Mimsy Were the Borogoves

One of the most important reasons for studying history is that virtually every stupid idea that is in vogue today has been tried before and proved disastrous before, time and again. Do we need to keep repeating the same mistakes forever? — Thomas Sowell (Random Thoughts on the Passing Scene, December 21, 2001)

Future Snark—Wednesday, October 13th, 2021
Future Shock

Future Shock remained influential throughout the seventies and into the eighties.

I’ve been reading a lot of books lately about the future of technology from the perspective of the previous century. Predicting the future is always difficult, of course, but two stood out for how well they recognized what the future would have to deal with. Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock is from the perspective of the sixties (it was published in 1970), and Cyberwar is from the perspective of the nineties.1

Both got the future badly wrong, despite usually seeing where the transformations would come from. I think the problem for any futurist is aptly summed up by Harlan D. Mills in his introduction to a 1978 book about programming:

Back in 1900 it was possible to foresee cars going 70 miles an hour, but the drivers were imagined as daredevils rather than grandmothers. — Harlan D. Mills (BASIC with style)

Technology policies made by someone who cannot comprehend the future equivalent of 70 miles per hour will always be wrong. It is nearly impossible to jettison the spectacles through which we view the world. If you’ve rarely gone faster than walking speed2, the notion of seventy miles an hour is one of reckless abandon. Even if you were to foresee that this would be a casual speed—I drove 75 miles per hour today merely getting my groceries—your forecast would be one of a world gone mad.

Seventy-five miles an hour to buy groceries? What’s the damn hurry? It’s legal? Even grandmothers do it? You’re all going to die!

A person looking forward from 1900 might well realize that vehicles will have the capability to go over 70 miles per hour. Fewer will recognize that drivers will routinely go more than seventy miles an hour. Fewer yet will realize that advances in materials design will make such speeds reliable and that advances in technology will make control of such vehicles nearly automatic.

What they almost always miss is the adaptability of the human brain and body. That we will learn how to routinely manage such speeds and that our brains will not freeze at the sight of, say, vehicles passing by on the other side of the highway at relative speeds in excess of 150 miles an hour. That our reflexes will find shifting lanes at such speeds a normal task.

Humans adapt. It’s what we do.

The Life of Stephen A. Douglas—Wednesday, September 29th, 2021
Stephen Douglas campaign

Materials from Douglas’s 1860 campaign. The note underneath Douglas’s photo was a lie to undermine Lincoln’s legitimacy. Lincoln won by enough to have won even with a unified opponent.

Throughout President Lincoln’s life, Stephen A. Douglas appears as a sort of master villain. After reading Lincoln’s Life and Writings it seemed like a good idea to read about Douglas. James Washington Sheahan considered him a great man and a hero. Sheahan wrote The Life of Stephen A. Douglas on the eve of the 1860 election season, ending with the assumption that Douglas would be the next president:

At this day he [Douglas] occupies the most extraordinary position of being the only man in his own party whose nomination for the Presidency is deemed equivalent to an election. Friends of other statesmen claim that other men, if nominated, may be elected—a claim that admits of strong and well supported controversy; but friend and foe—all Democrats, unite in the opinion that Douglas’ nomination will place success beyond all doubt.

Not only did this not work out in the general election, but Douglas had a hell of a time even getting the nomination. As they do today, Democrats had a more stringent primary process than Republicans, one designed to keep insiders in control. In 1860, they required a two-thirds majority to nominate a candidate. While it was standard practice for a candidate who received majority support to get further support in subsequent rounds, slave states were so strongly against Douglas that they did not do this. Douglas continued to get the majority, but never two-thirds.

The reason slave states were against Douglas is not because he opposed slavery, but because he didn’t support it enough. He supported allowing slavery to spread into new territories and states, but did not support forcing slavery into new territories and states.

Anyone thinking that slavery was not the major reason for slave states seceding after Lincoln’s election would do well to read this biography. Once past Douglas’s young life and into his political life it is almost entirely filled with Douglas’s arguments in favor of allowing slavery. There are a few sections about how railroads and ports should be funded but by far the major portion is about the spread of slavery into new territories and states.

Even when Douglas appears to be talking about crimes against property, he is talking about slavery:

That’s a man, baby: Your fantasy is hurting people—Wednesday, September 15th, 2021

I hate to have to say this. I put it off a long time because of that. A blogger I respect put up a post a while ago called You’re hurting me. And among the things that are hurting her are:

Every time you point at a transwoman and say “That’s a man!”, you do it to me.

A decade ago, I would have read this, and nodded, “of course.” Palette is by all accounts a great person, and I would have ignored reality in order to not make her feel bad.

I still believe that there’s nothing wrong with ignoring a little reality in order to spare someone’s feelings. People in marriages do this all the time. In low doses, it’s healthy. But the problem with ignoring reality is that at some point, you’re not just hurting the person you’re ignoring reality for. You’re hurting other people, and lots of them.

The question today is no longer about letting some men live their life pretending to be women. I and most people who oppose ignoring reality are perfectly happy to continue doing that. Today’s issue is about whether men will compete with women in school sports. It is about whether men who are obviously men should raise suspicion when they follow a girl into a bathroom. It is about whether children should be mutilated when their parents—or even non-related adults—ignore the biological reality of who that child is.

We created Title IX to provide girls with equal opportunities as boys in school sports. The issue now is whether we should gut Title IX and let boys take over women’s sports as well.

Palette added that:

We can have all sorts of productive and necessary discussions on such subjects as How young is too young to start hormone replacement therapy? or How do we solve the dilemma of biological males dominating girls’ sports?, and I welcome those discussions.

But how can we have those discussions without the foundational element that biological males are males? You cannot ask those questions without saying this child is a man or that person in the ring is a man. Because it’s not just about “therapy” or “dominating”. It’s about actual injuries and physical hurts. It’s about allowing abusive men to pretend to be their victim by shaming service representatives from saying “that’s a man” when an abusive ex calls with all the correct personal information to unlock an account.

Colorado parents create a new school in one year—Tuesday, September 14th, 2021

“These highly skilled parents came together to not just solve their own kids' education needs but offer a high-quality education to families in their glorious Colorado mountain town.”

Educational officials told them “You’re crazy, you can’t get this done in a year.” (Where have we heard that before?) They did it anyway.

“As a classical school, it offers a low-screen, high-relationship environment and a focus on creative and critical thinking through careful attention to classic works and traditional approaches to math and science. These are things parents wanted that weren’t available through the Woodland Park School District, which like many in the nation has become computer-centered over the last several years.”

A concise history of the rise and fall of crime in America—Sunday, September 12th, 2021

“Since 1960 crime has risen, fallen, and risen again… The changes were especially pronounced in New York, America’s most populous city and, as the nation’s media center, most prominent.”

William Voegeli writes a long article but a very short history of the crime rate in the United States from 1963 to today, describes how it rose and fell, what policies were implemented in response, and how politicians reacted. This is well worth the read.

And part of that is knowing who Joseph Fournier was. Just about everyone who pays attention to politics knows the name of Willie Horton, but not the seventeen-year-old who Horton stuffed into a garbage can to bleed to death after stabbing him repeatedly.

“Democrats’ denunciations of Bush for condemning the Massachusetts furlough program were paired with their silence about Dukakis creating the issue. Very few liberal politicians, columnists, or editorialists offered an opinion as to whether the Massachusetts policy was a wise one…”

The January 6 witch-hunt—Wednesday, September 8th, 2021

It’s pretty obvious that Democrats and the Left are trying to create a witch hunt around the January 6 rally in DC. It wasn’t an insurrection. Even the “evidence” introduced by Democrats make it the least violent, cleanest riot ever.

This is mostly a link round-up about the prisoners. I don’t really have a lot to say about the “cleanest riot ever”. I don’t even have a lot to say about the political prisoners in DC other than help them if you can. But if there’s a witch-hunt starting, I intend to identify as a witch. Before the witch-hunter’s indicium comes into play.1

As I wrote earlier, I was in DC on January 6, and I was on the Capitol grounds milling around with everyone else who was milling around, talking about the weather in DC compared to wherever we came from, wondering if there would ever be a basic audit into alleged election fraud, and eventually, wandering away to eat Atlantic oysters.

I’m not saying that inside the Capitol was as boring as outside of it. I can only know what I saw, and it was pretty boring outside. What I see reported on the rally in areas I was at is almost universally wrong. It was wrong both at the Capitol and around DC in general. I walked safely around DC eight miles Tuesday evening and eleven miles all day Wednesday—from the Washington Monument to Pleasant Plains, Capitol Hill to Georgetown—and saw nothing requiring police presence, which was fortunate because I saw no police presence. I think I saw one police officer the whole day on Wednesday, and very few on Tuesday as we walked up Pennsylvania Avenue from the Mall after the speeches.

From all accounts, even the doctored video from the prosecutors, most of the people in jail are in jail for walking through open doors in a public building. It was about as far from an insurrection as you can get with three or more people gathered.

Vaccine Regret—Friday, September 3rd, 2021

“I don’t think my deliberative process is unique or even rare. Vaccine hesitancy isn’t ultimately a political thing, or an intelligence thing, or a race thing, whatever demographic differences may be emerging along those lines. In essence, the wait-and-see approach is a perfectly reasonable response to more than a year of gaslighting, misinformation, and despotism from official sources.”

“…the same smug idiots who lied about the effectiveness of masks, funded research in Wuhan that may have helped create the disease, then lied about that too, then lied about lying, then lied some more, are the people demanding that absolutely everybody get jabbed now, now, now. As usual they are not trying to convince us by reasoning with us transparently like adults. They are instead resorting to their usual tactics of calling us racist, delusional murderers for daring to question their impeccable wisdom and authority. This kind of behavior does not inspire confidence.”

In other words, people notice things like that. Read the whole thing—Spencer Klavan says much of what I tried to say in How to overcome vaccine hesitancy, and better.

(Hat tip to WeirdDave at Ace of Spades HQ.)
How to overcome vaccine hesitancy—Wednesday, September 1st, 2021
Tom Sawyer paints a fence

Let other people know that painting the fence is fun, and the fence will be painted.

The best way to convince people to overcome their hestancy over the vaccines is to (a) announce that the emergency is over and drop all mask and vaccination requirements, (b) announce that no one cares if you’re vaccinated or not and stop bothering people about it, and (c) vaccinations will start costing as much as any other vaccination after October 1. You can get it before then, you can get it after then, whatever you want.

There would be a huge rush on vaccinations both before and after October 1. Because we’d be treating the vaccines as if they’re worth something.

People notice things like that.

There will always be a small cadre of people who don’t trust vaccines. But most people, unless there is evidence otherwise, just take them. Why not? What can it hurt? Some people might wait a while, just to see, but all other things being equal, they’ll get them once they see that there’s nothing to fear.

The problem with the COVID vaccines is that too many people on the pro-vaccine side seem hell-bent on acting as if it can in fact hurt to get the vaccines, that there is something to fear. If we want people to choose to take the vaccine, that’s got to change. It really seems like the current administration and pundits hanging around it want to keep people unvaccinated. They’re doing everything basic psychology says will discourage vaccinations.

First of all, there is no doubt that this medicine came about through a new process. Most medicines take several years to bring to market, due to an involved, costly, and time-consuming regulatory maze. The COVID vaccines came out in months. If the process that brought us the COVID vaccines is as trustworthy as the older process, we don’t need the older process any more. We should be getting a lot more new medicines a lot faster.

If the process is trustworthy, it should be extended to all medicines going forward. If it isn’t, that’s an obvious indication that the medical community and the government does not trust the development process that brought these vaccines to us so quickly. Treat the process as untrustworthy, people will believe it’s untrustworthy.

Chesterton: Stuffy science

Second, the whole vaccination push has a “we’ve always been at war with Eastasia” vibe. The same officials who are now pushing for mandatory vaccinations were, a year ago, saying they would never trust them. That needs to be acknowledged. They need to apologize across the political aisle, acknowledge they were wrong, and then stop treating vaccinations as a political cudgel.

People notice when officials act as if they don’t believe their own words.

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