Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Sports Reasoning

If you want to understand why people's political reasoning is so bad, listen to sports reasoning. I have made no study of whether liberals, conservatives, libertarians, or socialists are more stupid.  I can cite individuals examples of each.

I don't mind that people have bullheaded opinions and varying levels of expertise - I'm talking about both sports and politics here - I only mind absolute stupidity, that you can see what it is based on and pound your head.  I know enough sports to recognise professionals making weak comments and believe I could do better, but I also know people who are just much more competent.  My second son; B S King's husband, and her father (especially on baseball and sports history since 1960); a guy I knew from St Paul's ASP.

But the table next to me at beer night last Thursday.  They don't like Joe Kelly, reliever for the Red Sox, because they don't "trust him. He'll have a good game, then a bad one." I know where they get this.  Joe Kelly gave away a victory on Opening Day. They remember that to the exclusion of everything else. Yet since then he has had 19 good games and one he escaped by the skin of his teeth.  ERA of 0.38. (For you non-fans, that is a very good number.)

I will not bore you with further examples, but the principle should be clear.  Scott Alexander made a very good argument why Basic Income is a better idea than a Guaranteed Job (and linked to a good criticism of his own work), which I can admire, even though I like neither. It's not crazy.  It has things worth attending to. Even if wrong, it might capture some important secondary points. I speculated tonight that perhaps only 10% of the population can actually do this.

Finger Lakes

Heading to the Finger Lakes in short hops driving. We will stop for historical markers along the way, as usual. Well, NY and VT anyway.  We pretty much have the NH ones memorised. We plan to see the places of my wife's early childhood.

School Shootings

John Kass thinks they are symptoms of a sick culture.  I disagree. I don't think it is reasonable to draw conclusions about an entire culture from a group that is statistically so small. These are strange and dangerous people. In another era, they would have done some other strange and dangerous things. Once the seal is broken, and it occurs to people that they can go in and shoot up a school, that becomes a more likely path. Looking for deeper cultural explanations is like reading the entrails of goats.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Reversing The Polarity

I will give with one hand, and take away with the other.

Conservatives and Republicans, even those who are not big fans of Trump, are increasingly disquieted by the behavior of the FBI and the Department of Justice WRT the Trump campaign in 2016. There is something frankly amazing about the lack of awareness of how, exactly, one tries to get good information when one is suspicious of a plausible candidate from one of the two major parties.

Yet let it be noted that I understand some of this.  In 2008, conservatives felt they were raising legitimate questions about Obama.  There were red flags. Has no one noticed that this is a Chicago politician? That his father was not a citizen and his mother hated America?  That he spent formative years abroad in in ambiguous situations? That he is frequently deceptive in what he says now, and his autobiographies leave out large portions of his life, as if he is trying to flood the market with distracting information?  That there are almost no friends or witnesses to give evidence of his life?  Has NO ONE looked into this? I think it likely that if the FBI, NSA, CIA or whatever had looked into his life with great suspicion, and not been too careful about the rules - BECAUSE WE ARE TALKING ABOUT A POSSIBLE PRESIDENT HERE - conservatives might have shrugged, so long as it wasn't too bad. They were in fact angry that apparently no one was concerned.

That is the state of mind the people at the intelligence agencies had about Trump.  He is something different.  He has done business with shady characters. (New York real estate.  Duh.  Most of those shady characters are our own, not Russians.) He might even mean well but be entirely duped by Putin or whoever. I can see why the thought would rise...but he might become president.  Don't we have a responsibility....

There is a part of this that is quite reasonable, if you put yourself in their shoes.

I sometimes sit at a team meeting discussing dangerous, or possibly dangerous patients. These are sometimes manipulative people who stir up powerful emotions, who are trying to game the system to avoid consequences.  They shift the blame skillfully, they find powerful allies (ACLU, DRC, legislators, judges, even federal agencies), and uncannily identify weaknesses in their providers. They can get our hospital or their outpatient agencies running down a road of being ready to violate their rights, because not only are they potentially dangerous, but they have pissed us off, offended our sense of justice, and look like they are going to get away with it.

But it doesn't last. More than one person on the team will pretty rapidly declare "Look. Let's look at what our job is here. Ignore the part about what a jerk s/he is. What's our responsibility?  What are the rules and what are the guidelines?"  It's not just about will we get caught? or how will this look? It is stepping back and seeing the possible downstream consequences. It matters.  At a basic level, it's just our job to do that.

That is what I fault the intelligence agencies for. First, do your job. I have some understanding of the panic that sets in that gets people saying "But...but...but...TRUMP!" Yet I ultimately don't believe it.  Is the claim that if Ted Cruz were the nominee then Hillary Clinton's emails would have been thoroughly investigated, sure, but only because of this amazing extremity of Trump the FBI was slapdash, not even taking possession of her computer, because THAT was supposed to be too much of an interference with the election? Is there anyone who believes that? Eventually, someone at the table has got to point out that the agency is undertaking to break many rules to investigate a duly-nominated candidate of a major party, at the behest of the leader of the other party.

Apparently, the bias was so entire that no one at the table said that.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Parakeet Bar

Looking for others, I found this Naragansett commercial.



Okay, I'll have another.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Comparison

The arguments of the Sovereign Citizens about self-definition trumping societal intrusion are remarkably similar to the arguments transgender people make.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Szondi Profile

This came up today. Okay, I brought it up. Reposted from 2009.
This projective test was popular in the 1940's and 50's. The theory was that people chose pictures that revealed their inner character. 48 photos, six groups of eight, were shown to subjects, who identified the people they most liked and disliked in each set. But the photos were specifically chosen to display people of strong pathology, say, extremely depressed or manic. The subject was believed to be recognising something about them at an unconscious level, choosing those who were like him in some way.

It's an interesting idea, and many of us who deal with both the mentally ill and still photos of them like to think we can diagnose from appearance. I don't know if that idea has ever been tested, but the specific theories of Lipolt Szondi have pretty much been shot to pieces. Szondi was a Hungarian psychiatrist who taught a form of depth psychology. He believed there were four axes or vectors in the human personality (We always divide the personality into fours: the four humours, fire/water/earth/air signs, blue/red/green/yellow, Myers-Briggs, etc). Szondi's were catatonic/paranoid, depressive/maniac, epileptic/hysterical, and homosexual/sadistic. Only depressive/maniac would now be regarded as generally opposite ends of a continuum, and even that would admit of exceptions, such as agitated depression.

In particular, I'd like to see him try to sell the idea of sadistic as opposite of homosexual these days. I imagine that formulation was based more on his theories of drives than on uh, empirical evidence.

You can look at the cards and decode the drives from the letters above the right corner of each photo (use "k" instead of "c" for catatonic). These letters were not visible to the tested subjects, BTW.

I knew a psychologist in the late 70's who still used the Szondi profile, even though it was not approved. She had been trained in Prague in the late 30's before she and her family were sent to work camps by the Nazis. She was entirely unmoved by what others thought of the test. She liked it and thought it valuable, so she used it. The test is still used in parts of the world - Brazil and Japan especially, for reasons which I cannot intuit.

Here's another oddity associated with the test. Independent Austrian filmmaker Kurt Kren made "48 Kopfe aus dem Szondi Test" in the late 50's - one of those B&W depersonalised artistic frauds we thought were significant then. The entire film is shot of the 48 heads used in the Szondi.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

What's the Equivalent?

I have declared more than a few times that social pressure is a large part of liberalism. I have previously said that the conservative opposite number is not social, but emotional and sentimental appeals.

That sounds nice and tidy, but I have decided I am not satisfied with it.  Not all conservatives are motivated by sentimental cues, or displays of flag, prairie, and salt-of-the-earth families. There may be some social pressure aspect to conservatism that I am not crediting appropriately.  We, most of us, do move in the direction of those around us.  Is there something further that is particular to those on the right?

*******

Vaguely related: There is a long essay  Shame and Society at "Hotel Concierge," the new blogsite of The Last Psychiatrist. I didn't finish it, but B S King of "Graph Paper Diaries" did. It has moments of brilliant insight, and I think it might be more than 50% sensible.  But it does have some head-scratching sections, so I can't entirely endorse it.  He is a liberal who does not really understand conservatives, but is distressed with where some of his own are headed. It is not a superficial treatment of the subject.  Some of you might take to it better than I did, and it is thought-provoking.

Hurt

Some lists have this rated the greatest music video of all time.  Ranked highly by all, certainly. I had the song on my Johnny Cash CD collection and found it powerful for years but never saw the video until last night.  I never knew there was a video. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, who wrote the song, heard Cash's version and said "the song isn't mine anymore."

When a Lady Enters the Room

Waiting for the doctor today, I wondered whether I should rise when she entered the room. I never have before.  Certainly if one is in a johnny it would be awkward, but this wasn't that sort of appointment and I was fully clothed.  I did rise, and shook hands. I had heard of the custom, especially as a young man, and seen other men do so. Older men used to do it automatically. I think I shall do more of it. I can't rise every time a female coworker enters my office, but I could on first introduction.  I think I will apply it equally to men, come to think of it. It just seems polite.

From that starting point, I wondered if it would be taken amiss by some women, or regarded as archaic as kissing the hand. How far back does the custom go? My search skills may be poor, and someone else may discover the answer, but I was only able to uncover the following: The custom of rising as a sign of respect is common to many cultures, and goes back to prehistory in western Europe, at least. In medieval times, a knight took of his hat or other headgear in the presence of a lady. My wife assures me that in Regency romances men rose when ladies entered the room.

That's the story for women of a certain status, but I could not find when the practice expanded to include all women. It sounds very American to not make such distinctions, and I would like to give us credit for it, but I have no evidence.

Here is the fascinating part. On discussion boards, nearly all the younger people, especially the women, regarded it as a sign of disrespect, or an assertion of male dominance. The reasoning was that we know that women were regarded as inferior up until last Tuesday. Therefore, any difference in how women were treated must be an expression of that. It seems an amazing thing.  People rise when a judge enters the courtroom, they stand in the presence of the king, or of any authority or superior.  They rise in respect for the elderly.  Nurses used to be required to rise when a doctor entered the room. (I recall a few nurses who still did that automatically.) Men rise upon introduction to shake hands (as they do with women), some rising in respect even for an obvious inferior, such as a small child, if it has been a while since they have seen each other.

It is clearly an expression of respect, which was extended to women somewhere along the way.  To accord women more respect or special respect does seem a bit artificial and Victorian.  I can see why a modern sensibility might begin to sniff out some condescension in that, making an elaborate show out of something that was a falsehood. Yet it wasn't a falsehood in the 19th C.  The cult of mother-worship ran high in sentiment.  Noble unstained womanhood was protected from the grim and raw vulgarity of the workplace and the outside world, and so became a finer, more elevated, more moral being. You may protest all you like that this was also a prison and a limitation, but there is no getting around the observation that women were regarded as superior in at least some sphere by the society of the time.  What we think about that now would have been of no importance to them.

Is Progress Possible?

I have given away almost everything by CS Lewis at one time or another, and then have had to, in time, buy it again.  A few years ago I resolved to keep my copies henceforth, to bring as complete a collection as possible when they put me into some home in later years.* I am glad I was given a used paperback copy of God In The Dock. It was formative in my early Christianity and so fully embedded in my thinking that I no longer have to read some of them.  I can already recall every sentence. Others I had forgotten, and am grateful to be reminded of them. More than once I have thought this essay really needs to be brought forward again.  The topic is neglected now, and Lewis's take on it is still much the best. 

Today I bring forward "Is Progress Possible?" which Lewis wrote sixty years ago in The Observer (an English weekly newspaper), as part of their series of five writers answering the question.  Lewis followed CP Snow. The essay is disturbingly prescient, as Lewis often is. He would not a tendency in society and project it forward, as in The Abolition of Man. He was originally trained in philosophy, not literature.  The link is to a Libertarian Christian site, to which I am grateful.
Again, the new oligarchy must more and more base its claim to plan us on its claim to knowledge. If we are to be mothered, mother must know best. This means they must increasingly rely on the advice of scientists, till in the end the politicians proper become merely the scientists’ puppets. Technocracy is the form to which a planned society must tend. Now I dread specialists in power because they are specialists speaking outside their special subjects. Let scientists tell us about sciences. But government involves questions about the good for man, and justice, and what things are worth having at what price; and on these a scientific training gives a man’s opinion no added value. Let the doctor tell me I shall die unless I do so-and-so; but whether life is worth having on those terms is no more a question for him than for any other man.

*Given new problems in each eye over the last two years, I wonder if reading will ultimately prove impossible, as it did for my uncle who died this morning. Nothing to be gained by worrying about it now.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Another 3-part Harmony

I sang this in a band called Carroll County in 1973.



Standard for CS&N, it's all about the sound. Nice harmony.  They very much liked running harmonies in parallel like this. What little meaning the lyrics have is mostly evocation of a strained love. Plus alliteration. Someone was remembering from high school English class that you can use alliteration in poetry.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Punchlines

I read years ago that one difference between British and American humor is that the former relies on an entire humorous situation while the latter is always setting up for a final punchline.  I attribute that to Jewish humor, far more common in the US, which is very punchline-driven. What little I know of 19th and early 20thC American humor suggests that is was also situation-driven driven. Black humor tends to the situational direction, perhaps retaining more of the older American style. I found the British-American distinction to be reliably true of older comedians and acts, but the two have grown back together a bit over the years.

Monty Python was legendary, yet many of their bits run out of steam toward the end. The British style may improve on repeated viewings better than the American style.


Quote

"Petty is undefeated." Former Cleveland Cavaliers GM David Griffin on why Brad Stevens got no votes for Coach of the Year. He has apparently used that line often in his career.

Red Pill, Blue Pill

The way the colors landed plays out well for conservatives, who get the red pill, representing reality. I don't know if that was intended in "The Matrix." I rather doubt it. Rog Phillips wrote a science fiction story in the 1950's in which the reality-representing pill was yellow, though it was ambiguous which environment was the real one. I would protest that I don't want either pill, I want what happens without pills, but it's a literary device, and has more drama.

The men's rights movement also uses the concept in terms of red and blue pills, though I am not familiar with whether they mean that red is reality, or just "our way of looking at things." Obviously, the two will be related. I think they mean that taking the blue pill is a denial of biological reality, and imposing a created power structure by social force.

Side note: I think most people credit that men's rights advocates have some legitimate complaints, but that they include a lot of pretty disturbing people. I could say that at work without getting into any trouble. I couldn't say the same thing about women's rights advocates. There may be a punching-up, punching-down element to that. Not a fully sustainable one, given who gets to be in Congress, run for president, or be a media star, but there's enough everyday reality to keep it afloat.

Back to reality.  Terrible joke, sorry. I made a FB comment a few years ago about my news feed skewing liberal, and a second-cousin replied that "reality skews liberal." I did not confront him with the later news reports that FB was indeed putting its thumb on the scale, but I did feel vindicated. Conservatives and especially libertarians feel the same way about their beliefs, that no pill is necessary. If you just take life as it is, you will gravitate to their POV. That is not only the biological reality that men's rights people assure us is more powerful than acknowledged, but the economic reality that market pressures are what naturally occurs, not an imposed system.  There is an additional element of believing that human beings have long-standing ways of behaving and perceiving, whether that is inherited culture or hard-wired.  Well, we all think that, of course. I think it is likely that we move in the direction of social pressure. (Though for some of us, there is a reflexive attitude against social pressure as well.) In the face of that, one would have to drift blue because of media and entertainment, unless one took precautions against it.  Taking a red pill, for example.

One of my arguments against liberals is that they do have many house-of-cards beliefs, that reality can be remade or reimagined with just a little (government, expensive) effort. The replication crisis in the social sciences is not going to undermine conservative beliefs, after all. Even if undermined by enormous destruction of their evidence, few liberals will change their minds, but that's how we all are. My argument against conservatives is the mirror of that.  Too many believe that there's not really any way to change things, so let's not even try.  I am in agreement with them that reality is not as malleable as the educated folk seem to believe.  However, we are not the same men and women as even our near ancestors. There are continuities in personality and culture, sometimes over enormous periods of time, certainly.  That alone suggests they may not change much, or not reliably. Yet even I find passages from colonial diaries strange, not quite understandable.

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Oregon Trail Generation

My sons and I were trying to remember the name of a game we had played on our old 386 computer. It turned out to be Darkspyre, which came out in '90 or '91. Discussing this with friends this evening, we talked about the change our children's generation lived through.  They could all remember a time of no personal computers, and watched computers build in to the culture step by step.  They were most aware of the games of course.  One of mine insists that all this discussion of Gen X and Gen Y and Millennials is ridiculous, because everyone has different beginning and end dates. He calls his own the Oregon Trail Generation, which can immediately self-identify from the name alone.  You know if you're in or out, and it captures a point in computer game development and popularity. It was a cultural universal.

We of the older generation, in discussing our own children, remembered how difficult it was for them to encounter the unforgiving nature of the computer.  Your character died, and there was no point arguing with it. I still recall son #2 yelling repeatedly at the screen "I DID TOO HIT THE BUTTON IN TIME!" (He gets that from me. I still argue with computers, particularly at work.) Yet the machine was brutal, unchanging - there was no one to appeal its decision to.

So it is also with programming, coding, and many other interactions with a computer. Leave out a single letter and nothing works anymore. Learn the hard way to save your work.

How then, I wondered, did the generation only a bit younger, who grew up with these brutal, heartless machines, turn out so many snowflakes? Shouldn't they be used to the harsh edge of reality at this point?

First, there may not be more snowflakes now.  My generation of Boomers certainly had 'em, as did the Greatest Generation and every other cohort. The rising generation has that reputation, but I don't know how you'd measure that. The reputation is largely based on the behavior of college students with an activist bent.  I'm thinking that's not a representative sample.

Yet even if it's true, it may be that only a minority of this generation encounters that unforgiving edge of the computer.  Game designers learned to give you extra lives, resurrections, ability to return to saved games and the like, or abilities to survive explosions and poisons with proper preparation. As interface became simpler point-and-click, as people trying to sell you things developed ways to keep you on the screen rather than cast you into outer darkness, as software gave you more reminders and fewer blue screens of death, the computer became friendly.  So friendly that it is now dangerous because we trust it too much.

If there are more snowflakes, they may have learned softness from the machines - or rather, from the programmers and designers behind them.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Election Analogy

The discussion of Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote came up again over at Althouse.

The World Series is up to seven games. The first team that wins four games is the champion. They don't total up who scored the most runs from all the games put together. You could do it that way with some baseball tournament you design somewhere, I suppose. But when you had the first champion crowned which had lost six games by a run but won 11-0 in the other because one pitcher was terrible, you would decide it wasn't quite what you are looking for. It would become apparent that the concept of games had been lost, as all that would matter was the final total of runs.

It's not just the Electoral College that would be eliminated.  It would be the whole idea of a state election.  Candidates would only campaign in the biggest cities, or at least, only run on issues of interest to cities. States would not matter, and people outside the cities would not matter.

We could apply that to the UN as well. The Chinese could just tell the rest of us what to do.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Suicide Notes

I've read a lot of suicide notes in my life, or rather, I haven't.  By definition, the suicidal people who come to my hospital are ones who survived the attempt. The ones I see are going to be heavily weighted toward those who at least partly, somewhere, ambivalently wanted to live. And yet there are circumstances where people do survive by ridiculous accident, and if they have previously left a suicide note, you can treat it as authentic.  All the notes have some authenticity in them. It is rare to see one that is entirely gestural and attention-seeking.  All of us have mixed motives in everything we do and try to raise the good motives and lower the selfish ones as best we can.

You learn quickly about suicide notes, as about later self-justifications, that people are not reliably truthful.  Sometimes they do not know their own motives, sometimes they wish that their statements were true, sometimes they flat out lie.

I thought of this when someone in a comment section linked to the story of the lesbian couple who had the many mixed race adoptive children, who drove off a cliff with the lot of them. Notice that the article is slanted sympathetically, that the story that they had had a cross burned in their yard by some Minnesota KKK-style group was possible - even likely, they hint. Well, they're from the UK for openers, so unlikeliness of a KKK in Minnesota of enough size to risk going out even in darkness and lighting up a cross in someone's yard isn't that surprising.

In the discussion, someone angrily wrote "If they knew they were about to kill themselves, what motive would they have to lie about a thing like that?" I thought of the suicide notes. It's not reliably the time when people lie least; for many, it is the time they lie most.


People Like Me

I have objected for years to poll questions which asked prospective voters if they thought Candidate A "cared about people like me." I thought it was a bad attitude to encourage by even asking about it. I also grimly noted that liberals seemed to do much better on this question, election after election. One of their strategies seemed to be to convince people that they cared more than conservatives, who were selfish and uncaring.

I don't like it any better now, with Trump doing well on this measure. I get it that those who felt uncared-about - rightly or wrongly - were likely to respond to such an appeal. The president may have intuited this strength of his opponents and taken it away from them automatically, rather than consciously.

The Competition

When the boys were little we would play car games on trips to keep them from melting down.  One was "Which side of the car has more Christmas lights?" on the way back from Scituate, Wolfeboro, or Sudbury Thanksgiving night. Ben was four years younger, and would rapidly descend into cheating, claiming he saw Christmas lights through the forest into the next neighborhoods. Even when there were no nest neighborhoods.  This escalated rapidly, until both boys were making ridiculous claims of briefly-sighted bulbs.

There was a game show in which contestants bid lower and lower for how many notes it would take them to identify a song. "I can name that song in six notes." "Five." "Four." "Take it."

More delicate and refined instruments can detect not only a percentage of poison in your water, but parts-per-million, or parts-per-billion.  Everyone agrees that's an improvement.  Yet what if the instruments gave false positives, and gave them often?  Not such an advantage then, is it?  We have all met posers who pretend to detect or discern what the rest of you jabroneys miss. They have refined palates, and can detect nuances of toast.

So we all get the concept. I'm superior because I can detect what ordinary people can't.

When you set up a social reward system for detecting heresy, what is going to happen?  You are going to get a competition of people detecting heresy at finer and finer degrees.

You will get false positives, unless there is some sort of cost for that.  You will getting increasing numbers of false positives, justified with subtler but stranger arguments.

This is what is happening with racism, sexism, homophobia, colonialism.  "You can detect racism in college mascots? Well I can detect sexism at fifty meters in the artwork in the library, so there." Students engage in this in order to show off to their professors (or more likely, the administrators) that I'm getting it!  I'm breaking the code! I'm understanding the language of the cognoscenti! It is especially sweet to lord it over other students. The current fascination with being more woke or less woke is just this game in slang. What is actually just a hair-trigger approach to everyone else's behavior, rife with false positives, is treated as moral refinement.

Reinterpretation of Classics

Professor Howard Scammon at William and Mary, who Glenn Close had specifically sought out to study under, was an opinionated individual. He described (in 1971) how he used to attend the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario every year, but no longer did. "One year it was "Hamlet" in motorcycle leathers. Next it would be "The Tempest" in motorcycle leathers.  Then "Macbeth" ended with his head down a well, or some such thing.  I never went back."

I was minded of this reading Neoneocon's frustration at attending the opera "Hansel and Gretel" and its reinterpretation at Yale.  More than one commenter said "You're surprized? Where have you been?  You ain't seen nothin'" Which is true, and it's been going on for a long time. Let's have Ionesco where the rhinoceroses are driving SUV's, those fascists; or "The Goodbye Girl" with it's Richard III played as a "raging homosexual."

Neo's response is worth remembering: Write your own friggin' masterpiece. Lots of parasitism in the arts these days.


Monday, May 07, 2018

Meditation on the Social Sciences

Rereading the C S Lewis essay "Meditation In a Toolshed" (God In The Dock, 1970) I noticed in paragraph five something I had not seen before:
As soon as you have grasped this simple distinction, it raises a question. You get one experience of a thing when you look along it and another when you look at it. Which is the “true” or “valid” experience? Which tells you most about the thing? And you can hardly ask that question without noticing that for the last fifty years or so everyone has been taking the answer for granted. It has been assumed without discussion that if you want the true account of religion you must go, not to religious people, but to anthropologists; that if you want the true account of sexual love you must go, not to lovers, but to psychologists; that if you want to understand some “ideology” (such as medieval chivalry or the nineteenth-century idea of a “gentleman”), you must listen not to those who lived inside it, but to sociologists
Anthropologists.Psychologists. Sociologists. Those are the main branches of the social sciences, and they are being indicted here. While it is certainly useful to know about things as an observer, there is another way of knowing altogether, which is experiencing. Are the social sciences founded on non-experience to the point of chronic debunking? Is this still so? Lewis said fifty years, but it is over one-hundred-and-ten now.

Read the essay and tell me what you think about the current state of things.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Racial Bias in the US Justice System

Commenter Earl Wajenberg sent an excellent link to an older Slate Star Codex post that reviewed a great deal of the literature on whether the police and the courts are biased against black people, Race and Justice: Much More Than You Wanted to Know. As the AVI post he comments under, Chesterton, Paradox, Life Lessons From Sports has gone off the front page, from whence most of you are unlikely to ever go back and check it, I thought it best to bring it forward for its own post. Thank you, Earl.  Long article, but very much worth it.

Dr. Alexander is bending over backward to be fair and objective, as he always does. My own shorthand prior to reading his post was that while there is considerable difference in black vs white experiences in the court and sentencing parts of the criminal justice system, and there is more hassling by police over minor issues, there is no demonstrable police racial bias in dealing with violent crime. (And as it is those interactions that the National Anthem protests are ostensibly about, the case of the protestors would be weakened.)  I will have to step back from that.  The numbers point in a somewhat different direction: there is no clear overall bias in traffic stops, searches, and arrests, though there may be local bias. There does seem to be bias in sentencing, as low as 10% or as high as 20%, after all confounding factors are accounted for. That is less than popularly claimed, but still pretty significant. That is a very rough summary.  Alexander explains it better.

Interestingly, the difference in how the public is treated seems more exactly correlated to the neighborhood.  Police treat people in bad neighborhoods worse, whatever their race. One can see why the police would do this - part of that is expectation and hyperalertness, part a conscious decision to come down harder and nip things in the bud in bad neighborhoods.  Yet once can also see why this would be particularly disadvantageous to black people, who are more likely to live in bad neighborhoods.

After running through the data, Scott suggests that there may be some subtler explanations, based on a more panoramic view of US society and what it considers to be a crime and justice.  He doesn't suggest much under this category.  I have very little patience with such closings, which smack of "There may be a larger story which shows much of this is wrong, but I can't think of much."  Perhaps he knows that he needs to soften some of his conclusions in today's world or people will fry him. I have a few other quibbles, but the overall post is far better than anything I could do, so I'll let him make his own arguments.

I did like one of his lines in discussing the complexity of one part of the discussion: "Never trust the media to give you any number more complicated than today’s date."

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

No Longer

There was a time, and it lasted a long time, when I found this topic endlessly fascinating.  The jokes seem old now, the observations obvious. I will fast-forward to PJ and see how that goes.


I toyed with the idea of teaching a class on parenting and fatherhood a few years ago. Now I'm not sure I could bear it. The old Robert Bly idea of the elders of the tribe being necessary to shepherd the young men into adulthood... In how many tribes is that true? There was an older man at the church who kept pushing the idea, but I always suspected he wanted people to listen to him about "kids today."

A few of the teenage boys were going awry at the same time back in those years, and a friend sighed "Well, I guess we'll have to go out and kidnap them from their mothers, bury them up to their necks in sand in the dead of night, and chant over them.  Damned inconvenient."

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

It Makes One Think...

...about effectiveness of means

From Grim's comment at his own site:

The Dominicans were founded to fight the Albigensian heresy,
The Jesuits were founded to fight the Protestant heresy.
SEEN ANY ALBIGENSIANS LATELY?