Quotulatiousness

November 28, 2017

QotD: Women and “providers”

Filed under: Health, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

…Women evolved to feel compelled to seek men who are “providers.”

This hasn’t changed, not even for powerful women making a lot of money. Research by evolutionary psychologist David Buss and others has shown that even when women are high-flying big earners, they seem to want men who are higher-flying bigger earners.

This is even true of women who consider themselves feminists. Another evolutionary psychologist, Bruce J. Ellis, wrote in The Adapted Mind of fifteen feminist leaders’ descriptions of their ideal man — descriptions that included the repeated use of terms connoting high status, like “very rich,” “brilliant,” and “genius.”

Amy Alkon, Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck , 2014.

November 27, 2017

QotD: The flight from maleness

Filed under: Health, Humour, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I note there are some three times as many male-to-female transgenders as there are female-to-male [PDF]. So all that “gender fluidity” is a vast net transfer from the male brutalizer sector to the female victim sector. At some point it would seem likely to become a flood. After all, it’s not so difficult to imagine, a fake gang-rape story or three down the line, elite universities requiring gender reassignment as a condition of continued male admission. In some sense, the swollen ranks of the transgendered seem to have intuited that the jig is up for guys. Might as well check out of the guy business entirely. I’m thinking of pitching Marvel Comics a new superhero group featuring a transwoman, an ambigender, a pangender, an intergender, a bigender and a 2-spirited called Ex-Men.

Mark Steyn, “Emasculated and Enkindled”, Steyn Online, 2014-12-12.

November 26, 2017

QotD: The dangers of second-hand smoke

Filed under: Health, Media, Quotations, Science — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

What, then, can we say were the lessons of Nuclear Winter? I believe the lesson was that with a catchy name, a strong policy position and an aggressive media campaign, nobody will dare to criticize the science, and in short order, a terminally weak thesis will be established as fact. After that, any criticism becomes beside the point. The war is already over without a shot being fired. That was the lesson, and we had a textbook application soon afterward, with second hand smoke.

In 1993, the EPA announced that second-hand smoke was “responsible for approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year in nonsmoking adults,” and that it “impairs the respiratory health of hundreds of thousands of people.” In a 1994 pamphlet the EPA said that the eleven studies it based its decision on were not by themselves conclusive, and that they collectively assigned second-hand smoke a risk factor of 1.19. (For reference, a risk factor below 3.0 is too small for action by the EPA. or for publication in the New England Journal of Medicine, for example.) Furthermore, since there was no statistical association at the 95% confidence limits, the EPA lowered the limit to 90%. They then classified second-hand smoke as a Group-A Carcinogen.

This was openly fraudulent science, but it formed the basis for bans on smoking in restaurants, offices, and airports. California banned public smoking in 1995. Soon, no claim was too extreme. By 1998, the Christian Science Monitor was saying that “Second-hand smoke is the nation’s third-leading preventable cause of death.” The American Cancer Society announced that 53,000 people died each year of second-hand smoke. The evidence for this claim is nonexistent.

In 1998, a Federal judge held that the EPA had acted improperly, had “committed to a conclusion before research had begun,” and had “disregarded information and made findings on selective information.” The reaction of Carol Browner, head of the EPA was: “We stand by our science; there’s wide agreement. The American people certainly recognize that exposure to second hand smoke brings a whole host of health problems.” Again, note how the claim of consensus trumps science. In this case, it isn’t even a consensus of scientists that Browner evokes! It’s the consensus of the American people.

Meanwhile, ever-larger studies failed to confirm any association. A large, seven-country WHO study in 1998 found no association. Nor have well-controlled subsequent studies, to my knowledge. Yet we now read, for example, that second-hand smoke is a cause of breast cancer. At this point you can say pretty much anything you want about second-hand smoke.

As with nuclear winter, bad science is used to promote what most people would consider good policy. I certainly think it is. I don’t want people smoking around me. So who will speak out against banning second-hand smoke? Nobody, and if you do, you’ll be branded a shill of RJ Reynolds. A big tobacco flunky. But the truth is that we now have a social policy supported by the grossest of superstitions. And we’ve given the EPA a bad lesson in how to behave in the future. We’ve told them that cheating is the way to succeed.

Michael Crichton, “Aliens Cause Global Warming”: the Caltech Michelin Lecture, 2003-01-17.

November 25, 2017

QotD: Reading

Filed under: Books, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Reading is inherently ephemeral, but it feels less so when you’re making your way through a physical book, which persists when you’ve finished it. It is a monument to the activity of reading. It makes this imaginary activity entirely substantial. But the quiddity of e-reading is that it effaces itself. […] There is a disproportionate magic in the way black marks on white paper — or their pixilated facsimiles — stir us into reverie and revise our consciousness. Still, we require proof that it has happened. And that proof is what the books on my shelves continue to offer.

Verlyn Klinkenborg, “Books to Have and to Hold”, New York Times, 2013-08-10.

November 24, 2017

QotD: Religion in the Classical world

Filed under: History, Quotations, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The Jewish law perfectly preserves what any right-thinking Israelite in 1000 BC would have considered obvious, natural, and not-even-needing-justification (much as any right-thinking American today considers not eating insects obvious). By the time the Bible was being written this was no longer true – foreign customs and inevitable social change were making the old law seem less and less relevant, and I think modern scholarship thinks the Bible was written by a conservative faction of priests making their case for adherence to the old ways. The act of writing it down in a book, declaring this book the sort of thing that people might doubt but shouldn’t, and then passing that book to their children – that made it a modern religion, in the sense of something potentially separable from culture that required justification. I think that emphasizing the role of God and the gods provided that justification.

The Hebrew Bible never says other gods don’t exist; indeed, it often says the opposite. It constantly praises God as stronger and better than other gods. God proves his superiority over the gods of the Egyptians when the serpent he sends Moses eats the serpents the Egyptian gods send Pharaoh’s sorcerers. The Israelites are constantly warned against worshipping other gods, not because those gods don’t exist but because God is better and also jealous. This is not the worldview of somebody who has very strong ideas about the nature of reality and how supernatural beings fit into that nature. It’s the worldview of people who want to say “Our culture is better than your culture”. The Bible uses “worshipping foreign gods” as synonymous with “turning to foreign ways”. But God has a covenant with Israel, therefore both are forbidden.

This seems to match religion in the classical world – I’m especially thinking of Augustus’ conception here, but he wasn’t drawing it out of a vacuum. Performing the proper rites to the Roman gods was how you showed you were on board with Roman culture was how you showed you were loyal to Rome. The Roman view of religion seems pretty ridiculous to us – constant influx of new gods and mystery cults that were believed kind of indiscriminately, plus occasional deification of leading political figures followed by their undeification once they fell from power. But throughout it all, this idea that following the rites as Romulus prescribed them showed loyalty, but doing otherwise would result in decadence and defeat, stuck around.

Scott Alexander, “A Theory About Religion”, Slate Star Codex, 2016-04-07.

November 23, 2017

QotD: The rise of junk science

Filed under: Education, Media, Quotations, Science — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

As the twentieth century drew to a close, the connection between hard scientific fact and public policy became increasingly elastic. In part this was possible because of the complacency of the scientific profession; in part because of the lack of good science education among the public; in part, because of the rise of specialized advocacy groups which have been enormously effective in getting publicity and shaping policy; and in great part because of the decline of the media as an independent assessor of fact. The deterioration of the American media is dire loss for our country. When distinguished institutions like the New York Times can no longer differentiate between factual content and editorial opinion, but rather mix both freely on their front page, then who will hold anyone to a higher standard?

Michael Crichton, “Aliens Cause Global Warming”: the Caltech Michelin Lecture, 2003-01-17.

November 22, 2017

QotD: Anti-smoking fanaticism

Filed under: Health, Liberty, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Whenever I am in Paris I stay near Père-Lachaise, the greatest cemetery in the world, and I always take at least one walk in it. It is, like life and literature, inexhaustible; and after all, the paths not only of glory but of journalism, too, lead but to the grave.

On the way there this time I was passed by a road-sweeping vehicle with an excellent advertisement on its side. It showed a vast pyramid of cigarette ends, with the legend “350 tons of cigarette ends per year”: the sum of such annual sweepings in Paris. This must equate to an awful lot of death.

On the matter of smoking I suffer not so much from cognitive as from emotional dissonance. On the one hand I detest the filthy habit, and whenever I see the slogan SMOKING KILLS on a discarded packet on the ground, I think, “Yes, but not quickly enough.”

On the other hand, I detest the antismokers, the Savonarolas of public health. I want people to spite them by smoking, though not in my breathing space.

Theodore Dalrymple, “Of grave concern”, Taki’s Magazine, 2016-04-02.

November 21, 2017

QotD: The naval “rule of three”

Filed under: Britain, Military, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The RN [Royal Navy], and every other seagoing Navy out there operates its ships on a rotational basis. This simple concept can best be described as ‘the rule of three’. Namely, for every ship that is on the front line at sea right now on live operations (e.g. fully stored, fuelled and munitioned and operating under a specific operation), you require a further two ships in the pipeline. The first is the one that’s just come home and gone into refit or lower level readiness. This is because the crew need to take leave, parts need replacing and the ship needs maintenance. The second is the ship that will replace the ship deployed, and this vessel will usually be in some point of the force generation cycle, which involves final bits of maintenance, trials, basic sea training and more advanced sea training and any other targeted work to get her ready to sail. This is a complex process that takes many months to fully prepare a ship to sail.

Over a couple of years life, a ship is programmed by the RN planners (a special breed of people possessed of wisdom, foresight and very little hair left at the end of their tour) to come out of a refit, work up, complete all trials and training, deploy for 9 months, return home and then wind down before going in for the next cycle of refit and repair. This cycle is either repeated, or broken up by the occasional deep multi-year refit to extend her life or fit major new equipment.

In simple terms this means that to keep 5-6 ships deployed, you need a force of roughly 17-18 escorts at any one time. Possessing 19 escort ships does not mean that 19 ships can go to sea on operations. It means you have got the ability to keep 5-6 ships deployed on station indefinitely.

This may sound a technicality, but is actually really important to understand. What distinguishes the RN from a lot of coastal navies is that sustaining this sort of deployment is routine business – the RN accepts that it goes to sea across the globe and plans this as a routine activity. For many navies, an ‘out of area’ deployment is a major investment of time and support and training, and is something that may occur once every 4-5 years, not every day of the year.

Sir Humphrey, “No – the Royal Navy is not a global laughing stock”, Thin Pinstriped Line, 2017-09-15.

November 20, 2017

QotD: The surprise of motherhood to high-achieving women

Filed under: Health, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Motherhood surprises women these days. Not the fact of motherhood. Many women meticulously plan their pregnancies. Certainly, women of advanced education plan childbearing, occasionally to a fault.

The fact of motherhood does not shock, but the day-to-day of motherhood and the intensity of motherhood do. As a culture we condition women to believe that having a baby is just a biological function and they will go back to their previous lives, albeit with babes in tow, after a few weeks of recovery.

[Insert gentle, hysterical, or bitter laughter from experienced moms here.]

Trained to be doctors and lawyers and such, today’s young educated women did not typically care for babies when they were growing up. College bound, they had better things to do than babysit babies and their mothers had visions of them doing “more” and wouldn’t dream of expecting their child to care for other children. Even now, many of the mothers I know — I’m in the highly educated and metropolitan set — think that expecting older siblings to care for younger ones is some combination of dangerous and unfair. And watching a young girl play with babies is almost pitiable.

In this domestic discouragement, we lay the foundation for the common motherhood shock. Unaware of even what should be the known knowns of motherhood, newly expecting moms tend to read books about pregnancy and childbirth. It is presently happening to their bodies and book learning comes easily to the modern woman. It’s how we made all those good grades and have out-enrolled men in higher education, after all.

Leslie Loftis, “High-Achieving Women Find They’re Not Prepared for Motherhood”, PJ Media, 2016-03-31.

November 19, 2017

QotD: The Clintons

Filed under: Humour, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The Clintons? Hillary got rich, Bill got laid, republican virtue got screwed. Like the sickly leaders of late-Soviet politburos, both appear older and feebler than their years: once the star performer of the double-act, Bill staggers around like the Blowjob of Dorian Gray; the life has all but literally been sucked out of him. His straight-woman, once the reliably stolid, stone-faced Margaret Dumont of his cigar-waggling routine, now has to be propped up on street bollards and fed lines by her medical staff. When she shuts down and she’s out cold, who’s driving the pantsuit? Huma? Cheryl? Podesta? Bill and Hillary have been consumed by their urges. America would be electing the Walking Dead, insatiable and fatal to the touch, but utterly hollow.

Mark Steyn, “Hollow E’en”, Steyn Online, 2016-11-01.

November 18, 2017

QotD: A key drawback of a cashless society

Filed under: Economics, Government, Liberty, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

When I was just starting out as a journalist, the State of New York swooped down and seized all the money out of one of my bank accounts. It turned out — much later, after a series of telephone calls — that they had lost my tax return for the year that I had resided in both Illinois and New York, discovered income on my federal tax return that had not appeared on my New York State tax return, sent some letters to that effect to an old address I hadn’t lived at for some time, and neatly lifted all the money out of my bank. It took months to get it back.

I didn’t starve, merely fretted. In our world of cash, friends and family can help out someone in a situation like that. In a cashless society, the government might intercept any transaction in which someone tried to lend money to the accused.

Unmonitored resources like cash create opportunities for criminals. But they also create a sort of cushion between ordinary people and a government with extraordinary powers. Removing that cushion leaves people who aren’t criminals vulnerable to intrusion into every remote corner of their lives.

We probably won’t notice how much this power grows every time we swipe a card instead of paying cash. The danger is that by the time we do notice, it will be too late. If we want to move toward a cashless society — and apparently we do — then we also need to think seriously about limiting the ability of the government to use the payments system as an instrument to control the behavior of its citizens.

Megan McArdle, “After Cash: All Fun and Games Until Somebody Loses a Bank Account”, Bloomberg View, 2016-03-15.

November 17, 2017

QotD: Karl Marx and relativism

Filed under: Economics, History, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The most notable philosopher in this tradition was, of course, Karl Marx. He argued that the values of any civilisation — prior, at least, to the socialist culmination — are determined by its mode of production. He says:

    In acquiring new productive forces men change their mode of production; and in changing their mode of production, in changing the way of earning their living, they change all their social relations. The hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill society with the industrial capitalist. The same men who establish their social relations in conformity with the material productivity, produce also principles, ideas, and categories, in conformity with their social relations. Thus the ideas, these categories, are as little eternal as the relations they express. They are historical and transitory products.

This is a radically subversive claim. It allows any institution, any custom, any set of beliefs — no matter how obviously right or true they might appear — to be dismissed as “ideology” or “false consciousness”. Let this claim be accepted, and our own claims about the naturalness of market behaviour falls to the ground.

With the remaining exception of North Korea and perhaps too of Cuba, the Marxist political experiments of the twentieth century have all long since collapsed, and, bearing in mind their known record of mass-murder and impoverishment, there are few who will admit to regretting their collapse. But Marxism as a critique of the existing order and as a theory of social change, remains alive and well in the universities. In its reformulation by Gramsci, as further developed by Althusser and Foucault among others, it may be called the dominant ideology of our age. Its hold on the English-speaking world has been noted by both conservative and libertarian writers, and is subject to an increasingly lively debate.

Sean Gabb, “Market Behaviour in the Ancient World: An Overview of the Debate”, 2008-05.

November 16, 2017

QotD: Carrier cynicism

Filed under: Britain, Media, Military, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

If you are a follower of UK defence matters, then it seems to be traditional that you must be find a reason, any reason, to naysay and be downbeat about something good. The recent sailing of QUEEN ELIZABETH (QEC, and of course, not yet an HMS), is a good example of this. There were tweets and moans aplenty about an aircraft carrier supposedly without aircraft, about it being empty for years across a barren flight deck with tumbleweed and adrift deck hockey quoits the sole occupants, and of course that’s assuming a 17-year-old hacker hadn’t somehow taken charge of the ship using its SHOCK HORROR Windows XP system that’s not actually connected to the internet to somehow do something bad. This is without mentioning the near orgasmic levels of excitement the media wound themselves up into with the prospect of the vessel running into the side of the dockyard or being stuck under the Forth Bridge.

In reality the opening days of the QE’s sea trials could not have gone better for the Royal Navy and the MOD. An outstandingly effective PR operation managed to secure a great deal of national media coverage of this event, and most of the main papers had photos of the ship at sea. Some highly astute programming ensured that a pair of Type 23 frigates and a pair of Merlin helicopters were immediately available to ostensibly provide cover, but arguably in reality provided the nation with several years of stock footage of British carrier groups at sea. Within a couple of days the first landing was achieved, thus slaying the ‘but she’ll have no aircraft’ argument, and the internet is awash with glorious photos of the biggest warship ever built outside of the United States of America at sea. To top it all off, some sharply pointed jibes towards the Russians by the Secretary of State for Defence managed to elicit a strong reaction, suggesting the Bear is not as thick skinned as it wishes to portray itself to be.

Sir Humphrey, “Some Brief Thoughts on QUEEN ELIZABETH sailing”, Thin Pinstriped Line, 2017-07-03.

November 15, 2017

QotD: Some positive effects of a cashless society

Filed under: Economics, Law, Quotations, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

There’s a lot to like about the idea of a cashless society, starting with its effect on crime. The payoff to mugging people or snatching their bags has already declined dramatically, simply because fewer and fewer people are carrying cash around. I myself almost never have any of the stuff on hand. If it weren’t for the rising value of mobile phones, street crime would have largely lost its profit motive … and if better phone security makes it impossible to repurpose a stolen phone, that motive will approach zero.

A cashless society would also see a decline in the next level of robberies: stickups of retail outlets. There’s obviously no point in sticking a gun in the face of some liquor store clerk when all he can give you is the day’s credit card receipts. Even if these sorts of crimes are replaced by electronic thefts of equivalent value, this would still be a major improvement for society, simply because the threat of violent crime is uniquely terrifying and corrosive to community.

One step beyond that, there’s the effect on criminal enterprises, for whom cash is key. Making it impossible to transact business while keeping large amounts of money away from the watchful eye of the government will make it much harder to run an illegal operation. And while I love the tales of quirky bootleggers and tramp peddlers as much as the next fellow, the truth is that large criminal organizations are full of not very nice people, doing not very nice things, and it would be better for society if they stopped.

Megan McArdle, “After Cash: All Fun and Games Until Somebody Loses a Bank Account”, Bloomberg View, 2016-03-15.

November 14, 2017

QotD: Depressive writing leads to depressed readers

Filed under: Books, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Agatha Christie gave her characters foibles, sure, and often there was a tight intrigue and not just the murderer but two or three other people would be no good. BUT the propensity of the characters gave you the impression of being good sort of people. Perhaps muddled, confused, or driven by circumstances to the less than honorable, but in general driven by principles of honor or love (even sometimes the murderer) and wanting to do the right thing for those they cared about.

You emerge from a Christie memory with the idea, sure, that of course there was unpleasantness, but most of the people are not horrors.

How did we get from there to now, where the characters aren’t even evil? They’re just dingy and grey and tainted, all of them equally. The victim, the detectives, the witnesses, will be vile and contorted, grotesque shapes walking in the world of men.

If this is a reflection of the psyches of most authors, I suddenly understand a lot about the self-hatred of western intellectuals.

But I wonder if it’s a fashion absorbed and perpetuated, communicated like the flu, a low grade dingy patina of … not even evil, just discontent and depression and a feeling that everyone in the world is similarly tainted.

I realized that was part of what was depressing me, partly because I’m a depressive, so I monitor my mood fairly regularly. BUT what about normal people? What if they just absorb this world view — and the idea that it’s smart and sophisticated, too — through popular entertainment, through movies and books and shows and then spew it out into the world, because it stands like a veil between them and reality, changing the way they perceive everything.

[…] such despairing stuff, such low grade despair and unpleasantness change us, particularly when they’re unremitting. You internalize these thoughts, they become part of you. If humanity is a plague, who will have children? If humanity is a plague, why not encourage the criminals and terrorists? If humanity is a plague who is clean?

You. Me. Most human beings. Oh, sure, we’re not perfect — I often think people who write this lack the ability to distinguish between not being perfect and being corrupt and evil — and we often have unlovely characteristics. But, with very few exceptions, most people I know TRY to be decent by their lights, try to raise their kids, help their friends and generally leave the world a little better.

Now, are we representative of everyone? Of course not. A lot of people are raised in cultures (here and abroad) that simply don’t give their best selves a chance. But why enshrine those people and not the vast majority who are decent and well… human?

Even in a mystery there should be innocent and well-intentioned people. It gives contrast to the darker and more evil people and events.

Painting only in dark tints is no more accurate than painting only in pale tints. It doesn’t denote greater artistry. It just hangs a grey, blotched veil between your reader and reality, a veil that hides what is worthwhile in humans and events.

Make yourself aware of the veil and remove it. It’s time the low-grade depression of western civilization were defeated. No, it’s not perfect, but with all its failings it has secured the most benefits to the greatest number of people in the long and convoluted history of mankind. Self-criticism might be appropriate, but not to the exclusion of everything else.

Say no to the dingy-grey-patina. Wash your eyes and look at the world anew. And then paint in all the tints not just grey or black.

Sarah Hoyt, “A Dingy Patina”, According To Hoyt, 2015-10-22.

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