Stupid Like A Fox

While rando websurfing today I came across the following:

In 1964, [Muhammad Ali] was reclassified as 1-Y (fit for service only in times of national emergency) after two mental tests found his IQ was 78 (16th percentile), well below the armed force’s 30th-percentile threshold. (He was quoted as saying, “I said I was the greatest, not the smartest!”)

….which is a reminder of how ridiculous it is that people actually believe IQ is a useful gauge of mental ability.

Ali was a brilliant man, a master of psychology, who in the ring thought many moves ahead like a grandmaster of chess; he had a quick and clever wit, could string together battle raps and wrestling-style insults completely impromptu, all while in front of cameras and people and tremendous distraction. Yet according to his IQ score, he was of less than average intelligence, a result so absurd given his obvious real-world smarts that some people thought he’d intentionally botched the test to rope-a-dope the draft board. He’s asked as much in the following video; his reply is denial, then a joke.

The whole video is instructional on the topic of Ali’s (largely untutored, he explains) intelligence. In it, as in so many of his appearances before disease transformed him, he is funny, cautious, charming, clever, a talented politician, a star, a hero, one of those rare wonderful people who doesn’t even have to perform – just rather merely and observably, be – to make the observer feel good to be alive.


My friend Nathan told me that years ago in a teenage compulsive suicidal despair, he drank gasoline. “How much?” I asked. Dunno, but he chugged. “What happened next, did you have to get your stomach pumped?” He said there was no need; he puked it all up almost instantly.

Of course gas isn’t exactly like oil but I think of him when I come across similar stories. For instance, I was just watching a shoot interview trailer in which Jim Cornette says that Wahoo McDaniel, in college, ran 26 miles and drank a quart of motor oil on a bet (legit). Which brings to mind this classic promo in which the oil, at least most of it, is spit out:

I’ve had it all over me on the farm, usually in the form of tractor hydraulic fluid from a ruptured line or stuck coupler valve. The taste is just as it smells, and it lingers. But apparently it’s not too poisonous. There’s also the experience of other omnivore mammals:

The wife of Kenneth Anderson kept an orphaned sloth bear cub from Mysore, which she named “Bruno”. The bear could be fed on almost anything (including motor oil) and was very affectionate toward people.

Can’t have a post about oil consumption without referencing this stuff:

Generation Hex

Billy Corgan on Generation X. Corgan has always been shrewd about his critics, so I also left in the part including his counterpunching description of the familiar sort of privileged authenticity-fetishists who are a menace to so many fandoms in pop culture.

Corgan: I’m surprised by the lack of provocation in the artistic class, particularly in Generation X, which was a generation that benefited – we might as well be dead. I don’t see what our impact is; we’ve let the nerds take over. TV and music is filled with a bunch of nerds running agendas that are really counter-holistic, self-referential. You know, a part of – there were different shadows to the X generation, one of which was: how do we include everybody? And somehow that’s been warped into, once again, how do we disbar those who don’t fit into our agendas. Very strange to me.
Ghomeshi: Who do you mean when you say the nerds? Because I thought to a certain extent we were the nerds.
Corgan: I thought we were the nerds, but I didn’t realize a bunch of people were gonna come around with their laptops and claim authority. Being bookish, to me, is not being a nerd. You know, I once met some guy who was running some website – it was a fan website but super-critical of the band – and I asked him what he thought of our new website, and he was like “I don’t like your use of the color red.” I mean, that’s the kinda thing I’m talking about. Usually — and I say this with humility because I’m “from there,” it’s usually middle class to upper-middle class white kids who tell the world how it should be run. And they often times don’t have a street feel because they haven’t come from people, or they can’t remember whether their ancestry was from that street, and oftentimes they turn to sources that give them the street, but they like to drop in and out…so a rap culture or edgy DJ culture because they can, you know, put on the Birkenstocks for the weekend and pretend that they’re a hippie, and they go back to their very safe existence. I didn’t come from that safe existence – I existed in it – but I didn’t come from that, so I’m very sensitive to the way particularly whites abuse kinda intellectual ideas ‘to put themselves over’ to use a wrestling term.
Ghomeshi: thing I was gonna say about Generation X, though, isn’t it — and this is a trait of each generation that gets to a certain age, but — isn’t it that we’re taking over the asylum to a certain extent, and so we only have ourselves to blame? I mean, I fell that it’s Generation X now that’s in the corridors of power..increasingly overtaking the baby boomers…..we’re just taking over the power.
Corgan: I disagree with that….Generation X is an underpopulated generation. [Ghomeshi: the smallest, yeah] I think we’re 40 million versus the 80 million before and the 80 million after. I would say that the baby boomers are still running a lot of things and whatever this generation is you wanna call it now (we call them the Millennials and I have one in my band), I think they’re still – are – running the show right now. Their agendas, and the way they clash or work in some ways hand in hand are kinda running things, and Gen X has been sort of more like a sulking child in the corner.
Ghomeshi: We went from slacker to just screwed.
Corgan: I don’t think that we’re screwed. You could argue that there’s a strain of victimhood in Generation X and maybe there’s a reason for that: a lot of us were abused. We were maybe the last generation that was abused in the shadows, and maybe that had — and maybe our imprint on that has something to do with what’s happened at Penn State and now what’s happening with the BBC. You see, you know, this hidden pedophilia culture being brought to light now. Maybe Gen-Xers have something to do with that because we’re particularly very sensitive toward abuse – abuse of power particularly. But I don’t see us asserting our will in any shape or form, and in fact, as I’ve begun to assert my will as I’ve become in my estimation “a man” in my forties, I’m constantly told that I need to be quiet, and I don’t understand that. I feel I’ve earned the right to say something.

As Seen On TV

Bubbles is the philosopher of the trailer park. He, like Leo Strauss, cites Plato when advising Julian to use the Noble Lie. He cites Gordon Sumner when telling Ricky that if he loves something, he should set it free. He takes in kitties, as did Lenin and Dr. Johnson. He lives in a tool shed like Diogenes lived in a tub. He’s nearly blind, like Tiresias or Master Po in Kung Fu, and his coke-bottle glasses are an homage to good government philosopher Izzy Stone and musician/s&m philosopher Mark Mothersbaugh. His “Green Bastard” and Conky alter egos are in the manner of James Madison’s “Publius,” Lev Bronstein’s “Trotsky,” and Andy Kaufman’s “Tony Clifton.” He calls Randy a “cocksucker” and a “cheeseburger-eating bastard,” epithets frequently spewed, as everyone knows, by Nietzsche during his final days with tertiary syphilis. He was a foundling, like Aristotle and Moses. Like Confucius and Christ, he just wants everyone to get along.

Actually, this is all bullshit, done in mockery of hipster douchesnorkels who write wanky articles on the internet celebrating their own folly of digging far too deeply into perfectly shallow – yet perfectly decent and authentically artistic for that shallowness – pop culture material. Digging for the sake of digging, finding fool’s gold, and smugly telling the world it’s the real thing; meanwhile, look at this formerly lovely landscape their mining’s disturbed.

Say, Don’t Be Mean! Mean What You Don’t Say

Norman Mailer, on how vague and euphemistic language became under Soviet totalitarianism (at roughly 17m 57s):

I learned a lot about Soviet society…[we wanted to have the interpreter ask] ‘What year was your father in the gulag?’ since it had come up in the conversation in a roundabout way. And [the interpreter] said, ‘I will not ask that question; it will wreck the interview. You will insult them by such a question; it will not go on.’ So we said, well ask the question the way you want to ask it. So she asked the question and got an answer so we turned and said what did you ask them and she’d say, ‘I say to them: was there a year that was worse for your family than other years?’ And through that you began to get a sense of how aroundabout everything was in the old Soviet Union, that people became….not evasive, but they phrased questions in such a way that they had no sharp edges, there was no handle to the conversation so they could not be repeated definitively afterward in such a way as to incriminate you.

This, he goes on to say, in contrast to the native “brusque approach” of the Russian language which has “no definite or indefinite articles.”

Whenever I encounter someone talking about euphemism (e.g., PC), twistification (e.g., legalese, propaganda), and other forms of linguistic dishonesty, I think of two people who were excellent on the subject, rightly calling such phenomena precinctive to sick societies. George Carlin:

And Gore Vidal:

“Currently, any use of the word “race” in the United States is considered an a priori proof of the user’s racism. Abstract nouns are now subject to close scrutiny to make sure that the noun’s deployer is not a racist or sexist or ageist or bigot. Meanwhile, any word or phrase that might cause distress must undergo erasure while euphemism (the E- — or is it U- or Eu- — word?) is the order of the day, as “body bag” suddenly becomes, in Pentagonese, “human remains pouch” since “pouch” is a resolutely cheery word, suggesting cute marsupials Down Under, while “bag” is a downer, as in “bag lady,” Munich, appeasement, Hitler. A babble of words that no one understands now fills the airwaves, and language loses all meaning as we sink slowly, mindlessly, into herstory rather than history because most rapists are men, aren’t they?

when Confucius was asked what would be the first thing that he would do if he were to lead the state – a never-to-be-fulfilled dream — he said, __Rectify the language__. This is wise. This is subtle. As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action: You liberate a city by destroying it. Words are used to confuse, so that at election time people will solemnly vote against their own interests. Fianlly, words must be so twisted as to justify an empire that has now ceased to exist, much less make sense.

War! What’s it Good For? Absolutely Everything!

….from the rightwing point-of-view. Consider the following, from the LRB. Labour’s Foreign Policy Quandaries:

The Labour Party has always been split over foreign policy. The Boer War, fought between capitalists and racists, made it difficult to choose a side; likewise the First World War (imperialism v. Prussianism); less so the Second World War, which divided the Conservatives more. The Falklands War was fought against a fascist dictator, but by the hated Thatcher and in defence of a colonial relic. And then there’s the Iraq War and the bombing of Syria.

All these conflicts have posed genuine moral quandaries for ‘progressives’, which is why they have been so damaging for party unity. Suspicious leftists have occasionally wondered whether they might not have been deliberately provoked by the right in order to have this effect, an idea that goes back to the mid-Victorian Liberal Richard Cobden. It seems unlikely, though Thatcher and Cameron have obviously been aware of the benefit for them.

War is always favored by the right for the psychological dividend it pays: nationalistic sadism, surrogate testosterone, war porn. These people are political – and often literal – sociopaths. War is also favored by the right as a means of social engineering. And I’m sure “suspicious leftists” are correct about its tendency to split the left being a permanent part of wingnut political strategy. Wingnuts love war for its own sake; plus, it injures the political enemy – what’s not to like, from their point of view?


Not mentioned, though, is a fact of war just as crucial for, and attractive to, the right: its economic effect. The grocery list of government spending programs acceptable to the rightwing is short; at the top is military spending. The pattern for the last 35 years has been that when the rightwing is in power, it increases “defense” spending while either cutting or maintaining existing tax rates. The result is a ballooning deficit that is either ignored or falsely blamed on social programs. When the right loses power it leaves a fiscal mess for the other party to clean up, often at the budgetary expense of social programs – war as a sort of prophylactic against useful public works, even when the other side is in office. Heads, the right wins; tails, the left loses. Viewed as such, war is an irresistible tool for the right. That’s the real and only reason why its party establishment purged its (relative) peaceniks, the paleocons, while with careful dishonesty publicly stating that the rationale was cultural. They won’t be denied its use if they can help it.

Putting the Ec(h)t In Sects

Isn’t it odd how many high level Republicans are or were members, latent or otherwise, of obscure or at least relatively unusual Protestant denominations? So many that it’s nearly typical – and quite apart from the two cliche wingnut Protestant types: the country club Episcopalian businessman and the working or middle class (often Southern) Baptist.

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Hoover was Quaker. Bob Haldeman and John Erlichman, Nixon’s “Prussians,” were Christian Science. Reagan was Disciple of Christ. Orrin Hatch and the Romneys are Mormon, as was, briefly, Marco Rubio. Nixon, of course, was Quaker – perhaps the worst Quaker ever (William Appleman Williams wrote a great rant on the difference between Hoover’s faith and the 37th president’s). Ike was raised by a Jehovah’s Witness. TR was Dutch Reformed. Michelle Bachman’s church was of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. If this is really a thing then look out for Ben Carson, who is a Seventh-Day Adventist.