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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Two Newspapers in One!

h/t to Best of the Web. TNiO is a regular feature there highlighting newspapers and magazines that take completely opposed positions on issues. I'm sure BOTW would have been all over this, but the feature is on hiatus until the new year.

New York Times editorial, January 9, 2011:

Jared Loughner, the man accused of shooting Ms. Giffords, killing a federal judge and five other people, and wounding 13 others, appears to be mentally ill. His paranoid Internet ravings about government mind control place him well beyond usual ideological categories.

But he is very much a part of a widespread squall of fear, anger and intolerance that has produced violent threats against scores of politicians and infected the political mainstream with violent imagery. With easy and legal access to semiautomatic weapons like the one used in the parking lot, those already teetering on the edge of sanity can turn a threat into a nightmare.


It is facile and mistaken to attribute this particular madman’s act directly to Republicans or Tea Party members. But it is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats, setting the nation on edge. Many on the right have exploited the arguments of division, reaping political power by demonizing immigrants, or welfare recipients, or bureaucrats. They seem to have persuaded many Americans that the government is not just misguided, but the enemy of the people.

New York Times editorial, December 22, 2014:

Two families in Brooklyn — and the larger family of New Yorkers and the New York Police Department — are mourning the deaths of two officers who were shot in ambush by a criminal on Saturday. His deranged act has inflamed rifts between the police and Mayor Bill de Blasio and between the police and the public, and it posed a grave test of Mr. de Blasio’s leadership.

The protests for police reform should not be stifled — they should be allowed to continue, and be listened to. The protesters and their defenders, including Mayor de Blasio, need offer no apologies for denouncing misguided and brutal police tactics and deploring the evident injustice of the deaths of unarmed black men like Eric Garner. As Mr. de Blasio noted on Monday, a vast majority of demonstrators are “people who are trying to work for a more just society,” a mission that has nothing to do with hating or killing cops. Those who urge violence are on the fringe, Mr. de Blasio said, rightly denouncing them and urging New Yorkers to report them.

So, NYT Editorial Board, which is it: rank hypocrisy or drooling stupidity?

Hmmm. I may have posed a false dichotomy.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

War of the Sexes: Part 4 - Gamy

In trying to understand the War of the Sexes, I was wondering whether or not we can learn anything from the mating habits of other mammals.  I haven't spent a lot of time researching it, but my current conclusion is: probably not.  The following few paragraphs summarize what I found.

There are plenty of examples of monogamous, polygamous, and promiscuous mating systems found across mammals and primates.  Every single mating system is utilized by some primate or other.  Our cousins the gorilla have "a unimale social system and a polygynous mating system." Our closest cousins, the chimpanzees, are promiscuous with lots of variations within the promiscuous mating system, both within and between species (common and bonobo chimps). Various human cultures have utilized most of the mating systems as well.

Rape or "[s]exual aggression by males toward females is widespread among social mammals."  Non-human females don't seem to be terribly bothered by sexual coercion in that they seem to remain fully functional in its aftermath. Human females may be uniquely fragile in that they sometimes suffer debilitating trauma from unwanted sexual activity.

The difference in human and chimp genomes is 1.23 percent:
the publication of a rough draft of the chimp genome in the journal Nature immediately told scientists several important things. First they learned that overall, the sequences of base pairs that make up both species' [i.e., humans and chimps] genomes differ by 1.23% -- a ringing confirmation of the 1970 estimates -- and that the most striking divergence between them occurs, intriguingly, in the Y chromosome, present only in males. [emphasis added]
The emphasized words could be interpreted to mean that human females are mostly somewhat refined, hairless chimpanzees, while the human male is significantly more evolved from our closest cousins:
As far back as 1972, Elaine Morgan, a feminist, writing in The Descent of Woman, noted that in fact the role of females hadn't changed much from chimp to human. Mothers nurse and care for their offspring in basically the same way chimps do. In terms of social role, there really isn't much difference between human females and other animals. 
What has changed is the role of males. Among chimps, males hang out in groups, form alliances, forage together, and do a lot of bickering over status. They do not participate at all in child rearing. By the time hunting-and-gathering tribes arrive, however, men have been folded into the family. Monogamy predominates and both parents participate in child rearing. The extraordinary innovation is "fatherhood," a role that doesn't really exist elsewhere in nature.
Of course, not all human societies are monogamous.  And with the War of the Sexes, we seem to be moving rapidly away from monogamy to some combination of polygamy and promiscuity. Promiscuous as far as having sex goes, though having sex with the intention of avoiding children may not count as "mating."  As far as having children goes, my guess is that we're moving mostly towards a polygamous society with the alpha males servicing (but not marrying) the majority of females.

Relative to polygamy, monogamy benefits beta males, allowing them to mate.  It also benefits alpha females, allowing them to monopolize an alpha male.  In a species where the females are completely responsible for child-rearing (which is the vast majority of species), polygamy hugely benefits beta females.  In a species that relies on males to help with raising children, and in particular in a species where males will only willingly help with raising their own children, polygamy is substantially less advantageous for beta females.

In the past, when western civilization was much less wealthy and had almost no safety net, it was a real struggle for a single woman to raise children on her own and survive (and have the children survive).  It was far better for her to be stuck with a beta male helping raise the family - survival for her and her brood was much more likely.  Indeed, they might even thrive in good times.  Sure, the children might be genetically inferior relative to having an alpha male as a father, but it was still better than no surviving children at all.

The west is much richer now.  With safety nets in place, survival is virtually guaranteed.  As a result, it's far less imperative that a beta female attach herself to a beta male.  There may still be advantages to being married to a beta male, but having healthy children and being able to raise them through adulthood is not one of them.  Thus, it seems predictable that beta females would become much more demanding regarding which males they would be willing to mate with and they would be willing to leave that male much more quickly if even the possibility of a better opportunity presented itself.  The downside is pretty small, especially with the reasonable, or even favorable divorce settlements that women often get.

My guess is that this female "hypergamy" is the basis for women and men "going their own way."  Beta women are logically choosing to mate above their "station" (where "mating" means having children as opposed to just having sex) and beta men realize they have nothing to offer relative to alpha males and look for alternative ways to fill their lives.  My guess is that the impact on civilization as a whole will be significant, but not devastating, but those are topics for future posts in this series.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

War of the Sexes: Part 3 - Going Their Own Way

When I was growing up, there was a romantic narrative regarding relationships between men and women and marriage.  Men and women were different, yet complementary with different strengths and weaknesses, incomplete without each other, so that a union of a man and woman was greater, perhaps much greater, than the sum of the two individuals - Venus and Mars, the moon and the sun, Yin and Yang, etc.  A husband often referred to his wife as "my better half," sometimes with a little sarcasm, but with the grain of truth that the marriage helped make him complete, made him more than he was alone, made the two of them more than they were alone.

However, modern feminism (specifically of the Betty Friedan variety) has a rather different narrative.  It starts with "the fundamental assertion of feminism is that women are equal to men, and equal not as counterparts to men but in every respect" noting for example that "[f]eminist women refused to suffer a husband’s proud, or ironic, praise as “my better half,” which implied that women (and of course also men) have a natural role making them counterparts of each other as couples." Feminism's primary enemy is the patriarchy and it was the patriarchy that was responsible for the old romantic notions that kept women (and to some extent men) in their place(s).

Under this theory of feminism, a marriage of a man and a woman does not inherently produce a whole that is greater than its parts. In fact, if both partners are completely equal in desires, capabilities, needs, etc., all that overlap may mean that generally the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

In the romantic narrative, men and women inherently had a lot to offer each other.  But what does a man inherently have to offer a woman in a long term relationship in feminism's narrative (and perhaps any modern narrative)?

Not much.

Oh sure, a rich, attractive guy might be good for a fling, maybe even worthwhile to have a short term marriage with in order to have a child or two, followed by a divorce where she gets a great settlement.  But till death do us part?  Don't be silly, how naive and quaint.  And that's just rich, attractive guys.  The rest of us normal mortals? Fuhgeddaboudit!

The instapundit's wife, Helen Smith, has a website that focuses on the, in her opinion, poor treatment of men by women and what she thinks the effects of that poor treatment will be.  Until recently, I've been chuckling because it seems pathetic that men need a woman like Smith to stand up for them and so I hadn't taken her seriously.  She wrote Men On Strike about "Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream - and Why It Matters."

I haven't read her book, but in googling for statistics for this series of posts, I've run into some interesting data that certainly does not contradict her claims.  For example,
Between 1950 and 2010, the rate of marital formation dropped by 39%, with a 17% drop between 2000 and 2010 alone.1 Today, the proportion of men between 25 and 34 years old who have never been married is more than six times higher than it was in 1970. For men between 35 and 44 years old, the increase has been more than fourfold. Marriages that do form are about twice as likely to end in divorce today as in 1950.
Here is a related chart showing the trend of marriage formation for young adults (ages 25 - 34):

marriage rates among yound adults
Note that the above chart is for men and women, so the numbers don't exactly match the previous paragraph but it's easy to see that they are likely consistent.

Also, the share of never-married adults seems to be both rising and possibly even accelerating:

So the data is consistent with young people deciding to not get married in much larger numbers than in the past.  Some of them may be putting off marriage until they're older, but it looks like others will never get married. If the trend continues, within decades a majority of adults will never marry.

In The Sexodus, the acronym MGTOW is used and stands for Men Going Their Own Way.  In a mostly monogamistic society, for each MGTOW there is a corresponding female version (WGTOW).  It's still not completely clear to me whether the MGTOWs or the WGTOWs are the root cause of falling marriage formation rates.  It may not be that men are going on strike, but rather that women have no interest in them so they're simply retreating to alternative lifestyles and activities that they may consider inferior but achievable.

After all, the Friedian Feminist has very little use for men, so they may have no choice but to go their own way.

Friday, December 26, 2014

War of the Sexes: Part 2 - Rape

In the last part of this series we examined the front in the war that is divorce and discovered that the evidence, such as it is, seems to indicate that woman are on the offensive and winning on that front.  A second front in the war is rape.  Who's winning there?

There is no doubt that for all practical purposes we can consider that all rapes and sexual assaults are initiated by males and can be considered a male offensive weapon in the War of the Sexes.  Estimates of the numbers of female victims vary widely and are aggressively disputed.  One camp claims there's a massive epidemic of rape, for example that one out of five undergraduate women at college are sexually assaulted:
Democratic strategist Van Jones said the number of women sexually assaulted on college campuses was "shocking." 
"It’s literally one out of five," Jones said. [...]

The "one in five" statistic is frequently cited by advocates of sexual assault awareness. Both President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have repeated it.
Certainly if President Barack Obama said it, it must be true, right?

Others claim the exact opposite:
Because the truth is that there's no epidemic outbreak of college rape. In fact, rape on college campuses is — like rape everywhere else in America — plummeting in frequency. And that 1-in-5 college rape number you keep hearing in the press? It's thoroughly bogus, too. [...]
Sen, Gillibrand also says that "women are at a greater risk of sexual assault as soon as they step onto a college campus." 
The truth ... is exactly the opposite. According to the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics, the rate of rape and sexual assault is lower for college students (at 6.1 per 1,000) than for non-students (7.6 per 1,000). (Note: not 1 in 5). What's more, between 1997 and 2013, rape against women dropped by about 50%, in keeping with a more general drop in violent crime nationally.
So which is it? One in five (which is 200 per 1,000) and increasing or six to eight (times 4 years) per thousand and decreasing? Nobody seems to know and nobody can agree.  There are many possible reasons for discrepancies:
  • Definitional - if the definition of sexual assault/rape includes things like a woman being made to feel uncomfortable by a man looking at her a certain way, it will yield much different results than if the definition only includes forced penetration under the threat of violence;
  • Sampling and survey issues - some of the studies that showed the highest numbers were small, local Internet based studies and may have had a bias towards respondents who were raped and also may not be applicable to the whole country;
  • Not all sexual assaults and rapes are reported - the studies with lower numbers may have underestimated the number of unreported rapes and assaults; 
  • Some claims of rape and sexual assault are false - the studies with higher numbers may have underestimated the number of false claims of rape.
  • Etc.
The difference in the extreme estimates is important.  With rape rates at the low end of the estimates, it seems that the criminal justice system should be able to handle it, keeping due process for the accused intact. With rape rates at the high end of the estimates (one out of five!!!), it is pretty much a national emergency, and things like "innocent until proven guilty" or even "guilty until proven innocent" may need to be thrown out the window and replaced with the much simpler "guilty if accused."

There would be nothing wrong with "guilty if accused" if the accuser was always completely honest and never mistaken.  However, in the real world, that's not the case.  Even worse, the range of estimates of the rate of women making false accusations about rape and sexual assault are as large as the variance between the extremes in estimates of the rates of rape and sexual assault themselves:
How many women falsely accuse men of rape? 
A lot of statistics are floating around the Internet: Two percent, say many feminists, the same as other crimes. Twenty-five percent, say other groups who quarrel with the feminists on many issues, or maybe 40 percent. Here’s the real answer: We don’t know. Anyone who insists that we do know should be corrected or ignored. 
The number of false accusations is what statisticians call a “dark number” -- that is, there is a true number, but it is unknown, and perhaps unknowable.
Even accepting the "two percent" estimate, it should, in my opinion, still give us pause when considering throwing due process out the window and going with "guilty if accused:"
Benjamin Franklin thought "that it is better [one hundred] guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer." For "one hundred", substitute N, and probably everyone can find some N, between 0 and infinity, that they feel comfortable with. As one rather amusing essay points out, lots of people over time have put forth different values for N, with the current mean value being approximately 59.72. In other words, in the United States, we believe that on average, it is better for 59.72 guilty persons to go free than to have one innocent punished, but better to have one innocent punished than to have more than 59.72 guilty people go free.
Because even with the two percent estimate, more than one innocent person would be punished for every 59.72 guilty people going free and that seems to conflict with the American sense of justice. But this is a war, and justice is typically redefined or ignored in the context of war, and by redefining justice, women have turned the tables and have captured rape, or rather the punishment of men accused of rape, as an offensive strategy.

There are two main fronts in this strategy and they are related.  The rules put forth to colleges from the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) have been around for a few years:
The OCR regulations are stunning in their presumptuousness. They are asserted with the force of law but were not passed by Congress or considered by the courts, nor were they formulated after a legally required process of hearings and comment. Equally stunning is the docility with which they have been received by the universities. Though there are signs of discomfort, not one has opposed an intrusion upon their self-government in a matter of educational discipline that previously has been left to them.
One could go on to explain features of the new OCR policy that make it a danger to civil rights, as indeed has been done in a published petition by a number of Harvard law professors. As to due process, these are rights that will not be protected by the new policy: a hearing, the right to confront or cross-examine witnesses, the right to an attorney, the right of appeal to a neutral party, protection against double jeopardy, the right to a presumption of innocence, the right to have one’s case heard by an impartial arbitrator. The new standard of misconduct requires less evidence than before, as it is necessary only to prove by “the preponderance of the evidence” rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The woman, or rather the complainant, has huge leverage with the man's (excuse me, the "respondent's") due process rights complete eliminated, replaced with an opaque bureaucratic process which metes out punishment with no or limited visibility into the decision making process.

The other front is State level legislation such as California's infamous "Yes Means Yes" law:
Last month, California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, signed legislation requiring colleges in the state to adopt sexual assault policies that shifted the burden of proof in campus sexual assault cases from those accusing to the accused. Consent is now “an affirmative, unambiguous, and conscious decision by each participant to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity.” The consent has to be “ongoing” throughout any sexual encounter.

On California campuses, consent is no longer a matter of not struggling or not saying no. If the student initiating the sexual encounter doesn’t receive an enthusiastic “yes,” either verbally or physically, then there is no consent. If the student is incapacitated due to drugs or alcohol, there is no consent.
The man has to prove the "ongoing" consent, which on its face means "guilty until proven innocent." However, short of videotaping the encounter, such proof is impossible, which means that this and other laws like it are indeed achieving the desired standard "guilty if accused."

So far, the above rules have applied mostly only to colleges, but sensing total victory, women want to extend the law nationwide:
New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, one of the most prominent lawmakers fighting campus sexual assault on Capitol Hill, said Monday that affirmative consent laws should be made the standard nationwide.
At this point, "nationwide" just means on college campuses nationwide.  But I can't help wondering if the ultimate goal is to make it nationwide, not just at colleges, but everywhere, all of the time, such that any woman can bust any man by accusing him of rape, even if completely false.

The problem is this: if a male and female are seen to consensually wander off together to a private location, she claims rape, he claims consensual activities, and there's no evidence of weapons or violence (not even a bruise), there are really only two choices:  either prosecute all men in that situation under the "guilty if accused" approach, or prosecute none of the men because there isn't guilt beyond reasonable doubt - it's a "he said, she said" situation.  I suspect that Sen. Gillibrand and many others would prefer the "guilty if accused" approach and they might one day have the power to make that the law.

In any case, men are badly losing the war on this front as well.  As a result, it seems that many men might be in full blown retreat, a topic for the next post in this series.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

'Tis The Season for Gobbledygook

From Should you lie to your children about Santa?
Now, one of the most interesting truths about the empirical world is that there are all these powerful systems of myth that are kept afloat by a sort of mass conspiracy, and humans seem disposed to pick one from the ambient culture and take it very seriously. But it can be hard to get your head around the way it all works unless you participate in it. Santa is a perfect and relatively harmless way to introduce your child the socio-psychology of a collective delusion about the supernatural. The disillusionment that comes from the exposure to the truth about Santa breeds a general skepticism about similarly ill-founded popular beliefs in physics-defying creatures.
And on that note, Merry Christmas all!

Monday, December 22, 2014

War of the Sexes: Part 1 - Divorce

In the wake of the UVA gang rape hoax, (and the hoax just gets worse and worse and worse), my concern was not with the hoax or the false accusations or the poor reporting and fact checking, but with the acceptance and enthusiasm for this "fake but accurate" narrative.  I decided to look a bit more into male-female relationships and am baffled, bewildered, and bemused by what I see.

The main problem with any analysis like this is that very few, if any, statements or facts apply to major group aggregations (like all men, for example), and once the group aggregations are broken down far enough (40-45 year old, male, divorced once, protestant, lower middle class, Midwestern, ...), there's not much data and considering the interactions between all of these smaller groups is very, very complex and, at least to me, not decipherable.

So this means that pretty much all analyses of the subject, including not only this post and the related series, but also every other article in old and new media, and I'm betting even most peer-reviewed papers on the subject, are mostly bogus.  Unfortunately, it's also one of the most important topics with major impacts on many aspects of everybody's lives, so that there's little choice but to at least try to get an inkling of what's going on amid the inherent massive uncertainty.

Moving forward, with that background and those caveats, and realizing that each statement and statistic is at least partially bogus (I won't remind you of that again), let's start with divorce, which is the major front in the War of the Sexes.

Who's on the offense and who's on the defense at this particular front?  Clearly women are on the offense since "[w]omen initiate between 66% and 90% of all divorces." One might be tempted to jump to the conclusion that the reason for women initiating divorce more often is that men are philandering, drunken, drug-addled louts forcing women to take drastic action, but there are at least a couple of things that don't fit that narrative.

First, "among college-educated couples, the percentage of divorces initiated by wives is a whopping 90 percent."  It's unlikely that college-educated men are more drunken and drug-addled than the general population of men.  When I first discovered that statistic, I was incredulous. But looking around, I noticed it's true that every single divorce among my group of friends was indeed initiated by the woman, so I'm finding it more believable.

Second, divorce has been significantly higher under "no fault" divorce law. It's when women can initiate divorce without real reason that there are more divorces. (There are more divorces initiated by men as well). If women need a "real" reason to divorce men, it's a lot harder to find.

Divorce is the front in the war where there are real casualties.  For example, "divorced and separated men were nearly 2.4 times more likely to kill themselves than their married counterparts" and "over eight times more likely to commit suicide than divorced women."  Depending on assumptions, this works out to hundreds or possibly even thousands of men dying because of divorce each year from suicide alone.  This is roughly the same number of men in the United States military who typically die in active combat in a given year for the past several decades.  So the war of the sexes is as deadly to men as any other war.  There are other serious health and mortality impacts to men from divorce as well.

And beyond worrying about men, like other wars, this war is causing a great deal of destruction to families, communities, and inner cities. It possibly is even weakening western civilization as it seems that men (and women) are increasingly avoiding marriage and starting families.  So war is not really just a euphemism for the conflict between the sexes as there is substantial death and destruction associated with it.

How about divorce and religion?  My virulently anti-religious friends have long enjoyed pointing out that divorce rates are higher for Christians than for atheists.  Indeed, I had heard this so many times that I came to believe it as the truth.  Well, it is the truth, but it's not the whole truth:
Consider, as a case study, the data on divorce. Earlier this year, a pair of demographers released a study showing that regions with heavy populations of conservative Protestants had higher-than-average divorce rates, even when controlling for poverty and race. 
Their finding was correct, but incomplete. As the sociologist Charles Stokes pointed out, practicing conservative Protestants have much lower divorce rates, and practicing believers generally divorce less frequently than the secular and unaffiliated. 
But the lukewarmly religious are a different matter. What Stokes calls “nominal” conservative Protestants, who attend church less than twice a month, have higher divorce rates even than the nonreligious. And you can find similar patterns with other indicators — out-of-wedlock births, for instance, are rarer among religious-engaged evangelical Christians, but nominal evangelicals are a very different story.
I am mixing a lot of categories here: atheists versus non-religious, conservative Protestants versus Christians, etc., but ultimately, looking at the data, it looks to me that if you want to get married, start a family, and stay married, find someone who is reasonably devoted to a religion and practice that religion with him or her, at least to the point of regularly attending services. Even though I'm non-religious, if I were looking for a wife, I might take that approach - I might not believe the dogma, but attending services is a really small price to pay for avoiding divorce.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Worse than you might think, but...

Having recently addressed an example from the past of how a distorted narrative was employed in the world of arts and literature to misrepresent people and circumstances, let us turn to the world of journalism.

The perceptive Michael Walsh makes the following observation:
The suicide of American journalism, and the “objective” ideal I grew up with as a young reporter, continues apace, as I noted in this space yesterday and the IBD website mentions today:

Media Malfeasance: In less than two weeks, bombshell stories of a vicious gang rape and a millionaire teen investor were exposed as frauds that never would have made it into print but for gross negligence and liberal bias.
There’s a reason that, back in the day, every revolution began be seizing the newspapers and radio stations. The Left understands, far more than the Right, that propaganda is everything — and if it has to kill American journalism to make its points, then so be it.

Over at Sultan Knish, Daniel Greenfield has some typically perceptive thoughts on “Life in Post-Truth America.” Well worth a read.

Worse than the hoaxes and reporting of half truths are the errors of omission.  The neglect of both stories that make their side look bad (as if they should be taking sides) and stories that present the opposition in a positive light.

Excerpts from the column by the prolific Mr. Greenfield include:
The unreliable narrator has crossed over from a fictional device in novels to memoirs, journalism and into politics.
 The device of the unreliable narrator puts truth out of reach. It says that there is no such thing as truth, only various perspectives on an event.
 In the absence of facts, there can be no reality. There is only ideology.
 ObamaCare was an ugly collectivist bureaucratic dinosaur clothed in imaginary stories. The stories about it, about the economy, about the war are still being told. Added to it are new stories about racism. The stories are passionate, compelling and appealing. They are also completely unreal.

Progressives don’t only live in a post-American world; they live in a post-Truth world. A world without facts and without truth is one in which the America that was cannot exist.

America had prospered because of a firm belief in a discoverable and exploitable reality. That was the country that could build skyscrapers and fleets in a year. Post-Truth America has little interest in big buildings because it’s too busy enacting a psychodrama in which the earth is about to be destroyed. And fleets, like horses and bayonets and facts, are 19th century toys that are much less interesting than the manipulation of people through lies and deceit.

Lena Dunham’s Barry and Obama’s Barry are both imaginary creatures. They are the sophisticated products of disordered minds and a disordered civilization whose leading figures lie as instinctively and as shamelessly as any pre-rational culture that could not distinguish between lies and truth. 

The cause for optimism is that two of the redoubts of the left, media and academia, will come under increasing competitive pressure for many years to come.   (see also here and here)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Happy Hanukkah!

I would've missed the first night (not being religious), but the younger daughter remembered and wanted to light candles (my daughters are borderline pyros, so any excuse to burn something is remembered with, well, "religious" fervor).  We muffed the prayers (good thing there's 8 chances, maybe we'll get them right tonight?) but did manage to get the candle lit (and the candle to light the candle lit) and then, most importantly, had a family Happy Hanukkah Hug.

For more serious reading about this holiday, I found A Dangerous Holiday interesting.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

More Manufacturing


As shown in the graph below, manufacturing (real) output (the red line) has finally recovered from the Obama recession and clearly has a lot of momentum in the growth direction.  Of course, also clearly, that "momentum" isn't really momentum at all, and can change nearly instantaneously.

From the Money Illusion comes this somewhat related commentary:
First some international comparisons.  In the US, IP [Industrial Production] is up more that 73% in the past 25 years. In Japan it fell by 1.5%.  Some of that is population, but not all. After all, Japan’s population is higher than it was 25 years ago, and America’s has risen by roughly 30%, not 73%.  America industrializes as Japan de-industrializes. Germany reunified 25 years ago, which might affect the data, but their IP is up only about 30% since 1991.  France is up only 9% in 25 years. (The 35-hour workweek?).   Britain is similar to Japan, down by about 1%.  (Falling North Sea oil output?) Italy is down 11.2% in 25 years.  (Berlusconi spending too much time at orgies?) It’s the US that stands out as an industrial power, at least if the data is correct.
I wrote "somewhat related" because the numbers don't exactly match between countries (various countries slice and dice Industrial Production versus Manufacturing differently and the above commentary is more related to Industrial Production than Manufacturing, but the longer term trends are pretty similar).  So you can get an idea from this, but I suggest not quoting any of the numbers without doing more extensive research to understand what you are quoting.  Or at least put forth a caveat like I just did.

Nonetheless, of all the advanced economies of any size, the United States is actually doing quite well as far as Manufacturing output and Industrial Production goes (Industrial Production looks even better recently than the above chart because of the shale oil boomlet).  Germany is the closest and may possibly be better, but even if so, not by much.

On the other hand, as the above graph also shows, while real Manufacturing output is up 73% over the time period (20 years), the number of jobs has dropped by 30% and as a percent of the workforce has fared even more poorly. A common explanation for the loss of jobs is that they've been transferred overseas, but given the fairly dramatic increase in output, all of the job loss and then some can be explained by increased productivity.

In other words, technology is more the enemy of jobs than foreign competition.  But technology is what makes us all better off over the long haul.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Rotten Apples

Humans are inherently flawed.  Most of us are pretty decent overall and because of that, civilization has been able to take hold and flourish or at least survive.

Some people, however, are simply rotten to the core. It's a small percentage, but even a small percentage of a large population such as that found in the United States, is still quite a substantial number of people.  These horrible people think nothing of lying, manipulation, fraud, assault, sadism, rape, even murder.  I don't know what percentage of the population these people represent, but just to get an idea, some have argued that sociopaths alone make up 4% of the population.  Even if that figure is off on the high side by an order of magnitude, we're still talking more than a million sociopaths in the United States alone.

These rotten apples can be found across race, gender, religious, and ideological boundaries.  Oh sure, we could argue until we're blue in the face whether, say, more Republicans or Democrats are sociopathic (or otherwise horrible people), but the point is that any and every group has at least some of them.

Any crime or immoral act that you can imagine has probably been committed by some rotten apple(s) somewhere in each and every group.  There are an uncountable number of sensational and horrifying stories just waiting for some intrepid journalist to track down and expose to the public. Such stories aren't really relevant or useful, other than being entertaining and/or engaging stories.

And that brings us to the main topic of this post.  An award winning feature writer wanted to find the next big feature.
Magazine writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely knew she wanted to write about sexual assaults at an elite university. What she didn’t know was which university. 
She knew the narrative and the story within the narrative that she wanted to tell.  She just didn't know the "where" or the "when."
So, for six weeks starting in June, Erdely interviewed students from across the country. She talked to people at Harvard, Yale, Princeton and her alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. None of those schools felt quite right.
And, of course, since she was going for the next big feature story, and a non-statistical anecdote has no real meaning anyway other than reminding everybody that rotten apples exist (which everybody knows already), the feel of the story and how it fits the narrative is extremely important.  Fortunately, she finally found what she was looking for:
But one did [have the right feel]: the University of Virginia, a public school, Southern and genteel, brimming with what Erdely calls “super-smart kids” and steeped in the legacy of its founder, Thomas Jefferson.
She found a student named Jackie, who told a harrowing story of gang rape that fit the desired narrative perfectly. The setting was:
...Phi Kappa Psi. The "upper tier" frat had a reputation of tremendous wealth, and its imposingly large house overlooked a vast manicured field, giving "Phi Psi" the undisputed best real estate along UVA's fraternity row known as Rugby Road. 
Rich white southern males in an all male exclusive organization.  A group that many love to hate.  And certainly a group that everyone is allowed to hate.  Nobody needs to feel guilty about despising, loathing, hating, etc. a group of rich white southern frat boys.  The hate one is allowed to feel for this group would be beyond shocking if directed at virtually any other unrelated group.

The story starts with Jackie riding high.  She's been invited to a "date function" at the frat and has meticulously dressed and primped.  Next thing you know, Jackie is "climbing the frat-house stairs with Drew," her frat boy date.  And like in a horror flick, where some character is going off alone and you're screaming at the screen, "DON'T GO THERE!!!" you know it's going to end bad.

And boy, does it ever end bad.  I'm not going to get into the ugly details of the gang rape here (this is a family blog :-), but it caused a lot of outrage at the fraternity and UVA administration:
University faculty arranged a protest that kicked off late Saturday night on Beta Bridge, responding to a Rolling Stone magazine article released Wednesday that described an alleged gang rape of a UVa student by seven men at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity two years ago, and the subsequent missteps of the system by which the assault was reported. Charlottesville police have been asked by UVa to investigate the allegation. [...]
The Phi Kappa Psi house was vacated days ago, not long after the controversial article was released and the house was attacked by an anonymous group that is demanding changes in the university’s sexual assault reporting system. Some students have asserted that members of the fraternity left the house after receiving anonymous death threats, though the fraternity has not responded to these claims. 
They attacked the entire house regarding something that happened two years ago.  There were alleged "death threats" against members of the fraternity who may or may not have had anything to do with the incident.  It's typical mob behavior, and in some fairness, they did have some justification to lump the entire fraternity in with the rapists: Jackie's story implied that the gang rape was some sort of fraternity initiation ceremony; therefore, that innocent women were regularly snagged by this fraternity for these heinous criminal acts.
Phi Kappa Psi voluntarily suspended its affiliation with the university not long after the release of the [Rolling Stone] article. And on Saturday, the university suspended all Greek organizations for the remainder of the semester. [...]
Thus, the entire fraternity and sorority system was punished for unproven allegations that nobody had ever been indicted for and that had happened more than two years ago.  Due process was summarily thrown out the window.  Many were quite happy about that:
Claire Wyatt, a 2013 UVa graduate, ... praised the crowd’s “righteous anger.”
Because righteous anger is known to always solve everything and lead to justice, right?

It turns out that Jackie didn't want her part of the article to go forward:
Jackie said she asked Erdely to be taken out of the article. She said Erdely refused and Jackie was told that the article would go forward regardless.
After all, the story fit the narrative so perfectly.  However, it turns out that Ms. Erdely would have done well to have followed Jackie's request.  Indeed, that request might have been the first hint that maybe this story wasn't quite factually accurate.  But this red flag was ignored. Erdely also did not bother to spend a lot of effort fact checking the story or corroborating the very limited available hard evidence.

The fraternity, while cooperating with the police, found that pretty much everything that could be verified about the alleged gang rape turned out to be false and has since published a statement to that effect.  Rolling Stone soon followed by adding a note to the beginning of the story that "there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie's account," but they have not fully retracted the story.

But of course they wouldn't retract the story.  At the very worst, it's just yet another "fake but accurate" story.  Fake in some details, but accurate to the narrative.

My first thought when finding that Jackie's story wasn't true, at least not completely true, was that Erdely was simply incompetent.  Not because she produced a fake story but because she didn't bother to find a truer and real version of it.  As I was noting in the beginning of this post, there are enough rotten apples that surely at some place and some time, a horrible gang rape has been committed by members of a fraternity.  There are millions of people who have been members of fraternities and using the 4% rotten apples estimate, that's tens of thousands of bad people who have belonged to fraternities.  All Erdely had to do was find the truer version and verify it and then she could've had a "true and accurate" story.  An anecdote true in details and true to the narrative.

Several people I know think that the details are immaterial.  So what that she apparently got the fraternity wrong? So what if she got the date wrong?  So what if the people she described don't exist?  Something likely happened to Jackie that night - that's the important thing.

In other words, "fake but accurate" is perfectly acceptable.  Indeed a gripping "fake but accurate" story might be better than a true one if its details, even if wrong, are more compelling.

The collateral damage of smearing innocent people's reputations, vandalizing the fraternity, and shutting down the greek system are also not a problem - this is a group that it's okay to hate and okay to damage.  The fact the Jackie's credibility is non-existent now that all verifiable facts turned out to be false is also unimportant. Women do get raped, so it doesn't really matter if Jackie's specific story is true at all.  It's an accurate enough description of what has happened to somebody, at some place, at some time.  Therefore, all males, everywhere, all the time, are guilty.  And males, especially members of a southern fraternity, need to bear the brunt of the "fake" part of "fake but accurate" whenever and wherever required to further the narrative.

Because the importance of the narrative trumps everything else.

Debunking a myth

In the wake of Mary Landrieu's loss, Kevin Williamson addresses a falsehood prevalent in some circles:

The Democrats, being intellectually dishonest, cling to the myth that the two parties “switched places” on racial issues in the 1960s, that Senator Landrieu’s troubles are a consequence of that reversal, and that the general Southern realignment is evidence that the Republican party is a comfortable home for bigots, Confederate revanchists, and others with dodgy racial politics.

This is a strange line of argument, and an indefensible one once the evidence is considered. Democrats remained the favored party in the South for decades and decades after the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, controlling a majority of governorships, Senate seats, state legislative bodies, etc., well into the 21st century.

 Strange that redneck bigots would wait for so many decades to punish the Democrats for giving up cross-burning; my own experience with that particular demographic suggests that its members do not in general have that sort of attention span.

In reality, the Republican party in the South was not the party of peckerwood-trash segregationists; the GOP made its first Southern inroads among relatively affluent, educated, suburban voters, i.e., basically the same people who were Republicans everywhere else in the country, and the Southern voters least interested in segregation. And that began in the 1920s, not the 1960s. But it really picked up during the New Deal, with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s support among Southern white voters diminishing as his Prussian-style command-and-control economic fantasies became more audacious.

When Democrats push their “trading places” legend, they insistently (and dishonestly) ignore that their party, which was the party of Southern voters before Lyndon Johnson finally got on the right side of the lynching-law issue, was also the party of Southern voters long after Democrats finally packed away their white hoods for good. Instead, they will point to the presidential-election maps, which tell a different story.

 It was the 1994 midterm — 30 years after the fight over the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — that announced the real realignment in Southern politics. As with the New Deal, economic issues rather than racial ones were once again front and center. Bill Clinton had had the poor sense to put his wife in charge of a cockamamie project to quasi-nationalize American health care — terrible idea, right? — and Republicans responded with the Contract with America, an eight-point agenda that had zilch to do with race. Only the very finest sensibilities of the dog-whistle detectors at MSNBC could derive a racial agenda out of “require that all laws that apply to the rest of the country also apply to Congress,” “cut committee staff by one-third,” or “require committee meetings to be open to the public.” (Go ahead — find the racial subtext; I’ll wait.) It was that election that saw the Southern congressional delegation go Republican for the first time. And while Clinton would still win a few Southern states in 1996, Democratic presidential candidates would subsequently find themselves largely shut out of the South outside of Florida and Virginia.

That the Democratic party has attempted to hijack for itself credit for the hard and often bloody work performed for a century almost exclusively by Republicans, from Lincoln to Eisenhower, is a reminder that the party of Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton is not a place for men with a very developed sense of decency.

That being the case, Democrats should spare us their batty tales about Louisiana sending off the South’s last Democratic senator — a sanctimonious white lady if ever there was one — because white bigots are being inspired by a governor one generation away from Punjab, Haitian refugees representing Utah in the House, and this National Review cruise aficionado. From George Wallace’s infamous stand in the schoolhouse door to Barack Obama’s, embarrassing racial politics are the Democrats’ bread and butter. And what happened in the 1960s wasn’t the parties’ “changing places” on racism and civil rights; it was the Democrats’ — some of them, at least — joining the ranks of civilized human beings for the first time.

It only took them a century.

Mr. Williamson provides plenty more detail and analysis to bolster his case.  Remember this next time someone tries to push the "switched places" nonsense.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Drunk on Their Own Bathwater

In April, Jonathan Chait wrote the cover article in New York magazine, entitled "The Color of His Presidency". It asserted that, instead of alleviating race grievances, Obama's presidency has made them worse. Progressives have relentlessly thrown down the racist card, but mostly conservatives are racists, in that mostly means pretty much totally. It got a lot of attention from All Correct Thinking People.

Crooked Timber, an echo chamber of progressive self regard, had a post on the story.

Having not learned from my previous forays into the fever swamp that is fundamentalist progressivism, I waded in.

Small government conservative = racist hater.

That’s pretty much what virtually all the comments on this thread boil down to.

Paul Ryan says something that is, in effect, identical to things Pres. Obama and Bill Cosby have said. How is that racist?

Arguing confiscatory taxation is a bad idea isn’t racist. Believing that Great Society programs have created a culture of dependency isn’t racist; indeed, it can’t be. Viewing affirmative action programs as likely to harm their beneficiaries and inherently racist isn’t racist. Concluding that the ACA has made a dysfunctional system worse, and was sold only by grotesque lies isn’t racist. (And using Lee Atwater to tar these arguments makes no more sense than dismissing progressivism because Pres. Wilson was a thoroughgoing racist who thought eugenics a good idea, or FDR put Japanese-Americans in concentration camps.)

The result is the Liberal Gulag. After all, it is so much easier to dump out another barrel of Racist Hater™ than countering an actual argument.

Here is the rejoinder from Philosophy professor John Holbo:

As to your objection that “Small government conservative = racist hater” is not a conceptual truth: this is true. Nevertheless, the sociology is disturbing. From Chait’s article:

And the truth is almost too brutal to be acknowledged. A few months ago, three University of Rochester political scientists—Avidit Acharya, Matthew Blackwell, and Maya Sen—published an astonishing study. They discovered that a strong link exists between the proportion of slaves residing in a southern county in 1860 and the racial conservatism (and voting habits) of its white residents today. The more slave-intensive a southern county was 150 years ago, the more conservative and Republican its contemporary white residents. The authors tested their findings against every plausible control factor—for instance, whether the results could be explained simply by population density—but the correlation held. Higher levels of slave ownership in 1860 made white Southerners more opposed to affirmative action, score higher on the anti-black-affect scale, and more hostile to Democrats.”

That is, in case you haven't noticed it, not the brutal truth itself, but rather its executive summary.

Keep in mind, this Chait article got a lot of attention. It was, after all, a very long cover story for a major magazine. Further keep in mind the audience.

Do you know what none of those smug, arrogant, progressives did, including Chait?

Read the actual actual report.

How do I know they didn't read it? Because I did, far enough to discover what progressive political scientists call data (from page 11 in the "study"):

That is to data as a dog's breakfast is to haute cuisine.

Hence my response to Professor Holbo:

Did you look at the study at all, or are you satisfied with a quote from the abstract?

Go to page [11], and look at the three graphs depicting proportion slave in 1860 vice proportion Democrat, approving affirmative action, and racial resentment. You should notice that the portion approving of AA isn’t high anywhere. The center of the distribution in areas without slaves is only 20%, and the variation in racial resentment between low and high slave proportion counties is small — the slope of that line isn’t zero, but it isn’t much more than that. […] One standard deviation in slave proportion yielded a 0.11 point increase in racial resentment; 2.7 percent decrease in support for affirmative action, and a 3.1 percent decrease in among those who identify as Democrats.

The [upper left graph] shows a steep decline in registered Democrats in areas with high slave proportions in 1860. Fine, let’s take it as read that is due to racially derived resentment of Democrat policies.

Now explain this [(an electoral map of the 2012 Presidential election by county)].

You can’t.

You uncritically accepted the conclusions of a study because they confirmed your pre-existing bigotry. No matter that in two dimensions the change potentially due to racist feelings is small, and in the other it has no explanatory power whatsoever.

I have no doubt that the legacy of slavery still has knock-on effects in racial attitudes, but using this study as a tar brush to smear as racist disagreement with progressive policies makes the error of placing far more weight on the conclusions of this study than they can possibly bear.

But by all means, go ahead and do so. I’m sure you will be just as willing to make a cause and effect relationship based on the overwhelming statistical data correlating AFDC to the breakdown of the African American family.

(Brackets where I have fixed typos or other minor errors.)

His rejoinder?

You complain that I haven’t studied one thing that Chait cited. It’s true, I haven’t. But I have read a great deal, studied many other studies – historical and sociological and so forth. (Read that Lind article linked, upthread. That’s a good article.) So the question is not: is this study valid.

In other words, one of progressivism's pillars: fake, but true:

Chait completely uncritically accepted that study. All the readers of his article here, including you, did the same. What should get your attention is the degree to which that study failed to confirm your expectation. When a study clearly conducted to confirm a pre-existing conclusion almost completely fails to do so, perhaps it is the conclusion itself that needs revisiting.

In what way is Lind’s article good?

His thesis is that hysteria, aggression and gerrymandering are white southerner’s last hope to maintaining political control.

Here is the evidence he presented for his thesis: gerrymandering. Well, of course! That has never happened anywhere ever before for any reason, therefore racists! (The maps he links to are no help. The pattern of the first can be closely approximated by average house size, percentage of black owned business, divorce rate, and, average humidity. The second relies upon a virtually meaningless US census distinction.)

As for his assertions, he presents no evidence whatsoever, unless an article written by a Northerner 93 years ago counts.

Why have I drug you through this fetid swamp of progfluffery?

Because it provides insight into the workings of the progressive mind. In order to maintain their own sanctified self image, they must first demonize, then ostracize, anything that might cause cognitive dissonance.

Before suggesting I am, once again, using a large gun and a small barrel to go fish hunting, this is no isolated example of progressives swallowing whole that which flatters.

Neil deGrasse Tyson has a road show, where he panders to those Who Just Absolutely Love Science. In them, he trots out quotes to demonstrate the innumeracy and ignorance of selected targets: headline writers, congress critters, and Bush 43.

I'm sure it comes as no surprise that the audiences lapped it all up.

There's a problem, though. (Actually two; I'll get to the second in a bit.)

Near as anyone can tell, none of Tyson's quotes exist in this time-space continuum. Now, as far as headlines or congresscritters go, the targets are so generic as to scarcely matter. (In the former, Tyson's inability to distinguish mean from median seems something of an own goal, and fair warning to those who should become more familiar with the concept of "the pot calling the kettle black".)

Not so with what Tyson attributed to Bush 43:

According to Tyson, in the days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Bush uttered the phrase, “Our God is the God who named the stars.” According to Tyson, the president made that claim as a way of segregating radical Islam from religions like Christianity or Judaism. Here’s Tyson (link goes to video clip).

From the clip:

TYSON: Here’s what happens. George Bush, within a week of [the 9/11 terrorist attacks] gave us a speech attempting to distinguish we from they. And who are they? These were sort of the Muslim fundamentalists. And he wants to distinguish we from they. And how does he do it?

He says, “Our God” — of course it’s actually the same God, but that’s a detail, let’s hold that minor fact aside for the moment. Allah of the Muslims is the same God as the God of the Old Testament. So, but let’s hold that aside. He says, “Our God is the God” — he’s loosely quoting Genesis, biblical Genesis — “Our God is the God who named the stars.”

This is nasty stuff. It is one thing to slime some not-too-specific group with some intellectual shortcoming that is easily common enough, if not particularly important. It is altogether something else to be repeatedly and specifically defamatory. At least to most of us; not so much, progressives.

Back to The Federalist article:

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s story has three central claims: 1) Bush uttered that precise phrase, 2) in the days immediately after 9/11, 3) in order to distance American religion from that practiced by radical Muslims.

As you have probably already guessed, every single claim is false. Every one! Then there’s Tyson’s aside that Bush’s quote was a “loose quote” of the book of Genesis. Yep, that’s false, too. Add embarrassing biblical illiteracy to Tyson’s list of accomplishments on his CV.

Here is the rest of the problem: just as many in Tyson's audience sussed his fabulisms* as Crooked Timberists cottoned on to that travesty shining example of the social science arts. No one from the self-styled Reason Based Community so much as fluttered an IQ point at Tyson's stylings that were just a little to pat to be true.

Unsurprisingly, and typical for the breed, Tyson's apology was late, and grudging to the point of non-existence.

And we haven't even gotten to Star Wars yet. I sense your dismay, verging on irritation, at this segue: what, in heaven's name, could a galaxy both long ago and far way have to do with any of this?

That you ask this question is a sure sign you underestimate the progressive mind. The opening seconds of the trailer for the next installment in the Star Wars franchise features a black imperial storm trooper. Which, in turn, led to hundreds of racist comments directed at the actor, John Boyega. Unfortunately,

The issue of Boyega’s skin color has been such a heated topic of debate online that none of the news outlets who ran stories about fan racism directed at Boyega could cite a single example of it happening. Not on Twitter. Not in an Op-ed, not on movie fan sites.

Not one.

The progressive world view is, to me, anyway, an unending mystery. Self styled as the reality based community, progressives display a childlike faith in, and blindness to, their own bigotries, combined with a shameless facility for making stuff up. And when it comes to vacuous, rote, demonization, they certainly have a case to answer. It's almost, or perhaps completely, as if the only things left in their intellectual armoire are tar brushes and slime buckets.

Of course, it is entirely possible, even probable, that I am as blind to anti-progressives', and my own, transgressions: that we are just as prone to unquestioned assertions and invention for the sake of the narrative, reality or decency be damned.

So, if any of the thousands of progressives in our devoted reading audience could set me straight, I'd appreciate it.

Or anyone else, for that matter. Unfortunately, my memory, self-awareness, and google skills aren't up to the task.

* Not a word, but it should be

Funny Private Industry Versus Government Solutions Post

The government of Nevada competes with Uber for providing fair cab fares and wins! (Sort of.)