Gone With the Wind

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Yet another book picked from the New York Times shortlist of fiction whence they asked their readers to pick "the best book of the past 125 years". Which makes seven to go.

Although this is not so much a book as an experience. (My library's edition was 959 don't-drop-in-on-your-foot pages.) I'm not familiar with the standards of its time, but it's surprisingly racy. (Also, by coincidence, kinda racist. More on that in a bit.) It was the only novel written by Margaret Mitchell that was published during her lifetime.

Set in Georgia over the 1860s and early 1870s, it centers on Scarlett O'Hara, privileged daughter of a well-to-do plantation owner. In her orbit are saintly Melanie Hamilton Wilkes, rapscallion Rhett Butler, effete Ashley Wilkes, and a host of supporting characters. Mitchell does an excellent job of characterization; I felt I knew these folks almost as well as I know people in my own family.

But mainly Scarlett, of course. I kept coming up with adjectives to describe her: scheming, self-centered, vain, flighty, delusional, cold-hearted, dishonest, manipulative, … well, I could go on. And so will you if you read the book.

Mitchell also does a great job of describing Georgian society, both during and after the Civil War. Especially early in the book, it's clear that the O'Haras and their peers occupy the tippy-top of the social milieu, a structure that's built on land-owning, cotton-growing, and (duh) slavery. It's also clear that they have a totally cockeyed view of the rectitude of their system, and its chances against the North, if things came to war. As (you may have heard) it did.

Scarlett's too occupied with her personal issues to pay any attention to that. ("Fiddle-de-dee, I'll think about that tomorrow.") She's infatuated with Ashley, and infuriated when he pops the question to Melanie instead. This sets her on a long and tangled romantic odyssey, which keeps getting knocked off course by larger events. You know, like the Civil War. And then Reconstruction.

The war, especially, is presented in all its gritty horror. Sherman's march across Georgia, culminating in the burning of Atlanta, is described from the South's point of view, mirroring those Kubler-Ross stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) to a T.

Mitchell puts the n-word in the mouths of her characters a lot. Black dialect abounds. Her telling of history is clearly South-sympathetic, especially in describing the dysfunctional Reconstruction era. The birth of the Klan and its terror? Regrettable, but a completely understandable reaction to Yankee oppression and corruption. (Bad Yankee behavior granted, Margaret, but you needn't pretend they didn't have some legitimate gripes against the Confederacy, and they certainly were correct that ex-slaves wouldn't fare well without Federal protection.)

On the other hand, many black characters are described with sympathy and respect. The famous "Mammy", for example, seems to have much more sense and wisdom than nearly all the other characters.

Last Modified 2024-01-16 4:53 AM EDT

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  • If you don't want to buy our Amazon Product du Jour… even though it's a mere $5.38 for the Kindle version, you can get a pretty good case from Dominic Pino: Biden’s Jones Act Support: Bad Economic Policy.

    Few things demonstrate the inconsistencies of President Biden’s economic policy more than his support for the Jones Act. After being beaten around in the media for a few days, his administration finally granted a limited waiver to allow a non–Jones Act vessel carrying diesel to dock in hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico. But the law will continue to impose substantial costs on the residents of Puerto Rico due to lack of competition, which Biden claims is a major concern for his administration.

    In the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona, which struck Puerto Rico on September 18, the island territory is in need of supplies for recovery. The Jones Act is a potential impediment to providing those supplies, because it restricts which ships are allowed to service the island from the U.S. mainland.

    The Jones Act says that any ship delivering goods between two U.S. ports must be built in the U.S., flagged in the U.S., owned by Americans, and operated by American crewmen. It’s one of the strictest protectionist laws on the books, and few vessels meet its demands. It makes U.S. domestic shipping uncompetitively expensive. It puts New England in the awkward spot of importing natural gas from Russia instead of buying from Texas (there are currently zero LNG tankers that are Jones Act–compliant). And even though Puerto Rico is not a state, the law applies there as well, saddling the island with high shipping costs.

    An "unholy alliance" between the US shipping industry and the unions is involved, which means (roughly) that neither Republicans or Democrats can muster the backbone to repeal this bad law.

  • She could have pretended. But Laura L. Morgan refused to pretend, and (as she tells it at the WSJ): ‘Implicit Bias’ Training Cost Me My Nursing Job.

    I was fired from my nursing job this year for refusing to take “implicit bias” training. After 39 years of providing equal care to all my patients without regard to their race, I objected to a mandatory course grounded in the idea that I’m racist because I’m white. I fear every healthcare professional will soon be forced to make the same awful decision I did: Falsely admit to being racist or abandon the medical field.

    My ordeal started in September 2021 when my employer, Dallas-based Baylor Scott & White Health, rolled out its annual training modules for clinical educators. The list included “Overcoming Unconscious Bias.” After viewing the interactive course, I contacted my supervisor and asked for a meeting with the chief nursing officer and the human resources director. The former sent a surrogate; the latter didn’t attend. After two meetings, it was clear that I wouldn’t be given an exemption. My supervisor told me, “I don’t want you to die on this cross.”

    But I did. The idea of implicit bias is grounded in the belief that white people treat those who aren’t white worse than those who are. It’s part of the woke assumption that society, including healthcare, suffers from “systemic racism.” Accordingly, my own supposed implicit bias, which is a euphemism for ingrained racism, must be rooted out. Not only that, it must be replaced with preferential treatment for the nonwhite. I fail to see how real racial discrimination is justified by my nonexistent racism.

    Ms. Morgan goes on to note that activists in many medical professional groups have successfully demanded this sort of thing, requiring their white membership confess their racist guilt, and pledge allegiance to wokism.

  • On that same note… Jerry Coyne looks at another incipient witch trial, somewhat close to home: Professor in Maine demonized for teaching that humans have two sexes; students walk out and demand her suspension. Specifically:

    That's the University of Southern Maine, about an hour's drive north from Pun Salad Manor on Maine Route 4.

    Coyne quotes extensively from the Bangor Daily News story referenced in the tweet. The online article attempts to argue from authority:

    Biologists believe there is a larger spectrum to sex than just the male-female binary.

    And Coyne, a biology professor at the University of Chicago, responds:

    No we don’t, not in most animals. And check the link: it goes, of course, to a Scientific American article that argues, because of the rare existence of people with disorders of sex development, clinically defined intersex, or chromosome loss, that “sex is a spectrum.” But none of these individuals [are] considered members of a different sex—not as biologists define it in animal species, where it’s based on whether your gametes are big and immobile (eggs) or small and motile (sperm). Certainly in humans there are just two sexes, though a variety of genders.

    The Bangor Daily News story details the travail of the (very) demanding student quoted in the tweet above:

    Leibiger, who is non-binary, was absent from class that week but learned about the incident from classmates. When Leibiger arrived for the next class, on Sept. 14, they immediately brought up the discussion again.

    “I asked [Hammer] how many sexes there were,” Leibiger said. “She said, ‘Two.’ I felt under personal attack.”

    Leibiger then gathered their things and walked out of class because they no longer felt respected.

    “I let her know I didn’t think she was qualified to teach a class about positive learning environments,” Leibiger said. “It’s the ultimate irony.”

    Yes, the Bangor Daily News, confusingly, uses Leibiger's (apparently) preferred pronouns. Because otherwise, no doubt, Leibiger would not have felt respected, and felt "they" were "under personal attack."

    Because this really is all about the feels, isn't it?

    No word on what the USM professor, Christy Hammer, "feels". It seems clear that there's plenty of attacking going on. Actual attacking.

  • Speaking of irony… While brownshirts in Texas and Maine are destroying the careers of dissenters, Glenn Reynolds explains Why the left keeps smearing its political rivals as Hitlers or Mussolinis.

    Well, you can’t call non-elite figures on the right communists, because (1) those people are on the left, and (2) the press generally thinks of communists as good guys.

    So you go with the most loaded remaining terms, and that’s various accusations of bigotry and fascism. We’ve seen the same thing at home with Joe Biden standing in front of uniformed Marines on a blood-red stage calling Republicans fascists. (Or, “semi-fascists,” whatever that means.) 

    We used to teach kids in school that politics was a game of give and take. My own former US senator, Howard Baker, was famous for saying that you should listen to your opponents: “The other guy might be right.”

    If you lost an election, that meant you weren’t doing what the people wanted. It was time to take stock, adjust your positions and try again next time while serving as the loyal opposition in the meantime.

    Now any election the left loses is treated as an existential struggle, the equivalent of war. And all’s fair in war. Calling your opponents Nazis justifies whatever you want to do to them, and makes you the good guy when you do it.

    All respect to the Blogfather, but in response to that last paragraph: it wasn't the leftists that deemed 2016 the "Flight 93 Election". The phenomenon he describes is occurring on both sides to an increasing degree.

  • And now for something completely different filthy. Jeff Maurer wonders Did We Learn a Single […] Thing From Covid? [f-word used as intensifying adjective elided]:

    Everyone loves a good World War II narrative. The specifics change, but the theme is always the same: A group of people come together to make the best of a bad situation. Sometimes it’s a platoon coming together, sometimes it’s a squadron, sometimes it’s an all-women’s baseball team. Often, an entire nation comes together; Americans like these narratives a lot and Brits love them substantially more than oxygen. We enjoy these stories because they celebrate our big win, even though the main reason that the Allies won World War II is that Hitler tripped over a pile of frozen Russian corpses on his way to Moscow.

    For a nanosecond, it looked like Covid might be this type of story. Sure, cheering for health care workers was performative and cheap — where I was, people cheered even though health care workers couldn’t have heard us even if my building had been full of Freddy Mercury clones screaming at the top of their lungs — but it signaled a desire to band together. Maybe this was the moment that the nation would heal. Maybe a serious threat would compel us to drop the nonsense and make clear-eyed decisions. And maybe, just maybe, we would stop playing Who Has The Right To Throw The Biggest Hissy Fit for ten minutes and focus on what we have in common.

    The pandemic is now over, and: nope. That did not happen. American politics did not cease to be an orgy of brain-dead points scoring. We do not seem to have developed decision-making skills that will serve us well in the next crisis. When all this started, I thought the presence of a science-based challenge with high stakes might force us to move down some learning curves at an accelerated pace. And it’s hard to assess how “we” did when “we” are 330 million individuals, but here’s my general impression of things we could have and maybe should have learned from Covid that we didn’t.

    Listing his lessons not learned, click through for his explanations:

    1. An old person’s death is not the same as a young person’s death;
    2. Being “pro-science” means you might have to change your opinions;
    3. Everything involves trade-offs;
    4. The media has a responsibility to be scientifically literate;
    5. People bear some responsibility for their own protection.

    Good points all.

    And with respect to that number three thing: those who didn't read Thomas Sowell in their youth are doomed to, eventually and perhaps unwittingly, grant his insight.

Last Modified 2024-01-16 4:53 AM EDT