The Crisis of Competence, or: Adulting Ain’t That Hard

  • by Gitabushi

I go to a geek website daily. It seems like 10% (probably not that high) of the posts are cartoons about anxiety, like this one:

From Amanda Panda Comics

AmandaPandaComics, support her on Patreon if you are so inclined.

The isn’t funny. It isn’t insightful. It *normalizes* fragility.

It normalizes fragility and inability by saying, “See? Your thoughts are normal. Other people feel this way. There’s nothing wrong with you and no reason to change.”

But there *is* something wrong with feeling anxiety.  Normal people should *not* feel anxiety doing normal tasks like making a purchase at the grocery store.

We have a Death of Competence crisis going on the US. I’ve seen it at multiple levels. We’ve developed a system predicated on a complete lack of understanding of how to do stuff.

One example is Hillary Clinton. She never *did* anything. She just rode her husband’s coattails and had a staff make decisions for her that let her take credit for.

I saw it when working at a 3-Letter Agency.  The director was an engineers should know how to do stuff. But she mainly knew how to talk. She isolated herself with layers of staff. No one above a GS-13 would make an independent decision on anything. If you had a proposal, it had to be presented perfectly up through the layers of staff. If anything was wrong (bad grammar, in the wrong color folder), it was kicked back to be redone.

I understand the concept: if your attention to detail is lacking, then it probably extends to the proposal.  But the reverse is not true: just because every i is dotted and every t crossed, it doesn’t mean the proposal is well-thought-out, or a good proposal; it just means the focus is on superficial aspects of appearance, rather than on the salient aspects of a project.

So as assigned projects filtered upward, the higher staff would demand more explanations, and recommendations.  I’m sure there was some thought in signing off on the recommendations, sometimes the higher ranks would use their knowledge and experience to raise the “bullshit flag” and knock it back down.  But in general, the whole process was designed so that if something worked, the decision-makers could take credit for approving it; but if it failed, the blame could be placed on the GS-13s (the highest level just short of an actual leadership position at most Agency HQs) that provided the hard numbers and background information for the proposal, or perhaps the staff that let the proposal through.

This is success in the US right now. We don’t teach anyone how to *lead* organizations to success.  We discourage anyone taking risks. Our leaders insulate themselves from the possibility of being associated with a failure, so they can move up in the ranks of a zero-tolerance system.

And this adversity to risk and fear of making decisions trickles down to the average person, like the one in the comic.

I think this is because the US is rich and successful.  Outside of the military and some engineering projects, there are no life-and-death consequences for failure, so people don’t learn how to do effective risk analysis and then take risks.  All their decisions are career-path based, rather than project success-based.

I mean, I know I’m painting with an overly-wide brush here, but I think this *is* what’s happening.

We are teaching our kids to not think, to not plan, to just follow the life plan set up for them on rails: go to school, get a degree, live in a city, & everything will be perfect.  I understand this, too: you want your kids to have a good life.  There is a way to achieve that, so teach them to follow it.

But the problem is that we tell them to follow it exactly, and promise them that if they do, everything will be fine and there will be no struggle, no problems.

No. You have to think for yourself, try things out, take risks, learn how to manage your life.  I *want* my kids to struggle.  How else can they learn how to avoid mistakes that cause people to struggle with life?

I have no doubt the person in this comic *is* common among young kids right now. But it shouldn’t be. If you are feeling anxious about finances, YOU CAN LEARN TO NOT BE.

Okay, let’s back up a moment, here.

The point of a Character-Driven story is the main character reaches a point where they can no longer continue as they have been. They MUST change. Then they change.

For this cartoon to be actually helpful, rather than cocooning readers in failure, it should have started with the realization that you can’t live being anxious about buying tampons. That you have to make changes so you are never anxious about buying tampons again. Then you walk through the door into adulthood.

 has been collecting tweets from people who are anxious about being adults, who have never lived how to live a bountiful life.  I suggested he put all these quote tweets into one long thread (much like I have done with “Leftists are caught in the grip of incoherent apoplexy” and “Democrats are a criminal organization masquerading as a political party”.

He liked the idea, so he should soon be collecting tweets from these incompetents we’ve created. I hope he never stops adding to it, so it becomes an irresistible weight of motivation for his students (and anyone who reads it) to learn to live a glorious, successful life.

It starts with recognizing that anxiety over a simple purchase is not normal, and unnecessary.

Go, and do.


Two Real-Life Examples that Prove Socialism Can Never Work

  • by Gitabushi

Socialism is the equal sharing of all work and the equal sharing of all produced goods.

The assumption is that when everyone receives an equal amount of produced goods (food, clothes, entertainment, etc.) that people will be freed to work on what they want to. Moreover, all necessary work will still get done because someone will step up and do the dangerous work of construction, electrical work, policing, etc., and odious work of sanitation, etc., because it needs to be done. No one wants to wallow in filth, so eventually someone will step up and take care of it, and taking care of the trash will either be done as a rotating duty or by someone who doesn’t mind and enjoys the sense of satisfaction from it.

Okay, aside from how this already shows Socialism can never work, the point is that Socialism works when everyone does their part, and does their best.

But are humans really like that?

Here are two real-world examples of what humans are *really* like:



If you don’t know what this is, it is Boaty McBoatface, which is what happens when you let the internet name your boat.


Dead Brothel Owner Wins His Election in Nevada

Don’t tell me voters didn’t know he was dead when they voted.

This demonstrates two things: mild hatred of authority among grassroots, and, along with the first example, a perverse sense of humor.

Some people like consensus and herd mentality. These are the people pushing Socialism.

Others simply cannot live without going against the crowd simply because it is the crowd.

Which is why Socialism starts with high-minded, compassionate-filled phrases, and ends with being just one more execution away from Utopia.


The Sword of Doom

The latest samurai flick I was able to watch, The Sword of Doom, was unfortunately a bit of a disappointment. I’d read positive reviews of it by fans of the genre, so I picked it up during my last Barnes and Noble Criterion Collection sale binge.

There were some definite bright spots to the otherwise dark, unsatisfying watch, though.

First off I should note that The Sword of Doom is based on a novel of the same name. It’s also, I believe, the third take on said novel. There was a movie adaptation in 1957, then the Satan’s Sword trilogy in 1960, and finally The Sword of Doom in 1966. The Sword of Doom only covers the first part of the story, and it seems a sequel was planned but never made.

Anyway, the story focuses on a twisted swordsman played by Tatsuya Nakadai – a name you might not know, but whose face you’ll surely recognize if you’ve seen enough samurai films.

The movie starts off by letting you know what you’re getting into – a girl and her grandfather are traveling as pilgrims along a mountain path. The girl goes to fetch some water, and while she’s doing so her grandpa prays at a little shrine. Before long he’s interrupted by Ryunosuke (Nakadai), out for a little stroll. He’s overheard the old man praying for death so that his granddaughter can be free of obligation to him. Ryunosuke unfeelingly obliges, cutting down the old man.

Throughout the rest of the film we follow Ryunosuke in his cruel, violent exploits. We also get a look at some other characters, mostly victims whose lives he’s affected for the worse.

Toshiro Mifune makes an appearance as a sword master, and thankfully we get a nice action scene out of him.


There’s also another cool character – a seemingly mild-mannered merchant who in protecting his foster daughter shows that appearances can be deceiving. The dude is actually a rogue ninja-type who knows how to handle himself (and others).

Camerawork and acting are noteworthy; the use of shadow is especially noticeable. The plot does get bogged down from the amount of minor characters bouncing around; I sometimes had trouble keeping track of all the names.

The most disappointing part of the story is that it’s all one big Chekhov’s Gun fakeout. The brother of one of Ryunosuke’s victims, seeking justice for his kin and begged by Ryunosuke’s own father, sets out to train under Mifune’s character in preparation for an ultimate confrontation with the evil samurai.

In the end, though, nothing comes of this. The film ends on a cliffhanger, with Ryunosuke descending into a berserk madness fueled by the weight of his sins. Even were there to have been a sequel, however, the Internet informs me that the novel itself never allowed for a battle between Ryunosuke and his heroic antagonist.


Disappointing, and yet I’ve come to expect these kinds of endings from Japanese films. Still, the acting is good, the action is good, and there are some interesting characters. Worth a watch, but there are plenty of other samurai movies I’d recommend above this one.

Single-Issue Voting

Recently I was talking with Kaiju and a mutual friend about “lesser of two evils” voting. That is – both are bad choices, maybe both support an abhorrent policy, but one is clearly a worse choice, so you vote for the other one. Like Bob and Jim both favor cannibalism, but at least Jim is willing to let everyone walk around with a pointy stick to defend themselves. Jim’s got my vote!

I’m not sure if I’m 100% on board with the lesser of two evils vote, but it’s at least a reasonable and justifiable position.

What I’m not sure I get is the reluctance of some people to be “single-issue voters.” Ok, I mean if you’re talking about trivial issues, fine. If you won’t vote for Karen soley because she supports an ordinance to put up more city traffic cameras, that might be kind of dumb. You should be not-voting for Karen because she also supports selling weed in school cafeterias and claims it’s part of a balanced diet.

But if there’s something you think is an intrinsic good or evil, I honestly have trouble understanding how a bunch of much less morally gravid issues can alter the calculus.


Sure he wants to wipe out half the population of the universe, but he also supports universal healthcare and sees education as a human right! I’m voting for Thanos.


I don’t like that Negan practices slavery, or that he executes people without due process. But the economy is booming and crime is down, under him, so…


I don’t like that Moloch demands child sacrifice, but I don’t want to be a single-issue worshiper…

I know it turns some people off, and no one wants to be judged, but seriously. If you honestly think abortion is murdering an infant, or if you honestly think the second amendment is rudimentary in one’s right to defend oneself and one’s family, or hell, even if you think cow farts and cars are going to spell ultimate doom for mankind – those are serious enough issues that you should probably vote for the candidate who falls on your side of the aisle on them, no?

But anyway don’t mind me. I’m just some internet schmuck.

Just go vote your conscience.



Three Outlaw Samurai

I recently cobbled together some time to watch the chambara classic Three Outlaw Samurai. The film was apparently set up as an origin story for a TV show of the same name.

81y-syp-8vl-_sx466_Compared to some of the other samurai films I’ve watched in recent months, this one was pretty enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very Japanese – you’ve got plenty of tragic death and loss, but the dynamic of the three protagonists makes for a fun watch. Each of the characters is simple and somewhat archetypal, but there’s also a certain depth to the plot and cast of characters as a whole.

The first samurai we encounter, Shiba Sakon, initially presents the kind of swagger we usually get from Toshiro Mifune. Looking for shelter, he stumbles upon a group of dirty, ugly peasants in a mill who have kidnapped their lord’s daughter. In many other traditions, the hero would slice up the thugs, rescue the girl, return her to her father, and spurn any sort of reward.

Shiba, however, listens to the peasants tell their side of the story, and ultimately decides to help them out! They’ve only kidnapped her, after all, because of their lord’s oppressive rule and he just won’t listen.


We encounter our second samurai hero after Lord Igawa rounds up a few warriors to go take care of the peasants and get his daughter back. Sakura Kyojuro is a wandering samurai who’s gotta eat, and rescuing a damsel in distress sounds good. On the way to the mill, one of the villagers jumps him, thinking he’s just a hired goon (which he is) going to kill his friends. Sakura dispatches the man with minimal effort. Thinking him a bandit, he just shakes his head and clucks his tongue.

When Sakura and band arrive at the mill, Shiba explains the situation. Coming from farmer stock himself, Sakura sympathizes and changes sides. This guy, the stocky samurai with the heart of gold, is probably my favorite of the group. He’s brave, compassionate, and hey, he fights with a spear! Incidentally, when he finds out later that the guy he killed was one of the villagers, he feels terrible and tries to make amends.

Our last of the three, Kikyo Einosuke, is harder to peg. For most of the film, he’s the lord’s hired dog, but he doesn’t actually kill anyone. He mostly just leads the other goons around and banters with Sakura. Although he seems to admire the vagabond samurai, he also loves living the high life.

At one point he aids one of the good guys in escaping from the lord’s manor, but it’s not until the lord betrays him, killing his hooker-girlfriend and trying to have him killed, that he turns and joins the other two outlaw samurai.

And once the band is together, well. They’re a force!


Like many other samurai movies, Three Outlaw Samurai is jam-packed with social commentary. There’s good and bad to be seen in all of the characters, making for an engaging, stimulating watch. Recommended!




Some of the Touchstones of my Socio-Political Philosophy

– by Gitabushi
Several years ago, I tried to capture a bunch of philosophical touchstones: things I believe to be true, and use as axioms to reason my way through contemporary socio-political issues and events.
Here’s what I came up with.  I added everything past number 17 this morning. I could probably add another 100, if I really thought about it.
Which do you disagree with? Which do you think need better explanation or more thought?
1)    Choice means influence, not control
2)    All people want the same thing: Love & Security
a.    What differs is strategies & implementation to achieve
3)    Life is result of your choices
a.    Racism/sexism exist, but less impact than individual choices & actions
4)    People respond to incentives
5)    Greater reward requires greater risk
a.    Time
b.    Effort
c.    Money
6)    To have peace, prepare for war
a.    As wealthy information-producing society that consumes luxury goods, US benefits most from ensuring safe, global free-trade.
i.    As such, US benefits most from being the world’s policemen
ii.    All nations benefit, even if they resent US
7)    Freedom is a pure good
a.    If you have ever said, “There oughta be a law (against something I find annoying)”, you are part of the problem
b.    Freedom to choose means freedom to make bad choices
c.    Freedom to choose doesn’t mean govt should suppress information on good/bad choices
8)    Knowledge is always good
a.    Never stop learning
b.    Never stop training for your next job
c.    Trend is to lower standards in education, trend should be to raise standards
i.    Not everyone needs to have liberal arts education
ii.    Liberal Arts graduates favorite entertainment seems to be television, i.e., waste of education
d.    Never stop reading
9)    Taxes are parasitic drag
a.    Some taxes are necessary
b.    Taxes should be lowest possible
c.    Stealth taxes (fees, licenses, penalties) should be strictly limited
d.    Tax revenue should not be fungible: for specific purpose & used only for that specific purpose or returned
e.    Progressive taxes are not moral
f.    Regressive taxes are not immoral
g.    Taxes should be mix of progressive/regressive to provide incentives for effort
10)    US Constitution, when followed, is best govt/society legal controlling document in world history
a.    Not followed
b.    Effective elements of Federalism have been degraded
c.    Govt way outside originally-established bounds
11)    Bureaucracy sucks, but necessary
a.    All bureaucrats are motivated by the Bureaucratic ABCs:
i.     Acquire more resources
ii.    avoid Blame
iii.   increase Credit/Commendations
b.    Bureaucracy exists because it tends to prevent:
i.     Huge disasters, accepting constant low-level failures
ii.    Huge successes, preferring stability to disruptive success
c.    Effective leaders must learn to use bureaucracy to advantage/success of organization
i.    Must actively manage, i.e. lead
d.  Bureaucrats perform to look good
i.   If the organization isn’t getting the results you want, change what you measure and track.
12)    Citizens should strive to be leaders
a.    Should think independently
b.    Should advocate for positions
c.    If you say “there oughta be a law” against a pet peeve of yours, you are part of the problem
13)    Good/Bad choices are knowable
a.    Citizens & govt should advocate for good & smart choices
b.    Good/Bad choices must not be enforced via law
14)    Free speech protects uncomfortable speech
15)    Legality is not license
a.    Power to discourage, or even shame, should always be within the range of acceptable actions
i.    Discouragement must be based on incentives, not legal punishments/enforcements
16)    Strive for maturity
a.    Empathy, understanding
b.    Long-term good
c.    Never ascribe to malice what may be ignorance
17)    Easy way is usually worst way
a.    Corollary: Best way is usually hardest way
18)    Humans are biologically programmed to exploit any system
19)    True wealth is wanting less than you already have
20)    Wealth cannot be redistributed, wealth can only be formed and destroyed
a.    Wealth is formed by creating value.
b.    Money is a marker for created value
c.    Money flows to creators of value
d.    Redistributing money breaks the link between creation of value and accumulation of wealth; as such, it destroys incentive, and thus, destroys wealth
e.    Money for Nothing is corrosive to human spirit
21)    TANSTAAFL always applies
a.    If something seems too good to be true, it probably is
b.    Get Rich Quick schemes are scams because if there were an easy way to create something of value, masses of people will flock to it, increasing competition and driving down the profit
money pink coins pig
Photo by Skitterphoto on