New York Times’ Editors Are Morons: A Continuing Series Of ‘Puter-iffic Posts

'Puter rocking his Sunday-best orange leisure suit before all you can drink Hennessy and Hi-C night at the Leaping Peacock. Not pictured: Czar, who can suck it.

‘Puter rocking his Sunday-best orange leisure suit before all you can drink Hennessy and Hi-C night at the Leaping Peacock. Not pictured: Czar, who can suck it.

‘Puter’s hopping mad this morning, and that’s not a pretty sight. After all, ‘Puter’s a 5’10” Shrek-like man-beast partial to wearing orange leisure suits.

What’s got ‘Puter’s gold lamé man thong in a bunch, you ask? The New York Times editorial board, as usual, and its useful idiocy in this editorial, The High Cost of Dirty Fuels.

The editors’ thesis is simple: “countries should end subsidies for fossil fuels: It would save millions of lives.” Fair enough. ‘Puter disagrees with the editors, but the point is debatable.*

But what are the subsidies for fossil fuels to which the editors refer? Are the editors referring to tax subsidies directly related to extraction, refining and production of fossil fuels?**

Nothing quite so sane. The New York Times editorial brain trust informs us:

Governments subsidize energy in many ways. … But by far the biggest way countries reduce the price of energy is by not taxing it enough to account for the damage that burning fossil fuels causes to human health and to the climate.

See? Our government is subsidizing fossil fuel production by not taxing it enough. ‘Puter was unaware it was the goal of tax policy to interfere with the markets, unfairly picking winners and losers based on unproven “climate change” science.*** ‘

Using the editors’ new “entities should be taxed based on the damage their product causes to society” theory, ‘Puter awaits an editorial calling for a confiscatory tax on each copy of the New York Times sold. After all, the editors and reporters have caused more damage to American society through false narratives, piss-poor reporting, and outright lies than nearly any other media outlet to date. The damage to our nation and humanity is incalculable.

Will the New York Times repay Ukrainians for publishing Walter Duranty’s fawning pro-Stalin coverage and denial of the Holodomor? ‘Puter’s fairly certain the Soviet-created death by starvation of up to 7.5 million Ukrainians is worth some sort of taxation, no?

But let’s be fair to our intellectual superiors ensconced high atop Olympus the New York Times building. If we are to set taxes on the aggregate damage self-appointed ink-stained busybodies deem an industry to cause, we must consider the benefits afforded society by such industry as well. It’s only fair, and as we know, misty, undefined “fairness” is the ne plus ultra of liberal policy making.

The fossil fuel industry provides at a minimum the following undeniable benefits to America. As of 2013, the oil and gas industry alone directly employed 569,000 Americans. The reliably liberal Brookings Institution admits that fracking decreased energy prices nationwide by $74 billion per year. Natural gas prices are 47% lower today than they would be without fracking. The New York Times itself admits the three largest oil and gas companies (ExxonMobil, Chevron and ConocoPhillips) between 2007 and 2012 paid $289 billion in taxes. Al Jazeera, no friend of America, admits fracking will allow the United States to become energy self-sufficient, thereby reducing or eliminating its reliance on Middle East nations, which will fundamentally reshape global politics in America’s favor.

‘Puter’s no genius like the men and women on the New York Times editorial board, but he thinks it’s not altogether clear the unproven claims about fossil fuels’ negative impact on the environment outweigh fossil fuels’ proven benefits. ‘Puter would even say fossil fuels’ demonstrable benefits clearly outweigh any speculative costs. But ‘Puter’s not very bright, so he’s sure the Mensa members at the New York Times will show him the error of his ways.

Sure, the editors failed to consider basic facts disproving their thesis on fossil fuels’ aggregate cost, but they’ve surely done a better job on property rights, right? Not so much.

The editors proceed from the faulty assumption that all corporate income is rightfully the government’s property. The editors believe the tax code is the means through which the government beneficently permits a worker or a corporation to keep a portion of the money it earned for the government in a given year. This is a profoundly un-American notion, but one that is widespread on the Left.

Non-taxation is not a subsidy. Non-taxation is the normal state of affairs. A man’s income is his property, not the government’s.

Say it with ‘Puter: “Government has no inherent right to the property of its citizenry, whether through taxation or other means, no matter how much liberals may disagree with this notion.”

The sooner the idiots staffing the New York Times learn that, the better.

* Ending subsidies for fossil fuels may or may not save millions of lives, but it would permit market forces to price fossil fuels appropriately. This alone would be beneficial. ‘Puter leaves for another time the editors’ naked assertion ending fossil fuel subsidies “would save millions of lives,” which is horse poop.

** ‘Puter notes American tax subsidies aren’t directly applicable to the pricing of the fossil fuel end product. Quite the opposite, in fact. In ‘Puter’s own workers’ paradise of New York, the aggregate per gallon gas tax is $0.687 per gallon (federal, $0.184, state $0.503). Tax subsidies affect the corporate producer’s treatment of the income, which may or may not reduce the price of the consumer product. Instead of reducing consumer prices, companies could pass the savings through to shareholders as dividends or to management as bonuses.

*** The only thing proven about “climate change” science is the scientists most certain about “climate change’s” existence either participated in or rely on fraudulent or erroneous studies. ‘Puter doesn’t deny the Earth’s climate changes. ‘Puter is simply unconvinced that the scientific community has proven the climate’s change is primarily due to man.

Mailsatchel…sack…bag….Whatever

gort_mailbag

Two emails in the delivery chute today:

Mark Spahn took a break from emailing the Czar to step up his game and email yours truly, the shiny robot.  (“Suck it, Czar” shouts ‘Puter from the Rumpus Room couch):

Dear GorT,
I notice that the Gormogons no longer publish their email addresses, so next time I might not be able to get in touch with you.  What prompts this note is your note http://www.gormogons.com/index.php/2015/05/damn-dirty-fuels/

This gave me the queasy feeling that I must be losing my Sprachgefuehl for English. Consider the sentence
==QUOTE==
Sweden rolled out the fast growth in nuclear energy per capita and could be a stretch for an achievable goal.
==QUOTE==

I have read this multiple times, and I still can’t figure it out. What is the “the” doing there?
What does it mean to “roll out” growth? Roll it out of where, and to where?
What does it mean for a country to “be a stretch” for something?
— Mark Spahn (West Seneca, NY)

Yes, sometimes the meager internet speeds that you humans have can’t handle the bandwidth that GorT’s hyper-dimensional phase-shifting beam communication system.  GorT has since corrected the sentence and appreciates the proof-reading.

As a side note, folks can always reach us – directions are on the side panel under the section labeled “Scribble, Scribble”.  The approach minimizes spam so while inconvenient, it adds a few steps to our kind readers day when they want to email us.

Up next, Paul, writes in with the following:

Sir!

Anytime you mention nuclear power (fission) and don’t point out that Kyoto disallowed nuclear (as well as hydro) as CO2 off-sets you are actively misleading folks.

paul

Paul is correct.  The Kyoto agreements have disallowed nuclear and hydro power from counting as CO2 offsets.  I largely ignore this part because CO2 “offsets” are stupid.  The innovation that could happen within the nuclear family of energy generation is being hampered because of the blinder-style focus on limited “renewable” energy sources.

Damn Dirty Fuels!

HomerWhat is the one thing missing in our national discussions around the conflation that is climate change, fossil fuels, green energy, and energy independence?  Nuclear power.  Plain and simple.

A recent study finds that it is possible to completely replace fossil fuels within a decade if we could scale and duplicate the efforts in France and Sweden.  The data gathered goes back over 30 years and is robust in nature.  Sweden had the fastest growth in nuclear energy per capita but that pace of growth would likely be a stretch for an achievable goal for the rest of the world.

More importantly, after the early 1970s rollout of nuclear power in these two countries, their CO2 emissions fell dramatically, energy costs were reduced, and the cost of generating energy dropped.  Why no nuclear power option?

Many will point at the potential for disasters…the problem being, we’ve become better and safer over the years.  France has had 5 incidents since 2000 whose cost was $50,000 or more.  None resulted in fatalities or serious radiation leaks.  Four of the five were rated as level 1 INES events (“anomaly” event on the scale – Fukushima and Cherynobyl were 7’s on the scale).  There has been one 6 (Russia in 1957), a few 5’s – none more recent than 1987.  These include Three Mile Island.

If this country, or a broader coalition of countries, took on this problem and really worked, this would be a solvable problem.

The King Is Dead

The Czar believes a hagiography on the late B.B. King is warranted, especially after the lively discussions we shared on Twitter with so many of you.

Mr. King’s death was a blow for all music, worldwide, and not just a small circle of blues groupies. Blues dilettantes—and the Czar has met met many of them over the years—seem to complain about King, mentioning that his guitar work was repetitive, his songs typically formulaic, and his themes are designed to appeal to crossover audiences. This is, interestingly, all true. There’s no denying his solos sound alike, but so what? His guitar work was a signature work: you can listen to an ensemble recoridng in which King is one of many musicians in the background and instantly know he’s there. Sure, he used the I-IV-V a lot, and a huge amount of his songs used the I-I7-IV-IVm-I-V7-I chord pattern of “Darling, You Know I Love You,” (you could easily sing these lyrics over dozens of B. B. King songs) but so do thousands of other songs in the blues genre. And crossover? Well, that was what elevates him to musician sainthood.

King wrote, recorded, and performed from the early 1950s continuously until just before his death. In that time, he remained popular—sustained popularity, in fact—at all times. Name another act with that claim. On Twitter, @blaknsam suggested that while the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney have managed houeshold name recognition continuously, it’s important to note that King predates them by a dozen years.

And legendary acts, like Fats Domino, Chubby Checker, or James Brown started at the same time King did, but they were pretty much done by the 1960s. They remained famous, doing live shows, but always hauling out the same old hits. King produced and produced new albums pretty much every year, giving concert fans a selection of his big hits, a wide selection of nearly-forgotten songs from his past, and a hellstorm of new material every show. For 60 years.

Crossover hits? What made King so successful was that he was so approachable, musically. Unlike the often scratchy, incoherent mess that makes up a lot of Delta blues recordings before him, the jazz-inspired slop during the 1950s, the drinking-and-cheating rock-infused songs of the 1960s and 1970s…or the gospel remakes or bitter, dark, and dreary growling that too often summarized modern blues, King’s work remains largely unfiltered. A trained ear can tell you when some of his work was recorded, but a newcomer can rarely tell whether a King song was done in 1954, 1964, 1984, or 2004 without an obvious tell. That approachability allowed a lot of people—jazz snobs, metal heads, white-boy wannabes, or even elderly dwellers of the Lawrence Welk/Pat Boone radio opium dens to think B.B. King was really fun to hear.

And why not? King’s jubilant bellow and fluid joy when playing Lucille was evident in every song. Forget she-done-me-wrong doldrums: King’s work ranged from a guy so drunk he didn’t realize he’d gone to the wrong house to a schmoe upset that his wife disapproves of his exotic pet, to a sad sack realizing no one loves him but his own mother…and she’s probably lying about that.

This sort of fun and levity could be balanced by a sometimes serious and thoughtful topic, but even in those, there’s something uplifting about the conversation he has with Lucille: he sings a song, she plays a response. And always, there’s that hook that engages your ear.

We have our favorites. Our oldest son is hooked on the ragtime bounce of “I Just Can Leave Your Love Alone,” or the spiritually soothing “Ain’t Gonna Worry My Life Anymore.”

But those are our favorites. The Czar wants to find a piece for you—maybe one nobody remembers—that encapsulates the sheer essence of his abilities, if you’re a newcomer aware of his legacy but not his work. And maybe this is it, where he lets Lucille explain it:

Listen to the great time he’s having there. B.B. King’s death is a loss that is being felt by classical musicians down to rubadub garage acts, and everyone in between. Despite that loss, his music remains sheer joy.

How to Scratch the Surface

Well, probably most of you recall that the Царица, the Czar’s wonderful wife, is a public school teacher. Some may recall that she works in an inner-city, borderline impoverished district. All of you can predict that she is virulently anti-union and eyes Wisconsin’s teacher union solution with some jealousy.

And thus, she likes to bring to our attention whatever stereotypical union nonsense she can. Like this gem.

Her district was delighted to learn that Microsoft—albeit with marketing leverage in mind—generously donated enough Microsoft Surface tablets to supply each teacher in the District with one. Indeed, these are new tablets, not the now-outdated one still found in most outlets.

Hooray! Make no bones about this: Microsoft allegedly wants to flush Apple and Google out of the public education market, and give thousands of students the ability to learn Office applications and no others. Whatever! The district is delighted to help out. Teachers can take them home, use them for personal use, or whatever they want to stress-test them in and out of the classroom; in exchange, Microsoft wants to hear about the experiences, good and bad, to make a better product. Win-win, really.

Of course, the Surface tablet is a bit different from a laptop or computer, so the school district arranged to give free, 15-minute training to the teachers: if you want a Surface, you need to attend the training because, understandably, there are some HR concerns with this venture: you may know how to turn the thing on, but you still can’t use it for illegal or immoral purposes, et cetera.

The first couple of sessions were well—the Царица attended the first one and found the actual training was about 12 minutes long and worthwhile, and the HR piece only about 3 minutes of obvious reminders about proper use of school property. No big deal.

Or so an ordinary person would think; she was not surprised when, two days later, an email from the union blasted itself into everyone’s inboxes. DO NOT ATTEND the training. The union has JUST LEARNED that this 15-minute training program takes place after school, and teachers are not being compensated for their attendance. The union will aggressively pursue this miscarriage of justice!

No, the district replied in a calm voice, the teachers were indeed given a choice. Attend the training program, get a Surface for personal and school use. Opt out of the training, and you don’t get a Surface at all. Perfectly amenable quid pro quo. Training, the District announced, will continue as it remains optional.

All right, the union replied in a later email, if you pay each teacher $15 extra, they will attend the training program. A dollar an hour seems fair, the union agreed.

No, the District insisted, the fair thing is that the teachers are getting a $600 tablet for attending. That’s more like $40 an hour.

Oh, responded the union. Well, how about this—because the union is nothing if not successful in its generosity—how about the teachers attend if they want, and if they do, they get a Surface tablet? Nothing per hour?

Fine, the District agreed (to its original terms), and union was able to demonstrate to its members how much value they get for their dues: the union was able to give each teacher a new tablet for only 15 minutes of training.

So what was that about, the Царица wondered. Of course, she knew that the emails would continue, and continue they did. Yes, the union understood from the beginning what the deal was.

But—and here’s the kicker—Microsoft gave the District the tablets. It cost the District nothing. So the intent of the fracas was not to ensure the teachers get paid for attending the training, but to ensure the District gets hit with a bill for something on this deal.

It was a money grab, pure and simple. And the teachers decided they wanted some Surface tablets more than they wanted to hurt the taxpayers.

What a life.

It’s For the Children!

120610_barack_obama_education_605_apFar too often we hear that cry from the left – the evil-doers on the right are trying to defund education and school lunch programs and force kids into factories while those on the left are fighting for the children and a better education for them.  Right?

Except that the data doesn’t support that.  Case in point: for the seventh year in a row President Obama has proposed defunding the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.  Let me repeat that: for the SEVENTH year in a row.  And as an aside, remember that the democrats think the GOP is crazy for trying to defund the PP-ACA repeatedly.  Check.

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program is a school choice program that provides inner city children in D.C. the chance to attend private schools (just like the Obama children do) and get a better education than the failing public schools.  Ninety-five percent of its nearly 5,000 beneficiaries are black.  It has a proven track record: 91% high school graduation rate (as compared to 56% for the D.C. public schools).  The President has refused – not ignored, actively refused – to meet with the families fighting for their children who benefit from this program.  Eleanor Holmes Norton, the D.C. representative in Congress, has actively opposed the program.  Those who support it and keep it going?  John Boehner, Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz and other conservatives in Congress.

The largest argument you will hear from the left is that these program strip funding from the public schools so how can they improve?  First, that is probably as close to an admission of their failure as you’ll get – which is the real problem that should be addressed here…but without accountability of the teachers and administrators, we’ll never get there.  Second, Congress authorized $20 million for the program and, at the same time, added an extra $20 million to the public schools.  Now, that is a bit fo a red herring as studies demonstrate that adding more money to public schools hasn’t resulted in improvements as one might hope.  Funding isn’t the problem – although I’m sure many on the right would be happy to give those teachers who truly fight and struggle to educate their students with a sense of accountability, a raise.cato

Just over a week ago, President Obama argued that “opportunity gaps” fueled the Baltimore riots.  Wouldn’t this be an opportunity to close those gaps…at least in one inner city?

Amtrak is a Luxury. It Could be Profitable.

Amtrak ticket sales cover 88% of its operating costs, which means the Federal government picks up the balance.

After that year, Congress awarded Amtrak $1.4 billion in subsidies. This means that Amtrak’s total operating costs equate to $11.667 billion. Ridership on Amtrak varies (it has been trending up lately), but was about 30.7 million in 2013-2014 (the same year the above dollar amounts apply). That’s an average of $380 a year per trip.

Alas, that ridership amount takes in total ticket sales: it doesn’t matter if you ride once that year or take a daily round-trip commute between New York and DC. Which means some folks are paying a lot more, and some a lot less, but on average, the Amtrak rider is paying a lot more than a bus, airplane, or rental car for the same commute.

Amtrak is not competitive, just on price alone. And remember: your lower ticket price is being compensated by the taxpayers—you—up to 12% over the cost of that ticket.

As a form of mass transportation, as opposed to nostalgic luxury, Amtrak is a failure. And if it’s a nostalgic luxury, it’s time for riders to pay the price. Raise the costs of the tickets 12%. Kill the federal subsidy.

Better yet, raise the costs even more and turn a 20% profit, rather than a 12% loss. The only reason Amtrak doesn’t do this is because it doesn’t have to: the government provides it a guaranteed 12% profit. Time for that to end.

Unfortunately, it takes yet another disaster for Americans to see how bad the government is at basic business.

Spurning Religion? Hardly.

The Czar has spoken in the past, quite authoritatively, that Americans remain a very religious lot: we are, by our nature, a church-slash-temple-slash-synagogue-slash-mosque-going people.

Every so often, a bit of political theater calls this into question. Anytime a quasi-religious or full-on religious issue hits the news—in the most recent case from about a fortnight ago, should religions be forced to obey the law regardless of First Amendment guarantees—a pattern occurs. Democrats make a populist speech (in this case, Hillary’s disastrous claim that religions must be forced to update with the times, thank you very little), and about two weeks later, a poll is revealed showing how few Americans really believe in religion.

Well, right on cue comes the poll: Pew finds the number of Americans “spurning” religion reaches a record high. The Czar loves the CBS hyperbole here:

The number of Americans who don’t affiliate with a particular religion has grown to 56 million in recent years, making the faith group researchers call “nones” the second-largest in total numbers behind evangelicals, according to a Pew Research Center study released Tuesday.

Or to put it another way, the vast majority of Americans still believe in religion. Here’s what the poll shows: between 2007 and 2014, Note there are about 18 million more Americans than there were in those 7 years, so that percentage isn’t as high as it seems. In fact, if you read the actual Pew analysis, they’re clear to point out that religious Americans have decreased only about 5 million, net.

Christians Decline as Share of U.S. Population; Other Faiths and the Unaffiliated Are Growing

That’s a relatively small chunk of the country, folks. CBS says this makes non-religious Americans the second-largest in total numbers behind evangelicals! But that’s a fudgy interpretation as well: Evangelicals are only above half of all Protestants, and just a bit above Catholics. The point is that if you subdivide the Christians as much as the Pew study does, the finding becomes relevant only if you lump all “unaffiliated” religious people together. Agnostics and “nothing in particular” people outweigh atheists: just because you don’t identify with one of the preset categories doesn’t mean you aren’t religious—something Pew acknowledges openly and readily in its analysis, but something that CBS’ own analysis is down-playing.

Two thoughts follow.

First, what the hell is the value of this spin? The Czar has no qualms with Pew or its methodology; in fact, the Pew analysis basically concludes that America remains religious and complicated. But CBS seems to be dry-washing its hands with glee, as if the Czar’s Lutheran neighbor, Baron von Murphy, will read this and immediately divest himself of all religion. No—the CBS piece serves one function: to reassure liberals that’s it’s okay to dump their religious myths and embrace secularist liberalism because other Americans are doing it, too. That doesn’t happen: the Czar is curious if anyone has ever read a one-sided poll analysis and immediately changed his religious values based on it, just in time for a Democrat talking point. Short prediction: never. So why bother?

Second, the big losers among the Christian religions are a chunk of Protestant denominations not subdivided here. It’s no secret that the Methodists and particularly the liberal Presbyterians are bleeding members. Despite another Pew poll cited by CBS—that Americans want more religion in politics—Americans don’t really appreciate having politics injected into their religion. The more denominations embrace same sex marriage, offer vague acceptances of abortion, and promote social justice tropes, the more these same religions lose members.

The Pew poll acknowledges that the results are complex to decipher since Americans without religions do not become irreligious. They become lost. Unspoken in this analysis is that better questions need to be answered. Why have 5 million Americans left Christianity (other faiths remain largely unchanged) in 7 years?

Liberals, ever joyous that the bogey man of Christianity is losing a sliver of its proponents, may like that answer even less.

Bulletins from 1957

Kevin D. Williamson has a typically terrific piece today on “‘Mass Destruction of Capital’ as a Liberal Economic Panacea,” which centers around “a poisonous and dangerous nostalgia in our political discourse, which out of the nearly two-and-one-half centuries of American history finds something close to perfection in only one period of less than 30 years, the highly unusual span from 1945 to 1973, from the end of World War II to the 1973 Arab oil embargo.” Go read the piece. As with pretty much everything Kevin D. turns his hand to these days, it’s well worth your time.

Kevin points out that the absolute standard of living in (his arbitrarily chosen year of) 1957 was enormously lower than that of today, even for the lower class. And he eviscerates a Slate writer who pines for the lost days of American post-war economic supremacy: Quoth said writer, “The mass destruction of capital around the world created a much more even playing field than before, while also placing the United States at the forefront of the world economy.” Williamson mordantly continues, “Destruction of capital” is a cute way of describing the slaughter of some 80 million people and the burning of their cities.”

The nostalgia for “1957” is a real thing, though, as K-Dub describes, a pining for the perceived “generally satisfactory state of affairs in those years: the relatively high tax rates and strong unions of the Eisenhower years if you’re a progressive, the relatively small public-sector footprint and stable families if you’re a conservative.”

True enough, and all those things do attract. However, with a profound tip of the hat to the improving but still onerous lot of 1957’s black America, we ought note that the broader culture of the ’50s didn’t seem like a Golden Age to those who lived through it. Youth nostalgia of the Silent Generation aside, the apotheosis of which is Garry Marshall’s 1974–1984 ’50s sitcom Happy Days, the Fifties were an anxious and troubled decade, when the Cold War (and therefore Western Civilization) seemed in the balance, and rogues like Alger Hiss, Joe McCarthy, et al., made the governing class seem less than reliable.

As it happens, the Œc. Vol. had a chance to spend a couple flights reading Allen Drury’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Advise & Consent in its handsome new reissue. (Which one recommends all minions do. It’s a blast. Buy it here. Especially you, Minion @greatgrace84. One of it many clever and surprising subplots will please you to no end.) In a couple places in the book, Drury allows himself a little bit of opining on the state of the world—as befits a novel about Senators trying to navigate a political and international crisis.

Here, written between October 1957 and November 1958, are two of the reporter-novelist Drury’s contemporaneous takes on the mentalité of the Fabulous Fifties. First, a glimpse into the mindset produced by the Sputnik crisis and the fear that the U.S.S.R. might be headed towards victory.

A universal guilt enshrouded the middle years of the twentieth century in America; and it attached to all who participated in those times. It attached to the fatuous, empty-headed liberals who had made it so easy for the Russians by yielding them so much; it attached to the embittered conservatives who had closed the doors on human love and frozen out all possibility of communication between peoples. It rested on the military, who had been too jealous of one another and too slow, and on the scientists, who had been too self-righteous and irresponsible and smug about shifting the implications of what they did onto someone else, and on the press, which had been too lazy and too compliant in the face of evils foreign and domestic, and on the politicians, who had been too self-interested and not true enough to the destiny of the land they had in keeping, and not least upon the ordinary citizen and his wife, who somehow didn’t give quite enough of a damn about their country in spite of all their self-congratulatory airs about how patriotic they were. Nobody could stand forth now in America and say, “I am guiltless. I had no part in this. I did not help bring America down from her bright pinnacle.” For that would be to deny that one had lived through those years, and only babies and little children could say that.

So now there was a time of uneasiness when everyone told everyone else dutifully that, “It is not our purpose to indulge in recriminations about the past,” and tried to live up to it; and when all thinking men fretted and worried desperately about “how to catch up,” and “how to get ahead”; and also, in the small hours of the night’s cold terror, about what it would be like if America couldn’t catch up, if history should have decided once and for all that America should never again be permitted to get ahead.

And already because of this, the smooth and supple voices of rationalization were beginning to be heard, the blandly clever voices of adjustment and accommodation and don’t-make-a-federal-case-of-it and don’t-take-it-too-hard and after-all-what-will-it-matter-in-a-hundred-years and maybe it-wouldn’t-really-be-so-bad and I-guess-we-could-live-with-them-if-we-had-to. And for America it was a time of nip and tuck, and a darkening passageway with only God’s good grace, if he cared to confer it again upon a people who sometimes didn’t seem to deserve it any more, to see the country safely through.

(32–33)

And, more directly to our point, here is Drury on the general tenor of the culture and the times.

This was the era, domestically, when everything was half done; the era, in foreign affairs, when nothing was done right because nobody seemed to care enough to exercise the foresight and take the pains to see that it was done right. This was the time when the job on the car was always half finished, the suit came back from the cleaners half dirty, the yard work was overpriced and underdone, the bright new gadget broke down a week after you got it home, the prices climbed higher and higher as the quality got less and less, and the old-fashioned rule of a fair bargain for a fair price was indeed old-fashioned, for it never applied to anything. The great Age of the Shoddy came upon America after the war, and Everybody Wants His became the guiding principle for far too many. With it came the Age of the Shrug, the time when it was too hard and too difficult and too bothersome to worry about tomorrow, or even very much about today, when the problems of world leadership were too large and too insistent and too frightening to be grasped and so everybody would rather sigh and shrug and concentrate instead on bigger and bigger cars and shinier and shinier appliances and longer and longer vacations in a sort of helpless blind seeking after Nirvana that soothed them but unfortunately only encouraged their enemies.

A dry rot had affected America in these recent years, and every sensitive American knew it.…her friends fell away, her enemies advanced, and in her heart a slow decay was working. She could have withstood anything if she had been strong inside; but somehow, with the war, she had lost her flying speed. It was as though, having been young, she had matured overnight, but not to middle age; instead it seemed at times that she had matured immediately into senescence, so that she was tired, infinitely tired, baffled and confused and either incapable of seeing the path to take or incapable of setting her feet firmly upon it if she did see it. Everywhere, in every phase of her life, there was a slowing down, an acceptance of second-best, an almost hopeless complacence and compliance with all the things that devious people wanted to do, an unwillingness to come to grips with anything unpleasant, a desire to lean back and sleep; and sleep…

And yet there were great strengths still in the land; she had all her great heritage, all her industrial vigor, her innate decency and good will which not all the vultures who preyed off her in business, in labor, in politics, and press and international affairs, could ever entirely destroy. She needed only to be lifted up again and shown the way, and all the shabby, flabby, drifting years would vanish as though they had never been.

To see this and to do it, however, were two different things; men of vigor and men of vision fought what often seemed a fruitless and foredoomed battle.…

(507–508)

It is interesting to see Drury (b. 1918) hearkening back to a remembered, better past. When was that? I’m guessing perhaps the Twenties or perhaps the wartime resurgence from the Depression and the great victories of 1945. But clearly, for those living through them, the Fifties were not halcyon hang-outs at Arnold’s Drive-In. Our side tends to point the finger at the disruptions of the late Sixties as modern America’s Fall, but it sometimes is worth remembering that as stupid and suicidal as the Counter-Culture proved in many ways, its urge to rebel, to reject, and to find some measure of authenticity came not just out of the inchoate idiocy of Baby Boomer kids, but the extremely sharp cultural critiques of the generation or two before them; signally, but not solely, the anti-American “liberals” whose emergence Fred Siegel skillfully limned. Right to Left, many seemed to feel something wasn’t right. We live among the monuments to their great victories and the ruins of their annihilating follies.

Organic Truths

The Czar heard an ad on the radio today for organic cotton bedsheets. The ad’s spokeswoman was quick to say that “organic” was not a just buzzword, but in fact accurate: the sheets are organic cotton because that provides the softest material for bed linens.

Well, she’s right: cotton is organic. And she’s also correct that organic is a buzzword; in fact, it’s reached the status of totally annoying to the Czar. Forgive the Czar a little tirade here, but it’s clear that few people understand what organic means.

Organic means many things, all specifically related to organic chemistry. Yes, even biological uses of organic—Mary’s biopsy showed organic decay from a lifetime of emulating Ghettoputer’s drinking habits—you are ultimately talking about an organism, itself organic in nature.

The point is that somewhere along the line, the term “organic” is attempting to be used as a synonym for pure, healthy, or natural. Organic items can be any or all of those things, but it is not a guarantee.

In chemistry, anything “organic” specifically pertains to substances or compounds that contain carbon atoms. That’s all it will ever mean. So yes, cotton is organic. Your organic chicken? It is indeed organic. Fruits are organic, even ones not labeled so. But that’s not all.

A polystyrene molecule

Motor oil is organic. Plastic is organic. See that cool chemical molecule diagram to the right? That’s polystyrene—the type of plastic found in toys, bottles, and styrofoam cups. See those two “C” symbols? Those represent carbon atoms. So yes, that styrofoam cup you just threw out is organic. Dirt is organic. Feces is organic.

Anyone who took even a basic chemistry course knows this already. If you didn’t, and you’re reading this, now you know it, too. You know who should know this? The FDA.

The Food and Drug Administration, lauded by liberals as the bestest proof that government progressivism can work to help stupid conservatives, is responsible for the health and safety of your food and medicine. You’d think they ought to know the different between organic and inorganic chemistry.

But incredibly, they oversee the National Organic Program, who in turn defines “organic” as:

…A labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.

One of their frequently asked questions. amusingly, is “How Do I Know if My Food Is Organic?”

Despite the long answer, the reality is this: if it has carbon atoms in it.

Here’s an example of things that have carbon atoms in them. All of these are fully organic.

  • Steel
  • Latex paint
  • Diamond
  • Carbon fiber arrows
  • Gasoline
  • Rubber hose
  • Pencil lead
  • Firearms
  • Firearms run off a 3D printer
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Bacteria
  • Cyanide

Instead of fighting this ignorance, the Czar suggests you have fun with it. The next time an acquaintance says to you somethling like “Oh, I only drink organic fruit juices,” throw a look of shocked horror on your face and gasp. “Good Lord,” you reply, “Don’t you know that superglue is made with organic substances?” The Czar bets you’ll get a worthy reaction from someone like that.

Or the next time you chuck some old set of tires into the creek, and your liberal neighbor flies into a rage, say “Don’t worry, Chuck [especially if her name isn’t Chuck]—these tires are 100% organic.”

You won’t be wrong.