Cultural Appropriation!

No, no, that should be a good American version, like this:

Er, no, wait...

All those old Prohibition songs end up being better advertisements for a drop of the pure.

It's because they were wrong, of course. But that was an American song first, you Irish cultural appropriators!


Not that cigarettes are good for you. Tex Williams is dead now, more's the pity.

The Man Who Strangled a Mountain Lion Gave an Interview

I haven't found the text yet, but it looks like he's doing all right.

What's with these crushed Asians?

(Who remembers that Gilda Radner skit?) Actually what I wanted to write about is a Department of Labor lawsuit against tech giant Oracle for discriminating against the usual suspects.  This caught my eye as a complaint about how Asian-heavy the tech jobs are at Oracle:
Some of the new claims also substitute broad statistics for refined analysis. For example, as the Wall Street Journal points out, the DOL relies for its hiring discrimination claim on evidence that 82 percent of employees hired by Oracle for technical positions are Asians, whereas Asians were “only” 75 percent of applicants.
It sounds to me like being in the ballpark if the racial quotas for applicants and hirees are within 10% or so, so I can't get too excited about the ratio of 75% to 82%. But seriously, 3/4 of the applicants are Asian? Are we not supposed to notice this? Are we supposed to think that's irrelevant to questions about what aspects of race might be important in job statistics besides allegations of racism?

And this is what the Asian statistics look like even with the Ivy League schools grinding them into the dirt as hard as they know how.

Got That Gentrification Problem Licked

I had thought that it was part of a Congressperson's job to try to obtain investment in their communities, but apparently that's wrong.

“Anything is possible: today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world."

Yeah, you sure showed him.

Lufthansa sues passenger

Okay, with a headline like that, you know it has to be good stupid.  Oh boy, is it.

In short, the passenger booked a round trip flight from Oslo to Seattle (with a layover in Frankfurt) for about $741.  While returning from Seattle, he then got off in Frankfurt and thence flew to Berlin on a completely separate ticket.  Lufthansa says that the cost of his flight ought to have been about $2300 more if he had bought it "properly", and wants him to pay the difference.

So let's make this simple.  Let's say you want to get from New York to LA.  But the flights are more expensive than a flight from New York to Lake Tahoe that has a layover in LA.  So by buying the NY>LA>Tahoe ticket and just getting off in LA, you save money.  But then the airline catches wind of it and demands you to pay the difference since you really wanted a NY>LA flight.

One would hope you'd tell them to pound sand.  You took advantage of their pricing.  "But then they can't sell the seat from LA to Tahoe!"  Wrong!  That seat was sold, you paid for it.  Whether you use it or not is immaterial, it was paid for in full by you.  And this argument is doubly rich from an industry that thinks little of double-booking seats because they expect passengers to miss flights or not fly for some reason.

But what truly amuses me is that Lufthansa's argument explicitly says that if you buy a ticket you are obligated to use all parts of the ticket, or else they'll sue.  Which leads me to the idea that if they believe that missing (or not taking) a flight grants them the right to charge you for the price of a ticket from your origin to the layover city you actually stop at, then that allows them to demand money from every passenger stranded in a layover city every time there's a weather cancellation, or mechanical problem, or other flight delay.  Talk about perverse incentives!

"Demonic Males" and Morality

A piece of Darwinian theory, which I have not finished reading, and am posting here chiefly to remind me to get back to it. It may be of interest to many of you, too.

Yeah, That Makes Sense...?

Her office pushed back against the notion that it was hypocritical for Ocasio-Cortez, who has made housing affordability one of her top policy concerns, to move into a luxury building. A spokesman pointed out that her office also uses a car with an "internal combustion engine that runs on fossil fuels," even though she thinks their use should be eliminated.
Her spokesman said that.

Republicans sabotage Green New Deal... by calling for a vote?

It's true.  According to Senator Markey (co-sponsor of the Green New Deal), when Sen. McConnell called for a vote on the proposal, that's sabotaging it.

No honestly, you can't make this up.  "This is a list of things we want!"  "Okay, let's vote on it."  "You just want to avoid a national debate about it!"

No, what's more likely is that Sen. Markey realizes the same thing that Sen. McConnell has.  That it's unpassable, unworkable, and that by forcing Democrats (many of whom are running for their party's nomination for President) to vote on it, they will either have the albatross of this pile of Green dung tied around their neck, or they will be forced to repudiate it and this tick off their base.

It's not sabotage, Sen. Markey.  It's being hoist in your own petard.

Incandescent Beauty

An argument that the world is too beautiful to explained by natural selection, which begins with another bird example:
A male flame bowerbird is a creature of incandescent beauty. The hue of his plumage transitions seamlessly from molten red to sunshine yellow. But that radiance is not enough to attract a mate. When males of most bowerbird species are ready to begin courting, they set about building the structure for which they are named: an assemblage of twigs shaped into a spire, corridor or hut. They decorate their bowers with scores of colorful objects, like flowers, berries, snail shells or, if they are near an urban area, bottle caps and plastic cutlery. Some bowerbirds even arrange the items in their collection from smallest to largest, forming a walkway that makes themselves and their trinkets all the more striking to a female — an optical illusion known as forced perspective that humans did not perfect until the 15th century.
It's art, the scientists reason, and the development of such an elaborate courtship ritual is not adaptive. So why do they do it?

The way the theory works, of course, is that it's a kind of accident; natural selection doesn't necessarily mean that changes are useful, it just tends to strip away the ones that aren't via extinction. If the birds are 'good enough' at surviving in other ways, these kinds of extravagances can survive. But this is only one example; it turns out that nature seems to strive for beauty in many other ways.

It's a point Hannah Arendt made some years ago. She pointed out that animals are quite ugly internally -- intestines and the like -- but not externally. She reasoned that there was something about life that strives to be seen as beautiful. That's interesting, especially since so much of life lacks eyes that see; but even starfish are beautiful, in their way. In fact, it extends beyond life. Galaxies certainly are beautiful, and they're almost accidents. Waves on the ocean; sunsets.

Well, now that you've explained that it's economics

You all thought the Green Leap Forward was economic lunacy, but not so fast.  It turns out that it's really good economics:  the logical next step after the enemies of mankind crushed our hopes for the carbon tax. It's an "economic stimulus package for the planet." You love the planet, don't you? For you unsophisticated types, here's how it works. It's simple, just pay attention and shut up.
[T]he challenges and costs of relying solely on current technologies to address climate change are prohibitively high. We need investments in clean innovation to make it cheaper to reduce emissions in the future. . . . While carbon pricing is the most cost effective way to reduce emissions today, government subsidies are the most cost effective way to advance clean technologies tomorrow.
We know this, because government subsidies consistently produce cost-effective results. You have to spend money to make money! You can't afford NOT to buy this! We'll lose money on every transaction, but make it up in volume. A cautionary note, because, you know, these guys are serious and sober, not just snake-oil salesmen:
Of course, the effectiveness of the proposal at spurring innovation will depend on its design, the exact details of which have yet to be ironed out.
Now a nod to opposing arguments, to show we're considering all sides of the debate:
Opponents will also claim that the government is a bad venture capitalist, and that a Green New Deal will pour taxpayer dollars into clean energy boondoggles. While concerns about government waste are certainly real, they can be avoided through smart policy design.
Now that makes me sad. Who would say such mean things about the government's record as a venture capitalist? They're doing the best they can. Anyway, we're going to avoid any problems by going out right now and getting us some smart policy design. Not those old bad policy designs.

This almost makes me like the deal to avert the shutdown

"Journalist and Soros Equality Fellow" Michelle Garcia complains on CNN that Democrats "gave too much away":
If Trump signs off on the deal, he gets far less border wall funding than he initially demanded, in the immediate, but he wins critical credibility for the Republicans' unsubstantiated and false claims of a border security crisis.

I may try this

You'll say, no doubt, that it's an unconventional approach, but I'm thinking it would really liven up the next Commissioners Court meeting.

Actually it reminds me of the joke with the punchline, "You don't come here for the hunting, do you?"

Interesting comparison

Mr. Soros is a little concerned:
The European Council on Foreign Relations, an organization whose founding was sponsored by George Soros, has concluded that up to a third of the European Parliament may consist of “populists” after this spring’s elections, paralyzing decision-making in the EU. Mr. Soros warned that the EU may dissolve, like the Soviet Union.

Not much of a capitalist

Elizabeth Warren recently announced that billionaires should "stop being freeloaders." Robert Reich helpfully explained:
Anyone who has a billion dollars either exploited a monopoly that should have been broken up, got inside information unavailable to other investors, bribed some politicians, or inherited the money from their parents (who did one of the above).
AEI, not exactly a firebreathing conservative site but at least a moderately sensible one, breathed a quiet protest after pointing out that, honestly, there are lots of OK guy who get rich by the stunning and unfair move of introducing a wildly popular and valuable product:
Calling for higher tax rates doesn’t make you a socialist. Nor does arguing for a more expansive safety net. But saying all wealth is, at best, undeserved and, at worst, pilfered, pinched, pocketed, and purloined? Well, you’re probably not much of a capitalist, that’s for sure.


The Netflix documentary series "The Horn," about Swiss helicopter rescue teams operating near the Matterhorn, is worth catching.  Beautifully filmed, without a word on toxic masculinity.

I had no idea Swiss German sounded so unlike my bit of school German.  In the Swiss dialect, the long "a" in words like zehn or geht rhymes with the English "eye." Other sound shifts are too alien and too various for me to catch.  Only when the doctor is talking does it sound like German to me.

It looks like those helicopter pilots could land on a flagpole.

Bee Swarm

Crowder's Beard Launches Solo Act

God Agrees to Spare Virginia if Just 10 Democrats Who Never Wore Blackface Can Be Found

Pelosi Reveals Favorite Bible Verse: "War Is Peace. Freedom Is Slavery. Ignorance Is Strength."

Google Celebrates Noahic Covenant

Elizabeth Warren Admits to Wearing Paleface at College Costume Party

Update: Just because

Two Views on Sex/Gender

The first one is from Minding the Campus.
[A]bout 75% of all PhDs in psychology now go to women (a trend that began in the late 1980s).

Since 2009, women have outnumbered men overall in doctoral degrees earned, and the gender imbalance in psychology is particularly marked. Moreover, in fields such as developmental and child psychology, women Ph.D. recipients outnumber men by more than five to one. According to the APA’s own documents, this has for years caused concern about the “feminization” of the field of psychology.

In a 2011 report, the APA affirmed that gender diversity is important, as is a diversity of viewpoints. But if the APA just redefines what desirable human characteristics are, perhaps they won’t have to bother with this problem or the fact that women are the vast majority of therapists in practice.
The second one is from Esquire. I won't excerpt it. It is wrong to try to extrapolate very far from a single example, which is the premise of the piece. But the piece is nevertheless interesting on many levels.

Are Animals Self-Conscious, or are Scientists not Self-Conscious Enough?

So Grim's recent post "Bird Thoughts" which looked at the questions of consciousness, how it may have developed, and where it may originate reminded me of some related news: a recently done experiment attempted the famous "mark test" that has been used on dolphins, higher apes, and Eurasian magpies to show the possession of self-awareness (by recognizing that seeing themselves in a mirror is not another animal, but is a reflection of themselves) on a *fish*- and lo and behold, they responded as though they did recognize themselves.  So it would seem then, that they are on a level of intelligence and self-awareness on the plane of dolphins, if the test is to be believed.  Now, the common sense test suggests then that perhaps the test itself isn't as good as some thought it might be (no offense to the blue streak cleaner wrasses out there).

The Blue Streak Cleaner Wrasse

I find this in line with my own inclinations- almost every time I hear about a test showing how smart some animal species is, with the obligatory implication from the scientists conducting the experiments that there is more to the animals than we know (and I infer from either the scientist directly, or the journalist reporting on it that maybe they're more like us than we'd like to admit, and we're not so special), I become highly skeptical, and find at least a thing or a few that seem to me to be interpretive suppositions and perhaps reflecting biases that call into question the reliability of the test used.  Of course, I have to also be wary of my own biases in that I think humans are different from the animals, so I try to keep an open mind.

In the end, I think this test result will do much good in forcing some self reflection of the researchers and perhaps the development of more rigorous tests less prone to interpretive bias.

As one of the interview scientists said- "If we want to understand the complexity of life, and our place within that complexity, we must ask questions in a way that avoids the inherent bias we as narcissistic humans have." 


Isn't That How Congress Does Work?

As readers know, I don't endorse or put up with antisemitism. However, I'm a little bemused by today's controversy over the remarks of Somali-born Representative Omar of Minnesota. She said that her fellow Congressmen are motivated principally by lobbyist money where Israel is concerned, and cited AIPAC as the source of this money. She's been forced to apologize by the Democratic leadership.

OK, I'll grant that she has a bad record, and antisemitism is likely. However, if you said on any other topic that Congressmen are motivated principally by seeking illicit personal profit, including through lobbyist dollars, would anyone bat an eye? That's why people form lobbyist groups, right? That's why most of Congress are millionaires, though not all of them were when they got there, right?

Look at the net worth of some of these Congressfolk of long service, and calculate how much of that came from their salary. This isn't a very controversial thing to say about, say, why Republicans tend to favor amnesty in spite of the fact that their constituents hotly oppose it. It's the money, right? The Chamber of Commerce and many rich industries really want to depress the price of labor, both unskilled and skilled. That's why there's always such a push for amnesty, for more H1 visas, and why eVerify never manages to get through the Republican-led houses of Congress.

Pick your topic. Does anyone doubt that Congress is being bribed in various ways, as well as being allowed to profit off prior knowledge of how they are going to legislate?

So why would it be antisemitic to assert that a Jewish lobby is behaving like every other lobby? That's treating Jews -- these particular ones -- just the same way as everyone else. It's the opposite of bias, it's genuine equality.

I have a similar concern when people cry "Antisemitism!" about complaints about George Soros' deploying his vast wealth to try to create effects in American politics. Yes, Soros is a Jew. Yes, there's an ancient trope about Foreign Jews doing things like that which has been used by actual antisemites in the past. However, Soros really is spending a lot of money on organizations designed to create effects in American politics, and he's not an American. It's not his business how we govern ourselves, and it's reasonable to object to a foreign billionaire trying to buy influence in our government. [UPDATE: Apparently at some point he became a naturalized citizen, which I did not know. Obviously an American citizen has a right to engage in our politics. See the comments.] The fact that he's Jewish is immaterial to the complaint. The existence of the trope does not alter the fact that the charge, in this case, is perfectly true and legitimately objectionable.

Now, I don't think what Omar said is actually true. My sense is that AIPAC isn't actually powerful enough to do what Omar claims they do; if they were, there would have been no Obama-era Iran deal. It's wrong to raise false charges. But it's not antisemitic, necessarily, to believe that what is true of Congress in most cases involving lobbyists is still true of Congress where there are Jewish lobbyists. It's only treating them on even terms with everyone else, which is surely fair game.

Redistribution Never Ends

This is one of the better parodies I've seen lately.
This past weekend, thousands of protesters from the ‘Nice Guy Socialist Coalition’ marched on the Capitol to demand Congress pass a bill “guaranteeing men’s basic human right to access to women.”

“It really isn’t fair,” says Gunther Doogan, leader of the coalition. “Women want guys who are strong, ambitious, reliable, well-groomed…they only seem to care about profiting off of the virtues of good men...."

Criticisms by counter-protesters railed against the clear infringement on women’s rights by the legislation. Coalition members fired back, stating that women inherited their good looks and virtues from their parents. “Why should they have a right to their bodies?” asked Jacob Werner, a gaming streamer from Boston. “They didn’t earn them! I’d be a stud if I had parents who provided me with good genetics, basic understanding of social cues, and grooming habits!”

“I can’t believe in 2019 there are people who still don’t believe in a man’s right to be loved,” said Doogan. “While they selfishly preen over their precious ‘individual rights’, men across the country are literally starving for affection. No man should be denied access to women simply because he has no redeeming qualities.”

Prejudice and Votes for Women

So it's become the standard history of the 19th Amendment that the real reason for it was to dilute the votes of majority-male mass immigrants in the era. 1919 saw some of the worst racial violence in American history, and anti-immigrant sentiment was at an all time high. More men than women immigrated, so white men voted to give women the vote because it would buoy up traditional Americans versus those crazy Irishmen, Italians, and Germans. Though framed in moral terms, the actual motive was low.

I had thought, however, that better motives were in play out West, where women gained the vote in Wyoming territory early. I thought it was that there were many important jobs to do, the few women around had to join in doing them, and did them so well that it just seemed natural to extend the vote. After all, if a woman can be the mayor, why couldn't she vote for the mayor?

Unfortunately, my faith in human nature has betrayed me again. It turns out the real motive was to dilute the votes of freed blacks.

Recently I was listening to a rabbi who pointed out that, as a Jew, he was more interested in the action than the intention. This is distinct from the Christian view, promulgated in the Middle Ages by Peter Abelard, that intention is what really determines if an action is sinful or not.

You can see the advantage of the Jewish view here. If it was a just action, it doesn't matter why you did it. You are a just person if you do just things.

Abelard's view has advantages too, especially for those who sometimes do wrong things with good intentions. Still, it seems to make a sin out of what is ordinarily viewed by many as an act of supreme justice.

Bird Thoughts

This piece in the Atlantic is rambling and undisciplined, but the subject is one of great interest.
It is alternatively described as the last frontier of science, and as a kind of immaterial magic beyond science’s reckoning. David Chalmers, one of the world’s most respected philosophers on the subject, once told me that consciousness could be a fundamental feature of the universe, like space-time or energy. He said it might be tied to the diaphanous, indeterminate workings of the quantum world, or something nonphysical.

These metaphysical accounts are in play because scientists have yet to furnish a satisfactory explanation of consciousness. We know the body’s sensory systems beam information about the external world into our brain, where it’s processed, sequentially, by increasingly sophisticated neural layers. But we don’t know how those signals are integrated into a smooth, continuous world picture, a flow of moments experienced by a roving locus of attention—a “witness,” as Hindu philosophers call it....

It was likely more than half a billion years ago that some sea-floor arms race between predator and prey roused Earth’s first conscious animal. That moment, when the first mind winked into being, was a cosmic event, opening up possibilities not previously contained in nature.
If Chalmers is right, the evolutionary picture the author takes as "likely" is wrong. There is no 'first mind,' because consciousness is a feature of reality itself. The thing to explore is how consciousness is experienced by different forms of organization of this basic reality.

The author is also wrong (typically) in his description of the thoughts of the ancients and Medievals on the subject. This view Chalmers is advocating is quite ancient; it was Plato's opinion, and Plotinus' model. The name for it is panpsychism, and it happens to be my opinion as well.

Aristotle thought that discursive reason was a feature of the human soul, but not the animal soul. He did not thereby assume animals were 'unconscious automatons.' For Aristotle, three kind of souls 'stack,' as it were: plants have a limited capacity to sense the sun and turn towards it, and to distinguish nutrition and absorb it; animals have an additional capacity for locomotion in search of food, which grants a higher degree of consciousness. This is because you have to be able to recognize that the thing over there is different from you, and that you need to go over to it and eat it. The capacity to reason abstractly and discursively, however, Aristotle thought was an additional layer of capacity that only humans had.

Really, the opinion the author attributes to the ancients and Medievals is most properly an Enlightenment opinion. Kant seems to have thought something like that about animals. For him, access to the order of reason is the basis for the "integrat[ion] into a smooth, continuous world picture," which was a process Kant called "transcendental apperception." Thus, if animals lacked access to discursive reason, they couldn't be conscious because reason is what does the work on Kant's model.

As is often the case -- nearly always, I think -- we find that the ancients were closer to correct than the Enlightenment thinkers, the Moderns, and so forth. This whole period from Hobbes to Kant, from Newton to Hume, from around 1500 to today, someday our descendants will regard it as a useful detour from the path of wisdom. By exploring a whole new set of false ideas, we made some rapid advances toward what might really be true. In the end, though, we will return to the path the ancients laid out, but with a better set of models for how that path is actually realized.

Plotinus will ultimately prove to have been right about everything, I'll wager.

Trial by Ordeal in Egypt

Tom posted a bit about trials by ordeal a little while ago, suggesting that they were effective through a combination of incentives and magic tricks. With that in mind, watch this video of a woman in Egypt licking what purports to be red-hot iron (after reciting a verse of the Koran to ensure divine protection).

As you can see, it plainly doesn't bother her. Iron turns bright red above 1400 degrees Fahrenheit, which would destroy the sensitive flesh of the tongue on contact. She calmly licks it twice, and does no screaming afterwards.

I don't know how exactly this test is carried out by the imams, but I agree with the author of Tom's piece: "For example, in the early 13th century, 208 defendants in Várad in Hungary underwent hot-iron ordeals. Amazingly, nearly two-thirds of defendants were unscathed by the ‘red-hot’ irons they carried and hence exonerated. If the priests who administered these ordeals understood how to heat iron, as they surely did, that leaves only two explanations for the ‘miraculous’ results: either God really did intervene to reveal the defendants’ innocence, or the priests made sure that the iron they carried wasn’t hot."

So either God intervenes in ordinary civil cases in Egypt, or it's a kind of magic trick whose secret remains known only to the few who work it.

There's Something New

Polar bears raiding cities in packs.


It is my understanding that any priest who does this is excommunicated by his own action.
One 1998 report focused on Africa observed that “sexual harassment and even rape of sisters by priests and bishops is allegedly common.”

“When a sister becomes pregnant, the priest insists that she have an abortion,” the report added. ‘‘The sister is usually dismissed from her congregation while the priest is often only moved to another parish — or sent for studies.”
That leaves me with a set of questions for those who understand all of this better than I do myself. If a priest like this remains a frocked member of the priesthood, what is the status of his capacity to perform the rites? What becomes of the faithful who trust that his rites are efficacious?

Slow Learners

A woman completing her college education writes.
When you ask a question at a lecture, is it secretly just your opinion ending with the phrase “do you agree?” If so, your name is something like Jake, or Chad, or Alex, and you were taught that your voice is the most important in every room. Somewhere along your academic journey, you decided your search for intellectual validation was more important than the actual exchange of information. Now how do you expect to actually learn anything?

American society tells men, but especially white men, that their opinions have merit and that their voice is valuable, but after four years of listening to white boys in college, I am not so convinced.
Four years? Students at these elite colleges must be a little slow. I didn't even need two paragraphs to come to doubt the merit of her voice.

Somebody apparently told her otherwise, even to the point of soliciting and publishing this article. That was deeply unfair to her.

New fashion trends

Just think of everything as valuable fishing structure.

A local volunteer group pulled cubic yards of debris off of rookery islands, but this was the most interesting.  Second look at footwear ornamentation?