Friday, June 26, 2015

Show matrimonial love by spreading it around far and wide

Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority:
It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves.
A graphical representation of data compiled from the GSS over the last few years:

No less respectable a media organ of the Cathedral than The New York Times reported the same half a decade ago.

If the presumption is that marriage precludes extramarital sexual activity, then it seems reasonable to argue that opening it up to same-sex couples does in fact "disrespect the idea of marriage".

Perhaps it's time for that aspect of the definition of marriage to change as well. Expect it to be the next big Cathedral objective after the holy warriors are done mopping up any residual resistance to transgendering.

Parenthetically, lest there be any doubt about the Cathedral's zeal for the gay cause, consider it utterly dispelled.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Not licked yet

Created using preliminary data on US births in 2014:

A few years ago the Census bureau announced that (non-Hispanic) whites no longer comprised a majority of newborns in the US, the implication being that in (less than) five years' time they would no longer constitute a majority of kids under the age of five, in (less than) eighteen years' time the would no longer constitute a majority of minors, etc.

Pew has a piece explaining the possible reasons for the premature announcement, though "wishful thinking" is conspicuously absent from among them. For the last three years whites have held the line at 54% of all births in the country.

In most states a majority of newborns are white. That is not the case in New York, Georgia, Florida, New Jersey, Maryland, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, DC, California, New Mexico, and Hawaii, however. Though the number of states is small, the number of people in these states is not, with the country's four most populous ones in the majority-minority column.

Politically, the Rubicon runs through Texas. When it inevitably flips from red to blue, the consequence will be 76 electoral college vote swing, ending any chance for a Republican to ever occupy the White House again. Florida is probably already forever lost to the GOP and Georgia is only a couple election cycles away from the same fate.

If you're of the persuasion that demography is destiny, there are two crucial determinants that shape the future: Immigration and differential fertility. These are the battlefronts.

In the interest of full disclosure, an indication of which side I'm on:

Friday, June 19, 2015

It's not good to be king

A naif might think that the putative benefits provided by white privilege and membership in the patriarchy, combined with the Potato Heading of the West, would see non-whites and women running from their oppressed statuses to enjoy the benefits that naturally accrue to white men.

Curiously, the contemporary high profile cases of race and sex changes involve whites 'becoming' non-whites (Dolezal) and men 'becoming' women (FauxcahontasJenner). These don't appear to be exceptions to prove the rule, either. There has been a pronounced flight from white evident in the US Census over the last several decades, and people from ancestries conventionally considered to be white, such as Middle Easterners and North Africans, are pushing for the creation of non-white categories to self-identify themselves as.

In 2004, the GSS asked respondents to choose from ten descriptors to answer the question "which is most important to you in describing who you are?" Respondents were also asked to select the second and third most important descriptors from the same list. Race/ethnicity was one of the options. The following table shows the percentages of respondents, by race, who identified race/ethnicity as the most important, second most important, or third most important aspects of how they identify themselves (n = 1,185):

RespondentR/E important

Another option among the ten provided was gender. The percentages of respondents, by sex, who identified gender as the most important, second most important, or third most important aspects of how they identify themselves (n = 1,201):

RespondentGender important

Quite the conundrum. It's almost as if being white and being male, rather than conferring tacit benefits upon a person, actually has a deleterious effect on one's social status and perceived moral worth.

Parenthetically, these data are over a decade old. I suspect the white and male identification deficits are even greater now than they were then.

GSS variables used: SOCID1(2)(3), SOCID2(2)(3), SOCID3(2)(3), RACECEN1(1)(2)(4-10)(15-16), SEX

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Vibrant creationism and pale, male, stale evolution

The convergence of homo sapiens and Mr. Potato Heads has given the information technology industry a reprieve from the media scrutiny it had recently received for being too male, too white, and, if pressed, too Asian.

I'm indefatigably vigilant, however, and I'm not about to allow the icy chauvinists to escape the censure they so sorely deserve. To the contrary, I'm piling on. Not only have they hijacked high tech, it turns out they also predominate when it comes to accepting the theory of evolution as an explanation of the origin of humanity. They're stealing science right out from under the noses of disadvantaged groups like women and NAMs.

The following tables show the percentages of people, first by race and then by sex, who concur with the assertion that "Human beings, as we know them today, evolved from earlier species of animals" (n = 5,238). For contemporary relevance, all responses are from the year 2000 on.

By race:


And by sex:


GSS variables used: RACECEN1(1)(2)(4-10)(15-16), SEX(1)(2), EVOLVED, YEAR(2000-2014)

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Righteous Leftists

The percentage of GSS respondents who have ever "expressed political views on the internet", by political orientation (n = 1,203, the question was posed for the first time in 2014):


This isn't just the result of people tending to become more conservative as they get older and of older people being less likely to be plugged into the internet. The pattern holds consistently across age ranges. Among those under 30:


Adults aged 30-64:


Seniors, aged 65 and older:


The "silent majority" remains a fairly relevant phrase today.

Parenthetically, self-described liberals and conservatives are about at parity when it comes to intelligence. Moderates tend to be of more modest intellectual capabilities, so the fact that they are less likely to broadcast their political sentiments than the more politically committed isn't surprising since many of them probably don't have established views and among those who do have them, many haven't given much thought to them.

GSS variables used: POLINTER(1-2)(3-4), AGE(18-29)(30-64)(65-89), POLVIEWS(1-3)(4)(5-7)

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Gladiator, 15 years on

I was in middle school when Gladiator came out, and I liked it when I saw it in the movie theater. The opening battle scene against a loosely interpreted German tribe like the Marcomanni or Quadi is a thrill. That the disorganized combat melee and use of siege weapons in the forest against a mobile army was, to put it mildly, a similarly loose interpretation of Roman military tactics during the age of the Antonines didn't matter. Russell Crowe's character, Maximus, doesn't even wear any headgear when he leads a cavalry charge into the fray. On the other hand, it captures the essence of the age, and many of the criticisms are picayune--Commodus, like most emperors after Trajan, wore a beard--or blatantly incorrect. For example, in this documentary--a putatively more veracious telling of the events depicted in the movie--it is asserted that, unlike in the film, shields, in addition to providing protection, were also used as weapons (clip). That's true, but as much was quite clearly depicted in Gladiator (clip).

This artistic license doesn't matter just because I was ignorant of as much at the time, but more importantly because, in capturing the spirit of the Roman military ethos, it conveys heroism and valor in ways that men have recognized for time immemorial. As a tweenager, I recognized this essence at a hazy, rudimentary level.

Watching the film again fifteen years later, the fog has lifted. Gladiator is the story of a hero, a hero not merely in the cheap sense of a comic book superhero who enjoys the ability to fly or get up after being run over by a Mack truck while acting like a petulant, snarky child, but a human hero in volition and intent. Maximus is a good man who is good at being a man.

Being a good man and being good at being a man

The former is contextually captured in Stoicism's four cardinal virtues of wisdom, justice, fortitude, and temperance. In stark contrast to Maximus, who possesses all of them, is Commodus, who possesses none (clip). More broadly, the goodness of a man is judged by the morality of his thoughts, words, and deeds.

Regarding the latter, Jack Donovan identifies four tactical virtues that define masculinity: Strength, courage, mastery, and honor. They may correlate positively, negatively, or not at all with the characteristics that define a good man. These virtues are universally applicable to men while at the same time tending not to graph well onto assessments of feminine virtue. The phrase "strength and honor" (clip) recurs throughout the movie. If not such a mouthful, the inclusion of the other two virtues into the phrase would've fit just as well.

A seasoned warrior, Maximus is physically strong and martially capable (clip). His courage is unquestionable. Unregulated courage, however, can slide into recklessness. Maximus' demonstrated understanding of the concept reveals the necessary restraint true courage demands, as when he asks Proximo's gladiatorial contingent to buy him time to steal out of the city (clip). Mastery is conspicuously insinuated by the defeat of the Germans and on full display in the arena 'reenactment' of the second Punic War (clip). Honor, probably the virtue most frequently misunderstood in the contemporary Western mind, is most succinctly demonstrated when the Spaniard's identity is revealed to Commodus (clip). Honor is not the self aggrandizement of 'honors' bestowed (clip), nor is it, as it is often incorrectly defined to be by 21st century WEIRDOs, the expression of one's personal convictions (clip).

The film is full of allusions to the power of these virtues, but in the 'recreation' of the battle of Zama and its immediate aftermath, Maximus demonstrates all of them in the course a single event:

A Stoic superman

It is tempting to say that the previous assertion that Gladiator is the story of a hero needs no qualification, but that is a difficult position to maintain when when one looks around today. Maximus is a practitioner of violence, and that, in tandem with devotion to family and to republican ideals is a 'controversial' concoction, as Chris Kyle's story illustrates.

More precisely, Maximus epitomizes the ideal practical Stoic hero. As someone who finds just about every metaphysical system devised (or invented) prior to the Scientific Revolution to be conjectural fantasy, I'll dispense with that whole aspect of the Stoic philosophical tradition and focus on the philosophy's functional aspects.

It is not only as an actionable model of the four Stoic virtues that this representation is played out. In the face of the most hellish experience a man can suffer (clip), Maximus regains his balance after a brief stumble (clip) that would be more than enough to send many men careening over the precipice. He refuses to be consumed by a hatred for Quintus, one that would be entirely understandable but also counterproductive at the individual level and, more importantly, in the pursuit of justice. In the rigged duel with Commodus, Maximus doesn't waste a single breath bemoaning his circumstances. He doesn't even allow the perception of a brutally unfair fight to be detected by onlookers, choosing instead to lunge at Commodus as soon as the opportunity presents itself (clip).

The movie isn't all unrestrained reverence for the teachings of Epictetus and the letters of Seneca. In his biography of Marcus Aurelius, Frank McLynn refers to Stoicism as an "inhuman philosophy". That sentiment, and the consequences it entails, are thrown into sharp relief when Commodus murders Marcus (clip). We see in Quintus the inherent dangers acceding to the idea of an ordained natural hierarchy carries with it. Even the Stoic protagonist is incapable of embracing one of the philosophical tradition's most callous precepts: "As you kiss your son goodnight, whisper to yourself that he may be dead in the morning" (clip--the only time as an adult that a movie has made me tear up).

The Roman citizen, soldier, and farmer

The idea and the polity of Rome, the Roman military ethos, and his patch of blood and soil existing within that framework--these are the motivators driving the protagonist. When the corruption of the first obliterates the existence of the third, the course of the individual, Maximus, and well being of the society, Rome, align. Perpetuating the dictatorship in his own person holds no appeal. So genuine is Maximus' claim that he will simply hand over control of Rome to the senate that the conspiratorial senator Gracchus takes him at face value: "Marcus Aurelius trusted you. His daughter trusts you. I will trust you." Such is the Stoic ideal.

But life doesn't always converge so conveniently. Lucilla, sister of Commodus and mother of the vulnerable heir apparent Lucius, is willing to bring the whole world down in a desperate effort to save her son (clip). Even though harsh judgment seems the only defensible verdict for Lucilla's behavior--as a categorical imperative it fails, miserably--it is difficult to not at the same time empathize with her, viscerally.

A commenter once wrote something here that has stuck with me ever since: "A more interesting question is not whether or not you would sacrifice or endure pain for a child (as a father of three it is a no-brainer that I would gladly and with satisfaction give my life), but what level of misdeeds would you perform [to keep your own child from suffering]?"

Quintus, look at me

The line separating blind subservience from prudent loyalty is both fine and easily blurred. Less the natural than Maximus, Quintus attempts to compensate with rigid adherence to the purple, whoever is wearing it. The interaction between the two generals, comprising just a few minutes of the film, is a beautiful illustration of how the essence of mentorship lies in providing an aspiration, of being worthy of emulation (clip, clip). Lifted straight from the pages of Meditations comes perhaps the most concise explanation of the Stoic's relationship with the universe, at once profound and perplexing, an ingenious attempt at squaring the circle to allow a simultaneous influence of both free will and fate in determining what becomes of us (the scene only appears in the director's cut):

This pithy profundity inspired three words that changed the (fictionalized) course of history: "Sheathe your swords!" (clip)

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus

Marcus was a man forced by necessity and circumstance to spend much of his life engaged in militarily securing the northeastern borders of the Roman empire. Of primary interest was the study of philosophy, and of predominant 'vocational' interest the adjudication of cases in what would today be termed "family law". He was not considered the last of the five good emperors for nothing though, and took the self-prescribed advice to retire into himself while performing the functions of his office.

We get an allusion to this when Maximus comes upon Marcus in his room (clip). At first blush, it appears as though senescence, in the form of hard hearing, has caught up to the emperor. Instead, Marcus, the polar opposite of the irresponsible and dissolute Verus, reveals to his most trusted general a little crack in the carapace. Sensing the end, he is betraying a wariness from the unending business of empire by sneaking a few more lines into the Meditations before addressing Maximus.

Historically at the time of Marcus' passing there was of course no succession uncertainty. Commodus had already been co-emperor for three years when his father died. By bending actual events in the way the film does, perhaps the biggest failure of Marcus' reign--his support of and devotion to Commodus--is fancifully made into a pivotal part of the story line.


Good art inspires. It motivates. It provides an ideal, and it also provides a reference point to check one's journey towards attaining that ideal. The fanciful absurdity that characterizes today's action genre and the snarkiness that infects so much of everything else keeps me away from most movies, but Gladiator reminds me that the medium is still capable of producing great power when all the requisite pieces of the puzzle are present.

What we do in life echoes in eternity. It is why nihilism, materialism, and existentialism--basically materialism with experiences substituted for material things--don't do it for me. When I'm decomposing in the ground or ashes floating disparately on the surface of the sea, what more can I leave behind than the biological legacy of my descendants and the philosophical legacy of who I was and what I stood for? Yes, I understand that such a concern does not constitute a tenet of the Stoic school, quite the contrary. But we're all eclectics to some degree.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

The Jenner affair

The idea that Jenner is taking a stand and refusing to bow to social norms is ridiculous. This isn't David standing up to Goliath. The entire Establishment--the entertainment world, the mainstream media, corporate America, academia--is behind him. It's the small mom-and-pop bakeries, the ordinary middle Americans who dare to object to a deviation from the heterosexual norm, who are being browbeaten into accepting social mores they don't agree with.

Vercingetorix, leader of Gaulish confederation that was laid low by Julius Caesar, was kept in a Roman dungeon in solitary confinement for several years before being force-marched, in chains, through the streets of the city in a triumph. His fingernails were yellow and curled, his shoes frayed and falling apart. When he dropped to a knee in exhaustion, he was whipped, kicked, and ordered to shamble on. Spectators hurled rotten fruit, manure, and insults at him. His spirit utterly broken, he was finally lowered into a pit and ritually strangled.

The Jenner spectacle isn't the battle of Alesia, it's the triumph of the Caesarian victors and the subsequent mopping up of the defeated resistance. Jenner's cause may or may not be noble, but the idea that he is standing up for the little guy against impossible odds is laughable. All the organs of power support him, and they are sure to eviscerate anyone of even minor note who takes issue with his decision and the publicity he's garnered in the process. This is an enormous boon for him personally--his new twitter account set new records in rates of followers, he is being splashed all over media, and he's going to be the focus of an upcoming 'docu-series' (whatever the hell that is). Not bad for a guy who thought he'd hit his high mark four decades ago. Jack Cashill joked that he is the first open Republican to be on the cover of Vanity Fair in a long time.

All that said, the most interesting aspect of Jenner affair is what it sets up--an interesting intersection between America's obsession with sports and the emerging unquestionable right for people to pick their own genders.

Looking at Jenner's Wikipedia page, the pronouns have all been changed from "him" and "he" to "her" and "she", yet his sports accomplishments are still listed as being in Men's Athletics.

See where I'm going with this? Because of Title IX, universities have to dole out a lot more money on women's athletics than they'd like to, and scholarships naturally accompany that. Well, if you're a pretty good high school basketball player who isn't quite good enough to get a scholarship on a men's NCAA tournament team, here's another way to get college paid for--identify as a female and go earn a full ride by being the star player on the women's side. Or go win an Olympic gold medal playing for the women's soccer team, or start collecting the prize purses at women's UFC tournaments on the weekends.

This isn't idle trolling. It's already happening. Familiarize yourself with the story of Fallon Fox if you haven't already done so. Whatever gender is, sex is most emphatically NOT a social construction, it's a biological one.

What happens when the next Jenner comes along at, say, the 2016 Olympics? Granting for the sake of argument that what he identifies as now is what he has always felt himself to be, this next Jenner decides to compete in women's track competitions. He wins golds in everything he competes in, and sets several world records (for women) in the process. This new Jenner single-handedly has the capacity to destroy women's sports as the world knows it, at least in the parts of the world where World War T has been won. There is, of course, no reason that he'd be acting alone in this regard. Lots of biological men newly minted as women would flock after him, and the Ladybugs phenomenon would come to dominate everything.

How do, um, 'traditional' female athletes and their supporters combat this? Not in the way Tamikka Brents did in her fight against Fallon:
During Fox's fight against Tamikka Brents, Brents suffered a concussion, an orbital bone fracture, and seven staples to the head. After her loss, Brents took to social media to fuel the controversy surrounding Fox's unfair advantage. She stated that "I've fought a lot of women and have never felt the strength that I felt in a fight as I did that night. I can’t answer whether it’s because she was born a man or not because I’m not a doctor. I can only say, I’ve never felt so overpowered ever in my life and I am an abnormally strong female in my own right,” she stated. “Her grip was different, I could usually move around in the clinch against other females but couldn’t move at all in Fox’s clinch."
This is where opportunity presents itself. Here is the 'teachable moment'. This is where human biodiversity, or anti-egalitarianism, or whatever you want to package the perspective that individuals--and by extension, groups of individuals--vary in all sorts of attributes, traits, and characteristics as, provides an obvious answer. The most numerically significant supergroup in the Fringe Coalition--(biological) women--equip themselves with the arguments of HBD and launch a counterattack against the gender benders and their elite votaries. The carnage from such internecine fighting would be spectacular.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

The national question, 2014

The following table shows immigration enthusiasm quotients for several different subgroups of respondents in the 2014 iteration of the GSS. The quotient is derived by subtracting the percentages who would like to see the number of immigrants in the US reduced from the percentages who would like to see it increased, with those wanting it to remain unchanged discounted.

Before getting to that, note the full wording of the question: "Do you think the number of immigrants to America nowadays should be: 1) Increased a lot, 2) Increased a little, 3) Remain the same as it is, 4) Reduced a little, or 5) Reduced a lot."

A strictly literal reading insinuates that options 4 and 5 favor deportation, since the question isn't asking about flow rates of immigration but instead about absolute numbers of immigrants in the US. A strictly literal reading also suggests that option 3 indicates a desire to tighten up restrictions on immigration to reduce the number of immigrants coming into the US in the future, and option 2 could be interpreted as contentment with the current situation rather than desirous of an increase in the rate of immigration.

Most people probably interpret the spirit of the question as concerning what should be done in terms of future levels of immigration allowed into the US, without any reference to removal from the country, but to the extent that there is a lack of clarity in the way the question gets answered, it is going to artificially cause the responses to appear to be more in accordance with immigration boosterism than with immigration restrictionism.

Even with the handicap, though, immigration just isn't something Americans are very enthusiastic about (n = 1,100):

Partisan affiliationIEQ
Social class
Upper class(17.3)
Middle class(23.9)
Working class(34.5)
Educational attainment
Bachelor's degree(16.5)
Master's degree(16.8)
Did not complete high school(30.3)
High school graduate(35.1)
Some college(36.0)
Born in the US(35.5)

The only two subgroups with positive IEQs are Asians and foreign-born residents living in the US (read immigrants), and there is of course a lot of overlap in these two categories. Perhaps uniquely among major contemporary political issues, there is a pronounced divide between old (black and white) America on the one hand and new (Asian and Hispanic) America on the other.

Notably, there is a vociferous, sizable minority of elites--30.5% of the 3% of respondents who identified as "upper class"--who support increasing immigration, the highest pro-immigration figure for any of the subgroups except for Asians. These one-percenters are the Koch brothers and the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world.

Parenthetically, the reason the immigration enthusiasm score for the upper class is lower than it is for other categories is because there are a relatively high number of upper class respondents who want immigration reduced as well--the elites aren't fence sitters on the question (or any other question for that matter)!

Too bad that, yet again, there isn't a Republican presidential candidate who reflects the views of most Republican voters when it comes to immigration.

GSS variables used: LETIN1A(1-2)(4-5), PARTYID(0-1)(3)(5-6), RACECEN1(1)(2)(4-10)(15-16), CLASS, EDUC(0-11)(12)(13-15)(16-17)(18-20), BORN, SEX, AGE(18-29)(30-44)(45-64)(65-89)