So school teachers’ lesson plans are “trade secrets” exempt from the various Freedom of Information statutes? In a Sith’s eye!

It’s a rather odd expression His Majesty has picked up. I’m not even sure what it’s supposed to mean. But he has begun using it when he is delighted to find something irritating in the morning paper. I’m afraid His Majesty is one of those people who enjoys getting worked up over things. It reminds me of what the late historian John Keegan wrote, about the boastfulness of clever people leading unimportant lives. He was thinking of academic dons, but it seems applicable to retired Sith as well.

The story His Majesty was happily fulminating over reported a request by the local paper for some examples of lesson plans being used in various schools in the school district, for a story they were working up. The school district flat refused with the claim that these are “trade secrets.” No, really.

It’s heartening, in a way. If you believe the watchdog theory, then journalists should always be at odds with government. When the government is happy to give journalists everything they ask, you know the journalists aren’t asking enough. And when the most heated interactions between journalists and the administration resemble a lovers’ spat more than the discord between Hatfield and McCoy, you can bet the moisture farm that corruption of other kinds is flourishing as well.

If you aren’t sure which it is, look at the political alignment of the administration. If it’s Republican, you can be confident the hatred you feel swelling between the two is genuine. If it’s Democratic, you have to be more careful. This is because the journalist’s guild is practically an arm of the Democratic Party, as every poll has shown and any honest observer must admit. Not that Democrats aren’t capable of hating each other’s guts, sometimes with a white-hot, incendiary hatred; but they feel obligated to set that aside so long as there are any Republicans around. It’s rather like Tolkien’s orcs, whose constant inter-tribal warfare is instantly forgotten upon sighting an Elf or Elf-friend.

Not that Democrats are orcs or Republicans are Elf-friends. It’s more like chimpanzees versus gorillas. The chimpanzees may be the more sympathetic party, but it’s still monkeys flinging [poo] at each other.

I remind the reader that I report His Majesty’s words as accurately as I can stand to, but sometimes I just have to substitute a euphemism.

His Majesty generally votes Republican, but he is the kind who would not be caught dead walking into a voting both without holding his nose. He would be holding his nose no matter what the party platforms were or which candidates the parties had nominated, just on general principle. And by “general principle” I mean a carefully cultivated affectation of disdain for party politics.

In this respect His Majesty is like nearly every intellectual, ideologue, or crank I’ve ever known. You can find such creatures in the discussion forum of any conservative political blog, pronouncing Mitt Romney a socialist, or of any liberal political blog, pronouncing Barack Obama a sell-out.

If all you knew of American politics was the genuine disdain between journalist and Republican politician, your wise choice would be to vote the Republican party ticket. This would be true even if you reversed the political alignment of journalist and politician.

Nevertheless, the perfect world is not an option, because the perfect world would have the journalists, Congress, the President, and the judicial-bureaucratic complex all at odds with each other, jealous of their own powers and prerogatives and out for each other’s blood. But game theory confirms what experience has shown: There are always powerful incentives for forming alliances that effectively reduce the parties to two in number. This is true even in European-style parliamentary democracies, even if it’s not as obvious and the alliances are more unstable than in the American winner-takes-all system. If Britain could ally with Russia in 1941 to fight to the death with Germany and Italy — it would harder for a politician of 1920 to imagine stranger bedfellows! — then no ordinary political process is going to avoid the collapse into two opposing alliances.

By “ordinary” I suppose His Majesty means “democratic.” There was only one party in Soviet Russia.

I’m surprised at your naiveté, Lord Vader. John Derbyshire, before he went off the deep end, made a very good analogy to a magnet. Cut it in two, and you don’t end up with separate north and south poles. The north pole end promptly acquires a south pole, and the south pole end promptly acquires a north pole. The original Communists, once they had purified themselves of the Fabians, promptly split in the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks. And the Bolsheviks, once they had rid themselves of the Mensheviks, promptly split into the Stalinists and Trotskyites. If there was no visible split under Stalin, it was because Stalin was a  tyrant whose cult of personality and reign of terror were truly extraordinary.

Hitler went the other way, actually encouraging factionalism in order to keep any opposition from crystallizing. But the cult of personality was just as evident, even if the reign of terror was (surprisingly) more subdued. Unless you were Jewish.

The Jews were, in fact, a straw man opposition party, which like all straw men was promptly and thoroughly demolished without ever quite being allowed to go completely away.

There are always two parties in American government: The party of the President, and the party of the opposition. This is dangerous when the party of the President is the Democratic Party, because he is certain to have strong allies in the press and in the judicial-bureaucratic complex. It is more dangerous when the Democrats also control Congress. When the President is a Republican, he is guaranteed to face a strong opposing alliance in the press and the judicial-bureaucratic complex. Again, if you knew nothing else about American politics, you would be wise to vote Republican for this reason alone.

Congress is a lost cause. The Founders seem not to have anticipated so strong a Presidency, and clearly worried about the power of a Congress dominated by a single party. Hence, they split it into two Houses (and for other reasons, as well) and ensured that supermajorities would be needed for critical Congressional actions. Unfortunately, this means that even a weak President, with weak allies in Congress, is effectively immune to removal from office and is relatively secure in his vetoes. President Clinton, for example, experienced just two overrides of his 36 vetoes. Bush, a Republican, had four of twelve vetoes overridden — another argument for voting Republican — but Mr. Obama has only vetoed two bills, none overridden, though we will follow his future career with great interest.

The Founders considered allowing a President to be removed on a simple majority vote for mere maladministration, a great missed opportunity. Though this might have tipped things too far the other way; one cannot be sure.

I find myself thinking of another form of rule where there are always two, and only two, parties.

But of course, Lord Vader. It’s the Sith way. Be grateful that our earlier retirement allowed us to continue our friendship.

Um, yeah. There was that business about provoking my son into trying to kill me. Though, to be sure, Hollywood has badly exaggerated and mythologized that unpleasant episode.

His Majesty has a way of abruptly shifting gears.

Much of the incompetence of our present crop of politicians can be traced, not to the things over which they disagree, but to the things on which they are agreed that are not so. And the most destructive thing on which they are agreed that is not so is that everyone thinks the way they do.

This is a nearly universal conceit in the West. Its most common and, perhaps, most destructive manifestation is the belief that men and women are psychologically equivalent; that women are simply small, weak men with [breasts] and [uteruses] instead of [phalluses].

This does seem to be a thought that must be adhered to in polite company, though probably not the way His Majesty phrased it. The opposite thought is regarded as a false and deeply hurtful idea.

No doubt some women find it deeply hurtful to hear the suggestion that women and men do not, in fact, think alike. All I care is whether it is true. And it is so obviously true to anyone who has spent time around the opposite sex that I am baffled anyone attempts to deny it.

I am hardly the first to observe that male psychology is constructed to operate under a hierarchical model of leadership; that males are driven to distinguish themselves as individuals; that males wander, build, and do; and that the average male IQ in a room drops by at least twenty points the moment an attractive female walks into the room.

Whereas females are constructed to operate under a flat model of leadership; are highly susceptible to peer pressure; are sessile, nurturing, and conservative; and only appear to have their IQs drop by at least twenty points when they walk into a room full of virile males.

I suppose it should come as no surprise that His Majesty is a consummate chauvinist.

That may be so, Lord Vader, but evolutionary psychology backs me up. Though, ironically, I’m not sure I really believe in  organic evolution. The theory strikes me as an insult to chimpanzees.

His Majesty jests. I’ve never met a more consummate Darwinist.

These psychological  orientations served obvious biological needs in pre-industrial human communities. The fatal conceit is assuming the orientations no longer serve an important purpose merely because we have industrialized. The urban jungle has replaced the African savannah, that’s all.

Children still need fathers and mothers with distinct psychological orientations. Mothers nurture; fathers discipline and play. His biographers tell us that Tolkien toyed with the thought that elvish men and women were nearly equal in their capacity for both war and healing, but found they could not do both at the same time, leading to a division of roles. Human males and females are not even equal in their capacities, let alone able to play both roles at the same time.

It is amusing to watch people assume that saying this somehow diminishes women. I suspect the overwhelming majority of Americans, if polled in a sufficiently objective manner, would agree with the statement that doctors should be paid more than infantry company commanders. This is in spite of the fact that the doctor does not put her life on the line when she does her job, and her role is a nurturing role, stereotypically female — while the infantry company commander’s role is consummately male. I think this is a splendid example of revealed preference.

His Majesty is ignoring the tendency of the very highest paid members of society, corporate executives, to be male.

This is increasingly not true. Women are underrepresented in the board room, true, but those who are in management positions and do not muddy the waters by taking time to raise children show no significant wage gap. Furthermore, the American management paradigm has become increasingly feminized, so that the flat model of leadership is increasingly viable. Middle-level managers are now, more than ever, mere mouthpieces for higher levels of management — deputies rather than delegates.

The false assumption that others think the way we do extends beyond the male/female divide. I do not think the way a jihadist does. You do not think the way Stalin did (more’s the pity.) Chamberlain failed spectacularly because he assumed Hitler was a man who thought like himself. He realized his mistake even before returning from Munich, reporting to his intimates on returning to London that Hitler was the worst piece of work he had ever met; but by then it was too late for the West.

One understands why this assumption is made. For liberals, it is inconceivable that persons who differ significantly in their thinking could truly be equals, and equality is the modern liberal watchword. But conservatives also fall prey to this conceit. The whole philosophy of assuming that institutions that worked in the past probably still work today is based on the assumption that people thought in the past much as they think today.

This is amazing to see in a country so obsessed with education. I actually think that intelligence has a strong inherited component, but the genetic factors involved are too complex to be easily predicted, and they are seriously confounded by environmental factors: Dull environments produce dull people.  Education really does alter the way we think. Or why are we so fixated on it?

Perhaps because what we call education is actually filtering?

Quite right, but no liberal will ever admit it. Filtering assumes that there is scum to be removed from the feed. But if educational credentials are not the real purpose of education, then must we not admit that education alters how we think, ergo, different people really can think differently from each other?

There’s a third possibility, which is that education is nothing more than downloading programs into existing hardware.

You don’t mean that, of course. I would never have chosen an apprentice that wasn’t a lot smarter than that. But I bet a lot of liberals believe it.

Huh. Compliments are rare from His Majesty any more.

Since you converted to that kooky religion. But you’re basically still an intelligent, cultivated Sith.

The skillful politician is one who has a special aptitude for understanding how others think. However, the others in question are primarily other politicians from the same culture and, usually, the same educational environment. Chamberlain was a skillful enough politician when dealing with Commons, or he would never have risen to the premiership. With Hitler, he was out of his depth.

Hitler was the better politician in that he quickly got the measure of Chamberlain. But Hitler was also a psychopath. Orson Scott Card understands the importance of this. Any one of us, if we developed the capacity to truly understand how another thought, would be so overwhelmed with empathy that we could not then take advantage of them to their destruction. It takes a peculiarly twisted mind to understand how another mind works without caring how another heart feels.

I had to bite my tongue and leave the room at that point. Fortunately we have morning Sacrament Meeting in my ward, giving me an excuse to make my escape. Not that preparing for church requires much of me, physically; a clean cloak and a quick swipe of the polishing cloth over the black plaster armor, and I’m good.

It occurs to me that Christ has that quality of understanding perfectly how my mind works, better than I do myself. And His empathy knows no measure: And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

Whereas Satan is merely a supremely brilliant psychopath.


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