30 April 2017

While waiting impatiently for Hasan Minhaj to take the stage at the WHCD tonight (some old white guy named Bernstein is orating), I must recommend this article (and this related video) to all my readers. 

Mr. Hobbes notes:

One of the most striking studies I found described the spike in anxiety and depression among gay men in 2004 and 2005, the years when 14 states passed constitutional amendments defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. Gay men in those states showed a 37 percent increase in mood disorders, a 42 percent increase in alcoholism and a 248 percent increase in generalized anxiety disorder.
The most chilling thing about those numbers is that the legal rights of gay people living in those states didn’t materially change. We couldn’t get married in Michigan before the amendment passed, and we couldn’t get married in Michigan after it passed. The laws were symbolic. They were the majority’s way of informing gay people that we weren’t wanted.

Yes:  symbols affect our health.  This is something human beings have known since we started making symbols (which is probably when we started developing formal ideas of language), but hyper-rationalists have been denying it for a few centuries now.  We forget it at our great peril.  The arts can kill as well as heal.

28 April 2017

Boycott United Airlines Memorial Day weekend, and see what happens.

That's my two cents on the great international soul-searching dialogue of people sad, upset, and angry that a ruthless monopolistic* corporation showed itself to be a ruthless monopolistic corporation on more than one occasion this year. 

I used to fly United quite a lot (within the US) and can assure you there was no golden age of great customer service that selfish millennials like me destroyed.  I have not flown at all for three and a half years now.

I have tried to read a broad spectrum of opinions on this topic, within reason (I know there are people blaming everything on The Gays, but there are only so many hours in the day).  On the left there are some people who say only the complete eschatological overthrow of capitalism and MOAR CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS among workers** will do anything; and then on the right there are people who blame American consumers for being cheap in all things (except of course accepting overbook vouchers).

So here's my hot-take 'centrist' view:  maybe the world wouldn't completely grind to a halt and Stephen Colbert die of bird flu if people stopped buying the product from the badly-behaving company for a short time.  Assuming (conservatively) that Memorial Day weekend is an average three-day period from a United Airlines revenue standpoint, it accounts for $258.55 million in revenue [data crunched based on this document].  So that's almost a brand-new Boeing 777 right there.

This strange, unprecedented form of collective action is undoubtedly scary to many.  So to assuage those fears, I suggest we call it "a credible signaling system."

*It may be more accurate to say "oligopolistic," but I'm not an economist angling for a Wall Street Journal column.
**It may be a useful exercise for these people to research how many times airline workers of various types have gone on strike.

24 April 2017

Sorry, you ain't no Lisbeth Salander,  Travis Kalanick.

I have to wonder if TK has ever read the novel Cugel's Saga by Jack Vance (a prolific Californian science-fantasy author).  This is from Chapter 1:

The door closed.  Cugel looked anxiously over his shoulder.  At the entrance to the garden, where heavy yews flanked the walk, he glimpsed a pair of still white forms.  Cugel turned back to the door and jerked hard at the bell-chain. 
Slow steps padded across the floor, and once again the door opened.  The old man looked out.  "Sir?"
"The ghouls are now in the garden!  They block the way to the beach!"
The old man opened his mouth to speak, then blinked as a new concept entered his mind.  He tilted his head and spoke craftily:  "You have no funds?"
"I carry not so much as a groat."
"Well then; are you disposed toward employment?"
"Certainly, if I survive the night!"
"In that case, you are in luck!  Master Twango can offer employment to a willing worker."  The old man threw open the door and Cugel gratefully entered the manse.
With an almost exuberant flourish the old man closed the door.  "Come, I will take you to Master Twango, and you can discuss the particulars of your employment.  How do you choose to be announced?"
"I am Cugel."
"This way then!  You will be pleased with the opportunities! ... Are you coming? At Flutic we are brisk!"
Despite all, Cugel held back.  "Tell me something of the employment!  I am, after all, a person of quality, and I do not turn my hand to everything."
"No fear! Master Twango will accord you every distinction.  Ah Cugel, you will be a happy man! If  only I were young again! This way, if you please."

21 April 2017

Message final à propos de l'élection présidentielle

Je ne suis pas français, mais je regarde ce dimanche avec une sensation mixte: une sensation de peur et d'espoir.  De peur, parce que les menteurs professionels ne cesseront pas de nous dire que des meurtres et des autres actes de violence sont la faute d'une réligion prophétique remplie de majesté.   D'espoir, parce que la démocratie d'une si noble nation ne cède pas avec vitesse aux attentats désesperés de la couler.

J'appelle à tous les citoyens de France de voter, et de faire leur confiance en la jeune génération.

19 April 2017

But I gotta say this one more time:  this is not about what happens every four years, or four years from now.  We have to be in this fight right this minute.  This is what has changed in democracy in America.  It's not the case that we can simply put this off, you know, and every four years we'll all kinda get interested in one big race, and pay attention to it, or maybe every two years for Congressional races or Senate races.  No.  No longer can we do this.  We have to be engaged right now.  I mean between now and the end of the day.
--Sen. Elizabeth Warren
Georgia 6th District Special Election Thoughts

Jon Ossoff was only slightly exaggerating when he said "this is already a victory for the ages."  Hauling in an apparent 48% of the vote in an 18-way race is no petty achievement.

There were thirteen Republican candidates in the running for this seat, including an Air Force pilot (there's always an intrepid boy Air Force pilot).  Commentators sometimes tell us that the reason Republicans win so often is that they are a highly disciplined strike force of doom, ever-ready to rally around their nominee, whomever it may turn out to be.  I have my own doubts that the party of casual pussy-grabbing and not dining alone with women will pull off a quick regrouping maneuver to save the race for Karen Handel -- particularly since there's an extremely righteous* Christian conservative penis-endowed candidate contesting a Montana special election in 36 days.  (Also:  Bill O'Reilly must be protected from mean women and the PC FAKE media).

Another important takeaway:  vanishingly few Republicans really give a damn who Newt Gingrich and Marco Rubio endorse.
*a synonym for homophobic in Republican circles.

18 April 2017

As a newly avid reader of Lawyers, Guns, and Money, I have some thoughts on the blog's quality.

Occasionally, someone presents a really good insight, as for example this from Erik Loomis:

Second, this is indicative of a lot of reaction to Trump from Democrats since November 8. The amount of grasping at desperate straws has been disheartening. The idea that an electoral college revolt would reject Trump was the worst moment in this, but relying on the 25th Amendment is almost as bad. This kind of desperation shows how reluctant liberals are to deal with the real problem–the Republican Party. Donald Trump is nothing more than a slightly worse Republican than normal. That’s why the Republican base supports his agenda and why congressional Republicans are unwilling to buck him on most issues–except from the right! Getting rid of Trump solves nothing except some exceptional kleptocracy. But until I see Republicans outraged by Trump’s support of Erdogan, I’m not believing that they care one iota about emerging authoritarianism. It’s what they want if they can be the authorities.

Of course, Loomis also believes that workers have "no choice" but to work with the Democratic Party, as flawed as it is, to gain rights and improved conditions.  (My view is, in short, that this is usually a good idea, but in West Virginia it's a ridiculous joke.)  

I have heard a lot of people (well, old white men anyway) talk to me about politics with the unshakeable assumption that Republicans and Democrats will endure forever and ever amen  and that when one of these two immortal supports of the US body politic shows signs of weakness, we have to spend billions on a knee replacement (clunky analogy, but I hope my point is coming across.)  The notion that an obviously gangrenous leg might need to be removed to save the body always comes to my mind in response.  (Not to mention that this body was born with no legs as we would recognize them...)

And then, there's, I don't know what to call it -- men getting shocked, shocked that there is MISOGYNY in ACADEMIA, after they and their colleagues have already written copiously about a well-known orange-pated misogynist politician who won the Presidency after virulent misogynist attacks on his rival.  But upon some reflection, I recall that there's a gospel passage that might cover this.  Matthew's Jesus was tested by the Pharisees and Sadducees:

...they asked him to show them a sign from heaven.  He answered them, 'When it is evening, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.'  And in the morning, 'It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.'*  You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.  An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to them except the sign of Jonah.'  Then he left them and went away.  (Matthew 16:1-4, NRSV)

 And this, dear readers, is why I am glad not to be working in academia right now.

*Or, if you like, "You can construct fine scenarios of electoral vote majorities for both candidates."

08 April 2017

The Secret Mission to Save Senatorial Comity
A POLITICO Special Report

(inspired by a series written by Harry Turtledove)

[image lifted from this article]

  John S. McCain III has been driven by a sense of mission his whole life.  Little did he know, when he shivered at the inaugural ceremonies for President Trump, that making contact with his own doppelganger from an alternate timeline would be critical to saving the Senate from mean Democrats bent on tearing the august traditions of deliberative democracy to shreds.

 "I saw him spending a lot of time with [former Energy Secretary] Moniz, right around Valentine's Day," a senior official attached to the Senate Energy Committee told me recently.  "One day I saw some weird-looking mirrors and other hardware being wheeled into his offices.  The next day McCain didn't show up to coffee with Claire McCaskill.  We drew our own conclusions."

Documents obtained from the Department of Energy and the Pentagon via a FOIA request show that Senator McCain has been tapping into the expertise of quantum physicists for years.  Now, with the sanctity of judicial filibusters at stake, it is clear that the Senator has used revolutionary new spacetime technology to call on the help of -- himself.

 John Sidney McCain-Forrest was born just a few hours before the John McCain we know and love, in August 1936.  He looks like an identical twin of the Senator and two-time presidential candidate.  But he was born in the C.S. Naval Hospital in Savannah, Georgia, and by the age of 18 was enlisted as a coastal defense cadet, scanning the waters of the western Atlantic for Yankee fighter jets and the telltale traces of U-boats.  What's more, this young man was a Democrat -- a registered member of the Free Democratic Party (Jacksonite), an organization that had long ago disappeared from the enemy lands to the north ...

"Very few traders saw this one coming."

I do dream that one day economists will stop issuing monthly jobs predictions, and instead will get paid to play 7 Wonders or some other enjoyable board game with their friends.  I cannot imagine anybody's net happiness decreasing as a result of this shift (even if gaming is only a minimum-wage job). 

It is quite pathetic to see the anguished contortions of the boys' club that is economics every time job growth turns out to be not nearly as stellar as they imagined it would.  You'd think that some "traders" or whatnot would have figured out that a president nominated by the party that hates government would probably do something or other to cut the government payroll, and that -- oh! -- the federal government employs an awful lot of people.  (And that the retail shopping season finally sputters out in March.)  But I guess that would require folks like Gus, Marcus, and Mark to think about society as it actually exists, which is boring, uncool and probably contributing to the feminization of American men at the hands of Foucauldian terrorists, because everything written on Breitbart is at least half-right. 

My best English rendering of "Es winkte der abendhauch," poem by Stefan George (found under 'Dreary Dances' in his book 'The Year of the Soul.')

The dusk's garment winks to you
With slanted fortune:
Take and preserve it, yes,
For aye, another one is plucked already.

As when the pale soul, bound in fetters,
yammers to itself, so the proximity of joy
is sensed -- shown, though not understood.

Then the dusk's garment brought to you
The customer who absolved:
Oh, my clouded-over hour,
you know it now, friend, too.

04 April 2017

'[he] wants to industrialise the moon, has likened Barack Obama to Hitler, ...'

Yes, the expanded clown-car debate format is coming (in just a few hours) to French TV. 

Nathalie Arthaud of the Lutte Ouvrière seems by far the most sensible of the second-tier candidates.  Minimum wage of $1,925 a month?  Or glorious revivification of French virility and abolishing the presidency?  Of course, at least three times as much airtime will be devoted to the latter.
I was just 16 and I saw that there was a big problem in France with massive immigration and also globalization with no economic borders.  And there was insecurity and places in the city where police didn't even want to go. And for me this was a very big problem ... When you are in front of her, you know that she's the boss.  And for us this is very, very important.
Arnaud de Rigné, 21-year-old Marine Le Pen supporter

Belief in reason was common enough among the educated a couple of hundred years back, but it is rare today, because our knowledge has become greater and our problems more complicated.  We can no longer divide mankind into philosophers, priests, and dupes, as Gibbon or Voltaire could.  Even when we style ourselves philosophers, we know that we are sometimes duped, and not always by the priests ... Is not belief in reason based upon a misconception of human nature which we should correct?  Since the war, an increasing number of people have come to feel this, and are taking refuge instead in authority or in intuition.  Authority attracts our dictators and our serfs, because it seems to promise a stable society.  Intuition attracts those who wish to be spiritual without any bother, because it promises a heaven where the intuitions of others can be ignored.

E.M. Forster, "Roger Fry: An Obituary Note," 1934

01 April 2017

A little more sanitizing of fascism from NPR, French edition

I'm kind of disgusted by this piece from NPR, although I give Eleanor Beardsley credit for seeking out Front National activists.  (Surprise, surprise:  they're all men, and their lives were hopeless until Marine whispered to them, or something.) I'm not going to dispute the polls they cite to show Le Pen's popularity with the youngest voters, but I will say that you can get almost any result you want from polling -- it just depends on the framing of the questions*.  This is really a matter of people (notably single white men) becoming brainwashed by fake leftism.  And I'm happy to say I don't think most French people under 40 are falling for it.  I just want to suggest to NPR executives that maybe it wouldn't kill you to mention that there is a Socialist Party nominee in the race, too.

"She's really not like her father."  Poisson d'avril!

*I remember a lovely pie chart from America: The Book, entitled "Who Owns the Media?"  The only answers were "Gay Jews,"  "Non-gay Jews," and "Non-Jewish Gays."