September 30, 2012

Just Got My Car Keyed. Or, Reason #976 I Despise Our Fake-Liberals.

Right above a certain bumper sticker. (It's not actually on the bumper, that's the back door of my van.)

Hmmm. Don't I remember hearing from Leftists and materialists all about how casting off outmoded ideas like religion and patriotism and limited government and morality was going to produce superior human beings? God-like creatures who could achieve their full-potential? Something like that? Maybe I imagined it.

My car keyed, 9-30-2012


Actually I should be glad. The sentiment of the sticker has just been shown to be prophetic!

UPDATE: Better picture...

My car keyed2

Posted by John Weidner at 7:57 PM

September 29, 2012

A long-ago way of thinking...

Bruce Charlton's Miscellany: Human capability peaked before 1975 and has since declined: (Thanks to Ed Driscoll.)

...I suspect that human capability reached its peak or plateau around 1965-75 – at the time of the Apollo moon landings – and has been declining ever since.

This may sound bizarre or just plain false, but the argument is simple. That landing of men on the moon and bringing them back alive was the supreme achievement of human capability, the most difficult problem ever solved by humans. 40 years ago we could do it – repeatedly – but since then we have *not* been to the moon, and I suggest the real reason we have not been to the moon since 1972 is that we cannot any longer do it. Humans have lost the capability.

Of course, the standard line is that humans stopped going to the moon only because we no longer *wanted* to go to the moon, or could not afford to, or something…– but I am suggesting that all this is BS, merely excuses for not doing something which we *cannot* do. ...

Apollo was the culmination of the Industrial Age. It happened during the 60's, which was exactly when a new age of the world was beginning, the Information Age. It is my theory that this had nothing to do with personal computers or the Internet, which were still in the future. Rather, it was a change in how people thought. (Link to my Info Age pieces, if you are curious.)

And what Apollo was mostly about was not technology or space exploration. It was about, "The whole nation pulls together." As in fighting a war. Which was the purpose; uniting us in the Cold War.

It worked at first. I was there. I remember us all swooning over the pictures of the first Mercury astronauts in Life Magazine. The Americans who didn't "pull together and feel the required emotions could probably fit in a football stadium. That was the real "success" of Apollo. That's what the big deal was. The technology was superb, but it was not "off the charts." It was intellectually comparable to the Manhattan project, the development of jet aircraft, or the creation of digital computers. (I'd say the first Plutonium bomb was a much bigger technological "reach." Maybe the biggest one ever.)

Apollo seems stupendous because it fits our mental picture of what a big project should be. Everyone moving together under the leadership of wise big government.

At the same time it was, on its own terms, a colossal failure. By the time we actually walked on the Moon, a large portion of Americans had begun thinking in a different way. They simply did not function in the group-mind fashion of ten years before. We did not pull together as a nation, and we were less interested in vicarious experiences by a few "official" explorers. After the first flights we lost interest in the Moon. Big top-down-management projects no longer seemed to make sense. Actually, they literally did not make sense, because people had changed. They were fragmenting and inventing wild new things and thoughts at such a pace that managing them top-down was like organizing cats. Nothing like Apollo has happened since, because such things don't work in the Information Age. (For the same reasons I predict confidently that CFPB and Obama-care will fail.)

The thing that was supposed to be the next Apollo, the Space Shuttle, was a mess. A clunker. It should never have been built. And it's real problem was spiritual--we didn't know what we wanted to do in space, and the Shuttle expressed our incoherence, The "magic" didn't happen. NASA kept pulling stunts to make the Shuttle exciting and "relevant," such as sending a teacher into space. Trying to re-capture the "astronaut magic." And failing every time. What America should have done was use subsidies to stimulate private space development; to turn loose individual genius, rather than collectivist genius. Which is starting to happen now. If there were some way to measure such things, I'd guess that a random year of Silicon Valley is as big a technological accomplishment as the whole Moon program. But people like Mr Charlton can't "see" it. It doesn't fit their template.

We will go back to the moon. But never as an Apollo-style government program. Rather, when cost-to-orbit shrinks to a certain point, we will see an explosion of private space happenings, which will result in thousands of people simply living in space. In orbit. And those people will start doing stuff. Starting businesses, businesses such as going to the Moon and shooting back materials to build more orbital stuff. They won't be wearing white space suits, and planting flags and gazing soulfully up to the stars. They will be more like a scruffy infestation of gold-rush miners.

(The book to read is Vacuum Flowers, by the supremely talented Michael Swanwick. Alas, he is infected with the nihilism common to our age, and like so many SF writers of my generation, writes beautifully but has nothing to say. But the kooky rabble inhabiting his space habitats are a valuable corrective to all those fantasy pictures of noble NASA explorers in their white space-suits.)


Posted by John Weidner at 3:44 PM | Comments (5)

September 26, 2012

There are thouands of stories like this right now...

I've no special reason to post this one. I very much doubt that "progressives" are really going to change their thinking. Leftists made faustian bargains with the public employee unions, gaining massive political donations and help, while the unions were allowed to loot the treasuries. Then sat by for decades as governments promised benefits that can't possibly be paid. Plus sat by and tolerated shoddy work and laziness. They can't re-think, they don't dare, because to do so will threaten to expose their horrid guilt.

Most people just won't re-think, period. Henry Ford famously said hat 95% of people would rather die than think. Weidner's corollary to that rule is that 99% of people would rather die than re-think.

Walter Russell Mead, Progressives Sour on Chicago Teachers:

...The larger problem here is that blue policies simply can’t be made to work. Higher taxes won’t fix the problem of an overpriced, underperforming school system; indeed, they will just drive out even more of the city’s tax-generating economic base.

The city is now on a course to make all its problems steadily worse. Chicago is slowly bankrupting itself to sustain a school system it can’t afford that doesn’t educate its kids very well. Somebody, somewhere should explain why supporting slow urban suicide is a “progressive” position....

Well, I just did explain it. "Take it, you're welcome, no extra charge."

Posted by John Weidner at 9:21 AM | Comments (2)

September 21, 2012

I will take you walking with me to a place you have not seen...

Canals are fascinating things. Scary, strange, mysteriously beautiful. Flecker gets it. Oxford Canal, by James Elroy Flecker (1884 – 1915)

OXFORD CANAL

When you have wearied of the valiant spires of this County Town,
Of its wide white streets and glistening museums, and black monastic walls,
Of its red motors and lumbering trains, and self-sufficient people,
I will take you walking with me to a place you have not seen —
Half town and half country—the land of the Canal.

It is dearer to me than the antique town: I love it more than the rounded hills:
Straightest, sublimest of rivers is the long Canal.
I have observed great storms and trembled: I have wept for fear of the dark.
But nothing makes me so afraid as the clear water of this idle canal on a summer's noon.
Do you see the great telegraph poles down in the water, how every wire is distinct?
If a body fell into the canal it would rest entangled in those wires for ever, between earth and air.
For the water is as deep as the stars are high.

One day I was thinking how if a man fell from that lofty pole
He would rush through the water toward me till his image was scattered by his splash,
When suddenly a train rushed by: the brazen dome of the engine flashed:
the long white carriages roared;
The sun veiled himself for a moment, and the signals loomed in fog;
A savage woman screamed at me from a barge: little children began to cry;
The untidy landscape rose to life: a sawmill started;
A cart rattled down to the wharf, and workmen clanged over the iron footbridge;
A beautiful old man nodded from the first story window of a square red house,
And a pretty girl came out to hang up clothes in a small delightful garden.

O strange motion in the suburb of a county town: slow regular movement of the dance of death!
Men and not phantoms are these that move in light.
Forgotten they live, and forgotten die.

James Elroy Flecker, poet, 1884--1915

(If you are among the happy few, I have other things by Flecker in my Poems category)

Posted by John Weidner at 7:24 PM | Comments (2)

September 20, 2012

"If your principles are clear you don’t need focus groups"

Roger’s Rules -- Newton’s first Law of Motion Applied to Political Strategy (with a brief excursus on Gaffes):

...Finally, let me observe that there is often a lot to be said for shooting before you take aim.  If your principles are correct, if your vision is clear, you are already aiming in the right direction. Just pull the trigger.  In fact, this is something Obama understands perfectly well. His administration has unleashed a continuous barrage since January 2009. I happen to think he is aiming in exactly the wrong direction. But his instincts about when (if not what) to shoot at are correct. If your principles are clear you don’t need focus groups and the abundance of caution they instill. You need a simple, clear, and (I’ll use the dread word again) manly policy for the country. I think that, deep down, Mitt Romney has such a vision. Hitherto, he has allowed it to be obscured by too diligent adherence to the false wisdom of focus groups. The path to victory is cleared by the candidate that has momentum. Inertia in the positive, irresistible sense is within Romney’s grasp. He needs but seize it....

The general point is dead on. You need to know what you believe, and then express it. One can't be making constant calculations, there just isn't the time. I have my doubts though about Romney being able to project any vision. He's a problem-solver, a technocrat. He's spent a lifetime thinking about what "works." And just assuming that the world has already worked out where it wants to go.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:47 AM | Comments (0)

September 15, 2012

What is the thing in its essence?

Walter Russell Mead, University of Virginia: Only the Beginning:

...In an ideal world, university professors and other intellectuals would have been thinking about these problems for many years. They would be the pioneers in innovation and experiment. Unfortunately, we don't live in an ideal world. The intellectual establishment is fully on the defensive. It is circling the wagons. It instinctively identifies attacks on the existing model with the worst kind of populist ignorance and bigotry. Nobody is angrier, nastier or more self-righteous than an intellectual whose livelihood is under threat.

The bureaucracy will join the faculty senate in fighting change. All those vice provosts for diversity and assistant deans for various forms of student services are sure that their services are essential -- or at least they are sure that they want to keep their jobs. The stripped down, leaner, New Model U will have much less room for baggage and ballast than the stately, well funded cruise ships of old.

What we see at UVA this month is just a foretaste of the storm that is coming -- a few early raindrops and gusts of wind before the real storm hits. The country needs more education than the current system can affordably supply, and the pressure on the educational system will not abate until this problem is resolved....

Sorry, but I don't think the universities can be saved. There's just too much legacy baggage. Most of the things modern colleges and universities do started in the Industrial Age, and are simply obsolete. Mostly the Industrial Age universities were about the need to put a bunch of things in the same place. Scholars, apprentice scholars, undergrads, buildings, libraries, dorms, journals, labs, conferences, accounting and book-keeping and record-keeping. All concentrated in one exciting place. The defining problem of the Industrial Age was handling information. Putting things in physical proximity was a solution.

So now, in the Information Age, how many of those things need to be heaped-up in one spot to work? Not many. Most of them can happen online, or be dispersed to various locations. Why can't a college have no physical location? No community? Or maybe there won't even be anything like a college, just a universe of online classes to chose from, and some sort of accreditation service that employers can trust.

So, the question is, is there something real and essential to universities that still works? That still provides value? That might be the core of a new sort of university?

I'd love to work on that problem. I'm full of dreamish ideas. As a solver of practical problems I'm pretty much worthless. But as a dreamer I have a big advantage over other people, in that I am perfectly willing to just toss everything currently accepted overboard, and start afresh. That don't bother me at all.

.
Posted by John Weidner at 6:24 PM

“Apart from me you can do nothing.”

Being Famous Doesn’t Make You Moral...

...The popular-figure-as-Christian-leader is an American myth. For years our history books were filled with mythic tales of the righteous founders of our nation. Not even ancient Israel had such righteous leaders. King David was a murdering adulterer. George Washington could not tell a lie. The disconnect between these two figures is the disconnect between the traditional Christian faith and the American Christian faith. Jesus is not an American and He did not found our country. He also did not coach at Notre Dame.

Being moral does not make you famous – and being famous has nothing to do with being moral.

I am not a believer in traditional morality – because I think it’s a modern invention. Conventional morality thinks in terms of a moral code well kept. Think Immanuel Kant as business leader. Proper Christian morality thinks of death and resurrection. Jesus did not die in order to make bad men good – He died to make dead men live. Immoral people act the way they do because within they are filled with death and corruption. There is something fundamentally broken about the human being – and we often find our lives to be a mass of contradictions.

The moral man, in this understanding, is the one who acknowledges his utter weakness before God. Christ told His disciples, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Someone who believes this spends his life learning to depend not on himself but on the only Lord and Giver of Life....
Posted by John Weidner at 5:46 PM | Comments (0)

September 14, 2012

"No ideas are off the table." Except one.

UC regents brainstorm changes if voters reject Prop. 30 - latimes.com:

...SAN FRANCISCO — In what was described as a brainstorming session, UC regents on Wednesday raised the possibility of controversial policy changes — including varying tuition rates by campus and sharply hiking the number of out-of-state students — to cut costs and raise revenues.

Those ideas and others could gain traction if voters reject the tax increase measure backed by Gov. Jerry Brown on the November ballot.

UC officials also repeated their warning that if Proposition 30 is defeated, UC will lose $375 million in funding and students probably will face a midyear tuition hike, possibly as much as 20% or about $2,400. If the proposition passes, there will be no tuition hike for the 2012-13 school year although a modest one is likely the following year.

Regents insisted that they were not trying to scare voters into supporting the tax proposition but that they needed to study some of those options even if the measure passes. No votes were taken Wednesday and no policy changes were adopted immediately. Still, the meeting provided insight into the thinking of many of the regents who control the 10-campus system.

"We are simply examining every possibility," said Sherry Lansing, regents chairwoman. "No ideas are off the table."...

Bullshit. The biggest issue is never mentioned. In fact the critics of the universities rarely mention it, which bewilders me.

If you went back a few decades, you would find that the UC system had about 1 administrator to every 6 or 8 faculty. Since then the numbers of faculty have hardly grown at all, but administrators now outnumber faculty! There are now more chiefs than indians.

This is insane by ANY theory of management you might chose to apply. Most schools of management would predict that such a situation would result in worse management, and that looks like what's happening to me. The management of the UC system (and LOTS of other universities public and private) has become a cancer, devouring the body and soaking up all funds.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:41 PM | Comments (1)

September 12, 2012

Deadly sounds...

One of my sons sent me a YouTube link to these old recordings from the 30's of Civil War veterans giving the famous Rebel Yell. I hadn't realized what an eerie vibrating sound it was...

Posted by John Weidner at 6:01 PM | Comments (0)

September 7, 2012

Flukish...

Peggy is good on Fluke and the DNC, The Democrats' Soft Extremism:

...The sheer strangeness of all the talk about abortion, abortion, contraception, contraception. I am old enough to know a wedge issue when I see one, but I've never seen a great party build its entire public persona around one. Big speeches from the heads of Planned Parenthood and NARAL, HHS Secretary and abortion enthusiast Kathleen Sebelius and, of course, Sandra Fluke.

"Republicans shut me out of a hearing on contraception," Ms. Fluke said. But why would anyone have included a Georgetown law student who never worked her way onto the national stage until she was plucked, by the left, as a personable victim?

What a fabulously confident and ingenuous-seeming political narcissist Ms. Fluke is. She really does think--and her party apparently thinks--that in a spending crisis with trillions in debt and many in need, in a nation in existential doubt as to its standing and purpose, in a time when parents struggle to buy the good sneakers for the kids so they're not embarrassed at school . . . that in that nation the great issue of the day, and the appropriate focus of our concern, is making other people pay for her birth-control pills. That's not a stand, it's a non sequitur. She is not, as Rush Limbaugh oafishly, bullyingly said, a slut. She is a ninny, a narcissist and a fool.

And she was one of the great faces of the party in Charlotte. That is extreme. Childish, too....

Well, Rush was just telling what is probably the truth. Not quite gentlemanly of him, but frankly Miss Slutsky has much the same effect on me. Yeech. And all the fake outrage served to allow Dems to avoid the real question, which is why, exactly, my hard-earned tax dollars should pay for a middle-aged coed's sex life?

Posted by John Weidner at 6:37 PM

September 3, 2012

70-Year Cycle, going much as predicted...

Republicans outnumbering Dems. By my 70-Year Cycle theory this should have happened abut 2000. But close enough. It was clear enough then where the wind was blowing...

Paul Rahe, Another Straw in the Wind:

...A few days ago, I drew attention to a Gallup poll indicating that, for the first time in the last twenty years, Americans thought better of the Republican Party than of the Democrats. Later that same day, I pointed to a Pew Foundation poll reaffirming the drift towards the Republicans. Today, I came across further evidence pointing even more emphatically at the same conclusion.

For ten years now, Rasmussen has been studying partisan trends. Its latest survey indicates that, for the first time in that period, more Americans self-identify as Republicans than as Democrats. To be precise, 37.6% now think of themselves as Republicans -- more than in September, 2004 -- and only 33.3% self-identify as Democrats. What makes this especially interesting is that two years ago -- on the eve of the Republican blowout in the 2010 midterm elections -- 35% self-identified as Democrats and only 33.8% self-identified as Republicans...


...A landslide is what you are going to see in November. And if Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan emphasize political principles (as well as managerial competence), they will have coattails, and the Senate will be ours...

A landslide would be what the theory expects, since pressure will have built up due to the delay of the Obama interregnum. If it had not been for the trickery of running Obama as the first "black President," (he's really the first Alinskyite president) the Dems would have had nothing to offer in 2008. Or I guess they would have had the "first female president" gimmick. But those "firsts" are just a fig leaf to cover their nakedness.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:39 AM

September 1, 2012

"The Crisis of Wimpy Vampires.."

This piece on boys and books matches up exactly with my paper on why men don't go to church. (Link) I'm too tired and busy to ramble on on the subject. But it speaks for itself.

The Dangerous Article for Boys | Catholic Lane:

It is now well-recognized that boys are not reading. What is the problem? Most commentators want to say that boys have an aversion to books. But the problem is quite the opposite: books--modern books, that is--have an aversion to boys. A recent edition of The New York Times Sunday Book Review featured a Robert Lipsyte article that attempts to address this problem. Here is the proffered solution:
Boys need to be approached individually with books about their fears, choices, possibilities and relationships -- the kind of reading that will prick their dormant empathy, involve them with fictional characters and lead them into deeper engagement with their own lives. This is what turns boys into readers.
Excuse me while I dab my eyes delicately with my handkerchief, touched as I am by this tender thought.

Okay, let's get something straight here: solutions like this are part of the problem. I'm normally against shooting spit wads in class, but I am willing to make an exception in this one case. The entire educational establishment has tried for over 50 years to force boys into their effeminate mold, and in the process, they've succeeded in evacuating literature of all the things boys like in books: action, adventure, danger, bloodletting--and an iron moral code that is taught, not by smarmy sermonizing, but by immersing them in the moral universe of a story about a hero who not only believes in this code, but enforces it with a vengeance.

Boys now seek refuge in cheesy horror novels because the Cultural Authorities won't give them the adventure books that were once staples in every boy's life. It is to this I attribute the popularity of vampire novels (and movies and television shows). But even here a boy is destined for disappointment.

The Crisis of Wimpy Vampires

In fact, the extent of our modern cultural crisis can be at least partly measured by the plight of the vampire. ...

Also,

..We have the mistaken impression that it was traditional children's literature that was preachy. This is not only untrue, but it is almost the exact opposite of the truth. It is precisely the preachiness of politically correct modern literature that offends their innate sense of honesty and justice--a human instinct that we do our best to educate out of them...
Posted by John Weidner at 7:45 AM