Turn Off, Tune Out and Drop Out

Timothy Leary coined the phrase “Turn on, tune in, drop out” in the 1960’s. According to the Wiki entry, it was 1967 and may very well have been a marketing ploy. The Wiki entry is a little vague on that, but Leary was the PT Barnum of his day. Getting people to see the wolf boy or bearded lady is no different than signing people up for a “be-in.” The way in which the barker profits is different, but the retail end is the same. The suckers are reeled in and sold something they cannot take with them. In Leary’s case, he was all about being famous. That got him writing and speaking gigs, which were mostly about maintaining his fame. He was the drug addled Madonna of his day, I suppose.

Anyway, that phrase came to mind when I saw this on Tyler Cowen’s site. As I get older, I find I disconnect from pop culture in various ways. I probably stopped being current with music in the late 1990’s. Using this as a guide, my decoupling from the pop music pod started around 1995. By the time I was hoarding canned goods for the Y2K collapse, I was largely oblivious to what was current in pop music. For instance, I’ve never heard Christina Aguilera sing a note, as far as I know. According to her Wiki page, she would qualify as a fake Hispanic, assuming she is levering that multi-cultural stone. That means I’m over a decade removed from giving a crap about the Top-40.

Popular music has always been a young man’s game. My grandfather listened to big band and swing until he died. He thought rock was garbage. He was right, for the most part. It required a great deal more talent to create big band music than rock and roll. The men and women performing in those bands were infinity more accomplished as musician than Elvis. My parents stalled out around the end of the Motown Era. As a kid I recall them listening to Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck and Diana Ross. They thought the Beatles and Stones were bums. The point being is that men put aside pop music as they mature so I’m hardly an outlier. The oddity today is the delayed onset adulthood where men stay juveniles into their 30’s.

This long wind up is not without purpose. Pop culture is for kids. Pop technology is for kids too. In my youth, young whipper-snappers were dialing up to the BBS to have a flame war over such hot topics as baseball stats and comic book characters. Somewhere when I was decoupling from the pop music pod, kids were instant messaging and then texting. I and my coevals were late to the game. By the time we were into it, other social media was growing up. I was late to Facebook and never did MySpace. I’ve been on twitter for just a  year and barely use it. As best I can tell, Facebook is the domain of grandparents and foreigners now. American youth is onto twitter and instagram.

As the population of the West grows older, I wonder if the new trend will not be neo-Luddite movements like the title of this post. The Boomers in America are in the age range of 68 at the high end and 53 at the low end. I know, I know. Demographers say the boom lasted to 1965, but that’s a stretch. Live births to white females started to drop in 1960 and rabidly declined from there. Anyone born in the mid-to-late 60’s knows the weird feeling of seeing a big student population in the higher grades and hardly anyone in the lower grades. My little league went from ten teams for my brother down to four me me.

The typical 65 year old is not taking up vine or instagram. They may be on Facebook, but that’s their last new thing. The folks at the other end are probably in the same boat. They may take up twitter, but that’s it for them. As this cohort abandons their property around the country and moves into retirement villages in the south and southwest, face-to-face interaction will become the pleasure of old age. We may be near a point where the generation that wanted to take drugs and hangout in the park will end up taking drugs and hanging out in the day room at the home – on purpose.

The Trouble With Econ

Steve Sailer has a post up tonight on the impracticality of economics. Well, that’s what it seems to be about, but I could be missing the point. I could be off-base, but I’ve always got the sense Sailer has little respect for economics. I’ve said on many occasions that it falls somewhere below palm reading on the empiricism scale so I could be reading my own bias into his work. It is manifestly true that the business world has little use for economics majors. Everyone I know with an econ degree from an elite school either went to work for the government, Wall Street or went off to graduate school. On the other hand, I’ve met thousands of accounting majors at all levels of business. In almost every case, they were state school products. Some got an MBA later in life as they levered up the corporate pyramid.

Jim Manzi, when he wrote for National Review, would go off on economics, comparing it to witchcraft. In fact, I exchanged e-mails with him once on that very topic. IIRC, I called it witchcraft and he said I was unkind to witches. His excellent book on trial and error is, in subtle ways, a broadside on the economics profession as well as the public policy barnacles that cling to the profession. Manzi is a nuts and bolts guy who made his money selling software to people. Sailer, from what I can tell, made his money in business. Business people, in my experience, have a special contempt for theoretical economics. I suspect the reason is they see economists in the same way sports coaches see the press corp. That is, they are a group of self=proclaimed experts who have never got their hands dirty. It reminds me of this classic movie scene:

I disagree with Steve about why economists get sucked into the open borders and free trade uber alles stuff. Culture is hard. The human condition is depressing. The suicide cult we call liberalism makes both even more difficult. You can get yourself in a lot of trouble in the academy by sticking up for culture. Denying the perfectibility of man could get you branded a Christian, which means the end of your career. If you ant to work in economics and you are not a socialist, the way to survive is to avoid culture and the human condition. Stick to the pseudo-emperical stuff and you inevitably fall into libertarianism. Liberalism and libertarianism hold one thing in common. They exclude all the stuff that makes human societies work.

The Rise of Fake Black People

Pop culture is all around me, but I notice little of it. My television is for watching sports when time permits. Otherwise, I would not own one. I do watch a car show from time to time, but I don’t think that qualifies as pop culture. Movies are just as foreign to me. I rented a few for the holiday weekend. All had been released last year or earlier and I know few of the actors staring in them. When it comes to music I am completely ignorant of what is current. Last night looking for the football game I bumped into a show featuring a sad looking Elton John and a hideous skank on stage playing piano. The TV said the show was Lady Gaga & The Muppets. Poor Elton appeared to have two black eyes so I assume they had to beat the hell out of him in order to get him on stage with the skank.

The point of the setup is to underscore my ignorance of pop culture. When I saw this on Drudge, I had to google the name “Kanye West” in order to learn why it is he is famous. I’ve heard the name, but I only know he married the Armenian women with the fat ass who is the current Paris Hilton. He is a singer, most likely of hip-hop, therefore he cannot sing without electronic enhancement. Therefore, his skill is pretending to be from the ghetto in a way that gets elderly Jewish men excited. That way they can sell his crap to suburban white boys who think it is cool to be an underclass black guy from the inner city. Pop culture, to quote John Derbyshire, is filth. Or, in Ebonics, filfth.

Using Wiki, I see that Kanye is about as authentically black as I am. He was born to talent tenth parents. He was raised by a mother who was a college professor. Some portion of his childhood was spent in China. All of his childhood was around upper middle-class pseudo radicals you see around universities. My guess, given the background of his father, that his parents were communists or Marxists. When that fell out of fashion they went onto other fads popular in over-class society. The point being that Kanye’s parents built their lives on pleasing upper class white liberals and Kanye was blessed with the same skills. Instead of black power he sells hip-hop to the little white boys and girls.

This seems to be a common theme with famous black people. There are plenty of whites and Jews who start from humble beginnings and make it big in pop culture. It strikes me that blacks, even in areas like hip-hop, most often come from middle-class families and middle-class lifestyles. They make their money pretending to be a type of black person in public, but live like Victorians in private, mostly surrounding themselves with whites from their class. The fat Armenian he married is from a wealthy real estate family, if I recall. Maybe I’m confusing her with the hotel skank. I get my skank’s confused sometimes. Regardless, I recall she is from a wealthy family. Kanye was not hooking up with a shorty from the ‘hood. Instead he went with a rich white girl.

This is nothing new. The dawn of pop cultures was Jews selling black music and black culture to middle class white kids. The popular stars of the 30’s and 40’s stole much of their acts from blacks. They white-washed it so it was not obvious, but they were peddling black culture. In the 50’s and 60’s it became explicit and eventually blacks were allowed to get in on the act. The formula was the same, even when blacks got on stage doing their thing in the raw. Rich whites selling black culture to middle class white kids. The folks back in the ‘hood never saw a nickel and most of the performers were ripped off by their handlers.

That’s the great change in the last two decades. Instead of Jews selling black culture through well-behaved blacks, the well-behaved blacks are selling black culture. In the old days, the black performers chaffed under the rules, often getting themselves in trouble by being too “authentic” which means too black. Today, the black performers chaff at having to be too black because otherwise they would resemble something closer to a British colonial officer. I think that’s why Kanye West blurts out a rant about Jews. In the ghetto, blacks hate Jews so Kanye gets to “keep it real” by channeling his inner Mel Gibson, laughing all the way to the bank.

Happy Thanksgiving

This the best holiday of the year. Four day weekend. Food and football. No gift giving. No religious stuff. I’m not religious, but very much in favor Christianity. I just hate hearing the fruitcakes bitch about Christianity so a holiday with no religious angles is great. Put it all together and you have a great holiday. The pleasant surprise this year is the temps are down in the 20’s and 30’s across the country. I like winter, but I love watching the global warming cult panic when it snows in November. This should be sent to every global warming freak today:

Otherwise, enjoy the day!

Heisman Voting

I’ve never cared much for the Heisman Trophy. It is like the MVP trophies in various sports in that it is a beauty contest judged by dimwits. Most of the voters for the Heisman barely follow the sport. They show up for national games and maybe follow the local team. Gerry Callahan of the Boston Herald is a Heisman voter and never watched college football. He is currently unaware of the candidate in his backyard, BC tailback Andrew Williams. Only in sports do we rely on the least informed to pick the winner of the biggest trophy in the sport. Even Hollywood knows better than to rely on journalists for their awards. But, having a BC Eagle in the race has me interested.

The pressing question is should you vote for a guy who may be a rapist? That’s the question for most voters. My guess is 80% of the voters were prepared to vote for Winston. The rest would have voted for Winston, but knowing he was going to win they throw  sympathy vote to a local favorite or a small school player. Voters often use this as a chance to announce their piety. Now it is not so easy as we don’t know if Jameis Winston is a rapist. All we know is he had sex with a woman not his wife or girlfriend and she immediately claimed it was rape. We also know the cops did nothing with it until the press go the story. It could be (probably is) a shake down by a women looking for free money. It could be buyer’s remorse. Women have a habit of regretting one night stands. Modern feminist mythology encourages them to cry rape once they sober up.

The lazy argument, one we’ll see from sports columnists, is that you should only worry about the stuff on the field. I’m sure if Winston stood accused of saying unkind things about homosexuals, Doyle would be leading the charge to keep him off the ballot. Admittedly, I would hold a different view if he were accused of being mean to homosexuals instead of this. I consider rape a serious crime. Saying bad things about queers is unimportant to me. Given what we know and what history tells us, it is hard to imagine the police charging the kid so holding it against him seems wrong. but, there’s that risk. I would be unhappy if I voted for a guy who was subsequently booked on rape.

The Non-Ideological Ideologues

I don’t know Paul Pillar or his politics. He could be a random drunk off the street for all I know. i do know is column on the Iran deal is nonsense on stilts. The reason I know that is this part:

For anyone who genuinely wants to avoid an Iranian nuclear weapon and whose attitude toward the nuclear negotiations with Iran has not been shaped by some other agenda, the “Joint Plan of Action” that was agreed to in Geneva this weekend is a major achievement that deserves enthusiastic applause.

When you start with a “no true Scotsman” fallacy, it is safe to assume you have staked out an indefensible position. In this case, anyone who thinks the deal is a bad one or defective in some way is guilty of having a hidden agenda. or, worse still, wants to see Iran get the bomb. if he had come to this conclusion after an exhaustive analysis of the various criticisms and alternative, maybe it is Ok to make the claim. To go with the weakest, lamest logical fallacy available as your opening gambit indicates to the reader that there is no need to read the rest. Just take his word for it. it also indicates the writer does not posses an organized mind.

It actually gets worse. His first point is that the deal makes it harder for Iran to get a bomb.

First, it unmistakably moves Iran farther away than it is now from any ability to make a nuclear weapon, and even farther away from any such ability it would have in the future in the absence of this agreement. Among the facets of the deal that do this are the stopping of enrichment of uranium to 20 percent and the conversion of all current material enriched to this level into forms making it unavailable for enrichment to the level required for weapons.

That sounds good except Iran has never stood by any of its past deals. Why should we believe them now?

Second, Iran’s program will be subjected to an unprecedented degree of international inspection, going beyond the treaty obligations of Iran or any other country and providing additional assurance that any Iranian departure from the terms of the agreement would be quickly detected.

How is this different than what has been in place for a decade or so? He does not say. The Iranians, however, have weighed on on this point.

Addressing concerns over the language in the agreement between the six world powers and Iran regarding Tehran’s ability to continue work on its nuclear program, Rouhani said, “Let anyone make his own reading, but this right is clearly stated in the text of the agreement that Iran can continue its enrichment, and I announce to our people that our enrichment activities will continue as before.”

It is no wonder the rest of the world is laughing at us. It is one thing for the French to sign off on these silly deals. No one cares what the French have to say about anything. France is a minor country with no influence. The world does care what the US has to say. When we blunder into Iraq, it matters. When we keep blundering into Afghanistan, it matters. When we screw over an old ally because they have a long relationship with the Bush family, the world notices. When we screw over an old ally because the party in charge seems to hate Jews, the world takes note.

I’m one who thinks we should disengage from the region. Buying oil and gas does not require a million troops in and around the region. Selling the Saudis and Israelis the tools to keep the really bad actors under control can be done from a distance. We can certainly give them quiet assistance if they need to put a beating on one of these bad actors. Otherwise, it is not our problem. Deliberately helping the bad actors get nukes, however,  is madness.

The Paul Pillar guy and this administration suffer from the same delusion. That is, they think everyone is an ideologue, except them. They are the empiricists, weighing the facts and rendering sound judgments. They are so convinced of this that they cannot even consider an alternative to their own tightly held beliefs. The irony of their position is lost on them, which is what makes it so bizarre. It takes a special sort of narrow mindedness to be so obtuse. But, here we are.


I’ve always been a low carb diet guy. When I played sports as a kid, we were told that athletes should eat loads of protein and few carbs. Into adulthood, I ignored the conventional wisdom and stuck with the low-carb diet when watching my weight. I never heard of Atkins until a few years ago, but I had to laugh that someone was making a buck off it. Wrestlers and swimmers have know for decades that low-carb, high protein diets result in better muscle growth and lower body fat. I still get lectures about eating too many eggs or too much meat. Of course, the government is always lecturing us about our food. That horse faced first lady is a pest about it. She’s always out yelling about the kids not eating arugula or something.

Now it looks like the Swedes are breaking ranks and joining me on the fatty side of the plate.

Butter, olive oil, heavy cream, and bacon are not harmful foods. Quite the opposite. Fat is the best thing for those who want to lose weight. And there are no connections between a high fat intake and cardiovascular disease.

On Monday, SBU, the Swedish Council on Health Technology Assessment, dropped a bombshell. After a two-year long inquiry, reviewing 16,000 studies, the report “Dietary Treatment for Obesity” upends the conventional dietary guidelines for obese or diabetic people.

For a long time, the health care system has given the public advice to avoid fat, saturated fat in particular, and calories. A low-carb diet (LCHF – Low Carb High Fat, is actually a Swedish “invention”) has been dismissed as harmful, a humbug and as being a fad diet lacking any scientific basis.

Instead, the health care system has urged diabetics to eat a lot of fruit (=sugar) and low-fat products with considerable amounts of sugar or artificial sweeteners, the latter a dangerous trigger for the sugar-addicted person.

This report turns the current concepts upside down and advocates a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet, as the most effective weapon against obesity.

The thing about carbohydrates is they make you hungry. It is why Chinese food does not stick with you. It is (the round eye version) loaded with carbs and often simple carbs like sugar. The calories are not the issue. It is metabolism and blood sugar. Humans evolved over a million years eating meat, bugs, fish and edible wild greens. When available, fruits and vegetables were eaten by our ancestors. Even into recent times, meat was the main part of the diet. We were designed, if you will, to eat meat because it is packed with energy. A nice hunk of blubber can keep you going through the worst winter. it is not hard to see why hominids that were good at digesting meat and fat would thrive. Packing out gut with vegetables now is like putting coal in your gas tank.


Lesson From The Market: Software

I go to a tony upscale grocery store. It is like Whole Foods without the weird liberal aspects. I’ve often noted that shopping at Whole Foods is a public display of piety. Howe else can you explain educated people paying double for fruits and vegetables? I recall being in one of the progenitor outlets called Bread & Circuses in Brookline Mass  and seeing people pay $10/pound for organic chicken. At the time, chicken was $2 a pound and would go on sale for half that price. I know for a fact that organic chicken tastes just like regular chicken so the only reason to buy the organic stuff was a public statement.  That was an easy conclusion since the shelves had signs with sanctimonious claims about the glory of organic chicken. My store is not that bad, but it serves a similar crowd. Loads of people show up with canvas sacks, for example.

The point here is that it is an upscale store serving upscale white suburbanites. These are folks who can be terribly fussy about small things. At checkout, the software they employ is clearly legacy stuff. Judging from the interface, I’m going to say it is written in COBOL. You can sort of tell by the blue screen with red highlights. It could be some form of business basic or maybe even Clipper/Foxpro. Regardless, it is old stuff, probably written for them two decades ago. Checkout is fast and efficient. The clerks never struggle to price an item or look up some obscure code for a weird item. For the grocery chain owners, the point-of-sale system is perfectly adequate and they obviously see no reason to “modernize it.”

I know of at least a dozen goodly sized companies that use legacy system for their business. In one case, they use a system written by a firm long defunct in a language long abandoned. The other use systems that are a decade or more pout of date and no longer supported by the developer. I know of a large importer using character based software written in the 80’s. The guy who wrote it is my business partner. The point here is that good enough is good enough. As much as we think technology is a constant driver of innovation and change, it does run its course. The lesson from the market is that we may have picked all of the low hanging fruit from the computer revolution.

NHL Overtime Math

For a long time now the NHL has settled ties, after a suitable overtime period, with a shootout. The reason they went to this format was fans hate ties. At least they think fans hate ties. For some reason soccer fans seem to be OK with ties, but then again soccer fans are not really sports fans. Regardless, the motivation for adding the shootout was not due to some practical issue of accounting. The NHL managed just fine for decades without the shootout. It was an attempt to address what they thought was a concern of casual fans and it was a way to add some excitement. Shootouts are fun, even if you think they are stupid. It’s not hockey, but it is a competition, one with something at stake. That’s the appeal of sports, seeing men match wits and strength with one winning and one losing.

The thinking way back when was that teams would seek to avoid the shootout and take risks in regulation and overtime to avoid it. Hockey people think of the shootout as random chance. Elite scorers will beat elite goalies more often than not. It is really not a test of the goalie’s skill. It is more random chance. Even if that is not true and skill plays some role, the players and fans think it is chance. Therefore, the players should be desperate to avoid it. Instead of getting just one point in the standing for a tie, the shootout winner gets an additional point. Therefore they put much of their hard work at risk to what is a coin flip.

The trouble is it did not work out that way. At first it seemed to, but it has settled into the same old routine with the road team playing for a tie late in regulation and overtime, figuring the odds favor them. They get the point for the tie and a 50/50 chance of getting the shootout point. It is quite rational if you do the math. Playing for the tie means a 90% chance of getting one point. It also means a 50% of getting the additional point. A little math means that approach is worth 1.4 points. Throwing caution to the wind and going for the win means the game ends in a loss 50% of the time (let’s assume). That’s one point – 50% of 2 points for a win. For the “go for the win” strategy to make sense, you would need a win chance of greater than 70%. Obviously, if you had such an advantage, you would not be headed into OT.

Turns out hockey teams are not that dumb after all.

Now the NHL is thinking about changing the rules to get rid of the shootout. The main motivation is that it is stupid to decide games this way. After that, they are finding that NHL teams are doing the simple math I described above and responding to risk in a rational way. Modifying overtime by taking a skater off the ice will change the math. The teams with better skaters will have some new advantages. Teams adept at defending the power play will have some advantages.  The win in regulation math will remain the same, but the win in OT math could change greatly. That alone should reduce the number of ties.

The other thing they could do is change the points. A win should be three points and the ties one point. Let’s do the math again. playing for the win, assuming the same 50/50 probability, results in 1.5 points while the tie is just a point. Add back in the advantages and disadvantages of 4-on-4 hockey and you get a lot more teams either winning in OT or desperate to avoid OT, thus playing to win in regulation.  The result could lead to more exciting finishes and far fewer ties.

The Pitchman in Chief

Jim Geraghty has an interesting post over at National Review. I think a lot of people watching Obama stagger around from screw-up to screw-up  are revising their opinion of the man. Since he gave his first national speech at the democrat convention in 2004, his supporters have been telling us he is the smartest guy on the planet. They argued that he could manage the details as well as keep his eye on the big picture. The PR machine of the Left we call the media amplified these claims to the point where even Obama antagonists bought into them. Steve Sailer has written that Obama probably had above average LSAT scores and therefore is above average iQ. That’s a far cry from genius, but it shows how widespread the belief in Obama’s intellect.

Generally speaking, we expect smart people to do smart things. At the minimum, we expect them to avoid obviously dumb things. When someone hailed as a combination of Jefferson, Lincoln, JFK and Einstein starts doing and saying stupid things, it comes as a shock to the believers. The missing piece, I think, is that Obama was not hired for his ideas. The party has been looking for their Reagan for three decades. They thought they had it with Clinton, but he was too much of a degenerate to make it work. Obama was “clean and articulate” without a “negro dialect.” In other words, he was black, but not that black.

I’ve often mentioned that no one quotes an Obama speech. You never hear anyone reminisce about listening to one of his speeches. For a man allegedly a mix of Cicero and Patrick Henry, he has yet to coin a phrase or even capture a moment. Along the same lines, no one has ever talked about Obama’s ideas or his philosophy, other than when taking shots at him. Michelle Malkin calling him a Marxist is not exactly taking Obama seriously as a thinker. During his first campaign, commentators focused solely on his image. Clinton’s obvious frustration with his lack of specifics and the media’s willingness to skip over it was hilarious. They would hammer her over some minor detail about one of her schemes, while ignoring the fact Obama was spouting gibberish.

That’s thing. Obama was never hired to set policy or manage the party. His job was to be the right face in front of the public. He is the chief pitchman. Instead of selling mops or penis pills, he is pitching the party. The stimulus bill is a great example. He had zero input. it was written by his party in Congress. His job was to not ask questions, sign the bill and read the copy from the teleprompter when selling it to the public. The health care bill was similar, with the exception being he had to sell it before it was written. In that case, he sold the product brochure, since there was no product. If the insider reports are correct, Obama seems to get this and embrace it. He’s simply not that interested in the other stuff anyway.

Obama, however, is not devoid of ego. At some level, I suspect he resents the hell out of the fact he is just a front man. Further, I suspect he resents that he is a front man because he is black. In Steve Sailer’s piece I linked to above, we see the claim that Obama’s LSAT score gave him the confidence to become a vocal member of his law school class. He was not just a guy getting by on his skin tone, but on the same level as the smart guys around him. I can’t believe he now enjoys the modern version of Stepin Fetchit very much. Maybe his deliberate isolation and indifference is just a way to cope with a role he finds insulting.