GorT and Coder (@coderincrisis on Twitter) chat about technology and programming
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GorT and Coder (@coderincrisis on Twitter) chat about technology and programming
Podcast: Play in new window | Download
The Czar was shocked to discover that our antient, mortal enemies the Freemasons apparently have employed dogs to do their mysterious work. Specifically, the Masonic Association of Service and Therapy Dogs (MAST), which looks exactly like the kind of worthwhile organization to which you would totally want to donate money, claims that it trains rescue and shelter dogs to serve as therapy dogs to children, veterans, domestic violence shelters, and emergency shelter sites to help calm, ease suffering, and provide joy to those suffering, injured, or terrified.
That’s what they claim, so you better figure this out for yourself by thoroughly researching them, and perhaps lure them into complacency by donating to their cause. That’s what the Czar did, so he has them totally fooled.
Anyway, the Czar realized that we Gormogons cannot be seen to be falling behind in the therapy canine gap, so the Czar called up Dr. J. and ‘Puter, as the Gormogons’ dog experts, and we quickly pulled together our dog program, designed to warn people about the dangers of messing with us and our plans for world domination. ‘Puter said he was in, and immediately jumped into a car and drove off. We haven’t seen him since Friday.
Dr. J. of course rolled up his sleeves and said “Let’s think this through,” and after several glasses of Belle Meade bourbon and driving around the Plateau of Leng in a rented pickup truck (by rented, we mean, we took it for free and have since abandoned it), we put together a collection of dogs we think would easily impress even the Freemasons.
|The Czar named this fun little fella Vosgrakt, after the ancient Slavic god of virulent disease. He hasn’t stopped backing and foaming at the mouth, and got so loud that we had to put him in the storage room of the Castle bar. This was a great idea, because we could hear him, but them our goofy Egyptian mummy butler went to get another box of swizzle sticks, or whatever, and opened the storage room door to get knocked over by this 105-pound brute. The dog raced out of the storage room, across the lobby, and all the Czar said was “There he goes!” Dr. J. managed to force-pet him into complacency long enough for us to get him back into the storage room. We’ll probably just let him loose on the eighth floor tomorrow, as that floor has the fewest usable guest rooms.|
|This happening little dude was just sitting in some junk yard, just outside of Leng. It took us forever to cut through the fence, and the noise must have hurt his ears because he was pretty upset the whole time. It was almost like he didn’t want to leave. He was really annoyed for some reason, even when the owner came out and said it was his dog, and the Czar had to hit him really hard in the head to knock him out (the guy, not the dog). Fortunately, the Czar has a two-pound ribeye in his robe pocket, and that was the only way we could get him into the truck (the dog, not the guy).|
|This dog is pretty horrible. Doc wants to call him “Biteforce,” which would be really cool if we could get him to stop using it on our forearms. We had to use a black aircraft cable as a leash because he bit through the orange extension cord Doc managed to lasso him with. You should have seen it: Doc was awesome. He tied a bowline and threw the loop over the dog in one move, like a total expert, even though the dog leaped through the air and tackled him. Good thing I grabbed the other end of the cable and pulled because he was about to do a biteforce on Doc’s throat.|
|We didn’t capture this guy; he pretty much just wandered into the truck. Doc suggested calling him Flatulence because this weird little freak apparently ate an entire block of frozen broccoli about an hour before. He shakes terribly, and has their weird raspy breathing that sounds like a baby alligator calling for its mama. This thing is so messed up, we didn’t know what to do with it, so we put it in ‘Puter’s room with a box of frozen microwave burritos. We have no idea what ‘Puter’s going to come back to when he sobers out in a couple days and comes back home.|
|Here’s Mayfly, who doesn’t like cameras at all. The Czar thought going to one knee to get a dog’s-eye portrait shot would be a great idea. Thanks, Doc, for pulling him off and very sorry about the sleeve of your new robe. The Czar will pay for it, rest assured. It took both of us to get him into the truck, and the Czar is not pleased to admit he had to hold this dog in a very weird place, but hey, Doc had the biting end, so he was braver than we were by far.|
|Here’s one we found in the woods near the Castle. The Czar is calling him Shep, because he’s clearly a Shepherd mix…maybe a husky? No, he’s a pretty big boy, so maybe malamute or something. The yellow eyes are pretty unusual; you sometimes get that with merle genes acting up, so there could be some border collie or something in there. Anyway, the kids will like him.|
|This unusual looking fellow was wandering around the Castle parking lot, and the Czar thinks he has the cutest ears. Some crazy bark, too. But we managed to get a good-sized, heavy-gauge chain around his neck. It took a lot of pulling, but we got him into the gift shop, where he immediately made the cutest little bed out of some Mandarin bobblehead boxes. We thought Spots would be a great name for him, and he sure does trot around constantly. He’s been pooping continuously, so we’re not sure he’s ever been indoors.|
|Dr. J. showed up with this thing at the end of a piece of yellow marine rope. We can’t figure out what it is, so we figure it’s one of those Incan dogs the Millennials are into because they need everything hypoallergenic. Weird blue eyes. Doc says he found it in some farmer’s fields, eating the anuses out of dead cows, which is probably anti-social behavior for dogs; it isn’t for Gormogons, of course, but this scrawny fellow wasn’t leaping around with a roll of Brawny paper towels.|
‘Puter and one of our favorite minions, Mo, chat
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Today as our precious post-Millennial snowflakes, spawn of the worst generation ever*, walk out of class to protest their constitutional rights, ‘Puter’d like to take a moment to reflect. Oh, ‘Puter’s not going to reflect on the kids’ masturbatory fantasies about changing the world by protesting really, really hard and meaning it a whole lot. ‘Puter wants to focus on a real-world example of our education system’s failure.**
Read this article about a Rochester City School District student’s recent death. Briefly, Trevyan Rowe was a 14 year old kid with some sort of learning disability, likely autism spectral. Trevyan’s*** parent put him on the bus to school. The bus dropped him at school. Trevyan walked up to the school’s doors (caught on surveillance camera footage), then disappeared. Trevyan’s first three period teachers marked him present. Only his special ed teacher marked him absent. A robocall never went out to Trevyan’s parent noting his absence because his teachers marked him present. One or more of Trevyan’s teachers, on learning he had disappeared, went back and tried to change the attendance records to mark him present.
Between 08:00 and 08:30, 911 operators received numerous calls about a black kid on an interstate bridge over the Genesee River on the wrong side of the railing. The operators ignored protocol and did not dispatch fire and rescue equipment including the water rescue team or notify the department’s scuba team to be on standby as required. A police car was dispatched, saw nothing, and left the scene.
Four days later, after unwinding the colossal mass of screw-ups, the fire department’s scuba team found Trevyan’s body exactly where the 911 callers saw the kid on the wrong side of the guard rails.
Yesterday, the Rochester City School District and the Rochester mayor held press conferences. We learned six 911 operators had been placed on administrative leave and at least one school district employee was in the disciplinary process.
‘Puter would note Rochester City School Board president Van White, a man with whom ‘Puter rarely agrees, delivered a master class in damage control and human decency. Mr. White took full responsibility for the district’s failures, said there was absolutely no excuse for the failures, pledged to discipline those responsible, and swore to fix the problems going forward. Mr. White told the truth, accepted responsibility, and asked for forgiveness. Major corporations and the federal government would do well to learn from Mr. White’s example.****
‘Puter’s point is this. America’s public education system is broken.
America’s public education system’s f*ck-up-edness is surpassed only by general governmental f*ck-up-edness. At least three teachers and six 911 operators disobeyed rules, law, and procedure contributing to Trevyan Rowe’s death. Yet, no one’s been fired.
Imagine a worker on the General Mills cereal line who decides the food safety rules aren’t for him and lets a few tainted bags of oats into the machinery because, meh, it’s too much work, it probably isn’t a big deal, and even if it is no one will ever trace it to him anyway. Imagine that quality inspectors catch the tainted oats, but decide screw the regulations, it’s probably nothing, and send an email marked low importance to an entry level management trainee in the accounting department. Imagine one box of tainted Lucky Charms results from these individuals’ dereliction and is shipped to a Rochester area Wegmans. Imagine Trevyan Rowe’s mom buys that very box, Trevyan eats it, and dies.
Does anyone believe that General Mills wouldn’t get to the bottom of the issue that day and fire everyone involved? Does anyone believe that federal, state, and local prosecutors and regulators wouldn’t be champing at the bit to criminally charge and/or file civil or regulatory actions against General Mills and the employees in question? Does anyone believe General Mills wouldn’t be writing a big, fat check to Trevyan Rowe’s parent?
So why is it any different for our public schools? Why isn’t it any different for government employees? The answer’s fairly simple. Public workers (teachers and 911 operators) are unionized and covered by civil service laws. Additionally, there is no customer service pressure on either teachers or 911 operators. Both are funded by tax dollars which are provided not on the basis of quality of service, but on the basis of union-negotiated contract requirements and unfunded federal and state mandates. Quality figures nowhere in the metric.
Bringing this post full circle, the overabundance of sniveling, whiny, know-nothing Snowflakes and Trevyan Rowe’s death are related. Our public education system has failed them both.*****
There’s an old saying, “You get what you pay for.” In the case of public education, the adage is false. The more we pay, the less it seems we get.
* The Boomers have been more destructive to our society than a plague of locusts, Oprah Winfrey, and Scientology combined.
** ‘Puter’s not talking about the obvious failure of our education system to produce students who understand arguing for abridging their own constitutional rights is stupid on steroids.
*** ‘Puter didn’t misspell Trevyan. That’s the kid’s name, which is a whole ‘nother issue. Oh, and it’s pronounced “TRAY-vonn,” so of course it’s spelled with the “v” before the “y” because reasons. And ‘Puter doesn’t want to hear your crap about how it’s racist to make fun of a black kid’s name. ‘Puter’s not making fun of the kid. He’s making fun of the parents who, despite phonetically spelling out the kid’s name, actually misspelled it phonetically. ‘Puter’s sorry he can’t pronounce your kid’s name which you decided to “spell” ignoring all known rules of spelling, pronunciation, and phonetics. Clearly, that’s on ‘Puter.
**** From the damage control part, not from the massive f*ck-up part.
***** ‘Puter leaves aside the other contributing factors both have in common, such as piss-poor parenting, absent fathers, substance abuse in the home, crappy teachers, dumbed-down curricula, economic troubles, etc.
‘Puter was perusing the Wall Street Journal this morning, as all rich oligarchs do, when he stumbled upon this piece. Why is Russian gas in Boston Harbor? ‘Puter expected to get an article on cabbage and bean eating Russian sailors.
Much to his surprise, ‘Puter learned Massholes were importing Russian natural gas despite being only a few hundred miles from the natural gas rich Marcellus shale in Pennsyltucky. ‘Puter assumed something catastrophic must’ve happened to the pipeline between the shale gas producing region and Mass-backwards-ass-achusetts.
Well, yes and no.
Turns out nothing physically happened to the pipeline. Also turns out there is no pipeline because elite genius enviroweenie do-gooders decided all fossil fuels are evil so they put the kibosh on the Access Northeast Pipeline which would’ve provided Massholes all the clean-burning natural gas they could ever want.
Now, ‘Puter’s a simple man, but there were a few questions he had about Massholes killing a project which would’ve provided domestic energy in favor of importing Russian natural gas and lining kleptocrat Vladimir V. Putin’s blood-stained pockets.*
Questions like, “Why are Massholes happily funding Putin’s war on the West instead of creating jobs in economically depressed areas of their own country?”
Or, “Do Massholes not understand Putin just attacked perhaps our closest ally with banned nerve agents?”
Or, “Do Massholes really hate the poor so much that they’re willing to make them choose between high-cost Russian natural gas and feeding their children?”
Or, “Just how beholden are Massholes’ elected representatives to Luddite enviroweenie greenies? Beholden enough to steal from the poor to give to America’s sworn enemy?”
Or, “Do Massholes not understand that in cutting off access to cheap, plentiful American shale gas they’re putting the reliability of their electric supply in question?”
Or, “Do the enviroloonies to whom Masshole politicians are listening care that there is no possible way to replace natural gas generation with renewable energy generation, not now and likely not in our lifetimes?”
‘Puter’s a simple Upstate lawyer, with a ground floor office, raccoons and possums for clients, and a suit made of burlap and twigs. Some even mock ‘Puter when he walks by, shouting “Loser Matlock!” at him until he shuffles off, teary-eyed, for the refuge of his refrigerator box home.
‘Puter doesn’t know much, but he does know this. Masshole elites are enabling an international terrorist, harming American natural gas producers, damaging the reliability of their grid, and pissing on the heads of the poor they profess to champion.
Even ‘Puter knows that’s wrong.
* Yes, ‘Puter’s mixing metaphors here. Piss off, wanker.
** And here’s another superfluous asterisked reference, linked to nothing, accomplishing nothing of value, affirmatively ignoring reality by existing, but doing the important work of signaling ‘Puter’s super-smart and can be trusted because he knows how to do elite things like asterisk.***
*** Totally not a dig at Masshole elites who do useless, harmful things to signal they’re super-awesome.
‘Puter perused the Sunday New York Times yesterday, including its normally hard left Review section. ‘Puter came across a piece by Katherine Mangu-Ward, When Smug Liberals Met Conservative Trolls. It’s a good piece and you should take the time to read it, if you can get around the NYT’s paywall.
‘Puter wants to pull out one small part of Ms. Mangu-Ward’s piece to take issue with it. ‘Puter believes Ms. Mangu-Ward misses the point in her characterization of liberal politics versus conservative politics.
Liberals and people of the left underpin their politics with moral concerns about harm and fairness; they are driven by the imperative to help the vulnerable and see justice done. Conservatives and people of the right value these things as well but have several additional moral touchstones — loyalty, respect and sanctity. They value in-group solidarity, deference to authority, and the protection of purity in mind and body. To liberals, those sincerely held values can look a lot like, in Dr. Haidt’s words, “xenophobia, authoritarianism and Puritanism.” This asymmetry is the fountainhead of mutual incomprehension and disdain.
There’s some truth here, but ‘Puter thinks the better distinction between liberals and conservatives is this:
Liberals believe in larger, more intrusive government in order to use it to force their policy preferences on unwilling Americans. Conservatives believe in smaller, less-centralized government in order to prevent it from using force to implement policy preferences on unwilling Americans. To liberals, this sincerely held value can look a lot like, in my words “racist, fascist, evil, child-hating, woman-hating, LGBTQLMNOP-phobic Nazism.”
Neither liberals nor conservatives have cornered the market on morality. Both sides do their level best to convince Americans they have, though. Both sides agree government is necessary but disagree on its proper size and scope. For decades, only one side* has insisted it was correct and the other side was evil. Now that conservatives are playing by liberals’ longstanding rules, liberals are losing their minds.
To be fair, Ms. Mangu-Ward made her distinction in the context of explaining the degeneration of civility and discourse between the two sides. ‘Puter took her work and stepped it back one level. But ‘Puter thinks it’s important to do so to show the first truth in each side’s philosophy.
Liberals value what they see as the collective good even if it means trampling individual rights. Conservatives value individual rights even at the expense of the collective good.
And therein lies the seed of all conflict between the two.
* Hint: Not the conservatives.
** ‘Puter didn’t really put another asterisked notation above. He just likes to write asterisked things below, if you know what he means (and he thinks you do).
The Gormogons kick off season 2 of Radio Gormogon
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Your Gormogons are, to a man,* all Roman Catholic and pretty astonishingly versed in our faith. If you’re not a Roman Catholic, or a Gormogon, you might not find this post particularly appealing, but the Czar happens to know that a few of us are getting pretty annoyed with some of our fellow practitioners. The Czar understands there’s even a podcast brewing in which some of us will be barking loudly at the moon about the way Roman Catholics have been treating themselves for some time now.
The Czar won’t mess with that podcast, but he will grip quite a bit on another related issue. His 12-year-old is taking on his formal religious education right now, and part of that program required him to take part in a…well, the Czar isn’t sure what you’d call it, since he was merely asked to drop off the boy and pick him up when done. Maybe they called it a retreat? Who knows? But what it was…was a disaster of Protestant proportions.
As many of you know, Catholics tend to be pretty particular about their faith, and right now there’s a growing irritation with more come-as-you-are Catholics and encroaching liberalism from folks who would rather change their faith’s time-honored beliefs than admit that what they believe is incompatible with the catechism. We will leave that for the podcast.
Let’s get right to the point. We dropped the boy off at a nearby church (not our own, but one in a neighboring town), and rather than leave him to fend for himself in a strange building with people he doesn’t know, the Czar escorted him in to ensure—more practically—if the Czar even got him to the right church, let alone the right entrance. We were at the correct place.
Inside the vestibule of the church was a crowd of people, engulfed in remarkably insipid Christian rock tunes. No, these aren’t the folk-song ukulele poems that Ghettoputer abhors, written by hippie Catholics back in the 1960s; these are modern nursery-rhyme New Testamenty singalongs set to a rock beat. You know the kind that play on late-night commercials in the cable wasteland channels, usually by groups named something like FellowShip? So this live, five-piece rock band is thumping out one of these songs at a deafening volume, while another half-dozen 50-something-year-old guys are wandering amid the crowd of adolescents eagerly clapping their hands and trying to get the kids to sing with them.
Not surprisingly, the crowd of approximately one-thousand kids (that’s no exaggeration: this place was packed) stood around, in total embarrassment, pretending that whatever was scrolling on their phones was the most urgent thing imaginable. “Uh, can’t sing along with you right,” you could imagine one kid shouting, “My mom just texted to say London has been eaten by a gigantic serpent. Millions dead, my dad is missing.”
So picture this mayhem: happy, utterly gushing Jesus-is-my-BFF song pounding over the amplifiers, six cheerleaders old enough to be any of their dads clapping (ON ONE AND THREE!**) to the song, and about one-thousand kids all desperately pretending to be doing something else to avoid making eye contact with these clowns.
For non-Catholics, this is probably not surprising; this sounds every bit like a typical Christian youth group meeting: well-meaning but utterly incompetent adults pretending that church is way funner than Xbox or the skate park or whatever you kids do these days, dorky-ass songs that would be pathetic even if they were about sex and dope, and a bunch of adolescents in dire need of escape.
“What the hell is this,” asked the Czar out loud. This was one hula hoop challenge on the volleyball court away from being a Baptist youth group. What the hell was happening here? Eventually, someone recognized the Czar’s boy and whisked him away, slapped a name tag on his shirt, and pushed him into the church itself, and told him to sit and join the concert.
Two-and-a-half hours later, the Czar picked him back up, and the boy looked shell-shocked. “Don’t say anything,” we advised him. “Just sit in the car and relax. Forget it even happened.” We drove home in relatively silence, until about one mile from home, he vented.
“That was stupid. I’m tired of how these things screw up everybody’s day, even yours, because you had to drive me! We got nothing out of this. It was a waste of time and money. We didn’t even talk about faith. They just wanted us to think this was some big party.” And so on.
Here’s the deal. Like all faiths, Catholics have a big influx of new members in the form of babies. They get baptized, accompany the parents to church every Sunday, and start to drop away as they become adults. Then they fall in love, decide to get married, and come back to church every week to more-or-less prove they’re loyal and just don’t need a place to hold the wedding. They have kids, and pretty soon they start coming every week for the rest of their lives.
The Church, like most faiths, has a real problem keeping the adolescents coming regularly, so they try to compete with the joys of increasingly emancipated childhood. These occur in the form of youth ministries: basically, the sappiest people in the world—you know you are—trying to convince a bunch of weary, over-programmed kids that God can be just as whack and dope as Instagram filters and pizza pockets.
The problem, which perpetually escapes the adults who run these programs, is that kids are way smarter than that. Adolescents, particularly those in the 12-to-15-year-old range, are almost perfect bullshit detectors. The average kid of this age knows the adult doesn’t really believe the material they’re peddling: the average adult also would prefer to sleep in on Sunday, hates the cantor, thinks the sermon was way off point, and will probably sneak out right after Communion.
The goofball music is unlistenable. The happy-clap-hands dads walking around trying drum up enthusiasm clearly hate this stuff as much as the kids, probably more so. The adults know the kids hate this pretend joy, and the kids know the adults are aware of it, too. It’s a big charade.
And right now, there are a couple of youth ministers firing up Gmail to send us an angry letter, rebuking this cynicism. “Czar, I have been a youth minister for 15 years, and I cannot tell you the number of kids who have thanked me for the fun times and wonderful experiences, often coming back years later with their own kids just to thank me.” Sure, they think you were the best. Guess what, chief? They were bored out of their minds and are being polite to you.
Catholics, you see, have started to embrace this aspect of happy-Jesus Protestantism, and the Czar, for one, doesn’t care for it a bit. He’s not alone, and yes, he is grumpy about it.
The source of this pathetic display of pretty evident. Confirmation—that most serious of sacraments, when you tell a kid “Look, you’re old enough to make up your own mind. Are you in…or are you out?” And most will say “In.” Hooray! Another confirmed Catholic on the mailing list!
Except, once confirmed, the Catholic child no longer attends religious education. Why should he? Why should she? She’s confirmed, and now the onus is on the child to show up on time for Mass every Sunday, participate in the sacraments are appropriate, and live good, full Catholic lives. There’s no need to attend classes on weekends or evenings during the school year: they’re confirmed. They’re done with that. They’re members in good standing, now.
Which means the funds to the local religious ed program dry up. So to milk the program for a couple more years, the local churches have been pushing back age of confirmation from 12 to 13. Then from 13 to 14. Now it’s 15. That’s three more years, meaning hundreds of bucks per year per kid for three more years.
The problem is, as you can quickly imagine, is that it’s back-firing. Kids are less inclined to even show up for mass once they’re confirmed. They’re spent: they’ve been taught, for three or more years, that Catholic church is one, big hoke-fest of bad songs, creepy-weird adults clapping their hands, and interdenominational get-togethers which sort of weakens the whole system.
Something’s gotta give, and soon, the Czar figured. And two weeks ago—not in time to prevent the catastrophe witnessed yesterday—the Czar received a letter from his local church quite frankly addressing this point. With surprise, the Czar read that the local church is thinking of pulling Confirmation back to the age of 12, which it was for centuries. The letter explained that there’s no benefit in prolonging it, that the programs are becoming watered down to make them last longer, and that the kids, frankly, think the religious ed experience, well, it sucks. A more efficient program, focusing on teaching the foundations of the faith rather than personal experience, might well be in order…and starting in 2019, the local church will be re-vamping the program.
About time. Before, you know, the Jesus-is-my-entertainer experience scares them away for good.
The Czar leaves the rest of you to listen to an upcoming podcast from his fellow world-controllers, who will demonstrate that this intrafaith thrashing isn’t limited to Muscovy.
*Well, a despot, a Sith lord, a wizard, a mad scientist, a robot, and whatever that leaves ‘Puter.
** Few greater musical sins.
And by that title, I mean I’m doubling on how down I am on the Oscars…and Hollywood in general.
Look, it’s easy for mainstream America to bash on Hollywood – some regarding the prominent political leanings, some over their demonstrated social bankruptcy, and others for jealous reasons such as their salaries. I’m not focused on any of those things here.
In the last day or so I came across someone stating, essentially, that Hollywood has moved from telling stories to selling messages (my words). Then I read, friend of the Gormogons, Jonah Goldberg’s piece at the National Review. Two things gripped me. First:
…no one should be surprised when the ratings for the Oscars are lousy, given that they mostly celebrate movies that are hostile — or simply unappealing — to vast swathes of the movie-going and TV-watching audience. Particularly when those honored are so liable to preen about how clever and brave they are.
I don’t think getting paid large amounts of money to portray a character in a movie that, as Neil deGrasse Tyson pontificated on Twitter, “challenges & disrupts [our] world view” is brave which makes them sinfully prideful when they do preen about it at the Oscars. Ok, maybe that’s not a shocker to you, dear reader. I’m open for challenging movies. I’m married to a Radio/TV/Film major and we have seen a wide range…and as bad as some have been, I’ve never walked out on a movie (although, probably should have). Where Hollywood is missing the mark, however, with regards to “selling messages” is two-fold: (1) they don’t listen to their own messaging (e.g. corrupt hierarchies of power leading to abusive behaviors) and (2) subtlety as the messages are frequently heavy handed – from Wall-E to Three Billboards (which Mrs. GorT and I enjoyed but remarked at how over the top it was with regards to the actions of various characters and the resulting lack of consequences*).
The second part from Jonah’s piece that struck me was:
John Podhoretz made an interesting point: One reason the ratings for the Oscars are down is that few Americans see most of the nominated movies anymore….This is just one facet of the larger problem with Hollywood fare these days. While there are more and better niche movies appealing to different segments of the society, there are fewer big “event” movies that everybody goes to that are also worthy of Oscar consideration.
Let me spin that another way. Where are the really great stories that inspire us through entertainment? I don’t think anyone is advocating that the actual and implied actions at the end of Three Billboards is what we want in society, for example*. Not that long ago, movies were a means of escape – 120 minutes where we could relax and be entertained. We were taken to galaxies far, far away where Good fought Evil. And on time traveling adventures that made us laugh while seeing that we can change our future. Maybe people are right and there are only 7 plots in the world: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, The Quest, Voyage and Return, Rebirth, Comedy and Tragedy but there are so many unique and interesting stories out there.
I’m glad A Wrinkle In Time is making it to the silver screen, it was a favorite of mine growing up. And Amazon’s adaptation of The Man in the High Castle has been awesome. But there are so many other great stories out there across a variety of age ranges: The Great Brain series by John Fitzgerald, Roger Zelazny’s Amber series, Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series, and more.
I just think that the Oscars are representative of the movie industry as a whole and should make no bones about it. The Academy should come out with a statement describing why certain movies are nominated and awarded and why others aren’t. This won’t happen, because they can’t do that.
* if you don’t know what I’m referencing because you haven’t seen the movie and if you don’t care about spoilers, hit me up on email and I’ll fill you in.
‘Puter was attending Mass yesterday when …
STOP LAUGHING! ‘Puter goes to Mass every week and on all Holy Days of Obligation! He used to do First Fridays, too, but that’s another whole story.
As ‘Puter was saying before he was so rudely interrupted, he was at Mass praying and thinking. ‘Puter realized that for all the agony and stupidity that is Twitter, Twitter’s also a force for good. Now stay with ‘Puter here for a minute, people.
Twitter has demonstrably been a force for good in ‘Puter’s life. He’s made virtual and IRL friends he never would have met but for Twitter. ‘Puter’s Twitter friends have made him a better person by showing him the goodness of people everywhere.
There are others in ‘Puter’s Twitter feed who are quietly and faithfully raising wonderful special needs kids who don’t make a big deal out of it. The Schultzie family, for one: mister, missus, and Muffin Bear. Schultzie is surely wondering where this is going, and will quickly dismiss what ‘Puter’s about to say, but ‘Puter’s going to say it anyway. Adopting a special needs kid, caring for said kid as your own, and working hard to ensure that kid thrives is God working through us. It is an example of people quietly making a difference for others because of their inherent goodness and the strength of their faith. It is humanity at its best and an example to rest of us of what families can accomplish together.
Not to be forgotten is Sean Bannion and his beautiful family. Sean would surely tell you anyone would do what his wife and he do, but we know that’s not true. Quite the opposite, in fact. Just look at the statistics on abortion of “imperfect” fetuses. It’s a slow-motion genocide, a crime against humanity, and an abomination before the Lord.
The presence of these wonderful children and their loving parents reminds us that all life is valuable, even life far too many consider disposable. Standing up for all life from conception to natural death is our duty, one parents like Schultzie, Mrs. Schultzie, Sean and Mrs. Sean model well.
There are strong, serious, funny people coping with as-yet incurable diseases in ‘Puter’s feed. And you’d never know it unless they told you. ‘Puter’s looking at you Patriot Musket and Chelie. People who have dealt with, for example, diabetes for all or a large portion of their lives. They accept this fact and get on with their lives just like everyone else. No whining, no complaining, no nothing. Their strength and quiet determination is admirable. There will be a cure someday for diabetes and all diseases, and ‘Puter hopes his friends are there to celebrate that day.
There are people coping with mental illness, including but not limited to depression, bipolar disorder, OCD, ADHD, to name but a few. Each of these people allows us to see mental illness through a lens of humanity, the humanity and dignity of a friend. They remind us daily that many Americans are affected by mental illness and that they are first and foremost good, decent people working hard to get better. People who just happen to struggle with a mental illness. ‘Puter’s thinking in particular of one wanton Nutmegger, but won’t name her because ‘Puter’s not certain she’d want to be identified.
There are people living with addiction and recovery therefrom. Their existence and hard work remaining clean reminds us that we can accomplish anything to which we set our minds. God’s help doesn’t hurt either. There are even some recovering people who share their stories in quiet, appropriate moments like David Edward. The witness of those who choose to share their stories is important to all of us lest we forget that addiction affects everyone somehow, even if only through our relationships with others.
Each of us has people like the foregoing in our Twitter feeds. Often we don’t take the time to realize what these people are teaching us by their presence and interaction with us. ‘Puter’s seen dignity, perseverance, kindness, generosity, self-control, stoicism, duty, in each. Above all, the unifying characteristic of each person mentioned is the transformative power of love in their lives. Love of others, love of self, and/or love of God.
‘Puter is thankful for the example each sets for him as he strives to be a better person. And ‘Puter is thankful for the quiet reflective time in Mass and grace of God that allowed him to see this clearly for the first time this weekend.
So don’t be too quick to dismiss Twitter as a force for good. After all, the Lord works in mysterious ways.
GorT “watched” the Oscars last night. By that, I mean I had it on in the background and occasionally looked up to see what was going on with the show while doing some work on my laptop.
The Oscars were boring. Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue was blah. It seemed like they had 10 video montages when all they needed were one or two*. The live performances of best songs nominees were fine (with the exception of “This Is Me” from Greatest Showman which was great). And the nominated films aren’t the ones that people are spending money to see. The Oscars have leapt the shark. It is time for a serious reboot.
Jimmy Kimmel isn’t the right guy for this event. His jokes were lame and many fell flat on delivery. The introduction was lackluster and really didn’t energize the crowd or the TV audience. During the monologue he praised “positivity” but then went on to bash Trump – so much for positivity. #LoveTrumpsHate, right? Oh wait, liberals can hate because they hate out of love. Are you following that? Aside from that, the various movements were represented throughout the night. Of course, they open the Oscars with a shot of Meryl Streep. Who KNEW about the Weinstein abuses and did and said NOTHING. But this goes to exactly the problem that, apparently, still exists in Hollywood: there is a hierarchy of power. Streep is at the top. It’s why they cut to people like her, Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, etc. in the crowd during award shows. Environments with power structures like this are highly susceptible to abuses and coverups. The musicians Common and Andra Day did a song in the middle of the Oscars with various “activists” on stage behind them. He used the lyric about when “they go low, we go to the heights” – which I’m not sure everyone would characterize the type of anti-Trump rhetoric is staying on the high road.
They also repeated the call about Black Panther as the first superhero movie with a black lead. I think Will Smith (Hancock), Robert Townsend (Meteor Man), Damon Wayans (Blankman), Shaquille O’Neal (Steel), and Hally Berry (Catwoman) might disagree (even given that some were flops and/or comedies). Also, a few notable events: a credibly accused rapist won an award for best animated short film. A movie about a minor having a sexual relationship with an adult received multiple nominations and won for best adapted screenplay (paging Roman Polanski). These pronouncements, nominations, and awards only further undermine Hollywood’s attempt at credibility when it comes to issues about equality, sexual abuse, and bettering society.
All in all, GorT would characterize the hosting and atmosphere as alienating. For those that really listened, Kimmel said that Hollywood is or needs to lead the change against sexual abuse and harassment. I’ve been working for companies for twenty years that have annual, mandatory “safe workspace” training sessions and zero tolerance policies. I know of cases where employees have been fired for violating it. Twenty years. Jimmy Kimmel, Hollywood is WAY behind other industries. Hollywood isn’t leading the change – Hollywood is part of the problem.
I don’t get how the Academy picks the winners. It clearly doesn’t follow the “majority vote” model if you use American audiences. Here is the list of the top 20 (plus a few main Oscar nominees) box office revenue films in 2017 and how many “major” Oscar category (Best Picture, Screenwriting, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Director, Best Soundtrack) nominations they received:
39. The Post (2)
48. The Shape of Water (7)
51. Darkest Hour (2)
52. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (6)
56. Lady Bird (5)
I get that because a movie is popular means that the movie is exceptional. I also get that due to movie release dates, annual box office revenues isn’t a great measure, but I think it suffices for the point I’m making. I’m happy to revisit this in 2019 and use a first year revenue for each of the films. I don’t think it will be significantly different. The point being, I do believe that truly exceptional movies should transcend from an Academy nomination to the box office.
GorT gets it – Hollywood is using shows like the Oscars, Emmys, etc. as their bully pulpits to posture themselves and make sure that they seem like good people so the audiences will keep paying upwards of $20 per ticket to see the films and support their extravagant lifestyles. But I think these award shows need a serious reboot. Kimmel’s joke at the beginning regarding the first Oscars being 15 minutes long might have some truth behind it.
Anything over 2 hours long is too much. Keep the In Memoriam montage (except hit ALL the people who passed away last year), awardees get 2 minutes tops and only one speaker for group awards****. And essentially ditch the emcee – do it all via voice narration and kick it off with a montage of the nominees. At least it would reduce some of the self-congratulations that takes place and make it a little more palatable.
* As stated above: they need an opening montage to replace the monologue and the In Memoriam montage
** These films were nominated (and some won) in other categories outside of the major ones
*** Wonder Woman is an Israeli actress LEADING a blockbuster superhero movie and Hollywood gave it ZERO nominations.
**** Sorry folks, one speaker only, so pool your notes, pick a competent speaker, and have them cover the whole thing.
Sometimes it’s nice to sit and ponder things on a quiet, snowy Upstate morning. Today is not one of those days. ‘Puter knew it was going to snow, and snow a lot overnight. ‘Puter determined to get up early, exercise, snowblow his driveway, and leave for work 30 minutes early. And so ‘Puter did.
‘Puter got to work to find a text transmitted en route informing him the office was closed until 11:00 AM. Suck it, world.
‘Puter will be departing the office four hours early today as a result. Well, probably not. ‘Puter’s boss, the company president, will schedule a meeting for 4:00 PM because it’s Friday and that’s how he rolls.
‘Puter’s pretty fired up as a result, so he thought he’d drop a few lines on the site. One must comply with Meaux’s Order for the Preservation of Gormogon Awesome-osity.
Here are some words requiring more frequent use: Huzzah! Archaeopteryx. Homonculus. Dildo. Warpig. Jank. Sure, forty percent of the aforementioned words are made up, but that doesn’t matter. Do it for the children.
Old people should be banned from driving during morning and evening rush hours. You’re retired. Stay off the damned roads so the rest of us can get to work. Someone needs to slave to pay your Social Security which is broke and which we won’t get. You sure as Hell didn’t. You’re sucking more out than you ever put in. And say thank you once in a while, Meemaw.
America shouldn’t listen to children about anything. The last time America listened to kids was the 1960s, and look how the 1970s turned out.
We should raise the legal age for everything to 30 unless you’re living on your own, paying taxes, and fully self-supporting.
Thinking about it, if you’re living off the taxpayer, you shouldn’t get a say in government spending. You should get representation, but taxpayers should get to approve any federal budget in an up or down vote. Not you, 16 year old gun grabber. Not you, Meemaw who faked a disability then retired at 62 and is now 80. Not you, public school teachers and other government employees. If the government treats you as its child, you get the vote of a child.
Someone should start a charity that does nothing but purchase guns for abuse victims. The charity would train recipients to use them properly. Call it Planned Personhood maybe. Or Hugs for Handguns.
People shouldn’t be so hung up on looks. As we get older, we realize we all get dumpier, even the ones of us who remain objectively hawt. Be a good person. That goes a long way and doesn’t fade with age.
Shoveling snow is a young man’s job. Thank God for snowblowers. Also, why did Frosty the Snowman run out into the street? He heard a snowblower was coming.
‘Puter watched Guardians of the Galaxy 2 last night. ‘Puter has no idea why Sylvester Stallone was in that movie.
That’s pretty much it. ‘Puter’s got more to say. Way more, in fact. ‘Puter just doesn’t want to ruin this post with rants on gun control, or abortion, or banking law, or overregulation, or how both parties now completely suck on rule of law and basic constitutional concepts.
GorT read ‘Puter’s latest post with amusement – enjoying his tossing of District Board Policies at the board – until GorT got to the footnotes. For those that didn’t read that far (maybe validating one of the footnotes) or missed it in ‘Puter’s formatting, I re-present the item in question here:
Also, the extension GorT put on the blogging software that says this post’s readability “needs improvement” can suck it. Those programmers’ moms “need improvement.
So, the “extension” in question is actually in place to help people find the blog via internet searches. Specifically, the extension raised the following issues with ‘Puter’s post:
Keep in mind, ‘Puter (the once-English major) is giving the computer guy an issue over a programming thing. So here is the computer guy taking on the English critiques*.
First, I’ll give ‘Puter a pass on the Flesch Reading Ease test since our blog doesn’t pull any punches and we’ll use difficult words and more complex sentences because we believe our readers can handle it. Why we should write more simply to make our posts easier to read baffles me. We had a priest who taught at Catholic University periodically visit our parish growing up. GorT, Sr. told my brother and I to listen closely to his homilies which frequently used challenging words and took complex issues head on with no sugar coating.
Second, we don’t need subheadings unless we want to use them. Pound sand.
Third, clearly this extension hasn’t met ‘Puter. He is not one short of speech and will gladly weave a complicated statement.
Fourth, hmmm, this surprised me. ‘Puter isn’t passive nor one to make heavy use of the passive voice.
Fifth, did you spot it?
Sixth, when ‘Puter writes who knows if all the information is about the same topic. Keeping him focused can be a challenge.
* By the way, the extension rates this post’s readability as Good.
For our new Meet a Minion series, ‘Puter recorded a podcast episode featuring Meaux (of @molratty fame) last night, and it probably didn’t suck. It will definitely suck less once GorT gets time to edit it. Anyhoo, one of the questions ‘Puter asked Meaux was what, aside from collectively dying in a fire, we could do to improve our product. Meaux quickly answered, “Post more.”
So, in response to Meaux’s thoughtful criticism, here’s a post for today. ‘Puter will try to post more frequently in the coming weeks and months, maybe even doing a travelogue from his upcoming trip to Scotland, the ancestral home of Scott tissues and toilet paper, which, to be quite honest, are no match for Brawny paper towel’s absorptive properties.
You may have heard about the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida. If you haven’t, you must be deaf, so you’re probably reading this in Braille or some other fake language.
Because current high school attendees are spawn of America’s Worst Generation, of course the larval hippies are staging a walkout because dumbass kid power totally rules! ‘Puter’s local school district is no different, packed to the gills with spawn of liberal Boomer hippies who don’t understand guns much less existing gun control laws. FYI, larval hippies, New York has some of the strictest gun control laws in the country. But dumbass kids gonna dumbass kid.
In response to the stated intent of these benighted, smug, asshat teens threatening to walk out of class disrupting Tablet’s education and Mrs. ‘Puter’s job, ‘Puter drafted the following letter to the district’s superintendent, edited to remove identifying information.
Dear Superintendent [X],
I received your email regarding the upcoming student protests to take place in [District]. You note that the students will “protest and support the control of the sale of firearms.” As you surely know, gun control v. gun rights is a hot-button, partisan, political issue. The issue divides Democrats and Republicans, gun owners and non-gun owners. Elections nationwide turn on politicians’ positions on firearms. With the possible exception of abortion rights, it is difficult to think of a more partisan, political, divisive issue.
The District does not yet appear to know what the student protesters plan to do, nor has the District determined whether it will allow the student protests or offer programs or instruction on the issue of gun control. As the situation remains in flux, I reserve judgment.
Before the District moves forward and understanding the District has made no determination as of yet, I have the following questions and concerns.
Your email seems to imply the student protest advocating for gun control is curricular in nature. You identify the Parkland shootings and their aftermath as a “teachable moment.” While this is true, it does not affect the nature of the proposed walkout student protests. It does not seem political protests held during school hours advocating only one side of a politically fraught issue would be curricular in nature. If you believe such protests would be curriculum based, would you please explain why you believe so?
It was not clear from your email whether any student protest activities will occur during the school day. [District] Board Policy 7411 requires student groups meeting for non-curriculum related activities to “meet up to 10 minutes prior to the commencement of classes or for a maximum of 45 minutes after the dismissal of classes.” I assume any such protests would not be held during instructional time, and to the extent they were, the District would discipline participating students accordingly.
Further, [District] Board Policy 7411 mandates “[s]uch meetings will be held only when … 1. They do not interfere with students’ academic achievement; 2. The safety of students is provided for; and 3. The cost of transportation and other expenses are paid by the organization and not by the School District.” Any protests occurring during the instructional day would surely interfere with students’ academic achievement if for no other reason than they were not in class to receive instruction. The remaining students (if any) would also be impacted as I would imagine teachers are not going to teach to a classroom where half or more of the students have walked out. Further, to the extent the protests are held (whether or not the District sanctions the protests), the students should be responsible for paying all costs associated with providing for their safety, including the allocable salary expense of any attending police officers, sheriff’s deputies, teachers, or administrators.
To the extent District personnel are involved in any manner other than supervisory, [District] Board Policy 6430 applies. It states “[t]eachers may not use their classrooms or school surroundings as a means to promote their personal political views and beliefs.” Participation in a pro-gun control protest and rally would violate this policy. There is a difference between holding a classroom debate where both sides of an issue are fairly and accurately presented and a political protest where only one side of an issue is advocated, as the Board’s policy recognizes.
To the extent federal funds are used in any manner in support of the student protests, including but not limited to maintenance of the school property, accommodation of special needs students to participate, etc., so doing would violate both federal law and [District] Board Policy 5560 which prohibits use of federal funds for political expenditures.
Please note that use of District resources to promote only one side of a partisan political issue violates the constitutional prohibition against use of public funds for partisan purposes. Phillips v. Maurer, 67 NY2d 672 (1986). Even indirect support to espouse a partisan position has been deemed improper. Permitting use of school facilities also lends an appearance of prohibited partisan activity by a school district, which should be avoided. Surely the issue of gun control is a partisan issue as we have seen in the aftermath of the Parkland shootings.
I do not disagree with you that the issue of school shootings and proposals to limit or eliminate them going forward is an important issue. It is certainly one with which high school students should grapple. However, if school facilities are used to promote only one side of the issue, no matter how indirect the District’s involvement, the District would be in violation of its own policies, state law, and federal law.
I am certain you will do your usual good work and thread the needle on this difficult issue recognizing both the students’ legitimate concerns as well as those of the taxpayer. I support your thought that this can be a learning opportunity for [District’] students. I know [the District] will handle this situation properly and look forward to hearing how the District plans to do so as events become more certain.
Thank you for your time.
So, yeah. We’ll see if ‘Puter’s e-missive has any effect whatsoever. ‘Puter’s betting not since the teachers union’s a bunch of worthless hippies and the administration’s terrified of them. Lord, a decision in Janus v. AFSCME cannot come soon enough.
* Buried lede: ‘Puter can write.
** Also, the extension GorT put on the blogging software that says this post’s readability “needs improvement” can suck it. Those programmers’ moms “need improvement.
China has long had a funny reputation in America. To some of us, it’s a Communist Thugocracy, playing a coy game of psychology to convince idiots that it’s really an efficient, socialist modern country with ordinary people enjoying a marriage of culture and high-tech advantages, when in reality it’s a horrible place quite likely to kill innocent people. To the rest of us, it’s an efficient, socialist modern country, et cetera.
In fact, it seems to be a weekly occurrence: a journalist writes a piece about something nice or worthwhile in China, and someone on social media immediately corrects that journalist with the horrible facts of concealed tragedy. Okay, some of China’s apologists confess, China isn’t all that great, but it’s definitely getting better!
China’s President Xi Jinping has decided to settle that question by deciding that his two-term limit is null and void, and he’s basically Mao for life, now. Ironically, one of the first things China did after Mao died was ditch the leader-for-life system because of all the further misery it brought to an already miserable land. Even grotesque Deng Xiaoping understood this, and while power transition in China has been something akin to musical chairs, at least there was the pretense of novelty.
The apologists are going to have a very hard time with this. Is China expanding her navy? No, they’re just spreading their natural right of…oh hell, yeah it looks like it. Is China oppressing the people in its western regions? No, they’re just encouraging a two-way form of diversity…no, no, that’s probably oppression. Is China undermining American business with secret gateways into software and hardware? Why, that’s just crazy, paranoid delusion with no basis…well, actually, they could, easily.
Worse, this is a blow for socialism and communism. As you know, the defense for those nightmarish social constructs is always some form of denial. “Those examples you give are not true communism, but a distorted, maniacal form of dictatorship.”
Well, guess what China just chose? For all the praise American liberals have for China’s government, China’s government has just decided to become one of those bad examples of bad communism.
Looks like the Cold War 2 has begun.
The Czar and family have returned from Marvel’s latest thousand-dollar-or-more-grossing movie Black Panther, which stars Jackie Robinson, Adonis Creed, and that frog from Star Wars. If you are reading this by way of the Internet, you are already connected enough to know that this is The Greatest Black Movie Ever Made in the History of Cinema!
Or is it? The Czar had a sneaking suspicion that there was something more going on.
Historically, there have been two types of “Black” movies: those which feature a couple of black actors inserted into an otherwise ordinary movie—so much so that the black actors could have been white without much of the story changing—or movies made by and almost exclusively for black people with the intent of discouraging non-black Americans from seeing them. Basically, this is intended for black audiences only.
In the first case, familiar or “safe” black actors are used—Denzell Washington, Eddie Murphy, Danny Glover, Morgan Freeman, Bernie Mac, and so on—but not in any particularly exclusive manner. Most, maybe all, of these roles could have been performed by non-black actors. The Czar speculates, to no one’s surprise, that this is Hollywood’s way of ensuring financial success: these aren’t crossover movies as much as way to ensure white dollars don’t go elsewhere. “Make it black,” the Hollywood producer tells the director over capelli d’angelo and goat cheese, “but not too black.” It’s a Kevin Hart movie, sure, but the rest of the cast is white.
Our second example is even more obvious: Tyler Perry, Spike Lee, and F. Gary Gray. White audiences liked some of their movies, but you can bet they saw them on cable. And deep down, non-black audiences mostly pretended to get this hip-hop crap, and barely understood the inner city dialogue.
Perhaps the most notable exception to this paradigm is 1988’s Coming to America, which featured an almost exclusively black cast in both Africa and a black New York City-neighborhood. This, like 1985’s The Color Purple, seems to be a noteworthy exception until you look at the producers, directors, and crew—most of whom all went to temple together. These were really white movies for white audiences featuring black actors.
This is what makes Black Panther so different for a lot of Americans: this is an almost exclusively black-cast movie, set in southern Africa for the largest part, with a very, very, very black crew. Yeah, sure, Kevin Feige isn’t black, but the creative control for this movie was by Ryan Coogler. So while some of the headlines proclaiming this the Blackest Movie EVER are way over the top, they’re not exactly wrong.
But here’s the thing: this movie doesn’t care if the audience is black or not. The story is completely approachable, secretly based in the essential history of Civil Rights, that strives to be inclusive for all audiences. Bright, vibrant, and very unlike any of the Avengers-style entries, this movie elects to show and tell, rather than beat audiences over the head.
This was the Czar’s suspicion: that Ryan Coogler decided that only the cast and setting need, by the story’s setting, to be black. He decided the movie’s messages need to be universal.
You may have read some left-wing pundits praising the movie for its Black Liberation messages, its rejection of white supremacy, and its anti-Republican stance. This film, uh, really doesn’t have any of that in there. There is a passing reference of colonialism used in an overtly humorous way (the Czar thought it quite funny, actually), and African cultures are synthesized into a dignified, photogenic fashion.
But catch this: there is a formal expression, taken from Malcolm X’s earlier days, the blacks have been victimized by other cultures for too long, that injuries need to be repaid, that old grievances need to be settled—by the bad guy. The title character believes, and expresses, that people of all races have almost everything in common except small differences, and that it’s time to put subdivision and isolation behind us. Conservatives will watch this movie, and likely at several points look around the audience and think “I hope you’re all hearing this.” Multiculturalism, maybe—but the story goes to great lengths to show the Black Panther is very much a nationalist. He’s just a nationalist who believes that his country could do more to help others.
All this sounds a lot deeper than the goofiness of Thor: Ragnarök or teenage wit of Spider-Man: Homecoming, but this latest film from Marvel is quite apart from any of those that have gone before: nearly all the major characters (and there are quite a few!) get equal screen time and play very interesting, strongly focused roles. In fact, the Czar expects that this film has more detailed characters than any Marvel Studios film made before it, each of whom you really get to know. You rapidly forget the Greatest Black Film Ever, and instead focus on the actual story and very convincing acting.
Either way, it’s going to make billion dollars in less than 12 months, and while you may walk away from it thinking “That was a little different,” you won’t regret having seen it. Nor will your kids, who will find the costumes cool and the fight scenes quite imaginative. And if they learn a little something about Malcolm X and Martin Luther King’s opposing visions, well, it’ll be vastly more than they’ll get in school.
Once more, we are saddened to hear about the events in Florida. As social media again resorts to its default position of screaming in rage about everything, the Czar realizes there are a couple of questions not really being addressed anywhere.
If your default position on social media is to advocate banning firearms or confiscating them, you won’t win this argument. You won’t even score points: the Czar doesn’t mean you don’t take the problem of school shootings seriously—just that you don’t understand the issue deeply enough. You already know a ban or limit isn’t going to work—you’re going to need to confiscate all weapons in the country, legal, illegal, and those in the military and law enforcement’s hands. But you have the power to initiate legislation to do that right now, if you wanted. That’s in your power as a citizen. The Czar expects your proposal will go nowhere—not because of the NRA, or Donald Trump, or any other conspiracy theory. It will go nowhere because it’s not going to get support from your neighbors or be practical in any real-world way.
No, this essay is geared toward readers more interested in the causes of school shootings—in fact, today’s two questions are:
You are not imagining things: school shootings are increasing. If you factor in all firearms hatefully discharged in schools, our country has suffered approximately one per week since the holidays. Whether these range from the wide-scale attack like in Florida or someone pulling a trigger in anger on a specific student, the result is the same: students wind up as victims.
The reader probably has a theory as to why this is, consisting of two, intertwined causes. And the reader’s likely theory is correct. School shootings are on the rise because (a) they are copycat crimes and (b) they are terrifyingly easy to do.
The Czar loves to bash the media for irresponsibility, and he really does take a twisted pleasure in doing so. But the reflex to blame the media for hyper-reporting school shootings—and thereby inspiring copycats to do the same—isn’t correct in this instance. The media certainly have a responsibility to report school shootings: they are major news. Parents, especially, want as many details as possible: who is the shooter, what was the cause, how was it done? The media should by all means reveal the shooter, show his face, his name, and reveal his age—and not, as some suggest, enforce a blackout of this information.*
Thanks to the speed at which news can disseminate, everybody hears about school shootings now. One may find this difficult to believe, but even 30 years ago, you might not have heard about a school shooting if only one or two students were victims—that was a local news story. Only the most spectacular shootings got coverage, and that coverage faded after a few days. Today, would-be shooters looking for inspiration are practically bathed in this information. Attempting to censor news stories will not prevent these kids from finding that inspiration in media coverage.
Blacking out new coverage of school shootings is as useful and worthwhile as the calls to ban all firearms in the country: well-intentioned, but utterly incapable of stopping anything. In fact, both ideas prevent useful results.
But why schools? As most people assume, correctly, schools are pathetically easy targets. Thousands of school buildings around the country were designed to be easily entered, wide open, and efficiently traveled. Florida’s shooter entered the school easily, pulled the fire alarm, and opened fire as students diligently filed out. The kids literally lined up for him.
Additionally, there is no denying the fact that schools are soft targets. Guns are prohibited around most** schools, and this means the shooter can expect no armed resistance. More so, firearms of any kind are actively denied in educational consciousness—if a kid chews a Pop-Tart into the shape of Oklahoma, he is suspended for creating the outline of a firearm. This is a neurosis that encourages paralysis among administrators and school boards: rather than schools addressing the reality that firearms exist and maybe ALICE drills should reflect that, the thinkers in education instantly resist any Platonic concept of firearms entering their imagination. This means many school districts themselves refuse to admit the reality, and therefore rely more on hope and a (non-religious) prayer to protect students. The way most individual school districts manage firearm responses is little more than ritual and superstition. That needs to change, or schools will remain forever soft.
Churches can be soft targets—as in North Carolina; lately, though—as in Texas—people can and do shoot back. You can bet that church shootings will decline for the near future. You should not wonder why.
Many schools are adapting: new schools are built with walled-in classrooms, doors that can deny entry, and exit-only doors in each classroom that allow students to rush out to safety without lining up in a fatal funnel. Mass notification systems can inform teachers and students—from multiple points—whether a fire alarm is legitimate, or if an incident has erupted inside one of the classrooms. You can’t enter these new buildings without visual identification (face and photo ID)—and when allowed in, you are directed immediately to a secure checkpoint where office staff can safely verify you before you even enter the office.
Still, that’s not enough. And that brings us to our second topic.
School shootings can be prevented before they start. Not far from the Czar’s dacha, a nearby suburb’s police department arrested a high school student at his home. His confused parents were stunned to learn the boy had a small arsenal of firearms under his bed, and even had some home-made explosives of dubious efficacy. How did the police discover him? Fellow high-school students came forward to the school administration, using an established process, to warn that the kid was acting strangely, making chilling threats about killing others, and posting unhinged—almost incoherent—statements online about hurting other students. The school administration reassured the small group of students that their fears may be legitimate, and called the police to investigate. The arrest was made that afternoon, allegedly, since time is of the essence. There is no question among many locals that this was a definite, national tragedy averted, based on the statements made by the suspect after arrest.
The reason is clear—there are always signs before a school shooting. Although the media coverage enjoys portraying the standard law enforcement line “We don’t yet know the motive,” the fellow students are never surprised who did it. Even in yesterday’s Florida shooting, a student told press that the other kids always suspected the shooter would come to school one day with guns. You read that right—at least one student claimed that a few classmates knew this shooting was going to happen.
There are always signs. And the signs are usually a template: the shooter is a loner, who attempts to draw attention to himself with oddball clothing, isolated behavior, and general social frustration. Drug abuse by the student is so common that in cases where it doesn’t seem to be case, it may just be that parents and classmates simply were unaware of the abuse.
What’s improved, though, is social media: increasingly, we see the shooters are moving away from quietly clutched, lined notebooks with scribbled messages and diagrams to equally incoherent tirades on social media—not because the shooter wants thousands of people to discover his plot, but because he really doesn’t expect people to read his crap, and he can access his material from anywhere. You will not be shocked to learn that the Florida shooter had an Instagram account that showed him with weapons and bizarre ravings. This was a big tipoff to fellow classmates that something was coming.
If the signs are always there, why is he emitting them?
The school shooter doesn’t come by his decision easily. He never wakes up one morning and elect to shoot children right after a hearty breakfast. Intricate plans are drawn up over weeks to maximize damage, scenarios envisioned about avoiding a response, and even a large variety of materials gathered, often from legal sources. In some cases, we know that trial runs are made to see how easily the school can be entered, what response time might be like, and more—just to ensure that the maximum casualty count can be maintained.
The school shooter feels trapped or imprisoned in a corrupt and, frankly, bullshit system…almost like a psychiatric patient in a ward. No one takes him seriously, no one pays attention to him, and no one worries about the pain he’s feeling. He feels powerless in this big machine, and even disrespected by the people pretending to care for him. Teachers, administrators, and fellow students are all caught up in this rigid, inflexible, and uncaring system: they are equally victims and equally complicit. Parents don’t care—they buy into how perfect the world of the school pretends to be.
You know what this school needs? An explosive, attention-getting act to show how horrible it all is. You can try a thousand different ways to fix the system from within, but it’s too powerful and fraudulent. However, one kid with a firearm—he could make a difference, right? Shoot his way in, shoot up the place, and then everyone would see how impotent the school really is. That’s how you do it—use violence as an agent of social change.
This may be difficult for most of us to imagine, but it’s pretty close—in one form or another—how his brain wiring sees it. Awkwardness turns to pain—drugs help for a while—but pain turns to frustration. Frustration increases the sense of entrapment, and then that turns to rage. Rage turns into a sense of potential empowerment, and that turns into violence. If you don’t follow this logic, skip Catcher in the Rye and go right to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
If you follow this, you understand that these kids follow a pattern so obvious that lots of classmates pick up on it. So why don’t they stop it, like they did in the Czar’s neighboring community?
Incredibly, it’s because that the shooters often kind-of have it right: the system is impotent to help.
In Florida, we discussed that one student claims a few of them knew the shooter was an imminent threat. But whom do the other students contact with concerns? Choices include a teacher, who doesn’t want anything to do with this—so the teacher refers them to the assistant principal. The assistant discusses their fears with the principal, but of course the two of them may not know even the student in question. They might talk to some of the weird kid’s teachers, and not get a real sense of concern from them, either. So they bring the kid in, maybe have him talk to the social worker—who isn’t trained for this sort of security risk—and drag the process out until, with luck, it all fades away as typical adolescent drama.
And most of the time, that is the case.
But until that process is completely revamped—as many school districts have recognized—the risk continues. What hurts about Florida is how preventable this was: the classmates recognized the risk, and the school almost certainly did everything they were allowed to, and it wasn’t enough.
Allowed to? If you aren’t related to an educator or someone on the school board, get ready for this: most school boards set the process for punishment and reward for students, and principals shall follow those requirements. Sexting? Three-day loss of phone privileges. Fighting? Two-day suspension. Throwing food in the cafeteria? Two-page report from Wikipedia on the cost of food production. These vary quite a bit: but the idea that principals have any real flexibility in doling out punishments or suspensions is a myth. It’s very often the school boards who set the levels of tolerance for misbehavior.
If you want to prevent more school shootings, you start with the school boards. Get them to understand that having the police department do an annual ALICE drill at the school isn’t effective prevention: it’s mitigation. Get them to see that the easy, open school layout is a soft target. Create a contact person, properly trained in identifying pre-violent behaviors, that students can come to with anonymous concerns about other students. Allow that person to work with the local police to do an immediate background check and quiet investigation without (a) embarrassing the wrongly suspected student or (b) political fallout from the board because “this sort of stuff doesn’t go on in our district.”
There are numerous methods to implementing such a plan—in fact, very competent consultants exist who do this sort of work for a small fee—but until the school boards realize they are first line of defense, and not the police, and not the kid’s clueless parents, and not the other students, schools will continue to be soft targets, and numerous warning signs will be dismissed.
Nobody wants school shootings to happen—not even the shooter himself—but the problem remains that schools themselves can do a lot more good in preventing them than any ignorant suggestions on social media about banning guns or arming teachers.
* It is sadly true, however, that the media unintentionally glorify the shooters by endless speculation of what motivated them, why their individual lives are so horrible, and why they needed to lash out. This is what tells the next shooter “This kid achieved the goal you want to achieve. People are now vividly aware of what he went through. They can be aware of what you’re going through.” The Czar might suggest the media report the story, provide the basic details, but not speculate on motive or provide a value judgment on the shooter. It’s doubtful this would have an obvious effect, but it could help downplay the attraction for the next shooter.
*Under-reported fact: the Sandy Hook shooter went by the middle school first, and sat in the parking lot waiting to see if a particular administrator was present. This administrator is a proponent of firearms, and when the shooter saw him exit the building and enter the parking lot, the shooter drove off and decided to switch to his fallback target—the elementary school—under the assumption he wouldn’t be able to out-shoot the administrator in question, if the latter was even armed at the moment (and evidently he wasn’t). Although other anecdotes support the idea that a mere possibility of an armed response from the school can deter a school shooting, the Sandy Hook shooter is a confirmation of this deterrence.
Another day, another school massacre. This one happened in Florida, though it could have been any school, anywhere.
Before yesterday’s corpses assumed room temperature, Super-Smart Media Elites with Pleasing Baritones began rounding up the usual strawman suspects. Brows properly furrowed, reproachful tone adopted, The Great Strawman Conflagration of 2018 immediately followed. Sadly, punch and pie were not served.
Rather than torching strawmen of his own or beating dead horses (including, but not limited to, the media), ‘Puter decided to do something he rarely does: think.
Anecdotally, ‘Puter doesn’t recall school shootings being much of a thing when he was growing up. ‘Puter’s ancient, to be sure, having been born in 1969. So ‘Puter went to the most reliable of all possible sources, Wikipedia, to see if his recollection was correct. It was.
Including suicides, police shootings, and accidental shootings, ‘Puter discovered rampant school shootings are a recent development. In the decades ‘Puter’s been alive, the number of school shootings are: 1960s, 18; 1970s, 30; 1980s, 39; 1990s, 62; 2000s, 60; 2010s, 143. The numbers ramped up a bit between the 1980s and 1990s, then exploded after 2010. ‘Puter sat for a while, sipping on a nice, cold tumbler of club soda* and pondered.
Were guns more prevalent now than in the past? No. Guns were at least as available when ‘Puter was growing up. ‘Puter’s grandfather and great-uncle were WW2 veterans, and he had uncles and cousins who were veterans of Vietnam. Many of these relatives had firearms in their homes. ‘Puter’s family was not unusual for the time. Most families had WW2 and Vietnam veterans.
Was mental illness more prevalent now than in the past? Maybe. But maybe mental illness is just more diagnosed, and that’s a good thing. In theory, early recognition and treatment of mental disorders should prevent school shootings, not cause more. There were plenty of disturbed kids in ‘Puter’s day. ‘Puter’s pretty sure the native incidence of mental illness shouldn’t be changing this rapidly.
Was culture responsible? Yes, at least in part. Our culture now accepts mental disorders to the point of requiring us to pretend the mentally ill are not mentally ill. Have you hugged a trannie today? Gender dysphoria (transgenderism) is defined as a mental disorder in the DSM-IV, the bible of mental health workers. And yet we are required to pretend transgenderism is normal or face the wrath of Those Who Know Better.
Are laws responsible? Yes, but not as you might think. Guns are more tightly regulated now than at any point in the past, yet school shootings are spiraling upward. ‘Puter posits special education laws have unintentionally caused some of the increase in school shootings. Requiring schools to make every attempt to mainstream a child who is suspected to be dangerous to himself or others puts kids who can’t handle rejection without reacting violently in situations where they’re sure to be rejected. You can claim this isn’t so, that special education laws are super-awesome, but they’re not. In some, if not many, cases, these laws set up mentally fragile kids to fail. Worse, if teachers dare say anything about the mainstreaming of these kids, they’re pounded by their administrators for WrongThink. And administrators? If they refuse to code a kid, or give her special accommodations, or mainstream him, they’re going to get sued by overzealous parents who are convinced that it’s the school’s lack of proper attention that created the monster with whom they’re living.** Which brings ‘Puter to his next point.
Could parents be to blame? Sure. We always are. But this time, ‘Puter thinks there’s some merit to the claim. We laugh about snowflakes, but snowflakes don’t just appear. They’re created by parents who shelter them from every perceived harm, every potential negative consequence of their actions. We’ve created a generation of nominal adults ill-equipped to handle most adult responsibilities. We’ve also failed to adequately parent, pretending our kids are equipped to handle the fire hose of deviancy that comes from the internet without proper supervision and guidance.
What about technology? Could that be it? Again, yes, at least in part. The rapid rise in computers, the internet, and social media have radically changed America. Everyone today is plugged in at all times, and young people more than any other group. This allows people to compare themselves to others, leaving many anxious or saddened that they’re not keeping up with perceptions of how others live, most of which perceptions are skewed of false. It also allows disturbed people to access other people with similar pathologies, retreat into echo chambers, and reinforce their disorders. Technology seems to both exacerbate mental illness and enable the dangerously mentally ill.
Tech also creates nearly risk-free opportunities to bully others, whether over politics, appearance, race, gender, sexuality, whatever. Doesn’t matter. There’s a group of bullies just waiting to beat every one of us up online for something we’ve done or failed to do. No one is immune. Now think back to your high school experience. Were you insecure, even a little? Did you worry about how you looked? We all did. And we were all bullied to some extent. Now imagine if it weren’t just the kids at your school you had to worry about. Your school was *every* school. Not only that, but most of the kids at your school were now anonymous, free to pound on you daily without showing their faces. How do you think you’d fare? ‘Puter knows he’d not have fared well.
So where does this leave America? What should be done? Well, ‘Puter doesn’t have all the answers, but he’s going to offer a few suggestions anyway.
Perhaps we are overly concerned with the tool used by school shooters and too little concerned with why the school shooter kills. ‘Puter’s betting many times it’s a combination of mental illness and being bullied, emotionally or physically. These shooters are almost always students or recent attendees of the school or school district which they attack. The shooters are looking to hurt those they perceive as having hurt them.
Perhaps parents need to start parenting. Be involved with your kids. Don’t be afraid to make your kids mad by setting rules or punishing them appropriately. Limit their screen time. Go with your gut. If you think something’s up with your kid, something’s up with your kid. Don’t pretend your kid’s messed up primarily or only because of the schools. In all likelihood, schools didn’t cause your kid’s issues, nor can schools solve your kid’s issues.
Perhaps tech companies should consider limiting access to sites and forums for minors. Mind you, ‘Puter’s not calling on *government* to require this, ‘Puter’s asking tech companies to look at the damage they do even as they rightly promote all the good technological improvements have brought us. There’s gray in every technological advance, sometimes more dark than light, and pretending there’s not doesn’t do anyone any good. And, as a businessdude, ‘Puter would simply say it’s better to diagnose and attack a business issue on your own rather than have government “help” you do so. Be proactive.
And if Congress wants to do something, how about reforming education laws that prevent schools from removing kids from general population until the damage is done? By all accounts, it appears that the most recent school shooter had serious mental health issues and was well known as a potential threat by fellow students and likely school staff. ‘Puter’s bet is the school had to exhaust every potential accommodation before kicking him out, which probably just gave him additional time to build grudges. If you want to help, make schools err on the side of excluding the potentially dangerous, or at least don’t harshly penalize them for doing so.
‘Puter’s done. He’s had about all he can stomach of thinking about another school shooting. He’s finished with media trotting out the same old complaints about how the government trots out the same old arguments.
It’s time to come at solving the problem of school shooting from a different perspective because our traditional responses have had no impact.
Let’s get started.
* Yes, club soda. It’s Lent, and ‘Puter always stops boozing in Lent. So, (1) suck it and (2) stay away from ‘Puter until the shakes and hallucinations wear off, usually by Easter.
** ‘Puter could go on for days about how special education laws have normalized deviant behavior by mainstreaming the aberrant. Before you lose your ever-loving mind, ‘Puter’s not talking about Down’s kids, the cognitively disabled, or the profoundly physically disabled. ‘Puter’s not talking about kids with learning disabilities. He’s talking about the behaviorally disordered population, which overlaps with some of the foregoing.
Here it is, pulled from the trembling hand of my most obsequious Okhrana agent. It’s the memo you’ve all been waiting for!
TO: ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰
DATE:▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ 23, 2▰1;▰▰
RE: D▰n▰▰▰ T▰▰▰▰ campaign
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▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰ running ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ dingus ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ children's author. ▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ melons ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ closed at 5. ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰ ▰▰? ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰ ▰▰▰ ▰▰▰ ▰ an entire Fleetwood Mac album, which was not available on CD until A▰ril of that month. Even so, ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ but ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ could say “Madame President,” which would be ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ing believeable. ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰ especially with her husband's history. But, ▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰.
To reiterate, ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰
▰ ▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ but ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ if both ▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰.
▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰ running ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ dingus ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ children's author. ▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ melons ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ closed at 5. ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰ ▰▰? ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰ ▰▰▰ ▰▰▰ ▰ an entire Fleetwood Mac album, which was not available on CD until A▰ril of that month. Even so, ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ but ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ could say “Madame President,” which would be ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ing believeable. ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰▰ especially with her husband's history. But, ▰▰▰▰▰▰ ▰▰ until further notice.
The Czar was perusing the latest quarterly issue of the alumni magazine from his alma mater, which—being a Jesuit institution—is a crap-shoot whether or not it will cause us to slap our forehead. This month, however, it contained an article about perceived media bias, and concluded very much as you should hope it would: yes, Americans largely believe the media lie to them. About everything.
Each time a study or poll comes out about the media and our wise, communal distrust of them, some voices among the guilty offer dumbfounded sputterings about this. “How can they not trust us? Don’t they understand how important we are?” Or better, when the poll mentions fake news, the distancing begins: “Well, you can’t include us in that social-media, right-wing, bot-blogger crap…we are a real news organization.”
What a shame the Prosecco-sipping, Jersey-blue-licking elites in their Manhattan experimental gastrobars no longer invite the Czar and his axe collection to their shindigs, as he would be happy to explain the disconnect.
The average person, unlike the average journalist, has a much broader definition of Fake News. Whereas the latter considers anything by Fox News to be more anti-Hillary sophistry, the former accepts any of the following as candidates:
Why bother continuing? There’s a fundamental disconnect between the media’s definition of Fake News and the public’s much broader, encompassing understanding of it. Today, for example, we are being offered countless explanations about how terrible the State of the Union speech was, and how utterly disappointing we should feel as Americans; although, anecdotes from the streets seem to correspond perfectly with the CBS News poll of SOTU viewers: people were overwhelmingly jazzed by the optimism, including 43% of Democrats. That’s almost half of Democrats, and—no small feat—72% of independents. Add those numbers up, and the media’s insistence that we live in an age of doom and despair is swept easily into the public’s definition of (you guessed it!) Fake News.
Although much of the public is suffering from the fatigue of this constant anti-Trump bombardment, the result of which is that anything not overtly positive about the President is being ignored or (as Charles C. W. Cooke puts it) compartmentalized, the reality is that the media are overly restrictive in their approach to this problem. Look, the media are basically splitting hairs over the wording, whereas the public are dismissing swaths of stories. And given a choice, the Czar thinks the public has got it entirely correct: it doesn’t matter if the stories are probably true; if they aren’t 100% perfectly true, they no longer count.
A recent example is illustrative: did President Trump refer to numerous countries as “shitholes?” The media certainly think so, and they have a confirmed source: Senator Dick Durbin. Is this believeable? Certainly. Is this probably true? With Trump, very much so. Is it likely the case? The Czar would say, all things being equal, yes.
But did it happen? The problem is that the only source of this story is Dick Durbin, who—if you know him—is a frequent liar. Plus, numerous people present at the alleged event concur—with some consistency—that the President said no such thing, and that Senator Durbin clearly heard something else.
Interesting; however, the public have already dismissed the entire thing as Fake News. Why? Because at least one person here is lying, and the media can’t seem to seem to explain why. Instead, the media favor the more colorful version, the one they like better. And so Americans stop caring because the media have stopped caring.
Democracy can indeed die in darkness; but if you want a more enlightening phrase, get out your Latin texts and consider the age-old question of quis custodiet ipsos custodes.
The Czar understands the Grammys are nothing more than a show of money and power; music is merely the means by which the power manipulates the money. He has steadfastly avoided them since 1988, but did catch a portion of the 2018 broadcast wherein he saw Camila Cabello deliver this speech, a complete musical non sequitur about the Dreamers:
Today, in this room full of music’s dreamers, we remember that this country was built by dreams, for dreams, chasing the American dream. My parents brought me to this country with nothing in their pockets but hope. They showed me what it means to work twice as hard, and never give up. And honestly no part of my journey is any different from theirs. I’m a proud Cuban-Mexican immigrant, born in Eastern Havana, standing in front of you on the Grammy stage in New York City, and all I know is, just like dreams, these kids can’t be forgotten and are worth fighting for.
Well, here’s the thing. Her parents did not arrive here illegally by sneaking over from Mexico: they came legally through normal means. She’s not a Dreamer. And honestly, her entire journey is about 180° apart from theirs. But why screw up a good embarrassed-applause line with details, right?
The Czar also understands that Dreamers didn’t choose to be born to illegal parents, and that their parents loved them so much that they wanted these kids to have a better shot in America—even illegally—than endure the crushing poverty of rural Mexico. Got it. The Czar might make the same move in those circumstances.
But the Czar has little sympathy for today’s Dreamers…because this all happened decades ago, and these kids grew up from being little, tiny Dreamers into adults with no interest in doing the right thing for themselves or their families.
By the book, it takes five years to become a U.S. citizen; the average time is a bit longer than that, and there are thousands of people waiting in line to do just that—many from shithole countries, and many from nice countries. These folks are working hard to safeguard their families for as much of the American dream as they want to taste.
Meanwhile, we’re supposed to feel sorry for people—some of whom have been here for 30 years—because they couldn’t participate in a process that’s free and would legalize them immediately? The Czar was particularly set off by a television news interview with a woman being deported after 31 years of illegal residency, who was holding down an IT job and spoke with no trace of accent. Look, the Czar gets the idea was to show “just how American she is,” but it came off as “I’ve been able to become a citizen six times over and just didn’t love the benefits of this country enough.”
Enough. The Dreamers have been profiting from intense public relations, and the truth is that most of them—maybe even almost all—have failed to legalize themselves despite having a ridiculous amount of time to do so.
Picture your sister and her live-in boyfriend, who never seems to get work, has little interest in getting married, and spends all day living it up on her money. At some point, she needs to realize that he’s a parasite, and she needs to get rid of him. He doesn’t love her: he just knows a free ride when he sees it. People like that probably make your skin crawl: he has the power to change his life—and hers—for the better, but doesn’t see the point when the food is good and the bed is warm and dry.
At least that’s how the Czar pictures your sister. Anyway, see if you can connect the dots. If so, you can grasp our annoyance with this whole Dreamers thing.
Sorry, Ms. Cabello—they’re not you, and they’re not your parents. The Czar has so many other people to feel sorry for, so he’ll pass on a bunch of free-loaders. But we’re certainly glad your parents and you are citizens! It’s the coolest club in the world, and so easy to join.
To borrow from the greatest philosopher of our age, “‘Puter may not be a smart man, but he knows what dysfunction is.”*
‘Puter’s family thinks he’s losing his marbles since he’s been yelling at the television and radio for weeks. Every stinking media outlet has sob story after sob story about deportations of sympathetic illegal aliens. Media tugs its chin and sheds a theatrical tear, tut-tutting the ruffians who would date deport people for violating our laws.
After his third transient ischemic attack induced by biased media coverage of immigration, ‘Puter had an epiphany. On second thought, maybe it should be “because of his third transient ischemic attack.” Whatever. That’s not important right now. What’s important is ‘Puter’s epiglottis. Wait, no. Epiphany.**
‘Puter realized Democrats and Republicans will never agree on immigration because Democrats view the issue at the micro level while Republicans view it at the macro level.
Democrats view immigration as a million tiny, one-off stories, completely unconnected to some larger picture. That is, if a guy who snuck in illegally, has a felony conviction from long ago, was ordered deported, was granted leniency from deportation from prior administrations, is married, has kids, and has worked (illegally) for years is deported, this is the worst thing ever.
You can see this attitude in every media story. Media either agrees with this “micro” view of immigration or is cynically writing stories to reinforce it in other liberals. Or both, but ‘Puter’s kind and won’t automatically attribute malevolence to media, even though it’s richly deserved.
You can see it in your friends and family, who, when asked about immigration will respond with some version of, “OMG, those evil Trump people really hate all the poor brown people! We have plenty of everything, and we’re good, loving people, so we should keep them all!”
Republicans view immigration as a monolithic process, and one that is, on balance (as currently operating) harmful to America and Americans. That is, the guy who snuck in and has been working illegally is part of an integrated web of illegal immigrants and their employers who, on the whole, inflict damage to American workers, American culture, and American life.
You can see this “macro” view in conservative media pundits who charge ignoring immigration law, even for sympathetic cases, damages rule of law and respect for our institutions. We hear arguments from politicians that every job an illegal immigrant holds illegally is a job not available to American citizens. You see the outlays for illegal immigrants and their kids, such as welfare (for kids of illegals born here) and in-state college tuition for Dreamers.
Your friends and family may even say such things as, “They knew they were breaking the law when they came here. Why is it unjust to punish them when they are caught? They knew the potential consequences of their acts. Let the illegal immigrants and their families suffer them. They have no one to blame but themselves.”
Regular readers know ‘Puter, and while he plays a cold hearted schlub on Twitter, he’s actually a caring person who doesn’t want to harm anyone.* However, ‘Puter’s also a firm believer in the importance of rule of law. ‘Puter is sympathetic to the individual stories of illegal aliens forced out of the country, away from friends and family, and back to countries in which they may not have lived in decades. But the critical importance of rule of law and the readily foreseeable consequences of unfettered immigration trump any sympathy for individual cases ‘Puter may have.
At base, Democrats argument boils down to “ALL TEH FEELZ.” Republicans have the better of the argument on the merit, but it won’t ultimately matter. America’s been corrupted since the 1960s by Boomers, academia, public schools, crypto-Marxists, and media to eschew logic and reason and let your feelz flag fly. Each entity has its own reason for destroying America’s ability to reason. Some view it as an end in itself, some as an acceptable loss in pursuit of a greater goal. ‘Puter views it as a crying shame.
As such, ‘Puter expects the current lean towards immigration reform along Republican lines to be the high water mark for controlled immigration supporters. In large groups, logic and reason nearly always fall before raw emotion and rage. Welcome back to the mobs of the French Revolution.
America will get immigration reform now, with tighter laws, but it is a momentary win. An increasing plurality of Americans has given up on reason and rule of law. This group is content to sit idly by as the nation is irreparably harmed in service to their feelz.
If people on either side want to stop the conflagration over immigration, they need to learn to phrase their arguments in terms the other side will understand. As noted, because the “all teh feelz” junta is numerically larger, it’s far more critical for the “rule of law” side to learn to do so.
‘Puter has no hope either side will learn. ‘Puter knows it is America which will suffer.
* Yes, that’s Forrest Gump. Don’t @ me. Also, yeah, “may not be” is generous to ‘Puter.
** Maybe ‘Puter should’ve listened to Dr. J, taken the clot-busting drugs, stopped drinking more than 13 liters of vodka a day, and forsworn Popeye’s fried chicken. But what would a life without those things be?
*** Unless said person or persons truly deserve to be hurt. For example, people who play “Africa” on loop when he’s around. I’m looking at you, Kaiju and Meaux.
Say the word and normal, sane people lose their minds.
On one side, we have people screaming “THEY TOOK R JERBZ!!!” and “BILD TEH WAL!!” On the other side, we see people ranting without open borders, America’s the moral equivalent of Hitler. Once again, America’s allowed its politicians and media to divide us. Ordinary Americans (i.e., those not making money off sowing discord and strife) are a lot closer policy-wise than we think.
The vast majority of Americans (if polls are to be believed) support a pathway to legal status of some sort for so-called Dreamers. The vast majority of Americans also support increased border enforcement, as well as better, stricter enforcement of our immigration laws generally.
Trump, assuming today’s policy position is his true position, understands this. He supports both notions, legalizing the Dreamers and tight borders coupled with strict enforcement of law. This seems to ‘Puter to be the correct position. Or, at least, the position best suited to satisfy both sides of the immigration debate (while providing grist for extremists’ grievance mills for the decade to come).
To Trump’s credit, he is not making the mistake Republicans made in the 1980s when they agreed to amnesty first, then increased enforcement later, which conveniently (for Democrats) never materialized. Trump is insisting on a package deal, which is the smart play.
Media and Democrats can blame Trump all they want if Dreamers are deported, but if Trump and Republicans are on record with an offer for a pathway to legal status for Dreamers in return for the Trump Taj Ma-Wall and tighter enforcement, Republicans are in pretty good shape because that’s where Americans seem to be.
Democrats found out the hard way the importance of at least appearing reasonable when they shut the government down, thus breaking the first rule of government shutdowns: Don’t shut the government down. Worse, no amount of spinning by Democrats and media could change the inescapable conclusion that Democrats were willing to punish American citizens to gain benefits for illegally present aliens, even sympathetic ones. This, to put it mildly, is not a winning look.
So, as the immigration saga plays out, here are my predictions, for whatever they’re worth.
You may disagree. You may think this solution is wrong and bad and proof positive that Democrats/Republicans are ruining our once great nation. My take? It’s America returning to bare knuckled, hard fought compromise.
And that, whatever the policy outcome, is a good thing for America.
GorT and Mrs. GorT had a date night and grabbed dinner and saw “The Greatest Showman” yesterday. Put simply, it was really darn good. While this may be the last time we see a movie in a shopping mall’s movie theater on a Friday evening (more on that below), the movie overcame the distractions. We both agreed that there seems to be a resurgence or growing interest in musical productions on the silver screen. A sample of some of the musicals over the last eight years:
The songs are excellent and well-sung including ones performed by younger actors towards the beginning of the movie. The costumes were impressive and the cinematography was fantastic. While it might lack some of the extraordinary use of set design and color that La La Land had, The Greatest Showman excels in every other category, including some very complicated and syncopated choreography. Multiple times during the movie, both GorT and Mrs. GorT felt like clapping at the end of the musical numbers – particularly those aligned with performances within the storyline.
Speaking of the storyline, it is safe (meaning spoiler-free) to say that it is a take on the embellished story of P.T. Barnum’s life. It is different than the musical play* featured on Broadway in the early 1980s with several similar elements (Tom Thumb, Jenny Lind, etc.).
GorT would highly recommend seeing it in the theater but take note of what follows. It’s starting to wind down it’s theatrical run, I think, given the limited number of screens it is on in our area.
Ok, now to the experience in the theater: this might be the worst experience I’ve had in a movie theater. The was a group of young ladies in the 7th to 9th grade age range (probably on the younger end of that range) sitting two rows behind use. They talked and laughed with each other (not at the movie) throughout almost the entire movie. Several people around them shushed them several times but it continued. They, along with some others, couldn’t figure out how to quietly open or eat from plastic-wrapped candy and popcorn bags (and seriously, couldn’t movie theaters come up with quieter containers?) The person sitting directly in front of GorT and a woman sitting two seats to our right checked their phones – as in read emails and/or responded to texts – multiple times during the movie. Gee, thanks, I really appreciate the bright light from your phone shining in my face, dude. Finally, and unfortunately, it appeared that a family didn’t quite do their research or overestimated their wards as what could only be a birthday party for a girl, maybe around 8 years old, marched into the theater. Mrs. GorT commented that this might not be the right movie for them. “I sure hope this isn’t the sexy take on P. T. Barnum.” Well, the events right around the conflict climax in the movie’s plot set one or two of the girls off – there was crying and loud questions of the parents as to why certain things were happening. So, yes, Mrs. GorT and GorT are no longer attending weekend evening movies in shopping mall theaters.
* Volgi, ‘Puter, and GorT’s alma mater performed “Barnum” on stage early in our attendance there. GorT was on stage crew. Volgi either acted or was on crew as well.
It’s been a while since Dr. J.’s posted, but the latest edition of ‘Teh Trumpzesz Must Rezign!!!!!!!!!@11!!!Eleventy!!@onE!!!!!!!’ pushes the narrative that Trump is too sick for office, unlike those strapping and robust Presidents Harding, Wilson, Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Kennedy and William Jefferson ‘CABG 4 years after leaving office’ Clinton.
What do we know about President The Donald. (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/read-president-donald-trumps-full-physical-report/story?id=52404444) He’s a 71 year old gentleman, who’s 6’3, 239#. He’s not hypertensive. He has a normal EKG, Normal echocardiogram. Normal stress echo with above average exercise capacity. His Total Cholesterol is 223, LDL 143, HDL 67!, Trigs 129. EBCT score 133. He takes a baby aspirin and 10mg Crestor.
His 10 year estimated risk of MI, stroke or other cardiovascular badness is 16.7%. It’s above the optimal 13%.
Normal cell counts, no real kidney, thyroid, liver tests.
He doesn’t have lung masses. And why should he, he’s never smoked. He has a negative colonoscopy.
He has a perfect Cog Function test.
Dr. J.’s friends Dr. David Maron and Dr. Dan Rader who are preventative medicine gurus were interviewed by the NYT about President Trump’s health.
Dr. Maron is extremely bright and a very thoughtful physician. He is a very aggressive preventative cardiologist and his desire, with his patients is to do everything possible to mitigate their cardiovascular risk. Of course he would be worried about Trump’s risk of a heart attack . He’s a 72 year old man with an elevated cholesterol and a pooch. Dr. J. thinks ‘God, no.’ is an excessively strong response to the question of if Trump is in perfect health, but knowing David, Dr. J. would expect that answer. David would eat Trump to eat ‘bark and twigs’ metaphorically speaking, lose weight (which he does need to do), and probably up the Crestor to 20 mg. Indeed, his doctor, Dr. Jackson is upping the Crestor.
Dr. Rader, was more of a muse in the article, asking more questions than giving answers.
Collectively, David, Dan and Dr. Topol (who Dr. J. met and had lunch with once as a fellow) agreed the CT Calcium scoring test was a waste and overblown. It’s the wrong test for a 71 year old man.
Dr. J. plugged in his numbers into the calculator. Age 46, TC 216, HDL 33, LDL 156, BP 148. His risk was 5.4%/year compared to 1.1%/year which was his ideal. The statin, and BP medications that were added have reduced his risk to 3.0%/year. Indeed Dr. J. will not go down to the optimal risk with modification.
Dr. J. pulled up President Obama’s 2016 physical, and when trying to score his risk, he found an error. The lipids were reported as TC 188, LDL 125, HDL 68 and Tg 42. That is impossible. Total cholesterol = LDL + HDL + Tg/5 or 125 + 68 + 42 which gets you 201. Now we’re quibbling but given all of the dissembling of the Obama administration, the discrepancy should have been noticed by Drs. Gupta, or if presented to my friends they would have noticed lickety split. Anyway, like Obama’s event rate is 7.6%/year which can be reduced to 4.4% with a statin and smoking cessation. His lifetime risk of an event is 50% compared to Dr. J.’s 46%.
So what should we take from the healthscare kerfuffle? Not much. Despite Sanjay Gupta’s alarmist caterwauling about Trump’s coronary artery disease,, he was too cute by half and even Dr. Jackson stated that he Trump has non-obstructive coronary disease. What this means is that yes, he has cholesterol plaques in his coronaries, but you would expect MORE, truth be told, in someone his age Trump is 71, with an elevated cholesterol and a pooch. Relatively speaking while not perfect he looks better than most folks his age, and Dr. J. should look as good. Upping his statin to 20mg will bring his risk for optimum fo this age, which is something that neither Dr. J. nor President Obama can expect to see with risk factor modification. His coronaries look better than President Clinton’s who is the same age. He doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink. Sorry Democrats, it looks like you’re stuck with him for a long time.
Hey CNN, why don’t you look onto where the 13 points in total cholesterol went in President Obama’s 2016 examination. LIPIDGATE! Dr. J. just can’t even.
GorT and Mrs. GorT returned 2of3 to unnamed higher education institution about 4 hours north of us over this past weekend. During the drive, the three of us began talking about music. Our children have a wide appreciation of music that spans Big Band to modern rap and from the awesomeness of the 80’s rock/pop scene to 90’s alternative. 2of3, in particular, loves music and has an extensive vinyl album collection.
During part of the conversation a song came on the XM station we were listening to and I mentioned that it was the last song on the A side of the album. Mrs. GorT and I then proceeded to try to name, in order, the tracks on the album starting from track 1 on the A side. We did pretty well. I wonder, however, for those of us who grew up with vinyl (and cassettes), for how many albums could you do this? What about your number one, top favorite album – could you name the songs in order? 2of3 was fascinated as their generation has always had direct, individual access to tracks…where you didn’t have to flip an album, move the tone arm, flip the cassette and scan forward/reverse, etc.
As the conversation continued, Mrs. GorT told 2of3 that GorT has a number of bands that he doesn’t care for – mostly ones named the same as a state or city: Chicago, Kansas, Boston, etc. GorT then noted that there were two other bands that he throws in that category. They guessed for a while and hit upon: REO Speedwagon and .38 Special. Note, it’s not that I don’t like some of their songs and I think they’re talented. GorT’s just not going out buying their albums. Plus, Chicago, really, be more creative with your album titles.
GorT would love to hear from you if you are similarly musically inclined – feel free to email me at gort at gormogons.com or on Twitter @Gormogons.
Two-thirds tonic water
Pour over ice
Serve with lime wedge
Gin & Tonic
Two-thirds tonic water
Pour over ice
Serve with lemon wedge
Vodka and 7
Pour over ice
Serve with lime wedge
Pour over ice
Serve with olive wedge
Pour over ice
Serve with fruit wedge
Two parts rye or bourbon
One part sweet vermouth
Three dashes of Angostura bitters
Pour over ice
Serve with no fruit whatsoever, especially cherries, which is the mark of a prat.
One-third cheap rye whiskey
One-third polluted water
One-third manifest destiny
Pour over ice
Serve with sweat and hard work
Best served with the Depression
Pour over dry ice
Serve with social wedge
One-third Jepsen’s Malört
Pour over dignity
Serve with lack of self-respect
One-third good looks
Two-thirds witty social banter
Pour over married women
Serve with divorce papers
One-third blood (accept no substitutes)
Put body on ice
Serve with celery
One-third Guinness Stout
Two-thirds Irish whiskey
Pour over ice
Serve with sarcasm
Two-thirds married women after work on a Friday
Pour over ice
Too drunk drive, honey, can you come get me?
One-third rubbing alcohol (70% conc. is okay)
Two-thirds Slimfast, any flavor
Pour over ice
Serve to ’Puter
Two-thirds tap water
Pour over ice
Serve with lime wedge or whatever, because really, who the hell still orders these?
Two-thirds soulless despair
Pour over ice, all year long
Serve with maudlin self-pity
One-third Jack Daniels
One-third dark rum
Two-thirds Scotch whiskey (single malt)
Three-thirds carrot juice
Seven-thirty-seconds cod liver oil
Sixteen-point threaded rod over pi Tupac Shakur
Pour over floor
Serve with ghost pepper cheese, kale,* banana leaf, peas, and sauerkraut on a toothpick
*Volgi’s tip, here, and it’s a good one.
Your Czar is concerned with your health, and naturally has asked his Czarist Imperial Surgeon’s Office to prepare a bullet point list on how you can best protect yourself against the Killer Influenza virus, which is known as the Zika, MERS, H1N1A, or more commonly, Ebola. Killer Influenza has now killed over 500 trillion people in your neighborhood today alone, particularly in the Americas somewhere. Do not be one of the statistics, and do not even read the statistics.
|Avoid places where Killer Influenza is known to congregate, such as door knobs.|
|If you see Killer Influenza on the ground, do not pick it up.|
|Avoid eating Killer Influenza or place Killer Influenza near your mouth. Under no circumstances should Killer Influenza be inserting anything up your nose.|
|Do not open the door for Killer Influenza. Do not believe its lies. If someone shows up at your door, even if it’s your sister, it could be Killer Influenza. Call the police immediately.|
|If Killer Influenza calls on the phone, do not attempt to engage it in conversation (especially if he has a North American
|If you see Killer Influenza hanging around a playground or school, run out and scream warnings to the kids to get inside. Watching television is the safest activity for kids during this crisis.|
|If you see or hear anyone talking about Killer Influenza, it could be an invasion. Call the Army and tell them to start shelling. If you see something, say something.|
|Do not pet the mice. Actually, this is more true for the Hanta virus, but you can’t play it too safe.|
‘Puter hasn’t written much lately. He’s had a lot going on.
Regular readers know ‘Puter’s Dad has advanced dementia and has been declining rapidly. ‘Puter’s Mom put him in a memory care facility (nursing home) last Wednesday. While in the Greater DC Metroplex and Traffic Thunderdome, ‘Puter also put Laptop on a plane bound for London, where he’s studying abroad this semester. Upon ‘Puter’s return home, his beloved mutt promptly had something resembling a mini-stroke, where she lost control of her rear right quarter for a couple of hours.
But this post isn’t about negativity. It’s not about wallowing in despair and depression. It’s about making the conscious choice to find light in darkness.
‘Puter and Laptop showed up at Historic ‘Puter’s Childhood Home late Thursday evening, just in time to have dinner (pork tenderloin, if anyone cares) with ‘Puter’s Mom. After dinner , as ‘Puter’s Mom and Laptop cleaned up, ‘Puter eavesdropped on their conversation.
‘Puter’s Mom was explaining to Laptop how, with the trees winter-bare, she could look out her kitchen window, across about a half-mile of empty space, and see the lights of the ‘Puter’s Dad’s nursing home. ‘Puter’s Mom went on to say how that simple act, looking out the back window and seeing ‘Puter’s Dad’s light, kept her connected to him even as his mind slipped further and further away.
As ‘Puter sat there, pretending not to listen and fighting back tears, he could only think of this:
Involuntarily I glanced seaward—and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock.
And ‘Puter realized in that moment that he is – that we are all – on a lifelong journey at sea, seeking the light at the end of our dock. Our only job is to cling to each other and beat on, boats against the current, as we are borne back ceaselessly into the past.
With that, ‘Puter stirred his coffee a bit more, got up, and hugged his mom.
In this issue we’ll discuss two topics starting to make some rumblings in the business world.
GorT is fully in on a prediction by Loup Ventures’ Gene Munster. In a report from Loup Ventures, Gene explains:
Target is the ideal offline partner for Amazon for two reasons, shared demographic and manageable but comprehensive store count. As for the demographic, Target’s focus on mom’s is central to Amazon’s approach to win wallet share. Amazon has, over the years, aggressively pursued mom’s through promotions around Prime along with loading Prime Video with kid-friendly content. As for retail stores, Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods 470 stores along with testing of the Amazon Go retail concept is evidence that Amazon see’s the future of retail as a combination of mostly online and some offline.
Aside from the complete botching of the use of the possessive, GorT agrees with the analysis. Amazon bought Whole Foods in 2017 and has a foray into a number of food-related ventures. They are starting with Amazon Fresh (grocery delivery) and GorT has earlier forecasted that they will attack the home meal kit market (think: BlueApron, HomeChef, etc.) utilizing their distribution infrastructure and optimize delivery from local Whole Foods stores. If Amazon acquires Target, it will blend the brick & mortar shopping with online and allow a number of additional possibilities beyond the Amazon Locker concept. For example, for those wanting to see and touch products there will be a store to enter. Again, Amazon can leverage its distribution network and, in fact, will probably enhance their optimization of it by using space at local Target stores to pre-position items in various cities. Don’t be shocked either when Amazon starts applying in-store analysis of shoppers’ patterns to their inventory. Amazon is all about the data. There are rumors about Amazon buying CVS, but I’m not as convinced of that one. The stores are smaller and don’t afford as much tangential benefits as a Target does. GorT wagers that Amazon will develop or purchase (something like OptumRX) a mail-order like pharmaceutical arm. Again, remember: Amazon is in any and all of this for the underlying data – patterns of behavior, shopping, and usage.
The growing electric and hybrid car market is going to get more competitive quickly. Many manufacturers are announcing new models with some impressive features. GorT* suspects Elon Musk’s strategy is cut from the same cloth as Jeff Bezos’ – it is all about the data. Think about it for a minute – Tesla has access to huge amounts of driving data collected voluntarily by Tesla owners out there driving around. Data about driving habits, home-to-work data, traffic information, imagery from the onboard cameras, etc. It is a treasure trove for anyone in the automotive industry – especially those looking forward to autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles. GorT believes that Tesla will, through improvements in efficiency, manufacturing, and components or as a conscious decision to take a loss, develop and launch a sub-$30,000 car aimed at a more mainstream market than the luxury levels it currently occupies. And as a side prediction: Tesla will develop swappable batteries. This is the big drawback for most electric vehicles. It takes 3-10 minutes (depending on the speed of the gas pump) to refill a gasoline powered car. Tesla recharges are on the order of an hour. Once Tesla, or some other electric vehicle manufacturer closes that gap, the landscape of driving will change quickly. And the economy is going to take a hit as gas stations will start to fold – some turning into quick-stop convenience stores and recharge stations.
* – GorT is not a “car guy” but having been a passenger in a few Teslas, it is one of the few cars that he has on a short list for when he can afford it and it makes sense.
Greetings, mere mortals. Today, the Czar was nice enough to take the Царица to claim her Christmas present—or at least, part of it. When asked what she might want for Christmas, she did not hesitate to suggest a trip to the range. Days later, she handed the Czar a Bass Pro Shops catalog and pointed to a circled item on one of the pages, asking us “What do you think about this?” Circled was the Glock G43 pistol, in robin’s egg blue (right).
“Really,” we said aloud, but then she explained: place this inside a purse, and it’s basically camouflaged, unlike a solid black or silver firearm. This thing looks like an iPhone, and won’t call attention to itself when she opens her purse to fetch anything. Obviously, its smaller size makes it much better-suited for concealed carry, as well, when worn on the body in a holster. “Camouflage, you say,” we wondered. She might have a point about that, if our male readers immediately ignore our default notions of what guy camouflage is, and think about it from a woman’s standpoint. Yeah, she won’t need a RealTree pattern on hers—urban camo is going to look more like this.
All right, but what about the firearm? The Glock G43 is a 9mm single stack—meaning that the rounds inside the magazine are stacked up in a straight row, like the fingers on your hand; many pistol magazines have the rounds zigzag their way up to maximize how many you can fit into it. A single stack results in a much thinner weapon (which is great for concealment), but you lose capacity. In fact, the magazine on the G43 only holds six rounds. By chambering the top round into the weapon, you can fit one more into the magazine, which is called a “6+1” capacity. So assume you would have seven shots before needing to reload.
Introduced only in 2015, this weapon comes in a fairly wild variety of colors and combinations. Yes, you guys can have your basic black, but the slide and lower receiver can come in all sorts of finishes and colors (not just light blue). The Царица, for example, loathes pink-colored weapons simply because—in her words—that just screams “Look at me, I’m a princess who shoots.” Mind you, that’s purely her opinion…if you have a pink firearm, more power to you. But yes, the G43 also comes in pink.
Okay, so with her color choice out of the way, we needed to go shoot one. Fortunately, there is a range not terribly far from the Muscovy dacha that has one available for rent…although, it’s in basic black. But the weapon is identical, either way. The Царица has always favored 9mm weapons, but has never really liked anything she’s tried: she always finds something wrong with it. Well, that’s not quite true; she once fired a 9mm pistol at a range’s open house, and when she brought us back to see it, the weapon had vanished with its owner, and she never got the manufacturer’s name. Several of us have tried to locate the pistol based on what she could describe of its logo and grips, but we’ve never found it. In despair, she began to belittle any other 9mm she tried.
Today was quite different. We rented the G43, put a few rounds into the magazine, and loaded her up. Her first shot was into a silhouette target at 20 feet out, and she put a hole dead-center into the inner circle. Her subsequent shots were just outside it. “Oh, I like this,” the Царица said. We brought the target into various ranges from 10-feet to 40-feet, and every shot hit in a lethal area.
On the positive side, she appreciated that the weapon, loaded, was fairly lightweight. The grip was perfect—and long-time readers know the Czar has always found Glocks to have clumsy grips intended for the dainty, but she found herself easily holding it. And yes, we tried it as well: this is probably the first Glock we have fired that actually felt pretty comfortable to hold.
Further, her prowess with it cold indicated that it was excellent at any distance. Probably she would never need to engage a lethal threat at 40 feet away, but she knows she could consistently hit center of mass using only the front sight at that distance. Like most of us, she finds that very small, short-barreled firearms can be good at close range but often very inaccurate at longer distances. But Glock seems to have really dialed this one in.
On the negative side, she admitted she needs more practice with it. Because the weapon is smaller than a full-size semi-automatic, the slide catch and magazine release are not exactly where you might expect them. The Царица had some moments fumbling with the catch, and needing to stop and watch her thumb operate the tiny devices. She acknowledges this is a mere familiarity issue, and another couple hours with it and she could probably reload it blind-folded and one-handed. (The Czar’s only complaint was that the trigger safety has a definite feel to it: when you pull the trigger, you feel a distinct two-step action from inside the weapon as the safety disengages and the striker releases. But it’s very faint, and by the third or fourth shot, we stopped noticing it.)
So the Царица wants more time with it, which is fine. The Czar was willing to purchase this for her as the other part of her Christmas present, but she asked for a return to the range after a little while so she could fire it again after a period of time to see if her positive opinions matched. However, the Царица believes this is a finalist in her personal trials for an everyday carry firearm. Right now that category consists of the G43 and nothing else, so this might be a pretty lopsided competition.
A couple of letters have crossed the Czar’s desk recently.
The first one is from the Retired Spook, who used to haunt our Castle more than he has been. Anyway, for those of you with last-minute gift-giving needs and—we should add—an extra .45 1911A1 pistol or two.
With your permission, I thought I’d get in a pitch for something that I think highly of, i.e., .22LR conversion kits. I owned two, one being a permanent fixture on one of my full-size Kimbers (the conversion has been on there so long it may have taken root) and one for my Stag Arms 2L, a left-handed M-forgery. Both have been acceptably accurate, very reliable, and more fun than should be allowed by law, supporting cheap plinking, good training for newbies, and just general damfoolishness. (The Stag version has done much to protect our single pecan tree from the depredations of killer mutant ninja zombie squirrels.)
But a steel-frame 1911 is a still a bit much for some of the smallish Minions, so when I discovered that Kimber offered a compact version of their .22LR conversion, I went shopping, and found one, on Gunbroker, for a silly low price, and, being not-entirely-senile, picked it up.
It arrived a couple of days ago, and when I (finally) got some time, I put it on the EDC Kimber Pro Carry. I’m not saying that it’s lightweight, but for $0.87, I could airmail the whole thing to Brazil! It’s decently accurate, pretty reliable, and fairly tolerant of a wide range of .22LR ammunition. All in all, I think it’s the cat’s knickers, and have been having a ball with it! To date, I’ve got about 350 rounds through it, with 1 FTF in the first 100 rounds. Since then, it’s been flawless.
I’d have a hard time finding any .22LR autoloader that worked better at this price point, and I have the option of turning it back into a .45 ACP in about 40 seconds.
The littler Minions are going to have a blast with this thing, since they get to shoot “Papa’s gun” out in the back yard. The only problem will be keeping one of them from stealing it when I’m not looking!
Anyway, just thought I’d pass thing along, for anyone who’s got Minions that need training.
Have a wonderful Merry Christmas, and a delightfully Happy New Year!
So there you go. The Czar will add, though, that when the Царевич was a mere six-years-old, we let him fire a subcompact single-stack .45. It was his choice, of course, as he had never fired a handgun before and he hit the target easily. One’s own children and grandchildren, perhaps, might enjoy a .22LR version of a hand cannon, but the sooner you get little ones onto a full-frame 1911, they will simply love you more. It’s as basic as that.
On an unrelated note, we received a rather cryptic note (which we love, by the way—let’s not muddy up our smokescreen conspiracy organizations with clarity) regarding the Czar’s recent essay regarding how our two political parties keep screwing themselves. Operative MM writes:
“Republicans have long been completely incompetent at messaging.”
I would merely note that there is at least ONE who proves you wrong.
The Czar isn’t inclined to guess, but he couldn’t come up with a recent one. There have been more-than-a-few outstanding candidates over the last several years, but none who are great at getting the basic ideas across. Scott Walker and Mitt Romney delivered great ideas, but both lost out to the Democrats’ spoofing. Marco Rubio is great at simplifying the message so people get it, but his messages are not always worth repeating too loudly.
No, the Czar has to go all the way back to Ronald Reagan, who was President over 100 years ago, it feels, to find a candidate who could deliver an outstanding message in a simple way… to the point that most voters hearing his message and hearing the media’s bastardization of it would immediately prefer to believe the former.
But that was such a long, long time ago.
GorT read (and re-read) Czar’s post from earlier today. It hit home. It rang true. GorT knows the same types on both sides of the aisle. GorT is frequently one of those bemoaning what passes for political leadership in today’s America.
If, keeping with Czar’s post’s title, it doesn’t take a village to be as stupid as we are with the current crop of politicians, I’d argue that there’s this other village just down the road. People have been slowly walking down the path to the village and cautiously looking around. Then, in finding alike souls, they sit around the fire and tell tales. Tales that speak of smaller federal government, adherence to the federal-state relationships outlined in the Constitution (n.b. 10th Amendment), smarter use of funds, and attention to fiscal health. Many heads nod around the flickering light and hope rises in each of their souls. Then, they trudge back home to the other village and shake their heads and ask one simple question: when?
I really do think that an enterprising GOP could really shake things up…but it is highly unlikely. See, the cycle of elections and the power is a pretty high barrier for change. We’ll hear the usual arguments against it – loss of “institutional knowledge”, “but this is the way we’ve always done it”, etc. And those in power will fight against it if for no other reason that pure job preservation. At that, my friends, is the root of the problem.
The “institutional knowledge” issue doesn’t bug me – in fact, I’d argue that it might be better to start with a clean slate. When someone asks why we should change what we’re doing, ask them, as an example, if they think that multiple Continuing Resolutions are the way to fund the federal government and the work being done by industry for them? No, the real nut to crack is when we need an institution such as the GOP or the Democrat Party to change, we’re asking them to change or lose their job. That’s a tall order. But, GorT is convinced that we’ve arrived at that place. We need a serious change to the political parties and the way they run the federal government. It shouldn’t be the industry it is. Clearly it has a function and some of those functions have developed post-Constitution. However, we should be very careful with what power and control is granted to the federal government that the state or local governments can’t do.
You are all welcome to walk down that road to the other village. If I had to guess, I’d say the population doesn’t care about your gender, race, or religion. It doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor as long as you’re trying to be a constructively contributing member of society. The society will provide some amount of help for those falling on hard times. The village cares about the law and is going to follow it. No one is above it and no one is going to abuse it for their own gain or to put down others. The village is going to start at the cul-de-sac and local street and work upwards with limited services being managed by the broader government. If either of the current political parties could tap into that, I’d think they’d be doing this country a world of good. Well, at least a village of good.
The Czar has noticed, of late, that whenever Republicans gather around him, the tone seems to be one of intense irritation. “They’re no different than the Democrats,” is perhaps the simplest summation of the complaints. Republicans could have ended Obamacare with any of the hundreds of ingenious replacement bills written over seven years, but didn’t. They could have reformed the entire tax structure of the United States, but instead settled for a tax cut that will drive up deficits considerably. They could shrink government to reduce the deficit and pay back the debt, but have instead increased both. And don’t get the people around the Czar started on immigration or social security reform.
So what makes them like Democrats? The fact that when push comes to shove, and boy, it did in November, 2016, the Republicans have expressed little tangible interest in undoing Big Government, and seem just as interested to expand the size, cost, and power of it.
These concerns are not without merit, of course. The American people gave the Republicans everything they wanted under Obama: a president not afriad to run afoul of the media, a House, a Senate, and a slightly right-tilted Supreme Court. By 2019, the country could be running like a lean, money-producing machine. Instead, it’s just as neutered as ever.
So we can step back, too, and discover that a group of Democrats at a gathering are saying something odd, too: “We’re no different than the Republicans,” they cry. And, for sure, something sounds weirdly familiar here.
Start with the top candidates the Democrats are fielding for 2020…what a pathetic bunch of jackasses. Republicans fantasize about the horrors of facing Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, or Sen. Bernie Sanders…but they’re political toast: crusty, dried-up, and stale. The newer faces in the party are either absent without leave or have tremendous baggage to explain. Sure, they’ll come up with somebody for 2020, but there are no guarantees they won’t be the next Michael Dukakis. Their talent pool, as the Czar has repeatedly warned, went pretty dry in 2008. The average Democrat voter doesn’t give a crap about their candidates—which is a massive change for a party that always developed crushes on their candidates to the point that no faults could be imagined.
Unlike today, where the Democrats are starting to admit that, well, even Bill Clinton probably was a foul egg morally. Not so long ago, a Republican senator in an airport men’s room lost his job because he probably was hitting on another male; today, photographs of a leering Democrat senator molesting a sleeping woman makes them think maybe he should set a date for his own resignation—after all these decades of finding and expunging any Republican politician who quivered on Family Values, the Democrats are realizing the biggest hypocrites are in their own party.
And let’s look at the messaging: what do Democrats believe in? What is their view on public responsibility? What is their plan to aid the middle class? As it turns out, you don’t know. They don’t know, either. Right now, the only unified Democrat position is that they hate hate hate Republicans. Everything else is a big question mark.
If this sounds familiar, it should—Republicans have long been completely incompetent at messaging. The Czar would wager that 90% of what the public knows about Republican aims, principles, strategies, and beliefs comes from NBC News. The GOP has never been able to explain why Obamacare would crater, why social security needs urgent reform or outright replacement, or why they are, in fact, the party of science. They just can’t do it, which is why the Town Hall meetings almost ten years ago were such a success: the GOP managed to let the people do their messaging for them; the GOP enjoyed a massive renaissance from the outspoken outrage at public venues. Now that those are gone, the GOP is back to pie charts and WordStar reports broken into 46 sections to explain this stuff.
And now the Democrats finds themselves in just the same position: they can’t inspire their voters, they can’t explain their positions, and they can’t get the public to share their anger over government overreach.
It’s a rough time for Republicans. And it’s a rough time for Democrats. And since they cover about 80% of the country’s voters, one assumes it’s a rough time for everybody.
An aside: The Czar has a good friend who is a Democrat (although he seems to be a 1960s-era Democrat who seriously thinks they still matter to the party), and over beers the other night, he shared with us a story about how bad GOP messaging is. That afternoon, the friend’s phone rang, and it was a local Republican party office calling. Eagerly, he took the call, and the caller introduced himself and asked if our friend would be willing to engage in some political conversation.
The friend immediately confirmed he would love to. The first question was on Donald Trump: what does our friend think of him? Our friend stated that he was a joke of a president, doing some good things when he listens to smart people, but too willing to let his undisciplined nature get the better of him almost every time. Furthermore—but the caller interrupted to ask about Nancy Pelosi. The friend asked why he, as an Illinois resident, should give a feces about her, since he couldn’t do anything about her; she was a California entity and their problem. Now, he said, about President Trump….
The caller cut him off to ask about Chuck Schumer. Out of New York? Yeah, our friend admitted, he probably wouldn’t be voting for him, either, because our friend doesn’t vote in New York State. Did he want to have a conversation or not, he asked the caller, because so far it sounds like they want to just check off a list of hot buttons to hear people rant and rave. “Convince me,” our friend said. “Tell me why I should vote for Republicans, and not Democrats.”
Oh, the caller paused. Was my friend a Democrat? He replied he’s been registered his whole life—but go ahead, make your case. Instead the caller said, “We should probably place you on our Do Not Call list, then?” Our friend asked why he was even on the list to begin with, since the call was more about affirming than converting. The caller thanked him and hung up.
When asked what we thought about this, the Czar said it sure sounded like the GOP: listening doesn’t mean nodding your head when someone is ticked off. It means responding. And had the call been from a local Democrat party office (not that there are many around the Czar)? The call might have gone precisely the same way.
This is a bad time, politically. Don’t be fooled. The two parties have been so busy racing to cut each other off that their ships have collided into each other, and water is pouring into both.
A few days ago, amidst the revelation that Mario Batali was one of the latest in a long and growing list of public figures embroiled in sexual misconduct and abuse issues, I posited the following on Twitter regarding the revelation:
Not exactly surprised either. Again, an industry that develops hierarchies of power much like politics and media.
Mo (see this post for more info) – one of our fabulous friends online responded that I might be onto something. I thought about it for a while and had some additional thoughts.
Yes, I think industries where stricter hierarchies of power and decision-making exist are more susceptible to these kinds of corruptions. Politics, clearly. Hollywood, check. And yes, with the rise of the celebrity chef and the foodie craze, the restaurant and cooking scene as well. All have that organizational control model. When you hear the survivors (I think that’s the current preferred term) speak and use phrases like, “I thought I had to do X in order to keep my job or advance my career,” that’s a clear signal. And make no mistake, with the deviants that are out there, the survivors (while predominately so) aren’t limited to just women. Regardless, it’s a horrible situation that should be ended. Now. Having said that, keep in mind that everyone is afforded due process and shouldn’t be judged guilty out of the chute. It’s a tight line to walk and a troubling one.
I’d wager there are other industries that are prone to this kind of power structure. Maybe ones that we haven’t seen or heard from yet as these revelations are made.
Finally, I think this lends more support to the argument favoring term limits for politicians. Many will argue that institutional knowledge will suffer. Or that the careerists (staffers) that remain from administration to administration will rise in power and suffer from these same corruptions. But, I think that might be easier to address. If politicians can’t establish these power structures, imagine the reduction in both potential and actual corruption and abuse (sexual or otherwise) that we’d experience.
Long-time readers have two attributes relevant to today’s topic: first, they know the Czar is actually a big fan of the metric system, and second, there is something certainly wrong with them. Who the hell reads this site for as many years as we’ve been keeping it going?
Off-topic, per usual. Anyway, the point about the metric system is that while most Americans hate it hate it hate it, the truth is that most of us use it daily without even realizing it. Okay, you might be thinking (because long-time readers have sacrificed the luxury of thought), here goes the Czar on another of his pro-metric system rants.
Nope. Just the opposite: the Czar wants to point out what a fat load of fakers most of world is about the metric system. Okay, some folks are genuine: the Czar has an Australian friend who literally has no comprehension of how Fahrenheit works. And you no doubt know some Asian or European people who really do think in terms of centimeters and meters.
But a good portion of the world (like England and Canada) are total fakes about it. Sure the signs all say they measure petrol mileage by kilometers per liter, and that this bag of apples weighs 2.3 kilos…particularly when foreigners are about. But put them into a quiet conversation by themselves and it’s all miles per gallon and pounds again.
The French were so keen on the metric system that hundreds of thousands of people had to die before it was adopted during the French Revolution, but one can still find the livre in use in the country, and you still can find Germans using the pfund. Oh sure, the Germans will be quick to tell you that the pfund is simply a colloquial nickname for 500 grams of weight and is totally metric, but guess what that’s roughly equivalent to: a pound. That’s right: it’s as if Americans announced they were going metric, but had all these nicknames for units that the metric system doesn’t quite have defined…and we used all our old Imperial terms. Sorry, Deutschland, Das ist ein Topf mit Scheiße.
And don’t think the Czar is dumping on Europe, as deserving as that always is. Filipinos still use Imperial units all over the place. The Japanese are notorious for abandoning the metric system when only Japanese are around, and the Chinese still use the li to cover a third of a mile. One way you know you have been accepted by the local community is when they start dropping the metric system around you and using traditional weights and measures instead. The Czar avoids Africa, but is pretty sure the metric system is only found in the big cities when government minders are around.
Although no one ever talks about it, the metric system has another constant built into it: it’s adopted and used by bureaucratic force.
Want another example of total crap?
No, not the people. The concept. As any homebound American knows, everything in Canada has to be in English et en français. In Quebec, of course, it’s the other way around, but generally Americans note the use of French. Isn’t it funny, we think, that all the provinces of Canada save one speak Engish, sorta, and that one Kwibeck one speaks French? You’d think they’d just switch to English.
Non, non, non, reply les québécois, although for some reason this sounds way too much like Maurice Chevalier in the Czar’s imagination. Les Québécois sont une nationalité unique au Canada, distincte et spéciale des autres Canadiens, tout comme les Premières Nations sont séparées des autres. Nous maintenons une identité culturelle unique et défendons notre souveraineté comme chérie et importante and all that. Basically, the Quebecois are not some provincial rubes, but are totally unique in all the world! And we require special treatment and considerations! Respect our identity, you English sons of feminine-noun dogs.
This is, as the Germans would say, also a crock. This is really what happens all over Quebec:
“Hey, Gordie, did you see the Habs blow that over-time shoot out last night? I couldn’t believe it. It’s like Carey Price is good for, like, two and two-thirds periods. I think he’s playing hurt. Anyway, I… [possible American walks into the place]…uh, Dites-moi ce que…uh… vous avez besoin de moi pour…um… apporter votre pot luck samedi. Je dois m’arrêter au… le dispensaire de la bière…um….et prendre un peu de Moulson. [possible American sees there’s nothing interesting going on and walks out] Wow, that was close. Did you get any of what I said? Let me know if I can bring anything besides beer to your potluck Saturday.”
It’s like the metric system: as long as there’s a risk of someone on the outside being around, that weird, guttural French comes out. But a couple of Habs put together, and they’re speaking English. Good English. Really good English.
Not to say Americans don’t do our own things, too. Foreign visitors are well aware that two Americans in a room will bad-mouth each other’s political parties and complain about how trashed our country is. But if that foreigner were to make a vaguely similar statement to those guys, and suddenly it’s all Brad Paisley music and eagle talons clawing the poor bastard to death. We get it.
But unlike the metric system or French, we’re not trying to push that misery onto everyone else.
The House today passed a bill to allow interstate reciprocity of concealed carry. As you expect, social media is having a freak out over this, since of course a peaceful gun owner carrying his legal weapon into another peaceful state automatically means he becomes a raving lunatic.
As you know, the folks opposed to firearms are the real gun fanatics, because they’re completely unhinged on the subject and refuse to consider any facts on the issue. Most states already allow reciprocity. Like drivers licenses and gay marriage, states would be compelled to honor another’s sovereignty. The Czar need not point out that the news media and its social media stooges are crazy-nuts over this, proving they understand neither how Congress works (the House advanced a bill to the Senate; it has not declared anything law because Congress cannot do that), how concealed carry works (the only states that don’t allow it have even fewer requirements), and certainly don’t get what reciprocity means (“So this means some nut from a red state can totally trample on my blue state rights????”).
The bill, incidentally, received a lot of support from Democrats and a fair amount of opposition from Republicans. It increases—some say enhances—background checks to prevent some of the missteps that allowed recent mass murderers access to firearms they should not have had, and does not allow for Constitutional (“anything goes”) carry.
The intent of the bill is to prevent people legally licensed to carry a weapon in a concealed form from being arrested simply because they pass through another state. This is already the law in most states—although Illinois is perceived as one of the unfriendliest gun states, your Utah or Florida permit is acknowledged here. Not a big deal, right?
Well, that’s great if you’re a Utah resident and pass through Illinois. But if your drive takes you into New York, good luck—your concealed carry permit does not protect you very much, as you have to go through a lengthy and intentionally difficult process before local law enforcement—not elected and not challengeable—decides whether you can carry. That’s not reasonable law—for either the Utah visitor or a New York resident—and that’s what the bill attempts to correct.
Now, as everyone outside of the liberal world understands, the bill moves to the Senate. Its fate there is unknown—the party lines are tighter, but because some Republicans and Democrats are switching sides on this issue, one can’t say for sure whether it goes to the President (who has previously said he would sign it into law). It may actually garner enough support to be filibuster-proof, but whether that means it makes it into law will be anyone’s guess. The Czar expects it will pass, but barely.
And even if it does pass and President Trump signs it, what then? There is no guarantee the law can be easily applied. If you have a license to drive in North Carolina, you can drive in North Dakota, say bill supporters. This is true, but you are expected to obey North Dakota laws while there. The “drivers license” analogy falls flat—in fact, that’s pretty much what the law allows right now.
Further, federal law doesn’t require any state to honor any other’s drivers licenses: this form of reciprocity is a voluntary compact. Okay, but then consider this—driving isn’t a fundamental right. Indeed, it’s not even a broad right—it’s a privilege, as those of us old enough to remember grade school classes on the Constitution. Access to a weapon is a fundamental right, and driving isn’t. States are not allowed different laws for what’s allowed under freedom of speech, or your right to an attorney, and all 50 states agree on what “double jeopardy” means. Shouldn’t they all agree on what “concealed carry” allows?
Not helping any of this is that the House bill is cloaked in terms of the U.S. Commerce Clause, meaning that the Federal government has an overwhelming interest in ensuring national reciprocity for reasons only the bill writers truly understand (“necessary and proper”). Of course, conservatives should bristle at this, because so much of Obamacare, New Deal legislation, and welfare programs were jammed down our throats under that guise. While you may support the use of the Commerce Clause because it at least advances the bill into law, remember that the U.S. Commerce Clause almost invariably results in expanded government.
But maybe that’s not the point. Maybe the whole point is, indeed, getting the bill into law. Because then, once passed, it’s immediately appealed. As it moves back and forth through challenges and stays and upholdings, it works its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, who could agree in a split-decision that the law is unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause, but is unnecessary because Americans have a fundamental right to carry a weapon across state lines.
That then advances the next step—constitutional carry. If the Czar can carry a weapon openly or concealed in Arkansas, with no concern, why can’t he do so in California?
One thing is clear about firearms—legal challenges are the only way to get the Second Amendment recognized.
Today, or more specifically this morning, a crate arrived in our name at the Castle. Always fearing outlandish and ridiculous assassination attempts, the Czar had Dat Ho open it, just in case it exploded and killed someone. It neither exploded nor imploded, and in the crate was a cardboard box labeled, in ink, NIHIL. “What mean,” implored Dat Ho in much better English than the Czar will credit him here.
“Nihil,” we muttered, “Latin for ‘nothing.’ Go ahead and open it, Dat. But don’t steal anything.”
Carefully, little Dat—who is only twelve but is so crafty at stealing things of little consequenece that Czar would not mention it but for the fact we like to humiliate him as often as possible—lifted the lid off the cardboard box. The box was empty.
“Empty!” the Czar exclaimed.
“I steal nothing!” whimpered Dat, pointing to the box.
“No, little idiot, the box is empty—meaning the label was accurate. Truly accurate.” The Czar lifted the box—from the look of it, an old shoe box dating back half a century—and examined it for clues. “Who sent this?”
“Maybe Nemo,” suggested Dat Ho.
“Perhaps, but truly this was meant to arrive for the holidays. Someone sent us an empty box. Truly we have received nothing for the holidays.”
“Where I put?” asked Dat, undoubtedly imagining himself stealing a wrist watch or crouton from our pocket.
“We shall put it with the others,” the Czar said, and we returned to our quarters. Opening a closet door in the back, we placed it on a shelf next to other boxes, including a box of authentic Russian ничего (the Czar is a collector), some imported Italian niente, and some common Mexican nada, and a rare box of South African ohunkohun in a gorgeous crocodile skin and acacia box. Every so often, the Czar likes to take it out and look at it for a while.“Is pretty,” said Dat Ho, looking at the box.
“Are you still here?” we asked, as we often do in such circumstances.
“Some day, maybe I get nothing,” grumbled Dat Ho as he left our study to swipe three spearmints from the front desk to serve as his dinner.
“You wish,” we said as the door closed. We closed the door to the closet. What is such a collection worth, we wondered.
Every day, every doofus you hate in politics, media, and entertainment seems to be lining up for the fire exits. In fact, we’re seeing anywhere from three-to-five sex creeps being shown the door. At this rate, there will be no one left in the Washington, New York, or Hollywood spotlights by 2019, and the Czar, for one, cannot wait for this glorious golden age.
Let’s be honest here. These three epicenters of distaste have needed cleaning out since they were begun in 1776, 1880, and 1910, respectively. They were started as boys clubs, and they continued to be so. None of this is news: sex scandals go back to the earliest days of these institutions, with confirmed rumors of wild parties, perversity, and virtual or literal sex slavery. Do we really think the addition of women, people of color, and opposite orientation would magically eliminate the Delta Houses that run our culture? Actually, the 21st Century is showing that maybe, yeah, it can.
When the stories started to break about Harvey Weinstein a couple months ago, thousands of people correctly prognosticated that we have just lit the first match in this bonfire. And almost immediately, people waited for the political and media titans to follow. If you yourself did not make such a prediction, let the Czar explain to you why this was such an easy call for them to make. It requires no special genius or gift of foresight.
When child predators want to get closer to their victims, they pursue certain lines of work. (Ah! The Czar sees about two-thirds of you already figured out the trick.) For a long time, these monsters went into the priesthood, education, scouting, or park districts…because it was an easy way to be left alone with a group of potential victims. Starting in the 1970s, the first accusations began to be taken seriously, and by the 1990s, the floodgates were open. Today, a huge population of people on social media still believe that 99% of priests, scout leaders, and social workers are all unbridled child molesters and rapists…although they tend to be pretty blind to the abuse going on in teachers’ unions.
The reality is that most of these organizations began to clean house twenty years ago…maybe not as fast as they could have, and indeed many monsters still lurk in daylight. But the big broom cleaned out most of them, and the same thing is just beginning to happen in politics, media, and entertainment.
And that brings us to the easy prediction: there’s a certain personality defect that thinks it’s perfectly okay to grab women like a hungry person grabs melons* or thinks it’s fine to treat women like toys or personal property. And where do they go? Into places where they can be left alone with a group of potential victims. Look, there are a lot of women desperate to make it in politics, in the news media, or in acting. And while few of them are very dumb, just enough of them can be bullied into silence by threats of lawsuits and financial or career reprisals to make depredation as easy as grenade-fishing.**
So if you’re one of these sleazy guys, what do you do? Do you go into the real world where some woman will spray oleo resin capsicum into your face, or she or a significant other will put a fist into your throat? No—you go into the world of politics, mass media, or entertainment where pickings are easier. Heck, if you’re Senator Al Franken, maybe you do all three.
When you spot a politician who tries to break into the mainstream media, maybe you should be a little suspicious. When you see a news reader become more of a movie or television celebrity, you should suspect maybe he’s a little dirty, too. When you see an actor spout off about politics, be sure to wash your hands after shaking his. The more of these three circles a guy moves around in, you should expect he’s got a story or twenty that he wants kept really, really quiet.
*See what the Czar did there? He’s so much more classy than ‘Puter.
** Something else ‘Puter does with reckless abandon. The grenade-fishing part; not so much the depredation. He saves that for Twitter.
And good riddance.
His ongoing popularity was almost exactly what he wanted, and he had a fawning media to keep us updated on all aspects of his long and up-until-recently healthy life. Had justice been served, he would have rotted silently, almost forgotten, in a cell and died decades ago.
If you’ve been anywhere near Pinterest for the last 50 years, you know that Disney characters are even more interesting than smoking meats, building your own water filtration system, or ripping down Confederate statues. And the ability to draw a Disney character (really, any Disney character) elevates you to the level of godhood. In fact, no matter how new you are at art or how little experience you have, it’s essential to upload everything you have ever drawn to the internet so that the entire world can scoff at your incompetence.
So with that in mind, the Czar decided to run an experiment to see how each of the major Castle dwellers could draw a Disney character. We shan’t spoil the results, but we will say efforts were somewhat mixed, like that’s some surprise to you. The Czar didn’t require much effort to find a suitable subject: he simply did what he always does, and looked through an 11-year-old girl’s bedroom window to see what artwork she had on her wall. And there among all the pictures of someone named “Aiden,” he found a Disney character. This was easy to find on the internet, and the Czar could have simply done that, except that’s not nearly as fun. The picture you see here is a fish named Dory, from a movie the Czar recollects is named Finding Minnow. It seems she is a forgetful fish, and her character is hilarious because she suffers from obvious trauma to her hippocampus, which is always funny.
Dr. J.’s effort is pretty darn solid, even if he did apparently manage to set fire to the paper. We’re not quite sure he’s got the eyes right, but when you’re possessed by the Dark Side of the Force, or whatever, you probably assume everybody has crossed over. We asked him how he felt about his attempt, and he said it was “Good,” even “Gooood!” This is probably worth printing out and hanging up on the refrigerator. So go ahead, and we’ll wait while you do that.
He signed it, too, which is surprising. He sent us a very nice thank you note the other day, and it took like 6 attempts to read it because his handwriting is so terrible. Volgi has good handwriting, by the way. It’s very cool; it looks like he wrote the Voynich manuscript…which, as you know….
Speaking of obvious head trauma, Ghettoputer did a very nice job and managed to keep his paper clean of fecal smears. That’s definitely a fish, although it’s orange and not blue, and is facing the wrong way entirely. Also, the Czar is pretty clear that this fish has boobs. We have to give ‘Puter some credit for understanding Dory is a female character.
The Czar asked ‘Puter if those are bubbles around her head, since fish live in the water. He didn’t seem to get that, despite several attempts to explain, and finally confessed that, as he interprets the character, the fish is drunk because she’s a girl. We had GorT find the movie in his thumb drive (it’s literally his thumb), and ‘Puter has been watching it constantly for the last few days. His goal is to memorize and sing all the songs in the film for our annual talent show, and he continues to watch hoping a song appears in it at some point.
And that mention of GorT brings us to his attempt. Here it is. Basically, it’s a four-bit scan of the image that he wirelessly sent to a printer located somewhere in his lower back. Yes, he still uses thermal paper, but it’s what you would expect.
“You know, I could have done better,” GorT said to us, “but I just didn’t have the time.” This cracks us up: for a time traveling robot, who can go back in time repeatedly as often as he pleases, he never seems to have much time for anything. You’d think a time traveler would have better time management. As you frequently hear us mutter, if you don’t have time to do it right, you don’t have time to do it over. GorT chose to do neither, and, well, there we are. Fish have gray scales, apparently. And like ‘Puter’s fish, this one is pretty pixelated, too.
The Volgi, who apologizes for being so busy but he requires an entire week to get the stuff done that you typically do in a single afternoon, looked at the picture, nodded, and turned to head up to his room. “Are you doing one?” we asked. “Verily, I shall,” he replied. “Um, don’t you want to take the picture with you?” we suggested. “The master needs no model for his efforts; he merely looks within.”
He says crap like this all the time, and calls them analects. Anyway, he came downstairs about three weeks later and handed us this. It’s very nice, but it’s a carp. Personally, we think he really should have taken the fricking Dory picture upstairs with him, maybe looked at for more than ten seconds, but whatever: this picture is for sale in our gift shop and it’s worth probably $200 at a minimum. So we all win.
Hey, here’s the Czar‘s attempt. The Czar does like to draw, and he spent a fair amount of his younger years sketching and doodling stuff. Unfortunately, most of our efforts wind up looking like this. Not sure what we were so upset about that caused us to ruin another sheet of paper like this, but it was almost certainly related to that idiot cousin of ours who stole the true throne of Muscovy from us back in 1283. We know this looks bad, but don’t be grossed out: that isn’t fish blood.
Of course, we know you think we just grabbed something off the large pile of blood-soaked papers in our chambers, but if you look carefully, you will see that we took the time to write «Доры эта рыба», which helpfully informs the casual viewer that “Dory, that is a fish.” We must have been pretty pissed at somebody that afternoon.
“What the fresh hell is this?” you’re probably asking, and you’d be right. The Mandarin doesn’t exactly see the universe the way we do since he spends so little time in it. We keep looking at this, and from certain angles it kind of gets interesting, but it’s really not any type of fish we’ve ever seen. “Look closer,” the Mandarin said. “Maybe it’s one of those stupid magic eye things where a three-dimensional fish appears,” we said, and like a dumbass we walked around the Castle with this inches from our nose, bashing into things. “Well, sorta,” the Mandarin admitted. “But if don’t limit yourself to three dimensions,” which is the sort of crap he says all the time.
Great, so here are stumbling into furniture and guests and whatnot, and the Czar not only fails to see Dory in n-dimensional space, but he sees almost no blue at all in the picture. We showed it to some passing guest in the lobby, and we asked her “Does this look like a damned royal blue tang?” and all she did was say “I obey him in all things.”
So there’s that. Anyway, we have all but Volgi’s laying around the lobby of the Castle, so swing by and take a look. It does appear that GorT’s is being used as a coaster, at the moment, but maybe he could have spend more than 4 milliseconds on his. And maybe his would be in the gift shop, too.
The Gormogons answer all your pressing questions…well, at least the ones you asked…well, at least….nevermind.
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A few of us discuss eating out, restaurant experiences, and other food topics
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The Gormos spook-out and talk Halloween traditions and experiences
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Just to give you a worm’s-eye perspective, when The Darlin’ Daughter was of that age, she bailed on Girl Scouts because they were “boring.” She was much more interested in what her brother, two years her junior, was doing in Boy Scouts. She’d have joined Boy Scouts in a heartbeat, given the opportunity.
She has no questions about her gender, she knows she’s female, and has a husband and two kids to prove it, but she’s more interested in field craft and doing woodsy stuff than she is in learning how to make a crocheted doily.
But, bear in mind, that this is also the only third grader at her elementary school that knew how to field-strip, clean, and re-assemble a 1911-A1. (She had a odd up-bringing. What can I say, she’s my daughter!)
At any rate, it sounds like the exodus from Girl Scouting is a self-inflicted injury.
Anyway, enjoy today, tomorrow will probably be worse.
Fortunately, there’s nothing preventing her from enjoying the outdoors on the same level as any scout. And that’s true for anybody of any age. Although the Царица was a (gold) Girl Scout herself, she agrees that the modern program lacks authenticity. However, she capitalized on everything she could outside of scouts to spend time outdoors. Today, as many of you know, the Царица is an avid fisherwoman, hiker, camper, and loves archery and firearms. She doesn’t hunt, although she’d love to use her bow to bag a turkey for us to eat. Never learned any of that in scouts…she just associates with people who can teach her things, and she learned everything she could.
And there’s nothing unusual about a third grader fieldstripping a 1911…you might find that lots of boys and girls know how to do it. And I mean lots. Anyway, you’re doing everything right as a parent, as the Czar sees it, and you better get some really nice gifts from the family this holiday season.
The Czar, Gilgamesh, what more could you want?
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The Czar received a fair amount of email and social media comments about the recent decision about the Boy Scouts of America’s decision to allow in girls, most of it negative. The Czar’s own opinions are available on this site, as are GorT’s. So the Czar wanted to give you an update from inside the ranks, so to speak.
Most leaders are pretty hopping mad about the way the decision was carried out. Overall, most troop leaders are not opposed to the idea per se, but feel the following might have been a more intelligent strategy:
The only step that happened was number 5. Since then, the BSA has confirmed that boys and girls will not be mixed, stipulating that the concerns of many parents and scouts about mixed packs and troops are valid and justified. However, as GorT will tell you, the BSA is one lawsuit away from a transgender scout demanding crossover.
Overall, scout leaders are pretty pissed, and are telling their local councils that they anticipate the rollout will happen the way gay scouts (and leaders) and 5-year-old cub scouts was handled: a national announcement, and then local troops and packs are left to figure out the details, resulting in total chaos. The Czar is encouraged that the national organization is well aware that mixing boys and girls (especially teens) could be a recipe for disaster, but sympathizes with local leaders that they need a little more information than what they’ve received so far.
Our local scout master in Muscovy learned of the decision off Facebook, two hours before that night’s scout meeting. He’s not opposed to girls entering the BSA in general, but feels this announcement was an unwelcome surprise. He’s already received two inquiries from parents looking to have their girls enter cub scouts, but politely informed the parents to contact the national organization for next steps, as he has absolutely no direction on what to do. And, it turns out, because he can’t mix girls and boys in the same pack or troop, he can’t help them anyway.
This continues to remain interesting, and the Czar is delighted so many people are watching nationally.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Call me Ishmael. Hop on Pop. Dear Penthouse Forum. All great stories start with a memorable opening line. Not this one.
‘Puter really should start with some backstory. But, ‘Puter being ‘Puter, he won’t. The reader will just have to figure out Meaux and ‘Puter’s preexisting relationship for themselves.**
Our story begins in high school. ‘Puter and Meaux attended the same high school, which is odd because ‘Puter attended an all-male Jesuit school in DC and Meaux went to some Sconnie public school co-ed hellhole. But that’s not important right now.
Meaux was a vision of loveliness. She was a cheerleader, ran with the cool kids, and had the bitchin’-est beauty school perm of anyone in school.*** ‘Puter wasn’t any of that. ‘Puter was chubby, obnoxious, wore wide-wale corduroys, and had a bowl cut. ‘Puter and Meaux were anchoring two very distinct ends of the high school cool bell curve.
One day as classes were changing, Meaux stopped ‘Puter in the hall. ‘Puter remembers it as if it were yesterday. ‘Puter was in shock and, to be honest, a bit in awe. The early morning autumn sun glinted off Meaux’s dime-store permed hair as it does off a new Brillo pad. Meaux smiled her most fetching crooked smile, the drool pooling at the corner of her mouth only barely noticeable as it dripped in a near-constant stream to the linoleum below. Meaux clutched her Hello Kitty Trapper Keeper tight to her chest, popped her massive wad of Big League Chew gum, and asked ‘Puter to be her date at the movies that night, her treat. ‘Puter managed to control his bladder and squeaked out a barely audible, “Sure. Whatever.”
As Meaux languidly glided down the crowded hallway trailed by her phalanx of cheerleaders (tripping only twice and managing for once to avoid walking face first into the glass principal’s office door), ‘Puter nervously farted as he wondered what had just happened.
‘Puter arrived early for the 7:30 showing of “My Little Ponies” at Downtown Cineplex and Gun Shop and waited nervously outside for Meaux to arrive. Five minutes before the show was to begin, a small plane flew over trailing a banner reading, “’Puter, Meet Me Inside. Meaux.”**** Never one to disobey a plane-dragged sign, ‘Puter dutifully bought a ticket and went inside to find Meaux.
The previews had already started, and the theater was nearly dark. ‘Puter couldn’t find Meaux anywhere. Eventually, ‘Puter grabbed a seat and waited for Meaux to show up. Thirty minutes passed, and no Meaux. ‘Puter told himself he hadn’t been stood up, but he knew in his pudgy, cholesterol-clogged heart he had been. After softly weeping into the sleeve of his Members Only jacket for twenty more minutes, ‘Puter collected himself and left.*****
To this day ‘Puter blames himself for not seeing it coming.
As ‘Puter walked sullenly to his car, a 1972 puke-green Dodge Dart Swinger, his wide-wale corduroys softly voop-vooping as his fat thighs rubbed together, he saw them. Meaux and her cheerleading horde clad in matching uniform skirts, tops, and Tretorns in a perfect pyramid blocking ‘Puter from getting to his car. ‘Puter’s heart stopped. He knew at this moment he’d been set up, and there were only two outcomes for him: abject humiliation or super-uber abject humiliation. ‘Puter was betting on the latter, and he was not to be disappointed.
Meaux and the Golden Cheerleader Horde expertly disassembled the pyramid and assumed their (kind of) individual identities. Mocking me merciless, they encircled me while chanting savage cheers at me. ‘Puter vaguely remembers hearing “YOU’RE A LOSER! YES YOU ARE! YOU’RE A LOSER! SO’S YOUR CAR!” and “TWO FOUR SIX EIGHT! YOU SHOULD LOSE SOME F*CKING WEIGHT!”
Jennifer Schultz and Kimmy Santorini soaped peppy school slogans and profane words all over ‘Puter’s car windows. Patti Melrose, the hot but dumb as a sack of hammers girl who wanted Meaux’s job as head cheerleader, dumped the warm remainders of her second two-liter bottle of wine cooler on ‘Puter.
‘Puter cried and covered up as the bloodthirsty pack of cheerleader set upon him like fat college girls at all you can eat Ben and Jerry’s night at the dining hall. There were fists and kicky pleated skirts and matching Tretorns and color coordinated bows everywhere. ‘Puter couldn’t tell where one cheerleader’s fist or foot ended and the next one’s began. Blows rained down on ‘Puter like dollar bills on strippers named Chlamydia and Fondue at an NBA player frequented nudie bar.
Then it got dark. Really dark. Like approaching the event horizon dark. Time slowed, and ‘Puter’s senses heightened. ‘Puter could hear the steady drip, drip, drip of Meaux’s drool hitting the ground.
‘Puter heard Meaux yell to one of the marauding cheerleaders to stop beating me for a moment and to bring her the antenna off “that crappy ride of his.” Snap! Meaux laughed menacingly, like Ursula the Sea Witch from “The Little Mermaid,” but hotter and droolier. ‘Puter heard a fast woosh. ‘Puter wasn’t sure if it was the biting early autumn winds off the Lake blowing through Meaux’s immovable perm or something else.
‘Puter soon got his answer. The crazed pack of cheerleaders parted as their alpha-Meaux approached wielding ‘Puter’s car’s antenna. A sharp crack followed, and searing pain drove ‘Puter to the edge of unconsciousness. Meaux continued beating ‘Puter with his own car’s antenna until sirens sounded in the distance. It took four cheerleaders to pull Meaux off ‘Puter.
“Meaux, if you don’t stop beating ‘Puter now, the cops will catch you, and your parents won’t let you go to the district competition where you can make out with that totally hot college guy with the Flock of Seagulls haircut who drives the team bus!”
That seemed to snap Meaux out of it. She dropped the antenna, hopped into a subordinate cheerleader’s brand new Volkswagen Golf drop-top, and slowly, lurchingly made her escape******
‘Puter regained consciousness in the hospital covered with stripes from the savage antenna beat down Meaux had put on him. The doctors say the only thing that saved ‘Puter was his Mexican tuxedo.******* Its thick denim dulled the blows enough so ‘Puter escaped with only a collapsed long, severe blood loss, and a lacerated kidney.
‘Puter returned to high school a broken man. He survived the remainder of his high school career by avoiding Meaux-positive situations like parties, the cafeteria, school hallways, the boys’ locker room, public transportation, grocery stores, Christian churches (all denominations), and the red light district.
‘Puter went on to junior college and an unaccredited law school in a vain search for respect and meaning in his pitiful life. To this day, ‘Puter has found neither.
‘Puter wonders the bleak, gray Upstate tundra, collar turned up against the frosty gales. People see ‘Puter coming from a distance. They hurry their children inside, pull their blinds, and double-check their doors are locked. I can feel their eyes upon me as I’m shaking off the cold. And I hear the hushed whispers of “Loser Matlock,” the name Meaux required the state bar association to put on my license.
I shall forever be Loser Matlock and live in shame. And it’s all because of one night in high school and a cruel, unforgiving cheerleader.
Oh, and “My Little Ponies.” Don’t forget that part.
* Sure, ‘Puter could’ve titled this “The Ballad of Meaux and ‘Puter,” but that’d just be dumb because this ballad’s all about ‘Puter. Plus, ‘Puter’s a sexist bastard who’s hell-bent on keeping women down. So there.
** ‘Puter doesn’t like boring his readers with superfluous factoids, like Meaux and ‘Puter are evil twinsies, born of the same mother. First Mom had to choose one kid for reasons that were never clear to ‘Puter, but it was probably Meaux’s doing. Meaux’s pretty damned evil. And it’s also not important to know that First Mom and Meaux set ‘Puter adrift on an ice floe in Lake Michigan in January to get rid of him. Or that ‘Puter’s Second Mom found him adrift in the reeds in Milwaukee, like a fat, white, goyim Moses. So forget all of that stuff.
*** Meaux had also learned through extensive operant conditioning to stop her involuntary and copious drooling. This small victory probably had something to do with the cool kids accepting her.
**** Remember, we 1980s kids didn’t have your fancy cell phones with your instant massaging and BDSM texting and whatnot. We had to rely on our wits and ancient technology.
***** ‘Puter’s still pissed at Meaux for making him miss the denouement of the Harvey Weinstein produced, Roman Polanski directed “My Little Ponies.” Marlon Brando won an Oscar that year for his gritty, gut-wrenching portrayal of the crack addicted Twilight Sparkle who turned to a life of prostitution and coding to support her unholy appetites. People say it’s the best performance by an actor ever, but ‘Puter just can’t bring himself to watch it. The crushing heartbreak is still too fresh.
****** The Volkswagen Golf was a standard transmission. Girls can’t drive stick. So to speak.
******* Yes, ‘Puter knows his clothing lacks continuity. STFU, already. How else was ‘Puter going to work the totally awesome wide-wale cords going “voop-voop” imagery in as well as the life-saving Mexican tuxedo, ‘Puter’s denim armor? DOO NAWT JUJ ME, PEEPUL!!
The Inscrutable Mandarin and the Czar of Muscovy have very different watchdog natures: the former tends to monitor Facebook, and the latter is more a creature of Twitter. To be more accurate, the Mandarin’s Facebook-to-Twitter ratio is about 80/20, and the Czar’s Twitter-to-Facebook ratio is closer to 100/0. However, the two of us do compare notes frequently about social media, and there is often a high degree of similarity between the two outlets; unfortunately, this is more true after a terrible firearm-related event like Las Vegas.
Pro-gun-control advocates tend to Frogger their discussion points: they ask a seemingly genuine question about the legality of something; a pro-Second Amendment responder answers the question…and is immediately challenged by a largely unrelated question. Answer that, and a third question about a different subject appears. This is largely tactical: the inquisitor wants to keep skipping around until he or she lands on a topic for which the defender has no immediate answer, and then the long knives come out.
We should add that it is possible for a pro-gun-control advocate to have a substantive discussion on a technical level. It just doesn’t seem to happen. So while a series of questions can be welcome (“Can a semiautomatic weapon be easily converted into a fully automatic one?” “What does the sear do?” “Is this even worth doing?”), the most likely exchange involves an irritating degree of Froggeration (“Can a semiautomatic weapon be easily converted into a fully automatic one?” “Why is America’s murder rate so high?” “Why does the NRA need you to have silencers?”). This Frogger effect results less from a lack of logical structure, and more from a need to set off a trap. As pro-gun-control advocates are learning over the last two decades, the pro-Second Amendment crowd is surprisingly well-equipped to deflect every one of these. On rare instances, if the deflections come often enough, the argument stops.
Originally, this essay intended to be a recap of the old arguments about Australian crime rates, the difference between semiautomatic and automatic, and other common questions. However, two things are inarguably clear:
So what are the new arguments that are popping up on social media?
Over time, the pro-gun-control community will discover new questions and raise new challenges. In some respects, this has been a good thing: pro-Second Amendment Americans are generally exceptionally well-versed in their rights as citizens, and have come to understand and respect both firearms and the law in equal measure. However, one can reasonably predict that future counters and challenges to the Second Amendment will also be based on misreadings or a lack of understanding of the basic technology. The Mandarin and the Czar will continue to monitor social media so that you don’t have to. In fact, stay off it entirely. Let us take care of that for you.
What a difference a day makes. The Czar commented only just yesterday about the mystery surrounding the Boy Scouts of America’s consideration of allowing girls to join, and here we are with a full decision to do so.
The Czar could summarize the reaction his local Muscovy troop (the boys, not the adults) had to yesterday’s announcement, but he doesn’t have to: GorT already has to a perfectly matched degree.
The move is extremely controversial, and so far nearly all the negative commentary the Czar has seen on social media seems to be from individuals with no affiliation to scouting whatsoever. Not to rehash GorT’s excellent summary of the decision—which you should read—but in an attempt to quash some myths, here are some items to understand:
On a related note, the Czar received this email from MM:
|Surely you understand that what’s causing the hissy fit by the Girl Scouts is that the Boy Scouts are not likely to teach any girls in their organization that abortions are the highest achievement for a female. Losses to such an organization will harm the Girl Scouts relations with “Planned Parenthood”, aka the “Baby Butchers”.|
There’s a lot to unpack in this letter. The Czar regrets to say that the Girl Scouts’ quoted responses to the decision are ill-conceived, factually incorrect, spurious, and overly dramatic. “Hissy fit,” yeah, could be a good way to describe it. The responses we’ve seen, either official or unofficial, are doing the Girls Scouts of America absolutely no good in terms of public relations.
The Czar has been monitoring the training material and actions of his local pack and troop for several years now, and abortion just doesn’t seem to come up as a subject—ever, assuming kids under 12-to-13-years of age even understand it that well. The Czar spotted a tweet yesterday that echoed a bit of what he’s heard over the years: a dad asked his daughter if she would be interested in joining Girl Scouts, but she replied in the negative, stating that all they do is have sleepovers and talk about abortion. That’s probably not the case (we understand Girl Scout troops vary wildly in what’s emphasized, just as with Boy Scouts), but that this is so widely repeated means the GSA has a serious PR problem on their hands prior to yesterday’s decision.
Now, to MM’s real statement: the Czar isn’t sure that any parent has openly stated that the GSA’s not-very-secret involvement with Planned Parenthood is driving them to the Boy Scouts. If so, the parents have kept that to themselves. What the BSA is hearing in huge amounts is that the GSA just isn’t offering the girls enough to keep them involved, whereas BSA does some pretty cool stuff.
But doubtless, there are political influences at work here, and parents might agree to MM’s statement as an “and anyway” statement: “We want Catelynne to benefit from a hard-earned Eagle rank, with all the grants and perks and everything that can come with that…and anyway, Boy Scouts won’t be pushing all that abortion talk.” That’s possibly quite true.
Girl Scouts of America isn’t going away anytime soon, thankfully. Nor does it need to—the Czar would have vastly preferred GorT’s solution—the BSA could help the GSA revamp its entire organization and program and make GSA the organization for girls 5-17. But it’s pretty clear the GSA doesn’t want to work or play well, based on its ill-tempered press releases.
But as the girls-oriented programs start up over the next several years in BSA, the GSA will be sorely hurt by this. Maybe its affiliation with Planned Parenthood and documented incorporation of pro-abortion materials in its training, along with its restructuring in the 1990s and 2000s to water-down material and eliminate religious belief, was not a good idea.
Perhaps it’s even too late. Time will tell, and that’s what the Czar advises everyone on the BSA decision. Let’s see what happens: we have many years to watch and wait.
GorT: go become a merit badge counselor.
GorT stopped and just stared at the news report on TV last night as they were announcing that the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) are rolling out a plan to include girls in the program. I’m not sure exactly where I want to start with this so pardon me if this post wanders.
GorT is an Eagle Scout and enjoyed his time in BSA. And, until this decision, was seriously considering getting back into Scouting in some form now that his kids are largely out of the house….maybe as a Merit Badge counselor or advisor to a local Troop. Nope. Not anymore.
First, and rightfully so, the Girl Scouts of America are a bit peeved. As the Czar points out the BSA has done a better job developing a curriculum and marketing it than the Girl Scouts. I’m not going to dive into why as it would be pure speculation on my part and, in the end, we are here today.
Second, do I think a girl can achieve Eagle Scout? Absolutely. That’s not the issue and for anyone that wants to call me sexist, you’re missing the point. I fully believe that a young lady could earn every single merit badge that I earned and complete all the requirements I did in order to earn Eagle Scout.
Third, I predict that this will only introduce and cause more issues. While BSA is only starting at the Cub Scout level and has stated that the plan is to have single-gender or mixed-gender packs with single gender dens (small groups), I think that this move opens the door for pushing the borders of that framework. It is readily apparent to many how the social dynamic and therefore attention and focus changes within adolescents and teenagers in a mixed gender environment. GorT has a good friend whose son started at a private co-ed high school. After a week or so, the father asked the son how school was going. The son responded that the classroom environment was a mess – many of the girls were angling to get attention by the boys and many boys were acting up in order to impress the girls. All the while, the teacher was trying to teach but few were paying attention. The son said you could cut the sexual tension in the classroom with a knife. Yes, the BSA seems like they are intent on segregating the genders but I’ll put a wager that this will be challenged shortly after implementation.
Which brings me to point four: the BSA’s main claim for doing this is that families are busy and it’s hard for parents to get their son to boy scouts and their daughter to girl scouts. Does anyone else see the flaws in this argument?
Finally, groups like NOW (National Organization for Women) issued a statement that “the Boy Scouts have a long history of discrimination” implying that they discriminate against women. It is the BOY Scouts and there is a GIRL Scouts organization. Has Toni Van Pelt, President of NOW, issued any statements about the Girl Scouts being discriminatory against boys? As a parallel, Title IX expressly allows single-gender social organizations (fraternities and sororities).
Do I believe some of the insinuations that have been made that the Boy Scouts, whose enrollment peaked in 1972, is making this move because of declining numbers? Yes, and it’s completely the wrong move.
In GorT’s world, BSA would have quietly worked behind the scenes with the GSA to enhance their programs and offer, in some form, a path with equivalent requirements to Eagle Scout. I’d even advocate for calling it the same, having the same merit badges, etc. At the same time, the BSA should review the GSA curriculum and see where it could leverage anything. Then, the national level organizations should encourage the district-level and down to work on joint events. For example, the Pinewood Derby could be open to both. Jamborees could be held (although, just imagine having to patrol for kids crossing between the girls and boys side of the campground) with joint contests and competitions. I believe this would only improve the BSA’s image.
Also, the BSA should do a review of what has changed in society and within its programs since the 1970s. I think they’ve tried to react to the changing times with the creation of a STEM-like program and set of merit badges. I think there has been a growth and focus within society to have kids “do it all” – largely in sports. Mrs. GorT and I term some as “3-letter families” since their kid(s) is playing football (tackle or flag), soccer, and fall-ball baseball or lacrosse all in one season. BSA, and GSA for that matter, need to market what they offer and the benefits of Scouting better. And they need to not shy away from having a broad curriculum that some segments of society might attack – and advertise it. They have 137 currently active merit badges that range from teaching kids about civics to the proper handling and firing of a rifle, to cooking to nuclear science. There is goodness there. Then, they need to strengthen the local Packs and Troops. Provide guides – better guides – for parents to step up and feel confident in volunteering to run dens, packs, and troops. Emphasize that this isn’t primarily a social gathering for people to serve desserts – there is a curriculum. Follow it.*
Yes, GorT is a bit fired up about this.
* This was GorT and 3of3’s experience with the local Cub Scout pack. The adult leaders focused a significant time on what we were going to feed the kids at the monthly pack meetings. The leader was blown away by GorT’s den which completed Bobcat, Tiger and Wolf badges (before we had enough) early each year while other dens were struggling to complete in a year.
Your Gormogons are wrapping up “Season 1” of Radio Gormogon with one more episode to air (hopefully) sometime before Halloween. While we have a number of topics floating around the Rumpus Room….literally (how you ask? The Mandarin has some sort of machine propelling these pieces of paper…)
Anyway, we’ve settled on a Q&A session between our readers / followers / listeners and the Gormogons. So, please submit your questions via email (see email info to your left) or via Twitter (@Gormogons and use the hashtag #AskTheGormogons). We’ll declare some arbitrary cutoff, cull the questions, and proceed to
mockanswer them in our final episode of Radio Gormogon.
Radio Gormogon? You don’t know what we’re talking about? That’s our podcast – listen to it. Now. No, really.
Of all places, Slate.com has a strange piece about the Boy Scouts of America considering accepting girls into their ranks, and the Girl Scouts of America being, well, kinda pissed about it.
The Czar serves as a “committee member at large” for Muscovy’s local troop, although the Troop refers to him as a “consultant at large.” The Czar, as he has mentioned before, teaches the troop (and potentially other troops, provided they ask) all sorts of outdoor and survival skills that most suburban dads haven’t mastered. As a result of this, he’s fairly hip about a lot of things going on inside the organization.
And as far as the Slate story goes, yeah, it’s true. But there’s are a couple of errors or unintentional omissions. Here they are:
We should talk about that last one for a minute. Our troop was contacted by the local council, asking quite politely what the troop leadership’s reaction would be, positive or negative, about bringing girls into the organization. During that discussion, the council explained that BSA was getting an overwhelming number of inquiries from parents of girls about letting them join.
Politically, as we know, the Girl Scouts of America is undergoing a crisis for having been promoting Planned Parenthood and other liberal causes, and at least one Catholic archdiocese is terminating its support over the depth of it (and the Mormons have bailed on Boy Scouts for similar stipulations). However, that isn’t the whispered reason so many parents are calling in.
The reason is that parents of Girl Scouts are concerned their daughters aren’t learning anything. As readers have been reading here, the Boy Scout merit badge program is pretty robust, and many of the survival skills being taught are excellent. Too excellent, in fact—and many parents want their daughters to learn them.
Girl Scouts have a Survival Camper badge, but the requirements are incomparable to the Boy Scouts’ Wilderness Survival merit badge. They are also a far cry from what they used to be, according to the Czar’s resident expert on Girl Scouts, his wife. The Царица is herself a Gold Award recipient from the Reagan era, and wrings her hands over the dumbing down of the programs offered by the GSA: “Art in the Outdoors—Girls get outside and explore colors, shapes, light, and shadow as they create art inspired by the natural world.” Check out the current list to see more.
Now, a lot of these are pretty serious, and Czar is not mocking. But he can sympathize easily with moms and dads who believe their daughters can be much more than happy homemakers with the ability to pump their own gas. The Girl Scout program starts of age appropriate, but tends to stay on the safe side. This is within the power of Girls Scouts of America to change. Give the girls much, much more challenging opportunities. In our experience, they will succeed and even exceed.
But the real sticking point is the end game. Do you know what a Gold Award is? It’s the highest rank the girls scouts offer, and most of us have no clue what that is, what it’s called, and whether it’s easy to get. Well, it’s not easy to get, and any girl who achieves it should view it as a massive accomplishment.
Now if the Czar asked you about the Eagle Scout award, you’d probably get a sense that some massive trial was overcome, and the young man in question has gone through hell to earn it and learned something from it. That’s true—and Eagle Scouts know to put that on résumés, scholarship and financial aid forms, notify their insurance companies (some carriers offer Eagle Scouts lower premiums as they tend to be responsible drivers), job applications, and more. The Czar knows many job recruiters personally, and they all admit that Eagle Scouts get a second look almost automatically. It’s a serious fraternity.
So why does the Eagle Scout get the attention and the Gold Award recipient does not? Again, this comes down to marketing. There’s an entire website devoted to the Eagle award’s dominance. Here’s an excerpt:
The Eagle Scout Award. It’s Scouting’s highest rank and among its most familiar icons. Men who have earned it count it among their most treasured possessions. Those who missed it by a whisker remember exactly which requirement they didn’t complete. Americans from all walks of life know that being an Eagle Scout is a great honor, even if they don’t know just what the badge means.
The award is more than a badge. It’s a state of being. You are an Eagle Scout—never were. You may have received the badge as a boy, but you earn it every day as a man. In the words of the Eagle Scout Promise, you do your best each day to make your training and example, your rank and your influence count strongly for better Scouting and for better citizenship in your troop, in your community, and in your contacts with other people. And to this you pledge your sacred honor.
And here’s the Girl Scouts’ description of the Gold Award:
The Girl Scout Gold Award represents the highest achievement in Girl Scouts.
Open only to girls in high school, this prestigious award challenges you to change the world—or at least your corner of it.
By the time you put the final touches on your seven-step project, you’ll have solved a community problem—not only in the short term, but for years into the future—and you’ll be eligible for college scholarships.
Doesn’t that seem weak? Change your little corner of the world and solve a community problem? Or pledge sacred honor to lead the world into a better place?
Sure, this is quibbling, but it’s marketing, too—and the BSA is simply better at it. No wonder parents are calling in to see if their daughters can blend in. And look what else the BSA offers: leadership training programs, high adventure experiences in the outdoors, venturing, and more. The Girl Scouts have nothing competitive at this level…or perhaps, the better word is not competitive, but interesting.
For the record, the Muscovy troop leaders appreciate the value girls could bring to the troop, but we ultimately recognized that the disruption would not be worth the benefit. Instead, we came to the conclusion that the solution isn’t to bring girls into Boy Scouts, but to encourage the Girl Scouts of America to revamp their program. We understand it was softened so that girls would be more inclined to try it and stay longer, but that plan is evidently backfiring. Boy Scouts softened some things, but remained quite difficult and demanding on others. And that seems to be working a little better. The girls should give it a try.
Politics, politics, politics, gripes the Right: when these shows started going all left-wing, the viewership drops. The Left is whispering that, well, maybe this is the case. Ratings on these shows continue to suffer.
But so, too, do the ratings for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, who has made overt efforts to win back Republican viewers…to the point where celebrities refuse to appear on his show. And further, look at Conan, who suffers ratings losses even though—on average—he bashes Democrats slightly more than Republicans.
Maybe it’s not the politics that are tanking these shows; after all, ratings remain high for Fox and MSNBC at the same late-night time slot. In fact, Fox and MSNBC do better at those time slots than most of the late-night chat shows combined.
Could it be, the Czar wonders, if late-night talk shows are done? Like variety shows, westerns, and celebrity roasts, maybe America has moved on.
It was one thing when you had three networks, and NBC went with the talk show format in the 1950s. You didn’t have much choice to watch something else. Today you do, and better still you can watch pretty much anything else on demand, as you want. Tuning in to hear what Nanette Fabray has to say about her comeback film before Crystal Gale sings a B-side number with the band…well, that sort of thing isn’t going to draw in viewers.
Maybe, even, it’s not the politics that are killing the talk shows—perhaps it’s the politics that keep any viewers at all. If Jimmy Kimmel stopped lecturing Americans on liberal talking points, and went back to the Johnny Carson format of listening to a former sit-com star boast about how much fun they have on set now that the star is breaking into movies, perhaps his ratings would drop to zero overnight. Maybe it’s the anti-Trump homilies that keep the thousands of viewers he has.
Well, executives will tell the Czar, it’s all about the variety. You have so many late-night talk shows to content with, all on cable and even the internet. You can’t expect Kimmel, or Fallon, or Meyers, or Noah to bring in the viewers Carson did. Okay, but so what? Consolidate them: do what television did in the 1950s when every second-rate Vegas act got a living room set and three guests to blather about who they saw at the Brown Derby that day—they cancelled them.
The Czar’s point remains: even if the networks did just that, viewers would probably not flock to one of the other shows. They’re done with late-night talk. Do you really care what Saoirse Ronan likes about working for a certain director? The video is up on YouTube. Want to see what Coldplay really looks like when they perform? Check out their video on their website. Interested in topical stand-up zinger-style monologues? Twitter, baby.
The reality is probably this: if the networks quietly pulled every late-night talk show off the air and replaced it with news, sports, or syndicated sit-com reruns, it’s entirely possible that weeks would go by before anyone noticed. What’s scary is it could be months before anyone does.
The Czar discusses Korea
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In 2012 the NFL had an issue with Tim Tebow kneeling for each game to pray, they also had an issue with Tebow wearing John 3:16 as part of his blackout to avoid glare and made him take it off.
In 2013 the NFL fined Brandon Marshall for wearing green cleats to raise awareness for people with mental health disorders.
In 2014 Robert Griffin III (RG3) entered a post-game press conference wearing a shirt that said “Know Jesus Know Peace” but was forced to turn it inside out by an NFL uniform inspector before speaking at the podium.
In 2015 DeAngelo Williams was fined for wearing “Find the Cure” eye black for breast cancer awareness.
In 2015 William Gay was fined for wearing purple cleats to raise awareness for domestic violence. (not that the NFL has a domestic violence problem).
In 2016 the NFL prevented the Dallas Cowboys from wearing a decal on their helmet in honor of five Dallas Police officers killed in the line of duty.
In 2016 the NFL threatened to fine players who wanted to wear cleats to commemorate the 15th anniversary of 9/11.
h/t GorT, Sr.
Chances are good you haven’t heard much about the Kurdish independence vote in Iraq, which is a shame because it’s way more important than the Catalonian vote that sometimes pops up on world-news-only broadcasts.
And if you’re like most Americans, you might not know much about this at all, so here’s what’s happening. The Kurds are a nationality without a nation: they are, in fact, the largest nationality who lack a country. Back at the end of World War I, when the Ottoman Empire was divided up among the players, the Kurdish people—distinctly different from Arabs, Turks, Persians, Dari, and the other groups who live in the Middle East—found their lands divided up by almost arbitrarily drawn lines. Their homeland was quadrisected between Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria.
The Kurds always assumed this was a temporary oversight, given that Kurdistan, as a national name, existed in theory since the 14th Century.
Lots of new nations didn’t like the Kurdish people. Turkey horribly oppressed them from the beginning; Iran and Syria have kept them under a tight fist, and we all remember that Saddam Hussein gassed them in 1988 while ostensibly at war with Iran, not the Iraqi province of Kurdistan.
With the fall of Iraq in the 21st Century, the Kurds of Iraq always sort of assumed their long, internal exile was over and that Iraq would be carved up again and Kurdistan would once more be a real place. This didn’t happen.
With the Syrian civil war, Kurds in Syria hoped this could be their chance, and they demonstrated their loyalty to the West by utterly punishing ISIS wherever they found them: the Kurdish fighters are absolutely stunning in terms of bravery and efficiency. Of course, this didn’t happen, either. But in the meantime, the Kurds of Iraq proved they could function as a real government, and have something like an autonomous shadow goverment in place.
Fed up at last with waiting, the Kurds of Iraq voted for independence last week, 93% of voters announced they demanded independence. What could go wrong with that?
Lots—the Turks are terrified of this, knowing that an independent Kurdistan to the East will make the Turkish Kurds inconsolable. And if they elect to join their families in Iraq, or even declare themselves independent, Turkey will suffer a massive blow economically.
Likewise, the Iranian Kurds in the South could well decide they’re done with blackguards in Tehran, and declare their independence. If Iranian Kurdistan revolts, the leaders in Tehran are smart enough to know the rest of Iran could follow…and Iran, as our readers already know, is inherently unstable and would have fallen ten years ago had Obama backed the incipient revolution. Tanks are already rolling to the Iraqi border, warily watching what the Kurds do next.
Syria, already unstable, would surely collapse if the Syrian Kurds declared themselves separate. They’re the best-performing military in Syria’s battle against ISIS.
Not surprisingly, others are against this move. Russia depends upon Kurdistan as a natural junction of its oil business, and an independent Kurdistan would change the rules and lessen Russian control in Syria. Kurdistan would have a lot of oil, and are not friendly to Russia. They are friendly to Europe and the United States, which is bad, bad, bad for Russia. And the United States, God bless us, is despairing that the Iraq we sacrificed so many American lives to free could collapse with the loss of Kurdish stability.
About the only folks rubbing their hands gleefully for the Kurds is Israel, who appreciate that the Kurds would almost certainly run their new country as a stable, free democracy that’s mostly secular. Women are treated fairly well per Kurdish tradition,* and their Muslim population is, to put it mildly, pretty easy-going. As a hint, Kurds are very tolerant of both Jews and Christians.** Plus, taking the wind out of Turkey’s and Iran’s sails would be very good for Israel’s long-term survival.
Many of their non-Kurdish neighbors are displeased: whole countries in the area have suspended business with the Iraqi Kurds, canceling flights, shutting down supply lines, and more. Iraq itself is correct that the vote is illegal because it violated Iraqi law—law that the Kurds themselves helped pass years ago. In fact, Iraq views the vote as an act of secession. Iraq is already partnering for military exercises with Turkey and Iran—if you can believe it—to demonstrate that the Kurds don’t stand a chance if they continue.
But not all Kurds are in favor of independence. Many are declaring the vote a symbolic gesture: the truth is that Kurdistan would start off badly in debt, with a government not quite mature enough to avoid catastrophic, early mistakes. Independence, yes, but not just yet. This is something the United States does support, and we have advised them to take this in baby steps.
The Czar’s view? Well, he’s a bit sympathetic to the good folks of Kurdistan. If they can organize themselves, if they can restructure their debt, and if they can guarantee first-world freedoms, then yes—the sacrifice made by so many Americans will be justified if Kurdistan can create a stable, peace-loving democracy in the most unstable, bloodthirsty, and medieval region in the world. It’s about time our investments there paid off. And Kurdistan could do it.
Yet, if Iran, Turkey, and Syria suffer as a result of oppressing the people of Kurdistan for over 100 years, that’s just gravy.
* Still some work to be done.
**Compared to their neighbors, that is.
Finishing off our talk about movies
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Rule 1: Americans don’t like being lectured.
Rule 1 is the only hard and fast rule applicable to all Americans. Think about it. What other generalization can you make that covers the trailer park junkie in rural West Virginia, the inner city gang member dodging bullets in Chicago, smug, liberal, bubble-dwelling Ivy League professors, and richer-than-Croesus captains of industry?
‘Puter can almost hear his three loyal readers crying out, “So what, ‘Puter?”
Here’s what. Professional sports decided to violate Rule 1 and are paying the price.
It started innocently enough. Colin Kaepernick started dating a hard Left, socialist, “activist and radio DJ.” As one might imagine, her politics are a bit to the Left of America’s in general. Kaepernick fell under the seductive spell of politics and pussy (mostly the latter), grew out his hair, and decided to stick it to Whitey T. Mann at his place of employment by refusing to stand during our national anthem.
As with all things political now, a third of the country screamed “YEAH! STIK IT 2 DEM RAYCISS BASTIDS!!!,” a third of the country screamed “BUTT MUH FLAGS!!!,” and a third of the country screamed, “WOOD U ASSHATS LEEV UR POLITIX OUTTA MUH FUTBAL??!?”
Last season, the NFL decided to ride out Kaepernick’s ill-advised tantrum, allowing him to continue his juvenile protest without interference. Kaepernick’s corrosive asshattery spread to several other players across the League, but for the most part, it didn’t really catch on.
His protest didn’t catch on mostly because arguing a League full of rich black people is racist may be the dumbest thing ever uttered by an “activist and radio DJ’s” f*ck buddy, and there’s a lot of fertile ground there.
But Kaepernick’s protest did have an impact, albeit unintended. The NFL, television’s ratings juggernaut, saw its ratings plunge and game attendance drop. A large subset of Americans voted with their remotes for a variety of reasons ranging from anger at Kaepernick’s disrespect for the flag to disgust with the politicization of an apolitical sport.
Americans’ revolt (and revulsion) had been growing for years. Kaepernick was merely the precipitating event. Americans watch sports to *avoid* politics, not to wallow in them. ESPN started the long march to politicizing sports by injecting liberal political tropes into everything. Professional athletes began believing ESPN’s hype (and their mostly false assertions that pro athletes are smart and thoughtful enough to have cogent opinions on anything) and taking political stances including refusing to travel to the White House for presidential recognition if they didn’t like its occupant.
To the point, Americans don’t like being lectured. Americans like being lectured even less in a time, place, or manner inappropriate for such lectures, say, for example, during the national anthem at a professional sporting event. Or by coddled rich children who refuse to respect the office of the president regardless of its occupant. Show up, shut up, shake hands, leave. Is that too much to ask for the millions you make for playing a game? Apparently it is.
Americans really, really don’t like being lectured by rich people or stupid people. We don’t like being lectured about racism by a guy who went to college for free and was paid millions to play a child’s game at the highest level. We don’t like being told by morons who get paid to read cue cards and talk out their asses about children’s games that we’re racist if we don’t hate our country. We don’t think your Harvard degree or ability to put a ball through a hoop gives you special insight into intractable issues facing the country. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Honestly, most Americans want to be left alone. We don’t need a “safe space,” because we know there’s no such thing. We just want a place where we can go and forget about the world and all its problems for a while. Sports afforded America this escapist place. Sports had a special role in America. No longer.
Professional athletes, NFL teams, and ESPN may be entitled to lecture us on the “correct” politics and the “correct” views on racial issues. But Americans aren’t required to listen, and none of them should be surprised when a large chunk of America changes the channel.
Professional athletes, their leagues, and the chattering class that “reports” on them would do well to remember Rule 1.
But they won’t.
If you want to make a social statement by kneeling (or sitting) during the presentation of the colors* and the National Anthem, fine. I’d argue that it’s your right under the Constitution to do so. If you want to get bent out of shape and tweet, post on Facebook, or speak out against it, guess what? Go for it, that’s fine under the Constitution too. And not to recall the old Breck shampoo commercial, but…”and so on, and so on…”
Do I think it’s a bit disrespectful for what the flag means to people? Sure. But in this country, you can be as long as it’s not violent or criminal in some other way.
I know that those doing such acts and supporting such acts believe that it does something to advance the cause but I don’t think it does. I think that we may talk about the act, but I think few are actually talking about the underlying cause and really diving into the core of the issues. I think this happens frequently when athletes and actors speak out on a cause regardless of what it is. It is rare that you see them actually doing something about a cause. Yes, a number have testified before Congress and some actually use their money and time to invest and promote organizations that help address poverty, world hunger, etc. But by and large, these public displays, to me, ring more of “look at me, I support…whatever”
In the specific case of the NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem over the racial divisions in our country, one has to ask, what was done over the last 8 years that we’ve reached this point? Is it wrong to have expected the country’s first black President to have advanced programs and efforts trying to address the racial divisions? If not, did he not care about that issue?
So for all those who are getting bent out of shape over people attacking these “protests” – I’d challenge you to first, show me concretely how this advances the cause they’re promoting, second, address why we’ve gotten here, and third, criticize evenly or at least label yourself as suffering from partisan bias. Because, I would guess, you weren’t big fans of Tim Tebow demonstrating his beliefs on the sideline.
The Gormos gather in the rumpus room and talk about movies
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The Czar did want to comment on the recent Emmys debacle. The news on the recent awards show switched within hours from One of the Most Exciting and Entertaining Ever to Nobody Watched It.
Naturally, say a lot of people on social media: the entire thing was nothing more than a bunch of B- and C-list celebrities crying about how Donald Trump is the new Hitler. Ratings were disastrously low, and there’s a great deal of hand-wringing about what they’re going to do about it.
Like 96% of Americans (no kidding, by the way, about that number), the Czar didn’t watch a second of it. He’s aware that a large number of minutes were spent insulting or humiliating the President, conservatives, religion, and all sorts of things that were intended to alienate the bulk of America who don’t live on the seaboards. But the Czar notes that viewership was absent from the beginning of the program. If the show was alienating viewers, you would expect an initially high viewership that plunged as ordinary folks sneered and switched off the set.
The Czar would like to offer a simpler explanation to the low viewership: people don’t care about television like they used to.
As others have said all over the media, a high number of the show’s winners and nominees are programs that nobody watches. Do you watch Big Little Lies? How about This is Us? Or Atalnta? Interested in RuPaul’s Drag Race? RuPaul won an Emmy for that, the other night.
Don’t misunderstand—the Emmys should not reward programs just because they’re popular. Many great shows were pulled off networks, solely due to low ratings. That’s just how it is: you get 17 years of Two and a Half Men, but not even a full season of Downward Dog. Quality and popularity are not, as you well know, related.
So here it is: do you want to watch an awards show that spends hours talking about programs you don’t know or care about? Evidently not.
Back in the 1970s, when there were three networks and no original cable television, the Emmys had no other recourse but to nominate and reward programs you knew, often quite well. But today, across cable and satellite, there are hundreds of programs to choose from prime time. And thanks to Netflix and Amazon, some of the best television programming out there isn’t even eligible to be nominated. Grand Tour is a quality, entertaining hit…but it’s not a prime-time show as it streams off Amazon Prime. No awards. That show that Mandarin and GorT like, about the Nazis winning World War II? Nothing.
So why on earth would anyone want to watch the Emmys? Prime time or daytime? It’s an award show that’s mired in the 20th Century, trying to celebrate programs that are too small to attract any enthusiasm or emotion from viewers. And if viewers don’t care about the shows, they sure won’t care whether it’s awarded anything.
And therefore, the ratings continue to plunge.
As a final thought, let’s say the 2017 Prime Time Emmys’ producers decided not to use the intentionally polarizing Stephen Colbert as a host, scrapped all the anti-Trump polemics, and just did an old-fashioned “the viewers deserve this” variety show. Czar’s prediction? Equally small ratings. Because that’s how small television has become.
Gormos discuss elites and their affects
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Finishing off the discussion on the political climate and our future
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Operative B doesn’t have too many bad ideas, but this is a doozy. Don’t get Ghettoputer started on freedom of speech, and don’t get GorT going on the technical aspects of this. Actually, that’s probably why B wrote to the Czar on this.
|Oh Fearsome One!
This lowly minion wishes to approach your throne (on this still threadbare carpet) and beg to speak the subject of government regulation—or lack of regulation—on the Internet.
Throughout American history, individuals have formed companies that created products used by “the masses.” Some of those products became so widely used that they became core to the American lifestyle: electric lighting, telephone, and water systems come immediately to mind.
Other products became widely used as well: gasoline and food production come to mind as well.
But communication products—devices and systems that have a direct effect on society and play a part in the political life of America, have always been treated differently.
Since radio, television, and other forms of telephony play a part in spreading information, and since the spread of information comes under the 1st Amendment, companies that are directly responsible for “speech that influences” have come under regulation to ensure fairness (although it doesn’t always work that way).
To regulate electronic forms of information dissemination, the Federal Communications Commission was formed. It has sometimes been influenced in how it regulates influence, but has (for the most part) managed to find a balance between allowing the free exercise of speech while enforcing some rules to keep the speech from becoming too offensive (e.g. the regulations against profanity).
A new form of information dissemination has spread over the past several years via a communication medium that was never considered at the time the FCC was instituted: the Internet. Originally created for military use, and designed to withstand both widespread natural disasters and nuclear war, the Internet has become indispensable as the primary method for information flow. The Internet has the reach and the influence that radio had in then 1930s and TV had in the 1960s.
But there is no regulation on the Internet. The FCC’s attempt at “net neutrality” was based on cost of access, not content.
It is time for the FCC to begin to look at regulating content on the Internet. It is time for the FCC to examine whether companies like Google, Yahoo, Twitter, Facebook, and other “providers” are using their power to decide who has “access” to the internet, and whether that “access” is being affected by those companies—and whether decisions on “access” are based entirely on “content”.
When Google or Facebook, which have become so powerful as to be considered utilities, decide which content they will allow and which they will deny, they enter the realm of “control over political discussion”. And by entering this realm and deciding which information they will—and won’t—disseminate, they can control the political process.
It is time for the FCC to step in and determine how the Internet should be regulated, just as they stepped in to determine how the original Bell Telephone needed to be regulated and how radio and TV were regulated.
Google and Facebook are not public utilities. They are privately owned, but they need to be declared “common carriers” to force them to stop making decisions about who uses their services and how they make their information available.
Does this mean that ISIS may have a free hand on Facebook? Yes… and no. Facebook may not like what ISIS posts, but it should not be in the business of blocking it. It’s the same with neo-Nazis and alt-right extremists. And it is the same with antiFA, BLM, BAMN, and other alt-left extremists. Facebook should remain neutral on content—but is free to contact authorities when it feels that content presents an immediate danger to others.
And it is the same with Facebook and “fake news”: Facebook should not be in the business of deciding which news is “fake” and which news is “real.” It has become a “common carrier”, and needs to stop regulating what is seen on its network.
Yes, it sucks to build a tool that is adopted by thousands, then millions, then hundreds of millions around the world—and then be told that “you have too much influence to be allowed to continue to operate according to your personal agenda.” But that’s where we are today: hundreds of millions of people around the world getting their information “filtered” through the minds of a select few who determine “what’s best” for their subscribers.
The time has come for Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other highly-influential organizations to be told that they need to get out of the “regulating and choosing content” business. They have become too big and too influential, and need to be regulated as “utilities”.
Sometimes there is a place for government. And when it comes to ensuring that all people have the same right to have their political speech be heard, the 1st Amendment must be the guiding principle. In this country, your right to free speech must be protected. And when companies or city governments trample on those rights (are you listening, Berkeley?) it is time for the federal government to step in and restore those rights.
I beg your indulgence for going on so long, and plead for your patience—and ask that you not kick me into the moat for my thoughts.
The Czar utterly disagrees, and not just on libertarian principles, but on basic economic ones as well.
Let’s talk a bit about what Net Neutrality is, and just as integrally, what it isn’t. Like many things produced by the Federal government, its stated purpose is not always aligned as its intended purpose. On the face of it, Net Neutrality is a kind-of guarantee that an internet provider will not offer faster connection speeds to its advertisers, or—more curiously—offer slower service to websites featuring content with which the provider disagrees. This sounds great, and indeed people on both sides of the political spectrum applauded this idea; the Czar opposes it because of the sole arbiter in making that assessment—the Federal government, who does not historically offer good services in these matters.
Here’s the thing: you can’t hide very much on the internet for very long. The whole Net Neutrality thing started up because the telecom giants AT&T and Verizon were terrified that their slow, clunky, telephone dial-up connections would be killed by the faster, sleeker broadband providers like Comcast. Yes, that’s right—it was the dinosaurs complaining about the faster mammals, and what could the government do to help? Over time, the Net Neutrality argument shifted into content, particulary a decade later when Comcast was accused of slowing down user connections to BitTorrent. Comcast’s defense was that BitTorrent’s chatty traffic was killing Comcast’s network performance. The public called upon—guess who—the government to stop this sort of bad behavior. Interestingly, that particular problem was not solved by government but by a cooperative agreement between Comcast and BitTorrent, who did what free, capitalist companies are supposed to do: negotiate with each other and hammer out an agreement.
Too late: government got involed. The FCC decided that what Comcast did was unlawful, despite the subsequently mutual agreement, and forced Comcast to break the agreement and adopt a government-mandated solution which impaired traffic again. Comcast sued, successfully, to get the BitTorrent agreement back in place—but this shows what a great freaking job the government does at handling technology competition.
It was ulimately President Obama who re-framed the Net Neutrality argument by suggesting the internet is a utility and must therefore be regulated like one. And this, the Czar opposes.
The internet is not a utility: the argument that the government provides it as a service falls flat, as well: if you turned off every single piece of government hardware on the internet, it would still exist, independently. All the government did was establish TCP/IP as its routing structure, and the rest of humanity took it from there.
A utility, as the Czar sees it, is a service provision that cannot be readily controlled by the consumer. The Czar cannot call up a different gas company and have his dacha heated by someone else’s gas. He cannot call up his electric company and be connected to someone else’s grid. The Czar’s water comes solely from Lake Michigan, and his sewers go to one and only one treatment plant. The Czar is powerless to change that, unless he forfeits the entire service: we could buy our rent our own tank, put up some windmills, dig a well, and use a private septic tank. But he can’t swap out his provider.
The internet is something he can control, though. If the Czar dislikes Comcast, he can switch to any number of service providers. Some will charge more, some will charge less. Some will offer more features, some will offer less. The Czar can do the same for his television service, now.
The idea that communications is a utility, of course, goes back to the Ma Bell days. Your telephone connection, historically, was absolutely a utility: you had one carrier, and in many places, your community shared the same line. Although this theoretically ended in 1984, it really wasn’t until the late 1990s that you could, in practice, dump your carrier and go with someone else…or dump your landline entirely and go with cellular. Now, you don’t even need a phone: you can route your calls through the internet completely.
What regulation is required? If Operative B elects to go with an all-VOIP service, he doesn’t even pay for a phone call. There’s nothing to regulate, except that he might have trouble making a 911 call. That’s another matter for another day.
Regarding Google and Facebook, no, they’re not utilities, either, as Operative B acklowledges. But they, as private companies, aren’t required to adhere to any free speech rules. If you don’t like their policies, don’t use them. Confucius* (the Czar believes) prefers to use Bing. The Czar himself refuses to use Facebook. These companies are not monopolies, by any means—they simply offer a product that millions of people really like, and they are under no compulsion to restrict or allow speech of any kind. It’s up to them if they want to restrict or allow speech, not Congress. So the Czar suspects Operative B’s proposed regulations would not survive constitutional scrutiny—just as broadcast television no longer restricts content.**
The last thing you would want on social media, or communications access, or any form of free enterprise, is government regulation. If the government was obligated to regulate services and products used by hundreds of millions with the ability to control access to it, it would have done a better job with healthcare insurance. How’s that going?
*For those who came in late, Confucius is the Gormogons’ Œcumenical Volgi.
**It’s true. The major networks curtail sex, profanity, and violence—a smidge—during prime-time hours only because it’s better for ratings, not because the FCC still requires this. The networks believe—correctly—that parents and individuals need to decide for themselves what’s appropriate content. Same for the internet.
The Czar is correct in his previous post in this series, that the skills learned in scouting stick with you. Yes, I can fold my laundry with the best and I know how to iron*. Some merit badges have more lasting memories than others – maybe because of the skills learned, the experience specific to the scout in earning it, or the counselor or environment that was key to achieving it. GorT has stories about all three. Of the 42 merit badges, I’ve earned, I can probably relate stories in these categories to about half of them over 30 years after earning them. Today, I’ll share three.
Lifesaving was one of the hardest merit badges to earn. I vividly recall doing the swim portion of the merit badge at an all day session held at what was then referred to as National Naval Medical Center** in Bethesda, MD. There was a decent sized indoor pool there and our troop had a connection where we could use part of it for a group of scouts earning water-based skills. The leader who was the “victim” in the front- and rear-approach rescue & tow (13b & c) took the role seriously. I was roughly 11 or 12 years old and it is quite daunting to swim out to a flailing 40-some-odd-year old very fit man and try to subdue him and drag him across the pool. While hopefully that situation never presents itself, it is still something I remember well. Also, something you can try on your own if you have a deep enough pool (14a & b) – it’s not as easy as you might think…especially for a boy of that age.
Pioneering is one of GorT’s favorite merit badges. Recently he was asked what kind of summer camp “class” he would teach and GorT responded, “pioneering, although I doubt they’d let me chop down or scavenge enough trees of the right size to build a tower.” GorT completed this merit badge (the lashing sections: 9 & 10) at a local jamboree. A jamboree is a gathering of multiple troops usually with some competitions and sharing. The tower building was a competitive section of the jamboree and our troop came in second place. It was awesome to work with a bunch of other guys constructively and competitively. No, I’m not building towers and trestles with logs and rope, but I can tie a whole bunch of knots*** which has come in handy for packing, sailing, and other things around the house.
Orienteering is a skill falling by the wayside but hopefully one that won’t be forgotten. The main thrust is to educate scouts on how to read a map and use a compass. Trekking through woods using a topo map and a compass is a cool experience – one that teaches you some patience and awareness of the world around you. For requirement 8, GorT set up a course that took scouts to letters on the ground. There were false letters scattered about the area. Scouts that followed the directions would spell out one of 3-4 short words depending on which set of directions they used.
* I was a groomsman in a college friends’ wedding (knew both bride & groom) and was staying the night before the rehearsal at the bride’s mother’s house with 2 other groomsmen. I asked the MotB if I could borrow an iron as my shirt was wrinkled from traveling. She was taken aback. Then she saw the net result and asked how I learned it and if I could do her ironing.
** Now known as Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Naval Support Activity Bethesda.
*** “The rabbit hops out of the hole, goes around the tree, and then back down the hole” – simple and effective
GorT sent us a memo last week stipulating that he was going to do a series on scouting, particularly on merit badges. The Czar serves officially as a “committee member at large” for his boys’ scout troop, although everyone refers to him as a “consultant.” Like Liam Neeson in Taken, the Czar is consulted on all manners of special training: firecraft, knots, navigation, wilderness survival, and so on. He is, in fact, an official merit badge counsellor for various related merit badges, and unofficially guides the many scouts in Muscovy’s troop in all sorts of other badges.Further, the Czar notes with joy that GorT’s explanations of scouting’s organizational structure, ranking system, and so on are spot on. As an update, the Eagle rank currently requires the scout achieve a total of 21 merit badges, with the following being mandatory:
If you’re interested in the requirements for each—you may be shocked at the level of difficulty—these are widely available online.
Scouting isn’t all about merit badges, of course—to be promoted from rank to rank, there are all sorts of physical activities to master, documented community service hours to provide, primitive camping in all weather and seasons to perform, and a lot of adventure-type events to do. As GorT notes, each troop is different from the others, and the amount parents become involved and resources are available will dramatically affect the scout’s experiences: in our troop, scouts also learn climbing, survival, archery (typically), flag care, construction-related skills, and so on. Other troops do different things, but troops often share resources and get along great.
Back to the merit badges. Most adults think of these from the context of Cub Scouts or Brownies. Build a bird house kit, and you’re now a Construction Expert! Draw a map, and you’re a World Traveller! Make a hot dog, and you’re a Chef!
Boy Scouts merit badges are often very, very difficult. Parents cannot help, except to provide distant guidance or to coordinate getting the scout from point to point. Merit badge counselors are individuals who are experts in a particular avenue, and review each and every requirement with the scout to ensure there is fundamental understanding of the concepts. There’s no skating by or coasting through: it can take months or even a year to earn a single badge.
Take the Personal Managment one. It’s practically an “adulting” course: investing, understanding the different types of loans, using a credit card correctly, budgeting, writing business plans, knowing how the stock market works and what all the terms mean, and so on. Family Life sounds like a blowoff, but in fact teaches the boys how to do household tasks. It’s not listed explicitly, but the boys are taught to vacuum correctly, wash dishes, do laundry, and anything else mom wants out of for 90+ days. The counselors all know that “brushing teeth,” “combing hair,” and so on, do not meet the requirements for five or more chores. Chores also cannot be season or occasional: no lawn mowing or leaf raking—they have to be daily or weekly, so that by the end of 90 days, the scout actually knows how to do this stuff.
Does it stick? So far so good, but the Czar will defer to the Mandarin—Mandy learned how to fold laundry earning this merit badge, and damn if he doesn’t fold a shirt into a perfect square in one freaking move every single time, decades later. We assume GorT can do it, too.
Merit badges are probably the one area the Czar plays defense on harder than anything. For all the ribbing or ignorant comments people give us about Boy Scouts, by far the most pervasive one is on the difficulty level of merit badges. Yes, there are some easy ones (Indian Lore), and some frankly weird ones (Nuclear Science), but the Czar is happy to challenge any homemade AR-15-purchasing badass with just-out-of-the-box Leupold scope to meet or beat the requirements for the Rifle Shooting or “Riflery” badge the way the scouts do it—a cold .22 LR rifle with unzeroed iron sights, getting three holes in a quarter-size group five times at 50 feet. Bear in mind, at that distance, the front sight completely covers the entire target, so you have to shoot almost instinctively. And that’s just one requirement in that badge.
Or take a look at Personal Fitness, which gives you 12 weeks to show progress, each week, in a variety of physical fitness challenges. Can you run a mile? Maybe you can walk a mile, but you then need to improve your time each week for 12 weeks. If you fail to do so one week, you run it again that week until you exceed. Ditto for push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, and so on: after 12 weeks of this, we saw kids unable to do a couple sit-ups spanking out 70 or more. Everyone passed, to give you an idea of how focused this was. The Czar had his doubts, looking at some of these muffins, but it’s amazing to watch a doughy kid, after 12 weeks, suddenly execute military-style pull-ups one after the other.
Well, we could go on and on, but the point is that the merit badge program is astonishingly good. If all you do is read the list of the 134-or-so names, you might raise an eyebrow. But read the requirements. Game Design? Actually, it’s about psychological game theory, not video games. Canoeing? You can eventually do a high-speed obstacle course. Search and Rescue? You learn UTM, dividing geographical areas into search sectors, managing SAR teams, and more.
It’s tough stuff. But it’s even more impressive to see an 11-year-old perform dead reckoning with a handheld compass and a blank map two weeks after not knowing where North was.
Part 1 of a discussion around the political climate in the country and where we’re heading
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A week or so ago, GorT came across his old merit badge sash from when he was a boy scout*. Since then I have been mulling over doing a series of posts on Scouting in general and some of the merit badges based on in-person and Twitter conversations.
First, a few thoughts and one opinion on Scouting:
To orient those unfamiliar, boys enter Boy Scouts at the rank of “Scout” and progress through six ranks: Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, and Eagle. A number of your Gormogons are involved in scouting – GorT earned Eagle and a number of additional merit badges. When I was a scout, we had “belt loop skills” to earn as well – there was a total of 12 available and I think 8 were required. Over the years, the requirements for Eagle have been relatively stable at 21 merit badges (12 required), a service project, and other scouting knowledge and skills.
In subsequent posts, GorT will talk about various aspects of his scouting experience and merit badges. Some of the other Gormogons might jump in with their views.
* Of course with the recent packing for college, I can’t find it right now, but I’ll add a picture later
Iceland’s “cure” for Down Syndrome is aborting babies who test postive for the syndrome. One presumes Iceland can cure cancer and the common cold exactly the same way.
The folks who need to find euphemisms for killing babies prior to birth* have a different take on this. They say that abortion of Down Syndrome babies has had a positive effect on reducing the costs of health support systems, stress on parents, and since Down Syndrome is incurable—under the assumption it’s some fundamental disease and not a defect—it’s ultimately to the benefit of society overall.
This is, of course, an argument for eugenics. Just about everybody cringes at that term, but the idea of stopping lifelong problems before birth or before progenation is basically that. Margaret Sanger’s whole idea of elective abortion was, in her word, eugenic. Of course, Sanger advocated it for all sorts of lifelong problems, particularly as a solution for black poverty.
Whether you call it eugenics or not, the idea here is pretty simple: by terminating the lives of Down Syndrome children, you’re stopping it cold.
Except, you’re not: this idea only works if you’re preventing the chance of a disease or disorder from spreading, either via contagion or propagation. Down Syndrome, obviously, isn’t contagious. So that leaves propagation: by exterminating Down Syndrome kids prior to adolescence, you eliminate any risk of them having Down Syndrome kids of their own.
For example, the theory goes that if a genetic defect at birth causes a form of painful blindness as an adult, you can eliminate—in only a generation or two—that defect by aborting or sterilizing those who carry the gene. That theory, by the way, is eugenics. And since Iceland has claimed success in dramatic reduction of Down Syndrome children within one or two generations, you don’t need to know Icelandic to know what to call that.
Here’s where this all falls apart: Down Syndrome is not a genetic defect on its own; it’s a chromosomal outcome. If you want to prevent Down Syndrome from appearing, you need to abort all the siblings, or even the parents, to prevent their children, or grandchildren, or great-grandchildren from giving birth to Down Syndromatic kids.
Approximately 50% of Down Syndrome women are infertile; the percentage of infertile males is unknown, although it’s not 100%. Indeed, there’s no solid research done on whether a Down Syndrome parent, or pair of parents, produce kids with Down Syndrome. In any case, the numbers of Down Syndrome adults who have children is exceedingly small. In fact, there’s no practical number there at all. Maybe that makes the math easier for some folks; for the Czar, it makes it much tougher.
So what Iceland is doing—when you read the above two paragraphs—is exterminating a group of people for no proven medical or sociological benefit. They just don’t want them around. There’s a word for that in Icelandic: þjóðarmorð. In English, it’s called genocide.
Even if you were one of the last few people who believe in the absolutism of eugenics, you should be properly horrified by what Iceland is doing. There is no theory of eugenics, whether basic health prevention measure or outright master race supremacy, that defends the wholesale abortion of children with Down Syndrome.
And if it does, why not abort all kids whose families have a history of cancer? Or Alzheimer’s? Or diabetes?
And if it’s to eliminate the societal problems and challenges for children and their families, why not extend that logic to homosexuality? It’s not a genetic disorder, either, and those born “hard-wired” in this state certainly face challenges and obstacles in life, as do their families. Actually, this is also true for those born of non-Icelandic races, too.
The point, which you have clearly seen hammered home by now, is that you don’t have to twist or bend Iceland’s Down Syndrome announcement to make it synomymous with genocide. It’s barely a nudge to the side. The only way to deny the logical extension is to close your eyes and pretend it isn’t there.
And that should scare the hell out of everybody.
Iceland should be ashamed of this, and they have a choice: they can either regret this, the way Germany views its genocide, or deny it the way Turkey does. The Czar bets they choose the latter not just because it’s better for tourism, but by eliminating any chance of a native Icelander meeting someone with Down Syndrome, they’ll never observe that people with Down Syndrome aren’t a whole lot different than those without it. Icelanders may never realize that by trying to make the
Jewish Down Syndrome problem go away, they became the problem.
*Without all these euphemisms, these folks are forced to confront what they actually do to human lives. Most normal people, when abortion is explained to them simply and clearly, start to lean pro-life really fast. The Czar does not use phrases like pro-choice for that reason, since these euphemisms deliberately conceal the truth.
The following essay is a guest post from JAB, of the Double-Wide. We remind our readers that you are welcome to submit your thoughts either as an email or as a complete essay.
Since the Trailer-Park-at-the-Edge-of-Town is a bit southwest of the “Zone of Totality,” our humble domicile did not experience a complete, total 100% solar eclipse Monday afternoon, but it was close enough for me. Pretty cool to watch (through the goofy glasses natch!), and it was as a demonstration of nature’s power, especially when the birds stopped chirping in the midday darkness. Many multitudes gathered along the path of the “Zone of Totality” in places like Hopkinsville, KY and Carbondale, IL. So determined to get that bona fide 100% eclipse were the masses, that I know of farmers along the route who rented out pastures for pop-up camp sites. I was in the Atlanta airport Tuesday, and I lost count of the number of times I heard folks say that they “just flew in for the eclipse.” But even though most of us did not see maximum eclipse, events of the last couple weeks make it feel like we are all living in a “Zone of Totality.” Please permit me to elaborate and bloviate.
After weeks of publicity, with local permits secured thanks to the assistance of the ACLU (which I bet they just hated), a couple hundred morons with nothing better to do on a Friday night, marched around a statue of Robert E. Lee wearing Nazi garb and bearing tiki-torches. But that was about all that happened. The first amendment applies even to idiots venerating losers, right? Out of a nation of 300 million or so, they managed to gather only about a couple hundred “jungend-mit-tiki.” I call that pretty encouraging. As an aside, I do wonder how many of those “jungend-mit-tiki” might be the grandsons or great-grandsons of men who fought to eradicate the Nazi’s (actual, not the tiki-kind) in WWII? If Granddaddy, he of the Greatest Generation, is still around and kicking, here’s hoping he might lay a little education on his ignorant descendant(s).
But then came Saturday, when well-intentioned citizenry came out in great numbers to voice their disapproval of the “jungend-mit-tiki.” That was their right. However, I hope I can be forgiven for wondering why didn’t they simply ignore the moronic neo-Nazi’s? Well-intentioned though most of them were, they ignored the fact that the “jungend-mit-tiki” were seeking publicity. Which they were given in spades, because in addition to the well-intentioned majority, there was a substantial minority of anarcho-communist-black bloc members armed with staves and urine-filled balloons [what low-life does that???]. But in the “Zone of Totality,” there can be no recognition that a couple hundred “jungend-mit-tiki,” however ignorant, ridiculous and offensive, as a group poses no threat to the nation as a whole, or even to the groups (Jews, non-whites) they despise. There can be no room for disagreeable or offensive speech; instead it is labelled “hate speech” and must be purged from the public, by any means necessary according to the anarcho-communist-black bloc types. In the ZOT, speech is equated with actual violence, the better to justify its suppression, and all those who fail to sufficiently denounce such speech are labelled “racist.” The ZOT requires absolute allegiance to “tolerance” of everything, except intolerance, which is, of course, must not be tolerated.
Which brings us to last Saturday on Boston Common, where thousands showed up to protest a “free speech” event organized by a few dozen libertarians under the name “Boston Free Speech Coalition.” No one knows what was said or even if there were speeches, however, because the police prevented journalists from approaching the pavilion and loudspeakers were not allowed. Check out some of the video and you’ll see anarcho-communist-black bloc members, some with their faces masked, commit acts that ought to bring legal charges. One grabbed an American flag from a middle-aged woman, dragging her along the ground in the process. Punches were thrown. The cops had to escort and extract those who had tried to speak for their safety as mobs. In the ZOT, no one learned in kindergarten that “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you.” Now that’s intolerable.
In the “Zone of Totality” a new spasm of iconoclasm has taken hold. Medieval monastics debated whether venerating religious icons was akin to idolatry, and the Protestant reformation saw the destruction of religious art, statuary and altarpieces, which were viewed as violating the commandment against the making of graven images. But today’s “idol-breakers” judge images of our nation’s historical figures through the lens of modern mores and morals, and only one dimension of character or actions counts. Thomas Jefferson owned slaves? Off with his head…or at least pull down his statue. George Washington owned slaves? Ignore the anti-slavery sentiments expressed so eloquently in his will…ignore his role in founding our nation…ignore his wisdom and nobility in refusing hereditary office, and indeed his return to private life after two terms as president. Slaveowner. Racist. Off with his head…or at least pull down his statue. Today’s “idol-breakers” might want to consider that statues of those they venerate today might not stand up to scrutiny should another dimension of character or actions come into vogue in the future. Imagine if serial adultery were judged to be such a moral failing that it obliterates all other values and contributions. Might some future “idol-breakers” then train their disgust on statues of Martin Luther King, Jr.?
You know who else destroyed and suppressed art that failed to support their views? The Nazi’s (actual, not the tiki-kind). They burned books and banned ”degenerate art” (Entartete Kunst), mostly expressionist and modernist works that were deemed insufficiently Aryan. You can look it up. More recently, we’ve seen ISIS destroy centuries-old Greco-Roman works in Palmyra because they stood as silent proof that there was a signifiant and glorious civilization that came before Islam and most definitely did not conform to their Islamo-fascist notions. Seems to me that if something was/is practiced by both ISIS and Nazi’s (actual, not the tiki-kind), it might be a practice best avoided.
But don’t tell that to Bill de Blasio, who announced a “review” of a statue erected to commemorate Columbus’ voyage across the ocean-blue, way back in 1492. In today’s “Zone of Totality,” the fellow who figured out that you could sail waaaay far west into the Atlantic Ocean, that guy is now the personification of evil. He and those who followed from Europe to the Americas are guilty of subjugating, raping, exterminating the native inhabitants. I’d like to stipulate that no reasonably knowledgable person denies that there was a great deal of brutality and that European diseases decimated natives who lacked any immunity to small pox, for example, but the Europeans did not have a monopoly on violence and brutality. Anybody know about how the Aztec’s treated their prisoners-of-war? Can you say “Tower of Skulls”? And they didn’t just victimize rival warriors either. I suppose that the lefty-correct interpretation is that there were no barriers to entry for cis-gendered women in the Aztec “Tower of Skulls.”
Care to play a little thought experiment? If the Aztecs, rather than Columbus, had figured out how to cross the Atlantic, where in Europe would they have constructed a “Tower of Skulls”? Amsterdam, perhaps? France? If Columbus personifies the evils of colonialism, white power, slavery, rape,
total planetary destruction, destruction of “peaceful” native civilizations, would our lefty ruling class prefer that the Aztecs had “won”? Maybe then, instead of a statue of Columbus, we would have a “Tower of Skulls” in….San Francisco or NYC?
Yours from the Doublewide, JAB
Join Doc and some other Gormos as we discuss healthcare in the United States
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Professor Mondo has a very nice write up about the solar eclipse, and of course the Czar had prepared you for it a long time ago.
The Czar took the family out to unscenic Rockwood, Illinois, under the pretense that it was as far from the crowds as possible and still experience totality. Even so, there were still about 100 people gathered around the town’s tiny post office and church to watch the event. Fortunately, 90% of the country missed it due to the cloudy weather, but Rockwood had extremely clear skies, so now the Czar can rub it in.
As we arrived, the sun was already 50% eclipsed. You wouldn’t know this without some solar filter over your eyes—the sun was brilliant in the sky, and you could readily sunburn under it. Even when the sun was about 99% eclipsed—and looked like a skinny orange fingernail clipping through filters—the ground conditions were bright and sunny. The only real thing a trained eye would notice was that shadows on the ground were fuzzy and indistinct—and you could see the shadows were tracing out crude, curved shapes of the eclipse overhead. Meanwhile, life played on below as if nothing was different.
Then, the sky turned a strange violet color, and everything on the ground had a slight patina to it. At once, you could sense it was slightly darker and getting visibly so as the seconds ticked by. Without warning, the entire area was plunged into night as if someone tripped a switch. Street lights came on, cars put on their headlights, stars instantly appear, crickets and toads fired up and cicadas and birds went silent. “Oh my God,” screamed a woman in the distance, and the sun was replaced by a jet black orb, hovering in the sky, surrounded by a curling halo of fire. Yes, you could easily stare at it, like some enormous black hole mere thousands of feet away. No photograph can do this justice—the entire sky is dominated by a massive, unblinking black pupil with an iris of yellow fire.
A lazy heron flapped her way back to her roost, annoyed that somehow the entire day slipped away on her. At every horizon, light—as if sunrise was happening in every direction at once. And, stubbornly, the moon hung in the sky like a black marble.
Then, a piercing diamond of light appeared on the moon. Everyone looked away, one hopes, and the sky immediately brightened again, rapidly turning to what seemed full brightness. And then it was over, and everyone jumped into their cars for the 9-hour traffic delay back to Chicago.
The eclipse impressed people of all ages. Here’s a smattering of reviews:
“Hella tight af!”— Dom, age 5
“Wizard!”— Sam, age 8
“Dank!”—Brycen, age 11
“Sick!”—Jayden, age 16
“Dope!”—Hunter, age 18
“Wicked!”—Phaeton, age 21
“Sweeeet!”— Olivia, age 24
“Killer!”—Sophia, age 27
“Phat!”—Madison, age 31
“Gnarly!”— Lysander, age 33
“Boss!”—Dougray, age 35
“Bitchin’!”—Jake, age 37
“Rad!”—Brad, age 41
“Tubular!”—Lisa, age 45
“Awesome!”—Dennis, age 50
“Slick!”—Bill, age 57
“Rockin’!”—Tony, age 62
“Far out!”—Moonbeam, age 68
“Groovy!”—Ned, age 72
“Keen!”—Angela, age 75
“Cool!”—Phil, age 78
“Hip!”—Thomas, age 81
“Peachy!”—Jeremiah, age 85
“Jive!”—Dino, age 88
“Jumping!”—Doreen, age 91
“Swell!”—Agnes, age 95
It’s been a while since GorT has dived into the mailbag and this time, I drew two out of the bag.
The first one comes from Dr. (KN)J:
O most exalted robotitude: first of all, my apologies for my silence of late. It has been far too long since I last left any evidence of dropping by the Castle. Real life, you know, has a way of intruding on things…
At any rate, I did want to offer a modest corrective to your take on Mr. Damore’s now-infamous memo. Having spent my adult life in STEM academia and IT, I agree with the vast majority of what you had to say, especially about Mr. Damore’s (apparent) naive idea that his approach was likely to either end well for him or be helpful for Google. However, I would like to point out that he didn’t actually say that “biological differences hinder women from being good developers” – that is, at most, an implicit inference from what he did say. He did, at one point, say that biology affects “preferences and abilities” but all of his examples were pointed toward the (valid, in my experience) differences in preferences between men and women. Had he asked me for advice beforehand, I would have suggested to him (in addition to suggesting that he not take this approach at all) that he remove “and abilities” from that line, since it didn’t affect his subsequent argument at all. The only example he gave subsequently that could be argued to be an ability (or disability) is his reference to neuroticism, which, in the form in which it exists in the scientific literature, could also be characterized as a preference (preferring a low-stress vs. high-stress environment). I would also say that anyone who thinks that being neurotic is an obstruction to being a successful programmer must not have met many programmers. It may, however, be somewhat detrimental to success in software development as currently practiced in large corporate environments.Having taught numerous female mathematics students and raised two daughters currently working in STEM, I just don’t see any differences in native abilities between men and women. I do, however, see significant differences (at the population level, not the individual level) in preferences. This is also consonant with what I know of the scientific literature on the subject. Preferences do, however, affect which skills one is willing to work to acquire, and that seems to begin to play out, certainly by college (and possibly quite a bit earlier), in the overall low representation of women in computer science (and, to a lesser extent, engineering in general). This will inevitably affect the gender makeup of the population from which Google is hiring. I would point out, though, that mathematics undergraduates are currently nearly 50/50 (though most of the female majors are intending secondary math teachers, so that statistic is somewhat misleading), while biology and veterinary science are overwhelmingly female, so it appears not to be STEM as such, but very specific to CS/engineering. In fact, one way in which Google could increase the gender diversity of their applicant pool is to recruit more heavily from the biological sciences (ironically, Mr. Damore himself is trained in biology, so I’m surprised that this seems not to have occurred to him).
Sorry to be so pedantic about this, but having read the memo fairly early on, and then seen it described in the media as an “anti-diversity” (which it was not) “screed” (which it was not) just put a burr under my saddle. I would really, really like for arguments such as this to be engaged for what they really are, and not caricatured in any way. For the most part, you did exactly that, except for the one point that inspired this response.
Three final points:1. The other recommendations I would have given Mr. Damore are that he make explicit that none of what he was discussing had anything to do with the women who currently work for Google – it is really about how to attract more women who currently do not work for Google into the applicant pool. All indications that I have seen are that Google (and, indeed, most IT companies) have workforce demographics that are very similar to those of their applicant pools. I would also have suggested that he very clearly separate his suggestions for improving diversity from his echo-chamber complaints – it seems to me that those were conflated, much to the detriment of the concomitant discourse.
2. The best thing I’ve read on the subject so far (at least in terms of resonating with my experience) is Megan McArdle’s piece in Bloomberg View ( https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-08-09/as-a-woman-in-tech-i-realized-these-are-not-my-people ). The TL;DR on this one is that her experience led her to believe that the sexism that does exist in the tech world is the result, not the cause of it being a statistically male-dominated field.
3. Any actual engagement of this topic (it seems to me) must take into account the (surprising) facts that female participation in IT in the US has actually declined over the last couple of decades (in the face of a huge push to the contrary), and that a number of developing countries in which females DO face enormous hurdles to education and entry into IT, actually have higher female IT participation rates than we do. Something is clearly going on here besides stereotyping and bias. Here, I recommend Scott Alexander’s essay on the subject ( http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/08/07/contra-grant-on-exaggerated-differences/ ).
As the father of two extremely talented women who are working in STEM, I have an enormous interest in making sure that they face no arbitrary barriers to flourishing in their fields of interest. As the grandfather of a precocious 5-year-old boy who seems destined for STEM as well, I have an enormous interest in making sure that the same is true for him.
Sorry for the length of the response – as the saying goes, “I didn’t have time to make it shorter..
All the best,
Royal Mathematician to the Gormogons
All good points and some great references for further reading. I appreciate the information!
Dear Mr. Robot Man,
Thank you for the recent post on the Google memo. I think that you brought up some good points and I definitely appreciate your points from your own experience. I really liked the part about teachers being 75% women and how companies should hire based on ability, period. That would be great and it should be a focus for colleges, too (were you all the ones to talk about how many minority folks do poorly because they were accepted above their level?).
I think that you may have missed some points about the Google memo at the time you authored your post. Apparently the guy who wrote it posted it only to a small group of people at Google and sent it to their HR department. It is said that someone else leaked it to the whole company. Also, in the memo he said that women were less likely to seek the field and less likely to be on the extreme end of ability based on population trends, not that they were unable to do the work or should be barred from doing so. That’s my take on later articles that emerged during the week.
Thanks for all that you all do at the site. Do you all plan on having your podcasts up on iTunes?
Operative J S
Yes, the details of how the memo was released was not quite clear when I first wrote the piece. And YES, the Gormogon podcast is on iTunes’ podcasts – tune in for some Gormo-goodness.
The Gormogons finish off our episode on grilling and smoking food.
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The Mandarin, ‘Puter, and GorT spent some time last night sitting along the Castle moat talking about the current events with regards to the events in Charlottesville, Nazis, White Supremacists, AntiFA, and that whole mess. A passing mention was made about the current push against Confederate statues. On GorT’s drive into work this morning, I did some thinking and had a few thoughts on that aspect.
Liberals can be counted on, if for nothing else, than to be consistently inconsistent. One of the defining characteristics that many liberals hold is that man (the species) is innately good. So to cut to the chase, why do they advocate the ripping down of statues of people that, according to said belief, were innately good but lived in a time and participated in the owning of slaves. If it is that one sin – and it is abhorrent and a permanent stain on this country’s history – that should warrant the removal of any statue then the question becomes how far should we go? The specific ownership of slaves is complicated – until 1859, Grant managed his father-in-law’s farm which used slaves. It is unclear if Robert E. Lee actually owned any slaves as he too managed his father-in-law’s three estates which used slaves but he never inherited these slaves and only continued their servitude through his role as executor of his father-in-law’s will. If we rewind history a bit more, we have Presidents Washington and Jefferson who both had slaves on their properties and as Al Sharpton has suggested, that means the end of the Washington and Jefferson monuments in DC as well as many other statues and memorials around the country. While we’re at it, throw in any of the following presidents: Madison, Monroe, Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler, Polk, Taylor, and Johnson*. So any school named after one of them or monument or statue needs to be on a list of things to change or remove. All the while, we’ll wash away parts of the story of the evil of slavery in this country while ignoring any and all good that these people did.
While I’m not going to dive into this much, there is a solid argument to be made that the Civil War wasn’t over slavery so those arguing to tear down statues of people who “fought for slavery” in essence attempting to provide an “out” for Washington, Jefferson, etc. as they didn’t “fight” for slavery in the Civil War. I believe that it was largely over the 10th amendment and federal vs. state rights – something that has been long lost. Slavery just was the key issue being pushed down from the federal government to the states and, like today, there was probably a lack of good dialog over the issue and the southern states were going to be significantly impacted. And it is a mistake to conflate slavery with racism and white supremacy. There were many slave owners who openly condemned and fought against white supremacy movements in the mid-1800s. And don’t just look at the south for these issues – the largest race riot in the United States took place in 1863 in New York City between lower-income, mostly Irish immigrants and free slaves over the draft and competition for work.
I don’t think we should have statues celebrating these folks specifically for slavery and fighting to maintain slaves but at the same time without applying some critical thinking, we will be left with the “group think” results that give us situations like Charlottesville.
‘Puter’s been doing some thinking and far too much drinking. ‘Puter was on vacation last week. Don’t judge him. Of course, ‘Puter’s doctor’s probably not going to be too pleased when ‘Puter goes to see her next week, but that’s for another post.
So there ‘Puter was, minding his own business at his undisclosed Delmarva palatial beach manse, sucking down Lavoris and Leinenkugel shandies, and macking hard on Mrs. ‘Puter, as one does on vacation.* ‘Puter happened to hear his oldest son, Laptop, ranting like a communist on crack about how Nazis had invaded central Virginia. Naturally, any information coming from Laptop is suspect especially since he’s now into his seventh year of Jesuit education.
Naturally ‘Puter checked up on Laptop to make sure he hadn’t swallowed his tongue from apoplexy and spite. Laptop hadn’t, so ‘Puter checked his Twitter feed.
Holy sweet baby Jeebus in the manger, what a sh*tshow of epic proportions. Near as ‘Puter could make out from the garbled nature of his feed, Nazis, Fascists, Fascist Nazis, Nazi Fascists, Fascist Anti-Nazis, Nazi Anti-Fascists, local cops, state cops, National Guardsmen, a poorly maintained helicopter, the governor, the mayor, the junior mayor, and Dodge Challenger brand image had all simultaneously shat the bed.
‘Puter dutifully ignored the First Annual Charlottesville Fiesta de Mierda for the remainder of his vacation lest the delicate and ladylike Mrs. ‘Puter repeatedly nut punch him. Again. ‘Puter managed to catch up on the facts and the uproar upon his return to scenic Upstate New York, Land That Hope ForgotTM.
So ‘Puter was on Twitter at lunch today, as he is wont to do, and Dave (@nochiefs) said, “Hey, ‘Puter. You really ought to write that crap you pass off as wisdom up.” So here we are.
Behold, ‘Puter’s Epicly Awesome and Totally Correct Takeaways on Charlottesville:
‘Puter’s had a bit of fun with his characterization of this past weekend’s events, but here’s the real takeaway. It is dangerous to excuse or coddle fringe groups, no matter how small. And people on both the Right and the Left are doing just that.
There’s plenty of blame to go around for how much things are screwed up right now. Put your own house in order before you bravely go flame-war the other side’s trolls on Twitter.
Hugs and kisses,
* ‘Puter’s undisclosed palatial Delmarva beach manse is actually ‘Puter’s parents’ beach house, but ‘Puter likes to pretend it’s his. After all, who wouldn’t want their child who was as awesome and super-cool as ‘Puter to inherit the beach house? Certainly not Mom and Dad ‘Puter. Sure, ‘Puter’s three siblings might be a tad miffed, but c’mon. ‘Puter’s frikkin’ awesome.
Join a few of the Gormogons as we discuss grilling and smoking food and techniques
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GorT is back from vacation and ready to take on a few things that took place while he was tanning his 8-foot titanium robot casing. Given that it is a topic I have discussed before and that it is near and dear to me since I’m in the field, let’s tackle the “Google Anti-diversity memo”. There are a variety of aspects to this, so if you think, as a conservative, I’m going to totally back the no-fired author, you’re wrong….read on. Warning, you might want to get your coffee now because I’ve been giving this some thought…I did have a 4-hour plane ride.
First, let’s tackle the authoring of the memo – the software engineer who wrote it is like many early-career developers that I’ve worked with: they don’t have a good sense of how companies run, why certain policies are in place, and how to properly address certain issues. Instead of working with Google’s HR department and his direct management chain, he decided to write a misguided screed that is going to leave him in a tough place professionally. While I don’t ascribe to his beliefs that biological differences hinder women from being good developers, there are aspects to his complaints – specifically around preferential treatment to certain groups of people – that are worth exploring.
GorT has worked with, for, and managed female developers. The memo’s author is wrong, I believe, in stating that biologically, women wouldn’t make good developers. I know plenty of males who aren’t or wouldn’t be good developers. Years ago when I worked for IBM, they were experimenting with hiring creative types – music and art majors out of college and trying to train them to program in the belief that software development is a creative process (it is) and that more creative minds like artists and musicians will be more adept at it (doubtful if not an outright failure). Anyway, two of the best managers GorT has ever had in his career are women. GorT has had top notch women developers and ones who were average. I will state, that in my career, I’ve only had one female developer who was sub-par to the point that I had to address it. And it didn’t go well. I’ve had my share of good and bad male managers and employees. I’ve had to fire some and hire many. I strive to evaluate everyone – from the time I read their resume through 1-on-1 reviews, it is all about what that person has done, how they’ve done it, and the potential they demonstrate. It isn’t about race, religion, gender, sexual-orientation, or whatever category someone wants to throw around. It is how well they can do the job – because that’s what matters.
And this is where the discussion gets difficult. The current focus by the media and others on diversity within certain businesses will likely continue to create situations like this and it will damage individuals and companies while failing to address the real issues. Measuring “diversity” at the employment end of timeline and thinking that the companies are the ones to blame is as misguided as the author who wrote this screed. The issues are complex but let me lay out a few of my thoughts:
Finally, I understand measuring these type of demographic numbers since you can’t manage or affect change on something that isn’t measured. Having said that, the slippery slope is that people focus on the numbers and not the issues and broader pictures. While not a complete barometer, one could argue that the demographics of Engineering and Computer Science graduates should inform us as to the desires of the population seeking those types of jobs. While the numbers vary a little, recent reports put women at about 20-25% of the degree graduates. One will note that in the tech fields at Google, they are self-reporting around 20% women. My division of software developers is slightly higher at 22% – all but one of the women have an Engineering or Computer Science degree – the one remaining, who is largely self-taught and highly motivated and REALLY good, is a history major who taught for a while and used lots of technology in her lesson plans. And we should honestly discuss what the goals are for measuring these numbers – while the US population has slightly more than 50% women, should companies aim to have slightly more than 50% women? Consider that only 47% of the workforce are women. Shouldn’t the measure be against qualified candidates for the job? Guess what happens when you do that? The problem shifts to our education system. And many on the left side of the political spectrum don’t want that area to get focus because it won’t be pretty. It will expose the lack of progress in teaching, the problems that – in a field where, as of the 2011-12 school year, over 75% of the teachers are female, we are failing to prepare enough women to get more than 20-25% degrees in Computer Science.
The other part of this slippery slope is the compensation. Let me be clear: no category (race, gender, etc.) should be a factor in determining compensation – merit, tenure, skills, market demand, etc. are all viable factors. And this is where it gets really hard. Remember that one woman who I spoke of early on who wasn’t a good performer? I had to collect and track performance information, including conversations that were then agreed to between us (me as her manager) in order to make sure that her performance rating and subsequent removal from a program was based on performance and not her gender or minority status. We need to get beyond attacking people for implicit biases when they might not exist and evidence shows otherwise. I have two daughters and I’d be the first to defend saying that they can do anything they put the minds and efforts against and should be compensated just like anyone else.
Imagine, however, that we pick another private industry to examine outside of the likes of the high tech companies of Facebook, Google, Uber, Microsoft. What about professional sports? Should professional leagues match the country’s demographics as far as race, gender, sexual-orientation, etc. ? Many would argue, correctly, that it is based on the best athlete for a position: point-guard, quarterback, goalie, defenseman, second baseman, etc. So isn’t the corollary that in industry, the best skilled person should get the job?
So here is your takeaways:
Are you fatigued? Really, are you just exhausted with the news?
The Czar is, and he realized some time ago that you could take two weeks off, with no contact with the outside world, come back, and find that none of the headlines have changed.
The Washington Post could have a standing headline every single day of its week: “Russia Investigation Tightening Around Trump.” That whole story is like watching a lawn grow, except that a lawn eventually does.
The media’s obsession with finding every flaw in Donald Trump is hardly the extent of it. Aren’t you just exhausted watching people discuss immigration? So few people understand the insides and outsides of the immigration issue, and sadly it’s hard to hear them talking over the ignorami shouting all the time. And what’s stupid is that if you subtract the politicians, journalists, lobbyists, and elites from the discussion, you’re left with the American people…who are pretty clear what reforms they want. And they’re pretty good, bipartisan ideas.
Or health insurance. Dr. J. found a social media posting today in which a person (presumably a liberal) celebrated the State of Oregon’s ability to pass its own health insurance bill…something the United States couldn’t do. Obviously lost on the poster was that state-run health insurance is what conservatives have been asking for. That’s how it’s supposed to work, ding-dong! It’s exhausting trying to explain this stuff. It’s also fatiguing to hear that Republican senators have no stomach to really repeal and reform the existing disastrous law—although one of the Czar’s personal gripes is that the GOP politicians aren’t explaining why they keep voting against a replacement. Many of them have excellent reasons; instead, we just hear they’re getting nothing done.
Tiresome, tiresome, tiresome. The glacial advance of the news is not a worrisome thing: it’s the way the world works. What makes it tiresome is the hurry-up-and-wait reporting of it. Yes, the Czar is, per usual, blaming our media morons for this. Breaking news is already a running gag in popular society, although the media doesn’t seem to get the joke.
And yet, that’s only half of it. Social media is other reason: some days, reading Twitter is like sparring two boxers at once, and you have no head gear. Or arms. And Facebook—the Czar stays off Facebook, because it’s so overwhelmingly self-indulgent. It’s what Twitter would be without a 140-character limit: endless rants.
Like the one you’re reading now. The Czar’s off to take a nap. Tomorrow he will work on his lawn, and probably grill some food, drink himself into a relaxed state, and watch a couple of old movies on the DVR. And maybe check the news on Monday morning, only to find out there’s nothing new about it.
While taping one of our episodes, ‘Puter decided to go off on a rant…about pandas. Seriously.
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Quick teaser for episode 2
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Well, like the Czar, you probably call them “generations,” whereas the trendy thing to call them these days is “cohorts.” Although sociologists mock at the idea that people born within certain time-frames share similar, almost predictable values, it’s important to note that more people mock sociologists. While generation gaps are arguable, and some are based on less rationale than others, there are clear differences between people of different ages that range well beyond the physical or psychological: people who grew up together, under different cultural and historical influences, really do view society differently and solve problems in fundamentally different ways.
From time to time, the Czar likes to revisit these differences for you, and put together his observations. Here, in chronological order, are the Czar’s summaries of America’s generational
The Czar understands some groups prefer certain clusterings of birth years; uh-uh: the Czar knows better, and has adjusted some dates below. Additionally, the Czar has identified key splinter groups within some cohorts worth acknowledging.
Birth years: 1890 – 1901. The term was coined by Gertrude Stein and popularized by Ernest Hemingway to describe the strange disconnect America’s youth felt during and after World War I.
Good news for this generation: Turned out not to be lost, but quite adaptable and capable; saw fantastic transition from agrarian to urbanization and was the first to recognize the value of women and minorities.
Bad news for this generation: You’re pretty much dead already or about to go. It’s been nice knowing you.
“Where were you when” moment: Armistice, 1918.
Birth years: 1901 – 1924. Although this generation had quite a few names, the novel of the same name by Tom Brokaw cemented this name forever.
Good news for this generation: Beat Hitler.
Bad news for this generation: Terror of growing up in the Depression and fighting fascism made them spoil their kids to the nth degree, creating the Boomers.
“Where were you when” moment: December 7, 1941
Birth years: 1925 – 1946. The term originated in Time magazine, noting how they avoided drawing too much attention to themselves; this generation wanted peace and quiet. They didn’t get it.
Birth years: 1925 – 1933. The Czar has coined this term.
Good news for this generation: Expected their kids to be tougher than they were; don’t mistake their pseudo-liberalism for weakness: most of this generation suffered during their early years and expected the kids to man up the same way.
Bad news for this generation: Ensured we’d have really bad poetry for a long, long time.
“Where were you when” moment: Sputnik.
Birth years: 1934 – 1946
Good news for this generation: Conservative and self-sufficient, this generation got America safely through the Cold War until its end.
Bad news for this generation: Probably the last generation who would be educated in traditional ethics and civics.
“Where were you when” moment: The Cuban Missile Crisis
Birth years: 1946 – 1963, although these numbers vary as various authors try to exclude themselves from this group by adjusting the dates. Named after the sudden explosion in births as Americans came home at the end of the war and rebuilt families.
Birth years: 1946 – 1955, although the term “hippies” describes more of a culture than an actual belief. Lots of people born in these years weren’t hippies, although that doesn’t guarantee they were likable.
Good news for this generation: They generally can be credited with some seriously kick-ass music. Really, even if you hate Pink Floyd, the Beatles, or Prog Rock, that was some pretty cool stuff.
Bad news for this generation: They’re still peddling their egocentric fantasy that they were right about everything, and today’s kids don’t realize how disastrous nana and papa’s philosophies are.
“Where were you when” moment: The Kennedy Assassination, before which and after which nothing else seems to have mattered.
Birth years: 1950 – 1963, maybe. The Czar coined this term in response to a backlash effort he saw by older Boomers.
Good news for this generation: After howling for decades about libertarianism, they’re finally getting some respect and attention.
Bad news for this generation: They generally don’t vote in large enough numbers to make a difference, writing off everything good as the enemy of the perfect.
“Where were you when” moment: Nixon’s resignation.
Birth years: 1964 – 1982, or possibly 1985. It depends on your view of a sub-group that followed it. This generation was often called the Latchkey generation until Douglas Coupland reintroduced the phrase Gen X in his 1991 novel (the term did not originate with him, but was in use as early as 1965).
Good news for this generation: as Boomers die, retire, and lose interest in politics, their voting influence is growing.
Bad news for this generation: They are out-numbered by Millennials, who now have enough members entering voting age to counteract all gains made by Gen Xers.
“Where were you when” moment: The Challenger explosion. If this seems odd, ask any Gen Xers where they were during the explosion, and you’ll get an answer, even if they were toddlers at the time.
Birth years: Okay, maybe 1981 – 1988. The Czar came up with the term, although much of this group prefers to call themselves, with characteristic lack of ingenuity, as Generation Y. Pffft.
Good news for this generation: They’re now at an age where they’re starting to recognize they need to take life seriously. Or else, they’ve starved to death being the 35-year-old cashier at Taco Bell full of ink and stubble.
Bad news for this generation: Know who cares less than you? Life. Life cares less than you. Time to wake up, dudes.
“Where were you when” moment: Y2K.
Birth years: 1983 – 2000ish. The name Millennial first appeared in the early 1990s.
Good news for this generation: There is substantial reason for optimism: they are starting to get their act together—Millennials are starting to save money for homes, are beginning to embrace marriage, and are now even saving for retirement (something they historically avoided)
Bad news for this generation: This generation is often gullible and lockstep. The longer they are out of the collegiate leftist education camps, the more they reject their upbringing and struggle to develop individual responsibility and political thought.
“Where were you when” moment: September 11, 2001.
Birth years: 2001 – to the present. The term Generation Z was an obvious continuation of the X and Y pattern; there’s a pair of movements afoot to name this generation either Founders (the term was coined by MTV, although its meaning seems vaguely to refer to this generation founding a new society after the mess they perceive being made by the Millennials) or Homelanders (named after the Department of Homeland Security, which is about as probable as Gen Xers being called HUDders). Neither of those will probably stick, and if you look at the history of naming generations, the actual name will come later—and was probably proposed in 2002 or 2003…we just haven’t circulated it enough yet for it to stick.
Good news for this generation: Has never known a really shitty superhero movie.
Bad news for this generation: Will likely be stuck with ultimate consequences of crushing government debts and costs of tolerating Boomers when the latter were alive.
“Where were you when” moment: This has not yet occurred for them, but will likely occur in the next five-to-seven years.
GorT carefully peeked into his Facebook and Twitter this morning to get a lay of the land. My takeaway: democrats/liberals/those on the left (choose your terminology) have a lot of free time. I honestly don’t know what they’re doing. I have a dog that needs walking, laundry that needs washing, folding, and ironing, dishes to wash, a house to clean, a job that while it is notionally an 8-hour-a-day job sometimes has me working in the evenings, three kids to manage, and yes, a wife who I love spending time with doing things other than the list above. Sigh. In my social media feeds, there are numerous examples of those on the left who dedicated time watching the vote in Congress on the GOP Healthcare efforts. Aside from the likelihood that this kind of practice encourages the 24-second news cycle where all sorts of poor journalism takes place, how does that vote change your life that immediately that you couldn’t wait for the morning news cycle. Seriously, folks posted that they were staying up, even though they had early morning cross-country flights.
I get that the bill is a mess. I’d argue that PP-ACA and the way it was crafted really pushed us into this mess. And to deflect any early criticism of that statement consider the following:
So, if people wonder why the GOP is so bent on repealing it, consider the origin. Imagine if, in 2008, Congress tackled some small things related to health care insurance – managing the pre-existing condition issue, enabling competition across state lines, tort reform, etc. We wouldn’t have Rep Pelosi’s infamous quote, “you have to pass the bill to know what’s in it.” – and no, that’s not because of the length but because of the sheer size of the change and all of the dust it kicked up.
But back to my main point: if you have the stomach, go check out social media or just various sites on the internet. The amount of time and effort made by people about how torn they are about McCain – he’s a hero for fighting cancer (yeeeaahhh! He’s a hero!!!) but then he returns to vote to open a floor debate on the bill (Booooo! He’s the devil incarnate!) and then joins with a few other GOP senators to vote down the bill (Yeeeahhh! He’s hero….I think). And the hyperbole is over the top – tens of millions will lose their healthcare and die next year. The conflation of health care and health care insurance and the government’s involvement in it is a topic we covered on our podcast so I won’t repeat it here – it’s worth a listen.
Finally, imagine a country where people don’t spend this sort of focus on these things. Where political decisions don’t become such a spectator sport that encourages the players (our elected officials) to keep their positions almost regardless of their job, and where people can actually have a healthy debate on topics. Maybe one where small changes are considered before multi-Trillion dollar programs are legislatively maneuvered into effect with the understanding that undoing them will be terribly difficult. Maybe I’m trying to push grandma over the cliff in her wheelchair, but if you want government not to tell you what to do – with your body, your health decisions, or your life, then get them out of the health care AND health care insurance business.
‘Puter dutifully logged onto Twitter yesterday morning to see about what outrage of the moment had America’s Most Dysfunctional Social Media Site’s attention.
‘Puter soon found and read this CNN article concerning Attorney General Sessions filing an amicus brief in a case pending before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The Department of Justice argued in its brief that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act did not protect homosexuals from employment discrimination. The DOJ had the balls to argue essentially, “Um, court dudes? Yeah. You three in the black Hefty bag dresses up on the altar thingy there. The statute doesn’t actually mention homosexuality at all, so you prolly shouldn’t pretend it does.”
Feeling deep self-loathing and an unnatural yet innate need to stir up trouble, ‘Puter posted (some would argue shitposted) the following on Facebook knowing full well the response he could expect. ‘Puter was not disappointed.
I’m just going to drop this bomb and leave. Sessions and the DoJ are correct.
On second thought, perhaps I’d better offer a bit of explanation lest Facebook explode in ALL TEH RAYJ (which, frankly, is why I’m not around these parts much).
Based on the statute’s plain text, Title VII covers only “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”
From a purely legal and Constitutional perspective (leaving aside the underlying issue of whether it’s right, good, smart, politic, etc.), I agree with Sessions. There is no way in Hell Congress in 1964 thought “sex” covered homosexuals and/or transgender people. It’s not DoJ’s job (or the courts’ job) to extend a law to an area Congress hasn’t covered.
This is my general beef with presidents (both parties) and courts legislating. This trend has enabled Congress to avoid tough issues and foist unpopular decisions on unelected judges and bureaucrats. Further, it abandons the field to the executive.
Congress avoiding/refusing to do its job is a prime driver in the divisions we feel so strongly today. Think about it. Congress was intentionally designed to be the representatives of the people. Congress makes the laws. In theory, this should require give and take on tough issues where there is no national consensus. Congress has chosen to punt on every major social issue of the last 30 or 40 years.
Abortion? *punt* Gay marriage? *punt* Transgender rights? *punt* Legalizing marijuana? *punt*
Instead, we have unelected judges deciding fraught social issues (abortion, gay marriage) without popular check of the voting booth. Or we have a unitary executive cramming down his will on the nation with a pen, phone, or tweet. Or worst of all, we have agency bureaucrats making up rules from whole cloth and enforcing them in kangaroo courts. This is not good for America. The president and the Supreme Court matter far more than they ought because one branch is phoning it in.
So, to the original point, were I the judge hearing the case, I’d agree with Sessions. Congress did not extend Title VII protections to cover homosexuals. It clearly knew how and knows how to do so, and it did/has not. And in dicta strongly urge Congress to act (or not) so America is clear on where homosexuals stand under law.
Blame Congress for this mess, not Sessions, the DoJ, or the courts.
As predictably as night following day, ‘Puter’s liberal college friends proceeded to lose their collective minds. Y DOO U HAYT TEH TRANNYZ, PYOOTR?!? they impotently raged.
Oh, well. ‘Puter doesn’t need friends anyway. He’s got his fellow Gormogons and a well-stocked liquor cabinet.
The Czar’s post on displaying flags on vehicles encouraged a few of you to respond. While these were uniformly positive, two of them had either questions or an additional thought.
From devoted Operative R, the following observations arrived:
Your recent comments on Flag protocol and the abuses thereof are well taken and timely. Due to the fact that there is an entanglement between Flag protocol and the First Amendment, almost all provisions of the protocol take the form “should be.” Even after much searching, I have not located a penalty section. Notable, for the same reason, is the section which prohibits condo associations from preventing display of the Flag.
Although the flag code itself does not provide any guidelines on punishing those who violate the flag code, 18 USC Sec. 700 01/02/2006 does provide for fines and imprisonment for desecration of the flag; however, as R notes, paragraph (d) of Title 18, Section 700, notes that an immediate appeal can be made to the Supreme Court of the United States if the accused believes the act was executed under the First Amendment—and if the Court has not ruled favorably on behalf of the accused under a previous review.
Condominium associations and homeowner’s associations are a mixed bag. Yes, sometimes, there’s no reason for an association to pester a homeowner about their flag other than another cranky resident doesn’t like it. But very often, if you read the story carefully, you realize there is indeed something there—either the flag’s display violates the code, or the flag was mounted precariously, or it’s oversized and infringing on another’s property, and so on. Generally, you can tell by the middle of the story whether or not the homeowner is in the right, here, or if—yeah—the association got it right and the homeowner is being a jerk with the flag. As the Czar stated, most violations originate out of ignorance—the offender honestly thinks he or she is being patriotic here, and doesn’t realize there’s disrespect occurring.
Operative B adds a couple of comments:
Let’s be careful on the canton of the flag (star field). The star field should always be in the upper left on a full flag as you face it. A patch on a uniform does not qualify because it’s not a true flag—there’s no backside to it, and it can’t wave in the breeze. The uniform patch isn’t covered by the flag code, but it is covered by Defense Department regulations as cited by Operative B. Because most NATO nations wear their country’s flag on the right shoulder, the United States moved our flag patch to the right shoulder…which meant the flag looked like it was flying backward. To fix this perception, the flag actually is reversed so that it looks like the service member is moving forward, which was controversial at the time, but most people now think looks pretty cool. Again, patches really don’t qualify as full flags—although make no mistake, readers, that the patches are treated with utmost respect by our service members—so the uniform patch is not in violation of the flag code. Likewise, there’s no reason for a vehicle to display a reversed flag, either—it’s not bound by DoD requirements; if you do choose to display a reversed flag, it’s because you think it looks better that way.
As a US Navy Veteran, I qualify for veteran license plates for my vehicles—which do have a flag on them. Both my car and my motorcycle are equipped with veteran’s license plates. When parked in my driveway, my veteran’s license plates are clearly seen from the street.
Thus, I am always proudly flying the flag.
- The flag should always be displayed with the star field facing forward, e.g. the field always leads the rest of the flag. The person who owns that Jeep was following Army Regulation DA PAM 670–1, 21-18, which states (in paragraph 2): “The U.S. flag embroidered insignia is worn so that the star field faces forward, or to the flag’s own right. When worn in this manner, the flag is facing to the observer’s right and gives the effect of the flag flying in the breeze as the wearer moves forward.”
Since the Jeep was using a sticker – or what might be considered a “patch”—this person was doing it right. This is also why you sometimes see flag patches on the right shoulder that look “reversed.”
- One other thing: according to 4 U.S. Code § 8(k) “ The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.” Those “patriots” who fly a flag on their vehicles that is obviously ripped, tattered, coming apart, or otherwise imperfect, are violating the US flag code. In truth, as a veteran, I’d prefer that these idiots use stickers instead.
Your last point is the Czar’s preferred position: use a sticker, magnetic decal, or silkscreen flag on your vehicle. The Stars and Stripes certainly indicate to viewers that you respect the flag, without you having to risk violating the Flag Code because you might be too lazy to read it.
And, yeah, B—if someone is violating the Flag Code by hanging a flag off the back of his vehicle, odds are good he’s violating the Code by having a flag in unacceptable condition as well. That’s two strikes.
Tip for our readers: No United States flag is ever considered obsolete. That 13-star flag you have for Independence Day? That’s an American flag, and falls under the Flag Code. That 48-star flag your uncle brought back from Dubya-dubya Two? That’s also an official flag, and leaving it dumped on the attic floor is a no-no. There are currently twenty-six official American flags that fall under the Flag Code. If you have a Gadsden flag or a Bennington flag or a Betsy Ross flag, those are not covered by the Flag Code, but you know what? Operative R, Operative B, and the Czar will all appreciate it if you treated these with the same level of dignity and respect.
Some days ago, the Czar was in his Trailhawk headed east-bound on a thoroughfare through Muscovy, when he saw in the west-bound lanes a fellow Jeep driver—this one in a stupidly “tacticalized” Jeep Wrangler, with blackened windows, snorkel, black tow winch, and black angry eyes headlight cowl. Whatever floats his boat, we thought; no doubt the driver felt positively badass while driving past strip malls and fast-food places in that expensive mess.
Ah, but then… as he passed us, the Czar saw an American flag hanging off the back of that Wrangler, whipping around.
Doubtless the driver thought this a patriotic display, but in fact, it’s a fulsome violation of the flag code. See this guy, in this picture? Major no-no.
Think about it: this driver believes he travels ahead of the American flag, when in fact the flag should precede him. And let’s be clear: the flag is not there to catch your mud, dust, road debris, and exhaust as it comes off your vehicle.
Here’s what the flag code says about displaying flags on vehicles [4 US § 7 (b)]:
The flag should not be draped over the hood, top, sides, or back of a vehicle or of a railroad train or a boat. When the flag is displayed on a motorcar, the staff shall be fixed firmly to the chassis or clamped to the right fender.
|This is okay. The flag is on the right fender.|
|This is not okay: the flag is hanging off the back of the vehicle.|
|This is not okay. In fact, the Czar is shocked that the American Legion—who defend our flag on our shores—continually fail to deliver an official notice to fire departments nationally that hanging our flag off the dirty ass of your apparatus is against the law.|
|This is okay, but it’s really just a decal, and not a waving flag. But we show it here as an example of what fire departments should be doing. It doesn’t have to be reversed, but many people feel the stars should always lead the way when the vehicle is moving forward. That’s very cool.|
|This isn’t good at all, and NASCAR ought to know better. Because in addition to dragging the flag behind the truck, the flag is being presented to the audience horizontally [4 USC § 8 (c)]; and there’s nothing preventing the flag from touching the ground [4 USC § 8(b)].|
|Which means this is not okay, either.|
|This is okay because it’s not a real flag. Also, stickers, magnetic decals, and so on, aren’t actual waving flags, and aren’t subject to our wrath.|
|What about these things, that you see everywhere? Well, it’s a flag that can wave…so it needs to be on the front right fender or secured to the chassis of the car. So this is a no. Which would be fine, since the Czar sees too many of these curled up in rain gutters.|
An acquaintance of the Czar mentioned to us today that he had no idea that the flag code was so precise about displaying flags on vehicles. Indeed, it’s likely most of the people shown in the no pictures above think they’re doing a wonderful thing. But the flag code covers vehicles, and for very specific reasons: too many flags on vehicles are spattered, ripped, frayed, torn, or dislodge from the vehicle. The flag deserves better than that, of course, and that’s why there are specific laws about this.
Care to argue? The Czar recommends reading the code first: you may be surprised how incredibly specific it is. Check out 4 U.S. Code § 7 (o) if you want to be amazed.
As the Czar provides some great instruction on smoking poultry here and we discussed this a bit on our two-parter podcast (see link on the left side of the main site) on smoking and grilling, GorT thought he’d take a minute and provide some alternate ideas for dinner tonight….or maybe tomorrow as this takes some planning.
GorT’s family, as probably many of yours, is busy. We’ve got three kids running around with various activities and both Mrs. GorT and GorT work so we’ve found an effective pace of planning and shopping for about 4 nights of meals – which usually results in 5 nights when you count the leftovers*. Frequently, we turn to a slow-cooker (or crock-pot) meal once during the work week. Last night, we enjoyed slow-cooked beef barbacoa tacos. It’s a dirt-simple recipe provided below – give it a try. Barbacoa is a method of cooking that originated in the Caribbean and it is where we derive the word “barbecue” (or “barbeque”).
The night before, prepare the seasoning paste:
In a mini or regular-sized food processor, pulse 6 large cloves of garlic until chopped. Add a packed ½ cup cilantro leaves and pulse until minced.Add 2-4 chipotle peppers plus 1-2 Tbsp adobo sauce depending on the heat level you prefer**, 2 Tbsp lime juice, 1 Tbsp tomato paste, 1 Tbsp cumin, 2 tsp chile powder, 2 tsp garlic salt, and 1 tsp oregano. Secure lid and process until just blended. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator overnight.
In the morning, get the slow cooker out – I recommend using a slow-cooker liner which makes cleanup much easier. Set it for low. Take a 2# cut of beef – preferably rump roast, chuck eye, top or bottom round – and season both sides with salt and pepper and place in cooker. Then take the paste and spread ½ of it across the top in a generous coating. Flip the beef carefully not to disturb the coating and spread the remainder on the other side. Pour 6oz of beef broth and 6 oz of beer (any works, but I prefer low-hop Mexican pale lagers) in the cooker – again, be careful not to wash off the seasoning paste. Toss in a bay leaf. Cover and cook on low for 10 hours. This is a great meal to start before going to work given the duration it needs to cook and render down the fat and connective tissues in the meat.
About 20 minutes before dinner, take the beef out of the cooker – I’d wager that it comes out in chunks as it will be falling apart tender. Shred it with two forks (or these if you’re more serious about pulled meat cooking as I am) and return it to the liquid in the cooker for 20 minutes…or place in a pan on the range top and pour some strained liquid from the cooker over it and heat on low/simmer.
Serve over a tortilla or salad with the toppings you enjoy. I’d suggest diced onions, guacamole, and a sparing use of a good salsa or a hot-sauce (i.e. California Tortilla’s Screaming Sauce). 3of3 prefers a heavy layer of shredded cheese.
I’d include pictures but GorT was too busy last night to document while progressing through the preparation – maybe next time.
* Many times the leftovers are repurposed into other meals: leftover BBQ meat into BBQ nachos, stir-fried rice, appetizer night (with many small “tapas”), etc.
** I find 2 chipotle peppers and 1 Tbsp adobo sauce rather mild – 1of3 doesn’t like spicy, so it works.
Listeners of our podcasts got quite the lecture from GorT on the importance of brining, to which Ghettoputer and the Czar immediately agreed. Brining meats before cooking them is often helpful, sometimes essential.
The Czar likes to brine poultry…although arguments can be made more almost any meat. Brining is the process of soaking meats in salt water (brine); via osmosis, a chemical reaction occurs in which the cells of the meat soak up the salt, which in turn soaks up the water. When the meat is heated during cooking, the salt releases the water back into the cells, resulting in an especially juicy chunk of meat.
This sounds easy, and it is—but there is one especially important thing to remember: the formula to create proper brine. You can’t, despite what the Czar reads from internet grillers from time to time, just dump salt into water. There’s a specific ratio of salt to water you need to use. This isn’t advanced chemistry, fortunately, so just read this post.
Sunday, we decided to do a duck and a chicken on the smoker. The reason for the chicken is that duck is a tremendously expensive way to get very little meat on your plate. The Czar can do many things, but feeding four hungry people off one duck is a miracle equivalent to loaves and fishes. So to add meat to the pile, we threw a chicken into the mix.
Here’s the duck, all defrosted and washed clean, resting on a plastic bag because we really hate contaminating the food with stuff left on the worksurface.
And here are the solid ingredients for the brine. This is a quarter-cup of sea salt (or any kosher salt…iodized salt has different properties and should be avoided when brining…trust us on this) and a quarter-cup of brown sugar. The sugar is unimportant to the process. All you need is salt and water. Frankly, most brine recipes contribute little to nothing to the final flavor of the meat and are a good waste of herbs and spices. Brown sugar however helps make the meat surface a bit sticky, which is important when smoking the meat. Sticky meat traps smoke particles better.
Now we add four cups of warm water and stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. The duck is immersed in this bath. Actually, to be honest, we used a half cup of salt and half cup of brown sugar, and added 8 cups of warm water because the duck was a big guy. The brining formula is quarter-cup of salt to four cups of warm water. Write that down. Anything else you add is immaterial. And yes, you can use beer as a substitute for water…that does impart a slight flavor to the meat, though, especially if it’s an ale.
Every few hours, the Czar rolled this bird over to ensure the whole bird was soaking in the brine since birds tend to float. Two things to observe: first, yes, ducks contain a lot of blood. Chickens generally don’t leak this much when brining, but ducks sure do. The second is to compare the water level in this photo to the one above: see how much salt water the duck absorbed? That’s the photo-proof that brining is a superb way to get moisture into meats.
The Czar also made up a second batch of brine and poured that into a whole roaster chicken stuffed into a gallon plastic bag. Here they are, reunited:
The Czar got the smoker going with cherry wood and Kingsford briquettes. You can slow-cook poultry a little hotter than pork, so the Czar was aiming for a smoking temperature between 200° and 275°, which due to the wind, fluctuated between these values.
Duck and chicken should be cooked to a temperature of 152° – 155°, and then held at this temperature for two to three minutes. This temperature, plus this holding trick, kills more bacteria and bad things on the meat as well as cooking it to 165°, but without drying out the meat. The USDA knows this, and publishes this information on their website, but understanding that most cooks are idiots, has them get the temp to 165°. That kills everything, but dries chicken into cardboard. The USDA correctly acknowledges that cooking chicken to a lower temperature is just as safe, but you have to hold it at this lower temperature for a longer period of time.
Here’s the birds on a foil tray; the tray was too large for the smoker, so we curled up the edges.
When the temperature probe hit 152° we counted to two minutes and thirty seconds, whisked the birds off the smoker, and put them on the grill for a bit at 300°, just to gently crisp the skins. We don’t eat the skins, but it helps loosen them up a bit for easy removal.
Anyway, the results were terrific. The chicken was gently smoky in flavor but very moist. The duck was tender, and the little bit of meat we got off it was a classic taste and texture: picture a blend of turkey and steak.
Duck’s probably not your thing, and maybe you’re not into smoking. The point is that none of this is essential: brining, however, can improve your chicken—and other meats—whether you smoke, grill on gas, grill on coals, oven-roast, or bake. And the quarter-cup salt to four cups of water ratio is the secret.
The Czar has spent roughly $473,843 over the last 20 years taking his foursome to see Marvel movies at the theater. The Czar realized Saturday that Spider-Man: Homecoming appeared in theaters this weekend, and took the family to see it Sunday. Of course, the Царица paid for the tickets…and come to think of it, she drove there and back, so it’s probably a stretch to say the Czar took them. She even bought popcorn, so really, this is all on her.
What is this movie about?
About two-and-a-half hours.
Does the plot of the movie involve homecoming?
Definitely. In fact, the entire movie revolves around the homecoming dance. First, Spider-Man has to work up the courage to ask this one girl to the dance, and then he has to get a tux, and then he has to weigh getting a limo versus using Uber as a ride, and then there’s the whole bit about going as a group or just going as a couple. High school is rough.
Where does the dramatic tension originate?
Well, okay, this should sound familiar: two days before the homecoming dance, Spider-Man is asked by his manager at Petco if he can work the weekend as there’s a really big shipment of hamsters coming in, and they need all hands. The manager, played by Jack Black, understands this is the weekend, and so offers to pay Spider-Man triple overtime. So now does Spider-Man go to the dance and lose out on the money, or does he take the money and blow off the dance? This is real heavy teenage stuff, man.
Is Iron Man in this movie?
He helps Spider-Man decide about the “go-as-a-group” or “go-as-a-couple” thing, because it turns out (spoiler warning!) that if they get an Uber, you really can’t fit a bunch of people in there. So ultimately it comes down to whether they go with the limo or the Uber. The Czar will not reveal the fate of that cliffhanger.
What other homecoming elements are in there?
Naturally, the football team utterly blows it in the fourth quarter, so everyone is a bit bummed about that. And the organizer of the homecoming is this total fascist, so everybody hates her.
Was the movie at all realistic?
Perfectly: in fact, the only time the kids all danced on the dance floor was when they played music from the 1950s or the 1980s. Everytime the DJ would play something from the 1990s, the kids would get all mopey and go stand along the walls, and it was refreshing to see so many Gen Zers act indifferently toward disco. In the 1970s, everyone hated disco; now, suddenly, all the 30-to-50-year-olds are dancing to it like it was the greatest thing ever. Sure, it was better than the dubstep shit the DJs try to play today, but disco remains bottom-feeding music. Thank goodness for the 1980s.
I’m not following you, there, Czar.
That’s not a question.
Where does this movie fit into the Marvel framework?
Just after the last one, and immediately before the next one.
Is Michael Keaton any good?
Yes, he plays the school principal, Richard Vernon, who is so totally out of it that he wears a twill beige jacket over a black dress shirt with wide collar. Eventually, they run amok in the library instead of writing an essay about who they think they are. It turns out that Claire feels she’s living out someone else’s expectations of her, Andrew fears he’s as dumb as everyone thinks, Bender lives in a horrible home, Allison is a pathological liar, and Brian was so terrified of getting a bad grade, he contemplated suicide. Bender raises his fist in solidarity with the others as he crosses the football field. Then he is killed by the Green Goblin.
Will there be a sequel?
Yes, Paul Gleason will return to become Venom.
Based on the recent discussions in the Castle (listen here to our most recent podcast for a taste) and a recent Twitter post by ‘Puter who pointed out the problems with this NY Times article. Keep in mind this article is in the Politics news section of the NY Times, not the Opinion section.
First, let’s trace back the history on this. In the final Presidential debate in October 2017, Hillary Clinton stated:
We have 17, 17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyber attacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin. And they are designed to influence our election. I find that deeply disturbing
Politifact – a supposed “fact-checking” website – confirmed this as 100% true. They recently claimed that DNI Clapper’s testimony refers to a “newer” assessment and the facts surrounding Clinton’s claim remain true.
This story of “17 agencies” has persisted in the media for months. And in the referenced article at the beginning of this post, we get the following opening statement:
President Trump said on Thursday that only “three or four” of the United States’ 17 intelligence agencies had concluded that Russia interfered in the presidential election — a statement that while technically accurate, is misleading and suggests widespread dissent among American intelligence agencies when none has emerged
Wrong. It is technically accurate period. It’s not misleading and does not suggest widespread dissent. Most Americans hardly know that there are 17 Intelligence Community agencies to include the Department of Energy, The Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Department of State. I would wager that the majority of Americans that you poll, unless they work in or around the Intelligence Community, couldn’t name more than four or five. This statement is NOT FACTUAL. This is an opinion of the author, Matthew Rosenberg, and his editors at the NY Times. Rosenberg goes on to explain why only the four agencies are involved:
The reason the views of only those four intelligence agencies, not all 17, were included in the assessment is simple: They were the ones tracking and analyzing the Russian campaign. The rest were doing other work.
Not only “doing other work” but the four agencies are the ones who have purview over the matter.
The headline is what is misleading:
Imagine a more accurate and less politicized headline:
The left cannot understand why people are so disgusted with the media but this is a plain example. This incorrect statement made by Hillary Clinton was left unchallenged by the media for months. And now, the storyline is that Trump is using the accurate update as a means of misleading people?
And the NY Times recent correction was buried at the end of another Politics piece reading:
A White House Memo article on Monday about President Trump’s deflections and denials about Russia referred incorrectly to the source of an intelligence assessment that said Russia orchestrated hacking attacks during last year’s presidential election. The assessment was made by four intelligence agencies — the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency. The assessment was not approved by all 17 organizations in the American intelligence community.
This isn’t isolated to the NY Times, however, USA Today and other papers reported similar news. And, just recently, CNN reported Jim Acosta claimed that the “three of four agencies” statement by Trump was “fake news”.
When are we going to get that press that has the skeptical view of government officials across BOTH parties and not one that is so slanted that it becomes essentially an opinion arm for one side?
Saturday was perfect weather in Muscovy, and the Czar relaxed at his dacha. Making the day even more joyous was the arrival of Ghettoputer and the Inscrutable Mandarin, who arrived in the afternoon to tell stories, eat food, and drink liquor in various orders of magnitude.
‘Puter really liked the dinner the Czar made, as we knew he would. The Czar explained that decades ago, there was a tiny Thai restaurant in the middle of an industrial park that served a stunningly good beef salad named ยำเนื้อย่าง (yåem nụ̄ xỳāng, for the Volgi’s benefit), or “grilled meat broth” salad.
Many Thai places don’t even have it, which is a real shame because (a) it’s astonishingly good, (b) it’s easy to make, and (c) it’s incredibly healthy food. The Czar began a lengthy search for a recipe. He found it very few other restaurants, and it… well, they weren’t as good as the original. However, its popularity began to increase over the years, to the point it will be a common-enough option in non-Thai restaurants… the way you see pad thai, udon noodles, or phở served in so many places today…and with that slight uptick in popularity, recipes finally began to appear.
The Czar found one by grill deva Steven Raichlen that was curiously close to the original. With slight adaptation, the Czar managed to get the recipe exactly as he remembers it from thirty years ago. For your enjoyment, here it is.
The recipe consists of three parts: a marinade, the salad itself, and the dressing you pour over the salad.
1 flank steak, approximately 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 pounds in weight
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp fish sauce
2 Tbsp sugar
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp ginger, minced
1. Unroll the flank steak and trim off any egregious amounts of fat.
2. Slice cuts into the meat at a 45° angle from left to right. This is important to do whenever marinating flank steak.
3. Slice deep cuts at a -45° angle to make a diamond-shaped pattern.
4. Flip the steak over and repeat steps 2 and 3, so you have the same diamond-shaped pattern on both sides of the steak. This will greatly increase the steak’s ability to absorb the marinade.
5. Place the flank steak in a gallon-sized sealable baggie.
6. Whisk together the other ingredients in a bowl, letting the sugar dissolve.
7. Pour the marinade from the bowl into the baggie and seal it tight.
8. Place this in the refrigerator and flip it around every 4 hours or so, letting the meat drink in the marinade.
9. The longer you marinate, the better. The Czar allows for about 24 hours of chilling and flipping.
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp fish sauce
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1-1/2 Tbsp sugar
1. Whisk these ingredients together in a bowl.
2. Pour them into a plastic container with sealing lid. You can then shake this up furiously (how else does the Czar do anything?) minutes before serving to re-dissolve the sugar. You can make this dressing the day before, or even minutes before. It’s up to you and how much time you have before guests arrive.
1 head Boston or Bibb lettuce, separated into leaves, rinsed, dried
1 cucumber, peeled and julienned
1 small sweet onion (Vidalia or Maui), julienned
12 fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup coarsely chopped dry-roasted peanuts
1. Peel the onion and cucumber, and julienne them. For the onion, the Czar recommends you cut across the width of the onion, very thin, so that you can break apart the layers very quickly, as shown. See how that practically jullienes the onion for you?
2. Loosely pile the cucumber, onion, lettuce, cilantro, and mint into a bowl. Refrigerate this with a plastic cover.
3. Go start your grill, getting it medium-high to high, around 400° before going to the next step.
4. Retrieve your flank steak from the plastic baggie; throw away the bag. You don’t want this raw marinade anymore. Don’t even pour it over the steak while it’s grilling: it can flare up and char the flank steak more than you’ll like.
5. Plop the flank steak on the grill; if it sizzles, your grill is hot enough.
6. After about 4-5 minutes, rotate the flank steak 90°; this will put a beautiful crisscross of grill marks on the meat. It’s pointless, of course, because you’re going to cut this meat into strips, but let’s be professional regardless.
7. After another 4-5 minutes, flip the steak over to cook the other side.
8. Again, after 4-5 minutes, rotate the steak another 90° to put the grill marks on that side, too.
9. Done? You probably will be: the steak should be medium-rare to medium-well. Rare is too chewy and the blood wilts the lettuce; too much doneness and the steak will be like chewing gum.
10. Let the steak rest for 10-15 minutes. Like that serving platter? Mariano’s…two for five dollars.
11. While the steaks are resting, chop up the peanuts.
12. When the steaks are done resting, slice them across the grain with a sharp knife into quarter-inch-thick slices. Then, cut any long strips into pieces about an inch-and-a-half long. You don’t want anyone choking on long pieces of flank steak, so cut and slice away into happy, bite-sized pieces.
13. Toss the meat and salad together.
14. Pour the dressing all over the salad.
15. Sprinkle the peanuts on the top and serve on individual plates or small bowls.
Refrigerate any unused portions; you can easily eat this cold the next day…the flank steak isn’t bad out of the fridge, and the dressing doesn’t turn the lettuce leaves to mush, either. It’s really a great two-day dinner-then-lunch meal.
Note: isn’t this supposed to be spicy? Although an increasing number of restaurants serve this with lethal spice added, the Czar’s original experience with this dish was not spicy, allowing the flavors to really come out. Add hot peppers if you want, and some folks add cherry tomatoes, but that’s not how the Czar first experienced it, and frankly, this no-pepper, no-tomato version is way better.
There’s a momentum-gathering notion in Congress to repeal Obamacare, then replace it… as opposed to a repeal-and-replace two-for-one.
Repealing Obamacare first is smarter politics, because the attitude about Repeal-and-Replace is this:
Conservative GOP: This bill doesn’t cut enough.
Moderate GOP: This bill changes too much at once.
All Democrats: Folks continue to be covered by Obamacare. Hooray for our side!
In other words, there’s no incentive for anyone to vote yes. Allow the Czar to explain.
The conservative side of the GOP is unhappy with the way the 276 brilliant Obamacare replacement proposals were hammered together because it doesn’t cut enough crap out of the mess that is Obamacare. That’s a good reason not to vote for the bill.
The moderate GOP wing is unhappy with the proposal because so many people have become dependent on Obamacare, that a wholesale replacement will be a systemic shock, hurt a lot of carriers, and result in an administrative mess. That’s also good reason not to vote for the bill.
The democrats, meanwhile, aren’t going to vote for any replacement, because right now Obamacare is in full force, and their voters are covered, as far as they know or understand it. Why bother? They’ve got the stack of chips, so they can sit there and bluff while the other two players keep checking each other.
But repealing Obamacare first…? Well, that’s a different story.
Both factions in the GOP want Obamacare gone—they should have very little trouble getting the votes for that, provided this leads to a replacement for the moderates.
The democrats will scream and howl, but they won’t have the votes to oppose its repeal.
So what happens when Obamacare is repealed? Now the conservative wing and the moderate wing have to agree on a replacement—which may go nowhere, meaning government-regulated healthcare is effectively dead. Everyone’s taxes go down, health insurance carriers go back to normal policies, folks who were covered remain covered, and employers start reducing how much is chopped out of your paychecks. Just about everyone is happy, including the folks who weren’t covered before but now can be because their policies could be grandfathered.
Net result? Obamacare is dead, folks are mostly covered, and the economy starts moving again.
And if the Republicans come up with a replacement plan? Well, now the Democrats can vote against it—in which case is passes with Republican majority—or they can admit the GOP plan should be better, and more than a few vote for it—in which case it passes with slightly bipartisan majority.
Net result? Obamacare is dead, folks are covered, and the economy starts moving again.
As long as Congress repeals Obamacare first, the scenarios play out in America’s favor. Thank goodness both flavors of the GOP are starting to concur.
And for the Dems, who see Obamacare destroyed in flames with either scenario? Welp…elections certainly do have consequences. Their fear isn’t that millions of Americans will suddenly lose insurance—that’s been fact-checked to death. Their fear is that millions of Americans will realize Obamacare was a disaster for America and like the GOP alternatives.
GorT is flat out amazed at the amount of time some people put into posting, reposting, and kvetching about politics on social media when they do little else about it. Sure, they might have voted, but given the passion behind their posts and comments, one would think that they are so invested that it’s all they do with their spare time. Heck, maybe it’s what they do full-time….and I mean, yes, while claiming to “work” at some office job.
About a year ago, GorT muted a friend on Facebook as he had posted over 20 articles and posts within the course of a single workday. While this person claims to be an “independent” the posts were clearly slanted one direction. By the way, this phenomenon isn’t relegated to just one side of the aisle either.
I understand if you are passionate about or against something but what I can’t wrap my head around is what is the benefit of sharing opinion (not news reports) over and over again with little direct action. I’m sure the response will be one of the following: (a) this opinion piece “spoke” to me and I want to share it so people know where I stand or (b) I’m doing my part by sharing and trying to grow a movement (#Resist – blech). Let’s be honest and dissect this for what it really is: I’m too lazy or ignorant to author my own piece and I’d rather hide behind other people’s words so I don’t have to defend myself when push comes to shove. And, oh by the way, I’d rather go out drinking snapping selfies or pics of my food than do any critical thinking.
A long time ago, I had a mentor in business that told a co-worker not to forward posts about various technical things (the bright, shiny new thing) without providing some value-add – tell me why it’s important, how it relates to our business, or why I should care about this thing. I think it’s sage advice…and something that most people don’t do. In fact, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have promoted a move away from this. Away from critical thinking and more towards “group think”. I think it’s great that we have over 1,400 followers on Twitter but I enjoy it for the social interaction, the debate over ideas (like why you can be a conservative and still not be a fan of Donald Trump, why hot dogs aren’t sandwiches, and why a strong foreign policy has been missing for the last 8 years and how we hope it comes back in the next 4 years). I’d rather you challenge me when I say something worth debating than just forward it on.
In the end, maybe we’re missing the bigger picture though. The First Law of Thermodynamics states that, in an isolated system, energy cannot be created or destroyed. Perhaps the lemmings that forward the type of posts I describe don’t have the energy and can’t generate more.
The Gormogons gather in the Castle and do introductions on this podcast and discuss the media
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Teaser for the forthcoming inaugural season of Radio Gormogons
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