Archive for the ‘Comedy’ Category.

Trump as Mr. Magoo

I’ve been writing about Chesterton’s fence for years. For those of you who don’t remember because they lost most of their memory after waking up in that dumpster handcuffed to a horse’s severed leg (or for some other reason), here’s the relevant passage:

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

I reference Chesterton’s fence all the time, usually in the context of progressives who are imbued with the fierce arrogance of now. They have special contempt for tradition, custom, etc.

And that is basically the context Chesterton had in mind. But I think there’s a lesson here for Trump as well. Trump’s glandular approach to every situation is a kind of lizard-brain version of progressivism. Tell Trump he can’t do or say something and he almost instinctively does it or says it. It’s like there’s a homunculus in there screaming, “You’re not the boss of me!” 24/7. His fans love this blunderbuss approach. And whenever you criticize it, the immediate response is some version of “It got him elected!”

And it’s true: Trump has been an improviser in the grand tradition of underachievers his whole life. His entire, spectacular, run to the White House was like a running spontaneous jazz performance. And he hasn’t stopped improvising. The problem is that the White House and Washington in general are a vast maze of what might be called Chesterton’s Invisi-Fences. Unlike the original Chesterton fence, these fences cannot be seen, but they exist all the same. Some of them, of course, should probably be gotten rid of — but, again, you have to know why they’re there before you try.

. . .

Liberals are still convinced Trump is some kind of autocrat-in-waiting. And he may well be in his heart. But the would-be autocrats who actually become real-life autocrats only achieve success because they are popular and know how to manipulate the system from within — and because they did their homework. That’s not Trump. Yes, he’s violating democratic and political norms, but he’s not doing it according to some master plan like an Erdogan or a Putin, he’s doing it more like a weird hybrid of Mr. Magoo and Chauncey Gardiner.

Anything Goes in Our New Bro Age

Ozymandias

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“Winning”

Even the sainted William F. Buckley derived no small part of his appeal from the fact that he could always one-up any condescending liberal egghead. That was a big part of his legacy. At a time when the media wanted desperately to paint conservatives as paranoid, anti-intellectual bigots in the George Wallace mode, Buckley’s sesquipedalian erudition served as a kind of reassurance.

But Buckley brought something else to the table: civility, self-deprecation, and a playful wit that could be intellectually devastating without being humiliating. Even when he explained that Robert F. Kennedy was ducking his invitations to appear on Firing Line — “Why does baloney reject the grinder?” — liberals had to chuckle in admiration.

It’s that touch which has largely gone missing of late. Intellectually, Buckley was a passionate believer that liberalism was the Enemy. But liberals themselves were merely the opposition (Gore Vidal notwithstanding).

Where did that come from? Again, much of it is a product of the times, stemming from new technology, economics, and other deep-rooted causes. But I want to focus on one. Over the last decade, conservatives have developed a severe case of Alinsky envy.

It is one of the oldest insights into human nature that envy corrupts the soul. (Aquinas defined envy as sadness for the good of others.) But Alinsky envy is corrupting in a different way. For years now conservatism has convinced itself that the Left wins by, in effect, cheating. They lie. They only care about power. They demonize and slander their opponents. I’m not going to sit here and claim that there’s zero merit to that argument. There’s a lot of merit, even if it’s often an exaggeration.

My objection is the conclusion conservatives draw from it: We’ve got to take the gloves off and play by the same rules! Alinsky’s rules! As David Kahane (eye roll) puts it: “Become what you behold.”

A whole cottage industry on the right has thrived around this argument, and on the whole, it’s grotesque. You cannot argue that your enemy is evil and uses evil means and at the same time argue, “We should do it too!”

It’s particularly hypocritical given that Alinsky envy blossomed alongside obsessions with conservative purity. It is a circle that will not square: Our ideology has a monopoly on virtue, but in order for virtue to triumph we must act like people we claim are virtueless. The effort to make this argument work is inherently corrupting because it inexorably replaces ends with means. “Winning” gets redefined before our eyes into anything that fuels our ecstatic schadenfreude over the suffering of our opponents. Whenever Trump did something indefensible the “defense” “But he fights!” would pour forth.

. . .

Bill O’Reilly grew up in Long Island before the city started to decline, but he is incontestably a product of the nostalgia-besotted working-class worldview that Giuliani tapped into. He doesn’t call himself a conservative, but a “traditionalist.” And his vision of tradition isn’t Burkean, Oakshottian, or Hayekian. He doesn’t harken to Russell Kirk’s Mecosta, but to Levittown. And to an extent that’s fine. America could use a bit more 1950s Levittown morality. Sean Hannity, born in New York City but raised in Long Island, is another who largely fits that mold. More broadly, as I’ve written dozens of times, Fox News was always more populist than conservative, but its populism is often infused with a New York sensibility.

This was always the core of Donald Trump’s act, even when he was a proud Democrat. A bridge-and-tunnel billionaire, he always had a chip on his shoulder about New York elites. It wasn’t quite the same Irish-Catholic chip that O’Reilly had, but the similarities are more interesting than the differences. O’Reilly’s intellectual insecurity drives him to churn out gimmicky histories, written by someone else. Trump’s spills out in boasts about his grades and his superior brain. They both insist they’re the smartest man in the room and that people who disagree with their meniscus-thin judgments are not just wrong, but bad or stupid.

Trump’s nostalgic appeal to Make America Great Again using common sense to defeat the pinhead elites combined with his implied promise to humiliate his enemies with his strength and will was simply a variant of O’Reillyism. Indeed, Bill O’Reilly was the John the Baptist of Trumpism long before Donald Trump appeared on the political scene.

I should say that I wish Donald Trump were a Rudy Giuliani, and I hold out the barest glimmer of hope that he could turn into one. But my suspicion is that he is a creature who mimicked the aesthetics and style of a Giuliani without anything like his discipline or expertise. And that in itself is a sign of the toxic corruption of celebrity conservatism that David French describes. Too many people think being a conservative is all about the public posture, the performance in front of the camera and not the performance on the job.

Bill O’Reilly’s Nostalgia Factor

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Happy Warriors!

The idea of electing comedians and comedy teams to office is very attractive to the Italian national character. I have praised them for this before. It shows a maturity of understanding rare in the annals of modern democracy. Given the omnipresence today of po-faced progressive parties, the alternative cannot be po-faced “conservatives,” whom the po-faced Leftist media will methodically smear and slander, as for instance in Canada and USA. They accept that verdict, and agree to lose. Rather one needs people with a sense of humour and no political past. I suppose this is the argument for Trump; though I would argue that he takes himself quite seriously, and doesn’t see the joke at all.

For vulgarity is not the same thing as humour. It is a dimension of comedy, but the full commedia dell-arte requires more. It must be spontaneous on several theatrical levels to occasion real surprise, and catch the po-faced off their leaden balance. It requires masks and good costumage. It requires stock gli immorati, ridiculously in love as much with themselves as with their sweethearts; fine silk dresses or alternatively the patched clothing of an impudent Colombina, with her weaponized tambourine. It requires confusions of identity, in the spirit of old Terence, and Plautus. It needs fantesche and servette (maids and serving wenches); Smerildas, Nespolas, Diamantinas.

. . .

Plus, men who make jokes that are genuinely funny, such as some untranslatable remark Beppe Grillo tried the other day about the new Muslim mayor of London, which made all the po-faced heads explode. He has been called, repeatedly, “the most dangerous man in Europe,” for his ability to attract audiences, and make them laugh, despite being banned from Italian state television and so forth. He does not run himself, but is content with his position as backstage producer, out of his conviction that criminals should not aspire to political office. (Almost everyone in the Italian Parliament has a criminal record, many in the first degree.)

Among his most dangerous notions is that citizens should be permitted free speech, and that the power of politicians should be curtailed. This goes considerably beyond the “Brexit” position, that British politicians should be re-empowered at the expense of European ones.

Five stars

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We all stand on the shoulders of giants

Every normal person understands that every one of us stands on the shoulders of giants. Newton, Einstein, Aristotle, the inventors of the danish, and so on. And, though the West gave the East computers and plastic, and the East gave the West gunpowder and silk, undergraduates have given us nothing. But that’s not their fault — they’re young and innocent. They know nothing. You can’t blame an undergraduate for panicking about cultural appropriation any more than you can blame a puppy for chewing up your baseball mitt. That’s why these kids are in school — to learn things.

The spineless, weaselly deans and presidents of America’s universities should try to remember that.

The Liberal Fantasy of Cultural Appropriation, by Josh Gelernter

Moral preening. Ozymandias

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Hope and Change!

How well did being backed by rich people work for Mitt Romney in 2012? Are the Koch brothers more powerful than the average American voter’s desire to be taken care of by the Great Father in Washington? Have they picked our next president yet?
. . .
It is great that we were sent a savior. But how come, after seven years of being saved, we still have “urgent work to do”?
. . .
We have moved from an expensive system in which tens of millions of Americans were uninsured to a crazy expensive system in which tens of millions of Americans are uninsured.
. . .
One thing that we proved in the housing market of 1992-2007 was that it doesn’t matter how much something costs as long as you can refinance it.
. . .
Summary of what the three candidates said: Despite being led by one of the greatest human beings who ever lived, American government today is incompetent, unable to deliver functional infrastructure, safe water, desired foreign policy results (even with countries in Central America), or health care to citizens. Branches of the government may be unable to pay their debts (Puerto Rico). What we need to do is give this incompetent government a larger percentage of the GDP to allocate. We should also task this government with setting wages for both government and what was formerly known as “private sector” jobs.

The last debate for the Democrats, by Philip Greenspun

Moral Preening and Ozymandias

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You’re Not Actually A Hero

Every day there’s some story focusing on false heroes and pseudo-bravery masquerading as some valiant or defiant action. Not only on the political front, but in culture, where fake courageousness not only dilutes the genuine heroic actions of others, but is used to create the false impression that people are engaged in actions far more important than they really are. Bravery is not synonymous with “you agree with me.”
. . .
Few people would argue that someone who puts it all on the line to try to save the lives of strangers is not a hero. But it’s pretty rare. Maybe in a pluralistic and free society we don’t need as many heroes. That might be a good thing. But what we shouldn’t do is confuse heroism with the actions of someone who is merely reaffirming our own worldview. Yet that seems to be the case quite often.

Guess What? You’re Not Actually A Hero, by David Harsanyi

SJW’s and other moral preeners are not heroes.

If you want to change things, pray: “How Desperation and Devotion Can Change Your Prayer Life

Rosary:
Pray the Sorrowful Mysteries with Fr. Peyton

Pray the Joyful Mysteries with Fr. Peyton

Pray the Glorious Mysteries with Fr. Peyton

Pray the Luminous Mysteries of The Rosary with Father Patrick Peyton, CSC

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Washington, DC, Garden Spot. Ozymandias

In other words, if you want to send your child to the very best schools in the District, as determined by standardized testing—Ross Elementary in Dupont Circle, for example, or Thomson School, which covers Chinatown, Metro Center, and Mount Vernon Square—it may be possible to buy a home for less than $800,000, but many home prices will hover around or above that number. Even if you move to a district that is ranked a “2” on this scale (with “1” marking the highest-performing schools schools and “5” marking the worst) you can still expect to pay well over $600,000 for a home.

Here’s the Outrageous Dollar Amount You’ll Need to Spend on a Home in DC to Guarantee Your Child Attends a Good School

Upon further research, I found that not only is it pretty easy for a rat to climb up a three-inch toilet drain pipe (most of the time there’s not even water in it), but I live in a part of D.C. with a combined sewer system, so the storm drains on the street and the pipes from the toilets run to the same place. A combined sewer is one big, happy, Rat Central Station.

Yes, Rats Can Swim Up Your Toilet. And It Gets Worse Than That.

Ozymandias


Swamp – Roosevelt Island, Washington DC

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Dunbar Number, Reason Video Awards, George Washington, Rent Seeking, Fascism

The answer isn’t 42. It is 150.


Meet Puddles: The Giant Sad Clown with the Golden Voice
Walking Tall With Atlanta’s Big Mike Geier
Mike Geier
Dames Aflame!
King-sized Mike Geier continues to follow his ever-growing, ever-eclectic muse
Interview at Teatro ZinZanni

Working with the anthropologist Russell Hill, [ evolutionary psychologist Robin] Dunbar pieced together the average English household’s network of yuletide cheer. The researchers were able to report, for example, that about a quarter of cards went to relatives, nearly two-thirds to friends, and 8 percent to colleagues. The primary finding of the study, however, was a single number: the total population of the households each set of cards went out to. That number was 153.5, or roughly 150.

This was exactly the number that Dunbar expected. Over the past two decades, he and other like-minded researchers have discovered groupings of 150 nearly everywhere they looked. Anthropologists studying the world’s remaining hunter-gatherer societies have found that clans tend to have 150 members. Throughout Western military history, the size of the company—the smallest autonomous military unit—has hovered around 150. The self-governing communes of the Hutterites, an Anabaptist sect similar to the Amish and the Mennonites, always split when they grow larger than 150. So do the offices of W.L. Gore & Associates, the materials firm famous for innovative products such as Gore-Tex and for its radically nonhierarchical management structure. When a branch exceeds 150 employees, the company breaks it in two and builds a new office.

The Dunbar Number, From the Guru of Social Networks

It is also the answer to “How Many People ‘Should’ You Invite To Your Wedding?

It is impossible for Americans to accept the extent to which the Colonial period—including our most sacred political events—was suffused with alcohol. Protestant churches had wine with communion, the standard beverage at meals was beer or cider, and alcohol was served even at political gatherings. Alcohol was consumed at meetings of the Virginian and other state legislatures and, most of all, at the Constitutional Convention.

Indeed, we still have available the list of beverages served at a 1787 farewell party in Philadelphia for George Washington just days before the framers signed off on the Constitution. According to the bill preserved from the evening, the 55 attendees drank 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, eight of whiskey, 22 of porter, eight of hard cider, 12 of beer, and seven bowls of alcoholic punch.

George Washington: Boozehound. Prodigious alcohol consumption by Washington and his fellow founding fathers has been whitewashed from American history.

More after the jump.

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The Doctor Will See You Now

$5 for the first 5 minutes. “Stop it!”

Just stop it!

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Obamacare Downfall

So, if I follow correctly, the smartest president ever is not smart enough to ensure that his website works; he’s not smart enough to inquire of others as to whether his website works; he’s not smart enough to check that his website works before he goes out and tells people what a great website experience they’re in for. But he is smart enough to know that he’s not stupid enough to go around bragging about how well it works if he’d already been informed that it doesn’t work. So he’s smart enough to know that if he’d known what he didn’t know he’d know enough not to let it be known that he knew nothing. The country’s in the very best of hands.

Thus Spake Obama: The incompetence of our neo-monarchy

Forward!

Bonus video:

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