Sandy Hook massacre and the ASD canard

[On screen] One Adam Lanza, age 20, shot and killed his mother, and then went to the Connecticut grade school where she taught and gunned down over two dozen more people, 20 of them children. He subsequently took his own life. No manifesto, no suicide note, no obvious motive.

Note that no “assault weapons” were involved: he used two handguns, and left a third weapon (a .223 rifle) unused in the car.

Our hearts and prayers go out to the bereaved and we wish a speedy and full recovery to the wounded.

Ace is all over the story. The usual predictable politicization by gun control advocates (and the power and control freaks posing as same) he masterfully rebutted with stories about a 2009 school slaughter in Leipzig, Germany (despite extremely tough gun control laws) and of a knife-wielding maniac slashing 22 students in China.

But also he left a prescient comment: he notes that the surviving brother told authorities the shooter “is autistic or has Asperger syndr0me”, and mentions “Which, of course, will hopefully not demean other people with autism or Asperger’s.”

The comment was prescient, in that the usual airheaded mediots (but I repeat myself) are starting to blame it on, you guessed it, Asperger’s. The pseudonymous “Elise Ronan”, who has two sons with Asperger’s and blogs extensively about it, has some choice comments on her twitter timeline.

Obviously, by the inane “logic” of Piers Morgan, I could “prove” that CNN journalists are likely to go on “Dick Quest” in Central Park with meth in their pockets and ropes tied around their other heads, but let’s get a little more serious.

This isn’t the first time this type of claim about ASD was made: last time I can recall was about the Amy Bishop “Tenure denial massacre” which we covered here at length (see sidebar). In fact, hers was almost a textbook case of narcissistic personality disorder, probably with some other cluster B disorders thrown in.

I would not categorically exclude that she is also on the “autistic spectrum” (which runs left of “neurotypical” from “geek” over “Asperger’s” to autism), for the simple reason that science academia is probably the single most congenial environment for people with ASDs.

Elise reports that on Good Morning America, somebody claimed that people with Asperger’s “lack empathy”. This is a very common misunderstanding among laymen. To use a musical analogy: a person with Asperger’s may be as musical as anybody but is hard of hearing. A person who truly “lacks empathy” would have no concept of music. And yes, I would not want to feed all the musicians who have gotten hard of hearing (including, sadly, my other half). But nobody would seriously argue that Beethoven’s late works were “amusical” because he was stone deaf at the time he wrote them?!

To put it another way (I, sadly, have personal experience in these matters). To a sociopath, other people’s concerns simply do not exist, other than perhaps as potential levers for manipulation for their own benefit. To a narcissist, other people only exist as potential sources of ‘narcissistic supply’ or competitors for same. To an “aspie”, the emotions of others are as real as for a “neurotypical”, but opaque. They have no trouble identifying (with) abstract concerns or specific material needs of others, but have extreme difficulty “reading” the emotions of others, not even at the level a neurotypical is able to. It is like the difference between having trouble reading a book because of poor eyesight, and being utterly uninterested in any book.

A commenter at “Ace” has a much more plausible theory.

criminologist & behavioral analyst
casey jordan

– will continue to be called a school shooting, but that is not what it was

murderer known as: a family annihilator
(wants to destroy those they love)
– school was a theater for his massacre because it was his mothers workplace
– but, not direct connection to the school
– the rest of the killing is to get attention
– and, he wants everyone to know, if he is going to die, that everyone knows his name and how upset and how disgruntled he was

UPDATE: Elise Ronan takes no prisoners: “And so it begins, blood-libeling those with autism [spectrum disorders]”

Authoritarian vs. totalitarian regimes in the Middle East

Daniel Pipes today discusses the mess in Egypt, and argues that continued rule of the dictator Mubarak would have been preferable over the ‘elected’ Islamosupremacist Morsi. This isn’t so much out of any love or sympathy for Mubarak, but as a choice ‘entre le mal et le pire’ (between bad and worse).

In just three months, Morsi has shown that he aspires to dictatorial powers greater than Mubarak’s and that his rule portends to be an evengreater calamity for Egypt than was Mubarak’s. He has neatly vindicated [Zuhdi] Jasser’s and my point: better dictators than elected Islamists. As I noted in the debate, Westerners should slam the door hard on ideological dictators like Islamists while pressuring greedy dictators to allow civil society. That offer the only exit from the false choice of two forms of tyranny.

Read the whole thing. Effectively, however, and without a name-check, Pipes is restating the Kirkpatrick Doctrine here. Then-US ambassador to the United Nebbich, Jeane Kirkpatrick, made a crucial distinction between authoritarian and totalitarian regimes. Authoritarian regimes, she argued, only seek to control their subjects’ behavior, while totalitarian regimes also seek to control their subjects’ thoughts and minds. Also, authoritarian regimes typically allow grassroots civil structures to functionThe former type of regime — be it a Latin-American junta or an Egyptian strongman — can be worked with up to a point, pressured toward allowing freedoms, and eventually (given enough pressure) be induced to transition to democracy. No such hope exists for the latter type of regime — be it Nazi, Stalinist, or Islamist — and no realistic room for “engagement” exists.


Robert Samuelson: higher marginal tax rates means more incentive for corruption and influence peddling (lfor loopholes, special tax breaks,…). And of that which you incentivize you get more,,,

International Liberty

I’ve been very critical of Obama’s class-warfare ideology because it leads to bad fiscal policy. But perhaps it is time to give some attention to other arguments against high tax rates.

Robert Samuelson, a columnist for the Washington Post, has a very important insight about tax rates and sleaze in Washington.

His column is mostly about Obama’s anti-tax reform agenda, but it includes this very important passage.

…many politicians support tax breaks for favored groups (the elderly, the poor, small business) and causes (homeownership, attending college, “green” industries). This enhances their power. The man who really pronounced the death sentence for the Tax Reform Act of 1986 was Bill Clinton, who increased the top rate to 39.6 percent rather than broadening the base. As the top rate rose, so did the value of generating new tax breaks. Ironically, many of the people who complain the loudest about Washington influence-peddling and…

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Why the Czechs voted with Israel against “Palestinian” UN status upgrade

I’ve seen a number of people wondering why — aside from the USA, Canada, and the small Pacific Island nations that usually vote with the USA — the Czech Republic voted with Israel against upgrading the “Palestinian” representation at the United Nebbich. (Incidentally, “nebbich” itself comes from a Czech word.)

But seriously, this vote is no mystery at all for anybody who knows the history of the area around WW II: the Czechs have been in this movie themselves before. Consider the following:

  • suppose you have a big bully with a supremacist ideology
  • you have a minority in your country that is ethnically and linguistically related to the big bully, part having settled in your country in the Middle Ages, part later
  • the loudest voice of that minority is a party directly in the pay of the bully
  • lots of harassment, claims of “oppression” and “discrimination”, and specious claims of “atrocities” ensue
  • the bully demands to “liberate” his oppressed kinsfolk (numbers of whom are themselves lukewarm at best to the idea)
  • in the name of “preserving peace in our time“, the big powers of the day force your hand to give up those territories
  • [here the parallel ends, thus far] eventually the big bully gobbles up what’s left of your country anyway and declares it a “protectorate” (which is what “dhimmi” status literally means).

In the above, substitute either “Palestinians” or “Sudeten Germans” for the minority. Can the parallels be any clearer?

Now guess what happened after WW II: the Czechs, having no desire to go through such a thing twice, decided to expel virtually the entire Sudeten German population (about 1.6 million people) across the border to the American occupation zone of Germany. (Note that this was not a peaceful process: a joint German-Czech commission in 1995 reached an estimate of 15,000-30,000 dead out of about 1.6 million expellees/deportees.)

Summing up: if anybody understands the predicament of the Israelis — and understands that Israel is acting with an almost superhuman level of restraint that they themselves (understandably, after “the butcher of Prague” and his successors) were unable to exercise in the past — it would be the Czechs.

Some of the worst things imaginable have been done with the best intentions

The front page of the Yediot Achronot had a story (sensationalist as is the wont of that paper) about a family tragedy.

Briefly: The head of the hematology department of a large hospital (I will not spell out his name out of concern for the privacy of the family — bad enough that the gutter press chose to do otherwise) was faced with a 34-year old daughter (he himself was 66) who struggled with cancer for over 3 years. Eventually she gave up and insisted that he put her out of her misery, which he did, and subsequently committed suicide, leaving a wife and two more children behind.

It is written “do not judge your fellowman until you have stood in his place” (Avot 2:4). I have not (G-d spare me) stood in this doctor’s place but have been in a closely related situation, which made me lose all respect for the (euthanasia-happy) medical establishment of the European country involved. (For the political establishment of said country, I lost none since I had none left to lose by then ;-)) Suffice to say that the participants in this “Greek tragedy” have suffered, and continue to suffer, enough without me shooting off my mouth on this specific case.

However, now the usual suspects (hyper-secularists, as well as those emoting rather than thinking) are calling for a law permitting active euthanasia — notwithstanding that Israel calls itself ‘a Jewish state’ last time I checked, that Jewish law prohibits active euthanasia in the strongest terms, and that it is also utterly incompatible not just with the Hippocratic Oath but with the Jewish versions thereof. (The situation regarding passive euthanasia is rather more complex, as has been recognized by a 2005 law.)

There is a well-known legal maxim in English: “terrible cases make for bad law”. Sometimes, moved to pity from a few individual heart-rending cases, lawmakers create laws, or judges legal precedents, that would have addressed these specific cases but have unintended consequences hundreds or thousands of times greater in magnitude for years or even centuries to come. Furthermore, dark forces can manipulate public sentiment on a few such terrible cases to generate public pressure for a change of law that suits their nefarious ends  — in this manner, somewhere in Europe, a nation was made to set the first steps on a slippery slope that led first to mass euthanasia of the mentally ill and special-needs children as having “lives not worth living” and “being too great a burden on those caring for them”, which then turned out to be the dress rehearsal for the murder of one-third of my people (plus an even larger percentage of Roma gypsies, as well as millions of Slavs).

It is, incidentally, interesting that the “T4-Aktion” (as the Nazi euthanasia program was known after the address of the headquarters of the program, Tiergartenstrasse 4 in Berlin) stands alone in the history of the Third Reich as an example where a widespread public outcry (backed, admittedly, by some prominent Catholic and Lutheran clergy) forced the regime to back down and discontinue it at least publicly.

It would be a tragedy on a cosmic scale if, moved by the Greek tragedy of a few individual families, the Jewish state of all countries would set the first steps down this “road to Hell paved with good intentions”. Fortunately, I would imagine that public support for such a law is mostly limited to the ‘Haaretz readers’ audience among the secular public, close to zero among the traditional public and the minority religions, and zero full stop among the Orthodox public.

The hideous face of state-run medicine in the UK

At the risk of going full Godwin, this is an updated version of Pfannmüller’s “natural method” during the Third Reich:
Behold the truly hideous endgame of state-run medicine.

International Liberty

I’m not easily grossed out or nauseated. Heck, I’m on email lists for a half-dozen softball teams and you can only imagine the strange/filthy/nasty things that guys send to each other.

But I read a story about the death panels in the United Kingdom that left me discombobulated. I can’t even begin to describe how I feel.

Here’s the intro of a disturbing report in the Daily Mail.

Sick children are being discharged from NHS hospitals to die at home or in hospices on controversial ‘death pathways’. Until now, end of life regime the Liverpool Care Pathway was thought to have involved only elderly and terminally-ill adults. But the Mail can reveal the practice of withdrawing food and fluid by tube is being used on young patients as well as severely disabled newborn babies.

And here are some of the horrifying details. Read at your own risk.

One doctor…

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Can one be both socially conservative and libertarian? Answer: yes

Roger Simon discusses something I had been meaning to write about. His post touches on the tension between social conservatism and the libertarian impulse.

I myself identify as both a social conservative and a small-l libertarian. The contradiction, in fact, is only an apparent one. Allow me to explain.

First of all, there is a fundamental difference between libertarianism and libertinism. Libertinism seeks not liberty but license — the license to ‘do as thou wilst’ while being fully insulated from the consequences of irresponsible behavior. Libertarianism, on the other hand, seeks to get the state out of one’s wallet and bedroom to the extent practically possible, but by definition rejects the concept of the state insulating one from consequences of one’s own irresponsible behavior.

Yes, I believe deeply in a number of values that are generally considered socially conservative, and believe society would benefit greatly if more people would strive to live by these time-proven values. But I believe in furthering them by persuasion and personal example, not by state coercion with its reverse Midas touch.

The answer of every GOP candidate when asked about social issues (other than work ethic and self-reliance, which were still considered social issues when I was young) should be this: “My beliefs are well known, but I do not believe it is the government’s task to enforce them. Now, about the federal deficit and the economy…”

Of course, here’s the flipside: if you don’t want public resources to be used to enforce your beliefs, neither should they be used to enforce those of the other side (no subsidized abortions or s3x changes, no creating a ‘protected/privileged class’ out of a s3xual preference,…). And if you want to engage in risk behaviors (be they nutritional, sexual, smoking,…) do not seek to simultaneously deny us the right to criticize these behaviors yet tax us to foot the bill for them.

And the flip side of rejecting state coercion in “family values” matters is, what ‘cousin Dave’ calls, “get[ting] government out of the business of rearranging society with its offerings of perverse incentives. ”

“Bring the state back to basics.” Even if you do believe that the state should do some stuff beyond what I call “night-watchman duties” (national defense, public law and order, border protection, international relations), as long as it cannot handle the essentials properly it should not concern itself with peripherals. One does not argue about interior decoration while the house is on fire.

Focusing on marginal hate speech as a form of ‘displacement’

Laura Rosen Cohen reflects on a recent incident in Canada:

A Quebec broadcaster let someone on his show and “Maria” proceeded to call Israelis dogs, and talk about how the Holocaust was the best thing to have ever happened, and say all kinds of other things about Jews.

The host warned her that one must be careful about saying things about Jews because the conversation can easily get shut down, that’s it’s a sensitive topic.

Well first of all, the person trying to insult me by calling me a dog needs to work a little harder, since I can think of quite a few categories of humans that make dogs look excellent in comparison — such as  antisemites, apologists for islamofascism, fascist sympathizers (whether their favorite color of fascism be black, brown, red, or green), and of course Chicago Machine hacks. My answer to the kook and her host would probably be something along these lines (NSFW, especially in Italy).

Laura bemoans the excessive amount of attention devoted by Canada’s establishment (and left-leaning) Jewish organizations to combating a few marginal antisemitic kooks, to the detriment of fighting much greater, clearer, and more present dangers elsewhere. While I quibble with some of the language and specifics of her post, her general points — including that the answer to ‘hate speech’ is not ‘hate speech laws’ but better counterspeech — are well taken.

But I believe something else is at work, namely the psychological defense mechanism known as displacement:

an unconscious defense mechanism whereby the mind redirects affects from an object felt to be dangerous or unacceptable to an object felt to be safe or acceptable.[1] The term originated with Sigmund Freud.[2]

A special case of displacement I have discussed on these pages: incompetent managers, when faced with problems that are clearly too big for them,  single out some small, insignificant aspect of the problem, redefine that as “the” problem, attack that, and declare success.

In this case, the establishment Jewish community organizations are afraid to tackle the really serious problems — because that would, inter alia, make them no longer salonfähig among the cocktail party set, or cause a confrontation with a type of imported fascist that may actually try to kill you. Or, for those deeply invested in left-wing world views,  it may entail a reassessment of values and realignment of loyalties more comprehensive than they can handle. Much simpler to ‘displace’ onto a few marginal remnants of the “ancient enemy” (which command no public sympathy) than to try and face the “new enemy” which all too many consider the wave of the future…

Saturday beauty: Jon Schmidt, “All of me”

I owe y’all a post on what the cease-fire in Israel means but am swamped with work. Meanwhile, here is a piano piece that I instantly fell in love with, played by the composer (Jon Schmidt). Some would call the style New Age piano, others neo-roots music, I might call it ‘neoclassical’: by any other name, after a brief intro, you get three minutes of sheer exuberance. (For the  pianists among us, here you can view sheet music and here you can buy it.) Enjoy!


Ayatollah Ghilmeini on “Pillar of Cloud and Pillar of Fire”

At Correspondence Committee, commenter “Ayatollah Ghilmeini” has some reflections on mivtza amud anan/Operation Pillar of Cloud (a.k.a. Operation Pillar of Defense) that need sharing:

I had wondered how many more rockets were going to hit Israel before there would be response.  It was clear the recent escalation, right after Obama was elected, stemmed from multiple needs of the people shooting rockets: Iran and Syria needed international community pressure off of them while they murder the Syrian people into submission, the radical Islamists in Egypt and Gaza, flush with the belief that Obama would protect them wanted to get the shooting started, lastly, and most importantly, all of these radical organizations and governments are committed to jihad against the Jewish people.  The jihadis are in political ascendancy throughout the region and they only know one way, permanent war until victory.

In blessing the rocket assault the triggered this war, they made one supreme political miscalculation.  They believed, that the Israeli government going into elections would be afraid to respond for fear that there be political backlash at the polls.  This fundamental misreading of the Israeli body politic is the reason for this war.  When Israeli political leaders acknowledged that 1 million Israelis were within missile range of Gaza, it was clear to me that any politician wishing to get elected that did not speak to this continuing and unacceptable situation faced certain defeat at the polls.

[…]Looking back over the last few days it was clear that the silence coming from the Israeli government as it checked its fire and the enemy kept shooting rockets was the implementation of the modern war plan.  The operation is currently called Pillar Of Cloud, and anyone who remembers their Bible, remembers that with the pillar of cloud [by day], there was also a pillar of fire [at night].  It is my belief that, unless the rocket fire diminishes immediately, Israel will shortly begin ground operations in Gaza on a major and significant scale.  Unlike the inconclusive war 2006, this time, they will go all the way.

[…] If a bunch of New Jersey separatists were firing rockets into New York demanding back Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty because they are part of the sacred religious property of the New Jersey people, the people of New York, and the United States for that matter, would shut that crap down in about a day.  But in the bizarre double standards of the modern world, Israel is expected to tolerate this. When the situation finally got so unbearable that they had to act, Israel’s leaders finally acted.  […]

I pray for her soldiers and people […] I also pray for the Palestinian people to be freed from the tyranny of the bunch of psychotic religious terrorist maniacs.  May this war be short and end in a complete and total Israeli victory. Am Yisroel Chai!

Amen. Go read the whole thing.

UPDATE: “Anne in Petach Tikva” has updates from the scene here and here. The named of the town in central Israel where she lives, fittingly, means Gate of Hope.

Replacing the aristocracy of money by the aristocracy of pull

Ayn Rand is an extremely verbose author, but she could be very concise and to the point when she put her mind to it. Witness this scene from ‘Atlas Shrugged’: the crony-capitalist James Taggart starts on a familiar rant and suddenly gets cut off:

We will liberate our culture from the stranglehold of the profit-chasers. We will build a society dedicated to higher ideals, and we will replace the aristocracy of money by–

“the aristocracy of pull,” interjects d’Anconia.

Bingo. Had she been writing today, she might have said “the aristocracy of clout” or “the aristocracy of connections” or in Israel or Russia “the aristocracy of protektziya“.

Make no mistake: there is no such thing as a purely equal society. As George Orwell had his fictitious Emmanuel Goldstein put it: every society in human history has had a High, a Middle, and a Low. In a capitalist society, the High tend to be those with the most money. In a society of the type envisioned by the ‘social justice’ crowd (a term like “People’s Democratic Republic” in which every word actually means the opposite of its plain meaning) all that will happen is that who is part of the ‘High’ gets determined no longer by one’s net worth, but by the number and quality of one’s connections.

I have seen this first-hand in socialized medicine systems, where indeed money could not buy you access to gold-plated treatment — but being connected to the right people could. As an Israeli friend told me: “I’d go to the hospital and say my name is Yossi Cohen and get one type of treatment; I’d go back and say my name is Prof. Joseph Cohen from [name of famous research university] and get the red carpet. It ought not to be like this but this is reality.” (Or it was, until private medicine started making significant inroads.)

Now guess what kind of people figure they would be the High in such a system? Yes indeed, the New Class. This is what ‘social justice’ is really about: a disaffected group from the (upper) Middle trying to set itself up as the new High, using the Low as mascots or (electoral) cannon fodder.

CNN pop shrink declares we have a disorder now



Correspondence Committee reports that the CNN pop shrink now has tips for ‘Republicans depressed by the election outcome’. Yes, we have a ‘disorder’ now. Gee, diagnosing refractive political disagreement as a disorder: what could go wrong?

Tell her to look up ‘gaslighting‘, which is what her own employers have been perpetrating on the American public:

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making a victim doubt his or her own memoryperception and sanity. It may simply be the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, or it could be the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.

The term “gaslighting” comes from the play Gas Light and its film adaptations, in which a husband secretly dims the gas lights in the house and, when his wife remarks on it, he claims that she is mistaken. This is done to convince the woman that she cannot trust her own judgment, and so will not be believed if she tries to report other strange things that are genuinely occurring, which the husband wishes to keep secret. The term is now also used in clinical and research literature[…]

On a lighter note (ahem), here is Steely Dan live with “Gaslighting Abbie”:

The beached whale ORCA: a campaign consultant con job?

I am a firm believer in Hanlon’s Rule (actually Heinlein’s Rule): “Never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by stupidity/incompetence”, but at times that faith gets shaken. Such as by the ORCA fiasco (see AceBusinessInsiderWaPo , CNETComputerWorldPolitico, and Breitbart) which may very well have cost Romney the election. RedState (via Althouse) now has more on how the campaign acquired this turkey. Go read it all and weep: it is a horrifying story of nest-feathering by consultants, arrogance, and campaign decisions based on bogus statistics and poll numbers from the turkey’s droppings.

The result of all of these false numbers and inaccurate ground reports is simple: Mitt Romney was ill-prepared for the actual numbers on election day and his false sense of confidence directly translated into how the campaign operated in the closing weeks. In the words of one source, it was a con job. As David Mamet famously said, “If you’re in the con game and you don’t know who the mark is … you’re the mark.” Mitt Romney had no idea what was coming.

And thanks to the greed and hubris of a few we are now stuck with four more years of the worst administration in living memory. Thanks for worse than nothing.

UPDATE: More here from Bethany Mandel. And more on the company: seems to consist of a bunch of execs and marketers and… two coders, one of which actually used to work for Al Gore. I might have been able to overlook the latter, but on principle I avoid IT companies that are “all hat and no cattle” (or all jacket and no bomber) like the plague.

Saturday music therapy: Marillion, “Easter”

Marillion are a “neo-prog” band that rose to mainstream prominence in the 1980 (even scoring an international hit with “Kayleigh”) then continued as a cult band with a rabid fan following.

This (quite melodic) song is about “The troubles” in Ireland. At 2:30, floating on lush keyboards, an elegiac, meltingly beautiful guitar solo sets in that takes you to another realm for 90 seconds until the sun breaks through (as it were). Because of this solo, the song is reportedly a fan highlight of every Marillion concert; I’ve had this song on repeat quite a few times in the last, very difficult, week.

The prodigious multiplication of voters

0bama truly is a lightworker. Not content with minor feats such as feeding a multitude with five loaves and two fishes, he has managed to do the impossible and reach 135% voter turnout in some Boston districts:

STATE ELECTION BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS NOVEMBER 6, 2012 UNOFFICIAL RESULTS (dc: Picked this up in Ace’s comments – I’m sorry, I can’t remember who to hat tip for it. Check out these numbers.)

% Turnout

Ward 1, Precinct 1 135.22%

Ward 1, Precinct 2 127.96%

Ward 1, Precinct 3 119.21%

So is this how Fauxcahontas Lieawatha got elected? Of course I do not think the POTUS outcome got affected by Boston (Massachusetts being a hopelessly ‘blue’ state) but… who says it was only Boston?!?  “littleoldlady” drew my attention to something interesting:

There is a rather interesting statistical correlation between the degree of voter ID verification and the percentage of States carried by Romney.
Yes, I know, correlation is not causation, and red states are generally more open to passing voter ID laws, but… Do I trust the Chicago combine even one nanometer further than I can throw them?
Then again, it appears that the electoral catastrophe was a truly bipartisan affair, as the Romney campaign shot itself in the foot big time with putting all its GOTV efforts in the basket of  a half-baked, poorly stress-tested custom IT system called ORCA (see here and here). Whoever is responsible for this debacle has an awful lot to answer for.
Massive voter fraud by the opponent, accidental massive vote suppression by his own side: it is a miracle that Romney came within a hairbreadth of unseating the Campaigner-In-Chief.
The Republic is starring in a new Neal Stephenson novel called REAMED.
Cleveland too?! (site new to me, caveat lector)
UPDATE 2: More on the ORCA beached whale from ComputerWorld, CNET,  Politico, and Ace. Even if your politics are the opposite of mine — if you’re an IT manager or customer relations manager there’s a must-read cautionary tale there.

Religion as a “containment vessel” for irrationality

“buzzsawmonkey” at @corrcomm quotes his father, a scientist, on the irrational (see comment #16):

When I was young, I thought—we all thought—that science and rationality would triumphantly replace religion.  We were wrong, because man, while capable of rationality in certain areas, is not a rational animal.

There is no removing the non-rational from human beings—and if you try to do this, all you get is bad science, because the non-rational impulse will invade and corrupt the ability to think rationally.  It is the lack of a place and a control for non-rational thinking that creates false science like the hysteria over cancer from cell phones or power lines, or over global warming.

Human non-rationality is like a universal solvent, which dissolves whatever it touches.  The problem with a universal solvent is to find a vessel to contain and control it so it cannot do any harm. The only vessel that has proven itself capable of containing non-rationality over any period of time, and making it possible to control it so that it is not harmful, and even to harness it for useful ends, is religion.  Religion is not a perfect vessel; there are spills and breakages. But it is the only vessel which has been able to contain non-rationality and harness it for good.

Nail, meet hammer. I now see where buzz’s way with words comes from.

Now what? The long game and the short game

Like many of us, I was heartsick over the election. Not because “our team” lost, but because what is without doubt the worst president in living memory, after a term in office that reads like a litany of disasters and miserable failures, managed to secure reelection despite at least two major scandals that would have brought down any Republican president — who, of course, would not benefit from a gleichgeschaltete press.

I’ve read plenty of “we are doomed” articles over the last few days, and certainly understand the despair speaking through them. John Hinderaker struck a backhanded positive note: namely, that the person dealing with the damage wrought by the first 0bama term will be none other than Barack Hussein 0bama. (Clementine Churchill “Winston, this may be a blessing in disguise.” Winston Churchill: “At this moment it seems quite effectively disguised.”)

I am not sure we’re lost or doomed, but I think we have to play two games at once: a short game (on economics) and a long game (on social/moral issues). Forgive me the “stream of consciousness draft” nature of what follows.

A number of pundits have struck a “two tribes” or “one nation divided” theme: America nearly equally split into two nations. Actually, I’d go even further: two nations that don’t even speak each other’s language. I don’t agree with, say, Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum on many issues but I share enough of a reference framework with them that I understand what makes them tick. Your average MTV-head (or, for that matter, the indie rock-fan bashing “eMpTyV”) won’t even get where Romney or Santorum come from — and they tend to be so low-information on anything not immediately relevant to their daily lives that they are easy targets for media manipulation.
It’s like — as happened to me the other day — somebody walks in on you listening in obvious bliss to music on headphones, and just hearing cymbal noise and what sounds like vocal shouting because nothing else leaks from the headphones. The person coming in thinks you like crap noise, while you are actually hearing Deep Purple’s “In Rock” album in all its sonic glory.
To some kid that’s been brainwashed by entertainment TV on “hookups”, consequence-free s3x, and glorification of non-heterosexual s3x, somebody like Romney is never going to be able to explain his position (ahem) on marriage, let alone on abortion. (I’m not even thinking of Santorum’s, and don’t get me started on Todd Akin, an embarrassment that managed to blow a shoo-in Senate seat). Even when the kid might be open to the idea that a foetus is not just some clump of tissues that can be flushed at will until right before birth (and even when born alive after a botched abortion, according to some extremists such as a certain former Illinois state senator), they are vulnerable to all the “back-alley abortions” “steal your lady parts” etc. propaganda of the other side. And here’s the clincher — women from the more so-con side, even when personally atheist or agnostic (like Dr. Helen Smith, a.k.a. “Instawife”) won’t even get why the women from the other side aren’t turned off by this obviously simplistic, manipulative, and patronizing propaganda.
It used to be that positions, liberal or conservative, might have been taught in school in a relatively dispassionate fashion, leaving people (comparatively) free to make up their own minds. What happens now is that kids get little or no actual information in school (and whatever they do get is thin on information and heavy on propaganda), and nothing but propaganda (glorifying one perspective and demonizing another) through the popular culture. As Sarah Hoyt pointed out, outliers can exist in the latter, but only after they have already become established and feared in some niche — Brad Thor, for example, can be an outspoken conservative, or some Justin Bieber-type singer can be an evangelical, or Bob Dylan can be a quasi-Orthodox Jew [though even he has to at least be seen as genuflecting to the hipster orthodoxy once in a while].
Therefore, on social and cultural issues, only the long game can be played. I am not even talking about persuading people, simply of convincing them that there is another perspective at least as valid as the therapeutic left-liberal one they take for granted. It is high time to make the culture celebrate “diversity” beyond the skin-deep kind of race and ethnicity, but this is a slow game that (Bill Whittle makes this point masterfully) requires essentially the patient building-up of a competing popular media infrastructure.
So much for the long game. On economic issues, however, the short game can and should be played, if only because we are so close to the economic abyss that the daily consequences will hit very soon and very hard, way beyond the extent that they are already hitting many people. At some point very soon “other people’s money” will run out, and the “blue model” discussed at great length by Walter Russell Mead will crash. If 0bama weren’t such an economic innumerate, he’d (quietly, so as not to upset environmental extremists) push for maximum development of US oil resources to have an export commodity available for “the day after” Arab oil runs out — because nanny statism of the type he envisages can only be financed (while it lasts) if you’re literally sitting on a gold mine with the whole world lining up to buy.
In other words: the only message that the GOP can, in the short term, preach outside the choir is the economic one of “we have no more money and better do something about it before it all comes crashing down”. This message should be stated clearly, forcefully, and insistently. This will not fall on kind ears — as the hysterical reactions to the ‘Ryan plan’ illustrate — and entrenched interests will do all they can to demonize the GOP here too. But here the GOP has been able to score at least tactical victories at the local or regional level (note Scott Walker in WI), and in the short-to-medium term, their best ally are “the cold equations”: either the GOP will be ignored in the short term and then gain new respect as “the gods of the copybook headings with [financial] terror and slaughter return”, or they will be hearkened to and in the process become stronger, or adult leadership will come back to the D party and it will adopt modified forms of GOP solutions and then claim their ownership, justifying itself to its base by explaining how much worse the medicine would taste if the GOP did it. (The latter outcome may take the wind out of the GOP’s sails in the short run but may actually benefit it in the long run — as it will be seen as a responsible partner by supporting effectively GOP-lite policies from the opposition benches.)
In both long and short game — as the late lamented Andrew Breitbart understood better than anybody else — the legacy media is Enemy Number One and this should be kept in mind at all times. Covering for D presidents may not be something new (think of FDR and JFK), but the blatancy, near-universality, and shamelessness of today is something unprecedented. Insty has referred to them over and over as “DNC operatives with bylines” — if they aren’t actual operatives, they have become functionally equivalents thereof. As veterans of the Chicago Machine, the 0bama consiglieres will know how to reward their friends: I am willing to bet nearly my bottom dollar on an overt or covert bailout or subsidy of the legacy media “in the public interest”. Treating them as ‘the enemy’ does not always mean being confrontational or aggressive: Breitbart was at his most devastating to them when playing mental jujitsu games with them.
Us obsessive newsbloggers/newsblog readers are making the mistake of targeting high-information voters. A president (and his followers) behaving like middle schoolers just won re-election — because that is the level of information and maturity of half the electorate! Therefore, we must target our message simultaneously to all levels of information and attention span, and in such a way that the consumer can choose their level without feeling patronized.
You may call me a dreamer, but I can’t believe I’m the only one.
On a final note: there is one subject notably absent from the above, immigration. With the economy in the current doldrums, the wave of illegal immigration from South of the border appears to be petering out as even menial work “that Americans won’t do” is no longer abundantly available. As much as the stories described by Victor Davis Hanson make my blood boil, nothing will put a more effective end to these than (for lack of any fiscal alternative) severely curtailing transfer payments to the ‘documented’ and ‘undocumented’ alike. For good reason, Milton Friedman was an advocate of both minimum-government and  open borders: one can easily (and only) afford the latter if one has the former.
UPDATE: Megan McArdle (one of the very few redeeming features of the execrable Daily Beast) had predicted an 0bama win, but in the short-to-medium term foresees a fracturing of the ‘permanent’ D coalition  as the money runs out and it will be impossible to continue paying off all interest groups at the same time, forcing difficult choices between them. She uses the term ‘Hobbesian war of all against all’: I might have chosen the term Ragnarok.

Why wordsmith (pseudo)intellectuals tend to favor 0bama and big government

Neo-neocon attempts to answer this question. She argues that wordsmiths (that is, people who earn a living by pushing words around, suc as journalists, lawyers, most bureaucrats… all New Class professions) often tend to fall prey to the delusion that only words are real, and that anybody who speaks and writes well will be a good thinker or policy maker. In other words, wordsmiths tend to confuse articulateness and intelligence.

Those of us in the hard sciences know (or should know) better. I know scientists that speak like truck drivers and need major editorial help to turn their papers into something publishable — but that have stratospheric numerical and visuospatial IQs and have had very successful careers in academia or industrial research.

Conversely, I know all too many “wordsmiths” (especially journalists) that may be very articulate (and thus presumably have verbal IQs in the gifted, or at least the upper bright normal range) but that are shockingly innumerate and/or lack the visuospatial skills to understand simple scientific or technical problems even when broken down devoid of jargon. Often these people think of themselves and each other as “the best and the brightest”, when in fact their general IQ (averaged over verbal, numerical, and visuospatial) may be in the bright-normal (IQ 115-129) range at best.

These are also the people that go on and on about how ‘stupid’ Bush 43 was; yes, Bush had major articulacy problems, but somebody who was a skilled pilot on a pretty unforgiving jet fighter plane as well as tutored his fellow pilots on math problems cannot possibly be a moron. (In fact, analysis of his SAT and Air Force Officer Qualification Test scores suggests an IQ of about 125 — in the upper tier of bright-normal.) But, of course, his mental profile would be the exact inverse of the average wordsmith: average verbally, bright normal to gifted otherwise.

Robert Nozick wondered earlier if there is a reason why so many ‘intellectuals’ favor big-government solutions to scoietal problems, and ascribes it to their fallacious beliefs that the same factors that garnered them praise in the classroom should be the ones that determine material prosperity and prestige in the wider world. “OMG! He was hopeless in class and now sells cardboard boxes — yet got filthy rich and is even running for Congress. IT. IS. NOT. FAIR.”

One of my rabbis — who grew up in a Muslim country — used to say that the tragedy of the Arab world was its language being so beautiful that people get intoxicated on words and lose sight of more concrete matters, thus ending up going nowhere, and being envious of those who do succeed (like their ‘cousins’). The mind wonders if this explains the strange, and counterintuitive, tolerance so much of our ‘liberal’ intelligentsia has for the ultra-reactionary ideologies of Islamism.

Kagi’s lament: ineffable sadness in music

ברוך אתה ה’ אלוקינו מלך העולם, דיין האמת (Blessed art Thou L-rd, Ruler of the Universe, the True Judge — traditional blessing upon learning of a calamity.]

I have no words that suffice to express my grief for the Republic. So music will have to do.