Sunday, April 20, 2014

Masters of Business

Sophie made up her first complete game today. It's called "Master of Business." The rules are: run around the house three times, jump on the bed four times, and walk around the room two times, while wearing a belt and sunglasses.

I have no idea where the name comes from, but I am very happy to report I am now a "Master of Business."

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Catholics of yore

From an article discussing when Catholics on the Right were against capitalism. True, they were proto-libertarians and religious zealots, but I have to admire the passion in this passage:
Chesterton, always the better stylist than Belloc, could work himself into righteous fury in defense of the distributist ideal over the capitalist one. He gave that ideal a peroration in the book What's Wrong with the World that suffices as a conclusion for this article, because it has all the revolutionary romance and inevitability of Marx, but more moral force and beauty:

With the red hair of one she-urchin in the gutter I will set fire to all modern civilization. Because a girl should have long hair, she should have clean hair; because she should have clean hair, she should not have an unclean home: because she should not have an unclean home, she should have a free and leisured mother; because she should have a free mother, she should not have an usurious landlord; because there should not be an usurious landlord, there should be a redistribution of property, because there should be a redistribution of property, there shall be a revolution. That little urchin with the gold-red hair, whom I have just watched toddling past my house, she shall not be lopped and lamed and altered; her hair shall not be cut short like a convict's; no, all the kingdoms of the earth shall be hacked about and multilated to suit her. She is the human and sacred image; all around her the social fabric shall sway and slip and fall; the pillars of society shall be shaken, and the roofs of ages come rushing down; and not one hair of her head shall be harmed. 

The conservative case against capitalism

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The return of Fuedalism

As documented in "Capital in the Twenty-First Century," a new book on economics:

U.S. inequality is now close to the levels of income concentration that prevailed in Europe around 1900-10. History suggests that this kind of inequality level is not only useless for growth, it can also lead to a capture of the political process by a tiny high-income and high-wealth elite. This directly threatens our democratic institutions and values.
Thomas Piketty

And as demonstrated by good old Tony "More Reagan than Reagan" Abbot:

Tony Abbot wants to bring back knighthood

The whole world is hurtling towards feudalism as fast as Grover Norquist can drown those pesky republican sentiments in his bathtub. No surprise that the 1% have become trans-national parasites; but why are ordinary working people following along so eagerly? What keeps people voting for the Republicans even while they strip-mine our rights for corporation's benefit?

I want to lay out the bones of an argument here. First, we have the conservative and Christian doctrine that all men are depraved and worthless. Second, we have the human need to maintain some kind of self-esteem. Thus, we see the layering of society, where the middle class accepts the domination of the upper class because they can at least place themselves above the lower class. Of course, this requires there to be a lower class that is not only poor but deserving of being poor. Furthermore, it is necessary that this lower class not be constantly shrinking as people climb up to the middle class, because that would unveil the illusion that they deserved to be poor in the first place. So we need a mechanism to keep them in the bottom class, regardless of their actual merit: and as necessity is the mother of invention, so has this mechanism already been built. It's called racism.

Racism is the perfect tool for the job, as it allows a benighted populace to salve its self esteem no matter how badly their rulers mistreat them. Because at the bottom, placed there by God himself, there is always a cushion of losers worse off than yourself. As evidence for this dynamic in Christian thought, I offer the following observation: whenever a preacher ceases preaching hellfire and damnation, he loses 90% of his flock. Apparently the existence of sinners in hell is necessary o the Christian psyche, even if it is not theologically required.

Egalitarinism, the idea that we are all equal and deserving, destroys racism - and with it the entire concept that some people are better than others, and therefore the justification for the aristocracy. This democratic, progressive impulse has always fought with the authoratarian, reactionary status quo, and it has always gradually and continually won. Until now, at least.

So it is no surprise to me to see the mask slipping, and the Republican party revealing its inner racist more and more with each day. This is not just because there is a black man in the white house, but also because the aristocracy is pushing its age-old deal: be a slave to us and we will make sure you have slaves of your own. A truly titanic battle is brewing. Future historians will look back at Occupy Wall Street the way we look at the storming of the Bastille.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Mencken on the Dunning-Kruger effect

The agents of such quackeries gain their converts by the simple process of reducing the inordinately complex to the absurdly simple.  Unless a man is already equipped with a considerable knowledge of chemistry, bacteriology and physiology, no one can ever hope to make him understand what is meant by the term anaphylaxis, but any man, if only he be idiot enough, can grasp the whole theory of chiropractic in twenty minutes.

- H.L. Mencken

Monday, January 6, 2014

Sharks with lasers

Or at least twitter feeds: Australia's sharks will now tweet before attacking.

As if there weren't enough social pressure on teens to use social media, now we've added an actual evolutionary advantage. Tweet... or be eaten!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The worst column ever written

In the constellation of terrible political punditry there are many blazing examples: Cal Thomas, Peggy Noonan, Thomas Friedman, to name just a few. But David Brooks has immortally cemented his position as the greatest with this column: Been there, Done that, so now the rest of you who go there and do that should go to prison.

Brooks has written some of the most truly pathetic columns imaginable - just a few weeks ago he wrote a piece pointing out the complete irrelevancy and meaninglessness of ideologically lazy political pundits, the chief notable example being himself - but this column must go down in history as the definitive piece of sheer ass-hattery. The man has produced entire books which consist of him making up stories and claiming them to be data points, but that's just simple fraud. This column moves beyond that.

He spends the entire column discussing the complete lack of danger associated with marijuana, as evidenced by his own personal experience: his worst personal experience was botching a speech in English class, and the vast majority of his friends naturally outgrew it. He concludes that legalizing pot is good for personal freedom (Isn't this the rallying cry of the Tea Party Republicans? Freedomz!).

He then concludes with the banal fact that spending all of your time smoking pot is not the best possible life, and in the ultimate act of mind-boggling hypocrisy and willful ignorance suggests that society should therefore continue to discourage marijuana use. At no point does the brute fact that society currently sends men with guns to lock you up in jail with murderers and rapists and take your house and prevent you from holding hundreds of classes of jobs again and take away your right to vote cross David Brook's alcohol-fogged tiny little mind (because you know the bastard was drunk as a skunk while he wrote this - he had to be: no sane human mind could commit such a heinous act of indifference while sober). Thus does society "discourage" pot use; by putting it in the same class as using heroin, meth, burglary, and assault. By destroying lives and swelling prisons.

If David Brooks had been "discouraged" when he was smoking pot, he wouldn't have a cushy job writing banal idiocies for a national audience. Or maybe he would; Brooks has spent his entire life in an atmosphere where rich white guys get second chances (and thirds, and fourths, and....).

To advocate a policy while remaining willfully blind to its actual implementation is one thing; to do so when said policy would have ruined you had it been applied to you is something entirely different. Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh are evil clowns, but they are clowns. David Brooks is vastly more wicked: he makes people comfortable with hypocrisy. Brooks has column in a old and venerable newspaper, a national audience, and a cushy paycheck - and he uses it every week to display brazen hypocrisy, for which he is continually rewarded. This amounts to society encouraging hypocrisy, as long as it's hypocrisy for rich old white men. All the pot smokers in the world cannot add up to the harm David Brooks personally inflicts on the national character.

David Brooks has just endorsed the police state: he has formally asserted that social culture should be enforced by the power of the state through criminal law. He is the drug war's Leni Riefenstahl.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Time of the Doctor

Has a TV show ever paid such close attention to its fans?

After much internet buzz that Matt Smith could not be the Doctor in the Xmas special because he had cut his famous mop while filming a movie, the scriptwriters shaved his head and put him in a wig. Hard to believe that during months of speculation, that simple little solution didn't seem obvious.

They also settled the question of regeneration. We knew they would; Dr. Who is far to valuable a franchise to kill off simply because long-established canon says you're on your last face of Doctor; but it's nice to see that they cared about it enough to dedicate an entire conversation where the Doctor counts up all of the past events.

It was, however, a bit much that the excess energy from this regeneration was apparently sufficient to destroy a Dalek battleship. For the man who almost never fires a weapon (during this episode devoted to a long war the only direct kill we see him make is convincing a Cyberman to shoot himself) it was a dangerous precedent. But of course, that Doctor is gone now, and the scriptwriters get another chance to create rules and limitations they can then dramatically break later down the line.