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Showing posts from May, 2018

Does the wake drive the boat?

In one of his talks, the late Wayne Dyer, a famous motivational speaker, declared: "The wake does not drive the boat." What he meant was that, as we age, we develop narratives about how the misfortunes of our pasts limit our present and future choices. He says these narratives are false excuses since our pasts are merely trailing phenomena like wakes (the water pushed out behind sailing ships) and cannot control where we are going. After all, the wake does not drive the boat, and our pasts don't control where we go. In this video, begin at about 15:45, listen for a minute, and you'll hear his claim.I was immediately afflicted with the goosebumps I get when I am skeptically curious. Is that true? The wake doesn't drive the boat?I thought of a question that appeared at the end of James Carroll's recent novel The Cloister. "You are towing a large barge on a hawser...Your main engine suddenly fails. What is the greatest danger?" The character, taking th…

We regret to inform you that the world may have to be destroyed (on Trump's cancellation of June 2018 talks with North Korea)

Soon after news broke the morning of May 24 that President Trump was canceling peace talks with North Korea, Trump tweeted out the letter he wrote to Kim. It reads like a letter written by a businessman, not a diplomat.Like a business letter about the possible destruction of the planet.Like a business letter released to the public via a tweet that misspelled his enemy's name as "Kim Jung Un." (He reissued the same tweet an hour later with the corrected spelling "Kim Jong Un" and then deleted the previous tweet that contained the error.) Sadly, I was forced to cancel the Summit Meeting in Singapore with Kim Jong Un. pic.twitter.com/rLwXxBxFKx— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 24, 2018Three sentences in particular are alarming:“Therefore, please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place. You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive …

The moral hazard of working for a corrupt administration

Those who work for a corrupt political administration can expect to have their own careers damaged. There were many warnings about this prior to Trump's inauguration. One of the early casualties was campaign manager Paul Manafort, who resigned several months before the election over concerns about his connections to Russia and, two years later, remains under increasing legal pressure.Upon Trump's inauguration in January 2017, Republican commentator and former Bush speechwriter David Frum identified four personal risks of associating with the new administration: exposure to Trump's "finances...including tax and corruption investigations"; to his "clandestine contacts with hostile foreign governments"; to enabling his lies, especially if they become illegal, such as when he speaks to Congress or speaks under oath; and to his general disregard for the law."A law-abiding person will want to stay as far as possible from the personal service of President…

Scott Lively's candidacy for governor of Massachusetts: On LGBT issues

Scott Lively is a Christian pastor and will be a gubernatorial candidate on the Massachusetts Republican primary ballot on Sept. 4, 2018. I encourage Massachusetts voters especially to pay attention to his personal record on LGBT issues. Here's some of his views as he currently represents them on his own campaign website (accessed May 12, 2018).On his homepage, he says that society must support the "primacy" of the "natural family" (which he defines by "life-long" monogamous heterosexual marriage and the getting of children "through birth or adoption") and should practice "tolerance for those who choose to live discretely [sic] outside the mainstream." (This is on his campaign homepage under "Seven Issues that Define My Campaign and My Life," Item 3, "Devotion to Family.") He does not define what it would mean for someone to live discreetly (i.e. unobtrusively to others), why that request does not infringe upon …

War is still about power, not truth

President George W. Bush told the nation in his 2003 State of the Union that Iraq tried to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger. Months after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, when no weapons stockpiles had been found, the head of the Iraq Survey Group testified that it "turns out we were all wrong." President Bush had to admit this in Summer 2003, and he used the line "we were all wrong" in his memoir, Decision Points, in 2010 after he’d left office and while the war was still ongoing.Americans, then and now, rationalized the national error by compounding it, insisting on an additional mistaken belief that Iraq somehow contributed to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. A majority of Americans believed it at the time, and even today in 2018 the narrative still has traction.In reality: None of the hijackers were Iraqi. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz “was not able to justify his belief that Iraq was behind 9/11” but had the idea of “using” outrage over the terror…

On Abelard and Heloïse

James Carroll's 2018 novel The Cloister retells the story of Abelard and Heloïse as seen by a fictional Jewish scholar who died in the Holocaust. This article focuses only on the fictionalized retelling of the 12th-century history and not of the 20th-century story. The newer part of the story picks up on Abelard's defense of Jews that was rejected by Catholic hierarchy and resumes with an imagined 20th-century Jewish scholar's attempt to revive it, receiving similar pushback from Catholic academics, resulting in scholarly eradication."Only eunuchs would think they [romance and theology] are unrelated."Peter Abelard was the son of a knight. As a teenager, he was expected to fight in Baldwin's army in Pope Urban’s war for Jerusalem, but instead he became a tonsured monk. He maintained an unpopular position: that Jews do not go to hell. This made him foes with the White Monk, Bernard of Clairvaux. What he is more famous for, however, is falling in love with his …

Crotilda, disguised as a eunuch, in 'The Fatal Contract' (1639)

The publisher's dedication says that this 1654 book was a posthumous publication. It was originally written c. 1639 according to this plot summary. Previously it had been circulating in "private Transcripts, where it past through many hands".As the Blogging the Renaissance plot summary explains, "one of [Queen Fredigond's] sons (Clotair) raped the fair Crotilda, and one of Crotilda's family killed the queen's brother (Clodimir) by mistake." Thus begins a dark tragicomedy of errors in which everyone is mad at everyone. Crotilda is in disguise as a dark-skinned, villainous eunuch for the entire play. This is known to the reader at the very beginning, as "Crotilda, by the name of Castrato, as an Eunuch" is named in the character list, but it probably would not have been obvious to an audience when the play was performed.In his first appearance, the eunuch (Crotilda) summons two soldiers, her relatives (who for some reason do not recognize her…

Can the president use social media to promote other people's books?

Ainsley Earhardt is a Fox anchor. She co-hosts "Fox & Friends," has a Hannity segment called "Ainsley Across America," and expresses support for President Trump. Her book, The Light Within Me: An Inspirational Memoir is referred to by publisher HarperCollins as "a powerful, uplifting look at her life and her spiritual journey, reflecting on her family, her faith, and her successful career." The book includes an interview with First Lady Melania Trump. President Trump tweeted on May 2 that consumers should "bring it to number one.""Number one" on what list, we aren't sure. Presumably not the standard-bearer, the New York Times, which the president claims to hate. Perhaps Amazon (where, as of the morning of May 3, the new release was placing first in one category: Hardcovers in "Biographies & Memoirs > Arts & Literature > Television Performers." OK.Number one where? On the New York Times Best Seller list? …