Friday, April 30, 2021

Asleep In The Light

Very big among the Jesus people in the early 1980s. I initially had a negative impression of him, as I was already aware of how close "He has a prophetic gift" and "He likes yelling at other Christians" can be. But I grew to like him and used to play this first part for even young Sunday Schoolers. It is a simple but dramatic interpretation of the scripture.

"We just didn't feel led..."

Easter Song

Back to Back

I chose this version despite the weak video because Matthew Ward's harmonies are much more interesting here.


Lamb - Ode to Bethlehem

 More Jesus people music from the 70s.

India and Covid

The discussions over at the Brown Pundits posts are unnerving. They have been predicting a sharp surge in deaths for over a month, citing family and friends' reports in one region after another that seem to clearly be a Covid variant, and a particularly deadly and nasty one, that is underreported in the extreme.

The difficulty of not containing cases sharply has always been that you give the virus a billion opportunities to mutate. With India, we are talking about an eventual number of cases 4-10 times greater than anything America is going to show. For those to be largely a more virulent version is going to be ugly.

Growing Cynicism

 Over at Quillette When Will Activists (and the Media) Get Honest About Police Shootings? 

 I can't see how that would happen.  What advantage is there for honesty on this issue?


One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. Orwell, 1984.
Orwell's Animal Farm and 1984 are often contrasted with Huxley's Brave New World from about 15 years before. Orwell's hard totalitarianism is contrasted with Huxley's soft one, with the modern observer more often concluding that Western Civilisation in the 21st C is more in danger of the latter, with our Amusing Ourselves To Death. Ingsoc used strict forbidding, even torture, while Huxley's world had classes of people who embraced their status and "a good time was had by all." 

Or almost all.  I don't think the difference is that entire when one looks at both works. In BNW babies have the affections, curiosity, and other worrisome characteristics driven out of them with electric shocks, and there are types of exile that are not pleasant. Nor is 1984 devoid of soft measures.  The proles are the bulk of the population and are kept entertained. The boot on the face is for the few.

It is time to move away from this distinction. It had good use during the Cold War and retains some value even now.  But Huxley wrote in an age where the full evil of the Soviet Union was not yet manifest, and many of his circle considered the enticements of capitalism, leading to the worldwide* Great Depression to be just as dangerous, and more so.  Orwell had seen a different world, disillusioned about the gentleness of the left in Spain while observing the very harsh totalitarianism of Germany, Japan, Russia and allied countries, and the rise of violent communism in China. Were the two of them to sit down in London today, having read up on the events of the late 20th C together, there might be no distance between them.

They would likely both be alarmed and discouraged. Both would likely nod with deep approval at Bradbury's Fahrenheit 4-5-1, and squirm like bugs on a pin to escape the uncomfortable accuracy of Lewis's prophetic That Hideous Strength and its philosophical underpinning The Abolition of Man, because nothing Christian or even theistic should be creeping in to their discussion. Yet they were largely honest men intellectually, and the vacuity of Keith Roberts's Pavane , as if 20th C Britain were in some danger of being ruled by the Catholic Church, would not go unnoticed.

All this as a set-up for my conclusion related to my posts about motives for believing the untrue, and I sincerely apologise if you feel tricked by my circling back to this.  But I reiterate my position that the current racial conflict is not much about African-Americans. Kendi is a token shoved onto the stage.  The deep "anti-racists"  I have known personally and can listen in on in online discussions never bring him up. Ta-Nehisi Coates is nearly that, though at a more popular level.  In fact, he may be more respectfully regarded by conservatives who see him as an infuriating figure who at least hits some solid points fearlessly, however misguided he may be in general. Go to the comments sections of the big liberal sites and see how often anyone mentions him.

I don't know about the less-educated blacks and what motivates them.  I don't know them.  Half the black people I know are actually from Africa or the Caribbean, different in a dozen ways from African-Americans. But among the more educated African-Americans, they very much accept the statistics offered to them by the upper-class media, the same as other liberals do.  Few have the least ability to subject a statistic to scrutiny and ask themselves the necessary skeptical questions.  #1.They have personally experienced some prejudice in their lives. #2. Goodwhites playing with numbers tell them that their people are systematically oppressed. Those two ideas converge and they just accept what they are told. I suppose it is actually a mark of having risen in the world that they can be fooled in exactly the same way that white arts-and-humanities students can be. 

“Why you fool, it's the educated reader who CAN be gulled. All our difficulty comes with the others. When did you meet a workman who believes the papers? He takes it for granted that they're all propaganda and skips the leading articles. He buys his paper for the football results and the little paragraphs about girls falling out of windows and corpses found in Mayfair flats. He is our problem. We have to recondition him. But the educated public, the people who read the high-brow weeklies, don't need reconditioning. They're all right already. They'll believe anything.” CS Lewis That Hideous Strength 1945
I should depressingly note at this point that I see no realistic solution to all this.  Save for the genetic interventions that might arise and become standard in the next two generations, the best I can see is that we muddle along angrily, getting richer and occasionally perceiving the the Chinese are the more serious problem and reality the actual playing field.

More Motives on Untrue Things

First post on Believing Untrue Things is here. I suppose I am just being a follower myself, focusing on the bad information that is widely believed about race because it is in the news. But the problem is general, affecting many issues of the day: environmental concerns; trade, tariffs, and taxation; education results; medical safety and public health. However, I am not even discussing race in general. I started with the example of police practices and the supposed targeting of blacks, and I will continue with that.  It is broad enough all by itself, I don't need to drag in other things.  As before, you are free to use other examples of people not understanding or relying on math, being reluctant to give up what might be a foundational bit of ideology, or any of the further motives I will discuss here. Don't feel constrained by my constraint.

Granite Dad - we had dinner together last night - tells me he had a comment that got eaten, and I have encouraged him to repost it. (Update:  He has.) He raised two important points which I will quickly summarise. The lack of perspective induced by nationwide news contributes to the lack of statistical understanding.  When a new event of the police shooting an unarmed black person hits the news, people's first reaction is something like "What? Again? This crap is happening all the time, and it's got to stop!" But we are a nation of 330,000,000 people - I intentionally kept the zeroes instead of abbreviating. In 2020 there were 34 killed*, about one every 11 days. That would be a lot if they were all in New Hampshire, or even in all of New England, which is less than 5% of the country, 2% of the black population. We might perhaps rightfully feel something were deeply amiss if it were concentrated on us like that.  But it's not. It just feels like it, because in contrast to my childhood, we know about crime in Colorado or South Carolina and think it's part of us. Nobody knew or cared what the hell happened in Montana in the 60s, and they sure didn't care about New Hampshire, either.

Secondly, there were bad policing practices in Ferguson, especially relying on fines to fund the department. While that is not a racial policy and is used in many locales, it does contribute to unrest and distrust of the police.  Libertarians focus on this, and it is not unfair. It may have been relevant to the rioting per se. Yet I regard it as largely irrelevant to this discussion, because no one mentions it anymore. It's all about feeding the race narrative now.

Other Motives:

People whose jobs and incomes directly depend on strained racial relations have an obvious motive for keeping the controversy alive. Aromatherapists believe much can be solved by more aromatherapy, harmonica players think your band needs a harmonica to improve. When what you have is a hammer...

In the general case, this is not necessarily an evil motive. People work for environmental causes or train as physical therapists because they believe those are good things to do, not just because they can make money at them.  Over time, idealism and sometimes even good motive wanes while self-interest increases, but we needn't think that everyone in a profession is even half-corrupt. However, humans is humans, and self-interest has some effect on all of us. 

There is an indirect self-interest as well, in which keeping your job depends on professing the correct views. Professors, denominational pastors, government employees, and increasingly, employees of large woke corporations are subjected to this. My views on transsexuals would have eventually gotten me fired as a social worker.  Late in my career, I didn't much care, but had that been the case in my 40s I don't know what accommodations I would have swallowed. I do know from observation that people slowly adopt the ideas of their peer group. This ties in to the last part of this post.

Except for those of us who enter the room determined to give voice to what is unnoticed or unsaid, because we consider the momentum of ideas potentially dangerous. But there are many quiet compromises even among us...

A stray motive is just wanting to stir up trouble. Those sparks are very dangerous, but only when surrounded by tinder. I am not sure they can be removed from effect on any issue. I believe there are few wholly taken by this motive, but I think it is present at some level in all of us. It is likely useful for societies that there's always some of that about, even if it can be catastrophic when the intellectuals and artists decide the culture needs to be purified of Jews, Slavs, and Gypsies.  There are always some hanging about who just want to bust some heads for any excuse.

Commonly Noticed Motives

Commonly noticed among my tribe, anyway.

I do think the temptations are worse in political, religious, or cultural issues where the focus naturally goes to fixing other people, or at least getting them to act differently. The attractions of thinking well of oneself, or even thinking oneself rather special are obvious. It also flows naturally into the belief that those other people are wrong, and then quickly that there is something wrong with them. Well, they are obvious in the abstract, and we see them pretty clearly in other people. Everyone knows this temptation is real, but few even engage in even pro forma self-examination. Suspecting even one's good motives is one of the great themes of CS Lewis's writing, dominating his fiction especially. It's one of the reasons I say that reading more CS Lewis is the answer to everything.

I see this motive in what I read everywhere, I see it live and in person, powerful enough to affect me physically and make me cringe. That is likely because I have a peculiar sensitivity to this sin and have developed warning systems for my own language and actions that just go off on a hair-trigger when I see it in others. It is like living in a world where you can't turn the volume down. This is the motive I began the first essay in order to hit hard and having been aiming toward throughout.  Sorry to drag you through hundreds of words looking for alternatives and escapes. There will be one more dark motive after this one, related and perhaps more important.  But this motive, the secret joy of self-righteousness and the more-secret joy of hating persons has been a fifteen-year theme of this blog.  Unsurprising, perhaps, for a Lewis fan.

I am convinced that the conflict has little to do with black people. It is about the Goodwhites against the Badwhites. The Goodwhites define the boundaries, some stark, some gradual, some shifting. They then try to fix the other bad people in various ways.  Some see themselves as winsome and kind, attempting to persuade, inspire, and teach. Others concentrate on politically neutralising the Badwhites, some by fair means, others not so scrupulous. Others see it as a battle, with dragons to be slain, not negotiated with, and enemies to be crushed. Though few in number, they naturally get themselves out to the front with high drama. These can seldom be reasoned with or appealed to, as Reason or Niceness are merely instruments to them. They can use these disguises with enormous skill, as the Un-Man did in Perelandra. Wolves hide in sheep's clothing, not in wolf's, for obvious reasons, which is why I consider Minnesota Nice to be one of the great dangers to the church. That group is pretty well infiltrated by hatred at this point, but cannot see themselves as motivated by anything other than desire for good.

 (In the Three Dog Night version, they seem to get the message exactly backwards.  Plus, Cheryl Barnes has magnificent pipes.)

The Unforgivable Sin is against the Holy Spirit, which I take to mean that which we have long known to be evil but have convinced ourselves is good. It was the self-righteousness of the Pharisees more than any individual act that Jesus told them put them in especial danger.  What we can no longer see as sin we cannot confess and repent of, and hence, cannot be forgiven.

The last motive will be Power, which I have suggested in this last section but not discussed.  Others have said far wiser things than I about it, as it does not interest me.  The damnation of the individuals under self-righteousness is a deeper concern, and power important only in its contribution to that destruction.  Yet I will have a go at it anyway, hopefully soon.

*I will note again that those numbers were not worse during the Trump years, but about half what they were in the Obama years.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Right Field

One of my favorites. James mentioned it asking about songs for other sports.  If you think of any, go over and tell him about it. It's hard to imagine what a track-and-field song would even be.

My sons tended to be right fielders.  But I shouldn't be too harsh, as I seldom played at all.  Touch football, some swimming, both kinds of skiing. I suppose there are songs about hiking, mostly European in origin.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

London During WWII

The captions describing the scene will disappear after a few seconds and you will have to move the mouse again.

I noticed that there were more men than women out on the street, which is hardly surprising in these business sections of London. But I also noticed there were few older people, fewer children, and few still overweight people.

Post 7800 - Believing Untrue Things

The first section is mostly boilerplate.  I think it is entertainingly-written boilerplate that contains useful information, but those in a hurry might skip straight to "Motives."

It is widely believed that the police unfairly target black people. It is demonstrably untrue, has been untrue for a few decades, and that information has not been kept secret. The general outlines are easily known, and I am told that for a person willing to put in the work, there is data available precinct by precinct and even officer by officer with no special permissions on the internet. I decided yesterday morning to post on this topic, and before nightfall there was a new article about this very thing, by Rick Lowry over at National Review: "The Cops Shoot People of Different Races for the Same Reasons." That article links to the Washington Post Database on fatal shootings over the last few years. You will note that The WaPo is not generally regarded as an alt-right publication. 

The Post does what it can to misrepresent the data in the service of its preferred narrative, such as noting that proportionately, blacks are shot twice as often as whites. It leaves out the fact that the black violent crime rate is 4-16x higher, so having only twice as many shootings is evidence of the opposite possibility - that blacks are less targeted, or that the police are ultra-cautious about shooting them. (Note: people claim that one can lie with statistics, but I continue to maintain that statistics tell the truth if you grab them by the collar, shove them up against the wall, and make them tell you who their associates are. As above. The violent crime breakdown is an associate of the original claim.) Once one knows the underlying data, the evasions by the House Organ of the Federal Government fairly leap out at one. Something similar happened in the investigation into the police practices in Ferguson, MO. Eric Holder and Barack Obama both announced that the department was racist before the investigation was even commissioned, and after the report came out those two worthies claimed that their predictions had been borne out. Arrests of blacks were six times higher. 

But the amount of violent crime by blacks was ten times higher, maybe twelve. So six times the arrests is actually evidence that more were going uncaught. This is a nationwide pattern, largely because people in the neighborhood are petrified to testify. Not as bad as in Mexico, but like that. The extremely high black-white rate comes from the particular demographics of the city. It used to be white decades ago, but black people moved in. Therefore, the white people were older, the black people younger, reflecting another known crime statistic: violence is for the young. When those black people are old, their crime rate will be low as well. In fact the crime rate for elderly blacks is not that different than elderly whites - only about double. 

The New York Times, the New Yorker, The Los Angeles Times, Mother Jones, HuffPo, NPR - just about everyone, really - has run similar hard-data reports. This can only be spun so much. One can go to the FBI website or other government or data-collecting agencies and see for yourself. There are books, podcasts, print magazines that will point out the base difference in violent crime rates, which is enormous. That is always the background against which the arrest rates must be photographed. Everyone in America has heard this, or has had decent opportunity to, even if they don't have a conservative relative sending them angry emails all year. 

Yet most revert to believing the opposite. What other possible reason could there be for going out to a George Floyd protest, except that one believes that there is something deeply wrong with police practices WRT African-Americans, and wants to take a stand against this sort of government behavior.? Quick Note: The view offered by many, particularly on the libertarian or left-right extremes, that the police have generally bad behavior with all citizens, whether by attitude or training, looks promising for national unity but goes nowhere. The libertarians were the first to explode on the internet about what the hell city police forces were doing with that sort of military hardware in Missouri, but that is 99.9% forgotten now. Wrong narrative.


Why is this?

Why do intelligent, well-meaning people keep doing this? It makes no logical sense, but it happens so much more than its opposite that it must have some meaning. 


More boilerplate: I don't think it is valid to guess at the motives of individuals. We are complicated, we have mixed motives, we have pieces to our story that others cannot see. However, I do think it is fair to guess at the weight of motives in groups. For any given position, out of a hundred people, 30 might be making some money off the deal and that might be 10% -90% of their motive. 20 (perhaps overlapping) might have been raised to a particular value and feel a loyalty that is 3%-30% of their motive. 50 might believe that the Good People hold the position and want to be counted among them, accounting for 25-75% each of their motive. We can only make estimates, but we can hear what people say, read what they tweet, watch who they insult, or look at their long-term actions such as where they work or where they spend their money.

It is an evil thing to accuse the individuals are acting from bad motive without clear evidence, but it is not evil to set out the data and ask each individual to judge themselves - and for us to judge the group's actions.

With that in mind...

Some people do not believe statistics.  I keep forgetting that wide swaths of the population do not like numbers and think of statistics as a word meaning "tricky ways people disguise the truth." Caution is laudable, yet they seem to really not understand that a statistic about 400 police shootings and fatalities means 400 actual dead people, who had families that went to funerals where the aunties cried and the schoolmates looked stricken. Therefore, they have a reflexive response to statement about research, graphs, or statistics that says "You must be lying or you wouldn't be hiding behind numbers like that. I will believe my story instead."  While I find this to be almost universal among people of low intelligence, even those who agree with me and willingly vote the way I'd like, it is true of a frightening number of intelligent folk as well.  Yet many of those are high SATV low SATM, which I also forget - among psychologists, social workers, journalists, pastors, and a dozen other professions - but even that isn't all of it. Even a few of the engineers and doctors, just reject things out of hand.

This is not where I intended to go with this post, but the longer I looked at it, the more I saw it was pertinent.  The people at your church rely on the CNN/NBC/NPR narrative about police shootings as if it is still 1957?  The first explanation may be that they can't do math, and the second may be that they won't do math because it makes their ears buzz. 


It used to be true 60-160 years ago and is still presented as true in movies, news sources, on TV and the entirety of upper-class media. In some sense it is a cultural universal that is deeply embedded in the American understanding of ourselves. To give it up would not only involve thinking hard now, it would involve giving up a foundational belief and once that happens, who knows what other once-sure beliefs might suddenly come into question? There is a liberal conservatism that has held certain beliefs since the 1960s and never seriously questioned them.  While this is stronger in my own generation for the obvious reason that we were there, it was also effectively passed down somewhat to subsequent generations I have known  liberals 10-30 years younger than me who have openly said they were sad that they missed being there for the 60s, meaning not only the music, the changes, and the excitement, but being part of the birth of Woodstock Nation. My younger brother has mentioned to me a few times how proud he is to be part of the first generation that got it right, and sees no reason to abandon any of the beliefs he held when he was 16.  In Massachusetts. These are part of who he is.  His very identity is tied up with these things.  Where he has changed, it is entirely along the lines of doubling down.  The fall of the Iron Curtain and what we learned is long since gone from his consciousness.

I have not yet even gotten to the motives that occurred to me on my walks yesterday and today, the sort of insight that is more common in current analysis online. But I think it is worth temporarily stopping here, for folks who are used to these speculations to step back and fit these two in. I will pick up on the other ideas tomorrow, but try these two on and estimate what percentage of folks who just don't or won't get it are involved nationwide. They can't do math, and they fear giving up a key piece of traditional liberal ideology. That may be more of the explanation than we have heretofore credited.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Ruby Tuesday

Not quite what we came to expect from the Stone in later years, is it?  Very pop music, no bad boy overtones. Piano, double bass, recorder, harmony, nice melody.  The only thing familiar is that characteristic twisted hold on the microphone by Jagger.

Nate Silver

Well, yes.  As expected if we remember Scott Siskind's Toxoplasma of Rage, which I have commented on many times over the last few years. I have called it the best essay of the 21st C, but I think even he has exceeded it a few times since then.

But back to Silver.  Even though I am off all political media except what I run into at my small circle of friends (I am still reading the headlines and sometimes reading your comments, even if I do not click the links), I have the same sense myself.  The people who were originally nervous that we might be underestimating the danger of Covid moved to insisting on every possible lockdown and precaution, and are now furious that you people who have stopped wearing masks are literally killing people. Even the vaccinated ones, apparently. I wear a mask often because stores require it, and I think it is simply polite not to make other people nervous when they don't know my level of safety.  But I'm wearing it less and less, and find no guilt in this. People are entirely safe around me and I am simply treating their anxiety now. I get it that teachers are conditioned by decades of personal experience that "students are disease farms" - which is true - and have not been able to get over that in terms of schools reopenings.  And that includes those who would have less work with everything open, but still somehow can't feel safe. (That goes back to a lack of science and math training for educators in general, but that's another story.) But the others are just pearl-clutching. We know more than we did a year ago, and school opening is not dangerous.

On the other hand we see people doubling down that masks and distancing were never useful, and we should have been open all along, and it's all just a dry run for further ordering the sheeple into pens. Data doesn't seem to affect these people much either.  I have some here, and if you think you have any tendency toward those thoughts, go over to worldometers and look at the graphs state-by-state, and you will see we were heading toward zero, but as individual states opened up, the number of cases stopped decreasing and sometimes even went back up. This, even with vaccinations well under weigh. So the graphs you see right before your eyes will tell you that (gulp) gee, masks and distancing do have some effect, don't they?  Because what else is there to explain those numbers? That doesn't stop sites from cherry-picking data that "NEW STUDY SAYS MASKS ARE USELESS."  Which the studies don't but you can squint really hard, or pretend that government requirements = real mask use. 

Advocating that we should have just "lived with" the deaths and opened up last April anyway is a different discussion.  But pretending we would have not had many more deaths - hey, maybe even that 2 million that the skeptics have been sneering at the "so-called experts" for predicting, now that we are over 600K - has no basis in fact. But it still has a basis on the internet of people not only insisting they were right all along, but even that they didn't go far enough. They seem to have forgotten that the rest of us have been here all along, reading them over the last fifteen months. We know what you wrote, and we know the general reliability of the sources you quoted then and now. A reminder: Advocacy sites are suspicious.  Not necessarily wrong or without value, but suspicious.

Now people are quadrupling and octuplying down that the those who have been vaccinated are carrying some dread disease to the noble ones who refused this "experimental government vaccination." A further level of insanity. Hopefully that one just peters out soon.

Increasing polarisation in both language and in assertions.  The Toxoplasma of Rage.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Cities of the Dead

Just a fun update in trying to picture the development of ancient civilisations.  In Mexico and South America; in Egypt, Turkey, and Kyrgyzstan; in several places in China, cities of the dead were built long before cities for the living.  These were places of ceremony, annual temporary gathering, and deposition of a culture's greatest art. It seems that few or none lived at Stonehenge or Newgrange, yet they were architectural and religious centerpieces.

We think of clans settling villages, villages growing into market centers, market centers becoming metropolises.  Not so much. While that was somewhat the case in the well-studied Middle-East, it seems not to be the model for other places. Mobile bands moved across the landscape in mixed foraging, proto-farming, and herding economies which could flexibly* leave one stop off the yearly rotation and add another as conditions changed. Yet most had some form of ancestor worship and created places to return to every year.

*"Flexibly," in this case meaning "only 2-10 generations starved to near extinction," which looks like a short period of time, hardly worth mentioning, to us.


Thomas Jefferson once said that all men are created equal, a phrase that the Yankees and the distaff side of the Executive branch in Washington are fond of hurling at us. There is a tendency in this year of grace, 1935, for certain people to use this phrase of context, to satisfy all conditions. The most ridiculous example I can think of is that people who run public education promote the stupid and idle along with the industrious—because all men are created equal, educators will gravely tell you, the children left behind suffer terrible feelings of inferiority. We know all men are not created equal in the sense some people would have us believe—some people are smarter than others, some people have more opportunity because they’re born with it, some men make more money than others, some ladies make better cake than others—some people are born gifted beyond the normal scope of men. 

“But there is one way in this country which all men are created equal—there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man equal of an Einstein, and an ignorant man equal of any college president. That institution, gentlemen, is a court. It can be the Supreme Court of the United States or the humblest J.P. court in the land, or this honourable court which you serve. Our courts have their faults, as does any human constitution, but in this country our courts are the great levellers, and in our courts all men are created equal. (Atticus Finch, closing speech to the jury in To Kill A Mockingbird.)

Or this from Calvin Coolidge, in his autobiography.  You might contrast this with the sentiments of recent presidents, including their own autobiographies.

It is a great advantage to a president and a major source of safety to the country for him to know that he is not a great man. When a man begins to feel that he is the only one who can lead in this republic he is guilty of treason to the spirit of our institutions.

Proverbs 32

 It is better to hum in the company of the saints than to sing lustily alone.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

On the Make

At Brown Pundits, there is an interesting consensus that the US is certainly not the civilisation of the future, and may not even be the civilisation of the present.  They are divided whether China is the present and much of the future, some saying this is inevitable because of numbers, force, and technology, others claiming that its internal contradictions are so great, and its abuse of its neighbors and supposed allies so thorough that it is not sustainable. They are mostly positive that India is a player in the future, though painfully slowly. They do hedge, noting that America remains quite different in many ways and may find a dozen small ways to reinvent itself even if it cannot manage the large overall reinvention that futures require.

They mention Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia as countries that are still generally poor but very much on the make and rising.  They are quite certain those places are part of whatever future comes. The Middle East is occasionally mentioned, South America not at all, and Africa only as a possible distant future.

Europe is seen as the civilisation of the past, with America and Japan going down that road.  They do not seem to think this downfall will be at all quick, and point to Europe as an example of a region that has been going downhill for a century but is still very powerful. This is what they expect of the US, that even as it declines, it will still be a giant in 2100 and maybe 2200. They also expect Europe to be varied in its survival. There was a fun exchange in which it was noted that Italy has had 500 years of decline and is unlikely to make a comeback at this point, but Northern Europe should rally a half-dozen times before the end. They did not comment on American regions, but I would be interested. The City-state model - Singapore, Shanghai, London, New York - should have influence even through long collapse, but is it still stable?

I don't know if they are smarter and more objective than Western observers, but it is true that Europe has been dying for a long time, yet still looks fairly prosperous and livable. On the empirical approach to anthropology that something that has lasted until today is likely to be here tomorrow because it works somehow, that isn't shocking.

Relatedly, there is this article on How the West (mostly the global left) Lost the Culture Wars in India.

Reverse Privilege

Having a few things to overcome in your life is good for you. While it is true that obstacles can mount up in a life until only a few could hope to get past them (and those usually have some encourager or rescuer to get them over the worst of it), it is likely bad for you not to have any.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Trivia Question

Five US colleges have produced both a Super Bowl winning quarterback and a US President. To make this a group effort, name only one and pass the question to another.

William and Mary had four presidents (sort of), but no Super Bowl QBs.  Not even close.

A Journal Of the Plague Year

Daniel Defoe, writing over fifty years after the end of the plague of 1665-66 in London concludes A Journal of the Plague Year with this.

I should wrong them very much if I should not acknowledge that I believe many of them were really thankful. But I must own that, for the generality of the people, it might too justly be said of them as was said of the children of Israel after their being delivered from the host of Pharaoh, when they passed the Red Sea, and looked back and saw the Egyptians overwhelmed in the water: viz., that they sang His praise, but they soon forgot His works. I can go no farther here. I should be counted censorious, and perhaps unjust, if I should enter into the unpleasing work of reflecting, whatever cause there was for it, upon the unthankfulness and return of all manner of wickedness among us, which I was so much an eye-witness of myself.


A malaria vaccine based on new Covid vaccine development  techniques looks promising - in an area where development had stalled. Taking Covid seriously has had positive effects. This is being quickly forgotten.

Do You Love Me?

 Story to follow soon.

Update: Jen (nee Crouse) and Ben Wyman, married April 23 in Spring, TX

We are very happy to welcome her. Children's Librarian at Lone Star College.

May be an image of 1 person, standing, outdoors and tree

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Compared To Whom?

It is my standard knee-jerk response to historical accusations, whether that be against Americans, Catholics, Western Civ, Colonialism, Europeans, Christians, Caucasians, New Englanders, mental health professionals, Evangelicals or Mainstreamers, Jews in the Middle East - all the usual targets.

It is always enormously revealing of the accuser's blind spots.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Needs More Accordion

 The cars in the back really add to the authenticity

Question For James

I don't want to steal your traffic. If you want to answer at your own site, I will happily link to that here in an update.

I listened to Chad Orzel today, physics prof and author of the intriguingly-named How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog and How to Teach Relativity to Your Dog. Razib asked him to give an overview for the generally science-savvy listener what has been the big news in physics over the last twenty years. Of the several answers he gave, he mentioned that while the discovery of the Higgs Boson in 2012 was a big deal, particle physicists are starting to mutter that something may be wrong, as further particles should have been detected by now according to the major theories that seek to unite relativity and quantum mechanics.

He mentioned specifically the German physicist and physics blogger Sabina Hossenfelder and her 2018 book Lost in Math. Her belief is that the dogma that the reality of the universe must ultimately be beautiful has caused physicists to lose their way trusting in beauty as a necessary requirement in developing theories. That sounds like exactly the sort of thing an outsider can partially understand, as many of us have been exposed to that narrative in both physics and mathematics of the unending unfolding of beauty as the search goes deeper.

Very interested in your take on this.

Update:  James works quickly.  His answer is up.

Imagine The Picnics

David Thompson read closely into Everyday Feminism's reminder that enjoying the outdoors is a privileged, white activity. For example,

Many outdoor jobs, like wildland firefighting and logging, remain hyper-masculine and painfully heteronormative.

I hadn't thought of wildland firefighting as enjoying the outdoors - it's not what I do when I feel cooped up need to get a bit of air - but I will admit that it seems to by hyper-masculine.  Too masculine for most of us men, frankly, who can only admire the guys who actually do it.

Thompson's takedown is fun, and the linked original article is a real treat.

Ancient Semantic Unities

The words for spirit, breath, wind, energy have related meanings in both the Semitic and Indo-European language families. I have indirect reason to suspect that this is not untrue about the Uralic (Finno-Ugric) languages as well but do not insist on it. There was interaction among those in prehistoric times, so it may be that there was concept-borrowing rather than a common origin. Yet it is so pervasive in both sets that I consider this unlikely.  More likely this unity was present beforehand, whether because it is a human universal or because it at least derived from the murkier earlier versions of those language families, back into the Eurasiatic or Indo-Semitic languages.  Be it noted that those categories are worse than just speculative - more like generally rejected by linguists - and describe possibilities long before writing or clear associations we can track now, so I wouldn't ride that horse too far away from known sources of water.

Yet there they are, related meanings between families where no related meanings should be. Owen Barfield believed these pointed to earlier concepts in language that were not merely related, but in fact unities. When ancient man thought of -pneu or ruach he did not do so in a manner we might in our day, "oh, that word for breath could also mean spirit or wind or life-force - those are interesting poetic connotations," but understood the word to mean all of these at once.  We have divided things and made them more specific, and this is useful in so many ways for our understanding and precision, but it necessarily loses that unified meaning. Our theories of language origin have centered around moving from the concrete "That's a rock. He is throwing" to abstract meanings like attributing deity to a river or metaphors of enclosure/completeness leading to the name for the wheel.  Barfield reverses this and claims that the metaphors were there from the start, and were the earlier reality. It has been called his greatest insight and contribution, "not merely a theory of poetic diction, but a theory of poetry, and not merely a theory of poetry, but a theory of knowledge" and the arising of consciousness.

He reasoned from his observation that as we went back as far as we could in the languages we knew, we did not find them getting increasingly concrete, but increasingly mixed, metaphorical, multi-meaninged. I don't have anything like the linguistic knowledge to confirm or refute this, and I think the little attention my textbooks paid to the subject sided with the other theory, of the concrete giving rise to the abstract.  Yet is should be said that he had thoroughly convinced the great linguist Tolkien of this idea by 1928, and Tolkien's letters reveal that his whole legendarium took a new turn at that point, and regarded his writings as proof-of-concept for Barfield's theory here. When Tolkien uses light in LOTR, or especially in the Silmarillion, he wants many meanings to be present at once: the ability to see physically, the ability to perceive spiritually, the aggressive pushing back of the darkness, the illumination of knowledge, the combined joy and pain of brightness.  Think Galadriel's phial as a good example. 

Tolkien knew a great deal of the origins of the Indo-European, Uralic, and Semitic languages and did not take issue with this idea that they become more metaphoric, not more concrete as we trace them back. In the absence of any knowledge of my own, I have to accept this as evidence that Barfield is at least not ridiculous and impossible here. Barfield thought that as consciousness fought its way through to arise, the idea of deity was not added to the river, but a world of spiritual powers was gradually discerned.  The river, as it was recognised, already had a spirit.

To take another example, consider an intelligent animal like a dog, which we might think of as having some consciousness trying to arise. The dog has few understandings of what we call a word, or a concept, yet it does have this whole interconnected array of concepts of having a master, being a good dog, wanting to please, all being right with the world, there being no pain and enough food, affection, and running.  It is all one in the dog's mind. It takes much greater powers of distinction to be able to sort out "The world is not right because I am hungry," or "not right because my master is not here," or "not right because I did something wrong this morning that I don't remember." Given that picture, consciousness rising in primitive man could have happened that way. 

We have gained more than we can even describe, yet we have lost something as well, some poetic and spiritual connection of all things. It is nearly unrecoverable, though poets and artists can bring us some of it.

Tolkien, Barfield, and eventually Lewis and Williams regarded these sorts of associations as True Metaphors, associations which are not artificial and forced, but capture an ancient reality. Things that are flowing, fleeing, flying have some underlying reality that is reflected in the language but are, in some deep wood long uninhabited but once a home of elves, actually the same thing. Breath and energy and wind and alcohol and the Holy Spirit share an underlying reality. 

I don't know if I quite understand this or accept the truth of it, yet it seems to be what is happening in Middle-Earth.

Preparing to Defend Others Against Cancelling and Blackmail

After writing about Alina Chan of the Broad Institute about the possibility that C19 was a lab escape, I have thought several times about how fortunate it is that when the PRC tried to discredit her, directly and indirectly, she did not have anything to hide that could be used against her. With the hacking and information leaks on millions of Americans, it is widely speculated that the Chinese have got something on a lot of people that they can use to prevent them from saying what they know. It is rather frightening to contemplate that there might be many things even now that we should be told about, but the tellers fear embarrassment - or worse.

Are we prepared in advance to ignore compromising information that comes public about whistleblowers? I am not only referring to threats from China on this, but from anyone. What was it recently, that someone was making politically hated statements and a journalist went and asked his old girlfriends what they thought? We're talking almost fifty years ago for me, and I haven't the faintest idea what most of them would say about anything. Hmm, except that at least two are liberals, so I might be in trouble there. But if we are going to start digging and reporting on people at that level, few will emerge unscathed.

I try to ignore dirt from the past most of the time anyway, as one can usually sense that it is politically motivated and slanted in its presentation, if not outright fabrication.  But I'm not sure I can promise to not be affected by new stuff that comes up.  We become affected very quickly by reports that someone has betrayed friends, been harmful to others in their personal lives, been irresponsible with trust. I don't think I can give a blanket pre-assurance "I won't care about any of it and won't pay attention."  Yet I think we had all best be prepared to enter a new world where we are going to have to overlook a lot more, simply because a lot more will be coming out.

Epistemic Trespassing

A bit of an aside, from the talk by Lee Jussim I mentioned below.  He used the phrase epistemic trespassing to refer to people who have expertise in one area moving over to make pronouncements in areas they know only superficially.  He points out that this is one of the dangers of a field like social psychology not being rigorous. When the core elements of a field, the summary findings, the introductory course assertions, are not particularly accurate, it becomes especially dangerous when pontificators from other realms come in and spread those assertions more widely. Thus educators, pastors, historians, or doctors, people who have competence in some field and thus some credibility, speak about Stereotype Threat, or Implicit Bias, or Microaggressions as if they are known truths.  While it is fair that they should have been more cautious, more disciplined, and (gulp) more honest about what they do and do not know to be true, sloppy research seeking to uphold a narrative does rather put the bad information out on the buffet for others to take. In all eras, most especially our own, the preferred cultural narrative will be widely shared. Many educators or pastors want very much to believe that these things are true, and are over-willing to accept them at face value as Established Science. 

I long ago wondered why people who went to seminary believed themselves to be somehow knowledgeable about economics and international relations, compounding the error by assigning moral weight to their inaccuracies.  Education schools are rather notorious for borrowing from everyone at a superficial level, and it is nearly a job requirement for journalists now. Yet small wonder, as those entrusted as guardians of the truth in their own fields have made it so easy for them. Yes, yes, you can take this to the bank.  All the best people over here agree that it must be so.


 In Dante's Purgatorio, purification from the sin of pride is shown in Canto XI. The poet/pilgrim sees a man carrying a great weight

...a living person would be able to climb and if I were not hindered by the stone
    that overpowers my neck for its pride


I am Omberto, and pride has brought injury 

not only to me but my whole family 

dragging them with it into calamity. And here I must bear this because of that 

until God is satisfied. What I would not 

do among the living I do here among the dead.

 What I would not do among the living I do here among the dead. The image is so much like Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol that I have to think Dickens is deliberately echoing it. Pay now or pay later.

The scriptures refer to sin as a weight or a burden, more often even than the image of stain.

Lee Jussim and Social Psychology - and Justice

 "There is a social scientific sort of Holy Trinity.  Stereotype Threat is one piece. The other two are Microaggressions and Implicit Bias. And the scientific foundation on which all three are built is exceedingly shaky. In all three cases, the narratives and real world applications are based on highly dubious and uncertain science. And there has been a slow-moving walking back of the extraordinary and extreme claims in all three areas over the last like 10 or 15 years." verbatim quote from a talk by Lee Jussim, "He Comes to Abolish Social Psychology."

Dr. Jussim leads the Social Perception Laboratory at Rutgers. He is also chair of the Dept of Psychology. The credentials are particularly important because these pillars of Social Psychology are his specific area of research and expertise - and he is saying the field has wildly overstepped its real knowledge. He also notes that he considers himself to be a moderate Democrat, but is increasingly being called a right-winger within his field, and sees the same happening to others.  He finds it amusing about himself, but worries the effect this name-calling has on others.       

This lack of evidence includes trumpeting very modest effects for purposes of publication even when one's own research shows that other factors have a more robust effect. There is some research that shows that identical resumes get treated differently when they are attributed to someone with a white-sounding vs black-sounding name. But the effects are small and uneven, while the factors that employers did respond to, such as degrees, experience, and personal characteristics were "gigantic, some of the largest effects in the social sciences." Right there in the papers that most heavily lean on the the idea that Implicit Bias is real is the evidence that other factors are far more real. Jussim also noted that accepting studies with very small sample sizes, especially when there are similar studies based on ten or a hundred times more individuals is shoddy science.

Stereotype Bias is the idea that African-Americans or women perform worse in some real life when they are given discouraging messages that blacks or women don't do this or that as well as whites or men. The research behind this is not even that they do worse in academic courses because they have these negative thoughts, because that is very hard to test. They do worse in some areas, and so it is assumed that this must be why. I still haven't gotten to the research parts yet. What they find they can examine is the results of short-duration tests, before which they tell some of the students that their group does not usually do well in this subject. 

A small effect was found at the lower extremes, but not among the majority. The blacks and women who had scored as well as the whites and men on initial tests were not affected by the discouraging language. Among those who were already scoring poorly, the discouragement seems to have exaggerated the effect and made them a little worse. But the reporting was done with some sleight-of-hand. In the topics that they targeted, such as women taking tests in math, they found that the subsequent overall scores were lower. Yet they had been lower before the Stereotype Threat test - this was not highlighted. Similarly, African-Americans got lower scores on the tests after receiving the Threat.  But they got lower scores before the threats too. When you pull those numbers back to apples-to-apples, the remaining effect is very small indeed.

Lee Jussim believes that if truth-seeking does not come first, then social justice can never result and we are just spinning our wheels. That interestingly echoes CS Lewis's First and Second Things. which itself echoes the Gospel of Matthew "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." 

"If you prioritise truth-seeking, as a scientist ...everything follows from truth-seeking, including justice and social justice.  If you try to build social justice on false stories and narratives you end up with the Soviet Union and the Cultural Revolution."(Jussim again, same talk.)

Racism III

I read a few weeks ago about a company where there was a kerfuffle because someone had used the n-word, not calling anyone that, but in the meta-language of speaking about the word, and some folks had been offended. "It's only one word that offensive that we're asking you not to use.  It's an extremely small ask," one said. I agree.  I don't use the word myself, as there are easy ways to avoid it. The phrase "the n-word," like "the f-word" or "the c-word," is stilted and a bit childish sounding, but still, that's a minor sacrifice in order to be polite and kind.  The words themselves are more unattractive to most ears now.  

When writing notes about psychiatric patients, we would sometimes have to use exact quotes, and they had used vile or insulting words.  Some of us would write the word out, as it was an exact quote, others would use circumlocutions that would indicate what the word was without having to actually put it on the page.  When we would have to testify in court and use exact quotes that caused anxiety for some, but judges were comfortable with the evasions, so long as it was clear what had been said. However, sometimes an attorney would advocate that the actual word be pronounced out for the record. "I want the full effect of the comment. The patient knew what he was doing and I want the judge to hear it the way it was said.  I don't anyone hiding behind such things as 'He was using inappropriate language' when it was worse than that."

By the same reasoning, it should be likewise forbidden to call someone a racist according to some new definition they do not accept.  The emotional effect of the description under the old definition is hurtful to many ears, so simple politeness should dictate that we don't call people that name. It's an extremely small ask.

If the answer comes that the word racist should be allowed whether people like it our not, because it is accurate by the new definition, or important to get the point across, then the "extremely small ask" of the n-word must logically come back into play.  If it's not an extremely small ask to avoid manipulative uses of "racist," but an impossibly large one, then all our other pieces must slide about the board as well, if we are to be consistent and ...equitable. We have long-standing conventions of communication about quoting someone directly, or reading a document from another era, or in discussing a word qua word, explaining it's origin or use or effect on hearers. To give those up is not always an extremely small ask.  Those range from moderate to large asks. To disallow Huckleberry Finn in the schools is a large ask - not impossibly large, but it ain't nothin'. To be unable to quote a court decision from a century ago that was itself quoting another document of the time as a bad example is a moderately large ask.  In the very place we are seeking clarity, we have to dance around. Or take the example of John Schnatter, founder of Papa John's, quoted as saying "...what bothers me is Colonel Sanders called blacks n******. I’m like, I’ve never used that word. And they get away with it,” Schnatter said. “Yet we use the word ‘debacle’ and we get framed in the same genre. It’s crazy. The whole thing’s crazy.” I would have still avoided the full pronunciation myself. But it's hard to call his statement racist. They didn't like other political statements of his and were waiting to pounce. By the way, if there is more to the story and he said things that were racist, let me know and I'll find another example, because it's easy.  I chose this one because it was recent and clear.

It is unfair to intentionally use a word to hurt and and expect to be exempt from consequences while insisting that others take full consequences for unintentional harm.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The Mighty Quinn/Fox on the Run


Going to see the mighty Quinn in a couple of weeks.

This next is more usually a bluegrass standard.


Research Update

Brief19 is a "Daily Review of Covid-19 Research and Policy from Doctors on the Frontlines."  I like that skin-in-the-game aspect.  

Good news/bad news today.  

The suicide rate in 21 high- or upper-middle income nations show suicide rates that are lower or unchanged.

Antibody treatment turns out not to be all that good after all.  The FDA is revoking its emergency use authorisation.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Blood-Pressure Reducing thought of the Day

If you criticise something online, the assumption is that you must yourself be the opposite. I am guilty of this myself this very week, reading an essay by David French criticising evangelicals and their cultural, philosophical, and political errors.  I got annoyed, as 80% of what he said could have come from any progressive Christian or secular liberal. Yet it did contain elements that would never have come from those sources, elements that deserved consideration and were not unfair.

Okay, they were unfair, but they weren't entirely unfair. It is a distinction we all have to keep dragging ourselves back to, of hearing out criticism from within our own ranks. It is harder because such complaints will often contain elements of the very things entirely partisan, unthinking opponents throw at us, and we want to stomp those things to earth immediately, or to change metaphors, strangle them in the cradle.

Okay, that would be me with those violent images, it might not be you.  You might want to gently and subtly persuade your opposition with winsome affect and joyful countenance.  If you are out there among my audience I want nothing more than to inspire you and bring greater calm to your endeavors. For the rest of you, which I assume approaches 99%, it is a reminder that spiritually this is the better course, and that is may be tactically the better course as well.  The defections from full leftist support have increasingly come from those who considered themselves moderate Democrats, center-left, octogenarian centrists who are now being accused of being far-right fascists. I hope to write about Lee Jussim in a bit, the liberal, even fairly radical leftist who is chair of the social psychology department at Rutgers but is now laying waste to the entire discipline with his temperate but unwelcome research. At the moment be it simply noted that he is under persistent attack as a right-winger, which he is a big enough man to laugh out loud at, but understands the gravity of how such a thing could come to pass. He wants the assertions of his discipline to be supported by evidence, not activism, which is now radical.  Razib Khan told him "Lee, that's a right-wing position now."

So be of good cheer, those who can manage it.  There's your entry point. The America social sciences are so far left that even Europeans are more accepting of possible criticisms in the field now, and if you are a nicer person than I am, you can brighten up, send postcards to your friends and no longer feel so frustrated. The fields are white for harvest for you.  Not for me, because I have much too large a jerk factor.  But Maybe I can at least pass calm along to you.

Loving Yourself

The statement used to come up frequently, but I haven't heard in in ages - well, in order to love others, you have to love yourself.  Of course, I don't run in circles where such vacuities would be said (that is a salute to not only my online but my realspace friends) anymore.

It is less than half true.  Like all dangerous thoughts, it contains enough truth to suck us in, so that "even the elect would be deceived." It's maybe 30% true. Those consumed with self-hatred cannot well-love others, yes.  But it is mostly just an excuse for people to say "I'm going to work on loving myself for the next decade, then get back to you." 

A better understanding is that it takes self-knowledge to love others.

I almost went down the trail of self-respect as a foundation for loving others, but that is merely closer, not the full effect. Self-respect is the true answer to those who advocate for self-esteem, which is not only an inadequate, but an actually destructive goal, as it depends entirely on others - or depends on self-delusion.  That is a related question, but not quite the same.

If you run across that "love yourself first" doctrine, I am hopeful that the correction to "know thyself," if delivered gently, might be heard.

Abortion Boundaries

I am bringing in this update because with this amount of turnover on this one-stop-shopping, "all your intellectual stimulation in a bag" AVI site, even a week can be a long time and you aren't going back to read about abortion boundaries. Unless I make you.

It is interesting to contemplate the emotional and intellectual conflicts that arise on the pro-choice side when we contemplate the Mendelian conditions that all the chattering classes assume anyone with any sense would want to abort, and whether they are fertile in the next generation or not. If they aren't fertile anyway, as with Down Syndrome, then what's your issue?  Why abort?  It's a self limiting problem, right? Bring them in, be a compassionate society, care lovingly for all who exist. Yet these are among the first to go in genetic selection, aren't they? Why would that be, unless the goddess of Time has decreed that the present is everything and the future is a mere incantation to get what we want for ourselves now?

If one wants to make the argument that it is different for those who can pass on deleterious genes, and for the good of humanity we should nip those in the bud with prenatal death, there is something to that.  I think I could win that argument, but let me at least acknowledge that it is a different argument. It is also an argument that precisely no one on the pro-choice side is making, so far as I can see. 

I don't think that squares well with other liberal claims.


I am redoing a genogram from 2009, when Kyle came into our family and we had to explain to our friends of many years exactly where he fits in this family constellation and how we ended up bringing him in. Very much an act of the Holy Spirit, as we did not seek him, but saw within a couple of days - actually within hours - that this was God's plan.

What I said then about the process is still true.  If you have a nice boring genogram of two parents, having children, those marry and have children, it is a symbolic of the stability of their lives, and how grateful you are for that section of the family.  If you have trouble fitting someone into the diagram, having to reconfigure and re-size repeatedly and throwing out draft after draft, it is enormously likely that this is precisely the effect they have had on everyone around them in real life as well. I recommend this as a reality check for those frustrated with their families.  You get a strong visual of "It is actually true.  This chick/prick has brought destruction not only to our family, but to others."

We are welcoming a new person into the family soon, and have a couple of others who bid fair to enlist as Wymans as well, so I thought it would be good to set out for them who these players are who we refer to, why they are important or have distanced themselves from importance, so they don't step on soft ground in the swamps. Tracy and I have moved heaven and earth to be solid places in the swamp for the rest, especially for the five sons and the women who love them. Throwing out page after page only twelve years later saddens me at how limited our success has been. Still, it has been some.

Definitions of Racism

I have a Shorter OED, 1993 edition. It tells me that the word originated M20, that is mid-20th C. A little further digging tells me racism and racist showed up around 1930 and were common in English by the late 30s. There were earlier versions of racialism and racialist from 40-50 years earlier. The SOED at the time carried the theory that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, qualities, etc specific to that race, esp distinguishing it as inferior or superior to another race or races; prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism based on this. 

A more modern definition from Merriam-Webster is a touch different: a belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race

All of the early entries treat this as absolutist. All members...specific to that race...inferior or superior. There is nothing of tendencies, nor anything of mere differences with no ranking. The later definition softens that some, that one's race is a "fundamental determinant." Still, that's pretty strong.

But the Merriam-Webster also includes something new, a second definition that refers to systemic oppression, or a system founded on racism. I am not concerned whether we think this definition is wrong or what we think it should mean, because dictionaries have not been prescriptive like that since the 1960s. Dictionaries record how words are actually used, without judgement. I simply note that this second definition is new.  There is a hint of it in the portion of the 1993 definition after the semicolon. I don't know how new. As this is a shading of one meaning into another, the emergence might be hard to pin down.  It may have already been used in that way in 1993, just not frequently. My impression is that this second meaning is about ten years old, twenty at most. Part of postmodernist jargon is redefining words and then applying social pressure to make sure you are keeping up. Fashion and fad are features, not bugs. Language is a very important weapon to leftists* including insisting that their definition is the only real one. This is all just tactic, with no intellectual foundation.

For comparison, the words sexism and sexist came in in the 1960s and in the Shorter Oxford in 1993 had definitions similar to the one for racism. M-W has not added in a second definition for sexist of oppressive systems on it's current site.  I don't doubt someone has used sexist in that way, but it has not yet become common enough to be generally accepted as common.

Words change in meaning. Taking on an additional meaning or dropping an old one is very common historically, and I recognise that my irritation at that level is largely from just being an old guy.  But language change when initiated from the left is quite different.  It is not something which flows naturally, but is calculated. So too here.  The new definition is not merely an addition, it is an attempt to draw from the extreme negative emotional energy attached to the first definition of racism so as to apply it to the second. They want to call you racist on the basis of the second definition but get all the juice of thousands of years of real racism thrown in in order to get votes, grant money, jobs, status...hell, in order to get power, because for leftists there is nothing but power. Any intellectual argument you have against them is just an excuse for maintaining power.

It is a word game, and it isn't anything else.

A close analogy would be the express tactic communists used, including in America, of rewriting the lyrics to religious music to suit political ends.  In the US, that was old hymns. "Down by the Riverside," "Michael, Row the Boat Ashore," and most famously, an entirely spiritual meaning being entirely swamped in the political. I once sang this song with fervor as a 16 year-old.  Now I cannot listen to 30 seconds of it.

Deceptive bastards, right out of the gate, trading on the emotional associations that other people paid in blood to earn, but they stole.

*I don't mention enough that the distinction between liberals and leftists is growing ever more profound philosophically.  I have anger at liberals because they do not see that, and believe that those really dangerous people must be just like them, because they hate Trump and racism. Yet the people in power in government and academia and entertainment are increasingly different from those nice folks who go to discussions at the library or shudder at those Creationists they just don't understand, mind-read that those conservatives must be speaking in code and are mostly Nazis,  and have always been deeply concerned about acid rain, the tropical rainforest, global warming, climate change. I get angry at them, but I don't think they are crazy or even that their values are askew.  Their values are mostly fine - but entirely irrelevant in the current political climate.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Lack Of Art

Critical Race Theory, and Critical Theory in general doesn't have any art I can think of.  Not poetry, not music, theater, film, painting, sculpture, nor literature.  It may just be that I am not up on such things. I don't think it is mere recency, as both have been around for years, nor is it a bias from unfair comparisons from centuries ago. I am not asking that it produce an equivalent to the high Renaissance.  Existentialism is also recent but does not suffer from the same lack.  there is plenty of interesting theater, poetry, and literature from them, and I think only a little stretch of the concept brings in the visual arts including film.

I suppose you might make a case that successive philosophies since the enlightenment have each produced less art of a durable nature, and Theory is just that much farther down the line, but you would have to go some to convince me that was more than a merely convenient explanation. 

This is a major red flag for the intellectual foundation of a philosophy, that artists in no medium can bring forth anything of interest. The heart of artistic expression is transposition, of reframing or new understanding of one concept and making it manifest in another. If you can find nothing to transpose, it means there is nothing there.

This is unsurprising, as Theory never pretended to be making anything, only analyzing it.  It's right there in the name, Critical Theory. It critiques. It is described as a tool for interrogating everything else. "Interrogate" is supposed to have a more refined meaning than the picture that pops into our head from movies, of guys sitting in a chair under bright light, getting beat up after any bad answer. It's supposed to mean "asking questions." In reality, it's pretty much the sadistic guys with the brass knuckles. You either aren't interrogated at all because you're on their side, or you get the crap beat out of you. 

So we interrogate history with Critical Theory. We look at American education through the prism of Critical Race Theory. We examine music or literature via Theory. But we never make anything with it. Making something requires talent, courage, and effort.  A critical theorist might have any or all of these things.  But they aren't required for the job.

Saturday, April 17, 2021


Years ago, when I was making season-long predictions for entire leagues, I would take care to make sure that the projected wins and losses evened out, that a baseball teams that went 92-70 should be counterpredicted by teams that were going to go 70-92. Not that this had to be 1:1 correspondence, but that the totals should get it right.

It was not until years later that I figured out that for bettors, this is not so, and the people with skin in the game understood a simple idea that the rest of us overlooked. The expected over-under of an NFL team is based on average luck for each. Some team might have fewer injuries, an unexpected development in a skill player, or a few key calls go their way, while another might hit the underside of this.  Those should even out over the league.

Yet a very few teams will have a catastrophic occurrence: their starting QB might go down for the season in game 2, or three defensive backs get injured in games 3-6.  They are then in all likelihood going deeply under their projection. Those are high-impact situations. Big negatives because of injury are much more likely that big positives from avoiding injury. Therefore, the projections for an NBA season of 82 games should not average out to 41-41.  The projections should be more along the lines of 44-38 for everyone, even though that doesn't balance in the end. A few teams are going to get clobbered and win 20 fewer games because Anthony Davis or James Harden gets hurt. But in terms of betting, being 20 games below the projection or 1 game below is immaterial. If you bet six teams overall, the other five are likely to gain a game or two and improve their chances of going over the top.

Racism I

I have a few observations which I hope are not simply outraged versions of what everyone else from the center-left to the fringe right is complaining about on the topic. I will put them up over the next few days.  So you don't have to stretch a point and shove in the idea you have been waiting for a spot to unload. Like a good volleyball teammate, I might be able to give you an even better set for you to spike.  And if not, you can put it in at the end, cursing me for not pointing out the obvious. I try to give you things that you might not see elsewhere.

Powerline, via Maggie's, has a discussion of the anti-racism position of a prestigious and expensive Upper East Side Manhattan all-girls' elementary school. What conservatives almost grasp but do not quite get a handle on is that fierce discussions of what types of prejudice are categorically, absolutely, don't-come-anywhere-near-this forbidden are also a quiet announcement of what types of prejudice are okay. It's almost an apophatic approach to cultural politeness. If they tell you that there is a million-dollar fine for shooting bears out of season but don't mention deer, wolves, coyotes, etc, that tells you quite clearly that you can bang away at the latter with minimal consequences.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Patient Explanation

There is a tone of patient explanation, especially within the church, when political issues are being presented from a liberal perspective.  Two years ago we listened to an explanation about gay marriage that our position wasn't loving, and Jesus was about being loving. The Chesterton training in me rose up and asked (to myself) "Could it not be that you are the one being unloving?  Where does your assurance come from that it is I?" This last year it has been about race, with the reminder that we should be listening to black people - not to mention listening to Goodwhites - about racial issues in the church, the implication being that "You might all be very nice people, but we have thought about this a lot and once we explain some simple things to you you will begin to see that we are right. So let's all study this from that perspective." This is the foundation of the claims that such-and-such a view perpetuates the status quo and white dominance in the church, to take one example. See, you didn't think of that, did you? But we've been thinking about it for years, so it's obvious us to us now. You either have to agree with us or you're perpetuating white power structures.  Not that you mean to. But now you should get it that this is the way it really is. 

Because what else can telling people that they should be listening mean? I can't see another possibility when people are being told to listen.

It is rather insulting to suggest that I haven't thought about these things as much as you have, even if it is delivered in the kind, we're-all-in-this-together tone of kindergarten teachers. I may have thought about it a great deal more.  In fact, I suspect there are pieces of this where I have thought through, or read those who have, to a point of clarity - of seeing that the various opinions and general points-of-view actually coalesce around some central ideas in ways that are unrecognised or even denied. For example, framing everything in terms of power/status/influence might not be a correct Jesus POV, but a materialist or even Marxist one. (To assert that it's going to be about power anyway is simply a restatement that this is indeed your POV.)

Secondly, it is accusing me, personally of bad motives for my ideas. The possibility that they may be correct is sidestepped under the assurance that the views are somehow convenient for me too hold for less-attractive reasons. But once such possibilities are on the table, the table can be turned. If my position is held for bad reasons, we may now look at yours.  What psychological benefit, material gain, additional power, or increased status are on the line for you?  Do you really want to go there? If not, then you should retract your accusation against me that I somehow benefit from these positions.  I may or may not. You can't know.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Hungarian HighSchool Science Project

I can't find that I have posted this before, which surprises me. The Atomic Bomb Considered as Hungarian High School Science Project . Siskind did not expect to come to such a strongly genetic answer to the intelligence of Ashkenazi Jews, but got there from the data.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Rethinking Abortion Boundaries

I started out not thinking much about the issue at all.  This is very common, as it is physically unpleasant to think about as well as socially unpleasant in many circumstances. It leads to poll results that are logically at odds with each other, such as considerable support for both "Abortion should be illegal except in the case of rape, incest, or life of the mother," and "Abortion is a matter that should be private between a woman and her doctor." It's not so much that people are stupid - some are, of course - but more that they have queasy feelings about a lot of aspects of the question and are looking for quick escapes in discussion. I did have something of a default to an essay I had read that the issue was largely philosophical: wherever life begins, at that point abortion should be forbidden.  It sounded neat and tidy. (It's not.)

Men and women have very similar opinions on the subject. The idea that only women should be deciding is based largely on the bubble that some pro-choice women live in, believing that because all their friends are pro-choice, most women are as well.  It ain't so.

When I tagged along with the Jesus people I went very much pro-life, and being an intense sort, immediately went to a strict "life begins at conception" attitude. I have never been far different since then, but I did modify somewhat.  At first I wondered if implantation would be a better line to draw. As the information came out that heartbeat and brainwaves in the fetus begin at 5-6 weeks, I leaned toward that.  I preferred the point of conception as a line, but felt less inclined to insist on that. But as I became more aware of genetics as the enormous determinant of many human attributes, I drifted back toward conception as the key point.  You are you quite hugely at that point.

The question of "when life begins" I eventually discarded. The fetus is living at the time of conception. It's not dead, it's not inanimate. Another question about humanness might rise up, but "life" proved a non-question. When the science was vague, Catholics had a vague standard of "quickening" as the beginning of life.  But as we all learned more in the early 19th C, it decided that conception was the true point. I just threw that in for people who have heard that the RCC was not always so strict about life beginning at conception, trying to show that this is a new and perhaps suspect religious idea. That idea is based on some facts, but is not true.

Pre-implantation genetic testing will increasingly be the norm. I had not reconsidered implantation as a dividing line for decades. Perhaps I should bring that one back for examination.

I think it unlikely the SCOTUS will ever overthrow all abortion restrictions entirely.  However, some modification of Roe v Wade that returns some authority to the states is quite possible in the next decade, and because even some abortion advocates think it was badly decided, may be overthrown and some new standard erected. Parental notification, clinic regulation according to medical standards, waiting periods, later abortions and especially partial-birth abortions are going to come back into the public debate.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Plaintive Songs

I heard the cultural historian Armand Leroi talk about the patterns in popular music from 1960-2010, which his team analysed on a mathematical basis to detect where the revolutions came.  It was a BBC special, The Secret Science of Pop Music, apparently not presently available. He sounded quite convincing, but I was only interested in the overview. (The revolutions were in 1964, 1981, and 1991. He makes the case.)

More interesting was his contention that culture does not change as quickly as we are fond of saying it does, citing as examples the recurrence of topics in personal observations and letters in British medical journals for over a hundred years, similar stability in New York Times bestsellers, and common themes in the pop music over those fifty years.  He specifically identified "a single female voice singing for other women about a broken romance."  He said offhand he thought it might go back further.

I would think so.  Not only was the torch song big throughout the 20th C, but we have the following from the 19th C

And this from the 17th (if not before).  I will speculate offhand as he did, that it goes back further still.

The R-Word as a Social Construct

The word racist is ubiquitous, but the word race is forbidden (expect for check boxes on government forms). There was Saturday Night Live Episode years ago of a psychologist talking with Eddie Murphy about word associations, eventually using nothing but racially-loaded terms like "spearchucker."  Murphy started out affable but grew more irritated, responding with things like "cracker," and "honky." Eventually, when quite angry he said "HONKY honky!!" It was a good illustration that there aren't equivalent words to insult white people with. Except, as I read a few years ago from a black humorist, the word "racist" is as insulting to white people as any previous slur against blacks, as measured by the amount of anger and energy put into defense against it.

Because race is so emotionally-loaded, I have read suggestions that it be avoided altogether in favor of more neutral terms such as ancestry group. I don't think it will do the least bit of good, as you will just be accused of Scientific Racism with quick reference to Nazis, rather than American slavery, but I have no little objection. We are already in a maze of contradictory statements, language-change won't make that much worse or better.

 Can we blame Lewontin for his 1960s declaration that races don't exist and everyone who says they do is racist?  He lent the weight of his white lab coat to that political declaration. He's up there for the nomination.

About twenty years ago the idea came in that race is a social construct, an idea that did not exist until about 500 years ago and the Age of Exploration. That seems calculated to conjure images of slaveships rather than discuss real history. People in Roman times and earlier certainly noticed the different colors of people. Until a hundred years ago, race was an even more restrictive term, referring to the Irish race, or the Slavic. So in some sense, yes, race is somewhat socially defined.  The categories in the US Census have changed every time since 1970, for example.

Yet these are always definitions at the margins. Where we draw the lines are indeed a matter of opinion. Where do the Appalachian Mountains begin? When did Rome fall? What is a socialist? Is that color teal or green? But that does not mean there is no reality deeper in. I know plenty of people of mixed White/Oriental (or Caucasian*/Asian if you prefer) ancestry, but this is new. America has lots of mixes, but even here, there is remarkable continuity. If you look at the junk DNA, without reference to any skin color or facial features, you can tell what continent someone's ancestors lived on before 1500 for thousands of years back. What you say about Afghanis vs Mongols, or North Indians vs South, or border Mexicans vs Oaxacans is interesting - indeed, fascinating and the source of much additional information.  But failing to acknowledge that Scots are genetically distinct from Koreans is just silly. And most of humanity still falls into the hard categories, not the fringe ones.

*Hah!  Like I have significant Azerbaijani ancestry.

Lack of Leadership - New Definition

It pays to be reading and listening to diverse topics, because you can get ideas back-to-back you would not ordinarily connect.

One writer, one interviewee on a podcast, neither an expert on either Covid from any angle nor on politics. Yet such are our times that everyone discussing recipes, or turkey shoots, or electrical resistance on ham radios finds it necessary to insert their opinion about Trump, or liberals or whatever. One person was clearly angry about the "lack of leadership from the White House" about Covid and went on for a bit about the "chaos." Nothing specific that Trump might have done, other than wear a mask more often, was identified. The other equally deplored the "lack of leadership from the experts, especially CDC," though I couldn't tell whether she wanted them to advocate for more restriction or less from the context. She also went on for another paragraph about the "confusion" over masks and vaccines.  I could look her up and find out where she lands on those issues, but I am not going to bother.  

In both cases there was nothing I could get my hands on of "What do you think they should have done differently?" If I really wanted to be a jerk (but a useful, accurate jerk) about it I could even press on to "...that was actually known at the time and feasible to accomplish?" But I am just telling you that here, behind the scenes. For purposes of understanding the vox populi, I would be content with an answer to the shorter version of the question.

My point is that there isn't an answer, not in most people's heads.  They have feelings. My new definition of Lack of Leadership is "lack of me feeling good about this." If you find yourself nodding and immediately thinking of examples of people of different political persuasion who exemplify this, I ask you to spare a few moments to think of folks from your own side, including one you know intimately.