7 things @ 11 o’clock (7.11)

7 things @ 11 o’clock (7.11) July 11, 2013

1. Two videos — both incredible, but in very different ways: One toke over the line. A flash of lightning.

2. Scot McKnight shares a story about how Justices Antonin Scalia and Elena Kagan have become “hunting buddies.” I’ve often thought it would be constructive to organize hunting trips like this, sending NRA-beholden lawmakers out for a long weekend with, say, police officials who favor gun-safety laws. That might provide a chance for the cops to convince them that common-sense gun legislation isn’t the threat to Second Amendment rights that they fearfully imagine it to be.

But in the case of Justice Kagan, I’d advise a bit of caution. She’s probably safe as long as there’s a Democratic president in the White House, but once there’s a president in office who would fill a Supreme Court vacancy with another member of the Federalist Society, then I’m not sure she should head into the woods with an armed hothead who might be dreaming of pulling a Cheney as a short-cut to a 6-3 majority.

3. I linked yesterday to Sarah Moon’s post on “Privilege, oppression, and being ‘nice.'” She was responding to an earnestly awful post elsewhere in the evangelical blogosphere titled “Are Christian Feminists Hurting Their Cause?” (You know, because they’re all pushy and angry and insufficiently grateful for all that men have begun to allow them to do.) Amy Mitchell also has a nice response to that post, titled “The tone policing needs to stop.” But I think my favorite response is from Dianna E. Anderson, who co-opts and wonderfully spoofs the faux-concern and condescension of the original in a post titled, “Are Christian Complementarians Hurting Their Cause?” Sauce for the gander indeed. That’s deserving of a Nina Turner Award for the Exposure of Duplicitous Hypocrisy.

4. Rent-seeking can be a tricky thing to explain or to grasp. It basically means making money without ever making anything else, or collecting wealth without creating value. Concurring Opinions points us to a new book from Geoff Mulgan which provides a helpful metaphor for this form of affluent parasitism. The book is called The Locust and the Bee: Predators and Creators in Capitalism’s Future. Here’s the nut of it:

If you want to make money, you can choose between two fundamentally different strategies. One is to create genuinely new value by bringing resources together in ways that serve people’s wants and needs. The other is to seize value through predation, taking resources, money, or time from others, whether they like it or not.

Hence locusts vs. bees. Or, as I usually think of it, Old Man Potter vs. George Bailey.

5. Andy Kessler was losing an argument with his 16-year-old son, so he made the disastrous decision to continue losing that argument even harder in a far more public forum. Kessler, a hedge fund manager (i.e., a rent-seeking locust), took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to repeat his belief that homelessness is caused by homeless shelters.

Scott Keyes performs the necessary chore of shredding Kessler’s factually ignorant and morally stunted argument, but what I find most interesting is the between-the-lines family drama this column inadvertently reveals. Kessler makes it clear that he had grown frustrated by his son’s failure to be instantaneously convinced and converted by this blinkered analysis of the “damage” done by shelters. He didn’t get the answer he was looking for — something like, “You’re so smart, Dad, and so very right, so I will now quit volunteering at the homeless shelter” — and so he has repeated it to his peers, to the other WSJ-reading locusts who are sure to supply the hearty agreement he was looking for. It doesn’t occur to him that his son has acquired real-world experience as a volunteer, and that he has thus encountered truths and learned things about reality that cannot be reconciled with his father’s elegantly self-serving theories.

As Doktor Zoom writes, the whole thing is “kind of sad, like Homer Simpson telling Lisa, ‘It’s OK honey, I used to believe in things too.”

But hang in there, kid. Your dad may be disgracing himself, but that’s not on you.

 6. “This argument has been made before, with equal self-satisfaction but without quite this level of obliviousness.” That’s from Eric C. Miller’s devastating Religion Dispatches essay “An Evangelical Intellectual Takes on Same-Sex Marriage, Grasps at Straw Men.”

7. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is in trouble and he deserves to be in trouble. Not just because he allegedly has taken tens of thousands of dollars in gifts from the owner of a dietary supplement company, and not even just because those gifts appear to be a transparent quid pro quo in exchange for the governor’s support for that company’s products. McDonnell’s bigger problem is the nature of some of those gifts and the cartoonish opulence of the luxuries he’s purchased with this ethically dubious money. The governor received a $6,500 Rolex watch — engraved with the inscription “71st Virginia Governor.” The business owner took McDonnell’s wife shopping — in Manhattan, at Bergdorf Goodman, for an Oscar de la Renta dress. The governor borrowed the business owner’s luxury car — a Ferrari. This is the Republican governor of a Southern state, but his spending habits read like the kind of hoity-toity East Coast liberal elite caricature you’d hear vilified by Rush Limbaugh or the speakers at a tea party rally. Mitt Romney had better populist instincts than this guy. Heck, Rafalca had better populist instincts.

An undisclosed $6,500 contribution or a dodgy gift of $15,000 to the first lady might be ethics violations, but McDonnell might have ridden out the scandal if those gifts had been simple cash transfers. But a $6,500 Rolex and a $15,000 haute coutore shopping spree at Bergdorf Goodman provide the kind of unforgettable, unforgivable details that will likely make it impossible for McDonnell to rally enough support from his base to survive this.

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  • Jamoche

    Speaking of surprising human injuries from fish:

    In the 1970’s silver carp were accidentally introduced into the Illinois River after escaping from a fish farm. The fish mistake pressure waves from the propellors of the boat’s motors for the movements of predators and jump with fright. Each jumping fish scares its neighbour, causing a dangerous chain reaction. Narrated By David Tennant

  • Lori

    I assume you’re familiar with WTF, Evolution?


  • Which abruptly reminds me that the NRA was using targets of Zombie Obama recently…

  • Alix

    YES. I love that tumblr. It’s on my weekly reading circuit.

    If there’s one thing that site proves, it’s that nature is always weirder than you thought.

  • The mimic octopus is the greatest thing ever. If they get much more intelligent, they’ll pass for humans. More so than they do already.

  • It was indeed. :P

  • Daniel

    Cthulu’s head keeps growing, and growing faster, the long he lives while his body stays the same or shrinks?

  • Daniel

    He also used to wank in public and lived in a big pot, so pros and cons. My favorite story about him is the old chestnut about Alexander the Great asking if there was anything he could do for Diogenes- the reply “yes, you can get out of my light.”

  • Mark Z.

    I’m told in a very arch tone that it’s just a fun way of prepping for real disasters, and that if you’re prepared to survive zombie hordes surviving a superstorm or epidemic or somesuch is a cakewalk.

    Right, except that the zombie apocalypse is the inverse of a real disaster. The usual scenario is that with almost everyone turned into zombies, cities are depopulated and there’s a very high ratio of available food, water, and shelter to survivors. The only problem is that there’s a zombie horde in the way, so you get your boomstick of choice and clear a path.

    So what you’re really preparing for is a disaster in which the solution is to kill your neighbors and take their stuff.

  • Daniel

    “bauxite would rather catch fire than melt.”
    Which is why it’s so bloody hard to seduce, but totally worth it if you manage.

  • Daniel

    I am so pleased someone’s given me an opening to post this link:
    A warrior stands ready- just like at the Olympics because G4S couldn’t make it and the army had to step in.

  • And that is how Captain Jack turned into the Face of Boe.

  • Daniel

    It’s not a question of intelligence, we just don’t have much time on our (admittedly numerous) hands. I’ve only been able to contribute so much because I made a killing predicting results for the last World Cup so was able to retire early.


  • Mark Z.

    It’s all been downhill since that Spanish guy discovered you could make one out of a shaving basin.

  • Daniel

    BBC? That sounds more like ITV. I suppose they’re trying another cack-handed attempt to placate the government so the license fee can go up again.

  • Alix


    And, well, as a person with violent fantasies, indulging in them as fantasies is not only something I consider fine, but even necessary as a mental release. But I make damn sure I keep a bright, hard line between fantasy and reality, and I’m increasingly disturbed by the number of ZA folks who seem to be trying their level best to act like it’s real.

    …This is, incidentally, the problem I have with some people I know, who basically try to live out their fantasy life. (I’m talking things like the ZA or other fantastic fantasies, not mundane “my dream is to be a cook and live in the mountains!” kind of fantasies.) They seem to be purposely destroying the bounds between fantasy and reality … and frankly, that worries me about an awful lot of paranormal researchers, too, or folks who study conspiracy theories. These ways of thinking are habit patterns.

    (For anyone interested, The Trickster and the Paranormal by George Hansen has a number of terrifying sections on how that fantasy-reality line can break down in paranormal researchers. Even if you don’t buy the rest of his stuff, about the reality of paranormal phenomena, it’s worth finding somewhere just to read that – and his book’s structured so you don’t have to read the other parts for any one part to make sense.)

  • Zombie stuff can get tiresome even if you’re lucky enough to be around people who don’t use it as an excuse to fantasize about killing the neighbours.

    I’ve started saying, “If Gozer appears and says, ‘You shall choose the form of your destruction’, the zombie obsessives will have screwed us all.”

  • Boidster

    I got suspended from that school during that quarter and forcibly transferred into another. I was forbidden to go back to that campus, so I never got an answer.

    OK now cut that out. You can’t just start two interesting anecdotes and then leave us hanging on both of them. So, what did you set on fire? (I’ve got a buck on “set something on fire”.)

  • Fusina

    “I’m fairly burn-resistant, and so pale that even with a week of soaking
    in Vitamin D, I look like I just stepped out of the basement.”

    Another one like me? People do not believe that I neither burn nor tan–actually, I can burn but it takes a long time (like, 8 to 10 hours). And I’ve given up on my legs ever being anything but pasty white. The worst I’ve ever felt about it was when an African American friend of mine and I were at the beach…and she got darker while I stayed my usual vampire queen pale.

  • FearlessSon

    I yelled at someone.

    That was the catalyst, in any case. I was kind of angry back in high school. I felt that the upperclassmen were allowed to run too wild, that the school placed too much emphasis on “school spirit” and not enough on academics, and I made my opinion known during school rally events… by setting myself apart from the bleachers and ranting at the top of my lungs. This embarrassed the school administration, and they considered me a problem. They even forced me to drop a bunch of the supplemental classes I was taking, believing I must be too stressed from the workload I took on in an effort to get extra credits in so I could graduate early. They really ruined that scheme, damning me to another year I high school I was trying to avoid.

    Anyway, one day during a class I spoke with an upperclassmen, and told her my feelings about how I hated the hierarchical structure of the school social system. She managed to change my mind on the matter, got me to let it go a bit. I was grateful to her. A week later I was brought into the principal’s office, where the school police officer read me my Miranda Rights. The upperclassmen I spoke to had gone to the officer, saying that what I said to her frightened her. I got to see a copy of the report she made that the officer filed, starting with the words “Now I don’t want to get him in trouble, but…”

    The officer filed it, as per standard procedure, someone at the district attorney’s office saw it and decided that, since the Columbine High School shooting was in the news, they better play it safe rather than sorry and filed a felonious harassment charge against me. I yelled at the upperclassmen because I trusted her and she had changed my mind. The school administration saw this as their opportunity and suspended me, forbid me from returning to the campus, and had me mail in all my homework. After a month of “correspondence learning” I was transferred to another school in the district and put in a special program for juvenile delinquents.

    The program teacher put me to work tutoring the rest of her charges in math. I got a deferred deposition, with the record sealed and expunged, given a year’s probation and community service as a slap on the wrist (which was reduced because I had already been voluntarily doing community service even before that so that got to count against the total time.) I was told that if I shaped up my act, I would be let into my old school.

    So I sacrificed all my free time, put my nose to the grindstone, went on a bunch of medications to keep my mood perpetually even, and made every effort to communicate that my spirit of defiance was thoroughly broken. After a year, I met with the old principal who had kicked me out in the first place. He acknowledged that indeed I had made substantial improvement, met every demand they made of me, and I did deserve my second chance to back to my original school. Which was exactly why he was not letting me back. I was doing too well at the new school, and he did not want to mess that up by keeping up his end of the bargain.

    And that is the story of the worst year of my life.

  • GDwarf

    Actually, the living in a pot shows that he wasn’t just talk. His general mocking of social norms also included the (apparently unthinkable) act of eating food in the market, rather than taking it home. Given that that apparently was considered terrible enough that it gets many mentions, one rather wonders if our reaction to wanking in public won’t look as silly in a few thousand years.

    My favourite story about him is probably when he brought a “man” to Plato. Plato had, to great acclaim, published his definition of what a man was (something like “a featherless biped”) so Diogenes walked in on one of his lectures and threw a plucked chicken on the ground, exclaiming “Behold! I bring you a man!” The definition was quickly amended, though Plato clearly didn’t get the point, since he simply added: “Without scaly legs” or something like that.

  • arcseconds

    Kessler reminds me of this column of Krugman’s


    In particular, his characterization of Prescott’s position as saying the Great Depression was really the Great Vacation (apparently an old Keynesian jab).

  • MarkTemporis

    kill your neighbors and take their stuff.

    How else does anyone earn xp?

  • katz

    I owned Mike Duran with the power of statistics. (Spoiler: He’s more likely to call out women than men.)

  • BaseDeltaZero

    Based on ‘circulated’ is that $1.40/4.70 necessarily *lost*, or is it just a matter of opportunity cost?

  • BaseDeltaZero

    Yeah. I, for one, have no interest in taking the guns away. But you’d think they could be at least as regulated as say, automobiles.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    And whenever I interject that maybe the zombie apocalypse
    isn’t actually going to happen, I’m told in a very arch tone that it’s just a fun way of prepping for real disasters, and that if you’re prepared to survive zombie hordes surviving a superstorm or epidemic or somesuch is a cakewalk.

    That *could* be an argument, except that usually ZA ‘strategies’ focus more on killing zombies, and, occasionally, looting, than anything that might actually be useful in a disaster scenario. Effectiveness of a shotgun vs a hurricane = approximately zero.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    An undisclosed $6,500 contribution or a dodgy gift of $15,000 to the first lady might be ethics violations, but McDonnell might have ridden out the scandal if those gifts had been simple cash transfers. But a $6,500 Rolex and a $15,000 haute coutore shopping spree at Bergdorf Goodman provide the kind of unforgettable, unforgivable details that will likely make it impossible for McDonnell to rally enough support from his base to survive this.
    Reminds me of Plunkett of Tammany Hall’s chapter on “Honest Graft vs Dishonest Graft”. Or the difference between being “honestly dishonest” and “stupidly dishonest”. And by the time he gets to the governor’s mansion, shouldn’t a crooked pol understand plausible deniability, laundering, and keeping a low profile?

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Ever heard of Thorstein Veblien and his Theory of the Leisure Class?

  • Indeed.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    The main problem with the Bootstraps ideology is that it tends to all-too-quickly evolve into a Jackboot ideology.
    “I GOT MINE,
    — Glenn Frye

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    One thing I’ve learned over the years is that every single ‘self made’ success story includes getting help from someone. Even Horatio Alger heroes become successful by catching the eye of the factory owner or whatever. That’s not exactly achieving by yourself.
    And what’s wrong with someone in authority pulling others less fortunate up to their level, giving them a break? Much better than those who enjoy their privileges for themselves and themselves alone, and actively crush anyone who tries to climb into their lifeboat. (That was the base dynamic of the Nouveau Riche Victorian commoners who’d just purchased their noble titles; nobody is as vicious about those threats trying to climb up to their level as someone who has just climbed up themselves.)

  • Given that the way wealth and money tends to move in modern “Anglo-type” (UK, USA, to a lesser extent Canada, Australia, New Zealamd) Washington-Consensus dominated economies it’s clear that it’s basically taking more money pushed into the hands of the rich to get some of it down to the workers.

    Rather the opposite of “trickle down”!

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    One is to create genuinely new value by bringing
    resources together in ways that serve people’s wants and needs. The
    other is to seize value through predation, taking resources, money, or
    time from others, whether they like it or not.

    The first is actually expanding the size of the pie, allowing more and more people a chance at cashing in.
    The second is the Zero-Sum Game, where the only way to get more for me is to take it away from you. By force if necessary.
    I have often worried that all the Club of Rome/One Small Spaceship Earth hype of the earlier environmental movement unknowingly spread a Zero-Sum zeitgeist while singing “Kum-Ba-Yah”.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Kessler, a hedge fund manager (i.e., a rent-seeking locust), took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to repeat his belief that homelessness is caused by homeless shelters.
    “Stupidity is like hydrogen; it’s the basic building block of the universe.”
    — Frank Zappa

  • I think part of the problem is that at some indefinable point in the future there truly will be no net gain for humanity as a whole if we remain on Planet Earth.

    The Second Law of Thermodynamics will see to that, if the sun’s life-cycle does not.

    The problem here is the doomthinkers on the left (“OMG WHY SHOULD WE LEAVE HERE WE’LL JUST POLLUTE THE UNIVERSE”) and the stuck-in-the-muds on the right (“SPACE? SPACE??? YOU ADDLE-HEADED MUSHY HIPPY-DIPPY.”) find common cause in refusing to embrace the radical notion that just maybe if we can get out into space, into the solar system, we can access such an embarrassing wealth of resources as to give all of humanity a lifestyle worthy of kings and queens.

    We’ve already reached the point of population stabilization. All that remains now is to stop insisting we have to exploit each other for the gain of a few.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    That’s just fanboy dynamics; has nothing to do per se with “Authoritarian”, “Liberal”, “Conservative”, or anything else.

  • Yeah. I’ve heard the term “white-knighting” to refer to someone who thunders on into a heated debate determined to defend one partcular person’s honor.

  • I heard of a few politicians who had the mental rule that they’d accept a bottle of expensive alcohol, but not more than that, for the pragmatic reason that at least you can drink away the evidence.

  • The problem is the inherent capriciousness of a system like that.

    It helps keep alive the lie that people who didn’t catch the right lucky break have only themselves to blame for not living the success story that the American Dream “sells”.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Well, in so far as it relates to, for instance, the means of production. The worth of my labour is explicitly devalued by the company I work for so they can make a profit for the owners or shareholders.

    Isn’t that Marx’s concept of “Surplus Value”?

    Note that I figure Marx as a systems analyst who (from a 19th Century knowledge base) wrote a systems analysis of capitalism as it was practiced in his time. Then he branched out into political/revolutionary philosophy and his More-Marxist-than-Marx fanboys turned that political/revolution philosophy into a “secular fundamentalist religion” that caused millions of deaths and much suffering through the 20th Century.

  • I’m not really into Marx as like, a totemic figure but I’m also not really into take downs of an argument based on attacking the author. I do work at my company; my company turns a profit on my work & that profit is distributed to the owners or shareholders. Seems pretty relevant to the discussion.

  • There’s nothing wrong with it that you or I would see, but to certain schools of economic conservatism, the very idea is anathema, hence someone like Paul Ryan wanting to slash the financial aid budget to around a third of its present level.

  • I think I’ve only ever heard it used to dismiss someone as taking a position purely in order to get sex, as in “You’re just being a white knight, defending that uppity woman so she’ll fuck you.”