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Some things I’ve been meaning to write about

I’ve been meaning to write at greater length about several topics. But reality keeps getting in the way. (Very annoying thing, reality.)

So here are the short versions, plus a couple of mini-rants.

Stewart Brand — he who has been coming up with provocative and challenging ideas since the Whole Earth Catalog and The Well — is now involved with a project called The Long Now.

The Long Now Foundation “… hopes to provide a counterpoint to today’s accelerating culture and help make long-term thinking more common.” Brand and company note oh-so-correctly that, “Civilization is revving itself into a pathologically short attention span.”

Ironically, it’s that very thing that has kept me from posting more and earlier about this project.

(H/T UnReconstructed)


I also intended to reflect upon the contention in this charming BBC article that failed inventions are a great thing.

No time. There’s the link. Reflect away …


Mini-rant #1. Over the weekend, MJR sent a link to this blindingly stupid article on why it’s just dandy-fine for governments to surveil everybody. (To sum: How can the government know who’s a terrorist or a kiddie-pornster unless it constantly watches everybody?)

I would have just dismissed this article and its very lame argument, except that I was intrigued by the author’s passing reference to his being from a society that had no appreciation for or expectation of privacy.

So I looked him up. It turns he’s known as one of Canada’s leading intellectuals, though born in Hungary.

Now, perhaps I’m just not intellectual enough to have heard of him. Or perhaps, being a good American, I just assumed that nothing other than beer, hockey, Mounties, and assorted famous actors and singers ever came out of Canada.

But I was appalled when I learned that the author of this dreadful paean to government supremacy considers himself a classical liberal — that is, an individualist who believes in small government. Also, Canada, I have to say that if this is the best you can come up with for an intellectual, you’re better off sticking with hockey. Whatever else it is, this article is poorly argued and poorly conceived.

George Jonas (for that be the fool’s name) opens his argument with various sweetly benign — and notably fictional — examples of rulers sneaking out of their palaces in disguise to find out what the little people think of them. Why, how cute.

He goes on from there to assume that today’s omni-surveillance is both that quaintly old-fashioned and that benign. (If only it were that fictional!) He ignores the many real-world historic horrors of real-world surveillance from Cardinal Richelieu to the STASI. He ignores the chilling effects of real world omni-surveillance on everything from personal relationships to political freedom. He pays no attention to the fact that surveillance leads to persecution, blackmail, and murder — and that even “innocuous” metadata can justify slaughtering us. He’s oblivious to the notion that it’s more important for the people to know what “their” government is up to than it is for the government to know every daily move one of us makes. He ignores all the big questions about power and where it rightly resides.

This. Not only from a “classical liberal.” But from a man whose family escaped the Holocaust when he was a boy. From a man who fled Soviet persecution as a young man.

Oh yes, he does give a nod at the very end to fact that government is ultimately more dangerous than many of the things it pretends to protect us against. But his nod in that direction is badly phrased, easily to misunderstand, and hardly makes up for the foolishness that comes before.


Getting long here, so I’ll truncate Mini-Rant #2 — especially since Joel and his commentors have already ranted in fine style.

I’ll just say that while it’s true that college freshman may tend toward embarrassing arrogance and freshmen at the Ivies are probably most prone to the condition, that Princeton chick takes the cake for blinding lack of self-awareness.

So there the brat sits on her perch at Princeton — whining about how every white male in the country is more privileged than she.

My one-legged, poverty-stricken hermit friend Joel. Privileged. Every poor slob trying to take care of a family on a blue collar income. Privileged. More privileged than Miss Princeton Priss.

This would be hilarious if I could believe that 10 years from now, this chick would be laughing at her own pretentiousness, bigotry, and cluelessness. What’s scary is that most likely she’ll spend the entire rest of her career in academia or public “service,” where she’ll never get a reality check. But the rest of us will have to deal with the realities that people like her create.


  1. SJ
    SJ May 12, 2014 2:05 pm

    People like the princeton chick make me ill. I’ve known too many of them in my life. They’re from the same crowd who will automatically vote for a woman – just because she’s a woman. Ugh.

    That Canadian “intellectual” ought to learn to use his brain before he speaks/writes.

    The Long Now is very intriguing, thanks.

  2. Joel
    Joel May 12, 2014 3:52 pm

    This would be hilarious if I could believe that 10 years from now, this chick would be laughing at her own pretentiousness.

    Or wincing. I’d settle for wincing.

  3. Brad R
    Brad R May 12, 2014 5:52 pm

    “Also, Canada, I have to say that if this is the best you can come up with for an intellectual, youโ€™re better off sticking with hockey.”

    Do you count Wendy McElroy as an intellectual?

  4. Brad R
    Brad R May 12, 2014 6:09 pm

    Not to mention Stefan Molyneux. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Claire
    Claire May 12, 2014 6:27 pm

    Brad — I count Wendy McElroy as one of the most brilliant intellectuals Canada has ever produced. (And I say that even though I don’t have your much closer perspective.)

    Yes, Wendy is better than Mounties, hockey, beer, or Michael J. Fox. (And I do hope everybody knows I was merely being wiseass about Canada’s proclivities.)

  6. Keith
    Keith May 13, 2014 1:53 am

    Hi Claire,

    I tried to follow the BBC link, it’s verbotten for Brits:

    BBC Worldwide (International Site)
    We’re sorry but this site is not accessible from the UK as it is part of our international service and is not funded by the licence fee. It is run commercially by BBC Worldwide, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the BBC, the profits made from it go back to BBC programme-makers to help fund great new BBC programmes. You can find out more about BBC Worldwide and its digital activities at

    prosecutions for TV license fee evasion takes up 10% of British magistrates court time – demonstrating that there’s a wonderful level of civil disobedience.

  7. Brad R
    Brad R May 13, 2014 3:49 am

    Yeah, I know. I was being wiseass right back. (I goofed and forgot the smiley in my first post.) ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. LarryA
    LarryA May 13, 2014 9:37 am

    My one-legged, poverty-stricken hermit friend Joel. Privileged. Every poor slob trying to take care of a family on a blue collar income. Privileged. More privileged than Miss Princeton Priss.

    The cruel truth for Miss Princeton is that Joel and the poor slobs are more privileged than she, because they know their own worth. My father taught me, early on, how much advantage I had over most of the people in the world. And how I had an obligation to work my tail off to justify that advantage. (Amazing how many of my father’s life lessons involved working my tail off.)

    The worst part of the opinion is when MP touches on the advantages she had with an intact family, and gets so close to breaking through the propaganda.

    One of these days I’m going to write a story about how different college would be if everyone had to earn a living for three or four years before they went.

  9. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty May 13, 2014 11:17 am

    Larry, take it a step farther and think about how different things would be generally if children had the opportunity, even if not the obligation, to learn how to work early in their lives. Meaningful work, especially within the family. I’m not talking about “sweat shops” or the near slave labor conditions of pre-modern farm life. I’m not sure that was all bad, of course, but certainly not good.

    I was seriously privileged to have a good learning experience, since my widowed mother had to teach me how to manage a household while she held down a full time job, and sometimes more. I was privileged to be able to work with her years later, after school at the dry cleaners she managed, learning to sew and do alterations, deal with customers and be responsible for money, other people’s property and so much more.

    Seems to me that the children most to be pitied now are those left to the TV and electronic devices for their early education, and pretty much ignored otherwise. They are deprived of any real opportunity to contribute meaningfully to their families, let alone learn how to work and how to get along with others in a work environment.

    College age is almost too late….

  10. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau May 14, 2014 9:16 am

    I had to laugh at Princeton Chick’s area of “study”. When I think of Princeton I think Physics (I even applied there for graduate work but was rejected, long, long ago). Einstein ended up there after immigrating. How far that institution has fallen, now that it has a program in African American Studies.

    I don’t dispute there are privileged people in the world, and in that point she is correct. The question is, does it matter? And if it matters, what is the proper remedy?

    She simply assumes that it does matter and the obvious remedy is government action. That is the real problem with her position. I have to wonder, how well has government “help”, starting with Lyndon Johnson’s so-called “Great Society” done for the unprivileged in America? Hasn’t that “help” actually had disastrous consequences for the recipients? Is she so blind that she is unaware of that fact?

    So much for African American Studies. I guess they leave the important information out of those studies.

  11. A.G.
    A.G. May 14, 2014 2:57 pm

    You have probably already seen the vid or at least read the transcript (and maybe even read the book). If you scroll down to the bottom, there is a brief interview as well as some author suggested reading.

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