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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Monday, August 24, 2015

BLACK KNIGHTS


"Heeere I come to save the day!"
-Mighty Mouse

So I'm commenting on a blog about all sorts of stuff, procrastinating, when the topic of Michelle Obama's fashion sense comes up.  This is always worth some laughs because she's as bad at it as I am, and ought to know better.
I noted that she does look pretty good for someone her age, but that a lot of black women seem to be blessed in this way, that they don't show their age.  Its sort of like Asian women; they stay looking pretty young until a fairly old age.
I got two responses to this. 
From a white guy I got "so they all look the same to you???"
From a black woman I got "yep, you should see my mom!"
Now, its hard to tell often online if someone is being sarcastic or not, but this highlighted a serious problem in American culture as I see it.
The black woman had no problem with what I said, she recognized it as being generally accurate and even possibly complimentary.  Now, she's from Africa, so her attitude isn't quite the same as many American blacks, but her response was very reasonable.  This is a recognized fact.
But the white guy, he had to jump in with both feet and make a declaration protecting black women like a knight in shining armor.  Here's my chance to fight racism!  What you said could in some remotely twisted, vaguely connected way possibly be considered racist if you squint hard enough!  I'll save you, helpless negress!  Its pretty condescending, really.
White Knighting is an online term that refers to someone coming to the defense or rescue of a girl who often isn't even present.  How dare you post that picture of her!  The term is used in a derogatory
way, mocking people as if they are thinking she might like me if I defend her!  Which might have some validity in some cases.
But this could be called Black Knighting, where a white guy leaps to the racist argument and assumes bigotry in cases where a black person goes "yeah, ok."  And it happens a lot in modern culture, with white guys trying to out black everyone around them.  
Its a form of contempt and condescension toward blacks, presuming they need help and protecting.  Its a form of social climbing by trying to be the most concerned and socially aware person in the room.  And its driven largely by the fear that someone will say you're racist, so people are trying to get ahead of it by denouncing someone else first.
We've gotten to the point in our culture where its assumed that everyone else is racist, as long as they are not black, and its just a matter of picking the right point at which to yell the word like a social Bingo game.
The white people are trying to out-outrage blacks when it comes to race now, and until that shifts culturally its only going to get... stupider.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

THE ANIMAS EFFECT

"Hell isn't merely paved with good intentions; it's walled and roofed with them. Yes, and furnished too."
-Aldous Huxley

Recently, the EPA went to investigate potential environmental damage from a mine that was closed down in 1923.  Before they were done, the Animas River beneath the mine turned from this:

To this:

Levels of  lead, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium and mercury are up to ten times the acceptable levels that the EPA has established.  Most legacy media outlets are decrying a "mining accident" and not mentioning the EPA at all.  It took almost a week for CNN to mention the EPA as in the article linked above.
Let's say United Allied Mining Consolidated (UAMC), big mining company, had caused this gigantic spill, polluting a popular vacation spot and fishing, boating, and swimming scenic area with millions of gallons of poisons and chemicals.
How long would it be before the EPA had them in court and was fining them for millions of dollars in addition to the costs of cleanup?  How much would this cost the company?  How much would environmentalist groups condemn the action, and how many news stories would there be about the evils of mining accidents and how sloppy they are?
How long would Jon Stewart have done a segment on them, rolling his eyes and mugging for the camera?  How many Daily Kos, Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, etc posts would there be about the wicked mining company's negligence and evil activities?
As it is, here's what we see at the Sierra Club:
Amusingly, the link they give goes to a page that immediately blames the EPA, not "an abandoned mine" whose ghosts apparently caused the leak, if the Sierra Club is to be believed.
Now imagine if you will, what the penalty will be for the EPA.
Go ahead, I'll give you a few moments...
That's right: nothing. At worst, some sacrificial lamb will be fired.  The cost of cleanup will be put on the shoulders of the taxpayers, although some especially clever and corrupt agency drone may try to sue the descendents of former mine owners for it.
The EPA will not pay a bit for what happens here.  They aren't even being shamed by the people who claim to care most about the environment.
This makes a pretty critical point about economics, politics, policy and culture for me.
I'm what you'd call an environmentalist.  I've posted about this before; I got our church to start recycling old papers, I pick up trash when I go for a walk.  I'm all for cleanup and blocking pollution.  I want us to be wise, concerned, and responsible stewards of the beautiful world we've been given, not rape it for all its worth.
The Gold King Mine is not a nice place.  Its leaking toxic crud into the nearby creek slowly and needed cleaning up.  I don't see where the US Constitution empowers the federal government to take tax dollars and do so with the EPA, but the job needs doing. This massive gush of death into the water is a bad thing.
And for me, its bad when this happens no matter who does it.  I don't have anyone in particular I want to shield from consequences or penalty in this fight.  Big business, small business, private citizen, government, it doesn't matter.  Its wrong and should be punished.
But the fact is, a business faces more penalties and consequences than government when it does exactly the same thing.  They are fined, sued, penalized, and punished.  What's more, the media makes sure they are shamed and publicly humiliated for their actions - and rightly so, that's one of the best functions of the fourth estate.
In other words, businesses are accountable for what they do.  They pay a price when they do wrong.  That's part of the function of a market as well as legal and moral function of a society, when someone does wrong, they pay a price.  It can take a while, and sometimes they get away with it, but there is still accountability.
Contrast that with government.  Politicians can pay a price for enraging their constituents, by being voted out, but that doesn't happen very often.  Particularly the higher up in office you get, the less often there's a price to pay.  2014 was one of the most shocking and extensive bloodbaths in American history, with voters changing the majority party in office in the Senate and heavily increasing it in the House. Yet still, over 95% of sitting legislators were reelected.  This, despite a roughly 14% approval rating of congress.  And its usually a higher reelection level for incumbents.
And while politicians may come and go, people working in the guts of government - staffers, agency heads, secretaries, etc - stay.  They stay through administration changes, party changes, they stay for decades.  They do not pay a price when the nation gets sick of one party or another, one politician or another.
In other words, government is not accountable.  What would ruin a company causes minor shrugs in government.  Watch, and see if there's even a demotion at the EPA for this debacle.  I bet nothing at all will happen.
And that's the key to understanding conservativism when it comes to markets and business.  Leftists distrust business - and that's good, they should.  But they trust government, and that's naive and foolish.  It might even be corrupt, since many leftists work at government.  Chamber of Commerce Republicans like Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina distrust government, which is good, but they trust business, which is naive and foolish, or even corrupt.
Conservatives should and usually do, distrust both.  But we recognize that while business is accountable and pays a price for its misdeeds, government almost never does, and when it does, its in a minor and meaningless way.
And that's just wise to recognize.