Thursday, August 17, 2017

Titles

I sometimes overlook the most obvious things, for the longest time. I must have read Voyage of the Dawn Treader fifty years ago, and I only just realized the sly title Lewis gave the Governor of the Lone Islands: "His Sufficiency." No majesty or excellence is claimed or aspired to; just "sufficient." Beautiful bureaucrat-ese.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Cat videos

In my youth I was a last-picked non-athlete, and I never got much into sports personally. In between other interests and a tendency to deprecate whatever was popular, I never got into sports vicariously.

And so, as a young adult, I didn't see much use in professional sports, and thought investing in a city team a terrible waste of money. Over time I started to notice that watching sports was one of the few civic bonding activities we had. Oh. Maybe this kind of entertainment serves a useful function after all...

Cat videos are a byword for triviality. But in seas of rancid virtue-signalling, perhaps they represent something we can bond on--at least a little. They aren't much at all, but every little bit helps. I won't sneer.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The marchers

It was predictable, and I'm not happy to have been right. We've had one flavor of political shock troops for a couple of years--pretty soon we'll have another; maybe more than two. I'd hoped we could keep it all in the past.

I wonder whose side the driver was on. As of this time I have to take every report with a helping of salt. I can think of four different scenarios for the driver without breaking a sweat--three of them fairly likely. All I know is that somebody is supposed to have been arrested. Update: He's alleged to have been seen with the first group of marchers. As feared.

One picture showed a close group of marchers, probably the same team, carrying confederate and nazi flags. (The old Confederacy lands supplied a lot of volunteers to fight the original Nazis.) I've no reason to doubt that "heritage not hate" is a real description of the motives of a lot of confederate flag wavers--and the combination of a symbol of resistance to central control carried with a symbol of totalitarian rule is more than a little ironic. Probably the pictured group were all nazis, and used the confederate flag as the symbol of racial supremacy it is for some people. Some of the other marchers were said to be racial separatists (not the same thing as supremacists, of course), and I've no notion yet of who the rest were, or even if they knew who all the other groups were. Somebody thought it was OK to have nazis tag along, though. Or wanna-be nazis.

Words are supposed to mean something. I've always been interested in history, and WWII was not that long ago when I was young. Nazis were still the symbol of the enemy, and everybody knew why. I hear horror stories that substantial fractions of today's graduates unable to tell what side England was on during WWII (or else who are pulling the pollster's leg--but I observe a fair amount of ignorance myself). What does "nazi" mean to them? Generic bad group? "I know, teacher! I know! It means Trump and anyone who voted for him!" Similarly, racist means you wonder out loud why we import foreigners to cheaply do the jobs you can't find anymore. It isn't even so much "May as well be hanged for sheep as for lamb" as that the distinctions are blurred.

When the powers-that-be claim that noticing certain problems makes you a swamp-dweller, some proportion of you will join the swamp-dwellers. Think of labor relations early last century. Publicly noticing problems got you called communist, and a lot of noticers joined the communist swamp-creatures.(*)

I suspect that too many people have long memories for the nazis to become a significant force again--certainly not under that name. But the attitudes may come back. We had those attitudes before, and though we've had a few generations in which white racism was suppressed, anything can happen--especially when the elite are alien and arbitrary. "Cling to those you can trust"--and you can't trust Pichai, or the Mizzou administration, or HR.

I used "you," but I, and I suspect most of my readers, are in the happy situation of having skills and education that mean we can comfortably ignore some of the problems, and that, knowing the history, we know the boundaries between the ordinary and the vile. I don't worry about the swamp-creatures--there usually aren't a lot of them. We protect free speech for good reason. I worry when people stop noticing the differences. God help us.


(*) National socialism is congruent to international socialism: totalitarian, the party is the most important thing, violent expansion, have to break a few eggs to create utopia... I regard Che Guevara shirts the same way I think of Martin Bormann shirts.

Blue and Green

I remember wondering once upon a time how it was that the Blue and Green parties got to be so all-encompassing: Religion, class, politics, sports--and probably other things the histories didn't record.

I think I get it now. If I were to find a MAGA hat and pay a visit to a few selected restaurants in Madison, I suspect service would be quite slow, and I might be rebuked for producing a "hostile environment." Virtue signaling your politics or social views in your business isn't ubiquitous, but is still very common. The new restaurant in the building we rent office space from made a point of emphasizing how much they supported Planned Parenthood--even before they opened. I think you can still eat at McD's without implicitly supporting any party, but stories about restaurants refusing to serve cops keep cropping up. Typically corporate comes down hard on the offenders, but clearly the impulse is there.

Has it always been like that? I seem to recall more overlap in interests when I was younger--but the Cubs and the Sox had (overall) different classes for fan bases(*), and my Better Half remembers a visit to Finn McCools to find the band was playing "If you hate the Queen of England clap your hands." (She got by with a visit to the ladies' room and some fractured German to a belligerent inquisitor.)

(*) It was explained to me that the class difference was a side effect of being located in different neighborhoods

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Pets

In the Atlantic we find: "Pets don’t actually make people healthier, according to a new analysis. Ability to own a pet does." "The cat owners appeared healthier than people without pets, but the difference went away when the researchers factored in that the cat owners were likely to be healthy for other reasons, mostly bearing on socioeconomic status."

Of course, we want to keep an eye on this to make sure that the result is true. But if it is, what's going to happen to the Emotional Support Animal industry? I haven't seen their reaction yet, but let me guess: "The study doesn't address emotional issues, only deals with children ..."

Monday, August 07, 2017

Chastity of the Mind

It is tempting to embrace every story that comes along that flatters your tribe or besmirches your opponents. After all, the stories generally fit with what you know; build on knowledge you already have.

When you know the CIA is evil and has done unforgiveable things, stories of how they engineered Tolbert’s assassination or plotted 9/11 dovetail nicely with their record of villainy. Racists abound, so when 3 black churches burn in 2 weeks you know it means racist activity is on the rise. When you know the Clintons are corrupt and ruthless, the story that a man killed himself just before he was due to testify about them obviously tells of just another rub-out among many.

Be realistic. Soldiers won’t die if you don’t retweet that bon mot immediately, or repost that quotation of uncertain provenance. You’re not really in a hurry. You may like to think that hearts and minds wait trembling for your imprimatur on the news, but people who know you can probably already predict what you plan to say.

Instantly reposting stories that go down like such sweet morsels is just virtue signaling: your judgment must be profound since you have such noble friends and recognize such a vile and deceptive enemy!

Two words: Richard Jewell. Three words: Duke lacrosse case. Four words: Day care satanic abuse.

A good scientist looks at data that supports his model, and also looks for data that would contradict it. Until it is studied carefully, it is not good for either purpose.

The first reports are usually wrong. (Sometimes later ones are a cover-up, but not so often.) Let your conclusions be tentative, if you must draw any--wait a while and see what else develops.

Yes, I’ve been bitten by that kind of mistake too. It takes practice to reserve judgment.


“There’s a Bene Gesserit saying,” she said. “You have sayings for everything!” he protested. “You’ll like this one,” she said. “It goes: 'Do not count a human dead until you’ve seen his body. And even then you can make a mistake.'” From Dune by Frank Herbert


"Do you read the papers? Of course, you do. But do you read them as I read them? I rather doubt that you have come upon my system. ... I remember once when I lived in the Capital for a month and bought the paper fresh each day. I went wild with love, anger, irritation, frustration; all of the passions boiled in me. I was young. I exploded at everything I saw. But then I saw what I was doing: I was believing what I read. Have you noticed? You believe a paper printed on the very day you buy it? This has happened but only an hour ago, you think! It must be true... So I learned to stand back away and let the paper age and mellow. Back here, in Colonia, I saw the headlines diminish into nothing. The week-old paper - why, you can spit on it, if you wish.” From “And the rock cried out” by Ray Bradbury


“[John]: 'But I must think it is one or the other.'

[Reason]: 'By my father's soul, you must not - until you have some evidence. Can you not remain in doubt?'

[John]: 'I don't know that I have ever tried.'

[Reason]: 'You must learn to, if you are to come far with me. It is not hard to do it. In Eschropolis, indeed, it is impossible, for the people who live there have to give an opinion once a week or once a day, or else Mr. Mammon would soon cut off their food. But out here in the country you can walk all day and all the next day with an unanswered question in your head: you need never speak until you have made up your mind.” From The Pilgrim's Regress by C.S. Lewis