The Fleming Foundation Cultural Commentary

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In the Name of Obama

In an earlier piece of internet graffiti, I subjected the name Trump to a somewhat whimsical analysis in which I stuck in this obiter dictum:  “Like so many good old American names, Trump’s grandfather’s name was actually Drumpf—a really significant piece of evidence for leftists who found nothing odd in a name like Barack Obama.” Now that Trump is being attacked for refusing to deny that Mr. Obama is a Muslim, it is time to look more closely  at the President’s name.  Trump’s problem flared up when a questioner in Rochester asked him one of those leading questions most politicians...

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Properties of Blood, Chapter I part E

This text is being made available at no cost for a limited period of time. Early Greek poets had never tired of celebrating men of wealth and power or of complaining about their own failures and poverty.  Traditional Greek culture taught that shame (aidos) and honor (time) were important moral values that had to be respected.  A sense of shame included having a regard for social conventions and showing respect to parents, elders, and social superiors, while honor (the Greek word τίμη literally implies price or value) was the respect to which you were entitled, by your family, social status,...

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On Second Thought: The Right to Be Disgusting

  The United States government has decided at long last to use the term “sexual rights” when discussing global development and human rights.  However, this is a less radical move than it might appear.  According to a statement made by Richard Erdman, “deputy ambassador to the UN,”sexual rights are not human rights, and they are not enshrined in human rights law.”  At first sight, then, this change in language is only a meaningless gesture, an accommodation to the leftist rhetoric of the administration. On second thought, however, this little change does signal a shift with long-term consequences.  It was not...

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Wednesday’s Child: Putin’s Hitler

  Why didn’t Putin and his cronies simply buy Crimea from Ukraine – at ten cents an acre, like the Americans once bought Alaska from Alexander II of Russia – rather than launch a clumsy and noisy guerrilla war whose public relations outcome was predictable at the outset? The answer, I believe – concealed, camouflaged and biding its time – lies thousands of miles away, in the desert sands of the Middle East. I have been saying that “Muslim” terrorism is a Russian secret services canard – and, to the small extent their self-serving aims are congruent, that of the...

4

Catalan Independence? An Interview With Marco Bassani

Prof.  Bassani, there was a mass demonstration in Barcelona on Friday.  Hundreds of thousands took to the streets to proclaim their desire for independence.  Why, with all the crises in Europe—Syrian migrants, EU economic woes, and the Greek bailout, to name just two—are people in northern Spain agitating for independence? First of all, it is not people in northern Spain, it is the Catalans that are making a bid for their own independence from Spain.  Now, the Catalans are not easily defined as a specific ethnic group, as half of the people in Barcelona do not even have Catalan parents,...

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Sophocles’ Oedipus, Part I

About a decade after the Antigone Sophocles took up the story of Antigone’s doomed father Oedipus.  The basic story would have been familiar to his readers and to anyone who had gone to see Antigone, but Sophocles also takes a broad perspective on the entire House of Cadmus the Phoenician, their sins and their sufferings. Cadmus, you will recall, was the Phoenician who introduced the Greeks to writing and is among the founders of Thebes.  Most of the children and grandchildren of Cadmus came to grief, generally through presumption.  Laius, Oedipus’ father, had married Jocasta, who was the daughter of...

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Properties of Blood, Chapter I part D

This text is being made available at no cost for a limited time.  Soon, readers will have the opportunity to become subscribers. How are we to take these and other terrifying pronouncements?  St. Augustine quite properly regarded the Sermon on the Mount as a the loftiest compendium of Christian ethics, and, while he certainly recognized the difficulties to be encountered in living up to such a standard, he thought it was necessary for us to do our best.  Thomas Aquinas, in different ways, sought to distinguish the more practical from the more impossible strands in the Sermon, Thomas, by distinguishing...

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Fleming Family Wounds

Up late this morning (7:30) after being up late last night, I was washing the rest of the dinner dishes—the kitchen looked as if we had fed an army—and making coffee, when I made the mistake of turning on NPR.  The local station was playing one of their guest-commentators, a self-declared writer who was droning on about the tedium of going to dinner at a friend’s house, where the whole point was to show off their house and their hospitality and force the guests to make charming chitchat. What selfish b-stards, these people are, who invite friends into their homes!  I...

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Annals of Trebizond III

The fortunate reign of Andronikos I was followed by succession problems that would become more serious in later days, but the long reign of Manuel I was prosperous, as Trebizond became a key player in Black Sea shipping.  His brother George, who succeeded him, fell victim to the plotting of foolish nobles who did not appear to appreciate what a dangerous world they lived in.  His younger also brother faced civil war.  During this period, the Byzantine Empire was restored by the Palaiologos clan, who would have had little regard for potential rivals in Trebizond.  Family quarrels and noble conspiracies...

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Wednesday’s Child: Checks and Balances

An Italian friend has just been to St. Tropez, which of course does little to recommend him as a vacationer of any great discernment, seeing as here in Sicily the prickly pear is now in season and you can have your fill of the divine fruit from a street vendor, who peels it while you wait, for about $1 American.  But anyway, tastes are tastes, as the Italians are the first to say. My friend brought back a curious souvenir of the famous watering hole, Nikki Beach, where one balmy afternoon he went to have lunch, and it occurred to...