21 May 2014

Inside Karl

The official diagnosis was a blood clot. Rove told the conference near LA Thursday, “Thirty days in the hospital? And when she reappears, she’s wearing glasses that are only for people who have traumatic brain injury? We need to know what’s up with that.”

Rove repeated the claim a number of times to the audience.
-New York Post

What lies beyond doesn't worry me.
Suppose you break this world to bits, another may arise.
My joy springs from this earth,
this sun shines on my sorrows.
When I leave here, let come what must.
What do I care about it now, if hereafter
men hate or love, or if in those other spheres
there be an Above or a Below?
-Faust, Goethe

Karl scrubbed a handful of cold cream onto his cheeks, wiping away the streaks of blush.  Television lights were bright and harsh, particularly on a panel show with a large set, like Fox News Sunday, and the cosmetics had kept him from looking pasty onscreen.  He was comfortable with how he looked, but he didn't want to distract from his message.  Wiping his face with a damp towel, he leaned forward and stared into the vanity mirror.  Handsome, pale blue eyes stared back.  He tried a smile, but it didn't take.

How strange it had been!

They had laughed at him.  Not cruel laughter, or even unfriendly laughter.  The panel were all good people, and he'd actually mostly had a good time.  He'd gotten the message out about Hillary, kept it going for another cycle, and it was pretty much a win.  And he'd be back on the air tomorrow, and he'd get the chance to keep spinning.  The idea - "maybe she's brain-damaged" - was out there in the wild, and no one would forget it.  And what could anyone get upset about?  Was she sacrosanct?  Was it wrong to talk about a candidate's health, all of a sudden?

But they'd laughed.

Karl wasn't stupid.  He knew about his image.  South Carolina might have put him in the White House, but the Party would never forget it.  And a lot of the fringe just flat-out hated him.  But George had always been right, at least when it came to your public image: you just had to have the guts to do what was right.  They might hate you, they might smear you.  But history would know better.  God would know better.

He lifted his thumb and pressed it into the mirror, leaving a big greasy print.

The laughter had only been for a moment.  Chris had raised his eyebrows and put just a bit of humorous edge into his voice as he'd interrupted Karl's explanation.  "So this was concern for her?" Chris had asked.  And immediately they'd all laughed.  Chris had laughed, Juan had belted out a full guffaw, and even Brit and Kirsten had both chuckled.

Okay, so he obviously didn't want Hillary to run, and he definitely didn't want her to win.  The Democrat Party had already done their best to drive the country into the ground, taxing and spending whenever they could.  Obamacare had taken over a full sixth of the economy - after the hell they'd given George about his attempts at reforms! - and the queers were sticking it in your face on every station now.

Hell, none of them really wanted her to run (even Juan, who'd been on NPR!).  Some of it was good sense (Chris had finally signed on to Benghazi, after all these months) but it would also be too boring.  They'd bring up Whitewater and the old stuff, and they had some new things, but Hillary was too much a known quantity.  They'd been talking about her for twenty years, and there wasn't any juice left in it.  Compared to the wide-open primary without her?  No contest, even for Kirsten.

But it was not, in his opinion, completely ridiculous that Karl might actually have been worried about her health.  She was a creature of God, and it would be better for every single person on the planet if she stayed out, and that included her, damn it!  The economy might recover from the Democratic attacks, the country might regain some credibility in the eyes of the world (a few good missiles to some facility outside of Tehran would do it), and Hillary would find retirement a lot less stressful than the big chair.

He swiped his hand across the thumbprint, smearing it into a long streak, and stood up.  He put the smile on, and this time it stayed.  Karl knew he was good, after all.  He knew in his bones, where it counted.  In his gut.  He was doing the right thing.  Sometimes you had to get out the knife and cut a little, that was all.  Cut until they bled.  And when they'd bled enough that they had to quit, then your guys won - the good guys won - because they were the only ones left standing.

Let the fuckers laugh.  Karl had blood on his hands, but every good warrior had felt the warm grip. He was good and right and rich. And someday they would thank him.


10 May 2014

Reince Preibus: Bold as Brass

In 2012, the Republican nomination process was wide-open.  There were 20 debates of varying size and theme, and they put some of the fringe candidates into the spotlight, and gave them their moment to shine.  Candidates like Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Herman Cain all took their turn leading the race at one point or another, even if their "lead" sometimes amounted to two weeks at the top of horse-race polls.  Seriously, think back and marvel: there was a time when Michele Bachmann was at the top of the pile (albeit just because she gambled nearly every dollar on winning the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa).

The large number of debates forced the Inevitable Romney to respond to absurd statements and simplistic positions, like Herman Cain's 9-9-9 tax plan.  Romney had to be kind and unflappable and electable, over and over and over, even as he had to endure being everyone's target.  For months, it was a game of conservatives versus Romney, and it took its toll.

Several important states, moreover, didn't hold actual primaries.  They held conventions, which almost inevitably turn out more extreme results.  Only committed conservatives took the trouble to shuffle awkwardly into groups at their state conventions, which is Rick Santorum actually won Iowa, Mississippi, and Alabama.

So for the upcoming presidential election in 2016, RNC Chairman Reince Preibus and the rest of the GOP establishment has been working hard to make sure there won't be a repeat of this same circus.  They're shortening the whole primary cycle, so it won't drag out, they're cutting the number of debates in half and ensuring only friendly moderators, and they're encouraging states to use primaries instead of conventions.

This process means that the resulting nominee will not have to take as much heat from the most conservative Republicans.  There won't be as much opportunity for the less-known and more extreme candidates to drag the anointed nominee into embarrassing situations, the few debates will minimize the instances of a level playing field, and the reduced conventions will keep extremists from winning many votes.  The whole thing is designed to shut out folks like Herman Cain, who hammered the eventual nominee with craziness.

Naturally, this isn't going to fly with the conservative activists who once enthusiastically supported the wingnuts... is it?

If Reince Preibus has his way, it is.  He's actually framing the whole thing as a way to make the process more conservative, posting on RedState with one of the boldest pack of lies I've ever seen someone lay down in public.  By focusing almost exclusively on the moderators in the debates, who were the subject of universal derision in the GOP, Preibus makes the case for why he is on the side of conservatives.
We need more conservatives involved in the debate process—most importantly, in the moderator’s chair.
That’s why the RNC took action this week to take ownership of the primary debates for 2016. Our candidates deserve a fair hearing. Our voters deserve a real debate. And the liberal media doesn’t deserve to be in the driver’s seat.
We need a debate process that helps to grow our party and doesn’t weaken our eventual nominee—whoever that person is.
Today, at the Republican National Committee Spring Meeting in Memphis, the RNC took the first steps toward making sure grassroots conservatives have a greater voice in the presidential primary debate process. By passing new rules governing debates, the days when the mainstream media was in charge are gone.
Amazing.  And yet so far, they really seem to be swallowing it.  Comments and discussion all seem to be centering on how this is too little and too late, or on Candy Crowley.

It's hard to believe, but he actually might slip this one past.  Is it possible that the gatekeepers of places like RedState were, themselves, a little mortified at the caliber of candidate that the right-wing actually kept choosing in 2012?  That they're keeping quiet because the 2012 circus embarrassed them, too, even if they can't say so publicly?

Surely not.

07 May 2014

Combination Sled and Toboggan, U.S. patent number 1,888,857

This is the story of the Combination Sled and Toboggan, U.S. patent number 1,888,857.

It's hard to say how things started.  There must have been some collaboration between Carroll E. Greene and Leroy Bailey, because Greene may have submitted the patent, but Bailey seems to have owned the rights to it.  Did Bailey buy the patent?  Did Greene just file the patent application for him?  Was Bailey just acting as business manager?  Impossible to say.

We do know, though, that Bailey sent away for information on how to obtain a patent.  He almost certainly answered one of the advertisements that the Victor J. Evans & Co had placed in Popular Mechanics.

In two installments ($30 on Dec 30, 1929, and $25 on Feb 1, 1930), Bailey paid for a patent to be filed. United States Patent Office records show that it was registered on Apr 21, 1931 by Carroll E. Greene of South Ryegate.  The amount Bailey paid would be something like $750 today.

A combination sled and toboggan was not, frankly, a new idea.  The first patent for such a contraption dates to 1887, from a gentleman in Yonkers, and Popular Science ran a feature on making your own in 1872.

If something is popular enough for features like this, especially with the booming popularity of tobogganing during the late 19th century in Canada, it makes sense to patent and manufacture a version for the masses.  Thus, our own cleverly-designed Combination Sled and Toboggan.  No example survives today of this particular version (or of a different style, patented six years earlier), so we must rely on our imagination and the drawings made by Victor J. Evans & Co. for what the machine must have looked like.

The only issue, once you have such an idea and a working prototype, is how to get your invention into a factory and selling.  For that, we turn back to Popular Mechanics, as Bailey seems to have done.  We find the Chartered Institute of American Inventors.

Leroy Bailey wrote away in response to this ad, or one just like it, and on Apr 16, 1935, T.W. Shibley of the Chartered Institute of American Inventors replied that they were very interested in the Combination Sled and Toboggan: "[W]e have looked up our records on this patent, and think that it has much commercial merit."  Also enclosed was an invitation to apply for membership in the Institute - for a modest fee.

 Let's be frank: the Chartered Institute of American Inventors was a little bit of a scam.  They made most of their money selling a dream: YOU can be an inventor!  Here is an impressive blueprint!  Here is a certificate!  Hopeful inventors of a better pouring spout or a printmaking chart would answer advertisements and pay a series of small fees, and in return the Institute would draw up some blueprints and contact manufacturers on their behalf.  T.W. Shibley of the Commercial Department of the Chartered Institute of American Inventors was almost certainly a member of the typing pool, who simply responded in the affirmative to every inquiry.  Almost all correspondence came from the same pool, from V.J. Leizer or V.E. Bell or A.H. Alder, presumably with abbreviated first names to hide their gender.

The whole thing wasn't a fraud: the Institute really did whip up a mean set of prints and description, assembling a ready-made little selling pamphlet that Bailey could send to any manufacturer in the country.  They also supplied a list of a thousand manufacturers, something that would have been considerably valuable to someone with no knowledge of the industry and no Internet.  And the Institute never did less than they promised to do on Bailey's behalf, acting as draftsmen and letter-writers and patent agents.  They did work to sell his invention.

But the real business of the Chartered Institute of American Inventors wasn't in churning out helpful inventions, it was in sucking in as many hopeful inventors as possible.  They peddled two main products: hope and prestige.

Your hope would come from the attempts to get your invention under production (or sold for quick cash).  Over and over, you would be coaxed into paying another small fee for another useful service, presented to you all shiny and slick.  Buy some of those litho-line prints, to put your best foot forward to manufacturers.  If you buy 150, you get a bulk discount.  And of course, you'll need professional presentation for them, letters and envelopes.  And you'll need someone on your side.  And before you know it, you've invested a tidy sum - another $35, in fact.

At the same time, you had the opportunity to Be an Inventor.  With your initial application, you got a decent-enough certificate of membership.  You might not want to hang it on your wall, but think of the thrill that might come from pulling it out of an envelope.  There it was... proof positive that you were an inventor.  A person of ideas, who could turn them into reality.  Whether or not you sold a single Combination Sled and Toboggan, no one could take that away from you.

Unfortunately, certificates or not, the Combination Sled and Toboggan did not see great success with manufacturers.  The Chartered Institute advised Bailey that he could expect to realize $4,000-7,000 ($68,000-118,000 today) by the direct sale of the patent, or royalties of $10,000-18,000 ($168,000-304,000 today) over its lifetime, but none of the manufacturers saw the potential.  The Institute demonstrated their diligence by forwarding some rejection letters (The Colson Corporation, The Murray Ohio Manufacturing Co., The Lloyd Manufacturing Co., Gregg Manufacturing Co.), accompanying them with advice to be patient ("We hope that the lack of interest shown by manufacturers approached in behalf of your Combination Sled and Toboggan has not discouraged you. ... Continue to use the inventive ability with which you are blessed and give to your fellow-man the benefits of a fertile mind by bringing forth new ideas.")

After considerable time, and many attempts, Bailey grew dissatisfied with the efforts of the Chartered Institute of American Inventors.  He'd thought he had an offer of interest from a manufacturer, and had triumphantly forwarded it, only to discover that the offer had been from a different patent agency - who probably would want a few more dollars.  The dedicated salesman, James L. Richtie (a first name!) gently responded, "We have your letter of February 11 and advise that the card enclosed with your letter from was not from a manufacturer as it appeared to be, but rather from a patent agent. ... Why not have us prepare another list of fifty prospects and another fifty letters and envelopes?  ... You have spent not only money, but time, labor and research on this Combination.  You consider as you would your child; it is a product of your mind, and you should determine definitely its practicability and salability." [sic]

It took a year, but Bailey tried one last tactic.  He took up the offer of the rival patent agency, American Patents Corporation, which appears to have been identical in every way to the Chartered Institute of American Inventors.  They were even housed in the same building in Washington, D.C.  They were probably the same people, in point of fact.  Bailey paid them a final $15 to have his invention placed in the pages of Commercial Inventions, a publication produced by the company for manufacturers.

And that, unfortunately, was the end of the matter.  There had been a chance, and many stories of success have taken just such a path.  We can admire the man for trying.  But no manufacturer took Bailey up on the invention, however promising it may have been, and the $100 he spent in total ($1,739.17 today) left him nothing in exchange.

Well, almost nothing.  He had a year of dreams.

03 May 2014

Niche: Men's Rights Activists

Men do not endure widespread or systematic oppression in the world, except for a few narrow and specific ways.  The world is not rigged against men.  In almost all circumstances, it's rigged in favor of men. If you spent a great deal of time focusing on the ways in which men are hobbled by their gender, then you are working hard at fooling yourself into missing this larger picture.

Men's Rights Activists, or MRA, work hard at fooling themselves.
Many cultures still oppress men and women in very classical ways, but these are not the in the purview of [the MRA subreddit] or the [Men's Rights Movement], nor does their existence in any way affect the prevalence of the MRM. The existence of male and female oppression in other countries has no effect on the existence of male or female oppression in Western societies, and will never be a legitimate argument against the existence of the MRM.
- reddit.com/r/MensRights FAQ
There are legitimate complaints to be made.  Women find it much easier to get custody of children during divorce proceedings, male circumcision is regarded as "normal," only men would be subject to a draft, and so on.  Fundamental injustices do exist for men, and it's not wrong to fight these injustices.  It's just wrong to think that these injustices reflect the dominant world of gender relations.  Forest for the trees, etc.

Some MRAs have convinced themselves that the deck is so stacked against them, though, that they adopt a bitter siege-mode mentality.  Let's visit their world.

My goodness!  This is a dark and scary place, where sexism has been institutionalized and an entire gender has been branded inherently sinful.  From birth to death, they are the Other, and cautious parents warn their children about the dangers of associating with any but the most beaten-down examples.

Oh, shit.  Sorry, I accidentally described how women are traditionally treated.  MRAs often make the same mistake, co-opting the language and attitude of the women's liberation movement for themselves (compare: "Why isn't there a White Entertainment Network, huh?!").  This is an important thing to understand: by and large, MRAs use the language of equality.  In their view, the women's liberation movement just went too far.  The pendulum needs to swing back a bit towards men, they suggest.
It's not difficult to expose feminism for what it is--a set of unfalsifiable hypotheses that have no basis in empirical reality, and which are about as effective as a coin-toss in predicting reality. What IS difficult is maintaining a venue in which to perform that exposition so others can see it. Feminists interested in silencing people like me often employ the community moderation processes of social networking sites, processes that are often automated, to shut down the accounts of people they don't like or to have their material removed.
-MRA site Owning Your Shit
In a way, this is comforting.  We're not talking about a fundamental difference in philosophy (with most MRAs, anyway), but rather people who are very badly mistaken about facts.  And even in the case of those guys who are just misogynists at heart, putting on a show of concern about gender equity, we can be happy that they're uncomfortable owning up to their real beliefs.  There are very few MRAs who just openly say that women are chattel.

The results can be bizarre.  Here's an acronym for you: MGTOW.  It stands for "men going their own way" - men who are just fed up with this society and the feminazis who plague them.  These poor persecuted fellows have declared that they no longer seek female companionship.  Instead they are going to plant some gardens and go take their dogs for walks and to hell with those women who force them to be "inceb" ("involuntarily celibate").

For them, it's the only way to be safe from spermjacking women.

Oh, you never heard of "spermjacking?"  You're such a fool, and if you're a man, you might already be at risk!  Didn't you know that there are hordes of villainous women out there, yearning to trap you into legal obligation with a baby?  They'll fish the condom out of the trash to do it.  It's true, a friend of mine heard about it from a buddy.

You may not believe me.  You might be a WW - a Western Woman who has been corrupted by feminism, unlike the submissive and nurturing women of Asia.  Or maybe you're just a "mangina" - a man who's on the side of the feminists.


At its most eloquent and well-considered, Men's Rights Activism is a complex and intellectual edifice built to justify a gut belief that men are the new underclass.  The communities associated with it, like A Voice for Men, can be smart and virtuous, doing good work like fighting prison rape.  Prison rape, and the fact that it's a joke, is one of the most abhorrent atrocities in the western world, so I'll commend anyone who joins in the fight against it.

Most of the time, though, that's not the case.  Most of the time MRAs erect crude towers of anger and bile, built with willful blindness and elaborate legalism.  There are endless, endless quotes to demonstrate this point.  Here's redditor "iethatis", as one example:
"feminazi" is a valid term. There are many striking similarities between the two ideologies (to the point of plagiarism)

From the scapegoating ("patriarchy"), to dehumanization, to crazy conspiracy theories, paranoid persecution complexes, and perceptions of being deprived of entitlements, feminist views on men resemble closely the anti-Semitic ideology prevalent among historical Nazis.

Not to mention their authoritarian mindset and the traceable intellectual provenance of feminist philosophy (from Heidegger to "Theory", that is.) I am not claiming feminists consciously modeled their movement after the third reich (although this possibility is a good topic for future research), more likely the influence was unconscious, and maybe stems from a similar psychological profile.
 I could produce literally thousands more comments like this, all "upvoted" (or supported by the community) or "gilded" (rewarded with paid accounts).  It's a vast, unending sea of bitterness and specious reasoning.  But why do that to you?

This is Men's Rights Activism.  Take a look, if you've got the stomach.