Saturday, August 31, 2019

First Day of Autumn

At least, in New Hampshire September 1st is the beginning of fall.  It's still mostly warm, but we have had two nights drop into the 40's already.  December 1st is the first day of Winter, too.

Wondrous Love

The Stephen Griffith Folk Song Index site that Texan99 put me onto in the comments of my recent "Apostasy Among Young Christian Leaders" post has been a lot of fun to graze around in and taught me a lot I had not known before. Plus some great things to listen to. I never knew this could be a round. Do people sing rounds anymore? I don't recall hearing them, even at the summer camp near where we stay. They're a good way to learn how to sing parts, and hear how notes can fit together.

If you want to hear the Scots-Irish origins in the tune, listen to the sustained lower foundational notes even in the mandolin introduction.  Sounds like a bagpipe, doesn't it?

Post 6400 - 10,000 Hours Refuted

Being exposed to the titles of so many of my earlier adjacent posts as I research my Top 100, I get distracted and read them. In the earliest years I was a psychblogger, because that was one field where I did have more knowledge than 99% of the population, and thought there were both myths that needed to be dispelled, and new information that might be of interest to many. Also, I had opinions.

It is a bit humiliating to conclude that I wrote more interesting pieces then. 2006 and 2007 were apparently good years for me.  As one practices the craft of writing, one is supposed to improve along many fronts.

Guess not.

Not for the first or last time I will say that touching down randomly in my archives might be more rewarding to you than reading what I put out now.

Highest Page Views - #50

Now that I have hit the top 50, there will be some I wish to repost in entirety rather than simply link to.  This was one of my earliest posts, June 2006, and I am glad it got some attention over the years. It has an off-my-chest quality that is unsurprising in my first year of blogging. I was tempted to touch it up and smooth it out, but I'll keep it as is. 

The Influence of Doonesbury. 

In the 70’s and 80’s, Doonesbury was in every liberal habitat. Women’s Studies professors and social workers always seemed to have a few strips taped to their office doors, and the characters became part of everyday conversation. Trudeau inherited the mantle of righteousness from the folksingers, and became the chief exponent of the idea that conservatives were essentially stupid and had evil motives. He demanded, and got, a larger block in the comic section and marketed a long succession of reprints of earlier strips in paperback. Doonesbury expressed what people were thinking and to a lesser extent, shaped it. Liberals may complain that they are unfairly characterized and oversimplified, but the ongoing popularity of this comic betrays them. They bought the books, they put the cartoons on their doors, they made Mike part of their culture.

Well, it was a cartoon, after all, and Trudeau’s main defense against criticism has always been “Hey. It’s a political cartoon. It’s not supposed to be fair. The characters are two-dimensional because they are, in fact, rendered in 2D. That’s the point.” In theory, a fair argument. Why expect nuance from a stereotypical stoner named “Zonker?”

The problem with the theory is that over time, the strip was nuanced, and some characters were three-dimensional. Trudeau was not a mere hatchet man, but had a gift for irony and self-mockery as well. Political correctness was gently skewered even as it first arrived on the scene. “It’s a baby woman!” squeals Joanie Caucus’s kindergarten class at the birth of a girl. Minority representation was sent up in a college football huddle: “I’m the only Pole.” “I’m the only freak!” The earlier characters in particular had inconsistencies of exactly the same sort that everyday people do.

Trudeau was also willing to smack Democratic politicians around a bit. Carter was lampooned for running a presidency of symbolism over substance, and Clinton was portrayed as a waffle. But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. Conservatives had none of the endearing inconsistencies. Phred the Viet Cong, was more sympathetic than the American soldier BD. Roland Headley reported an entire series “In search of Reagan’s brain,” and Trudeau’s hatred for the Bush family was embarrassing to read, even when I was a liberal. * Bomb-throwing Newt Gingrich to Dan Quayle as feather, conservatives are always stupid, malevolent, or both. The people of the left might have their foibles, but the people of the right were unrelenting evil.

Except, of course, when presented with the more sophisticated world of Trudeau, which would cause them to become perplexed and dimly apprehend the possibility of liberal ideas. Just like on TV. When the artist was really ticked, he would footnote the comic, e.g. to show how Limbaugh was too inaccurate. Conveniently, cartoonists don’t have to answer criticism.

An early secondary theme, that the young were wiser than the middle-aged, became increasingly difficult for Gary Trudeau to maintain as he aged. His elevated version of the TV-sitcom smartass kid played very well to Boomers, who have always longed to imbue their personal conflicts with larger cultural meaning.

So the “it’s because it’s a cartoon” excuse is a little weak – partly because of Trudeau’s own cleverness and early talent. It was never his intention for this to be “just” a political cartoon. He wanted to persuade and to influence. Over the years, the strip has become increasingly bitter and didactic. As I seldom read a newspaper anymore, I don’t see it much, but my eye still goes automatically to Doonesbury. It is occasionally amusing, but mostly just ignorant these days, drawing inspiration from the same lost world of its glory days. Uncle Duke was as brilliant a character as has ever appeared in the funny papers. Amazing how much Trudeau got wrong in retrospect.

Conservatives wonder how the liberal interpretation of history is maintained in the face of the facts. The massacres by the VC and the Khmer Rouge; the fall of communism and the translation of the Venona Cables; the growth in the economy in close parallel to conservative predicitions; the behavior of nations seeming closer to the older interpretations of men and evil than to the newer, more hopeful foreign policies.

The myths are sustained by condescending humor, and Ivy-League liberals do it best.

*Gary Trudeau’s unreasoning viciousness toward the Bushes may be an attempt to distance himself from some portion of his own Yalie/preppy background. In a delicious irony in the midst of his attacks of Bush 41’s manhood, Trudeau appeared in a clothing catalogue modeling a manly flight jacket. Yo, Gary. George actually was a fighter pilot.

Friday, August 30, 2019

El Kabong

He came up at work today.  Just so you know what fascinating co-workers I have.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Odd Thoughts Today

I took a work training about cybersecurity, and they spoke about double authorisations and the security questions that are asked, like your mother's maiden name.  They suggested that we not choose questions that someone could find out about us by researching us, which makes sense, as it is possible to find out quite a lot these days.  They suggested lying about the answers to the question.

That had never occurred to me. For people with a bit of OCD, claiming that my first car was of one sort when it actually was another just seemed wrong.  Not so much dishonest, but the wrong answer. It would be like getting the capital of Azerbaijan wrong. There is a joke that antisocials and other liars should tell as much of the truth as possible, because it would be hard to remember what lies you told to which people.  I can see the point of that.  I would forget that I had made up an answer and be angry at my security answer not working.

****

Someone at Maggie's used the concept of "Reverse Cassandra," a person destined to be always believed but never right, tying it in to a particular issue.  I think it was climate change, but I immediately thought it could apply to many issues. I don't mean things like astrology, which has many people who believe "there is something to it," but only a few who believe fervently. There are political issues that a solid group of people believe fervently, despite lack of evidence.  More to the point, there are people who are believed no matter what they say.

****

There is rancor within parties in political debates now, and I am contrasting this to 2004.  Howard Dean was winning, but most Democrats felt he could not win the national and needed to be taken out.  It seemed easy enough, as he had some vulnerabilities, but some other candidate needed to go after him, and in that climate, they all believed it was not important to be seen as "going negative." Someone was going to have to take one for the team and destroy his own candidacy by going after Dean.  Eventually, Dick Gephardt made the sacrifice.  Dean went down, but so did he. Was 2004 unusual, or is our own era unusual?  Has their been a consistent deterioration over time, or has there always been an ebb and flow?  I am speaking only of arguments within parties, not of their comments about the other parties.

By the way, the myth has not died that Howard Dean's scream that year cost him a credible candidacy by showing him as weird or unstable.  The yell was in fact after the Iowa Caucases in which he had just been badly beaten after looking solid a month before.  He was trying to rally the troops with a sort of false energy, but only succeeded in looking ridiculous. The scream was an effect, not a cause; the cart, not the horse.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Mike Trout

If you have ever followed baseball's numbers, or have any familiarity with baseball history, but have drifted away from that, it would pay you to check out the career numbers Mike Trout is amassing. Looking at the all-time list, he is about to move into the top 50 of all time.  The names ahead of him are all in the Hall of Fame or will be (Derek Jeter), save for three exceptions.* They are mostly legends, first- or second-best players ever for their franchises.  You will notice the number of seasons they have played: 17, 19, 21, even 25 or 27  years in the majors.  Trout is in his 9th. He just turned 28.

If you live near Los Angeles you should probably get over to see him in center field for the Angels, just to say you've done it.

* Barry Bonds because of PEDs, Pete Rose because of gambling, and a great-fielding shortstop who played from 1891-1911 named Bill Dalhlen. Trout will pass Dahlen soon anyway, about next May. The only other "few seasons" player ahead of him is Joe DiMaggio, with 13 seasons - who Trout will likely pass next July.

Apostasy Among Young Christian Leaders

Skillet's John Cooper talks about the apostasy of other young Christian leaders, especially musicians. I have held off on this, because it touches on some of the issues in the Church Music post from years ago that I recently put up again.  Leaving the faith is more common from an emotion-based worship, as emotions are not long sustainable. One version of "Ezekiel Saw The Wheel" has the verse Some folks come for to sing and shout (Way in the middle of the air) Before six months they's all sung out. (Way in the middle of the air) but I can't find it.  There are a fortunate few who fall in love - eros - and remain that way all their lives, but more usually, it fades before the fourth year and other loves - friendship, affection, and charity - must take over to sustain a relationship.* It is the same with God-love.

C S Lewis noticed that his faith was never weaker than when he had just successfully defended the faith, and suspected that this was because for a moment, the truth or falsehood of the Gospel had seemed to hinge on his poor intellectual strength.  For a Christian musician, on tour or putting together recordings and videos, going day after day with poor sleep and having many days of weakness, to see what you know to be mostly faking it that night have such a powerful effect on listeners must sap your own faith.  "If that's all it takes..." I knew some of that from leading worship, then comparing the result to people with better musicians, better equipment, and styles of music that lent themselves to excitement.

It's not just the music, of course.  Those worship services often have more cliches, more exciting preaching, more pizzazz. I try not to look down on it, because I also envy it, and have had many moments in my life when I have depended on it myself.  There are weeks when we bring nothing and are grateful that others can carry us for a time. Sometimes people have months and years of needing to be carried in worship, if they have depression, medical concerns, or hard patches of life. It may be  more of a spiritual problem if we never need to be carried by others. Liturgical and sacramental churches have some advantage to the suffering here - though not for everyone. There is a wonderful scene in one of the "Don Camillo" books when around 1955, the Italian priest brings his portable wartime altar and sacraments to a contentious political meeting late at night and making no announcement, says Mass and administers the Eucharist - a reminder that he had evaded enemy patrols with that same altar during the war to administer the sacrament to them in hiding. He leaves without a word.

We put athletes and celebrities forward to give testimonies, especially to the young, and I doubt that is fair to them or to the church.  They are usually nice, earnest people who want to do some good, but they are not prepared.  It is perhaps surprising we don't lose more of them.

*It has been a long time since I read Lewis's The Four Loves.  It's about time.

Loneliness

I always feel sorry whenever I hear about anyone who is lonely.  We have all experienced it, sometimes for extended periods. Reading that an entire generation or two might be more likely to feel lonely is discouraging.

I am always suspicious of statistics about entire age-groups.  Not only are the boundary lines fuzzy, but they always involve trends and percentages, not either-ors. If Boomers check some box 40% of the time and it steadily lessens until Gen Z only checks it 25% of the time, that may be significant and worth looking at,  But it means you shouldn't be drawing a conclusion about any individual you are meeting fresh, nor even about the generation as a whole.  Some key word in the question might have a different meaning. The difference may reflect their current age more than their generation.  That is, those same Gen Z'ers might also check that box 40% of the time forty years from now.

I found it interesting that "transparency" was considered an important value.  That word would not have been used in a survey forty years ago, and "authenticity," which I suspect is related, would have been less likely as well. Do they mean "candor?"  Are they used here as opposite words to what people are really thinking, signifying "not a fake, not a hypocrite?" Both could also serve as excuses for people who want to tell others off, or do whatever they want and not be criticised, like the NBA player who said he was a Christian because "No one but God can judge me." Is openly being a jerk transparency or authenticity?

The article ties it to social media, and few of us doubt that has some effects on personality at this point.  At my son's 40th birthday party I was admiring my brother across the room, watching him talk to others, just enjoying that before going over to greet him. I mentioned softly to another son how much I enjoyed "just watching him."  He mentioned after a minute or so that I could not have said that five years ago.  It's true, and part of that has been going off Facebook, so I don't see his comments anymore.  We can get over things that annoy us more easily when new annoyances are not added to them.  Decades ago a friend shook his head when talking about difficulties with a tenant, "It's easier to forgive people if they stop sinning against you."

Are the effects permanent? Once they are part of our development, are we changed forever?The internet in general has made discourse less formal. Blogging and personal websites have increased the number of people sharing their opinions to a group.  I was 52 when I started blogging, already well into middle-age, and had commented and participated on other sites before that.  I find differences in myself related to frequent expression of my opinions and interests since that time.  I can't be the only one, and it is hard to see how such self-expression would have less effect on those a generation or two younger. We guess at what the changes are among those who grew up with their own camera phones in their hand, but I don't think there is much solid evidence yet.

Think for a moment about the different lives of the past, of children who grew up on the prairie, or in a London slum, or in a peasant village.  Those are hard enough to get our heads around, never mind the remoter lives of hunter-gatherers, nomads, or slaves. Some of those had constant human interaction, some had very little.

Identity Politics From Family Disintegration

Currently on my sidebar over at Quillette: "The Great Scattering:" How Identity Panic Took Root in the Void Once Occupied By Family Life. It is more than just a discussion fatherlessness, though that is prominent. The idea that taking one's identity from one's group(s) would grow as the family, both nuclear and extended, weakened makes some obvious sense.  We will draw an identity from somewhere.  Making one from nothing is impossible, and making it only from oneself is difficult.  Even individualists assemble their identity from things they find lying around. They provide shortcuts, good and bad - that is, they provide both inspirations and excuses.

There is a difference between saying "I'm Irish" and saying "My family is/was Irish," though any of us might say both at different times and mean nearly the same thing by the statement. The two statements give a different picture.  I am going to bet that the latter formulation is much less common now than it was when I was a child.

I was a child of divorce (6), then remarriage (13), and those did not merely deprive me of some opportunities for identity, those events were part of my identity, which is a bit sad. In addition to obvious (though disquieting)  sentiments of feeling as if one had two families or acted like a different person with each parent, the article quotes “I always felt like an adult, even when I was a little kid” as a statement children of divorce strongly agreed with more often. I nodded wryly.  I had thought it was only me.

Each successive generation recently has fewer siblings, which means fewer aunts and uncles, and greater mobility also means less contact with extended family.  That last is more variable, as Americans have been moving away from families for a long time, and communication with them has become easier recently. Yet the trend toward less extended family seems clear. (Though come to think of it, I don't know what the trend is among those who have immigrated in the last few decades.) Larger extended families have more group identity, and it is easier to find a place for yourself even if you don't like everyone. If you have an aunt that shares a passion of yours, that is more than having a random woman from the previous generation with same.

We will make an identity out of something.  It starts early and we can't postpone it and say "I'll just put together a personality someday when I have time." When one large storehouse is removed, we will go to other storehouses for food.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Three Short Essays on Freedom and Speech

Megan McArdle at the Washington Post What Is The Greatest Threat To Free Speech? American Renaissance reprinted it, so I avoid the paywall. May 2018

The Prison-House of Political Language.  Includes a nice little Newspeak dictionary.  Quillette. June 2018. 

And let us round this out with a much older essay by George Orwell in 1944, just to remind us that some words lost their meaning before we were even born.  What Is Fascism?

When I get to 2019, I can't really call then "old links" anymore, can I?  It defeats the purpose of the series.  Yet there are about twenty more from before this year, and another twenty (so far) since January 2019. I think when I hit January 1st in my march to the present I will stop until we reach January 2020, then start up again.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Just A Closer Walk With Thee


Buffalo Springfield

This is a classic example of Neil Young writing lyrics that make no sense but rhyme, scan, and have evocative images floating by.  See also "Cinnamon Girl" for that, which also includes a guitar solo that is just one note. Or anything by Young, really. Somehow it was still fun to listen to.




Maybe you'd like this better. It goes suddenly country-rock, well before others got there.



They are best known for "For What It's Worth," which gathered a reputation as a protest song that permeated culture so much that even the Muppets did it (about animals being afraid in the forest.) However, it was about a club being closed, nothing political.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Friday, August 23, 2019

Top Posts #51-55

Letters From Tom. A college friend who rose in international business discusses what skills go into leadership in high-tech business.  Quite interesting. Someone must have linked this to push the readership this high, and there are unfamiliar commenters. Jan 2010.  We still correspond occasionally.

Merritt Ruhlen's List. Ruhlen is a linguist who believes all languages descend from an original, and faint traces of it can still be discerned. It is controversial and often rejected. Since this was written, there is evidence in both directions: more deep connections between at least some families have been proposed; however, evidence for a less linear family tree for homo sapiens sapiens is also showing up.  Nothing conclusive. I still think his evidence is good. July 2006

Ofen and Often. The "t" dropped out, but is coming back.  The same thing happened to the pronounced "c" in Arctic. Readers seem to want to put these things back in, believing it is more precise. August 2006

The Richmond 12. There is a cult in Richmond, NH which calls itself "traditional Catholic" but is actually Feenyite and not authorised by the Vatican. I go hard after a couple of the commenters who did not read carefully and made assumptions about why I was writing.  I read further on the subject after posting, including reviewing the book Deliver Us:Concerning Victimhood. There is a style common to many cults, at least the Christian ones I am familiar with. August 2009

Today's Sermon. What question is God asking you? August 2015

Finishing School

The novel Cassandra French's Finishing School For Boys was made into a TV series. It has apparently been around for a while, but I am as usual not up on these things.

Do the thought experiment of what would happen if the sexes were reversed in this one.  I understand that there is more permission granted in the arts for those who are perceived to be punching up vs punching down, especially in humor. However, A) This exceeds that permission, and I am not in the least interested in how well-done it is. B) Are we quite certain women are in the down position in matters of the heart? C) Could you even have done the reversal of this as a novel, TV show, or movie 70 years ago? I remember thinking when "The Stepford Wives" came out when I was in college that the reverse was perhaps as likely in our set, despite the hyperventilating of my wife's sorority sisters. Like Pink Floyd's "One More Brick In The Wall," the culture they were protesting had already been dethroned and the reverse persecution was already beginning.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Leaping

I have mentioned that the ethnic group other than African-Americans that excels at basketball is Slavs.  I like watching Track and Field on YouTube, and noticed tonight that those are the two ethnic groups that excel at the high jump as well. Not shocking, when you think of it. West African descent (America, Caribbean, Canada) and a collection of Russians, Poles, and Ukrainians.  A German and couple of Swedes are also in there - but in basketball, not so much of those.  There are a few of everything else. Still, I think this Slav height+leaping is a genetic advantage similar to West African fast-twitch fibers.

Predestination

Amazon will send you what you were going to order anyway.

Slavery

It seems to have caused so much trouble.  I have a solution: why don't we just make it illegal?

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Bringing Links Forward

I am enjoying this series, of putting to use articles and essays that I thought interesting at the time, yet have languished unused, lo, these many months or years.

It Takes Chutzpah to Call This the "Obama Boom." Originally in the WSJ, I avoid the paywall with this link. There was sluggish, but steady economic growth during the Obama years. I have written previously why I considered the Democrats more responsible than Bush for the recession, and Obam had more hand in that than usually credited in the popular imagination. I mention that only to leave it aside.  I think presidents matter less than congress, and congress matters less than secular changes - I also believe that there is some delay in the effects that government has.  Psychological effects can change quickly, legislative changes may not come to full effect for years. I am always grateful when presidents at least don't ruin things, so I give Obama some credit.  Donald Trump takes more credit than he deserves. Still, the effect has been lasting, and Trump deserves more credit than his critics give him, and Obama's part was weak, even if positive. February 2018

Death Rates From Mass Shootings. This lie has been difficult to kill. February 2018

Democrats and Dark Money. She writes for Open Secrets about political funding.  I think it may be an evenhanded site, but am willing to be corrected on that. February 2018

The Nation's Toughest Gun-Control Law Made Massachusetts Less Safe. Originally in the Boston Globe by Jeff Jacoby, I am again avoiding the paywall. February 2013

Call From Myself

Because I have caller ID, I can tell I just received another call at my home number from myself, calling from my home number. I wish I would just go away and leave me alone.

Hijacking Black History

From the Middle East Forum:  Hijacking Black History to Bash Israel. Whenever someone tries to change the past, it is because they have an agenda in the present. It's not just about memory and "setting the record straight."

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Taize

It's over an hour.  You can drop down anywhere, or play it straight through in the background.

Cliches

Sometimes it dawns on you only slowly: This person thinks only in cliches. You can move her to another cliche, but never to anything new. We are all like this because of efficiency, but some are more extreme. I wonder if it more than just the efficiency of the automatic, but includes some measure of social or intellectual insecurity as well.  A cliche is an idea that has been tried out and found acceptable by many people.  One is unlikely to get in much trouble for a cliche, if one stays with the set favored by one's tribe.

I used to say "Sayings become cliches for a reason," nodding to their essential accuracy. I am a person who seems to immediately ask "Wait, is that really true?  Lots of people say that, but what is the evidence for it?" I have moved over the years to saying "Sometimes a cliche obscures as much as it reveals."  There is one step beyond that, and I may be there already.  A cliche becomes popular because of what it obscures. Whatever minor truth it might reveal is simply a cost that the liars must pay.

The liars may not be aware or thought-out, they may just be moving in the direction that is protective, like plants slowly bending toward the sun. That's not quite the same thing as being innocent.  Cliches are not accidents.  They are embraced because they are useful, not because they are true.  It is one of the reasons I react so badly to Christian cliches.  It may be that there are many who need such things, or can only respond to the oversimplified and comfortable.  Still, I don't think we are all such fools as that.

When we say "God is love," aren't we often often using that truth to lie, to obscure his judgement, or to grant sanctity to romantic affection or even lust?

Monday, August 19, 2019

Older Hymns

We sang "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty" at the earlier, traditional service yesterday.  The newer version of the lyrics was projected up on the twin screens in the front.  I sang the old words anyway.  I go back and forth on that. I approve of the idea of gradually updating the words to retain understandability. It's just that I never seem to like the newer words. Hast thou not seen? It shows so clearly the relationship to German Hast du nicht sehen and thus has roots visible.

I am reminded of JRR Tolkien going to Mass with his grandson just after Vatican II, when Catholics switched to the vernacular.  Tolkien didn't.  He had always been reserved, even mumbling in much of his speech, but bellowed out the Latin on that day, drowning out those around him.  I don't know how long he persisted in that.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Most Popular #56-60

Planet Narnia:  Hiding In Plain Sight. I was convinced of the book's premise then, and argued in favor of it.  I now think I was wrong. YMMV. October 2010

States Turning. A discussion about a year ago of red states going purple. There have also been blue states going purple, but I know little about that. November 2018

Trade, and Tradeoffs. A single-issue rant.  I can't figure out why it was so popular.  Friends may have linked to it. April 2012

Math Should Be Taught Like Literature. A counterintuitive idea. December 2013

The Szondi Profile.  From 2009, reprinted in 2018.  A very strange psychological test. I think there is so little out there on the Szondi test that my post must come up high on search results.

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

Epstein

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.