Archive for the ‘Poisoning Individuality and Reason’ Category

Memo For File CXXXV

Friday, April 8th, 2011

The time has come for someone to jot down into visible words what everybody with a working brain knows already, but nobody with shame will admit out loud. Well, I have more brains than shame, and I am ready, willing and able.

We all have to make decisions, and some of us prosper or suffer according to the wisdom or stupidity of those decisions. The rest of us don’t, so the ones who don’t, start to make stupider and stupider decisions as the quality of their decision-making begins to suffer from atrophy. They have little incentive to make wise decisions, so as the necessity fades away over time, so does the quality. These people who enjoy the luxury of peeling-off with whatever decisions feel good at the time, not having to worry about whether they’re wise or not, are also enjoying more and more of a majority status. And what’s even worse, is that as they flail around for some method by which to make these decisions, they tend to settle on exactly that one: Majority. Go along with what “most” people are already thinking.

Or, echo what the most audible people in earshot, say they are thinking. Make your mark by not making your mark. “Change” the final consensus to what it was already. You can easily tell a man who lives off the sweat of others, and knows he lives off the sweat of others, because he has no history to offer insofar as going against the majority — he’s been on the “winning” side every single time.

Well, that isn’t the ugly truth everybody knows & no one wants to admit. I’ll get into that straight-away:

Salesmanship TriadAmong those who labor under a natural incentive to try to make wise, logical, reasoned decisions, the wisdom/logic/reason usually does not have the final say. We like to think it does, but it’s really a hodge-podge of three things which could be thought of as legs on a three-legged stool:

1. Does the idea make logical sense;
2. Are you any good at selling it to me;
3. Was I already leaning in the direction of doing it anyway.

And the thing that makes us hesitant to admit this, is: There is a summation involving these three legs. One leg may be very weak, and the sale is closed anyway if the other two legs are stronger. Any one of the three legs may be weak and it can still be a slam dunk, if the other two legs, or just one of the other two legs, can compensate.

And I do mean any one. The idea may not make logical sense, in fact it may be downright silly. You’ll buy it anyway, or at least you’ll feel a powerful compulsion to buy it anyway, if the other two legs are stronger. Salesmanship and prejudice.

Our current President is best described by means of this three-legged stool. He brings so much skill and talent to the salesmanship aspect of it that the other two legs don’t need to be there at all. He can sell ideas that are disliked by the prospective buyers, even if the ideas make no sense whatsoever. That’s the problem. That’s why He isn’t right for the immediate future of the country.

This also explains His remarkable appeal, or at least, the appeal He used to have some three years ago. “I can’t explain it, there’s just something about Him!” They said this over and over again. All who were waiting for details to support this, were left sucking air…but that’s perfectly alright, they were told, if you ever met Barack Obama in person you’d understand immediately. Well, now it’s later and the understanding is crystal-clear. Those who value unity over clarity, saw Obama as the perfect unifying force. He would get up and sell…uh, something. And by the time it was over everybody would come to agreement. Then what? That part doesn’t matter, see the important thing is that everyone would agree.

Now, what has Obama sold us in three years.

1. There is something wrong with you if you say anything against…um…whatever it is Congress put together in this health care bill here. Haven’t had a chance to skim through it or anything, but Let Me Be Clear it is wonderful.
2. Jessica Simpson has put on a little weight.
3. The Cambridge police acted stupidly.
4. Time for a beer summit.
5. When there’s an oil leak in the Gulf, we need a drilling moratorium. Yeah, that’s the solution.
6. We need to move to alternative fuels and we shouldn’t drill at all.
7. Brazil, on the other hand, should drill to its heart’s content.
8. We hope to sell China lots and lots of stuff.
9. And the latest humdinger: If the price of gas is a problem for you, you need to get a new car.

That is by no means an exhaustive list. But it is a useful cross-section, a useful sampling, and oh by the way did you notice the one theme permeating through it all? The one common characteristic? Not a single item on there makes a damn lick of sense.

And thus it is with all other persons, in all other capacities, in all other walks of life. You’re going to generally find the greater the talent is invested in selling things, the less sense the ideas are going to make. Thing I Know #271 provides some insight into why it always has worked, and always will work, this way…

Someone please enlighten me on this hero worship for people who are good at selling things. An excellent salesman is useless in selling an adequate product; an adequate salesman will move it just as quick. You only need an excellent salesman to sell a crappy, substandard product, or excessive quantities of a product, that people don’t need.

Am I saying whenever you encounter a wonderful salesman you should turn around and run as fast as your li’l legs can possibly carry you? No, of course not.

But, I’ll be honest with you; I’m reasonably sure I’ve sailed past the midpoint, by now, between cradle and crypt. And the years I can now review in hindsight, have strongly suggested that to me over and over again — not only should I run away from wonderful salesmen has fast as my li’l legs can possibly carry me, but screaming at the top of my lungs in holy terror, arms flailing overy my head, wouldn’t exactly be uncalled-for.

The years ahead of me might very well teach me something contrary. But it hasn’t happened yet. And I’m left without any reason to expect such a thing to happen.

After all, I’m part of the people who still suffer when they make dumbass decisions. Maybe we’re a dwindling minority now…but I’m actually thankful to be on this side of the line. It keeps your mind sharp, somewhat, if you stand to lose things when your mind isn’t sharp. It’s like John Wayne said (apocryphally): “Life’s tough. Life’s tougher if you’re stupid.” It is a regretful situation for us all, that life is working that way for fewer and fewer of us. Too many of our peers are allowed to live relatively pain-free, in fact with a right to file grievances if they’re ever troubled with any pain at all, while being stupid and staying stupid. And as a direct result of this, we have placed value on so-called “leaders” who have no skill at all other than to lengthen the stool-leg that has to do with salesmanship, so the other two legs needn’t be relevant.

In fact, isn’t that what all the yelling is about lately? Which ones among us should be privileged to never feel any portion of the community pain — which arrives as the direct result of stupid, nonsensical decisions that were made — because the salesmanship skills were so stellar, so amazing, so off-the-charts impressive.

Death Panels Revisited: The Left Won’t Admit Palin Had a Point

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Wall Street Journal, Review & Outlook:

At a stroke, Medicare chief Donald Berwick has revived the “death panel” debate from two summers ago. Allow us to referee, because this topic has been badly distorted by the political process—and in a rational world, it wouldn’t be a political question at all.

On Sunday, Robert Pear reported in the New York Times that Medicare will now pay for voluntary end-of-life counseling as part of seniors’ annual physicals. A similar provision was originally included in ObamaCare, but Democrats stripped it out amid the death panel furor. Now Medicare will enact the same policy through regulation.

We hadn’t heard about this development until Mr. Pear’s story, but evidently Medicare tried to prevent the change from becoming public knowledge. The provision is buried in thousands of Federal Register pages setting Medicare’s hospital and physician price controls for 2011 and concludes that such consultations count as a form of preventative care.

The office of Oregon Democrat Earl Blumenauer, the author of the original rider who then lobbied Medicare to cover the service, sent an email to supporters cheering this “victory” but asked that they not tell anyone for fear of perpetuating “the ‘death panel’ myth.” The email added that “Thus far, it seems that no press or blogs have discovered it, but we will be keeping a close watch.”

So, it’s good for us, and it’s so good for us that it’s important we never find out about it. Keep calling that Palin chick an ignorant Eskimo snowbilly and hope she doesn’t say anything.

YogiKnow what this reminds me of? Al Gore invented the Internet. Or, every politician screws around on his wife just like Bill Clinton. Palin said she can see Russia from her house. In all these cases, once you found out all of what was going on, the leftist, statist position ended up looking not so well off, not the way to go. But if you learned just enough to be dangerous they looked golden — so The Left, ever accustomed to dictating to people what they should learn and what they should not learn, encouraged its followers to form a picture of what’s going on about as brilliant and vibrant and detailed as a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. It has become such a carefully nurtured predilection now, that the loyal leftist fully expects to walk past the same clump of trees over and over again every three seconds.

The “truth,” to leftists, ends up being contradictory in all cases: Every single politician messes around on his wife! And Bill Clinton didn’t!

Palin said she can see Russia! I heard her myself! With Hillary standing next to her looking disgusted!

No, Al Gore never said he invented the Internet! And he should have!

We should have death panels! And we’re not getting them!

We get overloaded with all these “lint trap” talking points that are cherry-picked according to whether they make the left-idea look like a good-idea…they aren’t even consistent with each other. They only work on the people who have invested their ego in whatever leftist idea came before, and among them, only one the ones who are passionately dis-interested in what is really happening. At some point, they collide with each other and they don’t work. And so we start hearing a bunch of “jokes” that aren’t really funny.

Meanwhile, back to hi-res, 24-bit TrueColor land where we care about learning what’s really happening: We see now that “left wing” has as much to do with how legislation is planned, as with what the legislation is. Maybe more. Make sure it impacts everybody, and we can’t get away from it no matter who we are or where we are, even in its experimental phase; especially in its experimental phase! Unless we have the right friends, or we got a “waiver.” DON’T tell us what’s going on. If we find out what’s going on, distract us with something else. If we cannot be distracted, make a punchline out of the truth so that whoever has learned it, will be reluctant to share it.

Have I distorted this? Exaggerated some of it unfairly? If so, how?

If not, then who, of sound mind, really thinks we need this?

On That Study That Says Fox Viewers Are Misinformed…

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

…the one from the University of Maryland.

Mediaite is to be congratulated for putting up something that not only talks about the study but actually points to it. There is an abundance of spewing and intoning and condescending out there in blogger-land, in which people merely talk about the study around virtual mouthfuls of churlish chortling, basking in the afterglow of skimming through something that comports with their prejudices in such a satisfying way. But they don’t point to it.

This is not the intellectual behavior of people who meet my definition of “informed.”

I should add in the spirit of full disclosure I don’t have a dog in this hunt. This is the twenty-first century and responsible consumers of news don’t get their news from the teevee anymore. They take a more active role now — they put together queries about what they want to find out, who says what, what the opposition has to say about it, and then they form an opinion.

If I do this right, you’re about to find out how that is done and also why it is so important.

Daisy DukeBut anyway, I don’t regard myself as a Fox News watcher. If I beat the Lady of the House home, I might turn on Hannity if there’s enough time to attend to a casual chore like hanging up my shirts from the drier, but not enough time for an episode of Dukes of Hazzard. Only in the spirit of, since these are interesting times in which we live, I don’t want to be completely cut-off from the outside world for an evening…and I can’t hit the news scrolls on the computer when I have a “One Big Ass Mistake, America” tee shirt in one hand and a hanger in the other.

So I have the channel memorized. But would I say Fox News is a significant contributor to my net information base? Not even close. If I’m misinformed about the issues, don’t go crying to Hannity about it.

Anyway, back to the study. By reading what the eager cheerleaders of the study do not want you to read — which is the work itself — you find that the “misinformed” assessment was formed by means of responses to carefully chosen questions. In other words, if a respondent refused or failed to reject a pre-selected and pre-defined canard, which apparently the authors of the study decided ahead of time was somehow relevant, the respondent was “misinformed.”

Even if I liked the questions that were asked — if I liked the canards that were pre-selected — I’d have to characterize this as a not terribly helpful way to go. As you’ll see below, the canards have it in common that, if true, they would make a certain consistent ideological position (progressive) look discredited and undesirable. The obvious problem with this, is that a respondent could reject all of them out of loyalty to this ideological position and come out of it looking like a rocket scientist.

Care to argue with me about it? Take a look.

P. 5. Most economists think stimulus legislation has saved or created only a few jobs, or has even caused job losses.

P. 6: Economists estimate that healthcare legislation will increase the deficit.

P. 7: The economy is still getting worse.

P. 8: Most scientists think climate change is not occurring.

P. 9: The TARP program began under President Obama.

P. 11: The bailout of General Motors and Chrysler occurred under President Obama and not under President Bush.

P. 12: There were no income tax cuts in the stimulus legislation.

P. 14: President Obama has either decreased troop levels in Afghanistan, or kept them the same.

P. 14: President Obama may not have been born in the United States.

In addition to these, there was one token question that went the other way, on page twelve:

In October an article on the website ThinkProgress.org launched the claim that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was using large amounts of money raised from foreign sources to support Republican candidates. Most voters—60%–were aware that this charge about the Chamber of Commerce was not proven to be true. However, a substantial 31% did believe the claim that “the US Chamber of Commerce was spending large amounts of money it had raised from foreign sources to support Republican candidates and attack Democratic candidates” was proven to be true.

A token question is useful for keeping ankle-biters like me from making absolute statements that would otherwise be true: “All of the litmus tests in this study would be satisfied by an uninformed participant who just happens to lean left politically.” It helps to refudiate a claim like that — but, I note, it wouldn’t have much of an effect on the statistical outcome.

There seems to have been a prodigal expense of effort going into this study, and I don’t even want to know how many dollars. The research, from what I can tell, is all based on the survey responses to these chosen falsehoods. It just seems strange to me they weren’t chosen with quality in mind. If I were to commission such a study, there would be a great many more questions. Something approaching a hundred seems more reasonable.

I would sort them into three buckets: “The revelation of the truth makes the conservatives look good”; “the revelation of truth makes the liberals look good”; and “neutral.” Then I would fill these buckets so that the final ratio was something like two, two and six. I expect, as far as finding the canards to be debunked, the six-neutral would be the most difficult one to fill in terms of quota.

I note, too, that some of the questions asked by the World Public Opinion Dot Org are framed around “what the experts think.” So there is another obvious point to be made about the flaw in their research: It is inclined to bestow the title of “well informed” upon people who place great weight on what “experts” think, and then just slavishly mimic them. I suppose there is a certain fairness to that, along with a worthy fidelity to the intent of the study — you need to track down some information in order to find out what the so-called experts are thinking, so you can copy it — but it occurs to me. When we seek to establish and maintain an “informed” democratic republic of participating voters, this seems somewhat far-flung and distant from what we should be trying to build.

What good is information if you aren’t thinking independently about what it means?

Anyway, it is clear to me from reading this study that World Public Opinion and the University of Maryland are going to need some assistance coming up with some canards/litmus tests for the next study. It’s also clear to me such an abundant effort will be made at least one more time, prior to the elections of 2012 — of this, I have no doubt.

So following are my submissions for the next selection of falsehoods to be included in the next round.

1. The New Deal ended the Great Depression.
2. Science is about reaching a consensus.
3. After we invaded Iraq we learned the invasion was completely unjustified.
4. The First Amendment criminalizes the expression of religious belief in a public school or in any public place.
5. The Supreme Court has consistently held that life doesn’t begin until birth.
6. President Nixon started the Vietnam war.
7. The Pilgrims came to America so they wouldn’t have to pray or go to church.
8. The Constitution, through the Bill of Rights, grants certain rights to The People.
9. It also grants the Supreme Court the final say in whether a law passed by Congress is valid.
10. America was started so that all pressing issues of public importance could be decided democratically.
11. In the years after Ronald Reagan signed the tax cut in 1981, tax revenues fell.
12. Women in the work force, on average, make 70 cents to every dollar made by an equally qualified man.
13. On average, the rich inherit their wealth; they don’t earn it.
14. While serving as Governor of Texas, George W. Bush pardoned James Byrd’s killers.
15. ObamaCare has never done anything to create a “death panel,” this is a complete falsehood.
16. Al Gore never claimed to have created the Internet, this is another falsehood.
17. The Second Amendment is about hunting, and if you don’t hunt your food you have no use for it.
18. By renewing the Bush tax cuts across the board, Congress is giving money to the wealthiest Americans.
19. Equality is one of the founding, visionary ideals of America.
20. Diversity is another.
21. Blacks didn’t win the right to vote until the 1960′s.
22. Under Reagan, the CIA sold crack to inner-city youths to keep them criminalized and impoverished.
23. Karl Rove outed Valerie Plame and destroyed her career as a covert operative.
24. George Bush (the elder) persuaded the Iranians not to release the hostages until Reagan’s inauguration.
25. The Boy Scouts is a hate group.
26. Unemployment benefits stimulate the economy.
27. A fetus is not a life.
28. Under President Bush, gas prices went up as oil companies saw their biggest profit margins ever.
29. A progressive tax system imposes the highest proportional liability on the wealthiest Americans, which is as it should be.
30. Sarah Palin said, “I can see Russia from my house!”

At sometime or another, I have argued with liberals — usually on the innerwebs — who honestly believed one, some or most of these demonstrably false statements. I tripped them up easily; they were uninformed because they were misinformed. Handed a bowl of drivel and nonsense which they then gulped down uncritically, probably repeating it more than a few times before I smacked ‘em upside the head over it. The balance of what remains, I have heard uttered by progressive politicians. They were seldom to never questioned about it.

So if the study is to serve the public interest by offering us cues as to where people might be going to become informed or misinformed, I would argue there is an urgency involved in framing the next study around falsehoods like the ones I have offered. Among the falsehoods they are already using, they could jettison some to make room. I would start with the ones that begin with “experts/economists/scientists say…” Because this, too, is not a pattern of behavior I would expect from an informed person — you turn on the teevee to watch a news anchor regurgitate to you whatever it is the experts say?

No, I think the study would be better served by using what I’ve offered. I wonder if that will have an effect on the result? Ya think it would?

I probably needn’t worry about that. World Public Opinion Dot Org is merely a label, a front for The Program on International Policy Attitudes. PIPA is bankrolled by, among other sponsors, the Tides Foundation.

So I’m not holding my breath for my offering of thirty questions to make it into the next round.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News and Washington Rebel.

“If People Stop Taking Something Seriously, it Ceases to Exist”

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Ann Althouse is calling out this canard, practiced most recently by Josh Marshall who says:

A year ago, no one took seriously the idea that a federal health care mandate was unconstitutional.

Althouse replies:

We don’t rule out a proposition of constitutional law simply because no one seems to taking it seriously right now. We work through the analysis, and maybe we discover that it should be taken seriously.

Notice she said “maybe.” The point is that the “nobody taking it seriously” litmus test is not a reverse barometer of logical validity; the point is that it is non-correlative.

Also notice that she’s granting Marshall the benefit of the doubt — conceding the point, for the sake of argument, that “no one” was taking the proposition seriously twelve months ago, so she can contest the reasoning of what this would & would not mean.

But there were people taking it seriously one year ago. How did Marshall ignore this? Easy. He made them disappear…by refusing to take them seriously. That’s the trouble with this kind of thinking. You start manufacturing your own reality. And you do it on purpose. Without explicitly knowing that’s what you’re doing. By being a craven gigglepuss.

Hardy-har-har.

Your Thomas Sowell reading assignment that deals with this, would be Intellectuals and Society, Chapter 5, “Optional Reality in the Media and Academia.”

I Made a New Word XLIV

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

College-itis: (n.)

A mental illness in which a patient is simply unable to accept a situation in which another thinking person possesses a commensurately durable command of the relevant facts, and has pursued some valid and competent thinking process to arrive at different ideas regarding what it all means or what should be done. Persons suffering from this disease leap instantly to the conclusion that if you disagree, you have to be stupid.

It is difficult for laymen to understand College-itis without first fleshing out all of the benefits involved in what the typical college kid is missing, which is life experience. Among the benefits of experience, is the encounter with other persons who have had experiences — therefore, necessarily, encounters with persons who have had disparate experiences. Learning is a non-instinctive behavioral change, so as intelligent people experience things, they must necessarily alter their behavior as they learn. Empirically observed fact, plus studied fact, plus anecdotal knowledge equals inferences; anecdotal knowledge plus inferences equal planned-response. This loop feeds into a person’s behavior: response, minus stimulus, equals behavior.

Slacker UThe other thing that’s important to note here is that when we apply anecdotes from our own experience to the thought processes that form our behavior, we are indulging in what in the higher-education environment is referred to as “prejudice”; this is, of course, actively discouraged there. There is much complaint now that college campuses are maintained as diverse environments only in terms of skin color, not in terms of ideological leanings. But the truth is that it isn’t really possible for a college campus to lean in several different ideological directions, nor in several directions on any discussed question or issue, when participants are dissuaded from relying on any-and-all previously cherished values or previously experienced events. Without those, there can only be — what you learned in prerequisite coursework, what you have been told here this semester, and what you are experiencing today. The compliant but diligent student will not allow anything else to affect the outcome.

So the College-itis patient suffers from something worse than a lack of experience. He ends up suffering from an extreme lack of appreciation for its very significance (other than, of course, his own experience taking the class which is all-important). The sufferer has been programmed to accept the concept of negative knowledge: Just as a person’s opinion might be dismissed as ignorant if it is formed prematurely, with a scarcity of observed fact or opinion to back it up — and then that person could be labeled “stupid” and ejected from subsequent discussions as well — the same goes for a person who has managed to gain command of an uncontrolled abundance of knowledge, or knowledge outside the body of knowledge that is approved by the authorities — knowledge outside the syllabus. That person is to be labeled exactly the same way the ignorant person is to be labeled, with no recognized necessity for distinguishing between the two, now or forevermore.

And so in its advanced stages, College-itis becomes a predilection, one operating at a level somewhere beneath complete consciousness, for mistaking ignorance for education and vice-versa. Very much the same thing is done with the unrelated concept of tolerance. The other person’s opinion is compared to what is sanctified; from the opinion, a conclusion is reached about his command of the facts or lack thereof; from that, a conclusion is reached about his level of intellect. After that, all three of these are sort of smooshed together. From that, a boolean result is formed which is either “good” or “bad”; suitable for being carried around in the brain of, not quite so much an accomplished and educated graduate of higher learning, but a mentally impaired infant marsupial.

Cross posted at Washington Rebel and Right Wing News.

Memo For File CXXI

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Irish Cicero says this anecdote from my past is good enough for a blog post of its own. Now that I think on it a few more times, I realize he’s right. Before I start, I’d like you to think about misunderstandings, and how they happen. When one man gives another man an implied message, and the message turns out to be incomplete, who do we hold responsible for that.

When there is danger around, we pool our resources and work together. If there is a misunderstanding, the blame for the misunderstanding is shared between sender and recipient; they both must have done the job half-assed. A good example of this is a gun range. You don’t want to be the guy who understands “this automatic pistol does not have any cartridges in its magazine” — and then finds out there’s one-in-the-pipe. You also do not want to be the guy who gave that message to someone who took your “empty magazine” message as a synonym for “empty gun.” The outcome of this could be tragic. And so people do not place all of the responsibility on one person or the other. They work as a team. Safety first.

This is not the way we do it in other places.

That’s what this story is about.

In just a few months a whole lot of things happened. I became an unattached dude and a bachelor; my job went away; I became a contractor when it was figured out somewhere that my skills were still needed, even though my job was “supposed” to go away; Reagan died; and I served on a jury.

I was pooled as an alternate, and then someone got sick. So in I went. This story is about the opening comments of the defense attorney. His client was accused of stealing stereo equipment out of a jeep at two in the morning, but the charge was not theft. It was “receiving stolen property,” a nod to the insufficiency of the evidence for supporting the stronger charge.

The cop’s testimony was the only evidence available. He had found the jeep, parked curbside in a residential district, with the door hanging open. He was supposed to be looking for anything out of place, and he figured that qualified. Driving onward, he saw the defendant walking and he ordered him to stop. Defendant bent downward, toward his own ankles, for just a moment — he was behind another parked car, so the officer could not see what he was doing — and then he took off running. For anyone who’s watched C.O.P.S., the events immediately following would be easy to envision…

At the conclusion of the foot chase, the defendant was handcuffed and then the officer led him back to his patrol car. As they passed the spot where the suspect bent down, the officer saw the stereo equipment lying on the ground. Where, evidently, the defendant had placed it.

Evidently. Ah…but can you prove it?

There are written instructions on how you’re supposed to do your thinking when you serve on a jury. It’s a packet somewhere in the vicinity of twelve to twenty pages, I forget what. You can find a high-level description of these here, but that is not the packet that was circulated to us. In addition to the written instructions, there are also instructions from the judge, and from both of the counselors.

Now, I said before that the story is all about the opening remarks of the defense attorney; a transcript would be most helpful. I don’t have that, and that may partially explain why I didn’t think this was worth writing up. Besides of which, I’m not a lawyer and it isn’t my job to know how this stuff works. Not anymore. But I can tell you what made the deepest impression on me: The prosecution is required to prove, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the defendant’s guilt. The defense is required to prove nothing, because the defendant, according to our Constitution, is to enjoy the benefit of any & all doubt. The prosecution has to prove so much, that they have already failed in this case.

The law required us to spring his client. There were no ifs, ands or buts about it. Acquittal was the only hope we had, to maintain our compliance with the law, especially that highest of all laws, the United States Constitution.

The instructions from the judge were different. The jury packet was also different. What the judge said, agreed with what was contained in the jury packet; those two things did not agree with what the defense attorney told us.

The word “shadow” did not appear there. The phrase used was “reasonable doubt,” and there were many pages devoted to what was reasonable and what was not. There are things you know to have taken place, and there are inferences you draw about what must have been going on. Process-of-elimination is a valid technique. By which I mean: The evidence says a gun was empty, nobody handled the gun except Jim and Frank, the gun comes back loaded — if there’s more evidence coming in saying Jim had no bullets, it is fair to infer that Frank put bullets in the gun.

So “shadow of a doubt” does not cut it. There can be shadows, and you can still convict somebody.

And you aren’t breaking the law if you vote to convict. I’m pretty sure this is true, because I’m the juror most responsible for the vote coming out the way it did. When my fellow jurors started to go off on a wild tangent and spin wild tales so they could justify an acquittal, I called bullshit.

I wanted to throttle jurors #9 and #10 by the throat before it was over. They talked over each other in their exuberance as they pointed out you can NOT vote to convict this “boy” just because he ran! And this was true. But we also had to include the running-away in this scenario we were evaluating. We were working from process-of-elimination, so what were we eliminating as we drew the necessary inference to support a conviction? That was the key question.

Juror #10 offered the possibility that the cop had a dog; a mean, vicious, dog that had gotten away and was chasing the boy. Hey, the cop didn’t say he had one, but he didn’t say he didn’t!

I fought back an instinct to lunge across the table. Somehow, my reaction to this was to calmly point out some instruction that began on the bottom of page 3 and concluded on page 4, which strictly proscribed against this brand of thinking. I don’t know how I managed to do that, but because I did, the imaginary canine remained consigned to the oblivion from whence it came.

Later on I recall being under the microscope, or on top of the soapbox depending on your point of view — explaining some train of thought which completely escapes me now. I recall trying to pick the proper nomenclature, or interpreting of semantics, or something…I made some allusion to Bill Clinton debating the meaning of the word “is.” The entire jury room erupted in peels of laughter, but Jurors #9 and #10 sat stone-faced, glowering. Yeah, okay. So I’m pretty sure I know where they were coming from. This gets back to what Stephen Browne was referring to as “making up stories.” It is what it sounds like. You want to arrive at a desired conclusion, and so you start injecting evidence into the mix that isn’t really there.

But in the end, mostly due to my own machinations, we agreed to hang the bastard.

And no, as we filed out of the jury box, there was no deputy waiting to handcuff us all for breaking the law.

This means the defense attorney did what I call lying. A lot of lawyers will say that isn’t accurate at all, he was just doing his job. And he never said anything technically untrue. So really…and by “really,” what I mean to say is “in their world”…I’m the one who is lying by calling him a liar. But that isn’t my world. In my world that motherfucker lied and he should have been disbarred.

This is one of the tragedies of the times in which we live. It has become acceptable to convey pieces of “truth,” leaving out selected bits of it in support of your own interests — to manufacture misunderstandings that benefit you. That, somehow, is thought of as a truthful thing. In fact, nowadays it is thought of as an admirable thing, a testament to your superior skill in “communicating” — leading the poor dumb bastard who’s believing you, to a conclusion he’d never reach on his own, in a million years, if he had all of the picture. Our ethics have gone astray. Because the manufactured misunderstanding, on the part of the person who placed too much faith in you, is all that guy’s fault.

It’s absolutely nuts. It’s like someone butchering your dog, or sexing up your wife and putting the hotel room on your credit card — then blaming you for it.

We’ve got a lot of people running around now, who are thought of as great communicators. But I wouldn’t want to go to a gun range with anyone who communicates that way, and neither would you. Well, maybe you would…but let’s just leave that train of thought alone.

Cross-posted at Washington Rebel.

I Made a New Word XLI

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Pres • ley (v.)

1. To kill an organism slowly, by means of poisoning, which in turn is achieved by denying it the ability to purge itself of impurities.
2. In politics, to bring an entity to a slow demise by stigmatizing against its autonomy in declaring what it is; specifically, declaring what is incompatible with it.
3. To deploy political resistance against a group’s ability to jettison something, with an intent to make it more ludicrous over time and thus to bring it to an end.
4. To declare that someone should never part with something, as if you have their best interests at heart, when you really don’t.

We’ve seen a lot of this lately haven’t we? Ann Rice lashes out against Christianity even as she insists she still believes in Christ; Meghan McCain tries to destroy the Republican party over the same issue, homosexuality, denying it the opportunity to declare and exercise a fidelity to its own principles.

The Republicans responded to a number of other moves like this one, late last year, by coming up with a “Purity Test.” Oh boy, after that, the process just started to get going. The purity test was watered down, by the folks who supposedly had the party’s best interests at heart. And after just a couple months, because of all the artificial heat involved, the purity test was dropped.

Now get your puke bucket ready — if someone isn’t Presley-ing you, you’re gonna be needing it. New York Daily News wants to call out the Republicans for getting rid of Bob Inglis.

The current Republican Party, one hijacked by hustlers and extremists, not only looks to destroy President Obama. It even starts to kill its own.

Rep. Bob Inglis, a voice of reason at a dumb, unreasonable time in American politics, is one of them. Inglis (R-S.C.) will be out of a job soon for not hating Barack Obama nearly enough. The irony, he says, is that he disagrees with Obama on almost everything.

Sounds pretty dumb and unreasonable, doesn’t it? Stupid Republicans! We need a new rule, requiring them to keep the candidate 71% of the voters did not want. For their own good!

But wait. Inglis says…

“I’d get asked a question and they’d all wait to see if I’d use the word – socialist – they were throwing around. I wouldn’t. Because I don’t think that’s what he is. To call him a socialist is to demean the office and stir up a passion that we need to be calming, rather than constantly stirring up.”

Now, that’s a problem. As we’ve pointed out before, it’s pretty hard to come up with something a socialist is supposed to do, that the President has not in fact already done. Inglis is effectively saying if you’re a socialist, once you manage to get yourself elected President, it becomes an obligation of all the citizens to pretend you aren’t one so that the office is not demeaned.

Sorry, Bob. Words mean things, as they saying goes. And since when do we elect our officials to calm ourselves down? Seems to me that’s not what your job is supposed to be. How’d this country get started in the first place, anyway? Was that a “calm” revolution? I missed that part of my history, please enlighten me.

But wait! At paragraph number thirteen (!!!), the reader is finally given the information needed to decide the paramount question: Is the Republican party cuckoo-burgers? Maybe they are, but if so, this might not be the decision that manage to demonstrates it. They purged sensibly. Not that this is evident to you if you stopped reading two-thirds of the way through.

Inglis is smart enough to know it wasn’t just his refusal to call the President names that turned him into one more unemployed American. He voted for TARP and against the surge in Iraq and even called out Glenn Beck, a rough, tough media guy who thinks ad hominem attacks are great until he’s the hominem.

In the primary runoff, Inglis’ opponent got 71% of the vote. It’s never just one thing when you get carried out of the ring like that.

“I was at a breakfast and somebody said the President wasn’t patriotic,” Inglis says. “I knew I was supposed to go along. Instead, I got up and said, ‘That’s simply not true. I disagree with this President most of the time, but he loves his country.’ Afterward a big Republican operative in our state grabbed me and said, ‘Don’t give him that.’ I said, ‘Give him what?’ And the guy said, ‘That he’s patriotic.’

“Why do I have to see Democrats as my enemies? I’ve got Al Qaeda. I’ve got the Taliban. I’ve got enough enemies. I’m supposed to call this President despicable? The people who are despicable are the ones who constantly mislead the public in the interest of selling books. Or themselves. And always cloaking themselves in patriotism. Shame on them.”

He laughs softly.

“But then what do I know?” Bob Inglis says. “I lost.”

His district did. His state did. His party did. He did not.

Yes, his party lost. It lost something it needed to lose, something toxic to it. If you are never allowed to reject anything, then there’s no definition to you and you’re never allowed to become anything.

Inglis did lose. He lost the confidence of his party, that he possessed the mettle required to effectively resist bad policy. He went on the record seeing things that were not actually there. He imagined a “love” of country, where the evidence doesn’t indicate any love actually exists. Like I’ve said before: If you love me like today’s democrats love America, then please stay the hell away.

But if the GOP is to show this dreamer the door, they are to pay as high a political price as is possible, for doing so.

In 2010, it seems that is a popular tactic of the left. Among the people who, strangely, inexplicably, are enamored of some frenzied fondness for higher taxes. Even though most of the people so intoxicated have no direct interest in such a policy, and stand to improve their lot in life not one bit through such a policy.

You know what? They could use a good purging, too.

Update: Oh look, there goes one of them right now. Raising money for Charlie Crist. It doesn’t even justify a separate post.

This is a word we’ve been needing for awhile. It’s an important concept, and we’re seeing examples of it more and more often lately.

If you’re never allowed to get rid of anything, you can’t keep anything.

“That Girl Could Have Killed Half of Oregon”

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

FrankJ writes in Pajamas Media. FrankJ speaks the truth…

Do you know what kinds of diseases can lurk inside improperly handled lemonade? No, you don’t. And neither do I. So obviously, that threat is so severe that medical scientists won’t even tell us about it so as not to create a panic. And do you know how many people died from contaminated lemonade before stringent health regulations were enforced? I’ll give you a number: 52,143,000. Well, the number of people who died from improperly handled lemonade involves one or more digits from that number.

Scary, isn’t it? That stupid little girl could have killed half of Oregon. Luckily the government was there to protect you. But the damage isn’t just limited to people’s health; there’s also the economic impact. She goes out there with her non-union labor selling lemonade for 50 cents, and who knows how many proper businesses that paid all their licensing fees and taxes she was undercutting? She was effectively stealing money from Oregon and the federal government. Thus while President Obama is working very carefully to revive our economy, she is working directly against him. That probably also makes her a racist.

I’m sure the situation is a little more reasonable than this. Probably some homeowner wanted to build a gazebo or install an awning and got turned down for the permit, so their nose was all out of joint about this then they found out about some little girl selling lemonade. Called City Hall and said “What about her? HUH? Has SHE got a permit?!?”

And then of course the officials had to swoop in. Can’t discriminate in any way in a properly civilized society. All laws must be enforced equally, and the only way to do that is with good old-fashioned Zero ToleranceTM. We have to do that, all over the place, to show what good people we are. Enforce and enforce and enforce some more, until there’s nothing left. It’s the least that should be demanded out of a compassionate people.

Now lynch the bitch. Crazy lemonade whore.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News and at Washington Rebel.

Broken Window Fallacy

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

The epitaph for the times in which we live, is that it’s become radical to acknowledge that destroying things is destructive.

Hat tip to blogger friend Rick.

Perfect Mike

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

Blogger MarkyMark received a note. I’ll just excerpt the entire thing.

MarkyMark,

I’m writing this to tell you of an old friend of mine, a man I greatly respected and the tale of his life. What makes this man special is the that by all accounts his life, his married life, working life, and family life, was a “success” by the standards laid down by modern society. I’ll call him Michael (not is real name) and he was a true blue worker, very intelligent, and raised to provide by two parents who stayed together and raised their son with strict Baptist values. He wasn’t all that handsome but invested his younger years diligently, pursuing an engineering degree at Duke University back when grade inflation didn’t exist (early 1960′s). The girls he dated, well, he didn’t date much as he was a nerd and being the 60′s the girls with the new freedom used that freedom to ride the cock train of football players and players in general. The new age of sexual emancipation left Mike at the station. Years after college Mike met a girl who had gotten her fill of the bad boys, and they started dating. True she was no virgin while Mike was, she’d had several relationships and relations before but she recognized the value of Mike in that he had a new job with an up and coming career track – computers! Misinterpretation of his prior religious teaching ordered him to forgive this girl’s past and instead focus only on the future. It was his duty after all. He married her and worked, hard. His father worked for the railroad and the company had taken care of him so Mike knew that this was the way to a good life. Work hard, and the company would reward and take care of you. Then the 1970′s hit with the Carter recession and all that loyalty and hard work amounted to nothing. Still he tried again, found another job (that forced him to move frequently) and this one wanted even more hours than the prior job. I remember him saying “It’s Friday do you know what that means? It’s only two more working days until Monday!” and off he’d go. Everyday. For 43 years. He had two children, a boy then a girl, and worked while his wife stayed at home. Later on after the children were out of high school Mikes wife dabbled a little here and there and worked part time occasionally for a convenience store. The extra money was nice but not enough so she pecked Mike continuously to make extra money. It was never enough. “Go tell your boss you need more! You should show him your value! A real man would provide for his children!” and on it went. Mike was getting older now, and had always had diabetes, a life long condition he had to treat with regular insulin injections. The shots were painful but he needed them to think straight. Of course there was the time he was laid off in 1980 with no insurance and the daughter needed braces. A real man knows when to put others first after all. And of course when the mother in law needed a new roof, and he really had promised his wife that new washing machine, and oh she needed to go see her mother for Christmas as well and airfare was so expensive. So the medicine(s) waited, more than once.

His children were boomerang types, his daughter slutted it up with a guy and moved in with him but later on came back home until she was able to snag a younger version of Mike. His son dropped out of college a few times and then came home to be a bum for 2 years after deciding that work was too nerve wracking. Mike would never throw his children out so they stayed for several more years. Several more. Finally when his son hit 28 he found a slut with a child from another guy and got her pregnant. The girl wanted a lavish wedding but his son was only working at a book store and couldn’t afford it – no big wedding so it seemed. Mike’s wife knew better of course, and argued with him for months about paying for the big day. She’d gotten a lavish wedding (thank you Mike) and didn’t Mike know how important a wedding is to his future daughter? Yes this was his vacation money, yes after so many years of hard work he was finally going to get to go do something he always wanted (to see the Northern lights in Alaska). Yes he was going to finally get that Harley Davidson and ride up there after 35 years of no vacations at all. BUT This was going to be his daughter according to his wife and his kids HAD to come first…. So the girl got her wedding. Then his real daughter needed help with a house. Her new husband turned out not to be a copy of Mike after all but a thug with a criminal record who had just lost his job. Why did his daughter lie about this guy to Mike? Her wedding was very expensive too. Oh well it was too late now and his daughter did need a place to live and she just found out she was pregnant! He didn’t have the money but his wife researched it and 2nd mortgages were so easy to get back then. True, his house after so many years of work was almost paid off but his grandchild needed a real home and there was no way his new son in law could afford it and Mike was told he could now work up to 10 hours more overtime if he wanted. 60 hours wasn’t too much of a sacrifice and he’d at least get a leg up on that promotion, maybe.

Another decade passed and after scrimping and saving and even more hard work the mortgages were paid off. In a rare perfect storm both children (now well into there 30′s with kids of their own) didn’t need something. The mother in law didn’t need a new appliance, or home repair, or another new car being long past her driving years. Yes, now, this was the time. Mike now 64, proudly strode into the Harley dealership and filled out a custom order sheet. In 8 weeks a shiny new Harley would arrive and he would get to ride it. He would finally take a vacation, his first real vacation since college. Sure his wife and kids had gone on many many vacations over the years but he always had stayed behind – to work. Something always came up. One time it was that there just wasn’t money or neighbors to take care of – of all things – the dogs! 3 Lassa’s that Mike never wanted yipping and shitting all over the place. Ugh… still at least his wife would get a vacation – she deserved it after all didn’t she? There was even that one time (he hoped it was just the one time) where he found out his wife had hooked up with an old boyfriend when she said she was going to visit her mother. He forgave her of course a divorce would have devastated his kids (he knew they were his – or at least he hoped) and of course he’d have lost everything with the divorce laws – besides wasn’t he a Christian? Shouldn’t he just forgive and forget? What does his pride or even himself matter? He had never cheated on her or even been with another woman – not even once – but that was normal and he knew that she appreciated that didn’t she?

The last big push before new years came at work and Mike was tired. His wife as always spent Christmas and new years with her mother – and he knew this time she really was with her mother – she was too old to cheat on him now wasn’t she? When she got back he would be free of dog sitting and he would take his new Harley on the road for the first time. Shiny and red, he hadn’t even ridden it yet. He read the owner’s manual 100 times and knew everything about it, he couldn’t wait and it was all he talked about at work! It was brand new and kept in the garage but he stripped the engine and cleaned and oiled everything just to make sure! It was polished, waxed, and hospital clean. All was ready. His first ride on his HIS!! brand new Harley to see the Northern lights. It was the culmination of his life’s work and now it was really going to happen. Mike was so excited.

On December 29th his daughter called and left an angry message on the tape machine. She wanted to visit but the snow was blocking the drive-way and she had her daughter and no snow shovel! Why the f**k hadn’t Mike shoveled the driveway? He knew she was coming to visit that lazy good for nothing piece of crap. NOTE: the words she used were in reality more caustic than this – I have lightened them considerably.

On January 3rd his son came to visit and found his father cold and lifeless surrounded by a ring of dog shit. He’d had a massive stroke, likely from the diabetes, and the paramedics said they thought that he didn’t suffer for long – but it was hard to tell. When Mike’s wife returned later on she immediately made plans to sell the house. She raged that Mike hadn’t left her enough life insurance and no instructions on what to do – what a irresponsible man what the hell was he thinking? He should have provided better for her especially since he knew she was too old to work! She was 62!!! Insurance was so expensive for someone in his condition but if he hadn’t squandered *their* money on that stupid bike he could have afforded it. Her old boyfriend George was so much more successful – oh how she regretted not marrying him! The bike was listed on Ebay that week. “Never ridden Harley – brand new! $17,000 or best offer”.

By every PC measure Mike’s life was a success. He worked his whole life for someone else and doubtless made millions for his bosses over the course of his career. He took care of 3 people and two grandchildren that would have been on the dole if not for his efforts, and paid punitive taxes to take care of many more along the way. He never collected a dime of social security or unemployment even when he was laid off – he was just too proud to file. He never took Medicare and he made lots of profit for 2 large banks, 2 colleges, and never once thought of himself. He died cold and alone, surrounded by shit, never once having done anything for himself. His epitaph was a bike on Ebay – his life’s dream – sold to a dealer for $15,500 – the best offer his widow could get several years ago. She took a cruise with the money. America thanks you Mike. You were a real success, and moreover a blueprint for what we expect a modern man to be. R.I.P.

Memo For File CXX

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

Irish Cicero, chief cook and bottle-washer of Washington Rebel where I am a new contributor, wants to talk about Armageddon. It is the subject of this post, as well as in a private e-mail thread that has been bouncing around this week. I was quietly abstaining from it altogether because it’s already an important item within My 42 Definitions of a Strong Society — the last of the set:

42. Armageddon is not breathlessly anticipated. Very rarely does anyone talk about the entire world ending, for any reason.

Why is it a definition of a strong society to avoid talk of Armageddon? More precisely, why is it a definition of a weak one to go ahead and discuss it; to cite more accurately, to “breathlessly anticipate” the end of everything?

Because, to me, it represents absolute hopelessness, and a drive to talk about Armageddon represents a yearning for hopelessness. It also represents a departure from reality. You enjoy a much greater likelihood of suffering from a heart attack, without warning, than sitting here in your own natural lifespan when Jesus comes back. Thinking about the heart attack before it happens might be a constructive exercise. But the heart attack is not absolutely hopeless. Maybe you’ll be next to someone else — someone not having a heart attack, who will be in a position to help you.

The end of the world is exactly that, though. The Man Upstairs says, I’ve decided to make a clean wash of it. What are you going to do? Appealing to a higher authority is out of the question, as is making a wonderful speech to Him pointing out some new facet to the situation that somehow escaped His notice.

So I don’t want to talk about Armageddon. I don’t think that is what we are in. I rocked the boat with a suggestion we give it another name, and as of now it remains an open question what we’re going to call it. It is now likely we’ll refer to what is happening by some other name…which greatly enhances the potential of my participation. This is a good thing. I’m not happy with conversations that begin with the expurgation of any & all hope, and go forward from there. I tend to tune out.

Also, I’m unhappy with the level of thinking that tends to accompany the “breathless anticipation” of the end of the world. I’ve found it to lack robustness, logic and tensile strength. Just think on it for a minute with the emotions kept at bay: How do you go about justifying this theme to it, which everyone understands is paramount and central although very few say it out loud — that we are culpable? God wants to hit the reset switch. How much guilt should we really feel about it? The only reasonable answer is “none at all.” It is the height of hubris to say “must be something I did or didn’t do.” We’re that important? Really?

And so such exercises have it in common that they start playing hopscotch; they shift from one foot to the other, from a pious worldview to a more secular one. God’s formatting the disk — no, He isn’t doing it because He isn’t there, we are. Back in the fifties they came up with a replacement god in “The Day The Earth Stood Still” called Klaatu, who belonged to a race of aliens sitting in judgment of us. They were going to topple our Jenga tower. Because we were bastards and we deserved it. This has been an ongoing theme.

I don’t like talking about Armageddon. It represents, to me, abdicating all control of the conversation to those sitting at the table who have no hope. It is an indulgence in hopelessness. To me, there has to be some hope; if there isn’t any, I’d prefer to make up my mind about that myself thankyewverymuch. And once I’ve satisfied myself of that you’re going to find my interest in the conversation has reached an end, not a beginning. Some folks are my polar opposite, I’ve found; they only start their emotional investment when the hope is measurably gone — and I don’t even want to be around these people.

The folks who have far more money than I do, and made it all themselves…I’ve noticed they all operate this way. If you’re one of these Gloomy Gus people who just suck the energy out of the room, they kick you out. If they can, and if they can’t then they beat feet outta there. They don’t want to be around hopelessness. I suppose anyone who has a vision for solving a problem, or who merely wishes to form such a vision, has to be this way.

But I would like to participate in Cicero’s discourse. This is an important point he’s raising. We’re in something that, before, we weren’t in. Or we were not quite so submerged in it.

What then do we call this? Life in 2010 is not normal. Something is definitely happening. It is not the end of the world, because there is hope. There is abundant hope; in fact, if November comes & goes and the children are still running things at the end of it, very little of this hope will have dissipated. What’s the word to describe it?

I like the word “quickening” an awful lot. The changes are washing over us, bigger and bigger, and closer together. The smaller changes that change nothing, but act as harbingers of the bigger changes that are linked to them — they are becoming bigger and closer together as well. I see it on these here innerwebz. The loudmouths who insist on getting the last word, telling me I’m stupid and have the wrong idea about something; maybe they’re right, maybe I’m getting much stupider because it certainly seems I’m being told so a lot more often, by more and more people. Truth be told, the one factor that makes it hard to accept this, more than any other, is the frequency and enthusiasm with which I am told about it. We quickly reach a point where it’s been pointed out a little too quickly, a little bit too energetically. The whiff of desperation is unmistakable.

I am in error when I don’t help to condemn Andrew Breitbart.

I am repugnantly wrong when I insist on solid evidence before believing the tea party is chock full of racists.

I am certifiably stupid when I doubt the settled science of climate change.

I am committing sacrilege when I don’t bow before Shirley Sherrod, kneeling, kissing her, uh, her ring.

And for thinking a military exists for the purpose of fighting and defending something, rather than to provide free higher-education benefits to the enlistees, I’m an oaf.

I’m nuts for thinking there was anything dangerous about Saddam Hussein. Ever.

I’m making a dreadful mistake thinking Sarah Palin personifies what feminism was really supposed to be.

And I need to trust His Holy Eminence at 1600 Pennsylvania. He has the economy well under control. That unemployment rate will drop again, just as soon as He’s all done cleaning up FaPoBuAdtm, the Failed Policies of the Bush Administration. I’m a big ol’ dummy for thinking it would have been nice for Him to bother to show up, in person, to the Boy Scouts’ 100-year celebration rather than going on an airhead ditzy female talk show.

Now keep in mind…I’m only mentioning the most harmless things that I am, according to those who disagree. They have much worse things to say about my fine self. Since, thus far, I’m the only one they’ve met all across the world wide web, who disagrees with them about anything. Except I’m not. In fact, I’m generally not in the majority very often on a given issue, but on many of the above items I’ve found that I am; it is my opposition that is badly outnumbered. Which means very little to me. Except — still, they continue with the bullying. With the numbers extraordinarily lopsided, in the given locale, something like thirty-to-one. They’re the ones to bring it up. Their disconnection from reality complete, they continue their onslaught with the bullying “everybody knows” schtick, when it’s patently obvious that “everybody” knows no such thing.

It’s been happening more and more. More this year than in the two years before, which is saying a lot…and more the last two weeks, than all the months before. It’s a quickening. It’s a plague straight out of Book of Exodus. A plague of fools.

It’s hard to see what is happening here until you take the time to inspect the actual words exchanged, and read between the lines. Look under the surface. Then it becomes crystal clear.

Before I get to that, though, let’s go back to what Irish Cicero wants to talk about. The quickening.

It is a degradation of something. In the private e-mail thread, I compared it to a ruptured gas line burning away at the base of a steel tower. Nobody on God’s green earth can extinguish it. The tower remains standing for an hour, maybe two, but at some point the structural strength will dissipate and that tower’s coming down. If you’ve never experienced this in real life, I can tell you it is an amazing sight. Just one within the crowd will be most sensitive to motion at a distance, and the cry will go forth: “Ah, there she goes.” It won’t be mistaken, and a moment or two later it will be visible to everyone. But still the tower will remain standing, for the better part of a minute or more. Nobody really knows. No one is looking at a timepiece.

That is where we are. We have these “junkies” arguing about trivial bullshit on blogs. But it isn’t bullshit and it isn’t trivial. They…we…are the eagle-eyes, perceiving the movement first. What this says about us, is unimportant. The facts worth considering all have to do with that steel tower.

Another analogy is more obvious: You inflate a basketball to full capacity, and drop it on the level pavement. Boom, boom, boom, boom-boom-boom…they get closer together, very slowly. A gradual quickening. Once it diminishes into that brrrrmmmmm sound, something that existed before has been lost. I like this one because, after the basketball is at rest you can always lift it into the air and drop it again. This, I think, is where we are headed. We’re learning something about ourselves, withholding our efforts so we can see how things shake out. Eventually, we come to understand that it really is all about us. If we want to get some energy out of these objects, we have to put some in.

But the analogy that fits the best, is the darkest one. Every parent’s worst nightmare: Your child was right there just a moment ago, and now s/he’s nowhere to be found. Those first few moments that seem like days, are gone now, and now you’re facing days that seem like lifetimes. The police are looking, and your head is wracked with echoes of WHERE?? and HOW??

This is the best fit for where we are. We have hope, but we do not know how this is going to end. There is something precious to us that we think is still around, although we are not sure of it. The dreadful, unthinkable possibility exists that it may be gone forever.

We’re beating ourselves up constantly with thoughts that contain no perceptible words, other than “if only.”

We hope, and hope, and hope some more that there is a happy ending to this waiting. We don’t really know if it will happen. And we cannot presume the worst, so we concentrate on the when. But we don’t really care about the when. If we have to wait in order for it to come out right, we’ll wait.

But if that happy ending does come to pass, boy oh boy are there ever gonna be some new rules in place!

Yep. That’s it. That’s where we are.

There are those, though, who do not want to put the new rules in place. There are those who, by some neglectful act, or failure to act, allowed the child to go missing…read that as, “voted for Barack Obama.” The rest of us understand that the resulting disaster is so grave, that there is an indecency involved in pointing out their culpability in this. It is useless, it is cruel, and they already know.

And so they take advantage of our compassion and distance themselves further from reality. Then they get angry with everybody else. They begin to behave as if someone else was responsible for losing the child. They project.

Here, I connect this back to the loudmouths on the Internet who like to pretend someone else is the problem. I’m circling back to this thing you realize when you read between the lines, when you look under the surface. What makes them so frenzied, so desperate, so anxious to find racism where it is not, and to overlook it where it is.

It is guilt.

In 1945, we, and the Soviets, defeated the Nazis. Sixty-five years ago this very week, we had victory in Japan. That was the beginning of the Cold War. The communists began to try to infiltrate their new enemy, the Free World. This particular war, contrary to popular belief, has never ended. The USSR crumbled much like that steel tower, they had a “quickening” of their own, but the communist movement survived even the demise of their host state.

True communism doesn’t live in a state. It is a base human impulse. It is the darker side to our human nature and it lives in all of us.

It survives by means of guilt, and it propagates that way.

Here in America, it is hard for us to see it working. We are not like Europe. The misadventures involved with visibly different peoples integrating, coming from different races and different backgrounds, is interwoven with our history. All of our history. The challenges were with us at the very beginning, every moment up until the Civil War, every moment since then. We have always struggled with this.

And the encroachment of the communists depends on this. Communism invades by means of guilt. That is what they do.

I’m not talking about guys with Russian accents wearing Che Guevara hats. There is no requirement for such a thing, any more than vampires in our modern movies have to go around wearing fine tuxedos like Count Dracula. Communism is, as I said, burned into the motherboard of humanity. It is jealousy. It is a desire for misery and failure to be equally distributed, and we are always going to be burdened with it.

These are people who made dreadful mistakes, and they know it. They want all others to be equally culpable.

If they can’t keep their jobs, they don’t want you to keep yours.

If they got fooled by something, they want you to be fooled by the same thing.

And they think it’s silly to talk about communism. The communists were defeated, haven’t you heard? And so there must be no such thing. Our elected leaders can prattle on all day long about “I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money,” and no alarm bells go off. Said leaders are obviously not talking about themselves, or any of their friends, who can make just as much money as their little hearts desire. The rest of us, whose names are not stored in the right Blackberry devices and don’t play the right golf games with the right people, need to live under a ceiling.

It is aristocracy versus commoners. It is exactly what the American revolution, and the Bolshevik revolution, were supposed to banish forever.

Communism, socialism, collectivism, call it what you will — it has emerged from the fog as a synonym for this aristocracy. The leader of such an assembly possesses rights and privileges not too far different at all from those of royalty. We don’t have any church elders running around putting it into words that the glorious dictator rules by Divine Right — but we act that way. He can “make” as much money as He wants, whereas we cannot. He’s different.

I would have to imagine any supposedly egalitarian society is going to have to struggle against the same challenge. Forever. It will remain egalitarian, only so long as the people living there understand that some people succeed at things and some people fail…and that is quite alright. When we start trying to fix it, spread the wealth around, we constantly fail and we end up spreading the misery around instead.

And then we create a new caste of “leaders” who are to be spared from this misery that is being equally spread around.

And they become royalty.

The child is kidnapped — the people who created the situation through their neglect, start projecting their feelings of guilt onto others. And then there is a quickening.

All quite unavoidable.

But not hopeless. Never hopeless. We are humans, we have brains. We can learn. That means we can prevail. Not forever; the struggle will never be over. But we can show some real humility, learn from our mistakes, and resolve to never allow that child to be kidnapped again.

It’s called vigilance. It is the everlasting responsibility of ordinary citizens. The founders of our republic made a point of mentioning, several times, that it is a fundamental requirement and will be one forevermore.

Guilt? That’s the opposite of vigilance. Guilt cannot be complete until it starts to affect decisions; which means, those decisions are made differently because of the guilt. That means they’re made wrongly. And here we come down to another truth, one everybody understands deep down, that is so rarely put into words: Guilt is not good. Decisions that are made out of guilt, are not recalled later with fondness. People don’t say “I’m so glad I felt guilty at the time and made that decision.” Go over those decisions sometime. You’ll find the theme that permeates through them, is not that they are beneficial to whoever suffered the plight inspiring the guilt, but that they are injurious to the person who made the decision. They are self-destructive decisions. They are bad decisions — as a deliberate, non-negotiable object of the exercise of making decisions out of guilt.

That’s why communists like guilt. It leads to suicidal decisions. You need some guilt to sell their product to people.

And so we are going through a quickening with our guilt. We are finding, the hard way, that this is an emotion that has no redeeming value. I suppose there are some people to whom it comes naturally, and it’s unavoidable. Like, every day you need to have something approaching eight hours of sleep — and you need to feel guilty about something.

I will not begrudge them on this. Feel guilty if you have to, but making decisions while you feel that way is about as smart as shopping for groceries while you’re hungry.

Best Sentence XCIV

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

By the power invested in me, I am hereby bestowing the latest award for Best Sentence I’ve Heard Or Read Lately (BSIHORL) upon a sentence fragment:

…[P]eople don’t get enough done because they are discouraged by the sudden realization that it usually takes a pretty big job just to get prepared for doing a job.

Preach it, brother Andy. He goes on to expound upon the point:

We only want one kind of work in our recalcitrant lethargy, and that’s the kind that gets done. We most certainly have no interest in the kind of work that must be labored through for hours just so you can get started working on the kind that gets done. The hardest part about going to work should be the getting out of bed. It’s almost like forced volunteering, or like having to run out and drill for the oil, then bring it back and pour it your engine. Or even a little bit like when dad said “you have to clean the crawl space if you really want to know what it’s like to drive my car.” Didn’t make sense at the time, but I see now that it still makes no sense at all. Thanks, dad.

Well, this is worth a think or three. If there’s any one thing that has changed in the last thirty years, or one hundred, or three hundred, it is this: We get to specialize in things. You get to be a windshield wiper motor installer guy, I get to be a gearshift-knob-twister-onner guy.

This yields a certain conservation of momentum to us all. The industrial revolution, as we know it today, could not have happened without it.

But while there is a physical challenge being overcome, there are also several mental ones being effectively sidestepped. All of the mental challenges, really, when you think about it. Sure, we ensconce ourselves once again into that stimulating realm of intellectual puzzles once we invent some robots to screw those gearshift knobs on in our place — but it just isn’t the same anymore.

Right and wrong are no longer determined by cause and effect, they are derived from group consensus. How could this possibly be avoided? Think back: When is the last time your livelihood prospered or suffered because you succeeded or failed at nailing down reality? If you’re one of the fortunate few who can provide an answer to that…and it really is fortunate to be able to, believe it or not…you are in a class by yourself.

The world just doesn’t work like this anymore. A judgment call that helps or hurts your personal livelihood, generally, is a judgment call made at work. And that, generally, is a judgment call that is not designed necessarily to be the best one, but rather, the one most closely resembling the call someone else would have made. When you tackle a complex chore — one that is meaningless, until it stands atop the successful completion of a multitude of disparate, interrelated tasks — you are robbed of the luxury of assembly-line workmanship, but you are challenged to think like a real adult. You become your own customer. And so you become responsible for “writing” a whole series of unwritten contracts about service levels.

It isn’t a comfortable arrangement. None of us, or very few of us, are going to choose it if an alternative is available.

But it does challenge the mind in the manner it was built to be challenged, and it recalls a simpler time when this kind of thinking was necessary for our continued survival. And no longer is.

And that is a heavy thought. Not a cheerful one.

Science: The Belief in the Ignorance of Experts

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Frank J. Tipler writes at Men’s News Daily:

“Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts” is how the great Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman defined science in his article “What is Science?” Feynman emphasized this definition by repeating it in a stand-alone sentence in extra large typeface in his article.

Immediately after his definition of science, Feynman wrote: “When someone says, ‘Science teaches such and such,’ he is using the word incorrectly. Science doesn’t teach anything; experience teaches it. If they say to you, ‘Science has shown such and such,’ you should ask, ‘How does science show it? How did the scientists find out? How? What? Where?’ It should not be ‘science has shown.’ And you have as much right as anyone else, upon hearing about the experiments (but be patient and listen to all the evidence) to judge whether a sensible conclusion has been arrived at.”

And I say, Amen. Notice that “you” is the average person. You have the right to hear the evidence, and you have the right to judge whether the evidence supports the conclusion. We now use the phrase “scientific consensus,” or “peer review,” rather than “science has shown.” By whatever name, the idea is balderdash. Feynman was absolutely correct.

When the attorney general of Virginia sued to force Michael Mann of “hockey stick” fame to provide the raw data he used, and the complete computer program used to analyze the data, so that “you” could decide, the Faculty Senate of the University of Virginia declared this request — Feynman’s request — to be an outrage. You peons, the Faculty Senate decreed, must simply accept the conclusions of any “scientific endeavor that has satisfied peer review standards.” Feynman’s — and the attorney general’s and my own and other scientists’ — request for the raw data, so we can “judge whether a sensible conclusion has been arrived at,” would, according to the Faculty Senate, “send a chilling message to scientists…and indeed scholars in any discipline.”

According the Faculty Senate of the University of Virginia, “science,” and indeed “scholarship” in general, is no longer an attempt to establish truth by replicable experiment, or by looking at evidence that can be checked by anyone. “Truth” is now to be established by the decree of powerful authority, by “peer review.” Wasn’t the whole point of the Enlightenment to avoid exactly this?

We’ve sometimes referred, here, to a logical fallacy we have given the name of “Malcolm Forbes’ Demise.” Back when the balloon-riding mogul assumed room temperature, we happened to have read about it first in some trashy tabloid (reading the cover while waiting to pay for our groceries, of course). Now, 1990 being well before the maturity of the Internet as we know it today, and at the time not really caring about it too much, it was some time before we learned of this from any other source. So pretending for the moment we were forced to rely on a tabloid magazine — if we were to try to arrive at a “scientific” hypothesis about Mr. Forbes’ health, and engage in this “peer review” process done by “science,” the first step would of course be to establish the level of credibility of these trash-tabs. It’s very low, of course. And from that we would then have to conclude, tentatively, that Forbes is alive and well until we hear differently from a more reliable source.

BalloonAccording to the methods we are told are sound, that’s only reasonable!

A man of genuine logic and reason, on the other hand, would ask himself how likely it is that the evidence in hand would arrive, were there no truth behind the statement. Well, a better source would be desirable, for sure. But our exercise, being one of deriving conclusions from facts, rather than of gathering the facts, says we are deprived of that…so in the absence of that, would the rag print up the headline if Malcolm Forbes was not dead? The potential for this is peripheral at best. Would you bet money that Forbes is alive? Or that he’s dead? Use your common sense. He’s probably dead.

It seems a piddling distinction to make. And when you have the luxury of demanding information out of Google on a whim, it does become mostly meaningless. But all human affairs are not scrutinized by the robots of Google. So “consider the source” remains good advice, but that’s all it is. It doesn’t decide the entire question. This is a mistake commonly made by esteemed experts in the scientific community, as well as by us “peons.”

Another way we’ve been putting it: If someone known to you to possess appealing attributes says something that is known to be false, how do you react? How about if someone known to you to possess harmful attributes, says something known to be true? Does it then become untrue? What if the “knowns” are not entirely known, but mostly-known?

I lately made the acquaintance of another blogger. “Made the acquaintance of” means “got into a big ol’ cyber-dustup S.I.W.O.T.I. (Someone Is Wrong On The Innernets) argument with.” Late in the exchange I had noticed our real disagreement wasn’t with regard to the facts, or the conclusions to be reached from them, but rather with the method used for deriving conclusions from facts. You see, he had come off a very intoxicating high, having successfully bullied all sorts of folks to stop looking at something, and I kept looking at it. So he started telling half-truths about the study being recanted, which turned out not to be true; then, all other approaches having been exhausted, he started having an electronic hissy-fit trying to get me to ignore what he wanted me to ignore.

Noting that what the study purported to prove wasn’t even anything outside the realm of agreement between the two sides, I made this observation:

Your blog is fascinated with, and named after, a canard that was started (unintentionally) by H.L. Mencken; mine is fascinated with, and named after, an ancient library administrator who figured out the size of the Earth. So you’re sort of a “Bizarro Eratosthenes” from an anti-matter universe: Instead of encouraging people to look at things, you’re encouraging them to look away. I’m a software engineer, and from your comments it appears you are a (failed?) lawyer.

It’s the “fruit of the poisoned tree” doctrine. Cop illegally enters my apartment and catches me building a bomb, or torturing my kidnapped toddler, or writing a confession in my diary about having murdered somebody — and the law has to pretend it never happened. Yes, I know the doctrine is refined across time and it’s a good deal more complex than this, but the fundamental principle remains: We are to allow our lawyers to decide for us what “truth” is, and they are to instruct us to disregard big chunks of real truth.

There is a skill involved in this, and it is a learned skill passed down through the generations from parent to child. Today it is all but extinct: Isolating a claim from those who make it and argue about it, focusing only on the claim, exerting one’s mental energies toward figuring out if there’s truth to it or not.

Our overly-mature society has lost this. We look to the “experts” to figure it out for us, and trust them implicitly even in situations where we have no idea who they are, let alone what their agenda might be. Much of the erosion has been relatively recent. I trace it to the early 1960′s, to mid 1950′s; the Warren Court had transformed the “Fruit of the Poisoned Tree” doctrine into an iron fisted jurisprudence requiring judicial and enforcement officials of the law to pretend false things were true and true things were false.

The good news is that we always have the potential within us for a revival. It is interwoven into our DNA. If you’re about to crawl under a car, you will automatically become a highly skilled philosopher, dedicated to love of wisdom and love of truth, as you set about the task of figuring out if the jack stand is worthy of your trust. We rekindle this spirit by doing work, and we rekindle it quickly, forcefully, keenly, by doing dangerous work.

We allow it to atrophy when we shirk our responsibilities, when we become comfy, when we allow our existences to whither and shrivel into these little menageries of iPods, iced coffee drinks and video games. That is when we curl up into a fetal position and look for someone else to tell us what truth is. That is when we stop peeking into water wells, imploring our aristocrats, our superiors, our overseers, to form their communities and publish their papers and define their collectives.

You see, “peer review” is actually a misnomer. A peer is a relative term, applied to someone who possesses equal stature. This is a process for declaring communities of demigods, to stand over us and give us orders about what to think, to strip us of our God-given autonomy, independence, masculinity and resolve.

Thing I Know #129. Leaders; votes; clergy; academics; pundits; prevailing sentiment; political expediency. Wherever these decide what is & isn’t true, an empire will surely fall.

The Tempest in a Teapot About Obama’s Cabinet

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

Something pretty interesting happened Friday when Neal Boortz made a reference to the November, 2009 “study by J.P. Morgan” that found only seven percent of President Barack Obama’s cabinet has experience in the private sector. You may recall this thing went viral. And, as is usually the case when things go viral, there is much misinformation making its way in, from both the right and the left.

Well, the study itself doesn’t interest me too much. Obama’s cabinet doesn’t know what it’s doing; you don’t need a study telling you that. The evidence is all around us. And common sense should tell you that if there are some smarts in that cabinet, they aren’t going to be of very much use are they? How on earth could they be? Imagine yourself as a high ranking official in the Obama administration. A decision comes along, and what do you do? Answer: You don’t. If you say “peanut butter and jelly” and the Little Emperor says “roast beef on rye” you look like a complete dork. You’ll be backpedaling like crazy, claiming that your remarks were taken out of context — and that’s among your friends, before word even gets out. So no, this isn’t a relevant statistic. For all practical purposes, the experience of this cabinet must be zero percent.

Their Special Guy at the top is just too big and important. With or without Secretary Chu’s coveted Nobel prize, the “Me Too” people don’t count. They are indicators of Chairman Zero’s priorities, nothing more than that.

But I do wish to inspect the debunking. Oh goodness gracious, do read that from top to bottom. It is a fascinating portal into how dedicated liberals “debunk” things.

First of all: The study is bogus, and if you weren’t a simpering moron you’d immediately see the study is bogus, because the math doesn’t work.

Vice President, plus 15 executive department heads, plus six others: 22 people.

If only 10% had private sector experience, that would be 2.2 of them. Each of the 22 people comprises about 4.5% of the cabinet. Two of them with private experience would be 9% of the cabinet. Three with private experience would reveal the chart to be in error. Would it be possible to create a cabinet of 22 people and have only two of them with private experience?

The bullshit detectors in the bloggers’ minds should have been clanging like crazy when they saw that chart. [emphasis in original]

Secondly: J.P. Morgan is a bank. What is a bank doing conducting a study into the resumes of cabinet members?

Well, the article about the study is here.

Michael Cembalest is chief investment officer for JPMorgan Private Bank. The views expressed herein are Cembalest’s and may not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of JPMorgan Private Bank or any of its affiliates.

There is a serious effort here to gather data according to a consistent methodology, and extrapolate meaningful statistics from them. Careless, casual statements like “the chart is a hoax” are, quite plain and simply, wrong.

A hoax is a deliberate attempt to deceive or trick people into believing or accepting something which the hoaxer (the person or group creating the hoax) knows is false.

It is true that the study has been recalled by those who linked it in haste, with perhaps the most representative and thoughtful example provided by Eugene Volokh. The chart could be regarded as misleading, not so much because of bad data or malicious intentions behind it, but because of a strong potential among the readers to misinterpret it.

The rules applied are consistent, but subjective. The headline chosen for Cembalest’s column is “Obama’s Business Blind Spot” and the data support the point Cembalest set out to make: Here we have these real-world problems with our nation’s unemployment situation, and Obama’s tackling them with a bunch of damn professors, P.R. people and lawyers. Their hands are soft. And it is a superlative situation. Cembalest chose a methodology by which each administration could be measured, and was able to produce a data series showing something remarkable about this current one, and indicative of how the administration would view the problem. Therefore, indicative of how it would choose to solve it.

How a bank might be interested in such a thing, should be obvious.

But let’s go on to the debunking blogger’s most pivotal and often-mentioned point, for this is my favorite, and it is probably the most important one in “debunking” the study:

I figure, Rahm Emanuel was a spectacular success at investing. He made roughly $4 million a year, his clients presumably much more. Most people work a lifetime for less than $2 million — so can we credit Emanuel with 8 lifetimes of experience? Why not?

If these bozos don’t want to deal with the facts, they can offer their methodologies, I figure. And if they don’t, it’s probably because their methodologies are unfair and indefensible, so must be hidden.

In any case, a rational person looking for “private sector experience” wouldn’t discount a lawyer’s representation of an historically on-the-border of corrupt company like Chiquita Brands.
:
Geithner was president of one of the largest and most important branches of the Federal Reserve Banking System, in New York. Working with the highest ranking and best recognized foreign economic consulting firm isn’t toothpaste. His time with Kissinger and Associates was golden, not deserving in any way of the denigration you lend to it. It’s like going from college to a team that includes at their peak, Michael Jordon, LeBron James, and Bill Russell — and getting at least significant playing time.

I didn’t redefine anything I had. I merely looked at the bios of the people Cembalest claimed didn’t have private sector experience.
:
Chu, who…won a Nobel for his private sector experience, is acknowledged as a genius in the field his department covers, and has more than a decade managing some of the most demanding groups imaginable, including the physics department at Stanford and the Lawrence Berkeley Lab, one of the best-respected masses of 4,000 bright people ever created.
:
Attempts to denigrate the experience of this, one of the best qualified cabinets, tell us more about the size of the critics, than about the qualifications of people like Steven Chu or Hilda Solis. Or, maybe I should say more accurately, the lack of size of the critics.

His argument mostly hinges on this: Lawyers are hard workers because practicing law is really, really tough. And don’t dare contradict him or else he’ll demand your experience practicing law, and discount whatever that experience is rest assured, so you don’t know what you’re talking about. In the comments section you see him coming back to this point again and again and again. Lawyers are golden. Every lawyer in Obama’s cabinet represents lots and lots of “private sector” experience, even if he didn’t work in the private sector. Maybe we should count that guy multiple times. I see it this way, therefore it is Truth.

Well, my own experience practicing law is as short as it can get. But as a voting citizen, when I go through his painstaking summaries of the experience of each cabinet member, nose-by-nose, my confidence in the Obama administration is not bolstered or even recovered. It is diminished. This idea that practicing law should count as private experience — maybe it should count even more than the other stuff! — think of it what you will, but the “debunking” relies almost completely on this.

And that’s the observation I’d like to make here about liberals “debunking” things. Based on the meandering of the presented argument, and their analysis of it, they see things a certain way. And that way of seeing things is local, not global. There is no guarantee of consistency across time with it. For example, if the Republicans put up a couple of experienced lawyers against Obama in 2012, I don’t know that this liberal blogger will go on thinking law experience is all-that-and-a-bag-o-chips. I expect he’d do a hairpin turn, something to the effect of “Yeah, but Obama has grown into the job of President! President beats Lawyer any day!” Or something to that effect.

But even if that doesn’t come to pass, here the weakness in the debunker’s argument becomes a philosophical one. You m-u-s-t see things the debunker’s way. You m-u-s-t agree that practicing law counts as private sector experience…and it must count exactly the way the debunker says it counts. Agree to that, or else you’re just a big ol’ dummy.

That they think this is a solid argument, let alone a debunking, exposes the fact that they really don’t know truth or falsehood when they see it. And it worries me mightily when these are the people who say we need to “sit down with our enemies and talk out our differences with them.” Look how they do the talking. It’s all point…counterpoint…value system…value system…THE VALUE SYSTEMS FACE OFF AND ONE DEVOURS THE OTHER NOW WE MUST MARCH IN COMPLETE LOCKSTEP ON THE VALUE SYSTEM. And then when we get past that, it’s on to the next point. As opposed to point…counterpoint…value system…value system…now since those value systems are not going to change, let’s try to find some real common ground. The latter is the thinking method of reasonable, rational people. The former is the thinking method of tyrants. And small children.

I recognize that when we’re trying to figure out how lawyering counts as private business experience, some number has to be produced and that number has to win, so that it can be applied consistently across the administrations across the generations. But a rational person would have pointed this out and exposed the real weakness with this study — that it is inherently subjective, although it might be reasonably viewed by a casual observer as something different.

Liberals never seem to want to service the casual observer, to give him the benefit of the wisdom he would pick up himself if he were not a casual observer. They always seem to want to write a headline that offers a different twist to the casual observer, and keep him casual. And so they end up writing garbage. The study is a “hoax”…which the casual observer would infer to mean, it didn’t happen, or there’s nuthin’-to-it. That is not the case.

Their world is one in which everyone must value everything and see everything in a uniform way, and those who value things or see things any differently have to be somehow neutralized. I do not want people who think this way, to represent me as they “sit down and talk with” that I’m-A-Dinner-Jacket guy in Iran, or the Gargoyle in North Korea. Because let’s face it, when the “discussion” gets to that one-value-system-gobbles-up-the-other thumb-wrestling contest — I don’t know they’re gonna win.

This makes them the vastly inferior choice for managing both foreign policy and domestic issues. It is their way of seeing the world and all the things within it. It is immature. Nobel prize or not, it is a worldview inadequate for making real decisions.

Thing I Know #330. A man who doesn’t know the difference between a fact and an opinion, is not to be trusted in delivering either one of those.

Color Me Unimpressed

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

“Have you ever seen such a bunch of self-righteous, ass-covering prigs? They don’t care what we do; they care what we get photographed doing.”

M.

So the armies of humility are lining up on the left & right of the blogosphere, as well as cable-teevee-pundit-land and Planet Newspaper, to apologize for driving Shirley Sherrod out of a job. I’ve reviewed the forty-three minutes myself, and although the seamy footage makes it clear this is still less than what actually took place, it’s undeniable that the spirit of her remarks is different than what I thought. So do I have some crow to eat?

Eating CrowPerhaps just a smidgen. A wing. A foot, maybe. Well, let’s get it choked down. Clean your plate when crow is on it, for if you leave leftovers you should expect a steady diet of it.

My words:

The wasp is dead, the nest remains.

Ms. Sherrod, according to her own words, was a Little Hitler. Check that chart; third column, fourth row, the Petty Tyrant.

Can there be any doubt we still have some petty tyrants?

The nest does remain. Sherrod’s wasp is dead, but it has been dead for a very long time now. That was the point of her speech. The edited version makes it seem that there is something very different going on. My assumption that no context could leverage the spirit into something different, was somewhat rash. Partly correct, partly incorrect. Ultimately, I have to admit I placed an excessive abundance of faith in the edited version. Got snookered. Might as well admit it.

So now Breitbart has some ‘splainin’ to do? No, not at all. In fact, his point stands, and rather solidly. The whole point to showing it in the first place was to examine this claim that the Tea Party has racism in its ranks, and needs to do a more forceful job of policing its own. It is an argument of “don’t criticize your brother for the splijter in his eye when you have a beam in your own.” This point is actually strengthened by the events of the last 48 hours. The NAACP was able to confront its accuser, release the footage, use the media to entice the public to pay attention while the iron was still hot. And as frosting on the cake, they were able get another lie out there about Fox News being responsible for Sherrod’s sacking.

Such a dizzying, dazzling assortment of privileges for the NAACP! I wonder, if the footage had been about a Tea Party member saying equally racist things, would that informal coalition have been similarly indulged? Do I even need to ask the question.

So yes, I was “snookered” about Ms. Sherrod as a person. My crow-eating begins and ends there. Her comments about her own behavior stand, monument-like, as a testament to institutionalized racism. And how reformed is she, anyway? As John Hawkins points out, this is open to question. From all the evidence we have about her, there really isn’t much to indicate she’s ready for a post-racial world. It remains an unsettled issue, one to which I do not assign much weight, but one that is besieged with suggestive noise on all sides. There is doubt, and I’m not inclined to grant her much benefit of the doubt.

But let’s grant it all anyway. She realized she was being a horse’s ass, cleaned up her act, and that’s what happens to all the racists in these agencies? The entire story is kaput because of Ms. Sherrod’s Scrooge-like conversion? I don’t think so.

And this gets into the actual point that I don’t see anyone making anywhere. It has to do with the two halves of that part of humanity that thinks about these things.

My half says that individuals have rights, and these rights are regularly violated by institutions like the NAACP.

The other half, which has all of the voice, all of the time, says the institutions are the ones with the rights. People just gum things up. The institutions are perfect, or can be made that way by means of identifying the contaminating people and tossing ‘em overboard. Let’s call this the Vilsack Doctrine.

This is why I’m being somewhat stingy with my apology. To me, it was never about Shirley Sherrod. Firing her was just a bizarre, wrong-headed move, and it would remain that even if the footage was exactly what it appeared to be. Adam and Eve bit into the apple, humanity has been corrupted and corruptible ever since, and institutions that are made out of humanity are no better than the people who build them and work in them.

If I’ve got a terrible problem with keeping my farm, and I’m describing my plight to some pencil-pushing bureaucrat who decides I’m acting superior to him just because my skin is white — that black bureaucrat is well within his rights to think such a thing. You get to think mistaken things. We don’t have a government that regulates that.

So President Jealous of the NAACP can grandstand and spread more lies, and Vilsack and Obama can apologize…all they want. These fine gentlemen still miss the point. The point is that the “Could Be Construed As” standard is unattainable and irrelevant. It is not impropriety, it is not the appearance of impropriety — we’re never going to solve a single problem by ending the careers of people who become tainted by it, no matter what the color of their skin happens to be.

I am thankful that the heyday of this risible ritual has now passed, or at least I think it has. Today, if you asked most people about it and had an honest discussion about it, a consensus would emerge that agrees with my notion: You don’t fire bigots. You prove them wrong. Even if they have supervisory authority; we do not sentence people to losing their livelihoods and becoming wards of the state because of the appearance of the thoughts in their heads — this is not the way America was supposed to work. If you find your career is heading into a cul de sac because you happen to be working for a sexist or a bigot or a homophobe, that means you have a boss that hates you. It’s unfortunate, but welcome to the real world. It’s gonna happen to you again. It’s happened to me. It happens to everyone. Go work for someone else.

I’m not trying to be insensitive with that remark. What I’m pointing out is that we’ve tried the other method…the Vilsack method. Gave it a good go for a few decades. It has been a net loss, a failed experiment. It’s made people fearful for their jobs and their careers, and this has given them motivation to do all kinds of whacky, stupid, free-market-killing stuff.

Know how bad that can get? Last “sexual harassment training” I was forced to attend, they said something I found interesting and it’s probably the same thing they said at yours: The intent of the offender doesn’t matter, it’s the perception of the accuser that decides everything — and “these rules are put in place to provide a workplace that is comfortable for everyone.” SAME BREATH.

So a whack-job paranoid stranger with a random vendetta can end your career at any second. By bitching, the easiest thing in the world to do. Boy that really makes me feel comfortable. How ’bout you?

Worst of all, people don’t worry too much anymore about getting fired for genuinely screwing things up.

It’s called political correctness. And future generations will look back on it, I’m convinced, the same way we see fourteenth-century bedside-bloodletting.

Update: Andrew Breibart’s comment on it:

All I’m seeing is people right now seeing blood in the water and coming after me. And the amount of half-truths and falsehoods that are out there in the pursuit of taking me down because they perceive that I’m a threat, it’s astounding.
:
I believe that I’m held to a higher standard. If this video showed a picture of a Caucasian talking in the exact same way but talking about a black person with an audience affirming and clapping that behavior, the reporter would be getting a Pulitzer Prize right now.

Say what you want about the man, but he’s right about this. All of it; every word.

And it isn’t defensible.

Imitation is the Sincerest Form XXXI

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

As the Hopenchange Presidential administration was still new, and impressing and bewildering us all as they unleashed one wild scheme after another, I struggled to find a way to comprehend what was happening. Who are these people who believe in “stimulus”? And do they, really? How come our new President continues to campaign for a job He’s already got?

And then I figured it out: They have an “underpants gnome” mentality. I suppose all good salesmen do. Step One, we make you do what I want you to do, or I do what I would ordinarily do anyway; Step Two, ??? — and Step Three Profit.

I have not looked back on this theory of mine with any regret or doubt. In the one-year-plus since I wrote that, pretty much everything Obama and His apologists have done, falls into this. Step One, pass a health care plan that puts Obama’s buddies in charge of all the decisions…Step Two, ??? — Step Three Profit. Step One, pass cap and trade, Step Two ??? — Step Three, the damn hole will somehow be plugged.

Now, I don’t know if James Taranto reads my blog. I’ve always operated from the assumption that hardly anybody ever does. But how then do you explain this gem which appeared in the “Best of the Web” column yesterday:

The vice president’s description of the administration’s political strategy reminds us of the business plan of the Underpants Gnomes from “South Park”:

Phase 1: Legislation
Phase 2: ?
Phase 3: Victory

I’ve been robbed, but I’m not calling the police. I’m quite flattered.

Of course, today the administration has been ensconced for exactly a year and a half, and it has become cumulatively difficult to figure out what might be the best example of Underpants Gnome thinking in the eighteen months.

It’s a tough call, but I think I’d nominate the beer summit.

1 – The three of us sit down at a table and drink beer together
2 – ?
3 – Racial animosity healed forever throughout the land

D’JEver Notice? LIX

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

I’m seeing over at the Hello-Kitty-of-Bloggin’ (FaceBook) there’s someone who knows someone I know who’s having a tough time with her computer, which is a Mac. This is rather interesting because The Lady and I just had dinner last night with a former co-worker of hers…whose husband, in turn…is having a tough time with his computer. Which is a Mac.

What is it they say about those Macs? All together now, I know you know the words by heart: “They don’t give you confusing error messages and you don’t need to install stuff, they just work!!” Except — no, they don’t. They break, they seize up, they overheat, they wear out, they are designed badly and manufactured badly just like anything else.

Bad MacBut I do not wish to criticize the machinery. Machinery breaks. My words of criticism are for people. Consider the interesting psychological differences here.

A PC computer gives you a perplexing error message because something wore out or something wasn’t configured right. And what’s our reaction? Those fucking PC’s, you’re never done twiddling around with them, they’re built for geeks who like to replace stuff.

It’s kind of like a Republican politician lying. It reflects badly on all Republicans when that happens. Cold-hearted bastards. PC’s give you confusing error messages and Republicans lie.

What happens when a Mac goes gunnybags? Same thing that happens when a democrat is caught lying: We go generic. Computers suck. Politicians can’t be trusted.

The advantage enjoyed by liberal politicians and pleasingly-pastel fruity computers is the same. Of this I am certain. What I’m not quite sure of, is how do they come to benefit from this seemingly magic spell in the first place. How’s that work? What makes people forget about all your faults so automatically and make up stories so they can blame it all on your competition? As if you were paying them money — when, in actuality, they are your customers (or your voters)?? What gets this chain reaction started?

If I could figure out how to bottle it, I’d make millions.

Meanwhile — no, Macs do not “just work.” That’s a lie. Or they do, until such time as they don’t.

“Making Up Stories”

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Stephen W. Browne, writing in Atlasphere. He’s been noticing what I’ve been noticing:

I have noticed something about how some people treat beliefs which are personally important to them. When faced with uncomfortable facts, they do what I call “making up stories.”

I don’t mean they lie. Or rather they do, but they’re lying to themselves, and in a very particular way.

Some examples: About seven years ago, I was taking a course in the Polish city of Wroclaw. While there, I shared an apartment with an Englishman who had a bachelor’s degree in philosophy.

This fellow was convinced of every fashionable environmental catastrophe, including, of course, global warming.

I am skeptical about man-caused global warming for reasons not relevant here. In the course of our discussions, I mentioned that when I was working to launch a new college of science in Poland, I had come to know quite a few members of the Polish Academy of Science in the departments of chemistry, physics, paleobiology, etc.

I told him that not one of these world-class scientists believed in man-caused global warming.

He replied, “That’s because their jobs depend on defending the oil companies and denying global warming.”

To begin with, that’s not true. On the contrary, the Polish government at the time had no concerns about global warming. They had too many real problems to deal with. And he was a stranger to Poland who couldn’t have known one way or the other.
:
In my newsroom not long ago, I brought up on my computer screen a picture of President Obama shaking the Emperor of Japan’s hand and bowing low.

I showed this to a colleague and said that our president had really stepped in it again, after the flap about bowing submissively to the King of Saudi Arabia, then and treating the Queen of England with undiplomatic familiarity.

“What’s wrong with that?” she asked.

I pointed out that American presidents — heck, American citizens — do not bow in submission to any foreign monarchs. There are long-established diplomatic courtesies appropriate for citizens of a free country, which show respect for but not submission to foreign monarchs — courtesies our president entirely omitted when meeting Queen Elizabeth II.

Furthermore, I said, in Japan bowing has gradations and subtleties indicating relative status, that non-Japanese seldom get right. Foreigners doing business in the country are generally advised not to try.

She replied, “Well maybe he’s creating a new custom, blending the customs of America and Japan.”

And when we go to the movies, we see they’re chock full of ninety-pound women karate chopping three hundred pound men through brick walls. It defies lots of laws of physics, but it makes (certain) people feel good.

Funny thing is though, that reality is what makes you feel good — if, and only if, reality is connected in some way to your continuing survival. If you’re about to crawl under a car, nothing will make you feel good short of solid evidence that the jack is going to hold it up. We conflate reality with fantasy when we’re able to. When we can afford it.

And this is, in a nutshell, why progressive politics become more popular as communication becomes more efficient and technology becomes more advanced. It isn’t because the human race is evolving into a species of brilliant thinkers. It is because we become more comfortable, and with that comfort comes a capacity for tolerating nonsense.

And an ability to, should the need arise, manufacture some of it.

Cross-posted at Cassy’s place.

Twenty-Four Little Hitlers

Monday, July 12th, 2010

While we’re waiting to see what blogger pal Gerard has planned for August, he still has lots of good stuff scrolling up every day on Ka-Ching! Like, for example, this — and I know you can relate to it, don’t pretend otherwise.

Freakin’ awesome.

If it were mine, I’d add on a few things. For most of these, I can envision a corresponding “li’l Hitler” who works by making his opposition look like that “li’l Hitler.” I’m thinking here specifically of column 1 row 2, column 4 row 2, column 2 row 3, column 2 row 4 and column 1 row 5.

Remember right after the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. act got passed we had all these liberals who were suddenly fond of Benjamin Franklin? Sacrificing liberty, temporary safety, deserve neither, blah blah blah…et cetera. Seems like a distant memory now, doesn’t it?

I gotta wonder what our first Postmaster General would have thought of it. The man was plenty sharp enough to spot a fair-weather friend from a mile off.

Another little-Hitler: The “pleasant dinner” little-Hitler. You know — “Oh, let’s keep things pleasant! There’s cheesecake!”

How familiar is the following exchange:

McGovern-voting Granduncle: Let the immigrants in! We’re a nation of immigrants! You fucking bigot!

You: Actually I’m not concerned about race, I’m concerned about why someone would choose to circumvent our immigration laws. How come I have to follow laws while we’re defining a whole class of people who don’t have to, and we don’t even know who they are?

Hostess: Oh, stop fighting you two! Here we are having a lovely dinner and you have to bring politics into it. Just let him call you a reprehensible, cross-burning scum-sucking douchebag asshole xenophobe and then let’s move on! There’s cheesecake!

And then there’s the “whoever’s fun must be right” little Hitlers. They get their news out of the Daily Show, and they’re fond of bragging about it, but if you’re the one who points that out they’ll say you’re just making things up because you’re a liar.

Right now they’re telling us if we have a shred of decency we’ll support the confirmation of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. They just have to. She’s really funny.

On David Weigel’s Downfall

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

One thing I’ve not yet been able to figure out. Apparently, what caused the shock waves to reverberate was this sudden deviation from the carefully constructed paradigm that Weigel was the token conservative “blogger” at the Washington Post. But if that comes as such a shock — how come nobody was wondering what Weigel was doing on this “Journolist” in the first place? As the listserv’s founder says:

At the beginning, I set two rules for the membership. The first was the easy one: No one who worked for the government in any capacity could join. The second was the hard one: The membership would range from nonpartisan to liberal, center to left. I didn’t like that rule, but I thought it necessary: There would be no free conversation in a forum where people had clear incentives to embarrass each other.

Okay, so you have this forum for more intimate, carefree and candid chatter, in which the membership runs the gamut “from nonpartisan to liberal, center to left.” Which really means the membership ranges from extreme-left to extreme-left.

When extreme leftists get together and start talking about things like, oh…Dick Cheney…Sarah Palin…Hurricane Katrina versus BP Oil Spill…what do you expect to have happen? Is the scandal that Weigel failed to keep a civil tongue, or that his phony-conservative mask was torn off? Because anyone who’s applied a little bit of diligent thought knew what Weigel was already.

Best guess I can make is, the guy doomed himself the minute he decided to participate. “Free conversation” among hardcore leftists means talking smack. It doesn’t go on too long before there’s a dick-measuring contest about who can talk the most smack, the nastiest smack, the most toxic smack, the smack least fit for public consumption. And there’s no trophy for second-best.

Was Weigel supposed to possess the maturity to stay above it all?

That’s rich. When a stalker set up housekeeping right next door to Palin’s house, and Palin had the audacity to jot down a Facebook note about it, Weigel had this to say:

Can somebody explain to me how this isn’t a despicable thing for Palin to do?

The man has no credibility with me whatsoever. Anybody who sheds tears over his failed glory, has no credibility with me either. If he’s really such a hard worker, then he can apply himself someplace where integrity doesn’t matter.

But don’t go telling me he’s a man of principle who got a raw deal.

Why not? Bruce Kesler does as decent a job explaining it as anybody else:

Ezra Klein’s juicebox-level of Leftist propaganda-feed group-think journalism and the defenders of General McChrystal’s crew of wisecrackers as being abused by the Rolling Stone’s reporter have something in common: Neither are willing to stand in public behind the truth that anything that passes from one’s lips is public property.

Yes, if one explicitly says to another “Private” or “Secret” or “Do not quote”, that might be respected. And, it might not. If you don’t have discretion or maturity, why expect that of others who also may not or have interests other than covering up for your lackings?

And, if one says to oneself that anything I say should be properly stated and reflect my views, and I will either stand behind it or explain why and how I was wrong or off-mark, then one is acting with integrity to oneself and others.

To feel otherwise is immature and irresponsible. It is an abuse of one’s public position to not be forthcoming and transparent.

This is particularly so when entrusted with the ears of millions of Americans on important public issues, or the fate of millions of Americans and allies’ lives.

In my garage, I have boxes full of literally thousands of published pieces I’ve written during and since college. That’s 46-years of comment and analyses. Many, most?, are easily available on the web. I’m also surprised at how many correspondents have archived my emails, when I haven’t. If any want to publish them, have at it.

I said it. I stand behind it, or will answer for it.

But, I will not hide behind some notion that I can be allowed to deceive or excuse or cry when someone quotes me.

But, then, I am not a careerist feathering my nest by expecting tolerance for having a lack of respect for myself, for others or for my responsibilities and ethics, and thinking I have some sort of right to be deceptive or a manipulator.

Be an adult, be a professional, or get the hell off the stage, or be exposed for a child playing with other people’s lives and too self-concerned to admit it.

We need more public and private integrity, straight-talk and standing behind it, openly, not less or any more excuses for being immature kindergartners playing with other people’s trust or lives.

Weigel was let go so that the Washington Post could preserve its own credibility. My prediction is that this will ultimately fail. But said prediction depends on the character and integrity of those who consume the news; if they are what I think they are, the Washington Post will fare no better at the conclusion of this episode, as they would if they’d gone ahead and kept Weigel on. When real people learn about a real world through real reporters, there is no need to separate what the real reporters say in “private” from what they say out in public. It shouldn’t be necessary.

On the other hand, if these consumers of news disappoint me and show the attention span of a fruit fly, the experiment will have been a success. The Washington Post will have grown to accommodate the expectations of its readers, by thickening and fortifying that all-important wall between the fiction spread across the pages, and the reality behind it all.

The product will have been improved. And we will all come to a reluctant agreement that the product is falsehood. How can it be any other way, when the messengers who bring us the “news” only think themselves fit for continuing survival when their prejudices remain concealed?

Update: The Fox News “Unprofessional Comments” scandal needs to be attached to the end of Kesler’s list. It’s a fitting addition to this post because it’s precisely what I’ve been talking about:

The phony, forced laughter belies the social purpose: There is no need to announce the fact that such-and-such a person thinks Sarah Palin is a big dolt. The need is to announce the willingness to announce. This is the real reason why the credibility is taking a big hit. The news is being reported by people whose primary agenda, if you can call it that, is to maintain membership in an informal social circle. They have to show that they think jokes made at the expense of Palin, and those like her, are funny. They have to prove it over and over again or they might get drummed out. You can hear their fear of this in everything they say. Every syllable.

I must run some edits on the audio, try to isolate and clean-up that horse laugh. I can’t even tell if it’s one guy doing it or two. They all sound alike, these American Castrati.

Fascinating thing this is: When it’s really self-evident someone has an unappealing quality, usually it’s not necessary to point this out. Palin gets a special exemption from this:

They are loud, eager to get their opinion on the record, to the point of being obnoxious. Nobody seems to be sitting in a corner anywhere quietly thinking to himself “Wow I wish Palin would go away she’s so unqualified.”

– Item #13 from my list of things I Notice About Palin Bashers.

And of course, Thing I Know #347 is & has been for awhile:

Funny thing about people and the connections they feel with each other when they badmouth third parties: I think that guy’s a psychopath, you agree with me, we don’t bond. You and I may disagree about other things much more important to us. I think that guy’s a liar, you agree that guy’s a liar, this too has little or no effect on our relationship with each other. But if we get together and decide so-and-so is a dumbass — suddenly we’re blood brothers. Our disagreements on any other matter become trivial. We agreed some guy is stupid, and that makes us family. We connect.

Kesler nailed it. These are the juicebox set. These are mental kindergartners. Insecure children, bonding with one another, the way the immature do on the playground.

“Girls are stupid! Girls have cooties!” And these are the people bringing us “news,” so that we can “make up our minds for ourselves” what is going on in the world. Nice.

No wonder we’ve got a President who thinks the solution to an oil leak in the gulf, is to extort money from oil companies, ban offshore drilling, and pass a special energy tax while the leak is still leaking. We deserve this.

“Argumentative Inflation”

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Normblog:

There’s a style of argument you’ll meet with often in life, which means you’ll also meet with it often in the press and online. It consists of taking some straightforward and unobjectionable proposition and then exaggerating it to the point of absurdity. When the absurd version of it is challenged you can retreat to the more modest one. But then, of course, you could have started and finished with that and avoided talking nonsense in the first place.

Hat tip to Gerard.

Carrie Fisher is Why I’d Vote No on Legalizing Drugs

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

Or she’s part of the reason why.

I’ve drawn a lot of flak on this and why I draw flak on it, has always been a mystery to me. Whether or not any drug should be legal, is a question on which the federal government has no jurisdiction whatsoever. Congress can declare things illegal, but only after it has been granted the authority to declare them illegal. Congress receives the authority it has through the Constitution and amendments to that document, and by no other means. It cannot grant this power to itself, nor can it be conferred upon the legislative branch by the other two.

If there’s a Supreme Court decision that says otherwise, it is quite simply wrong.

Give a FingerMaking a drug illegal is a states’-rights issue. It would be better to legislate such a matter at the county level than at the state level. It would be even better to decide it in a township. Best of all, make it a homeowners’-association clause. The idea of one man, pointing at another man across the miles, lakes, fruited planes, degrees of longitude, into some locality he will never visit, and declaring what the other man may not consume, just repels me. It’s not just a constitutional question, it’s a question of sound law enforcement.

People have a right to decide how they’re going to live, and that means the local community has to reign supreme. People in Oregon have a right not to have their votes on such questions watered-down by people in California. People in Davis have a right not to have their votes on such questions watered-down by people in Folsom.

But — and here’s where I take the flak — in my corner, I’m voting no. Don’t legalize.

We do not need more of what this does. We do not need more Carrie Fishers.

They just aren’t that special.

I have made occasional reference to the fact that I grew up in a college town. In truth, I had a little bit closer contact with the spoiled-rotten, tweaker, can’t-think-straight, long-hair maggot-infested Ozzy Osborne wannabe kids than that.

The college campus was at midpoint between home and my middle school. My friends tended to be older, and in junior and senior years I visited them in their dorms. I did volunteer work for & with them. One of the more educational stints involved working as a disc jockey at their radio station. At the time, you could qualify for a Class D radio operator license at age thirteen, and so I did. This involved occasionally sitting in after-hours with the Program Coordinator and other artistes to plan out what we were going to do.

From these and other experiences, what do I know?

A great tragedy that has fallen upon our mature society, is summed up in ignorant comments like this:

I am certainly not ordinary. I think it’s been hard for my daughter. I know it’s not easy for her to have a mother who is bipolar and had a drug problem. My father had a drug problem. That stuff’s tough. It makes you grow up too fast. My daughter has had to be very strong to overcome some of my challenges and she is.
:
It’s hard to freak me out. I’ve had a lot of extreme experiences in my life.

She’s fifty-three and still talking like this. It is never stated outright, but you are supposed to infer that these “extreme experiences” that make it “hard to freak me out” and “[make] you grow up too fast” — there is something glamorous about them. These tragedies in the formative years give the speaker certain bragging rights. In spite of what has been screwed up as a direct result, these things are assets. They are recollected that way, treated that way.

In Fisher’s case, she’s passing it on down to the next generation. Oh look, I handed this bag of crap to my daughter; she shouldn’t have had to deal with it, but look how strong she is as a result.

Well now. There certainly is something to this, I’ll admit. Or rather, there could be. “Hard to freak me out” can be an advantageous quality.

Trouble is, in order to gain a win from that, you have to translate it into Kipling’s “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you”. In other words, low-drama. Failing that, there’s no gain from this.

These people are not low-drama. Not even close. In fact, the net loss is rather profound because this business of “I’m just so jaded” leads, rather directly, to an inability to discern. And their judgment is seduced.

Metal BikiniLook no further than the interview I’ve already linked, for a glorious example of this.

Is there anyone you haven’t met that you’ve always wanted to?
Obama.

I’m surprised you haven’t met him.
I know. I love him. Hopefully I’ll meet him sometime. I’m just happy he exists.

Do you think Tea Party is just people who are pissed that there is an African American president?
Yup, and the fact that they chose to call themselves “teabaggers,” which is slang for a certain act involving b***s. It sort of says a lot. I would say a mouthful. Looks like it’s very upsetting for them, but he’s brilliant. The thing is, he’s half white but that’s still not enough — for them it’s all white or f**k off. I think we don’t deserve him and certainly teabaggers don’t deserve him.

Okay, in an ideological sense I disagree with this and if you are familiar with some of my past comments, it would be redundant for me to explain why.

Fisher got some facts grossly wrong about the Tea Party movement, and even if you lack sympathy with it, they’re probably easy to spot so I won’t point ‘em out.

As I said, these jaded-druggie-rock-n-roll kids suffer a weakness in discernment. This is my critique about those final paragraphs in the interview. By now, it’s hardly news to anyone that Barack Obama is a rather ordinary politician. Agree with His policies if you like, but you haven’t heard any talk about “He’s Sort Of God” lately and there are a lot of reasons for that. He’s an excellent speaker, a kind of mediocre politician, a poor executive and — well, how I rank him against the other presidents is not germane to my point.

I’m sure Fisher would rank Him differently from the way I would, and I cannot fault her just for this. Life would be boring if we all agreed on everything. I do fault her for being in love with someone she’s never met.

You’re seeing a manifestation of what all those lectures from your parents, maybe from your high school health class, from your gym teacher, were about. Carrie Fisher cannot think straight. She is damaged goods.

She is a walking incarnation of the reason I would vote to keep drugs illegal. These people have “been through a lot”; they think they’re special because of this, and they’re wrong. They’re rather humdrum. Their ranks are swollen and they are common. I can write their little “been through a whole lot” speeches, for them, with blistering accuracy, entire phrases at a time. Because that’s how they talk, in cliches.

Each one speaks as if he or she is the first to go through this, when it isn’t true. This is the great tragedy. This is why they think they’re special when they aren’t really special.

And this discolors the lens through which they view all others. They seem to show great reliability in seeing extraordinary things as ordinary things, and — more often than that, perhaps — ordinary things as extraordinary things.

They do the greatest damage when they see healthy things as unhealthy things and vice-versa.

Their solutions to problems are the exact opposite of what common sense would offer. I don’t know if this can be completely explained by what follows, but I’m settled on the idea that this is, at least partly, because they perceive the components of the problem as more-or-less the opposite of what they really are.

There is a huge underwater spigot of oil that is contaminating the gulf. Their solution is to put a “boot in the neck” of the oil company that caused it, and — while that company is still in charge of cleaning up the mess — extorting billions of dollars out of them to put under the control of lawyers. And let’s see…what else. Pass cap and trade, ban all offshore oil drilling for some indeterminate period of time, impose some new taxes on the other oil companies that aren’t culpable in this — as well as on the customers purchasing their products — and use the proceeds to fund research into “alternative fuels.”

See what these plans all have in common? This coveted resource which is oil, and all products that are derived from it, which includes energy — is to be made more scarce. So these people want to run everything. And they’ve lost touch with reality to such a great extent that they cannot even maintain a working comprehension of the basic laws of supply and demand.

Also, the non-productive are treated as if they are productive. And, again, vice-versa. Yes, lawyers make big heaping truckloads of moolah. It’s never failed to amaze me how, when it’s time to toss up the evil-awful-greedy-rich-people on the giant display screen for the two-minute-hate, it’s always supposed to be some kind of a “hedge fund manager,” maybe a CEO who started his company by building a real thing that helped real people…and not a lawyer.

Little bit of a side-trail here: Isn’t it rather breathtaking the free ride lawyers get? It’s gotten to the point that there are two things in this whole freakin’ country: Things that work the way lawyers say they should work, and things that will work that way someday soon as they get around to it. But for all our various problems we’re supposed to blame all these other rich people.

Back to the subject at hand about these residual druggies, who may or may not still partake, but have divorced themselves from clear-minded straight thinking…

Your BrainThey will object most vociferously to the criticism that sticks the best: They are malleable. It is easy to sell them things if you just push the right buttons. These people are so jaded, their gears are so stripped, they’ve grown up so fast and it’s so hard to freak them out…that it becomes quite a simple matter to tell ‘em what to think, and they don’t even know it. They can be told who to hate, and they’ll follow right along.

They lie to themselves, so what they say to others cannot be trusted. They all seem to have it in common that they are, ostensibly, in search of a life they can live out in peace, free of interference from others. This is absolutely, positively, not what they want. They want everyone living, of whom they will ever gain a working knowledge, to be tethered to a yoke and then they want to have control over that yoke; or someone they “love” to have control over that yoke.

They want the commoners to be controlled, and they want a special, non-universal, exclusive, elite class to do the controlling. They’re in favor of democracy, of course — but only if & when the correct side wins. Otherwise, someone must have tampered with the ballot boxes. They’re fair-weather friends to democracy.

They want laws that help “everyone,” laws that “everyone” likes especially if there is some part of the “everyone” that actually is hurt by the laws, and hate them. They like the laws even better, then. They want laws that cause injury to some of us, and then they want to make sure everyone who disagrees cannot have any voice in the process.

What they really want is slavery. This is why they go through this business of ostracizing the dissenters, slandering them, gutterballing them. And now, if you have some beef with the unprecedented Obama deficits and you’re worried that your kids & grandkids won’t be able to keep any of their paychecks, you oughtta be joining the Ku Klux Klan. Nice one, Carrie.

My bottom line?

We just don’t need any more people acting this way. We don’t need more people thinking this way. We have more than enough already. Case closed.

Update 6/20/10: Cross-posted at Right Wing News.

One Hundred Things That Don’t Make You a Better Person

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

I’m just on the light side of 44 now, and in a flash of insight I lately realized that nearly all of the things that have infuriated me beyond all reason…or simply irritated me mildly…have been done by people anxious to prove they’re wonderful. If only people weren’t so desperate to find new ways to prove their wonderfulness, my disposition would be considerably sweetened and I’d probably have a lot more years ahead of me on terra firma right about now.

Those people did these things to define themselves as wonderful people, because they assumed these empty rituals would get it done. How do we convince them this is not the case? Here’s where my flash of insight went off. Maybe…just maybe…they assumed this because nobody ever took the time to tell them any differently.

Okay. Well, I’m telling you differently. Right now. These things do not make you a better person, and if you think they do, you’re wrong.

Raising a child makes you a better person. Conquering a deeply-held fear, or learning a new talent, makes you a better person. Helping out in a soup kitchen, exercising in the morning, holding the door open for a good-looking lady — these things make you a better person.

The following things do not…repeat NOT…make you a better person. They do not change the outcome…except for a few of them, in which case, they change it for the worse. Let’s just get that one thing clear. Word needs to get out, you cannot improve yourself by doing any of these things.

1. Outlawing capital punishment
2. Banning guns
3. Sitting down to talk to our enemies
4. Unplugging the coffee pot after it is done making coffee
5. Unplugging the cell phone when it’s done recharging
6. Inventing new “civil rights” like, for example, someone can use the opposite-gender restroom when they’re a pre- or post-op tranny
7. Taking the convict’s unpleasant upbringing into account during the sentencing
8. Paying more taxes, opposing tax cuts or supporting tax increases
9. Taking the blame for a conflict in which the other party is clearly in the wrong
10. Forgiving someone for the mistake that killed your friend or family member
11. Apologizing for things you fully intend to do again
12. Buying things for your kids, indulging your kids, becoming your own kids’ “best friend”
13. Looking for the union label
14. Knowing who got kicked off American Idol last night
15. Avoiding generalizations
16. Being technologically ignorant, “not knowing a single thing about com-pyoo-ters”
17. Knowing other, non-English, languages
18. Telling jokes
19. Talking smack about Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Mark Levin, Neal Boortz, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin, Laura Schlessinger, Roger Ailes, Karl Rove, Tony Snow, Glenn Beck, Oliver North, Ted Olson, Ted Nugent, Laura Bush, Pamela Geller, Mary Katherine Ham, James O’Keefe, Andrew Breitbart, Dan Riehl, Cassy Chesser, Victor Davis Hanson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, et al.
20. Raising awareness of…whatever
21. Audibly itemizing your husband’s faults to your friends
22. Refusing to bring him a beer
23. Owning a li’l tiny purse-dog
24. Taking sides when your friends are getting a divorce
25. Recycling
26. Driving a hybrid, or converting your car to burn vegetable oil
27. “Totally-respecting” someone/something
28. Believing & repeating every crackpot theory about your kid’s supposed “learning disability”
29. Laughing at jokes you don’t find funny
30. Telling a pretty girl she’s pretty (she already knows, you’re probably creeping her out)
31. Calling them “undocumented immigrants”
32. Siding with the underdog
33. Calling corporations greedy
34. Speaking in an unnaturally high voice (when you’re a man)
35. Crying during a movie
36. Siding with the majority, doing what lots of other people are doing, or showing “solidarity”
37. Removing “In God We Trust” from our nation’s money
38. Supporting an expanded welfare state
39. Getting married
40. Going to church
41. Living under socialized medicine
42. Denouncing the tea parties for being “too white”
43. Demonstrating
44. Playing the lottery
45. Putting a green burial in your will
46. Remaining childless
47. Converting the faithful to atheism
48. Watching “Sex in the City,” or living the lifestyle
49. Getting a grant for “art” paintings or sculptures
50. Forcing your guests to remove their shoes before they come into your home
51. Going vegan
52. Blocking Hooters from opening a restaurant in your neighborhood
53. Giving money to a panhandler
54. Trapping an insect in a glass, carrying it outside, and releasing it as opposed to flattening it
55. Approving a home loan for borrowers who cannot maintain it
56. Sustaining an affirmative-action quota in hiring, contracting or enrollment
57. Wearing something cute
58. Voting for or hiring someone who’s black, Hispanic, handicapped, Native-American or female
59. “Preserving a woman’s right to choose”
60. Not-waterboarding; just feed ‘em three times a day and nicely wait for ‘em to feel like talking
61. Getting a tattoo
62. Decorating your living room with African or Native-American artwork
63. Carving a “tofurkey” during Thanksgiving
64. Greening your parents
65. Filing a sex-discrimination or weight-discrimination lawsuit…against a place like Hooters
66. Giving your sister/girlfriend some additional encouragement to get a divorce from her husband
67. Dumping more rumors on the Internet about Sarah Palin or Nikki Haley
68. Banning score-keeping during a kid’s soccer game
69. Using hemp products
70. Buying condoms for your kid because he/she is “gonna do it anyway”
71. Legally changing your middle name to “Hussein”
72. Forcing little boys to play with dolls
73. Pushing young girls to enroll in computer science courses they don’t really want to take
74. Wearing a ponytail (men)
75. Going to a gay wedding
76. Enabling a co-dependent
77. Providing a soft shoulder for your “girlfriend” to cry on, with her latest high-drama pity-fit she got from dealing with her OTHER boyfriend
78. Raising your own grandchildren, while your children go out and make more grandchildren
79. Protesting war. It isn’t just hanging around because some people think it’s a swell idea, ya know
80. “Tarting up” your eight-year-old for an on-stage performance — sick, sick, sick
81. Changing lanes without signaling; you aren’t brave, you don’t look brave, you’re actually a fool
82. Boycotting Arizona
83. Supporting a needle exchange program
84. Requiring privately-owned restaurants to allow breast-feeding
85. Raising the minimum wage
86. Supporting wholesale energy price controls
87. Supporting rent controls
88. Supporting a higher capital gains tax
89. Supporting the death tax
90. Using an iPad
91. Using an iPod
92. Sending over a hundred text messages a day to your friends
93. L-O-U-D-L-Y recognizing your friends in a coffee shop, like a cannon going off, so no one within earshot can think about anything else
94. Giving birth at home
95. Getting married in the nude
96. Telling BP to “Plug The Damn Hole!”
97. Teaching your kids all about “conflict resolution”
98. Just about anything you can do to “preserve a child’s self-esteem”
99. Using a cloth grocery bag
100. Doing things the way they do them in Europe

Anyone who does any of these things, or has ever done these things, or has ever thought about doing any of these things (for the purpose of proclaiming your inner personal wonderfulness) — I have a question for you. Why are you feeling un-fulfilled? Why are you going through these empty rituals? Why are you trying to earn the adoration of strangers you will never ever meet again, effectively asking them to adjudicate your worthiness as an individual?

This is a serious problem, although it doesn’t explain all of the serious mistakes made in recent human history. Just the huge ones, maybe.

One other question: What is the nature of this wonderfulness you’re trying to prove? Is it absolute or is it relative? By which I mean, are you asking to be graded on a curve?

There are amazing, vast quantities of energy going into this “proof.” It’s probably way overdue to ask such a question.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News.

Buck Doesn’t Like Ann Coulter

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

And I disagree. In fact, I’m struggling to figure out what exactly is the objection. I’ve heard Coulter has this reputation for being incendiary and sarcastic and I understand that is true.

Our blogger friend in New Mexico strongly prefers P.J. O’Rourke and has put up, as Exhibit A, an O’Rourke piece wishing for newspapers to save their own necks (possibly) by printing pre-obituaries on the left-wing luminaries who are still among us but could exit momentarily. This seems, to me, an exercise in simply getting away with more. Fantasies about living people dying? “What if Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck wished people dead?” is such an obvious rejoinder to make, I’m a little embarrassed to type in the words.

I have enjoyed many of O’Rourke’s works and admire the man greatly. Something must be flying over my head, because I don’t see this piece as his best. It is a single idea, nominally witty, with a whole lotta words burdening it. Besides of which it’s a little on the mean side. Like I said, who else can get away with wishing living liberals dead?

This so-often-deplored sarcasm — you don’t have to study the situation long, to figure out the sarcasm is deplored less or more depending on the identity of the person putting it out — is clearly receiving a bum rap. Sarcasm can be used to make some good points, points that cannot be made any other way. In moments when our collective attention span has been chiseled away, to such an extent it becomes a precious commodity, sarcasm can become indispensable.

Here‘s an example of what I’m talking about:

[I]t would be a little easier for the rest of us not to live in fear if the president’s entire national security strategy didn’t depend on average citizens happening to notice a smoldering SUV in Times Square or smoke coming from a fellow airline passenger’s crotch.

But after the car bomber and the diaper bomber, it has become increasingly clear that Obama’s only national defense strategy is: Let’s hope their bombs don’t work!

If only Dr. Hasan’s gun had jammed at Fort Hood, that could have been another huge foreign policy success for Obama.

Is the Obama administration’s counter-terrorism strategy really one of hoping the bombs don’t go off? It’s doubtful you can find a piece of paper lying around somewhere with those words appearing in sequence upon it. But it is what is put into practice, not what rolls off the printer, that really counts right?

And it really doesn’t matter how many people find this kind of writing to be abrasive and nasty. Not if the reason they’re finding it to be abrasive and nasty, is that it happens to be accurate.

As for whether it’s important to reflect on this, I’ll leave that to you to decide. Speaking for myself, I’m not coming up with many things that could be much more important than that. Our government is governing us the same way my son safeguards those toys of his that he outgrew awhile back; they’re “his,” but if someone came by and took one of them away, he’d never in a million years notice it. The protection, in fact the mere inventorying, is purely passive.

The current administration’s counter-terrorism strategy is to hope the bombs don’t go off, says Coulter. Don’t like that? Point out some bit of evidence that refutes this, or at least challenges it. Or if it’s worthy of our attention but you don’t like seeing Coulter raising the issue, point the way to someone else bringing it up.

We’re Too Broke To Be This Stupid

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Mark Steyn:

Back in 2008, when I was fulminating against multiculturalism on a more or less weekly basis, a reader wrote to advise me to lighten up, on the grounds that “we’re rich enough to afford to be stupid.”

Two years later, we’re a lot less rich. In fact, many Western nations are, in any objective sense, insolvent. Hence last week’s column, on the EU’s decision to toss a trillion dollars into the great sucking maw of Greece’s public-sector kleptocracy. It no longer matters whether you’re intellectually in favour of European-style social democracy: simply as a practical matter, it’s unaffordable.

How did the Western world reach this point? Well, as my correspondent put it, we assumed that we were rich enough that we could afford to be stupid.

Irritating, because some of us didn’t need the lesson. The snarky reader had already lost us with the implication that stupidity is a luxury affordable to the wealthy. If that’s the case, then how come when I am so privileged to make the social connection to those from a more affluent class than Yours Truly, albeit only on a temporary basis, I find them putting so much more effort into trying not to do stupid things?

I Made a New Word XXXVII

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

Bi•no•pia (intang. n.)

As I’ve pointed out a few times, it’s easy to criticize something and labor toward its demise when it has a name, and it’s much harder to do this when it doesn’t have a name. By and large, when I invent names for things, they are things that have been sticking around for awhile and need to go away.

Folks, here’s something that needs a beat-down.

Binopia is a portmanteau between binary and myopia. I’ve lately become aware of this horrible afflication through the Rand Paul flap; it is a myopia that comes from seeing issues that involve permission and proscription in binary terms. It is an inability to comprehend the simple concept of passively allowing something, and at the same time, withholding your approval.

We’ve got an awful lot of people walking around who can’t comprehend this simple, entirely workable, dichotomy. To them, if you disapprove of something the only way you can show it is to pass a law against it.

It’s like what I’ve been telling my son for a few years now: When a conservative hears something on the radio he doesn’t like, he changes the station. The liberal who hears something he doesn’t like writes to his congressman expressing his support for, and demanding, a ban.

If we are to remain free, the people in that second group cannot have power to prohibit. Because if they do, they’re going to have to outlaw something every single time they want to make a statement about what wonderful people they are…which is all the time. When you have binopia, it is impossible to indicate to the waitress you’d like a stack of pancakes, without passing a law against eggs, sausage, bacon and cold cereal.

I see in that debate between Megyn Kelly and John Stossel, the Blonde One intoned — and this is the one anti-Rand-Paul argument I’ve heard thus far that’s made the most sense — that if we didn’t empower the federal government to lower the boom on these “public accommodations” and left things to the free market to sort out, maybe it would’ve worked eventually but it would have taken, gosh, a hundred years or so. That’s probably true. But I would say if you’re going to noodle on that one and figure out if it’s the right way to go, the first step is to call it what it really is. So let’s call it what it really is: We suspended our Constitution, which our executives, judges and legislators are sworn to uphold, which our public schoolteachers so regularly tell our children is such a wonderful perfect document that must be protected across the centuries. We trashed it to get quick results. We did an end-run around it.

Was that the right way to go? If so, then I want all those signs taken down: “We Reserve The Right To Refuse Service To Anyone.” I want ‘em down, coast to coast. Trash ‘em. Because they’re not true.

Stossel has the right point-of-view in that match-up, because he is using his full range of vision. He doesn’t have binopia. He’s making a reasonable request, which perhaps isn’t possible anymore, but our enduring freedom absolutely relies on it: Those who want to have some say in what is made into an enforceable crime, could they please find some other way to communicate their likes and dislikes about things.

You aren’t a racist and you would never patronize an establishment that discriminates? Hey, that’s just awesome. If you feel a need to prove it repeatedly and compulsively, first of all, you have a problem. More likely than not, a skeleton in your closet that’s bugging you. Get some help. Yes, I’m dead flat-ass serious about that. Secondly: How about you just not go to those places and leave it at that. You don’t have to pass a law every time you disapprove of something.

Third point: As I pointed out here, and I’m re-emphasizing in bold the part that has to do with this point…

I agree with what Rand said [the author, Ayn, not senate nominee Paul] in that paragraph, but absolutely agree with states’ rights. I imagine the two might seem to be mutually exclusive to anyone who hasn’t thought this out all the way, and that might very well include Ayn Rand.

The individual is to enjoy supremacy above the state AND the fed at least with regard to certain things. That is the original intent of the Constitution. These three entities are to share power — and not agreeably, because power is all about doing what you’re going to do when the other guy isn’t going to like it. Not one among the three enjoys complete power.

Fact remains, there is no authorization in the Constitution for what Rand Paul was criticizing. Nor should there be, since there is no mechanism installed anywhere that makes the federal government inherently wise or benevolent about restaurant service policies compared to restaurants, OR the states.

In fact, can a private business really oppress someone like a government can? It’s really hard to come up with examples. If you lay down the entirely reasonable restriction that discrimination is not oppression, since no choice has been actually taken away besides “you can’t eat at our restaurant” (and who’d want to, anyway?)…then it becomes even harder to come up with an example.

I got a feeling if you could revive Ayn Rand and ask her about this senate nominee who was named after her, she’d end up agreeing with what he said. I’ve also got a feeling that when this whole thing plays out and the dust settles on it, his critics will be missing more ass flesh than he will. Most people loathe discrimination, but have had some misgivings for a long time about government telling businesses what they can’t do. It seems like a swell idea until you have a personal experience that allows you to see up close how compassionate our civil servants are…heh…and then you meet some folks who act like Ayn Rand villains, and the flaws in the plan become really hard to ignore.

All a business can really do, in the final analysis, is offer a product or service…and withdraw it. And then they can be like BP and screw things up, I suppose. But discrimination is not that. It isn’t being poisoned, it isn’t being injured, when you get down to the nuts and bolts of it it’s really just stupid business. We don’t need laws against it, what we really need is to have our freedom back.

It’s embarrassing to have to point it out, but since 1964 we’ve lost a hell of a lot more rights than to throw people out of our businesses if we don’t like their skin color. Kids get suspended from school if they get caught with an Advil, we can’t change the oil in our own cars because we can’t dispose of the oil, we can’t cut our own grass because we can’t dispose of the clippings, we can’t toss out light bulbs or batteries. This is the binopia we need to start fighting. This is how all that nonsense starts. Someone somewhere has a preference…and they express it by means of a new law. We lose yet another freedom and our progressives say “Well what of it? It’s the right choice!”

So we might as well require it? Until everyone is forced to do the right thing all the time?

If you can’t see something falling away when that happens, you have a mighty strange definition of freedom.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News.

“The Wussification of the Workplace”

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Anchoress, hat tip to Gerard:

A man I know began working 20 years ago at a large corporation that he deemed it a pleasure to work for. The CEO and founder was (gasp!) a commoner, an ordinary engineer who had an idea and ran with it. Perhaps because he had worked for a living, and had not simply stepped out of a “good” school with an MBA, he knew how to treat the people who worked for him; compensation was generous; enthusiasm and imagination brought perks, and morale was high. People worked late because they were excited; they wanted to keep working.

Then the CEO sold his enormously successful company to a corporate giant. Out went the upper management that had been honed “from the ranks,” as it were. In came the suits; the “sophisticated” men and women, “from the right schools,” who could talk about what wine went with what entree, or their walking holiday in Burma, but had no understanding of the dreamers (and engineers are dreamers, before they are anything) whose knowledge and imaginations they needed to ensnare and encourage, and whose intelligence and dignity deserved respect.

Not just respect, but inclusion.

Morale quickly went down. Working for suits who knew all the “theory” of business, and how to read numbers, but had not the least understanding of what made a “human resource” so resourceful, the engineers and developers and testers and marketers and admins began to rush out the door as soon as the clock struck five. The fun was gone, the energy sapped; enthusiasm was no longer on the radar.
:
These suited MBA’s can’t seem to get it. Huddled in their enclaves, they have difficulty understanding that a hard-working engineer with excellent problem-solving skills, a positive outlook and a knack for team-building needs more than an official performance review that ends with a condescendingly vague note about his being “a valuable member” of the collective whole.
:
The men who built the Empire State Building stood on bare planks to work in the sky; paradoxically, they were grounded in reality, not theory. They did not have to concern themselves with tones and timbres; nor did the educated architects who dreamed up skyscrapers. One suspects that if either the man on the beam or the one with the blueprints had been approached by a tanning-booth-bronzed-and-manicured corporate bureaucrat, and asked to enumerate their “goals” as part of their “performance review” they both would have hooted at him in derision. “My goal,” the first would say, “is to not fall. It’s to stay alive so I can pick up my pay, have a beer with the wife, raise the kids and get into heaven a half-hour before the devil knows I’m dead.”

Anchoress the latest to discover the Architect-and-Medicator paradigm. I must say, every year that I see roll on by, instills in me a tiny bit more reluctance to refer to this divide in male-female terms. I keep running into these tough-as-steel Dagny Taggarts, along with their opposite pussy beta males, who upset the trend. It isn’t boy-girl. It is a way of doing one’s daily problem-solving.

Architects think.

Medicators feel.

The Architect yearns to make a difference as an individual.

Medicators long to join a collective.

Architects draw a perimeter around what they do, and enforce the perimeter, as well as the rules inside it.

Medicators seek and destroy. They become aware of something within earshot or line-of-sight that isn’t adhering to protocol, and go all control-freakish all over it.

Architects see the world as a confluence of autonomously-working objects, which come into contact with each other, and in so doing create cause-and-effect relationships with each other. This is how the Architect learns how to do things. He doesn’t see it as “grab your pencil this way, and draw the line.” He sees it as “When you drag the pencil across the paper, it makes a line.” There’s a big difference between those two statements.

The Medicator is unlikely to come up with new ways of doing things, because he learns step-by-step. What he knows how to do is all scripted, and he is therefore doomed to always learn, at most, just a piece of how to do it. Which suits him just fine. Push this button. The light will come on. But what if the light doesn’t come on?

The Architect labors toward a state of things which has not been seen before. If it has been seen before, he can’t wait to get off this project and onto a “real” one.

The Medicator labors toward a state of things that was seen exactly this time last year. He prepares reports. They are not excellent reports; the best they can be is identical to last year’s. The fabric of his very innermost mind is clerical.

The very best outcome the Architect can envision for his work, is something that ends with “er.” Taller. Bigger. Faster. More powerful. Stronger. Farther.

The very best outcome the Medicator can envision for his work, is the word “compliant.”

The world needs both to spin properly. But if both work together and conflict is entirely avoided, the Medicators will get rid of all the Architects because they care more about what everybody else is doing, and it’s in their nature to get rid of whatever doesn’t conform.

And so a civilized society will hang onto its own cajones only when its Architects become Architects with teeth. When the Architects become fearsome-when-cornered. When they are ready, willing, able — and permitted — to utter those all important words, “Begone From Here, You Medicator, And Go Do Your Medicating Someplace Else!” When the project perimeter can be enforced again.

Because every wonder-machine-of-tomorrow, needs a garage in which to get built. With big ol’ heavy wooden doors that can be locked shut.

Our Fairy Tale and Its Moral

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Christmas crotch sizzler, Army base shooter, Times Square truck bomber. That’s three. Three strikes and you’re still not out.

Newlywed Cassy takes note of the fact that, disturbingly, our Dear Leader is cutting funding where it counts. I guess counterterrorism isn’t “shovel-ready”:

After the attempted Christmas Day bombing, Obama stayed in Hawaii and played golf. His administration has botched the investigation of the Fort Hood jihadist. And now, we’ve had the attempted car bombing in Times Square. How did Obama handle that? He cut New York’s anti-terror funding just 11 days later:

Eleven days after the botched plot to bomb Times Square, the Obama administration on Wednesday slashed some $53 million from the city’s terror-fighting budget.

“For the administration to announce these cuts two weeks after the attempted Times Square bombing shows they just don’t get it and are not doing right by New York City,” fumed Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

To top it off, the news arrives as President Obama comes to town today amid buzz he will meet with the very cops who helped thwart the bombing.

Obama will also be tapping the city’s deep pockets for the Democratic Party.

“The President seems more interested in raising money for political campaigns than providing New York the money it needs to defend itself against Islamic terrorism,” said Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.), the top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee.

Bingo, Rep. King.

This has apparently been in the works since December, but one would think that after New York was the subject of an attempted terrorist attack, he would reconsider. Even Chuck Schumer is astounded by this. Obama clearly doesn’t understand the concept of homeland security, and I’ve got a feeling that he probably wouldn’t care even if he did. He’s perfectly fine trying to squeeze more money out of New Yorkers for himself, but he isn’t willing to spend a little to keep them safe. If this administration, the most spend-happy administration in decades, isn’t willing to spend money on something, then you know it’s got to be low on their priority list.

Whereupon I entered a comment about exactly what it is we elected. This is true wisdom from Yours Truly. You should write it down and keep it in your back pocket; refer to it again whenever His Holiness does something strange, and keep looking at it again long after we finally get rid of Him. Because this is what Cheerleader Management is all about, and it isn’t limited to the presidency.

This has apparently been in the works since December, but one would think that after New York was the subject of an attempted terrorist attack, he would reconsider.

This makes the situation worse, IMO. It makes it worse because it makes the whole parable much simpler, almost suitable for condensation into a Hans Christian Andersen or Brothers Grimm fairy tale. See, “we all” voted for Obama because the desire was for a champion to emerge who would soothe our emotions and make sure “hope is in the air.” We got precisely what we wanted. A cheerleader. Managers like Obama do not labor to alter the outcome, with regard to anything save a narrow sliver of issues within their immediate concerns. They are status quo. What they manage, is our emotional reaction to things. They are there to encourage us to accept things we otherwise would not.

They are like the customer service representative on the phone, who wastes our time, letting us figure out for ourselves we are talking to the wrong person. Changing nothing, just throwing useless bromides at us to stop us from litigating.

I have other words for those other matters on which Obama wants to be a force of advocacy, as opposed to “leadership.” On those matters He does real harm. But I think the more potent lesson for us all to learn is with regard to these management issues in which His harm is passive. Anyone who’s worked for any length of time, has had a boss like this. It does not make you want to go to work any earlier or work any harder.

He’s a fake yo-yo trickster, just like K-Strass. We like to think our primal layers of intellect, just as a product of human evolution, are sufficient to keep from being snookered by emotion-managers like this. Well, we’re wrong. Just like K-Strass will keep fooling teevee network after teevee network, politicians like Obama will keep working themselves all the way to the top where they’ll make their craven, do-nothing, status-quo, dithering-in-Afghanistan type decisions. And as long as they talk a good game we’ll just keep falling for it. By which I mean the Big We…not every single one of us, just enough of us to make the decision to get fooled one more time.

It’ll keep happening. As long as there are rocks on the ground and the river is still flowing, and there are people who feel their way around their problems rather than think their way through them, the “Rah Rah!” manager will stick around, using his talents to prevail on us to accept miserable situations we otherwise would not. Our genome lacks any defense mechanism that would enable us to effectively cope. We’ve not had to develop one in the past…not in a past that is meaningful to the slow process of evolution. It is, for the most part, a mass-communication-age problem.

Hay, That Just Might Work

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

Via Gerard: Looks like the makings of a good idea. I wasn’t aware hay had this property.

Well look: She wanted “an Einstein out there” to speak up. Sometimes twits get what they want, too. And sometimes an Einstein doesn’t look like Einstein.

Update: Aw, double-dog dammit. The twit took down her video. “Removed because of a copyright claim.” Copyright claim my ass. For those who didn’t make the acquaintance of it, it was a modernized version of the famous “Leave Britney Alone!” video which you can find here (naughty language warning). Not that it was trying to be that…similar content, similar intent, similar coherence factor, similarly pathetic.

This is a little bit of scope creep, but there is a lesson here. The twit put up a video so everyone could see how concerned she was about the oil spill…and therefore, what a wonderful decent person she was. Tree huggers do not want us “all” to care about Mother Earth. Tree huggers want differentials, they want ranking, they want relativity. They want to be better than other people.

She found out there was a different opinion about here in the real world, regarding her overly-emotional “Leave Mother Earth Alone!” ravings. And just like that, the clip becomes sacred intellectual property. You’re not allowed to see it.

So the lesson is: Environment-related passions are a lot more about destruction than creation. Their kind envisions a utopia. One in which “little people” are allowed to populate and thrive, so that the environmentalists can ensconce themselves at the top of a pyramid, smug and self-satisfied in the notion that they are better than most everybody else. But at the same time, their expectation doesn’t allow for any diversity when it comes to ideas. You’re only supposed to form the opinions they want you to form. So to create the world they want, we’ll have to destroy a lot more things than we’ll have to preserve or create. They’re really genocidal and they don’t know it.

Another lesson that emerges from this: Our tort system, we see through our copyright system, is rapidly becoming infested with bullshit. It is becoming a legal profession specializing in pretending things are the opposite of what they really are. And the central tenet of it is morphing into one of “That which has been seen can, indeed, be unseen if we say so.” Anyone who says something stupid and then realizes it later, all of a sudden enjoys the protection of the expanding umbrella of trademark dilution.

This is not a good thing. There is a Darwinism of ideas that needs to take place here, as people are rightfully embarrassed for having said stupid things. Now it isn’t taking place. Instead, we have the “memory holes” of 1984. The video has been pulled because of a “copyright claim”; we have always been at war with EastAsia; the chocolate ration has always been 22 grams.

Someone needs to follow YouTube around picking up the dribblings. Sort of “Google-cache” these videos that are found to be inconvenient and therefore “violate copyright claims.” Without that, people who can’t think coherently are allowed to send up trial balloons involving whatever absurd nonsense they wanna float on up, and if it works it works, if it doesn’t it doesn’t. There’s no incentive toward thinking like a grown-up.

Back to the subject at hand: Gerard asks the question of whether the government will hire these Einsteins? It’s a good question. There are indeed those who say that whatever is simple and makes sense, is summarily ruled out. I guess it’s up to our “leaders” to prove that dictum right or wrong.

You Get Dirty, and the Pig Likes It

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

You never wrestle with a pig, because you both get dirty and the pig likes it. It’s good advice that has endured throughout the ages. I have always appreciated it (although some among those who’ve known me the longest, may call this into question). It’s a reminder that we are not all the same, we’re not all living life for the same purpose, we’re not all getting the same things out of it — and, also, that there isn’t anyone among us who genuinely “loves to argue politics.” Nobody fits into that; not a single soul.

Half of us see an opportunity to figure out what, if anything, lures otherwise mentally capable colleagues into whackjob bullshit opinions. The other half of us see an opportunity to pursue an ancient dream to re-make the entire world into carbon copies of themselves. And, of course, the other half of us would much rather talk about what’s for dinner tomorrow night, who’s getting kicked off American Idol, and whether it’s a good idea to put on a jacket before leaving the house.

And all three of these halves must acknowledge there’s at least a possibility that the entire thing is a waste of time. We all see the wisdom in the timeless dictum about wrestling with the pig.

But those of us in the first half are occasionally confronted with a conundrum: What if it isn’t a pig? What if it is something even lower? What if it’s a mollusk? Something that doesn’t like or dislike mud, but simply lives out its existence in it as a simple fact of life? There can be value in studying these creatures. No pride, certainly. But edification.

Particularly with regard to how many of the mollusks there are, and how quickly they’re breeding. It might tell you there’s a storm coming.

And so I’m not proud of lowering myself to picking through the mollusks over here; but the page belongs to somebody I consider to be a blogger friend. Although his gadflies have made it clear what they think of me. In fact, they have very little else to say, which is why I call them mollusks.

Arguing, arguing, arguing, not a single observation made, not a single conclusion offered about a goddamn thing. It all spirals back inward to the tired old left-winger black hole of “I’m a good person and you’re not.” A theatrical gallop out the door with a hefty slamming of it, followed by more of the same.

The approval of gastropods like these, is the payoff for gerbil-faced men who pretend to like women who despise them? Membership in their little clique, is the payoff for pretending Queen Latifah is just as sexy as Beyonce?

Beer WenchThe world in which I’m allowed to audibly notice the beauty of ravishing women, may shrivel down into the size of a tennis court by noon tomorrow. If so, that’s my world. Women work pretty hard to make themselves up so we appreciate them, and I intend to notice it. Bonus points for ‘em if they bring me cold beer and hot wings.

Whoever’s upset about that can get just as snippy with me as they want.

With regard to the conversation itself, how it went, and what it tells me about what is going on with our country and the discourse in it, I can only say this:

My wrestling match with the mollusks was a successful one. If I were swimming around in the muck with iconoclasts, it would have been a waste of time. But these were not rugged individuals, they were commoners. That is the objective. When you define right and wrong according to whether a consensus of your peers does or does not allow something into your little collectivist perimeter, then by definition you become a bandwagoneer, one who defines good versus evil according to whether someone is already doing the same thing, and how many of them there are.

The conversation tells me something useful. And what it tells me is alarming.

This is the reason why political dialogue is so damn contentious. Right here. This is why you can lose your job if you discuss politics at work. Our left-wingers are doing it to us.

They skip right past the reasoned, logical, tried-and-true “Tell Me Why It Is You Think That” exchange of ideas — and lunge, like a jackal after a jugular, into the only part of the argument they are capable of understanding:

You think this, I think that.

I’m wonderful.

You’re mean, you’re bigoted, you’re intolerant, you’re dumb, you’re unsophisticated — you’re substandard.

You are to be shunned, and whoever does not shun you shall be shunned. You are to be ostracized, and anyone who doesn’t ostracize the likes of you brings discredit upon himself…

…and that includes our employer.

It’s something straight out of the union headquarters. On paper, they’re constructing a perfect world in which nobody ever fucks with anybody else’s livelihood. But in reality, fucking with people’s livelihood is what it’s all about. “Nice marital status/community stature/career/job ya got there; be a shame if something happened to it.”

That’s the problem with joining a crusade that is glorious, and not merely good. Your conscience becomes an extraneous and useless appendage. Then it becomes a casualty. Your capacity to think as an individual, runs pretty much the same course. Those two prospects, to me, are plenty hideous enough.

But I’m required to pretend wretched ugly women are good-looking, and genuinely good-looking women are no different?

This horrifies me. Think of the repercussions — they are there, whether the mollusks foresee them or not. If one woman cannot be more physically appealing than another, then nothing can be superior to anything else. Not anywhere. Without pretty women, there can be no sweet-smelling fresh air, no delicious food, no awe-inspiring music, no inspiring ideas. Ultimately, all movies must be Zardoz, scores cannot be maintained in any game, all meat must be tofu, all beer must be flat and you can’t have dessert after your dinner. No variety to anything anywhere. The supreme is bludgeoned down into a common layer, gossamer-thin, with the mediocre. It brings to mind what I was bitching about over here — only our superstar politicians are allowed excellence, the job of the rest of us is to emulate each other and stick to the baseline like a snail on the ground.

What a pathetic fucking two-dimensional world. Let ‘em keep it.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News.