Recently in Society & Culture Category
Yesterday was the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address, probably the most beloved speech in American history. When I heard it on the radio this morning it almost brought tears to my eyes. It's hard to imagine a modern politician saying so much with so few words.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain--that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom--and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Japanese youth are abandoning love and sex because relationships are mendokusai.
Mendokusai translates loosely as "Too troublesome" or "I can't be bothered". It's the word I hear both sexes use most often when they talk about their relationship phobia. Romantic commitment seems to represent burden and drudgery, from the exorbitant costs of buying property in Japan to the uncertain expectations of a spouse and in-laws. And the centuries-old belief that the purpose of marriage is to produce children endures. Japan's Institute of Population and Social Security reports an astonishing 90% of young women believe that staying single is "preferable to what they imagine marriage to be like".
Sounds very sad and lonely, but the people interviewed don't say they feel that way. Dystopian. Is this cultural self-destruction a byproduct of World War 2? It's hard to imagine that the end of that war wouldn't have consequences that would rebound across generations. Is it technology run amok? Generation-long economic stagnation? Lack of religious morals? Something in the water?
Do cultures die like this all the time, and Japan is just the largest and most recent example?
60 Minutes has a distressing account of how many people are turning to disability fraud because they economy is so bad. I can understand that people are desperate to care for their families, but this is an abuse of the disability system. We need to encourage unemployed people to move away from distressed areas and into parts of the country that are hurting for labor.
There is a Senate hearing scheduled tomorrow on a subject of some importance to millions of Americans, but with the government shutdown it's not clear that the Senate Committee on Government Affairs will be able to pay for a stenographer to record the event. The hearing involves the Federal Disability Insurance Program, which could become the first government benefits program to run out of money. When it began back in the 1950s it was envisioned as a small program to assist people who were unable to work because of illness or injury.
Today, it serves nearly 12 million people -- up 20 percent in the last six years -- and has a budget of $135 billion. That's more than the government spent last year on the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department, and the Labor Department combined. It's been called a "secret welfare system" with it's own "disability industrial complex," a system ravaged by waste and fraud. A lot of people want to know what's going on. Especially Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.
Tom Coburn: Go read the statute. If there's any job in the economy you can perform, you are not eligible for disability. That's pretty clear. So, where'd all those disabled people come from?
The Social Security Administration, which runs the disability program says the explosive surge is due to aging baby boomers and the lingering effects of a bad economy. But Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Subcommittee for Investigations -- who's also a physician -- says it's more complicated than that. Last year, his staff randomly selected hundreds of disability files and found that 25 percent of them should never have been approved -- another 20 percent, he said, were highly questionable.
I'm sure that non-disabled people would rather sit at home and collect a check than move to the Northwest and pick pears, but why should taxpayers finance that preference?
Over 80 percent of America's fresh pears are grown in the Pacific Northwest, and this year's harvest is slated to be one of the biggest on record.
But some of the fruit is rotting in the orchards because there aren't enough workers to pick them.
Mike McCarthy farms about 300 acres of pears in Oregon's Hood River Valley. He has about 60 workers harvesting in his fields, but would like to have about 30 more.
"Normally we would have picked these Comice [pears] at least 10 days ago, but we're just getting here now," says McCarthy. "And it's not a good thing."
Many farmers are short-staffed this year. For McCarthy, it's the third year in a row he has had a labor shortage. He's tried the employment office, but those workers didn't have any agriculture experience, and they didn't last more than a couple of days. He's looked for workers in Arizona and California, but found those states facing similar shortages.
What's the point of this blog? It's a work-in-progress, intended to eventually be compiled into an autobiography and published to wide acclaim. Why would I want to do such a thing? Because my life is fascinating to modern and future readers, of course. Also because there's a movement afoot to restrict the First Amendment to "journalists".
Uh-oh, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, best known for likening American servicemen to Nazis, is looking to limit your First Amendment rights, if not ours. "Everyone, regardless of the mode of expression, has a constitutionally protected right to free speech," he writes. So far so good. "But when it comes to freedom of the press, I believe we must define a journalist and the constitutional and statutory protections those journalists should receive." ...A journalist gathers information for a media outlet that disseminates the information through a broadly defined "medium"--including newspaper, nonfiction book, wire service, magazine, news website, television, radio or motion picture--for public use. This broad definition covers every form of legitimate journalism.
Since I'm working on a nonfiction book, my autobiography, I'm sure to qualify for whatever special privileges are given to "journalists". All the rest of you losers had better watch what you say!
Married couples in Japan are required to have the same surname, but the law may be changing soon. I'm in favor of people being able to name themselves whatever they want, but I think it's a mistake to mock the arguments being made in Japan for the status quo.
But some lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party voiced opposition to the proposal, arguing the new system would cause the collapse of the family and undermine the sense of unity among family members.
"Collapse" might be a little strong, but there's no doubt in my mind that having different names can undermine family unity. You may believe that the effect is minor or that the matter shouldn't be of concern to the government, but I don't believe that the argument for family unity is worthy of mockery. People should have the freedom to change their names, but children in families with multiple last names will certainly be affected to some non-zero degree.
Surnames are an important part of identity, which is why people should be free to change them but is also why a person should weigh any decision about his name very carefully. Children especially build a sense of themselves and their family from the name they share, and a child with a different name will certainly feel like an outsider rather than an integrated part of a greater whole.
(HT: Paul Hsieh.)
A brilliant generosity experiment conducted by a homeless man who asks "which religion cares most about the homeless"? A collection of labeled bowls reveals the results! A smart way to exert social pressure to collect money.
(HT: Boing Boing.)
What emotions do men and women find sexually attractive? Of pride, shame, and happiness women find male emotion most attractive in this order:
And men prefer women who display:
The advice is for men to smile less (at least until dominance is established) and women to smile more.
Even if you support at-will abortion you must be horrified by the casual attitude of abortionists towards infanticide, right? Details of what goes on in abortion clinics continues to emerge from hidden camera sting operations.
In an exchange laden with euphemisms on both sides to conceal the gruesome nature of the discussion, the pregnant woman wondered aloud what would happen if "it" (her fetus) emerged from her intact and alive.
The employee assigned to take note of medical history reassured the woman, "We never had that for ages" (a seeming admission that a baby did survive abortion at the clinic at least once) but that should "it" "survive this," "They would still have to put it in like a jar, a container, with solution, and send it to the lab. . . . We don't just throw it out in the garbage."
Oh, and this innocuous-sounding "solution" was, of course, a toxic substance suitable for killing an infant.
"Like, what if it was twitching?" asked the pregnant woman.
"The solution will make it stop," said the clinic employee. "That's the whole purpose of the solution . . . It will automatically stop. It won't be able to breathe anymore."
As for any qualms a woman might have about seeing her newborn child being poisoned and drowned in a jar, the employee advised her "patient" not to worry: She'd be under sedation, and the murder would take place in another room anyway.
Pro-lifers and pro-choicers often disagree on terminology, but who can deny that Kermit Gosnell is a baby murderer?
The trial testimony is graphic, and should make "choice" advocates sick to their stomachs. Again, see the AP: "A medical assistant told a jury Tuesday that she snipped the spines of at least 10 babies during unorthodox abortions at a West Philadelphia clinic, at the direction of the clinic's owner."
Later, AP mangled the medical facts: "Abortions are typically performed in utero." When babies are killed over a toilet, as alleged in this trial, this is not an "unorthodox abortion" of a "fetus." This is a baby who is born and then murdered. Liberals claim to revere "science," but this trial is not about tiny "zygotes." It's about viable babies.
It gets more grotesque at every turn. Clinic assistant Adrienne Moton testified she took a photo of the child described as "Baby A" with her cell phone before Dr. Gosnell took the baby out of the room. "I just saw a big baby boy. He had that color, that color that a baby has," Moton said in court. "I just felt he could have had a chance....He could have been born any day."
Another Gosnell assistant said the abortionist joked about one child he murdered: "This baby is big enough to walk around with me or walk me to the bus stop." But AP reported that Gosnell sits serenely in the courtroom, undisturbed by the accusations.
Is this kind of atrocity acceptable within the pro-abortion community? Is it common? Do pro-choicers have their heads buried in the sand to avoid the horror they've wrought?
James Taranto characterizes feminism as a failure of wit.
Now think of the traditional 1950s household with an employed father and a stay-at-home mother. The mother is able to devote her full efforts to the children and the home. The father may have some secondary household duties--taking out the trash and playing ball with Junior--but most of his time is spent away from home, doing a boss's bidding, in order to raise money to meet the family's needs.
Let's stipulate that in the latter scenario, the mother could do the father's job just as well as he can. Would that be the highest use of her time? Only if one thinks that office work is intrinsically superior to the development of the next generation.
In some sense the prefeminist understanding of the family was based on the supposition that it was. The father, after all, was the "head of the household," a dominant figure, even if most of what he did for the household involved submitting to another man in an office. We'd like to suggest that this was a useful fiction that helped encourage social cohesion by meeting both the male need for respect and the female need to look up to her mate. In reality, it was Mom's house; Dad just lived there.
Feminism was in part a failure of wit. It mistook fiction for reality and thought men really were dominant. Now, increasingly, men are redundant, women are overburdened, and what pass for families are producing fewer and worse-developed children.
I'm a man, and I'm making career decisions that will impact my children and my relationships with them forever. I definitely don't feel like I can "have it all", despite my wonderful and supportive wife. Everyone has to make trade-offs, and you should do it with your eyes open. I've spoken to a lot of older folks who only recognized the trade-offs they'd made decades after it was too late to change course.
I'll get to the meat of his story in a second. But basically, with no record label and mostly just the suppot of his YouTube fans, he released his latest album in the UK the same day Justin Timberlake did.
Here's the result:
Read the whole interview and then watch Alex's video about why record labels are rubbish.
I'm on the edge, but my kids will live entirely in this new economy.
It seems there are a lot of theories about how humanity escaped the Malthusian Trap, defined as such:
The Malthusian trap, named after political economist Thomas Robert Malthus, suggests that for most of human history, income was largely stagnant because technological advances and discoveries only resulted in more people, rather than improvements in the standard of living. It is only with the onset of the Industrial Revolution in about 1800 that the income per person dramatically increased in some countries, and they broke out of the Trap
That is: more total wealth led to more people, and the per capital wealth remained unchanged. I'm sure lots of historians and economists have covered this ground before, but the explanation for how humanity escaped this trap seems pretty obvious to me.
At some point in history, wealth started being generated more quickly than humans were generated. The percentage growth of wealth may have remained the same, but the absolute value of that growth kept increasing. At some point, the absolute value of the wealth increase was more than could be absorbed by simply having more kids. The "wealth/person" ratio had stayed constant, but at some point the numerator started growing faster than the denominator could, due to biology.
I'm starting to think that it's fortunate that ObamaCare (a.k.a., the Affordable Care Act) is full of holes. Maybe some semblance of sanity will be able to leak through.
The core problem with Obamacare is that it depends on ripping off the young and healthy to subsidize the old and infirm. On the one hand, we're glad that young people are able to escape the clutches of this trap, but we can't help but notice that their escape will bankrupt the system. It's almost as if the politicians didn't read the law before they passed it, and had no idea how its various provisions would cause car crashes as they tried to roll it out.
Maybe it'll be so bad that it gets repealed or basically ignored.
President Obama wants gun control so badly that he is resorting to one of the dumbest arguments ever made, one that is usually trotted out when you know you're losing: "if there's even one life that can be saved":
President Obama on Wednesday formally proposed the most expansive gun-control policies in generations and initiated 23 separate executive actions aimed at curbing what he called "the epidemic of gun violence in this country."
While no legislation can prevent every tragedy, he said in announcing the proposals, "if there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there's even one life that can be saved, then we've got an obligation to try."
The argument is absurd on many levels.
1. Assume he's talking about saving lives in the gross, not net. There are innumerable things we could ban that would save at least one life gross, such as: cars, airplanes, knives, shoveling snow, boxing, cell phones, swimming pools, coal mining, and drone attacks on suspected terrorists. Why doesn't the President offer to ban any of these? If it would save even one life then doesn't he have an obligation to try?
2. Would banning guns save lives, net? Well, that would be a tough argument to make and the President doesn't really try. Estimates vary, but the Easy Bake Gun Club counts news stories about defensive gun use and here are their entries for December, 2012. The Cato Institute has a defensive gun use map. Both of these resources are based on news reports, but the vast majority of times that a gun is used in self-defense it isn't actually fired and the use isn't reported to the police or media. No one can know for sure, but it seems overwhelmingly likely that guns save more lives than they cost.
3. What's the value of a human life? It's obviously not "infinite" because we make trade-offs all the time between money and lives. Would you borrow money to buy a $500,000 car that was 10% safer than your $25,000 car? Of course not. Do you even have working smoke detectors in your house? It's sad when someone dies in a fire or is shot by a gun, but those deaths don't necessarily mean that we have to change the system. All factors need to be weighed.
4. How about low-probability catastrophic events such as invasion, tyranny, or nuclear holocaust? Sure, these aren't likely to happen, but if they did then having guns in the hands of trained and loyal citizens would be very valuable. The authorities are always trying to get us to be prepared for disasters, and there are many circumstances in which a gun would be a useful tool for survival.
Walter Russell Mead explains how the fiscal cliff is just another battle in the war between generations.
We see this as yet another sign of the Baby Boom's unrelenting war on the young. Geezers are so tightly organized to defend their pet programs that they are willing to sacrifice everything and everyone else to ensure that not a penny is cut from Medicare or Social Security. Discretionary programs are the things the actually keep the country running, yet they will be the first things to be cut when the government scales back.
It's the national version of the fight we see being waged in many states and cities where public sector unions demand either sky high tax increases or savage cuts in services -- anything so that unrealistic pensions be paid to a generation which collectively failed to create the wealth or invest the assets which could cover those liabilities at a reasonable social cost. It is the Boomer determination to ensure that future generations pay the price of its planning and social policy mistakes -- and it is both shameful and wrong.
Rich boomers don't want to be taxed to pay their share of the collective generational failure; less wealthy ones don't want to lose a penny of the benefits they claim to have earned. It's reasonable for some kind of political compromise to distribute the pain between different wings of this generation, but the generation as a whole needs to pay its fair share of the bill.
A tipping point will come when the oldest members of the Baby Boomer cohort die and the generation eventually loses its electoral power. The middling and younger members of the cohort will be stripped of their benefits faster than you can blink.
This zombie-themed sports equipment ad was banned during prime time in Norway. I think it's pretty fun.
(HT: RB, Blastr.)
Rush Limbaugh asks an important and difficult question: how can conservatives connect with minorities?
The usual suspects are out, and they're saying, "Rush, we gotta reach out now to the Hispanics and reach out to the minorities, blacks." Okay, let me remind you of something. Just ask you a question. And we will be getting your phone calls of course today, you weigh in on this, 800-282-2882 is the number. Let me take you back to the Republican convention. We had Suzanne Martinez, female Hispanic governor, New Mexico. We had Condoleezza Rice, African-American, former secretary of state. Both of those people imminently qualified, terrifically achieved. They have reached the pinnacles of their profession.
We had Marco Rubio. We had a parade of minorities who have become successful Americans. And they all had a common story: up from nothing, hard work, their parents sacrificed for them. Now, why didn't that work, folks? The answer to that is our future. Why didn't it work? Some people say, "Well, Rush, we pandered." No, we didn't pander. Everybody says that we need to reach out to minorities. We have plenty of highly achieved minorities in our party, and they are in prominent positions, and they all have a common story. They all came from nothing. Their parents came from nothing. They worked hard. They told those stories with great pride. Those stories evoked tears. It didn't work. And don't tell me that people didn't watch the convention or people didn't see it. I mean, there's a reason it doesn't work.
There is a reason, but what? I really have no idea. There are plenty of successful, laudable and influential minority and female conservatives. Why do the larger female and minority populations ignore and marginalize these people? What else can conservatives do to "reach out"?
Heh, Frank J. Fleming explains that the president isn't the leader of the country:
I mean, really, why does everyone believe the president is the leader of our country? What he is, is the head of our government, i.e., he is the leader of the least part of our country. We have two groups in America: the people who work hard and create businesses and jobs and all the things that make our country great, and the screw-ups who get in the way of that. Government is by far the greatest force of the latter. So why do we as citizens think the guy we put in charge of the government and all the bureaucrats -- "King Idiot," basically -- is our leader? That's like saying a pothole is in charge of the road.
Read the whole thing. We really need a humbler government, and a humbler view of government.
I recommend reading the whole post by Sarah A. Hoyt about "The Myth that Kills, and please direct your wrath towards her, not me!
What I see is women who were freed by tech advances and who THINK they were freed by marching shoulder to shoulder and taking permanent offense. These women live in a state of paranoia, dreaming up male privilege that is invisible to anyone but them, and taking offense at ever more ridiculous things - even things that have nothing to do with gender - because they're so terrified of men taking the upper hand again.
I look at them going to war with spelling: Womyn, Herstory. I look at them dancing around dressed as vaginas (!) because apparently the most important thing in these women's lives is their sexual organs. I look at them acting as a pack and attacking whoever they're told to attack because "so and so is anti-woman" and I think... these are humans? These are civilized people? Don't they see they're being tools of the Marxist divide-and-conquer strategy? Don't they see the end of this is either societal destruction or TRUE backlash for the sake of saving civilization?
We need to treat people as individuals, not merely as members of easily labelled groups based on physical characteristics. The groups that an individual self-identifies with are far more important than the groups they're forced into by biology. Choosing to join a group (and/or remain in a group past childhood) says a lot about an individual. All the biological groupings are fine for evolutionary biologists and statisticians, but rotten for everyday use by the rest of us.
Here's a fascinating account of a live social engineering capture-the-flag game in front of an audience at the Defcon hacker conference.
Finally, Darnell directed the manager to an external website to fill out a survey to prep for the upcoming visit. The manager dutifully plugged the address into his browser. His computer blocked the connection, but Darnell wasn't fazed. He said he'd call the IT department and have it unlocked.
The manager didn't think that was a concern. "Sounds good," he answered. "I'll try again in a few hours."
After thanking the manager for his help, Darnell made plans to follow up the next day. The manager promised to send Darnell over a list of good hotels in the area.
Then "Gary Darnell" hung up and stepped out of the soundproof booth he had been in for the last 20 minutes.
"All flags! All flags!" he announced, throwing his arms up in a V-for-Victory symbol.
His audience of some 100 spectators at the Defcon conference in Las Vegas burst into applause. They had been listening to both sides of the call through a loudspeaker broadcast.
I would have loved to see it live. Be on your guard.