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Showing posts from March, 2012

A Prophetic Vision

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetuated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.” –George Washington, Farewell Address (1796, written by Madison and  Hamilton) Under the combined influence of profound emotions and psychotropic medication, the Arrow was deflected from his usual reveries of vengeance last night by a prophetic vision. He denies that he was asleep at the time, but neither was he fully awake. Awake enough he was, however, to realize that his vision may have been colored by the wishful thought that this election might not result in another four years of deadlock and legislative corruption, with a President who can only Preside over a scene of escalating rancor and chaos. 
Everyone–even the pundits– can project from our present paralysis the prospect of expanded misrule through judicial fiat after the 2012 election produces y…

Another Sin Saluted– Envy

Although the company Parthian keeps at the Beacon Hill Bistro is too mellow to feel envy among ourselves, we do partake collectively in the pleasure of envying the powerful. If we wish we had the means to buy our own legislature, should we feel badly? Parthian doesn't, and he doubts that the Koch brothers do, either. They may own pooches, but they also have a more compliant pet called ALEC.

The iconology of deadly sins may exhibit some ambivalence about our universal propensity to see greener grass, since it designated our best friend the dog to serve as the emblem for envy. Parthian considers envy a propensity that needs to be leashed, but not regretted. He therefore salutes the warrior who attends to our conclave only after walking in the park with a friend called Sam.
DOG Why project upon our friend Feelings that we can't transcend? We govern our curs as we would a child, Willful and unreconciled
To our mastery in the least degree! “My leash,” dog thinks, “gives liberty To dominate…

Warning to Convivial Seniors!

A fellow veteran recently called upon the Parthian Arrow in Boston. To celebrate the occasion while we rehashed remembered battles, we adjourned to a mess hall on Charles Street after darkness fell around the campfire. We ate well, with only the slightest intrusion by the obligatory server visit to ask how we liked our fare. We fared well; that’s why we chose to eat where we did. Parthian was reminded by his friend of campaigns we had fought in Europe, where the custom is to allow diners to eat uninterrupted by inquiries that deflect the stream of reason. Doubtless, no restaurateur can obtain a loan or keep the goodwill of his or her American guests without at least one little bother.
Our conversation soldiered on with little difficulty. Ancient memories surfaced more readily than the very recent thread we were unspooling when we pronounced our satisfaction with the fare.  After a moment of groping, and a couple of “…you were saying…” exchanges, the enemy was back in our sights. Parthi…

Who Murdered Trayvon Martin?

Parthian deplores the habit of treating an event such as the foreseeable and foreseen death of an innocent child as a tragic (nevertheless reparable) disturbance in the well-ordered society that even Floridians enjoy. We tend to look at his tragedy as if a martyred body were a pond, with concentric waves of guilt surging from the bullet’s point of entry.  Better, Parthian maintains, to regard those waves as circles of injustice. The truism that there ‘is enough guilt to go around’ ignores nicer degrees of relative culpability and identifiable impunity. We need to grade the perpetrators as Dante would, assessing their answers to our frustrated sense of outrage as we consider all of the misfeasances, nonfeasances, and malfeasances that met in Sanford with as much objectivity as we can muster.
We need to weigh both legal and moral responsibility, together with public excuses, because responsibility, whether in the legal or the moral sphere, is a question of what one must answer for. 
We kn…

Counterfactual Histories and Alternate Universes

Parthian is daunted by the mathematical and imaginative demands made by the best popular accounts of cutting-edge theoretical physics and cosmology. Like many admirers of Hawking the man and the writer, a very thin conceptual residue remains in his head after Parthian's long struggles with texts such as the Brief History of Time. The Arrow emerges with vague ideas of multidimensional mathematically complex ‘strings’, nonlinear ‘time,’ and multiverses where everything happens all at once– even the realization of perfect justice, somewhere, somehow. Cosmological confusion is theological opportunity, however, as demonstrated by the latest work of the witty French philosopher of science and irony, Bruno Latour.
Parthian dares not summarize Latour’s subtle book-length argument, On the Modern Cult of the Factish Gods. Latour, a devout Catholic, offers after many twists a perspective from which scientific fact and religious fetishes appear to share a common validity deriving from how the…

Greed is Good– Another Sin Saluted

FROG Seeking greed's animal analog, Monks of old adduced the frog– Perhaps because her mouth's so wide It's hard to think her satisfied.
As emblems go, the frog still fails To meet criteria that greed entails. Her whiplash tongue in spasms brings Damsel-flies whose biplane wings
In froggie's maw will scarcely fit– And what, come soberly to think of it, Arouses ranids' avid 'greed'? What, but a pond, does froggy need?
For sinful greed, the squirrel's stash, Hoarded like a miser's cash Is better taught to signify Demand beyond a just supply.
Neither creature can be faulted For virtues Adam Smith exalted!

Update– Connecting the Dots

The current issue of the Harvard Law Review includes a review essay by James Q. Whitman of Bernard Harcourt’s book,The Illusion of Free Markets: Punishment and the Myth of Natural Order.

Here is a snippet that lends some credence to Parthian’s post suggesting that the very idea of ‘outsourcing’ a traditional state function like penal administration to private profit-making corporations goes far toward explaining what has happened to make ours a land of the unfree and the home of the grave– Whitman writes:
….the explosion in American incarceration over the last generation has been directly paralleled by a decline in the institutionalization of the mentally ill ([Harcourt] p. 224 fig.10.1). The implication is clear: American prisons house people who would be hospitalized in other economically advanced democratic countries.....Numerous studies have shown the scandalous prevalence of mental illness in our prisons and jails, and among those who care about this scandal, it is commonplace that…

The Dawn of Blogs

Parthian knows that 'blog' is a neologism, abbreviating the term 'web log', strictly speaking. Before Tim Berners-Lee pioneered the use of hypertext and links, the great humanist scholars produced richly cited, abundantly quoted, and elaborately 'linked' or schematized works that rewove the reborn treasures of classic antiquity with new threads of contemporary thought. What might Montaigne have done with a laptop and a fast connection to Google? His Essays are instantly available on line in English and in French, with suitable scholarly apparatus. But his 'links' are not yet fully realized in hypertext.

Erasmus (with his own blog and facsimiles for readers of Latin) and countless other celebrated and now largely forgotten luminaries patiently ransacked limited libraries to produce magnificent prototypes of today's blogs. We can retrieve web-published editions of their works today with a click, but the dying world of the liberal arts has somewhat tard…

Girl Talk

This is not a good time to 'mock' young women. Parthian is proud of his granddaughter who wrote well enough to take a first class degree at Trinity College Dublin, but in her teens she declined Parthian’s offer of a substantial monetary reward if she could desist for one entire day from uttering the monosyllable, like. She was quite certain that she would fail that test.
A recent New York Times Science Page item reported that young women set the fashions in ‘vocal patterns’. If you follow the link, Parthian urges you to go on to an interior link for an audio interview that expands on the subject.  Respect for the boundary marks of academic fields left the report in the resolute non-prescriptive stance adopted by all the world’s linguists. Parthian felt nostalgic for the days when prescriptive usage was welcome in the academy, as exemplified by Fowler’s classic Modern English Usage. Perhaps the English and the Linguistics Departments were on more cordial terms back then.

Goldman Resignation

Today's post at Balkinization from Frank A. Pasquale is worth everyone's careful attention, in its entirety. Professor Pasquale blends punditry, erudition, and skillful sermonizing to make this one of the more teachable moments of the year. In today's post he discusses the parallels between ethical crises on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley, and he spells out the ominous implications. As usual, his points are backed by apposite links.

Another Sin Saluted– Gluttony

The few readers of this blog known to Parthian Arrow have remarked that he rants and raves but seldom abates his strident tone. The lyric to the Sloth was cited as an exception. Since all seven of the deadly sins are symbolized in traditional iconology with an animal, our bonhomie around the embers provided ample opportunity for other contributions. Parthian plans to season this magazine of his idiosyncrasies by including another verse every few days until his stock runs out. Today's post celebrates the Pig, in honor of a wounded comrade who recently returned to the Bistro table. He is a moderate and athletic gentleman whose career spanned several laboratories where he discovered new aspects of brain chemistry. Parthian tips his hat to Captain Cortisol!

PIG His habits seem unsanitary, true,
But he stinks no more than me or you; His flesh, nor kosher nor halal,  Fits him to serve for a rabbi's pal.

Omnivorous, like us, the sow and boar Lay up calories in fatty store, And so for glutton…

The Mill and the Cross– Lech Majewski

In his youth, Parthian attended an annual festival in Laguna Beach, CA, featuring tableaux vivants. He was impressed by the scenes re-posing paintings by Old Masters, but hardly blown away. The effort, expense, and enthusiasm invested in pageantry by the organizers and participants were more memorable than the scenes themselves, to his thinking.
This evening he saw a Polish film, The Mill and the Cross. No, Emily, this is not an adaptation of George Eliot's novel; but neither is it a Mel Gibson epic. Lech Majewski's version of the Life of Christ presents the same Passion story, and perhaps it shares an evangelical purpose with other films based on the New Testament. The Polish film has little space for manipulating the viewer's religious or other emotions, however, because it sustains from start to finish a sense of enchantment– a quiet epiphanous awe– that most resembles the breathtaking rapture Parthian feels when he hears a great musical performance. He had to breathe b…

Wacky Sneaks: Secret Prison Corp. Memo (Redacted)

Parthian has no comment on the Memorandum posted below. In traditional Hollywood style, it was wrapped around a brick thrown through his window at a late hour, followed by the sound of steps swiftly retreating. A scrawled note signed "Wacky Sneaks" apologized for the redactions, and noted that a copy was also sent to Professor André Douglas Pond Cummings whose business intuitions had proven to be prescient. Parthian accepts the logic of this Memorandum from a business rationality perspective, but suspects it is a counterfeit. He has added some links for the edification of the reader. The redactions, regrettably, preceded delivery. The stationery had also been trimmed to remove insignia of the company and the names of the Board and the officers who prepared it. Only a small chad remained at the bottom of the first page, with the letters M.B.A. 
[For reasons of programming ineptitude and security, to see the full memo pdf file you must click the diagonal arrow button]

Parthian Culture– song

Parthian customs are unfamiliar to some of the Arrow's readers. This post will supply a few details of our fugitive way of life and our beliefs, insofar as they differ from the surrounding culture. Future posts will provide details beyond what the reader may infer from the Arrow's transparent biases and predilections. Everyone knows (Parthian hopes) that our tribe is famous for parting shots, for horsemanship, for our invention of the stirrup, and general toxophilic prowess. We believe in honesty, honor, and the existence of Evil. In our simple Manichaean devotions, we take the side of light, and abominate the dark side. We are famous for our love of verse, and we honor our poets and artists. No self-respecting cataphract passes his turn to contribute a lyric as we sit around the campfire after a hard day's battle. Parthian was honored on his return from his CCRC mission by a Village bonfire, where all the elders took turns with verses on a common theme set by Parthian him…

Popular Constitutionalism

2012 is a double Olympic year. Parthian will watch the athletic events in London this summer from his own side of the Atlantic, where he will be disturbed by the sponsored interludes of rhetorical mud-wrestling in the longer, parallel Olympics of dishonest marketing known as a Presidential Election.  With money unlimited to buy the best dissemblers and wedge-wielders the free market can offer, this post-Citizens United campaign should surpass all previous records. Washington's nightmare recurs quadrennially, like the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Luckily, the evolution of the world wide web has supplied us with sources of insight and erudition far superior to what can be found on the moribund editorial pages of newspapers and weeklies.

Parthian found the recent talk by Yale's Professor Jack Balkin especially valuable, because it included a warning that the Arrow takes as a testable hypothesis,  issued by one of the leading constitutional scholars of our time. Professor Balkin note…

Final Report on Downslope Abbey– Assisted Life in a CCRC

After an “episode” and a stay in hospital, a CCRC resident who cannot resume life promptly is very unlikely ever to return to her familiar cell. For those whose “episodes” are not “passings,” Continuous Care entails another downsizing. Continuous doesn’t mean uninterrupted, except for the monthly costs, which increase just as the span of daily existence shrinks. The next room in the Memory Unit or in Assisted Living will be smaller; the strings one pulls to summon help will be closer to almost anywhere you might fall. Intrusions will multiply. If you qualify for the nursing section, you will have a roommate. There, the odds are against your lasting an entire year. Parthian will not go there yet. This post will inspect the main track followed by the healthiest survivors among the casualties of age who are no longer able to sustain a leisurely life of semi-independence without assistance, although they remain of sound mind. The same qualities that qualify a CCRC resident for Assisted Liv…

Connecting Dots– The American Gulag

The Parthian Arrow remembers the days when he could answer childish questions about the origins of our legislation as if they related to the origin of babies. He would say that most of us, most of the time, are governed by laws enacted by Legislatures, mainly State legislatures, where ‘our’ representatives won their seats in elections. He would then perhaps add a touch of sophistication by mentioning a venerable institution comprised of legal academics, Judges, and Pillars of the Bar, where legislators might go to get carefully researched ideas and carefully drafted bills to consider, and usually, adopt: the Commissioners for Uniform State Laws.

Today, if he left the story as more or less the tale told in Civics texts, Parthian would feel as fraudulent as if he told an adult the stork brings babies into the world, and then sends Santa to regale them at Christmas. Those Commissioners still exist, but incumbents who wish to remain so look elsewhere for guidance, because “elsewhere” is th…

CCRC Gold Standard Independence

Although he feels secure in his Village setting, the Parthian Arrow knows that a time will come when more systematic care for his condition may best suit his need for a setting short of a hospital, but with a nurse on duty. The costs of staying put for Parthian include increased burdens upon his children or other caregivers; growing social isolation; compliance problems with complex prescriptions; immobility; galloping or glacial dementia… the list is long. The most disquieting argument is the ecclesiastical clincher: How can Parthian determine autonomously when he has crossed the line marking his loss of autonomy? Advised that legions of Lewy bodies still gnaw the ganglions of his substantia nigra, the Arrow took an opportunity to weigh his wonderful current life against the best alternative. He crossed a continent and the world’s longest scheduled flight over empty ocean, to arrive at last in Elysium.

This flight was not the Arrow’s first. At the midpoint of his own eighth decade, hi…