Empty Desk, Empty Mind?

That’s the implication of a quotation erroneously attributed to Einstein (as Bill Vallicella notes):

If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?

Clever, regardless of who said it, but too clever by half. A cluttered desk isn’t necessarily a sign of a cluttered mind; a person with an orderly mind may have a cluttered desk and still be able to quickly retrieve from the clutter whatever item he needs. An empty desk is a sign of a person who likes order (neatness, symmetry), which usually reflects an orderly mind.

Therefore:

A cluttered desk may be a sign of an orderly mind; an empty desk is almost surely a sign of an orderly mind.

Knot for Me

I was amused by this photo of Jeff Bezos sporting a Full Windsor knot:

(A compensatory device, perhaps?)

When I first learned to tie a necktie, more than 60 years ago, I used what is properly called a Half Windsor Knot (though it is often called a Windsor Knot). The Half Windsor is neater and more elegant than the Full Windsor, which looks like a chin-cushion.

But when I began working in a professional setting, where necktie wearing was then (early 1960s) de rigeur, I adopted the Four-in-hand knot, which is faster and easier to tie than either of the Windsors. The article linked to in the preceding sentence alleges that the four-in-hand is “notably asymmetric”. But it isn’t if one is careful about pulling the knot up into the “notch” between collar points, and sticks to straight-collar shirts (which also lend a more professional appearance than spread collars and button-downs).

In fact, a properly tied four-in-hand is more elegant than its cumbersome Windsor rivals. For one thing, the four-in-hand knot doesn’t overwhelm the long part of the tie, which (if one has good taste in ties) is what one wants to show off.  In addition, the four-in-hand lends itself to a neat dimple, which can be achieved with the Half Windsor but not the Full Windsor.

The neat (centered) dimple says: “I am a fastidious person” — and I am.

Let the Punishment Deter the Crime

While awaiting the return of my wife to our car in a grocery-store parking lot, I observed a few of the myriad instances of the thoughtlessness that is endemic in the public behavior of Americans. In particular, I noted the abject failure of drivers (usually women) to park parallel to the side-lines of a space and approximately midway between them. That behavior reminded me of other types of behavior that cause confusion and chaos on America’s highways and by-ways.

It seems to me that the problem would soon be cured by the swift and certain administration of justice; for example:

Failure to park as described above, even in a private parking lot: punishable by a fine of $1,000 for each violation.

Failure to move one’s automobile forward within a centisecond after a light turns green: punishable by a fine of $1,000 for each violation. If the driver of an automobile fails to move his car forward within the prescribed length of time, said driver is responsible for any damage to the rear of said automobile.

Failure to move forward into an intersection, without impeding oncoming traffic, when a light is green, and then completing one’s left turn when oncoming traffic has cleared: punishable by a fine of $1,000 for each violation.

Driving in a passing lane when one is not passing: punishable by 1 day in jail. The sentence rises by 1 day in jail for each successive violation. The guilty driver has no legal recourse if his automobile is rear-ended by another vehicle.

Passing on the right, except when the passing lane is blocked by a non-passing vehicle: punishable by 1 week in jail. The sentence rises by 1 week for each successive violation.

Running a red light: punishable by a year in jail. The sentence rises by a year for each successive violation.

In no instance will a guilty party be allowed bail,  time off for good behavior, or parole.

A Summing Up

This post has been updated and moved to “Favorite Posts“.

Saving Trees

Today, for the first time in almost 56 years, I no longer subscribe to a home-delivered daily newspaper. The Austin American-Statesman, to which I have subscribed for the past 15 years, recently raised its subscription rates by 25 percent. That was more than enough for me to do what has long made sense — cancel the Statesman.

The Statesman‘s international, national, and regional coverage is superfluous and out-dated — the same “news” is available online and via TV at zero marginal cost to me. Local news of value to me (of which there is little) is similarly available.

Not only have I reduced my living expenses by several hundred dollars a year, but I have also helped myself to a better night’s sleep. I no longer have to worry about getting up in time to see if the paper is wet and call for a replacement before the deadline for such calls. In fact, I no longer have to hike down and up a long, steep driveway to retrieve a practically worthless newspaper.

As for the “liberal” Statesman, the latest price hike undoubtedly marks another steep dive in its death-spiral. If it survives for much longer, it will be as a glorified version of a Pennysaver — advertising interspersed with syndicated features like recipes, car-buying tips, DIY advice, etc. Its increasingly young and increasingly incompetent newsroom will dwindle to a few wannabe-jock sports writers, who will enthuse about UT and high-school sports.

And I will have saved several thousand dollars. Bliss!


Related post: Cutting the Cord

Wall Wondering

Democrats are for “the people”, right? So why did House Democrats reject pay for federal workers (many of them struggling to make ends meet), even as the shutdown continues?

For that matter, why are Democrats unwilling to put up $5.7 billion — a mere molecule of H2O in the vast sea of federal spending (more than $7 trillion per annum) — if government does such great things for “the people”? Think of all the “benefits” that are foregone because the Democrats oppose an expenditure that would add less than one-tenth of one percent to federal spending?

A border wall would help to protect Americans from an influx of criminals and welfare-spongers. Why don’t Democrats care about “the people” who are victimized by crime and higher taxes?

Why have so many Democrat politicians changed their tune about securing the southern border in just a few years? It must be something in the water they drink. The same thing happened with same-sex “marriage”, “medical” marijuana, and “rare” abortion. I guess that’s to be expected when their guiding principle is to irk people who remind them of their parents and teachers. (It’s called prolonged adolescent-rebellion syndrome.)

Is “the wall” the left’s Waterloo or the right’s Alamo? It could turn into Fort Sumter if Congress doesn’t fund it and the courts block emergency spending.

These are interesting times, to say the least. I hope to live long enough to see America restored to sanity, but I am not hopeful of that.


Related post: The Left and “the People”

The Renaming Mania Hits a New Low

I live in Austin, Texas. That is to say, I am physically present in Austin most of the time, but spiritually distant from it. One of the reasons for my spiritual distance is evident in the recent suggestion by the city’s ethics office to rename Austin because its namesake, Stephen F. Austin, was “conflicted” about slavery. (Abraham Lincoln was un-conflicted in his disdain for blacks, but that somehow isn’t held against him.)

“Austin” is just a name, like “dung” and “rattlesnake”. The full name of its namesake rarely passes through the mind of an Austiner. (“Austinite” is preferred, but it seems pretentious to me, like “Manhattanite”. “Sodomite” has a certain ring, however.) Still less frequently will an Austiner give a thought to S.F. Austin’s “conflicted” views about slavery. Only in the fevered imagination of a left-wing Austiner (which is most of them), will the views of a man who died three years before Austin acquired its name be taken as a besmirchment of the upstanding city’s pure, virtue-signaling character. (It is hard to find a city away from the Left Coast whose denizens — that’s the word — are more puffed about their city and its mythical virtues. See this post and the list at the bottom of it.)

Anyway, back to the renaming mania.

With all of the disappeared statutes, street names, names of buildings and institutions — things formerly known as Davis, Jefferson, Jackson (Andy and Stonewall), Lee, etc. etc., etc. — why have Washington and Lincoln survived? Washington was a slave-owner; Lincoln, as I have intimated, held blacks in low esteem despite his (belated) anti-slavery views.

Mine is not to reason why, or why not. Mine is to suggest that all of this unpleasantness might be avoided if all persons, places, and things were assigned unique, randomly generated alphanumeric codes.

Or perhaps new unpleasantness would simply erupt because of objections if an alphanumeric code includes certain number sequences (666, for example) or letter sequences like RWR, GWB, or DJT.

You can please some of the people none of the time (i.e., leftists). They are just born to bitch.

Even More about Names

In previous posts about first names, I addressed names that had shifted from male to female, presidents’ surnames used as first names, the changing popularity of my grandparents’ first names, and the changing popularity of my high-school classmates’ first names.

I was reminded of those older posts (published in 2006, 2008, and 2012) by an analysis of gender-fluidity in names, that is, names which are becoming more neutral rather than being given mainly to boys or girls. The author, one Nikhil Sonnad,

calculated a “genderedness score” for every American baby name—and for the country on the whole. The score goes from zero to one. A zero means a name is perfectly non-gendered. That is to say, exactly half of the babies with that name are boys, and the other half are girls. A one, meanwhile, means the name is used exclusively for one gender. So a lower score means a name is more gender-neutral, and less biased.

How is it “biased” to use a boy’s name for a boy and a girl’s name for a girl? That statement should be damned to PC hell, along with the idea that gender is “assigned” at birth. It’s not assigned, it just is, except in rare instances. And it’s immutable, regardless of what the PC witch-doctors profess to believe.

Anyway, Sonnad continues:

The overall genderedness score was 0.97 in 1920, meaning nearly every kid had a name that was used almost exclusively for just boys or just girls. The score is falling, though. It hit 0.946 in 2016, the most recent year the SSA has name data for.

I’m gratified to learn that the generedness score is still almost 1. I’m further gratified to note that the genderedness score has dropped in the past, and then rebounded:

Part of the apparent decline in genderedness may be due to the fact that the Social Security database used by the author covers only the top 1,000 names of each sex in each year. The variety of names grows with population, so the top 1,000 isn’t as inclusive now as it used to be (see below). And gendereless or ambiguous names are undoubtedly rising in popularity (for now) because baby-naming is a faddish thing, like transgenderism.

The variety of names grows not only because of population growth but also because of its changing composition. There are many more Spanish names and Hispanic babies than 10, 20, or 30 years ago — and vastly more than there were 100 years ago. Also, blacks have increasingly branched out into African, pseudo-African, and black-redneck names — names that are identifiably black, but not always identifiably male or female (by whites, at least).

So the real news isn’t the rise of gender-ambiguous names, but the growing variety of names, which I will show in two ways. First, using the same Social Security database as Sonnad, I constructed the following tables. They list the 10 most popular baby names (male and female) for equidistant 17-year intervals spanning the 136 years between the first year (1880) and most recent year (2016) included in the database. The tables also show the percentages of male and female babies given those names in each of the years. (Right click to view enlarged image in a new tab.)


Source: Go here and scroll to the search tool at the bottom of the page (on the left).

Note the general decline in the percentages. Being in the top 10 these days is almost meaningless compared with being in the top 10 through the 1940s or 1950s.  Note also the generally lower percentages for girls’ names than for boys’ names until 2016. Girls have long had a greater variety of names, though boys are finally catching up.

The following graphs (derived from the same source) illustrate the same points. They also highlight the relative stability in the number of names until the 1950s and 1960s, when the percentages of babies with names in the top 10, 100, and 1,000 really began to dive.

Returning to the lists of names, I note that many of the recent top-10 names are throwbacks; the 19th century is “in” again. There are some old top-10 names that have fallen from popularity for good reason — they are grating, if not ugly; for example, Frank (Frank is a wiener; Francis is okay), Henry (better as Henri or Enrico), George (fit only for a king), Walter (a plumber’s name), Donald (rhymes with Ronald, as in McDonald), Richard (you know the nickname), Minnie (little fish), Bertha (as in “Big Bertha”), Florence (with the pursed lips), Ethel (ditto), and Dorothy, Shirley, and Doris (so 1930s and 1940s).

Anyway, those are my prejudices. What are yours?

Recommended Reading

Leftism, Political Correctness, and Other Lunacies (Dispatches from the Fifth Circle Book 1)

 

On Liberty: Impossible Dreams, Utopian Schemes (Dispatches from the Fifth Circle Book 2)

 

We the People and Other American Myths (Dispatches from the Fifth Circle Book 3)

 

Americana, Etc.: Language, Literature, Movies, Music, Sports, Nostalgia, Trivia, and a Dash of Humor (Dispatches from the Fifth Circle Book 4)

Pronoun Profusion

I could have called this post “Pronoun Confusion”, given what I found at Wikipedia:

And here:

I suppose there are other variations, but I quit digging before I became terminally confused. (UPDATE: Here are some new variations hot off the web. Read ’em and weep.)

It used to be that a person didn’t care what he (the generic kind) was called, as long as he wasn’t called late for dinner. That’s a tired joke, of course. People do care what they’re called, but it’s usually when they’re called something demeaning (e.g., “hey, you” to a general, “Harvey” to a doctor you don’t know as a friend) or insulting (e.g., “jerk” and worse).

I guess it’s insulting to (some) persons who have “chosen” a sex other than the one that they were born with (not “assigned at birth”) to be mistaken for persons of that sex. But give me a break. How am I supposed to know that you’re “really” a man if you look like a woman who’s trying to look like a man, or you’re “really” a woman who looks like a man who’s trying to look like a woman?

Sane persons — which is about 98 percent of the population, aside from posturing leftists and the gender-confused — are by definition in touch with reality. The traditional pronouns given in the first part of the Wikipedia table reflect that reality. They cover everything. I therefore reject all that follows, in the name of accuracy, clarity, and simplicity. (I would invoke Occam’s razor, but that might be taken as an endorsement of genital mutilation.)

So here’s the deal. If you don’t want to be called “he” or “she”, or any of their cognates, I will comply politely and use “you”, “your”, “yours”, or “yourself” when speaking or writing  to you. When speaking or writing about one of you, I will use “it”, “its”, or “itself”; for more than one of you, I will use “they”, “them”, “their”, “theirs”, or “themselves”.

There’s absolutely nothing insulting about such neutral usages. If you believe that there is, please consider the possibility that you are nuts (whether or not you have any). But don’t insult my intelligence by trying to make me believe that you’ve acquired a gender other than the one you were born with — or none at all.


Related reading:
Gregory Cochran, “Transsexuals“, West Hunter, May 8, 2013
Gregory Cochran, “Internal Contradictions“, West Hunter, December 12, 2015


Related posts:
1963: The Year Zero
The Transgender Fad and Its Consequences
Some Notes about Psychology and Intelligence

 

Austin Mystery Solved

The City of Austin, the blue boil on the butt of Texas, recently hired a new city manager. The previous city manager, who left for greener pastures 15 months earlier, was a black man.

Austin’s “leaders” (the sneer quotes mean that they’re not my leaders) are nothing if not au courant in politically correct virtue-signaling. But their political correctness stops at the water’s edge of transparency. Austin’s taxpayers were kept in the dark about the candidates being considered for the city manager’s job until near the very end, when two finalists were unveiled:

Two white males. How could it be?

Never fear. Austin’s “leaders” salvaged their reputation for politically correct virtue-signaling by choosing the one on the left, who has a husband. The one on the right is married to a woman who has produced children and is therefore an actual female*. How boring.

And so the day was saved for “diversity” in Austin. But not for diversity of thought, of which there’s precious little here.
__________
* As opposed to a delusional male who “identifies as” a female, or an impressionable boy-child whose criminally negligent parents have convinced him that he is really a girl. I “identify as” a 6’6″, 250-pound bodybuilder with X-ray vision who is able to leap the Freedom Tower in a single bound and understands the mysteries of the Universe. Alas, what I “identify as” and what I really am are entirely different things.


Related posts:
Driving and Politics (1)
Life in Austin (1)
Life in Austin (2)
Life in Austin (3)
Driving and Politics (2)
AGW in Austin?
Democracy in Austin
AGW in Austin? (II)
The Hypocrisy of “Local Control”
Amazon and Austin

As the World Lurches

Pew Research Center offers “17 Striking Findings from 2017“. I have the impression that some of the findings are bad news to the Pew folk. But many of the findings are good news to me, as you will see in the following commentary. Pew pearls, in italics, are followed by my demurrers, in bold:

1. Partisan divides dwarf demographic differences on key political values. The average gap between the views of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents and Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents across 10 political values has increased from 15 percentage points in 1994 to 36 points today.

The growing divide is unsurprising given the sharp leftward lurch among Democrats since the days of Bill Clinton’s “triangulation”. The good news is that there are still a lot of Americans who haven’t lurched leftward lemming-like.

2. Donald Trump’s presidency has had a major impact on how the world sees the United States. A global median of just 22% have confidence in Trump to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs, according to a survey conducted last spring. The image of the U.S. abroad also suffered a decline: Just 49% have a favorable view, down from 64% at the end of Barack Obama’s presidency.

This is excellent news, inasmuch as America is loved by foreigners only when Americans are being killed or taxed on their behalf.

3. About four-in-ten Americans say they live in a gun-owning household, while three-in-ten say they personally own a gun. Protection tops the list of reasons for owning a gun.

But if you were to believe the leftist media (about which, more below), you would think that the main reason for owning a gun is to kill people — randomly and in large numbers. I own a 12-gauge, bolt-action shotgun, which stands ready to be used (with 00 shot) against an intruder. I am merely representative of the vast, gun-owning majority who — unlike a lot of gun-grabbing politicians — don’t live in a virtual fortress or have armed bodyguards (paid for by taxing the likes of me).

4. Democrats and Republicans disagree now more than ever on the news media’s “watchdog” role. Roughly nine-in-ten Democrats say news media criticism keeps political leaders from doing things that shouldn’t be done, compared with 42% of Republicans ­who say this – the widest gap in Pew Research Center surveys conducted since 1985. This stands in stark contrast to early 2016, when similar shares of Democrats (74%) and Republicans (77%) supported the media’s watchdog role.

How (not) surprising is this finding, given the media’s transformation from leftist puppet to frothing-at-the-mouth, leftist, anti-Trump, attack dog? For a longer view of the public’s lack of confidence in the media, see the graph here. There was a sharp rise in the fraction expressing “hardly any” confidence in the media at about the time that Bill Clinton became an accidental president, thanks to Ross Perot’s candidacy. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

5. Muslims are projected to be the world’s fastest-growing major religious group in the decades ahead. By 2035, the number of babies born to Muslims is projected to modestly exceed births to Christians, mostly due to Muslims’ relatively young population and high fertility rates.

This points to another reason why Democrats want to open the borders to “political refugees”. Whether they’re Muslim or Central American, they breed faster than gringos and are much more likely to vote for Democrats.

6. In the U.S., Hispanic identity fades across generations as distance from immigrant roots grows. High intermarriage rates and declining immigration are changing how some Americans with Hispanic ancestry see their identity. Most U.S. adults with Hispanic ancestry self-identify as Hispanic, but 11%, or 5 million, do not. While nearly all immigrant adults from Latin America or Spain say they are Hispanic, this share decreases by the third and fourth or higher generations.

Nothing new under the sun. The same was true of the vast waves of European immigrants of the 1800s and early 1900s. Probably even more true of them, come to think of it. But they weren’t enticed to America by tax-funded benefits, as are so many Hispanic immigrants. I say that with great respect for the hard-working Hispanic immigrants whom I have encountered.

7. Americans see fundamental differences between men and women, but men and women have different views on the cause of these differences. Majorities of women who see gender differences in the way people express their feelings, excel at work and approach parenting say differences between men and women are mostly based on societal expectations. Men who see differences in these areas tend to believe biology is the root.

Thus does the emotion-based reaction of most women neatly contrast with the fact-based reaction of most men.

8. Many Americans expect certain professions to be dominated by automation in their lifetime – but few see their own jobs at risk. Roughly three-quarters of Americans think it’s realistic that robots and computers might one day do many jobs currently done by humans, and sizable majorities expect jobs such as fast food workers and insurance claims processors to be performed by machines within their lifetimes. Yet just 30% of American workers expect their own jobs or professions to become automated.

The final sentence confirms the prevalence of irrationality. Which is why I have been happy with the rise of automation. To take just one example, it is easier, faster, cheaper, and more pleasant to buy many things online than it is to schlep to a store and be “helped” by an indifferent, inarticulate ignoramus (too often bedecked in tattoos, piercings, weird garb, and outré hairdo). Vive l’automation!

9. The share of Republicans who hold negative views of the effect of colleges and universities on the country has grown significantly since 2015. Nearly six-in-ten Republicans and Republican leaners (58%) now say colleges have a negative effect. Two years ago, by contrast, 54% of Republicans said colleges were having a positive effect. Democrats and Democratic leaners have consistently held positive views of the effect of colleges on the U.S.; 72% of Democrats and Democratic leaners say this today.

Thanks to the “resistance”, the true nature of the academy has been exposed to the view of people who had been blissfully ignorant of it. If the GOP holds and builds a majority in the central government and in State governments, its next big initiative should be to slash subsidies for the enemies of liberty who “profess” and are “professed to” at to colleges across the land.

10. Immigrants are projected to play the primary role in the growth of the American working-age population in the coming decades. The number of working-age immigrants is projected to increase from 33.9 million in 2015 to 38.5 million by 2035, with new immigrant arrivals accounting for all of that gain. Absent these new arrivals, the total projected U.S. working-age population would fall.

But automation will more than take up  the slack. Who needs more immigrants? Democrat politicians, that’s who.

11. News stories about President Trump’s first 60 days in office offered far more negative assessments than they did of prior administrations. About six-in-ten stories on Trump’s early days in office had a negative assessment, about three times more than in early coverage for Obama and roughly twice that of Bush and Clinton. Coverage of Trump’s early time in office moved further away from a focus on the policy agenda and more toward character and leadership.

See #1 and #4.

12. In the past 10 years, the share of U.S. adults living without a spouse or partner has increased. This rise in “unpartnered” Americans, from 39% in 2007 to 42% today, has been most pronounced among young adults: Roughly six-in-ten adults younger than 35 are now living without a spouse or partner. The share of “unpartnered” adults also has risen more sharply among those who are not employed.

Pew ignores the really bad news, which is that “unpartnered” Americans give birth to children, who are then raised in (generally) unstable, poor households without a father. Perhaps it’s time to re-institute the shotgun wedding.

13. About half of 2.2 million people who sought asylum in Europe during the 2015 and 2016 refugee surge were still in limbo at the end of 2016 and did not know if they would be allowed to stay.

Another glaring omission: Mention of the Europeans who would be on the hook to support the asylum-seekers, most of whom would probably side with the politicians who want to give them “free” stuff.

14. About eight-in-ten Americans say they understand the risks and challenges of police work, but 86% of police say the public does not understand. This is one of several areas where the views of police and those of the public diverge significantly. For example, while half of the public says the country still needs to make changes to give blacks equal rights with whites, this view is shared by just 16% of police. Law enforcement officers and the public are broadly in agreement on other issues, such as making private gun sales and gun show sales subject to background checks.

How could 80 percent of Americans possibly understand the risks and challenges of police work? By watching TV shows about cops or reading crime novels? Cops, by the way, aren’t upholders of gun rights because (a) every gun is potentially turned against a cop and (b) a gun-wielding citizenry is a threat to cops’ law-enforcement monopoly.

15. About six-in-ten Americans ages 18 to 29 say the primary way they watch television now is with streaming services on the internet. Much smaller shares of older Americans cite online streaming services as their primary way of watching TV; older Americans tend to rely on cable connections. Overall, just 28% of Americans cite streaming services as the primary way they watch TV.

I’m with the streamers, despite my advanced age. I have cut the cord, and use an indoor antenna to get local TV stations, which I watch about 5 minutes a day for the local weather forecast. Even that is only a residual habit; I can get the same thing any time of the day from the internet. Most of my TV viewing is devoted to programs that I stream via Netflix and Amazon Video. Vive l’automation!

16. Views on whether whites benefit from societal advantages that blacks do not have are split sharply along racial and partisan lines. Nearly eight-in-ten Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (78%) say white people benefit at least a fair amount from advantages that blacks do not have. Among Republicans and Republican leaners, 72% say whites do not benefit much or at all from these advantages. An overwhelming majority of blacks (92%) say whites benefit from societal advantages, while just 46% of whites say the same.

Whites are generally smarter and more law-abiding than blacks, which accounts for most of the “advantages” enjoyed by whites. Only a Democrat (or worse) could believe in the unfairness of the situation.

17. Science knowledge is closely related to expectations for harm from climate change among Democrats, but not among Republicans. In 2016, Democrats with high science knowledge were far more likely than Democrats with low science knowledge to say a series of environmental impacts would be very likely to occur as a result of climate change, including rising sea levels and intensifying storms. But there are only modest or no differences among Republicans with different levels of science knowledge in their expectations of harm to the Earth’s ecosystems.

Almost all Democrats with high knowledge about science say climate change is mostly due to human activity (93%); a much smaller share of Democrats with low science knowledge (49%) say the same. Among Republicans, there are no significant differences by science knowledge about the causes of climate change.

All of which just goes to show the wisdom in the adage that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, especially when it’s harnessed to an ideological agenda. Communism was (and still is, I suppose) a “scientific” political theory. Ditto Hitler’s brand of National Socialism, with its “scientific” attitude toward Jews. All those marchers for science weren’t marching for science, they were marching to demonstrate their (hysterical and generally uninformed) belief in AGW. That belief, in fact, arises from a neo-Puritan mindset, and serves as an excuse to subjugate and impoverish other Americans (though many of the neo-Puritans are loath to give up their SUVs, large homes, and extensive air travel).

Amazon and Austin

Austin is on the list of 20 finalists for the site of Amazon’s second headquarters (HQ2). I have a strong interest in the outcome of the competition because I live in Austin, and I hope that Amazon puts HQ2 somewhere else.

Why? Because the Austin area — which already has terrible traffic, rapidly rising real-estate prices, and high property taxes — will just get worse with the addition of 50,000 employees (i.e., perhaps 100,000 more residents) and a $5 billion investment in HQ2.

It is de rigeur for persons who have lived in Austin for a long time to bemoan its changed character. And they should. Thanks to growth-oriented politicians who have governed Austin for the past few decades, its character and quality of life are as faded as Warren Beatty’s looks.

What was once a rather laid-back “town”, dominated by the government of Texas and the University of Texas (before it became UT-Austin), has become part of the 31st largest metropolitan statistical area in the U.S., as of 2016. The population of the city proper has quintupled from 200,000 to 1 million since I first came to the city as a visitor in the 1960s. It has been only in the last decade or so that Austin’s skyline has sprouted a flock of towers as high as 80 stories. Until then, it had been a low-lying city, with only a few 15-story buildings, which weren’t even tall enough to challenge the dominance of the State Capitol, perched atop a modest hill. Austin’s hippies, who are still around but rather the worse for wear, are almost invisible among the vast army of yuppies which has come to Austin from other locales — California being a leading supplier of the rude, SUV-driving jerks who clutter roads, stores, and restaurants.

Several locales among the 20 finalists are less populous than the Austin area. Raleigh, the smallest of the lot, would seem to be an ideal choice. Any of them would be ideal from the point of view of most of Austin’s current residents, who need more traffic and higher property taxes like a hole in the head. It is mainly Austin’s lame-brained “progressive” politicos who seem to want HQ2 in Austin, as if a bigger (more crowded, more expensive) city would somehow make them more manly, womanly, or it-ly (as the case may be).

In case you have some influence over Amazon’s decision about where to locate HQ2, I would like to point out some things about Austin — in addition to traffic, real-estate prices, and property taxes — that ought to push you in an another direction:

Austin’s summers, which last from April to November, are very hot. In 2011, for example, there were 90 100-degree days, 27 of them consecutive. And when there’s a prevailing wind from the Gulf of Mexico (as there often is), Austin is also quite humid. Not as humid as Houston or Washington, D.C., but the combination of heat and humidity is “challenging”.

Only a hardy few bicyclists will be seen doing something stupid, like bicycling, in the the heat of the day. And in most of Austin they will not be using bicycle lanes that take up valuable road space for naught.

Austin has some attractive areas, including a traditional downtown on the 10 blocks of Congress Avenue south of the Capitol, and some parks and hike-and-bike trails along and near the wide spot in the Colorado River called Lady Bird Lake, which is geographically in the center of Austin. The rest of the city is a mixed bag, which ranges from mostly flat and ugly (east of Loop 1) to somewhat attractive and hilly (west of Loop 1). But Austin isn’t in a truly scenic area like Pittsburgh (which is among the 20 finalists).

Those Amazonians who aren’t in the higher echelons will end up in the ugly parts of the city and surrounding area because they won’t be able to afford to live in the nicer parts. In fact they may not be able to afford to live in the ugly parts of the city proper. Pittsburgh is much more affordable, and it’s hard to find an ugly area in and around the city.

Loop 1, mentioned above, isn’t a loop. It’s one of Austin’s two, limited-access, north-south highways. There are no limited-access, east-west highways, and nothing resembling a loop around Austin. All of which is why Austin’s traffic is incurably terrible.

Austin has no “culture”, unless you think of bars with live music as culture. Its orchestra is third-rate; whatever passes for opera and ballet is almost unnoticeable; and its museums and art galleries are fourth-rate. It is decidedly philistine for a university town. Many of the 20 finalists, including Pittsburgh, are culturally superior to Austin. The prevalence of burnt orange (the color worn by UT athletes) should tell you all you need to know about the level of culture in Austin.

And about those live-music bars — and theaters and upscale restaurants: They’re mostly downtown, which has become practically inaccessible except to people who already live downtown. That’s Austin’s traffic for you. There’s no subway, and the dinky commuter rail line is about as useful as a table-top model, so the alternative to driving and searching in vain for a parking place is to hire a cab or ride-sharing service. But the ride won’t be cheap, and it will still take quite a while to travel a few miles (or more) to your downtown destination.

A p.r. person dubbed Austin the “Live-Music Capital of the World” — an accolade that I dispute. A more authentic title would be “Allergy Capital of the Word”. As a life-long allergy sufferer, I can tell you that Austin has more allergens in its environment than any other place I have encountered. And there’s something going on year-around. Mold spores are almost always in abundance, thanks to southerly winds from the Gulf of Mexico. But the granddaddy of them all is the pollen of the so-called mountain cedar tree (really the Ashe juniper), which grows profusely in central Texas. Pollen outbursts begin in December and peak in January. And when you’ve lived in Austin for more than a few years, you’ll probably come down with an attack of what’s called cedar fever — an extreme allergic reaction to the pollen that reduces you to a wheezing, sneezing, lethargic puddle of humanity. It’s like a cross between flu and pneumonia. Enjoy!

I would leave Austin in a trice, but house-selling, house-hunting, and moving are daunting tasks at my age. Luckily, I am long-retired, so commuting isn’t a problem for me. As for the rest of it, I patronize only those restaurants that are easy to get to, shop online for everything but groceries, avoid bars and theaters altogether, and give thanks that I enjoyed Austin’s few nice parks in the years immediately after I arrived here.

What else can I tell you about Austin? Perhaps some readers who know the place will comment. For now, I’ll leave you with links to some related posts:

Driving and Politics (1)
Life in Austin (1)
Life in Austin (2)
Life in Austin (3)
Driving and Politics (2)
AGW in Austin?
Democracy in Austin
AGW in Austin? (II)
The Hypocrisy of “Local Control”

Look Out for That Slippery Slope

In the truly disgusting department:

Bestiality brothels are spreading through Germany faster than ever thanks to a law that makes animal porn illegal but sex with animals legal, a livestock protection officer has warned….

‘There are now animal brothels in Germany,’ Martin told the paper, adding that people were playing down the issue by by describing it as a ‘lifestyle choice’.

Armed with a host of similar case studies, Ms Martin is now calling for the government to categorically ban bestiality across the country….

German ‘zoophile’ group ZETA has announced it will mount a legal challenge should a ban on bestiality become law.

‘Mere concepts of morality have no business being law,’ said ZETA chairman Michael Kiok.

If inter-species “dating” catches on in the U.S., there is bound to be a legal movement to legalize inter-species marriage. If that happens while Anthony Kennedy is still the swing (pun intended) justice, I can easily imagine what his deciding opinion will say:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family, pack, flock, herd, etc. In forming a marital union, two animals (one of them human) become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, inter-species marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these animals to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea (sometimes expressed by piteous looks rather than words) is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness (in a pasture, stable, doghouse, etc.), excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. Amen, baa, arf, moo, whinny, etc.

Oh, wait, that’s what he said in Obergefell v. Hodges (with a few immaterial changes). Well, recycling is an essential aspect of the “progressive” religion, is it not?

What greater tribute to the social benefits of traditional marriage than to extend it to different sexes and different species? In fact, why discriminate against pond scum and compost?

In the brave new world to which Justice Kennedy has led us, it can be literally true that a man is married to his golf game.

Self-Made Victims

The author of Imlac’s Journal quotes Malcolm Muggeridge on George Bernard Shaw:

He wanted to make a lot of money without being considered rich.

Here is Theodore Dalrymple, writing in the same vein:

[D]uring the early years of the AIDS epidemic … it was demanded of us that we should believe incompatible things simultaneously, for example that it was simply a disease like any other and that it was a disease of unprecedented importance and unique significance; that it could strike anybody but that certain group were martyrs to it; that it must be normalized and yet treated differently….  It was a bit like living under a small version of a communist dictatorship, in which the law of noncontradiction had been abrogated in favor of dialectics, under which all contradictions were compatible, but which contradictions had to be accepted was a matter of the official policy of the moment….

The demand for recognition and nonrecognition at the same time is surely one of the reasons for the outbreak of mass self-mutilation in the Western world in an age of celebrity. A person who treats his face and body like an ironmongery store can hardly desire or expect that you fail to notice it, but at the same time demands that you make no comment about it, draw no conclusions from it, express no aversion toward it, and treat him no differently because of it. You must accept him as he is, however he is, because he has an inalienable right to such acceptance….

I think the same dynamic (if I may call it such) is at work in the current vogue for transsexualism: “You must recognize me and not recognize me at the same time.” In this way, people can simultaneously enjoy the fruits of being normal and very different. To be merely the same as others is a wound to the ego in an age of celebrity, and yet we are herd animals who do not want to wander too far from the herd. And in an age of powerlessness we want to exert power.

What will be the next attempted reconciliation of our incompatible desires? [“Everyday Snowflakes“, Taki’s Magazine, July 15, 2017]

Good question. I don’t have a ready answer, but I have some other examples of incompatible desiderata. Each entry in the list below has two parts: (on the left) an objective that most leftists would claim to support and (on the right) the left-wing policy that hinders attainment of the objective.

Ample employment opportunities for low-skill workers – Minimum wage

Vigorous economic growth – Regulation

Property rights* and freedom of association – Public-accommodation laws

Less crime – Strict gun control or confiscation of guns*

Peace – Less defense spending (and therefore lack of deterrence)

The result of each left-wing policy is to create victims, ranging from young black men to law-abiding citizens to most Americans. The left’s constant search for “victims” is evidently hindered by intellectual myopia.

Moreover, in many cases leftists are actual or potential victims of their own policy preferences. But their magical thinking (unconstrained vision) blinds them to the incompatibility of their desires.


* There are many hypocrites on the left (like Shaw) who would vigorously defend their property rights while proclaiming their attachment to socialism, and who employ guards (with guns) to protect their property.


More posts about the left and magical thinking:
The Left and Its Delusions
A Keynesian Fantasy Land
The Keynesian Fallacy and Regime Uncertainty
America: Past, Present, and Future
IQ, Political Correctness, and America’s Present Condition
The Barbarians Within and the State of the Union
The Pretence of Knowledge
“The Science Is Settled”
The Harmful Myth of Inherent Equality
“And the Truth Shall Set You Free”
The Transgender Fad and Its Consequences

The Secret of a Happy Marriage

Most people marry young. Even though the average age at first marriage is creeping up, it is still below 30 as far as I know. And it was closer to 20 when I wed several decades ago.

A person who is in his early 20s has a lot of life and learning ahead. His political views are likely to change. Mine changed from idealistic “liberalism” to informed conservatism, with a few stops in between. (For more, go to “About” and scroll down to “Beliefs”.) If one’s political views are heritable, as this piece suggests, what happened to me is that nature — my parents’ innate conservatism — finally overcame nurture — the attitudes and ideas that I absorbed as a collegian.

I married my wife only two years after completing my undergraduate degree, still a naive “liberal” with simplistic views about such things as race (not a problem), markets (suspect), and government (more is better). Fast-forward more than 50 years to the conservative me, still wed to the “liberal” lass who views Donald Trump as unalloyed evil, daily expresses the hope that he will be shot (though that may stop after the shooting of Steve Scalise), cannot understand why Texas Republicans care about who uses which bathroom, favors abortion (in principle, not practice), supports gun control (though we have guns in the house), has swallowed the global-warming hoax, and bases most of her other views on the slants of NBC Nightly News and the Austin American-Statesman.

But she hates to pay taxes.

That, plus love, unites us despite our differences.

Another Case of Cultural Appropriation

Maverick Philosopher makes an excellent case for cultural appropriation. I am here to make a limited case against it.

There is an eons-old tradition that marriage is a union of man and woman, which was shared  by all religions and ethnicities until yesterday, on the time-scale of human existence. Then along came some homosexual “activists” and their enablers (mainly leftists, always in search of “victims”), to claim that homosexuals can marry.

This claim ignores the biological and deep social basis of marriage, which is the procreative pairing of male and female and the resulting formation of the basic social unit: the biologically bonded family.

Homosexual “marriage” is, by contrast, a wholly artificial conception. It is the ultimate act of cultural appropriation. Its artificiality is underscored by the fact that a homosexual “marriage” seems to consist of two “wives” or two “husbands”, in a rather risible bow to traditional usage. Why not “wusbands” or “hives”?


Related posts:
In Defense of Marriage
The Myth That Same-Sex “Marriage” Causes No Harm
Getting “Equal Protection” Right
Equal Protection in Principle and Practice

Andrew Cuomo’s Fatuous Casuistry

Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, is quoted as saying that

[i]f there is a move to deport immigrants, then I say start with me. I am a son of immigrants. If we deport immigrants then I ask, ‘Who is safe and who will be left?’ Because we are all immigrants. If we deport immigrants then the only ones left will be the Iroquois, the Sioux and the Cherokee and the Apache.

What I want to know is what his lordship has against persons of the Sioux, Cherokee, and Apache persuasion. He makes it sound as if there’s something wrong with being such a person. In the parlance of the day, that’s r-a-a-a-cist!

Let’s parse the rest of his excellency’s statement. First, he’s not a son of immigrants. His father, the late, overrated Mario Cuomo, was born in New York City, as was his mother, Matilda Raffa Cuomo. It was their parents who were immigrants.

But Andrew is just exercising his poetic license, to which liberals are entitled by virtue of their self-defined moral superiority. By the same standard (poetic license, that is) I am the son of immigrants because my paternal grandparents were born in Canada, though they were of non-exotic English-Scots-Irish descent. But my maternal great-grandfathers and all of my maternal great-greats and beyond were born in exotic French Canada and France. Voilà.

It’s obvious that Andrew, like his parents, is a lawyer. His lawyerly mind slides over the word “illegal.” Thus he implies that Mr. Trump would deport all immigrants, even though Mr. Trump has said only that he would deport illegal immigrants.

In any event, Herr Governor Cuomo isn’t an immigrant (supra, as they say in legalese). So he wouldn’t be deported even if he were correct in his lawyerly casuistry regarding Mr. Trump’s stated intentions.

But if he would like to be deported to prove a point (whatever it is), I’ll gladly pack his bag.

Laugh of the Day

Facebook, for me, is a mildly amusing diversion. I have only 39 Facebook “friends,” and I follow only about a third of them. The rest are obligatory friends whose doings don’t interest me.

I strive to make Facebook as unintrusive as possible. To that end, I have long used the F.B. Purity extension for Firefox, which eliminates a lot of clutter and unwanted features. I also use Adblock Plus, though Facebook has found a way to work around it and plops an ad or two in my newsfeed every day.

I’ve just learned that Facebook categorizes the politics of its users. I was amused to find that I’m a Liberal. I guess it’s because of the postings of some of my friends — postings that I usually hide to avoid irritation.  It’s easy to delete the political preference setting, so I did.

And I’ve just come to understand the meaning of the popular abbreviation for Facebook: FB = For the Birds.