Friday, July 19, 2019

Three Old Links

Indonesian Muslim Scholar says Orthodox Islam and Violence are linked. Americans and Western Europeans are often concerned with what they wish were true, not what is true. September 2017

The Toxoplasma of Rage at Slate Star Codex. I have referred to this and linked to it repeatedly.  I consider it one of the great essays of the 21st C. December 2014

Academic Antifa: An academic journal removes a piece because of threats of violence. October 2017

Peer Pressure


“One of the good things about being 95?  Very little peer pressure.” George Burns.

In a recent overheard discussion about believers baptism among the young, the rather standard objection was raised that a person at 12 years of age is not really an independent thinker, but responding to the expectations of parents and the society around her. The laughing rejoinder was that sometimes decisions we make in our 30’s aren’t that well thought out either, but the conversation did not follow through with that.

I don’t want this to be only about baptism, so I will simply note in passing that how well one understands the conversion experience is only one piece of baptism, and not the most important. Many of us might have impressive or convincing reasons for our atheism, conversion, or confirmation, but none of us have unassailable reasons, and most of us have rather weak ones.  It is human nature. One of my reasons for coming back to church was that I was feeling defeated, and nice ladies had given me cookies and said nice things to me there when I was little, and I thought I could count on them to be similarly supportive to a young adult. It was true.  One will find few welcomes as warm as going back to a church one grew up in, at least when one is young.  If you are forty it might be more complicated. Or not.  I’m just guessing on that one.

Peer pressure does not get weaker as we become adults, it becomes stronger.  We have much more choice who our peers will be, in our jobs, in our neighborhoods, in our churches and activities. We enter a world in which we influence them, and they us.   Ilya Somin at Volokh Conspiracy wrote an essay years ago that it is in our interest to adopt the political and social views of those around us. Our vote and our political voice seldom matters that much, and even less when we are at odds with our culture.  We are much more likely to have our minds changed by a friend than an enemy, by a person who agrees with us 90% of the time than by one who agrees with us 10% of the time.

This is seldom a result of formal discussion about issues, but a product of reading similar books and newspapers, listening to the same sermons, podcasts, and music, having children at the same schools or activities, watching the same movies and TV shows – we need not share them very exactly, and all of us will have outlier interests from family and friends.  Yet when I sit with people at lunch there will be a solid grouping at a table of 8 social workers who will enter eagerly into a discussion about Game of Thrones or American Idol. When they make any social or political point, either NPR or a late-night comedian will be referenced. The local newspaper or TV station will occasionally be referenced.  By doing this they announce, reannounce, and confirm what are the expected sources of entertainment and information. One just knows that many topics are not going to be of general interest and should not be attempted.  Things taught at conferences or by invited speakers are not frequently referenced, but they carry great weight.  As many of those are highly politicized, however disguised, those are powerful signals as well.

My group of conservatives is not very representative, but all of them will refer to something they have read instead (including Great Courses and audible books). The chip-shot nature of social media bridges this.  We usually read words, but they are dramatic, simplistic, and short – and there are frequent links to visual media.

We culturally signal constantly, like birds chirping to announce our location and territory.  I have claimed that liberals do it more, and that peer pressure is much more important to them, but I certainly witness conservatives doing it as well, and my impression may be false.

If peer pressure on adults becomes strong enough, we usually change groups or change ideas. Most probably we do this gradually, not in complete reworking of networks.  We talk to this friend a bit less and that one a bit more, we beg off from regular golf games or garden club. Or we become less-intense in our support for gay marriage or drug legalisation. 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Love Divine

It's always fun.  More than half this album is tunes we Americans know to other words, and words we know to other tunes.


Ilhan Omar


Apparently Donald Trump mentioned “offhandedly,” but likely with intent, that Ilhan Omar may have married her brother. This seemed to catch even many Republicans by surprise, which surprises me.  Scott Johnson at Powerline has been reporting this for over a year and I thought lots of people knew that.  Here is the most recent research https://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2019/07/david-steinberg-tying-up-loose-threads-in-the-curious-case.php, in case you missed it.  It is quite convincing that she married her brother in 2009 in an immigration manipulation, and that this is not only fraud, but bigamy.  This, in addition to the years of tax fraud she is accused of, though I don’t know anything about that. I admit I am predisposed to believe it. It brings up the very interesting story of how little news suppression is needed to be effective. There are suddenly some Democrats saying – I think sincerely, at least for some – that they had not heard of this before.

The Powerline accounts will of course be biased toward the POV “Hey, we’ve been saying this repeatedly for months but the major newspapers and networks won’t pick it up.” They have reported it being treated dismissively, of conservative conspiracy theorists manufacturing mountains out of molehills. With that signal, other news providers have shrugged and said “Oh, of course.  That’s what’s really happening here.  We’ll just move along, sir. It’s just more Birthers and whatnot.”

Therefore it has not even made it to page three status and has caught people by surprise. It takes very few liars for such things to succeed, though it takes a great many people of lesser dishonesty, just shrugging and not being intellectually rigorous. While the evidence is tedious to wade through – evidence often is – it is not difficult in any way. It includes such things as a single FB account with a name change from Leila Eimi to Leyla Cilmi, with the same (now rather recognizable) photo, immediately as the first reports of this came out. Yeah, it’s the same person. Same account, similar names, same photo. I don’t know how one would construct that as evidence in a court case to prove it, but it looks res ipsa loquitur to me. Your mileage may vary.  The evidence looks damning to me, but I lost my objectivity on this over a year ago, when I only knew of her as a mildly irritating new member of Congress. Someone else might see holes in that I missed.

Mike Yastrzemski

Continues to do well for the San Francisco Giants. Not setting the world on fire, but projecting his stats over a full season, quite respectable. I am pleased

Pacific Atolls


An interesting bit of geoscience about those Pacific atolls that are in danger of being submerged by rising sea levels.  I will have to ask Sponge-Headed Scienceman about this, as it is his field. Apparently islands do not hold static, but move and reshape slightly, as we notice on the Outer Banks. The outlook for those islands may not be so dire.  The link is to an academic paper, where only the abstract is available without subscription.  There is some discussion of the article here.  However, it’s at Watts Up With That, a site that is usually accurate but overstates its conclusions, so the headline is not something you should be quoting to friends.