Monthly Archives: February 2019

Random Thoughts

I got nothin’, so here’s a placeholder:

Ocasio-Cortez:  I could say a million things about this woman, starting with “I knew this day would come.”  The day, that is, when the smugly ignorant, gravity-distortingly solipsistic Millennials would finally take the reins.  AOC is every stupid, lazy, narcissistic college girl I’ve ever met, which is to say, every single American girl I’ve met under the age of 50.  And remember, I have met a LOT of college girls.  In many cases, I met them when they were in college, and ran into them again years or decades later.  They were exactly the same.  The real world just bounces off them.  That bitch armor’s too strong for blasters.

could say all that (for about the zillionth time), but what’s the point?  By now you either believe me or you don’t, that’s she’s the Left’s Donald Trump — a clown show that no one could possibly take seriously, a goofy vanity candidate that doesn’t have a chance in hell… until she’s sitting in the White House.  Instead, I’ll just lament our lack of Classical education.  She’s a goof with donkey chompers whose presence in the legislative chamber is an insult to the very concept of responsible government… and nobody has busted out an Incitatus allusion?  It even rolls off the tongue: Incitatus Ocasio-Cortez.  For shame.

Speaking of goofsTim Newman’s going off on the polyamorists again.  Always good for a chuckle.  Mostly it’s just a link to his blog, though, because it’s great, and if you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor.

Overthinking.  Our Thing tends to over-intellectualize.  I know, I know, I sound like a Leftist, talking about how smart and wonderful we are and we’re science’s BFFs, but look: At this stage of our existence, we really do.  The Left really did, too, at one point — the Old Old Left, the Karl Kautsky / Edouard Bernstein / Georgi Plekhanov Left, was fearsomely intellectual.  (That the thing they were fearsomely intellectual about, Marxism, had zero truth-value doesn’t negate the fact that these guys were big-league intellectuals).  See here, for example.

The Z Man’s great, but this is much ado about nothing.  Maybe we don’t have free will.  Hell, maybe Camus was right, and the only problem in philosophy is the problem of suicide — as in, life’s pointless in the long run and there’s way more pain than pleasure in the short run, so why don’t we just off ourselves?  In fact, let’s go all-in: It’s very likely true that we’re the product of chance, a brief instant of time on a cloud of congealed dust at the unimportant edge of a random galaxy.  We won’t know until we’re dead… no, scratch that, if it’s true, we will never know, because there’s no “we” to know it, and even if there were — that is, if “we” somehow survive after death, because “we” were wrong about that atoms-in-void stuff, “we” will have no way of sharing that knowledge anyway.

The point is: Nobody can live as if that were true.  Nobody ever has, not for one single second, not in all of human existence, from the moment we dropped out of the trees until right this very instant.  It’s impossible, and because it’s impossible, even if we were to prove that all our actions are just gene expressions, we can’t act as if they are — we will assign guilt to the guy who pulls the trigger, no matter how certain it is that it’s just his programming, because that is our programming.

It’s fun to speculate about this stuff, especially as the human sciences in toto are now on the Index of Prohibited Books, but it’s ultimately pointless.

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Addendum: The Washington Generals of Politics Strike Again!

So not only does Coonman the Babykiller Northam have pics floating around of him in either blackface or a KKK robe, but his Lt. Gov. raped a chick and the Virginia Attorney General, the third in line to the governorship, also has a blackface photo floating around.  Oh, and it took a bunch of old-Left partisans desperately trying to clear the way for their idol Hillary to once again lemming their party off the Presidential cliff, to discover that Elizabeth “Little Rounding Error” Warren was calling herself a feather-not-dot Indian to advance her career as early as the mid 1980s.

Nobody in the state or national GOP, apparently, has the necessary smarts and tech savvy to run a google search on their opponents.

Yeah, right.

The fix is absolutely goddamn in.  Just as the Dems tried the novel experiment of building a cult of personality without an actual personality in 2016, so it is revealed that the Republicans have decided to try caesarism without bothering with Caesar.

I will never vote for another Republican.  I’ll vote for Trump IF AND ONLY IF he builds the fucking wall between now and 2020; I’m never voting for another GOP candidate.  What could possibly be the point?

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Oh, and By the Way….

In the wake of last night’s Super Bowl, lots of folks on our side linking to some lunatic at someplace like Salon, claiming that the Patriots are the team of “white supremacy” and “Donald Trump’s America.”

Remember when I wanted to do that thing with the white Patriots hat?  More than a year ago, I think it was.  Bet you wish you’d listened to me now!!!  We could’ve been the most fashion-forward 12 people in America, but now we’d just look like bandwagon-riding posers.

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Learned Helplessness

As fun as it is to watch Virginia’s baby-murdering governor “Coonman” Northam getting hoist by his own KKK robe,  the fallout is going to tell us a lot about where we’re headed.

Forget the gross hypocrisy for a sec.  That’s par for the course with Democrats.  Of course he won’t resign; Dems never do.  They just power through, knowing the Media will do everything in their power not to cover the story, and to hype to the stars whatever shiny they can find in the next day or two to take the public’s mind off it (for the conspirazoids: They’re no doubt auditioning “crisis actors” as we speak.  Stay away from gay nightclubs, Black churches, or the tonier parts of Chicago at 2am in subzero temperatures just to be safe).

Nor should we want him to.  But that’s the thing, isn’t it?  This affair confirms what we’ve long suspected:  The GOP really are the Washington Generals of politics.  Joining the amen chorus calling for Northam’s head would be stupid — since you know he won’t resign, every Republican politician in every race higher than dogcatcher can hammer the Democrats with the Kleagle in the Virginia Statehouse.  The Dems have already all but said their national slate will be 100% Diverse this year; replace “a thousand points of light” with “Northam didn’t resign,” then do the GHW Bush shuffle in every single debate.  They won’t do it, of course, but that’s just garden-variety stupidity.

The real kicker is: How did Ed Gillespie’s people not see this?

These are paid political consultants.  Gillespie’s campaign took in north of $29 million dollars. including $13 million from “ideological / single issue” donors.  They had all that money, and nobody decided to schlep on down to Podunk Medical School and pull his yearbook?  While nobody expects the nancy boys at the GOP to give a Democratic candidate the full Sarah Palin treatment, dispatching people to root around in the literal garbage cans outside his house, you’d think pulling paper from his college years would be a standard dirt-digging maneuver.  He was in med school, for pete’s sake, and if you’ve ever met a med student, as Tim Newman points out, you know they’re not exactly models of tact, dignity, and restraint (the “hooking yourself up to a saline drip after a bender” thing is standard operating procedure; a bag of saline and a few huffs of oxygen cure a hangover right up… I’ve heard).

It beggars belief.  Gillespie was himself a lobbyist before he ran for office; after losing to “Coonman,” he’s a lobbyist again.  Nobody’s that lazy, stupid, and incompetent, not even professional political parasites, not even Republican ones.  They knew.  Which means one of two things must be true:

  1. They didn’t tell their candidate about career-destroying dirt on his opponent, which is criminally-actionable malfeasance; or
  2. They told him, and he sat on it, because the fix was in.

I know which one I’m going with.  How about you?

It’s all Caesarism, baby.  The mandarins have to maintain at least a sham of “democracy” to keep the plebs from burning things.  They’re pretty bad at it now, but that’s because they’re stupid, out-of-touch, and old.  Kids these days are better at working the google machine than they are, so embarrassments like this, or supposed paragon-of-principled-conservatism Bill Kristol donating to Coonman the Babykiller over Gillespie (he of the $13 million in “single-issue” money), keep coming out.  Eventually it will dawn on the mandarins that they have to be a bit smarter about covering their tracks, airbrushing away old photos and the like.  Zuckerberg has already gotten a good start; they just have to capitalize.*

In fact, Caesarism might well be the best case scenario, in that it’s always possible that the plebs will see through the sham and riot.  The other possibility — the one I consider likeliest, natch — is that some of these seemingly ham-fisted ops are actually designed to get us into a state of learned helplessness.  Does anyone, anywhere, think Ed Gillespie would ever have been allowed to run for anything if the situation had been reversed?  These days, Twitter mobs form up over things college athletes tweeted when they were 14 years old; I wouldn’t be surprised if this kid ends up going undrafted — costing him millions of dollars — because teams don’t want to deal with the PR disaster of something he did when he was a freshman in high school.  If there were photos of Ed Gillespie in blackface out there, they would’ve been found within 24 hours of him declaring his candidacy.

In other words, the message is: No one could possibly be squeaky-clean enough to escape punishment, if We decide you must be punished.  Similarly, if We decide We like you, you can rise to a life of affluence beyond your wildest dreams, no matter what you did in the past.

Hey, it worked for Stalin, and he didn’t even have Facebook.

 

*What, you thought that “ten year challenge” thing was just for fun?  From Facebook, the closest thing to MiniTrue this side of Airstrip One?  That’s one of the obvious applications — mocking up a convincingly youthful-looking picture of guys like Northam, to insert into digital (and, soon enough, physical) copies of old records.
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Movies Made on Mars

In the comments on the previous piece, WOPR asked which movie I was watching that seemed to have been made on Mars.  It was Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which is a great example of the phenomenon.  I wasn’t an undergrad in 1982, but even in 1992 I could see myself in the Fast Times kids.  By 2002, though, it already seemed like a distant world, and I doubt kids in 2012 would understand more than a fraction of it.  It’s not the period-specific jokes, the kind that make, say, Gilbert and Sullivan difficult to even follow, let alone laugh at.  There are a few of these, of course — the kids sniffing fresh mimeograph pages to get high — but mostly it’s the zeitgeist.

Start with Judge Reinhold’s character (they have names, of course, but nobody remembers any character’s name but Spicoli).  He’s supposed to be a typical everyman high school senior, but to modern audiences he comes off like a grandfather, if not a great-grandfather.  He’s got a job, for pete’s sake, which he seems to take, you know, seriously — to the point of passing up social opportunities because he has to work.  He has a car, one that he obviously pays for himself… I was going to say it’s the typical student beater, except that doesn’t make sense either — today’s kids, if the ones who go off to college are at all representative, either drive very nice rides that their folks obviously went miles into debt to buy for them, or simply don’t drive at all.  Most importantly, he keeps buggering on with all that, despite some serious “is this all there is to life?”-type misgivings, because that’s simply what one does.  Or did, anyway.

About the only teenager-ish thing he does that modern kids would recognize is jerk off (a life-altering scene for any boy who saw it in his sexually formative years; I myself will always love Phoebe Cates a little).

Speaking of that, here’s Spicoli’s room (NSWF, needless to say):

The wine-bottle candle and the bongos are indigenous to Southern California, but everything else is Typical American Teenager.  He’s a bit more brazen about it — we didn’t leave bongs, cigarettes, and beer bottles right out there in the open — but when I was a young lad your typical American kid could be expected to know what all of those objects are, at the very least, and probably have sampled one or all of them.  It was not unknown, in fact, for parents to simply give their offspring their first taste of alcohol, on the theory that since you’re going to be surrounded by it at parties anyway, it’s better to learn about it now, under controlled conditions (I would say that my Dad drank my first beer with me when I was about fourteen, since nothing beats a cold one after a long afternoon’s yard work, but since that’s probably felony child abuse now I’ll say that I heard that happened once, to some other kid).  Along the same lines — stuff I heard happened to some other kid — who can forget Mom’s evil grin when she caught you lighting one up from the pack of Marlboros Grandpa forgot the last time he was over, and made you smoke all of them?

The point, if anyone from the younger generations has endured my crusty old man ramblings this far, is that one was expected to deal with the consequences of one’s actions.  Our parents did not assume — as parents seem to now — that having been kept religiously away from intoxicants their entire childhoods, children will somehow acquire the wisdom to enjoy them responsibly the very minute the clock chimes on their 21st birthday.  On the contrary, our parents seemed to expect a certain amount of youthful rebelliousness as necessary and healthy.  Moreover, they expected their kids to somewhat police themselves, to understand the distinction between “a little harmless youthful rebellion” and “a serious problem” — e.g. sneaking a beer at a tailgate vs. swiping a bottle of vodka, or taking a bong hit vs. raiding the medicine cabinet.

Which brings us to the most Mars-like feature of Spicoli’s room — the posters on the walls.  Holy rape culture, Batman!!  Again, since Fast Times is a comedy he’s a bit more brazen about it, but absolutely no one would’ve complained about bikini model posters on a boy’s wall in 1982.  Or 1992, for that matter, since swapping the pictures you cut out of the Swimsuit Edition for something more “serious” was one of the ways you reconciled yourself to growing up and getting ready to graduate.  The first thing every boy did when he went off to college was slap a cheesecake shot on the wall by his bed; you and your roommate bonded over your bikini model choice.  Unless you were a dedicated practitioner of the frat bro lifestyle, though — a serious choice in itself — by the time you hit junior year Cindy Crawford was replaced by Bob Marley, or Elvis Costello, or US out of Trashcanistan, or Save the Whales, or whatever.  [Girls did the same thing, of course, and despite the impossible, socially-imposed beauty standards of Stephanie Seymour and Johnny Depp we managed to get along with each other, even hook up from time to time… though not as often as some of us would’ve liked].

These days, I’m sure, the very suggestion of heterosexuality in your dorm room will get you shipped off to reeducation.

The point isn’t that things were better in my day — though they were, if by “things” you mean “boys and girls didn’t hate and fear each other” — but that Spicoli’s world, which was for all intents and purposes my world, not only doesn’t exist anymore, but seems impossible.  They live in bizarro world, those teens who, despite not once attending SAT prep classes or getting a single participation trophy, seem healthy and happy and… outgoing, I guess the word is, and when was the last time you heard someone described that way?  They seem to relate to each other as people, and when they don’t — e.g. Mike Damone — they’re rightly shunned as loathsome.

Tl;dr version — just think about what it would take to “reboot” Fast Times, and you’ll see what I mean.

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Faster and Faster

One of the toughest things to get across to History students is the pace of change.  Students hate it, but the “memorize this list of dates” approach actually helps — one can’t help but notice that your list of “the 20 most significant dates” for, say, the medieval period covers a millennium, while that same list for the Roman Empire covers maybe a century.  Even there, though, most people could be forgiven for mistaking 50 AD for 150 AD, or even 250 AD (even archaeologists generally consider it a success if they can date something to within a century, I’m told).

But nobody would mistake 1790 for 1890, let alone 1990.  A Roman of the late Republic (100 BC) could still get around ok if you time-warped him into the late Empire (300 AD).  Time warp a guy from 1790 into 1890, though, and he’d think he was on Mars.  (Zap him into 1990, and he’d think he’d died and gone to Hell).  The pace of change accelerated exponentially starting in about 1400; by the Industrial Era it was a blur.

Which is why I’m terrified right now.  We feel like change is happening at light speed.  As a Historian, I can promise you — it’s at least Warp 6, and the dilithium crystals are nowhere near to overloading.

An example might help.  To us, Victorian Britain looks like a colossus.  We call it “the Victorian Age” for a reason, right?  But Britain’s period of dominance was very, very short, historically speaking, at it certainly wasn’t uncontested.  At its very apex — somewhat arbitrarily, but not unreasonably, let’s say 1880 — she was first among near-equals.  A superpower, yes, but far from the only one.

Even there, she probably “lost” as many as she “won,” depending on how you want to describe the outcome of these none-but-a-field-specialist-has-ever-heard-of-most-of-them bush wars.  Even the unquestioned victories — the gaudy ones like the Opium War — had less to do with British dominance than her enemies’ fecklessness and disorganization.  Any group of wogs with their shit minimally together gave Britain some serious licks — ask the Afghans, victors of three wars against Her Majesty’s forces; or Chinese Gordon, killed losing a war to the Mahdi.

This is not intended to disparage our cousins across the pond — you’ll go a long way to find an outer-and-prouder Anglophile than yours truly.  The point, rather, is to show that the rot set in even as the empire was reaching its height.  Here’s that list of wars again.  Any unquestioned, steamroller victories in there, anywhere past 1840?  Let’s be generous, then, and say that the British Empire was arguably Europe’s dominant power for, at most, 60 years.

More to the point, they themselves felt it keenly at the time.  The Boer War was a public relations disaster, not least because the Army had serious problems finding fit enough men to fill the ranks.  The pop culture of the 1890s was grievously decadent, as they themselves complained of at the time.  Indeed, the decadence pretty much caused World War I — just as the Kaiser felt himself declining relatively against the imperial powers, the British knew themselves declining absolutely versus Germany, math being what it is (Germany is many times larger than Great Britain, with a proportionally larger industrial capacity).  “Fight now and risk defeat, or fight later when it’s guaranteed” was the unspoken argument on all sides in the war.

The United States was one of two superpowers for 40 years, and the only one for a mere decade.  Moreover, much like Britain, the US hasn’t faced off against anything close to real enemy since 1945 (and even then only as part of a huge coalition).  Unless you want to count expeditions to Panama, Grenada, and the like as glorious victories for our national arms, we’ve lost every “war” we’ve fought since then.  (Note that saying “wars like Vietnam were unwinnable” is, if anything, a harsher judgment on us than a loss.  Strong, self-confident powers don’t get into fights for which they have no clear objective.  Consult that list of Britain’s imperial wars again — the wins were all basically punitive expeditions, not real wars).

So, too, with politics.  It’s hard to say just what Britain was doing overseas from 1839, when she went to war to force the Chinese to pay back a bunch of English drug smugglers, to 1914, when she went to war for…. Belgian neutrality, I guess is the official reason.  The “wars” that weren’t punitive expeditions seem like directionless, reactive flailing — moves based on what France or (especially) Russia might do, or to secure lines of communications into places they might possibly care about at some unspecified date in the future.  Even Britain’s lifetime civil servants generally had no idea what the British were doing in India.  It was a glorious day, when the sun never set on the British empire…. but, historically speaking, it was just a day.

I trust that the parallels to our current situation are obvious.

So, too, are the cultural parallels, and those are what will really do us in.  A nation can lose a war or two and still be fine, but a loss in the cultural war is mortal.  Matthew Arnold, the original Stodgy Old Conservative, was the last of a dying breed when he railed against the Philistines in 1869 — Walter Pater was the hot young thing then, and he was mere prelude to Oscar Wilde.  Wilde’s sodomy trial was 1895 — just 26 years from “the best that has been thought and said” to “Oscar Wilde, posing somdomite [sic].”

Anyone think we have anything close to 26 years left?

When the crisis comes, no one will be expecting it.  The robot historians of 2119, though, will have a good chuckle at our folly.  How could those fools not have seen it coming?

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