Archive for the ‘Favorite Quotations’ Category

Update of the famous ‘they came for’ quote

October 31, 2019

There’s a famous quote attributed to a German pastor about the failure of respectable people to resist the Nazis.

  • First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a socialist.
  • Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
  • Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Jew.
  • Then they came for me— and there was no one left to speak for me.

Caitlin Johnstone, noting the silence of the mainstream press about the arrest of left-wing reporter Max Blumenthal, updated the quote for our time.

  • First they came for Assange, and I did not speak out, because I was a mainstream western journalist with no intention of ever upsetting the powerful.
  • Then they came for Blumenthal, and I did not speak out, because I was a mainstream western journalist with no intention of ever upsetting the powerful.
  • Then they came for all the other dissident journalists, and I did not speak out, because I will never be a dissident journalist.
  • They never came for me, because I have chosen to serve power.

LINK

Mainstream Journalists Who Refuse To Defend Dissident Journalists Are Worshippers Of Power by Caitlin Johnstone.

Max Blumenthal Arrest Exposes Hypocrisy of Western Media and Human Rights NGOs by Joe Emensberger for Fairness and Accuracy in Media (FAIR)  [Added 11/1/2019]

Trump, the Kurds and the forever wars

October 9, 2019

Kurds protest Trump troop withdrawal plan (Getty Images)

Getting into is easier than getting out of.

(Old saying)

If something cannot go on forever, someday it will stop.

 (Stein’s Law)

We can endure neither our disorders nor the cures for them.

(Livy, History of Rome)

One of the promises made by Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential campaign was to wind down U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

Every time he tries to keep this promise, he gets so much resistance from war hawks in Congress and inside his administration that he backs down.

Not that President Trump is a lover of peace.  His preferred method of waging war is to try to starve other nations into submission through economic sanctions, as with Venezuela and Iran.  Economic war is real war, and produces real suffering, and creates its own type of danger of blowback.

Nor is troop withdrawal without adverse consequences.  Pulling American troops out of Syria will leave U.S. allies in Kurdistan open to attacks by Turks and by the Assad government, not to mention a possibly revived Islamic State (ISIS).

Donald Trump, in his usual thoughtless way, forgot about the Kurds when he announced the Syrian troop withdrawal and tweeted a lot of silly things when he was reminded of them.  I have no idea what happens next.

I try to free myself of the habit of seeing foreign conflicts as a fight between good guys and bad guys.  But I can’t help rooting for the Kurds.  They practice religious tolerance.  They don’t massacre civilians.  The Kurdish community in Rojava is attempting a radical experiment in democracy.  If somebody smarter than me has a plan for guaranteeing safety for the Kurds, I would be all for it.

I think it was Daniel Ellsberg who said that the American goal in Vietnam after 1965 was to postpone defeat until after the next election.  I don’t see any purpose in keeping troops in the Middle East or Afghanistan other than postponing admission of defeat until after the next election.

As in Vietnam, withdrawal will result in death and misery for many, especially for those who supported U.S. forces.  But withdrawal at some point is inevitable.  The only question is how to minimize the harm.  It would take a wiser and braver statesman than Donald Trump to answer that question.

Update.  It appears that President Trump doesn’t intend to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria—only to move them out of the way of the Turkish forces moving into the Kurdish-held areas.

LINKS

Damned if we do.

Eight Times the U.S. Has Betrayed the Kurds by Jon Schwartz for The Intercept.

In which I try to make some sense of Donald Trump’s Middle East policy by Kevin Drum for Mother Jones.

Not Just Ethnicity: Turkey v. Kurds and the Great Divide Over Political Islam and the Secular Left by Juan Cole for Informed Comment [Added 10/10/2019]

The Annihilation of Rojava by Djene Bajalan and Michael Brooks for Jacobin.  [Added 10/10/2019]

Damned if we don’t.

Is Trump At Last Ending Our Endless Wars? by Patrick J. Buchanan.

Trump Pulling U.S. Forces Out of Syria? by Kit Knightly for Off-Guardian.

America Doesn’t Belong in Syria by Doug Bandow for The American Conservative.  [Added 10/10/2019]

Why the Syrian Kurds Aren’t Necessarily Out Friends by Scott Ritter for The American Conservative.  [Added 10/13/2019]

What Hillary Clinton actually said

July 26, 2019

These are remarks that Hillary Clinton made at an LGBT fund-raising event in New York City on Sept. 9, 2016

You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. (Laughter/applause) Right?  (Laughter/applause) They’re racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic – Islamophobic – you name it.

Hillary Clinton

And unfortunately, there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.  He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people – now have 11 million.  He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric.  Now, some of those folks – they are irredeemable, but thankfully, they are not America.

But the “other” basket – the other basket – and I know because I look at this crowd I see friends from all over America here: I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas and — as well as, you know, New York and California — but that “other” basket of people are people who feel the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures; and they’re just desperate for change.  It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from.

They don’t buy everything he says, but — he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead-end.  Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.

— Hillary Clinton, CBS News[9]

Source: Basket of deplorables – Wikipedia

Was she wrong?

Hat tip to Bill Elwell.

The widening target of ‘anti-racism’

February 14, 2019

Where once the targets of those concerned to fight injustice were “racism” and “sexism,” today the targets are “whiteness” and “masculinity.”  The underlying premise is plain: that there is no whiteness independent of the domination of nonwhites, and no masculinity independent of the domination of women.

==attributed to Wesley Yang, author of The Souls of Yellow Folk

I think it is great that black people to take pride in themselves and not think they have to be like whites in order to respect themselves.    I think it is great that women to take pride in themselves and not think they have to be like men in order to respect themselves.

I think discrimination against black people and against women are great evils, and I think it is great that these evils are being stigmatized and diminished.

I don’t see how racism and sexism are diminished telling white men they should be ashamed of themselves for being white and male.

My father taught me to live in a way that allows me to respect myself and to be willing to treat others with courtesy and respect, and that is what I believe in.

It is wrong to teach anyone that self-respect is impossible, or is possible only by adopting a certain creed or joining a certain group.

Jordan Peterson’s antidote to chaos

January 22, 2018

Click on this for a full review of Jordon Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life

Jordan Peterson is a clinical psychologist and a professor at the University of Toronto whom I never heard of until last week, but who evidently has millions of followers on YouTube.

Below are his 12 Rules for Living, the title of a book that will be published later this year.  Based on the video above and on a couple of articles I’ve read about him, he is a free spirit who says things that are important and true, things that are important if true and some other things that I can’t make head nor tail of.

  1.  Stand up straight with your shoulders back.
  2.  Treat yourself like you would treat someone you are responsible for helping.
  3.  Make friends with people who want the best for you.
  4.  Compare yourself with who you were yesterday, not with who somebody else is today.
  5.  Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.
  6.  Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.
  7.  Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)
  8.  Tell the truth—or at least don’t lie.
  9.  Assume the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.
  10.  Be precise in your speech.
  11.  Do not bother children when they are skateboarding.
  12.  Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street.

The 12 rules are true and important.  I remember, when I was a small boy, my mother telling me to stand with my shoulders back and my neck straight.   I think of this when I’m feeling down, and adopting good posture does change my attitude.  It makes me wiling to meet the challenges of the day.

He is right to object to silly rules about gendered pronouns, which regulate how you can refer to people who consider themselves neither men nor women.  I do believe in good manners—referring to people (within reason) as they would wish to be called.   But I wouldn’t try to enforce my idea of good manners through the criminal law.

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Bertrand Russell on war and utopia

November 11, 2017

The following is from Bertrand Russell’s Principles of Social Reconstruction (1916)

A great many of the impulses which now lead nations to go to war are in themselves essential to any vigorous or progressive life.  Without imagination and love of adventure, a society soon becomes stagnant and begins to decay. Conflict, provided it is not destructive and brutal, is necessary in order to stimulate men’s activities, and to secure the victory of what is living over what is dead or merely traditional.  The wish for the triumph of one’s cause, the sense of solidarity with large bodies of men, are not things which a wise man will wish to destroy.  It is only the outcome in death and destruction and hatred that is evil.  The problem is, to keep these impulses, without making war the outlet for them.

All Utopias that have hitherto been constructed are intolerably dull….[Utopians] do not realize that much the greater part of a man’s happiness depends upon activity, and only a very small remnant consists in passive enjoyment.  Even the pleasures which do consist in enjoyment are only satisfactory, to most men, when they come in the intervals of activity.  Social reformers, like inventors of Utopias, are apt to forget this very obvious fact of human nature.  They aim rather at securing more leisure, and more opportunity for enjoying it, than at making work itself more satisfactory, more consonant with impulse, and a better outlet for creativeness and the desire to employ one’s faculties.

Hat tip to Marginal REVOLUTION

The joys of retirement

October 14, 2017

Some sayings of Epicurus

August 6, 2017

The blessed and important nature knows no trouble nor causes trouble to any other, so that it is never constrained by anger or favor. For all such things exist only in the mind.

Death is nothing to us: for that which is dissolved is without sensation; and that which lacks sensation is nothing to us.

Epicurus

It is not possible to live pleasantly without living prudently and honorably and justly, nor again to live a life of prudence, honor and justice without living pleasantly.  And the man who does not possess the pleasant life, is not living prudently and honorably and justify, and the man who does not possess the virtuous life cannot possibly live pleasantly.

No pleasure is a bad thing in itself, but the means which produce some pleasures bring with them disturbances many times greater than the pleasure.

Infinite time contains no greater pleasure than limited time, if one measures by reason the limits of pleasure.

He who has learned the limits of life knows that, that which removes the pain of want and makes the whole of life complete, is easy to obtain, so that there is no need for actions that involve competition.

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Good advice from Penn Jillette

June 27, 2017

Say what you mean, even when talking to yourself.
==Penn Jillette, Ten Commandments for Atheists

Toni Morrison on her father

June 18, 2017

          Novelist Toni Morrison was asked why she had become a great writer, what books she had read, what method she had used to structure her practice.  She laughed and said, “Oh, no, that is not why I am a great writer.  I am a great writer because when I was a little girl and walked into a room where my father was sitting, his eyes would light up.”
                         ==Donald Miller, quoted in The Sun

Richard Rorty’s 1998 prophecy

November 30, 2016

This 1998 quote by the philosopher Richard Rorty, in his book Achieving Our Country, is being widely circulated on the Internet.   It seems prophetic.

[M]embers of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported.

Richard Rorty

Richard Rorty

Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers—themselves desperately afraid of being downsized—are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.

At that point, something will crack.  The non-suburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for—someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots.

A scenario like that of Sinclair Lewis’ novel It Can’t Happen Here may then be played out.  For once a strongman takes office, nobody can predict what will happen.  In 1932, most of the predictions made about what would happen if Hindenburg named Hitler chancellor were wildly overoptimistic.

One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out.  Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion.  [snip] 

All the sadism which the academic Left has tried to make unacceptable to its students will come flooding back.   All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.

I was unable to find a copy of the book in my local library system nor a low-cost copy on the Internet.   Some articles about the Rorty quote also mention this—

After my imagined strongman takes power, he will quickly make his peace with the international super-rich.

That also seems prophetic.

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The toast of Stephen Decatur

November 11, 2016

Our country, in her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right, and always successful, right or wrong.
    ==The toast of Stephen Decatur (authentic version)

Our country, may she always be in the right!
But right or wrong, our country!
    ==The toast of Stephen Decatur (commonly quoted version)

My country, right or wrong!
If right, to be kept right.
If wrong, to be set right
`    ==Carl Schurz

“My country, right or wrong” is a thing no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case.  It is like saying, “My mother, drunk or sober.”
    ==G.K. Chesterton

Stephen Decatur

Stephen Decatur

Until I looked it up, I thought the toast of Stephen Decatur was, “Our country, may it always be in the right, but right or wrong—our country!”

I could raise a glass to that toast.   My country, right or wrong, is still my country.  This doesn’t mean I have to go along when my country is in the wrong.  It does mean that whatever America’s crimes and follies, I am part of it, and it is part of me.

But “always successful” in war and diplomacy?  That is impossible, either for an individual or a nation, and, furthermore, some kinds of success are not good, either for a nation or for an individual.

Love of country should be like love of family.  Too many people think love of country is like love of God.

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Election 2016: Vote your conscience

November 8, 2016

   Our Constitution professedly rests upon the good sense and attachment of the people. This basis, weak as it may appear, has not yet been found to fail.
   Always vote for a principle, though you vote alone, and you may cherish the sweet reflection that your vote is never lost.
              ==John Quincy Adams

   It is better to vote for what you want and not get it, than vote for what you don’t want and get it.
              ==Eugene V. Debs

E.B. White on winding the clock

July 13, 2016

North Brooklin, Maine

30 March 1973

Dear Mr. Nadeau:

As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate.  Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time.  I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.

Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer.  I guess the same is true of our human society—things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly.  It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet.  But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right.  Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble.  We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.

Hang on to your hat.  Hang on to your hope.  And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.

Sincerely,

(Signed, ‘E. B. White’)

Source: Letters of Note.

Hat tip to Marginal REVOLUTION

A king’s commandments to his son

June 19, 2016
  • Don’t build your life on illusions,
  • Don’t build your opinion on hypotheses,
  • Don’t build your style on imitation,
  • Don’t build your image on lies,
  • Don’t build your respect on fear,
  • Don’t build your dreams on others’ nightmares,
  • Don’t build your friendships on benefits,
  • Don’t build your heroism on foolish acts,
  • Don’t build your kingdom on the backs of the poor,
  • Don’t build your palace on the soft sands of injustice.

Source: Nusaireyat.

John Kenneth Galbraith on changing one’s mind

May 4, 2016

john-kenneth-galbraith-proof-300x169

The Dalai Lama on talking and listening

May 1, 2016

Dalai+Lama+When+you+talk

A good motto

April 27, 2016

Nanyang

Source: Marginal Revolution.

This is the motto of the School of International Relations of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

Some quotations about spirituality

April 3, 2016

There is no fire like passion.
There is no shark like hatred.
There is no snare like folly.
There is no torrent like greed.
        ==Buddha

I came to the conclusion long ago that all religions were true and also that they all had some error in them, and while I hold by my own religion, I should hold other religions as dear as Hinduism. … Our innermost prayer should be that a Hindu should become a better Hindu, a Muslim a better Muslim and a Christian a better Christian.
        ==Mohandas K. Gandhi

Mike Wallace: All is well?
Jack Kerouac: Yeah, we’re all in heaven, now really.
Wallace:  You don’t sound happy.
Kerouac: Oh, I’m tremendously sad.  I’m in great despair.
Wallace: Why?
Kerouac:  It’s a great burden to be alive. A heavy burden, a great big heavy burden.  I wish I were safe in heaven, dead.
Wallace: But you are in heaven, Jack.  You just said we all were.
Kerouac: Yeah.  If I only knew it.  If I could only hold on to what I now.
        ==New York Post, January 11, 1958

The followers of different religions quarrel about truth because they have never experienced it.  Most of them don’t even try to experience it; they are much happier quarreling, fighting and killing each other.
        ==The Ramayana

[I said to Suzuki Roshi]: “I could listen to you for a thousand years and still not get it.  Could you just please put it in a nutshell? Can you reduce Buddhism to one phrase?” … He was not a man you could pin down, and he didn’t like to give his students something definite to cling to.  He had often said not to have “some idea” of what Buddhism was.  But Suzuki did answer.  He looked at me and said, “Everything changes.”
        ==David Chadwick, quoted in The Sun

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An Abraham Lincoln quotation for today

April 1, 2016

April 1

Feodor Dostoyevsky on community of worship

March 20, 2016

Man seeks to worship what is established beyond dispute, so that all men would agree at once to worship it. … This craving for community of worship is the chief misery of every man individually and of all humanity from the beginning of time.
        ==Feodor Dostoyevsky

What is an unjust law?

February 22, 2016

An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself.

Source: Martin Luther King Jr.

The enemies of the good

February 18, 2016

In politics, it is often true that—

The perfect is the enemy of the good.

If you’re not satisfied with anything less than perfection, you might forfeit the lesser good.

But we need to remember it also is true that—

The lesser evil is the enemy of the good.

If you’re always willing to accept the lesser evil, you will never get anything good.

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Albert Camus on happiness and love

February 14, 2016

wendycamus

Source: Albert Camus on Happiness and Love Illustrated by Wendy McNaughton on Brain Pickings

In defense of reading

January 23, 2016

hattiptopetalmills971449_644412528911074_2040387977_nHat tip to Petal Mills.