Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Baby Update

Finn Cecil McGoldrick, 7lbs 3,  7/30/12 @ 5:53PM at Tufts Medical Center. Everyone fine.

Sessil, or Seesil?

Parenting Priorities Reminder

To parents, civilization is just a job.  Where it's going and what it's doing are of only distant interest. Garrison Keillor.

Outcast, Rejected, And Scorned

In the Chick-fil-A brouhaha, I am running across a fair number of Christians, and Christian sites, which put forth the idea that because gay people are outcast, downtrodden, and rejected that they thereby should attract support and sympathy from Christians.

The idea that Jesus's ministry is formed around some vast anti-bullying campaign is amazingly silly, yet common. That the scriptures teach that some reasons for ostracism are invalid and an offense to God I fully grant. That the righteous are sometimes, even often, rejected and scorned I likewise acknowledge.  It does not follow from those truths that all ostracised people are objects of God's special concern, nor that Christians have special obligations to them.

I note this with no especial reference to homosexuality.  The wooly-headed Christians have picked them as an example, not I.  I merely note that their reasoning is poor.  To claim that Chick-fil-A management should not, as Christians, be going out of its way to hurt a people who are already oppressed reveals a fairly thorough misunderstanding of the Gospel.  From Genesis through Malachi, the Old Testament is very big on ostracism, even emphasising it in places.  Paul is quite clear in the Epistles that certain behaviors deserve ostracism from the church, and others give us a deservedly bad name among the unbelievers if we tolerate them.

And Jesus was pretty damned clear who he was not associating with now, and who he would not be in the future.  Having been rejected is no guarantee of specialness, and is sometimes considered entirely meet in the Bible.

By the way, I encourage Christians who think this way to trace back over the last decades to see where this idea that because Jesus was not afraid to associate with the downtrodden, that the downtrodden are therefore always his faves - actually comes from.  It has overlap with some Christian ideas, but is essentially quite secular.

The giveaway that these Gospel of Niceness people really do understand the principle is their immediate willingness to ostracise Cathy and others they disagree with.  He's being scorned and rejected by some, but no sympathy for him, because those are the right people kicking him. And besides, he has other people (bad people) who support him, so he's not really, really outcast, not like...

Not like who, then?  Who are these other outcasts that fuzzy Christians do support, who have no one else on their side? 

Who is favored and who is not is entirely predictable along entirely nonreligious lines.

Monday, July 30, 2012


Should now be renamed Morenoism, or perhaps Meninoism.

The more recent comments are in fact, much worse than anything Joe McCarthy put forward.  Tailgunner Joe was focused on purported communists in sensitive government positions such as the State Department, but the strategic importance of sandwich-making has yet to be elucidated to my satisfaction.  McCarthy seems to have been content to let pinkos sell all the sandwiches they wanted. Proco and Thomas have also been treated to a lifetime of propaganda reminding them that McCarthyism was the worst thing* that ever happened to the world. Occupying a similar spot in the American free-speech mythos is the importance of the ACLU's defense of a Nazi group's right to march in Skokie. (Though even they have come down a bit in the world.  The ACLU agrees this is a clear freedom-of-expression case, yet feels compelled to go out of its way to mention that they disagree with Dan Cathy.)

"I don't agree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death the right of people to shut you up."  Or something.  It should not be just the people who agree with Dan Cathy who make it a point to go to Chick-fil-A.  It should be a point of honor for anyone who believes in the First Amendment to at least make a public statement, preferably in person, of support.  If you don't want to give him your money, I understand.  But this is as fundamentally American an issue as one could dream up.  Can a PETA member open a vegetarian restaurant and announce his beliefs?  Can the Nation of Islam open a restaurant in Chicago and mention who they are?

*100,000,000 dead versus Pete Seeger doesn't get to go on TV.  I'll admit, it's a tough call.

Frustrating Delay

I have an article from Psychiatry Weekly I want to comment on, but the site has been down for maintenance for three days.  I recall this happening before as well. Perhaps it is just a shoestring operation over there.

Or perhaps, as it is about marriage, childbirth, and the comparative happiness of men and women, God is keeping me from posting it until Bethany is back up and running, as this one is right in her wheelhouse.

Romanian Politics

So, the opposition is apparently trying to impeach President Traian Băsescu - again. They tried this a few years ago as well, unsuccessfully.

However, even though a goodly majority of Romanians want him gone, they apparently don't care about it strongly enough to actually go to the polls about it. Băsescu capitalised on the apathy by encouraging supporter to boycott the voting altogether - a better strategy, in this case, than having them show up and vote against the impeachment.

It reminds me of Bill Clinton circa '98 in reverse.  About 60-65% of Americans preferred he not be kicked out of office, which he trumpeted frequently as a show of support.  But about half of those weren't all that excited about it, and thought it wouldn't be quite terrible if he were removed.  It was more of a rule of thirds, with the middle third mildly preferring we not make any sudden moves.  I can sympathise with that, actually.  It's not quite apathy, but a kind of reflexive conservatism that says "Let's not rock the boat unless we have to."

Posts and Comments Will Be Delayed...

...over at Bad Data, Bad.  Bethany went in for a routine ultrasound and they decided to go the emergency C-section route.  Finn King-McGoldrick born this afternoon. Details sparse, but everyone apparently doing fine.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


....was going fine until I hit the bee's nest.  Paper wasps, actually.  I was well up on the ladder.

30 seconds of slapstick followed, but no one was there to see it.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Opening Ceremonies

We came in as the pastoral age was changing to the industrial.  It was strange to my eyes and ears at first, but I thought it was evocative, narrative, excellent, once I adjusted.  I will have to see the earlier part.  I liked it very much.

The NHS doing bedtime with children and mixing in dreams/nightmares/stories wasn't brilliant, but it had interesting moments.  The effects were interesting.  Rowan Atkinson was funny in his sendup of "Chariots of Fire", and the queen's entrance with James Bond was funny.

The digital age segment was flat out stupid.  An insipid walk through pop music from the 60's onward with aging boomers again trying to prove to teenagers that "hey, we really are hip, kids.  We get it! We totally get this facebook and texting thing." Please stop.

The athletes walking in circles was about as expected.  The wealthy nations favored blazers far more than usual this cycle.  Taekwondo is apparently a sport a lot of poor countries feel they can afford to compete in.  We waited to see Guor Mariel from Concord, NH appear under the Olympic flag, but he is still training in Flagstaff.  Only the athletes from Netherlands Antilles were in the "Independent" category. Guor is from South Sudan, which recently separated from Sudan.  He didn't want to run representing the country which killed so many of his relatives, he is not yet an American citizen because adequate documentation is hard to get from Sudan, and South Sudan does not yet have any Olympic committee.  Food and staying alive remain more important issues there.  Mut Mariel has run 2.14+ in his first marathon, so he is likely to be quite good.

The commercials all had to make sure they had a good mix of black, asian, and Latin American athletes, and more than enough women, because they are easier to look at.  Lots of sweating, lots of intense looks, slo-mo, and arms raised triumphantly.

We held on until the Italian delegation came in because they are often interestingly stylish and worth watching.  This year: blue suits, with striped blue ties.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Operator - Reposted

The idea of calling the operator used to be a cultural given. The whole sense of not having the information you needed, not being able to connect to the person you needed, of being a bit hapless, was immediately suggested by such a call, even with diverse musical styles. Who calls the operator now?

In Shiloh's new version, "operator" has a different meaning, though the old meaning is still vaguely alluded to.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Decision-Making Oddities.

First, there is the Abilene Paradox, in which a group makes a decision none of them wants, because each thinks the others are in favor and wants to go along. The additional paradox is that primarily happens among people who like each other. One can see how this type of decision can be reached, sometimes through a martyred attitude, but other times quite innocently.

The following is attributed to the very clever Sydney Morgenbesser: Facing the choice between apple and blueberry pie at his local diner, he opted for the apple. When subsequently informed that there was also some cherry pie available, he switched his choice to the blueberry pie. It sounds impossible, yet we make decisions in this way all the time.  Not so starkly and in such compressed time, for then the humor would leap out at us.  But in primary elections, hiring decisions, and even on major purchases, humans are prone to this.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Not Overdone After All

I feared this would be cloying when I listened to it again after 40 years, and they would play the cuteness angle too hard.  Nope.  They get the sense and tone of Milne without overdoing it.

This one as well. I feared that Davis might do some Copa shtick with this, but he gets it right, and as a cover, I think it's better than either Walker's or the NGDB.

Even toward the end, Sammy creeps up on that too-smooth move, but he backs off. Very nice.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dream Teams

Any discussion of whether the 2012 Men's Olympic Basketball team could beat the 1992 original Dream Team is founded on our being impressed with the great play of Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, and especially Lebron James. Who could beat them, we wonder.

The question is otherwise silly.  Imagining Tyson Chandler playing against Patrick Ewing and David Robinson is all you need to do to know that.  And I really like Tyson Chandler on this team, BTW.

The only way we can make the question at all interesting is trying to imagine who on the current team could even make the team in 1992. If only six could, unless this distributed evenly in minutes played across the lineup, then that would mean only a break-even point.

And we'd still have those matchup problems.  So to make the case at all, you would have to identify at least seven from the current team who could take a roster spot from a 1992 player.  The first part is easy, and I will do it for you.  Shaq should have been chosen instead of Laettner, and that would have made the decision more difficult, but he wasn't, so Christian is gone.  Magic and Bird were well past their primes - Johnson had already retired, however prematurely - and were on the squad for their PR value.  So take them out, too.

Those are your spots for Lebron, Kobe, and Durant.  Now try and find four more.  Start simply.  Try and find one.  Paul, Williams, or Westbrook over John Stockton (or maybe pushing a forward out, such as Mullin)?  Carmelo over Drexler?

Nature Fakers, and Beast-Fable

Wikipedia's featured article yesterday was about the Nature Fakers controversy of the early 20th C, which I had never heard of but found interesting. I recommend the entire article, but this is the argument in summary:

Scientific naturalists deplored the explicit tendency of many amateur observers and writers about nature to attribute human volition, virtue, and sentiment to animals. For their part, those writers insisted that such humanness of animals was in fact true - that instinct was overrated, and that the incidents they reported had in fact been observed in the wild.

I side strongly with Muir and the other hard-headed naturalists in this, and have long maintained that this anthropomorphising tendency in literature, especially for children, has created generations of eco-idiots, who vaguely believe that squirrels have rich social lives and fish name their young.

On the other hand, this is the era of Beatrix Potter, and of Kenneth Grahame's The Wind In The Willows, the latter of which I love. Beast-fable, is in fact one of my favorite forms of fiction. How did those writers (and Jack London) escape the wrath of the scientific naturalists?

I think there is a clarity in those writers right from the start, that these are not real animals, but humans in animal clothing. Grahame does not assert that water rats actually navigate boats nor toads drive motorcars. Animals are chosen because particular elements of human character can be distilled and exaggerated. CS Lewis wrote about this at some length, pointing out that talking animals occupy a comfortable in-between world between childhood and adult responsibility: meals appear without anyone apparently working very hard to supply them, but Badger and Moley have complete freedom of action without parental oversight - only the tugs and pulls of societal pressures and expectations need trouble them. Thus, aspects of English social life at the turn of that century can be highlighted and absorbed by children through their very bones, without didacticism.

I sense the difference as enormous between the beast fable and the assertions of the Nature Fakers, attributing learning and even instruction of the young to the animal kingdom. This type of thought persisted among sentimental Christians for decades - it was an important part of the materials of Bill Gothard's "Basic Youth Conflicts" series. Those materials were not quite so extreme as Seton's and Long's writings about animal nature, but they went rather far down that road.

We should be fair to Seton and Long and the other Nature Fakers. There were no video cameras then, and observation of nature depended greatly on word-of-mouth reports and who one trusted to see clearly. We see what we wish to see, and it was not so surprising that they perceived birds pulling threads from cloth for their nests and teaching this trick to their young as possible.

Tolkien and Lewis both use talking animals in their works, but the lines are drawn very clearly - except for the misstep about the fox talking to himself earlu in LOTR (which I perceived as jarring and wrong from first reading), sentient beasts such as eagles are much the exception, and evil animals such as spiders and dire wolves have a craftiness that is an intelligence, but alien to human thought. Lewis is quite explicit in his demarcation between Talking Animals and more standard beasts. The former have characteristics of animal-behavior, but are at root, fantastical humans. Mr. Bultitude in That Hideous Strength, in contrast, is pure bear, with nothing approaching human thought.

Which brings us to Watership Down or Rabbit Hill, which clearly cross the line beyond beast-fable into nature fakery, and yet somehow still work. Adams goes out of his way to tie the rabbits' actions into observed lapine behavior and known natural history. Their use of boats or prophecy are portrayed as the limits of their small-brain understanding, so that one might almost believe that the rabbit one sees by the side of the road might yes, dimly, know what is coming in the future or be able to direct other rabbits onto a floating piece of wood.

Almost, but not quite. Ultimately, we know that there is no real bunny theology, and Elahrairah is understood only by humans. We much appreciate him, and see our own lives more clearly from watching him trick Rowsby Woof. But we don't believe any real rabbits were involved. We know it is a projection.

Folkie Legend

This is Rambling Jack Adnopoz, er Elliot,

from the rough western cattle-rustlin' town of Brooklyn, NY. He's very short, which is why Randy Scruggs is seated. I have to admit, though, for a nice Jewish boy he's got that High Lonesome sound at the end down very well.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Penn State

Everyone talks in terms of punishment for the institution, and thus gets hung up on the fact that the current students do not deserve that.  As a Christian, I think in terms of restoration instead.  Penn State has shown it cannot discipline itself sufficiently to be a university with a football team without that team poisoning the administration.  The temptation has been beyond them.

Therefore they should not have a team for a few years, and then start again.  The noises from booster and alumni groups, flapping like butterflies on pins and insisting that no one there now should receive any consequation, and everyone should just move on, provide evidence for my point.

They can't handle it.  They should voluntary give up this drug.

Sociobiological Update

I direct people’s attention to the interesting new theory on the sociobiological front, via Greg Cochrane over at West Hunter. Several of his recent posts apply.  (HT Steve Sailer)

The traditional view is that selective pressure acts to encourage progressively improved mutations, so that people with cool new genes outperform those with the same old tired washday genes.  While not denying or contradicting that, Cochrane's evidence is that another type of selection is more powerful. We acquire nicks and dents (metaphor) in our genetic code over time – mutations that are essentially neutral, but might be slightly less efficient than optimum.  We’ve all got them, and got lots of them.  They accumulate over time, and absent selective pressure, a gradual diminution of functioning creeps up on us.  Some folks, by law of averages, accumulate more.  In normal circumstances, this is no problem – our functioning is good enough. But in times of crisis, when need for speed or need for cleverness goes from being a nice feature to a feeding or mating necessity, people with higher concentrations of genetic clutter get weeded out.  There is evidence that warmer environments don't have so many sludge-eliminating crises, and slightly-shabby DNA accumulates more there.  We're talking centuries, BTW, not single generations.

The survival value of general genetic shininess, in addition to sudden acquisitions of single magical improvements, seems intriguing to me.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


“There are three things that Black people need to tell the truth about. Number one: Rodney King should've gotten his ass beat for being drunk in a Honda a white part of Los Angeles.” Eddie in “Barbershop.”

Steve Sailer asked a month or more ago why causes seem to choose the morally ambiguous examples to go to the mat over.  In that instance, he was referring to the Trayvon Martin case, in which it rapidly became clear that Martin was not turning out to be a poster child for clear innocence, nor Zimmerman for clear guilt.

I thought of that again last night when attending a program about Grace Metalious at the local library.  Both her defenders and her critics painted themselves into ridiculous corners to make their points, and in the end, she was neither a particularly worthy target for the moralisers nor an especially innocent martyr for early feminist consciousness.  See also Sylvia Plath.

Similarly, I have long wondered why fundamentalists picked evolution versus Six-Day Creation as the hill to die on.  How is that in your top ten doctrines we need to follow Jesus? All causes, all groups, seem to hit these moments when the faithful look up to the top of the battle-standard and say “Wait.  Is that the best example we could find?”

I think Sponge-Headed Scienceman hits it when discussing the Nigerian email scams.  The mistakes are intentional, built in, in order to identify only the most gullible readers.  They don’t want to waste their time on the one-in-a-hundred who might get fooled into considering it with a good sales pitch.  They are looking for the one in a hundred thousand they can wrap up quickly and get some money out of. They don’t want to make the appeal any more believable.

Sometimes, causes are not looking for a sense of the broad support they might be able to count on if they play their cards right.  They are looking for the fanatics, the people who will man the ramparts even when they’re dead wrong.  I suspect there is some survival value for people in this, for it echoes the tribal, nepotistic cultures which will defend their own even when their own are criminals.  But even more, there is survival value in this for those who would be leaders.  Leaders want a head count of the fanatics following them, the folks who will die on every hill, as this might be a better measure of what they can get accomplished - than a count of supporters who will only come out when the cause is really clear.

I suspect dictators understand this intuitively.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Five On Health Care: I -Downsides

Europeans and Canadians all have something approaching universal health care run by government – what we would imprecisely but not inaccurately call socialised medicine.  They like that.  They think there is something wrong with Americans for not having it.

They have wait times for medical procedures, which they agree are a problem.  They see these as a result of inefficiencies in the system, which can be gradually improved, not as the automatic result of government controlling a scarce resource.  Americans – some Americans, at least – see the wait times as part of the system, eliminated only by great increases in cost.  Solving 90% of a problem costs X.  Solving 99% does not cost X plus a little.  It costs 2X or more.

There is a death rate in those wait times, BTW.  Plus whatever discomfort your untreated condition costs. 

There are also quality losses, not always easily visible.  Two from the Telegraph       (Caveat: in neither report do we get much of a compared-to-what?) These are also seen as bugs in the system, to be contained by greater regulation, monitoring, training, etc.  The long-term effect of medicine becoming a less-attractive profession, attracting fewer of the best, goes unnoticed.

Still, they get pretty decent health care.  Only about 1 in 700 Canadians foregoesfree care in order to pay for it in America (presumably highly concentrated around the border and medical centers, so perhaps even 1 in 100 in places), and David Cameron wants to introduce some market safety-valves into the NHS, but really - not bad.

Five On Health Care: II - Independence

American conservatives tend to speak disdainfully about a citizenry that allows its government to provide more and more services for them, but this is hardly an either-or proposition among countries.  There are plenty of Americans who would like that, including many productive citizens.  They think the loss of “character” is overblown, and worth the tradeoffs in any event. The argument is sometimes made that providing health care might even spur entrepreneurism, as folks might more willingly leave stagnant jobs if they thought their backs were covered. Even among the advocates who are simple leeches, it’s not like we haven’t always had such in our population.  No vision of the Good Old Days should be allowed which maintains that we used to all be responsible, self-made men.  That never existed.

Plus, there are plenty of Germans or Australians or whatever who would be entirely happy under a more free-market, self-responsible system, and wish their own countries would do more of it.

Five On Health Care: III - Health Comfort

“Peace of Mind,” has real value, and people are willing to pay for it. Health insurance companies and medical clinics include it specifically in their advertisements. Measurement becomes uncertain here, as at least some of our feeling of safety about health care is an illusion.  No, that’s not quite what I mean.  It’s an exaggeration.  When my son was four, he though fastening our seat belts meant we would not get in an accident. Getting health coverage, though we know this is irrational, includes some element of “Now I’m safe. Now I won’t get sick.”

We believe that at minimum, somebody will be able to do something.

Nor is this entirely unreasonable.  When we have to pay out-of-pocket, we tend to put things off, running the risk that something will worsen unnecessarily, or create lasting damage.  The question becomes, what is the dollar amount we are paying for the unreal part – especially if we are asking others to pick up the tab.