Friday, June 30, 2017

Wild Child

As the Trump White House increasingly resembles the Nixon White House—the 45th president’s interference in the investigation of Russian involvement in the 2016 election looking more and more like the 37th’s obstruction of justice in the aftermath of the Watergate case—commentators have stumbled over themselves in their haste to remind us that it’s not necessarily the crime itself that will get you, but the cover-up. (A lot like the fact that in hockey the referees might miss the original transgression, but will always penalize the retaliation.)

Similarly, I now seem to find that while I gag at the foul displays of distemper by Trump, I retch at the displays of desperate defense by his sycophantic supporters. The latest example has come in the wake of the president’s tweets about Mika Brzezinski:
Elaine Chao defends Trump Twitter attack: 'He's new'
June 30, 2017
At the Aspen Ideas Festival, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, one of the few women in President Trump's Cabinet, defended his Twitter attack against MSNBC "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski. “He’s not in politics, and so he’s not used to the usual restraints that people in public service have," she said. “He’s new. He will adapt and he will learn.”
Well, excuse me! But the guy is 70 years old. He’s not some pre-schooler who needs socialization (“No, we do not say that Auntie Grace has big ears and smells bad”). 

Then again, maybe he is. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Give the Man a Fish!

"First feed the face and then talk right and wrong"
Yesterday, right after I had posted my previous blog entry, “Cut Bait,” the above excerpt from the song “How to Survive” (Bertholt Brecht/Kurt Weill, The Threepenny Opera) floated into my head. So today I am posting an addendum to the previous discussion of “Give a man a fish . . . Teach a man to fish.”
There are only two things I remember from my three years of Junior High School, both acronyms: PAIL and BAPS.

PAIL is a reminder of the four types of skin injuries: Puncture, Abrasion, Incision, and Laceration. Good for one's general knowledge, but PAIL doesn't rise to the level of usefulness of BAPS.

The latter acronym spurs us to the correct order of treatment should we happen to stumble across a man in shock who has swallowed poison, been asphyxiated, and is simultaneously bleeding. (Now, I must admit that my BAPS knowledge has never been called into play, as I have never met such a distressed human being. The only person that I can imagine coming across such an unfortunate is Hercule Poirot, but that prissy Belgian, I believe, would be of no use in the matter.)

At any rate, in case you do come across such a case, here's the battle order:

First, deal with the most life-threatening problem—the Bleeding;
Only once that is under control, do you turn to the second most threatening issue—the Asphyxiation;
After that is seen to, you move to an antidote for the Poison;
And lastly (assuming the poor chap is still with you) you attend to the Shock.
And so, class, what is the relevance of all this to our fish story of yesterday?

First things first. Before attempting to turn a starving man into Izaac Walton, feed his face!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Cut Bait

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

A saying that originated—according to the first page of Google results—in ancient China (Confucius, perhaps), or with Maimonides, or maybe as late as 19th century England (with a certain Anne Isabella Richie).

It’s not worth my while trying to figure out whether the above saying is an aphorism, an adage, a maxim, an apothegm or—well—just a saying, and I certainly have no idea who thought it up. What I do know is that there is a stink (like a three-day old fish) of mock profundity about it.

In reality, the saying is an example of a false dichotomy—the fallacy that there are only two (polar opposite) positions that can be held in an argument (“Better dead than red.” “Better red than dead.”). 

The fish story is generally reeled in nowadays by those big-hearted econo-moralists who would walk past a beggar but drop $$$ into the greasy palms of the 1 percent, who—as the plot is expected to unfold—will spend the loot on factories and mills that will eventually employ said beggar. Top-down economics, Reaganomics, “voodoo economics” (in the apt phrase of George H. W. Bush, before he ate crow and became that bad actor’s running mate).

Sure, teach the starving man to fish. But if he isn’t fed first, he won’t be around to be taught. 

As John Maynard Keynes retorted to someone who was blowing on about “the long run”: 

“In the long run we shall all be dead.”