Doc H on Men

Women, Love, Intimidation:

Dr. Helen is a woman we all greatly admire, and for several good reasons. There is her courage in the face of heart disease; the fact that, though a woman, she very much wants society to show respect and fairness to men; the fact that, though a psychologist, she is able to recognize that not every claim her discipline makes is founded on the firmest rock of true science. All these things are the mark of a good person, one who is brave, seeks to understand the concerns of others different from herself, and honest in her inquiry.

Nevertheless, I find myself in disagreement with her on occasion. This week has provided several opportunities for me to scratch my head.

Most recently, this is her advice to men on production and consumption. Of course a man ought to strive to produce more than he consumes; even a purely selfish man can easily imagine reasons for doing so. He might wish to find a way to keep more of what he produces; but what you build in the world, along with the love you share with people who matter to you, is what matters most out of life. A man who follows this advice will not fill his heart.

On a different matter, I think that everyone learned my opinion of the Venusian Arts from reading Cassandra's page; but here is the short version for ease of reference:

On the one hand, the guy who wrote that has a solid handle on a number of problems that are disrupting the way young Americans try to form families and have happy lives today. He's right about the demographic problems, and he's right about a number of ways in which the old system was far better.

However, he's coming at it from a perspective that is actively hostile to women. He really doesn't like women. You can't construct an answer to this question starting from a perspective that is hostile to either sex....

[I]f anyone comes off worse in the piece than women, it's men who like women. I quote:

Hence, many men are still stuck in the obsolete and inobservant notion that chivalry and excess servility are the pathways to sex today, despite the modern reality that a woman's sexual decisions are no longer controlled by her parents, and are often casual rather than locked in matrimony. Whether such men are religious and called 'social conservatives', or effete leftists and called 'girlie men', they are effectively the same, and the term 'White Knights' can apply to the entire group. Their form of chivalry when exposed to 'feminist' histrionics results in these men harming other men at the behest of women who will never be attracted to them.... These men are the biggest suckers of all, as their pig-headed denial of the Venusian Arts will prevent them from deducing that excess agreeability and willingness to do favors for the objects of their lust are exactly the opposite of what makes women sexually attracted to men.

Now, while it's obvious that I rush to avoid any appearance of disagreement with Our Lady Host, and would never think of arguing assertively against any lady, this kind of gives away the game.

My relationships with women are not intended to be 'pathways to sex' in the first place. Neither am I interested in being 'sexually attractive' to the women I meet. I do enjoy the company of women, their charm and grace and easy manners, but I'm quite content with having my sexuality contained within the private space of my home.

I sometimes meet beautiful and desirable women, and I'm always glad of the opportunity to enjoy their company in a friendly way. If I wanted to take them, I'd take them. I don't, because that isn't what I want: what I want is love, which is harder to come by and harder to nurture and to defend.

That, I think, was what dear Cassandra was saying above about her husband: it's just not the same thing at all. If you've focused your mind on sex, you've missed the real thing entirely....

The real alphas out here are the ones who love women. Women know when they meet a man who likes and enjoys women, and they react accordingly.
I appreciate that the doctor wants to be on the side of men; but not, I hope, of men who don't merit it. Men who are themselves deeply angry at women ("fatpocalypse") are just as unlikely to produce an insightful methodology for achieving greater understanding between the sexes as the sort of radical feminist that got so much attention in the 1970s. I suppose chivalry seems "pig headed" to those males who view women as a class of self-absorbed parasites, just as it does to those women who view men as a class of hideous oppressors.

The term they sneer at -- "chivalry" -- is an ethic of willful service to one another. This is true in its relationship between men, whether they were equal fighting companions, or lord and vassal, each with clear and binding duties toward one another. Chivalry's attitude toward women grew out of that same ethic, so that many knightly poems of love borrow the terminology of fealty and service.

I remain convinced that it is both the most successful and the most beautiful model of relations between the sexes. As longtime readers know, I have a whole series of essays on the topic linked on the sidebar, under the heading "Chivalry & Women."

Finally, on anger:
Men are typically more stressed and confused in arguments with women and remain bitter for longer afterward, while women are more comfortable amid verbal jousts, recover from them more quickly, in our ready for another round. Generally, it is fair to say that men are more intimidated in confrontations with women than the other way around.
I certainly agree that the state should stay out of people's marriages. I'm amazed, though, at the study that finds men to be intimidated by arguing with women.

If I've heard one thing said a thousand times it's that women resent the way that men talk over them, ignore them, and generally just refuse to engage them if they aren't interested in the point the woman is trying to make. (Which, as Cassandra once noted, is exactly what men do to each other too!) That doesn't speak of intimidation. At best it's a kind of rough equity; but it's certainly not intimidation.

I can't recall ever being intimidated by a woman. I'm not easy to intimidate in any case, but I can only recall one woman who even tried to do it (and that while I was fairly young, and she an adult). It didn't work, though she did succeed in making me angry -- but not intimidated.

Are we sure the study is on solid ground? Perhaps it's a sampling error. Maybe the kind of guy who wrote the "Venusian Arts" piece (peacocking!) is the sort that's really so scared of women that, at the first sign of trouble, he wilts and slinks off to bitterness (but with the solace of ever-better Virtual Reality porn: who needs those women anyway?).

Perhaps that's the resolution. I noticed some commenters slamming on SWWBO because of her acronym, as though it were proof that she was just the kind of woman that the VA piece was discussing. I hate to think what they would have thought of the story of the originator of the phrase.

He was a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, and a paragon of the sort of love they appear to despise. As a young man he fell in love with a lady called Lily, and sought her hand; but he was delayed in his purpose, first by her father and then by his own, until she eventually married another. That husband abandoned her after embezzling funds from his bank and running off with the family's savings as well. Haggard provided a home for her and her children, and saw to her children's education. She died of the syphilis her husband gave her, but supported and cared for by the man who had really loved her.

Perhaps that made him a fool; but if so, he was my kind of fool.

A Fool and His Money Linger

How Sophisticated:

The New York Times' alleged conservative probably thinks he is 'defending institutions,' which is a key conservative task. Unfortunately, he has failed to understand the nature of the problem or the reasons for the mission.

Americans have lost faith in their institutions. During the great moments of social reform, at least 60 percent of Americans trusted government to do the right thing most of the time. Now, only a quarter have that kind of trust.
Americans haven't lost faith in their institutions. Our institutions are those which are created by, and operate according to, the permanent will of the People as codified in the Constitution of the United States and the constitutions of the several states.

Some of the institutions so created have ceased to "operate according to" that document. In that fashion, they have -- what's the phrase? -- gone rogue. They are no longer our institutions; they are owned by someone, but it isn't the People of the United States. We, the People, would permit the government to do anything it could pass a Constitutional Amendment authorizing. The problem is that the people interested in having a 'great moment of social reform' find that process cumbersome; so they've chosen, increasingly over a few decades, to alter the Constitution either by judicial fiat, or by simple assertion.

Witness, for example, the recent letters from the BATFE that they just won't honor state laws, in spite of clear language in the Constitution that places the matter under consideration in the realm of state, not Federal, authority. Witness the outright disinterest in the question of whether this whole Health Care plan is constitutional -- in the face of at least seven cogent arguments that it probably is not. Witness, for that matter, the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform law, which was openly admitted by everyone not to be 'fully' Constitutional, 'but we'll let the Supreme Court sort that out,' and then SCOTUS permitted it to stand.

The reason the Tea Party movement is in such high standing right now is that it is standing on the wreckage of the Republican party. During the last administration, the Republican party abandoned the principles of limited government. If there's anything this country needs, it's a party dedicated to restoring the Constitution to the center of our public life.

Having gotten worked up in favor of defending 'our' institutions, Mr. Brooks embarks upon a whole line of argument that is nothing but a cum hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy:
The public is not only shifting from left to right. Every single idea associated with the educated class has grown more unpopular over the past year.

The educated class believes in global warming, so public skepticism about global warming is on the rise. The educated class supports abortion rights, so public opinion is shifting against them. The educated class supports gun control, so opposition to gun control is mounting.

The story is the same in foreign affairs. The educated class is internationalist, so isolationist sentiment is now at an all-time high, according to a Pew Research Center survey. The educated class believes in multilateral action, so the number of Americans who believe we should “go our own way” has risen sharply.
That "so" gives away the game: people, he asserts, are turning against these ideas because 'the educated class' favors them. That apparently leaves me out of 'the educated class,' which I regret; but, in spite of my lack of whatever he believes constitutes a real education, I did pick up somewhere that correlation does not imply causation.

Intensity of opposition may be up because 'the educated class' decided it would ramrod all these changes through in a few months over the howls of whatever opposition remains in the government. Certainly the sudden rush has contributed to a spike in a lot of people's ire.

However, the opposition itself arises from the fact that these positions are wrong. If 'the educated class' suddenly decided tomorrow that abortion was a moral evil, I doubt you'd see one single Tea Party member change his view for the simple pleasure of 'opposing the educated.'

This isn't about populist ire against 'the educated.' Believe it or not, these people actually have reasons for holding all these positions.

Science @ Work

Science @ Work:

Arts & Letters Daily links to an amusing "debate" between Discover and a paleoanthropologist.

To those who have linked the post: I want to let you all know that your links have directed more than 10,000 people to find some actual true information about the "Boskop race". Good work out there!
Good work yourself. It's one of the bright spots of the blogosphere that we can access, on a moment's notice, the expertise of a real paleoanthropologist, or astronomer, or whatever other sort of expert we might need. This is how we'd like to see the internet work all the time.

On another topic that skirts the edge of 'controversial science' versus 'non-science,' I ran across an interesting metaphysical argument that would appear to be another answer to the Great Filter aspect of the Fermi paradox. It does touch on quantum physics: specifically, on the issue of observation "collapsing" possible states into a single actual state.

The argument posits that 'all possible universes' evolved along the quantum theory that all possible states remain potential until an observer actually observes them. This continued until one of the possible universes evolved a sentient, conscious being; at which point, all the potential universes collapsed in the face of an observer. Thus, there would likely be only one sentient form of life -- the first one to evolve locked the universe into a single course.

That particular aspect of quantum theory has always struck me as something for which I expect future science to discover a better explanation. Schrödinger's cat probably explains why I feel that way: while, in theory, it's true that you can't really know if the cat is living or dead without looking, in fact, the cat is either alive or dead. I can't believe that my looking really makes any difference; I think we just don't understand the mechanism yet.

Still, since we were recently discussing Buddhism, it's an interesting thought experiment to play with.

GHBC 1: Bendigo Shafter Part I

Grim's Hall Book Club: Bendigo Shafter Part I

I realize that several of you are just now in the process of getting the book, so we'll only do introductory commentary and a few pages.

The first thing to know about Bendigo Shafter is that it arose from an earlier short story Louis L'amour wrote called "The War Trail." (You can find this in the collection Grub Line Rider, pp. 186-208). In the short story, the widow Ruth Macken's son Bud is the protagnist -- unlike in the novel, in which it is Ben Shafter -- but the real hero is the lady herself. Her forceful and forthright nature wins the respect of the best men in the party after the death of her husband, and she saves the party by proving able to negotiate with the Sioux in their own language.

She continues to play a major role in the novel. Her character is one of a few very important ones, and her remarks on love and marriage will be of interest as we continue. She is also the patron of education in the community, as you will discover: not the actual educator, but the one who encourages education. It is clear that L'amour loves this character, and that she is an exemplar of the kind of woman he most admires.

Other characters to pay attention to in the early parts of the book are Ethan Sackett and Webb. Ethan's last name marks him, for those who read L'amour's full works, as a member of a clan from Tennessee that he wrote about at great length. They are simple folk, Scots-Irish, and a fighting people. They tend to be marked by great skill in the woods, learned in the relative poverty of the Appalachians. I find the Sacketts interesting because they are very regularly L'amour's progatonists, but are very different from the protagonists that L'amour normally writes about when he is not writing about Sacketts. His normal protagonist is well-educated (though often self-educated), a creature of the mind as much as of the body. The Sacketts mostly do without the book learning that L'amour valued, but he finds a way to admire them too.

Webb is a character that receives significant foreshadowing in the early pages of the book. I'd like you to pay particular attention to him when he appears in the novel, as I'd like to discuss him and what he means to L'amour. As they move West:

Webb grew, too, but in another way. There had always been a streak of violence in him, but fear of public opinion and fear of the law had toned it down. Now a body could see the restraint falling away.
We'll talk about that at length as the novel progresses; but for now, just based on that paragraph, what do you think will happen to Webb?

Social Harmony II

Social Harmony, Revisited:

Perhaps the most frequently cited thing I've ever written was Social Harmony, a meditation on the importance of old men being dangerous. It ends:

By a happy coincidence, having a society whose members adhere to and encourage those virtues makes us freer as well--we need fewer police, fewer courts, fewer prisons, fewer laws, and fewer lawyers. This is what Aristotle meant when he said that the virtues of the man are reflected in the society. Politics and ethics are naturally joined.
It has been said in several places, recently, that the government has failed us entirely in keeping us safe; but the one thing that has worked in every case is the heroism of the individual citizen.

A Western philosopher would say, "Discuss." The Japanese might say: Katsu.

Tenth Amendment Challenge Presses

Gun Rights: The Tenth Amendment Version

The BATFE is sending letters to gun dealers in Montana and Tennessee stating that it will ignore state laws on intra-state manufactured firearms. The legislatures of these states passed these laws to remind Congress that the Constitution only allows the Federal government to regulate "interstate" commerce, and because the Tenth Amendment reserves non-delegated powers to the states, or to the people.

There's been quite a bit written about this, and I think everyone was expecting the Federal government to simply assert its dominance in this way. I doubt the change of administrations has made any difference here; it's more a question of real power, which all recent administrations (and all Federal bureaucracies) have liked to gather to themselves. It was always a question of how the states would respond, or whether private citizens like gun dealers would force the issue themselves.

So take this post, then, not as a warning of some new tyranny; but just an announcement that the next step in the dance has occurred.

New Year's Cartoons

Cartoons for the New Year:

The Geek with a .45 was celebrating an apparent Looney Toons marathon held today in honor of the new year. I missed it, lacking television of any sort, but his enjoyment of the thing reminded me of an example of the beauty that sometimes can arise from needless duplication. Consider the strange case of "Rhapsody Rabbit" versus "The Cat Concerto."

The same year Warner Bros. released Rhapsody Rabbit, MGM produced a very similar Tom and Jerry cartoon called The Cat Concerto, which features Tom being distracted by Jerry while playing in a concert. Most of the gags are identical to both cartoons, and they used the same music that was played. The Cat Concerto won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

Both MGM and Warner Bros. accused each other of plagiarism, after both films were shown in the 1947 Academy Awards Ceremony. Technicolor was accused of sending a print of either cartoon to a competing studio, who then plagiarized their rival's work. This remains uncertain even today, though Rhapsody Rabbit has an earlier MPAA copyright number and release date. The massive similarities could be coincidental. The animators at Warner Bros. and MGM were experienced in making cartoons, and it could be likely that they all thought of similar concepts and expanded them, not knowing that similar situations resulted in each cartoon.
Judge for yourselves.

You might also be forgiven for thinking that Bugs Bunny's tongue-out performance was a clever mockery of The Devil Himself; but you'd be wrong. Jerry Lee Lewis cut his first demo record in 1954, eight years after this cartoon was filmed. Bugs Bunny got there first.

Dark Hypocrisy, etc.

Dark Hypocrisy, etc.

Today's installation in 'finding the dark hypocrisy at the heart of Middle America' is on Starbucks.

It brought us exotic places and sounds, exposed us to an underground in the safety of a cushy seat: teaching us about places where our coffee came from, and new music and literary voices. It tried to be our cultural guide and helped us feel good about our environmental footprint through its green campaigns and aid to farmers, even if Starbucks did little and we did nothing but buy coffee. It did so consciously, purposefully manipulating our desires, hopes and aspirations, all the while making us feel good about ordering up a venti soy latte.

But, we also knew, on some level, that it was all a delusion we actively participated in. “Starbucks worked as a simulacrum,” Simon writes, “it stamped out the real essence of the original idea of the coffee house and, through proliferation and endless insistence, became itself the real thing for many bobo and creative types.” Even as we believed we were being individuals, demonstrating our sense of style, we were just following the javaman’s master plan.
Good lord, people.

Why do you have to believe that there is some 'dark hypocrisy' about this? Starbucks is selling you a product: coffee. It has many competitors, so it tries to find a niche for itself. It offers what it claims is premium coffee, at a premium price. It offers you the chance to 'upgrade' your purchase by allowing you to buy 'fair trade' coffee. Some people want to do that, so they find themselves with a niche market, and they make a good living. Meanwhile, you buy the coffee (and, perhaps, the good feelings) you want.

What's the hypocrisy? Starbucks is making you a fair offer; you're free to accept or reject it.

I went into a Starbucks not long ago, while I was up in D.C. The fellow behind the bar was carefully projecting his gayness to everyone, and carefully taking their orders for very fancy and sophisticated styles of coffee, using the pseudo-Italian terms that the franchise prefers.

As soon as I stepped up, he looked at my cowboy hat and asked very pleasantly, "Small, medium or large?" I thought that was good service: pretense for those who want to buy pretense, strong black coffee for those who only wanted that.

Death Passes By

Death Passes By:

The news this morning is worth celebrating. 2009 ends with the lowest level of casualties among our servicemen and women in Iraq, and December ends with none killed there in combat at all.

I remember when the Surge was being considered, a lot of people opposed to it demanded to know if you could define what "victory" would even look like. Well, I suspect it looks something like this.

Whether a similar victory is possible in Afghanistan, given the resources and the timeframe we have available, I cannot say. In Iraq, though, our faith and commitment was rewarded. The Kurdish problem remains a latent one, but much we chose to achieve has been achieved.

Now it must be guarded. That work may not be ours for long, but it will be someone's, if the achievement is to last.

All things achieved and chosen pass,
As the White Horse fades out of the grass[.]