Archive for December, 2012

The Specialty

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Since 2012 was pretty much one big repeated litany of democrats kicking ass, I expect 2013 will be more of the same. I conclude this from a report I heard that a “deal on the fiscal cliff” is close to being reached, in which YES the police power of the government is going to be used to make sure no selfish individuals can get too big…yeah, I remember reading that in the Constitution somewhere, Article I Section something…but President Obama’s concession for sake of compromise is going to be, the definition of “rich” is going to be upticked somewhere, closer to the Republicans liking. Golly! What a swell compromise!

So we’re going to go ahead and pull out the lawmower but the wheels will lift the blades up a couple of clicks. The idea I heard was around $450k a year annual income.

I personally hope that is the compromise. Let’s face it, the battle is lost. But at least this would be a great illustration of how, when institutions seek to find the middle ground, they end up leaning left. How t’heck did we get here? The nation’s in recession still, government is supposed to fix it, and it’s going to fix the problem by keeping people from being rich?

I’ve observed before that the democrats seem to be in this holding pattern of offering up as candidates for elected office certain individuals from within their ranks, bullying us by bumptious repetition to absorb and reverberate the idea that there is something extraordinary about them without calling out which particular individual attribute makes them extraordinary. They’re all supposed to be soooper smart, of course. But then they turn around and “prove” the Republican counterparts are clueless dimwit dolts, by way of these sound clips of clueless dimwit things the Republicans have said, often relying on the “Could Be Construed As” point of perspective to make them a little bit extra clueless-dimwit sounding. In doing so, they rely on biased storytelling, and lying-by-omission, in order to make their fellas look any smarter. President Obama did say He’d traveled to fifty-seven states, but you have to read a right-wing crazy-eye blog somewhere in order to find out about it, so it didn’t really happen. Got that?

My point is, since The Specialty has become so important to our country’s future in 2013 and beyond, we should identify what exactly it is. I can respect the plain fact that we are demanding something of all our elected officials regardless of their political allegiances, and this demand is sufficiently vigorous that it precludes any sort of genuine dummy ever becoming a congressman, senator or president. But still & all, at the same time I think we can admit that pure-smarts is not it. President Obama is plenty smarter than quite a few people who’ll never be president; but, there are other people smarter than He is, and they’re not ever gonna become president either. It’s plain to see there’s something remarkable about Him, in a “You’re not likely to ever meet another” kind of a way. But it isn’t any functional kind of intelligence that does that.

Mustering up my (unreliable and lackadaisical) skills in the realm of making things concise and readable; imagining my blog re-written so it could be submitted to a publishing house, without a rejection letter or avalanche of re-write requests bouncing back my way; envisioning such a definition in release-candidate form, so that people will actually read it, pay money to get it on their shelves, have a tough time putting it down once they’ve cracked open the pages…if I can ever approach such an achievement…I would envision such a definition of the democrat-party cherished Specialty as something similar to –

Demonstrated ability to reliably win arguments, through dialogue as well as monologue, that common sense shows should not be won.

President Obama certainly does possess that in great abundance. And He is, in fact, a final culmination of “win” at this game, tournament-style, for twenty years or so, with escalating prowess shown by the tournament players as the brackets have been closed out. Ever since Bill Clinton hit the stage. Governor Dukakis obviously did not have much or of this particular skill set than, for example, I might have of it, or any homeless guy you find might have of it. President Clinton really stole the show, because in him people could see such a show of this force was born and not made.

Clinton and Obama have both been hawking the same message, although the current President is much more hard-core about it: The first step toward our nation’s renewed prosperity is, we have to make it wrong for anyone to make too much money. Common sense shows, without too much difficulty at all, that this is an argument that should not prevail. Because frankly nobody could proffer it or believe in it, save a charlatan or an imbecile. But that’s the product being sold, and all the democrat candidates have been pushing it — and post-Clinton, they have been chosen for their demonstrated ability selling dumb, nonsensical things like this. We don’t know if they would show as much ability to sell us on good, sturdy, functional ideas; we don’t see them trying to do it. They don’t appear to have much enthusiasm for saying things like “Hey, America is being attacked by terrorists and she is fighting an enemy, we’d all better act like it.” I believe the challenge isn’t there. They don’t know they’re keeping their skills sharp, when it comes to selling nonsense, unless nonsense is the thing they’re selling. So they have to sell it all of the time.

The Specialty always comes with a gimmick, I’ve noticed. Obviously, President Obama’s is that He’s black. Take issue with anything President Obama did or said, and you must be some kind of racist. That’s the gimmick. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s gimmick is that she’s a frumpy middle-aged woman, who looks like she’d have trouble holding on to her husband, and the nation knows that she does have such trouble. You aren’t even allowed to discuss this in mixed company — but the fact remains, nevertheless, that that’s her gimmick. She gives bullying speeches and does a lot of hollering, but when she runs things the results turn to crap, a lot more often than the average. Two decades in the public eye and she hasn’t produced a single success aside from winning elections. Which, it’s only obvious, if she looked like a Barbie doll she never would have won ‘em, because her constituency consists of voters who are trying to make some kind of statement about frumpy women. I’m sure the bluntness of such an analysis would offend many, but it stands up against a test of logic because — well give it a try. List some of the reasons we’ve had for appointing or electing or re-electing Hillary Clinton. There aren’t any. Not a single one. She’s a figurehead, a symbol of a nationwide, festering resentment, and she doesn’t have any other appeal. She’s a walking lesson in why people shouldn’t make decisions about things when they’re angry about something, because the only reason she’s gotten anywhere is that millions of people are angry about something.

John Kerry’s shown a lot of The Specialty; his gimmick is to act snooty and smug, like he knows something you don’t. He doesn’t give me this impression, but I’m not very important in this scenario because hey, obviously it works. Not good enough for him to become President Kerry, thank God, but plenty good enough for him to serve in the Senate. And he’ll be our next Secretary of State, they say. Good for him! Qualifications? Specifically? His fans can’t say. But I can.

Joe Biden’s gimmick, we now know, is to be a boorish asshole. And once again, it must work because if it did not, we would not be seeing it. There are those who even say he “won” that debate with Paul Ryan. In so observing, I’m sad to say, they pass much greater comment on themselves, than they do on debates, Paul Ryan, or Joe Biden. Oh so you’re impressed favorably by that, are you? How interesting.

I hope, if democrats continue to win at everything throughout the coming year, that they somehow are given incentive to start discussing ideas. That would be refreshing. Veer off a little bit from the “Barack Obama is just so amazing, He’s right again!!” and go more toward the “Love Barack Obama or hate Him, He’s still right in what He said here and the reason He’s right is because…” Because the constant merry-go-round of rationalizing the thoughts of Obama as some kind of Holy Man or Guru or whatever, is wearing on me in ways that suggest to me it’s becoming a bit monotonous for others who might be agreeing with Him a bit more often than I would. Even if you like His policies, it certainly can’t be a refreshing or mind-expanding experience, going into the sixth year after hearing about Him, still sticking to the tired old “He’s still wonderful godlike figure and this is the best speech He’s ever given…again.”

I remember that phrase “stuck on stupid” went viral, explosively viral, after a General said it during a television interview a few years back. Since then, it is heard only rarely even though it seems to apply to something, and apply well, on almost a daily basis. Now that 2012 is done, can we all admit that the “He’s still wonderful” thing has become an exercise in self-parody, and probably was that going back to the very first day we heard the name Barack Obama? Can we all agree on that? Or did the election results mean we have to keep pretending that Obama is some kind of extra-special-sooooper smart person, being all slobbered over by other extra-special-sooooper smart people who are showing how sooooper smart they are when they slobber all over Him? Can we retire that now? Even though the Republicans lost, just declare it done anyway? Too much to ask?

This Is Good CIV

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Evidently Iowahawk came up with it:

Normal people get drunk, then get a concussion, then complain about the YouTube video. Hillary Clinton does this in reverse.

Badmouthing Barack

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

Oh noes! You can hear the reaction at about 1:16. Morgan, speaking after his own wedding…went there. Producing a gasp, and it seems to me more like two or three such gasps, of genuine shock and maybe horror!

I have extremely modest ad-libbing skills. You can probably tell that for yourself. I’m probably just one or two notches further along than having no experience or natural talent at all, and that’s probably being charitable to myself. I know my way around this stuff just enough to be dangerous. But, if I get the impression my prepared remarks make this into a Barack-Obama-like speech, then yes, I see that as a problem and ad-libbing will be used to find an answer. I don’t care what kind of success this guy has had addressing crowds, if that’s success then I’d rather fail.

It comes under the category of “If I ever agreed with His politics or was ever on His bandwagon, this is where I’d be thinking about hopping off.” This is just plain unhealthy. I would hope, perhaps too optimistically, that I could get one or two die-hard Obama fans to admit at least that much. I recognize He’s a politician and giving the same speech over and over again is what politicians sometimes do…part of the job description…just because you said it in San Francisco on Wednesday doesn’t mean you can let it pass by in Philadelphia on Thursday. I get all that.

The issue has to do with being loquacious. Apart from the fact that it’s unnatural and crass to, for example, mention yourself thirty times or more during a funeral speech, Obama’s wonderful speeches — this is an “Emperor has no clothes moment” if ever there was one — are just plain boring. Truly, He is a dreadful bore. It is intellectually unhealthy to keep just saying the same things over and over again. Even in written form, I try to stay away from that. I get people writing in now and then, “Christ on a cracker, it’s been almost a whole week aren’t you going to blog anything?” And often, the answer is no. If it’s worth saying, it’s worth keeping some sort of structure on it, and if there’s structure to it and you’ve already said it, well then the only reason to say it again is because there was something unacceptably wrong with the way you said it before. After some seven thousand posts, you reach the point where most of it’s already been said.

This does not, you’ll notice, stop President Obama. Structure is not valued there. He may even see it as a liability. His rules are different; if He said it on Day N, it’s every bit as much worth saying on Day N+1 and N+2 and on and on and on and on. Look at Me! I’m saying it again, isn’t it wonderful! Millionairesandbillionairesontheircorporatejets, and you didn’t build that. Ugh. No. I do not want to talk that way. If He’s not wrong then I don’t want to be right.

And, as I explained in the video — those chairs are hard. Republicans, democrats, libertarians and don’t-cares, they’re all good friends who took the time to show up at our event, and they deserved consideration. No, my two decades wandering around in the wilderness are not that big a deal. I’m not that important. The groom is pretty much the #2 celebrity in these things. The point is that I married a wonderful, wonderful woman and it wasn’t necessary to go into some tedious rendition of my life’s story in order to say so, especially when the people in the room could see it with their own eyes. Brevity is a virtue, even moreso in the verbal forum, than it is on a blog…because in the verbal forum, the audience is captive.

It would be nice to have a president who understands such things. I’m looking forward to it someday. Meantime, I’m truly sorry if I actually upset anyone. But I suspect the shock-n-outrage wasn’t very genuine…hope not, anyway.

Update: Looks like someone else has formed a different, more positive opinion about the President’s unique speech-giving style. If, uh, I’m reading this right.

A Wife, Because Beer is Heavy

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

Memo For File CLXXVI

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

We’re down to just a few absolutely-must-do things today, one of which is to memorize the wedding vows. Uh, the ones I wrote myself. Yeah. Probably better get that done.

There’s a phrase in there about my bride-to-be’s “positive energy.” This may perhaps get into things that ought not be part of a wedding ceremony, since it’s nit-picky and overly-philosophical. But eventually I decided, if everyone else gets to talk about life and how to live it, and the way it all works, then so do I. Besides, that’s the whole point. “Life and how it works” is the primary skeletal structure of a wedding. We are accustomed to the tears and the rice and the flowers and the satins and the bow ties taking center stage, because their whole purpose is to grab attention and that is their nature, but I’ve noticed we forget that these things are just fleshy tendril bits of the organism, little more than mere decoration. The whole point to attending the wedding is to commemorate an event, and the event has to do with life and the way it works.

And if the bride didn’t have bundles and bundles of positive energy, we wouldn’t be there. The groom still has to say yes for it to take place. This one’s been saying no for a long, long time.

Now, about that. I’ve written in many places over the years, on my way to making some other point, that our efforts may be concerned with creation, preservation or destruction, and it is important to know which one’s being done when one contributes to the design, or the effort, of an idea. When a person exerts effort to further some ambition while maintaining a confusion about whether that ambition is destructive or creative, that person is saddled with a special kind of wrong-ness. This is one of those points about the nature of truth, and our living of life within it, that seems so self-evident that it’s a bit silly to go taking the time to point it out, but point it out we must, for it is forgotten quickly and frequently. I’m sure if you were to go looking for examples of this point I’ve been making, catalog and classify all these instances, you’d find most of the time I’m talking about our friends the modern liberals for this is their perpetual state: Engage some long-running, self-energizing effort to destroy some certain thing, and pretend they’re building something.

As He Really IsHow does one become confused about such a thing? The answer is that human effort is, or at least can often be, inherently confusing. There are entirely legitimate pursuits that consist of an effort to do something to one thing in order to bring about some situation which is necessary for some entirely different thing to be done to some other thing. Think, for example, about destroying one thing so that some other thing can be preserved. Our military does that all day and every day. They destroy for a living, but they are not, by nature, a destructive force. There is a complexity to their mission. The liberals with their simplistic revulsion against icky guns may deny it, but this layer of complexity is key to the defense mission and it is present in all sorts of other human pursuits. We preserve things to destroy other things, we destroy things so that other things may be created, we create things so something can be preserved, we destroy one thing to create another, we create to destroy, et al. Destructive tasks are begun and finished so that something else can be created or preserved, pretty much all the time, so simply acting to destroy something does not necessarily make one into a primarily destructive agent.

But it does create a temptation to go down that path. “In order to build X, we are going to have to destroy Y.” It isn’t long before X is entirely out of the picture. “Bob keeps me from doing my job so I can’t do my job unless Bob is fired.” Pretty soon, you’re not driving off to work every day to do your job, you’re going there every day to get Bob fired. This is sleek, sexy, seductive…stultifying. It warps the human imagination, drive and enthusiasm, darkens our souls, and it is easy to forget how quickly and effectively the anesthetic works.

Conservatives dance on the edge of such a precipice when they talk about getting rid of Barack Obama: “In order for America to succeed, we have to get Obama out of there.” Now that this isn’t very likely, people need to come to grips with their own true nature. The positive-force types have said to themselves “We are going to have to find a way for America to succeed, in spite of Obama.” Whereas the negative-force types will have to reshape their ambition to be one of “We are going to have to find a way to get rid of Obama, without an election” and begun talk of impeachment. The left-wing counterpart to this, of course, is the climate change “movement” which is supposed to have something to do with “science,” although nobody who pays attention to it really thinks so. (A “movement” within science? Is that allowed?) Global warming…climate change…what is it all about? It is about this in-order-to complexity of mission: “In order for the environment/planet to thrive or endure” — preservation — “American business has to be destroyed” — or diminished, which involves destruction. There. I have enumerated the primary colors of this global warming “movement” and described exactly how they blend together.

And, the people pushing it have ascended to their own special plateau of wrong-ness, for they mistake their own endeavor. They think they are trying to preserve something, when the destructive energies have completely taken them over. How many of these global-warming people drive vehicles big enough to tow a boat up to Folsom Lake, and launch it there, in order to scoot off to work in an office cubicle somewhere? They don’t give a tinker’s damn about carbon emissions. Oh, I know they’re not all like that, there’s that Ed Begley Jr. looking hippie-dude I met down at the recycling machine when I took the beer bottles in for proper, earth-friendly disposal. But overall, the climate change “movement” is heavily populated with a bunch of hypocrites who fail to live the humble lifestyle, and what’s much worse I think, is that those non-hypocritical enthusiasts who do live the proper lifestyle, are apparently entirely unconcerned with their compatriots who are hypocritical and do not. This effort is not about that. It isn’t preservative, it is destructive. Its whole point is one of destruction.

So on this day when I’m getting married, my thoughts naturally turn to alliances. I’m seeing one of the most enduring classifications of human tragedy, is this type of story that begins with an alliance between the destructive and the ignorant. And that’s what my divorced-guy’s-vow has become over the years. Oh yes, divorced guys have vows, you didn’t know that? Yup, show me a thousand divorced guys, I can show you a thousand vows. The vows all begin the same way, as the ink is drying on the dissolution order: “I”m never getting married again.” Some of those don’t change, most gradually reshape into “I’m never getting married again until…” Or “The next woman I marry, if there is one, will…”

And my divorced-guy vow reshaped into “I’m never getting married again until the institution of marriage pulls its head out of its ass.” Which, truth be told, against all odds could be said to have happened. Last time I was married, marriages were about “The man worries about the bills being paid and the checking account not being overdrawn, and the woman worries about being maintained in the lifestyle and manner to which she has become accustomed.” The people who (somehow) made their marriages happy and long-lasting, in a cruel irony, were blissfully unaware of all this, with the divorced-dudes being the only ones who were keenly aware of it. But those were the rules. “She bounces checks, so your finances will always be a disaster, and when you married her you said that was perfectly alright so shut up.” Now that Bill Clinton has entirely obliterated whatever credibility the third-wave feminist movement had, this has softened somewhat and womens-equality has come to embrace, or at least tolerate, a sincerity and a realism that were missing from it before. We can go ahead and push for women to have equal responsibilities to go with their equal rights. As a package deal. This is somewhat new.

My divorced-guy vow then morphed into a more humble turn, to “I’m never getting married until I stop being foolish and ignorant.” Well, that’s probably not going to happen. I’m no different from any other mortal, therefore I know barely one percent about anything. But this has softened into “I’m never getting married until I find a way to let go of that special ignorance.” And see above. The special ignorance of forgetting about one’s own efforts: What am I trying to do? Create something? Preserve something? Destroy something? I made reference to the “type of story that begins with an alliance between the destructive and the ignorant” — my earlier marriage, along with many of my more foolish pursuits in years gone by, these are all part of that. I imagine I’ll be snookered again in some other things I’ll be doing, since we are not perfect and unfortunately, neither am I. But the vow was that should there ever be a second marriage, then it, at the very least, would not be part of that. That is the final shape and form of this divorced-guy’s-vow, and it’s been met. That is why there will be a wedding tonight.

Destructive and IgnorantYou ever stop to think about how life would change, if these destructive types…these lost souls, these fallen angels, the “I’m destroying something to build something else, but I can’t quite recall at the moment what it is I’m trying to build” types…could somehow be kept from entering into these unholy alliances with the people who are like I was all those years ago, the foolish types, the stupid types, the ones lacking the wisdom and experience to perceive things as they are? What if we could somehow drive a wedge between the destructive and the ignorant. Drive them apart and keep them from ever unifying again, maybe cloak them in some chemical or hormone, like a birth control that keeps the sperm from ever meeting with the egg. Imagine such a thing. There would be no liberals, not as we know them now. Marriages like my first one would cease to exist, and with that change, I suppose the bulk of all dysfunctional marriages would cease to exist on the spot, and never exist in the first place. We’d still have feminism I suppose. There is a need for it, or at least, there was. But the feminists would look a lot more like my Mom: Eye on the prize, on equal opportunity and equal treatment, but always ready to study what was being put before her with a scrutinizing eye, ready to say “This is looking more and more like a man-bashing party, and I’m outta here.” Oh, I’m sure we’d still have women who blame men for all their problems in life, but they wouldn’t be able to sucker in new, ignorant, recruits. There, as in other places, that’s where the problem starts. The destructive unify with the ignorant.

No global warming “movement.” No Occupy movement. The cable ratings for The Daily Show would drop off. President Obama’s political existence would have ended the moment He said “I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money.” No United Nations. No socialized medicine. If organized labor could continue onward, it would look very different from the kind we have come to know. The college curricula would be shedding classes left and right, most of the ones whose names end with the word “studies.” We wouldn’t have atheists filing lawsuits to take down Christmas trees and crosses, or at least those lawsuits wouldn’t get very far. No “community organizing.” No “social justice.” Alternative fuels would be developed like any other technology: Tinker with it until you have something practical, but until that day comes, don’t obstruct anything. There would be no ADA abuse, no small businesses being sued or fined into oblivion because the recycling bin was put in the wrong place.

I’m not sure how we do that. I suppose if we want to avoid becoming the self-delusional destructive types, we have to be ready to admit “We can’t find a way to change that, so we’ll have to work at surviving and prospering with the situation as it presently exists,” to adapt to realities. But if so, I think it is still worth acknowledging that this is the source of a disproportionate number of our most vexing problems. The ignorant, “marrying” or at least forming alliances with, the destructive. This seems to be where much of the trouble starts. If we cannot take action upon that, then we should make a note of it at least.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News and Rotten Chestnuts.

Lawmakers, Tremble Before the Wrath of Our Cups

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

Starbucks coffee shops in the Washington, DC area are getting tough:

Chief Executive Howard Schultz is urging workers in Starbucks’ roughly 120 Washington-area shops to write “come together” on customers’ cups on Thursday and Friday, as President Barack Obama and lawmakers return to work and attempt to revive fiscal cliff negotiations that collapsed before the Christmas holiday.

Whether members of Congress actually drink in the message is another matter. While the concentration of Starbucks cafes is high in the vicinity of the White House, it’s relatively low near the U.S. Capitol. Members of the House and Senate enjoy private dining facilities and many of their offices have coffee machines.

Come Together!Starbucks’ cup campaign aims to send a message to sharply divided politicians and serve as a rallying cry for the public in the days leading up to the January 1 deadline to avert harsh across-the-board government spending reductions and tax increases that could send the United States back into recession.

With all due respect to CEO Schultz, this is a boneheaded move on many levels. I can only conclude, most charitably, that the intent is to offer a message to the public and not to Congress. Apart from the “private dining facilities in the capitol” thing, there is the matter of — come together, how, exactly? And then: Don’t we have a problem, in the first place, due to these past successes they’ve enjoyed in coming together? Why would we want more of that?

“Our political system is not functioning in a way that is representative of what the country needs,” [Schultz] said. “This is the one time where politics should be put aside and what we’re witness to is the exact opposite.”
:
“We are facing such dysfunction, irresponsibility and lack of leadership” less than two years after the debt ceiling crisis, Schultz said.

Yes…exactly. Could it not be argued that the central question to all this is one of, are we better off with money being funneled through the government, or kept out of it? And here is all this discontentment with the way Congress handles money, and let’s face facts here, there is nothing new about this at all.

Well, let’s chalk it up as an advertising gimmick. Schultz had ample opportunity to lower himself into the layer of helpful details, and start exploring how these lawmakers should do their coming-together…so did the comment authors under the article. There’s an awful lot of avoidance there, the details being limited to “do their damn jobs” or some such, and I’m assuming this is representative of many of the opinions around the country as a whole. Stop fighting, Congress! Do your jobs! You’re such a disappointment to us and we hate you…now go out there and steal some more money or something.

I can’t help but wonder at the level of cognitive dissonance we’re seeing on display here, of which Schultz is acting either as slick salesman or visible manifestation. How many of my fellow countrymen are so thoroughly disgusted with the way the public sector handles financial debacles like this, and yet see nothing virtuous in any effort to reduce their involvement and influence in our own financial affairs. How many want coffee in their “come together” cups…but, for some reason, have no interest in tea.

Yeah. Got a feeling that Congress is indeed failing to give us what we want or need…but might be succeeding in giving us what we deserve.

Update: Where I find this to be either conceived by, or prepared for the notice of, morons — and my interest of figuring out which of those it is, is at low tide and receding still further — Mickey Kaus thinks it’s creepy (hat tip to Instapundit).

Teh Smugg

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

Six more days until we sail off the fiscal cliff. You might be resting assured that the politicians in Washington are paying attention to the problem, negotiating, doing stuff, et al. But you won’t be very assured after you pay attention to the negotiating, at which time you’ll understand why the problem exists. Everything the guys-in-charge are doing, is a perfect step-by-step guide on how to do things the wrong way.

Here’s a hint: President Obama used His speech at Sen. Daniel Inouye’s funeral, to talk about Himself. Go ahead and give a listen. Holy crap, this is unreal.

It is more than a politician acting like a politician. It might be, as I noted before, an actual mental illness. But beyond even that, it’s easy to forget that what we’re seeing here is an established process for making decisions. We see it in the wake of the Newtown massacre, multiple times a week…

See what I see there? Three things.

1. Absolutely nonsensical conclusion with regard to the right thing to do;
2. Total misunderstanding of the values & motives of those who might have a different opinion (“feel like a real man”);
3. That smile.

And where, pray tell, did I see that smile before. It seems so familiar. Oh yes, now I remember. On Season 10 of South Park…except you’re supposed to have some closed eyes while you’re doing it, as you smell your own farts.

On a related subject, we were wondering over at the Hello Kitty of Blogging what was going on with women nowadays, that it has become unthinkable within a fairly narrow span of time to have the word “obey” in her wedding vows. The answer is, of course, the following: As is the case with all other things, it seems the people who make the most noise have the greatest influence on our evolving customs, even when the things they say are silly and make no sense. Which applies here, because those people take the word “obey” rather literally, and in their zaniness seem to have blundered into a realization way off in the weeds, with the rest of us in tow, that this is something women should never, ever, under any circumstances, ever, do. Unless I suppose it’s someone telling Sarah Palin to shut her mouth and then she “obeys,” that would be perfectly alright, but the rest of the time this should not be happening. No woman should ever do any of that obeying stuff.

Which is, of course, quite different from what the verb would mean, in that context. So these people aren’t even aiming their thoughts in the right direction. They want to do some smugging, by resisting the idea that a woman should ever be subservient…I’m gathering most of the time, that is the intent. But as any man knows who’s ever been unhappily married lately, this all too often translates (with nobody bothering too much to correct course) into an idea that the woman should never agree. If the smug people were still paying attention, it would be pretty easy to show how this doesn’t lead to very good results. After all, hasn’t the pattern become rather well-worn by now? The woman shouldn’t be subservient…therefore she should be showing her independence all of the time, in a lot of cases this translates to disagreeing, about everything, constantly. One day, she wakes up and realizes she is “unfulfilled” and this somehow becomes the husband’s problem, and he has to lose half his stuff. So this doesn’t produce good results.

But keeping your eyes closed is an important part of being smug.

Anyway, I said something in that thread that is probably better situated over here…

Trouble with women is that women are people, and as you go through the list of what’s wrong with the modern woman, a lot of it has to do with what’s wrong with modern people. Prof. Sowell put together a comment over the holiday which fortunately went viral, and it deserved to: He said that today’s so-called “intellectuals” were generally deteriorating everything, by incrementally replacing “what works with what sounds good.”

That’s exactly what’s wrong with liberals…AND women. And no small number of men. They come up with half-baked, silly answers to things, that once put into effect do *not* make anything better, but enable the person spewing them to sit, smile, and act smug. Lately that’s where all-to-most of the energy is going, for some reason.

Yeah, we just got done linking to the Professor’s remarks yesterday. His exact words are:

The more I study the history of intellectuals, the more they seem like a wrecking crew, dismantling civilization bit by bit — replacing what works with what sounds good.

Yeah, this is how we’re saying goodbye to 2012. We’re enshrouded in a thick layer of Smug, people are running around adding to the gaseous covering everywhere you turn, but the atmospheric pollution is only the beginning of the problem. There are still the effects of unwise decision-making, waiting to confront us at the least opportune time. Global warming, climate change, whatever, that political movement is merely a subset of this. It is the golden age of the intellectual, defined by Tom Wolfe as “a person knowledgeable in one field who speaks out only in others.”

In that sense, anybody can be an intellectual. Just know something about one thing, which really isn’t a challenging bar to surpass at all; be loud and opinionated about one-to-several other things; and, lack the common sense and good judgment necessary to realize you’ve strayed outside the periphery of your knowledge domain. And a built-in bias toward nonsensical statements helps too. Presto, we all can be intellectuals. And this is our time.

We suffer and suffer some more, because the decisions we make are bad ones. So don’t forget to smile and close your eyes when you talk, and take some time to smell your own farts.

LBJ

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

The biography of our 36th president hasn’t got a lot to do with Christmas, but I suppose the coincidence does. We were just watching the biopic on Sunday night because it had been sitting in our Netflix Instant queue for, oh, the better part of the year maybe. It was enjoyable and we ended up wishing we’d clicked the button a lot earlier. However, it got a little vomit-inducing some two-thirds of the way through when, after having spent all that footage and all that shared audience adrenaline carefully piecing together a character who was a perfect bully, using his 6’4″ height and his posturing and grandstanding to win every argument that came along, screwing around on his wife as if philandering was some kind of a spectator sport, suddenly when the time came to push the Civil Rights Act through this character had a sense of right-and-wrong. Once again, we find ourselves trying to make sense of, not quite so much the primary subject matter which is Lyndon Baines Johnson’s thoughts and conscience, but how liberals think.

This isn’t Han Solo spending most of the movie thinking about his reward, and then suddenly seeing the bigger picture after Luke Skywalker yells at him and, as a result of this high-drama epiphany, looping the Millennium Falcon around and helping to attack the Death Star. It is as if the guy who was producing the 81st minute of the movie simply didn’t talk to the guy who had produced minutes #1 through #80. There is no meaningful event taking place that could have reformed the character. It’s like the movie is about two different people. And so, again, we see it is inference formed by fiat as opposed to rational thinking and common sense: You SHALL not think that LBJ was acting out of self-interest, you SHALL not think that LBJ was acting out of self-interest, you SHALL not think that LBJ was acting out of self-interest…

Anyway. It was made in 1987. Randy Quaid did a terrific job, and it’s a bit unfair that today he’s mostly known for National Lampoon Vacation movies. You should see it.

Christmas Morning, a mere 36 hours later, I’m given cause to think back on this because of Thomas Sowell’s latest Random Thoughts on the Passing Scene.

The first two, specifically…

When I was growing up, an older member of the family used to say, “What you don’t know would make a big book.” Now that I am an older member of the family, I would say to anyone, “What you don’t know would fill more books than the Encyclopedia Britannica.” At least half of our society’s troubles come from know-it-alls, in a world where nobody knows even 10 percent of all.

Some people seem to think that, if life is not fair, then the answer is to turn more of the nation’s resources over to politicians — who will, of course, then spend these resources in ways that increase the politicians’ chances of getting reelected.

The next two are good, as well.

The annual outbursts of intolerance toward any display of traditional Christmas scenes, or even daring to call a Christmas tree by its name, show that today’s liberals are by no means liberal. Behind the mist of their lofty words, the totalitarian mindset shows through.

If you don’t want to have a gun in your home or in your school, that’s your choice. But don’t be such a damn fool as to advertise to the whole world that you are in “a gun-free environment” where you are a helpless target for any homicidal fiend who is armed. Is it worth a human life to be a politically correct moral exhibitionist?

To all the time and effort I’ve spent over the years trying to figure out liberals, I have to add the time and effort and frustration I wasted in the years prior, entirely failing to realize how they were changing the world in which we’ve all been trying to function while, outside of autumns in even-numbered years, they remained essentially unwatched. Someday I should put together at least some master outline of what I’ve managed to learn, even if it is, to recall Prof. Sowell’s first Random Thought, less than ten percent of it all. And my intuition tells me such an outline should be vaporous and pliable enough so that it could serve as the beginning of either a book manuscript or a college class syllabus.

But either way, up near the top of it would be the split. Liberals aren’t liberals. Their class is necessarily divided into two hemispheres, both equally important, one enjoying the much larger share of influence and the other enjoying the much larger share of mass. The elites who possess the influence also possess a far superior understanding of the ultimate disastrous effect of liberal policy. In other words, they know that taking guns off the street does not make innocent people safer, and they know that offering special privileges to minority groups in hiring, contracting and college enrollment does not have a healing effect on racial, gender, and sex-preference divisions. They understand these policies do not do what they are supposed to do, and they even understand the entirely legitimate claims that the policies may in fact be achieving the reverse.

They don’t give a fig. They couldn’t care less.

The commoners, on the other hand, not only think that passage of the latest “landmark legislation” is all that is needed to achieve perfection and finally ascend to that plateau of Nirvana, but that if you argue or question the idea then you must be the stupid one. They are therefore constantly arguing for policies sure to produce disaster, deluding themselves into thinking the opposite, and in doing so making fools of themselves — again deluding themselves into thinking the opposite, that the subtle “nuanced” sense of irony makes them look like little smarty-pants or something. So they’re headed 180 degrees opposite from where they think, twice in a row, and all of the time. It isn’t that they really are that dumb; if they were, they wouldn’t be able to get dressed in the morning and go walking around. The problem is that they just don’t pay attention. They want to go in to the voting booth, poke the right chad, and have everything come out alright. They think the process is just like watching teevee, except the screen is a bit bigger and there are a bunch of other people fighting over the remote. Therefore, if it doesn’t go their way, or if it doesn’t go well, it is of no more consequence than last night’s round of channel-surfing failing to yield the proper satisfaction.

And that doesn’t bother them, they’d admit, if they were honest about it. What does a bad Tuesday night of surfing matter on Wednesday morning? Next to nothing, right? You need to have a few hundred of them, perhaps years’ worth, stacked up on top of each other before you even reconsider your cable subscription.

And so there are the apathetic, who know the policies are bad and don’t care, and the ignorant, who might care that the policies are bad if only they could be bothered to pay attention, but they can’t be, so they don’t know any better.

Perhaps it’s not fair for me to judge LBJ when I was just being born at the time. But I’ve managed to read a fair bit about him, and meet more than my share of people who are woven out of the same cloth. Not a very complicated story here at all, by my reckoning. These are the apathetic types; they end up running everything because the people around them want to give them whatever it is they desire. And they desire the feeling of running everything. They are doing what comes naturally to them — it is really the rest of us who are behaving strangely. The LBJ personality would be just as happy in some virtual reality, greedy fingers dancing over buttons and levers that are actually connected to nothing, slamming that “Aren’t I doing wonderful things” drug into the main vein 24 hours a day. With no actual effect outside of that VR playsuit-and-bubble, none at all. That would suit them just fine, because they live in a world in which “effect” is a non-concept, as relevant as sound in the vacuum of outer space. There is only intent. Effect equals intent. Wouldn’t know an unintended consequence if it bit ‘em in the nose. And probably wouldn’t be able to find more than fifteen of the United States on a map, with the labels covered up…but wanting to run everything, anyway, because they like that feeling.

We don’t have too many presidents like this before 1932. Throughout much of the nineteenth century, apart from Lincoln, it’s hard for most people to even remember any of the names let alone dates and/or major accomplishments. There’s a reason for that. Presidents back in those days just didn’t have a lot of power compared to today. Mass communication has brought us to an era in which we just want to channel-surf the one most impressive guy into the one loftiest office, leave it to him to manage all the details, and the rest of us will just go about our lives confident that it’ll all work out right. But of course, in President Obama we see that this Most Impressive Guy doesn’t concern Himself with details any more than any of the silly twits who voted for Him, so it all turns to muck, and then He just uses His impressive talents to blame the opposition…

The way it used to work, had something to do with this little thing called Separation of Powers. It worked reasonably well back in the day. And not because any one guy was managing all of the details. Recall what the Professor said, about knowing less than ten percent. That’s never changed, across the generations. Our misguided faith is what has changed.

King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Hallelujah

Monday, December 24th, 2012

Why Notable Liberal Women Wear Awkward Looking Pantsuits ALL the Time

Monday, December 24th, 2012

Gosh, just look at ‘er move. I can see why Prof. Jacobson made this the video of the year.

Of course, that isn’t the entire reason all the famous liberal women are fond of awkward ugly pantsuits. An important part of it, separate and distinct from the much-desired hasty getaway, has to do with this “role modeling” of which now-Sen. Elizabeth Warren evidently has little or no desire to discuss in any meaningful detail: An intentional diminution of femininity.

Zounds. What a fascinating research subject this is — liberals wish to erode femininity, through their ugly looking pantsuits and by various other means, and apparently this objective is merely sub-topical to a much larger objective to erode the gender divide. And that, in turn, would be merely sub-topical to another objective of doing away with definitions altogether, of any kind. There can be no more masculine-feminine just as there can be no more husband-wife, or child-adult, or rich-poor, or ambitious-lazy. From all I’ve been able to observe, left to their own devices and spared any resistance, they would eventually make casualties out of measurable fundamentals, be they relative or be they absolute, like wet-dry, up-down, hot-cold and clean-dirty. This is all just collateral damage, of course, since what they really want to target is just right-wrong.

That, in turn, would meld into another goal they seem to have, which for lack of a better term I suppose I could call the Sheriff Joe Biden Effect: To merely ask yourself “What, exactly, makes Joe Biden a better-than-average prospect for this new national post of chief gun-grabber?” is to alienate yourself from modern liberal thinking, since it makes a pointed inquiry about exceptional attributes manifested at the individual level, just like “What specifically is extraordinary about Hillary Clinton’s qualifications to be Secretary of State?” or “Eric Holder’s qualifications to be Attorney General?” or “Tim Geithner’s qualifications to be Secretary of the Treasury?” or “Elizabeth Warren’s qualifications to be a Senator?” You’ll notice, even though the propaganda is being pushed long and hard that we should think of all these recognizable names as belonging to soooper geniuses who are uniquely qualified to hold those correlating occupations, there has been nothing provided to define them as such.

No, not provided. Not even suggested. This is why I find it so interesting. It’s almost like some instructor in college or in high school — maybe this was part of the school debate team activities? — chose a name out of a big thick phone book at random, a phone book filled only with names of liberals, and then made a task out of presenting this randomly-chosen, decidedly ordinary individual as the best fit for the job. In other words, tasked the class to tell a convincing lie, making the ordinary look exceptional. But it’s like this with everything, you’ll notice.

This is not reflected on the conservative side. That is not the same as saying the definitions never fail over there. A great example of what I’m talking about is: John McCain is a “great American” who is uniquely qualified to be president. Of this, many among us are rightfully suspicious. His conservative credentials, outside of the abortion issue, are wavering and ripe for challenge. But — at least the argument can be presented: John McCain served, was present at the Forrestal fire, got captured by the Viet Cong, was held for five years, it had such-and-such an effect on him, so-and-so has such-and-such a thing to say about it…these are conclusions to be drawn from hard facts. They are definable reasons why a rational person might think of McCain as an exceptional person. Lots of conservatives disagree, but that’s a different issue. At least it’s definable. And the same is true of Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney, and Paul Ryan, all of whom have failed to capture the enthusiasm of lots of self-identifying conservatives. But, in each of those cases, what makes these people unique and exceptional can at least be defined. Love Mitt Romney, hate Mitt Romney, anywhere in between — you would be very hard-pressed to find someone, anywhere, who is more like Mitt than Mitt himself.

Liberals are consistently missing this. They could all be interchanged with each other, with minimal disruption to the existing pattern, or no disruption at all. Hillary is just…oh, so blandly, so generally wonderful, in some undistinguished unexceptional way. And they’re all like that. They’re so conditioned to giving orders to each other about what to think about such-and-such a thing, that they have this strong tendency to skirt around the whole “What makes this guy unique?” thing.

If I were ever on that side of the net, I would find it tiring. To the point of migraine-inducing. Oh, lordy lordy, some other glib schmuck in a pantsuit I’m supposed to pretend is the Last Son of Krypton, or is Heir to the Dynasty of Uther Pendragon, or loaded with midi-chlorians or whatever…HERE WE GO AGAIN.

RE the evasiveness about answering such an innocent, non-threatening, softball question. I think John Hawkins scored a bulls-eye on this when he said:

Jacob M’s First Law

Monday, December 24th, 2012

On the one hand, Christmas is a time to forsake politics. We should concentrate on our spirituality.

On the other hand — what is spirituality? What is spiritual health? What is spiritual sickness? Based on all I’ve seen over the last twenty years or so, I see only one valid way left to us to define it: You are spiritually sick if you habitually confuse destructive endeavors with creative/preservative ones, or vice-versa. If you can keep all that stuff straight, you’re healthy, and if you can’t then you’re not. Period.

Necessarily, this viewpoint defeats any effort to separate the spiritual from the political. They are intertwined and inseparable.

So this is worth blogging, even on Christmas Eve Day. It deserves to go viral…which is not something we can do here, but we can certainly do our part to show proper support:

[T]he more liberal our society becomes, the more its problems caused by liberalism are blamed on society’s remaining conservatism.

Hat tip once again to Gerard Van der Leun.

Keep Them Not-Dead

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

Movie rule: If you invest a certain share of suspense in a plot-line which concludes with a certain character not getting killed, or turning out not to be dead, you have to keep that character not-dead.

This was broken in the case of R.E.D., in which (spoilers, highlight to read) Morgan Freeman is ambushed and seemingly cornered, but manages to surprise his assassin and come out on top of things. But later on sacrifices himself so Bruce Willis can escape another impossible cornering situation. And also in Skyfall, when James Bond makes it is personal mission to stop the bad guy from killing his boss, M, who in turn is mortally wounded during the climax, making Bond’s efforts, along with much of the storyline of the movie overall, absolutely pointless.

Does Vito Corleone violate this rule? I would argue not. He survives this assassination attempt fairly early on in the movie, and it’s almost a good two hours later when he really does drop dead. The two events are spaced several years apart, during which time the character does much to alter the cause-and-effect of the story. This one comes down to: People get old, they die, that’s natural.

But a character turning out to be surprisingly not-dead, I would say, ought to have some eventual point to it. If that is not the case, then all the stuff that takes place during the evident death, and the real one, ends up being just a bunch of mind-candy. Guns blazing away and cars blowing up, and of course some tits…these things do have some cultural value. But the story should have real events to it, events that drive a real plot, during which time, situations meaningfully change.

To Confront an Enemy, You Must First Define the Enemy

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

And there is a power-shift taking place here, one which was chiefly responsible for the dismal election results we saw a month and a half ago. Issue after issue after issue, we see those who are progressive in their prejudices, enjoy a certain cultural latitude in defining their enemies, and eschewing those enemies, a latitude that is not equivalently enjoyed by their conservative opposites. Nor by anybody else.

I see it in Piers Morgan’s idiotic comments about the petition to get his smarmy English ass deported…over his other idiotic comments.

I see it in Ed Darrell’s tireless campaign to marginalize everyone who doesn’t agree with him about everything. Yes, you have the “facts” if & only if you agree with Ed. Otherwise you’re ignorant, “anti-intellectual,” and we need not examine what facts you do & do not have, to pronounce you so. Well-informed means agreeing with Mr. Darrell, about all of it, period.

As I’ve observed before about liberalism: The irony of it is, they want to make an egalitarian world, one in which every cog is in place and spinning smoothly, producing effects that are equally beneficial for everybody concerned, in which everybody has a voice. But on the way to that plane of perfection, they are curiously obsessed, at the perceptible expense of the attention they can pay to all other things, with figuring out who should not have a say in how it all works. Show me ten pages written by liberals and I can show you eight or more pages that are nothing more than “so-and-so needs to be shown the door so us smarty-pants types can finish drawing up our plans.” For egalitarians, they are curiously captivated with the idea of the few unilaterally dictating the tastes and obligations of the many.

I think, whenever we discuss public policy — especially public policy that impacts everyone, and especially public policy that is designed to impact everyone — gathering more information about the concerns and sentiments of that “everyone” is a worthy goal. Certainly, it should lose priority on our meeting agenda, trying to figure out what bits of “everyone” should be excluded from the group taking part in making the decisions. I’m hip to the idea that, as various people peel off with their opinions, some of those emerging opinions might be so odious that they might provide an incentive to revisit that. As the saying goes, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter,” sure I get all that.

But liberal arguments…and the timeframe I have in mind for this observation is right now, when they are generally victorious…seem drawn to this like arcs to a lightning rod. We have these elites, who agree with us because they’re smart like us, and then we have commoners who you can tell are too stupid to know what’s good for them, because they fail to agree with us. Or, we have those commoners who are actually elites, because they do know what’s good for them, and they have the nerve to vote against our tax increases. Either way, I notice that in the last few years when liberals have really managed to take the place over, after their long post-Clinton years wandering in the wilderness…they have enjoyed this deciding success while they have been laboring long and hard defining the enemy. No matter what your battle, that is always a first step toward victory. You can’t confront the enemy you do not define.

Also, like gun-hater Mr. Morgan, they have managed to deny this right/privilege/obligation of defining enemies, to their opposition. First amendment! When I piddle on your shoe and tell you it is raining, you are required to believe me. That is the key to their recent success, I think. We get to treat you as an enemy, and work toward your diminished influence, diminished prosperity, diminished prospects for survival. You, on the other hand, can not do the same to us…in fact, you are not even sufficiently privileged to take note of us in any audible way as an inimical force against you, which we most assuredly are.

Out of all the destructive statements we are somehow obliged to avoid viewing in any way as destructive statements, one of my favorites has long been: “These rules are put into effect in order to foster/create a work environment that is safe and non-threatening to everyone…it is also important to keep in mind that in evaluating a gesture or statement as potential sexual harassment, the intent of the person making the gesture is entirely irrelevant, the perception of the offended person decides everything.” Holy shit. Perhaps there is some other written statement, equally concise, that would be more effective in making the work environment threatening. But I honestly cannot think of what that might be. And the double-speak involved in here is something that could only be produced by lawyers looking for ways to produce new revenue. It completely blows my mind, and it’s not just me, all men can see what’s wrong with this, along with not too few common-sense women as well. And yet, the ritual endures…because, and only because, some among us toil under an obligation to avoid acknowledging, let alone defending ourselves from, enemies.

But here is my point: How is it that liberals enjoy this advantage — where they can not only define and confront their political enemies, but make an entire debating science out of it, make that their primary focus in just about everything they say or do. And their enemies, in turn, cannot? In which their political enemies are obliged to engage in this daily passive slow-suicide, obliged to treat their enemies as friends?

Simple. Our “friends” the liberals simply asked for this lopsided and unnatural advantage. And we gave it to them. Now, it’s simply expected. They can define and confront their enemies. They can do it every minute of every day. Even to such an extent that their tired promises of an egalitarian society, not only make zero sense, but are entirely self-contradictory and self-defeating. But nobody else can do this; the rest of us are obliged to pretend our enemies are friends. We are obliged to embrace, to bring closer to the bosom, all sorts of different species and breeds of venomous vipers. That’s just how it works. Piers Morgan certainly thinks so. First Amendment.

Girl, Mirror, Camera

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

Pulchritude.

Click the pic for more. Some may not be considered work safe.

Hat tip to Linkiest.

Want

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012

Call me nuts, but I think American politics go in cycles. Reagan’s victories, coupled with Obama’s, prove this. At the same time, I think there is some legitimacy to the idea that our sense of “right” and “left” drift around across time. Reagan was not about the same issues as Obama; those who seek to confuse and distort argue, and there is a kernel of truth to what they say, that Obama is “conservative” in some things and Reagan was “liberal” in some other things. But philosophically, there is some consistency across the decades and it is clear to me that our prevailing culture is picking one thing in one time, and another thing in another time.

Some say Mitt Romney lost the election because he came up with a plan to create jobs, and “fifty-one percent of the country said ‘fuck that!’” I think that’s true. Others say Romney lost because he and Paul Ryan were (demonstrably) less inspiring than John McCain and Sarah Palin, and there might have been some anti-Mormon bigotry feeding into it too. I think that is also true. But, in the 1980′s, a Romney/Ryan ticket would’ve fared better.

So if you can stomach just one more comment about what Republicans need to be fixing, this late in the game: I don’t think the country has gone liberal, quite so much as it has gone primal. We’re living in a time in which arguments are won by whoever appeals to base impulses, or demonstrates their own. It is the configuration of the contests, not the ideology of the options presented during those contests. This hurts conservatives because the default configuration is: Liberal says “I want” something-which-should-be-a-right, and the conservative says “All fine and good, but if that becomes a right, then there are consequences…”

People are bored, aggravated, impatient. They don’t want to hear about consequences. They’ve made anti-social behavior into — well, in this day and age that is how you behave properly in a social setting, by being anti-social. You’re supposed to have some other group in your cross-hairs, in order to get along with yet another group.

In this setting, people who say “I want” are generally more impressive. You remember The Hidden? Right before Kyle McLachlan immolated that guy with the flamethrower, the evil alien that lived in people’s bodies made this positive impression on the pool of reporters and spectators by saying “I want to be President.” Up until that point, this was just a calling-card of sorts, how you knew someone had been invaded by the alien — since real people don’t talk that way, of course. Someone would look at a red sports car and say “I want this car” and you knew the alien had taken ‘em over. At this point, it’s more like an ominous foreboding: Everybody loves the driven determined guy, so the evil alien is going to become President because it goes around saying it wants stuff.

Irony is: That’s the typical Hollywood lib’s idea of the eighties. People going around acting all selfish, making a big deal out of wanting to get things for themselves, and the poor proletarians being fooled into thinking this is somehow a good thing. But in reality, outside the Tinseltown fantasy land, that’s a perfect description of the Obama era.

Conservatives have a tough time with this. The very movement is about resisting the temptation to think like a toddler; it is about delayed gratification. Liberals are the child, conservatives are the parent, so the liberals are grabbing for the candies and the conservatives are saying no, we’re eating dinner in a couple hours. Or, we have to check that and pay for it first.

I don’t know if it’s this simple; but it could be. The odds do not favor, but the fact remains we haven’t tested it. When is the last time you’ve heard it stated in these terms?

If some suicidal maniac is picking people off with a pistol so he can go out in a blaze of “glory,” and I’m within that tragic vicinity, ya know what? I want to have a gun. I don’t WANT to be defenseless. Seriously, how do you argue with that? Point is, we can go back & forth all day long about the dead gunman’s motives, or how his mother bought the hardware, whether they were pistols or rifles, or whether the officials at the NRA have character defects or all sorts of other red herrings…but putting yourself in the situation, and asking your audience to put themselves there as well, cuts through all that. You can’t contest this directly. You can’t convincingly say “Oh yeah, well if I was there, then I’d have no problem being unarmed and waiting my turn.” This just steamrolls right over everything. Liberals do that and conservatives don’t.

I don’t WANT to pay for Sandra Fluke’s birth control. See how this works? Liberals accuse conservatives of acting simply out of selfishness. If it were really true, I daresay the liberals wouldn’t be winning all the time.

I don’t WANT to pay more taxes because some complete stranger I’ll never meet, thinks I have too much money.

I WANT to drive a real car, not a “smart car.” I don’t WANT to be a sitting duck in some chassis that’s about the size of my kid’s laundry hamper, and I don’t WANT to be forced to buy such a thing.

I don’t WANT to buy any carbon credits or pay any special carbon tax.

I don’t WANT to be delayed, when I’m driving somewhere, by some “occupy” protest.

I don’t WANT to be forced to join a union.

I WANT to make obscene amounts of money and I don’t WANT anyone else to sit in judgment of it, I WANT to choose my own charities.

I don’t WANT my son to be taught in school that whiteness, straightness, maleness or western-ness are bad things, that he should hide about himself as he goes through life.

I don’t WANT to listen to three hours of liberal talk radio for every three hours of Rush Limbaugh.

I don’t WANT to have to swap out magazines after ten shots.

I WANT to put out Christmas decorations.

I don’t WANT to have to pass a drug test, so I can work and earn money and pay taxes to support welfare people who don’t have to take drug tests.

I don’t WANT to have to live within my means, just to pay taxes to a government that doesn’t have to live within its means.

Conservatives try to avoid arguing this way. They think, because they have been taught, that this is an essential factor in behaving like a grown-up. This is probably true, I’ve been taught the same thing and I believe in it. But the fact is, it’s been put to the test and people aren’t responding to it; they can only muster up enough interest and curiosity to find out about motivations, the more personal the motivation, the more convincing the argument. So the delayed-gratification types end up looking dishonest, even when it’s the other guy who’s obfuscating.

Not sure this would work across the board. But the time’s come to give it a try.

Cross-posted at Rotten Chestnuts and Right Wing News.

The Right to Buy a Nuke

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Frequent commenter here, recently upgraded to fellow-blogger, Cylarz takes to the Calguns.net site to ask an important question, what with this perfect storm going on: The Sandy Hook tragedy recently passed, pressure on to keep things pleasant for the holidays, and anti-gun kooks all over the place using their favorite straw man fallacy. How does one deal with:

“Oh, okay. So does that mean the Second Amendment guarantees my right to a bazooka then? Can I mount artillery on my pickup? Do you really think we have an unfettered right to tanks, jet fighters, and battleships as private citizens?”

I’ve already settled somewhat into my “favorite” ways of dealing with this. One, I absolutely agree with the government’s right to interfere with such things if the artillery, tanks, jet fighters or battleships are stolen. Otherwise, as is the case with all other things, with no laws being broken they can jolly well go back to learning how to live within a budget like the rest of us. Two, in my case I’ve worked closely with the government to implement such restrictions, in the form of security controls on a large network…implementation is important, especially where safety is concerned. No, we don’t want our safety, or that of our kids, to be dependent on such a thing. Devil’s in the details. Three, hard cases make bad law. And four — what other rights can we give up, should we try and find some, to make ourselves more safer? If I can find some statistics that say crime comes disproportionately from single-parent households, maybe we can have the government force single mothers to give up their kids for adoption, or get married within a year?

Four is a good number, but I don’t consider myself well-equipped for such a boxing-in, which does seem to be commonplace right about now. Also, while I am most partial to #4, it has perhaps the lowest potential out of all of them for keeping things civil, since it (deliberately) places a burden on a participant who is in all likelihood unprepared for it.

We can always use more tools.

The simplest is usually the best. “Hmmmmm…artillery on the pickup, a privately owned battleship…when and where did that happen, exactly?”

I particularly liked this one, comment #5.

I typically respond with “If that’s the case the 1st Amendment only applies to quill and ink, printing presses, and town criers.”

The commenter in #12 points to the Supreme Court cases of Heller and McDonald. “When the law is on your side, pound the law,” as the saying goes. Following the McDonald vs. City of Chicago case brings us to one of thirty-three Amici Curiae, submitted by Sens. Hutchinson and Tester and others, which makes several points, including…

Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment states that “[n]o State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” U.S. CONST. amend. XIV, § 1. Section 5 of that same Amendment provides that “Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.” This Court has interpreted the Fourteenth Amendment’s basic guarantee in Section 1 to prevent the individual States from infringing many of the guarantees of liberty found in the Bill of Rights. It is clear from the nature of the right to keep and bear arms and the history of the Fourteenth Amendment that this right likewise applies against the States.

Devil’s Advocate, though: What about the situation in the title of this post? You can go ahead and buy a nuke? Doesn’t government have a role to step in and stop this?

Well, apart from the observation that such a vision is invalid because it relies on untruth, it can lead to lawlessness itself. I was thinking about that fan-made Superman movie from about a year ago, and one thing that impressed me about it — aside from Clark Kent’s new girlfriend being unbelievably annoying — was that I ended up rooting for little “Alex” Luthor. Pay attention to the plot, now…he wants Superman to tell him where the land deeds are, that his father willed to him. Superman refuses because he knows that once this younger Luthor has access to the land that is lawfully his, in every way, the punk kid’s gonna, gasp, build some nuclear power plants there. So we have this evil Superman conspiring to ruin the world by depriving us of the energy we need to go about living our lives, thereby driving up the cost of oil and gas. Boo, hiss. Go Alex Luthor!

The point to be made here is, the vision has been lost somewhat between following the Constitution, and arriving at a good outcome. We imagine a conflict to exist where it doesn’t, necessarily…of course, perhaps it’s just shorter and quicker to connect this “stop him from buying a nuke” reasoning to the invasion of Iraq. Interesting, I think, how some on the left become enthused fans of local sovereignty all of a sudden, when we stop talking about U.S. citizens’ rights, and start talking about foreign nations. Presto change-o, we’re paralyzed from doing anything about Saddam Hussein acquiring a nuke, until such time as it is absolutely proven he was trying to buy Uranium from Africa. And, in response to the obvious question of “can we proceed with the discussion based on the premise that he was, and examine part relevant to our discussion, which is the government’s prerogative to control and restrict the private acquisition of such materials?” — of course that’s an emphatic negative. Prove Saddam was trying to get this stuff or we have nothing to talk about there.

I’m not sure how & why it works differently for our country’s citizens. But, at this point, I have to admit my interest in forming the perfect counter-argument, diminishes somewhat. If the above counterpoints remain unaddressed and the opponent still wants to kick up dust and play the “Can I buy a Howitzer?” game, at this point I’m more inclined to turn Cheesecake Nazi myself. Conversation’s running out of steam. Probably never had any.

After Dagny Crashed

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

So back in October, Atlas Shrugged Part II came out. I said since the very beginning that this is a significant step, since if Part II failed to cross the finish line it would’ve been a simple matter for Part I to pass into history as a cinematic brain fart, but now that the first two installments have become reality, Part III is an inevitability. Time will tell on that; the box office figures are terrible, just awful. But the point remains that there’s a new momentum built up that was not present before.

The producers subtitled the film “The Strike,” which I recognize as the original name of Ayn Rand’s novel. In published book form, Atlas Shrugged is broken into these three parts which already carry their own titles, and they’re named after the fundamental Laws of Thought which are attributed to Aristotle. I wish to inspect more closely here the Law of Thought tied to the third film installment, the one which is not yet made. As anyone who’s seen Part II will understand by now, the story will pick up after Dagny Taggart crashes her airplane and is found to be injured but alive. Who finds her and saves her, and where she is, are two pivotal questions that launch the subsequent events, which in turn explain everything else. And, as anyone who’s read the book will know, it would be a great loss if Part III fails to materialize. That really would make the first two film offerings nothing more than a combined brain fart.

The first two installments, without the third, are nothing. Just like the Laws of Thought represented by those two parts, without the Law of Thought represented by the third, would be completely useless. So let’s look at what Ayn Rand was trying to say here.

Part III of her novel, covering the events after Dagny’s plane crash, is called “A IS A” and it has this connection with the Law of Identity: An object is the same as itself. It is whatever it is. This seems at first to be such a fundamental “law” that it shouldn’t be a law at all. Seems like pure redundancy. Well, we can test that by way of need; just like in municipal codes, it becomes reasonable to entertain the notion “there ought to be a law” if & when we find examples of people violating it, and danger or damage taking place as a result.

It gives me no joy to observe it, but such transgressions are taking place all the time, and the damage is considerable. Not a week goes by when someone with a loud voice, angry keyboard, or overly-enthused cultural or political agenda, entirely forgets that A is A.

On Tuesday blogger friend Rick put up a story about a church in Wisconsin that decided for some inexplicable reason to stop being a church. There follows exactly the sort of damage I’m describing…

A Waunakee church that pushed the concept of “casual worship” to new levels didn’t draw enough interest and has closed.

St. Andrew Lutheran Church, 5757 Emerald Grove Lane, sought to attract people put off by the rituals and trappings of traditional worship services. Parishioners ripped out the church’s pews, pulpit and communion rail four years ago and installed coffeehouse tables, easy chairs and a cappuccino machine.
:
The church motto was, “Casual about church, serious about God.”

When I interviewed [Rev. Randy] Hunter and other church officials four years ago, there was much excitement about the new concept but also a realization that it was something of a gamble. The concept was intended to woo “the unchurched,” as opposed to poaching members from other Waunakee churches. That turned out to be a hard demographic to attract, Hunter said.

I appreciate Rev. Hunter’s positive attitude, but there was no call for surprise here. As I summed it up over at the Hello Kitty of Blogging:

Aristotle’s law of identity: A thing is whatever it is.

Freeberg’s law of Aristotle’s law of identity: A thing does not become more popular through its attempts to pretend to be something it isn’t.

Things become a bit clearer in this case if we elevate our simplistic thinking from the object-identification, to the next more complicated level and start thinking about missions and objectives. What was the goal here? To reach the “unchurched.” Well, I should point out by way of full disclosure that this would include me. In my case, the things that turn me off about church service are not avoided or obviated in any way, by new creature comforts like easy chairs or fancy coffee. Worship is a thought exercise, and some of us do our better thinking alone.

Now, to whatever extent this concern manages to speak for anybody else, and I’m going to take it as a given that I’m not likely to be an isolated case here, we can see what a “fail” this was in terms of outreach. Pointlessness continued, with a few comfy chairs thrown in? Pass. But, the more fundamental thought infraction — a church trying to draw in new members by pretending not to be a church. Freeberg’s law of Aristotle’s law of identity.

BottomlessAbout that: There are more examples. The gunman who tore in to Sandy Hook Elementary School with his bullets, horrifying the country…obviously, this is not productive behavior to say the least, and it is abundantly clear he did not see the school, and the children in it, the way the rest of us do. Perhaps he didn’t see the children as children. It’s too late to ask him about any of it. So a saddened nation is left without any answers, just lots of clean-up and grief. I see this kind of tragedy as the ultimate stopping point of law-of-identity infraction, of pretending A is not A.

One of the leftward-leaning bloggers to whom I subscribe, is fond of arguing for action to fight global climate change in these terms: It is the deniers and skeptics, or whatever you prefer to call people like myself who are opposed to such action, who seek to conduct a reckless “experiment” on the Earth’s climate by allowing it to continue heating up, and seeing what happens. On the other side of the net, those who push for these new United Nations initiatives, the carbon offset vouchers, exchanges, special taxes, and conferences in Bali or wherever — they are not agitating for some harebrained experiment, but quite to the contrary, trying to opt out of one. Proceeding from that completely-flipped-around premise and set of understandings, he then proceeds to make the insane look sane, and clearly relishes his ample cumulative talents in doing so. I haven’t found this to be too persuasive, because whether he realizes it or not, the point he seeks to make is “I look like I’m right, when we agree to pretend things are not what they really are.” It may therefore be reasonably inferred that: This is what is required. Okay, so noted.

Republicans are being pressured to do all of the compromising on this “fiscal cliff” nonsense. The polls say that is what should happen, and they can’t be wrong, can they? So this is just more of the same: Republicans should not be Republicans; this will spare them from some of the public anger, sort of dig them out of that little hole they’re in, make them more popular. Freeberg’s Law begs to differ. A spending problem is suddenly not a spending problem, it’s a “revenue” problem. Higher taxes will, therefore, fix everything. Eh, I don’t think so.

This one is particularly entertaining: “‘Right to Work’ Isn’t a Civil Right. But Unionizing Should Be.” Oh, my. We finally have an answer to that question, “How do you put out some talking points, that you’re fighting for the ‘rights of the working man’ when you’re actually trying to obstruct those rights?” And here is your answer: Progressives have lately discovered the deleterious effects of freeloading, and they are opposed to freeloaders. And that is the argument. The collective bargaining is a necessity that costs money, and when the workers vote against unionization they still benefit from it, without paying in to the system. And if there’s one thing we can’t have in this country, it’s people drawing a benefit from a system without paying in to it, giggle snort.

So, to protect your rights, we have to force you to do things. A is not A.

Feminine fashion accessories for men, and “meggings”: More of the same. Men are not men. Aristotle’s law tells us this is wrong, of course, but more importantly than that, Freeberg’s law says this isn’t gonna catch on. Hope that’s right, but I have my doubts. This thing about getting men to wear dresses has been burning away at the periphery for awhile now, and I’m seeing more and more examples of it.

This is not right. This is not good. There’s no reason for a man to wear a skirt, unless it’s a kilt worn as part of a costume or ceremonial dress of some kind. As a fashion accessory, it just isn’t fitting, nobody really wants to see this. It is an abomination, because it founded on an exercise in pretending something is other than what it really is. I realize that it has its enthusiasts; that is a big part of the problem, you have to have some pre-existing emotional bias to conclude anything positive about it. Furthermore, these seem overall to be the same people who are crusading for women, the beautiful and the otherwise, to wear pant suits all the time all day every day. And if such a link is there, ponder the implications. Men looking like women, and women not looking like women. I can’t see such a thing as anything but a cultural attack upon the Law of Identity.

Here & there I have made occasional reference to decision processes that are mistaken, that may produce a correct or beneficial outcome with less frequency than another process confronting the same range of options, but driven purely by random chance — producing a good answer less often than a Magic-Eight ball, I’ve said sometimes, or a monkey throwing darts at a spinning wheel. More than once I’ve thought, I should come up with a word to describe this encumbrance upon our ways of noodling out basic problems and making basic decisions, like “subrandom” or something similar to that. With all the formal study and exploration into probability theory, it boggles my mind that such a word would be needed. Well, let’s see: We have the sub, in which the decider, consciously or otherwise, is repelled away from what is obviously the correct decision…for example, by some desire to appear part of an intelligent elite, sort of an “If Sarah Palin isn’t wrong then I don’t wanna be right” kind of a thing. Two and two may make just about anything, we’ll ponder that awhile, but first & foremost we must rule out four. And then we would have the equal-to-random, in which the decider is not so repelled from the obviously correct answer, so much as engaging in a thought process that has no chance of arriving at this answer except by luck, because some critical error was made right out of the gate and all the thinking that takes place subsequently is nothing better than gibberish. Like, computing Pi out to a hundred digits, with a day spent on each digit, but you screwed the pooch when you calculated, say, the eighth or ninth one. Well, this is a quotient reached by long division; it is a linear process that works like a Jenga tower, with each element completely dependent on the one that came prior, you can’t count on the tenth digit being right if you didn’t get all the previous ones right. That’s how decision-making works, it’s a linear process.

Magic 8Violations against the Law of Identity are both sub-random and equi-random, that is the take-away from all that. They are equi-random because you can’t competently evaluate what to do with, or to, some thing without recognizing what the thing is; it’s like calculating the tenth digit of a quotient when you’ve bolluxed the ninth. The identity of the objects, is like the very first digit. And they are sub-random because, once some ego energy is invested in the idea that a thing is something different from what it really is, that same energy will likewise be invested in arriving at some remarkable and exotic — wrong — ultimate conclusion. Say again, “If Palin’s not wrong then I don’t wanna be right.” That leads to nonsensical, almost deliberately-wrong things like we have to spend money to keep from going bankrupt.

So I do hope the third part of Atlas Shrugged gets made. As far as the story Ms. Rand was trying to tell, this is what ties it all together, clarifying what exactly all the fuss has been about. Without that, the first two amount to just so much libertarian grumbling. But the Law of Thought it represents, is my favorite out of the three. It is most important, it lays down the ground rules. People who fail to follow it, fail to arrive at correct decisions. And people who sell bad decisions for a living, have a tendency to kick off their efforts at swindling and bamboozling by way of corrupting this Law of Identity, presenting objects in the decision process as something other than what they really are.

There’s quite a bit of this going on, lately, and it should bother people a lot more than it seems to.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News and Rotten Chestnuts.

The Sandy Hook Shooting

Saturday, December 15th, 2012

That’s just awful.

The news is everywhere, and it isn’t my job to go repeating it so I shall not. But the calls for gun control, while they shouldn’t surprise me in the least at this point, make a deep, lasting and somewhat jarring impression. Not a positive one by any means.

Just another reminder, as if one were needed, that my fellow citizens cannot be relied-upon to think clearly.

The shooting deaths in Newtown, Conn., reignited the long-simmering debate over the place of firearms in American society, with gun control advocates and political leaders calling for open discussion of solutions to random gun violence but stopping short of calls for sweeping new legislation.

“I hope and trust that in the next session of Congress there will be sustained and thoughtful debate about America’s gun culture and our responsibility to prevent more loss of life,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., author of the 1994 assault weapons ban, which lapsed in 2004.

President Obama brushed away tears as he offered condolences to the families of the 26 victims, 20 of them children.

“We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics,” the president said.
:
“We’re a better country than this,” said Brian Malte, the Brady campaign’s director of network mobilization. “We’re optimistic that the American people have had enough. We’re optimistic the American public wants to have this conversation, that voices of Americans will be heard throughout the country after what happened today.”

Indeed, within hours of the Newtown shootings, six petitions appeared on the White House’s website calling for the president to address issues related to mass shootings. All the petitions had at least 200 signatures, and one had garnered more than 5,000.
:
The guns recovered at the scene, two pistols and a semi-automatic rifle, are the types that have become standard weapons of recent mass-shooting incidents. The two pistols, a Glock and a Sig Sauer, are popular with law enforcement officers and the military.

The semi-automatic rifle, a variation of the AR-15 (which is itself modeled on the U.S. military’s Vietnam-era standard M-16), is made by Bushmaster in Ilion, N.Y., near Utica. Capable of holding a 30-round magazine, it was the weapon of choice of the D.C. sniper, John Allen Muhammad, who was executed in Virginia for his reign of terror in 2002 in which he killed 10 victims at random along with his young accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo.

Because the Connecticut shooter, Adam Lanza, killed so many people in such a short time, firearms experts wondered whether he used high-capacity magazines — the kind favored by James Holmes at his movie theater shooting spree in Aurora, Colo., last July, which killed 12 and wounded 57.

Yes…for my state’s senior senator, we don’t need to endure a tragedy like this as an excuse to sound the call for more stringent gun control. Simply winning re-election is good enough.

But it is that last part of the story excerpted above, that really makes me shake my head and go “what the?” The death toll is high. That must mean the magazine capacity was also high. Because everybody knows, in the history of shooting sprees, they’re all over when the shooter exhausts his first magazine.

Eh, no, ‘fraid not nanny-staters. High magazine capacity is not what makes a shooting spree go on and on and on like that. It’s that old nobody-shooting-back thing.

I’m reminded of a comment that was left here, over four years ago, after we posted the Chinese fable about the Foolish Old Man Who Moved The Mountains. See, I always took it as an attack on individual achievement — and it is — but there’s a second part to it. This old man is moving two mountains that are blocking his view, with the help of his sons, with buckets. Neighbor says, hey you silly old goat you can’t do that, the mountain’s too big. Old man launches into this speech about his great grandsons and great great grandsons, they’ll keep laboring at this long after the old man is dead, whereas the mountain will not grow. Which has a certain trace element of logic to it, but is whackier than a jitterbug overall…

Well, when the gods or angels or deities or whatever hear of the old man’s pluck, they are so moved that they reach down and move the mountains for him.

The comment, which was eye-opening for me because it dealt with the second half of the story and not the first…is…

The idea of angels taking care of everything for those of the superior heart is a recurrent theme in the novels of one of the most popular liberals of all time – Charles Dickens. It always amused me reading his heroes, how often characters like Oliver Twist, Pip and Esther – those who had the correct conscience – invariably relied on the easy money flowing from wealthy benefactors and inheritances. Somehow he had trouble connecting purity of thought with the practical business of housing and feeding oneself.

You only have to watch a skilled and practiced shooter remove a magazine from an automatic or semi-automatic weapon at the shooting range, and insert a fresh one, to become convinced of what is only obvious: If we seek to abbreviate these shooting sprees, make sure they don’t go on and on with more and more people falling victim, then the answer is to meet force with force, not to limit the capacity of the magazines. It is easy to see why the liberals recoil from that. There is a cultural revulsion against guns, there are many layers to it. Guns change the balance of power by their very nature; they are deadly; you have to have a sense of responsibility at the individual level in order for them to be used safely and reasonably. They are also inherently manly, in the eyes of several among us at least, and I’m picking up that liberals share in this perception and they’re not too fond of it.

But the additional layer of liberal revulsion against more guns, which I think is often overlooked, is the Foolish Old Man thing. The clear and obvious solution is just too sensible.

It is as if our friends, the liberals, are convinced that if only we can conspicuously conjure up, and extol the virtues of, a plan that makes no sense whatsoever, the angels will be touched by our zany approach to basic problem-solving, and they’ll reach down and interfere in some uncharacteristically direct way.

So here we are, those of us who are in the NRA and those who sympathize with the common sense arguments, making the same mistake all over again. We appeal to their emotions, once we see reason has no effect; we say things like “If a bad man is coming after you with an assault rifle and a 30-round clip, would you rather use the law to break his magazine into three 10-round clips, or would you rather grab a pistol to defend yourself?” Well, they’re not interested in any of that. It’s an emotion-based argument but it still relies on common sense. They want something different, something goofy, so the angels will interfere. That’s their true reaction.

Just an Abstraction

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Well, the liberal squishy-Gumby universe has made it into the Urban Dictionary. You’ve heard it before: Morality depends on your worldview, rich/poor is relative, culture, tastes, religion, American exceptionalism, these and many other things are determined by where the observer happens to stand, therefore they aren’t really determined at all.

Well, I’m of the view that they happen to be right on this. I’ve often made the observation that with computer software, the products that are most useful and take on a life of their own, have a few things in common: An input, an output, and most importantly a difference in those two perspectives — the output has to capture the object that was input, verbatim (and some validation might be helpful too), then it has to present it by way of a perspective that, with the product no longer accessible, would be difficult to achieve. Think of CAD, think of spreadsheets making pie charts out of data, think of databases sorting things. One object; a plurality of views of the object, that is the common theme to it all.

So this is an entirely valid, and I would even say commercially useful, point. Nevertheless, the transgression being committed by our friends the libs, is that they make way too much of it. They envision these alternate perspectives to be adding something, when they aren’t designing software or doing anything else that might make use of it. They see the multi-point perspective as an asset, even in situations wherein it is a demonstrable liability. One of the best examples of this is spoken and written language. This is where they pick up the support from those who are not liberals. Who can argue with the benefits of a French, a Spanish, or even a Latin curriculum being added to a high school? These are skills, perhaps marketable skills, and they stimulate thinking. They teach the students to excel. You can learn French in a utilitarian way, so that you can go to France and ask “where is the nearest restroom” with confidence and competence, although the natives will still peg you as an American — and then you can push yourself to go beyond the basics, achieving fluency so you can fool people into thinking le Langue d’Amour is your mother tongue. The teenage years are a good time to be making these decisions, and learning these things.

How about, the details that emerge after the low-information voters have tuned out and gone on to other things? How about a school district with seventy languages in it? The libs still think that’s a swell idea and won’t allow you to say otherwise. But it is, provably, a lousy idea and this is where liberals start to live in a world of their own. Oh yes, the centrists may follow them there, but only under duress, conscious of the possibility of a righteous beat-down should they dare to question the virtues of diversity anywhere & everywhere. But most strong-thinking individuals, in their hearts of hearts, understand the obvious: Language is for communication. Like computer software, to offer us any practical use it must adhere to the formula of one common object, many viewpoints. Communication is an event, before which you and I have different ideas, after which you and I have arrived at a common understanding. If the situation is not being transformed that way then the activity isn’t achieving its purpose.

Centrists and self-identifying conservatives agree with the point made in the paragraph above. Liberals never will. Oh sure they certainly see value in this ritual of synchronizing the viewpoint of the recipient with the viewpoint of the sender; a lot of their so-called “arguments” are that & nothing more. But they’d never in a million years agree that the virtues of communication are limited to that. There is all this diversity to be celebrated. Seventy languages! How wonderful!

I’ve gradually formed an idea about this: There is a detectable pattern in which, if the presentation of an object makes it more difficult and awkward for us to determine any absolutes about the object, liberals are going to not only love that presentation all to pieces, but spend massive amounts of energy pushing for a requirement that everyone perceive the object in that fuzzy, cloudy, definition-less way. I would include gay marriage in this. Sure, it makes it much easier for liberals to win elections, and feel smug about their own ideas about things. Those are the two most popular stimulants to slam into the vein: whipping some Republican ass, and feeling superior to others who have different ideas. But it also effectively diminishes definition. Opposition to gay marriage is a definition, isn’t it? “Marriage is the union between a man and a woman.” Support for gay marriage, on the other hand, is tellingly limited to “not necessarily” — it has no contrary definition to offer by way of rebuttal. As we reach the end of 2012, the gay marriage crusade is essentially a campaign to define marriage as “a union between two humans, never fewer than two and never greater”; but that is for the now, and nobody anywhere is going to describe it that way because it isn’t a goal that has any political value to it, nor is it imbued with any permanence. Two humans? Once all fifty states say okay, is that the end of the tussle? Who thinks so, seriously?

But this is not an anti-gay-marriage post, this is a Rotten Chestnuts post. The rotten chestnut here is “Luke, you’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” There is some legitimacy to this. The error of the liberal mind is in perceiving reality to be wrapped up in the multitude of views rather than in the singular object being so represented.

This is deep and heady stuff, although once the framework is laid down the idea is not really that complicated. Our disagreement here is inextricably intertwined with the very concept of truth: What is it? After we pay just a bit more attention than the low-information “centrist” voter can be bothered to invest, we see once again, frustratingly, the low-information centrists are on the side of the self-identifying conservatives, opposed to the self-identifying liberals, and they just don’t know it. You have this one object and these many views of it; only in the squishy liberal universe is truth defined by the multiple perspectives of viewing, such that there become multiple truths. Centrists are actually on the side of conservatives, in their entirely accurate understanding that there is one truth, and the many perspectives of viewing, while they are different from one another, are merely reflections.

This changes everything. Because there is one and only one absolute truth in the conservative universe, and many reflections of that truth that are different from one another, it becomes possible to infer. This becomes a complex task, a task in which a practitioner can cumulatively build up talent and skill. Contrasted with the liberal/relativist universe, in which talent and skill are built up communicating the perspectives to make them seem compelling and persuasive. Since that is where the esteem is directed in the universe of the dogmatic relativist, liberals are actually correct in their inferences less often than a Magic Eight ball or any other instrument of random chance selection: They are repulsed from the prospect of arriving at sensible solutions, like “Sarah Palin was right when she talked about the Death Panels” or “it is wrong for our government to borrow money in any given fiscal year without some solid and workable plans for paying it back.” So they don’t put much value on quality inferences, their value is placed on quality communication. In the absolutist universe, which is the one in which we’re really living, the inference is everything. It becomes a necessary and important task, just like laundering your clothes or brushing your teeth. No check that, it’s more like getting up out of bed. You cannot competently meet life’s challenges without doing it. You cannot establish and maintain a sustainable and independent lifestyle without doing it. You must infer, properly and constantly. Which bus do I catch to get to work on time. Where do I go shopping for a car. Who do I marry. Would I be a good fit for this job.

It is on this point of “how important is it to competently infer?” that liberals insist on living in a world of their own, away from the self-identifying conservatives and the centrists who unfortunately are duped into voting for them. Since truth is wrapped up in the multiple different views and not in the object itself being represented by these views, absolutely everything is negotiable. They are forever contradicting themselves because of this. It happens anytime an obligation arises, usually of their own invention, for everyone else to “get with the program.” Like for example, the case linked above in which Mayor Heather Fargo’s office tried to get the Armstrong & Getty program regulated out of existence. From all my years of studying liberals, it seems this contradiction is reconciled through time: They are going through a cycle in which all these viewpoints are legitimate, and then there comes some voting/legislating/adjudication event, during which time tyranny-of-majority becomes the order of the day, and all the viewpoints but one become invalidated. That event would be an actual election, unless the most progressive viewpoint fails to carry the day, in which case the election is a travesty that has to be resolved by way of the next election. So they’re forever storming the Bastille. This is their way of acknowledging the Higgs Ratchet effect and exploiting it as fully as they can.

All this is prelude to an encounter my lady-love and I had this weekend as we went shopping for our Christmas tree. We picked a nice petite five-footer out of our local hardware store, and took the tag in to ring it up. The cashier noticed my anti-Obama tee shirt, which is not a terribly good one…it shows a bunch of stick figures chanting “Obama, Obama” as they march off a cliff. I thought it was apropos for what’s going on right now. Well she brought it up because she thought it was a supportive image, so there we were, both caught in this bit of awkwardness because she started a conversation with someone she thought was a fellow Obama-slobbering compatriot.

Then she went into this weird “Well then I won’t get into politics”…and proceeded to do precisely that, essentially just monologuing nervously about her worldview, which is that the corporations are greedy and have all the money they need, and shouldn’t be trying so hard to get more. Money, she said repeatedly more than a couple times, was just pieces of paper…just an abstraction. See, there it is again. It’s like living life in a zombie movie where the zombies can act like real people until it’s time to take a bite out of you — they’re everywhere, you can’t get away from it. As my fiancee pointed out later, that’s a weird thing for a cashier to say, isn’t it? What do cashiers do, they take your money, right?

So here we are, stopping an echo. The pressing question that arises is: How? Cashiers are pretty easy to fire, last I checked. And conservatives, in my world, are conservatives first-and-foremost because they are creative forces, whereas liberals are the destructive and vengeful ones. As easy a comeback as it is to offer “If money is just an abstraction, why do I have to give it to you?” this could easily have led to some unpleasantness that might have been very satisfying for us, but could have been damaging to her. You could make an argument that this would have been her fault, stupid-should-hurt, and all that. Eh. You go down that road without me. Christmas comes first. Everyone who can have a Merry Christmas, as far as I’m concerned, should. Being sent to the unemployment line because you picked political fights with the wrong customer, that wouldn’t go well with the egg nog and the tinsel, right?

As she looked to us to help her reinforce her silly point-of-view, and we struggled for a way to counter her nonsense in some open and welcoming way, wishing the setting was a bit different so we’d have a few more tools at our disposal, I managed to offer this much: Money becomes pretty darn real when you don’t have it and can’t get it. Merry Christmas!

That is not my standard approach, and leaves much unsaid. However, it does follow Phil’s advice about planting the seed, and leaving it to the opposition to do a bit more thinking after you’ve walked out the door. That’s about the best I could do. I was a little bit like a Tyrannosaurus Rex tasked with doing push-ups. Anyway, I don’t like screwing with someone’s livelihood. My standard modus operandi would have been to more directly challenge things, ask some if/then questions that point out that the rickety bad logic of liberalism demands a universe more pliable and compromising than the one in which we really live. Like: If money is meaningless, then how are those among us who have more, deserving of any anger or resentment at all just because they have it? And, from whence arises any imperative to relieve them of it, and get it spread around?

It’s all just an abstraction, right?

What makes liberalism so harmful, is exactly what makes it so hard to engage, to defeat. The predicament that arose when it was easy to stop the ignorant young lady’s echo, but hard to do it without damaging her prospects for hanging on to her job, was not unusual at all. Like a poisonous viper or arachnid making its home under a big rock, it would be easy pickin’s if the big rock wasn’t there. But, then again, if the rock wasn’t there the creature wouldn’t be there either. Today’s liberalism is made possible by these big sheltering dark spaces. It thrives in settings and situations in which a quality disciplined thought process is either impossible or implausible, because it relies on a cosmic order of things that does not and cannot exist in nature.

Cross-posted at Rotten Chestnuts.

Fiscal Cliff

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Okay, so this is pretty interesting. The low-information voter is susceptible to the democrat talking points, almost by way of definition, to the point where they start to sound like they’re just reading the talking points word-for-word while they prattle away about how they “feel” and so forth.

Right up until where you start to talk about raising the debt ceiling, at which time the lights sort of start flickering on.

There’s something going on here that, not only am I not getting it, but as I make an effort to catch on to it I’m going to be among the last ones to do so. The government is deep into the red, so raising taxes on the rich people somehow resonates, but cutting the spending doesn’t resonate and this same crowd is recoiling in a healthy sense of disgust over the idea of raising the debt ceiling. What I get out of that is, people aren’t catching on to what’s happening when the government spends more money…not much more than just that, and that isn’t terribly helpful, in that it’s not something that comes as news.

So what do we make of this. We have three things: Government spending money, government taxing people, government authorizing itself to go into debt a certain amount. Your Low Information Voter, or LIV, doesn’t give a damn about the spending of the money, he’s not too sensitive about government taxing people because the politicians (even Republicans, these days) are doing his bidding and only going after the “rich” taxpayers. But the LIV doesn’t like to see the debt ceiling being raised and raised some more. I think we have a good explanation here of how the fiscal cliff came to be. If the people being interviewed here are representative of the voting public, and this does seem to be the case, the “mandate” seems clear: Spend whatever the hell you like because we don’t care, don’t raise the debt ceiling because that’s horrific & stuff, but don’t tax us, just tax people who make more than we do.

But Bill Whittle has already checked out the math on that…

…and it isn’t pretty.

The problem is well-defined. What to do about it, that’s what isn’t clear.

Although it all does seem to come back to, we can’t continue to accommodate people who want to have an impact on things but don’t really know anything, and can’t come up with any ideas other than channeling their own feelings of inadequacy and jealousy.

Old People Aren’t Wary

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Heard it on the radio, found it here.

Gerontologists and crime experts agree the elderly are more vulnerable to fraud and many have assumed it’s because of diminished brain capacity, as well as because retired people often have more assets and more time on their hands. But new research suggests that older people’s vulnerability might have more to do with the way older brains process visual cues.
:
“You know the ‘uh oh’ sense you get sometimes, the little sense that something is not quite right?” [UCLA Psych. Prof. Shelley] Taylor asks. “It’s not something you can necessarily verbalize. That’s what the older adults aren’t getting.”

Taylor’s team did two studies. In one, they asked 119 people aged 55 to 84 to look at photographs of people’s faces and rate them for trustworthiness, using standard cues that have been well-studied. They asked 24 young adults in their 20s to do the same.
:
The two age groups tended to react the same to the “trustworthy” and neutral faces. But those in the older group were far less likely to agree with the young people on who looked “untrustworthy.”

“They missed facial cues that are pretty easily distinguished,” Taylor said. “Is something going on the brain that would explain this pattern?”

To see, Taylor’s team set up a second study using functional magnetic resonance imaging or fMRI – a way to look at brain activity in real time. They studied 23 older adults aged 55 to 80 and 21 younger adults, with an average age of 33.

“We wanted to find out whether there are differences in how the brain reacts to these faces, and the answer is yes, there are,” Taylor said.

In the younger adults, an area of the brain called the anterior insula was active when they were examining all the faces, but especially when looking at those with expressions or characteristics that people associate with being untrustworthy. This brain region did not activate nearly so much in the older people.

“Their brains are not saying ‘be wary,’ as the brains of the younger adults are,” Taylor said.
:
This sounds familiar to Laura Carstensen, a professor of psychology at Stanford University who specializes in how older people respond to the world. “Older people tend to prefer good over bad,” she agreed.

The differences might not necessarily mean dysfunction, says Carstensen, who was not involved in Taylor’s research. “It’s not about chronological age so much as closeness to death,” she said. All people tend to monitor how much time they have left on this planet, consciously or unconsciously. Younger people with terminal illness often respond the same way older people do, by looking at the bright side of things.

So, to recap: They can see the difference in the way the brain lights up, in younger people, while the subjects are looking at photographs of these shysters and scalawags. The brains of the older people aren’t even lighting up. And if I’m reading this right, the research is suggesting this isn’t necessarily a diminished-brain-capacity thing or a stripped-gears kind of a thing, but more of a perspective thing.

I just can’t see this happening to me. Maybe my mindset is one shared by people who check out earlier than that, and I just won’t make it. Or, maybe I’m a functional outlier, reading studies on the averages that are essentially useless in my case. Either way, there’s a question that naturally sort of pops up, and it’s a bit frustrating that the article doesn’t go into it: What of the factors that one would necessarily expect to be applied in the opposite direction? Limited resources, limited prospects for revenue, fixed income, the fear of outliving one’s solvency. We know, in other situations, those concerns are present and they do have an effect on how the senior set behaves. How come they seem to be taking a holiday, at the brain/synapse level, when the time comes to get swindled?

Barack Obama and Taxes

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

Peter Wehner explores the obsession in Commentary Magazine:

For Obama, the top two percent are the Great White Whale–and he is Captain Ahab.

The question is why. Captain Ahab’s neurotic obsession was understandable (Moby Dick, after all, had destroyed his boat and bit off his leg). So what explains Mr. Obama’s obsession?

ObsessionIt can’t be what he claims, which is improving the economy or reducing the deficit. As Charles Krauthammer pointed out, “the alleged curative effect on debt of Obama’s tax-rate demand — the full rate hike on the ‘rich’ would have reduced the 2012 deficit from $1.10 trillion to $1.02 trillion. That’s a joke, a rounding error.”

So if what is driving Obama isn’t an economic argument, what else might it be? Part of it is, as Krauthammer argues, political. Mr. Obama believes forcing Republicans to agree to raise tax rates on the top bracket will fracture the party. But there may be something else at play as well. Barack Obama is a man of the left, a proud progressive, and what animates the left today isn’t a positive vision to achieve the common good; it’s a seething resentment toward those who are successful and a commitment to make them pay more in the name of “fairness.”

Wehner goes on to make a reference to Obama’s 2008 debate with Hillary Clinton, moderated by Charles Gibson:

GIBSON: All right. You have, however, said you would favor an increase in the capital gains tax. As a matter of fact, you said on CNBC, and I quote, “I certainly would not go above what existed under Bill Clinton,” which was 28 percent. It’s now 15 percent. That’s almost a doubling, if you went to 28 percent.

But actually, Bill Clinton, in 1997, signed legislation that dropped the capital gains tax to 20 percent.

OBAMA: Right.

GIBSON: And George Bush has taken it down to 15 percent.

OBAMA: Right.

GIBSON: And in each instance, when the rate dropped, revenues from the tax increased; the government took in more money. And in the 1980s, when the tax was increased to 28 percent, the revenues went down.

So why raise it at all, especially given the fact that 100 million people in this country own stock and would be affected?

OBAMA: Well, Charlie, what I’ve said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness.

We saw an article today which showed that the top 50 hedge fund managers made $29 billion last year — $29 billion for 50 individuals. And part of what has happened is that those who are able to work the stock market and amass huge fortunes on capital gains are paying a lower tax rate than their secretaries. That’s not fair.

Capital gains, and income for the top two percent…or one percent…the “millionaires and billionaires.” Thar she blows!

Krauthammer, linked above, elaborates:

Obama has never shown interest in genuine debt reduction. He does nothing for two years, then spends the next two ignoring his own debt-reduction commission. In less than four years, he has increased U.S. public debt by a staggering 83 percent. As a percentage of gross domestic product, the real marker of national solvency, it has spiked from 45 percent to 70 percent.

Obama has never once publicly suggested a structural cut in entitlements. On the contrary, he created an entirely new entitlement — Obamacare — that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, will increase spending by $1.7 trillion over 11 years.

Now here’s where the problem gets into public relations. We have a negotiation going on between the Republicans in Congress, and President Obama, the latter of whom is suffering from this weird Ahab obsession and is demonstrably not interested, even a tiny bit, in solving the deficit problem. But what do you get back when you Google “obama obsessed tax rich“? Just as many links back about the Republicans’ obsession with not taxing the rich, and for good measure a righteous mocking by Jon Stewart.

Consider the message from democrats, to which the Republicans seem to be finding themselves unable to prepare a compelling response:

People are suffering, therefore it’s a problem when anybody prospers, so our plan is to make it much more difficult to prosper, and if anyone succeeds in spite of us then we’ll take their money away so they can see what suffering is like. We’ll pretend it’s got something to do with solving the deficit but nobody seriously thinks so, hardly any of us ever say so, we’re just using it as an excuse to grab money. It all works out in the end, trust us because we’re politicians!!

Something like that. Republicans cannot offer a rebuttal that resonates with the public? Uh, really?

So President Obama has this weird Ahab-like obsession, because the political reality is that He is allowed to have it. It isn’t costing Him anything to have it, or not very much anyway. Given that, there’s not much use to exploring how & why He has it; it is what it is. In fact, it could be argued that He was elected and re-elected to be so obsessed, and the white whale is, in fact, His “mandate” of sorts.

But I do think, for the good of the country, everyone should stop pretending President Obama is trying to solve the fiscal cliff problem. He’s not.

Update: There is the other matter (hat tip to Sonic Charmer) to be considered: President Obama doesn’t even seem to be that good at getting the wealth spread around. So there are two issues now: Obama is trying to do the wrong thing, at the expense involved in His neglect toward doing the right thing, and when you get past the fact that He is efforts are badly directed, there are further issues with effectiveness and competence.

Other than those minor problems, He’s doing a bang-up job.

“A Fatal Imaginary Paradox”

Friday, December 7th, 2012

Steven Goddard asks the rhetorical question: How do you get an organism to destroy itself?

Simple – convince it that something essential for its survival is making it sick. A great example of this is bulimia. If an individual believes that food is unhealthy, it eventually will self-destruct and die.

As far as I can tell, that is the fundamental purpose of the global warming movement. Civilization can not exist without an adequate energy supply, and greens are determined to make that impossible. They are determined to introduce a fatal imaginary paradox – which will lead western civilization to self-destruct.

Yes, we’ve been seeing a lot of this lately. Christians need to get-with-the-times, knock it off with those ancient hymns written by dead white guys, let the hippies lead the Sunday services with their tambourines and guitars. Men who are single and trying to find ways to attract women, should stop acting like men; shave the facial hair, speak in a higher voice, get into American Castrati mode. The Republican party, just lately spanked in this year’s elections, should stop acting like Republicans…turn a blind eye to that low-hanging fruit represented by the evangelicals and Tea Party people who couldn’t be bothered to pop a chad for Mitt Romney, and imagine these swelling throngs of butt-hurt hipsters who will surely vote GOP, in droves, with a bit of platform support for gay marriage, amnesty for illegal immigrants, exploding government largess, AND don’t forget the silly but creative new social programs.

And then there is technology. What does America have to do to recapture her competitive edge? More college grads, of course! Acres and acres of college grads, each one clutching a spiffy new roll of sheepskin, with a documented specialty in something absolutely useless that ends with the word “studies.” Pity the poor college student graduating just in time to compete for a limited number of jobs, with swelling throngs of classmates equally indoctrinated with equally smug heads packed full with equally silly things. How I pity them. Maybe if we grind enough of them down we can produce a few joules of energy after the coal & nuclear plants are shut down.

I suppose this is all just a byproduct of mass communication. Think back a century before now, which is just the blink of an eye in human evolution. What was communication? I’ll tell you what it was in 1912: You could have distance, you could have instant access to your audience, you could broadcast to multitudes — pick any two out of those three but you could not have all three. The one exception was a radio signal sent out randomly, like the Titanic’s shout-out for help, but that was nothing more than a scream converted to electronic form. Today, communication is one-way or two-way, we can choose one or the other of these at our leisure; you can broadcast, instantly, to whoever is interested, and you can pick up feedback whether the recipient wants you to or not. You can find out their time zone, their nearest major city, their GPS coordinates. You can get their IP address. You can find the time and date of their “page hit.” You can find out what Google query they used to find your page…and oh, is that not embarrassing and titillating at times. You can sell things across thousands of miles, with confidence, enjoying the benefits of highly advanced peer-reviewed digital signature algorithms. You can do practically anything. You can Facebook. You can open an entry on CraigsList. You can blog. You can tweet. And let’s not forget, of course you can “text.” You can send audio, video-still and video-motion. You can put out a live feed. You can make it look like Hitler is taking his own picture with an iPhone, or your pet “LolCat” is very sorry he made you a cookie and then eated it.

You can change the outcome of elections. Oh, yes, absolutely you can do that.

So I suppose we should not be surprised to see so many people seizing these instant-broadcast-communication technologies, and giving instructions to their enemies about how to, um, er, ah, survive. TO: N. BONAPARTE FROM: LORD WELLINGTON RE: WATERLOO. You really can’t blame them, can you? You can blame the enemies for accepting the advice, and then being surprised to learn it never was in their interests…that does seem pretty stupid. And it is. But the fact is, it works a good portion of the time. “Stick your head in this noose and then jump off the chair, you’ll be amazed at the results.” Derr, duh, um okay.

This is an ironclad rule: If it works, it doesn’t matter if it’s silly or tragic. You will be seeing a whole lot more of it, because hey, it worked. No exceptions. So yes, we have a lot of people talking their enemies into committing suicide, and we shouldn’t be surprised to see it.

Cross-posted at Rotten Chestnuts and Right Wing News.

Michigan Passes Right-to-Work Bills

Friday, December 7th, 2012

We’re seeing some stinky chestnuts popping out of a scuffle over labor laws in Michigan, which is about to become the 24th right-to-work state. Some of the words, phrasing, and even the body-language of those who are involved in the fracas on the organized-labor side, are very telling and very educational.

I was drawn in particular to this one:

“Young people don’t know the history of labor relations,” said Diane Petryk, a union member from Lansing. “They have an eight-hour day, a weekend, vacation and more because of labor unions.

“Their grandparents died on the picket lines in Flint, Detroit and other places so that we could have a middle class.”

Uh, YEAH. About that. Let’s get our hooks into this piece before the savage quicksand of forgotten Google queries and Internet time, swallows it up again. Lacking any good way to excerpt from it, I’ll just grab the whole thing:

Economic Myths: The 5 Day Work Week And The 8 Hour Day

How many times have you been in an economic discussion with someone, discussing the benefits of competition, the power of markets, and the overall benefits of capitalism when someone blurts out that in any competitive system, unions and regulations are necessary, for without them, without their interference, we wouldn’t have a middle class, we wouldn’t have a five day work week or eight hour work days? I hear this all the time, I see it on bumper stickers, and it is so often repeated that I thought I’d blog on it and give the readers of my blog an edge on what really happened, and how to respond if they encounter the same topic.

So, who gave us the 5 day, 8 hours per day, work week? Was it really the unions, was it really higher regulations? No, the historical answer is that it was Heny Ford who gave us the 5 day, 8 hours per day, work week. Ford was tired of continuously losing good employees, he was trying to increase employee retention and at the same time increase profits, so he basically doubled wages and implemented a 5-day work week, and in the process effectively invented the modern weekend. It is Henry Ford who is widely credited with contributing to the creation of a middle class in the United States.

In addition, if you look at why Henry Ford did this, you will see that his reasons had nothing to do with charity, and everything to do with increasing profits and dealing with the forces of competition.

What makes those who believe it was unions look even more ridiculous is the fact that Henry Ford despised unions. The tensions were so strong, that Ford hired a former Navy boxer to help him stop the unions from unionizing Ford Motor Company.

Many of those who hold the view that it was unions – or regulations – who gave us the middle class, often hold outdated fears against ‘unfettered markets’, still repeating the now fully debunked Karl Marx view that capitalism, through competition, will bring exploitation of workers, will be a ‘race to the bottom’, and will eventually, [at least] according to Marx, result in class warfare blah blah blah blah. However, if you come back to the real world, you will see that competition does the exact opposite, it increases the standard of living, it increases working standards, it increases pay, and it is overall the working person’s best weapon, not its enemy. This is why unions and the minimum wage have the opposite result, since by reducing competition they don’t make the working person’s standard of living better; on net balance, they make it worse.

So in conclusion, it wasn’t because of unions or regulations that we have a middle class, it was in spite of them that we do, and the next time you hear otherwise, correct them immediately, the working class will thank you.

This event in Michigan is a worthy thing for us to inspect, when we think about chestnuts that are past their prime. To illustrate why, I would ask the reader to think hard about what a chestnut is: In the final analysis, it is simply a message to be conveyed from those who are personally motivated, toward the low-information voter (or participant in the movement). It is a message from those who understand the deleterious consequences involved in bad left-wing public policy, but don’t give a rat’s ass about it, to those who would be more interested in these consequences but are unaware of them; a message from the apathetic to the ignorant. We see this all the time with organized labor. “Give us what we want, or else you will lose, or fail to gain, X.” It is their default strategy.

In this case, the issue is right to work, which puts them in an awkward fighting stance since the rotten chestnut becomes one of: “You are going to suffer some kind of injury if you have the right to work,” meaning, if you have the option of not paying dues to a union. Which means: You aren’t going to come out of this in one piece unless you are forced to give us money. Okay, so that’s the stanza of every crooked salesman there’s ever been, but still. How do you polish that turd? It’s quite a challenge, and it is only met by way of — spin, spin, and spin away. Lots and lots of idle babbling about nothing, and when that fails, resort to the “it just works out like that because I know something you don’t know” posturing. You young people with your 40 hour work weeks, you don’t understand the history of unions!

Well I agree with them in this much: Yes, we should understand the history of unions better than we do. And as is the case with many other progressive arguments, at core it is quite legitimate: When people share a common interest, it is to their benefit to organize and conduct their negotiations as one, for they gain a lot of power in that configuration that they’re missing otherwise. But when the final history is written on the labor union movement…assuming it is recorded at all in any useful way, which with all these chestnuts flying around today I have to question…this is going to be the jump-the-shark moment where the labor unions lost their usefulness, and it actually took place generations ago. Now that we have all this power to use against the boss, how do we make the most of it, and how do we get more? But the wealth that makes all this labor possible is created only by way of the projects and missions and tasks you manage to complete with the boss. He’s on your side, or to put it more accurately, you’re supposed to be on his. If “work” comes to be nothing more than a daily routine in which the two of you conspire to get more and more things at the expense of one another, it’s an unavoidable consequence that less work is going to get done. To put it another way, the business exists because “collective bargaining” is already taking place, and it’s the bargaining the management does partnered up with the labor, with the customer, who is also not an enemy. Sure, everyone’s got their separate financial interests. That doesn’t automatically make someone an inimical force. If it does, then ultimately no trade is possible, anywhere.

And regrettably, there are some nuggets of observed fact in that labor union history, that suggest rather strongly that at times, that might have been the goal.

Cross-posted at Rotten Chestnuts.

Richard C. Kirkland Interview

Friday, December 7th, 2012


I find these kinds of things interesting, especially after the September 11 attacks and the political division that took place after that. Seventy-one years ago the turn-about was in the opposite direction; I wasn’t there, but Kirkland was, and he’s not the first to note that America had isolationist misgivings about the war that was already going on in Europe. After the attack, like he says “we all just went down and signed up.”

To me, this illustrates the change America has seen since World War II. It’s not a good change; it is an erosion against the healthfully compartmentalized thinking that enables a college kid to say to himself, without anyone lecturing him into it: Well, that’s my country that’s just been attacked, class is over. Nowadays, we seem to be living in opposite-land. Some terrorist attacking our country must be some kind of freedom-fighter, let’s find out what he has to say; those rich people who start businesses that hire people, have to pay enough in taxes that they know how awful the rest of us think they are; that boss guy who tells me what to do all the time is so mean, we need a union to stand up to him and then I’ll just do whatever the union tells me to do; racial discrimination is so awful so we need an institutionalized system of discrimination in the opposite direction, and it should last forever and ever. Legalize pot because government has no business telling people what to put in their bodies, but size restrictions on sodas, “ya know I think that’s actually a good thing.”

What impresses me the most hearing these survivors talk about what went down back then, is I never get the impression they were in too big of a hurry to show off for each other by signing up. Like I said, healthfully compartmentalized thinking. There’s creation and then there’s destruction, there is helping and then there’s hurting. To the last man, they all seem to be going through a thought process of: Attack, response. Simple as that. Like seeing a fire break out in your living room and grabbing the extinguisher, just something that has to be done.

This is where our thinking has gotten muddled. The whole “waitaminnit waitaminnit, before we get to the stuff I’m going to do, what’s that other guy doing, what about equality.” It’s infected our very language. Can’t find occurrences of the word “disproportionate” before sometime in the 1970′s, and since then it’s gotten to the point where I see this concern, if not the actual word, several times monthly: Taxes, work, military service, sacrifice, contracting, promotions, weddings, health benefits — before we worry about the job getting done, we’ve got to start up all these tempests-in-teapots about making things equal-equal-equal.

It’s not an entirely illegitimate concern. But on December 7th, if not some of the other days out of the year, we might do well to spare some thoughts about how people used to be much more concerned about just meeting the goal and getting the work done. They had a sense of focus that we seem to be missing today. America would be much better off if we brought it back, and we’re very fortunate that if such a devastating attack had to happen, that it took place before we’d lost this sense of priority, drive and purpose.

Tax the Rich to Live Happily Ever After

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

But Mr. Grant, Mr. Grant, I’m not clear on something: How do we go about living happily ever after, by taxing the rich? I mean if I’m out of a job, but the potholes are all filled in and the firefighters can get to my house lickety-split when I set it on fire, I’m still out of a job aren’t I?

And how did those rich people get to be rich in the first place? Your cartoon shows one in the “Cayman Islands,” fishing, hauling in bags full of money in lieu of fish. Is it really that simple? Or are they just not paying taxes and that’s how they got rich? You know, we’ve got a lot of poor people not paying any taxes at all; if that’s all it takes, they should be rich, right?

I’m looking forward to seeing this thing torn to shreds over at the new collaborative project we three amigos put together, Phil, Severian and myself. Why, this is just bursting with chestnuts, and every single one of them has turned smelly and bad. Where to begin!

“How Happy?”

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

From our friend in New Mexico.

I Made a New Word LX

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Macrospeak (n.)

First, some background: I’m shamelessly borrowing from Orwell. From the SparkNotes…

Newspeak is engineered to remove even the possibility of rebellious thoughts—the words by which such thoughts might be articulated have been eliminated from the language. Newspeak contains no negative terms. For example, the only way to express the meaning of “bad” is through the word “ungood.” Something extremely bad is called “doubleplus ungood.”

Commenter severian came up with a good recommendation to follow, over at our new collaborative project Rotten Chestnuts:

Hit ‘em where they live.

Liberals are desperate to think of themselves as independent-minded deep thinking nonconformists. That’s why their first reaction to any unexpected stimulus is to run to their blogs and JournoLists, to see what all the other independent-minded deep thinking nonconformists have to say about it (see, for instance, this fascinating article from Mother Jones straight up instructing liberals how to think).

Use that. Mock them mercilessly. “Oh, it’s because I’m a racist, is it? Was it The Nation or Daily Kos who said that?” “Ah, so that’s the newest directive from Democratic Underground, eh?” “Yes, yes, I know — I get email updates from Organizing for America, too.” “Wow, I wonder how many F4 keys the New York Times has worn out with that macro.” &c.

For those who might protest — no, those who are leftward-of-leaning think much more independently than that, and you do not do them justice — right on cue, along comes Sen. Claire McCaskill:

“I feel almost sorry for John Boehner,” McCaskill said. “There is incredible pressure on him from a base of his party that is unreasonable about this. And he’s gotta decide, is his speakership more important, or is the country more important. And in some ways, he has got to deal with this base of the Republican Party, who Grover Norquist represents.”

Yes. It is quite “unreasonable” to question whether our government can spend our money better than we can…at a time when the Secretary of the Treasury is a tax cheat. No way in the world, is it reasonable to question the process in which we all have to skimp and scrimp and save to live within our means, so we can pay taxes to a government that is trying to repeal its own debt limit. That’s just so extreme and stuff.

Macrospeak is, therefore, speech disseminated from a lefty politician or power-broker, for consumption by lefty myrmidons, relying so much on hackneyed focus-group-tested codebook phrases that it veers away from the objective of forming or following any original content.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News and Rotten Chestnuts.

College

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Hat tip to Captain at Small Dead Animals.

Not Giving Up

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Now that we have done a more-or-less decent job listing all the reasons why we might be feeling down-in-the-dumps lately, outside of that election debacle, let’s talk about optimism.

Item!

Facebook friend held in somewhat high regard, former work colleague, and opinionated amateur-pundit curmudgeon who does not identify with any established party (but does seem to fall for just about every line of b.s. the liberals put out) plies me with the Occupy wisdom one more time…character by character copy-paste follows…

i know its a neat dream to think that you might some day be one of those romneys up there making money with vulture capitalism, but the reality is that you wont be.

Yeah, I last heard that many years ago from Tom Leykis back in the mid nineties sometime. He demanded the caller tell him how much money he made per year, as I recall, to which the guy said something like thirty-two? And Leykis followed it up with this bit of “reality”: You will never make more than forty to forty-five, in your LIFE. Ever. Guaranteed.

It struck me as odd, since by the mid-nineties I had already succeeded in doubling my income simply by being promoted to more and more senior and responsible positions. Since then I’ve doubled it again.

I think these people are projecting, really. It’s “a neat dream to think” you can make more money…well…I think “it’s a neat dream” that you’re snagging your hooks into something called “reality” when what you’re really doing is letting go of hope. People who resign themselves from hope, feel this great feverish push to “inspire” others to let go of hope too, and it isn’t hard to see why. They’re like antimatter-cheerleaders or something.

Item!

I have got to get this properly blogged, sometime, somehow, somewhere…right here is as good a place as any.

If the culture of entitlement is illustrated by 47% of the population believing they have a right to live off the country’s teat, then what could be termed a “culture of pseudo-idealism” is the mindset that gets its self-worth from assisting them to do that.

Pseudo-idealism is a term coined by the Australian biologist Jeremy Griffith to describe apparently charitable behavior that on scrutiny is revealed as selfish, because the giver is engaging in it only so that he or she can feel good about him- or herself. It is a characteristic commonly found among the left, and it constitutes what the author Geoffrey Wheatcroft recognized as the left’s inherent dishonesty.

Mmmm, hmmmmm…we’ve noticed this ourselves, and we have called it GoodPerson Fever. But that isn’t all there is to the malady, there is much, much more:

Those suffering from this particular psychosis, then, naturally enough, become preoccupied with seeking relief, in particular through pseudo-idealism or “celebrating” victimhood. Rossiter says, “What the liberal mind is passionate about is a world filled with pity, sorrow, neediness, misfortune, poverty, suspicion, mistrust, anger, exploitation, discrimination, victimization, alienation and injustice.”

Griffith, while presenting an explanation for the human condition which he claims reconciles the differences between left- and right-wing politics at a fundamental biological level, is even more explicit in drawing the connection between dysfunction (what he terms “upset”) and this culture of pseudo-idealism. He says, “With the levels of upset in the world becoming extreme, relief-hunting became a huge industry, to the extent that we became, as sociologist Frank Furedi recognized, ‘a society that celebrates victimhood rather than heroism.’”

Answering the idea that pseudo-idealists are just trying to make a better world, Griffith says bluntly, “What rubbish — it’s a selfish attempt to gain relief from the agony of the human condition!”
:
The challenge is to understand this impulse well enough to resist it; otherwise, its carriers will lead us down a path from which we won’t recover — all the while, in sickly sweet tones, claiming the moral high ground.

Since childhood I’ve lived in fear of having to claim for my biographical outline, something like the following: Born, against the odds, on a planet capable of sustaining life; in the United States; around books; at a time when computers were just starting to be miniaturized and made viable for casual home use; essentially, given a handsome livelihood on a silver platter by a whole menagerie of happy coincidences, and then arbitrarily limited myself to some number of thousands of dollars per year, no more than that, dying in relative squalor. What a pathetic little wasted life that would be. A living, real-life fable of artificially self-imposed, entirely unnecessary limits.

And so, for my own part, I don’t accept it. I refuse. I reject it utterly, absolutely, and all the time, that’s what I think you should do. I’m still, to this day, dreaming of the massive seven-building mansion with the split-level swimming pool and the clear windows that turn opaque on a hot summer day when you clap your hands twice, and the Bugatti Veyron parked underneath in a concealed garage. It’s still on my list of projects.

But maybe I won’t ever get there? Well, I’ll admit that’s a possibility. But I don’t dwell on that much because, after all, who freakin’ cares. I’m going to work toward it nevertheless, and while I do, my energy is focused on: Let’s just see, for shits & grins, how close I get. I like this approach, it has served me pretty well. When approaches serve me well, I stick with ‘em.

Some people might find that silly. Those same people, if I were to take the Tom Leykis approach and say, “my highest income plus twenty percent, I’ll never make that in my life and I better get used to it” — they wouldn’t find that silly. Okay, so if that is the exchange then I have to ask: What sort of pussy goes for that? Give up my seven-building dream house on eighty acres, to earn the adoration of a bunch of…let’s call them what they are…losers?? Why would I do that? Other people with less talent, have lived in bigger houses. And it’s a cool house. The Veyron has a turntable under it.

Item!

Mark Steyn is still right: Reality doesn’t need to win the Electoral College.

Now, that last part is not quite so optimistic. But…it’s real. And it shows the folly of trying to embrace that other kind of reality, that Leykis reality that says you’ll never make more than X. The question that emerges is: What is the point? You’re going to be “real” by admitting you can’t manage things for yourself, in spite of all the advantages you have been given by way of these happy cosmic accidents. And once you achieve this “reality” it’s going to amount to…you require and deserve all sorts of entitlements that are supposed to grow and grow and grow, while the real reality says, eh not so fast bub. The gravy train is coming to an end. What happens then? Who’s embracing reality then?

All this comes to a common focal point: Chasing pessimism for sake of clinging to reality, there’s something to be said for that. I’m a big fan of that, actually. But only if you’re going after a “real” reality. And there is the real sticking point. If you’re just letting go of your aspirations and making a point of living with your drudgery, to look sophisticated and cool and fashionably sullen and trench-coaty, I’m afraid you have to go down that road all by yourself, or at least without me to keep you company. I’m a fan of pessimism-for-sake-of-reality when it involves bringing things. Packing some jumper cables or a flashlight. Testing the ropes and carabiner clips. Extra batteries. More spare inner tubes. Such precautions are grounded in a vision for things going wrong; they are grounded in pessimism. But I am good with that. It all fits into that “don’t die” thing.

When people invest their emotions in such a thing simply to limit their options, it loses its luster with me. Prepare for the worst, but keep hoping for the best. That’s what successful people do, and really, what’s the price to be paid for that? That’s the real question, and from all I’ve seen, I don’t believe there’s an adequate answer. Just potential friendships with people who don’t make very good friends, that’s about it, am I right?