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  • Archive for the 'Human Behavior' Category

    Mice in a Maze

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 18th June 2019 (All posts by )

    Arnade, Chris. Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America. Penguin Publishing Group, 2019.

    Chris Arnade certainly seems to have been called, and may well have been chosen, to help mitigate one of the great divisions of our time. Dignity complements, among others, Charles Murray’s Coming Apart with interviews and photos from what Murray would call “Fishtown,” or rather its extreme margin, whose inhabitants are simultaneously transient and rooted, strategizing to survive in ways often incomprehensible to the more cognitively gifted and emotionally stable. Learning to extend compassion and respect rather than mere pity (in its more negative variant), glib political “solutions,” and outright contempt is a challenge far too few Americans are willing to undertake. Matthew 22:14 seems unnervingly relevant in this context, and while the church as it is depicted among the people Dignity portrays is an overwhelmingly positive influence, more “front row” believers might take a moment to consider just how much better than the vast majority of us Arnade, a secular liberal, has done at reaching out to desperate communities. My advice to them is to buy and read this book, pray over it, maybe lend it out to others for discussion, and—without reinventing the wheel—do the Tocquevillian thing and organize/volunteer, with an eye to Luke 15. Because if the parables in that chapter aren’t about “back row” people, they don’t mean a damned thing.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Biography, Book Notes, Christianity, Civil Society, Current Events, Education, Human Behavior, Libertarianism, Personal Narrative, Political Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Society, Trump, USA | 30 Comments »

    Book Review: The Caine Mutiny

    Posted by David Foster on 18th May 2019 (All posts by )

    The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk

    —-

    (reposted in honor of Herman Wouk, who died yesterday at the age of 103)

    Just about everyone has seen the movie based on this book, featuring Humphrey Bogart’s famous performance as Captain Queeg.  The movie is indeed excellent–the book is even better, and contains a lot that is absent from the film.  And while the film ends basically after the court-martial scene, the book continues to follow the USS Caine and  key characters for the duration of the war.  In this review, I won’t worry about spoilers re plot elements that were included in the movie, but will try to minimize them as far as other aspects of the book are concerned. After summarizing the story, I’ll comment on some of the issue raised by the book. (A 2005 article, referencing The Caine Mutiny, refers to Wouk as “the first neoconservative.”)

    Lieutenant Commander Philip Queeg, a rigid and insecure man, is appointed during WWII to the command of Caine, a decrepit old destroyer-minesweeper…the ship and its slovenly-appearing crew are described as being part of the  “hoodlum navy.”  This is Queeg’s first command, and he is desperately concerned to make it a success, deeply afraid of making a mistake which will lead to his failure.  Ironically, it is specifically this fear of failure and perceived need for perfection which is responsible for many, perhaps most, of his troubles. When Caine runs aground the first time Queeg takes her out, he fails to submit the required grounding report for fear of higher authority’s reaction. When the ship cuts her own towline while assigned to target-towing duty, Queeg cannot make up him mind whether or not to attempt recovery of the drifting target–and radios in for instructions.  Incidents like these do not inspire confidence in Queeg on the part of his superiors.

    The officers and crew of Caine also lose confidence in the captain as his obsessive-compulsive behavior becomes increasingly problematic.  As a result of several incidents during combat, there are also concerns about Queeg’s personal courage. While no one aboard Caine likes Queeg once they get to know him, the captain’s most vocal critic is an officer named Thomas Keefer, an intellectual who is an aspiring novelist. Keefer has a cynical attitude toward the Navy, which he refers to as “a master plan designed by geniuses for execution by idiots,” and advises Willie Keith, a young officer who is his subordinate,  that “If you’re not an idiot, but find yourself in the Navy, you can only operate well by pretending to be one.”

    The ship’s executive officer is Steve Maryk. In civilian life a commercial fisherman, Maryk now hopes to make the Navy his career. Maryk is a fine seaman and a good leader, but not a highly-educated man–he is somewhat in awe of Tom Keefer’s intellectual attainments.

    In repeated conversations, Keefer tells Maryk that the captain must be mentally ill, using psychological jargon and concepts that Maryk does not pretend to understand. Maryk is concerned enough about Queeg’s behavior that he begins keeping a “medical log” on Queeg, with the idea of presenting this to higher authority if necessary and possible. The time seems right when Caine shares an anchorage with the battleship carrying Admiral Halsey:  Maryk takes his log, takes Keefer in tow, and heads over to the New Jersey to see if they can speak with the Admiral.  But Keefer, at the last moment, chickens out, asserting that Halsey, with his experience aboard large well-managed ships, would never be able to understand the state of things aboard a hoodlum-navy ship like Caine, and that raising the issue with him would only get the two of them in trouble.  Feeling unable to make the case without support, Maryk gives up on talking to Halsey and the two officers return to Caine.

    But soon thereafter, the old ship encounters a typhooon. Fleet course is 180 degrees, due south–away from the wind–and Queeg refuses to adopt the safer course of heading into the wind even though communication with other ships, as well as radar contact, has been lost.

    An unbelievably big gray wave loomed on the port side, high over the bridge. It came smashing down. Water spouted into the wheelhouse from the open wing, flooding to Willie’s knees. The water felt surprisingly warm and sticky, like blood. “Sir, we’re shipping water on the goddamn bridge!” said Maryk shrilly. “We’ve got to come around into the wind!”

    “Heading 245, sir.” Stilwell’s voice was sobbing. “She ain’t answering to the engines at all, sir!”

    The Caine rolled almost completely over on its port side.  Everybody in the wheelhouse except Stilwell went sliding across the streaming deck and piled up against the windows.  The sea was under their noses, dashing up against the glass.  “Mr Maryk, the light on this gyro just went out!” screamed Stilwell, clinging desperately to the wheel.  The wind howled and shrieked in Willie’s ears.  He lay on his face on the deck, tumbling around in salt water, flailing for a grip at something solid.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, History, Human Behavior, Management, Military Affairs, Nautical Book Project, Reruns, Transportation | 9 Comments »

    Pretty Scary

    Posted by David Foster on 17th May 2019 (All posts by )

    Martin Wolf, writing in the Financial Times, displayed the above graph, which is taken from this article in the Journal of Democracy.

    After seeing this graph, I was going to put the title “Absolutely Terrifying” on this post.  But when looking at survey data, I like to dig into the source information a bit and look at the wording of the actual questions asked.  This data comes from something called the World Values Survey, and the specific question is:

    How important is it for you to live in a country that is governed democratically? On this scale where 1 means it is “not at all important” and 10 means “absolutely important” what position would you choose?

    I wondered how the results would look if I added the “9”  answers, one notch below “absolutely important”, to those who gave the highest possible importance answer…then did the same thing when adding the “8” respondents.  Here’s what I got (US data only), summarized.

    “Absolutely Important” only:

    1930s 63%
    1940s 56%
    1950s 57%
    1960s 47%
    1970s 43%
    1980s 27%

    “Absolutely Important” plus “9” responses:

    1930s 78%
    1940s 74%
    1950s 67%
    1960s 61%
    1970s 57%
    1980s 40%

    When I also add those who assigned democracy an “8” rating, I get a total of 89% for the 1930s cohort falling to 77% for the 1960s birth and 53% for those born in the 1980s.

    (There have been six “waves” of the World Values Survey; I used only the most recent one, which probably explains why my numbers for the “absolutely important” category are slightly different from those shown in the graph.  The data is openly available here, and the display and crosstab toolset is very easy to use.)

    So the results are slightly less-alarming than they appeared at first glance, which is why I changed the title of this post from “Absolutely Terrifying” to “Pretty Scary.”  Still, 40% is less than half, and the indication that only 40% of the 1980s cohort value democracy as either “maximally important,” or one step down from that, should be of considerable concern.

    Your thoughts?

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Deep Thoughts, Europe, Human Behavior, Political Philosophy, Politics, USA | 16 Comments »

    Anecdotes: The Uber Driver

    Posted by Jonathan on 14th May 2019 (All posts by )

    A couple of months ago in an Uber:

    The driver, a Haitian immigrant, is listening to an NPR interview with Pete Buttigieg, the South Bend, IN mayor and Democratic wunderkind. The questions are softballs and Buttigieg gives polished, mellifluous, contentless answers in his perfect NPR-announcer voice. He is exploring the possibility of running for President. He thinks more young people should consider government careers. He is married to a man and this fact pleases the interviewer. There are no questions about the role of the presidency or about how someone as young and inexperienced as Buttigieg could possibly be qualified.

    The driver says, Why do people in this country think running for office is the only way to help their country? Why don’t they start businesses and create jobs instead?

    I attempt a rational answer along the lines of: Most productive people don’t run for office and the people who do run for office aren’t typical. But the driver’s question was mostly rhetorical. Buttigieg is obviously a talented guy who could be successful in many roles yet chose retail politics. He fits a profile: Young, ambitious, vague on political philosophy and with a resume that suggests a disciplined long-term effort to groom himself for high elected office. This is not the profile of a normal person and it engenders suspicion in people who have conservative temperaments. The Uber driver is clearly someone with a conservative temperament. Many other Americans, it appears, are not. Time will tell which approach – brilliant resumes and glibly articulated rationality, or respect for experience and hard realities – will prevail politically.

    Posted in Human Behavior, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Politics | 5 Comments »

    Study in White

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 3rd May 2019 (All posts by )

    I was ruminating all this week, after last week’s post on the practice of ‘othering’ and how common it seems of late that that white people (that is, those of us who are on the paler end of the skin-color spectrum and whose ancestors originated somewhere north of the Mediterranean and west of the Urals) are the piñata of choice among a wide swath of lefty academics, and certain media and political personalities. Last week it was the lefty librarian blogger getting her pantyhose in a twist about all those books by white people in academic libraries, this week it’s students at an Oakland HS (of course – Oakland/SF) demanding that murals of George Washington be painted over, a couple of months ago it was a rather nasty bigot named Sarah Jeong landing a cushy gig at the so-called newspaper of record, in spite of a series of tweets that would have seen any writer of pallor and masculinity reduced to waiting tables and driving for Uber. And now it appears that such concepts as a rule of law, assumption of innocence, conventional good manners and even timeliness are now held to be proof of the iniquity of whiteness. Why should this be so, and why now? Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Civil Society, Conservatism, Culture, Current Events, Human Behavior, Leftism, Media, Politics | 9 Comments »

    Of Humor and Sanity

    Posted by David Foster on 1st May 2019 (All posts by )

    Back in September, I mentioned some articles describing efforts to give artificial intelligence systems something resembling a simulated sense of humor.  “Interesting research, perhaps,”  I wrote at the time, “but at this juncture I’m less concerned above providing a sense of humor for AI systems than maintaining a sense of humor for human beings.”

    Comes now Claire Lehmann, tweeting:  “In clinical psychology you learn that the loss of a sense of humour can indicate deterioration in mental health.”  I’d assert that this is probably also true of entire organizations and entire societies.

    While people in general are increasingly too afraid to engage in real, lighthearted humor, there is a kind of faux-humor that is toxically thriving.

    In The Screwtape Letters, C S Lewis’s devil responds to a letter from his protege, in which the latter refers to his “patients” as “great laughers,” which the younger devil sees as a good sign for his project to lead them into damnation.  Maybe yes, maybe no, replies Screwtape; it depends on what kind of humor the patients are engaging in. He goes through a categorization of types, and says:

    But flippancy is the best of all. In the first place it is very economical. Only a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue, or indeed about anything else; any of them can be trained to talk as if virtue were funny. Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it. If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armour-plating against the Enemy that I know, and it is quite free from the dangers inherent in the other sources of laughter. It is a thousand miles away from joy it deadens, instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practice it.

    Flippancy is closely related to sarcasm and snark.  Field Marshal Lord Wavell had some thoughts:

    Explosions of temper do not necessarily ruin a general’s reputation or influence with his troops; it is almost expected of them (“the privileged irascibility of senior officers,” someone has written), and it is not always resented, sometimes even admired, except by those immediately concerned. But sarcasm is always resented and seldom forgiven. (emphasis added) In the Peninsula the bitter sarcastic tongue of Craufurd, the brilliant but erratic leader of the Light Division, was much more wounding and feared than the more violent outbursts of Picton, a rough, hot-tempered man.

    A few pages later (in his little book The Art of Generalship), Wavell again addresses the topic of sarcasm:

    He (the general) should never indulge in sarcasm, which is being clever at someone else’s expense, and always offends.

    At the same time humor is being suppressed among people in general, late-night comedians and other media types are heavily engaging in sarcasm/snark, with socially-toxic results that would have been no surprise to Lord Wavell.

    Also, some thoughts on the damage done by snideness in advertising.

     

    Posted in Civil Society, Human Behavior, Humor, Media, USA | 8 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 30th April 2019 (All posts by )

    Dennis Prager, quoting and expanding on Bret Stephens’s explanation of how the New York Times could come to publish an obviously anti-Jewish cartoon:

    “The reason is the almost torrential criticism of Israel and the mainstreaming of anti-Zionism, including by this paper, which has become so common that people have been desensitized to its inherent bigotry. So long as anti-Semitic arguments or images are framed, however speciously, as commentary about Israel, there will be a tendency to view them as a form of political opinion, not ethnic prejudice. But as I noted in a Sunday Review essay in February, anti-Zionism is all but indistinguishable from anti-Semitism in practice and often in intent, however much progressives try to deny this.”
     
    Exactly right. As I wrote in “Why the Jews? The Reason for Anti-Semitism” 40 years before Stephens wrote his column, there is no difference between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Of course, one can criticize Israel, just as one can criticize any country, but that is not anti-Zionism. Anti-Zionism is not criticism of Israel. It is a hatred of Israel — a hatred greater than that of any other country and a delegitimization of Zionism, the movement to reestablish the Jewish national home. Imagine someone who argued that the establishment of the Italian state — Italy — was illegitimate and who hated Italy more than any other country in the world yet claimed that he was in no way anti-Italian, as he had Italian friends and loved Italian culture. No one would believe such an absurdity.

    Posted in Human Behavior, Jewish Leftism, Judaism, Leftism, Quotations, Rhetoric, The Press | 16 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Why Obama and Clinton Described the Sri Lankan Victims as “Easter Worshippers” and not as “Christians”: A Friendly Amendment for Dennis Prager

    Posted by Jonathan on 28th April 2019 (All posts by )

    Why do senior politicians across the Western world systematically engage in this and other similar sorts of newspeak? Here, I suggest, Obama and Clinton (and their peers) believe millions of otherwise ordinary American citizens are deplorables. They believe that if they were to discuss the reality of world events with their fellow citizens, and do so without dissembling, then any number of our fellow citizens would organize communal violence, mayhem, and murder—on a mass scale.

    Read the entire post.

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Christianity, Civil Society, Human Behavior, Leftism, Obama, Political Philosophy, Politics, Rhetoric, Terrorism, The Press, Trump, USA | 5 Comments »

    Anecdotes: The Gas Station Guy

    Posted by Jonathan on 28th April 2019 (All posts by )

    During bike rides I sometimes stop for refreshment at a particular gas station/convenience store. It is a busy station at a busy intersection – very convenient. The station is usually attended by one of two late-middle-aged taciturn Indian guys. I assume they are related to each other. One of them barely acknowledges me. The second one was like that too until maybe a year ago but now greets me warmly. The second guy is the topic of this post.

    At some point I noticed that the second guy sometimes makes errors, generally favoring himself, in ringing up the snacks I buy. Several times he’s shortchanged me by small amounts. Of course he corrects the errors when I point them out. One weekend I realized that I had paid ~$6 for two items that were priced at around $2 each. It was too late to do anything, but the same thing happened again a week or two later and I called him on it. Ah, another mistake – he corrected the charge.

    This morning I experienced the most refined version of his game yet. I hadn’t eaten breakfast so I took a piece of cake, a bottle of Gatorade and a small bag of mixed nuts to the register. The total should have been around $6 but it rang up at more than $8. I paid with a credit card and asked for a receipt – he doesn’t give a receipt unless you ask – and mentioned that the total seemed high. He said that the price included two bottles of Gatorade in a two-for-$4 deal and that I should take my second bottle. Why did he wait to tell me this until I requested a receipt? I walked back to the Gatorade rack and the price was listed as $2.67 each, as I remembered. I said that I wanted just one bottle of Gatorade as I had no way to carry a second bottle. Very quickly he refunded, in cash and without further prompting, my $2 overpayment. Slick. I wonder how much he takes in over time through overcharges that customers don’t notice. It’s a busy store.

    The upshot is that I stopped at the gas station again later, on my way back, and bought another Gatorade. The gas station guy greeted me warmly and said that if I had paid for two Gatorades earlier I could be picking up the second one now and saving $1.34. I thanked him for his consideration.

    Posted in Human Behavior | 8 Comments »

    Saving (Restoring) Free-Range Childhood

    Posted by David Foster on 24th April 2019 (All posts by )

    Kerry McDonald:  The Value of a Self-Directed Summer for Kids.

    Autonomy and choice are central to a self-directed summer, in contrast to the control and regimentation that define so many children’s days all year round. Parents from all socio-economic backgrounds face mounting pressure to have their children’s summer days filled with structured, and often expensive, enrichment activities; but poorer parents may confront the most coercion.

    RTWT.  See also my related post Six Hundred Million Years in K-12.

    The term “free-range kids” was originated, AFAIK, by Lenore Skenazy, who has a blog with that name.

    Posted in Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, Human Behavior, USA | 8 Comments »

    Boredom

    Posted by David Foster on 14th April 2019 (All posts by )

    Ammo Grrrll writes about her husband, a man who is never bored…”the most self-amusing human I have ever known, mostly due to an overabundance of enthusiasms and boundless curiosity about every dang thing in the world.”  She contrasts this attitude with the attitudes of those people who really can’t think of anything to do unless they need to go to work.

    Valerie Jarrett famously said of Obama:  “He’s been bored to death his whole life.”  We can’t be sure, of course, that Jarrett is here actually reflecting Obama’s true characteristics;  but we can be sure that she feels that the characteristic of being bored one’s whole life is something admirable, a sign of intellectual and maybe moral superiority.

    (I think it’s correct to say that the affectation of boredom has traditionally been associated with members of aristocracies)

    Years ago, when I visited the American Museum of the American Indian, one of the exhibits was a collection of jewelry made by former senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (Cheyenne)…really fine stuff, not that I’m any judge.  I remember wondering at the time:  how many other politicians have a serious hobby or avocation such as this?  I thought then and I think now that it’s probably pretty exceptional; most of them seem to have few interests other than the pursuit of power and activities directly related to that pursuit.

    In his important memoir of growing up in Germany between the wars, Sebastian Haffner discusses a period (during the Stresemann chancellorship) when the political and economic climate in that country stabilized significantly.  Most people were a lot happier:

    The last ten years were forgotten like a bad dream. The Day of Judgment was remote again, and there was no demand for saviors or revolutionaries…There was an ample measure of freedom, peace, and order, everywhere the most well-meaning liberal-mindedness, good wages, good food and a little political boredom. everyone was cordially invited to concentrate on their personal lives, to arrange their affairs according to their own taste and to find their own paths to happiness.

    But…and I think this is a particuarly important point…a return to private life was not to everyone’s taste:

    A generation of young Germans had become accustomed to having the entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions…Now that these deliveries suddently ceased, people were left helpless, impoverished, robbed, and disappointed. They had never learned how to live from within themselves, how to make an ordinary private life great, beautiful and worth while, how to enjoy it and make it interesting. So they regarded the end of political tension and the return of private liberty not as a gift, but as a deprivation. They were bored, their minds strayed to silly thoughts, and they began to sulk.

    and

    To be precise (the occasion demands precision, because in my opinion it provides the key to the contemporary period of history): it was not the entire generation of young Germans. Not every single individual reacted in this fashion. There were some who learned during this period, belatedly and a little clumsily, as it were, how to live. they began to enjoy their own lives, weaned themselves from the cheap intoxication of the sports of war and revolution, and started to develop their own personalities. It was at this time that, invisibly and unnoticed, the Germans divided into those who later became Nazis and those who would remain non-Nazis.

    I believe that in America today, there are a lot of people–largely, but not exclusively on the Left–whose political activity is motivated in large part by their inability to make their own lives great, beautiful and worth while.

    Discuss, if so inclined.

    Posted in Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Germany, Human Behavior, USA | 17 Comments »

    The Internet Rewards Crazy (Rerun)

    Posted by Jonathan on 25th March 2019 (All posts by )

    (This is a reposting of posts from two and seven years ago. Unhappily, this post’s themes are more relevant than ever. The Internet seems to be changing human social relations, business, politics and civil society in significant ways not all of which are clear. Perhaps the nature of what is happening will be better understood with time.)

    —-

    Crazy, overconfident; the opposite of the judicious, scientific, skeptical temperament.

    Extreme opinions.

    Stubborn.

    Bombastic.

    The opposite of thoughtful.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Human Behavior, Internet, Society, Systems Analysis | 5 Comments »

    Important Reading

    Posted by David Foster on 23rd March 2019 (All posts by )

    Sarah Hoyt:  The Totalitarian Train in Rolling Down the Tracks

    If I could communicate just one thing, across the increasing divide of language and thought to the left it would be this: that warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you’re running someone down is not righteousness.  It’s just the feeling apes get when they run off another ape.

    If you’re part of a band and all of you were piling on an outsider — or an insider who was just declared an outsider and run off — you’ll also feel very connected to your band, and a feeling of being loved and belonging.  It’s not real. It’s the result of a “reward” rush of endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine that flood your body after stress and a perceived “victory.”  Oxytocin, particularly, promotes a feeling of bonding with those around you.

    Just remember, as you’re high fiving each other and believing that something that feels so good has to be good and morally “just” you could be the victim tomorrow.  Because the feelings don’t last, and that rush of “righteousness and victory” is addictive. Those who are your comrades today will be looking for someone to kick in the face tomorrow. And it really could be you.

    I’m reminded again of a passage in Goethe’s Faust. After finding that she is pregnant–which meant big trouble for a single woman in that time and place–Gretchen is talking with her awful friend Lieschen, who (still unaware of Gretchen’s situation) is licking her chops about the prospect of humiliating another girl (Barbara) who has also become pregnant outside of marriage. Here’s Gretchen, reflecting on her own past complicity in such viciousness:

    How readily I used to blame
    Some poor young soul that came to shame!
    Never found sharp enough words like pins
    To stick into other people’s sins
    Black as it seemed, I tarred it to boot
    And never black enough to suit
    Would cross myself, exclaim and preen–
    Now I myself am bared to sin!
    Yet all of it that drove me here
    God! ws so innocent, was so dear!

    Doesn’t this describe a lot of today’s SJW behavior and other political behavior?  “Never found sharp enough words like pins To stick in other people’s sins…Would cross myself, exclaim, and preen”

    Lots of exclaiming and preening going on these days..quite likely, even, in certain churches, some crossing of themselves by activists as part of the denunciation of the “others.”   The extent of the pleasure gained by many from group cruelty toward approved targets is pretty clear and is a major factor in today’s social and political toxicity.

    Posted in Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Leftism, USA | 13 Comments »

    The New Party Line

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 14th March 2019 (All posts by )

    So, as of this last week, as per the sparkly new members of the House, the Democrat Party line is now one of unapologetic and hard-line anti-Semitism. Not that this should surprise anyone with a grounding in history: in the 19th century, the Democrat Party was the party of slavery and secession, in the 20th, the party of segregation and Jim Crow. And now, in this faintly-tarnished 21st, they appear to have become the party of socialism, anti-Semitism, and the fanatical belief that OMG-The-Planet-Earth-Is-Gonna-Fry!
    The Horrendous Climate Change thing is bad enough on its’ own. Look, I have been paying attention long enough to remember when Massive Global Cooling was all the Panic du jour, then followed by the Massive Global Warming – all this human and/or industrial caused. I am so not falling for the scam of the successor to this panic – that of Massive Global Climate Change!!Eleventy!! It was warm enough in Roman times to grow wine grapes in England, warm enough in Medieval times for subsistence farming in Greenland, cold enough in the 17th centuries that the Thames froze over at London, enabling midwinter jollities to be held on the ice. The monumental Cliff Dweller settlements in the American Southwest flowered and flourished until the thirteenth century, when widespread drought and subsequent unrest drove the Anasazi from their aeries among the cliffs. The volcanic explosion of Mt. Tambora in 1815 in the East Indies brought about the following “year with no summer” in the northern European continent and the eastern US – all this when industry was in infancy and automobiles a dream in the mind of whatever madman was doing science fiction at the time… so, not buying anthropogenic global warming or the Green New Deal for a hot second. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Conservatism, Current Events, Environment, Human Behavior, Judaism, Leftism, Media | 39 Comments »

    Social Media

    Posted by Jonathan on 13th March 2019 (All posts by )

    “it’s merely common courtesy, you moron”

    (Actual quote from a FB discussion I read today.)

    Posted in Human Behavior, Internet | 8 Comments »

    Anecdotes: The Mango Lady

    Posted by Jonathan on 27th February 2019 (All posts by )

    The Mango Lady is a peddler who does business under the elevated train tracks at a major intersection. I have seen her many times but never bought anything from her. However, I know someone who knows people who say that they have.

    The story is, if you ask the Mango Lady her price she will reply that mangoes are $1 each or $3 for two. Yes. My friend’s friends wanted to buy several mangoes but made clear that they would pay no more than $1 each. They weren’t about to get taken by the 2-for-$3 gimmick. The Mango Lady laughed and said: You wouldn’t believe how many people fall for that.

    Posted in Human Behavior | 14 Comments »

    Peak Stupid

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 25th February 2019 (All posts by )

    No, I don’t think will ever reach Peak Stupid; just as we will probably never reach Peak Oil, either – since there appears to be an inexhaustible supply of the former, and more of the latter than the gloom’n’doom crowd apparently thought. But Deity on a Trisket, the farrago of Stupid on display just this past week is just plain mind-blowing. And I read a lot of history, so it’s not a total surprise to me that individually and en masse, humans are capable of the spectacularly moronic; things like Tulip Mania in 17th century Holland, pursuance of the Flat Earth theory after trips into space, and the Billy Jack movie series, not to mention the whole disco era in general.
    So the Jussie Smallett supposed hate-crime on the below-freezing streets of Chicago on the coldest day of the year thus far (hey, it’s only February, I am confident that the remaining ten months of 2019 will bring us ever more bountiful levels of stupidity) has fallen completely apart – much as the intelligent and logical portion of the blogosphere had predicted upon being made aware of the specifics. Yes, a planned – with an astounding level of stupidity even for an actor – hate crime, intended to leverage a pay raise, and garner oodles of that sweet, sweet milk of sympathy for a victim. And the National Establishment Mainstream fell for it, hook, line, sinker and whatever else in an appealing sob story, not to mention quantities of gullible media celebrities, and gullible political celebrities. Oopsie. The most decent of them appear to have the nous to be resoundingly pissed with Mr. Smolett over how their sympathies were exploited. The indecent are lying low and doubtless waiting for the next shiny, flashy supposed hate crime to bubble up to the top of that pond of scum which appears to be our national thought leaders. Live and learn, people – there exists a long, long, long history of faked hate crimes. The most recent of which happened not two weeks previously, with the Covington Catholic students. Memories are short in the National Establishment Media gene pool; measured in hours, I would guess. Possibly this is a variety of genetic defect. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Architecture, Business, Chicagoania, Conservatism, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, History, Human Behavior, Just Unbelievable, Leftism, Media, Military Affairs, The Press | 6 Comments »

    Dating While Being a Trump Supporter, in Manhattan

    Posted by David Foster on 20th December 2018 (All posts by )

    Pamela Garber write about her experiences.

    What motivates the people who are expressing such rage about the President and his supporters?  While surely some of them have thought through the issues and come to their opinions through their own reasoning processes, I think that for many of them, the explanation can be found in a comment at this post, which is about the “progressive” anger at Israel:

    Leftist political dynamics are, in my opinion, as clear an example of emergence (i.e, an apparently complex property of a collective possessed by none of the individuals, but caused by simple interactions between the parts) as exists. Like the schooling of fish, or the beautiful murmurations of starlings, Progressives can intellectually turn on a dime in the most amazing and – if you’re viewing from a distance – beautiful ways. While scuba diving, I loved poking my finger in a school of brilliantly colored reef fishes and watching the entire school turn in perfect simultaneity like the members of a North Korean dance troupe or dancers in a Busby Berkeley film. To achieve this level of perfection, each individual in the collective needs to know nothing about about the larger picture, only what the immediate neighbors are doing. From a distance, Democratic “talking points of the day” murmurations require no intellect, no opinions to “re-examine”, but are more akin to crystal formation on a window in wintertime.

    Garber, who is a therapist, offers her own thoughts about the psychological dynamics at work in the anger.

    Posted in Civil Society, Culture, Human Behavior, USA | 36 Comments »

    Snowballs, Sleds, and Cultures, with Some Thoughts from Goethe and the Kaiser

    Posted by David Foster on 5th December 2018 (All posts by )

    A 9-year-old boy lobbied successfully to get his town’s ban on snowball fights overturned.

    Reminded me again of some comments by Goethe, circa 1828, which were the subject of a post here several years ago. He observed that when Englishmen came to town, they were invariably a hit with the local women. Indeed, when one of them came to visit, Goethe found it necessary to brace himself for the inevitable female tears upon the visitor’s departure. His friend Eckermann objected that Englishmen were not “more clever, better informed, or more excellent at heart than other people.”

    “The secret does not lie in these things, my good friend,” returned Goethe. ““Neither does it lie in birth and riches; it lies in the courage which they have to be that for which nature has made them. There is nothing vitiated or spoilt about them, there is nothing halfway or crooked; but such as they are, they are thoroughly complete men. That they are also sometimes complete fools, I allow with all my heart; but that is still something, and has still always some weight in the scale of nature.”

    Goethe goes on to contrast the upbringing of English boys with that typical in his own country:

    “In our own dear Weimar, I need only look out of the window to discover how matters stand with us. Lately, when the snow was lying upon the ground, and my neighbour’s children were trying their little sledges in the street, the police was immediately at hand, and I saw the poor little things fly as quickly as they could. Now, when the spring sun tempts them from the houses, and they would like to play with their companions before the door, I see them always constrained, as if they were not safe, and feared the approach of some despot of the police. Not a boy may crack a whip, or sing or shout; the police is immediately at hand to forbid it. This has the effect with us all of taming youth prematurely, and of driving out all originality and all wildness, so that in the end nothing remains but the Philistine.

    It’s not obvious to me why Goethe didn’t take up this issue of excessive policing with his very good friend Karl August, who as Grand Duke was pretty much the absolute ruler of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. Still, an interesting remark, given the increasing constraints on childhood in our own present culture.

    What is also very interesting is that almost a century later, former Kaiser Wilhelm II made some rather similar observations in his memoirs:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Britain, Civil Society, Education, Germany, History, Human Behavior, USA | 24 Comments »

    Coupling

    Posted by David Foster on 15th November 2018 (All posts by )

    (No, this post is not about sex…sorry. Nor is it about electrical engineering, though it might at first give that impression.)

    The often-interesting General Electric blog has an article about drones, linked to a cloud-based AI platform, which are used to inspect power lines and detect incipient problems–for example, vegetation which is threatening to encroach on the lines and short them out, or a transformer with a tendency to overheat.  The article mentions a 2003 event in which an encounter between an overgrown tree branch and a sagging power line resulted in a wide-area blackout that affected 50 million people.

    The inspection drone sounds like a very useful and productivity-improving tool: obviously, inspecting thousands of miles of power lines is nontrivial job. But the deeper issue, IMO, is the fact that one problem in one place can propagate over such a wide area and affect such a vast number of people.  Power system designers and the people who operate these systems are certainly aware of the need to minimize fault propagation:  circuit breakers and fuses, network analysis tools,  and the technologies of protective relaying were developed, by GE among others, precisely for reasons of fault localization.  But experience shows that large-scale fault propagation still sometimes does take place.

    This problem is not limited to electrical systems.  The mention of the tree-branch-caused 2003 blackout reminded me of a passage from the historian Hendrik Willem Van Loon:

    Unfortunately in the year 1914 the whole world was one large international workshop. A strike in the Argentine was apt to cause suffering in Berlin. A raise in the price of certain raw materials in London might spell disaster to tens of thousands of long-suffering Chinese coolies who had never even heard of the existence of the big city on the Thames. The invention of some obscure Privat-Dozent in a third-rate German university would often force dozens of Chilean banks to close their doors, while bad management on the part of an old commercial house in Gothenburg might deprive hundreds of little boys and girls in Australia of a chance to go to college.

    This probably overstates the interconnectedness of the global economy as it existed in 1914, but would fit our present-day global economy very well.  (The author was talking about the origins of WWI, which he blamed largely on economic interconnectedness…not correct, IMO, but the war was largely caused, or at least reached the scale that it did, because of another type of interconnectedness…in the shape of alliances.)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Capitalism, Deep Thoughts, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Trump, War and Peace | 18 Comments »

    The Third Place

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 8th November 2018 (All posts by )

    Saloon

    I am reading, by listening to the audio, a book called The Revolt of the Elites, which was written in 1996 but I just discovered it.

    The theme, which is quite timely, is that there are two worlds in this country; that of the elites and that of everyone else. From a review on Amazon:

    Lasch was most active in the late twentieth century yet it would seem he was seeing into the future with this book and his equally (or more) famous book, The Culture of Narcissism. In Revolt of the Elites he posits that the degeneration of Western Democracy has been caused by the abandonment by the wealthy and educated elites of their responsibilities to support culture, education, the building of public facilities, etc. in these societies. The rich and educated in Western Liberal, Capitalist, Democracies have, since the 1970s, increasingly abandoned society, keeping all of their earnings to themselves and have adopted a listless transient existence forgoing any significant commitments to community.

    He makes the point that we are no longer one nation with even the well off participating in the community. We lead separate lives.

    One example of this he calls the “Third Place,” a place where the community gets together. One place is work and another is home. The Third Place used to be a gathering place where all classes could mingle and get to know each other. In my own life it was the neighborhood tavern. My father was in the Juke Box business when I was a child and he spent quite a bit of time in taverns as that was where his business was. Two taverns that I remember quite well were owned by good friends of my father’s. One served as an answering service for service calls from other taverns. Both were neighborhood places which had many customers from nearly all classes. The very rich tended not to be there but I remember quite successful businessmen and their wives who attended parties and barbecues. The tavern would have softball teams for younger customers. One of them had a private ball field across the street that was owned by the tavern owner.

    The other tavern was not far away and among its regular customers were a wealthy heiress and her husband who had been a professional golfer. Every Sunday after Mass, there was a group that would always congregate there for an hour or two before going home. Most of the regulars did not visit each other at home, but did their socializing at the tavern.

    When I was a medical student, we visited New York City in August 1965 and the friends whose apartment where we stayed, were regular customers of the local tavern. One our one visit to the tavern, the friend pointed out all the men there without women. The wives and children were all at the “shore” for the hot month of August.

    The VFW and the Elks Club and Fraternal Order of Moose served the same purpose for many. My father was an Elk. There is a scene in the Clint Eastwood movie, “Gran Torino” that shows him socializing with the friends at the VFW. (Has it been the years since that movie ?)

    Those third places are pretty much gone. The country club and even the yacht club, where I spent a lot of time socializing, are not the same. There is an economic issue although yacht clubs are full of crew members who are not members of the club but are welcome.

    The divisiveness and tribalism we see in the elections and in the national politics are probably consequences of the lack such mixing bowls of democracy.

    Posted in Book Notes, Chicagoania, Civil Society, Culture, Human Behavior, Politics | 51 Comments »

    Nicely Put

    Posted by David Foster on 3rd November 2018 (All posts by )

    Bill Reader, at Sarah Hoyt’s blog, speaking of American democracy:

    It is also remarkable in how undramatic it was in its conception, admitting the probability that people with some flawed ideas are not flawed in all ideas—that extreme measures to silence a person because of disagreement, even totally valid disagreement over things that are an existential threat to the nation, would throw many babies out with the bathwater and render the country draconian and uncomfortable in the meanwhile.

    A very good point–someone having bad ideas, or at least ideas that we think are bad, does not mean that he doesn’t also have good ideas.

    One thing that I have noticed about “Progressives” is that their categorization engines tend to be over-aggressive:  if someone has any of the opinions/beliefs in a particular list, then it is assumed that he/she also has all other beliefs in that list.  For example, IIRC, I’ve seen commenters assail our friend Bookworm for being an Evangelical Christian, whereas actually, she is Jewish. They simply cannot grasp that there might be a Trump-supporting human who is in material ways unlike their mental model of Trump supporters (uneducated, angry, anti-sex, highly-religious Christian, etc).

    The quoted passage is from a very interesting essay that is worth reading in full.

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Leftism, Trump, USA | 9 Comments »

    Swipe Left if You Support (that other political party)

    Posted by David Foster on 16th October 2018 (All posts by )

    Four years ago, I posted But Would You Want Your Daughter to Marry One?, which showed a sharp increase in the % of parents who would be displeased if their son or daughter were to marry a supporter of the opposing party.  I was reminded of this post by the launch of a dating app called Donald Daters, intended for single supporters of President Trump.  It seems to fill a need: one early user remarked that he would meet women on other dating apps, but often on the first date, politics would come up.  “Literally didn’t matter if I had cured cancer for the whole world or if I was the best-looking man on the planet, these ladies turned into hardcore Trump-hating people and needless to say, we didn’t see each other again because it was a dealbreaker for them.”

    Another user says just a few years ago, he didn’t find that people cared so much about political opinions. “It just shocks me that people aren’t willing to listen to each other anymore,” he said. “So might as well just look for someone with the same set of ethics, morals and common sense.”  (He says he would absolutely be open to dating someone who wasn’t a Trump fan.)

    (If you’re interested in using this app yourself, you might want to wait a while–from the article, it sounds like there may be some early security issues with the product.)

    See also my related post Life in the Fully Politicized Society, continued.

    Posted in Human Behavior, Society, USA | 15 Comments »

    Humor…Machine and Human

    Posted by David Foster on 23rd September 2018 (All posts by )

    There have been some articles lately, in Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal for example, concerning efforts to give Artificial Intelligence systems something resembling a simulated sense of humor.

    Interesting research, perhaps, but at this juncture I’m less concerned above providing a sense of humor for AI systems than maintaining a sense of humor for human beings.  Several professional comedians have commented about the increasing difficulty of doing comedy in an environment of hysterical political correctness.  But even more important is the degree to which fear of denunciation and mobbing seems to be affecting personal life and workplace behavior.

    Effective organizations, at least in this country, have tended to involve a certain level of easy interaction–including kidding around–among people.  What happens when we lose this?

    I suspect that the productivity impact, although hard to measure directly, will be quite significant.  As will the impact on the happiness and mental health of individual humans.

    Posted in Business, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Leftism, Management | 9 Comments »

    Summer Rerun: The Five-Pound Butterfly Revisited

    Posted by David Foster on 17th September 2018 (All posts by )

    Several years ago, the WSJ wrote about the tendency of many companies to do hiring based on a long string of highly-specific (and excessively-specific) requirements. One person interviewed remarked that “Companies are looking for a five-pound butterfly. Not finding them doesn’t mean there is a shortage of butterflies.”

    Since that article was written, the five-pound butterfly effect has probably gotten worse rather than better in the business world. (Until very recently–see below.)  But hunting for five-pound butterflies also seems to be increasingly affecting other areas of life, including college admissions and the search for love and marriage.

    First I’ll talk about the five-pound butterfly effect in a business context and then develop its applicability to other areas. The WSJ article mentioned a company that makes automobile bumper parts and was looking for a factory shift supervisor. They eliminated all candidates who didn’t have a BS degree, even though many had relevant experience, and also insisted on experience with the specific manufacturing software that was in use at the plant. It took six months to fill this job (during which time the position was being filled by someone who wouldn’t ultimately be chosen for it.) Another company, Wabtec, which makes components for railcars and buses, insisted on knowledge of a specific version of the computer-aided design system it uses, even though the differences between that version and the earlier version were not all that great.

    And as the article (which focused mainly on engineering jobs) didn’t mention…there were certainly talented salespeople who didn’t get hired this week because they lacked specific experience with the particular sales automation or customer resource management system being used..knowledge that they could have easily picked up during their first week or two on the job.

    As I said in my original post inspired by the WSJ article: It’s a basic reality of life that you can’t optimize everything at once. So, if you insist on a perfect fit for certain things, you are probably getting less of some other attributes–and these may be ones that matter more. I’d personally rather have a salesman who has demonstrated (for example) skill at managing the customer politics in a large and complex sale than one who has specific experience with the Snarkolator CRM system. It’s a lot easier to train for the second than for the first.

    Similarly, if a newly-hired mechanical engineer doesn’t work out, the cause will probably not be his lack of experience with the latest version of a CAD system. More likely, it will be a lack of good design intuition…or poor interpersonal skills…or an inability to integrate mechanical design with electrical and electronics aspects of the same product…or fit with the cultural style of the organization. Maybe he comes from an environment where he was closely supervised, and the new environment is more open and requires more self-starting…or vice versa. These things are not easily represented in “checklist” form, as is knowledge of a specific software package and version, but they matter a lot. The problem with increasingly long lists of requirements is that they tend to shortchange those things that cannot be easily compressed into a yes/no format, and also tend to screen out potential employees whose extreme excellence on certain criteria could well make up for their deficiencies in others.

    Moving from work to love…there are apparently a lot of single people (especially women, it seems) who have developed long checklists for prospective partners. (It’s rumored that one woman had something like 350 items on her “mandatory” list.) As in the work environment, long checklists tend to delay the search..but more important, they can shortchange the factors that matter most. If someone insists on a prospective husband who is an investment banker with a good sense of humor and cooks gourmet meals and really likes kids, then she might, if she is very lucky, eventually find someone who satisfies all these criteria to some degree…but the sense of humor might not be quite as great, and the liking for kids not quite as strong, as if she were willing to compromise on the investment banker and the gourmet meals criteria. (And, of course, there are plenty of factors that operate below the conscious level and can’t be meaningfully represented on a checklist at all.)

    (Update 9/17/18:  There are some indications that, as full employment gets closer, more employers are willing to compromise on educational requirements, and also experience requirements.)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Blogging, Education, Human Behavior, Management, USA | 10 Comments »