Archive for December, 2015


Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

Challenged to identify “What’s Wrong With The World?“, I said, among other things…

You’re hired into a job, you are hired to be and not to do. If you’re fired, you’re fired for your failure to be and not to do. If not — when you get another executive in charge of the company, if you open your company’s web site and read his biography, you’ll probably read a great deal about what he is…not so much anymore about what he has done.

That was a long time ago. Since I wrote that, the nation has elected a black guy to be President of the United States, in fact anointed Him as some sort of Holy Savior, mostly because of His blackness — and seen how that doesn’t work for anybody in the long run. Then it re-elected Him. Would it do it third time if it could? Either answer would be speculation, doomed to never be anything more than speculation, unprovable, irrefutable. But, I’m thinking not. I’m seeing encouraging signs. Tiny ones, anecdotal ones. Listing them wouldn’t do any good. But they’re there. We seem to be going through a thaw, after a long winter. People are starting to figure out that virtuous acts have rewards, not-so-virtuous ones have consequences. People are realizing that what they do, matters. What others do, matters.

But then I see stuff like this

According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans named Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton the “Most Admired Woman, 2015.”

Clinton has received the title 14 times in the past 14 years, 20 times overall, the most times an individual woman has been named most admired since Gallup began polling the open-ended question in 1948.

Because of what? Not anything she ever did. Even Hillary herself can’t name an accomplishment.

Well she’s far from the only one. A lot of public servants just hang around, making speeches now and then, launching into bizarre tangents of thought to try to steal credit whenever something good happens. It’s embarrassing to watch after awhile. You wish someone would ask something like “So what is it about you, specifically, that makes you so awesome?” One begins to suspect there’s no answer. After awhile it becomes hard to think otherwise. All these speeches, nothing about virtues? What would you like to pass on to the next generation? Your intellect? Patience? Persistence? What? They don’t say.

Selfie Stick Man
Image shamelessly swiped
from Gerard, who got it
from somebody else

They cherry pick statistics and then comment on something like “I presided over a three percent increase or decrease in whatever…” That’s what passes for doing, these days, in our highest echelons of power. Which means it reflects on us all. Nobody’s doing much of anything at all. “That happened on my watch!” scores the biggest bragging rights. It looks phony and fake, because it is. A real doer would have some passion about teaching what exactly he has done. He would say: No copyright here! Steal from me! I want everybody doing the same thing! It’s been so long since we’ve seen anyone say something like that, we’ve forgotten what it looks like. Oh yeah that’s right. The big-state libs do it all the time, I forgot. Raise taxes! Make the rich pay their fair share!

So allow me to self-correct: Our one example is just pure nonsense. Want to make the economy take off and really hit its stride? Put more burdens on it.

We seem to have forgotten: We’re not supposed to favor, or disfavor, demographic groups. Voting for a woman to be President just because she’s a woman, is just like voting for a black guy because He’s black. That’s wrong. We’re all supposed to have been in agreement, a long time ago, that that’s wrong. As 2015 retires though, we’re still waiting for our wise elders to let us know if it’s wrong or not.

If I could be allowed to dictate what gets fixed next, I would call that out as the one loose nut on the valve cover. Other ones are tight, but this one is so very loose. It’s wobbling. Such strangers we have become to the idea of anybody actually doing anything, we betray our own non-discrimination “principles” right in mid-sentence as we articulate them. We seem to have reserved all the meaningful decisions about hiring and promotion, for the bean-counters among us, who work long and hard about aggravating their own passions about counting the beans. Never has our obsession been keener, over what people are — and we can’t even agree about what they are. Nor shall we, so long as we are prohibited from siding with reality on the question

In the latest, astonishing act of draconian political correctness, the NYC Commission on Human Rights have updated a law on “Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Expression” to threaten staggering financial penalties against property owners who “misgender” employees or tenants.

Incidents that are deemed “wilful and malicious” will see property owners face up to $250,000 in fines, while standard violations of the law will result in a $125,000 fine.

Meanwhile, we have other triggers in place in our grand bureaucracies, ready to fire as soon as we make up our minds on what a person is…while the question of what they do, continues to languish…

A woman who failed the Fire Department of New York’s running test six times will get a seventh opportunity to become a full-fledged member of the department, according to a published report.

The New York Post says that Wendy Tapia, 34, is among a group of EMTs promoted to probationary firefighters. The group will start an 18-week training academy Monday.

The Post reported that Tapia was allowed to conditionally graduate from the Fire Academy on May 17, 2013, despite being unable to run 1.5 miles in 12 minutes or less. At the time, she blamed her slow going on a foot injury.

After she was sworn in, the FDNY gave her five more chances to pass the test, but Tapia was unsuccessful in all five atempts. After her sixth failed attempt, in November 2013, Tapia resigned and returned to EMS never having worked a full-fledged shift.

FDNY members who spoke to the Post predict that Tapia will be allowed to pass the running test by FDNY brass, who fear a gender discrimination lawsuit.

“She’ll graduate, no question,” one FDNY member said. “The department does­n’t want another black eye.”

Perhaps I should add it to my list of suggested New Year’s resolutions (although bullet #5, I see, partially covers the concern): Definition about what people DO, over and above what people ARE. Appreciation for their positive contributions, excoriation for their negative impacts. We have a problem arising from this, which has to do with a shortage of shame. People do shameful things and there’s no shaming, because that has to do with what people do, and our obsession is with what they are.

It is almost as if…EXACTLY as if…the collective realization was one of, “nothing I do matters, so I may as well articulate socially attractive points of support for other appealing individuals and appealing groups of individuals, so that my standing becomes elevated.” And if ever the staple resources come up short and have to be rationed, those who have done the most preening will be the last ones to be ostracized.

Exactly the mindset embraced by rats, as they scramble around on a sinking ship.

Very well. We want to obsess over what people are, do we? Well we’re not rats. And we’re not on a sinking ship. We’re people, an intellectual species, a privileged (in a good way) and dignified species, and we should act like it. But I guess I’m just old fashioned like that…

2015 Year in Review

Monday, December 28th, 2015

Dave Barry:

Are we saying that 2015 was the worst year ever? Are we saying it was worse than, for example, 1347, the year when the Bubonic Plague killed a large part of humanity?

Yes, we are saying that. Because at least the remainder of humanity was not exposed to a solid week in which the news media focused intensively on the question of whether a leading candidate for president of the United States had, or had not, made an explicit reference to a prominent female TV journalist’s biological lady cycle.

…NBC suspends Nightly News anchor Brian Williams after an investigation reveals inaccuracies in his account of being in a military helicopter under fire in Iraq. “Mr. Williams did not actually come under fire,” states the network. “Also technically he wasn’t in a helicopter in Iraq; it was a Volvo station wagon on the New Jersey Turnpike. But there was a lot of traffic.” A contrite Williams blames the lapse on post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from killing Osama bin Laden.

…there is troubling news from Baltimore, where the death of an African-American man in police custody touches off a conversation on race that lasts several days, resulting in 250 arrests and extensive property damage. The Rev. Al Sharpton rushes to the scene but is unable to prevent things from eventually calming down.

In a historic decision on gay rights, the nation’s highest legal authority — Kim Davis, clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky — overturns the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that state laws banning same-sex marriage are unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, in what is widely hailed as a brave and courageous display of bravery and courage, a 65-year-old woman allows herself to be pictured on the cover of Vanity Fair wearing only a corset.
Meanwhile the Republican candidates’ debate on CNBC takes a lively turn when Ted Cruz, responding to a question about the federal budget agreement, throws a chair at moderator Carl Quintanilla, setting off a round of applause so loud that it awakens Jeb Bush, who notes that as governor of Florida he had a strong record of promoting furniture safety.

Well, I dunno, it doesn’t look like a bad year to me. Although I do understand how someone could see it that way.

I can’t write funny stuff like Mr. Barry, but I must have some talent for noticing things, since I get in trouble so often for noticing things I’m not supposed to notice. Human behavior, for instance. The pattern is pretty clear: People see a problem, they come up with a wrong solution, they chase that for a little while…or a great while. Maybe forever. But if they’re capable of learning something, they eventually figure out the solution they’ve been chasing is the wrong one, and they go to work on their solving skills and start chasing a solution that is, at least, not quite so wrong.

Yes, Barack Obama won re-election in 2012. That doesn’t really prove anything, though, other than for a lot of people it took more than four years to figure out they’d been chasing the wrong solution. For the people like Mr. Barry who see 2015 as a year of pain, the feeling is not imaginary. It is real. This paradigm shift of figuring out you need to re-evaluate the solution, that you’ve been chasing after the wrong one, is never a comfortable one. It is the scraping of the blade of theory getting shaped and sharpened against the stone of practice. And 2015 seems to have taken form as the year of the Great Sharpening.

The sharpening is not over. The blade is still dull. This year, after all, saw a man win the title of “Woman of the Year”. You can’t get much less-real than that, since men are not women. But on this I refer to a particularly inspiring sentence we heard from the audio book version of Glenn Beck’s The Christmas Sweater. Paraphrasing from my increasingly fallible memory, now loaded up beyond capacity with useless holiday details. The passage pointed out that the most challenging part of a journey is before the first step, wherein the traveler makes the decision that he is worthy of the journey.

That’s where we are. “Hope! Change! I want to be a part of this thing! Fundamentally transform!” These are all just code words for “I’m not worthy of the journey, I want someone to pick me up and carry me.” Another flawed mortal, playing God; the blind leading the blind. The discomfort of 2015 is growing-pain, a mass figuring-out among all of us, or at least most of us. Maybe only some of us, the loudest and most outspoken “some.” The much needed paradigm shift. No other flawed-mortal is carrying us. Flawed mortals can only pretend to do so. It’s up to us.

Proof God Exists

Sunday, December 20th, 2015

Frank J. Tipler, Pajamas Media:

Recently, a “physicist” by the name of Lawrence Krauss claimed that “all scientists should be militant atheists.” On the contrary, any scientist who is not a theist is incompetent.

Let’s define “God” as the “supernatural being who created the Universe.” That is, God is the cosmological singularity. To see this, unpack the definition of “God.” The word “supernatural” literally means “above nature,” or outside of space and time, and not subject to the laws of physics…the cosmological singularity is the cause of everything that exists, but is itself uncaused.
So now that we know that God is the cosmological singularity, the question of God’s existence is now a question of physics: Does the cosmological singularity exist?

If we accept the laws of physics, the answer is yes.

It’s an interesting summation of the argument. One might accuse Tipler of transmogrifying the dispute away from “Is there a God?” to “Is there a causative agent existing outside of space and time?” But if you’ve ever watched people wrestle with these accusations that the faithful are the ones displaying incompetence, you know that this is exactly what’s being debated. It’s chicken-and-egg, with “things that exist in space and time” being the egg.

I’m less interested in the final answer, than in the methods being used in the argument. Those who assert that the secular types are the ones who have it right, look exactly like what the Christians say we all are: flawed mortals, stained with the sin of Adam and unable to do anything about it, flailing around within an earthly dominion for an answer that exists well outside of it, with our understanding of what lies beyond limited in ways we can’t even assess. We don’t even know the true magnitude of what we don’t know.

From the comments:

Anyone that believes in an invisible sky wizard are [sic] insane.

Those who doubt, at least share the doubt with swelling ranks of sophists like this one. Rhetoric-people. The ones who place all their faith in the cosmetic outcomes of shouting matches, ignoring the metaphysical.

Many among them have this perception that the belief in God is merely a wallowing-around in comforting pablum, a belief in a deity not very much different from a child’s belief in the Tooth Fairy. Atheism, supposedly, is something outside of religion, the final embracing of the scientific method. Yet they do not object when their ranks are infiltrated by persons like the above, who do not use the scientific method.

And ask them how the universe came to be, sometime, without God. They do have an answer, and the answer defies the cosmological singularity, asserting that all things existing within space and time, were caused by other things within space and time. But you will quickly find that this doesn’t use the scientific method either, it uses the method of “It is that way because I say it is that way,” just like “they’re insane because I say they’re insane.”

It isn’t a trivial task to come up with proof that there is a God, but I find it way-easy to provide the proof that atheism is a religion. It is far easier than proving a liar is telling a lie, because when you look at how people arrive at their opinions and how they comment on it all, you see people tend to be consistently and refreshingly honest about this. They’re all too eager to share the innards of how they came to think a certain thing. Even when there are no innards. “I just decided that, and look how emphatically I’m repeating it, look at all the passion I have about it.”

To which they would object, I’m quite sure, that the above is the very definition of a church service. And that’s a fair point. But it’s like declaring yourself to be a transformative figure after you become President of the United States, and then spending your entire time in that office hiding behind the “other guy did it too” defense after every misstep. Atheism, in a very similar way, overpromises and underdelivers. It says: “Stop forming beliefs using the religious method, use the scientific method instead — gather the facts, form the theories, validate them by way of experimentation, decide what you believe after all of that. Like this…” And then it doesn’t do it.


Saturday, December 19th, 2015

“Conservatives, avoid accusing your liberal friends & relatives of reading from canned talking points. It can be hard, especially when they’re bringing laptops and tablets to the dining room table, and reading from them…Liberals, try actually discussing, rather than reading from talking points at the dinner table.”

From a brain fart I had over at the Hello Kitty of Blogging, which drew five likes. Not many, but far more than I expected. One of those things that resonated.

1. Go light on the booze, unless & until you’re sure everybody can handle it.
2. If you MUST talk politics at the dinner table, swivel onto something else when it seems like the time is right.
3. Conservatives, avoid accusing your liberal friends & relatives of reading from canned talking points. It can be hard, especially when they’re bringing laptops and tablets to the dining room table, and reading from them.
4. Liberals, try actually discussing, rather than reading from talking points at the dinner table. Use something besides mockery, just to shake things up a bit, and to see if you’re up to the challenge.
5. Don’t neglect your guests to defrost the freezer. By hand. With a screwdriver. For three hours or more.
6. If the guests are going to be bringing Christmas presents, move stuff out of the way. Like, beforehand. Prioritize.
7. Toilet paper in all the bathrooms. You know, act like you’ve been looking forward to your guests arriving, and being there.

1. Contribute! Bring food. And wine, both red and white. Drink responsibly. Designate a driver.
2. Get ALL the work done for the year, before heading to the Christmas party. Don’t be that guy pecking furiously away on his laptop off in the corner because this just has to be done first of the year.
3. If you’re a child, that goes for your schoolwork, too. FRONT-load the effort. Get it done so it doesn’t impose on others.
4. If you’re a vegan or are allergic, shoulder the burden. Discuss. Ask, don’t tell.
5. If church services are on the agenda and you’re a secular type, or belong to a different denomination — bend, flex, and zip. Embrace the embiggened horizons.
6. If there’s a viewing of a Christmas movie on the teevee, participate. Don’t talk about the funny thing your BFF said about the wart on the back of your hand when Scrooge is being dragged down to Hell, or Hans Gruber is falling from the top floor of the Nakatomi Plaza.
7. Help out in the kitchen.
8. Leave ’em wanting more. Check the body language of your host(s). If any of them are horizontal, with their eyes closed tight, and snoring, it might mean you’ve stayed too long.

It was from a few days ago. Some relatives, and I, have differences of opinion about the virtues of basic planning. Just venting a bit of frustration, and attempting to put some positive course-correction on it, so maybe others could benefit or at least get a chuckle. You’ll have to take my word for it, I knew nothing about this, although I’m sure it likes like I must’ve known something…

It used to be that Harvard produced some of the best and brightest minds in the world. Now, those minds are so fragile and delicate that have to hide behind talking points on a placemat when they’re talking with their own families over the holidays.

Uff da…

It bears repeating: I knew nothing about this. It was just something I said. “Liberals, try actually discussing, rather than reading from talking points at the dinner table.” Sometimes, I guess, I just don’t know how right I am…

But what-ho, what’s this? Every action has an equal and opposite reaction? Or no, not equal in this case…superior.

Remember we told you about the Harvard talking points placemat that the school’s office of “diversity, microaggression, and ZOMG – HELP ME, I’m being triggered!” gave to their special snowflake students who can’t handle talking to their families over the holidays? Harvard Republicans came up with their own version of the placemat. And I have to applaud these guys and girls for their ingenuity and humor…
Well played, Harvard Republicans. Well played.

Update: Oh dear…President Clinton’s Labor Secretary wants to get in on the action. Well his arguments are not good ones, so he’s sending his fan base into a joust with a short lance. But, it’s a free country.

Whom to Ask

Saturday, December 19th, 2015

These things are ailments, moral shortcomings, other set memberships that have the effect of blinding those on the inside. When we discuss what is going on with these things, we value the opinions of people who are not part of them. If you are part of these things, we do not, and should not, value your opinion about that thing.

1. Alcoholics
2. Adulterers
3. Liberals
4. Senility
5. Personality disorders and other behavioral health issues, including homicidal ones
6. Government regulators
7. People who fall for scams
8. Tyrannical dictators
9. Cults
10. Any sort of addiction

These things are religious denominations, ideologies, associations that determine some ways of looking at life. They are situations in which, you have to be on the inside to comment credibly. A question about “What does X think about Y,” where X is any one of the following, is equivalent to a question of “What did YOU mean when you said something?” You don’t ask people on the outside about what people are thinking on the inside. That would be daffy.

1. Christians
2. Jews
3. Libertarians
4. Conservatives
5. Gun owners
6. Software engineers
7. Boy Scouts
8. Homeowners
9. Taxpayers
10. Parents

These things may belong on the first list, or on the second list, depending on the person. You can’t generalize about them, you have to take it on a case by case basis.

1. Atheists
2. People who scam other people
3. Environmentalist whackos
4. Children
5. Homosexuals and homosexual activists
6. Public school teachers
7. Radio talk show hosts
8. Bloggers, commenters on social media
9. People who are opposed to illegal immigration
10. City engineers responsible for designing really bad intersections, like the one on Bidwell in Folsom, by the Highway 50 overpass, in front of Starbucks

I’m sure nobody is going to agree with me entirely about the content of the three lists. But I would hope we can achieve near-universal agreement among thinking persons who observe the behavior of other human beings, and ponder what it means, about the concept. Sometimes you rely on the comments from the people on the inside, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you merely probe; maybe find a polite way to ask “What the heck are you people thinking?”

I’m also reasonably sure someone who had something to do with city street planning in Folsom, was dating someone who had something to do with Starbucks, and got dumped.

Now this

…borders on the obscene. I doubt very much that a Christian was responsible. Such a Christian would have to be capable of sketching, coloring and finishing something that demands a great deal of time and attention to detail, without ever reading up on Luke 2:1-7. Nobody really seems to know who first created or displayed the image. One commenter took on a search, which he says was not exhaustive, and the oldest embed at the end of that search was was here but that doesn’t look like the true origin.

There are those Christians who rely on their faith to think through their various problems in life, some of them going so far as to say it’s required for clear thinking. I don’t find that objectionable at all; I’m probably in that camp myself. And it’s mostly because of stuff like this. I see non-Christians forming ideas about Christians, apparently without ever once talking to any of us. Crazy. No I mean that literally; to presume it makes sense to do it this way, these people have to be off their nut.

They’re not following my three lists — which is fine, they’re mine. Someone else’s lists are going to be different. But, they’re not making any such lists, not stopping to ask themselves “Who knows something and who doesn’t? Whom should I be asking?” They just do what feels right and good.

Most troubling, since a lot of these people are in real positions of authority to say what is true, what is happening. Like cartoonists, reporters, politicians and those who write speeches for them. They consistently get Christianity backwards; they fantasize about what it means to be one, without ever thinking about becoming one, or asking anybody who is one.

They get the conservatives and liberals backwards a lot, too. Liberalism is an addiction. You don’t ask an addict for his opinion about what his addiction is, or is not. You don’t ask a liberal what conservatives think. The ignorance liberals have about their opposition is a special kind of ignorance. They don’t know, they’re proud of not knowing. They don’t care to learn. They’re proud of not caring. And they make up a lot of stuff that isn’t true because, again, it feels right and good. That’s their idea of gathering facts. Why would you ask them?

Related: Kirsten Powers: Becoming a Christian Ruined My Love of Christmas — But then I learned to see the beauty of Christ’s coming like never before (via Bird Dog at Maggie’s Farm).

May I Suggest These New Years’ Resolutions

Friday, December 18th, 2015

Yesterday afternoon was crazy. I suddenly realized 1) I’m working on five things at once, 2) a lot of these things were put on my plate by somebody else, 3) because they realized I’m going to be clocking-out and hitting the road real soon, 4) and that nobody else can do it, and 5) I’ve helped them before, so why not hit me up with the latest crisis?

I suspect other people who actually get things done, have this problem at this time of year. I don’t want to disparage the people who were piling stuff on my plate, some of them were trying to be considerate and respectful — in fact, in one case, the crisis existed because they were being too respectful. I was the one in error, having procrastinated on their project too long. Nevertheless, there’s a problem. There has to be a problem if all this stuff is getting thrown into the pot, in “crisis mode,” at the eleventh hour. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Put the following up on the Hello Kitty of Blogging, before I realized it’s a better fit here. (The people who really need to see it have unfriended me and can’t see it; of course they don’t read this page either, I don’t think…but still…)

Two weeks from now people will be wondering about what resolutions they can make. I suggest these.

1. FRONT LOAD the effort. If the current block of time you’re using, as in right now, this very moment, is not allocated toward a defined purpose already, find something on your unfinished-tasks list that will fit into it. The time has to be burned somehow. If you have stuff that has to get done, burn the time on getting the stuff done. Simple, right? Procrastination is cute and all, but when it leads to consequences that impact others, that means you have taken it too far.

2. Don’t be a helicopter mom. Whup whup whup whup whup…don’t enable others. Helping is alright, but be mindful of when the targets of your help are ignoring consequences and ignoring deadlines, because you’re allowing them to do this. That means you’ve gone too far.

3. If you have found someone to be a valuable source of assistance to you, treat them with respect, not like some dumb beast of burden that hasn’t got anything else to do but stand around, chew a cud and wait for your next crisis.

4. Your observance of #1 and #3 should lead to this one: Think about prerequisites. Figure out what you’re going to need people to do. Do this early, so you can ask them how your latest need, should they choose to accommodate you, can fit into their schedules best.

5. DEFINE. I notice when collaborating with people on things, if I make a list of any sort I often hear this smack-down: “Looks complicated.” Or “You’re over-thinking it.” Or “I find it overwhelming.” Alright alright, I’m sure in a lot of cases I am guilty. Probably most of the time I’m guilty. But when the list is nothing more and nothing less than what it needs to be — five things that have to get done, and the list is of those five things — you will hear me offer a rebuttal something like this: “It is what it is, I didn’t make it that way.” The fact of the matter is, too many people among us have reached adulthood, taking on responsibilities, with other people counting on them to get it all done, without ever having learned to define what has to get done — let alone getting it done. They see a list of any kind, they turn up their noses at it, figure they’re too good for something like that, think of it as “nerd” stuff. THERE IS NOTHING OVERWHELMING ABOUT A LIST. It’s just a list! You want overwhelming? Lists are just the first stage. Man up, Nancy.

6. PRIORITIZE. If everything is important, then nothing is.

7. SCHEDULE. You generally should be doing the high priority stuff first, but that isn’t necessarily always the case.

8. PLOT AND SCHEME. When did these become evil words? Go ahead, be evil, plot, scheme. There’s nothing nefarious about figuring out whether the Dry Cleaners open at 9 a.m. or 10 a.m. This is the age of Google, sit down and do your research.

9. LEAVE THE COMFORT ZONE. Don’t be Beaky Buzzard!

10. Begin with the end in mind. What exactly is it you’re trying to do? Are you laboring toward a goal — see #5 — or are you just frittering away time doing whatever you like to do?

These are things we often don’t discuss, under the premise that it’s a person’s private business to manage his time and his projects the way he wants to manage them. The reason we think about it that way is we want to be considerate to others. But when people neglect this stuff, they end up being inconsiderate to others, so in situations like that, the objective defeats itself. And of course, there is nothing intrusive about suggesting New Years’ resolutions, even to strangers — if you don’t like ’em, ignore them. Just keep blowing deadlines, having crises, imposing on people who have helped you the most…

Further thoughts:

When you break #5 and don’t define, you offer a powerful motivation in others — the persons upon whom you are counting to get the work done — to break #1, to start procrastinating. Think about it: If they’re giving you solid deliveries so that they become your “go to” guy, then they’ve become someone else’s go-to guy as well. If you’re giving them things to do without offering specifics they need to do it, it just makes sense for them to attend to the other stuff while waiting for the necessarily details to, just maybe, possibly, somehow, materialize. It would be ludicrous to expect something different, am I right?

If the thing you’re doing involves the word “each,” or “all,” or “none,” then the thing you are doing demands a list. First thing you need to ask yourself is how many things are on the list. Ten? Twenty? Five hundred? If you don’t know the answer, then that means you don’t have access to the list yet, and the first step of your task couldn’t possibly be clearer. So are you at least in the process of making the list? If you aren’t, then you aren’t doing the thing, you’re just deluding yourself into thinking you’re doing the thing while you watch YouTube clips about cats, or playing games on your phone, or whatever.

Lists are necessary. Nobody is really too tender to work from a list. The next step up from a list is a sequenced list, and the next step up from a sequenced list is a matrix, or grid, a two-dimensional version of a list. That’s still entry-level stuff, and most things worth doing in life, if represented in a way that fulfills #5, are represented most accurately on a grid. If it pays money, and uses your head as something other than a hat hook, it’s going to involve performing each and every single one of X actions, upon each and every single one of Y objects. That is most work. The mundane sort. It can still be quite boring. The challenging stuff demands even more complex levels of tracking framework.

I do have to confess, in this bracket of life I’m fermenting a higher level of contempt toward people who balk at the supposed excessive-complexity of a list. I’m seeing it as the purest form of balderdash. I’m seeing it as, with the layers of bullshit stripped away, a confession that they don’t really do any work at all. I can hold seven things in my head without jotting any of it down, maybe, and that’s if I’m not juggling other projects, which I usually am. Seven. No more. You probably can’t hold any more than that either. How the fuck are you doing anything that involves more than seven tasks without making a list, you poser?

And on that note, I must make preparations to begin the day, lest I be guilty of breaking #10.

Yanking Solutions Off the Table

Friday, December 11th, 2015

A timeless anecdote about flawed problem-solving…it is timeless because it has accurately reflected the reality of human behavior for awhile, and continues to reflect it, to our discredit…

A few night ago a drunken man — there are lots of them everywhere nowadays — was crawling on his hands and knees under the bright light at Broadway and Thirty-fifth street. He told an inquiring policeman he had lost his watch at Twenty third street and was looking for it. The policeman asked why he didn’t go to Twenty-third street to look. The man replied, “The light is better here.”

We, like the inebriated fellow in the tale, know exactly where the watch went missing

…[P]erhaps the most important question about racial preferences is one that’s not directly raised by the case: do they even work? Do they help underrepresented minorities to achieve their goals, and foster interracial interaction and understanding on elite campuses? Or do large preferences often “mismatch” students in campuses where they will struggle and fail?

Scholars began empirically studying the mismatch issue in the 1990s, but in the past five years the field has matured. There are now dozens of careful, peer-reviewed studies that find strong evidence of mismatch. None of the authors of these studies claim that mismatch is a universal or inevitable consequence of affirmative action. But in my view, only demagogues (of which there is, unfortunately, no shortage) or people who haven’t read the relevant literature can still claim that mismatch is not a genuine problem.

It does me no pleasure to report from personal experience, that six-foot straight white protestant guys still in possession of all twenty-one digits can be “mismatched.” It’s not at all hard to do, and it’s no picnic.

But someone on the Supreme Court read about the problem, out loud, and in so doing committed thought-crime.

“Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid on Thursday took to the Senate floor to attack Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s comments during an affirmative action case as ‘racist,’ ” CNN reports:

“These ideas that he pronounced yesterday are racist in application, if not intent,” Reid said. “I don’t know about his intent, but it is deeply disturbing to hear a Supreme Court justice endorse racist ideas from the bench on the nation’s highest court. His endorsement of racist theories has frightening ramifications, not the least of which is to undermine the academic achievements of Americans, African-Americans especially.”

Here’s what Scalia had to say yesterday, during oral arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas (we’re cleaning up some repeated words):

There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a less—a slower-track school where they do well. One of the briefs pointed out that most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas. . . . They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them. . . . I’m just not impressed by the fact that the University of Texas may have fewer. Maybe it ought to have fewer. And maybe when you take more, the number of blacks, really competent blacks admitted to lesser schools, turns out to be less. And I don’t think it stands to reason that it’s a good thing for the University of Texas to admit as many blacks as possible.

In denouncing Scalia, Reid was following the lead of the liberal media. A New York Times editorial accused Scalia of positing an “offensive premise”—never mind whether or not it is true—“which has not gotten such a full airing at the Supreme Court since the 1950s.” The paper’s Adam Liptak reported that Scalia’s remarks “drew muted gasps in the courtroom.”

Living up to its reputation as the Times for infants, New York’s Daily News put Scalia on its front page, with a headline that screams “SUPREME DOPE.” The subheadline reads “Justice Scalia’s racist rant ripped.” Below it is a paraphrase of what Scalia said, which the News misleadingly puts in quotation marks.

The lead paragraph of the News’s “news” story by Adam Edelman: “What a supremely outrageous thing to say.” Edelman’s story includes this dubious appeal to authority: “Scalia’s comments…troubled civil rights activists across the country, including the Rev. Al Sharpton.”

Well now, there is a litmus test for you.

There is a term to describe this, and it fits so well that those who aren’t aware of it are derelict in their duties as learning, thinking humans not finding out about it; those who knew of it already, like me, have been derelict in our duties of using it at least some portion of all the occasions in which it fits, so that others may learn about it. Not only does it fit occasions, which aren’t even occasional, I would go much further to say it governs our entire existence as an information-based society.

Or not so much governs, but hangs around it like a bad stink.

“Overton Window”:

…“The window shifts to include different policy options not when ideas change among politicians, but when ideas change in the society that elects them.”

The Left — dominating the media, the academy, and pop culture — is unmatched at moving the Overton Window. Consider gay marriage, a subject once so far outside the mainstream that less than 20 years ago, Republicans and Democrats united to pass the Defense of Marriage Act to define marriage under federal law as the union of one man and one woman. Now? That view is such an anathema that it’s difficult to get — or retain — a job in entire sectors of the economy if you openly hold to the traditionalist position on marriage.
The leftward pressure on the Overton Window has been relentless, with conservatives reduced to applying herculean effort to simply maintain the cultural and political status quo. Yes, the Tea Party has nudged Republicans just a bit to the right, but it’s a sign of the success of the Left that a relatively unchanged GOP can be labeled as ever more extreme and “reactionary.” And few realities show this leftist success better than the fact that the Window now enables expressions of overt leftist hatred and bigotry — against Christians, against conservatives, against whites, and often against Jews.

Then along came Donald Trump. On key issues, he didn’t just move the Overton Window, he smashed it, scattered the shards, and rolled over them with a steamroller. On issues like immigration, national security, and even the manner of political debate itself, there’s no window left. Registration of Muslims? On the table. Bans on Muslims entering the country? On the table. Mass deportation? On the table. Walling off our southern border at Mexico’s expense? On the table. The current GOP front-runner is advocating policies that represent the mirror-image extremism to the Left’s race and identity-soaked politics.

But is Donald Trump rolling over the window with a steamroller, really? Or is the window rolling over him with one?

According to the famous satire site The Onion, we’re still waiting to find out which is which:

‘This Will Be The End Of Trump’s Campaign,’ Says Increasingly Nervous Man For Seventh Time This Year

Repeating identical comments he had made in June, July, August, September, and twice in November, increasingly nervous local man Aaron Howe responded to Donald Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. Monday by once again stating this would be the end of the Republican frontrunner’s campaign, sources confirmed. “Well, that’s it—you just can’t say those kinds of things and expect to be taken seriously any longer,” said an anxious Howe, his voice quavering slightly as he spoke aloud the very same words he had previously uttered in reaction to remarks about Mexicans, women, the disabled, former POW John McCain, and a number of other targeted parties. “That’s the final nail in the coffin right there. There’s no way he’s coming back from this one.” At press time, a visibly tense Howe was steadily amassing the angst and exasperation that would be unleashed in his seventh expletive-filled exclamation of the year when he catches sight of the newest set of GOP poll numbers.

Yeah…”GOP poll numbers,” I get it. Bashing Republicans as being racist. Well, not all “onions” can be “fresh,” all of the time.

Fact is, there is something going on here that is much, much bigger than the Republican party. It’s going into my imaginary, but ever-thickening file, of things you could never explain to a space alien renting space in your laundry room. Just imagine: Thoroughly unacquainted with our culture, but adequately intelligent and curious, he approaches you and asks you to explain — CANDIDATES want to be seen as problem-solvers. VOTERS want to be seen as problem-solvers. EVERYBODY is making a great show of being sick and tired of the problems…they seem sincere about it…but when it comes time to actually come up with solutions, so few people are coming up with any solutions, and so many people are declaring the solutions already suggested to be unacceptable. For every Donald Trump putting solutions “on the table,” there are perhaps millions of opinionated busybodies yanking solutions off the table. And not putting any other ones back on the table, in their place. And all these people are in line, demanding their high-fives for being problem-solvers when they aren’t solving anything.

Question: Could this be how you Earthlings “solve” problems? You wouldn’t be able to answer. I wouldn’t be able to answer. Actually, I’m genuinely starting to wonder myself.

When these problem-not-solvers yank the solutions off the table, offering their bumper-sticker-slogan-sized statements of rationale for doing so, they can’t even manage do it with any accuracy:

President Obama claims that restricting immigration in order to protect national security is “offensive and contrary to American values.” No-limits liberals have attacked common-sense proposals for heightened visa scrutiny, profiling or immigration slowdowns as “un-American.”

America’s Founding Fathers, I submit, would vehemently disagree.

Our founders, as I’ve reminded readers repeatedly over the years, asserted their concerns publicly and routinely about the effects of indiscriminate mass immigration. They made it clear that the purpose of allowing foreigners into our fledgling nation was not to recruit millions of new voters or to secure permanent ruling majorities for their political parties. It was to preserve, protect and enhance the republic they put their lives on the line to establish.

In a 1790 House debate on naturalization, James Madison opined: “It is no doubt very desirable that we should hold out as many inducements as possible for the worthy part of mankind to come and settle amongst us, and throw their fortunes into a common lot with ours. But why is this desirable?”

No, not because “diversity” is our greatest value. No, not because Big Business needed cheap labor. And no, Madison asserted, “Not merely to swell the catalogue of people. No, sir, it is to increase the wealth and strength of the community; and those who acquire the rights of citizenship, without adding to the strength or wealth of the community are not the people we are in want of.”

Madison argued plainly that America should welcome the immigrant who could assimilate, but exclude the immigrant who could not readily “incorporate himself into our society.”

George Washington, in a letter to John Adams, similarly emphasized that immigrants should be absorbed into American life so that “by an intermixture with our people, they, or their descendants, get assimilated to our customs, measures, laws: in a word soon become one people.”

In fact, the case could be made…at least, to anyone open to having a case made to them…maybe in lieu of discriminating against any one particular religious denomination, we should just slam the doors shut for now altogether. We are overdue, after all, the same way I find myself overdue for a salad diet when my jeans don’t fit.

…[A] lot of Americans have very legitimate concerns about assimilation, the massive amount of crime committed by illegal immigrants, and whether our government can properly vet immigrants. Additionally, given what’s happening, we should all be worried about American citizens losing out on jobs. Right now, the workforce participation rate in America is 62.6 percent, which is the lowest that number has been in 38 years. America DESPERATELY needs to focus on getting those Americans back to work instead of bringing new immigrants to take those jobs or alternately get on welfare themselves.

After all, it’s not as if the United States hasn’t already done our share when it comes to taking in immigrants. Currently, we have an all-time record population of 41.3 million foreign-born citizens. That’s an enormous increase,

“The 41.3 million immigrant population (legal and illegal) in 2013 was double the number in 1990, nearly triple the number in 1980, and quadruple that in 1970, when it stood at 9.6 million.”

Given how many Americans are out of work, how many immigrants are on some form of government assistance and how poor our vetting system is, doesn’t it make sense to halt the flood of immigration into our country for a few years?

That would give us time to get more Americans hired, fix our vetting process, secure the border and set up a merit-based immigration system that would assure we’re consistently getting the cream of the crop instead of bringing people here to take advantage of our welfare system.

Immigration has been a tremendous boon to America in times past and it can be again, but under our current system immigration can only make America weaker.

The issue isn’t quite so much that the situation has deteriorated to some meaningful level; the issue is that nobody with any clout, and interest in preventing harm from being done, is keeping an eye on it. We aren’t keeping an eye on it. Someone like Trump will say something, and the alarm bells will sound, screeds will be written, all sorts of pundits paid and unpaid will opine about the remarks, on Sunday talk shows and on social media, blisteringly. They’ll preen and preen some more…as they, almost systematically, and in the same breath as professing to be super-duper concerned about the stated problem, proceed to yank solutions off the table. It’s like someone forgot to tell them: That problem is not yet solved. It isn’t getting better. We don’t even know if we’re ever going to see it solved, that’s still a lingering question. The impression somehow didn’t get made on them, that we are not suffering from a glut of workable solutions to this, we’re toiling away under a scarcity.

And smack in the middle of an election campaign season — that, nowadays, lasts just short of two full years. Well that would mean we’re in “campaign season” all of the time, or close to it, which is a whole different problem. But it still raises a question: If we can’t come up with solutions now, as opposed to eliminating them, then when can we? And can we really claim to be concerned about solving problems if the noisiest and most opinionated among us are not, you know, coming up with solutions to them? When all they can manage to do is crawl out of little holes in the ground, like skunks, spray their “That guy isn’t as good a person as I am” stink-spray in as many different directions as they can manage, and scurry back into the hole again? That doesn’t make anything better. But we seem to have become accustomed to seeing something like that, nothing else, and somehow, coming away from the experience not demanding something more or different. The problems “addressed” this way continue to deteriorate and rot…and there’s little-to-no genuine surprise manifested anywhere about that, which I suppose stands to reason.

The “Hoover Vac” Immigration Policy

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

No, I can’t completely support the Trump plan “for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” and I also cannot support House Speaker Ryan’s rebuke against it, that it is “not what this party stands for and more importantly it’s not what this country stands for.” Both statements have dangling prepositions at the end. But there are worse things than that involved with both of them; and, it just so happens, these worse-things are things that the dangling prepositions are connected to.

The snooty, snotty, condescending phrase “that’s not who we are” has overstayed its welcome by a good long stretch, much like the house guests reminding of the dictum that “guests, and fish, smell after three days” — and then continuing to squat for another year or two. It’s at the point where we all should start asking ourselves how it came to be that we tolerated it this long; it reflects poorly on the nation. Aren’t we supposed to have guts and conviction in this country? And can you claim to have them, if some gasbag at a podium can persuade you to engage, or even consider, a complete one-eighty-degree course correction by throwing out some paternalistic, hackneyed catchphrase? The solution makes more of the same problem, for that is not who — you know the rest.

Seriously, I’m ready to cock-punch the next one who uses it. Inside or outside the teevee. Leave it in the dirt where it belongs, Speaker Ryan; leave it to that fellow up the street.

Apologists for an overly lax immigration system should be the least-entitled to use this. You want to open the borders and then, anyone who wants in can just waltz through the gate, whether they intend to assimilate into our society or not — alright, if we do things your way, and the argument can certainly be made we’re doing them that way already…who and what are we? It’s impossible to say. That’s kind of, you know, the whole point. If we aspire to be anything definable, there are going to have to be some restrictions. That’s how any organism or construct declares what it is, by way of rejecting the unlike, not by way of embracing the like. It says “I’m absolutely incompatible with that thing, over there,” and the definition is made. Such things also protect themselves against threats this way, by forming policies, written and unwritten, essentially saying “I’m not going there, and if it comes here, I’m moving.”

Speaking of definition, Trump is not completely in the right either: Until our representatives can figure out what’s going on? What exactly does he mean by that? There’s no question, or not much, that such a proposal is legal and constitutional, and it’s clear what it is intended to prevent — but what is it intended to do? Exactly what questions are to be answered that, at this point, remain unanswered? I can’t think of any.

But he’s opened a very worthwhile debate that his opposition, perhaps deliberately, has turned into a very silly one. The citizenry has been led down a primrose path here; a lot of people don’t understand how much precedent such a plan has, or how unprecedented our current “Hoover Vac” immigration policy is.

So I think it would be very useful and helpful here just to review a little history to let you know that what we propose today and what many Americans support today is actually traditionally American. It is not new. It is not unprecedented. It is historical. No immigration, 1924 to 1965. The reason was that we had seen a flood of immigrants to the country and we had to assimilate them. We took time to assimilate those who had come to America. They wanted to be Americans. They wanted to assimilate. They did not want to establish Balkanized beachheads of their countries. [emphasis mine]

We hear often that we should be seeking not the Republican answer or the democrat answer, but the American answer to our problems. This is one example in which that’s really true. And, therein lies the problem. The “American answer” is one that is open to immigration — open to the possibility of accepting each immigrant who wants to take on the associated responsibilities, to assimilate. But, Americans think about what they’re doing. We weigh consequences. We look down the road — and that, right there, if you look at history, that’s what has made things work here.

The American solution is to look at what sort of immigrant is trying to make a life here. What kind of life is to be made? And what nobody is discussing is, the democrat solution: Go ahead and look into it, and make sure that life is one of dependency. To get on the welfare systems, stay on them, and create whole new generations of second- and third-generation immigrants, also made dependent and embracing dependency, from the crib to the crypt. So that democrats can win more elections.

That is the plan they’re trying to sell, and that’s the real reason they’re trying to stir up rage about Mr. Trump’s comments about this. As for whether or not that is who or what we are, well, I guess that’s for the rest of us to decide…

As far as the theatrical outrage about crossing some uncrossable line of bigotry, or some such. I find it thoroughly revolting that anybody, anywhere, would reach up to take solutions off the table, before it’s been made clear in any way that there are still solutions on the table that might work. Or even, that anything will work. This is not a fight our country has won yet, so who are these people working so hard to eliminate possibilities? It’s become such a regular thing, nobody seems to question it anymore; it’s yet another primrose path down which we have been innocently toddling, for years, decades, generations — we approach a particularly vexing problem that has evaded any promising solution for some indeterminate length of time, and before anybody can shed some rays of hope upon it here comes some jackass trying to make himself sound more important with a lot of “No no, oh heavens no, win or lose we can NEVER do X.”

Real Americans might say something like that…maybe. After the battle has been won. But not until then.

Because that, ladies and gentlemen…really and truly…is “not what we are.”

The Brain-Damaged Case for Progressive Taxation

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

George F. Will, by way of The Barrister at Maggie’s Farm:

The nonexistent case for progressive taxation

Progressives are increasingly preoccupied with income inequality, and their current hero, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), favors increasing the tax system’s progressivity. So, in this 103rd year of the income tax, it is timely to note that there still is no intellectually sturdy case for progressive taxation.

Arguments for it are invariably arguments for increased equality of social outcomes. Because individuals have different vocational desires and different aptitudes for adding value to the economy, inequality is inevitable. Because individuals have different social sensibilities, opinions will differ about what degrees of inequality are intolerably unlovely. But inequality, even when unlovely to some, is unjust only when it arises from unjust social arrangements…

“Individuals have different vocational desires and different aptitudes for adding value to the economy” — that is being most charitable. We don’t talk too much about what interferes with that. Every now and then some politician or pundit will make some noise about “education,” when they may or may not be referring to the process of actually educating anybody, because the buzzword affords an opportunity to force the expenditure of Other People’s Money.

But “adding value to the economy,” when you get right down to it, and in the context of what ordinary people expect to be discussed under such labeling, has to do with people helping other people. There are those among us who simply aren’t into it. So for the altruism-challenged, the free market forms an attachment between the helping of others and the enrichment of oneself; it’s an incomplete solution, for there are some among us who still aren’t interested.

We deal with that particular problem, by refusing to discuss it. You won’t see it inspected or probed, or even mentioned, on Sunday morning talk shows. It’s up to crazy wild-eyed right-wing bloggers like me. Which is a bit odd, really, because doesn’t everyone have one friend or relative like this? At least one?

There are people who hate money. No seriously. They bring it home, and figure the odds are stacked against them because after they’ve paid the essentials and made the minimum payments on the credit cards, which are maxed, there’s nothing. If this is ever discussed anywhere, it leads to some dirge about how the situation came to be, the high debt is the aftermath of some health crisis or what-not…but, nobody ever plotted a decent course forward by looking back at where he’d been. The real issue is that if the debt wasn’t high, they wouldn’t know what to do. If the debt was somehow gone tomorrow, and they had ten grand in the checking account, they wouldn’t see it as the end of a calamity but rather as the beginning of one. The money would represent an unfinished task, an unsolved problem.

Hand them $50, they start looking for things that cost $60. These are people who will never have money left at the end of the month. Ever. Because the simple fact of the matter is that isn’t what they want to have happen.

Such people have a comfort zone. It’s over there. Starting a savings plan and sticking to it…that’s off someplace else. High debt and low cash reserves, that’s all part of the zone. If they’re making as much as they’re ever going to make, and “happy” with that, because developing a new skill and finding new ways to help other people would be becoming a cog in “the machine” and that’s just a non-starter — well then, the simple truth of the matter is that there’s no journey ahead of such people, no road for them to travel, they are where they want to be.

Sometimes they put things on the backs of their cars to show off their insanity…things like this…

Isn’t that funny? Makes you want to say something like…”Ooh! I’ll vote the way you vote then, and maybe I can be poor too!”

We’ve done nothing to “fix” this; even worse, we haven’t even begun to discuss it. Haven’t even come up with a name for the mental illness. Our “solution,” thus far, is to mold and tailor the capitalistic system to suit people who have no desire to participate in it. This is a plan that can “accomplish” a lot of things, but making the system healthier can’t be one of those things. But there is no defined goal, anyway. What should a progressive taxation reform be trying to accomplish, exactly? Poor people end up with more cash? Rich people end up with less? Both? Neither?

Will continues…

Progressive taxation reduces the rewards of investments and the real rate of return on savings, thereby encouraging consumption over saving and hence over capital formation. When progressive taxation slows economic growth, it makes inequalities of wealth more durable by retarding the accumulation of new fortunes. And by encouraging constant tinkering with the tax code to perfect equity, progressive taxation gives a patina of altruism to rent-seeking by economic factions, whereby government enriches those sophisticated at manipulating it.

Because other arguments produce only “uneasy” cases for progressive taxation, this is the argument of last resort: All striving occurs in, and all success is conditioned by, a social context. Each individual’s achievement, like each individual, is derivative of society, which is entitled to socialize — conscript — whatever portion of each individual’s acquisition that society calculates is its rightful share. Because collective choices facilitate individuals’ strivings, the collectivity, represented by government, can take as much of created wealth as it decides it made possible. Being judge and jury in its own case, government will generously estimate its contributions and entitlements.

Bull-eye. Progressive taxation creates a government-to-citizen relationship that is purely parasitic, and no longer symbiotic. The host must live within its means, whereas the parasite is in a position to simply demand more, and — should a shortfall continue to ensue from any newer arrangement — blame the host. In the end, nobody prospers except for opportunistic politicians with careers built on the creation of new jealousies, and the further aggravation of existing ones.

Bad Theory

Monday, December 7th, 2015

Breitbart: Supreme Court on Verge of Banning Affirmative Action:

In the education case of Fisher v. University of Texas, at least four Supreme Court justices appear ready to strike down affirmative action.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a pivotal test of affirmative action in education, will hear arguments on December 9 for the second time that Abigail Noel Fisher was discriminated against by the University of Texas.

A blanket ruling outlawing racial and ethnic preferences entirely would follow Chief Justice John Roberts’s 2007 dictum, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,” from the opinion in the 4-1-4 vote case of Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1.

The Court at the time found the public high school district’s racial tiebreaker plan unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Justice Clarence Thomas has steadfastly supported a ban on affirmative action, but swing voter Justice Anthony Kennedy has consistently upheld the validity of the theory of affirmative action, even if he has voted to strike down specific practices as unconstitutional.

I don’t know why Justice Kennedy, or anybody else, upholds “the validity of the theory” now or at any other time. It is a so-called “theory” that unequal treatment is, when the rubber meets the road, equal treatment; it is a theory that calls for opposites to become equivalents. Any argument that persuades toward acceptance of such a theory, if effective, you’d better bottle that stuff quick and keep it around for a good long time — because that could be applied to any and all premises that are wrong, no matter how wrong they are. Such an argument, in seeking to assert that a thing is the opposite of itself, seeks to triumph against the ultimate test of delusive, mistaken arguments.

Or rather, you’ll notice, in practice it doesn’t seek any such thing; like the mold that covers your bread, it confines its existence to a picky sub-spectrum of environments in which it can hope to survive. High courts, committees, and other adjudicating bodies in some position to accurately anticipate the outcome of what limited avenues of appeal there may be, hiding behind the lectern of “Our Finding Is.” Or, in situations in which the avenues of appeal are not so limited, something more like “I/We Feel”:

Not only I don’t find affirmative action unconstitutional, I believe it’s the proper action a government should take in case there are severe disproportions in society. We can argue if present general social status of certain ethnicities is or is not a consequence resulting from slavery and oppression in the past, but the fact is both slavery and oppression took place. Let’s consider affirmative action a form of repatriation.

That’s where the argument is stated, and not only does it fail to directly address the question of “does Affirmative Action Violate the 14th Amendment?” with anything other than a flat, unreasoned “no” — it fails to address the opposing argument, that there is in fact a violation here:

Well, as you know the 14th Amendment says very clearly that “no state shall deny any person equal protection under the law.” That means that all laws passed by the 50 states have to apply to everyone, equally. Affirmative Action gives a racial preference to some Americans in hiring, in school admissions and other competitive areas. If an individual American gets a preference, then he or she is not being treated equally with everyone else. It’s simple as that.

This nets six votes, to zero for the argument of “let’s consider it a form of repatriation.” But of course six votes is not many, and there are many environments, some natural, some constructed artificially, in which it could go the other way.

Supporters of Affirmative Action, I notice, fail to see their own argument as what it is: Suspension, and therefore betrayal, of the written code to which unwavering fidelity had already been pledged. The structure of the argument is “Yeah, yeah, I know, the Constitution says that…but I want to appear compassionate. THEREFORE I FIND that this preference does not violate the written word (that it would otherwise, undeniably, be violating).” Like I said: If this stuff works, you’d better bottle it, because if it can work here it can work anywhere.

Losing argument goes on to say: “You made several very valid points where I couldn’t agree with your more. I’ll get into that later. Firstly, let me say I understand your frustration…”

Hoo, boy. Anybody ever talk with a bureaucrat, one who’s clearly in the wrong, before? They do that a lot. You point out, what you’ve just stated is the wrong answer, it’s this simple — up is up, down is down…and they come back with “I understand your frustration” as if what you just stated is feeling, not fact. Might as well say “I understand your frustration and now I’m going to add to it.” Except they seem to have missed, what you just explained was not frustration. They’re being taught how to do that, I suppose.

Anyway, getting back to the main article, there’s another passage that is not quite so much frustrating, as despairing:

The arch-supporter of affirmative action on the Supreme Court is expected to be Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a child of Puerto Rican immigrants who won acceptance and a full scholarship to Princeton based at least partially on affirmative action. In Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, she stated: “Race matters because of the slights, the snickers, the silent judgments that reinforce that most crippling of thoughts: ‘I do not belong here.’”

To those who understand how the world, and the people in it, actually work — it inspires despair. The sentence clearly articulates exactly what the problem is that the policy is supposed to solve. First flaw in her reasoning is, the problem is unworkable because it is unmeasurable, it’s proggie leftists announcing their grievances in passive voice, yet again, no identifiable individual or group engaging in the incorrect behavior. So you can proclaim “It’s still happening” until the sun goes nova, and beyond…which is kind of the point. “Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action” — if you need a coalition to defend it, you probably intend to keep the coalition around, justifying its own existence with all sorts of legalistic hooey, forever. And why do you need a coalition to defend it, anyway? I said someone should bottle up the infinitely effective, wrong arguments, for use later, and it looks like someone did exactly that.

The second, and far greater, flaw: Affirmative Action inspires these “snickers,” in no small measure. And it’s rather useless to blame those who do the snickering. Whenever anybody of any national origin, sex preference or skin color is elevated to a position of any sort of power, it goes without saying they’re going to have to be making some decisions that someone else will not respect. Have we collectively lost sight of that point? There seem to be an awful lot of people with power, great and small, nowadays who have it on their minds “Now I have power, everyone has to respect me” — that isn’t the way it works, not even close. There will always be people who disrespect you because you have some sort of power. Because you can make your decisions stand when they think, for whatever reason, those decisions should not stand.

Affirmative Action creates an environment in which, when the white guys do this, dissenters continue to wonder endlessly “How the heck did that fuckwit get this job, anyway?” — and when someone of a different demographic does exactly the same thing, the unidentifiable dissenters mutter to themselves “Oh…I see, I get it now.” Since there always will be dissenters, no matter what decision is being made or what type of human is making it, the Sotomayor-supported solution works against the grain of the Sotomayor-stated problem.


Saturday, December 5th, 2015

Now that it’s late enough in the year that we can play Christmas carols, we’re thinking an awful lot about environments. You probably are, too. This is the season for, among other things, guesting and hosting; if you’re hosting, you’re constructing an environment, and if you’re a guest you’re going to be venturing into one. If you are neither a guest nor a host, your environment is certainly changing. Stores and streets are getting decorated. There’s a whole different genre of music being played wherever you go. Environments change people. That’s why we change our environments. It is, when you get right down to it, a method of communication. It is messaging.

We also tend to think a lot, this time of year, about material needs and wants, placing emphasis on filling them and relaxing the concerns we would usually have about how the resources are being depleted. We think a bit more about poverty, and we focus on curing it in the here-and-now, not thinking too much about whether it will stay cured in the new year, or what caused it in the first place. For the conservative mindset, this is a seasonal change of pace. It might be a bit uncomfortable to some of us. And, given that it’s a bit under a month out of the year, it might be a healthy thing. We’ve been working our butts off to try to increase the savings, or at least not reduce them, and pay down the credit card balances — all year. We can go a tiny bit in the other direction for a week or two, right? For good causes: Charity, fellowship, happiness.

Swimsuit 1I don’t know what liberals do about Christmas. There is so much required & expected paradigm shift, anywhere on the outside, that within their stately pleasure-dome is just business as usual. They think about spending, and neglect long-term consequences, all the time. They “cure” poverty, without a care in the world about whether it’ll stay cured, using other people’s money — all year long. No wonder they have a tough time getting into the spirit.

And getting back to that thing about environments: They think about that all of the time, too. That’s what these Yale and Mizzou protests were all about, right? “Safe spaces” and what-not. Lefties love to complain, even when there’s no substance to the complaint — when things are already being done the way they want…

By my rough count, Yale offers 26 courses on African-American studies, 64 courses on “Ethnicity, Race and Migration, and 41 courses under the heading of “Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.” I am probably low-balling the real numbers (they don’t include independent study) and the extent of the indoctrination, since you can be sure that many seemingly conventional courses are chock-a-block with left-wing treacle. How many courses are there on the Constitution? Well, from what I can tell: two…

As for safe spaces, there is already an Afro-American Cultural Center, a Native American Cultural Center, an Asian American Cultural Center, La Casa Latino Cultural Center, and the Office of LGBTQ Resources. Included among the 80 or so official student organizations:

– A Learning and Interactive Vietnamese Experience
– Asian American Students Alliance
– Asian American Studies Task Force
– Association of Native Americans at Yale, Undergraduate Organization
– India at Yale
– IvyQ (as in “Queer”)
– Japanese Undergraduate Students at Yale
– Latina Women at Yale
– Liberal Party
– Reproductive Rights Action League at Yale
– Sex and Sexuality Week Planning Board…
And the response from the activists? A loaded-diaper tantrum about how Yale is a hotbed of bigotry against people of color and women.

There is justice in this. As Bret Stephens wrote in the Wall Street Journal,

For almost 50 years universities have adopted racialist policies in the name of equality, repressive speech codes in the name of tolerance, ideological orthodoxy in the name of intellectual freedom. Sooner or later, Orwellian methods will lead to Orwellian outcomes. Those coddled, bullying undergrads shouting their demands for safer spaces, easier classes, and additional racial set-asides are exactly what the campus faculty and administrators deserve.

Not a very festive thought. But then again, universities are supposed to — are entrusted to — build a better world of tomorrow, to benefit their students along with all of society. And they’re hardly fulfilling the promise by working according to Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.

Swimsuit 2Amid these thoughts of Schadenfreude, and the self-inflicted knuckle-rapping that arrives right afterward given how unfitting it is for this time of year, it’s easy to lose sight of another point. That The Left actually deserves credit, on no small scale, for taking the initiative. They understand the very first point I made, up top, that an environment has a powerful effect on the people in it. This is another thing conservatives just begin to understand, and exercise on a regular basis this time of year, but as a novelty — whereas the liberals understand the same thing, and do the same thing for the same reasons, all year long. And year after year it works that way, too.

Consequently, our environments are liberal. If you’re unfortunate enough to sit in family court, you sit in a liberal environment. Even if you don’t, you probably have to go to work. Surely that must be a conservative environment, since liberals don’t work…right? Wrong. Unless your “office” is someplace outside, and you have to wear heavy gloves on your hands to do what you do, and you get dirty doing it, it’s safe to say you work in an environment liberals have created for you. And furthermore, they did that because they know it has an effect on you, what you think about, how you behave. And furthermore, although you don’t want to admit it, it’s probably working.

Can you put a picture of Jordan Carver or Kate Upton on the wall, in all their swimsuit-wearing wonderfulness? No, you can’t? Well of course not. And why not? Because of the Yale/Mizzou issue, the “safe spaces.” This is a relatively new thing. It comes from Meritor Savings Bank vs. Vinson, Harris vs. Forklift Systems, Robinson vs. Jacksonville Shipyards…and other acts of judicial terrorism. Yes, terrorism. The word applies, accurately, perfectly.

[T]he use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.

So an image of Kate Upton in a bathing suit where it can be seen…an image of your wife in a bathing suit where it can be seen…can end your career. As an extension of that, any visual reminder that you’re a straight male who appreciates the imagery of women in bathing suits, can end your career. Acting too much like a straight male can end your career. Liberal-looney-ville on steroids. And people tend to forget: We’re not talking about some geographic region, or family court, or traffic court, or some stuffy living room in the house of some loathed lefty-liberal sister-in-law or any sort of edge-case like those. We’re not even talking about government offices. Liberals know where to hurt us: We’re talking about all workplaces, anything potentially under the authority of the American judicial system.

Any vocation that is not overwhelmingly male-dominated, they’ve got men living in fear. They’ve even got men talking in pitches a whole octave, or more, above what’s natural for them.

We’re going to be on the road this Christmas, visiting; we plan to grab one household by the scruff of the neck, meld it with our household, and drag it to yet another household. That’s a net of three, which is quite the cocktail. As we put together the plans for what we might be doing and how we might be doing it, we have been constantly reminded that people have been spending all year long functioning in different environments, and so they have become acclimated to thinking differently. We’re not liberals, so this is a novelty for us. The rest of the year, we have goals, then there is an environment that might make some of the goals a bit more difficult, and we think of the environment as just an “oh, well.” Like driving through bad weather on your way to work, or trudging up a hill on your way to a corner grocery store: The environmental factors might make things a bit more challenging but they’re not going to stop us. That’s how conservatives think about environment. It isn’t something you try to control, or build, more like something you endure. It isn’t going to change what gets accomplished at the end, worst-case it will only slow it down a little tiny bit.

Swimsuit 3Liberals are much smarter about this. They never stop thinking about environments. That’s because when you engage this messaging to your fellow humans by way of controlling the environment, it’s purely a monologue and not a dialogue. This is exactly the sort of conversation liberals like to have, and all the time. Purely one-way. Even when they call it a “dialogue,” that’s what they have in mind. So it is natural that they think about this all of the time, whereas to the conservatives, it’s a change of pace to be thinking about it at all.

The irony is that, to the leaders of the progressive movement, this is as easy as taking candy from the proverbial baby. Just keep walking through Alinsky’s rules, keep the resentments sharp, keep the jealousies high, do a lot of complaining, get others to do a lot of complaining. Everything is on your side — five justices on the Supreme Court rule your way, the very next day you can lose that five-vote majority and the decision is already locked in to the nation’s jurisprudence, for all practical purposes forever. The followers of the movement, on the other hand, never actually get what they want, because the people around them won’t be behaving the way liberal doctrine demands they behave. People don’t lose their fondness for an object because they are denied access to it by way of an artificially created shortage, nor do they acquire a new fondness for something because they are deluged with it by way of an artificially created abundance. That just isn’t the way the human condition works.

So when liberals take control of an environment to change human behavior — all year long — they are engaging a plan that works great for the leaders of their movement, but never can possibly work for any of the rest of them. A year later, or in two years, or ten, they’ll still be nursing exactly the same grudges about “society expects such-and-such” or “it objectifies me” or “shoving religion down my throat” or “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” Be that as it may, they do at least get the practice hours in at this, which keeps them smarter than their friends and relatives who are conservative. Or, not-liberal. To us normal people, it takes all of the time between Thanksgiving and Boxing Day to get adjusted to the idea that an environment is something we can affect. And we use up most of that time trying to adjust to the belated discovery that our extended-family relatives, having spent all year long in different environments, don’t think the same way, don’t cope with life the same way. It’s particularly challenging when we see this is as the root cause of some of the gaps in material wants and needs, that for the holiday season’s sake, we’re trying to cure. The festivities require that this train of thought be confined to the here-and-now, since it’s a drag to be thinking about January and onward. That’s challenging to the conservative mind, which when laboring to come up with a solution to a problem, tends to place undue emphasis on…yeah, it’s crazy-talk, I know…actually solving it, like, as in, for reals.