Archive for the 'Human Behavior' Category
Posted by Jonathan on 1st May 2013 (All posts by Jonathan)
An interesting case. Bellesiles? East Anglia? Don’t be silly — this is the Times, after all. But interesting nonetheless.
Science may be a noble endeavor. However, as with professional sports, if there’s enough money or opportunity for self-aggrandizement in it some people will cheat, and some people will be attracted to the enterprise precisely because of the opportunity to cheat. Stapels, the subject of the Times profile, looks like a real piece of work. It will be interesting to see if he succeeds in rehabilitating himself, even if non-academically, as he seems to be trying to do. Perhaps his post-academic career is just beginning.
(Via @blithespiritny on Twitter.)
Posted in Academia, Human Behavior, Media | 15 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 24th April 2013 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
UPDATE: Mickey Kaus now has a column called Gang of 8 Fraud of the Day. Today’s is “Back Taxes.”
Negotiators had to choose between a hard-line approach favored by Republicans, like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), that would have required immigrants and employers to painstakingly piece together a tax history so the government could collect what is owed and a less burdensome option of focusing on people who already have a past-due bill with the Internal Revenue Service.
Yup. No tax audits. Only if they already have an assessment is it pursued.
Rubio’s published materials now often carefully say to-be-legalized immigrants would have to merely ”pay taxes” as opposed to pay “back taxes.” That hasn’t stopped the bogus “back tax” meme from being propagated during Rubio’s current round the clock Con-the-Cons tour.
The Senate has served up another in Harry Reid’s menu of “Unanimous Consent” bills with no hearings and no amendments except those he approves. This is not how the Senate is supposed to work and is a large part of the reason that Congress has produced such bad legislation since 2008. Now, we have another massive bill which is being presented with minimal hearings and debate.
The “Gang of Eight” has written this bill and it is supposed to be fast tracked with no argument. Marco Rubio has been pressing for approval and now Paul Ryan is aboard.
In an interview last week with the Catholic television network EWTN, Ryan recalled his history at Kemp’s side and how they worked together to fight Proposition 187, a California ballot initiative that prevented non-citizens from using the state’s social services.
One reason why immigration worked in this country for 150 years was the fact that immigrants were here to work and support themselves. There was no welfare for them. Prop 187 in California was passed with 60% of the vote and even had majorities in heavily Hispanic districts. It was ruled “unconstitutional” by the California Supreme Court and the decline of the “Golden State” has followed. His reasoning at the time ?
“I actually campaigned with Jack Kemp against a thing called Prop 187,” Ryan told host Raymond Arroyo. He said they both worried that the proposal would burn Republicans within the immigrant community, and “make it so that Latino voters would not hear the other messages of empowerment.”
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Posted in Anti-Americanism, Britain, Business, Civil Society, Conservatism, Education, Human Behavior, Islam, Middle East, Politics, Religion, Terrorism | 10 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 20th April 2013 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
Negative items (weaknesses and threats) first.
Overconcentration of political belief systems by geography and especially by vocation, notably in journalism; the corresponding threat is misdiagnosis of motivation and identity of perpetrators.
This was on full display over the past week, and although the most prominent examples were instances of the amazingly robust narrative about a supposed right-wing fundamentalist Christian underground, the persistence of which reveals a great deal about the mindset of the “liberal” bien-pensant, they’re not the only ones who have this problem. Claiming that people in Boston are cowering under their beds and wishing they had AR-15s, or casually accusing various (and singularly unimpressive) American politicians of being Communists, isn’t much better than fantasizing about entirely nonexistent WASP terrorists. And there has already been at least one wild-goose chase in recent years, the nationwide Federal investigation to find the co-conspirators of Scott Roeder in the assassination of George Tiller. He didn’t have any, and was known very early on to have acted alone. Your tax dollars nonetheless went to work; see also “memetic parasitism,” below.
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Posted in Anti-Americanism, Civil Society, Current Events, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Iran, Israel, Media, Middle East, National Security, Organizational Analysis, Politics, Predictions, Society, Terrorism, Tradeoffs, USA, War and Peace | 11 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 6th April 2013 (All posts by Jonathan)
Wretchard discusses recent notorious Type II system failures. The Colorado theater killer’s shrink warned the authorities to no avail. The underwear bomber’s father warned the authorities to no avail. The Texas army-base jihadist was under surveillance by the authorities, who failed to stop him. Administrators of the Atlanta public schools rigged the academic testing system for their personal gain at the expense of students and got away with it for years. Wretchard is right to conclude that these failures were caused by hubris, poor institutional design and the natural limitations of bureaucracies. The question is what to do about it.
The general answer is to encourage the decentralization of important services. If government institutions won’t reform themselves individuals should develop alternatives outside of those institutions. The underwear bomber’s fellow passengers survived because they didn’t depend on the system, they took the initiative. That’s the right approach in areas as diverse as personal security and education. It’s also the approach most consistent with American cultural and political values. It is not the approach of our political class, whose interests are not aligned with those of most members of the public.
The Internet is said to route itself around censorship. In the coming years we are going to find out if American culture can route itself around the top-down power grabs of our political class and return to its individualistic roots. Here’s hoping.
Posted in America 3.0, Human Behavior, National Security, Political Philosophy, RKBA, Society, Systems Analysis, Terrorism, Tradeoffs | 7 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 2nd April 2013 (All posts by David Foster)
Amazon: Elective Affinities
Charlotte and Eduard were in love when they were very young, but parental pressures separated them. Twenty years later, they are finally able to be together, and now they live contentedly on Eduard’s large estate, somewhere near Weimar.
Eduard is in correspondence with his long-time friend, the Captain, who is frustrated by his current inability to find suitable employment, and suggests to Charlotte that he should come and live with them on the estate, where his surveying and construction-management skills would be very useful. Charlotte, though, has the sense that bringing a third party into the mix will somehow compromise the happiness for which they have waited so long. She makes her case nicely but determinedly, drawing from Eduard the reaction that a woman like Charlotte is “quite invincible” in debate:
First you are reasonable, so that it is not possible to contradict you; then charming, so that giving in to you is a pleasure; then full of feeling, so that a man wishes to avoid causing you any pain; then full of foreboding, which alarms him.
Despite Charlotte’s persuasiveness, though, Eduard remains concerned about the Captain’s situation, and does not drop the matter. Finally, Charlotte agrees that the Captain can join them, but with a proviso: she would also like her adopted daughter, Ottilie–who is having some difficulties at bording school–to move in with them.
The rather strange title of this book is taken from late-18th-century science, where it refers to the separation and combination of chemical substances…the Captain knows a bit about chemistry and shares his knowledge with Charlotte and Eduard after joining them at their estate.
The story is primarily concerned with Charlotte, Eduard, Ottilie, and the Captain—the four “substances” in the chemical analogy, whose varying affinities for one another create the drama of the book. There are also a few other important characters. One is a strange man named Mittler, whose self-appointed calling it is to travel about, seeking out conflicts among people and attempting to help resolve them. Another is Charlotte’s daughter Luciane, a budding socialite whose extremely hyper personality I found rather exhausting even at a distance of 200 years.
My description above may influence the reader to think that Elective Affinities is merely a rather trivial romance novel. And the stye of the book, the Arcadian setting, the unfailing courtesy with which the characters address one another…all these may at first seem to confirm such an opinion. But what Goethe is really dealing with here are the polarities of social structure versus passion and of free will versus fate.
Charlotte, who like her kindred spirit the Captain is a very organized and controlled person, at first sees an absolute distinction between the blind, automatic affinities of chemical substances and the freely-chosen affinities of human beings. But a year and a half later, her views about her degree of control over her own fate–and even her own feelings–have, as a result of experience, changed considerably.
Really sort of a mix between novel and essay, Elective Affinities is a short book, easy to read, and emotionally involving if not emotionally overwhelming. I read the Oxford edition, with the translation by David Constantine…one reviewer at Amazon strongly recommended this in preference to the Penguin version.
Here’s an interesting review of Elective Affinities from 1885. It’s chock-full of spoilers, so if you plan to read the book, you may want to hold off on the link until you finish it.
There is also a 1996 movie based on the book–made by Italian filmmakers and with the action transposed from Germany to Italy. I’ll comment on it in a later post.
Posted in Book Notes, Europe, Germany, Human Behavior | 4 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 30th March 2013 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
I have been kind of neutral on the whole gay marriage issue. I think it began as an artifact of the AIDS epidemic and an attempt to curb the promiscuity of male gay life. In the early days of the epidemic, I had to inform a very nice nuclear engineer that he was HIV positive. This was well before treatment had developed and it was a death sentence. He told me it was impossible because he had been in a monogamous relationship with his partner for ten years. What could I say ? I once had to inform a nice lady who was a Christian Scientist that she had breast cancer. Her response was that she was losing her breast and her religion at the same time.
It has been taken over by activists who are determined to validate their life style and to force conventional society to accept it as equivalent to heterosexual family life, which it is not. It is surprising the success they have had with the young who seem to accept the argument that it is a “civil rights” issue, which is, of course, nonsense. Mark Steyn usually has something worthwhile to say on most subjects and this time is no exception.
Gays will now be as drearily suburban as the rest of us. A couple of years back, I saw a picture in the paper of two chubby old queens tying the knot at City Hall in Vancouver, and the thought occurred that Western liberalism had finally succeeded in boring all the fun out of homosexuality.
He does have a sense of humor amid reflections on a dying culture.
In the upper echelons of society, our elites practice what they don’t preach. Scrupulously nonjudgmental about everything except traditional Christian morality, they nevertheless lead lives in which, as Charles Murray documents in his book Coming Apart, marriage is still expected to be a lifelong commitment. It is easy to see moneyed gay newlyweds moving into such enclaves, and making a go of it. As the Most Reverend Justin Welby, the new Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, said just before his enthronement the other day, “You see gay relationships that are just stunning in the quality of the relationship.” “Stunning”: What a fabulous endorsement! But, amongst the type of gay couple that gets to dine with the Archbishop of Canterbury, he’s probably right.
The problem, as pointed out years ago by Vice President Dan Quayle, is that the elites set the pattern for those whose lives cannot succeed without the structures of traditional society. They set the pattern, unfortunately, by what they say, not what they do.
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Posted in Academia, Book Notes, Civil Society, Education, Human Behavior, Morality and Philosphy, Politics | 16 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 30th March 2013 (All posts by Jonathan)
Riffing on David Foster.
It’s like how Keynes’s theory about liquidity traps is used to rationalize all kinds of govt spending programs, perhaps far beyond what Keynes himself would have advocated.
1 Great man has a theory about a, b and c.
2 Great man’s acolytes turn the theory into a dogma, religion and, eventually, industry.
3 Politically savvy third parties with agendas use the theory to justify x, y and z.
Posted in Human Behavior, Political Philosophy, Politics, Public Finance | 4 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 26th March 2013 (All posts by David Foster)
…and was inspired to write this very interesting post.
If she gets well quickly, will we ever get to see the sequel?
Posted in Economics & Finance, Human Behavior | 4 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 24th March 2013 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
“Bus attacks by suicide bombers have fairly monotonous features. They occur during the morning rush hour because ridership is high at that time. Bombers board buses near the end of their routes in order to maximize the number of people in the bus at the time of detonation. They preferentially board at the middle doors in order to be centered in the midst of the passengers. They detonate shortly after boarding the bus because of concern that they will be discovered, restrained, and prevented from detonating. They stand as they detonate in order to provide a direct, injurious path for shrapnel. Head and chest injuries are common among seated passengers. The injured are usually those some distance away from the bomber; those nearby are killed outright, those at the ends of the bus may escape with minor injuries. The primary mechanism of injury of those not killed outright by the blast is impaling by shrapnel. Shrapnel is sometimes soaked in poison, eg organophosphate crop insecticides, to increase lethality.”
Resilience Engineering: Concepts and Precepts
Chapter 13, Taking Things in One’s Stride: Cognitive Features of Two Resilient Performances
Richard I. Cook and Christopher Nemeth
“But wouldn’t it be luxury to fight in a war some time where, when you were surrounded, you could surrender?”
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Posted in Book Notes, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Islam, Israel, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Terrorism, War and Peace | 4 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 18th March 2013 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
It is apparently not news to anyone that the office of the President of the US involves a degree of security – to include an official food-taster, as medieval as that sounds. Been going on for years, apparently, so having a designated expert to cover food safety with regards to the President isn’t something to have a conniption fit over. So someone has to eat a couple of bites – a whole helping? from a dish prepared for the White House table, and if that person doesn’t fall over, gasping and foaming at the mouth, then it is OK for POTUS consumption. Got it. And yes, I do understand very well that security ought to be tight when it comes to food supplies and preparation for any President … but the recent story about President Obama sitting by at a private luncheon with GOP senators and not being able to eat a bite because his food taster hadn’t vetted the food first strikes me as a matter a little deeper and much more insulting than it has been played.
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Posted in Big Government, Human Behavior, Leftism, National Security, Obama, Politics, USA | 17 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 27th February 2013 (All posts by David Foster)
Not a single Democratic senator managed to demonstrate enough judgment and courage to go against his Party herd and vote “Nay” on the Hagel confirmation.
Not a single one.
Roll call here
About a week ago, Cassandra cited a study showing in which white “racial liberals” (as identified by a four-question survey) were asked whether or not they supported targeted killings of suspected terrorists.
Only 27% of the respondents supported such killings….BUT, if they were told before answering the question that OBAMA had conducted such killings, then the support rose to 47%.
Cass cited another political scientist, Lilliana Mason, who argues that the electorate is becoming increasingly tribal. Our party affiliation is increasingly intertwined with our personal identity, making us more prone than ever to support the policies of “our side,” regardless of their actual content.
As I noted in comments, this kind of thinking/behavior represents the outsourcing of judgment and conscience.
And I think this outsourcing has a lot to do with the Democratic unanimity on Hegal, as well as with the lockstep pro-Obama coverage of the old media.
Posted in Human Behavior, Politics, USA, War and Peace | 21 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 19th February 2013 (All posts by David Foster)
(This is a combination of two posts from 2005)
Verbal imagery can affect decision-making. For example, Columbia professor Michael Morris has found that when stock price movements are described in terms of “agent metaphors,” people tend to believe that the trend will continue more than they do when the same stock price movements are described in terms of “object metaphors.”
For example, “Caterpillar jumped up by 5% today” will be interpreted differently from “The price of Caterpillar increased by 5% today,” even though the two statements are semantically identical.
Moreover, Morris found that people–including financial journalists–tend to use agent metaphors more often when prices go up, and object metaphors more often when they go down. Why? “Think about if you’re hiking, and you see something on the trail. It’s either a rock or a toad. If it starts moving up, it’s a toad. If it moves down, it’s probably a rock. Evolution built into our brains that things that move up are alive. Things moving down don’t provide that cue.”
Morris goes on to say that “For the naive investor who’s trying to make sense of the newspaper, the mental concepts that get triggered by agentic descriptions of uptrends may lead them to think that an uptrend is a meaningful signal for tomorrow, while the downtrend isn’t a meaningful signal about tomorrow.”
See article at The Economist: Mind Your Language
A very interesting example of the power of metaphor and analogy can be found in the writings of General Edward Spears. During the opening campaigns of WWI, in 1914, the British Commander-in-Chief (Sir John French) was tempted to withdraw his army into the fortress of Maubeuge. Spears, who in 1914 was a liason officer between the British and French armies, describes the C-in-C’s thought processes:
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Posted in Human Behavior | 11 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 12th February 2013 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Spengler has a new column that points out the coming collapse of Islam as a demographic entity. I have thought for years that Iran, if the population ever succeeds in overthrowing the regime, will abandon Islam as its first priority. Spengler points to a column by David Ignatius that belatedly recognizes a phenomenon that has been noted by others for years.
Something startling is happening in the Muslim world — and no, I don’t mean the Arab Spring or the growth of Islamic fundamentalism. According to a leading demographer, a “sea change” is producing a sharp decline in Muslim fertility rates and a “flight from marriage” among Arab women.
Nicholas Eberstadt, a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, documented these findings in two recent papers. They tell a story that contradicts the usual picture of a continuing population explosion in Muslim lands. Population is indeed rising, but if current trends continue, the bulge won’t last long.
The second class status of women in the Muslim world has led to important changes in their beliefs, especially about the religion that oppresses them.
Eberstadt’s first paper was expressively titled “Fertility Decline in the Muslim World: A Veritable Sea-Change, Still Curiously Unnoticed.” Using data for 49 Muslim-majority countries and territories, he found that fertility rates declined an average of 41 percent between 1975-80 and 2005-10, a deeper drop than the 33 percent decline for the world as a whole.
Twenty-two Muslim countries and territories had fertility declines of 50 percent or more. The sharpest drops were in Iran, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Libya, Albania, Qatar and Kuwait, which all recorded declines of 60 percent or more over three decades.
The present fertility rate in Iran is about equal to that of irreligious Europe.
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Posted in Christianity, Europe, History, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Islam, Japan, Middle East, Religion, Terrorism | 23 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 28th January 2013 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
As the old Billy Joel song goes; that is, a fair portion of a civil society is built on trust. Or at least – a large portion of the citizens in that society not only trust each other, but they generally also trust the civil institutions, too. There is an assumption, albeit slightly frayed around some edges that our institutions are generally benign and have the well-being of the larger public at heart. We assume, or did in the past, that laws are passed for our benefit, that rules are instituted for the same reason, that our elected leaders did, or at least mostly made a convincing pretense of representing the interests of their constituents, and not those of lobbyists bearing large favors. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Civil Society, Conservatism, Deep Thoughts, Health Care, Human Behavior, Law Enforcement, Medicine, North America | 26 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 21st January 2013 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
I have noted recent news reports decrying incidents of Sandy Hook trutherism with a certain degree of cynical un-surprise. This then, is the fruit of modern journalism; now we have news consumers who are absolutely convinced that the mass murders either didn’t happen, didn’t happen as most reports have it, or believe that it was a put-up job entirely. Of course there have been conspiracy buffs since human history began; wherever there was a tragic or shocking event there have always been unexplained details, dangling loose ends and things which just seemed to convenient, too coincidental for some observers. Supposing the existence of a conspiracy explains shattering and usually random events all very neatly, which is why people are attracted to conspiracy theories in the first place. Since I was in grade school, I’ve been hearing about the plot, or plots which supposedly took down JFK. It’s to the point where I can paint myself as a radical just by insisting that Oswald was a lone radical nut-case and no, it wasn’t that hard a shot. And sometimes suspicion of a conspiracy has been very well based; look at the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
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Posted in Civil Society, Human Behavior, Media, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, Tea Party, The Press, USA | 18 Comments »
Posted by Trent Telenko on 18th January 2013 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
We are swiftly coming up on another “mugged by reality moment” regards firearms similar to the one that was created with the Clinton era gun magazine ban.
Few remember today that the “next big thing” in civilian pistol market in the early 1990′s was how many bullets a pistol magazine could handle. Post Clinton magazine ban, the civilian shooter market wanted the _smallest_ semi-automatic pistol that could hold 10-rounds. And the gun manufacturers responded to the market demand with a host of pistol makes and models that effectively replaced the “.38 Special” as the little hide out gun of choice. Now police across America are under greater threat, from much wider base of stolen, small, concealable, semi-autos in criminal hands, than they ever were prior to the Clinton magazine ban.
We are again in much the same situation with the Obama gun control executive orders.
See this July 28, 2012 Forbes piece titled “The End of Gun Control?” on the arrival of metal material vat 3-D printers that are capable of making functional AR-15 receivers. Now consider the implications of the much more widely installed base of plastic material vat 3-D printers for making _gun magazines_. In a few months we are going to see lots of designs for plastic gun magazines, of many sorts, with maybe a spring and a cheap stamped metal lip to fit available firearms. People will soon be selling spring and lip kits for 3-D printed plastic magazines at gun shows and “off the books” person to person gun trading networks. Hell, manufacturers will be redesigning guns to more effectively use 3-D printed magazines before the year is out.
In the end we will have a much larger base of high capacity magazines in this country, because the price of them is about to drop an order of magnitude, all thanks to Obama’s E.O. Regulations creating a market opportunity for a disruptive technology.
All of this is easily foreseeable and the people about to cause this turn of events just don’t care. This is not about the safety of ordinary people. The answer to the violent mentally unstable is to identify them by their pattern of behavior and involuntarily drug them to non-violence.
The fact that gun control is on the table as “The Solution” is because the people in favor of it, these “2nd Prohibitionists”, would rather have the power to oppress ordinary people than the authority to medicate the violent mentally unstable. They get more ego boo from oppressing ordinary people — just like the original Alcohol Prohibitionists — with the added bonus of leaving the violent mentally ill on the streets to give them the chance to go there again and again.
Posted in Americas, Civil Liberties, Entrepreneurship, Human Behavior, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Uncategorized, USA | 10 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 16th January 2013 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
Sometime around the middle of the time my daughter and I lived in Athens, the Greek television network broadcast the whole series of Jewel in the Crown, and like public broadcasting in many places— strictly rationing their available funds— they did as they usually did with many worthy imported programs. Which is to say, not dubbed into Greek— which was expensive and time-consuming— but with Greek subtitles merely supered over the scenes. My English neighbor, Kyria Penny and I very much wanted to watch this miniseries, which had been played up in the English and American entertainment media, and so she gave me a standing invitation to come over to hers and Georgios’s apartment every Tuesday evening, so we could all watch it, and extract the maximum enjoyment thereby. We could perhaps also make headway with our explanation to Kyrie Georgios on why Sergeant Perron was a gentleman, although an enlisted man, but Colonel Merrick emphatically was not.
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Posted in Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Deep Thoughts, Diversions, History, Human Behavior, Lit Crit, Personal Narrative | 5 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 16th January 2013 (All posts by David Foster)
Two stories of personal opinion change, from:
Posted in Conservatism, Human Behavior, Leftism, Politics, USA | 3 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 10th January 2013 (All posts by David Foster)
There’s an amusing incident in a recent biography of Erich Maria Remarque. Remarque immigrated to the United States in 1939, and in the 1950s he came to a friend with a dilemma: two women were pursuing him.
“So I said, ‘Oh, really, Erich, that sounds terrible, who are they?’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘one of them is Paulette Goddard and the other is Marlene Dietrich.’ So I said, ‘Well, Erich, my God, you’re in real trouble here.’ But he was deadly serious. ‘Which one do you think I should go for, Douglas? ‘That is a terrible dilemma, Erich, I mean, my God, this is something we have to think about very carefully.’ ‘You know,’ he said, ‘Marlene is very attractive, but Paulette is really good at the stock market. I think I should go for Paulette.’ So I said to him, ‘Well, Erich, the stock market is very important, no doubt about that.’
As a Remarque fan, I certainly hope he was kidding about this decision process. (Which would tend to belie the title of the linked autobiography: Erich Maria Remarque: The Last Romantic.)
In any event, he did marry Paulette Goddard, and (unlike his previous marriages and relationships), the marriage lasted. (Given Remarque’s comment about the stock market, I was wondering if there was any data on her long-term annualized rate of return–the comment here about “her talent at accumulating wealth” suggests that it was probably pretty good.)
And more recently, we have Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos who, when he wrote down a list of attributes he wanted for his future wife, included “a woman who could get me out of a third-world prison.”
“It was really just a visualization for resourcefulness,” he clarifies, ”because people who are not resourceful drive me bananas.”
Jeff married MacKenzie Bezos, a writer, in 1993. I can’t speak to her jail-springing skills, but I’ve read her novel The Testing of Luther Albright…I wasn’t all that impressed with it on first reading, but went back and read it again and thought it was quite good.
Posted in Biography, Book Notes, Human Behavior, Humor, Media | 11 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 5th January 2013 (All posts by David Foster)
Sarah Hoyt has been reading a lot about the 1920s, and–in a post which encompasses both Agatha Christie and Robert Heinlein–she does some thinking about the impact of Word War I on the twenties and on Western civilization generally.
World War I was terrible, and for many reasons, including the prevalence of pictures and news, the fratricide/civil-war quality of it, the massive number of casualties. It shocked an entire generation into … writing an awful lot about it, and into trying to tear down the pillars of civilization, believing that Western Civilization (and not human nature, itself) was what had brought about the carnage and the waste.
A thought-provoking post, well worth reading, with an interesting comment thread. I very much agree with the comment by William Zeller:
Here’s my quick version of the test I use to determine if a speaker is doing the WesternCiv teardown:
If the argument begins with the phrase: “American…” or “America…” and proceeds to identify a horrifying cultural or political trait.
Absolutely…and this happens all the time…people observing something bad and discrediting it to America (or, less frequently, to Western civilization as a whole) without making the slightest attempt to consider whether the bad thing they are talking about might be something like a cross-cultural human universal rather than something specific to Americans or the West.
There’s no question in my mind that the First World War did do immense harm to Western civilization, as we’ve often discussed here. Erich Maria Remarque’s excellent and unfortunately-neglected novel The Road Back, which I reviewed in this post, is very helpful for understanding just how powerful and malign that impact was.
Sarah’s post reminded me of a particular passage in Remarque’s book. Ernst, the protagonist, has returned to Germany after the end of the war that killed most of his classmates and fellow enlistees. He has accepted a job teaching school in a small village:
There sit the little ones with folded arms. In their eyes is still all the shy astonishment of the childish years. They look up at me so trustingly, so believingly–and suddenly I get a spasm over the heart.
Here I stand before you, one of the hundreds of thousands of bankrupt men in whom the war destroyed every belief and almost every strength…What should I teach you? Should I tell you that in twenty years you will be dried-up and crippled, maimed in your freest impulses, all pressed mercilessly into the selfsame mould? Should I tell you that all learning, all culture, all science is nothing but hideous mockery, so long as mankind makes war in the name of God and humanity with gas, iron, explosive, and fire?…Should I take you to the green-and-grey map there, move my finger across it, and tell you that here love was murdered? Should I explain to you that the books you hold in your hands are but nets in which men design to snare your simple souls, to entangle you in the undergrowth of fine phrases, and in the barbed wire of falsified ideas?
…I feel a cramp begin to spread through me, as if I were turning to stone, as if I were crumbling away. I lower myself into the chair, and realize that I cannot stay here any longer. I try to take hold of something but cannot. Then after a time that has seemed to me endless, the catalepsy relaxes. I stand up. “Children,” I say with difficulty, “you may go now.”
The little ones look at me to make sure I am not joking. I nod once again. “Yes, that is right–go and play today–go and play in the wood–or with your dogs and your cats–you need not come back till tomorrow–”
Posted in Book Notes, Europe, Germany, History, Human Behavior, Society, War and Peace | 58 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 5th January 2013 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Hubris is a Greek word that signifies overweening confidence that leads to a big fall. It is a common component of tragedy. The Wiki article seems to get lost in ancient Greek references and, having read a lot about Greece and Greek history, I don’t think they are on target.
In its modern use, hubris denotes overconfident pride and arrogance; it is often associated with a lack of humility, though not always with the lack of knowledge. An accusation of hubris often implies that suffering or punishment will follow, similar to the occasional pairing of hubris and nemesis in Greek society. The proverb “pride goes before a fall” (from the biblical Book of Proverbs, 16:18) is thought to summate the modern use of hubris.
This is a bit closer to the definition I prefer.
I think we are about to see a grand spectacle of hubris on the part of the re-elected president. The Washington Post describes the outline, as if it was a done deal.
The White House is weighing a far broader and more comprehensive approach to curbing the nation’s gun violence than simply reinstating an expired ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition, according to multiple people involved in the administration’s discussions.
A working group led by Vice President Biden is seriously considering measures backed by key law enforcement leaders that would require universal background checks for firearm buyers, track the movement and sale of weapons through a national database, strengthen mental health checks, and stiffen penalties for carrying guns near schools or giving them to minors, the sources said.
To sell such changes, the White House is developing strategies to work around the National Rifle Association that one source said could include rallying support from Wal-Mart and other gun retailers for measures that would benefit their businesses. White House aides have also been in regular contact with advisers to New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I), an outspoken gun-control advocate who could emerge as a powerful surrogate for the Obama administration’s agenda.
Nowhere in the article does it acknowledge that the enemies of gun bans include, in addition to the NRA and the “gun manufacturers,” a majority of the people. This is why second terms are so well know for trouble for incumbents.
The gun-control push is just one part of an ambitious political agenda that Obama has pledged to pursue after his decisive reelection victory in November, including comprehensive immigration reform, climate-change legislation and long-term deficit reduction. Obama also faces a reshuffling of his Cabinet, and a looming debate over the nation’s debt ceiling that will compete for his time and attention in the coming months.
In addition to potential legislative proposals, Biden’s group has expanded its focus to include measures that would not need congressional approval and could be quickly implemented by executive action, according to interest-group leaders who have discussed options with Biden and key Cabinet secretaries. Possibilities include changes to federal mental-health programs and modernization of gun-tracking efforts by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The election victory was less “decisive” than the White House and the political left seems to believe. It is no surprise that they are looking for ways to avoid Congress. Now that we know how the EPA evaded the Freedom of Information Act with secret e-mail accounts, nothing should surprise us.
I was going to go to the gun store today but got bogged down in running errands and will have to go tomorrow. The nearest one has a good price on Colt 1911 model .45 calibre pistols. Since the proposed actions by the Obama folks are aimed at banning “military-style handguns,” I guess I had better hurry.
One potential strategy would be to win support for specific measures from interest groups that are normally aligned with the NRA, according to one person who works closely with the administration on gun-related issues and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.
For instance, this person suggested, Wal-Mart and other major gun retailers may have an incentive to support closing a loophole that allows people to bypass background checks if they purchase firearms at gun shows or through other types of private sales. That could result in more people buying guns in retail stores.
I think Wal-Mart is too smart to get into bed with this administration but maybe not. Certainly, Obama is no friend of non-union Wal-Mart. The same applies to gun retailers who can’t keep enough guns and ammunition in stock. I think they know who their friends are. If not they will learn quickly.
Finally, At the White House meeting, Stanek said, “the vice president indicated that there was a very short timeline for him to get back to the president with his recommendations because the American public has a short memory.”
Yup. Get that unconstitutional law going before anybody wakes up.
Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Human Behavior, Politics | 12 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 4th January 2013 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
It’s been most unsettling, over the last month or so, watching as the ship of state powers straight towards the reefs of financial meltdown, while the Dems and Pubs – establishment ruling class, with just about every one of them grubbing snout deep in the trough – do nothing much but squabble over the arrangement of the deck chairs, and figure out how to be the first one into the purser’s office to loot the safe. And if that wasn’t bad enough to put a dent in my enjoyment of the season: the Newton massacre of school children, the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the murders in my own neighborhood, the fact that a basically decent and widely experienced candidate could be defeated in a national election by a legislatively untalented and inexperienced machine hack … all of this was depressing in itself. And don’t get me started on the State Department and the Mysteries of Benghazi. But when a credentialed spawn of academia is given op-ed space in the so-called paper of record to call for deep-sixing the Constitution as an outdated and discredited piece of paper, network television personalities can hector and abuse interviewees with regard to the Second Amendment of same, and an editorialist in a mid-western newspaper (who may be exaggerating for humorous effect, not that he would have a micro-speck slack cut for him if he were a conservative ripping on progressives by name) can call for the torture and execution of those not in agreement on a particular matter, and some fairly senior military commanders can be abruptly side-lined and discredited for playing hide-the-salami (or being assumed to have been playing hide the salami) with a woman not their spouse … well, really, one has to wonder what has been happening here. The ‘othering’ proceeds at a perfectly dismaying rate of speed, with mainstream media and assorted celebs cheerleading from front and center.
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Posted in Americas, Conservatism, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, National Security, North America, That's NOT Funny, The Press | 19 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 1st January 2013 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
I wish I were more enthusiastic but I still wish everyone a good year. The “fiscal cliff” talks have ended about as I expected. The Republicans have pretty much rolled over. The House has yet to vote and I wonder how that will go. If they all grew a spine (or some other anatomical parts) they would vote “present” and let the Democrats pass the bill by themselves. Drudge has a link to the Breitbart story.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the last-minute fiscal cliff deal reached by congressional leaders and President Barack Obama cuts only $15 billion in spending while increasing tax revenues by $620 billion—a 41:1 ratio of tax increases to spending cuts.
When Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush increased taxes in return for spending cuts—cuts that never ultimately came—they did so at ratios of 1:3 and 1:2.
“In 1982, President Reagan was promised $3 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax hikes,” Americans for Tax Reform says of those two incidents. “The tax hikes went through, but the spending cuts did not materialize. President Reagan later said that signing onto this deal was the biggest mistake of his presidency.
“In 1990, President George H.W. Bush agreed to $2 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax hikes. The tax hikes went through, and we are still paying them today. Not a single penny of the promised spending cuts actually happened.”
This will be another such fake compromise. However, The Gods of the Copybook Headings are coming.
In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”
Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew,
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four –
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.
It’s too long to post all of it and, for those who are unsure of the source of the title, copybooks were supplied for all school children in England, when it was still England. The copy books had traditional aphorisms on each page that children were expected to learn.
Another expression that relates to the books was someone “blotted his copybook.” This meant making an error that was difficult to correct.
The “copybook headings” to which the title refers were proverbs or maxims, extolling virtues such as honesty or fair dealing that were printed at the top of the pages of 19th-century British students’ special notebook pages, called copybooks. The school-children had to write them by hand repeatedly down the page.
The work has been described as “beautifully captur[ing] the thinking of Schumpeter and Keynes.” David Gilmour says that while topics of the work are the “usual subjects”, the commentary “sound better in verse” while Alice Ramos says that they are “far removed from Horace’s elegant succinctness” but do “make the same point with some force.”
I don’t think I would agree that Keynes is an example of the copybook headings’ wisdom although his recommendations have been wildly distorted by politicians.
We are coming to a period when math will be far more determinant than wishful thinking in terms of our lives.
As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man –
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began –
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire –
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!
Hopefully, not this year. Happy New Year.
Posted in Anglosphere, Civil Society, Economics & Finance, Education, Human Behavior, Leftism, Morality and Philosphy, Poetry, Public Finance | 5 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 23rd December 2012 (All posts by David Foster)
Posted in Human Behavior | Comments Off
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 12th December 2012 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
So it is not like violence by union members in Michigan against pro-right-to-work activists came as any big surprise to me … or should have to any other sentient being. I mean, this comes after a couple of years of incidents involving members of the SEIU – better known as the Purple People Beaters – and Tea Party protesters going at it. Not that our gutless establishment press organs ever seemed to take notice … or as little notice as they can and still retain a few lingering shreds of credibility, while they remain prostrate and adoring the mighty figure of Ozymandius … sorry, Obama. And in pop-culture circles, historically unions seem to enjoy at least a token respect, for which I hold Hollywood responsible. Why the entertainment industry adores unions, as they are full of plucky, honest blue-collar laboring types, and if it weren’t for unions, why we would be working seven days a week, up to our knees in toxic sludge, owing our soul to the company store, and breaking rocks in the hot sun … oops, sorry, flashback there to about a million Phil Ochs pseudo-folk songs.
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Posted in Americas, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Diversions, Human Behavior, Just Unbelievable, Media, Politics, Tea Party | 20 Comments »