Letters to the Editor: An Apology

  • posted by Gitabushi

I received an email yesterday, requesting I post this letter. So here you are:

This year, at a client’s Christmas party, we were challenged to “Pay It Forward” – we were all given a $50 bill, and told to change someone’s life. It’s an incredibly hard task. It seems easy enough, just give it to charity. Can you change someone’s life that way? Collectively, sure. I tried a lot of different things. I was shocked at how HARD it is to find someone to take your money. I found wishlists. I tried to fulfill them. But then couldn’t get callbacks to go and drop off what they wanted. I already do Angel Tree. I already buy toys for kids who need them.

But life changing? That’s a big job.

I finally donated the money we were given, along with some extra, to buy 750 meals for those in need in my area. We had a deadline on the Pay It Forward, and I had to do something.

Life changing? No. Day changing.

But there has something that has haunted me for over 30 years. A person I have wronged. I think about her quite often, to be honest, and wonder how she is doing. No way of making it right. Probably not a chance in Hades that she would ever answer the phone, if I even had her number.

I bullied her.

As a kid, I pretended to be her friend, and then spilled and laughed about her secrets. I made horrendous remarks on her appearance for laughs. For 13 years. She found out in 8th grade. I remember the day.

I know what you’re probably thinking. Believe me, I’ve thought worse about myself. But I have to forgive myself now, and not hold onto it. I chose her as my victim because she had a great father. Mine was into abusing me – sexually, verbally, and physically. HER father went to her events, was fun at sleepovers, loved his kids. So I chose her.

When I was thinking about changing lives, I thought – that’s the one thing I’d like to fix. In my life, and in hers. And maybe if I share this story, I can change yours, too.

If you have ever been bullied, take this note, and let me apologize for them too. There are sometimes stories behind a bully. Nothing makes what I did right. Nothing. But find forgiveness – for yourself. That’s life changing.

Saturday, she will receive a box from me – with goodies and this note. And I hope she forgives me. And I hope I forgive myself for Christmas.

 

“There will never be a good excuse for what I did to you when we were kids. There’s no way around it. I bullied you.

You were a wonderful, kind person to me. You didn’t deserve what I gave you. I’ll always regret that. I could go into the “whys”, but that’s not what is important. What is important to me, is that you know this – I am terribly sorry, I always have been, and you’ve been in my prayers for decades.

I hope you have the happy life you so richly deserve.”

That’s pretty heavy. And pretty brave.  Admirable, as well.

We all do stupid things. We all hurt people. Most of us have a cruel streak; some of us even try to eliminate it, or at least suppress it.

The person who wrote this was a child when bullying. I agree: that doesn’t excuse it. the actions described in this missive were clearly wrong.  But we have to forgive ourselves as we forgive others.  It is very nearly as wrong to live with the guilt of this for so long, as it was to cause the harm in the first place.

I’m not a Christian. I lost my faith. Interestingly, I lost my faith due to my musings on sin.  Too long and complicated to explain here. The salient point is I still spend time musing on the nature of sin.

Sin can be defined as any time we treat others (or ourselves) as objects. Sin can also be defined as the damage we do to others.

Sin begets sin. The father of the writer sinned, and cause damage that led to additional cruelty, i.e., more sin.  And I’m sure that the recipient of the bullying acted out her pain and sinned against others.

We all sin.  There is not one single person on this planet that has not sinned, and does not continually sin.  The burden of our sins would be crushing, if we don’t learn grace and forgiveness.

Healing cannot begin until after forgiveness has had its impact. It shouldn’t be cheap, or easy. But I think the obvious anguish displayed in this letter makes it clear forgiveness in this case could be neither.

Whether or not the victim is comforted, whether or not the victim forgives, good was done here.

Would that we all had the courage to face up to our own sins.

 

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The Narcissism of Taking Offense

  • by Gitabushi

Every successful system attracts parasites.

There have been plenty of parasites attracted to the trust that results from the rules of manners and decorum that provide the structure for society.

im-offended

One of the more recent, relatively speaking, is the Offense Industry.

In order to remake society according to their Progressive wishes, they exploit human nature’s natural tendency to want to get along by taking offense at minor “mistakes”. There are multiple, dovetailing purposes behind this, I think.  One of the main ones, of course, is to make you accept the Progressive worldview: someone’s identity as a man or woman is subject to a personal feeling, racism is endemic and prevalent in society, etc.  But in some (most? all?) cases, it is also an exercise of power: if they can make you apologize or change your word choice when speaking, they have power over you, and the feeling of power of others is a pleasure, for some.

But it’s wrong.  It’s just plain wrong.

Taking offense puts the offended at the center of the universe. They expect everyone to know their preferences and sensitivities, and to act according to those arbitrary and unknowable rules. If you “misgender” someone (i.e., call them by a pronoun they don’t want to apply to them), it is *your* fault, and you are wrong.  They’ve made a push to make it actually criminally wrong in California, and possibly other places.

One person, and their preferences for speech, is thus elevated to rules of politeness for everyone else. For anyone else they might happen to meet. They might walk through a city of millions, but each of those millions must immediately recognize and employ only the terms the Perpetually Offended wishes them to use.

This is ridiculous. Society develops organically.  Norms and manners and customs are developed over centuries as the framework by which we are able to interact with some level of trust, without having to have every interaction be governed by an explicit contract, or without killing each other.

The Offense Industry destroys this. One person can demand that everyone else follow their own personal, arbitrary rules, and if others don’t play along, they will be punished. And then this is multiplied by the millions who take up the mantle of Taking Offense.

This is truly a situation where the only way to win is to not play.

Don’t just refuse to be sorry for not coddling their delusions, call them out on it.  Shame them. Take offense at their taking offense.

This, like most Progressivism, is a cancer that destroys social trust, and makes every man an enemy of every other man.

Why do they do this?

Because they can’t take power in society any other way.  If people’s lives are happy, prosperous, and stable, they won’t turn to government for help.

The problem is they destroy all social cohesion to do it. They literally make humans ungovernable in order to get their shot at governance.  They don’t care, because they have no problem using force to obtain compliance. And if they fail, they still exult in exercising their power to smash what they consider stultifying traditionalism.

They will happily destroy the village to “save” it.

Okay, sure, most of these Offense Puppets aren’t thinking that far.  But make no mistake, that is the strategic consensus.  They aim to destroy to rule, or to make sure no one else can.

This is why we can’t have nice things.  Don’t let them win. Stand up for traditional mores, standards, norms, manners, and politeness forms of traditional society.

 

Culture > Race

  • by Gitabushi

I’ve encountered some white racialists a few times.  By the term “white racialists”, I mean those who see “white” as an identity, the same way blacks, Hispanics, Asians, etc., see it as an identity, or as a shorthand for making accurate assumptions about people.  You could also call them White Identitarians, White Nationalists, or similar names.  I think they are distinct from White Supremacists, although they apparently hold some views in common.

Anyway, I don’t like white racialists.  Here are some of the views they’ve expressed that I disagree with:

  • calling other races “mud people”
  • claiming the US Constitution was written for white people
  • claiming only white people (for the most part) can understand the US Constitution or live according to its precepts
  • claiming that low IQ, violence, and other negative character traits are inherently and inextricably connected to race

I disagree with all these notions.

But SCIENCE! they cry.

Nonsense.  First, I understand there are high correlations between race and IQ, and high correlations between IQ and success in life. But what science *actually* tells us is that correlation, even *extremely high* correlation, is not causation.  The white racialists who cite statistics on IQ and its relation to success, and thus conclude that blacks and Middle Easterners cannot live peacefully in a liberty-based society are clearly reasoning based on assumptions of causation.  Race *is* IQ, and IQ *is* destiny, so therefore Race must be Destiny.

Again, I say: Nonsense.

I am not a scientist, and I will not attempt to replicate or debunk any studies.  However, I do understand how science works.  I do understand that a science experiment is only as good as the researcher, that the conclusions they draw are not always supported by the data (again, only as good as the researcher), and that social science is much less definitive than physical science.

As such, the scientific method is based on observation, forming a hypothesis, and testing that hypothesis. If that hypothesis cannot explain what you observe, it is a false hypothesis, and should be rejected.

And the hypotheses of the white racialists doesn’t stand up to even casual scrutiny.

First, the notion that because the US Constitution was written by white Anglo-Saxons, it only works for Anglo-Saxons doesn’t follow.  I point to the fact that two of the most prominent and effective advocates for the US Constitution  and its original meaning are Thomas Sowell and Clarence Thomas.  They counter with arguments of IQ and point to inner city blacks to claim that there may be exceptions, but the vast majority of blacks prefer to live in violent squalor, dependent on government largess.  They point to the mess that is most of the nations in Africa, and will throw dozens of charts at you showing the average IQ of Africans by nation, with many averages of 85 IQ or lower.

But, again, correlation isn’t causation.

There are significant problems with the efficacy of IQ tests.  Moreover, if IQ and race were the defining factor, then we would see successful liberty anywhere a majority of Anglo-Saxons dwell.

But the whites who vote Democrat are Anglo-Saxons. They are the biggest threat to liberty in the US, bigger than blacks, illegal aliens, and Islamic refugees.  In fact, they are the ones *enabling* illegal aliens and Islamic refugees to dilute US commitment to liberty and the Constitution.  And these are the highly educated US Elite, with IQs significantly higher than average.

Their theory of race and IQ doesn’t address that.

Their theory of race and IQ also doesn’t address that the highest IQs are scored by Asians and Jews, who should thus consider white Anglo-Saxons to be mud people, too. Asians and Jews, having the highest IQ scores, should have the most advanced technology, culture, society, and sustained success.

And yet: nope.  It’s the Anglophone world.

Sort of.

Because here’s the other aspect that destroys their racialist argument: Modern-day UK.

They do things like ban clapping.  They’ve banned guns, disarming their citizens and making it impossible for them to enjoy their Right to Life, and when that actually encouraged violence, banned knives.  They *lurve* them some big-government socialized health care.

This is the People that brought us the courage in the face of the Nazi Germany Blitz. This is the People of the Stiff Upper Lip.  The People that had the largest empire ever known to man.  They have fallen.

And how did they fall?  They sold their culture for security.  They couldn’t resist the lure of socialist policy.

And it’s happening in the US, too.  Moreover, as I’ve already alluded, it is happening in the US with white Anglo-Saxons as the leaders and instigators.  Blacks and other minorities are adjunct, followers, beneficiaries, support troops at best.  Whites are ruining US culture.

This is already long enough, so I’ll wrap up quickly.

Culture comes from the standards you set in  your family and your community. Very generally speaking, mothers impact most the way the family works, and teach you your role and status in your family.  Fathers impact most the way society works, and teach you your role and status in your family.  Mothers tell you that you are special, wonderful, unique, and uniquely valuable.  Fathers tell you that everyone you encounter every day is equally special, wonderful, unique, and uniquely valuable, so you need to respect others’ rights and ego, and work hard to outperform them.

Both views are valuable.

If you take away fathers, the culture declines and dies.  If you marginalize and weaken the role of women, the culture declines and dies.

There are negatives in the typical black culture and typical middle-eastern culture.  In the typical black culture, white Progressives have destroyed the role of husbands and fathers.  In the typical middle-eastern (Islamic) culture, they have marginalized and destroyed the role of wives and mothers.

This says nothing about individuals.

Culture > race.  Take a family from Korea and drop them in rural Alabama, but have them still only marry other Koreans. The first generation who are children here will be fluent in English.  The second generation of children will never learn any Korean.  By the third generation, the kids will have a Southern drawl.

Humans aren’t a true blank slate.  There *are* some racial differences.  But the differences aren’t significant enough or distinct enough to explain what we see.

But culture explains it well.

Culture > Race.  Fight for US Culture.  Let’s return to Constitutional-based governance, and restore our high-trust society, assimilating all minorities and/or immigrants into the best culture in the world (and, of course, ending the massive influx of those who want to exploit US freedoms rather than embrace them, but that’s another can of worms).

“Cultural Appropriation” in Fiction

Let me start by saying that I find the concept of “cultural appropriation” itself to be wrongheaded, foolish, and kind of absurd. It assigns some kind of collective ownership of the nebulous basket of language, tradition, customs, food, clothing, fashion, and all kinds of other ill-defined elements that supposedly belong to a given people.

Nevermind the fact that peoples and nations interbreed and change and that cultures develop and assimilate and adapt.

And who is supposed to arbitrate these transgressions? If one single Chinese person indicts me for enjoying their dim sum, am I guilty of creating a problematic situation?

Does it matter that another Chinese person rules that it’s ok for me to eat dim sum, but that I may not make it myself? Or that a third, more rational native doesn’t give a crap?

Does it change the calculus when the majority of a country or culture like having their culture appropriated (the real term is “appreciated”)? I can tell you from my time living in Japan and consuming Japanese media that the people over there are flattered and pleased when foreigners try on kimono, or dress up as a popular anime character, or take an interest in  Japanese language, lore, history, whatever.

It’s ridiculous to think cultures should be treated like private (group) property.

And so I was disappointed when I was listening to an otherwise quite interesting discussion of an old weird tale yesterday, and the speakers posed the question of whether a white man writing about a black protagonist was cultural appropriation.

Really?

Thankfully they were gracious enough to rule that this was not the case – after all, the white (racist) narrator was really who the story was about.

I’ve gotta say, I find it quite troubling and a bit confusing, how such big fans of speculative fiction could conceivably buy into the idea of cultural appropriation, especially when it comes to the fiction they read.

Scifi and Fantasy are full of stories about aliens and other non-human beings. But they’re not real, so I guess this is in-bounds. Well, women write male characters and men write female characters. Should this gender appropriation be pooh-poohed?

Is Captain Blood cultural appropriation, because it sees an Irish protagonist written by an Italian author? Or is this okay because they’re both white ethnicities? Do “White People” all get lumped together into one culture?

Is Othello problematic because its noble Moorish (often portrayed as African) hero was written by a white Christian?

Should books written by White People only feature white characters? If you think so, it sounds like you’re ready to nix an awful lot of cool SFF and other great literature. And why? Because a few emotionally unstable people have nothing worse in life to worry about than some white dude writing a story about a black guy?

51isW1RdvyL._SX308_BO1,204,203,200_51oo82fc0kl-_aa300_Zorro

(Whoops – forget that last one – he’s one of those white hispanics!)

Are Japanese manga and anime highly problematic for featuring so many Caucasian characters?

And if you answer “yes” to all these questions, or even if your response is more nuanced or qualified, what’s the solution? Do we need a tribunal to determine which cases are acceptable and which are “problematic,” and then to rule on a remediation?

It’s such a silly piece of business. I’d be tempted to ignore it if I didn’t see the idea as such a threat to creativity and freedom of expression. Of course no one’s talking about outlawing cultural appropriation, but if it’s such a bad thing, I could imagine things moving in that direction in some quarters, someday. And really is there much practical difference between outlawing something and drubbing it out of polite society?

-Bushi

bushi

Retro Arcade Gaming

  • by Gitabushi

This weekend, I took my kid back to college in Huntsville, Alabama.  While there, we stumbled across the Rocket City Arcade, where they offer a host of classic arcade games that you can play all day for just $10.

It had been a long day of driving, and so we only played for about an hour. But it felt like even that hour was well worth the money spent.

One precondition was they had to have Joust, and they did.

joust

It took me a little time to get the game skills back, but by the fourth game, I got 64k points and set the high score for the game. I’m really not sure why no one plays it, because 64k points wasn’t that tough to get.  I think in my heyday I must have broken 100k points, because 64k points included making it past just one survival wave and one egg wave, and I think i can remember making it to at least 3 egg waves previously.

The thing I love about Joust is there are no patterns to learn at all. No way to memorize a method or route that lets you beat the AI, or even puts you in a good position, like you can with games like Pac Man or Super Mario Brothers.  Your flapping works against gravity based on your rate of taps, and it is impossible to hold a perfectly rock-steady altitude.  Left and right are possible, but it often takes some finesse to zero out your lateral motion.

There are some places where you can hang out that make it more likely to kill the bad guys, but holding position there is tough, and if you camp there, they’ll get you.

Great game. Highly recommended.  Probably my favorite game of all time, although Karate Champ is also very good.

The arcade also had a great old Star Wars game, where you shot tie fighters before making a trench run. As the game got tougher and faster, with more defending fire directed at you, the trick was to use your blasters to hit the defending fire and stay alive; shooting the enemy was only a secondary goal.

I got to try Donkey Kong, and made it to the 3rd level pretty easily. Got to do a few driving games, which are always fun.  One game I loved, but only saw once, was a stunt driving game.  You did jumps, loops, etc., and the game had some feedback that helped you feel you were actually driving the car doing the stunts. I’d pay good money for an original game in good condition to have the chance to play that and get good at it, but that is apparently not my fate.  It might have been Atari’s “Hard Drivin'”, now that I’ve taken a moment to search.  I thought I remembered green vector graphics, rather than the CRT graphics of “Hard Drivin'”…but the description of showing a replay of your crash sounds familiar, and the gameplay sure seems familiar, too.  Memory is a funny thing.

But that wasn’t one of the games they had.  They did have, however, The Simpsons, and Crystal Castles (boring) and the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Several shooting games, but those weren’t as fun.  I usually died in seconds, and only got anywhere by hitting “continue”.  My kid and I had some bonding/fun on one of those for about 10 minutes.

They had a modern update to Rampage, which sucked. Different versions of Street Fighter, which was always best in the original Street Fighter 2 edition, before all the special moves just got stupidly complex and powerful. They had some Galaga types. They had Commando, and I died too quickly to want to try to get back any of that game’s muscle memory skills.

All in all, it was a fun trip down memory lane for me, and a chance for my kid to understand what gaming used to be like.

Doing a quick search, I’m seeing that several places combine retro games with bars. I didn’t look deeply enough to see if you still have to pay for the games. If you pay bar/pub prices for drinks, plus a quarter per game, it doesn’t seem worth it to me.  There’s one in the DC area; I might try it.

But playing the game has convinced me that I will probably will purchase an Arcade1UP Rampage machine, as it includes Joust and Gauntlet. Rampage is okay. Gauntlet is actually kind of fun.  I’ve played a pretty good Gauntlet emulation with my kid on the PS2, and the ability to just hit “continue”, with the loss of limitation of needing to drop a quarter in, makes the game much less fun.  “Red Warrior Needs Food, Badly” is a sentence that sends chills down your spine if you have already given the machine your last quarter.

The system also has Defender, which is perhaps the most masochistic game Williams ever invented.  But that is a game that might be enhanced by eliminating the necessity of quarters: it might actually now be feasible to practice to the point of actually getting good at it.

What classic arcade game was your favorite? Which do you miss? If you missed out on the era, which do you wish you’d gotten to try?

Evaluating and Debating Presidencies

  • by Gitabushi

I was a little excited when I saw this article by NeoNeoCon. Finally! Someone would talk about the shenanigans that go on when arguing about Presidents, debating who is to blame and who gets credit for economic developments, etc.  When I read the article, I was disappointed.  She hit some good points, but her approach was vastly different from what I was thinking.  So I guess I have to do it myself.

seal sea dog animal
This is the typical image I got when I looked up “Presidential Seal” in the free photo library, so we’ll just have to struggle through together. Photo by karsten madsen on Pexels.com

First of all, I hate the phrase “on his watch.”  It’s lazy analysis.  “Bush is to blame because it happened on his watch.” “Russian occurred on Obama’s watch.” No.  I mean, yes, that’s a factual statement, but it implies a causation that is not necessarily there. Equally as bad is arguing that a President “inherited” some aspect, good or bad.  Yes, there are some lagging indicators, and a President’s actions do carry on beyond their term.  But most people use it to deny giving credit to someone they dislike, or avoid giving blame to someone they admire.

Furthermore, I dislike the trend of blaming or crediting a President for everything that happens.  Sure, it’s easy to just blame/credit the President, and I think that’s why people like doing it: it’s easy.  The reality is we are governed by a government split into three branches.  The President only heads one branch, and the bureaucracy is so large and unwieldy, the reality is a President’s control is tenuous at best, and we should treat it as a fourth branch of government. Even with the formal branches, a President has extremely limited input to the Judicial Branch, and is given an often passive role when it comes to interacting with Congress.

On the other hand, a President has a few advantages:

  • the single government office that the entire nation elects.  The President has a mandate that even a Senator from California doesn’t have.  This is balanced somewhat by the House of Representatives, which provides more fidelity on the Will of the People via smaller districts and elections every two years.  The balance of these two expressions of the Will of the People mean that a POTUS should have a huge mandate in their first two years, but following Congressional elections add nuance and chip away at the edges of a President’s mandate.
  • the Bully Pulpit.  Being a singular head of a Branch means that a President doesn’t have to compromise with anyone to promote his views or his policies, can criticize the other branches, or even social developments, from a single person’s perspective.  As the most visible, singular, and sole nationally-elected official, citizens care more about what a President says, promotes, discourages, etc., than any other single official…and the news media follows suit. There is an incredible potential to push an agenda without creating one word of policy vested in the Office of the President

However, that doesn’t mean a President is all-powerful.  We credit a President too much for many things that happen in the United States. A President doesn’t control the economy, and certainly cannot prevent normal economic cycles. The President doesn’t set spending levels, or taxation levels.  The President can *propose* his preferred policy, and can use his Bully Pulpit to put pressure on Congress to pass it, but he doesn’t control legislation.

So let’s take a look at how people poorly and/or deceptively evaluate Presidents.

George H. W. Bush was POTUS from 1988 to 1992. In the early 90s, the US economy contracted. This was blamed on Bush, which, in my opinion, was unfair.  Sure, it happened on his watch. Moreover, it was likely triggered by Bush agreeing to sign a bill into law that raised taxes.  So, yes, he did it. However, the recession itself was inevitable, sooner or later. If the tax hike hadn’t triggered it, something else would have. Moreover, raising taxes is a *Democrat* policy, and it was passed by a Congress controlled by Democrats.  Even worse, the economy had recovered before the end of Bush’s term, but because there is a great deal of fuzziness and arbitrariness about when a recession begins or ends, the news media was able to falsely claim we were still in a recession, and that it was fully Bush’s fault, right up until that dishonesty helped Bill Clinton defeat Bush.

Continuing on, Clinton is not only erroneously credited with fixing the Bush Recession, he is also somewhat inaccurately credited with reducing the number of people on welfare and with an extremely hot economy (sometimes called the dotcom economy or the dotcom bubble).  Yes, both those things happened on his watch. Yes, he even signed the welfare changes into law, and it was the result of his deliberate triangulation on the issue, to deal with the mandate the Congressional Republicans had earned by winning a majority.

But the obvious success and benefit to the US in these policies are used to credit Bill Clinton himself, and in his status as a Democrat President.  The argument is, Bill Clinton presided over the economic recovery, got people off of welfare, and led the nation into the internet age.  Since his term, every good economy and period of low unemployment is compared to Bill Clinton’s dotcom economy, and rightfully so: they were excellent numbers. The argument continues that Bill Clinton was/is a Democrat, so if you want a great economy, low unemployment, and people off of welfare, you must vote for Democrats.

Well, no.

There is nothing magical about Democrats or Republicans.  What matters is the *policy*, regardless of who enacted it.

Welfare Reform is, at heart, a Conservative policy, not a Progressive one.  Progressives throw money at problems, Conservatives set up consequences and demand individual effort to obtain benefits.  Forcing people to actually and earnestly seek work to continue to receive welfare ended up with more people in the workforce because the policy prevented the “discouraged job seeker” phenomenon, and prevented recipients from living comfortably on the dole.  The dotcom bubble was also a Conservative event: it took over our economy because there were no taxes for items purchased on the internet: a tax moratorium is now proven to stimulate economic growth and increase employment. But Conservatives want lower or eliminated taxes; Progressive policy is to raise taxes whenever/wherever you can get away with it.  If Democrats had free reign, they would have imposed taxes on the internet from the beginning.

The lesson from this is, if you want to grow Space Commerce, do you announce that you will fund exploration and development with a fairly high corporate tax rate on all space activities?  Or do you announce a moratorium regarding any/all taxes on revenue derived from space commerce?  Obviously, the latter.  And just as obviously, that is a conservative policy, and runs counter to Progressive policies.

So let’s look at President George W Bush. What does he get blamed for, and get credit for, in my view?

Well, 9/11 occurred before he had his security team fully in place.  Moreover, the US Govt was hampered in its ability to detect the terrorist plot due to “walls” preventing information flow between different federal government agencies, and those “walls” were put into place by President Clinton, on the advice of his prominent advisor Jamie Gorelick.  Maybe you can’t blame Clinton, but you clearly can’t blame W, either.  Reports that “he was warned” are silly: the “warnings” were vague, and no action could have been taken without severe violations of the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution. Sometimes bad things happen because of chance. Other times, bad things happen because an enemy has a successful plan that exploits weaknesses.  That’s what happened with 9/11.

Bush should be credited, however, for the improvement of the economy following 9/11. From 2003 to 2006, the US economy was pretty much the equivalent of Clinton’s dotcom economy.  And it came about due to Bush pushing for tax cuts back in 2002. But if you want to credit Congress instead, I won’t argue with you. The important thing is that the Conservative policy of tax cuts stimulated the economy.  As such, we shouldn’t elect a President because a Democrat or Republican President is better for the economy, we should vote for and elect a President who promises to cut taxes wherever possible, and finds ways to cut other stealth taxes (like federal govt regulation, and fees, etc.), because reducing the costs of doing business improves the economy.

But at the same time, Congress was spending like a drunken sailor.  Porkbusters emerged to try to fight back against GOP Congress-led pork barrel earmarks.  You can blame the GOP Congress for doing this, and you can blame W for signing the spending bills that included the pork barrel spending, but you can’t use that as an argument to vote for Democrats, because increased spending is, at worst, a *Progressive* policy…and at best, a bipartisan one.  Democrats who campaign on Republicans running up the deficit never cut spending…they find new things to spend on, arguing that fed govt spending improves the economy, and then they raise taxes to close the deficit, which kills the economy and makes things worse.  Republicans who campaign on Democrats running up the deficit will cut some spending, and make abortive attempts to cut other spending, but apparently will not cut spending, over the protests of the Freedom Caucus and Tea Partiers in the GOP, and with the RINOs gleefully joining with Democrat Congressional minorities who chortle about getting what they want with the GOP taking the blame.

This really needs to get fixed, but that’s an argument for another day. The point is that the spending doesn’t stay high because of the President, and sometimes it stays high due to GOP defections joining with Democrats to make a virtual Democrat majority.  And there are plenty of times the GOP just plain embraces spending.  But it is worth noting: the GOP has a vocal minority against the excessive spending, and that vocal minority has been growing over the last decade.  There is no minority among Democrats, vocal or otherwise, that is willing to consider spending cuts at all. In an even more stark disparity, GOP voters get fed up with spending to the point that someone like Dave Brat can surprisingly defeat a leading GOP Representative based purely on spending issues.  Not only does that never happen to Democrats, the opposite does: a prominent Democrat Representative gets defeated in the  primary by someone who advocates the nearly-unlimited spending of Socialism: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

So when it comes to the deficit, ignoring parties and personalities, the lesson is clear: tax cuts grow the economy, excessive spending causes deficits, and while you might struggle to force the GOP to cut spending, Democrats will always push to raise both spending and taxes.

Continuing on, W gets blamed for the 2006-2017 recession. But I think if you look closer, you see a few things: First, Democrats took over Congress in 2006. They won by pushing an end to the failed war in Iraq.  However, by the time they took office, W’s “Surge” had actually won that war, and Iraq was relatively peaceful. So Democrats began talking down the economy and increased spending and regulation. That primed things for a downturn.  The trigger for the crash, however, was clearly caused by encouraging banks to lend money to riskier borrowers. W was to blame for not vetoing the Democrats bills that weakened the economy.  But he actually pushed back against the devastating lending encouragement; in fact, Democrats called anyone racist who opposed that social justice policy.  Thus, the crash was caused by Progressive policy. If you think I’m being too vague, it’s to keep this shorter. I could write 4-5 pages just on how Democrats caused the crash.

W is also to blame for signing TARP.  But please be clear: it wasn’t Bush’s policy, and it *certainly* wasn’t a Fiscal Conservative’s policy.  It was, from start to finish, a Progressive policy.  It made things worse.

I agree that Obama can’t be blamed for the job losses that occurred “on his watch.”  However, I think he also cannot blame W for the economy he inherited, because he voted for the policies that crashed the economy as a Senator in 2006.

Moreover, Democrats blame W for the deficit because the deficit started to climb under W. Again, you have to look at who controlled Congress and the nature of the contributing policies.  The deficit reduced every year under W after 9/11.  The economic hit of 9/11 make those deficits understandable.  The deficit reduction continued even after Bush’s tax cuts (indeed, I think it was *because of*) and despite the spending in Iraq. The deficits didn’t start to grow again until Democrats took control of Congress and started passing policy that damages the economy.  So W can be blamed for not vetoing, but that should make it clear: the blame lies with *Progressive* policy, not the party of who was POTUS at the time.

Even worse, Democrats wanted lots of new spending, because their ideology, against all available evidence, still erroneously believes govt spending helps the economy.  So Congress refused to give Bush the 2009 budget to sign. This was because it was so stuffed with pork, even W might have vetoed it. Plus, they believed it was usher in an era of prosperity, and didn’t want W to get credit.  So they delayed delivering the bill until Obama was POTUS.  Once that huge spending increase was set as the baseline, Democrats dropped the regular budgeting order and just forced Continuing Resolutions so they would never again have to face voters with votes for their ruinous levels of spending. And after deliberately arranging for Obama to be the one to get credit, when it didn’t work out as they hoped, they churlishly give W the blame for the increased spending…I guess depending on ignorance of when the 2009 spending bill was actually passed, and who signed it.

Okay, that’s a bunch of paragraphs of narrative, but it is all to set up this explanation: I also think you have to credit/blame a POTUS for what they promise and predict.

For instance, Obama campaigned on the notion that he knew what was wrong with the economy, and would fix it immediately.

Okay, we can allow for campaign exaggeration.  But after being elected President, he predicted recovery the first summer.  When it didn’t happen, he blamed Bush for the economy he inherited.

No. If you claim to know what the problem is, predict you can fix it, and get the policy you want, you now get the blame.  He spent his entire two terms blaming Bush for anything that didn’t work out like he wanted.

This is wrong.

Likewise, Obama and his sycophants predicted all sorts of disaster under Trump. Some said the stock market would *never* recover.  Obama himself mocked Trump by asking Trump if he had a magic want to magically make the jobs come back.  When Obama’s anemic economy never broke 3% growth, Obama and his sycophants said this was the new normal, and the US would never see growth above 3% again.

As such, no one should be allowed to claim Obama gets the credit for the economy under Trump.  It is stupid.

If your predictions for the economy are completely wrong, then you lose all credibility to blame or credit at all.

Again: Trump enacted *Conservative* policy: he reduced all sorts of federal govt regulation, reducing the cost to doing business. He also clearly telegraphed that he wouldn’t add unexpected, onerous new regulation, so businesses could plan for growth without worrying about painting themselves into a corner.  This was one thing Obama clearly did wrong: Obamacare was a whole bundle of uncertainty.  Businesses had no idea how much costs would increase from year to year. And to keep the health system from catastrophic failure cause by Obamacare, Obama unilaterally (and probably in violation of the US Constitution) delayed implementation of many of its aspects.  But all that really did was increase the uncertainty of the business climate.  Then when Obama started pushing diversity/identity issues, it frightened companies about the possibility of arbitrary increased costs at any moment.

As a result, Obama didn’t just preside over the worst recovery in the history of the US, he arguably caused it.

The argument that W ruined the economy so badly that it caused the slow recovery is ridiculous.  In the history of the US and economics in general, the worse the economic downturn, the quicker the recovery.  Economic cycles are *always* long/slow/mild or quick/short/deep.  Obama’s economy was not. The decline was rapid and deep, and then stunningly anemic in recovery.  And it was due to uncertainty in the business climate from policy advocated and/or enacted by Obama.

The penultimate point I want to make is that Trump promised he would create an environment that would boost employment for blacks in specific and minorities in general. Okay, okay he claimed he would create jobs for blacks.  But as you hopefully realize by now, Presidents don’t create jobs. They merely help create an environment conducive or adverse to economic growth.  But with the reduction of taxes, reduction of fed govt regulation, and attempt to reduce spending, Trump has encouraged a business climate that has significantly increased manufacturing jobs, energy sector jobs, and pushed unemployment for blacks and Hispanics to record lows.  Since this is what he predicted he’d do, he gets full credit for it.

The final point is a word about gas prices.  Again, a POTUS doesn’t have direct control over gas prices. It’s a complex pricing system, with inputs coming from OPEC, US domestic production reacting to barrel prices, barrel prices reacting to expectations of future surplus or future shortage, summer driving demands on gas, refinery availability (impacted by flooding and hurricanes), and fuel mixes that change based on season and geography.

But, just like how a POTUS can impact the business climate to encourage or discourage expansion and hiring, a POTUS can impact whether the speculators think there will be surplus or shortage in the future.  One of the ways is by signalling a willingness to tap the strategic oil reserve. Another way is by pushing to lower the federal gas tax. Another is by signalling willingness to approve additional drilling locations.

In every case, Obama signalled that he didn’t care about low prices, and wanted so badly to reduce CO2 emissions and boost “green” energy, that he was unwilling to do anything that made fossil fuels more available.  This caused higher prices.  In contrast, W signalled willingness to allow drilling and tap the strategic oil reserve.  Prices remained high due to uncertainty worldwide about how terrorism and war in the middle east might impact oil availability.

Add to this, China’s economic growth has stimulated a sharp increase in their demand for petroleum, which increases global demand, which increases prices.

I’m not going to go so far as say we should blame Obama for high gas prices on his watch but give Bush a pass.  There is more that Bush could have done. There were many things that were out of Obama’s control.

But I do think the differing attitude, policy, and revealed intent should indicate whether each should get credit, blame, or tolerance.

And this is how I evaluate Presidents, and how I think everyone should evaluate Presidents. Some tribalism will always be a part of the evaluation, based on your preferred policies.  But rather than making arguments based on the party you like, you should analyze the policies that brought about the results you like, and then advocate for the candidate/POTUS you prefer based on your preferred outcomes.  This should result in a lower level of tribalism.

A Few Thoughts on Intelligence and Education

  • by Gitabushi
woman in black long sleeved shirt reading a yellow covered book
Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

Okay, setting aside false modesty for a moment, I’m a smart guy. I qualify for the Triple 9 Society. If there were a Quadruple 9 Society, I might qualify for that as well, but it’s a little more iffy.  I’ve never bothered to join, cuz I can’t think of a worse place to be than hanging out with a bunch of people who place such a high value just on being smart.

What *is* intelligence?  I saw a tweet where someone insisted that some events were occurring according to a person’s plan, and that person must therefore have stratospheric intelligence.  My response, in disregard as to whether things are actually proceeding according to someone’s plan or not, is that a well-laid and well-executed plan doesn’t require stratospheric intelligence, it just takes time and coordination.

Aside #1: One motivation, I think, for claiming that someone else must have stratospheric intelligence to come up with a plan is that the person telling you thins must also be exceedingly smart to be able to recognize the plan and tell you about it. No?

So after many years, I have decided that what intelligence is, is the ability to see connections between different information, and then successfully combine those different elements into valid conclusions…along with the ability to do it quickly.

There is nothing that someone brilliant can think of that someone “stupid” can’t also think of…eventually.

The reason smart people think of things regular people cannot, is that speed element.  Someone smart can notice the connection and draw the valid conclusion within, say, minutes, and then move on to the next problem.  The “stupid” person would need, say, three or four hours of pondering to see those same connections and then another hour or two to reason through to the conclusion.  And who has the kind of time and discipline to think through a problem for half the day?

Well, patent clerks, apparently.

See, I don’t think Albert Einstein was necessarily brilliant.  He clearly wasn’t anything close to stupid, and clearly was more intelligent than average.  But his concepts weren’t that difficult for moderately smart people to understand. The implications are obvious to anyone with scientific training, and many scientists have gone way beyond Einstein in thinking through those implications…to the point of conditionally negating some aspects of Einstein’s theories.

However, if Einstein hadn’t developed his theories, someone else would have.  Einstein was smart, and it is possible he was also truly brilliant.  But he is

famous because he did the *work* of thinking, and considering, and testing his thoughts, until he came up with a theory that answered all the issues he could connect.

Now, that’s just a broad definition of intelligence.

Aside #2: Back in High School, a girl that I liked and respected claimed she wasn’t smart enough to keep up with me.  At that time, I knew I was good in school and testing, but my struggles to understand people, and my subconscious sense that I lacked necessary knowledge for a successful life, led me to insist that I wasn’t too smart for her.  In a flash of insight, I pointed out that there are plenty of types of intelligence, and came up with seven off the top of my head.  Let’s see if I can recreate them:

  1. Deductive Intelligence: the ability to see all the facts, and come to the correct conclusion
  2. Inductive Intelligence: the ability to see the way things are, and be able to deduce the elements that led to it.
  3. Communicative Intelligence: the ability to explain and teach what you understand to others.  Some people are just brilliant orators, and I think you can’t be stupid to do that.
  4. Creative Intelligence: the ability to write music, draw beautiful art, etc.
  5. Physical Intelligence: the ability to do something physically without much thought. Some people can pick up a basketball and dribble and shoot fluidly almost immediately. I had to think my way through it, and took triple or more the time to just gain a modicum of fluidity.
  6. Humor: It’s really difficult for dumb people to be funny.  Aside #3: Humor is the ability to see an unexpected connection, and laughter is the surprise when you see that connection the first time.  That’s why jokes you’ve heard before aren’t funny. That’s why running gags can be funny: putting that old gag into a new situation can be an unexpected connection.
  7. Memory: Being able to recall the answer rapidly, to answer the teacher’s question or provide the correct answer on a test.

Okay, I almost forgot #7.  The point I made to the girl was that all I really had was #7, and it made everyone think I was smart.  I was good at tests, but feared I wasn’t good at anything else.  Except that even at the time, I was proud of my music ability (creative & communicative intelligence), and coming up with the list was an act of Inductive Intelligence. I probably would choose a different way to organize and explain different intelligences today.

But the key point of all these is just: being able to grasp connections and (where applicable) draw valid conclusions more quickly.

One other way to grasp connections and draw valid conclusions more quickly?  Crowdsource a problem with like-minded individuals that have a minimum of differing agendas.

That’s how we got the US Constitution.  It wasn’t brilliance, it was just normal smart people working together on a common problem: how to craft a government structure that works to prevent the assembly/collection of power in one person, or even one institution.  When followed, it works wonderfully.

How this fits with education: I’ve noticed that education in the US has been pushing more and more math and science into the curriculum.  Part of this is simply that I went to small-town schools, whereas my children attended big city schools. They took algebra in Junior High, and had the opportunity to take Calculus II in high school, if they went math heavy.  Both of them were able to take AP Physics, AP Chemistry, and AP Calculus, which culminates in a test that gives college credit.

Nothing like that was available to me. Of course, the small school issue.  30 years ago, my class was one of the first allowed to take pre-Algebra in Junior High.  Before that time, you had to wait until High School.  So if you wanted to reach Calculus, you had to double up on math two years.  Having pre-Algebra in Junior High meant that I could take Algebra my freshman year, Algebra II and Geometry my sophomore year, Trigonometry my junior year, and Calculus as a senior.  Unfortunately, I moved to a small Texas town before my senior year, and the highest class they had was Trigonometry, so I spent the year teaching my fellow students Trig, because the teacher wasn’t very good.

So we’ve pushed more education on our kids.  Are kids smarter than before?

Maybe not.  Some people point to studies showing that IQ is rising over the years (the Flynn effect).  I’m not sure that’s true.  Some possible explanations here. My own view is that IQ was never that scientific to begin with, and once people began valuing it, they began gaming the system.  It’s difficult to judge how quickly someone consistently sees less-obvious connections and draws valid conclusions, and do it consistently, and then compare it to others. IQ testing is inherently cultural in nature, and the test-makers will skew it towards what they think measures the ability to think well. And while they try to minimize the impact of education, the simple fact is that you must be exposed to specific cultural knowledge to score well on IQ tests.  Do not put much faith in people trying to make arguments based on IQ scores.

That we can push more math and science on kids by accelerating the pace is simply because we can make people work harder.  They might be covering more ground in the lesson text, but are they learning more?

“Scores flat” is an evergreen headline. In response to declining SAT scores, they “recentered” the scoring system.

And when I was a military instructor, I heard them discussing revamping a course to make it easier.  Nothing was changed in the course, but the testing changed. Here’s how it works:

The easiest test is T/F.  Yeah, you can make T/F tests incredibly difficult if you use gray-area questions, but that’s not how the military works.  There are rules to avoid ambiguity. Slightly harder is Multiple Choice. Harder still is fill in the blank, then short answer, then long answer. The hardest would be an essay test.

I’m convinced that in school, the testing has been watered down to easier testing processes.  Kids are covering more ground, but learning it to a less-rigorous testing level. A smart kid will still learn beyond what the test can evaluate, but humans being humans, most will study to the test, and not demand greater depth of learning of themselves.

The reason this is an issue is Competence is dying in the US.  But that’s a topic for another day.

And now, the Big Conclusion that Wraps Everything Up Neatly:

I don’t have one.  I just wanted to make some points about intelligence and education to provide some baseline knowledge.  Your kids are probably not smarter than you.  They may end up more credentialed than you, but if they achieve more, it is likely because the threshold for achievement was lowered.

I used to feel confident my kids would eat the typical millennial’s lunch in the employment world, but I’ve come to realize even my kids haven’t been challenged by school to a level of attention to detail or diligence in work that they will need to truly succeed.  And Lectures from Dad can only go so far.  Hopefully, the seeds are planted, so that when watered with adversity, the plants of experience grow rapidly and bear lush fruits of success.

I hope you found something useful in this for raising your own kids, or for helping them understand themselves better if they are already grown.

Good luck.