Naked Lady of the Week: Elena Koshka

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:

ek-cover

Elena’s name might lead you to believe that she is Russian. In fact, she’s from Oregon, though I’m guessing there’s some Russian in there regardless.

She’s six feet tall. I didn’t realize this until I watched one of her hardcore videos, and her male partner said, “Wow, you’re tall” just as I was thinking it. The tallness suits the dewiness communicated by her facial features and you-can-sort-of-still-see-the-baby-fat body; a hint of awkwardness naturally accompanies the physical negotiation of all that body, and this plays into her newly hatched quality. She’s both imposing and little wispy, like a giraffe.

Does she look a bit like Michelle Trachtenberg? I can’t quite decide.

Here is a video interview in which she says that the only thing she doesn’t like about the biz is getting cum in her eye.

Her Twitter is here.

Nudity below. Have a great weekend.

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Elites and Private Virtue

Fenster writes:

Nils Gilman writes:

Perhaps the most insidious threat facing Western democracies has been the progressive decline of elite accountability and responsibility. “Today’s elite is more talented and open but lacks a self-conscious leadership code. The language of meritocracy (how to succeed) has eclipsed the language of morality (how to be virtuous),” David Brooks observed in 2012. “They have no sense that they are guardians for an institution the world depends upon; they have no consciousness of their larger social role.” This “hollow elite,” as Charles Murray called it in Coming Apart, is doubtless one element of the rise of populisms across the Western world—nor are such observations restricted to right-of-center critics.1 Poll after poll shows a collapse of ruling-class credibility, particularly among the young, and an increasing inclination to embrace strongmen who promise accountability and results.

I think all of that is true.  But why is it the case?

Gilman provides a clue in the quote he uses the open the article:

“Good government is the outcome of private virtue.”

—John Jay Chapman, Practical Agitation

Also true, I believe.

This is hardly news.  Sound government depends on virtue–something that, however nebulous, is inarguably cultural, and not political much less institutional.

We see the sentiment behind this passage in Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France:

The effect of liberty to individuals is that they may do what they please; we ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations which may be soon turned into complaints.

And we see it in the exchange on the street between Benjamin Franklin and someone asking about the outcome of the Constitutional Convention:

“Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?”

“A Republic, if you can keep it.”

And it was a republic, not a democracy, that we got.  And that means elites, and elite rule, are all but guaranteed.  So, yes, the question of the private virtues of our elites is an important one.  And if, as Gilman suggests, our current elites are not accountable then we will have problems–indeed we will have exactly the problems we have at present.

What is the answer? Gilman would like a “self-draining swamp”.  That is, it would be wonderful in his view if elites magically adopted and held onto the proper collection of virtues.  But will they?

Our entire structure of government is based on human fallibility, the threat of faction, and the need for checks and balances.  And so we have a structure in which, among other things, the power to act (the Executive) is kept in check by the power to consider (the Legislature) and that is kept in check by the power to judge (the Judiciary).  Rock, paper, scissors.

And since a republican form of government will give rise to elites, and to a split between the elites and the people, one should ask: by what measure should the elites be held accountable?  There are elections, of course, but are elections a sufficient method for guaranteeing elite accountability?  You have only to look at the present moment to doubt that proposition.  If elites run things they can corrupt things.  Indeed, that is exactly why Gilman would argue that virtues such as restraint, honor, duty and public service are essential.

But here we get to a conundrum.  As Madison wrote, if all men were angels we would have no need for government.  That goes for everyone.  Gilman would like a “self-draining swamp”–that is, an elite with strong and permanent virtues, good for all time. But how is that possible if the members of the elite are not angels?

Gilman acknowledges the problem at the end of his article, suggesting that certain institutional mechanisms may have to be considered  that would have the effect of giving the elites a good thwack on the head.  He writes that we may wish to revive

various largely forgotten practices that republics have traditionally used to enable popular control of both economic and political elites. University of Chicago political scientist John P. McCormick, for example, has pointed to three elite-accountability institutions common in pre-18th-century popular governments: magistrate appointment procedures combining lottery and election; offices or assemblies excluding the wealthy and political incumbents from eligibility; and political trials enlisting the entire citizenry in prosecutions and appeals. If elites cannot be relied on to police themselves, and the evidence that they can is not good, then bringing new/old methods to the fore to impose such accountability may be the only option remaining.

That seems like a promising avenue.  But once again we come round to where we started:

“Good government is the outcome of private virtue.”

Yes, and that virtue is not just required of elites.  It is required of the people, too.  The keeping of the republic is not just a matter of elites reminding one another of noblesse oblige.  The most effective check on elite misbehavior will not be institutional.  The true check on elite lack of accountability are the private virtues of the people.

Thus we the people are in large measure complicit in the lack of accountability of our current elites.  If the culture is all about getting for me and the hell with you should it surprise us that the elites might behave in similar fashion?

Posted in Politics and Economics, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Naked Lady of the Week: Mika

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:

m-cover

I suppose Mika here qualifies as an unconventional beauty. Her teeth are too much, her chin too little, and her nose too topographical. And yet I’m quite taken with her. She has poise and personality. Okay, her cyan eyes don’t hurt. Neither do her legs. I didn’t claim she was entirely unconventional.

She’s Ukrainian. I don’t know her real name, but this looks like a pro modeling site.

Nudity below. Have a great weekend.

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Woody in the Post

Paleo Retiree writes:

America’s very own Maoist Cultural Revolution gathers steam:

Allen frustrates people because he seems to relish dancing on the edge of the outrage. There’s nothing criminal about an 82-year-old’s fixation with 18-year-olds, and it’s not whip-out-your-penis, button-under-the-desk bad. But it’s deeply, anachronistically gross. More than that, he seems not to care about bettering or changing himself in any way. He lives and thinks and creates as he did in the 1970s, nearly a half-century ago. He’s a reminder that our future, however woke it becomes, will not be full of social-justice valedictorians quoting James Baldwin and Roxane Gay. There will be 22nd-century dunces lagging by a half-century or more. Allen is worse than an augury of those trolls of tomorrow; he is a model for them, a validation.

Why is a reputable — OK, somewhat still reputable — outlet like the Washington Post publishing such a wet-behind-the-ears, grandstanding, self-righteous piece?

It’s very strange for someone who has spent a long lifetime assuming that the main role of most art is to supply a realm where we get to explore and play out all kinds of urges, kinks and drives to wake up and find that, No, from now on what art is for is to give us moral examples and scoldy little SJW lessons.

Posted in Movies, Politics and Economics | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Your Comedy and Mine

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:

Vanity_Fair_1883_year_Edition_Cover_Illustration_by_William_Thackeray

There came a day when the round of decorous pleasures and solemn gaieties in which Mr. Jos Sedley’s family indulged was interrupted by an event which happens in most houses. As you ascend the staircase of your house from the drawing towards the bedroom floors, you may have remarked a little arch in the wall right before you, which at once gives light to the stair which leads from the second story to the third (where the nursery and servants’ chambers commonly are) and serves for another purpose of utility, of which the undertaker’s men can give you a notion. They rest the coffins upon that arch, or pass them through it so as not to disturb in any unseemly manner the cold tenant slumbering within the black ark.

That second-floor arch in a London house, looking up and down the well of the staircase and commanding the main thoroughfare by which the inhabitants are passing; by which cook lurks down before daylight to scour her pots and pans in the kitchen; by which young master stealthily ascends, having left his boots in the hall, and let himself in after dawn from a jolly night at the Club; down which miss comes rustling in fresh ribbons and spreading muslins, brilliant and beautiful, and prepared for conquest and the ball; or Master Tommy slides, preferring the banisters for a mode of conveyance, and disdaining danger and the stair; down which the mother is fondly carried smiling in her strong husband’s arms, as he steps steadily step by step, and followed by the monthly nurse, on the day when the medical man has pronounced that the charming patient may go downstairs; up which John lurks to bed, yawning, with a sputtering tallow candle, and to gather up before sunrise the boots which are awaiting him in the passages—that stair, up or down which babies are carried, old people are helped, guests are marshalled to the ball, the parson walks to the christening, the doctor to the sick-room, and the undertaker’s men to the upper floor—what a memento of Life, Death, and Vanity it is—that arch and stair—if you choose to consider it, and sit on the landing, looking up and down the well! The doctor will come up to us too for the last time there, my friend in motley. The nurse will look in at the curtains, and you take no notice—and then she will fling open the windows for a little and let in the air. Then they will pull down all the front blinds of the house and live in the back rooms—then they will send for the lawyer and other men in black, &c. Your comedy and mine will have been played then, and we shall be removed, oh, how far, from the trumpets, and the shouting, and the posture-making. If we are gentlefolks they will put hatchments over our late domicile, with gilt cherubim, and mottoes stating that there is “Quiet in Heaven.” Your son will new furnish the house, or perhaps let it, and go into a more modern quarter; your name will be among the “Members Deceased” in the lists of your clubs next year. However much you may be mourned, your widow will like to have her weeds neatly made—the cook will send or come up to ask about dinner—the survivor will soon bear to look at your picture over the mantelpiece, which will presently be deposed from the place of honour, to make way for the portrait of the son who reigns.

Which of the dead are most tenderly and passionately deplored? Those who love the survivors the least, I believe. The death of a child occasions a passion of grief and frantic tears, such as your end, brother reader, will never inspire. The death of an infant which scarce knew you, which a week’s absence from you would have caused to forget you, will strike you down more than the loss of your closest friend, or your first-born son—a man grown like yourself, with children of his own. We may be harsh and stern with Judah and Simeon—our love and pity gush out for Benjamin, the little one. And if you are old, as some reader of this may be or shall be old and rich, or old and poor—you may one day be thinking for yourself—”These people are very good round about me, but they won’t grieve too much when I am gone. I am very rich, and they want my inheritance—or very poor, and they are tired of supporting me.”

The period of mourning for Mrs. Sedley’s death was only just concluded, and Jos scarcely had had time to cast off his black and appear in the splendid waistcoats which he loved, when it became evident to those about Mr. Sedley that another event was at hand, and that the old man was about to go seek for his wife in the dark land whither she had preceded him. “The state of my father’s health,” Jos Sedley solemnly remarked at the Club, “prevents me from giving any large parties this season: but if you will come in quietly at half-past six, Chutney, my boy, and fake a homely dinner with one or two of the old set—I shall be always glad to see you.” So Jos and his acquaintances dined and drank their claret among themselves in silence, whilst the sands of life were running out in the old man’s glass upstairs. The velvet-footed butler brought them their wine, and they composed themselves to a rubber after dinner, at which Major Dobbin would sometimes come and take a hand; and Mrs. Osborne would occasionally descend, when her patient above was settled for the night, and had commenced one of those lightly troubled slumbers which visit the pillow of old age.

The old man clung to his daughter during this sickness. He would take his broths and medicines from scarcely any other hand. To tend him became almost the sole business of her life. Her bed was placed close by the door which opened into his chamber, and she was alive at the slightest noise or disturbance from the couch of the querulous invalid. Though, to do him justice, he lay awake many an hour, silent and without stirring, unwilling to awaken his kind and vigilant nurse.

He loved his daughter with more fondness now, perhaps, than ever he had done since the days of her childhood. In the discharge of gentle offices and kind filial duties, this simple creature shone most especially. “She walks into the room as silently as a sunbeam,” Mr. Dobbin thought as he saw her passing in and out from her father’s room, a cheerful sweetness lighting up her face as she moved to and fro, graceful and noiseless. When women are brooding over their children, or busied in a sick-room, who has not seen in their faces those sweet angelic beams of love and pity?

A secret feud of some years’ standing was thus healed, and with a tacit reconciliation. In these last hours, and touched by her love and goodness, the old man forgot all his grief against her, and wrongs which he and his wife had many a long night debated: how she had given up everything for her boy; how she was careless of her parents in their old age and misfortune, and only thought of the child; how absurdly and foolishly, impiously indeed, she took on when George was removed from her. Old Sedley forgot these charges as he was making up his last account, and did justice to the gentle and uncomplaining little martyr. One night when she stole into his room, she found him awake, when the broken old man made his confession. “Oh, Emmy, I’ve been thinking we were very unkind and unjust to you,” he said and put out his cold and feeble hand to her. She knelt down and prayed by his bedside, as he did too, having still hold of her hand. When our turn comes, friend, may we have such company in our prayers!

Perhaps as he was lying awake then, his life may have passed before him—his early hopeful struggles, his manly successes and prosperity, his downfall in his declining years, and his present helpless condition—no chance of revenge against Fortune, which had had the better of him—neither name nor money to bequeath—a spent-out, bootless life of defeat and disappointment, and the end here! Which, I wonder, brother reader, is the better lot, to die prosperous and famous, or poor and disappointed? To have, and to be forced to yield; or to sink out of life, having played and lost the game? That must be a strange feeling, when a day of our life comes and we say, “To-morrow, success or failure won’t matter much, and the sun will rise, and all the myriads of mankind go to their work or their pleasure as usual, but I shall be out of the turmoil.”

So there came one morning and sunrise when all the world got up and set about its various works and pleasures, with the exception of old John Sedley, who was not to fight with fortune, or to hope or scheme any more, but to go and take up a quiet and utterly unknown residence in a churchyard at Brompton by the side of his old wife.

Major Dobbin, Jos, and Georgy followed his remains to the grave, in a black cloth coach. Jos came on purpose from the Star and Garter at Richmond, whither he retreated after the deplorable event. He did not care to remain in the house, with the—under the circumstances, you understand. But Emmy stayed and did her duty as usual. She was bowed down by no especial grief, and rather solemn than sorrowful. She prayed that her own end might be as calm and painless, and thought with trust and reverence of the words which she had heard from her father during his illness, indicative of his faith, his resignation, and his future hope.

Yes, I think that will be the better ending of the two, after all. Suppose you are particularly rich and well-to-do and say on that last day, “I am very rich; I am tolerably well known; I have lived all my life in the best society, and thank Heaven, come of a most respectable family. I have served my King and country with honour. I was in Parliament for several years, where, I may say, my speeches were listened to and pretty well received. I don’t owe any man a shilling: on the contrary, I lent my old college friend, Jack Lazarus, fifty pounds, for which my executors will not press him. I leave my daughters with ten thousand pounds apiece—very good portions for girls; I bequeath my plate and furniture, my house in Baker Street, with a handsome jointure, to my widow for her life; and my landed property, besides money in the funds, and my cellar of well-selected wine in Baker Street, to my son. I leave twenty pound a year to my valet; and I defy any man after I have gone to find anything against my character.” Or suppose, on the other hand, your swan sings quite a different sort of dirge and you say, “I am a poor blighted, disappointed old fellow, and have made an utter failure through life. I was not endowed either with brains or with good fortune, and confess that I have committed a hundred mistakes and blunders. I own to having forgotten my duty many a time. I can’t pay what I owe. On my last bed I lie utterly helpless and humble, and I pray forgiveness for my weakness and throw myself, with a contrite heart, at the feet of the Divine Mercy.” Which of these two speeches, think you, would be the best oration for your own funeral? Old Sedley made the last; and in that humble frame of mind, and holding by the hand of his daughter, life and disappointment and vanity sank away from under him.

— William Makepeace Thackeray

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Under Construction

Fenster leaks:

A map of the proposed Cryptomall of America, due to open in November, indicating anchor tenants as of January 1.  Subject to rapid change.

cryptomall

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Do You Hear What I Hear?

Fenster writes:

Consciousness is such a given that one would not think to consider it as a problem.  It is just there.  But the fact that it is there, and what it means that there is a there there, does pose a knotty set of problems for philosophers and scientists.

Some brave souls think the problem can be solved, or has been.  Philosophers like Daniel Dennett hold that consciousness is nothing other than an artifact that results when “100 trillion little cellular robots” in our brains do whatever it is that they do. . . .

and that in turn consciousness is just a kind of illusion.

Stalin said “no person, no problem.”  The same might be said of consciousness.  The problem goes away if it is a nothing more than a by-product.

Indeed, the modern view seems to be that consciousness is a function of brain activity and that’s that.  But is it?

Adam Frank, a professor of Astronomy at the University of Rochester, argues that such a conclusion is almost certainly premature and could easily be wrong.  Taking a more agnostic view in comparison with Dennett’s well-known hard atheism, Frank argues more modestly that the materialist position appears to rest on shaky ground.

I suppose to do justice to summarizing Frank’s argument you would have to have a grasp of the quantum mechanics that underlie it, and I don’t have that grasp.  But while I am an amateur to the science of the issue, the implications of the science argument can be grasped by a non-scientist and so the article is worth a read if this is an issue that interests you.  For sure it is worth noting that any philosophical argument of the type Dennett poses is based on science.  That we have 100 trillion little robots inside our heads is an impressive and even intimidating fact worth noting, but whether they do what Dennett says that do in the manufacture of the consciousness illusion is another . . . matter.

The gist of Frank’s argument relates to measurement.

When I was a young physics student I once asked a professor: ‘What’s an electron?’ His answer stunned me. ‘An electron,’ he said, ‘is that to which we attribute the properties of the electron.’ That vague, circular response was a long way from the dream that drove me into physics, a dream of theories that perfectly described reality. Like almost every student over the past 100 years, I was shocked by quantum mechanics, the physics of the micro-world. In place of a clear vision of little bits of matter that explain all the big things around us, quantum physics gives us a powerful yet seemly paradoxical calculus. With its emphasis on probability waves, essential uncertainties and experimenters disturbing the reality they seek to measure, quantum mechanics made imagining the stuff of the world as classical bits of matter (or miniature billiard balls) all but impossible.

When dwelling on the weirdness of it all he was reminded of the advice given to young physicists with similar hang-ups: “shut up and calculate.”

Frank approvingly cites the work of David Chalmers, who argues that there is an easy problem of consciousness and a hard problem.  The easy side relates to things that science currently knows how to measure:

• the ability to discriminate, categorize, and react to environmental stimuli;
• the integration of information by a cognitive system;
• the reportability of mental states;
• the ability of a system to access its own internal states;
• the focus of attention;
• the deliberate control of behavior;
• the difference between wakefulness and sleep.

The hard part?

The really hard problem of consciousness is the problem of experience. When we think and perceive, there is a whir of information-processing, but there is also a subjective aspect.

Chalmers acknowledges Dennett’s materialistic view that experience is an artifact of brain activity . . .

but how is it that we know that?  Are those who hold this view merely extrapolating from the easy questions to the hard one?

Chalmers doesn’t mention words like spirit and owns up to his bias as a scientist in favor of finding naturalistic answers to the hard problem.  And he sketches out some directions.

My gut responses to this?  First, I would think that one line of research could relate to how experience emerges through gestation and birth. At least we have here a situation in which at one point in time there is no experience and then there is.

The other way of solving the problem is if we able to manufacture experience in machines or animals. If we do that by means of matter alone, and not by, say, manipulating some emergent property of consciousness that we find, then it adds weight to the notion that our own consciousness is a function of gray matter.

But there is a limiting factor in a way, and that is that just as we live and die alone we experience alone. People talk about a ‘shared experience’ but the problem is that there is no such thing. I know what experience is because I experience it. You have to believe me on that. I only “know” your experience by observing you report on it, not via actual experience.

Black Mirror toys with this theme in the new season, speculating on ways that experiences can be merged. If that is possible then we might be better off judging whether our smart and emotionally capable robots are actually feeling what we feel. Short of that it is the tragedy of Speilberg’s AI.  Is David actually feeling things? And does our experience amount to more than an illusion?

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