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Saturday, September 7, 2013 - 12:01 am

The reading list

“This vast societal transformation might be called 'The Great Virtue Shift.' Almost every act regarded in the mid-20th century as a vice was, by the opening of the 21st century, considered a virtue. As gambling, obscenity, pornography, drugs, divorce, homosexuality, abortion and sneering disaffection became The New Virtue, government at all levels began to move in on the action, starting with casinos and currently involving, in several states and the District of Columbia, an officially approved and bureaucratically managed narcotics trade.

“The Great Virtue Shift has produced among its practitioners the appearance of profound moral concern, caring and legislated activism on behalf of the neediest cases and most immiserated populations at home and around the world. To this may be added the panoply of social agenda issues designed to ignite resentment and righteous indignation among the new 'proletarian' elite. All this works to satisfy the cultural elite's desire to feel morally superior about itself regarding collective moral issues of large magnitude even as they, as individuals, engage in outsized self-indulgent personal behavior. This is Reinhold Niebuhr's 'moral man and immoral society' turned on its head, where hedonism takes cover beneath a superficial global moralism.

“The virtue shift has been paralleled by a governmental shift. As gifted politicians have sensed the changing psychology and national character of the country, they have learned to constantly scan the political horizon to identify each special interest group, make the necessary promises and then move to satisfy each group's claim on government largesse, or its demand for deeper government intervention to enforce adherence to each group's behavioral choices.”

– From “On Decadence” at the-american-interest.com

A quiz

What condition increased so rapidly in the 1980s in the U.S. that it became known as the “disorder of the '80s?”

Wisdom of the ages

“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Current wisdom

The United States has “enemies around the world that need to understand that we're not going to tolerate this type of behavior. We also have allies around the world and allies in the region who also need to know that America will be there and stand up when it's necessary.” – House Speaker John Boehner as he emerged from a meeting about Syria at the White House.

Quiz answer

Anorexia nervosa.

Snob words

auspicate (AW-spi-keyt), v. – to initiate with ceremonies calculated to ensure good luck; inaugurate, as in: “The editorial writer wished the council would just get on with the meeting instead of trying to auspicate it first.”

Today in history

On this date in 1927, Philo Farnsworth demonstrated the first use of a television, in San Francisco; sort of the birth of the couch potato, eh? In 1963, the Beatles made their first TV appearance, on “Big Night Out” on ABC; no, Ed Sullivan didn't have them first.

Now you know

Suspension bridges were invented in China in 25 B.C, 1,800 years before such bridges were known in the West.