Monthly Archives: July 2016

Indiana Governor Mike Pence accepted the Vice Presidential spot on the now Trump/Pence ticket. Then he did something that bread controversy:

This opened up a dialogue. Allegedly, this began when some people mocked Pence for eating at Chili’s in New York City. I caught the second phase, which was people defending the choice. Then came the third phase, which accused everybody in Phase Two of being faux-populist because Chili’s is trash and everybody knows it.

It was an endless plate of meta.

But it brought to light several questions:

  1. Is it acceptable to eat at Chili’s in New York City when there are other options available?
  2. Why, precisely, was Mike Pence eating at Chili’s in New York City? Was he trying to flash some working class cred and engage in some culture wars, or is he a tasteless dweeb without sufficient taste and sophistication?
  3. Is it acceptable to criticize him for doing so, and suggest that it is indicative of said lack of taste and sophistication? Or does that make you an elitist?
  4. Is it acceptable to defend eating at Chili’s in New York? Or does that make you a phony populist?

One of the more interesting aspects of this discussion is the notion that Chili’s represents “working class” to begin with. It doesn’t, especially, in my view. I associate it more with middle class, in suburbia, small cities, and large towns. For those on the left talking up phony populism, and those on the right trying to demonstrate populism, Chili’s is an odd hill on which to do battle. It’s not especially inexpensive. Apart from Denny’s, none of them carry a blue class vibe. Outside of the bar, they cater as much as anything to families on their night out as anything, and groups of people who all want to grab a bite to eat and want something they can agree on. Places of this sort tend to have wide and varied menus that can cater to different people at once.

Due to my biography, the place I most recognized this dynamic was small city and big town America. In suburbia you sort of take these places for granted, but in Deseret it was a big deal to get one of these restaurants. That’s not because there’s no good local cuisine, exactly. In fact, in Deseret, you have an unusually high assortment of restaurants with dishes from all across the world. (Think Mormons, who like to open businesses and many of whom spend two years overseas in foreign cultures.) But you grow up and you see these ads for places on TV and then you find out they’re opening one here! Wow! You can finally get those dishes that you keep hearing about!

And they’re not bad. They’re median food, almost definitionally. They’ve been field tested extensively by corporations with a lot of resources and a strong motivation to figure out what median people like. You don’t have to like it, but if you think it’s trash then… yes… you run the risk of snobbery or elitism. Even if you aren’t, you are in the company of a lot of people that are.

On the other hand, if you think they are unremarkable and you’re puzzled as to why someone would go all Michael Scott and eat at Chili’s in New York City, I get that. As with a lot of things snobbery-related, a lot of it depends on the delivery. If you feel the need to denigrate Chili’s, though, well that came come across poorly. If you’re of the mind that Pence wanted that reaction, well maybe he did. But if people took the bait, they took the bait. If you don’t want to get caught up in the “dining wars” of casual dining chains, then don’t. And if you’re a snob, then own it. (I’m not a snob about food, but I can be a snob about other things.)

I don’t know Pence’s motivations and don’t much care. I could see him thinking that he could get a rise out of people by eating at Chili’s. Or that this could be a homespun appeal to Regular Folk. On the other hand, the guy had a really big weekend and there was a lot going on. When we last moved across the country, we passed through a lot of good food towns and ate chains. Why? Because food wasn’t really the point. We just wanted something reliably good (to us) and get on our way. Mike Pence was just tapped to be a Vice Presidential nominee and had gone to New York on the equivalent of a last-minute business trip. I can certainly imagining myself finding comfort in Chili’s under those circumstances.

Truth be told, though, I didn’t actually see as much original outcry as I saw outcry against the outcry. Which is to say, by the time I caught wind of the conversation, it was people saying “Actually, Chili’s is okay” and “Chili’s is awesome” and “Screw the snobs!” This is not uncommon. Either I miss the first round, or as often as not the blowback to the thing is bigger than the thing. But even if we accept that some people did go ahead and mock Pence for his pedestrian ways, and we figure on the blowback, the third round was people telling people in the second round that they can’t possibly like Chili’s (or can’t not have a problem with Pence eating there).

That’s actually a more severe statement than “I don’t like Chili’s” and even “Chili’s is crap.” The first is a statement of personal taste, but even the second allows for some disagreement in the “Okay, you like crap.” This, though, is to suggest that Chili’s is so bad that anyone above a certain who claims to like it is a liar.

This lead to the anti-Chili’s populist argument that it’s actually more insulting to the normals to “pretend” you like Chili’s than to insult it. That was kind of a new one on me. I can sort of get the argument that “Actually, Chili’s isn’t that cheap so there’s nothing working class about it.” As mentioned, Chili’s isn’t exactly a working class haven and so it’s not a working class populist deal. Or more precisely, the “class” argument with regard to Chili’s works both ways. But this takes us into a weird space where it’s practically suggesting that liking Chili’s is, in itself, putting a bone in your nose to fit in with the locals. Not anything a sensible person would ever do.

So yeah, let’s chill out about Chili’s. Try their southwestern eggrolls. Good stuff. Or don’t, because it’s not your thing. But let someone else try it, and like it, even if it doesn’t seem like it should. Don’t rise to the bait of politicians baiting you, if that’s what they’re doing. And if that’s not what they’re doing, Chili’s really isn’t such a bad place if you’re a politician crunched for time, want something reliably good, and need to be asking yourself serious questions about your life choices.

Category: Kitchen

I was tweeting last night that I thought people were overestimating the impact. Plagiarism is something that people like journalists care a lot about, but normals don’t.

This morning, I’m not so sure. It could have a modest impact. I expect Trump to get the traditional convention bounce for two reasons: First, because he has a family that’s a lot more likeable than he is, and this will be a chance to showcase them. Holdouts will be asking themselves “Is he really so detestable if these people love him so much?” and it’ll give them the excuse they need to jump the creek. The other is that I expect he will really go after Hillary in a way he hasn’t, and Republicans will like that.

This kind of hurts both of these things. In the first case, his wife is at the center of this in an unflattering way. In the second case, he’ll only be able to take it to Hillary with a marginally competent campaign, and this bolsters the narrative that he’s really just not that competent.

And while plagiarism may be of special interest to journalists, college graduates are aware of the significance, and I think those are exactly the people he needs to sell. On the other hand, maybe some of them also lifted passages in colleges. So there’s that.

Josh Barro argues that the plagiarism actually is relevant, along the lines that it demonstrates the incompetence and dishonesty. On a practical level, he is almost certainly right. Maybe he is politically as well. Where it gets hard for me to say is that I’m not looking to jump the creek and I’m not a swing voter. So I don’t know how they feel.

In the end… probably no difference because nothing ever makes a difference. Those who were going to jump the creek will do so anyway, and those that were not will not. Its that kind of election.

Category: Newsroom

lincolnThis remains untrue, and insisting that it is over and over again doesn’t make the new one better. (It may be good! I haven’t seen it yet. I don’t even think it will be terrible.)

How facial recognition may introduce us to our doppelgangers.

Well, this is a long-time coming!

Businesses are coming up with an ingenuous way to get more employees: raising wages.

Kevin Williamson explains how higher wages make Buc-ee’s great, but that you can’t universalize from their experience. {Related}

Congratulations, Tobacco Control, your dishonesty is working.

According to some research, being who are overweight have less grey and white matter in the brain, leading them to make poorer food choices. I’m not sure I like where this goes.

Artificial light, and the loss of the light-dark cycle, may be making us sick.

Family-friendly policies, such as childcare and family leave, may not do much to increase fertility rates, but they may have the non-trivial effect of making parents happier.

takenochancesSarah Grant looks at coding boot camps, and attempts to ascertain their effectiveness for loan purposes.

Isochronic maps are GoogleMaps before there was GoogleMap. Sorta.

Alan Sepinwall goes to bat for self-contained television episodes.

Book of Tamara asks What is a University?

Unsurprisingly, I am on Team Separate Bedrooms. Spousal benefits come with being married.

How other countries see American food and throw “American” parties. And a Mexican July Fourth!

Category: Newsroom

Lunar Night in the Constantinople, Ivan Aivazovsky (1862)

One of the theories that’s been going around Twitter since the tide started to turn in the coup in Turkey is that it was a false-flag operation. This has been a particularly popular theory on the right, but I’ve seen it elsewhere.

The crux is that if Erdogan wanted to consolidate power, he needs a pretext. A coup would provide the pretext. So something something, failed coup, more power for Erdogan!

Even if we grant that Erdogan is the villain that his critics believe (it’s not a stretch), it’s difficult to state how terrible a plan this would be. And it suggests a misunderstanding of the relationship between the President and the military. In the US, we have almost complete civilian control. Which is to say that the military is indisputably below the president in the hierarchy of power. The President is the Commander-in-Chief. This is one of those things that you learn in school while you’re going through, but you don’t necessarily see the importance of until cases like this arise.

For the most part, military action in Turkey seems to occur when there is agreement between the military and the President. The military considers itself answerable not to the president, or democracy. but to the founding spirit of Turkey or somesuch. Basically, it’s like how our military takes an oath the Constitution that means obeying the orders of the president, except in their case it doesn’t exactly mean obeying the orders of the president.

There are some rather zero-sum power dynamics involved here, though. Which is to say that the more powerful the military is, the less powerful the military is (and vice-versa). Which means that to pull this off, Erdogan would have to not only send its troops to die, but convince leavers to engage in a stage show that would, in the end, either leave them dead or in a best case less powerful. It’s not at all clear why the military would do this.

Further, if they are going to put themselves out there, they’re likely going to try to win because they don’t like the president. If their backs were against the wall and they had do to something, they might I guess, but at any point in the process they might actually just change their mind and go ahead and try for the coup. Which represents a risk for Erdogan that it seems very stupid to take.

All of this is further the long way around to meeting its goal. If Erdogan wants to create a crisis to consolidate power, all he really needs to do is stage an assassination attempt. Which itself is risky, but not as risky. It involved far fewer people. The risk of exposure is much lighter. You’re not putting yourself in a position that if the tide turns a particular way, they can go ahead and seize control of the government.

Or put another way, “Hey you, person who hates me, could you roll your tanks into Ankara as a part of a play-show that will give me the power to defeat you?” is not a good plan. It is a stupid one, and Erdogan isn’t stupid.

Category: Newsroom

Hit Coffee has always gone “blog style” by showing most or usually all of posts, in succession. Ordinary Times goes more “magazine style” with an image and summary and you have to click on the item to read the content. I have always preferred the former (as a reader) because you can just keep reading without clicking. However, the latter makes it easier to navigate past posts you aren’t interested in (like Linkluster, or the tweetstorms).

Linkluster is about to go through a revision. Linkluster 500 may be the last one in this format. Even if it’s not, a change is probably coming. Likely, there will be a box sort of like Linkage on OT where a lot of these posts are handled. I’m still deciding how it’s going to go.

But with regard to blog style vs magazine style, do you all have a real preference one way or the other? Would you like me to switch over to a magazine style? Or would you like me to be more aggressive about clipping long articles so for them you have to click “more” but otherwise keeping it the way it is? Or are you fine with the way it is?

Category: Server Room

somethinghappensInterpol chief Ronald Noble is surprisingly (to me) uncritical of the ramifications of an armed society.

The health minister of Queensland (the real one, in Australia) is open to the idea of a lifetime smoking ban for young people.

Contra Eberspacher, I don’t worry about elitism taking over the Democratic Party. I am a bit worried about whatever the complete opposite of provincialism is, however.

Reihan Salam argues that maybe the relationship between anti-immigration sentiment and racism is there but not as simple as we make it out to be.

The ACLU and a lot of Texas conservatives agree, this law sucks.

creepypandasThanks to a court ruling, it is now a federal crime to share your Netflix password. This sort of seems like something that will be rather selectively enforced. {see comments}

According to the Manhattan Institute, maybe we aren’t moving less for opportunity so much as moving differently.

Jennifer Lawrence was removed from Hunger Games posters to avoid offending some religious Israelis.

Oil crash or no, Texas unemployment rates remain low.

Cracked’s Robert Evans read every every issue of Daesh’s magazine, and reports seven things he learned.

According to an analysis out of Canada, there is, alas, no substitute for live lectures in college.

That’s… one long eel they found in Austin.

Scandinavia, the home of statist individualism

babyburritoRome is importing falcons from Texas to hunt starlings.

Alan Moore encourages new writers to self-publish.

Take some free classes from Yale!

Category: Newsroom


Let me tell you the story of Casey and a Skylar. Casey and Skylar met and were immediately smitten with one another. They wanted very badly to be together. The problem is that Casey and Skylar were already with someone else. So what could they do? Well, they did some wrong things. Or they didn’t but wanted to. They felt lust in their heart. Bad stuff. They talked of getting out of their relationships and riding off into the sunset together.

Then, one day Casey finally bit the bullet and told es significant other that e wanted out of their relationship. Casey wanted to move things forward because something needed to give. Skylar would do the same when the time was right. Except that Skylar didn’t and instead drug es feet. This make Casey very needy and insecure, and Skylar began to lose respect. When it was all said and done, Skylar and Casey did not end up together. Skylar stayed with es significant other. Or worse yet, when Skylar did leave es significant other, e left them for some person who wasn’t even in the picture.

Casey was left alone and humiliated. Skylar did fine.

I’ve known multiple Caseys and Skylars over the years. Sometimes Casey is the boy and Skylar is the girl, sometimes it’s the other way around. But the person who jumps first often finds themselves floating in a void of insecurity humiliation.

The moral of the story is that unless Donald Trump offers Pence a spot on the ticket for real before the deadline tomorrow, Pence should resolve to run for re-election as the Governor of Indiana and let Trump pick someone else.

Category: Coffeehouse

spreadanarchyWhen Gundam needed a city to smash up, they chose… Edmonton, Alberta.

I… uhhh… yeah, that’s a toilet.

I sometimes wonder if any city can ever keep its conservative character as it grows. If Calgary is any indication, the answer appears to be no.

Japanese politicians do campaign posters differently than American ones do.

Well this is fun. What else can we ban by looking at? Maybe the fetus at different stages of development?

Referring to President Obama as “Barry” is rude, but it’s not an affront to civil rights and Peter Daou’s attempts to make it won is not helpful.

elmolabourMatthias Shapiro talks of living on the food stamp diet, and presents how he managed it.

Well this kind of sucks. When I don’t mind risking Chinese counterfeits I go to eBay. I go to Amazon specifically when I don’t want to risk it.

It’s really interesting that France is one of two countries where fear of crime is an issue for less than half of the population, given the Paris Attacks. (Which, I know, were not carried out by refugees, but demonstrated holes in the process all the same.)

I appreciate the thought here, but as a knuckle-dragging American I am vaguely disconcerted by the word “instructs.”

Maybe it’s not soda and salty/sweet snacks after all.

If it has indeed begun, I fear it’s the beginning of an unhappy story.

Justin Fox explains how Chinese students saved our colleges. There has been some tension with the international students, but their money is green.

feudalismHelen Andrews argues that the meritocracy is so obvious, that it’s really hard to question. Even if (maybe especially if) it turns into the aristocracy it ostensibly replaced.

Richard Reeves of the Brookings institute has an interesting piece on partisan affiliation and premarital cohabitation. It gives me hope that there is more resistance to the idea among young Republicans than I thought.

This is presented a quirky Japanese thing when it comes up, but I think rent-a-friend is a neat idea.

Category: Newsroom

David Cameron announced his resignation today, to make room for Prime Minister Theresa May. He seemed really quite chipper about it:

(If you can’t listen, you can hear him whistling as he enters.)

As said in the title, tough, this is not a post about Brexit. This is a post about Cameron’s soon-to-be former residence, 10 Downing Street. It is one of my head of government houses ever. Why? Because of the standard picture:


This picture makes it look so… quaint. One of the leaders of the free world lives in what looks like a townhouse. You’ve got an entrance with a little lamp overhead. You have those windows where the Prime Minister of their spouse can peek through and see who is at the door. You have the 10 labeled, just to make sure the delivery guy doesn’t deliver the package to 8 or 12 Downing Street by mistake.

It’s really quite marvelous.

Of course, in reality 10 Downing Street is really quite expansive. And rather than being next to 8 and 12 Downing, it’s next to 9 (where the Chief Whip lives) and 11 (where the Chancellor lives).

And security there is a bigger deal than it first appears. There was an attack by the IRA in 1991, and since then they’ve done some safe-guarding.

Even so, I just love the idea of a prime minister living in a nice, snug townhome.

Category: Elsewhere




(H/T Almaqah)

Category: Newsroom