor Thais. In 2011 they voted a new party into power headed by Shinawatra's sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, and she went right back to the same redistributionist policies that had been her brother's trademark. The Yellow Shirts were predictably outraged, and they again drove the country toward paralysis until, early last year, the military again stepped in and removed Yingluck in another coup.

Having learned the lesson that they can't win elections, the Bangkok elite has shied away from democracy and supported the military's appointed legislature. Elections were recently postponed again, this time to mid 2016. And now they have moved against Yingluck Shinawatra in the same way that they drove out her brother:
The National Legislative Assembly, handpicked by the junta after the coup, voted 190 to 18 to impeach Ms. Yingluck on the grounds that the rice subsidies were a form of corruption.

The junta has not explained how people who no longer hold political office can be impeached.

Economists considered the rice program wasteful, and it angered members of the Bangkok establishment, who resented that their taxes were being used to pay farmers well above market prices for their rice. It was one of the key complaints of members of the Bangkok elite who led debilitating protests in Bangkok last year. They blocked voting in elections and pressured financial institutions to withhold payments to farmers.

Ms. Yingluck has defended the rice subsidy program as assistance for the poor. “Many governments have public policies to help farmers,” she said in testimony at the impeachment hearings. “It’s the government’s duty to look after them.”
And there you have it. Democracy cannot survive in a country where the economic and military power is concentrated on one side and the voters on the other. It may be that it can't survive if poor voters expect too much from the government. And it certainly is not a magical solution to all the problems of a troubled country.

Manfred Kielnhofer, Guardians of Time

Drones and Revolution in Yemen

For the past five years the US has been deploying drones in Yemen to attack the leaders of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and other insurgent groups. We did this with the support of Yemen's president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who liked having American air power to strike at his domestic enemies.

Now Hadi's government has collapsed and it looks like Yemen may be partitioned between Al Qaeda and another group of rebels backed by Iran, called the Houthis. The Houthis are mainly Shiite, Al Qaeda and its allies mainly Sunni, and without any central government to hold the place together, who knows what may happen?

Behold the fruits of our drone foreign policy. Every missile we fired at Yemeni rebels has, in the end, only added to Yemen's misery. Whatever the government gained by having its enemies blown up was lost by the growing perception that Hadi was an American tool, and as he depended more and more on American backing he lost the support of Yemenis. When Houthi rebels took the capital and surrounded Hadi and his cabinet, nobody rose up to help them.

It is not yet certain that Yemen will descend even farther into chaos. Hadi's resignation seems to have been a political move aimed at forcing the Houthis who were holding his government hostage to ask him back, but it looks like they are simply going to let him go and organize a new government without him and his supporters. Who knows, they may succeed; maybe the Yemeni factions will all bond over hating the US and our drones, and so our cruel idiocy will make some positive contribution to the place after all.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Looking Across the Tracks

My view this morning at the Halethorpe MARC station while I waited for my train to Washington.

Saints, Missions, Indians, and History

When we think about history, how much bandwidth should we devote to the triumphs of heroes, and how much to the sufferings of victims?

Consider the impending canonization of Father Junipero Serra, the most important founder and leader of the Spanish missions in California. Serra gave up a comfortable job as a theology professor in Spain to preach Christianity to the Indians, and he was successful in converting tens of thousands. For this, and for his generally pious and self-denying reputation, he will soon be made a Catholic saint. But what really went on in those missions?
“Serra did not just bring us Christianity. He imposed it, giving us no choice in the matter. He did incalculable damage to a whole culture,” Deborah Miranda, the author of Bad Indians, said of her ancestors and what she called “the mission mythology.”

“If he is elevated to sainthood,” said Nicole Lim, the executive director of the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center in Santa Rosa, “then he should be held responsible for the brutal and deadly treatment of native people.” Ms. Lim, a Pomo Indian, runs a website for students that she said aimed to correct the misinformation. . . .

From 1769 to 1835, 90,000 Indians were baptized along the West Coast, from San Diego to San Francisco. Once baptized, they were not allowed to leave the missions, and those who did escape were rounded up by soldiers and returned.

The Indians were forced to shed their languages, dress, religion, food and marriage customs. Thousands died from exposure to European diseases to which they had no immunity. Of the approximately 310,000 Indians in 1769 in what is now California, only one-sixth remained a hundred years later.
For an alternative view of mission life, just remember what you saw in The Mission, which depicts the Jesuit missions of Paraguay as blissful islands of peace protecting Indians from both native wars and colonial oppression. No doubt the reality was somewhere in between, or perhaps both oppression and protection and a lot of other things, too. A realist might look at it like this:
Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, who credited Father Serra with bringing “Christianity to this part of the world,” said he understood why Indians were upset, acknowledging the whippings and coercive environment. But missionaries also taught school and farming, he said.

Throughout history, a more powerful civilization “will dominate and seek to transform the weaker one,” Archbishop Cordileone said. “European powers were going to discover this continent and settle here. Were the indigenous people better off with the missionaries or without the missionaries? I would say they were better off with the missionaries.”
Which makes a certain amount of sense to me, but on the other hand would you make the architect of such a brutal compromise a saint? I would never hold any European responsible for the massive deaths of Indians from European diseases, which they did not understand and which would have happened in any case as ships got better and trade became more regular. But when a European sets about organizing Indians into little totalitarian states with the goal of protecting them from murder or enslavement by other European, that strikes me as more of a protection racket than a saintly act.

What should we remember about such events, and --- the real point of contention -- what should we teach our children? Should we make room in our hearts for people seen at the time as heroes or saints, even if they fail to meet our own standards of morality? Or is the whole point of having moral standards that you apply them to everyone in all ages? Should the heroes of our textbooks be only people who would seem upright and just in our own age? Such a standard would exclude not only almost all the settlers of America but most of the famous Indian leaders as well, since Tecumseh, Sitting Bull and so on were all terribly sexist and given to great cruelty in certain situations. Can we praise Roosevelt for the New Deal without pointing out that to get the votes of southern Democrats he had to write segregation into the programs? We have lately been trying to find heroes in history with whom every child can identify, so that, for example, histories of the American west now often mention the black cavalrymen known as Buffalo Soldiers. But is that, from the Indian perspective, just the celebration of another bunch of oppressors?

Should we make any room for things that were just amazing, whether or not they could be considered good? We seem in this moralistic age to argue a great deal over whether Columbus was a murderer, which strikes me as a minor side issue; like it or not, his voyages changed the world as profoundly as any single act ever has. I enjoy teaching about the Vikings, because they are weird and exciting, and fortunately nobody has ever insisted that I give equal time to their victims.

I never know what to think about these questions. I personally see history mainly as a fascinating, beautiful tragedy -- after all, everybody ends up dead, and what makes it interesting is the amazing things they did along the way. I dislike it when people use what I consider bad history in contemporary politics, viz., worshiping Confederate heroes as a way of opposing civil rights and the welfare state. Otherwise I have trouble understanding why people get so outraged about things that happened centuries ago. I don't think anybody in the Catholic church is talking up Father Serra as a way to attack Indians or take what's left of their land, so I can't see getting worked up about his canonization. If Indians interested in their traditional cultures don't like him, they don't have to pray to him. Human history is vast beyond anything we can absorb or understand, and there is plenty in it for everybody.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Alexander Gronsky's Russia

Alexander Gronsky (born 1980) is a Russian photographer who now lives in Riga, Latvia. I am fascinated by his images of life in Russia's industrial cities. Many more at his web site.

Reading the Scorched Papyri of Herculaneum

Digging into the remains of Herculaneum in 1752, archaeologists discovered something rather startling: intact, charred papyrus scrolls, possible representing a whole library buried by hot rock and ash in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. More than 1,700 scrolls were recovered.

A few of these scrolls were in such good shape that a machine developed by Antonio Piaggio was able to unroll them intact, so that they could be read. Sadly they turned out to be books by minor and justly forgotten Epicurean philosophers. But you can't have everything, and at least we had acquired some new works from the ancient world.

One of the scrolls used in the current study

But most of the rolls were too fragile to be unrolled, not matter how slowly and carefully. So they have been sitting around for 260 years, waiting for someone to find a way to read them. X-rays were tried long ago, but to ordinary x-rays the carbon-based ink looks just like the paper, so no luck there. But these days of course our imaging technology is vastly better than it was even 20 years ago.

Using a technique called X-ray phase contrast tomography, a group of Italian researchers led by Vito Mocella has been able to read at least a few letters and words from a rolled-up scroll. Nothing exciting has yet been discovered; this is what the investigators described as a "proof of concept." Eventually we should have even faster and more precise machines, which when hooked to a supercomputer might allow reading all the surviving scrolls in a reasonable amount of time.

Plus, 2,800 square meters of the Villa of the Papyri (reconstruction at top) remain to be excavated, and some people expect to find other rooms full of scrolls, some of which might not be by justly forgotten philosophers. Almost all of the hundreds of thousands of books that circulated in the Roman world have been lost, but maybe, just maybe, these methods will allow us to recover a few of the missing ones.

The Domes

At UC Davis, a counterculture experiment lives on:
Opened in 1972 and designed by a contractor, the Domes were a pioneering low-cost student cooperative, albeit one built of artificial materials. Unlike geodesic domes, a period archetype, the fiberglass shells of these dorms were cast in one piece and then lowered by crane onto a concrete pad with prefabricated plumbing. They were meant as bulbous and iconoclastic expressions of the times, intended to inspire personal growth and an eco-friendly, grow-your-own commitment to the land.

The spirit lives on in today’s Domies, some with nose jewelry, who plant almond trees, roast chicken, make acorn flour and walk barefoot through the mulch. “The hippie movement fell through,” Douglas Doria, a senior human development major, observed over a potluck dinner announced by the ting of a metal triangle. “But there are still people wanting something outside the norm.”
I admire this because I am tired of a left that is all about nagging other people to do things they would rather not; I want to celebrate our freedom to live as we wish. Quit whining about what “the culture” is doing to people or the earth or to you; make your own culture. Stop trying to force other people to approve of your own choices; make them, and be as happy as you can with them. Nobody owes you acceptance or admiration. But if you make your own path, plenty of people will admire you for it. Be satisfied with that.

If America is too secular for you, join one of the many religious communities springing up from Oklahoma to New York. If it is too boring, go to Burning Man. If it is too corporate, start buying from organic farmers and local craftsmen. If it is too fast paced, spend the winter at the Slabs. If it is too cold, take time to make a friend or have a long talk with one you haven't seen in a while. Stop complaining and start doing.

Web site of the domes is here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appears, discovering that we have the strength to stare it down.

--Eleanor Roosevelt

Fairytale Landscapes by Kilian Schönberger

Kilian Schönberger (previously here) has been wandering around Germany taking pictures of things that remind him of the Brothers Grimm. More here.