Martial Arts Classes for Kids and Civilization’s End

Martial ArtsI was walking to the local supermarket to get Gatorade because my right kidney has bee hurting and I just learned that Prilosec is only supposed to be taken for two weeks and I’ve been taking it for years. So I thought I would get some electrolytes in me and cut down on the tea and then start drinking water and maybe stay alive for another decade. And then I had the interaction with the martial arts girl.

In the same shopping center as the supermarket is a martial arts “academy.” I see all the little tykes in there doing their moves. They are kind of cute in their ways. But there are also olden children. And the girl was one of them. She was dressed up in her white fighting uniform with her big bag and she intimidated me out of her way, even though (1) I had right of way and (2) I am an old man.

This is not totally unusual for me. My life in public is very much one of trying to not be seen. And I generally find young people terrifying, but only because they are awful. But the encounter crystallized a question that had been vague in my mind for a long time: why would parents have their young children study martial arts?

I understand why people make their kids learn musical instruments. They do it because music is great. Learning an instrument provides the child with a lifetime of greater enjoyment of music. But on a more fundamental level, it allows them to play music: alone, with friends, in a band or orchestra. Are the parents who take their kids of martial arts classes expecting that their children will get into fights? Are they assuming that their kids will have to physically protect themselves later in life?

Now I know: all that martial arts stuff is tied into lots of ideas about honor and respect. I think that’s just compensating. For one thing, it’s never struck me as anything but affectation. But in all my years studying music very seriously, I never had an instructor give me a lesson about respect and the proper use of what I was learning. That’s because what I was learning did not involve breaking someone else’s nose.

The Paranoia of Martial Arts

We in the modern world get such a distorted view of the world because of the news. It is never reported that all the children from the local grammar school all got home safe and sound. So we end up with this skewed impression that the world is a very dangerous place. And when that leads to things like kids wearing bicycle helmets, that’s great. But I really do think that these parents are taking their kids to martial arts classes out of the same fear.

I understand that there are bullies out in the world. But martial arts classes are not the answer — they are the problem. Because if people think that it will just be the bullied who get this training, they are sadly mistaken. In fact, I suspect that the testosterone fueled environment of the martial arts class only encourages it. I think these parents are being shortsighted. And it’s ruining our civilization.

Why Media Debate Coverage Makes Things Worse

Jeb Bush - Debate CoverageIf you’ve been reading me for a while, you probably know that while I have my problems with Vox, I also admire what they do. Some people there, like Max Fisher, are awesome. But even at its core of where it shows off its upper-middle class biases, it still provides reasonably good coverage. So when I see them make a clear conceptual mistake, it disturbs me because I know it is so much worse at The New York Times, much less Fox News. In this case, I’m talking about its debate coverage.

Dylan Matthews wrote one of their typical genre articles of debate coverage, 3 Winners and 2 Losers From Saturday Night’s Republican Debate. These are always interesting, even if I consider them wrong. The three winners were: Jeb Bush, the Democrats, and the moderators; the two losers were: Donald Trump and Marco Rubio. He felt that Rubio lost because he was just okay and he needed to shine. The Democrats won because, “The longer, the bloodier, and the sillier this campaign season is, the better it is for the eventual Democratic nominee.” And the moderators won because they did a reasonably good job.

Debate Coverage: Not Like Music Criticism

Matthews’ argument for Trump being a loser and Bush being s winner, however, are based on the same questionable analysis: the theater audience was clearly with Bush. Think about this from different perspective. You are a classical music critic and you are supposed to review Yoyo No Mas, the great tenor who hasn’t performed in over a decade. He’s performing in his hometown. And everyone loves his performance. But you are a professional and you know Yoyo No Mas has lost it: his rhythm is erratic and he’s flat when he hits high notes. Do you write a glowing review because the clearly biased audience ate it up? I don’t think so.

It certainly must have looked to many viewers at home that Jeb Bush had a feisty debate. But why should the media play along?

But that’s what Matthews did. And he isn’t alone. That seems to be the consensus of the debate coverage: Bush did well because, oh, how the audience cheered him and Trump did poorly because he got booed — a lot. Most of the rest of the media firmament may be unaware of the situation. They may actually think that the audience is indicative of South Carolina voters. But the truth is that Trump was right when he said, “That’s Jeb’s special interests and lobbyists talking.” And Matthews knows this! He wrote, ” Apparently only 600 of the 1,600 tickets to the event were given to the candidates, and the state and national party controlled most of the rest.” He added to this, “The result was an enthusiastically pro-Jeb crowd.”

Let’s Repeat the False Narrative!

Now I get this. If I were the Republican Party establishment, I’d do it too. It certainly must have looked to many viewers at home that Jeb Bush had a feisty debate. But why should the media play along? Isn’t it the job of the media to report that Jeb’s new more aggressive stance against Trump is mostly just a matter of stage lighting and make-up? Jeb Bush was only a winner if the debate coverage ignores this fact.

From my vantage point, Jeb Bush was better than he has been. But it’s just as easy to make the same argument about him that Matthews made about Rubio. And to me, every time the audience booed Trump, it made me think how pathetic the Republican establishment is. I suspect that this is even more true of Trump supporters. And it makes Jeb Bush look like exactly the weak guy that Donald Trump has portrayed him as: someone who needs his powerful family and establishment connections to win the race.

What the media need to understand is that they affect the game. A lot more people will see debate coverage than the actual debate. If Jeb Bush really was a winner for those who watched the debate, proclaiming him so only pushes a very fake reality that the Republican Party establishment has created.

Update (15 February 2016 11:07 am)

Check this out, Poll: Rubio Won Republican Debate. The placement from the CBS News overnight poll was this: Rubio, Trump, Kasich, and then Cruz. The Drudge Report readers’ poll had this placement: Trump, Cruz, and then Rubio. Notice anyone who’s missing for these polls? That’s right: Jeb Bush. And according to Dylan Matthews, he was the only Republican in the “win” category.

Morning Music: Randy Newman’s Yellow Man

12 Songs - Yellow ManIn 1970, Randy Newman released his second album, 12 Songs — so titled because they didn’t yet know that a more fitting title would be “Randy Newman’s Second Album That No One Will Buy.” That’s not to say that critics didn’t like it. Newman was spotted as a great talent from the beginning. That’s an interesting thing. In general, music criticism is so much better than film criticism. But that’s a subject for another day. But it didn’t turn him into star. Today, we listen to “Yellow Man.”

12 Songs is a great album. But then that’s generally true of Newman during this period. I can’t find anything in his first few albums to complain about. And that most definitely includes his next (generally dismissed) album, Randy Newman Live. I’ll feature something from it tomorrow.

Yellow Man

The song itself is something that he does a lot: pretend to be an ignorant bigoted person. In this case, he is surprised that “yellow man” believes in the family “just like you and me”! And then it ends with what sounds like a call for segregation, “Got to have a yellow woman, when you’re a yellow man.” But this is how Newman is normally offensive. I always get the idea that he’s trying to be offensive and just using whatever device he can find to get away with it. He certainly isn’t satirizing the ignorance of this kind of racism.

In this way, Newman is more like a comedian than a musician. At the same time, I find that I rather like the object of the song. And there is comedic brilliance in that the singer clearly thinks that he is being liberal and generous. But it doesn’t reach the heights of “Political Science” — which we will get to later this week.

Anniversary Post: End of Soviet-Afghan War

Soviet-Afghan WarOn this day in 1989, the Soviet Union announced its withdrawal from Afghanistan, ending the Soviet-Afghan War. During the war, of course, the United States was entirely against the Soviet Union. I greatly admire Jimmy Carter, but he was a Cold War relic. His foreign policy toward the Soviet Union was more conservative than the Republicans who came before and after him. But Carter wasn’t alone. Everywhere you looked in the United States people just took it for granted that all that stuff about allowing women to be educated and similar reforms were a Very Bad Idea™.

The war had been going on for just over nine years. So we were almost exactly four years dumber than the Soviet Union. Of course, I’m not really sure what the hell we were doing in Afghanistan. The main thing was just revenge — an extremely imperfect target, but at least better than Iraq. But once we were there, what were we trying to do? I mean: yes, we were trying to liberalize the country. But that doesn’t count, does it? Why should the Americans get credit for that when the Soviets never did?

The Soviet-Afghan War was always presented in the US as an invasion. I understood even then that this was not the way things work. There had been a coup in Afghanistan. The new government under Nur Muhammad Taraki was very much pro-Soviet Union. Like most such governments, it was not very nice and it managed to get a civil war started. Taraki had begged the Soviets to intervene. They refused and only did so after Taraki himself was assassinated by his own people.

Hypocrisy of US Media on Soviet-Afghan War

I talked about this on my birthday post: not getting the full context of things from my father. This is a more general problem in issues like this. The case that the Soviets were asked by the country to intervene are actually stronger than the case that they simply invaded. But both are rather too simplistic. But what is clear is that when we did the same thing in Vietnam, our media didn’t present it as some kind of unprovoked attack on the country. Just as with the Soviet-Afghan War, we came in to help prop up an unpopular government.

Hypocrisy is a natural human trait. But when your nation’s fourth estate accepts the government’s hypocrisy as God’s own word, that country is not long the land of liberty. Because liberty based upon lies is the same as slavery.