Thursday, November 16, 2017

How Long Foreign?

I wrote "status quo" and "laissez-faire" in my previous post and defiantly decided to put neither in italics. They have been residents in the language long enough, and most of our words are no less foreign. I declare them citizens.

I suspect that single words get accepted much more quickly than phrases. Maybe there will be something about it over at Language Log.

I didn't find anything about it over there, but I did get a link to the Latin-O-Meter, which measures how Latinate (versus French, Germanic, other) one's writing is. They recommend writers stay around 30%, and further advise not exceeding 42%, ever.  I entered two samples, and got a 33% and a 42%.  So I am comfortable to stuffy, pretentious.  That is likely so.

They say nice things about Jane Austen's blend.

Distance From Power

There was a link over at Maggie's to a College Fix article about America's Outer Class. Colin Johnson, professor of Gender Studies at Indiana University, told an academic conference that Trump voters feel oppressed too. I think he gets something very right about this.
At a session titled “WTF Rural America? Geography. Culpability. Trump.,*”Johnson told his peers they should tinker with the traditional top-to-bottom social class structure that puts the wealthy at the highest point and poor at bottom. He argued the traditional model is poor at predicting voting patterns and doesn’t fully tease out the frustration currently felt by many Americans and exhibited in last year’s election.
“Specifically, I would suggest we need to stop thinking about class in terms of vertically oriented hierarchy and start thinking of it instead in terms of perceived proximity to or distance from centers of power, be they real or imagined,” he said.
Centering social class around one’s distance to power, the scholar says, better captures feelings of resentment and underrepresentation — two factors Johnson suggested played a major role in last year’s presidential election.
 Distance from power would explain why many Trump supporters remain angry with the GOPe. We no longer care whether we agree with you more than the Democrats on issues.  You won't fight for us.**  We're done with you. It also fits with the anger at protestors and victim groups. How can you say you're being "silenced?" You're on TV. People are giving you awards, and making concessions to you, and coming up with new programs so you get jobs, or inside tracks. You have access to power, and I don't, and you didn't do anything to earn it but complain and kick other people. 

I think Professor Johnson's idea is correct in general as well, not just about Trump voters, minorities, and women.  The larger and more intrusive government is, the greater the percentage of the people who feel they don't have a voice.  When power is dispersed throughout society (which it still is in America, though that ebbs a little each year) people see that there are many things they have influence over, and these are the most important things.

*Link leads only to the conference description, but that's pretty darn entertaining in itself. You can sign in if you're a member. Let's just say that Colin Johnson, for all his previous cred writing about Queer People in rural America, might have serious pushback from this crew.

**It used to be that Democrats said they would fight for you, and Republicans said they would work for you,  as I discussed here. Bonus: you get to read the early writings of Bethany as well. This has been changing over the years, and the change became very strong in the last election. It is related to my observation that angry liberals go on offense - usually against objects, though sometimes humans - while conservatives get back on defense; in the extreme, holing up with weapons and daring Obama/liberals/gun-grabbbers to come get them. Even in milder forms, though, conservatives in a society are more tied to the status quo, while liberals are looking to shake things up and create change.  The meanings become fluid because change and status quo can look very different in different centuries and on different continents. Gladstone was the height of 19th C liberalism, which included free trade and laissez-faire economics. The offense-defense distinction is breaking down, in bad directions in both cases.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Tactics in 1998

In the discussion of sexual exploitation and political figures I recalled once again how different things would have been if Trent Lott had not made the impeachment of Bill Clinton dead on arrival when it reached the Senate. (I still don't know why. The only plausible explanation I have heard is that he knew of others who were going to be similarly exposed if it went forwarded and he thwarted justice to protect them. I have no evidence for that.) Al Gore would have become president, and the 2000 election would likely have been his by a good margin. Democrats would have doubled down on his behalf and kept all the Clinton scandals off the table as much as possible.  Republicans couldn't have been any angrier and might have been less determined.  Independents might have wanted to give Gore a chance, because he had taken over in a tough situation. Poor Al. The recession had barely started and dire warnings were going out, but most people still thought the economy was perking along nicely and a majority gave the credit for that to Democrats.

I used to wonder about that a lot.  The Republicans might have lost by winning, the Democrats won by losing.  Some Democrats, anyway.

9/11 and the recession would still have happened, and who knows whether that would have allowed the blame for that to fall on the Democrats, but that seems likely, though Gore would have been president already anyway. Jim Geraghty over at National Review has been remembering the same thing. Alt-history buffs like to take off from such points in history, telling us what they think would have happened after, but I never have confidence that events would have unfolded predictably for very long. I do think Hillary Clinton's career would have been over. Some value in that, I say.

Geraghty wonders would would have been different in the culture, and if the protection of powerful men would have been weakened sooner. Those of us who had mandatory sexual-harassment trainings at work can attest to the walkback that happened abruptly in 1998 and only gradually resumed its previous trajectory.  I can't imagine the protection of Harvey Weinstein or George Takei or a dozen other celebrities would have been strengthened by Clinton's removal from office, though I can't guess how much it would have been weakened. It solidified abortion's importance as the only non-negotiable feminist issue, relegating some types of exploitation and harassment to the back of the bus, but maybe the change there would have been slight. The feminism that emerged was merely liberalism with craft booths, crowding out other strains. Maybe that was destined to happen anyway.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Local Aristocracy and Nationalization of Culture.

A comment by "dearieme" over at Chicago Boyz put me in mind of a conversation that used to be common, but I, at least, don't run into anymore. The America of my youth was more local in its orientation. While the principle of being an American was more universally-held from sea to shining sea, we were still quite provincial. Americans were regional, or even narrower. As a consequence, the phrase "rich people" drew images of North Elm St, North River Rd for us, and only secondarily Rockerfellers, Newport RI cottages, or those people in Southern California. My mother's second marriage brought us into the fringes of that. My stepfather was wealthy and well-placed enough, but he had come from North Haven, CT, and his sons went to Tilton, not St Paul's. For her part, my mother brought in some older local aristocracy, as my grandfather was the first CPA in NH and had grown quietly respectable in the inner circle by the time I was aware of such things. (My grandmother, a social climber, resented that he did not exploit this socially or move her to the North End.) Again, the fringes of the local aristocracy.

High school graduates were discouraged from going to college out-of-state, and going out of New England was met with blank stares. My decision to go to William and Mary was sometimes met with blank stares - people didn't know where it was, and were surprised that one of the smart boys would go to such an obscure school. In my time at W&M there were only two of us from NH - and I knew her, of course, confirming the stereotype that everyone in VA had of NH. That lack of recognition was still true a few years later when I returned. My era was right at the inflection point of this. When my younger brother left college to go to California in 1977 it was no longer considered that unusual.

I suspect there was some regional variation in when this crossover occurred. I had the impression that the schoolmates of the kids from New Haven to DC were more widely dispersed. New Englanders had had their big move in the early 1600's or 1760's (a bunch then went to the Midwest in the mid-1800's), other Europeans came in later and stayed put as well, and that was about it.

The awareness of this in culture was a generation behind when it had actually started occurring. People were certainly heading to California or Florida well before 1971, but they hadn't yet become rich or famous or important enough to be national. When that new fashionable phenomenon McDonald's first came to South Willow St in 1965, no one remarked that the McDonald brothers were originally from Manchester. That only dawned on us much later. The awareness grew that Americans were starting to move all over after WWII, and everyone now understands this migration, especially to Southern California, as one of the great matters of the 20th C.  But that idea was not fully formed by 1970.  People were moving...everyone had a friend or relative out there...but each decision was seen as idiosyncratic. The reasons were still being assembled in our heads.


Interstate highways. More cars. Pacific Theater vets who had disembarked on the West Coast and loved it. Kids who wanted to get into the movies somehow. People who disliked their towns or their families and wanted out. People who wanted nicer weather. We all know those now, and I imagine the people in the receiving cities - Houston, LA, Phoenix, SF - figured out the patterns before those back home did, comparing stories.

Yet culture nationalised even for those who stayed home.  Television and network news became national, or NYC/DC/LA/Everywhere Else national anyway. Local radio has always hung on, because of the auto. Local TV, not so much. Local newspapers, dying. One of my favorite obscurer theories is that teenagers having spending money for the first time in history created a national generational culture, and we Boomers have been annoying the hell out of everyone else since.  Local aristocracies - barely recognised now.  Those of us over 60 can still see names on local business or charitable boards and think "Old Manchester," but it's not so tight now. Rich people move in, move out. They are more part of a national upper class than a local one now.

Thagomizer

This is simply awesome. Thagomizer has become its real name.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Worzel Gummidge

As an aside, the Mangel-Worzel is supposed to be easy to grow in temperate or cooler climes, which is why it retained popularity for so long.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Partial Reasoning

One seldom encounters an argument that is completely wrong.  If it didn't have something going for it, it wouldn't fool anyone. Even the claim that the sun goes around the earth is not immediately ridiculous:  it sure looks that way.

I am not good at live dispute. I either go to flat contradiction too quickly or I let people off the hook because they may not have thought about it that much...and they are only echoing the popular wisdom...so they don't see that what they've said is pretty insulting... If anyone pushes back I put an edge in my voice right quickly.

Thus I seldom bring my best argument when caught off guard in a dispute.  Only later do I think "I should have been softer, or sharper, or found a humorous take."

It pays to remember that the other person may not have brought his best argument either, and would like you back for a second try.

I was speaking with a church friend about management and success books and speakers, which claim if you follow their rules you will have the results they do.  We have discussed the problem of invisible evidence before.  There are plenty of other people who have followed those rules but not succeeded.  We don't account for them in the narrative. Sometimes there are other, unnoticed factors, even luck that went into success.  We are willing to think that about others, but we tend not to think that about ourselves. We like to think it was our intelligence or hard work.

The friend said "Obama got in trouble for saying something like that." I'm sure I looked perplexed. "When he said 'You didn't build that' people got upset." I wish I had gone with a brisk four-part return, including that it wasn't quite the same thing; my memory that Obama's full context was quite extreme that people shouldn't be taking much credit at all, it was mostly good fortune; that the examples of help that he gave were mostly examples of how government had helped; that even the deserved credit of some government actions (electrification...enforced contracts...minimal danger...infrastructure...) did not prove that all government actions are valuable, only that some are. I had them almost to hand, having thought about this before. But I only said the third piece, and that not very well.

Part of the difficulty is that Obama's comment was not completely wrong. We have had the help of others - but I would have mentioned the founding fathers and a lot of Americans since then, the free-market, perhaps a good upbringing, good health. Certainly we come back to gratitude to God, for we have nothing that we have not received from others, or directly from Him. Yet those weren't the things Obama mentioned. Had he included those in his list it would have all been less controversial.  His opponents would have agreed with at least part of it.  It is good to be grateful. He should try it sometime.

I don't think it was a mistake, however.  I think he very much meant that all those successful people should get off their high horse and realise that government in its various forms had given them most of what they had.  He didn't say "You didn't build all of that," and he easily could have - had he only been able to think it first.

That's how discussions go in the real world, though.  Very incomplete, with our best wit left dangling.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

YHWH, Almost an Atheist

In my Old Testament reading I am struck by the attitude that YHWH takes toward other gods. The human beings, including Israel, treat other gods as forbidden powers - usually specialists in fertility, or healing, or weather - to be worshiped and appeased on the sly when the main god wasn't watching.  In more emergent situations, the other gods would be brought out more openly.

Yet YHWH seems to regard them as so much nothing.  Even if you feed them, they don't hear, they don't see, they don't act.  Burn all the incense you want, put meat and grain in front of them, strike up the band,they are just empty statues. The New Testament refers more to spirits, mostly unclean, and there seems to be some tie-in between them and rival gods, but it's not entirely clear. Jesus makes reference to both Mammon and Beelzebub, but doesn't say they have actual power and existence.  The references could be entirely popular culture references, stronger than us saying "The Almighty Dollar" or "Devil take the hindmost," but maybe not much.  That our false gods are of our own creation, even now, doesn't seem inconsistent with any of it.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Have You Forgotten?

In all the press about powerful men who have committed sexual crimes, the Republicans do keep coming back with reminders about Bill Clinton.  Congressman Anthony Weiner is already down the memory hole, seemingly.

There is another. He was nearly vice-president. Dirty tricks.