Archive for February, 2011

Frank Buckles Dies at 110

Monday, February 28th, 2011

The man who needs no introduction. Washington Post:

Frank W. Buckles died early Sunday, sadly yet not unexpectedly at age 110, having achieved a singular feat of longevity that left him proud and a bit bemused.

In 1917 and 1918, close to 5 million Americans served in World War I, and Mr. Buckles, a cordial fellow of gentle humor, was the last known survivor. “I knew there’d be only one someday,” he said a few years back. “I didn’t think it would be me.”

His daughter, Susannah Buckles Flanagan, said Mr. Buckles, a widower, died of natural causes on his West Virginia farm, where she had been caring for him.

Buckles’ distant generation was the first to witness the awful toll of modern, mechanized warfare. As time thinned the ranks of those long-ago U.S. veterans, the nation hardly noticed them vanishing, until the roster dwindled to one ex-soldier, embraced in his final years by an appreciative public.
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Mr. Buckles, who was born by lantern light in a Missouri farmhouse, quit school at 16 and bluffed his way into the Army. As the nation flexed its full military might overseas for the first time, he joined 4.7 million Americans in uniform and was among 2 million U.S. troops shipped to France to vanquish the German kaiser.

Ninety years later, with available records showing that former corporal Buckles, serial No. 15577, had outlived all of his compatriots from World War I, the Department of Veterans Affairs declared him the last doughboy standing.

On Oscars

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

Here’s a theory. Suppose the day the Empire of Japan surrendered thereby bringing World War II to an end, you were given a thousand dollars to invest. Every year since then, you form your investment plan according to the Oscars.

I think you’d be very, very far ahead if you were to buy securities in the years in which the Oscar-winning movies had lots of tits & car explosions. And if you were to roll it all over into cash, in the years in which the Oscar-winning movies were highly deficient in tits & car explosions, again, you’d be very far ahead.

Bullitt got an Oscar. The Godfather got three Oscars. Lots of tits & car explosions.

Raiders of the Lost Ark did even better, with 4 Oscars. Reagan was in his first year, so if you invested in our economy in that year you would have done very well. Especially if your investment was Microsoft. Of course, being built for little kids, Raiders didn’t have any actual tits. But it did have an exploding truck, and lots of other yummy violence. It was good clean fun built for rug rats who would later grow up into hairy-chested, beer-swilling, meat-eating men like me.

Tonight, I don’t think anything that wins is going to have any tits or car explosions whatsoever. I’m hoping True Grit manages to nab something, and it doesn’t have either one. And in 2011, what’s the sensible investor doing? Heh heh heh…think of greenbacks stuck under mattresses where they’ll never be found.

Long term, we don’t have anything to worry about. When we’re making movies with tits & car explosions again, the economy will come around.

Update: For other reasons, Facebook friend Melissa Clouthier opines that the festivities suck. From what I saw, I would guess that “The Kings Speech” deserved a lot of the gold that it got…I’m not similarly convinced on “The Social Network,” that looks like a name-recognition thing to me. Both of these are guarded opinions as I’ve not yet seen either film. I did see True Grit, and I’m surprised it got frozen out. Also saw Inception, which I’ll rate as a “meh.” Maybe good enough to buy, but not at full price, I’ll wait until it’s down in the ten dollar range. Which could take quite awhile.

I have yet to glean so much as a shred of evidence that there are any tits or car explosions in any one of those four. Which, all by itself, suggests we are in a cultural abyss. And, that we aren’t willing to do what it takes for the economy to do better.

It’s just like the hemline theory involving short skirts and the stock market. How does the rule go about correlation and causation…let’s see if I can do it from memory…

If A correlates with B, then
1. A causes B;
2. B causes A;
3. There is an unseen C which causes both A and B;
4. Or, it could be just coinkeedink.

If the truth lies behind option #1, then we can lessen the pain considerably by shortening those skirts, and awarding more Oscars to movies with tits & car explosions in them. If the truth is behind #2 #3 or #4, then we can find out more about my theory by gathering some more data…which means it’s to our advantage to do these things anyway.

Personally, I think it’s #3. There is an unseen C, which is our readiness and willingness to do things that are fun. How much do we want to live our lives, without guilt. We live in guilty times right now, we manage lives that are ruled by the manufactured single word “s’poseda.” Or, to be more precise about it, that other manufactured single word “not’s'poseda.” Men are not’s'poseda appreciate nice looking women…at least not too much. Movies are not supposed to have loud explosions in them that gratify grown men, no, they’re supposed to have loud explosions in them that gratify children below the age of fifteen. Which are different explosions. Oh yes, they are.

We’re not making any money, because we’re not’s'poseda. The very gas we expel from our lungs several times a minute in order to stay alive, is supposed to be toxic to the planet. Our very existence is damaging, so goes the prevailing know-how, and we’re not doing anything to redeem ourselves of this, nor can we. So we live life like guilty thieves. Like craven rats, scavenging what we can to stay alive. We may ensconce ourselves into a lofty standard of living by doing so, but if we don’t feel good about doing it, we’re not going to create and maintain a vibrant economy.

And our movies, by and large, are going to suck. Along with our award ceremonies.

We need more movies with tits & car explosions. Stat.

“What Do You Have To Offer Them If They Do Man Up?”

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

Dr. Helen, who is Mrs. Instapundit, makes an interesting point about incentives with regard to that Kay Hymowitz book everyone’s been talking about lately:

What would happen if a regular Joe, not an alpha male, came into class and gave his true opinion about the topics at hand, say in a psychology or sociology class? What if that opinion was non-PC, such as: “I think that men should not have to pay child support if women can have abortions,” etc.? How far would that man get in school? Would he graduate? Would he even pass the class? Even if men won’t admit it to themselves and women like Hymowitz overlook the problem, it exists.

After 45 years of being told they are pigs, sexist, and good for nothing, men have quit trying to please others, so they slap on a baseball cap and don’t talk much. And with good reason.

According to Hymowitz, these child-men are all used to a freewheeling life of going from girl to girl and video game to video game. Hymowitz mistakenly believes that men are suffering from the limits of American individualism.

Though she reluctantly admits that the “materials available to young men are meager, and what is available contradicts itself,” she comes up with this ridiculous conclusion: “At bottom, they are too free, a fact epitomized by their undefined, open-ended, and profoundly autonomous pre-adulthood.” She ends the book suggesting that young women will have to get a better understanding of the limitations imposed by their bodies (Huh?) and young men need to man up.

My question to her: Why should they?

What do you have to offer these men you call child-men if they do man up? Are you going to ensure that they have fair access to their children should they divorce? Will you make sure that they aren’t hauled off to jail if the wife makes false accusations of domestic violence? Will you let them keep the earnings and property that they worked for over years rather than have them turned over to their wife, even if she cheated and was abusive? Will you shield the millions of men who live in fear of their significant other but have nowhere to turn for help? Will you make marriage, in other words, as valuable to men as you think it is for women?

A is to B as C is to D, Reagan is to the democrat party as men are to society. We haven’t abandoned it; it abandoned us.

The male brain is a beautifully designed thing for processing unlimited varieties and permutations of motivated behavior, and only a finite selection of unmotivated, protocol-driven behavior. In other words, two or three hundred things you need to do to keep your arm from getting caught in a corn harvester, or to keep a boar hog from trampling you when you’re hunting it, the male consciousness can handle just fine. That other stuff you do just because, because you’re “s’posda,” because of tradition, because someone said so…we can follow about maybe half a dozen of those. Cover your mouth when you sneeze. Open the door and let her go first. Take your damn hat off.

Dr. Helen’s complaint comes from something ugly feminism did in the last half century. The activist movement realized that we men, quite different from being the oppressors they were painting us as, actually behaved deferentially to our mothers and wives because of a short list of “no-nos” that had been passed down from father to son. And so they took the easy way out, returning some of that imagined oppression by adding some items to the list.

At first this seemed reasonable. Don’t smack a female co-worker in the ass. And then it got less reasonable…don’t treat her as just one of the guys unless she gives her consent to being treated like one of the guys. And less reasonable…once she says she wants to be treated like one of the guys, you’d better do it, or we’ll end your career. And less reasonable…don’t put a calendar on the wall of your cubicle with women in swimsuits that look better than her, although she can put up whatever she wants.

And less reasonable than that: Don’t say or do anything that might make her feel uncomfortable. And she is the ultimate authority on whether you have succeeded at this. Even though she might be a nut.

Until it came down to the ultimate: The intent of the offender does not matter legally! The perception of the person offended decides everything! These rules are put in place to help ensure a comfortable, safe and non-threatening work environment for everyone! All in the same breath, unbelievably enough.

I live in California where we have “Furlough Fridays,” meaning every so many weeks it’s been pre-determined there isn’t enough money in the kitty to keep our state workers employed. Campgrounds up in the foothills have become much, much harder to reserve since this came about. I get to watch it happen; from my balcony, I have a splendid view of the ribbon of Highway 50 as it winds up a hill, from downtown Sacramento up into the El Dorado National Forest. It’s the only way to get there.

I know exactly what a Friday night used to look like. And I can assure you, that this is what a Thursday night looks like in more recent years. Tail lights upon tail lights upon tail lights. State “workers,” voting with their feet, showing us exactly how anxious and eager they are to live in this world they have helped to create for the rest of us with all of its modern rules. I wonder how many of them are male state workers. Doesn’t this speak volumes? Well, I’ve got about as much of that fat state paycheck as I’m gonna get, might as well start the weekend early…and so what do they do? They get the hell out. The people who live closest to the heart of our “evolving” civilization want no part of it, once Thursday afternoon comes and they’re given a choice.

Doesn’t that make sense given the rules in place? “We’re going to make this workplace environment extra extra safe for everyone. And so we’re going to put you in a cubicle next to someone who could be borderline insane. If you say something this person doesn’t like it will end your career. If you do something this person doesn’t like it will end your career. If you don’t say or do anything, and she finds it creepy, it could end your career. Those are the rules, to keep this envi– uh, hey, wait, where are you goin’?”

Captain Capitalism (hat tip again to Kate) adds:

The “man world” is DIRECTLY related to the economic crisis we face today AND IS ALSO THE SOLE SOLUTION to our economic problems today. It is the forefront of the battlefield and is precisely where all economic analysis should be focused (that is assuming we care to solve our little economic problems we face today). You want the recession to end? You want unemployment back to 4%? You want oil back below $2 a gallon? You want the US back on the road to supreme economic and military dominance and security? You want a world where your precious little children actually have a future? Put men back in charge (of course, what is funny, is if things keep going the way they are, men will inevitably end up in charge again, but it won’t be the nice ones who appreciate democracy and the sanctity of women).
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In the meantime you will forgive us if we just plain opt not to marry, breed, or just in general, participate in society. Because, well frankly, what’s the upshot?

In the meantime, enjoy the decline!

And a decline is what it is. The more machinery we get installed into this ever-self-civilizing civilization, the quicker people — men — want to get the hell away from it once they’re given the option.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News and Washington Rebel.

“The Rise of the Adolescent Mind”

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

It is a mark of maturity — and, sadly, in our modern age a rare one that is diminishing into nothingness before our eyes — to visualize a possible improvement to a situation, and yet simultaneously concede that there’s no great transgression being committed while we’re waiting for the improvement to come about; no gross violation of human rights if the improvement somehow fails to materialize. Wouldn’t that be refreshing? “I think it should work such-and-such a way; but if someone disagrees with me, or presents an obstacle, I’ll just deal with it like I would deal with any other dissenting opinion. I won’t carry on with maximum drama like justice and human dignity themselves depend completely on my whiz-bang idea.”

Victor Davis Hanson bemoans this loss of situational perspective:

We live in a therapeutic age, one in which the old tragic view of our ancestors has been replaced by prolonged adolescence. Adolescents hold adult notions of consumption: they understand the comfort of a pricey car; they appreciate the status conveyed by a particular sort of handbag or sunglasses; they sense how outward consumption and refined tastes can translate into popularity and envy; and they appreciate how a slogan or world view can win acceptance among peers without worry over its validity. But they have no adult sense of acquisition, themselves not paying taxes, balancing the family budget, or worrying about household insurance, maintenance, or debt. Theirs is a world view of today or tomorrow, not of next year — or even of next week.

So adolescents throw fits when denied a hip sweater or a trip to Disneyland, concluding that it is somehow “unfair” or “mean,” without concern about the funds available to grant their agendas. We see now just that adolescent mind in Wisconsin. “They” surely can come up with the money from someone (“the rich”) somehow to pay teachers and public servants what they deserve. And what they deserve is determined not by comparable rates in private enterprise, or by market value (if the DMV clerk loses a job, does another public bureau or private company inevitably seize the opportunity to hire such a valuable worker at comparable or improved wages?), or by results produced (improved test scores, more applicants processed in an office, overhead reduced, etc.), or by what the strapped state is able to provide, but by what is deemed to be necessary to ensure an upper-middle class lifestyle. That is altogether understandable and decent, but it is entirely adolescent in a globalized economy.

Why so? In a word, the United States is not producing enough real wealth to justify a particular standard of living among its public workforce far superior to counterparts in the private sector. We are borrowing massively abroad for redistributive entitlements. We fight wars with credit cards. We talk of cap-and-trade and “climate change” without prior worry about how to fuel the United States, as we sink in perpetual debt to import well over half our oil. We have open borders and pat ourselves on our backs for the ensuing “diversity,” without worry that illegality and lack of reverence for federal laws, absence of English, no diplomas, multiculturalism instead of the melting pot, the cynicism and chauvinism of Mexico, and recessionary times are a perfect storm for a dependent, and eventually resentful, underclass extending well into a second generation, one that fumes over why things outside are not equal rather than looking within to ensure that they could be.

Who would not wish pristine 19th-century rivers to run all year long? But that same utopian rarely thinks like an adult: “I want water releases into the San Joaquin River all year long and am willing to pay more money at Whole Earth for my produce to subsidize such diversion of irrigation water; I do not wish any more derricks off Santa Barbara, so I choose to drive a Smart car rather than my Lexus SUV. And I want teachers to be able to strike, and receive $100,000 in compensation and benefits, and therefore am willing to close down a rural hospital in Wisconsin or tax the wealthy with full knowledge that many will leave the state. I insist on amnesty and open borders, and will put my children in schools where 50% do not speak English, and live in the barrios to lend my talents where needed to ensure parity for new arrivals. I want cap-and-trade and so believe that the lower middle classes should pay “skyrocketing” energy bills to subsidize such legislation.” And so on.

Finally, the adolescent thinks in a rigid, fossilized fashion in explicating the “unfairness” of it all, unable yet to process new data and adjust conclusions accordingly. So we now hear that the evil corporate/Wall Street nexus is turning us into a Republican-driven Third World — apparently unwilling to see that among the largest contributors of campaign cash were unions, and both Wall Street and international corporations favored Barack Obama in the last election, the first presidential candidate in the history of campaign financing legislation to opt out of the program in order to raise even more “fat cat” money. Just because one is a former Chicago organizer does not mean he cannot be the largest recipient of Goldman Sachs or BP donations in history. Railing against Las Vegas jet-setters does not mean that one cannot prefer Martha’s Vineyard, Vail, or Costa del Sol to Camp David.

But I think this snippet really says it all:

There are lots of issues involved in Wisconsin, in the impending financial and fuel crises, and in the sense of American impotency abroad. Yet a common denominator is a national adolescence, in which we want what we have not earned. We demand the world be the way that it cannot; and we don’t wish to hear “unfair” arguments from “bad” and “mean” people.

Hat tip once again to Gerard.

It would be almost the textbook illustration of intellectual recklessness itself to, when an undesirable but possibly meritorious idea is seen ambling into the discourse, simply shunt it aside, effectively stick one’s fingers into one’s ears and yell “la la la la.” The sin we see committed lately goes somewhat beyond that I’m afraid — we marry up the unpalatable idea with the identity of the person or group presenting it, and then effectively exile that entity from the discussion and all subsequent discussions.

If I can take yet another swipe at those emblems of ultimate intellectual flaccidity, the Palin haters, to me the sentiment seems to work like this: “Oh, her again, won’t she shut up and go away once and for all? Let’s talk about how much we hate her, constantly, unceasingly, and with great passion, until she is no longer mentioned.”

But on the subject of the adolescent mind. Yes, there is a fundamental requirement to adult thinking that is missing here. Read that as, thinking in such a way that all of the ramifications of a decision, positive & negative alike, are anticipated, offset, prevented, paid in full, amortized…somehow dealt with. And no, I’m not talking about predicting how many fives, tens, ones, quarters and nickels will be in your pants pocket on Tuesday, January 28, 2025. See, that’s how it starts — I’ve lived with this attitude, and I understand it. Wondering naturally, in an adult way, “how are we going to pay for this” is seen not quite so much as gloomy, but obsessive. That’s the mental illness. The patient has been disciplined to separate the dance to the tune from the paying of the piper, and to think of this exercise as one of planning carefully around “what really matters.” The dancing, the eating and drinking and fun stuff, is envisioned as a functional, workable, thirty-thousand-foot view. All that dour sad stuff like “this is out of line with what we can afford” is seen as a detail. Therefore, if thinking about it does have some bearing on the final decision, then whoever paid attention to it is guilty of losing themselves in the details.

Just stick to the important stuff! Our kids need this! It’s for the kids, what about that is so hard for you to understand you old fuddy-duddy?

Cross-posted at Right Wing News and Washington Rebel.

“Attitude of Gratitude”

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

Caroline Baum finishes strong and I supposed I shouldn’t excerpt that part of it, but hey. It’s a wonderful column that just might save your weekend, that happens to have been put together upside-down. The final note is a perfect summary for all that came before.

For every number homegrown America-haters spit out to show our best days are behind us, there’s an offsetting statistic that points to our underlying strength. The solution isn’t a war of words or statistics. It’s the recognition that many of the characteristics that made the U.S. the envy of the world are still intact or begging to be resuscitated.

The naysayers don’t appreciate American exceptionalism and never will.

I was particularly surprised by the GDP per capita statistic, and even moreso when it was broken down further into GDP per employed person.

You know, it’s awfully funny how we think about this stuff. I doubt you’ll have any trouble at all finding an agreement across party/ideology lines that our country’s employment picture, in the near future as well as the distant one, is going to be affected in large part not only by how many of our children are educated, but by the depth and content of that education. Can they translate a hexadecimal number, can they refute from memory a quote Alexander Pope didn’t really say, can they name the thirteenth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. This concern is supposed to be driving a number of sympathies with the public school teachers’ unions, the skirmish currently taking place in Wisconsin being a case in point.

But nobody ever seems to stop and ask what our teachers are doing about this. There are a lot of pieces that have to be present and working in a child’s education before said child is given any kind of a boost in his potential to contribute to the country’s GDP. “Yay, he got a passing grade” or “Yay, he passed the state competency exam” isn’t going to get it done. I think, deep down, we all realize this…

So where are the follow-up questions? Especially from those who sympathize with the teachers. They, after all, are generally the ones quickest to spout off with the doom-and-gloom statistics Caroline Baum is offsetting here.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News and Washington Rebel.

The Meaning of Life in Thirteen Words

Friday, February 25th, 2011

GBIL (girlfriend’s brother-in-law) is broadening my horizons again, through the e-mails, in unhealthy ways.

Years ago my Dad came up with a good one and I still don’t know where he got it. He said life is like a roll of toilet paper. Seems like it’s gonna last forever when you first get it started, and as you get closer to the end that goddamn thing starts spinning faster.

The Orange Tee Shirts and the Chanting and the Shouting

Friday, February 25th, 2011

You know what the problem is with liberal activists and liberal politicians talking about that word “civility”?

What you and I call civility, in that weird other-dimension inhabited by our liberals, is adequately substituted with a little bit of solidarity. And they still get to call it civility, when it has nothing to do, whatsoever, with what you and I use that word to describe. To them, if you show solidarity it’s perfectly fair to call it civility.

Explains a lot, don’t it?

See, it’s all about words and what they mean. They have different meanings in mind for just a few of the words we use…unfortunately, those are the words that are most important to the task of figuring out what it is they’re trying to say.

Hat tip to Kate at Small Dead Animals.

How Dark Knight Should Have Ended

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Billionaires Buying Congress So They Never Have to Pay Taxes Again

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Respected commenter at The Blog That Nobody Reads Severian speaks. If you’re reading these pages looking for wisdom, I hope you’re here for him:

It’s the one true sign you’re dealing with a dyed-in-the-wool Marxist. Corporations are “capitalist;” therefore they, like all other capitalists, are out to screw “the workers;” and they’re all on one big e-mail list and have a Facebook page and all the CEOs go out for drinks together every Friday night.

They actually seem to believe this. It’s like they were kinda sorta paying attention in history class the day that one professor with the greasy ponytail and the ripped jeans said something about the Standard Oil Trust, and now they’re utterly convinced this is how “big business” really works.

And the died-in-the-wool marxists must have come across that somehow…and said to themselves something like: “Look what this guy said over on this Blog That Nobody Reads. He says we think businesses collude with each other this way. That’s a pretty nutty thing he said, it doesn’t seem to make any sense. We’d better pipe up with something to help prove him right, so that what he said makes better sense.”

And they searched from within their own ranks and produced one perfesser Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University…director of something called the Earth Institute. Called up MSNBC and told them they wanted to put the Earth Director on the air.

To help prove Severian right. And prove it the Earth Dude did

It’s classic paranoia. “Everyone who has a vision different from mine, is after whatever I say they’re after, they’ll never stop until they go all the way and they’re all conspiring with each other.”

Now, how do you prove Prof. Sachs right in what he was saying? Not only is there precious little fact in there, but there is precious little that is fact-based in there. It isn’t even opinionated. It’s just a whole lot of unhinged fantasy.

What these billionaires have been doing is buying the whole Congress, now buying out the governors, to make sure they never have to pay taxes again. And then we have these huge budget deficits because they don’t pay taxes any more, and what do they want to do? Cut the benefits for the poor.

Hat tip to Boortz, who points out the following:

This academic hack talks about these “billionaires…buying the whole congress.” You do know who’s trying to buy the congress, don’t you? Government sector unions, that’s who. How much did they contribute in the last election cycle? Try over $400 million dollars. Now…get out there and add up the campaign contributions from billionaires and see if you reach that figure.

Perhaps this is a good time to point out that the ICD-9 code of paranoid schizophrenia is 295.3, and its definitions include:

* psychotic behavior accompanied simultaneously by persecutory or grandiose delusions (paranoia) and hallucinations (schizophrenia); delusional jealousy may be present.
* Type of schizophrenia characterized by grandiosity, suspiciousness, and delusions of persecution, often with hallucinations.

An awful lot of this weeping and wailing about “the middle class getting crushed” is looking like Earth Dude stuff…ICD 295.3 stuff. They’re all conspiring with each other to get me/us! MSNBC seems to think their mad ravings offer a great way for the rest of the public to catch up on what’s going on.

You know, they might think that…but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true.

And when you’re sympathetic to the public sector unions and you’ve spent a lot of years watching their asses getting kissed, and imagining by proxy that it’s your ass getting kissed…I imagine, when the day comes that it stops, it might feel like you’re being persecuted and everyone’s out to get you. But that doesn’t mean that’s true.

What is it our President kept telling us about change? How it’s a good thing even though sometimes it might be scary? Looks like we get some schizophrenics who are afraid of change out there.

This Is Good LXXX

Friday, February 25th, 2011

No occasion. I just think it makes the point extremely well.

Call Me Senator from RightChange on Vimeo.

Speaking of which, “The Blog That Nobody Reads” — you know, I worked so hard to get that title…

Meeting with the Bank Today

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Oh, my. What a deeply satisfying story this is, for anyone who’s ever been given it good & hard by a bank.

About two years ago, after Wells Fargo stopped responding to his letters requesting more information, Patrick boned up and learned about a law called the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). The law was enacted to safeguard homebuyers from anti-competitive and collusive behavior among the companies and agents involved with buying and selling real estate. One of the protections involves the “Qualified Written Request,” or QWR.
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“Do your research,” says Patrick. When drafting it, besides getting tips on writing one from various consumer sites, he also went to banking sites and saw how bankers were talking about ways they had rejected various QWRs. He made sure to craft his so it couldn’t get disqualified. “Use the internet as your law library,” says Patrick. With a little Googling, he was quickly about to find official resources and templates that guided him, step by step.
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Within 20 days, the company must say they got the QWR, and they have 60 to take action on it. That action must be to either correct the problem or to respond back with why they think they’re right. They must also give a name and phone number for the borrower to contact with questions about their account.

Wells Fargo did none of these, says Patrick. So he moved on to the next step provided by RESPA: statutory damages, aka, cash money.
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At trial, Wells Fargo didn’t send anyone to represent themselves, so Patrick got a default judgment against them for $1,173. They eventually sent him the amount, but they had still had not responded to his letters or agreed to fix his premiums, as required by law. So he filed for a sheriff’s levy. This directs the sheriff to seize and sell the debtor’s property to pay up. In this case, it was the local branch office of Wells Fargo mortgage, the ones who had been ignoring him all these years.

And it just gets better and better.

It should be mentioned that I have a loan account with Wells Fargo and it’s mostly been okay…no serious beef with them. The other bank which I’ll leave unmentioned, is no longer in existence anyway. I wish I was the one that did that to ‘em. Bastards. I see similarities in the shenanigans, and this story just warms the cockles of my heart.

“They Must Be Very Proud”

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Gateway Pundit, via Instapundit:

In Last 24 Hours Dem Protesters Have Assaulted a Young Woman, Tortured a Camel, Called Opponents “Bad Jews” & Attacked Gay Black Tea Partier…They Must Be Very Proud

With a video clip behind each one.

dwd comments:

They’ve pretty much offended every group out there…where are the animal rights groups denouncing this? How about the women’s rights groups? Gay rights groups? The NAACP / Jesse Jackson / Al Sharpton? Religious figures? How about environmentalists outraged by all the trash and signs just dumped on the ground when the union members left the protests?

Anyone? Anyone?

Crickets…

because these flagrant offenses don’t fit the leftist narrative[.]

My dictionary defines “civility” as “a. civilized conduct…b. a polite act or expression.” To have it when two sides disagree about something, both sides need to agree to the simple code of “I recognize the other person or party has a different take on things and that’s just fine.” “That’s just fine” meaning, not quite so much that there’s nothing worth doing; since of course both sides are going to have some demonstrations, and participate in exchanges of ideas, in order to change some minds. But it is not recognized as an urgent problem in desperate need of fixing, that the other side has influence. There is no recognized imperative to neutralize.

This would contradict the very foundation of modern leftist thought. Look around — every single thing they want is a “basic human right.” Even if it only became a basic human right minutes ago, when they decided it was one. Not because a Higher Power gave it to us, or because we need that right in order to enjoy some other right. No, it’s a “basic human right” because, and only because, this enables them to say there must be something wrong with you if you don’t go along.

Every single leftist recognition that a certain thing ought to be a certain way, is paired up with another leftist recognition that all “good” people agree with this, and therefore, if you’re not agreeing you must be “bad.” If you don’t agree, and you still have some ability to convince others to also disagree, then that has to be fixed. It’s time to go “activist,” to “get a little bloody” as they say.

They want society to be perfect. But at the same time — and this is the dirty little secret — they’re anarchists.

Until leftists who influence other leftists can say “I think X, but I can see how a reasonable person might think not-X,” you cannot involve leftists and have a civil discourse. About anything. And they can’t say that. They don’t believe it.

Cross-posted at Washington Rebel.

Wisconsin Unions vs. Tea Party: A Classic Double Standard

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Newsbusters:

Loud protests by Wisconsin public employee unions against a budget reform proposal from new Governor Scott Walker have drawn considerable national network news attention since Thursday, the day Democratic state senators fled the state in a last-ditch gambit to prevent the bill from becoming law. A story-by-story analysis by the Media Research Center shows the Wisconsin protests are a perfect case study in the media’s longstanding double standard favoring left-wing causes while demonstrating much more hostility to the Tea Party and conservative protest.

Last March, as thousands protested on Capitol Hill in the days before the passage of ObamaCare, CBS’s Nancy Cordes slammed it as “a weekend filled with incivility,” while World News anchor Diane Sawyer painted the Tea Party as a violent gang, with “protesters roaming Washington, some of them increasingly emotional, yelling slurs and epithets.” In August 2009, ABC anchor Charles Gibson complained how “protesters brought pictures of President Obama with a Hitler-style mustache to a town hall meeting,” failing to mention that the signs were produced by Lyndon LaRouche’s wacky fringe movement, not the Tea Party or conservatives.

You know what James Taranto said yesterday about this?

It’s quite striking the way almost every lie the left ever told about the Tea Party has turned out to be true of the government unionists in Wisconsin and their supporters…

He went on to provide examples:

• Extreme rhetoric. The Wisconsin Republican Party has produced what Mediaite.org calls an “incredibly effective” video juxtaposing liberal complaints about allegedly extremist Tea Party rhetoric with unionist signs likening Gov. Walker to Hitler and other dictators. Left-wing journalists are making similar invidious comparisons: “Workers Toppled a Dictator in Egypt, but Might Be Silenced in Wisconsin” read the headline of a Washington Post column by Harold Meyerson last week. The other day on CNN we saw scenes of a Madison crowd chanting, “Kill the bill”–which was said to be violent and invidious a year ago, when “the bill” was ObamaCare.

• Violence. Blogress Ann Althouse, a state employee based in Madison, posted a video of municipal salt trucks blowing their horns in support of the unionists. A YouTube commenter responded (quoting verbatim), “whoever video taped this has no life and should be shot in the head.” Unlike Frances Fox Piven, Althouse has never advocated violence, but don’t expect the Times to give this the kind of coverage it gave Piven’s claims that she had received threatening emails.

• Partisan AstroTurf. That’s the Beltway term referring to a fake grassroots movement. Politico reported last week that “the Democratic National Committee’s Organizing for America arm–the remnant of the 2008 Obama campaign–is playing an active role in organizing protests.” A blogger at the OFA website, BarackObama.com, writes: “To our allies in the labor movement, to our brothers and sisters in public work, we stand with you, and we stand strong.” We’ve also received emails from MoveOn.org, which says it’s holding a pro-unionist rally outside our offices later this afternoon. Sorry, MOO, we’re working at home today.

• Refusal to accept election results. Although Republicans have a majority in the Wisconsin Senate, Democrats have fled the state, taking advantage of the body’s rules to deny the majority a quorum. The Indianapolis Star reports that Democrats from the Indiana House are employing the same tactic. Even Barack Obama, when he was an Illinois senator, usually voted “present.”

• Stupidity. Remember “Teabonics,” a photo album of misspelled Tea Party signs? The unionists can’t spell any better–and some of them are teachers! Althouse got one photo of what we think is a woman holding a sign that reads ” ‘Open for business’ = Closed for Negotiatins [sic].” Also, some of the teachers’ tactics–in particular, fraudulently calling in sick and exploiting other people’s children by enlisting them as protesters–seem not only unethical but calculated to repel the public. One blessing of low standards for public school teachers is that it ensures many of them are not bright enough to stage an effective protest.

The one exception: So far we haven’t seen any evidence of racism by the Wisconsin unionists. But we’re watching for it.

Is there anyone, anywhere, who’s still engaged in the fantasy that mainstream news is providing to us a straight picture of what’s going on?

“Who Does That Person Look Like?”

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

The progressive mind can find racism anywhere.

Michael Moore is revealing something else about the mind of the loyal leftist when he uses that worn-out phrase, “vast majority.” He does not mean greater-than-fifty-percent, or greater-than-something-else-that-is-greater-than-fifty-percent. That is not what he means; he is deliberately reducing a plurality to a singularity. He is generalizing. Think about it: What does “majority” mean when you say the majority of guns are owned by people in safe areas where there are no murders? Are you saying nobody owns a gun in an unsafe area — that nobody who owns a gun actually needs one? That isn’t your point? Well if that isn’t your point, then you have no point to make, STFU.

Unless — what you mean to say is that there is a statistical slope indicating that there aren’t too many violent crimes taking place where someone owns a gun. Is that what he means to say? Because that would tend to indicate the guns are effective in discouraging what they are supposed to be discouraging; they are effective in their selected purpose. Yay, guns! Let’s hear it for guns. Keeping homes safe and doing a great job at it, according to that noted wild-eyed gun zealot Michael Moore.

As for the racism angle, it just doesn’t hold up. Most of the people I know who keep guns in the house because they don’t want to confront a burglar with their kids’ toy plastic baseball bat, are prepared to decide and act without regard to the burglar’s skin color. Their training is skin-color-neutral, their planning is skin-color-neutral. They’re not cool with having someone come waltzing in & relieving them of their stuff, just because that someone happens to be white.

So dream on, libs.

Hat tip to Robert S. McCain.

Sowell Comments on High Speed Rail

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Dr. Thomas Sowell writes in RealClearPolitics:

Nothing more clearly illustrates the utter irresponsibility of Barack Obama than his advocacy of “high-speed rail.” The man is not stupid. He knows how to use words that will sound wonderful to people who do not bother to stop and think.

High-speed rail may be feasible in parts of Europe or Japan, where the population density is much higher than in the United States. But, without enough people packed into a given space, there will never be enough riders to repay the high cost of building and maintaining a high-speed rail system.

Building a high-speed rail system between Los Angeles and San Francisco may sound great to people who don’t give it any serious thought. But we are a more spread-out country than England, France or Japan. The distance between Los Angeles and San Francisco is greater than the distance from London to Paris– by more than 100 miles.

In Japan, the distance between Tokyo and Osaka is comparable to the distance between Los Angeles and San Francisco. But the population of Osaka alone is larger than the combined populations of Los Angeles and San Francisco– and Tokyo has millions more people than Osaka. That is why it can make sense to have a “bullet train” running between Osaka and Tokyo, but makes no sense to build one between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
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Make no mistake about it, spending wins votes, and votes are the ultimate bottom line for politicians. If fancy words and lofty visions are enough to get the voters to go along with more spending, then expect to hear a lot of fancy words and lofty visions.

One of the most successful political ploys is to promise people things without having the money to pay for them. Then, when others want to cut back on the things that have been promised, blame them for lacking the compassion of those who wrote the checks without enough money in the bank to cover them.

This is precisely why that overpass crumbled in Minnesota. Government money tends to go where politicians tell it to go, and politicians have a tendency to direct that money toward new, exciting, sexy things. Maintaining what’s already there is so boring. Holding the new projects up, like a private company would, to make sure they can pay for themselves over the long term — that’s boring too.

And so the incentive remains, to eat dessert first and think about veggies later.

“On Unions”

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

A thoughtful essay from Sonic Charmer that I think deserves all of the attention it could get:

One principled argument [in favor of unions] is that the “right” to unionize is something that flows from free speech, or assembly, or something – something like an obvious emergent right that builds off basic, individual, inalienable rights.

This justification breaks down upon even the most superficial inspection. If all unions were about was speech and assembly, there would be nothing controversial about them. Yes of course, people have the right to form ‘clubs’ of whatever sort with each other, go to meetings, give part of their paycheck to other people, to complain about things, and if they are really unhappy with their working conditions, not go to work and say they’ll only come back if they get more pay. But that is not actually what unions do – none of that is where the rubber meets the road, because it fails to incorporate the key points about modern unions: 1. being able to force people to join them, i.e. monopolize labor, 2. being able to force a company to negotiate with certain dudes that have been anointed the union leaders, and 3. the company is not allowed to fire people when they don’t come to work (which is ridiculous!).

Points 1-3 form the actual teeth of unions. Without them, unions would be superfluous and pointless. With them, unions are what they are. But none of 1-3 flow from the right to free speech, or free assembly, or any other individual right of any kind.
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[T]he argument is that, as constructed, the system of corporations becomes too powerful and if given no counterbalance this would lead to a bad situation for employees. Hence, let’s empower unions too, by whatever right and authority we used to empower corporations.

This argument, I must say, has some merit. It can’t be easily dismissed; there could be something to it. At the very least, even the most instinctively anti-union person (such as myself) must recognize that there could be sectors or industries in which the (government-created, after all) corporate structure leads to a warped situation, and against which unions are a reasonable and feasible solution.

But this argument ONLY WORKS IF WE’RE TALKING ABOUT THE PRIVATE SECTOR.

James Taranto (inadvertently) continues this train of thought in today’s Best of the Web:

There is a fundamental difference between private- and public-sector workers. A private-sector labor dispute is a clear clash of competing interests, with management representing shareholders and unions representing workers. In the public sector, as George Will notes, taxpayers–whose position is analogous to that of shareholders–are usually denied a seat at the table:

Such unions are government organized as an interest group to lobby itself to do what it always wants to do anyway – grow. These unions use dues extracted from members to elect their members’ employers. And governments, not disciplined by the need to make a profit, extract government employees’ salaries from taxpayers. Government sits on both sides of the table in cozy “negotiations” with unions.

Collective bargaining in the public sector thus is less a negotiation than a conspiracy to steal money from taxpayers.

And one other point of Taranto’s. It doesn’t fit in anywhere, but it’s too good to leave unmentioned so I’ll simply tack it on to the end:

Here is the contradiction of progressivism. Progressives tell us they want the government to do more. But they can’t win elections without public-sector unions. Because they are beholden to those unions, their main priority when in power is to increase the cost, not the scope, of government. Because resources are finite, the result is the worst of both worlds: a government that taxes more without doing more. This is unsustainable economically. Fortunately, as Wisconsin voters showed last November, it’s unsustainable politically as well.

“Linguistic Rabble Had Stormed the Grammar Palace”

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

City Journal:

What Happens in Vagueness Stays in Vagueness
The decline and fall of American English, and stuff

I recently watched a television program in which a woman described a baby squirrel that she had found in her yard. “And he was like, you know, ‘Helloooo, what are you looking at?’ and stuff, and I’m like, you know, ‘Can I, like, pick you up?,’ and he goes, like, ‘Brrrp brrrp brrrp,’ and I’m like, you know, ‘Whoa, that is so wow!’ ” She rambled on, speaking in self-quotations, sound effects, and other vocabulary substitutes, punctuating her sentences with facial tics and lateral eye shifts. All the while, however, she never said anything specific about her encounter with the squirrel.

Uh-oh. It was a classic case of Vagueness, the linguistic virus that infected spoken language in the late twentieth century. Squirrel Woman sounded like a high school junior, but she appeared to be in her mid-forties, old enough to have been an early carrier of the contagion. She might even have been a college intern in the days when Vagueness emerged from the shadows of slang and mounted an all-out assault on American English.

My acquaintance with Vagueness began in the 1980s, that distant decade when Edward I. Koch was mayor of New York and I was writing his speeches. The mayor’s speechwriting staff was small, and I welcomed the chance to hire an intern. Applications arrived from NYU, Columbia, Pace, and the senior colleges of the City University of New York. I interviewed four or five candidates and was happily surprised. The students were articulate and well informed on civic affairs. Their writing samples were excellent. The young woman whom I selected was easy to train and a pleasure to work with. Everything went so well that I hired interns at every opportunity.

Then came 1985.

The first applicant was a young man from NYU. During the interview, he spiked his replies so heavily with “like” that I mentioned his frequent use of the word. He seemed confused by my comment and replied, “Well . . . like . . . yeah.” Now, nobody likes a grammar prig. All’s fair in love and language, and the American lingo is in constant motion. “You should,” for example, has been replaced by “you need to.” “No” has faded into “not really.” “I said” is now “I went.” As for “you’re welcome,” that’s long since become “no problem.” Even nasal passages are affected by fashion. Quack-talking, the rasping tones preferred by many young women today, used to be considered a misfortune.

In 1985, I thought of “like” as a trite survivor of the hippie sixties. By itself, a little slang would not have disqualified the junior from NYU. But I was surprised to hear antique argot from a communications major looking for work in a speechwriting office, where job applicants would normally showcase their language skills. I was even more surprised when the next three candidates also laced their conversation with “like.” Most troubling was a puzzling drop in the quality of their writing samples. It took six tries, but eventually I found a student every bit as good as his predecessors. Then came 1986.

As the interviews proceeded, it grew obvious that “like” had strengthened its grip on intern syntax. And something new had been added: “You know” had replaced “Ummm . . .” as the sentence filler of choice. The candidates seemed to be evading the chore of beginning new thoughts. They spoke in run-on sentences, which they padded by adding “and stuff” at the end. Their writing samples were terrible. It took eight tries to find a promising intern. In the spring of 1987 came the all-interrogative interview. I asked a candidate where she went to school.

“Columbia?” she replied. Or asked.

“And you’re majoring in . . .”

“English?”

All her answers sounded like questions. Several other students did the same thing, ending declarative sentences with an interrogative rise. Something odd was happening. Was it guerrilla grammar? Had college kids fallen under the spell of some mad guru of verbal chaos? I began taking notes and mailed a letter to William Safire at the New York Times, urging him to do a column on the devolution of coherent speech. Undergraduates, I said, seemed to be shifting the burden of communication from speaker to listener. Ambiguity, evasion, and body language, such as air quotes—using fingers as quotation marks to indicate clichés—were transforming college English into a coded sign language in which speakers worked hard to avoid saying anything definite. I called it Vagueness.

By autumn 1987, the job interviews revealed that “like” was no longer a mere slang usage. It had mutated from hip preposition into the verbal milfoil that still clogs spoken English today. Vagueness was on the march. Double-clutching (“What I said was, I said . . .”) sprang into the arena. Playbacks, in which a speaker re-creates past events by narrating both sides of a conversation (“So I’m like, ‘Want to, like, see a movie?’ And he goes, ‘No way.’ And I go . . .”), made their entrance. I was baffled by what seemed to be a reversion to the idioms of childhood. And yet intern candidates were not hesitant or uncomfortable about speaking elementary school dialects in a college-level job interview. I engaged them in conversation and gradually realized that they saw Vagueness not as slang but as mainstream English. At long last, it dawned on me: Vagueness was not a campus fad or just another generational raid on proper locution. It was a coup. Linguistic rabble had stormed the grammar palace. The principles of effective speech had gone up in flames.

Hat tip to Wheat & Weeds.

Can’t just leave this up without saying a word about Gerard Van der Leun, and how he pegged this a few years back with his observations about the American Castrati, which I snapped up just as fast as I could.

If you focus on it, you realize that you hear this voice every day if you bounce around a bit in our larger cities buying this or ordering that, and in general running into young people in the “service” sector — be it coffee shop, video store, department store, boutique, bookstore, or office cube farm. It’s a kind of voice that was seldom heard anywhere but now seems to be everywhere.
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You hear this soft, inflected tone everywhere that young people below, roughly, 35 congregate. As flat as the bottles of spring water they carry and affectless as algae, it tends to always trend towards a slight rising question at the end of even simple declarative sentences. It has no timbre to it and no edge of assertion in it.

As far as I’m concerned, people can talk in whatever way they like. My objection begins when it starts to affect how they think. This, too, I’d allow to pass without too much critique, if only the flaccid thinking could be somehow walled off, incapable of having too much of an effect on myself or on others. Which seems to be the intention anyway, isn’t it? Isn’t that the motivation? Fear of declaring anything too conclusively, and of having any kind of irreversible effect on anything? Like…y’know…and stuff?

Nearly Half Back Walker

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Rasmussen:

A sizable number of voters are following new Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s showdown with unionized public employees in his state, and nearly half side with the governor.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 48% of Likely U.S. Voters agree more with the Republican governor in his dispute with union workers. Thirty-eight percent (38%) agree more with the unionized public employees, while 14% are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

In an effort to close the state’s sizable budget deficit, Walker is proposing to eliminate collective bargaining for public employees including teachers on everything but wage issues. He is excluding public safety workers such as policemen and firemen from his plan.

Thirty-eight percent (38%) of voters think teachers, firemen and policemen should be allowed to go on strike, but 49% disagree and believe they should not have that right. Thirteen percent (13%) are not sure.

Men’s Movie Review

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Not only is this all I need when a film comes out, but if I was a film critic this is pretty much all I’d provide. Guess I better keep the day job…

Yeah, the casting, who got an award for what, who’s directing, who’s hoping this is their big comeback vehicle — just kindly skip it all. Fill in the appropriate check marks, below, and that’s good enough for me. That’s more than good enough for me.

“Where Have The Good Men Gone?”

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Kay S. Hymowitz writes in the Wall Street Journal:

“We are sick of hooking up with guys,” writes the comedian Julie Klausner, author of a touchingly funny 2010 book, “I Don’t Care About Your Band: What I Learned from Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Felons, Faux-Sensitive Hipsters and Other Guys I’ve Dated.” What Ms. Klausner means by “guys” is males who are not boys or men but something in between. “Guys talk about ‘Star Wars’ like it’s not a movie made for people half their age; a guy’s idea of a perfect night is a hang around the PlayStation with his bandmates, or a trip to Vegas with his college friends…. They are more like the kids we babysat than the dads who drove us home.” One female reviewer of Ms. Kausner’s book wrote, “I had to stop several times while reading and think: Wait, did I date this same guy?”

I remember from years and years ago, “most” people would ask me things like “why are you so hung up on politics?” and my answer would be something variation of, “because that’s my money they’re spending…money that belongs to my kids who aren’t born yet…this stuff has a real impact.” And then “everyone” would ask me “why aren’t you interested in sports when everyone else is?” and I’d come back with “because…that stuff does not have a real impact.”

Now I’m not so engaged in self-worship as to say this is any kind of special ability of mine. It’s just a difference in concerns. Some of us make a special point of being concerned about things that matter, and some of us make a special point of being concerned with things that don’t matter.

Aw wait, that still came out wrong…

There is a possibility here that I’m not in any kind of minority; with the Tea Party and all, maybe I’m actually in the majority and it is only a perceived majority, and a factual minority, that goes the other way.

I dunno.

I do know this though: If you really do want to be all hung up on fluff, things that don’t matter, the “circuses” part of the bread-and-circuses…you can only be so engaged with it to the extent that your circumstances permit. Which team is going to win the Super Bowl — when the cupboards are full and the bills are all paid, that might seem a reasonable question to ask. And, let’s be fair about it, “Now that they’ve rebooted Star Trek, is Jean-Luc Picard still going to exist?” falls into the same category.

If your circumstances are such that even potable water is a matter subjected to some question, you probably won’t be asking about this stuff…

And this is where the ladies of marriageable age become frustrated. It’s the same thing we’ve discussed in these parts many times before. Modern life is too comfortable. We’re getting all fixated on a bunch of crap.

People tap into their Wells Fargo bank accounts through a Bank of America machine, or vice versa, and get socked a buck twenty-five for the “privilege” of accessing their own dough. They feel like their human rights have been violated. Time to riot in the streets. Grrrr!

And then they go pick up their morning frothy foo-foo drink at Starbucks for $4.50 and don’t so much as bat an eyelash.

What’s happening to young men? The same thing that’s happening to everybody else; the same thing that is happening to people in general. We’re losing our bearings. We are losing the ability to prioritize, because there’s no reason to.

We know the sun is going to come up tomorrow no matter what, and until it sets again, & beyond, we’ll still have enough to eat. There is no decision we can make that will put that in jeopardy, or if it is in jeopardy, will pull it out again.

We’re bored.

Best Sentence CVIII

Monday, February 21st, 2011

The one hundred and eighth award for Best Sentence I’ve Heard Or Read Lately (BSIHORL) goes to commenter “edwoof”, who says underneath “The Dangerous Lure of the Research-University Model” by Kevin Carey, via Professor Mondo:

We have gone from the university-as-knowledge-provider model to the university as a seller of an educational experience and we are fast approaching a place where the university becomes a purveyor of an educational fantasy.

It’s always a treacherous business to try to find an explanation for things you can’t see changing first-hand, even if you’re spending years & decades feeling the shock waves of them. But the question compels, and so flailing around looking for an explanation, I’m having a flashback to November of last year, when Blogsister Cassy managed to lay her mitts on this:

This nourishes a theory germinating in my head, a theory as sturdy and functional as any other. I’m a “follow the money” kinda guy; the money that comes to continuing/higher education, as I understand it, is tuition that is provided mostly by parents. If a transformation is taking place with chubby sixth graders, it’s silly to think the same transformation would not be taking place with freshmen and sophomores…and this would ultimately have the effect described, right? “So how are things going in college, sport? Are you having a good time there?” I can’t prove it since what takes place over a Thanksgiving table while “sport” is home on break, is none of my business.

But my intuition tells me there is a diminishing supply of the classic home-for-the-holidays conversation…”now that you’re a big college man, you think you can solve this page of problems they gave me back in the day, sport?” The pattern fits right in with what I see in other places. More concern about experiences, emotions that result from the experiences, how does it make you feel. Less emphasis on individual capability, conceptual understanding, good old-fashioned know-how.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News.

Niall Ferguson

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

“What are these people paid to do?” I love it. This is exactly the question I was asking myself. I know it’s silly to expect that people can foretell the future in the State Department, regardless of which regime is in there…I get that. But at the same time, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that people’s predictions be somewhat attached to reality. Don’t be hauling your oh-so-impressive credentials in there and pontificating about what will & won’t happen and then…Omigaw! They did? He did? It didn’t? Zowee, didn’t see that coming! I was too busy blowing smoke…

More of my wisdom from the comment thread underneath:

I notice every single positive assessment of Obama’s handling of some situation is non-falsifiable the same way the Egypt thing is, “Gee, that turned out relatively well when all’s said & done, didn’t it?” There is ALWAYS a worse scenario. So there’s no connection existing, or mentioned, or established, between shrewd Obama planning/acting and these beneficent results…just…well, it could’ve been much worse, and it turned out okay under His watch…

Drives me crazy. There’s no standard for performance there! None! “Birther Zero” could go golfing morning noon & night throughout the entire thing, and when it’s done, no matter the outcome you could plausibly argue it could’ve gone worse.

So glad this ditzy co-anchor got Niall-nailed to the wall here. She deserved it.

Hat tip to blogger friend Rick.

Women Are Better at Forgiving

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

It’s been awhile since we’ve had a post about “propeller beanie eggheads discover the sexes are different” — so let’s get in some trouble again. Science Daily:

A study by the University of the Basque Country has carried out the first Spanish study into the emotional differences between the sexes and generations in terms of forgiveness. According to the study, parents forgive more than children, while women are better at forgiving than men.

“This study has great application for teaching values, because it shows us what reasons people have for forgiving men and women, and the popular conception of forgiveness,” says Maite Garaigordobil, co-author of the study and a senior professor at the Psychology Faculty of the UPV.

This study, which has been published in the Revista Latinoamericana de Psicología, is the first to have been carried out in Spain. It shows that parents find it easier to forgive than their children, and that women are better at forgiving than men.

“A decisive factor in the capacity to forgive is empathy, and women have a greater empathetic capacity than males,” says Carmen Maganto, co-author of the study and a tenured professor at the Psychology Faculty of the UPV.

And I’m sure any man who’s been with a woman for any length of time, is having the same thought about this that I’m having: Forgiving is not the same as forgetting.

I find in general, whenever someone is stymied by the way the two sexes behave differently or respond to shared experiences in different ways, it comes down to this: Men, over a prolonged period of time, become disenchanted and bored with a certain outcome whereas women do not. Think about the strange, inexplicable things a woman does, things she herself cannot explain, when she chooses one suitor over another. It’s all about the certain outcome. Even when she chooses the bad boy who bloodies her nose and blackens her eyes, over the nice nerd-boy who brings her flowers — what she is engaging in is a taming. She’s like the cowboy breaking the unbreakable mare. She doesn’t lust after her next bloody lip, she’s lusting after the ruffian’s power. She wants it harnessed, to be put under her control.

This creates an alluring potential that the nerd-boy cannot match. It’s really all about power. Things that have to do with sex, for the most part, have to do with power.

Forgiveness can be very powerful. Forgiveness, compared to the alternative, carries a great potential in the endeavor to arrive at a certain outcome.

Men are bored to tears with things on the teevee that women will watch and watch and watch, and then rewind, and watch some more. Part of the appeal — and this is where we men become profoundly confused — is in a ritual of pretending something is going to happen that we know darn good and well is not going to happen. Booth and Bones might sleep together, or Scully and Mulder might sleep together, or we’ll finally learn what the shadowy government agencies are up to, or we’ll snap up some meaningful clue as far as how the Heroes are going to save the world. Watching these shows means pretending these things might happen. And the chicks just love ‘em even though it’s a certainty that these things will not be happening.

Remember when the Star Wars prequels came out? Massive disappointment…which was explained, easily, by the fact that Jar Jar Binks was ridiculous, the dialogue was bad and the storylines illogical and incomprehensible. But lost in all the other complaints was a subtle, masculine complaint against the very concept of the “prequel.” Obi-Wan fights Darth Maul, and we’re supposed to wonder who’s going to win…but when we look at the situation logically, we don’t really need to wonder and that sucks away a lot of the suspense. My point is, men experience an agitation here that is not experienced by the women. We feel like, on some level, we’re wasting our time.

There was a popular joke going around about Titanic, too — “didn’t see it, I already know how it ends.” Of course that’s silly, that movie was about so much more than the ship sinking…but that does sum it up. When the outcome is a certainty, women are capable of enjoying the journey to it. Men are too, but to a far, far lesser extent. And when the outcome is less certain, it is the women who start to feel things are out-of-kilter and out-of-sorts, in a way the men cannot fully appreciate. How does a man relax? Surf the Internet…watch a game…play poker with friends…things with uncertain outcomes. And the women? Converse among themselves — with expectations about the behavior of the other, where the conversation is going to go. Read things, and watch things, which have it in common that they progress toward a singularity. A man might see how such works of fiction conclude and mutter something like “I’m so shocked she went back to him!” with an earnest eyeball-roll. See, it carries an attraction for her, whereas for him it’s sheer boredom.

Women appreciate sweet, nice guys when they can drive a certain outcome. And they appreciate powerful, bad guys when they drive a certain outcome.

Demi Moore had a line in A Few Good Men that I think just cuts to the heart of all this: Asked “why do you like them [the U.S. Marines]” she replies, “Because they stand upon a wall and say, ‘Nothing’s going to hurt you tonight, not on my watch.’” There you have it. It isn’t quite so much weakness or a need to be protected all the time. It’s the attraction felt to the concept of a guarantee.

So yes. Women are more forgiving than men. They feel a different set of incentives during a conflict.

As is usually the case with these articles about white-coat-wearing clip-board-carrying propeller-beanie-eggheads with their phony studies, and it is with great fascination I note this…my summary and explanation of the findings, is values-neutral, whereas theirs is not. In what could only be reasonably regarded as something that is polar opposite from what science is supposed to be, the researchers once again seem to have figured out at Stage One which side is supposed to be “good” and which side is supposed to be “bad,” and every little nugget they have gleaned out of this exercise is carefully fit into that simple narrative.

Hoarding Themselves Hostage

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Ed Driscoll (hat tip to Mark) notes that he saw this before in Blazing Saddles: “Just obey our hostage demands, and we’ll let ourselves go.”

I cannot help but notice, the place in which these liberal democrats have ensconced themselves to get away from everybody else, looks an awful lot like a place in which I’d ensconce myself to get away from them: Hot meat, cold beer, and lots of great-looking “objectified” women.

What in the world is up with that? I thought left-wingers in good standing held some measure of contempt for such things. Bitterly clung to it, as it were.

Are they growing up now? Could it be a case of “this is the last place they’d ever look for us”? Or do they just want to hoard all the good stuff for themselves?

Non-Religious Conservatives

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

New York Times:

As a child, Razib Khan spent several weeks studying in a Bangladeshi madrasa. Heather Mac Donald once studied literary deconstructionism and clerked for a left-wing judge. In neither case did the education take. They are atheist conservatives — Mr. Khan an apostate to his family’s Islamic faith, Ms. Mac Donald to her left-wing education.

They are part of a small faction on the right: conservatives with no use for religion. Since 2008, they have been contributors to the blog Secular Right, where they argue that conservative values like small government, self-reliance and liberty can be defended without recourse to invisible deities or the religions that exalt them.

And they serve as public proof that an irreligious conservative can exist.

“A lot of religious conservatives say, ‘You can’t be conservative because you don’t believe in God,’ ” said Mr. Khan, 34, who was raised in New York and Oregon but whose grandfather was an imam in Bangladesh. “They say I am logically impossible, and I say, ‘Well I am possible because I am.’

“They assert your nonexistence, and you have to assert your existence.”

Neither Mr. Khan nor Ms. Mac Donald gainsays the historical connection between conservatism and religiosity. Influential conservatives, like the 18th-century Anglo-Irish statesman Edmund Burke, have been sympathetic toward religion in part because it endures.

Ramesh Ponnuru, a senior editor at National Review, noted that conservatives throughout history have esteemed “mediating institutions” like schools and churches, sources of authority other than the state. “If that’s the way you’re thinking, concern for the strength of organized religion follows pretty naturally,” Mr. Ponnuru said.

Santelli Day 2011

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

Aw darn, I got a reminder tonight from reading blogger friend Phil’s page. I just about missed it.

From two years ago…

…and the Tea Party was born.

Where do we go from here? It’s an uncomfortable question. This country does have a history of trying to find mid-point compromises where they do not exist and cannot exist; and then trying and trying throughout decade after decade until the whole thing erupts into a bloody civil war. Okay, it’s only gone that far once. But the fact remains that the search for a halfway compromise is a fool’s errand. You achieve a claim over money by earning it, or by lusting after it after someone else has earned it. One or the other of those two things, not both.

I don’t know if a secession or split is coming, or if it will actually lead to a violent conflagration. But I do know this stink is going to keep hovering over our heads until the day we make a unified, conscious, unapologetic decision to embrace socialism wholeheartedly, or reject it just as emphatically.

Wisconsin: What’s at Stake

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

The fable of the evil sticky black stuff makes it perfectly clear: It doesn’t really matter what we decide to do, quite so much as how we go about deciding to do it. Free will or coercion? Reasoned debate involving an exchange of rational ideas, or one side telling the other “You have to do it our way because we have the magical elixir”?

John Fund takes a look at what’s really happening in Wisconsin:

This week President Obama was roundly criticized, even by many of his allies, for submitting a federal budget that actually increases our already crushing deficit. But that didn’t stop him Thursday from jumping into Wisconsin’s titanic budget battle. He accused the new Republican governor, Scott Walker, of launching an “assault” on unions with his emergency legislation aimed at cutting the state budget.

The real assault this week was led by Organizing for America, the successor to President’s Obama’s 2008 campaign organization. It helped fill buses of protesters who flooded the state capital of Madison and ran 15 phone banks urging people to call state legislators.

Mr. Walker’s proposals are hardly revolutionary. Facing a $137 million budget deficit, he has decided to try to avoid laying off 5,500 state workers by proposing that they contribute 5.8% of their income towards their pensions and 12.6% towards health insurance. That’s roughly the national average for public pension payments, and it is less than half the national average of what government workers contribute to health care. Mr. Walker also wants to limit the power of public-employee unions to negotiate contracts and work rules—something that 24 states already limit or ban.

The governor’s move is in reaction to a 2009 law implemented by the then-Democratic legislature that expanded public unions’ collective-bargaining rights and lifted existing limits on teacher raises.

Democratic reactions to these proposals have been over the top. In addition to the thousands of protesters who descended on the Capitol building on Thursday to intimidate legislators, so many teachers called in sick on Friday that school districts in Milwaukee, Madison and Janesville had to close.
:
Why are national liberal groups treating Wisconsin as if it were their last stand? Partly for reasons of symbolism. Historically, Wisconsin “embraced the organized labor movement more heartily than any other [state],” notes liberal activist Abe Sauer.
:
Labor historian Fred Siegel offers further reasons why unions are manning the barricades. Mr. Walker would require that public-employee unions be recertified annually by a majority vote of all their members, not merely by a majority of those that choose to cast ballots. In addition, he would end the government’s practice of automatically deducting union dues from employee paychecks. For Wisconsin teachers, union dues total between $700 and $1,000 a year.

“Ending dues deductions breaks the political cycle in which government collects dues, gives them to the unions, who then use the dues to back their favorite candidates and also lobby for bigger government and more pay and benefits,” Mr. Siegel told me. After New York City’s Transport Workers Union lost the right to automatic dues collection in 2007 following an illegal strike, its income fell by more than 35% as many members stopped ponying up. New York City ended the dues collection ban after 18 months.
:
Mr. Walker’s argument—that public workers shouldn’t be living high off the hog at the expense of taxpayers—is being made in other states facing budget crises. But the left observed the impact of the tea party last year and seems determined to unleash a more aggressive version of its own by teaming up with union allies. Organizing for America is already coordinating protests against proposed reforms in Ohio, Michigan and Missouri.

Anytime a labor union is involved in a struggle it seems you can always count on two things: One, once you’ve found out what’s really going on it turns out the union is just as motivated by profit as any business; and two, it isn’t acting to promote the interests of people who produce goods and services other people can actually use.

“Be Strong and You Won’t Need to Use Nukes”

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

Gerard found a comment from Richard Fernandez that, unfortunately, captures the situation reasonably well.

This is all elementary game theory; and tried, true and hoary deterrence theory. Be strong and you won’t need to use nukes. Be weak and you’ll use them for sure.

The problem of radical Islam is the problem of Western weakness. That is the problem to which the policy nuking Muslims is an impertinent answer. Who’s going to do it? Obama? And yet if Obama lost the next election in favor of someone who might actually resist, then the probability of having to pre-empt declines dramatically.

The logical problem is that any strategy which requires pre-emptively nuking the Islamic world implies a President who is too weak to do it anyway. But that doesn’t mean it might not happen. As I’ve argued ad nauseam, the biggest danger to nuclear use, in both the Israeli and general Western case, is via the act in desperation.

As long as Israel’s strategic position is strong, it will not unleash the nukes. But only in its dying gasp will that be certain. So what do the geniuses at State do? Bring Israel to the point of strategic death.

“A Cage Match to Determine First Dibs on a Shrinking Pie”

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

Matt Welch, writing in Reason:

Just think–there once was a time (for more than a century, actually), when the president of the United States thought it too imperious to deliver the State of the Union via a speech to a joint session of Congress, since that would smack of telling a co-equal branch of government what to do. Now we have a president not just taking rhetorical sides in a state issue, but actively mobilizing his political organization to affect the outcome(s), even though (to my knowledge) nothing that Gov. Walker or any other belated statehouse cost-cutter is doing has a damned thing to do with federal law.
:
The president’s heavy-handed involvement, along with House Republicans’ refusal to sign off on any new bailout of the states, means that this may very well be America’s biggest and most widespread political fight in 2011. It’s a cage match to determine first dibs on a shrinking pie. A clarifying moment.

This has really become a piece of “everyone’s blogging it by now, I might as well do it too,” but a hat tip is in order to Professor Mondo.

The danger involved in cage matches deterministic of diminishing rewards, of course, is the same prospect you have when you sew two felines into a burlap bag with each other and throw it in the river. In both scenarios, whoever is longing for a more “civil tone” is apt to be disappointed. Among others, Stanley Kurtz can see this is going to become much worse before it gets any better:

We are destined for still more polarization. Neither side can pull back, because the financial crunch is going to have to be resolved one way or another. We either scale back government and the power of public employee unions, or we move toward a structurally higher tax burden and a permanently enlarged welfare state. The very nature of the American system is now at stake. The emerging populist movements on both the right and left recognize this, and so cannot turn back from further confrontation.

But, as we all know by now, being a lefty means you get to invent your own reality:

It is a stunning propaganda victory when you think about it. A political movement…where its foundation is buried into the ground, full of incendiary rage and nothing else. Do it our way, or else! Nobody fucks with the union! BusHitler!

And that same movement…way up above, where its bastions and parapets pierce the clouds, we see its leaders engaging in the classic kindergarten teacher finger-waggling against its opponents. Now now…simmer down, behave. What we really need is less fighting, more peace, and for that to happen what you all need to do is obey me, me, me!

Of course, the finger-waggling isn’t really aimed at the opponents. It isn’t really intended to lecture anybody. It’s show-boating, playing to an audience of moderates.

Could they fall for it? On this question, all depends. And the likely answer, I’m afraid…and I’m reminded of this, after viewing this clip blogger friend Buck forwarded in an offline, after receiving it from Rob…is in the affirmative.

Moderate: A person who appreciates right-wing values but consistently falls for left-wing manipulation tactics.

And this is what the cage match is really all about. The Left will continue to make their pitch to people who, otherwise, would never accept their policies in a million years — but can be duped into thinking the tone will become more civil, if and only if we head left. “Duped” is the operative word. It’s a fool’s errand, because when it’s a cage match and the pie is shrinking, a civil tone is nowhere to be found in the near future, nor is any amicable mid-point compromise. You can’t find a middle ground between these two positions.

Cross-posted at Washington Rebel.

Hoodwinked Again

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

The running joke is, we’re going to wait until twenty years after my divorce. That way, if things don’t work out, I can at least say I wasn’t an easy mark.

One Ring, To Rule Them AllNo, seriously it takes a very special woman to thaw out a heart frozen that solid. But this one went and did it, so we’re planning for something around Christmas. It’s all driven by when the boy can be here, and that’s the long pole in the tent as they say. He goes to school while living under the roof of his mother, some 400 miles from here. So we’ll do the dirty deed on his break. If Nevada turns out to be frozen up so badly that boy-extraction is impossible, then it could be put off ’til the spring…but that’s not likely to happen. Christmas it is.

That’ll carry us across that fateful anniversary, coming up November 3rd.

Quoting commenter Jason,

Hey Morgan, can we get a thread somewhere’s where we can offer congratulations and make empty promises of rounds of beer?

Knock yerselves out, fellas.