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AvatarComments by Doctor Jay*

On “Men Who Help

Everyone needs help. Rescue is a staple of both adventure and romance. It doesn't, however, have to be gendered. Examining why, for instance, you as a woman are focused on men who help could be a rich vein to tap, in terms of fiction.

Because I have known a few women who couldn't be bothered to lift a finger to help someone. Not a lot, but a few. I think that's a sterile and isolating way to live, but some people think it's what they deserve and are entitled to. If that's not your world, that's good.

On “No, Google Did Not Steal The Election

How can you be sure? Do you get to look at the Kremlin budget? Also, the lobbyists for Aruba don't generally wind up in jail. I mean, sometimes, yeah...

Meanwhile, Trumps campaign manager is up to his neck with Russian oligarch money, and got caught witness tampering. There is clearly obstruction of justice - successful obstruction of justice - involved. How can you possibly be sure you know the amount of money involved?

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About the third time I read your comment, I realized you weren't necessarily endorsing the view that there was no Russian meddling. But it can be hard to be sure.

The Russians were certainly trying to influence the election. They spent money on it. There are a dozen indictments of Russian nationals for doing things that were illegal. That ain't smoke and mirrors. I think it's an open question how successful they were, but they were trying.

And they also broke into a lot of election support computers. The stories of what they accomplished keep escalating. I'm really hoping you aren't calling this "fake news".

Meanwhile, the core issue is that "conservative" media now has a significant overlap with "swindler clickbait" media. So when Google uses it's crowd-sourced weighting - where sites with lots of links are deemed more credible than those that don't have them - it looks like bias against conservatives. Really, it's bias against grift, but apparently there are some inside the bubble who can't tell the difference.

And yes, I am aware that there are left-leaning clickbait sites, too. Apparently not nearly so many, though.

On “The Hedgehog Who Won

If you don't hold to your principles when faced with adversity, you didn't really have any principles. This is how I feel about all those Republican office holders who threatened shutdowns over the national debt, and who crowed and crowed about free trade along with law and order. And say things like "I just want to see the law enforced".

And yet, here you are, propping up this guy in the White House. It looked to me in 2016 that there would be a revolt against Trump among Republican officeholders, because he wanted things they didn't want, and he would start a war with them and get himself impeached.

But no, they have managed to fence him in, probably with impeachment threats, so they can get their tax cuts and judges, and he won't bother them with infrastructure spending bills.

Yeah, they won. Because those principles never meant anything to most of them. It's just what you said if you ran as a Republican.

On “Ben Shapiro Works Those Feelings

The argument isn't new to me. The tone isn't new to me. The media business strategy isn't new to me. Ben Shapiro has had very little mindshare from me in the past, and I see absolutely no reason to change that.

There are probably half-a-dozen commenters here - people who are conservative, and with whom I disagree a lot - that have added more to value to my life than Ben Shapiro ever will.

On “This One Really Hurts

For sheer vocal quality, I think I give Pavarotti the edge over Domingo, though Placido had a lot more range in what he could/would sing.

I recall hearing that Luciano had an affair, but I have heard nothing about sexual harassment. Of course, I'm not that plugged in, so I might have missed it.

On “Defenders Of The Gold Bikini 2: The Fempire Doesn’t Strike Back

You know, I agree with everything you say about both the gold bikini and Padme's death, which never made much sense. I favor the idea that she dies from injuries from Anakin. I also think postpartum depression, which is a thing, may have had a role.

And yeah, sometimes the thing some people want to get lathered up about don't really make any sense. But there's no progress without some discomfort, which can make it hard to calibrate things.

On “Pushed Over the Edge

I grew up in a small town. It is certainly different than urban living. One of the big differences is that nobody knows who you are, so if compromising pictures of you get posted around town, nobody cares, and they just get pulled down because they aren't that interesting.

One of the things I've discovered about my small town is that you always remain whomever you were when you graduated high school. I personally find this stultifying, but I can imagine others would find it comforting. And there is an upside to being known, which comes when they know you and care about you. Of course, this makes social maneuvers like the freeze-out much more powerful.

They aren't the same.

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I have been river rafting down the New River. The trip ended under the New River Bridge. People were jumping off it that day - while wearing parachutes. Perhaps also with bungees.

The story is upsetting. If we can't prosecute these people, can we at least name and shame them? Make them pay, in cold, hard cash?

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I am familiar with people thinking someone is snobbish when they are, in fact, just really shy.

It's at times like these when I remember how terrible human beings are. I find it easy to love individuals, even flawed ones, but I kind of hate humanity in general.

On “IT’S MY WORLD – AND YOU CAN STAY THE HELL OUT OF IT!

It seems to me that you are enjoying a season of Things The Way I Like Them that you have maybe never had before. Which is great, but maybe not a permanent state of affairs.

I have my limit when it comes to social contact. I get to a point of "that's enough, go away now". And I'm terrible at small talk, it makes me anxious.

But I also like seeing people. It also seems to me that if that were everything, you wouldn't have written this piece and worked to have it published.

On “Tom’s vs Time, and Everyone Else

I can relate to the feelings of the protesters. When I go back to the community I grew up in, there are dozens of examples of old businesses that I loved that have been replaced by something dull and uninspiring. It's irritating. My cousin, who is a few years older than me, said to me, "Yeah, they didn't ask our permission, did they?" With a grin.

It's hard to confront the fact that the world doesn't organize itself around what you like and want. And as one gets older, you start noticing that more and more. Perhaps that's because for a while, it kind of seemed like the world did organize itself around what you wanted. In many ways, these changes signal the fact that I will die some day. That's not a pleasant thing to confront.

At the same time, I think maybe some of the places that I thought were so special really weren't that special, they were just special to me. And maybe some of the new places will become special to someone else.

And I also wonder how this is different from the gentrification that Rufus observed just a few days ago.

On “We Don’t Really Care Why

I think I already knew most of this, actually. I have been out of scouting for a long time. My engagement was via martial arts, and via being a friend of the family.

It was good though, to remember all those wonderful experiences that I had. Now all the, ahem, moral platitudes that were dished around seem to make more sense.

There are many paths. I don't know the boy, or your situation, so let me make a wild suggestion based on almost nothing. What if you told him he didn't have to join anything per se, but he had to do something, some project, that helped the community in some specific, visible way. Perhaps you might insist that he had to talk to one or two other adults in order to do it. Work with his inclinations, rather than against them.

I have a streak of social anxiety in those days - though I had enormous support for growth in that area from my extended family, who were mostly very outgoing. But I got my alone time, too.

Like I said, this is just a crazy suggestion based on almost nothing. Feel free to ignore it if it doesn't fit.

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Last Sunday, I went to an Eagle Scout Court of Honor awarding the rank to a young man, now 18, who was on a very bad path in his life at age 13. His parents, and several other adults have invested considerable time and pain into pushing him on to a better path, and it seems to have worked. He talks about his former attitudes with a sort of brutal frankness that's refreshing and gives me hope.

There were 6 other young men on that stage, too. It was a very pleasing contrast to the events of the weekend. Particularly the young man in El Paso, whom, it seems, wanted to do something to "help' his group by repelling the "invasion" of Other People which was harming his group.

In contrast, every young man on the stage had done a service project of considerable substance. My particular charge had built a bunch of bookcases for a local middle school. His prototype had the principal of that school, ahem, squee in delight, "I want that in my office. How many of these are you gonna make? TEN!!!? I WANT them!"

I'm sure this was a very new experience for him, and a profoundly beneficial one. All these young men were shown a way to have an impact in a way that was welcomed and praised by the community.

Working with young men of this age can be difficult, frustrating and slow. It's worth it. I feel we need to spend more time as a culture figuring out how to pull them into activities that enrich them. This is work for older men, but it's not completely gendered. I know women who have been effective with this age group as well, though it's a challenge.

I want to note that I say this as an invitation, not as an imperative. We need more, we don't necessarily need everyone. I'm also not saying that it needs to be through the Boy Scouts of America, either. There are lots of platforms for engagement, and maybe you will have one that's personal to you.

I'm saying that you should maybe resist the impulse to count. Sometimes just changing one life is more than enough.

On “On Changing The Subject

It sounds like there were specific shows that the network though were too much, and asked them to dial back. And this pretty much undercuts most of the argument for "I just want to watch a sporting event and not be bothered by a lot of political talk". That was happening, the overt political stuff was on commentary shows, not on broadcasts of sporting events. I think it wasn't hard to predict what shows you might find it on.

So the ban is far more about avoiding boycotts and bad press than it was about providing non-political sports coverage.

Which reminds me about D&D. I'm a bit older, so I was in grad school when it came out and I played it. The business about it being satanic had a real impact, since it convinced the local hobby store with the biggest stock of minis and other gear to wipe out all of that inventory.

But I had several years before rejected the notion that if something wasn't explicitly Christian, it was satanic. This seemed, frankly, at odds with what I'd read in the bible. I understood it to be more like a crescent wrench - something that could be used for a purpose, and what purpose that ended up being was up to you. We make moral imprints on things. In D&D we could play paladins that slay demons, and that was the normal state of affairs, not demon worship.

Ugh.

On “Comment Rescue: The Underclass

In some regard, the term "coastal elites" is completely fair, but it other ways it seems like a monstrous distraction. Severe inequality is a problem in all places we might find it, not just on the coast. And I'm pretty sure we can find it elsewhere.

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To Rufus: I love this comment. I feel sad that some of the conservatives I've tried to make this point with look at me like I'm from another planet. For instance, I've read some stuff by Victor Davis Hanson that seems very strongly to point to the damage of inequality, but I got instant pushback from conservative friends, alas.

To Jaybird: Thanks so much for rescuing this comment. I would never have seen it otherwise.

To myself: Another brick in the building I call We Need to Make it Easier for People to Move Around to Follow Opportunities. I think this is a pretty big thing these days.

On “Kevin Williamson’s Smallest World

One other note. That passage where Williamson describes Ayn Rand's morality makes me think of Thanos, of MCU repute.

Thanos is absolutely sure that he is the prime moral agent of the universe, and that nobody else has the moral vision that he does. He must needs destroy the world to save it. So it is with Rand, dropping rocks on all the wrongdoers (honestly some of them seem to be wrongthinkers rather than wrongdoers, and I wonder just what the distance is between her and the Communists?) in order to bring about her perfect utopian world.

I fundamentally reject Rand's moral view, though I get that she has one, if that matters.

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I really like paragraph two, the one that begins "Part of my argument is that people turn to the social-media-driven phenomenon of mob politics as a substitute for the civil society..."

I think this is well-observed and worthy of further consideration. I think that mob rule is probably a consequence of, and perhaps a driver of, atomization. (I generally do not express myself as colorfully as Williamson does, but I am not a fan of the Twitter mob either.)

I find it strange that conservatives blame liberals for this phenomenon, which happens sometimes. I don't think Williamson is doing that, at least he doesn't here.

At the same time, the medium itself drives one toward identity defense, which itself engenders "mob rule". People are constantly misunderstood in social media, precisely because they are constantly subject to context collapse. A single sentence or phrase can, and is, shorn from the person saying it, with all their history.

How many tales do we know where someone says something meant to be ironic and darkly humorous, to have it taken as earnest and therefore, highly objectionable? We know lots of these stories these days. I contend it is fundamental to media, and one of the core things that makes politics be the way it is.

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I feel like I know what is being talked about here.

For instance, let's consider Social Security. I have said that what one gets for one's FICA payments is having your parents not move in with you when they retire.

Now, this can easily be said to weaken the family bond, and in some sense, that is true. The government is taking over a function (retirement care/funding) which was once held privately.

But I think it's highly questionable whether it actually weakens families. Those families who want to hang out together (like mine) will still hang out together. And the ones that won't won't be forced to. The libertarian part of me says that an unforced association is going to be a better one. I will be less likely to be infused with some resentment.

I'm adopted. It's clear to me that families are a construct, rather than a biological inevitability. All families. I'm in favor of putting in the work to create them, acknowledging that it takes work, and it will always take work.

So Social Security, in the end, reorganizes how we live in retirement, but it doesn't really destroy families.

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I love me some Dostoyevsky in the morning. And that's the best. I clapped my hands on reading it.

Well done. Well done indeed.

On “Weekend Plans Post: Wedding Season

Hey, in thirty plus years we have switched sides of the bed maybe 3 or 4 times. Mostly it happens when we move or rearrange the furniture.

On “Kevin Williamson’s Smallest World

Avi described conservatives as wanting to conserve something. I am a liberal because I want to change some things. Because I think they will be better. My ideology really doesn't go much deeper than that. I suppose some might think that a flaw, but I see it as my primary principle is "love people" or perhaps "use money to help people rather than use people to get money".

There are, in fact, a bunch of things I want to conserve: Social Security, Medicare, National Parks, wilderness, spotted owls, a free and open Internet and so on. Somehow that doesn't make me a conservative, though, but a raging socialist. That label doesn't make any sense to me.

On “Democratic Debates: The Moderates Strike Back

The lesson of the 2016 campaign is that a lot of voters want to hear more about aspirations and feelings than they want to know about incremental creep.

I think they get that when you get in office, you deal with realities, which might well mean not enough votes. But they want the Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG) that was talked about in Built to Last, the best business book ever written.

That's how I relate to Medicare for All, which I consider a slogan. It's wildly ambiguous, and could mean anything from a public option to abolishing health insurance. But as a slogan, it means, "we could easily do better than we are doing", because most people who engage with Medicare think it works pretty well. Maybe not great, but miles better than nothing.

On “When The Landscaping Crew Stages a Walkout

Your link is to a very cool video about how Disney's Tower of Terror works. Which is awesome, but probably not what you wanted. Unless there's some sly joke I'm not picking up on.

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