Always hatin on the cauliflower

What's a woke folk to do?  If we plant cauliflower in our community gardens, we're guilty of colonialism.  If we plant yucca and plaintains, we're culturally appropriating.  If we plant no community gardens, we're murdering Gaia and propping up Big Agriculture and capitalism, assuming we don't live in a produce desert.  What's left?  Planting in our own back yards?  Elitist pigs!  How dare we elevate ourselves over tenement dwellers, us and our land-grabbing culture?

If we grow no food, at least we can watch a culture consume itself.

Acting straight

This is one of those articles that send you to the thesaurus looking for an interesting new synonym for "unhinged."  Greta LaFleur worries that Pete Buttigieg's Norman Rockwell treatment on the cover of Time Magazine represents the triumph of "heterosexuality without women."  In this context, being straight has less to do with literal sex than with the awful sort of acting-white contagion that might lead black kids to do well in school in order to improve their lives and the futures of their communities.

We have oreos and bananas and apples as slurs for blacks or Asians or Native Americans who act too white.  It will be trickier to devise a slur for gays who act too straight, but I imagine someone's working on it.

Darth Vader takes over the Energy Star

It's hard to imagine a more irritating virtue-signal than Energy Star ratings, which apparently measure the degree to which an appliance lards on a lot of stupid options in an expensive cyborg brain that will only break expensively and often, while doing a poor job of whatever the appliance is supposed to do by restricting its use of water and power.

So I was delighted to see that the Koch brothers' evil plan to take over the universe has now advanced a step by bagging a coveted Energy Star award.  In a few days, no doubt, we'll see this award reversed as abruptly as some university department's ill-considered extension of a speech invitation to a wrongthink reactionary.

The smug party

In my distant youth I was taught to associate smugness with Republicans, not Democrats.  As Tucker Carleton hilariously put it earlier this year, Republicans always denied they were the party of the rich.  "We denied by the poolside, at the club.  'Boy, another bourbon, please!'"  I instinctively associated the Democrats with individual rights, dignity, and freedom as well.  Somewhere in the 90s all that changed for me.

A Quillette article ruminating on the existential shock of the Australian election included this chart showing the realignment of conservatives and liberals according to educational attainment, which tells us a lot about educational trends in the last few decades:

What the election actually shows us is that the so-called quiet Australians, whether they are tradies (to use the Australian term) in Penrith, retirees in Bundaberg, or small business owners in Newcastle, are tired of incessant scolding from their purported superiors. Condescension isn’t a good look for a political movement.
Combine this scolding with the demented balderdash emanating from ivory towers, and you've got a good recipe for people shaking their heads at the Church Lady and switching to another station.



How Much Is a Dragon Worth?

For aspiring knights and dames and hobbit-adventurers, Forbes staff writer Michael Noer does the analysis.

Last year, to quell lingering suspicions that we simply “make-up” the net worth numbers for the Fictional 15, our annual ranking of the richest fictional characters, I decided to publish the calculations behind my evaluation of Smaug’s fortune, the dragon from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit (See “How Much is a Dragon Worth.”)

Taking into account a variety of factors including the estimated length of a dragon (64 feet), how many scales he has on his belly (822), the percentage of air in the treasure mound (30%) and the price of gold, silver and diamonds I estimated the ancient wyrm to be worth $8.6 billion.

The Internet disagreed.

Citing errors in everything from the value of the “Arkenstone of Thrain” to the price of mithril armor, Fictional 15 fans critiqued nearly every aspect of my calculation, usually concluding that I had vastly underestimated the old flamethrower’s net worth. One reader, gvbezoff, pegged Smaug’s wealth to be $870 billion, calling it a “conservative estimate.” For context, that’s about 12.5 times richer than Carlos Slim Helu, the planet’s richest non-fictional being.


Still, I am man enough to admit to making a few imaginary errors. So I carefully recalculated Smaug’s net worth taking into account the comments on last year’s post. And the Internet was right. He is worth a lot more than $8.6 billion. $53.4 billion more in fact. Let’s go point by point:

Click over for the point-by-point analysis if you wish.

Worst places to live

Someone has figured out the worst towns to live in for all fifty states.  Most of them are pits for the usual reasons of poverty, joblessness, and crime, but some states, like Nebraska, apparently are so uniformly liveable that all the surveyors could find to complain about is that residents didn't have ideal access to fresh produce.  The case against Derry, New Hampshire, is particularly thin:  the cost of living is high in this well-employed, safe little town.  In one Utah town--horrors--the nearest hospital was 10 miles away.  I wish.

At least no one mentioned limited Starbucks accessibility or the over-prevalence of Chick Fil-A.  Two other subjects studiously avoided were demographics and politics.

I have decided to ride up and join Rolling Thunder with some of my old comrades. I will be a week or so. There may be updates from the road.

There Is No Such Thing as "Scientific Proof"

A helpful reminder from Psychology Today.

Nothing But Process Crimes

Byron York says what I have also been thinking: Mueller's failure to find a single plausible Russian agent, or even coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, largely puts paid to this saga. Most of the convictions were guilty pleas that weren't court-tested; many of them were for process crimes, that is, crimes that didn't exist until the investigation itself created them.

The "obstruction!" talk is an attempt at another process crime. There's no underlying crime whose investigation could be obstructed (to say nothing of the glaring absence of formal and even legal modes of obstruction, such as the exercise of executive privilege vs. Mueller). Impeachment is a political process, and you can in a sense impeach for anything you want, but it makes no sense to impeach a President over allegations of a process crime.

I am beginning to think that the Republican congressman who joined calls for impeachment is really working for Trump. It'll be even harder to ignore calls from the hard left base with a Republican siding them, but on the House side where his apparent defection doesn't change the math. Either the Democrats give in and spend the 2020 election season failing to remove the President in the Senate trial, or they refuse and demoralize/split their base going into the 2020 election cycle. Either way, Trump comes out ahead.

They should bury this and "Move On" as quickly as possible. But maybe they can't, with the flipside investigations into how the investigation came to be coming due.

The View from Hornyhead


No trail to the summit, just a long push through the brush to reach this summit at the southwestern corner of the Middle Prong wilderness, Nantahala National Forest. The last hundred plus vertical feet are a real fight, bare stone precipices rather than anything you can walk upright. It's a long way from anywhere. Too bad there aren't more places left that are.

The real problem with fake SAT scores

You may have thought the real problem with monkeying around with measurements of scholastic aptitude was that lying to ourselves only leaves us with less trustworthy information to guide our actions with.  No, no.  The real problem is that jimmying the SAT scores to reflect the impact of adversity only obscures the real point, which is racial quotas, because they alone can purge the sin of slavery.  Well, maybe racial quotas and a healthy dollop of reparations.  Apparently only pitifully demoralized liberals still think measurable adversity is the real problem.  Besides, how would you measure it?  Quit wasting time and show us the money.

By the way, remember when "SAT" stood for "Scholastic Aptitude Test," before we started to pretend it was simply three neutral letters chosen more or less at random?  "Scholastic" raises all kinds of uncomfortable issues, as does "Aptitude."  "Test" produces anxiety.  Soon we'll have to call it "banana," and we'll have to get to work on that hateful term "score."

Climate what?

We were talking recently about the exhausting task of updating terminology in order to stay among the elect in the field of woke.  The Guardian style guide is right there to help us:


The new terms aren't mandatory (yet).  This is just a heads-up to would-be members of the elect, like a warning that the network will be down between 4 and 5 pm for updating.  The true woke don't wait for written orders, anyway.  They are exquisitely sensitive to more vague and preliminary currents than that: a frown, a slight turning away, a decrease in invitations to the right parties, signs that your own head could be next on the chopping block.

I applaud "climate crisis," with its built-in urgency scrubbed of any specifics, and "climate breakdown" is admirably content-free, but what's with "climate heating"?  I thought the whole idea of "climate change" was to avoid the embarrassing lack of evidence for increased Btu's.  Heating is such a stark term, no nuance, no subtlety.  If "change" sounds too cuddly or Obama-like, surely they could try "disruption" or "shock."  We've had a good run with "trauma" and "bombshell" lately.  Climate annihilation?  Climate Ragnarok?  Climate weasels-ripped-my-face?

More tipping points

I suppose if Nigel Farage becomes Prime Minister, he'll be accused of collusion with China.


Update:  Green party takes an unexpected drubbing in Australian elections.

Tipping which way?

The Washington Examiner marshals evidence that voters worldwide are wearying of expensive and unconvincing policies to address climate whatever.  The Guardian finds it equally obvious that we're on the cusp of a worldwide conversion to true belief and deep sacrifice.

Or maybe the sides are just sorting out and we're about to go to war.

They don't need to be green or nude, either

From Powerline's always excellent "Week in Pictures," including a round-up of headlines (many involving our hero, "Florida Man"):  Cocaine in the Thames is another problem eels don't need, says wildlife expert.

As Zippy the Pinhead used to say, "Toreador pants are something that make your feet look big, too."

Uptick in law enforcement?

Maybe I'm just paying more attention, as a result of anxiety over a corrupt Deep State, but it's both alarming and encouraging to see four corrupt American defense or intelligence officials go to jail this year for spying for the Chinese between 2010 and 2017.

Maybe party time is over.  Joe diGenova said recently that some of the RussiaGate offenders ought to retain five lawyers apiece.  I'm thinking five law firms apiece, but we'll see where all this goes.  We should have the IG report soon.  The FISA court fraud alone is a big deal.  After that, we'll see where U.S. Attorney Durham's efforts lead us, given that his powers are broader than the IG's:  he can subpoena non-government employees.

I'm a little surprised no one has yet panicked and turned state's evidence.  These guys ain't Gordon Liddy.

The Great Awokening

This Quillette article points out that not all true believers in the new Woke religion are cynical charlatans, because "[s]incere belief and status motives often conspire."
Because it allows a person priority access to crucial and coveted resources such as money and mates, the desire for status is probably a fundamental human motivation. And because that desire is primitive and powerful, many social practices and activities function at least partially to delineate status relationships. These can be analyzed as status systems and operate in predictable ways because, whatever its diverse manifestations, status has some invariant features. Most importantly, it is inexpansible. That is to say, its supply does not grow. Unlike the economic pie, the status pie remains roughly the same across time. Therefore, players in the status game inevitably inhabit a zero-sum world. If one person’s status goes up, then another’s must go down, which explains why people are exquisitely sensitive not only to gains in their own status, but also to gains in other people’s status. Another’s triumph inevitably rearranges the distribution of a finite and precious resource.
And the zero-sum game explains why "people in Woke culture expend so much effort sending signals to each other and so little quietly working to improve people’s lives."

RIP Mr. Kelling

A founder of the "Broken Windows" approach to police work has died.
The endgame for much of academia and for “progressives” is to eliminate proactive policing in minority neighborhoods. These critics remain wedded to the idea that crime can be lowered only by solving its alleged root causes: racism and poverty. Kelling asserted the opposite: that constitutional, responsive policing is the best hope that law-abiding residents of high crime areas have to live free from fear, a right that people in safer neighborhoods take for granted. Portraying the police as a force for evil is one of the most destructive consequences of the 1960s revolt against traditional authority. George Kelling’s empirically based wisdom revived the understanding that protecting public order is an essential and humane function of government—and that the viability of cities rests on respect for the law.
Mr. Kelling probably wouldn't have thought much of the "expressing pain in a bodied way" approach.

A Song on a Lute

This is a song without a long history, but it does have a history: it's from a 1990s video game called The Elder Scrolls: Arena, but was included in 2011's The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim as well. Skyrim, like the Conan movie of a few posts back, paid a real composer to produce a real score. This piece isn't part of that score, though, just an acoustic update of a tinny version written for early 1990s IBM PC sound cards. It's a surprisingly nice piece of music, considering.



The full soundtrack (which doesn't include this piece, but the true compositions) is here. Some of it is extraordinary.

"Intellectualization"

Today I learned of a Freudian concept with a built-in Kafka trap.
Among the intellectual defenses against analysis are a refusal to accept the logic of emotions, attempts to refute the theory of psychoanalysis,[19] or speculating about one's own problems rather than experiencing them and attempting to change.[20]...

A woman in therapy continues to theorise her experience to her therapist – 'It seems to me that being psycho-analysed is essentially a process where one is forced back into infantilism...intellectual primitivism' – despite knowing that she 'would get no answer to it, or at least, not on the level I wanted, since I knew that what I was saying was the "intellectualising" to which she attributed my emotional troubles'.[33]
I'm often critical of the theory of psychoanalysis, especially Freudian analysis. It's characteristic of Freudian theories that you can't prove you aren't sick; they used to make movies about that, back when involuntary psychiatric imprisonment was a thing. You say you don't have an Oedipal complex, sir? Well, that's a sign that you're repressing it, and that's even more dangerous!

Here we get a pure form of the Kafka trap, though. The Kafka trap is (as I imagine all of you know) the kind of a trap in which declaring your innocence proves your guilt. The only way to prove yourself correct is to admit guilt, in which case, of course, you're declared guilty. In this case, the very act of questioning the validity of the theory under which you stand accused proves that you're guilty of the accusation. That blog post describing a Kafka trap would certainly be said to be an act of 'intellectualization'; any attempt by the author to refute the theory, for example in order to establish that this was a correct description of the world rather than a psychological defense mechanism, would be taken as evidence that they were involved in psychological defenses.

That's a problem because, as always, Freudian concepts are fielded as weapons.
Generally, you can only intellectualize when your body and life are safe. So it makes sense that people who are white, male, heterosexual, or able-bodied, are quickest to adopt intellectualization, while those who are brown and black, non-male, queer or who have a disability are so clearly angry, sad, and scared.

As a white female, I was raised with this idea that if you want to be heard, you have to be emotionless. It’s infused in our culture, that the rational, emotion-free argument is the best type of argument. The qualities of detached rationality are generally attributed to white men, and so white men are unconsciously taught to believe themselves to be fair and unbiased arbiters of all situations. Which is how you get seven white men signing away the healthcare rights of women around the world....

Then I became both a therapist and a feminist, at the same time.... I got called a bitch and accused of PMS-ing and laughed at and mocked–but I also found my people. I found whole humans who knew that we cannot bring ourselves to any conversation without bringing our bodies and real emotions.
The opening assumption is wrong, but I can see why she assumes it. Just the other day a feminist on a college campus flew into a rage and physically attacked some anti-abortion protesters. (Not for the first time.) This would be said to be 'expressing her real, deep pain,' in a 'bodied' way; which is to say, the violence would be licensed. And, indeed, the police did not even handcuff this slight female who repeatedly punched a man in the head. The news report describes her as having been 'arrested,' but if you watch the video you see the police explaining that they're just giving her a citation "which is the same thing as an arrest." Except for the arresting. So for her, it probably does seem like she can only intellectualize if she feels safe; when she doesn't feel safe, she must 'act out her real feelings' using her 'body.'

But if a man like me lashes out violently at another person, the police are going to respond very differently. We would certainly be arrested -- actually arrested, taken away in chains and booked -- and possibly not released on bail before the trial, if a judge considered us at risk of lashing out violently again. As I've related before, the last time I got pulled over the cops immediately assumed bracketing fire positions, hands on their guns.

For a man like me, the ability to set aside emotion and respond intellectually is the only thing that creates safety. If I respond with my real emotions and body, I might well get killed by defense mechanisms society has built for that express purpose. As the recent book The Goodness Paradox points out, civilization and morality seem to have come to be in order to license and enable the killing of strong males. A male who cannot restrain his 'real emotions' and 'body' is subject to potentially deadly force by police, at essentially all times.

So I guess in that sense it is a 'defense mechanism,' but not a Freudian one. It's a real defense. It creates actual safety where otherwise there is grave peril. And that's not a bad thing, all psychoanalysis aside.

This Should Be Interesting

Twitter has chosen a stunning graphic to highlight that SAT story.


Over/under on how long it will remain up? I'll go with an hour.

The privilege index

The annals of IQ insanity:  college admission boards rely on SAT scores because professional educators associate high IQ with probable academic performance.  Somehow they intuited that high school GPAs weren't 100% reliable at signaling IQ.  SAT scores, in contrast, correlate with fantastic fidelity to IQ.

We barely are allowed to think, let alone talk, about what IQ is and why it might be valuable (but it doesn't make you a good person!).  Nevertheless, experience keeps confirming uncomfortable theories that it has something to do with competence in academic, technical, or cognitive tasks, which, for now, we still sort of think is a good thing, at least in the neurosurgeon who's about to operate on us.  Also, competence in those brainy areas--whether or not we're prepared to admit it is useful to society or praiseworthy in any way--correlates well with financial success and level of education.  What's worse, it seems to run in families, which means that on the whole it also correlates well with the financial success and education of one's forebears.  The horrifying cherry on top is that it correlates strongly with race, the uncomfortable implication being that race also must have something to do with inherited qualities, not all of which can be scrubbed away by the right research filter.

Well, we can't have that.  What we need is an adjustment to SAT scores for adversity.  What qualifies as adversity?  Among other things, all the background conditions that correlate strongly with low SAT scores, such as parents with all the economic, professional, and educational characteristics of groups with low SAT scores.  But that's no good, because the idea of parents sneaks back in that uncomfortable concept of inheritance.

Inheritance doesn't tell you everything by a long shot.  SAT scores give a pretty sharp picture of a college-bound student's horsepower; circumstances give a fuzzy one, though strongly correlated.  We ought to be ignoring the fuzzy signal and using the sharper one.  Instead, we're pretending that the fuzzy signal is some kind of contraindication, if not an outright thought crime for which we have to do penance.

If IQ matters, inheritance is going to favor some students over others, an advantage that also will be broadly reflected in their circumstances.  If IQ doesn't matter, we ought to chuck the pseudo-IQ tests and make college admission a free-for-all:  a simple lottery, or racial quotas, or even an expansion of the wide-open public school system to age 22.  Or, heck, federally mandate lifelong free education for anyone who still feels he hasn't reached his full potential as a neurosurgeon.

This guy was general counsel for the FBI?

James Baker, former GC for the FBI, is a confused man.  A contributing editor for the website Lawfare, he posted a rambling account of his spiritual conflicts in opposing our dangerous president.  Hatred, he counsels us, hasn't worked, as evidenced by the president's stubbornly steady poll numbers.  Why don't we try love?  By love, he doesn't mean something warm and fuzzy, he means full-throated bold opposition, in the tradition of Martin Luther King.  Maybe that will bring Trump's polls down at last.  Throw in some Dalai Lama, perhaps even lethal force, if spiritually appropriate.  Whatever works.

At the same time, he's troubled by damage to his beloved FBI's reputation.
One of my dearest relatives, who happens to be a supporter of the president, asked me last year, “Jimmy, is everyone at the FBI corrupt?” I was dismayed.
It's possible that Baker, whose mind apparently is more unhinged than wonderfully focused by the prospect of his own hanging, would do well to give both hate and love a pass for now and concentrate on honesty, both internal and external. Some of this swirl of love and hate might come into sharper focus for him.