Sunday, 27 November 2022

Frugal with the therms

For late November it’s a fairly mild day here in our bit of Derbyshire. Dull and cloudy, but mild. Our central heating is set to what we consider to be background heating during the day and today, this temperature is being maintained with hardly warmth from the radiators.

For the time of year, the house does not feel cold, yet the temperature is what it would be if I could see horizontal sleet outside. The central heating thermostat would see to that.

As we already know, feeling adequately warm is partly psychological, but it isn’t easy to tell how significant that is. If I light the wood burner this evening, the room will begin to feel warmer as soon as the kindling begins to burn - well before the room temperature has changed significantly. The psychological effect of a real fire is something central heating systems cannot reproduce.

Clearly, we can become used to higher indoor temperatures. Those of us who grew up in houses with no central heating are well aware of it. There is even a certain satisfaction to be gained from being frugal with the therms.

Saturday, 26 November 2022

The triumph of normies

Joel Kotkin has an interesting Tablet piece on the possible future of ethnic conflict in the US.

After Intersectionalism

As ideology takes a back seat to intergroup competition, the future of ethnic conflict in America is going to look more like the past

The divisive racial ideology that dominated American politics for the past decade is dying. Led by minority activists and white progressives, “woke” ideology promoted a Manichean struggle between a coalition of the BIPOC, an acronym for “Black, Indigenous, and people of color” (assumed to be natural allies) against what the BIPOC Project calls a hegemonic system of “white supremacy, patriarchy and capitalism.” But this vision of Black and white racial conflict, while still influential in universities and elite institutions, keeps getting rejected by American voters—as happened in political referendums on issues like policing and immigration, and most recently in the triumph of “normies” and centrists in the midterm elections.

Does this mean that Americans should expect a new era of kumbaya racial harmony? Not likely. Rather, the future may look more like the past, as America reverts to an older style of ethnic politics in which ideology takes a back seat to practical concerns and different groups compete over resources like jobs and the spoils of government spending.

The whole piece is well worth reading as a useful angle on what may turn out to be a shift to complex, but less doctrinaire jostling for political influence along ethnic lines.

The Democrats are now starting to take notice of Latinos’ growing support for Republican candidates and policies. Longtime Democratic analyst Ruy Teixiera recently argued that the party would do better addressing the everyday concerns of working-class Hispanics than litigating the legacy of January 6. Minorities make up over 40% of the U.S. working class and will constitute the majority by 2032. Such a shift in strategy would require a swing in Democratic messaging away from race, climate and abortion to focus instead on issues like inflation, rising crime, poor schools, and the threats to stable working and middle-class livelihoods posed by draconian green policies...

Poll after poll has shown that most Black voters and other minorities do not favor defunding the police, even as these policies are pushed in their name. Last year, New Yorkers, and New York’s African American community in particular, voted in a former cop, Eric Adams, as mayor. Minority voters have also backed more conservative candidates in Buffalo and Seattle. Similar shifts have taken place in Virginia, which saw the election of a West Indian as lieutenant governor and a Cuban American as attorney general.

Kneelers and the bull

'They were playing darts last night!': Roy Keane insists England have NO excuses for lifeless performance in USA stalemate
  • England were held to a disappointing scoreless draw by Group B rivals USA
  • Pundit Roy Keane said Gareth Southgate's side should have no excuses for result
  • He said they should have focused for the 10pm kick-off, instead of playing darts
The Kneelers appear to be as erratic and disappointing as the old England team used to be before political gestures became as essential as beating the opposition. I believe there was some dispute over a misogynist armband too, but I didn't follow that. 

Friday, 25 November 2022

The war against rational criteria continues

Elon Musk to 'unlock doors to Twitter jail' with amnesty for suspended accounts

Critics say the move will see far-right and white supremacist accounts such as the American Nazi Party back on the platform - with one award-winning journalist warning it will put lives at risk and telling Musk "you will have blood on your hands!"

The billionaire asked his followers in a poll to vote on reinstatements for accounts that have not "broken the law or engaged in egregious spam".

The yes vote was 72%.

There are people who just don't like the idea of abiding by a popular vote. Criteria based on not breaking the law and not engaging in egregious spam are not enough for such folk. 

There is much to be said for allowing extreme viewpoint differences to be aired, otherwise official errors of judgment and stupidity go uncorrected. As we should always have known because it was obvious decades ago. 

Thursday, 24 November 2022

It's Numbers



Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.

Charles Mackay - Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1841)

As Christmas approaches it becomes more difficult to set aside the idea that we are manipulated as herds. It’s not an attractive idea, because as social beings we must to a considerable extent do as others do. We can't really leave the social and political herd, yet we are clearly exploited as herds. Net Zero is herd politics – nothing to do with the climate.

Maybe current economic difficulties will have some influence on the more ludicrous herd-like excesses of Christmas though. These woes added to the garish, tat-crammed supermarkets and horrible music could help turn things around in ways we would never have anticipated last Christmas.

Or maybe not because we vote in herds too. One main political party divided into different clans, each with its own traditions, mantras and stories, each deferring to professional herders behind the scenes.

Wednesday, 23 November 2022

Act your age

In Spring 2020, NAS published a piece by Joseph Epstein on the immaturity of students.

Immaturity on Campus

I have no wish to brag—well, perhaps a small wish—but the timing of my retirement in 2002 after thirty years of university teaching was exquisite. Smartphones had not yet become universal. Political correctness was still in its incipient, not yet in its tyrannous, stage. I did not have to undergo sex sensitivity training, which I could not have done with a straight face. In the classroom professors, not yet students, were still in control.

Signs that change was in the offing were evident when I began teaching in 1973. Not all male teachers wore ties and jackets, nor female teachers skirts to class. Teachers had begun to address students by their first names. (I cannot recall having been so addressed once through my undergraduate years at the University of Chicago.) Students moreover were now sometimes invited to address teachers by their first names.

I recall a young female student, on the edge of tears, during an office hour, asking why I had marked up her papers, as she thought, so severely. “Jerry [an associate professor in the same department]” she said, “is never so hard on my writing.” Hmm, “Jerry?” I concluded there was a good chance that “Jerry” had been, to use the Victorian phrase, “intimate with her.” Lots of that, I soon discovered, was going on, at least between younger male faculty and undergraduates. Not a good sign.

The whole piece is well worth reading, because as we know too well, those students are now in positions of power.

What is the response of the putative adults in the room—of the college presidents, administrators, professors—to such behavior? Best one can determine it is by and large to collapse, to cave into the demands of the brattish students. They nod and call for more “dialogue”; express the wish to continue the “conversation”; organize endless panels; claim, in the recent words of the president of Sarah Lawrence confronted by a group calling itself the Sarah Lawrence Diaspora Coalition, to be “grateful for the willingness of our students to share their concerns with me and the campus community.” One can imagine the students’ reaction to such piffle: “Yeah, right, sure, Grandma!”

Panels meet, dialogue ensues, the conversation rambles on, while one awaits the next set of student demands. New deans and associate provosts are hired and put in charge of diversity, of inclusivity, of safety, soon no doubt of sexual satisfaction, transgender bathroom maintenance, and who knows what else. The beat, as the old disc jockeys had it, goes on, and is likely to continue until an impressively authoritative figure arises to cry out to these kids: “Enough! Cut the crap! Act your age! Grow up!