DYSPEPSIA GENERATION

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Archive for the 'Think about it.' Category

The Three Faces of the Democratic Party Are Coming to a Head

5th February 2018

Joel Kotkin uses an incredibly mixed metaphor.

Ultimately all parties are coalitions of disparate groups and interests. Much attention has been on the divisions within the ruling GOP — libertarians, social conservatives and populist/nationalists. But with the Democrats poised to make a comeback this year, and perhaps gain control of all three branches by 2020, perhaps it’s time to analyze divisions that may determine the extent of their ascendancy.

Three different, and often somewhat hostile, tendencies now define the Democratic Party. These include the corporate oligarchs, causists obsessed with particular hot button issues, and (arguably the most critical to long-term ascendency) populists who bear much of the party’s social democratic message and legacy.

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In a Society Obsessed With Success, How Do We Come to Terms With Failure?

4th February 2018

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How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life

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A Bad Solution to Very Real Problems

4th February 2018

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The Great Depression brought the failure of thousands of banks in the United States, and none in Canada. Comparing Canada and the United States suggests that there was something deeply wrong with the American banking system. But what was it? The short answer is that American banks were heavily regulated, contrary to Canadian banks.

Few things strike fear in the ‘progressive’ soul than the term ‘unregulated’. Read the news: Whenever something new arises, the first reaction by the Usual Suspects is a call to ‘regulate’ (i.e. impose political controls via government) it. The ‘progressive’ mind reacts to the prospect of human activity outside of politics the way the Pope reacts to the prospect of Mortal Sin.

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Thought for the Day

4th February 2018

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The Future of Chinese Is English

4th February 2018

Mark Derian examines the aliens among us.

Joseph Campbell suggested as a matter of fact that Westerners do not consider the Chinese to be people. It’s why the Chinese have a portrait of Mao hanging from one “Gate of Heavenly Peace,” and we get our pictures taken in front of it like it’s the Parthenon. It’s why Mao’s regime is technically still in power yet we keep giving them the Olympics. It’s why the Pope doesn’t hold the Church in China to the same standard she holds the Church in Europe. It’s even why 87,000 Chinese died in an earthquake not ten years ago though it barely moved the needle on our cultural seismograph.

Campbell gave no explanation as to why this is, though the implication seems to be the Chinese look different than we do. This may be a factor in our “othering”—to borrow a millennial usage—but what distinguishes the Chinese more than their almond eyes is the fact that, on a fundamental level, they don’t think like we do.

Language is a tool of cognition. To understand how people think, first understand their language. The main distinction about the Chinese language is it’s symbolic as opposed to phonetic. It’s as different from English as the Koran is to the Bible. The dissimilarity runs so deep that we cannot compare them to each other, only with each other.

Throughout most of human history, the Chinese have been the most advanced civilization on earth. Why, then, do they not dominate world culture as Europeans do? Some single out the Chinese ideogrammatic writing system as to blame — it cannot serve as a tool for organizing, sorting, and retrieving information the way that phonetic languages can, nor is it convenient for encoding foreign languages with no effective native writing system. This is why no nation that lacks a native writing system is adopting ideograms (the Japanese and Koreans did so because there was no alternative, and it impedes their progress even today); almost all turn to some variant of the Latin or Cyrillic or Arabic alphabet.

Chinese has more than 50,000 pictures, each representing a concept. A picture of a flower means “flower,” a picture of a house means “house,” and a picture of a middle-aged man means “dad.” It’s the kind of language you would come up with if you were an uncreative third grader. It’s limited as a tool of cognition in that it doesn’t challenge the speaker to go beyond the perceptual level of awareness. The allure of symbolic language is that it substitutes memorization for understanding.

Not coincidentally, communism offers the same allure. It’s a concrete idea that solves every societal problem in one fell decree, so there’s no point in learning much else. When the Chinese do adopt free enterprise, they only do so because it makes sense perceptually—that is, it’s practical.

Mao was unable to make Communism work in China because it is essentially alien to the Chinese culture. Deng made it work by keeping the Communist facade and reinstating the traditional Chinese polity in a Clever Plastic Disguise. For some reason, nobody seems to remark on the fact of billionaires in a notionally equalitarian political system. We’re so used to it that nobody notices how anomalous it is.

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After 45 Birthdays, Here Are ’12 Rules for Life’

3rd February 2018

Megan McArdle has learned some useful things.

You can no longer tell yourself that you might move to Lisbon, learn Portuguese, and take up the guitar. You cannot learn Portuguese at your age. You can’t remember new words anymore; you can’t even remember where you have left your keys.

So it seems a good opportunity to do two things. First, to wish Oprah Winfrey a happy belated birthday. And second, to address this “12 Rules for Life” meme that you young whippersnappers have got up to on the social medias. I am probably more than halfway through my life now; I ought to have some rules.

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Hunter Knocked Unconscious by Dead Goose Falling From Sky

3rd February 2018

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Let that be a lesson to us all.

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A Parable

3rd February 2018

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Most of you know the story of the boy and the starfish. For the few who don’t, it goes something like this:

Thousands of starfish washed up on a beach, and a young boy began throwing them back into the water, one-by-one. A man stopped him and pointed out that his effort made no difference since he couldn’t hope to save more than a few of the creatures. The boy looked at the starfish in his hand and replied, “Well, it matters to this one,” and he threw it into the sea.

The man in the parable is a collectivist who hates inequality. If you can’t help everyone, it’s unfair to help a few. The boy is an individualist who knows that individual life matters; we help those we can.

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Thought for the Day: Millennial Edition

3rd February 2018

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Satellites Show The Largest Tropical Temperature Drop In Years

2nd February 2018

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How about that Global Warming, eh?

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BLM Issues Travel Advisory to Minnesota During Super Bowl Weekend

2nd February 2018

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I rather doubt that large gatherings of white people, especially in Minnesota, are as dangerous for black people as large gatherings of black people are to white people.

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Thought for the Day

2nd February 2018

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Bright College Days: Part I

2nd February 2018

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I don’t expect you to have read Bryan Caplan’s new book, The Case Against Education, although it would be helpful if you had at least heard about it (which you will have done did you frequent the rightish side of the Force as I regularly do).

Caplan is one of the more eccentric members of George Mason University’s thoroughly libertarian Economics Department, and loves to take unexpected positions on various issues; his The Myth of the Rational Voter and Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids are well worth attention.

This article at West Hunter is an interesting review and response to Caplan’s  book.

He dismisses objections from educational psychologists who claim that studying a subject improves you in subtle ways even after you forget all of it. I too find that hard to believe. On the other hand, it looks to me as if poorly-digested fragments of information picked up in college have some effect on public policy later in life: it is no coincidence that most prominent people in public life (at a given moment) share a lot of the same ideas. People are vaguely remembering the same crap from the same sources, or related sources. It’s correlated crap, which has a much stronger effect than random crap.

That matches my experience.

These widespread new ideas are usually wrong. They come from somewhere – in part, from higher education. Along this line, Caplan thinks that college has only a weak ideological effect on students. I don’t believe he is correct. In part, this is because most people use a shifting standard: what’s liberal or conservative gets redefined over time. At any given time a population is roughly half left and half right – but the content of those labels changes a lot. There’s a shift.

I think it’s deeper than that. I have long maintained the there is no such thing as ‘conservatism’ or ‘liberalism’, because those terms describe aspects of personality, not concrete political views; what constitutes ‘conservatism’ especially changes depending on what point in human history is being dealt with. (The case of ‘liberalism’ is somewhat stronger, because in modern times that equates to ‘progressivism’, which does have a concrete political viewpoint that doesn’t change with time, but if  you wander outside post-1960s North America it reverts to being relative.)

I think the fraction of the population that believed in butt-kicking babes was lower in 1920: probably less than 1%, with most of those believers suffering from tertiary syphilis. What changed? At the root, most of the change must stem from professor-types. There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them. Many of those absurd ideas now have wide currency.

Can’t disagree with that. We all want to believe that Black Widow exists, but deep in our hearts we know that it’s as much of a fantasy as Thor.

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Israel: Right-wing Activists Invite Infiltrators to Leftists’ Homes

1st February 2018

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Illegal immigrants in Tel Aviv ‘invited’ to actress Sarah Silverman’s sister’s home as right-wing activists distribute ‘invitations’.

Hmmm. Wonder how Nancy Pelosi would like a couple hundred ‘Dreamers’ on her doorstep looking for a handout.

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The Joys of Victimhood

1st February 2018

Joseph Epstein penned this classic in 1989.

Victims have never been in short supply in the world, but the rush to identify oneself as a victim is rather a new feature of modern life. Why this should be so isn’t very complicated: to position oneself as a victim is to position oneself for sympathy, special treatment, even victory. It’s not only individuals who benefit. In international politics, one sees the deliberate strategy of positioning for victimhood played out in the Middle East. Although Israel is a country of fewer than four million Jewish people surrounded by Arab nations numbering some 200 million people, very few of whom mean the Israelis well, the Arabs have somehow been able to make themselves – or at least the Palestinians as their representatives – seem the great victims in the Middle East. Every time a woman or a small child is injured in the organized riots known as the intifada – one might ask why small children are allowed anywhere near such danger – the victimhood of the Palestinians is reinforced and their cause, as victims, made all the stronger.

Gandhi was the great teacher of the art of victimhood, of setting one’s victimization on full public display. Part of the genius of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was to recognize the value of Gandhi’s lessons for the American civil rights movement, and most especially the lesson of nonviolent resistance, which not only highlights victimhood but gives it, in a good cause, a genuinely moral aura. Their moral and physical courage lent civil rights workers in the South an appeal that was irresistible to all but the most hard-hearted of segregationists. Americans, all of whose families began in this country as immigrants, have a built-in tradition of having known victimhood, at least historically, and hence a strong tendency toward sympathy for victims.

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Thought for the Day

1st February 2018

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Thought for the Day

31st January 2018

Makes more sense than any State of the Union speech I’ve ever heard.

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China Militarizes Cruise Ship Design

31st January 2018

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In 2012 the Chinese naval ships operating off Somalia were seen accompanied by what appeared to be a cruise ship. It was actually the first of two “barracks ships” that the Chinese Navy has built since 2011. Both are 30,000 ton ships that appear to be based on cruise ship designswith lots of topside cabins with windows and large open decks for recreation. These two ships are indeed “barracks ships” but were designed to be quite flexible.

They were first seen in operation off Somalia and described as an example the Chinese Navy learning how important morale at sea was. Until 2008 Chinese warships rarely spent more than a week away from port but since then China has been sending “Naval Escort Task Forces” to participate in the anti-piracy patrol off Somalia. There, for four months (plus a month to get to and from China) the two warships (accompanied by a supply ship) look for pirates and escort merchant ships. On those long voyages Chinese officers soon noted that many months at sea put more strain on sailors than the usual shorter training voyages.

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Notorious Racist Trump Honors Teens Slain by MS-13

31st January 2018

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The nerve of that guy.

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Bungee Jumper Dangles for an Hour at Macau Attraction

30th January 2018

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I would find that attractive.

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Thought for the Day

30th January 2018

Where’s the fun in that?

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Big Game Hunter Shot Dead as He Aimed at Lion He Wanted to Kill

30th January 2018

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Let that be a lesson to us all.

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President Nobama

29th January 2018

Victor Davis Hanson reviews Trump.

Trump is commonsensically undoing, piece by piece, the main components of Obama’s legacy.

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Thought for the Day: Too Much Like Work

29th January 2018

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The Grammys Were the Perfect Example of What Happens When a Powerful Political Movement Is Neutered

29th January 2018

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The obvious question is: If this is such a ‘powerful political movement’, how is it so easily ‘neutered’?

I’d be more inclined to the thought that this is the perfect example when proglodyte delusion meets reality. Reality wins every time.

Case in point: Grammys 2018: Pink wears t-shirt and jeans for awards performance in solidarity with #TimesUp and #MeToo

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This Civil War

29th January 2018

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Guns are how a civil war ends. Politics is how it begins.

How do civil wars happen?

Two or more sides disagree on who runs the country. And they can’t settle the question through elections because they don’t even agree that elections are how you decide who’s in charge.

That’s the basic issue here. Who decides who runs the country? When you hate each other but accept the election results, you have a country. When you stop accepting election results, you have a countdown to a civil war.

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Thought for the Day

28th January 2018

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The Author of the 5:2 Diet Tested the Popular Theory That Eating Carbs at Night Is Bad for You — and the Results Suggest We’ve Got It All Wrong

27th January 2018

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The 5:2 diet, based on intermittent fasting, involves eating pretty much whatever you like for five days a week, then for two nonconsecutive days restricting calories to 500 for women and 600 for men.

Orthodox Christians have been doing this for 2000 years. The fast days are Wednesday and Friday.

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The Deep Roots of an Italian Song That Sounds Like English—But Is Just Nonsense

27th January 2018

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Democrats are great at saying things that sound like English — but are just nonsense.

If you listen to the first video, it does sound like English that you can’t quite catch.

There is, of course, the famous scene in The Court Jester where Danny Kaye does the same thing with French, Italian, and German — and later on for Spanish. So it’s not just a one-way street.

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Notorious White Supremacist Trump Honors Holocaust Survivors in Remembrance Day Tribute

27th January 2018

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He hides it very well.

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Eating Some Sandwiches Causes Global Warming, UK Scientists Say

27th January 2018

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And if you believe that one, they’ll tell you another one.

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Thought for the Day

27th January 2018

I know the feeling.

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State of the Union 2018: Democrats Choose Joseph Kennedy III to Respond to Donald Trump’s Speech

26th January 2018

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Hereditary White Privilege, thy name is Democrat.

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Thought for the Day

26th January 2018

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SSC Survey Data on Models of Political Conflict

26th January 2018

Scot Alexander of Slate Star Codex (highly recommended) lays out some survey statistics.

The results are about as interesting as a survey against a self-selecting sample is likely to be. My interest was engaged primarily by the sorts of questions being asked, which I think superior to the sort of ‘opinion polls’ asked by The Usual Suspects. Answering the questions for myself put some focus into my own views on the subject.

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Saudi Oil Giant Cites Trump’s Tax Cuts for Major US Expansion

25th January 2018

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Boy, that Trump really stepped on it in Davos, didn’t he?

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Cow Escapes Farm to Go and Live With Herd of Bison

25th January 2018

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I can understand that.

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President Coach

25th January 2018

ZMan analyzes Trump.

At the NFL level, the psychological aspects of coaching are more complex, but the underlying strategy is the same. You make the players doubt themselves in a way that results in their natural hyper-competitiveness kicking in, so they push themselves to the edge of their potential.

I’ve been thinking about this watching Trump torment Congress, especially the Democrats, over immigration. He’s not just making the open borders people nervous with his rhetoric. He is getting under the skin of his allies and his own staff. The blockheads in the gentry media are calling it the Jell-O strategy, but it is a safe bet that none of them ever went outside as kids, much less played competitive contact sports. In the world of high-pay, low-work professions, the hard driving boss does not exist.

This strikes me as a useful insight. One of the most serious defects of the Never Trumper zeitgeist is that people keep complaining that Trump does stuff that they would never do, and keep trying to explain why he’s doing stuff based on why they would be doing it if they ever did it — which, of course, they would never do. The perennial charge of ‘impulsive’ is a prime example. Trump does something that a critic might think about doing but then would suppress, and so the critic ascribes it to ‘impulsiveness’, never even dreaming that there might be a method to his supposed madness … which there typically is, and which gets revealed when this supposed ‘impulsive’ thing winds up winning.

What Trump is doing with his comments about DACA, in particular, but immigration in general, is keeping the issue boiling. That is Trump’s natural style of negotiating, but it has the benefit of keeping immigration patriots slightly ticked off and highly engaged in every aspect of the process. Congress has seen their e-mail flooded with messages opposing amnesty. Their voicemail boxes are constantly full. This puts pressure on Congress to do a deal and get the issue off the agenda for the midterms in ten months.

All the complaints about Trump tweeting miss the fact that it constantly keeps the Chattering Class talking about what he wants them to talk about rather than what they want to talk about. Regardless of the actual content of the tweets, this is an obviously effective tool for controlling the ‘national conversation’ that proglodytes always proclaim that they are wanting but never actually try to do. Scott Adams is, so far, one of the few who have picked up on this.

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Thought for the Day

25th January 2018

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Having Failed at Making Edible Burgers, Burger King Tries To Explain Net Neutrality

25th January 2018

Nick Gillespie of tReason magazine picks up on the fact that much of the drivel inflicted on us these days is by people of demonstrable incompetence in their presumed core activity attempting to play Wise Guru in an entirely different field.

Obama and health care come immediately to mind.

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Conflict vs. Mistake

25th January 2018

Scott Alexander at Slate Star Codex (highly recommended) looks at governance.

Jacobite – which is apparently still a real magazine and not a one-off gag making fun of Jacobin – summarizes their article Under-Theorizing Government as “You’ll never hear the terms ‘principal-agent problem,’ ‘rent-seeking,’ or ‘aligning incentives’ from socialists. That’s because they expect ideology to solve all practical considerations of governance.”

There have been some really weird and poorly-informed socialist critiques of public choice theory lately, and this article generalizes from those to a claim that Marxists just don’t like considering the hard technical question of how to design a good government. This would explain why their own governments so often fail. Also why, whenever existing governments are bad, Marxists immediately jump to the conclusion that they must be run by evil people who want them to be bad on purpose.

In trying to think of how a Marxist might respond to this attack, I thought of commenter no_bear_so_low’s conflict vs. mistake dichotomy (itself related to the three perspectives of sociology).

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Thought for the Day: An Important Distinction

24th January 2018

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Democratic Trump

24th January 2018

Steve Sailer looks at the news.

The establishment’s conventional wisdom that past immigration morally mandates future immigration is kind of like saying that because your favorite NBA star’s ancestors got here due to the slave trade, Congress should re-legalize the Middle Passage.

Likewise, it’s comical that so many have denounced Trump as an “authoritarian” whose election threatens that “democracy dies in the dark,” as Jeff Bezos’ Washington Postclaims.

In reality, of course, Trump’s administration is the most public in memory. Comedians are making jokes about the president for the first time since 2008. Americans are enthusiastically arguing over politics. Trump, love him or hate him, has revitalized democracy.

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Thought for the Day

23rd January 2018

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Thought for the Day

22nd January 2018

That’s my idea — what’s your idea?

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What the Heck Happened? After the 2016 Presidential Campaign, Everyone Wrote a Book.

21st January 2018

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Whenever anything unusual happens in the modern world, there is a significant slice of the population who view it as an opportunity for a book deal. Some of them can even write. Unfortunately, not all who get published are in that number.

This piece by Glenn Garvin of tReason magazine is more entertaining than most.

The Class of 2016’s election books contain a lot less of that sort of New Journalism–style omniscience, if only because the principal two candidates regarded reporters as lying swine who should be kept far away, if not simply shot.

Donald Trump actually wavered on that last point. NBC reporter Katy Tur’s Unbelievable describes a rally where the candidate, musing on Vladimir Putin’s reputation for knocking off annoying journalists, weighed the pros and cons. “I hate them, but I would never kill them. I’d never do that,” he announces, then pauses in contemplation. “No, I wouldn’t,” he decides. “But I do hate them.” (He soooo wasn’t kidding. Tur also describes a night when a reporter colleague got a call from Trump’s press office. “Are we off the record?” the Trump staffer inquired. Sure, replied the reporter. “Great,” continued the staffer. “Off the record, Mr. Trump wants you to go fuck yourself.”)

The major problem with journalists is that they have internalized the pampered Teacher’s Pet attitude of kids who can be as obnoxious as they like because Sister Mary Elephant is wandering around the playground making sure everybody plays nice (i.e. doesn’t engage in open violence). People who have been in the business for years in Important Places like New York and D.C., who are being paid in seven figures for their work, and who are used to being regularly tongue-washed by the rich and famous, necessarily true into obnoxious assholes. It’s inevitable.

People in the Political Establishment who know this and are so unwise as to voice it were somebody unreliable can hear it get media-lynched right quickly, and are accustomed to the Walk of Shame that includes things like ‘taken out of context’ and ‘sorry if anybody was offended’.

Trump doesn’t play that game, and the media peacocks (to use Scott Adams’ phrase) can’t cope. They keep hitting what they think is his OFF button (which would be the OFF button on any regular Crustian) and it keeps not working. They find this so disconcerting that they keep doing it — surely, surely, one of these times it will work — and it never does, and they never learn. This is highly entertaining to those of us who would gladly say, in public, ‘These guys are all obnoxious assholes’, but nobody would hear us because we aren’t on national TV. Trump is, and he does, and a lot of us Little People love him for it.

ot all of the 2016 books conform to the traditional model of election literature. Tur—as the first TV reporter assigned full-time to the Trump campaign, she was, after Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, probably the candidate’s least favorite—has produced more of a personal memoir of her time on the road. Breezily written, it’s full of useful tips for young reporters (Fox News’ Carl Cameron always gets his hair spray past security by telling Secret Service agents, “You taking my hairspray is like me taking your gun”; “Whatever you do, don’t sleep with a Secret Service agent”).

It also offers the starkest illustration I’ve ever seen of what’s wrong with cable news. When Trump announced, in an email blast, that as president he would ban all Muslim immigrants from entering the United States, the MSNBC desk called Tur within moments, demanding a live phone-in report. I don’t really know anything about it yet, replied the harried Tur, but I could—

“Just talk,” ordered the imperious editor.

“So I tap dance,” Tur admits. What follows are several empty-headed minutes of pure blather exchanged with an anchor who doesn’t know anything more than she does. Feeding the beast, TV people call it, referring to the gaping 24-hour cable TV maw. But the ones being force-fed mush are the viewers.

People like Katy Tur are what pass for ‘journalists’ these days. She is living proof that you don’t need to know anything about what is and isn’t important in order to do news for NBC. Walter Cronkite would have fired her about day three. Granted, the system encourages her to be this useless, but still, anybody with a shred of pride would go into another line of work. (Oh, but there goes that seven-figure salary. I guess not.)

Analytical blockhead that Coppins may be, he’s a terrific reporter and an entertaining writer. The Wilderness is by no means a bad book, as long as you’re not trying to find out what actually happened in the Republican race.

And that’s about the best you can say for most of these people — entertaining writer. Since a lot of what they do is obviously fiction, maybe that’s appropriate.

Even leaving the dark whispers between internet-connected coffee pots and toasters out of it, Clinton’s certainty that she was the constant object of conspiracy rises to a level of derangement that is almost impossible to describe. At one point she suggests that Trump deliberately and nefariously picked a public fight with Khizr and Ghazala Khan—a Pakistani-American couple whose son was killed in Iraq—to blunt the rollout of her economic plan. No matter that insulting a Gold Star mother on television was the single most costly move of Trump’s campaign. (Some polls show that nearly 40 percent of the electorate was less inclined to vote for him following his vituperative attacks on the Khans.) No matter, either, that it was the Clinton campaign that initiated the entire episode by putting the couple onstage at the Democratic National Convention to accuse Trump of anti-Muslim bigotry.

A lot of Democrats are victims of Spoiled Brat Syndrome, convinced that they are entitled, because they are among the Anointed, to do stuff that is totally evil and immoral if the other side even thinks about it. (“Mommy! Johnny hit me back!”) The Crust divide the world into three groups: People Like Us, The Help, and The Rabble. They spend as much time as they can with group 1, as little time as they must with group 2, and have no contact with group 3 except to read entertaining essays about What’s Wrong with Kansas in the New Yorker.

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Thought for the Day

21st January 2018

I actually did that once in a ‘team building exercise’. It did not end well.

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The Vanishing Obama Presidency

20th January 2018

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You want good news? I got yer good news, right here.

Overall, with the exception of a shrinking Obamacare and the CFPB, no significant initiative of the Obama administration remains in place. The near doubling of the federal debt during his eight-year presidency — from $10 trillion to $19 trillion — seems like a very high price to pay for such ephemeral results.

The Obama presidency is vanishing before our eyes. In only 12 short months, the legacy of Obama’s presidency is best captured by the motto of a well-known disaster restoration company: “like it never even happened.”

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Thought for the Day

20th January 2018

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Bernie Sides With GOP: ‘Don’t Shut Down The Government’

19th January 2018

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Socialists keeps their eyes on the prize: All government, all the time.

Any government is better than no government.

Feel the Bern.

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