Thursday, August 15, 2019

Decision Education

The Alliance For Decision Education seems to have some good ideas.  Whether their teaching is good and whether students improve their lives, I don't know.  But I have liked how they look at process versus outcome evaluation of your own decisions.

Four Saved Links

Today in collusion. Powerline's Scott Johnson saw pretty clearly right from the start. Though I don't think he would end with "It's almost funny." at this point, after all the rancor. December 2017.

The UN Report on US Poverty makes a very dumb mistake.
What is being measured in the report is not poverty in the U.S. It is the amount of poverty there would be if the government didn’t do things to reduce poverty. But they do, indeed, do things to reduce poverty – thus, the amount of poverty is not what the report claims.
Essays about poverty in America make this mistake frequently - enough so that one has to assume there is some intentionality. Keep it in mind in the future. The poverty numbers are often the "before intervention" numbers, not the "what people end having that they can live on" numbers. December 2017

A different take on the Muslim Golden Age.  Harsh. 

Just a few examples of violent political rhetoric. January 2018.

Escape Room and Trump Rally

We had scheduled a family outing at a downtown escape room, only later realising that the Trump rally was only 4 blocks away, at the same time.  Parking was difficult, but we all made it in time. You will be shocked to learn that the people walking to the rally, and then away from it when we got out later, were quiet, cheerful, relaxed-looking folks.  There were Trump shirts and hats, and a fair bit of flag-themed clothing.  I saw no truculent t-shirts. The downtown sidewalk restaurant crowd tends to be generally young, pierced, tatooed, and multi-hued hair, and thus I presume tending liberal but not unanimously so.  They were also p[resent, and there were no shouts or confrontation anywhere.  One restaurant had an anti-Trump sign, but it was largely obscured by it's own menu.

We completed the escape room with fifteen minutes to spare and received no hints.  It was a group of 11 including 3 children, so it was a little confusing at first in the small initial room. In the post mortem we only had a few things we should have done better if we had just thought a bit more clearly. I have a bit of advice that I have not seen on any of the sites about escape rooms.  I could have used headphones to block out the noise of the others on the first puzzle I attacked.  It was math-based, a logic puzzle of a type I have seen a few times before.  I kept getting distracted by people coming and trying to be helpful, asking "Is it like a Sudoku?"(No) or "I think that last row is supposed to go in alphabetical order."  (Not remotely true.) But mostly just distracted by the general noise.  I kept losing my place and having to start over, even with a whiteboard.  Uninterrupted, I think I could have done it in about four minutes, but I took more than twelve.  So if you are distracted by the noise of others, bring earplugs or something.  Not everyone should, because much of the solving is people building on each other's ideas. I think these words go with the numbers on the cards in the other room...some of the names are the same...I think we have to figure out what order to put those numbers in...the different colors might each mean a number.  But you should maybe bring a couple of sets of headphones for a large group, just in case, and have people be aware if they are distractable that way.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Classic Washington Post

When they post an article showing how various forms of gun control don't actually do anything useful, they have to lead with a pro-gun-control video over the top of it. One based on fear and feelings rather than numbers.

Monday, August 12, 2019

The 1%

I have written nearly 6400 posts, so we have now reached the 1% most popular, starting from #61-65.

Eastern Dialects. American language maps endless fascinate me. Update:  I did not include a link to Aschmann's site, which provides a larger version of the map, for even more fun. November 2010.

Speaking of maps, Diversity is our Strength. April 2013

Other Victims. Many of the greater victims of scandals are invisible. October 2017

Church Music.  I was opinionated, and it was controversial. I'm still right and you're all wrong. July 2015.

The Outsiders. Since I wrote this in July 2008 there is more to say about the author and the topic.  The comments are irritating, including my own.  I subsequently wrote in depth about William James Sidis, and I believe that series will be highlighted further along in the countdown.

It was perhaps inevitable that Grady Towers would gravitate to the subject of Sidis. Grady qualified for the next society up, the Mega Society, for those with one-in-a-million IQ, cutoff 176. He had been a prodigy himself, almost completing a PhD in Anthropology at age 20, but by the time I knew him (via journal and correspondence), he was usually homeless, working odd jobs across the Southwest, writing on borrowed typewriters and sending mathematical proofs - usually number theory - to whoever would have them. As I had been out of touch with the high-IQ societies for years at that point, I did not know about Grady's bizarre murder, and subsequent conviction of his killer. Going through old correspondence earlier this year I found I still have my letters from Grady in the 1980s.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Public Righteousness

According to the stereotypes I grew up with in the 50s and 60s, that would refer to good, respectable church-going people who we less virtuous beneath the surface.  They might be business cheaters, adulterers or molesters, abusive, or secret drunkards, but they pretended well and kept up appearances. Self-righteous instead of righteous.  There was some truth to it, but it was sometimes overblown by people who did not want to be respectable, looking for excuses and people to accuse. That there was social pressure to act this way was also true, though again, I think overblown.

Public righteousness these days is more likely to be enforced from an activist left, and different items are on the righteousness list.  In some corners there is a great deal of social pressure, including threat of violence. Fortunately, that isn't true in most places. I don't think those activists picture themselves as the cultural descendants of small-town Baptists of the 1950s, but it's pretty similar, just with more threatening these days.

Saturday, August 10, 2019


I don't even have speculations.  James turns over a few rocks at his site, and Chicago Boyz has a go at it. I fall back on my usual responses when puzzled.

Common things are common.
Wait for more information.

Update:  James adds "Follow the money, if you can." Another good foundational rule for these things.

In Christ Alone

Friday, August 09, 2019

Manipulating 6,000,000 Votes

I admit I am suspicious of the 2.6-10.4 M votes manipulated by Google number. Even to a person like me, who believes that Evan Thomas was approximately correct when he stated in 2000 that the media gave Democrats a 15% head start in elections, that seems to me a large number. But let's look at it a bit.

It does not represent "zero to one hundred" changes, of people who would absolutely have pulled a lever for Trump but were gradually turned to broken-glass Hillary voters. Those manipulative tactics would start with some low-hanging fruit, or people who were already Hillary supporters but weren't sure they were going to make the effort to go to the polls.   A steady stream of group support implied to people using Google search results might increase the feeling that it was one's civic duty to vote for Ms. Clinton.  Steering people toward things that were distasteful about her opponent would increase the feeling that "something just has to be done." Repeated over time, this could increase their anger. On the other side of the coin, steering people toward results that show HRC was either a brave, noble advocate for women and the oppressed, or that painted her as a victim unfairly maligned, might also steel the resolve of the half-committed. Still, the search results I seek are not often political, but matters of unrelated facts, such as medieval history or linguistics, or definitions of obscures words and phrases. How much influence can they have?

Or are they not so neutral? What if I am looking up to see if a certain story I remember about the Bush administration is true? I can wade through a few unsympathetic sources claiming it is untrue or giving an alternative explanation in the two lead-in sentences the search engine provides - HuffPo? Yeah, I'm not clicking that. Slate? Nope. Yet what if I have gone all the way through page two and haven't found the support I sought?  Might I not just grow weary and sigh "Well, maybe that one was fake news then.  Too bad." Hmm.

There is a double effect.  Fanatics make up a greater percentage of people who will keep going to further pages, or attack the question from a different set of requests. That's bad optics for your side, when it's World News Daily carrying the story. Note:  WND gets plenty of stories right.  They just overinterpret too many things or jump the gun on them, making them not worth my time.  Yet they are right sometimes. So Google driving people deeper not only discourages the mainstream, it encourages fanatics.  Bonus.

I have been willing the credit media with massive amounts of influence because of it's long-term, unrelenting nature. 15% was not too high.  It might be now, as conservative media has come on the scene, influencing another group of people in that long-term, unrelenting way. I was initially reluctant to credit Google with such influence with a simple "Go vote" reminder and shading a few search results.  But Google, plus Twitter censoring, plus Facebook redirection gives a human being a sense of "what my culture is thinking," and we have covered before that we are sensitive to such things at a primal level, being worried about being excluded from food, jobs, mates, and friends if we are outside our culture's norms.  We will risk exclusion for cause, but we don't like it.  We prefer not to see it. 

I have noted many times - it is one of the main themes of the blog - that social acceptance is a bigger driver for liberals than conservatives. It shows up in too many unrelated areas to be a mere accident. We are all somewhat affected - no one likes to be without friends - but the power and percentages are different.  Liberals accept the conventional wisdom that the 80s were the Decade of Greed, or that white people from Arkansas are probably less intelligent than they are, even when it is incidental to their point, because pushing back against that takes energy, and worse, it entails risk.

I would like to see something in the way of numbers from Dr. Epstein, rather than this "it stands to reason" argument (including my own).  Yet i can see a way forward with this after all.

Poisoning The Well

I haven't heard the phrase come up since my childhood debate class, and before that a humorous short story called "Love is a Fallacy." Perhaps naming it will help draw some of its strength. Poisoning the Well is a rhetorical device, something like a fallacy though not quite, in which a person impugns the character or motives of an opponent before s/he has the chance to speak. It is in operation these days whenever someone accuses another of racism for weak or spurious reasons, forcing them to look bad by even having to defend it.

Another Set Of Old Links

Because Journolist just came up in my conspiracy post, this discussion from 2010 came up as well. Something similar surfaced about Weigel in 2017. It's pretty ugly what happens in journalism.  Pray it does not happen in your field.  It's expanding.

A remarkable prophecy about Affirmative-Action from 1969 which Powerline brought forward in November 2017. I has done nearly the opposite of what it hoped.

I had great hopes for the education program Graduation 2010, a district-wide K-12 program to improve cognitive skills in general, in everyone, in a poor county in Kentucky. Because I stopped hearing about it in 2008 or so I suspected the news might not be good.  I had cause to look it up again in 2017 in a Facebook debate. So sad, really.

Why Doesn't Daniel Shaver's Life Matter?

Thursday, August 08, 2019

#70 - Conspiracy And Paranoia

Well, this got out of hand.  I thought I had written about conspiracy and paranoia a fair bit, but after reviewing the search bar results, I wonder if I have written about anything else. I gave up.  I may have missed the best ones.  Here is the original, 70th-most popular post that kicked it all off. As it concerns Lee Harvey Oswald and the KGB, it is likely that some of the traffic was driven by people search about the topic, not my friends and other sites telling everyone what a great post AVI had today. I wrote about that aspect at least one more time. Okay, two.

What has been more usual for me is writing that paranoia and belief in conspiracy theories precede an actual formed theory or focus. We do not become paranoid because of our experiences.  We interpret our experiences in a paranoid way after developing the tendency.  (I am willing to discuss this in the context of people under tyrannies if someone wants to go there.  I think that is somewhat, but not entirely different.) I did find some posts about that. Categories of Paranoia, Conspiracy and Blue Hats, Paranoia FYI'

The principle applies even when it is mild paranoia or mere suspiciousness. Distributed power. Suspicion and the Liberal Mind. Yet if people really believed even that much, wouldn't they take up arms?  Or leave the country?  No, that pretend paranoia is merely there for signalling, a Poetic essence.

Ted Goretzel talks about who believes in conspiracy theories. It can include PhD's. I discussed why it is hard to convince people Conspiracy theories are unlikely and unnecessary.They are too easy. The truth is harder to fix.

The object of Paranoia can change over time. You can ascribe your troubles to different conspiracies. (Yes, she has now included the Jews.) There are whole lots of these theories, pick one. Sometimes they actually are ture: Journolist. People try to create conspiracies all the time, but the more people you have, the quicker it is going to become public. Daily Kos noticed that George Bush quietly changed a law in 2007 so that he could declare martial law in 2009 and not step down.

Does our style of paranoia choose our politics for us, rather than the other way around? Does the mechanism for accepting blame and responsibility in our brains break before the paranoia? Do fiction or film increase our vulnerability to paranoia or belief in conspiracies?

I'm sure I've said other brilliant things elsewhere, but this is already well more than enough.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Elect From Every Nation

One of my repeated themes is that we join a new people when we follow Jesus.  The old man is dead, our new identity is now the more important.  I don't think our old identity has to go away. The NT writers sometimes delight in listing the many nations present and included, so it's not like being a Romanian, or American, or a New Hampshireman is necessarily erased. But it is often a treasure to us like any other, and thus provides a temptation. There are other identities of profession, family, or experience, and I think the same applies to those equally, though it's not my focus here.

As might be expected there is a verse to an old hymn about it.

Elect from every nation, yet one o'er all the earth. 
Her charter of salvation:  One Lord, one faith, one birth.
One holy name she blesses, partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses, with every grace endued

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Not Sola Scriptura

As a card-carrying evangelical, one would think that sola scriptura would be right up my alley.  Other Christian groups might want to bring in other sources of Christian understanding, but not us.  A man and his Bible, it's a beautiful thing, eh? We need nothing else, so we say. I am humbler about that now.  I liked that emphasis of Luther's when I was a Lutheran, but even he stepped slightly aside from it, as far back as the Diet or Worms.  "Show me through Scripture or right reason..." he said. Well, the fundies would say that he'd given away the game right there. Given what has happened with the Lutherans in the 20th C, and now in the 21st, maybe sola scriptura is not so reliable.  We'll come back to that.

The Episcopalians have the three-legged stool of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason. As"reason" now includes not just logic, but intuitive reason and experience, fair-sized trucks not only can be driven through this, but have been driven through this. Roman Catholics, much to the dismay of Protestants, value tradition so highly that it may exceed the authority of the Scriptures, in practice if not in theory. The eastern Orthodox are big on Councils to go with Patriarchs.  Also very nice, though it has led to cooperating with every tyrannical regime that comes along. Worrisome.  The Methodists have their Quadrilateral, adding in Christian experience to the Anglican three.The Presbyterians have not only Scripture, but Calvin's Institutes on their menu.

My own denomination, the Evangelical Covenant Church, has a tradition of two anchors "Where is it written?" and "How goes your walk?"  I have found both to be excellent - for the first I can easily imagine old Swedes shouting it from the back of an annual meeting.  For the second, it is not only a declaration that how one's relationship with Christ is proceeding is of equal importance to understanding the Scriptures, but also an invitation for each of us to share what is happening in our spiritual growth.  Yet even this has been fraying recently, as both poles have been bent slightly.

Again why do I not then insist on Bible alone?  Isn't that the only way home at this point? Aren't all these additional authorities the problem, rather than the solution?  No, the Bible-only attempt turns out to be more dangerous in the end.  If we say that we are going only by the Bible, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  We sit atop an iceberg and declare there is nothing beneath the surface. We swallow some part of the culture around us whole, not knowing.

Disgust in Politics

It is difficult to call people out for relying on disgust for their opinions in social and political settings.  They either deny it out of hand, "I don't hate gay people, and I don't even think about what it is they do.  I'm just going by what's in the Bible." Or, they embrace it to a degree that robs it of its power to shame. "Of course I'm disgusted by Trump, as any decent, right-thinking person should be." With regards to the former, I suppose it is fair that we not pretend to motives.  Yet sometimes they leave us little choice but to conclude that disgust is at leat one of their motives, and a strong one.

Disgust, disdain, and horror are distinct in theory, but overlap in practice.  We recoil at emaciated, starving figures and feel disgust, largely because we feel horror.  We do not feel disdain for them, but pity.  Yet with fat, many people find it disgusting, and disdain is common.  Horror and pity are less common. I am going to stick closely to disgust because it is one of Jonathan Haidt's six moral foundations.  Paired with purity as its opposite, it is a moral axis that Haidt believes that Conservatives use much more often than liberals. He now calls it Sanctity/Degradation.  His work is fascinating, and I largely agree with him.  I will not summarise him here, but only point you to his own site, where he discusses these in detail.

I think he is largely wrong on this point. I believe he went wrong right from the start in his initial questionnaire.  He asked if one had no other cloth in the house and the toilet needed cleaning, would it be acceptable to use an American flag? All groups generally said "no," but conservatives said so more often. There was also a question if the family dog had got hit by a car and killed, and there was no other food in the house, would it be okay to eat it for dinner?  Almost everyone said "no," but there were more liberals who allowed it was okay.  I will note that not all his questions were this extreme. It is good to have more ambiguous questions mixed with the extreme ones. Haidt concluded that liberals were less motivated by disgust. I think his choice of questions came from his liberal assumptions.  He did not ask if one was out of toilet paper, would it be okay to use a newspaper that had a picture of Gandhi, or MLK, or Obama on it?

Similar arguments might be made about his other axes that liberals supposedly don't use, but conservatives do.  I think he is largely right on the issue, but it is a nearer thing than he imagines.  He has defined some things as authority, some things as loyalty, and so forth, that might be defined otherwise.  There are authorities liberals defer to that he hasn't asked about.

I think liberals and conservatives are pretty even in their use of disgust as a guiding moral principle. This is of more than theoretical importance because disgust is malleable, and changes over time.  You know it in everyday life, hearing people say "I used to be disgusted  by blank until I got a job working as a blank." It can come back, especially if it is associated with trauma.  People were disgusted by blood and mutilated flesh and death until the went to a war zone, where they got more used to it than the y ever wanted.  Then they came back and disgusted again, though in a different way, because of their associations. We are disgusted by some foods until we try them because of hunger or social pressure, then come to like them.  Many of us, particularly females, thought the sexual act sounded pretty disgusting when we first got a clear picture of what it it actually was, but we, uh, got over that. I have words I don't use because they disgust me.  I have others, like crap, that used to disgust me but I now use. I enjoy foods I used to shudder at. People who found smoking unattractive but put up with it no longer do.

Someone else might want to do a post on how these changes happen, but I'm not that fascinated by the process, only by the fact that it does occur. I am not strongly motivated by disgust myself.  I have things that disgust me, but I try to step back and say "What's the real damage here?  What's the real problem here?"


Kirsten Gillibrand, discussing what she would do if elected president  “The first thing I would do is Clorox the oval office. ” That’s disgust talking.

Haidt can tell you how disgust manifests in conservatives, but I'd like to illustrate how it manifests in liberals, because in the academic conversation, that seems to be missing. There is the disgust of the newspaper with the photos, above.  Environmentalism is built on disgust, as the political cartoons reveal. It goes beyond being disgusted by smoke or smog, and includes mud, smelliness, and the many goops of nature that make a place look unattractive. Possible toxins that are invisible, such as PCB's , get a pass. It makes the people who actually work in environmental cleanup and prevention a little crazy sometimes, to watch people get excited about controlled logging because it looks ugly rather than aquifers that are out-of-sight. Bogs, shallow ponds, dead jellyfish  - or on the other side of the purity question the idea of pristine wilderness (now there's a discussion) can get people worked up about mining, drilling, building, largely because of appearance, not danger or pollution.

Gun control may be largely motivated by fear, but disgust at hunting is not that far beneath the surface.  Not with all, but with some.  Controllers aren't that willing to give ground to gun owners even in the face of overwhelming evidence that universal background checks or banning of certain weapons simply has no effect.  They don't like hunting, and they don't like guns. 

There are vegetarians on both the left and right, but there are more on the left, and if you let people talk, I'd say about half of them reveal that disgust at butchery and eating flesh is prominent.  If you ask them to tell their story of how they became vegetarians, it's even more.  Reasons to sustain are not always the same as reasons to adopt, but there is continuity.  There is sometimes something rather disquieting about (some of) them as well. Do they not actually like large swaths of humans?  Opposition to GMO's is not merely fear of the unknown or fear of risk.  If you go over and read the actual complaints, you will find disgust is very powerful.

It shows up strongly in discussion of Trump.  As in many things, he brings to the fore many unattractive motives of his opponents that they were more able to keep contained with Bush, McCain, Romney.

Criticism of Trump is sometimes physical, focusing on his hair, his voice, his general ickiness. I wonder how it all fits with the concept of embarrassment as a moral disqualifier.  It shouldn't be that deeply related, but the complaints about Trump's vulgarity come as a package with shudders about his hair, and his facial expressions.  Well, small sample size on that:  on my FB feed and where I work there are plenty of mini-rants about how infuriating it is to listen to him and look at him - grown women talking like sophomore girls. Worse, that is what attracts all their energy, though they are educated enough to develop a coherent argument based on policy and principles.  Lord knows Trump supplies enough material to not have to be distracted into discussing how he is just such an impossible man.   I don't get it.

Partof it is because of mere imbalance in reporting – things like “You’d better put some ice on that” are known mostly only to conservatives – but because these things arouse anger at their unfairness rather than disgust.  The one accusation that caused Clinton the most trouble had some details that might arouse disgust.  That’s part of why they had legs. I thought Trump's "grab 'em by the pussy" was indeed an offensive thing to say, in any context.  Because of the disgust, Trumps’s critics miss that the comment was largely one of amazement, and that it is in fact accurate that not only do some men behave this way, but so do some women.  There was no hint of advocating forcing oneself on unwilling women.  But feelings of disgust overwhelm reason and stick in the memory.  

Plus, Bill Clinton was cute. That has a lot to do with whether people are disgusted.