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Showing posts from April, 2012

Therapeutic Absolution

Religious believers arrive at death’s door no later than scoffers. To the eyes of clinical observers, the faithful appear to suffer their last hours neither more nor less unpleasantly than uncomforted rational materialists who doubt the reality of souls and reject religious offers of eternal preservation of one’s individual ‘life’ after death. 

Public attention has turned recently to magic mushroom studies indicating that ‘distress in dying’ is medically treatable. There is no reliable interpersonal instrument to measure comparative physical pain (or mental suffering) inter vivos, much less post mortem. Parthian long ago burnt his Ouija board, and he has declined invitations to bet in Pascal’s prudential casino. He understands that our culture does not widely share the inspiration he finds in the calm example set by David Hume on his deathbed. His profound agnosticism disposes the Arrow to view pill-purchased peace of mind at the end of life as both a wonderful possibility and a profou…

Pride, The Penultimate Deadly Sin

The Arrow has been arraigned for loving animals more than he deplores sin. This sixth item in a collection of seven takes no moral posture at all, unless ‘moralizing’ about the instinctive behaviors of our fellow creatures can be construed as a condescending gesture towards our more innocent and supposedly superior rivals in the food chain. LION Two sins beset the lion's fame: Imputed pride and our envy of same!
Although the lion settles the fates Of inattentive ungulates, He uses his wives to harry his prey, Allowing us to truly say:
A monarch with a crowd to feed Is a fellow humbled by his need.
Our envy is misplaced and vain: His lordly mien and handsome mane, His thunderous roar, his vigilant eyes, Betray deep fears; nor is he wise

To stand in sunset silhouette, So junior Hercules may win a bet– The hunter hunted, killer killed, His hide adorns a Masai shield: The emblem of a boy made man–  Catch this kitty, yes, you can!

Religious Exceptionalism Here and Over There

In the eye of everyone save the believer religious faith is necessarily subjective, being incommunicable by any kind of proof or evidence….No one else can be so bound, unless by his own free choice he accepts its claims. The promulgation of law for the protection of a position held purely on religious grounds cannot therefore be justified.–Lord Justice Sir Grant Mackenzie Laws Times Literary Supplement, reviewing Carey, ‘We Don‘ t Do God’
Many long chapters (now thankfully closed) in the history of the Christian west record bloody conflicts deriving from scholastic disputes over the opening premise of Lord Laws’ epigraph. Since the Enlightenment, and especially since adoption of one of its proudest products– the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution– proofs of the existence of God belong to the same category as Euclidean demonstrations of how to square circles. The problem is, you need a compass, a ruler, and a perpetual motion machine for the geometrical task, and you need independe…

The Arrow Points Beyond ACA's Doom

Parthian’s military experience tells him the enemy’s hubris will prove in the end to be the best weapon for the cause of progress. For reasons detailed by Rick Pildes, Paul Carrington’s sensible and conservative Court reform proposals stand almost no chance of endorsement by a reelected Obama administration. For a President Romney, Supreme Court reform is unimaginable. The Court that gave us President W and Citizens United alreadyenjoys carte blanche to wind down most of the features of Big Government that Ron Paul deems repugnant to his pristine Constitution. Rep. Ryan’s radical agenda needs no legislative boost. Sweeping rejection of Commerce Clause precedents will suffice.
If Republicans this year can’t afford the politicalcost of further budgetary deadlocks, the judicial Sovereign Five stand ready to undertake Ryan’s and Paul’s deconstructive task without fear of voter reprisals. Patient and piecemeal, judicial demolition will also be thorough, rhetorically artful and surgically s…

The Atlantic Magazine's ALEC chronicle

A fine recapitulation of the exposure of ALEC's secret legislative powers, and the skilled deployment of social media to shame ALEC's sponsors, is posted in the current issue of the Atlantic.

The editors produce an affordable, timely, beautifully displayed and organized iPad issue, well worth the modest price of a subscription. Check it out!

Another recently found treasure is Maria Popova's curated website and newsletter, Brain Pickings

The newsletter is free, delivered every Sunday with a list of the best of the best. Try it, and then donate if it suits your style! Parthian's buzz this week came from her link to super slow-motion photographs collected from a variety of YouTube and other sources.

Joyful Paranoia

Even amidst the gaiety of spring, when the entire city emerges to promenade through the Public Garden Or sail, or bike or row or jog along the Charles River, Or frolic on the grassy slope where Redcoats on Boston Common bivouacked before Lexington– A watchful stroller can easily spot liberated mental cases who might in earlier decades have been sequestered in asylums. They too seem to be intoxicated by the flowers and the clear light that etches perfect contours on everything. The schizophrenics rant or beg with a more beatific demeanor; other wanderers show the scars of drug dependency. Bipolar sufferers see the waves of their mood swings crash upon a seawall of sunshine, to recede in a smoothened outwash.
Parthian witnessed nature’s clinic prevail against the shadows cast by the superstitious reputation of Friday the Thirteenth. 
When season and circumstance conspire to produce a sense of elation, we speak of ‘epiphanies’ or of ‘spring fever.’ When short days and bad weather induce depr…

Tax Farming in the 21st Century

A friend recently deplored the Arrow’s posts (Bondage for Profit) honoring Professor Cummings for exposing the logical implications of the fiduciary duty of the Corrections Corporation of America to extract maximum value for shareholders from its assets. Parthian maintains that he didn’t miss his mark, but he admits that he may have chosen an especially ripe example of an ugly ideology that produces phenomena like ALEC. America's exceptional fondness for spending capital to pay current expenses explains the emergence of entities like CCA and ALEC. The Arrow neglected to mention the larger context. He pleads guilty to his friend’s charge of hyper-significant synecdoche.
In plainer English, the Arrow took a salient part of a familiar whole to epitomize his claim that our rightwing adversaries regard ‘human resources’ as inputs for producing whatever products they care to market. For prisoners, whether regarded as items of cost or as assets capable of producing revenue, their status g…

Obama's Horoscope

Parthian sees an emerging consensus among soothsayers with strong astrological credentials (the ones who limit their forecasts to the next 90-120 days, and consult only the planets known to Ptolemy). The Five Controlling Supremes are expected to revise the settled jurisprudence of the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause of the U.S. Constitution to the extent they find necessary to gut the Affordable Care Act. The planetary conjunctions are propitious for such a major legal coup.  In a previous post, the Arrow agreed with horoscopes that predict a trifecta extending from Bush v. Gore, through Citizens United, to the impending Florida v. Sebelius, and beyond. Consensus on that point is relatively easy. Marvin Ammori argues in the Atlantic Magazine that Obama should take up the next affront to democracy, and campaign this summer against the Court. The Arrow has spun ever since Ammori pushed it, but it has yet to point to such a desirable course. Obama is cautious. The misl…

The Deadliest Sin Propitiated

Anger is natural to humans but dangerous. Of all the sins celebrated around Parthian campfires, anger is deadliest, with the deepest roots in frustration and the most abominable expression, in cruelty. We ‘celebrate’ anger in our primitive rituals by scapegoating the animal we cuddled in effigy before we wandered from our cradle. In recognition of our ambivalence and guilt, one of our bards wrote these lines to shrive the bear:                      BEARThe tethered, taunted, baited bear
Stands and roars and punches air
In anguish his tormentors share.

We fishlike flop within his creel
As death unwinds his spinning reel:
Animal angst is all we feel.

Fads in cruelty, not long ago
Changed our taste for chosen woe–
Deadly drones kill a different foe,

Yet anger struts to center stage
For death's witnessing brings rage:
Mortality and doom turn history's page.

We must not blame our existential sin,
Upon Teddy, Smokey, and all their kin!

Senior Travel Season

Boston’s early spring signals the approach of the annual migration of the Seniors.
Soon after pollen season, we will pack our digital cameras and take off for Europe, Africa, or Asia, filling empty seats in aircraft that have delivered mannerly hordes of foreign tourists to swarm over Beacon Hill. These invasive paparazzi seem to find us natives fascinating to watch in our habitat, even if we don't dress in period costume. 

Once we bank our tax refunds or Minimum Required Withdrawals, the Village gathering will shrink. Parthian has partaken of this ritual more than once. Many of his friends and relatives organize their year around selecting their next destination, going, seeing, clicking, and when the exodus ends, endlessly editing their jpeg souvenirs. The Lonely Planet Hajj includes the Pantheon, the Vatican, Venice, and Santiago de Compostela and places beyond in its secularized Grand Tour menu, along with many other sites believed miraculously to confer cultural sophistication …

Update– Bondage for Profit

Parthian is again obliged to Professor André Douglas Pond Cummings for drawing public attention to this snippet from U.S.A. Today:
[CCA] is offering to buy prisons in exchange for various considerations, including a controversial guarantee that the governments maintain a 90% occupancy rate for at least 20 years.

…the $250 million proposal, circulated by the Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America to prison officials in 48 states, has been blasted by some state officials who suggest such a program could pressure criminal justice officials to seek harsher sentences to maintain the contractually required occupancy rates.
[CCA] purchased the 1,798-bed Lake Erie Correctional Institution from the state of Ohio for $72.7 million. Ohio officials lauded the September transaction, saying that private management of the facility would save a projected $3 million annually. Ohio's deal requires the state to maintain a 90% occupancy rate, but Janes said that provision remains in effect fo…