Adult Fears and the Nerd Tribe Manifesto

(Newbie warning: I link in several spots to tvtropes.org here. If you’ve never been there before, watch out; it’s an incredible down-the-rabbit-hole experience that will suck away two hours of your afternoon before you’ve realized it)

Long-term readers know that Chez Happycrow is a friendly place for horror movies and survival dramas of all kinds.  Watching the characters make high-feedback decisions under pressure, and evaluating them, is a lot of fun.  That’s what make-believe is:  Negotiate Ruleset X, Adopt Ruleset X, and then play with good and bad decision-making within said rules. 

Some make-believe is already horror.

To be fair and step out of genre, this same thing is fundamental to ALL OF SPORTS, the difference being that you typically have to actually understand the sport to really get what’s going on with the decisions that players and coaches make.  Okay, back on-topic.   Of course, survival dramas and horror flicks are two very different sorts of movies.  The inhabitants of the former don’t stand much of a chance — by design.  As I said way back when

Normally, the inhabitants of zombie flicks, for instance, are your typical Hollywood Horror-flick dumbasses: they’re there precisely to make incredibly stupid decisions, so that you can wince at the inevitable carnage to follow.

And sometimes, it’s the whole point, as in Stephen King’s The Mist (not to be mistaken for The Fog, an oldie-but-goodie bit of cheesy dumb fun by Carpenter), a meditation on “what happens if the plucky but fallible heroes don’t all overcome their differences and pull together in the face of adversity?”  Bad things, that’s what, and Frank Darabont had the directorial integrity to keep throwing the gut-punches all the way to the end.  This is part of what makes good horror fun to watch, especially if you’ve got any genre savvy:    when the character takes a plastic flashlight downstairs to investigate that bump in the night, and you’re watching a slasher flick, you know that no good can follow.  In fact, usually the only way to get through these flicks alive is to be a virginal white girl, or else somebody who’s clueless but well-meaning.  Sorry, Mister Strong, Level-Headed, Well-Prepared Man.

Sorry dude, wrong genre. Action-adventure was Tuesday night.

Zombie flicks stand that on their head a bit by being a horror genre that’s suffused with Darwinian Comedy — the Iron Laws of Survival are in full effect.  Sort of like Aliens, a dark comedy which my late mother watched at least twenty-seven times.  Wait, you didn’t know that Aliens was a comedy?  Well, yes, allow me to present the Aliens Metanarrative of the Movie for you:  “and this will all still work out except for (insert very next scene)”  A good zombie flick which is intended to be horror doesn’t need to lean on this much — the fundamental premise is already horrific.  Note that this is an important distinction:  there is an entire subgenre devoted wholly to “zombie comedy,”     a land of much B-movie-badness ranging from snarky romantic social satire like Shaun of the Dead, all the way over to the truly over-the-top, nigh-unwatchable inanity of Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead, which inhabits the same niche in movie-dom that a 32-ounce soda does in a restaurant critique… it’s that shameful thing that, at the right time, can be hard to resist even though you know it’s made of awful. 

To what is probably her credit, my wife didn’t make it to this scene.

It’s getting harder and harder to actually scare people with zombie movies, though, which is why, slowly but surely, the zombies have been turned from shambling corpses to “berserkers” (full-speed baddies with the strength of lepers and no concept of self-preservation) in order to up the physical threat.  While The Walking Dead has done a yeoman’s job of bringing the themes of the comic book of the same name to a general audience, the overwhelming conflict there is primarily a Hobbesian Dilemma (this is intentional and an explicit theme of the original author’s work). 

The Henry Kissinger jokes have already started.

Which is why I’m very happy about the upcoming World War Z adaptation.  It will be terribly flawed from the perspective of the book (which use an episodic documentary narrative to brilliantly exploit the Zombie Apocalypse as an exercise in geopolitical reasoning) but I’m VERY happy to see it upping the ante both physically (“zoombies” with emergent “swarm” behaviors) and emotionally, with Adult Fears.  

Not funny.

I can’t figure out how to embed the second trailer directly, so here it is.     

Pay attention particularly to seconds 0:18-0:20. Synopsis for those of you who can’t link Youtube for some reason:

You’re having breakfast with your family and happily ignoring the local news broadcast, until you hear one of your tiny miscreants pipe up with “Daddy, what’s martial law?”

Oh, FUCK.

The theoretical “narrative of your day” has just Stopped. On. This. Dime.

Of course, we can sit back, pop some popcorn, and worry about things like “having a zombie plan” because we live in a safe place.  As opposed to these guys, who need a Hezbollah Plan, and they’re Not Fucking Around.  Neither is the Vietnamese China Plan fictional.     

Cue missile frigates and regional tensions in 3..2..1..

Now, this isn’t a post about more-adult-than-thou posturing or pumping up the fear of geopolitics.  For the record, I’m not all that concerned about geopolitics.  China’s starting to figure out that being the neighborhood asshole isn’t making it any friends.  Radical Islam?  Sure, but I live in Texas.  I help defeat radical Islam around here every time I treat some random niqabi woman more politely than her devout husband ever will.  Al Quaeda and the takfiri crowd don’t create anything useful or worth caring about — two-thirds of the time those jackasses can’t even invent their own ideologies.  They’re still running around with the ideological equivalent of dirty underwear most of the west threw out sixty years ago.  Islamofascism?  Really?  Fuck those goons: if you’re not living in their neighborhood, they’re an inconvenience, not a threat.  COIN sucks, but COIN works.  Or, for those less interested in bothering, “More rubble, less trouble” equally applies.  The arc of history bends decidedly towards the good guys, simply because being one of the good guys works.  Just ask Myanmar: they’re doing a heel face turn, granted, as slowly and with as little effort as they can get away with, because being globally isolated and dependent on a known regional bully sucks

If only the Norks could figure that shit out, but their inbred little Marxist Aristocracy doesn’t look like it’s going to cut it.  They’re making a lot of noise now because everybody in the room knows that in another couple years the Norks won’t even be able to GET to the DMZ, let alone flood across it.

Iran?  I went on the record six years ago saying that Iran’s a temporary problem.  Doubled down on that recently:  Spengler is simply wrong.  There’s no need whatsoever to bomb Iran.  The Iranian people are, by and large, totally awesome:  they don’t call Persia The Land of Poets and Roses for nothing.  (Nerd bonus:  “paladin” comes from “pahlavan,” and the original has more or less the exact same ethics as you’d expect.)  While the IRGC is seriously into the habit of murdering people all over the globe, your average Iranian wants none of that business, and it’s only a matter of time before the majority of the population can come up with a modus vivendi that brings it back into the global mainstream on terms that work for them.  All we in the west have to do is kick the can of open conflict far enough down the road until the Bastards in the Basij are no longer an issue.

More-adult-than-thou?  Come on, here?  I barely qualify as an adult on Monday mornings.

This isn’t even really a post about zombies.  It’s about adult fears and taking care of your kid.  Or really, it’s more a post about Archilochus.

The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.

There’s a big thing coming up, and it’s called negligible senescence.  It’s a world where we print artificial hearts and cure cancers with about the same sense of concern as we treat tuberculosis (as opposed to what the 18th and 19th century thought of tuberculosis, which is remarkably similar to how we think of cancer today: a death sentence).  The bright boys and girls who are working on this problem aren’t screwing around:  they’ve got George fucking Church working on it.   They want to let humans enjoy “classic car” longevity:  when something wears out, just replace it with a custom part and keep on cruising.  As opposed to what we have now, which is millions of people being killed every day by nothing more than a combination of economics and our woeful biological ignorance.

Congratulations, we’ve 3d-printed a balloon.

The speed at which it gets here is unknown.  If I’m lucky, it gets here early enough for me to enjoy it.  Otherwise, well, we all know what happens.  Decrepitude, death, crapping out, a funeral.  If we’re really, REALLY lucky, it gets here fast enough to help out the Boomers, and instead of collectively living a miserable and poor retirement, they never need to retire in the first place.  Dislocations resulting? Sure. 

But probably, my little girl will be burying all of us, and barring disruptions, hers will be the first human generation where death is synonymous with either “shitty politics” or “bad luck.”  I can’t predict the future (though I am willing to place bets on some of it), and I have no idea what will be the real burning issue of the day 35 years from now.  As a medievalist, I can tell you that whatever you think of as your day’s truly hot-button issue, that’s usually NOT what turns out to be the really important bit.  It’s usually some little economic advance that nobody’s ever heard of that changes everything.  Like, you know, DARPAnet.    

 I worry a little bit about the Happychick turning into a shallow brat, but that’s just a typical Daddy thing.  And we’re of the Nerd Tribe, which gives us a few minor issues, but some tremendous strengths:  style-over-substance never really cut it in the Nerd Tribe, and isn’t likely to start.  I’d worry about loss of freedoms and the rise of barbarian paternalists, and I do, but that trend is going in the right direction anyway — the youths are strongly libertarian, and no matter how nanny-state the governments get while they’re busy wrecking the currency, there will be no sheeple on the High Frontier.  I probably won’t get to go garden in space (though, believe it or not, I know how I’d do it, protein included!), but that ought to be an option if things keep going the way they are.  And they will — snag the right asteroid, and the metals inside it will instantly make you a trillionaire.

Still concept art…for now.

No, what I really worry about is something much more basic:  whether the Happychick can adapt and spend her time on the useful and awesome things, and not waste her time on shitty unimportant crap (like, you know, zombie comedies) unless it’s absolutely amusing for her to do so.

Minimize your therbligs until it becomes automatic; this doubles your effective lifetime – and thereby gives you time to enjoy butterflies and kittens and rainbows. — Robert Heinlein

“Therblig” is a real term, by the way.  Google it, and you’ll see that RAH wasn’t just pissing around.  He’s onto an important truth.  Here at Chez Happycrow, we advise minimizing your “cost of existence,” and economically, that also involves “effort of existence.”  All around me what I see are men and women living the quiet real-life equivalent to a horror movie, of their own devising, simply because they haven’t given themselves permission to do things the easy way and the smart way.

Granted, they still need to save.  But all around me I see people treating themselves worse than a bad man treats a dog.  Getting fat and beating the shit out of themselves for it.  Screwing up relationships. Being afraid to get into relationships.  Working like a dog, for no apparent reason.  Being haunted by the effects of some really crappy decision-making.  “Indefinite lifespan” is a long time to suffer the consequences of bad decisions.  We could go all philosophical about good decision-making, but that’d make a really boring post, especially when you still don’t get a guarantee just because you made all the right choices.  Drunk drivers happen.  

Still not fucking funny.

You can teach a kid what he really needs to know (“decisions have consequences”) by popping in Aliens.  It’s less depressing than real life, and a hell of a lot more fun than preaching, too

The problem with the school of hard knocks is that first you take the exam, and then you learn your lesson.  — The HappyDad

Let’s learn from some somebody else’s examples.   And if they’re fictional, and nobody’s REALLY getting eaten by a giant space monster, so much the better.

Hell, we’re off to a great start:  she already knows who Rodan is.

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Don’t look now, but something GOOD just happened in the Middle East

Happy Nowruz!!

Let’s celebrate it by taking a mental moment to thank the wiser and cooler heads among the Turks and Kurds who, at least for now, appear headed for peace.  We took Spengler to task a bit ago for failing to keep up on currents in the region, and the gradual rise of the Kurds is one of the most important things to happen in the region in decades, and perhaps the primary reason to have hoped that Bush’s invasion worked out.  As Nuwroz passes in the Middle East, and Easter comes upon the West, let’s hope that the renewal of hope indeed leads to the rebirth of real peace and prosperity for all the people, Kurds and Turks both, whose lives have been marred by over a generation of tragic and endemic violence.

The Turks have a partner for peace.  And maybe, just maybe, the Kurds have more friends than the mountains.

Lots of Kurds not getting tear-gassed in Turkey.

Doctrine, Practice, and Pope Francis I

I really dig Pope Francis I.

Now, take that for what it’s worth.  I’m an apostate.  Here’s how it happened in five easy steps:

  1. An Orthodox buddy and I were talking, and I mentioned ecumenism. 
  2. He shot it down and said “you guys changed up the Nicene Creed for political convenience.”
  3. I said “no we didn’t.”
  4. He said “it’s called the Filioque Controversy: go google it.”
  5. I did.  I realized “oh, shit, they’re right, we DID change it, mostly for political reasons, and the very change in trinitarian understanding they described, I’ve been hearing from priests since I was 14.”

Bang.  Now I can’t say the Nicene Creed, as Catholics say it, in good faith.  Welcome to apostate-ville.  You see, the Nicene Creed is this little thing called Doctrine.  If you’re a X, you sign on for Y, which may be a number of things, but if you don’t sign on for Y, you’re maybe X+, or X-, or 42.  But not X.  And to be Catholic, you gotta sign on for the Nicene Creed.  Doesn’t mean I was ready to go sign up for the Orthodox Life Plan – I’m not and not going to.  Leaves a fellow like me in a quandary.

Which makes me very happy to see that this is happening.  The primacy of the Pope over the bishops, or what those of us who’ve actually studied ecclesiology call the rise of the papal monarchy, was one specific feature which exacerbated the Great Schism, but it was the redefinition of the Trinity,  that made it real.  Combined, of course, with the Arab slavers blocking all the sea routes, and the Avar slavers blocking all the land routes, so that both sides were well and truly used to doing it their way when they got back together and realized they didn’t quite speak the same religious language any more.

Francis has come right out and said “we understand and respect your decisions of conscience, and want all the possible best for you.”  Well, hot damn.  As an apostate, that’s music to my ears.  Doesn’t solve my dilemma, but it does make a guy in Apostate-ville feel better.

Ya know what doesn’t make me feel better? This sort of thing:

If this Pope pulls out the license on the Summorum Pontificum, we are going to the SSPX. Simply said.
Since his damning election, our prayers have been extra for Monsignor Guidi Marini! We are so sad to see him so depressed and hurting inside.

Summorum Pontificum isn’t doctrine.  It’s this little thing called “practice,” and a lot of so-called “Traditional” Catholics, who are traditional about everything except actually understanding their Church, need to calm down, chill out, have a little decaf (and maybe a couple rosaries), and relax. 

Doctine is definitional.  Practice is flexible.  It changes over time.  Summorum Pontificum addresses that.  It says “yes, the Church has not doctrinally knocked out the Tridentine rite or Latin mass, so if people really want to go old-school and do a mass in Latin, hey, as long as all your other t’s are crossed and i’s dotted, go knock yourselves out. It’s all good.”

Whether the Liturgy is in Latin or English (or Spanish or Korean or Swahili) means squat.  It’s Practice.  It changes to suit the needs of the people.  Married priests?  Practice.  Used to have them.  May have them again.  In 11th-century Hungary, one of the laws signed off on by King Coloman was that a priest couldn’t become a bishop unless his wife agreed to it. 

Why?

Because the priest was married, obviously.  By long-standing (and by long-standing, I mean Pauline) practice, Bishops aren’t.  And it would really be an uncharitable, unchristian act for a priest to toss his wife aside like a used kleenex just so he could angle for a promotion.  Practice.  Whether the priest is married or celibate makes squat for doctrinal difference.  In fact, the celibacy of the Bishop is practice, as well, albeit one that’s entirely unlikely to ever be reversed.  For all those budding latinists in the “traditional” movement, there’s a gigantic literature on substantia and accidentia.  Our medieval forebears lived that difference.

Is Pope Francis a liturgical liberal?  Does he genuflect where we want him to, and wear the proper lace doily, without which he’s committing an insult to the Papacy?  The Papacy is what the Pope and Cardinals make it.  Anybody who disagrees with that needs to go check out the Council of Constance, and all the shenanigans involved in it.  Respectfully, if somebody’s deep worry about the future of the Church revolves around Summorum Pontificum or some other random, butt-hurt whining (I hate to be harsh, but check those comments) about what might happen with some liturgical or practice-oriented judgment calls that might happen, they’ve got “rich-people-problems.” 

These are the same people who were crying in their beer when “Joey Ratz” (sic) didn’t go on a fiery ecclesiological purge to cleanse all those “heretic liturgical liberals” out of the Church.  Yes, they actually said that — I even heard it from recent converts, who apparently didn’t realize that the Pharisees got talked smack at in the Bible for good reason.  You know, instead of worrying about the real problems the Church faced.  Like endemic corruption, an ongoing pedophile-abuse scandal, the corruption and sexual exploitation of young men enabled by the cult-like operating opacity of the Legion of Christ/ Regnum Christi folks, and a whole slew of other problems.  Problems that make the deep, involved issue of liturgical linguistics into the legalistic non-issue it actually is.

Francis I is worried about another problem.  It’s an old one.  It’s called “poverty.”  That strikes me as a fine thing to be concerned about — because it’s one thing to not make a lot of money, but still get by.  It’s another thing to be Real-World-PovertyTM, which doesn’t have a lot to do about having a fancy latin log-in name, but has an AWFUL lot to do with whether the lady involved sells her ass out on the street every night or watches her children starve.  This is the man who, as archbishop, ripped his bishops a new ass for the godawful hypocrisy of saying that poor women without husbands shouldn’t have abortions, but that the children from said encounters could never be baptized because they were born out of wedlock.  Then-Bergoglio’s reaction was “you guys suck,” and he performed those baptisms.

Because he’s not approaching the lives of desperately poor people like a lawyer.  He’s approaching it like a christian.

So, shrug.  I”m an apostate.  Nobody in the Church really cares what I think.  But as far as Francis I goes, I can only say “right on, dude.”  The dude gets it.

Professor Mead still doesn’t quite get the Boomer Holocaust’s true horror

Via Meadia has what ought to be a pretty darned good option for some of the boomer retirees who (like MANY of their peers), have acted more like the grasshopper than the ant.

Now they are reaping the fruits of their profligacy. Pension programs across the country are going broke, as we’ve covered time and time again. Rising life expectancies could add as much as $97 billion to the tab according to the WSJ.

So boomers can rely on neither their own anemic savings nor on public pension plans to get them out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves.

But Via Meadia values mercy as well as justice, so we hasten to point out that there’s still some hope for those entering retirement age. Retirement expenses are much cheaper in other countries like Panama and Ecuador. And retiring abroad lets you live a much more lavish life on a tighter budget, and the kids only have to fly an hour or two past Florida to visit and chide you for the profligacy of your youth.

If only they could.  But the majority of them can’t. 

This isn’t a new issue — Chez Happycrow has been sounding the alarm on this issue long before it was an easy hit on a Google search.  And those GenX types who didn’t take this seriously and start trying to figure out how to set up retirement in spite of the declining earnings and low social mobility are in just as bad shape.   The GenX challenge is how to retire without any of the promotions or raises that the generation before them enjoyed — and not surprisingly, many of my cohort are failing, too. 

The answer, “discipline,” seems to be in short supply lately.  All those old 401k arguments might have meant something…except that so many people have already spent them.  If the bills pile up and your only option is to eat your 401k, your only real option is to downsize your lifestyle until it fits inside your belt.  But that’s considered harsh and uncaring language nowadays.

So why not say “the hell with it,” sell out, and go to Panama?

Well, there’s a little problem with that.  Who’s going to buy?  As we’ve pointed out, the entire rotten edifice that regards housing as an investment and cheers when housing prices go up (including this morning’s radio bobbleheads on NPR, which continue to think inside the box on the subject), still don’t get that housing is first and foremost a cost — the cost of not being homeless.  Since Boomers aren’t retiring, but are holding onto any job they can, as long as they can, with “I’ll just keep working” now turning into a Boomer non-retirement mantra, Milennials can’t afford to buy their houses.  And don’t look like they can afford to have enough kids to fund the pension programs, either.

Catch-22?

Well, there is some hope.  Boomers have chased the buy-and-flip for a long time, and perhaps counterintuitively, many of their houses are both newer and worth more than those owned by younger generational cohorts.  That means that they’re potentially prime rental properties, IF they’re unencumbered by a mortgage.  If, like many Boomers, the person in question is still carrying a mortgage, well… write it off.  That rent isn’t paying for Jamaica — it’s paying for the bank not to take its house back.  (That’s right, its house.  Until you’ve paid off the mortgage, you may be paying property taxes on that puppy, but you don’t own it).

So Mead’s partly right.  The select few who didn’t save enough, but did have the discipline at least to kill their mortgages and not get into HELOCS, etc, can pay a professional property manager 10% of their monthly take to manage the place,  and go retire someplace cheap on $800 a month.  If the thought of talking to people who speak another language scares them (oddly, I’ve encountered a lot of people with this problem), well, they speak English in Belize, and the climate there is easy on the arthritis.

It ain’t great.  But at least for the lucky few, Professor Mead’s got a point: it’s a hell of a lot better than the oncoming train wreck the rest of their peers are about to suffer.

Being Racist in Philly

Here at Chez Happycrow, we are melanin-deficient (though I identify as Nerd-American: “my tribe” is those people who are interested in ideas and want to explore them, find them, talk about them, disseminate them).  So in theory, I’m supposed to feel sorry for all those poor white people in Philly who are oppressed by “expectations” and “Reverse Racism,” and all sorts of ugly words.

I don’t.  Because the fact is, Philly is messed up, and everything I’m reading here says the white people in this article are not the poor downtrodden oppressed, but a major contributor to the problem.

….white Philadelphians think a great deal about race. Begin to talk to people, and it’s clear it’s a dominant motif in and around our city. Everyone seems to have a story, often an uncomfortable story, about how white and black people relate.

And they seem to be going about it all the wrong way:

Take a young woman I’ll call Susan, whom I met recently. She lost her BlackBerry in a biology lab at Villanova and Facebooked all the class members she could find, “wondering if you happened to pick it up or know who did.” No one had it. There was one black student in the class, whom I’ll call Carol, who responded: “Why would I just happen to pick up a BlackBerry and if this is a personal message I’m offended!”

Susan assured her that she had Facebooked the whole class. Carol wrote: “Next time be careful what type of messages you send around and what you say in them.”

After that, when their paths crossed at school, Carol would avoid eye contact with Susan, wordless. What did I do? Susan wondered.

I’ll tell Susan what she did.  She acted like an idiot who’s afraid of getting into an argument with a black chick.  What she should have said was “Hey, look, you don’t have to chew my ass just because I’m trying to find my blackberry.  Sorry I irritated you — you’re obviously not having a good day here.  Good luck with midterms, and have a better one.”

DONE. ISSUE RESOLVED.

If Carol refuses any contact with you after that, guess what?  That’s Carol’s problem.

Let’s assume that what “Susan” has said can be taken at face value.  There are two issues here.  Susan has lost her blackberry.  Carol is being a rude bitch.  That’s right.  Carol’s problem is not that she’s black and Susan’s sending hidden racist messages.  It’s that she needs to switch to goddamned decaf and chill out. 

If you’re afraid to stick up for yourself because the other person is black, you’re being a racist, Susan.  You may not be acting all white-supremacist, but you are thinking through a filter in which “it’s because Carol’s black” makes more sense than “it’s because Carol’s a stress puppy and needs to chill the hell out.”

Another story: Dennis, 26, teaches math in a Kensington school. His first year there, fresh out of college, one of his students, an unruly eighth grader, got into a fight with a girl. Dennis told him to stop, he got into Dennis’s face, and in the heat of the moment Dennis called the student, an African-American, “boy.”

The student went home and told his stepfather. The stepfather demanded a meeting with the principal and Dennis, and accused Dennis of being racist; the principal defended his teacher. Dennis apologized, knowing how loaded the term “boy” was and regretting that he’d used it, though he was thinking, Why would I be teaching in an inner-city school if I’m a racist? The stepfather calmed down, and that would have been the end of it, except for one thing: The student’s behavior got worse. Because now he knew that no one at the school could do anything, no matter how badly he behaved.

And another great example of screwing it up.  First off, this kid’s behavior isn’t a black thing.  It has absolutely NO bearing on racism except insofar as the teacher put it in that category.  Unless, of course, he called him “boy” because he meant it that way, and what he was really doing with the stepfather was tap-dancing like mad in order to keep his job.  What should he have been doing and said?  “Yes, I’m sorry it came out that way — that wasn’t all that sensitive of me.  That said, we’ve got an issue with this kid that needs to get solved.”  Ask any teacher: as soon as a “problem kid” figures out he’s bulletproof, you’ve lost any chance of reaching him.  His focus as a teacher shouldn’t have been about insulating himself and protecting himself from being perceived as racist by a total stranger.  His focus should have been on fixing the issue with the kid.  (Now, if the Philly school district decided to throw the teacher under the bus, that’s a problem — but that’s between Dennis and his administration, not the stepdad who just wants to make sure the kid’s getting treated fairly.)

Yet there’s a dance I do when I go to the Wawa on Germantown Avenue. I find myself being overly polite. Each time I hold the door a little too long for a person of color, I laugh at myself, both for being so self-consciously courteous and for knowing that I’m measuring the thank-you’s.  A friend who walks to his car parked on Front Street downtown early each morning has a similar running joke with himself. As he walks, my friend says hello and makes eye contact with whoever crosses his path. If the person is white, he’s bestowing a tiny bump of friendliness. If the person is black, it’s friendliness and a bit more: He’s doing something positive for race relations.

Uh, no, dude, he’s not.  He’s not being friendly, either.  He’s being courteous.  There’s a difference, and a big one, and if he weren’t acting like a SWPL idiot, he’d get that. Is he being a bad guy? No.  Not in the slightest.  But once again, color, rather than actions-plus-character, is how this guy’s thinking.  So now he’s congratulating himself….for saying hi to somebody.

What do you want, a cookie?  Why is it extra work to make eye contact with a black guy, unless what you’re really saying is, “I’m afraid of black people and I’m congratulating myself on the extra effort I make every day not to be an asshole.” 

Anna’s got it even worse:

“I’ve been here for two years, I’m almost done,” she says. “Blacks use skin color as an excuse. Discrimination is an excuse, instead of moving forward. … It’s a shame—you pay taxes, they’re not doing anything except sitting on porches smoking pot … Why do you support them when they won’t work, just make babies and smoking pot? I walk to work in Center City, black guys make compliments, ‘Hey beautiful. Hey sweetie.’ White people look but don’t make comments. … ”

You’re a lawyer living in a working-class neighborhood, honey.  I got news for you – lots of folks sit on porches and smoke pot.  You got a problem because they’re doing it on a porch instead of in their spacious back yards?  Also, you are a lawyer living in a working-class neighborhood who can’t stand the fact that you get compliments?  I got news for you, Anna:  enjoy them while they last, because beauty fades, and you’re sure not getting those compliments because of your sparkling personality.  Melanin-deficient dude here drops those same compliments all the time.  That’s not a race thing, that’s a culture thing, and it’s mostly a “you’re too damned uptight, lady” thing.

I’ll let y’all read the rest of it — there’s no reason to fisk the whole thing.  But you get the idea.

But this is how I see it: We need to bridge the conversational divide so that there are no longer two private dialogues in Philadelphia—white people talking to other whites, and black people to blacks—but a city in which it is okay to speak openly about race. That feels like a lot to ask, a leap of faith for everyone. It also seems like the only place to go, the necessary next step.

If it is offensive for some gal to treat you like you’re a potential rapist and for her to be on RED FUCKING ALERT whenever you’re around just because you have testicles, then it’s time for some of these folks in Philly to man the hell up and realize that being scared of black people for no damned reason is every.bit.as.fucking.offensive.  They need to shut the hell up and worry less about being righteous and more about treating people like they’re people.

And if somebody “throws the card,” call them on it.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with busting a gut laughing when some gal turns and asks “it’s because I’m black, isn’t it.”  There’s nothing wrong with saying “no, I’m not scared of you because you’re black.  I’m scared of you because there are SIX of you and you all look PISSED.  What happened?  Is everything okay, and is there something I can do to make it better?”

Because, goddamn, judging by this, Philly is a messed-up place and somebody needs to start stepping up and making it better.

How to get a bazillion visitors to your blog, if you want almost all of them to be screechy man-haters.

One of my favorite blogs, Classical Values, is addressing a question about sexism and the law, specifically, if a man and woman get piss drunk and go at it with each other, why does the man get prosecuted for felony rape and the woman is suddenly a victim?

The conduct which is described graphically in a number of articles was so out of control that as I read about it, it struck me that all of the kids involved were so shitfaced drunk that none of them were making rational decisions….

I’ve discussed this issue repeatedly, and there’s an interesting yahoo discussion here with the question phrased this way:

Can a man be too drunk to consent to sex with another man, and would that be considered rape?

Looked at that way, people can understand the problems in assigning blame. But suppose we phrase it this way?

Can a man be too drunk to consent to sex with a woman, and would that be considered rape?

Putting aside the activist snark about the football players’ conduct being “homoerotic” in nature (which might itself be an interesting defense, for the boys could claim that they were forced into “unnatural” and non-consensual intercourse by their fellow teammates), I cannot see why the above question isn’t a valid one.

For those who follow us here at Chez Happycrow, this may ring a bit of a bell.  This blog gets, on average about 10 visitors a day. I don’t post daily, and I only post when I have something to say, and I figure that if I’m in double-digits I’m probably doing okay.  Now, I have a pet theory about choosing to get drunk, and that’s that getting trashed off your ass is a conscious decision which does not absolve you of your responsibilities as an adult.  This is why we make it fucking illegal to sell and/or provide the stuff to anybody under 21 unless they’re our kids for whom we already have full legal responsibility for their actions.

When I posted this, I got something on the order of four thousand visitors in one day, almost all of them PISSED OFF:

Alcohol does not excuse a man raping you.  But at the same time, alcohol doesn’t mean you get a free pass on your behavior, either.  You do not lose your ability to give consent simply because you’ve chosen to drink and/or to get drunk — the sad truth is that a lot of women drink in order to give themselves permission to have sex.  One survey in England (not exactly a Saudi-like bastion of sexual repression) that came out not too long ago suggested that a significant percentage of married women had never had sex, even with their husbands, while actually sober.  Men know that lots of women drink to give themselves permission to screw, and many men will assume that if you’re drinking and dressed in a sexy way, that it’s perfectly reasonable to put 2 and 2 together and get 4.  Don’t set yourself up for future emotional anguish if you don’t trust yourself when you’re drinking.  Have a drinking buddy you can trust, and if you don’t want to get laid, make sure the guys you’re drinking with know that.  It’s not rape if you get really drunk and get laid,  but then regret the hell out of that the next morning, no matter how horrible you feel afterwards.  Sorry — that’s about as politically incorrect as it gets.  But you’re just as responsible for your actions as men are for theirs.  (And if you use that as an excuse to take it out  on the man by filing a false rape charge, you are officially A Bad Person.)

I got this more or less because I’d dared to tell women that if they wanted to be counted as adults, they needed to be held accountable for their own actions.  The fact that I’d said, and I quote, “Alcohol does not excuse a man raping you” was besides the point.  At this point, I was instantly a hater and a proponent of “rape culture” (irony, that, since it’s my fervent belief that rapists should be shot in the face prior to penetration).

This works for me.

Turns out I’m in good company.  In her ever-restrained, low-key prose, JudgyBitch’s column “You weren’t raped. You’re a whore. Join the club,” JudgyBitch takes on the same issue:

Women, on the other hand, are completely fucked in the head in this exact same situation.  They get dressed up in their best whore clothes, head out to a frat party, drink their faces off, end up in bed with some guy they wouldn’t normally touch with a ten yard pole, wake up the next morning feeling like a total slutbag and then it happens.  Someone must be to blame for this.  I can’t possibly have gotten shitfaced and exercised some really poor judgement. Moi? Ce n’est pas possible! I am an innocent blushing virgin with impeccable moral standards.  Why, only whores get smashed and fuck random guys in a frat house, and I am not a whore so JESUS MOTHER OF GOD I WAS RAPED!

Bitch, please.  You weren’t raped.  You were trashed. Why is it that men are held responsible for their actions no matter what their state of inebriation, but women get a pass.  It doesn’t matter if you were drunk, stripped naked, straddled the guy in your best cowgirl and fucked like a banshee.  You were drunk.  You can’t consent.  You were raped.

Dude might have been just as pissed up as you, but he can’t cry rape because rationality.  Only men are rational creatures?  Really?  Bull.  Shit.

On the other hand, Diane Schuler begs to differ.

Oh, wait.  No, she doesn’t.  She’s dead.

Arrests for drunk driving among women have increased 36% in the past 10 years, even as those for men have plummeted, according to FBI statistics quoted in a study released last month. Inspired by Schuler’s tragic 2009 accident in which four children and four adults were killed, the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) reviewed 20 years of statistics on female Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) and Driving Under the Influence (DUI) arrests from many sources.

What they found is truly alarming. In 1980, nine percent of drivers arrested for DWI—drinking with a blood alcohol content (BAC) higher than 0.08—were women; by 2007, women comprised more than 20% of all DWIs. Also steadily increasing are both the number of women jailed for drunk driving and the number of women involved in drunk driving fatalities, according to the TIRF study.

The legal precedent that Eric Scheie is looking for over at Classical Values is already written into law.  The ladies do NOT forfeit their adult responsibilities merely because they have chosen to get shit-faced drunk.  If they did, they wouldn’t be prosecuted and jailed for DUI.

And contrary to the screeching man-haters who made me the target of their Two Minutes’ Hate over in feminazi-land, that doesn’t mean that we live in a rape culture.  It means that among the fundamental dignity that women possess is the right to be considered an actual adult, rather than a permachild who cannot be considered in control of her own actions.  What the shrieking harpies are actually proposing is a vision of the law in which women not only do not have equality, but in which they never stand a chance of achieving it.

These women might have something to say about that.

Adulthood and legal equality is not “rape culture.”  This is rape culture, and if those people who are all about “sisterhood” are serious, they could try telling their political counterparts to sit down and shut up when they excuse the open misogyny and widespread abuse of women happening across the Middle East and Southern Asia.

Meanwhile, back to the topic at hand.  Let’s spell this out in really small words, just in case any of the screechers come back and (as usual), don’t bother with that whole “actual literacy” thing.

  1. When somebody is passed out, they can’t give consent.  Passed out due to ANY circumstances, whether that’s the rohypnol somebody tried to victimize a buddy of mine with, too much booze, or Medical Condition X.  You cannot consent if you cannot engage in conscious volition, period.  Doesn’t matter your sex, either.
  2. Ergo, yes, there is absolutely no question that these guys Scheie was posting about were committing a sexual assault.  Put them away.  And women who were in the reverse situation should ALSO be put away.
  3. Neither sex may be excused from legal responsibility/consent simply because they have voluntarily chosen to trash their decision-making ability.  Crying “rape” because you don’t like the choices you  made, or because you simply get off on having the power to ruin’s somebody’s life, is a crime, and you should be put away.
  4. Your inability to handle peer pressure does not constitute a crime on the part of your peers.  Fucking grow up, mate.
  5. If somebody convinces you to take a powerful alcoholic drink in a form which was disguised which a reasonable person (not necessarily a wise person) would have no reason to suspect was alcholic, drug-laced, or otherwise spiked, you’ve grounds for prosecution and one hell of a lawsuit.  AKA the rohypnol assholes have no “get out of jail free” card here — nobody reasonably suspects that a single drink is going to leave them passed-out and unconscious, and this is, by definition, criminal assault even if nothing else happens, every bit as much as if the guy threw a hook under your ear and cold-cocked you.  Still assault, he’s just a coward using a sneakier tool.
  6. Beer-goggles does not make rape.  Getting so trashed that neither party remembers actually having sex because they had an alcoholic “blackout” does not make rape.
  7. Somebody who has trashed their decision-making ability is not free from prosecution if they then drive drunk.  Equally, they are not free from criminal liability if they proceed to take advantage of somebody with no conscious volition.    Being shitfaced drunk is not an excuse for poor decision-making, and it is no more an excuse for committing criminal assault (sexual or otherwise) than it is for DUI or vehicular manslaughter.

Ashamed to have a Boyfriend in your 20s? REALLY?!

…in which Happycrow floats what is probably the least popular idea in America.

I was going to comment on this article in The Atlantic, but life caught up to me, and Susan Walsh has beaten me to the punch by a mile.

(edit: looks like some of the ladies already agree with this one.  Chez Happycrow may not be all that far out in the ether)

Of course, my first inclination is to say “what kind of fucked-up world have the feminists created, if they’ve made young women ashamed to have a boyfriend?”  Well, outside of “why the hell  do people keep looking at television of all things, as a measure of actual human life,” that’s “cue the Mommy Wars” territory, and the same generational madness that first told women that they were failures if they stayed at home to raise their kids, and are now fighting over whether pursuing a career is a self-centered and morally doubtful enterprise.

Susan Walsh’s take:

As women, we face choices. You cannot give 100% of yourself  to a career and another 100% of yourself to your family. You cannot be a superstar in both realms, it is impossible. Over the years, I have known many women who had careers and children – hundreds. I have never known a woman who had a high-powered career and a close relationship to her husband and children. Not one.  Maybe Sheryl Sandberg or Marissa Mayer will be the exceptions, but I doubt it. Every single one of us must compromise if we want to find balance in life.

That balance is complicated by a woman’s expiration date.  Phoebe Maltz Bovy asks:

Women in their 20s are told they’re too young to settle down. Then, seemingly overnight, they start hearing they’re spinsters. What gives?

There’s two reasons for that.

First, just like men, you have a biological expiration date; you’ll have a harder time having finding mates and having kids as you get older.  There is a horrible politically-incorrect truth that none of the 40+ single women on internet dating sites wants to face: once you hit “the Wall,” the vast majority of women can no longer attract a man her own age — unless she is very unusual (and very lucky), she’ll only get interest from men who are five to ten years her senior, if not older.

A 22-year-old woman can get a date with a 22-year-old guy.  A 40-year-old woman is going to be attracting older men.  A woman in her 50s is going to get attention from guys who are drawing Social Security.  Women start out with vast dating power and ability to be choosy while they’re fertile, but their ability to attract men declines step by step with said fertility (don’t know how this works for the actually aged, but I suspect the Boomers are going to provide us with a lot of data).

Second, and this is just as politically-incorrect, and just as important:  women pushing hard for careers and then looking for quality men aren’t going to find them.  The plaintive feminine wail of “where have all the good men gone” you can find on any dating site can be answered by “they found a good girl and settled down while you were busy hooking up with that bad-boy loser.”  Quality men are attracted to high-quality women, and those few who wind up still on the market, or back on the market in their late 30s and 40s certainly aren’t going to pursue a woman who wants a man to your accessory item, a mantlepiece to her awesome life and career.  He’ll go for a woman who, first and foremost, wants to be a wife.   Because otherwise, what’s in it for him?  Your awesome resume and high-dollar spending habits?

Now, I know some gals who have won the lottery and done fine this way, but they all have three things in common:  they’re scary-smart, they’re smoking-hot (Happycrow comes from a smoking-hot mom and has very harsh standards, regularing grading gals 6s and 7s who others consider 9s and 10s), and they ALL — every single one of them married men significantly their senior.  And, actually, they’re all quite happy.  So “play that game but be open to adoring and having kids with an accomplished older man” seems, at least anecdotally, to be a valid play.  Anecdotally, the folks I know who married very young seem mostly to be stable, happy, and winning-at-life, with the exception of one down-in-flames divorce involving alcohol and drugs.

But Happycrow’s sample size is admittedly limited, and the plural of anecdote is not “evidence.”  I very nearly went this route myself, and would have wound up somewhere in Amarillo instead of somewhere in Central Europe.  I like my life, but I certainly can’t say the other route would have been a train wreck or disaster, and it might have rocked.  Road, more or less travelled, rinse, don’t repeat: for better or for worse (and Happycrow has a great life he ain’t trading in) we all know the story.

—-

What we have here isn’t a moral problem.  It’s a socio-economic problem that faces women, and it’s “what choice do I get to make?”  That’s not bad:  ask all the men up in the peanut gallery saying “why should I give a shit, since I don’t get any choices and nobody’s offering me one?”  (Answer: guys get plenty of choices if they don’t care about kids – if they do, then they have to put shoulder to wheel and support that mom while she’s pregnant and after and unable to do more than put in trivial work-hours, for as long as that lasts). 

Well, if you have a girlfriend or daughter, you need to care, because society is scaring the shit out of young women by saying “you’d better choose right, or you’re going to ruin your life.  But, I’m really trying to force you to live a life that lets me vicariously claim your achievements, so I’m going to brand you a failure no matter what you pick, if you don’t make the choices I like.”  Tyrannical solipsistic bitches like Simone de Beauvoir, who would actually have banned stay-at-home motherhood if given the chance (none, because there were very few people stupid enough to listen to her), are only the most extreme example.  As JudgyBitch puts it, “bitter old feminist is bitter and old.”

What we really need is an option where these two are not so mutually-incompatible (guys, bear with, this gives you options down the road, too — see below).  Now, for a truly high-powered career, you can simply write that off:  you pull 60+-hour weeks, your relationship with your family is going to suffer.  Period.  That’s the sacrifice you make when you choose to chase a career (and tragically, the “box” people who have convinced themselves that they must pursue a career <i>for the sake</i> of the family find themselves in if they don’t actually pay attention to what the family members are saying).  If you find yourself forgetting your kid’s age and you’re *not* a Head of State, you’ve got some serious questions to ask yourself about this whole “work-life balance” thing.

(Now, granted, if you’re from the part of the cultural world where being afraid of having a boyfriend in your 20s sounds like “I have issues and need therapy,” none of this is a problem.  But all these gals doing the interviews and publishing the books can’t just be pulling these unhappy girls out of their asses.  At least, I hope not.  That would hurt.)

What we need is something significantly different:  a lower cost-of-entry for education, and for women to not only consider settling down in their 20s, but to consider settling down in college.  That means growing up faster than television says to, but fuck television, seriously.  This Sex-and-the-City-style “hookup culture” bullshit does nothing but make an alarming number of young women miserable.
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/09/boys-on-the-side/309062/

Wanna find a quality guy?  Find a guy who doesn’t FREAK at the prospect of:

  1. Getting married in school and being seriously careful about school debt.
  2. Spending time with your spouse in school/grad-school.
  3. Having kids early, working as necessary to manage the bills, and supporting the guy’s career if possible.
  4. Re-entering the workforce to pursue career once the kids get into school, preferably in a way that’s not being enslaved to the corporate ladder but lets the gal call a lot of her own shots: dental hygienist, real-estate agent, part-time office gig, retail management, or part-time high-skill-trade.  Low-end to high-end, whatever suits her talents and the need for flexibility
  5. Giving the guy the option to keep pushing on the career, or else revamp to cycle-down into something more basic and family-oriented, rather than telling him he’s got  to always have his nose to the grindstone until he dies.
  6. OR, enough support from family, etc, to let her be the hard-charger while he takes care of the kid and home-school stuff and then similarly ramps up, details tbd once kids are in school.

Your immature, bad-boy loser types will freak out and run from this at a thousand miles per hour.  Your serious, high-quality men will figure out “hey, she’s put some thought into this,” assuming attraction, and won’t freak out.

There are some problems, of course:  a lot of the guys who seriously get this are guys working in trades, who don’t have the economic privelege of being a permalescent (or “tween,” some people are calling it).  They have to grow up and get with it or starve.  How do they meet?  How do young couples make some of the hard compromises that early careers (read: “moving”) entail?  What does the girl do if it turns out that the guy is living in fantasy-land and has a career predicated on the world adopting his special flavor of wishful thinking?  What if either of them “trades the other in” down the road?

All of those are problems (especially the “got traded in” issue, which victimizes both men and women). But they’re pretty minor compared to the near-guarantee of “pursued career and ignored men until 40, now can’t find a husband, children looking impossible.”  It’s got a lot going for it, for both people involved.  Gals get commitment and support.  Guys, seriously:  how much of a young man’s “night life” is basically wasted looking for some gal to hang out with?  Instead of being in a steady relationship, getting laid two or three times a day, and mutually supporting each other while all those single people look on in jealousy?  (Especially considering the old and very true wisdom, that there is no hornier creature on earth than a happily-married good girl.  The gal I almost chased back in the day said “yeah, once I’m married, I’ll do him on the ceiling, but I have to wait until then.”)

Now, is this something that actually solves the problem?  Ehhh, no.  In essence, it’s just “yet more advice being thrown at women.”  Except that this one’s being pitched to women and men, because, seriously, you kinda need two for this situation.  Women are the gatekeepers of sex:  men are the gatekeepers of commitment.  And a guy who’ll put commitment on the table as an option right off the bat, without being one of those “creepy barnacle guys,” shows a depth that good-time bad-boys can’t put on the table, and that “cads” who are looking for a pump-and-dump won’t put on the table.

Beats the hell out of being one of these poor sad sacks Susan’s talking about, 47 years old and desperately dropping money on expensive, dicey fertility treatments.

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like Iran.

“Spengler” is at it again.

Now, grant you, I like Spengler.  Agree with him about almost nothing, but I like people who step right out and tell you what they think, and why, even when it’s ridiculous.  And boy-howdy can he be risible, a moral scold who beats up silly straw men on social issues:  like most social conservatives, he likes to advocate against the arguments that he wished his opponents made on subjects like marriage equality, etc.

Now, here at Chez Happycrow, we just used “marriage equality” rather than “gay marriage” for the first time on the blog, and that pretty much lets you know the POV here:  there is a word for Christians who insist on having the State sanctify their Sacraments:  that word is “heretic.”  Matthew 22:21, for those whose blood-pressure just jumped forty points.  As far as the government is concerned, marriage is a legal contract with extra family-court protections.  That’s why government marriages recognize divorce.  Spengler’s arguments may fire up the guys over at PJ Media who automatically equate “homosexual” with “pedophile,” but we don’t see why people we know should have to travel a thousand miles to put together a contract that says “it’s us against the world, baby.”

So, given all of that, why do we pay not just attention, but close attention, to Spengler over here?  Because people are more than just the sum of their opinions (thank God, or somebody would have murdered yours truly Happycrow long ago), and when Spengler is right about something, he is dead-on “steel on target.”  Such as pointing out that the shape of the future will be greatly determined by who has kids — and, surprisingly, showing us that some of the folks we expected to be winning the demography race are losing it, badly.  Or cautioning the world, long before it was fashionable to do so, that Egypt is a basketcase that is going to implode pretty much no matter what the West does.  That link goes to a more recent column, but he sounded that drum a long time ago.

So Happycrow disagrees with Spengler all day long — but likes and pays attention to him.

But Spengler has an “issue” with Iran.  Even a short and basic appraisal of Spengler’s foreign-policy prescription makes it clear that he’s never played even a single game of Diplomacy — and if he did, he definitely never played as Italy.  Let’s see what he has to say about Iran:

The Bush administration and the mainstream Republican leadership went all in on the gamble that moderate Islam would bring democracy and stability to the Middle East, and turned the devious, erratic Turkish leader into its poster boy, with disastrous consequences. But the Republicans’ ideological commitment is so rigid that they have difficulty freeing themselves from the grip of what Charles Krauthammer inappropriately dubbed “democratic realism.” (In opposition to this, I proposed an Augustinian realism as the basis for U.S. foreign policy).

We Republicans now find ourselves painted into a corner. The public doesn’t trust us with guns. That’s why Rand Paul has gotten his fifteen minutes of fame (and if it turns out to be more than fifteen minutes, we are in trouble). It’s satisfying at one level to watch Rand Paul beat up Obama’s nominee for CIA director, but he represents a nasty brand of isolationism.

We nonetheless have to state the obvious: The only way to prevent Syria’s living hell from spreading to Iraq and Lebanon is to neutralize the main source of instability: Iran. Republicans should rally behind Gen. James Mattis, whom Obama fired as head of Central Command. Gen. Mattis told a Senate committee March 6 that sanctions aren’t working, and that Tehran ”enriching uranium beyond any plausible peaceful purpose.” The United States should not only remove Iran’s nuclear program, but also destroy Revolutionary Guards bases and other conventional capability that the Tehran regime employs to destabilize its neighbors. And the U.S. should throw its full weight behind regime change….

We Republicans have to cure ourselves of the illusion that we can engineer the happiness of other cultures with an inherent antipathy to Western-style democracy. Where the Muslim world is concerned, optimism is cowardice. And we have to persuade the American people that selective, limited military action against Iran will not draw the United States into a new land war.

If we fail, the world will change to our lasting disadvantage. For example: if Iran gets a deliverable nuclear bomb, Saudi Arabia will ask Pakistan to deploy nuclear weapons in Saudi Arabia as a deterrent. China has had a covert role in Pakistan’s nuclear program from the outset; if the United States fails to stop Iran’s nuclear program, China will have an urgent interest in a military presence in the Persian Gulf, and the means to accomplish it through nuclear proliferation. It is a nightmare scenario, but it is not improbable. We might as well tell the truth. To do that, we need to face up to it ourselves.

Now, you’re looking at a guy who obviously pays attention to foreign policy here.  There are a few facts that Spengler might have taken notice of.  Unfortunately, his monomaniacal “bomb-bomb Iran” approach has led him to take some shortcuts here, and it shows.  He’s lapsed into his habitual straw men, this time where US foreign policy and the world of the Middle East is concerned.  Let’s look at a half-dozen facts that everybody who’s paying attention to these things already knows:

  1. Iran’s government is composed of mass-murdering thugs, whereas its civilian population has pretty much zero interest in anything other than living a good life:  nuclear power and nuclear weapons in the hands of your average Iranian is pretty much no threat to anybody.  While they’re not huge fans of US foreign policy, they’re pretty pro-American, and totally pissed about how the regime constantly flushes their tax money down a rat-hole in Lebanon.
  2. Iran’s population is in free-fall and aging rapidly. [edit: this is a mis-statement. It is Iranian population growth that is in free-fall.  Thanks to “Liz” in the comments for the catch.]
  3. The United States is not simply sitting back and “hoping for the best” where an Iranian bomb is concerned.  There’s this little thing called “sanctions” and “Stuxnet” that Spengler’s conveniently overlooked.  Word on the street is that Stuxnet is eerily effective at what it does, too.
  4. There are salafist bad guys all over the middle east, Saudi janissaries over whom the Saudis lost control and now are kinda-sorta helping to squish in some places while openly aiding and abetting them in others, ….because Saudis.
  5. There are mass-murdering thugs who form a functional arm of Iranian (and thus by proxy, Russian) foreign policy and an explicit extension of the Iranian regime’s murderous interests.  Those are… the Syrian regime and Hezbollah (without which Lebanon and the entire eastern Med would be a significantly safer place).
  6. Friendly regional powers such as Israel and the Kurds have growing, peaceful, and prosperous populations which are set to functionally eclipse all the “basketcase powers” within a generation or two.

Now, as a human being, Spengler is right to decry violence and people shooting, killing, and cutting each other’s throats.  But it’s an imperfect world, and some things are simply facts.  Salafists, Hezbollah guys, Syrian regime dead-enders… these guys are going to kill people, no matter what we do.  And we want them either dead, or neutralized, because the alternative is them throwing acid in little girls’ faces and blowing up buses full of schoolchildren, burning down churches (and “offensive” mosques), etc etc.  When Red Team takes on Red Team, get the hell out of the way and let them do it.  Hezbollah can’t survive without Iran running stuff to it via Syria.  Iran suffers a tremendous geopolitical blow with the loss of Syria, and the people who might say “game on” in Lebanon have apparently already done so: they’re just doing it over the border.  So that cat’s out of the bag anyway.

End result?  Well, who knows.  But Stuxnet and its successors have, by all accounts, been quite effective.  Bad guys are fighting bad guys without us having to do a thing, and all regional geopolitical signs actually favor a US foreign policy that does nothing but kick the can down the road.  You know what you call a foreign policy that gradually goes about doing what we want to do, achieving our goals, while the bad guys are busy cutting each other’s throats??

It’s a seven-letter word, starting with “winning.”

Bush Jr. went to war in Iraq, for a number of reasons.  I think the proper reason to have gone to war in Iraq was the debt his father owed the Iraqi Shiites and Kurds for shamefully betraying them after Gulf War One.  Bush Sr. said “rise up and we’ll support you,” and then stood by and did jack shit while Saddam cut the Shiites to ribbons with helicopter gunships.  Bonus, Iraq hadn’t satisfied any of the actual ceasefire conditions and was actually shooting at our planes, so we were technically at war anyway.  I’m glad we went in and finished that job, and satisfied the atrocious debt of honor that Bush Sr. incurred. 

Now we’ve lanced that old cold-war boil, it’s over, and the healing can start.  But first, a lot of salafist pus has got to ooze to the surface from the Al Qaeda infection the country got in order for the place to return to normal.  Curing that infection and wiping away the pus isn’t our job — that infection comes from the local culture, just as our issues come from ours.  So long as X% of Sunnis define “kill heretics and non-believers” as a religious mandate, that’s going to happen.  Our job is to support the Kurds and do business with anybody who’s interested in peace.  Oh, and to help the Iranians get rid of their nasty, murderous regime — if and only if they ask us for help.  Otherwise, that’s their business, and intervening does more harm than good.

So if you’re prescribing foreign policy for the Stupid Party (Republicans), that’s really all you have to do.  The Dems in charge already figured this one out — that’s why Obama’s foreign policy looks almost exactly like Bush’s did, and he stopped making noises to the contrary the moment he started getting those daily intel briefings.

The answer isn’t “bomb bomb Iran.”  It’s “for once we’re actually winning; don’t screw it up.”

A license to text and drive

Lots of people on their cell phones this morning.

I was one of them.  That’s why I have “speaker.”

But it occurred to me, as I altered my grip so I could have both hands on the wheel and be safe in the process, that lots of people are driving while talking on their phones, thinking “I’m smart enough to multitask!  I got this!”

We can test that, just like a sobriety test.  And I think that if you’re going to drive and talk on a cellphone, you should be tested for it.  And I think that we can demonstrate by means of test that NOBODY can safely drive and text.

The real trick here, though is that it’s not about smarts.  It’s about coordination.  More importantly, it’s about differentiated coordination?

Can you rub your belly and pat your head?

That’s kind of like holding a phone in one hand while partially gripping the wheel and driving with the other.

Now can you do that while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance?

Because you’re talking, dude.

Now can you do that while dancing around, avoiding knuckleheads, AND obeying some necessary but arbitrary law like “you have to lift your knees while you dance?”  Because you still have to obey traffic laws.  It’s not good enough merely to not die:  you have to drive right while doing it.  Preferably while not cutting people off and driving like an asshole because you only are driving with one hand and changing lanes for five seconds so somebody else can merge would be a bother.

That’s my knee, that’s my knee!
See, my foot’s attached to it!

Now can you do all that while avoiding a pack of toddlers who think you have candy, while partially blindfolded?  Because talking on speakerphone is one thing.  But texting means you’re not looking where you’re going.

No, you don’t pass if you bump any of the toddlers.

How to surf the Boomer Holocaust?

Yesterday I got a touch vicious and snarky. 

Yeah, that never happens around here.

So what do we have?  We have a catastrophe in the making.

The Boomers didn’t save anywhere near enough (average retirement assets is 79 grand, see link above — that won’t cut it), and the Fed is crushing what little they have, by inventing $83 billion dollars a month and devaluating the currency in the process, mostly so politicians can borrow 40 cents out of every dollar the government spends, and kick the can on entitlement spending down the road.  And no, contrary to the talking bobbleheads on NPR, the President’s “400 billion over ten years” plan won’t help; it’s chump-change compared to our actual entitlement problems.  We’d need to change that number to something more-closely resembling $400 billion per year in order to stave off the real problem, which is said programs going bankrupt.  You know it, I know it, attempts to reform it have been shot down for over twenty years running, and the clueful among the Boomers have been warning people in my generation since I was in grade school that this was coming.  Thank God for those who did — most folks in my generation have zero expectation that entitlements will be there for us, and are psychologically prepared for this issue.  Most Boomers aren’t, and still can’t even address it without either giving it a dismissive toss or getting emotional and lashing out at everybody in sight.

Nearly half of the houses built-in the last thirty years are essentially luxury homes on half-to-ten-acre lots.  Most starter homes are old, not in very good shape….and still priced out of where the average beginning family can afford.  Boomers who used their houses as a substitute for retirement saving are screwed.  Look around lately, and where do you find kids?  Mostly in class-B apartments and low-end rental homes.  “Classic suburbia” is getting old fast, and while maintaining a house with a big yard is no big thing in your 70s, it’s something else entirely when you’re an 80-year-old woman or a 90-year-old man (if the man makes it that far, see below)  Desperate Boomers who can’t retire are picking up jobs left, right, and center.  They have functionally zero bargaining power, and so their salaries suck, and a lot of the jobs they’re getting are part-time. 

Meanwhile, Millennials face record unemployment (but hey, at least we’re not Europe, where 20% youth unemployment is considered pretty good) that is so bad it’s literally causing a demographic implosion.

So…what to do? 

What does that mean?  Well, it means that if the rest of us aren’t assholes, we’ve got a set of serious issues to handle, preferably without the emotional, dismissive hand-waving of those who mistake hope for a strategy.  On the one hand, the world itself is getting better every damned day.  On the other, we’re prisoners of macroeconomic forces far beyond our control, and we have no frontier in which to go try things our own way.  Our kids hopefully will, but for the rest of us, that bolt has flown.  Go SpaceX, go.  Go, Skylon, go.  Humanity needs frontiers.  Meanwhile, the world is changing fast and faster, and we are, too.

  But none of us have the raw political power it would take to fix the “big picture.”  The Boomer Holocaust is a wave is too big for any individual to handle, and our Red Team and Blue Team Zombie Voter Armies are too tied up in “my team rocks your team is evil” to actually try to fix it.  They’ve made plenty of Purple Team Commissions laying out exactly how it could be done…and ignored every single one.

All we can do is surf it.  Riding it out is as good as it gets.

1.  If you’ve got a job, save, save, save, save.  Or, even more importantly, de-leverage.  Get OUT of debt.  Ignore the hucksterism about mortgage interest deductions — those are for the upper middle class, not for Random Guy #13.  If you make less than six figures and are in a house you can actually afford to live in, you’ll be getting the “standard deduction” anyway.  If you make less than six figures and actually have enough mortgage interest to beat the Standard Deduction, you have Too Much House, or are living in a zip code that’s beyond your means — you’re setting yourself up for poverty down the road.  Learn this truth:  housing is a cost.  There’s cost of living, and cost of surviving.  They’re two different things: any plan you make should minimize the latter.  If you’re paying a third to one-half your paycheck simply for the privilege of taking up space, you’re in trouble.  Get the cheapest mortgage you can get in the cheapest house your wife will let you buy, and then KILL IT OFF.

Yeah, I’m not gonna be making any friends here. 

Yeah.  Sorry.  But if your housing bill takes up so much of your income that the thought of trying to saving 20% of it reduces you to frustrated tears, you need to start asking yourself some serious questions about whether the “boomer life plan” is really for you. 

2.  Stay fit, give your kids the gift of your example in that, and, gently and lovingly, be a bastard about making sure your parents and older relatives stay in shape.  If you’re carrying so much compacted lard that it’s hard for people to give you a hug, stop whining and go work it off. 

Men and women both need to build some muscle for functional strength, and to do enough stretching to stave off typical hip flexibility issues that turn into raging, crippling back issues — like sciatica.  You’d never imagine one tiny muscle running under your ass could cause so much pain elsewhere.  You don’t have to try to turn them into gym rats — but if you can, great!  Anybody who’s been to the Y knows how happy the geezers who make themselves work out there are compared to everybody else in their age group.  Gardening helps, too. But as much as it may sound like an alien world, your horizon is measured by the health of your connective tissues;  when you’re banged up and “going to the bathroom” takes as much effort as it used to take to walk down to the corner store, the world becomes a very isolated and lonely place.  Getting old is now a race to see if you can stay healthy long enough to benefit from the just spectacular improvements in biology and medicine that are just around the corner.  We blast cancer with gamma rays now as a matter of course

3.  Consider multi-generational living.  Unless your folks did everything right and managed not to lose everything in one of our various bubble/crash 401k scenarios, there is a very, very good chance that they will need serious help, and soon.  My mother has passed, but I can say categorically that if she were still around she’d find herself hard-pressed to support herself right now.  You’re going to need to help.  That’s a lot easier for all involved if it’s one rent/mortgage check, rather than two.  Especially if you’re a single Mom.  A grandmother is no substitute for a Dad…but it beats the shit out of not having either, and the mutual care tendered in both directions is a good thing and can make everybody happier.  Nursing homes suck; it’s a cold fact of life that sometimes they’re necessary, but when the nursing home employee isn’t allowed to do CPR and is supposed to just stand there and let you die instead, let’s just say that the writing is on the wall.  No, really, hit the link: that happened

Going multi-generational isn’t politically correct — it’s what people used to do from necessity.  Unless the technologists can significantly improve the quality of tissue regeneration and robotic exoskeletons fast enough for the Boomers to benefit from them, it’s likely to become a necessity again.  That doesn’t mean that it has to be misery and disaster.  The idea that people should only hang out with other people their age is one of the stupidest, most poisonous ideas ever to take root in America (but the Boomers, like many of their parents, are invested heavily in it, so if push comes to shove, expect heavy resistance.  On the other hand, most grandparents like the idea of seeing their grandkids more than once a year, so the sales pitch shouldn’t be too hard).

4.  Build non-monetary wealth.  If the Fed continues its genocidal double-down on “wealth creation,” along with the rest of the world devaluing their currencies like mad, then eventually inflation (and possibly hyper-inflation) will follow.  While nobody expected the Fed to pull some of the nifty tricks it has, this time isn’t different: the stock market is only looking high right now because the Fed is pumping over a hundred million per hour into it, and the bobbleheads talking “housing recovery” know it’s worth their jobs to admit that it’s just another reinflated bubble.  People who have static savings will see the value of those savings decline; cultivate friendships, and especially cross-generational ones.  Chickens are good.  Gardens are good.  Lots of buddies (and preferably not just in your age group!) are even better.

5.  Cultivate the Future.  Yours truly Happycrow is trained as a historian, so that may sound odd coming from this department.  But the future is where it’s at, and it’s where a lot of our sources for societal optimism are going to come from.  Most social and political problems have technical roots, and that means that most social and political problems have technical solutions.  Can’t travel to see your relatives?  Can you afford Internet?  Videocalling that was the stuff of science fiction twenty years ago is FREE if you’ve got an internet connection and a computer with a camera built in (and the majority of them now do).  It’s called Skype.  I wasn’t just joking about those robotic exoskeletons, either.  They’re real.  A sense of awe at the wonder of the future adds to optimism and a sense of gratefulness for what others produce.  And that attitude almost exactly correlates with happiness no matter what age group you belong to.  Here’s my morning go-to optimism shot:  it’s called Next Big Future.  Here’s another one

6.  Stop associating with poisonous doom-and-gloom people.  Yeah, I’m really gonna make friends with this one.  But while a certain former Reagan staffer has called me the most cynical man he’d ever met (I take that as high praise considering the source!), I’m an optimist.  Optimists can afford to be cynics: we already know how bad the world can get.  Pessimists, on the other hand, are always finding out.

If your friend never has anything good to say about anybody else, and their sense of humor is basically an excuse to trash-talk people 24/7 , if their sense of life accomplishment is bogging you down with the maximum amount of their bullshit and drama…. then they’re not your friend.  And they’re bad for your health.  Don’t try to catch a falling knife — if they want to be miserable, let them be miserable….with somebody else.

7.  Be a producer, not a consumer.  Make something, even if it’s just pointless little crafty things that amuse people.  If the economy really goes tits-up, you’ve got something to sell while everybody scrambles for chickens they can keep in the back yard.  If it doesn’t, you’ve got instant easy gifts to make people happy.  Making and producing things points you outward as a human being.  That’s a good thing.

8.  Turn off the fucking television.  Television makes you inert.  This is no time to live like a houseplant.

The MSM finally notices the Boomer Apocalypse

Well, it looks like it’s not just fringe Gen-X bloggers who have noticed that the Boomers have not only collectively screwed over the Milennials, but also themselves.

Last year, we said:

2.  Housing costs are nuts.  The Boomers bought into the notion that houses are investments, not costs.  They want housing to get more expensive forever.  Guess who that hits right in the nuts?  Yup, the folks who want to buy a house.

Well, this week, those bright bulbs in media finally figured out what that means.

Hey, buddy — if he can’t afford to buy a house, then you won’t be able to sell yours.

HELL, NO, there isn’t any great demand for starter houses.  There’s a desire for starter houses, but demand is defined by “ability to buy,” and guess what?  The Boomers never saved, and so now they’re takingall the jobs.

Wait.  What kind of bullshit Gen-X boomer-hate is this nonsense?  The Boomers are retiring, man!

Oops.

Err, no, they’re not.  Having largely failed to save, they’re now taking the entry-level gigs that Milennials need in order to establish themselves and start families.  And, to be fair, many of those few who have saved are being crushed beneath the heel of what the federal government is doing in order to justify not reforming entitlement spending, so none of the Boomers will have to tighten up and get serious until it’s, again, a Gen-X/Millenial issue.  It’s a simple and largely-overlooked fact (unless, of course, you count the fringe blogosphere that actually pays attention to what’s going on): here’s the money-quote from Zero Hedge.

In other words, America’s edlerly are not only not in a rush to retire, they are reentering the workforce (thanks to the Chairman’s genocidal savings policy which has just rendered the value of all future deposits worthless thanks to ZIRP), and in doing so preventing younger workers, in their prime years, from generating incremental jobs.

Guess what?  They’re not buying the houses that many Boomers decided to stake their entire retirements (and HELOCs) on while guessing they could save 10-15% of their incomes every year for 20 years, throw it into a 401k, and that would magically pay for …20 years of not working.  Guess what?  While the Fed is inventing something on the order of a hundred and eighteen million dollars a fucking hour to “pay” for all this spending, guess who can’t get a job, can’t buy a house, and aren’t having the children who’ll be needed to pay for it all?

Some of the Boomers did it right.  Most didn’t, and not only won’t the Milennials foot the bill, they can’t (and GenX just isn’t big enough to do the job). 

Oh, those poor ungrateful Milennials.  If only they knew how awesome you all are, and had a few more dollars to throw y’all’s way.

The Silence of the Gatekeepers

UPDATE: among other items not killed in-vitro by the Gatekeepers, behold the awesomeness of SwirlyPan. (hat tip: Via Meadia)

The death of the Gatekeeper Culture and its unofficial caste system continues underneath the radar.

Now the NYT has realized that what we were describing last post (the democratization of capitalism under entities such as Kickstarter) threatens to severely undercut their bloated, byzantine behemoth of capital formation, whose regulations are written for (and frequently, given the revolving door between Goldman Sachs and federal agencies, BY) the big dogs in ways that specifically favor them.

Now their official rag is screaming “oh my god, this is doing to stocks and investment what e-publishing did to our shitty Big Six publishing houses!”

Of course, the gatekeepers hate this stuff.  It threatens to undermine their guild.  And like all guilds, their reason to exist is to restrict access to the game.  Oh, you mean you didn’t go to Wharton or pick up an MBA from Chicago?  Oh, well, never mind then, you’re clearly too stupid to invest.  No, really, that’s the NYT take on why this is all a bad idea — the retail money (that’s you, sucker), will get eaten alive.

You’ll notice that these guys don’t seem to care if the retail money gets skinned alive on Wall Street.  The “big swinging dicks” on Wall Street have been just desperately trying to get more retail investors (again, that’s you, sucker) to get back into an obviously rigged game  which practically exists in order to fleece retail investors of their money, while the insiders play by their own rules and walk home with your money.

Sounds remarkably similar to the plaintive wail of the publishing houses:  “if you spend your money on e-publishing, then anybody’s crap can get on the market, and you won’t like reading books any more.”  As if the Big Six didn’t publish Fifty Shades of Crap, and pass it off as anything other than the trashy “romance” novel it is.

This is the song of the Gatekeeper, and the reason some cities make somebody go to school for two years just to paint other peoples’ nails.  No, it’s not an absolute racket designed to line their own pockets.  It’s a high-minded public service that we provide you sheeple, and don’t you forget it.

Except that like most situations where the business people and the people who write the regulations have the same necktie, the product sucks (and boy does American internet suck, as any internationally-playing gamer will tell you).  But as long as people can connect with each other, the Masters of the Universe will eventually find that they’re Masters of a Box.  Not a very attractive one, at that, and one which the public has long-ago abandoned.

But then, thinking out of the box has never really been a Gatekeeper’s strong suit.

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