Don't Need Any Nazis

We don't need the Klan back either, but we definitely don't need any Nazis down South. We don't need them, and I don't want them.

I really don't get the antisemitism at these so-called Southern rallies either. Jews have been in the South since before George Washington spoke to the Hebrew Congregation in Savannah on his trip down here. Jewish gentlemen fought duels in the South with everyone else, proving that in the old days they were considered the equals of everyone else. This antisemitism isn't Southern heritage, it's a foreign import. We are well-off without it.

As a matter of fact there are certain aspects of Southern heritage we are well-off without, and it's been hard work overcoming them. I mean the racist aspects, of course. The last thing I want to see is anyone trying to bring that poison back into a culture that has labored for generations to sweat it out.


This is what I'm talking about.

All my life I've heard advocates of flying the Confederate flag say that it's a matter of "Heritage, not Hate." I think most of them I've heard saying that believed it. I see the Confederate flag flying all the time in rural Georgia, most often alongside (and subordinate to) the American flag. I think most of those people would have an explosive reaction to somebody bringing a Nazi swastika into their neighborhoods.

How do you make the argument that the Confederate flag is not the equivalent of the swastika, though, with these Klansmen and neo-Nazis marching them side-by-side? They portray themselves as defenders of the South, but they are the living symbol of the argument critics of the South love to make. I have no use for them, and would be glad if they did not feel welcome to show their faces again.

The Hárbarðsljóð

Racy stuff for a Friday night -- a thousand year old poem. As our favorite cowboy Old Norse expert points out, many of the sexually explicit verses were left out of the 19th century translations of this material. Our contemporaries have no similarly limiting sentiments.

Res Ipsa Loquitur

Ezra Klein writes a piece titled: Behind the Google diversity memo furor is fear of Google’s vast, opaque power.

Good point. For example, another headline: Google accused of manipulating searches, burying negative stories about Hillary Clinton.
For example, when typing “Hillary Clinton cri,” Google’s auto-complete function brings up as its top choice “Hillary Clinton crime reform,” even though competing search engines Bing and Yahoo show the most popular search topics are “Hillary Clinton criminal charges” and “Hillary Clinton crime.”

While that could reflect legitimate differences in the engines’ algorithms, Mr. Lieberman said that a search of “Hillary Clinton crime reform” on Google trends showed that “there weren’t even enough searches of term to build a graph on the site.”

“Which begs the question, why on Earth is it the first potential result?” he said, adding, “Apparently far more people are searching for ‘Hillary Clinton crimes’ than ‘Hillary Clinton crime reform.’ Google just doesn’t want you to know or ask.”
Is that a real problem? Maybe Google just knows that this particular author was really interested in crime reform in other contexts, and built that out of his personalized search history. Or maybe it's manipulation designed to hide negative stories about a favored candidate.

Concern about 'vast, opaque power' is very American, and very proper. The Constitution and the Federalist structure of the country were designed to limit vast, opaque and unaccountable power as much as possible. Corporations have at times been competing sources of such power: it was an alliance of private interests that compelled the United States government to adopt the Federal Reserve system, for example. (There's a Georgia connection to this story.) People remain concerned about the Fed to this day, and there are valid reasons for this buried among the wilder conspiracy theories about it. It's not properly accountable, and it exercises vast and opaque powers that affect all of us.

So the concern is not ridiculous, and in fact it is quite reasonable for Americans to be suspicious of such things. What to do?

UPDATE: "No one expects the Google inquisition."

UPDATE: Reason magazine:
The situation is compounded by the fact that Damore's text is not in any sense the screed or rant that detractors call it. In fact, it starts with the statement, "I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don't endorse using stereotypes" and continues
People generally have good intentions, but we all have biases which are invisible to us. Thankfully, open and honest discussion with those who disagree can highlight our blind spots and help us grow, which is why I wrote this document.
The result is a discussion of possible causes, including genetic and cultural influences, for why Google's attempt to hire more women and minorities is going so badly despite massive and ongoing efforts to change that. I suspect that the real problem with the essay's logic (as opposed to, say, Damore's personality and reputation within Google, of which I know nothing) is calling attention to the costs and effectiveness of diversity programs along with their benefits, which are simply taken for granted.

What to Make of This?

I'm just going to say it. #NRA & @DLoesch are quickly becoming domestic security threats under President Trump. We can't ignore that.

— Kathleen Rice (@RepKathleenRice) August 11, 2017
The NRA are allies of President Trump, so... just what are you saying, Congresswoman?

Can Ethics Require Future Knowledge?

Obviously this argument on abortion is not one I favor; you've all been around long enough to know what I think about abortion, and if not, you can work through the arguments given in the comments of this old post from Cassandra's place. Those of you who didn't hang out there often will recognize a number of your comrades from the Hall!

But I'm not here today to talk about my position on abortion, or even this professor's position on abortion. I'm here to talk about a weird feature of her metaphysical argument that seems to me to disable it as an ethical argument.

The first thing she asserts that an unconscious, unfeeling early stage fetus lacks moral standing (e.g., any right not to be killed for convenience). That's a familiar enough stance, and if you accept it as true the rest of her argument that nothing morally bad happens in early stage abortions follows:

1) This kind of being has no moral standing.
2) An action is morally bad only if it harms a being with moral standing.

3) The action of killing this being is not morally bad.

Obviously the way to reject that argument is to reject either or both of the premises, 1 or 2. That's not what I want to talk about.

What I want to talk about is the way that she then goes on to assert that all of us, when we were early stage fetuses did have moral standing. This is because each of us, in that stage, were early-stage persons. It's only the fetuses that don't have a future that lack moral standing.

As a metaphysical argument, I can grasp what that's supposed to mean. For illustrative purposes, imagine an all-knowing being sitting in judgment on the issue. This being can see, now, which of the many fetuses have a future or do not have one. A certain number will die in miscarriages, for example; those lack moral standing. Others will live to be fully-grown human beings, and these do have moral standing.

As an ethical argument, though, this approach surely fails. Ethics is practical philosophy: it's supposed to answer the question, "What ought I to do?" Since human beings cannot possibly have the knowledge of which fetuses have a future, this model can't provide us with any sort of ethical guidance except insofar as our actions determine that the fetus does not have a future.

Ordinarily it would be a big red flag to argue that another being is allowed to determine whether or not one has moral standing! But this leaves us in a very strange place, ethically: it seems to argue that early stage abortion is always a non-issue morally unless you fail at it. The one thing that you ethically must never do is to try and fail to kill a fetus, because then it might prove to be a person later -- meaning that it (he or she!) already had moral standing, and you attempted murder.

That seems impossibly weak ground for such a conclusion. It would also create the weird case in which your action was blameworthy because it was attempted murder, but if you had succeeded it would not have been a murder at all. So you attempted to do something that was not wrong (nor right, as an act against a being with no moral standing), but committed a crime because you failed to do the non-wrong, non-right thing.

That's just not going to work.

The Castle of Maidens

Edinburgh Castle is so old that its founding is shrouded in myths and legends. Some of these are Arthurian, although the site of the castle has apparently been defended since at least the Bronze Age.

Morgan Le Fay
Some historians claim that the first name of Castle Rock was Alauna, meaning “rock place”, found in the Ptolemy’s map of the 2nd century.

Since 1350, there have been many stories and legends about Castle Rock and Edinburgh Castle. There is a source in the Orygynale Cronykil by Andrew of Wyntoun, that the previous name of Edinburgh Castle was “Maiden’s Castle”, which was found by a legendary King of the Britons, Ebraucus. This name occurs frequently up until the 16th century.

In the 17th century, it was believed that the “maidens” were a group of nuns who were replaced with clerics after they’d been ejected from the castle, but this story has been ignored by historians since the 19th century. Other historians connect the name with the Arthurian legend “Cult of the Nine Maidens”, in which it is said that the site once held a shrine to one of the nine sisters, the powerful enchantress Morgain la Fee.

There is one general reference for Castle Rock and it goes back to the early Middle Ages. The reference was found in the epic Welsh poem I Gododdin where Castle Rock is called “the stronghold of Eidyn”. It consists of a series of elegies about the King Mynyddog Mwynfawr of the Brittonic kingdom of Gododdin and his warriors who died in a battle at Catraeth in 600 AD.

Iraqi Support for Israel

I remember reading years ago about how Saddam's support for the Palestinians was not shared by many Iraqis, who viewed them quite negatively. So I wasn't surprised by this article.

In Light of Terrorism, Support for Israel in Iraq Rises 
The Israeli Foreign Ministry is surprised to receive thousands of messages from Iraq in support of Israel in light of the crisis on the Temple Mount and recent terror attacks, with Iraqis saying they 'recognize the State of Israel,' and even calling Palestinians 'traitors and terrorists.'

Les Paul with Billy Gibbons and a Young John Lee Hooker

Mr Paul plays a mean deadpan when he's telling a joke.

Here's John Lee Hooker early on. I enjoy hearing him talk.

Jim Mattis on DPRK

The second paragraph is pretty clear and easy to understand.

UPDATE: Just in case that wasn't clear enough.

Google Should Talk To This Guy

What this guy just told me, and the rest of the world, is that two-bit managers at Google can read all the things that they pretend to provide 'private' spaces for on any of your platforms. Now, Google owns Blogger too, so whatever I put out here they can read. But I was always intending this to be published for the world's consumption; there's no presumption of privacy about the things you publish on Blogger. What I've learned from this guy is that the pretense of privacy they are using to market some of their products is a lie. They don't and won't respect it, and allow even the least important manager to use violations of presumed privacy to hurt people of whose opinions they don't approve.

Edward Abbey wrote that, "No tyranny is so irksome as petty tyranny: the officious demands of policemen, government clerks, and electromechanical gadgets." To that you can add the petty tyrants who work for the electromechanical gadgets, I suppose. Nor do I forget that their plan, their hope, was to align that class of tyrants with the petty tyrants of government. One seamless technological experience of being told what to think and how to live, and being punished for any deviations.

More on the Memo

Some academics respond to the memo, for what it's worth:
#1: The author of the Google essay on issues related to diversity gets nearly all of the science and its implications exactly right.

#2: I think it’s really important to discuss this topic scientifically, keeping an open mind and using informed skepticism when evaluating claims about evidence. In the case of personality traits, evidence that men and women may have different average levels of certain traits is rather strong. For instance, sex differences in negative emotionality are universal across cultures; developmentally emerge across all cultures at exactly the same time; are linked to diagnosed (not just self-reported) mental health issues; appear rooted in sex differences in neurology, gene activation, and hormones; are larger in more gender egalitarian nations; and so forth (for a short review of this evidence, see here.)

But it is not clear to me how such sex differences are relevant to the Google workplace. And even if sex differences in negative emotionality were relevant to occupational performance (e.g., not being able to handle stressful assignments), the size of these negative emotion sex differences is not very large (typically, ranging between “small” to “moderate” in statistical effect size terminology; accounting for less than 10% of the variance).

#3: Among commentators who claim the memo’s empirical facts are wrong, I haven’t read a single one who understand sexual selection theory, animal behavior, and sex differences research.

#4: As a woman who’s worked in academia and within STEM, I didn’t find the memo offensive or sexist in the least. I found it to be a well thought out document, asking for greater tolerance for differences in opinion, and treating people as individuals instead of based on group membership.

Within the field of neuroscience, sex differences between women and men—when it comes to brain structure and function and associated differences in personality and occupational preferences—are understood to be true, because the evidence for them (thousands of studies) is strong. This is not information that’s considered controversial or up for debate; if you tried to argue otherwise, or for purely social influences, you’d be laughed at....

Some of these ideas have been published in neuroscientific journals—despite having faulty study methodology—because they’ve been deemed socially pleasing and “progressive.” As a result, there’s so much misinformation out there now that people genuinely don’t know what to believe.
I think the last one has an interesting point: some of the misconception about what the science says comes from the fact that even scientific journals filter for results that are "pleasing and progressive." That is naturally going to distort the debate downstream. That's how you get a guy like the former Google admin quoted below who argues, essentially, 'I'm sure the author was wrong on the science, though I am not qualified to discuss the science and must defer to experts.'

Markets Explain Cooperation in the Animal World

A biological theory suggests that the reason animals don't always kill each is economics.
Cooperation was common in nature—not just between animals of the same species but also between different species (for example, a plant and its pollinator). But the origins of cooperation were a mystery. How could two animals work together when Darwin’s theory of evolution taught about survival of the fittest? Shouldn’t natural selection always favor ruthless self-interest?

“It was one of the early questions in behavioral biology,” says Hammerstein. “Why do animals not always kill each other? Why is aggression limited?”...

In 1994, Noë and Hammerstein laid out their new theory of biological markets in the journal Behavioral Ecology & Socialbiology. The paper fused the biologists’ different styles: Hammerstein developed the mathematical models, while Noë dug through the scientific literature for evidence from the field. Examples turned up across the animal kingdom. Male scorpion flies offer females a “nuptial gift” of prey before mating. In some species of bird, such as the purple martin, a male will allow another male to occupy part of his territory in exchange for help raising his young. Lycaenid butterfly caterpillars produce a sweet “nectar” whose only purpose is to attract ants, which eat the nectar and protect the caterpillars from predators.

In each example the “exchange rate” is not fixed but rather contingent on the supply of available partners. “It is essentially a supply-demand theory,” says Frans de Waal, the eminent primatologist from Emory University and a former mentor of Noë. The more male scorpion flies available on the market, the larger the nuptial gift the female will demand. The male purple martin chooses the most juvenile-looking and least threatening tenant. And the caterpillars adjust the amount of nectar they produce to the number of ants in the vicinity.
Markets are the biological basis for altruism: Socialists hardest hit.

No One May Discuss This

One of the things discussed in the article cited immediately below was the firing of the Google employee who wrote a memo critical of diversity efforts at Google. Software engineers trending young, he may well have been too young to remember that it cost the President of Harvard his job to raise the same sort of issues even as a theoretical possibility he expressed that he hoped was not the case.

A recent alumnus of Google writes that this sort of thinking has no place in any organization except for purpose-defined hate groups.
What you just did was incredibly stupid and harmful. You just put out a manifesto inside the company arguing that some large fraction of your colleagues are at root not good enough to do their jobs, and that they’re only being kept in their jobs because of some political ideas. And worse than simply thinking these things or saying them in private, you’ve said them in a way that’s tried to legitimize this kind of thing across the company, causing other people to get up and say “wait, is that right?”...

Do you understand that at this point, I could not in good conscience assign anyone to work with you? I certainly couldn’t assign any women to deal with this, a good number of the people you might have to work with may simply punch you in the face, and even if there were a group of like-minded individuals I could put you with, nobody would be able to collaborate with them. You have just created a textbook hostile workplace environment.... Not all ideas are the same, and not all conversations about ideas even have basic legitimacy.

If you feel isolated by this, that your views are basically unwelcome in tech and can’t be spoken about… well, that’s a fair point. These views are fundamentally corrosive to any organization they show up in, drive people out, and I can’t think of any organization not specifically dedicated to those views that they would be welcome in. I’m afraid that’s likely to remain a serious problem for you for a long time to come.
I notice that this last author opens by asserting that the views expressed are wrong, but declines to defend the proposition that they are: that belongs, he says, to someone with a different set of credentials than his own. What credentials would those be, I wonder? It sounds as if this proposition can only be studied from the perspective of disproving it, as it would be "fundamentally corrosive" to any organization to entertain them, such that any organization devoted to serious study would have to reject them outright. Certainly Harvard did.

The views expressed may well be wrong; perhaps it is even very likely that they are wrong. All the same, how much value should we put in the claim that 'all the studies' show X if not-X is a forbidden position that will cost you your career to entertain? Of course all the studies conducted by programs that refuse to consider the possibility of not-X support X. Of course all the people credentialed by programs that insist on X as a prerequisite for remaining in the program will assert X. That's not a significant finding in support of X being really true. Nor does the credential you get from this program, in which the hypothesis is required to be proven by the experiment, likely to inspire much confidence.

So there's a real problem.  Assume for a moment that he's right that you can't even entertain the question -- can't even float the question -- without creating a hostile work environment.  Maybe he is right about that:  certainly both here and in the Harvard case, the reaction to the question was explosive.  (NPR reports that female software engineers at Google skipped work today from upset.)  So it can't be done if it'll create a hostile work environment, not under current American law.  That's just it, then.  It would cause too many problems to ask, and that's the end of it.  We'll just have to assume the truth of the thing that we'd like to believe.

Haven't we tried that model before?  Indeed, isn't that the very model that Progressives like to mock as pre-modern, benighted, backwards, anti-science?

Bad Reputation

Though the original the goal of reputation systems was to issue access tokens to control entry into the groups, they are double edged. Donald Trump proved that the negative of a negative was positive and used his media disapproval ratings as an access token to Red State voters. There is nothing to prevent other candidates from doing the same or stopping groups from flipping the Chinese government reputation index by taking the inverse of the state metric.

A bad rep can be a good rep, depending on who's looking.
That's true about Trump, anyway. The more the media hated him in 2016, the more some people loved him for defying them. It was a kind of credential: you could trust him because the people who despised you hated him too. Maybe that's not the best credential, but it's also not nothing.

There's a Problem With This Metaphor

Hope is a Weapon.

Saw this today. Everybody reading this knows the story, but this is fascinatingly done. I have never seen my wife on the edge of her seat in a movie before. There is not a lot of speaking (despite the trailer). It works. But you must pay attention.

Curiously enough, the following below was shows as a trailer:

A lot more dialogue in any case.