Thursday, October 17, 2019

Theodore Dalrymple on Elizabeth Warren

The set-up debate quote of Warren's that garnered all the attention has been examined by Dalrymple for its larger cultural meaning, over at City Journal.
If I were a Marxist, I would say that Warren’s attitude was a means by which she strove to protect the interests and power of the upper-middle classes against those of the lower classes, for the higher up the social scale you go, the stronger the institution of marriage becomes, for all its hypocrisies and betrayals. The upper-middle classes pretending to despise marriage are no more sincere than was Marie Antoinette playing shepherdess, though they do more harm by their pretense than Marie Antoinette ever did, for no one was ever encouraged to become a shepherdess by her playacting.
It's fun to make fun of traditional things and people, while still enjoying the benefits of them.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Not Only But Also - III


"The Nazis had trained the ants to eat extremely slowly."

Real Network Names

CNN = AT&T network
NBC = Comcast
ABC = Disney

Spread it abroad, as it will increase clarity.

OCD - Golf Version

One's first thought - okay, my first thought - is to take this as evidence that golfers are insane for putting up with this. Golf may be among the most individual of sports, but this sort of pettifogging nonsense is a libertarian's nightmare.

On the other hand, golfers don't seem to mind it, and even embrace the precision required. The sport does have fewer scandals compared to...well, anything, really, and that may not be accidental. When you look at it a certain way, professional sports are federalism in action.  Each sport can have whatever rules it wants, and enforce them as strictly or loosely as it pleases. As many athletic attributes transfer from one sport to another, some athletes have a degree of choice what they want to put up with.

Freedom also includes the freedom to put up with excessive and unfair discipline.

Sad Distinction

"I am an advocate for victims!"
No, you are an advocate for victimhood.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Punctuation

Not many people can make punctuation suggestive. Even when you know what's coming, it works.


Enes Kanter

I have given up the NBA as of last week.  It hurts, because I have enjoyed learning more these last few years, as pro basketball is a subject known extremely well by my son Ben and I have enjoyed interacting with him about it. As three of his other subjects are baseball, movies, and TV, which I am not much interested in, it makes it hard to give up.  I have been a Celtics fan since the 1960s and this year was going to be interesting.  But really, this isn't getting into the category of plucking out an eye or cutting off a hand, now is it? It's a hobby, and I elect to embrace a pointless boycott.  Pointless because I don't buy shirts or tickets or cable packages. I unsubscribed from some free podcasts that I enjoyed.

Yet I still get news when it makes the news.  I didn't bother to follow it when coaches Greg Popovich and Steve Kerr made anti-Trump comments because I know what they are going to say and it's just banal, knee-jerk stuff.  I was not even surprised when LeBron James, that ferocious intellect and foreign-policy expert, explained that MIT grad and sports statistics guru Daryl Morey was uninformed, nor that LBJ is declining to comment further after being taken apart by pretty much everyone who doesn't make money off the NBA or isn't a fanboy of A) NBA players or B) black celebrities.

I was deeply pleased that Enes Kanter tweeted what he tweeted in response to LeBron. You should know that this was not reported by ESPN, Yahoo Sports, or Fox Sports.  Barstool Sports covered it. (If you want politically incorrect sports, they are the place to start.) USA Today covered it.  I don't know who else.

That Kanter is now a Celtic (not a Seljuk, a Celtic) is less a joy to me than a temptation to follow them after all.  I must avert my eyes.

#20 - Narragansett Bleg

I no longer need to ask where to find more of these as I have found others.  These will get you started, however.  The comments section turned interesting.  Light nostalgia can very quickly go to "Whatever happened to?" which often leads to tragic updates.  I published Narragansett videos in both 2008 and this one in June 2009.  They are making it again, and while it has a cult following, especially in RI and SE Mass, it's a pretty standard American lager.  Rather like how PBR had a resurgence.

*******

I remembered another commercial, of a guy gleefully asking a woman questions about whether Narragansett Beer is good, growing in mirth until he is hugging himself with joy, then revealing that he is Fred Narragansett. (Note to non-New Englanders. Narragansett is a bay in RI. There was no Fred Narragansett.)

I linked to two old Narragansett Beer commercials over a year ago. If you watched Red Sox baseball in the 60's, these Nichols and May commercials were part of your culture.





There are two others here and here.

Here's where I beg for information. I remember several other Gansett commercials in the series, but I'm sure there were many more. (Punchlines only, for brevity)

1. "How do I know you're not a person in a kangaroo suit?"
"Well, how do I know you're not a kangaroo in a people suit?" (Nichols and May reused this old joke for a JAX beer commercial)

2. Papa Bear: "Yuchh, Goldilocks! Porridge and beer?"

3. "Birtinder! Birtinder! Ir yu meeking fun of me?"
"Nooo, I wis meeking fun of hir."

4. "So why did you go to all that trouble to make one bottle of beer?"
"I only made one pretzel."

5. (After an agonizing speech by a guy holding a steak over the grill so the meat doesn't get grill marks, his wife asks) "Well why don't you at least switch hands?"
"I'm using the other hand to toast the marshmallows."

6. There was one with a talking dog with the old punchline "You think I should have said Coolidge?"

More, please. I'm going to ask specifically over at Maggie's Farm, which I think will have the highest concentration of New Englanders.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Puritans

Just to review, the Puritans were not obsessed with sex.  It is closer to the mark to say that moderns are obsessed with sex and therefore disapproving of anyone who has got any rules about it. The Puritans were in fact among (A commenter points out that Aquinas was on the scene for that earlier) the leaders in Western Christian thought that sex was not only for having children - which virtually every culture in the world has stressed. (Except for rich and powerful people, especially men. They get to regard sex as entertainment and expression of power.) Puritans believed it was also "to knit the heart of a husband to wife," a charming thought. One of the supposedly oppressive rules of the Puritans was that men should not get away with taking advantage of women. They were strict.  They did not believe that a man and woman who were not husband and wife should be alone together, because they thought the temptation was likely to be too much for one or both of them. We threw that rule out, and guess what?  It turns out it has a good deal of truth to it.  Just because adultery does not occur in 100%  of such situations, or even 30% does not mean it doesn't happen more than is good for both individuals and society as a whole.

Hawthorne had his own hatreds - we needn't share them.

Puritans were obsessed with death, with the final moment when whether they belonged to the elect or not would be revealed.  They were both horrified and fascinated by death. They were obsessed with time, with "improving the time" and not wasting it. They were not Docetists, falling into the oft-recurring heresy that material things were evil and spiritual ones were pure. Many Christian groups have leaned this way over the centuries, and the Puritans had some of that, but they did not foreswear the flesh, they merely believed it should be held under short rein.  They drank beer and enjoyed it.  They had folk dances, but not dances with pairs of men and women. They had sports and recreations, though they believed these should be limited.

(Screwtape:) In modern Christian writings, though I see much (indeed more than I like) about Mammon, I see few of the old warnings about Worldly Vanities, the Choice of Friends, and the Value of Time. All that, your patient would probably classify as ‘Puritanism’—and may I remark in passing that the value we have given to that word is one of the really solid triumphs of the last hundred years? By it we rescue annually thousands of humans from temperance, chastity, and sobriety of life. CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (#10)
Stop blaming the Puritans.

Mother's Lament



An old English music hall song. Martin Carty, later of Steeleye Span, used to perform it with Ginger Baker, later of Cream.

First Contact

Before it was a Star Trek Movie, it was a SF novella. I think there were dozens of SF stories about being the first to encounter alien civilisations, and the problems that might ensue.

In 1400 AD, (and much earlier) Europeans were sailing up and down the Atlantic, and the Chinese were sailing back and forth across the Indian Ocean. A New World Population of up to 100,000,000, mostly from Mexico to Peru, had been isolated from all Eurasian diseases for at least 12,000 years, and in most cases, more like 18,000 years.  Making alcoholic beverages had first occurred in Asia thousands of years after the split, so the genes which discouraged overconsumption - things which made you have a headache or a hangover - had never developed in the Native American populations either.

It was a poised, unstable situation. With that much separation, and technology advancing enough that longer-distance sailing was possible, the massive death of tens of millions of New World natives was inevitable, and the defenses they had never developed against alcohol overcomsumption made their contact with Europeans unbalanced right out of the gate.

This did not make land-stealing, slavery, or violence inevitable.  But a great deal of misery was lying out there on the counter, just waiting to happen once first contact occurred.

The Strong Horse

Osama bin Laden said that people will follow the strong horse.  He wasn't wrong. That phrase came to my mind today reading the RealClearInvestigations piece Why China's Brightest Abroad Show Team Spirit For Beijing's Hardball. The American fantasy is that people in oppressed nations want more than anything to be free, or at least be freer. Though this is partly true, it ebbs and flows and is sometimes much less true than we expect.  It is true that in measuring public sentiment under dictators all data is suspect. People are afraid to be the first to stop clapping for Stalin.* In the current case of China, those that have received approval to study abroad are from the class of people benefiting most under the current regime, and are additionally vetted to boot. They are among the most likely to support the regime to begin with; then additional carrots and sticks are applied.

Nonetheless, I think that Richard Bernstein is reading the available data correctly, and that China is not populated entirely by huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Beginning about a third of the way down, he illustrates that many of the students are proud of China's power and growth, that it is expanding. There is no mention of them being proud of its government's actions, but the sense is that they just don't think about that much.
“The conviction in China is that we're on the right track,” Wang added. “The vibe is that the system we have is better than the West's.”
I don't think this is a Chinese characteristic, I think it is a human characteristic. A great deal of German and Japanese fervor leading to WWII was created out decades of teaching the idea that because we are becoming powerful, it shows our way is superior. I may be reading the idea back onto historical events, but I think of Romans, Ottomans, and Venetians saying much the same.  Even when everyone recognises the idea in the abstract that because tyrannies do exist, it cannot be true that the most powerful is the most moral, they seem to forget this when it comes to their own nation. It may be tied at some deep level to seeking secure resources. When your people are powerful, you are more likely to eat. Notice that nations on the make do not seem to get attacked, either, even if they are not yet especially powerful. One would think that a rising threat would attract violence, but they seem to attract diplomacy, alliances, agreements, or at worst only sanctions and counterthreats. Something in our nature says that's not a good bet to confront unless it is necessary.

Does this apply to us as well? Hmm, let's look at some friends of ours first, the British before answering that. England was not powerful in the Middle Ages. Spain, France, the Italian states, the Holy Roman Empire and eventually the Portuguese were more powerful. British patriotism has large regional elements now, but even English patriotism was more regional until...I will say 1500, just as a round number. Over the next hundred years England became more powerful, and a more full English patriotism grew.  It likely reached its height in late Victorian times or early Edwardian. It dipped a little about the time of the Boer War, perhaps not accidentally, and plummeted after WWI, even though Great Britain was among the victors. A sort of anti-patriotism became fashionable in the 1920s and 30s. Among its elites it still is, despite their having been proved wrong repeatedly over the last hundred years.

I don't think it is easy to measure the patriotism within one's own society when it is this diverse and the target is moving. There have been intentional attempts to redefine patriotism, which I have thought pernicious, but acknowledge the door doesn't have to be left open for that when the common wisdom is so oversimplified that it can easily be kicked in.  We think we know what "patriotism" means intuitively, but it has grown vaguer over the years until it became more of a glittering compliment word - at which point it is only natural that it will become a target for mockery.  Yet for all that, I think there would be general agreement that the 1950s were a high point of patriotism, which started receding in the late 1960s.

The standard explanation is that some were becoming disillusioned because of Vietnam, and we began to question whether we were actually doing good in the world or were all that noral and correct. What if that's not true?  The standard explanation is also that it was the young who were opposed to Vietnam, but that isn't entirely so.  Support for the war eroded among older Americans first, especially around 1968, while the war in general was supported by a majority of the young.  Those who had seen a victorious war, followed by an inconclusive one in Korea, were less enthused about a dithering, uncertain America doing much off anything abroad anymore. We may have the cart and horse reversed.  Had we been an aggressive country on the make, patriotism might have sustained longer.  Whether that sort of patriotism would be a good thing for us or the rest of the world is a separate question. While acknowledging it's all contradictory and difficult, I am going to come down in favor of the idea that indecisive losing sapped our patriotism more than more intellectual and reasoned positions about the place of America in the world.  I think the latter was only partly true, and much of it was retrofitted onto a more basic response.

*This is why the success of large "peaceful" protests are not a full argument that civil disobedience works. Gandhi's success was predicated on there being a half a billion people behind him who were not always nonviolent, and on their dealing with a nation with enough moral code to be shamed. I have never been able to track down the quote, so it may be apocryphal, but Ho Chi Minh is reported to have said that if India had been a French colony, Minister Gandhi would long since have gone to another reward. The assembling of large crowds has the effect of everyone discovering exactly how much support there is for a cause. Even if everyone just goes home, that information is now out on the table.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Columbus Day

I am going to celebrate tomorrow by getting lost, looking for spices.

A.A. Milne Was Prescient About 21st C Pronouns

When I first heard his name, I said, just as you are going to say, "But I thought he was a boy?"
"So did I," said Christopher Robin.
"Then you can't call him Winnie?"
"I don't."
"But you said----"
"He's Winnie-ther-Pooh. Don't you know what 'ther' means?"
"Ah, yes, now I do," I said quickly; and I hope you do too, because it is all the explanation you are going to get.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Warren Revisited.

Adapted from the Washington Post Article:
About 90 minutes into Thursday’s forum on LGBTQ issues in Los Angeles, a gay rights leader posed a question to Sen. Elizabeth Warren President Donald Trump: How would she respond if a voter approached her him and said, “I’m old-fashioned, and my faith teaches me that marriage is between one man and one woman?” Warren (D-Mass.) Trump (R-Queens) responded with a theatrical seriousness. “Well, I’m going to assume it’s a guy gal who said that,” she deadpanned, pausing a beat for the audience to catch the joke. Then she added, “And I’m going to say, ‘Then just marry one woman — I’m cool with that.’ ” She finished with a zinger: “ ‘Assuming you can find one.’ ”
If you think that actually does sound like Trump, remember that this was not a person who had attacked Warren, but someone who had come up and asked a polite question.

Tired

I got tired of seeing the Clyde Joy post at the top of my page. It still weirds me out that I could enter a publishing date for it of October 14, but it pops up on October 9 anyway, and stays on top no matter what I subsequently publish. The obvious solution of changing the publishing date didn't occur to me until this morning.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Focus

The website is "Make It," and has the unfortunate tone of assuming that making money as the #1 goal of all of us.  I did, however, like this particular article about focus as the most important quality going forward. We have come through an age where intelligence may have been the most important attribute for getting ahead, wherever "ahead" is, though a dozen other qualities might work as well at an individual level. I have speculated that adaptability, flexibility, is the coming thing, and I do still think that is on the rise. But the idea that focus will be the new first among equals was instantly convincing to me. Not only will it work at an individual level, but techniques to increase focus - or reduce distractability - in work groups seemed useful as well. The nurses wearing orange vests at particular periods of their shift to signal that this was a time they could not be interrupted? That made immediate sense to me. The times I would use an orange vest in my own job would be uncommon. I might find that necessary only for an hour every other day. Yet for those times, not being interrupted would indeed valuable. The other data about interruptions was interesting as well.

The New Yorker Is Perfect

The New Yorker offers a decently interesting article about the new internet craze of things being "cursed." Loved it at first. Five paragraphs about the actual topic, headed by a simply amazing picture of many badgers on someone's back patio. (Really, I should forgive them everything because of that amazing picture.) It is a good thing, because it is by a (presumable) internet native who has a better feel for what's really happening than an old guy like me. Then, oh dear! Two paragraphs of liberal-arts major filler to get your paper over 1,000 words. Not bad for what it is, but a serious deterioration, quickly. Then two paragraphs of liberal pieties, with especial emphasis on how terrible Trump has always been, as all of us here know. One reads this and goes sentence-by-sentence.

Huh?...Double huh?...No they aren't; and "basic" was passed decades ago, you liar...no he hasn't...Huh? (again)...no, that's unrelated...I don't even want to hear how you are connecting these two ideas...perversely, you are correct here. YOUR simulation of reality is breaking down, yet somehow you think that is the fault of the actual reality where the rest of us live...(New Paragraph) Not obvious to anyone looking at data, thanks...Yes, that's true, (heh)...no, they haven't...the children are not in danger and should go do something productive...Yes, it IS hard to take in all at once the overwhelming evidence that you are about 80% wrong in everything you believe about politics and culture, I will grant that. But we'll be patient if you just show some progress, Miss...and then a few sentences of airy, abstract philosophising, tied to no actual philosophy, but the sort of thing I used to say after having a couple of glasses of wine and staring into a candle at college parties, to the distress of my girlfriend who began to wonder if she really thought this was the best use of the word fiancee.