Monday, May 31, 2021

The Lonely Man of Faith

Underneath compulsion and regression, lies a black hole of cosmic indifference. Compulsion is a regression to an earlier state of dependence. It posits a feeding mechanism that must constantly be satisfied. Addiction in some senses is like the minimization function on a computer screen. It shields the sufferer from having to confront their own limits and ultimate solitude. Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, the Jewish philospher, wrote The Lonely Man of Faith which deals with a spiritual condition which is not even mollified by religion. Says Soloveitchick, "I am surrounded by comrades and acquaintances. And yet, companionship and friendship do not alleviate the passional experience of loneliness which trails me constantly. I am lonely because I feel rejected and thrust away by everybody." The submissive character in Pauline Reage’s Story of O is actually freed from the responsibility of her being, the Fear and Trembling and Sickness Unto Death, which Kierkegaard describes. On a more quotidian level many people complain about the abuses inflicted on them by employers or partners, without realizing that they themselves are complicit.They're spared the weight of being by the intervention of the domineeriing personality. Human beings develop all manner of strategies to face their own truths. A psychoanalytic narrative expressing the depredations of a parent avoids the question of agency. What's worse? Being told what to do or nothing at all? That's why the end of a course of therapeutic treatment often leads to a condition which may not provide much in the way of comfort or solace, despite the truth it reveals.

Read "Knausgaard or Kierkegaard?" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

Friday, May 28, 2021

Is God Created in Man's Image?

"The Creation of Adam" by Michelangelo

Egotism and spiritualism are opposites. In fact, the locution "my spiritual life" contains an oxymoron since it posits a world view that's self-centered. Having the beginnings of a spiritual life is a little like the Copernican Revolution. Galileo and Copernicus both propagated the heretical notion there was a "solar" system with the sun not the earth as center. When you look at how easily the will can rise up in any particular situation, it’s not hard to understand how and why there was so much pushback to those then revolutionary astronomical notions. In another sense it’s tantamount to  anthropomorphizing God and looking at whatever that force or higher power is as a reflection of the palette of human wishes and desire. Theodicy, theocracy, theology all preoccupy themselves with questions of teleology and eschatology, but if you investigate many religious tomes, you find a God created in the image of man, which is not far from the Old Testament concept of man created in the image of God. The god = man or man = god is where the buck has to stop. If there is a God then why would it be within human comprehension? Why would it be, for instance, a moral arbiter or punishing parent? Like the biblical Jews, mankind is left wandering in a desert of uncertainty--with the hope of a Promised Land which ultimately remains elusive. Devising life-sized answers to divine questions is hell on earth.

Read "God Redux" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

Thursday, May 27, 2021


If everyone has someone they want to impress, who never gave them attention, way back when, what's going to happen? There are certain logistics problems. For example, if you make it late in life, then many of those you want to impress are going to be dead? Part of the impetus in impressing someone is to get back at them. You want them to see your name in lights so they can drown in envy, hopefully just when their ship is about to capsize. “Don’t kick a man when he’s down” doesn’t apply here. The person who never gave you the right time of day can be on their dying bed and it’s still permitted to wave the flag of victory in their face. You’d better do it, before they aren’t there to suffer anymore. But this very problem does bring up the real issue. Who the fuck cares whether you succeed or fail since oblivion and the infinity of time and space is the great leveler? Still hope springs eternal. It’s hard to help oneself. There are always the phalanx of doubters who populate your dreams, looking at you askance or not looking at you at all. The indifference of the universe, the cosmic yawn is often the real problem. What to do about impressing the individual who simply pushed you to the margins of their consciousness or never knew you existed at all? You could win the Nobel, but it wouldn’t count since they didn’t know you in that other life, before you became a contender.

Read "What is the Antidote to or Antonym for Schadenfreude" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

States of Mind

Newsweek, November 13, 1995

Civil War America and post-war Germany are two examples of once divided countries that eventually reunited. Irredentism is the term for reunification of formerly fragmented nations. You might say that Putin has a very strong irredentist tendency in his desire to reconstitute the Imperial Russia of Peter the Great or at the very least the old U.S.S.R with its may satellites. After the fall of Tito, Yugoslavia fragmented into the warring factions that made for grueling Bosnian conflict. When you look at history the prospects for Israel are challenging. The Serbs and Bosnians were carrying literally hundreds of years of historical baggage to the table. In the case of the Palestinians and Israelis literally biblical periods of time, with their consequent legends of grievance, are represented. Since the time of the Oslo accords, two states has seemed like the logical solution, but now it’s beginning to look like something more creative is called for ("I No Longer Believe in a Jewish State" by Peter Beinart, NYT, July 8, 2021). The question is what? Numbers seem abstract but they're at the core of the issue when you deal with the question of according equal rights and full citizenship to all. In the United States you can win the popular vote, but not win an election as was evident in 2016 and famously during the tightly contested Bush Gore race in 2000. The electoral college titrates the notion of a democratic majority as do the senatorial elections in which California with a population of 39 million is allotted the same 2 senators as Wyoming which has a population of 579,000. These disparities are unfair. But can they provide the template for a discussion of how to deal with radically different constituencies with radically differing agendas? Perhaps mathematicians with specialties in imaginary numbers should be added to the negotiating teams when Israelis and Palestinians return to the table. 

Read "Iraquistan" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

David Hockney: Drawing from Life


Hockney iPad selfie

“A photograph cannot really have layers of time in it, the way a painting can which is why drawn and painted portraits are much more interesting,” David Hockney is quoted as saying at the start of the current "David Hockney: Drawing from Life" show at the Morgan. The question of what constitutes a portrait and especially a self-portrait is one of the many things that's up for discussion in the current exhibit. It can be a lover like Gregory Evans, a muse like the textile designer Celia Birtwell, his mother--as well as a pair of shoes or an ashtray with cigarette butts--both of which images exude the intimate quality of selfies. Hockney was influenced by the eclecticism of Picasso and Rembrandt. And he demonstrates both in the broad approach to drawing which includes watercolor, pencil, Rapidograph (which conforms the width of the line) and even iPad. In terms of content the exhibit  also illustrates the Catholic nature of the artist's interests which run from Hogarth’s "A Rake's Progress” (1735) as the model for his coming to New York in the summer of l961, the homoeroticism of Whitman, the vegetarianism of Gandhi and the poetry Cavafy which is the basis for his “IIlustrations for Fourteen Poems from C.P. Cavafy” done with the printmaker Maurice Payne. Says Hockney: "Drawing makes you see things clear and clearer and clearer still, until your eyes ache."

Read "Inventing Abstraction" by Francis Levy, The Screaming Pope

Monday, May 24, 2021

La Piscine

Jacques Deray’s La Piscine (l969), currently in revival at Film Forum is distinguished by its total lack of irony. Jean-Paul (Alan Delon) is an alcoholic writer, “who always wants what he doesn’t have.” Having temporarily given up his dreams, he's on the wagon. He’s taken a prosaic job at an advertising agency, but finds himself the miraculous beneficiary of a luxury villa on the Riviera which he occupies with his sexy girlfriend, Marianne (Romy Schneider) who proclaims “when I’m with you it’s all I need.” If opposites attract Jean-Paul and Marianne perfectly complement each other. BTW,  it was Romy Schneider not Alan Delon who was the alcoholic in real life. It’s a stereotype party with Delon in his sunglasses and cigarette dangling out of the side of his mouth and Schneider’s wardrobe changes limited mostly to slipping out of a bikini and into a one piece. Bodies bodies everywhere. These two can't keep their hands off each other, though each actual sexual encounter involves scratching and in one case whipping with a branch. Enter Harry (Maurice Ronet), the wealthy record producer driving a revved up sports car he affectionately calls “his monster," his sullen daughter Penelope (played by Jane Birkin of Blow-Up fame) in tow. The predictable cocktail of emotions with the ubiquitous and totemic bottle of Johnny Walker produces a drama which is basically interesting from anthropological point of view--like a survey of  some extinct civilization or ancien regime.The 60s fruggers fresh off the beach at St. Tropez add to the ebullient predictability. Hard to believe Jean-Claude Carriere, famous for The Unbearable Lightness of Being, wrote this leaden screenplay. Delon and Schneider are filmic examples of planned obsolescence. The bored writer in the strained relationship is at first reminiscent of Godard’s Contempt; the decadence recall L’Avventura (1961) minus the philosophy. The pool of the title does take on a mythological significance to the extent that one of the characters drowns in his own reflection—albeit with a little help from his friend(s).

Read Francis Levy's review of Philip Kaufman's The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Screaming Pope

Friday, May 21, 2021

Pornosophy: Kissing

Porn traffics in forbidden orifices and acts. Fellatio and cunnilingus are the most famous and commonplace but you’re unlikely to find a film in the annals of erotica entitled simply “Kissing.” What's the difference between kissing someone’s ass, the pejorative for trying to court favor from the powerful, and kissing their lips. In fact, a full kiss on the lips is one of the most erotic and yes dirty acts known to humankind. Just because the lips aren’t hidden by underwear doesn’t mean they aren’t perhaps the most sensual entry doors to the body. Showing the labia another form of lips is looked at as nudity, yet having a conversation in which sometimes painted lips chatter happily away as Billie Whitelaw's do famously in Beckett's Not I is so commonplace as to fall under the radar. Islam recognizes how triggering lips can be by having women cover their faces with the hajib. A so-called French kiss far exceeds most acts of cunnilingus at least to the extent that the tongue is likely to survey far deeper into the mouth than it does the vulva. Kissing on the lips also is unlimited. Fellatio generally leads to ejaculation when it is not simply foreplay, but there's no time limit on kissing. In theory you can kiss ad nauseam or until one of the partners has to leave for a therapy appointment or yoga.

Read "The Interpretation of Vladimir Nabokov's Dreams" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Is America Suffering From Schizophrenia?

Is America a schizophrenic? Is the splitting the result of an earlier trauma becoming compartmentalized or repressed? If the country were, in fact, a person you would say it’s suffered no shortage of life changing events. Only in the last year, the country has endured the comorbidities of the coronavirus and political instability in which the very institution on which American society was founded, democracy, has been called into doubt. Almost 600,000 people have died since the onset of the epidemic and the sowing of doubt about the legitimacy of the election, has forever tainted the electoral process. In the midst of this came the murder of George Floyd which epitomized a systemic racism that's only become exacerbated by the challenge to untrained lower-middle class whites. In his New Yorker essay "Why Americans Are Dying of Despair," (3/16/20), Atul Gawande cited Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism by Angus Deaton and Anne Case to point to the disenfranchisement which explains the rise of the totalitarian and anti-democratic impulse in American society. When a patient suffers a trauma mentally or physically, they go into shock, but following that the mind has to accommodate as memories begin to resurface or become further repressed. You might say that American society as a whole is a little like those children with the blank eyes who are permanently displaced by genocide or war. In the meanwhile, a restive and angry population may also begin to experience delusions.

Read "Was Hamlet Suffering from False Memory Syndrome?" by Francis Levy, Huff Post

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Sperm Count: Francois Gigot de la Peyronie

Francois Gigot de la Peyronie (1678-1747)

Francois Gigot de la Peyronie was a French surgeon. He was responsible for stopping barbers from performing medical procedures—which is a why a triple bypass is likely to cost exponentially more than a $40 buzz cut. Apparently Peyronie developed an early interest in the phallus and in particular a condition known as “induration of the corpora cavernosa of the penis.” In “lay” terms this deformity is might be termed "curvature of the penis" which is not believed to be related to "curvature of the spine." Peyronie’s Disease, as it’s known, is not always a bad thing. The shortest distance between two points may be a straight line, but sometimes a straight line is not what's called for when one is practicing the act of love. A penis which takes a right or left turn may in fact end up activating neurogenic pathways which lead to pleasure. You might ask what does a penis which is inserted into the vagina have to do with the brain? The answer lies in the nature of the ANS or autonomic nervous system which often influences a host of functions including coitus.

Read "Sperm Count: Speaking of Erections" by Francis Levy, Huffpost

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Logically Positive Politics

It’s a hard time to argue subjectivist or even relativist positions (ie that perceptions of right and wrong are culturally informed and hence defy certainty). The chief method used by Trump and his followers is to throw doubt on the notion of verifiable reality. Thus the educated person who might be versed in paradigm shifts and even deconstruction finds him or herself in a quandary in which they ultimately have to forswear some of the major advances in modern thought in favor of a more Kantian perspective in which there are categorical imperatives, easily definable rights and wrongs and a discernable objective reality. Deconstruction and the questioning of the observer started on the left but has become a strange bedfellow of the right. What the current climate calls for is the assumption that empirical perception can be validated with revisionist history put on the back burner. The question still is what can be said and affirmed and what defies such certainty. Beliefs may be respected, but cogito must take precedence over credo, in the emergency situation in which the dark cloud of solipsism looms. "If you didn't know that TV footage was a video from January the sixth, you would actually think it was a normal tour or visit,” remarked Andrew Clyde, a Republican congressman from Georgia. “That of which we cannot speak we must pass  over in silence,” is the last proposition of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus. It’s a text that should be mandatory reading for politicians who are tempted to dabble in homespun metaphysics or the paranormal. Traditional democracy is based on the philosophy of John Locke who was an empiricist.

Read "Travels With My Ant" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

Monday, May 17, 2021


"Cloaca" by Wim Delvoye, photo: Che Lydia Xyang

Back in 2002 “Cloaca,” a conceptual piece by the Belgian artist Wim Delvoye was shown at the New Museum. The “sculpture” is really an “infernal machine” to the extent that it manufactures excrement—replete with an olfactory effect. "Cloaca" is literally a turd machine and in one of the venues in which it was displayed “the turds” like numbered prints were sold for $1000 a piece. Delvoye’s work is an obvious metaphor for art itself, in which from a phenomenological point of view sensation is ingested, masticated and then regurgitated. It might also be looked at as a metaphor for therapy in which the patient shits all over the therapist on the way to being cured. A child who needs to excrete will say he or she has “to make.” Shitting is an expression that also has something in common with giving birth. Having a satisfying bowel movement which is shapely and descends easily through  the rectum is an achievement and one wonders if there aren’t creatives who look wistfully at these productions, even  considering whether they should sign them, before flushing them away.

Read "We Aim to Please" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

Friday, May 14, 2021

Nakba and Shoah

History is like a crockpot. Issues simmer over generations. In the Bosnian civil war, events that happened hundreds of years before were the historical baggage that became unpacked at a time of crisis. Trump’s nefarious base didn’t appear out of nowhere as Angus Deaton and Anne Case point out in Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism. They’re the product disenfranchisement due to technology and automation. In an op-ed piece, "Palestinian Refugees Deserve to Return Home. Jews Should Understand,"NYT (5/12/21), Peter Beinart addresses the “the Nakba,” in Arabic “the catastrophe,” in which 700,000 Palestinians were deracinated to found the State of Israel (with subsequent expulsions to follow). It’s interesting that Shoah also refers to “catastrophe,” in that case the killing of six million Jews. “Among Palestinians, Nakba is a household word,” Beinart remarks, “But for Jews — even many liberal Jews in Israel, America and around the world — the Nakba is hard to discuss because it is inextricably bound up with Israel’s creation.” He goes on to point out the irony of Jews resisting the notion of repatriation since “no people in human history have clung as stubbornly to the dream of return as have Jews.” Later in the piece Beinart says, “Perhaps American Jewish leaders fear that facing the crimes committed at Israel’s birth will leave Jews vulnerable.” At the end of his essay Beinart brilliantly points out that the Hebrew for "repentance," "teshuvah" literally means "return." It's hard to conceive of a truth and reconciliation commission as the fighting continues, but Beinart quotes the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish in asserting the possibility of empathy between opposing sides. “The occupier and myself— both of us suffer from exile. He is an exile in me and I am the victim of his exile.” In identifying with the shared meanings of Nakba and Shoah, therein lies the hope.

Quote of the Day: "If you didn't know that TV footage was a video from January the sixth, you would actually think it was a normal tour or visit."--Andrew Clyde, R, Ga.




Thursday, May 13, 2021

Dear Ethicist: Is it a Crime to Steal an Election?

Dominion Voting Systems Machine

Dear Ethicist: Is stealing an election a felony or misdemeanor? And does the size of the election determine the sentence? Many Republicans are accusing Democrats of stealing the last election. Most elections are prominently displayed, particularly by way of television commercial, particularly when they’re for sale. So they often attract the attention of pickpockets and other petty thieves, who may steal them and then run for it, but it's rare for Democrats to steal elections. That's usually done by Republicans who attempt to limit voting rights. Sometimes however a particularly valuable election may be locked up like say suede or leather coats are when on display in a department store. To steal such an election requires a good deal of advanced planning and may result in an insurrection. But how does stealing an election compare to robbing a bank? Elections are about platforms, but banks are about money. So is it a safer bet to steal an election than to rob a bank which has safes that are protected by security guards?


Poll Watcher



Dear Poll Watcher: You have asked some very timely and important questions and part of the answer depends on your particular tastes. If you're Republican who wants to prevent universal health care, stop immigration or allow greenhouse gases to flow freely into the atmosphere, then you may very well want to stop certain kinds of people from voting--what to you is tantamount to stealing. If you’re simply interested in being rich and powerful, then rob a bank.

Read "The Counter-Reformation of the GOP" by Francis Levy, The Screaming Pope

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Spendor in the Grass

Do you find that your days are sandwiched in by these two periods of longing? Daybreak when you're hit by the void of what you're going to do with the blank page or canvas and evening by when you haven’t gotten any feedback about your efforts. Of course, asking for a one day turn around is a little ambitious. Even Churchill didn’t expect that with his first volume of memoirs Triumph and Tragedy. The question is how to handle these down periods. Playing the waiting game is no fun. Every ping of the computer promises the anticipated message that turns out to be an add for Jet Blue, Spectrum, Optimum or Sirius FM, offering you another unwanted playlist, or even worse Equinox, reminding you it's time to renew your gym membership. In fact, there are lots of false hopes which may bring back the memory of those hopeless high school romances in which the girl or guy finally gave you the bad news that they just wanted to be friends. Most galleristas and editors in publishing houses don’t wish to be friends either so there’s unlikely to be any grail awaiting you at the end of your crusade. Turns out it was better to be an aspirational teenager with all of life ahead—despite the pain of the romantic agony. In the meanwhile, if you have any friends left at this late date in life, their likely telling you to let go and let G-D or just let go. Jargonistas are filled with spiritual drivel which you may weary of hearing. At the end of Elia Kazan's Splendor in the Grass, these famous lines from Wordsworth's "Intimations of Immortality" are invoked:  "Though nothing can bring back the hour/ Of splendor in the grass, glory in the flower..." 

Read "The Church of Shit: All Welcome" by Francis Levy, HuffPost


Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The Ethicist: Not So Great Expectations

Dear Ethicist: I’m chomping at the bit. I can’t wait. The problem is that my expectations aren’t great. They’re rather modest. I want to go out to dinner. I want to watch certain series on Netflix. I want to know. I hate it when anything is ambiguous. I find that people around me intentionally withhold fulfilling even the most modest demands because they sense my anxiety. This doesn’t seem fair. If I could generalize, I’d ask why doesn’t the world give me what I want? If my desires are so easy to satisfy why not just satisfy them to get me out of the way.

Not So Great Expectations



Dear Not So Great Expectations: I hear you, but what happens when someone says, OK let’s get a bite at the Dionysius? From my experience, people with your particular complaint are never satisfied. Yes, these are all small demands which would be relatively easy for anyone to meet. What creates the problem is that once you get what you want, it’s never enough. You immediately want more. There are those with big ambitions who're constantly going for it, but these kinds of folks, believe it or not, are easier to tolerate since once they get or don’t get what they want, that’s it. In other words, it’s better to be a predator than a pest. If you notice, horses constantly swat their tails at flies. Do you want to be a horse or a fly or, for that matter, a mouse who's chased by a cat? 


Dear Ethicist: Can I think about it and get back to you?

Dear Not So Great Expectations: Sure!

Read review of Francis Levy's Seven Days in Rio, New York Journal of Books

Monday, May 10, 2021

An Immodest Proposal?

Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal famously solved famine in Ireland by serving up children. Would it be a false equivalent to suggest that GOP is solving its problems by devouring those thoughtful conservatives and originalists who pride themselves on constitutionality. In the Coen brothers Fargo, a wood chipper is notoriously used to dispose of a body. What’s going on in the Republican Party would qualify as Swiftian satire were it not so terribly sad. The Insurrection occurred on January 6. What’s followed has been The Inquisition. The cure says the current Savonarola is to rid the party of all brains and principle and for that matter anybody who opposes his will. Grind up the George Conways, Mitt Romneys, Adam Kitzingers and Liz Cheneys and spit them out. Hail Caesar!  Heil Hitler! Remember Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor who put Christ himself on trial? Mitch McConnell’s current objective by the way is to stop the Democrats. Is that a platform?

Read Francis Levy on Kurt Vonnegut's Welcome to the Monkey House, The East Hampton Star

Friday, May 7, 2021

The Counter-Reformation of the GOP

Comparing Trump to Hitler used to be an exercise in hyperbole that didn’t garner attention. He was bad, but he didn't kill six million Jews. It was just like calling Trump an asshole or a piece of shit. After all his daughter had, in fact, married a Jew. In addition, the Israelis liked him for putting the embassy back in Jerusalem. But now the orchestrated attacks on literally anyone in the party who opposes him give intimations of even more frightening things to come. If there seemed to be a short respite from Retrumplicanism, it turns out to have truly been the calm before the storm. Liz Cheney’s impending loss of her number three position is the coup de grace. In fact, Trump’s “big lie,” the issue she's fighting, itself exemplifies, in macrocosm what she has had to face on an individual basis. By attempting to delegitimize the Biden presidency, Trump has attacked the electoral process, and the social contract that makes democracy possible. Hitler didn’t attack constitutional government. He merely bypassed it.Trump has done something far worse which is to create a black hole of doubt which may forever tarnish the validity of American democracy. You may not agree with Liz Cheney’s ultra conservative positions, but she's courageous in standing up to a juggernaut of unquestioning fealty to one of the most imperious autocrats in history. One can only pray she succeeds in her quest to delegitimize Trump’s delegitimizing of the election thereby creating a successful counter-reformation in the GOP. 

Read "Trumpty Dumpty's Great Fall," by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Dear Ethicist: Overeating

"Gourmands" by Krzysztof Lubienicki (1659-1729)

Dear Ethicist: I'm an avid overeater and I’m gaining a lot of weight. The problem is that eating is all I like to do. I have been this way all my life. In fact, a kid I knew in elementary school once rebuked me for talking about food all the time, by asking, “is eating all you like to do?” I had a brief respite when all I could think about was sex, but now it’s food. I feel badly since this obsession can impact those around me. For one I take up lots of room in bed. Secondly, my wife has accused me of becoming so narrowcasted in my gluttony that I’ve lost interest in things like theater and dance. Thirdly, I hog everyone else's food. I used to look at eating as a reward after attending some boring cultural event, but now I don’t want to take the time out for the opera, even if it’s Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.”  We are losing friends because many people are trying to diet and lead healthy life styles and I’m a bad influence. I used to look at myself like a joyous ribald 18th century aristocrat, with my joint of beef in hand. However, I'm beginning to fear that my lifestyle may not only be off-putting, but immoral.




Dear Overeater: You’re not sick (in the head), though I imagine you must get the occasional stomach ache due to your need to devour. You’re a pig. I had a friend like you who ate too much and developed a snout. I think if you’re an addictive personality, which you plainly are, you may be better off going back to sex—which is good exercise and actually helps people to lose weight. I’d echo the sentiment of your elementary school pal when it comes to eating. Is that all your interested in?

Dear Ethicist: Right now yes.

"Read It's Not a Rehearsal" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Amateur Hour

Do you remember Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour? Remember  it was sponsored by Geritol, the cure for “iron-poor tired blood?” America has become a nation of ambulance chasers, professional pundits who turn up on Fox as well as CNN, with their pre-rehearsed sanctimony and long faces they take right to the bank. The vote recount is now going on in Arizona. Cyber Ninjas one of the companies hired is apparently owned by a "stop the steal" advocate, but you can easily find pre-packaged ideologies on the left. The attitude of smug self-congratulatory indignation fuels the mentality of the lynch mob. You might not agree with Brad Raffensberger, the Republican secretary of state who upheld the Georgia vote and who's  now arguing for initiatives which will adversely affect minority voters, but his very mode of discourse takes the higher ground—a position which has lost its charisma in the current environment. Ditto  Liz Cheney whose conservative positions might be anathema to liberals, but who has stood up to the Retrumplicans with dignity and great courage under fire. The geri of Geritol refers to geriatric and perhaps what America needs is a form of political Geritol which will bring back the youthful and idealistic belief in the principles of enlightened discourse in which opposing sides really listen to each other. Right now gerrymandering is going to be countered by a dose of the same. The two parties are like the angry divorced couple fighting over the children. How would King Solomon have handled the fighting over this baby?

Read "MAGA and the Coronavirus" by Francis Levy, The

Tuesday, May 4, 2021


The Democratic party is a little like Russia in l917. At first the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks, the Trotskyites and Leninites were all united in their opposition to the Czar (Trump). Then there was a split between the political and cultural avant gardes. Socialist realist art and architecture would prevail in the Stalinist era which ushered in a new form of repression.The voices of the Mandelstams, Mayakovskys, Pasternaks and Malevichs would be silenced. Poetry, ironically became more vital in its underground form as Perestroika, but that’s another story. The Biden presidency united all branches of the party and many independents who shored themselves up against a common cause, the destruction of American Democracy, epitomized by the January 6 insurrection. However, now the cancel culture of the left is beginning to mobilize its Newspeak thinking thought police. One-time allies increasingly find themselves on opposing sides, particularly around the issue of free speech. Columbia linguist John McWhorter’s "How the N-Word Became Unsayable" (NYT, 4/30/21). “Just writing the word here, I sense myself as pushing the envelope, even though I am Black,” wrote Mr. McWhorter. McWhorter went on to use the C word and F word in his piece. A subsequent Times headline read thusly, "Debate Erupts at N.J. Law School After White Student Quotes Racial Slur"(NYT, 5/3/21). The Times describes how “The first-year student at Rutgers Law School in Newark, who is white, repeated a line from a 1993 legal opinion, including the epithet, when discussing a case.” The result was a call for apologies. For what? Reading from the record? How do you teach Huckleberry Finn or even Othello? It’s not hard to figure out what words were forbidden during the Stalinist era? It’s certain gulag wasn’t one.

Read "When Not to Use the "N" Word On or Off Campus," by Francis Levy, HuffPost



Monday, May 3, 2021

The Ethicist: Refuse to Take No-for-An-Answer

Dear Ethicist: You don’t need to be paranoid to believe someone is following you. But obviously better to believe someone is following you. Why? Because you know what the problem is and can consequently feel a sense of agency. For instance, you can turn around and bark, “stop following me!” The same can be said of a long fallow period in which you’re turned down by everyone. You could just say it was bad luck, yet it’s better to think that you’re cursed or that there’s some kind of mole in every institution you’re dealing with who has been placed there to make sure you walk away feeling dejected. In the long run, it’s nicer to think some former lover has cursed you and put a pin in a voodoo doll than to simply find yourself rejected or worse ignored for no reason. Having the cosmos yawn (with a bored look) in your face is not fun for anyone. Oedipus listened to the oracle and brought about the very thing he feared. All this is better than having no explanation. What would you rather be faced with, hatred or indifference? You can see I’m stewing because I’m not getting attention. In addition, I’m impatient to get my needs satisfied, as someone my age could die any day. Should I refuse to take no for an answer or become accepting of what fate has in store for me. 


 Refuse to Take No-for-An-Answer?




Dear Refuse to Take No-for-An-Answer? If you don’t mind my saying it, you sound very primitive and at the very least self-involved. Do you even realize that other people have lives and for that matter needs and problems? Do you get that there are other people in the world besides you? My only advice is let go and let G-D.



Dear Ethicist: I didn’t think of that. Thanks for the advice.

Read "The Final Solution: When Big Brother is a Bully" by Francis Levy, HuffPost