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  • Archive for the 'Human Behavior' Category

    Worthwhile Reading

    Posted by David Foster on 9th February 2016 (All posts by )

    Content abundance and curation in the media industry

    18th-century Scotland had an interesting system for paying for college

    Has getting things done in business…hiring new employees, finalizing business-to-business sales deals…become slower?

    Rejecting one’s country for aesthetic reasons

    Overconfident students major in political science

    This should be obvious, but to many people it’s unfortunately not: why the best hire might not have the perfect resume

    Interesting thoughts:  how debt/equity mix affects the trajectory of oil prices

    This writer is pessimistic about pessimism

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, Education, History, Human Behavior, Media, Organizational Analysis | 11 Comments »

    Generations, Politics, and Culture

    Posted by David Foster on 1st February 2016 (All posts by )

    Here is an interesting piece with thoughts on  how generations look at the world differently.  Obviously there are tremendous differences in individual experiences within a generation…and I certainly don’t share the author’s apparent leftist worldview–but I do think it’s probably true that one generation tries to deal with, and sometimes even partly solves, one set of challenges, thereby setting up a different set of challenges for succeeding generations.

    Related thoughts from Hawaiian libertarian, who says that:

    Prior to the advent of mass mind control enabled by mass media technology, there was no real substantial differences between generations…at least not the sort that so thoroughly and contentiously divided us for the past century. Culture was far more static and slow changing, and influenced much more by religion and cultural traditions and norms. 

    I don’t think mind control is actually required, or even systematic propaganda:  improved communications and transportation will tend to create more coupling within a generation, and more differences between generations, even in the absence of any central orchestration of messages.

    Regarding generational perspectives in general and mating patterns in particular,  Vox Day says:

    (The Boomers)  tend to think of “change” as something that an individual does within the context of a permanent infrastructure. GenX, on the other hand, sees that there is no permanence to the infrastructure, and that the infrastructure is not only transforming, but is imposing its changes on the individual.

    The Millennial doesn’t even see the cultural infrastructure, and thereby doesn’t understand either the Boomer perspective or the GenX fury at the order and infrastructure they have lost.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Morality and Philosphy, Society, USA | 6 Comments »

    Media Meanderings

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 24th January 2016 (All posts by )

    Taking pen in hand … or actually, the computer keyboard … to while away a few minutes of leisure between wrapping up today’s work. (Yes, I am a small business owner and independent author; weekends and holidays are normal working days for me, although those hours and days are of my own choice, which makes up for quite a lot. And also, the commute is short.)

    I was working away on graphic adornments for the next book in the Luna City Chronicles, and an editing job which I had thought to finish by mid-month, but these things happen. Anyway, I was diverted upon coming out to start cooking supper, to note that Blondie is also working away on her own stuff for upcoming events; for aural wallpaper, she had an old TV show on streaming video as she works. She has been going through various old shows in recent weeks. Last week it was the original Thundercats, the week before that it was McGyver. But this week it’s The X-Files … a show which she finds nostalgically amusing, but which I began to find so repellant that I stopped watching after a certain point. Was it the episode with the murderously incestuous hillbilly clan with the armless, legless mother, or the one where an oh-so-secret US Army unit machine-gunned to death a whole group of human-alien hybrid offspring? Memory does not serve up an exact date at this point, but that was where I decided that The X-Files just was not my cuppa any longer. Not for dealing out spine-chilling bits of horror in weekly episodes – the creepy guy who could slither through AC ducts, the primitive humans living in the wilds of New Jersey, the life insurance salesman who could foresee the death of his potential clients … for sheer story-telling expertise and creepy thrills, right up there with The Twilight Zone, or Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Likely, The X-Files still is, among certain aficionados.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Blogging, Civil Society, Film, Human Behavior, Media, Personal Narrative | 16 Comments »

    What Are Our Stories?

    Posted by David Foster on 21st January 2016 (All posts by )

    I’ve been reading The Devil’s Pleasure Palace.  The author remarks that, in the 19th century, the reading material in many American homes included Milton’s Paradise Lost.  We already knew that Shakespeare and the Bible were common reading in those days.

    The author notes (and this is unarguable, I think) that a society is largely characterized by the stories and myths that it shares.

    So my question for discussion is this…and I’m almost afraid to ask it…in American in 2016, what are our primary shared stories and myths?

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Society, USA | 12 Comments »

    Evolutionary Psychology May Partly Explain Political Outlook

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 11th January 2016 (All posts by )

    Anonymous Conservative uses some interesting research into the evolved behavioral dynamics of animal populations and applies it to human populations to explain the Left-Right political divide. The gist of the argument is that two distinct behavioral psychologies exist among animals, r and K:

    The terms r and K came from variables in equations which described how populations would change over time. r represented the maximal reproductive rate of an individual, while K represented the carrying capacity of an environment.

    The first environment an organism may face is the presence of freely available resources, which is referred to as an r-selective environment.
    In r-selection, those individuals who waste time fighting for food will be out-reproduced by pacifists, who simply focus upon eating, and reproducing. Fighting also entails risks of injury or death – risks which are pointless given the free availability of resources everywhere. Hence this environment will favor a tendency towards conflict avoidance, and tend to cull the aggressive and competitive. It will also evolve tendencies towards mating as early as possible, as often as possible, with as many mates as possible, while investing as little effort as possible rearing offspring. Here, there are unlimited resources just waiting to be utilized, and even the most unfit can acquire them. As a result, it is more advantageous to produce as many offspring as possible, as quickly as possible, regardless of fitness, so as to out-reproduce those who either waste time producing quality offspring or waste time competing with each other.

    In the other environment, a population exists at the carrying capacity of its environment. Since there is not enough food to go around, and someone must die from starvation, this will evolve a specific psychology within such a species. Termed a K-type psychology, or K-Selected Reproductive Strategy, this psychology will embrace competitions between individuals and accept disparities in competitive outcomes as an innate part of the world, that is not to be challenged. Since individuals who do not fight for some portion of the limited resources will starve, this environment will favor an innately competitive, conflict-prone psychology. Study shows, such a psychology will also tend to embrace monogamy, embrace chastity until monogamous adulthood, and favor high-investment, two-parent parenting, with an emphasis upon rearing as successful an offspring as possible.

    This explains the very different social outlook of the pioneers from, say, the modern Progressives. To the pioneers, everything must be worked for, built, exploited, expanded and defended. They cleared the forests, planted the prairies, drilled and tapped the aquifers, mined the mountains, built power plants, built dams and irrigated the dry lands. Progressives see and teach that as a history of evil and greed, all while maximizing their use of it and working to destroy it by neglect or regulation.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Human Behavior, Political Philosophy | 9 Comments »

    A Robotic Society

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 7th January 2016 (All posts by )

    Metropolis, 1927

    Robot, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, 1927

    Fifty years ago, if you were a company building automobiles or telecommunications equipment, you would have employed an assembly line full of workers. There also would have been people kitting parts, making inspections, doing tests, even running errands. If you operated a catalog company, you might have warehouse full of people loading and unloading goods, taking inventory, generating reports and packing and shipping goods. If you manufactured metal goods, you might employ several grades of craftsmen, from apprentice to master machinist, as well as cutters and welders, finish workers, inspectors, packers and shippers.

    Much less so today. Automobiles and electronics and every other sort of manufactured good are increasingly made on robotic lines. From painting to welding to complex assembly, robots are replacing people. Warehouses can run almost autonomously, with goods stored in a 3D grid that is accessed, inventoried and replenished by increasingly intelligent networks of machines and computers. Jeff Bezos would like to robotize even the delivery of those goods via autonomous drones. That seems entirely doable, though the thought of computer controlled helicopters moving through the skies upsets some people.

    Sixty six years ago, almost to the day, Isaac Asimov’s novel I, Robot was published. It was followed by four more novels over 30 years as well as 38 short stories in what became known as The Robot Series. In these books, Asimov explored all sorts of aspects of a robot populated world, including the dangers they might pose to people, problems with machines that think with digital logic, their inevitable evolution from simple mechanisms to organo-machines that were difficult to differentiate from human beings, except for their vastly superior intellectual capacity and increased lifespan, and some of the implications of that.

    In a society relieved of all sorts of menial labor and drudgery, Asimov envisioned something of a Golden Age of Man. Material goods would be so cheaply and easily made that no one would lack for any basic goods, and most people would enjoy a standard of living and a degree of leisure time available now to only the extremely wealthy. That’s a view with some precedent in how other technologies have improved our lot, so it’s one possible future.

    I find myself wondering, though. Suppose something like that were to come to pass. After all, we’re seeing signs of its development now. How does this future society actually work? How are people employed? What does one do to earn a living in a society where work is done by machines? We see this problem already, which tells us we’re farther along this road than maybe we realize. All the people that are not employed in Jeff Bezos’ warehouses or building electronics assemblies or automobiles, what do they do? In the past, when people were displaced from agriculture by machinery, they went to cities and were employed in large scale industrial and retail businesses. That is no longer the case. Not only have the manufacturing base dispersed across the globe chasing cheaper labor and fewer rules and regulations, even the human staffed retail store is increasingly in question as a viable model.

    This is all creative destruction in action, I know. And we can wave our hands and say, Well, people will adapt, they always have! Yes they will. But to what? Everyone can’t be – and doesn’t want to be – a robotics designer or research chemist or test technician in a robotics factory. Will there simply be more people to do fewer jobs? Will the work week get reduced to 3 days on, 4 days off? I’m trying to imagine a world where the same or more people are available but less work needs to be done by them. And if the answer is more leisure time, is that necessarily a good thing? Do we get a Golden Age, or an Age of Sloth, where everyone gets crazier and more destructive in an attempt to amuse themselves. Who cares, eh? The robots will clean up the mess.

    And is a robotic recursion process possible, where robots set about designing and building better robots? If we assume cookbook engineering can be encoded into a machine brain, millions of possible combinations may be scanned and modeled and simulated for each mechanism and each circuit, always searching for an optimal solution. And as everyone from Asimov to Clarke have asked, when is sentience reached and will we recognize it when it occurs? And then what? Our society is the early stages of major, ground shifting changes. There’s a lot on the horizon we haven’t even begun to think about to the level necessary. And how do we stay up with these changes if our political class is intent on bankrupting us and destroying our civilization?

    Elon Musk compares AI efforts to ‘Summoning the Demon’
    BTW, this is a talk he gave at MIT, and is well worth watching in full.

    Walter Schulze-Mittendorff’s ‘Maschinenmensch’ simulacrum in crystal.
    I would love to own one these. The large cylindrical version.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Economics & Finance, Human Behavior, Society, Tech | 26 Comments »

    Free Webinar – A Better Model For Political Discussions, Presentation by Pat Wagner

    Posted by leifsmith on 29th December 2015 (All posts by )

    DISCOVERY: A BETTER MODEL FOR POLITICAL DISCUSSIONS
    PRESENTED BY: PAT WAGNER
    Tuesday, January 5, 2016, Noon–1 pm, Denver time

    We have all observed that political discussions tend to bring out the worst in everyone, including ourselves, but is there a way to approach these conversations that will contribute to friendship rather than build enmity? Pat will explore this idea in her free webinar on Tuesday, January 5th, noon to 1 pm Denver time. It will be recorded and archived (also available free). Please join us for an hour of constructive and practical good will. And please forward this invitation to anyone you think may be interested. Thanks!

    Pat writes, “Recent political campaigns destroyed lasting friendships, frayed family ties, and alienated neighbors and co-workers. Social media became a battleground of nasty diatribes, insults, and slurs. Is there a better way to talk about ideological differences? The Discovery Model is about listening and sharing with no intention to convince or win a debate. The point? To learn and grow while strengthening workplace, personal, and online relationships.”

    Full description & registration info:
    http://www.sieralearn.com/programs/discovery-a-better-model-for-political-discussions/

    ————————————
    Leif Smith, leifsmith@gmail.com
    PO Box 9100, Denver, CO 80209-0100
    303-778-0880 (main), 303-744-1855 (direct)
    http://explorersfoundation.org
    http://sieralearn.com

    SUBSCRIBE TO THE SIERA 2016 NEWSLETTER (MONTHLY)
    http://www.sieralearn.com/subscribe/

    Posted in Civil Society, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, Morality and Philosphy, Politics | 4 Comments »

    Are We Living at the Intersection of These Two Stories?

    Posted by David Foster on 29th December 2015 (All posts by )

    The first story is Robert Heinlein’s The Year of the Jackpot.  A consulting statistician with the unlikely name of Potiphar Breen observes that many strange social trends are on a strong upswing.  One such trend:  young women removing all their clothes in public.  Potiphar sees one such disrobing in process, shoos away the police, covers the girl with his raincoat, then takes her home and asks her why she did it.  She doesn’t know.

    Potiphar informs her that nine other girls have done the same thing, in Los Angeles alone, on that very day…and goes on to tell her that this is a small part of the overall pattern of increasing craziness that he is observing.  A man has sued an entire state legislature for alienation of his wife’s affections–and the judge is letting the suit be tried.  In another state, a bill has been introduced to repeal the laws of atomic energy–not the relevant statutes, but the natural laws concerning nuclear physics. Potiphar shows the girl (her name is Meade) the graphs on which he has plotted the outbreak of bizarre things over time, and notes that many different indicators, all with different cycles, are all converging in this very year.  Still, Meade wants to look at her disrobing episode on an individual basis:  “I want to know why I did what I did!”

    “I think we’re lemmings, Meade,” Potiphar says.  “Ask a lemming why he does it.  If you could get him to slow up his rush to death, even money says he would rationalize his answer as well as any college graduate.  But he does it because he has to–and so do we.”  When Meade tries to defend free will–“I know I have it–I can feel it”, Potiphar continues with another analogy:  “I imagine every little neutron in an atom bomb feels the same way.  He can go spung! or he can sit still, just as he pleases.  But statistical mechanics works out anyhow.  And the bomb goes off.”

    As Meade and Potiphar become romantically involved, Potiphar’s indices of bizarre behavior and events continue to climb. Transvestism by draft-dodgers has resulted in a mass arrest in Chicago and a gigantic mass trial–but the (male) prosecutor shows up in a pinafore.  At the All Souls Community Church of Springfield, the pastor has reinstituted ceremonial nudity.  Two weeks later, a hundred and nine other churches have announced the same policy.  California is suffering a major water crisis, but people continue watering their lawns as usual.  Hardly anyone is interested in the upcoming Republican and Democratic conventions; all the excitement is about the revived Know-Nothing party.

    Foreign affairs, too, are disintegrating into chaos…topped off by a nuclear exchange.  Meade and Potiphar manage to survive, and Potiphar’s cycle charts seem to indicate that things will soon get better…(read the story to see how it comes out.)

    The fictional events of Heinlein’s Year of the Jackpot (set in 1952–it was written in 1947) don’t seem any more bizarre than the kind of headline stories that we are seeing every day in real-life:

    College students cry ‘racism’ when served ‘culturally-incorrect cuisine’ in the cafeteria

    The “Queen of YouTube, famous for eating cereal out of a bathtub of milk that she was bathing in , is granted interviews by both the sitting President and the leading democratic contender

    Woman loses her job and is threatened with having her children taken away, because she let her three sons (11,9,and 5) play by themselves in a playground next to her apartment building.

    Seven-year-old boy suspended from school for chewing a breakfast pastry into the shape of a gun

    Previously-male person selected as Woman of the Year

     

    The second story is the play Rhinoceros by Eugene Ionesco.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, France, Human Behavior, Leftism, USA | 16 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

    Posted by David Foster on 21st December 2015 (All posts by )

    An analysis of the Trump campaign from a Boydian perspective.  (“Boydian” refers to the views of the fighter pilot and military theorist John Boyd, who emphasized the importance of the “OODA loop”–observe, orient, decide, act)

    Desperately trying to be one of the Kool Kidz:

    …the increasing number of voters who do not make their decisions on who will create the most jobs, build the most infrastructure, save the environment, strengthen the economy or even keep citizens most safe. These people don’t care about that. And while they do vote based on what they think is in their own self-interest, their regard is not for what they view as the path most likely to improve society’s lot. It is, curiously, motivated entirely by their sense of what is most socially fashionable – in other words, the fundamental high school desire to be one of the cool kids.

    Claire Berlinski has a thread on Churchill quotations

     

    Posted in Britain, Current Events, Human Behavior, India, Leftism, Politics, USA | 3 Comments »

    “Deja Vu: The Fed’s Real ‘Policy Error’ Was To Encourage Years of Speculation”

    Posted by Jonathan on 14th December 2015 (All posts by )

    Nowadays, when I find myself feeling too good about things I read fund manager John Hussman’s weekly column and it brings me back to Earth. He may be off on the timing but it’s difficult to dispute his main argument that we’re in the late stages of a massive speculative bubble fueled by easy credit and other unwise govt policies.

    There’s fraying at the edges in junk bonds and much nervous volatility in stocks, where successive sectors have inflated and then deflated since early 2015. Everyone knows we are due for a market debacle but no one knows when. It could happen in two days or two years. Meanwhile everyone stays invested because what else can you do with your money (answer: keep it in cash, but that’s hard to do until it’s too late) and maybe you can make some profits before the bottom falls out…

    From his latest missive:

    Over the past several years, yield-seeking investors, starved for any “pickup” in yield over Treasury securities, have piled into the junk debt and leveraged loan markets. Just as equity valuations have been driven to the second most extreme point in history (and the single most extreme point in history for the median stock, where valuations are well-beyond 2000 levels), risk premiums on speculative debt were compressed to razor-thin levels. By 2014, the spread between junk bond yields and Treasury yields had fallen to less than 2.4%. Since then, years of expected “risk-premiums” have been erased by capital losses, and defaults haven’t even spiked yet (they do so with a lag).
     
    From an economic standpoint, the unfortunate fact is that the proceeds from aggressive issuance of junk debt and leveraged loans in the past few years were channeled into speculation. Excess capacity in energy production was expanded at the cyclical peak in oil prices, and heavy stock buybacks were executed at obscene equity valuations. The end result will be unintended wealth transfers and deadweight losses for the economy. Since the late-1990’s, the Federal Reserve has actively encouraged the channeling of trillions of dollars of savings into speculation. Recurring cycles of malinvestment and crisis have progressively weakened the resilience and long-term growth prospects of the U.S. economy.
     
    [. . .]
     
    Our outlook remains decidedly negative at present. I’ll emphasize again that market internals are the hinge that distinguishes a valuation bubble that expands from one that collapses, so an improvement in market internals would reduce the immediacy of our downside concerns, and would also tend to reduce our concerns about oncoming recession. In the absence of clear improvement in market internals – and last week was categorically opposite to that – I view the stock market as being in the late-phase of an extremely overvalued top formation that will likely be followed by profound losses over the completion of this market cycle, and the U.S. economy as being on the cusp of a new recession.

    Interesting times ahead.

    Posted in Current Events, Economics & Finance, Human Behavior, Markets and Trading | 12 Comments »

    Is Islam a Religion ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 12th December 2015 (All posts by )

    As usual, Richard Fernandez gets to the heart of the matter with the least number of detours.

    The important thing to remember about rebellions, even small ones, is that everyone who thinks they can control the forces unleashed — can’t. That goes for Obama and that goes for Trump. A friend who was a veteran of the Anbar Surge wrote that democracy was scary and to calm himself down he repeated to himself Winston Churchill’s soothing words: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

    Yes, I think we are on the threshold of a revolution. Whether it is a Revolution, with a capital R, is yet to be seen.

    Fernandez begins with the incident of Gessler’s Hat.

    in 1307 Gessler raised a pole in the market square of Altdorf, placed his hat atop it, and ordered all the townsfolk to bow before it. Tell, whose marksmanship and pride were legendary, publicly refused. Gessler’s cruel wrath was tempered by his curiosity to test Tell’s skill, so he gave Tell the option of either being executed or shooting an apple off his son’s head in one try. Tell succeeded in splitting the apple with his arrow, saving his own life. When Gessler asked why he had readied two arrows, he lied and replied that it was out of habit. After being assured that he wouldn’t be killed, Tell finally admitted that the second was intended for the tyrant if his son was harmed.

    Yes, it is best not to put all your cards on the table until they are needed.

    Gessler, enraged, had Tell arrested and taken by boat across Lake Lucerne to Küssnacht to spend the life he had saved in a dungeon. A sudden fierce storm made the crew terrified, and since William Tell was a better sailor, they handed the wheel to him. But instead of heading towards the dungeon, he escaped to shore. There he ambushed and killed Gessler with an arrow, launching the young Confederacy’s rebellion against Austrian rule.

    The result was freedom that still endures. What does this tell us ? Not much but Andrew McCarthy has some ideas.

    Donald Trump’s rhetorical excesses aside, he has a way of pushing us into important debates, particularly on immigration. He has done it again with his bracing proposal to force “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” I have no idea what Mr. Trump knows about either immigration law or Islam. But it should be obvious to any objective person that Muslim immigration to the West is a vexing challenge. Some Muslims come to the United States to practice their religion peacefully, and assimilate into the Western tradition of tolerance of other people’s liberties, including religious liberty — a tradition alien to the theocratic societies in which they grew up. Others come here to champion sharia, Islam’s authoritarian societal framework and legal code, resisting assimilation into our pluralistic society.

    Now what ?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Current Events, Europe, History, Human Behavior, Immigration, Islam, Middle East, National Security, Politics, Religion, Terrorism, Trump | 15 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading

    Posted by David Foster on 11th December 2015 (All posts by )

    Thoughts on Church and State–in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam–at Grim’s Hall

    A professor argues that the epidemic of hysterical rage in the face of dissenting opinions, now sweeping America’s campuses, is a consequence of  cutting out the teaching of logic and rhetoric

    Related:  the age of mass delusion  (via Bookworm)

    Reputation culture and the cult of likeability

    Posted in Academia, Christianity, Human Behavior, Islam, Judaism, Leftism | 22 Comments »

    What are black college students rioting about ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 16th November 2015 (All posts by )

    Ithaca

    Power line has a post today that seems to me to be right on the topic of what these students want, which is freedom from accountability. They are afraid they are overmatched against white colleagues. They can’t hack it and want a pass. It is called “Mismatch.”

    The biggest change since Grutter, though, has nothing to do with Court membership. It is the mounting empirical evidence that race preferences are doing more harm than good?—even for their supposed beneficiaries. If this evidence is correct, we now have fewer African-American physicians, scientists, and engineers than we would have had using race-neutral admissions policies. We have fewer college professors and lawyers, too. Put more bluntly, affirmative action has backfired.

    Why is this ? We know that the normal distribution of IQ is a standard deviation lower for blacks than whites.

    NormalCurveSmall

    This is the over all curve with the distribution around an average of 100, by definition.

    IQ_Bladk_White

    The curve for blacks has a peak at IQ about 80. White peak at 100 to 104. Asians peak at around 106. What this means is that the average IQ is lower for blacks but this does not mean that all blacks are less intelligent than whites. At an IQ of 110 there is a large difference but the number of blacks who will do well in certain academic fields like Medicine is still significant. It would seem important to identify those blacks who will do well in fields requiring higher than average intelligence but the present system of affirmative action ignores this truth.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Current Events, Education, Human Behavior, Science | 41 Comments »

    “Racial Hysteria Triumphs on Campus”

    Posted by Jonathan on 12th November 2015 (All posts by )

    Read Heather Mac Donald’s column at City Journal.

    Imagine an Ivy administration that encouraged frat boys and athletes to abuse women and get into trouble with the law. That’s analogous to the current situation, the only differences being the identities and characteristic weaknesses of the members of the respective groups being egged on and suppressed. The young hysterics desperately need guidance from mature adults who have their best interests at heart. Instead the system their parents trust and pay an arm and leg for indulges, out of cowardice or ideological zeal, the kids’ worst impulses.

    Institutional racist or anti-female conspiracies, the figments of fevered leftist/feminist imagination, have never been less frequent, but anti-intellectual and anti-male conspiracies are everywhere.

    The college administrators will do fine. The victimized students, mostly men, will learn hard lessons. Many, though not all, will emerge stronger for it. But many of the young leftist women, and some of the men, who have been overprotected and fed lies their entire lives, will have significant difficulty functioning in the real world.

    If DCFS employees encourage or look the other way at the corruption of children it’s a scandal. How is it different when university administrators do the same thing with vulnerable young adults?

    Posted in Academia, Civil Society, Feminism, Human Behavior, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Politics | 18 Comments »

    Lewis vs Haldane (rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on 6th November 2015 (All posts by )

    (I cross-posted my 2014 review of C S Lewis’s novel That Hideous Strength over at Richochet, where a good comment thread has developed. Some of the comments reminded me of the extremely negative review of the book written by JBS Haldane in 1946, and Lewis’s response thereto.)

    Haldane was an eminent British scientist (population genetics) and a Marxist. C S Lewis was…well, you probably already know who C S Lewis was.

    Haldane’s critique was directed at the series of novels by Lewis known as the Ransom Trilogy, and particularly the last book of the series,  That Hideous Strength . Lewis responded in a letter which remained unpublished for many of years. All this may sound ancient and esoteric, but I believe the Lewis/Haldane controversy is very relevant to our current political and philosophical landscape.

    To briefly summarize That Hideous Strength: Mark, a young sociologist, is hired by a government agency called NICE–the National Institute for Coordinated Experimentation–having as its stated mission the application of science to social problems. (Unbelievably, today the real-life British agency which establishes rationing policies for healthcare is also called NICE.) In the novel, NICE turns out to be a conspiracy devoted to very diabolical purposes, as Mark gradually discovers. It also turns out that the main reason NICE wanted to hire Mark is to get control of his wife, Jane (maiden name: Tudor) who has clairvoyant powers. The NICE officials want to use Jane’s abilities to get in touch with the magician Merlin and to effect a junction between modern scientific power and the ancient powers of magic, thereby bringing about the enslavement of mankind and worse. Jane, though, becomes involved with a group which represents the polar opposite of NICE, led by a philology professor named Ransom, who is clearly intended as a Christ-figure. The conflict between NICE and the Ransom group will determine the future of humanity.

    A brilliantly written and thought-provoking book, which I highly recommend, even if, like me, you’re not generally a fan of fantasy novels.

    With context established, here are some of the highlights of the Lewis/Haldane controversy:

    1) Money and Power.

    In his article, Haldane attacks Lewis for the latter’s refusal to absolutely condemn usury, and celebrates the fact that “Mammon has been cleared off a sixth of our planet’s surface”…clearly referring to the Soviet Union. Here’s part of Lewis’s response:

    The difference between us is that the Professor sees the ‘World’ purely in terms of those threats and those allurements which depend on money. I do not. The most ‘worldly’ society I have ever lived in is that of schoolboys: most worldly in the cruelty and arrogance of the strong, the toadyism and mutual treachery of the weak, and the unqualified snobbery of both. Nothing was so base that most members of the school proletariat would not do it, or suffer it, to win the favour of the school aristocracy: hardly any injustice too bad for the aristocracy to practise. But the class system did not in the least depend on the amount of pocket money. Who needs to care about money if most of the things he wants will be offered by cringing servility and the remainder can be taken by force? This lesson has remained with me all my life. That is one of the reasons why I cannot share Professor Haldanes exaltation at the banishment of Mammon from ‘a sixth of our planet’s surface’. I have already lived in a world from which Mammon was banished: it was the most wicked and miserable I have yet known. If Mammon were the only devil, it would be another matter. But where Mammon vacates the throne, how if Moloch takes his
    place? As Aristotle said, ‘Men do not become tyrants in order to keep warm’. All men, of course, desire pleasure and safety. But all men also desire power and all men desire the mere sense of being ‘in the know’ or the ‘inner ring’, of not being ‘outsiders’: a passion insufficiently studied and the chief theme of my story. When the state of society is such that money is the passport to all these prizes, then of course money will be the prime temptation. But when the passport changes, the desires will remain.

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    Posted in Arts & Letters, Big Government, Britain, Christianity, Crime and Punishment, Deep Thoughts, History, Human Behavior, Law, Leftism, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Religion, Society | 18 Comments »

    Organizational Culture, Improvisation, Success, and Failure

    Posted by David Foster on 24th October 2015 (All posts by )

    Maggie’s Farm reminds us that October 21 was the 210th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.  (JMW Turner painting of the battle at the link)  I am reminded of a thoughtful document written in 1797 by a Spanish naval official, Don Domingo Perez de Grandallana, on the general subject “why do we keep losing to the British, and what can we do about it?”  His thoughts were inspired by his observations while with the Spanish fleet off Cape St Vincent,  in a battle which was a significant defeat for Spain, and are relevant to a question which is very relevant to us today:  

    What attributes of an organization make it possible for that organization to accomplish its mission in an environment of uncertainty, rapid change, and high stress?

    Here are de Grandallana’s key points:

    An Englishman enters a naval action with the firm conviction that his duty is to hurt his enemies and help his friends and allies without looking out for directions in the midst of the fight; and while he thus clears his mind of all subsidiary distractions, he rests in confidence on the certainty that his comrades, actuated by the same principles as himself, will be bound by the sacred and priceless principle of mutual support.

    Accordingly, both he and his fellows fix their minds on acting with zeal and judgement upon the spur of the moment, and with the certainty that they will not be deserted. Experience shows, on the contrary, that a Frenchman or a Spaniard, working under a system which leans to formality and strict order being maintained in battle, has no feeling for mutual support, and goes into battle with hesitation, preoccupied with the anxiety of seeing or hearing the commander-in-chief’s signals for such and such manoeures…

    Thus they can never make up their minds to seize any favourable opportunity that may present itself. They are fettered by the strict rule to keep station which is enforced upon then in both navies, and the usual result is that in one place ten of their ships may be firing on four, while in another four of their comrades may be receiving the fire of ten of the enemy. Worst of all they are denied the confidence inspired by mutual support, which is as surely maintained by the English as it is neglected by us, who will not learn from them.

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    Posted in Anglosphere, Book Notes, Britain, France, History, Human Behavior, Management, Military Affairs, Society, War and Peace | 4 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd October 2015 (All posts by )

    Bookworm attended an awards dinner for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and reports at length on the honoree’s speech.  For those not familiar with Hirsi Ali:  raised as a Muslim in Somalia, she eventually moved to Holland, where she became of member of Parliament and collaborated on a film about Islam with Theo van Gogh, who was murdered.  Although she has been the target of many death threats, Ayaan Hirsi Ali has refused to be silenced.  Be sure to read Book’s well-written post.

    BBC has a new documentary about Ada, countess of Lovelace…computer pioneer of the 1840s, daughter of the “mad, bad, and dangerous to know” poet, Lord Byron, and aficionado of gambling on the horses.

    Once, there was an unpleasant political movement called the “Know-Nothings.”  Today, we have the Know-Betters,

    Claire Berlinski writes about the growing phenomenon of ritual humiliations and denunciations.

    Related to the above, a very interesting analysis of the evolution of society from Cultures of Honor–in which the individual must personally avenge wrongs and insults…to Cultures of Dignity–in which people are assumed to have dignity, foreswear individual violence, rely on the judicial system to to respond to major transgressions and sometime simply ignore minor transgressions (there’s no more dueling)…and now to a Culture of Victimhood, in which people are encouraged to respond to even the slightest unintentional offense, as in an honor culture–but they must not obtain redress on their own, rather, they must appeal to powerful others or administrative bodies.

    Renowned physicist Freeman Dyson says that Obama “chose the wrong side” on the climate-change debate.  His thoughts on the psychology behind apocalyptic climate thinking are interesting,

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Energy & Power Generation, Environment, History, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, Tech | 11 Comments »

    No, They Are Not (for the most part) “Self-Hating”

    Posted by David Foster on 21st October 2015 (All posts by )

    Again and again, I see people referring to those Americans who have nothing but bad things to say about their own country as “self-hating Americans.”  I see Jews who display unhinged rage against Israel referred to as “self-hating Jews.”  And I have also seen many references to “self-hating Europeans.”

    I believe that the “self-hating” diagnosis of the behavior of this sort of people is in most cases quite wrong, and this wrongness matters.

    In 1940, C S Lewis wrote a little essay titled “Dangers of National Repentance.”  Apparently, there was a movement among Christian youth to “repent” England’s sins (which were thought to include the treaty of Versailles) and to “forgive” England’s enemies.  Lewis’s analysis of this movement is highly relevant to our current situation.

    “Young Christians especially..are turning to (the National Repentance Movement) in large numbers,” Lewis wrote. “They are ready to believe that England bears part of the guilt for the present war, and ready to admit their own share in the guilt of England…Most of these young men were children…when England made many of those decisions to which the present disorders could plausibly be traced. Are they, perhaps, repenting what they have in no sense done?”

    “If they are, it might be supposed that their error is very harmless: men fail so often to repent their real sins that the occasional repentance of an imaginary sin might appear almost desirable. But what actually happens (I have watched it happen) to the youthful national penitent is a little more complicated than that. England is not a natural agent, but a civil society…The young man who is called upon to repent of England’s foreign policy is really being called upon to repent the acts of his neighbor; for a foreign secretary or a cabinet minister is certainly a neighbor…A group of such young penitents will say, “Let us repent our national sins”; what they mean is, “Let us attribute to our neighbor (even our Christian neighbor) in the cabinet, whenever we disagree with him,every abominable motive that Satan can suggest to our fancy.” (Emphasis added.)

    Lewis points out that when a man who was raised to be patriotic tries to repent the sins of England, he is attempting something that will be difficult for him. “But an educated man who is now in his twenties usually has no such sentiment to mortify. In art, in literature, in politics, he has been, ever since he can remember, one of an angry minority; he has drunk in almost with his mother’s milk a distrust of English statesmen and a contempt for the manners, pleasures, and enthusiasms of his less-educated fellow countrymen.”

    It’s hard to believe that this was written more than 60 years ago–it’s such a bulls-eye description of a broad swath of our current “progressives.” (The only difference being that many of them today are a lot older than “in their twenties.”)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Britain, Europe, History, Human Behavior, Leftism, USA | 11 Comments »

    St-Exupery: Men of the Desert

    Posted by David Foster on 29th September 2015 (All posts by )

    Antoine de St-Exupery, writer and pioneering airmail pilot, was based for a time in the then-French-colonial territory of North Africa.  He recorded his observations about the people and their culture in his essay Men of the Desert,  which is one of the chapters in his book Wind, Sand and Stars.  I previously excerpted part of this essay in my post the French aviators and the slave.  Several recent events in which American soldiers were murdered by Afghan and Iraqi men who they thought were their comrades have again called it to mind.

    Getting acquainted:

    But we were not always in the air, and our idle hours were spent taming the Moors. They would come out of their forbidden regions (those regions we crossed in our flights and where they would shoot at us the whole length of our crossing), would venture to the stockade in the hope of buying loaves of sugar, cotton cloth, tea, and then would sink back again into their mystery. Whenever they turned up we would try to tame a few of them in order to establish little nuclei of friendship in the desert; thus if we were forced clown among them there would be at any rate a few who might be persuaded to sell us into slavery rather than massacre us.Now and then an influential chief came up, and him, with the approval of the Line, we would load into the plane and carry off to see something of the world. The aim was to soften their pride, for, repositories of the truth, defenders of Allah, the only God, it was more in contempt than in hatred that he and his kind murdered their prisoners.

    When they met us in the region of Juby or Cisneros, they never troubled to shout abuse at us. They would merely turn away and spit; and this not by way of personal insult but out of sincere disgust at having crossed the path of a Christian. Their pride was born of the illusion of their power. Allah renders a believer invincible. Many a time a chief has said to me, pointing to his army of three hundred rifles, “Lucky it is for France that she lies more than a hundred days’ march from here.”

    And so we would take them up for a little spin. Three of them even visited France in our planes. I happened to be present when they returned. I met them when they landed, went with them to their tents, and waited in infinite curiosity to hear their first words. They were of the same race as those who, having once been flown by me to the Senegal, had burst into tears at the sight of trees. What a revelation Europe must have been for them! And yet their first replies astonished me by their coolness.

     “Paris? Very big.” Everything was “very big” – Paris, the Trocadero, the automobiles.  What with everyone in Paris asking if the Louvre was not “very big” they had gradually learned that this was the answer that flattered us. And with a sort of, vague contempt, as if pacifying a lot of children, they would grant that the Louvre was “very big.”

     These Moors took very little trouble to dissemble the freezing indifference they felt for the Eiffel Tower, the steamships, and the locomotives. They were ready to agree once and for always that we knew how to build things out of iron. We also knew how to fling a bridge from one continent to another. The plain fact was that they did not know enough to admire our technical progress. The wireless astonished them less than the telephone, since the mystery of the telephone resided in the very fact of the wire.

     It took a little time for me to understand that my questions were on the wrong track. For what they thought admirable was not the locomotive, but the tree. When you think of it, a tree does possess a perfection that a locomotive cannot know. And then I remembered the Moors who had wept at the sight of trees.

     Yes, France was in some sense admirable, but it was not because of those stupid things made of iron. They had seen pastures in France in which all the camels of Er-Reguibat could have grazed! There were forests in France! The French had cows, cows filled with milk! And of course my three Moors were amazed by the incredible customs of the people. “In Paris,” they said, “you walk through a crowd of a thousand people. You stare at them. And nobody carries a rifle!”   But there were better things in France than this inconceivable friendliness between men. There was the circus, for example.

     “Frenchwomen,” they said, “can jump standing from one galloping horse to another.”

     Thereupon they would stop and reflect. “You take one Moor from each tribe,” they went on. “You take him to the circus. And nevermore will the tribes of Er-Reguibat make war on the French.” I remember my chiefs sitting among the crowding tribesmen in the opening of their tents, savoring the pleasure of reciting this new series of Arabian Nights, extolling the music halls in which naked women dance on carpets of flowers.

     Here were men who had never seen a tree, a river, a rose ; who knew only through the Koran of the existence of gardens where streams run, which is their name for Paradise. In their desert, Paradise -and its beautiful captives could be won only by bitter death from an infidel’s rifle-shot, after thirty years of a miserable existence. But God had tricked them, since from the Frenchmen to whom he grants these treasures he exacts payment neither by thirst nor by death. And it was upon this that the chiefs now mused. This was why, gazing out at the Sahara surrounding their tents, at that desert with its barren promise of such thin pleasures, they let themselves go in murmured confidences.

     “You know . . . the God of the French . . . He is more generous to the French than the God of the Moors is to the Moors.”

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    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Aviation, Book Notes, France, Human Behavior, Islam, Middle East, Terrorism | 6 Comments »

    History Friday: Joseph Conrad and the Impact of European Culture and Technology

    Posted by Lexington Green on 25th September 2015 (All posts by )

    young conrad

    I have in recent years been reading the work of Joseph Conrad. I spent many years believing the best writers in English were George Orwell, Evelyn Waugh, with Leo Tolstoy in translation as a titan and peer. Then all of a sudden, in the last five or years I discovered that Ernest Hemingway is a near peer, and that V.S. Naipaul is every bit the equal of these great ones. And through Naipaul, I met Conrad, who also merits admission to this august company.

    Naipaul and Conrad both have as a main theme the encounter, the clash, between European civilization and the peoples and ways of Asia and Africa. Conrad depicts the European imperial and commercial expansion near its peak, and while it is still confident and expanding. Naipaul depicts the world after the European domination has receded, like an outgoing tsunami, which has left a transformed landscape behind.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in America 3.0, Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Civil Society, Culture, History, Human Behavior | 48 Comments »

    Christianity in Europe

    Posted by David Foster on 21st September 2015 (All posts by )

    It’s well-known that Christianity in Europe is on the decline; links confirming this trend are easy to find.  (For example)

    Why, then, does this writer assert that: “Today in Europe, we have become if anything over-Christianized”?  Read the article to understand his thinking.

    I am reminded of a passage from G K Chesterton, written circa 1908:

    The modern world is not evil; in some ways the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues. When a religious scheme is shattered (as Christianity was shattered at the Reformation), it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful. For example, Mr. Blatchford attacks Christianity because he is mad on one Christian virtue: the merely mystical and almost irrational virtue of charity. He has a strange idea that he will make it easier to forgive sins by saying that there are no sins to forgive. Mr. Blatchford is not only an early Christian, he is the only early Christian who ought really to have been eaten by lions. For in his case the pagan accusation is really true: his mercy would mean mere anarchy. He really is the enemy of the human race– because he is so human.

    Posted in Christianity, Conservatism, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Leftism, Religion | 16 Comments »

    The Coming Storm

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 19th September 2015 (All posts by )

    It’s one of those things that one becomes aware of as a blogger, over time. The internet is like a vast ocean, with weird currents, storms and agitations in far corners that eventually send out waves and ripples that travel across wide spaces and eventually turn up crashing into the shore of awareness. Many moons ago, as time is counted in internet years, the ruckus over the fraudulent documents presented in a 60 Minutes/Dan Rather expose broadcast on the eve of the 2004 election created one of those far-rippling storms. So did the fracas generated by the Swift Boat veterans, when it turned out that despite John Kerry’s attempt to campaign as a sort of studly Dudley Do-Right Vietnam veteran, those who served with him in-theater viewed him as more of a Frank Burns/Eddie Haskell figure, and were not afraid to say so in whatever small-media or internet venue would give them the time of day. Yes, eventually the whole issue crashed ashore on the Island of Major Media Awareness.

    Ever since then, I am of the notion that it pays to keep an eye out for those interesting ripples, especially when those on the Island of Major Media Awareness seem most determined to avert their eyes. I very much suspect that a lot of ordinary news-consumers are not ignoring these concerns. Look at how many people turned out for Chic-Fil-A appreciation day, having got the word through blogs and social media.
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    Posted in Blogging, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Elections, Feminism, Human Behavior | 62 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

    Posted by David Foster on 12th September 2015 (All posts by )

    …special Love and Sex edition

    Why is it called falling in love?

    Half of Japanese people (ages 16-49) aren’t having sex.  Related: Tokyo’s abandoned homes

    How long does IVF allow a woman to delay having children?

    Stuart Schneiderman on what we can learn from arranged marriage. Also love lessons from India: the virtue of arranged marriage

    Stuart also writes about love, marriage, and bickering

    RS McCain: Bureaucratic academic feminism is destroying romance

    Women, here’s why you like Bad Boys

    Kevin Williamson agrees: Yes, chicks dig jerks

    A different view on jerk-chasing from Staffan’s personality blog

    Inside the brains of happily married couples

    Sacrificing a larger family to acquire a dream home

    There are no more Calvins.  (“Calvin” here referring to the partner of Hobbes, not the religious leader)

    Dr Helen:  Observations on relationships in a grocery store

    Do the toys given to little girls encourage too much focus on love and magic?

    A love song from medieval Germany and some thoughts on love songs in general

    Terry Teachout in Commentary:  Love Songs, RIP, and a response from an experienced songwriter:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, History, Human Behavior, India, USA | 6 Comments »

    Midwestern Drinking

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 12th September 2015 (All posts by )

    Dan and I and Gerry often joke about Midwest drinking and how people from other parts of the country simply have zero concept of what the midwesterner’s relationship with alcohol is like. We often go to sporting events together and watch massive drinking binges playing out to the left and to the right.

    Recently I was out in Wrigleyville which is just packed with new bars and drinkers as far as the eye can see. The plaque below was at a bar called “Stretch”. For best results, click on the photo and read the individual “merit badges” that have been earned.

    Here are some of the “highlights”

    8 shots of Bacardi 151 in 22 seconds

    Wow that much alcohol that fast is crazy. Dan and I were at a bar with some of the heaviest drinking I’ve ever seen and some crazy guy tried to buy us all shots of Jagermeister (there were 6 of us standing around) and no one would drink them so he just took all the shots and poured them into 2 regular drinking glasses and downed them in a couple gulps. That was so nuts I had to ask Dan the next day if we really saw it.

    15 shots and 6 beers in one hour

    This sounds about like “Mayor Daley” the merry idiot immortalized at Drunk Bear Fans. That guy was just probably trying to get loaded before going to a Cubs game. The best part about this is that I’d bet that guy drinks like that all the time and someone just had the foresight to document it for history’s sake. When you are on the clock you need to make the most of it, I guess.

    The biggest differences occur when someone from another city is just plunged into the madness that we take for granted here in the midwest. A “normal” citizen who walks into Wrigleyville or game day near Madison or any midwestern city on a Friday night in the summer really can’t believe what is happening and thinks it is something special – it can’t be like this every day, can it? Oh yes it can. We are old now but I saw with my own eyes an entire new drinking class at Wrigleyville last night and they cover most of River North at 2am and beyond.

    It is nothing to be proud of but it is reality here. You have to see it to believe it. Or just put up a plaque.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Chicagoania, Human Behavior, Humor, That's NOT Funny | 7 Comments »

    Risk: An Allegory

    Posted by Jonathan on 26th August 2015 (All posts by )

    Here’s an interesting article on CNBC’s website: Katrina anniversary: Will New Orleans levees hold next time?

    The 100-year threshold is also a statistical guess based on data on past storms and assessments of whether they’ll occur in the future. That means the models change every time a new hurricane strikes. The numbers being used as guidelines for construction are changing as time passes.
     
    The standard also does not mean—can’t possibly mean—that a 100-year storm will occur only once per century. It means that such a storm has a 1 percent chance of happening in any given year. So for example, it’s technically possible for several 100-year floods to occur in just a few years, although it’s highly unlikely.

    One way to look at it is that the engineers need to estimate how high a wall New Orleans needs to protect itself against a reasonably unlikely flood — say, a 1-in-1000-year event. This is the line of discussion pursued in the CNBC article.

    Another way to look at it is to observe that the odds of another Katrina, or worse, within a specified period are highly uncertain. In this case a radical course of action might be called for. You do something like: take the best estimate for the wall height needed to protect against a 1000-year flood and then double it. Building such a levee would probably be extremely expensive but at least the costs would be out in the open. Or you might decide that it’s not the best idea to have a coastal city that’s below sea level, and so you would discourage people from moving back to New Orleans, rather than encourage them by subsidizing a new and stronger system of walls.

    In this kind of situation the political incentives are usually going to encourage public decisionmakers to ignore radical solutions with high obvious costs, in favor of the minimum acceptable incremental solution with hidden costs: probably subsidies to rebuild the levees to, or perhaps a bit beyond, the standard needed to protect the city in the event of another Katrina. And it’s unlikely that any local pol is going to advise residents to move out and depopulate his constituency. Thus, eventually, a worst case will probably happen again.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Economics & Finance, Environment, Human Behavior, Markets and Trading, New Orleans Tragedy, Predictions, Public Finance, Statistics, Systems Analysis, Tradeoffs | 14 Comments »