Archive for the ‘Phony Egghead Studies’ Category

The Girlie Men

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Richard Fernandez writes in Pajamas Media, The Belmont Club:

A study described by the Wall Street Journal concludes that women from “healthy countries” don’t like he-men. Respondents, mainly white women in “Argentina, Sweden, Russia, Australia and the United States,” were presented with pairs of photos each representing the same man. But in one the image had been subtly altered to create a more “feminine” appearance. The authors say that in countries with an efficient health care system the women tended to choose the feminine-looking image.

The faces, it turned out, looked eerily alike and yet subtly different, like identical twins. They were created by software that masculinizes or feminizes a person’s features in a few keystrokes. Only by examining the faces closely could one discern that the man on the left, say, had slightly rounder eyes and a narrower jaw than the one on the right. Some of the faces had slightly thinner lips than their doppelgängers, or wider-set eyes, or thicker archless brows. It took most women fewer than 10 minutes to click through the 20 pairs of male faces and select which ones they found hunkiest.

Wimpy KidAfter crunching the data—including the women’s facial preferences, their country of origin and that country’s national health index—the Face Lab researchers proved something remarkable. They could predict how masculine a woman likes her men based on her nation’s World Health Organization statistics for mortality rates, life expectancy and the impact of communicable disease. In countries where poor health is particularly a threat to survival, women leaned toward “manlier” men. That is, they preferred their males to have shorter, broader faces and stronger eyebrows, cheekbones and jaw lines. The researchers went on to publish the study in this month’s issue of the scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences.

The authors argued from principles of evolutionary psychology that women from countries with bad medical systems selected men from a tougher genetic pool because they wanted their offspring to survive. Since a good proxy for tough genes turns out to be testosterone, they picked out Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome. But testosterone also creates problems: men who are “uncooperative, unsympathetic, philandering, aggressive and disinterested in parenting”. They are men who might balk at sitting down when using the toilet. What to do about testosterone?

The link is testosterone, the hormone behind manly muscles, strong jaws, prominent eyebrow ridges, facial hair and deep voices. Testosterone is immunosuppressive. This means a man must be healthy and in good condition to withstand its effects on his development. Testosterone is also linked to other traits related to strength: fitness, fertility and dominance. From an evolutionary perspective, masculinity is basically man’s way of advertising good genes, dominance and likelihood to father healthier kids. When disease is a real threat, as it had been—and arguably still is—heritable health is invaluable.

The answer is apparently for women to ditch it as soon as it is safe to do so. Hence the preference for feminine looking men in women from countries with medical provision. The reason American society is so full of atavistic knuckle-draggers is because its health care (until recently) was so primitive. Now that Obamacare has been passed the United States has every prospect of truly joining “Western civilized societies”. They are leaving the dark ages of Gary Cooper and John Wayne and entering the bright sunlit uplands of Mr. Sensitivo.

And where does the U.S. stand in the masculinity ranking? The answer is fifth out of the 30 countries in the study, one of the highest. This is, after all, the home of James Dean and Clint Eastwood. And where does America stand in the health index ranking? Twentieth of 30 countries, one of the least healthy.

With Obamacare passed it’s time to blow-dry your hair and apply that subtle cologne. But there’s a price. Taken to its limit this theory explains the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire: when a society becomes richer and more stable the he-men go out of fashion. The fops rule the roost. The girlie-men get the all girls. And so it goes until the barbarians arrive at the City Gates. Then overnight he-men are back in demand. But by then the race of two fisted men are extinct and the women are ravished by he-men of a different sort. The kind who rape, pillage, burn and torture. Ultimately they burn all the books, put women under heavy veils and go back to the economy of raising goats. So the evolutionary psychology also explains the Dark Ages.

Somewhere in my archives, there’s a passage in which I pulled some stagnant speculation about mankind’s development squarely out of my ass…but I suppose you could call it a crude form of “science” because I stumbled on this trying to find an explanation for something, and it seems nothing else really explains it.

I think, throughout mankind’s existence, we have spent thousands of years being lured back into collectivist living units; evolution has not succeeded in showing us what a failed experiment it is. Food gets scarce, the village needs to make a decision about who is to be ostracized. And so an instinct develops, and is refined to a competent art among those lucky enough to survive the famine. The instinct of “In scarcity, ostracize that guy, over there…not me.”

Some family units did not live in villages; and it seems they survived, and evolved, as well. Now, think about this. Two leopard-skin-covered cave ladies; one lives with her man and her whelps, the other lives in a village. Both of them are mothers to ancestors of people alive today. But the village lady does not see her man much of the time. She couldn’t, could she? The men would be off — together — trying to lay a trap for a boar like those skinny guys in the first few minutes of Apocalypto. The women would hang out together, raising their children together. Minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour, the “home” stuff that requires male brawn would be handled by some village resource. A buff warrior left behind for such purposes, perhaps. Not by her dude. Something centralized.

The result would be two evolving, surviving, occasionally competing mindsets. One — “If it requires male intuition or brawn, it will be resolved by some resource inside my home.” Two — “the village will provide someone or something that is not part of my home.”

The point? I think the ladies are fighting this internal battle with greater conflict, and more zeal and more gusto on both sides, than the gentlemen are. If you’re one of the “healthy” girls picking these wimpy guys in the experiment, you’re not trying to make a political statement or anything — you’re just doing what comes naturally. Truly vexing problems are not to be solved by anyone or anything from your “cave.” The village will provide. And this has a bearing on what exactly it is that you’re choosing…which is something…pretty. An accessory, one visually uplifting. Like macrame.

Of course, macrame is disposable. To the best I can determine, the divorce rates in these countries-of-origin, were not discussed. And the bias I perceive in the research staff, based on the nuggets I have read, suggest that they will not be.

No man who’s been through any significant experience will need too much edification on what I’m going on about; it becomes quickly evident that all ladies are not looking for the same things when they pursue (or allow themselves to be pursued by) men. And it isn’t too hard to figure out which variety you’re courting. Just start growing a beard, see what she has to say about it. Some women want men to do things women cannot do; others are offended by this. They hide behind trivial things like “it scratches!” But generally, a lady who recoils from one masculine trait, will recoil from all of the others.

And households can be masculine in nature. A household that is constructed around a dictum of taking care of its own stuff, not relying on the village alms, is masculine in nature. A lot of people don’t like that, it seems.

Men Less Picky When Stressed

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Interesting. Maybe the feminists have known something the rest of us did not. Or maybe they didn’t, and are just naturally pre-disposed toward being nasty.

Men are drawn to a wider range of women when they are feeling stressed out, according to research into the psychology of sexual attraction.

People are usually attracted to partners with similar facial features to their own, but after a brief but stressful experience, men’s preferences changed to include a wider variety of women, the study found.

Relaxed men who took part in the study rated women on average 14% less appealing if they looked very different from themselves compared with women who looked similar. But a group of stressed men found dissimilar women 9% more attractive.
In the study, 50 healthy heterosexual male students were divided into two groups. Those in the first group were asked to plunge one arm into a bucket of icy water for three minutes before taking part in the test. Those in the second group were asked to do the same, but with water heated to body temperature.
Lass-Hennemann said it is highly unlikely that the acute stresses of everyday life can switch someone’s tastes when it comes to choosing a partner, but long-term stress might shift male preferences towards women who are more dissimilar.

So if you’re a wife and you’re getting into middle-age and feeling gravity taking its toll…a little frumpy around the edges. Henpeck your husband if you don’t want him trading in a 40 on a couple of 20’s. Uh, that’s new?

Someone needs to intervene in the decisions about what studies are being done, what they’re supposed to prove, how the grant money is being handed out. Seriously. We needed a study to give women motivation to do more nagging?? Who makes these decisions. We need reform now.

I’ll bet if you give me a few million dollars, I can produce a study that proves wives end up happier when they go way out of their way to make the man in their life happier. Men are less likely to flee the coop when they get handed a frosty mug of beer and a plate of nachos (or vegetables) every evening when they come home from work, and then get taken out for water sports on the weekends with their families. With the wife driving, so the adult refreshments can be enjoyed further. And then some fun in the sack every single morning and every single night. He’ll be, oh, about forty-five percent less likely to leave. Morgan’s study says so.

The data, they prove my theory. I can make some. Cheap. And they’ll be more believable than anything represented above, I think I’m in a position to promise that.

Update: Yesterday, Gerard put up something that fits in well with this theme. Further substantiates it. That theme being one of “happiness begins with men, and radiates outward to others.” When we channel our energies into making the grown-up men all stressed out and miserable, it comes back to bite us in the ass.

Picture’s worth a thousand words…

Wives — those among you looking to spice up your marriage. Greet him at the door with a cold drink wearing nothing but a smile. Do things his way and see what happens. Make him un-stressed.

It’s what my girlfriend does, and I can tell you perhaps the study that is the original subject of this post, has a point to it — her good treatment makes me exceptionally picky about women. Only she will do. You know, call me nuts, but I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

It Takes More Than Love to Keep a Marriage Going

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

The white-coat pocket-protector propeller-beanie eggheads have figured it out…in Syndey…

Living happily ever after needn’t only be for fairy tales. Australian researchers have identified what it takes to keep a couple together, and it’s a lot more than just being in love.

A couple’s age, previous relationships and even whether they smoke or not are factors that influence whether their marriage is going to last, according to a study by researchers from the Australian National University.

The study, entitled “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” tracked nearly 2,500 couples — married or living together — from 2001 to 2007 to identify factors associated with those who remained together compared with those who divorced or separated.

It found that a husband who is nine or more years older than his wife is twice as likely to get divorced, as are husbands who get married before they turn 25.

Children also influence the longevity of a marriage or relationship, with one-fifth of couples who have kids before marriage — either from a previous relationship or in the same relationship — having separated compared to just nine percent of couples without children born before marriage.
Not surprisingly, money also plays a role, with up to 16 percent of respondents who indicated they were poor or where the husband — not the wife — was unemployed saying they had separated, compared with only nine percent of couples with healthy finances.

Yeah dudes, I think you need to take another look at that money thing. Nine to sixteen? The differential’s probably much larger than that.

It’s too bad there’s no scientific way to measure dipshittery.

From what I have seen, with my experience limited just like any other mortal’s, and my lifetime success probably somewhat lower than the average — it really has to do with just-plain living-life. You get married, and for the present day the “commitment” is all ceremonial. It has to do with the future. So a lack of awareness of the passage of time, on the part of one spouse or both, is the big killer.

A positive pregnancy test…the purchase of a new home…a new winch for the jeep…just bringing home a puppy dog. These are commitments for the future that make a deeper impression, in the moment. By which I mean you can be a somewhat thick dimwit type, but you can still feel down to the marrow of your bones that life, from here on out, has changed. That’s the quality a wedding ceremony is supposed to have, and wedding ceremonies no longer achieve this. A wedding is a chance to show off, to see your great-uncles and aunts again, to eat cake, and pour the pork at the Honeymoon suite as if you haven’t been doing that all along.

If you weren’t spending just shitloads of money in the here-and-now, perhaps the wedding would get you to thinking about the future. Like it’s supposed to.

But no. As a social custom, the wedding ceremony has endured so much abuse that it has failed to stick to its traditional underpinnings. It is no longer a harbinger, pleasant or otherwise, of what is to come. Most spouses think much more about the future during a routine squabble about a parking ticket, or a department store charge card purchase, than they do when they get married.

You have to be headed somewhat in the same direction in life, you have to be somewhat flexible, and you have to be ready for challenges. This whole thing about Nirvana, some magical situation in which everything that happens twenty-four-seven is all peace and love and happiness, possess a quirky characteristic: If you chase it, you can’t have it and you don’t deserve it. If you don’t, it’s yours. The folks who’ve been through it know exactly what I’m talking about with that one…and the ones who haven’t, are bound to go “Huh-wha??” But it’s true.

Trouble with marriage nowadays, is it just takes the individuality out of it. If one spouse has a need to learn this lesson, it falls on the other one to go through the education as well, along with the associated unpleasantness. Even if s/he learned about it before already.

Marriage, I think, endured a “stroke” of sorts when people started making money off other peoples’ divorces. Since then, she’s been stretched out on a deathbed, unable to move half of her body, speaking in gutteral sounds, one side of her face atrophied. Those who love her and cherish her the most, are incapable of facing the sobering truth that she will not be going home from this hospital room, and she is no longer what she used to be. She’s changed. She will never see a day, from here on, where she’s stronger on that day than the day before; she’s on a terminal decline.

Who Shares Their Personality Traits With Serial Killers?

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

There are some phony egghead studies that make me cranky because they are obviously concocted to sell people on something that isn’t true, and there are other phony egghead studies that bumble into conclusions so obvious they make me wonder who spent the dough that was used for the study.

This one kind of falls into the second of those two:

Oh-oh! Politicians share personality traits with serial killers: Study

Using his law enforcement experience and data drawn from the FBI’s behavioral analysis unit, Jim Kouri has collected a series of personality traits common to a couple of professions.

Kouri, who’s a vice president of the National Assn. of Chiefs of Police, has assembled traits such as superficial charm, an exaggerated sense of self-worth, glibness, lying, lack of remorse and manipulation of others.

These traits, Kouri points out in his analysis, are common to psychopathic serial killers. [emphasis mine]

Reminds me of that Obama voter who ‘fessed up in a personal e-mail a year ago…he was holding secret hush-hush meetings with my boss at the time, a few years before that, saying “Don’t put Morgan in charge of this, it’ll piss everybody off.” Yup. “Everybody” turned out to be just him. He’d be pissed off because I wouldn’t back his Replacement-Jesus candidate.

Exaggerated sense of self-worth…glibness…lying…lack of remorse…manipulation of others. Check, check, check, check and check.

I don’t know why he bragged about that to me. Seems pretty stupid. But I was glad to have the insight into what was really going on behind the scenes.

Yes, absolutely, by all means let us study these people.

“While many political leaders will deny the assessment regarding their similarities with serial killers and other career criminals, it is part of a psychopathic profile that may be used in assessing the behaviors of many officials and lawmakers at all levels of government.”

I’ve noticed something else about people like this, whether they’ve gone the serial-killer route or found some other life-pursuit. It seems they can talk themselves into believing things, but only if they make an effort out of it.

It’s like their brains are divided into an inner core and a more outward section. They can tell a lie the way a “normal” person would tell a lie, which is to maintain a recognition of what is the true state of affairs, while presenting deceptions to an audience that are contrary to this recognition. So that the contents of the inner and outer sections are different. But this personality type finds that undesirable after a short time, and ultimately opts to tear down the courtyard wall that divides the inner from the outer. To repeat the lie over and over again, until he believes it down to the marrow of his bones. It makes it easier to present the lie and it’s also more effective when it comes time to persuade others to believe (or be open to) the lie.

These people are superbly confident. They have a great appeal to the weaker mind because they seem so certain about everything they do. They don’t change direction. They don’t slow down. The impression they give off is that perhaps they’d re-think things better than anyone else if something could be gained from it, but they’ve done such a dandy job of figuring things out the first time that there is no need and no point.

There is an inevitability in the things they do. There is a sense of futility involved in even thinking about opposing them. In short, they go about things just like a 20-ton wrecking ball.

That’s because they share the same mission as a wrecking ball. Thinking like a grown-up, is a burden reserved for those who design and create. Destruction is a lot easier.

Nanny State Wants More Smoke-Free Movies

Friday, May 29th, 2009


Smoking in youth-rated movies has not declined despite a pledge two years ago by Hollywood studios to encourage producers to show less “gratuitous smoking,” according to an anti-smoking group.

The American Medical Association Alliance, pointing to research that big-screen smoking leads teens to pick up the tobacco habit, called for an R rating for any movie with smoking scenes.

The head of the group that gives U.S. movies their ratings, however, said the smoke has been clearing from youth-rated movies, a result of the film industry’s sensitivity to the issue.

The alliance, the medical association’s advocacy arm, launched a summer campaign this week aimed at publicly shaming studios into making smoke-free films.

“Research has shown that one-third to one-half of all young smokers in the United States can be attributed to smoking these youth see in movies,” said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, head of the Los Angeles County Public Health Department.

Fielding cited another study that he said “found that adolescents whose favorite movie stars smoked on screen are significantly more likely to be smokers themselves and to have a more accepting attitude toward smoking.”

The Motion Picture Association of America, the industry group that issues ratings and parental guidance for U.S. films, added smoking scenes as a factor in ratings two years ago, but Fielding said it has not made a difference.

“In all, 56 percent of the top box office movies with smoking released between May 2007 and May 2009 were youth-rated films — G, PG or PG-13,” he said.

Joan Graves, who chairs the Motion Picture Association’s movie rating committee, offered her own statistics, based on all of the 900 films rated each year, not just the top movies included in Fielding’s numbers.

The association has given no G ratings in the past two years to a movie with smoking, Graves said.

Overall, 55 percent of the movies rated in the past two years showed some smoking, but 75 percent of those with smoking scenes were given R ratings, Graves said. Twenty-one percent were rated PG-13 and the remaining 5 percent were PG, she said.

A G movie is deemed suitable for all audiences, while a PG rating is a signal to parents that a film may include some material they might consider inappropriate for children. PG-13 indicates a stronger warning that some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

No one under 17 can be admitted to see an R movie without a parent or guardian.

American Medical Association Alliance President Sandi Frost used as her chief example of a movie with “gratuitous smoking” this month’s blockbuster “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” which was rated PG-13 “for intense sequences of action and violence, and some partial nudity.”

“Millions of children have been exposed to the main star of the film, Hugh Jackman, with a cigar in his mouth in various scenes,” Frost said. “I’m willing to bet that not one child would have enjoyed that movie or Mr. Jackman’s performance any less if he hadn’t been smoking.”

Interesting times. Back when I was a kid, people were worried we’d grow up to be racists and bigots, and this was thought of as a consequence of things we did not do…things we did not see. And so it was thought to be desirable to make us cultured. The result was a big push to get kids to socialize with other kids. Which was kinda stupid, because, being kids, we were all like “yeah he’s my friend anyway.” We didn’t see the race. The grown-ups were the ones bringing it up.

Now the push is on to make sure kids don’t experience things. The principle is the same, but now we’re thinking bigotry is desirable, if it’s bigotry against the right things. If we keep kids thinking of these vices as being alien, they’ll tap into their human instincts to think of those things as deplorable, and this will encourage them to grow up to be Good People.

Here’s where it gets interesting. The first paragraph indicates that movie content does not have a bearing on how much kids smoke. The second paragraph indicates that movie content does have this effect…based on “research.” How come, when we engage in these massive nanny-state efforts to change human behavior, and we fail, that isn’t thought of as “research” just as valid as what comes off the whiteboards of the pocket-protector Theory Boys? See, we’re valuing ideas from the egghead set over & above actual experience. This is how we get on these endless treadmills. We don’t pay attention to actual experience.

My suggestion: Stop stigmatizing smoking, drinking, et cetera. Just stop it. Yes it’s bad when kids do these things — but these are symptoms, not causes. Instead, stigmatize idleness. If there are laws on the books saying kids can’t work more than xx hours in a week if they’re under xx years old, then repeal them. Every single one. What’re we afraid of? Some Tammany Hall guy is gonna come by in the dark of some terrible night, abduct a couple hundred of our doe-eyed little waifs, and put them to work eighteen hours a day putting sweatshirts and sneakers together for Kathy Lee? Our goo-gooder liberals are supposed to have ended that problem in this country, about a hundred years ago. So if the problem is ended, let’s act like it’s ended. Let the kids do some work. Some work.

There are too many laws on the books designed to make absolutely, positively sure that nobody ever experiences — certain things. A “no” answer from a bank evaluating a home loan application. Creepy guys at work that like to stare at beautiful women. A movie with a guy riding a motorcycle with no helmet on his head. When I say “too many” laws, what I really mean is “some.”

There shouldn’t be any laws like this. Humans are much more resilient than this.

Stop Eating So Much

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

The Melbourne eggheads have figured out the reason we yanks are so pudgy, is because we eat lots of food.

The amount of food Americans eat has been increasing since the 1970s, and that alone is the cause of the obesity epidemic in the US today…”The food industry has done such a great job of marketing their products, making the food so tasty that it’s almost irresistible, pricing their products just right, and placing them everywhere, that it is very hard for the average person to resist temptation. Food is virtually everywhere, probably even in churches and funeral parlors.” [said the lead researcher]

Seems rather obvious. Like a case of real life imitating The Man Show.

Best Way To Lose WeightFunny home videos are a click away

But there is another side to this that raises red flags with me. I think we’ve either got some eggheads that aren’t up to the task of eggheadery, or something must have gotten horribly lost in the translation as the eggheads discussed their findings with the reporters —

Physical activity—or the lack thereof—has played virtually no role in the rising number of expanding American waistlines, according to research presented at the 2009 European Congress on Obesity in Amsterdam last week.

The finding is contrary to the widely held assumption that decreased physical activity is an equally important driver of overweight and obesity in the US, said lead author Dr Boyd Swinburn (Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia).

Okay now, if this is all because of something Dr. Boyd Swinburn knows that I don’t know, that would have to mean I’m incorrect in something I learned decades ago: Fat people really do get hungry. Actually, here I would now have to claim superior experience over the doc. I wouldn’t mind chowing down on a chicken drumstick right this very minute — and it’s not because chicken drumsticks are yummy, it’s because I’ve got a little bit of a rumbling in my gut. Which, by rights, I really shouldn’t have because last night’s dinner was scrumptious and wonderful. So in this case, I’m the hungry fat dude. Now, why am I hungry even though I’m eating? Lessee…last night I drove a car home on a 2 mile commute…after doing some stuff on a computer in a cubicle for nine hours…after driving my car 2 miles to work…after blogging.

This weekend I’ll be riding my bike. But most Americans don’t even do that much. Just a few of us go to the gym, and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk about how we went to the gym.

Very few Americans really sit around on their asses all of the time. Here’s the problem, though. You eat one cheeseburger, you’ve got to work and work and work to get your digestion process back to normal. Not to get rid of the calories, which would require even more work. Just to get your body back into the “frame of mind” that okay, that was a treat, we aren’t built to eat cheeseburgers, we’re built to do physical things…so pump up the muscles accordingly and spend that fat.

The typical workout regimen for us, though, is one that would work dandy if things were directly upside down. You do four miles on the Stairmaster, and then you need to put away cheeseburgers all week to get that energy back. Life would be pretty neat if things worked that way. That isn’t how it works.

Physical labor, and lack thereof, affects your appetite. That’s because it determines the environment to which your body is trying to adapt. The type of food you shovel down your gullet, likewise, is part of the environment to which your body is trying to adapt. If it’s rich in starch and salt, your body gets the message that hey, we’re not gonna get the vitamins and other nutrients we need unless & until we consume several gallons of this garbage. So let’s send a nerve impulse to the lardass upstairs that we’re hungry again.

Work makes you fat. Or rather, to be more accurate about it, the time you spend doing work…by which I mean, not physical exercise, but things that need to be done, because nobody else will do ’em and they’ve gotta get done…depletes your ability to determine what kind of body shape you’re going to have. It also determines how much food you’re going to be eating. It all comes back to your body being a marvelous chameleon, designed to fit into whatever kind of work/eating regimen you’ve set up for it. And America does more work than most countries. We must, because you haven’t got that long to wait before some other snotty European/U.N. study comes out saying we do.

What are you doing when you get hungry? I’m pretty much always “working” in the worst way possible — with my brain and not with my bod. Day-to-day, when the thought occurs to me that it’s time to eat something…I’m either figuring out why something doesn’t work, writing code to make it work, or writing something else designed to be read by humans. You’d better believe that when the craving hits, I’ll be eating a lot more than someone who got just a little bit peckish by sitting around. More hours working means fewer hours doing something that would deliver the body shape you really want. We’re the chubby, barrel-shaped hubby clocking in at the coal mines eighteen hours a day, so his beauty-queen wife with the perfect figure can go jogging and sunbathing all day long.

One more thing worth pointing out: There is a pretty consistent correlation between the cost paid for a meal, and the meal’s delivery of nutrients your body needs on a per-dry-ounce basis. We tend to forget this because the correlation between cost, and the meal’s ability to kill that “I’m hungry right now” impulse, is all over the map. And it is that helter-skelter correlation that is of greater concern to us. You can fill your gut for twenty bucks, you can fill it up for $3.50. You can fill it for a buck.

But the less money you pay to fill up your gut, the richer the gut-filling will be in the salt, grease and starch. Which means you’re back to screwing up that delicate assembly line made up of your digestive tract, your brain, the blood sugar delivery to it, and the “I’m hungry” nerves. The strength here is the weakness. Your system is designed to adapt to the environment, and what you eat is part of that environment. So it’s easy to screw it all up.

But of course, I’ve used a great many more words to nail this stuff down, than were available to poor Dr. Swinburn. I don’t think any of what I’ve said would be news to him, and I don’t think he’d even disagree. This, I think, is a textbook case of lazy reporting. It just isn’t even a thought worth pondering, that “physical activity or the lack thereof has played virtually no role” in turning us into a nation of lardasses. There’s very little physical activity being done anymore. I have some company out on the bike trails, but really not that much considering the population density of my area; over the years, I’ve come to think of it as one of my opportunities to get away from people. If I walk someplace — in Folsom — I get funny looks from the motorists sitting way up high in their nice big cars, like gee I’m dressed nice for a homeless guy, and I must be some kind of homeless guy if I’m out walking.

So what are people doing? Going to the gym?

The gym that “everyone” attends is right next door to the recycling station “everyone” uses. Neither one is really a day-and-night hotbed of bustling activity.

Our asses are getting fat because we sit on them a lot. I’d love to be proven wrong on this, but it doesn’t seem to me like something that’s even open for question.

You Don’t Know What You Want

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

This is exactly what’s been happening to the Obama supporters.

WE HAVE all heard of experts who fail basic tests of sensory discrimination in their own field: wine snobs who can’t tell red from white wine (albeit in blackened cups), or art critics who see deep meaning in random lines drawn by a computer. We delight in such stories since anyone with pretensions to authority is fair game. But what if we shine the spotlight on choices we make about everyday things? Experts might be forgiven for being wrong about the limits of their skills as experts, but could we be forgiven for being wrong about the limits of our skills as experts on ourselves?

We have been trying to answer this question using techniques from magic performances. Rather than playing tricks with alternatives presented to participants, we surreptitiously altered the outcomes of their choices, and recorded how they react. For example, in an early study we showed our volunteers pairs of pictures of faces and asked them to choose the most attractive. In some trials, immediately after they made their choice, we asked people to explain the reasons behind their choices.

Unknown to them, we sometimes used a double-card magic trick to covertly exchange one face for the other so they ended up with the face they did not choose. Common sense dictates that all of us would notice such a big change in the outcome of a choice. But the result showed that in 75 per cent of the trials our participants were blind to the mismatch, even offering “reasons” for their “choice”.

With some of these issues in which President 44’s policies are identical to, or insufficiently distinguished from, the policies of President 43…they’ve been thrown into exactly that kind of tailspin. “Oh, uh, well we need to scale down from Iraq in a responsible, intelligent way…” “We need to get past the issue with aggressive interrogations, and prosecution of the Bush administration officials would be a distraction…”

As we’ve mentioned in these pages before: They live in a universe in which the worthiness of an idea is determined not by its content, but by who authored it. And so they get taken in by this double-sided card trick, over and over again.

“Good Job!”-ing Our Kids to Pieces

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

Making your kid feel good about him- or herself: Possibly overblown.

[A]ffirmation overload, most experts agree, is indeed a tough habit to break.

It began as the byproduct of the 1980s self-esteem movement, in which parents and teachers were told to reward and stroke kids pretty much constantly, supposedly to make them confident.

Dr. Ernie Swihart, an author and behavioral pediatrician at South Lake Pediatrics in Minnetonka, decried the self-esteem movement from its inception. Then, as now, he believed kids should be taught to be inwardly focused, self-sufficient creatures able to shift their own gears.

Real self-esteem — for all of us — comes from overcoming an obstacle-laden challenge, he believes, with hard work. Lavishing praise, he contends, is counterproductive and, if anything, makes kids needy and voracious for that other self-esteem-movement buzzword: validation.

Validation turns out to be a rather empty prize. As kids get older, all those other kids who thought they were such wonderful people…sometimes no longer think so. Loss of friendship, now & then, is a natural thing. Loss of self-worth and self-image as a result of losing those friendships — that’s just not natural.

“It’s had serious repercussions,” Swihart said. “These young adults who were raised in the ’80s, now in their 20s and in the workplace — those who received praise, rewards and prizes for everything they did without working very hard — often are very entitled and self-absorbed.”

“And in this economy, baseless self-satisfaction and entitlement are dangerous. Those are the people who are first to be let go.”
Steven McManus, a family therapist in Golden Valley, agreed.

“Although I think this [over-praising] movement is basically rooted in good intentions, these are often the young adults I see as clients,” McManus said. “Often they have difficulty at conflict resolution, disappointment or tolerating any negative emotions at all.”

Mecca Mosques “Wrongly Aligned”

Sunday, April 5th, 2009


Some 200 mosques in Islam’s holiest city, Mecca, point the wrong way for prayers, reports from Saudi Arabia say.

All mosques have a niche showing the direction of the most sacred Islamic site, the Kaaba, an ancient cube-like building in Mecca’s Grand Mosque.

But people looking down from recently built high-rises in Mecca found the niches in many older mosques were not pointing directly towards the Kaaba.

Some worshippers are said to be anxious about the validity of their prayers.

There have been suggestions that laser beams could be used to make an exact measurement.

Yeah, y’know, I’m really not quite up to speed on this. Some worshippers are “said to be anxious”? Which worshippers are those? Wouldn’t this be fairly categorized as a medium-poor-at-best citation? As in, “some say 9/11 was an inside job” or “some say the moon is made out of cheese.”

Some people eat their own feces. You can find someone who thinks — anything you want to say someone thinks.

Isn’t there some kind of “It’s the thought that counts” thing going on? I noticed once, in my daily routine, there was a Muslim lady who seemed to be making a daily ritual out of praying North. Was that intentional? It could make sense if we’re on the other side of the world, and we, and Mecca, are both in the northern hemisphere. But how picky is this tradition supposed to be, anyway? There has to be a limit to it, because last I checked they hadn’t invented lasers in 632 AD.

Tawfik al-Sudairy, Islamic affairs ministry deputy secretary, downplayed the problem in remarks quoted by the pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat.

“There are no major errors but corrections have been made for some old mosques, thanks to modern techniques,” he said.

“In any case, it does not affect the prayers.”

I see Dilbert, today, is making fun of the “executive stakeholder” who never answers his phone when the project manager comes calling. (I spent some of my technology years in project management…so this gave me reason to laugh my ass off.) The executive leaves a message on his answering machine, “I do not check e-mail or return phone calls. Like the horizon, I am more of a concept than a corporeal being.”

I think that applies to the angsty Islamic guy who’s frantically worried about his prayers being off by a few angular degrees. Like manna from heaven during those slow news days. But more a concept than a corporeal being.

Women Naturally Inclined to be “Hotties”

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

A balmier climate tends to produce more baby girls:

People who live in the tropics have more baby girls compared with those living in other parts of the world, work reveals.

Tropical HottieIt may be down to the hotter weather or the longer days, says US researcher Dr Kristen Navara in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

She says this climate may change miscarriage rates and sperm quality.

Or there may be some evolutionary advantage to having more girls than boys if you live by the equator.

Experts already know that the birth rates of boys and girls vary across the globe.

While some of this can be explained by society – in countries like China baby boys are favoured and many unborn girls are electively aborted – there are natural processes at work.

Research suggests the female foetus is less fragile than the male foetus, which is more prone to the effects of the environment on pregnant women.
Dr Bill James of University College London, who has spent his career studying sex ratio patterns, said although the differences found were statistically significant, it was not as meaningful as other factors that have been linked to sex ratios at birth.
“The idea is that, in mammals, males have a greater variance in their reproductive success.

“Some have lots of offspring and others have none, whereas most females will have at least one offspring.

“So it pays a women who is reproductively fit in good times to have a boy because he may well give her more grandchildren.

“But when times are hard and if she is less reproductively fit, she is better off having a girl because in this way she should gain at least one grandchild.”

Is it just me, or did this article stop making sense about halfway through?

I’m not trying to be a sexist, here, but when I think of tough climates versus wimpy climates, I’m thinking the tough one is the cold one and the unwind-after-work one is the beach with the white sand, the waiter bringing me a weird blue or green drink with an umbrella in it. Maybe it’s my upbringing in the Pacific Northwest, I dunno. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m in a cushier latitude now, one with palm trees…listening to California natives bitch and bitch whenever it’s any crisper than 60 degrees.

My point is, these scientists talk as if they know, if they say something about the males being better suited for a colder climate, they’ll lose all their grant money for the next several years. Men must always be weak, women must always be durable. Think about it. We’re up to our eyeballs in these “scientific studies,” multiple times per month, if not per week. How many years has it been since you’ve seen a study suggesting the male characteristics are better suited for…anything?

This one twists the logic around 180 degrees. Statistically significant differential in girl-versus-boy babies born in a gentler climate…and so we have to make this look like the female fetus is more robust. You know, it could very well be. But how do you get from there, to here? Somewhere, they explained that, and I missed it.

Every man who’s ever been married…every man who’s ever lived with a woman, and a thermostat…knows. Women hate being cold. It’s not sexism — it’s just a fact. It’s their bodies, they’re built to be pregnant.

Go out jogging sometime. See all the cute lady joggers. Now keep on doing it until school starts…then into October…when the low pressure systems pull all the rain in. Where’d they all go? Dude, I don’t wanna see that! Nothing around but a bunch of ugly Rocky Balboa wanna-bes. Happens every year. Weather gets cold, the women are gone. Science is going to say that’s because women are more resilient?

Whatever; that science has become politicized, is pretty old news by now. But it’s interesting that nature may have a way of singling out the sex of the baby based on the climate. It’s pretty easy to see this kind of musing and speculating is still, after centuries, in the stages of “we don’t even know what we don’t yet know.”

My Mom used to say it was the personality of the mother. If woman having the babies, had what it took to whip the kids into shape, said kids would turn out to be boys. The dilemma with the baby crying after bedtime, for example. Her theory was, if your tendency as a mother was to come running when you heard some whimpering in the crib, you’d probably have girls. If you had that streak in you that would permit you to lay down some “whoopass,” you’d probably have boys. She had two.

You know one thing I didn’t see discussed at all, in spite of this sumptuous banquet of theories to toss around — was the frequency of sexual activity. If you live in a place that’s cold enough, it has a real impact on what you can do with your spare time. There are plenty of spots on this big rock where it is so cold, for so much of the year, that when the work is done you can only do one thing.

Hmmm…that seems to me a sufficiently solid idea to at least toss in the pot. If that’s proven out over time, it would mean the discrepancy has nothing to do with the innate robustness of girls versus boys, or vice-versa.

Men See Women in Bikinis as Objects

Friday, February 20th, 2009

science says. Just tell me my taxpayer dollars didn’t pay for it, pretty please? Lord knows they’re paying for everything else.

It may seem obvious that men perceive women in sexy bathing suits as objects, but now there’s science to back it up.

New research shows that, in men, the brain areas associated with handling tools and the intention to perform actions light up when viewing images of women in bikinis.

The research was presented this week by Captain Renault, professor of psychology at Princeton University, at the…

Hah hah! Did I just type “Captain Renault” in there? Oh, dear me, naughty, naughty fingers. I slap my own hands. Let’s get back to business…

I See Her As An ObjectThe research was presented this week by Susan Fiske, professor of psychology at Princeton University, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“This is just the first study which was focused on the idea that men of a certain age view sex as a highly desirable goal, and if you present them with a provocative woman, then that will tend to prime goal-related responses,” she told CNN.

Although consistent with conventional wisdom, the way that men may depersonalize sexual images of women is not entirely something they control. In fact, it’s a byproduct of human evolution, experts say. The first male humans had an incentive to seek fertile women as the means of spreading their genes.
Men also remember these women’s bodies better than those of fully-clothed women, Fiske said. Each image was shown for only a fraction of a second.

This study looked specifically at men, and did not test women’s responses to similar images.

Wow, that Obama sure did deliver up some “change.” Any week now, we’ll be seeing that phony egghead study that says “Study: Men actually appreciate women.” We’re dogs, I tell ya.

You do realize what’s going on here? If I were to hop in a time machine and travel back by — let us say — three or four years, and say “Hey guess what, in 2009 it’s treated as a scientific discovery that men see screwing women as a thing to do, like a household chore, albeit an exciting and pleasant one.” It would be looked upon as very poor, very low-grade, very unfunny, sarcastic humor. Nobody would take it seriously. They’d lock me up in a loony bin.

And yet, here we are.

If it wasn’t for the swindle-us bill passing, I’d say we need a complete overhaul and audit of all scientfikal studies being done, anywhere, inside government as well as outside.

But now, everyone’s paying for everything — save for those who don’t pay taxes. So now I don’t see the point. But good heavens. Where do they get these asexual, passionless, sex-deprived scientists? “Susan Fiske” isn’t even a hyphenated name. Must be a typo or omission of some kind.

I read these stories, and I feel like I must’ve been frozen and thawed out again. Geez people, it’s called testosterone. It’s not a relic from a bygone era…well, not yet anyway…and it’s the source of every single good thing you have, & then some. Am I really Buck Rogers here? Who’s been sawing logs for a century or two here, me or everyone-else?

Past studies have also shown that when men view images of highly sexualized women, and then interact with a woman in a separate setting, they are more likely to have sexual words on their minds, she said…Taken together, the research suggests that viewing certain images is not appropriate in the workplace, Fiske said.

My God! You realize what this is? This is one step removed from saying…Study: Men enjoy looking at women in bikinis. It’s one step removed from saying “Study: Castrate men before allowing them to work in an office with women.” It, in contravention to useful science, belabors the obvious. In contravention to useful science, it views people as two-dimensional creatures, unable to see or incapable of seeing each other as both beautiful and talented. It unscientifically reads these two perceptions as mutually exclusive, when there is no substantiation for such an axiom. In that sense, it is bone-crushingly stupid. It’s also European — and I don’t mean that as a compliment. I’m talking about synapses in your noggin, by being jumped, becoming everybody else’s concern. Everyone’s business is everybody else’s business.

What do you need to do, to get some policies enacted on this…and then enforce them to the extent needed? The mind boggles. Why, I, a straight male, could be interviewing female job candidates, or giving annual reviews to women who work for me. You would have to go through a complete history of all my ex-girlfriends to see if any of them resemble the female professionals I’m appraising. You’d have to do that before you could allow me into the room with them…wouldn’t you? I mean, I don’t think I’m that unusual here, but if you were to go through a history of all the women I considered girlfriends, gee I hate to admit this, but I’ve seen all of them buck-ass naked. And naked is almost as scandalous as wearing a bikini, of course. So who knows what those unsuspecting females could be unleashing in that degenerate male noggin of mine?

No way could you depend on grown-ups to just…y’know…act like professionals or anything.

And here’s some full disclosure for you: In my case, you’d better not stop at girlfriends. You’d have to sound the alarm bells anytime I had to interact with a female subordinate who resembled any of my movie-actress fantasies. You might as well.

I suggest you start off with Natalie Wood. Yummy, yummy, Natalie Wood. Mmmmm…

Women With Jay Leno’s Jaw More Likely to Have Affairs

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

Mmkay, whatever.

Romantic Comedies Make Women Miserable

Friday, December 19th, 2008

Ah, finally a white-coat-pocket-protector propeller-beanie-wearing-egghead study that’ll do the fellas some good. Not quite as helpful as the apocryphal “man chowder takes ten years off your face” one…but perhaps a bit more practical, y’know.

And even if they’re lying their asses off about their research, I can personally vouch the bottom-line of what they’re reporting, is a hundred percent accurate.

Rom-coms have been blamed by relationship experts at Heriot Watt University for promoting unrealistic expectations when it comes to love.

They found fans of films such as Runaway Bride and Notting Hill often fail to communicate with their partner.

Many held the view if someone is meant to be with you, then they should know what you want without you telling them.

If you have a twiggenberries, and you don’t agree with this a zillion and one percent, then you don’t deserve to have twiggenberries. Or you weren’t meant to. Or you weren’t born that way. Or some combination of those. Maybe your sister is the only woman you’ve ever seen naked. I dunno…but those of us who have married, incohabitated, and/or simply partied for a night or two, know full well. This is a heap-big huge problem for us guys who admire and have fun with women. Things are goin’ good, they watch some Daniel Day-Lewis flick, and it all turns to crap.

I’ll tell ya something else. If the Good Lord likes to relax in a plaid shirt, prefers a stick shift to automatic, changes His own oil, cuts His own firewood, enjoys snacking on hot chicken wings and cold beer — and I think He does all these things — Hugh Grant is going straight to hell.

Dr. Helen, via Maggie’s Farm.

Nerds Don’t Get Lucky Often

Thursday, December 18th, 2008


Male science students are a university’s most likely virgins while females who study arts subjects are the most sexually active, Australian researchers say.

A pilot study conducted at the University of Sydney saw 185 students, aged 16 to 25, quizzed on their sexual history and awareness of the sexually transmitted disease chlamydia.

The whores in art class have to be having sex with someone. And I doubt like hell the professors can make that many deals for an easy-A…only so much of it can be lesbian sex…

…so the pocket-protector propeller-beanie-wearing egghead researchers could’ve gone a step further and formed a profile of these guys gettin’ some. It would’ve been a far more interesting report. And more in demand, too, might I add. But no more of a surprise to me than what I see here.

Another dividend of our liberation movement. The trollops are all pretty much pickin’ out the same dude, or the same type o’ dude anyhow…he’s a great example of reverse-Darwinism, can’t be counted on for shit. And they’re spreading around STDs of which they’ve never heard before, that they can’t spell, don’t know how to pronounce, and don’t know that they have.

When womenzlib got started, if you’d predicted all this was going to happen, you’d have been, according to the prevailing viewpoint, an enormous jackass. Maybe you were. But you’d have been a hundred percent right — just sayin’.

Also just pointing out one more time: Young ladies having sex with lots of scuzzy dudes, doesn’t have a great deal to do with expanding womens’ options, the level of respect given to them in civilized society, or their level of power in that society. After nearly half a century of bitter hairy feminists trying to make it not so, it still remains so: A principled and devoted mother is the most powerful figure in our culture…bar none.

Yeah, ya gotta get preggers to get there. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do everything.

Beer and Individuality Linked

Friday, November 28th, 2008

Now this is a thing that makes you go hmmm. And when I go hmmm, like anyone else, I’m thinking back on personal experience…and I must say, the findings make a lot of sense to me.

In Hollywood lore, the lone cowboy tamed the Wild West with two six-guns by day and drank warm beer with both fists in dusty saloons at night.

That stereotype of the rugged individualist who enjoys tipping back a few might not be so off the mark, according to a newly published study by marketing professors at the University of Texas at San Antonio. They found that places where individualism is valued over the collective good also tend to be places where a lot of beer is consumed.

I like reading about these studies that dabble in individualism versus collectivism, because they’re written up by eggheads and journalists — both of which tend to lean heavily toward the “collectivist” end of the spectrum. It’s interesting to me when they try to take a centrist approach, and their colors just shine through.

In this case, there is a theme permeating the column from top to bottom, that this correlation is taking place on a layer of thinking that was the subject of Pavlov’s experiment with the pups. Ring bell…dog starts slobbering. Mention individualism…people get thirsty for beer.

Problem: People don’t mention individualism that much.

I’m probably in a position to comment because I’m the guy they’re trying to study. Anyone who’s been reading the pages of this blog for awhile (which, of course, nobody actually reads) knows we tend to see very few linkages between collectivism and anything good. We see individuality as the source of everything we have that’s worth having — because it is.

And we like beer. Here.

So what’s it look like to me? It’s a stigma. When you’re a true individualist you have to be left behind by quite a few things. First, of course, there are the true-blue collectivists, and you don’t fit in with them because you don’t see life the same way. Then there are the goths. And other rebels who try to be individualists, but they’re more concerned with what others think than they want to admit — so you end up having very little in common with them, either. And then there are the socially inept, the mentally incapacitated, the narcissists, the…well, I’m pretty much recounting middle- and high-school here, aren’t I. Nerds, jocks and smoke-holers. That’s life.

The point is, by the time the individual has been rejected by every collective there is, there’s no one left around except those who are distracted from these social issues. We don’t try to be individualists. We grew up being distracted from all this stuff, while we were fiddling with things. Tinker toys, erector sets, computer programs…that cool slider thing I made out of Dad’s rope and Mom’s clothesline poles, on which I could very well have busted my back, and I’ve often wondered how that didn’t come to pass.

We’re the builders.

And when we’re done building stuff, we just want a nice cold bottle of beer, dammit.

Contrasted with that, collectivists have an identity to worry about, and the identity is externalized from them in that it’s decided by a prevailing consensus within their group. They can get thrown out. Therefore, there’s a stigma — beer happens to be the first and easiest thing to stigmatize. That’s my explanation. And the column seems to veer close to this realization, almost tumbling into it, but then beating a hasty retreat:

“The definition of an individualist is that we act on our attitudes, we be ourselves,” [L.J.] Shrum [, marketing department chairman at UTSA] said. “Whereas in collectivist societies that’s more frowned upon, and you want to make sure you reflect on the good of the group.”

I’ll bet if you could live in one collectivist society after another, for millions of years, watching ’em rise and fall, you’d see the sequence is consistent. Stigmatize skin color, then right after that stigmatize the things people stick in their cakeholes — alcoholic beverages, hard drugs and tobacco. We start off with the visible things, you see. And then bloodlines…starting with the issue of disposable income in your family tree, and how it affects the way you dress. Again, what’s visible. Thoughts and ideas come soon afterward, at which time skin color is un-stigmatized, but all the other visible stigmas remain.

The researchers also found they could take a group of college students and manipulate those individualist-versus-collectivist impulses a bit, which in turn influenced how thirsty those students were for beer.
The researchers first compared per-capita beer consumption with a well-known set of national scores for individualism and collectivism developed by Dutch marketing researcher Geert Hofstede.
“Our standard cowboy image is the prototypical individualist. However, Hispanic cultures, Latin American cultures, many Eastern European cultures, are very collectivistic,” he said, adding that those who make the move to the U.S. may be the more individualistic members of their cultures.

But the real picture is even more complex, Shrum said. All people have some degree of both individualism and collectivism, with one side more dominant. And by getting people to focus on themselves or their families and friends, psychologists can bring either trait to the surface.

And that’s what Zhang and Shrum did with 128 undergraduate business students (all of legal drinking age). When they temporarily induced the students to become individualists, they became thirstier for beer. Collectivists became less so.

There’s a glaring hole in this research, and I think the researchers missed it because they were more sympathetic to the collective mindset than they should’ve been.

You see, the collectivist becomes agitated toward the individualist when the collectivist gets the idea that somewhere, beyond the immediate line-of-sight, someone might be behaving individually. Then they crack down with their “convert or die!” sermonizing upon that renegade individual. They accuse him of being a rebel, of actively figuring out what everybody else is doing and then laboring toward the opposite — even though the evidence says the individualist just doesn’t care, because that’s what an individualist is.

Does the individualist get all cranky and lay the smack down upon the collectivist, when he finds out someone’s behaving collectively?


He just wants to be left alone.

To drink his damn beer.

He gets all cranky when someone breaks down the door and barges into his living room, to take that beer away.

Another thing I notice, is they left out ancient Egypt which is commonly thought to have come up with the first thing that could’ve been called “beer.” Yeah, ancient Egypt which came up with so much cool stuff that there are all these theories rattling around they were visited by aliens from other worlds. Oh yeah, collectivist hoards built those pyramids by shoving enormous slabs up the inclines, lots of collectivist labor involved in that. But someone had to design it first. We’re not too captivated by the idea of 400 guys lifting or moving something one guy could not; it’s simple math, really. What fascinates us about that civilization is how the designing got done.

Well whoever did it, after he came up with something he knew would work, probably the first thing he did was sit back and have a beer.


Saturday, September 20th, 2008

Via Rachel:

She commands us to “review the cultural ideals and models of the radical rurals from the Great White Northwest and find out for sure where Gov. Palin stands.” Based on bits of apocrypha about Palin’s “pro-censorship” positions (?) and selected anecdotes across Idaho, Montana and Colorado. She defines an entire region as being — to boil her various ten-dollar words down to their bare essentials — bad. Not because of the anecdotes she manages to pick out from recent history, but because of a paucity of ethnic minorities living there.

She wrote a hatchet-piece. She is a bitter person (just read the hatchet-piece). She’s an egghead, History Department Chair at Connecticut College. She has two last names.

Gleaning some attributes of her personal favorite stereotypes from what she’s managed to observe, and simply allowing her imagination to fill in the rest. A tenured angry-woman prof with two last names, writing a poison-pen screed…did this.

Failing, apparently on an epic scale, to see the irony; let alone savor it.

Well, I grew up in the Pacific Northwest myself. I wish Ms. McNicol Stock would swing on up there and take a look for a week or so; something tells me this would be a new experience for her (she never does say anything to indicate otherwise). That strikes me as a far more productive use of her time, and a far less abusive use of her emotions and passions, compared to jotting down a bunch of directives to millions of total strangers to hold a vast region of her country in scathing contempt…said vast region probably being something completely outside of her personal experience.

It has been years since groups such as the Montana Militia, the Posse Comitatus and the Sagebrush Rebels, and individuals such as Terry Nichols and Ted Kaczynski have made us wonder why so many “angry white men” populated our rural regions. Many of us have forgotten the threat once posed by domestic terrorists and instead have turned our attention to foreign terrorists. But we should never forget that in the late 20th century, ultra-Christian, antistatist and white-supremacist groups flourished in the states of the Pacific Northwest – called by many the “Great White Northwest” – the very region that Sarah Palin and her family call home.

Wow. That’s just some real higher-level upper-cruster ivory-tower quality thinkin’ goin’ on there. Think I’ll kill shoot me a squirrel for dinner and strike up a tune on my harmoniker while I burn a cross on my neighbor’s lawn, then try to figger out them big words one more time.

Really, I’m just so happy we have these blue-bloods around to teach us how to be more tolerant of each other. Or, at least, to point out when we’re not. Who’d have thought…an entire quarter of the United States, failing to value diversity. We know they/we are all messed up that way, because of where they live. Cool.

There’s only two things I hate in this world. People who are intolerant of other people’s cultures and the Dutch. — Nigel Powers, Goldmember (2002).

Nice Guys Sleep Alone

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

Via Karol, confirmation of what you already knew, although quite a few folks have been telling you the opposite, or something calculated to slow your absorption of reality’s lessons. Females especially…Karol included.

NICE guys knew it, now two studies have confirmed it: bad boys get the most girls. The finding may help explain why a nasty suite of antisocial personality traits known as the “dark triad” persists in the human population, despite their potentially grave cultural costs.

The traits are the self-obsession of narcissism; the impulsive, thrill-seeking and callous behaviour of psychopaths; and the deceitful and exploitative nature of Machiavellianism. At their extreme, these traits would be highly detrimental for life in traditional human societies. People with these personalities risk being shunned by others and shut out of relationships, leaving them without a mate, hungry and vulnerable to predators.

But being just slightly evil could have an upside: a prolific sex life, says Peter Jonason at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. “We have some evidence that the three traits are really the same thing and may represent a successful evolutionary strategy.”

When the article says “nice guys knew it,” I expect what it’s talking about is the same personal experience all us guys have had at one time or another. You give some attention to a cute girl and you think it’s reciprocated. Maybe you actually go out with her a time or two. Then you find out your rival for her affects gets more affection…then more…then more…and pretty soon, she isn’t returning your calls. Meanwhile, he’s treating her like dirt. He doesn’t know she exists, she doesn’t know you exist.

And then your momma and your sister and your ex-girlfriend and every single other female you know, comments knowingly on it as if it’s an isolate incident. But in the years that follow, you learn it isn’t. And all the other guys you know, seem to have the same story. Huh. It’s like reading the National Enquirer — everybody refuses to buy it, only glimpsing at the cover while waiting in line to pay for groceries, but someone must be buying the damn thing, right?

Jonason and his colleagues subjected 200 college students to personality tests designed to rank them for each of the dark triad traits. They also asked about their attitudes to sexual relationships and about their sex lives, including how many partners they’d had and whether they were seeking brief affairs.

The study found that those who scored higher on the dark triad personality traits tended to have more partners and more desire for short-term relationships, Jonason reported at the Human Behavior and Evolution Society meeting in Kyoto, Japan, earlier this month. But the correlation only held in males. [emphasis mine]

I have a few ideas about this. They all blame the ladies. But that’s fair, isn’t it? Someone’s making the decision about whether these guys do or do not get some.

First of all, women tire quickly from having to make all the decisions, and with only a moderate level of experience, that’s exactly what a well-mannered gentleman is going to force them to do. It’s quite a simple thing to offer the time-honored advice, “Take charge!” But then what? You take her out someplace, there’s a choice to be made, and then the fella makes the choice so that his lady doesn’t have to. That gives rise to the possibility that maybe she would have preferred something else. So he asks, right? Just to make sure?

How far does he take that? If he checks with her about every little thing, he’s essentially placing the burden on her to choose everything. Feminism or no, women find that exhausting. Partly because it customizes every single choice to be made, with the profile of the woman’s preferences; partly because it deprives every choice to be made of the emotional imprint of of the man.

Simply put, such a considerate gentleman removes his unique signature, incrementally, until there is nothing left. At that point, she might as well be with someone else.

So of course she’ll be more attracted to the guy who doesn’t check. His list of preferences may not be the one that she would have picked, but at least it’s there. This is a metaphor for what takes place inside, after the genes have been spliced. She has an evolutionary instinct to look for the patriarch who will leave the most indelible signature.

I have another theory, inspired by the comment about “the three traits are really the same thing.”

What Jonason has discovered, I think, is what we’ve been exploring in these pages under the Yin and Yang theory. The Yang enter into a two-directional pact with those around them, benevolently manipulating others and at the same time, being manipulated. The Yin abstain from this, usually because they’ve been discouraged from it during childhood development by a lack of success — they’re what you’d call “nerds.”

Because of this natural emotional resonance that can only be developed from an early age, the Yang are more approachable even though they may be so manipulative as to qualify for the first trait in this triad, the narcissism. You see this in all kinds of people, men and women alike, who tend to obsess over “feelings” — they obsess, without thinking too much about it, about their feelings. The feelings of others usually don’t factor into it too much, and at that point you’ve reached the very definition of narcissism, and you’ve fleshed out much of the definition of the second trait as well — the psychopathic behavior.

So that’s two strikes in favor of the Yang; you have the easygoing emotional resonance, and you have the drive to get What I Want. It’s an intoxicating combination for the woman who isn’t consciously trying to avoid it (which, giving Karol the benefit of the doubt, is probably her).

The article closes with an interesting dissent:

“They still have to explain why it hasn’t spread to everyone,” says Matthew Keller of the University of Colorado in Boulder. “There must be some cost of the traits.” One possibility, both Keller and Jonason suggest, is that the strategy is most successful when dark triad personalities are rare. Otherwise, others would become more wary and guarded.

Yes, that’s my thinking as well. If everyone possesses this triad in abundance, the social order breaks down.

Another thing to consider is that society itself can’t continue if everyone’s a narcissist, psychopath and Machiavellian genius. You’ve got to have your celibate Teslas, so that things get built. Sure, an advanced society builds great things when there’s an egotist around to build them; there are very few Federation Starships being constructed “for the common good.” That’s what the Yin are for — they’re the egotists. But egotism is a completely different thing from narcissism. Narcissism tends to pull the trick involving Tom Sawyer and the whitewashed fence, and trick others into doing the work. And over the long haul, nothing really gets built that way, therefore society can’t endure.

Like the doctors said in Jurassic Park: Life will find a way. And that, in my theory-notebook, is why we’re still here and why we still have both kinds. And always will.

Decoding the Brain Fart

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

Interesting. And the older I get, the more relevant to my daily existence this kind of research becomes…

It turns out the root of these brain farts may be a special kind of abnormal brain activity that begins up to 30 seconds before a mistake even happens.
When people blunder after performing the same task over and over, scientists had suspected that such lapses were due to momentary hiccups in concentration. Still, little was known about what the brain was actually doing before such errors.

To investigate further, the brains of volunteers were scanned as they performed a monotonous task — repetitively pushing buttons that matched images flashed at them.
One set of brain regions that is normally active only when a person is awake and relaxed began firing up — in other words, it’s as if the brain started resting. At the same time, another group of brain regions that is usually lively when a person is sustaining effort on a task began toning down. After people made and detected any mistakes, the abnormal behavior went away.


I Made a New Word XV

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

bo∙lus∙te∙mo∙lo∙gy (n.)

A portmanteau of e·pis·te·mol·o·gy:

…a branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge. The term was introduced into English by the Scottish philosopher James Frederick Ferrier (1808-1864).

…and bo∙lus

A soft, roundish mass or lump, esp. of chewed food.

Bolustemology, therefore, describes a system of intelligences and beliefs that cannot be justified or proven by any means intrinsic to the consciousness that maintains such things, because they have been pre-chewed and/or pre-digested by someone else. Bolustemology is soft and squishy intellectual matter, warm, wet, smelling of halitosis, more than likely infected with something. When you offer it to someone, you may be offering to put forth the effort they themselves cannot sustain, so that they can be nourished. But it’s far more likely that you’re engaging in an exercise to make them feel fed, without doing the necessary chewing…because you don’t want them to.

Very few among us will ‘fess up to consuming bolustemology, so infatuated are we with the fantasy of thinking for ourselves about everything. But at the same time very few among us can speak to the issue because most of us have not bothered to become bolus-aware. This is demonstrated easily. Last month, for example, Presidential candidate Barack Hussein Obama was forced by the inflammatory words of his bigoted pastor and spiritual mentor, to speak to the issue of racial disharmony. And so, swaggering to the podium as if it was his idea to do this, he droned on in that Bill-Clinton-like crowd-pleasing way of his for a few minutes, after which we were offered prime tidbits of bolus such as

Obama speech opens up race dialogue
Will it stand alongside the great speeches in US history?

Several students of political rhetoric suggest Senator Obama’s moving speech in Philadelphia Tuesday could stand with some of the great speeches in American history.

True, say some, the Democratic presidential candidate was forced into giving a speech that would explain his relationship to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., the outspoken minister of Obama’s church, known for some antiwhite and anti-American sermons.

While argument continues over whether Obama’s explanation was sufficient, his speech did seem to achieve this: It has sparked a conversation about race relations, one of the frankest Americans have had since the civil rights era.


The Obama speech was also a topic of discussion on Wednesday at the Washington office of the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy and social welfare group. Hispanics can be white, black or of mixed race. “The cynics are going to say this was an effort only to deal with the Reverend Wright issue and move on,” said Janet Murguia, president of La Raza, referring to the political fallout over remarks by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., which prompted Mr. Obama to deliver the speech.

But Ms. Murguia said she hoped that Mr. Obama’s speech would help “create a safe space to talk about this, where people aren’t threatened or pigeonholed” and “can talk more openly and honestly about the tensions, both overt and as an undercurrent, that exist around race and racial politics.”

If there are any facts to back up this conclusion that the Obama speech stands alongside the great speeches of U.S. history…that it opens up a “race dialog”…that it creates a safe space to talk about this, where people aren’t threatened or pigeonholed…or where they can talk more openly and honestly about the tensions that exist around racial politics…such factual foundation is missing from the stories I’ve linked, altogether, and it’s missing from every single other item of discussion about this speech. The facts simply don’t back up any of this. Nor can they, because this is all a bunch of stuff that would be judged by each person hearing the speech. It’s all in the eye of the beholder. And the ivory-tower types writing about it in such sugary tones know nothing about this, nor can they.

No, the factual foundation says the “cynics” are quite correct. Obama’s speech “was an effort only to deal with the Reverend Wright issue and move on.” In fact, you don’t need any cynicism to conclude that. All you need to have is a decent and functional short-term memory.

But our High Priests of journalism, rushing to the press with their editorials built to be printed up in the wrong sections of the respective papers, weren’t interested in factual foundations, logical conclusions, et al. Nope, that’s all out of scope. They were all about bolustemology. About pre-chewing the food for others. About bludgeoning and cudgeling. About giving total strangers instructions about what to believe.

Obama may very well have given his speech in service of purely altruistic and idealistic motives. In doing so, he may very well have accomplished his stated goal of “opening up a national dialog” or some such…created a sounding board of safety for those who otherwise would have felt threatened participating in such an exchange. All those things could, in theory, be true. But all who desire to think independently for themselves, or at least to be thought of by others as capable of doing this, should be offended at the manner in which these cognitions were being handed to them. Valid cognitions have no need for pre-chewing. Each thinking recipient can figure it out for himself or herself. Yet, here, the pre-chewing was rampant.

I have some less subtle examples of the same thing in mind, in case the race-dialog item fails to illustrate the point properly. Michael Ronayne, about whom we learn via Gerard, distills the latest eco-bullying episode for us quite elegantly:

For the background, you can turn to JunkScience, which has a decent write-up including the e-mail exchange between a BBC reporter and a climate-change activist, reproduced in entirety here:

I have been emailed the following correspondence, purportedly between an activist, Jo Abbess, and BBC Environment reporter Roger Harrabin. It would appear that the result of the email exchange between the activist and the reporter was that the BBC changed its story. In particular instead of reporting the story as received from the World Meteorological Organisation, the BBC modified the story as demanded by the activist who was concerned that in its original form it supported ‘the skeptics’ correct observation that there has been no warming since 1998.

From Jo, April 4, 2008

Climate Changers,

Remember to challenge any piece of media that seems like it’s been subject to spin or scepticism.

Here’s my go for today. The BBC actually changed an article I requested a correction for, but I’m not really sure if the result is that much better.

Judge for yourselves…

from Jo Abbess
to Roger Harrabin
date Fri, Apr 4, 2008 at 10:12 AM
subject Correction Demanded : “Global temperatures ‘to decrease’”

Dear Roger,

Please can you correct your piece published today entitled “Global
temperatures ‘to decrease’” :-

1. “A minority of scientists question whether this means global
warming has peaked”
This is incorrect. Several networks exist that question whether global
warming has peaked, but they contain very few actual scientists, and
the scientists that they do contain are not climate scientists so have
no expertise in this area.

2. “Global temperatures this year will be lower than in 2007”
You should not mislead people into thinking that the sum total of the
Earth system is going to be cooler in 2008 than 2007. For example, the
ocean systems of temperature do not change in yearly timescales, and
are massive heat sinks that have shown gradual and continual warming.
It is only near-surface air temperatures that will be affected by La
Nina, plus a bit of the lower atmosphere.

Thank you for applying your attention to all the facts and figures available,



from Roger Harrabin
to Jo Abbess ,
date Fri, Apr 4, 2008 at 10:23 AM
subject RE: Correction Demanded : “Global temperatures ‘to decrease’”

Dear Jo

No correction is needed

If the secy-gen of the WMO tells me that global temperatures will
decrease, that’s what we will report

There are scientists who question whether warming will continue as
projected by IPCC

Best wishes


from Jo Abbess
to Roger Harrabin ,
date Fri, Apr 4, 2008 at 10:37 AM
subject Re: Correction Demanded : “Global temperatures ‘to decrease’”

Hi Roger,

I will forward your comments (unless you object) to some people who
may wish to add to your knowledge.

Would you be willing to publish information that expands on your
original position, and which would give a better, clearer picture of
what is going on ?

Personally, I think it is highly irresponsible to play into the hands
of the sceptics/skeptics who continually promote the idea that “global
warming finished in 1998”, when that is so patently not true.

I have to spend a lot of my time countering their various myths and
non-arguments, saying, no, go look at the Hadley Centre data. Global
Warming is not over. There have been what look like troughs and
plateaus/x before. It didn’t stop then. It’s not stopping now.

It is true that people are debating Climate Sensitivity, how much
exactly the Earth will respond to radiative forcing, but nobody is
seriously refuting that increasing Greenhouse Gases cause increased
global temperatures.

I think it’s counterproductive to even hint that the Earth is cooling
down again, when the sum total of the data tells you the opposite.

As time goes by, the infant science of climatology improves. The Earth
has never experienced the kind of chemical adjustment in the
atmosphere we see now, so it is hard to tell exactly what will happen
based on historical science.

However, the broad sweep is : added GHG means added warming.

Please do not do a disservice to your readership by leaving the door
open to doubt about that.



from Roger Harrabin
to Jo Abbess ,
date Fri, Apr 4, 2008 at 10:57 AM
subject RE: Correction Demanded : “Global temperatures ‘to decrease’”

The article makes all these points quite clear

We can’t ignore the fact that sceptics have jumped on the lack of
increase since 1998. It is appearing reguarly now in general media

Best to tackle this – and explain it, which is what we have done

Or people feel like debate is being censored which makes them v



from Jo Abbess
to Roger Harrabin ,
date Fri, Apr 4, 2008 at 11:12 AM
subject Re: Correction Demanded : “Global temperatures ‘to decrease’”

Hi Roger,

When you are on the Tube in London, I expect that occasionally you
glance a headline as sometime turns the page, and you thinkg “Really
?” or “Wow !”

You don’t read the whole article, you just get the headline.

A lot of people will read the first few paragraphs of what you say,
and not read the rest, and (a) Dismiss your writing as it seems you
have been manipulated by the sceptics or (b) Jump on it with glee and
e-mail their mates and say “See ! Global Warming has stopped !”

They only got the headline, which is why it is so utterly essentialy
to give the full picture, or as full as you can in the first few

The near-Earth surface temperatures may be cooler in 2008 that they
were in 2007, but there is no way that Global Warming has stopped, or
has even gone into reverse. The oceans have been warming consistently,
for example, and we’re not seeing temperatures go into reverse, in
general, anywhere.

Your word “debate”. This is not an issue of “debate”. This is an issue
of emerging truth. I don’t think you should worry about whether people
feel they are countering some kind of conspiracy, or suspicious that
the full extent of the truth is being withheld from them.

Every day more information is added to the stack showing the desperate
plight of the planet.

It would be better if you did not quote the sceptics. Their voice is
heard everywhere, on every channel. They are deliberately obstructing
the emergence of the truth.

I would ask : please reserve the main BBC Online channel for emerging truth.

Otherwise, I would have to conclude that you are insufficiently
educated to be able to know when you have been psychologically
manipulated. And that would make you an unreliable reporter.

I am about to send your comments to others for their contribution,
unless you request I do not. They are likely to want to post your
comments on forums/fora, so please indicate if you do not want this to
happen. You may appear in an unfavourable light because it could be
said that you have had your head turned by the sceptics.




from Roger Harrabin
to Jo Abbess ,
date Fri, Apr 4, 2008 at 11:28 AM
subject RE: Correction Demanded : “Global temperatures ‘to decrease’”

Have a look in 10 minutes and tell me you are happier

We have changed headline and more

Remember: Challenge any skepticism.

Now look at that graphic up there carefully: Blue is the old stuff, green is the post-capitulation, post-bend-over, post-take-it-up-the-chute-from-Ms.-Abbess stuff. And then read the nagging again…carefully. Jo Abbess doesn’t take issue with the facts presented, for she can’t — they’re facts. Facts iz facts. She objects to the conclusions people may draw from them, and nags this guy until he changes the presentation to her liking, so people will draw a conclusion more in line with what she expects. She’s trying to sell something here. Challenge any skepticism.

There are other examples around, if you simply take the effort to become bolus-aware and look around. There is, for example, the sad tale of Richard Warman. His Wikipedia page contains four major categories as of this writing: Legal activism; Canadian human rights tribunal; Political activism; References. Who is he? The wonderful glittering text in the main article informs us…

He is best known for initiating complaints against white supremacists and neo-Nazis for Canadian Human Rights Act violations related to Internet content. In June 2007, Warman received the Saul Hayes Human Rights Award from the Canadian Jewish Congress for “distinguished service to the cause of human rights”. He holds a BA (Hons.) in Drama from Queen’s University, an LLB from the University of Windsor, and an LLM from McGill University.

He’s a Nazi hunter! Wow, what a great guy! And he’s got letters after his name and everything.

But a quick visit to the “Talk” page reveals some intriguing conflict:

You removed what I believe were valid entries in support of the of criticism of Richard Warman.

You claim that the entries are not “encyclopedic”. Please explain what you mean, provide an example, and a Wikipedia reference in support of your position. Note also that one of the references was to another article in Wikipedia.

I am going to assume for the moment that you are acting in good faith, and will not censor valid criticism. Then there should not be too much difficulty in finding criticism of which you approve, since Richard Warman’s complaints before the CHRC are currently one of the most widely discussed topics on Canadian blogs. I provided just two references, whereas there are hundreds of others.

The entries you removed are:

Critics have charged that Warman abuses the intent of the Canadian Human Rights Act by personally appearing as the plaintiff in the majority of CHRA section 13 “hate speech” cases which have been brought before the Commission, a former employer of Warman. – – Critics further charge that many CHRC “hate speech” complaints such as Warman’s have had a chilling effect on the human right to freedom of expression.

I look forward to your prompt, reasoned response. Thank you.

Another piqued Wiki contributor writes in with an inflammatory sub-headline:

Bias in article maintenance and corrupt admins

This article is being maintained by politically motivated individuals trying to protect the information from being changed at all costs by removing any reference to well-sourced articles that don’t shed good light on this individual. These same individuals and admins have engaged in slander in other articles

What are these unflattering tidbits about Mr. Warman? Well, it seems lately he is in conflict with Ezra Levant, having served papers on the publisher. Levant paints a different picture of the former Human Rights Commission lawyer:

Today I was sued by Richard Warman, Canada’s most prolific – and profitable – user of section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. As readers of this site know, Warman isn’t just a happy customer of section 13 and its 100% conviction rate, he’s a former CHRC employee, an investigator of section 13 thought crimes himself. In fact, he was often both a customer and an investigator at the same time.
It’s impossible to criticize section 13 without criticizing Warman, because without Warman, section 13 would have been defunct years ago – almost no-one else in this country of 33 million people uses it. I’d call it “Warman’s Law”, but I’ve already given that title to another law enacted because of Warman. Warman’s Law is a law brought in by the B.C. government specifically to protect libraries from Warman’s nuisance defamation suits. (We should find some way to set up a Warman’s law to protect universities from Warman, too.)
The more I learn about Warman, the more I write about him. And, like the CHRC, he hates public exposure. Earlier this year, Warman’s lawyer served me with a lengthy Libel Notice, which I posted to my website here, with my commentary on it here.

Again — you may read all of the above and end up still a big, slobbering fan of Richard Warman. You may decide to dismiss all of the reservations people like Levant have against him…which might be fair, since Levant is a defendant and Warman is a petitioner. You should expect that inviting Levant and Warman to dinner on the same night and seating them next to each other, would be a plan deserving of a re-think or two.

But…wouldn’t you want to know some of the less flattering things about Mr. Warman? Especially if you’re sufficiently interested in him to go look up the Wikipedia entry about him? Well, it turns out at least some of the Wikipedia admins don’t seem to think so. They think you should only know the flowery parts. Or at least, they’ve so far come up with some wonderful excuses for excising anything else from the article.

Hell, I’d sure want to know about this:

* Complaints filed to CHRC: 26
* Former employee and investigator at the Canadian Human Rights Commission
* In December 2006, the Law Society shows he works for the Department of National Defence
* Education: degree in Drama from Queens University
* Member: Law Society of Upper Canada and EGALE Canada
* Gave a Keynote speech to the Violent Anti-Racist Action
* Warman is a frequent poster on “Neo-Nazi” Stormfront website
* Warman is a frequent poster on “Neo-Nazi” VNN website.
* Pretends to be a woman named “Lucie”
* Has signed his posts with “88” (according to Warman means: Heil Hitler)
* Has called Senator Anne Cools a “nigger” and a “c*nt” on the internet

And I’d want to know what Mark Steyn had to say yesterday:

He has been the plaintiff on half the Section 13 cases in its entire history and on all the Section 13 cases since 2002. There are 30 million Canadians yet only one of them uses this law, over and over and over again, which tells you how otherwise irrelevant it is to keeping the Queen’s peace. Section 13 is, in effect, Warman’s Law and the CHRC is Warman’s personal inquisition and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal is Warman’s very own kangaroo court. Whether or not the motivations were pure and pristine when this racket got started, at some point his pals at the CHRC and the “judges” of the CHRT should have realized that the Warmanization of Section 13 doesn’t pass the smell test: Justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done, and when you see what’s done at the CHRC you understand it’s a cosy and self-perpetuating romance between a corrupt bureaucracy and its favoured son.

But the over-zealous Wiki editor(s) says no. They’re taking the Soup Nazi approach with these nuggets of unflattering information about Mr. Warman. Not-a For You!

Lying by omission — that’s a perfectly good example of bolustemology.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Matthew LaClure. He’s just like Richard Warman, it seems…standing for our rights, in his satin tights, and the old red white and blue-hoo-hoo-hoo…

Matthew LaClair, of Kearny, NJ, stood up for religious freedom and the separation of church and state in the face of ridicule and opposition. During his junior year in high school, Matthew had a history teacher who promoted creationism and other personal religious beliefs in the classroom. When Matthew confronted the teacher and asked the school officials to address this, he became the target of harassment and even a death threat from fellow students. Despite this opposition, Matthew worked with the ACLU of New Jersey to make sure that the First Amendment is respected and upheld at his high school. Matthew won the battle at his school and thanks in large part to his advocacy, the Student Education Assembly on Religious Freedom was created at his high school so that all members of the school community will understand their rights and responsibilities.

There follows an essay from the young LaClair about what he did, what happened to him as a result, and how it changed him. I suppose it might be encouraging to some who share his and the ACLU’s values, such as they are…but regardless, you have to notice the phrase “civil liberties” is peppered throughout, with negligible definition about what exactly this two-word cliche is supposed to mean.

I hope that what I did encourages others to stand up for civil liberties. I want to take what I have learned from this situation and apply it to other situations I will experience in my life. I now have a greater chance of making a bigger difference in the world, and I think that the experience will serve to expand my abilities further.

To figure out what “civil liberties” he’s droning on about, you have to consider what exactly it was that he did. And what he did was…start mouthing off at teachers when he was asked to stand for the pledge of allegiance. So the civil liberties in question would be…uh…the civil liberty to sit there while everybody else stands. Well, gosh, it turns out to the extent kids have that civil liberty post-LaClair, they had it before he ever came along. How about the civil liberty of doing that without some strutting martinet getting in their faces about it? Well, no change there either.

In the final analysis, the ACLU is making their apotheosis because Master LaClair mouthed off like a little brat. Any fantasy involving any more nobility than that, is bolustemology and nothing more.

But what’s he done for us lately, you might be asking? Glad you asked. Matthew LaClair, who has no axe to grind here, nosiree, has again impressed certain segments of the halfway-grown-up community by making a big ol’ racket about…exactly the same kind of stuff as last time.

Talk about a civics lesson: A high-school senior has raised questions about political bias in a popular textbook on U.S. government, and legal scholars and top scientists say the teen’s criticism is well-founded.

They say “American Government” by conservatives James Wilson and John Dilulio presents a skewed view of topics from global warming to separation of church and state. The publisher now says it will review the book, as will the College Board, which oversees college-level Advanced Placement courses used in high schools.

Matthew LaClair of Kearny, N.J., recently brought his concerns to the attention of the Center for Inquiry, an Amherst, N.Y., think tank that promotes science and which has issued a scathing report about the textbook.

“I just realized from my own knowledge that some of this stuff in the book is just plain wrong,” said LaClair, who is using the book as part of an AP government class at Kearny High School.

Yyyyyyeah. Uh huh. Just kind of blundered into that one, huh? Kinda like Murder She Wrote…have to wonder what dead body you’re going to find next week.

Just plain wrong. How interesting. Especially when one takes the trouble to actually read the report from the Center for Inquiry.

Unlike Matt LaClair, I’ll encourage you to do so. But just in the interest of saving time, the report boldly confronts six distinct areas of “just plain wrong” ness: global warming; school prayer; same sex marriage; constitutional government and “original sin”; the meaning of the Establishment Clause; and the significance of the Supreme Court’s denial of a writ of certiorari.

Of those six, the fourth and last are the two items that represent, in my mind, what you might call “a real stretch.” The CFI takes issue, there, with small snippets of the textbook in question, and reads meaning into them so that the whistle can be blown. For their criticisms to stand, a certain interpretation has to be applied to these snippets. The fifth objection is probably the most durable because it’s clear to me it is the best-researched. But here, too, the phrase “last minute” has to be given a literal interpretation (in the context of the time frame in which the First Amendment was ratified in the late eighteenth century) — so it can be properly debunked. So with all of the final three of the subjects, the authors of the textbook under review could respond to the CFI solidly and plausibly by simply saying “that isn’t what we meant.”

But it’s with the first item that my interest was really aroused:

The textbook‘s discussion of the science of global warming is devastatingly inaccurate. As explained below, the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence establishes that global climate change caused by global warming is already underway and requires immediate attention. The international scientific community is united in recognizing the extremely high probability that human generated greenhouse gases, with carbon dioxide as the major offender, are the primary cause of global warming and that this global warming will produce harmful climate change.

And much later…

In brief, debate within the scientific community over the existence and cause of global warming has closed. The most respected scientific bodies have stated unequivocally that global warming is occurring and that human generated greenhouse gases, with carbon dioxide as the major offender, are the primary cause of well documented global warming and climate change today. These conclusions are detailed in the landmark 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the international scientific body organized to evaluate the scientific evidence for human-induced climate change.

Have you got any red flags raised when you read hackneyed phrases like “overwhelming weight”? If so, maybe you’re on the road to becoming bolus-aware. If not, then maybe you aren’t. Perhaps all six of the objections are legitimate, meritorious, and productive. But it’s easy to see the CFI report seeks — not to inform, but — to bully. To intimidate. To coerce. To get the whole world running the way certain people want it to…and since Matt LaClair is one of ’em, naturally he thinks they’re wonderful and vice-versa. None of this changes the fact that this is all pre-chewed pablum.

Notice — none of these observations have to do with truth. They have to do with who is recognizing it…and the subservient role others are invited to fill, as they are beckoned to slavishly follow along. The only other important thing to remember about this is that once one person is caught up in the undertow, he’ll piss rusty nickels to get everyone else sucked down with him. People who suck down bolus, don’t want to see anyone else do any chewing.

Oh, but I do have one thing to point out that deals directly with truth: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is not a scientific body, it is a political one.

The common perception of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is one of an impartial organisation that thoroughly reviews the state of climate science and produces reports which are clear, accurate, comprehensive, well substantiated and without bias.

One only needs examine some of its procedural documents, its reports and its dealings with reviewers of the report drafts to discover how wrong this impression is.

The IPCC is not and never has been an organisation that examines all aspects of climate change in a neutral and impartial manner. Its internal procedures reinforce that bias; it makes no attempts to clarify its misleading and ambiguous statements. It is very selective about the material included in its reports; its fundamental claims lack evidence. And most importantly, its actions have skewed the entire field of climate science.

As the saying goes, I’m much more concerned about the intellectual climate. Happy reading.

Class dismissed.

Update 4/11/08: You know, it occurs to me that even with all the examples above of strangers figuring things out for us and telling us what to think, not even handing us the glimmer of factual foundation so we could at least go through the motions of coming to the conclusions they want from us on our own…and with all the other examples we continue to be handed on a daily basis — Iraq is a quagmire, Boy Scouts is a hate group, etc. etc. — for some among us, the point still might not yet be pounded home. When you aren’t bolus-aware, you are very easily convinced of some things, but it’s an endless chore to bring your attention to certain other things.

It further occurs to me that it doesn’t need to be this complicated. Not even close.

We have three clear front-runners for the President of the United States in ’08, one Republican and two donks. Can there possibly be any example of our societal gullibility, than what follows. The one Republican is, by far, the most liberal left-wing Republican in the entire Senate. The two donks are, against all odds, the most liberal left-wing donks in the entire Senate.

If what I have used all those paragraphs to describe, above, is not an epidemic covering all the mass between the great oceans, lately reaching “I Am Legend” proportions and intensity…you would be forced to conclude that that is just a cohweenkadeenk. The odds? My calculator says one in 124,950.

Out of the Diversity Market?

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

Well, this is interesting on a number of levels.

Elite colleges have been undermining their own efforts to diversify by giving much more weight to high SAT scores than they did before, according to an analysis of College Board data presented this morning at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association.

Over the past two or three decades, the share of freshman-class seats that elite colleges award to students with high SAT scores has risen significantly—and risen more quickly than the number of high scores, according to an analysis by Catherine L. Horn, an assistant professor of educational leadership and cultural studies at the University of Houston, and John T. Yun, an assistant professor of education at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

What’s interesting is, to me, the way the whole college-admission thing was explained when I was a kid, I was told this is how it’s supposed to work. You’re smart as a whip but your scores are low on this-test or that-test, nobody’s going to care how smart you are.

And in life I’ve found as you get further away from the actual work that needs to get done, this becomes more and more true. Officials who are in charge of promotions, hiring and admission, being insulated from the actual work that needs to get done, but needing some kind of data on which to base their decisions, will start to rely on one or several arbitrary testing mechanisms.

The researchers say that, by focusing so heavily on high scorers, the elite colleges they examined are ignoring promising minority students with lesser scores, increasing the competition for high-scoring minority students, and potentially “simply ‘pricing’ themselves out of the ‘market’ for a more diverse learning environment.” Especially among the most prestigious of the 30 institutions, it is hard to believe that putting less emphasis on high SAT scores would cause the institutions’ quality to suffer. [emphasis mine]

Well, well, well. Talk about a darker skin color, and suddenly the most entrenched eggheads start to sound exactly like me. All of a sudden…we need to explore ways in which a single score from a single test, even a prestigious and well-known test like the SAT, might not be telling the whole story.

Whatsamatta? Why can’t we just go off the test score and very little, or nothing, else? Isn’t “promising students with lesser scores” an oxymoron? After all, if a student is promising, the onus is on him or her to bring up that test score right?

Once again it looks like I’m in trouble with the prevailing viewpoint. Back when it said skills/promise/aptitude were all synonymous with the value of a test score, that did seem overly simplistic but I could see the logic in it. Then it said no, there might be more to the story than that. There was logic in that too. Nowadays, the answer is all-of-one or all-of-another, but before we figure out which one it is we need to know the skin color under discussion.

And I’m sorry, but I can’t see any logic to that whatsoever.

And isn’t it interesting…if there was an explanation behind the phrase “hard to believe that putting less emphasis on high SAT scores would cause the institutions’ quality to suffer,” the entire article would have been justified. Since there isn’t one, all we have here is a bunch of colleges making decisions based on test scores, which is what they are conventionally supposed to be doing — and an egghead researcher who doesn’t think that’s the way it should be done. And can’t, or won’t, say why.

He and I could be kindred spirits, if the soft bigotry was dropped. Tests, even the Scholastic Aptitude Test, are exercises in following instructions. When you’re talking natural aptitudes, the aptitude of following instructions is oppositional to the aptitude of figuring out what needs doing & doing it. So even without the skin-color bean-counting, we already have a big problem there — leaders of tomorrow are filtered in to the higher educational system based on their abilities to follow instructions, not to actually lead.

Now we’re getting all hip to the idea that the process may be broken and in need of a fix or two…but only within the context of “minority” concerns. And on that subject we’re going to talk about nothing but minority concerns. Aptitudes that may be useful in roles of responsibility, that are beyond the scope of the testing mechanism, are things that I’m injecting into the subject myself in my own comments. The article itself doesn’t make any mention of them.

So the problem here is that we may be going through the motions of embracing excellence when we’re actually embracing mediocrity. We may be…it seems the researchers don’t want to commit on that one way or the other. For example, I can’t possibly be the only one who thinks the statement “‘pricing’ themselves out of the ‘market’ for a more diverse learning environment” is bizarre in the extreme. There, again, the article approaches an explanation of what is meant by this, but doesn’t actually pursue such an explanation. What exactly is a “more diverse learning environment”? Is it an exercise in excellence, or mediocrity?

Three decades after Bakke, with that phrase being tossed around with such a frequency and to such an extent that it has become tired and worn, I’ve never heard anyone in any position of authority say which one it is. Is “diversity” the pursuit of a zenith, or of an average?

And as a general rule, when persons in positions of authority refuse to explain things, bad things are about to happen.

What’s in a Name?

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

My first name is Morgan, and I’ve had it for almost forty-two years.

So yeah, damn straight this is right, I can vouch for that personally.

According to an academic survey, men and women make extensive assumptions about someone’s lifestyle and character based simply on their Christian name.
“Traditional names with royal associations are viewed as highly successful and intelligent, and so parents hoping for successful offspring might want to avoid more unusual names,” Professor [Richard] Wiseman [of Hertfordshire University] said.

“Attractive female names tended to be soft-sounding and end with the ‘ee’ sound, whereas the sexiest male names are short and much harder sounding.”

For the experiment, 7,000 volunteers were asked to imagine they were about to meet a group of men and women.

They were then given a list of 20 male and 20 female names and asked to identify who they thought would be the most successful, attractive and lucky.

Professor Wiseman found women were “more judgmental” in how they assessed others based on their name.

“Women share strong opinions about names, whereas men are more even-handed,” he said.

I can’t put a lot of stock into what the researchers figured out the names actually meant to people. The charts listed in the article, don’t quite match up with what I’d expect. And I’m inclined to continue believing what I would have originally expected.

But the idea that the names mean something to people…that seems like something that isn’t open to doubt, or shouldn’t be. Jenilee…Jerilee…Jane. Those women are going to be different.

Of course, it’s different when women try to figure out what “Morgan” means. They’re full of it. That name — people really don’t know what to make of it. Crazy? Stable? Nice guy? Pirate? Well…that’s one of the cool things about me. But it don’t matter, I’m off the market. Arrrgggghh.

Anti-Danger, Anti-Achievement, Anti-Defense, Anti-Life

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

This morning I was rubbing my hands together in giddy glee over the finding that the Nintendo Wii is not environmentally friendly, or at least, is not perceived to be that (Nintendo’s crime against the environment seems to be mostly related to a failure to divulge information about being clean, which is different from a substantiation of evidence about being dirty). My comment was,

The anti-corporate pro-enviro hippies, are hopefully going to be locked in a huge fracas with the video-gamers and therefore with the kid-dumbing-down people. I hope. It’s always fun to watch the anti-achievement types feast on their own.

Hundreds of thousands of e-mails have poured in and called my attention to…

…alright, nobody’s uttered a peep about it. But it nevertheless occurs to me, even though this is The Blog That Nobody Reads, that I should expound.

Surely you’ve noticed, haven’t you. The people here stateside as well as across the pond in Europe, who are so quick to rap us across the knuckles for taking out Saddam Hussein — offer little or no alternatives for us to defend ourselves in any other way from the threat of worldwide terror. Oh yes, I know, many among them will say we were “distracted” from the “hunt for Osama bin Laden” when he was “in Afghanistan.” They imply in a bullying way, but usually do not come out and say word-for-word in any true sense of commitment, that had we focused on Afghanistan they’d be behind our defensive efforts a hundred percent.

These are the very same folks who are all gung-ho about going after the globular-wormening ManBearPig, insisting that the climate of the earth is changing, we homo sapiens are the cause, it’s a done deal, the “science is settled,” and hey even if this turns out not to be the case it’s just as well that we act as if it is.

You can see where I’m going with this now. They insist that the benefit of the doubt be awarded to the course-of-action that involves doing…on this issue over here…and the option that involves not doing on that issue over there.

People like me, on the other hand, are “inconsistent” in the opposite way; I think we should not do, here, and do, there.

Who is more properly inconsistent? Well, the most jarring empirical evidence, which is people-gettin’-killed, it seems to me is on my side. This thing over here hasn’t killed anyone. That issue over there has killed thousands…oh yeah, oh yeah, I know, no solid evidence connecting Saddam to the terrorist attacks, but that’s kind of my point. These people, in addition to being inconsistent, are nuts. The “no evidence” is just as good as “close my eyes and yell la-la-la-la I can’t hear you.” The people who say we should act even though we don’t know anything, about ManBearPig, are the same ones who say we should not act because we don’t know anything on a different threat that really has killed people.

Chicks with GunsSo my point is this: Since there are so many of these people, and they all agree with each other in near-lock-step about both Iraq and globular-wormening ManBearPig…two issues on which their mindsets conform to completely opposite philosophies about how we should behave on important issues when certainty is not forthcoming and doubt is rampant. In fact, we can toss in a third issue without upsetting this solidarity one bit, I notice: Guns and self-defense. People who are pro-global-warming-curtailing, are anti-Iraq, and pro-gun-control. The consistency from one pair of ears to the next, is just amazing. It’s north of 99 percent. So I say, let us look for consistencies in the arguments. Let us look for common threads that are sustained among these three issues, in the way all these people perceive them and grapple with them. Are there some?

I see one.

Before I get to that, though, let’s inject a fourth issue in a round-about way…and let us do this, by exploring one of my favorite web sites:, where you can learn how to thwart, obstruct, derail and generally bollux-up the efforts of your neighboring human beings to…well…to move their asses from one place to the next. Which means, now, just about anything else anyone would be able to do once they get there.

This deepens, but does not broaden, our chore of looking for common threads. If you think it’s settled RIGHT NOW that we should do something about globular wormening, but we need to shut down the War on Terror, but we need to grab everybody’s guns and lock ’em up — you probably think traffic calming is a wonderful thing. If you roll your eyes at it like I do, you probably think ManBearPig is a big ol’ scam, you probably think Saddam Hussein was just as much a dangerous spoiler jackass in 2003 as he was in 1993 & it’s a good thing he’s gone, and you think the Second Amendment actually means what it says: Right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

So traffic calming, you see, fits right into the mold.

Traffic calming consists of operational measures such as enhanced police enforcement, speed displays, and a community speed watch program, as well as such physical measures as edgelines, chokers, chicanes, traffic circles, and (for the past four years) speed humps and raised crosswalks.



Chicanes, traffic circles, speed bumps and raised crosswalks.

What are these things? Well, they are devices that make traffic safe by making assumptions about you, the driver, which in turn cannot be borne out as legitimate or truthful unless they are analyzed in a purely statistical venue. If you go faster than X speed, you must be dangerous. If you can be bullied and cudgeled and coerced into going slower than X speed, you must be safe. If it’s three thirty in the morning and nobody’s around, why, that don’ matter none. You have to go slower than twenty-five miles per hour, and once we make you drive that slowly, surely some lives will be saved.

It sounds like it came from…from…could it be? Why, yes it is!

European traffic calming began as a grassroots movement in the late 1960s. Angry residents of the Dutch City of Delft fought cut-through traffic by turning their streets into woonerven, or “living yards.” This was followed by the development of European slow streets (designed for 30 kph or 20 mph) in the late 1970s; the application of traffic calming principles to intercity highways through small Danish and German towns in the 1980s; and the treatment of urban arterials in areawide schemes, principally in Germany and France, also in the 1980s. [emphasis mine]

Gotta hand it to those Europeans. The European ego isn’t one bit bruised by the fact that we yankees came up with the telephone…the car…the airplane…the innernets. They’ve got their claim to fame East of Greenwich. When you’re a busy guy trying to get things done, relying on all this American technology to beat the deadline so that that other guy can beat his deadline so that the people depending on him can meet their deadlines…here come the Europeans to mess everything up for you!

Thought you were getting to Point B by two-thirty this afternoon did you? Not after our roundabouts and raised crosswalks get done. Now feel the wrath of the residents of Delft!

The really interesting thing about traffic calming, is its effectiveness is measured in traffic retardation on a miles/kilometers-per-hour basis, and a percentage basis — not on the basis of lives saved. I have to look at that a little bit funny. I have no choice but to do so.

I live in Folsom. We have our own “traffic calming” in terms of poorly-designed controlled intersections. Traffic lights that turn red just as you get to them, should you fail to exceed the speed limit by less than twenty miles an hour, and all that. You think that “calms” traffic, everybody in their shiny BMW’s having to stop constantly when they shouldn’t have to? Hell no. It turns them all into raging jackasses.

Sorry, fellow Folsom residents. You know it’s true. You know it damn good and well.

So on the notion that this makes traffic safer…I have to call bull poo. Even if you can pump out hundreds of studies showing the rate of speed has slowed. That’s a point in my favor, isn’t it? All the jackasses are spending more time inside city limits, after having been offered increased motivation for going all jackass?

There is a lesson here about human psychology. It is what ties together all these “let’s go ahead and stop global warming even though there’s no solid evidence we have to” types…in with the “naughty naughty naughty shame on you for taking out Saddam Hussein” types. It is what makes these two camps come together, even though their respective doctrines are 180 degrees opposed from each other. It is what makes them all such loud, bossy sunzabiches.

It is this:

Poor Widdle BabumsWhen you’ve made the decision that the stuff you do in your life doesn’t matter and shouldn’t be given much priority, you rankle at the idea of the stuff anybody else does with their lives being given any more priority than your stuff. The traffic-calming measures, with all the phony egghead studies “proving” that things must be safer because the traffic moves slower — they are metaphorical, of something much deeper and much more meaningful. When you’re in this boat, you want everybody to stop whatever it is they’re doing. To slow way down…until they stop. And sit. There’s really nothing rational about it. It’s a primal urge.

You don’t want anybody to make it anywhere on time to be able to do anything. Because you know you aren’t doing anything.

You don’t want anybody’s kids to grow up with a feeling of self worth, since your own kids aren’t growing up that way.

You don’t want anybody to consume anything, because you can’t justify consuming anything yourself. You can pretend you’re disturbed about the prospect of the whatever-it-is being depleted…but the truth of the matter is, you just want all motion around you to stop. Because you yourself aren’t moving.

That’s why the people who want to take your guns away are the same ones waggling their fingers at you about “emitting carbon” and those are the same people who prattle on about an “illegal and unjust war” — we should presume action is warranted in the face of doubt on one issue, and not on another issue. And those are the same people who think traffic is automatically safer if the drivers are frustrated in the efforts to get where they want to go. And those people, in turn, are the same ones getting all peevish if you buy your nephew a toy gun for his birthday. And those are the same people insisting that if said nephew is acting a little bit weird, he should be doped up on drugs and put in a special program.

And that once you’ve eventually triumphed over the round-abouts and traffic circles and gotten where you wanted to go, and made some money from doing it…you should be taxed up the ass. It’s human potential. It offends them.

This is easily substantiated. Because once you open your mind to the evidence involved — it’s really a little bit silly to try to argue Saddam Hussein was harmless. So people aren’t angry about the fact that Hussein was taken down, because he was a harmless guy. They’re angry Hussein was taken down because taking him down was a worthwhile thing that some brave, but ordinary, people did. That really gets in the craw of some among us. And that’s the truth.

Now, if you’re one among those “googooders” as Mike Royko used to call them, here, via Boortz, are some places where you can raise your kid. Notice how eager these googooders are to share notes on this stuff. Again: When you aren’t doing anything with your life, you don’t want anybody else to do anything with theirs, and when you aren’t raising your kid to grow up to be someone with guts and courage and resourcefulness, you don’t want anybody else’s kid growing up that way either.

To give you a quick idea of how much location matters, consider this: Kids are six times more likely to die from a violence-related injury in Alaska than they are in Massachusetts. In California, public playgrounds must meet all federal government safety recommendations, but 34 states offer no standards for where your kids climb, jump and swing. Connecticut and 20 other states have made big improvements in school-bus crossings, while 13, including Nebraska and Arizona, are way behind.

Location, location
1. Connecticut
2. Rhode Island
3. New Jersey
4. New York
5. California
6. Maine
7. Pennsylvania
8. Mass.
9. Maryland
10. Oregon

Oh, joy! Enough rules to crumple into a big ball and choke a horse to death! Or at least you could…if it wasn’t a federal crime to choke horses to death on things. And my Golden State is number five!

Of course, as any knuckle-dragging red-state real-man daddy like me knows, there’s a lot more to raising a boy into a man than just making sure he reaches Age Eighteen healthy and alive and whole. Us guys know that…but unfortunately, some eighty-eight years ago we went and gave them womyns the right to vote, and wouldn’t you know it the uppity females done gone out and started doing it. Now we have taxes up the ass…and rules rules rules, you can’t drive anywhere over thirty miles an hour because of those damn roundabouts, and in a few years you won’t be able to buy a car that can go that fast because we’ll have used the “carbon emissions” excuse to yank real cars off the road.

But our pwecious babums is going to be all safe. Won’t know how to do a God damn thing, but they’ll be safe.

Now you know the common thread. The common thread is — that people are cattle, and really aren’t worth anything. They shouldn’t be taught anything, they shouldn’t be raised to deal with danger, they aren’t worth defending, they can’t achieve anything and if they can, they should never be given the opportunity to do it. Might as well seal the damn things up in a great big jar and poke some holes in the lid.

This explains why when you face off against someone who insists we never should have taken down Saddam Hussein, and you ask well what should we have done instead — you don’t get anything. Just a deer in the headlights look, maybe a few stammering statements about George Bush being a really bad guy and his grandfather was connected to Nazis. Nothing about what to do. These people don’t come from the Land Of Do. They’re all about being, not doing…being…uh…well, happy. There’s nothing more in their lives than just that. So they don’t want anything more in your life than just that.

Funny thing is, though, when it comes to the anti-defense plank — they do think some folks are worth defending. Just the bosses. The kingpins of society. And you probably thought they were egalitarians, didn’t you?

I beg to differ. They’re aristocrats through and through. Earls Lords and Dukes are worth defending…Vicounts, Barons and anyone lower than that, are not.

Mr. Heller, the good guy in DC v. Heller, delivered one of the best slapdowns we’ve ever read when asked about the “safe streets” of DC:

At that point, a reporter interjected: “The Mayor (DC Mayor Adrian M. Fenty) says the handgun ban and his initiatives have significantly lowered violent crime in the District. How do you answer that, Mr. Heller?”

The initial answer certainly wasn’t expected – Dick Heller laughed. Ruefully.

Pointing at the Mayor who was making his way across the plaza, surrounded by at least six DC police officers, Heller said, “The Mayor doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He doesn’t walk on the street like an average citizen. Look at him; he travels with an army of police officers as bodyguards—to keep him safe. But he says that I don’t have the right to be a force of one to protect myself. Does he look like he thinks the streets are safe?”

There was no follow-up question.

We bet there weren’t.

The anti-achievement anti-defense subjects have that in common too. The Wizened Elders who run our Bottle City are worthy of protection…we low-life scum, are not. They don’t think they’re worth it, and so they don’t think anybody else is worth it either.

Not unless you have six bodyguards or more guarding your pampered ass.

So you see, opposing the right to defend oneself and one’s family, opposing the privilege of driving to get somewhere in time, opposing the natural exigencies of life…ends up being, quicker than anyone imagines, opposing life.

These are the same blue-state numb-nuts who want good-lookin’ women to wear short hair and be fully clothed all the time. Like wearing a bunch of damned burqas. Hey, nuts to you. Here, choke on this:

Self-reliance. Achievement. Self-defense. Supporting what makes life possible, and makes life worth living. And, good-lookin’ girls with long hair in skimpy clothes. Stuff that real men like. That’s what America is all about. It is the American way.

This ultra-pasteurized version of lowercase-l “life”…this continent called “Europe” seems to be cultivating a rich culture in supporting that. Seems to be something like growing sea monkeys in bleach, but if that’s what toots the horn of my fellow lowercase-a “americans,” I suggest they move the hell there. Stop trying to turn this place into that place.

And take your stinking round-abouts with you.

Thing I Know #168. People with limited attention spans get peevish when they see other people doing a better job of paying attention; people who consistently champion peace over justice, get downright pernicious when they see someone else uphold justice.

Another Open-Minded Propeller-Beanie Egghead…

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

Domestic Trouble…showing his open-mindedness to ideas, cultures, and value systems alien to his own…

In “Guys and Guns Amok: Domestic Terrorism and School Shootings from the Oklahoma City Bombing to the Virginia Tech Massacre” (Paradigm, 2008), UCLA professor of education and cultural critic Douglas Kellner argues that school shootings and other acts of mass violence embody a crisis of out-of-control gun culture and male rage, heightened by a glorification of hypermasculinity and violence in the media.

“The school shooters and domestic terrorists examined in this book all exhibit male rage, attempt to resolve a crisis of masculinity through violent behavior, demonstrate a fetish for guns or weapons, and represent, in general, a situation of guys and guns amok,” Kellner says.

So funny the way we do this. You look into the biographies of these young men who do this, you find the same stuff any cop is used to seeing after a career spent investigating slightly less horrible crimes: Not only an abundance of masculine energy, but a shortage of places to put it — with the second of those factors being key to the performance of whatever misdemeanors or atrocities are under discussion.

Masculinity itself is one of those things that is always to blame. Anyone my age & up, with a reasonable adequate memory should be able to recall the events for they are crystal clear: We made masculinity into a ugly thing to be assaulted, and then crime spiked. When masculinity was an okay thing, when you could put on a television show or movie where daddy dispensed sage wise advice and “always knew best” as they say, and nobody deplored what you were doing — violence and willful property damage were rare things, compared to now.

It’s so interesting. I thought you had to be smart to be a perfesser of edyoomakayshun. Or at least, broad minded enough to consider ideas that aren’t quite initially suiting your fancy. The older I get and the more things I see, the more I have to doubt this. Our edyoomakayted folks with all them fancy letters after their names and all, seem to share a handy talent for shoehorning the events around them into their pre-selected opinions, rather than the other way around. The hostility toward masculinity itself — it’s simply unwarranted. After all, we didn’t declare any kind of parallel jihad on femininity when Andrea Yates drowned her kids in the bathtub.

Credit goes to Miss Cellania for finding the cartoon.

Why We Have Faith

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

Via Boortz: University of Oxford researchers will spend nearly $4 million to study why mankind embraces God.

The grant to the Ian Ramsey Center for Science and Religion will bring anthropologists, theologians, philosophers and other academics together for three years to study whether belief in a divine being is a basic part of mankind’s makeup.

“There are a lot of issues. What is it that is innate in human nature to believe in God, whether it is gods or something superhuman or supernatural?” said Roger Trigg, acting director of the center.

Four large, huh? I wonder how much of that goes to the guy who simply thought of doing this. Five percent?

Because at 200k a pop, seems to me what follows are bullets flowing from solid gold keystrokes.

Why do people take the words “increase in minimum wage” literally, when with just a little tiny bit of thinking they could see what really happens is that jobs are outlawed unless the jobs meet a specific criteria. It’s easy to explain how nice folks could fall for this once or twice. How does it continue to happen for the better part of a century?

Why do people like to do things lots of other people are doing at the same time those other people are doing them, even when, because so many other people are doing them, the activity becomes an exercise in misery and little more? We do we have this inclination to believe orbiting endlessly around a sweltering parking lot at the state fair or a rock concert searching for a parking spot in vain, will be “fun,” and driving out to a deserted beach watching a sunset in solitude, won’t be?

How come a young available lady is so attracted to bad boys and rebels, and once she manages to snag one of ’em, works so hard to get him to be just like everybody else, eventually hittin’-the-road if he doesn’t shape up?

We were kids. We had chores. If we mouthed off we got a smack across the mouth, and if we kept doing it we got spanked. Kids today don’t have as many chores and you can’t spank ’em. We all know this. So when they can’t pay attention to a goddamned thing, how come we’re so quick to rivet them into the “autistic spectrum”?

Why do people want stoicism and cool-headedness in their presidents, and pulse-pounding excitement and charisma from the people who are looking to become the next president?

More from whence those came. Much more. And I have the answers to some of them…that doesn’t mean the questions aren’t fertile grounds for study, and they’re worth at least as much grant money as the faith thing.

The faith thing actually seems pretty easy to me. I think the egghead strayed pretty close to the truth when he said,

“One implication that comes from this is that religion is the default position, and atheism is perhaps more in need of explanation,” he said.

It all comes from appreciating things. If/when we do something required for our survival, like planting and harvesting a crop, there’s an understandable impulse to look back and contemplate what was done. Why on earth wouldn’t there be? You’ll probably have to do it again. And when you do that, you have to think about the stuff that was necessary, that was already done before you got started. And to naturally be thankful for it.

So yeah, atheism is more in need of an explanation. Atheism says the reason fertile soil causes plants to grow in the ground is…process of elimination. If the plants didn’t grow in the ground, they would not be here, so if they’re here, of course they grow in the ground and we can use them to feed us. And if we couldn’t then we would not be here.

Just like the sculptor who explains that he simply starts with a block of marble and carves away everything that doesn’t look like a horse. Niiiiiice and simple…with a “you idiot” tacked on to the end, and the sculptor is explained-away.

But with the sculptor and with the deity, common sense says things aren’t quite so simple. I think the egghead’s second-thought is the right one. We need to study our atheists. I’d be particularly interested in the following conundrum: If rational, cool-headed thinking nods approvingly toward secularism, what has that to do with the last three or four years? How come atheism waited until the twenty-first century to really bask in the limelight? Wouldn’t it be more fitting if it came to popularity half a century ago, when we were launching satellites and smashing atoms? This is the age of fifty gazillion wonderful new inventions, all of which are dedicated to finding new ways to play personal music collections and carry dogs around in purses.

And this is the era in which the atheist’s view of the cosmos, is most popularly thought to be the correct one. If I were an atheist, that would be sufficient to make me seriously question my atheism. I’m glad I’m not one.

Like Sheep

Saturday, February 16th, 2008

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. — Isaiah 53:6

After just a few centuries, science is finally catching up. Most impressive.

Have you ever arrived somewhere and wondered how you got there? Scientists at the University of Leeds believe they may have found the answer, with research that shows that humans flock like sheep and birds, subconsciously following a minority of individuals.

Results from a study at the University of Leeds show that it takes a minority of just five per cent to influence a crowd’s direction – and that the other 95 per cent follow without realising it.

The findings could have major implications for directing the flow of large crowds, in particular in disaster scenarios, where verbal communication may be difficult. “There are many situations where this information could be used to good effect,” says Professor Jens Krause of the University’s Faculty of Biological Sciences. “At one extreme, it could be used to inform emergency planning strategies and at the other, it could be useful in organising pedestrian flow in busy areas.”

Dr. Krause is in some great company here. Of course, in his case, he either got a grant for this work or he is in a position to possibly get one later…probably both of those. So he could be just speaking as a pragmatist. But millions of people in his country and in mine see no down-side to this at all.

I’m one of the weird old guys who are hard-pressed to realize any advantage in it.

If Creation stands firm as fact and evolution is a myth, this is surely the work of Satan. If evolution is to triumph over Creation, then this is a relic of a bygone era when our needs were different, and will bring us nothing but pain and misery now.

Oh yes — I do understand, in urban areas where people congregate within a few square miles by the millions of noses, to exploit this attribute would make us all much easier to manage. Hey good luck with that. We all wanted to grow up to be that when we were little kids, right? Sounds like something you’d see in one of those commercials: “When I grow up, I want to stay mediocre by always doing things the easy way.” Except this is an aspiration to be the machinery managed by those everlastingly-ordinary, easy-out managers.

Professor Krause, with PhD student John Dyer, conducted a series of experiments where groups of people were asked to walk randomly around a large hall. Within the group, a select few received more detailed information about where to walk. Participants were not allowed to communicate with one another but had to stay within arms length of another person.

The findings show that in all cases, the ‘informed individuals’ were followed by others in the crowd, forming a self-organising, snake-like structure. “We’ve all been in situations where we get swept along by the crowd,” says Professor Krause. “But what’s interesting about this research is that our participants ended up making a consensus decision despite the fact that they weren’t allowed to talk or gesture to one another. In most cases the participants didn’t realise they were being led by others.”

Other experiments in the study used groups of different sizes, with different ratios of ‘informed individuals’. The research findings show that as the number of people in a crowd increases, the number of informed individuals decreases. In large crowds of 200 or more, five per cent of the group is enough to influence the direction in which it travels. The research also looked at different scenarios for the location of the ‘informed individuals’ to determine whether where they were located had a bearing on the time it took for the crowd to follow.

It does impress me as some interesting research. Research into what is decidedly a human weakness, from my point of view, since you can’t rely on your internal aptitudes and follow the crowd at the same time — those are mutually exclusive. And if you don’t rely on your internal aptitudes, you’re derelict in taking ownership of whatever quandary is confronting you at the time. You can’t be a sheep and a shepherd.

Some things I’d like to know:

1. How was it established that in “large crowds of 200 or more, five per cent of the group is enough to influence the direction”? Does that mean what I think it means? It reads like in a group of 50 or 100, you need more than five percent, but the researchers found the critical-ratio dwindled as the critical-mass was reached. Which would necessarily mean their research involved an exhaustive exploration of both success and failure. And if that is the case, sometimes the “don’t know where they’re going people” won out over the “know where they’re going” people, and what we’re reading is the result of the diligent scrutinizing in an effort to find patterns in numbers and proportion. If that’s all true, this is fascinating, and almost certainly the product of an evolutionary trait.

2. Did they do the research after issuing mirrored or dark sunglasses to the participants? Probably not. But if eyeballs are visible, you can’t truly say “they weren’t allowed to talk or gesture to one another.” Actually, this would short-circuit nearly all the speculation in my Point #1. It would mean what the researchers really learned, all boils down to this: When you don’t know where you’re going, once it gets really crowded you follow people who look like they know where they’re going, perhaps without realizing it.

3. Any plans to repeat this experiment after introducing geographic diversity? That would be a cornucopia of scientific learnin’s, it seems to me. Geology. Sociology. Psychology. Anthropology. My girlfriend, for example, will tell me about some silly bollywonkers law out in New York State, and I’ll be shocked by it…one phrase I like to use on her is “Vehicle inspections…turnpikes…is your side of the country the one where they threw that tea into the harbor? Because I think you guys need to do it again.” It exasperates her because she knows there is truth in it — there is territory of individuality, of collectivism, and there is movement in both of those. This animosity toward individual characterization and achievement, does have geographic movement to it…kind of like an ocean current…or the snaky tendrils of some loathsome, evil leviathan being. Science would be doing a lot of good for us, and for itself, by gathering research with that in mind. By looking at collectivism as the form of pollution that it is, and researching how we have coexisted with it in times past, how it threatens us now, and the irrational impulse many millions of us have to cling to it, essentially avoiding full maturity.

Memo For File LIII

Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

I got into a little bit of a tussel (which I personally think was off-topic) in a thread over at Bill Quick’s site, in which we were celebrating the now-famous nose-bloodying blogo-reprimand from Cold Fury to the good folks of Vermont who are pretending to have Bush and Cheney arrested next time the executives pass through town.

I said it was off-topic…this post is supposed to provide a forum for dealing with it…which means, if I address the whole Vermont thing here, that is off-topic as well.

But indulge me for just a moment, because this is delicious.

Are you people really that damn pathetic? Really? You make total jackasses of yourselves, then whine and whimper and try to threaten the people who call you on it? Does my mockery ”harass” you clowns enough to ”cross the line” so you can prosecute me, too, officer you blustering sphincter with a badge? You gonna come down here and arrest me now, or wait until after you get the President?

Town officials say the petition that led to ballot measure complied with the law. Petition organizers say the measure was symbolic.

And your callers say the measure was idiotic. Typically silly left-wing fantasy. Childish and pathetic. Stupidly pointless. Y’know, progressive.

And, I would add…self-idolizing. Self-aggrandizing. Preening. Narcissistic. Delusional.


Okay, we’re done with that. Back to the subject at hand.

For many a year now, I’ve been going back and forth on whether the trade imbalance is a grave problem for the United States. For awhile I thought it was, and then I thought it was not, then long before the USD started tanking I came around to the third stage, which is where I think it is again a serious issue.

Oh, we got on to that because we were deliberating President Bush’s guilt in doing damage to the U.S. economy.

Personally, I agree with Becky the Girl in Short Shorts Talking About Whatever on this issue…the cause and effect between our government spending money like it’s going out of style, and the dollar falling against the Canuck funny-money.

Under Bush, the country’s trade deficit has been growing each year and the national debt has hit $9 trillion. Ten billion dollars a month is being wasted on the Iraq war. And it is largely borrowed money which is being burnt.

The president has done nothing to stop the bleeding of the dollar except parroting his mantra that we have a “strong dollar” and vetoing a bill for children’s health care. It is nice that he is coming around on spending, but this useless gesture is not going to undue the trillions run up in the last six years by the big pig, also known as Congress.

Yes, she’s reciting a bunch of whackadoodle bollywonkers sound bites trying to scare up votes for that lunatic Ron Paul. In a lot of ways, the girl simply isn’t mature. But give credit where it is due, she’s straight on-point here. Anybody know how these various acts of Congress are actually being paid off? Not just how they’re financed…now just how we print up the money to cover them…but how they ultimately are absorbed into the ownership of the United States public and private sectors.

There is no machinery in existence that chugs away to make sure we live within our means. There’s a national debt ceiling, but that’s nothing. It’s raised whenever it has to be.

And although the modern-day socialists are just trying to prop up self-destruction as a virtue when they complain about the “lack of individual sacrifice,” they do have a point. If there’s a war to be fought, domestic spending should be cut to the bone.

President Bush has simply failed to show leadership in this area, not accidentally, but deliberately over a fundamental disagreement he has with me about political philosophy. I think he treats “political capital” like real money. You spend what you have, and not a dime more than that. Cutting domestic programs is an expenditure of political capital. So is fighting a war. You calculate when you can do two things like this at once, and when you can do only one. That’s what he did.

And I must say, it has worked out well for him — specifically, as well as overall. It probably would have worked out for his father too, if he wasn’t steamrolled by a rock star political juggernaut from the next generation future-ward like Bill Clinton.

But that’s my beef with the Bush dynasty’s “political capital” viewpoint. It prioritizes political self-preservation ahead of strong leadership that does what’s best for the country over the long term. And the reality is, we simply have been spending too much money…we’ve been spending it, because of a leadership vacuum on the fiscal conservation front.

I referred to the trade deficit discussion as a threadjack within a threadjack, because while the President has ample opportunity to share blame with many others on the public debt problem, he certainly is tangential as a figure of culpability in the trade deficit issue. What’s a President to do? Shake a finger at domestic businesses and individuals and say “you guys quit buying so much overseas stuff”? Shake another figure at foreign concerns at say “you guys should buy more of our stuff?” Bush’s father tried that last one a few times. Not only did it fail to work, but such episodes diminished his authority on, I believe, a massive scale. He simply never looked sillier. It was on one such trip that he famously ralphed in the lap of the Prime Minister of Japan.

I thought that was aptly metaphorical.

Presidents do not tell people what to buy and what not to buy. They don’t even ask. If they undertake to do either, they set out on a trail that surely ends in severe self-embarrassment…and a big stinky mess.

Anyway, my renewed dread over the trade deficit figures met with a stiff challenge over at Daily Pundit, home of The Guy Who Invented The Term “Blogosphere”. One of the commenters pointed me over to this article, which rests its argument on this item of research by Messrs. Hausmann and Sturzenegger of the Kennedy School of Government: U.S. and Global Imbalances: Can Dark Matter Prevent a Big Bang?

The authors use the term “dark matter” to describe the logic they have used in determining that something’s amiss with the official trade imbalance statistics.

There is a large difference between our view of the US as a net creditor with assets of about 600 billion US dollars and BEA’s view of the US as a net debtor with total net debt of 2.5 trillion. We call the difference between these two equally arbitrary estimates dark matter, because it corresponds to assets that we know exist, since they generate revenue but cannot be seen (or, better said, cannot be properly measured). The name is taken from a term used in physics to account for the fact that the world is more stable than you would think if it were held together only by the gravity emanating from visible matter. In our measure the US owns about 3.1 trillion of unaccounted net foreign assets. This is big. Before analyzing where this comes from, we may point out that no methodological minutiae will reconcile the facts with the statistics. We can discuss the numbers but we cannot contest the existence of dark matter.

The authors draw on three distinctly identifiable sources of dark matter. All three have to do with what might be called “exports” from the United States that they say should provide an adjustment to the trade imbalance figures, but in fact do not.

The first has to do with good ol’ American know-how. They use an example of an amusement park built overseas. Our private enterprises have sunk an investment amount into this asset, and have borrowed that investment capital from foreign banks. The return from the investment is four times the amount of the interest paid on the foreign debt, because there is a significant quality of real-life-honed knowledge and experience involved in operations, which is not factored into the trade balance equation. I’m receptive to the idea that knowledge is an asset and the accounting world is historically known for a failure in taking this into account. But I’m not receptive to the idea that this calls for an adjustment to the numbers…certainly not in the manner suggested by the study. They’re saying, if I understand it right, that since the net rate of return is 300% higher than the interest being charged on the debts accumulated to install the asset, the the real value of the investment asset overseas should be trebled. Perhaps this logic could be pursued by a prospective buyer, under circumstances most blissfully favorable to the seller. But it doesn’t impress me as a sound accounting principle. It looks to me more like a sloppy conflation between income and interest. They’re presuming our domestic businessmen have been more savvy than the foreign bankers, and worked out a better deal, and this is where the logic breaks down. Interest on business loans is supposed to be dwarfed by the profits made on the use of those loan proceeds. If that were not the case, the capitalist model, at least in that one instance, would break down.

The second has to do with seignorage:

The difference between the cost of the bullion plus minting expenses and the value as money of the pieces coined, constituting a source of government revenue.

Okay, good point. But all I can realistically allow for, here, is the conclusion that more study is needed. This isn’t something that would count for anything unless some actual minting takes place. Who’s doing more actual minting, us or them? And how much minting takes place, with all of this investment activity? If it’s electronic, isn’t this off-topic? I dunno. Under this same second point, the authors make the case for counting liquidity services against the documented trade deficits in the United States. Well yeah, but I’ve seen trade deficit figures where those services are factored in…and we consume those services as well as providing them, do we not? And have not our trade-deficit chicken-littles been warning us for years, now, that the Asian markets will someday stop buying American treasury bills, with devastating consequences someday? Seems to me, lately, this is exactly what has been taking place.

Japan, China and Taiwan sold U.S. Treasuries at the fastest pace in at least five years in August as losses linked to U.S. subprime mortgages sparked a slump in the dollar.

Japan cut its holdings by 4 percent to $586 billion, the most since a new benchmark for the data was created in March 2000, U.S. Treasury Department figures published Tuesday showed. Chinese ownership of U.S. government bonds fell by 2.2 percent to $400 billion, the fastest pace since April 2002. Taiwan’s slid 8.9 percent to $52 billion, the most since October 2000.

The third factor has to do with financial solvency services provided by the United States to countries abroad, which, the authors say, also is not taken into account with the official trade balance statistics. Fine, I’ll take their word for it. But there’s overlap, in the form of U.S. treasury bills, between this third factor and the second. The above-mentioned drop-off with the exchange of the life-saving treasury bills, thus deals a double-whammy to the dark matter theory.

And this is the point, I would add, that had me worried about the trade deficit in the first place. When we say it’s all okay, or we acknowledge maybe it’s a problem but it’s a problem that won’t hurt too bad in the long run — what we’re doing is putting control over the United States financial solvency in the hands of others. Hey, we’re saved for today, they’re coming from Singapore to buy our T-bills. But that’s today. There’s tomorrow to think about, and then the day after that.

So I’m inclined to buy the argument. Dark matter does exist. But if our fortunes are attached to it, we’d better make it un-dark, toot-sweet, and learn what we can about it. And once we do that, my money says we’re not going to be too thrilled about what we discover.

Married Couples Who Fight Live Longer

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

This is one phony white-coat-propeller-beanie-wearing pocket-protector clipboard-carrying got-beat-up-in-high-school egghead study I can certainly believe…

Preliminary results of a 17-year study of 192 married couples indicate that couples who argue live longer than those suffering in silence.

Early mortality results from “mutual anger suppression, poor communication (of feelings and issues) and poor problem-solving with medical consequences,” the researchers write in the January issue of the Journal of Family Communication. The couples ranged in age from 35 to 69.

“When couples get together, one of their main jobs is reconciliation about conflict,” said researcher Ernest Harburg, professor emeritus with the University of Michigan School of Public Health and Psychology Department. “Usually nobody is trained to do this. If they have good parents, they can imitate, that’s fine, but usually the couple is ignorant about the process of resolving conflict.”

In this post-cold-war world, the culture of the western world has lost an important ability, and this ability has been a keystone to our most unimpressive but fundamental personal achievements — existing in a healthy way in a marriage, eating in a healthy way, sleeping in a healthy way.

That ability has to do with graciously peeking at your neighbor’s test paper. Borrowing techniques from others without fanfare.

We guard our privacy with zeal and jealousy. But privacy about what? How we argue with our spouses…the contents of our grocery carts. Whack your bratty kid on the seat of his pants, and it’s everybody’s business.

We need professionals to inject their wisdom into marital spats, and household diets. Professionals…who might have the same problems…or worse. Somehow, it’s become culturally unacceptable to say — “hey, so-and-so seems to have a happy marriage, what is it they’re doing that we don’t do?” Or, “hey, those friends of ours don’t huff and puff when they get up from a chair, and they can see their shoes when they stand up straight and look down. What are they eating?”

You see people succeeding where you fail, and resolve to find a difference, that might involve keeping your own individual values. When you “seek professional help” to guide you in these problems, society can filter out these professionals for you. And exert pressure on the professionals that aren’t so filtered.

As the war on the individual continues, we like to define “privacy” as a difficulty involved in communicating with one another…without the intervention of a professional. And so it has become commonplace for people, even people lacking any experience in such a situation, to sing the praises of the professionals and the wonderful things the professionals can do — but entirely rare for anybody to specifically cite the wonderful things the professionals do.

So without them, we are discouraged from taking in any new information about how to live. For a younger couple that is inexperienced in the ways of human conflict, this leaves two options — the ever popular “seek counseling,” or do more and more fighting until you get a divorce.

And most counseling is about paying a professional to find more complaints about the man, on the way to the divorce.

In my own brief marriage, I could see I’d been hoodwinked in childhood — brought up to believe, without anyone outwardly stating it, that everybody’s compatible with everybody else, or at least if they work at it they ought to eventually become that way. It just isn’t so. But I’ve strongly suspected, in the long years since then, that I’m not the only one fooled this way. We desperately want to believe that we all possess uber-compatibility with each other, or at least the makings of it.

It’s our heritage. The class-ism from Middle English society. We have this instinctive egalitarian desire to evolve beyond it.

The tricky thing about egalitarianism, though, is that it can only work on a foundation of other things. What we’re doing is trashing individualism, and expecting zero consequences for doing so when in fact there are consequences. An individual may believe that the point of having money, is to spend it. Another individual might believe the point is all in the saving of it. As individuals they can cope with life just fine, in their own way — but two such individuals cannot built a home together, even though they might have been raised to believe this should be do-able. Not without one of them undergoing a profound structural change in the way they look at money.

I expect this is an important study…because I expect this is the way thing are typically done. Couples marry, and then hope whatever inventory there is of foundational differences in the way they look at life, will work itself out. In our desire for more egalitarianism, we parents tend to neglect to teach our kids that people are different. And then the household does things according to the will of one of the spouses, or the other. Usually the woman. Let’s face it…women are smarter at interacting. People want to interact with them. Television commercials are aimed at them, salesmen talk to them, counselors tailor their marriage advice in such a way that the woman will find it pleasing.

And so the man is left to stew in his juices. And go fishing.

They fight. Or not. They get divorced. Or not. But they’re aggravated by the knowledge that their parents and grandparents didn’t go through any of this…why is that?

There used to be some shame involved in divorce. In fact, there used to be shame involved in just fighting. People did both…but culturally, less was thought of them when they were caught doing it. So the previous generations did some stewing in their own juices as well.

But shame can have a useful side as well, and this is the part I think most people miss. For example — consider this definition from the House of Eratosthenes Glossary

Arguing in a Vacuum (v.):
An attempt to persuade another mindset which 1) has not agreed on the facts to be considered or 2) already agrees on the thing to be done (see Thing To Do).

…and think on the second of those two clauses. Persuading another consciousness — your spouse — when s/he already agrees on the thing to be done.

I can think of a great example just off the top of my head. My son was born at twelve pounds…his mother had resolved to breastfeed him — but as he approached his second week of life, she had to abandon this because he was being a little piglet.

Now, I’m a dude. Maybe that makes sense. Maybe it doesn’t. I dunno.

I did notice in my years with his mother, that everything that could possibly cost money, did. But the point is, if she can’t make enough milk for the little monster…she can’t do it. I’ve long had the same reputation about arguments that she had about spending money…if an argument can be made, I’ll make one. Well, it isn’t true. I went off to the store and got formula. Looking back on it, maybe a little arguing would have been helpful. Formula isn’t cheap.

But that story has a point to it. When you disagree on what’s good and what’s not good — and believe me, off in mommy-land, there is a white-hot cultural war going on vis a vis the merits of breastfeeding versus formula — arguing might have a chance at being practical if you disagree about the thing or things to do. Otherwise, it is arguing in a vacuum.

And so shame does have a place. In times of old, husbands and wives had a tendency to “not do this” if there was agreement about the thing to do, or not to be done. Why haggle over the reasons why?

Nowadays, every principle that is meritorious, must be articulated…one more time. Every one that has emerged from The Dark Side, must be denounced…one more time. Silence may not be kept. We do tend to do less stewing than generations past, and we do tend to do more yelling…the statistics do say we live longer.

But I can’t escape the feeling that there seem to be conflicts that did not exist previously. And as an adjunct to that, I also can’t escape the feeling that much of this is arguing in a vacuum. Arguing over the merits of doing the things we’re going to do, or not do, when we’ve already agreed on the important stuff, the things to be done, or not done.

Most Diversity Training Ineffective

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

Via Washington Post, via Gerard

Most Diversity Training Ineffective, Study Finds
Sunday, January 20, 2008; Page A03

Most diversity training efforts at American companies are ineffective and even counterproductive in increasing the number of women and minorities in managerial positions, according to an analysis that turns decades of conventional wisdom, government policy and court rulings on their head.

A comprehensive review of 31 years of data from 830 mid-size to large U.S. workplaces found that the kind of diversity training exercises offered at most firms were followed by a 7.5 percent drop in the number of women in management. The number of black, female managers fell by 10 percent, and the number of black men in top positions fell by 12 percent. Similar effects were seen for Latinos and Asians.

The study found a big difference insofar as whether attendance in the training was mandatory or voluntary.

“When attendance is voluntary, diversity training is followed by an increase in managerial diversity,” said Alexandra Kalev, a sociologist at the University of Arizona, who led the research. “Most employers, however, force their managers and workers to go through training, and this is the least effective option in terms of increasing diversity. . . . Forcing people to go through training creates a backlash against diversity.”

Kalev said many trainers and executives told her they were not surprised by her findings. What this means, she said, is that many companies are not just pursuing poor policies, but are doing so even though their own experts know the training is ineffective or counterproductive.

Several experts offered two reasons for this: The first is that businesses are responding rationally to the legal environment, since several Supreme Court rulings have held that companies with mandatory diversity training are in a stronger position if they face a discrimination lawsuit. Second, many companies — with the implicit cooperation of diversity trainers — find it easier to offer exercises that serve public relations goals, rather than to embrace real change.

You mean — w-w-we can’t change the way people think about things, by scaring them with lawsuits?

Marc Bendick, an economist who researches diversity at Bendick and Egan Economic Consultants in the District, said his surveys suggest there is a role for conventional sensitivity training. But he agreed that the training is likely to be effective only in the context of an organization genuinely interested in cultural and structural change.

“If you ask what is the impact of diversity training today, you have to say 75 percent is junk and will have little impact or no impact or negative impact,” Bendick said.

I think I can bottom-line this in a way the Washington Post story does not…since it seems to be tip-toeing around an obvious truth.

When the training is simply a manifestation of an underlying belief, it is effective. Which means it is not — it is the underlying belief that is effective, not the training. And, of course, when the training is intended to instill a belief that did not exist previously, of course it has to be ineffective.

In other words, the training — by itself — is ineffective all the time. Companies will become diverse when they want to.

Next task…defining what “diversity” really means. Is it a race-neutral term? That one is completely up to the reader’s guesswork, since at no point does the story dare to supply evidence suggesting one answer or the other.

Best Sentence XXII

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

The BSIHORL (Best Sentence I’ve Heard or Read Lately) award is given posthumously to Richard Feynman, about whom we learn via Little Green Footballs:

I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy.

“Don’t Take It Easy”

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

I have mixed feelings about this advertising/awareness campaign. Having gone through those “why is my child getting sick so often” years myself, there is certainly a need for more thinking out of the box. And I did have the distinct impression we were treating just the symptoms of something without getting to the underlying cause. Thank goodness it didn’t turn out to be what’s described here.

Nevertheless, I have to ask the following about this advertising campaign. Is this really appropriate? Or beneficial to anybody? I mean, check out those radio spots, especially #4, at the very end. The borderline-frantic mother can tell something is wrong, she can feel it in her bones. But she’s surrounded by the voices of all these clueless dolts, mostly the blissfully ignorant paleochauvinist male sawbones.

As a macho male dad guy, raised somewhat comically in an unnecessarily nineteenth-century environment, and in adulthood growing more and more concerned about this world into which I emerged probably 150 years too late, which in turn even now is becoming more and more pasteurized and sanitized and feminized…I must say I see a connection. It’s become unthinkable to allow kids to do things that kids my age did all the time — the wandering through the neighborhood in bare feet unsupervised, riding bicycles without helmets, and yes, eating dirt. Now, things are clean. Things are micro-clean.

And our kids have allergies and disorders like never before.

Almost as if they were designed to be confronted by little everyday beasties that they no longer have to face down, so that their little bodies aren’t allowed to grow the robustness that used to be commonplace.

He is usWhy, the peanut allergy thing seems to substantiate these concerns pretty solidly, all by itself. If you’re my age, 41, how many kids did you know in the third grade who had an allergy to peanuts? In all of K through 12 — how many times did you see that? Or even hear of it? And now…everyone knows someone who knows someone. Anything made with peanut products…anything made with machines that have come into contact with peanut stuff…has to be clearly called-out.

So our kids have all these weaknesses they did not have before. After we have made everything ultra ultra ultra extra safe, nonthreatening, soft, cuddly and — most of all — clean. Oh, so clean.

Hmmmmmm……naw, let’s just ignore that some more.

But getting back to the Jeffrey Modell Foundation. I think what they’re talking about is probably legitimate and there’s probably a genuine need to raise awareness about it. And I don’t doubt for a minute there are some doltish docs neglecting to run tests that they probably ought to think about running.

But these radio spots — especially toward the end of #4. Have any of the people making these spots, ever been parents? No — check that — have they ever been fathers? Fathers raising young children in the presence of borderline-hysterical moms, whose solution to every single malady that comes down the line is to go to the doctor and get a prescription for an antibiotic? Have they ever been in that position where you have to ask yourself “waitaminnit…I can’t remember ever having been put on an antibiotic once…and my kid’s been on six of them in the last two years, and I suspect the last two times were because the Mom messed up the dosage.”

At that point, it becomes a public health issue. Missing dosages of an antibiotic is not a trivial matter. That’s one of the reasons you have to go to a doctor to get put on one in the first place.

This is not a “battle of the sexes” thing. Moms have a lot to worry about. It’s to be expected that they mess up doses of things now and then. That is really the point I am making here — mothers are fallible. Nobody really has a serious thought to the contrary. That’s why these hysterical moms in the radio spots are being shushed up by the blissfully ignorant pleasant condescending male docs. There is logic in this.

And it is somewhat unhelpful when the motherly instinct is presented as a holy yardstick, trumping some universality of realizations dealing with reason, logic and fact. That is not what the motherly instinct is.

But you wouldn’t know it from listening to these. The smooth-talking, time-warped good-ol-boy doc breezily dismisses her concerns, and the mom’s voice fairly warbles “I don’t know — something’s WRONG!!” Chauvinist grandpa doc croaks out, “take it eeeeeaaasssy!” And the much wiser, stern, strong, self-assertive female narrator comes on and intones “DON’T take it easy!”

Sure, I agree in some isolated cases there might be a situation where that is a helpful message to have. But this isn’t really all about a message, it’s about an attitude. And I can promise you, that’s not a helpful attitude. When you’re in that chapter of life, the mom has about a hundred concerns every damn day, and she’s already not inclined to “take it easy” on any one of them. We dads do not need some mass-produced radio spot instructing the mom to get MORE hyped-out about these everyday things, steamrolling over anybody and everybody who might have justifiable reasons for urging calm. It’s just not needed.

And for the reasons stated above — it’s not so extravagant to suppose this kind of attitude might be the cause of these problems in the first place.

One other thing occurs to me. I have to ask, what kind of medical system do we have going on here when the best way to raise awareness about some previously-unrealized malady, is through the moms? I don’t pretend to know all about how that works. Maybe this really is the right approach. But think about the awful ramifications of that for a minute…why can’t this medical information be disseminated through the doctors, the way we expect it to be? If that’s ineffective, why do we even have doctors in the first place?