Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Another Irony

The multiculturalists among us are often dissatisfied with America, and want us to be like other countries.  Have you noticed that the countries we should be most like - Sweden, France, Switzerland, Belgium - are the whitest countries in the world?  There used to be a lot of admiration for Far Eastern attitudes, in religion, culture, or medicine, but now that India and China are gearing up as high-polluting capitalists that is fading, leaving only the other "advanced" industrial nations, which have state-sponsored medicine, premarital sex, and condescension, all greatly to be desired.  Unfortunately, that's also the list of nations that were either colonial oppressors or made money selling arms to both sides during wars. And very, very, white.

You'd think that would be a lot to swallow, but apparently not. 

Even at a national level, there is an admiration for Northeast, Upper Midwest, and Pacific Northwest attitudes, with the rest being Jesusland.  California looks like an exception at first, but examining what people actually go to see in CA doesn't seem to be all that ethnic, nor all that joyful a mix for those there.  No, those most in favor of multiculturalism in theory seem to like it least in practice.  The places they wince at discussing - Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, Arkansas - have the highest nonwhite percentages.  The shell game is that they tell themselves it's the Bad White people in those places that tick them off, the Red-White people.

At one level, it's true.  They do dislike those people.  Or pity them, or feel frustrated at them, or whatever.  In fact, the Blue-White people seem fixated on that.  They can't look away.  They keep coming back to how terrible those folks are.

Because, what would they see if they had to look anywhere else, either inward or outward?

Seattle - Vancouver

I'm not up on the state of the debate on gun control matters, but I caught the side of one, and the 1988 New England Journal of Medicine study of handguns and crime in Seattle versus Vancouver came up.  Is that still a live part of the debate?  If it is, I'll do a quick takedown, but if it isn't, I won't bother.

I don't have any emotional objection to living in a country where guns are hard to get, because that's my culture of origin - perhaps I only have the luxury of saying that because I live in low-crime NH.  But I do object to living in a country where people abuse facts to get what they want.

Up And Down The Sidebar

James has a literary discussion about whether prequels and backstories work, which I recommend for all the fantasy or sci-fi fans.

Over at Grim's Hall we expect mostly Grim with occasional Texan99 contributions.  But someone must be slipping her espresso, because she's outposting him about 2/1 at present. Favorite line up at the moment is her admiration for Ted Cruz - "Rick Perry with twice the brains." Lawyers, guns, and money over at her site today.  Lots of each.

Ben is talking about entertainment stuff that I don't like but you might, and hbd*chick links to an article that annoys me so much I'm not even going to link to her.  Do the work yourself.

Bethany tracks down whether women actually are poisoners, or just play them on TV.

David Foster reposts in some detail an examination of the supposed egalitarianism of liberal elites, and how the perpetuation of an underclass, with only the certain few allowed to rise (the Hourglass Society), is a feature, not a bug, for them.  Not merely ironic, but a bit chilling, actually.

Speaking of chilling, there's enough to keep you busy at Maggie's everyday, but BD links to a Frontpage article about a 500% increase in rapes in Sweden since 1991 - most of that quite recent, since 2004.  I thought it was just Malmo, but apparently it's Stockholm, too.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Magical Negroes

Steve Sailer ran this Key and Peele over a month ago, calling it Dueling Morgan Freemans.  (Vimeo embedding not allowed.) For our purposes, the important point is that the "troubled white boy" in the video was a roommate of Ben's at Asbury College.  Just one of those small world things.

Neanderthal Neighborhoods

Physicist/anthropologist Gregory Cochrane warns us about the dire - but humorous, and dang interesting - consequences of recreating a small tribe of neanderthals from the leftover DNA we've found. 
A number of people have said that recreating Neanderthals would be fraught with ethical problems. Of course that does not matter one way or the other. It’s impossible to imagine contemporary Americans refraining from anything on ethical grounds. No, the key question is whether there’s any money in it.
Well, yeah.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Liberals' War On Science

There is a reasonably good article over at Scientific American by Michael Shermer, The Liberals' War On Science. It's pretty basic by the standards of what conservatives have been pointing out for years, but I am pleased at where it is placed, introducing the idea to liberals in a method they might hear.

Vaccinations aren't mentioned, organic food only indirectly, and he doesn't notice that some basic arithmetic in economics gets overlooked.  I think Shermer additionally misunderstands the moral reasoning of being against stem-cell research - not horribly, but not quite right, either. Finally, he takes the conventional wisdom on global warming without a qualifier and overvalues the effect of belief in Young Earth Creationism.  With a list like that, how could I possibly be recommending it, eh?

Well.  He dares to mention evolutionary psychology, hammering home Pinker's points again. He doesn't shy away from possible consequences of disallowing GM foods. He notes that the controversial beliefs are not either-or among the parties.

And it's in Scientific American, thank you, a publication that has come down a bit over the decades in an effort to remain viable, but still has some weight.

HT: hbd*chick

Sunday, January 27, 2013


This goes with that Mannfred Mann video from Shindig that I posted below.  I can't get the association out of my head at this point.


Whenever I come across the word proves in a news story or a comment section, I usually think "Here's someone who didn't take enough math courses."

Changing Tides

In much the same way that Howard Dean used to say "Hell, this is Vermont!  Even liberals up here have a couple of guns," I used used to explain New Hampshire to new arrivals with "There's a strong libertarian streak in both parties."

It occurs to me that this is no longer true.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Link and Discussion

Kurt over at GayPatriot has linked to one of my posts, and suggests he is going to open a series on the social shaming nature of liberalism. I love attention, and I'll keep track of that. The problem is, it's a group blog, and as I have clearly demonstrated with Texan99 over at Grim's Hall and David Foster at Chicago Boys, I can't figure out how to set up my sidebar for their entries only.

Nothing against the other writers at those places. I read them myself. But the original thought was to keep the sidebar as a record of who is present at this salon. That fell apart years ago, but I do try occasionally to improve matters and get the census accurate. Cue the themes song for my intuitive understanding of HTML code that isn't completely straigtforward.

Ce e Dragostea

Chris called from Norway this morning to ask what cayenne was, now that he is taking up cooking for himself.  Apparently he is making some kind of pork loin - he said "pork lion," of course (that's how folk etymologies are usually created) - in bean soup.  Glad to hear it.  He works a lot of hours and was looking pretty skinny when we saw him at Thanksgiving.  Ten pounds below his USMC weight.  He's back up now, and the high-fat, high-salt, high-starch, high-alcohol diet in Romania last week surely helped.

He enthused over a Romanian song by the famous Stefan Banica, which he now says is his favorite of all time.  He assured me that there was very little of the seminudity and overt sexuality common to Romanian popular music.  Well, he was right, at least by Romanian standards, this is pretty tame.  You might still want to keep the kindergarteners away from it, though. I'm regretting just a bit my promise to post it .

Still, it's a pretty enough song.  The title means "What is love?" and the repeated line
Când ai plecat din viaţa mea means something like "When you went away from my life."

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Statistical Presidency

Nate Silver's article on greatness in the American presidency, with special attention to whether Obama will qualify, is rather baffling.  He mentions that it is a little premature to consider such a thing, but plays with some numbers to talk about it anyway, because...

Because it's fun to do?  Because these are essentially highschoolers running our op-ed pages now?  How does the mind of an intelligent person not immediately step back and say "Wait, this is insane.  How is this not ridiculous?"  So I'll remind them.  It's insane.  It's ridiculous.  If you want to do the work at home in the privacy of your study, ask yourself what you would have thought of similar reveries in early 2005.

When I saw that the opinion of presidential scholars was going to figure prominently in the rest of the discussion, I started skimming, and quickly broke off.  That's like asking New York sportswriters who belongs in the HOF.  Superficially, you can say that they know the territory, and the best writers gravitate to the biggest markets, so they must be the best judges.  Except when you think about it, you know they're not, because their biases will be too great.

That JFK finished 9th rather illustrates that point*.  As for Bush finishing 38th, Reagan finished 25th when the same lists ran in the 90's, but he gets a ranking of 10 ranking now.  Were they wrong then, or wrong now? And Woodrow Wilson?  Really?  You get credit for having One-Worlder dreams and then being the chief architect of their destruction?  The 1996 dealio was run by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.

Ben commented there was an outlier - I wasn't sure what he meant.

*Kennedy gets props for this quote, however:  "No one has a right to grade a President—even poor James Buchanan—who has not sat in his chair, examined the mail and information that came across his desk, and learned why he made his decisions."

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

High School

Because he put up three posts quickly, Sailer's High School did not show in my sidebar for long, and you may have missed it. I would dearly love for folks to comment here on that essay.

It touches on some common themes of mine (he and Tom Wolfe put my ideas better than I do, unsurprisingly), but my first reason for highlighting the essay is the ongoing examples of high school playing out endlessly in adult life.  I feel that in my bones, and have spent much of my adult life trying to shut it down.  Perhaps that reflects my move from liberal to...postliberal.  Others may not have experienced that strongly.  Others may still have it dominate their lives and be simply unaware.

I can think of a few like that, actually.

No Nibbles

No one apparently wanted to try a guess on that Shindig dance.  Frankly, I am annoyed at you all for that.  It was related to the more sinuous Frug, which this video claims was the foundational movement for half of all 60's discotheque dances.

I also see some relationship to The Jerk.  The Frug was more popular in retrospect, because of films such as that above, and the fact that Broadway choreographer Bob Fosse just couldn't get enough of it.  It is less dramatic, more...uh... intimate, and doesn't play as well on stage from 100 feet, as the caged Hullabaloo Dancers' movements had to.  I'm guessing it's pretty impressive from 20 feet with those costumes.  Haven't been there myself, but...

BTW, that video is a little creepy, with its tables of four guys in suits and ties, clearly sharing a brotherly moment when they were supposed to be at Rotary or something, plus the young women making the request calls... Did that really happen, or is this a made-for-TV moment?  It feels darn close to a strip club, actually.  Not that I would know.

I almost put in another ellipsis there.  That may be a marker of high anxiety for me, not knowing quite how to put things, so I leave the thought with an ellipsis...

And cages.  I hadn't really picked up on that before.  It suddenly occurs to me that as a pubescent male, I thought the cages were to protect them from the ravenous fans, plus allow them to be moved around for staging purposes. But this was also the era of the many risque women-in-prison movies.  I feel another ellipsis coming on...

Those of you who are interested in recapturing your moves in preparation for the next wedding of you friends' children - or those who weren't there but want to get your 60's moves just right, the following series of videos is far-and-away the best I have seen.  Michael or Bethany, notify Tim, please. And someone pass it on to Jamie Zylak, who I imagine will use the information more than the rest of us.

There are 33 other dances at that YouTube sector.

Egalitarianism Irony

Reading Culture Shock: Norway, it all sounds quite lovely, though the preachiness comes through.  A combination of government regulation and social pressure lets you know the proper way to bring up your children and what your family life should be like, and how education should be managed.  These aren't necessarily bad ideas - I agree with many - but it sounds odd to an American.  The Swedes and Finns are apparently worse, and the Danes about the same.  Icelanders are also quite convinced that they have achieved a proper balance between personal freedom and government regulation that others should emulate.

The poet Aksel Sandemose made the famous (well, famous to Norwegians, anyway) statement "Don't you believe that you are any better than anybody else."  Egalitarianism is rather fierce in Norway, and the author of the book, who seems to be a Chinese woman who married a Norwegian, stops short of criticising them for not encouraging gifted students, or even allowing them to go forward on their own, nonetheless telegraphs her approval that this is changing (in 1995).

This insistence on egalitarianism is one of the reasons why Norwegians believe they are better than other countries.  Heh.  As with socialism, they do a marvelous job of sharing with each other, and making you share, too.  They, and the other Scandinavians, are a bit more ruthlessly free-market in the world economy. 

Yes, I am criticising this, and making fun of the hypocrisy.  But I do envy it.  Socialism at home for the few million citizens, free-market abroad for those other countries who are fine in their own way, but...

Not a bad system.


From Mere Christianity, by CS Lewis.  I will have a sermon for myself on this later.

According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride.  Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.

Does this seem exaggerated? If so, think it over. I pointed out a moment ago that the more pride one had, the more one disliked pride in others.  In fact, if you want to find out how proud you are, the easiest way is to ask yourself, ‘How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronize me, or show off?’  The point is that each person’s pride is in competition with everyone else’s pride.  It is because I wanted to be the big noise at the party that I am so annoyed at someone else being the big noise.  Two of a trade never agree.  Now what you want to get clear is that Pride is essentially competitive–is competitive by its very nature–while the other vices are competitive only, so to speak, by accident.  Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.  We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not.  They are proud of  being richer, or cleverer, or good-looking than others.  If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking, there would be nothing to be proud about.  It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest.  Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.  That is why I say that Pride is essentially competitive in a way the other vices are not.  The sexual impulse may drive two men into competition if they both want the same girl.  But that is only by accident; they might just as likely have wanted two different girls.  But a proud man will take your girl from you, not because he wants her, but just to provide to himself that he is a better man than you.  Greed may drive men into competition if there is not enough to go round; but the proud man, even when he has got more than he can possibly want, will try to get still more just to assert his power.  Nearly all those evils in the world which people put down to greed or selfishness are really far more the result of Pride.

Above The Notch

I'm going Above The Notch, tomorrow, into the deeper cold.  Those of you who aren't from 'round heah would probably like that little bit of insider's information that natives know.  Above The Notch (mostly meaning Franconia Notch, where the Old Man Of The Mountains was, though Crawford Notch is roughly parallel and nearly as famous, being just above Mt Washington) is both a geographic and a cultural designation.  I expect most states have these, though only Michigan's Upper Peninsula comes to mind.  People are proud to come from there, and have a defensiveness about it that is supposed to be picturesque, or something.

I have never found it to be so.  I wrote about the area over a year ago when I went up to Lost Nation, and I don't dislike it nor its people.  Yet neither do I find that they have some epitome of Yankee values, nor a crusty charm it is important to get to know.  Lumbering and timber, and even more the various threads of tourism, especially winter tourism, is what they do.  It is 5-20 degrees colder year-round, because the White Mountains influence warmer southern air out and hold colder northern air in.  The mighty Connecticut River is nearly a brook up there, and people hardly notice that border against Vermont's similar Northeast Kingdom.

If you can find a good job somewhere else, you probably should.  The small but increasing number of people whose work allows them to live anywhere will like the prices for real estate, but you'd still have to send your kids to Groveton for highschool.

Story:  In the 1980's Colebrook High has a 7-foot center on its basketball team.  In Class S, where all the schools have 80-150 students, that was good for a state championship three years running.  When my son was playing against those schools in the 90's, I asked about that and had his brother, the opposing coach, pointed out to me.  He was 6-8.  In Class S, you usually have to play center if you are 6-4. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Actual 60's

See, this is why we go to primary sources.  When people write about the 60's, they cherry pick data and bleed in some 70's.

As I did nearly a year ago when I went looking for music, just because I haven't put any up there for awhile, I searched Shindig at YouTube.  The concentration of stars per weekly lineup is amazing, and I reflected on why the shows failed.

Ben is doing a thorough examination of nominated videos for "Most 90's Song Of All Time."  (It's clear which child got my OCD, list-making tendencies.  Hope he uses them better than I.)  It occurred to me that this would not only be a more difficult, but an impossible task for the 60's.  And yet, there may have been more variety in the 90's.  We may be hitting a paradox here, where the very similarity prevents distinctiveness, and thus representativeness.

My head hurts.  Forget that, it's deeply unimportant.

I would propose instead that one of the distinctives of the era would be bands appearing in a lineup.  Hullabaloo and Shindig, Where The Action Is, and the lesser-known Happenin' 68 all had that format, a modified form of American Bandstand.  Festivals - Folk, Pop, Blues, Jazz, and Rock - were crowning events of their seasons.  Church basements had coffee houses with an array of people playing sets, and highschools or cities sponsored a Battle of the Bands.  Interesting to wonder what effect that may have had on Boomer groupthink, and how that highlighting of the importance of hipness and awareness became - and still is - a form of social control.  I don't see any conspiracy about it.  You don't have to teach a cat to catch mice.  But perhaps it did distill that value, even if it did not create it.

Now your head hurts.  Forget that, it's deeply unimportant.  What's important is that it had a good beat and the kids could dance to it.  I gave it a 95.  Here's a good representative:

The commercial jingles are still locked in my head: That's self-styling Adorn. A-dorn.

Trivia question:  What dance do they break into at 4:13 (and 4:29)? Discuss.

As usual, you can't eat just one.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Viral Video

Joe Bush's viral video about the history of the world in 2 minutes is interesting. This kid is 19.  He did this for a highschool project.  He is exactly the sort of kid that some firm such as Google, BGI, or whatever, should say "Screw college.  Come work for us."

The time compresses insanely as he moves forward - so would we all in his shoes - and it is interesting the relative importance he attaches to WWII and the 1960's.  That 9-11 and Obama's election are big seems automatic for a teenager, and I don't attach importance to that.  But those of us over 40 should note that this is clearly a highly perceptive young man who has absorbed what adults have told him is important and fed it back.  This is a State Of The World report from the near-future.  This is the picture of reality that is passing forward to the next generation.

The progression seems to be First, physics was important, then biology. Then physical anthropology, then Renaissance history, social history, then technology.

We thought we were passing down particular ideas about Life, and Western Civilisation.  This is what we actually passed down.  Report card?

Update:  The time compression, and our inability to accurately portray long periods of time in our narratives, was a part of the middle essays in my Creationism-Evolution series July 2010. It does affect our understanding.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Mild Age

Related to the previous post and the comfortable ties we have to this world, which perhaps obscure our knowledge of Good and Evil, an image came to mind:  In the older world, moral decisions were pictured as homonculi sitting on each shoulder, an angelic and a demonic one, each whispering in our ears.  It was still a popular cartoon motif in my childhood.

The homoculi today may not be identical twins, but they are at least dizygotic, chatting over minor differences in ethics.  They get along easily and sip brandy now.

Repost About Suffering

I was speaking with commenter Earl at church, and the conversation moved from the data about differences in homicide rates among Caucasians, hispanics, and African-Americans to the data that the much ballyhooed decline in religiosity is primarily among Caucasians.  Earl wondered if the two were related - that the more comfortable among us tend away from both violence and God.  Worth pondering, and interesting that Obama, stereotypically elitist in his outlook, put the two ideas together in his Bitter Clingers remark as well.

It reminded me of a post on comfort and suffering, and how they are viewed, that I put up a few years ago.

The Truth Is Veiled (Feb 2009)

Talking with a brilliant, elderly psychiatrist on Wednesday, he was speaking quite warmly about a patient he had interviewed that morning. He is a man deeply touched by his patients’ suffering, and her courage in adversity had impressed him. He described her as very religious, and this led in his monologue to questions of suffering, faith, and endurance. Not being religious himself, he quite naturally wondered why her suffering had not caused her to lose her faith.

Ironically, the physical therapist in a wheelchair rolled past just then, with ashes on his forehead.

Without lecturing the man, I spoke of Frankl’s and Bettelheim’s observations of people in the concentration camps. I noted that ease of life in nations usually led to less religiosity, and the same is often true for individuals for well. He kept returning to the same point – his general puzzlement at the existence of faith in the face of hardship.

I cast my net wider, giving evidence that religious people had given a great deal of thought to suffering over the centuries. I mentioned Luther and Therese, Francis of Assissi, Job – I could certainly have kept going. It was like bumping up against a wall over and over. The doctor’s impression was that this had not been thought through by religious people. The single overwhelming question of how can God be good if people suffer was as far as he could go. He felt that contradiction so strongly that he was unable to really engage intellectually beyond that. Though he did not claim it was an original idea, he spoke as if it were a new revelation that religious people just weren’t dealing with.

The rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would say, is that we have had this conversation twice before at least, about three years ago and ten years ago. His understated amazement was present then as well: wow, people suffer and yet still maintain there is a good God! How can that be? Nothing I said then made any difference either. And he’s had plenty of time to read up on it or ponder it over the years if he wanted to. This is, I will reassert, a person extremely skilled in listening to his patients and intuiting the meaning and subtext of what they say, a person who has seen complex theories of personality come and go over his lifetime. Not only are there no obvious intellectual or emotional barriers to his understanding these ideas, he is in fact over-equipped to enter into ideas and feelings of others.

So. He doesn’t ponder the meanings. But I ponder him. How is it that person who thinks and cares deeply can walk by such questions? It is not as if he has examined this at length and come to a different conclusion; he has not noted subtle flaws in the reasoning of religious people; he has not identified new contradictions that have not been addressed. He comes to the edge of the ocean and sees only desert because he is standing on sand.

The scriptures speak of things being veiled from our sight, and most especially, the things of God. CS Lewis illustrates the idea in The Last Battle, where the dwarves have passed through the door and entered into heaven, but believe they are stuck in a dark, dirty stable. They are offered a banquet, but taste only filthy straw. In the Gospel of John, scene after scene has Jesus commenting about the Pharisees’ inability to understand. In some verses it seems as if this is very much their own fault; in others it sounds as if such understanding is only by God’s action and they could not do otherwise. In between, Jesus mentions also those who believe only because of signs. (Chapters 3-8 refer to this problem repeatedly, with Jesus giving a subtly different answer each time. The answer is clearly almost within our reach but just beyond our understanding).

My doctor friend standing by the ocean – is it his own fault that he does not say “Well, people say there’s an ocean here. Shouldn’t I at least step out a bit and see if I get wet?” Or is there nothing he can do, because he does see only sand? These things are beyond me.

I am making no statement, BTW, that all or most nonbelievers fit this description. On the contrary, I have spoken with some and read many nonbelievers who seem to have genuinely engaged the larger questions surrounding Christian belief. But I have met many, many others over the years who fit the elderly psychiatrist’s category. They do not even really know what the questions are, and they don’t know that they don’t know. Do they sense at some deep level that the answers beyond the door are too expensive, or is this gift simply not given to them? 

The link is here if you want to read the 5 excellent comments as well.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Hitch-hikers Guide

I had picked it up partly as a cultural document, expecting it to evoke an era and attitude I no longer shared, but remembered with some fondness.  It was fun, but I was reminded of some negative aspects of that culture as well.  Little things, but this is why we read primary documents - they are unconsciously products of their culture.  The author makes assumptions about shared youth culture - tastes in clothing or music he is sure the hitchers will be part of, in contrast to virtually all older people, who will be put off by such things.  I had forgotten how quite automatic the idea of a generational war was.  We believed it was the natural order of things for children to rebel against their parents values.

Some do, some don't - both have a lot of historical support.  But we didn't think so at the time.  The younger generation, rather self-righteous in their confidence that they (we) were leading the world on to a better way, also saw music and clothes as essential parts of the struggle.  I doubt that feeling is as strong today. 

The book was fun for the introductory, general information about hitching and the readers' comments that closed each chapter.  I read about 50% of the info on the UK.  I was curious what would be said about the Eastern European countries, especially Romania - essentially nothing.  About a page each, mostly warning you about the penalties for black market dealings and noting what was cheap or expensive in each.

So I turned to the Scandinavian countries, and was treated to four pages of rhapsody about how they had gotten this socialism thing right, and how wonderful and sane these countries were.  From a guy whose field of economic and political expertise is how to mooch of others and get things for free, sometimes in illegal or deceptive ways (though only as a last resort, of course.)  I had forgotten how, to a certain type of mind from 1965 - present, it was simply part of the culture to know that the Scandinavians have got it right.  Making these statements was obligatory, to show you understood about Stuff, and The World.

I didn't bother with the rest.  I've got the Culture Shock books to do that better for me anyway. Yet I still did like the parts I read.  If anyone local would like to borrow or have the book, let me know - or watch for it at the next Bethany yard sale.

Good People

Update, spurred by Sam L's comment, from hbd*chick.

I have commented before on the importance to liberals of being associated with the good people, the smart people, the right opinions.  There is a current debate that I think illustrates the cultural pivot points very well.  In the wake of Sandy Hook, and the very strenuous pronouncements by President Obama that he intends to do something, despite the opposition from all those unthinking people, the gun control debate is tending very much in the direction of new regulations.

If you read the op-eds and the comments sections, talk to your co-workers, or listen to Jon Stewart, you will have a strong impression that all the reasonable people are moving in favor of some new bans, requirements, and regulations.  It all looks rather inevitable.  They point out that the gun-supporters are yahoos, say dumb and intemperate stuff, and even the best of them aren't in the know - don't get it.  If they mention any actual factual data, it is the repeated notion that Europe, banning guns, has a lower homicide rate.

You have to go to the Dark Side, the parts of the internet that not only notices that the homicide rate is driven by black people killing each other, but mentioning, perhaps even gleefully that this is okay with them.  If you go over to Taki's Mag, and to a lesser extent Steve Sailer's blog and read the comments sections, you can find some pretty ugly stuff.

The good people seem to have facts and data about graphs, and rates, and statistics.  The ignorant racists seem to have only this prejudice and theories that Black people are behind it somehow.

But the ignorant racists have the facts on their side, at least in this instance, and the Good People are simply wrong.  People of European descent - white people - have the same homicide rate regardless of which side of the Atlantic they live on, and what the gun laws are.  They kill people at a rate of about 1 per 100,000 per year.  99.999% of them are not murderers this year.  In contrast, 99.992% of black people are not murderers.  A pretty significant majority, but still 8 times more than the Europeans.

A murder rate below 10 per 100,000 is rare, and new.  It started creeping down in NW Europe about seven centuries ago.  Because of American colonial settlement patterns, remarking on this looks like highlighting the violence of those of African descent.  It is actually the opposite, highlighting the low homicide rate of a narrow band of NW Europeans.  Eastern Europeans, South Americans, Pacific Islanders - all those are higher, closer to the world historical norm.

But the takeaway point is that the good, reasonable people happen to be wrong, and the bigots happen to be right on this particular point.  Evidence whether someone is from the cool kids or not is never a measure of truth.  The American homicide rate is 3.9 per 100,000.  Half of those homicides are by African-Americans, who are only 11-12% of the population.  Hispanics, another 11-12%, make up half of the rest.  The 75% of Americans who are Europeans by descent have a homicide rate similar to Denmark, France, Ireland, and all those other enlightened EU places we should be emulating if we wish to be civilised. No one wants to say what everyone knows.

Changing the gun laws will not affect violence very much.  This debate is entirely about which culture shall rule, and force the other to put up with its preferences.  That people don't need automatic weapons, that they are overreacting and think Obama is a communist, that school shooters and serial killers are usually white (not true, but even if it were), that they are bitter clingers, that they don't sound that smart - all this is irrelevant.

True.  Not true. The only question.

Note:  Counter-statistics should check whether they are quoting "gun deaths," rather than homicides, as discussed over at Bethany's blog recently.  "Gun deaths" includes suicides.  If eliminating those with gun control is your main goal, fine.  I might even agree and support your plan.  But if that's the case, you have to sell the point on that basis, not imply that you are talking about murder.  Similarly, if you want to advocate for gun control because you are afraid of what black people do with guns, then say so.  Don't hide behind feeling that the white yahoos are ignorant.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Bicycle Rider

William Neat was my great-grandfather, born around 1880.  I could look it up, but it's not important.  He came from the Fitchburg, MA area - there was a small troupe of Neats in the Shirley, Leominster, Ayer region.  I don't think any are left. There was a tribe of Neats who settled in Indiana and Kentucky in the 1800's, who I doubt are related, and a couple in Norwell who don't answer my letters but I suspect are from my line I can trace to Boston in the mid-18th C - but no close relatives.

His daughter Ruth Irene Neat died just before I was born, and so I was saddled with her maiden name as my middle one:  David Neat Wyman.  Neat is an older word for cattle, as you may remember from Neat's Foot Jelly.  Another theory is that it has something to do with St. Neot. Or not.

It was considered uproarious when I was a child, and I tried to conceal it.  Now it's just one more completely unlikely thing in life.

William lived until the early 1960's, but I never met him.  He did come to visit us in Manchester unannounced one night, with some third wife or girlfriend or whatever, wanting to see us.  My mother - I think she had only met him once herself - allowed him to watch my brother and I sleeping for a bit, and offered him coffee.  That he might have money to bequeath occurred to her, but didn't seem a strong enough possibility to be worth waking us. She didn't mention it until decades later.

Oddly, he did bequeath us something in a sense - very good quality bicycles, which he left with my father in Westford, who never got around to bringing them up to us, 45 minutes away.  Which tells you something about Dad.  But he remembered it and told the story years later and apologised, which tells you something else.

Someplace along the way, while visiting my Dad at his father's chicken farm one summer, I was told that William had been a bicycle racer and trick rider. That year or another, I found a book about the history of bicycle racing, autographed by the author to "Bill, the greatest..." something or other. I read it, because there was nothing else except stashed Men's World's (I read those, too; I read anything).  I recall that the book was old then, with sepia photos, and that Belgians and Frenchmen dominated the sport.  There was a fuzzy picture pressed inside the front cover of a man on a bicycle at county fair in the 20's, with "William Neat, Trick Rider" on the back. I think I have seen that photo in adulthood as well.

The only other story I know of him was my father's memory of being taken for a ride in a car around 1931, and his grandfather trying to scare him by driving fast.  Yeah, funny guy.  Al would have been about four.  I think there was real animosity from Ruth toward her father, and she kept away from him.  Whatever that was about is long lost to history, unless my youngest brother or his mother, my father's second wife, heard anything by chance over the years.  But Ruth Irene Neat, a nurse who married my grandfather Carl (in the parlor of a Baptist pastor in New Bedford in front of witnesses whose names mean nothing to me), is shrouded in mystery herself - even though she was a rather close relative to me.  I asked my father about her several times, and he dodged.  My mother was a newlywed when her new mother-in-law died, and my father just disappeared for a few days, leaving her to deal with lots of details herself.  She resented that, as well she might.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Hitch-hikers Guide To Europe

I ordered one of those wonderful things from Amazon for $0.02, essentially paying for postage only (I just ordered 10 books for about $45, including postage. Half will be passed on. Much fun.)  I should have read closer, as there were versions of the Hitch-hikers Guide as far back as 1972, which is much more romantic than the 1985 I purchased by accident.  Still, it's quite fun, and I note an item of some importance:  on page 63 it recommends bringing a towel.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Lance Armstrong

I don't care about the cheating.  It's a bike race, as arbitrary as any other sport.

He destroyed other people's lives who told the truth about him.  End of story.  I don't care how much money he raised for cancer research.  This is an issue that Christians have been close to for centuries, and have worked out the details in every generation, because it comes up in every generation. We have had millions of such people, we see the reasoning that it does some good in the world, we understand that no one is perfect, and we still reject it.

Do not do evil to others for selfish reasons.  Even if you give a showy fortune later, it doesn't matter.  That does not cover sin.

Believe me, that is not easy for experienced Christians to say, because that temptation is brutally ours, front and center.  We have learned habits of giving and service, and want those to cover for our exploitation of others.  In terms of worldly, cultural advance, that makes perfect sense.  A 51-49 advantage in goodness, multiplied decade over decade, would create a paradise and is justified in this world. 

We run a higher risk.

Gay Germ and HBD

Greg Cochran over at West Hunter has put forward a simplified version of the hypothesis that male homosexuality is caused by an infectious organism. Well sure, that's going to be popular.  That's one of the things you can't think.  You have to say that gayness is heritable, and thus unavoidable.

Lesbians - and I know more than a few, working in human services - will privately say that they think that gay men are overselling that point.  For themselves, they think that some lesbians are born and some are made, some are mixed, and what's the problem?  But they don't like getting into arguments with gay men about it.

Don't ask me why.  Ask them, thanks.

For a society, the more salient point is "Is it damaging to the group?  Enough so that a government has to get involved?"  That gets very tricky.  A good debate, if one has calm people discussing.  BTW, the various theories of how gayness is adaptive, really, because of epigenetics (the modern incantation of great power.  It should be a special card in Magic: The Gathering.) or various odd just-so stories, are all considered by Cochran if you read back.  Those aren't necessarily disproven, but they don't have a lot of evidence for their truth-values.  Forget the recent circulating theories.  They are stretches.  HBD is the study of science about humans we would rather not know the truth about.  Everyone gets crushed here:  conservatives, liberals, libertarians, socialists, greens, everyone.

Note:  I suspected that all the asserting that Native American Spirituality was very supportive of shamans who understood both male and female sides of nature (like, oh yeah, that was totally a respect for homosexuality) was a retrospective imposition of modern ideas on earlier cultures, but I didn't have evidence.  It was nice to read an anthropologist asserting that hunter-gatherer societies have almost no male homosexuality. Not so much that I wanted to discredit gayness, but for the idea that there was all this subtlety and advanced thought in Amerind religion.  Religions don't develop complexities and nuance until there is reading and writing; then the few smart people can work out the implications over distance and time.  Absent that, it's all pretty much animism, with occasional rises into polytheism. 

I find the current - by which I mean these few decades 1970-2020 - debate uninteresting, frankly.  I step back and look at long-term issues.  If parents can choose for or against the likelihood of homosexuality, they will choose against it, whether it is a specific allele, a virus, or whatever, unless the risk is tied to a significant chance of some real advantage for their children.  This is not necessarily the most important issue of child-choosing, but it is a dramatic and vivid one.  It launches the though processes into the correct questions quickly.

What will it mean when parents can choose, with increasing percentage accuracy, what qualities their descendants will have?  Because remember, it is not just one's children, but their children as well, and all of posterity, if we can write certain features out of the human race.  We'll mostly get it right and do smart things, I suspect.  But it is also a tyrannical parent's paradise.

CS Lewis noted that those who can control and choose the future (genetic or environmental) will then be able to easily control the past, because they will write out all inconvenient history.  Who will stop them?

Change of topic, but not really:  one of the enormous damages the Hal Lindsey through Tim LaHaye speculators on the end times have created is steering the popular thought into certain types of evil that the Antichrist might bring.  There are a world of opportunities here, and one-world government and barcode scanners are only 1% of the possibilities.  Mankind will tend toward evil while striving for good, because we are fallen.  Conservatives know the liberal horrors, and liberals know the conservative horrors, but that still only gets us up to 5% of the narratives.

Science fiction writers probably bring another 20% of the possibilities to the table.

So play your political/social fantasy: get rid of homosexuals.  Or triple their number.  Or give black people all the best survival-genes.  Or give them none.  Tweak the number of people congenitally sympathetic to religion, or congenitally hostile.  See those societies 100 years out.

BTW, we won't be globally boiling then.  Forget that one.

Monday, January 14, 2013


Is Gronk's injury problem (he missed a full year in college) the result of his intensity, which makes him great?  Is this an example of a strength and weakness being intertwined?

And are we going to have him injured in the playoffs every year as a result?


Kevin Drum over at Mother Jones thinks he has found the solution to crime, the IQ gap, and life outcomes:  Lead. Let's hope he's right, because that will be a lot easier to fix than genetic load.  However, Jim Manzi over at The Corner sees some holes in the theory.

OK,  Mother Jones ≠ Scientific Journal, nor does NRO, and Kevin Drum ≠ scientist, though Jim Manzi probably does, if you count Mathematics and such.  But still.  It's interesting.

HT: hbd* chick

Sunday, January 13, 2013


Ben mentioned in his own posts that Houston fans are dissatisfied with Matt Schaub and complaining that they need an "elite quarterback."  He rightly notes that there are exactly four of those, with a few young ones who might move into that category.  What are you going to do, kidnap Tom Brady's kids and hold thm hostage?

Now they are blaming Schaub for tonight's loss.  Basic football point: when you give up 41 points - and it might have been more - that's not the QB's fault.  They might care more deeply about football in Texas than elsewhere, but that doesn't mean they actually know about it.

Great weekend for me. All four teams I wanted won.  That doesn't happen often.

Hidden Data

Related to the Inverse Gambler's Fallacy mentioned over at Maggie's is the hidden data of retrospective analysis.

Start with 100 businesses (or schools, or churches), but come back in a year and check out which 3 have done the best.  Interview those three in detail.  Ask them what they thought was they key to their success.  Then write $24.95 management books and hope to start a new business fad.  That's a good model for book sales.

But it's not a good model for finding out what makes businesses successful.  Those three top businesses will each identify a few factors they are sure brought them success.  And how can we argue?  They're rich and we aren't.  Except that if you had collected data on all 100 businesses beforehand, you would find that there were other firms that used exactly the same strategies but did not succeed. 

The strategy isn't entirely useless, of course.  It might lead us in a correct direction, and give us a testable hypothesis.  But we don't see the businesses that did the same thing, but it didn't work, somehow.  This is the reasoning behind the idea of requiring pharmaceutical companies to also report the studies that showed little or no benefit to their product. 

If you pick only the studies that show your pill works...
If you only write books about the churches that grew...
If you only adopt the mission statements of schools that had more Ivy-acceptances...

You might still fail.  Those institutions that succeeded will, irritatingly, give themselves credit for being so smart, and be even more convinced their TQI or Prosperity Gospel or pop-psych fad works, but you should not be.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

What I'm Talking About

I have declared many times that liberalism is more of a social than an intellectual set of beliefs.  Certainly, liberalism is enforced socially rather than intellectually (though the claim of intellectual superiority remains, and is in fact part of the pressure).

I have every recognition that such accusations seem unfair and at minimum, there are also examples of conservatives developing and maintaining their values with similar methods.  But to acknowledge that is to allow an avenue of escape that should not be granted.  When one can say "yeah, both sides are doing that," this quickly becomes "it's about equal," which then becomes "so there's no difference, I can ignore it, I'm keeping my same ideas, and now that I think of it, the other guys do this more wand we're better."

I am adamant that this is primarily liberal reasoning, and is in fact the foundation of how it perpetuates itself, and why I brought up the idea of "fashionableness" after the election.

There have been hints, as I posted the Portlandia clips which illustrate this.  They are humorous.  They are exaggerations.  No real people act like this.  Except, as Sam L noted, they are only a slight exaggeration.  Because the characters are being fascist about ridiculous things, it is easy to dismiss it as all in good fun.  The writers for the show certainly seem to soft-pedal even when they are being humorous, as, say, the writers for South Park do.  No reason to be more stern.  Their point is to be funny, and keep their jobs, not carry on political arguments.

But look at this clip now and see the dark underside more clearly.  Think back also to the clips about the person who forgot to bring his own bag to the store and... in fact, browse through all the clips over at youtube. Consider the meanness, the intensity. Notice:

1.  No intellectual argument is made, though there are big words and a command of abstract thought.

2.  There is no moderation of the public shaming, because the self-righteousness has overwhelmed the personalities.

3.  The closest equivalent group is Christian fundamentalists, and even those, not so much as they are, but as they are caricatured.

4.  The capitulation of the accused is entire, recognising that they will be cut off from the group, its claims of superiority, and even one's job or friends may be at stake.  They victims know that the aggressors play for keeps.  The school administrator certainly senses it.

My claim is that this exaggeration is funny because the audience knows it's real, but thinks that they will be able to steer clear.

And it's not really that bad, Boxer, is it?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Houston v New England

I get nervous whenever anyone says a team has no chance. Not only on the Boston stations, but nationally, Houston is given no chance. Aieeee!

Ben points out that Arian Foster has dropped from 4.9 to 4.4 to 4.1 yards per carry, and I add that he has 370 carries this season, plus another 40 tackles from receptions.  It adds up. That is a big negative for Houston.

But the Patriots caught some enormous breaks in their last meeting with the Texans.  Schaub was not as bad, nor Brady as good, as the current mythology makes it.  Turnovers or dropped passes are not impossible for New England.  They are uneven, ranging from Pretty Good to Insanely Good.  If the former shows up, Houston can beat them.

Somebody wins 27-24.  I keep going back and forth on who. 


Contemplating my greater concentration of paranoid people on my current caseload, I am struck by how many of them cannot accept blame for even the smallest of infractions.  I am not suggesting, not by a long shot, that character traits are driving schizophrenia.  But I do wonder if we have misunderstood which part of the brain is broken.  At present, we see the self-observation and considering-alternative-narrative areas of the cortex as the culprits.  But those areas are also exactly the ones we use in mediating discomfort about taking responsibility.  Accepting blame/consequences/responsibility means envisioning how we might have acted in a better way. 

Yet which part broke first?  Dealing with discomfort or entertaining competing narratives?

In truth, I think I am running well beyond the data here, and going all blue-sky on you.  But a smarter person than I might benefit from the different angle.

Proferred Solution

I draw your attention to Bethany's suggestion about employers not covering contraception - or anything they might object to - over at Bad Data, Bad!  The mere use of the phrase conscientious objector might help Boomer liberals listen to an idea they would otherwise reject out of hand.  More powerfully, such a phrase is an incantation that objectors could use defensively with some force.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Froude, And Questions About The Self

If one reads from Froude's The Bow of Ulysses beginning at page 28, the modern reader is first impressed by a racism it would be unimaginable to have in public now.  There is not much meanness, and there are certainly even compliments for the blacks of The Barbadoes, but the underlying assumption of their inferiority and need (and even desire) to be ruled has one blinking in astonishment. 

I imagine a modern African-American reading it and wonder how we might talk about it afterward.  Froude describes a happy people, and while he doubtless sees what he wants in large part, he does not seem easily deceived in other evaluations, where he allows himself to be surprised and have his assumptions challenged.  I suspect he is at least partly right.  The first question then comes: would modern black people - not the ones who live in reasonable circumstances and write for publication, but the ones who live in dangerous neighborhoods and lose family members to violence - make that trade? It looks like a happy, safe, comfortable life.  If you have children...

And the second question is like unto it:  Would I make that trade? It is a happy, safe, comfortable life.  Such things look increasingly attractive to me as I age.

I think the second question answers the first.  Perhaps people somewhere would make that trade.  Half the world would if they could, I'll warrant.  But Americans, and perhaps the entire Anglosphere, would not, no matter what race we are.  Being looked on as lesser would hurt us too much for happiness to be general.  But that's an American thing.  I'm betting other places, other tribes, may not be so fussy about whether one is a top dog or an underdog.  Many would not care.

Still, it's fun to pretend that we have the choice, isn't it?

Psych studies

 Here's a fun study out of the Netherlands about attention-deficit problems.  Notice what is up here:
1.  We think both genes and environment affect attentional problems, the latter over time.
2.  We thought we had great data and studied it.
3.  We found a huge, deal-breaking problem with our data - before age 12 it was mom-report, after age 12 it was self-report.
3A.  So let's talk about how the data could potentially still be very interesting, because there's this odd male-female difference, and abrupt switches when the data reporting changes.  We don't have any actual evidence for any of it, but it's interesting, don't you think? Why do women 15-30 do that, but not the men so much?
4.  We still think both genes and environment affect attentional problems, but more research is needed.

Another study, perhaps better, from the same publication, this time about youth at ultra-high risk for psychosis.  I was interested that the focus continues to swing toward function and adjustment, rather than how crazy you are, as a measure of illness.  That is all to the good.

Never Crazier

I have worked at this hospital almost 35 years.  I have never seen a unit with more deeply sick people than who we have now.

We usually complain when we are cluttered with people we believe we shouldn't have: drug users seeking abusables, small-time criminals hoping to avoid court dates or parole violation hearings, developmental services clients who are acting up, borderline personality disordered people who are nearly always disregulated, and thus nonacute. (That last is a debatable category. Some states treat those in psych hospitals, others don't.)  There is none of that on my current caseload.  Drugs are a factor in a few, but every single one of them is/was psychotic.  The exceptions would be that some may be dementing or brain injured (we are still testing).  Terribly broken people, many of whom we will not be able to fix, only manage them below level of dangerousness.  We have also an unusually high percentage of people who are not only violent, but unpredictably violent - always our biggest fear.

One of my patients who comes from a line of conspiracy theorists, and has inspired a few posts, came in today. He has hung out at times with the tax-protestor and sovereign-citizen movements, but mostly, it's about him personally, not any larger group.