Being needed

Arthur Brooks talks about the worst part of poverty.
A few months into the program, I asked Rick, "How is your life?" and he said, "Let me show you." And he showed me an email from his boss: "Rick, emergency bedbug job, East 65th Street. I need you now."
I said, "So what?"
He said, "Read it again: 'I need you now.' That is the first time in my life anybody has said those words to me."

Another Government Shutdown

I guess we'll just have to get along without them, somehow or other.

Hägar the Horrible had a cartoon, years ago, where the little tax-man in his executioner's hood walked into the pub to announce to the assembled Vikings that the government was shutting down. When they throw up a cheer, he exclaims, "You're not supposed to be happy!"

Maybe not, but you'll excuse me if I don't mind particularly. I'm pretty sure we could do without most of what they do even if nobody else ever picked it up -- which somebody would, if it was something they missed. Aside from the military and a few other basic functions I think we could do without them. If I were Congress, I wouldn't get too cocky about us mourning for them and begging them back.

What Were Their Names?

AVI has a post up about the Kingston Trio. I mentioned that a particular favorite of my father's was the following song.

On a similar token, we went to see "12 Strong" this afternoon. A few Hollywoodisms aside, it's not bad. My wife said that she appreciated that they avoided the usual heavy-handed attempts to manipulate our emotions common to Hollywood films. When you start the film with 9/11, I guess you don't need them so much.

Fighting for Western Civilization and the Church

Yesterday morning’s Dennis Prager show had on as a guest Reverend Doctor William J. Slattery (Ph.D in philosophy, with a specialization in epistemology (the theory of cognition) at the Pontifical Gregorian University), to promote his new book "Heroism and Genius”.

In it, he is promoting the great names of Church history, and the heroism they exhibited in serving God and preserving and growing Western Civilization, as a model for priests in today’s world engaging in the fight for the preservation and elevation of Western Culture.
There’s even a chapter titled “Fathers of Chivalry: A New Type of Warrior”.
He also introduced me to a fine quote:
No sadder proof can be given by a man of his own littleness than disbelief in great men.”
-Thomas Carlyle

I’ll be ordering this book immediately.

Blaming Invisible Men

The least surprising headline I've seen lately, except that we haven't had a big mass shooting lately: "Don’t Blame Mental Illness for Mass Shootings; Blame Men."

This part of the argument was more surprising, but she doesn't I think realize what's surprising about it.
Men don’t just constitute almost all mass shooters in recent history; they are also responsible for the vast majority of gun-associated deaths in the country. Men own guns at triple the rate of women in the U.S., at 62 percent compared to 22 percent—and also commit suicide at nearly triple the rate of women.
Mass shootings are a very tiny percentage of shootings. Suicides make up two thirds of deaths from shootings. The problem she wants to talk about is small enough that it's hard to say much of use about it using statistics, because it's already an outlier; but the suicide problem is very much not an outlier. If gun deaths are a problem, then suicide is the main part of the problem.

What does it mean that men commit suicide at three times the rate of women? When we speak of other minorities (and men are, however slightly, a minority), a high suicide rate is considered a sign that society is oppressive towards them. Society is blamed for their suffering. Here, of coure, "Blame Men" is the answer because it is always the answer. They are at fault because of "toxic masculinity," which the author describes as not measuring up to the masculine ideal.

This means that nobody wants them. Maybe that's what's driving all the suicide -- and also some of the mass shootings.
Madfis also notes that many men who commit mass shootings tend to be those who have failed to achieve financial and romantic success in ways that our society values and accredits as “manly.” As a result, Madfis explains, men may feel emboldened to resort to violence to gain both revenge and some level of notoriety as compensation for being denied what they thought they were owed, or felt pressure to attain.
This is roughly parallel to the big discussion our culture is having about transgenderism, except that there the idea is that society is at fault for not wanting them -- for not accepting them just as they are. Here there is no similar move to try to find ways to embrace and extend love or respect or acceptance, even though it might really solve the problem. Certainly, it's supposed to be the solution for others who suffer from social rejection.

This, though, isn't a problem with men -- well, not straight men. It's a problem with women (and gay men). They generally don't tend to find unmanly men attractive.

Should they be retrained, or forced to pretend that they find unmanly men attractive? No one is suggesting it, and of course it's a useless and terrible suggestion. It does happen to be the suggestion being aimed at straight men where trans-women are concerned, of course, because it's always fine to force straight men to carry the blame for problems. But it's a terrible suggestion there, too, as well as an unworkable one. Nobody's going to be attracted to someone they just aren't attracted to, and it's unconscionable to suggest that they have a moral duty to yield themselves up sexually just because (or even though) it would mean a lot to someone else.

As far as I know, feminism doesn't really even have a sketch at an answer to this problem. "Toxic masculinity" is just an attempt to throw the problem of being unwanted back on the unwanted men, who are told that they shouldn't have to measure up. But even if they free themselves from any sense that they ought to measure up, and go around putting on dresses or whatever, still nobody they want is going to want them.

Being isolated like that must be miserable, and it's no surprise that it leads to suicide in many cases. Instead of blaming them, it might be worth at least trying on some sympathy for the bitter loneliness they must be experiencing day in and day out. Mostly they don't kill anyone else, after all. Mostly they just go home one day and kill themselves.

Indeed, the only thing I've read recently that even sounded a little bit like an answer to this problem came from Vox.
Inequality has been so much a part of the conversation — in terms of economic inequality, health care inequality, and educational inequality. This is probably overdue. But people don’t talk about inequalities in our access to intimacy and our access to sex. I don’t think we pay attention to the way in which, through no fault of their own, lots of people just have a lot of trouble finding partners.

They may be disabled. They may just not be conventionally attractive. They may be in situations, like prison or mining camps or something like that, where they can’t find people of the opposite sex. Or they may be gay or lesbian and they may be living in a small town in Alabama. There’s lots of ways in which people just don’t have access to any kind of sexual intimacy. I think that technology may not be as ideal as actually having a human partner, but I think, for many people, it’s better than nothing.
I happen to think that this won't solve the problem, as sex is a small part of the real issue of missing human intimacy. But at least it correctly identifies the problem, rather than resorting to the easy solution of blaming the men nobody wants for the fact that nobody wants them.

Conan Was Right

One of the conceits of the Robert E. Howard stories is that history has simply forgotten many ancient civilizations, which were far more technologically advanced than believed. He may well have been right about that.

Iceland's First Black Resident

Sounds like a fellow with an interesting story.
Hans Jonatan was born into slavery on a Caribbean sugar plantation, and he died in a small Icelandic fishing village. In those intervening 43 years, he fought for the Danish Navy in the Napoleonic Wars, lost a landmark case for his freedom in The General’s Widow v. the Mulatto, then somehow escaped to become a peasant farmer on the Nordic island.
Apparently he was the subject of an academic biography, if you're interested.

Briar Patch

Maybe this threat isn't aimed at Trump voters, whom I agree will probably not be much moved by it.

A Decent Act from the New York Times

The Grey Lady is taking one day off of its constant drum-beat to give a voice to the other side.

"'Mansplaining?' Nonsense, I'm a Democrat"

In fairness to Sen. Booker, 'mansplaining' is a stupid word; he's perfectly right that he should be able to be critical of a cabinet secretary regardless of sex. On the other hand, he wasn't at all fair or reasonable in his conduct at yesterday's hearing.

Ultimately his complaint came down to how unfair it was that the Secretary had produced the report on international terrorism that she had been directed to produce by a formal Executive Order, and not the report on white nationalist domestic terrorism that he would have preferred. He also objected to the fact that she didn't remember the President's use of a word he wanted to take offense to, such that her memory agrees with my Senator (David Perdue) rather than Senator Durbin (who has been known to lie through his teeth on occasion). What he wants is another Sally Yates, a woman who will refuse to do her job or carry out the President's orders, and then call him a racist after she is fired for nonperformance. Anything else? He'll scream at her and insult her publicly.

But that doesn't mean it's sexism. Maybe Sen. Booker would have treated Secretary "Chaos" Mattis exactly the same way, or White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. I mean, no doubt.

A Good Idea

There is a campaign calling itself "New California" that wants to separate the rural parts of California from the existing state. It's much easier to effect than secession, requiring only the consent of Congress and the state legislature. It is also a generally good idea for many states, not merely California.

Probably the biggest divide today is between the interests of big cities and the interests of everyone else. Almost everyone in America would be happier if they lived in a state which reflected the values of their community, and under a Federal government that was much less important. The 10th Amendment is the answer to the second half of that equation: if the Federal government does only what the Constitution says it should do, and the other powers devolve to the states or to the People as the 10th Amendment says that they should, then we don't have to impose one-size-fits-all solutions on a vast and diverse America.

That still leaves the problem that many states are dominated by a big city or a few big cities, whose interests are in grave tension with that of the rest of the state. A few states have big cities that are dominated by the rural majority, leaving them in a similar position.

The New California proposal solves the problem in a novel way. I think we should consider a similar solution in many other places. Perhaps we could do what William Gibson suggested, and combine the 'Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis' into a single state bordered by many rural states.

Parodies of the Day

The Resistance aids Darth Vader, via the Intercept.

Meanwile, DB: "Chelsea Manning hopes to become Senate’s first openly transgender disgrace."
“There have been many disgraceful senators,” said political analyst Rob Tembley. “In fact, there are many serving right now. Manning, however, would be the first openly transgender one.”...

“We need someone willing to fight,” Manning continues, referring to her inability to fight when her supervisor removed the bolt from her rifle after she was found in a cupboard in the fetal position.

Although the 30-year-old traitor with no advanced education is a historically unqualified candidate, supporters claim her emotional problems and mental instability make her a great fit for the current political climate.
It's a joke, kind of.

The Wild in Winter

Looking towards Roan High Knob

Spent the weekend in the border regions between the Cherokee and the Pisgah National Forests. It was fairly cold in the high country, single digits at nights. The stars are clear and bright when it gets that cold.

Two approaches

And as my husband points out, both countries are achieving their goals.