The real threat here is that constantly being slurred does tend to make one hate the slurrer. The more inappropriate and stupid, the better – I mean, the more it tends toward making one dislike the name-caller.
Thus, while the name-calling will increase immunity among some, it may actually create that which it incorrectly names. If I wanted, for some reason, society to be racist and misogynist, continually calling it that might tend to make it so.
This would be merely a crazy paranoid idea. Then you read a little Gramsci and Alinsky, and the idea that something so convoluted and sick could be attempted starts to seem almost inevitable.
Question: I use the Google news feed as “the news”, meaning if it appears there I consider it to have made the news, and if not, I don’t see it. Well? Does this seem fair? Prudent? I’m working under the assumption that Google is no more or less biased on the whole than any other means I could come up with to determine what is “in the news” at any given time.
Dumb Stuff: Speaking of which, a couple weeks back, I noticed in the news – the Google news feed, that is – that the markets, after pretty much uninterrupted gains since Trump’s election, had a few down days. Did the headlines say, as the often do, “Markets Pull Back as Investors Take Profits” or something like that? Is the Pope unambiguous? Headlines read, instead, that the honeymoon was over! Investor confidence in Trump had petered out. Sigh. Markets go up and down. If you knew why (beyond it being merely the mechanical result of people buying and selling stock), then you’d be rich – and not writing headlines. Ya know?
So now, the markets have resumed their irrational exuberance or whatever the cool kids are calling it these days. Do the headline writers give Trump credit? Like saying -“Oops! We Were Wrong About the Honeymoon Being Over” or in any way acknowledge that what they’d said a mere week or two ago was patent nonsense? Trump still appalls me, but not nearly as much as the out of control frothing attacks on him. Here’s a pro tip: Wait a bit, and Trump will do something objectively bad that you can clobber him for – every other president has. (He probably already has, but how is one to spot it among all the ravings and spittle?) Then you (the headline writers) won’t look so stupid to anyone with eyes to see.
Dumber still, I read and was writing an analysis of an essay by some Chicago reporter that was an attack on those with the temerity to point out that, wow, despite (?) a solid century or more of Progressive leadership, including lots of gun control, people in Chicago sure do seem to murder each other at a much higher rate than in other cities. We are assured the reasons for the 59% year over year increase in murder rate are complicated, and in any event invisible unless you happen to have lived you whole life in Chicago – I’m boiling it down a bit, but that’s what the residue lining the pot looks like when the boiling is done. And if you insist on pushing the question, you are by that fact alone acting with bad intent.
It was getting out of hand – there was so much misdirection (1) that I was getting pages into my analysis and was still digging yet more craziness up. So I stopped. Unless we can deal first with the facts instead of immediately playing the ‘it’s complicated, you can’t understand’ card, there is no discussion.
It seems, then, there is no discussion.
Writing: Finally, as mentioned above, I’m reading that Writing the Breakout Novel book, which is eating into my writing time, but I figure it will help in the long run. The first takeaway is not made explicitly, but reminds me of my callow youth, when I used to compose music. I discovered that – you’ll be shocked – coming up with nice tunes and pretty snippets of music was easy. Keeping fixed in mind where the whole composition was going proved much more difficult. Unless you want to write very short pieces, you have to know, on some level, where you are going before you start.(3)
Same with writing novels. I had all these cool tech and plot ideas. But where is the story going? How does it move from A to B to C? This may seem crazy, but I grabbed Jane Austen’s Emma to read, since I hear it has exactly what I’m most missing: complicated characters acting out of a variety of interest and talents toward different and conflicting goals. And it is otherwise completely different from what I’m working on.
Bottom line: I am not (yet) frustrated with the slow writing. I want to wrap up these explorations of technique ASAP, then just refuse to do any more until the book is done.
Hey, it’s a plan.
e.g., in one linked article, the claim was made that more deadly weapons were now being used – I suppose they mean higher caliber? In one year? A commentator noted that Al Capone and his fellow solid Chicago citizens preferred .45 calibre Thompson sub machineguns that, at the time, were available for purchase at hardware stores. Yet, even counting the people Capone offed, there were still only 50 murders per year in Chicago, so blaming the increased deadliness on more powerful weapons seems a reach. For making this point, the commentator was called all sorts of names. Go figure.
e.g., that, while Chicago’s murder rate keeps going up, cities like Houston have a flat murder count (despite a growing population) even though they have about the same racial & ethnic mix as Chicago and are about the same size.
I love improve – probably what I’m best at – but those off the cuff compositions tend to meander, stick to very simple forms, or both. Or end up formless goo.
If I never hear another actor, singer, or sports star say anything about politics, life will be much more peaceful and, more importantly, much less STUPID. Generally, I avoid reading or listening to ‘news’ sources in which I’m likely to hear the latest wisdom vomited forth from some pampered, sheltered one-dimensional punk to the applause of absolutely EVERYONE they know.
It’s worse in the Bay Area, of course. This is the land where the mere possibility one might actually hear something WRONG is sufficient justification for burning some random person’s car or vandalizing some random stranger’s storefront. Thus, allowing a few hundred people to listen to one guy say stuff that challenges the fantasy -land assumptions of progressivism is the same as forcing fascism on America, and therefore any steps necessary may be taken. No, really (1).
Anyway, I am weak, and sometimes do listen to the news over the radio on my morning commute – and, worse, even though I’ve sworn off the NBA, I don’t reflexively turn it off when the sports news comes on.
So, today, I paid the price: I listened to an Attractive Yet Sheltered and Ignorant Youngster use his platform as a sports superstar to attempt to ruin a company that has made him many millions of dollars. A company he is reputed to own a good size stake in. Because the CEO said something nice about Trump, and Our Attractive Youngster doesn’t like him.
Background: Steph Curry is the two-time defending Most Valuable Player in the NBA, which, given that he looks about 16 years old and is ‘only’ about 6’3″ tall, is utterly remarkable. His story is a Hero’s Journey in real life: no major colleges wanted him, so he attended a second-tier school, gained recognition when he took them deep into the NCAA playoffs, got drafted by the Warriors, spent the first couple years mostly injured – then blew the league apart with his phenomenal shooting ability. All the while looking like some kid who wandered onto the court where the men were playing.
He’s also charming in a boyish awe-shucks manner, married to a lovely, vivacious wife and father to two utterly adorable little girls. His reputation is squeaky-clean. He is unfailingly polite, and can effortlessly navigate both the black urban street-ball culture and golf with the CEO of any corporation. Children of all ages adore him in vast numbers.
In other words, Steph Curry is a marketer’s dream – no, rather a marketer’s most outlandish fantasy – come true.
A few years ago, just as he was starting to make a name for himself, he was up for a sneaker contract. For those not up on modern sports, the superstars cut deals with one of a small number of sporting equipment companies, wherein they get paid – often, a lot, as in millions per year – to wear the company’s shoes and other apparel when they play and at all other times. The 600 lbs gorilla in this game is Nike – they ‘own’ LeBron James, Tiger Woods and, legendarily, Michael Jordan, among many others.
Curry did not fit the Nike mold – their stable includes mostly god-like physical specimens who destroy all opposition. He looks like a kid. So they made a rather tame and lame offer to him. But up and coming Under Armour saw the potential, and signed him to a much sweeter deal, cut him a piece of the action, and made him the centerpiece of their entire corporate marketing campaign.
The rest is history. Cashing in on Curry’s unexpected meteoric rise to the top, Under Armour became a darling of Wall Street and made a boatload of money – with a smaller yet still large boatload paid to Curry. Match made in heaven, certain to be the subject of business school case studies for the next several decades.
Curry is the son of a professional athlete, a good, solid Christian citizen named Dell Curry. He grew up wealthy in the alternate universe elite athletes inhabit. His fairytale life really is a fairytale compared to real life.
Yet, he has no way of knowing that. It’s like water to a fish.
So, today, on the news, it was reported that the CEO of Under Armour commented that Trump’s pro-business policies make him “an asset to America”. Bay Area news-cretins (2) cannot let THAT pass, and so stuck a mic in Curry face and asked him to comment: he said he agreed, so long as you removed the ‘e’ and ‘t’ from ‘asset’. He then went on to say he’d need to have a talk with Under Armour about their business relationship, since it was clear they didn’t support the same politics.
Financially, Curry and Under Armour made each other. Yet, a 27-year-old sheltered child of a man now feels, not only free, but compelled to threaten to destroy the relationship – and the company! – unless management of a *corporation* reflects his personal political views. Some other company will snap him up in a minute, if push comes to shove, so Curry will come out just fine. But that may not mean much to the thousands of employees or owners of Under Armour stock.
I hope they have that discussion. I hope Under Armour gets somebody who can get through to Curry to explain that wishing Trump well and even supporting his policies does not make someone evil or stupid – that there are good reasons to prefer him over Hillary. That one might support the current President and wish him well – because he’s President, even if (as is the case for me) you find him personally appalling. That plenty of black men and women support Trump. That maybe he should contemplate why the military went Trump 3 to 1. That maybe he should broaden his sources of information beyond his current echo chamber.
I’d be much more impressed with this principled stand if it stood to cost Curry anything. Meanwhile, I might just have to start buying non-Curry Under Armour gear if I ever need any, while grabbing some Chick Fil A on my way to Hobby Lobby.
First thing that came up, from Rolling Stone: “Shutting down the talk was successful,” the protester, who asked to remain anonymous, saidin an email. “But it was also about sending a message to everyone else: We aren’t about to allow white supremacist views to be normalized. It was about striking at the seemingly impervious confidence the far right has been boasting.” But it isn’t just about blocking a single speaker. “It is really about making them understand the danger they pose by treating these insane neo-Nazi ideas cavalierly,” the protester says. “People talk a lot about ‘freedom of speech’ and I think this fetish of speech misses the larger point. It is about ideas of freedom itself. Who has it, and who is denied it.”
The next item up was an interview with a marketing consultant about what it all means – because 90 seconds of information over the radio are what make the world go round. BUT: this marketing expert mentioned in passing, matter of fact, that boycotts by the right tend to not have much effect, because the media has no interest in promoting or even reporting on it like they do with boycotts from the left. That’ll teach that station not to do live interviews!
I’ve long been fascinated by Rahm Emanuel, in a similar way to how I find LBJ, Whitey & Billy Bulger, Genghis Khan and, well, Machiavelli fascinating. These men are all recognizably human, probably kind to their pets and considerate of their mothers, which makes their behaviors and what they say all the more outrageous and repulsive.
His lust for power is complete, in that, as the article we’ll be discussing below shows, there are no principles he would hold on to at the risk of losing an election. Reading between the lines, elections, insofar as they might keep the likes of Rahm out of power, are therefore in themselves nothing to be defended – not surprising, once you consider the man saying this is the umpteenth consecutive Democratic mayor of Chicago, where elections have not been allowed to turn out ‘wrong’ since the 1920s (1).
So here is the headline from today’s Chicago Tribune:
Hmmm. This is a ‘problem’ Rahm himself will never suffer from. From the article:
“Winning’s everything,” he said. “If you don’t win, you can’t make the public policy. I say that because it is hard for people in our party to accept that principle. Sometimes, you’ve just got to win, OK? Our party likes to be right, even if they lose.”
Here’s another interesting bit:
The mayor expanded on what he believes is the road map back to power for his party — putting moderate candidates such as veterans, football players, sheriffs and business people up in Republican districts, picking battles with Republicans, exploiting wedges within the GOP and fighting attempts to redistrict Congress on partisan grounds.
It does not seem to occur to Rahm, or, rather, if it were to occur to him he would see it as utterly irrelevant, that, generally, those “veterans, football players, sheriffs and business people” might not agree with his goals. That getting him and his elected might not be seen as all that. That his win-at-all-costs approach itself may be a turn-off. For example, read somewhere that 75% of the military voted for Trump, and that the much of the remainder voted Not Hillary. The reasons should be obvious. So, what he’s looking for is that veteran who can, at the same time, be seen as ‘one of us’ by other military while embracing the party of Benghazi, Military as Affirmative Action Laboratory, and constant insults and dismissal of military people. Soldiers do tend to cling to their guns, if not always their Bibles, after all.
But all this – what people believe and how they reasonably respond to being dismissed, insulted, and hung out to die – is just irrelevant to Rahm. Or rather, is just another political problem to be overcome by cunning and hard work. That the actual concerns and dreams of “veterans, football players, sheriffs and business people” might not correspond to what his party demonstrably stands for just isn’t important.
Winning is important.
People, especially the wrong people, are to be used as means to an end if possible, or crushed like bugs if not.
Now, Rahm can be forgiven, perhaps, for thinking this way. He and his did get Obama elected. Twice. Digression: Many years ago, watched a TV item about a comparatively harmless cult leader out in, I think, New Mexico. His small number of followers *LOVED* him. Fortunately, the cult leader didn’t seem to want to make them into slaves or have them kill themselves – as I said, relatively harmless.
The interviewer tried to talk to the leader, who was very open and gracious. He came across as friendly, sincere, honestly interested in answering the dude’s questions – and utterly, completely incoherent. He was using English words in complete sentences, but darned if I, or the interviewer, could make out what, if anything, he was saying.
But, to his followers, he was the font of wisdom. That they, the followers, could not articulate what he was saying any better than he could (any more than a generic message to be nice and be open) was a source of mild frustration and calls to just talk to him yourself, you’d then see.
I recall thinking: wow, these seemingly normal people see a prophet where I, and most everyone else, see a kindly, babbling crazy person. His followers just couldn’t see it. It greatly helped, I think, that what he said was a content-free vessel for the listener’s own hopes and dreams. The followers were free to imagine whatever they wished they’d heard.
In a similar way, the first time I saw Obama, before I’d formed an opinion of him, my initial impression (fleshed out in hindsight, of course) was: here is a pampered teacher’s pet, who has been told his whole life how smart he is, who has been walked through the halls of academia (along paths his mother and family had already trail blazed, it turns out) and handed degrees and awards, and has no idea that he, himself, hasn’t conquered the world by his own merits. Then, he opened his mouth and removed all doubt.
Hope and Change, it turns out, was not just a campaign slogan, but, as in the case above, was a container into which the listener is invited to put whatever he wishes he heard. I do not exaggerate: I had two friends who were both strong Obama supporters both times around, and one was mortally offended at the idea that Obama was a Socialist at heart; the other supported him because, obviously, Obama is a Socialist.
Thus, I was and am dumbstruck: we are looking at and listening to the same guy, right? And you see a brilliant scholar and leader who is or is not absolutely certainly a Socialist or isn’t, in whom all right thinking people must place all their trust? You don’t see a pampered, spoiled little boy whose life is completely achievement-free except for stuff handed him by other people? Whose actual words (especially off script) reveal him to be totally pedestrian? Have you never met people of intelligence and accomplishment? And you can’t see the difference?(2)
Anyway, Rahm got that guy elected. Twice. His team deflected all criticism by accusations of racism, leaving people like me, again, completely baffled – what? I’d be thrilled to have a black – or female, or polka-dot – president IF he seemed likely to do the job well. Obama turned out to be everything I thought he’d be: the Warren G. Harding of our generation.
And Rahm has now announced his hopes that the Democrats find more Hardings: people who look the part to act as figureheads while the operatives – you know, like Rahm – actually run things (3).
I guess we’d have to elect them to find out what’s in them.
“Big Bill” Thompson won as a Republican in 1915 – 1923 and 1927 – 1931. His most striking achievement was being even more corrupt and brutal than the Democrats he was running against.
That’s another problem with academia: they are the self-proclaimed smart people, urban, sophisticated. Except, with the wild expansion of post-high school education over the last 50-60 years, more and more academic positions have to be filled by average people. Those average people are then the gate-keepers, determining who the next round of academics will be. Thus, especially if one were to get a degree where objective technical competence is not measurable – sociology or English, say, as opposed to accounting or chemistry – an innocent young thing might graduate thinking he’d met all the really smart people. Then Obama doesn’t look half-bad – he sounds just like that smart sociology professor you had in sophomore year…
Rahm went back to Chicago right around the time it became clear that Obama wasn’t going to let him run things – the story goes that the President refused to listen to Rahm’s advice on getting the ACA passed – so Rahm took his ball and went home. Rahm, BTW, is a brilliant man of achievement, in case you need to know what one looks like. He’s also a politically amoral power mad manipulator who finds socialism appealing – because it promises to concentrate power into the hands of people like him. It should go without saying that just finding that brilliant person of achievement is not enough.
Just today dawned on me, while contemplating how far Scientific American and other once noble scientific organs and organizations (like the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists mentioned in the last post) have fallen or have been conquered by political hacks: given Pournelle’s Iron Law, to take over an organization, one needn’t take over the leadership positions – one merely needs to take over the bureaucracy. Sooner rather than later, that bureaucracy will become the real leaders, and can then get whoever they want as nominal leaders.
One day, I imagine some lover of science who established or joined some group in order to further science will wake up to find some hack who joined in order to run the bureaucracy is his boss, or the one who approves his hires or funding – and he leaves or is driven out. Someone more amenable to the bureaucracy’s goals then get the job or position.
So if you want to co-op an existing organization for your ends, don’t go after the leadership jobs – just get appointed manager or assistant treasurer or HR head – and be patient (and not all that patient) and you can soon call the shots.
This explains a number of things I’ve seen. Y’all probably knew this already?
The completely real and totally scientifilicious Doomsday Clock, which is not at all named in order to incite panic and doesn’t at all try to use numbers to express unmeasurable things like the proper level of fear and desperation we should feel at any given moment, has just been moved 30 – not 27 or 31.3215, but 30 – seconds closer to DOOM. I, myself, have started a project to determine scientifically just exactly how much 30 seconds of more doom is, so that I might start feeling it – Calories of stress eating? Loss of appetite? (it’s hardly a modern scientific theory if it can’t explain how a single cause can cause both an action and its opposite at the same time, after all)
A bunch of smart guys, so smart that their expertise extends beyond what they’ve been trained in all the way to recognizing exactly who are, as the website of the project of the Chair of Board of Sponsors proclaims, “scholars and public intellectuals” whose opinions we lesser mortals need to hear more of, set up this Doomsday Clock thing in order to beat people who are not panicky enough to be easily herded inform the unwashed masses about exactly how much, to the second, they should feel DOOMED.
Exactly 30 seconds more panic is needed due to “The rise of ‘strident nationalism’ worldwide, United States President Donald Trump’s comments over nuclear weapons, and the disbelief in the scientific consensus over climate change by the Trump Administration.” The dispassionate scientific rigor is just dripping off that statement! I’m sure it’s totally an accident that they used the word ‘disbelief’, because in no way are their efforts a reflection of dogmatic religious fervor. Who would be so gimlet-eyed to suggest that?
This fine, fine effort is the product of theBulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The Board of Sponsors of the Bulletin is chaired by the director of the Origins Project at Arizona State. The text description makes it sound like really smart people – much smarter than you or me! – are Deeply Concerned. About Everything.
The pictures on the site tell a different story: if one were to suppose the Origins Project is a clever attempt by really smart people (never forget that!) who never got to hang with the cool kids at school to get a chance to hobnob with famous actors and media ‘personalities’ – you know, important and cool people – then one would see nothing to contradict it.
Unless of course Johnny Depp, Cameron Diaz and Hugh Downs really are the Public Intellectuals we need to hear more from. Because, um, I got nothin’. They also give the stage to gender theorist, because wild, unmoored speculation that denies science any role in determining reality based on physically observable and measureable features is JUST LIKE physics and math. Or something. Certainly not political propaganda! Don’t ever suppose that! Other guests include totally not political tool Noam Chomsky, self-appointed moral philosopher and everybody’s favorite poster boy for incoherent Pragmatism let’s-drown-people-like-unwanted-puppies advocate Peter Singer, and fake TV doctor Alan Alda.
There’s even pictures of Dr. Krauss signing autographs! In a completely scientific manner, not at all like his world famous (for nothing that has to do with science) guests. Because it’s completely normal and not at all pandering to narcissistic egotism to stand for autographs after a science lecture – right? This is the guy in charge of this whole thing, the go to guy for interviews, based on the news reports.
Back to DOOM! As a publicity stunt, it’s genius. As a useful shibboleth to separate the clueless from people with a couple a neurons dedicated to actual thought, it might be useful. As science, it’s partisan propaganda in a lab coat.(1)
You know what? Based on the example given by the people at the Origins Project, it seems anyone can play! It’s not like they’re uniquely qualified in matters moral and political – physics doesn’t help one understand politics any better than, say, bricklaying – probably less, as a bricklayer gets out in the real world regularly. How about:
Death by Red Giant: A real, albeit remote, concern is that the sun is, after all, a main sequence star, which means it burns up it hydrogen and will eventually run out. Long before then, it will swell to red giant size, and burn the earth to a cinder or even maybe burn it away entirely. Current guestimates are that the end is nigh – in about a billion years. There’s your Doomsday Scenario!
Given that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old, that means the earth’s life expectancy is about 5.5 BY. There are 86400 seconds in a day. A little math shows that, therefore, a billion years is about 4.36 hours, if representing the lifetime of the earth as a day:
The advantage here is that any updates to this Doomsday Clock are purely arbitrary – that I could change some assumptions, or decide to measure things a little differently, and thus end up showing more or less time to panic in.
Oh wait – that’s a feature of the original as well. Never mind.
I can think up a million of these, both fanciful and real – death by asteroid, plague, Soviet-style gulags or mass murder (the people lining up to play Lysenko in the reboot are Legion), shark attack (do the numbers: just as it’s *inevitable* that there’s inhabited worlds Out There, it’s also inevitable that you – yes, you! – will die of a shark attack. If you just live long enough.) Salmonella, tectonic destabilization (that sounds impressive!), starvation due to honey bee extinction, Maybe it will turn out that the antidote for zombie-ism can only be extracted from snail darters! If you want to panic, there’s just no limit!
Gotta stop and post this, or I’ll be off mocking up other clocks until the figurative cows come home.
The chair of the Board of Sponsors of the Bulletin. He’s deeply concerned about population growth. There is exactly the right amount of him, after all. He wants to “empower young women by educating them” and thus stop the runaway population growth that, well, produced him. Speculating about population is, of course, right in the wheelhouse of a dude with a physics and math background. Like another well-know species of tunnel-visioned experts – code monkeys – physics and math guys know EVERYTHING.
Having an institution named the United Nations does not, in itself, create unity among nations. Whether it does or not is something that can be judged after the fact or, if one is wise in the ways of the world (think: Machiavelli) can be predicted with a high degree of confidence from the designs and processes it institutes.
Thus, it is perfectly possible to fondly dream of a brotherhood of man and yet, based on some combination of practical political analysis and real-world outcomes, loath the United Nations. Once again, the ends – a united world – is not what is being criticized or defended. Only the means – the UN – is subject to criticism, for example on its track record of delivering a more unified world. Perhaps world unity will never be established by means of a gigantic bureaucracy? Bears thinking about.
Same issue arises with the EU, and, indeed, with all leagues and organizations that have some noble goal as part of their names. Pournelle’s Iron Law necessarily results in any large bureaucracy becoming its own goal over time – regardless of how much its name suggests some finer goals or tugs on our heartstrings.