Monday, June 12, 2006

Definition of "Smackdown"

Last week, Rod gleefully referred to "the ongoing Ramesh-Derb smackdown at The Corner." Rod further reported that he "told Jonah Goldberg that those guys make the back-and-forth he and I had over 'Crunchy Cons' look like Skipper and Gilligan." For whatever reason, Jonah was clearly too polite to point out the following:

For Rod's edification, let's talk about what a 'smackdown" is. A "smackdown" is when two opponents of like ability go at it with each other full force. Ramesh and Derb pull no punches. They don't have to, because they have command of their arguments. They are in full smackdown mode.

The following cannot be considered a "smackdown": when one opponent runs all a-trembling to hide from his opponent's arguments and pretend they don't even exist. Or, even more passive aggressively, when one acknowledges his opponent's points but insists his opponent is just being "boring". Kinda like what Rod pulled when faced with Jonah's arguments on NRO.

So yeah, Rod and Jonah didn't partake in a smackdown, because Rod never responded to Jonah's arguments. Non-smackdown. Ramesh and Derb *are* responding to each other's arguments. Smackdown.

I'm not well versed in the finer points of Gilligans Island, but I'll take Rod's word for it that the exchange between himself and Jonah resembles Skipper and Gilligan. I think Rod says more than he meant to there. I do vaguely remember that Gilligan did tend to pull his hat over his face when rebuked by Skipper -- in which case, it's pretty clear that Rod is Gilligan, hiding under his hat. Carry on, Skipper Jonah!


Blogger The Contra Crunchy said...

Has Debryshire ever commented on the crunchies at any length? Because in my mind, he is perhaps the ultimate contra-crunchy.

1:54 PM  
Blogger Pauli said...

No doubt; the Derb and Dr. Dreher definitely wouldn't agree on many things. But this blog has shown that many of us "backwoods religious types" are contra-crunch, too. We have the big tent; Rod and the crunchy bunch are stuck in their little pup tent.

8:28 PM  
Blogger kathleen said...

Whatever Derb had to say about crunchy cons would probably reflect poorly on his employer, so arguably Derb had a conflict of interest. (Plus editing out the profanity would be a trial.)

7:39 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

No doubt; the Derb and Dr. Dreher definitely wouldn't agree on many things.

And yet, Dreher says, of Derbyshire's blithely amoral essay on Iraq, "For the most part, he gives voice to my own view (and my own regret over my earlier support of this intrinsically doomed nation-building enterprise) with much more force and clarity than I could muster."

Then he excerpts it, beginning with this: "One reason I supported the initial attack, and the destruction of the Saddam regime, was that I hoped it would serve as an example, deliver a psychic shock to the whole region. It would have done, if we'd just rubbled the place then left."

When not bemoaning the loss of manliness around him, or being appalled that a lot of people would rather have boys than girls, he signs on to a foreign policy of murderous bullying.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Bubba said...

Yeah, Tom, absent an explanation, I have no idea how to take Rod's comments about Derb's article except to assume that it's a fairly broad acceptance of it.

It's a brutally selfish article; surely Rod knows that.

4:07 PM  
Blogger Bubba said...

I would add one thing to what you wrote:

"When not bemoaning the loss of manliness around him, or being appalled that a lot of people would rather have boys than girls, or sighing like a schoolgirl about what is (frankly) a really, really effeminate radio essay, he signs on to a foreign policy of murderous bullying."

Rod's been really schizophrenic the last few days.

4:16 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Rod's been really schizophrenic the last few days.

I'd say he's been entirely consistent with what seems to be his first principle: "I feel right," or, "If I like something, it is good; if I dislike something, it is evil."

Since he's a volatile man, this principle generates a set of opinions and positions that don't particularly come together in a coherent pattern (e.g., he's for masculinity, bullying, and maudlin essays).

While I'm at it, I'll add that Derb seems to start from much the same first principle. Being more phlegmatic, though, the opinions it produces in him hang together more coherently.

This theory implies that it's generally easier to predict Derb's opinion on some new matter than Rod's.

6:56 AM  
Blogger Pauli said...

> Rod's been really
> schizophrenic the last
> few days.

This goes back to Jonah's problem with the hyphenated varieties of conservatism. He rightly claims that it's extremely narcissistic to pull whichever bee you happen to have in your bonnet into your vision of the conservative movement and then claim it belongs there by definition. You like granola? It must be conservative. You like Christianity? It must be conservative. You like a certain company? Must be conservative. You agree with an article? It's the conservative point of view, naturally.

But when you pull these things into conservatism as dogmas which must be accepted you limit the entire movement, you reduce it solipsistically even if that was not your intention.

On the related topic of refusal to acknowledge, let alone interact with our positions and propositions, I present the following. I happen to agree with the general statement "Capitalism has flaws"; it's like agreeing with the statement "The world has problems." Invoking Chesterton, as the crunchy types always do, I will agree in the personal sense with his assertion in his famous response to the question "What's wrong with the world?" that, indeed "I am." Then as he went on to write the book discussing world systems as he saw them in his own time, I would like to discuss whether or not we've made steps toward solving anything pointed out by Chesterton in particular.

As a concrete example, I've often brought up home ownership, a subject near and dear to GKC's heart, in verbal (offline) discussions defending capitalism as workable, not perfect. (Kind of like lawn-mowers -- I'm often amazed that they work, but have not found an alternative for getting the job done....) The percentage of those who own their own homes in the United States has increased substantially in recent years. We even have a President who is (at least somewhat) conservative in the mainstream, i.e., pro-free market, sense who talks about the "ownership society." I would love to hear why Chesterton, with his anti-Capitalist views they love to stress, wouldn't be pleasantly surprised with this development, but here's the problem: no one with any crunchy views will discuss this with me. I ponder: "Certainly if the great Rod can agree with John Derbyshire on something, cannot the great Chesterton agree with a fellow believing Christian, named Bush, on some economic policies which have helped increase home ownership, especially among poor and minorities?"

Maybe this is the sign proponents of the free market have sought that capitalism has developed into something more humane than it was at the turn of the 20th century with company stores and villainous mustached landlords. Maybe the long-term vision of good, free people who have worked within the system have consciously or unconsciously curbed the viciousness which most free market defenders readily admit can exist within the system, just as bullying can exist on a playground in a good neighborhood. Maybe, as I increasingly suspect, this is evidential confirmation of what most of us intuitively suspect - Wal-mart is not responsible for mass impoverishment of the citizenry any more than the local farm market. I don't know what the crunchy position is on this and perhaps I never will for this lack of particular response on this particular issue of home ownership. My belief can be summed up by this illustration of capitalism as a clock: if it's correct more than twice a day it's not broken. It may, though, need to be wound, adjusted from time to time, and have some inner workings replaced now and again. Also note that if you're angry with it, throwing it across the room won't help matters.

GKC's highly-developed, somewhat Utopian economic system, Distributism, is something that Rod mentions in passing in his book with the assertive air which accompanies all references to those ideas which he assumes are on the crunchy bandwagon, never mind that GKC opposed just about every regulatory statist response to supposed market abuse which Rod seems to favor. Chesterton's Hudge and Gudge are equally unimaginative as they are equally materialistic. But before you assume that a local real estate developer, insurance agent or mortgage banker is as bad as either Hudge or Gudge, I would first attempt an unbigoted comparison to the actual descriptions given by Chesterton, not to the "emanations of the penumbra" of your impression of what he would think after reading a brief encyclopedia entry about his extensive writings.

My concluding point in all of this is that the Rod and the crunchies not only fear a big "smackdown" with their peers, but they seem to choose flight over having any discussion with those who have particular questions or particular points. Are we to assume from this that our arguments aren't like little pins and his not like large, over-inflated balloons? I'll let the thoughtful conversers on this fine blog decide that for themselves.

[Dittoes to Tom on his thoughts, we posted simultaneously.]

8:30 AM  
Blogger kathleen said...

Pauli,kind of off topic, but I'm not sure i would use the recent rise in homeownership (should really be called "home debtorship") as a fact in favor of the administration. We are in the midst of a housing bubble created by easy credit and the Fed, and if it pops, which i think it will/is, we are headed for bad economic times.

I would argue that the Fed's easy credit and consequent housing bubble was a statist solution to the tech stock crash. And that easy credit goes hand in hand with the overspending by washington of late. (the dollar is in trouble -- buy gold!)

10:32 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Pauli, I don't think Chesterton would agree that what Americans call home ownership is true ownership. In California a "homeowner", if he has a deed of trust, does not even have legal title to the home he occupies.

10:44 AM  
Blogger Pauli said...

Kathleen, maybe you're sitting somewhere between my optimism and the crunchista pessimism on the home ownership issue. If people want to use their house as a credit card you can say that's a bad choice, it is. Yes, banks make money from mortgages, but look at the real estate values in areas with more people renting (as well as the needles in the driveway -- gosh, that brings back memories.)

To you there may be no difference between the working poor guy with 2% equity (if that) in his crib and a renter, but to them there is, and perceptions influence behavior.

Yes; Washington (i.e., Bush) is overspending -- his biggest failure by far, but increased home ownership -- even if the LTV is high -- is a reality. When the housing bubble breaks I promise I'll be your gardener.

10:58 AM  
Blogger Pauli said...

> I don't think Chesterton
> would agree that what
> Americans call home
> ownership is true ownership

You can own your home free and clear. It is possible. Of course there's always the public domain laws, and he wouldn't like that even though they pay people. Obviously that's government coercion, and that isn't a problem on the free market side of things -- it's on the statist side.

My point isn't so much whether or not GKC or Belloc would love our system any more than I love it, but whether or not economic growth has caused people's situations to improve or deteriorate. I'm saying that people's situations can improve, growing economies can permit even the "little guy" to build equity and owning a home can be a part of that even if the bank holds the deed.

11:13 AM  
Blogger kathleen said...

"To you there may be no difference between the working poor guy with 2% equity (if that) in his crib and a renter, but to them there is, and perceptions influence behavior."

But Pauli, that's the danger. working poor guy feels rich when he has %2 or %20 equity, makes decisions accordingly, and then that equity disappears overnight (despite the real estate industry telling him "housing values always go up!"). he probably got an ARM and was not required to make a downpayment when he bought the house. his mortgage payments are about to double. doh! now he is in bigger trouble than he would have been renting.

maybe not where you are, but equity is disappearing all over the place in Norther VA as i type. inventory has quadrupled this year. nothing is selling.

12:22 PM  
Blogger Pauli said...

True about different regions yielding different impressions. I live in an area with very few "alligators" and it's nothing like Boca Raton, SF Bay, etc. The bubble might exist here, but it's quite a bit smaller. I have listened to arguments on the minus side about this and to me the danger, although real, does not equal disaster. Most banks will work with people who need assistance and do things like convert ARMs to fixed, etc.

We don't have an inventory problem here in Ohio because our taxes are too high.

12:47 PM  
Blogger Cubeland Mystic said...

We are not flakes nor do we wish to practice social engineering. Social engineering is bad voodoo. Locking people into kosherism is also bad voodoo. I agree with Bubba's criticisms about new dietary restrictions. And I would never advocate for that. People should come to their own conclusions about food and shelter.

My broader concern is with large corporations and our dependence on them for our direct and indirect livelihoods. This is one purpose of my site. To help people get off the corporate smack. That is why I originally subtitled my site a journey toward self sufficiency. Bubba and another man rightfully criticized the subtitle, and I reconsidered the message it would send and changed it. The idea of self sufficiency is being in charge of your own time and the direction your life takes. This is a Catholic notion, and is admittedly directed by my formation as a Roman Catholic. The intent, as always, is to move in the direction of God.

I am not against prosperity, nor should any crunchy. The contracrunchy outsourced his coding which is good. I'd like to work a deal with my employer to go 1099 and contract (i.e. outsource myself). I'd like to see all you guys here start your own businesses and make good money. If all you guys were making a million dollars a year, like Martha says, would be a good thing. What would be a bad thing is if everyone declared the world a disaster area and ran off to a farm to milk goats. I am not going to do that. Most of us have to stay in the cities and be a light. That does not mean that the guys at the New Pantagruel are wrong, they are taking a different road to the same end. I am not going down that road, but I will help them by purchasing their artisan goat cheese. My wish for all of you is that you control your time, fully realize your talents, and accumulate as much treasure that you can comfortably manage.

8:54 AM  
Blogger Diane said...

LOL, Cubeland Mystic...I would love to outsource myself, too, but my Giant Corporate Employer won't go for it. :(

Alas, when I tried freelancing full time some years ago, I made a grand total of $12,000 per annum. (Well, not quite "annum": I stuck it out for only nine months before running back to the shelter of Agency World. (I'm an advertising hackette, and I was working for ad agencies back then. I'm in an in-house agency in a big corporation now. It's a lot less crazy, and I'm too old for "crazy.")

For me, the problem with freelancing is that I've no head for business. 99% of freelancing is hustling, and I'm lousy at hustling. I always under-sell myself and end up getting taken advantage of.

I'm an e-comemrce copywriter now, and for the past few years, I've been teaching myself search-engine optimization. (Have also received some formal training in it--not that it's rocket science or anything, but it helps to bone up on the buzz-words so you can impress people at cocktail parties and stuff.)

Anyway, some months ago, I was really fed up at my job, so I started looking into opportunities in freelance SEO copywriting.

Oh, the opportunities are out there, all right. But the pay is sub-sub-bird feed.

I asked a successful SEO copywriter about this. She said the only way to make any money in the field is to go into business for yourself, working directly with your own clients rather than going through SEO firms and agencies. You can't make any $$$ doing freelance work for SEO firms because most of them are looking for barely literate el-cheapo writers who can do little more than string a bunch of keywords together in a manner just short of "spammy enough to get penalized by Google."

Well, there's no way I can go into business for myself--i.e., drum up my own clients rather than freelance for agencies and write for *their* clients--because, well, as I say, I can't do that hustle thing. Simply lousy at it.

So, it's either stay tethered to the Great Corporate Mamma or make a pittance freelancing for SEO firms.

So, here I am, still stuck in Dilbert-Land.

Oh well.

Sorry for the Saga of My Life. :D

Like you, I am not overly enamored of Big Huge Corporations. If nothing else, they are not exactly known for fostering and encouraging initiative, creativity, and independent thinking. Oh, they talk about that stuff all the time. (If I hear "let's think outside the box" one more time, I'm gonna dive off the fifth-floor balcony in the new building.) But if anyone actually *tries* that creative-thinking stuff, he or she gets smacked right back inside the box. And then the cover gets nailed down....

2:10 PM  
Blogger Cubeland Mystic said...

Hence the problem. If your company puts you in a position where you have to write copy for abortion providers or some other such problems, you have very few choices to alleviate the situation.

Let's explore the "Rod's Maid" example. Say Mrs. Maid is in the same boat you are. She could work on her own but she is not good at marketing herself. If she works for an agency, she makes very little but get a few nice gigs. Or she can go work for the Stilton hotel chain for okay money but it is a crappy and irritating job. She ends up having to change all kinds of stuff with her kids schedule to accommodate the job, and her whole family's life revolves around Mrs. Maid's constantly changing work schedule. She’s seldom available for her kids.

She tells her friend at Church about her problem, that person happens to know that Rod is looking for a maid. Rod checks her out and all is good. Because of his book royalties he is able to pay her what she is making at the hotel, but she now has a stable schedule, and in addition she now has time to go to daily Mass. She likes taking care of Rod's tastefully decorated bungalow in his stylish gentrified Dallas neighborhood, and also looking after his well behaved kids. After some time Mrs Dreher picks up some parenting tips from the maid since she's got a couple kids a few years older. Rod, informed by his faith understands his role as an employer makes sure that Mrs. Maid is paid ethical wage. Roll forward 20 years and Mrs. Maid attends both boys' weddings and the story has a happy ending.

Too idealized perhaps, but prosperity is a good thing. Forgive me if I am wrong, but I think you mentioned that you take Holy Eucharist to the home bound. If so then I pray that you have the time to continue this, and that you have the time to continue to bring comfort and hope to the sick and dying. It would be terrible if your company due to market pressure forced you to choose between your own livelihood and that of your ministry. I hope this example illustrates the direction of my blog.

2:56 PM  

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