Two Laments

Years ago I used to assign Saturday as either Ranting Day or Poetry Day, depending on my mood. Yesterday I was busy with other things, so this week Sunday will have to serve as Poetry Day.

The first of the two poems below was written by Dymphna. It is possibly her greatest poem. She wrote it in the mid-1990s, a few months after her mother died.

Some context is in order: Dymphna’s mother married a man from a wealthy Irish family when she was young. For reasons I won’t go into here, he abandoned his wife and their two children when the latter were still infants. Dymphna’s mother became destitute, and there was no welfare in Florida at that time, so she had to go off to work. For several years the children were placed with various foster families, where conditions ranged from awful to severely abusive.

The priest at Dymphna’s mother’s church eventually helped her place her son and daughter at separate orphanages, one for boys and one for girls, where they were to remain until they were ten or eleven — i.e. old enough to be latchkey kids.

Her poem describes the moment she and her brother were separated from their mother and from each other to be taken to the orphanages. At the time she wrote these verses, her brother had been estranged from his mother and sister for many years, and no one knew where he was. She assumed he was dead, probably of heart disease, since all her mother’s brothers had died that way when they were relatively young. But he wasn’t dead: her cousin was able to locate him, and Dymphna and her brother began an intermittent correspondence that continued until his death last year.

This, then, was her lament:

Lament for My Brother

It was so long ago
Those who stopped my tears
Then, who could not countenance
My guttural sorrow,
Are no doubt dead
Or disarmed by age and distance.

It was so long ago.
Yet my tears are the solvent
Melting the time between here
And then. I am five again.
The little brother being forced
From my arms is four.
We are crying, in the moment before
We learn it is not allowed.

It was so long ago.
Yet the wrench of grief
Tightens my throat now
Brings me to my knees here.
The void where my little brother
Was is hollowed out still;
I cannot fill it.

It was so long ago.
Yet the loss is as current
As the moment here before us.
The gods to whom all moments are one
Who do not understand
My linear “long ago”
Cannot hear my plea
To protect him.

It was so long ago.
He’s no doubt dead by now.
The men in my family die young
Whether they stay or flee.
The women in my family don’t teach
Them how to use their hearts.
The men succumb when
Flight is no longer possible
And they are overtaken
By feeling.

It was so long ago.

The second poem was written in the early 17th century by the great metaphysical poet John Donne. Fifty years ago I had to study the metaphysical poets intensively for A-level English Literature. I don’t know how they do it nowadays, but in those days a student was expected to quote at length from the assigned poetry at the exam, working entirely from memory. Thus, in preparation for the exam I memorized reams of Donne, Herbert, Marvell, Vaughn, Crashaw, etc.

I memorized three of the five stanzas of the following poem, and they’re still here in my head, intact after half a century. However, we were also required to present them in the original 17th-century spelling, and unfortunately that aspect of the task has largely evaporated (although I do remember that “festival” was spelled “festivall”).

In this poem Donne is mourning the death of his wife, for whom he grieved deeply. The conceit is that he is writing it at midnight on St. Lucy’s Day, the shortest day of the year. Dymphna’s case is the opposite: she, too, died at about midnight, but her death was almost exactly at Midsummer’s.

A technical note: the “Goat” to which the lesser (i.e. weaker) sun has run is the constellation Capricorn, in which the winter solstice falls.

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Old Sobersides

JLH sends the saga of Miz Hillary in verse form. One can only hope that the shade of Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (father of the Supreme Court justice) is not overly agitated tonight…

Old Sobersides
by JLH

Ay, tear her tatty logo down!
Too long has it made us sigh,
And many a face has had to frown
At what “justice” let go by.
Vince Foster, Seth Rich and others, too —
What is it they may have seen:
Travelgate, Filegate, Whitewater all true,
In the service of the Queen?

Erupting bimbos, Tammy Wynette,
The little woman wasn’t pleased.
Hillary Care was not a good bet.
Nuclear secrets for the Chinese,
And who knew pork bellies could be so swell,
If their futures were bright enough?
And who knew the Russians would pay so well
For that radioactive stuff?

Now, a former first lady has little to do,
When hubby’s not home at night,
Unless public office comes into view…
Get that carpetbag packed up tight!
So she walks the Senate like one who belongs,
And fades right into the crowd:
How to look brave while going along,
And skim off whatever’s allowed.

When Bill said “Two for the price of one”
No one could have guessed the price.
This inexorable couple is just never done.
They are back like undaunted lice.
The only way to stop this first woman’s run:
A black man’s program of hope.
As Highlander says, “There can be only one”
And Hillary runs out of rope.

But all is not lost — to the victor come the spoiled.
Run the Department of State?
So what if you’re looking a little bit soiled —
After Kerry, who needs to be great?
First, our uranium buddies of old
Need a friendly re-start.
The wording is wrong, so we are told —
Google Translate’s not worth a… damn.

Her greatest achievement was Ghadaffi’s demise.
Some minor Americans died too.
Parents, wives and children apprised:
There was nothing we could do.
We came, we saw, we made a mess.
Move on; there’s nothing to see.
“What difference now if I should confess —
I’d get off on a guilty plea.”

This time is different, there is no Barack.
We all know that now it’s my turn
No one has the guts to mount an attack…
But I think I “Feel the Bern,”
Doesn’t he know everyone has been paid?
Why is he still around?
This is not how the game is played.
I’ll pound him into the ground.

So what if I fixed some things here and there?
He can whimper all he wants.
So what if he doesn’t think it’s been fair?
Who asked him to leave Vermont?
And now I am off to the race of my life,
And I’m running against a clown!
Dirt and rumor against him are rife,
He’ll likely be run out of town.

Hey! Why am I not way ahead right now!?
Where are these polls coming from?
Who are they talking to, anyhow:
Deplorables, reactionaries, dumb!
I KNEW it — that damned electoral thing —
Now it’s gone and cost me the race!
Who cares what tune the “flyovers” sing?
They’re a colossal waste of space!

I will not be Trumped by that arrogant jerk,
But my hands are not lily-white…
Oops, I mean: Now y’all gots to git to work,
‘cause we gots us a rilly tough fight…
Ze basket of deplorable sink zey have won over us;
We’ll show zem “Si, se puede, señor”…
And we are woman, just hear us cuss!…
And we are gayer than ever before!

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Humility in the Face of the Stochasm


In my introduction to a news feed early last month I confounded some of our readers by using the word “stochastic”. In its context it meant “indeterminate”. The most commonly used synonym for it would be “random”, but that’s not exactly what it means. More on that later.

I first encountered the word in about 1970, when I was looking at the course catalog for the Math Department of the College of William and Mary. Back then Computer Science was a subdivision of the Math Department (a few years later it was elevated to the status of a separate department), so while I was browsing through the advanced math courses I came across an entry for “Discrete Stochastic Systems”, probably a 400-level course. I understood “discrete”, but I had to look up “stochastic”. In its computer context it referred to the fact that some events within a complex electronic computer are indeterminate, since they are affected by quantum fluctuations at the lowest level. One of the major tasks in the development of modern digital computers was to control for stochastic events as much as possible — via parity checks and so on.

The “discrete” in the course title referred, of course, to the fact that digital computers were under discussion. Analog computers had been fairly widespread in the early days (late ’40s and ’50s), but for reasons that are too complicated for this discussion, digital computation eventually won out and became the preferred method used in modern computers.

I duly incorporated the useful word “stochastic” in my vocabulary. A few years later I even wrote a poem entitled “The Intelligence of Discrete Stochastic Systems” (it wasn’t any good). In the decades that followed I forgot how specialized the word was; that’s how I ended up confusing the readers of the news feed.

Interestingly enough, in both of my major dictionaries (which are very old), the specialized meaning for the word is not listed. The definition given is “pertaining to conjecture”. The 1921 Webster’s lists it as “rare”, while the Oxford (more precisely: The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles) says it is “obsolete or rare”.

But not anymore. Now it’s simply a geek word.

It comes from the Ancient Greek word στοχαστικός (stokhastikós), which is formed from στοχάζομαι (stokházomai, “to take aim, as at a target, or to guess”), from στόχος (stókhos, “an aim, a guess”). I don’t know how it eventually acquired its current mathematical meaning; perhaps indeterminate events were things that geeks had to guess at. The Wikipedia entry has a lot more information on stochastic processes, for those who are interested.

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The most common synonym for “stochastic” (as you can see from the Wiki) is “random”, but that’s not really accurate, and I wouldn’t use it myself. I prefer “indeterminate”, or more fully: “a stochastic event is one whose cause cannot be determined.”

In my computer science courses it was drummed into us that there is no such thing as a random number in digital computing. What are commonly called “random number generators” are actually algorithms that output pseudo-random numbers. Every number produced by them is generated by a process that is totally determined, and not at all random. A programmer finds them useful to employ when it is necessary to simulate a series of random numbers.

In mathematical terms, randomness doesn’t exist. It has no meaning. Try to define it yourself — you’ll end up in a circular chain of references, without an external phenomenon to peg the word to. It’s not like “light”, or “vacuum”, or “hydrogen”. It has no meaning in a scientific or mathematical sense. It’s just a quaint linguistic relic, and is no more real than phlogiston or the aether.

What is commonly called a random event is simply one for which a cause has not been determined. Believing in “randomness” is therefore a form of religious faith, like believing in God, or Satan, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. We are continuously bathed in events that seem random, but accepting their randomness is a leap of faith on our part.

The discipline of Statistics was devised to help understand the patterns and mathematical structures behind large quantities of “random” data. Events that may be indeterminate on an individual basis are totally predictable when a large enough quantity of data is aggregated. But data on totally determined events can also be analyzed — the behavior of thousands of vehicles on a freeway, for example, can be statistically evaluated, even though the causes of individual drivers’ choices are unknown to the statisticians. That doesn’t mean that those decisions are random, but rather that they are indeterminate from the statistician’s point of view.

Darwinian evolution is a statistical model that relies on indeterminate events at the micro level to explain the process of natural selection. However, to call the underlying genetic changes “random” is to take a leap of faith that is no different, scientifically speaking, from believing in Intelligent Design or the Garden of Eden. All three are forms of religious faith. A scientific observer doesn’t observe randomness, but only events whose causes have not been determined.

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Two and a half centuries ago the paradigm of the Clockwork Universe had its day. Newtonian physics provided the tantalizing possibility that the mechanism of the universe could eventually be understood in its entirety. Given enough data, and enough careful calculation, there would be no indeterminacy left. The causes of all phenomena would be known and understood.

It was a heady time. Newtonian ideas gave rise to Deism, which posited a Creator who created the universe the way a clockmaker builds a clock. Once the clock was completed and wound, all observed processes would follow from it without any further intervention by the Creator.

Later the Creator was abandoned, and the clock just kind of came into being, with the Big Bang serving as the ultimate “explanation” for how everything eventually happened.

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A Moment of Clarity

You’re driving down a winding country road late at night. Up ahead, just barely within range of your headlights, you catch a glimpse of a moving shape. Uh-oh — could it be another one of those #@%&?!# deer? After a split second your guess is confirmed: you see the twin red pinpoints of its eyes. And then another pair, and another — the little red winking lights of four or five deer, looking like a row of error codes on a modem. The creatures leap into the road, eager to throw themselves in front of your car and send it to the body shop, and possibly you to the hospital. You brake hard and swerve… Phew! Your luck holds — you miss them by a couple of yards.

Yes, we denizens of the Virginia Outback are all too familiar with the awful moment when the view ahead becomes well-lit and clear enough to see that another close encounter with a deer is on the way. It’s a moment of ghastly clarity.

That’s what the last four years at Gates of Vienna have been like for me. Beginning with the Great Migration Crisis in the summer of 2015, some of the previously obscure underpinnings of currently unfolding events have sprung clearly into view, as if a row of light switches by the door to reality were being flipped on, one by one.

I could list any number of processes that make up this ongoing moment of clarity, but for simplicity of exposition, I’ll condense them into three major categories:

1.   The coordinated, planned invasion of Europe by masses of third-world migrants.
2.   The election of Donald Trump, and the consequent events that followed it.
3.   The global de-platforming of Tommy Robinson.
 

What these events have in common is that they reveal the otherwise occluded machinations of the international elite who strive to manage global affairs to suit their plans. The interference and manipulation have become so obvious that even non-paranoid people can’t help but notice them.

In the following analysis I’ll draw on vast quantities of data that I’ve absorbed over the past few years, without including any links. However, anything that is speculation will be clearly marked as such.

1. The Great Migration Crisis

When the columns of (mostly young male) migrants marched into Europe through the Balkans in the summer and fall of 2015, it quickly became clear that the whole operation had been planned in advance. Yes, Angela Merkel took advantage of the Dead Baby Moment when the corpse of little Ayan was carefully arranged and then “found” on a beach in Anatolia. No good socialist lets a crisis go to waste. Yet the logistical process that followed was far too large, complex, and expensive not to have been arranged ahead of time. Endless caravans of buses were lined up at various national borders to carry the migrants from one photo-op to the next, when they took those brief walks across the frontier that created such good visuals for the media.

And the culture-enrichers were carrying €500 notes to spend at their first stops in the European Union. Where did they get that kind of cash? Almost nobody uses that denomination of banknote in the EU.

A couple of years later it became clear that the EU itself was the cash cow for the migrants, when a credit card company acknowledged that it had partnered with the EU — which had guaranteed repayment of the debt — to hand out prepaid cards to migrants when they arrived in Europe.

Early in the game it became clear that George Soros was heavily involved in the process of migration. His NGOs ferried the “refugees” across the Med, handed out maps and instruction booklets, and chartered the buses that carried them onward towards Germany. But Mr. Soros wasn’t playing the philanthropist — he made that explicit when he told an interviewer that he expected to turn a profit on all his dealings.

Governments across Europe fell into line with the plan. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán stood alone against the migration, and has become the sworn enemy of Brussels as a result. Until Matteo Salvini became Italian interior minister last year, Mr. Orbán was the sole governmental leader on the continent to actively resist what was happening.

Mass migration into Europe is not intrinsically profitable for anyone except the culture-enrichers themselves. Yet lots of people — people-smugglers, businesses, NGOs, and local governments — have been making money off the process. So who is paying for the population transfer?

Somebody wanted those migrants to get to Europe, and was willing to pay billions of dollars to make it happen.

Three years later, an exactly analogue of the process could be observed in the migrant “caravans” traveling from Central America through Mexico to the southern border of the USA. That was also a complex logistical process costing a lot of money. The trek overland through several countries had to be organized and supplied. Local officials had to be paid off to allow it through.

Who bankrolled all of that?

I don’t have any definitive answers to these questions, just speculations. I’ll get into those later.

2. The election of Donald Trump

Twenty-five years or so before the 2016 election I noticed how unpopular mass immigration was with American voters. Polls routinely showed that somewhere between 60% and 80% of the population said they opposed immigration, and some considered it an important issue. It seemed that an aspiring presidential candidate could do well if he included a prominent anti-immigration plank in his platform. Yet no one ever did, and that seemed peculiar. How could a pragmatic politician resist such an electoral advantage? Yes, it was considered a “populist” position, and everyone knew that populism was bad. Still… the issue could have helped a candidate win an election because it was, well, popular.

Fast-forward to 2016. As the campaign progressed, and Donald Trump deftly picked off all his opponents during the primaries, it became clear that the reason no one ever took up opposition to mass immigration was because they were not allowed to. The intense vitriol aimed at Mr. Trump from both parties — what we now refer to as the Uniparty — made it clear that primaries were designed to weed out any opponents of immigration. And that was OK with the Republican establishment — they didn’t really want to win elections that much anyway, as their rush to join #NeverTrump proved.

The events since January 20, 2017 have provided more evidence that the political establishment (a.k.a. the Swamp) in Washington D.C. is prepared to use all its wealth and power and influence to push Donald Trump out of the Oval Office. And the major issue that makes Mr. Trump so popular is his staunch opposition to mass immigration.

Why do all those wealthy, powerful members of the entrenched elite want so badly to bring millions of illiterate immigrants into the United States?

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A Greater Wreck Than the Hesperus

JLH has torqued a well-known poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to produce this synecdoche for current events in the squalid politics of Washington D.C.

Update: JLH’s stanza on typhus has been added.

A Greater Wreck Than the Hesperus

by JLH
(with apologies to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

It was the Speaker, Nancy,
Who cruised the House’s aisles,
With lies upon her lips,
All covered up with smiles.

She’d gone from strength to strength,
Buoyed up by voter fraud.
Her funny little ways
Becoming downright odd.

Her city awash in culture,
And feces in its streets,
The rich and poor estranged,
And ne’er the twain should meet.

Yet meet they may, and very soon,
In ERs everywhere
For governing rats bring typhus rats,
Just to keep things fair.

The massive camps of homeless
Lined up on heating grates
Were, by themselves, not quite enough
To expand the electorate.

So though she’d already voted yea,
Had had no objection at all,
She prepared now to leave her body behind
To block the hated Wall.

It wasn’t only the votes, my dears,
But the principle of the thing.
And the principle in this case
Was giving The Donald a ding.

“What’s good for Chuck and Nancy
Is good for the country too.
Forget what you think we told you once;
Just believe what we tell you to.”

Then up spoke an old representative,
With the experience of many years.
The Wall was perhaps not so much to hate
As other things were to fear.

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TRUMP — or, I’m a better man than you are, Gunga Din

TRUMP
or
I’m a better man than you are, Gunga Din

by JLH, with apologies to Rudyard Kipling

You may talk of love and truth
When you woo the voting booth
And primary in your little, local race,
But bigger races need the dollar
And you are glad to wear the collar
Of anyone who helps you keep the pace.
Thus it happens in the U.S.,
In that political noisomeness,
Where the voters’ hopes have often flared and died.
Of all the Machiavellian crew
Who have swum that fiscal brew,
Just one has kept his head above the tide.

And it’s Trump! Trump! Trump!
How the hell did you make that jump?
Now stop this awful farce.
Don’t say things that we can’t parse
And go back to being the old, familiar Trump.

Tie is red, shirt white,
Suit blue both day and night,
Unless he’s going golfing with some friends.
So he’s red and white and blue,
And what he wants to do
Is help this ailing country try to mend.
The economy was failing,
And the middle class was flailing,
From eight socialist years of derring-do-do.
“Oh is there even one
Who’ll do more than simply run,
And, if elected, find something good to do?”

So it’s Trump! Trump! Trump!
Now that you’ve made the jump,
Make it pay, once more, to work,
Never mind the greedy jerks,
Who earn their obscene wages from the Sump.

He won and started work,
Unmindful of what lurks
And slithers in the corridors of power.
His thoughts are on the job.
Disdainful of the mob,
He focuses on using every hour.
He has both wealth and fame
And will spend them in the name
Of raising up the “deplorable” working class.
He takes no pay except for thanks
Moves lightly as a Patton tank,
And leaves his mark wherever he may pass.

So it’s Trump! Trump! Trump!
Pay no mind to Nancy Frump
Or her comrade, Cheesy Chuck,
Who are roiling in the muck.
Sail over them and you’ll hardly feel a bump.

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All That Vanished Glory

One hundred years ago this morning, in a railway carriage parked on a siding in the Forest of Compiègne in France, an armistice was signed between the Allies and Germany, officially ending the Great War. The signing took place at 11am French time, so that the occasion is commonly identified as the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918. The signatories of the agreement were Marshal Ferdinand Foch (representing France), Admiral Rosslyn Wemyss (representing Britain), and Matthias Erzberger (representing the new republican government of formerly Imperial Germany).

By the time these men gathered to sign the document, four great empires had ceased to exist: the Russian, the Austrian, the Ottoman, and the German. The sole remaining empire, that of the British, hung on for another thirty years or so before its piecemeal dissolution.

More than a year passed after the Armistice before a permanent peace treaty was signed at Versailles in January 1920. Its draconian terms all but guaranteed that the Great War would eventually resume, which it did less than twenty years later. Just think how brief the period “between the wars” was — looking back the same amount of time (7,599 days) from today, we see January 1998, when Paula Jones had just accused President Bill Clinton of sexual harassment and the Monica Lewinsky scandal was waiting in the wings, poised to dominate America’s television screens for the next year or two. As a matter of interest, earlier that month Ramzi Yousef was sentenced to life in prison for his part in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Remember all that? Not very long ago, was it?

The time between the wars was so short that any number of men served in both wars. A soldier born in 1900 and conscripted in 1918 had not yet turned forty when Hitler invaded Poland. By military standards he was a bit long in the tooth, but not too old to serve in the new war, especially if he was a career soldier.

So we could say that in a way the Great War lasted 31 years, from 1914 to 1945, with a twenty-year ceasefire in the middle. A ceasefire that gave the continent of Europe two precious decades of peace. During those twenty years of peace — despite the assertion that the Great War had been “the war to end wars” — there was a widespread feeling, especially after 1933, that another war was on the way. Looking back at the literature of the time, one detects a sense of impending doom. And, despite all the efforts of the great statesmen of the day to stave it off, doom eventually came.

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The conflict of 1914-1918 stands as the Great Divide of our time. Looking back from the twenties, the period before 1914 seemed a golden idyll in retrospect. Not that all the signs of cultural rot weren’t already in place before the war — one has only to look at French literature from the fin de siècle or the antics of the British aristocracy during the Edwardian period to realize that decadence and ennui were rife among the literate classes long before Gavrilo Princip fired his pistol at Archduke Franz Ferdinand and blew the old world away.

But all those forces of cultural destruction were given a power assist by the Great War. Lytic processes that had been in their infancy in 1914 were fully mature by 1920. Consider this partial list, beginning with the most important:

Bolshevism. Communism and other forms of revolutionary socialism were already a concern for the intelligence services of Russia and the West in 1914, but the Great War gave them such a boost that they became unstoppable. Assisted by the German general staff, Lenin was able to return to Russia and seize the moment, taking advantage of a society and state that had been severely debilitated by three years of trench warfare.

Once they had consolidated their hold on power, the Bolsheviks and the Soviet Union became the vanguard of International Socialism, attempting to export the revolution to the entire world. In the process they spawned their evil twin, National Socialism, through their violent conflict with various other socialist sects. By funding and infiltrating activist groups in the West, they undermined and discredited traditional societal structures — nations, churches, schools, families — to further the destruction of bourgeois values and hasten the revolution.

The forces unleashed by the Bolsheviks survived the death of the USSR and are currently regnant throughout the major institutions of the Western world — the most fateful legacy of the Great War.

Women’s Lib. Female suffrage was already trending in 1914, but the Great War guaranteed that the suffragettes would prevail. The war broke up traditional arrangements between men and women, sending women to work in the factories while men were blown to pieces on the Western Front. Women who had been apolitical became activists and agitators as a result. It’s no coincidence that major Western countries granted women the vote in 1918 and shortly afterwards.

Bobbed hair, short skirts, female employment, sexual emancipation. The “free love” movement existed long before the war — think of the Fabians or the Bloomsbury Group — but after 1918 it spread from the upper and upper middle classes to the rest of society, ushering in the licentious hedonism of pop culture that has become the norm throughout the West.

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An Enlightening Missive From Somewhere Out There on Teh Intertubes

I received the following email a little while ago. As far as I can tell, based on its, ahem, choice of nomenclature, it’s from the same person whose comments I always delete because they contain too many expletives, obscenities, vulgarities, and blasphemies to redact.

I’ve redacted this one as little as possible, because I want to make sure all of our readers are able to appreciate the subtleties of his/her/zer rhetoric.

And I’ve included the sender’s email address because… Well, just because:

From: amqh5o+6czeeiq1nt4mg@guerrillamail.com
To: Gates of Vienna
Sent: Wednesday, March 07, 2018 6:25 PM
Subject: Hey Baron, check this out :))

What are you afraid, little american idiot ? :)) You know that the mother of all wars is coming, especially in Western Europeistan, you know that, do you ? :)) Then, why the [carnal knowledge] are you keep on censoring those who say the things as they are in the real world ? :)) Wake the [carnal knowledge] up, or you will get eaten alive by those savage muzzies and sand-[Sons of Ham] that the psychopathic elites are importing, you stupid useless idiot :)) Anyway, you have no chance in the New World, you will not be good even as a slave. So, sorry for you, but you are a goner, little [copulated]-up spineless traitor, you think you will run the New World ? :)) The likes of me will do it, not you, stupid [maternal incest enactor].

—-
Sent using Guerrillamail.com
Block or report abuse: https://www.guerrillamail.com//abuse/?a=RkBgAB4PRaIcjQC68V4cegbIQMuE28RdiapHaA%3D%3D

A Week to Christmas

Six years ago I posted the following brief riff on Louis MacNeice as part of a much longer essay called “The Banality of Everything”. At the time I could remember portions of the MacNeice poem from my O-Level studies back in the ’60s, but I didn’t have the complete text.

Since then much more archival material has become available online, and I was able to find the entire poem. It’s not all that good, really — you can see the between-the-wars socialist zeitgeist poking up all through it; a dialectical materialist’s distaste for the materialism surrounding Christmas. Still, it makes for interesting reading now as a period piece. If the poet thought his time was a materialist one, he should have lived on another eighty years to see what 21st-century materialism is like.

And the teddy-bears-and-candles kitsch has grown even worse in the six years since I wrote this. It’s hard to see the exact shape of the endgame of all the increasing cultural rot we’re living through, but we know it won’t be pretty.

First, the excerpt from “The Banality of Everything”:

The cheapening and coarsening of public culture long predates the arrival of television, of course. Writers between the wars frequently bemoaned the commercialization and materialism of their times. In his 1938 poem “A Week to Christmas” (Part XX of a much longer poem, “Autumn Journal”) Louis MacNeice wrote disparagingly of “gimcracks in the shops”. Presumably he was thinking of a toy shop such as this one, on Wine Street in Bristol, photographed during the Christmas season of the same year:

If the poet were carried forward in time to the Christmas season of 2011 — which began not in December, but in October, and includes virtually no references to Christ — would he be astonished at the level of further gimcrackery to which Western culture has descended?

Would he realize that, culturally speaking, his own time was halcyon compared with our own?

Would he understand that the Socialist sentiments he shared with his fellow interwar poets bore a large share of the responsibility for the destruction of Western culture — which is now all but complete?

So here we are, closing out the Year of Our Lord 2011 with reindeer and snowmen and Santa Clauses and all the other gimcracks.

Here we are with heaps of teddy bears and candles whenever another gunmen kills eight or ten people in his former place of employment.

Here we are with tattoos, piercings, ghetto gear, texting, reality TV, “get over it”, and “whatever”.

It’s no wonder that Islam is making such inroads into the Western world. Our spiritual vacuum can scarcely be filled with stuffed animals and flowers.

But nature abhors that vacuum, so it will be filled with something.

The complete poem (part XX of “Autumn Journal” by Louis MacNeice) is below the jump:

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The Ballad of the Blue-Collar Billionaire

For a change of pace, our German translator JLH channels Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in this little ditty about the Bumpkin From the Big Apple.

The Ballad of the Blue-Collar Billionaire

by JLH

                                        I

Come listen my children and you shall hear
A political tale that will bring you good cheer.
On November the eighth in the year ’16,
A man was elected that none had foreseen
Or thought or guessed, let alone, expected
Would be nominated, much less, elected.

He stepped on the stage at that very first meeting,
Expected by all to take a great beating.
The Fourth Estate was in tears of joy:
Here was the perfect whipping boy.
His mouth was so big, his tweets even bigger,
And always good for a snort or a snigger.
Whatever he said — be it false, be it true,
There just was no limit to what they could do.
They prepared to record the brief but wild flare,
Of the man who would be the Blue-Collar Billionaire.

As the Redcoats had massed at Lexington,
So “neutral” moderators first sought to stun,
With fusillades of factoids and lethal spin,
But it all bounced off a fight-toughened skin.
Questions intended to demonize him,
To tear him asunder and limb from limb,
Were seen by the watching multitude
As proof of humanity, if not rectitude.

When interrogators wanted a loyalty oath,
He said that’s alright, but only if both
The party and others said to his face
That they would support him, if he won the race.
There were some opponents who looked down their noses
And made cutting remarks while striking great poses;
Claimed knowledge, experience and comprehension
To smooth over quarrels and lessen dissension.
All versus a man from the building domain,
Whose language was blunt, if not outright profane.

Then there began the chipping away:
His crazy ideas would make taxpayers pay
For impossible schemes that no one could do —
Politically impractical, as everyone (else) knew.
His demeanor was bumptious; his language askew;
How could he know what statesmen should do?
The elegant thinking of political types
Was beyond a man who lived only by hype.

But there also began a most startling display
Of competing in a counterintuitive way.
He played the bully as well as the fool;
He called them all names like a kid after school.
And then he did something that was really unfair —
So embarrassing it was, it was so hard to bear.
He did something that almost seemed underhand:
He proclaimed his unabashed love for this land!
He also had a cap that was red with white letters,
Which he proudly flourished in front of his betters.

Not patriotism, too! For the love of God!
Does he not know that makes him look odd?
And what was that, that he just threw out?
He’s pledging support to those credulous louts,
Evangelical Christians — he’s got their back.
When we already have them! The ignorant hack!

And another religious wave he would make —
He read out the story of Al Miller’s “The Snake.”

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That Lusty Brother Tariq

As we noted last week, the renowned Swiss philosopher Tariq Ramadan has been weinsteined. Or is it harveyed? Anyway, it’s open season on prominent males, all of whom are presumed toxic until proven otherwise, and Dr. Ramadan is no exception.

I was surprised to learn that famous Muslim men are not exempt from this latest fad. So Tariq Ramadan now has multiple women accusing him of rape — who will be next? Imam Rauf? Yusuf al-Qaradawi? At least they don’t have to worry about being convicted, as long as they go to trial in an Islamic country where sharia law holds sway.

Many thanks to Ava Lon for translating both these videos, and to Vlad Tepes for the subtitling.

Video #1 (interview with one of the alleged victims, Henda Ayari):

Video #2 (interview with the author Caroline Fourest):

Video transcript #1:

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Terror and Slaughter Return

We’ve featured this poem before, but it’s been more than ten years. Another look is warranted, given how much more dire times have become than they were just a decade ago.

Rudyard Kipling was a prophet whose clear vision peered ahead into the devastated twilight of Western Civilization. “The Gods of the Copybook Headings” is a remarkable poem. Written almost a century ago, it speaks to today’s deracinated remnants of Christian culture as we approach End Game:

The Gods of the Copybook Headings
by Rudyard Kipling

As I pass through my incarnations
                in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations
                to the Gods of the Market-Place.
Peering through reverent fingers
                I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings,
                I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us.
                They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us,
                as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift,
                Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas
                while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed.
                They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne
                like the Gods of the Market-Place;
But they always caught up with our progress,
                and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield,
                or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on
                they were utterly out of touch.
They denied that the moon was Stilton;
                they denied she was even Dutch.
They denied that Wishes were Horses;
                they denied that a Pig had Wings.
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market
                Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming,
                they promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons,
                that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us
                and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said:
                ”Stick to the Devil you know.”

On the first Feminian Sandstones
                we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour
                and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children
                and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said:
                ”The Wages of Sin is Death.”

In the Carboniferous Epoch
                we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter
                to pay for collective Paul;
But though we had plenty of money,
                there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said:
                ”If you don’t work you die.”

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled,
                and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew,
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled
                and began to believe it was true,
That All is not Gold that Glitters,
                and Two and Two make Four —
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings
                limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future,
                it was at the birth of Man —
There are only four things certain
                since Social Progress began —
That the Dog returns to his Vomit
                and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger
                goes wobbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished,
                and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing
                and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us,
                as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings
                with terror and slaughter return!

Barawatha: Epic of Epics

Our German translator JLH has employed his considerable poetic skills to pen this magnum opus about America’s Man for All Seasons — or for thirty-two of them, anyway, four per year for eight long years. Those are years we’ll never get back, but c’est la vie…

Barawatha
Epic of epics

By JLH, with respects to the great myth-maker, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I.
On the banks of old Potomac,
By the wide and flowing waters,
Lived for eight years Barawatha,
In the Whitest of all Houses,
In the fabled land of DeeSee,
In the land of wealth and madness.

Far had come our Barawatha,
From the lands of Kenyawahwah,
To the isles of Ho-No-Luau,
To the lands of Indo-Eastern
Where the minaret was calling,
Forming for him thoughts of music.

Then the trekking journey homeward,
From the lands of very Eastern,
Eastward to the lands of Western,
Stopping in the land of Luau,
Then on to the western province,
To the very western province
In the Land of Money-Talking,
In the Land of Let’s-Pretending,
In the Land of Mickey-Mousing,
Where for two short years he studied
The many mysteries of the Occident.

Now grown out of young and cuddly,
Into tall and lithe and handsome,
Soon to travel once more westward.
Like an arrow toward the coastline,
To the town of Robber Barons,
To the town of Spinach Popeye,
To the venerable institution,
Nestled in the worst of districts,
Covered in respect and ivy,
For another two years’ learning.

Leaving then that town of Commerce,
For the town of Slaughterhouses,
And the town of Drive-By Slaughter.
Learning, thinking, organizing,
Planning for a further future.

One last leap in education,
To a further northern Ivy,
In the land of cod and baked beans,
And of cabbage and of corned beef,
In the land of Cabots, Lodges,
And of many an upstart Irishman.

Here to study the queen of sciences —
Understand Left-Leaning Lawfare.
How to bring about the rescue
Of the nation from its bondage
To the thought of long-dead fellows
Who had never heard of Facebook
And refused to pay their taxes.

II.
Back then to the town of stockyards,
Railroad trains and Smith and Wesson,
Back to organizing, teaching.
Thinking now of where the Law lives,
How it changes and who does it.

Cleverly and lightly then he
Trod the stepping stones to power.
Missed the first one, balanced quickly,
Reached another higher level.
Soon was sitting with his compères
In the senatorial chamber.
Grousing, grumbling and complaining,
At the state of the economy,
At the travails of the needy,
At the entire world of nations
Seeing us as their despoilers.
How did all this come to happen,
Under less than able leaders?
Now is time to change direction,
Make a difference, make some progress,
Down with capital exploitation!
Up with programs, programs, programs!

Now he saw, our Barawatha,
Saw his purpose, saw his future,
In the epic war yet coming
To decide with final judgment
What befits this nation’s hubris,
In its arrogance and profit,
In its overweening self-love.

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Ash Wednesday 2017: A Difficult Balance

Today begins the long march of Christians through the penitential season of Lent. Gone is the bacchanalia of Mardi Gras feasting. Here come the days of fast and abstinence.

I had thought to put up a part of T.S. Eliot’s long conversion poem, Ash Wednesday.

But my sleep-deprived mind kept turning and returning to Richard Wilbur’s Love Calls Us to the Things of This World. It pulled me to notice “the things of this world” while I still can. So this is my offering instead, this exultation, one to carry with you as you also carry the ashes of mortality, the reminder: “Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you will return.” Or, as they said in my childhood, while marking my forehead with the ashes of last Palm Sunday’s fronds:

Meménto, homo, quia pulvis es, et in púlverem revertéris…

Love Calls Us to the Things of This World

      The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,
And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul
Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple
As false dawn.
                                 Outside the open window
The morning air is all awash with angels.

      Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses,
Some are in smocks: but truly there they are.
Now they are rising together in calm swells
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear
With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing;

      Now they are flying in place, conveying
The terrible speed of their omnipresence, moving
And staying like white water; and now of a sudden
They swoon down into so rapt a quiet
That nobody seems to be there.
                                                                     The soul shrinks

      From all that it is about to remember,
From the punctual rape of every blessèd day,
And cries,
                        “Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven.”

      Yet, as the sun acknowledges
With a warm look the world’s hunks and colors,
The soul descends once more in bitter love
To accept the waking body, saying now
In a changed voice as the man yawns and rises,
      “Bring them down from their ruddy gallows;
Let there be clean linen for the backs of thieves;
Let lovers go fresh and sweet to be undone,
And the heaviest nuns walk in a pure floating
Of dark habits,
                                 keeping their difficult balance.”

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