An icon for Unruled

Blogger now allows uploading of images. I am trying to use it to add a favicon to this blog. A favicon is one of the cute little pictures you see in your browser next to a webpage's name or address.

Here's mine:

Update: it worked. Unfortunately it appears the file I uploaded (a png) got automatically jpegged, and the parameters used were not favorable. Hence the non-smooth background. Have to fix that.

An Environmentalist Exchange

There's an interesting exchange between environmentalists Bjorn Lomborg (author of The Skeptical Environmentalist), and Carl Pope (executive director of the Sierra Club), on environmentalism. Lomborg argues for realism and prioritization. Pope resists both, but can't help but acknowledge some of Lomborg's points, responding quite lamely to perhaps the most important one:
[Lomborg:] You return to the 1,300 scientists and their report on the world’s ecosystems. What their results show is that when people are starving, lacking clean drinking water, getting poisoned from indoor air pollution, and dying from easily curable communicable diseases, they let the environment get ravaged, too. Your solution is to deal with the environment first. But shouldn’t we, morally and practically, help them gain wealth first, so they can take care of the environment too?

[Sand:]Bad human decisions, not inescapable reality, make the environment appear to be a “trade–off” with prosperity.
It's a bad human decision to be born in a poor country!


Good times for the scifi fan. Galactica is backtica, and it is good. Not too much to say about it; obviously trying times for Colonel Tigh but beyond that, things are rather slow. One thing that does bug me is they've cut back on the intro/theme, that was formerly so evocative. Pity.

The big scifi news for me: Firefly. I'd heard good things about this show, and I like Joss Whedon, so, I've had a "firefly" item set to record on the Replay for over a year now. It's playing now, and to judge by a single hour (half of a two hour episode) seen, it is tremendous. I've just seen "Serenity" (half of).

Galactica is good, but it is still TV aimed at the average viewer, or at least, average scifi fan. Which is to say, that it's easily graspable with a single viewing. I've rarely rewatched any BSG episode, and never more than twice. Firefly is... well, let me put it this way. I watched this episode five times, skipping some 30 second chunks in later viewings, but still mostly five times. I "got" it on the first time, in terms of what happened. One time was deeply satisfying. But there was so much there.

I've posted exemplars of how particular other scifi series hooked me: a smart scene, good dialog will do that. For Farscape, the scene about enslaving horses. For BSG, the cancer diagnosis scene. Well, "Serenity" had that scene for me two minutes in. Malcolm (Our Hero) has been abandoned, and ordered to surrender. He watches as the enemy Alliance forces land in the valley he's been fighting to hold for weeks. It was all for nothing. He stares in shock and disbelief at the huge Alliance ships landing. The noise of the battle fades as all he knows is the end: of his army, of his cause, of his faith. The man watching next to him is shot dead. (Classic Joss.) Fade scene, and we see him again, "six years later", in a spacesuit, upside down. Symbolism! Yes, the world has been turned upside down for poor Mal.

But that's just the first scene that grabbed me. I could go on; five, maybe ten. Wow. Here's a review from one C. A. Bridges that meets my approval.
a veteran of the losing side of a galactic civil war must find a way to survive on his own terms under the government's radar. With a small, quirky crew and a small, quirky ship, Captain Malcolm Reynolds takes on whatever job, legal or otherwise, that he can get.


You won't feel stupider afterward.

Regular television consumption will leave you with the inescapable conclusion that everyone in the world is a moron. People say stupid things, make stupid assumptions, and consistently fail to see obvious solutions because then the show would end 52 minutes too soon. You can actually feel your brain freezing up from vapor lock

The folks in "Firefly," good and bad alike, tend to do the same things you usually scream at television people to do, before you think to scream them, except when they're doing something even better. As it turns out that doesn't always help, but at least then you've got no one to blame but yourself.


You may notice I've said little about the characters. I haven't mentioned Mal's frightening pragmatism, Zoe's loyalty, Wash's sense of humor, Kaylee's sunny nature, Jayne's cheerful violence, Book's wisdom, Inara's sensuality, Simon's sacrifice, or River's peculiarities, and that's because trying to label any of them with a single description is useless. You really should meet them yourself.

So, now's your chance. See the shows as they were meant to be seen -- in order (!), with the three unaired episodes -- and enjoy a truly great science-fiction show.
I'll be watching. Bonus: libertarian applicability!

Coerced Testimony

I post a lot at Unqualified Offerings. A reader over there asked the following question, which I think I'll address:
[me:]In anarchy, some agencies will, and some won’t, have laws allowing compelled testimony. This strikes me as the best possible solution.
How is that supposed to work? If you don’t want to testify, I can shop around for an “agency” that will lock you up until you do? Hey, maybe if I pay them enough they’ll even torture you.
Rules of evidence have to constrain third parties. You can’t create an Autonomy Zone around yourself and demand that nobody make you a witness to anything without your consent. And without testimony (not necessarily compelled testimony), nobody knows who’s committing “aggression or initiation of coercion” and who’s not.

First things first: the standard disclaimer about anarchy. Anarchy is a system that is defined by what there isn't -- a state -- not by some specification of the society that will result. Thus, any notion I propound, although it's probably a good guess, is just that: a guess. Anarchy is what anarchy does, and I may be wrong.

OK, so how does it work? Well, first let's posit that coerced testimony is useful from the POV of achieving high-quality justice. (If it isn't, then there won't be much coerced testimony in anarchy, because the market won't produce many worthless services.) Given that it is helpful, then I think most people would agree to allow themselves to be coerced in order to be member of an agency that coerces. Of course, this is not coercion in its bad sense, since it is agreed to. It's just a contract, where the party agrees to testify freely and truthfully, with coercive sanctions if he fails to do so.

So most people will end up being governed by an agency which has coercive testimony, at least for internal disputes (between two customers). It is very likely that the agencies will extend that to disputes between customers of different agencies (which both allow coercion), since the same utility applies.

What of the minority that doesn't want to be forced to testify? If there are enough of them, and/or they have enough wealth, they can set up their own agency. Perhaps the rules will allow coercion within, but not without. Or perhaps no coercion at all. In either case, there is a mismatch with outside agencies.

Now, it might happen that in any given dispute, a person who can't be forced may agree to testify anyway. But of course, that doesn't solve all disputes.

In others, a person (let's call him Joe) will refuse to testify (and his agency will back him), and a foreign agency will want him to testify.

The first thing to point out here is that if the second agency is libertarian, it will not coerce Joe because to do so would violate his rights. But remember that this is not a libertarian minarchy, it is anarchy. The agency is not limited by libertarian ideas, and may threaten to coerce in spite of it being aggression. So what next? It threatens to coerce, and the second agency will defend its client. This turns into the standard agency conflict scenario. I've discussed it long ago (here), so read that.

The upshot of agency conflict is, typically, that they can foresee it, and if it is likely at all, they'll have negotiated it out long ago. War is incredibly costly, and bad for business; a last resort. In a case like this one, where a minority wants something that is reasonable, the likely outcome is the minority agency pays the other agencies, and they agree to apply the minority rule in conflicts. Thus, Joe ends up paying more to his agency (so it can pay others), but his right to not testify is upheld.

Or, it may be that the right not to testify is sufficiently unpopular that the equilibrium ends up with the minority being bent to the will of the majority. Joe will have to testify. But note that in this case, it's likely that his right is "bought out" by the agencies that want it. Also note that Joe still doesn't have to testify against other customers of agencies which don't coerce. This may seem a small thing, but it would allow a minority to effectively achieve their goals, at the cost of cutting themselves off from the majority (so that conflicts don't happen).

So, getting back the my interlocutor's questions. Yes, you might be able to shop for a venue to force Joe to testify, or you might not. Depends. Either way, I don't see a huge problem.

There is nothing in anarchy that defines there as being no official torture. However, I predict there won't be any, because it is not very productive and it is anathema to all decent people. The tiny minority who would want it is like the minority that want to murder freely. If they did start and agency that allowed it, all the other agencies would band together and annihilate them.

As for an "autonomy zone", well, that's exactly what you can do. Judith Miller is doing it. Anyone can. Because you control your tongue. I see no reason whatsoever that any agreement between third parties constrains me. If they want my agreement, let them negotiate with me (or my proxy).

Political Orientation and Heredity

There's an interesting paper discussed a bit in the blogosphere that is basically twin studies done on political positions. Politics: complex; must be environmental, right? Wrong. It's heritable, about as much as most other traits. Best discussion I've seen on the web is not the NYTimes piece, which was pretty ignorant, but this one:
The authors do not argue that genetics makes one a Republican or Democrat. Indeed, people like me who are Libertarian with Republican leanings may not fit at all into the study if such were the assertion. Rather, they base the study on the notion that certain character traits are to some extent inherited. Character traits such as openness in turn are translated into social attitudes. These social attitudes are then transformed, to some extent, into political attitudes and later into political behavior. The genetic component, they predict, should be an important factor but certainly not the only one or even the most important one.
Well, it's quite important for at least some traits, i.e., American's position on school prayer.

Not really that new or unexpected if you keep up with what modern science is discovering about heredity. One of the reasons I love Sailer is he keeps up with this stuff religiously so I don't have to.

The wisest remark I've seen on this thus far: the Derb:
The subtext here is the assertion of determinism -- that what we are, WHAT I AM, is not as much a product of my free will as I should prefer to think it is. All the science on human nature is tugging in that direction, the determinist direction; all our instincts and preferences and faith tug in the other direction.

Science will win, of course -- it always does. We shall find out that our cherished beliefs about the Self are largely illusions, and we shall come to terms with that somehow -- but we'll protest every inch of the way there.

Science is cold.

I thought of that paper when I saw an item on a new libertarian blog, hosted by the Catallarchy guys. One of the liberty belles ("Lea") is taking up the old chestnut, why are there so few libertarian women?

I posted briefly there, and thought I would expand a bit here. My theory is by no means a total explanation, but partial. It's very simple: libertarianism is an ideology that appeals primarily to high IQ people. As Larry Summers won't tell you openly any more, there are more high-IQ men than women. This is a result of higher variability in the normal distributions of male IQ as versus female. More stupid men, more smart men. As a logical consequence, we should expect a disproportion in the number of libertarian men vs women.

The size of the imbalance depends on several things: the difference in average IQs for men and women (if any), the difference in the standard deviation of these two populations, and the correlation between IQ and libertarianism. From observation, I'd guess the ratio of male:female libertarians is something like 4:1.

Here's some more predictions from this theory. First, there should be relatively few libertarians. Imagine a simple model where everyone above a certain IQ has a N% chance to be a libertarian, while everyone below the cutoff has none. To get a 4:1 difference in men:women with two bell curves that are very similar, we'll need to go out a standard deviation or so. But this means the total number of people who might possibly be libertarians is only ~15% of the population. If we imagine N to be perhaps 20% we get a pretty good estimate of the number of libertarians as registered in opinion polling and voting.

Next: we should expect to see disproportionately many Jews in the movement. (See the previous post.) We should expect to see very few black or hispanic libertarians until those populations close the IQ gap.

Finally, and back to the paper mentioned at the beginning, we should expect that libertarianism is quite heritable. A great example of that is the great Friedman line: Milton, David, and now Patri.

What if I'm right? Well, here's one consequence: engaging in majoritarian politics is largely a waste of time for us. We'll never get more than perfect saturation of those able to grasp the ideas, say, 15% or so. At least until we engineer humanity to all be higher-IQ. The only hope here is intentional concentration, ala the Free State Project.

Second, we need to focus efforts to recruit that 15%: high IQ people. Right now I'd say the left still dominates there (look at the universities), but there's no reason why we can't fight for that demographic and win it. As socialism continues to fail, as it will, and capitalism keeps rolling, we'll see continued success in converting people.

Ashkenazi Jewish IQ and disease

Here are two curious facts about the Ashkenazi (European-derived) Jews. As a group, the Ashkenazim:
  • average higher IQs than the European norm, by a standard deviation
  • have much higher incidence of certain nasty genetic diseases. The persistence of these diseases in the population is something of a puzzle due to their simple genetic character but drastic effect on fitness. For example, Tay sachs, happens in homozygotes for a single damaged gene, and kills all of them by age 5. The incidence of a damaged copy of this gene in the Ashkenazi population is something on the order of 3%.
Are these two facts related somehow?

Yes, according to a new paper by Greg Cochran, Jason Harper, and Henry Harpending:
Our general hypothesis is that high IQ test scores of Ashkenazim, along with their unusual pattern of abilities, are a product of natural selection, stemming from their occupation of an unusual social niche. All the required preconditions low inward gene flow and unusually high reproductive reward for certain cognitive skills, over a longenough period did exist. These preconditions are both necessary and sufficient, so such a selective process would almost inevitably have this kind of result. The pattern of high achievement among Ashkenazi Jews and the observed psychometric results are certainly consistent with this hypothesis.

Our more specific prediction is that some or most of the characteristic Ashkenazi genetic diseases are by-byproducts of this strong selection for IQ. ... We predict that heterozygotes for the sphingolipid storage mutations should have higher scores on psychometric tests of verbal and mathematical abilities than their non-carrier sibs.
It appears the internet is breaking the logjam in the popular press in discussing politically incorrect ideas like this one. The NYT, to its credit, ran with this story. However it is not getting wide coverage in the MSM, which is a pity since it is solid science, fascinating history, relevant to our lives, and even better if it turns out to be correct.

Not only that, but important for the general populace to understand the truth here. Groups are not all the same. This contradicts the "uniformatism" of the PC worldview, where all groups are the same. No group is any smarter than any other group, nor does any group excel in any way that might result in differential "success", however defined.

Within the uniformatist worldview, there can be no explanation for underrepresentation of a group in any particular profession, other than chance (which is not believable if the group and profession size is large), prejudice, or conspiracy. But the same must also be true of overrepresentation. It must be chance, prejudice (favoratism), or conspiracy.

Well, Jews in the USA are almost all Ashkenazim. They are smarter, on average, than the average American. Jews are overrepresented in practically every high-visibility profession there is: doctors, academics, lawyers, money men, hollywood, you name it. How can Jews be 10% or 20% of the top professionals when they are only 3% of the population?

To a person who knows the truth about IQ, the answer is simple enough. The top professions require high IQs, and a disproportionate number of the really high-IQ people in America are Jews. That is, the Jewish representation is merited.

To a uniformatist, it can't be merit. So, it's a CONSPIRACY! This is the genesis of at least some antisemitism.


I turned them on a while ago, but did not put them into my template. Well, now they're on. Have fun. Usenet recreated small.

Democracy and Socialism

This goes out to my homie, Zack. I asked him "why you think I despise social democrats"?, and he replied:

You use socialism as a slur for any government program you don’t like regardless of whether that can be classified as socialist or not.

For another, witness your case for colonialism in India. You seem to believe that Indians would have had more liberty under British rule because there would have been less socialism. It sure sounds like you don’t consider the right to decide your own government to be part of liberty.

Let's define some terms, shall we? M-W has Socialism: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods. Now, it is a given that essentially all real world socialism involves a state as the "government". Saying "government" is thus obfuscatory; all societies imaginable will "govern" at least some people (criminals, insane, incompetent). Saying "the state" makes it clear what is meant: that people will not be allowed to opt out of the communal ownership scheme. Thus, socialism is "the state ownership of the means of production".

I reserve the word "communism" for non-state collective ownership theories. Note that in the real world, another meaning of "communism" is: a form of socialism where only one political party is permitted (along with the ramifications of that, such as mass murder).

Also note that I class as "means of production" people. In pure socialism, everyone is owned by the state; if the state decides to sacrifice you for the greater good, so be it, you die. To the extent that the state can determine how you are used, they are asserting ownership of you. Thus, state invasions of personal liberty are a form of socialism.

Note that again I am talking about how *I* use the term, not necessarily how you do. I once got a conservative very mad going in these lines, since I lumped all sorts of his sacred cows (i.e., the draft) in with "socialism". He took very poorly to the idea that drafted soldiers are a species of slave. I offered to use "l-socialism" for the things we didn't agree on, but that didn't mollify him. He virtually stomped off in a rage.

Now, let's return to your statement:

You use socialism as a slur for any government program you don’t like regardless of whether that can be classified as socialist or not.
I don't like all state programs - I am an anarchist; the state should be abolished. And yes, they are all socialist, in the sense that they are being paid for by a defacto state ownership of my income. With no taxation, I would not object to many things the US government does. However, with no taxation, it would not be doing them.

We can imagine, though, a government that is completely voluntary. Not a state, then. It runs on money it is freely given, and provides various services using that money. For instance, it might give out money to poor people. This is just fine with me.

So, it is certainly possible to distinguish between various things a state does, in terms of are they necessarily rights-violating (hence, socialist), or are they 'only' rights-violating in the sense of paying for them? Clearly the latter things are "better" in some sense than the former. For example, rent controls are necessarily rights violating. They are, prima facie, an expropriation of the landlord. Doesn't matter how you pay for their enforcement. By contrast, welfare (handing out money that you happen to have) violates no right necessarily.

As for a being slur - yes, indeed. I view violating people's rights negatively. Therefore, a political theory that holds that people have no rights, I view as wrong, and put into practice, hurtful. Stalin's millions of victims cry out. Yes, it is definitely a slur to call something socialism. Socialism has earned it. Not only that, the rights violations continue to this day, and may yet destroy us all.

Now, regarding "the right to decide your own government"...

Sure, the right to determine your own government is a part of liberty. However I mean that "your" as individual, not collective. You, personally, have the right to determine how you, personally, are governed. So do I. So does every individual who has not aggressed against another.

But this is unrelated to elections. Collectives have no right to rule anyone who has not explicitly agreed to be ruled by them. Democracy and liberty are two entirely different things. What is "democracy"? again: "government by the people; especially: rule of the majority". Liberty? Well, it's not well defined at m-w for what we're talking about here (here's the link anyway). But I am taking liberty to mean, the state of being uncoerced by other people.

Now, what does it mean to be ruled "by the majority"? Well, the details of that vary with the voting system. What is clear, though, is that unless the majority never votes to violate any individual's rights, democracy will necessarily violate liberty. In fact, democracy in a state is a specific form of socialism wherein it is theorized that voters collectively own everything, via the state, and should vote on the uses of said property.

To the extent that democracy does effectively withhold people's rights from the voting mechanism, it is undemocratic. For example, the Bill of Rights is an undemocratic limitation on the Congress.

But as for despising social democrats... no, I just think they are wrong. But they are not obviously wrong (or else there would be few or none of them). Nazis and "communists" (both of them, species of socialists who believe only a single political party should be permitted) -- they are despicable. History, well attested and well accepted, shows they are wrong.

History has not spoken clearly on "social democracy", so it is unfair to despise its advocates. Yet.

Evil in the Welfare State

"Theodore Dalrymple" in an
interesting article from last fall:
My patient already had had three children by three different men, by no means unusual among my patients...

The father of her first child had, of course, recognized her vulnerability. A girl of 16 living on her own is easy prey. He beat her from the first, being drunken, possessive, and jealous, as well as flagrantly unfaithful. She thought that a child would make him more responsible—sober him up and calm him down. It had the reverse effect. She left him.

The father of her second child was a career criminal, already imprisoned several times. A drug addict who took whatever drugs he could get, he died under the influence. She had known all about his past before she had his child.

The father of her third child was much older than she. It was he who suggested that they have a child—in fact he demanded it as a condition of staying with her. He had five children already by three different women, none of whom he supported in any way whatever.

... she had knowingly borne children of men of whom no good could be expected. She knew perfectly well the consequences and the meaning of what she was doing, as her reaction to something that I said to her — and say to hundreds of women patients in a similar situation — proved: next time you are thinking of going out with a man, bring him to me for my inspection, and I'll tell you if you can go out with him.

This never fails to make the most wretched, the most "depressed" of women smile broadly or laugh heartily. They know exactly what I mean, and I need not spell it out further. They know that I mean that most of the men they have chosen have their evil written all over them, sometimes quite literally in the form of tattoos, saying "FUCK OFF" or "MAD DOG." And they understand that if I can spot the evil instantly, because they know what I would look for, so can they—and therefore they are in large part responsible for their own downfall at the hands of evil men.

Definitely worth returning to.


Clublife is a blog by an elite bouncer, "Rob", in NYC. His writing reminds me a bit of Tim Green, being essentially a jock but still an astute observer of humanity. Fascinating stuff and the guy can write. Example:
Big "Stan" is a bouncer at the club. Stan is a very large and very dark black man. At the beginning of the night, when greeting Stan, I feel as if I'm shaking hands with a catcher's mitt. Everything about the guy is just really, really big and really, really black.

Stan has taken a liking to me over the past few months, most likely because I provide him with a steady stream of Altoids throughout the night -- far be it for him to purchase his own fucking tin once in a while -- but additionally because we share a level of disdain for the customership which, quite possibly, surpasses that of any bouncer on the staff. Theoretically, it could be the intensity of my hatred for the patrons that has fueled my semi-consistent maintenance of this blog over the past year, with most of the posts contained within pertaining to their inexplicably asinine behavior on a nightly basis, but I digress. I wonder if Stan has a blog.

Simply put, Stan wants to be left alone. So do I, but as a big, blockheaded white-guy bouncer, it's easy for me, because I can blend into the woodwork with the twenty other big, blockheaded white guys on the staff. A six-foot-seven, three hundred twenty pound black man isn't going to fly under anyone's radar anywhere, and Stan, therefore, becomes a magnet for every misfit Guido customer who walks past. On Saturday night, I stood nearby as he engaged in an animated conversation with one of these, the customer continually shaking Stan's hand and embracing him as if he'd been reunited with a long-lost relative.

"Who's that?" I asked. "Your retarded stepbrother?"


The same thing happens every night. If I'm standing next to Stan, I'll watch as a steady stream of well-wishers forms a line to come up and pay their respects, tangling him in their elaborate 'soul brother' handshakes and hugs, ignoring my existence all the while. If their attention does eventually turn to me, and they offer a handshake, I give them the standard, straightforward white man's grip, pulling my hand away, on principle, before they attempt any sort of digital masturbation.

I'll have more to say about this whole thing some other time. Suffice to say, that the interior of a nightclub is a largely anarchic environment, so, I'm interested.

Wiki: anarchic knowledge organization

There's an interesting article on wired about Wikipedia, the anarchic encyclopedia. It's on online work that anyone can edit. Doesn't that cause problems? Well yes and no. "Vandals" as they are called do try to make a mark. But anybody can place an article on a "watch list"; when it changes, they can find out easily and potentially revert the change if they don't like it.

Wikipedia has an innate capacity to heal itself. As a result, woefully outnumbered vandals often give up and leave. ... making changes is so simple that who prevails often comes down to who cares more. And hardcore Wikipedians care. A lot.

Wool logs on to Wikipedia at 6 each morning and works two hours before leaving for his day job developing education programs for a museum. When he gets back home around 6:30 pm, he hops back on Wikipedia for a few more hours. ... It's tempting to urge people like Wool ... to get a life. But imagine if they instead spent their free time walking through public parks, picking up garbage. We'd call them good citizens.

Many wiki "citizens" defeat most casual defacement by uncoordinated action opposing it. But some defacement is not casual... and so the process of government formation has started.

Still, even committed citizens sometimes aren't muscular enough to fend off determined bad guys. As Wikipedia has grown, Wales has been forced to impose some more centralized, policelike measures - to guard against 'edit warriors,' 'point-of-view warriors,' 'revert warriors,' and all those who have difficulty playing well with others. 'We try to be as open as we can,' Wales says, 'but some of these people are just impossible.' During last year's presidential election, Wikipedia had to lock both the George W. Bush and the John Kerry pages because of incessant vandalism and bickering. The Wikipedia front page, another target of attacks, is also protected.

If that suggests an emerging hierarchy in this bastion of egalitarian knowledge-gathering, so be it. The Wikipedia power pyramid looks like this: At the bottom are anonymous contributors, people who make a few edits and are identified only by their IP addresses. On the next level stand Wikipedia's myriad registered users around the globe, people who have chosen a screen name and make edits under that byline. Some of the most dedicated users try to reach the next level - administrator. Wikipedia's 400 administrators ... can delete articles, protect pages, and block IP addresses. Above this group are bureaucrats, who can crown administrators. The most privileged bureaucrats are stewards. And above stewards are developers, 57 superelites who can make direct changes to the Wikipedia software and database. There's also an arbitration committee that hears disputes and can ban bad users.

At the very top, with powers that range far beyond those of any mere Wikipedian mortal, is Wales, known to everyone in Wiki-world as Jimbo. He can do pretty much anything he wants - from locking pages to banning people to getting rid of developers. So vast are his powers that some began calling him 'the benevolent dictator.' But Wales bristled at that tag. So his minions assigned him a different, though no less imposing, label. 'Jimbo,' says Wikipedia administrator Mark Pellegrini, 'is the God-King.'

The God-King drives a Hyundai.
Chuckle. Good stuff. Order, and government, arises in anarchy. It's only when government turns monopolistic/coercive that it becomes the state and must be opposed by the moral man.

Anarchists have a many good examples these days arising online.

Terri Schiavo is dead

The Schiavo case has been on my mind lately, and since I've tossed off some comments on some of my favorite blogs I thought I'd write a bit more on it.

First off, to my mind the most salient aspect of the thing is that Schiavo's body ought to be hers. Her private property. Not her husband's, not her parents', not the Congress's. Hers. It should be disposed of as she wills, or, in her absence, as she willed. Now this is a liberal society, in the best sense of that word (meaning: libertarian). Liberals believe in self-ownership; it is the one thing still connecting the Left to the term "liberal". So it is not surprising to find them supporting Schiavo's "right to die", which is really her property right in herself.

It would be nice if Terri Schiavo could be consulted as to what to do with her, but that is not the case. She's not here anymore; she's dead. So the decision must be made by others. It was made by the court, as a finding of fact. Schiavo wanted to be killed in this circumstance. They may or may not be right. But to overturn that finding would be to overturn our entire judicial system. Of course, finding that she wanted to die, and giving people the right to kill themselves are different things. Suicide is illegal in many (most?) states. As a liberal, I'll fight for the right to die. But Florida evidently allows people to will themselves to be unplugged, and I am fine with that both on liberal grounds and on Federalism grounds; I don't care what they do in Florida.

Speaking of which... second thing that needs to be mentioned is how appalling it is to see the Congress trying to involve itself. Federalism, conservatives?

Third: one thing that few are mentioning is cost. Money is talked about, it being the cause of the first rift between Michael Schiavo and Terri's parents. But not the cost of keeping Schiavo alive as a vegetable. Medical care is not cheap. For the price of one Terri Schiavo meat puppet, 100 children could be kept from dying from dehydration during diarhea. Of course, by killing Terri's body we don't magically shunt money to the third world. We do, however, shunt it either to Michael Schiavo, the parents, or to insurance companies (and by extension everyone paying premiums). It helps someone. Or to put it another way: someone is paying for this.

All of that is a long way to get to saying: there are real costs involved on both sides here. It's not just a matter of "life" versus nothing. It's a matter of money, and money buys everything, including life if you're poor enough.

Some have suggested just giving the body over the parents who'd presumably take care of it. Well, see point 1. The issue of cost is more one about the motives of someone contemplating what to tell their friends and family to do with them in this sort of case. Staying alive will be taking money out of the pockets of someone, probably those you love. Do you really want to do that? For a 2% chance that I might wake up and be marginally the person I am not... well, that's worth a lot. But for a .001% chance that I'd wake up as a horribly damaged near-animal? Kill me.

Tabula Rasa Madness

There's been a bit of discussion I've seen recently about an article on newsweek exerpting "Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety" by one Judith Warner. Jim Henley has two posts worth reading on it. Start with this one:
[Warner] mistakes "the middle class" for people like her. Warner is an upper-middle class striver and moves in that milieu. What she chronicles and exemplifies is simply American workaholism applied to child-rearing. ... So the ambitious income redistribution that she imagines will solve the problems of women like her and her friends amounts to a bold if imprecisely quantified call for the redistribution of wealth from the upper-class to the upper-middle class. To the barricades, comrades!
True enough, some other good snarking about the article.

There's one point I've not seen anyone bring up, so, I thought I would discuss the article myself.

Warner is among a generation of women raised in feminism, who've accepted the idea that people are "socially constructed": that we are blank slates. Feminist ideology holds that there is no such thing as human nature. The mind may be evolved, but it has no significant natural inclinations. These beliefs are wrong in many ways, but they represents the default ideology of the left, and increasingly (sadly), the right. What are the implications of blank-slatism applied to mothering?

Well, one is, if you love your child, and want that child to succeed, then someone must do something to mold your child into a successful person. It doesn't just happen. There is no such thing as innate tendancy, or even more horrifying, smarts (IQ?!!), drive, etc. These things must be created. And in our private society so decried by Warner, it is clear that the person molding little Johnny Rasa must be the parents, most particularly mom. Warner:
I was a committed mother, eager to do right by my child and well-versed in the child care teachings of the day.

Another thing we are evolved to want is for our kids not just to "succeed", but to "get ahead" - that is, to be more successful than average. Modern women feel that way, naturally (though they don't know why). The desire for your kid to get ahead has an even harsher implication: to the extent that you see other women molding their kids to be a success, you have to mold yours even harder to insure above-averageness. That is, blank slate ideology induces women to enter a competition, one-upping each other on every aspect of "mothering" as they perceive it.
Women from Idaho to Oklahoma City to the suburbs of Boston—in middle and upper middle class enclaves where there was time and money to spend—told me of lives spent shuttling back and forth to more and more absurd-seeming, high-pressured, time-demanding, utterly exhausting kids' activities.

And yes, that is crazy (as Warner perceives, though not why). But I don't see an answer available to her within her ideology. To the extent that people really are blank slates, women are acting rationally when they break themselves making sure their offspring are better than the others.

Well, I suppose I must give her what is due. What you have here is a sort of tragedy of the commons. Even some libertarians accept the idea of using the government to organize "society" to solve problems of externalities. (Though I do not.) Certainly Warner is no libertarian so the idea of using the government to solve her problem is natural to her. If Warner and her co-ideologues could only agree to "not run" the race, they'd probably all be happier. Thus, the nauseating political prescriptions that Jim Henley punctures. As Henley notes, what Warner calls for really wouldn't end the competition:
Warner's desired government subsidies can't solve her real problem, which is ensuring that her children have relatively higher status than the bulk of their generational cohort. You can offer tax-funded ballet classes to every Jacob and Caitlin in the country, but there will still be only one "best" ballet class in a given town. Meritocrat moms will still "need" to get into that class, not the ones for the hoi-polloi.
(my emphasis). People do strive to advance their children; that's an evolved part of us. They did so in ancient Rome, they did so in the Soviet Union, and they do here in America today.

Although it is clear that Warner and her suffering co-affluents do very much want their kids to "get ahead", I think one part of their problem is they don't know why they want this. They see that they are paying a price for it; thus they fear they are irrational. One thing that might help is simply to know that it is natural for them to want to advance their kids. It's an evolved aspect of human nature.

It may also help them to know that in general in primates, females are much social than males. Thus there's a reason why their husbands are not similarly busting their butts molding the kids: hubby just ain't that into it. Knowing this might help these women live more peaceably with their family.

(Indeed, it seems one obvious prescription even from a blank-slate perspective is: just stop wanting little Johnny to get ahead! The fact that you want it means that you were socialized a certain way, and since that is causing you pain, stop it! Take control! And if you can't change yourself, at least you should try not to infest your progeny with the "want success for child" meme. Fight the power!)

But there's another way that the blank-slate ideology is wrong which is much more significant here: that it's flat-out wrong in its understanding of the sources of success. In fact, success in meritocratic free-market America is largely a function of one thing: brains. Heritability of IQ seems to be similar to that of many other human traits (like height) -- high, but nowhere near total. So, the best thing that Warner can do for her kids is to be high-IQ herself - which she probably is; and in any case, she can't change her own intelligence. This was the message of the Bell Curve, the notorious book that was shut out of polite discourse for discussing several such un-PC ideas.

This is the message from science: human beings are animals. Just like other animals, we have inborn desires. Just like other animals we receive a significant proportion of who we are when we are conceived; and much more is determined by the time we are born. Unlike other animals, we can learn and change and move outside our programming. However, worrying about whether your child will succeed is largely irrelevant. He or she will succeed or fail largely on his or her own, regardless of what you do.

Once you know this, you will be freed to be a much "worse" Mom.

The Derb on Homosexuality

John Derbyshire is one of those people I watch. I don't agree with him in many ways, but he is far enough outside of the PC box that it is plain, both to him and to anyone reading him, that he cannot get back in. Thus he is free to write unPC stuff. There's a freedom that only pariahs have.

Anyway, he's got a good review of the scientific understanding of the origins of homosexuality up at NRO. The particular concern is: is it "inborn"? Derb thinks it is. But being him, he hastens to add:
I am, though I say this with all appropriate modesty, something of a hate figure to the more fanatical kind of homosexualist, as you can easily see by Googling my name. One has for several years been running an energetic campaign to get me fired from National Review. That I am in broad agreement with these folk about the inborn nature of their homosexuality therefore puts me in company with people who hate me, and whom I myself generally dislike. There is not much point in being embarrassed about this. That's science for you. Science is 'cold,' and doesn't care what we think or wish for. (This is a point about science that many people simply cannot grasp. The opposite of science is not religion; the opposite of science is wishful thinking.)
Science is cold. Ice, ice, baby!

More on Implicit Assoc Test

There's an article on it in the Wapo:

"... I had as much trouble pairing African American names with pleasant words as I did insect names with pleasant words."

Greenwald sent Banaji the computer test. She quickly discovered that her results were similar to his. Incredulous, she reversed the order of the names in the test. She switched the left and right keys. The answer wouldn't budge.

"I was deeply embarrassed," she recalls. "I was humbled in a way that few experiences in my life have humbled me." ... For years, Banaji had told students that ugly prejudices were not just in other people but inside themselves. As Banaji stared at her results, the cliche felt viscerally true.
Mmm, science.

Battlestar Galactica

I'm not much of a TV watcher, but I do have a DVR and can thus watch pretty much anything if I want to. It's just that most of it seems like a waste of time compared to other idle pursuits. I've not watched any show regularly since I got done going through "Angel" (after Buffy, after Farscape). So that's where I'm from when I say:

This new Battlestar Galactica is good.

That's all you really need to know. Go watch now, me like.

But for those who want a reason... well... I am reminded of the time I got hooked on Farscape. I'm flipping channels, as it happens, midway during the first season. Good looking folks in scifi setting, OK. John (human) and Aeryn (alien) are talking as they're doing other stuff:

John: I am never going to get used to walking around inside a living ship.
Aeryn: You have nothing similar in your culture?
John: Well, Jonah and the whale, but no contemporary parallels. Except maybe the horse and rider.
Aeryn: Rider? The horse is a beast of burden?
John: Yeah. Not as large or sophisticated as Moya here, but kinda similar. Loyal and intelligent.
Aeryn: That you capture and make work for you.
John: Yeah, but we love them, too.
Aeryn: You love what you enslave?
John: We don't enslave them, all right? We ... Fine, we enslave them.

Now, that's sharp writing. The rest of the ep was hard to follow, but this one bit of writing interested me enough that I watched a "Farscape marathon", and that hooked me for good. And FS really was good for the first season, and much of the second, and flashes thereafter.

For BSG, I liked the miniseries enough to set it up to record. I missed "33". I watched "Water" and liked it, but I was not compelled. Then I get to this sequence in "Act of Contrition" that I just adored.

The President is talking to a doctor; she's got breast cancer. He asks her why she didn't get an examination over the last five years - I'm getting preachy modern health-fascism vibes here, yuck - then she comes back with that's not your business. Woohoo! Then he lights up a cigarette. !!! On a TV show made in the last ten-twenty years, and scifi no less, a cigarette! She looks at this somewhat aghast, and asks "do you mind", and he says, "yes I do mind" and keeps right on smoking! National TV! Then they talk about possible treatment, clearly not with a very good prognosis. She wants to explore "alternate treatments", his take (not knowing she has a good reason for this), is "oh you're one of those people". He suggests, "prayer", she says "funny", all very fast. Then they discuss a technobabbled alternate therapy - 'marsala root' or whatever. He agrees to try to help her. He snubs his cigarette and starts to leave, but then tells her with great sympathy: "seriously: you should consider prayer". We get an ambiguous reaction shot from her and end of scene.

Wow. Politically incorrect in three different ways, but very real, and nothing like I'd expect to see on TV, scifi or not.

War Nerd on Elections

Go click that link for the war nerd and revel. The topic this time: America vs Iran. Choice bits:
The suicide car bomb is a good example of why I don't worship hardware like most war fans do. These cars are actually no-tech guided surface-to-surface cruise missiles--and damn effective. ... They're especially deadly in urban warfare, because they're perfectly camouflaged till they actually blow up.

Or this on the Iraqi elections:
Right now, they [Iraqi Shi'ites] are cooperating with us -- not because they like us, but because we're helping them use their majority to take over Iraq.

It's a laugh, the way Bush's people say the Shi'ite enthusiasm for voting proves that "democracy is taking hold" in Iraq. All it proves is that Shi'ites can count. They've got 60% of the vote sewed up, and we're riding shotgun for them, absorbing all the violence the Sunnis can dish out, while the Shia go out and grab power by the ballot box.

Sure enough.

Implicit Association Test

An interesting test: inplicit association tests of race with loaded words. I took it and got a neutral result: "Your data suggest little or no automatic preference for White American relative to Black American".