Monday, September 30, 2019

The favorite avocation of New Englanders in general and Rhode Islanders in particular—smuggling

From The Road to Guilford Courthouse by John Buchanan. Page 263.
Prior to 1772 surviving records reveal no interest on the part of Nathanael Greene in the momentous political and constitutional issues that were building to a boiling point between mother country and the colonies. Then, on the night of 17 February 1772, Lieutenant William Dudingston, a particularly tough British naval officer and skipper of HMS Gaspee, sailed into Narragansett Bay to stop the favorite avocation of New Englanders in general and Rhode Islanders in particular—smuggling. Off North Kingstown he seized the sloop Fortune. It carried rum, Jamaica spirits, and brown sugar and was commanded by Rufus Greene, Nathanael Greene’s twenty-three-year-old cousin. Fortune was the Greene family’s coastal trading vessel. Rufus Greene was insulted, pushed around, hit on the head, knocked down, and threatened by a British officer with a sword. The Greenes were incensed and Rhode Islanders took up the family’s cause as theirs, for what happened to one merchant could happen to others, who were, after all, only engaged in their God-given right to smuggle rum, sugar, and molasses rather than pay duties that everyone knew Parliament had no right to levy. On the night of 9 June 1772, after Gaspee ran aground seven miles south of Providence, a mob that included respectable merchants rowed silently from the city in eight longboats to Gaspee, shot Lieutenant Dudingston in the arm and groin, evacuated the vessel, and burned it. It was the most celebrated incident of defiance in Rhode Island before the climate was changed by the event in Lexington, Massachusetts. The evidence points strongly to Rufus Greene being one of the mob. And thereafter Nathanael Greene feared that the “Priviledges and Liberties of the People will be trampled to Death by the Prerogatives of the Crown,” as he wrote on 25 January 1773 to his friend Samuel Ward, Jr.

China as the source of civilization

From Massive 500-Year-Old Distillery Found in China is on Industrial Scale by Ed Whelan. Does this cement the Chinese claim to be the seat of civilization?
Archaeologists have discovered the ruins of a massive distillery in China that dates to the Ming and Qing dynasties. The discovery is believed to be the largest of its kind ever made in China, stretching across some 190,000 square feet (18,000 square meters)! The distillery would have been capable of producing spirits on an industrial scale.

Xinhua reports that the distillery was unearthed by chance by construction workers, in Suixi County, Anhui Province, which is in eastern China. Archaeologists were amazed at the size of the find.

Chen Chao a researcher with the Provincial Institute of Heritage and Archaeology, stated that “three distillation stoves and more than 30 fermenting tanks” have been found, reports However, so far, only 3,000 square meters out of the 18,000 have been excavated, so many more may yet be discovered.

Among the other items that have been uncovered during the dig are drinking vessels , bottles, and even cigarette holders. The specific artifacts found at the ancient distillery suggest that the site was in operation for many centuries.

Researchers believe that the distillery dates back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). There is evidence that it was also making spirits in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). This was the last dynasty to rule China.

This is only one of a handful of ancient distilleries discovered in the People’s Republic of China. Chen states “This is the fourth ancient distillery workshop ruins found by Chinese archaeologists” according to that Xinhuanet.

Two of these ancient distilleries were unearthed in southwest China and one in the eastern province of Jiangxi. These sites are over a large geographical area and show that distilling was very important in ancient China.

Drinking spirits was very popular in ancient China. CNS reports that “in ancient times, many learned people believed that the beauty of the moment of writing and reciting poetry must be accompanied by the drinking of fine liquor”. Drinking high-quality alcoholic beverages was seen as part of a refined and cultivated lifestyle. However, drinking to excess and drunkenness was not socially acceptable.

ennoji Temple in Osaka, 1927 by Kawase Hasui (1883-1957)

Tennoji Temple in Osaka, 1927 by Kawase Hasui (1883-1957)

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Who knew algorithms had a sense of humor

Twitter algorithms have a malignant sense of humor. In my twitter timeline:

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In the first tweet, someone, presumably a Republican or a conservative, is excoriating Republican Senators for using the impeachment hearings as simply a means of raising campaign funds. He wants Senators who fight, not who exploit politics to raise moeny.

Fair enough. An understandable position, particularly if you are a conservative frustrated with GOP swamp critter antics.

But then the goblins of Twitter algorithms immediately follow this tweet with a promoted advertising tweet from the Democrat leading the impeachment effort, Adam Schiff - seeking to raise money from his impeachment campaign.

Is Twitter trying to mock Schiff? Hold up Republicans as nobler in their goals? No, I doubt it.

But the chance juxtaposition does seem to show that the establishment party members of either party are more similar in their behavior to one another, than either are to their constituents, the American people.

The American people expect better from their establishment than they are getting.

Off Beat Humor

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Less than 20 percent of all Internet traffic goes through sites owned or operated by Google or Facebook.

Politicians saying foolish and untrue things is not an unknown thing. Occasionally the foolishness of what they say becomes the prompt for better information.

From Debunking Elizabeth Warren’s Claim That “More Than 70% of All Internet Traffic Goes through Google or Facebook” by Alec Stapp.
In March of this year, Elizabeth Warren announced her proposal to break up Big Tech in a blog post on Medium. She tried to paint the tech giants as dominant players crushing their smaller competitors and strangling the open internet. This line in particular stood out: “More than 70% of all Internet traffic goes through sites owned or operated by Google or Facebook.”

This statistic immediately struck me as outlandish, but I knew I would need to do some digging to fact check it. After seeing the claim repeated in a recent profile of the Open Markets Institute — “Google and Facebook control websites that receive 70 percent of all internet traffic” — I decided to track down the original source for this surprising finding.
That there is legitimate concern about the effect of social media on public discourse is a reasonable proposition. That the power of Google and Facebook might be being abused commercially, financially and politically is also a real concern. That they dominate social media might be a concern but it depends on what one considers social media. That increased government regulation or trust-busting is a good solution is a much more dubious proposition. Possibly, but I suspect that the competitive market will take care of them sooner or later.

But that politicians who don't know what they are talking about are a good means for solving complex commercial, technological, and social problems is a rather extraordinary claim. And that is the premise for most proposals.

But what did Stapp find?
Warren’s blog post links to a November 2017 Newsweek article — “Who Controls the Internet? Facebook and Google Dominance Could Cause the ‘Death of the Web’” — written by Anthony Cuthbertson. The piece is even more alarmist than Warren’s blog post: “Facebook and Google now have direct influence over nearly three quarters of all internet traffic, prompting warnings that the end of a free and open web is imminent.”
Newsweek? To the extent that it ever was a reliable source of information, Newsweek ceased being so decades ago. If a politician is basing their knowledge of a complex problem on information from Newsweek, that should raise some eyebrows.

In a game of Telephone, Stapp keeps tracing the error back, step-by-step. He gets to:
The article — “Facebook Continues to Beat Google in Sending Traffic to Top Publishers” — is about external referrals (i.e., outside links) to publisher sites (not total internet traffic) and says the “data set used for this study included around 400 publisher domains.” This is not even a random sample much less a comprehensive measure of total internet traffic. Here’s how they summarize their results: “Today, Facebook remains a top referring site to the publishers in’s network, claiming 39 percent of referral traffic versus Google’s share of 34 percent.”

So, using the sources provided by the respective authors, the claim from Elizabeth Warren that “more than 70% of all Internet traffic goes through sites owned or operated by Google or Facebook” can be more accurately rewritten as “more than 70 percent of external links to 400 publishers come from sites owned or operated by Google and Facebook.” When framed that way, it’s much less conclusive (and much less scary).
Having shown that Warren used information from an unreliable source and misunderstood the meaning of the information, Stapp goes a final step.
But what’s the real statistic for total internet traffic? This is a surprisingly difficult question to answer, because there is no single way to measure it: Are we talking about share of users, or user-minutes, of bits, or total visits, or unique visits, or referrals? According to Wikipedia, “Common measurements of traffic are total volume, in units of multiples of the byte, or as transmission rates in bytes per certain time units.”
Having describe the definitional issues and limits of knowledge, Stapp gets to:
Looking at two categories of traffic analyzed by Sandvine — downstream traffic and overall traffic — gives lie to the narrative pushed by Warren and others. As you can see in the chart below, HTTP media streaming — a category for smaller streaming services that Sandvine has not yet tracked individually — represented 12.8% of global downstream traffic and Netflix accounted for 12.6%. According to Sandvine, “the aggregate volume of the long tail is actually greater than the largest of the short-tail providers.” So much for the open internet being smothered by the tech giants.

As for Google and Facebook? The report found that Google-operated sites receive 12.00 percent of total internet traffic while Facebook-controlled sites receive 7.79 percent. In other words, less than 20 percent of all Internet traffic goes through sites owned or operated by Google or Facebook. While this statistic may be less eye-popping than the one trumpeted by Warren and other antitrust activists, it does have the virtue of being true.
Google and Facebook might still be a problem, but not for the reasons Warren hypothesizes. The truth matters.

Warren has a history of erroneous and fallacious research going back more than twenty years. But that is another common aspect of so many people who are politicians. An unwarranted belief that this time they are right.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Altho their Ignorance and want of Skill in Military Affairs may at present render their appearance Awkward

From The Road to Guilford Courthouse by John Buchanan. Page 243. Cornwallis's retreat after Kings Mountain.
The long column set out in the late afternoon and almost immediately ran into trouble. The army’s guide was, in the words of Lieutenant Roderick McKenzie, a “Presbyterean fanatick” from Charlotte, William McCafferty, who led the troops by design onto the wrong road and then left them and rode to William Richardson Davie’s camp. The British wandered amid hills and ravines the rest of the night and left behind at least twenty wagons with supplies including the baggage of the British Legion. They found the right road but the discovery did not improve the conditions of the march. The Carolina mud remained deep, the streams high and swift, the rain incessant. The troops had no tents. Food was in short supply and for five days there was nothing to eat but Indian corn harvested on the way and cooked by parching it over campfires. Always hovering on their rear and flanks were Davie’s mounted Rebel militia, unable to do serious damage but ever ready to cut off stragglers, take advantage of sniping opportunities, and engage in running fights with Tory militia scouring the countryside for food for the army.

Cornwallis had caught a bad cold, and shortly after the retreat began he too was stricken with fever and had to be transported in a wagon. Lord Rawdon took command. Another occupant of a wagon was Major George Hanger, desperately ill with what he called yellow fever, so weak he could hardly move. Lying with him in the wagon on a common bed of straw were five fellow British officers down with fever. The streams that had to be crossed were so high that water rose over the axles and wet their straw bed. Only Hanger survived. His five comrades were dead inside a week and buried far from home in lonely and long-forgotten graves dug hastily on the side of the road in the wet red clay of the South Carolina Back Country. Hanger lost so much weight that his bones split his skin, and he felt that he survived only by taking opium and port wine.

If not a nightmare, Cornwallis’s retreat to Winnsboro was a bad dream. It also reveals in stunning detail the festering relations between the British Army and the rude Tory militia of the interior. It was a problem of attitude that eventually descended to cruel treatment. This attitude was summed up two years later in the Observations of a Tory militia colonel, Robert Gray, who wrote that “almost every British officer regarded with contempt and indifference the establishment of a militia among a people differing so much in customs and manners from themselves.” Lord Cornwallis was aware of the problem. At Charlotte, about two weeks before setting out for Winnsboro, he issued an order urging troop officers and soldiers to “treat with kindness all those who have Sought protection in the British Army, & to believe that Altho their Ignorance and want of Skill in Military Affairs may at present render their appearance Awkward in a Veteran and Experienced Army; When they are properly Arm’d, Appointed, & Instructed they Will shew the same Ardour, & Courage in the Cause of Great Britain As their Countrymen who repair’d to the Royal Standard in the Northern Colonies.” His effort had little and perhaps no effect. Five months later in North Carolina he felt the need to officially repeat the order, and his commissary Charles Stedman in his History clearly described the incredible behavior of some British officers and the alienation of many Tory militiamen during the retreat to Winnsboro.
Cornwallis was not a natural politician.

Men are more heavily discounted for being unattractive than are women.

Men are more heavily discounted for being unattractive than are women.

La brezza del mare, 1880 by George Henry Boughton [English, 1833-1905]

La brezza del mare, 1880 by George Henry Boughton [English, 1833-1905]

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Jewish diaspora in the Caribbean

Both a review and an endorsement. From *Jewish Emancipation: A History Across Five Centuries* by Tyler Cowen. The book being reviewed is Jewish Emancipation: A History Across Five Centuries by David Sorkin.

Cowen mentions this nugget.
By the way, in the middle of the eighteenth century there were more Jews in Curacao, Suriname and Jamaica than in all of the North American colonies combined.

Off Beat Humor

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And I didn't know blacktongue was even a thing.

From More Video Of Justin Trudeau And This Is The Worst Yet by Nick Arama.

Much as the press hates the American president (and the British Prime Minister), it is notable that we do not have headlines and reports this striking. New video has emerged of Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in yet more blackface.
He’s wearing an afro and appears to, again, have dyed multiple parts of his body, from his legs and arms to his tongue. He also ripped up his jeans and appears to have enhanced his crotch area.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

The country was very thinly settled, and provisions could not be had for love or money.

From The Road to Guilford Courthouse by John Buchanan. Page 237. After the Battle of Kings Mountain.
=The morning after the battle was a scene of frenetic activity. While Tory women and children went from body to body searching for loved ones, the colonels prepared to march, for they were aware how close they were to Cornwallis and the British army. So were the men. During the battle a rumor suddenly arose that Tarleton and the Legion were upon them, and John Sevier had to quickly squelch it. A similar rumor, also untrue, circulated the morning after the battle. But the possibility that a British relief force was on the way had to be taken seriously. The British wagons used to carry tents and other baggage were set afire before they left. They would only slow the march. Colonel Campbell stayed behind to supervise the burial detail. The Rebel wounded who could travel were placed on litters of tent cloth suspended on poles between horses.

About 10 o’clock on Sunday morning “we marched at a rapid pace towards Gilbert’s Town between double lines of mounted Americans,” wrote Alexander Chesney. The Rebels had captured 1,500 stand of arms, and with the firing locks removed each Tory prisoner was forced to carry two muskets. The column stopped for the night at Fondren’s plantation, where there was a good camping ground, enough dry fence rails for fires, and, wrote Benjamin Sharp, “a sweet potato patch sufficiently large to supply the whole army. This was most fortunate, for not one in fifty of us had tasted food for the last two days and nights, that is, since we left the Cowpens.” But according to Alexander Chesney the prisoners were not fed until Monday night, when each was given an ear of raw Indian corn. There was, in fact, little food available for either the victors or the vanquished, and treatment of the latter was harsh. Chesney reported being “stripped of my shoes and silver buckles in an inclement season,” and Draper repeats a secondhand story of Colonel William Brandon hacking to death with his sword a Tory who tried to escape by hiding in a hollow sycamore tree.

Certainly the prisoners were being plundered of personal belongings and treated harshly, and evidence of helpless men being killed is provided in a General Order issued by Colonel Campbell on 11 October in camp south of Gilbert Town. “I must request the officers of all ranks in the army to endeavor to restrain the disorderly manner of slaughtering and disturbing the prisoners. If it cannot be prevented by moderate measures, such effectual punishment shall be executed upon delinquents as will put a stop to it.”

The hastily assembled little army was falling apart, and the situation would get much worse. Thomas Young claimed that by the time they reached Cane Creek “we all came near starving to death. The country was very thinly settled, and provisions could not be had for love or money. I thought green pumpkins, sliced and fried, about the sweetest eating I ever had in my life.” The footman John Spelts told Draper that the prisoners were thrown raw corn on the cob and raw pumpkins, just as farmers throw feed to their hogs.


by Charles Simic

She was about to chop the head
In half,
But I made her reconsider
By telling her:
"Cabbage symbolizes mysterious love."

Or so said one Charles Fourier,
Who said many other strange and wonderful things,
So that people called him mad behind his back,

Whereupon I kissed the back of her neck
Ever so gently,

Whereupon she cut the cabbage in two
With a single stroke of her knife.

The clerisy says that markets and liberty are dangerous.

From Bourgoise Dignity - Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World by Deirdre N. McCloskey. Page 45. Chapter 4.
The clerisy’s anti-innovation and anti-market and anti-liberty rhetoric in the years since 1848, though repeated down to yesterday, unwisely mistakes the scientific history. The clerisy says that lack of elite control of human breeding will cause the race to degenerate. Scientific genetics suggests that it does not. Human abilities flourish from diversity. The clerisy says that innovation impoverishes people. Scientific economics suggests that it does not. It enriches most of them. The clerisy says that state planning or nationalist mobilization is better than voluntary commercial peace. Scientific history suggests not. Socialism and nationalism have regularly disrupted the prosperity provided by commerce. The clerisy says that the modern urban world is alienated. Scientific sociology replies on the contrary that bourgeois life has strengthened numerous if weak ties and has freed people from village tyrannies. The clerisy says that markets and liberty are dangerous. Political science suggests that on the contrary they give ordinary people dignity and make them mild and tolerant by the standards of alternative arrangements.

Ixworth Mill by Rowland Hilder(195-1993)

Ixworth Mill by Rowland Hilder(195-1993)

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Off Beat Humor

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Friday, September 27, 2019

A sensitive understatement to describe some of the unruliest men in America

From The Road to Guilford Courthouse by John Buchanan. Page 217.
“As the political battle of which they were unaware was being waged, the combined force of 1,390 mountaineers and Back Country militia left Quaker Meadows on 1 October and marched eighteen miles south to a gap in South Mountain near the head of Cane Creek, where they camped that night and the next. There were now five colonels in camp but no commanding officer, for which the colonels felt a need. Most of the men might be seasoned fighters, but they were also militiamen, who were prey, noted Shelby, to “the little disorders and irregularities which began to prevail among our undisciplined troops,” which is a sensitive understatement to describe some of the unruliest men in America. This “created much uneasiness in the commanding officers—the Colonels commanding the regiments."

Bourgeoise values, freedom, and democratic accountability

From Bourgoise Dignity - Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World by Deirdre N. McCloskey. Page 44. Chapter 4.
Here you have in prospect, God help you, a sestet. Yet bourgeois life and innovation since 1848 have had a voluminously bad press, worse even than warranted Christian belief. The prosecution in the past century and a half has written out the indictment of the developing bourgeois and free and business-respecting civilization in many thousands of eloquent volumes, from the hands of Dickens (the critics of innovation were not all of the left), Carlyle (ditto), Alexander Herzen, Baudelaire, Marx, Engels, Mikhail Bukharin, Ruskin, William Morris, Nietzsche, Prince Kropotkin (my hero at age 14, when I fell in love with socialist anarchism down at the local Carnegie-built library), Tolstoy, Shaw, Ida Tarbell, Upton Sinclair, Rosa Luxemburg, Emma Goldman (another admired figure, when I later developed my anarchist convictions), D. H. Lawrence, Lenin, Trotsky (companion of a brief flirtation with communism), John Reid (ditto), Veblen, Ortega y Gasset, Sinclair Lewis, T. S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Mussolini, Giovanni Gentile, Hitler, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, F. R. Leavis, Karl Polanyi, Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Simone Weil, Dorothy Day, Woody Guthrie (whose singing made me for a while a Joan-Baez socialist: the leftish opponents of bourgeois dignity and liberty, alas, have all the best songs), Pete Seeger, (ditto), Lewis Mumford, Hannah Arendt, Herbert Marcuse, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, J. K. Galbraith, Louis Althusser, Allan Bloom, Frederic Jameson, Saul Bellow, Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Paul Ehrlich, Stuart Hall, George Steiner, Jacques Lacan, Stanley Hauerwas, Terry Eagleton, Alain Badiou, Slavoj Žižek, Charles Sellers, Barbara Ehrenreich, Nancy Folbre, and Naomi Klein. Few people have defended commerce from this magnificent flood of eloquence from the pens of left progressives and right reactionaries — jeremiads which indeed stretch from the Hebrew prophets through Plato and the Analects of Confucius and down to the present — except on the economist’s prudence-only grounds that after all a great deal of money is made there. After such grand prolixity in the prosecution of innovation and markets, I admire my restraint in offering in defense merely six volumes. As Henry Fielding wrote towards the end of Tom Jones, a “prodigious” book, “when thou hast perused the many great events which this book will produce, thou wilt think the number of pages contained in it scarce sufficient to tell the story.”
Absurdly lengthy as that list is, it also is the mere tip of the mountain of criticism directed at the system (bourgeois values in a society of free, self-determining people, operating in a free market, with free elections) which has delivered such staggering progress (increasing life spans, falling morbidity, rising incomes, increased education attainment, falling violence, improving environment, plummeting poverty, broadening democratic participation, etc.) in so brief a time (2-3 centuries) as to constitute a miracle.

Every intellectual thinks they can do better than the emergent prosperity arising from bourgeoise values, freedom, and democratic accountability, and yet manifest nearly complete unawareness of the actual progress made. It is not just that they are wrong, but that they are dangerously wrong.

The Little Street, 1658/60 by Johannes Vermeer

The Little Street, 1658/60 by Johannes Vermeer

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Off Beat Humor

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Can it be good policy if it is well intended but the results are bad?

The Washington Post and the New York Times can still do interesting in-depth reporting but they are doing less and less of it all the time. And regrettably, even when they do that in-depth reporting, their underlying ideological and partisan orientation is so strong that it undermines, skews, and not infrequently sabotages that reporting.

The desire for well-written factual reporting doesn't go away, even if you can't find it in the places you used to rely on.

More and more think tanks, independent researchers, other institutions take the place of the old MSM. The Race Theory That Keeps Imperiled Black Kids Right Where They Are by Naomi Schaefer Riley of RealClearInvestigations is an interesting example.

RealClear started out as a news aggregator, presenting articles from local, national and international media on both/all sides of an issue. They have branched out into some original content creation, of which RealClearInvestigations in one.

Naomi Schaefer Riley is a journalist who operates across frontiers. Newspapers and magazines. Mainstream Media and new media. Employee and contractor. Her own life is also across frontiers, with an inter-faith and inter-racial marriage.

In the above mentioned piece, she is looking at New Orleans where a new policy is taking shape, driven by a single judge based on identity and social justice theory. New policies which pander to racial identitarianism but which fail to keep children safe from harm and which imperil their development.

Family dysfunction, race, poverty, personal behaviors are all fraught topics. Besides being expensive to report, there is little ideological upside for most of the MSM. The most dysfunctional child welfare departments and some of the most tragic stories come out of jurisdictions governed by their party. Whatever truths there are to be discovered on the way to providing a better life for these children, people are going to be angry for one reason or another.

There are few obvious answers and little agreement on policy. "Do no harm" policies are disputed when they challenge ideological beliefs. Active racism is being embedded in state policy. Riley is calling us to focus on what is measurably the best for children and close our eyes and ears to policy setting based on ideological beliefs.
But that inaction came amid a growing push by liberal advocacy groups, child welfare agencies, and some judges to leave children in troubled homes instead of placing them in foster care.

No one argues that foster care cannot be improved. But this movement, which boasts strong financial and political support, is drawing attention for two reasons. First are concerns that it puts children at risk. The second is that it is based on racial ideology that ignores the evidence about child maltreatment.

A prime mover of this effort is Judge Ernestine Steward Gray, who has served in the Orleans Parish Juvenile Court since 1984. Because the case files are sealed, it is not publicly known whether she was directly involved in Brandajah’s case. But she is currently the judge primarily responsible for the vast majority of “child in need of care” cases. She has long argued that the child welfare system unfairly targets minority children for removal from their homes and is widely acknowledged to have almost singlehandedly shifted the parish’s policies on foster care.

She also has a powerful ally in the effort – Casey Family Programs. The organization, which has a $2.2 billion endowment, recently gave Judge Gray a leadership award honoring those who have “had a significant impact in improving outcomes for children and families and building Communities of Hope.”

JooYeun Chang, the managing director of public policy at Casey Family Programs, argued last year that the foster care system “traumatize[s] kids by removing them from the only communities they have known” only to place them in living situations that “are no better than jails.” The reason so many kids, particularly minority kids, are removed from the home, she said, is that “our system has been built on centuries of racism, classism and xenophobia.”

Across the country, advocates influenced and sometimes even trained by Casey Family Programs espouse the view that the child welfare system is racially biased and structured to break up minority families rather than protect children. In response, they say, the system should try to keep kids in their homes, reunify them more quickly if they have been removed, or keep them with extended family because they share the same racial background.

James Dwyer, a law professor at the College of William & Mary, has argued that minority parents – black parents especially – are often seen as the victims of racism and poverty, so there is a growing push to give them as many chances as possible.

Richard Gelles, former dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Work, believes that leaving children in unsafe environments in the name of family preservation and racial justice is dangerous. “It’s almost immoral to hold a child's development hostage while you wait for parents to turn their lives around – if in fact they are going to be able to turn their lives around,” he told the PBS program “Frontline.” “What if it takes a parent five or six or eight years to turn their life around … and the only way you know that you've failed is the child is injured or harmed” in the meantime?

Dwyer said that is often the result. “We know that a substantial portion of parents reported once for maltreatment will be reported again if the child remains in their custody,” he told RCI. By contrast, “we know rates of abuse and neglect in foster care are miniscule by comparison — one quarter of 1% annually.”

In that light, it appears that Judge Gray and likeminded people across the country are conducting a high-stakes experiment – applying a new standard for what constitutes abuse and neglect for minority children and where at-risk children should be placed if they are removed. She is doing it with the full knowledge of state officials, but without any public announcement or scrutiny. She may also be in violation of federal equal-protection law. Gray says that she decides cases on an individual basis, but the people in her courtroom say that the issue of race is regularly invoked there and state officials say it is absolutely impacting her decisions.
A well-intended but wrong-headed judge, noble ends but ideological means, willful disregard for evidence, policy making through judicial or agency delegation, absence of accountability, absence of transparency. There is everything you might want for a news story. And yet it is not reported (except, of course, by Riley).

What are the results of this non-transparent ideological decision-making by proxy?
Gray’s views are taking hold in New Orleans. Between 2010 and 2018, the number of children in foster care in Orleans Parish fell almost 75%, from 126 to 36. During the same period, neighboring parishes have seen significant increases. East Baton Rouge, for instance, has gone from 126 to 208 during the same period. A map of Louisiana suggests that Orleans is a startling outlier with a rate of 1.7 children in foster care per 1,000 compared with neighboring St. Tammany and St. Bernard with rates of 4.9 and 6.8, respectively. The national average is 6 per 1,000 children.

Nationwide there has been an increase in the number of children entering foster care, from 397,000 in 2012 to 443,000 in 2018. Estimates vary, but for every five incidents in which a child is removed from his or her home, two to four of them have to do with a family member’s substance abuse. And Louisiana’s drug problem has certainly been getting worse. Its rate of overdose deaths has increased to 24.5 per 1,000, compared to the national average of 21.7.

In the past eight years, reports of child abuse and neglect in Orleans Parish have almost doubled from 2,556 to 5,589, and the number that merit an investigation has risen from 1,044 to 1,777. All of which suggests that, if anything, Orleans should be seeing a rise in the number of kids needing to be removed from their homes. But the parish is moving in the opposite direction.


Both on and off the bench, Gray has suggested that racism is a major problem in the child welfare system. She has repeatedly invoked disparate impact theory, the idea that race-neutral policies can be racist if they impact one group more than others. In a 2018 article for the Louisiana Bar Journal titled “The Color of Justice for Children,” Gray wrote, “Nationally, youth of color are disproportionately represented at every decision point in the child welfare system. Their families are disproportionately referred to the system by institutions such as hospitals, schools and law enforcement.”

During the interview with RCI, Gray said she tries to make decisions on a case-by-case basis but she said she knows that “African Americans don’t make up 100% of the poor people in New Orleans. I have to wonder why poor white parents and poor Vietnamese parents aren’t being brought in.”

According to a 2016 report from the Children’s Information Gateway, black children made up 13.8% of the child population in the United States and 22.6% of those identified as victims by child protective services. Black children make up 24.3% of kids in foster care.

In her article, Gray rests her claim of racial bias on “research [that] shows that rates of child abuse and neglect are not higher in families of color. … [Factors contributing to this phenomenon] include poverty, a lack of community resources, as well as institutional biases from the police, the child welfare agency and the courts.”

But national statistics report that black children are more likely to suffer maltreatment and black women are more likely to be the victims of abuse than whites. Although various factors contribute to this, single parenthood, and especially living with a man who is not the biological father, is a common theme in a notable percentage of abuse cases. According to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the incidence of physical abuse for a child living with a single parent and a “partner” is 19.5 per 1,000. That’s almost twice as high as for children living with unmarried biological parents or a parent married to a nonbiological parent, and almost 10 times as high as for married biological parents. The data are similar for sexual abuse.

According to data from Child Trends, 70% of all births to black women in 2014 occurred outside of marriage, compared with only 29% of all births to white women. Family structure is a deeply important factor in determining the likelihood of interaction with child welfare officials – one that disproportionately hurts black children.
This is straight up judicial racism motivated by ignorance and ideological conviction and which is leading to injury and death of the very children who are already the most vulnerable.

There are no quick, easy answers but there are some answers which are transparently wrong.

And no one in the MSM is willing to report on it.

Pachelbel's Canon in D as you have never heard it performed before

In a time of fake news and manufactured hysteria, if this doesn't restore your faith in the creative genius of humanity, I don't know what will.

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Thursday, September 26, 2019

The decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt

You got to hand it to the Founding Father's. They had a beady eye on reality.

From The Federalist Papers Number 65 by Alexander Hamilton. Published Friday, March 7, 1788.

The whole things is worth a read given the sophistication of his thinking, but this seems especially timely.
A well-constituted court for the trial of impeachments is an object not more to be desired than difficult to be obtained in a government wholly elective. The subjects of its jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself. The prosecution of them, for this reason, will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused. In many cases it will connect itself with the pre-existing factions, and will enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or on the other; and in such cases there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.
Indeed. We are in a period where cognizance of facts and pursuit of truth are entirely dispensable as politicians clammer for power regardless of cost.

They all to a man refused to have anything to do with him or his commission

From The Road to Guilford Courthouse by John Buchanan. Page 217.
In September Colonel Williams rode into Sumter’s camp on the Catawba, had his new commission read to the militia, and ordered them to form “under his immediate command.” William Hill wrote that “much to his well deserved mortification they all to a man knowing his recent conduct in deserting his post and embezzling the public property as before mentioned refused to have anything to do with him or his commission and if he had not immediately left the camp he would have been stoned out of it.” But a commission issued by Governor Rutledge could not be lightly dismissed, and the host assembled in the woods as a convention, as they had done when Sumter was chosen their leader, and voted to send a delegation to Governor Rutledge with a very simple message: they would serve only under Thomas Sumter. That canny politician made sure that the officers who constituted the delegation were his most loyal followers, and to further ensure his continued command he went with them to Hillsborough and gained a private meeting with the governor. Until the matter was settled, Colonel William Hill and Colonel Edward Lacey, both staunch Sumter men, were left in command.

The delegation left the Catawba on or about 30 September, the day the Over Mountain Men and the North Carolina militia rendezvoused at Quaker Meadows; they arrived at Hillsborough on 4 October. Two days later Governor Rutledge commissioned Sumter a brigadier general and gave him command of all militia in South Carolina.

Pareto of Potheads

From Who consumes most of the cannabis in Canada? Profiles of cannabis consumption by quantity by Russell C.Callaghan, et al.

Similar to the findings in the alcohol literature, study results show that cannabis consumption is highly concentrated in a small subset of users: the upper 10% of cannabis users accounted for approximately two-thirds of all cannabis consumed in the country. Males reported consuming more cannabis by volume than females (approximately 60% versus 40%), with young males (15-34 years old) being disproportionately represented in the heaviest-using subgroups.
A Pareto distribution of cannabis consumption among Canadians. Pot heads dominate casual users.

Things not said enough

From I Like You by Sandol Stoddard Warburg.

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Six O'Clock, Winter, 1912 by John French Sloan

Six O'Clock, Winter, 1912 by John French Sloan

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Off Beat Humor

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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

It was all quite illegal.

From The Road to Guilford Courthouse by John Buchanan. Page 206.
The Over Mountain People were largely Scotch Irish, but the mixing had already begun, for among them were sizeable numbers of English and some Germans and Welsh. At the time of which we write they lived in the extreme northeastern corner of what is now Tennessee, along the Watauga, Nolachucky, and Holston Rivers, where Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina meet. They were squatters on Cherokee land, for it was the official policy of the British government to keep white settlers east of the mountains, and to that end the Proclamation Line of 1763 was established. The line followed the watershed of the Appalachian Mountains. The country west of the line was Indian territory under the charge of the commander in chief of the British Army in America. That did not prevent sixteen families from North Carolina, led by James Robertson and his deputy John Sevier, from crossing the mountains and stopping their wagons on the banks of the Watauga River, at a beautiful spot called Sycamore Shoals (modern Elizabethton, Tennessee). There they established the Watauga settlements and leased two large tracts of land from the Cherokee.

It was all quite illegal. The Royal Governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore, called it a “dangerous example,”26 and from the British point of view, and the Cherokee, he was right. But who was going to do anything about it? Three years later the Watauga Association purchased their leased lands from the Indians, but other Cherokee, including young Dragging Canoe, vehemently objected. The subject of Indian land tenure, wellspring of historical and modern controversies, is not our concern. All we need know is that Dragging Canoe and several hundred warriors were back in July 1776, this time in war paint. But the besieged settlements, outnumbered and on their own, held; and from one fort Over Mountain riflemen sallied and in a hard fight on the South Fork of the Holston defeated the Cherokee.

The Indian threat would not end for several years. The bitter struggle in the Appalachians was a phase in a war that began in the early 1600s and lasted for almost three centuries: undeclared, unrelenting, unforgiving. The Over Mountain Man, hardened by the toil of pioneering, was further hardened by Indian fighting. His life could indeed be short, nasty, and brutal. But if he survived falling trees, fever, snake bites, drowning, disease, backbreaking labor, blood poisoning, and the scalping knife, he rode into a fight a warrior for the ages.

Cicero - The first duty is to distinguish truth from falsity, and to understand the relationship between one phenomenon and another and the causes and consequences of each one

From From A Noble Radiance by Donna Leon. Page 240.
Brunetti, finding himself with nothing to do for the first time in what seemed like weeks, decided to impose upon his books the order he was obviously incapable of imposing upon events and so went into the living room and stood in front of the ceiling-high bookcase. Years ago, there had been some distinction made according to language, but when that fell apart, he had attempted to impose the order of chronology. But the curiosity of the children had soon put an end to that, and so Petronius now stood next to St John Chrysostom, and Abelard sidled up to Emily Dickinson. He studied the ranked bindings, pulled down first one and then two more, and then another pair. But then just as suddenly, he lost all interest in the job, took all five books and jammed them indiscriminately in a space on the bottom shelf.

He pulled down his copy of Cicero's On the Good Life and turned to the section on duties, where Cicero writes of the divisions of moral goodness. 'The first is the ability to distinguish truth from falsity, and to understand the relationship between one phenomenon and another and the causes and consequences of each one. The second category is the ability to restrain the passions. And the third is to behave considerately and understanding in our associations with other people.'

He closed the book and slid it back into the place the vagaries and whims of the Brunetti family had assigned it John Donne to the right, Karl Marx to the left. To understand the relationship between one phenomenon and another and the causes and consequences of each one’ he said aloud, startling himself with the sound of his own voice. He went into the kitchen, wrote a note for Paola, and left the apartment, heading towards the Questura.

From Williamsburg Bridge, 1928 by Edward Hopper

From Williamsburg Bridge, 1928 by Edward Hopper

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Off Beat Humor

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Propensity to choke when the chips are down

From How Stress Affects Performance and Competitiveness Across Gender by Jana Cahlíková, Lubomír Cingl, and Ian Levely. From the Abstract.
Because many key career events, such as examinations and interviews, involve competition and stress, gender differences in response to these factors could help to explain the labor market gender gap. In a laboratory experiment, we manipulate psychosocial stress using the Trier Social Stress Test and confirm that this is effective by measuring salivary cortisol level and heart rate. Subjects perform in a real-effort task under both tournament and piece-rate incentives, and we elicit willingness to compete. We find that women under heightened stress perform worse than women in the control group when compensated with tournament incentives, whereas there is no treatment difference under piece-rate incentives. For men, stress does not affect output under competition or under piece rate. The gender gap in willingness to compete is not affected by stress, but stress decreases competitiveness overall, which is related to performance for women. Our results could explain gender differences in performance under competition, with implications for hiring practices and incentive structures in firms.
To clarify.
For women, we find that performance under competition is worse in the stress treatment group than in the control group. Although most female subjects in the control group perform better under tournament incentives than under the piece-rate scheme, many women in the stress treatment group actually do worse. Interestingly, stress alone does not have a negative effect on performance in either women or men. It is the combination of stress and tournament incentives that is detrimental to women’s performance, and this explains the lower willingness to compete among women in the stress treatment group. We do not find such a link among men, for whom there is no treatment difference in tournament performance. The lower willingness to compete among men in the stress treatment seems to be driven by a link between stress and preferences for engaging in competition.
Usual caveats of sociology research. The sample size (95 men and 95 women) is larger than is common but still pretty small for statistical purposes. They don't cite effect size, etc. None-the-less an intriguing effort to answer an interesting question.

However, in the conclusion section, this explanation raises questions about the robustness and integrity of the research.
We propose that the most plausible explanation for decreased performance under stress and competition among women is that the calculation task was perceived as a male-dominant activity, and women faced a stereotype threat. Stress, higher stakes in the tournament, and stereotype threat are all factors that can tax executive function, and the combination of all three could decrease certain abilities, including the impairment of working memory (Schmader et al. 2008).
This is like explaining the outcome as "women faced bad juju in the testing environment." Stereotype-threat has failed to replicate and is an ideological crutch for social justice research. The problem is that it is not real. A judgment arising from its failure to replicate.

If their go-to explanation for the outcome of their research is a long discredited hypothesis, it raises questions about the competency of the research. Interesting experiment and interesting question not-withstanding.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

The further removed we are from want and danger, the more generous our consciences.

From The Road to Guilford Courthouse by John Buchanan. Page 206.
The men and women who were the Over Mountain People have been portrayed by uncritical patriotic writers as without exception stainless heroes and heroines, and by the hypercritical in our time as unprincipled aggressors and little better than savages whose sole legacies to the future were violence, bigotry, and ignorance. Both portrayals widely miss the mark.

Pioneering is a messy business; combined with conquest it is an ugly business and has been since human beings began coveting the property of others. We pay little attention today to the moral questions involved in similar folk movements that began before recorded time and have continued since. Like their predecessors throughout the world, eighteenth-century Over Mountain Americans were people living under vastly different assumptions than exist in America in the late twentieth century. The British novelist L. P Hartley put it well: “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” To which we may add that the further removed we are from want and danger, the more generous our consciences.

Untitled by Hirō Isono

Untitled by Hirō Isono

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Best of the Bee

The top WaPo news story of the day is a guess about what the President might be thinking about a piece of ambiguous evidence

I do appreciate Ann Althouse's attention to language. Sometimes the insistence on precision leads to a dense tangle of ideas and sometimes it leads to insight.

From WaPo's groping for bad news about Trump stumbles into the double vinc. by Ann Althouse.

She is tasking the Washington Post with bad headline writing.
This is the top headline at WaPo right now, and I don't think it's even news. At best, it's a clumsy sketch for an opinion column:
What is the headline?
Ukraine call points to a president convinced of his own invincibility.
She points out:
I say it's not news because what is it saying just happened? The call, which we heard about days ago, is just evidence, laying there. The action verb is "points," but it's not as though the thing we already knew stood up and extended an index finger directing us to the complete abstraction of Trump's assessment of his own powers. And it's not as though WaPo just learned that Trump has this particular belief about himself. It doesn't even know that he does. It's just that the call suggests that Trump has this belief. The top news story of the day, according to The Washington Post, is a guess about what a piece of evidence might mean about how things look from the inside of the President's head.

If you call your dog's tail, a leg.... How many legs does he have?

From Quote Investigator
In September 1862 a newspaper in Wisconsin reported on a meeting that was held between President Abraham Lincoln and a group of religious leaders who wanted him to immediately sign an Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln was hesitant and argued that the measure would be ineffective because it would not actually free slaves. He used the language of the riddle to figuratively explain his position:
The committee has returned, and on Saturday evening made a report of their interview with the President to a second meeting of “the religious community” assembled for that purpose. What the President said, one of the delegates told the meeting as follows:

On pressing the policy of emancipation upon the President we received this reply “You remember the slave who asked his master, ‘If I should call a sheep’s tail a leg, how many legs would it have?’

‘Five.’ ‘No, only four; for my calling the tail a leg would not make it so.’ “Now, gentlemen, if I say to the slaves, ‘you are free,’ they will be no more free than at present.”
In October 1862 a newspaper in Indiana reported on the meeting about the proclamation. In this version of the event the president also employed the riddle; however, the animal was a pig instead of a calf: 9
Greeley, Andrew, Blair of Michigan, and other Abolitionists, promised the President a million of men, if he would issue his Emancipation Proclamation. In vain did Lincoln protest; in vain did he cite the stories of the Pope, who issued a bull against the comet, and the slave who told his master that his calling a pig’s tail a leg, would not make it so. He was assured that if he would but spread his edict before the people, armed men would spring out of the earth at the stamp of his foot.
Ultimately, the President signed the Emancipation Proclamation at the beginning of 1863.
Abraham Lincoln may have brought attention to the question but variations of it were in circulation as early as 1825.

Seems like an especially important question these days when so many claims and arguments hinge on non-standard definitions of words. When every identity is a social construct and a personal choice.

Off Beat Humor

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Monday, September 23, 2019

Composed of the most violent Rebels I ever saw, particularly the young ladies.

From The Road to Guilford Courthouse by John Buchanan. Page 206.
Lieutenant Anthony Allaire also became aware that the countryside harbored people not “sensible of their error.” On the 15th of September, with forty American Volunteers and a few hundred militia, he “got in motion” again, in one four-mile stretch found Cane Creek “so amazingly crooked that we were obliged to cross it nineteen times,” and on the following day encountered a “very handsome place,” still known as Pleasant Gardens, a settlement “composed of the most violent Rebels I ever saw, particularly the young ladies.” For despite the ability of Ferguson and his command to move at will through the countryside, despite numbers of people coming into Gilbert Town for protection, implacable enemies were everywhere in the Back Country, including militia bands to the north that had not yet even entered the main contest. They were located in Wilkes and Surry Counties on the upper reaches of the Yadkin River, under strong leaders, Colonel Benjamin Cleveland and Major Joseph Winston. And far to the northwest, deep in the Appalachians, 100 miles or so over the steep, tortuous trails of the Blue Ridge, were small bands of pioneers who had moved beyond where the British government had forbade them to go as early as 1763. They were the cutting edge of an irresistible flood of humanity driven by the twin hungers of land and opportunity. They were part of a vast folk movement to America that began prior to their coming and is still going on. One of their leaders, John Robertson, described their purpose with a candor rare and unfashionable in our times: “We are the Advanced Guard of Civilization; Our way is across the Continent.” The British called them, among other things, Backwater men. They are known to history as the Over Mountain Men.

There is no female Mozart because there is no female Jack the Ripper.

A sympathetic and entertaining review of the work and evolution of that sprite who lends luster to the term public intellectual, Camille Paglia. From The Provocations of Camille Paglia by Emily Esfahani Smith.
The word “person” captures a concept so fundamental to Westerners that it can be jarring to discover that it once had a different meaning. Etymologically, “person” comes from the Latin word persona, which means “mask.” To be a person is to wear a mask, act out a role—what people today might call being fake.

But to Camille Paglia, the dissident social critic, a mask does not conceal a person’s true nature; it helps reveal it. This is why Halloween was her favorite holiday as a child. It was “a fantastic opportunity,” she told an interviewer recently, “to enact one’s repressed and forbidden self—which in my case was male.” When she was five, she dressed up as Robin Hood; at seven, she was a Roman soldier; at eight, Napoleon; at nine, Hamlet. “These masks,” Paglia told me in Philadelphia recently, “are parts of myself.”

Paglia, 72, grew up in the 1950s, when girls played house, not Hamlet. It was an unforgiving time to be different. As a fifth-grader, Paglia shoved a boy in order to be first in line; her teacher made her look up “aggressive” in the dictionary after school, an exercise that left her in tears. But at Halloween, she could defy conventions. Eventually, she would explain not only her personality but also the development of Western civilization through sexual masks. “I show how much of Western life, art, and thought,” she writes in Sexual Personae, her 735-page history of Western culture, “is ruled by personality, which the book traces through recurrent types of personae (‘masks’).”

A professor of humanities and media studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where she has taught since 1984, Paglia became an intellectual celebrity after the 1990 publication of Sexual Personae, her first book, which carries the subtitle Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson. Melding history and psychology with art and literature and laced with references to popular culture, the book delivered a one-two punch to academe. A feminist critical of the modern women’s movement, Paglia insisted on the greatness of Western civilization, though it was already unfashionable to do so. And she asserted that its greatness resulted from a creative but violent tension between male and female—between the Apollonian male principle of order (civilization) and the Dionysian female principle of chaos (nature). Two of the book’s most quoted lines are “If civilization had been left in female hands, we would still be living in grass huts” and “There is no female Mozart because there is no female Jack the Ripper.” Reading Sexual Personae, one reviewer wrote, was “a bit like being mugged.”

Now, nearly 30 years later, Paglia has once again found herself in the middle of the culture wars. Taking aim at the #MeToo movement, she told an interviewer that it is “ridiculous that any university ever tolerated a complaint of a girl coming in six months or a year after an event. If a real rape was committed, go frigging report it to the police.” In April, students at her university, upset by such statements, tried to de-platform Paglia, a lesbian who identifies as transgender. When they failed to get her scheduled lecture, “Ambiguous Images: Sexual Duality and Sexual Multiplicity in Western Art,” canceled or moved off campus, they organized a protest during the talk—and someone pulled the fire alarm. Later, the protesters urged the university to replace Paglia with a “queer person of color.”

Fortunately, the university’s president, David Yager, did what many of his peers at other schools roiled by such protests have failed to do: issued a statement defending freedom of expression. “Artists over the centuries,” Yager wrote in an e-mail to campus, “have suffered censorship, and even persecution, for the expression of their beliefs through their work. My answer is simple: Not now, not at UArts.” Paglia was delighted. An outspoken defender of free speech, she is horrified by the rise of censorship in academia—and was especially aghast, given her own history, at Yale’s attempt to police students’ Halloween costumes in 2015.

In her latest book, an essay collection called Provocations, she states that she’d like to be remembered as a “dissident writer who defended free thought and free speech.” But Provocations is not just a polemic against political correctness. The career retrospective, which includes writings from the last 25 years, covers subjects like gender, education, popular culture, and art. It showcases Paglia’s sweeping scholarship and puckish irreverence for PC pieties. “To questioning young people drawn to the siren song of hormones and surgery,” she writes, “I say: Stay fluid! Stay free!”

The book also reveals Paglia’s humility, a quality usually concealed by what she calls her “raging egomania.” Provocations, she writes, is for people who see art “as a medium of intuition and revelation.” It’s for those who stand in awe before nature, “a vast and sublime force”; for people “who see life in spiritual terms as a quest for enlightenment”; and “for those who elevate free thought and free speech over all other values, including material considerations of wealth, status, or physical well-being.”

Behind that devotion to heterodoxy lies something softer. She admitted that she’s chosen to censor herself in front of her students, no longer teaching them, for example, Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” a song about lynching, which was for years an important part of her course “The Art of Song Lyric.” “I don’t want to upset them. The historical material is too painful for a music class,” she said.

This reveals something important about Paglia. Her project in Provocations, and in much of her later work, is not to provoke simply for the sake of it, in the manner of, say, Milo Yiannopoulos. Her project is cultural populism. “I feel I should use my name recognition for service, for art,” she told the blog Bookslut in 2015. “I’m just a teacher in the classroom from beginning to end,” she added. Paglia sees culture, from the stories of the Bible to the paintings of Picasso to the ballads of Joni Mitchell, as a vast patchwork of meaning that inspires awe and delivers wisdom. She wants to bring the riches of art, literature, and religion to everyday people.
Worth reading in full.

Lunch in the field, 1867-8 by Rudolf Koller

Lunch in the field, 1867-8 by Rudolf Koller

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Debt Bomb, the musical

I incline towards the academic side of things but there is more than one way to communicate concerns about national debts. As demonstrated by Dominic Frisby in DEBT BOMB - The Global Financial Crisis Stripped Bare.

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Debt Bomb
by Dominic Frisby

Aw, aw baby, yeah, ooh yeah, huh, listen to this

Mortgages, cars, consumer shite
Government spending all through the night
Pensions and healthcare and welfare rights
Education , wars to fight

Ooh, I love a good war to fight

Run up a deficit, ignore the facts
Blame someone else, put up tax
I can’t deny we had a crack
But now we gotta pay it back

Debt bomb, debt bomb, you’re a debt bomb uh hu
The addiction to credit just goes on and on and on – give it to me
Debt bomb, debt bomb, you’re a debt bomb
A bail-out ooh you’re turn me on

You know what you’re doing to me don’t you. ha ha,
I know you do

If you can’t afford it don’t be ill at ease – no
Spend it anyway, you’ve got voters to appease
Take the prudent savers and just give them a squeeze
That’s the economics of Keynes

Quantitative easing, zero interest rates
Steal from the future, hide the bad mistakes
We gotta keep those asset prices high
Don’t matter if the credit’s dry

Debt bomb, debt bomb, you’re a debt bomb uh hu
Try to pay the debt off with inflation
Debt bomb, debt bomb, you’re a debt bomb
Malinvestment ooh you’re turn me on

A boom brought about by credit will always bust
You’ve then got two choices, decide you must
Abandon the addiction, the credit lust
Or the currency collapses , it just turns to worthless dust

Debt bomb, debt bomb, you’re a debt bomb uh hu
Destroy the country’s money, anything to carry on
Debt bomb, debt bomb, you’re a debt bomb
Bubbles ooh you’re turn me on

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Off Beat Humor

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Sunday, September 22, 2019

Then he observed that it was possible that they belonged to three Tories who had joined Ferguson’s force.

From The Road to Guilford Courthouse by John Buchanan. Page 205.
“But Patrick Ferguson did begin to suspect that he was the victim of a ruse. His men were in need of meat, and so he took a force into the field to search for Rebel cattle. Accompanying him was the noted Indian fighter Captain— later Colonel—John Carson, one of the men who had agreed to Charles McDowell’s policy. They found a large herd roaming in the cane-breaks. Ferguson’s men assumed that the cattle belonged to Rebels and began slaughtering them. John Carson, who knew who owned the cattle, watched without comment until over 100 head had been slaughtered. Then he observed that it was possible that they belonged to three Tories who had joined Ferguson’s force. The upshot of this incident was that the owners of the cattle, loyal Tories all, were incensed, the Rebels made sure that the story was spread abroad, and Patrick Ferguson realized that he had been outwitted. But John Carson’s good name, temporarily sacrificed for the cause, was not easily recovered. Many years after the Revolution a man charged that John Carson had been a Tory. John Carson’s son, Samuel, a member of Congress, thereupon challenged the slanderer to a duel and killed him.

The cheap melodrama of his life always had such bad scripts.

From A Noble Radiance by Donna Leon. Page 189. The protagonist Guido Brunetti and his time-serving, publicity seeking, bore of a boss Patta.
'Good, good,' Patta muttered, enough for Brunetti to infer that he was not at all interested in the Lorenzonis.

He asked nothing; long experience had shown him that Patta preferred people to worm news out of him, rather than to tell them straightforwardly. Brunetti wasn't going to help him out.

'It’s about this programme, Brunetti,' Patta finally said:

'Yes, sir? Brunetti inquired politely.

'The one RAI is doing about the police.'

Brunetti remembered something about a police programme to be produced and edited in a film studio in Padova. He'd had a letter some weeks ago, asking if he would agree to serve as consultant, or was it commentator? He'd tossed the letter into his wastepaper basket and forgotten about it. 'Yes, sir?' he repeated, no less politely.

'They want you.'

'I beg your pardon, sir.'

'You. They want you to be the consultant and to give them a long interview about how the police system works.'

Brunetti thought of the work that waited for him, thought of the Lorenzoni investigation. 'But that’ s absurd.'

'That's what I told them,' Patta agreed. 'I told them they needed someone with broader experience, someone who has a wider vision of police work, can see it as a whole, not as a series of individual cases and crimes.'

One of the things Brunetti most disliked about Patta was the fact that the cheap melodrama of his life always had such bad scripts.

Harvesters, 1905 by Anna Acher (Danish painter, 1859-1935)

Harvesters, 1905 by Anna Acher (Danish painter, 1859-1935)

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We find that oversight increases delays by 6.1%–13.8% and overruns by 1.4%–1.6%

Hmm. From Oversight and Efficiency in Public Projects: A Regression Discontinuity Analysis by Eduard Calvo, Ruomeng Cui, and Juan Camilo Serpa. From the Abstract:
In the United States, 42% of public infrastructure projects report delays or cost overruns. To mitigate this problem, regulators scrutinize project operations. We study the effect of oversight on delays and overruns with 262,857 projects spanning 71 federal agencies and 54,739 contractors. We identify our results using a federal bylaw: if the project’s budget is above a cutoff, procurement officers actively oversee the contractor’s operations; otherwise, most operational checks are waived. We find that oversight increases delays by 6.1%–13.8% and overruns by 1.4%–1.6%. We also show that oversight is most obstructive when the contractor has no experience in public projects, is paid with a fixed-fee contract with performance-based incentives, or performs a labor-intensive task. Oversight is least obstructive—or even beneficial—when the contractor is experienced, paid with a time-and-materials contract, or conducts a machine-intensive task.
This is valuable research but there is an apples-and-oranges flaw at the core. Take that claim:
We find that oversight increases delays by 6.1%–13.8% and overruns by 1.4%–1.6%.
You could leap to the conclusion that government bureaucrats supervising a project are ineffective, costing more in delays and money. And that possibly is true, but cannot be concluded from the evidence in the abstract.

As a management consulting running multiple business units with dozens of projects, for clients with dozens of their own strategic projects, I have some experience in the filed.

If a project goes south, you cancel, you muscle through with the existing team (taking it on the chin in terms of schedule and cost), or you bring in a new team. But even if you bring in a new team of top performers, they are still likely to end up over-schedule and over-budget, not because they did a bad job but either because the project was badly structured in the first place or it was so far in the hole by the time the leadership is changed that you cannot recover. All you are doing is backstopping the losses on a bad project.

What I found interesting in the conclusion was that this seems clearly much more an issue of procurement and project structuring than it is of project management per se.

Why would you let a contract to a contractor with no experience, on a fixed-fee basis, with performance-based incentives? Fixed fee contracts are the most difficult to deliver. The contractor has every incentive to cut corners and take risks, while the purchaser has much less skin in the game to ensure that is delivered on time and on budget.

If those are the projects that go south, that is a procurement issue, not a delivery issue.

The other interesting conclusion that emergency oversight is most effective when "the contractor is experienced, paid with a time-and-materials contract, or conducts a machine-intensive task."

The standard procurement wisdom is all about avoiding time-and-material contracts.

I don't know that there are any universal conclusions to be drawn from this research. There are too many variables unaccounted for. You really want to know what to do in order to get the best outcome for the lowest cost. All this is doing is looking at what to do when projects are already failing.

Even that time-and-materials conclusion may be misleading. When another contractor has failed on a project, particularly one that is incentives-based, it is a signal to the market that the agency owning the project is unable to deliver with contractors. Perhaps it is different in government markets where I have much less experience, but in private markets, an incentives-based project that is failing and the contractor has been displaced, is rarely replaced with another incentives-based contract. The new contractor knows that there is likely a client issue putting the project at risk and will insist on time-and-materials. Of course oversight is better with a new and better contractor, the time-and-materials may be a small data effect and/or a spurious correlation.

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Off Beat Humor

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Saturday, September 21, 2019

The irony of the Revolution in South Carolina is that it was started by the Rice Kings and saved by the Back Country militia

From The Road to Guilford Courthouse by John Buchanan. Page 192.
The irony of the Revolution in South Carolina is that it was started by the Rice Kings and saved by the Back Country militia, which was overwhelmingly composed of men the Rice Kings held in contempt. From the Williamsburg District to the Piedmont to the foothills of the Blue Ridge, mounted militiamen scorned by Rice Kings and Continental generals alike maintained their allegiance to the cause through one disaster after another to Continental armies. They demoralized the Tory militia and held their own against British and provincial regulars in classic guerrilla style in actions large and small, some lost to memory in the mists of time. The most famous of these actions became an enduring legend of the Revolution, and we now turn to the events that led to that memorable battle and the characters involved.

Luck or skill?

It is simply astonishing. The man is wily beyond belief or astonishingly lucky. It keeps happening.

The two scraps for the political table over which the press have been snarling for a week or two are 1) A revisiting of the Kavanaugh allegations based on a new book out by a couple of people posing as NYT reporters, and 2) A whistle blower allegation of unknown nature, by an unknown person over alleged, wrongful discussion by Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart.

The authors of the Kavanaugh expose had their boat blown up before it was even fully launched. Their employer, the New York Times, included excerpts which destroyed the credibility of the Times and of the reporter/authors.

They mustered a fresh allegation without mentioning that the purported victim denied the incident completely. That is kind of a big omission. The authors have been doing the publicity rounds for their new book, now dogged by harsh questions about the bias in their research and the misrepresentation of the charges. Even the usual stablemates of the NYT are calling them out for shoddy work that contributes nothing to the factual record and only reminds everyone about the shameful effort at character assassination conducted the first time round.

If I were Nancy Pelosi or the DNC I would be holding my head in my hands.

There was Beto O'Rourke, trying to salvage his campaign by acknowledging what everyone else has denied - We will take your guns.

There was the revisiting of the Kavanaugh clown show, reminding everyone why the MSM can't be trusted.

Then there was the whistle blower.

Everyone was so excited about this smidgen of nothing. Someone said something might possibly be amiss - Call Out the Special Prosecutor.

While the President has nearly complete latitude and is beyond legal reach as his actions fall squarely within the normal boundaries of Presidential action, it seemed that there was a plausible possibility that he had said something foolishly imprecise or inappropriate. And maybe we will see that eventually.

But in the meantime, everyone is now talking about Joe Biden inappropriately acting during his vice presidency to wave off an investigation of his son's commercial activities in the Ukraine, and the free sinecure his son has received from a suspect Ukrainian gas company. They haven't even gotten to China yet, where there are further suspect deals.

There is nothing new here; the press has been ignoring those allegations for years. Now, because the MSM wanted to ambush Trump with a vestigial allegation, they are being forced to talk about Biden père et fils, and their involvement with foreign corrupt companies. It also highlights how rich politicians get richer and benefit their own at the expense of others. There is even video of Biden bragging about his having squashed the investigation of his son's activities by the Ukrainian government in return for foreign aid.

The press really did not want to talk about Hunter Biden's corrupt contracts but now their own actions are forcing them to do so.

Watching from the sidelines as the MSM keeps seizing on some tangential and usually normal activity on the part of the President and then seeing their torpedo circling back and exploding on them, you have to wonder. Is Trump lucky, does he simply goad them into stupid actions, are they that clueless or is he such a master of manipulating the MSM that he always comes out on top? Maybe some combination of all four but it is astonishing to see the same gif replay over and over again.

UPDATE: It just occurred to me that there is an odd symmetry here. Trump's presidency was launched with a completely fabricated claim by the losing candidate that there was Trump-Russia collusion; a claim created and purchased by the DNC from shady foreign characters; a claim sustained in the face of all evidence and probabilities by the mainstream media for nearly three years. Until Mueller put a stake through its heart.

Now we face a real claim of well-documented corrupt collusion between their own candidate and foreign powers (Ukraine and China), a claim which has been acknowledged, and to a degree bragged about by Biden. A claim which the mainstream media has been ignoring for years. And now the MSM and the DNC are being hoisted on their own petard.

The manufactured claims against their opponent in 2016 have morphed into real claims against their front-runner in 2020.

In the Middle of the Fiord by Hans Dahl (Norwegian, 1849–1937)

In the Middle of the Fiord by Hans Dahl (Norwegian, 1849–1937)

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Best of the Bee

Fundamentalism is inherently a threat to freedom of thought

From Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought by Jonathan Rauch.
Fundamentalism, properly understood, is not about religion. It is about the inability to seriously entertain the possibility that one might be wrong. In individuals such fundamentalism is natural and, within reason, desirable. But when it becomes the foundation for an intellectual system, it is inherently a threat to freedom of thought.

Off Beat Humor

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