Archives for category: Politics

I was reminded of my Facebook post, above, while watching Late Night, tonight, the drama about broadcast television’s least funny time slot, late night.

Though Seth Meyer, the no-longer-funny-at-all comedian of post-primetime network TV, actually makes an appearance (as himself) in this sorry contrivance, do not let that fool you: the melodrama is not without a few laughs.

But it is not a comedy, and I do not think it was trying to be.

It is the adult SJW equivalent of an “After School Special” — an earnest attempt to provide a smart secular morality play. I watched it because it got rather high marks on Rotten Tomatoes, and because I suspected these numbers were inflated by ideologues and “low-IQ individuals” (thanks, Trump).

The show stars Emma Thompson as a typically unfunny but otherwise untypical (for the networks) NPR-lite/midcult “entertainer.” You know, the kind of snob who thinks California Senator Diane Feinstein is a smart bet for a chat in front of a live New York (and national TV) audience. In other words, in a world where unintentional comedy is the kiss of death, this film specializes in unintentional realism. And the realism is about how unfunny late night comedy now is.

Just read the official synopsis — does this sound like a comedy to you?

So, why, when watching the flick, did I think of my Facebook post regarding the two stories of ideological Gray Lady nonsense?

Not because of the word “crone” — Emma Thompson is not there yet. Not quite.

The reason is the story arc: an allegedly misogynistic woman professional is redeemed by becoming yet another woke-scold pseudo-comedian, telling jokes about how male Republican Congressmen want to legislate women’s bodies because they cannot get laid, or some such nonsense.* This joke, of which much is made in service to the main plot — rescuing the career of “Katherine Newbury” — is astoundingly stale. That the authors of this lame commonplace think it (a) funny and (b) daring shows how out of touch they are.

The 80 percent Tomatometer rating is inexplicable, except as an indicator of how ideological and stupid critics have become.

But what stuck out, to me, was how conservative it all is. The whole saccharine moralism that imbues the show with its “heart” is essentially conservative. Oh, sure, because of the core bit of intersectionalism featuring writer and co-star actress Mindy Kaling — a young, earnest Indian-American — one might mistake it all as “progressive.” But progressivism is, as I have argued before, nowadays almost wholly a conservative movement, moralistically shoring up the power of a paternalistic elite. And in this movie the allegedly “progressive” #metoo hashtaggery is cautiously merged with an anti-adultery message, and we are really not very far from 1950s cultural conservatism.

Emma Thompson is a fine actress, and does her best with the limited material. She manages to almost convince the forgiving viewer that her character is a comic of the first water. When she takes to the stage in the third act, and proceeds to bomb, it is her acting alone that convinces us that her “spontaneous” routine is worth a laugh.

Mindy Kaling, who wrote as well co-stars, is thus the one to blame.

But really, for once we should spread the responsibility around: society is to blame for this inanity. For just as late-night TV has been ruined by social justice and political partisanship, so that nothing is funny any more, Late Night shows us a fantasy world where young, talentless women of color can save a show (and, by synechdoche, an industry) just by earnest moralism and blunt confidence and shepherding more talented people to being more social justice-y — a sort of doubling down of a failed strategy. Late-night and comedy in general has been ruined by the moralism of the Millennials. This movie, which asserts that this moralism and these Millennials can save late-night comedy, is not the more laughable, alas, for being preposterous.

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* The link is with the first Times story I mention, about the young leftist who is “brainwashed” by the “alt right” to wind up exactly where Late Night winds up: in the arms of the SJWs.

In America today the argument about immigration . . . borders on the idiotic.

Everyone seems to pretend that the debate has two sides, and that they are

Limited Controlled Immigration
versus
Open Immigration.

This is obviously not the case, for while The Wall side of the debate does want to crack down on illegal immigration, the other side actually supports (and even insists upon) Subsidized Immigration.

I lean towards open immigration, but that is not an option at present. Libertarians who pretend that open borders and free immigration are actually on the table strike me as naive at the very least. And what they are at most, well, I will not say, for it isn’t nice to say such things about your friends.

More amusing are the supporters of open borders, for though they are enthusiastic supporters of a welfare state, and even seek to extend that welfare state’s benefits to all people who can manage to get within U.S. borders, they almost never address the question of sustainability of their beloved transfer state programs.

Further, they evince a de facto policy preference in all things: what is legal shall be taxed or subsidized; what is illegal must not overburden “traditionally marginalized” groups.

And it is obvious that folks on the limited immigration side lack the courage or intelligence to attack the subsidies — which in California are set to go even to illegal immigrants* (because, I surmise, they are as addicted to subsidy as a way of life as anyone) — though, generally, they appear to understand that the practice is wrong, is indeed disastrous in the long run.

The sane compromise between the two positions? Well, that is not viable: free(ish) unsubsidized immigration. Why is it not politically possible? That should be investigated. As a matter of no small concern.


*   There have been Republican attempts to prevent illegal immigrants from obtaining taxpayer subsidized benefits, but these are adamantly opposed by Democrats and courts have stricken them down. I am not sure they could be obtained without a constitutional amendment at this point. And remember, front-running Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has come out for full medical support for illegal immigrants:

It is possible to interpret a single concept, as instantiated in a bit of jargon, in a way completely at variance from how others use it.

When I encounter this — as I often do — I sometimes believe that I am in the right, and others in the wrong, while on other occasions I am not at all sure who is right.

Recently, Meryl Streep, an actress in a popular Amazon Prime show about women behaving badly, shocked the readers of ‘Everyone Thinks We’re Insanos’ Home Journal with a seemingly commonsense statement that, in times past, would not have raised an eyebrow. She is not fond of the term “toxic masculinity”:

We hurt our boys by calling something toxic masculinity. . . . And I don’t find [that] putting those two words together . . . because women can be pretty f—ing toxic. It’s toxic people. We have our good angles and we have our bad ones. I think the labels are less helpful than what we’re trying to get to, which is a communication, direct, between human beings. We’re all on the boat together. We’ve got to make it work.

“Meryl Streep’s ‘toxic masculinity’ critique a ‘step out of’ Hollywood ‘echo chamber of conformity,’ Concha says,” by Charles Creitz | Fox News

At first blush, this seems preciously close to wisdom, though immediately a note of uncertainty creeps in: does use of the phrase “toxic masculinity” ineluctably hurt “our boys”? Despite my doubt, the statement is not nuts. But it was not a universal hit:

Janet Fiamengo, Paul Elam, and Tom Golden shared some time onscreen talking about this brouhaha. And the general consensus seemed to be that the concept of “toxic feminism” was an inherently indecent concept:

The folks at InStyle warned against their interpretation: “The specific kind of toxicity Streep is talking about involves a kind of hyper-gendered behavior. It’s not saying outright that men are evil or inherently violent.”

Emily Alford went full Jezebel, asserting that “Meryl Streep has no idea what she’s fucking talking about” on the subject, while admitting, “Yes, there are toxic people, some of them women, many of them girls I went to church camp with in 1996, but that has nothing to do with toxic masculinity.” Ms. Alford helps us with her own definition:

“Toxic masculinity is what can come of teaching boys that they can’t express emotion openly; that they have to be “tough all the time”; that anything other than that makes them “feminine” or weak. (No, it doesn’t mean that all men are inherently toxic.)

It’s these cultural lessons, according to the A.P.A., that have been linked to “aggression and violence,” leaving boys and men at “disproportionate risk for school discipline, academic challenges and health disparities,” including cardiovascular problems and substance abuse.”

Emily Alford, “Meryl Streep Does Not Know What ‘Toxic Masculinity’ Means,” Jezebel, May 30, 2019.

What Alford offers us is an environmental, “nurture”/“social construct” view of the issue. And while I do not doubt that there is a strong cultural component to the education of male humans about their (contested) roles in society as boys and men — how could I? — males are also and indisputably driven by biology, too, especially the hormone testosterone. It used to be fun to joke about “testosterone poisoning,” and I have no problem with that joke. Toxic masculinity is associated with the male hormone for good evolutionary reasons, and trying to impute masculine toxicity entirely or even mainly to cultural influences is not plausible, no matter what the A.P.A. may or may not assert.

Alford offers a definition and a theory. I reject her theory but accept her definition. Prof. Fiamengo et al. seem to object to the very term, and agree with Streep that talking about it is bad for boys. Alford demurs: “You see, Meryl, there are some damaging facets of culturally-imposed masculinity that are toxic to men (and the rest of us). It is not the men who are toxic simply by accident of being men.”

Alford seems as level-headed as a person can be under the sway of the ludicrous Blank Slate hypothesis, where human behavior is “culturally” driven. Men are not toxic for being men. Sounds plausible. Good. But, that being admitted (at least arguendo), the toxicity of masculinity is indeed a male-related propensity driven in no small part by biology. More importantly, we call the problems heavily associated with masculinity (which includes violent crime, first and foremost) toxic because they destabilize and vex and sometimes even destroy the affected individual as well as those around him.

And, once again, I do not doubt the cultural component. Indeed, one group of people who have traditionally — and even unto this very day — promoted masculinity to the point of toxicity has been . . . women. Not all women, of course: #notall! And not just because of factors associated with Briffault’s Law — that is, not just because women tend to control male access to the Delta of Venus between their legs.

Indeed, I am pretty sure one could show toxic masculinity as developing in a sort of Grand tarantella with toxic femininity — each leading on the other.

And what might toxic femininity be? Well, traditionally it is associated with a number of behaviors, known to us personally and in literature — the Vamp (pictured above) being just one classic example. And it is also connected to the deep life history of our species, broadly speaking, and to the hormone estrogen, narrowly speaking. “Estrogen poisoning” is also relevant to the discussion.

And I will go further: it may also be the case that feminism has cultivated not only some classic forms of toxic femininity, but also applied toxic masculinity in women against women, perverting their lives to the extremities of misery.

Which brings us back to our trio of anti-feminists. For reasons I do not wholly understand, Fiamengo et al. seem to think that Streep is right, and that toxic masculinity sends boys the wrong signal. Dispirits them or something. (I confess, I turned them off before they had finished. Perhaps others with more patience than I can inform me if they started making more sense halfway through.)

The problem I see here? A common problem in our culture, where the old Aristotelian notions of virtue and vice are no longer part of our moral vocabulary. The idea that virtue is found in balance, and vice at the extremes, helps explain how we should recognize two poles in our natures, yin and yang, and recognize that they need balancing — by the cultivation of good habits, according to reason.

And this question of “toxicity”: it is a metaphor. And a good one. Poison is in the dose. Estrogen and testosterone are good things in our make-ups. They provide us with our basic drives. But we must not let them drive us into perversity or oblivion. Balance; moderation in all things.

And, when it comes to toxicity, it is all a question of dosage. Too much of any single hormone is, well, too much: poison. Too little is bad, too, for it is at optimum dose that poison is medicine.

Similarly, each person must find his or her balance. The first requisite of being a good human is to be a good animal, Herbert Spencer said, and speaking in frankly biological as well as cultural terms is important. But add in other medicines (which, again, are also poisonous at high dosage, by the principle of hormesis) as well, like rights and obligations and justice: we have a lot of balancing to do.

Little boys need to understand that some typically boyish behaviors — like rough-and-tumble assertiveness — can be quite bad in some circumstances and at some extremes. Same goes for little girls. They should be aware that certain typically girlish behaviors — coquettish cuteness played up, say — are also dangerous in many contexts and especially when laid on thick.

Nowadays, of course, we are supposed to immediately discuss various ambiguities of sex roles and behavior ranges, using the term “gender,” which I dislike for reasons I have often discussed. So I will skip all that. Of course, of course: #notall, blah blah blah.

I will, instead, merely summarize: Streep and Fiamengo et al. are wrong to suspect that little boys cannot handle the knowledge that some of their typically boyish behaviors can be taken to an excess of vice. But little girls need similar remonstrances, mutatis mutandis, and perhaps were this stressed more, and seriously, boys would be able to handle maturation better than they seem to be doing these days. They will realize that they are not singled out as “problematic,” and that every person, of both sexes, have a tough road ahead of them, perhaps right up to the moment of death.

And the feminists need to let go of their relentless and indefensible social constructivism, for reasons I have given elsewhere. I am quite glad that Ms. Alford does not mean to say that toxic masculinity should be understood as akin to Original Sin. But hey: blaming society for social mores that double down on our basic sexual/biological patterns we see in mammalian and avian species the world over is a nonstarter. Further, not only do I readily admit that culture and social controls and norms matter, I suggest to the Alfords of our society that their feminism has worsened, not alleviated, the basic lot of humanity.

Well, to some extent, at least.

twv


It may be that Hillary Clinton losing the last election influenced the form of the UFO disclosure we are seeing now. It is a fun and under-appreciated fact that Hillary, her husband Bill and their assistant John Podesta were all enthusiastic and longstanding proponents of UFO disclosure, and that Hillary had made public pronouncements in favor of disclosure.

Indeed, disclosure is one of the more interesting topics in the generally tedious Wikileaked Clinton emails.

The fact that her pronouncements were ungainly and seemingly ludicrous may or may not have been significant.

One of my theories about her loss, as I have mentioned before, is that, no matter how thoroughly the shallow end of the Deep State favored her, the deep end may have been dubious at best about disclosure, and therefore rigged the election in Trump’s favor. I am not saying this is likely, but it is also not something I rule out of hand.

It is worth noting that the current disclosure does not appear to have been orchestrated by said deep Deep State, but by Congress, the Navy, and former investigators at AATIP. The Navy breaking ranks with the Air Force and NASA and the CIA about how to handle UFOs may be hugely significant.

Of course, we have little knowledge and mainly mere hunch.

twv

This is not the motto, today, of very many people who call themselves “democrats.”

…as answered on Quora…

The question should be formed in the past tense: when was democracy overthrown?

OK, that’s a bit snarky. And not at all accurate, since the United States was neither designed to be nor ever became a democracy.

Unless, as I have written elsewhere on Quora, one starts fiddling with the meaning of the term “democracy.” Which is fair game, I guess, and is part of a long tradition. Alexis de Tocqueville meant something different by the word in the Jacksonian era than did the founding fathers of these benighted states.

It is pointless for me to repeat all I have written on this in the past. So, for the remainder of my answer, I will accept arguendo that democracy is a good thing, that we once had it, and that it either no longer exists or is in peril.

So who is responsible for the anti-democratic influences? People in power.

I find it weird that Democrats think Republicans are democracy’s threat, and Republicans deem Democrats the threat. Both are threats. Obviously.

Take the big marker: initiative and referendum rights. Those are democratic, after all. No controversy about that. So, all around the country, in state after state, Democratic Party political machines work to squelch the ability of voters to check legislatures — which are, after all, concentrations of political power, especially when incumbency accrues advantages on sitting politicians by seniority and sheer persistence — using the ballot box on an issue-by-issue creation and repeal of constitutional amendments and statutes.

Except in Florida. In Florida it is the Republicans who work to squelch initiative activity, through the usual sneaky political means, by regulating the petition process for ballot access.

Usually, it depends upon who is in and out of power. Truth is, politicians out of power tend to favor democracy, for their best hope into power is to ride a groundswell of citizen unrest. Where, once in power, they tend to lust to squelch the competition.

Democracy is a means to manage competition for political power. That’s one definition anyway. And any group in power tends to be against democracy.

It is one of the basic rules of politics.

But let us look more broadly at the institutions of citizen control of the government. Are we really sure we have it? Are we sure we do not live in a mixed system with heavy elements of plutocracy, oligarchy, and mobocracy as well as star-chamber Deep State machinations?

After all, way back in the late 1930s, Garet Garrett understood that revolutions need not be overt:

There are those who still think they are holding the pass against a revolution that may be coming up the road. But they are gazing in the wrong direction. The revolution is behind them. It went by in the Night of Depression, singing songs to freedom.

There are those who have never ceased to say very earnestly, “Something is going to happen to the American form of government if we don’t watch out.”

These were the innocent disarmers. Their trust was in words. They had forgotten their Aristotle. More than 2,000 years ago he wrote of what can happen within the form, when “one thing takes the place of another, so that the ancient laws will remain, while the power will be in the hands of those who have brought about revolution in the state.”

The key thing about citizen control of government is that government must be small enough, limited enough, for citizens to practically control. At the time of the founding, the ratio of Representatives to citizens was comparatively balanced — a normal person was apt to know his Rep. Today, to keep up anything like that ratio, our House of Representatives would have to number not 435 but in the many thousands. This means that the federal union that is supposedly the United States may be less democratic today than it was two centuries ago . . . when it was explicitly not democratic!

But Americans, when they hear this, usually just shrug.

I think it is pretty obvious that people do not want democracy. Government is something we get activated about when we fret about a particular issue. But most people have the sense to shove most questions of governance off their proverbial front burners and onto that of experts. Who have their own special interests.

The consequences of this, of course, is not democracy but rule by the most vociferous and greedy factions. The revolution of the 20th century — away from constitutional constraints and a decent balance between “the people” and “the government” and to the establishment of a vast administrative state with its bureaucracy and vast transfer programs and regulations placing unequal burdens upon society, for the benefit of some and not others — is the result of the activism of some and the “inactivism” of the many.

Is that democracy? Hardly. But the metamorphosis did not require much bloodshed, as Garrett explained:

Revolution in the modern case is no longer an uncouth business. The ancient demagogic art, like every other art, has, as we say, advanced. It has become in fact a science — the science of political dynamics. And your scientific revolutionary in spectacles regards force in a cold, impartial manner. It may or may not be necessary. If not, so much the better; to employ it wantonly, or for the love of it, when it is not necessary, is vulgar, unintelligent and wasteful. Destruction is not the aim. The more you destroy the less there is to take over. Always the single end in view is a transfer of power.

I find it funny that there are people who think they are “for democracy” but really just demand more power for their faction.

My laughter is not exactly mirthful, I admit.

twv

Remember President Barack Obama’s annoying “You didn’t build that”?

Today I watched President Donald Trump “explain” how awful trade deficits are. In that explanation he basically said to China, “You didn’t build that.”

The line should still be familiar. Obama had purloined it from the lips of Senator Elizabeth Warren. With this argumentative gambit, these two politicians revealed themselves for what they are, demagogues out to fan the flames of resentment and entitlement. In trying to give to government the credit for the entrepreneurial accomplishments of businessfolk, they were honing an agenda: de-legitimize the achievements of the successful the better to take their wealth away.

But while Obama gave to government the credit for business successes, Trump gave America the credit for China’s.

His logic?

Trump said previous presidents had allowed China to get away with trade policies that disfavored the U.S. to such an extent that no future deal could be 50/50; then, that a deal had been made, but China changed it, so he put up the wall of high tariffs.

Next, Trump boasted of the huge increase in government revenues from his taxes, er, tariffs.

And then the kicker: “We rebuilt China because they got so much money” under freer trade.

That is how Trump had America take the credit for Chinese growth.

And he was more than implying that there is something wrong with Americans helping Chinese grow in this manner.

Trump seems not to understand that when people trade (it is not, really, countries trading) both sides gain. The farmers who support Trump can imagine selling more agricultural product had President Xi’s own protectionist measures been lower, and it is on the basis of those lost opportunities that Trump makes his pitch to American farmers. But it is Chinese consumers who have the greater cause to complain for past Chinese protectionism, for had Xi allowed more trade, China would have grown even faster. Because of all the exchanges. 

Like in all trade, neither side to a trade is irrelevant. China could with just as much justification take credit for American progress in all that past trade.

Every instance of which was an advance for both sides.

The Chinese built what they built, with American help. And could’ve built more had their government gotten out of the way.

And right now, with Trump’s high tariffs in place, American consumers will have to pay more for what we buy from China.

And elsewhere.

Trump is apparently trying to get Xi to take down his protectionist barriers by putting up American barriers. And if Trump succeeds, we do indeed all win. If he fails, we all lose. Meanwhile, we are hurting as much as the Chinese.

And what Trump is saying encourages resentment and economic superstition. So, even if he wins, what we may end up with is more resentment and a greater reservoir of protectionist sentiment in the American electorate.

And that almost guarantees disaster.

twv

The inability of progressives to pass Ideological Turing Tests is well recognized. It has even been definitively studied, and not just by Jonathan Haidt. My own experience with progressives, in argument, often shows to me their utterly em-bubbled brains. Take a recent Facebook interchange about a Tweet. A friend posted the following, and I responded (in the first two screenshots below, my name shows but my interlocutors’ do not):

What I am trying to show here is that the shared tweet is utterly wrong-headed. I even understate the case, engaging in respectful argumentstion in one of my not-infrequent attempts to reach out to ideologues. This woman, Geraldine, does indeed state that the “penalty for getting an abortion” . . . is in play. It is not. The Alabama law would only punish someone for performing an abortion.

This means that this Geraldine either does not understand the basics of the law, or is a liar.

What she is doing is appealing to the same instinct that the Alabama legislators were allowing for when they exempted abortion-seeking pregnant women from prosecution. As I suggest in my response, this makes scant sense. If abortion be murder, the abortive mothers would be as guilty as the doctors, nurses and coat-hanger specialists who perform the abortions.

I think this should give “pro-life” anti-abortion activists pause.

But the utter witlessness of Geraldine’s tweet far outshines the cluelessness of the pro-lifers. For she also misses the painfully obvious point that murder always has and should be considered worse than murder.

And I think that provides us with a clue about the nature of the issue. But, be that as it may, her inability to retain an obvious point of her opponents shows that she is utterly confined by her ideology. She is not dealing rationally with the issue and the debate. She is defensive and foolish.

What her witlessness shows, though, is that she cannot keep in her head the notion that abortion might be murder. Killing fetuses just seems different from the murder of adults, children and (presumably) infants.

The responses to my corrective comment were predictable:

My friend marked over in Red cannot wrap his head around the ideas of his opponents. I suspect he never listens to them. He just works up hatred. My response to him makes a simple point about who supports pro-life positions: lots and lots of women. Note how he evades this, not seeing that he must be charging a majority of women in this country with wanting to control women. He is in his bubble, apparently, and only talks to women who are pro-choice, like the female Fber I’ve marked in Blue who took the tolerance angle. The problem with her gambit is that it, too, ignores the basic charge, that killing fetuses might be murder (that is: unjust; wrong). Would she say also say that “this woman, mother, friend, would never murder anyone, and this is right FOR ME . . . but I am also aware that if other people want to murder that is NONE OF MY BUSINESS!”?

In both of these cases, no arguments against the pro-life position are offered. What we see, instead, are clichés brought up to provide an alternate way of thinking about the subject. And in both cases the clichés border on the inane. My Red friend reverts to the “men shouldn’t have a say” gambit, which he does not realize is an awfully weak reed to flail against the abortion-is-evil position. And, once again, does nothing against the argumentation of pro-choice women.

But, alas, messing up this debate is the norm, even for super-smart non-leftists. Take Kat Timpf, a Fox News-employed libertarian who is as clever as anyone on Twitter:

Taking Ms. Timpf’s lead, I did not read the many comments either.

Here she sets up two issues, gun control and abortion prohibition, and shows, she thinks, that both right and left contradict themselves on these two issues. And it almost works . . . except that the two turn out not to be parallel.

Laws prohibiting abortion are not like laws prohibiting gun ownership. Prohibiting abortion is like prohibiting murderous shootings. Both of these are laws against killing. And neither are designed to STOP the bad acts from occurring, but, instead, to punish guilty parties and thereby provide the standard and indirect disincentive to the crime. Deterrence is not the only goal, though. Retribution establishes a moral order, and sets the boundaries of rights.

Gun control, or firearms prohibition, is an attempt to prevent a crime by taking away the ability to commit it. It is not deterrence as such, but an attempt at incapacitation. The parallel with gun control would be fucking control. Or the castration of all males. Or telling women they must give up their eggs.

Progressives who defend “abortion rights” would be parallel to those non-existent people who defend killing innocents.

Conservatives who defend the right to own guns would be parallel to all those people (everybody) who defend the right to keep their penises, testicles, uteruses, and eggs, and think people should be allowed to engage in non-forced coitus.

Maybe the reason progressives think such awful thoughts about those conservatives who want abortion made illegal is that they expect conservatives to hanker to do what they themselves want to do regarding violence: engage in intrusive, preëmptive control of personal life, just to get the social results they want.

But that is not how conservatives think. Progressives, it seems to me, have a controlling mindset, and tend to go overboard. So when they defend a grisly activity like abortion, they become unhinged and impute their worst instincts onto conservatives.

It seems to me that on so many issues, people in general and progressives in particular lack the ability to think clearly about the transactional nature of human life.

As for me, I regard abortion with moral horror, and think it quite an evil thing. But for reasons almost no one cares to hear, I doubt the horrifying, disgusting practice should be treated as unlawful killing. As murder.

But no one asks. I guess they just want to keep making lame arguments and screaming at each other. Asking a question about a novel argument? They might have to change their minds!

twv

Fan Petition to Redo Game of Thrones Season 8 Escalates as Finale Approaches,” Jacob Oller, SyFy, May 16, 2019 (Update: As of May 19, the petition has reached 1 million signatures.)

Ah, Game of Thrones: it ends tonight!

Though the writing of dialogue has diminished in quality over the last few seasons, and there have been problems with plotting the big incidents — and, perhaps saddest, Tyrion and Varis both became increasingly feckless, their roles almost pointless (so it was perhaps fitting for Varys to expire by Drogon’s fire) — my only real complaint with last Sunday’s episode regards the problem of the seemingly endless dragonflame. I mean, no attempt to explain the never-ending fireworks in terms of the conservation of matter?

At least Heinlein, in his otherwise quite bad Glory Road, bothered to consider the chemistry and physics of the fire-breathing dragon.*

Obviously, my kid’s-view of science persists.

All its many flaws being admitted, the very idea of a fan petition to redo the last season is idiotic:

As Season 8 (and the series itself) comes to a close, a fan petition to remake the season has picked up steam — reflecting some of the criticisms raised among the community.

Some are angry at its perceived disservice to its female characters, while others are upset at its underlit battles. On the flip side, some argue for its twists. The point is, the takes are often as hot as Drogon’s dragonfire. Those have manifested into a Change.org petition that user Dylan D. started a week ago. It started off slow, but by Thursday morning it neared 400,000 signatures.

The petition suggests what is wrong with culture these days: way too much “voice,” not near enough “exit.”


* The opening pages of that book were well done, too. I can admit that.


Men decide where power resides, whether or not they know it.

Varys in The Game of Thrones, best line in the penultimate episode, “The Bells”
from Wiki of Thrones

UPDATE: Watched the “finale”; was less than impressed. No great revelations, no deep change of perspective, and certainly no epiphany. But boy, did they try to force that latter. With sad, romantic music. Still, a few nice touches:

  1. Jon kills Dany, because she was homicidally mad, and this was especially tragic, since he loved her, blah blah.
  2. Drogon melts the Iron Throne, then carries off Dany’s corpse across the sea.
  3. Sam’s pitch for democracy got a laugh.
  4. Sansa makes the North independent and becomes the Queen of the North.

But the “winter is coming” theme sort of fizzled. Not much of a winter. I wanted to see snow piled high on the ruins of King’s Landing, but we got just a few flakes.

Samuel Johnson, when asked about what he thought of a certain woman preacher, famously responded, “Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.” I wonder what he would have thought of Soph, the YouTube sensation who recently had her best video removed from the popular video-sharing platform.

The truth, contra Johnson, is that there have been more-than-adequate female preachers, few so ungainly or risible as a hound on hind legs. And the truth about Soph is that she is, well, more astounding than an 18th century English female preacher.

And what astounds is not her sex, but her age and her success. And I mean that in a good way. Joseph Bernstein, a Buzzfeed hack whom I had previously known only for his Tweet about murdering heterosexual white men, apparently objects to both her age and her success, so he wrote a story about the girl entertainer and commentator, predictably portraying her as some sort of avatar of awfulness. In “YouTube’s Newest Far-Right, Foul-Mouthed, Red-Pilling Star Is A 14-Year-Old Girl,” he does not allow his readers to make their own judgments about either her talents or moral status but, instead, spoon-feeds it like you would expect from a far-left “senior technology reporter”:

Yes, if you want a vision of the future YouTube is midwifing, imagine a cherubic white girl mocking Islamic dress while lecturing her hundreds of thousands of followers about Muslim “rape gangs,” social justice “homos,” and the evils wrought by George Soros — under the thin guise of edgy internet comedy, forever.

Actually, don’t imagine it. Watch it. It’s already here.

Note the tone of moral panic. Note the crack about how gossamer is her “guise” as a Net comedienne. And note the accusatory finger pointed at YouTube, as if a platform should somehow be held responsible for the free activities of its users. Would he say that telephone companies “widwifed” phone sex, crank calls, and the JFK assassination?

Alas, Bernstein’s tone and tack served as a contagion, memetically engineered to its target. That is, his article spurred YouTube to panic and take down the very video that offended him.

Now, I saw that video. I may have watched it twice. It was hilarious. It was indeed outrageous. And it very much did mock Islam. Alas, for reasons too obvious to state, Bernstein characterizes this in his piece as “hatred toward Muslims” and not criticism of a memeplex.

It is impossible to believe that Bernstein would have marshaled the full force of his SJW chivalry had Soph been mocking the Amish, the Southern Baptist Convention, or the monastic Order of Saint Benedict.

Now, skipping the bulk of Bernstein’s string of calumnies, innuendos, and tortured readings, I wish to focus on one charge, embedded in this bizarre passage:

Soph’s scripts, which she says she writes with a collaborator, are familiar: a mix of hatred toward Muslims, anti-black racism, Byzantine fearmongering about pedophilia, tissue-thin incel evolutionary psychology, and reflexive misanthropy that could have been copied and pasted from a thousand different 4chan posts. Of course, it’s all presented in the terminally ironic style popularized by boundary-pushing comedy groups like the influential Million Dollar Extreme and adopted of late by white supremacist mass shooters in Christchurch and San Diego.

Look at the first claim: “she says she writes with a collaborator.” In olden times, Bernstein would have done a little reporting to verify or falsify Soph’s claim. But we live in a time of post-reportorial journalism, and Bernstein isn’t doing research here, he is writing a screed with a political purpose: to whip up hysteria to nudge YouTube to take down opinions of which he does not approve. This is of no great matter, but I just want to make a point: Bernstein and I are both engaged in ideological contest, neither of us is engaged in reporting — but only he calls himself a “reporter.”

The second claim is the aforementioned “hatred towards Muslims” characterization, which carefully elides any possibility that her critique of Islam might have some merit. It must be “hatred,” not criticism. The Social Justice imperative has it that never must any mention be made of the mad memeplex that is Islam. Leftists need their fellow-anti-west jihadist allies. And they are more than happy to besmirch a YouTuber, no matter how young, to do it.

That being said, Soph is reported to have ejaculated the startlingly evil request “Please kill Muslims” and to have publicly wished for a “Hitler for Muslims” to “gas them all.” That is neither funny nor defensible.

Except, of course, on free speech grounds.

And after all, if Joe Bernstein can blithely jump on the currently acceptable form of racism, against whites — “KILL a straight white man on your way to work tomorrow” — perhaps we can cut a 14-year-old some slack in the Genocidal Wish-Mongering department. Such sentiments are hard to walk back, though. Those remarks are anti-Muslim and not just anti-Islam; they cross a very disturbing line.

Which, to repeat, Bernstein himself has already crossed and apparently been absolved of. Did he convince his critics his tweet was satire? What has Soph said about her statements? Perhaps Bernstein can help us out here by doing some actual reporting.

Of course, context is always important, and we are always tempted to forget context. As I just did, above. Soph’s offending-and-removed-from-YouTube vid was a response to blowback from her comment — on another platform. Watch the vid on BitChute.

But it is his third charge that interests me most, for here we kick at the leftist crutch subject, racism. Whereas those on the left used to ridicule right-wingers for “seeing a commie behind every bush,” nowadays leftists espy racists on every barstool. Bernstein asserts that Soph engages “anti-black racism,” and helpfully provides a link to back up his charge. 

The vid in question is called “Multiracial White Supremacy,” in which the girl dons a black t-shirt and an FBI cap to portray agent “Clide Colon,” concerned about the “Social Harmony of the United States Hegemony” as it pertains to “white supremacy.” Like in most of Soph’s more elaborate satires, at some point she drops the satire to talk straight. Settling on when that shift happens might serve as a drinking game. 

At the beginning, however, the satire is clear. The agent worries about the white supremacy of the type presented by “head Negro operative and designated KKK spokesman Treasure Richards” placing in jeopardy “the welfare of the black community we thoroughly sold cocaine to a few decades ago.” Spot on. Funnier than Samantha Bee, anyway.

Now, this Miss Treasure Richards is an African-American girl a few years older than Soph who appeared on “Dr. Phil” claiming not mere alienation from black inner-city culture, but also to despise her fellow black folk, even going so far as to think of herself as white. Dr. Phil took up her case as a “teachable moment,” and Miss Richards appears to have been in earnest — though there are folks online who say it was all a typical daytime TV show hoax. I would not know since I could not watch Treasure’s apology video. (I don’t know if she was sincere or her tears faked, because I don’t watch crying girls if I can at all help it. Dr. Phil insists that she was for real.) Soph shows some cuts from Dr. Phil’s show, after the first of which she makes a Blazing Saddles-variety n-word jape (“that man is a Nih-!” becomes “she’s clearly not an African-American, she’s a Nih-”), placing her (I surmise, not drinking my whiskey yet) squarely in satire mode as “Clide Colon.” This followed some droll jabs at the FBI, obviously satirical.

Her next jest is also standard-brand racist, doubling down on Treasure’s variant. Still satire. I trust.

Then she moves on to comment on Treasure’s mother, whom she refers to, sarcastically, as “a reliable source” — sarcastic because the mother had lied to her children about their parentage, making them think (incorrectly?!?!?) that her now-departed white husband was their father. At 2:17 Soph’s criticism of the mother wanders away from satire and from her role as Agent Colon. “It’s interesting how a 16-year-old girl who hasn’t endangered a single human being so far is considered the bad person, not the single mother who had to move in with her two kids to the ghetto thanks to her financial irresponsibility.”

This sort of judgmentalism can be found throughout the Soph oeuvre that I have screened. It is funny, to the extent it is, because its like is so rarely stated in polite society. This is precisely how late night TV operates these day, with rash statements standing in for jokes. In Soph’s case, though, because her judgments rub against the grain of dominant left culture, it is funny. A bit. Well, at least more than Seth Meyers.

But Soph earns her nom de plume, immediately after this, by getting philosophical. She states her basic case vis-à-vis Treasure’s dislike of her new African-American neighbors as a thesis that could be profitably defended: 

When it’s claimed that racial identity is constituted by a set of behaviors instead of genetic composition, this is what inevitably follows. Those of that ethnicity who don’t conform will be denounced, as if they owe allegiance to their racial group because they have some sort of abstractly defined “shared experience.” When all they truly share is limited to haplogroups. Ironically, they are treated as belongings because of their race. This, in turn, makes them revolt against the people denouncing them, and since the denouncers purport to represent the racial group, that’s what ends up getting attacked. 

This is all very reasonable and not delivered as satire . . . other than that Soph hasn’t changed out of her Colon costume.

But what do we make of the following?

That isn’t to say I support the things being said by Treasure, but it’s preferrable to adopting the reprehensible behavior being displayed in her environment.

Here Soph carefully (and for all to see) repudiates the race-hatred of Treasure, who apparently developed a positive fixation on the KKK. Soph’s comments on that are back to funny:

Let me just say this: there’s probably not one organization with worse p.r. than the Ku Klux Klan. Planned Parenthood is responsible for the Negro Baby Holocaust, and it’s still considerably less despised than the KKK. If your black daughter is entranced by the Klan, it isn’t because of their cunning marketing tactics, it’s because of your monumental failure as a parent. 

So, for whom would this be the ideal type of “anti-black racism”? Not me. That a complex and not unfamiliar mix of satire and moralizing strikes Mr. Bernstein as worth characterizing as “anti-black” says more about BuzzFeed and its project to direct sniper fire at its main competition, alt-media videos by amateurs, than it does about Soph.

Whose next step in development may be to write the next great Menippean satire.

Unless Bernstein can get enough nutball leftists to direct actual sniper fire in her direction. That would be a triumph for the left that leftists might understand . . . without taxing their hermeneutician chops.

Soph strikes me as brilliant, if rough not merely around the edges but also at the seams. Bernstein, on the other hand, is the kind of writer who, in times past, demanded that Jurgen and Ulysses be suppressed and who lambasted Mencken as a scandal to a Christian republic. Today, as a century ago, such moralistic scolds inhabit key positions in major media and headline online clickbait outfits, now defending not Christendom but Democratic pols and . . . the “intelligence community.”

O, how the mighty have fallen splat into the muck of petty tyranny.

Sad to see a “reporter” getting his licks in, desperately, before BuzzFeed implodes under competition from upstart competitors.

Like Soph.


Your humble TWV.
Democratic socialism may be all the rage.
But its most famous proponent is no sage.

The art of defining a term can be undertaken in good faith or bad faith. I am fascinated by this art. I am tempted to call the good faith version The Dialectic, but that, alas, would be a designation rather peculiar to me — it being my takeaway of what is wrong and right in Plato’s dialogues, and what I remember after reading Aristotle’s dreadful* book, The Topics. The bad faith version is vulgar propaganda, I suppose, but isn’t the p-word too nice for it?

Definitional arguments underlie so much substantive argument, so my interest in distinguishing proffered good-faith from bad-faith definitions is ongoing, persistent. Take the problem of defining “socialism.”

An important topic. There are a few plausible definitions for the term, and quite distinct ones at that. There are also some technical characterizations that can unify a few of those different approaches, which I have advanced here and elsewhere.

But a definition of socialism you often hear among rather bright people online is not correct, and it is worth showing why. That definition?

“worker ownership of the means of production”

How is socialism as worker ownership of the means of production not a good faith definition?

There exist, today, many economies** that qualify under that definition, but which no socialist I have ever encountered promotes, and which most of the leading socialist theoreticians and proponents look upon with utter disdain, even wishing to squelch. And what are these economies? Sole proprietorships and partnerships that have no employees. These professionals provide goods and services to others by contract. They most certainly labor at their work and thus qualify as “workers” and “laborers” under any commonsense definition of the terms. But these are not what socialists have historically meant by worker and laborer.

Indeed, actual socialists in the past have organized by the thousands to murder millions of workers precisely like this: think of the kulaks’ fate under Stalin.

Further, one can imagine a whole vast catallaxy of market institutions in which all of the businesses are owned and operated by workers democratically — yet no living, breathing socialist I have encountered has any interest in it, despite its near-term viability. What is this astounding institution? Corporations with majority stockholders made up of worker pension funds and other saved funds invested by individual laborers. Robert Nozick suggested this as a possibility; Peter Drucker was its prophet. When Gene Epstein offered this as a decent alternative to state socialism in a recent debate, his socialist interlocutor was just flummoxed. This isn’t political; no force and bullying required — where’s the fun in that?

And there we see why the worker-ownership definition of socialism is a bad-faith definition: it is a lie that masks what socialists really want.

They want power, especially to expropriate the rich and bully people they disagree with. So, though I usually trot out technical definitions of the s-word that make a lot of sense, a nastier definition serves, and it is, despite its nastiness, not in bad faith:

Socialism is the ideology promoting systems of total state power as wielded by people who call themselves socialists.

A bit circular? Well, there are crucial non-circular elements to it, and, besides, there is nothing quite so taut as a tautology.

And it leads to a working definition of a competitive ideology:

Fascism is any ideology promoting systems of total state power wielded by people whom socialists call fascist.

Leftists’ habit of calling nearly everyone they disagree with “fascist” is no more worthy of emulation than is their raising aloft the banner of “democratic socialism.” If they actually wanted a truly democratic socialism, they would defend and advance the liberal, minimal state order — maybe going so far as libertarianism — while working in the voluntary sector, in business, to bring about a worker-owned order.

But what, if you are a socialist, would be the fun of that?

Integral to socialist agitation is the politics of opposition to private property and free markets along with the promotion of state power. Both of these corrupt even the most earnest souls. Whatever good, charitable thoughts that may begin their political quest, and nudge them to prefix socialism with that eulogistic term democratic, erode quickly, replaced by a terrifying changeling: tyranny.


*Oh, and I do mean really, really badly written and mostly unconvincing. Aristotle was a great thinker but not a great writer, and The Topics is one of his very worst treatises.
** I am using “economy” in the manner suggested by F. A. Hayek, in contradistinction to “catallaxy” that I use in the next paragraph. I do not remember where Hayek suggests these two terms of art. I am reshelving my economics section of my library this week, so maybe I will dip into the Hayek volumes mid-course, and come back here to give the proper citation. Until then. . . .