Thursday, February 27, 2014

Getting Old

While watching the movie Captain Phillips the other night, my mom asked, “You used to want to be in Special Forces?”

I hadn’t thought about that for a long time.  As I have written before, I had the ambition of trying out for first Combat Control, and then when it opened to officers, Combat Rescue, the two Air Force versions of Special Forces.  I was nominally held back by poor eyesight before LASIK was approved for use by military personnel.  I will admit candidly, however, that in retrospect I would have made a poor fit for all sorts of psychological reasons, about which the less said the better.

But from the perspective of my mid-forties, it is difficult for me to remember being the kind of person who would get excited by the possibility.  Over the last six years, first a shoulder, then an elbow, then a leg, and most recently a broken hand, have succumbed to some degree of strain or injury.  I nurse these along with physical therapy as best I can, and (with what I hope will be the temporary exception of the broken hand) I can’t really claim to be held back by any them.   But nor have I fully recovered from any of them; they are a constant reminder of my own fragility.

At the time of his captivity, Rich Phillips was nine or so years older than I am now. 

Getting old sucks.

When they joined the rescue effort, the Navy SEALs apparently parachuted into the water, inflated their RHIBs (think Zodiacs on steroids), and docked up with the Bainbridge.  But why do that when the Bainbridge had a perfectly good helicopter pad for them to land on?  With lights and everything?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Thoughts on Olympia

NBC: All gay, all the time.

So far, every episode of it's Olympic coverage has opened by reminding the audience of Russia's "human rights" record -- by which they mean exclusively its late prohibition on homosexual propaganda. What's especially jarring about this is that NBC has actively collaborated in Russia's whitewashing of its Communist past, calling its 72-year reign of terror a "grand experiment" during its opening-day montage, ignoring the gulags and famines. If anything, NBC's coverage has been less honest than Russia's opening ceremony, whose characterization of Stalinism focused on its industrialization, which is more or less true.

NBC's politicization is doubly ironic when you consider that we didn't see any of it in Beijing, notwithstanding that not only is China's own Communist history almost as bad, but its ongoing human rights record is far worse, its foreign policy more aggressive hostile, and its democratic institutions non-existent.

Faggotry destroys moral probity.

Range Report: Redundancy

Pretty sorry day at the range.  I arrived late in the day and only had time for the 50m.  On top of which . . .

The Brass Kings 55gr FMJ:
DRS FMJ1F 55gr. (new bag)
Precision Cartridge Range Pack 55gr. FMJ Reload

DRS FMJ1F 55gr. (old bag)
Aguilar (Mexican) FMJ 55gr.
TulAmmo (Russian Steel Case) 55gr. FMJ

PMC Bronze 55gr. FMJ

I don’t know how the hell that happened.  The last trip to the range, I had adjusted the sights for the Brass Kings in an attempt to zero it at 50m.  So I would have expected it to perform similarly today.  The only difference is that, in order to use my brass catcher, I had moved the holographic sight a couple of inches forward on the rail from where it had been.

Either way, the zero was way off, so I cranked in down and to the left:

Brown Bear (Russian bimetal) 62gr. HP:

CBC 62gr. FMJ:
Colt (zinc plated) 62gr. FMJ:

MFS Rem SP (zinc plated steel case) 62gr.
WPA (Russian) Military Classic 62gr. HP:
Barnaul (Russian steel case) FMJ “Boat Tail” 55gr.

I may have miscounted the MOA clicks down.

A couple of new rounds this time:  The Colt and the Barnaul.  Both show promise, at least above average performance for the day.  Overall, though, this was nothing to blog about.  I sucked more than usual.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Delacourt 2016!

When I was a teenager living in Latin America, my family used to remark on how to even the poorest looking shacks would often have a large color television displayed prominently. These televisions were larger then ours and usually faced a window where it could be seen from outside the house.  (Our own smaller television faced inward; large televisions would have been considered extravagant, and just a little déclassé.)  How could poor people afford such expensive televisions? Because they were manufactured goods.

Which brings me to the movie Elysium. None of the economics in the movie made any sense.  According to the vision of filmmaker Neill Blomkamp, in the future all the rich people will live on a space station where they hoard from earth their advanced medical technology, including especially a device called the “re-atomizer” (IIRC) which can heal at the molecular level any illness or disfiguration. Yet for some reason Elysium keeps on standby a fleet of massive medical spaceships that are apparently 1 channel bi an automated governing system add a moment's notice.  These spaceships come complete with bays of re-atomizers. But why have these spaceships been built if the entire intent is to never launch them?  And why not launch them?  Apparently, the future is devoid of not only the humanitarian impulse but the profit motive as well:  it occurs to exactly nobody to sell what on Elysium is a  household good to the earth’s hospitals, which are left to labor along with 20th Century medical technology.

The world of the future has robots smart enough to do law enforcement, and Elysium builds (or rather, has built for them on earth) these robots in sufficient numbers to police the earth’s multitudinous poor.  Yet these fluid, interactive AI creations are manufactured by . . . earthlings, performing tasks done by manufacturing robots today.

I realize that Blomkamp is creating an allegory, of course, but in at least these two respects it taxes my imagination to figure out what aspect of the economy or industrialization is being allegorized.

Yet other aspects ring truer.  I was particularly struck by the way that once (SPOILER ALERT) THE Elysium master program resets with all the world’s population identified as its citizens, the people of Elysium become powerless to defend themselves against the onslaught.  Surely they would find a way to reassert control over their own space station, you might object.  Yet consider us!  Once the fringes of Society had the numbers to capture control of the executive by the magic of “democracy”, our own borders were left wide open, and nobody did anything.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Monster Pr0n, because Science!

From “Scientific” American:

What “Monster Porn” Says about Science and Sexuality

Um . . . yeah, so I don’t actually have any thoughts on the subject.  But this bit jumped out:

Here’s what I love about monster porn: It’s a wonderfully wacky reminder that human sexuality is too weird, wild and woolly to be captured by modern science, and especially by theories that reduce our behaviors to genes.

Take, for example, evolutionary psychology, which seeks to find some adaptive purpose—adaptive for our Paleolithic ancestors if not for us–underpinning our thoughts, emotions, actions. Evolutionary psychologists assume that everything we do and feel must in some direct or indirect way promote our genes’ perpetuation (or have promoted it in the past). Evolutionary psychology is hard-pressed to explain homosexual lust, let alone lust for Godzilla.

Another popular bio-paradigm is behavioral genetics, which attempts to link specific traits to specific genes. The behavioral geneticist Dean Hamer claims to have discovered a gay gene, but this assertion–like virtually all those emanating from behavioral genetics—has not held up to scrutiny.

The key to our sexual tastes, Scientific American columnist Jesse Bering, my favorite sexologist, proposes, may lurk not in our genomes but in our childhood experiences. That, of course, is a foundational assumption of psychoanalysis, the steampunk theory of human nature devised by Freud more than a century ago.

How Sciency™:  tossing out genetics in favor of . . . Freud.

*Postscript: I was distressed to discover while reading “The Uncanny” that Freud was a free will doubter. The old grouch mocked “all those unfulfilled but possible futures to which we still like to cling in phantasy, all those strivings of the ego which adverse external circumstances have crushed, and all our suppressed acts of volition which nourish in us the illusion of Free Will.” Freud was wrong about free will, just as he was wrong that what women really want is a penis.

. . . except when he is politically inconvenient.  Then Not-Freud.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Life in the Scrum

Vox contemplates the unthinkable:

And in the event a woman fails to make that choice one day, the consolation prizes aren't so bad. As one of my friends discovered, while being frivorced out of the blue was initially devastating, spending his subsequent evenings in the company of various young women who are barely out of college was hardly the equivalent of a circle of Hell. Is it the life he chose? No. Is it the life he wanted? Not at all. But it's the life his ex-wife chose for him and he's having rather a good time making the best of it.

That's the abundance mentality. That's the "life is beautiful" mentality. That is the ALPHA mentality. As philosophers from Sextus Empiricus to Roosh will tell you, don't shed a single tear.

Easy for him to say!  But while Vox is of that class of men at whom women habitually throw themselves, I personally would face a couple of obstacles.  Judging from the reaction I get from young women whose husbands aren’t already my friends, I don't think this would be as easy as it sounds.  Seeing as how those reactions are presently characterized principally by their lack of eye contact, I would have substantial work to do, starting with . . . well, I don’t know exactly – how do you multiply by zero?  But presumably with a  huge increase in extroversion, followed by developing the social skills necessary to generate interest where none is now manifest.  I shudder at imagining how painful that would be, even were I actually to succeed – a by no means guaranteed outcome.

Of course, these bleak interactions take place mostly at work, and even Vox would probably counsel against trying to learn game on the job.  I would be better off seeking female companionship in other venues.  But that brings me to the second obstacle:  I’m pretty happy with my daily routine as it is right now.

  • Monday: go to work, go to the gym, come home. 
  • Tuesday: go to work, go to the pool, come home.
  • . . . .
  • Sunday: go to church, go to the range, come home.

This is obviously no way to meet women.  In the unlikely event, I would do what must be done, as I did what had to be done when I was single.  But when I got married I happily left it behind and didn't look back.  What a torture it would be to be forced by events back to it!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Affordable Housing?

From the NYT:

Backlash by the Bay: Tech Riches Alter a City

. . . .

“There has to be some kind of public support to make sure you don’t just have a city of the very wealthy, but people to make the city run,” said Kevin Starr, professor of history and policy, planning and development at the University of Southern California.

“You can’t have a city of just rich people,” he said. “A city needs restaurant workers, a city needs schoolteachers, a city needs taxi drivers.”

[Mayor Edwin] Lee says he has a strong commitment to affordable housing — he pointed to the Housing Trust Fund, which will provide $1.5 billion in affordable housing over the next 30 years — and to preserving the character of San Francisco’s neighborhoods.

Wholesale evictions, he said, are “not good for the city.”

He conceded, “We have to figure some things out.”

From the Housing Trust Fund:

The Housing Trust Fund begins in year one with a general fund revenue transfer of $20 million and increases to $50 million over time. The Housing Trust Fund will capture revenue from former Redevelopment Agency Tax Increment funds (an example of what is being referred to as “boomerang” funds in post-redevelopment California), a small portion of the Hotel Tax which has been appropriated yearly for affordable housing, plus an additional $13 million in new General Fund revenue from an increase in business license fees. The consensus business tax reform measure, Proposition E, which also passed on the November ballot, will generate $28.5 million in the first year–$13 million of which will go to fund affordable and workforce housing. It is estimated that $1.5 billion will be invested in affordable housing production and housing programs over the next thirty years.

The first affordable housing project to be considered for funding from the Housing Trust Fund is the long-stalled 55 Laguna Senior Housing project. The joint venture of Mercy Housing California and Openhouse will request $6.1 million and will provide 110 apartments for low income seniors. The project has been on hold for eight years due to the downturn in the economy and the lack of local resources.

Let's say I was an employer in a gentrified, upscale city like New York, San Francisco, or Naples, Florida employing lots of service-industry workers whom I didn't want to pay a lot. How could I hold wages down?

Well, obviously, if I could leverage public money to subsidize their wages, that would help. But if I could also make sure that the housing available for them would only be attractive to young, single employees whom I could pay less and who wouldn't be much of a burden on the company health plan, and without dependents for whom the workers would demand schools that would drive tax increases. That would be good. So I'd offer my employees low wages but a free dorm room or studio apartment that older, married workers wouldn't be interested in. Or I'd make sure that the housing included, not just working class people, but enough lumpenproles to frighten away all but the young invincibles. I couldn't be accused of discrimination because, hey, I'll hire any worker who wants the compensation package. But I would have accomplished much the same thing.

Now, if that is San Francisco's plan, they're off to a slow start, seeing as how their first investment in "affordable housing" isn't for workers at all, but for retirees. And at least in this article, Mayor Lee sounds like a politician marking time, trying to stay in everyone's good graces until those losers who didn't get in on the IPO move out of my voting jurisdiction. But I am curious to know what the track record of "affordable housing" programs in upscale cities is at reducing the commutes of its advertized beneficiaries. Anyone?

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Not-so-free Trade

From Stars & Stripes (via

Italy to Charge Taxes and Duties on Military Mail

NAPLES, Italy -- Italian customs agents in Rome have begun charging taxes and duties on packages entering the U.S. military mail system in the country, prompting a dispute over one aspect of basing agreements between the two countries.

. . . .

The base warned personnel earlier this week that shipped merchandise worth more than 22 euros, about $30, would be subject to Italy's value-added tax and customs duties.

A colleague once went on a mission trip to Mexico to build houses for poor people, taking their building supplies with them. These wound up being heavily taxed at the border.

What I don't understand is, for all the diplomatic and political effort put into advancing "Free Trade" agreements, they doesn't seem to actually do much for ordinary Americans moving stuff across other countries borders. It's almost as if making use of the agreements require . . . political access? But of course, we know that cronyism could never happen here.

Monday, February 03, 2014

It’s Always Year One of the Revolution.

Trumwill name-checked me in a post linking to a brief series of Ross Douthat columns that, while I have counted myself a Douthat fan since his writing for The American Scene, I had neglected.  The columns concerned the ongoing breakdown of Americans’ sexual morality, its attendant social consequences, and the political response (or lack thereof) from the mainstream parties.

I am mystified as to what Ross sees in my old neglected whipping boy Conor Friedersdorf, but for some reason he links approvingly to a column that contained this:

It would be dishonest for me to pretend that there are no benefits to severe stigmas traditionally perpetuated by social conservatives. Even Hester Prynne's scarlet 'A' may have dissuaded a neighbor or two from adulterous forays they would've regretted, but today even the vast majority of social conservatives look upon the stigmas of Puritan America (not to mention modern-day Saudi Arabia) as attempts to perpetuate cultural norms that impose costs far higher than any benefit. Less clear are social conservatives' views on the role stigma should play now. They're averse to making people feel bad and reluctant to repeat the excesses of the past, but they're also reluctant to give up efforts to stigmatize various behaviors that they still regard as sinful, no matter how accepted they have become in American culture.

This reluctance persists even though stigma hasn't been a particularly effective tool. The stigma against unwed pregnancy incentivized an unknown number of abortions even as it utterly failed to stop the rise in out-of-wedlock births. Eve Tushnet has argued that the stigma against divorce causes a lot of people to give up on marriage, and it certainly didn't prevent divorce from becoming very common, even among practicing religious believers.

How about the stigma against premarital sex? Sex before marriage is the norm, and the effort to enforce the stigma prevents social conservatives from participating in conversations about the relative morality of premarital sex in different circumstances, because distinctions would undermine the message that premarital sex is always wrong. Stigmas generally cause those who perpetuate them to focus on norm maintenance at the expense of logic or persuasion. For this reason, many purveyors of stigma are left with no well-developed arguments to fall back on when the culturally dominant status that permitted them to shape norms is lost. (See the early stages of the gay-marriage debate.)

. . . .

I suspect his posts garner criticism from liberal feminists partly because while they're not averse to women being better able to meet their preferences, they see "a somewhat more conservative sexual culture" and assume that it would entail some amount of what they typically call "slut-shaming."

I'm nearly certain Douthat doesn't want that. In fact, he is very much unlike bygone generations of social conservatives in that he explicitly urges men to change their sexual behavior, rather than urging chastity generally but effectively putting the burden on women to bring it about.

. . . .

My general stance in these conversations is that what ought to be stigmatized is the morally objectionable thing itself—thoughtlessly hooking up with someone who isn't ready to do so, even if they consent, for example—and that it's unfair to stigmatize sexual behavior that does no harm to the individuals involved because more typical pairings would be harmed by that same behavior. In my estimation, those are the sorts of stigmas that society is ill-equipped to enforce in a manner Douthat might call Christian, and that it always comes to regret.

One of the advantages of being middle-aged (indeed, the only advantage that presently occurs to me) is that I have lived through enough history to throw the bullsh!t flag on present-day mischaracterization of events that I have lived through personally.

First, sexual immorality has been a feature of the broader society for a long time, certainly since I’ve been walking around.  My parents did their part to protect me from its influence, and to be fair, I wasn’t being invited to those parties anyway.  But the Christian Church, including and even especially its Evangelical variants, were well aware what was going on, and did, in fact, make efforts to engage the culture.

Conor paints a picture of the Church in which it relied exclusively on its institutional strength to enforce social norms in the broader society long past the point it had such power.  I’m not sure to what Conor is referring here, but it’s not to a church that existed during his lifetime or even mine.  More typical of my experience was the kind of message put forward by Josh McDowell in his book Why Wait?  That book was published in 1987, but McDowell was making Christian education films on this theme some years earlier.  Full disclosure:  I haven’t read Why Wait?, and if anyone wants to criticize if for inaccuracies based on what was known at the time, I’ll be happy to listen.  But I did hear McDowell speak on the subject a couple of times, and will summarize his thesis thus:  STDs and unplanned pregnancies will mess up your life; abortion and loss of marital intimacy leave psychological scars.

I have become aware in my adult life that this approach – appealing to the listeners’ self-interest -- has its limitations.  I do not challenge any of McDowell’s factual points; if anything, they are probably better supported by social science today than they were then, and I haven’t lately heard even from the Left that the only thing wrong with the sexual revolution is not enough condoms.  The limitation is rather two-fold.  First, as an epistemological matter, appeals to self-interest ought not normally require so many external constraints, be they physical (“Your curfew is X!”) or moral (as in yet another sermon from Daddy on the importance of chastity).  Self-interest, according to Adam Smith, ought to be self-enforcing.  I have come to believe, late in life, that the reason for having a Decalogue is that, while the obligation to uphold it falls on the individual, the benefits of doing so are realized by the group.  Murder and theft are suboptimum relational constructs for society at large, but I wouldn’t deny, independent of society’s willingness and ability to punish them, that individuals within a society can’t improve their relative position by participating in theft and murder.  That, in my mind, is why we need the commandments.

So why should adultery (by which I mean any extramarital sexual activity) be any different?  Yes, it leave society much the worse, but can any individual illicitly accrue social benefit thereby?  The answer, I believe, is sexually dimorphic:  for men, the answer is clearly yes; for women, the answer is mixed, as a matter of biology and sociology.  Absent any religious commitments, I can’t think of any reason to recommend to a man that he should do otherwise than calculate the cost-benefit ratios and proceed accordingly.  As I have written before from my own bitter experience, there are few points for chaste males even within the church, and probably none in the larger society.

Thus, I don’t really have in interest in “reducing the numbers of semi-forced sexual encounters” (Douthat’s words).  I don’t wish anyone harm, but I don’t put a priority on making it “safe” for people to color outside the lines.  And while Douthat can speak for himself, I’m not really interested in a “slightly more conservative sexual culture” for its own sake, either.  Yes, it would be nice if my daughters could grow up in a country where they never felt pressured to have extra-marital sex, but my expectations here are rather low.  As Douthat writes, and Conor seems to concede partially, the culture will not be shared by both chastity and unchastity.  Better for my daughters to seek their society within the church, where their values will be (nominally, at least) upheld.

Rather, my goals with respect to sex are two-fold.  First, I want, not just “no sex, please” but rather chastity as an expression of devotion to God, loyalty to family, and fidelity to a future life-partners.  As I have said before, the goal here are values, not just behavioral outcomes.

And second, I want to minimize the “negative externalities”.  Yes, STDs and bastardy.  But more to the point, extra-marital sex distorts the sexual economy and disrupts the process of forming stable families.  People are getting married later, if at all, and marriages continue to break apart.  The reward for being “a reliable husband and father” is greatly diminished, and growing numbers of men find themselves locked out of the mating market.

You might argue that the first does not cause the second, and in this I partially agree.  Conor uses the word “stigma” some 28 times in his post as an accusation of what conservatives want; Douthat uses it not once in the four posts linked above, and only a couple of times in his columns during the past year, neither in a context involving sex.  It is telling that Conor demands to know how Ross intends to make the culture more sexually conservative; Ross is merely articulating such a culture as a desirable thing, and Conor wants guarantees up front that such a project will not impinge on his commitments to social liberalism.

Fair enough.  Again, Douthat can speak for himself, but I submit that all the problems I have identified are functions, not merely of a lack of stigma, but of specific policies directed at female emancipation, and that any meaningful effort at rolling back these problems will necessarily involve curtailing those policies.

I will say candidly that my expectations here are pretty low.  There is no level of social dysfunction, material destitution, or even foreign subjugation below which the modern Squealer will not say, “Surely, Comrade!  Surely you do not want Jones back?”  And so it is.

But to bring this essay back full circle, I offer this as evidence disproving Colin’s assertion that Christianity hasn’t engaged the culture from other than a position of command.  It may be true that certain variants of fundamentalism have sufficed themselves to railing against fornication from the pulpit on strict grounds of morality; that is what fundamentalists have done for well over a hundred years, and exactly nobody believes they were ever in charge of America.  The appeal of mainstream Christianity to sexual morality, weak as it looks in retrospect, has been looking out, not down, for my entire life.

Colin whines that such appeals discriminate against women “in practice”.  On the one hand, this is a step up from the usual calumny, against which no amount of contrary evidence is ever recognized, that opposition to extra-marital sex is discriminatory in spirit.  But it is still false for the same reason:  it is woefully ignorant of the evenhandedness of Evangelical culture and deliberately obtuse about the state of secular culture as well. 

But let me turn the question around.  It is feminism that created this mess.  It is feminism that has privileged the lifestyles of a handful of elite women at the expense of most other women and a great number of men.  And feminism is woefully inadequate to correct it.

Douthat is looking for a “slightly more conservative sexual culture”.  But what does that mean?  Sex on the third date but not on the first?  Apparently, Douthat and Friedersdorf take note that (most) women want to delay sex for longer into a relationship than do (most) men, as well they should.   But I’m not sure what’s in that for me.  To be specific, and mildly less flippant, I don’t see how any goals of mine are materially advanced by the delay of sex as an expression of female preference.  Don’t get me wrong:  if women want to delay sex they should delay sex, and good luck to them.

I suspect, however, that when women state a preference for “delaying sex until further into a relationship,” what they are really hoping is that the men they are currently hooking up with will actually invest in a relationship with them at all.  And again, good luck to them.  But the mathematics – most women hooking up with a minority of men – dictate that most of these women will inevitably go away disappointed.

But either way, if the sex is to happen outside of both marriage and meaningful motions towards that end . . . well, the ethics of Roissy look like a rational way for a man to look at the world.