Paglia on Personal Responsibility

As a polemicist Camille Paglia is hard to beat. Consider this remark from her in America, the magazine of American Jesuits:

After the great victory won by my insurgent, pro-sex, pro-fashion wing of feminism in the 1990s, American and British feminism has amazingly collapsed backward again into whining, narcissistic victimology. As in the hoary old days of Gloria Steinem and her Stalinist cohorts, we are endlessly subjected to the hackneyed scenario of history as a toxic wasteland of vicious male oppression and gruesome female suffering. College campuses are hysterically portrayed as rape extravaganzas where women are helpless fluffs with no control over their own choices and behavior. I am an equal opportunity feminist: that is, I call for the removal of all barriers to women’s advance in the professional and political realms. However, I oppose special protections for women, which I reject as demeaning and infantilizing. My principal demand (as I have been repeating for nearly 25 years) is for colleges to confine themselves to education and to cease their tyrannical surveillance of students’ social lives. If a real crime is committed, it must be reported to the police. College officials and committees have neither the expertise nor the legal right to be conducting investigations into he said/she said campus dating fiascos. Too many of today’s young feminists seem to want hovering, paternalistic authority figures to protect and soothe them, an attitude I regard as servile, reactionary and glaringly bourgeois. The world can never be made totally safe for anyone, male or female: there will always be sociopaths and psychotics impervious to social controls. I call my system “street-smart feminism”: there is no substitute for wary vigilance and personal responsibility.

Like her or loathe her, she’s unfailingly entertaining.


Of Course They’re Medical Devices

I can’t decide whether to be happy or sad about this story. You may have read some of the reports about smartphone apps that can identify whether that mole is melanoma or not. Well, the FTC is cracking down on them for false or misleading advertising:

The Federal Trade Commission has challenged marketers for deceptively claiming their mobile apps could detect symptoms of melanoma, even in its early stages. In two separate cases, marketers of MelApp and Mole Detective have agreed to settlements that bar them from continuing to make such unsupported claims. The agency is pursuing charges against two additional marketers of Mole Detective who did not agree to settle.

According to the FTC’s complaints, each of the apps instructed users to photograph a mole with a smartphone camera and input other information about the mole. The apps then purported to calculate the mole’s melanoma risk as low, medium, or high. The FTC alleged that the marketers deceptively claimed the apps accurately analyzed melanoma risk and could assess such risk in early stages. The marketers lacked adequate evidence to support such claims, the FTC charged.

“Truth in advertising laws apply in the mobile marketplace,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “App developers and marketers must have scientific evidence to support any health or disease claims that they make for their apps.”

The story goes on to list the companies involved. The fines that have been levied ($18,000 and $4,000) may not be enough to deter anybody from anything and it’s far from done deal as whether the FTC will ever be able to collect.

The story does raise some interesting issues, however. Of course these apps are medical devices. I don’t understand how anybody thinks there’s any ambiguity about that. They’re making medical claims.

But there’s not enough in this report to determine whether these apps are actually totally bogus or their developers have done original and creative research. It doesn’t say the claims are false just that they haven’t been proven true which isn’t the same thing. And it’s not entirely clear what they mean by that.

It would also be interesting to know who alerted the FTC to these apps. Was it consumers who felt they’d been mislead or dermatologists who were afraid they were losing business? I can imagine how an app like the ones described could actually increase dermatologists’ business.


The Boiled Frog

I want to draw your attention to a wonderful post on the situation in Ukraine from William Polk at Sic Semper Tyrannis:

In a rather ghastly 19th century experiment, a biologist by the name of Heinzmann found that if he placed a frog in boiling water, the frog immediately leapt out but that if he placed the frog in tepid water and then gradually heated it, the frog stayed put until he was scalded to death. Are we like the frog? I see disturbing elements of that process today as we watch events unfold in the Ukraine confrontation. They profoundly frighten me and I believe they should frighten everyone. But they are so gradual that we do not see a specific moment in which we must jump or perish. So here briefly, let me lay out the process of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and show how the process of that crisis compares with what we face today over the Ukraine.

As I commented at the post what Heinzmann’s experiment demonstrated was that if you heated the water gradually enough the frog would not jump out. If you raised the fire more rapidly all but brainless frogs jumped out (and, yes, they actually removed frogs’ brains in these experiments). We are not a patient people, we’ve been increasing the heat too rapidly, this frog is ready to jump, and the consequences of our raising the fire again at this point could be very dire indeed.

Read the whole thing.


They’re Saying That As Though It Were a Good Thing

I’m going to admit right off the bat that I haven’t read the article at Slate I’m linking to. It’s just that its title struck me funny: “The Solar Business Now Employs More Americans Than Coal Mining”. It reminded me of the old joke about the lawyer who appealed for mercy for his client, on trial for murdering his parents, because he was an orphan.


Mickey Mouse Inflation

There’s an interesting post at National Inflation Association on the relationship between the official rate of inflation and tickets to Disneyland. Over the years tickets to Disneyland have tracked the official rate of inflation pretty well. But not now:

Disney’s 2015 price increase of 6.06% is an unbelievable 8.96X higher than America’s latest official full year price inflation rate of only 0.68%! For comparison, NIA has just created and published for you below an exclusive must see chart, which displays the ratio between Disney’s Magic Kingdom Price Inflation and the BLS’s CPI Price Inflation. You will see that Disney’s 2015 Magic Kingdom price increase has exceeded the latest official rate of U.S. price inflation – by the largest ratio in history!

Lots of charts and graphs.

The obvious retort is that one price increase doth not make an increase in inflation. However, for the last year of so the official rate of inflation has diverged pretty strongly from what the Billion Price Project has found, despite the previous close tracking of the two. That suggests to me that there may be a problem with the official rate.


Give the Lady What You Want

Speaking of sprawl, Alana Semuels writes about how homebuilders are returning to their pre-recession plans and practices:

LAS VEGAS—A decade ago, home builders put up thousands of new spacious stucco homes in the desert here, with marble countertops, ample square footage, and walk-in kitchen cupboards.

Then the recession hit, the values of these homes plummeted, and economists talked of the overbuilding of Las Vegas.

Now, though, developers are building once again, on projects derailed during the recession, including master-planned communities such as the 1,700-acre Skye Canyon, the 2,700-acre Park Highlands, the 1,900-acre Inspirada, and 555 acres of luxury living in an area called Summerlin.

The homes being built here and in many cities across the country look very similar to the ones built during the boom. Some, in fact, are even bigger. The average single-family home built in 2013 was 2,598 square feet, 80 feet larger than the average single-family house built in 2008, and 843 feet larger than homes built in 1978, according to Census Bureau data.

I think there are a lot of reasons for this. People are strongly predisposed to keep doing what they have been doing, what they know how to do, and what’s worked for them in the past. Builders build. They already have the designs and skills for the McMansions.

What’s unclear is whether people are buying them or whether they’d actually prefer something else. You don’t choose from the entire realm of possibilities when you go to buy a house but from among what’s actually on the market.

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New Faces of 2016

James Taranto surveys the field of prospective Democratic presidential candidates—Webb, Warren, Sanders, Biden:

There’s not a lot of young blood here. At 65, Warren is the most youthful of the lot. Webb, Sanders and Biden are 69, 73 and 72, respectively. (The oldest president ever elected, Ronald Reagan, was 69 in 1980 and four years older four years later.) For that, elderly Democrats can thank President Obama: “The sad thing is that we’re losing all these promising young guys who were the future of the party,” David Axelrod’s memoir quotes the president as saying “glumly” on election night 2010.

Before getting around to the target of his commentary, Hillary Clinton (67).

I could vote for Jim Webb. I could also vote for Warren, Sanders, or Biden depending on how vile the Republican candidate will be. I cannot vote for Hillary Clinton. If it’s Clinton vs. Cruz, I’ll think about moving to another country.



Yesterday’s mayoral election here in which incumbent Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel sought re-election against a field of opponents, many of whom most Chicagoans had never heard, will be forced into a run-off election:

Rahm Emanuel failed to win a second term Tuesday, suffering a national political embarrassment as little-known, lesser-funded challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia forced the mayor into the uncharted waters of an April runoff election.

It’s the first time Chicago has had a runoff campaign for mayor, which is what happens when none of the candidates eclipses the 50 percent benchmark in round one.

With 98 percent of the city’s precincts counted, unofficial results showed Emanuel with 45.4 percent and Cook County commissioner Garcia at 33.9 percent. Businessman Willie Wilson had 10.6 percent, 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti had 7.4 percent and frequent candidate William “Dock” Walls was at 2.8 percent.

Emanuel, who spent millions on TV ads to try to repair his image with voters following a difficult four years, attempted to portray optimism and patience despite the results.

The prevailing wisdom on this result echoes what the mayor and his supporters have been saying—Emanuel will win the run-off in a walk. I strongly suspect it will be a hard-fought race. Everything depends on what you think happened yesterday.

I think that a majority of Chicagoans were too dispirited too vote and the majority of those that did voted for “Anybody But Emanuel”. The open questions about the run-off are whether more voters will show up for the run-off than did for the general election and whether those who do will support Emanuel.

The mayor’s position, apparently, is that he will be able to attract enough Garcia voters, Wilson voters, Fioretti voters, and Walls voters to garner 50% of the vote plus 1. Maybe. But he will still be Rahm Emanuel and Chuy Garcia won’t be.

There’s more commentary in the round-up at memeorandum.


Losing Their Minds

There’s an interesting review of Susan Greenfield’s book, How Digital Technologies Are Leaving Their Mark on Our Brains at the Washington Post you might want to take a look at. Here’s it’s kernel:

Greenfield asserts that the digital revolution exploits our biological propensity for mindlessness. She cites laboratory studies finding that social networking and video gaming trigger dopamine in the same manner as junk food and Ecstasy. Moreover, she contends, because cyberspace lacks causal sequence, is devoid of immediate consequences and gives instant access to information without guidance, our attention spans shrink, deeper thinking declines and interpersonal bonds wither. Hardest hit are “Digital Natives,” whose “impressionable, plastic brains” are born into an environment that upends thousands of years of evolution.

I don’t think that things are quite that bleak. I recall nearly 50 years ago when I was taking a psycholinguistics class the class broke to watch a brand new television program, Sesame Street. After the program we reconvened to discuss what we’d seen. The consensus was that Sesame Street would facilitate something that was already happening, a progressive loss of attention span.

That the new modes of communication will have cognitive, behavioral, and social effects can hardly be denied at this point. My nieces and nephews find the movies of 70 years ago very difficult to follow. It isn’t the social differences but that the approach to storytelling used is just too leisurely for them. IMO the high speed, high reward, and non-linear approaches to communication will change what makes sense to people in ways that are hard to predict. My suspicion is that the people of the future won’t “lose their minds” but those minds will be less like our than ours are like the minds of people who lived 300 years ago with the exception of memory. Memory will be nearly forgotten. Why remember anything when you can just google it?


Debt to GDP by Country

There’s an interesting article (mostly tables) at zerohedge on debt to GDP ratios by country. Here’s the conclusion:

We have written on this topic on countless occasions in the past, so we will be brief: either the Fed inflates this debt away, or one can kiss any hope of economic growth goodbye, even if that means even more central bank rate cuts, more QEs everywhere, and stock markets trading at +? while the middle class around the globe disappears and only the 0.001% is left standing.

The only two observations I can contribute are that a) the major economies aren’t buying a lot of economic growth with all that debt and b) in this regard our trajectory isn’t as bad as some other countries, e.g. China.