Unprocessable nonsense

Trump has a Jewish daughter, son-in-law and grandson. Indisputable fact.

Does that register with the ctrl-left? No. For them, a Trump victory means it’s 1933 all over again.

Some stupidity I simply can’t process.

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The Curse of Stebbing-Heuer: Mark Textor talks himself into irrelevance

The Australian Liberal Party’s then pollster, Mark Textor, had this to say in September 2015, in an interview with the Australian Financial Review, about the party’s more conservative members:

The loss of disgruntled conservatives will be outweighed by the appeal of a more moderate party to swinging voters. “The qualitative evidence is they don’t matter,” Mr Textor said. “The sum of a more centrist approach outweighs any alleged marginal loss of so-called base voters.”

That also appears to have been the belief of former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, in the two years preceding that statement. Abbott paid for that belief, and also for his mind-melting gormlessness and inability to discipline the virago who managed his office, with the loss of his Prime Ministership.

Textor tried to walk the statement back, as the link to Catallaxy shows, but it is clear that this second statement is misleading – the first statement is clear in talking about disgruntled conservatives and ‘so-called base voters’.

Where is Textor now?

After having alienated the conservative wing of the party, and having bungled the party’s election campaign in 2016, so that the Liberals were only returned to government with a majority of one-seat, after having won a landslide victory in 2013 – turns out they did need those base voters after all! – it seems that Textor has, professionally at least, disappeared up his own fundament. He has moved to Goulburn – one of Stebbing-Heuer’s favourite country towns, as it happens – to work the land:

When Malcolm Turnbull calls the next election, the Liberals will go into battle missing one of their long-time generals.

While Mark Textor — party pollster and campaign strategist — is still deciding how he will spend his first campaign in 30 years observing from the sidelines, he is certain of one thing.

“I say to my mates, ‘If I end up on a political panel during an election come around to my house with a f—ing gun and shoot me’.” …

The next federal election, which is due in 2019, “will be the first campaign since ’93 that I won’t be there, so it will be a bit strange”, says Textor.

Strange for you, mate.

A relief for the rest of us.

He’s still moralising, though. Apparently, the failings of the people around him in his former life just became too much for him:

“One of the things that’s nice about coming to a smaller community is that you understand that the pace is not slower but different,” he says. “When someone comes around to your house — say someone dropping off some drenching products or fixing my diesel motor — in Sydney or Melbourne you’d have a very perfunctory conversation, but in the real community you’ll have a 20-minute conversation about everything — cars, the weather, how their kids are doing, all sorts of things — and that is actually quite lovely.”

For the last two years, Textor has spent roughly eight months of the year rearing 200 sheep, about 20 cattle and agisting a few rescue horses. “I just got the s—s with the city,” he says of his tree change from Sydney’s north shore. “I mean how many people in the city know that this far west, basically the ground is dry and there’s no feed this winter?”

It’s not enough that city people have to deal with their own concerns: they have to be worried about Textor’s as well. We’re just not good enough for him, apparently. This is despite the fact that, in his own words, many of us didn’t matter to him.

I wonder how long it will be until the good folk of Goulburn fail him too? Until he works out that, as with the Liberal Party members who paid his consulting fees, they also don’t matter?

Some advice, Mark: when that happens, don’t come back. You don’t matter to us now, either.



Posted in Flotsam and Jetsam, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Bernard Lewis on Hypothesis Testing

A quotation on hypothesis-testing from the recently-deceased scholar of islam Bernard Lewis, which I saw recently in this article in Quadrant:

The scholar tests his hypothesis against the evidence; he doesn’t test the evidence against his hypothesis, and then accept or reject it, according to whether it fits or does not fit that hypothesis.


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Third Form Belief Preservation – Semmelweis Reflex – Question Time, Didsbury Mosque, Douglas Murray and Mark Steyn

In trying to understand the ways that belief preservation manifests itself, I’ve separated its manifestations into  four different subtypes:

  • First-form belief preservation: actively filtering information, so as to avoid information that challenges existing beliefs, and finding and following information and information sources that support those beliefs; known in reinforcement theory as selective exposure;
  • Second-form belief preservation: unconscious System 1 interpretation and sorting of new information for conformity with existing beliefs, and dismissal of information inconsistent with those beliefs; known in reinforcement theory as selective perception;
  • Third-form belief preservation: actively defending existing beliefs from challenges; incorporates the Semmelweis Reflex (an automatic defence of existing beliefs in response to a challenge); and motivated reasoning (reasoning used to provide grounds for and justify a behaviour, or a pre-existing and/or favoured belief or conclusion, usually by marshalling only supportive and confirmatory evidence, the aim being to rationalise, to create reasons for, one’s pre-existing beliefs); and
  • Fourth-form belief preservation: the tendency to look for evidence supporting and confirming a given explanation for an event or mystery; also known as a positive-test strategy.

I saw a perfect example of third-form belief preservation while watching a Mark Steyn interview of Douglas Murray last weekend. I’ve written out a transcript of the relevant part of the interview: Continue reading

Posted in Belief Preservation, Mind-sets and Logic-Bubbles, Motivated Reasoning, Narrative and Taboo, The Mind & Society, The Suicide of the West | 1 Comment

Two letters in the Financial Times

A letter in Wednesday’s Financial Times from Mark Solon:

Perhaps all the Brexit negotiators could learn from the Dalai Lama, who said: “If there is no solution to the problem then don’t waste time worrying about it. If there is a solution to the problem then don’t waste time worrying about it.”

I realise that every problem either has a solution or it doesn’t. On reflection, actually every problem has a solution, although sometimes that solution is not the one that is best for you. But regardless of this, my question to the Dalai Lama is: what if worrying about the problem is the path along which one finds a solution?

And another, from the same day, from Arnold Holtzman:

The summit between leaders Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un brought to mind a quotation I read by chess grandmaster Savielly Tartakower on a chess game’s opening move. It went: “The mistakes are all there waiting to be made.” I’m sure the Financial Times will keep score.

A genuine insight that I’m glad I now know.



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Postive Versus Normative Philosophy: Your Place in Their Plan

I remember reading many years ago, when studying for my bachelors degree in economics, about the difference between positive and normative economics: the first aimed to describe the world as it is, the other wanted to change the world so that it conformed to the precepts (the ‘norms’) of those doing the conforming.

I think I may have found the equivalent in philosophy. From Monday’s Financial Times, in a story about the photography of the late philosopher Derek Parfit, ‘The philosopher in the darkroom: Derek Parfit’s photographs’:

As Laud and Sokolsy-Tifft put it: “Parfit’s photographs did not depict the two cities as they were but as he thought they should be.” Likewise, he believed that the job of the philosopher is not to describe the beliefs we already have about morality but to change them when, as they often do, they turn out to be false. “By temperament,” Parfit wrote in the introduction to his first book, “I am a revisionist.”

There’s always someone with a programme to change you and me from what we are into what they think we ought to be.

They never seem to realise that their programme is more about their own obsessions with conformity than about the ‘wrongness’ of everyone else. Parfit’s obsessive repeated snapping of certain scenes, followed by his airbrushing from them anything he didn’t like, speaks volumes about his monomania and intolerance. May the gods prevent intolerant nutcases such as this ever taking power again.

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‘I escaped from the Sharia regime in the Swedish suburbs’

Stop for a moment.

Reflect on the patent insanity of that line in the title.

I escaped from the Sharia regime in the Swedish suburbs

When I was growing up, not so long ago, Sweden was famous for prosperity, snow, Abba, mind-blowingly attractive blond women, liberal attitudes to sex, and boring cars.

The Swedish elites decided to risk all of that by taking up a bold experiment in importing tens of thousands of culturally-unassimilable, violent muslims, for no better reason than virtue signalling.

And now there is a regime of Sharia law in the suburbs of Sweden – with the violence and misery for ordinary people that it brings with it.

Research question for sociology and anthropology students: why do the political elites of almost all countries hate and wish to punish their people so?

Full interview with the escapee here.

Posted in Democracy and freedom of mind, Narrative and Taboo, The Mind & Society, The Suicide of the West | Leave a comment

Fearless girl

Feminine delusion made manifest, in bronze, all funded by an infinite supply of fiat currency, envy and wishful thinking.

Fearless, and brainless. And in mortal danger.

But we, as a society, are no longer reality-based. And so we can imagine things such as a young pre-pubescent girl presenting a challenge to a mature bull, thinking that it represents feminine strength and courage, when it actually represents nothing more than dangerous delusion.

The crash back to hard earth is going to be interesting. It’s not just people’s illusions that won’t survive the impact.

Update: FT Alphaville also had a post on the Brainless Fearless Girl statue last week. Of all the comments submitted re. the post, I thought this one, by Barrow Boy, summed up the situation best:

Good move IMO. Fearless Girl:

  • is poorly thought out, essentially depicting a woman standing in the way of economic progress
  • perverts the message of the original artwork, casting the bull (a symbol of optimism) as an oppressive force
  • was a cynical move by SSgA to generate a viral buzz about their new ETF.

Not many people know this, but Charging Bull was cast at the artist’s own (significant) expense as a gift to the city after the ’87 crash. He deserves better than to have the meaning of his gift twisted for advertising purposes.


Now, what’s that new SSgA ETF? It is the SPDR SSGA Gender Diversity Index ETF, ticker SHE, an ETF that tracks the performance of a basket of shares issued by companies ‘that are leaders in advancing women through gender diversity on their boards of directors and in management’.

There you go – you can now bet the house on your belief in the positive effects of gender diversity on wealth creation. Go on – be brainless fearless!

So, how have these gender-diverse companies that comprise SHE performed relative to the companies in the  broad market index, the S&P500? See for yourself.

As was once said, in another context:

That’s a hell of a price to pay for being stylish.

Or fearless, if you prefer.

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John Kay: insight into the mind-set of the ageing policy elite

When I first started reading the Financial Times seventeen years ago, three columnists stood out for the quality of their thought: the film reviewer (whose name I’ve forgotten), Martin Wolf and John Kay.

I don’t know what has happened to the film reviewer. Wolf, while still highly intelligent, blundered badly by taking the Paul Krugman ‘more debt will fix things!’ approach to policy after the financial crisis, so that now I see no point in reading his economics columns. Of the three, a now ageing John Kay maintains his position as a penetrating and insightful columnist.

Evidence of this can be seen in his column of May 10, 2016, which I found by accident on Friday, and parts of which I will share with you below:

But these structures [of class- and religion-based politics] began to break down as Europe became more secular and the influence of race on US politics manifested itself in different ways. The “revolutions” of 1968, essentially frivolous, were preliminary to the emergence of an educated and socially liberal elite, concerned about the environment and engaged with tackling “discrimination”. This elite did not much like business and, indeed, sought to disengage from it. Its economic views, such as they were, were deduced from claims about human rights and stressed abstractions such as global justice and equality. This became the ethos of the leadership of leftwing parties, but resonated little with their traditional working-class base. That base was socially conservative and its economic values emphasised desert over entitlement.

As industry declined, trade union power was concentrated in the public sector and held increasingly by white-collar workers. Who in the 1960s would have imagined that teachers and doctors would become the standard-bearers of militant unionism? Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton’s rival for the Democratic nomination in the US presidential race; Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the UK’s opposition Labour party; US president Barack Obama – all attract adulation from a well-educated minority but lack depth of support in the constituencies in which their parties were once based …

The problem of western democracies such as Britain and the US is that the institutions of a two-party system in which alternating governments compete to attract votes in the centre do not work well when politics is no longer arranged on a one-dimensional spectrum from left to right. Recent political upheavals are only the start of the resulting instability.

Note: this was written one month before the Brexit vote, and six months before the election of US President Donald Trump. Terribly sad that the elites weren’t listening.

Posted in Critical Thinking, Epistemic Rationality, Good Thinking, Sound Reasoning, The Mind & Society, The Suicide of the West | Leave a comment

Esau Problem: The Seiyūkai party in 1930s Japan

Excerpts from pages 152 and 163 of Harukata Takenaka’s Failed Democratization in Prewar Japan: Breakdown of a Hybrid Regime:

The Seiyūkai also encouraged the Privy Council not to approve the ratification of the treaty. Again, it did so expecting that the rejection of the treaty would lead to the cabinet’s resignation. Around this time, Mori Kaku told Harada Kumao: “The cabinet will fall because of this problem. … In the Privy Council the government has finally reached a dead end. … Within four or five days, the government will fall.” The Seiyūkai even held a special party convention on September 16, 1930, at which it asserted that the treaty should be abandoned, expecting that would bring down the government.

The Seiyūkai’s expectations were completely betrayed, however, as the Hamaguchi cabinet overcame obstructions from the military and the Privy Council and ratified the treaty. But, by bringing up the issue of the violation of the supreme command of the emperor, the Seiyūkai contributed greatly to weakening the party government’s position against the military. After signing the treaty, the General Staff of the navy persuaded the navy minister to accept that it also had jurisdiction over naval armaments. In addition, the heated controversy over the violation of the supreme command increased the military’s antipathy toward the party government, as demonstrated in the charter that the Sakurakai adopted to state its objectives at its alleged first meeting in October 1930. The charter reeked with hostility to party government.

It is obvious that poison of politicians which has been recently directed at the navy will soon be targeted at a reduction of the army. Therefore, we, the middle-ranking officers of the army, have to unite together and work hard every day. We have to avoid a recurrence of the navy reduction fiasco as a matter or course and have to have the spirit of cleaning the belly of the corrupted political leaders with patriotic passion.

Although the Seiyūkai had a stake in preserving the semi-democratic regime in the long run, its pursuit of short-term interests – the formation of a Seiyūkai cabinet – actually promoted the military movement against the regime …

How the Seiyūkai reacted to the Hamaguchi cabinet’s signing of the London Naval Treaty also had a deep impact on the relationship between the party government and the military. The Seiyūkai raised the sensitive issue of supreme command in debates in the Diet and criticized the Hamaguchi cabinet for violating the supreme command of the military by signing the treaty despite the opposition of the General Staff of the navy. This had two repercussions. First, it weakened the power of the party government vis-à-vis the military. For a political party, this was nothing less than suicidal. Until then it was widely admitted that, under the Meiji Constitution, the military had autonomy in military operations. Yet, it was not clear which institution – the government or the military – had control over the organizational affairs of the military. The Seiyūkai endorsed the claim of the military that it had autonomy also in organizational affairs. Second, by drawing attention to the violation of the supreme commend of the military, the Seiyūkai radicalized the military.

Assuming, or course, that the people behind these actions didn’t actually want the semi-democratic regime to break down, and to radicalise the military. These days, having seen everything that I’ve seen, this cannot be taken for granted.

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