Mimsy Were the Borogoves

For the wisdom of the wise are the criterion of your madness.

The Silver Blaze Media and the Gaslight Election—Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020
Gilligan’s Island incentives

This has a been a year of gaslighting. They gaslighted us about churches and Easter meals being a spreader but riots safe. About masks being worthless (at the beginning and for decades before) or being critical (a few weeks in). They gaslighted us about Thanksgiving killing grandma but that nursing homes accepting COVID patients was perfectly safe.

They gaslighted us before the election about how far down Trump was in the polls, then that no fraud happened, and then that not enough happened to make a difference. They are gaslighting us now about whether it’s provable, while blocking any attempt to share provable facts.

The legacy media have gone full gaslight trying to convince us that this unprecedented behavior is normal, that it happens every election, that this is the way elections work.

Like the protagonist in Gaslight, we’re crazy if we remember anything different—if we believe our own eyes and ears and memories.

Michael Anton turns out to have been more right than he could have known when he called 2016 the Flight 93 election. If this much blatant fraud is allowed to succeed, the extremists have chosen to crash the plane rather than let the passengers take over—and not just in Pennsylvania.

Exposing the rot and corruption of the ruling class doesn’t matter if the corruption is allowed to succeed.

My home state of Michigan has long known about the corruption in Detroit. The same appears to be true of Milwaukee in Wisconsin, and Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. The dark joke was that any statewide candidate who opposed that corruption had to beat the margin of fraud. The darker joke is that we just accepted it, and tried harder to beat the margin of fraud rather than stop the fraud.

On election night, Trump beat the margin of fraud. By a lot. So they stopped updating, drove observers away, and added more fraud in the dark of the night.

The lost tradition of unannounced visits—Tuesday, November 24th, 2020
Leave a note

“Leave a note if you don’t find us…”

Imagine this: you’re downtown shopping and think, it would be nice to drop in on cousin John. You don’t text John, or call him, you show up at John’s door unannounced because you happened to be in the area.

What’s your reaction to this scenario? Fear? Horror? Longing? Embarrassment?

It is a tradition long out of style: being in the area and just dropping in. It used to be common for people to drop in, unannounced, on friends and family. I’m not talking about just walking over to the neighbors to drop something off—and even that now often comes with a text ahead of time—but making a long trip, and not telling people ahead of time, or only telling them in a letter and only in vague terms.

A relative on Facebook about two years ago complained about people dropping in while she was working from home. In this epidemic of isolation and enforced solitude I started thinking about it again. It was a practice we weren’t comfortable with even before social distancing. But fifty years ago, the social rituals we go through today, or even a year ago, to visit friends would have seemed like the science fiction rituals of an alien planet. It’s an example of how drastically technology can change the way we live.

Dropping in was common enough that one of the reasons we kept the house clean was “in case company comes”. Sundays we had to pick up our toys as soon as we got home from church. To this day, I do my weekly swiffering on Sundays after Mass. Those were the days, and times, company was most likely to drop in unannounced.

If you grew up in the seventies or earlier, you probably experienced these visits. My parents still do it occasionally. Usually, it’s people in the city an hour or so away, but they once drove from Michigan to Texas, for the sole purpose of visiting me, without letting me know that they were on their way; the last I knew, they’d been planning on visiting a week after they actually did. I discovered ahead of time that they were already on the road because I tried to contact them to plan for their visit and couldn’t reach them. That was a Saturday. On Sunday, I realized that the reason I couldn’t contact them might be that they were already on their way. I managed to track them down, and, sure enough, they were at a relative’s in St. Louis, halfway here.

That’s just not something I would ever think of doing. But my parents, at the time, did not have texts, and while they had mobile phones they considered them mostly an emergency tool and left them turned off to conserve battery time for an emergency.

I have read a fiery gospel—Wednesday, November 18th, 2020
I have read a fiery gospel

A hundred and fifty-nine years ago, on November 18, 1861, Julia Ward Howe heard the song John Brown’s Body (lies a-mouldering in the grave) sung by Union troops in Upton’s Hill just outside of Washington, DC. She was inspired in the night with new lyrics to go along with the melody, literally couldn’t sleep until she put the lyrics to paper.

The rest is history. Her new lyrics over an old melody have uplifted generations of Americans from the soldiers of the Civil War through the mourners of John F. Kennedy.

But that is not the entire story. It’s common knowledge that the melody is from the older John Brown’s Body, and mostly common knowledge that the John Brown in the song was not the abolitionist John Brown who raided Harper’s Ferry back in 1859. People just naturally made the association after the raid.

What is not common knowledge is that Julia Ward Howe’s husband, Samuel Gridley Howe, was part of an abolitionist group that funded John Brown before the raid. How much they supported the raid is unknown, but it was very likely more than just chance inspiration that inspired Julia Ward Howe to take a melody from a song that had become linked with John Brown the abolitionist and marry it to a rousing anti-slavery battle hymn.

Assuming that the basics of the story are correct, Julia Ward Howe wrote the lyrics on November 18, 1861.1 It was published in The Atlantic Monthly of February 1862. There were still three years of war to follow.

Many modern singers change the semi-final verse2 from “let us die to make men free” to “let us live to make men free”. This originally struck me as wrong and as an affront to the incredible sacrifices of Union soldiers who gave their lives to end slavery in the United States.

I still prefer the original lyrics when I play it myself, but I’m coming around to not just accepting the change but supporting it. The original lyrics were written during a war, for soldiers and families of soldiers, to destroy an evil in pure form. Evil always returns, and not always in such an obvious manner. It is always a fight to keep men free, and evil often masks itself behind good intentions. Ronald Reagan famously said that we are always one generation away from slavery. Reagan and Abraham Lincoln both warned us that we must dedicate not only our dying but our living to keeping America a land of the free.

Only what Facebook wants you to see?—Friday, November 6th, 2020

Yesterday I received the following from Facebook because I shared a news story from The Federalist:

Content is being seen by fewer people because it was rated Partly False by an independent fact-checker.

Mimsy Were the Borogoves shared information that’s been reviewed by Reuters Fact Check. We’ve added a notice to the post so others can see that it’s partly false.

Fact check: Biden vote spikes and county recount do not prove Democrats are trying to steal the election in Michigan.

To fight false news, Facebook reduces the distribution of misleading content while also showing additional reporting on the same topic.

The Federalist is hardly a hotbed of conspiracy—in saner times it’d be right down the middle of the road. The “false news” Facebook flagged was that fraud has become pretty obvious in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. The “fact check” isn’t that fraud doesn’t exist, but that it doesn’t prove that Democrats are trying to steal the election in Michigan.1

Michigan is claiming it was a mistake—but not that the mistake didn’t happen.

I’m already seeing others on Facebook denying, not that the lopsided spikes were relevant, or deliberate, but denying that they happened. And why not? Facebook and the rest of the news media is blocking the news that it happened, making the news that it was a mistake irrelevant.

But imagine that the “mistake” went the other way. Imagine Trump votes suddenly appearing on a state’s election site at four in the morning in a red state that Biden had been winning.

If we were seeing the opposite—if it were a red Detroit and suddenly dumps of Trump votes were appearing in the dark hours of the morning, do you really think Reuters would be calling it false, or that Facebook would be using Reuters to deny spreading that news? Of course not.

As Rogan O’Handley put it,

The Donna Rathmell German Bread Machine Cookbook collection—Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020
Carbs are my spirit animal

This pizza uses whole wheat corn bread dough from volume IV.

Today is National Sandwich Day! Sandwiches mean bread, and the best bread is home-made. I have never been able to make bread. It may be that I’m impatient, or don’t understand how to knead, I don’t know. But my bread always turns out far too dense or fallen. When I got a KitchenAid I thought, now I’ll be able to make bread. It still didn’t work, not following their instructions exactly and no matter how short or long a time I let the dough hook go.

Then, I got a bread machine, and everything changed. Not only could I make standard, easy loaves, I could make great loaves of rye, cracked wheat, oatmeal, and whole wheat, with consistently great results. I could even make dough for non-loaves, such as for pizza or rolls.

The bread machine is an amazing tool. You can use it to make bread from start to finish; you can use it to knead dough and then bake the bread in an oven. You can set it to take exactly, say, eight hours to complete the bread, and it will wait until it will be done in the correct amount of time before starting. There is nothing like waking up to fresh, just-baked bread.

Five and a half years ago at a giant local book sale, I picked up the first volume of Donna Rathmell German’s Bread Machine Cookbook series. I could have picked up three or four of them at the same sale, but I didn’t want to load up on an entire series and find out it was a dud. And that’s fine, because these books are not obscure. If you can’t find them at your local used book stores or sales, go to AbeBooks or eBay and you can find them there, a little more expensive but still reasonably priced.1

You can also get what appears to be a revised version of the first edition still in print.

Power Play 2020—Wednesday, October 28th, 2020
The weakness of all Utopias

In April 1979, in Omni Magazine, Frederik Pohl asked us,

Here is a multiple-choice question to test your wits: How are we going to meet America’s growing energy needs for the future?

  1. By importing more oil and natural gas;
  2. by developing our own new sources of oil and natural gas;
  3. by expanding coal production and perhaps by chemically converting some coal into liquid or gas fuel;
  4. by constructing more nuclear-fission-power plants, perhaps including breeder reactors;
  5. by learning how to generate power from nuclear fusion.

Take a minute to think it over because these are the answers you’d get from your president, your legislators, your friendly neighborhood-utility public-relations flack, and the guy sitting next to you at the bar as you watch the ball game. Made your decision? Okay. Here’s the right answer. It isn’t any of the above. It is:

  1. We aren’t.

Then he goes on to say “let’s examine the facts.”

It was hard to tell at first if Pohl hadn’t written an April Fool article. The editors in the contributor notes section had warned about an article being a joke, and it was about the right page for it. But the joke article turned out to be the article after Pohl’s.1 Which may have been deliberate on the editors’ part, because the April Fool article used the same sort of jumpy logic and assuming the not-assumable that Pohl’s article did.

After telling us that we aren’t going to develop our own new sources of oil and natural gas, he writes:

There are oceans of oil yet untapped. No one really knows how much there is. The problem is expense—in terms of dollars and energy. We keep finding new oil reserves, but they are increasingly hard to get at.

Which is the wrong lesson to take from that factoid. The right lesson was, we keep finding what we once thought were hard-to-get-at reserves, and finding ways to extract them safely and inexpensively. But, as I plagiarized in Better for being ridden the past is not just another country, it’s another planet. Even as a science fiction author, who should have known better, he can be forgiven for thinking, in 1979, that the only way we’re going to find oil is by big government or government-sponsored monopolies. That’s where the United States was headed in 1979, and government monopolies don’t bring prices down.

But much of it was just that either he didn’t know what he was talking about, or he was deliberately misrepresenting the problem.

You can’t stop the signal, Mal—Wednesday, October 21st, 2020

“For the first, time ever, they refused to run his column. So he ran it unedited on his own blog.

“I wasn’t advising them—they tend not to ask me for my opinion—but I would have advised against such a blackout. There’s a longstanding Internet term called ‘the Streisand effect,’ going back to when Barbara Streisand demanded that people stop sharing pictures of her beach house. Unsurprisingly, the result was a massive increase in the number of people posting pictures of her beach house. The Big Tech Blackout produced the same result…

“CNN’s Jake Tapper tweeted: ’Congrats to Twitter on its Streisand Effect award!!!’ Big Tech shot itself in the foot, and it didn’t stop the signal.”

COVID Lessons: How can we respond to a disease before it spreads?—Wednesday, October 21st, 2020
Gilligan’s Island incentives

There’s a reason bureaucrats prolong crises.

One of the biggest problems with our disease response plans is that they are responses. We can only implement them after we know about the disease. Once we know about the disease, the disease is already spreading. And that results in panicked and illogical responses that themselves kill people. Every action is a tradeoff between lives here and lives there. Expanding our flawed COVID-19 responses forever, even if they worked, would kill people for no purpose.

There are other options, however, and options that make life better even absent an epidemic. Much of the reason for diseases spreading rapidly is that so many of our government institutions are designed around turn-of-the-century theories about human resource management. They’re about herding people en masse into huge crowds at central locations.

So, we send all of our children to a massive central location every weekday during flu season; and our cities, the civil locations most vulnerable to epidemic spread, rely heavily on centralized mass transit systems to transport people throughout the city according to the needs of the system rather than the needs of the people. Everything is on a schedule to ensure huge crowds of people massing together at the specific, limited times when the train, metaphorical or literal, leaves the station.

We need to drastically decentralize these institutions. We’ve long known that monocultures among plants and animals invite deadly disease. We need to encourage pluralism over monolithic government programs.

Parents should have choices about where to send their children based on the needs and vulnerabilities of their own children rather than based on the needs of the system. Parents should be able to choose their own ratio of risk to reward. Further, parents should be able to switch rapidly between their choices, even the choice of keeping their children home, and still utilize the public education resources their tax dollars purchase.

As I write this, the evidence appears to be that COVID-19 doesn’t spread rapidly through children. But we can’t count on that for future diseases. Further, choice in education will provide a better education for every child, because their education will be specific to them. The action of choosing an education for their children will provide parents with more incentive to invest in their children’s educations.

The most important benefit of educational pluralism is better education. Drastically slowing the spread of diseases through children is, however, a very important and socially useful extra credit.

Education will be better before an epidemic, and safer during one.

Mass transit is nearly as old as government-run schools, and relies on just as outdated a model. And yet many states, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, tried to shut down the innovative ridesharing alternatives in favor of herding people into crowded government-run transit buses and trains.

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