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    25%

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 10th September 2018 (All posts by )

    BSKing over at Graph Paper Diaries referenced an interesting study in her What I’m Reading September 2018 post, concerning tipping points in social conventions.  I could link to the study directly, but I want you to see her discussion, plus her answer to my question in the comments.  You can get distracted and read her other stuff there if you want.  I’ll wait.

    Her caveats are important.  It was an artificial situation, and the 25% may not hold on something people cared about more deeply. The intensity of either the minority or the majority about something like gay marriage, going to war, or toppling statues might move the number up or down considerably.  Also, the tested subjects were WEIRD – Western Educated Industrialized Rich and Democratic – as social-science test subjects usually are.  (They are usually college students, and so young, non-military, and single with no children as well.)

    Yet let us pretend, just for the moment that something like this is true. A determined minority of only 25% can flip the group opinion. Consider something like the TEA Party.  It seems to have approached that number and had influence but didn’t quite flip the GOP everywhere.  It did flip it in some places (and Trump may have been more beholden to that than we have credited). The Tea Party rose up to the tipping point and then receded slightly.  They might have been doomed to just fade out, election by election. Until…Donald Trump’s supporters may have been very much this 25% phenomenon.  A lot of people who eventually voted for The Donald didn’t like him much at first. They were okay with a Jeb or a Rubio, though not excited.  They may have relished the thought of watching Carly Fiorina debate Hillary Clinton, or wanted to go to a more-conservative, don’t-care-if-he’s-annoying Ted Cruz.  But almost no one was sold out for any of those.  Trump’s supporters, though few, were sold out.  It simmered for a while, with Trump getting something in the neighborhood of that 25% in various primaries, enough to win, though a majority still opposed him.  Eventually the 25% moved the other 75%.  Bernie almost did the same thing with the Democrats.  He would have, actually, if they weren’t so corrupt and had their thumb on the scale for Clinton. The sold-out-for-Bernie crew was over 25% of the Dems, I think.
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    Political Personality Difference

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 7th September 2018 (All posts by )

    I listened to Grant Hill being interviewed about being chosen for the basketball Hall of Fame this year. I always admired and liked him – the honor is much deserved. The interviewer turned to discussing what Hill is doing now, and what he might do in the future. He mentioned he might like to go into politics, and I groaned inwardly. I knew where the interview was going next. Most of that was all very standard and uninteresting. I tried to notice his skill, and charm, and willingness to at least try to understand different points of view rather than focus on…well, I already hinted that I’m not going to say. Hill talked with a concerned tone about people who had hard times in their lives, and were worried about jobs and their future, and how they were easily misled in such circumstances. He said it without anger.  I have heard such things before, of conservatives being fearful of change, of clinging to their guns and religion – oops, sorry, that just slipped out – and so forth. It’s condescending without necessarily being sneering, or angry, or in-your-face accusing. It is clear that the speaker thinks of himself as trying to be understanding, empathetic, trying to see the other fellow’s point of view.

    I thought conservatives don’t talk like this. I couldn’t think of an equivalent flowing in the other direction. A conservative might sound like this when talking about their child or some person they were fond of but disappointed in. Well, she went away to college, and she wanted to fit in, and she’s always been a compassionate person so she got involved in some causes… But more usually, a conservative will be more clearly angry and condemning about people’s reasons for being a liberal or voting Democrat, whether it is because they are single women, or government employees, or black/hispanic/native – or work in a field surrounded by mostly leftists.  There isn’t a regretful sigh that it’s unfortunate but understandable. I did just think of another exception.  Conservatives will sometimes talk like that about Hispanics having been frightened by the Democrats, convinced that Trump is going to send them all back to Mexico without warning or right of appeal. The anger is not directed at the voter so much as the political operatives and journalists.

    It’s an open question which is worse. While anger can be necessary, anger can also be unnecessarily offensive, and in an angry time, people should at least be cautious. Being openly antagonistic isn’t going to win votes, though it may win applause from your friends. On the other hand, I think concern-trolling provides an inoculation against seeing oneself. In my imagination, you could tell an angry person “you are being unkind here” and you might get heard. Yet I don’t think the Grant Hill’s of the world will hear it if you tell them they are being unkind. At least, they don’t seem to have yet. (And not to pick on Hill especially.) They believe they are being kind.  Didn’t you hear them?

    I used to say “Conservatives make pronouncements. Liberals sneer.”  I would like to back down from that a bit, but I do think it remains largely true. First, sneer is too strong a word.  Condescend would be better, because it is along a continuum, and sometimes it is quite mild.  My father-in-law, a kind and gracious Roosevelt Democrat, would sometimes echo the condescension he got from reading the Boston Globe and the materials the Democrats would forever be mailing to him.  Yet he never came close to sneering.  (The liberals on my side of the family are another matter – though with exceptions.) Secondly, I think this is blurring over the last thirty years. Liberals become the status quo in the culture and start making pronouncements, conservatives take on sneering more and more.

    I relate this to another observation I have made about liberal and conservative protest and violence.  Conservatives are defensive. When getting extreme they “hole up with their guns and dare Obama and the gun-grabbers to come after them.” Liberal extremists are more attacking, burning cars, pushing over statues, breaking windows, occupying somebody else’s space (as far back as the college dean’s office in the 60’s), defacing property. They are – or were – less likely to talk about doing damage to human beings. They confined themselves to objects, or to shouting in people’s faces.  I fear that both self-limitations are breaking down. Those inclined to violence on the right are increasingly going out into public, those on the left inclined to violence are increasingly attacking humans.

    The gross oversimplification is conservatives saying “This is how things are, and how they will stay,” while liberals say “No, we’re taking that down.” It is not only a difference in tactics, it is a difference in personality. Though it may be blurring, as I noted. I don’t have the feel for such things that I used to.

    There has been some research on whether one’s personality drives politics, but as sweet as that siren song is, I have been suspicious from the start. Liberals are supposedly more open to new experiences, which fits the “conservatives fearful of change” stereotype. Yet when you look at what they measure, it’s mostly surveys that are begging the questions.  Joining the military is a much more different experience than checking out the new Thai-Cuban fusion restaurant downtown.  Becoming a missionary in a poor country is to experience more diversity than going to Reed or Oberlin. Thus, while I am offering some personality differences that I think hold for liberals and conservatives, I am also aware it could all be malarkey.

    Cross-posted at Assistant Village Idiot.

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    Suspicion and the Corruption of the Liberal Mind.

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 27th August 2018 (All posts by )

    I had a cartoon on my office door in the 80’s. An elderly man, sitting in a beach chair next to an elderly woman, looks out over the ocean with a frown.  “I’ve come full circle.  I think things are what they seem.”

    I begin to see why it has pleased me so much

    *******

    I point you to yet another Quillette article, Suspicion and the Corruption of the Liberal Mind, by Stephen Harrod Buhner. I have grown fond of the site, and need to discipline myself to go over there more often. Buhner says he is a “liberal to the core,” but has grown weary of the current approach of other liberals. He in turn refers us on to Rita Felski, a professor of English at UVA whose most recent book, The Limits of Critique, discusses the liberal approach to culture and art in terms of mood. (Her definition of this occurs early on in Buhner’s essay.) She too is a liberal raising red flags.

    I wanted to excerpt a quote from either Buhner or Felski to give you sense of their argument, but it took a while to settle on just one. This is Buhner:

    Those who have absorbed the mindset now extend suspicious reading to everyone and everything anyone does: words, body language, dress, hair, music, art, even food. They actively reject the face value of communication, whether literary or social; hold nothing as innocent of power motivations, whether directly or through unconscious complicity in those power motivations.

    To regard the majority of Western peoples as possessing malign motives; to base a life upon such a point of view; to approach all books, plays, art, and human interactions with this kind of suspicion is not, however, a sign of clear-eyed perception but rather, as one of my psychology professors once put it, a diseased mind. Like its more extreme cousin, paranoia, it becomes self-perpetuating: the more suspicious one is, the more vigilant one becomes; the more vigilant one is, the more evidence one finds in even the most innocent of behaviors; and the more evidence one finds, the more suspicious one becomes.

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    Posted in Miscellaneous | 8 Comments »

    Two Short Recents @ AVI

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 26th August 2018 (All posts by )

    Humanities Degrees: Emailed from a familiar source, there is this new data and opinion on humanities degrees.  The writer is able to say ” I made a wrong prediction, the data didn’t bear me out,” which is always the way to my heart. And it’s got lots of graphs, which is my second language.

    The comments mostly restate the same arguments I have been hearing since the 1970’s. Some state them well, others not so much. Trust me, you will do better arguing the points in your own head.

    Women At War:The premise of this study looked intuitively unlikely to me. However, I really like intuitively unlikely premises that turn out to be true, so this was right up my alley. 

    It turns out it’s not unlikely.  It’s just lunatic. Notice the words “can,” “might,” and “could” in the description.  They have mathematical models that show that if women had started out being the warmakers somewhere, this would have been reinforcing over time, and their sex would be the warmaking one now.  It hasn’t actually happened anywhere, so perhaps it wasn’t quite a coin flip.  One would have to go back farther and farther into our evolutionary history – past the first primate, perhaps – to get to coulda-been-this-coulda-been-that situation.  It gives an excellent expression to the old saw “If my aunt had balls she would be my uncle.”

    You will continue to hear a lot about the spotted hyena, where the females are more aggressive, because it provides an exception.  It will be held aloft, not as evidence that one-off situations under special circumstances are always possible, but that we are mostly quite malleable and can be changed to other behaviors (if we just pass the right legislation, maybe). It is similar to finding the language in the Caucasus in which “Dada” is used for mother, showing that “mama” cannot be a shared word from the first language; or the few primitive societies that are matriarchal proving that humans were equally likely to develop that way but for the merest chance, and we can change it back whenever we like.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 7 Comments »

    Basket of Resentment

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 26th August 2018 (All posts by )

     I was back at work last week (I am semi-retired), all in one place rather than bouncing around in coverage, and so got dragged in to the controversies that part-timers usually get to ignore. Two of these are among the most dreaded at psych hospitals: a pathological parent who is guardian over their adult child whose behavior carries legal implications.  This usually takes the form of refusing treatment on behalf of their child which the man desperately needs. I also had a male with borderline personality disorder, which is uncommon and generally more intense. Such cases can split staff into opposing camps, demonstrating the Tim Tebow Effect, in which everyone is certain that their point-of-view is not being heard.

    I had been largely spared this for the last eighteen months, and largely for the last three years. It was not fun to re-enter the world of conflicting orders and meaningful irritated comments from coworkers. I had felt comfortable being the bearer of bad news in such situations for years, as I believed it bothered me less than it bothers others to be disliked. Suddenly re-experiencing that after being away from it was a surprise.

    I am not as immune I had thought. Not only did I find myself thinking Wow, I had forgotten how uncomfortable this is, I also had anxieties and resentments that I had largely put in the past start occurring to me again.  These were unrelated to work.  How, then, were they popping back into my head again?

    I had a  combination of frustration, resentment, and the front edges of helplessness in trying to resolve one contradiction without having to kick it back to administration pointing out the conflicting orders they were giving (because that runs a risk of escalating everything rather than fixing it). I found myself arguing in my head about a conflict at a church I left thirty years ago, and another with my late stepfather in the 1990’s, my uncle in the 2000’s, plus a couple of more recent online or email arguments. None of these bore any relation of content to my current controversies.  What they had in common was the feeling. I found myself counting my steps when on a walk, an OCD (which is an anxiety disorder) calming response that had become rare the last three years. There was a subplot of people trying to condescend and make me feel small.

    There is emotional memory as well as content memory, at least in my head. I think this is true for depression and anxiety as well. Our emotions are rather generic, made subtly different by the more sophisticated parts of our brains but still essentially the same chemicals flowing about in our brains. From the neck down, we’re mostly just rats, a psychiatrist friend used to say.  Big rats, but not all that different. When one gets depressed about something, the emotion tickles any number of memories, offering them up as possible explanations before.  Here is the basket of things that have made you feel this way in the past.  It’s probably one of these now.

    The bad result of this is fairly consistent for me. Now I get upset over those other things all over again. Old guy metaphor alert: It is like a skip in a vinyl record. The more times this happens the deeper the gouge becomes and more likely the needle will follow the skip instead of the track. Dragging the song out of it often involves playing it over at a different speed many times – there were other techniques – until the proper track was the dominant one again.  Or sometimes, just not playing that song at all.

    This is not a brand-new idea to me.  I have mentioned it here before.  Yet it came home to me with particular force this week because it had become less-common. I assume this occurs with positive emotions as well, but I don’t pay attention then, because I have no motivation to fix it.

    Cross-posted at Assistant Village Idiot

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 1 Comment »

    For Sgt Mom – Culture

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 13th August 2018 (All posts by )

    Just after reading your comment about the culture we might pass on to the next generation – and some of us try – I was directed to this essay by VS Naipul, from almost 30 years ago. Long, but quietly powerful about what the Universal Culture, which we have grown up in, consists of. An interesting question, 75% of the way through:

    Why, he asked, are certain societies or groups content to enjoy the fruits of progress, while affecting to despise the conditions that promote that progress?

    I think this applies not only to other cultures, but subcultures within our own.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 18 Comments »

    Media Bias

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 10th August 2018 (All posts by )

    I have received a suggestion from a more-experienced – or smarter, anyway – blogger that readers do not tend to click on links to an entire series. This will be a problem for me, and I am not sure how I will handle it. An ongoing series has articles separated by a few days, and is manageable. A list of 4 or 8 links seems a bit much to most readers at one go. I get it. It seems a bit much to me as well. If I publish them all here it will take over the site, which seems neither interesting nor polite.

    For the moment, I will put up the entire post of one that was recently only linked. It in turn has multiple links at the bottom, but I hasten to say they are undemanding. They’re just pictures, 10 to a link. Humor me on this. You will be rewarded.

    *******

    I made a claim of longstanding media bias, as many conservatives do. It occurred to me that I could give quick evidence of it. I will let the Time and Newsweek covers speak for me.

    But, you say, we didn’t take those magazines at our house. Or, those were a long time ago, they didn’t affect me. Then they affected your teachers and parents, and the people around you who found it very important to keep up with current events. Did you never have dental care, visit a friend, go to the doctor?  Were there no pharmacies, newsstands, grocery checkouts in your town?

    Or perhaps you think that even though those were around you, they didn’t affect you.  You were objective, you saw through those things.  Well yes.  I would say you either consciously saw through them and were offended by them, or you were affected whether you admit it or not.  For myself, I mostly didn’t notice until the late 80’s and was affected. After that I did notice and was offended. These weekly covers were ubiquitous, and I contend you were affected.  This was the air that you breathed.

    If you still think not, then how is it that you arrived at the same opinion of these figures as the editors wished you to?

    I started at Ford, as the Nixon covers would be too dominated by Watergate discussions and not a clean sample.  I strongly favored solo pictures of a president, taken during his years of office.  I stuck with Time and Newsweek. When there was a shortage of these, I chose covers from the campaign, as close to the date of election as possible.  I avoided retrospectives after the president had left office, as those are often mellowing.  I didn’t have that many choices for Gerald Ford, however. I took them in the order that Duckduckgo, or sometimes Bing images presented them to me.  I did not pick and choose for effect. With Clinton, I did limit myself to three covers related to Lewinsky. I back-published all in last month’s archives rather than clutter up my two front pages with pictures of presidents. Notice also what words are on the covers, the expressions captured, the black-and-white.

    Res ipsa loquitur

    Magazine Covers – Gerald Ford
    Magazine Covers – Jimmy Carter
    Magazine Covers – Ronald Reagan 
    Magazine Covers – George H W Bush
    Magazine Covers – Bill Clinton
    Magazine Covers – George W Bush
    Magazine Covers – Barack Obama

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    Motte and Bailey Fallacy

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 9th August 2018 (All posts by )

    Bsking over at Graph Paper Diaries sent me an interesting description of the Motte-and-Bailey Fallacy. We Christians have an unfortunate tendency to use it on each other too often, though we are hardly the only offenders. To me this suggests that it is not always a deception, but a sign of an emotional or experiential belief rather than a logical one.

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    William James Sidis

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 9th August 2018 (All posts by )

    I did a series on Billy Sidis 6-7 years ago which might please this group. I am posting the first essay, and linking to the others, partly because the comments under some of them were also interesting. In particular the argument with the person who insisted that my takedown of the “1867 Harvard Entrance Exam,” that circulates on the internet from time to time, was invalid brought in some rousing discussion. Please comment on any of those here rather than there, as only I will see your ideas otherwise.

    I think the story of Billy Sidis, the purported prodigy with the highest IQ (250-300) ever known, is mostly fraudulent.

    I first read about William James Sidis in the pages of Gift of Fire in the late 80’s. GoF was the journal of the Prometheus Society, a discussion group for those with measured IQ over 164. Amy Wallace’s book on Sidis, The Prodigy, had just come out, and Grady Towers took the opportunity to bring us up to speed on the early 20th C brilliant but eccentric child. That essay, “The Outsiders,” is perhaps the best known of the articles to come out of the High-IQ societies. Its primary topic is the increasing difficulty of adjustment individuals experience the further from norm they are. Terman’s studies in the 40’s of gifted individuals showed that those above 140 IQ were better adapted than average. Grady looked harder at the data and decided that those from 140-150 were better adjusted than average, but beyond that things steadily worsened. The greater frequency of those from 140-150 masked the data of the few from say, 170-180.

    It was perhaps inevitable that Grady would gravitate to the subject of Sidis. Grady qualified for the next society up, the Mega Society, for those with one-in-a-million IQ, cutoff 176. He had been a prodigy himself, almost completing a PhD in Anthropology at age 20, but by the time I knew him (via journal and correspondence), he was usually homeless, working odd jobs across the Southwest, writing on borrowed typewriters and sending mathematical proofs – usually number theory – to whoever would have them. He was murdered horribly in 2000 while working as a security guard. I liked corresponding with him.
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    Posted in Biography, Book Notes, Human Behavior | 15 Comments »

    Nationalism Revisited

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 4th August 2018 (All posts by )

    I have previously expressed the opinion that it was not nationalism that created WWII, but it was nationalism that won it.  The German attitude was more properly described as a tribalism or racialism, though they called it nationalism.  Jews, Slavs, or Roma who lived within the German nation were not considered part of Das Volk, but ethnic Germans who lived over the borders were considered part of the larger family.  Some nations, of Scandinavian, Frankish, or Anglo-Saxon descent were considered people to be ruled if they would not cooperate, but not exterminated. Hungarian and Romanian “nationalist” figures such as Antonescu were likewise protectors only of ethnic Romanians, not all within the borders. (This is unsurprising in Europe up until that time, because borders moved frequently, but language and ethnic heritage remained primary. It’s just wrong to call it nationalism.)

    In contrast, while the Allies had a lot of international cooperation, they ran largely on nationalist sentiment. Not only the Americans, who, as a mixed people had no choice except nationalism, but as the war progressed, the Soviet Union hunkered down into its constituent parts and Stalin made his appeals on behalf of Mother Russia, not the New Soviet Man. My thought has been that while nationalism has dangers and can be a false god, internationalism is a worse one. It might in theory be a better thing, and if we ever do become better humans I will change my vote. At the moment, however, I consider it an overreach. When we pretend to be better than we are we are in enormous danger, and those who are loyal to international enterprises smuggle in some much more primitive prejudices. They do not transcend nationalism, as they imagine, but replace it with something that aims higher but strikes lower.

    That is an observation of the group mentality, not the individual.  I am fully prepared to accept that there are many people who do transcend nationalism on an individual basis. As Steve Sailer has pointed out, however, in the traditional concentric circles of loyalty humankind tends to use, they more often skip over ring rather than include.  There is more virtue to be signaled in loving those far away rather than neighbors. How much more noble to love illegal aliens at the expense of poor citizens!

    I will have to revise my WWII picture however.  It still applies to Germans.  Yet my reading of Japanese history recently convinces me that nationalism was indeed their motive.  They did not find Koreans, Taiwanese, or Chinese racially inferior, but culturally so. Their attitude toward those in Vietnam, the Philippines, and the Pacific Islands was more tinged with a racialism.

    I’m not sure how I incorporate this into the overall picture, but I have to start by wounding my old model. Any of you who have knowledge about Japanese and other Asian cultural and racial attitudes, please weigh in.
    Cross-posted at Assistant Village Idiot

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 18 Comments »

    More On The Context…

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 4th August 2018 (All posts by )

    …of media bias leading up to Trump.

    More Context: Media Bias
    Media Bias – Magazine Covers

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 3 Comments »

    Context: Trump and William Loeb

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 1st August 2018 (All posts by )

    Cross-posted at Assistant Village Idiot

    I spoke with a somewhat younger friend who has some familiarity with my opinions about controversial topics, but wanted to know more exactly what I thought.  It is a great compliment, and I started answering him over the phone. I was pressed for time and cut it off, but even more than the temporary crunch, I decided I wanted to give answers of some precision.

    As soon as one goes down that road, one comes up against “Well, in order for you to understand this, I really have to explain that.” Almost immediately, another that comes along requiring another this. It gets out of control quickly.  But there’s nothing for it. I step back once, I step back further, I step back into the next county. He was asking for some summary, or at least ideas, concerning my evaluation of Trump. That is not possible without context, and I eventually found I had to go back to the 1960’s. I am not fond of Mr. Trump in many ways, but I think there is something necessary about him. If he had not come along now, some equally radical* figure would have had to come instead.  Not the same, but equally disruptive.

    My usual style has been an exhaustive, point-by-point argument. While I have sometimes broken such things up into posts I, II, and III, I have more often tried to cram the whole thing into one sustained essay, like a sermon that has gone on too long. I would try to make it more visually comfortable with ********* breaks, photos, headings, and short paragraphs. Let me break this into smaller chunks, and we’ll see what develops. As I head for vacation Saturday afternoon, I may have to leave you hanging.

    My hometown newspaper growing up was the Manchester Union Leader, published by the notorious William Loeb. It is hard to describe to someone under the age of 60 what that meant, but for those in NH older than that, Loeb was simply a continuous presence, influencing everyone in the state either to agree or oppose.  He was well-known around the country as well to those who followed politics. All of us who traveled or went to college outside New England had the experience of identifying where we were from and having some guy in the group turn and say William Loeb! as a reflexive response to hearing “Manchester, NH.” His audience grew enormously every first-in-the-nation-primary. (Yes, “melting snowflakes.” “McCarthy is a Skunks’s Skunk.” That guy.)
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    Posted in Miscellaneous | 4 Comments »

    Lavinia Woodward

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 26th July 2018 (All posts by )

    Theodore Dalrymple, generally excellent, has a logical takedown of the judge’s reasoning in the sentencing of Lavinia Woodward. I assume most readers here have some knowledge of him, but will note in passing that he is a retired British psychiatrist who comments astutely on modern culture. As his practice was in prisons and a Birmingham city hospital, he is familiar with the dark underside of life.  As illustration, one of his books is Life at the Bottom (recommended).

    I think I can offer some insight into a possible motive behind the judge’s seemingly backward reasoning. But by way of introduction, it is related to an idea of Tom Wolfe’s, expressed in The Bonfire of the Vanities, and discussed by Steve Sailer a few years ago. All set with that? There is a dull sameness about the criminal justice system year upon year, and those stuck working in it try to find exceptions.

    Judges fall prey to the same temptations. They spend their days sending poor and stupid people, sometimes of color, to prison. The judge wants someone to be merciful to, the DA wants someone to nail to the wall, but these opposite desires spring from the same soil.
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    Violence

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 23rd July 2018 (All posts by )

    The Babylon Bee has nice parody of the change of meaning of the word “violence.” They are more accurate than they know. Dictionaries are primarily descriptive rather than prescriptive in the last sixty years*.  They no longer tell you what the best people think a word means or should mean, as many of us were used to in grammar school many years ago.** Words change in meaning, especially in the directions of heightening or diminishing of effect, or generalisation versus specification.  The word molest meant only to bother or annoy, or perhaps interfere with a person, until quite recently.  The first reference using it in a sexual way was 1950. Awful and terrible have changed. For a very great change, you can follow the word silly over a thousand years. (Good music at the link.)


    There are also longstanding examples of milder uses of violence, of doing violence to an idea, or a violent storm.
    The World Health Organization’s definition, though it starts with the conventional idea of physical force or injury, is already moving in the direction the Babylon Bee parodies:

    “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation,” (although the group acknowledges that the inclusion of “the use of power” in its definition expands on the conventional understanding of the word.) Wikipedia.

    Whenever important words change they cause disruption, as people are no longer talking about quite the same thing.  Cults redefine words so that they can claim to be following traditional (or biblical) values while introducing new ideas. 
    It is fine to stick to the usual definitions of a word in one’s own use.  I encourage it, because it aids in understanding what other ages what other ages meant, rather than being a prisoner of last Tuesday’s culture.  But the language will change whether we will or know, and sometimes it helps to understand that other people are using a different meaning.  They themselves may not be the instigators. Young people are quick to pick up how a word is used in their current context and adapt.  They use racist, or violence, in they way they are taught in some of their classes and by the more excitable of their friends. Even those who basically hold to the stricter ideas of those terms that I would use are likely to have at least slightly expanded meanings of the term, by my lights. It may be better to ask “what do you mean when you say “violence?” than to simply declare it wrong. (Even though it is wrong, dammit.)

    *The Story of Ain’t by David Skinner is a solid and entertaining look at the change in dictionaries.

    **Note also the word “grammar” school, grades 1-8, where we would say elementary and middle, or elementary and junior high these days. One of the primary aims was that children would learn to write and say things correctly. We say “of course,” but they did not care so much about science or more than basic geography and history a hundred years ago.  Lots of penmanship, lots of multiplication tables.

    Cross-posted at Assistant Village Idiot

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 6 Comments »

    Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 21st July 2018 (All posts by )

    I had a thought of rummaging through all my posts on psychiatric topics over the years and linking to the best of them, but there are over a hundred, and I don’t like reading my own work all that much sometimes. I narrowed it to a single topic and picked three recent posts that are connected. The psychiatrist Scott Alexander over at Slate Star Codex reviewed the book My Brother Ron, and I discussed and rediscussed on it at my own site. I got good comments as well.

    My Brother Ron
    Update on My Brother Ron
    Update II

    A fourth post is on the closely-related topic of guardianship over psychiatric patients. Guardianship and the Behavior of Nations.

    I may also post on my Underground DSM, Wyman’s Oppositional Treatment, and other fun things in the future.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 8 Comments »

    Anti-Gravity

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 15th July 2018 (All posts by )

    I encountered this intriguing monument while driving around searching for road rally destinations a decade or so ago.

    Have I told you about road rallies? They figure prominently in AVI history. Teams of four per car solve puzzles leading to destinations, at which there is a bit of information that allows you to answer a question before moving on to the next puzzle. Most answers right in the shortest amount of time wins the game. I think I shall have to cover all that in some detail in another post. Some of you might find this to be right up your alley.

    Back to New Boston. One’s first thought is that this is some complete crank, squirreled away in a rural NH town, which the town fathers might not want to memorialize. Imagine this guy at town meeting every March. Or offering to guest lecture at the science classes at the high school. But in fact, Babson was a brilliant and respectable character. He was the founder of Babson College in Massachusetts, and two other colleges as well. The curriculum sounds like a precursor to Northeastern’s cooperative education program.

    Believing experience to be the best teacher, Roger Babson favored a curriculum that was a combination of both class work and business training: businessmen made up the majority of the faculty instead of academics, and the institute’s curriculum focused more on practical experience and less on lectures.

    Students worked on group projects and class presentations, observed manufacturing processes during field trips to area factories and businesses, met with managers and executives, and viewed industrial films on Saturday mornings

    Babson had gone to MIT, wrote books, founded businesses, and believed that economic cycles followed highly predictable rules because they were subject to laws as physical as Newton’s laws. This is now regarded as a rather crankish theory, but Babson did predict the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression.

    His pseudoscientific notion, that the laws of physics account for every rise and ebb in the economy, had no more validity than [astrology or alchemy]. But just as astrology gave birth to astronomy and alchemy to chemistry, so, too, did Babson’s efforts to explain the economic cycle… lead to the economic breakthrough that revolutionized the business of economic forecasting.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 7 Comments »

    History Becomes Lost, But Is Found Again By The Beatles

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 13th July 2018 (All posts by )

    This was one of my first blog posts, over a dozen years ago. I am being humorous here, but quite serious as well. I think the change did actually influence our culture and politics. I don’t discount the many standard historical and cultural explanations – we each have our favorites. This is mine.

    Black & White Photography Creates The Illusion Of Black & White Morality

    The years 1880-1960 are the gray, colorless years, lost to history. Events happened, but they were all dark, still, and boring. You’d think two major wars would liven things up in the public imagination, but interesting things apparently happened to boring, colorless people. We know the world was forgettable and not quite real. Soldiers in 1916 marched jerkily and too quickly, and for whole decades people waved a lot but could not speak. If they were lucky, they got captions. We’ve got movies of this, we know how life was then. In 1900 it was even worse, as whole families of sepia shadow-people sat endlessly in parlors in their best clothes. Even beautiful women had an unhealthy grayness to their skin, and a complete lack of fashion sense running entirely to blacks and grays. Winston Churchill might have had some color to him if it hadn’t been for all the stress of the war, but even he succumbed to bloodless pallor.

    Yes, I believe Boomers really think this way. We’re dumb like that.

    Mancunians and Floridians riding the half-taxis through Madame Tussaud’s in London encounter history as they know it: A series of romantic kings had wars with cool costumes. Next, everyone was poor and disease-ridden (but colorful) until the Great Fire of London. Then all of present-day London was built, including the Underground, and loud machines started doing work. In the 1800’s England conquered the world while wearing more cool costumes. But as Queen Victoria aged she turned gray and wore black, and the whole world followed suit. Our own history jibes with this, we just add a frontier and a colorful revolution[2]. Americans actually had the first colorless war in 1860, but we don’t expect anyone but us to remember that. Colorful peasants all over Europe were transformed into black-and-white slum dwellers in American cities in the late 19th C; honest and hardworking but poor, finally able to open fruitstands and restaurants, a privilege denied them in Europe, apparently. Eventually the fruit turned gray, but they became prosperous anyhow.

    Fortunately, in the 1960’s people regained their color. The lights came on and they became interesting and went to parties and had fun, which their parents and grandparents had been unable to do. Oh they had tried, of course, but they had boring fun. We know this. We have the pictures, and pictures don’t lie. Even the old people came around and agreed with this eventually, because when they looked at the photos they saw clearly how much more alive they were in 1970 than they had been in 1950. We Boomers still congratulate ourselves about this. Scholars now believe the Beatles should get credit for this, as they started out in black-and-white but learned to appear in color (colour, actually) and thus became rich and famous. Other popular musicians followed suit, and professional athletes followed. The Green Bay Packers were the first team to actually wear colors, rather than just say they had colors. Folks, we’ve got the pictures, don’t contradict me on this. The Colts played the Giants in black-and-white, and were black-and-white, in an era of moral (snigger) simplicity.

    The Reduced Shakespeare Company – late boomers all – in the Condensed History of America admitted that they skipped history from 1880 until the war because it was boring. Two world wars got only passing notice. They invested their time in a 1950’s sendup done in stark lighting and black-and-white costuming. Lucille Ball was there, but her hair wasn’t red. How could it have been? The world didn’t have that color then. McCarthyism was mentioned, of course, because we love to congratulate ourselves on our moral superiority. How quaint to think of communists as evil and Americans as good.

    However much the significance is overlooked, my observation is not original. Bill Waterson references the change in Calvin and Hobbes, capturing exactly the myth of how we perceive earlier generations. When National Geographic photographed Lake Wobegon only black and white film was used. Garrison Keillor himself provides the corrective in his story “Hog Slaughter,” a work of quiet power and one of his finest. “We believe it was a simpler time because we were children then, and our needs were looked after by others.”

    A whole generation of Boomers on both sides of the Atlantic based its picture of history, and thus its social and political beliefs on an unrelated development: the improvement of color printing and color photography. We remember Nixon in black-and-white, Kennedy just barely in color. (John, Paul, George, and Ringo were probably influenced by this.) But Milhous never shed this image even after becoming president. He seemed hand-tinted rather than living color, even in 1980. The movie Pleasantville should have given it away, especially to a generation whose shared cultural icon was watching black-and-white Kansas change to colorful Oz. But that heavy-handed symbolism went well with our mental furniture, and we simply fit it in unnoticed. I mean, that’s how those benighted people in the 50’s were, right? Not like us.

    Not to be too deconstructionist about it, but the similar words in the phrases “black and white morality” and “black and white photography” signify a deeper conceptual relationship. Oh man, that’s heavy. It’s like on the cover of Sgt. Pepper…

    A social worker I once worked with was fond of saying “Things aren’t black and white.” She often went on to add “It’s not like Ozzie and Harriet where everything is solved in half an hour.” I didn’t note the juxtaposition at the time, but now estimate I’ve been hearing similar things for decades, just under my radar.

    Moral relativity was not taught to us intellectually by Kafka, but accidentally by Kodak. Because the moral simplicity of our own childhood is recorded in black and white, we assume all the others in the photos were equally simple. Isn’t it great to live in more advanced times?

    —-
    [2] Several presidents nearly shared this fate by being put on money. James Madison was sort of greenish, but I believe Dolly had peachy skin and auburn hair.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 6 Comments »

    Unanimity

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 8th July 2018 (All posts by )

    I read years ago that medieval rabbis (or perhaps earlier), when debating a point, would throw out anything when they had universal agreement and start over.  They thought unanimity was too likely to be evidence of everyone jumping to a conclusion and following a fashion. I have never been able to locate a source for this,* and it may not be true, but I have found it to be excellent, though not foolproof advice. Unanimous decisions are often rushed, not thought out, not waiting to see if different angles emerge. We recently had a church decision to call a new pastor that was overwhelming, but not unanimous. Unanimous would have worried me. It fairly screams “unrealistic expectations.”  There was a motion to report the vote as unanimous to the candidate.  I had heard of such a thing when I was a Lutheran 40 years ago, and the explanation was that it was an expression of unity going forward. I believe it was moving some designated money from one purpose to another and the vote was 63-3 or something. Those who had voted against were now agreeing not to be passively, even unintentionally undermining the decision. The change was made and was reflected as a unanimous vote in the minutes, which struck me as weird, and not quite honest.

    Unanimous decisions in department meetings or on psychiatric teams have gone bad for this reason, in my experience. They usually happen because there are one or more powerful figures that the others too easily agree with, or at least don’t want to put in the energy to oppose. It is one of those Chestertonian paradoxes, that unanimity is often a sign of contention rather than unity, because of silent disagreement. Consider also the rigged elections of tyrants. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 7 Comments »

    Wayfinding

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 4th July 2018 (All posts by )

    I wrote the series, years ago, mostly in 2011, and refer to it from time-to-time.  I still think about it a lot and find the subject fascinating. One of the early entries is a good introduction:

    The Tourist asked: Old-timer, can you tell me how to get to St. Johnsbury from here?

    Eben Jenkins thought a bit, raised one hand and started to gesture up the Mountain Road. Thinking better of it, he stroked his chin and then pointed back down the River Road and almost spoke. He caught himself, looked the other way – up the River Road, and his eyes took on a faraway look. “Young fellah, you can’t get theah from heah.”

    Some overview, before putting you on to some of the research.

    Wayfinding is a subtopic under spatial memory. Though wayfinding can involve different scales of routes to follow, these are not vastly different scales. They are human sized, and involve moving a human-sized body, or objects only slightly smaller or larger. This is what human beings have navigated in for millennia. We now scale up to spatial relationships a million X larger or million X smaller, but these are recently learned. Like the Fahrenheit Scale that works best in the nice, human-living numbers 0-100, wayfinding is the understanding of movement from room-to-room, of walks in The Shire. Longer journeys of even ten miles begin to require a greater level of abstraction. This is landmark navigation, we have a hundred brain mechanisms we are unaware of helping us out, it is what we are built for, and it is far superior on the human scale. Even switching between scales at this level is not that hard. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Human Behavior | 17 Comments »

    True Civility

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 3rd July 2018 (All posts by )

    This is either efficient or lazy.  I will plead to either. I have posted before at length on the subject of The True Patriot, and have referred several times to the section in Mere Christianity where C S Lewis talks about the True Christian. Rereading both this afternoon, I don’t think I can do better, other than to note that the current True Civility claims, which I encountered looking for other things at The Ringer and 538, fall into the same category. Straw men.  False dichotomies. Most importantly, redefinitions of everyday words in order to show that all real virtues are, ultimately, just liberalism. Who woulda thaought, eh?

    Also, critiquing the Knibbs editorial, there is the point that language doesn’t work that way.  It is not valid to say “this is the root of the word centuries ago, this is its real meaning, its better meaning, its more educated meaning now.” Even if there’s an interesting book out there by another liberal who claims that civility is supposed to equal the larger category of civic virtue (because just look at the root word!), which means protesting against evil authorities for the good of The People, it still doesn’t work. Word derivations are interesting more than illuminating. See how the word silly, related to German salig, has changed over the centuries, for example. BTW, I wish Protestant preachers would learn that as well.  What the word meant in the KJV is not what it is really, really supposed to mean now. Nor what Noah Webster thought, either. Words change, and are an agreement in a speech community, not cast in stone.

    You can figure out what my current essay about True Civility would be from reading the first two links. You can even write it yourself, just for the fun of it.

    They can see the faults of conservatives clearly.  They cannot see even the simplest things about themselves.

    Update: Someone interesting weighed in on civility, in just this way. Even now, listen for the questions she is not being asked.

    Ann Althouse seems to agree with me.

    Posted in Civil Society, Culture, Politics | 4 Comments »

    Millennials

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 2nd July 2018 (All posts by )

    There is a 2015 article by Jeff Selingo just linked by David Foster below. Selingo is worried because college graduates don’t know how to shoe a horse tolerate an ambiguous situation anymore.  Maybe so, but Selingo is drawing largely from personal anecdotes plus a Stanford psychologist who hasn’t figured out the difference between correlation and causation (which means neither can Selingo), so I’m suspicious.  Also, Steven Johnson’s 2005 book Everything Bad Is Good For You says the opposite, that the computer teaches kids to try all sorts of things to get where they want to go, epitomised by the videogames that just drop you off in an environment with no clue what your objective is or what the rules are.

    Most likely, many Millennials are able to tolerate ambiguous situations, many are not, and many are in between. Is the trait more common now than it was? I don’t know of evidence either way, but everyone has an opinion about Millennials.

    I have a bias that generations are not that different from each other.  They each have their cabbages and kings. When we say “I have been teaching/coaching/hiring/supervising young people for forty years, and I think that Kids Today aren’t as ______ as they used to be,” there is a lot left out of that estimation.  Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Culture, Miscellaneous | 10 Comments »

    Introduction

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 2nd July 2018 (All posts by )

    I have been invited to post at Chicago Boyz, and have accepted. I have had my own blog, Assistant Village Idiot, for over a decade, with over 5,000 posts there. I will crosspost here a selection of my current posts there. Come over and hit the search box if you want to know what I think about something. I have been interested in too many topics in my life, forever finding new enthusiasms. I changed majors at William and Mary from math to medieval literature to theater, and had a minor in anthropology after the one in psychology blew up. I have started and bailed quickly at grad school in three fields. Lack of focus and discipline, clearly. My adult life has shown the same pattern. I posted heavily over the decade on Lewis, Tolkien, and Chesterton; colonial history; words and historical linguistics; statistics, bias, and reasoning; Judaism; Bible and theology from a POV that holds the conventional wisdom of the last two centuries as suspect. (Which you had already guessed after seeing Lewis and Chesterton listed.) I am an evangelical who dislikes a lot of evangelical culture.

    My overriding topic has been cultural commentary from as objective and non-immediate perspective as I can manage. Current events are a swamp of emotions, and nearly everyone gets them wrong at first. I see Americans as belonging to various tribes: Arts & Humanities, Science and Technology, Military, Government and Union, plus regional, ethnic, and religious groups. 90% of us used to belong to the God & Country tribe, but this is no longer so. Most of us are allied with more than one. I was very much raised in the Arts & Humanities tribe, which used to be politically mixed, but is now almost entirely liberal. I harshly dissected that tribe for years. I still read in the arts and humanities, but have largely rejected the tribe’s attitude, which means most of my extended family considers me a bit dangerous.

    I follow sports – commentary, history, and statistics – yet seldom watch a game or post on these. I am similarly fascinated by maps and geography, psychology and neurology, parenting and development, and HBD, and don’t post on those either. Why? Dunno, but I think it is because I don’t have anything new to add about, say, the Negro Leagues or new psychotropics that you can’t find elsewhere. I have a few older series I will link to here.

    Personal Information: Semi-retired psychiatric social worker at the state hospital of NH, mostly in acute care. 40 years there. I am husband of one, a retired children’s librarian, and father of five sons, age 22-39. The first two came in the usual way, were excellent students, and went to Asbury College. We were fanatic parents – no TV, hours of reading aloud, constant discussion with friends about best practices. One is married with two daughters and lives nearby, the second is the creative director at First Methodist in Houston. The second two came from Romania as teenagers, one now living in Nome with two daughters, currently visiting wife’s family in the Philippines; the other moved to Tromso, Norway after getting out of the USMC. The youngest is a nephew we took in at 13 when his parents…well, never mind. They eventually repaired relationships with him. He lives nearby, works for USPS, and is in the Army Reserve. From my overall experience, I now counsel young couples to have more children and pay less attention to them. They are going to be what they are going to be without you moving the dial much, and they are enormous fun when they are adults.

    I will put up a few too many posts over the next week, then back off.

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    Posted in Blogging, Culture, Current Events, Miscellaneous | 10 Comments »