Archive for July, 2013

Endowed, Huh?

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

The perils involved in passive-voice sentences.

There’s just no getting around it: The Founding Fathers took the trouble to say who did this endowing, and Sam Adams, the beer company, skipped over that part.

I can certainly see the marketing department figuring it’s doing its job, pointing out that an atheist’s beer money is as good as anybody else’s money, and the atheist would be offended. Nevertheless, the words are in the Declaration of Independence being quoted, which is supposed to be the centerpiece of the ad. It’s just a fact. You know what Sam Adams’ cousin said about facts. And you know what Sen. Moynihan said about facts.

So I’m glad they’re getting in trouble. They took the long way around in order to avoid offending hypothetical people, and ended up pissing off real people.

One of the problems we’re having in our society lately, that we didn’t have in the earlier times, is that in these situations that could be summarized by way of “someone may get offended, although they should not,” the people who make decisions that actually affect things, read only up to that first comma. Someone got offended…or may get offended…and that is supposed to be the end of the discussion. We pretend to be puzzling it out by way of reason and common sense, but our “reasoning” consists only of figuring out whoever is offended, or might be offended, and doing whatever they say.

It’s rather sweet to see the episode play out with someone else getting offended. It imposes a luster of futility and pointlessness on the mindset that deserves to toil away beneath it.

My Mom saw a sultry and subtle evil behind passive-voice sentences. When she was still alive, I didn’t quite understand the rationale for this…it’s just a construct of the English language, which like any other, might make sense in some situations. With each year I see come and go, I get a little bit more wise to the true nature of her complaint. Verbs should be connected to subjects. Oops, uh, pardon me…writers should connect verbs to their subjects. The “who’s doing it” should, at the very least, exist as a common and successfully-communicated idea, between writer and reader, speaker and listener…whether or not it’s stated specifically, it should be spec’d out in some way.

To fall short of that goal, is to deceive.

Feminist Make-Up Tutorial

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Hat tip to Gerard. Thought the description on the YouTube page was rather interesting…


WOW UH hi folks i didn’t realize this thing would get this popular (or notorious), but thanks for taking the time to watch!

in case you didn’t catch on, this video is supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek parody on some of society’s crazy stereotypes of feminists. it’s honestly not supposed to be serious or be taken seriously?????

this video is not intended to offend anyone; if you want to take anything from it (which you don’t have to), it’s meant to play on some common misconceptions about feminism. there is a difference between feminism and misandry, and this video is a satire based on the fact that these two things get mixed up all too often.

please though this video is ***not serious***: i’m NOT trying to get people to run into the streets and start ripping other people’s throats out or performing blood sacrifices or anything like that, nor am i trying to undermine the feminist movement or tell other feminists what to do/how to live their lives/etc. i’m just having fun poking at some misconceptions and tropes.

whether the delivery of the overall punchline is a success or not, this video is satire above all else, and such things are not supposed to be taken in earnest….

Hmmmm…well…I guess we’d have to file that one under “failed parody” wouldn’t we? People see these references to “wings so sharp they can kill a man so you can drain his blood” and, relying on their actual experiences talking to, arguing with, or dating feminists, say “Yes! Exactly!”

If you then have to put up this “disclaimer” to clarify that the target of your rapier-like wit was actually those other guys…it’s like any other joke whose punchline has to be explained.

Anyway, I’m continually awestruck at the carelessness with which self-identified feminists say things like “feminists don’t believe that…feminists simply believe this other thing.” If we’ve learned anything from the last half-century of feminist revolution, it’s that revolutions wear out their welcome like house guests or fish flanks. They may have a definable and laudable purpose in the moment, but over the longer term the revolutionaries start to bludgeon and browbeat each other. That “reign of terror,” along with the natural process of attrition and replacement, ensures that longevity is reserved for those within the revolution who are most strident and hateful.

The more moderate and sensible “I just want women to earn the same wage as men” school of thought — it endures as well, but only as a P.R. slogan, with little actual substance behind it, to snare new recruits. Join our movement, we’re only just about women being treated equally and stuff.

That’s not as much fun as…uh…the other (language not safe for work)…

Hope and Fear

Monday, July 8th, 2013

“Hope won. Fear Lost.” Remember that line, from early November 2008? Well, I was just noticing something: Since then, I haven’t seen or heard of too many people express hope. Not real hope.

FearI look at it like this: If you do have hope, but your hopes are to simply hang on to what you have right now…family, car, job, house…there’s something rather immaterial, shadowy and fake about that isn’t there? We should be demanding more out of life, shouldn’t we? Don’t we understand that implicitly, deep down inside? It’s like a military brigade talking about “advancing” when they’re really just holding steady and “hoping” not to retreat.

I guess my point is, this “hope-I-keep-my-stuff” hope contains within it a tacit admission that the status quo is as good as things are ever gonna get. The dream behind the hope — if you can say there is any dreaming, I mean, at all, whatsoever — is simply that the present high ground is the beginning of a plateau that will extend in front of us for awhile, that we’re not teetering on a pinnacle. It’s all horizontal dreaming. None of that good, old-fashioned, pie-in-the-sky vertical dreaming about going upward. None of the wonder about how great we may one day become. It implicitly answers the question with: “As great as we are, in this moment, no greater than that, and you’re nuts for thinking otherwise.” It then ponders longevity, and nothing else.

The vertical-dreaming is a presence of something. The horizontal-dreaming is an absence; it is merely the pockets of emptiness between the clouds of dread.

If that’s all there is…isn’t that as sturdy an indicator as any other, that maybe fear didn’t lose after all?

DJEver Notice? LXXX

Saturday, July 6th, 2013

em•pa•thy (n.):

2. the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another…
He felt great empathy with the poor.

My lately-arriving epiphany here is two-fold:

One, this is testable. Or at least it should be. If you can truly understand and be aware of someone else’s thoughts and feelings, then you should be able to predict what they’ll want and what they’re going to do, just like a real science should be able to predict things. But — a lot of people who have empathy, in fact lots and lots of empathy, can’t even come close. Their concern for “the poor” might be genuine, but if you talk with them about it for a little while, you see some of the things these poor would want to do, the empathic folks can’t see coming. Like, for example, put in a solid day’s honest work for that “minimum” wage, or choose their own health insurance plan. Although their so-called “empathy” might be sincere, and qualify for the dictionary definition in every other way. The word therefore describes two different things: An honest desire to feel the pain of others, in service of some kind of goal to ease that pain and/or to keep more of it from being inflicted — and, access to a conduit of unspoken communication involving true and more useful understanding. The former might not necessarily be able to predict behavior, although the latter can. These things are disconnected, because another outside observer might be able to boast of superior results in predicting behavior of the target, even though he wouldn’t, to coin a phrase, piss on him if he was on fire. Also: Both these qualities are valid things to assess, and to comment-upon, so I’m reticent about labeling one “false” and the other one “true.” It’s just another word being abused by our language, by being deployed to describe two things; the situation is nothing more and nothing less than that.

Like, For Example, Working at HootersTwo: Apart from being disconnected, these two qualities being described by a common word are disjoined. Find me someone who offers bushels and bushels of the one, better-than-even-odds he will be wholly lacking in the other. E1 times E2 equals K. That is my true “didja ever notice” moment; I try to think of someone I’ve known who, as they pondered my various plights or someone else’s, showed ample measures of both kinds. There are very few examples, although the bar is lowered in situations that are especially dire. The guy holding on to the sagebrush to keep from falling over the cliff, probably doesn’t want to die, that’s an easy call to make. It’s after the crisis is averted that we see, those who have the greatest “don’t want anything bad to happen to that guy” empathy, are most sorely lacking in the “predict what he’ll want to do” empathy.

Feminists are a great example of this. All those women feeling empathy for other women, crusading tirelessly for their ability to “choose”…sooner or later they run into a woman who says “Thanks for giving me the choice, now I choose to have the child, stay home, and raise him into a strong, capable man who will make me proud, while my husband works.” They have no idea what to make of it. Truly bewildered. Baffled. Like a spoiled and sheltered pet puppy coming nose-to-nose with a deer for the first time…except…the dog learns about the deer. Militant feminists can’t even reconcile their tiny little world with the occasional spectacle of a woman who cherishes her choice, and uses it to choose things the feminists would never have chosen for her.

A lot of liberalism is like that. But this is a phenomenon much bigger than liberalism.

Daniel’s Post-Independence Day Thoughts

Friday, July 5th, 2013

Blogger friend Daniel Summers, that is…

I’ve got a good bit on my mind this morning. I held back from posting anything negative about our nation yesterday. “Happy Birthday America – you suck!” just seemed inappropriate.

However, our nation does have many, many flaws. I’m not ready to discard her, by any means; but I see, at nearly every turn, her people and her government making the wrong decisions, and continuing her slide towards mediocrity and insecurity, under the guise of improving both. In nearly every issue, the underlying cause appears to me to be the same – an inability to dispassionately, rationally evaluate a situation, policy, etc. on its merits alone. This is displayed on both sides of the political divide, where talking points and comebacks are slung back and forth, and seems to be what passes for civil discourse. It isn’t!
America is not beyond hope. We must change course, though, or we will find ourselves swimming in self-induced mediocrity, while we are crowing over how advanced we are. To get God’s blessing, we must turn to Him; to elevate civil discourse, we must teach reasoning.

Reasoning, to me, represents a great deal more than just the dictionary definition. In my world it is an object-oriented exercise, starting with a vision, from which is derived one or several objectives. To service the objectives, we gather facts, and then we infer from those facts what is really going on. Once we figure out to our own satisfaction what’s really going on, we reconcile that with the objectives and from what we figure out what to do.

This provides a lot of opportunity for rational, reasoning people to disagree, with neither side of the disagreement doing anything irresponsible, intellectually lazy or insincere. They could have different visions, or they could share a common vision but labor toward different objectives. They could be looking at different facts; they could be looking at the same facts and from those, they might arrive at different conclusions about what’s going on. In my experience, it is very, very rare for any two sides to share common visions, objectives, facts and conclusions and then disagree about what is to be done; by the time your compass or ruler passes through that many plot points, the rest of it is usually pretty clear and there’s not much arguing left to be done.

But argue we do. From that, I conclude — see that? I just did it! — there is much disagreement about what comes before. The discussions that ensue don’t go there very often, though, and I believe this is because of what frustrates me…and it seems to be frustrating Mr. Summers as well. Our “national ability,” if you will, to slog it out earnestly about our differences in visions, objectives, facts gathered and conclusions inferred, is in a state of decline and has been for quite some time.

And I think if we could pie-chart-plot it, with honesty somehow restored and then measured, we’d find much of the culpability in the first stage, the vision. People support different objectives because they nurture different visions. If we could somehow fasten that Up! dog collar to ’em so that a sincere statement of the vision could be vocalized, with or without their consent, we’d be hearing an awful lot of the same thing: I want my team to win and I want that other team to lose. I agree with Daniel there’s a lot of that on both sides of the divide. And I also agree that if it passes for “civil discourse,” it shouldn’t.

I recall years ago one of my managers got into a scuffle with another manager, and demonstrated his written-communication prowess in the e-mail. His message was structured in the following way: “I want (something anybody else should want, who gives a hang about the business). In order to do that, I need to (blank), and in order to get that done, I need you to (thing the other manager was refusing to do).” Copied to a zillion and one people. This is not effective for diplomacy, cooling down a tense situation, or anything of the like…but again…vision, objective. The writer of the e-mail made a conscious decision about whether that was part of his priority scheme or not, and decided to go for the jugular. Agree or disagree about that part, you have to admit that the way things are executed following that decision, make sense in their own way.

Maybe that’s not good for a corporate environment. Or, maybe it’s good only for “hill I wanna die on” situations, that have been deliberately and diligently adjudicated to be past the point of easing tensions. But in politics, I think, it would be much more appropriate, and much more often…perhaps all of the time, for the foreseeable future, until people stop equating politics with sports and instantaneously leaping to support their “home teams.” These are thoughts that should be in abundance, and instead, are in short supply — disgracefully short supply, at times, I would say. “I want (what’s good for all of us); to do that, I need (blank); therefore, we must (blank) (unless you have a better idea you can offer).”

I hope, by July 4th next year, we can get back to some of that.

How to Thank a Soldier, by George W. Bush

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013


Soldiers love getting hugged because most of them are big softies deep down.

Four Things Every Man Should Be Able To Do

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013


Pretty low bar. Building a fire, running a mile, changing a car tire, dividing up a bill.

“But what about the people with asthma or polio or something?” you may be asking. “Does that preclude them from becoming real men?” And my answer is, of course, “No, but trying to piggyback on their disability so that you don’t have to run a mile is a decidedly unmanly thing to do. Now get going, Devon, or whatever your name is.”

That one’s like having an itch scratched. Why do some people work so hard at being losers? So sick of the “oh, but what about” thing…

Happy Independence Day

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

The Un-Definers

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Those who were in favor of un-defining marriage are now sanctimoniously inquiring if any noticeable damage has resulted from their victory last week. The answer to the question is in the affirmative, although they’ll never acknowledge it; the damage is gradual, cumulative, and it comes from many other efforts to un-define many other things. I refuse to call it a “conspiracy,” for now, because my consciousness is not too hospitable to the concept of conspiracies. I have learned too much about human deficiencies to accept those, most especially about deficiencies in discretion and deficiencies in coordination. But I will accept an “epidemic.” We have an epidemic lately of frenzied efforts driven toward detaching words and phrases from their accepted meanings. As a result of this, we have sexists calling non-sexists sexists, racists calling non-racists racists, and purveyors of huckster phony “science” calling others “gullible” for showing valid but unwelcome skepticism.

We have bullies calling non-bullies bullies.

There are boring people calling non-boring people boring.

Still can’t find an Internet-linkable source, other than the one I put together, for Dennis Prager’s wonderful statement of “I’d rather have clarity than agreement.” But I think that gets right to the heart of the matter. Defining things, posed as a question, would be a phony controversy because there really isn’t anyone who is outwardly opposed to defining things. The controversy comes up when other priorities emerge to displace, and Prager has accurately identified the other priority: Agreement. And so we have an epidemic, albeit not a conspiracy, to replace, albeit not eliminate, clarity. The definitions of things. So that everyone participating can be in agreement.

But here is the problem: An exchange is a “win” if, and only if, the asset that is received is of greater value than the thing that was given up in exchange. Isn’t that only obvious? You win in the exchange if you buy low and sell high. Nobody responds to Mr. Prager with a rebuttal of “I’d rather have agreement than clarity,” because I think it is intuitively obvious that this isn’t going to work. Agreement at the expense of clarity really doesn’t get us anywhere. You can’t get anything built with it, and you can’t do anything with it. Except feel smug, and stop arguing. Which means to stop thinking, ultimately, because if you can’t argue then you can’t think.

Because we have turned in the ability to argue & think, we find ourselves surrounded by a great many “phony tests” for things…tests that were supposed to find out, at the beginning, what they ultimately did find, and never did have any possibility of finding anything else — therefore, weren’t really tests.

The IRS investigated the IRS.

The Earth is in imminent danger of…something…due to human activity, which somehow translates to United States activity.

It goes so far as to state that boys are girls:

The Colorado Civil Rights Division has ruled an elementary school discriminated against a transgender 6-year-old child by barring [him] from using the girls’ bathroom.

KDVR reports the New York-based Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund announced the ruling Sunday, and said they would hold a news conference Monday to explain the decision in the case of Coy Mathis, who was born a boy but [is identified by his parents] as a girl.

Those who are looking for damage from the un-definition of marriage, might skim through Severian’s thoughts on the subject. Where we’re heading, is fascism: It’s all for the state, and the state is whatever those-in-charge say it is. Definitions are guardrails. With those guardrails removed, it becomes the place of our “leaders” to “drive” wherever they want. But it is their place to steer the car over the cliff and into the abyss, and everybody else’s place to absorb the impact.

Wherever a disagreement endures across time, and arouses the passions of those engaged throughout it all, it seems we invariably find the real disagreement is about this. The definitions. One side labors to identify and preserve definitions of things, and the other side endeavors to keep those definitions concealed, and remove them from perceived relevance.

One will also find, as one inspects other unrelated issues, that people who oppose definitions of things pretty much oppose them all the time, regardless of what is being discussed. Example: A remarkably high portion of those who seek to un-define “science” to the point we can call “climate change” a science, doubt the existence of God. They seek to “un-define” Him. Logically, we should expect climate-change concerns to be driven by a belief in, not a denial of, God. Meanwhile, whoever seeks to un-define science and un-define God, will also be laboring long and hard to un-define marriage, even though the gay marriage movement has absolutely nothing to do with secularism, or with the climate change political movement that seeks to call itself “science.”

Those who seek to un-define things, are engaged in almost an almost militarily offensive operation — they seek a definition until they find a definition, and when they find a definition they try their best to destroy it. Once that’s done, they seek-and-destroy some more.

Since the definitions are targets to the un-definers, each definition has a certain value as a target. These values are not all equal, and so there is a certain hierarchy to the definition-targets that have to be eliminated. An opportunity to un-define one definition, will be sacrificed for a time so that another opportunity to un-define another definition of greater target-value, can be effectively exploited. No different from bombing one enemy ammunition dump instead of another.

Marriage being an institution, it is an extraordinarily high-value target. You will generally find the definitions that are institutions, have the highest value as targets to the un-definers who are seeking and destroying the targets. Another institution is science. We have lately seen the label “science” affixed to a lot of things that are not science, and this is provable: Science is supposed to be testable. Exercised competently and effectively, it should result in predictability. That name is being used to describe things that do not fit this bargain-basement, minimalist, qualification. “Education” is not education, as you and I know it and understand it (hat tip to Captain Capitalism). “Access to health care” is a phrase we can no longer take seriously. We can’t trust “congressional oversight” because we can see for ourselves how often it’s making…oversights. Now we have “marriage.”

One reason we can no longer take science seriously just because it calls itself “science” — why it so often fails this minimal test of testability — is that it has leaped off the Prager value system, seeking to sacrifice clarity for agreement. Clarity over agreement is an inherently positive process, an inherently inclusive process. Information emerges, you figure out what to do with it whether it’s welcome or not. It has to mean something. This doesn’t lead to good feeling all the time, but it leads to some kind of learning. Agreement over clarity, on the other hand, is an exclusionary, and inherently negative, process. It’s always “whittling,” turning the block into a horse by removing whatever doesn’t look like a horse. Someone is constantly being handed their hat, and told not to let the doorknob hit them on the way out.

Why are the un-definers going after institutions first, as they select their definition-targets? One possible explanation for this is that their real mission is not to destroy all of the definitions, but the society we have built that rests upon them.

They are inherently destructive. They must be. Building things and preserving things, I’ve noted many times before, requires a certain mental discipline that isn’t needed for destruction. Un-defining is, by its very nature, un-enlightening. So destruction is all these people can do. And once they’ve started, they can’t stop.