Archive for the ‘Mediocrity/Excellence Confusion’ Category

Barbara Ehrenreich and Adam Shepard

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

Stossel, in his latest column Making It. He’s writing about the economy and asking people to keep just a little bit of old-fashioned perspective…

…Barbara Ehrenreich won fame by claiming that it’s almost impossible for an entry-level worker to make it in America. She wrote Nickel and Dimed, a book that describes her failure to “make it” working in entry-level jobs.

Her book is now required reading in thousands of high schools and colleges. I spoke to her for my ABC special “Bailouts, Big Spending and Bull.”

“I worked as a waitress and an aide in a nursing home and a cleaning lady and a Wal-Mart associate. And that didn’t do it.”

If you do a good job, can’t you move up?

“That’s not easy. Wal-Mart capped the maximum you can ever make.” But if you do a good job, you could be promoted to assistant manager, store manager.

“Well, I suppose.”
“I read Nickel and Dimed,” Adam Shepard told me. He was assigned her book in college and decided to test Ehrenreich’s claim.

He picked a city out of a hat, Charleston, S.C., and showed up there with $25. He didn’t tell anyone about his college degree. He soon got an $8/hour job working for a moving company. He kept at it. Within a year, he told me, “I have got $5,500 and a car. I have got a furnished apartment.”

Adam writes about his search for the American Dream in Scratch Beginnings. It’s a very different book from Nickel and Dimed.

“If you want to fail, go for it,” he said.

Barbara Ehrenreich wanted to fail?

“Absolutely, I think she wanted to fail — and write the book about it.”

I asked him for evidence.

“She is spending $40 on pants. She is staying in hotels. I made sacrifices so that I could succeed. She didn’t make any sacrifices.”

I sure wish Stossel went to the universities and asked why, exactly, Nickel and Dimed was required reading. Not that he’d get an honest answer, but some of the tortured excuses might have been interesting. (Update: The DUmmies have more than a few things to say about this.)

Regarding the subject at hand, it really comes down to two fundamentally different ways of looking at the world: If one guy can’t make it somewhere, then nobody’s really guaranteed to get it done anywhere; and, if one guy can do something somewhere, then anyone else can do the same thing anywhere.

Should President Palin Bring the Obama Administration Up on Charges?

Friday, April 24th, 2009

AOL News editor is having some fun…or not.

At the White House, Press Secretary Adam Brickley said that President Sarah Palin stands firmly behind the decision. “It’s not as if we relish the thought of prosecuting members of the previous administration,” Brickley said, “but, at this point, there is a clearly established precedent – set in place by the Obama Administration themselves – which says that government officials must be held accountable if they contributed in any way to major breaches of the law. In this case, the individuals under investigation do appear to have purposefully allowed these terrorists to continue their actions – prioritizing international public opinion over the lives of the American people. So, while this may be a politically charged issue, there is a real need to prosecute.”

Best of the Web, yesterday, spelled this out as nothing less than a constitutional crisis — and, toward that end, made an unexpectedly strong case:

If officials pay for policy mistakes not only by losing elections but by losing their freedom, that would amount to a fundamental change in America’s form of government. As The Wall Street Journal notes in an editorial:

At least until now, the U.S. political system has avoided the spectacle of a new Administration prosecuting its predecessor for policy disagreements. This is what happens in Argentina, Malaysia or Peru, countries where the law is treated merely as an extension of political power.

What Obama is offhandedly contemplating, then, amounts to a step toward authoritarian government. The impulse behind the push to prosecute is an authoritarian one as well. Matthew Yglesias of the left-liberal Center for American Progress writes that “large-scale punishment for the perpetrators of Bush-era war crimes is less important than establishing some form of political consensus that torture is wrong for the future.”

Yglesias blames this lack of “consensus” on “the existence of a large and powerful conservative media apparatus,” including the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, and he quotes approvingly from a blogger called Neil Sinhababu:

I don’t think that we’re going to be able to establish any such consensus anytime soon. It used to be that we were worried about Fox News defeating us in elections, or beating the drums for another Bush Administration war. Winning by big margins is nice, because we don’t have to worry about those particular horrors for at least a little while. But now we have to worry about how Fox and the rest of the right-wing noise machine are going to continually sustain a substantial minority of crazy people, preventing the formation of an anti-torture consensus, an anti-war-of-aggression consensus, and anti-warrantless-spying consensus. Even if there’s majority support for these views, anybody scrapping for power within the Republican Party will find reason to oppose them, just to get a majority of Republicans.

I think the impossibility of consensus on these issues is part of why nobody thinks about consensus and there’s so much left-wing attention to judicial punishments for the perpetrators.

What troubles Yglesias and Sinhababu, then, is the existence of disagreement and debate–the essence of democracy. They seem to imply that prosecution is a method by which to force the consensus they would like to see. But a forced consensus is no consensus at all. If those now in power yield to the temptation to use authoritarian means–however well-intentioned their ends may be–they will set a precedent that their opponents, perhaps equally well-intentioned, may one day use against them.

To be sure, most of what we have written is speculative. Perhaps we will make it through the Obama years without being attacked, so that the dire consequences we imagine will never materialize. Perhaps, too, the current frenzy will blow over and will prove to have been only a distraction. But the president’s noncommittal words have fueled the Angry Left’s demands for recriminations.

It may be that the president can put out this fire only through bold and irreversible action–to wit, by issuing a blanket pardon of former officials and intelligence agents for their actions in the war on terror.

Obama, on this issue, is the perfect illustration of the hazards involved in confusing mediocrity with excellence, especially when investing power in candidates who are ideologically strangers to us. He looks — or at least, looked last year — like a walking triumph of order and reason over weirdness and chaos. But the theory that Obama is the triumph of order over chaos, is based entirely on the premise that a sensible Captain’s hand is upon the tiller of the ship-of-state. Whatever decision He makes about this issue, or that one, is bound to be sensible. This has to be the case. The dude talks kinda like Walter Cronkite, how can it not be true?

But nobody really knows what He’s going to decide. We don’t even know if, behind closed doors, the decision really belongs to Attorney General Eric Holder, as President Obama has said out in the open.

Our walking triumph of over-over-chaos, on this issue if on none other, is a loose cannon. We’re literally waiting to see if we still live in a representative democracy, or a banana republic. And it comes down to the itches one or two guys have between their ears.

Imitation is the Sincerest Form XXIII

Friday, October 24th, 2008

Daniel J. Summers liked Rick’s cartoon, so he swiped it shamelessly, and gave us the credit for it. That’s the nature of blogging, of course; we did the same, offering credit to Rick but not to Cadillac Tight, or Exhibit A Press.

He throws in a great link, by one of our favorite columnists, Neal Boortz. It’s a letter to the undecided voter. If it wasn’t destined to fail in what it is trying to do, I’d call it the most important letter anyone’s written this year…maybe this decade. At this point, however, my optimism is somewhere between flickering and snuffed. Buy gold.

Then he lays the smackdown. Nothing outside of what I’d noticed, about a week ago — indeed, what he’s doing is giving me credit for talking about it, of which I don’t know I’m deserving because at the time I wasn’t the only one talking about it. It was being played up as some kind of phony-baloney Joe The Plumber scandal.

Joe the Plumber does not make 250,000 dollars a year. He doesn’t even make close to that.

He just wants to.

This does not detract from my admiration for the real Joe the Plumber. It doesn’t change my desire for people to pull the “I Am Spartacus” thing with Joe.

Quite to the contrary, I think that’s thirty tons of awesome.

After a week of cooling-down and thinking about other things, I’ve noticed a new wrinkle about this Joe The Plumber thing that was unnoticed before. Or, more likely, noticed but un-commented-upon. I find it worthy of comment.

Invited to address the Joe The Plumber thing during the third Presidential debate, Sen. Obama said

Now, the conversation I had with Joe the plumber, what I essentially said to him was, “Five years ago, when you were in a position to buy your business, you needed a tax cut then.”

And what I want to do is to make sure that the plumber, the nurse, the firefighter, the teacher, the young entrepreneur who doesn’t yet have money, I want to give them a tax break now.

Poor Barack was trying to make a point back then, that I’m just starting to notice now…he was tripped up by the facts, since back on October 15 a lot of people failed to make this crucial distinction between pulling in a quarter million a year, and wanting to do that someday. Therefore, his comment seems quite silly, and it’s not my intention to make it that way.

But there’s a fascinating point to be made here with regard to time. It’s an important point. It has to do with how some of us see ourselves…it has to do with that graphic of the kitty looking at itself in the mirror and seeing a lion, that I used when I wrote about Joe The Plumber (link above).

A few years ago, when a certain family member was going through a tough time he’d brought down on himself by seeing little besides perfection in himself and little besides flaws in others, I remember being drawn into a semi-heated argument. I do have faults here and there…sometimes, when I say stupid things, I’m slow to recognize it — this was not one of those times. This time I said something exceptionally wise and failed to recognize it. I’m like Obama that way. I fail to see my own wisdom and brilliance here & there. I’m working on it…

…anyway, what I offered was some kind of counseling against comparing onesself to others. It’s inappropriate, first of all; it’s a fool’s ambition to live out one’s life with a goal of being better than some-other-guy. Last I checked, they don’t carve anything about that on tombstones. Find a tombstone that says “He did better than Frank over there” with an arrow under it…you let me know. But there’s another point to be made: We betray our narcissistic intentions, some of us, by comparing our gonna-dooz with others’ hav-dunz. Gonna-dooz, and have-dunz. Those are two different things.

Obama, here, committed a sin in the world of socialist propaganda. He discussed the subject of time.

I think Joe The Plumber is “thirty tons of awesome” because he understands the difference between gonna-dooz and have-dunz, and in forming his values, he forms them around the gonna-dooz. That takes courage. That takes balls.

Barack Obama understands the difference too. (On October 15, like many of us, he mistakenly thought making 250,000 was a have-dunz of Joe’s…when it’s not.) He wanted to discuss Joe’s have-dunz. And his point was that most of us — and what he meant, in spirit, was all of us — are lacking the gumpshun we would need, to make plans around our gonna-dooz. We aren’t that great. We aren’t that strong. We need a tax policy that’s formed around our limitations, because our limitations define our identities.

Two men. One of them is thought to be the very incarnation of “The Change We Deserve.” Isn’t there a profound irony there, that the more majestic, godlike figure who presents himself as ready to lead a nation of hundreds of millions, is the one facing backward? And the guy playing catch with his son in front of a house that costs less than Barack Obama’s necktie, is the one with the leadership and courage that is needed to look forward? Thus endeth the lesson — on this one point, I trust, I have defined exactly what’s cockeyed about the situation.

Barack Obama is Ozymandias. It’s just a fact. He may win the election…or not; it may take two weeks for him to wither away into clay feet on a pedestal, or it may take four years, or eight. But he’ll get there. There is absolutely no question about it. He is Ozymandias, because while he is very impressive in the moment, history will treat him unkindly because he does not have the courage to truly look into the future. He commits a twin crime, two, possibly intermingled and inseparable, crimes of thought: He confuses mediocrity with excellence, and he confuses gonna-dooz with have-dunz.

The Change We Deserve? We’ll find out soon.

Cross-posted at Cassy Fiano.

How the Markets Really Work

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

Paleofeminism II

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

On the last day of last year, I said

I hope 2008 sees the end of this brand of feminism, I really do. The subject of the link in question is Page 8 of possible reasons Home Improvement jumped the shark, and “Guest” writes in with…

The show jumped with the “sandwich episode” where Jill really started to assert her own special brand of aggressive feminism. It was angering to watch Jill call her son a sexist because his girlfriend did his housework; the problem couldn’t possibly be on the girlfriend’s end, it must be the EVIL MISOGYNIST BRAD at fault because he LET her do his housework. In the end, everything was resolved, of course, when Jill converted everyone over to her point of view, aka the right one, including dimwitted Tim, who, of course, buckled under his wife’s demands yet again. Was there ever a single episode where Tim said, “Tough crap, Jill, this time it’s my way”?

I was watching this episode with my ten-year-old son, and found myself answering some complicated questions.

I went on to point out the flaw in Jill’s logic. I was garrulous, so let me sum it up in a single short paragraph here:

It’s the knight who is drawing this tangible benefit from the lady’s attentions. What, exactly, is he supposed to do according to this moral code handed down on high from matriarch paleofeminist Jill? The answer according to the script of the episode was — STOP the thoughtful girlfriend from making him sandwiches. Yeah that’s right. Snatch the peanut butter and jelly right outta her hands. That’s the scripted answer; the answer, in spirit, was “I don’t know.” That’s the trouble with paleofeminism. Paleofeminists won’t admit that their goal is really to get rid of men — but the elephant comes lumbering into full view in the middle of the room, when they are observed spraying instructions and orders at everyone in earshot, like some fully automatic rapid-fire trebuchet — or to invent a metaphor more functionally fitting, a claymore — and at the same time don’t know what to tell the men to do. We’re sexist pigs if our girlfriends make us sandwiches…how, then, do we remedy the situation and stop being sexist pigs? Catch the samrich-makin’ bitch in a full nelson and force her to drop the mayonnaise? It just doesn’t make any sense.

SardoSo I had good reason for wishing 2008 would see the end of paleofeminism. Very good reason. I like it when pretty ladies make me samriches. That’s because I’m sane.

Good reason…but not high hopes. And rightly so. For the frost is nearly upon the pumpkin, and what did blogger friend Cassy Fiano find for us. That’s right, another screeching screed at Feministing.

Check out this 1970 ad for bath oil (via Found in Mom’s Basement):

The text reads:

Sure. You live with him and take care of him and hang up his clothes. But just because you do the things a wife’s supposed to do, don’t forget you’re still a woman.

One of the nicest things you can do for a man is take care of your skin. That means Sardo. No other bath oil or bead has Sardo’s unique dry skin formula. It’s pure bath oil. The richest. The best. 3 out of 4 women saw and felt and loved the difference after just one Sardo bath.

How about you? Why don’t you do something soft and young and special for him. Feel wonderful all over with Sardo.

Wow, this is really taking some early-nineties Bryan Adams to its sexist extreme. I wonder if, when she wipes her ass, she’s also doing that for her husband?

Cassy unloads. And as usual, it’s pretty priceless:

What’s hilarious is how offensive the feminists say this ad is, but the commenters have zero problem whatsoever insulting and deriding the man for the hair on his arms. So it’s OK to criticize men for their looks but not women? What if a bunch of men were making fun of a woman because of something beyond her control, like her arms being hairier than normal, these same women would be shrieking with outrage.

It’s stories like these that make modern feminism so out-of-touch with reality and the average woman. When you’re worried about trivial bullshit like an ad from thirty years ago, or a Bryan Adams video that’s over fifteen years old, and make abortion the holy cow of your entire movement, and then call it fighting for women’s rights, it makes people not really take you very seriously. The thing is, there is real sexism in the world, and real women who are fighting real oppression. Most of this does not take place in the Middle East, but modern American feminism finds things like thirty-year-old bath oil ads and abortion more important than, oh, say three girls being buried alive for the “crime” of choosing their own husbands.

What motivates these bitter women? It obviously is not the “rights” of the modern woman. If it was about that issue, the girls being buried alive would at least register as a blip on the radar, one would hope. In fact, the samrich issue would not — Brad’s girlfriend wants to make him a samrich, she can go ahead and make him a samrich…the “choice” is hers, you see.

*sniff* *sniff* Smells like…some sort of collective bargaining.

Yes, that’s exactly what I think it is. Start out slow, and slack off. You get hired on to the team, which pumps out eight widgets per man per hour — you start cranking out twenty widgets an hour, boss gives you a big atta-boy, life will be all wonderful. Until you go home from work that day. It’s your co-workers, you see. You’re making ’em look bad.

This is exactly the same principle. You’re a woman, taking baths in oils to make your skin soft for that man o’ yours, make him a samrich or two…you know how those uppity men are, sooner or later they’ll start talking! And this puts pressure on the other jealous wrinkled up old gals. Can’t have that.

Perhaps this is why the feminists aren’t too interested in the teenage girls being buried alive, Cassy. See, not being murdered is an individual right. Forcing one amongst your peerage to start out slow & slack off, so that mediocrity can continue to be confused with excellence, that is a group right. A collective-bargaining right. Don’t do good works as an individual person, because you’re making the group-collective look bad.

Lower the expectations. For the good of the collective.

Just as union management demands to step into the role of the “real” boss…the wrinkled up old paleofeminist harpies are demanding to become the “real” husband. That hairy ape you’re living with, he’s just in the way. Don’t do anything to please him, or we’ll make you sorry.

Okay that explains everything — except one thing. With all this Sarah Palin news floating around, we’re already getting a crash-course that the feminist movement is pulling a bait-n-switch on us. They’ve been pissing and moaning that not enough women are winning high offices because not enough women are seeking those high offices…and that must have something to do with us grubby, awful, icky sexist men. Along comes Gov. Palin. To a rational mindset, she would appear to be the fulfillment of everything the feminists had been demanding all these years. Well, the feminists don’t like her, which proves the “womens’ rights” movement never had anything to do with women, and most certainly didn’t have much to do with their rights. It was all about a political agenda. Putting pressure on people to vote for unqualified angry women, was just a tactic for enacting that agenda.

What’s really awful for the feminist movement, is that Sarah Palin and the attacks against her don’t clearly state this for the understanding of whacky bloggers like myself. These events make all this plain to the average, Main Street voter. It’s the kind of damage only self-evident truth can do.

So why now for the attack on the Sardo ad? Why choose right here-and-now to really solidify that message to us…that feminism is all about marginalizing men, and driving a wedge between the sexes — that it has little or nothing to do with womens’ rights? It’s as if Feministing is terrified someone out here was not quite clear on things, and wanted to make sure the message was really spelled out for everyone.

Heyyyyyyy, here’s an idea. Let’s make the 2008 elections all about this. Vote McCain/Palin if you want men and women to get along, vote Obama/Biden if you think whenever a lady is softening up her skin or making samriches for her man, someone should jump in and force her to stop, whether she wants to stop or not. In the name of womens’ choice.

Meanwhile, if any nice-lookin’ ladies come along and start making me hot juicy pies and fetching me cold beers, I fully intend to support womens’ rights. I intend to let them. Sorry if that offends anyone.


Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

Carl at Simply Left Behind (which is a lefty blog) is opining on what’s wrong with us nowadays and sounding…very conservative

You get hit by a car. You sue the other driver. He hires a lawyer and sues you back to try to prove that, indeed, it was your fault for stepping in front of his car.
You see a woman in an emergency room collapse. She lays there for 24 hours and dies. No one does a thing. Why? Because someone else should have handled it.

You walk down a street and a piece of newspaper blows across and wraps around your ankle. You stand next to a garbage can, yet rather than reach down, pluck the paper and toss it in the bin, you shake your foot and off it flies to litter again. Serial litter, I like to call this.

We fight a war in a far-off land, and the only sacrifice we’re asked to make is to load up on debt and shop some more. Arguably, given what has happened, this might turn into the ultimate sacrifice for many of us, but that’s a different story.

And I would add to that, the story of Sergio Casian Aguiar curb-stomping his own son to death for a full seven minutes. While bystanders watched.

A spectacle that shocked and horrified conservatives, while liberals made excuses:

“I would not condemn these people,” said John Darley, a professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University who has studied how bystanders react in emergency situations. “Ordinary people aren’t going to tackle a psychotic.

“What we have here,” Darley said, “is a group of family and friends who are not pre-organized to deal with this stuff. They don’t know who should do what. … If you had five volunteer firefighters pull up, you would expect them to have planned responses and a division of labor. But that’s not what we had here.”

Carl’s cognitive dissonance on the virtue of sacrifice is a source of endless fascination to me, in part because he represents so many millions besides himself. And while parts of his thesis make sense, together as a whole it is a baffling tangled mess of contradictions.

When the newspaper attaches itself to your ankle you’re supposed to bend down, pick it up, and throw it away!

Okay, with Saddam Hussein that is exactly what we did. Carl doesn’t like that…

But it makes sense! Because there was no sacrifice!

Yeah, well, we sacrificed plenty. That’s the point of all these war protests…supposedly we’re drafting our innocent doe-eyed children, boxing ’em up, hauling ’em to Iraq where they get blown up by the thousands. And that’s wrong! But that’s a sacrifice if ever there was one. So…your point?

It’s only the sacrifice of a few! It doesn’t affect everyone, so it doesn’t count!

We-ell, as I pointed out in my comment, in a lot of other areas a financial sacrifice is supposed to count, and supposedly, the Iraq war is responsible for crude oil that costs $149 a barrel. When we pull in to a gas station and have to part with $50 to fill a twelve-gallon tank, that seems to me to be a sacrifice, especially when by Tuesday of next week we’ll have to do it again.

Unless financial sacrifices don’t count, in which case Carl just nullified every speech made by every tax-and-spend liberal who ever wanted to “roll back the Bush tax cuts” for the virtue of sacrifice.

I think liberals like Carl are confused on the concept of sacrifice. There are two definitions to it: There is the outcome-based sacrifice, in which the “sacrifice” itself is just a negligible and unpleasant side effect in the process of upholding what truly matters. The narrower definition, in which the pain is the point, is what John Galt was talking about in that monstrously long speech of his:

Sacrifice is the surrender of value — of a higher value to a lower one, or of the good to the evil.

The code is impossible to practice because it would lead to death, and thus moral perfection is impossible to man.

The Doctrine of Sacrifice cannot provide man with an interest in being good.

Since man is in fact an indivisible unity of matter and consciousness, the sacrifice of “merely” material values necessarily means the sacrifice of spiritual ones.

The self is the mind, and the most selfish act is the exercise of one’s independent judgment. In attacking selfishness, the Doctrine of Sacrifice seeks to make you surrender your mind.

The Doctrine of Sacrifice commands that you act for the good of others but provides no standard of the good. And it requires only that you intend to benefit others, not that you succeed.

The Doctrine of Sacrifice makes you the servant and others your masters –and adds insult to injury by saying you should find happiness through sacrifice.

Somewhere in there Galt made a mention of the mother who went without eating so that her infant could eat; that would not be a sacrifice, according to Galt who was using the pain-based definition of “sacrifice.” That mother would be upholding an ideal important to her system of values, simply paying a price necessary to acquire it. Sacrifice, Galt said, would have been giving up her child for the sake of something not important to her. (Update: It actually had to do with sacrificing the child for a nice hat. See below. My memory managed to “sacrifice” the finer details to retain the overall picture; cut me some slack, it’s a freakin’ thirty-five thousand word speech.) That is what is meant by surrender “of a higher value to a lower one.” It entails a net loss, because the pain is the point of the exercise.

My thinking is, the people who agree with Carl, also agree with John Galt. Sacrifice is not about principles. Sacrifice is identifying what is important to you, and then getting rid of it.

Our liberals do not feel the conflict of this dissonance when they talk about raising taxes on rich people. Money is supposed to be important to rich people, right? And so we force them to get rid of it through higher taxes. When we talk about meeting the objectives, we already begin the process of losing the interest of our liberals; their eyes glaze over, and they yearn to spend their precious moments on a rerun of The Daily Show or watching another one of Keith Olbermann’s recycled rants. But we complete that process of alienating them when we talk about meeting the objectives through private charities.

This is because in the more specific, liberal-and-Galt definition of “sacrifice,” private charities don’t meet the criteria. They are voluntary. The donors are exchanging an inferior value, which is the cash that is donated, for a greater one which is the beneficial effect of the charity. They choose this. In so doing, they are upholding their own systems of belief and therefore are not “sacrificing.”

I suspect that is the real reason why so many of our liberals can hold their protests about the latest handy round body-count in our “illegal and unjust war,” on the one hand — and on the other, decry the lack of “sacrifice” that has been made in the war. Real people like you and me who have red blood in our veins and are from Planet Earth, look at that and say “how can you protest both?” The answer to that is easy.

Liberals are like the girlfriend who is unhappy with her engagement ring if the prospective groom still has money left after he bought it — the size of the ring isn’t the point, how good it looks isn’t the point, how much did it cost isn’t really the point; the point is, did it cost enough that it hurt him.

This is why their ideas are unfit for implementation in the real world. Out here, if you have a job to do, and you get it done but it didn’t cause you pain, that’s a success. If it was such a painful experience that it injured you, it’s still a failure if you didn’t meet the stated objectives. Reality says it’s all about getting the job done, not what you give up to do it. Our liberals don’t agree. They think, if you’re suitably diminished that you can’t do anything else, and your intentions were noble, then that’s all that matters. Whether the job got done, is just a side bunny-trail to them.

This is provable. Saddam Hussein is that newspaper flying about the ankles if ever there was one. One President kicked him aside to be blown further down the sidewalk, and another President picked him up and stuck him in the trash bin. Our liberals are furious at the President who chucked him in the trash bin. They won’t say why.

Update: John Galt’s comments on sacrifice, whittled down to the bare bone, heavily edited from the state in which they exist starting on p. 940:

The word that has destroyed you is ‘sacrifice.’ Use the last of your strength to understand its meaning. You’re still alive. You have a chance.

‘Sacrifice’ does not mean the rejection of the worthless, but of the precious. ‘Sacrifice’ does not mean the rejection of the evil for the sake of the good, but of the good for the sake of the evil. ‘Sacrifice’ is the surrender of that which you value in favor of that which you don’t.
If you give money to help a friend, it is not a sacrifice; if you give it to a worthless stranger, it is. If you give your friend a sum you can afford, it is not a sacrifice; if you give him money at the cost of your own discomfort, it is only a partial virtue, according to this sort of moral standard; if you give him money at the cost of disaster to yourself – that is the virtue of sacrifice in full.
A sacrifice is the surrender of a value. Full sacrifice is full surrender of all values. If you start, however, as a passionless blank, as a vegetable seeking to be eaten, with no values to reject and no wishes to renounce, you will not win the crown of sacrifice. It is not a sacrifice to renounce the unwanted
If you wish to save the last of your dignity, do not call your best actions a ‘sacrifice’: that term brands you as immoral. If a mother buys food for her hungry child rather than a hat for herself, it is not a sacrifice: she values the child higher than the hat; but it is a sacrifice to the kind of mother whose higher value is the hat, who would prefer her child to starve and feeds him only from a sense of duty.
Sacrifice could be proper only for those who have nothing to sacrifice – no values, no standards, no judgment – those whose desires are irrational whims, blindly conceived and lightly surrendered. For a man of moral stature, whose desires are born of rational values, sacrifice is the surrender of the right to the wrong, of the good to the evil.

The creed of sacrifice is a morality for the immoral – a morality that declares its won bankruptcy by confessing that it can’t impart to men any personal stake in virtues or values, and that their souls are sewers of depravity, which they must be taught to sacrifice. By its own confession, it is impotent to teach men to be good and can only subject them to constant punishment. [emphasis mine]

Now, I have not heard a single lefty-leaning Bush-bashing blue-blooder — not once! — seek to assert that the war in Iraq, oh dear if only it entailed “sacrifice” from us all the way that noble effort by FDR that was World War II demanded rationing of rubber, steel, wood, et al…why, then the War On Terror would be an equally heroic deed and then they’d be able to get behind it. I have not heard ’em say that one single time.

But I’ve heard ’em, many-a-time, throw out some platitudes designed to bully the casual thinker into believing that’s where they were coming from. That glittery, glistening heroic sheen of “sacrifice,” yesiree! That’s what Bush’s unjust and immoral war is missing. We aren’t sacrificing enough!

But John Galt’s words put that into a whole different light, don’t they. ‘Sacrifice’ is the surrender of that which you value in favor of that which you don’t. It is therefore morality for the immoral; it is a moral code for those who cannot appreciate having one.

Not that asphalt rationing would bring any of these nattering nabobs on board. It wouldn’t. If you parse Carl’s words very carefully, and listen to the other nattering nabobs very carefully, you’ll see they are promising no such thing. The universality of our sacrifices has nothing to do with it — the country is engaged in an intensive effort, there’s still a Republican in the White House, and that is all it takes to inspire their impassioned opposition to what we’re doing.

All the bitching about “sacrifice” is just a red herring — and that’s the best part about it.

Memo For File LXII

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

Now that I’ve picked on him, noodle on the following as an equal and opposite righteous thrashing of the other guy. Along with all those bosses you know you’ve had…the aggravating ones that, now that you’re done with ’em, they haven’t been worthy of too much thinking since then.

I was trying to find this description of Wesley Mouch in Atlas Shrugged, last year sometime, and anytime you go looking for anything in Atlas Shrugged it’s like finding a tiny needle in an enormous haystack. I came up empty back then — and then when I went looking for the passage about Cherryl Taggart (finally locating it on p. 827) I stumbled across the Mouch thing on p. 496.

It’s pure gold. Describes much in our lives. More than it should. You know people like this; you know you do.

Wesley Mouch came from a family that had known neither poverty nor wealth nor distinction for many generations; it had clung, however, to a tradition of its own: that of being college-bred and, therefore, of despising men who were in business. The family’s diplomas had always hung on the wall in the manner of a reproach to the world, because the diplomas had not automatically produced the material equivalents of their attested spiritual value. Among the family’s numerous relatives, there was one rich uncle. He had married his money and, in his widowed old age, he had picked Wesley as his favorite from among his many nephews and nieces, because Wesley was the least distinguished of the lot and therefore, thought Uncle Julius, the safest. Uncle Julius did not care for people who were brilliant. He did not care for the trouble of managing his money, either; so he turned the job over to Wesley. By the time Wesley graduated from college, there was no money to manage. Uncle Julius blamed it on Wesley’s cunning and cried that Wesley was an unscrupulous schemer. But there had been no scheme about it; Wesley could not have said just where the money had gone. In high school, Wesley Mouch had been one of the worst students and had passionately envied those who were the best. College taught him that he did not have to envy them at all. After graduation, he took a job in the advertising department of a company that manufactured a bogus corn-cure. The cure sold well and he rose to be the head of his department. He left it to take charge of the advertising of a hair-restorer, then of a patented brassiere, then of a new soap, then of a soft drink — and then he became advertising vice-president of an automobile concern. He tried to sell automobiles as if they were a bogus corn-cure. They did not sell. He blamed it on the insufficiency of his advertising budget. It was the president of the automobile concern who recommended him to Rearden. It was Rearden who introduced him to Washington — Rearden, who knew no standard by which to judge the activities of his Washington man. It was James taggart who gave him a start in the Burueau of Economic Planning and National Resources — in exchange for double-crossing Rearden in order to help Orren Boyle in exchange for destroying Dan Conway. From then on, people helped Wesley Mouch to advance, for the same reason as that which had prompted Uncle Julius: they were people who believed that mediocrity was safe. The men who now sat in front of his desk had been taught that the law of causality was a superstition and that one had to deal with the situation of the moment without considering its cause. By the situation of the moment, they had concluded that Wesley Mouch was a man of superlative skill and cunning, since millions aspired to power, but he was the one who had achieved it. It was not within their method of thinking to know that Wesley Mouch was the zero at the meeting point of forces unleashed in destruction against one another. [emphasis mine]

Kinda reminds me of a certain energetic and charismatic young man — a decidedly underqualified young man — running for President this year. But that’s just my opinion, of course.

Update: One of that underqualified young man’s supporters argues for nationalizing the refineries…as classic an illustration as can possibly exist, of confusing mediocrity with excellence.


Hat tip to St. Wendeler at Another Rovian Conspiracy. The uh, er, socializing, I mean, uh, whatever was acknowledged to be a Maxine Waters “oopsie” moment…mouth started getting ahead of her brain there. Well, it doesn’t seem to have been a misstatement at all. As St. Wendeler points out, they’re getting more brazen, more sure of themselves, and their true colors are starting to show.

They’re disciplined in dealing with the situation of the moment, and therefore presume that those among them who are capable of amassing power, must be cunning and brilliant and therefore their plans must be ingenious. It’s a simple case of mediocrity being confused with excellence. And plans that have been tried repeatedly, and failed, being thought to possess some sort of beneficiality or merit.

Be afraid; be very afraid.

Thing I Know #230. We’d call them “rationalists” if they thought things through rationally; that’s why they’re called “socialists.”