Monday, August 31, 2015

Greatest Novels of All Time

I never do that list because two weeks later it would be different.  LOTR would always be on top because of the personal changes it created in me, which lifts it out of objective evaluation. Everything else would be unstable in rankings.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Today's Sermon

I went to visit my previous pastor, now at an interim position down in North Easton, MA. With Jonah and Nineveh as the context, he focused on What question is God asking you? 

Simple but alarming.  Newer churches encourage visitors to bring their questions, and I think the many Bible studies and video series I have attended over the years have treated bringing one's questions to God as standard fare.  I don't think anyone has ever asked me to contemplate what question God is asking me.

He frequently asks questions, right from the start: Where are you?  Why have you done this?  Where is your brother Abel? When Jesus arrives, he shows the family style. Who do you say that I am?  Where is your husband?

I haven't the faintest idea what question God is asking me.  I suspect I'd better think about it.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Jaed's Proposal

A regular commenter here had a clever bit over at Grim's Hall.
There is a relatively simple way to test the intentions of anyone who calls for mandatory training for gun owners: propose that such training be made a mandatory part of the public high-school curriculum. Mechanics of firearms, safe handling and storage, shooting practice, and the basics of self-defense law. Taking the high-school course to be considered sufficient for a carry license.
If the response is "Hey, that sounds like it would work," or some refinement about the details to be taught or whether students should be able to opt out, the person is serious about ensuring safety.
If the response is "OMG you BEAST how COULD you suggest corrupting the innocent CHILDREN with guns and besides they'll probably all SHOOT each other!!!"... well, then you know their true intentions.
Loved that.

I am not a gun owner and I'm not interested.  Four out of five of my boys shoot, but not often. Dropping the idea of "reasonable gun control legislation" was one of the last bricks to fall in my liberalism.  As well as I recall, up until about 1995 I think I believed that just having a gun around quietly encouraged people to violence as a first, rather than last, resort. I knew gun nuts who had poor judgement in just about everything else in their lives, and from my job I knew some very dangerous people who owned guns and made alarming statements about using them.

What I learned is that while those things should make a difference, when you run the numbers, they don't.

I have some fondness for the Bill of Rights as written, but so much of that has been bumped around that being a purist is not at the top of my political list. The cartoon version of how the government is going to make a list of gun owners so they know who to round up when the New World Order comes always put me off.  Liberals accuse all conservatives of believing it, and they can point to a lot of folks who actually do, even if it's not a majority. Ridiculous. Until...

Recently, that disquieting vision has become more plausible, if you get rid of the mental picture of commies knocking on your door.  The high-tech version, of impersonal bits of silicon programmed to keep track of who has guns because they are 17.4% more likely to be terrorists (and if you vacationed in the Middle-East you go on an even higher-profile list) is no longer far-fetched.  So that wasn't big in my conversion, but it may factor in the maintenance of my gun-freedom sympathies.

The big ticket item for me was always the numbers. The last 57 laws we passed didn't seem to reduce violence, so why would we think the next 57 would? The bad reasoning around the apples-and-oranges comparisons to European countries (which I admit look like our peer group at first), the attribution of bad motives to 2A people*, and the pernicious assumption that all people committing a gun crime must be conservative (because GUNS!), unless they are black or Hispanic, which doesn't count somehow - all these have only served to solidify me in the idea. All three are common themes in other things that make me crazy in modern political discussion.

If you've got an idea for a gun law that demonstrably does reduce violence, I'm glad to listen, as jaed is above.

* Sometimes true, but so what?  There are some people with bad motives behind all things, good and bad.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Got It Wrong

I suggested a few posts ago that I suspected a hidden third group among Bernie Sanders supporters: In addition to farther-left, OWS voters who really, really dislike the system, plus those who distrust Hillary, I wondered if there was an underground support for those Democrats who are fed up with illegal immigration but were reticent about exposing themselves to criticism on that account. Sanders has been clear that he considers the Koch Brothers (cue music) and Republican employers to be behind support for increased immigration, which depresses wages. (That's partly true, but protection of illegal immigrants is an overwhelmingly liberal cause in most of the US.)

As I know lots of Sanders supporters where I work, I though that if I engaged them and asked them straight out why they liked him I would sniff out some hints of this.  I could not have been more wrong.  Not only did none of them mention this, even obliquely. None of them even knew this was Bernie's position on immigration. Several of them assured me that I must have misunderstood and gotten this wrong, as they just didn't believe that Saint Bernard could hold such a deplorable view. All of them were behind Sanders because he is really big on taxing the rich and corporations, getting them to kick in a more equitable amount. Secondly, they think he is honest, unafraid, and not owned by corporate interests.  Well, maybe.  He's ahead of Hillary, Joe Biden, and Elizabeth Warren in terms of not being owned.  James Webb and O'Malley are probably better however, as George Soros is coming in heavily on the Bernie train. (See Billionaires for Bernie - which has some weaknesses, but is largely true.)

Those conversations did confirm a less-original theory of mine, however.  Not one of the Sanders supporters mentioned what we could do for the poor, or the relief we could give the working poor, or the excellent programs we would have.  These are, I acknowledge, two sides of the same coin, so that in every individual case we cannot accuse the speaker of simply wanting to stick it to the rich. But when coin flips come up heads twenty times in a row, something is amiss.

Note: In the play, this is a sign that the universe is spinning out of control, foreshadowing that the characters have no chance of escape.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


When blogging, FB posting, or talking live about a political figure they admire, liberals are likely to say "regardless of what you think about his politics, you have to admire X for doing (some ostensibly good work)."  They never say it about conservatives, regardless of the goodness of the work.

Conservatives don't tend to say that at all, about anyone, unbidden. If they are asked, or if the person has just died or had some tragedy, they might lead with "I have always admired his generosity and compassion for (some ostensibly good work)" before proceeding to a criticism.

Both responses seem to lack a certain graciousness.  I'm not sure which one is worse.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Machines Are Biased

A regular reader sends a WSJ link.

Apparently social media software shows cultural bias. An image-scanning software's initial data set was predominantly white. (The article does not say what the percentages were, and whether the predominance simply tracked American demographics or was more than that.) Additionally, because there are more white faces than black ones on the internet, a software that continually learns from experience amplifies this bias.

Fixing the imbalance is certainly the first priority for the software developers.  But another use immediately occurred to me.  Observing how the software goes wrong might be useful in learning how we learn our biases, including the black box of what "initial data set" is hard-wired into us, and whether that can be compensated for.  In the examples from the article, there was some intuitive connection between how we act and how the software acts, making it quickly understandable.  There might be more that is not immediately noticeable.

There may be a hidden problem in that.  If software modification gives us insight into how we ourselves might be modified, couldn't it be used to increase our biases rather than decrease them, in a manner which reflected the desires of the more powerful?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Confirmation Bias - NH Primary Version

Last-minute surges and last-minute deciders are of course important in our primary.  I have little to say to those voters, because I don't understand them and I don't know what motivates them. But the field is already narrowed for them by the time they get to that last two weeks by the accumulated support of slower - not necessarily wiser - choosers among the larger field. I think I understand those a bit better.

If you are one, you are just about to enter dangerous territory. Labor Day and the restarting of the school year is one of the last check points before serious confirmation bias sets in. If you don't get this under control, you are going to quickly become one of those people you regret, right around oh, Feb 10 or so. You will double down repeatedly no matter what the news is. You will have chosen your guy/gal, and even if they strangle a puppy on live TV you will tell co-workers the next morning that the puppy deserved it, and besides, everyone knows it's the other party that strangles more puppies.

If you don't think you have confirmation bias, then your case of confirmation bias is probably particularly bad, yea, even incurable.  (See also, Dunning-Kruger Effect.) Everyone, everyone has it, and it is only avoided by specific effort.

Here's something you can do about it, just to smack yourself back into your senses a bit: pretend, to yourself and with courage even to others, that you are a supporter of one of the candidates who is doing poorly in the polls right now. You don't even have to switch parties (that's a pretty hard exercise anyway), as there are intelligent, decent people unable to get any traction in both places. Pick one you sorta liked anyway, or look for the positive in someone you don't know much about.  You can even tell pollsters you are supporting them - I think there is a general exemption on the Commandment about bearing false witness when it comes to polls anyway.  Theologians are standing by to help.

Leading in the polls is a matter of money or charisma at this point. (The ability to inspire anger is also a form of charisma, remember.)  You will note, when you stop hyperventilating, that neither of those things is that important a quality for a president.  They each might be net negatives.  So pick someone going nowhere and believe in them.  It will do you good. Really, it will do us all good.

You can get some of your best self back this way, before the quadrennial idiocy descends upon us.

BTW, I can't recall who I voted for in half the primaries since 1976.  I recall caring deeply at the time.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Trump and Sanders

Everyone is trying to explain to the rest of us who the Trump voters are and what motivates them.  Fine. I believe some of them. Yet I see lots of assumptions, but very little actual data, about who the Bernie Sanders voters are. Apparently the narrative is satisfactory enough that actual facts aren't necessary, as in: Sanders voters are farther-left, OWS voters who really, really dislike the system, plus those who distrust Hillary.

Well, sez who?

I no longer trust polls because of the cultural changes in telephone use. However, I trust airy generalisations by people who "follow the news a lot and are locked in to the vox populi" even less. I have a little theory about who the Sanders voters are, in three camps.  The last three times I had such a theory (2004, and 2008x2) I was spot on once, ridiculously wrong once, and I still go back-and-forth on the third one.

Anyway, I'm going to try.  It is in NH that Sanders has leapt forward and leads Hillary in the polls. And as irritating as it is to remind you of this, our votes, which count for little, at least count ten times as much as yours.  Concord NH, where I work, is Arts&Humanities, government-loving liberal central for NH.  I know lots of Sanders supporters - even when they don't say it in the building I see their bumper stickers in the parking lot and I know whose Prius is whose. (Partly from which dog breed they also have on their decals, which they talk about constantly.) Yet I also have a quiet underside of Sanders supporters that I know, who are not the social workers, psychologists, and occupational therapists you would expect.  A Silent Majority of liberals, perhaps, though they would be horrified at the reference, if they were old enough to know what it referred to.

I think there is a third camp, beyond the a) socialist lite and b) don't trust Hillary camps, who are driving the Sanders Surge. I'm going to manipulate the conversations at work over the next week and report back.

Monday, August 17, 2015

National Socialism

Glenn Reynolds has had fun poking at Bernie Sanders and others that the socialism they are advocating isn’t the international version put forward by the PRC or USSR (or CPUSA), but a national socialism. The point being to create an association in the reader’s mind between their philosophy and National Socialists.  Nazis.  The echoes of Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism have been explicitly noted in a few spots.

In a purely intellect sense this is entirely reasonable. A philosophy of Socialism In One Country, though it is completely at odds with Marx and Engels, was established as a practical alternative among prominent communists a century ago. The more successful versions of socialism now, as I have noted before, tend strongly to be in homogeneous nations – Switzerland, Scandinavian – which maintain a robust and even severe free-market attitude in their relations with other nations. No one is giving away Volvos, nor even Volvo technology, to the oppressed masses.

But the popular imagination does not separate arid economic discussions from the historical reality of death camps, gulags, and invasion of neighboring countries. Whatever else Bernie and the Debts are about, they aren’t strong advocates for invasions, torture, and mass extermination. Comparing the smell wafting from their kitchen to Auschwitz, even playfully, isn’t fair.

I suppose it might be fair, if it could be established that national socialism and fascism are similar enough to be spoken of as much the same thing at all points, and inevitably led to such abuses. I doubt we can get that far.

However, we may be able to get further down that road than is popularly supposed.

Hitler used right-wing imagery and appeals, but much of the program was left-wing.  Not fully, as there was no push that the workers might own their means of production, nor that a levelling of income was the goal. But it was explicitly clear that no industry, no sector, no estate was to exist for its own good, but "for the good of all." Profit motive and rights of the individual went quickly by the wayside. Perhaps we should consider it the parent of corporatism today, that unholy mix of the worst of left and right.

As to imagery and appeals, I grant there was often some nod leftward in fascist appeals, but in the main, it was the standard stuff one finds in culture after culture.   The Right usually promises to get the young people working and talking respectfully, not swearing in the streets or hanging around uselessly and getting into trouble; to honor in art, and music, and rhetoric the inner nobility of The Tribe, stretched as far into the past as is dared; to have flags and parades and displays. For all these things the blessing from the military and religious cultures is important, if not essential (though they can be easily infiltrated and disempowered later).  Evangelical Christians ate this stuff up in Germany and Catholics did the same in Italy, the Orthodox in Slav states, only to be betrayed a few short years later.

By the way, why is it that conservatives and gays both like parades? Is this a subtle key to understanding conflict?

Are the two parts easily separable? The central idea behind fascism is the all-stick-together advice known as far back as Aesop. One can see that this might put people who didn't sign on with full force a bit under suspicion, and immediately recall that this is exactly what did happen in Germany. It happens in gentler and lesser ways in all human groups. So already in National Socialism we have the potential for the government (because it's national) lean on people to get with the program, either with carrots or sticks. Still, even though the Swedes all decorate their houses exactly the same at Christmas and are pretty insistent telling even other Scandinavians how wrong they are, they seem fairly happy with it.  No one breaks their arms to make them do this. It is unraveling badly in Malmo and even Stockholm now, but perhaps they can out-nice their new immigrants and get them to buy in.

But so far, no.  And the Swedes seem to have forgotten how to make citizens do things they should.
My overarching picture is that sharing within the tribe is the human norm. Even among the smallest bands this is seldom entirely egalitarian, as some members are considered more valuable and get greater resources, but all are provided for in some way. Those outside the tribe are entitled to nothing and are regarded as less-than-human. As organization of population increases, the number of people considered to be “in the tribe” increases.  There is always a balancing act, for having a large cooperative clan means improved ability to command resources in the environment and defend oneself.  OTOH, it means more people to provide for, and more conflict of needs. In the age of empires many peoples could be brought under one banner, but it was still clearly many peoples. A select few of each could be tapped for leadership or citizenship, but people otherwise kept their clan status.
The coalescing of clans into larger tribes, and tribes into nation- states is more recent. Only in the last few centuries has come the idea that a nation is "really" all one people.  The United Kingdom has had to straddle that divide, regarding themselves as separate nations in some instances, a single force in others.  The US has come closer to being United but separate states, but still has clear regional divisions.  We also continue to define ourselves quite emphatically along racial lines, though ethnic and religious differences are getting washed out. If anything, racial identification is getting stronger, a dangerous trend. When we were at least in theory attempting to be a melting pot, we could also at least attempt to see ourselves as all-in-this-together. If the goal is to be multi, I fear increasing numbers of people will buy out, saying "What's my motivation?  If you don't want to be part of me, why should I care?" Other dividing lines may occur to you.

I see no evidence that human beings are currently equipped to go farther down the road of expanding their de facto definitions of "who is my neighbor," whatever their ideals.  Those who profess to be the most international turn out to be deeply identified with some citizens of other (usually western European and Anglospheric*) countries, of similar class, outlook, and profession to themselves.  They become just as "nationalist" in some sense - just defining it differently.
Christians have a responsibility to get there somehow. Whether it comes naturally to us by upbringing and personality or whether it comes only by grace, we are under orders that our tribe is the Christian tribe, regardless of what original tribe each of us came from.  I don't see that as the same thing as what is happening politically.  I think "national" is as far as we can go in the flesh - indeed, that seems too far most days, as the nationals who accomplish it all come from places where everyone looks the same - and "international" is a dangerous illusion. I hear that independent evangelical churches are showing the best integration we've ever seen in some locations, and I hope it's true.  Up here in NH, you'd never know.  Our evangelical church has many more African Americans than usual, but it's still a small number, and there are reasons peculiar to our congregation for that. We'll see where it goes.

*They also like various Asians while they are here.  I get to see a lot of international students and internationally-trained doctors coming through.  When they go back to Korea or India they must somehow become less important, as the internationalist Americans  I work with have almost no understanding what various factions in those countries of origin think.  They take it as given that the internationals hated George Bush and love Barack Obama.  It is an amazing thing to behold when the actual furriners politely or even timidly contradict that notion. It has almost zero effect.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Tired Of Nostalgia

Back from vacation. Walked in the woods of Swanzey, and will start on a new section next year.

Tracy and I discussed many things on the way home: how our vacation activities are different with grandchildren than with children, why our church plant failed but another type is doing well, what things we can leave behind when we downsize from this house, whether we want to put any more energy at all into genealogy when we retire - great topics for a 39th anniversary.  In the midst of it, I realised that I am no longer so very nostalgic about much of anything.

This is a sea-change.  I have been nostalgic as long as I can remember remembering.  I wrote a song of nostalgic about my childhood when I was fifteen, for pity's sake. Later in life people like to revisit the places they once lived or went to school, dabbing at their eyes and humming half-remembered songs. I was doing that at twenty. Garrison Keillor struck a chord in me when he came upon the scene in the 80's, and I clearly wasn't the only one.

Starting years ago, I've been to all the places I once lived, and the second time one goes it seems rather a waste. I've gone out of my way to visit the schools, camps, places of employment, ice cream stands. I've reread my childhood and young adult favorites, relistened to a lot of the music, browsed the magazines still available in leftovers bins, bought local history calendars, and looked up a lot of folks I knew.

It gets old after awhile.

Family Stabbing

My eldest son sent along this background to a family stabbing months ago, noting that this seemed reasonable to him. My second son noted that the story did not say which of them was right - a detail everyone in our family would have considered important.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


I want to like Relevant magazine, which I think fits an important niche.

But I don't.  Tell me why.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

New and Improved Jonathan Haidt

I have been a big fan of Haidt's truly original research for years, but have had two large objections.  Apparently I'm not the only one, because Haidt has co-authored a paper based on challenges to his ideas. Megan McArdle sums it up better than I could, and gives better examples.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Jaed's comment

Jaed commented on the previous post, and her response and T99's is worth burrowing down to.  I know some of you only read the original post.

A sample: " and women alike look to more primitive social behaviors and repurpose them for this need."  I had never quite thought of the idea of "repurposing" all that primitive stuff we've got on disk.  It seems true.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Post 4700 Offended/Not Offended

A nurse practitioner  was describing her interaction with the attorney of one of our patients. “I’ve known Dan a long time. We have a good rapport.  He’s an alpha male, so if you just stroke his ego, you can wrap him around your finger and get him to do whatever you want.” The women present at the table – that is, everyone but me – smiled and laughed just a bit. Additional context may be pertinent: she ranks the other females, is older, and presides over them to a certain extent. The man she was speaking about is younger than her as well. A younger woman might be more reluctant to make the statement.

I reflected that a male could not make any similar statement about a female coworker* without getting in big trouble, perhaps even fired. On that basis, it seemed I should be offended by the statement. 

But I’m not. I might be offended if he had been someone I know and like, but the offense taken would be more a product of believing that it was unfair to put him in that category, not that such things should never be said in professional company. Paradoxically, I think that license to insult is a statement of continuing male power**. Punching up is allowed, and it’s a statement of up-ness.

*Males may be able to say such things about other males, females about females, though I think the rules are tricky and the whole thing best avoided. There are also context rules about what you can say at meeting versus what you might say privately to each individual one-on-one.

**Not so complimentary that it was said in my presence though.  Ouch.  As Wally says in “Dilbert,” trying to get out of the line of Alice’s fire on the topic of men having all the power in the company “Those are other men.”

Related: as OT’s, social workers, and nurses are large categories of my co-workers, I am very used to being in largely female environments. Doctors, psychologists, and MHW’s are more 50/50. Having worked more regularly on a geriatric unit this past year has been a bit surprising. The staff is even more predominantly female. The greater intensity of female culture is more than I expected. Looking back, I have been in such situations a few times over my career, where the ratio of females to males around the table is more like 5:1 than 2:1. I have seen very occasional situations where the men slightly outnumbered the women on a team, up to a max of 2:1. I have not been on a team that was consistently 5:1 male. When people are sick or on vacation the coverage might make the table that uneven for a few days, but not more.

Based on that small sample size, I suggest that teams that are 2:1 female are only a bit different from teams that are 50/50 or 2:1 male. It’s noticeable, but not obvious.  The differences in individual personalities rather than category differences are much more meaningful. But a team that is 5:1 female is very different from one that is 2:1. The light conversation is very different, the style of argument and advocacy for one decision over another is different. Things that should be reported are more likely to not be formally acknowledged, but become topics for gossip instead. 

I suspect that teams which are 5:1 male may also be quite different from those that are 2:1.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Many Things Are Partly True

The violent crime rate is higher among African-Americans.  That is simply a statistical fact. People who write or comment about racism, police violence, or state-by-state differences who don't know that are not much worth reading.  Also, there are many who know this somewhere in their brains, but forget it when they try to convince others of their narrative. People like to talk about root causes, or education, or gun control or whatever and blithely ignore that particular elephant in the room. We are, all of us, able to hold completely contradictory thoughts in our heads for long periods.

OTOH, the false detention, false arrest, and false conviction rates are higher for African-Americans. They get worse attorneys, they get longer sentences for the same offense, they get released on parole less quickly. That is also a matter of simple statistics. Ignoring that is not so much a matter of ignoring an elephant as ignoring many hyenas in the room.

If you favor one set of narratives, you believe that the former fact is the dominant one, a big enough elephant to render hyenas irrelevant.  If you favor a second set of narrative, you are sure that the hyenas, collectively, balance out the elephant.

Hyenas balancing an elephant. There's an image, eh? Okay, this metaphor has gone significantly awry, but I'm betting you are still understanding exactly what I mean.

Back to the second narrative, those people believe that the combination of poverty, unemployment, discouragement, lack of fathers/role models, poor policing, rotten public defenders, racist individuals, and institutional racism explain the racial disparity in violence. If you want to throw lead consumption, nutrition, prenatal vitamins, and head injuries in there they wouldn't necessary object.  What is important to them is the faith that there are no intrinsic differences among the races. They take it as an article of faith that this must be true.

Therefore, when there is a noticeable difference in the reporting of crime, the people of the second narrative immediately conclude that this can only be due to racism and ill-will. Cries of double-standard arise immediately, and in attempting to discuss the issue one quickly realises that there is not going to be any discussion taking place.  You are going to have to remove, or at least significantly undermine, an idea that has considerable emotional importance to them. It looks like you are going to have to kick them.

Yet you don't know why they hold that idea. Perhaps there have black cousins or best friends and you didn't know.  Perhaps they work in an urban literacy program and need all the myth they can hold just to get through the day. (And you really want them to be able to continue doing that, whatever the logical cost.)

This set of convenient beliefs also reverses.

Oh, you didn't see that coming?

This tends to be subtler.  *********

Important sidenote, before I proceed on what are the majority of the cases.  There is an important minority view.  It might be blatant, not subtle, in that you or a close family member has been victimised, even repeatedly victimised, by a black person and deeply resent that African-Americans get to claim trauma or prejudice by whites while you get dismissed as unimportant. (Let me assure you that white rape victims of black rapists resent this with unimagined fury, that they are not allowed to react badly to the presence of aggressive black males - in a club, on the street, on an acute psychiatric unit where they cannot get away - but have to put up with Whoopi Goldberg or MSNBC or Salon telling them they are racists, while earnest young black writers get to lecture white people how they just don't know what it's like, and they simply must start listening. Relevant Magazine and Sojourners just had such articles.  Ta-Nehisi Coates has made a career of it.)


The desire to ignore continuing racism also has its psychological origins.  We like to think we have earned what we have achieved.  And that may be largely true. But our long diligent trail of earning things often includes two sets of advantages: first, an accumulation of 1% gifts from teachers who liked you better, networks of friends whose parents owned businesses, increased confidence from moving safely in the world, an availability of an extra $200 at key juncture that the kid downtown didn't have, on and on...; second, a better likelihood of avoiding a catastrophic loss:  your pot-dealing charge was reduced to possession; your Mom's job-loss resulted in a worse job, not APTD.  White people, especially those who legitimately rose from difficult situations, don't like to admit that others had it even harder.

Example: You won't find many Americans who had a worse start than my two Romanian sons.  Lived on lard and stolen fruit when young; didn't go to school because they had to work as shepherds/goatherds at age six; physical abuse routine, and moving to a state orphanage - yeah, those ones you saw on 60 Minutes - was an improvement; a private Christian orphanage later an unimaginable improvement. Yet even in Romania, they weren't as despised as gypsies, and when they got here as teenagers, they were white and had some automatic advantages. Obama writes about dissembling and telling white people what they want to hear - sorry, not all people have that skill, and they're screwed. (Though maybe more honorable.)

To those believers in the second narrative, who prefer to think their opponents must be racists and evil, because really what else could it be?  You assume they don't think, just don't get it.  Oh they get it.  A few of them rejoice, because they are indeed exultant racists. But most know exactly what you feel, exactly why you don't like this, exactly why it seems unAmerican and unChristian and unrighteous to even think such things. Which is why, incidentally, why we react badly to your self-righteous posing as a better person because you prefer a different reality.  We all prefer that reality. In fact, a lot of conservatives do hold to it, because they want to believe if those black people just tried harder it would work. For most people, that may be true.  But the small minority of pathological people in all races seems to be higher in African Americans.

So here's the hard truth: our present understanding is that the environmental factors are not so important as both liberals (poverty! racism! opportunity!) and conservatives (fathers! expectations! accountability!) keep saying. The hyenas do not defeat the elephant.  Not even a baby elephant. Not even if there were more hyenas.  (I really wish I had picked a better metaphor.) The dial is pointing hugely to genetics at this point.  That could change, science always does.  But science is not mere fashion, there is some cumulative gain. All the root causes and racist legal institutions only explain about 25% of the discrepancy between white/asian crime and black crime (native and hispanic in between).  You might stretch to 50%, if you squint hard. And that's all.

Is the rest genetic?  Looks like, but as I said, science changes.  I know of no set of facts that has undermined my faith in the goodness of God more than these.

As Francis Schaeffer asked years ago, in a series my two oldest sons grew tired of in Men's (11th-12th grade) Bible at Concord Christian School,  How Should We Then Live? I don't know. I don't know what to tell you. I do know many of the voices that are not heard here are the older black people who want to live in safety, and the poor black parents who want to raise their children in a decent neighborhood. They don't hate strict policing, thank you very much, they like it.  The people who hate it are young black males ( not often criminals, remember), noisy expressive black people (also not often criminals), and white people who want to show how really, really, not racist they are.

If you want to read how decent people live in fear in the ghetto, and desperately wish that the police could wrest control from the gangs, you have to balance your reading of Just Mercy -  a description fo several of the hyenas currently very popular and deservedly so - with Ghettoside: Investigating a Homicide Epidemic. The latter tells the story of the real black victims, whose daughters get raped and sons shot in the crossfire, rather than the incendiary stories that make it to the news.  You can read a review of it at one of those horrible racist sites that of course couldn't possibly have anything important to say.

It's not a choice between the blue pill and the red pill.  Try both pills.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Repost 60's Sitcoms

Looking for something else, I decided I liked my 2011 post about 60's sitcoms and a possible meaning behind the unusual number of aliens (space variety) and other, well, unusual folk. There is an internal link to an older post about why they killed off parents, especially mom, to set up the plots of 50's sitcoms.