We are all Florida now

Over at the Miami Herald, there is an article about “Twenty life lessons to be learned from the Stormy Daniels/Donald Trump affair, as illuminated by the Wall Street Journal, Slate.com and, fittingly, InTouch Weekly magazine”. The author is…Carl Hiaasen. I read it, and it suddenly sunk in that this situation is exactly what would happen in a Hiaasen novel: bumbling, incompetent crooks, corruption at all levels of government, and now I expect a resolution that does not involve the wheels of justice grinding towards certainty, but chance and chaos terminating a series of coincidences.

I also think that maybe there is something to that “whole universe is a simulation” nonsense, if we’re willing to admit that it is coded as a tragic comic-opera spiced with absurdity.

Dig into the racist circle jerk

Take a browse through Nancy McClernan’s blog, especially for the past few weeks. She’s tying all the threads together: evolutionary psychology, human biodiversity, Steve Sailer, Steven Pinker, Jerry Coyne, Phillipe Rushton, the Pioneer Fund, Arthur Jensen, The Bell Curve, all the usual suspects. It’s the ugliest bit of knitting I’ve ever seen.

One of the many interesting examples is this story about how racists tried to use sports statistics to prove the inferiority of black people — they just can’t handle the intellectual demands of playing quarterback, goes the claim. Who is the source for the statistics behind this argument? Steve Sailer.

In one of my essays, I wrote that the position a quarterback is taken in the college draft is not a reliable indicator of his performance as a professional. That was based on the work of the academic economists David Berri and Rob Simmons, who, in a paper published in The Journal of Productivity Analysis, analyze 40 years of National Football League data. Their conclusion was that the relation between aggregate quarterback performance and draft position was weak. Further, when they looked at per-play performance — in other words, when they adjusted for the fact that highly drafted quarterbacks are more likely to play more downs — they found that quarterbacks taken in positions 11 through 90 in the draft actually slightly outplay those more highly paid and lauded players taken in the draft’s top 10 positions. I found this analysis fascinating. Pinker did not. This quarterback argument, he wrote, “is simply not true.”

I wondered about the basis of Pinker’s conclusion, so I e-mailed him, asking if he could tell me where to find the scientific data that would set me straight. He very graciously wrote me back. He had three sources, he said. The first was Steve Sailer. Sailer, for the uninitiated, is a California blogger with a market research background who is perhaps best known for his belief that black people are intellectually inferior to white people. Sailer’s “proof” of the connection between draft position and performance is, I’m sure Pinker would agree, crude: his key variable is how many times a player has been named to the Pro Bowl.

If you’re citing Steve Sailer, you’re really dredging the cesspool. Do go read the rest — scroll down to the bottom of the page, there’s a list of links to this month’s posts, and they’re all good.

Bad, not mad

I like this take from Allen Frances, a psychiatrist.

Confusing mad and bad is a very dangerous precedent. It’s not at all restricted just to Trump. The National Rifle Association happens to believe that whenever there’s a mass murder, the person must have been crazy. It’s not the guns that did it; it’s the crazy person. They actually work hard to get the mentally ill more armed. There are against laws that restrict arms for the mentally ill, but then the minute there’s a serial murder, any kind of homicide, it’s the crazy person who did it, not the gun. We are criminalizing mental illness. We have 350,000 people with mental illness in jail because they couldn’t get treatment. We’re medicalizing bad behavior.

When the Harvey Weinsteins and Tiger Woods and all the others get caught with their pants down, the first claim is sex addiction: “I’ll go off for a rehab program and I’ll be cured in a month.” We’re medicalizing immorality. We’re medicalizing people who rape and say they have mental disorders. Bad behavior is part of the variety of human nature. Only a small portion of bad behaviors are done by people who are mentally ill. Most bad people are not mentally ill; most mentally ill people aren’t bad. When we confuse the two, it’s a stigmatizing insult to the mentally ill. It’s terrible for them to be lumped with Trump because most of them are well-meaning and well-behaved, and Trump is neither.

I mean, the other problem with this is it treats Trump as if he’s a one-off and he’s crazy. It takes away from the fact that we’re crazy for having elected him.

The Republican party is full up with cunningly sane people — they are not insane at all. From their perspective they’re being productive and accomplishing their goals in an effective way. It’s just that their goals happen to be driven by narcissism and greed, and are destructive to everyone around them.

That last line is important. I expect the Russians were tinkering with our elections, but all they did was play into the worst features of the American electorate. If we could wall off all foreign interference, we’d still have the problems of gerrymandering and voter suppression and ignorance and xenophobia working to elect Republicans.

The wisdom of Rick and Morty

For years, I’ve been getting this constant urging to debate, debate, debate. We’re supposed to engage creationists in debate. We’re supposed to battle Nazis in debate. We’re supposed to meet bad speech with more speech, which I guess is fine, but why the fuck is the form of the speech supposed to be debate? Debate is a weirdly specific and artificial mode of interaction, it’s often not particularly effective at engaging people, and it never settles anything. I’ve noticed that creationists often prefer to set up debates, because all they’re doing is bringing in a foil who will be ignored while their chosen insipid viewpoint is given equal status with serious, scientific positions.

So why are we giving in to them and doing debates?

Now here’s a beautiful argument that addresses that issue.

Hey folks, today I’d like to talk about the alt-right, debate, and Scary Terry.

If you’re a fan of Rick and Morty, you’ll probably remember the Freddy Kruger inspired but legally distinct character of Scary Terry, and his “You can run but you can’t hide, b***h” catchphrase.

He’s mostly known for saying “b***h” at the end of every sentence, but it’s a key plot point that he keeps repeating “You can run but you can’t hide” because Rick and Morty eventually evade and defeat him by not taking his advice, and hiding from him instead of running.

And now, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with anything, let alone the alt-right and debate?

Well, it’s in reference to the talking point that all leftist “SJWs” have to do is debate the alt-right, rubbish their arguments, show them up, and you’ll defeat them!

So when Milo Yiannopoulos, Richard Spencer, or any other alt-right figurehead says “debate me, that’s the only way you’ll defeat me!” you need to ask yourselves one little question:

“Since when are we taking this guy’s advice on anything?”

The fact is, you can engage with their arguments, you can debunk their claims, make a mockery of their ideas, all without their involvement! Their participation is not required in any of this, you don’t need to help give them an audience for this, they are broadly irrelevant.

The alt-right, the neo-nazis, their currency is attention, they need it to thrive and for their ideas to spread. You can engage with that, without giving them an audience, without granting them participation in the process.

You don’t need to ignore them, you don’t need to stop engaging with their ideology or their rhetoric, but you do need to stop handing them the megaphone they crave. Don’t take their advice and let them set the rules.
Spencer calls for a white ethnostate, and “peaceful” ethnic cleansing.

Ok, let’s debate the idea. It’s absurd on it’s face. What happens to POC who don’t want to leave their homes? There could be no establishment of an ethnostate without violence, so it is a threat of violence.

So, remind me again why I’d need Spencer’s participation to rubbish his ideas?

It is far more effective to cut people like him out of the conversation entirely, talk about his ideas without having to deal with him, or anyone like him, in a debate setting.

Giving them platforms, agreeing to their debates, you’re just being a useful idiot and spreading their ideology for them.

I like it. Cut ’em off. Don’t bestow them the credibility of sharing an equal footing with you. There are terrible, stupid, discredited ideas out there, and the appalling nature of their arguments is not a good reason to elevate their representatives. Tear them down without promoting their proponents.

No more debates.

Burn it all down

Wow. We can start with Larry Nassar, who is torched by Aly Raisman’s words. She also aims the flames at the USOC.

Now is the time to acknowledge that the very person who sits before us now—who perpetrated the worst epidemic of sexual abuse in the history of sports, who is going to be locked up for a long, long time—this monster was also the architect of policies and procedures that are supposed to protect athletes from sexual abuse for both USA Gymnastics and the USOC.

Much respect for her ferocity.

Why is our government such a mess?

Partly because it is staffed with unrelenting idiots like Nathan Dahm. The Oklahoma senator has filed a bill, Senate Bill 1457, which…well, read it for yourself.

All wildlife in Oklahoma is to be the property of an imaginary being. This could be great news for poachers, who can always insist on waiting for the legitimate owner of the game they shoot to place a formal claim against them. Or that they got approval in their heads from their deity to go hunting.