CHURLISH

Posted in Rants on September 30th, 2015 by Ed

Over a decade ago I sat in a lecture hall and listened to a visiting scholar of English history talk about the end of Roman rule in Britain and the remarkable – it may be fair to say incomprehensible – speed and comprehensiveness with which a previously undistinguished group of people called the Saxons became the cultural hegemon of what is today the United Kingdom. As this is a topic about which I knew (and know) next to nothing I was an easy mark; impressing me was like sinking a half-inch putt. I'm forever indebted to that person whose name I have completely forgotten, though, for giving me one of my favorite examples / metaphors / anecdotes for explaining what is wrong, and I mean what is really, fundamentally wrong, with the way people in the United States view politics and their rights as citizens today: the Churl.

Aside from being the root of names like Charles and its Germanic cousin Carl, we know "churl" as the root of the regrettably rare adjective "churlish," or "rude in a surly, mean spirited way." This seems unnecessary until you realize that rudeness does not automatically imply the latter part, and in fact a good deal of rudeness is cloaked in politeness or ignorance. But I digress. The word "churl" as a noun is still used by some English speakers of a more antiquated bent to refer to a mean spirited person. Its archaic meaning, though, is for a person of low class. Specifically, in early Saxon England the churls were the lowest class of free people, which is to say they were not nobles nor royalty nor clergy, but nor were they serfs. They were essentially peasants; poor, but with the social and practical advantage of not being bound to a manor as serfs were. They were, in words used by the Mystery Lecturer that I will never forget, "possessing the freedom of the upper classes but without the economic means to take advantage of it." They could go wherever they wanted to and do whatever pleased them, in other words, if only they had any money. Alas, they didn't. So all that freedom was for naught, except inasmuch as it permitted them to look at serfs as their inferiors.

This is such a perfect analogy for the state in which the majority – and I do mean the overwhelming majority – of Americans find themselves today that I can hardly believe I was lucky enough to stumble across it. The great masses of Americans cling so desperately to their own imagined versions of things like freedom of religion and right to bear arms because those are the only freedoms they can claim without deceiving themselves to have. If those are taken away they would be forced to recognize how truly un-free in any useful sense they are. If people are unable to find work that pays a sufficient amount to cover life's necessities and to live in a manner and place of their choosing, then all of their many intangible rights and freedoms guaranteed by law provide only a superficial – important, but superficial nonetheless – freedom. We are free, in short, to do whatever we can afford, which, in the majority of cases, is to say "Not much."

A few weeks ago I posted about one of the last major manufacturers – Mitsubishi Motors – in the area closing operations in Central Illinois. Last week the colossus of the non-Chicago part of the Illinois economy, Caterpillar, announced that it is laying off 10,000 workers. Ten thousand. The vast majority of those figure to be in Peoria, Caterpillar's already cripplingly depressed, moribund, and crumbling home base. Without going deep into the intricacies of local politics, Caterpillar, along with a few hospitals and one small university, is the only place one can work in this city and hope to make what has traditionally been considered middle class income. In Peoria one is either unemployed, in the low wage service industry, paid to care for the large, old, dying population, or working for Cat and its associated suppliers. There is nothing else here. The people laid off by Cat are not going to find comparable jobs here. Their choices will be to stay here and accept a job hovering precariously above the minimum wage, probably serving food, stocking store shelves, or manning a cash register, or to move to a state devoid of labor laws and accept manufacturing work at a vastly lower wage.

If those were my options, I would be working overtime mentally to conceive of some way I could define myself as free too. Without implying that the government owes everyone a job of their choosing in the exact location of their choosing, it's fair to say that if you can't find work that pays enough to live a life that gives you real choices and options then you are free only in the sense that you are not imprisoned (although there will be plenty of that as well) and nobody can tell you how many Jesus fish and Rush Limbaugh bumper stickers you can put on your car, nor how many expensive guns you can hoard in your meager home that you struggle to afford. Americans obsess over those largely symbolic freedoms, the threats to which exist only in their own imaginations, because even though we dare not admit it we understand that many of us lack anything better. Like denials of alcoholism are often directly proportional to the probability that one is indeed an alcoholic, the extent to which any people are truly free when they go to such comical excesses with such regularity to declare how free they are is to be evaluated with skepticism. By silent consensus this country has chosen "Fake it 'til you make it" as a coping mechanism in the face of stagnant or declining incomes and a constantly shrinking selection of choices and opportunities beyond at-will, low paid employment at The Company's pleasure. We have a country in which you can buy as many guns as you want but can't count on having a job beyond the end of business today. We can refuse to bake cakes for gay people but we can't decide where and how we want to live. Freedoms are not all created equal, and we content ourselves with the ones that do us the least good.

ADULT IN THE ROOM

Posted in Rants on September 27th, 2015 by Ed

A nondescript meeting room in the United States Capitol. September, 2015.

Republican Rabble: "WE MUST SHUT DOWN THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES OVER OUR OPPOSITION TO PLANNED PARENTHOOD! BARGLE BARGLE BARGLE!"

John Boehner: "Guys we've been through this a few times already, remember? And remember how it always backfires and we end up looking worse because people like Obama and we kinda come off as a bunch of assholes?"

RR: "….Yeah, but we should do it anyway! BARGLE BARGLE BARGLE!"

JB: "Alright. Look. What is it you hope to accomplish with this?"

RR: "SHUT DOWN THE GUBBERMINT!" ("And defund Planned Parenthood") "AND DEFUND PLANNED PARENTHOOD!"

JB: "OK well the problem is, a government shutdown doesn't really shut down the government, because we have to make a million exceptions to keep running all the parts of the government that it turns out people kind of like. And nothing about gutting PP is ever going to get past the Democrats in the Senate, or Obama. You have probably noticed that like, he doesn't really give a shit anymore. So what is this going to accomplish?"

RR: "WE WILL LOOK STRONG! LEADERSHIP! AMERICANS WILL APPLAUD OUR COURAGE!"

JB: "The most extreme third of the Republican base will applaud your courage, everyone else will think you're like a child who holds his breath every time he doesn't get what he wants. Turns out that isn't exactly electoral gold."

RR: "THIS TIME WILL BE DIFFERENT, BECAUSE PLANNED PARENTHOOD IS EVILLLLLLL!"

JB: "Large majorities of Americans support birth control and abortion. Even most of the ones who talk about how horrible and immoral abortion is secretly hope it stays legal just in case their 15 year old daughter in private school gets knocked up."

RR: "EEEEEEEEVILLLLL!"

JB: "I agree guys, I'm against Planned Parenthood too. But the shutdown is just a game of chicken, and every time we play it we lose. You know exactly what's gonna happen. We're gonna get to the moment of truth and have to choose between burning our own country to the ground or caving and looking like a bunch of pussies. That's the exact opposite of what you said you want to accomplish."

RR: "BARGLE BARGLE BARGLE! YOU FAIL BECAUSE YOU DO NOT BELIEVE!"

JB: "Look I'm just pointing out that we've tried this several times and it never works. We can't do this over and over and expect a different result. Let's try something that hasn't already failed a couple times."

RR: *silence, throat clearing*

"LET'S SHUT DOWN THE GOVERNMENT!"

JB: *grabs temples*

**************

How many times do you think you could tolerate having that conversation? I have no love for John Boehner, who has proven himself over the years to be little more than a stuffed suit and a partisan hack. However, compared to the current House Republican caucus he looks like Alexander Hamilton. He may not be bright and he may be as inspiring as a county board meeting, but it became pretty clear since 2010 that he was one of only a handful of adults in the room when the GOP caucus met. You can only stand in front of a roomful of people who are supposed to represent the highest elected body of the self-declared greatest nation on Earth and explain that, no, you can't do (insert Tea Party agenda item) because it's completely goddamn insane so many times before you'd step back and ask yourself, "What exactly is my motivation to keep doing this?" At some point, arguing with an ideologue becomes indistinguishable from arguing with a four year old. You speak the same language, but no amount of repetition is going to convince them that, no, we can't have ice cream and chicken fingers for dinner and Iron Man cannot live in the basement.

POPE SPRINGS ETERNAL

Posted in Rants on September 24th, 2015 by Ed

I want to go on record, if you have yet to figure it out, that I am very pro-Pope Francis. No, I'm not a Catholic. Yes, I find many of the teachings of the Catholic Church to be antiquated and needlessly obstinate. Yes, the Catholic Church as an organization, without indicting every last one of its followers, has proven itself repeatedly to be a corrupt institution with a Circle-the-Wagons mentality that would be the envy of any suburban police department. My view on it is, the church is always going to have a Pope. Why not be glad that there is a Pope who is right about a lot of things in addition to the things that the Pope – any Pope, by virtue of being the spiritual and practical head of Roman Catholicism – is going to be wrong about?

It doesn't take long for any positive statement about Francis to prompt some rocket scientist to point out that he is anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, and anti-contraception. Is it supposed to be useful to point out that the Pope – the leader of the Roman Catholic church – believes these things? The only less useful contribution to the discussion would involve an image of a peeing Calvin. Thanks for stopping by to remind us that the Pope is not in favor of abortion. Without your Sherlock-level sleuthing skills I have no idea how anyone would have figured out that the prelate of Roman Catholicism believes the basic doctrines of the Catholic Church for two millenniums*.

Given the reality that any Catholic Pope is going to support those teachings, why not take some satisfaction in the elevation to a position of power, visibility, and authority of someone who reminds the billion Catholics on the planet that anti-abortion and anti-gay does not summarize the entirety of Catholic doctrine and the teachings of Jesus? If anything, it is remarkable (and commendable) how little Francis has talked about these things and how often he has reminded his followers that they comprise only a small part of the belief system of Catholicism as defined by the scriptures and the teachings of the church over time. Hell, he hasn't even been half-bad about the church's major and long-running problem with sheltering child abusers.

It is so "sophomore year of college" to go around reminding everyone that the Pope isn't cool with abortion and think that this has somehow been an intelligent thing to say, a useful contribution to the discourse. No shit. Absent single-handed power to redefine Catholic doctrine (which, since the institution is as political as any other of its size and scope, he does not have) I'm not sure what he is expected to do about that even if he disagrees. Which he of course does not, being a Catholic. If you can't look at this guy's two years in power and the near-constant attention he has drawn to global income inequality, the staggering lack of compassion for the poor and socially disadvantaged, the constant recourse to war and violence by the most powerful nations on the planet, and the narrow-minded obsession of American religions with penis and vagina related issues at the expense of all others and recognize it as a net positive, I don't know what to tell you. You might be a lost cause.

*I looked it up, it's correct. I swear.

NOT CLEAR ON YOUR STRATEGY HERE

Posted in Quick Hits on September 22nd, 2015 by Ed

By now even people who don't follow automotive news have heard that Volkswagen has been caught red-handed pulling a scam on US and EU regulatory agencies. By submitting cars with altered software for testing – allowing its diesel models to appear to produce considerably less pollution than they do in reality – the company effectively defrauded consumers, government regulators, their own dealer network, and, you know, the planet. Even before lawsuits and criminal penalties are handed down, the scandal figures to cost the company at least the $7 billion it has set aside for the cost of updating consumers' cars to meet the stated pollution standards. For the unfamiliar, diesels achieve excellent fuel economy and tend to be more durable in the long term with the downside that they are very dirty in terms of emissions. For years the promise of "clean diesel" seemed too good to be true. Turns out it is.

This is no accident, of course. The deception was premeditated, cleverly planned, and flawlessly executed. Whenever corporate America is caught in a scandal like this I am left scratching my head at their logic. In this instance it was, from the very inception, only a matter of time until the truth was uncovered. Some car magazine or consumers' group would conduct a test using their own equipment and find exhaust emissions far dirtier than the company stated (and EPA certified) figures. How does the company simply plow ahead in this situation? Do they start down the path of trying to cheat and then, finding themselves in too deep to back out, go for the gusto? Do they delude themselves into thinking that they are so brilliant that they will fool everybody? Do they believe that they will be caught but that no one will dare prosecute them? Did they cynically decide that they would make more money off of the deception than getting caught would cost them in the long run? Or do a handful of people within the company decide that since they are highly unlikely to be held legally responsible personally, they will benefit from the deception handsomely and then live off the proceeds after they're eventually discovered (and probably fired)?

It's hard to conceive of any situation in which this wouldn't end badly for the company. If anyone could come up with a suitably grand delusion, though, it's the kind of people one finds in corporate boardrooms and office complexes these days.

IN CHARACTER

Posted in Rants on September 20th, 2015 by Ed

Carly Fiorina has risen from the Kids' Table debate to #2 in the polls behind Trump. It's not surprising that two successful businesspeople would top the list for a party that practically worships business prowess. Well they're two businesspeople, anyway. As the raging Marxists over at Fortune point out, Carly Fiorina was pretty much shit as the CEO of HP and in the decade since her firing nobody in the corporate world has touched her with a ten-foot pole. Trump, as everyone with the ability to read knows, has done literally nothing except inherit a large sum of money from his father and manipulate the U.S. bankruptcy code to his advantage. This raises a pertinent question about the Republican electorate: If they want to vote for businesspeople, can't they at least find one who wasn't a complete failure?

God knows there are plenty of stridently conservative people who have done very well in the business world. As terrible as they were as candidates, Mitt Romney and Herman Cain were at least successful at not running businesses they led into the ground. This time around they seem content to gravitate toward candidates who seem more like actors playing – overplaying, actually – the role of Greedy Businessman. The average Republican thinks Trump is a business mogul or Fiorina is some badass CEO star because they act like a really rich corporate titan acts in movies aimed at morons. I suppose if they play the character convincingly enough, old white nativist reactionaries won't look to closely at what they've actually done in the business world. Which, to emphasize, is nothing.

It's scary enough that conservatives now equate success in private industry with overall brilliance; as if making a great deal of money trading stocks or running a trucking company or being born to someone wealthy proves that one can be a good (insert public office here). Now they're willing to overlook the success part and endow anyone who wears the costume and accessories of a Business Type and acts like a sociopath with the skills necessary to lead the country. This should work out well.

NPF: HUMAN ZIGGY

Posted in No Politics Friday on September 18th, 2015 by Ed

In 1716 Edmund Halley (He of the comet, although he did not actually discover it – instead he determined that several previous recorded appearances of a comet were in fact the same one reappearing at intervals) published a paper showing how a transit of Venus could be used to calculate with remarkable precision the distance from the Earth to the Sun. A transit occurs when the planet passes directly between Earth and the Sun, and hence is observable as a black dot moving across the solar "surface" as viewed from Earth. Venusian transits are rare. We experienced two in our lifetimes but will never live to see another one; the solar system treats us to two separated by eight years (2004 and 2012) but then does not repeat the phenomenon for more than a century. The next one is in 2117.

Halley did not live to make anything of his idea, dying in 1742 and therefore missing out on the upcoming 1761 / 1769 pair of transits. Other astronomers took up the task, though. A worldwide effort led by Russian Mikhail Lomonosov attempted to coordinate hundreds of observations and measurements from every corner of the globe. Combining all of that data, even with the slow, cumbersome technology available in the 18th Century, would be a gold mine for astronomers. Some historians have suggested that this was the first truly international, coordinated scientific effort. Regardless, a great deal of data was collected and Halley's theory proved correct with time.

Many of the scientists who took part in the Venus effort were or would become famous. A pair of Englishmen, the famous Charles Mason and his assistant Jeremiah Dixon, would later become household names in America when they settled a border dispute between Pennsylvania and Maryland with a surveyed line that still bears their name. One who was not famous, though, was a Frenchman grandly named Guillaume Joseph Hyacinthe Jean-Baptiste Le Gentil. He failed miserably in his attempts to make observations in a series of misfortunes that borders on absurd.

In 1760 he set out to observe from the French possession of Pondicherry on the eastern shore of the Indian subcontinent. Reaching Ile-de-France (Mauritius) he found that further progress was made impossible by the ongoing naval war between France and Britain (in fairness, Mason and Dixon were fired upon numerous times by French ships too). He finally secured passage on a private merchant ship that had secured permission to travel to India by both navies. Unfortunately it went off course in a storm and floated aimlessly for five weeks, and when they finally reached Pondicherry they found that the French had lost it to Britain and Gentil was not allowed to disembark. The ship instead was forced to return to Mauritius, and on the appointed day, June 6, Gentil was unable to observe the transit from the deck of a ship pitching and rolling around in the Indian Ocean.

Surely that disappointed him, but he had another shot in the not too distant future. He remained in the Indian Ocean and took up projects like mapping the African coast, surveying Madagascar, and so on. He sent back word to France to let his family know that he would not be returning until after the second transit. After lengthy consideration he decided to observe the 1769 event from Manila. The Spanish colonial government, however, put him back on his ship when he arrived for some reason lost to history but probably having to do with the petty rivalries that defined the three great European powers in that era. Exasperated, he returned to Pondicherry (won back by France in a 1763 peace treaty) and set up his equipment to make his long-awaited observation. When it arrived – June 4, 1769 – Pondicherry, which had been chosen specifically for its unusually San Diego-like weather, was completely overcast. It was the first and only overcast day in more than six months Gentil spent at Pondicherry. He didn't see a thing.

Defeated, he returned to France on a ship on which dysentery broke out, killing many of the passengers and horribly sickening Gentil himself. When he finally arrived, haggard, half-dead, and spiritually deflated, he found that none of his letters to France had reached their destination. He had been removed from the Academy and declared legally dead; his wife re-married and avaricious relatives "enthusiastically plundered" his estate.

Only the direct intervention of Louis XVI, who found beyond pitiable the story of this man who had tried so hard to achieve something for the sake of the Academy and had been roundly kicked in the ass in return, restored him to something of a normal life. He was restored in his position at the Academy, remarried, and lived an additional two decades.

So if you had a bad week or you're having a bad day, it could be worse. You could be Guillaume de Gentil. Or on a ship when dysentery breaks out. Or both.

CREDENTIALISM

Posted in Quick Hits on September 15th, 2015 by Ed

A friend posted a notice for this job on social media. To be clear, there's nothing remotely wrong with the job itself. It looks like a good one, in a good location, for a good organization, and likely at non-poverty compensation levels. By the time I reached the end – "Requirements" – I thought immediately of yesterday's post about online / for-profit universities peddling useless paper while Americans rack up billions in student loan debt. I'm not going to parse the entire job posting, but here are the major functions of the person who holds the position:

Primary Purpose: To enter and acknowledge gifts and accurately maintain data for Minnesota Orchestra donors, updating records in a timely manner according to standard business and accounting procedures.

MAJOR JOB FUNCTIONS
Gift Processing
· Enter gifts received by check, lockbox, telefunding, internet and other sources
· Ensure accurate and efficient entry of all gift and patron information
· Troubleshoot questions about gifts with appropriate fundraisers as they arise
· Review and balance gift entry totals against deposits and/or reports

Acknowledgement Processing
· Generate acknowledgements through database and mail merge for all gifts following internal business practices
· Edit, print and distribute letters to appropriate fundraisers for signature
· Maintain accurate tracking system to ensure all letters are mailed in timely manner

Communication (Internal/External)
· Generate daily email to department with lockbox and check details
Complete and send corporate matching forms
Follow up with patrons with expired, expiring or declined credit cards
Assist Manager of Development Operations and other staff as needed

Database Integrity
· Update donor information based on gift entry forms and other communications
· Update demographic information received in daily reports from Ruffalo Noel Levitz
· Research returned mail for current addresses and update database accordingly
· Other duties as assigned

Pretty basic, right?

The first requirement is "Four-year college degree."

Can anyone explain to me why a Bachelor's Degree is necessary to do any aspect of this job? No offense intended, but this is essentially a secretarial / data entry position. If you can work an Excel spreadsheet (as a lot of high school graduates or 2-year degree holders can no doubt do competently) there is nothing here that you can't do. Most of it amounts to data entry, sending emails, compiling summaries of data on donations, and so on. One of the stated primary responsibilities is mailing letters. And a four-year college degree is the first requirement listed.

We talk a lot about the problem of creeping credentialism – the insistence by employers that basically any position that does not involve french fries or a mop be restricted to college graduates – and this example belongs in the Hall of Fame. People are rational. Maybe not smart, wise, curious, or reasonable, but they are rational in that they respond to incentives. If you tell people that they can't get a job unless they raise two goats and a palm tree, the majority of people are going to respond by becoming impromptu goat / palm tenders.

By all means, apply. Looks like a decent job. What it doesn't look like is a job that requires a $100,000 degree to do competently. People will continue to throw money at diploma mills in direct proportion to the share of entry-level positions restricted to the most over-credentialed applicants.

NET VALUE

Posted in Rants on September 14th, 2015 by Ed

Some truly staggering data here about the total amount of student loan debt outstanding in the U.S.; more specifically, the growth thereof in the last 14 years. Brookings provides the data.

Look carefully at those figures. The "leading" school in debt outstanding grew from $2.2 million to $35.5 million in just over a decade. I wonder if starting salaries have grown by a factor of seventeen since 2000? Total student debt in that time period has quadrupled. Mean wages have too, right?

The numbers are alarming enough, but if you really need to lose sleep look at where all the money is going. The top 12 schools are, with the exception of crushingly expensive Ivy League bastion NYU, for-profit or non-profit in name only (Nova SE is an open enrollment joke school that is barely accredited, and we all know Liberty University is, uh, rather a thinly veiled moneymaking scheme for the homeschooled crowd). And that raises the question: Who in the name of god is taking out this much money for such demonstrably worthless degrees? The average online degree holding graduate (the 2% of enrollees who actually graduate) is earning $21,000. $21,000! You could make that at Burger King without a high school diploma. We know that for-profits unfairly target susceptible, vulnerable populations like the poor, unemployed adults, and discharged veterans. But we're talking about loans here – money that inevitably has to be paid back. People are taking on debt to get something that is worth less than nothing.

Can that many people really be that gullible? I realize large numbers of Americans are extremely gullible, but we're also notoriously tight-fisted when it comes to education. Unless you're a government employee who is guaranteed a move up the pay scale by acquiring a Master's Degree – any MA, from any school – I do not understand how anyone can talk themselves into going deep into debt for a degree that advertises during Maury Povich. I'm guessing that there are very few "traditional" college students in this boom. There is not, contrary to what brick-and-mortar colleges fear, a ton of kids fresh out of high school enrolling in these diploma mills. It has to be composed primarily of adults with stagnant wages rolling the dice, even in the face of overwhelming statistical evidence to the contrary, on coming out on the other end with greater earning potential.

At some point the dynamic in this market shifts from predatory lending – and there has been plenty of that – to something a sentient consumer recognizes as a scam. Expecting something from a for-profit degree is close to being on par with expecting a fair game of three card monte in a back alley at this point.

A MENTAL PICTURE

Posted in Rants on September 14th, 2015 by Ed

Here is a story about Sterling Heights, MI residents opposing the building of a mosque in their neighborhood. There is a picture of people protesting on the roadside with the story. But let's be honest for a moment: do you really need to see it?

I think you know exactly what you're going to see. It's going to be a bunch of dumb looking, shabbily dressed white trash with faces that look like they're sucking on lemons. Their haircuts and facial hair will be 20 years out of date. Their shirts will feature motorcycles (or in this case, a semi truck) or jingoistic symbols. Their signs will be poorly scrawled with a marker on Walmart posterboard. They will look like the people you moved out of your hometown to get far, far away from. They are the people who call in to AM talk radio shows and fill local newspaper comment sections with incoherent bile. And you'll see the picture and think, "Yep. Saw that coming."

mosque

As a good liberal I know I am not supposed to hate these people. I am supposed to feel bad for them, as they are often poor, given few opportunities and shoddy educations, and actively encouraged to lash out at anyone different than themselves by the political and economic elites who ream them six ways from Sunday their entire lives. But here's the thing: I hate these people. Go ahead, take away my membership card. I won't appeal.

To people on the coasts and in the Beltway, these "salt of the Earth" / "Blue Collar" types are convenient pawns. Elites do everything humanly possible to avoid having to live near these miserable excuses for human beings, but when it fits their narrative they are more than happy to wax poetic about the virtues of the plebeians that a fictional character described perfectly as "racecar-loving wide loads." That isn't fooling anyone, though. The disgust is so thinly veiled that it would take an act of willful ignorance not to see it. And you know what? I don't blame them. These old, illiterate, racist, hate-filled people disgust the wealthy Republican candidates who pander to them, and they disgust me too. I'm embracing it.

A lot of progressives believe in engaging people like the ones pictured here in some kind of dialogue, as though they can be appealed to on a rational level to give up their deeply ingrained prejudices and hatreds. Why? What is the point of trying to reason with unreasonable people? Nothing they believe is based on reason, rationality, facts, or evidence. It would make no difference, for example, to politely explain that if the city council denied permission to build some scam artist's megachurch they would be squirting blood from their eyes in rage. The "evidence" that supports their beliefs – mosques as repositories of weapons and terrorists – are nothing more than a recitation of their subconscious insecurities and fears. Do you think explaining that to them will matter? I don't. They don't deserve any of your time or energy. The only thing they deserve is derision.

Call it classism, snobbery, or whatever you want. In my view the best thing to do is ignore them and let time, the law, and social change steamroll them into irrelevance. Just go to court, win the right to build the thing, and forget that any of these people exist. One of the reasons they're so freaked out these days is that they are getting outnumbered and a lot of them are nearing death. Let's use that to our advantage and save everyone the frustration and wasted effort involved in trying to deal with them like adults.

NPF: AUTUMN POTPOURRI

Posted in No Politics Friday on September 11th, 2015 by Ed

Three things to help you pass the time on Friday. All three officially beat working.

1. Since moving I've reacquired the urge to do things that are productive, if we define productive as anything short of a complete waste of time. As I also enjoy being obsessively thorough and complete with my hobbies, I've started making publicly available Google Maps (with downloadable .kml data) of architectural things. Here is a map with the location of every remaining structure from Frank Lloyd Wright. If you're interested in more varied and lighter fare, here is a map of the American Institute of Architects list of America's 150 favorite buildings. That list had an element of public input, so some of it is a bit soft. Nobody really finds Wrigley Field all that impressive as architecture. Overall it's not a bad overview though, although by no means a complete one of American architecture (I couldn't help adding 150a and 150b at the end. I mean. Come on.) Currently I'm working on a Louis Kahn map, and a few other ideas bouncing around for after that.

2. Things We've All Seen but Haven't Thought about In Ages: Those re-dubbed parody GI Joe PSA cartoons. You probably haven't watched them in years and therefore you're likely to have forgotten how amazing they are.

The first time I saw these was at the Chicago Underground Film Festival (1999? 2000?) in a room full of pretentious artsy film festival people. For the first two (maybe 60 seconds total) we collectively couldn't believe we had to sit through this low-brow, sophomoric shit. By about minute four a good 90% of the audience was literally doubled over and gasping for air. They're still funny even when you know what's coming, so it's hard to convey just how hilarious this was the first time we heard "BODY MASSAGE!" or the reggae one (@ 3:05).

3. Speaking of ridiculous things taken much further than anyone could reasonably expect, my shuffle playlist reminded me about Austrian Death Machine on a long drive today. It's a joke-metal outfit with songs that are all vintage Arnold Schwarzenegger movie quotes.

Enjoy hits like "Get to the Choppa!" and "Screw You Benny." Who is your daddy and what does he do, indeed.