Humor and Seriousness

Katherine Boyle is a partner at the VC firm Andreessen Horowitz and she is a thoughtful writer on many topics.  See her post The Case for American Seriousness at Bari Weiss’s substack; also, her posts at her own substack, The Rambler, especially those concerning family, parenting, and technology.

In an interview, she said “The biggest criticism I got from the (American Seriousness) piece, and other times I’ve written about seriousness, is that it doesn’t leave room for frivolity, play or the unseriousness that makes us deeply human. And I empathize with that sentiment, but I don’t think the opposite of seriousness is humor: the opposite of seriousness is irony.”

I agree absolutely that there is no inconsistency between seriousness and humor…quite the contrary, I would say.  Concerning Irony, I’m reminded of something C S Lewis wrote.  The following is from The Screwtape Letters, a book of advice from a senior devil to his protege about how to do the maximum harm to humans:

But Flippancy is the best of all. In the first place it is very economical. Only a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue, or indeed about anything else; any of them can be trained to talk as if virtue were funny. Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it. If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armour-plating against the Enemy that I know, and it is quite free from the dangers that inherent it the other sources of laughter. It is a thousand miles away from joy: it deadens, instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practice it.

Irony, I think, is closely related to the Flippancy about which Lewis’s devil wrote.  Also related to irony is Sarcasm, concerning which Field Marshal Lord Wavell offered some thoughts:

Explosions of temper do not necessarily ruin a general’s reputation or influence with his troops; it is almost expected of them (“the privileged irascibility of senior officers,” someone has written), and it is not always resented, sometimes even admired, except by those immediately concerned. But sarcasm is always resented and seldom forgiven. (emphasis added)  In the Peninsula the bitter sarcastic tongue of Craufurd, the brilliant but erratic leader of the Light Division, was much more wounding and feared than the more violent outbursts of Picton, a rough, hot-tempered man.

Wavell defined Sarcasm as “being clever at someone else’s expense.”  In his view, sarcasm always offends, and a general (or, presumably, any other officer or individual in a position of authority) should never indulge in it.

I think that in many organizations in America today–perhaps, even, most organizations of any size–fear of Cancellation has reached the point at which easy interaction among people–which includes a certain amount of humor–has been replaced with a kind of fragile pseudo-formality.  This is not good for either innovation or productivity, not to mention its toxic impact on individual lives.

What are your thoughts on humor, seriousness, irony, and sarcasm?

 

The Raid on Mar-a-Lago.

The FBI raid on Trump’s residence is unprecedented in American history. The pretext for the raid and the refusal to allow Trump’s lawyers to witness what was done is also a gross deviation from normal behavior.

Conservative Treehouse a pretty good theory of the reasons.

The motives of the DOJ and FBI are clear when you have a full comprehension of the background. However, it’s the threats and betrayals against President Trump that most people have a hard time understanding. Why he was blocked is clear, but how Trump was blocked is where you realize the scale of the threat that exists within this corrupt system.

Trump has for years been promising to declassify documents showing how the “Russiagate” conspiracy developed, including the FBI role in it.

By the time we get to September of 2018 the basic outlines of the Trump-Russia targeting operation were clear. However, the Robert Mueller investigation was at its apex, and anyone in/around Donald Trump was under investigation for ancillary issues that had nothing to do with Russia.

It was into this fray of constant false narratives that President Trump first made statements that he would declassify documents related to his targeting. It was after Trump made those statements when the real motives of putting Robert Mueller as a special counsel became clear.

With Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused from anything to do with the Trump-Russia investigation, it was Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who delivered the message to President Trump in September of 2018, shortly before the midterm election, that any action by him to release documents, now under the purview of the Mueller special counsel, would be considered an act of “obstruction” by the DOJ/FBI people charged with investigating him.

What he might have done is to bring some of those documents with him when he left the White House. Of course, that is speculation since the warrant was never disclosed to the Trump lawyers.

In essence the DOJ and FBI, along with white house counsel and a collaborating senate and media, kept President Trump from declassifying and releasing documents by threatening him with impeachment and/or prosecution if he defied their authority. The threats created a useful Sword of Damocles, and blocked Trump from acting to make documents public.

In the months that followed President Trump frequently made public statements and tweets about the frustration of documents not being declassified and released despite his instructions to do so. Many Trump supporters also began expressing frustration.

The external debate and consternation surrounded how the Administrative State has seemingly boxed-in President Trump through the use of the Mueller/Weissman counterintelligence probe, authorized by Rod Rosenstein, where President Trump was the target of the investigation.

A widely held supporter perspective was that President Trump could expose the fraudulent origination of the counterintelligence investigation; of which he is now a target; if he were to declassify a series of documents as requested by congress and allies of his administration. This approach would hopefully remove the sword of Damocles.

I had a suspicion that Trump might have been in contact with the FBI whistleblowers mentioned by Senators Grassley and Johnson. That is also a reasonable theory.

Newsweek has a typical left wing excuse.

The raid on Mar-a-Lago was based largely on information from an FBI confidential human source, one who was able to identify what classified documents former President Trump was still hiding and even the location of those documents, two senior government officials told Newsweek.

This is ludicrous as the FBI with full cooperation by Trump, searched these boxes of records in June. They even required their own padlock to seal the room.

Both senior government officials say the raid was scheduled with no political motive, the FBI solely intent on recovering highly classified documents that were illegally removed from the White House.

I doubt a 10 year old child would believe this rot.

A threshold has been crossed. Many on the left seem to cheer this on as their obsessive hatred of Trump and his voters is unending. I just hope Trump has good personal security. I don’t trust the Secret Service any more than I trust the FBI.

Things Missing – Supply Chain and Groceries

I have had some first world problems for a while now.

Last night at the grocery store (Kroger chain) there was no iceburg lettuce. Zero. I resigned myself to paying the fifty cents more for the leaf lettuce. Iceberg lettuce has been of pretty poor quality in these parts for some time and I have seen small quantities or none at all as of the last few months.

Berries – I always toss a hand full of berries onto my shredded wheat every morning and the berry selection at the store has been awful or non existent as of late. I’m hoping that Michigan has a fantastic harvest (probably going on right now or very soon) as we are quite fond of the blueberries, apples, peaches, and other things that come from across the lake. We may even take a short road trip over there and pick up a bunch of stuff ourselves. But back to the berries. I have seen blueberries from all over the USA in the store (I always look at where my produce comes from) and also Mexico and a few other places. I wonder if there is some sort of supply chain disruption in berry world.

Anyways, let me know in the comments if you are seeing things missing, and don’t limit it to groceries if you don’t want to.

In industrial distribution world, we are still missing quite a few things but this is almost all a chip deal now. And the good news is that we are doing pretty well for the most part.

Tech

It was a matter for discussion at the last ChicagoBoyz Zoom meet-up this last weekend; how the development and widespread use of ultrasound technology likely has reframed the debate about abortion, over the last two decades. Trent T. affirmed how some of his contemporaries had named their children early on in utero, already knowing the sex of the child, and were sometimes devastated with grief when the mother naturally miscarried; as devastated as they would have been if the baby died at birth, or as an infant. The baby – their child – was real to them. They had pictures in indistinct black and white; proof that their child was already a child, not just a clump of cells. The existence of the embryo, the child – becomes even clearer, later in development.
The 3-D ultrasound of Wee Jamie in utero at seven or eight months was a stunningly accurate visualization of how he would look upon delivery some weeks later – strongly-marked eyebrows, amazing-long eyelashes, curving lips that carried out the family resemblance to my daughter and myself, and affinity towards showing his feet to the observer. The only question remaining to us was what color his hair and eyes would be, once he was delivered. (The hair is light brown, the eyes at this point an indeterminant hazel. God only knows what it will say when it comes to the identifiers on his drivers’ license.) My daughter treasured those prints of the ultrasound sessions – as she remarked now and again, if something happened to savage her pregnancy, they would be the only souvenir and proof she had that her son ever existed.

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The End of Debate?

Yarelyn Mena, a 29-year-old graduate of CUNY and Fordham University, served as a lawyer for Johnny Depp in the  Depp–Heard   trial.  A high profile case like this represented a big opportunity for a fairly recent graduate, and she apparently did a very good job in her cross-examination of Heard.  Jonathan Turley says of her cross-examination:  “It was considered the turning point of one of the most famous trials in modern history. It is something that should be a matter of great pride for the CUNY community and, not surprisingly, the website did an article on their graduate…It is an extraordinary story for a woman who came with her family from the Dominican Republic. She proceeded to graduate from CUNY and then received her law degree from Fordham University. That is a quintessential American story of achievement that any institution should relish and highlight. She noted in the interview that “(Law) was the first career that I knew of before I even really understood what it was.””

But many students were outraged, and the article was removed from the website with an apology:

We understand the strong negative emotions this article elicited and apologize for publishing the item. We have removed it from our CUNYverse blog. The article was not meant to convey support for Mr. Depp, implicitly or otherwise, or to call into question any allegations that were made by Amber Heard. Domestic violence is a serious issue in our society and we regret any pain this article may have caused.

Turley:  ”

“The “pain” caused by the article was an account of a graduate doing her job as an advocate. We have gotten to the point that people are incapable of recognizing that everyone is entitled to a rigorous legal defense and that the lawyers are fulfilling essential roles in protecting the rule of law.  The only thing that matters is that the lawyer represented someone accused of abuse (even though the jury clearly found that Heard lied with malice in the trial). Even lawyers defending a client must now be cancelled to protect others from the pain of dealing with a trial on spousal abuse.”

The reaction of the angry students represents a rejection of the whole concept of adversary proceedings in the legal process.  Apparently, a sufficiently-unpopular plaintiff or defendant must not have representation because we know they’re in the wrong…no need to hear evidence, no need to see what the statute books and the precedents actually say.

The class of people displaying this attitude is by no means restricted just to college students and to cowardly administrators.  Two lawyers at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis, who won a major gun-rights case before the Supreme Court, were told that they had to abandon such clients.  According to one of these lawyers:

We were given a stark choice: either withdraw from ongoing representations or withdraw from the firm,” Clement said in a statement. “Anyone who knows us and our views regarding professional responsibility and client loyalty knows there was only one course open to us: We could not abandon ongoing representations just because a client’s position is unpopular in some circles.

Again, one would think that a law firm would be proud to have two of its lawyers win a major Supreme Court case…evidently not.

The attitude that there can only be one view expressed is not limited to law.  The Cancellation of speakers, the suppression of unapproved views by social media…these are all aspects of same basic phenomenon.  It is somewhat similar to the old traditionalist Catholic position that Error has no rights…the number of people claiming that they have the authority to decide what is an “error”, and what is not, is now much larger.

Your thoughts as to causes, and remedies..if any?