"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Did He Or Didn’t He? Sex, Sexuality, And Fidelity

There was no question about infidelity in an earlier age.  Men were the breadwinners and women were dependent on them.  Things have changed since the days of patriarchy and male privilege.  Once women attained parity – social and most importantly, economic equality – men's wanderings and dereliction would never more be overlooked.  Straying men would no longer be tolerated and their aberration from the female norm of fidelity and good faith would be condemned out of hand.  No second chances, no absolution, and what’s more, no forgiveness.  How could a woke woman possibly put up with a philandering husband in this day and age?  His infidelities are not mere peccadilloes but serious breaches of trust. 

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When feminist conviction meets socio-economic reality, it is no wonder that tomcatting husbands, if not a thing of the past, are no longer considered relevant.  One and done is the rule.  Whether admitted or found out, infidelity is a cause for breach of contract, moral, legal, and ethical.

This, of course, is the American model, not the French one according to which sexual mobility is factored in to the sexual equation.  Regardless of civil or economic equality, sexual liberty is taken as a given.  In a mutually corresponding relationship, say between faculty members of the Sorbonne, directors at Credit Agricole, or entrepreneurs at competing hi-tech enterprises, sexual independence is never a question.  

Men and women both will have their cinq-a-septs, the traditional hours for assignations after work, and be home for dinner.  Perhaps too little time for a completely relaxed and intimate encounter, but enough for sexual satisfaction and a renewal of friendship.  There is no question of falling off the moral falaise or even close to toppling over.  Such intimacies are taken for granted, accepted, and ignored.

See the source image

Francois Mitterrand, former President of France, had a longtime mistress also mother of his child; and all three stood at attention at his funeral ceremony along with his legitimate wife and family – in public, before the cameras, and in plain view.  Nicholas Sarkozy, another more recent regent of France invited his lover to move in with him to the Elysees presidential palace; and while his wife may have whinged and complained, the whole affair was treated with a Gallic shrug and yawn.   Of course Sarkozy like Mitterrand, Giscard d’Estaing, JFK, Johnson, MLK, and Clinton had their paramours.  No less than Henry Kissinger admitted that power was the ultimate aphrodisiac and even a short, unattractive European refugee like him could have as many women as he wanted.

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France, for all its Revolutionary credentials, ridding the country of noble autocracy and the right of kings and doing its part after England and the United States to establish democracy as the be-all and end-all of political systems, is as importantly but less known for its sexual egalitarianism.  Men, women, rich  or poor, aristocratic or from la France profonde, have the right to stray.  Political scandals as well as civil disputes in the provinces are rarely about who slept with whom, but who did what to whom.  

What bribery or breach of communal contract is brought to trial?  The Salem Witch Trials, although ostensibly about demonic possession, were no less than sexual trials.  Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter was not about Hester Prynne’s defiance of God but her promiscuity.  The red letter ‘A’ was emblazoned on her breast not so much as a marker of her sin against God but her defiance of Massachusetts Puritan morality.

The French and most Europeans are necessarily cynical about the course of history which has been nothing if not a trail of autocracy, hegemony, and brutal, immoral quests for power.  Kings, princes, emperors, and popes met their demise not because of any sexual deviation but because of political overreaching or weakness in the face of a more determined, equally amoral enemy. Sex had nothing to do with it.

America, of course, has a different socio-cultural trajectory.  We were born into Puritan rectitude and have never lost it.  The fate of politicians, preachers, and Wall Street investors has always had less to do with their dishonesty, shady dealings, and financial deviousness than their sexual lapses.  Taking a bribe here or there, greasing the wheels of the marketplace, currying favor, or feathering one’s nest have always been lesser crimes.  Cheating on one’s wife, frequenting prostitutes, keeping mistresses, or simply enjoying the odd affair were more damning. 

Who, the French offer, cares about sexual improprieties?  Of course Donald Trump in his days as a mega-rich real estate magnate took liberties with women; and of course ambitious, beautiful women took advantage of his meal ticket. Of course powerful men in Hollywood made unwanted advances to young starlets.  In many if not most cases, the affair was consensual.  The beautiful young things from Iowa and Nebraska put up with the moves of ugly, rich, newly-assimilated European Jews because their careers depended on it.  What was lost? And what was gained.  The calculus of American capitalist enterprise is not so difficult to understand.

Of course fraternity parties are ragged, unholy affairs.  No woman in the Ivy League hoping for High Mass would ever set foot inside ‘Deke’, DKE, Yale’s animal house.  A world-renowned brain surgeon, responsible for saving countless lives from unnecessary death, stirred martinis with his dick at DKE in the late Sixties.  No harm intended.  No offense meant.  Just drunken, sexual hijinks which not only were expected but hoped for.  If the future Dr. Henry Caruthers had not stirred martinis with his dick, the invited would have demanded their money back.

All of which leads to the issue of marital infidelity en masse – i.e. between normal, ordinary American husbands and wives. Is there some socio-cultural or temporal firewall that prevents the spread of adultery?  Do only today’s feminized, woke women demand Puritanical obedience to the marriage contract? 

Probably.  There are legions of men who have ‘bought into’ the assumption of male aggression, sexual depredation, patriarchy, and retrograde ideas of masculinity; who have taken women’s side in a revisionist view of biological and social sexual history; and who have capitulated their essential (viz. D.H. Lawrence) maleness to a feminist ideal.  For them adultery is now a capital offense, a hanging offense.  Sexual libertinage is tantamount to animalistic primitivism.

Having a string of sexual partners whether during, before, or after marriage is inherently wrong, debased, and intolerable.  Fidelity – celibacy even – is the highest and most telling standard of moral probity.

In today’s MeToo accusatory age, anything goes.  Any 'unwanted attention’ is considered abuse, and infringement of a woman’s civil and apparently sacred right to self-determination. Who says so?  Not the French or Italians who have always whistled at a beautiful woman and gotten a smile in return.

Of course when ‘unwanted attention’ turns to physical coercion, the calculus changes; but in today’s censorious age, where is the line drawn?  Lord knows, millions of teenage boys groped, fondled, and caressed their hoped-for lovers in the back seats of their fathers’ Fords without incident.  The girls knew what they wanted, why they were there, and how to stop ‘invasion’.  It was the way of the world played out at drive-ins.  The heroines of Shakespeare, Ibsen, and Strindberg knew exactly what was what.  They understood their innate power and the weaker ascribed power of their husbands and lovers.  There was no distorted calculus.

Image result for images 50s sex in cars

A well-known Washington lawyer had been married for thirty years.  She was born into an older, pre-feminist generation of the 40s and 50s but matured in the feminizing years of the 70s.  She loved her husband, was attracted by his sense of humor and especially his bad boy attitude, but found herself unsure of her decision once she found that he had been having affairs – not just one or two, but a series of long and short encounters that had persisted since the day they were married.  

His infidelities did not seem to interfere with his attention to her or to their two children.  He seemed just as attentive and loving as ever; but the fact that she knew of his ‘delinquencies’ – his straying from bed, contract, and commitment – was perplexing.  What was the problem, she thought, if he has affairs without consequence; affairs which, if the shoe were on the other foot, she could have? Was the issue sexual congress? Breach of contract? Or something more questionable?

Her husband had none of these qualms.  Like most men he was able to compartmentalize his sexual interests.  Diane, Lisa, Grace, and all the others meant little to him other than affirmations of maleness, sexual diversity, adventure, and pleasure.  His marriage was secure, permanent, and inviolable.  What was her problem?

Her problem, of course, was the problem.  Men and women simply do not look at sex and sexual intimacy in the same way. To her his adultery was sinful and dishonest.  To him it was natural, expected, and in no way unusual.  He ascribed to the French model; she to the American, Puritan one.  And never the twain shall meet.

Might there be a compromise? A leavening of the American sexual imperatives? A more realistic approach to male-female relationships, one derived from age-old, millennia-old, behavioral patterns, and immortalized in Hedda Gabler, The Father, Miss Julie, and Shakespeare’s Comedies? A less sanctimonious assumption that a sexual spectrum is absolute and not derivative?

Doubtful.  Sexual assumptions – cultural and social and therefore temporal, temporary, and insignificant – seem hard to refute or ignore in an age of ‘relevance’.  The social justice juggernaut pushes on with only light resistance; but this too, will meet an incoming tide.  Eventually we will return to fundamental, inescapable, and absolute bi-polar sexual dynamics.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Tarnished Saint – Ukraine And The Inevitable Corruption Of Free Money

Corruption is endemic to human society.  No country, empire, regime, government, or private sector has ever been exempt.  Whether the Seven Dwarves of the American tobacco industry who deliberately withheld damaging information about the dangers of nicotine and actively sought to boost its addictive properties; Enron who set up shell companies and impossibly complex derivatives to bilk the public and enrich their executives; Bernie Madoff who lied to his Jewish friends and supporters and ruined them while his own financial holdings increased; Sam Bankman-Fried who bilked billions in a high-stakes, rotten-to-the-core crypto-currency scheme; or high officials of Ukraine, tempted again and again by billions in free money, couldn't resist. 

Bernie Madoff, Notorious Ponzi Schemer, Dies At 82 : NPR

The revelation today (1.24.23) that more than ten top advisers of the Zelenskyy government either resigned or were sacked for corruption should have been no surprise to anyone.  For nearly two years Western governments have opened the doors to their treasuries to support what has been seen as a  heroic struggle of a small, independent, democratic nation against a hegemonistic bully.  The conflict is a geopolitical one to be sure, but with moral overtones.  

Zelenskyy is a modern hero, a young leader devoted to his people, and the cause of freedom who can do no wrong.  He, in a carefully scripted scenario, repeatedly faults the West for its moral failure and political weakness, and its spineless, timorous approach to Russia.  He reminds them of the destruction of Srebrenica, the brutal Serbian ethnic cleansing of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the cowardly refusal of the West to intervene.

Ukraine strengthens independence of key anti-corruption agency - Atlantic  Council

These moral appeals have guaranteed a largesse far more generous than any given for support of territorial integrity.  Zelenskyy and his advisors have been brilliant in securing arms and financing for what now seems to be a perennial war. Many political observers including former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, architect of modern realpolitik, has criticized both Zelenskyy and the West for their obdurate refusal to compromise to stop the bloody conflict, tens of thousands of deaths, and a physically devastated country. 

It was clear to many that the reason for continued Ukrainian resistance might be political vanity and personal financial gain. There is no way that the billions of dollars in foreign assistance would all go for military defense and civil rebuilding.  Everyone knows that a good piece of the trillions authorized by the Biden Administration for ‘infrastructure’ will be diverted.  Nowhere in the world have major public works projects been clean.  They are opportunities for printing money.

Accountability – while governments insist they will put measures in place to ensure proper utilization of public monies, they can never stop the leaks.  In the US there are simply too many jurisdictions, public interest groups, and private sector interests for all the money to stay in one place.

Since Western governments, motivated by good faith and moral purpose are quite happy to pour unaccountable free money into the coffers of the heroic Ukrainian government, of course it will be misused. Not only that, pre-war Ukraine was never a model for clean, transparent government, so what do you expect now from this Christmas in July generosity?

Political corruption in Ancient Rome is one of the principal reasons cited for its downfall:

One of the most difficult problems was choosing a new emperor. Unlike Greece where transition may not have been smooth but was at least consistent, the Romans never created an effective system to determine how new emperors would be selected. The choice was always open to debate between the old emperor, the Senate, the Praetorian Guard (the emperor's private army), and the army.
Gradually, the Praetorian Guard gained complete authority to choose the new emperor, who rewarded the guard who then became more influential, perpetuating the cycle. Then in 186 A. D. the army strangled the new emperor, the practice began of selling the throne to the highest bidder. During the next 100 years, Rome had 37 different emperors - 25 of whom were removed from office by assassination. This contributed to the overall weaknesses, decline and fall of the empire.

Electoral corruption was rampant, and most historians conclude that Julius Caesar won the office of Pontifex Maximus through electoral bribery.

In a letter to Lucilius, lamenting the electoral corruption in Rome, Seneca wrote:

Call it enjoyable when the tribes are called together and the candidates are making offerings at their favorite temples – some of them promising money and gifts…and wearing down their hands with the kisses of those to whom they will refuse the least finger-touch after they are elected…(Lisa Hill, ‘Conceptions of Corruption in Ancient Rome and Greece).

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Ancient Greece was no different.  Despite its reputation as a philosophical idyll, it was run by bureaucrats like most countries.  Aristotle himself estimated that the city of Athens alone had 20,000 public employees who were badly paid and ‘made ends meet’.
Corruption in Imperial China was no different as Andras Csuka writes :

Corruption in China dates back over a thousand years and has been present through countless dynasties. In fact, widespread corruption is often cited as one of the factors that led to the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in the 19th century.
As a result, the labyrinth of bribes and favors, corruption became an integral part of the entire administration. A European traveller in the 18th century described Chinese corruption as follows: “The man who preserved his integrity is generally considered as incapable or a dreamer. It is not easy to swim against the stream.”
In this complex system it was only normal that government officials would trade their influence for money. They also formed strong cliques to protect themselves from punishments by state businessmen, officials, military leaders and other high ranking state employees.
English monarchs have been no different.  John raided the monasteries to finance his ill-conceived wars.  John, Henry VI, Charles I, Mary I, and Richard III used the power of their regency to retain it at all costs, defying any and all rules of court, Church, and kingdom to attain their ends.

African dictators have a long and sorry history of corruption. The leader of Ethiopia who either just died or was murdered was a dictator, and despite years of misrule, was the beneficiary of billions.  Idriss Deby, the dictator of Chad played the US and the World Bank for fools, duplicitously agreeing to a gas-for-reform agenda and then reneging completely and continuing his despotic rule over one of the poorest countries in Africa. 

The lionized Kagame presides with a repressive regime which muzzles opposition.  He has lied or distorted reports about his support of anti-government clandestine military operations in the Congo.         

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Why is corruption so universal?

Although large public sector bureaucracies have been cited as hothouses for corruption whether in Ancient Greece or modern-day America and Africa, they are facilitators of corruption, not the underlying cause.  Their low pay, subservient status, and lack of advancement are more important factors in bending or overlooking rules and regulations for personal gain.

“Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” said Baron Acton.  Not only are those with limited power given to corruption; but those with immense power are even more so.

Is corruption endemic because of the lack of moral authority?  Doubtful. Church and State were one throughout most of history.  The threat of excommunication by the Pope reined in all but the most self-serving ambition of English kings until Henry VIII defied them; and most ordinary subjects feared eternal damnation for their sins. 

Yet even in such societies governed by strict moral precepts – every religion has its injunctions against lying, stealing, covetousness, and deceit – immoral and unethical behavior are rampant.   Although these principles are taught and passed down by parents, Church, community and state, they are routinely and regularly dismissed as irrelevant, inapplicable, or outdated. Both the Old and New Testaments are very clear about moral codes. 

It is not hard to see, therefore, how self-interested politicians, ordinary citizens, and family members resort to corrupt, venal, and manipulative means to achieve their goals.  Not only is history filled with chronicles of political distortion and overweening ambition, but literature as well.  Shakespeare’s Tragedies and Histories are all about such familiar ambition and how everyone at court, in the Church, or among the populace falls prey to it.

Corruption must be accepted as a normal although unacceptable expression of human nature.  Although until recently there was a hope for The End of History – a new, democratic, equal, and fair world – it has been dashed once and for all.  New geopolitical configurations once unimaginable are changing world order.  Every one within these new configurations must once again sort through the conundrums of governance, civility, ethics, morals, and responsibility.  Until then, corruption will increase.

What must not be forgotten is the complicity between donor and recipient of foreign financial aid.  So-called ‘development’ programs have perennially failed to reach their objectives because of corruption.  The World Bank, the US government, and Western European nations have all wanted to donate money far more than poor countries have wanted to receive it; and in such a culture of moral disparity it is no surprise that money goes missing.  

Not only that, because of the pressure Western institutions feel to spend the money allocated for foreign assistance, they continue to push it out the door despite the continued non-performance of their loans and grants.

Guarantees Program

This is the case in Ukraine.  Money is being poured down the sluice, and nobody is paying attention to where it ends up. So, what do you expect?

Monday, January 23, 2023

Joe Biden And The Mystery Of The Missing Documents–A Fairy Tale In The Land Of Nod

Presidents of the United States was never provided with a burn bag.  His desk was always to be as clean as a whistle, documents hand delivered, scanned for relevance, and returned to sender where they would  be appropriately filed or burned.  Dealing with classified, secret, or top secret documents was never to be an issue for the Chief Executive, only for his underlings

square grunge red top secret stamp Stock Vector | Adobe Stock

The classified documents found in Biden’s garage and in the To Do files of his Washington think tank had gone missing during his Vice Presidency and tenure as the Senior Senator from Delaware, and the President hadn’t a clue how they had gotten there.  He had  been extremely careful about burning all Hunter’s correspondence – he knew that they could come back to bit him someday.  He had warned his son about such carelessness.  If he wanted to do crypto things with Chinese and Russian investors, no paper trail could follow him. Just take the cash, bank it in the Caymans, let it cool for a while, then double check it at the payout windows in Vegas.  Just don’t write anything down.  When his son insisted on scribbling potentially incriminating notes to him, he burned them after reading, reminded his son of the perfidious nature of Washington, and went back to Delaware’s and Barack Obama’s business.

What We Know About Hunter Biden's Business in China - The New York Times

So where was the burn bag when it came of officially classified documents?  Moreover, as far as he could remember, there was never anything of global importance that ever came his way from the Oval Office.  Biden had suffered through years of Vice Presidential lackeyhood just  like all other men who had sat in his chair; and to be honest he would be the last one to share anything with that ambitious vixen down the hall he had been conned into taking as a running mate.  A cipher, a totem for mixed race, diverse, inclusive America but without a brain, a meddler never to be trusted. 

He had a vague recollection of a smarmy FBI file on Netanyahu – J. Edgar Hoover could not have been more insidious and rumor-mongering – stamped ‘Secret’ or a few others on the backyard doings of Donald Trump; but in the main he was kept out of the loop, never saw anything of interest except some Bureau of the Budget spread sheets he couldn’t make heads nor tails of.  No, his tenure as Obama’s Vice President was as far from Top Secret as a tub of dirty bathwater.

“Purloined”, he imagined, removed late at night be an aggrieved staffer, whisked away, then deposited in the Wilmington garage during one of the President’s famous North Carolina barbecues; but more than likely odds and ends thrown helter-skelter his briefcase without looking on his way to Rehoboth for the weekend.

His wife knew better than anyone how forgetful and careless her husband could be. He was such a happy talker in those days with devil-may-care bonhomie, a caretaker and go-to man from a small, politically minor state; and it was not surprising that he scooped classified papers off his desk without thinking.  Who cared, really, when his entire ethos was doing good?  What were a few errant papers?

The President had a few good snickers while watching the movie Breach in the White House basement one night. Breach is the story of Robert Hanssen, biggest spy in US history who played cloak-and-dagger and squirreled away top secret information for the Soviets in tree trunks in Rock Creek Park until he was finally caught.  Buggering him for a few wayward bits of insignificant information wasn’t exactly counter-espionage.

Breach - Rotten Tomatoes

When this all happened to Donald Trump and the FBI carried out a witch hunt at Mar-el-Lago, ad news of the raid reached him, the former president finished his T-bone, put his arm around Miss Connecticut, and said, “Honey, let’s dance”.  There was no national umbrage because voters knew that he had been set up just as he always had been; and even if he had deliberately stowed away some incriminating information collected about his enemies in the still of the night, that was simply Trump being Trump.  Of course he played fast and loose with the law.

Univision pulls plug on Miss USA pageant after candidate Trump's Mexico  slur | The Japan Times

Biden, however, was elected because of Donald Trump’s vaudeville show.  Biden was to be the anti-Trump, a man of moral principle, rectitude, and devoted service.  So when he was found to have spirited away classified documents all over the place, Republicans hit the roof and fellow Democrats who believed their man was beyond reproach, huddled in cloak rooms to decide next steps.  Biden had never done anything on his own, read from prepared speeches on teleprompters, and did pretty much what his handlers told him to do, so now, bottom of the ninth, the game on the line and the election coming up, they had to do something.

“Ignore it”, they advised until the conservative press, smelling blood, demanded more.  “A big fuss about nothing”, the President then said as he was boarding Air Force One for Wilmington. “Nothing in them, old recipes, work of an overeager aide with a Top Secret stamp”.  The baying grew louder.  Biden was a serious man, a moral man, a disciplined and proper man; so if he purloined classified documents, there must be something to it. 

“For the life of me I cannot simply remember them”, the President said to his wife as she tucked him in, but Jill knew better than that.  Despite the calls for her husband’s resignation on grounds of failing mental acuity, he was easily fooled, befuddled, and distracted, but never careless.  As a matter of fact, he was proud of the fine Moroccan leather briefcase engraved with the Presidential Seal that he carried with him on trips; and quite careful about arranging the papers and files he hoped to read so that his hairbrush, pomade, and trimmer would not damage them.

The issue was mental waywardness.  He might have been well aware of what he was doing at the time, but now, in the mist of a distant, all but forgotten past and his growing inability to grasp even the most salient points of discussion, he simply had no clue of what happened yesterday let alone fifteen years ago.

“It’ll die down, Joe”, Jill said comfortingly as she turned off the light.  “A tempest in a teapot.  You’re a good man”; and with that the President recited his favorite nursery rhyme about Wynken, Blynken,, and Nod.

Wynken Blynken & Nod Wall Art. Printable Wall Art. Nursery - Etsy