December 30, 2015

Best pop song of 2015

Nominate only one, since there aren't that many to take note of. And no quirky sub-sub-sub-scene songs -- legit pop songs that reflect the general zeitgeist. Here is the year-end Hot 100 Billboard chart.

My pick: "Shut Up and Dance" by Walk the Moon, which ranked #6 for the year, edging out the seemingly indomitable "Blank Space" by Taylor Swift. While the cosplay '80s video is OK, the music stands on its own for evoking maximum Eighties-ness -- upbeat, cheerful, and sincere.

Unlike contempo dance songs where moving your body is overly sexualized and attention-whoring -- basically encouraging everyone in the dance club to act like self-aware strippers, and feeling judged under the spotlight -- this one makes you feel like dancing just to have some carefree wholesome fun and get lost in the moment.

The frontman says it was influenced by "Just What I Needed", "Hit Me with Your Best Shot", and "Jessie's Girl", but I don't hear any of them in there. It's more like Big Country composed a danceable Celtic rock song with a strong drum beat, Howard Jones was invited to bring earnest affection to the vocals, and Joshua Tree-era U2 provided the driving shimmery guitar strumming.

If this can't make the socially awkward Millennials get out on the dance floor and just let their minds and bodies go, then nothing can. Stop trying to act like retarded strippers and just have fun!

December 28, 2015

Small-town New England: Recent utopian experiment, not organically rooted

If you've seen videos of Trump's rallies across a wide variety of locations, you've probably had your first and only glimpse into small-town New Englanders, as well as small-town Appalachians, small-town Plains folk, and so on.

Something about the ones from New England always seemed a bit off to me -- they're much more on-edge and hostile than the ones who show up in Knoxville, TN, or Greenville, SC, or Davenport, IA. And it's not just an East Coast or Northeast thing -- those rude regional traits are due to living in or near huge cities, and having shallow roots in the country (Ellis Island people, or more recent arrivals). The New Englanders from small towns should have avoided those toxic influences, shouldn't they?

It turns out that small towns in New England have only become re-populated since the 1980s and especially the '90s. From the General Social Survey, the graph below shows what percent of New Englanders lived in communities of a given population size (in 1000s), from the 1970s to today (smaller towns are at the bottom, big cities at the top):

As recently as the '70s, less than 1% of New Englanders lived in a place with 1 thousand or fewer residents, and only another 2% lived in places of 2 to 9 thousand. Nearly 20% lived in big cities (100 thousand to 1 million), and nearly 50% lived in large-ish cities (50 to 100 thousand). Under one-third lived in mid-sized cities (10 to 50 thousand). It shouldn't come as a surprise that one of the earliest sites of industrialization should show such an urban-oriented residence pattern.

But then rising crime rates sent people out of cities and into more sparsely populated areas. In other parts of the country, where rural areas were already well settled, this "white flight" took the form of migration into mid-to-large suburbs. There were already lots of people in the small-town and rural areas -- 40-50% in the eastern half of the country, less so out west. But in New England, the white flighters found almost entirely abandoned small towns and took them over with no competition from rooted locals.

As crime rates have fallen since the '90s, cities have lost the stigma of being dangerous hellholes. So New Englanders have come back to urban areas, although not as eagerly as they fled to the countryside in the first place.

Most small-town residents are native New Englanders (80%), so at least the small towns aren't being picked over by outsiders (just small-scale transplants within the region).

Has anybody tended to stay out in the small areas? The history of residence patterns looks the same no matter what race, marital status, political orientation, or education level the person has. The one thing I could find a big difference for was how often they attend church -- those who attend frequently have moved back to the urban areas the most eagerly, and those who attend semi-regularly have also returned to the cities. But those who rarely or never attend have tended to stay out in the smaller parts.

You'd think it'd go the other way -- shouldn't religious people fit in better with pastoral residence, and non-religious people fit better in cities?

But remember that small towns in New England have roots that go back no further than one to two generations. Religious people want to fit in with wherever their roots are, and in New England that means cities. People who rarely go to church are already disconnected from one of the central institutions, so they won't mind being disconnected from their community roots either. Or so it appears.

Those who have mostly remained in small towns may not go to church, but they're not mostly atheists or agnostics either. From the '90s through today, residents of towns under 10,000 people, who rarely attend church, are only about 20% atheist or agnostic. Another 20% of small-town rare-attenders are certain God exists, which leaves a majority of small-town rare-attenders who believe in a higher power, believe sometimes, or believe with doubts.

Spiritual seekers who don't actually practice religion, who fled urban New England for abandoned nature, during a wave of Gothic rising crime rates -- it's the Transcendentalist movement all over again.

Just bear this in mind whenever you come across "small-town New England" in the future. It's a recent utopian experiment whose results cannot be judged too well this early. Although given the levels of free-floating hostility that seem to be found there, it's certainly not encouraging. You can take the urbanite out of the city, but you can't take the city out of the urbanite.

GSS variables: size, year, region, reg16, race, educ, marital, polviews, attend, god

December 24, 2015

Nassim Taleb slowly converting to the Trump movement

Back in the beginning of Trump's campaign, Nassim Taleb (judging from his Twitter presence) was conflicted about the only presidential candidate who was not a total all-tawk phony, who had enough fuck-you money to not be controlled by donors, who had skin in the game by funding his own campaign, and who embodied the ideas of anti-fragility (the more his enemies attacked him, the stronger he got). On the other hand, he felt that the only non-fake candidate was also a maniac, for reasons he didn't say -- maybe about protectionism, maybe about sending back the Syrian migrants, maybe feeling instinctively defensive as an immigrant, I don't know.

Now he's starting to defend the Trump phenomenon, not by outright endorsing him or anything like that, but by going on the attack against his moronic and dishonest detractors. He's also started pointing out how there are lots of folks in polite society who may not be open about their support for Trump, but will confess it after a few Christmas party drinks. A recent poll among Taleb's Twitter followers shows 59% support for Trump, with 46% willing to admit it without having to imbibe any Christmas party drinks.

To the untrained eye, Taleb the probability theorist is making a point about how messy it can be to estimate probabilities in a real world fraught by biases, like the social desirability bias. In this case, educated people are more likely to find it embarrassing to support Trump, so they'll lie more when called up by pollsters, and his true support level is higher than the polls say.

But to those familiar with Taleb's nature, he's clearly doing something beyond making an academic point -- he's cutting through mainstream bullshit to let people know it's OK to admit their support for Trump. After all, lots of like-minded people are either outright supporters, or are thinly closeted supporters. You're not crazy, so don't hide and be afraid as though you were crazy.

His recent efforts to really go to bat for The Donald seem to be related to Putin's favorable words about Trump, and Trump's reciprocation, hinting at a future where America and Russia are closer to being allies than enemies, particularly over foreign policy in the Middle East. Taleb is even more open about his man-crush on Putin, whom he says many Christians of the Levant, like himself, see as a protector of Orthodox Christianity in the eastern Mediterranean.

Taleb wants more of a regional role for Russia-Syria-Iran over the reigning Islamic fundamentalist axis of Turkey-Israel-Saudi Arabia. Israel supported Hamas in its early days in order to crowd out the secular nationalist PLO under Yasser Arafat, in the same way that we supported the various jihadist groups against secular strongmen. Israel is also friendly with the source of Islamic extremist ideology, Saudi Arabia. If Trump feels more friendly toward Putin and Assad than the Islamic whackjobs in Turkey and Saudi Arabia, then Taleb would welcome his role in the region.

Probably the only big reservation Taleb would have is about Trump going off on the Iran nuclear deal, thinking that Trump might attack one of the key members of the neo-Byzantine coalition. But he shouldn't worry: Trump only goes off on how our incompetent negotiators gave away everything and got nothing from "the Persians, who are great negotiators".

Trump may already know that Iran is far less aggressive than other Islamic states, and that Shia Muslims are far more tolerant and less fundamentalist than the Sunnis. He just has to put that to the side for the moment, while he whips up popular anger over how naive our stupid politicians are, and that we need more cunning negotiators on the American side in order to defend our interests against the equally cunning Persians.

So far Trump hasn't even hinted at attacking Iran, pushing for regime change, or anything interventionist like that. With Russia being their ally, Trump isn't reckless enough to start World War III over Iran, a death wish that he in fact accuses some of his GOP rivals of having (the ones who want no-fly zones in Syria).

If he gets along well enough with Trump, Nassim Taleb just might become our next Secretary of the Treasury -- imagine how much healing the financial world could undergo with Mr. Black Swan himself at the helm. Normally we'd have to add, "Well, at least we can dream," but in this election anything is possible. It would certainly fit with Trump's crusade to flush out the flunky sell-outs and put in outsiders who are smart, sharp, tough, and honorable stewards.

Animal cruelty ads show liberal morality of dog people

With the arrival of the Christmas season, you may be seeing charity commercials for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. They play maudlin music, the voiceover is in the most near-crying register, and the words of the appeal are so childishly manipulative (help prevent harm to cute puppies, or I'll never talk to you again).

It's typical liberal morality which emphasizes prevention of harm / provision of care, almost to the exclusion of any other moral concerns, for example about purity, sanctity, and taboo, or about responsibility. They could have just as easily framed the matter as one of man abandoning or neglecting his stewardship over the animals, of desecrating what is sacred (animal life, or at least companion animal life), of violating a taboo against treatment of pets, and so on. Those push conservative moral buttons, though, so we can conclude that the audience for these appeals are liberal.

What's striking is that they only show dogs throughout the whole long commercials. Search Google Images for "ASPCA" or for "animal cruelty" in general, and again it's almost all dogs.

This is yet another demonstration that dog people have a more liberal moral mind, while cat people are more conservative.

It's not as though there are no cats wasting away, missing eyes, caught in traps, shivering in the rain, or otherwise looking pathetic. And it's not as though cat people don't care about the welfare of their pets, or even of stray cats. Rather, they don't respond to the attempted emotional manipulation that treats the audience like they're small children, who are expected to go, "Awww, poor hurt puppy! Mommy, give money to that group or you're hurting that puppy in your own way!"

They're not so different from the "sponsor a Third World child" commercials that appeal to liberal do-gooders.

Cat people respond to needy animals in more pragmatic and sober ways, like leaving food, taking an injured cat to the vet, or adopting the animal as a pet ("rescue" rather than "sponsor"). They aren't naive enough to think that donating enough money to an idealistic cause will magically make all the bad kitty feelings get better. They take a more direct and personal role, like a capable adult rather than a wish-and-hope child.

The commercials prove another point I've made: dog people are closer to the thing-oriented end of the spectrum, and cat people closer to the mind/empathy end. It's nice that the audience for animal cruelty prevention ads are empathetic enough to respond to them, but it would be even nicer if the dog people who let their pets fall into such a shameful state had been more empathetic in the first place.

You just don't see cat people setting two un-neutered tomcats against each other in a cage match, while a degenerate audience cheers on a forced bloodsport. Nor do they neglect their pets to the point where they're only skin and bone. Or leashed to a post outside with no shelter for days or weeks at a time. Cat people are too empathetically in tune with their pets to let it get anywhere near that bad.

The worst that it gets is the cat hoarder, although there are dog hoarders who do the same. As far as animal welfare goes, even this is not as bad as what the ASPCA shows. In a cat hoarder's home, at least they get fed, have shelter, and are shown some attention. The level of neglect "only" descends to them living in filth and being overcrowded. Bad stuff, but not as bad as canine neglect, nor as common.

What I find really bizarre is that the owners' personalities seem mismatched for the animals. Dog people on average are more neglectful, yet their pets are far more dependent on human care. Cat people are sticklers for taking care of their pets (forcing them into perfumed doggie yoga pants doesn't count as caretaking), even though cats would actually do OK for themselves if turned loose.

Perhaps the main factor here is how mature the owner is in their social psychology. With dog people, it can more often get into "the blind leading the blind" since both the pet and the owner are a little more naive, innocent, and childlike mentally.

If it's mostly a matter of developmental maturity, that would explain the link we've already seen between dog people and liberal morality -- children rebel against authority, pride themselves on violating disgusting taboos, and have no loyalty to a larger group. It's all about "kiss my boo-boo!" and "that's not fair!" It would also explain the link between dog people and thing-orientation, since children aren't very empathetic (not until adolescence, when they form peer groups). And it would explain the link to blacks and Hispanics being dog people -- lower developmental maturity. Ditto for gays being distinctly dog-lovers, as gayness is one symptom of a stunted Peter Pan syndrome.

We're going to get some dog-people rationalizers in the comments who are going to try to wave this whole web of associations away. Just remember that a good idea explains a lot with little. The opposite approach is to rationalize every separate observation, multiplying the causes out to infinity, and explaining nothing.

December 21, 2015

More on the politics behind career vs. lifestyle strivers

Let's follow up on an earlier post about how the two political parties express the will of the two different camps in the status competition -- career strivers taking over the Republicans, and lifestyle (and persona) strivers taking over the Democrats.

Just because lifestyle strivers focus most of their status contests in that domain doesn't mean they don't have any time for work. Since they're lifestyle strivers, though, that ought to bias the kinds of jobs they pursue toward the Democrat side.

Here is a post by Andrew Gelman (co-author of Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State) about the changes over time in party affiliation of various occupations. Once the status-striving era kicked off during the 1970s with the Me Generation, a number of changes began. For example, professionals became much less Republican than the national average, while owners and proprietors became more Republican.

It's simple to see the change among business owners as reflecting the take-over of the Republican Party by career strivers. But what about professionals becoming more Democrat? Quite simply, most professional work feels pretty leisurely -- at least for those who pursue it, who respond to their tasks as though they were only part labor and part self-actualization.

Similarly, routine white collar workers have become more Democrat, while skilled workers have become more Republican. Skilled work may be rewarding, but a lot of it is dangerous onerous stuff. You're not doing that to fully cultivate your special snowflake personality, but to ascend the career ladder and make more money. Routine white collar work is like professional work -- go at your own pace, not very tough, almost like you're on leisure time at the office.

Gelman points to an even finer-grained look into the partisanship of various careers, as measured by contributions rather than actual votes. Here are some examples (click the link above to see the full list):

Sure enough, jobs in the leisure industries, and jobs that are half-leisure because the people doing them find them enjoyable and fun in a way, lean strongly Democrat. Librarian (not tough, location is a leisure spot), bartender (nightlife), park ranger (outdoors lifestyle), innkeeper, sculptor, yoga instructor, pro poker player, and assorted professional jobs. Anything involving the arts, leisure, science, intellectual affairs, and so on, will appeal to lifestyle strivers and will therefore lean Democrat.

Who leans strongly Republican? Those whose work is so dangerous, onerous, dirty, disgusting, or off-putting that you'd have to pay somebody to do it -- lots of money, perhaps. Such jobs will involve at most small amounts of leisure, arts, creativity, fun, self-actualization, etc. Urologist, petroleum geologist, logger, pilot, insurance agent, oil worker, truck driver, home builder, plumber, sheriff, cattle feeder, and so on. You only get into those fields for the money, so they will appeal to career strivers and therefore lean Republican.

The distinction between career strivers vs. lifestyle strivers seems to capture more of what's going on here. Other attempts get caught on one or another of the close pairs.

For instance, if it's high-IQ work that makes you lean one way, then why are smarties represented well on both sides? Intelligent lifestyle strivers go into the arts and academia, while intelligent career strivers go into medicine or petroleum geology.

Education level isn't it either.

If it's outdoor vs. indoor work, then why are taxi drivers so Democrat while truck drivers are so Republican? One is in a leisure industry, cruising around, while the other is strictly business. Park rangers and gardeners are Democrat, yet farmers and cattle feeders are Republican. Booksellers are Democrat, and insurance agents Republican. Only level of leisure vs. onerous labor captures the differences.

These same comparisons show that mental work vs. hands-on work is not it. It depends on whether the mental work is somewhat rewarding or onerous, whether the manual work is in a safe or dangerous setting.

Male vs. female has little to do with it either, since so few of the comparisons are between jobs with huge differences in the male:female ratio. Taxi drivers and truck drivers are all men, yet the political differences are big.

No, the broadest generalization we can make is that those jobs that are at least somewhat fun and rewarding to do, that allow for more of a work/life balance, and that are tied to a leisure sector, are going to attract lifestyle strivers and go Democrat. Jobs whose tasks make you feel the opposite of leisure, that demand more commitment for work than life, and that are not tied to a leisure sector, are going to attract those who are mostly motivated by money (career strivers) and go Republican.

December 19, 2015

A return to "back East" Presidents, whether Trump or Clinton wins

As the laissez-faire norms of the status-striving era found political expression, it was only natural that our Presidents should hail from farther out West, where the prevailing political ideology is libertarianism, a result of the rootless frontier heritage and lawlessness from the Wild West era.

The harbinger during the Great Compression was the 1964 Republican campaign of Barry Goldwater, a libertarian from Arizona. That was not yet in the anything-goes era, so his appeal was minimal. And yet the victor was also from out West, Johnson from Texas.

During the transition period, Nixon divided his time between California and New York. By the time the striver libertarian zeitgeist got going, we began to only have Presidents from out West. Reagan from California, Bush Sr. from Texas, Clinton from Arkansas (as far west as the South gets, unlike Jimmy Carter who was from Georgia), Bush Jr. from Texas, and Obama from Illinois by way of Hawaii and Indonesia.

Several challengers also came from out West -- Perot from Texas, Dole from Kansas, McCain from Arizona. Generally the challengers from back East got creamed -- Dukakis, Kerry, and Romney all from Massachusetts.

A similar shift took place during the last period of competitiveness-and-inequality, roughly 1830 through the Gilded Age. There were no states far out West, of course, but some were relatively farther west and more recently settled. Right on cue with Andrew Jackson, Presidents began to come from Tennessee, the Old Northwest (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois), and even Louisiana. During the initial period of falling competitiveness and growing equality, from Washington through John Quincy Adams, Presidents were all from the original colonies of Massachusetts or Virginia.

The present-day western trend is about to reverse itself in the 2016 election, where both frontrunners are East Coasters. Hillary Clinton has been part of the DC-NYC axis for over 20 years, and Trump is a lifelong New Yorker. Only a series of major upsets could result in the next President hailing from the laissez-faire Sun Belt -- major sabotage of the GOP nomination in favor of Rubio or Cruz, who would then face an uphill battle against Clinton.

Although the popular images of American life during the Great Compression do not involve urban East Coasters, that is in fact who was behind the Presidential wheel. The sense of national stewardship is more likely to flourish closer to where the nation was founded, among founding stock people who have roots there (not recent transplant strivers). Back East, regulating disorder trumps chaotic experimentation.

Teddy Roosevelt was a New Yorker, with Wilson nearby in New Jersey (after being raised in the Southeast). Taft and Harding came from Ohio, technically Midwestern and Appalachian, but settled early and as far east as the Midwest gets. Coolidge was a lifelong New Englander from Massachusetts. Hoover was the only Western President of the period, having been raised in Iowa and making a living around the Pacific Rim. FDR was a New Yorker. Truman was Midwestern, from Missouri. Eisenhower may have been raised in the Midwest, but had spent most of his career life with the East Coast military establishment, as well as being President of Columbia University in New York City. JFK was another lifelong New Englander from Massachusetts.

Johnson from Texas was the shape of things to come, although Nixon was only part Californian (and part New Yorker). Ford was from the eastern border of the Midwest, Michigan, and he only lucked into the Presidency. If Nixon had kept Spiro Agnew as his VP for his second term, a Marylander would have become President after his resignation. And Carter was from the southern portion of the East Coast, Georgia.

God willing, Trump will score a victory for the Archie Bunker Americans, beginning the slow healing process after excising the cancer of Sun Belt country club Republicans.

A Clinton Presidency would represent the interests of striver transplant East Coasters rather than ones rooted there, but even that worst-case scenario would be an improvement over the Pacific-raised Obama who only transplanted as far east as Chicago.

Either way, it looks like political power is beginning to shift back toward the stable eastern part of the country, and away from the rootless and lawless West.

December 18, 2015

Star Wars fan service reveals latent transgender fantasies of nerd audience (butt-kicking babe protagonist)

From a comment I left at Uncouth Reflections, on the topic of progressive status signaling in the creation of the new Star Wars movie:

* * * * *

I’m more convinced that the whole butt-kicking babe trope has little to do with progressive status signaling, but is instead a form of autogynephilia — nerd boys feeling an emotional rush from imagining themselves as babes — mixed with standard nerd revenge fantasies against vapid jocks (that’s why she has to be a butt-kicking, patriarchy-thwarting babe, rather than a housewife babe or a supermodel babe).

I call these types “latent transgenders” because they don’t openly present as female (cross-dressing, etc.), but still invest loads of psychic energy in a make-believe persona where they’re female (why not imagine themselves as butt-kicking dudes?). See earlier posts on the general topic and the specific example of women's MMA.

The butt-kicking babe tends not to engage in any sexual activity because the socially stunted nerds are still in the stage of development where they’d rather receive a bunch of attention for being awesome (hot), rather than get into an adolescent or adult relationship. And seeing their avatar get it on might make them feel gay — which I don’t think they are. Unless, of course, their avatar gets it on with another girl — an increasingly popular scenario for nerd masturbation in 2015.

If the babe were the object rather than the subject of nerd sexual fantasy, meaning someone he wanted to bed, then the butt-kicking babe would get it on with a male character with whom the nerd viewer would identify. But she doesn't, so it's not a typical pornographic portrayal. It's something much weirder, where they identify with the babe herself rather than the guy who gets to bed her.

Progs don’t really care about Star Wars, and besides the creators are already fully leveled up members of the prog clan. There’s little left for them to gain. And girls are much more amenable to playing with boy-oriented toys than vice versa, so they don’t care if the protagonist is male.

The over-riding rationale for making this movie is fan service — offering any drug that fanboys are addicted to, and spiking the potency to 11. Therefore the point of making the protag a butt-kicking babe must also be part of nerd wish fulfillment, i.e. to stoke their latent transgender revenge fantasies.

“Would you Force me? I’d Force me.”

December 16, 2015

Become more Trump-like by changing positions, not persona

One of the most welcome changes to come from the Trump phenomenon is the evaporation of the obsession with the personal qualities of the candidates, long held to be crucial, and focusing instead on where they stand.

The cuck teams have hilariously misread this shift, believing that they ought to copy the Donald's personality in order to catch up with his success with voters. Bush and Kasich began the first debate as the usual well-mannered, happy-go-lucky, sterile, inoffensive, dad-friendly stiffs that we'd come to expect as necessary in order to appeal to the public. After getting creamed by the Trumpinator, they've changed their tune and have been working tirelessly to present a more combative persona.

(Even that effort failed, with the two of them coming off as petty brats constantly interrupting the cool kids' discussion, or as schoolmarms aggressively wagging a finger at the instigator in the classroom who has pointed out that the Emperor is wearing no clothes.)

They believed that personality mattered, only that this time around it was the "no more Mr. Nice Guy" persona that was fashionable. All aboard the wannabe badass bandwagon! ("Yeah Jeb, you're real tough...") But what has actually been revealed is that personality doesn't matter -- positions do. I'm sure most voters would prefer a Trump who behaved a little more friendly than he does, but so what, he's the only one pushing as hard as he is on the most important issues. Nice or not nice, I'm gonna get things turned around, as sure as you're sitting there.

In contrast to the would-be Bush/Kasich ticket who duped themselves into copying the combative persona while doubling down on their elitist positions, the formerly invisible Rand Paul just put himself in line for a cabinet appointment by stressing nativism over globalism, albeit with his distinctive libertarian spin -- we wouldn't be tempted to cast such vast surveillance nets over the American people if they were largely American rather than foreigners with uncertain goals for our society. So, sorry, refugees stay over there, immigrants buh-bye. Liberty for Americans trumps welfare for foreigners.

And he hammered those points home all night without trying to constantly interrupt, puff up his chest, or otherwise pretend to be the alpha dog. I know it sounds funny to suggest he would even try, but just remember how ceaselessly Jebberino has been striving to come off as a tough guy.

Fiorina and Christie also tried to "tap into the popular anger," or however their marketing hack pollsters phrased it, by acknowledging how angry the viewers are -- but without acknowledging the source of that anger and promising to do something about it. Hard as it may be to believe, citizens don't care if you echo their anger back at them. Only if you get it, and are going to solve the underlying problems, can you ride a wave of popular anger. With them it was all style, no substance, and they resonated with nobody.

Fiorina's dead campaign is also an example of the BS about the surge of "outsiders," as though what mattered was the persona of being untainted by Washington vs. corrupted by inside-the-Beltway living. She offers total Establishment positions like wanting to start World War III with Russia over some sandbox in the Middle East, so no one gives a damn if she's a political outsider. See also the failed appeal of John McCain hyping up his cosplay Yosemite Sam persona (he's an East Coaster born and raised, only moved out to Arizona in his 40s).

Trump didn't have to imitate anyone else's personality, and no one else has had to imitate his. It all comes down to what problems the candidates identify, and what they want to do about them.

Everyone in the propaganda machine -- mass media, commentators, wonks, etc. -- has so bought into their own obsession with personal qualities rather than issues, that they just can't get it. Why aren't Bush and Kasich going up, after switching to a combative image? Rand Paul could never go anywhere by only echo-ing one of Trump's positions, if he isn't molding his persona in Trump's image, right?

The public isn't stupid. It's just that we haven't had any good candidates for decades, so the chattering classes couldn't tell that we weren't just mindless consumers in search of tabloid trash politics. "Good" meaning good on the important issues like stewarding our people, culture, and society, rather than selling it off to the highest bidder and mortgaging our demographic future just to score cheap scab labor and authentic Aztec taco trucks here and now.

If a self-promoting reality TV star, of all people, can deflate the media's obsession with personalities and restore the focus to the substantive issues, he can do anything.

I actually wouldn't put it beyond his cunning to have staged this from the outset -- create such a publicity cycle over his brash, no-apologies persona in order to fake out the initial favorite, Jeb. Make him think that the secret sauce must be the spectacle of his persona, and goad him ("looow energy") into spending most of his time and effort trying to throw together a tough guy persona, rather than simply trying to co-opt and neuter Trump's populist positions.

With a failure of a tough guy persona, and no change to his anti-populist positions, he wouldn't have a leg to stand on. All the endorsements, campaign funds, brand recognition, and bla bla bla couldn't save the poor sap.

Trump's caricature of Trump has been one of the greatest red herrings on the battlefield of politics, and the Establishment still isn't wise to it. In fact the Republican leaders just put out a memo urging the cucks to behave and talk more like Trump without actually changing their positions. They'll beat him at his own game! They saw Trump run off a cliff, so they're going to leap headlong off the cliff too! ...Only they didn't notice that he had a populist policy parachute to save himself, while the cucks will plummet flailing before their skulls crack apart.

December 15, 2015

How the striving trends have broken down religion

Church attendance and church membership -- especially in historical churches -- has been in steady decline for several decades, more or less coinciding with the dawn of the status-striving era, beginning with the Me Generation of the 1970s.

This shows that their decline is not a response to very recent trends where the church tries to play catch-up with the increasingly degenerate mainstream culture. Rather, the churches were abandoned by strivers who up-ended the idea that members would fit into the church, and insisted that the church fit them. This change was just one of a whole pattern of reversals where individuals insisted on fulfilling their own ambitions rather than make any sacrifice toward accommodating the group.

After awhile, the churches got the message loud and clear, and decided to chase after the me-first population that was becoming more in favor of divorce, abortion, sodomy, homosexuality, gay marriage, and so on.

It's important to emphasize the relative timing of these trends for younger people, who do not remember there ever being real churches. They assume that the Mainline churches were at the forefront of multiculturalism, fat acceptance, and tranny rights, and that's why their members have been leaving in droves for decades.

In reality, the Mainline churches only recently adopted progressivist stances, and some still have not -- gay marriage is still forbidden and homosexuality considered incompatible with Christian teaching, within the largest Mainline church, the United Methodists. Yet their membership began declining sharply during the '70s -- long before any church was pushing for gay rights, let alone the UMC which still does not sanction homo marriage.

Aside from the general observation that the status-striving climate has led to the decline of traditional churches, what can be said about the different groups or waves of strivers? Recall the career vs. lifestyle strivers, and now the persona strivers.

The first wave of strivers fought their status contests within the arena of career, wealth, and conspicuous consumption. They were mostly Boomers. Once they left the historical churches, they could only be won back with a prosperity gospel -- one that promised that their attendance at a newfangled non-denominational service would be rewarded by God with career and material success.

These services increasingly took place in mega-churches, beginning in the 1980s, with the preacher playing the role of a motivational speaker to an audience looking to get rich quick. The size and spectacle of the mega-church is meant to signal the material success of the founder, to convince the audience that when it comes to the path to prosperity, he knows whereof he speaks.

The next wave of strivers waged status war regarding lifestyles, fashion points, and conspicuous leisure. They were mostly Gen X-ers. Some of them didn't actually leave the historical churches, but transformed the way that services were conducted. They weren't seeking a prosperity gospel since they had no delusions about being able to get rich quick. Their focus on novel lifestyles and prioritizing leisure led them to target the rituals and form of worship itself. This led to the shift toward "contemporary" worship services, as opposed to what are now called "traditional" services.

Contemporary services may take place in an old Mainline building (or a newer, mega-church-ier one), but they all eschew participation by the audience in public rituals. Instead, the audience remain passive spectators of a performance that is part motivational speech (not geared toward prosperity, but how to live a better life), part stand-up comedy, and mostly a concert blending pop, rock, and country music genres. The songs are all new, and they are only generically spiritual -- lyrics about God, Heaven, etc., but nothing distinctly Christian about Jesus' life, teachings, and resurrection. It's more fashionable music that meshes better with "belief in a higher spiritual power" lifestyles. This shift began during the 1990s.

The recent wave of strivers do not pursue career success or the most au courant lifestyles, but rather a quest to craft the most unique and awesome persona, and to preen before a panel of peer jduges -- these days on social media, but during the fin-de-siecle by hanging out in salons. They are mostly Millennials. They do not generally belong to any church; those who do, tend to treat it as a cosplay event at a religious kind of comic-con. Rituals, practices, and services mean nothing to them since those are all elements of a regular lifestyle. A prosperity gospel would fall on deaf ears.

If they aren't participating in corporate worship, nor even listening to a guru preach, it is because these things add nothing to the individual's persona. The focus is instead on studying a range of elements that could serve as a patch within a larger garment that the wearer can show off. They do not even need to come from the same religious tradition -- maybe they'll try to maximize their special snowflake points by cultivating an image of Buddhist-Christian fusion. Or some obscure group like the Gnostics, Manicheans, Zoroastrians, Norse cults, Druids, or whoever else would allow you to make a costume that would drive the other dresser-uppers jealous. This shift began during the 21st century.

These three separate waves of striver-driven corrosion would be best studied within a church that still draws large numbers of people, so that all three waves could be seen over time. The Catholic Church would serve well as a case study, although I'm not very familiar with it.

The prosperity gospel, mega-churches, etc., has been primarily a Protestant phenomenon. But there had to have been something akin to it in the Catholic Church.

Certainly there was a shift toward "contemporary" worship styles that took over the Protestant churches during the '90s -- meet and greet, more familiar music genres (if not an outright rock concert), and sermons that are less sacred and more informal, mixing stand-up comedy and motivational lifestyle speeches.

And a good fraction of those who make religion part of their persona striving, have chosen to adopt a Catholic identity -- usually an obscure one, almost always pre-Vatican II. Plenty of born-and-raised Catholics long for the old days, too, but it's not part of a persona-shaping project. The pre-Vatican II yearning converts (or maybe not-yet-converts) seem more like they're into Vintage Catholicism as a persona marker ("trad Cath"). Nutjobs like those who believe there is no legitimate Pope today (sedevacantists) are unlikely to take regular part in the rituals, practices, and other lifestyle elements of being a Catholic. It's pure persona creation -- "I'm the kind of person who feels like..."

Ultimately, the churches will only be restored when people reverse the status-striving trend and begin to think about how the individual can fit into a group rather than how the group can change to recruit the individual. The Catholic Church's traditions are so old and widespread that they could recover them in a new climate of accommodation and sacrifice. Some of the Mainline churches have hymnals with traditional music and lyrics that could be dusted off after the rock concert loses its lifestyle striver appeal.

I'm afraid, though, that anyone who left a historical church altogether (rather than "merely" changing it from within) is going to have a hard time going back. And the novel mega-churches that they spawned will probably collapse when the "what's in it for me and my success?" approach to religion fades away.

It's striking how absent the Boomers are in historical churches these days. The Silents and Greatest Gen are in the "traditional" services of a Mainline church, while the Gen X-ers are next door listening to a guitar-and-vocals concert. The Millennials are absent, too, but they weren't very present to begin with.

I don't have a strong hunch about which self-absorbed generation will find it harder to return to normal churches. Boomers don't want any demands on their lives that would cut into career and material striving time. Millennials don't want to join a group and be prevented from attention-whoring and sharing selfies.

But probably the Millennials will find it easier to join a normal church simply because they aren't as advanced in age, and have plenty of time to have an epiphany about how pointless their persona diddling will be. And having grown up deprived of all social contact due to helicopter parenting, they must be desperate for normal group interactions.

December 14, 2015

The moral appeal of populism vs. libertarianism

An earlier post discussed how the rising competitiveness and status-striving has introduced partisan polarization. The general impulse in a striving climate is laissez-faire -- pushing for no-holds-barred so that competitors can climb as high as possible, as easily as possible. There are two primary domains over which people compete for status -- careers, wealth, and conspicuous consumption vs. lifestyles, fashion points, and conspicuous leisure.

Career strivers co-opted the Republican party during the 1980s, pushing for economic deregulation, including slashing taxes. Lifestyle strivers were a later phenomenon (those who found the career domain too saturated to compete in), but they co-opted the Democrat party during the '90s, pushing for deregulation of lifestyles and identities (personas), encouraging deviance and tossing out tradition and roots.

There was no moral resonance with the Reaganomics revolution -- it was felt to be superior on a practical level of making the economy work the best it could, without being hamstrung by regulators. Its proponents felt smug superiority, rather than a more powerful emotion like righteousness or vindication. Likewise, Democrats keep promoting deviant lifestyles and the erosion of traditional lifestyles with a sense of smug superiority, and how "it just makes sense -- I can live how I want -- it's the current year".

What sounds a stronger moralistic tone is one party's crusade to contain the deregulatory efforts of the other party, which is portrayed in apocalyptic, do-or-die, now-or-never terms.

While Democrat airheads are smugly high-fiving each other at a gay pride parade, what really works them into a righteous fervor is taking on Republican deregulation of the career domain -- lowering taxes on the rich, widening inequality, letting the minimum wage erode against inflation, too big to fail banks, no checks on student loans, environmentalist and climate goals subservient to corporate interests, and so on and so forth.

Similarly, Republicans high-five each other over lowering the capital gains tax, but what really stirs them up is taking on the Democrat deregulation of lifestyles -- allowing women to get an abortion for almost any reason, enabling the gays, not minding if mothers work (especially single mothers), turning a blind eye toward drug use, and in general allowing individuals to opt out of their group identity in favor of whatever the hell they feel like being or belonging to at the moment.

Now, where does this leave people who enthusiastically support deregulation of both the economic and lifestyle domains, AKA libertarians? It leaves them without any moral resonance among the public. Moralistic appeal relies on a crusade to contain the chaotic effects of deregulation -- to sew up the breach that the anything-goes climate has opened up.

They don't want to build any guiding structures around the teetering laissez-faire economy, nor do they want to protect what is sacred and traditional in our way of life from live-how-you-please lifestyles. If restoring order to what is coming undone is the grounds for righteousness, then libertarians can't even get off the ground moralistically. It's no wonder it has had so little resonance outside of the greedy and hedonistic Boomers.

That's not to say that we don't live in a libertarian society -- we do, with both the economic and lifestyle domains becoming ever less regulated. But that represents more of a compromise between the Republicans and Democrats, who crusade against the deregulatory efforts of the other side, but meet them half-way in the end. Just because it isn't a 100% deregulated world doesn't mean it isn't a de facto libertarian paradise. Ask them, and they'll tell you how amazing it is to live in the here and now, as it were.

What about the opposite of libertarianism -- a movement that crusades for regulation of both the economy and lifestyles? We can simply call it "populism" without qualification because in practice, the populists push for regulation of both spheres, even if they take a two-pronged form. That's how it was the last time around, with the Third Great Awakening, Prohibitionists, and other reformers of lifestyles pooling into the Temperance movement; and with labor unions, trust-busters, and income tax activists pooling into the Progressive movement. But those two really formed a single larger movement to regulate the economy and lifestyles in order to make modern society more stable and healthy rather than sick and ready to explode.

Certainly in recent times, there has never been a more widespread moralistic and righteous-minded climate than the early 20th century. Populism's moral appeal comes with almost no trade-offs. You don't look like you're trying to cynically tear down the destabilizing program of the other side while feverishly promoting your own form of destabilization that is vulnerable to the crusade of the other side.

And unlike libertarianism, which can also claim to not discriminate against one domain or another, populism avoids hypocrisy by wanting to regulate both the political-economic and the social-cultural domains. And as we've seen, it's the crusade to restore order to a destabilized system that makes people feel righteously motivated. With populism, you get two moral crusades for the price of one.

That's not to say that the world of the Great Compression was a populist utopia, just like today's world and the original Gilded Age were not libertarian utopias either. The Republicans held out somewhat for concessions to big business, while the Democrats held out for concessions to non-traditional American lifestyles brought by the immigrant and Ellis Island-descended base of their party. But overall, both domains were remarkably regulated, with the New Deal reforms to the economy, twinned with the censorship and shunning of deviance and of alien cultures.

It's important to keep in mind as we enter the renaissance of populism -- we have to remind the liberals that their revival of 1940s and '50s New Deal economics will have to be traded for a return to lifestyles of the '40s and '50s. If they want a higher minimum wage and narrowing inequality, they can afford to close down pornography, multiculturalism, and rootlessness. By the same token, conservatives must be willing to pay higher income taxes, work in a more unionized economy, and face tighter checks on over-weening career ambition.

But, as we're starting to see only too clearly now, we're all in the same boat, and either our society comes together or it blows itself apart. We can start by doing whatever we can to make sure that our next President is the only populist in the running -- Donald Trump.

I actually think it won't be all that hard since the moralistic appeal of populism is catnip for both liberals and conservatives. They simply have to be woken up from their separate delusions (Republicans: "boo protectionism," Democrats: "boo conformity"). But the Trump phenomenon -- meaning not just what he has said himself, but the whole transformation of the climate that has resulted -- is already starting to make people comfortable voting for populist economics (bring back jobs so poor people can get higher-paying work) as well as populist immigration (close the borders since foreigners pose various threats to our way of life, aside from taking our jobs).

December 13, 2015

Dog people more likely to treat grooming like a human makeover

Continuing some themes from my earlier look into dog people vs. cat people (click the "pets" tag at the end of this post to see the others), I've noticed that pet supplies stores carry way more grooming products for dogs than cats, in a much wider variety, and especially ones where the owner is like a 7 year-old girl giving a makeover to a poor younger sibling or a dress-up doll.

Here are the grooming products for dogs and cats at the website of PetSmart, the main pet store in America. There are 368 products for dogs vs. only 60 for cats, and the dog products are less likely to be utilitarian and more likely to be striver salon-quality makeover products (loads of "premium" shampoos and conditioners, various salon scissors and clippers, etc.).

You can also tell by the brands who sell to dogs vs. cats. SWPL favorite Burt's Bees offers 11 products for dogs and 0 for cats (their own website shows some for cats, compared to a much larger selection for dogs, but PetSmart's selection must reflect how in-demand they are -- not very much for cat owners). And CHI, one of those "affordable luxury" salon hair products for human beings, offers 36 items for dogs vs. just 1 for cats.

See as well the difference between the in-house grooming services that they offer for dogs vs. cats. For cats there are 10 services offered, but 27 for dogs. The cat services are mostly utilitarian -- bath, brush, trim coat, trim nails, clean ears, etc. The only airheaded service is aromatherapy -- who knows, maybe it's just letting your pet get high on catnip while you browse the store. The dog services also include utilitarian things, but they have far more airheaded services than for cats -- aromatherapy, scented cologne, "premium" salon treatment, skin moisturizers, pedicure, sculpting facial hair, adding fur extensions, colored nail polish, and decorating your poor poochie's fur with wacky color patches and jewels.

Now, people who live with dogs come in two types -- dog owners and dog people. Certainly these weird services and products are only reflective of the dog people, who fixate on their pets, rather than those who just live with dogs around. But the dog people are becoming more of a majority of all those living with dogs.

And their weirdness cannot be blamed on their obsession with their pet, as opposed to merely having animals around. Cat people are almost all doting pet owners, aside from a tiny minority of rural folks who may have barn cats around who they don't show much attention to. And yet being so focused on their pets doesn't make cat people feel like dyeing part their pet's coat purple, or sculpting its facial hair as though it were a garden hedge, or cleaning its fur with an oatmeal shampoo and milk bath conditioner.

I attribute this different attitude toward a more liberal moral sense among dog people than cat people, which includes having a lower disgust response and a lower sense of preserving what is sacred. Warping a living creature into such an artificial abomination against nature -- a perfumed poodle with painted paws -- cuts so strongly against the conservative sense of sanctity, purity, and the organic.

The picture only gets worse when you look into the clothing & accessories offered for dogs vs. cats. Only 16 cat items, but 465 dog items. Most of the cat items are really occasional costumes -- giving it a Santa hat or an ugly Christmas sweater (hipsters and actual creative types are more likely to be cat people; see earlier pet posts). Dog people, on the other hand, dress up their pets in human-type clothing -- parkas, tank tops, dresses, swimsuits, and shoes.

Dog people, like liberal-brained people in general, seem to be more arrested in their development. That would account for their more liberal morality (conservatism grows with age), and their peculiar childlike way of making their pets the victims of a cartoonish dress-up / makeover game.

December 11, 2015

Even their pets...

Bibi's dog yelps out as he bites you.

December 10, 2015

Big data is the biggest loser in 2016 election (also prediction markets, pundits, etc.)

The massive hype over "big data" during the past several election cycles, not to mention in the world at large, is finally being revealed as nonsense. Nassim Taleb has been the only major voice calling the whole approach bullshit, although he hasn't focused so much on the Trump phenomenon.

This election shows the fatal flaw of the big data program -- like all statistical learning programs, it has absolutely no clue what answer to give when it encounters an entirely unfamiliar environment. Maybe it'll give the right answer, and maybe it'll give a wrong answer -- whatever it says, our only rational response is to ignore it and look elsewhere, if anywhere, for answers.

Take an example: the 538 blog of poser quants tells us that, historically, the eventual Presidential nominee for a party had already done very well in opinion polls with the electorate, had amassed huge amounts of funds from donors, and/or had racked up scores of endorsements from politicians.

With Trump dominating the polls -- and media coverage -- while raising very little funds from donors and receiving no endorsements from major politicians, science says he can't win. Or at least, his chances are way below Fiorina, who they were "bullish" on after the second GOP debate, compared to their "bearish" stance on the master.

What the spergs can't see is that Trump is unlike anything in the data-set that they've honed their intuitions on. We haven't seen something like him since Teddy Roosevelt, but nerds generally don't appreciate history, and cannot force themselves to think back further than WWII, and typically 1980 in politics. Sure enough, 538's graphs on the "history" of endorsements for candidates only goes back to 1980.

Simply put, if there's no similar event to the Trump phenomenon in their history, why consult the history at all? It's like asking someone who's been trained on conjugating Spanish verbs to weigh in on how some verb is conjugated in Chinese. [1]

This whole situation brings up one of the central topics of statistical inference -- making a prediction based on interpolation vs. extrapolation.

With interpolation, you're making a guess about an item that lies within the range of what you've already seen, even if you haven't seen that exact item before. Nobody has any major objections to making these kinds of predictions, if you've got a dense enough data-set that will reveal how things behave within that range. You're mapping out a tiny square-inch within a territory that has been extensively surveyed for a mile around it.

With extrapolation, you're making a prediction about an item that lies well outside of the range that your data-set lies in. Honest folks view extrapolation as bogus -- not that the prediction is bound to be wrong, but that there's no reason to pay any heed to a guess that has no basis or grounding in the data-set. You are now sailing into uncharted waters, and assuming that the patterns of a territory you explored earlier will continue to apply in this unexplored territory. What could go wrong with assuming that the same pattern holds true everywhere?

For example, let's say there are two variables X and Y -- I promise, even innumerate people can get this -- like you remember from graphing equations in algebra class. Suppose you have a huge data-set -- thousands of points on the graph, revealing the fine-grained shape of the relationship between the two. Sample points -- (1,2), (2,4), (3,6), (1.1, 2.2), (2.1, 4.2), (3.1, 6.2), etc., all clearly suggesting that the Y value is 2 times the X value.

But what if the points in your data-set only had positive X values? Well, it might not present an obstacle if you're asked to predict what Y value will go with an X value of 2.5 -- supposing you hadn't already been given that point, you'd guess pretty safely that it would be 5, fitting with the rest of the multitude of points around it, and that Y would be 2 times X here as well.

However, if you were thrown a curveball, like X being a negative number, say -10, you wouldn't really know what to predict for the Y value anymore. Points with a negative value for X are outside of the data-set that you're drawing an association from, so you'd have no basis for a good guess. Maybe it'll continue the pattern from the points with positive X values, and Y will be -20. Then again maybe there's an absolute value function at work, making the magnitude the same but always giving a positive Y value, in this case X = -10 and Y = 20. Or any other of an infinite number of imaginable behaviors in this environment that you have no previous information about.

In such an unfamiliar territory, your guess is as good as any. Maybe it'll turn out right, maybe wrong, but you'll have no basis on those thousands of points of "big data" for your guess. If you do guess correctly, it will only be pure dumb luck, and nobody should pay any heed to your guess in the meantime.

How does extrapolation confuse people in an election like this one, with a never-before-seen candidate like Trump?

Lazy people have likened Trump to Perot, particularly if he decides to run on a third party. They try to analogize from the Perot phenomenon and conclude that Trump has little chance of winning the GOP nomination, and would crash and burn as a third party candidate.

But Perot had zippo in the polls, let alone was he dominating the GOP polls by double digits for more or less the entire time, and increasing more or less steadily all the while. He wasn't given wall-to-wall media coverage, and did not consistently draw crowds in the thousands and even tens of thousands. And he was a complete unknown before the election, while Trump has instant brand recognition. Not to mention their policy differences, with Trump being a broad populist and Perot focusing narrowly on NAFTA and trade agreements.

Since Trump's situation is radically different from Perot's, the earlier example of Perot predicts nothing about Trump today.

Slightly less lazy comparisons to George Wallace also don't hold up. When he sought the Democratic nomination in 1964, his appeal was largely regional (the Deep South), whereas Trump draws huge enthusiastic crowds in the Midwest, Plains, Deep South, Appalachia, New England, the Southwest -- everywhere, really. And he did not consistently dominate opinion polls. In 1968, he ran third party, but did not do so after dominating polls and coverage and crowds while earlier running on one of the two main parties. In 1972, he was nearly assassinated and his campaign ground to a halt. So far (knock on wood), no analogy can be drawn from Wallace's several campaigns to Trump's.

There has quite simply never been a candidate who was so dominating of the polls of a major party, media coverage, and crowd attendance, all throughout the second half of the year leading up to the primaries -- yet who was so loathed by the party's leadership, its elected officials, and his fellow candidates, let alone the other major party, with whom they launched an all-out mission to take him out.

Therefore, we have no idea whatsoever how the whole thing will unfold. Will the leadership bite the bullet and let him win, or try to sabotage him with attack ads? If that doesn't succeed, will they rig the primaries? If not, will they rig or buy off those at the Convention in the summer? Will they team up with Hillary to keep Trump from re-directing the Republican party? Or help to rig the general election? Or try to assassinate him?

We have no "big data" to draw on that would illuminate our current state of uncertainty. There just hasn't been anything like this before -- certainly, not an earlier example that also has tons of data to learn from. Our hunches may turn out to be right or wrong, but they will not be so on account of "what the data tell us". In an entirely unfamiliar setting, the data tell us nothing.

[1] Speaking of language, this is why computers cannot learn human languages to the degree we do. They do poorly with irregular forms, such as irregular verbs and irregular plurals. The statistical learning algorithms look for patterns between a present and past tense form of a verb, for thousands of verbs. It's not hard to learn the pattern for regular verbs -- stick "-ed" on the end. Some irregular verbs fall into families with similarities, but it's not hard-and-fast, and some verbs are sui generis.

Train the computer on verbs like "drink / drank / drunk" and they can correctly guess that "sing" goes "sing / sang / sung".

But ask it about the incredibly common verb "hit" -- it'll try to apply some variation to the root form, maybe "hit / hat / hut", or guess that it's regular "hit / hitted / hitted". All its guesses will be wrong since the forms are all the same, "hit / hit / hit". After training on "tooth / teeth," it won't be able to guess that it's "foot / feet," since the sound similarities between "tooth" and "foot" only held in an earlier stage of English (when the vowel was a long "oo"), and today they just have to be memorized individually.

These failures of machine learning apply very generally, and are the central weakness in connectionist and neural network approaches to modeling human language and cognition more broadly. They are good at abstracting associations within the data-set that they've been trained on, and can make good guesses about the properties of a new item if it resembles an item they've already seen. If the new item is unfamiliar from the training data-set, the guesses go all over the place and are all equally worthless.

Big data cannot think outside the box.

December 9, 2015

Political partisanship and career strivers vs. lifestyle strivers

When the current era of status-striving kicked off with the Me Generation during the 1970s, the domain of competition was the career world, which solidified into the yuppie phenomenon of the '80s. They also measure status by material things that cost enough money that owning them implies success in the career world -- a large house in a top zip code, second homes, luxury cars, boats, and so on.

As the career domain became saturated with strivers, the next generation took to the lifestyle domain for their status contests. See this earlier post. And now that lifestyle striving has become saturated, strivers are competing over who has the awesomest persona. For now we can group the lifestyle and persona strivers together, as forms of not-so-tangible striving, in contrast with the clearer measures of success in the career and materialist domain.

The political system responds to underlying sociological changes. During the Great Compression, both parties were not at war with each other as they were during the Gilded Age. They were not concerned with helping individuals advance their personal, or at most familial ambitions, but rather with stewarding the collective welfare of the entire nation. Republicans leaned more toward established business interests (not entrepreneurial strivers), and Democrats more toward labor unions (not identity politics groups, not outdoors enthusiasts).

As the Me Generation entered the electorate in huge numbers, so the party system came to be co-opted for the purposes of advancing the two camps of strivers -- Republicans representing career strivers, and Democrats the lifestyle / persona strivers. In a striving climate, the prevailing mood is laissez-faire -- no holds barred, when competitiveness starts soaring.

Republicans, as the career striver party, emphasized laissez-faire in the economy. In their appeal to voters, they came to be defined almost entirely by lowering income taxes, so that more of a career striver's income could go toward padding their net worth. Democrats, as the lifestyle / persona striver party, emphasized laissez-faire in the lifestyle and persona domains -- do whatever, whenever, with whoever. They came to be defined by breaking down barriers toward previously shunned lifestyles, as opposed to previously shunned business practices -- single mothers, homosexuals, drug addicts, and so on.

Republicans try to help career strivers with conspicuous consumption -- giving them more tax write-offs for homes and luxury items. Democrats try to help lifestyle strivers write off a symbol of their environmentalist lifestyle, like a hybrid car. They want to help lifestyle strivers go to college for free, since college is now training for lifestyle striving rather than career prep.

Where does the partisan conflict and polarization come from? With two separate modes of competition trying to establish themselves as the One True Status Contest by which all individuals shall be ranked, one has to degrade the other in importance. Sure, both career and lifestyle contribute to status, but (Republicans) career is more important, or (Democrats) lifestyle is more important.

Career strivers have enough trouble competing against each other -- if they could knock out the lifestyle strivers by persuading people that lifestyle contests don't matter, then they've just given themselves a huge, fast boost in status, with roughly one-half of the population now out of the status game. Likewise, lifestyle strivers will want to persuade people that career success doesn't matter, and suddenly they've eliminated half the population as status rivals.

But it only takes them so far to poke fun at the other camp -- Republicans belittling Democrats as "latte-sipping liberals," and Democrats painting Republicans as money-grubbing career drones.

What your side really needs to do is to demonize the other side. Playful ribbing won't shut them out of the status game -- portraying their entire approach to status competition as immoral and evil, will.

If the Democrats have based their appeal on laissez-faire in lifestyles, then Republicans will be forced to portray those changes as threats to the fate of the universe, in strongly moral terms. Championing gay marriage doesn't make you a loser in your career who's desperately trying to score lifestyle striver points by being a fag-hag -- it makes you someone who's opening up the gates of Hell.

And if Republicans have based their appeal on laissez-faire in the economy, then Democrats will be forced to portray deregulation and widening inequality in moralistic apocalyptic terms. It's not just those shallow materialist Republicans making it easier to keep their income, it's the forces of darkness breaking into our world.

Hence, the strident polarization we see today.

Republicans come to favor not only a deregulated economy, but a highly regulated lifestyle domain -- to shut down the other mode of status competition. And for the same reason, Democrats come to favor a deregulated lifestyle domain, but a highly regulated economy. This is all when appealing to voters, of course, since once in office the Democrats compromise and accept a fairly unregulated economy, and Republicans compromise and accept deregulated lifestyles. But they aren't total moves to the other side, they are just compromises, and Democrats remain relatively more in favor of economic regulation, and Republicans of lifestyle regulation.

In contrast, the Great Compression saw both parties aiming to regulate their domain of concern, which were the opposite of today's focus. Democrats focused on the economy, and pressed to regulate it. Republicans were focused on lifestyles (obscenity in pop culture, atheism, hatred of country, etc.) and sought to regulate them. Both sides accepted the regulations of the other, so that both the economy and lifestyle domains were decently regulated. Pornography was outlawed, but so were monopolistic business tendencies.

There's a lot more to be said. This post is to lay out the basic idea of looking at the two parties as the organized will of rivals pursuing two separate modes of status competition, career vs. lifestyle strivers. So much starts to fall into place once we see the parties from this point of view.

December 8, 2015

The Millennial Le Pen as the next Joan of Arc?

From an overview in the Daily Mail:

While Marine Le Pen hailed the 'magnificent' performance of the National Front last night, it is her niece who has become the poster girl for France's far-Right as the party achieved record gains.

Marion Marechal-Le Pen, France’s youngest-ever MP when elected at 22, is on course to lead the southern Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region with polls giving her some 40 per cent of the vote.

The 25-year-old has emerged as the rising star of the National Front and is seen by many as the ideological successor to her 87-year-old grandfather, National Front (FN) founder Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Shitlording skips a generation.

Marechal-Le Pen is much further to the Right than her aunt Marine Le Pen, who has tried to soften the party’s image and even helped expel her father from the party over anti-Semitic Holocaust comments.

The mother-of-one plays a leading role in anti-gay marriage rallies, backing what she calls the ‘traditional family’.

She insists everybody – especially the five million Muslims living in France – should accept the ‘true French identity’ rooted in Christianity.

If she weren't already married, she sounds like a nice match for one of the Trump men.

She is also outspoken, recently using the word ‘moronic’ while addressing the Socialist prime minister.

‘Marion has dumped her grandfather’s anti-Semitism, but beyond that sounds just like him,’ said one FN source.

She is also adept at invoking the mysticism and legend of the ‘old France’, regularly referring to national heroes such as Joan of Arc.

Speaking of, here's a reminder from the old days when paying tribute to French history invoked its nationalist heroes, rather than its "come one, come all" cosmopolitanism in a grab for quasi-French cultural identity:

Trump: Are John McCain and Lindsey Graham ambiguously gay for each other?

After recently referring to Hillary Clinton and her aide Huma being lesbian partners (here at 13:23), Trump now puzzles over why Lindsey Graham and John McCain are always sitting together, they're like the Bobbsey twins (instinctively picking up on gays as infantilized), just once he'd like to see Graham sitting by himself, etc. (here at 11:45). He even throws in a Seinfeld reference afterward -- "I'm not knockin' it..." ("Not that there's anything wrong with that...").

Graham is a barely closeted fag, but I never thought about McCain before. Honestly, I don't follow TV media, so I don't know any of his mannerisms or typical facial expressions, other than he has weird-looking cheeks. But after being tipped off by the Trumpmeister, I went searching Google Images, and found lots of pictures of him with noticeable, albeit not flaming gayface.

The telltale sign is the inability to smile like a grown-up, pulling the upper lip tightly out toward the sides, and lowering the lower lip so as to show the lower row of teeth. Only babies smile that way, which identifies the male homosexual as one who is still mentally in the "ewww, girls are yucky" stage of social development.

See for yourself:

So, are these two Senators literally gay for each other, or just unusually chummy on account of their shared unusual sexual orientation? Beats me, but I wouldn't rule out them having had something sometime (Graham obviously being the bottom):

In 21st-century America, Democrats welcome the lesbos, Republicans welcome the nancyboys.

BTW, that helps to explain the hysterical caricature of hawkish militarism that both McCain and Graham are known for. Since gayness is defined by infantilization, they're like the 7 year-old boy who wants to declare war on the whole world, unilaterally, for not agreeing with him or for shutting him out of some group.

December 7, 2015

The myth of Christian terrorism

Now that we're going to be talking a lot about Islamic terrorism, you're going to hear the inevitable double-talk about how "We condemn all forms of terrorism -- be they Islamic, Mormon, Buddhist, or Amish."

I looked up the internet know-it-all's guide to talking points, Wikipedia, to know what to be prepared for when I hear about Christian terrorism. I expected to find a small list of bad acts, just to be aware of them and not be caught off-guard when they're brought up, while pointing out how much longer the list of Islamic terrorist atrocities is.

Shockingly -- or not -- I couldn't find a single incident of terrorism committed by Christians. It turns out that all of their examples are either not terrorism, or not committed by Christians. I don't mean that I'm disqualifying the perpetrators of being Christians ex post facto -- they committed this attack, so they could not have been true Christians -- I mean they showed no proof of being believing and practicing Christians beforehand.

We must bear in mind some key traits of terrorism. It is meant to harm people or things whom the attackers themselves believe to be innocent, but are in some way standing as representatives of something larger that the attackers hate. This is what gives terrorism its indiscriminate and mass-killing character, rather than focusing on a small number of guilty individuals. And it is meant to send a message, via public spectacle, to other members of that group, putting them in a state of fear for their safety, way of life, and so on.

For example, killing random workers at the World Trade Center on 9/11 -- none of the jihadists knew who they were at the individual level, let alone had beef with them specifically. They were just interchangeable "Americans" whose foreign policy Al-Qaeda wanted to change. The concert-goers in the Paris attacks were not chosen for having committed specific bad acts, but simply for belonging to a group whose way of life the terrorists wanted to change ("decadent Westerners," French imperialist foreign policy, etc.).

We must also bear in mind that being a Christian means you have certain key beliefs about the New Testament and Jesus Christ. Ranting about the Ten Commandments or Sodom and Gomorrah doesn't distinguish you as a Christian, although it would be compatible with being Christian. And it means you follow certain practices and attend religious services in a Christian way. Practice and ritual are as important, or perhaps more so, than mere beliefs when it comes to determining who belongs to a religious group. So, someone who reads the book of Revelation every night but never goes to church, doesn't confess their sins, doesn't repent, doesn't try to "go and sin no more," etc., is not a Christian.

With that in mind, let's run through Wikipedia's list of examples, none of which hold up.

The Gunpowder Plot. Not terrorism because it was part of factional violence leading up to open civil war in England. It did not target innocents or civilians, but the King and members of Parliament who were on the other side of a religious conflict between Protestants and Catholics.

Pogroms. Not religiously motivated, but an ethnic clash between Jews as an ethnic group and Slavs. The motivation given was to free our ethnic group from a parasitic ethnic group, not to avenge a central figure from our religion who was killed or maligned by members of their religion.

Ku Klux Klan. Similar to pogroms. Not religiously motivated, rather an ethnic clash between founding-stock whites vs. blacks and some new immigrant groups. They used Christian symbolism (burning crosses), but did not hold Christian beliefs or follow Christian practices according to any mainstream or even not-so-mainstream tradition. Believing Jesus was the first Klansman, for instance. They were cosplay Christians.

Various conflicts in Africa and India. Sounds more like more local ethnic conflicts where one group decides to identify its side by appropriating Christian symbols and rhetoric, without being believing and practicing Christians. Or having the goal of ethnic cleansing, rather than creating a state of terror or panic in order to enact certain policy or lifestyle changes. Or being parties to civil war (see below).

Maronite Christians in the Lebanese Civil War. Politically motivated violence between two factions of a civil war. Terrorism assumes a certain level of central government control, and the terrorists are either sending a message to The Powers That Be, or they are telling other non-state groups that the central authorities cannot protect them as well as they had believed. That feeling of insecurity, fear, etc., is a break from normalcy.

In a civil war, though, no such central authority and security of groups and individuals is assumed. One side targets innocent civilians on the other -- of course, that's how it's always been in warfare. The experience is certainly terrifying, but it is not terrorism, which is a marked disruption of everyday order and stability -- not one of an endless number of everyday acts of indiscriminate violence during the anarchy of civil war.

Anti-abortion violence. Far and away the main focus of denunciations of Christian terrorism, especially in America. The many examples in this category can be ruled out due to the acts not being terrorist, and in a large fraction of the examples, the actors not being Christians.

First, killing an abortion-providing doctor is not indiscriminate and does not harm people and places whom the attackers believe to be innocent. Since in the attackers' mind, abortion is a form of murder, the motive is straightforward revenge for past murders, and prevention of future murders. You're free to disagree with where they set the beginning of life, that abortion is not murder, etc., but you can't say that their motive is anything other than punishment of past crimes and prevention of future crimes, as they see abortion as a crime.

And by going after the doctors themselves, they show a concern with reciprocity at the individual level -- provide abortion, become a target -- rather than going after "doctors" in general, most of whom have not performed an abortion, just to send a message to the profession about its participation in abortion. Someone shooting up a conference of the American Medical Association, say. But that assignment of collective guilt and indiscriminate targeting of individuals never happens with the anti-abortion attacks. Hell, they don't even try to attack proponents or propagandists for abortion rights -- only the doctors who perform them, and any collateral damage from that.

Their property destruction is likewise focused and based on reciprocity. They don't target hospitals in general, clinics in general, offices belonging to medical professional organizations, or the press organs of abortion rights groups -- or even general press outlets that wrote pro-choice editorials. It's only those specific sites where abortions are being performed. If they were true terrorists, they might even blow up something completely unrelated to abortion, like a subway or a marathon, in order to grab the attention of people who might not otherwise be thinking about abortion politics, or to suggest that any target is legitimate in the service of a just cause.

Furthermore, most of the attackers in these non-terrorist attacks are not Christian. Some follow the familiar pattern of appropriating Christian symbols or rhetoric, but are not believing and practicing Christians. Just ask what church they go to, and how often. Or what parts of the Bible motivate them -- probably something as simple as "Thou shalt not kill," which is part of the Old Testament and not distinctly Christian. Quoting Jesus or Paul would be more convincing of a Christian motivation.

A handful are actual Christians, usually it seems from the Catholic Church.

Aside from the cosplay Christians, though, the other major sub-group is the paranoid anarcho-libertarian type, linked more to an anti-government militia than to a Christian church, or indeed to any religious body. Being paranoid about just about any form of government, and thriving more Out West, it's clear that they're libertarian rather than conservative.

Their focus only on abortion rather than also on pornography, sodomy laws, gambling, drugs, prostitution, etc., also belies their libertarian moral foundation, which like its liberal cousin, is based on preventing harm and administering justice. Matters of purity, taboo, sanctity, and so on, do not play much of a role in their anger. They see abortion as the state-sanctioned harming of innocent people, not as a perversion, corruption, or abomination.

And of course the two main groups show some overlap, with paranoid anarcho-libertarian militia-men LARP-ing as Christian warriors (without actually having any beliefs about Christ, performing Christian rituals, or attending Christian services).

I'm not surprised that "Christian terrorism" turns out to be just another liberal urban legend, but I thought at least there would be a kernel of truth to it that was being hysterically exaggerated. Nope, just like there's no Buddhist terrorism, Mormon terrorism, Voodoo terrorism, or indeed anything other than Islamic terrorism. And perhaps Jewish terrorism -- most terrorism from Jews is part of an ethnic conflict and often committed by secular or atheist Jews, but there are incidents like the Ultra-Orthodox Israeli man who has gone on two separate stabbing sprees during a gay pride parade in Jerusalem.

In fact, think of how absent Christian terrorist boogey-men have been at gay pride parades in the West. Targeting abortion clinics is so Nineties. These days, it would be a pride parade. And yet where are the explosions? There is no anti-homo terrorism, let alone from a believing and practicing Christian group.

Christians did not spread their religion by violent conquest, but by persuasive evangelism. Early Christians were in no position to conquer the Roman Empire, who had already crucified their Messiah. Likewise Christian efforts to defeat the scourge of abortion, sodomite marriage, etc., take the form of changing hearts and minds.

The initial spread of Islam was by violent military conquest, so it shouldn't be surprising to find that their ideological battles will have a distinctly violent component to them.

December 6, 2015

Do pro-life girls have more fertile body shapes?

Honest question, and no research on topic that I could quickly find, despite there being a cottage industry for academic articles about what correlates with an hourglass vs. a tubular waist-to-hip ratio.

I've been looking into the history of the pro-life movement, and since there's an apparent revival under Millennial college students, I checked out Google Images for "pro-life students" to see what they're like -- normal, hipster, etc.

While it wasn't every girl, they were far more likely to have hourglass shapes, in an age where it seems like you don't see that body type much anymore, especially among Millennials. Even when they were a bit overweight, they still had hourglass shapes, rather than being uniformly wide blobs. They also smile more. More designed for birthing in their physiology, more pro-natal in their political views.

Some examples (girl on left, girl in peach shirt, girl in orange shirt):

The pro-choice students had more boyish waist-to-hip ratios, and generally didn't smile (notwithstanding one of the examples below). When they were fat, they were fat all over, not in a Rubenesque way. Bodies less capable of conceiving and delivering, minds less inclined to protect childbearing.

See for example: