Government Shutdown Eve

According to Drudge, all of the beautiful people are bracing for the shutdown of government. They are not worried for themselves, of course. They will make money from this either peddling fake horror stories in the news or shaking down fellow rich people for cash. No, they are deeply concerned for the little people who depend on government. After all, without the beautiful people and the managerial class that runs their rackets, the rest of us will starve. That’s nowhere near true, but it is what most of these people think is true. Some are just sociopaths and can pretend to think this even though they don’t, but most probably do believe it. You never know, of course, but I suspect they believe it.

Reality is something different. Anyone living around DC knows the drill. Whenever we get severe weather, the alarm goes off for “unessential personnel” to remain home. The streets are empty and 90% of government is closed. The fact that 90% is deemed non-essential by the state itself has been a long running joke around here for decades. I think they finally stopped using the term and came up with some obscure codes to transmit the message. “Employees code blue or lower should work from home.” Government employees barely work when they are at the office so you know they are just fucking off when they home for a snow day. This way they don’t have to use leave time. There’s always an angle.

For those of us in the dreaded private sector, this nonsense is a non-event. If you live in or around the Imperial Capital, traffic is much better, but otherwise you notice nothing different. The lunch spots will be less crowded, but otherwise it is business as usual pulling the wagon. If you live out in the unimportant areas, that would be areas not DC, New York or LA, then it is just another day. It is why these things don’t last that long. At some level the beautiful people know we could get used to not having ten thousand deadbeats packed into building at the DoE or HUD. If the people ever truly think they can get along without the leviathan, then the game is up. By the end of the week President Dickhead, Hairy Reed and Speaker Crybaby will decide to play nice and everything will be worked out so they can go on the Sunday shows and bray about saving the country.


The Cat Lady

Tyler Cowen linked to this today. It is a cornucopia of things that warrant comment. The first of which is a site called “Brain Pickings” sounds like something quirky and nerdish. Instead is appears to be run by a fruitcake who thinks “Brain Pickings is a human-powered discovery engine for interestingness” is clever. I know this makes me a big meanie, but I suspect Maria Popova is going to end up living with 50 cats. The “about” section borders on the creepy and what the Hell is a Futures of Entertainment fellowship? I asked Dr. Google and the response was, “There are some things you’re better off not knowing.”

Anyway, the first thing from the post that got my attention is:

Math-teacher-turned-psychologist Angela Duckworth, who began her graduate studies under positive psychology godfather Martin Seligman at my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, has done more than anyone for advancing our understanding of how self-control and grit — the relentless work ethic of sustaining your commitments toward a long-term goal — impact success.

Is there anyone who does not know that determination is the key to success? Are there people in America teaching their kids that hard work and determination are unimportant? Is there a culture trying to operate on the principle of “Don’t give a fuck”? The last time I checked, American culture is up to its ears in stories about how how grit and determination allowed someone to overcome all sorts of obstacles. The book business stays afloat on the self-help industry. Frankly, Tony Robbins has done more to promote and explain “grit” in one seminar than Ms. Duckworth has done in her career.

This is one of my peeves about the soft sciences. So much of what they do these days is nothing more than a ridiculous circle jerk. I guess living and working in a hermetically sealed world divorced from reality does that to people. There’s no organic market for the study of grit. Instead it is propped up by a government grant system that is nothing but a type of patronage racket. The soft sciences are starting to look like an isolated village in West Virginia.

This is priceless:

Duckworth spent a number of years toying with the idea of starting her own charter school, but eventually concluded that the model didn’t hold much promise for changing the circumstances of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, those whom the education system was failing most tragically. Instead, she decided to pursue a PhD program at Penn.

In other words, Ms. Duckworth quickly figured out that no one was going to give her money to experiment on their kids. Or, she decided it was too much like work to do the grifting it takes to get the funding for her ideas. The easy route was to game the system and get a PhD is nonsense. I have a friend who has been playing the same game for 25 years now. He has more credentials than most people and probably could not setup a lemonade stand with hurting himself. Our university system is packed with people who have no useful skill, even in the field they hold their doctorate.

Finally, the “grit” test at the end is hilarious. It is as if a child put it together. Anyone with the IQ of a chimp is going to figure out how to game the test. I’ve taken a lot of IQ tests and personality tests in my life. It is really hard to fool high IQ people on personality tests so I have low standards for those. This is so amateurish it could be passed off as a gag.

Anyway, I’m having another beer…

TFA Uber Alles

I saw this linked on Steve Sailer’s site and thought it worth a different take. Steve tends to focus on the race angle, which is not unreasonable. For as long as I have been alive, public policy types have been harping about the gap between blacks and whites. Sometimes they take a break and yammer on about the lack of females in science, technology and math fields. They always start with the same premise. The pale penis people have rigged the game and are surreptitiously keeping the black man down and the chicks out of the science lab. For some reason we have let the Jews and Orientals rise to the top, but the beautiful people don’t care about them so they don’t count. In fact they hate Orientals, which is why they are dropping the private school entrance exams in NYC. Too many Chinese kids are winning places in the schools. We have spent tens of billions on every education fad imaginable and the numbers have not budged. In fact, they may have declined.

This first bit from the Teach For America article:

The phrase closing the achievement gap is the cornerstone of TFA’s general philosophy, public-relations messaging, and training sessions. As a member of the 2011 corps, I was told immediately and often that 1) the achievement gap is a pervasive example of inequality in America, and 2) it is our personal responsibility to close the achievement gap within our classrooms, which are microcosms of America’s educational inequality.

Right out of the shoot, you pick up the religious zeal. This is the sort of thing the armies use to bind soldiers to their unit and to their cause. A soldier will die for his buddy and he may die for a cause. He’s not risking his neck for the his king or his flag or some abstract principle. Generals have known this for 5,000 years. TFA is clearly trying to build the same esprit de corps amongst their recruits. Making the mission personal and focused is what well run armies do best. The US military is the best ever at this approach. They don’t want guys who follow orders. They want their men to achieve their goal within the framework of the mission. It is what allows the private to go to his commanding officer with an idea to get the job done better than originally planned.

But, it goes beyond just morale building:

Although TFA seminars and presentations never explicitly accuse educators of either, the implication is strong within the program’s very structure: recruit high-achieving college students, train them over the summer, and send them into America’s lowest-performing schools to make things right. The subtext is clear: Only you can fix what others have screwed up.

This where it starts to get a bit creepy. Youth organization in Mao’s China, Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany had the same premise. The older folks had made a mess of things. The next generation, the young people, they can start fresh as the new model citizen in the new model army. Ladling on a healthy dollop of “trench socialism” gets you an individual who has given over themselves entirely to the cause. It’s not hard to see how this can get out of hand quickly. Today TFA is helping little black kids read. Tomorrow they are throwing them into ovens because they lower the SAT average.

If you think I’m going too far, consider this bit:

In the weeks between accepting the offer to join TFA and the start of our training, I was told by e-mail that “as a 2011 corps member and leader, you have a deep personal and collective responsibility to ground everything you do in your belief that the educational inequality that persists along socioeconomic and racial lines is both our nation’s most fundamental injustice and a solvable problem. This mindset,” I was reminded, “is at the core of our Teach For America—Metro Atlanta Community.”

Anyone familiar with 20th century European history can see what the TFA is doing. It is not quite a cult, but it has the trappings of a mass movement as described by Eric Hoffer. The people running TFA are trying to build something more than a teacher training program. They want an army of true believers infiltrating the schools. Presumably these young fanatics will one day take up positions of authority and run the education system. The fact that every totalitarian movement aims first at the youth is not coincidence here. The political cult we call liberalism in America  is the heir to the secular mass movements of the prior century, communism and fascism. Or, as Eric Hobsbawm put it, the two religions at war over Europe.

Being Remembered

One of the great insights I found in David Goldman’s book, How Civilizations Die, is how he linked fertility, religion and the desire to be remembered. As someone who is non-religious, it made a lot of sense. After all, the primary biological imperative, the reason all living creatures exist, is to pass on their DNA to the next generation. Like salmon, cornflowers and butterflies, humans are wired to reproduce. That is just the material way in which we are remembered. For a species cursed with self-awareness, it is easy to see how this can mutate into a desire to be remembered for our deeds, the composition of our life as a members of our tribe. We honor our dead, mark their graves, so we will be remembered by those who come after us.

I’m at an age when these thoughts come easily so it is no surprise that this column by Steve Sailer brought it to mind. The Graduate was released before I was born and was already a cultural icon by the time I had any clue about it. I may have seen it at some point, but it left no impression on me. I don’t recall anyone in my peer group ever mentioning it. For Baby Boomers, it remains a cultural touchstone. The title alone means things to them. The thought that occurred to me is what happens when the Boomers shuffle off this mortal coil? Will that movie still be a considered great art? I’m sure Steve would probably say yes and point to films like Gone With The Wind and The Wizard of Oz. Citizen Cain is probably the best example of a movie that remains a classic long after anyone involved is dead. Even their children are dead now.

I don’t know the answer and I cannot know the answer. I probably will live long enough to have some inkling, but maybe not. These things get worked out in the fullness of time. The Sound and the Fury was a dud until Faulkner was in his dotage. I think it sold 3500 copies when it was released on 1927. The best seller that year was Gone With The Wind, a book no one has read in fifty years. Then we have examples like It’s a Wonderful Life that was a flop in its day, but struck a cord with viewers of subsequent generations. A Christmas Story is another example of something made legend long after its release. A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.

The thing I wonder about these icons of early Boomer culture is whether they will be used to explain the insane rampage through America’s cultural institutions over the last half century. If the movie touched Boomers because of the alienation of the main character, the question is why were all of these kids feeling alienated? What went so horribly wrong that a generation of middle-class Americans produced a batch of kids determined to commit cultural suicide? Given the arithmetic, it is unlikely the nation survives the denouement of the Baby Boomer Generation. Kindles full of books will be written on how they did it. Why they did it will be the great question to be debated for generations after. Maybe The Graduate will be one little piece of the puzzle and therefore be remembered long after the last Boomer is finally in Hell.

The Twink of the Blogosphere

This guy is why the nation is doomed. His blog is interesting on occasion, but his crude, bobo snobbery is emblematic of what went wrong. Mommy and Daddy did well enough to send him to a decent private school which got him into a decent college. He is the product of what I call near-elite education. A generation ago, these schools took working class kids and gave them a first rate education. Today they are full of brats who think they are WASP gentry. They’re not and he’s not. He writes code and lives in an overpriced apartment like millions of other schmucks, but likes (needs) to pretend he is something other than run of the mill.

A handful of pompous jackasses is no big deal, but we have at least one full generation of them with the millennials. The late Gen-X group suffered from the same defect and the current crop is heading down the same path. A society can only survive so many entitled fops before it starts to lose its footing. Add to that a growing dependency class that the fops enjoy tormenting by supporting insane government policy and you have a recipe for disaster. America is headed for a cultural smashup that is going to be awful. The smug punks like the Twink of the Blogosphere are too stupid to leave the “prols” alone and the “proles” are too well armed to take it.

The Bob Seger Lesson

I was getting a haircut on Sunday and the chit-chat with the barber was about music. She is my age, mid-40’s, so she thinks the new pop music is mostly crap. Her son is listening to hip-hop, which is crap. Whatever artistic merit there was disappeared when white boys in the suburbs became the prime demographic. That and the “artists” cannot carry a tune, read or write music or string together lyrics. But, there’s lots of crap that is not hip-hop so it is not just the brothers that suck at music these days. There has always been lots of crap. Read the book The Wrecking Crew and you will learn about how the early rock music was mostly manufactured by middle-aged Jews from the Jazz era. The difference between now and previous eras is that there used to be talented musicians and groups producing some quality stuff amongst the crap.

A good example is Bob Seger. He got famous in the 1970’s with a bunch of hits that still get airtime today. Go into a college bar and you will still find a few Seger songs getting played, particular later in the night when even the best get tight. Seger was before my time, for the most part, but my generation was playing his stuff in the 80’s and 90′ so it is not like he is a newly re-discovered fad because of a TV commercial. The reason he had some staying power is the quality of the music. I was never a big fan, but I have been listening to his greatest hits lately. The arrangements, lyrics and pacing is phenomenal. It is what you get when experienced professional musicians with talent make records. In all probability they hammered out each song on a piano and then brought in the rest of the instruments. The studio sessions were about getting the sound on vinyl, not making bad voices and bad musicians sound good.

There are probably dozens of examples from each decade that you can point to like this. The 1950’s was dominated by manufactured pop hits, but Chuck Berry made the electric guitar do things unheard of before his time. Fifty years from now people will find his licks beguiling. The Stones, The Who, and Hendrix will hold up and have held up. The 70’s has Zeppelin, which may have been the most sophisticated rock band ever. I’m still amazed at their range and complexity. It is not Beethoven, but for pop music it is incredible. I’m not sure who from the 80’s will stick around, probably metal acts like Sabbath and Maiden. The 90’s see things starting to peter out and the 2000’s bring nothing to mind. It is hard to imagine anyone getting out the Madonna or Michael Jackson CD’s again.

This apparent decline in high end quality music the last two decades is a mystery. Where are the talented musicians going if not into the garage or basement to create something good? Part of the answer is nowhere. Young people are simply not picking up instruments as they did in the past. When I was a kid, everyone played something, even in poor neighborhoods. It was just the way. I was started on the trumpet at six and took lessons until I was 12. Most kids dropped it for sports or other stuff, but many stuck with it. Today, the only kids I see with an instrument are Oriental and Hindu girls carrying violins. Blacks have abandoned the guitar and seem to be losing interest in the drums.  Whites have dropped music entirely. This old post describes the plight of the guitar in music.

The argument is that computers are filling the void. Anyone can now sit down at their PC, load some software and create the sound of drums, guitar, piano, etc. They can make their voice sound like something other than a bag of cats. There’s no longer a need to learn to read music or play an instrument. Certainly studios stopped using drummers when they could use computers instead. The problem here is the computer does not improvise, experiment or make adjustments. Maybe one day, but right now it is dependent on the talentless blockhead pushing the buttons. That’s why pop music is collapsing in a sea of mediocre crap that sounds like all the other mediocre crap.

That brings me back to Bob Seger. He did not hit it big out of the womb. He kicked around for years learning how to play music that people enjoyed. Good musicians have an ear for what others will like. That comes from many nights in many clubs. Dragging your computer gear into the club and “DJ’ing” is really not the same thing. When you get down to it, you’re just wearing another man’s suit, pretending you look better in it. Without the training and the training grounds, there can be no Bob Seger. Like so much of post-reality America, our pop culture is withering, living on the past with autumn closing in…

Living past 115

This is an interesting post that touches on two things I think are interesting. One is the fact we may be reaching the limit of human longevity. Even so, humans are far healthier late in life than at any other time. We are probably within reach of solving some of the big killers like cancer, heart failure and dementia. While some may never be “cured” they will be manageable. Others will be delayed until much later in life. When I was a kid, it was rare to see a healthy a vigorous 70-year old. Today it is common. We will certainly be seeing more and more vigorous 80-year olds soon enough. Of course, we are already seeing drugs that allow humans to extend their prime years into what was once considered old age. It turns out that Huxley was right about that part of the future.

The more sinister side is this:

The only way to get a person past the “Calment limit” of (say) 125 will be some sort of genetic engineering. This might prove to be, if not easy, at least fairly routine — in technical terms. Fiddling with just a few genes in worms, fruit flies and mice has enabled scientists to extend their lifespan, sometimes up to sevenfold. One recent study in Lausanne found a 50 per cent reduction in the activity of just three genes on Chromosome 2 increased mouse lifespan by about 250 days, and kept them healthy longer.

By sinister, I mean controversial. As soon as it becomes possible to alter one’s aging with gene therapy, drugs will be created to give the same effect. If reducing a certain protein extends youthfulness, a clever company will bottle it and sell it. Human nature being what it is, there will come a time when this is not just possible, but consider essential.

Then we have this:

Ethically, however, such a step in human beings is unthinkable, since it would mean altering the genes of an unborn child without asking his or her permission. It is hard to imagine any government allowing such an experiment, with a high probability of unexpected consequences, let alone anybody finding a team of scientists prepared to do it.

Mr. Riddley is a man of his times. The fact that China would have zero hangups about doing this is alien to him. The Russians would certainly have no trouble with the ethics. Frankly, I don’t think any of the Oriental countries would flinch at such a thing. The Indians would certainly see a chance to profit at some point. They may not be pioneering the technology, but they would be ready to commoditize it.

This part is fascinating:

Plus, ethics aside, it is not easy to see where the demand for such a drastic and expensive step would come from. Who would actually want their next child to live past 125, let alone badly enough to go through with it?

There’s you have the post modern man’s dilemma in a nutshell. Who would possible want to have children much less children who will have extended lifetimes?! David Goldman put it best when talking about the falling fertility rates around the world. When people lose hope, they naturally wonder if it was better to have never been born. Childbearing is what happy, optimistic humans do as a celebration of life. For so many of our elites, living even a short time is horrible to contemplate, much less two lifetimes.

Panic At Conservative Inc.

In what may be the most shocking development in the last decade, the House GOP, with the support of Weepy & Co, voted a spending bill that denies funding for ObumblesCare. It goes off to the Senate to die, presumably, as the lunatics have a majority. Hairy Reed plans to use some shenanigans to strip out the provision and send it back to the House. If the House does not vote for it, then the government shuts down and we get the fake drama that comes with these phony shutdowns. The Senate GOP could filibuster the effort and then force a lot of Senate Democrats into the uncomfortable position of voting for this monstrosity in the lead up to an election. Lunatic Party senators in normal states are already frightened. This would not help.

The trouble is it will result in an ugly shit storm. Instead of back slapping and taking turns fucking the public, the fake conservatives in the GOP will have to take a side and maybe endure some harsh words from their “friends” in the Lunatic Party. Quislings like the sort over at NRO will suddenly find a chilly reception at MSNBC and CNN. They may even be excluded from the next pizza and ice cream party (the horrors!). The first member of the Surrender Faction of Conservative Inc to raise the white flag was Jonah Goldberg. That’s a bit surprising as he has never struck me as a shameless sellout, but times change and people change. His bosses told him to come out against the Evil Ted Cruz so he did what he was told:

The rest of the flunkies and losers at Conservative Inc were not far behind, wringing their hands and hyperventilating about the big meanies in the GOP.  Charles Kraphammer chimed in to to bash the effort. The argument being that they can’t win and all they will accomplish is to piss people off. That last part is what strikes fear in the heart of Conservative Inc. Most depend on the suicide cult we call liberalism for their survival. If you get branded as “extreme” then you are off the jabbering numbskull circuit. That’s why they are always so quick to lock arms with the Left in defense of cultural Marxism. It is also why they are in a panic now over this move by Ted Cruz and the conservatives.

From the perspective of those on the alternative right, this is a wonderful development. The GOP and Conservative Inc are not on the side of small government and individual liberty. They are just gate keepers for the suicide cult we call liberalism. The CML counts on their “friends”  on the right to do the blocking and tackling in public debate. A guy like Pat Buchanan, who was mostly right, it turns out, about things like trade, gets run out of the GOP and out of the public domain by Conservative Inc. The same is true of a long list of writers and commentators. Seeing the quislings of Conservative Inc forced to choose will be enlightening. Here’s a little taste from the last time time for choosing:

Hispanic Heritage Month

I’m watching the NFL and I keep seeing references to Hispanic Heritage Month. I watch the NFL via Red Zone so it is a bit of an echo chamber for whatever they are hawking each Sunday. It reminded me of traveling through Hispania as a boy with my parents. It was so odd hearing everyone speak Hispanish instead of English. Of course, even a child had to be impressed with the great achievements in Hispanic culture….What a bunch of nonsense. There is no such thing as Hispanic culture outside the blinkered world of white liberal fanatics. Mexicans and Puerto Ricans sure as don’t call themselves Hispanic unles they are getting free stuff to do it. These white snobs should drop the mask and just call them “those brown people cutting our lawn” and have done with the fantasy land of Hispania.

More important, even if we lump all Latin culture together like this, is “Hispanic culture” sucks. We know this because every Mexican with ambition is getting as far away from it as possible. That’s true of Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Guatemalans, etc. Anyone take a look at the Spanish economy lately? It makes our mess look like heaven. That’s why they are fleeing that sinking ship in record numbers. Why in the world would anyone “celebrate” being a loser? Is their self-hatred so deep that they will celebrate that which is obviously worse than what Americans have going on at home? The answer is obvious. These people hate themselves and their country.

Retarded Punks United

The usual suspects in the media think this was a grand idea. Ever on the lookout for their next crusade, they have decided that giving semi-retarded teenagers more money for playing a game is their reason to live. Every week some chattering skull is demanding (demanding!) the NCAA pay players. Never mind that the NCAA does not have the authority to pay players. Those fashionable uber-lefty college presidents run college football and they ain’t in the mood to give the knuckleheads a raise. Most of them privately wish sports would go away entirely. Then they would not have to rub elbows with those sweaty drunks at the booster club. If the college president had their way, the booster clubs would be shipped off to the salt mines.

Even so, the debate is the typically vacuous stuff we get from sports media. The typical journalism major is low-average IQ. The sports journalism guys are a at the bottom of that group. There’s nothing immoral about being a dimwit, but these guys should be on an assembly line somewhere, not pestering the rest of us through our TV’s and computers. College athletes are paid and paid exceptionally well for their age and contributions to the college. They get, tax free, tuition, room, board, books, meal money in the form of cash, world class physical training, extra tutoring and professional coaching. The typical state college athlete is getting between 25 and 50 grand a year in tax free benefits. Most contribute nothing to the profitability of the school. The women’s basketball team is all cost and no revenue. Ditto the field hockey team. Only football and basketball generate revenue.

The question is whether they should get more. It would probably serve the interests of the schools if they could give their revenue athletes cash to spend. The corruptions we see is usually from boosters and agents sliding small amounts of money to players who are cash poor. It is amazing in a way, but many of these players are borderline retarded so maybe not. If the players had some cash to spend then some portion would avoid trouble by taking money. It would not solve the problem, but it would make the professional scolds feel better and that’s worth something too.