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.


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.

Isaiah 6:8

A brief movie review of Fury, which I just got around to seeing this weekend.

This was one of the harder movies to watch that I've seen, which means that it is a good war movie. There are several war crimes executed by good men, which is an accurate depiction of the nature of war. They do right sometimes, wrong often, and they're the good guys. They die well. It is honest about the brutality and the hardness of it all, and the ways in which they can come to love it.

The hardest scene to watch, though, is of an impromptu dinner party with some German locals. Half the tank crew wants to have a moment of normality and decency; the other half is so harmed and haunted by what they've done that they can't stand it, and try to destroy it. They're sorry, but they can't, and it's because they're too hurt to pretend things can still be normal.

It isn't an art film. It's not a masterpiece. But it's honest and it's direct, and that's not nothing.

J. Roddy Walston & the Business

A young group with an interesting sound.

I liked this one better, though it's more erotic than we usually do here.

Giving or Taking?

Jared Diamond, a noted historian, says it's basically even money whether civilization will utterly collapse by 2050. What are those numbers based on?
Today, the risk that we’re facing is not of societies collapsing one by one, but because of globalization, the risk we are facing is of the collapse of the whole world.

How likely do you think that is? That the whole network of civilization would collapse?

I would estimate the chances are about 49 percent that the world as we know it will collapse by about 2050.... At the rate we’re going now, resources that are essential for complex societies are being managed unsustainably. Fisheries around the world, most fisheries are being managed unsustainably, and they’re getting depleted. Farms around the world, most farms are being managed unsustainably. Soil, topsoil around the world. Fresh water around the world is being managed unsustainably. With all these things, at the rate we’re going now, we can carry on with our present unsustainable use for a few decades, and by around 2050 we won’t be able to continue it any longer. Which means that by 2050 either we’ve figured out a sustainable course, or it’ll be too late.
Well, I could say that collapse has a 50% chance of occurring: either it will, or it won't.

On the other hand, he has some surprisingly positive things to say about the role of corporations.
I see that corporations, big corporations, while some of them do horrible things, some of them also are doing wonderful things which don’t make the front page. When there was the Exxon Valdez spill off Alaska, you can bet that made the front page. When Chevron was managing its oil field in Papua New Guinea in a utterly rigorous way, better than any national park I’ve ever been in, that certainly did not make the front page because it wasn’t a good picture.
That sounds suspiciously like sanity. So maybe give him your ear, and see what you think.

Everything not mandatory is forbidden

I grew up in Houston, famous for its lack of zoning.  In most cities, that's an unthinkable heresy.  Blue-state types naturally embrace zoning as part of the cradle-to-grave involvement of government in virtually every aspect of life that otherwise might be guided by free choices between buyers and sellers, a/k/a vicious dog-eat-dog capitalism or, to troglodytes like myself, the free market.

All-powerful zoning predictable screws up market to the point that people are shocked to discover that housing prices are insane and there are an inexplicable number of homeless people whom society has failed to provide with attractive housing options.  California is the poster child for this kind of thing.  Having noticed that mandatory zoning has led to an unreasonable fraction of developable land's being set aside for single-family homes, today's activists have executed an abrupt about-face and announced that single-family zoning must be replaced by multi-family zoning in order to redress past inequities.  One might think this kind of change might be pursued locally by changing the standards of the zoning committees, but why trust them to do that when you can ask the state government to make it mandatory for all cities?  So they'll change from mandatory single-family to mandatory multi-family:  anything but let the market adjust to what buyers and sellers want to do with their land.  How would they know what's good for them?

Running Out the Guns on Abortion

Georgia's heartbeat bill was signed last week. Today the Alabama state legislature passed a law that is clearly unconstitutional under current SCOTUS jurisprudence just precisely in order to provoke a court challenge. Frankly, if I were the governor of Alabama -- the actual governor is a woman, by the way -- I would veto it in spite of all the reasons to oppose abortion. The Georgia law may not survive constitutional challenges either, but at least it aims at being a workable law: it defines the beginning of human life as the beginning of the natural heartbeat (philosophically indefensible, that, but it does track the equally wrong but actually legal standard for death as the end of the natural heartbeat). All legal protections start there.

Not citizenship, though, which requires the child being born under the 14th Amendment. The earliness of the heartbeat also means that abortion may not practically be an option for most mothers, which is going to be hard for the SCOTUS to swallow. I don't think the votes are there to support repealing Roe and Casey yet -- I'd expect Roberts to defect, and Kavanaugh perhaps given his commentary in the confirmation -- but the approach is defensible. Establish that the child is a legal person, alive and entitled to an equality of rights.

The Alabama law doesn't even try to construct workable standards. The legislature was clear that its intent is to provoke, rather than to craft a law that could apply to practical cases in the world. That is not the purpose of legislation, and there definitely aren't the SCOTUS votes to win given that it defies every single aspect of the extant jurisprudence. I would think a governor would rather not take a case like that to court.

Academia as a subprime mortgage broker

Allen Farrington at Quillette, on academia:
Parkinson’s Law holds that a task will take as long as the time allotted to complete it. It seems to be a kind of social equilibrium theorem applicable to any complex organisation. Normally such organisations would simply collapse under the weight of their own bureaucratic inefficiency, but academia is different. It will never be allowed to collapse because education is a right.
* * *
Peter Thiel has given a uniquely scathing critique of the insanity of this system. . . . It is effectively a Ponzi scheme. No wonder Thiel calls college administrators subprime mortgage brokers. They get a cut on selling pieces of paper that are only as valuable as we all pretend they are.
All the local governments here just approved a county Economic Development Corporation, in the belief that a unified mouthpiece for rightthink from community leaders will attract new business and jobs. How it will achieve this goal remains murky, beyond the intention to bribe prospective employers with tax abatements, but there is much enthusiasm for "enhancing the workforce." Although it's unclear what anyone proposes to do to enhance the workforce beyond what we'd normally expect from public schools, the idea may be to create a para-academic institution in which useful knowledge is imparted to a select group of youngsters who want to learn it and can be expelled if they fail to learn or if they disrupt the classrooms too much. If that's the plan, I'll probably get on board, while regretting that we still have to fund the public schools with sky-high ad valorem taxes. Vouchers would let the parents choose the schools that produce results that suit their families, and watch the non-functioning schools die on the vine.

OK, we'll quit exposing you to wildfires

PG+E entered its second bankruptcy last year when it was threatened with $30 billion in damages from the horrific Camp Fire conflagration.  Now it's determined never to cause anyone that kind of disappointment again:
The Camp Fire in November, along with fires from the prior year, exposed PG+E to an estimated $30 billion or more in claims from blazes, hastening its January bankruptcy. Since then, the utility giant has been under pressure to better ensure that its equipment won’t spark fires. Earlier this year, PG+E said it would widen the scope of its power shutoffs to include high-transmission power lines, potentially impacting nearly 10 times the number of customers compared to an earlier plan.
Of course, there will be new kinds of disappointments.

John Adams vs. the Mob

I was eager to bring myself up to speed on America’s revolutionary history.

The most memorable story I heard during that tour was of a young John Adams, a future U.S. president, successfully defending Thomas Preston, a Captain of a redcoat British regiment who’d been accused of ordering the aforementioned massacre after British soldiers were hit with rocks and snowballs. When the administration of Acting Governor Thomas Hutchinson put Preston and his men on trial, Adams agreed to serve as defence counsel, despite the fact he’d already staked out a reputation as a leading Patriot. Years later, he would declare that “the part I took in defence of [Captain] Preston and the soldiers, procured me anxiety and obloquy enough. It was, however, one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested actions of my whole life, and one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my country. Judgment of death against those soldiers would have been as foul a stain upon this country as the executions of the Quakers or witches.”
Part of a piece chiding Harvard, and defending the ideal that even those accused of serious crimes deserve a proper defense. This ensures that the state exercises its power only when it has properly proven the charges, not merely when it has raised serious charges.

We could use more rather than less of that. The recent Mueller investigation was characterized by serious charges being used to justify extraordinary exercises of power (e.g., violating the attorney-client privilege of the President of the United States in order to raid his home and office, seize his documents, and read them). These accusations were rarely tested in court because of the plea bargain process, in which very easy terms were offered for a guilty plea compared with the severity of the punishments if you dared to contest the charges. A man of adequate honor might refuse to plead guilty when he was not, but perhaps not; given the ruinous cost of an extended defense to his family, even a man of high honor might choose to prefer harm to himself over harm to his family.

A lawyer might now begin to worry about offering a defense, if he might himself become the target of a prosecution or persecution thereby. We need more capability to defend those accused of serious crimes in an actual court-tested case, not a lessened capacity. This is a pillar of our liberty that is under tremendous stress.

Medicare For the Whole World, Courtesy of the US Taxpayer

You're just making things up now, Senator.

Easter Snow

A bit past Easter, but my mother said it was snowing where she was yesterday on Mother's Day.

These are the Uilleann Pipes, quite different from the great pipes usually featured here.

Biden vs. AOC

I'm not inclined to be mean to the young lady from Brooklyn, or the Bronx, or whichever part of NYC she's supposedly from; I can't be bothered to remember much about them anyway, though I know from visiting that the Bronx is in the north and Brooklyn is in the south. Still, she's a celebrity of a sort within the party, so when she decides to go hard against the presumptive nominee it's interesting.