Pearl Harbor. Walk with me.
There are well-known and less-well-known consequences of American involvement in WWII. It's common knowledge that the eventual nuclear annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki set up the Cold War which was the ultimate battleground between capitalism and communism. Less well-known is the fact that the United States didn't ultimately win the war because of the atom bomb but because of our powers of industrial and agricultural production.
Marc Reisner argued that the Army Corps of Engineers won WWII with Grand Coulee Dam. It produced an impossible surplus of power when it was brought online; it had no customers. Then the war broke out and Americans were able to refine aluminum (an electrically-intensive process; the Intalco plant in Blaine, WA uses more electricity than Los Angeles) at a fraction of the price of anyone else in the world.
But in addition to aluminum, the impossible edge in oil refining really took off in WWII. Germany ground to a halt when we took their oil fields in North Africa. Meanwhile our fields in California and Texas turned out gasoline in quantities unmatched anywhere else in the world. And when you make gas, you can also make fertilizer. And when you've converted the Great American Desert to "the Heartland" you make food. You make food that travels. You make corn, potatoes and rice. And you feed that corn and rice to chickens, cows and pigs. And you drop food on the Russians, you drop food on the Chinese, you ship food to England and Australia, and while Germany and Japan are wracked with famine you share your American bounty around.
An interesting side note: because it was a Japanese attack, the safe thing to do, obviously, is lock up all the Japanese. Especially as they're sitting on a bunch of plum farmland on the West coast. You know, the one closest to the Japanese Empire. The one full of refugees from the Dust Bowl. Itinerant farmers from the South and the Midwest who came to California and starved because there are only so may people to pick oranges and strawberries. The ones who will thank you and vote for you and keep growing oranges and strawberries and everything else on formerly-Japanese farms they bought for pennies on the dollar when their original owners get shipped off to Manzanar.
So now Europe is in ruins and the Marshall Plan is going to make everything better. Ship that food out. Soft power! But it's got to travel. Hedgerow to Hedgerow we'll even push the Soviets around by selling it when they behave and withholding it when they don't. But it's got to travel. So corn, rice, soy and potatoes are food. We'll do anything we can to grow more food so that we can influence the behavior of the world with food. We'll subsidize the shit out of food so that everyone is growing food. Meanwhile those now-rich farmers on the West Coast who are growing carrots and olives and lettuce and spinach and oranges and apples? Yeah, they don't need any competition. They don't grow food because then those uppity black folx might go into competition with them for the high-value stuff. So they grow specialty crops. And it's assigned a fair market value.
A market value that goes up because you don't need to eat "specialty crops," not really. After all, the Irish subsisted off of potatoes and potatoes are food. And corn can be made into anything, man. It can be made into sugar - sugar that's way cheaper than cane sugar! It can be fed to cows - way cheaper than grass! It can be fed to chickens! Pigs are less likely to eat it, so pig farming largely goes away (it's come back with a vengeance because the Chinese have a preference for pork but as a foodstuff it's consumption by Americans has plummeted). But Americans eat corn, and things that eat corn, and there's so much excess corn and rice and soy when we're not shipping it all over the world to cajole our foreign policy needs through soft power that there are entire divisions of the USDA trying to figure out what to do with all the stuff.
And you know capitalism. Make more money. Finished products make more money than raw ingredients; you'll get so much more for a box of macaroni and cheese than you will for wheat and milk. Process the shit out of it and it'll keep forever. Process the shit out of it and it'll travel far. Process the shit out of it and you can turn it into whatever flavor you want it to be. Process the shit out of it and you can sell it to anyone, anywhere forever.
Somewhere around here we've got an article that argues the dominant species on earth isn't humans, it's corn. After all, we've basically given over our food production to it. A Wendy's meal, if I recall correctly, was ultimately about 80% corn (including the French fries). And against that we've got "specialty crops" that we have to refrigerate to get them across country and there are vast swaths of the US where "specialty crops" aren't even sold because it's so easy and cheap to get food. A box of Little Debbie snack cakes costs less than a head of lettuce. And a box of Little Debbie snack cakes will keep you alive if you're starving. And a box of Little Debbie snack cakes will sit on the shelf for nine months or more and nobody will be the wiser. The power goes out on that head of lettuce and it's garbage before morning.
And it's fuckin' lettuce.
Meanwhile we're all working harder for less, working longer for less, driving farther for less. The calories are easy and the nutrition is hard and that's before you recognize that we've arranged our entire food economy around food not "specialty crops." Reuters pointed out yesterday that one in three workers also has some form of job in the gig economy; even if we're working 40 hours a week (we're not, we're working 47) we're also filling our spare time with TaskRabbit, with Uber, with Mechanical Turk. And as humans, we're biologically programmed to pack on pounds when we're stressed because stress means starvation. I think it was Richard Wrangham who pointed out that there have only been about 125,000 generations since homo habilus split off from Australopithecus. Homo Sapiens is only 7500 generations. Go to Mile High Stadium, start "The Wave" and by the time it makes its way back round to you, the person next to you is a Neanderthal.
So here we are. Impossibly cheap calories, impossibly sedentary lifestyles, impossible stressors. Fight or flight doesn't care if it's a mastodon or an impending bankruptcy they'll both keep you up at night. At least if it's a mastodon you can run. We can't. So we get fat. And because we're Americans, and we've got a nice Protestant work ethic, and because we're rugged individualists, if you're fat it's a personal failing. Society hasn't let you down, the system hasn't failed you, you're a glutton and you should feel bad.
Well, I'd start with
1) Take it the fuck easier on the poor and lower middle class.
2) Prioritize nutrition over calories. Know who used to be in charge of school nutrition? The goddamn Department of Defense. Then Nixon kicked 'em out and Reagan categorized ketchup as a fruit.
3) Make healthcare a nonprofit industry again. Know what's stupid cheap? Diet, exercise and sleep. Know what's crazy expensive? The time of medical professionals. Know where you can't make any money? Diet, exercise and sleep. Know where your profit centers are? Prescription drugs.
Weight Watchers costs around $700 a month - including food. They get an extra $13 a week to tell you "atta boy! You're doing good!" Insulin costs around $500 a month. No food. Insurance pays for insulin, usually. It rarely pays for Weight Watchers. Can you imagine what our society looked like if we had, you know, nutrition?
The fundamental basis of this article is "we know how to make people healthier, but we don't give a shit." I think it's more than that. It's more than tradition. It's that in order to solve the problem, we have to break capitalism.
And nobody wants to break capitalism.
If this guy:
doesn't "get it" then "it" shouldn't be gotten. If your business is investing in educational technology and you aren't allowed to point out educational technology that shouldn't be invested in, this whole artifice needs to come down, man.
These guys should be allowed to comment. If you're following them on Twitter, it's because you want to know what they think about stuff. A Zuckerberg and Thiel-funded libertarian spankbank that eats shit to the tune of $250m? We need the world to talk about that shit.
Nope. Not buyin' it. Many of the excesses of capitalism can be traced to indentured servitude prior to slavery and many more can be traced back to penal servitude prior to indentured servitude. The excesses of capitalism were imported directly from England, which wasn't a standout in Europe for feudal brutality by any measure.
More than that, we fought a war against slavery and it's not like things got better for everyone after the elimination of slavery, nor were things fine and dandy in the North where slavery was abolished. Most of the worst aspects of capitalism arose during the Gilded Age where wage slavery was an essential part of the economy and where industrialists thought it was fine and dandy to hire private armies like the Pinkertons to murder union sympathizers and organizers.
American capitalism is brutal because America, Britain and the other "neoliberal" countries of the world cast capitalism and socialism as Manichean absolutes whereas the rest of the world saw them as poles on a spectrum. Once the Tsar fell, the world spent a hundred years realigning itself on that spectrum. Those forces that were most directly oppositional to communism ended up with the most free-market excesses; those that were most directly oppositional to capitalism ended up with the most excesses of a command economy.
The non-aligned movement allowed nations that were not directly required to kowtow to one ideology or another to pick and choose the market characteristics that they wanted without adhering solely to one pole or the other. This is why countries like France have many free-market aspects and many socialist aspects. The effects are masked in other nations by graft, corruption and cronyism but by and large, the rest of the world uses socialist aspects where they make sense and capitalist aspects where they make money without crushing everyone. The problem is that cronyism destroys socialism eventually while it buttresses and strengthens capitalism.
American capitalism is brutal because for 60 years we were able to point at the Soviet Union and China and Cuba and Vietnam and Cambodia and Nicaragua and Venezuela and say "WE DON'T WANT THAT AND IF YOU DO YOU ARE THE ENEMY." Up until 2016, "socialist" was an epithet in American political discourse. Up until 1989, "socialist" was part of the title of our greatest enemy. Therefore, anything that sniffed of socialism was un-American by definition and anything capitalist was desirable.
Survival of the fittest, bitchez.
I've been thinking about this comment for a while. From my perspective, Hubski has become a lot more polite than it used to be. "I disagree with you, and you're dumb for thinking this way" is an appropriate response when your counterpart is espousing ideas that are demonstrably wrong.
But then, I've been having online debates since before you were born. My first "internet" experience was using an acoustic coupler to dial into the University of Colorado to play a MUD on a terminal whose only output was a daisywheel printer. I missed being OG "eternal September" by a year. And what I've noticed over the past ten years (but not the past twenty, and not the past 25) is the retreat of anyone over 30. It didn't used to be this way. It started when GenZ hit college.
Because here's the thing: you can be wrong. People are wrong all the time. And when they're wrong, and they're asking questions as to whether they're right, they need to be told they're wrong. When they're holding opinions that you judge to be harmful and toxic, they need to be told they're wrong in such a way that the toxicity is front-and-center. This has been accepted social conversational doctrine my entire life; it was the basis of every single-camera and multi-camera sitcom going back to I Love Lucy. It's the core of Nancy Reagan's Just Say No. It's the basis of Dennis Leary's career.
But a funny thing happened about 2010, 2011. Conversations on the internet started demanding that both sides are always right, and that if one side has absolutely all the facts, they still need to politely assert that they don't have all the facts lest the other side stop listening because their feelings are hurt.
I didn't really grasp why until I'd been back to college, until I'd seen my kid start school, until I had reason to explore the pedagogy of education in these United States and what I discovered is that a doctrine of exploration and self-education has, in most school districts, become an insistence that no one is ever wrong. Whatever ideas you may have, they automatically have merit through the simple act of holding them and if those ideas are to be discounted, they must be discounted by the holder, on the holder's terms, for reasons that are valid only to the holder.
For my part, I came to Hollywood in 2007 and was immediately sheep-dipped into a culture where the people who are wrong are wrong immediately, they are wrong incontrovertibly and the sooner we can get things right the less money we lose because there are 28 people and millions of dollars of gear waiting on your mistake. You can get over your butt-hurt later because we've got shit to do. Your assessment of the world is not the core issue here, it's the broader context and your place in it is entirely optional because there's a long line of people behind you who will do your job without getting wrapped up in whether or not you were right to have your feelings hurt. Likewise, my wife's profession involves life safety and regular discussions with emergency rooms and aid cars. She is surrounded by students who have opinions, who have their knowledge, who have their confidence, and are not going to be walked through whether or not an iron level of 18 should go to the ER "in their opinion" because somebody could die and somebody else has the expertise to answer the question.
And you can't fight the tape. The world is definitely heading towards safe spaces where we never confront each other over our racism or ageism or anything else because that's not the sort of shit you do face-to-face and person-to-person, you see, if you want to strike a blow for social justice you do it by ratioing Twitter threads. You do it by regramming. You do it through in-jokes and memes that Vice will wring their hands over obliquely. Actually telling someone they're wrong? In a conversation? Perish the thought.
So those of us who remember? Those of us who know? We're left with a choice - figure out how to tell you that you're wrong in such a way that your feelings aren't hurt... or find something better to do.
One of the things that bugged the shit out of me when I was your age was people who said "when I was your age." What bugged me more was people who would say "you'll understand when you're older." It's intellectually lazy. It's an appeal to authority based on nothing more than hang time. It's "respect your elders" without any underpinning justification. But it's also a cry for help - it's a statement that "I don't know why you're wrong, but you're wrong, fucking listen to me because I've been around the sun a couple dozen more times than you have and that ought to count for something."
I maintained then and I maintain now that an idea needs to stand on its own, regardless of who puts it forth. What I've learned by growing gray hairs, however, is that it's an instinct borne of the knowledge that simply being ass-in-seat for longer will teach you something, even if you can't elucidate it, even if you can't share it, even if you can't describe it. "Respect your elders" is ultimately based on the same sentiment as Neils Bohr's quote "an expert is someone who has made every mistake there is to make in a narrow field." You might not be able to explain why your opinion is right and their opinion is wrong based solely on the fact that they're half your age, but prejudicially speaking, at least, you've had longer to change your mind.
A lot of people don't have the patience to constantly reframe an argument in their opponent's terms. "You're right, but also impolite about it" has become the most common refrain I've seen over the past ten years whereas the 20 years before that were full of "you're full of shit, let me count the ways, asshole." I'll take the profanity, thanks; it doesn't immediately shift the conversation to whether or not the information was presented in the proper tone of voice.
Most people? Given the choice between having a conversation at a tenor that satisfies the other person no matter how wrong they are or silence? They'll pick silence. And that's how a whole new generation of kids are growing up with the idea that unions are useless, that public school doesn't matter, that feminism is irrelevant, that you're entitled to believe measles is better than measles vaccines. Because those of us who can argue the opposite have given up the effort of explaining it to you because you reject that there can be one right answer. Have given up on defending our certainty of knowledge because we've had this fight since you were born. Have given up on educating the youth because the youth don't want to be educated, they want to be patronized.
Because if the only people you're willing to listen to are the ones who are speaking in your approved tone of voice, the only people you'll hear are the ones you agree with.
Had Veen and 'bootz out last week. Veen for ten days, 'bootz for three. Did much hosting. Had many "what do I do with my life" conversations. Drank astonishingly little alcohol. Spent a few hours showing veen how to take apart a watch; apparently the parts Elgin I bought last year is hella more hammered than even I knew 'cuz my screwdrivers looked brand new for the past two years but as soon as I had to get the dial off that thing I'd snapped two blades.
Veen asked if I ever experienced "impostor syndrome" when it came to watchmaking. It's a fair question. After all, two years ago I knew virtually nothing. Thing of it is, though, it's an extremely shallow field. Immersing myself in it for a year and a half has me revealing manufacturers and history my instructors never knew, manipulating small parts my instructors can't manipulate and knowing by heart industry statistics that lifelong watchmakers are completely incredulous about.
I learned as an acoustical consultant - a trade that requires a mechanical engineering or physics degree and several years experience with esoteric empirical knowledge - that the way you prove your worth in a gnostic field is by slagging on others. The normies don't know so if you piss all over everyone else they assume you're pissing with reason. And watchmakers piss all over everyone. As a group their shit doesn't stink and if you ask 'em questions they'd best put your ass in its place. Their Facebook groups are largely about how stupid customers are, how stupid vendors are, and how horrible everyone is to their preciousssssss.
Here's the thing, though. A mechanical watch movement has between 50 and 250 parts, from the most basic to the most fiddly chronograph. Yeah there are watches with more but really, it's a bunch of gears ("wheels") and axles ("pinions") and other jargon and they only interact mechanically. The engine your Toyota has 5-600 parts and that's just the mechanical shit. A fuckin' fuel injector is like 30 parts and for it to work you've got fluid mechanics, electromechanics, electronics and thermodynamics. Not only that but your average "watchmaker" has no idea how to do anything other than fix the mechanical bits and polish what's there. It's a specialist field where nearly everything else is farmed out to other specialists. And I've been spending the past year neck deep in the "other specialists" shit - I've mixed three seasons of television while also earning sixty college credits in the past year while also spending maybe 300 hours (and $28k or so) in pursuit of "watchmaking" (which is what we call "being a watch mechanic"). I know more about watches and their repair than a few manufacturers I know.
But my daughter was whiney on Sunday. There was a little drama. She insisted she wasn't whining. I let her know (during the hug-it-out period) that if I'd used her tone of voice when I was a kid I would have been shouted at, possibly spanked and sent to my room without any supper and that sometimes I have a hard time when she does stuff I wasn't allowed to do, even if the stuff I wasn't allowed to do didn't really make sense. She asked why my parents were so mean. I said I didn't know. She asked if I told them to stop being mean and I said "I didn't know they were mean, they were the only parents I had" and she said "but you aren't mean" and I burst into uncontrollable tears.
And I mean, she doesn't know. She has no more insight into my suckitude than I had into my parents'. But I had a pretty good idea by 3 that my relationship with my parents was dissimilar to my peers. And whereas every picture I have of myself as a youth is of a haunted-eyed little spooky kid, my daughter is happy to the point of mania in photos. The great thing about kids is they love you unreservedly and worship everything you do (until they become teenagers, anyway). The terrible thing about kids - for me, anyway - is that you're never, ever worthy of it.
I am blowing off the rest of my schooling. Jewelry class for the past 10 weeks has been bang-on-shit-with-a-hammer class and I have received exactly zero instruction. I crafted a silver cup from a sheet using nothing but a hammer - it looks like a Riedel stemless champagne flute. I coated it in Japanese enamel to see what the colors look like. And it looks amateurish and silly because I received zero instruction in enameling. I have some interesting parts from that class, but everything I made I made without any input or insight from anyone while also being sniped by everyone around me (because jewelers are like watchmakers but with less schooling). And I cleaned out my bag, and I'm going to take the F (I'm yearning for that F - I'm eager to have it sit there - so that the instructor knows we're enemies now), and I'm going to pursue my own thing because where I'm going I don't need roads. I set micro-pave last year without knowing the first thing about it and while it looks like hammered shit, the next one won't and if you set out to learn how to do micro-pave the first thing you do is apprentice in Antwerp and get yourself a $2500 microscope.
But I've got a Valjoux 7750 that's misbehaving and when you look up the symptoms the Internet tells you to "take it in for service" and what they don't tell you is that at the price point of that 7750 the "servicepeople" are going to swap the movement and I'm wondering if I fucked it up by wearing it in beat-on-shit-with-a-hammer class. See, I know beyond a reasonable doubt what I know about fixing watches. But when the internet tells me I have no idea how to wear a watch I'm perfectly willing to believe them because I'm fucking white trash and I know it down to my very bones.
This washed across my transom this morning. You don't need to click on it. It's a puff piece about a jeweler opening a new boutique. They're spending about $1.3m and creating ten jobs. Woo hoo. News piece. I built a birth center with about $350k and our payroll now has nine people on it. We're setting up a Vaccines for Children program and it's going to be three phone calls, one contractor and three SKUs purchased. We'll be up in a month. Shit's trivial. Sure as fuck isn't worth making an international trade magazine.
My daughter spent her weekend putting together "scent packs" - her idea of play is to pick herbs, wrap them in paper, put together a merchandising display and haul it into class in an egg carton so that she can dominate a pinecone economy she created. Yeah. My daughter is getting others to hoard pinecones for her by selling artisanal herbs out of my garden. Told my wife this wasn't something all the kids had come up with, like we thought, but my daughter's idea and she said "well it's not surprising, she is the daughter of two entrepreneurs, after all." I immediately said "well, one entrepreneur and one loser who wastes a lot of time and money on useless knowledge." She was quiet for a minute and then said
"That's you talking, not me."
I spent $1300 so that Christie's could teach me the history of jewelry design. It's not a course for jewelers, it's a course for bored old rich ladies. I tell you what, though - ain't nobody in there gonna say that you should feel bad for owning gold jewelry because it's mined illegally in the Amazon for use in iPhones. When I'm done I hope to have a rich old lady's understanding of jewelry as propagated by Christie's because it's hella more useful to me than an angsty community college assistant's understanding of jewelry as propagated by indignant environmental movies. After all, jewelry makers call byzantine chain "idiot's delight." Jewelry sellers call it ten grand.
George Friedman recommended the works of Herman Wouk yesterday. This passage caught my eye:
"Impostor syndrome" is, to me, the "abyss of relativism." I know what I know about the outside world because I can vouch for that knowledge. I fought for it, I tested it, I verified it, I expanded it into corners it was never meant to illuminate. The inside world is, has been and shall always be a dark and dismal failure because my n will never be greater than one.
I have no doubts that I will be able to create and sell luxury timepieces. And I have no doubts that I will feel uncomfortable wearing one for as long as I draw breath. And that's pretty much where I am this Wednesday.