The above is from the website of a new campaign by the District Department of Health’s Addiction Prevention & Recovery Administration to tell young people if you do K2, you’ll turn into a zombie.
One says, “No one wants to take a zombie to prom,” which evokes nothing if not the 2006 short film starring RuPaul. In general, though, they seem intended to recall the spate of “bath salt zombie” stories from last summer in which legal synthetic drugs were fingered for causing bizarre behavior, such as eating your dog. The most prominent one, the Miami face-chewing zombie, turned out not to be on bath salts at all, and initial reports of synthetic use in other cases have turned out to be mostly false.
Don’t expect to hear from the Department of Health that the National Institute on Drug Abuse funded the creation of these allegedly zombifying chemicals, but that’s another story.
One could fill volumes with the hyperbolic claims employed in service of public morality campaigns, but I came across a few especially amusing ones this week when at a friend’s suggestion I watched “Hell’s Bells: The Dangers of Rock and Roll,” a 1989 Christian film. Despite what you might think, the movie is great. It tells the story of rock music’s relationship with sex, drugs, and the occult, all in clips of the musicians themselves. It’s impressive for the quality of its exegesis as well as the breadth of musicians treated, from Prince to the Beatles, from lesser-known metal acts to Joni Mitchell.
The overall message is the same as it’s been since Elvis—rock music is satanic (in response to which I’ve always thought, “of course it is! Isn’t that the point?”).
But prior to applying a scriptural rubric to popular music the filmmakers survey social science on the subject, as per modern convention, or to convince skeptical audiences. Two studies in particular (starting at 5:15 in the clip), one about how sticking an egg next to a stage speaker can cook it—therefore, of course, at a concert your brain was cooking in a similar way—and another about how playing rock music for plants will kill them, whereas classical music will help them flourish.
The origin of the egg claim is this paper in the Journal of Biological Chemistry from 1936. Cecil Adams tested it and it doesn’t really hold up. The rock-music-kills-plants idea is an extrapolation of Dr. John Diamond’s work on music and healing; the odd ideological marriage of holistic medicine and the John Birch Society.
For just about every issue purportedly eroding public virtue one can find unsupportable claims being made by the side who would halt the process; the debate over homosexuality comes to mind as having some of the more outrageous. It’s not often, however, that public officials exhibit such flagrant dishonesty in an effort to appeal to young people’s affinity for the undead.
Two months ago Tim Carney remarked that “The McAuliffe-Cuccinelli race might be the clearest contrast we’ve seen of a corporatist Democrat running against a free-market populist.” Polling this week shows Cuccinelli leading by a striking ten percent among likely voters. So is this the vindication of free-market populism?
I’d like to think so, but I’m not sure. Terry McAuliffe is pretty much the definition of a corporatist Democrat, but even until last year, Virginia voters might have been puzzled by the idea that Ken Cuccinelli represents free-market populism. I wrote back in February:
Even if he was in the right, to many observers of Virginia politics Ken Cuccinelli’s lawsuit against Obamacare had the whiff of a publicity stunt. It wasn’t so much that his case was spurious (a district court upheld its legitimacy, though he wasn’t able to take his case to the Supreme Court), but that it was one more link in a chain of quixotic, politically-charged crusades.
Most of those initiatives had nothing to do with economics; the absurd request for 15 years worth of correspondence from UVA, the advisory that state agencies had to pare down their anti-discrimination statutes to remove protections for sexual minorities, and so on. He was an early and enthusiastic supporter of the Marshall-Newman Marriage Amendment, one of the strongest statements foreclosing gay marriage in any state constitution. He’d always looked, to me at least, far more like a culture warrior than a free-marketeer.
Since then, Cuccinelli has been beefing up his laissez-faire credentials, with significant passages in his latest book, The Last Line of Defense, devoted to attacking the EPA’s regulatory regime, and of course the Obamacare lawsuit counts too. Beltway libertarians also seem to have an affinity for Cuccinelli, which I’ve always thought strange, though it’s perhaps explained by the AG’s solid support for Tea Party, libertarian-ish candidates. Today Cuccinelli unveiled a pledge to lower state income taxes. I hope the trend continues.
But there are two factors that might caution against reading the Virginia governor’s race as a referendum on free-market populism; the unique terribleness of Terry McAuliffe, and a gubernatorial electorate heavily biased in favor of Republicans. Jamelle Bouie’s point about McAuliffe’s tepid support among black voters—less than Creigh Deeds!—is especially significant since a substantial portion, some have even suggested a majority, of Democratic voters in Virginia are African American.
It’s official, Ron Meyer Jr. is running for Congress in the 11th district of Virginia. At 23, if he were elected he would be the youngest member in the nation’s history by several years. But he won’t be.
The district was very close in 2010, and for that reason some still point to it as a possible pickup for Republicans. But in 2012 Gerry Connolly was reelected by a 26 point margin. That partly reflects the advantages of an incumbent, but the 2010 redistricting also shifted many of the 11th’s Republican strongholds elsewhere. The Hill ranked Connolly as one of the top ten lawmakers who benefited from redistricting.
Nonetheless, for some reason it was held out as a possibility, if the right Republican with crossover appeal could be found. To some, ex-Democrat Artur Davis was seen as that man. He spoke at a fundraiser in the district and stoked speculation that he might be considering a run. But being a far more experienced politician, he must have realized the seat was unwinnable; it’s revealing that Davis endorsed Meyer even while his campaign was still in the exploratory phase.
Last Wednesday Senator Barbara Mikulski chided the military leadership for not being more forthcoming about decisions that could impact defense expenditures in their states:
… we really need those within the department to have a real understanding of this committee and every member, not only the full committee chairman and the vice chairman and the chairman of the subcommittee and Senator Cochran but all of the committees. We have been deeply troubled from time to time that we have been treated in a dismissive way. The chairmen are always treated with respect. Everybody wants to come and see us, have meetings, exchange coins, and we all kumbayah together. But at the end of the day, there are members here that want to be on this subcommittee so they can get simple answers about what’s going on in their own state. They worry about…the moving of airplanes, the fact that a meeting with us is checking the box.
Mikulski represents Maryland, which is the third most exposed state to defense cuts behind Hawaii and Alaska, and she chairs the appropriations committee.
The Pentagon proposed a budget earlier this month that called for a new round of base closures; estimates going back to the Bush administration claim the surplus of infrastructure is about 20 to 25 percent. Yet Congress rejected that idea last year.
D. G. Myers earlier this week defended the use of literary history as an aide to the study of literature. Literary history is a shortcut to the advantages of wide reading and long experience, without which there is no good literary criticism, and without which one cannot begin to read anything with profit. He’s entirely right, but to admit that is to admit the limits of literature as an object of scientific scholarship.
Literary history works as an antidote to the dominance, in the undergraduate classroom, of New Criticism (named and championed by John Crowe Ransom and other southerners), which held that each word should be read closely with a mind towards its relation with the whole, and that nothing but the words of the text should guide a reader’s interpretation of it. Spin-off theories have replaced the sovereignty of the words with their own absolutisms, but, no matter the theory, professors have pointedly avoided teaching the literary context of the particular text, lest the innocence of the student’s imagination be tainted by suggestion. The reader is left to confront the text, like Francis Bacon’s inductive acolytes confront Nature, with nothing but curiosity, scepticism, and vast patience.
Literary criticism has always struggled to prove its rightful place at the table of the sciences. Ransom’s defense of close reading was a renewed effort to make literary scholarship scientific, by defining the scope of its study to that which uniquely belonged to literature and could not be found elsewhere. The outline of his ideas appears in his seminal essay from 1937, “Criticism, Inc.” It is suggestive that he offers the structures and linguistic tricks of poetry, as opposed to prose, as his prime example of the specific branches of knowledge which the critic ought to master. Close reading works better with poetry than with prose, since the working assumption of the critic, that every word is in an intricately balanced unity with the whole, holds up more often.
Since the beginning, English literature has been indebted to the study of classical literature and language, and for precision and breadth has never equalled it. The eighteenth century curriculum in England of the classical Greek and Latin literature was a model of education which cannot be replicated by the study of English. It was a synthesis of grammar, rhetoric, history, and ethics. Close reading sat alongside comparative literature, history, ethics, sociology as a profitable interpretative enterprise, in part because their knowledge of antiquity drew chiefly on the famous literature. Now that classical history has become scientific; that archeology, numismatics, the study of accumulated minor primary sources, etc. take up much more of the burden of historical inquiry, the famous primary texts are no longer quite so available as a vehicle for the transmission of humanistic values and the civilizing of the imagination and taste.
When the vernacular replaced the antiquities as the touchstone of a common culture, the study of English literature inherited the responsibility for transmitting that humanistic education. But it also inherited the same problem. Studying history and sociology through literature doesn’t get very far. The New Critics rejected that burden, devoting themselves purely to the text as an inherently interesting problem. Literary history goes the farthest one can go, now, to remedying the problem, by reincorporating the intellectual, cultural, political, and religious problems of the past back into the literature. It can become again the ground of humanistic education in the way that the antiquities once were. That, I think, is the natural home of literature. The science of literature serves that end, and not the other way round.
What do you think of water boarding the Boston killer sometime prior to allowing our doctors to make him well? I suspect he may talk!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2013
New York State Senator Greg Ball, the one who’s been getting all the attention for his tweeted call for torture. Hannity had him on, where he proceeded to say his view on torturing a wounded 19 year-old suspect was “from my heart.”:
Fox News host Eric Bolling:
“My dream of real justice would be a July 4 celebration of stringing this son-of-a-b-tch up in the Boston Common and letting the crows pick on his rotting flesh,” says Ted Nugent after complaining that it’s taking too long to bring him to trial, though he doesn’t specifically mention torture.
There were plenty of people calling for this and worse on the internet. But in one capacity or another, all of the above are considered leaders in the GOP or conservative movement. Maybe Fred Barnes is right about Bush being back in style.
Needless to say, all of them should have known that at this point there’s no reason to suspect that Dzokhar had any connection to terrorist groups beyond reading their propaganda. It’s also probably safe to assume none of them read the Constitution Project’s new report on torture, which Phil Giraldi explains here.
Among Iran hawks, present Beltway-speak for a war is “the kinetic option.” I first heard this phrase a couple of years ago at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and thought it was just a neocon thing. Jeffrey Goldberg, I believe, deployed it, along with another one—”depriving Iran of the labor of its nuclear scientists” by which he meant (hee, hee) Israel’s policy of assassinating them in the street. Yesterday the term was pushed around at the more centrist Center for the National Interest (formerly the Nixon Center) in a interesting discussion about the consequences of starting a war with Iran.
Kinetic, according to my dictionary, means “related to the motion of material bodies and the forces and energy associated therewith.” In other words, it’s a physics term whose meaning could include massive bombardment. Hiroshima was very kinetic. Less so, but also kinetic, was this year’s Boston Marathon. But “kinetic” as a euphemism for war is not only fairly bloodless and technical, it also has a kind of wink-wink ironic ring to it. Some dictionary synonyms are “active, airy, animated, bouncing, brisk, energetic, gay, and frisky.” This is the way Beltway insiders talk about preemptive war now. It’s not awkward and plodding like other Washington euphemisms “collateral damage” or “enhanced interrogation.” It sounds almost hip. It’s a phrase used by those supremely confident they and their families will never be on the receiving end of bombs themselves.
The serious foreign-policy types at the Nixon Center were discussing the useful new book War With Iran, by Geoffrey Kemp and John Allen Gay. The authors sift carefully through the many military options and try to game out the consequences. I shouldn’t try to summarize, but their bottom line is that they can’t foresee the consequences of a war, though they conclude that the U.S. and probably even Israel could do very substantial short- and medium-term damage to Iran’s nuclear reactors. They don’t try to address larger political or moral questions, such as very good one one raised at the seminar by Marvin Weinbaum, who asked what would be the broader psychological effect on our position in the Muslim world if the United States or Israel bombed Iran and killed a lot of Iranians simply because their government was enriching uranium. The authors conclude that after the strike, the problem of a Iran with nuclear aspirations would still be with us.
The word kinetic, with its aura of ironic distancing, seems designed to suppress these kind of questions, to render them as somehow unserious. I didn’t like hearing it the first time at FDD, still less now that it has migrated to the Center for the National Interest.
Two days ago I wrote that the results of legal battles over church property for Anglicans breaking away from the Episcopal Church was mixed. As of today, it’s, well, less mixed. The Virginia Supreme court ruled against the breakaway Anglicans today, and their property will remain with the diocese. From the Washington Post:
On Thursday, the Supreme Court affirmed that the property was rightly given to the mainline denomination but said some of the nearly $3 million in church coffers belongs to the Falls Church Anglican congregation.
It was not immediately clear whether there would be an appeal by either side. If there is not, this would end a property dispute that drew global attention starting in 2006 when more than a dozen Virginia congregations voted to leave the Episcopal Church but keep the church properties, arguing that the denomination had “left” by becoming more liberal on homosexuality, the role of women and how God views non-Christians.
The rector of The Falls Church Anglican sent a message to his congregation:
We have received word from the Virginia Supreme Court that it has ruled in our appeal. The Court’s decision reverses the trial court’s ruling as to a part of our church’s funds, and sends the case back to the trial court for further proceedings regarding that point. But the Court has affirmed the trial court’s decision as to our church’s real property and much of the personal property, meaning that our lands, building, and much of our money have not been returned to us. …
Please join me in praising and thanking God for his faithfulness to us despite this result. Although this is not the outcome we had hoped for, our faith and our future do not depend on court decisions. The Lord works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28), and we had purposed to praise Him regardless of the outcome. It is difficult to face the prospect of losing things that are precious to us, but ultimately we do not place our hope in land, buildings, or money.
To clarify the money issue, the EDV had laid claim to donations made to the breakaway churches after they had separated.
In the wake of the Boston Marathon terror attack, the punditocracy seems dumbstruck. We have come to expect after these things some good indications about perpetrators: old style terrorists would advertise their actions, and in the major recent cases, — 9/11, London subway, Norway — the killers were discovered quickly. As of this writing we the general public don’t seem to know much.
I agree with Charles Krauthammer that this has an Al Qaeda feel to it, the urban setting, the quest for dramatic photographs. But we don’t know yet. A smaller probability seems to me a right wing domestic terrorist, perhaps on the Breivik model. Smaller still, Shi’ite (Iran sponsored) terror, or some some kind of false flag operation designed to implicate Iran and jumpstart an American-Iran war. But I’m no insider, I just read the blogs and the papers.
Eleven plus years ago, my wife called me from Wall Street to tell me she was okay. Okay about what I wondered. She explained. That afternoon I wrote a blog post for Justin Raimondo’s antiwar.com, saying that Mideast resentment of US policy towards Israel and Palestine was at an all time high, and unless we did something about it, we could expect a lot more of same. David Frum, in an essay attacking antiwar conservatives, wondered whether it was Robert Novak or I who “blamed” Israel first. I think it was pretty much a tie.
At the time, in several subsequent pieces, I would argue that the best way for the United States to protect its own freedoms would be to have as little as possible to do with the Mideast– to cut loose our allies, limit immigration. Trade with that part of the world, but otherwise have as little as possible to do with it. We would of course have to punish the folks who did this to us, but after that, bye bye.
No one took this advice. Instead, we (the United States) have since 9/11 killed, wounded, droned, imprisoned, tortured, made refugees of millions of Muslims. We have fought the endless war, the forever war. Electing Obama barely changed the situation. Whether this has made us any more secure is highly doubtful, but it surely has created more enemies than friends.
To be continued, obviously, when we know more about who perpetrated the Boston atrocity.
Jason Peters at Front Porch Republic conceded Mark Signorelli’s right to be discontent with the archetypical Odyssean narrative of the Return Home, a discontent which Signorelli expressed in an essay titled “Going Home Again? Not Likely“:
If I am correct, it seems there is a certain kind of arch-typical narrative that has become quite popular here at FPR, and in some sense, emblematic of its defense of place and home. It is the “Going Home” story, the story of someone rejecting the allures of wealth and status in the big-city, and returning to the fixed traditions of his or her hometown. While such narratives are of great interest, in and of themselves, and while they clearly emerge from the sincere experiences of their authors, I find myself entirely unable to sympathize with them. I suspect, moreover, that, taken together, such narratives tend to distort more about the reality of twenty-first century America than they make clear.
But Peters missed the second part of Signorelli’s remarks, which was a preference for the archetype of Aeneas, a man who, his home having been destroyed, wanders as an exile in search of a place to build a new one. Peters briefly advised persons in Signorelli’s predicament to be as Booker T. Washington and “cast down your buckets where you are,” before defending his own dutiful return to a home still worth caring for.
That advice doesn’t square at all with the story of Aeneas, who spent many years wandering through the Mediterranean: he didn’t settle in the first place he landed, and his first effort to build a city in Crete was rebuked by Apollo. In Carthage, where he could have happily cast down his rusty bucket, his piety compelled him away.
Actually there’s more than one kind of homelessness, and Signorelli touched on only one of them. His sort is the peculiar emptiness engendered by the spirit of modernism, and from which an educated man learns to take some refuge in the wisdom of the classics. “On the street where I grew up,” Signorelli writes, “isolation was the norm. It was the kind of place where people came home from work, turned on the television, and had done with the outside world. The kind of place where next-door neighbors did not know one another’s name.” In response, he says, “one of the ruling impulses in my life since early adulthood has been a desire to get as far away from my hometown as I can.”
There’s another kind of homelessness, never unknown, but now in the United States almost as common as the modern ennui, and that is the problem of having many homes. There are grown men and women raised in homes with parents of different faiths, parents of different races, different nationalities, adults who spent their childhood moving from place to place every four years, crossing state lines and national boundaries. If their parents divorced and remarried they have stepfathers and mothers, each with another new history. These adults marry into again new cultures. Not all of these accumulated homes are worth living in. Some are like Signorelli’s hometown. But others are enduring expressions of community. It isn’t apparent by what rule couples should decide where to settle. They fit neither the departure narrative nor the return narrative.
And I begin with couples as an ethical unit, but marriage itself is a conceptual problem, a fuel to the multicultural fire. Each difference between a married couple increases the difficulty in communication and understanding, increases the basic tension between the insistent demands of their backgrounds. How do you raise your children among their grandparents when your in-laws are in Des Moines and your parents are in Miami? What if your in-laws live in Milan, or New Delhi? How do you raise your children faithfully when you, a Lutheran, can’t receive the Eucharist of your Roman Catholic wife?
I’m not discussing multiculturalism (or better, cultural pluralism), where communities with radically different cultures lead separate existences from neighborhood to neighborhood, and for which the problem is protecting the heritage of local and national history and law from the imported doctrines of an alien people who demand provision for their robust dissimilarity. I’m discussing the moral duties of the people who live in the borders between those communities. Those borders grow more complex year on year, strange combinations of tribal loyalties overlap, and the population living in them grows larger and larger.
In the absence of a series of friendly Apollonian soothsayers, it takes people a long time to work out how to solve the riddles of their moral duties. There’s no doubt humans have a common desire for home: some people learn to locate it in their family, some in a landscape, some in a club, some in a profession with a few friends. The fullest and most beautiful expression of home is larger than any one of these things, but for a child of multiculturalism the search for that home is difficult and can cause massive unhappiness.
There is a natural institution which can harbor and endure this sort of cultural anarchy, even putting it to good use: the city. Intercollegiate Review‘s Danielle Charette observed that “conservatives often use “cities” as a stand in for what is wrong in America: poverty, family breakdown, and crony capitalism. It’s true that those issues tend to concentrate more in urban zip codes. But it’s also true that cities are a magnetic testament to the human desire to congregate and experiment.” That embrace of experiment offers an endless supply of new beginnings, a place where strange ideas are constantly crashing into one-another, a place to build a half-way home while you sift through your soul to find the seeds of a more enduring piety.