Category Archive 'The Intelligentsia'
06 Apr 2013
Nicholas Poussin, The Victory of Joshua Over the Amalekites, 1624-1625, Hermitage, St. Petersburg
Eratosthenes notices that the culture wars are being waged relentlessly and with unlimited persistence, by one side which is absolutely and unequivocally determined to win everything it wants every time and which, whenever it wins, will then proceed to move the goal posts even further.
Somehow, somewhere, it has been decided that this one culture should reign supreme. It must ALWAYS win; there can be no exceptions. What do we call this culture, now. We should try to define it, if it always has to win! That’s a lot of influence. We know it by the offenses it takes. Bullying, homophobic remarks, guns. It isn’t “politically correct,” for the politically-correct culture, while also defined according to the offenses it takes, is confined to offenses taken against verbal or written statements. Guns aren’t statements. Ass-kickings are not statements either, although I suppose that may be debatable. But this is not political-correctness, and it isn’t “women over men” since it takes just as vicious umbrage against a woman brandishing a firearm in self-defense, as against any man doing likewise.
It isn’t modern liberalism, either. It doesn’t have an opinion about labor-versus-management, or minimum wage, or affirmative action, or school vouchers. It holds a lot of appeal for people who do not self-identify as liberals. And its field of interest is very narrow. I can summarize it with a phrasing almost bumper-sticker-sized:
“When we make everything safe enough, nothing bad will happen, to anyone, ever again.”
Just outside a school on a 55 mph county highway, it isn’t good enough to take the limit down to 25. My recent experiences here in upstate New York show it has to be 15. I guess twenty-five wouldn’t show how much we care. This culture cares about children arriving at adulthood with all their limbs and with their hearts still beating, but with not too much else.
Can we call it “the nanny state” and be done with it? There is certainly some overlap. The Mayor of New York City trying to ban soda sales fits into the object of my inspection here, and it is certainly part of the nanny state. Pondering it some more, though, I find this doesn’t quite work. There are differences, and the differences matter. The nanny state is an organization, and it is a sale. It is narcissists in office who have power, trying to accumulate some more. ...
This culture — which always must win — is endangering our very society… As the nanny-state seeks to everlastingly grow by way of creating more and more rules, this culture seeks to everlastingly grow by altering the definition of “bad things happening.” It has progressed so far now, without anyone consciously noticing it evidently, that bad-feeling evidently qualifies. If nothing bad really happens, but someone feels slighted, then action is required. This, of course, has to be a selective thing. It’s okay to make a guy “feel bad” when he approaches the State Fair with a Leatherman on his belt, by commanding him to walk a mile and a half back to his car, and back again, to stow the threatening-looking device. And a twelve-year-old girl who wins a pistol shooting contest might feel good with a little bit of extra applause, but this feel-good-all-the-time culture will refrain from that, and command everyone else to refrain as well.
The Leatherman is not dangerous and the pistol is not dangerous. In some situations, they both have the potential to make someone safe.
So this culture is not concerned with safety or danger. It has definite ideas about individuals and what, or how, the individuals should be.
He’s perfectly right. It goes way beyond politics. It is a religious crusade and “the side which must always win” is determined to forcibly convert everyone else to its own entire worldview, values, and perspective.
Read the whole thing.
25 Mar 2013
The Washington Times makes clear that Hizonner is not actually referring to cases of civil war or national emergency either. He means, in fact, whenever we (the bien pensant class of busybodies) are convinced that we know best what’s good for you.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Sunday: Sometimes government does know best. And in those cases, Americans should just cede their rights.
“I do think there are certain times we should infringe on your freedom,” Mr. Bloomberg said, during an appearance on NBC. He made the statement during discussion of his soda ban — just shot down by the courts — and insistence that his fight to control sugary drink portion sizes in the city would go forth.
Read the whole thing.
We need to find a way to expel Michael Bloomberg from the Republican Party.
11 Mar 2013
68-year-old Particle Physicist Paul Frampton was divorced and in the market for a new wife, hopefully a woman “between the ages of 18 and 35, which Frampton understood to be the period when women are most fertile.”
And what do you know? The lucky guy had only to log onto the Internet and start playing with one dating site, and he ran into the internationally-famous-for-her-enormous-upper-endowment supermodel Denise Milani. The couple exchanged texts and photos, and fell madly in love, though the apparently-shy model kept refusing to speak to him on the phone.
Finally, Denise Milani agreed to meet the professor in person… in La Paz, Bolivia. Alas! when he got to Bolivia, the lovely lady had been unexpectedly called away to another photo shoot in Brussels, and would he do her a favor and bring her a suitcase she’d left behind in La Paz?
Peter Frampton was arrested in Buenos Aires and received a 4 year 10 month sentence for smuggling cocaine. The real Denise Milani could not be reached for comment.
Maxine Swann tells the whole sad story in the New York Times Magazine.
Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds.
Denise Milani’s breasts web-site.
03 Feb 2013
The latest Dan Greenfield rant is out.
The latest wave of laws on abortion and gay marriage are meant to make it impossible to hold beliefs, religious or otherwise, in contradiction to those of the state. That’s a somewhat new phenomenon in the United States, but a familiar one in Europe. And the consequence of these Orwellian measures is the stratification of these societies into three categories.
The Party – This is the group whose dogma is legislated into law in a thousand formal and informal ways. Its members may belong to the government or non-profits that act as a collective political movement pushing to enact and implement even the most radical elements of that dogma. Or they may still work actual jobs. But it doesn’t really make much of a difference.
Members of the Party are a minority, but they are the vanguard, the ideologically committed core that acts as the ruling class and the force for political conformity. Party Members report thought-crimes to the government, swarm as morality mobs to shame and denounce dissenters and campaign and vote for tighter restrictions and harsher penalties.
The Party is inflexibly liberal. It hasn’t formed into a single group yet, but in its scattered pieces, it is the nexus of the American version of the Bolsheviks. In some European countries it already is a party with its own attached youth movements.
And one of the benefits of Party membership is virtual immunity from its own laws. Being a Party member allows you to have the racial sensitivity of Harry Reid, the sexual harassment cred of Bill Clinton and the environmental correctness of Al Gore’s mansion, jets and Al Jazeera sale.
The law is enforced by Party members on the People. It is infrequently enforced by Party members against fellow Party members.
Read the whole thing.
16 Oct 2012
In countless areas of life, we are urged to bow to the better-informed consensus of the highly-educated community of fashion elite. After all, unlike you bitterly-clinging rubes and bumpkins out there, these people attended elite schools. They know better. Take Andrea Mitchell, for instance, she graduated from U of P. And as Glenn Reynolds gleefully notes, she recently identified herself as being one of The ‘Elite, Smart People.’
31 Aug 2012
I can’t seem to find a very flattering photo of Clint Eastwood out there today for some reason, but there are sure a lot of photos making him look angry or confused.
It is always impressive to see just how thoroughly and competently the professional apparatchiks of the left-wing commentariat do a take-down on a genuinely threatening adversary. The same kind of pretentious culture mavens who will happily queue up for tickets to a six hour opera by Stockhausen, and who have no difficulty in parsing the subtle symbolism of the latest Abbas Kiarostami movie, we are being told today, were supposedly baffled by Clint Eastwood’s little skit.
Since last night, the anti-Eastwood quips have been flying like snowflakes in a blizzard of negative commentary. What you see going on, of course, is the customary effort of the establishment media to write history its own way.
Bias and political manipulation aside, today’s massive hit job on Eastwood, I thought, constituted a revealing commentary on the dimness and superficiality of the American elite and its culture. Most societies respect the elderly. One might suppose that elite members of a nation as highly educated and sophisticated as the United States would be perfectly well aware that most men of Clint Eastwood’s age are, in fact, already deceased. That very, very smart people would be conscious that a fellow 82 years of age (if lucky enough to be above ground) is usually bent, shriveled, wrinkled, bloated, palsied, confused and barely able to navigate. Clint Eastwood actually looked damned good. He was slender and still handsome and stood tall and straight.
With characteristic self-deprecating modesty, Clint Eastwood deliberately chose merely to ad lib an informal conversation with an imaginary Barack Obama. Eastwood’s performance was by intention spontaneous and un-professionally-polished. It could doubtless have been smoother and more crafted and artfully designed, but Clint Eastwood (being an ordinary American and a Republican) decided to just wing it and went with authenticity. Non-snobbish-members-of-the-leftwing-pseudo-intellectual-community-of-fashion naturally recognized that it was no easy thing for an 82-year-old guy to stand up that long, or to concentrate well enough to extemporize such a performance, and we all thought Eastwood did really well. He performed smoothly enough, and delivered several nifty and very telling lines with an impact that was highly effectively underlined by his obvious modesty and sincerity. We recognized, and admired, his disinclination toward indulging in insult and open animosity and could see that his criticism of President Obama was deliberately being understated. We liked Clint Eastwood’s performance very much, and thought it was fitting and a real indication of the rightness of our cause that a man like him was on our side.
I thought myself that it demonstrated beautifully the way the American left’s commentary emanates from Planet Asshole that, when an elderly celebrity is courageous enough to speak in public honestly, displaying openly some of the deficits of old age, the pseudo-intelligentsia scratches its head in confusion and demands aloud: “What’s wrong with that guy? Doesn’t he understand that you’re supposed to be completely smooth, polished, perfect, and… young?” There are no old men in the country of the left.
02 Aug 2012
The New York Times’ idea of a conservative, Harvard-man Ross Douthat warmly defends the practice of the establishment community of fashion elite “using every means at its disposal short of banning speech outright” to coercively change American culture and the private views and opinions of Americans generally in directions it deems more enlightened.
Douthat is nowhere nearly as offended as such liberals as Kevin Drum, Andrew Sullivan, and Glenn Greenwald by quasi-legal harassment of heretics by politicians on the fashionable side.
[Glenn] Greenwald wrote:
As always, the solution to noxious ideas like the ones from this chicken CEO are to rebut them, not use state power to suppress them. The virtue of gay equality has become increasingly recognized in the U.S. because people have been persuaded of its merits, not because state officials, acting like Inquisitors, forced people to accept it by punishing them for their refusal.
Greenwald and I have been over this ground a bit before, so I’ll say again what I said then: This is an idealized view of how cultures change, and it doesn’t acknowledge the link between law and culture, and the crucial role that [emphasis added -jdz] stigma, harassment and legal sanctions can play in changing attitudes and behavior. The cause of gay marriage has indeed advanced because many millions of people have been persuaded of its merits: No cause could move so swiftly from the margins to the mainstream if it didn’t have appealing arguments supporting it and powerful winds at its back. But it has also advanced, and will probably continue to advance, through social pressure, ideological enforcement, and legal restriction. Indeed, the very language of the movement is explicitly designed to exert this kind of pressure: By redefining yesterday’s consensus view of marriage as “bigotry,” and expanding the term “homophobia” to cover support for that older consensus as well as personal discomfort with/animus toward gays, the gay marriage movement isn’t just arguing with its opponents; it’s pathologizing them, raising the personal and professional costs of being associated with traditional views on marriage, and creating the space for exactly the kind of legal sanctions that figures like Thomas Menino and Rahm Emanuel spent last week flirting with.
This reality is not a judgment on the cause of gay marriage itself. Many admirable causes, including the cause of civil rights for African-Americans, have advanced through a similar legal and social redefinition of what constitutes acceptable opinion, and obviously gay people have historically been the victims, rather than the victimizers, where the human tendency to use law and custom to pathologize difference and marginalize dissent from respectable opinion is concerned. But it’s naive to think that gay marriage is only winning because of the power of sweet reason, and that the climate created by the bluster of figures like Menino and Emanuel isn’t a big part of the story as well. When David Blankenhorn, heretofore one of the leading critics of same-sex marriage, wrote last month that he was “bending the knee” on the issue, it was an explicit nod to this reality: Causes advance by persuading people to change their minds, but they win their final, sweeping victories by inducing people who haven’t really changed their mind to simply give up the fight. And there’s no surer way to gain that kind of victory than by adding legal hassles — or even just the threat of legal hassles — to the list of reasons why the fight isn’t worth having anymore.
The Jesuits used to say: if the ends are lawful, so are the means lawful. Obviously many prominent representatives of our elite establishment agree, and consider themselves empowered on the basis of their own allegedly superior moral insight to forcibly cram any change in morals, culture, faith, or opinion that they believe to be desirable right down the throats of their less powerful and influential fellow citizens, because they can and because it makes them feel so righteous and so powerful.
14 Jul 2012
David Brooks is just one of several writers recently identifying the character of our contemporary elite as a grave problem, and he has a theory about the source of members of the modern meritocratic elite’s extreme sense of self-entitlement and personal exemption from any and all rules and standards.
The corruption that has now crept into the world of finance and the other professions is not endemic to meritocracy but to the specific culture of our meritocracy. The problem is that today’s meritocratic elites cannot admit to themselves that they are elites.
Everybody thinks they are countercultural rebels, insurgents against the true establishment, which is always somewhere else. This attitude prevails in the Ivy League, in the corporate boardrooms and even at television studios where hosts from Harvard, Stanford and Brown rail against the establishment.
As a result, today’s elite lacks the self-conscious leadership ethos that the racist, sexist and anti-Semitic old boys’ network did possess. If you went to Groton a century ago, you knew you were privileged. You were taught how morally precarious privilege was and how much responsibility it entailed. You were housed in a spartan 6-foot-by-9-foot cubicle to prepare you for the rigors of leadership.
The best of the WASP elites had a stewardship mentality, that they were temporary caretakers of institutions that would span generations. They cruelly ostracized people who did not live up to their codes of gentlemanly conduct and scrupulosity. They were insular and struggled with intimacy, but they did believe in restraint, reticence and service.
Today’s elite is more talented and open but lacks a self-conscious leadership code. The language of meritocracy (how to succeed) has eclipsed the language of morality (how to be virtuous). Wall Street firms, for example, now hire on the basis of youth and brains, not experience and character. Most of their problems can be traced to this.
If you read the e-mails from the Libor scandal you get the same sensation you get from reading the e-mails in so many recent scandals: these people are brats; they have no sense that they are guardians for an institution the world depends on; they have no consciousness of their larger social role.
11 Feb 2012
Jonah Goldberg points out that in every culture war fracas it is always the left-wing national elite that is laying down the law to the rest of us.
The Left often complains about the culture war as if it’s a war they don’t want to fight. They insist they just want to follow “sound science” or “what works” when it comes to public policy, but those crazy knuckle-dragging right-wingers constantly want to talk about gays and abortion and other hot-button issues.
It’s all a farce. Liberals are the aggressors in the culture war … What they object to isn’t so much the government imposing its values on people — heck, they love that. They see nothing wrong with imposing their views about diet, exercise, sex, race, and the environment on Americans. What outrages them is resistance or even non-compliance with their agenda. “Why are you making such a scene?” progressives complain. “Just do what we want, and there will be no fuss.”
01 Feb 2012
Dan Greenfield unloads on the very same people with this superb essay:
The American liberal is not a populist, he is still a New England preacher, but without a religion to preach. He has a great faith in the virtues of an ordered moral society, even if that ordered moral society would have been completely incomprehensible and unacceptable to his forebears. It is a society based on the virtues of tolerance and the rule of the enlightened.
The inflow of the European left has brought in a strain of power to the people populism, but that has not made the American liberal take seriously the notion that the people whose rights he defends are his intellectual or social equals, no more than the 19th century New York Republicans patting African-Americans on the head while stomping on the Irish viewed either group as equals.
American liberalism has traveled a slightly altered road to get to the same place. But its place is still at the top and everyone else’s place is still at the bottom. Its persistent denial of this basic truth leads to the perennial absurdity of millionaires like Elizabeth Warren playing class warrior when the only class they represent is the class of people who work for the government.
The oligarchy which is busy bleeding the country dry does not represent any group of working people anywhere in the country. Not Protestant or Catholic, black or white, or of any other creed or identity. Like every ideology incarnated in a system, it represents its own interests. The Democratic Party is the government party. It exists to create jobs in government, to dispense government subsidies and to expand the power and scope of its organization. It is not fundamentally any different than Putin’s United Russia or Israel’s Kadima or similar political creatures around the world.
The strange intermarriage of New England moralists, New York merchants and European radicals eventually led to a system of pushing immigrants into government service, mandating tolerance and running every aspect of human life through Washington D.C. It took a while to get there, but the system is a decade or two away from being complete. When it is complete then all our lives will be run in every possible way by the Elizabeth Warrens who will smile condescendingly at us, nudge us in the direction we are supposed to go, and when we don’t go there, then the fines and the tasers come out.
No matter how far back you go, the roots of American liberalism lie in a fear of the people, a distrust of the great unwashed. American liberals have championed voting rights, so long as they were confident that those voting were their inferiors and could be herded into voting the right way. They have always distrusted the instincts of the public, no matter how much pious ink they spilled fighting on their behalf.
That view of man’s sinful nature still informs their deepest thinkers, and the sins are still the same, the failure of fellowship, the refusal to consider the welfare of others and march in lockstep to create that ideal society. The New Jerusalem of universal brotherhood. Those ideas have been dressed up in modern clothing, transmitted as denunciations of racism and bigotry, immigration advocacy and hate crime laws, but underneath is the same notion that a society of good will to all can be forced through rigorous regimentation by the truly enlightened.
The populism of the American liberal is a cynical dumbshow where representatives of the oppressed gather in conclaves to demand more oppression by their liberal oppressors. This spectacle is at the heart of a political oligarchy, which like every oligarchy is built on government subsidies and special access to power for the privileged. And like all oligarchies it must disguise its nature by playing the protector of the people. Unlike them it must also disguise its true nature from itself.
The convergence of the ideal society and the government society was inevitable from the start. It took a while to overcome the technological and cultural barriers to running an entire country from a central point. Those barriers have never been truly overcome, but the technocratic mirage makes it seem as if they have been. And the ongoing faith in a perfectible society run by the saints makes it seem as if it must be.
The American liberal would still like to play at being humble, a 99 percenter fighting against the chimera of a 1 percent oligarchy. But the entire 99 percent theme is that the 1 percent isn’t paying enough taxes. And whom do those taxes go to but to the administration and employment of the professional class warrior millionaires.
It is the very Everest of hypocrisy for the members of the oligarchy to be bemoaning all the extra tax money that could be used to pay their six figure salaries, while passing off their naked greed as a crusade on behalf of the oppressed.
Read the whole thing.
Hat tip to Bird Dog.
01 Feb 2012
Holly Robichaud, in the Boston Herald recently, relished the hypocrisy with which class warfare is waged by the likes of Elizabeth Warren, a member in good standing of the privileged elite firing her revolutionary musket from atop the American class pyramid in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Who was it who bitterly said no one gets rich on their own? None other than the self-proclaimed champion of the middle class, Harvard professor Lizzy Warren.
Well, she should know. After finally filing her financial disclosure forms, it is clear that Lizzy is a member of the 1 percent. ...
Lizzy has suggested she believes it takes a village to get rich. Her experience indicates it actually takes a part-time job at Harvard. In 2009, her salary was $350,000 and she earned $429,000 for 2010 and 2011.
She also raked in $136,000 in royalties from her books, $10,000 for lecturing at a Boston law firm, $90,000 for consulting for a Florida law firm and $43,000 for working for Traveler’s Insurance. ...
Let’s not forget the Oklahoma transplant earned a hefty salary for part-time government work. As a special adviser for President Obama, she was compensated $165,000 from September 2010 through August 2011 and she received $192,000 for serving on the Congressional panel overseeing TARP.
So we can say that based on her own experience, she’s at least part right. No one gets rich on his or her own . . . when they are working for the government. Because that’s taxpayer money.
Just like every other middle-class household in Massachusetts, her investments are valued at $3 million. Is her middle name Forbes?
Her home is estimated to be worth $1 million to $5 million. That doesn’t cut her out of the 99 percent because it is located in the politically correct neighborhood of Cambridge. It is middle class when you compare it to the pads of her fellow Democrats, U.S. Sen. John Kerry and Gov. Deval Patrick.
The only thing that could make her a more hypocritical class warrior is if she anchored a yacht in Rhode Island.
There is nothing wrong with being financially well-off. The problem is that Lizzy wants everyone in the 1 percent to feel guilty about their success while she lands another six-figure part-time gig.
26 Jan 2012
P.J. O’Rourke isn’t fooled. The American elites claim to represent the interests of the poor in order to credential their own class’s power grabs as a worthy cause, but their real attitude toward people who fail to perform satisfactorily in the meritocratic rat race is one of utter contempt and complete intolerance.
[P]oor people don’t have a lot of pleasures. Sure, they have more sex than progressive elites. But somehow, for poor people, the sex always ends up in illegitimate children or HIV or some bum of a boyfriend instead of leading to, as it does for elites, a Reichian release of primordial cosmic energy or the wonderful self-fulfillment and midlife reawakening of a new divorce. And, yes, the poor have drugs and alcohol, but these bring them nothing but grief. They’re not at all like the subtle and refined delights of a 300-bottle wine cellar or the therapeutic relief from Zoloft, Lexapro, Elavil, Ambien, Halcion, Xanax, beta blockers, Levitra, and Cialis.
And poor people do have a lot of troubles. Sometimes, when you’ve got a crap job and are going to get laid off from it besides and your crack-head daughter has three kids by four fathers and your oldest son is on the front in Afghanistan and your youngest son can’t decide which drug crew to join and the cable company has cut off service and somebody’s jimmying the twelfth lock on the sheet-metal door, you’d like to sit down on your own damn chair in your own damn kitchen and have a smoke.
Well, forget it. The progressive elites are already charging you $7 for that pack of king-size filter tips, and pretty soon they’re going to add the price of eviction. Because they hate your guts.
The elites who denounce poverty despise the poor. Their every high-minded, right-thinking “poverty program” proves this detestation—from the bulldozing of vibrant tenement communities to the drug law policing policies that send poor kids to prison and rich kids to rehab to the humiliation of food stamps and free school lunches to the loathsome inner-city public schools where those free lunches are slopped onto cafeteria trays.
Read the whole thing.
Hat tip to Victoria Ordin.
01 Jan 2012
Mark Steyn takes at look at America’s situation at the beginning of the New Year, and concludes that the welfare state is self-destructing, but the establishment elites would rather save the planet than balance the national books.
At the end of 2011, America, like much of the rest of the Western world, has dug deeper into a cocoon of denial. Tens of millions of Americans remain unaware that this nation is broke — broker than any nation has ever been. A few days before Christmas, we sailed across the psychological Rubicon and joined the club of nations whose government debt now exceeds their total GDP. It barely raised a murmur — and those who took the trouble to address the issue noted complacently that our 100 percent debt-to-GDP ratio is a mere two-thirds of Greece’s. That’s true, but at a certain point per capita comparisons are less relevant than the sheer hard dollar sums: Greece owes a few rinky-dink billions; America owes more money than anyone has ever owed anybody ever.
Public debt has increased by 67 percent over the last three years, and too many Americans refuse even to see it as a problem. For most of us, “$16.4 trillion” has no real meaning, any more than “$17.9 trillion” or “$28.3 trillion” or “$147.8 bazillion.” It doesn’t even have much meaning for the guys spending the dough: Look into the eyes of Barack Obama or Harry Reid or Barney Frank, and you realize that, even as they’re borrowing all this money, they have no serious intention of paying any of it back. That’s to say, there is no politically plausible scenario under which the 16.4 trillion is reduced to 13.7 trillion, and then 7.9 trillion, and eventually 173 dollars and 48 cents. At the deepest levels within our governing structures, we are committed to living beyond our means on a scale no civilization has ever done.
Our most enlightened citizens think it’s rather vulgar and boorish to obsess about debt. The urbane, educated, Western progressive would rather “save the planet,” a cause which offers the grandiose narcissism that, say, reforming Medicare lacks. So, for example, a pipeline delivering Canadian energy from Alberta to Texas is blocked by the president on no grounds whatsoever except that the very thought of it is an aesthetic affront to the moneyed Sierra Club types who infest his fundraisers. The offending energy, of course, does not simply get mothballed in the Canadian attic: The Dominion’s prime minister has already pointed out that they’ll sell it to the Chinese, whose Politburo lacks our exquisitely refined revulsion at economic dynamism, and indeed seems increasingly amused by it. Pace the ecopalyptics, the planet will be just fine: Would it kill you to try saving your country, or state, or municipality? ...
What indeed? In September, the tenth anniversary of a murderous strike at the heart of America’s most glittering city was commemorated at a building site: The Empire State Building was finished in 18 months during a depression, but in the 21st century the global superpower cannot put up two replacement skyscrapers within a decade. The 9/11 memorial museum was supposed to open on the eleventh anniversary, this coming September. On Thursday, Mayor Bloomberg announced that there is “no chance of it being open on time.” No big deal. What’s one more endlessly delayed, inefficient, over-bureaucratized construction project in a sclerotic republic?
Barely had the 9/11 observances ended than America’s gilded if somewhat long-in-the-tooth youth took to the streets of Lower Manhattan to launch “Occupy Wall Street.” The young certainly should be mad about something: After all, it’s their future that got looted to bribe the present. As things stand, they’ll end their days in an impoverished, violent, disease-ridden swamp of dysfunction that would be all but unrecognizable to Americans of the mid–20th century — and, if that’s not reason to take to the streets, what is? Alas, our somnolent youth are also laboring under the misapprehension that advanced Western societies still have somebody to stick it to. The total combined wealth of the Forbes 400 richest Americans is $1.5 trillion. So, if you confiscated the lot, it would barely cover one Obama debt-ceiling increase. Nevertheless, America’s student princes’ main demand was that someone else should pick up the six-figure tab for their leisurely half-decade varsity of Social Justice studies. Lest sticking it to the Man by demanding the Man write them a large check sound insufficiently idealistic, they also wanted a trillion dollars for “ecological restoration.” Hey, why not? What difference is another lousy trill gonna make?
Underneath the patchouli and pneumatic drumming, the starry-eyed young share the same cobwebbed parochial assumptions of permanence as their grandparents: We’re gayer, greener, and groovier, but other than that it’s still 1950 and we’ve got more money than anybody else on the planet, so why get hung up about a few trillion here and a few trillion there? In a mere half century, the richest nation on earth became the brokest nation in history, but the attitudes and assumptions of half the population and 90 percent of the ruling class remain unchanged.
Read the whole thing.
21 Dec 2011
Professor Stephen G. Bloom: “I’ve lived in many places, lots of them foreign countries, but none has been more foreign to me than Iowa.”
Stephen G. Bloom, a professor at the University of Iowa, in the Atlantic, describes with wonder and deep contempt the bizarre and backward culture of the state in which he disapprovingly resides.
Whether a schizophrenic, economically-depressed, and some say, culturally-challenged state like Iowa should host the first grassroots referendum to determine who will be the next president isn’t at issue. It’s been this way since 1972, and there are no signs that it’s going to change. In a perfect world, no way would Iowa ever be considered representative of America, or even a small part of it. Iowa’s not representative of much. There are few minorities, no sizable cities, and the state’s about to lose one of its five seats in the U.S. House because its population is shifting; any growth is negligible. Still, thanks to a host of nonsensical political precedents, whoever wins the Iowa Caucuses in January will very likely have a 50 percent chance of being elected president 11 months later. Go figure.
Maybe Ambrose Bierce described it right when he called the U.S. president “the greased pig in the field game of American politics.” For better or worse, Iowa’s the place where that greased pig gets generally gets grabbed first. ...
Iowa is a throwback to yesteryear and, at the same time, a cautionary tale of what lies around the corner.
Which brings up my dog. And here’s why: My dog is a kind of crucible of Iowa.
What does Hannah, a 13-year-old Labrador, have to do with an analysis of the American electoral system and how screwy it is that a place like Iowa gets to choose—before anyone else—the person who may become the next leader of the free world?
For our son’s eighth birthday, we wanted to get him a dog. Every boy needs a dog, my wife and I agreed, and off we went to an Iowa breeding farm to pick out an eight-week-old puppy that, when we knelt to pet her, wouldn’t stop licking us. We chose a yellow Lab because they like kids, have pleasant dispositions, and I was particularly fond of her caramel-color coat. Labs don’t generally bite people, although they do like to chew on shoes, hats, and sofa legs. Hannah was Marley before Marley.
Our son, of course, got tired of Hannah after a couple of months, and to whom did the daily obligation of walking the dog fall?
That’s right. To me.
And here’s the point: I can’t tell you how often over the years I’d be walking Hannah in our neighborhood and someone in a pickup would pull over and shout some variation of the following:
“Bet she hunts well.”
“Do much hunting with the bitch?”
“Where you hunt her?”
To me, it summed up Iowa. You’d never get a dog because you might just want to walk with the dog or to throw a ball for her to fetch. No, that’s not a reason to own a dog in Iowa. You get a dog to track and bag animals that you want to stuff, mount, or eat.
That’s the place that may very well determine the next U.S. president.
Read the whole thing.
Hat tip to Tim Grosseclose.
A mild rejoinder from the Des Moines Register.
Iowahawk responds with “Is This Hell? No, It’s Iowa.”
21 Dec 2011
Nerf N-Strike Barricade RV-10
Farhad Manjoo, Cornell ‘00, is Slate’s Technology Columnist, so his take on toy guns, one would expect, ought to be well-informed, sophisticated, appreciative, and realistic.
A technology columnist really ought to be the sort of person who knows all about real guns. Firearms are an extremely important and interesting, downright fundamental, form of technology, after all.
But Farhad Manjoo’s holiday article in Stale this year is rather different from what one might have expected.
Nerf guns (which propel sponge rubber tipped plastic darts) frighten Manjoo and send him into a tizzy of anxiety. He describes the Nerf Barricade as “one of the most powerful toy weapons ever built, capable of sending a 3-inch foam dart hurtling 30 feet through the air, and then doing it again and again every half second.”
How does that compare, Mr. Technology Columnist, to the old Daisy Model 25 pump action BB-gun, my generation’s idea of a toy gun, which fired a copper-plated .177” diameter BB at a velocity ranging from 375-450 fps (fast enough to break glass) from a tubular magazine as rapidly as you could pump the slide?
Shooting one’s friends in the face was regarded as verboten (you might put out an eye), but BB gun wars did regularly occur. The impact of a BB on human flesh stung smartly, even through clothing, and characteristically left a mark. It was a common form of deterrence to shoot oneself in the hand without flinching and then display the bruise. One’s interlocutor was thereby given to understand that you were not afraid of being shot with a BB gun, and was significantly less inclined to initiate hostilities.
Older generations of American boys additionally commonly played with home-made slingshots, a leather pad attached to two lengths of rubber strips cut from a discarded inner tube then affixed to a Y-forked branch. A good slingshot could propel much larger projectiles like marbles, ball bearings, or suitable rocks with good accuracy at very effectively damaging velocities.
We were bloodthirsty hunters in my boyhood, and we used to, I regret to say, kill the occasional incautious songbird with those BB guns. More becomingly, we also sometimes successfully nailed a rat found skulking in the open around the dump with our slingshots. (BBs just bounced off rats.) Try taking any variety of game with a Nerf gun.
But, it isn’t really the ballistic capabilities of the Nerf gun arsenal that sent Mr. Manjoo into a tailspin. It is, of course, the ethical considerations.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been playing with some of the new Nerf guns, and I’ve tied myself in knots thinking about whether ultrarealistic weapons are just harmless fun or whether they reveal something terribly wrong with modern American boyhood.
One feels bound to question the expertise and judgment of the technology expert who would describe the above Nerf Barricade as “ultrarealistic.” So few real firearms are made of yellow plastic, and when Mr. Manjoo expresses awed respect for a toy gun’s ability to propel a harmless foam rubber dart 30’, he seems to have lost completely any sense of proportion and relative capability between the real weapon and the toy.
Someone who finds a harmless toy “scary” is, by my standards, an incredible wimp. And the kind of people who have all these hyper-sensitivities and moral issues over boys playing at war are prigs and decadents. Our blue state pseudo-intelligentsia resides in a haute bourgeois dreamworld, perfectly safe and far removed from the ugly realities of human conflict and criminal predation, protected by rough men they neither know nor respect, in homogeneous enclaves in which they have created their own Eloi-style culture in which gross moral self-indulgence parallels their conspicuous material well being.
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