The One-Man Party Ends

I am trying to imagine a minority Conservative government after the election on October 19.  I am trying to imagine Harper, after conducting a snide, condescending campaign, reaching out to Mr. Trudeau or Mr. Mulcair and attempting to negotiate passage of a major bill.

Harper is very shrewd and it is not unimaginable that he would offer a budget, say, that includes parts of either the Liberal or NDP election platform, and then defies them to vote it down.  He’ll be thinking triangulation, of course, and contemplating a theme for the next election campaign, something along the line of, “I know you hate another election so quickly but I tried to be reasonable and, well, the other parties are just greedy for power and wouldn’t do what Canadians wanted them to do”.  It is not unthinkable.  He might count on the electorate to think, “well, the Conservatives were arrogant but now they’ve been chastened so maybe I should give them another chance at a majority.”  If it looks like Trudeau has been out-maneuvered,  well, after all, we want our leaders to out-maneuver other governments too.”

The Liberals would be more vulnerable than the NDP because they support some of Harper’s major, politically sensitive initiatives like Bill C-51 and the Trans Pacific Partnership.  They might also be most inclined to believe they would win a second, quick election.

The Conservatives better be careful, but nobody would be shocked, either, if the electorate suddenly reached Harper-fatigue and decided to make a decisive change.


We Will Never See Another Valerie Bertinelli

I’m a little sad about this: we will probably never see another Valerie Bertinelli.

Valerie Bertinelli was one of the stars of “One Day at a Time”, along with Mackenzie Phillips, Bonnie Franklin and Pat Harrington as “Schneider”.

She did not have large breasts.

There you go.  That’s what you probably won’t see ever again: a major television actress with small boobs.  She was 15 at the start of the show and was supposed to be a kind of tom-boyish character.  In the next season, according to Wikipedia, her character was revised to “be more appealing to a traditional male demographic [citation needed]”.   This is how television, contrary to the fundamental purpose of all artistic endeavors, seeks to affirm what you already are: stupid.

I have no end of disgust for media companies that decide that that the illiterate public should tell them how to write or act or direct.  You like titillating jokes?  Add more and more and more.  You like cleavage?  Let’s increase cleavage 200%.  You like poop jokes?  More poop jokes!  Say, why don’t you write and create your own sitcom?  Oh– you don’t know how?  You can’t?  You’re too illiterate and clueless to do it?  When why are we listening to you?

Valerie Bertinelli married Eddie Van Halen when she was 21.   Do you even have to ask?  They divorced in 2005, probably long after the marriage had actually failed.

She wasn’t much of an actress but she was very cute.  That’s all that’s necessary.

Do a search, I know you want to.  Images.  There she is: she struggled with weight issues all her life but she seems to have had a few victories.  Lately, there are pictures of her looking very svelte in a bikini.  But notice the boobs: they look ample.  They look generous.   They look lavish.

It is easy and cheap to get your breasts augmented nowadays.  And it has a clearly measurable impact on profit.  Even if you are a very good actress if you are competing for a spot on a tv series or movie with numerous actresses (there are millions of them) with ample bosoms, you will not get to do what Valerie Bertinelli did with her remarkably reasonably sized breasts: star in a tv sitcom (which, let’s face it, is the lowest form of drama there is).

In future, I fully expect that the studio that owns the “One Day at a Time” franchise will hire a digital effects company to go back in time and enhance Valerie Bertinelli’s breasts.  It’s inevitable.  It will produce more viewers, more profits, more rebroadcasts!

Enhanced.  Augmented.

In the meantime, I actually enjoyed the rerun.  The characters looked more real then they will ever look again, probably.

[whohit]Valerie Bertinelli[/whohit]

Self-Identity: the Gluten of Sexual Politics

Students at a high school, Hillsboro, in Missouri, walked out today to protest the school board’s decision to allow Lila Perry, a boy who “self-identifies” as a girl, to use the girls’ washrooms and change-rooms.

Not everyone was against.  Apparently some protested the protest.

I have very mixed feelings.  Firstly, the whole transgender thing is getting goofy and ridiculous.  There are a very, very small number of people who genuinely possess ambiguous genitalia, or who might possess a genuinely ambiguous sexual identity.  They have a genuine need and a right to make choices about their sexual identity, however complicated that might be.   And there are a very, very small number of people who, anomalously, really do have the wrong genitalia.  I think this is a very small number.  Very small.

And then there are a lot of people– not really that many, but a lot– who take it into their heads that they would really rather be the other gender.  And a lot of people out there associate this with homosexuality, which everyone knows is something you are born with, and therefore decide to be as tolerant as possible and announce that from now on people should be treated as whatever gender they wish to be.

Here’s some facts: the vast majority of these people are males wishing to “identify” as female.  The vast majority of these people maintain their sexual orientation after they have transitioned.  If they were sexually attracted to girls before the surgeries and injections they remain sexually attracted to girls after.  If they were sexually attracted to boys before the surgeries, they remain attracted to boys.

So Lila, now permitted to change in the girls’ locker room, should enjoy herself tremendously.  Unless, Lila, as a boy, was already attracted to boys.  In other words, gay.  In which case, he probably should be in the girls’ locker room anyway.  But why would he want to do that, if he was attracted to boys?

It is totally predictable that the opinion of the psycho-social establishment will favor the idea that many people really are the wrong gender and need to be helped and supported in transitioning to their “real” gender.   It is predictable not because it is likely to be true but because it is likely to be “psychological” in the sense that it is something that can be uncovered and analyzed and tested and diagnosed and packaged and sold to the public as privileged information that only experts can provide.

It is something that can never be disproved because it can never be proven.  How would you go about proving that a boy is a boy?  What standards would you use?  Would it not be enough, given the assumptions in the field of psychology, for the boy say he wants to be a girl?  If you want to investigate it further, see if he has an array of “symptoms”, all of which might also be indications of a troubled, confused child who is obsessed with a really strange idea.


[whohit]Gluten of Sexual Politics[/whohit]


The State Solemnly Requests That you Die: it is your duty.

 To preserve one’s life is generally speaking a duty, but it may be the plainest and the highest duty to sacrifice it.  War is full of  instances in which it is a man’s duty not to live, but to die.  The duty, in case of shipwreck, of a captain to his crew, of the crew to the passengers, of soldiers to women and children, as in the noble case of the Birkenhead; these duties impose on men the moral necessity, not of the preservations but of the sacrifice of their lives for others, from which in no country, least of all, it is to be hoped, in England, will men ever shrink as indeed, they have not shrunk.  It is not correct, therefore, to say that there is any absolute or unqualified necessity to preserve one’s life.  “Necesse est ut eam, non ut vivam,” is a saying of a Roman officer quoted by Lord Bacon himself with high eulogy in the very chapter on necessity to which so much reference has been made.  It would be a very easy and cheap display of commonplace learning to quote from Greek and Latin authors, from Horace, from Juvenal, from Cicero, from Euripides, passage after passages, in which the duty of dying for others has been laid down in glowing and emphatic language as resulting from the principles of heathen ethics; it is enough in a Christian country to remind ourselves of the Great Example whom we profess to follow.  It is not needful to point out the awful danger of admitting the principle which has been contended for.  Who is to be the judge of this sort of necessity?  By what measure is the comparative value of lives to be measured?  Is it to be strength, or intellect, or what ? It is plain that the principle leaves to him who is to profit by it to determine the necessity which will justify him in deliberately taking another’s life to save his own.  In this case the weakest, the youngest, the most unresisting, was chosen.  Was it more [p. 288] necessary to kill him than one of the grown men?  The answer must be “No” –

“So spake the Fiend, and with necessity,
The tyrant’s plea, excused his devilish deeds.”
It is not suggested that in this particular case the deeds were devilish, but it is quite plain that such a principle once admitted might be made the legal cloak for unbridled passion and atrocious crime.  There is no safe path for judges to tread but to ascertain the law to the best of their ability and to declare it according to their judgment; and if in any case the law appears to be too severe on individuals, to leave it to the Sovereign to exercise that prerogative of mercy which the Constitution has intrusted to the hands fittest to dispense it.

It must not be supposed that in refusing to admit temptation to be an excuse for crime it is forgotten how terrible the temptation was; how awful the suffering; how hard in such trials to keep the judgment straight and the conduct pure.  We are often compelled to set up standards we cannot reach ourselves, and to lay down rules which we could not ourselves satisfy.  But a man has no right to declare temptation to be an excuse, though he might himself have yielded to it, nor allow compassion for the criminal to change or weaken in any manner the legal definition of the crime.  It is therefore our duty to declare that the prisoners’ act in this case was wilful murder, that the facts as stated in the verdict are no legal justification of the homicide; and to say that in our unanimous opinion the prisoners are upon this special verdict guilty, of murder. [n. 1]

THE COURT then proceeded to pass sentence of death upon the prisoners. [n. 2]

The above statement is from the court ruling on the case of The Queen Vs. Dudley and Stevens (1884).  It’s a very famous ruling, and taught in law school.  At issue is the question of whether a person, confronted by inevitable death, may break the law in order to save his own life.

No one disputes the basic facts: the men in the lifeboat were all going to die if they did not eat.   There was nothing to eat, except a man, and they choose the weakest and most vulnerable to kill and eat.  Richard Parker, the cabin boy, had fallen into a coma, partly, probably, from drinking sea water.   Euphemisms abound in the retelling of this case, but let’s dispense with them: they killed and ate Richard Parker to save their own lives.

The men, Captain Tom Dudley, Edwin Stephens; and Edmund Brooks, were saved by a German ship and returned to England where they, believing themselves to be fully justified, made no effort to hide what they had done.  It is safe to say that they assumed everyone would understand and sympathize with their motivations.  I doubt they would have formulated it so carefully, but they essentially argued that a man’s first duty is to save his own life.  They professed horror, but, well it had to be done.  You can see that, can’t you?

In a world full of people determined to get other people to kill for them, they could not have imagined how utterly subversive the idea was.

They were arrested and tried for murder, and sentenced to death.  That lengthy quote at the beginning of this post is from the ruling by a panel of judges who heard the case after what can only be described a series of shenanigans by Baron Huddleston who was determined to get convictions, though public opinion was decidedly in favor of the sailors.

It appears to me that he tricked the jurors into believing they were finding the defendants not guilty, by forcing them to make no ruling.  Instead, through a technicality, they inadvertently allowed the judge to make whatever ruling he wanted.

Richard Parker, 17-years-old, was the cabin boy, and had no experience sailing.

There something obscene about this idea, that it is a honor to give up your own life for others.  The obscenity lies in the fact that this is not a selfless gesture: it would be really great if you would die for me.

A devout Christian with a certain orientation might buy it: your reward will be in heaven so the person asking you to die for them is not really as selfish as all that.

I leave aside the issue of Richard Parker, for a moment.  Huddleston had one legitimate point: by what principle do the men select someone in a coma to die for their benefit?  There have been similar situations in which all of the men agreed to a procedure by which one of them is selected to die and be eaten.   But I want to go back to the judge’s speech in which he insists it might be a man’s duty to die for his country.

By what right does anyone ask someone else to give up everything– and I mean everything– for someone else?  What is the point?  If you no longer exist, you can’t possibly obtain anything in exchange for giving up the most valuable thing you have: your own life.  When a soldier is asked to do that, the person asking it is a criminal in the most universal and absolute and uncompromising sense.  How can anyone possibly gain anything by giving up his life?  Unless he is deceived?

Willful ignorance (it’s for your country, it’s for honor, it’s for Jesus, whatever) is no excuse.  Asking someone to die for you is a criminal act, whether it is committed by a mafioso or a president.

But how, the exasperated citizen exclaims, could we ever have a war if people believed that?   Yes, exactly.

Where would we be without young men willing to do it?  It’s really not all that different, when you think about it, from demanding that people kill for you.  Either way, you want someone else to die as a favor to you.  Thank you very much and good bye.  The monument we erect is not for you– you’ll never know a thing about it.  You will never, ever know a thing about it.  That monument is our way of trying to persuade the next victims.

Back to Richard Parker, one of the men had proposed– in unimaginable desperation– that they cast lots to see who would make the sacrifice.  It would have been interesting if they had– what then could the court have ruled?  Surely, that court, would have still ruled murder?   In their unique circumstances, they made a perfectly rational, if appalling, choice (except that one of them, Brooks, wouldn’t go along with it).  Either we do this appalling thing or we will all die.  Life is better than death.  It is better for three families to have their loved ones return to them and one mourn a death, than for four families to mourn four deaths (and destitution, probably).   You can’t run and hide from this equation and say, oh, it’s just too awful to think about.  It really happened– not just in this case in 1884– but in many other instances.

The judges, in this case, asserted, vehemently, that all four of you men in that boat should have died, rather than choose to kill Richard Parker.

It is not unimaginable that the judges would have ruled otherwise if one of the men had volunteered to die for the others (or if they had cast lots, in which sense one of them “volunteers”).  In fact, there was an earlier case from the 17th century, near Saint Christopher, in which lots were cast, and the victim (who happened to be the one who suggested lots) consented, and was eaten, and no legal action was taken.

[whohit]Richard Parker[/whohit]


Processing Amy Schumer

I am trying to process an aspect of Amy Schumer’s comedy that perplexes me.  She ridicules men who find her fat and unattractive.  In the words of New York Times Reviewer Manohla Dargis, “she stops haters dead”.  I don’t know what that means.  That she shuts them up?  Heckles them back?  Humiliates them?  She just will not have it.  She just will not have you find her fat and unattractive.  Not like Lena Dunham?

I don’t know of any external physical attribute that can be changed by ridicule, though our attitudes certainly can.  So, are we men to straighten out our attitudes and learn to regard women like Amy Schumer as attractive?  Smarten up!  Attention!  Look at this body and desire it, or else!  Again, Manohla Dargis:

“Think she’s not thin enough or pretty enough?  She intercepts hateful slurs like those and turns them into ferocious comedy gold that exposes chauvinism as the absurdity it is.”

Now, I am about 167cm tall and would love to be about 180 or 185.  I suppose what I should do is become a smart-ass and ridicule people who have the nerve to find me short, exposing feminine bias for what it is: ridiculous.  Don’t you realize how much better I am than a tall person?  How much more desirable?  How amazing I am at basketball?  All you haters can just got to hell.  You will damn well desire me!

Because, I am going to put you in my movie and I will make your character fall in love with me because you realize that I am not really very short at all.  I am actually very, very tall.  And this sudden apprehension makes you ridiculously, helpless vulnerable to my sexual charms, and will really prove to all the haters out there that I am, in fact, incredibly sexy and desirable, as well as witty and funny and charming, and not at all annoying as only a hater would think I am.

And Manohla Dargis will assert that my sophisticated insights have “eviscerated” the “gauzy romanticism” of “Hoop Dreams”.

But we can extend this strategy to everything: art, music, poetry.  How dare you find my music lame?  I will write a movie in which the character you play will watch me with adoration and astonishment as I perform my song, and I will have the entire crowd stand up and applaud at the end, screaming, shaking their heads in wonder, as if I was Maryl Streep singing it myself.  How dare you not like my painting?  How dare you find my blog boring?  How dare you not like me?

We know that Schumer can write just as good as any man because another story by a woman about how sexy and desirable this particular woman is, once our hero comes to his senses, drives home the point that women can write just as good as any man.

The get out of jail free card here is the usual one: exploiting sexuality for a cheap laugh is actually female empowerment, and liberation.  This isn’t a lesbian film: those short skirts and long cleavages are directed at men.  I am liberated and empowered because you want to have sex with me.  Ha!  Told you!

[whohit]Amy Schumer[/whohit]


John Van Maanen, a professor of management at M.I.T. Sloan who teaches a course named “Leading Organizations,” isn’t so sure it can. “Even today, three-plus decades in, there’s no real definition of it,” he says. “We can make people more conscious of ethical dilemmas in business, of the difficulty of directing people in times of adversity, and the confidence and communication skills necessary to do so. But the idea that such skills can be transmitted so that you can lead anybody at any time, that’s ideologically vacuous.”

“It’s difficult not to be frustrated by the excessive focus on it,” he says, “but it’s become so popular that we apparently can’t teach enough of it.”  NyTimes 2015-07-29

As I suspected…

May you have been blessed to be a “Leadership Trainer” (or whatever you call someone who confers “leadership skills” upon the worthy acolyte).  I fall back on Karl Popper’s theories about knowledge, that in order for something to be “true” it must be possible to prove it false.  In other words, for someone to say they have acquired “leadership skills” it must be at least theoretically possible to prove they have not.

I’m not talking about self-proclaimed leaders.   I’m talking about what the marketeers try to sell you as “leadership skills”.  It is not possible, of course, in reality, to measure them, because every leader just kind of feels good about himself or herself and starts talking about “we leaders must…” blah blah blah as if they have some kind of objective proof that they have made the grade.

A leader makes decisions.  A leader has a vision.  A leader makes tough choices.  A leader knows how to motivate his foundlings or acolytes or whatever.  Any two-bit manager does or does not do all of those things but only the ones who have received medals and certificates start to think there is something special about their own decisions and visions and choices.  In my experience, the ones with the most auspicious claims about their “leadership qualities” are the most likely to postpone, delay, consult, and equivocate.   They are more likely to slow things down and to impose wasteful bureaucratic procedures on the decision-making process, have more people sign off on decisions, and get angry when people, who actually want to get things done, do things without waiting for the “process” to catch up to them.

They are the kind of people that spend $6 million on consultants who recommend that they sell a provincial asset for $6 million, but don’t recommend that they never again hire idiot consultants to advise them on how to do the job they are paid to do.

Why?  Because a single really bad decision can wipe out years of equivocation, evasion, and obfuscation.  Why take a chance?  You can always, given the vocabulary of leadership training, claim to be a great leader without actually having to prove anything.  There is no way to prove that any leadership training has worked.  There is no way to prove that a leader is a good leader because if things are going well, they probably would have gone well anyway, and if things are going bad, they could always have gone worse.

But if someone can prove you made a bad decision, the cat is out of the bag.  So you hire a consultant.  And if it proves to be a bad decision, you say, “oh, but the that’s what the consultant recommended.”   They don’t say, “I am the one who chose a stupid consultant.”

People who actually make good, quick decisions– and stick to them– tend to have a more prosaic view of “leadership”: you’re in charge — make decisions.  They feel less threatened by others taking some initiative.  They don’t feel that other peoples’ accomplishments are a threat to their own status.

[whohit]Leadership Training[/whohit]