Review of "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby" by Tom Wolfe

November 30, 2009

The book is available here.  It is a collection of Wolfe's essay from the '60s.  It's been a while since I finished reading this book, so my recollection is a bit hazy (and it's not as if I'm getting paid to write a review).  Suffice it to say that reading anything by Wolfe is worth your time.  It's especially humbling to read some of his older work.  You'll inevitably discover that some new phenomena that you thought was interesting and cutting-edge is really 40 years old.

Among all of the essays in the book, I'll remember the one on stock car racing the best.  Of course since the essay, Nascar has become the second most popular sport in the US (after football).  Wolfe's explanation of the popularity (which fits in with the car theme in the early part of the book and will Steve Sailer's theory of Nascar as a celebration of Southern, white culture (although Wolfe is more subtle than Sailer)) is spot on and at least 30 years ahead of its time.


The decline and fall of the American Empire

November 30, 2009

(To oversimplify) Gibbon blamed the fall of Rome on feminization caused by Christianity.  To radically oversimplify, Christianity turned the legions into pussies.  Whatever you think of this thesis, our new religion is way, way gayer than Christianity.  Just check out this prayer:

I promise to be good to the earth and to all life on this planet. To all growing things, all kinds of animals, and all races of people. I promise to protect all life on this planet, To live in harmony with nature and to share everything fairly, So that all people can live with one another in good health and peace.

My problem with the Miseians

November 30, 2009

I've moved away from the Anarcho-capitalists and I'd like to use this post to illustrate why – here it is in full:

John J. Miller of National Review Online laments the fact that people don't feel enough shame when they use "food stamps":

Seems like there ought to be a stigma attached to the use of welfare. A little bit of shame can go a long way toward encouraging people to find jobs. The federal government may think it's doing people a favor by providing them with access to food, but it's doing them a disservice if it also robs them of the motivation necessary to break free from dependency.

I disagree. The stigma should be attached to the people giving out the welfare. The real welfare abusers are not the people who take a few hundred dollars per month to buy food; they're the government agents who spend their "careers" leaching off society's productive class. These are the people who destroy society's capacity to create jobs for the welfare recipients whom Mr. Miller is eager to shame.

First, I like shame as a way of changing behavior – it's better than intervention from the state.

But the second point is the bigger point.  This post shows a complete ignorance of how the state works.  "The people giving our welfare" are unidentifiable.  Even they might now know exactly who they are.  When the government was much smaller this strategy of shaming the government agent might have worked.  But today, when the government is so big that it's not clear who is actually giving out money, this strategy won't work.  It's also impossible to believe that a bunch of people who live in Washington who are dependent on the state for their livelihood are going to shame some federal employees who are giving money to hungry people.  Why wish for these people to be shamed when the likelihood of that happening is less than the likelihood that the federal government will magically lose all its powers?

The decline and fall of the American Empire

November 30, 2009

Taxes used to provide food to fat people edition.

If I'm reading this correctly, the correlation between being on food stamps and being obese is 0.42.

Yet more climategate

November 27, 2009

If I'm translating this correctly, Ms McArdle is saying: "despite the fact that we now have reason to believe that the models are faked and the inputs to the models I still believe" the climate "scientists".

Based on what?  The model and the data were the science.  Why not believe in a Flying Spaghetti Monster?

More climategate

November 27, 2009

I need to keep writing on this, because I need to keep thinking about it.  I'm beginning to see why this is so huge.  Allow me to quote Mr Moldbug again and then try to summarize his post:

You'll note that Professor Hanson is saying the same thing as me – with only three differences.

One: this doesn't change his opinion of global warming. Nor does it change mine. But he started out believing in it! Somehow, the actual facts of the matter are too unimportant to engage his attention. Does this inspire you to engage Professor Hanson to help overcome your biases?

Two: he expresses no shame whatsoever at being a member of this basically criminal endeavor. Indeed, if he has ever before bothered to inform his readers of the nature of his Mafia oath, I missed the post. How kind of him, to help his readers overcome their bias! You know, the one toward unconditionally trusting the products of Science – just on account of the name, it seems.

His argument is that the New Deal instituted government by University.  University attained this high status because of the historical effectiveness of science (note the lower case, by which I refer to an unbiased scientific process using the classical scientific method).  As the University took over governing, science (which still means something in scientific fields) was replaced by Science.  The latter has now become a sham process – I think Mr Moldbug would not object if I say that this process of moving from science to Science was significantly accelerated in the '60s.

As a person born in the early '80s, I am – of course – a believer in science.  But if what I thought of as science has really been so polluted, then it's not clear to me where Truth comes from.  I'm an atheist, so it cannot be revealed.  Perhaps the void and uncertainty that I am now feeling is what the early atheists felt.  Our god (science) is a sham god (Science).

If Mr Moldbug is even partly correct – and I don't see how he's not – then Professor Hanson's comments (as well as those of his orange-line-libertarian fellows) are nothing short of depraved.  His opinions are clearly, ludicrously biased (making a mockery of his website).  After all what is bias, if it's not the thing that makes you maintain the same belief structure even after you find out that the process that originally led you to that belief structure is a sham process?  Not only does he refuse to even consider changing his mind, but he defends the admittedly fraudulent process.

Enjoy your weekend.


November 27, 2009

This write-up is too good not to excerpt:

Within the domain of climate science, their authority was roughly as absolute as Stalin's. Their methods, too, were comparably aggressive.

Mr Moldbug also dates the end of the 20th Century (when considered as an historical era) to the day that climategate broke.  We can only hope