We understand the tantrums already, can we stop reinforcing them now?


Ann O’Connell is sad. She voted for Trump, and now people are judging her.

I love Meryl Streep, but you know, she robbed me of that wonderful feeling when I go to the movies to be entertained, she said. I told my husband, I said, ‘Ed, we have to be a little more flexible, or we’re going to run out of movies!’

I know your pain, Mrs. O’Connell. I can no longer enjoy Rob Schneider movies, myself. But look on the bright side: we can still hate Susan Sarandon together!

We also have the tiresome Jonathan Haidt, professional apologist for conservatives, who is very concerned about how we “react” to the actions of right-wing craptastic nincompoops.

We are in a trust spiral, said Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at New York University. My fear is that we have reached escape velocity where the actions of each side can produce such strong reactions on the other that things will continue to escalate.

The whole article has this tone, that gosh, it’s awful how people are horrified at what the current administration is doing, and we should all just stop being upset and be nice to the Mrs. O’Connell’s of America. Conservatives are wrecking the educational system, they plan to demolish the EPA, they’ve made a goddamn racist the Attorney General, but those rude liberals are making people uncomfortable at Meryl Streep movies. The New York Times, and lots of media outlets, love these stupid little stories that let them be all charitable towards cranky old racist people who elected a cranky old incompetent racist, while at the same time chastising those horrible liberals and practicing a little veiled extortion. You better tell Mrs. O’Connell how sweet she is, or else!

Protests and righteous indignation on social media and in Hollywood may seem to liberals to be about policy and persuasion. But moderate conservatives say they are having the opposite effect, chipping away at their middle ground and pushing them closer to Mr. Trump.

Oh, fuck that noise. If ‘moderate’ conservatives think they have to vote for a bumbling buffoon who is taking a wrecking ball to our country because a hippie called them a mean name, then they weren’t so moderate to begin with, and they are making bad decisions on invalid grounds. I will not have sympathy for that, and it doesn’t matter how sternly Jonathan Haidt wags his finger at me.

These pieces are annoyingly common: we need to understand these awful people. We need to empathize with them, or they’ll keep doing the same stupid things. Unfortunately for these myths, the strategy doesn’t work. The people in the NYT story are unrepentant, would do it again, and all they’ve got is so-called moderates threatening to do it some more if they don’t get their way! I don’t believe it. This is what the regressives always do: “give me a cookie and maybe I’ll stop doing this.” Then, a minute later, “Ha ha, suckers!”

As for understanding, here’s what these stories always miss: yes, we already understand these people. We understand them all too well. Why are you whining at us? We’re not interested in trying to understand them even more, but in getting them to stop wrecking everything. That’s all.

Here’s a case in point: a very long, very thorough explainer about 4chan, lulz, Pepe the frog, anonymous, gamergate, and the rise of Trump, etc., etc., etc. We know it all already. There’s this subculture of young adults who are resentful of their circumstances (I can even sympathize with some of that resentment — they can have valid reasons for their unhappiness with those circumstances). Some may be single and living in their parent’s basement, for instance, and I know it’s tough getting a job, getting a job with prospects for advancement, finding a partner, finding a partner who actually respects you as a person, and so forth — but that does not justify erupting into ranting anti-feminism, just as the unemployment rate does not explain lashing out and electing a billionaire (reputedly) who isn’t going to do a thing to help those circumstances…but might cause others to suffer, too. We’re told over and over again about how miserable these shitlords are, and I understand, but I’m done with understanding. I want to know what to do next.

So that extremely thorough article ends with this:

However, as we have seen, the right’s anti-feminist message is one that only provides a momentary sense of relief (“you are acting powerful by retreating into video games and the internet!”) but like scratching a mosquito bite, it ultimately causes more dissatisfaction. That is to say, they only solution they can offer is, “keep retreating!” Likewise, Trump and the mocking cruel anguish he represents is not a genuine solution to the electorate’s powerlessness, but rather, simply the one closest at hand.

An adult does not freeze in mute horror when a child throws a tantrum. Nor do we generally regard such emotional outbursts as meaningless. Likewise, the left should not be paralyzed with horror by the deplorables, but rather view them of as a symptom of a larger problem, one which only the left can truly solve.

Fine. They’re spoiled children. My wife and I are familiar with kids: we raised three. And yes, when they were very young, they would occasionally have tantrums, and we would patiently (or impatiently) reprove them, and remove them from the circumstances that triggered the problem, and we gave them time and opportunity to learn and grow up, and they got better, much better, and became responsible, thoughtful, intelligent adults. Parents are familiar with these behaviors, and responsible parents can deal, and lead children to more mature responses.

The 4channers are in their 20s and 30s. Mr Medford, the guy who complains about being ‘pushed’ to vote for Trump, is a 46-year-old business owner. Mrs McConnell is 72. Or look at PewDiePie, the 27-year-old who gets paid $15 million a year to shriek on YouTube for the gratification of alt-right wanna-bes. What are we supposed to do? Give them a time-out? Tell them no, they don’t get to buy that cheap plastic toy at the supermarket check-out stand? Be patient and wait for them to grow out of this phase?

The answer so far seems to be that we’re supposed to reassure them that the mean liberals will be clucked at if we call them out, they’ll get a fawning interview with Bill Maher, and the NYT will run a reassuring feature on their sad plight. Even after they put a blundering, bush-league, racist, sexist in the most powerful position in the country.

Yeah, there’s a larger problem. The responsible Left is not going to solve it by continuing to coddle and reward stupidity, even if it is perpetrated by privileged 72 year olds having a tantrum and demanding special treatment.

Two birds, one stone

Yale is efficient. They’ve been debating whether to rename a building named after John Calhoun, the 19th century racist defender of slavery. Remember, this is the guy who said

I hold that the present state of civilization, where two races of different origin, and distinguished by color, and other physical differences, as well as intellectual, are brought together, the relation now existing in the slaveholding states between the two, is, instead of an evil, a good. A positive good.

One could reasonably make an argument that it is unfair to impose modern moral standards on a man dead for a hundred and sixty years, and I’d agree that yes, John C. Calhoun was a product of his time and place, the antebellum South. However it is also unfair to expect that antebellum Southern standards be respected in 21st century America — it works both ways. Yale made the right decision to rename the building after Grace Hopper.

The debate might not have gone on so long if everyone had known that the decision would also drive Geraldo Riviera to sever ties with the university.

Resigned yesterday as Associate Fellow of Calhoun College at Yale. Been an honor but intolerant insistence on political correctness is lame.

Political correctness. There’s a phrase that has become a solid tell for reactionary idiocy. I’ve never seen the words used for anything but to complain about reasonable actions by people with some degree of empathy. I imagine Riviera, if he’d lived at the time, would have called the Emancipation Proclamation a politically correct document, as if there were no moral force behind the liberation of slave and that it was just Ol’ Abe virtue signaling.

At least Yale has managed to purge two assholes at once with one action.

Yet another reason I despise Bill Maher (and Milo Yiannopoulos)

I watched the segment of Real Time with Bill Maher featuring Milo Yiannopoulos (I usually avoid the show; I am confirmed once again in my revulsion). I think the New York Times accurately summed it up:

Despite a brief flare-up of controversy that preceded it, a conversation between Milo Yiannopoulos, the incendiary right-wing author and lecturer, and Bill Maher, the comedian and host of HBO’s “Real Time,” on that program Friday night was a largely docile, chummy affair. There was little conflict or cross-examination, as both men chided the political left for avoiding or drowning out Mr. Yiannopoulos’s views rather than engaging with them.

Maher revealed his own bigotry when Yiannopoulos vaulted on to his high horse to attack transgender men and women and said that he makes no apologies for protecting women and children from men who are confused about their sexual identity in their bathrooms. I immediately call bullshit. Yiannopoulos is not on a crusade to defend women and children, he’s just a Nazi-wannabe troll. Maher apparently has a broken bullshit detector, though, because he just mutters,

That’s not unreasonable.

And then he turns to another guest, Jack Kingston, and says,

Jack, where do you stand on weirdos peeing?

Fuck you too, Bill Maher. Let’s promote the stereotype that the reason transgender people go into the bathroom is to rape people, rather than to urinate, on top of giving a hateful narcissist another platform on which to giggle out lies. I must point out that the current crisis in American politics is in part due to journalists giving air time to bigots to air their sensationalist views, and then failing to call them on it. There’s Bill Maher, doing the same thing with another hate-monger. You can’t simultaneously call giving shrieking racists, sexists, and transphobes a platform a free speech issue, and then fail to be skeptical and critical of their views.

There were two heroes on this show, though: Jeremy Scahill for refusing to show up and legitimize Yiannopoulos, and Larry Wilmore for refusing to accept Yiannopoulos’s shit. He was having none of it.

I just think it’s sad because it’s the same argument used against gay people, treating them like aliens who just wanted to fuck everything that moved and that’s why we should avoid them at all costs. There’s a difference without a distinction … It’s like when people tried to compare gays and blacks. They’re not the same thing. We share an invisibility. People didn’t see us in society and gay people hid out from society. But there were a lot of the same issues that you have to deal with when you’re marginalized.

Yiannopoulos’s response was to call being transgender a psychiatric disorder (an extraordinarily ironic argument, coming from a loudly gay man — he is aware that the same dismissal by definition has been and is being applied to gay people, right?), and assert that they (transgender people) are disproportionately involved in those sorts of sex crimes. As victims, maybe.

I’ll let Yiannopoulos have the last quote.

No, but you always invite such awful people on your show. You need to start inviting higher IQ guests.

For once, he’s right. Never invite Yiannopoulos again, for starters. Then get rid of Bill Maher. And finally, turn over the program to Larry Wilmore, who was brilliant.

A mostly pleasant day

I took off from work early today! My wickedness knows no bounds. My wife and I took a nice walk downtown, in the bizarrely spring-like February day — warm, sunny — to the public library, where our Republican congressvermin, Jeff Backer and Torrey Westrom, were doing a town hall. Our local indivisible group had prepared ahead of time with a set of questions.

You may have heard a while back that our Democratic governor, Mark Dayton, had collapsed while giving a speech. He’s being treated for cancer. Backer opened the meeting by making jokes about Dayton’s health, the ratfucking asshole. Let’s hope that costs him a few votes. There were a number of topics discussed: our group focused on environmental issues. So one concern was that Backer had voted against a bill that encouraged more ‘made in Minnesota’ solar and renewable initiatives — his complaint was that too much of it was made in China and shipped to Minnesota where we “put a bolt on it”. It was pointed out that that was fine, you could make a better bill, but do that before you discard the existing law.

Another hot issue out here is a buffer zone bill: our water quality sucks because of the massive amounts of agricultural runoff, so this law would require buffer strips near streams that would not be plowed and would slow erosion and runoff. Westrom and Backer both oppose it, and have voted to delay it; some farmers there also complained that it was their land and how dare the government tell them how to use it. I just wanted to mention that it was our water and how dare they poison it?

It was generally an annoying meeting, but about 60 people showed up, so the main point was to demonstrate that we’re agin’ ’em, and that we’re organizing, so start sweating.

Afterwards we cooled off by continuing our walk, popping by the coffee shop for a little while, and then having dinner at the American Legion hall. It was Indian Taco night, to benefit the Circle of Nations Indigenous Association, so of course we had to indulge. With extra fry bread on the side. Mmmmm. Fry bread.


We have walked home, and are digesting briefly before heading out to the Morris Theater for La La Land.

Gosh, I’m feeling relaxed already. This and Cougar Con tomorrow, my blood pressure may have dropped a few points.

It’s like a nonsensical fantasy novel

I have sad news, everyone. Ken Ham has finally blocked me on Twitter, so now I’m getting all the humorous Answers in Genesis news second hand…like this glorious announcement. The Ark Park has a new exhibit! It’s a diorama showing the wicked antediluvian humans putting on gladiatorial games, with dinosaurs.


That is so damned Biblical that I think I shat out a prophet while I was laughing so hard.

Although, I have to admit that it is amazingly cinematic. Imagine how much better the gladiator scenes in HBO’s Rome or that Spartacus series would have been if they’d occasionally brought a T. rex into the arena.

It also reminds me of the fabulous (in all meanings of the word) Jim Pinkoski, he of pygmies and dwarfs fame, who invented this spectacular scene for the end of his Noah’s Ark comic book in which fallen angels mounted on dinosaurs attacked the Ark to prevent it from sailing.


Religion just means that you get to make everything up.

Take the Mainstream Media Accountability Survey!

The Republicans have put out an online poll to find out what you think of the media coverage of the Trump administration. It’s a trap! Watch what you say on it, because it’s trying to put you in a bind: you either think the mainstream media sucks and is biased against Trump, or you think it’s doing a wonderful job. There is no provision for “Mainstream media sucks because they’ve been far too kind and wishy-washy about the Asshole-In-Chief”. Go ahead and take it though, and let one factor decide how you answer: will it make Donald Trump unhappy, and go against the result the poll is engineered to generate?

Someone needs to start a Journal of Pizza Quality Research, stat

We need somewhere to bury sloppy research on fast food, after all. Brian Wansink gets interviewed on Retraction Watch (y’all remember Wansink, the fellow who ground his data exceedingly fine to extract four papers from a null result), and he does himself no favors.

Well, we weren’t testing a registered hypothesis, so there’d be no way for us to try to massage the data to meet it. From what I understand, that’s one definition of p-hacking. Originally, we were testing a hypothesis – we thought the more expensive the pizza, the more you’d eat. And that was a null result.

But we set up this two-month study so that we could look at a whole bunch of totally unanswered empirical questions that we thought would be interesting for people who like to eat in restaurants. For example, if you’re eating a meal, what part influences how much like the meal? The first part, the middle part, or the last part? We had no prior hypothesis to think anything would predominate. We didn’t know anybody who had looked at this in a restaurant, so it was a totally empirical question. We asked people to rate the first, middle, and last piece of pizza – for those who ate 3 or more pieces – and asked them to rate and the quality of the entire meal. We plotted out the data to find out which piece was most linked to the rating of the overall meal, and saw ‘Oh, it looks like this happens.’ It was total empiricism. This is why we state the purpose of these papers is ‘to explore the answer to x.’ It’s not like testing Prospect Theory or a cognitive dissonance hypothesis. There’s no theoretical precedent, like the Journal of Pizza Quality Research. Not yet.

That last bit sounds like a threat.

Here’s the thing: we all do what he describes. An experiment failed (yes, it’s happened to me a lot). OK, let’s look at the data we’ve got very carefully and see if there’s anything potentially interesting in it, any ideas that might be extractable. The results are a set of observations, after all, and we should use them to try and figure out what’s going on, and in a perfect world, there’d be public place to store negative results so they aren’t just buried in a file drawer somewhere. There’s nothing wrong with analyzing your data out the wazoo.

The problem is that he then published it all under the guise of papers testing different hypotheses. Most of us don’t do that at all. We see a hint of something interesting buried in the data for a null result, and we say, “Hmm, let’s do an experiment to test this hypothesis”, or “Maybe I should include this suggestive bit of information in a grant proposal to test this hypothesis.” Just churning out low-quality papers to plump up the CV is why I said this is a systemic problem in science — we reward volume rather than quality. It doesn’t make scientists particularly happy to be drowning in drivel, but Elsevier is probably drooling at the idea of a Journal of Pizza Quality Research — another crap specialized journal that earns them an unwarranted amount of money and provides another dumping ground for said drivel being spewed out.

Wansink seems to be dimly aware of this situation.

These sorts of studies are either first steps, or sometimes they’re real-world demonstrations of existing lab findings. They aren’t intended to be the first and last word about a social science issue. Social science isn’t definitive like chemistry. Like Jim Morrison said, “People are strange.” In a good way.

Yes. First steps. Maybe you shouldn’t publish first steps. Maybe you should hold off until you’re a little more certain you’re on solid ground.

No one expects social science to be just like chemistry, but this idea that you don’t need robust observations with solid methodology might be one reason there is a replicability crisis. Rather than repeating and engaging in some healthy self-criticism of your results, you’re haring off to publish the first thing that breaches an arbitrary p-value criterion.

There really are significant problems with the data he did publish, too. Take a look at this criticism of one of his papers. The numbers don’t add up. The stats don’t make sense. His tables don’t even seem to be appropriately labeled. You could not replicate the experiment from the report he published. This stuff is incredibly sloppy, and he doesn’t address their failings in the interview, except inadequately and in ways that don’t solve the problems with the work.

Again, I’m trying to be generous in interpreting the purpose of this research — often, interdisciplinary criticism can completely miss the point of the work (see also how physicists sometimes fail to comprehend biology, and inappropriately apply expectations from one field to another) — but I’m also seeing a lack of explanation of the context and relevance of the work. I mean, when he says, “For example, if you’re eating a meal, what part influences how much like the meal? The first part, the middle part, or the last part?”, I’m just wondering why. Why would it matter, what are all the variables here (not just the food, but in the consumer), and what do you learn from the fact that Subject X liked dessert, but not the appetizer?

It sounds like something a restaraunteur or a food chain might want to know, or that might might appeal to an audience at a daytime talk show, but otherwise, I’m not seeing the goal…or how their methods can possibly sort out the multitude of variables that have to be present in this research.