Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin

I’ve often heard people use the expression “he saw the handwriting on the wall.”  I wonder, though, how many know that it originates in the Book of Daniel, which is a part of the Old Testament.  I’m reasonably sure that most of my readers are familiar with the story of Daniel, but for those who aren’t, here is the briefest summary possible:  Daniel lived in Babylon during the Jewish exile and became a high court official to King Nebuchadnezzar and, after him, to his son Belshazzar.  He was renowned for his ability to interpret dreams and other signs.

The story of “the handwriting on the wall” has it that Belshazzar and his court engaged in blasphemy, defiling sacred Jewish temple vessels.  Suddenly a hand mysteriously appeared before the crowd and wrote upon the palace walls.  Belshazzar summoned Daniel and asked him to read and interpret the writing:

25 “This is the inscription that was written:

MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN [aka Upharsin]

26 “Here is what these words mean:

Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.

27 Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.

28 Peres [aka Upharsin]: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

That very night, the Persians overran the palace, killing Belshazzar and inaugurating Darius’ reign.

I keep thinking of that phrase “you have been weighed and found wanting,” and I think of it in a very specific context:  liberal institutions, such as the media, Hollywood and universities.  The phrase first floated up in my brain when I had the backandforth with Jesse Kornbluth regarding his (to my mind) undeservedly laudatory profile of Andrew Sullivan in Harvard Magazine.  In support of his contention that his research, writing and analysis were solid, and that Andrew Sullivan isn’t a bitter, flaky antisemite, Kornbluth offered his and Sullivan’s academic and mainstream media credentials as proof positive that Sullivan was deserving of the praise he received and that Kornbluth had done his due diligence as a reporter and/or had reasonably interpreted the data he did discover.

What seemed to elude Kornbluth was that those credentials didn’t cause me to strike my forehead and say “Wow!  I guess I don’t need to worry about the factual and logical gaps in the article.  These are both Ivy League men who have made their presence known in the mainstream media.  They must be correct.”  Instead, I kept my eye on Kornbluth’s text and the known facts about Andrew Sullivan, and stuck to my initial conclusion that Kornbluth had been way too generous in his praise.

For conservatives, the liberal establishment — an establishment that nurtured many of us, myself included, during our formative years — has been weighed and found wanting.  We conservatives, for example, no longer assume that, if the news is from the New York Times, or if the reporter works at the New York Times, that means that both the news and the reporter have the imprimatur of honesty and reliability.  We know that the New York Times is now, and has been since at least the 1930s, a reliable arm of the lefter side of the political spectrum — and a fundamentally dishonest one, to boot, since it has always vigorously denied its bias.

In the old days, the Times‘ bias was hidden behind stodgy writing aimed directly at the middle classes.  The bias existed nevertheless, whether the paper was lying about Soviet Russia in the 1930s, swooning about Communist China, arguing against Jewish rescue in the late 1930s and early 1940s, or fomenting anti-War sentiment during the Vietnam era.  Nowadays, of course, under Pinch’s (what’s the opposite of august?) leadership, although still proclaiming itself an “independent” news organ, the Times doesn’t even make the pretense of independent reporting.  Its articles, whether about politics, food or movies, are distinguishable only in tone (slightly more hip and less earnest) from The Nation.

Because of the Times’ bias, a bias it refuses to acknowledge, people interested in factual objectivity (an objectivity that would allow them to draw their own conclusions), have decided that the Times, and other media outlets that have traversed the same Leftward path, whether print or TV, have been weighed and found wanting.

So too have thoughtful Americans weighed Hollywood and found it wanting.  We do not like Castro or Chavez better simply because movie stars cuddle up to them and extoll their supposed virtues.  We do not discount marriage’s importance in society because movie stars overuse it, ignore it or denigrate it.  We do not think that drugs are a viable part of a healthy life even though two-bit pot stars with decorative horns explain on national TV that they are chronic users.  We do not believe that our troops are deranged killers, even though Hollywood movies since the early 1970s have assured us that they are dangerous, amoral, often psychotic men.

Americans have also evaluated the universities, those institutions that once turned out people steeped the cream of Western knowledge, and concluded that they’re not doing their job.  For the $50,000 per year middle class Americans are expected to pay, they get children who attend sex shows, learn how to orchestrate Leftist violence, become increasingly antisemitic and anti-Israel, deconstruct the meaning out of everything, hate the troops, and do drugs.  Most Americans do not like to see the values they so carefully inculcated into their children deliberately destroyed and replaced with Marxist politics and debauched social values.

Those American institutions that have tilted Left cannot understand why more and more Americans do not accept their opinions or their so-called facts at face value.  They do not appreciate that Americans, having examined their own core values and assisted by the unimpeded flow of information through the internet, have weighed these institutions and found them wanting.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

The Bookworm Turns : A Secret Conservative in Liberal Land, available in e-format for $4.99 at Amazon, Smashwords or through your iBook app.

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  • Charles Martel

    A slight tangent, but not much:

    My across-the-street neighbor’s daughter graduated from Stanford last June. She is a very motivated, intelligent girl, so I’m not surprised she got into The Farm.

    Fast forward a few months and her mother is doing a slow simmer. The girl is “trying to find herself” and holding out for a job with a non-profit where she can help save the world. Her mom’s attitude is, “Enough, already, with the ‘finding yourself.’ Get off your ass and get a job and start contributing.”

    Actually, she did have a job for a few weeks with a non-profit in San Francisco. But she didn’t like the vibe and eventually found a way to quit it. Currently she’s working for a startup tech business in Berkeley where she’s in sales—an alien vocation for a humanities major. She adores the people she works with, and the company president, a man who has started and sold two previous companies at great profit (he’s independently wealthy) has taken on the role as her mentor. She is thriving.

    But she believes she must subvert that happiness in the name of a greater good. She’s still in thrall to this Obamaite/Snob College idea that the only worthwhile work she can do is for a non-profit. She believes her calling is to live off the wealth and labor of productive people while she does such wonderful things as help further clog our already sclerotic legal system with new do-gooder laws. She doesn’t understand that her desire, which is a desire to never grow up, essentially is a continuation of the quasi-parasitical role all children assume before they reach maturity.

    So, for $200,000 worth of Stanford education, my neighbors now have a daughter who never ventured near the Socratic ideal of the examined life at one of the world’s premier universities. She left home to attend there at18 years of age and returned fours years later, aged 15 and looking for cheap grace.


    My across-the-street neighbor’s daughter…
    Can I call her Alice and may I suggest to her parents that they hang a sign on the front door or better yet on the wall of her bedroom in biblical fashion:
    ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE – This home is no longer a  501(c) since you graduated.

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  • Mike Devx

    Charles M says:
    My across-the-street neighbor’s daughter graduated from Stanford last June. She is a very motivated, intelligent girl, so I’m not surprised she got into The Farm.
    >  Currently she’s working for a startup tech business in Berkeley where she’s in sales—an alien vocation for a humanities major

    The mom, standing outside her home, looking up into the clear blue sky, perhaps could have noted that the choice of a “humanities major” was like hearing thunder from beyond the horizon. “Here there be dragons.”  An opportunity for early intervention.

    The poor girl still has a shot in life.  As Winston Churchill purportedly said,
    “Show me a young Conservative and I’ll show you someone with no heart. Show me an old Liberal and I’ll show you someone with no brains.” 

    (Yes, Zachriel, I’m aware of the potential (mis-)history behind this quote; no need to intervene with the informative “this quote actually has its antecedent in the year X by author Y” with supporting link…     😉


    And now to go wildly off-topic, with all enthusiastic abandon.

    I’ve decided that the 2012 election is not a pivotal election.  (Feel free to persuade me otherwise!)  I think by analogy to the Civil War, this is 1856, not 1860.   All the forces are still gathering.  Yes, it is terrible, and four more years of Obama would be horrifying.  But my sense of the American People is simply that as a whole. they’re still muddled.  *Gathering* consensus, yes.  The battle lines being drawn?  Yes. 

    On one side, we have Obama.  A community organizer – an utterly *failed* community organizer, true, but that doesn’t seem to matter.  No other qualifications.  A 100% idealogue, utterly dedicated to centralized planning.  An Alinskyite who executes the playbook to perfection.  He is a formidable opponent politically.  Make no mistake about that.

    On the other side, we have a set of GOP contenders.  They all have strengths and weaknesses.  I personally must totally vomit at only Huntsman because he’s like the perfect avatar of a GOP apparatchik, but that’s just me.  Will they all muddle through and we end up with some poorly defined, milquetoast candidate that is a sheep to the slaughter?  Or will one of them seize the moment and define themselves in a way that captures the zeitgeist of the moment as Reagan did in 1980?

    On foreign policy. Well, really, Israel: In the next four years I don’t see the critical survival of Israel itself exploding.  Much, much ugliness, sure.   But Iran’s the real problem, and they’re not quite there yet. 

    Europe’s slow suicide is just that: slow.  Just as with our debt crisis, another four years just makes the problems *worse*.  What are the trigger points that force emergency considerations?  They could happen within the next four years, but the urgency, the terrible urgency, just doesn’t seem to be there yet.

    So, referring back to the Civil War, right-thinking people can see it all coming.  But to me it’s like 1856, not 1860.  It’s all there and obvious if you see it… but no consensus, no over-all recognition of the idea that the time must be now.  That this, now, is the do or die moment.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Book, very eloquently put. I spent many, many years peeling away my worship for credentialed authority and realizing that, no matter how bright and credentialed they are, people are people and just as prone to making egregious errors in judgment. In fact, an education and credentials can exacerbate rather than mitigate the consequences of their bad judgment by virtue of the power and authority they bring. At this point in my life, I have met enough people far more intelligent and credentialed than me that are functional idiots and many people far less educated than me that are geniuses, so I try to look past the bling.
    If you want a good example of one very intelligent man who is a functional idiot by virtue of his hubris, see the video below:
    In my experience, education, Probably two of our most highly educated Presidents were Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. One was a great success by virtue of his character, while Wilson was a disaster by virtue of his hubris.
    Charles M: I once ran an 501(c)3 and learned the following: not-for-profits are very, very much about money. It’s just that they seek to accrue their profits internally on the directors and employees rather than share it with the investors/donors. I was appalled at the corruption, self-promotion, and self-dealing that I confronted day-in and day out. After a relatively short period, I went back to the far-more-honest for-profit sector. It was a very unpleasant experience. I am very, very careful before I donate money to such organizations, today. Maybe your friend’s daughter will have a similar awakening, some day.
    Mike, I hope you are wrong, I fear that you are right. When it is so easy to “Mediscare” American voters, then they really are too detached to care about what is happening or being done to their lives by others to vote responsibly on the issues today. An article in the New York Times (of all papers) pretty much says it all: “U.S. has binged:soon it will be time to pay the tab”.
    Let’s see what happens, though  – a lot can happen in a year.

  • kali

    Book: under Pinch’s (what’s the opposite of august?) leadership


  • Gringo

    Charlie Maxwell’s Hammer:
    My across-the-street neighbor’s daughter graduated from Stanford last June. She is a very motivated, intelligent girl, so I’m not surprised she got into The Farm.
    Fast forward a few months and her mother is doing a slow simmer. The girl is “trying to find herself” and holding out for a job with a non-profit where she can help save the world. Her mom’s attitude is, “Enough, already, with the ‘finding yourself.’ Get off your ass and get a job and start contributing.
    I did something of the same some decades ago in several disparate endeavors, but without anyone shelling out $200k in current dollars for tuition to help subsidize my quest. I found out that 1) money was scarce in the nonprofit world, 2) just because someone said that throwing some money at a problem will solve it, that is no guarantee that anything more will occur than to have money splattered on a wall [That was very good inoculation against the libs with their siren songs that they had the social program to save the world- an attitude I developed years before I stopped being a lib.], 3) as money is limited and desires are not, social services “solutions” will never be optimal, 4) any job is a good one.
    One advantage I had over the Stanford grad was that I these work times ran alternately or concurrently with school, so that while I took 9 years to get my degree, I had a more realistic view of the real world I would encounter with my degree in hand.

  • Ymarsakar

    It used to be many women often found purpose in becoming a bride. That was their dream. Now that they have gotten rid of that dream, what has replaced it? NGO UN child rape heaven?

    Not a dream most people wish for, one can say.

    NGOs are corrupt, powerless, or beholden to more powerful factions than the powerless victims.

    None of them are a recipe for success. If you aren’t getting killed by Islamo frackers cause they don’t like you preaching the Bible in starving Africa, then you’re one of the corrupt UN bastos helping the Islamo faukers to begin with. ANd if you aren’t either of them, you’re funded by the mega rich Westerners and are just watching the poor peope in Africa for your own sick enjoyment and as Martel quoted, cheap grace.

  • Bookworm

    Mike: I don’t know if you’re right about 2012, but I’d like to think you’re right. It actually takes a fair amount of time to destroy a country. Even 8 years may not be enough time for Obama, especially if he has a recalcitrant Congress. What I worry about are the national security implications of his policies. Will vast parts of the world be Iranisized and Muslim Brotherhoodized under his watch? That’s harder to bounce back from.

  • jj

    Mike – the fact that that there’s no overall consensus that the time is now doesn’t mean the time isn’t now.  That people don’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t it.  People are pretty obtuse.  Were they not, a zero like Obama with his long list of qualifications for the job (any job) wouldn’t be in the white house in the first place as anything other than an admissions paying visitor.

  • Ymarsakar

    The Left has been doing this for more than a century though. It isn’t just 8 years. It is yet to be seen whether their preparations are enough or whether they can hit critical mass with their prepared resources.

  • Ymarsakar

    In fact, an education and credentials can exacerbate rather than mitigate the consequences of their bad judgment by virtue of the power and authority they bring.

    When a person has social status and is expected to meet and uphold a standard, they often will lie and cover up their mistakes instead of admitting fault and losing face. Only in societies where the truth is revered and where results matter more than appearance of results, does this trend reverse itself.
    This is why the status quo powers often find it hard to change dynamically, adopt new precepts and conceptions into their mental fold, or accept dramatically different ways of doing things or thinking about things.

  • Charles Martel

    I’ve told this story before, but I’m a codger so I get to repeat myself.

    When I was a trade magazine editor I had several writers working under me. They all had their individual strengths and personalities, but in general were the same to the extent that if I needed to plug a hole and grabbed for the first available writer, he or she would do.

    My outliers, though, were Barb and Bob. Barb was an incredibly witty, intelligent UC Berkeley grad, the kind of young woman that old Jubal Harshaw in Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land delighted in surrounding himself with. Barb was a perfectionist, so the stories she handed in were flawless—perfect grammar and syntax, clear, concise, and with no spelling errors. Mind you, this was in the typewriter era when correcting mistakes was much harder than it is now.

    Barb’s stories, while technically perfect, lacked something. I think it was a bit of daring or insights beyond the plodding “he said/she said” that they taught in journalism school. They had a morte main quality to them, almost as though Barb were functioning as her own unimaginative peer review, dedicated to squeezing the life out of her product.

    Worst of all, her perfectionistic tendencies made it exceedingly hard to criticize her. Even tiny things I would occasionally bring up, simply meant to clarify a point of usage, would devastate her. It was as though I had hit her with my fist. Now I was not a nitpicker and never laid in wait for a writer to screw up—it was far easier to make minor tweaks in copyediting and not bring up a mistake unless I was noticing a pattern or a genuine lack of comprehension about a particular matter.

    Bob, on the other hand, a reed-thin Brown graduate, loved to write, and it showed on his manuscripts. The kid was the original cut-and-paster, cannibalizing his own work when he realized that something brilliant he had written on page 2 should be torn off and taped to the end of a passage on page 8. When he delivered an article to me, it was a heap of ripped and taped papers, like a triage surgery gone awry, festooned with emphatic crossouts and huge arrows that would leap from circled paragraphs in one part of the story and land decisively, as indicated by a bold arrow, at another.

    Once I learned how to read one of his manuscripts, decoding the lay of the thicket and seeing his thought processes exposed, I realized what a good writer this kid was. When Barb delivered me one of her perfect pieces, I often took two or three days to get around to it because I knew reading it would be a chore. But when Bob delivered one of his steaming messes, I immediately told the receptionist to take messages while I closed the door to my office and sat down for some great reading.

    In my experiences since, Barb and Bob have become shorthands for the different approaches to thinking and reasoning that I see in people. I watch a Danny Lemieux or Mike Devx at work, men who obviously love to think and don’t mind cutting and pasting their own thoughts as they go along. Their Bob-like approach is so unlike the increasing instances here of a humorless, overly scrupulous pedanticism that calls to my mind Barb’s perfectly wrought tediosity.

  • Ymarsakar

    A form that acts as the substance it was designed to hold and protect lasts no more than a twinkling of eternity’s eye.

    Usually grammar is the container into which ideas and worth are poured. The container is not the content itself. The ideas, not the vehicle upon which it is propelled, is the core. Certain Leftist ideas advocate magical thinking: that they can shape the reality, the contents of this world, simply by changing the form of it. They change the meaning of what is is, simply by conforming the sentence that carries “is” into some different form and shape. They believe they can change reality itself, simply by wording things a little differently.

    It makes perfect sense that she was devastated by criticisms of her format, for that, in the eyes of the Left, is the same as claiming her ideas are worthless or erroneous. Form over function results in nothing but a collapsed tower.

    Being completely grammatically correct presents a solid format but without content it is meaningless. There are often times that personal style and communication requires the breaking of conventional rules. Obviously newcomers should not be encouraged to break rules they never knew how to follow, but for the masters, rules are not so much rules any more as they are guidelines. The shape of the container must definitely conform to the metaphysical nature of the idea inside.

    It does the soul of humanity no service to cleanse it of creativity in the service of ABSOLUTE ORDER and rules. The Leftist dream of total control over humans and this world, simply by being completely ordered and predictable in their language, is a pipe’s dream of the apocalypse. No midsummer’s eve here. Yet, many products of the Left write as Communist commissars would have done. Perfectly the same in form.

  • Mike Devx

    jj #9: Mike – the fact that that there’s no overall consensus that the time is now doesn’t mean the time isn’t now.

    I surely do hope that the people weigh Obama on the scales and find him wanting.

    My worst fear about an Obama second term is that he’ll have no reason to hold back.  He won’t have to position himself for re-election.  We might see the *real* Obama then, all masks off.  

    Thinking about that is something that might keep you up at night.

  • Ymarsakar

    I think Obama’s just too lazy to hold anything back. The people around him are a different matter.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Coming from  a pro, Charles M, those are might kind words. Thank you.

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