Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ethnic Enchantment, or, All these things aren't real

...Now of course there’s a point to talking about, and learning from, the abuses inflicted by groups of people on other groups of people over the last five centuries or so of North American history.  Such discussions, though, have very little to offer the topic of the current series of posts here...
...In order to make any kind of sense of the way that civilizations fall—and more to the point, the way that ours is currently falling—it’s essential to get past the belief that history is under any obligation to hand out rewards for good behavior and punishments for the opposite, or for that matter the other way around...
North America being what it is today, a great many people considering the sort of future I’ve just sketched out immediately start thinking about the potential for ethnic conflict, especially but not only in the United States. It’s an issue worth discussing, and not only for the currently obvious reasons. Conflict between ethnic groups is quite often a major issue in the twilight years of a civilization, for reasons we’ll discuss shortly, but it’s also self-terminating, for an interesting reason: traditional ethnic divisions don’t survive dark ages. 
In an age of political dissolution, economic implosion, social chaos, demographic collapse, and mass migration, the factors that maintain established ethnic divisions in place don’t last long. In their place, new ethnicities emerge.  It’s a commonplace of history that dark ages are the cauldron from which nations are born. 
So we have three stages, which overlap to a greater or lesser degree: a stage of ethnic conflict, a stage of ethnic dissolution, and a stage of ethnogenesis. Let’s take them one at a time. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

It matters or it doesn't

Do I know you? I know you clear through was born and raised in the South, and I’ve lived in the North; so I know the average all around. The average man’s a coward.


In the North he lets anybody walk over him that wants to, and goes home and prays for a humble spirit to bear it. In the South one man all by himself, has stopped a stage full of men in the daytime, and robbed the lot. Your newspapers call you a brave people so much that you think you are braver than any other people—whereas you’re just AS brave, and no braver.

Why don’t your juries hang murderers? Because they’re afraid the man’s friends will shoot them in the back, in the dark—and it’s just what they WOULD do.


Friday, November 28, 2014

All over the place

Most of the stuff people stress about isn't actionable.

Ferguson, Fukushima, financial meltdown...and that's just a subset of the letter "F."

Oh sure, you can come up with a plan, organize people, make a group. And those are fine behaviors. Good even.

Maintaining your own mental health, confidence, and sense of agency are prerequisites to any sustained external action.

Not really sure what I want to talk about today. Thinking about Christmas presents. Probably going to make some jam from fresh fruit (boil 1 cup sugar (no water). Add 8 cups fruit. A little lemon peel and OJ. Boil to jam consistency. Put in jars. That simple).

The town I live in is completely empty. It's one of those coastal urban California places that is jam packed during the school year, but on Spring Break (universally known as "Ski Week," here) or holidays, everyone gets on a plane and goes...somewhere. I'll see all the moms next Monday when I take my daughter to school. Basically none of the other dad's exist, they're home 3 nights per week for 3 hours. With a first grader as my oldest, I'm also at least a decade younger than most of these guys at 36.

Our really nice neighbor two doors down has a one year old. Travels the world. Really nice wife. Works for an attorney. Full time nanny. Everyone has a full time nanny.

Lots of bad kids. Openly defiant. No discipline. Embarrassing and upsetting. Not volunteering in the classroom next year because I can't prevent myself from making them behave, and it's going to get me in trouble.

This is the dream. I can't believe these people work so hard for this.

Signing up for Obamacare. It's a horrible scam. Or rather, it's set up so I pay for everyone else, which would be OK if I was buying them medical care and not paying for administrative nonsense. My best option is $850 a month for a family of 4. All expenses out of pocket up to $25K. Over $10K a year for almost literally nothing. The old jacked up system was better, at least for me.

Jam. Played some music last week, super fun and something I need to make an effort to do more. Cool to get my old bandmates together and belt out our greatest hits.

Wrote a check for $365 to the local food bank. $1 a day.

Reviewed my taxes last year. Only donated 3% of my annual income. Shameful.

Went to a Raiders game. Front row. They won. Going again, this time to woo a client. Second row, but 3x as expensive because they are playing the 49ers. Supply, demand, brand.

Always a pleasure, thanks for popping by.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

It's not just killer apes

You might say that God won't save us, but I personally don't have a better solution.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ain't that a bitch

The last guy at least vaguely understands the reality that he's better off personally by accepting that the world is a racket. I guess oil traders do possibly deserve to earn more money--this one clearly knows to jump off a sinking ship (though sadly, his time horizon excludes even one generation of progeny, which is prima facie evidence of evil to all active parents).

Alistair Darling, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer who led the No campaign, admitted that the closeness of the result was a wake-up call. (DD note: I see no further exposition on this in any other sources. To the contrary, I see the on-schedule offensive against those who dared to vote for independence. Source. )
“Today is a momentous today for Scotland and the United Kingdom as a whole,” he said. “While confirming our place within the union, we have confirmed the bonds that tie us together — may they never be broken.”
Pubs across the country were staying open throughout the night with customers both anxious and excited to see whether the historic union would be consigned to the history books.
Greg Waddell, a doctor working in Glasgow, tells TIME that he voted Yes “because disempowerment breeds dependency; because the current extent of social inequality in Scotland demeans every one of its people.”
Others among the 4.2 million registered voters were less optimistic about prospects for going it alone.

Nick Allan, an oil executive from Aberdeen, said the Yes campaign promises were enticing, but he voted No as it would be impossible to pay for them — especially not with North Sea oil.
“The problem comes down to money,” he says. “How on God’s earth are you going to be able to afford all of these improvements? The country will be bankrupt in a matter of years.”


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Teach your children to hit

I started with this at the end and moved it. Just so I am perfectly clear if you beat your kids in the 21st century you are a bad parent and a fool. Ditto if you hit your girlfriend like some chump.

I've been thinking about the various domestic violence issues going around the NFL, which quickly flared up into the Adrian Peterson child abuse/discipline controversy.

This has devolved (of course) into a discussion about spanking or hitting children in general. The two main arguments I see against spanking are:

1) That physical discipline/punishment has no benefits over non-violent methods, and may be detrimental (the articles vary their condemnation vs. not spanking from "maybe worse" to "a tiny bit worse" to "they turn out shitty" in the pieces I've read. I'll save my criticism of social science posing as science for another day).

2) That it teaches children that violence can be used to solve problems.

I only want to address #2.

#2, the statement that hitting kids teaches them that violence can solve problems (all the articles use this phrase) is interesting. Implicit within it is the assumption that teaching children that violence can solve problems is wrong.

I think this is insane. Our entire social system, culture, society, and interpersonal relationships are enormously influenced by the implicit or explicit threat/use of violence. I'll throw it out as a presupposition of my argument that violence is very much proven to solve many large and small problems that are of great interest to a great many people.

While the socially correct form of violence to use is economic or psychological, the ability and willingness to inflict physical and emotional harm on others is endemic in our society at large and in virtually every subgroup.

It is very important to teach your children that this is true.

That does not mean that you need to hit them. You do not even have to raise your voice if Johnny is an angel his whole life.

Still, the correct response to violence is also violence. Socially, we prefer to use non-physical violence as retribution. This does not in any way change the underlying socially accepted justice of retribution for all forms of wrongdoing. We do not, as a social belief, think the punishment should be less than the crime.

If you want to argue that violence is bad, I will agree with you. And then nervously shift on my feet as I wonder how to fulfill my new commitment to zero economic or physical violence. Because they are the same. Making someone lose a job or be homeless is actually probably worse than punching them a couple dozen times. Refusing to commit any form of violence will make avoiding your own exploitation difficult.

None of that is my point.

To use the same word in two posts in a row, demanding a nonphysical response to physical violence is a way to rob humans of their agency. Your agency, your ability to control your own destiny, is more important than a removal of visceral violence from our culture.

Having all our physical violence carried out by proxies makes us far more likely to use it and to dehumanize those we oppress, both in our neighborhoods and around the world. Ask the people in Ferguson if outsourcing their use of violence for justice to the local government has worked out.

A firsthand knowledge of the violence that both props up and is a structural element of our society is almost, in my mind, a prerequisite for understanding. I am quite sure most chicken-hawk warmongers have never taken a punch, and more importantly they likely didn't throw one back.

Without some experience with physical violence, you are, like on most issues, just not going to "get" it. I'd even venture so far as to say that people who have a personal experience with physical violence probably have a better awareness of the oppression and yes, violence that is done to them and on their behalf.

I hope my daughters never ever get in a fight.If anyone ever takes a swing at them, I hope they knock that person on their ass.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

They do it in the public square

First you get punched, then you get shamed, dehumanized, and even the people who are supposedly on your side take away all of your agency. Damn.


...Let’s be clear: If the NFL were not primarily a profit-making cartel utterly entranced by its own sales pitch as a morally righteous and fundamentally American institution, the second Ray Rice video would have changed nothing. As Goodell said Tuesday, there really would be “nothing pertinent” in it. There is nothing on the second video of Janay Palmer that anyone on the planet could not have inferred from a description this straightforward: “Ray Rice knocked out his girlfriend in an elevator.” Nothing in the new video merited more punishment than what would have been disclosed in the previous investigation, had it been conducted as responsibly as the NFL and its mouthpieces were so eager to claim it was...

...There is a part of that primarily white-dude “traditionalist” culture that has gotten so good at inventing all “the facts” that make up the convenient, self-pardoning, exculpatory part of “we have to suspend judgment until we get all the facts” that you have to endlessly loop a video of woman getting hit in the fucking face before most people will finally stop inventing a reason for why it’s her fault anyway.

And the sick, sad thing is that this ultimately infects us all.

A few minutes after I saw the latest video, I thought to tweet a screenshot of it as a screw-you to a commentator from the far-right who was being particularly smarmy about the subject. I almost felt I had to – as if the only way a discussion about objective reality can happen anymore is through an exploitive rhetorical device that foists it on others almost as angrily and violently as the subject it’s discussing.

 ...the only thing more hateful than watching that video is the notion that institutions like the NFL barely need to lift a finger anymore to get various subcultures to manufacture comforting alternate truths as needed – until the only thing that gets through anymore is the sheer luck of indelible, inarguable, visual documentation, and the horror of a person’s repeated national humiliation.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Donald Sterling's Girlfriend vs. Donald Sterling's Rentals. Ferguson's Cops vs. Ferguson's System.

Economic predation can lead to bad things.


...the City Council chamber also serves as home to the incredibly busy and extremely profitable Ferguson municipal court.
A report issued just last week by the nonprofit lawyer’s group ArchCity Defenders notes that in the court’s 36 three-hour sessions in 2013, it handled 12,108 cases and 24,532 warrants. That is an average of 1.5 cases and three warrants per Ferguson household. Fines and court fees for the year in this city of just 21,000 people totaled $2,635,400.

The sum made the municipal court the city’s second-biggest source of revenue.

...“For example, a Ferguson court employee reported that the bench routinely starts hearing cases 30 minutes before the appointed time and then locks the doors to the building as early as five minutes after the official hour, a practice that could easily lead a defendant arriving even slightly late to receive an additional charge for failure to appear.”

...The clients felt sure they were being targeted because they were black and poor, and told the lawyers tales of unfair treatment by everybody from the cops to the bailiffs to the judges.
“I’ll be real honest, I didn’t believe them,” Harvey says.

...Impoverished defendants were frequently ordered to pay fines that were triple their monthly income. Some ended up with no income at all as they sat in jail for weeks, awaiting a hearing.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

my theorem of moral codes, or, DD's assertion

I had a very intense debate with my brilliant father, aunt and mother this evening over my pet theory about the moral codes of humans. I like to think I'm a smart guy but I'm also the dumbest person in my extended family.

My thesis is this. Your moral code is based entirely on two factors: your time horizon and your in-group. I was met with a staggering amount of intelligent resistance.

So,  since all 8 of my readers are brilliant people (hello GL!) I want to put my theorem or there in the hopes that it can be ripped to shreds.

I propose a classification system for moral codes.  I make no judgement on the underlying morality (being a 100% perceiver on the Myers Briggs).

I suggest that all moral codes, or beliefs in what is moral behavior,  are based entirely on two factors: time horizon and in-group identification.

My father,  a trained chemist and humanist scholar, demanded that I provide a proof.  Being a person who graduated high school with a 2.2 GPA due to getting F's on all my homework and A's on all my tests,  I'm ill equipped to do this for temperamental and scholarly reasons.

I suggest that morals,  and moral codes vary throughout a person's lifetime. Therefore,  I propose that there are only two variables (which can change or not depending on the individual .)

These variables are in-group and time horizon.

I would suggest that these are the only variables that affect the moral decisions of any individual in society. We make 100% of our positive (meaning we approve of them on immediate reflection) decisions based on this moral code and that our morality as we see it is only influenced by how far into the future we project our in-group.

Remember that the inputs are variables and I contends they are the only variables which are relevant.

Discuss? I hope.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Life, The Universe & Everything, or, 42

...Another reader, following on, chastised James for stating that nobody is worth $300 million a year. What about the great heroes of capitalism—the innovators? he wanted to know. Surely someone who cures cancer is worth $300 million. James's reply here is worth quoting in full.
If you discovered a cure for cancers in one year, the executive who runs your research company would make far more money from the discovery than you would. How do you feel about that? People who work for large companies, many large companies, not all, but people who work for these companies that have sold out to superstar executives... those people know very well that if they do something important from which the company makes a lot of money, the country club set will steal the profits and pay them off with a pittance. This is the reality of the current system. It DISCOURAGES innovation, it discourages creativity, it discourages hard work, on the theory that this is merely a free enterprise system at work. It is not a free enterprise system at work at all; it is a travesty of a free enterprise system. 120 years ago, companies built monopolies to control markets, and claimed that this was merely free enterprise at work. It wasn't, of course; monopolies are not the free operation of the market, they are the destruction of the market, the blockage of the market. I believe in free enterprise, I believe in capitalism, and I believe in Milton Friedman, but this is NOT capitalism and it is not free enterprise; it is organized theft.
Stating that our present economic system is an arbitrary arrangement organized largely around the principle that powerful people should be able to extract a lot of money from society irritated various readers. This led to good things like James lighting one reader's straw man on fire ...

As many of you have pointed out, there are manifest dangers inherent in trying to regulate income. I'm not trying to regulate income; I'm trying to prohibit the Country Club set from stealing the labor of working people. Also, didn't you promise to stop e-mailing me about this?
... and responding as follows to another who suggested that executives are just working people like anyone else:
No, they aren't. People being paid a million dollars a year are not "working" people... executives who are paid a million dollars a year to run hospitals are not "working people"; they are common thieves. All of them. The fact that there is no law prohibiting what they are doing is a mere oversight.

It should be noted that James is less advocating for a specific law than against a kind of greed that has clear, harmful effects on society and which isn't illegal mainly because acting on it was, until fairly recently, so strongly against prevailing norms.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Homily for Humanity

It was a devil with which he was trying to come to grips, the abbot decided, but the devil was quite evasive. The abbot's devil was rather small, as devils go: only knee-high, but he weighed ten tons and had the strength of five hundred oxen. He was not driven by maliciousness, as Dom Paulo imagined him, not nearly as much as he was driven by frenzied compulsion, somewhat after the fashion of a rabid dog.

He bit through meat and bone and nail simply because he had damned himself, and damnation created a damnably insatiable appetite. And he was evil merely because he had made a denial of Good, and the denial had become a part of his essence, or a hole therein. Somewhere, Dom Paulo thought, he's wading through a sea of men and leaving a wake of the maimed.

What nonsense, old man! he chided himself. When you tire of living, change itself seems evil, does it not? For then any change at all disturbs the deathlike peace of the life-weary. Oh there's the devil, all right, but let's not credit him with more than his damnable due.

Are you that life-weary, old fossil?


Friday, April 4, 2014

Reverting to the mean

...The ugly fact that we must face is that this thing can go much farther still. Plutocracy shocks us every day with its viciousness, but that doesn’t mean God will strike it down. 

The middle-class model worked much better for about ninety-nine percent of the population, but that doesn’t make it some kind of dialectic inevitability. You can build a plutocratic model that will stumble along just fine, like it did in the nineteenth century.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Jamie and Jaime

Game of Thrones captures the real anxiety at the root of our apocalyptic fascination — the sense that disaster is coming closer at an almost imperceptible rate, and we can never really know when it will arrive. 

We all sense that our unsustainable economic system will collapse, and/or our biosphere will no longer support so many humans, but we don't know if the crunch will come next week or in 50 years.

And the endless wars and scheming show how short-sighted people can overlook a looming disaster, due to political infighting and stupidity. You wonder why they don't look over their shoulder and see the ice zombies creeping closer — until you realize that their denial is nothing compared to our own...

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Faux News, Fox Professors

Do scientific papers ever seem like unreadable gibberish to you? Well, sometimes they really are.
Some 120 papers published in established scientific journals over the last few years have been found to be frauds, created by nothing more than an automated word generator that puts random, fancy-sounding words together in plausible sentence structures. As a result they have been pulled from the journals that originally published them.

The publishers Springer and IEEE are removing more than 120 papers from their subscription services after a French researcher discovered that the works were computer-generated nonsense...

 ...“The papers are quite easy to spot,” says Labbé, who has built a website where users can test whether papers have been created using SCIgen. His detection technique, described in a study published in Scientometrics in 2012, involves searching for characteristic vocabulary generated by SCIgen. Shortly before that paper was published, Labbé informed the IEEE of 85 fake papers he had found. Monika Stickel, director of corporate communications at IEEE, says that the publisher “took immediate action to remove the papers” and “refined our processes to prevent papers not meeting our standards from being published in the future”. In December 2013, Labbé informed the IEEE of another batch of apparent SCIgen articles he had found. Last week, those were also taken down, but the web pages for the removed articles give no explanation for their absence...

...Labbé adds that the nonsense papers were easy to detect using his tools, much like the plagiarism checkers that many publishers already employ.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Innovation is key, but the Old Rules work fine too

Major players in Silicon Valley may have colluded to keep down employees' wages by entering secret non-recruitment pacts with each other, according to a class action lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice and reported by PandoDaily.

Emails uncovered by the DOJ show that top executives at Apple, Google and others entered allegedly illegal agreements to stifle wage growth and save their companies' margins. The suit claims that the arrangements succeeded in artificially lowering wages and have in effect stolen an estimated $9 billion from over 100,000 tech employees. The class-action lawsuit got final approval from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last week, despite attempts by Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe to have it thrown out.

Tech blog PandoDaily goes into great depth about the suit.

Late Apple founder Steve Jobs was not subtle in threats to competing companies that they should not poach Apple talent. After pressing Google executive Eric Schmidt to agree to keep his company's hands off Apple employees, he went after Adobe for trying to recruit a low-level worker. Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen replied in an email exchange that first appeared on Pando:
I thought we agreed not to recruit any senior level employees.... I would propose we keep it that way. Open to discuss. It would be good to agree.

To which Jobs responded:
OK, I'll tell our recruiters they are free to approach any Adobe employee who is not a Sr. Director or VP. Am I understanding your position correctly?

Chizen promptly yielded:
I'd rather agree NOT to actively solicit any employee from either company ..... If you are in agreement, I will let my folks know.

At least one tech magnate seemed to know this was illegal. In 2005, Schmidt instructed a Google business executive to keep the agreement secret and only discuss it "verbally, since I don't want to create a paper trail over which we can be sued later," reported Pando.

The wage-theft ring goes as far back as 1986. The lawsuit also implicates Lucasfilm and Pixar (eventually sold to Apple), citing a philosophy adopted by "Star Wars" creator George Lucas.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

On work, money, alpha, and social capital, Part 1

The first incarnation of this blog (lost to the ether as far as I can tell) grew out of my initial fascination with Survivalism. I was way ahead of the game on the housing crash and subsequent recession we find ourselves mired in.

I read all the survival guys, and eagerly stockpiled a few weapons, some food, trash bags, matches, blankets, all the usual stuff. It was an upper-middle class game, storing lots of nonsense that cost me at least a few thousand dollars.

I was a clever one too. I picked up a laminating machine, a hardhat and a few other "I'm part of the rescue crew so let me through the barricade," type items. Kept about $10K on hand in mixed denominations, and always had extra gas and a 55 gallon drum of water tucked away on my golf course home.

Of course, to this day I find the idea of modest personal protection, food for a few weeks or months, extra clothes and medical gear, and enough tarps and blankets to survive a large earthquake incredibly sensible. If you can spend <1% of your annual income on "alpha" level insurance, you are probably an idiot not to.

As I read more, thought about the moral and social implications of this hobby, and seriously contemplated likely outcomes, I realized most of it was just silly adventure-porn for a bored privileged person.

So I evolved. I started reading JMG regularly, realized nothing happens as fast or as thematically as you anticipate, and that social capital and people skills were by far the best way to not only survive the apocalypse, but thrive in any scenario, zombie-NWO-nuke attack or otherwise.

I'm convinced there will be no crash. Oh sure, a long descent may be underway, but even within a long slide there are decades and centuries of growth and you just never know where you are in the cycle.

The best thing to come out of my silly hobby was a new prism to view value and the irrational human mind.

I began my love of elemental metal collecting from this examination of true value. Scarcity has almost no bearing on economic value. It's true. An abundance of money (medium of exchange) allows a market for scarce things with no utility. A scarcity of money (gold anyone?) means the money itself is worthless, since it has no utility to enable trade. This is why gold is something rich people buy with money. It's too scarce to be money itself, but is also rare enough that excess money seeks it.

Worrying about the future is the luxury of well-off people. Taking action to change the future seems to be the hobby of the extremely wealthy. Hence, millionaire Saudi's blowing up the parts of the world they don't like, and millionaire Congresscritters doing the same. Both, of course, attempt to shove women back into a box. On this one, I have to give the Saudi's the points.

Maslow did a good job on the first three levels of his pyramid, but I am not so sure about the top two. Self -esteem, respect, and confidence strike me as arising from building the base layers of the pyramid yourself, something denied to almost everyone, and probably 100% of the people enabled to read this blog. If you wake up on the third floor, you will have trouble getting to the next level.

I might have to go back to quoting others, writing stuff myself is surprisingly exhausting.

More another day.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité

When I am addressed by strangers anxious about the fate of their country, I try to reply patiently. They hear my American accent, but this in itself does not dissuade them, for I belong to a different category of foreigner. I am not read as an “immigrant,” but rather as an “expatriate,” here for voluntary and probably frivolous reasons, rather than out of economic necessity or fear for my own survival or freedom. This division is not just a street-level prejudice: it is also written into the procedure at French immigration offices, where all foreigners must go to obtain their residence permits, but where the Malians and Congolese are taken into one room, and Americans and Swedes into another...

Even if the numbers of immigrants in Europe were much higher, it would be an illusion to suppose that the immigrants are mounting a concerted effort to change the character of the place to which they have come. Talk of “overrunning” and “invasion” is analogical, and in fact describes much more accurately the earlier motion of European states into their former colonies, a motion which, again, is a crucial part of the account of patterns of migration toward Europe today...

...European cultural identity too is a product of longstanding networks of global exchange. These networks have tended to function for the enrichment of Europe and to the detriment of the rest of the world for the past several centuries, and it is this imbalance that in large part explains current patterns of immigration. Europe has never been self-contained, and its role in the world has both made it rich and left it with a unique legacy of responsibility to the great bulk of the world from which this wealth came.