Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Lark News

I have forwarded their "Interpretive Dance" post from a few years ago many times.  I keep forgetting to go back, but every time I do I love what I see.  Lark news is still in business.  Spread it around.

Update: From the comments, yeah I like this Babylon Bee site a whole lot.

Sunday, May 29, 2016


Okay, let us consider the possibility that it really is the conservatives who are ignorant, aren't listening, and reflexively reject other points of view.

How are we going to measure whether that is true?  Something that would stand up when presented to a man from Mars.

Getting Along In Baseball

I am painfully reading a baseball book my son gave me in advance of Father's Day.  I will likely tell you more about it later.  It is painful because it accurately captures baseball guys being jerks, with more unwritten rules and more stupid beliefs than other sports. The notorious superstitiousness of baseball players is not an accident, but merely an extension of how they view their whole sport.  Basketball teams, football teams, soccer teams, and hockey teams try new things all the time. Not being able to adapt to the new things other teams are trying on you is considered a major disadvantage.  Baseball, even though it is the most easily stat-driven sport, is the opposite.  Real Baseball Men know things because they know them because they know them and attribute this knowledge to what they have "learned" from being part of the game for so long. They just know, and you are stupid for not knowing, even when a fairly simple set of experiments would likely show them to be badly wrong.

That is a typical stat-guy rant, but it is worth asking why? Football teams run both a 4-3 and a 3-4, or nickel back, dime back - and that's just the defense.  Soccer has 4-4-2, 4-3-3, 3-5-2, 3-6-1 and will switch mid-game; basketball will run 3 guards, or even 5 forward offenses in college. If someone tries a fifth infielder for one batter in baseball, not only is it news, but then you have to listen to 50 Old Baseball Guys complaining what a stupid idea it is and this has all been figured out long ago.


The time spent together sitting around and talking has to have something to do with it. At the professional level baseball teams play twice as many games as basketball and hockey teams, three times as many as soccer teams, and ten times as many as football teams.  Even if the game flow and preparation were identical, that would mean much more travel time together. However, preparation is also different, with a lot of standing around and talking while this guy takes batting practice or that guy warms up.

Watch football players when they switch form offense/defense/special teams.  They breathe deeply, the talk with coaches or others in their narrow circle.  Basketball, soccer, and hockey players wait their turn and talk in quieter tones to people on either side of them. Socialising happens, but focus is intense.

Baseball players wander all over the place talking to each other, going back in the clubhouse, hanging on the fence, pulling pranks, telling jokes.  All in all, baseball teammates and coaches spend enormously more time just talking to each other.  Ten times as much. We have spoken often here about how easy it is for tribes that have little serious contact with outsiders to just talk themselves into stuff. Those liberals say...those environmentalists always...libertarians believe... It's easy. 

It also explains why there is so much more emphasis on the social interaction in baseball, of a manager who has "lost the clubhouse," or a guy who is a "cancer" on the team.  It's like high-school girls at a lunch table. Therefore, small gestures are overinterpreted.  If you get benched for a game is it really being "rested?" If you get moved from 8th to 6th in the batting order it's a big deal, and reporters start asking questions, which leads to bats being thrown tomorrow. Pitchers have to have their desire for save stats or wins respected.  The focus on being disrespected in that way is like city gangs.

At the margins, it makes sense.  Everyone is spending a lot of time together, so doing the little things to get along  is worth it just for general happiness, so long as it doesn't show up in the won-lost column.  Baseball's problem is that even when it does show up in the won-lost column people refuse to see it.  They are the epitome of guys with confirmation bias. If a runner gets caught stealing or picked off first base and the next guy hits a home run, the announcers actually might attribute the homer to the distraction the baserunner caused, even though he cost his team at least one run, and an out to boot. Because that's what they all tell themselves, standing around in the (protected) dugout year after year, reassuring themselves they know things others don't.

Not very different from stepping over the chalk lines or refusing to mention that a pitcher has a no-hitter going, when you think of it.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

How Bad Are Things?

Another link in the comments to an article at Slate Star Codex. How Bad Are Things? The good doctor needs a ruthless editor because he goes on too long so often.  But he remains quite brilliant, noticing things that should be obvious but seem to be missed by others.

Many people have hard lives.

No Best-of-AVI

I started weeding through my earlier posts, in the hopes of weeding the 5000 posts down to 1000 and putting them on the secret blog, with a dramatic reveal when done, and then weeding those down to 200 or so that would be the definitive AVI posts.  But I have found it tedious and not possible.  I see now that it was always editors who culled the best from earlier writers, because it is tedious to do oneself.


The word seems to have changed in meaning over the past few years, especially the last year.  My son is retweeting mockery of the alt-right, there are arguments at neoneocon whether the alt-right is racist, and the alt-right is being held responsible for the rise of Trump. This seems a considerable narrowing meaning for the term.  I have regarded alt-anything as a catchall term, describing disparate groups not big enough to get their own names but differing from the "anything" substantially enough that they could not be counted on to go along more than 50% of the time. Alt-religion included various pagans, satanists, Zoroastrians, and new-agers, but also combos such as JewBu's, or modern expressions such as intense Trekkies.  Greens were not really alt-left, because there were enough of them and closely enough defined that they constituted their own group. Intense greens such a Gaians might have a foot in both worlds, but the alt-left would also include Trotskyites, communitarians, and anarchists. Preppers could be alt-right, alt-left, or just Scouts who took their childhood lessons to heart. UU's might have fair overlap with folks at alt-religion, but they have an institutional solidity that gives them plenty of folks to interact with that they already know.  The alts were a function of the internet, where people who had interests or opinions that were offbeat enough that they could only find a few others in a city of 100,000 could now have an entire online community.

As a postliberal, I considered and rejected the idea that I was a part of either the alt-right or alt-left. But I didn't think it an insane question.  I would have called libertarians alt-right, because there are enough of them that they are a thing on their own. But I might call Randians alt-right, or SSPX Catholics, nationalists of many stripes, monarchists, or separatist fundamentalist Christians. Anti-immigrant groups, both the anti-illegals and anti-alls, are more common on rightist websites, even though they are more evenly divided among the voters. (Factor in black voters and you start to see it.) So those likely qualify as alt-right.  Single-issue crusaders such as prolife or DOMA demonstrators and tax protestors are sort of half in. Additionally, I would include a broader, less-intense group of homeschoolers, Burkeans, Mormons, Buchananites, and conservative Jews; significantly for this discussion, I would include an enormous number of writers who hearken back* to writers and thinkers of previous eras - classicists, medievalists, theologians, philosophers. Thomas Sowell, John Derbyshire, Theodore Dalrymple - even Tom Stoppard and Tom Wolfe.  I have called those alt-right in my mind, because they are clearly conservative, but just as clearly not in complete accord with modern American conservatives.

White supremacists are their own thing, seeming to be more Republican than Unaligned than Democrat 2:2:1 (numbers dated, from 2000 election). Stormfront is mostly unaligned, more Democrat than Republican, but uses conservative and American military symbolism almost exclusively.  I don't know what to make of that. If you look specifically for alt-right sites you find a lot of those guys, but one is struck by the fact that everyone is arguing with them, and everyone is resorting to all-caps and Hitler/Stalin almost immediately.

So in my mind, neoneocon is alt-right, though she is currently distancing herself from the current usage; Grimbeorn and James and hell, most of my sidebar fits the bill.  I now get it that this meaning is gone forever. Alt-right will mean Trumpsters, anti-immigrant, and high-decibel anti-PC from this day forth, and even forevermore.

*I use this phrase in full knowledge and conscious defiance of the convention that calls this a variant. It is now so common a phrase that it should soon be rejected as a cliche.  Which is a perfect illustration of prescriptivists: they dig in their heels for so long long that their very argument becomes archaic. (And yet, I used the double-space after the period and the Oxford comma throughout.  Personal idiosyncrasy.)

Both Pans of the Balance Scale

It is easy enough to win most arguments in one's own mind by focusing on one side of the balance pan.

A) Home schooling is better because they always win the Geography Bees and a disproportionate percentage of kids with SAT's over 1400 were home-schooled.
B) Home-schooling is worse because it allows deeply pathological parents to ruin their children without interferenc.

Both are true, after a fashion, though much more could be said about either.  That's the point.  Much more could be said.

Sometimes it is not quite so obvious that an argument has distracted our attention from the other pan in the scales of justice, like an illusionist making a curtain to change color by getting us to look another way.*

Theodore Dalrymple has an interesting observation about charity over at Liberty Law. Key phrase: Charity given as of right, for that is what the welfare state does, favours the undeserving more than the deserving. He makes a good case for this, founded on the ideas that the undeserving can increase their need, while the deserving cannot easily increase their desert; also, when we give to all regardless of desert, we remove the compassion toward the especially deserving. We give to all who are paralysed.  Have we nothing extra to give to one who became paralysed rescuing another? Christians give to the undeserving poor.  Is this because all are undeserving, all are deserving, or because it doesn't matter? Incidentally, I seldom give to beggars, but Dalrymple's essay may convince me to begin again. (Via David Thompson)

Over at Moonbattery, we have an article denouncing the phrase "start a family" as loathsome, because it means only adding a child, and thus excludes people who are childless by choice or have voluntary families of friends. Not merely insensitive or hurtful, but loathsome. There is a fair point to be made that feelings are hurt, and care should be taken, but what then happens in the other balance pan?  What do we then call the decision to expand the family beyond two so that it becomes larger - for that is clearly a new thing, different from companionship?

*My favorite example:

Friday, May 27, 2016


As I slowly count down to Post 5000 - still a ways away, I have been going back to the beginning, looking for top posts to reprise. It occurred to me that I must keep first things first: ABBA, and meerkats, despite the problems.

Lemurs, Marmots, Wombats

There has been a consistent meerkat problem that the pictures come from a TV series and get taken down quickly. So I'm wondering what I should go to instead. The wombat has an immediate inside track because of the marvelous children's Christmas book Wombat Divine, which is a tradition in our family. Suggest others if you wish.

This Is America

I was speaking today with three women in their 30's and 40's in those minutes around a table before a meeting starts.  Health insurance provided by employers versus that purchased at high cost was the subject at hand, as all three have husbands who are self-employed or at private companies, which offer plans inferior to state of NH plans.  Also, siblings who make much less and purchase health insurance on the exchanges were referenced with some tut-tutting. They have already ratcheted up in their minds to expecting that everyone should not only have health insurance, but really good health insurance that doesn't cost very much. 

There are side issues here, such as the implied Old Contract for civil servants We will pay you low wages but give you great benefits: Cadillac health insurance, increasing vacation time, slight but regular raises, job protection - which has crumbled over time in the race between unions, agencies, and legislatures to game the system; the procedures people now expect to be covered that many of us would consider optional; the different starting points of "what we provide is governed by what we deem to be fair" vs "this is governed by what we have in cash-on-hand." All valuable things to discuss, but really, I'm not an expert here and there are other sites which offer a better discussion product.

What struck me was a single phrase offered with some vehemence about coverage: "This is America!" As near as I can guess, knowing her, knowing how human services people think, is that this meant America is a wealthy country.  It is only civilised that everyone within our borders should have health insurance taken care of without impoverishing themselves. We are good and generous people. There were no comparisons to Europe, no accusations against the rich - perhaps those are implied underneath, but they weren't stated.  There is a type of liberal, perhaps the most common type, that shrinks back from conflict and making others feel bad.  They admire those politicians that are more strident and forceful, but they seem to have no awareness that the inevitable result of what they state in positive terms, even if it is undeniably fair and just, is going to be expensive.  It does not register that it is they who will pay.

I said nothing, but it occurred to me that the phrase "This is America!" could have many different meanings, even opposite meanings, from the lips of others. This is how we talk past each other, and must define our terms.  Liberty, American values, Christian, generous, moral - we don't mean the same things when we say them.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


Earl Wajenberg, who I know in both cyberspace and narthex space, linked this article from Slate Star Codex, Three Great Articles On Poverty, and Why I Disagree With All Of Them, in the comments back over the last hill. It deserves full notice.  If you hadn't already guessed, I am very much southeast corner.

Sunday, May 22, 2016


Remember when Jimmy Carter said "Sometimes life isn't fair?" Libertarians, never mind conservatives, get kicked for saying that now, but not so long ago, even Democrats realised that it was not the job of government to fix all ills.  I doubt Birdhouse still feels that way, but I believe he did then.

Piggybacking on Texan99's comment, it is true that almost all of us these days want to mitigate some of life's unfairness.  The political difference is that some of us want to restrict the mitigation to those unfairnesses that are clearly that are caused by our society. There is some messy agreement that unfairness caused by our government is also our responsibility. What with the EPA, crony capitalism, the Legacy of Slavery, public education and public debt, Not In Our Name, and police intrusion we have enough disagreement to last a lifetime, but if that were the remaining debate I believe we could get there.  We could wrestle out the type of compromises common to the Constitutional Convention, theoretically unsupportable by anyone's definition of government or morality, but enough to go forward.

It's the cosmic unfairness that is our real split, however.  In the major British founding groups of the American colonies, having terrible things happen to you was not at all considered the problem of anyone else in society-at-large. They might attribute vessels lost at sea to Providence, or to Luck, or to Fate, or to Skill, but no one thought your widow and children deserved anything thereby. It might be a problem for your immediate family.  If you had a serious reversal of health, business, or environment your culture might insist that your town, your extended family, or your parish might be on the hook for some assistance. Might. There was no belief that the colony as a whole, never mind the whole nation, had any obligation. And these were the groups which in all the world in the 17th and 18th C's cast their nets widest in terms of supporting the poor or unfortunate. No one else did anything.  Drop down in Latvia, Italy, Azerbaijan, Baluchistan, Siam, Japan - there was no sense of obligation by anyone.  People gave individually to beggars. Easrly Christians took up collections for distant co-religionists.

What we think of as normal safety net - what even American libertarians of the strictest stripe think of as a normal safety net - is very modern, very unusual. Yet that level of "callousness" was typical worldwide for thousands of years because almost everyone was impoverished and the rescue of others meant the starvation of your own children. Before 1700, everyone brushed against starvation some years.  Before 1900 everyone went hungry sometimes, even in the very few rich countries of the world.

It may be a real moral advance to live in a society that believes if you are sick and a treatment exists you deserve access to it; to have a nation that says we will not only have some educational stuff lying around on the coffee table if you want it, but will take it upon ourselves to accommodate you and get education to you.  I think it is a moral advance.  But I also see it as an extremely expensive moral advance that I hesitate to lay on others. I don't think it is automatic and unquestionable.  Such thinking only comes from people who believe "Oh, there's plenty of money out there, we just have to make those greedy people cough it up." Very, very recently, no one thought that the world was even remotely fair. 

Belloc, Orwell, Fernandez

I have known Hillaire Belloc only by reputation.  He was friends with GK Chesterton, both Roman Catholic intellectuals of the early 20th C, and his outlook was similar enough to GKC that frequent-opponent George Bernard Shaw referred to the two of them together as the Chesterbelloc, a monstrous Catholic beast that proposed Distributism as an alternative to the (obviously holy) strict socialism that Shaw approved of.

His time has come and gone, apparently.  In the George Orwell discussion embedded in Richard Fernandez's article "Greetings, Slaves" about the Servile State it is clear that Belloc was much in the mind of thinkers about economics and society at the time Orwell was writing 75 years ago.  He is little known now. Fernandez is Wretchard over at Belmont Club and known to some of you, a writer who unearths much that is in danger of disappearing and brings it forth to today. He points out where Belloc was prescient about the alliance between crony capitalism and socialism, though they went about in different costumes a century ago.

In what is nearly a throwaway line, Fernandez also points out that the Davos conferences are not gatherings of the like-minded, but a meeting between the coalition groups who hope to rule us: virtue-signallers with little obvious virtue, nods to scientism with just a smattering of actual science,  wealthy capitalists who are rent-seekers and exploiters rather than free-marketers. All very CS Lewis, especially That Hideous Strength, God In The Dock, the Abolition of Man, and The Magician's Nephew.

Note, however, that Lewis did not mention Belloc, though one would absolutely expect it.  I don't know what to make of that.

Spotted Toad

One of the best reasons to visit a site is to find people smarter than oneself, whether in the posts or in the comments. The usual problem is that you also find people more eccentric than oneself.  That used to be fun when I was younger and trying to decide whether liberalism, conservatism, libertarianism, communitarianism, anarcho-monarchism*, etc is closest to the truth. I get that at all the sites in my sidebar, but West Hunter, Information Processing, and Volokh Conspiracy are particularly rich in both brilliance and eccentricity.

I think I have another, found through West Hunter comments.  Spotted Toad had a brilliant line
When some schmuck teaches for a year and wails about dysfunction and racism, like this guy (avi: Ed Boland) or like Kozol in years past, it’s a way of ignoring that you can have the best teacher in the world, the best pre-K and infant care in the world, and the test score gaps on hard tests (and lots of other gaps down the road) won’t go away. I think school is still worth something, and making schools better still worth something. And is this crap worse than the ed reform crap from a few years ago, that said it was all about lazy teachers and unions? Probably not. The lumbering beast of the Democratic Party is wandering away from saying it’s all teachers’ fault, and reaching for Raj Chetty or someone else to say it’s all neighborhoods, or pre-K, or something else. (Not two parents versus one of course, though I know some here would say even that it is inconsequential.)
So I followed it up and it's a very interesting site. My sidebar remains reserved for people who comment here or that I comment on extensively, because that is my network. Yet I do visit other places.  Give it a try.

* You laugh.  Tolkien was an anarcho-monarchist.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Travel Reading

We read different things when traveling than when at home.  For me, this means both smaller, more portable volumes, and things written in a pick-up-and-put-down style that is amenable to quick changes.  For the trip to Vegas I had My Life and Hard Times by James Thurber and Reflections on the Psalms by CS Lewis.  From the latter, discussing "judgement," and the seeming self-righteousness of the psalmists. Italics mine.
  1.  The question whether the disputed pencil belongs to Tommy or Charles is quite distinct from the question which is the nicer little boy, and the parents who allowed the one to influence their decision about the other would be very unfair. (It would be still worse if they said Tommy ought to let Charles have the pencil whether it belonged to him or not, because this would show he had a nice disposition. That may be true, but it is an untimely truth. An exhortation to charity should not come as rider to a refusal of justice. It is likely to give Tommy a lifelong conviction that charity is a sanctimonious dodge for condoning theft and whitewashing favouritism.) We need therefore by no means assume that the Psalmists are deceived or lying when they assert that, as against their particular enemies at some particular moment, they are completely in the right. Their voices while they say so may grate harshly on our ear and suggest to us that they are unamiable people. But that is another matter. And to be wronged does not commonly make people amiable.
I am seeing modern parallels here that are political masquerading as spiritual.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


Off to Las Vegas for a John-Adrian's wedding.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Different Iceberg

When I started in psychology, the model of the human personality was something like an iceberg, with the conscious mind showing above the surface while the huge unconscious mind beneath the waves was the real deal.

It turns out that the iceberg is still a good metaphor - except the unconscious is now part of the exposed material above, while beneath the surface, genetics and chance war it out.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Meat- Eaters

I am willing to be an annoying person, but not quite annoying enough to put this up on Facebook.  So you will have to endure this wonderful video that Grim discover here.

Yes, it is exaggerated and deeply unfair. Except no, not deeply unfair. Just somewhat.

Political Violence Review

I think one of my few contributions to the Grand Conversation is my observation about the difference between political violence from the left and from the right.  I don't see it anywhere else. The original observation was that right-wing violence tends to be more threatening and defensive, while left-wing violence tends to be more aggressive, going on offense.  I looked over the last 100-200 years and saw that pattern generally hold.  Beyond that I did not venture, as left vs right diminishes in overlap the farther back we go.

I see it professionally in the paranoid rightists who hole up at home with weapons, seldom going out but posting dark threats on the internet.  Or maybe on signs in their yard.  You have read them in comments sections.  "If Obama (Hillary/ATF/the Feds/NWO/FEMA) tries to come after my guns they are going to see the revolution start right here."  They sound scary.  I know people like this, not only patients, but staff.  Yet hang on, they aren't all that scary, though I can see why folks think so.

Leftist violence is far more aggressive. Americans see that this is so in other countries, but have trouble seeing it here.  Even when one points out - union thugs, environmentalist vandalism, provacative counterprotest, OWS, minority protest, antiglobalist demonstration - it still doesn't register.  "No, no!  It's those Tea Party people who are violent! Those mass shooters all have right-wing sympathies. We French Literature majors hate guns, and won't even let our children hold their fingers out and go 'bang bang!' None of our people have guns, they're vegans."  That the mass shooters, other than being merely ill, are most often Islamists, second-most often liberals, and only lastly right-wing "doesn't enter into it." to quote the Parrot Sketch.

I have usually attributed that reversal of the brute facts to media bias and inability of leftists to even peep in the mirror with one eye. Those have their place, and I don't back down from that. But there are advantages to long walks over rough terrain. 1) One grows tired of repeating oneself when talking to oneself.  When you are in the everyday world, you can drift back to a subject at your usual starting place and not get very far before you are interrupted.  Then you drift back, not to where you left off, but to your usual starting point.* 2.) Physical activity improves mood, allowing one to feel more kindly disposed to others. 3.) Sweeping vistas encourage one to think in terms of decades, even centuries, instead of Trump/Hillary/Kardashian. 4.) Discomfort heightens the awareness of mortality and injury, which in turns causes reflection on what topics are really important. (It comes to me at this moment that I have much more to say about this. Soon.) 5, 6, 7.) There's more.  But those are the big ones.

I think there is also something to the idea that trying to change things is more often leftist in our current configurations, while supporting the status quo is more often rightist, which reinforces the offense/defenseframing.

The Left believes in fear that the Right is dangerously violent, a powder keg barely contained by government and the unsleeping vigilance of good liberals.  That is prejudiced, insane, self-serving, projection, all those things.  But the value of sanity is the ability to condescend, in the old sense, into the thought of others.  It occurred to me on my walk why this is wrong, but not insanely wrong; projection, but not invented out of whole cloth. 

Okay, I could semicolon my way through about six more similar expressions, but you take the point.

Extreme right wing people - I was speaking with one today - talk about guns and violence a lot more when referring to politics. They assert "There's a revolution coming! People won't put up with this forever!"  All sorts of stuff like that. Now, if you are an art-history major, gun-control, Bernie-supporting liberal and you hear that, it scares the Bejeesus out of you.  Because if one of your people were talking like that, they really would be dangerous.That's not just prejudice, narrative, and media bias on the part of liberals.  It is mostly just projection, but based on good evidence.  The people in the Democrat coalition who talk like that shoot people.

Don't tell me no, I not only have read about them, I have them at my hospital. (Reminder, BTW.  I have enough longevity to remember that the clinical staff at my hospital thought patients who talked about killing Reagan or Bush 41/43 were funny, justified. We didn't even call the Secret Service. Yet patients who even hinted that Clinton or a Kennedy should be dead cause the blood to drain from faces. Liberals aren't all that strict in their hatred of violence.  I don't think I've heard a death threat against Obama.)

Republicans, especially conservatives, and even more especially libertarians have lots of folks who talk like that.  "Lots" meaning oh, 4% rather than 0.4%, just to make up numbers.  But in the end, when you tot up the actual number of dead bodies lying in the street, the 4% hasn't shot anyone. or worn an explosive vest into campaign headquarters, or blocked the roads and turned over cars  and burned them so that people can't speak, or gotten people fired for saying the wrong things.  It's the 0.4% that has done that.  Still, I get why liberal folks get nervous. You live in a culture and you think that's what everyone else is like.  The Charles Murray Bubble Quiz illustrates that the elites -largely but not entirely Democrats - does not understand the rest of the citizenry.  There are, after all, probably ten times as many rightists mumbling alarming things and shaking their fists and not reading the social cues that "we don't talk about those things in polite company."

*One of the great joys of math and science, even in their popular forms of baseball statistics or gnawing at whether an analogy is valid, is that you can pretty much pick up where you left off.  You can let the kite string out a little farther each time.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Bad Novelist

Sarah Hoyt linked to Robert Kroese at BadNovelist. Looks promising.
I am Robert Kroese, the bad novelist in question. I'd tell you why I'm a bad novelist but it's kind of a long story and you probably have better things to do.

Saturday, May 14, 2016


Another reminder of how good we have it here, and how the instincts of even the worst of us in America are pretty reasonable.

Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton would be remarkably good politicians by the standards of most other nations. You can fault Hillary for the Clinton Foundation, and getting huge amounts of money for speaking fees which are essentially bribes.  But as far as I know she hasn't worked the levers of government to be given controlling interest in major industries, as happens throughout Latin America, Africa, and Asia. (And even some of Europe.)

I don't like being in the first generation to have to witness this reduced choice in America, but the rhetoric would have us believe that we are uniquely poised for tyranny and destruction at present. 

Another Comment Tell

Any post or comment that contains the phrase "Big Pharma" should be skipped.

Genetics and Beyond

Hsu, Conley, and Pinker are all heavy-hitters on this topic, among the most knowledgeable in the world.  Any one of them would be worth traveling to hear speak. (And take notes.)  The three together, well-moderated is worth your while even though this is long.  Things people aren't happy to hear come in at about 12 minutes, but some softening information comes in at about 20 minutes.

And then it gets scary again after that.

The French and Autism

When I was on the Maggie's Farm urban hike, I got to speak with Stuart Schneiderman for a couple of miles. We spoke of many things*, as such conversations go, but the troubling news he brought of how damaging the approach to autism is in France continues to stick with me.  Schneiderman was trained as a psychoanalyst in France many moons ago, but changed direction sharply when he decided other approaches would help his patients more.  He still practices in Manhattan, but uses "coach"-based titles for what he now does.  He seems quite calm and happy about the change.

In France the psychoanalytic approach is still dominant in the treatment of autism.  The belief is that your parents, especially your mother, never really wanted you and this is why your thinking doesn't work like other people's and you have to scramble to fit in.  Betelheim may have long since been exposed as a psychology fraud, but his approach lives on there. I linked to all Schneiderman's posts on autism at his "Had Enough Therapy?" blog, but it is mostly the first two, written about six months ago, that I am putting before you. Very frustrating to read.

*That's Stuart on the left there, me on the right. Or maybe the other way around.

Friday, May 13, 2016

David Stockman

Maggie's linked this today. Trumped! Why It Happened And What Comes Next.  Stockman is viewing Trump from a strictly economic POV, but that includes what his foreign policy might be and how that will affect.

He views Trump much as I do, and he's better-informed about it than I am.  Donald's positives are things that might turn out okay but probably won't.  His negatives are overstated, but still not good.

I think it was James who suggested that we should always have a None Of The Above option and make it binding!  It puts me in mind of the tradition in black churches for the preacher to look over the offering and say "It's not enough!  Send it back!"

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Dale Kuehne

It was interesting to click on an Instapundit post by Ed Driscoll and discovering it led to a Rod Dreher discussion of Dale Kuehne. Because I know Dale, and so do a lot of local readers of this blog.  He is a Poli Sci prof at St Anselm and is an Evangelical Covenant Church Pastor who lives nearby.  Others farther away may know of him as well.  When you see the NH Primary debates at the St A's Center for Whatever-It-Is and Politics, that's Dale's baby.  He started it, even though he doesn't run it now.  these days he tours the world talking about the concepts in his book and website and all things rWorld.  The "r" is for relationship, which he considers a key theological component revealing God's nature to us. Very gentle spirit, smart guy. Grew up conservative evangelical but is rather postconservative now, as I am postliberal.  Nice kids, was connected to the same Romanian mission teams as we were...

Etc, etc, etc.  We have many more threads of knowing him, but don't see him so much now.

Anyway, he had a very interesting set of comments about the transgender issue.  His thoughts are a good example of what public intellectuals should do, and often don't.  All of us can notice that there used to be two sexes, but now there are many genders, including genderfluid and asexual folks. We can all launch quickly into what we think about that and keep focused our particular hobbyhorse.  Dale (read the article and followup from there if you are interested) has noticed that there is a philosophical sea-change that will affect more than the less that 1% trans-people and those who have to accommodate them; the individual can define who he is, without reference to, and even in complete defiance of, everyone else in his culture.
This is unprecedented in any world culture.  We have all, always, had to make some allowance for others' definition, unless we wanted to go live an entirely solitary life in the wilderness (and even then...).
It used to matter what others thought.  I'm not a boy, I'm a girl. Until very recently (1970?) no one anywhere took that the least seriously.  Lots of academic blather that oh, no, there was lots of tolerance and admiration for gender uncertainty in other cultures for many centuries is just crap.  I wrote about it with respect to Native Americans in particular a few years ago. Things have moved quickly since then - until very, very recently the culture had a lot of power to vote you down.  If your parents said no, you're not, stop singing and finish your homework you could try and find some teachers or some psychologists or activists to agree that they were just bigots and support you.  But that seems to be a rather extraneous step now.  The teachers, psychologists, and activists are punching the tickets of everyone who asks now, so it's just you. Right you are if you think you are, Pirandello said a century ago, and that's the world we have moved to.

Step outside the whole transgender issue for the moment (I know that's hard, what with bathrooms and multinational corporations dictating our social values* and all that, but work with me here) and look at that huge point. What everyone else in the world says no longer matters, and we have adopted an uneasy agreement with that as a society because...well, because we can't think of a killer counterargument off the top of our heads.  Americans love liberty, and this seems to be personal rather than governmental...(but we think this may be nuts.  Haven't we got something in the jar where we can stop them?)  Libertarians may like the general idea of it - though I'll bet there's some queasiness about complete divorce from community connection. And conservatives have winced and held the communitarians at arm's length even as they agreed with parts of their program, because it seems to lead to socialism and stuff. But on this issue, the communitarians are suddenly hundreds of meters away, their full stadium dark and puzzled.

Forget the sex.  We have crossed an enormous divide philosophically, and we didn't notice.  Alicia can become Elijah over breakfast, and no one may contradict him. We have long since rejected external organ differences and hormonal differences as irrelevant.  Brain differences, chromosomal differences were obviously going to be of no concern.  Yet those are a small thing, because the camel's nose under the tent is that we now allow everyone to define anything about themselves, in complete contrast to the entire history of human kind. That is nowhere near played out in the practical realms of law and medicine, but here is no longer any philosophical barrier.  Our elevation of sex above everything has blossomed, and is now bearing fruit. The blossoms were lovely, and the fruit is...interesting.

But is it digestible?

*Ah nostalgia!  Only last week that was considered a bad thing by liberals.  Now it is righteous.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Getting Hitler Right

This is spurred by all the Trump-Hitler comparisons, of course, but I hope that this has more general application.  Jeff Jacoby equated overusing the Hitler accusation as a sort of Holocaust Denial.  That's a bit strong in itself, but I take the point.  When everyone is Hitler, then eventually being popular and disagreeing with the writer is equivalent to six million dead Jews; the intent to kill 30,000,000 Slavs; death to all gypsies, developmentally disabled kids, and homosexuals; and the invasion of half-a-dozen bordering countries.

We really shouldn't have to go over this, but when even intelligent people with PhD's and MDivs are suddenly nervous that we have yet another Hitler on the rise, I feel some obligation. These are my people and they are going mad, similarly dangerous to those they so righteously oppose.  Somehow, they've gotten themselves convinced that this is about about COURAGE!  And REFUSING TO BE SILENT IN THE FACE OF EVIL! or whatever.  It's not.  It's about VIRTUE SIGNALLING! And yeah, I'm looking at you conservatives too.

The Nazis drew heavily from the artists, journalists, philosophers, and university students of the day.  Those who the Nazis originally opposed, the communists and some versions of socialists, also drew from those groups. Absorbing this one fact should set the bicoastal elites on their heels just enough to wonder "Hey, maybe it's not all those ignorant people in flyover country who never went on Junior Year Abroad who are the potential pool of tyrant-supporters.  Maybe we aren't the auxiliary possibilities of oppression, but the most likely suspects." Why should the 21st C be different from the 20th C in that respect, after all?

Germany had recently lost a war in devastating fashion and was in economic shambles. Even then, only a revolution-savvy minority, similar to the Bolsheviks co-opting the Russian revolution, were deeply in favor of Hitler. They used thugs, but they were not the thugs.

Hitler was opposed to Jews, a group that had been in the area for centuries, had an extremely low crime rate, had not killed thousands of Germans in the past few decades for overtly religious reasons, had contributed heavily to the arts, sciences, and prosperity of the country, and had largely assimilated. Deciding to send them to work camps and then, aw hell, let's just kill them, is not equivalent to wanting to deport people who are here illegally, or have a high crime rate, or semi-shelter coreligionists who want to kill us, or use an extraordinary amount of government services. If you want to claim that is only a matter of degree, and where do you draw the line, fine.  I grant that. That is an entirely reasonable point to bring up when discussing "Well, what should we do about these illegal Oaxacans, Chinese, Guatemalans, or these Syrian/Lebanese/Yemeni/Somali/Palestinian guys who seem so angry at us?" But it's not a reasonable point when discussing whether American Politician X is Hitler. There are orders of magnitude difference. German Jews were generally harmless.

Hitler's racism was rather thoroughgoing.  It was not some version of not being in favor of affirmative action, or thinking one's own group was a bit special, or not being sensitive to the experiences of the downtrodden.  It was about expelling citizens or killing them. The argument that Hitler started small once, so everyone else who we don't like should be crushed because they could grow up to be big someday eventually means that every molehill irritant is Hitler.  Conservatives work up a lot of outrage that racism keeps getting defined down to mean whatever liberals want it to.  I've ridden that train myself.  But while the counteraccusation of reverse racism may be just in that context, it's just not in Nazi territory. Take a breath.

Nazis were patriotic or nationalist in a quite difference sense than Americans are. They saw Teutons/Aryans as a narrow group, some of whom lived across borders in the Sudetenland or in Transylvania. Americans are nationalist around ideas, not tribes. That some Americans are patriotic when they should consider that there are even higher loyalties than nation, fine. Be loyal to the Church Universal, or to humanity in general, or "all decent people" or whatever. But do not equate the very expansive patriotism of Americans, which includes several races, many nations, a few major religions and a lot of smaller ones, with the tribalism of National Socialism.  American nationalism and patriotism is largely what defeated the Germans and the Japanese in WWII, after all.  So it must have a little something going for it. It just isn't the same nationalism, and it's not close.

Feel free to add (or, I suppose, subtract!) as you wish.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Text Vs. Graphics

David Foster over at Chicago Boyz reprised an earlier post of his his (from 2007 via 2013) about how we process information how that affects us.  The context is computer programming, jumping off from Neal Stephenson's In The Beginning... Was The Command Line, and the comments section gets rather bogged down in that.  But I think it has more value in general, contemplating the danger of image-based knowledge, because it is less traceable and thus leaves us less able to step outside it and challenge it.

I listen to sports radio, which is very word-based.  I can't think of another consistent interface I have with popular culture that isn't text-based - no movies, TV, or music, and most of my internet use is text as well.  I don't much look at pictures or watch videos.  I have developed a deep distrust of their power to persuade.  They are not as powerful as the re-enactment rituals that come down to us from our remote ancestors, but they hack into that part of our brains, I think. We have invented photographs and movies without asking whether we have any defense against what they teach.

Bsking rightly warns us to beware all infographics, and she is more than half-serious when she writes that. We have handed over the keys to our brains to others we know not. I watch it happening to others around me, like Berenger watching Jean, Dudard, The Logician, and Daisy in "Rhinoceros." Except of course that I might be one of the others (Botard?) and one of you is Berenger.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Social Signalling, Virtue Signalling

I  usually deplore, or at least look askance at people using political causes as a method of signalling what moral/intelligent/worldly wise/spiritual/reasonable people they are.  It's a bit offensive, certainly.  Even when I do it.  I should say "especially when I do it," but that would just be virtue signalling, because I don't fully mean it. Maybe 30%. Most of the rest of you are just embarrassing.

But this election everything changes.  I live in a state that might turn out to be close, so I will have to hold off on the wild chance that my hanging chad will turn out to be meaningful, but for almost all people in America, no.  This autumn you will understand clearly that your vote has no practical effect in your state, and only has value as a signal about yourself that you can share with your friends and neighbors. SO GO FOR IT.  Vote third party.  Go full-throat for your evil candidate over the other evil candidate.  Dither endlessly to show how hard you are trying to look at all possible angles. Pick a single issue that you refuse to bend on.  Whatever.  This year, it's all signalling. Embrace it. In the deciding which funny hat you want to wear, you will see yourself more clearly.  Not that it matters this year, but it might come in handy in the future.

The only effect of your vote this year will be on your reputation with your peers. You will not influence them.  No matter how much they ordinarily respect you, they are going to vote for whoever they damn well please, for reasons neither you nor they can articulate clearly, because honestly, there are no good answers and we are all monkeys angling for bananas this time around.

And I hate you for which banana you will choose, of course; but I'll get over it.


I don't usually just put stuff out there without comment, as many of you run across much of the same material.  But I don't have much to add to these essays and I think they are valuable.

Jonathan Haidt and Lee Jussim have an article about how to reduce racial tensions on college campuses that is based on research.  Imagine that. I think they miss a major point, but in the short run it doesn't matter.  Giving people common goals rather than incentives to divide by race seems fairly obvious. BTW, I have heard the accusation that fraternities and sororities encourage less interaction with minorities but had thought it exaggerated because it's not overt and it might be a product of selection.  Haidt and Jussim claim there is some hard evidence, and give a plausible explanation how it might happen without anyone necessarily meaning it to.

I have read and liked something else by Laura Miller over at Slate before, but don't rememebr what.  This is stand-alone good enough however, Save The Allegory. There is not only an attempt to rescue the word from its misuse as a mere synonym for metaphor, but the best explanation of how to understand and appreciate medieval allegory and subsequent modern expressions that I have read. What Ho! I may have another go at The Faerie Queen, which I have felt obligated to like but been unable to these many years. She mentions CS Lewis's literary criticism, which is a reliable way to my good side.

Over at Market Urbanism, The Need For Low-Quality Housing, and a companion piece that some aspects of trailer parks are better than the other low-cost alternatives.  

Friday, May 06, 2016

Target Boycott

Russell E. Salzman over at First Things has and explanation why he won't boycott Target that makes sense to me.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016


I composed a long continuation to my American Experiment post, but decided it only preached to the converted, and served little purpose (though it did have some great lines).

One of the tools of deconstruction is to look at a text and look for what is missing.  So in a greatly oversimplified deconstruction of all these thoughtful articles by solemn Christians about the dangerousness of Trump, I ask "What petitions are not being circulated? What dangers are not being mentioned? What audience is being ignored as if they are not in the room?"

More Wayfinding

Update:  A friend from Bible study was on those Jarbridge roads last year.

Death By GPS.  Linked at Instapundit today.

I will go back and connect this up to my entire wayfinding series when we've done commenting here.

As I have not driven much out west, so their average distances may overawe me, but a look at the map while reading the article - of course I brought up a map while reading the article - shows that the Chretiens were not just expecting to find back roads to take them "several" miles across the desert and over mountains to get back to the Interstate, it was more like 70 miles. I can't imagine what they were thinking.

There is some newer science about navigation and orientation here, yet I think they have missed some things that have been learned before and are drawing wrong conclusions.  Also, we might appear to have an installed north-orientation on our internal maps because that's what we've been exposed to.  It isn't necessarily innate, and early mapmakers often put east on the top.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

The American Experiment

It's a phrase I haven't read, and certainly haven't heard, for a long time. Yet it was a reminder of how radical the American idea was and is, and how uncertain its prospects were.  Somewhere along the line we must have declared the experiment a success and started taking it for granted.  It may have gone out of fashion before I was born and I only encountered it in reading older material, but I rather think it went away after WWII, as the European nations did finally fully imitate our expectation of individual rights, and half the newly-independent colonial nations immediately held elections and opened parliaments. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, this international preference for representative government and freer markets was one of the themes of The End Of History. 

Thus, we take it for granted now, no longer as impressed with what a remarkable achievement it is, nor that it may in fact be fragile, dependent on public virtues that are waning. We expect that things will go on as before, simply because they "always" have.  We wave our hands in easy dismissal of doomsayers who come and go - we have heard it all before.  Nasim Nicholas Taleb's The Black Swan caught me up short in this, right out of the gate. This excerpt, about his clan's experience in Lebanon, is sobering.

My FB feed is awash with educated Christians who believe that Trump will usher in the Apocalypse. I find who puts these things out to be utterly predictable, and attribute a great deal of their upset to his arrogance offending against their culture, not to the arrogance itself. Had they objected even mildly to the arrogance on display eight years ago and for the last eight years, they would have more credibility with me now.  It's too late.  They don't really care about arrogance per se, only from certain quarters.  So are we all, but we should be cautious about shouting, because the listeners remember. I do anyway. 

I write this because Obama and Clinton are far more arrogant, and these people did not object eight years ago.  the arrogance is different, certainly.  Trump is the high school braggart, those particular Democrats fit more the collegiate or even graduate level contempt. Reading Screwtape (and The Great Divorce, The World's Last Night, The Abolition of Man, That Hideous Strength, "The Inner Ring" - not to mention Paradise Lost and Dante's Inferno) I have no question which is worse spiritually, and from that conclude it is likely to be worse for us in a practical sense. (Though perhaps not. That may simply be a Christian myth that humble rulers are better.)  Let me add that I don't it's even close.  The latter arrogance is deeply worse.

Trump is more of a buffoon.  All politicians are, and we don't recognise that enough, but this crop is the stuff of legends. Conservatives tend to think of Obama and Clinton as too imperious and calculated to be buffoons, but that is exactly how they manifest it.  Yet Trump greatly exceeds even them there. Intelligence?  All have some cleverness, none is that impressive.  Hillary's background suggests that she should or could be, but it never materialised.  Even the private statements that leak out, when they are not merely coarse, are banal, hackneyed.  I have learned on Quora that any estimation of Obama's intelligence that declares him less than genius opens one out to charges of racism, but he's no great shakes either.  IQ 115-120.  Respectable, not what he believes about himself or his followers claim on the basis of bad evidence.  Trump is quick on his feet and his words are clever even when he is offensive and stupid. Above average.

There is a lot of ruin in a nation, as Adam Smith said and Churchill quoted, and we have survived one of these fools already.  Perhaps we shall endure whatever comes next.  Nations are becoming less important after all; corporations rise and fall insterad, ideologies, both for anger and for uplift, cross boundaries, technologies both liberate and enslave the individual in new ways. We say that the future will be mixed, because that is what we always say, and will continue saying, right to the gates of heaven or hell. It may be the end, and Hillary or Trump could hasten the world to chaos.  Or they might turn out to be largely unimportant, revealing to us that the ground of power has indeed changed in the world and will change going forward.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Let Us Praise Ordinary Men

Bird Dog over at Maggie's links to this piece by Theodore Dalrymple, which I found moving.
This was not the unctuous, hypocritical, exploitative religiosity that Dickens satirised about the same time in the character of Mr Chadband in Bleak House, but the real thing that consoled for the losses that were so much more frequent a feature of life in the mid-nineteenth century. Death in those days was not mainly for the old, as in ours.

Sunday, May 01, 2016


I had not mentioned here that another of my sons is getting married. John-Adrian Wyman, originally from Oradea, Romania and now of Nome, Alaska, is marrying Jocelyn Walker, originally from Manila, Philippines, now also from Nome. They announced in March they are getting married in Las Vegas May 19 but didn't expect all of us to drop everything and come see it.

Well, we did. Even Chris, who is five flights (minimum) away in Tromso, Norway tried to work it out despite the expense. (We all ganged up on him and told him not to, and he eventually, reluctantly agreed.) Las Vegas was not on my to-visit list, but life changes rapidly and takes surprising turns. I'm thinking the mock-European architecture will be the most fun.

We met Jocie and her daughter Aurora over Thanksgiving, so now it will be three adorable granddaughters.

Ty Cobb, An Unfairly-Maligned Man

Everyone knows that Ty Cobb was violent and racist.  Except, a biography of him by Charles Leehrsen published last year claims he wasn't. Looking at the evidence, Paul Beston at City Journal concludes that Leehrsen has a better case than conventional wisdom. The conventional wisdom seems to be based on a single biographer, the sportswriter Al Stump, who had "issues," as we say now.  When one digs back to contemporary sources, all that emerges is that Cobb was short-tempered. There's a better case he was anti-racist, and little case that he was violent.

I feel personally embarrassed because I am one of the few who read Lawrence Ritter's 1966 oral history The Glory of Their Times, which was much more complimentary to Cobb, yet seem to have been unaffected by it.  Worse, Cobb actually did do something nice for my brother-in-law Ande when he was a boy in Atlanta in the 1950's.  Had his picture taken with him;  an autograph; ruffled his hair - I forget what.  But my father-in-law always defended him on that basis, and I dismissed that as weak tea.

Time and again, what Leerhsen discovered through exhaustive research undermined the Cobb created by Stump, who didn’t source his work (“because he produced fiction,” as a contemporary said). Leerhsen could find no tangible evidence that Cobb hated blacks. On the contrary, he spoke in support of baseball’s integration when asked—and he wasn’t asked, as best Leerhsen can tell, until 1952. “The Negro should be accepted and not grudgingly but wholeheartedly,” Cobb said then. “The Negro has the right to compete in sports and who’s to say they have not?” On another occasion that year, he said: “No white man has the right to be less of a gentleman than a colored man. In my book, that goes not just for baseball but for all walks of life.” The virulent racist of legend, supposedly driven to derangement if even touched by a black man, attended Negro League games, threw out a first pitch, and often sat in the dugouts with black players. He came from a family of abolitionists. He endowed educational scholarships for students of all races.
It made for a great bit in "Field of Dreams," and I am certainly familiar with all the accusations of Cobb sharpening his spikes. But if it's not really so, we can't keep it.