Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Should voters be allowed to pick Mary Ann?

There is a clear division between those who would pick Ginger and those who would pick Mary Ann. In most polls Mary Ann wins. But this is problematic. Are voters making a rational choice? Mary Ann voters describe her as more stable, low-maintenance, kind. Ginger on the other hand is described as manipulative, selfish, demanding. But these are illusions. After all, we know nothing about either except what they look and sound like. They are fictional roles played by actresses.The highly educated should be able to see this. And indeed they favour Ginger. Ginger, most agree, gives off more signs of female arousal. This might explain why Ginger polls better with the young, especially 17 year old boys. And Scots prefer Ginger, perhaps due to her colouring. So then: the highly educated, the adolescents, and the Scots favour Ginger.
My question is, should people be allowed to pick Mary Ann?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Trump's Rude Rhetoric

A common lament I hear is that, since Trump is such a rude, crass boor, his supporters can only be drawn to his policy positions. This is usually followed by a highly selective list of his alleged positions and the conclusion that those people must be awful in so many ways. I think this is quite wrong. Trump's main appeal is his persona. Seeing it simply as crass rude boorishness misses something important that other people see.

If you are like me you do not know in person any Trump supporters. I suggest that says more about you (and me) than about Trump. I  suggest it means there are some class determined reactions (and possibly some class prejudice) at work. In particular I think that the perception of Trump as just a rude boor is class dependent. I want to explain that here.

I will begin (naturally) with Jane Austen. If you read her novels you discover that in her time the word "condescending" was a compliment. This is because she lived in a hierarchical class society. If one person of a higher standing deigned -- and that is the right word -- to allow familiarity with a person of a lower standing that was considered kind and giving -- that was it was to condescend. In the English class system there's a lot of bowing and scraping, and tugging the forelock. A person of lower status was expected to acknowledge the higher standing of others. Tradesman use the trade entrance. And there is one kind of behaviour I will come back to: apologizing. People of lower status were expected to apologize for incommoding their betters, and would often apologize for things we would never think deserve an apology now (just watch Downton Abbey). The person of higher standing had the *right* to expect an apology, and an apology was often a sign of deference, not an acknowledgment of having done wrong. Apology, deference, and status are intertwined.

And we no longer see condescending as a good thing. It infuriates, and it invites puncturing, don't you think?

Consider what is called an "honour culture". In these each person (especially men) have honour that they must at all costs defend. This is the prime directive in an honour culture: you must accept no slight to it. This is what leads to duels.

Most honor cultures are hierarchical. And in such an action that would be seen as a slight by a peer (or an inferior) might be accepted from a superior. You can bend the knee to the king. But if a peer acts as if he were a superior, and demands a symbol of deference, that would be a an attack upon your honour. Hence, again, duels. And there's an odd thing about duels: participants often did not really seek to harm each other, and only demanded that honor be satisfied. The duel was not about redressing harm but protecting honor.

All this seems like odd anachronistic piffle to most of us; these are not things people like us do. That's our class's upbringing. Not everyone shared it.

There is in America a broad rigourously egalitarian subculture, often called Jacksonian. It is mostly lower and lower middle class. It is a culture of bar fights over an insult. It is also a culture with some complex rules about apologies. A demand for an apology can be seen as demand for deference. That must be resisted, even if an apology is warranted by a wrong done. It could be tricky to negotiate the apology, so you often have an intercessor. You've seen movies where a woman asks a man, who clearly owes an apology, to do it "for her", and he does. Or where a minister intervenes and gets both an apology and a token of respect in return. These are examples of taking the stink off, making plain the apology is not an act of submission.

And in an egalitarian culture, "condescending" is not a compliment.

So imagine now you are part of this  egalitarian honour culture and someone whom you think condescending demands of you an apology for something trivial, or without even a real harm he has suffered. Where you see the deamnd as a demand for deference. How do you react? You react "Hell, no!" And if the demand is made repeatedly, or with insults, how do you react? Hell no with an insult back. And how do you react if someone who claims to be on your side is treated that way? Hell no. Duelling is passe.

Many voters see attacks on Trump, and the demands that he apologize, as being just like this: illicit demands for deference. They see him saying "hell no!" And they like it. He is defending his honour, and by extension theirs, from what are percieved as attacks upon it by condescending poseurs.

Let's consider a notorious example, one where everyone of my class simply condemns Trump immediately: his showdown with Megyn Kelly. You can see how someone might think a woman who makes millions mostly on the basis of her looks, and who is part of the media, might be seen as pampered and superior by some. And then she demands of Donald Trump an apology *for something not done to her*. Can some voters have seen that as an illicit demand for an apology-as-deference, a tactic? She asserting the right to demand an apology, when she suffered no harm herself. And especially when they don't find much of what Trump said that unusual or outrageous in the first place? And the Kelly case is one of the worst for Trump, there are many where his behaviour is less egregious and the demands for apology as loud. The culture is awash in PC demands for apologies and symbolic penance. There's a lot of stuff that deserves a loud Hell no! and Trump is the only guy saying it. Further demands that he apologize for doing *that* just feed the cycle.

So that's my theory. People like me, products of our upbringing, have a hard time understanding why anyone could like Trump, because we only see one way of reading his behaviour.  There is another, I think millions see it that way, and that that is key to his appeal. His policies are secondary.

Jerry Coyne exemplifies what I am arguing against here. After lamenting Trump's boorishness he wonders about what can drive his (awful, awful) supporters: "one can only guess that they share his views." Well, which views? Trump has broken records in GOP primaries. Did he do it by supporting gay marriage and transgender bathrooms? By condemning the foreign policy of the last Republican president? His long-standing support for public health care or his support of funding Planned Parenthood? This is the way to a Republican's heart? Politics is rarely about policy; I don't see that it must be here.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Oily Elton John

I wouldn’t normally link this, but Reggae Dwight won a court order preventing me from doing so. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016


The most important part of the video isn't the Prime Minister elbowing a woman he disagrees with. It is the Liberal caucus applauding after he does so.

Monday, May 16, 2016


Whom I had never heard of, but his first symphony is pleasant.

Monday, April 11, 2016

LK on computers, a history.

A computer will never  beat a chess master  beat a chess grandmaster  translate a language  drive a car  diagnose a disease  win at Go shit.

Friday, February 26, 2016


Having reconciled myself to Trump as the GOP nominee I find I am not depressed.

Oh for sure I think we will get a bad president, be it Trump or Sanders or Clinton. And bad presidents matter. So why am I not depressed?

Because Trumpism and Bernieism make me hopeful. Not because the candidates have good policies or good ideas, or would make good leaders. Because it shows Americans are pushing back on those who see themselves as the Eloi, and the rest as Morlocks; because of the growing rejection of PC and its mau-mauing; because of the anger at insider deals and law-is-for-peasants; because of an assertion of pride.

A great rejection is brewing. It is still inchoate, it still hasn't found the right spokesmen, but it's there and it won't be going away.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

My Low Hanging Fruit Platform

1. End the war on drugs. Immediately. Repeal the laws, stop the interdictions, stop actions abroad, release everyone in jail for simple possession.
2. Ban public sector unions. Honor existing union contracts until they expire.
3. School vouchers for all.
4. Body cameras for all cops. Make single party recording legal.
5. Destroy ISIS

Okay, 5 isn’t low hanging fruit. But there it is. Ken B in ’16.

My guess is the next president does none of these things. 

Zinoviev Speaks Out!


Friday, December 4, 2015

Friday, November 13, 2015

Brave Sir Robin Goes to College

Whodda thunk it? Donald Trump has emerged as the candidate with the sanest take on Mizzou.
"I think it's just disgusting. I think the two people who resigned are weak, ineffective people... When they resigned, they set something in motion that's going to be a disaster for the next long period of time.... Many of those [demands by protesters] are like crazy."
This is right. Those professors had tenure, and tenure exists for a reason, not just to make their lives easier. If they aren’t willing to stand up to this mau-mauing they have failed in a responsibility they freely undertook; they had a duty to other students and they abdicated.

Alan Dershowitz agrees with me:
“It is free speech for me, but not for thee. Universities should not tolerate this kind of double standard… If you’re going to be a college administrator or a professor, if you have tenure, you have to speak back to the students,  you have to call these things what they are: double standards, hypocrisy, bigotry, McCarthyism, and the fog of fascism is descending quickly over many American universities.”

And he’s not the only one.

This failure is like chum in the water. So it spreads.  From a statement by the group Amherst Uprising:
5. President Martin must issue a statement to the Amherst College community at large that states we do not tolerate the actions of student(s) who posted the “All Lives Matter” and “Free Speech” posters. Also let the student body know that it was racially insensitive to the students of color on our college campus and beyond who are victim to racial harassment and death threats; alert them that Student Affairs may require them to go through the Disciplinary Process if a formal complaint is filed, and that they will be required to attend extensive training for racial and cultural competency.

And another example.
But this student paper's editorial is fantastic. F*ckin' A right.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Answering Callahan's Visions

Since Gene Callahan has stopped posting my comments on his blog I'll reply here.

Gene made this remarkable statement:
"I don't know if Hildegard was having genuine revelations or not, but I do know that whether or not she was having migraines has nothing to do with answering the first question."

I pointed out that it does have quite a lot to do with "answering the question."
The issue after all is is whether we should say the visions came from god or something else. That's pretty much what "answering the questions" consists of.
It is logically possible that Arnold Schwarzenegger traveled back in time to show her flash cards, but if there is a simple, parsimonious natural explanation available we shouldn't accept that one.
And there is. Our eyes, optic nerves, and brain are a machine for seeing. This machine can malfunction, and see things that were not there. If I hit you on the head very hard and give you a concussion you might for a while see double. If you stare at the sun and walk into a dark room you still see a spot where the sun was.
We know that migraines  result in the sufferer experiencing light patterns.  This is a perfectly mundane explanation of why a 12th century woman might have seen light patterns. And it is not the only one possible.

  Gene dug in his heels with one remarkable bit of inconsistency.
"To turn that into 'God is the only explanation!' is really pretty bad. And note: that is absolutely not what they did in the Middle Ages! The Church was very skeptical of people who had 'visions,' and investigated very thoroughly before they would let anyone claim they were from God."
What I asked, in a comment Gene would not publish, did those investigations consist of?
Largely of ruling out simpler explanations. They decided she wasn't lying; they decided no neighbor has holding placards. Simpler explanations discarded. Twelfth century churchmen didn't consider neuroanatomy I'm guessing. They knew less about brains and vision than we do; our list of simpler explanations isn't constrained by their ignorance.

There is more along these lines. Enough to give one a headache.


"The tooth fairy came daddy!"
"Now Gene, you're over 50 years old, you shouldn't believe in the tooth fairy anymore. That was me. I snuck into your room while you slept and took your tooth."
"But he left a quarter daddy!"
"Now Gene, we've discussed this. I have a videotape of me sneaking into your room. Your mother is a witness. My fingerprints are on the quarter. I have your tooth in my pocket. I did it."
"That does not mean the tooth fairy didn't make you do it! He acted through you. So it's STILL the tooth fairy!"
"Now Gene, you know that you don't need the tooth fairy to explain my actions. They can be explained either by causation -- normal biological stuff -- or by my free will, depending on which you believe in, but in no case do I need to postulate a tooth fairy pulling my strings. Let's just leave aside talk of the tooth fairy."
"That's no proof! The tooth fairy could be controlling your every movement your every thought your every belief! He could be causing you to believe that you acted from free will, or physical causation, whilst it is he doing it all along! Disprove it!!"