Good News From The Black Death

Every society has its myths. Foundation myths not only explain how the culture came to be, but also why they are God’s special people. Up until a couple of decades ago, Americans were taught in grammar school about the Pilgrims, religious liberty and the founding of the world’s first representative democracy. Other myths justify the existing order and the traditions of the people. In the West, this means believing in the equality of man, natural rights and so forth. Myths are a necessary part of who we are.

In America, politics, popular culture and policy debate all start from the assertion that all people are equal at birth. Everything about a person is determined by environment. Even things like heart disease, cancer, and body type are negotiable, despite science saying otherwise. Of course, sex and race are ruled irrelevant. Any differences between the sexes or races is assumed to be a carryover from past sins in the culture. Public policy in areas like education are aimed at eradicating these cultural shadows.

As is always the case with religion, myths and belief, science tends to be an enemy. The HBD folks have done yeoman’s work popularizing and expanding on ideas percolating up from the sciences, particularly genetics and evolutionary biology. Still, it is a small collection of people that follow this stuff and even a smaller group that think public policy should reflect the new knowledge. Superstition is the rule, but if you are the least bit optimistic, then stories like this one should give you some hope.

Enter Mihai Netea, an immunologist at Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre in the Netherlands. He realized that in his home country, Romania, the existence of two very distinct ethnic groups provided an opportunity to see the hand of natural selection in the human genome. A thousand years ago, the Rroma people—commonly known as gypsies—migrated into Europe from north India. But they intermarried little with European Romanians and thus have very distinct genetic backgrounds. Yet, by living in the same place, both of these groups experienced the same conditions, including the Black Plague, which did not reach northern India. So the researchers sought genes favored by natural selection by seeking similarities in the Rroma and European Romanians that are not found in North Indians.

Netea; evolutionary biologist Jaume Bertranpetit of Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain; and their colleagues looked for differences at more than 196,000 places in the genomes of 100 Romanians of European descent and 100 Rroma. For comparison, the researchers also cataloged these differences in 500 individuals who lived in northwestern India, where the Rroma came from. Then they analyzed which genes had changed the most to see which were most favored by selection.

Genetically, the Rroma are still quite similar to the northwestern Indians, even though they have lived side by side with the Romanians for a millennium, the team found. But there were 20 genes in the Rroma and the Romanians that had changes that were not seen in the Indians’ versions of those genes, Netea and his colleagues report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. These genes “were positively selected for in the Romanians and in the gypsies but not in the Indians,” Netea explains. “It’s a very strong signal.”

Now, why should Gypsy resistance to the plague matter? Well, as a cultural matter, it does not. What matters is the free and open discussion in a mainstream science journal about genetic differences in human populations. If genes matter in disease resistance, there’s no denying they matter in other areas. More important, if observable differences are genetic, then there is little point in arguing for environmentally based antidotes. That would be like trying to talk someone out of having cancer.

Now, there are plenty of these turning up every week and that supports for the above point. What’s important here is the casual discussion of gypsies, a protected class in Europe. Even though everyone hates them, no one is allowed to mention them. They are not quite on the level of American blacks, but they enjoy a similar status. When geneticist feel free to study and report on protected classes, then maybe the Overton window is moving in the direction of rationality. Even a little movement is a miracle.

Hitler Again

World War II ended roughly 70 years ago. Hitler supposedly killed himself in 1945, but even if that was faked, he has surely been dead for a very long time. He was 56 at the time he allegedly killed himself, so would have died at least 30 years ago if as hiding out in Paraguay.  The point being, most everyone who was around back then is dead. Yer, the Germans have arrested three former Nazis on charges they were prison guards. Not just prison guards, but guards at Auschwitz.

German police on Thursday raided the homes of nine elderly men suspected of serving as SS guards at the Auschwitz death camp and arrested three of them on allegations of accessory to murder.

The arrests came five months after federal authorities announced they would investigate former guards at Auschwitz and other Nazi-era death camps. Their effort was inspired by the precedent-setting trial of former Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk, who died in 2012 in a Bavarian nursing home while appealing his conviction on charges he served at the Sobibor camp.

“This is a major step,” said Efraim Zuroff, the head Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, when told of the arrests. “Given the advanced age of the defendants, every effort should be made to expedite their prosecution.”

Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk was the first person convicted in Germany solely on the basis of serving as a camp guard, with no evidence of involvement in any specific killing.

Munich prosecutors successfully argued that anyone who was involved in operating a death camp was an accessory to murder. Demjanjuk maintained he had been mistaken for someone else and never served as a guard.

Reading the story, my only thought was about the ages of these guys. Simple math says the youngest camp guards are now well over 80 years old. Let’s say you were in a family of true believers that volunteered you at 15 and  you got assigned to a death camp at the end of the war. That means you are 84 years old now. Since that’s unlikely, it means the youngest guards still alive are in their late 80’s. In other words, the only guys still around were conscripts at the end of the war who probably did very little.

The three men arrested, aged 88, 92 and 94, all live in state of Baden Wuerttemberg in southwest Germany. They were taken to a prison hospital, Stuttgart prosecutors’ spokeswoman Claudia Krauth said.

Krauth said officials had yet to uncover enough evidence to merit the arrests of three other suspects aged 94, 91 and 90.

She said authorities seized “diverse papers and documents from the Nazi era” from the suspects’ homes. She declined to provide details.

Five men made no statements, while the 88-year-old admitted being a guard at Auschwitz but denied committing any crimes, Krauth said.

Prosecutors in Frankfurt said more documents and photographs were seized during raids on the homes of two men aged 89 and 92 in the neighboring state of Hesse. A spokeswoman, Doris Mueller-Scheu, said neither suspect was arrested nor made statements.

In North Rhine-Westphalia, state police said they raided the apartment of a 92-year-old man who admitted being an Auschwitz guard but denied participating in any crimes. They found no incriminating material during the search.

I’m at a loss as the value of rounding up old men from nursing homes. Notice how the police “raided” the homes. There are some feisty nonagenarians, but merely being alive at that age is considered feisty. Even assuming they were monsters 70 years ago, this seems a bit excessive. Perhaps the argument is it prevents these guys from dying before their families know the truth about them. Regardless, we are running out of Nazis to hunt. At some point, the guys at the Simon Wiesenthal Center will need to find work.

Of course, keeping the Nazi bogeyman alive is central to the people in charge. That way they can excuse all of their excesses by claiming it is to keep Hitler from coming back and starting up the death camps again. That means when all the Nazis are dead, they will be rounding up their decedents and accusing them of having Nazi blood. That is, after all, how blood libels work. The West will be paying for the alleged crimes of the Nazis until the people of the West take back their countries and their history.

Female Trouble

The awfulness of feminism was not always obvious. The “first wave” of feminism, conveniently called first-wave feminism, was about women getting the vote and some legal protections. A lot of men knew giving women the vote was a bad idea, but not so bad that they were willing to fight to stop it. A century ago when women were demanding the vote, feminism did not look like an assault on nature. It was just unattractive women making a nuisance of themselves in public.

Second-wave feminism is where the nuttiness bobbed above the water line. That’s where we get words like “gender” worming their way into our vocabulary. That is, sex is an arbitrary construct created by men to oppress women. The remedy was to smash up family life, give women a handful of rubbers and money for cab fare as dating aids and demand that men stop thinking about sex. That sounds crude, but crudeness was the most obvious feature of second wave feminism in the 60’s and 70’s.

Third-wave feminism takes this to another level of crazy where reality is infinitely negotiable. Here we get a variety of new sexes, claims about women being witches from another planet and the sun revolves around the earth. That sounds like mockery, but it is hard to satire this stuff. When people are claiming the biology is not just a social construct, but part of a grand conspiracy, it’s hard to not mock it. Despite this, the lunacy has just started. Soon, men will be afraid to around women in the office or even in public.

Crazy rants against nature in the abstract are one thing. Sitting in your college office ranting about males has a different result than throwing yourself off the roof claiming you can fly. But, the crazy rants eventually lead to someone testing the theory. The insanity of feminism is now showing up in the emergency rooms of America as women and girls test the theory that there is no biological difference between men and women. At the Olympics, girls competing on courses built for men are getting hurt a lot.

Sarka Pancochova, a Czech snowboarder, led the slopestyle event after the first run. On her second trip down the course of obstacles and jumps, she flew through the air, performed a high-arcing, spinning trick and smacked her head upon landing. Her limp body spun like a propeller into the gully between jumps and slid to a stop.

Pancochova was soon on her feet, and the uneasy crowd cheered. Her helmet was cracked nearly in half, back to front.

She was one of the lucky ones, seemingly O.K., but her crash last week was indicative of a bigger issue: a messy collage of violent wipeouts at these Olympics. Most of the accidents have occurred at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, the site of the snowboarding and freestyle skiing events like halfpipe, slopestyle and moguls.

And most of the injuries have been sustained by women.

The rants against nature are not just showing up in silly snow activities. The US military is putting women in combat units. It is one thing for a gal to break her neck trying to ski like a boy. It is unfortunate and sad, but not the end of the world for anyone but her. Putting physically and mentally inferior soldiers into combat units is another matter. That’s where mother nature let’s you know reality is not negotiable. Men in combat have a way to handle the physically and mentally unfit within their ranks.

Women are not men. Men are bigger, faster and stronger than women. Studies have been conducted using the mountain of data collected by the military over the last 100 years. One of the ancillary benefits of having a massive standing army is a massive amount of data about the humans entering and serving in that standing army. It provides the best cross-section of the American population possible. Since America is a mixed society, it works as a handy proxy for the human race in general.

“Using the standard Army Physical Fitness Test … the upper quintile of women at West Point achieved scores on the test equivalent to the bottom quintile of men.”

West Point is a training center for the very best who are willing to join the Army. What the data shows is the best women are physically the same as the very worst men. That may not sound so bad, but according to the data, “the average 20-to-30 year-old woman has the same aerobic capacity as a 50 year-old man.” Anyone who has played sports, goes to the gym or lived on earth knows this is fairly obvious. There is a reason why girls don’t play football and boys are not allowed to play in women’s sports.

There’s another bit to this. Women and men think differently too. For instance, there are differences in IQ. Males are over represented in fields like math and science, but under represented in nurturing professions like education and medicine. The difference between men and women show up across the range of human attributes. Men and women are different and they are complimentary. For all of human history, people, both sexes, understood and excepted this.

Fallon: Regular Guy?

I saw this on Drudge yesterday. For some reason I thought the Fallon version of the Tonight Show was starting in the spring. I’m not enough of a TV watcher to keep up with these things, I guess. I’m now exclusively on Amazon and the XBox for content. That means old movies when the spirit moves me and whatever is free from Microsoft.

Anyway, I never have understood the popularity of Jimmy Fallon. I don’t think he is very funny. The dorky effeminate white guy routine is as worn out as the neurotic Jewish guy routine. You have to be a comedic genius to make it work. But, I’m not a good judge of these things. I think Will Ferrell is just warmed over Chevy Chase.

What got my attention in this article was this:

Fallon has long positioned himself as a regular guy, the kind who would rather play charades with his guests than engage in lame interviews — or, even better, just pick up a guitar and goof around. His likableness has taken him far.

But even by his standards, the “aw shucks” factor was high on Monday night.

After a lovely opening credits intro directed by Spike Lee, Fallon took the stage, thanked his predecessors, and said: “I really don’t know how I got here.” Speaking in a voice so quiet you could practically hear audience members swallow, he introduced himself to “those of you who are watching me for the first time, which is very possible,” starting with the basics. “I’m 39 years old, I live in New York City with my beautiful wife Nancy and my daughter Winnie who’s six months old … and I love her so much.”

Fallon a regular guy? This is one of those things where you see the yawning gap between the over-class and the rest of America. The only place an effeminate poseur is a regular guy is in some gentrified hipsterville like Brooklyn. In the rest of America, men are still men and they don’t “pick up a guitar and goof around with friends.” That’s the sort of thing that will still get you beat up in large swath of America. If you’re black or Spanish, regular guys are certainly not 30-something white hipsters.

That probably explains the enormous investment in Fallon by NBC . They really want him to be the every man. More important, they want America to look like the trendy places they have coffee and talk about writing projects. In fact, they want it so much they believe it is happening. These people are always sure their greatest desires for society are right around the corner, so they can believe anything is possible.

In the early days of TV, writers and performers were obsessed with middle-America. TV hosts were from the Midwest so they could relate to everyone. The shows were geared toward reinforcing and flattering the norms of middle-America. Johnny Carson became an icon and a force in Hollywood because he was loved by middle-America. Leno, as much as he could, kept that tradition going, but he was never a powerful figure in show business like his predecessor. His politics were simply too pedestrian.

The promotion of a Jimmy Fallon reflects the new way of doing things. Instead of armies of Jewish writers flattering Middle-Americans, Hollywood is an army of writers lecturing, educating and training those crude prols that go to WalMart and eat fast food. Fallon is the new model man, small, petite and vulnerable. He does not have on guests to entertain you; he has them on so he can entertain them. The new model man is an androgynous man-boy begging for acceptance by spilling his heart out in public.

Lessons From The Painter

Yesterday afternoon a painter arrived to finish up the offices. Instead of a Mayan, it was a middle-aged white woman. She was very cheery and very chatty. While she was working, she mentioned to me that she is learning Spanish so she can communicate with the workers her boss keeps hiring. I noticed some resentment, but she did her best to mask it, as standing up for yourself in cultural matters is so forbidden.

She then mentioned that the Hispanics call her “punta.” She happily informed me it means “bitch” in Spanish. I was not about to correct her on the matter. What would have been the point? She was happier thinking it was a sort of grudging compliment and I was happy to have her pissed off at me for explaining it to her. Those interested in the real meaning of that word can look it up on their own.

Later she informed me that learning Spanish has led to some of employees using “mung” instead of Spanish. She meant Mam, which is a Mayan dialect. She did not say it, but I got the impression she was not happy about it. The whole point of leaning Spanish was to help these people and now they were deliberately throwing a wrench in the works. So much for the idea that these people want to assimilate.

Here’s something she mentioned that perked my ears up. This women had been open minded about these people coming here, despite the obvious cultural issues. What really changed her mind is this. It was ObamaCare. She said to me as she was leaving that it was ridiculous to let all of these people in just so they could “go on our insurance. That’s all they want when they come here, ObamaCare.”

There was no trace of resentment in the use of the term “ObamaCare.” My guess is she probably thought it was a good idea. Whether libertarians like it or not, most people are comfortable with the government making sure everyone can get health care. America is a socialist country and everyone is OK with it as long as no one says it. And that’s what bugged this woman. It was having to share this blessing with strangers.

It reminded me of the way Alaskans think of some new comers to their state. They are suspicious that the new people just want to start collecting from the Permanent Fund, the money from oil rights distributed to Alaska citizens. They have no reason to make that the default assumption, but they are covetous of the fund. It is their oil and their money. They correctly see that the more people getting a check, the smaller the checks.

Democrats have spent so much time convincing people that insurance is a natural resource to be shared by everyone, a lot of people believe it. As a result they are covetous of it. They are right to be. You cannot have a generous welfare benefits and open borders. Most likely, you simply cannot have generous welfare benefits under any circumstances, but you certainly cannot have them with open borders.

Another possibility is ObamaCare has put everyone in touch with the welfare state, thus making everyone more aware of it. “Our” health care system is now more personal than when it was just your insurance. A year ago, few Americans knew much about the welfare system, other than it existed. It was not for them, it was for those other people, but now it is for everyone, so people feel like they own it now.

Anyway, it was a bit of an eye opener. It could just be one crazy painter, but I suspect ObamaCare has unleashed a lot of strange currents into the culture that will begin showing up in the ballot box this fall. There’s a strong possibility that the Obama years will be seen as the unleashing of all sorts of cultural, racial and society forces that had been held in check for a very long time. ObamaCare uncorked a lot.

How Stupid Spreads

I finished up the Haldane book last night. One of the concluding bits was his view that humanity was on the decline. By any reasonable measure, humanity is doing better than ever. The health of a species is measured in its numbers, its fertility and its longevity. Humans are more numerous than ever, live longer than ever and fertility is holding up in most places. That last bit is the canary in the coal mine. We seem to be heading toward a great die out in a generation or two. Still, things look pretty good.

On the other hand, you can make the case that the stupid fraction is finally beginning to swamp the smart fraction. Proof is right here in this article.

It is called KidSave, and it was devised in the 1990s by then-Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, with then-Sen. Joe Lieberman as cosponsor. The first iteration of KidSave, in simple terms, was this: Each year, for every one of the 4 million newborns in America, the federal government would put $1,000 in a designated savings account. The payment would be financed by using 1 percent of annual payroll-tax revenues. Then, for the first five years of a child’s life, the $500 child tax credit would be added to that account, with a subsidy for poor people who pay no income. The accounts would be administered the same way as the federal employees’ Thrift Savings Plan, with three options—low-, medium-, and high-risk—using broad-based stock and bond funds. Under the initial KidSave proposal, the funds could not be withdrawn until age 65, when, through the miracle of compound interest, they would represent a hefty nest egg. At 5 percent annual growth, an individual would have almost $700,000.

Basic math says the final number is off by 90%. The initial investment of $3500 earning 5% over 60 years is $65,377.15, not $700,000.00. This is math they used to teach in grammar school, but perhaps that is no longer true. The author cannot claim a typo as he goes on and on about how wonderful it is to give people this huge pile of cash. The author, Norm Ornstein, has the following bio:

He spent 30 years as an election-eve analyst for CBS News, until he moved to be the on-air analyst for BBC News in 2012. For two decades, prior to joining National Journal, he wrote a weekly column called “Congress Inside Out” for Roll Call. He has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, and other major publications, and regularly appears on television programs like The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Nightline, and Charlie Rose. At the 30th Anniversary party for The NewsHour, he was recognized as the most frequent guest over the thirty years.

Norm Ornstein is probably a great guy, a pillar of his community, but he is not very good at math apparently. He has no credentials in economics or finance. Sadly, he is unfamiliar with basic mathematical concepts like compound interest calculations. Many people are bad at math and struggle with basic concepts of economics and finance. I would assume one of them is his editor. They have no business speaking publicly about these subjects, but here he is doing just that.

The communications revolution has made it so the stupid can reach a wide audience. TV is full of dimwits reading from a teleprompter things they can never under stand. Much of that is written by people who are just as dimwitted, but less telegenic. When most of the nation is getting their information from the left side of the bell curve, the results will eventually reflect that fact.

Immigration Observations

The office building in which I work is having some renovations done. The renovations have been going on for so long I no longer remember when they started. The office towers are having the windows replaced. They do a space when it becomes vacant so it has been on-going for a long time. The tenants on our floor moved out so they have been doing the windows in those units. For some reason we agreed to let them do out office last week. As a result I am working at home.

The plan was to let them do their thing starting last Wednesday and they would be done by Monday. Of course, they were not done by Monday. My office looked like a bomb went off yesterday morning. Some Hispanic guys were milling around with tools, but that’s all they were doing. Another Hispanic guy, who was obviously of European stock, appeared to be in charge. The rest looked like extras from a National Geographic special on the Mayans. Lots of little brown oompa-loompas.

The guy in charge tried hard to avoid me, but I finally cornered him. He was evasive in that Latin way you know if you have ever been to South America. They appear to be saying yes, but they are so vague you really have no idea. On the one hand they are effusively agreeing with you. On the other they are never actually committing to do that which will resolve the confrontation. In my case, I wanted to know when the job would be done. The guy in charge said a few hours, but maybe a few days. Who knows?

Watching the scene, I got a good dose of the Latin Way. This is when a job requiring five people has ten people trying to do it. Because it is a five person job, the extra five people slow down the required five people. Another take on this is where they have three people working in such a way that they produce the work of one person. To white people, two working together can do the work of three. three working together produce the work of five. For Latin America, it never works out this way.

Yesterday morning, that meant some of the Mayans moving around with tools in their hand,  others taking turns moving a ladder around the room. Then some of the tool carriers would move a ladder or maybe move some tools around. Everyone once in a while they would say something in their language and one would leave for some reason and the return empty handed. They were working hard, but with no purpose. Instead of screwing off, they just looked busy, but the result is the same.

I fully understand why contractors, landscapers and so forth like Latin labor. They show up and try hard. With the right supervision, they can be excellent workers. That’s the problem. There’s no “smart fraction” coming over to supervise the Mayans. This old chart from the NY Times lays it out clearly. The Mexican immigrants coming to America are mostly dimwits. Add in the cultural issues and the odds of this group spawning a smart fraction capable of rising up in a modern technological society is rather slim.

This is the fundamental problem with the pro-immigration argument. The cheerleaders operate as if every human on the planet is capable of becoming the next Steve Jobs, which is so obviously not true it has to be a lie. Even when they acknowledge that some fraction are never going to be more than guys who carry things for a living, they claim that children of these people will magically flower into high IQ strivers. Biology says that is no more likely than some generation of cats producing litters of puppies.

At the other end the open borders crowd likes to extol, we have Indians. That’s sub-Himalayan Indians. I see car loads of them coming in to work at a programming or engineering shop. There are firms around here that specialize in bringing in these people on John McCain Temporary Work Visas. Those visas he thinks we need to create, despite having over twenty types of them now. These firms rent out apartments, set them up with bunk beds and pack them with Indian engineers and programmers.

What this is all about is avoiding the cost of locals. You can bring in an entry level programmer for about two-thirds the cost of training a college kid. Unlike the college kid, they have no outside distractions, don’t take days off and don’t require constant supervision. Their upside is very low, but they are temps so who cares. If anyone wants to know why kids are not going into STEM fields, just look at the numbers. Pay for engineers and programmers has been stagnant for two decades.

I think the dilemma for patriotic Americans is they sympathize with the contractors and landscapers. The Mayans seem nice. They work hard, even if they are not terribly bright. Everyone knows why the contractors prefer these people over the alternative. At the other end, the Indians also seem nice, when you see them. Unless you are in a stem field or very observant, you don’t notice the 100,000 or so temporary STEM workers brought into to cut the throats of Americans.

Derb Versus the Weather

John Derbyshire has been banging the climate change drum lately on his weekly broadcasts. I suspect listeners are disappointed in his apparent embrace of the alarmist position on climate change. Most on the Right instinctively oppose the climate change theology of the Left. Most are skeptical about what is promoted as science, in the same way they are skeptical about utopian claims. I certainly find it surprising that an otherwise sensible person would stake out this position:

And just a footnote here on my own position. I defined it last week as affirmative on warming, agnostic on the causes, negative on alarmism and hysteria. I got a lot of email and read it all carefully. As a result, there’s been a shift in my position. Hey, there’s no disgrace in changing your mind in response to persuasive arguments.

I’m still affirmative on warming and negative on big globalist programs to counter it. I’m no longer agnostic on causes though. Yes, I’m persuaded that at least some of the warming is due to human activity. So instead of affirmative, agnostic, negative, now put me down as affirmative, guardedly affirmative, and negative.

John is an empirically minded person with a strong interest in science. He is not, however, a scientist. Specifically, he is not a climate scientist. Therefore he is unqualified to come down on key parts of the topic. This is true of most people, even people who are climate scientists. It is a massive subject with many narrow specialties within it. There is no one authority one can point to on this stuff. Instead, there are competing tribes with agendas other than the search for truth.

Further, the science is new and woefully incomplete. That does not mean climate science has not accumulated a lot of useful data that allows for some preliminary conclusions, but this is not physics. We are just scratching the surface of an enormously complex topic. Again, that’s not to say the alarmists are all wrong or that Richard Lindzen is a modern Galileo. We don’t know right now. Consider this from Haldane:

Even if man does not perish in a dramatic manner, there is no reason why civilization should not do so. All civilization apparently goes back to a common source less than ten thousand years ago, possible in Egypt. It is a highly complicated invention which has probably been made only once. if it perished it might never be made again.

When in the past its light was extinguished in one area – for example when the Angles and Saxons wrecked Roman Britain – it could be lit again from elsewhere, as our savage ancestors were civilized from Italy and Ireland.

A modern world followed by revolutions might destroy it all over the planet. if weapons are as much improved in the next century as in the last, this will probably happen. But unless atomic energy can be tapped, which is wildly unlikely, we know that it will never be possible to box up very much rapidly available energy in a given place than we can already box up in a high explosive shell, nor has any vapor much more poisonous than mustard gar been discovered in the forty-one years that have elapsed since that substance was first produced. I think, therefore, that the odds are slightly against such a catastrophic end of civilization.

That’s from The Inequality of Man, written in 1937. Haldane was the father of population genetics and one of the best scientific minds of his day. I think that bit is actually from a talk he did with H. G. Wells, but I don’t have the book in front of me. He was hilariously wrong about all sorts of things. Most notably, he was an enthusiastic supporter of Soviet communism. H. G. Wells, the John Derbyshire of his day, was similarly wrong about important stuff. The properly skeptical person is wise to wait on new science like climatology before jumping to many conclusions.

The other thing about the climate change stuff is it has all the trappings of a political racket. We never hear the word “consensus” in other areas of science, unless it is in a discussion of the current state of speculative science. In other words, members of a particular field may say there is a consensus around this or that guess being right, but nowhere in science is the truth put up to a vote.

More important, the folks who know they are right don’t conduct witch hunts and demand those who disagree with them be thrown out of the profession. At the minimum, someone with a passion for science should recoil in horror at what is clearly anti-scientific attitudes. Much of what people like Michael Mann have been doing flies in the face of accepted scientific debate and open inquiry. When you have the facts on your side, there’s no need to resort to these tactics.

Economic Nonsense

I’m fond of saying that economics is closer to tarot card reading than physics on the empiricism scale.  It is not just a pithy put-down. Economics is the one area of practical mathematics where getting the wrong answer is of no consequence. The reason is no one ever gets the right answer. I’m not talking about predicting the future. The future is not written, at least we don’t think so, which means conditions can change between the time you make a prediction and the point in the future being predicted.

Economics, I’m talking macroeconomics, deals is loads of complexity. The economy of the United States is the daily economic activity of 300 million people, plus every country with whom we conduct business. The millions of variables in play makes forecasting problematic. Even long after the fact it is hard to really know how much economic activity took place in a certain place at a certain time. Despite this, economists act as if they possess the ability to accurately forecast the future.

It is not quite superstition, but the guy with the bone in his nose is within hailing distance of the town’s economist. The witch doctor thinks he is tapping into some universal truth that transcend time and place. That gives him the ability to diagnose the present and predict the future. Economics takes the same view. Every human action has some perfect model in the stars that only the economist can see. They can therefore look at current activity and predict the future compared to the world of forms.

Immigration is a great example. To the sane person, it is obvious that the people of a nation hold the exclusive right to determine who can and who cannot enter. To an economist, not such right exists. Any passing opportunist must be free to set up camp because the economist believes it will please the gods of efficiency. The fact that none of them would let you borrow their pencil much less pitch a tent in their yard is dismissed as irrelevant. Economics is modern shamanism.

Here’s a good example of how this weird religion has spread like kudzu across the West. The Scots will decide if they will to remain a part of Great Britain or become independent. From what I’ve read, they will not actually be independent as London will continue to rule their foreign policy. Scotland will become something like Puerto Rico without the rum and fine weather.

To an uncultured ear, that sounds like a reasonable thing. Scotland has been in Great Britain since 1707 and done pretty well as a consequence. If they now think it is better to go it alone, that’s for them to decide. Patriotism, tradition, nostalgia and mere taste are probably the primary motivations for the voters. That’s what sane people should expect. Instead, the smart set says things like this:

I’m against Scottish independence because I’m horrified at the prospect of our country being dismantled. I’d also argue that an independent Scotland is an economic nonsense. I’m not saying a country of 5m people, with a wealth of know-how, couldn’t survive. The problem is that the cultural, historic and commercial ties that bind us are too tight to safely be cut.

They can be symbolically severed, yes, with the creation of yet another expensive layer of Scottish government, with all the special advisers, civil servants and juicy public sector per diems that would bring to Edinburgh’s already cosseted political elite. But as far as the rest of the world is concerned, we’re one entity — a reality that’s prevailed for centuries, long before the 2012 Olympics.

Crucially, Scotland’s still extremely precarious financial services industry is viewed as UK-backed — and that means the Bank of England. The Scottish commercial banks, with their vast liabilities, and still unresolved off-balance-sheet losses, will always physically reside in Britain.

A perfectly good argument against this vote is based in history and tradition. The English can argue that he likes his country the way it is and will not go along with changing it. He may respect the Scots desire for independence, but it is not in the best interest of the British, who happen to be in charge, so they will not permit the vote or Scottish independence. Put another way, the English answer to the Scottish demand can be “No, because we said so. Discussion over.”

Instead, the writer feels it necessary to work through a bunch of pseudo-scientific reasons as to why the maths say it is a bad idea. Everyone in the West is petrified to stand up and say they want what they want because they want it. Cultural pride is so taboo we have otherwise reasonable people claiming the maths are on their side in the same way Druids thought the gods were on their side. The West is slipping into paganism and the economics profession is supplying the shamans. Worse yet, we are slipping into a tyranny of shamans. At least the old priesthoods knew their limits. I say if you see an economist, beat him. He will know why.

Sunday Ramblings

On libertarian sites, I’ve seen the following quote attributed to Gandhi. “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” I took it on faith that Gandhi said it. I don’t care that much about Gandhi so his sayings don’t move me in any important way.  I looked it up and found that Gandhi never said it. Instead it was some middle management type named Nicholas Klein. But hey, it could have been said by Gandhi….

I was web surfing and stumbled onto this post by Rod Dreher. I have vague recollections of Rod Dreher writing for National Review and then going crazy for a while about environmentalism. I may have the facts wrong, but I recall reading a column by Jonah Goldberg saying goodbye to his crazy former friend. He did not call him crazy, but it was implied. According to his Wiki page, he wrote a manifesto, which is the sort of thing you do if you’re the Unabomber or starting a cult.

His views don’t strike me as unusually weird, but maybe I have a very generous definition of what it means to be weird, at least in the realm of politics. Dreher is now a regular at The American Conservative, which is a fairly mainstream site, even if they are shunned by Conservative Inc. Unlike the National Review crowd, they are not on MSNBC all day, but their writers turn up at establishment sites once in a while, so Dreher is not exactly wring for a fringe publication now.

The point, I think, is that dissident thinking, as in the general questioning of the status quo on the Right, is making headway into respectable places. To be clear, I have my doubts about how much realism can be tolerated. What John Derbyshire calls race-realism has plenty of merit, but there are too many people in the race-realism club who are just racists. At some point, the immune system of Conservative Inc. will kick in and start purging anyone with incorrect opinions on the blank slate and egalitarianism…

While I was over at TAC, I consumed this story about the schism on the Conventional Right. One of the things I want to go into more one day is the ridiculousness of the right-left model of framing political philosophy. In America, Progressiveness is a well-defined cultural, political and economic movement. Putting American Progressives on the Left, using the European model, is informative, but not authoritative.

On the Continent, the Right-Left dynamic is centered entirely on nationalism. Marxist-Leninism in an internationalist creed. Socialism, particularly Fascism, is a nationalist creed. Hitler is on one end, Stalin is on the other. Their disagreements on economics were trivial compared to their cultural differences. With the collapse of communism, even the Left in Europe is now pro-EU, while the Right is slowly forming into a populist and nationalist bloc. Same divide, different roles for each side.

Using the old Left-Right model for America is ridiculous. Putting the Reason Magazine crowd on the same side as Hitler is laughably ridiculous. In America, it has been the Left that has embraced fascist economics. Communism never got much of a purchase, other than the cultural variety after the war.  A political spectrum that somehow has American Progressives at the opposite end of people with whom they largely agree is a pretty weird spectrum. It’s not very useful, other than for partisan rhetoric.

Then you have the people who are not Progressives. Pat Buchanan and William Kristol agree on very little. They also hate one another. Putting them on the Right together is a category error. In the American Conservative article you see how the Right-Left model falls to pieces. Paul Gottfried remains trapped in the model, which fouls his assessment of Strauss. He’s spending so much time trying to make sense of the model, he mangles Strauss in the process…

Steve Sailer thinks the Open Borders crowd is carrying the day. That’s true for now, but it is a long game. Politics is the portion of the culture war above the waterline. Sometimes, it looks like one side is winning, but underneath the water a massive force is building that will become public. That’s what the immigration looks like right now. The people pushing open borders control the media. They think they are winning, but in reality they are building an opposition that will crush them at some point…

Someone took me to task for grammar and spelling mistakes on this blog. My response was that I don’t worry too much about those issues as this is a blog. Spelling should always be correct in public writing. I really should run these post through a spell check before posting them, but I’m often writing on the fly, so I miss stuff. This is a blog, which means it is like a public diary. I doubt anyone has ever spell checked their journal or their personal diary. Maybe they do, I’ve never kept a diary.

Now grammar is another story. My first contact with a rigid grammarian was when I was in college. He had, as far as I could tell, nothing to offer the curious mind. Instead he occupied himself with grammar, particularly the grammar of others. Ever since I’ve thought writers should feel free to go wild with the rules of grammar if that allows them to easily make their point. The point of grammar is to make communication easier, not more difficult. That means some degree of flexibility is required…