(Linked to this.)
Archive for QOTW
“Blame it on the Baby Boomers,” says everyone except actual Baby Boomers.
Which of course is not true. An example, from Jack Baruth’s comment section:
My generation, the baby boomers, have created a generation of complete and utter ignoramuses convinced of their own intellectual and moral superiority.
Not that it’s particularly difficult to find actual Boomers with similar convictions.
I blame Tee-ball. I think that’s where it started, even before trophies for showing up. WTF do you learn about hitting a pitched baseball from hitting one off of a tee? It’s baseball, not golf.
Today I asked my son, my only son, Moshe, whom I love, who will be 32 this year and now has two children of his own, if his mother or I ever once did anything to boost his self esteem. He raised an eyebrow and said, “Of course not.”
Now that’s Grade-A parental guidance.
(Linked to this.)
Somehow we have put up some qualifiers on which political party you’re supposed to be a member or supporter of as an LGBT person. It’s somehow become the accepted norm that when a person comes out of the closet, they come out carrying old WPA posters, a yellowed newspaper saying “Dewey Defeats Truman,” and a Mondale-Ferraro button. I’m alluding to the Democratic Party, of course. To be fair, we tend to get weird about Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton, who complicate the narratives. Still, we seem to have become wedded to the idea that we are at least supposed to be Democrats as LGBT people, and to some you’re not truly “woke” on LGBT issues unless you’re slightly to the left of Trotsky. It’s odd that we think that way — that for some reason who we love or how we identify determines our attitudes about taxes, foreign policy, Wall Street oversight, and the Second Amendment.
Let me lay it out straight for you — pun intended — your sexual orientation and/or gender identity has nothing to do with what you should believe politically. It may shock you, but 20 percent of LGBT people self-identify as conservative. It goes up to 30 percent if you’re polling people over 50, but of course we all know gay people quit mattering after 40.
I did not know that. I did, however, know this:
Not everyone who falls into the conservative camp is a vile hatemonger corporate stooge, while not everyone on the progressive side is ready to cut off rich people’s heads and quote from Das Kapital.
With respect to that article, “don’t read the comments” applies particularly strongly.
Do political pitches seem dumber than before, this time around? Maybe — just maybe — it’s not the politicians that are dumber, but the electorate:
I read Cyril Kornbluth’s Marching Morons stories years ago; I know what it means when “performance” cars have to play engine sounds through the stereo system to keep the driver happy. The vapid uselessness of popular culture mounts steadily and in more ways than one. We’re well past the Age Of The Common Man and entering the age of the Illiterate Techno-Peasant With A Grudge. Better buckle in; it’s going to be bumpy. Care for a nice glass of lead-laced water for the ride?
Etan Cohen, co-writer with Mike Judge on Idiocracy, said last week that he never expected the film would wind up as a documentary. Of course, President Camacho, taking office in January 2017, can be expected to address this failure of prognostication.
Once upon a time, we had contrarians, advocates for the Devil, the sort of people who would laboriously research a matter just to remind us that the conventional wisdom need not be either conventional or wise.
But that was then, when entrance into the common discourse required a measure of competency. Today we have trolls:
I posit that if there’s a story about a firefighter saving a cat from a tree, it’ll be attacked by trolls. Some will think government money shouldn’t be spent on such minor activity, someone else will suggest the tree was harmed, some dog owner will suggest preferential treatment for felines, a person will note that it was a white cat and ask whether a black cat would have gotten equal treatment, and yet another person will declare that there must have been a payoff by the evil cat lobby.
While all these, um, individuals differ in their pronouncements, they all suffer from the same ailment: they think themselves far more clever than they actually are.
The billion-dollar hole in the state budget has brought out the usual “No! No! Cut THEM!” calls from various state agencies and their clients. No shortage looms larger than the one presented to the state education system, but as the Friar notes, the solution is not exactly cut and dried:
The problems with salaries and school funding are real: Our teachers are not paid what they should be, nor are our schools funded at the level they should be.
The problems with the revenue stream are real: The tax cut was an iffy idea at best considering how hard it would be to go back to the higher rate when need arose. And it made no sense whatsoever to tie the triggers to projected future income instead of to past or current income or to an average of them over several years.
But the problems with a 19th century educational system are real too. It’s organized for an agrarian culture without the ability to artificially cool buildings during summer. Its funding and governing structures assume myriad small populations near to but mostly isolated from each other by slow travel. Its methods and instruction principles have as much to do with the Procrustean production of two-legged voting and tax-paying citizen widgets as they do with educating students for their own growth and flourishing as thinking human beings. That many teachers manage to bring about 21st century people testifies to their ability to work in spite of the system that employs them, not because of it.
Being hopeful, alas, is not part of the mix:
I also fear that if the state somehow manages to find a Peter with a wallet fat enough to let Paul boost teacher salaries and per-pupil expenditures from their rank in the high 40s to the low 40s or even high 30s, the people who can make that change happen will smile and wave and say they’ve handled things and la-la-la-la their way long enough that when the problem reappears they’ll be sipping retirement coffee and shaking their heads at what the world is coming to and why their barista can’t make change.
I am generally inclined to dismiss rankings: no two states have exactly the same circumstances, and the Wobegon Factor, which afflicts too many of us, demands that everyone be above average, because fairness. But at headline level, only one metric seems to matter.
It’s easy to gripe about government, especially at the bureaucrat level and even more so when it’s a wrestling-smoke job like managing emergencies. Even the description borders on an oxymoron! Maybe in An-Cap Libertopia, there’s a market solution to disaster; maybe all your neighbors will pitch in (just as they often do in emergencies in this world). Here in the world of what is, these government agencies do exist. They’re not going away and given that, I would rather see them in the hands of competent folks who think the job is worth doing than some tired, cynical timeserver.
For the people who moan, “Where were the Feds? Where was the state?” when things go wrong, here’s how it works: emergency response happens from the bottom up; first response is coordinated and supported at the county level if it needs it. If the county finds it too big, they get help from the state. If the state needs help, they yell for the Feds. FEMA — the good handing-out-water-and-blankets side, not the tinfoil hat fantasy seen in YouTube videos of rail yards — is by definition the last on the scene.
Which, if you ask me, is precisely as it should be: take care of things on the local level, and if those things get out of hand, go up a level. There’s a reason most disaster declarations are made by states, and it’s not just because the Feds expect it to be so.
(Linked to this.)
Columnist Cal Thomas would like you to watch Finding Your Roots (PBS: check local listings), which is, he says, “the best and most compelling television you will ever see:”
The greatest contribution of this show is that it helps viewers see beyond externals — such as race and politics — and into the hearts and minds of the guests where their real selves reside. My personal favorite in the opening program is Donna Brazile, a longtime liberal Democratic activist and an African-American, with whom I am acquainted. I wanted to measure my reaction to someone who holds political views opposite my own.
In addition to revealing to Brazile the source of her unusual name, Gates also discovered a female ancestor who, at age 14, was sold as a slave to a white man. Brazile shakes her head in sadness and begins to cry. At that moment she turns herself inside out and we realize Brazile’s depth of character has nothing to do with the political views she holds. Most importantly it reminds her and viewers that her ancestor’s value as a human being had nothing to do with the price put on her by a slave auctioneer.
And he quotes series creator Henry Louis Gates Jr.:
In a press release, Gates says, “We can’t truly know ourselves until we know something of our origins.” His goal is to “inspire people to find out more about their own personal family stories, and spark an interest among young people in genetics, anthropology, history and the pursuit of science.”
We may not be sure where we’re going; but it’s important to know where we came from.
Jack Baruth’s last post for 2015 was nominally about hookers, but a section on avoiding the appearance of hooking had more, shall we say, universal applicability:
I’m in a pretty decent team at my current contract but I’ve worked places where I thought everybody in the department would be primarily useful as a kidney or liver donor. I had a boss a few years ago, a director of the company, who was this sort of grinning nonentity. He lifted weights as his sole hobby, so he had a head that looked like Ron Howard’s on this really wide neck, and he always had this stupid look on his face like he’d just been given an extra ride on a children’s Ferris wheel or something. Every single thing he ever said was either a deliberate lie or a gross misrepresentation of events.
The day finally came when I went into a meeting with him, lost my temper, and said, “You’re an idiot and a wannabe tough guy and I have complete and total contempt for you. Everybody who works for you thinks you’re too stupid to be allowed to take a bath by yourself. When you’re in a weight room by yourself, you’re not the smartest object there.” Let me tell you, that was immensely satisfying and I’ll never forget the look on his face as I proceeded from there to call him out in the most forthright terms possible for ninety full seconds. The reader will not be surprised to hear that I didn’t work there the following day, although it sure as hell wasn’t the last day I collected a check from the firm.
That little diatribe probably cost me a quarter-million bucks in salary and deferred compensation. I know it cost me my “Cadillac” health insurance. But it was worth it. By the time I was done with him I’d wiped the smile off his face. That’s a moment that I’d have been proud to have my son witness. But most of my days are pretty ordinary. I go to work. I go home. They pay me. It’s a living.
A lot of us swear by those last four brief sentences, even if occasionally we swear at their implications.
I am actually encouraged by the loudmouthed divisiveness of our diversity. Americans talk much more shit than a little and we entertain incredible fantasies of violent retribution. And yes when we do so it’s with Uncle Sam rolling up his sleeves. All of us talk this kind of Quentin Tarentino talk from time to time. Getting medieval on somebody’s ass is part of the lexicon. But it’s also something Americans don’t actually do, unless and until it’s war. And war is something Americans don’t enter into lightly.
So we will continue our loudmouth faux bigotry and insult people’s mothers, telling them to kiss the ugliest parts of our body politic. But we won’t do anything violent. We live deep in rhetorical hatred and violence every day, and we never forget the mentality. But American life is far too pleasant for us to take all that talk seriously. When somebody is actually crazy enough to put those words into action, we’re all shocked. So it’s difficult for most American to conceive of Daesh’s motivations as anything but desperate, stupid insanity.
This, of course, does not mean that desperate, stupid insanity is not a factor; but it does suggest that the situation is a bit too complicated to fit into a sound bite, no matter how vicious that bite might be.
If you are trying to understand the bewildering state of American governance, it would help you to step back and try to see the whole forest, instead of focusing on the individual trees.
The answer is simple. What you are looking at is not a political struggle, it is entertainment. If you think of professional “wrestling”, or “rassling”, instead of a genuine sport, you are spot on the money. You have your “baby faces” and your “heels”, and a “baby face” can turn on a dime and become a “heel”, and a “heel” can see the light and become a “baby face” whenever the situation calls for it. You just have to understand the story arc.
After the match, the contestants retire to the same locker room, and ride on the same airliner to the next match, and eat at the same lunch counter at the same time, and, need I say it? … the paychecks are all signed by the same promoter. It is not a sport, it is entertainment.
Except for the minor detail that it’s long since ceased to be entertaining.
(Linked to this.)
We begin with a side trip to the land of Gilbert and Sullivan:
As some day it may happen that a victim must be found,
I’ve got a little list — I’ve got a little list
Of society offenders who might well be underground,
And who never would be missed — who never would be missed!
A swell idea for Ko-Ko, perhaps; but a lousy one for the United States of America:
Will someone please tell me why it is okay to have a secret list of people that bars them from certain activities, with no way of challenging one’s inclusion, no way of knowing if you are on it or not? That’s before we get to denying a person’s civil rights on the basis of their being on such a list.
On the other hand, if there are people known to the Feds to be so dangerous they must be kept off airplanes, why are they out there walking around, driving cars, buying LP gas and fireworks, going to the mall, etc. etc.? If they’re so much a threat, why aren’t they in the basement of an FBI building right now, learning to breathe water? (Ooops, that’s right, “we don’t waterboard here,” they’d have to be taken to some country where that’s okay; and they’d have to be flown there, which they can’t ‘cos they are on the list, so hey, Catch-22, amirite?) Look, if they’re up to no good, arrest ’em, charge ’em, try ’em and if found guilty, lock ’em up. “Secret lists” are bullshit — especially once the cat is out of the bag.
I suspect at least some of this is motivated by prosecutorial types who don’t actually have much of a case, and would just as soon this fact not appear in the press. The rest is just Security Theater: “yes, you’re being protected, don’t ask any questions.”
Meh.com has something to sell you, because they always do, and something to tell you, because it’s That Day Again:
Black Friday is the worst. Take the worst spoiled milk you’ve ever smelled, spread its rancid curds over an entire continent for an entire day, blast its fumes through the tubes of the Internet, punch yourself in the throat eight times, and max out all your credit cards. That’s Black Friday. Black Friday is spiritual ebola. Don’t thank God for this Friday. Blame Satan.
Look at what Black Friday does to people. It’s not just the tramplings and the shootings. It’s the whining and the grasping and the disappointment, so much aggro and angst over such meager rewards. It’s like one of those diabolically constructed Stanford psych lab experiment from the ’60s that proves that people are, at heart, sociopathic fascist gorillas.
Look at what Black Friday does to us. We can’t just do what we do every day: sell stuff for less than anybody else. On this one day, that’s not good enough. We have to compete with unrealistic expectations that no discount, anywhere, could possibly meet. Because it’s not about the discount. It’s about filling some void in people’s souls, some ecstatic experience that’s always one more click, one more coupon code, one more turn of the sale paper away.
[After 11 pm Central, when the next item goes up, that link will no longer lead to this text.]
Said I earlier today: “You can’t hide from Possibly Upsetting Things all your life, though God knows some people try awfully hard.”
I yield to this man’s superior knowledge of the subject:
Like a lot of black folks in my generation, I felt that it was my responsibility to become more attuned to racial sensibility — to achieve a higher level of sensitivity to those people and conditions that might lead to oppression. It was a constant theme in my youth during which the very term “black” was coined and people questioned having been “Negro”. During that time as well, many of us went from passive observation to active participation in both directions. In 1967 many of us were adamant about looking for “safe space” and determined that could not be found anywhere at all in the USA. We looked to Cuba, to Brazil, to Ghana. Similarly during the Vietnam war, many looked to Canada as an escape route. But in the end we found, even through assassinations and jailing, that racial integration in America was the far superior road for practical and moral reasons. It was not simple, it was not easy. It was worth it.
Said James Brown in 1969: “I don’t want nobody to give me nothing; open up the door, I’ll get it myself.” Today, that position has been completely inverted:
It is frighteningly disturbing that this generation of students has chosen to ignore the achievements of crossover and gone to greater extremes of racial sensitivity in their demands for resignations. I can’t imagine college universities now having the stomach to even listen to Richard Pryor or George Carlin, two of the many whose humor brought us together in the 70s. Indeed today’s students seem to have lost all sense of humor. I can only speculate this comes from a poor interpretation of what they expected that we went through or what others before us did. We sought the guarantees of the Constitution and we also wanted to escape small places and move about freely. Listen to the students at Little Rock High School. Remember Charlayne Hunter. Study James Farmer. They worked to end segregation, not to hide from insults or even injuries. What is clear to me is that far too many Americans expect from oppositional politics what can only be achieved from actual friendship, which is mutual respect and admiration. What a sad result. Finally calling someone a “racist” has nothing to do with what someone actually believes, but one’s position in an artificial political war. This fight is not about crime and punishment, it’s not even about the law. It’s a tawdry catfight over bourgeois privileges between bourgeois actors who desperately seek to inherit the imprimatur of Civil Rights struggle. My ass.
Which is, of course, not to say that all the brouhaha on campus is wholly unprovoked. But contemporary claims by college students of being oppressed and downtrodden sometimes seem downright laughable.
James Lileks engages in a brief act of cultural appropriation, just long enough to put it under the microscope:
It is entirely likely that a properly attuned individual will cast his or her or xer or yis’s eyes across a party and see many people unaware of the context, subtext, overtext and textual textosity of their outfit, and the very sight of someone draped in an incorrect variety of fabrics can trigger deep emotional responses.
I think that last point needs to be repeated, lest the full impact of the problem eluded you: people may experience unpleasant emotional responses.
The point of life is to never have an unpleasant emotional response. To anything. Note I didn’t say that the point is to avoid them. That suggests personal responsibility, when the onus ought to be on everyone else: offense of any kind cannot be made. What’s more, the definition of offense is the sole possession of the offended. To take offense is to proclaim virtue, to show your highly developed sensibilities, and the point of having these sensibilities is to find a job, or career, or office, or blog, or Tumblr, or some other platform where you can ensure that offense is never given. (If one gets a job doing this, it will be by appointment, not election.) The person will pass from the bubble of college to the bubble of social enforcement, keen on perfecting the world. And for the rest of his or her or xer professional life, they’ll be shouting BE QUIET to a calm, rational adult who is too terrified to say “you’re a terrible child who understands nothing. Go to your room.”
These people will produce nothing. They will create no great art, write no symphonies, conjure no novels that speak across the decades, sculpt nothing of beauty. The world outside the bubble is irredeemable. It cannot, of course, be remade all at once, but tomorrow’s a new day. Rome wasn’t wrecked in a day.
Of late, virtue signaling seems to be several times more common than actual virtue.
Restrooms as political battleground! How could anyone have known? Well, except Lileks of course:
Some people really underestimate the extent to which people simply do not want to issue a thunderclap of flatus in the same room as a co-worker of the opposite sex who, to your horror, turned towards the bathroom door at the same time you did. Explaining that this is literally Victorian prudishness is an insufficient explanation. I mean, birds don’t care if they crap on gender-neutral terrain, but as Queen Victoria said, We are not emus.
Said Victorians probably believed that girls don’t actually fart.
Next year I’m closing out my first half-century on the planet. That’s a rather ethereal, fluffy reality that’s hard to grasp. I know how to grasp it though: The probability that I’m past the midpoint, has ceased to be a likelihood and is now a certainty. What am I to do with that bit of cheerless information? First, we can distill it further: If life is a book, maybe I’m not yet on the final chapter but I know I’m in the final part of it. My perspective on the whole thing no longer matches the perspective of: a young adult, a teenager, a toddler, a baby. My dreams and complaints bear only a passing similarity to their dreams and complaints. Whereas, the complaints of those with one foot already in the grave, assuming they still possess all their faculties, match mine thought for thought and syllable for syllable.
I’m not saying I have one foot in the grave, but I know where the toes point, so to speak.
One of his conclusions from those first 49 years:
The first thing we should not want to see in our leaders is eagerness to be the leader. People who harbor this kind of zeal to bark out orders to others, make bad leaders. I remember one gentleman, no longer with us, who didn’t work this way. He’d hang back, let everyone make their own decisions about how to do their work from one hour to the next, one day to the next, one meeting to the next. Then he’d come alive, like a fly-eating house plant, when a question surfaced that would require some authority to be answered properly. Until that happened, he knew how to lie dormant and let the team resolve the smaller issues the way the team saw fit to resolve them. Contrasted with that style, the “little emperors” constantly barking out orders cause a lot of trouble. They destroy morale, because they want to hog all of the credit whenever something good happens, and when something goes awry you can count on them hunting for somebody to blame.
On my corkboard at work: “1 manager = 1,000,000 micromanagers.”
Okay, maybe 1,048,576. Trust me, in the real world it’s a rounding error.
This is the opening to a Daily Beast article:
What Happens When You Survive Ebola
Memory loss. Irreversible skin and nerve damage. Hair thinning. Arthritis. The lingering effects of Ebola can last a lifetime.
To be fair, when you don’t survive Ebola, the effects also last a lifetime.
Heh. Indeed. ™
Governments are not religions and no political movement can place its pet philosopher in place of God. No man can demand more of other men. Only God can demand the impossible because He can also grant the impossible. No political system can forgive. It can only amass more guilt and sin, more hatred and self-hatred, more madness and destruction. Human beings cannot exceed themselves.
A healthy idealism aspires to a more human state of living. It does not demand absolutes. An idealism that demands absolutes is a trap. It is easy to tell the difference between the two.
Human ideals feel better about themselves as they improve. Inhuman ones feel worse because the ideal is never meant to be reached. An irreligious absolute offers no redemption. Instead the failure to do the impossible becomes the means of breaking people of their human qualities and making them into monsters.
We can only achieve human terms of existence for nations and peoples by accepting our flaws. Perfection is as impossible for a people as it is for a person. And within our flaws, we create an existence that is not based on the collective impossibilities of an ideal, but on the realizable goodness of our human flaws. Instead of seeking to create a perfect state, we individually become better people. Instead of the tyranny of idealism creating monsters, we give ourselves the freedom to be human beings.
Instead of building suicidal ideal states, we create societies in which we have the freedom to be good while refusing to lapse into a self-hatred borne of frustrated idealism which prevents us from seeing the goodness of our fellow men and the evil of our enemies.
The Founders were acutely aware of this kind of nonsense, which is why they blessed us with what is today derisively called “gridlock,” a means for punching necessary holes in idealistic bubbles.
There seems to be a certain type of human — and how this comes about in an evolutionary framework escapes me — who longs for stasis above all things.
Sometimes it’s easier to see than others. Medieval philosophers, for instance, had a beef with motion. “Motion” entails “moving towards” or “moving away,” which means that a moving thing lacks some perfection — if it were perfect, it wouldn’t need what it was moving towards, or need to avoid that from which it was moving away. The ideal was an utterly static universe.
Our modern liberals, as you say, are always redefining things. They seem to be defined by frantic motion; they even call themselves “Progressives.” But: what are they progressing towards? Their ideal world, too, is completely static. They trend autistic, so they can’t read social cues very well — thus, the idea that someone can be one way today, and through his own effort be something different tomorrow, stresses them out. They’re not very bright, so they need everything precisely defined. Because of this, they can’t handle nuance — witness their zeal for coming up with ever more elaborate micro-identities.
Follow that “logic” out, and you see that their ideal world is a giant cubicle farm — everyone in his box, doing (being) one thing and one thing only, forever, world without end amen. Government is simply the most efficient way to achieve this objective. If you load the ambitious up with enough red tape, they’ll stop innovating. Laws can silence the cantankerous, and as soon as we get those census forms juuuuuuust right, we’ll have a check box for every conceivable race/gender/orientation.
And then we can freeze the whole thing in carbonite and hang it on the wall, forever. And then we shall have utopia.
I need hardly point out that this explains Climate Change Fever better than anything else; what they ultimately desire is an Official Thermostat and a designated setting thereupon, after which no changes are allowed or even allowed to be contemplated.
(Linked to this.)
Of all the objects we use in our daily lives, only the automobile is truly expected to suffer in perpetuity for its ecological doubleplusungoodcrimethink. My God, for three dollars I can buy a bag of razors and use each one of them like four times and just pitch it in the trash when I’m done. Why it is that I can buy twenty pounds of plastic razors a year but Porsche has to geld the 911 in order to satisfy the unelected bureaucrats of the European Union? What if I could arrange to shave with a straight razor and sharpen it myself and keep it for like ten years? Could I, at that point, have a 2017 Carrera GTS that is just like the 2015 Carrera GTS, only maybe with more logical satellite-radio controls?
Here’s the worst part, and I swear to you that I will be proven right on this: it will all be for naught, in the long run. You cannot successfully appease the tyranny of the environmentalists any more than Neville Chamberlain could wheedle and kneel his way out of the Anschluss. More concessions will be necessary, and the pace at which the goalposts are moved — the rate of change, the acceleration of aggression towards our beloved internal combustion — will increase until it cannot be satisfied. In the long run, we will be confined to vomit-colored plastic transportation modules and if your behavior is exceptionally deferential towards your betters you may be granted a transparent roof so you can watch them fly overhead.
In the longer-than-long run — well, you have to Read The Whole Thing. I hope he’s right about that, because he’s almost certainly right about the near term.