Palookas, palookaville, the palooka party, and etymology of the word

 

Commenter “buzzsawmonkey” posted the following in a discussion on PJMedia. Agree or disagree, the metaphor is rather colorful.

“The Republicans are what Orwell called “a permanent and pensioned opposition.” They are the inflatable doll in the passenger seat that enables the Democrats to drive in the carpool lane.

More properly, they are the Palooka Party. They see their role as taking dives for the Democrats for the guaranteed short money, as a palooka fighter in a 1930s pulp-fiction story would take a dive for [the] kid being groomed by the gambling syndicate for a shot at the title. The Republicans’ job, as palookas, is to make it look good—put up a flurry of opposition before getting showily knocked out in the sixth round.

Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan don’t want to govern—nor do the other palookas in their party who voted to put them where they are. They want to go back to the safe business of taking dives for the guaranteed short money.”

The last sentence echoes this quote from the movie “On The Waterfront” (1954):

Terry: It wasn’t him, Charley, it was you. Remember that night in the Garden you came down to my dressing room and you said, “Kid, this ain’t your night. We’re going for the price on Wilson.” You remember that? “This ain’t your night”! My night! I coulda taken Wilson apart! So what happens? He gets the title shot outdoors on the ballpark and what do I get? A one-way ticket to Palooka-ville! You was my brother, Charley, you shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit so I wouldn’t have to take them dives for the short-end money.

Charlie: Oh I had some bets down for you. You saw some money.

Terry: You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it. […]

The word “palooka”  appears to have been coined in the 1920s by Variety sports writer Jack Conway, as a term for “a mediocre prizefighter”. Wikipedia (caveat lectorclaims it was derived as a kind-of spoonerism from the ethnic slur “Polack”. However, the talk page for the article suggests a much more plausible etymology: the Italian word pagliuca (a Southern dialect diminutive of paglia=straw or chaff), i.e. “little straw [guy]”. It’s hardly a stretch to assume that Mafiosi engaged in match-rigging would have referred to the designated loser as a pagliuca —which an English speaker unfamiliar with Italian would have transliterated as something like palooka.

A more modern form of “designated loser” would be the Washington Generals against the basketball exhibition team, the Harlem Globetrotters. Indeed, that very metaphor can be found online in a US political context, in both directions.

 

Independence Day post: An unintentional back-handed tribute to the USA

Via “masgramondou”, comes a mindblowing story. Sure, it’s VICE, so full of SJW virtue signaling and hand-wringing. But in a nutshell: there are lawyers for illegal immigrants who are actively trying to get their clients incarcerated at Riker’s Island in order to avoid deportation.

Let that sink in. They would rather sit in jail in the USA than be free outside the USA. Only in America, folks.

Happy Fourth of July! Don’t miss these tributes by Sarah Hoyt and Nicki Kenyon.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OLxcpKQcw4

The three lefts

It is a tragicomic spectacle to watch the left descend ever deeper into a pit of insanity — and more recently to see them “eating their own”. Case in point: this blog post this blog post (via Nicki Kenyon) about how a left-lib professor at Evergreen State U. had to go into hiding after criticizing some of the latest hard-left lunacy. Or the HuffPaint blogger who cheered North Korean mistreatment of Otto Warmbier (RIP) because at least in one place his “white privilege” didn’t help him. (No, I will not link to this evil spew.)
But of course, “the left” is no more a monolith than “the right” is. Leaving aside nuances of social/economic/religious/… left (some of which are specific to local contexts), at a more abstract or “meta” level, we can see three large streams within the left, distinguished by their epistemology (approach to knowledge).
The first, and the oldest, is the rationalist/constructionist left, or what I might call “the gnostic left”. Here we find the orthodox Marxists and the like. Like some hardcore theoreticians in the physical sciences, they are so in love with theoretical purity and logical consistency that they cannot be bothered with inconvenient “experimental” observations (cf. the famous story of Engels offering to show Marx around a factory, and Marx declining). Indeed, they remind me of the Gnostics of old, who considered the physical world intrinsically corrupt and thought truth could only be found in proper doctrine. How ironical, for a movement that waves the flag of “dialectical materialism”.
There are few people who despise communism and its fellow travelers more than I do—yet at least in principle, the old-school hard left still subscribes to rational thought. Hence a hard leftie like physicist Alan Sokal (a onetime Sandinista) may find himself a strange bedfellow with conservative critics of postmodern flimflam after thoroughly punking a postmodern “scholarly” journal.
The second kind of left is what I would call the “empirical, pragmatic left”. Historically, this is where you found social-democratic parties in Europe, and to some degree the labor movement in the USA—these are the kind of people we might think of as “old-school liberals”. They had little patience for theoretical mumbo-jumbo or any messianic visions of class struggle followed by perfect society: they arose against specific perceived injustices and proposed concrete solutions. This is the kind of left the liberty-minded among us have a common language with. In many cases, we may actually agree about the disease if not about the cure–and many of the solutions proposed by that left seem oblivious to the Law of Unintended Consequences, or to Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy. Still, this is the wing of the left with which a dialogue is possible. It is also the part of the left from which people most readily cross over to the populist right. Their natural home is the Democratic Party, but an increasing number of them have become ripe pickings for Trump-style populism—some of us may argue about whether this is a good or a bad thing, but again, we speak the same language to some extent. For example, I can read this essay by Camille Paglia and nod in agreement much of the time, with only the occasional eye roll at which candidate she supports.
Then finally there is what I call the “irrationalist left” or “postmodern left”. While even the most cynical members of the first two waves will pay at least lip service to the concept of objective truth, the postmodern left explicitly parts with the very concept, even as a platonic ideal — everything becomes a struggle of competing narratives, and of asserting the primacy of one narrative over the others. (Devout Christians might think of the Roman procurator Pontius Pilatus as the first postmodernist?) Logical consistency is wholly irrelevant to the irrationalist left, which leaves them free to seek alliances that even the most jaded old-school leftie gags on. “Feminists for Sharia” (seriously, an article in the PuffHo the other day sold that line #singularityOfStupid) , “Qu**rs for Palestine” (seriously, when actual homosexuals there seek refuge in Israel?), … you name it.
If a policy to “help” a marginalized group, in fact, ends up hurting said group, that might give an empirical leftist pause, while a gnostic leftist may try to gainsay your evidence, cherry-pick data, or twist himself into rhetorical knots to prove black is really white. The irrational left simply does not care. “Peacock issues” that are great for grandstanding while benefiting very few people (preferably checking as many “oppressed group” boxes as possible) also have great propagandistic value for them—the more disruptive on others, the better.
Peel away the postmodern verbiage, the Gramscian tactics, and the virtue signaling — and at the dark heart of the irrationalist left, you will find but one thing — a raw, mutant-Nietzschean “Will To Power”. With this wing of the left, dialogue resembles the proverbial chess game with a pigeon — except that pigeons are content with strutting on the chessboard and defecating on it, rather than engaging in vicious tactics (professional blackballing, character assassination, no-platforming speakers, outright violence) not just against adversaries, but even against people who see themselves as their allies.
Anyone who wants to successfully fights a war for any length of time cannot help adopting some of his enemy’s successful tactics. It was therefore inevitable, for good or bad, that some activists on the right would end up adopting mirror-image SJW/SJZ tactics, such as we have seen with the latest “D. Julius Trumpcaesar” kerfuffle. However, it behooves us to heed Nietzsche’s warning (in “Beyond good and evil”):
“He who fights monsters must watch out that he does become a monster himself. And when you stare into an abyss for [too] long, the abyss also stares back at you.”
(Wer mit Ungeheuern kämpft, mag zusehn, dass er nicht dabei zum Ungeheuer wird. Und wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der Abgrund auch in dich hinein.)
As for the “will-to-power left”:
wages of overreach are Trump 2

UK Elections: Emperor Mong strikes [UPDATED]

I remember thinking when Theresa May called early elections, “Don’t get cocky, kid” and “Leave well enough alone”. But the lure of polls predicting a supermajority must have been irresistible as the dread Emperor Mong (or his civilian avatar, the Good Idea At The Time Fairy) whispered in her ear. The apparent complete descent into lunacy of Labour under [expletives deleted] Jeremy Corbyn must have made a Tory victory seem inevitable.

emperormong
“Of course you’ll win a supermajority if you call early elections now. Bwuhaahaa!”

So she couldn’t leave well enough alone, and plunged ahead. Now the results are essentially complete, and she has… a hung parliament. [Full data here]

Counterintuitive as this seems: despite gaining 5.6% of the votes, her party saw a net loss of 13 seats (19 gained, 32 lost). (Sounds familiar?)

Labour gained a whopping 9.6%, though much a quarter of its actual gain of 31 seats came at the expense of the equally-looney left SNP (which lost 19 seats).

The UK Independence Party (formerly the 3rd largest party) was nearly wiped off the electoral map, dropping from 12.7 to 1.9%. Its number of seats in Parliament stayed unchanged: zero. (Such are the vagaries of first-past-the-post constituency voting: the Scottish National Party commanded a mere 4.8% of the vote in the previous election but returned 54 seats — as it is regionally dominant.) Presumably, many of the UKIP voters defected to the Tories or staid home, but in the age of chaos, nothing is impossible, not even defection to Labour 😉

The current 3rd largest party Liberal Democrats lost 0.4% of the vote and increased their parliamentary representation from 8 to 12.

Northern Ireland/Ulster returned 10 Democratic Unionists (=Protestants) and 7 Sinn Fein (=Irish Republicans), while Plaid Cymru (Welsh separatists) have 4 seats. The Greens have one seat, plus there is one seat listed as “Other”.

Masgramondou” just drew my attention to this: https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/…/scotland-bright-spot…/

“Amongst the many sentences I never thought I would type, I can add this: Scotland is the only bright spot for the Tories. The great Scottish Conservative comeback is underway.”

We are living in the year of Kek, the Age of Chaos, or [my preferred term] Heinlein’s “Crazy Years”.

UPDATE: now with just 4 seats left (Kensington +3 in Cornwall, all previously Tory) we are at:
315 Conservative
261 Labour
35 Scottish National Party
12 Liberal Democrats
23 “Others”, of which 18 in Northern Ireland (10 Protestant Unionists, 7 Irish Republicans, and 1 Independent), 4 Welsh separatists in Wales, and 1 Green in Brighton. The Unionists might be a viable partner for the Tories.

UPDATE 2: only 1 constituency left, Kensington: just 35 votes separate the Tory and the Labourite. A secondthird recount is to take place, probably on Saturday. Full results of 649 out of 650 constituencies via BBC:

318 Conservative (-12)
261 Labour (+29)
35 Scottish National Party (-21)
12 Liberal Democrats (+4)

10 Democratic Unionists (+2) [=Northern Irish Protestants]
7 Sinn Fein (+3) [=Northern Irish Catholics/Republicans]
4 Plaid Cymru (+1) [=Welsh separatists]
1 Green [in Brighton]
1 Independent [in the North Down constituency in Northern Ireland]

Parties exiting Parliament: In England, UKIP [-1]; in Northern Ireland, SDLP [-3] and Ulster Unionist Party [-2].

UPDATE 3: it is quite revealing to break down gains and losses by the constituent countries of the United Kingdom:

England: Tories -21; Labour +20; LibDem +2; UKIP -1

Scotland: SNP -21; Tories +12; Labour +6; LibDem +3

Wales: Tories -3; Labour +3;  LibDem -1; Plaid Cymru [=Welsh separatists] +1;

N. Ireland: Democratic Unionist Party +2 and Ulster Unionist Party -2 — these are two rival Protestant parties which now effectively continue as one; SDLP’s remaining 3 seats went to Sinn Fein (=Irish Republicans); Independent MP Lady Sylvia Hermon (ex-UUP) retains her North Down seat.

UPDATE 4: Labour got the Kensington seat on 3rd recount, with a margin of 20 (twenty) votes. 

And if “Theresa Mayday”s troubles weren’t big enough: Ruth Davidson, the head of the Scottish Tories and flush from her resounding victory in Scotland, is now threatening to separate the Scottish party from the English one if the mulled coalition with the DUP goes through. The latter are socially conservative and specifically opposed to “same-sex marriage”, while Ruth Davidson is openly lesbian and engaged to another woman. Then again, if the DUP and Sinn Fein (once literally mortal enemies) can have have a good working relationship, agreeing to disagree on traditional marriage seems quite small potatoes in comparison…

 

“Deplorables” as a “geuzennaam” (linguistic reappropriation)

Today the 45th President of the United States will be inaugurated. I did not vote for him, and many of my friends voted not for him as much as against his opponent. I wish the new POTUS strength, guidance, and clarity of vision, as any POTUS has his work cut out for him right now.

His supporters, both the enthusiastic and the reluctant, are referring to themselves as “Deplorables”, or even, with a pun on a musical and classic novel, “Les Déplorables“. This is actually a classic example of “linguistic reappropriation” at work: Trump’s opponent, Hilary Clinton, had referred to Trump supporters — or indeed to the half of the country that doesn’t vote D — as “a basket of deplorables”. Trump supporters rallied around the insult and took it up as a “nom de guerre” (battle name). [I still believe that was the moment she lost the election.]

This phenomenon is actually quite old, and the Dutch language even has a word for such an insult reappropriated for self-identification: “geuzennaam“. The term goes back to the 16th Century, during the Spanish rule over the Lowlands.

In Brussels, on April 5, 1566, a group of several hundred minor nobles marched to the palace of the Spanish governor, at the time Margaretha Duchess of Parma (an illegitimate daughter of Charles V), in order to present a writ of grievances against the Spanish administration in general, and its brutal repression of Protestantism in particular. (Protestant public sermons, so-called “hagepreken” [hedge preachings], were a capital offense.)

When the Duchess was upset at this disturbance — the wedding feast for her son being in progress at the time — her counselor, Charles de Berlaymont, is supposed to have said, “fear not, Madam, they are nothing but beggars” (N’ayez pas peur Madame, ce ne sont que des gueux.). The petitioners got wind of the term, and promptly called themselves “les Gueux” in French, “de Geuzen” in Dutch. The term stuck and quickly carried over to all opponents of Spanish rule. The bloody repression of the Geuzen by the Duke of Alba would bring on the Eighty-Year War as well as the Dutch Revolt (in which the modern Kingdom of the Netherlands was born).

Some prominent historical examples of “Geuzennamen” in English are “Tories” and “Yankees”. In Middle Irish, Toraidhe meant “outlaw, robber”, and the term was applied as an insult to English loyalists and royalists of various stripes. Somehow the name stuck, and since the 19th Century “Tory” is used by friend and foe to refer to a member or supporter of the Conservative Party.

In the US colonial era, “Yankee” was originally a derisive term for Dutch Americans. Several etymologies are possible: “Jan Kees” (pronounced Yan Case, informal name for “Johannes Cornelis” [John Cornel], two very common Dutch first names), “Janneke” (little John), a corruption of “Jonkheer” (Dutch for “squire”, cf. the German cognate Junker and the origin of the town name Yonkers, NY). During the American Revolution, the British and loyalists made fun of the revolutionaries as “Yankee Doodles”: the song (based on a much older melody) predictably became a revolutionary anthem, and is now a staple of the US military marching band repertoire. Later the term was, of course, reappropriated again…

“Redneck” is another such term. Originally it referred to the sunburns people with light skin color acquire when working fields in the Southern US without adequately protecting themselves from the sun (cf. the cognate Afrikaans term “rooinek” used by the Boers for South Africans of Anglo origin). It then became an insult to Southern whites and their allegedly retrograde ways, then was reappropriated by them as a self-identification.

Languages changes constantly — even as human nature is remarkably unchangeable. And speaking of change: Today we celebrate the end of what has arguably been the most dysfunctional and divisive presidency in the history of the US. As I wish his successor well, I do remember Pete Townshend’s classic lyrics:

I tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We won’t get fooled again…

Dystopic on: “Technocrats and the Worship of Intelligence”

Consider this post to be something of an expansion on the concept of the Brahmandarins. Technocracy is one of those things which sounds perfectly good on the surface, but can lead to absolute tyranny in short order. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, technocracy is, in essence, rule by technical elites. For instance, your media would be run by trained, credentialed journalism experts. Politicians would be groomed and educated to be leaders from an early age. You could not, for instance, be President if you did not attend the proper schools, earn the proper certifications, and demonstrate a certain set of requirements, like IQ, or perhaps an impressive set of grades in your debating classes. […]

Naturally, none of these technical elites would need to consult with you and I on these matters. If you are not one of the elite, you would need to be quiet and accept the rulings of your superiors.

The flaws in technocracy are very obvious, to any who care to see them. First and foremost is the matter of trust. Even if we were to concede that the trained, technically-minded elites were better than the hoi polloi, how could one be assured that they were not pulling the wool over the people and taking advantage of them? After all, just because you’re intelligent doesn’t mean you’re honest.

Similarly, being able to design and build rocket ships does not confer upon you the ability to manage and run organizations of rocket scientists. It’s a known problem among STEM folks, and a problem I suffer from personally, that technical ability and management ability are often mutually exclusive. I couldn’t manage brothel in Thailand with a US Navy aircraft carrier in port. But I can write and engineer software all day long. The intelligence and talent I possess is suited for certain things, and ill-suited for other tasks. Nobody would ask me to be a therapist, that’s for sure.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, technocracy denies a voice to the peasantry. We’ve tried that before. We call it feudalism and those feudal elites were called nobles. They knew themselves to be more intelligent and better-suited for leadership than those dirty plebs. Why, they could afford a costly scholarly education for their children, when desired, and the rag-wearing farmhands could not. And there was the Divine Right of Kings to consider, also.

What prompted this screed?

Go read the whole thing. Eric S. Raymond earlier explained how escalating complexity makes technocracy even less viable than before .

Of course, technocracy or, more generally, transnational oligarchic collectivism [*] are the wet dreams of all too many Brahmandarins who fancy themselves as the ‘anointed‘ oligarchs.

 

[*] a portmanteau of John Fonte’s “Transnational Progressivism” and George Orwell’s “Oligarchic Collectivism“.

Neologism of the day “peacock issues”

“Mr. Open Source Software”, Eric S. Raymond, penned this must-read open letter to the D party to please get its act together , lest they consign themselves to complete irrelevance.

I’m starting to be seriously concerned about the possibility that the U.S. might become a one-party democracy.

Therefore this is an open letter to Democrats; the country needs you to get your act together. Yes, ideally I personally would prefer your place in the two-party Duverger equilibrium to be taken by the Libertarian Party, but there are practical reasons this is extremely unlikely to happen. The other minor parties are even more doomed. If the Republicans are going to have a counterpoise, it has to be you Democrats.

Donald Trump’s victory reads to me like a realignment election, a historic break with the way interest and demographic groups have behaved in the U.S. in my lifetime. Yet, Democrats, you so far seem to have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.

The whole long essay is a must-read that I cannot do justice by selective quoting. Unfortunately it will fall on deaf ears among those who need it most.

In passing, ESR coins a new term:

Speaking of virtue signaling, another thing you need to give up is focusing on peacock issues […] while ignoring pocketbook problems like the hollowing out of middle-class employment.

Again, this advice has nothing to do with the rights or wrongs of individual peacock issues and more with a general sense that the elites are fiddling while Rome burns. For the first time since records have been kept, U.S. life expectancy went down during the Obama years, led by a disturbing rise in suicides and opiate addiction among discouraged unemployed in flyover country. A Democratic Party that fails to address that while it screws around with bathroom-law boycotts is willfully consigning itself to irrelevance.

“Peacock issues” are related to Thomas Sowell’s use of the term “mascots” and to “virtue signaling“, as ell as to the psychological concept of a proxy. They are issues that affect only a very small number of people (and that could be addressed ad hoc with fairly little effort) but are priceless as feathers to preen, and flags to wave to ‘rally the troops’ and instead push a sweeping agenda. Any actual benefit to the people involved in the peacock issues is secondary, if not outright irrelevant.

The use of “peacock issues” is of course not limited to the Brahmandarin political left  — they have just become egregiously addicted to the tactic in recent years.