Wednesday, December 31, 2008

On the Free Exercise of Religious Beliefs

I can't say I'm not amused by the fact that Leftist atheists are now demanding that Obama remove all references to God and religion from his inauguration. I think it's apt, in fact, that the Democrats' supporters are now starting to demand that the Democrats support them. The atheists are, of course, misusing the establishment clause of the first amendment, which states that the federal government cannot make a law establishing a state religion -- they use it to mean that the government cannot even make mention of religion, and that religion must be purged entirely from government. They seem to conveniently forget what follows: "or prohibit the free exercise thereof." These atheists are attempting to prohibit the free exercise of religious beliefs by our elected officials. Thus, they are trying to get Obama to violate his own civil rights. You liberals are getting exactly what you deserve, since this is the sort of thing that you meant, even if you didn't know you meant it. Ideas have consequences.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Analytical Creativity

There have been a lot of articles talking about the late Harold Pinter's politics, resulting in one writer asking why it is that so many artists seem to have crazy politics. Marrin in fact goes a long way to explaining it in her observation that there seems to be a separation between the analytical and creative minds. What she doesn't ask is if this is a necessary condition, or only a recent phenomenon. I'm of the opinion that it's a recent phenomenon, born of the Modern Era, after the Renaissance. There are many who fused the two, such as Voltaire and Goethe, but certainly in the case of Goethe, it seemed to be a reaction to the separation of the two in so many other artists (such as the Romantics). But we only have to look to the Renaissance to see that being analtyical and being creative are not necessarily separate. Indeed, in her book Shakespeare's Use of the Arts of Language, Sister Mirium Joseph makes the case that Shakespeare was deeply analytical, making use of logic throughout his works. Frederick Turner, another who fuses being analytical and creative, also makes the case in Shakespeare's Twenty-First Century Economics that Shakespeare also had a very sensible understanding of economics -- certainly a far more sensible understanding than did such literary greats as Sartre, Steinbeck, or Shaw. But one of the aspects of modernism is specialization, and artists and analytical people separated themselves from each other.

Perhaps this is an indication that we need a new combination of analytics and creativity. Perhaps we could have a manifesto for "Analytical Creativity." Shouldn't our art be sensible? If, as Harold Bloom and Minette Marrin suggest, art is the source of wisdom, how can it be that the artists themselves are unwise and so full of nonsense? If that doesn't make any sense, it's because wise nonsense is itself nonsensical. If people wonder why it is we haven't had a Shakespeare since Shakespeare, it's precisely because artists after him abandoned half their minds. It's time we had artists who used their entire minds to create the most beautiful works of art.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Bank Exec Bonuses

I was one of those outraged at the bonuses, etc. given out by companies who received money from the "bailout." That is, I was until I learned that the federal government strong-armed 9 large banks who did not need or want the money, but were forced to take it to make it appear that it was not a stigma to take the money. If you did not need or want the money, and your executives were up for bonuses, then they should get the bonuses. Unfortunately, nobody's telling the public who the 9 banks were who the government forced to take the money. But there sure are members of Congress using this situation to make the banks who are giving out the bonuses and who probably didn't need the money look bad. Sounds almost like a set-up job. No, it IS a set-up job.

Mark Twain's Perpetual Wisdom

Two observations made by Mark Twain that are truer now than they were when he spoke them:

“If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed. If you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed.”

“No man’s life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session.”

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Social Security Is a Ponzi Scheme

Bernie Madoff will rightly go to prison for running a Ponzi scheme. So how does one explain why our elected government officials are still running free running a Ponzi scheme (aka, Social Security)?

Social Security has been a Ponzi scheme from the beginning. The money paid in went immediately to retirees. What little was in fact left over was invested in government bonds that paid a lower interest rate than the inflation rate (yes, the government lent itself the money at a low interest rate), meaning the money has been losing value in light of inflation. In the meantime, the money we pay in continues to go out to retirees, whose money was already spent on other retirees. This system works fine so long as there are more people working than retiring at a fairly high percentage. But as that percentage goes down, SS taxes will have to go up, or the system will collapse sooner rather than later. And it will collapse, as all Ponzi schemes do.

Yet another example of something the government does legally that is illegal for others. One could also include the protection racket (property taxes, where if you don't pay them, they take all your stuff away from you, and keep you paying under threat). Taxes are essentially tribute, after all. One could argue that we are in fact getting something for the money we pay, which is true -- but Kroger doesn't threaten to lock me in their storage room unless I buy groceries from them, even if I do need to eat.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fed Promises Even Worse Policies For Economy

From The New York Times: "the Fed bluntly announced that it would print as much money as necessary to revive the frozen credit markets and fight what is shaping up as the nation’s worst economic downturn since World War II."

The Fed is going to print more money. We are on the verge of a depression, and the Fed is going to devalue the dollar and artificially drive up prices. Please, somebody go get all the Keynes books in D.C. and New York and burn them. Then fire anyone who has ever thought Keynes, who had everything backwards, ever had anything good to say. Artificial inflation, as opposed to real inflation (prices going up due to economic growth), is devastatingly bad for an economy, as we saw in the 1970's around the world. All it does is send false signals, resulting in high prices AND high unemployment. It's a double sucker-punch to the poor and middle class.

Our government's every action seems designed to drive this economy into 3rd world status. And we just elected people who promised to accelerate the process! Heaven help us. It's all that's left that can.

Monday, December 15, 2008

On the Naive View of Artistic Creation

In his response to Frederick Turner's Creating a Culture of Gift, Richard P. Gabriel chastises Turner using what I call the naive view of artistic creation -- a view which I believe to be a barrier to truly understanding art, artistic creation, and perhaps to the healthy creation of art at all.

In the naive view of artistic creation, a work of art comes spontaneously, miraculously, inexplicably -- a gift from the Muses. To propose a theme for art to investigate is heresy in such a view. A theme would provide fetters on art, and we all know art is unfettered. Such is the naive view of artistic creation, where style, not content, is what is relevant.

But style can be taught. I can teach someone to write in iambic pentameter, to rhyme, to develop a work so it has an introduction, thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, to create a sonnet. Milan Kundera identifies the art of the novel as prose-poetry variations on a theme. For him, the theme(s) is/are selected beforehand, and the novel constructed with that idea/theme in mind. Style affects content -- but one must first have content. When I write a play, I have a plot first, then characters and setting, then I flesh it out with poetry. The idea for the work my come from something I hear in a church sermon (as happened this past Sunday) or on the news. I may have a theme I'm concerned with, or a human problem I want to work out. From whence does the art spring forth? In the initial idea? In the conscious planning? In the choice of style? In the word-explosion encased in the engine block of structure to create the work? And the Muse? Those who now invoke the Muses as a "mindless" source of art forget (or never knew) that the Muses' mother's Memory, their father's Zeus, god of wisdom and power. Memory means content -- to remember, there must be something to remember. We must have knowledge to be artists. We must, too, have wisdom, an understanding of the whole. Wisdom and knowledge, the system asa whole and the parts of the system, are the necessary elements of beauty.

The more we know -- the more we have in memory -- the more there is for our minds to work with, assimilate, make connections, re-member, see the system as a whole. Insight or inspiration, that sudden flash, is the coming-to-consciousness of our brain's work. If we give our brains good content, good themes, and good styles, we can then create good works of art. My poetic dreams come to life in iambic pentameter only after I learned how to write in it and internalized it to such a degree that it became a part of the artistic flash that comes to me. Externalities also inform my art. I see my 2-year-old daughter go up to a pansy and say, "Hi flower." and I delight, see what she's done, understand it in light of evolutionary and emergentist psychology, transforming it into iambic lines, and a poem is born. Wisdom in art -- there there is wisdom or else it's not art -- comes about from this kind of deep understanding.

Fetterless art? Art without rules? THere is no art without patterns. There are no patterns without rules. Fetterlessness is randomness, and randomness is patternless -- the opposite of art. No system is random or patternless. If a work of art to be a work of art is wise and born of knowledge, it is a true system, and thus a patterned work. Art, to be art, is complex, emergent, beautiful. If it is not, it is something else. Rhetoric, perhaps, but hardly art. And then, it's probably not even very persuasive rhetoric, either.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sandy Keenan: A Tragedy

Here's a teaser from "Sandy Keenan: A Tragedy."


A senseless war has killed my son. A war
Of nothing but revenge – against a man
Who never did a thing to me and his
Poor helpless nation, made a victim of
This nation’s President. How many sons
Has President Oakshott sent to the grave
On either side of this damned war? The brave
Must die so cowards holding power look
Like men. No man would send an army out
To fight their battles for them. Caesar did
Not stay in Rome. Great Alexander and
His boyfriend both were on the battlefront.
And Richard was a Lionheart because
He went to fight, himself. How easy it
Is now to sit behind a desk and send
So many others out to die and you
Just have to think about the polls and how
To be more popular. You do not have
To be responsible. Who will hold you
To it? The virtuous must die so that
The President can give a speech about
The virtues of this stupid war. He’ll use
Each soldier’s death to go up in the polls.
Disgusting. My intestines roil at
The thought. My gas pains, heart pains – how the soul
Can make the body ache. The two are one.
My spirit weakens me. I must be strong.
My husband thinks I’m delicate. That’s why
He left me here. But all he did is let
Me burn inside until I bear the stripes
True to a mother’s pain. I will not gaze
Upon this country’s government with blind
And starry eyes. Oh, no. I see the truth.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Happy Birthday Melina!

Today is Melina's 2nd birthday!!! This is what she looked like exactly two years ago today.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

In Defense of Teasing

Everyone should read this excellent article in defense of teasing. Bans on teasing and other forms of social communication are all part of -- and an enforcement of -- the post-existentialist, postmodernist world view that we are all socially isolated atoms. In the end, this is a dehumanizing ideology. Certainly it has brought us many good things, like attention to sexual harassment and bullying, which, as the author of the article points out, are not at all the same thing as teasing. It shows a suspension of judgment to insist that they are the same -- but then, postmodernism is all about suspending judgment as well. When postmodernism becomes politically correct bullying, as is the case with rules against teasing, laws against smoking in bars, etc., it poisons the well of humanity. If you want to believe that we are all socially alienated atoms amongst true communication with others is impossible, that's your business. But don't force it down the throat of all the rest of us who know better.

I"m increasingly convinced that one of the key features of postmodernism is its humorlessness. Even with people, like Kurt Vonnegut, who use humor in their work. Now there's a postmodern ironic stance for you: humorless humor. Yet how can you read someone like Vonnegut and not come away with that opinion of him? And while it seems that most postmodernists are on the Left, such as the ever-increasingly humorless Al Franken and Jeneane Garaffalo, the Right-leaning neocons aren't exactly the exemplars of humor (Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are decidedly not neocons, by the way). Teasing is a form of humor -- thus the postmodernist must ban it, since it is nothing like them, and nothing they seem to understand.

Even more importantly, the author suggests something very interesting: teasing and poetry both have the same origin, in ritual designed to stave off aggression. Ironically, then, the attempts to get rid of teasing to stave off violence are likely actually causing aggression to become violence.

My objections to postmodernism come from someone on the other side of it. I see postmodernism as a necessary stage to go through -- in this sense, postmodernism is much like the metaphor Nietzsche gave of virtue being a tree: the taller the tree, higher the limbs of virtue, the deeper the roots of evil. Postmodernism is a necessary evil to pass through to get to a better, more virtuous, more beautiful existence. One must descend lowest to ascend highest. Unfortunately, the postmodernists don't realize they are in Hell -- and worse, being in Hell, they are busy making life Hell for everyone else.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Teaser from "Vice: A Tragedy"


Outside. We see the corners of two houses. There are bushes planted between them. Flowers also decorate the fronts of both houses.

Scene 1 – Enter Sam, Allie, Ben, and Randy. Allie is dressed in such a way as to indicate
she is a member of a very conservative religion. It should look fairly uncomfortable to wear. She will wear something familiar throughout. The men are dressed conservatively.


The sign is down. I guess that someone bought
This place. What kind of neighbors will they be?
I hope they’re moral and do as they ought.
To know that we will have to wait and see.


Don’t judge them, Sam, before you get to know
Them. We will see if each is a black crow
Or swan-white, full of grace and beautiful.


If they all shine with grace or all are dull
From evil living, I will know for sure
When I meet them. I’ll know if they are pure.


And if they’re not? What will we do with them
Beside us? It could be a real problem.


Can virtue live this close to wicked vice?
I hope they’re good, else we will pay the price.


I’m sure that they’ll be fine. They’re moving here,
So they must know that our community
Is very ethical. I doubt they’d leer
At us or try to foster enmity.


I hope you’re right or, if you’re not, that they
Are open to conversion. That, I pray.

[Exit all.]

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Teaser from K(no)w

Act I, Scene 1 of my new play K(no)w:

Scene 1 – Interior Catholic Church. Enter Father Fischer.


Oh Lord, I pray you give me wisdom, strength
To lead my congregation, show the length
To which we all must go to give up sin.
Submissive Christians, finding freedom in
Our faith, please help us learn benevolence
And mercy-tempered justice, teach us sense
And wisdom in our lives, and bring politeness
Into our lives, the basis of true rightness
Of living in society. And start
With me, dear Lord – I’ll drag the burden-cart
And show through life the way you want us all
To live. You gave us knowledge in the Fall,
The knowledge of what’s good and evil, made
Us truly human, gave us choice and laid
The ground for loving you and your forgiveness,
The gift that was and is your son, who’d live less
Than forty years on Earth and take the pain
Of all our sins on Him. On Him you’ve lain
Out the last sacrifice and all we must
Now do is just believe in you and trust
Your word, be comforted by You, Your Son,
The Holy Ghost, the sacred Three-in-One.
And when we do our lives will be transformed,
Our souls and actions, lives and thoughts reformed
By You, in You, through You, my Lord. I’ve been
A sinner. Forgive me, my Lord. Amen.

Friday, December 05, 2008

My Decision

One of the reasons I decided to start the Emerson Institute for Freedom and Culture was because of my passion for the arts and humanities (I do, after all, have a M.A. in English and a Ph.D. in the Humanities) and my belief that economics is a complex system emergent from human action, a naturally-occurring system that is dangerous to tinker with. Looking at the think tanks we now have, I saw they were mostly trying to influence politicians. But politicians are going to do wha t the voters want (more or less), meaning the problem is less with the politicians than with the voters. We live in a culture that is anti-market in its beliefs and overall mentality. That needs to change. How do we change that? We need to change the culture, meaning we need to change the messages put out by the arts and humanities. Those who are pro-market do not find a lot of support in the universities or elsewhere, so it seemed to me that we needed a new institution to support those kinds of artists and scholars, and to educate the populace as a whole. That is the goal of the Emerson Institute. One of the reasons for my passion for the arts and humanities is the fact that I am myself a poet, playwrights, short story writer, and scholar. I write because I must. This Fall I wrote three verse plays. Now, in reality, I could probably take on both full time jobs of running for office and of running the Emerson Institute. But when would that leave time for me to do my creative and scholarly writing? That is something I cannot imagine giving up. Thus, I'm afraid that my decision is that my time would be best spent on the Emerson Institute and on working on my own creative and scholarly works. Political office just isn't for me. At least, not that this time. I'd rather do something of longer-lasting importance than hold political office. I hope that those who were planning to support me in my run will instead support me in my endeavors with the Emerson Institute. My goal with is is nothing less than educating the populace about the very nature of freedom, its importance in our lives, and the place of free markets in it. If one cannot have a democratic republic without an educated populace, then my work will be just as important, if not more so, than if I had run for office and won.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Thoughts on Literature (Harold Bloom)

A few thoughts by Harold Bloom to contemplate:

"I accept only three criteria for greatness in imaginative literature: aesthetic splendor, cognitive power, wisdom."

"Shakespeare may well stand here for the largest benign effect of the highest literature: properly appreciated, it can heal part of the violence that is built into every society whatsoever."

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

For John Milton's 400th Birthday

For the 400th Birthday of John Milton, Starbucks presents a reading of

John Milton’s

Paradise Lost

By Troy Camplin

On December 9, beginning at 9 a.m., at the Starbucks on Coit and Campbell. Also featuring a coffee and pastry tasting.

Monday, December 01, 2008


The anti-war crowd should be thoroughly horrified by Obama's national security picks.

In the meantime, Glenn Beck recently talked about the fact that 20,000 U.S. troops are getting ready to be deployed in the U.S. itself. Never mind that that is a violation of the Posse Comitatus Act. Our government doesn't follow the Constitution, os why should it bother to follow the laws it passes?