Archive for July, 2008

Dude, I Can’t Talk, I’m Being Chased by Police

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008


Vanity Fair Has Some Fun…

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

…with the notorious New Yorker cover, by making one of their own.

Explicit Threat of Rape

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

Jessica at Feministing is none to fond of the newest Goodyear ad…

My mistake. She’s actually searching ancient dusty archives in an effort to get herself pissed off. And succeed she does…

Is it just me, or…

*Sigh* When people who call themselves “feminists” begin a sentence that way, I just know this will end well.

Is it just me, or is this commercial telling women that they might get raped if they don’t buy Goodyear tires? (I know there’s no explicit rape threat, but the woman walking alone in a scary dark alleyway says it all to me.)

The makers of a product are demonstrating the advantage of their product and using visuals to illustrate why said advantage is desirable. A good chunk of the household budget can be justifiably spent on keeping the females within it warm, safe, comfortable and dry, and cannot be justifiably spent to keep the gentlemen that way, because that would be silly.

It’s called “having a good thing going on here.” And feminists are known for not appreciating it.

Let’s give Jessica some credit, though. Things don’t spike on the absurd-o-meter, until you get into the comments, at which time the ad is torn to shreds for failing to prop up the late seventies stereotype of the ass-kicking woman who knows how to kick ass, ride motorcycles, and change a tire as well as any man.

This is a classic illustration of how feminism died. We men didn’t do it. These brittle biddies would never admit it, but the way they’re applying their movement, it stands for — among other things — the notion that a woman’s place is down on the ground reefing on rusty, corroded lug nuts with a tire iron, scraping her knuckles on the pavement. Like I said, they’ll never admit that; but the ad dares to say otherwise, and look at all the rotten vegetables they’re throwing.

Could someone let the feminists know we didn’t have cell phones yet in the 1960s. And, back then, yes a lot of women appreciated having “a man around.” In fact, some women do today. Deal. Also, it looks like sexism of all kinds has been permanently resolved, since feminists need to go digging through 45-year-old archives, imposing their modern-day social mores on what they find beneath the dust and cardboard, in order to reach the emotional state most desirable to them: PISSED OFF.

Just like vampires that have run out of humans and are forced to dine on rats.

I tremble for the seismic activity that shall ensue when the feminists discover Shakespeare.

“I Am The Law”

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

Supreme Court Rules Death Penalty Is ‘Totally Badass’

It’s The Onion, folks. That means it’s satire.

Good satire.

H/T: Rachel.

Outcome Based Thinking

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

You know, what really strikes me as odious about the Loose Sweater Thread Paradigm isn’t quite so much this notion that all situations must be connected, when they’re really not — although that is bad enough. It’s this notion that you can test the quality of a thought process by the conclusion reached when one uses it.

Your Home Team is playing against Visitors this weekend. You think the home team is going to win. Therefore, you know whoever is betting on the visitors is failing to engage in “critical thinking.”

What’s even worse, is somehow, inexplicably, you become convinced that everyone who agrees with you has followed the proper steps for reaching a decision. They may not have followed anything of the sort; some of them might have flipped a coin.

This problem with Michael Savage’s comments about autistic spectrum disorders (ASD), has a lot of overlap with this. Now, he chose to make his comments indelicately, and so it’s inappropriate for him to demand kid-glove treatment. But that doesn’t have to do with the merits of what he was talking about. And it seems to me we’ve forgotten something important here — your kid is diagnosed with autism, my kid has been diagnosed with autism, you think the diagnosis is sound and I think my kid’s diagnosis is a bunch of bullshit…it’s a real possibility that maybe we both used sound thinking processes to reach the conclusions we did.

We forget that the two situations are different…and that’s what this “Loose Sweater Thread” thing is all about.

We also have a tendency to forget that a sound thought process can reach whatever conclusion it’s going to. And, being nonsense and therefore adhering to the nature of nonsense, an unsound thought process can conclude in just about anything. Which is a slightly different fallacy, but one well worth deliberating.

I was reminded of this by means of a link from Rick, to a bloggress (bloggerette?) who is nigh-on fed up with people not engaged in “critical thinking” — she can tell it’s a problem because people aren’t reaching the conclusions she’s reaching.

And oh, my goodness. The condescension, it just drips…like venom off fangs of a rattlesnake, cobra or black widow…it’s an amazing thing to behold.

My first thoughts are that all Christians need to take a course in critical thinking. This is critical. As an adult convert (at the age of 30) who went to a regular liberal arts college and learned the art of critical thinking and discourse, I have been regularly appalled at the lack of critical thinking that I see amongst the brethren and sistren. It is why so many are now so bitterly disillusioned with President Bush. Those of us who are critical thinkers saw him for who he was back in 1999; a charlatan. But most Christians only heard what they wanted to hear in 2000 and again in 2004. Having done that, and been so badly burned they seem unwilling to trust any politician again.

They need to listen for themselves and read for themselves what the candidates are saying. Do not rely on the media reports…For instance,hen [sic] the story broke about Barak [sic] Obama’s pastor (Dr. Wright), I searched YouTube until I found his entire sermon and found the little bitty clips in context. They meant something then and were not nearly as offensive. If you know anything about the African-American church in this country, then you can understand where they came from. If you don’t, then shame on you. You have some homework to do.

“Those of us who are critical thinkers saw him for who he was back in 1999; a charlatan.” So if you engaged in critical thinking, you saw him as a charlatan, and if you did not, you saw him as something else.

As far as the thing with Jeremiah Wright, some Obama defenders have intoned that no matter what the Pastor did or didn’t say, this has no bearing whatsoever on the character of Barack Obama. And you know — the possibility arises that they may very well have a point. But if they have a point, she doesn’t, and vice-versa. They’re mutually-exclusive points. Especially when the author of this posts insists that if you don’t understand where Wright’s comments “came from…you have some homework to do.”

I left the following comment there:

I agree wholeheartedly on the bit about critical thinking, and am interested in your definition of it. I think I’m solid on the “you’re thinking critically if you agree with me and you’re not if you don’t” part, but it looks like there’s something more to it than just that, something more structured. At least, that’s the impression I get. Can you fill in the empty spaces?

And then, being the nasty two-faced little ogre I am, I expounded further at Rick’s place, Brutally Honest:

This guy goes into a bar at eleven o’clock and there’s this blond sitting there with a glass of wine, watching the TV. As the news comes on, there’s a story about a man threatening to jump from the bridge. The blond leans over to the guy who walked in and say “That’s so sad…I hope they manage to talk him off there.” And the guy says, “Nothin’ doin’. He’s gonna jump. Twenty bucks says.” So the blond says, okay, and they both put up twenty dollars.

Five minutes later, the man on TV jumps from the bridge, and dies.

The blond orders another glass of wine, and hands the guy the money. He says “Miss, I’m sorry, I can’t take your money. I already knew what happened to the guy because I watched it on the six o’clock news.” The blond says “So did I, but I was hoping this time it’d turn out better.”

Methinks she went to the same liberal arts college and learned about the same arts of critical thinking.

I Made a New Word XX

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Loose Sweater Thread Paradigm

A situation that exists when…

1. You’re included in a class
2. Some other guy is included in a class
3. You react to your inclusion into this class a certain way
4. Your response to being included in the class should not affect that other guy in any way, shape, matter, form or regard, and yet…
5. It does.

I’m referring here specifically to Michael Savage’s comments on autism.

Radio host Michael Savage has said many controversial things in the past, but this is just downright stupid.

WOR radio talk show host Michael Savage, who makes a good living being outrageous, found himself in the middle of a new firestorm Monday after he branded most autistic children fakers who just need tougher parenting.

“In 99% of the cases, it’s a brat who hasn’t been told to cut the act out. That’s what autism is. What do you mean they scream and they’re silent?” Savage said last week in remarks that lit up the Internet over the weekend.

“They don’t have a father around to tell them, ‘Don’t act like a moron. You’ll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz.'”

A few dozen parents protested outside WOR Radio, demanding Savage be fired.

They called it ironic that a loudmouth known for rants about immigrants, Jews, Muslims, gays, Democrats and nonwhites would go after innocents who often can’t even verbalize.

Ed Moffitt, 75, proudly showed a picture of Bob, his 8-year-old grandnephew. “Bob can’t speak. He never called Savage any names,” Moffitt said.

“We are dying to hear him say ‘Mommy’ or ‘Daddy.’ And [Savage] says that he is just acting out?” said the boy’s grandfather, retired NYPD officer Bob Moffitt. “It hurts me.”

WOR said they couldn’t be held responsible for what Savage says because he is a syndicated host broadcasting out of San Francisco. “We regret any consternation that his remarks may have caused to our listeners,” the station said.

On the air last night, Savage said his comments were “ripped out of context” by “far left Stalinists.”

I’ll agree the far left Stalinists are out to silence him, and any other conservative voice for that matter, but really, do you have to say such things about disabled children?

Just stupid.

It’s this chucklehead, Ace, Cassy Fiano and a few of her commenters on one side — me, Michael Savage, about three-quarters of Cassy’s commenters (her thread is the place I’ve been debating it) on the other side.

See, here’s the deal. Michael Savage was tactless. He was tactless to the point of being technically inaccurate. If you take his “99%” literally, his comments are easily disproven and even he will not stand behind them. In his remarks wherein he refuses to apologize for them, you see he’s taking the liberty of protesting he was taken out of context, by declaring the context after-the-fact. Barack Obama would be proud.

Here’s my ordeal:

My child — on paper — has “severe autism.”

He’s been diagnosed that way.

And it’s a crock of bullshit. No, that’s not just my opinion. It’s the opinion of anyone who’s ever met him…including his mother, who was really banging the drum and swinging the pom poms to get some kind of diagnosis — any kind of diagnosis — to make him genetically weird, so nobody else would have to take responsibility for his weirdness.

Here’s the part I don’t get…and if someone can explain it to me, I’d be grateful.

We have kids who are diagnosed with PDD-NOS and other shades of autism, who definitely have something neurologically wrong with them. We have other kids who simply don’t have the personalities their teachers would like them to have, and so the school district wants to skim cream off the top of the Medicare program — so along comes a convenient, and fraudulent, diagnosis. We have both of those going on.

Why the Loose Sweater Thread Paradigm? From where are all these parents, uncles, acquaintances, etc. of “kids who have been helped so much” by their specialized education programs coming? They’re swelling out of the cracks in the walls like angry red ants, ready to rip into Michael Savage or anybody they think is defending him.

Yeah I know what they want me to say. Michael Savage is a big crock and a doo doo head who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Well, sorry. I know better. My kid’s been diagnosed, and it’s part of a big scam to rip off Uncle Sam. I’m not going to partake in it, and I’m not going to pretend everything’s on the up-and-up when I know better.

It’s a scam, folks. This doesn’t mean every single child diagnosed with autism is in fact healthy; I know better, and while a word-for-word technical reading of Savage’s comments might produce that as a literal meaning, I think it’s safe to say this is not what he meant. (He did say 99%, after all.) Quoting from his clarifying remarks (linked above):

Just a few weeks ago doctors recommended dangerous anti-cholesterol drugs for children as young as 2 years of age! Without any scientific studies on the possible dangers of such drugs on children, corrupt doctors made this controversial, unscientific recommendation.

Increasingly, our children are being used as profit centers by a greedy, corrupt medical/pharmaceutical establishment….To permit greedy doctors to include children in medical categories which may not be appropriate is a crime against that child and their family. Let the truly autistic be treated. Let the falsely diagnosed be free.

And that’s my attitude. I’ll freely admit — there are kids out there who need help. It’s just that my kid isn’t one of them, and along with him, there are probably millions of other kids soaking up social services they don’t need, that could be going to other kids who need them more. That’s a busted system. And no, I don’t care who I’m pissing off, I’m not backing off of it.

I would instead question why they’re getting pissed off. Yes, they know kids who need the help. That means, as far as I’m concerned, they should be on my side. The resources their kids need, are limited. Let’s stop skimming them for fraudulent purposes. From whence arises this “all boats in a tide” nonsense? How come it is automatically and instantly dismissed that a plurality of kids, all laboring under this diagnosis, can be toiling away under different circumstances? What’s this artificial notion of sameness all about? This phony sense of unity?

You know what it reminds me of — is labor unions. As in, everyone else on the shop floor is putting together seven widgets an hour, you’re doing nine…so when you go home tonight, we need to set someone up to meet you with tire irons and baseball bats and give you an education. Just like that. Loose-sweater-thread; I cut a thread over where I am, somehow, irrationally, in a way that defines any logical explanation, some other guy miles away thinks his sweater is going to be undone.

I’ll just quote what I said on Cassy’s thread…

Some form of special instruction has been helpful to a child who has been so diagnosed. Therefore, anybody who pushes for reversing the diagnosis, or merely opening it to further question, must be wanting to HURT the child, right?

Wrong. News flash: Just about any child, save for the most brain damaged ones, will benefit from special instruction. It does not necessarily follow from that that they need it, or even that there is anything unusual about them. It proves nothing. Kids benefit from special instruction, period.

Stop it with the anecdotes, people. They don’t prove anything. They don’t even suggest anything. All it shows is that you’re using weak logic — the question under consideration is “is there a significant number of false diagnoses” and you’re answering it with “I know of one or two diagnoses that are not false.” It’s like saying, dolphins have fins, all fish have fins, therefore dolphins are fish. It’s phony logic and it doesn’t work.

If this was all above-board — I could comment on every single blog I can find, “Hey, my kid has been diagnosed with severe autism and I know it’s a huge crock of bullshit.” So long as I’m just talking about my own kid, and none other, I wouldn’t be pissing anyone off because they’d all look at my comments and say “okay, that kid doesn’t have autism, but I know mine does, so it’s all good.”

Instead, there’s all this angst.

That’s a big giant red flag for corruption if there ever was one. Sorry, it’s just true. If your child is really neurologically damaged and he has a real need for these services, you shouldn’t have any reason to fear some total stranger raising new questions about them.

We stopped spanking kids.

At the same time, we stopped using embarrassment to punish kids. In effect, we stopped punishing kids in any way.

“Learning disabilities” skyrocketed…at exactly the same time.

People who are paid good money to figure out what’s going on — can’t see a link between those two trends. Meanwhile, they or their employers are making money, directly or indirectly, on a per-diagnosis basis. And ASD (autism spectrum disorder) diagnoses are through the roof.

Sorry, if you can’t see something smells to high heaven on that, you’ve got a learning disability yourself. Maybe more than one.

The Rules for democrats and Republicans

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Great stuff

During his days doing stand-up in the 1960s, Bill Cosby recorded a track for one of his comedy albums about the American Revolution. As only Cosby could tell it, he spun a hilarious version of “the rules” for how the war for American independence was to be fought. The British, Cosby said, had to wear red and march in slow, straight lines, making them targets for the colonists, who were allowed to wear drab clothing that blended into the landscape and who could hide behind hills, trees and rocks as they took aim. It is a bit like this year’s presidential race, with Republicans playing by the British rules and Democrats in the role of the colonists.
The Rules for Democrats

Democrats (and liberals in general) are allowed to say, write and publish anything they want, regardless of how offensive it is or how much it degrades our political discourse…

Barack Obama is allowed to take both sides of any issue. As a new type of candidate for president of the United States, he is allowed to talk movingly about “change” and “hope” while offering no specifics of any kind…

Obama is allowed to make outrageous claims about the racist tendencies and tactics of his opponent and his opponent’s surrogates. Because he is half black, he does not have to justify these comments in any way.

The Rules for Republicans
Any criticism – in fact any negative mention – of Obama, his wife, his blasphemous, anti-American former pastor, his radical supporters, his Muslim father, his Muslim step-father, his education in a Muslim school or his middle name will be considered racist.

I suppose whether things are really working that way, might be up for some kind of debate. If, that is, you have your head stuck in a hole.

The obvious question is, how did things get like this? And I think the answer has more to do with human nature than with democrats or Republicans. One of the advantages of repeatedly presenting people with the products of your thinking, without revealing how said thinking works, is that after awhile people begin to absorb it. I’m referring here specifically to judgments about what’s acceptable and what is not. “That’s allowed”; “That’s over the line.” The democrat party, and in particular Sen. Ted Kennedy, have all been particularly energetic for the last several decades about casually tossing around the phrase beyond the pale. I do not know if the senior Senator from Massachusetts has ever been able to spell it, but boy he’s sure used it a lot.

The paling fence is significant as the term pale became to mean the area enclosed by such a fence and later just the figurative meaning of ‘the area that is enclosed and safe’. So, to be ‘beyond the pale’ was to be outside the area accepted as ‘home’.

Catherine the Great created a ‘Pale of Settlement’ in Russia in 1791. This was a western border region of the country in which Jews were allowed to live. The motivation behind this was to restrict trade between Jews and native Russians. Some Jews were allowed to live, as a concession, beyond the pale.

So “beyond the pale” means to tether a class of people to a shorter leash for the purpose of deliberately diminishing them. Heh. Why, how appropriate.

Anyway, I think that’s how things work this way. Like a dog becoming accustomed to commands from its master. When we hear the same voices intone what we are & are not allowed to do, over and over again, our resident dimbulbs stop questioning it after awhile.

This is probably why, over the longest presidential election campaign in American history, I don’t recall hearing too much out of democrats in general that didn’t have something to do with expressing outrage about something. It’s really hard to criticize them for doing it, once you objectively inspect the eventual and inevitable results. This nonsense works. Sooner rather than later, millions of people are doing exactly what you want…and then, a Savior rises in Barack Hussein Obama.

How best to illustrate the eventual result of it, than via this video clip I found via blogger friend Rick.

HOPENCHANGE!!! And do what you’re told.

Yikes! X

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

I did not need to read about this.

A TOURIST needing the loo at a railway station was killed by having a wee — on a live track.

The victim was electrocuted after he crept into a recess to relieve himself.

It is thought his urine splashed on the line and he died instantly when a 750-volt charge leaped up at him.

Staff found his body after he was filmed on CCTV going into the nook at Vauxhall, South London, and failing to come out again.

Sexism Alive and Well with Tattoos

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

My goodness, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen an article so eager to jump to reckless conclusions:

TattooIt appears sexism is alive and well when it comes to tattoos. Although just about as many women as men get tattoos nowadays, a new study shows that women seek removal of tattoos more than men because of negative social fallout.

About 25% of people ages 18 to 30 have tattoos, and that number is expected to rise to about 40% in the next few years, according to the study, published today in the Archives of Dermatology. Previous studies have shown that about 20% of people end up dissatisfied with their tattoos, and about 6% seek tattoo removal using laser treatment.

In the study, researchers analyzed data from two surveys of people undergoing tattoo removal. One survey was taken in 1996 and a second survey in 2006. In both surveys, men and women said they wanted the tattoos removed because their identities had changed and they had grown to dislike the tattoos. But in the 2006 survey, women also reported that they felt stigmatized by the tattoos. For example, 93% said having to hide the tattoos on occasion was a factor in the removal compared with 20% of men. About 40% of women endured negative comments at work, in public or in school compared with 5% of men.

From whence arises the notion that things should be parallel between boy-land and girl-land in the tattoo department? Yeah, “just about as many women as men get tattoos nowadays” but what in the world does that mean, exactly? Do they intend to send the same message with their tattoos?

Lemmee see…a guy gets a tattoo, the message he wants to send is if I look at him wrong, he’s gonna kick my ass. Is that what a lady wants to tell me when she gets inked? When she has that “tramp stamp” needled in down south by the tailbone? She’s an ass-kicker? I think not…I think there’s a difference there. Something about being wild and sexually adventurous.

You know, call me crazy — but I think most people would have some words for someone who imprints herself as being sexually adventurous…like, at work…that they wouldn’t have for someone who brands himself as being an ass-kicker. Without being the least bit sexist. Especially if they think their asses might really get kicked.

The author of this article is also apparently forgetting what a tattoo is. It is a measured dose of individuality. In many cases, it is an inherent contradiction because it dares to stand alone against hated convention, but only to a certain extent. Nowadays the real rebel has piercings. But of course, to most of us that’s a little too “weird,” and so the thing to do is get a tattoo. To show your uniqueness, but not to show it in a way that everybody else isn’t already doing it. And don’t forget to work in your personalized design.

My question is, when do the gals work up some personal responsibility here? They go and get their bodies permanently altered in anticipation of the reaction they’ll get out of people. They get a different reaction, and then grind off the marking just like they’d go into a department store and return a dress they wore for one occasion…knowing from the outset that this was not what the procedure was designed for. And then they get to chalk it up to sexism on the part of the people who didn’t show the reactions they were supposed to.

There’s another little-known fact about women; little-known, because it is seldom-discussed.

Women are trusted. They really are.

I go to the bank to deposit a check, maybe a larger check than usual…and when I reach the front of the line, if the next teller who is available for me is a dude, my heart’s going to sink a little bit. Why is that? Because with a female teller, there’s a certain potential that she has a certain amount of experience throwing money around. It’s an even distribution…slightly bell-curved. There is a marginal possibility she’s a “newbie” and a marginal possibility she’s been doing it for thirty years or more. The overwhelming likelihood is her experience level will be somewhere in between those two extremes.

The dude? He’s a newbie. It’s almost a sure thing. Yes there’s exceptions to everything; gimme a break, I said “almost.”

I’m not alone.

And here’s where it relates to tattoos. Once the teller is waiting on me, if it’s a dude and I see he has a tattoo, I’m not any more disappointed than I was before. Hey, it’s 2008. A lot of dudes have tattoos. But if the woman is waiting on me and I had all this confidence she’d handle my money right, and then I see she has a tattoo…not a subtle or discreet one, but something that will show nearly all the time. The barbed wire around the upper arm, maybe. Or a neck tattoo. A snake on the face, something like that.

That just isn’t good. No, I’m not going to grab my check and deposit slip and go running out the door shrieking. But it isn’t the reaction you want out of customers, either.

Is that sexist? Absolutely — although it should be noted it’s reverse sexism; I have confidence in the gals that I don’t have in the guys, and so my hopes can come tumbling down from loftier heights where the women are concerned. But that isn’t the kind of sexism the article was trying to talk about, was it? It was the typical bitching. Oh mercy me our poor gals are oh so oppressed. The kind of crap that sells newspapers — “World To End Tonight, Women and Minorities Hardest Hit.”

Here’s something to think about: Maybe articles like this manufacture stereotypes where they did not previously exist. Think about it — once again, our tattooed neighbors, man and woman alike, come off looking a bit…short-sighted. Failing to consider the consequences down-the-road. Living for the moment. Twenty percent of guys (plus the guys who are lying), and ninety-three percent of gals. That’s a lot. Now those statistics could be overblown, but the nature of a tattoo is such that you aren’t supposed to regret having it. It’s supposed to show you’ve got some balls and you can make lifetime commitments to things, that your identity isn’t going to change. So when it happens, and it causes this kind of crisis, it makes you look like a little bit of a flibbertygibbit.

But only if & when people start talking about it. So to me, it’s a little bit of a dichotomy to see someone scribbling up articles like this, and then bellyaching away about “sexism” and “social stigmas.” Articles like this make it happen. They cast a shadow even on the tattooed folks who haven’t changed their minds yet.


Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Jonathan Alter is blaming bloggers and other entities of the innernets for “umbrage”:

All Umbrage All the Time

After a decade of waiting for the first “Internet election,” it’s finally here, and we’re adrift from all the old-media moorings. “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one,” the great critic A. J. Liebling wrote more than half a century ago. Today, of course, we’re all press lords, or can be. But the “crowd-sourcing” of news cuts both ways. Like democracy itself, it can cleanse, correct and ennoble. Or it can coarsen, spread lies and degrade the national conversation.
Like senior citizens suffering from dementia, Web users often fall prey to “disinhibition”—the lack of a filter for their most brutal thoughts. In the campaign, this takes the form of an umbrage explosion, where a day rarely passes without someone’s taking grave offense over something.

In the pre-Web era, this was less of a problem. The New Yorker cover satirically depicting Obama as a flag-burning Muslim and Michelle as a gun-toting radical would have been seen by only a few hundred thousand subscribers, almost all of whom would have gotten the joke. Instead, in today’s 24/7 news cycle, it was seen by tens of millions of people. It was the knowledge of such a big audience for the cartoon—other Americans who “wouldn’t understand”—that fueled the over-the-top fury of the Obama supporters.

Meanwhile, as I make my way through this, the guys on the radio are talking about one of Alter’s cool-headed, reasonable old-media moorings, and how they refused to run John McCain’s editorial.

New York Times op-ed editor David Shipley dropped a courteous line to the McCain campaign on why their editorial wouldn’t appear…said editorial written specifically to respond to Obama’s note, which the Times had cheerfully dropped right on in.

Darn those impetuous bloggers, eh Jonathan?.

From: David Shipley/NYT/NYTIMES [mailto:XXXXXXX]
Sent: Friday, July 18, 2008 8:31 PM
Subject: Re: JSM Op-Ed

Dear Mr. XXXXXX,

Thank you for sending me Senator McCain’s essay.

I’d be very eager to publish the Senator on the Op-Ed page.

However, I’m not going to be able to accept this piece as currently written.

I’d be pleased, though, to look at another draft.

Let me suggest an approach.

The Obama piece worked for me because it offered new information (it appeared before his speech); while Senator Obama discussed Senator McCain, he also went into detail about his own plans.

It would be terrific to have an article from Senator McCain that mirrors Senator Obama’s piece. To that end, the article would have to articulate, in concrete terms, how Senator McCain defines victory in Iraq. It would also have to lay out a clear plan for achieving victory — with troops levels, timetables and measures for compelling the Iraqis to cooperate. And it would need to describe the Senator’s Afghanistan strategy, spelling out how it meshes with his Iraq plan.

I’m just lovin’ what came next…

I am going to be out of the office next week. If you decide to re-work the draft, please be in touch with Mary Duenwald, the Op-Ed deputy. Her email is XXXXXXXX; her phone is 212-XXXXXXX.

Now look what we have here. We have “reporting” upheld on high as the classical solution to all the world’s problems, but once it’s engaged it could more properly be described as “screening.” Not the conveying of information, but the blocking of it. Oh, goodness, I’m so glad we have David Shipley and Mary Duenwald vigilantly standing guard to make sure I don’t hear anything that isn’t articulate, concrete and laying out a clear plan. I feel so well-informed having all that sub-par chaff kept away from me!

Is that off topic from what Mr. Alter was writing about? I don’t think so; he specifically comes out and says the New Yorker cartoon generated the flap it did, not because it was drawn up, but because too many people found out about it.

So I guess, in his world, there’s less umbrage because information is kept in silos. And these trusted individuals stand watch over it all, making sure this guy over here, doesn’t get hold of that nugget over there.

Yeah. I feel so much better informed now. And, six hundred years ago, I would have felt so much more spiritual after a good blood-letting.

Best Sentence XXXIV

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

The Best Sentence I’ve Heard Or Read Lately (BSIHORL) goes out this morning to David Aaronovitch, Times Online:

It amuses me that some of those who criticise the present US Administration for its Manichaeism – its division of the world into good and evil – themselves allocate all past badness to [George] Bush and all prospective goodness to [Barack] Obama.

It gets better from there. Tough to see how, maybe, but you just have to head on over and read it all.

Yes, what he’s noticing is an entire package of things I’d been noticing this weekend about stateside democrats and liberals.

The division of everyone within line-of-site into the “them” camp and the “us” camp.

The selection of human targets for obliteration, forced retirement, marginalization and other forms of destruction.

The perseverance.

The renewed determination in the face of small and large setbacks.

The call-to-arms among old acquaintances, the recruiting among new ones.

The brutal interrogation of those whose loyalty has been demanded, but not forthcoming in a way they’d like it to have been.

The determination to confront.

Just plain, old-fashioned ballz.

All these things, and more, they condemn it wherever they find it — so long as the goal has to do with defeating worldwide radical Islamic terrorism. Or defending a family from a brutal thug in the middle of the night, or one’s woman from a rapist, or an industry from being regulated to death.

Anything except spreading the seeds of liberalism. Then, and only then, all these people will blossom forward with all that yummy goodness they condemn everywhere else.

All the energy and heat of an erupting volcano.

All the single-minded determination of any wild, starving predator.

All the stamina of water wearing away on a rock.

The power of a tidal wave.

All these forces of nature reserved for simple reproduction of the idea. And only for that, for the idea is nihilism. We are not good, we don’t belong where we are, and nothing is worth anything, for we are undeserving of whatever it is.

What peaceful people they’d be if they were consistent about this. Because then they’d say “well, we should get out of this war because it’s just too dang painful and hard, but if there’s other folks who disagree about that and they outvote me, that’s quite alright. What’s the use of arguing. Heck, I’m not too sure I should have an opinion about it anyway.”

Quite the difference between that hypothetical product of consistency, and what we see them do every day and every week…no?

Wouldn’t it be nice if they worked up one-tenth as much anger toward radical terrorists as what they have in reserve for conservatives, “neocons,” and other ideological opponents?

Fifty-Eight Percent

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Yesterday morning in his program notes, Neal Boortz wrote,

Not too many months ago the Pew Research Center – and these are people with great expertise in European polling – said that 58% of all Europeans want to see the United States weakened. Now think about that for a minute. Do you want the United States to be weakened? It’s not surprising that Europeans might want that. After all, a weaker United States might well mean a stronger Europe in international affairs and economic influence. That might be great for Europe, and we can understand Europeans wanting to bring this about. But when these Europeans start falling all over themselves during the Obama 2008 tour, try to remember what their goals really are. Are they slobbering all over Obama because they think he will be a wonderful and powerful world leader, or because they think that Barack Obama is the means to their desired end … a weakened America.

As of now, the Google Gods offer me nothing about this Pew Research item whatsoever, besides other bloggers quoting this thing. I’ll not be joining them for the moment. “Pics or it didn’t happen,” as they say.

But then again — it should be noted that I’m abstaining out of ritual, not out of real skepticism. If the figure isn’t fifty-eight percent, then what am I supposed to think it is? Thirty-five percent? Forty?

I’ve been beaten up one side and down the other, since the ’04 elections and well before then, that we should do this-or-that thing — usually, get rid of George W. Bush — because “our allies” want us to. Few-to-none take the time or effort to inspect what our allies want to see happen. Nobody has stepped forward and said these things our “allies” want us to do, would be good for us…except in vague, nebulous terms, having to do with said allies being satisfied.

This is what the Parable of Bob’s Dollar is all about: Children are supposed to do what they’re told, without asking questions. When you grow up, you should understand you aren’t really synchronizing with anyone on a plan just because they tell you to do something and you do it; you’re supposed to understand what the intent is. And if you don’t take the time to do that, then you aren’t living your life as a grown-up.

The Parable of Bob’s Dollar, as it appeared on Father’s Day ’06:

Just like a Democrat disseminator of talking-points talking down to his constituents, saying “President Bush needs to be impeached,” I tell you to give a dollar to Bob. Never mind why. Just do it. What could it be that I have in mind? The sheer number of possibilities runs high enough to make the whole exercise unworkable.

The most likely possibility is that Bob needs a dollar, or an additional dollar, to buy something. Wouldn’t you like to know what that thing is?

Perhaps, though, it’s something else. Perhaps I caught you saying a dirty word and Bob is the treasurer. Again, the exercise is unworkable. If there’s a dollar-per-dirty-word rule, shouldn’t you know what that rule is, in order for it to work? And what if someone else said the dirty word, and I’m wrong in thinking you said it?

Maybe I have gathered the impression that you have two dollars more in your pocket than Bob has in his pocket, and I want both of you to have the same amount. Again, unworkable. How do I know how much money you have? What business is it of mine? And come to think of it, what about the money in my pocket?

Maybe Bob told me he hasn’t eaten in a long time. Who is to say Bob is any hungrier than you are?

Maybe Bob likes the smell of money. Maybe Bob likes to eat it. Why can’t I be the one who gives him the dollar?

Or perhaps it doesn’t have anything to do with actually giving Bob money. Maybe Bob has twenty nickels or ten dimes, and wants to use a vending machine that only takes quarters and dollars. If that’s the case, shouldn’t I be saying that?

There are two points to be made here. The first is that it is wholly unworkable to communicate anything meaningful to you in this circumstance, and the second is that it is wholly unworkable for any one of these strategies to realize some measure of potential for real success. I have only pointed out the most obvious possibilities of what I may mind in exhorting you to fork a dollar over to Bob; if we were to give it some real thought, we could come up with a list virtually endless. In all cases, our joint venture has foundered on the rocks before we have even set sail. There is no meeting of the minds on priorities, on contingencies, on prerequisites, or any of a number of other vital things. There cannot be. By telling you what to do, and not why, and not what the expected result is to be, I have failed to treat you with the minimum respect you deserve as a thinking adult.

And every time we are told to “do things more like Europe does them” or “do this thing because Europe wants us to do it” — that’s exactly the situation. So if the 58% is not accurate, it makes sense to ponder it as if there’s a grain of truth to it, or more than a grain…because there probably is, for one thing, and for another thing, Europe’s interests are not the same as ours.

And then there’s that other parable about the frog ferrying the scorpion across the river. Well, I don’t think that one fits quite as well. Europeans may have their own interests, which are not our interests, but they aren’t mean people.

But their interests are different. They love Obama. And if you can put your finger on someone, European or otherwise, explaining exactly why — you’re a much better researcher on the innernets than I am.

On That D-Word

Monday, July 21st, 2008

CIO World has an article for executives who want to achieve the ultimate IT mission, which is doing more with less. Oh no! It isn’t about that at all! It’s about fostering diversity.

“We’ve heard jokes—more than jokes—about not being able to understand the accents of people at the call center,” says the CIO [of one Fortune 500 company], who asked not to be identified for this article. “Our team decided that we had to make it clear that we won’t accept that kind of behavior. Our business case is that in today’s environment, you have to be able to accommodate different cultures and lifestyles.”

The matter was discussed in leadership team meetings, with managers expected to communicate the company line to their own staffers. Surveys, interviews and call tracking were used to determine the extent to which real language barriers existed. In a small number of cases, where the mockery was “severe and pervasive with an individual,” the CIO says, the behavior became an issue for human resources.

Diversity has become a byword of good management in corporate America, with information technology organizations intoning the mantra as often as anyone. “Diversity is a characteristic of a good group,” says Ken Harris, CIO of Shaklee Corp. “Part of an IT manager’s job is understanding diversity and allowing it to flourish.”

Do I agree? Absolutely yes, if the word “diversity” is subject to the most positive definition imaginable. If I turn to my dictionary I see it says…

di·ver·si·ty (n.)
1. the state or fact of being diverse; difference; unlikeness.
2. variety; multiformity.
3. a point of difference.

I think it’s fair to say that when we absorb this word as a glittering sugary bit of fluff, what we have in mind is something a little different: Apathy and neutrality. “I Don’t Give A Good God Damn” ness. Someone can get the job done, and if it’s a white dude or a black one or a red one or a yellow one, or a woman, or a transgender…what the hell.

Well, in promoting it, we more often adhere to the dictionary definition which says you do care. If this guy over here is one color, that guy over there has to be something different. I don’t think most people have that in mind when they acknowledge the “benefits of diversity.” Furthermore, if you listen to people in authority talk about it long enough, you realize this dictionary definition isn’t what they’re talking about either.

Ten people, all of the same ethnic minority, work for you. Two of ’em quit and you replace them with white guys. The dictionary definition, above, says you just increased “diversity”; everything was the same before, now you have eighty-twenty. But that isn’t the concept we have in mind at all, is it?

No, apparently not:

Technology may be tougher to diversify than some other disciplines. For one thing, IT shops have a history of being largely male in makeup, with a certain boys’-club reputation.

I would argue an important part of the source of that “boys’-club reputation” is a pinheaded mindset that because a certain thing exists a certain way, it must be a ring of chauvinistic males making it that way. It ain’t necessarily so; fifty thousand women made the choice to drop out of the IT profession between 1999 and 2003 in the wake of the dot-com bust. Part of the reason may have to do with staff availability:

Women aren’t less capable of doing math and science, but they do tend to be less available when it comes to working long hours after having a child, unless they have a husband with a 9-5 job. Those all-night programming sessions or the week-long visits to foreign fabs to make sure a chip design is implemented correctly are costly to families. For the type of competitive person who ends up in the technology field, deciding between giving 110 percent to solving a technological problem and giving 90 or even 100 percent when junior is sick, is too frustrating. So they back off, because if the game is rigged so you can’t win, smart people pick a new game.

Is that sexist in its own way? Absolutely yes. But she has a point. Men and women are not the same, and we have some fields that don’t attract women — not all of them glamorous. There isn’t much of a movement afoot to diversify the field of garbage men, for example; or truck drivers. We can have a thousand out of a thousand straight white men in those positions, and nobody says boo about it. Shouldn’t that bother someone?

Well, there’s a reason it doesn’t. There are some jobs women don’t want.

Now to be fair about it, in my years in IT I’ve met some women who were very ambitious and showed more than their fair share of left-brain acumen and capability of mastering the concepts needed. But remember — this is a numbers game. If the overall population is 52% female, and there are fewer than 52% of females in the IT jobs, someone has a new cause.

That simply isn’t right. Nobody should be forcing women into IT if she doesn’t want to be forced into it, and as you swell the ranks of those female IT professionals, you’re going to be running into that as an issue. There just aren’t that many takers.

Now on the language thing…yes, it’s a rare thing that you actually have to choose between solving a problem, and continuing to converse with one specific guy in another country who’s working on the other side of a language barrier. Sooner or later, you can break through. But there are times when that simply isn’t an option. You just can’t understand what the guy is saying, and vice-versa.

And so backed into that corner, I can’t help but wonder what the intrepid systems engineer does about the problem when he works for the anonymous CIO quoted at the top of the story. That CIO admits to sending people to human resources. Wow! Imagine having your career ended because someone else is supposed to be able to speak English, but can’t.

I suppose the problem would go into the “ether.” People who work in IT, I noticed, had a strong tendency to work on the things they knew how to work on. Whatever required “how-to-do” research had a much higher likelihood to just keep gathering dust in the in-box, under stacks of other things. Productive? Certainly not. But safe. There’s nothing racist about not working on something.

That, or I expect the phone “reset” button would be hit accidentally. Yeah, just hang up on the guy you can’t understand, call back and hope to get someone else.

Seriously, this is utopianism. And utopianism is dangerous no matter what its immediate goal. For it assumes 1) things should be a certain way; 2) if things are not that way it’s because there are people running around who have the wrong mindset; 3) if we obliterate people with the wrong mindset, and keep on doing it, we’ll eventually get to where we want to be.

I’ve only seen that work in one way, so far — and that’s with getting rid of crime. Lock up criminals until there’s no more crime being committed. Wouldn’t it be great if we all committed to utopianism on that issue, the one in which it effectively works? But we don’t do that. We’re much more inclined to use utopianism to solve things that aren’t really problems at all…like that, statistically, nerds tend to be boys, and they like talking to people who speak the same language.

Dude. They’re nerds. Professional nerds. Tasked with doing their nerdy things. Once tasked to achieve things as part of a team, they are required to exchange technical concepts in intricate detail. If you had to do that, you’d prefer to speak to people proficient in your own language, too.

And trust me on this — if & when a nerd-chick does happen along, and she can speak the language that is needed, she’ll be accepted into the nerd-crowd. Quite eagerly. Especially if she’s just as likely to be around when a server craps out at three in the morning, as the next fella. You won’t need some diversity program to make it happen, it’ll happen naturally…but she’ll still be outnumbered five-to-one, or more.

That’s just the way things are. If they conflict with Utopian ideals, and you want the Utopian ideals to win, it’ll come at the expense of getting things done. That means servers that go crash in the night, stay crashed.

So, what’s more important?

Al Gore’s Speech

Monday, July 21st, 2008

H/T: Bidinotto.

The Morgan Rule of Environmentalism rings true once again: It’s all about showing off for each other. Our actions having a beneficial effect on the environment, our actions having a harmful effect on the environment — anything having an effect on anything, save for new regulations forcing people to do things — is all off-topic. Environmentalism has nothing to do with any of that.

It’s about sending messages to each other and making up new rules. That is all.

Update: Parent site Webloggin has a good, complete write-up of the shenanigans going on here. Go check it out.

Also, look into fellow Webloggin contributor Debbie Hamilton’s analysis of whether or not we’ll ruin Alaska by drilling into it.

Memo For File LXXI

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

Me, quoting me, in an e-mail, on the subject of our anti-war loudmouths:

The paradox in which these people live is a simple one. Their main thesis is that no victory is worth realizing because it would have to come at the cost of someone else, and that someone else would have to be obliterated in some way. They effectively resist Churchill’s thing about “bear any burden, pay any price,” etc.; the point of diminishing returns arrives, according to them, and it arrives quickly. Best to just quit — “throw it in, or we just might win.” But then when it comes time to MAKE that point, they will indeed bear any burden, pay any price, ignore any point of diminishing return theoretical or practical. No victory for them will be complete if it doesn’t come at the cost of their “enemies,” and as far as obliterating people — well, so long as the targets are properly selected, they just can’t wait to do it!

The quote in question is from the We Shall Fight on the Beaches speech delivered to the House of Commons in 1940:

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…

The “bear any burden pay any price” thing was an innovation worked in by President Kennedy when he was borrowing from the concept. JFK lingers on in spirit as a democrat party deity, which is something of a rich irony.

In 2008 we find ourselves grappling with an ideological flesh-eating parasite in modern liberalism. It champions determination, drive, resourcefulness, grit and plain old-fashioned ballz — only in promulgating itself, and for no other purpose. In that singular endeavor of self-reproduction, it never wanes, fumbles or retreats. Holding high the banner of itself, it shows all the “patriotism” for which it shows theatrical horror elsewhere, including the resolve to seek out, interrogate and punish the desultory and apathetic.

It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.

All the energy and heat of an erupting volcano.

All the single-minded determination of any wild, starving predator.

All the stamina of water wearing away on a rock.

The power of a tidal wave.

All these forces of nature reserved for simple reproduction of the idea. And only for that, for the idea is nihilism. We are not good, we don’t belong where we are, and nothing is worth anything, for we are undeserving of whatever it is.

What peaceful people they’d be if they were consistent about this. Because then they’d say “well, we should get out of this war because it’s just too dang painful and hard, but if there’s other folks who disagree about that and they outvote me, that’s quite alright. What’s the use of arguing. Heck, I’m not too sure I should have an opinion about it anyway.”

Quite the difference between that hypothetical product of consistency, and what we see them do every day and every week…no?

Wouldn’t it be nice if they worked up one-tenth as much anger toward radical terrorists as what they have in reserve for conservatives, “neocons,” and other ideological opponents?

Are Facts Out of Style?

Saturday, July 19th, 2008

Via Seablogger, a Thomas Sowell column even more insightful than usual.

Are Facts Obsolete?
By Thomas Sowell
Friday, July 18, 2008

ObamaIn an election campaign in which not only young liberals, but also some people who are neither young nor liberals, seem absolutely mesmerized by the skilled rhetoric of Sen. Barack Obama, facts have receded even further into the background than usual.

As the hypnotic mantra of “change” is repeated endlessly, few people even raise the question of whether what few specifics we hear represent any real change, much less a change for the better.

Sowell goes on to ponder Sen. Obama’s ideas against the backdrop of history, and how his ideas have been tried by other countries. He covers punitive taxes and regulations on business, restrictions on international trade, increases on minimum wage rates, and Obama’s disturbing “refinement” of these and other positions as he shifts his priorities from winning the nomination away from Hillary Clinton, to prevailing over his Republican opponent in the general election.

It’s a little unfair, if you ask me. None of this stuff has started with Obama or with 2008. But Obama and ’08 are both important in defining a zenith, or rather a nadir, of what has been transpiring for many years now.

Yes, facts are becoming obsolete. It started with “political correctness” — the term itself tacitly admits that whatever was under discussion was correct on some mundane, technical level, otherwise why include the adverb in “politically incorrect”? Why not just call it incorrect? And so, with that phrase and the underlying concept, we came across a destructive epiphany, that there were multiple levels in which something could be “correct” or “incorrect.”

And then Bill Clinton lied — but oh, wait, no he didn’t, it wasn’t any of our business and we shouldn’t have asked the question.

Saddam Hussein “wasn’t dangerous” even though he was…his “country never attacked us.” No one said then, or says now, that Hussein was a harmless ol’ teddy bear. They just form opinions that make sense only if he was, and then bully others into adopting those beliefs as their own. The accusation that flies around so easily is that if you were for removing Saddam from power, you were losing track of what mattered because Iraq had “nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.” But the central question was whether Saddam was a dangerous, deadly cog in the machinery of international terrorism, and we don’t talk too much about how our fifth-column peaceniks have lost track of that. Even though the facts say they have.

Don’t even get me started on global warming. Consensus? Science is settled? Debate is over? Nobody says so anymore, except to echo what was fashionable a year or two ago. But echo it they do.

Got a kid? Has he put an electronics toolkit together lately? Does he know who James Abram Garfield was?

Economists may point to studies done in countries around the world, showing that higher minimum wage rates usually mean higher unemployment rates among lower skilled and less experienced workers.

That’s their problem. A politician’s problem is how to look like he is for “the poor” and against those who are “exploiting” them. The facts are irrelevant to maintaining that political image.

Nowhere do facts matter less than in foreign policy issues. Nothing is more popular than the notion that you can deal with dangers from other nations by talking with their leaders.

I have been spending all of my life listening to our “leaders” talk about “talking” with some other nation’s “leaders.” In all those years and all that talking-about-talk, I’ve not heard anyone discuss the details of what these talks would be. I come from a strange planet called “Earth” in which this is more than a little strange; how can the details of talk, themselves, be trivial and unworthy of exploration, but it’s somehow worth rambling endlessly about whether the talks should take place? Especially when it’s an all but foregone conclusion that they should & will? But that’s the way it’s been done for quite some time now.

I don’t know where we go from here. My hope is that this stuff moves in cycles, and after we’re done being bored with facts someone will figure out that they do matter, after all, and we’ll have some kind of Renaissance. Tom Swift books, a generation of flesh-and-blood nerds ready to emulate him, and the rest of us admiring the nerds from the sidelines, dazzled by the things they build in their garages — not that a few more of them are nerdettes and isn’t it wonderful because it shows our commitment to something called “diversity.” In short, my hope is that we’ll admire each other for doing things, not for being things.

That’s where we are now; we earn adoration from our peers by being something, not by doing something. We do this because of the condition in which we have placed ourselves, through our sneering complacency about facts. Because of the one all-encompassing, grand-poobah great-grandpappy of all “facts” more important than all the rest, and this is what is being ignored: To live life ignorant of facts and what they mean, is actually boring. It is a meaningless, suffocating existence. Because when you are committed to avoiding the recognition of facts and what they might mean, life is just an endless menagerie of surprises. Nothing more than that.

We are exasperatingly bored, and we don’t even know it. We’ve done it to ourselves.

Becky on Corporate Income Tax

Saturday, July 19th, 2008

Becky, the Girl in Short Shorts Talking About Stuff, is making sense today.

We’ll keep watching for her to stop making sense. She’s fun to watch.

Becky Makes Sense TodayThe United States corporate tax rate, at 35% (40% when state corporate taxes are factored in), is the second highest in the world. The “socialist” countries of Europe not only have lower corporate tax rates, but they only tax the income earned by the corporation within their country. This is why Anheuser-Busch is now a citizen of the European Union, and one of the reasons the Euro is worth sixty percent more than the dollar.
In a perfect world there would not even be a corporate income tax. This is money that is taxed twice, and only causes increased costs to consumers and lower wages. There is no logical reason why corporations are taxed. When they pay out the money earned, either in the form of dividends to shareholders, interest to bondholders, or as wages—including the grotesque salaries that some CEO’s get, the money is taxed. There is no rational reason for taxing it twice.

Other than the government’s insatiable appetite for money, the only reason corporations are taxed is the populist-socialist idea that corporations are evil and all their money is ill begotten gains. So it feels good for people, who are struggling or parlor room Marxists, to strike out at these organizations, even if economically it makes no sense at all. [emphasis mine]

Like a breath of fresh air, isn’t it? Real capital-L Libertarianism. If we’re beating up on each other just for the sake of beating up on each other, let’s stop doing it for a year or two and see what happens.

That, my friends, is what Libertarianism is.

Sadly, in 2008 it has more popularly devolved into a small-l libertarian squishy, oozy mess. I would describe the more popular definition of libertarianism as something like this: “If a law is enforced against you and you don’t like it, do a lot of complaining about your ‘civil liberties’ being violated, add “Can I Get An Amen Here’ and if enough populist mob whores join you then we can grab some headlines.” Nothing to do with policy, and everything to do with mob rule and anarchy.

“Unconstitutional” means “I personally don’t like it.” Nothing whatsoever to do with whether there’s something in The Constitution proscribing against what you’re talking about. To throw around the “unconstitutional” word doesn’t even mean to make a promise, express or implied, that you’ve skimmed through the damn thing.

But this is good. She makes sense here. And I can’t help but wonder what her feminist friends think about her viewpoint on this.

Just Noticed Something About the Lou Grant Effect

Saturday, July 19th, 2008

The “Lou Grant” effect is a creation of Bill Whittle, who confesses to having rambled a bit in this pre-Iraq-invasion essay. To do as fair a job as I can summarizing it, the Lou Grant effect is this: The more capable a made-up character is at grappling with hard-boiled reality, telling good apart from evil, showing action in the face of danger, being able to tell a fact apart from an opinion, et al, the more ditzy, airheaded, peace-luv-rock-n-roll is the actor who plays him.

He’s got a few more examples of this than you might think. But a warning: After de-fattening, his essay is still an impressive 84 paragraphs in length. A little light reading for ya. If you must have an excerpt, this is probably my favorite one, toward the end…

As long as celebrity worship is about who’s dating whom and what gown was worn at what self-congratulatory award show, there is really very little harm in all this. But when people with this degree of influence over the public step into the political arena, we might perhaps be a little concerned that all of the fact-checking, criticism and downright surveillance that the press correctly applies to political figures is completely lacking when it comes to celebrity proclamations. So they get to have things both ways. They have the influence without the responsibility. They can claim that they are just a citizen exercising their right to their opinion, and in this they are absolutely correct.

But is it too much to ask, that in return for all of the largesse and privilege and adulation that we lay at the feet of these idols, that perhaps they develop some cogent, defensible argument, something based on history and research and logic rather than on what feels good to them? Something worthy of the disproportionate weight their opinions are given?

My question is — why does there seem to be a sexist aspect to the Lou Grant effect? The Grand Dames of the silver screen seem to need a checkup from the neck-up both on it & off of it. Maybe the gentlemen are typecast into a John Wayne mold in which few left in Hollywood seem to believe anymore? Or, they feel more of a burden to “prove” something about themselves that isn’t really true?

Newspapers Run Out of Anti-Bush Headlines

Saturday, July 19th, 2008

Now, here is some good satire. The Peoples’ Cube, via Gerard.

“There are only so many words one can string together while remaining impartial and objective – even if it’s such a fertile topic as our dumb and evil dictator President who is bent on bombing caribou herds back into the Stone Age in Alaska,” says Susan Stein, editor of The Village Voice, a mainstream New York newspaper. “Our paper is getting thinner with every issue. We are now considering running blank pages; we call it a “fill in the blanks” approach. Our readers are extremely educated and knowledgeable; they’ll get the point anyway.”

See how that works? You do not have to be of a certain mindset to get it; you do not have to have certain pre-formed prejudices in order to understand how it emulates reality, and once it does, how it is ridiculous and absurd. It was not created for the purpose of injecting absurdity into where it did not previously exist — it simply points out that the absurdity is there.

It visits itself upon what was strange, surreal, and weird — but subtle. It changes the degree of subtlety without changing the degree of strangeness, surreality or weirdness. As to whether the subject matter was strange or surreal or weird it allows the reader to come to his or her own conclusions…but only after backing the reader into a corner about it. That is good satire. It is not schmatire.

So, a sympathetic sorry-’bout-that to Mr. Pitts, and better luck next time to Ms. Churchwell. Nice try, folks. Satire is not that tricky. You just have to show some cleverness. Find a way to point out what makes sense in things that really do make sense, and point out what’s laughable in things that really are laughable.

Sure you can pump out some stuff designed to switch those two around.

But that’s called “propaganda,” not satire. There’s a difference.

Memo For File LXX

Friday, July 18th, 2008

It’s Friday night and that means it’s time to find something worth discussing that doesn’t have anything whatsoever to do with him.

So how’s this…

If you watch a certain recent Robert Zemeckis masterpiece — namely, this…fast-forward to 0:04:33…listen to the music…

It’s the same melody and rhythm you have in this other Zemeckis work from many years ago…which belongs to a decidedly different genre…at 1:23:56. Note for note, emphasis-for-emphasis, measure-for-measure. It’s the same.

We’re on to you, Bob. Truly a “Why We Have Blogs” moment if there ever was one. As for the rest of you: You’re welcome.

I Made a New Word XIX

Friday, July 18th, 2008

Schma·tire (n.)

Failed Satire1. Satire that works in reverse. It misses the vital element of real satire, which is a sense shared between comedy-source and comedy-audience that the subject portrayed is outlandish. That, or it incorporates this via exaggeration and by no other means.

2. Satire designed to culminate in, rather than work from the foundation of, a consensus that something is surreal, ridiculous or silly.

3. Satire used to bully people into rejecting something by promulgating a notion that anyone who accepts it will be an outcast — while sidestepping the associated obligation of justifying, logically, why it should be rejected.

4. Satire that simply doesn’t work, and the authors of the satire should have seen it wouldn’t work, but they were so eager to emulate Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert that they were blind to its weaknesses and ended up making asses out of themselves.

5. In a broader definition, any snarky snippet, or any other comedy, that bombs because the joke was made out of anger rather than out of a sincere desire to entertain people.

Because of the sharp up-tick in the use of this brand of “humor” over the last decade or so, it is a possible thirty-first cause of global warming.

Playgrounds Need More Risk

Friday, July 18th, 2008

…so said this expert across the pond over two years ago.

Britain’s leading play safety expert has some simple advice for grown-ups: relax. Let your kids have fun; let them be challenged; let them explore – and let them take risks.

David Yearley, of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, says that years of concentrating solely on safety has led to the spread of ‘boring’ public play areas. With £124m in lottery cash earmarked for sprucing up playgrounds, he says it’s time to shift the focus to ‘controlled risk’.

Yearley, keynote speaker at an international conference in Loughborough this week, said: ‘We need to provide play environments so that children can experience risk in a controlled and managed way.’

Yeah, for one brief, shining moment, there was light at the end of the tunnel. A little bit of respect for old-fashioned, rough-and-tunnel, “Hold My Beer And Watch This” manliness.

Maybe that was there, but the more pressing concern was…

Play can be dangerous: 40,000 British children – from an under-15 population of about 12 million – are injured each year. One child dies every two or three years as a result of a playground accident.

Yearley said that, unless playgrounds provide ‘exciting, stimulating’ diversion for children, there is a danger that children will not use them, and will play instead on railway lines, by riverbanks or alongside roads.

Well ironically, this much older article was more in line with the concerns I have about kids today.

A GROWING number of children’s playgrounds are too safe and designed more for anxious parents than the rounded development of their cosseted offspring, research-ers say.

A three-year study written in conjunction with the University of Manchester surveyed 872 families and found that a concern for safety often hampered children’s ability to learn for themselves. In two- thirds of cases, a decision to use a particular playground was made by parents and not by their children.

Dr John McKendrick, of Glasgow Caledonian University, one of the report’s authors,said: “There is too much concern with safety. Good parenting has been seen as interventionist parenting for too long … parents are using playgrounds for their own benefit and not for their child’s.

Bingo! Good parenting seen as interventionist parenting. How many times have I had this conversation with Kidzmom, and with mothers in general…”So, when he’s eighteen and graduated from high school, are you planning to be there to –” “Yeah, I know…” The final two syllables of the retort are drawled out wistfully, understanding the problem, knowing it’s a significant one, but not being able to dredge up the drive to confront it.

Now, get a load of what Cassy found out, via Wizbang, about potato sack races.

Waaah!The sack race and three-legged race have been banned from a school sports day because the children might fall over and hurt themselves.
Simon Woolley, head of education at Beamish in Co Durham, said: “We looked at a three-legged race and a sack race but what we want to do is minimise the risk to the children. We thought we would be better to do hopping and running instead because there was less chance of them falling over.”

We are living in an over-lawyered society. The nightmare scenario that led to this, was for that dreaded playground sound to be heard — “++plop++ WAAAAAHHHHH!!!” — and a lawsuit to ensue.

So no plop.

This is a great definition of a bad idea. Everyone says “we had better do it this way”…but nobody wants to sign onto owning the decision. Nobody says this is a better way to do it.

Nobody really wants to sign their name under the idea that the kids are genuinely “unharmed.” Because deep down, we all understand that isn’t true. But we have to do it this way; it’s “for the children.”

Leonard Pitts Says Satire is Tricky

Friday, July 18th, 2008

His point is that when you say outlandish things with a straight face, which is the essence of satire, there’s always the danger that someone will think you aren’t kidding.

Obama CartoonSo I feel The New Yorker’s pain. The magazine is under fire for a cover illustration depicting Barack Obama in the Oval Office wearing a turban, bumping fists with his wife, Michelle, who wears an Afro and fatigues, and has an assault rifle slung over her shoulder. Osama bin Laden watches from a portrait on the wall. An American flag burns in the fireplace.

The Obama and McCain campaigns have pronounced the cover offensive. There have been calls for a boycott.

Me, I like the cover. It strikes me as an incisive comment on the fear mongering that has attended Mr. Obama’s run for the presidency. Still, I understand why it is incendiary: Some of us will take it seriously.

As absurd, as over the top, as utterly outlandish as the New Yorker image strikes the more sophisticated among us, there is a large fringe out there for whom it will represent nothing more or less than the sum of their fears.

Indeed, as I sat down to write these words, there beeped into my mailbox an e-mail with this subject line: “WOW, The New Yorker got it exactly right, for once.” Said without a trace of irony.

But increasingly, that’s who we are in this country: ignorant, irony-impaired and petrified. So maybe we should just cancel the campaign and ask that the last intelligent person turn off the lights when he or she leaves. And bring the last book with you. Nobody here will need it.

Okay, I get it. Add Leonard Pitts to the list of intellectual lightweights who can’t dredge up any semblance of respect for mindsets differing from theirs. The cartoon means some things to some people, other things to others; Mr. Pitts comes to find out about this divide and it comes as a bitter blow that his perspective is not unanimous. So out come the most rancid insults he can manage to slip through his layers of editors. We are all supposed to agree with Leonard Pitts, don’t you get it?

See, satire is just like any other medium of humor. To work, there has to be a connection between the source of the comedy, and the audience. The assault rifle, the flag in the fireplace, the Oval Office itself, these are all metaphorical — it may be difficult for some to admit, but Sen. Obama has not been sworn in yet — and so the point of the cartoon, which is to be deemed too outlandish to seriously entertain if it is to be successful satire, is that Sen. Obama’s loyalty to the republic should be questioned. Well, I’m afraid the source and the audience have not agreed that that is outlandish. The Senator does have a rather lengthy and rich history of America-bashing dickhead friends.

And this is where satire is often abused, in this age of The Colbert Report. Far too often, is is wielded as a bully stick, to intone that certain ideas are to be thought of as ridiculous, without anyone bothering to explain why. When the existence of the satire is the only incentive we have to regard something as silly, the satire isn’t exactly being given a lot of advantages in doing what it’s supposed to be doing.

And that sad truth of it is — this is exactly what the Obama campaign needs right now. It probably cannot survive without it. It needs a way to bullyingly lecture people that it’s ridiculous to “question his patriotism,” without an associated burden of explaining why, exactly, said questioning is supposed to be ridiculous.

The situation is a rather rich target of satire in its own right.

Update: Add one “Sarah Churchwell” to the list of shallow, self-absorbed dimwits.

We are to uncritically, and without reservation, reject what Ms. Churchwell has rejected, without waiting for a reason to. And if we fail to so reject it we’re just clueless morons.

It’s got something to do with “tolerance” and respecting diverse points of view.

If Obama Was A White Male He’d Be a Shoo In

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

Becky Does Not Make Sense Today!Becky, girl, ya gotta be kiddin’ me.

The last young, charismatic white guy challenger who took the most anti-American position possible on any issue that came along, only managed to win 43% of the popular vote; he had southern credentials, was 6’2″, Governor of Arkansas for five terms, and didn’t even have a funny name.

Hey I know where you’re coming from: There is racism out there — just like there are people out there who are convinced the moon landing was staged and the earth is flat.

But there is one reason, and one reason only, to think it is pervasive:

Because if you’re called upon to prove you aren’t one of them, and you fall for it, maybe the Obamamaniacs can get you to vote for their depressing, disappointing, lackluster candidate. Other than that, there’s no reason to think racists are ruling the roost here. A candidate is failing to catch on, he has nothing to offer, he changes his positions constantly, he can’t answer tough questions, he has a long history of America-hating asshole friends, and he happens to be one-half black. If that’s Exhibit A, I’m already wincing in sympathetic embarrassment over whatever might be Exhibit B.

Deciding By Meme

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

I was fresh off of scribbling down the post previous, about making important decisions by popularity of the meme instead of by an even-handed and methodical review of history. And I came across this story of a mother whose daughter suffered from a mysterious illness and, tiring of the professional doctors comin’ up empty trying to figure out the problem, used her Mad GoogleSkilz on the innernets to figure out what the problem was herself.

It got me to thinking about the decidedly non-reversible gender roles that take place, with regard to medical professionals treating kids. Specifically, with regard to those things called “learning disabilities,” although the story itself was about something else.

Danielle Fisher, 13, fell ill in October and doctors were baffled by her mysterious condition.

Her mother Dominique, 35, took her to the doctors after she began suffering from viral meningitis-like symptoms, including severe headaches and fatigue.
“She was diagnosed with Epstein-Bar virus, without the glandular fever. Then meningitis, then the psychiatrist comment was the best one.

“They even suggested it could be a clot or a tumour at one point, which was worrying.

“The last time she was in, the doctor said there’s nothing wrong with her, she needs a psychiatrist, which I knew was wrong, the poor girl could hardly walk.”

Frustrated at the lack of an appropriate diagnosis, Dominique, who is an estate agent, was so worried that she began doing some research herself on the internet into Danielle’s symptoms.

She was shocked to discover her daughter’s illness may have been caused by a bite from a tick, a tiny spider-like blood-sucking parasite which usually feeds off animals.

Dominique said, “I’d begun doing some research myself by then as she had severe vertigo, couldn’t walk any more and had severe muscle and joint pain.

“I came across Lyme Disease and it just seemed to fit. There’s a lot of controversy over the treatment of the disease and over diagnosing the disease.

“I took Danielle to see a professor in Newcastle privately and he diagnosed her with Lyme Disease and three core infections. That’s why she was so ill.”

This is a great example of deciding by meme. Which means, to be more precise about it, making critical decisions according to the popularity, or lack thereof, of the meme. A meme is,

meme (n.)

A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another.

The definition from the Free On-Line Dictionary of Computing fleshes this out, and perhaps better clarifies for first-time readers exactly how I’m using it here:

Richard Dawkins’s term for an idea considered as a replicator, especially with the connotation that memes parasitise people into propagating them much as viruses do.
Memes can be considered the unit of cultural evolution. Ideas can evolve in a way analogous to biological evolution. Some ideas survive better than others; ideas can mutate through, for example, misunderstandings; and two ideas can recombine to produce a new idea involving elements of each parent idea.

What does this have to do with gender roles, and children diagnosed with learning disabilities? Why does this fit in so well with my meme about memes? Well — as anyone who’s ever watch reruns of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman knows — the story of these uppity women overruling the classically-educated but practically ignorant sawbones is a decidedly popular meme. To exaggerate how much, would be pretty difficult. We saw this in January when I’d finally heard enough of that radio spot and chose to jot down a few words about it. Oh, she doesn’t believe a word the condescending old coot in the white coat has to say! How courageous! She must be right! Even to the point where the momma waltzes in and specifically asks for a diagnosis — something no medical discipline is supposed to tolerate.

Rather typical for the Daily Mail, there’s no daddy and not a hint of journalistic drive to find out about one. As one, trust me on this: Fathers overruling the docs…fathers expressing an opinion contrary to the docs’…fathers expressing an opinion the doc might possibly find interesting…fathers showing reluctance to believe what the docs have to say…fathers failing to follow step-by-step instructions from the docs…these are all gobstopperingly, mind-blowingly unpopular memes.

When it’s time to talk about learning disabilities, fathers interested in having some effect on the process — hell, they’re better off suggesting steel-belted radial tire centerpieces on the tables at a wedding reception. Dads are really swimming upstream here. To acknowledge that a male figure, one who doesn’t have letters after his name, might have something to interject worth considering — nobody’s ready to hear about that. But to stop everything and listen to the momma, is a Hot New Trend.

We’re just know-nothing, knuckle-dragging yokels. Relics from the bygone era before we began to know “so much more than we used to” — and could we kindly sit down and shut up, speak when we’re spoken-to. If my son had Lyme Disease and it was up to me to use search engines to figure it out — based on my eleven years of experience with parenthood — I have no reason, none whatsoever, zilch, zero, bubkes, to think for an instant anyone would listen to me. And no way in hell would any tabloid, Anglican or Yankee, write about the story in a million years. But everyone wants to hear about the strong-willed, Internet-searching momma figuring out what science’s best minds somehow missed.

I don’t mean to suggest the fathers are always right; far from it.

Nor do I mean to suggest the mommas are always wrong.

But the truth must lie somewhere in the middle, it seems to me. Doctors know things, because they’re supposed to. Parents know things. Momma’s known the bubbins his entire life. Some of us daddies have known him that long too.

Since we decide by popularity-of-meme when we decide which of these stories are going to grow “legs” and which ones are not, this has more of a bearing on that whole learning-disability thing than on the Lyme disease thing. In the court of public opinion, females have exclusive authority to overrule the docs. And it’s a powerful authority indeed; few are ready, willing or able to admit that they have it, or that it’s exclusively theirs. But they do, and it is. Meanwhile, females are far more likely to fall for the disability pitch. You can prove this easily by watching how mental/behavioral health professionals and school administrators behave, when they sell it. They act just like car salesmen — put all the energy into selling the medication to the mother, and it’s sold to the house. To discipline the kid, get the message across to him that being distracted is something you’re simply not supposed to allow to happen, and hey let’s keep the drugs bottled up and out of his system if it’s at all possible…that’s a daddy message. Men tend to be the advocates of that message, and we’re usually lonely voices in that department.

So when it’s popular for women to overrule the docs, but unpopular for the gentlemen to step out of line — when we have this expectation that every concerned mother is a Florence Nightingale in the making, but men should just buck up and do what they’re told — we create an environment in which certain false diagnoses just catch on like an old dry house-afire. And that’s the problem I’ve come to learn about, very slowly. What to do about it? I don’t know. It seems people do respect what men have to say, even genuflecting before them, if the man is a doctor. Maybe every man who has children should become a doctor. Or, maybe every woman who becomes a mother should go to specialized training about learning disabilities, and how they are oversold. Kids, of course, should be disciplined so they don’t act like weirdos…except on the playground.

But…as my son’s principal told me, and she’s completely right about this…you can’t do anything to punish them nowadays like they did back in my day. And, coincidentally or not, as that change was coming about, that’s exactly when learning disabilities took off. Like a rocket.


Update: So critical is this concept in passing judgment on some of our most poorly-thought-out prevailing standards and viewpoints — a primary purpose of existence of The Blog That Nobody Reads — that I decided to add an entry to the Glossary.

How Big a Boondoggle was the Big Dig?

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

This big…at latest report…

Big Dig’s red ink engulfs state
Cost spirals to $22b; crushing debt sidetracks other work, pushes agency toward insolvency

Massachusetts residents got a shock when state officials, at the peak of construction on the Big Dig project, disclosed that the price tag had ballooned to nearly $15 billion. But that, it turns out, was just the beginning.

Now, three years after the official dedication of the Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel, the state is reeling under a legacy of debt left by the massive project. In all, the project will cost an additional $7 billion in interest, bringing the total to a staggering $22 billion, according to a Globe review of hundreds of pages of state documents. It will not be paid off until 2038.

Contrary to the popular belief that this was a project heavily subsidized by the federal government, 73 percent of construction costs were paid by Massachusetts drivers and taxpayers. To meet that obligation, the state’s annual payments will be nearly as much over the next several years, $600 million or more, as they were in the heaviest construction period.

Big Dig payments have already sucked maintenance and repair money away from deteriorating roads and bridges across the state, forcing the state to float more highway bonds and to go even deeper into the hole.

Among other signs of financial trouble: The state is paying almost 80 percent of its highway workers with borrowed money; the crushing costs of debt have pushed the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which manages the Big Dig, to the brink of insolvency; and Massachusetts spends a higher percentage of its highway budget on debt than any other state.

You realize, don’t you, that this is everyone’s fault — even the fault of people who don’t live in Massachusetts. Whenever we’re given an option to evaluate the desirability of some massive government undertaking that has been previously handled in the private sector, we tend to make the decision by meme. There are popular memes and unpopular memes.

Example: A man handing the television remote to his wife, is a popular meme. Her handing it back to him, and maybe making him a sammich, would be an unpopular meme. Her and the kids calling him a clueless dork would be a popular one.

Like that.

Well, this is turning into an apt description of how government boondoggles come to exist. They aren’t really sold to us in the first place under a thesis that they will stay within stated budget parameters. Yes that is what the wording of the sales pitch says — but we don’t check it out.

We shouldn’t be buying into these things by meme. We should be buying into them based on history. It’s easy to demonstrate that we don’t do that. Quick: Where is the master atlas of government efforts, nationalized away from private enterprise, with ratings on how much they cost versus how much they were supposed to cost, how successful they were, whether they did what they were supposed to do. In a sane universe, not only would such a list exist, but we’d be adding to it constantly, and cracking it open every time we were asked to support a new such undertaking.

That’s pretty much what the bank does when you apply for a loan.

If we did that, we would all be practically the dictionary definition of the word “conservative.”

But we don’t do that. We decide by popularity of the meme. Therefore, even with the Big Dig in the rear view mirror (as it will be, throughout at least the next thirty years) — we’ll be doing this again.

Question For Feminists

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

What does having sex with lots of people have to do with promoting equal rights for women?

Sick Tickets!

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

Do NOT watch these unless you are a full-grown flesh-and-blood adult, and have a very strong stomach.

GROSS! (And that means not safe for work, for those of you who need to be told.)

Who made these? Will justice prevail?

Not an Approved Joke

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

Oh, NOES! That Barack Obama joke I got from Tom Barrett isn’t on the approved list!

H/T: Fellow Webloggin contributor Bookworm.

The President Says “Drill” — and Oil Drops

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

Kudlow in National Review, via Gerard.

This head swings toward Speaker Nan and the House democrats. Hello? What’ve you guys done for us lately?

Can’t wait to see your kind running everything. Hopenchange!