Hot Air: Movin’ On Up

Lucky Bastards

Hannah Keyser went all kill-the-rich on Deadspin yesterday afternoon. Well, not really; she’s not advocating bloody revolution or anything like that. She simply makes the suggestion, after reading Cornell University economist Robert Frank‘s new book, Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy, that the rich and even the not-so-rich-but-really-comfortable ought to view their estate in life with a pinch of humility. The myth propagated by the Ayn Rand-ists and other Me fanatics is that wealth and success come about solely by dint of hard work, brains, and stick-to-it-iveness.

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Just try to take the edge off that self-stroking fable and the haves of this holy land start turning purple. Suggest that a rich guy might — just might — be the beneficiary of geographic, family, temporal, or racial good fortune and next thing you know you’re being branded a jealous fomenter of class warfare.

To the fat and happy of this holy land, Frank is the latest fomenter and Keyser has joined him in terror. She’s a big fan of his propositions. She quotes from his book:

According to the Pew Research Center, people in higher income brackets are much more likely than those with lower incomes to say that individuals get rich primarily because they work hard. Other surveys bear this out: Wealthy people overwhelmingly attribute their own success to hard work rather than to factors like luck or being in the right place at the right time.

That’s troubling, because a growing body of evidence suggests that seeing ourselves as self-made—rather than as talented, hardworking, and lucky—leads us to be less generous and public-spirited. It may even make the lucky less likely to support the conditions (such as high-quality public infrastructure and education) that made their own success possible.

Remember how the Republicans and the “self-made” went apoplectic over Barack Obama’s “You didn’t build that” quote? The prez had actually said:

[L]ook, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

BHO spoke sloppily but his point was clear — the greater society built the roads, both actual and metaphorical, that made the path to success navigable. So stop patting yourself on the damned back, okay?

The reaction to Obama’s statement was as gasp-y as if he’d called for the right of child molesters to marry their victims. Maybe even worse, considering the population from which child molesters all too often emerge.

You must be itching for a fight if you breathe the term luck to most of the haves.

Keyser (and Frank) have the itch. Me, too.

Trans Hysteria

Amid all the shrieking about the Obama Administration forcing the nation’s female cherubim to share tight spaces with child molesters dressed up as women, the Monroe County Community Schools Corp. now has gender-neutral bathrooms at both Bloomington High Schools, north and south.

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Here’s A Bathroom Sign I Like

Of course, that’s just us. The People’s Republic of Bloomington is not really Indiana nor is it, for that matter,  most of the rest of this USA. It is in a class by itself and naturally would provide bathrooms for kids who are working through their gender identities.

Much of the state and nation at large are certain trans people teeter from gender to gender depending on which side of the bed they get out of each morning. And those child molesters who thus far have studiously avoided plying their trade in the bathrooms of their own gender — yeah, sure — now will simply don dresses and smear mascara on so as to prey on little girls. Stand to reason, doesn’t it?

Various reverends and school superintendents and statehouse simians are convinced for the umpteenth time that Obama is Hitler with this latest order to be obeyed at risk of penalty of death.

One thing we forget, living here in Bloomington, is we’re outliers. I’m thrilled to be an outlier but I wish to hell I wasn’t given the opportunity to be one so very often.

Top Brass

Sure, there’s a War Against Women being waged by the religious right and many in the Republican Party but the state of females in this holy land certainly is a hell of a lot better than it was even a decade ago.

Yesterday, for instance, US Sec’y of Defense Ashton Carter emceed a change of command ceremony at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado where he introduced General Lori Robinson as the new top boss of NORAD.

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Air Force Four-Star General Robinson

If you grew up when I did the term NORAD prob. evokes memories of some awfully scary times. It originally stood for North American Air Defense Command (later, N.A. Aerospace Command) and its charge was to protect our sacred acreage from a Russkie nuclear attack. I also recall CONELRAD, which was the emergency radio system set up to broadcast Civil Defense info just in case Nikita Kruschev’s trigger finger got itchy.

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One of my fave TV shows, The Twilight Zone, often featured stories about nuke attacks, the anticipation thereof or the aftermath. One of the most chilling movies ever made was Fail-Safe, the majority of which was set in a deep underground bunker where the president, played by Henry Fonda, negotiated by red phone with the Soviet premier over an unauthorized US nuke attack on Moscow.

The specter of nuclear annihilation hung over us every second of the day and I, at least, felt comforted that our NORAD airplanes were constantly on patrol and would shoot the godless commies out of the sky before they even got past the North Pole.

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NORAD’s Air Defense Zones, Mid-1960s

Anyway, NORAD and the whole American system of defense against nuclear attack, was the most macho, hi-tech, vitally important set of operations the Pentagon oversaw. At least that’s the way this ten-year-old saw things back in 1966.

And now, a woman is the top dog of the whole shebang. Robinson is the first US woman to lead a major Unified Combat Command. The Prez and the Defense Sec’y are betting she’s as tough as Valdimir Putin and his mobsters.

Gender progress.

Now, if only we could make peace progress.

May 14th Birthdays

Richard Deacon — TV and film actor known most for his portrayal of producer Mel Cooley on the Dick Van Dyke Show. Deacon  also was a Broadway musical comedy actor, appearing in Holly, Dolly! with Phyllis Diller in 1969.

Richard Deacon

Sophie Kurys — One of the stars of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Known as the Flint Flash, she stole the most bases in league history. Kurys played for the Racine (later, Battle Creek) Belles.


Oona O’Neill Chaplin — Daughter of Nobel Prize winning playwright Eugene O’Neill and author Agnes Boulton, she engaged in a scandalous affair beginning the month after she turned 18 with Charlie Chaplin, then aged 54. She and Chaplin eventually married and had eight children together.

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The Chaplins

Bobby Darin — 1950s pop singer who, in 1968, became a socially-conscious folk singer in the aftermath of the assassination of Bobby Kennedy.

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David Byrne — One of the founders of the Talking Heads, author, world music record producer, bicycling advocate, visual artist, film director — what hasn’t this man done?

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Tim Roth — Mr. Orange.

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Eoin Colfer — Irish author of the Artemis Fowl children’s sci-fi books.

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Sofia Coppola — Daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, she has established a reputation in her own right as a director. Her film, The Virgin Suicides, based on the Jeffrey Eugenides novel, is especially remarkable.

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Mark Zuckerberg — Either a messiah or Satan himself, depending on your take on the Facebook era. A big charter schools advocate, Zuckerberg also has supported New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

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Frank Sinatra died on this day in 1998. Sinatra was a died-in-the-wool Democrat from childhood on until 1970 when he unexpectedly supported Ronald Reagan for reelection as California governor. In 1972, he backed Richard Nixon for reelection. He had a particular fondness for White Castle sliders and once threatened to punch columnist Mike Royko in the mouth.

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