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    Posted by Sean at 11:39, March 29th, 2011

    Jeez, I leave America for a week, and what happens? You let preening, self-displaying types follow me to Brazil where I thought I’d have some relief from thinking about them. You let the current administration decide—I still cannot for the life of me figure out what reasoning is being used here—that America should be the world’s police force after all. Sort of. On special occasions like this one.

    You let Elizabeth Taylor die.

    I was refreshed on my return from Lima yesterday; after reading the news, I feel old—or at least cynical—again. Happily, the trip was wonderful. The big, boffo sights were as awesome as promised, but there were plenty of quieter moments that were memorable, too. Take this guy, whom we saw in a tree near Iguassu Falls:

    I hope the ladies he was targeting were impressed with his fluffy butt feathers and the good genes they presumably indicate.


    Hameau de la Reine

    Posted by Sean at 18:30, January 27th, 2011

    I grew up with uncles and cousins who hunted, family friends whose children went into the military, people who did physical labor and occasionally were injured on the job. It was just sort of assumed that everyone knew the world was a bruising place and that we were the descendants of the people who’d fought back and survived. The major part of civilization was figuring out how to cooperate or at least coexist with each other, and aggression could be channeled into good (military training or sports or debate) or ill (crime or bullying), but it couldn’t be made to disappear.

    Much of the left, though, seems to want to pretend that aggressive impulses only naturally arise in the hearts of their enemies. How else to explain everything we’ve been hearing and reading since the horrible spree killing in Arizona? When Barack Obama and other Democrats use hunting or battle imagery, it’s a particularly vivid metaphor that just shows how passionate they are about doing good despite the obstacles; when Sarah Palin and other Republicans (or, heaven help us, Tea Party members) use the same imagery, it’s a literal call to start attacking people and should scare the bejeezus out of us. Non-lefty bloggers of many political persuasions have given such arguments the drubbing they deserve many times over recently, and I didn’t particularly feel the need to weigh in.

    Then Barbara Ehrenreich wrote a piece for the LAT yesterday to defend her democratic-socialist crony Frances Fox Piven (via Instapundit via The Corner). Priven had attracted Glenn Beck’s attention by writing this column in The Nation:

    So where are the angry crowds, the demonstrations, sit-ins and unruly mobs? After all, the injustice is apparent.

    An effective movement of the unemployed will have to look something like the strikes and riots that have spread across Greece in response to the austerity measures forced on the Greek government by the European Union, or like the student protests that recently spread with lightning speed across England in response to the prospect of greatly increased school fees.

    A loose and spontaneous movement of this sort could emerge. It is made more likely because unemployment rates are especially high among younger workers. Protests by the unemployed led by young workers and by students, who face a future of joblessness, just might become large enough and disruptive enough to have an impact in Washington. There is no science that predicts eruption of protest movements. Who expected the angry street mobs in Athens or the protests by British students? Who indeed predicted the strike movement that began in the United States in 1934, or the civil rights demonstrations that spread across the South in the early 1960s? We should hope for another American social movement from the bottom—and then join it.

    Now, Piven mentions several types of group action here, not all of them violent, and you might say that she didn’t choose her words well enough to identify which ones she was really endorsing. But she’s been a professor for decades. She has a PhD from the University of Chicago, an institution not known for encouraging slushy argumentation. And this was an opinion piece for publication, not (say) a dashed-off blog post that was submitted prematurely.

    I mean, suppose she’d written the following:

    An effective American political movement would combine the fired-up anger of the Greek and British riots with the peaceable techniques of the civil rights movement. It would be purposeful. Its members would make it clear that they would not be cowed, but they would also work to convince their countrymen who are still employed that everyone is part of the same struggle for social justice.

    That took me three minutes, tops. If what it conveys is what she meant, Piven could easily have said so. But she didn’t. Coolly placing riots and sit-ins in parallel allowed her to romanticize violent protest without having to say forthrightly that she’s eager to see it here in America, but “An effective movement of the unemployed will have to look something like the strikes and riots that have spread across Greece…” strains plausible deniability to breaking point. The onus is on Piven to show how her words could be interpreted as opposing violence.

    Naturally, Barbara Ehrenreich doesn’t think so. She doesn’t see the aggression in Piven’s belief that “unruly mobs” would be justified, but she does see it in the empty big talk of Glenn Beck’s more volatile commenters:

    Why are Americans such wusses? Threaten the Greeks with job losses and benefit cuts and they tie up Athens, but take away Americans’ jobs, 401(k)s, even their homes, and they pretty much roll over. Tell British students that their tuition is about to go up and they take to the streets; American students just amp up their doses of Prozac.

    So perhaps economically hard-pressed Americans aren’t wusses after all. They may not have the courage or the know-how to organize a protest at the local unemployment office, which is the kind of action Piven urged in her December essay, but they stand ready to shoot the first 78-year-old social scientist who suggests that they do so.

    Look, madam, you‘re the one who wants fundamental social revolution—not American workers or students en masse. If social inequities matter so much to you and Priven and your cronies, why don’t you mob the damned city hall yourselves? You’re smart, articulate, credentialed. You have name recognition among the decision-making rich. If you impressed the American worker with your willingness to put your own comfort and status on the line, you might really start a chain reaction. (I don’t think that would actually happen, but you’re certainly more likely to encourage it through setting an example than through jabbering to fellow-travelers.)

    The explanation that people don’t know how to organize doesn’t wash. Everyday citizens belong to churches, charities, and all kinds of other groups that manage to hold meetings and fund drives. They’ve thronged to (orderly) Tea Party demonstrations. The idea that unemployed Americans are standing around thinking, “Jeez, my friends and I feel totally oppressed by the capitalists, but group-formation is for the bourgeois, so I guess we can’t do anything about it but drink more Pabst,” is just asinine. Maybe the reason people aren’t disrupting traffic and getting all screechy is that they’re busy figuring out what they can do about their own circumstances. There’s nothing even the slightest bit wussy about that.

    What is wussy—and I’m surprised people on the right haven’t jumped all over this, because it’s one of the most outrageous sentences I’ve ever read—is to say, as Piven does at the end of her editorial, “We should hope for another American social movement from the bottom—and then join it.” Got that, Nation readers? Don’t bother risking anything of yourselves. Wait until the churls have been out getting their heads busted long enough to make the movement a going concern, then get in on it. No one who holds that attitude or lets it pass without comment has moral grounds for bitching that America is no longer a democracy.

    *******

    BTW, I do agree that it’s stupid for people to say things like “Bring it on biotch [sic]. we’re armed to the teeth” and monstrous to say things like “We’re all for violence and change, Francis [sic]. Where do your loved ones live?” Ehrenreich’s generalized explanation for why people mention guns in the context of economic and political troubles is this: “But there is one thing you can accomplish with guns and coarse threats about using them: You can make people think twice before disagreeing with you.” Fine, point taken. I believe in answering arguments on their merits, and I’m not here to defend threats to someone’s loved ones.

    Nevertheless, I think Ehrenreich misses something important: The gun owners I know see learning how to use firearms as a manifestation of, and guns themselves as symbols of, self-reliance. You don’t ask others for help until you’ve exhausted all your own resources. You don’t sit around waiting for the government to clothe, feed, and medicate you, and you don’t sit around waiting for the police to show up when you’re menaced physically. Ehrenreich seems to want a direct causal connection between personal gun ownership and personal economic advancement, when I think what many people actually believe is that the two are both products of individualism. I’m not sure Ehrenreich would be receptive to that argument in any case, but the commenters at theblaze.com sure as hell didn’t help with their viciousness.

    *******

    One last thing that made me uneasy: What does Piven’s age have to do with anything? Offering to shoot her for her political positions is wrong, but it would have been equally wrong if she’d been thirty-eight or fifty-eight. If Piven has the vigor to write opinion pieces, she has the vigor to stand up to counterarguments.


    舵を切る

    Posted by Sean at 22:37, January 6th, 2011

    Happy New Year. I rang it in with the vestiges of the stomach flu and am just now pretty much back to my usual state of figurative, rather than literal, dyspepsia.

    It’s now the Year of the Rabbit in Japan, and it, too…Japan, I mean, not the Rabbit…is looking to make a recovery from what’s been ailing it. The Nikkei has been publishing a series of editorials over the last week about Japan’s economic prospects, called “Opening the country and clearing a path,” and this was its sober beginning:

    This is a New Year one is hard-pressed to call Happy.

    Although the Japanese economy has somehow managed to overcome the Lehman Shock, it’s gotten to the new year without finding any purchase on a path to full-on recovery. Over the past twenty years, the nominal economic growth rate has had an annual mean of a mere 0.5%. The balance of public debt has gone up by a factor of 3.3, the worst among developed countries. Japanese have seen the nightmare of a drop in our economic status threaten our security, as in the dispute over the Senkaku Islands.

    This stagnation, once loose in the land, is not the kind of thing that will resolve itself naturally.

    The editors preview the contents of the next several days in the series, then identify who they hope is paying attention:

    Whether we will move forward with opportunities for an economic renaissance will in large measure depend on our politicians.

    Despite the necessity of major surgery, they dispense painkillers. The DPJ administration has continued with those sorts of policies, just like the LDP. Make-nice-with-everyone policies cannot be anything but deleterious. Politicians should learn from the example of the bravery of UK prime minister Cameron (44), who pushes determinedly forward with necessary policies no matter how much hatred is heaped on him.

    The other major role in the Japanese renaissance is that of business leaders. Technological might we have, but we’re being outstripped in new products and new services by US enterprises such as Apple and Google. Also, there are plenty of industries in which any number of companies are jockeying for position, with Japan falling behind foreign forces in large-scale research and investment. Aren’t our conservative business practices killing off the untapped power of our workers?

    We call on politicians and business leaders to realize that they bear an extremely weighty responsibility in this time of major transition for the Japanese economy.

    Installment 2 focused on the need for more Japanese to understand foreign realities that shape markets:

    Japanese economic missions now frequently visit India, with which we have a basic agreement through the signing of an economic partnership agreement (EPA). And yet, competition in its markets, to which companies the world over are thronging, is fierce. For example, one local says, “Korean brands like Samsung and LG have even more penetration in India than Japanese brands.”

    Korean enterprises have increased their market share by offering up products that respond to local needs, such as refrigerators that can be locked. That’s an example that demonstrates the strength of having company employees that are dug in locally.

    Every year, Samsung Electric sends a bunch of employees to places throughout the globe and grooms them as territory specialists. Many Korean businessmen stationed abroad have family living with them long-term, even in India and the Middle East, and so they continuously expand their network with the locals. Japanese enterprises, with their preponderance of unaccompanied transfers* and their short tours of duty, have a tendency to be weak at making inroads. Japanese enterprises must also make haste to address [customers] from the human angle.

    Installment 3 focused on the need for technological compatibility with world markets:

    Japan has had some bitter experiences. Japanese prowess led the way in the development of car-navigation systems that used US military satellites; but each of the companies vied to produce proprietary technology and kept its specifications under wraps, and they thereby ended up creating a closed market. As a result, it was not only high in functionality but also high in price. By contrast, low-cost dumb terminals have become mainstream overseas, with Japan now in the position of playing second fiddle to foreign enterprises.

    Further reasons that Japan is behind in standardization are that it has placed excessive faith in manufacture and been late to make the transition to digital technologies. Products such as gasoline-powered cars and household appliances will sell abroad provided their functionality and quality are good. At the same time, integrated products such as cell phones can’t be used if they’re incompatible with [regional] standards.

    Installment 4 braved pitchforks by outlining why Japan needs to reform its farm policies, which produce mind-boggling drag on the economy:

    Japan’s national territory is small, and there’s a lot of mountain and forest land; those are facts. However, they’re not the only things hobbling agricultural productivity. One main reason that no agricultural sector that can withstand market liberalization has grown up is a failure of government policies.

    Isn’t it time we junk old ways of thinking, change direction, and start proclaiming loftier goals, sufficient to develop the rice-growing sector into an export industry? It’s necessary to rethink the subsidy system and make determined strides toward stout-hearted reforms that will lead to the expansions of scale that include rice growing. The TPP negotiations that the US is spearheading will not wait around for Japan as it dithers over opening its markets.

    In order to boost our competitiveness, we must quickly rethink our farm system, which makes it difficult to lease farmland and throws up barriers to new entrants in the agricultural sector. And concerning reform of the agricultural cooperatives that have grown up over the now-subdivided rice-growing sector, we must deepen the debate to include the perspectives of consumers.

    It’s no misstatement to say that the agricultural sector is a crucial industry that takes responsibility for the feeding of the citizenry. Even if Japan decides to participate in the TPP and takes steps toward opening its markets for agricultural products, continuing the necessary level of domestic production and [adopting] policies to support maintenance of its ratio of food self-sufficiency will be indispensable.

    Based on considerations of protection, what will be critical will be a vantage point that asks, “Who are the farmers we should be protecting?” If we proceeded from the fact that rice farmers with other income make up the majority of domestic farmers, it would seem that most farmers are office employees who work for private enterprise and public employees who work in government offices.

    Only 14% of Japanese farm families actually depend on agriculture as the mainstay of their income, say the editors.

    The last installment calls for Japan to bring in foreign knowledge:

    In the Japan, the number of foreigners who have specialized knowledge or technical know-how is extremely low. Foreigners living in Japan who hold residency qualifications for “technology” and “research” numbered 202,000 at the end of 2009. That’s one person for about every 300 people in the workforce.

    The ratio of direct investment from abroad to GDP is just shy of 4%, very low compared with the US’s 18% and the ROK’s 10%.

    The editors call for Japan to learn from the thinking of the engineers of the Meiji Restoration, when Japan first made its major transformation to industrialization. Note, too, that the main editorial one day last week main editorial a few days ago was headlined “Speed up the policy and business pushback against the ROK”:

    ROK enterprises have noticeably increased their felt presence in global markets. Japan and Korea resemble each other in the structuring of the electronic, the automotive, and other industries. To the extent that it’s our greatest rival, Korea’s rise cannot be ignored. In both policy and business practices, we need to push back against Korea.

    This year for the first time, there’s a product for which the global [market] shares of Japan and Korea look to be inverted. It’s the lithium-ion battery essential for computers and cell phones.

    If it can be said that large-scale restructuring takes time, the response is that each company should then expedite its selection of business sectors. Hitachi has made a tie-up with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries on hydroelectric generators. Toshiba is also focusing on investments in nuclear power generation, and when it comes to semiconductors, it will specialize in the memory business, its strength, while contracting out production of its unmonetizable system LSI’s (large-scale integrated circuits) to Samsung Electric.

    Another way is to look for profit streams that would distinguish Japan from Korea. This year Panasonic, in televisions and white-appliances, steered away from operations in which per-unit share cannot be captured. It changed its organization to center instead on business that deals comprehensively with house and office-building interiors. The strategy is to look to sell design, construction, and maintenance bundled.

    Many of the statistics cited are recent: Japanese youth don’t see a good chance of bettering their circumstances through hard work. Japan is publishing fewer academic articles on physics and chemistry than the PRC, and the literacy rate of its fifteen-year-olds is lagging behind that of Shanghai, Korea, or Hong Kong. But there’s nothing new about the ideas, except the comprehensiveness and relentless directness with which the Nikkei has expressed them. The system by which elected officials, unelected federal functionaries, and leaders of key industries simultaneously work with one another to their mutual enrichment and push against each other to keep reforms from happening was identified decades ago. It’s all very well to tell the government that it will play a key role in helping the Japanese economy adapt to external reality; it’s another thing entirely to convince those who actually populate key ministries in Kasumigaseki that their endless “administrative guidance” is choking economic development at the root and that they need to lay off the control-freak-ism. And for the love of Pete, if someone finds a politically viable way to deep-six the current farm-subsidy system, please tell us in America about it. We’re all ears.

    Also note that many of the elements of the Japanese government and corporate systems that the poor Nikkei is pleading to have changed are the very things that used to be held up as the reasons Japan was going to overtake the West—and, indeed, the very things that were seen as the key to the success of Korea and the other Tiger Economies as they “followed Japan’s example.” Now they’re moving away from that example, and in the process they’re leaving Japan behind.

    That said, I wonder whether the efflorescence of Korea might not, in fact, turn out to have a salutary effect. Yes, the PRC is a bigger, splashier, sexier topic for business and news coverage, but my feeling is that stories about Korea resonate a good deal more in Japan. (Don’t ever actually tell a Japanese person he seems to find it easy to identify with the Koreans, or vice versa, of course.) Korea’s a small, mountainous East Asian country that was poor and unfree in the recent historical past. Koreans value education and are good with technology. What edge, the Japanese might justifiably wonder, does the ROK have over Japan that’s helping it to grow in prosperity while Japan levels off?

    But don’t count it out yet. The ability of the Japanese to grit their teeth through hardship is astounding, but they’ve also been known to adapt very swiftly to new realities when it was borne in upon them that they had no other choice. If Korea seriously starts kicking Japan’s ass in industries that have become a matter of national pride, it may turn out to be the kick it’s been needing.

    * There’s actually a word for this in Japanese, 単身赴任, which you learn in third year or so when you study Japanese as a foreign language, along with 定年退職 (retirement at the designated age) and 終身雇用 (lifetime employment). Well, okay, maybe it’s more like an expression than a word, but anyway, it refers to being transferred to a different city by yourself while your wife and children hold down the fort in your hometown. (Except for the wife-and-children part, that’s what Atsushi’s former company did to him in 2004, and the separation was pretty much the impetus for my starting this blog. Atsushi was yanked from one of the Tokyo offices of his bank and rusticated to Kumamoto for a few years, put up in a tiny one-room apartment rented by the company, and expected to come home to Tokyo on weekends however he decided to manage it in order to stay sane.)

    This may also be a good place to mention, if I haven’t recently, that it’s important to bear in mind that the lifetime-employment system and its corresponding worker fealty to the company are far from universal in Japan. If I recall correctly, we were already learning when I started college in 1991 that the salaryman contingent was only 30% of the Japanese workforce. There was always plenty of turnover at smaller firms, including subcontractors for flagship manufacturing companies of the big-guns keiretsu, and in service jobs. If you were hired out of college onto the management track at the Nichigin or Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, you were going to stay put for life. But not everyone down to the last elevator or gas-station attendant lacked mobility.


    I’m the same boy I used to be

    Posted by Sean at 16:33, October 15th, 2010

    Thanks to everyone who’s asked whether I haven’t been blogging because I fell into the East River or something. No, I haven’t. I’ve mostly been busy, but I’ve also been somewhat burned out. I keep up with politics because I consider it my responsibility as a citizen, but I generally only post about things that I think would be part of an interesting discussion. Lately the political stuff I read tends to snuff out my good-humored enthusiasm for debate rather than firing it up, and I don’t see why I should become yet another pissy, ranty guy on the Internet.

    For example, there’s this malarkey about Valerie Jarrett. She referred to some gay kid’s gay-kid-ness as a “lifestyle choice,” and naturally after some lefty queer media types told her to GET BACK IN LINE, BITCH! she explained that she was very sorry and that her colorist and her interior designer and her personal shopper and her niece’s softball coach and her dog walker are all born-that-way queer and she loves them all and far be it from her to imply that anyone anywhere ever at any time has a choice about anything. Might lead to libertarianism:

    The comments were made to Jonathan Capehart, an editorial writer at the Washington Post, in an interview Wednesday in which she discussed the recent spate of teen suicides linked to bullying because of sexual orientation. Jarrett praised the parents of Justin Aaberg, a Minnesota teenager who killed himself, for “doing a good job” supporting their son, but she inadvertently stepped into the highly contentious debate about whether homosexuality is innate or a conscious decision.

    “These are good people. They were aware that their son was gay; they embraced him, they loved him, they supported his lifestyle choice,” Jarrett told Capehart. “But when he left the home and went to school, he was tortured by his classmates.”

    Blogger Michael Petrelis slammed Jarrett for the reference, accusing her of taking “talking points from Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council,” a socially conservative organization that condemns homosexuality.

    Personally, I’d like to slam Jarrett for keeping the silly word lifestyle in circulation, it being favored by the sorts of philistines who think it snazzy to “reach out” to you instead of calling or writing like normal people. (Of course, being a philistine puts her in good company in the current administration, but that’s a topic for another day.)

    Ann Althouse has posted about Jarrett’s apology, and she recounts this story, and her commenters run with it:

    I remember back in the 1980s, in the radical enclaves of the University of Wisconsin Law School and similar places, when it was heresy to say that sexual orientation was inborn. I remember getting snapped at by a very prominent left-wing lawprof for referring without scorn to research that showed some evidence that sexual orientation was innate. It was all about choice back then, and the choice model was deemed to be the framework upon which gay rights would be built.

    (If it was inborn, I was told, then it will be perceived as a disease that might be cured, and therefore there can be no talk among decent people about the possibility that it is inborn. But what about science? What about discovering what is true? The official left-wing answer to that question, I learned, is: shut up.)

    Sure, but in my experience social conservatives only like to consider the two less-likely extreme possibilities (innate vs. a conscious decision, as the Politico piece put it) also. They’re clearly emotionally committed to seeing homosexuality as a choice, because then they don’t have to address sticky questions about upright Christian parents who somehow end up having gay kids. (I’m not saying they don’t sincerely hold the considered belief that it is a choice, only that they get worked up over it in a fashion that strongly suggests they have an emotional investment in it.) And they raise the hypothetical possibility that some gene for homosexuality will be discovered when they want to tweak leftists over the abortion-related dilemma that would presumably cause.

    Neither of those seems to be the direction the research I’ve read is heading, though. It’s doubtful that a doctor will ever be able to say, “Your fetus has the gay gene.” What’s more probable is that a doctor will someday be able to say, “See this marker? 30% of male fetuses with it turn out homosexual. See this other marker? When it’s present, too, the probability jumps to 53%. Postnatal environmental factors will determine the rest, but a lot of them aren’t things you can consciously ‘do’ if you’d prefer your son turn out to be a heterosexual architect rather than a homosexual interior designer. While orientation is pretty much fixed by age ten or so, it’s evolving based on all kinds of stimuli up until then.” Scoring cheap political points off your opponents with that little scenario isn’t so easy, which may be why neither the left nor the right appears to discuss it much.

    It fits the observations of most of the gay people I know, though, which may be one of the reasons the “lifestyle choice” locution tends to set people off. It makes the choice involved sound quick and easy, when what actually happens is that most people really take to heart their parents’ desire for grandchildren and (at best) ambivalence toward homosexuality, so they fight and fight and fight and fight and fight and fight every longing they have until they’re exhausted. Then, at some point, they adjust to reality and figure out that it’s better to be a good, honest homo than an unnatural, dissembling hetero.

    That’s a choice, certainly, but it’s not like waking up one morning and deciding to become a vegan. Jarrett probably didn’t realize that she’d implied that gay people make choices entirely driven by preference. But she did, and since she signed on as part of the lefty-PR program, she has no one to blame but herself when Mike Petrelis barks from the telescreen that she’d better touch those toes when she’s told to.

    (And no, you’ll never see a title that quotes Steve flipping Winwood here again.)


    There is a light that never goes out

    Posted by Sean at 18:32, April 8th, 2010

    Joanne Jacobs applies her usual deadpan to Duke’s new policy on campus sex, which she describes thus:

    A person seen as “powerful”—such as a varsity athlete—may “create an unintentional atmosphere of coercion,” the policy states. For the “powerful,” it’s not just that “no” means no and silence means no. “Yes” means no too.

    In addition, sex with someone who’s been drinking—not like that ever happens—is considered a form of rape because the policy considers any level of intoxication makes a student unable to consent to sex.

    The document itself is as coruscatingly stupid as you’d expect. It never ceases to amaze me how brain-dead college administrators are about student drunkenness:

    The use of alcohol or other drugs can have unintended consequences. Alcohol or other drugs can lower inhibitions and create an atmosphere of confusion over whether consent is freely and effectively given. The perspective of a reasonable person will be the basis for determining whether one should have known about the impact of the use of alcohol or drugs on another’s ability to give consent. Being intoxicated or high is never an excuse for sexual misconduct.

    Note the way the lowering of inhibitions is assumed to be an unintended consequence of drinking. After all, no college student would ever drink purposefully to get over feeling like a slut for wanting sex, feeling like a pervert for wanting homosexual sex, or feeling like a loser for wanting sex with someone who acts like a jerk once the clothes are back on. You might argue that students with such inhibitions should heed them rather than using alcohol to surmount them, but it’s hard to argue that they’re doing something they haven’t been in a position to consent to.

    There are, naturally, helpful scenarios of sexual misconduct given, with a careful distribution of sexual orientations to show that everyone is at least hypothetically a potential sexual assailant. The actual events don’t ring particularly false, but the prissy, desiccated way we’re supposed to interpret them does. Naturally, I’m going to homo home in on the gay guys:

    Andrew and Felix have been flirting with each other all night at a party. Around 12:30 a.m., Felix excuses himself to find a bathroom. Andrew notices Felix slurring his speech. Andrew wonders if Felix went to the bathroom to vomit. When Felix returns, the two begin flirting more heavily and move to a couch. As the conversation continues, the two become more relaxed and more physically affectionate. Andrew soon suggests they go back to his room, and Felix agrees. As they walk down the stairs, Andrew notices that Felix looks unstable and offers his arm for support and balance. When they get back to his room, Andrew leads Felix to the bed and they begin to become intimate. Felix becomes increasingly passive and appears disoriented. Andrew soon begins to have sexual intercourse with him. The next morning, Felix thinks they had sex but cannot piece together the events leading up to it. This is a violation of the Sexual Misconduct Policy. Felix was clearly under the influence of alcohol and thus unable to freely consent to engage in sexual activity with Andrew. Although Andrew may not have known how much alcohol Felix had consumed, he saw indicators from which a reasonable person would conclude that Felix was intoxicated, and therefore unable to give consent. Andrew in no way obtained consent from Felix.

    Okay, fine. But that omits a lot of the story that would explain how they ended up having sex. For example:

    Andrew and Felix have been flirting with each other all night at a party. Felix has pretty much accepted that he’s gay, but whenever he’s attracted to a guy and thinks about doing something about it, the things his parents used to say around the dinner table about homosexuals start echoing in his head, and he gets rattled and feels like he’s stirring things up that he may not be able to handle. The attention from Andrew is making him feel terrific—attractive and interesting—but Felix isn’t sure what he’s supposed to do next. Andrew can hold his liquor pretty well, and Felix doesn’t want to look like a lightweight, so he’s trying to keep up even though he knows he’s already had enough.

    Andrew is going berserk. He almost never hits it off with a guy this quickly. And Felix has no idea how cute he is—the slightly sheepish manner, the shrug, the offhand smile. When he leans forward, there’s this place where the back of his neck comes out of his T-shirt collar that Andrew wants to bury his face in. Felix seems to be getting really drunk, but Andrew, though he keeps good motor control, knows that he himself is probably no longer thinking as clearly as he feels he is. Around 12:30 a.m., Felix excuses himself to find a bathroom. Andrew notices Felix slurring his speech. Andrew wonders if Felix went to the bathroom to vomit.

    When Felix returns, the two begin flirting more heavily and move to a couch. As the conversation continues, the two become more relaxed and more physically affectionate. Felix doesn’t taste like vomit when Andrew kisses him, so maybe he’s okay after all? Felix feels and smells a little sweat-damp beneath his T-shirt, and Andrew is beside himself.

    Felix would never have been able to initiate that kiss, but he likes it. He’s dimly aware that his senses of touch and taste aren’t working right, but he really wants Andrew to like him and be attracted to him. He’s afraid that he’s going to look like a dork if he tells Andrew he needs to go home now but would like to see him again when he’s more sober, so he keeps responding as enthusiastically as he can while Andrew makes out with him.

    Andrew soon suggests they go back to his room, and Felix agrees. As they walk down the stairs, Andrew notices that Felix looks unstable and offers his arm for support and balance. Andrew stumbles a few times along the way, and Felix giggles, a little relieved that Andrew’s also more drunk than he’d thought. When they get back to his room, Andrew leads Felix to the bed and they begin to become intimate. Felix is fighting hard to stay awake and perform well so that Andrew isn’t disappointed. Andrew actually asks once whether he’s okay, and Felix makes a huge effort to enunciate a clear “Yeah, I’m fine.” Felix becomes increasingly passive and appears disoriented. Andrew soon begins to have sexual intercourse with him. He’s keyed up, and Felix is responsive enough to keep his arms around him and to get off. The next morning, Felix thinks they had sex but cannot piece together the events leading up to it. He feels like hell: not only is he a failure at being straight, but he apparently can’t even be a faggot without screwing it up. Andrew probably thinks he’s a loser.

    Andrew doesn’t, in fact, think Felix is a loser; he wonders whether Felix wasn’t as attracted to him as he thought, since he had to get so drunk before he would make out with him. Felix miscalculated, trying to distance himself from his desire for Andrew while indulging it at the same time. Andrew might have just taken Felix to home if they’d left the party earlier, but by the time they got up to go, he was too keyed up and horny to think of it. Although Andrew may not have known how much alcohol Felix had consumed, he saw indicators from which a reasonable person would conclude that Felix was intoxicated, and therefore unable to give consent. Andrew in no way obtained consent from Felix. But Felix kept drinking past his own limitations; Andrew never put a funnel into his mouth and poured vodka down it. And his own faculties of reason weren’t all operating, either.

    How is it helpful, at this point, for some Student Life lackwit to wade in and tell Felix he’s a victim and Andrew he’s a perpetrator of sexual misconduct? And in general, how is it helpful to assume that in most drunken couplings it’s the bigger, hornier, more sober party who was the one doing all the “manipulating”? No one who’s ever watched men and women flirt could possibly buy that for a moment. I don’t think it does anyone (except ambitious Student Life lackeys) any good to plant the idea in undergrads’ heads that every bad sexual experience is “misconduct,” in which mustache-twirling offenders can be clearly separated from ravaged victims. Or that there’s some mystical “coercive” power inherent in high status in the social hierarchy. This is supposed to be preparing kids to handle grown-up life?


    Sweet dreams are made of this

    Posted by Sean at 11:59, February 12th, 2010

    The designer Alexander McQueen has apparently committed suicide, and this is the way Robin Givhan of the WaPo eulogizes him:

    In one of his early shows in 1999, which unfolded in a chilly warehouse along New York’s Hudson River and drew a packed house despite a tropical-storm warning, Mr. McQueen’s models splashed through ankle-deep water in a makeshift pool.

    The collection addressed female sexuality in triptych. In one moment, Mr. McQueen aggressively flaunted the female body in a boldly revealing and vulgar manner. Then, his vision of women turned strong and self-empowering. And ultimately, it shifted to sexuality as something completely hidden, as if the very mention of it was cause for revulsion.

    Female repression and disenfranchisement in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime had been in the headlines at the time, and Mr. McQueen put chadors in this collection and used them as a tool for exploring the politics of gender.

    In his finale, cloaked models swayed from trapeze-type swings, then suddenly the sounds of an electrocution reverberated around the vast room. The models’ frail bodies jerked and flailed into stillness. It was a deeply troubling fashion presentation grounded in social consciousness—and confusion, and frustration—rather than mere beauty.

    Thank heaven for that! Many’s the time I’ve observed people—on the street, at dinner, at the theater—and thought, You know, all this mere beauty being achieved in tailoring and dressmaking is a big bore. Why can’t some designer start helping people look slovenly and overtly sexualized for a change?

    I mean, you’d think that if you wanted to use the chador (I thought that was the Iranian version, BTW?) as a point of departure for fashion as social commentary, you’d think about how it’s part of a system that starves women for beauty and sensory stimulation—keeping them in their houses or literally under wraps when outside them. If you were a trained and skilled designer, wouldn’t you want to take the opportunity to offer gorgeous colors, touchable fabrics, and flattering cuts, to celebrate the possibilities precluded by sack-wearing? You might even raise challenging questions about modesty by making women look hot without falling out of everything, and raise disturbing questions about propriety by men look hot without seeming to be wearing their gym clothes. Then spoiled fashionistas who wanted an anthropology or comparative religion lesson could go to the NYU adult education program where such things belong.

    The unfettered imagination must be served, and if there’s enough money in the fashion world to mount runway shows that serve as “intensely personal therapy” sessions, why not? I believe in markets. Sitting in a bone-chilling warehouse watching faked electrocutions presumably has value for some people. (It’s not particularly helpful to real suffering Afghan women in any way I’m aware of, though.) What’s sad is that the state of things is such that Givhan leads with that, as if it were what the mass audience should remember McQueen for, relegating his real “social contribution” to page 2:

    Mr. McQueen was not merely flash and petulance. He was substance, too. Indeed, he was able to cut a suit with enough professional sharpness and reserve that no-nonsense women — including lawyers and first lady Michelle Obama — found a place for them in their wardrobe.

    He explained the decision in an interview with The Washington Post: “I come from Savile Row. This is where I learned my craft. For me, working with Huntsman is less about a trend in fashion or the culture and more about a respect for craftsmanship and attention to detail.

    “I realize that it may not be a big part of my business in financial terms, but I do believe that there will always be a customer who appreciates the art and the tradition of tailoring.”

    McQueen’s flagship label is too rich for my blood—and, in any case, I work in an industry in which showing up at the office in pressed wool trousers rather than jeans draws questions about your big dinner plans—but I have a little denim shirt from his diffusion line that’s one of my favorites. It has half-zippers where you’d expect piping, and when people notice, it always makes them smile. It’s also beautifully built. So are the McQueen suits and dresses I’ve seen others wear. That’s the real way fashion in a free society makes a political statement and shows social consciousness: by flattering individuals with distinct personalities that mesh with the designer’s.

    But, of course, what gets top billing as McQueen’s legacy is, like, Maggie Rizer (or whoever it was) in a cloth bag having spasms on a trapeze. I don’t blame Givhan, who’s just doing her job as a fashion columnist, but it’s a shame nonetheless.

    Via Ann Althouse.

    Added on 13 February: Deep Glamour has a post up about McQueen, of course, that includes a link to a much better Telegraph obit and a comment in which Virginia Postrel links to this photo-post about McQueen’s career highlights.

    While I’m adding those, let me just expand a little bit on something I wrote above: I’m not trying to argue that fashion can’t make a political statement. Who wears what on what occasions has been bound by taboos and political rules since time immemorial, and there’s no reason that designers shouldn’t see political expression as an aspect of their work or that scholars shouldn’t then study it.

    My point is that, if we’re going to see some runway shows as political art, we have to judge them by the same criteria we’d use to judge, say, a multimedia installation in a gallery that treated the same issues. Has the artist risked something of himself by taking a position that could be debated and maybe found wanting (or, at the very least, framed the relevant political questions in a way that expresses a point of view)? Or has he just thrown a bunch of provocative stuff together, lunged at the audience with it, and then stepped back to chortle at how much he’s knocked people for a loop? Unless there was more meat to the show Givhan writes about than she describes, I can’t see how it adds up to much of value. Call me old-fashioned, but if you’re going to take the beauty out of art, you’d better have something equally compelling to put in it’s place. A bunch of fragmented images that convey little beyond how socially conscious you think you are doesn’t (ahem) cut it.


    I’ve lifted the veil; I’ve walked through the fire

    Posted by Sean at 08:10, February 1st, 2010

    Frank Rich uses his NYT perch to make the complaint, common among cultural as well as political commentators, that equates “Americans are not united behind my coterie’s political wish list” with “Americans are not united in any meaningful way, and that’s dangerous.” Naturally, we need a big, strong man to show us who’s boss.

    [O]ur union is not strong. It is paralyzed. Many Americans were more eagerly anticipating Steve Jobs’s address in San Francisco on Wednesday morning than the president’s that night because they have far more confidence in Apple than Washington to produce concrete change. One year into Obama’s term we still don’t know whether he has what it takes to get American governance functioning again. But we do know that no speech can do the job. The president must act. Only body blows to the legislative branch can move the country forward.

    Well, yes, plenty of Americans would like to inflict some body blows on the legislative branch—just not everyone in the way Rich means it.

    The thing is, that’s not a problem that a strong president can make go away. Disagreement, on deep-rooted principles, is part of the fabric of American society and will always have to be factored into political prescriptions. It doesn’t represent “paralysis” unless you conceive of most problems as lying in the political realm and being the business of the United States Congress. Sometimes it really is necessary for the federal government to steamroll over possible objections. (Congress has the explicit power to declare war; we don’t take a plebiscite.)

    But on many issues, the option of allowing for differences among states and municipalities enables individuals to vote with their feet and make the trade-offs they prefer. Insisting that Washington legislate them, by contrast, foists the same trade-offs on everyone from on high. Well, everyone but the insiders and lobbyists who come out with most of the pork and gravy. If Americans aren’t behind the mammoth new health-care or jobs program or eager to hear the president disgorge more of his trademark orotundities about it, that may be because many of them suspect, based on precedent, that it won’t work as promised. At least Steve Jobs was going to tell them something useful. And if their representatives in congress have picked up on their mood and are spooked, so much the better.

    Added after coffee: That original first sentence was unnecessarily obnoxious, so I took out the nastier parts.

    Added on 3 February: When I compared Frank Rich to Chief Wiggum, I thought I sounded like a jerk (which is why I deleted that part). When Eric does it, he sounds charmingly prankish. He manages to work in a doughnut reference, too, which is always welcome.


    808 State

    Posted by Sean at 18:53, January 27th, 2010

    Is this thing on? Super. And for Pete’s sake, good thing they’re letting me have the TelePrompTer considering all the FLAK I’ve been taking after that school thing. I mean, seriously? Second Assistant was all, like, “Mr. Prez, I realize that you’re used to giving speeches to segments of the electorate that are no more sophisticated than middle-schoolers, but that doesn’t mean you’re supposed to use the ‘PrompTer in front of an actual classroom of sixth-graders!” Oh, snap, Second Assistant, snap! Like I’m supposed to be able to figure these things out anymore.

    Speaking of which, you people drive me up the wall sometimes. Why bother electing me president if you’re going to throw a fit every time I actually try to PRESIDE over something? I keep trying to introduce some European enlightenment into this place—FINALLY!—in fact, “Light Bringer” sounds like a cool nickname. Wonder what it is in Latin? ANYWAY, I TRY these European things you said you wanted when you voted me in, and then what do you go and do?

    Well, okay, Massachusetts just went and elected a senator who once posed nude for a national magazine, which is sort of like what happens in maybe Italy, but that’s not the Europe I mean. I mean France and Germany, geniuses. They have national health systems, and they’re all kinds of cool.

    For a while there, I was heartened by the whole “Tea Party” thing I was hearing about from my staffers whose job is to look out the window sometimes. The UK doesn’t consider itself part of Europe, really, but it may as well be, and they have tea parties there. Class-act tea parties. Then Anderson Cooper told me you were actually “Tea-Baggers,” and I was like, Blech! BAG TEA? What is America now—one gigantic rest-stop diner? Seriously, your personal assistant can learn to make tea from proper loose leaves. You’ll love it. Serve it in Limoges. And then you’ll really be worth partying with! Almost, dare I say, European.

    But really, it’s not even just Europe. Let’s talk Japan. (Actually, am I supposed to call that Prime Minister guy soon? I need to find out from someone.) Japan invented sushi and Kurosawa movies, and you’re fine with those, but Japan also has a national health service, and you’re all up in arms because I might want to give you something like it. Who knows—maybe once we have a national health service, our countrymen will come up with better food and movies, and you in the hinterlands won’t all be stuck eating at Taco Bell and watching crap from James Cameron.

    Okay, fine. That’s fallacious reasoning. POST HOC ERGO PROPTER HOC. I know all about that because I went to Harvard Law School. Just, look, forget what results…don’t you want to be more like the Japanese? Remember: sushi! Kurosawa!

    Oh, yeah. Japan also has that bad-news economy that totally wasn’t helped by those stimulus packages. Meh. Let’s think about Europe again.

    If you’re in a snit and not going to take the national health care system—which, let me be perfectly clear, the people in Washington would totally have a plan completed for sometime after the bill passed and before the first bureaucrat manning the help line put a citizen on hold—maybe you can take something else France and Germany have (and hey, Japan, too!): a super-zoom-zoom-fast choo-choo train! Those of us who get around on private jets have been totally trying to get you to assent to one of those for for-flipping-EVER. Seriously, que es el holdup?

    On the other hand, I can’t say that I like the way the AP talks about it here (via Reason, where people keep insisting on pointing out that they did NOT VOTE FOR ME):

    A day after delivering a State of the Union address aimed at showing recession-weary Americans he understands their struggles, President Barack Obama intends to award $8 billion in stimulus funds to develop high-speed rail corridors and sell the program as a jobs creator.

    Excuse me? I don’t have to “sell” anything. That railroads create jobs is, like, manifest. The song isn’t called “I’ve Been Underemployed on the Railroad,” now, is it?

    The official said the projects are expected to create or save [Like that? I came up with it myself.--Yr. Prez] tens of thousands of jobs in areas like track-laying, manufacturing, planning and engineering, though there is no time frame for how long it will take for those jobs to develop. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to speak ahead of the president’s announcement.

    Okay, if a certain Anonymous Official had said what he’d actually REHEARSED, he would have left out the part about “no time frame.” I mean, sheesh—do you have any idea how many unions we’re going to have to massage? Where do people think jobs are supposed to come from, entrepreneurship or something?

    With that in mind, Obama will spend about two-thirds of his speech on the economy, telling Americans in specific terms that he understands their struggles. He’ll reinforce that message in the coming weeks by laying out a number of job creation initiatives, the first of which will be the high-speed rail grant awards to announced Thursday in Tampa.

    Trust me, I lobbied hard for Palm Beach. Who the hell goes to Tampa? But those staffers of mine are total martinets.

    Even experts who favor high-speed rail question whether the awards Obama will announce Thursday can turn into the job generators the administration is hoping for. Because the U.S. has never had the kind of bullet trains found in Europe and Asia, there are no U.S. engineering companies or manufacturers with experience in high-speed rail. Anthony Perl, who heads the National Research Council’s panel on intercity passenger rails, said that means much of the technology will have to be purchased abroad.

    And that’s a problem? At least the ignoramuses may end up letting me import SOMETHING, I say.

    So anyway, yeah, more jobs and a sophisticated, environmentally friendly, employment-providing new set of transportation systems. What could be better? And I’ve been looking to get away from all the bankers and car makers, too. With this project, I can leave all these industries whose reputation has been sullied by decades of greed and inefficiency behind and just settle into working with, you know, railroad magnates and transportation authorities. Can’t wait.


    The machineries of joy

    Posted by Sean at 05:00, January 13th, 2010

    Sarah Hoyt is one of those blog friends who’ve become rare and valued friends offline. Like many other first-generation Americans, she has a special appreciation for our freedoms borne of having grown up elsewhere. She can get good and cranky about the current state of things, but she’s inquisitive and hopeful about the future. And she’s wicked, witty fun even before the Scotch starts flowing.

    Her day job (and, judging from the hour at which an e-mail sometimes arrives from her, her night job, too) is as a sci-fi and fantasy writer, and her optimism is evident in her writing—there’s mischievous good humor on nearly every page. Like real life, the worlds Sarah creates come with evil forces that persons of good will and fortitude have to fight. And they win. Her most recent book, the first in a space-opera series, is Darkship Thieves, and the following is a sort of companion piece she kindly offered to let me publish here about why being optimistic, and not just cranky, about technology is the right attitude.

    *******

    Death. Turmoil. Despair. Disaster surrounds us on every side, a precipice threatening to swallow us with its dark and relentless horrors.

    Just talk to anyone. Ask them what they expect of the future and you’ll get Ecclesiastes. No one wants to go around bouncing and smiling and telling everyone to cheer up because the future is almost certainly better than the present.

    No one goes around saying that, but it is true nonetheless. Sure, of course, some periods in history in some places on Earth have been terrible or disgusting, or sometimes both. But taken as a continuum, the human condition of the majority of normal people on Earth has been a slowly ascending line. So that we are now, in aggregate, the best fed, healthiest, wealthiest humans in history. Which is why expecting the future to bring us horrors untold is a little daft. Or an attempt to sound interesting and thoughtful and get tenure and grants and big book advances.

    I suspect the other reason for it is a real sense of angst due to accelerating change. I can’t even imagine how my children will live when they are my age. To be honest, I’m not too sure about how I’ll live in ten years. We haven’t even yet seen all the results of the innovations of the last ten years.

    Take the Internet. Ten years ago it was already here, but as one resource among many and worse than a lot of them. Even I, who was an early adopter—my husband being a techno-geek—did only a few things online. I got email—mostly from editors and family. I read a few message boards. And I looked at my library catalogue. Today I read all my news online; I read a good deal of my fiction on line too. Via email and chat programs, I have as much—occasionally more—of a social life online as face to face. I do my preliminary research for work online. I shop on line for specialty items—such as older son’s size 17 shoes—which would otherwise be impossible to find in a medium-size town in Colorado. The list goes on, and I’m sure you know it as well as I do.

    So—answer me this—what social changes will result from the Internet? Look beyond what it was designed to do and at what it is obviously doing—or could do.

    First, the obvious—the Internet allows one to pick friends who have the same interests and opinions, something those of us in smaller towns might not find in our immediate neighborhood or in our professional lives. Given a few more years, it is quite possible it will allow us to seal ourselves hermetically in our comfort zones and never stray out of them. A few more years still, and I can see several cultures with their own lingo and beliefs so distinct that they will necessitate interpretation for outsiders. (The gentleman in the third row—yes, you, with the glasses—I heard that “But we already have computer professionals!” Be nice. They do try to translate. It’s not their fault our eyes glaze over.)

    Then the slightly less obvious—what effect will the Internet have on future generations? In past centuries, given the limited selection, outliers often married people who were not outliers, or didn’t marry at all. This meant a certain genetic reinforcement toward what was considered normal in the given society, physically and—more importantly—mentally. Now I know several couples who met, dated over the Internet and married across the world. About half of them have children. Will the continuation of this trend cause humanity to speciate? Will certain odd characteristics accumulate in a sub-group till it’s no longer part of the human race?

    I don’t know. What I know for sure is one thing: that the rate of acceleration of technology is increasing, as future discoveries build on the past ones. It’s no use at all my worrying about the future impact of the Internet, as though it were the only thing that will be different in the future, because other innovations I can foresee are just about to hit—life extension; gene modification; easier acquisition of knowledge. And then there are myriad other innovations I can’t foresee but that are coming as surely as the ones I mentioned.

    People sense this at some level. It is a great part—I think—of what fuels the widespread panic about the future. In his small portion of the world, just about every one of us finds himself unable to predict where he’ll be in the future. By which I mean the very near future. Within the next ten years or less. My own profession is beset by the ease of e-publishing, the collapse of traditional bookstores (and that’s more the effect of Amazon and online used bookstores than of ebook readers, whose effect won’t be seen for some years yet), the collapse of the traditional power structure from publishers to distributors to bookstores. Everything is in flux. No one knows what the winning model for the future is. My dentist—talking about something else—mentioned he doesn’t know what he’ll be doing in ten years. You see, turns out you can implant a tooth-bud in the gum, and the tooth will grow and replace the one that has a cavity or is decaying. The technology, he says, will be available for human use within ten years. A friend of mine is married to a man who studies how to clone eyes, so he can replace the eyes of middle-aged people. I wonder how that makes my eye-doctor feel.

    Our brain is simply not adapted to these conditions. I recently watched a Terry Pratchett movie and heard humans described as the place where rising ape met falling angel. I don’t think he meant it theologically, since Pratchett is not religious. It doesn’t need to be religious to make sense. We are all of us made of the rational part of our brain, which looks head on at developments and decides what they mean. And then we’re composed, also, of instincts, impulses, and tendencies that we carry around because they were useful to our ancestors.

    One of my friends has a sign on her wall that I can’t quote verbatim but that says something about her being a gatherer while her husband is a hunter, which explains their different approaches to buying shoes. It’s funny, but it’s probably also true, in that their ancestors developed different approaches to dealing with life. Take women’s tendency to congregate in vast social women-only groups—please, do take it; I don’t want it—that enforce internal conformity and mutual “defense.” It was probably born of something we see in the most primitive tribes, where women do their gathering in vast groups and watch the kids collectively. Be the pissy woman—hi, everyone—who will not conform and wear her bone on her nose just the way every other woman in the tribe does, and the other ones are liable to neglect to tell you when your toddler is wandering off into the forest while you are busy picking berries.

    Or take socialism—I’m quite done with it—which is a system that makes perfect internal sense to us because it works in very small groups and in an economy of extreme scarcity, which is what our ancestors lived in. The groups that insisted the haunch of mammoth be divided among everyone in the tribe, even the pregnant women and the children, left more descendants than the others, and so we are running around with the idea of a fixed economic pie in our minds, and the suspicion that if someone has more than we do, they must have stolen it. These built-in assumptions are probably partly created by the way our brains are formed (no, I don’t understand it either, but one of my friends is a biologist, and he seems to believe it might be so) and partly by deep-set culture: ideas so old and unexamined that they are passed in language and in gesture. The fact that our thinking brain has plenty of examples of redistribution and zero sum economics creating misery and death doesn’t seem to make any difference, against that kind of programming.

    The ape is what is screaming, right now, shaking his club in the face of the approaching future, running into the cave and trying exorcism rituals as the ground trembles and shifts beneath his hairy feet.

    Poor ape. He doesn’t know it, but he’s destined to lose. Not that he’ll go away. At least I hope no one finds the technology to dispose of him. Without him, humans wouldn’t be humans. (There is a version of transhumanism that seems to expect just that and always strikes me as being as repugnant as the attempt to change humans by political means. The Soviet Man is no more appalling than the poreless god-like man of the future who lives entirely in VR.) But try as he might, he can’t stop innovation and the ever-cascading change pouring down on him. And truly, he should embrace it, because technology will afford him the chance to make his peace with the angel, and to stride forward into the future, if not a more coherent being, at least a happier one.

    Societies based on scarcity; societies in which everyone has to live a certain way in order to survive; societies led by a strong leader—all those are trends of the past, trends of the ape-brain. The trends of the future are abundance; societies where you can live your life the way you want, because there is a gadget, a pill, a technique to do just what you wish to without negatively affecting your neighbors or peers; and distributed knowledge and power.

    Will it proceed without a glitch? Of course not. Our ape will fight and scream and fling poo. For some time and in some places, he will perhaps manage to hold progress at bay, and probably create quite a dark and dank lair for himself.

    But technology will leak even in there. Things will change. The future will march in. In lurches and sideways dodges. In bobs and weaves. The gates are open and it’s too late to shut them. The future is coming. And it’s very bright indeed.

    *Sarah A. Hoyt is a writer of science fiction (and fantasy and mystery) which, while giving her a certain interest in trends and effects of technology does not, by any means, make her a prophet or even a Cassandra. Take her predictions as you might. But she would place a strong bet on these.*


    Everything but the oink

    Posted by Sean at 08:20, December 22nd, 2009

    Advice Goddess Amy Alkon posts about successful lobbying on behalf of blocs that will not, as a result, be among the “special interests” that health-care reform does anything to keep at bay:

    White House budget director Peter Orszag has claimed that the bill’s 40% excise tax on high-cost insurance plans is key to reducing health costs. Yet the Senate Majority Leader’s new version specifically exempts “individuals whose primary work is longshore work.” That would be the longshoremen’s union, which has negotiated very costly insurance benefits. The well-connected dock workers join other union interests such as miners, electrical linemen, EMTs, construction workers, some farmers, fishermen, foresters, early retirees and others who are absolved from this tax.

    So the rule of thumb is, if you could appear in a men-in-uniform fantasy on a gay porn site, you’re exempted. And they say Washington in the Obama era isn’t being kind to us homos! The WSJ summarizes things this way:

    In other words, controlling insurance costs is enormously important, unless your very costly insurance is provided by an important Democratic constituency.

    To libertarians, the lesson from this, of course, is that concentrating power in federal hands facilitates these sorts of machinations by making DC a one-stop-shopping source for favors and deals. To big-government fans, the lesson is, as the WSJ puts it:

    The press corps is passing this favoritism off as sausage-making necessary to “make history,” but that’s an insult to sausages.

    Yeah. No food processor could hope to get away with putting a product with so much filler over on the buying public.

    * And yes, being from PA, I’m aware that the post title refers to scrapple, not sausage. It’s a metaphorical fit.