Abolishing Identity

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

The prevailing ideology of the West – a liberalism that aims at abolishing identity and replacing it with individualism – is actually the third such attempt to stop dividing humanity into Them and Us, Jonathan Sacks writes:

‘The first was Pauline Christianity. Paul famously said, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female” (NIV, Gal. 3:28). Historically, Christianity has been the most successful attempt in history to convert the world to a single faith. Today a third of the population of the world is Christian. But nations continued to exist. So did non- monotheistic faiths. Another monotheism arose, Islam, with a similar aspiration to win the world to its understanding of the will of God. Within Christianity itself there was schism, first between West and East, then between Catholic and Protestant. Within Islam there were Sunni and Shia. The result was that war did not end. There were crusades, jihads, holy wars and civil strife. These led some people to believe that religion is not a way of curing violence but of intensifying it.

‘The second attempt was the European Enlightenment in the eighteenth century. After a devastating series of religious wars there was a genuine belief among European intellectuals that the divisions brought about by faith and dogma could be transcended by the universal truths of reason, philosophy and science. Kant produced a secular equivalent of the idea that we are all in the image of God. He said: treat others as ends, not only means. He also revived the prophetic dream of Isaiah, turning it into a secular programme for ‘perpetual peace’ (1795). Its most famous expression was Beethoven’s setting in the last movement of his Ninth Symphony of Schiller’s ‘Ode to Joy’, with its vision of a time when Alle Menschen werden Brüder – “All men become brothers”.’

[...]

‘The first two attempts were universalist: a universal religion or a universal culture. The third attempt, the one we have been living through for the past half-century, is the opposite. It is the effort to eliminate identity by abolishing groups altogether and instead enthroning the individual. The contemporary West is the most individualistic era of all time. Its central values are in ethics, autonomy; in politics, individual rights; in culture, post- modernism; and in religion, “spirituality”. Its idol is the self, its icon the “selfie”, and its operating systems the free market and the post-ideological, managerial liberal democratic state. In place of national identities we have global cosmopolitanism. In place of communities we have flash-mobs. We are no longer pilgrims but tourists. We no longer know who we are or why.

‘No civilisational order like this has ever appeared before, and we can only understand it in the light of the traumatic failure of the three substitutes for religion: nationalism, communism and race. We are now living through the discontents of individualism and have been since the 1970s. Identity has returned. The tribes are back and fighting more fiercely than ever. The old sources of conflict, religion and ethnicity, are claiming new victims. The anti-modern radicals have learned that you can use the products of modernity without going through the process that produced them, namely Westernisation.’

Double-Muscled Hogs

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

The same myostatin mutation responsible for double-muscled Belgian Blue cattle — and some freakishly muscular humans &mdahs; has been introduced into pigs:

To introduce this mutation in pigs, Kim used a gene-editing technology called a TALEN, which consists of a DNA-cutting enzyme attached to a DNA-binding protein. The protein guides the cutting enzyme to a specific gene inside cells, in this case in MSTN, which it then cuts. The cell’s natural repair system stitches the DNA back together, but some base pairs are often deleted or added in the process, rendering the gene dysfunctional.

The team edited pig fetal cells. After selecting one edited cell in which TALEN had knocked out both copies of the MSTN gene, Kim’s collaborator Xi-jun Yin, an animal-cloning researcher at Yanbian University in Yanji, China, transferred it to an egg cell, and created 32 cloned piglets.

Double-Muscled Hogs

Yin says that preliminary investigations, show that the pigs provide many of the double-muscled cow’s benefits — such as leaner meat and a higher yield of meat per animal. However, they also share some of its problems. Birthing difficulties result from the piglets’ large size, for instance. And only 13 of the 32 lived to 8 months old. Of these, two are still alive, says Yin, and only one is considered healthy.

Rather than trying to create meat from such pigs, Kim and Yin plan to use them to supply sperm that would be sold to farmers for breeding with normal pigs. The resulting offspring, with one disrupted MSTN gene and one normal one, would be healthier, albeit less muscly, they say; the team is now doing the same experiment with another, newer gene-editing technology called CRISPR/Cas9. Last September, researchers reported using a different method of gene editing to develop new breeds of double-muscled cows and double-muscled sheep (C. Proudfoot et al. Transg. Res. 24, 147–153; 2015).

Why The Next Sports Empire Will Be Built On eSports

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

So-called eSports tournaments are reaching audiences of tens of millions:

Last year’s League of Legends championship, for example, drew nearly 30 million viewers, putting it in line with the combined viewership of the 2014 MLB and NBA finals, or the series finales of Breaking Bad and Two and a Half Men, plus the Season 4 finale of Game of Thrones. As with most sports, competitive gaming is now firmly entrenched in the US college system. The country’s largest collegiate league counts more than 10,000 active players, some of whom are on full athletic scholarships. Eager to capitalize on growing interest in the sport, Major League Gaming (MLG) opened the first dedicated domestic eSports arena in October 2014, and major brands such as Ford, American Express and Coke have begun forming partnerships with game developers, teams, players, event organizers and video distributors. What’s more, the US Department of State has been issuing athlete visas to competitive gamers since 2013.

[...]

In March 2015, Twitch averaged more than 600,000 simultaneous viewers, reached an audience of 51M worldwide and delivered more than 26B minutes of video entertainment. On a domestic basis, 11B minutes were watched in March – representing roughly 14 hours for each of the 13M American viewers. This consumption is so great that Twitch is already larger than 70% of American television networks, as well as Amazon’s own OTT video service.

However, the value of this consumption isn’t just its magnitude. An estimated 70% of all viewers are under the age of 35, making Twitch’s audience both highly valuable to advertisers and hard to reach via traditional television. Moreover, eSports fans, unlike linear TV viewers, are highly engaged in the content. Major League Gaming, for instance, consistently beats the industry average on key digital ad metrics such as completion rates (90% vs. 72%), click-through rates (4% vs. 2%), and ad viewability (99% vs. 44%). What’s more, Twitch shows little sign of slowing down. Total minutes delivered (both domestic and abroad) have grown by an average of 7% each month for the past three years, while per viewer consumption has doubled over that same period.

[...]

Despite ever-growing consumer interest and potential, eSports are still far from becoming an industry. In 2014, eSports generated less than $200M in revenue worldwide, including sponsorship, advertising, licensing, ticket sales and game-publisher investment according to Newzoo. By comparison, the US-only NFL and MLB gross roughly $10 billion a year each, while the European professional soccer/football leagues generate close to $21 billion.

Even as eSports tournaments have proliferated and audiences have expanded into the millions, the value of these tournaments continues to languish. The average event offers only $18,000 in total prize winnings (a figure almost unchanged from 1998) and 2014’s 1,990 tournaments handed out a relatively unimpressive $35M collectively. The largest prize pool did surge in 2014, from $3M to $11M, but only five players made more than $1M during the year. The remaining 6,200 e-athletes took home an average of $7,000.

Moneyball for Life

Monday, June 29th, 2015

Michael Lewis (Moneyball) pens an imaginary letter from Harvard Admissions to the Harvard Management Company about what traits predict whether a student will accumulate a Wall Street fortune — and then share it with the school:

Self-importance. The odds that a child will make outlandish sums of money when he grows up turns out to be strongly correlated with his willingness to challenge adult authority when that authority does not give him exactly what he wants. At bottom, he does not accept any authority higher than himself.

An extreme need for external validation. By sifting teacher recommendations for such phrases as “intellectual passion” and “an ability to lose himself in a subject,” and avoiding the students so described, we can locate those students most likely to have achieved high grades for the so-called wrong reasons. Above all we will seek to avoid students who think they have some “calling,” as they are anathema to Harvard’s mission.

The X factor. It consists, in part, of the ability to seem to be a selfless collaborator while in fact acting in a narrowly selfish manner.

We in admissions can almost hear you in Harvard Management thinking: It’s all well and good to find future billionaires, but that is only half the battle. How do we persuade them to share their fortune with Harvard? Herein lies the beauty of our algorithm. The very qualities in children most likely to lead them to great financial fortune also render them predisposed, as adults, to giving those fortunes to rich universities, instead of, say, charitable organizations that actually need the money. They weren’t put on earth to alleviate human suffering, or to make it a different and better place. They were put on earth to erect a building with their name on it, in a place it can be seen and admired by other people like them!

Harvard has already performed this analysis, Steve Sailer says:

The reason Harvard is still Harvard is because they invested a lot of talent in the 20th Century into statistical analyses of whom to admit.

Years ago, an anonymous commenter at iSteve asserted that he had held this exact job of moneyballing which kind of students were likely to donate to the Famous University. And his models confirmed what you’d expect: the people most likely to write checks with a lot of digits to the alma mater are the ones the college would prefer not to admit if they weren’t so generous: white, male, jockish, legacy, fratty, and relatively conservative politically. He said the college would never admit this publicly, but the administration is very aware of the stats of who gives and who doesn’t.

Why is Your Axe So Bloody?

Monday, June 29th, 2015

Tyler Cowen just taught Njal’s Saga in Law and Literature, and he enjoyed re-reading it more than he expected:

The core model is that arbitration is binding, provided the expected outcome does not stray too far from what violence would bring.  The best way to go through the book is first to master the internal story of sections 121–145, then read to the end, and finally go to the beginning.  A recommended guide is William Ian Miller’s Why is your axe bloody?; yes that is the same Miller who wrote very good books on disgust and humiliation.

Diverse New Avengers

Sunday, June 28th, 2015

The newest incarnation of the Avangers will be diverse:

“I like the fact that we ended up with an Avengers team with one white guy on it,” said Mark Waid, who will be writing the new Avengers series.

That one white guy will be Tony Stark, also known as Iron Man, a core Avengers member. The new team will also include usual cohorts Thor and Captain America, but not the versions of the characters so many have grown up with. Instead, the female Thor (Jane Foster) and the black Captain America (Sam Wilson, otherwise known as Falcon), who debuted to much controversy last year, will join the crew.

Avengers, All-New, All-Different

The team will also feature Spider-Man, but not the classic Peter Parker incarnation of the character. Marvel made waves a few days ago when it announced that Miles Morales, a young man of black and Hispanic descent, would be the main Spider-Man in the Marvel universe. Now Morales will also be an Avenger.

Victims and Offenders

Sunday, June 28th, 2015

Lawrence Auster contributed to FrontPage Magazine until 2007, when he shared some rather shocking statistics in its pages:

To see the real truth of the matter, let us take a look at the Department of Justice document Criminal Victimization in the United States, 2005. (Go to the linked document, and under “Victims and Offenders” download the pdf file for 2005.)

In Table 42, entitled “Personal crimes of violence, 2005, percent distribution of single-offender victimizations, based on race of victims, by type of crime and perceived race of offender,” we learn that there were 111,590 white victims and 36,620 black victims of rape or sexual assault in 2005.

(The number of rapes is not distinguished from those of sexual assaults; it is maddening that sexual assault, an ill-defined category that covers various types of criminal acts ranging from penetration to inappropriate touching, is conflated with the more specific crime of rape.)

In the 111,590 cases in which the victim of rape or sexual assault was white, 44.5 percent of the offenders were white, and 33.6 percent of the offenders were black. In the 36,620 cases in which the victim of rape or sexual assault was black, 100 percent of the offenders were black, and 0.0 percent of the offenders were white. The table explains that 0.0 percent means that there were under 10 incidents nationally.

Politics and Self-Control

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

There is a link between political ideology and the ability to exert self-control:

In a series of three studies with more than 300 participants, the authors found that people who identify as conservative perform better on tests of self-control than those who identify as liberal regardless of race, socioeconomic status and gender.

They also report that participants’ performance on the tests was influenced by how much they believed in the idea of free will, which the researchers define as the belief that a person is largely responsible for his or her own outcomes.

For example, conservatives who are more likely to embrace the idea of free will overwhelmingly agreed with statements like “Strength of mind can always overcome the body’s desires” and “People can overcome any obstacles if they truly want to.”

“Conservatives tend to believe they had a greater control over their outcomes, and that was predicting how they did on the test,” said Joshua Clarkson, a consumer psychologist at the University of Cincinnati and the lead author of the paper.

To screen for self-control, Clarkson and his colleagues relied on the Stroop test that asks participants to look at a list of color words such as “red” or “blue” that are printed in mismatching color fonts. (Picture the word “orange” printed in green letters.) Volunteers were asked to read the words, ignoring the color of the font, which can be challenging.

200 Blackfeet Loose in an American City

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

James LaFond writes back to a kindred spirit to explain what Robert E. Howard was really about:

Ishmael, Howard, it seems, was widely misunderstood as an action writer, where he actually wrote about the same stuff that Lovecraft and a modern college professor named Andy Nowicki, wrote and write about in an academic flavored mire of internal conflict. Howard’s genius was that he wrote about alienation in such a belligerent manner from both perspectives: the civilized female and the barbaric man. There is not a simper, or a whine, or a doubt in the mind of the alien barbarian, like there is in the tormented souls of Lovecraft’s and Nowicki’s soft civilized victims of alienation.

Not only are the atmospherics of Howard’s stories horrific rather than fantastic, the action is so brutal that he skips the physicality. He’s not a biomechanical writer that will describe the gelatinous slide of a cleaved part from the rest of the body — but goes right to the emotion of defiance, dominance, conquest and racial hatred.

To me, reading in my youth, and in my prime, and now on the downward side of life, what Howard wrote about in 1933-34 was the ultimate corruption of Civilized Man, of what he saw American society eventually becoming — of course, presented to his editor in a fantastical veiled manner — as seen through the eyes of a hero that strides onto the scene not to set things right, but to punish the weak and greedy and powerful that thrive therein, and then to fade into legend as the whole rotten world goes up in flames. In other words, I see Howard’s fantasy and historical settings as his premonition of our moral predicament, and his heroes such as Kull, Kane and Conan [and Conan most of all] as a type of moral time traveler from a primal age, come to show us what our ancestors would think of Modernity. I get his drift as being along the lines of your suggestion that it would be great fun to bring forward 200 Blackfeet warriors from 1800 and set them loose in an American city.

What Robert E. Howard brings us, as an Aryan mystic obsessed with that which we are driven by our material demons to forget, is the judgment of our ancestors, for our fall, not from grace, but from an honored place.

Shooter Ready

Friday, June 26th, 2015

Shooter Ready, a 1987 instructional video starring IPSC champion Rob Leatham, is totally ’80s — but fundamentally sound:

Gone with the Wind Gone with the Wind

Friday, June 26th, 2015

In our current climate, I feel like Gone with the Wind may soon be gone with the wind — or at least gone from Amazon and other “reputable” retailers.

Ironically, Amazon was promoting Dukes of Hazzard recently. I tried to watch the pilot, for free, since I vaguely recalled the show from my childhood, but I found it unwatchable.

Inverse Weathervanes

Friday, June 26th, 2015

Sociology is useful, Razib Khan pointed out, because it has negative predictive value — which is odd, Gregory Cochran notes:

There are a lot more possible wrong theories than right ones — which means that identifying the right theories is difficult. Identifying anti-correct theories, exact negatives of the truth, should be just as difficult. Perverse, too, of course, but who’s counting?

Considering that sociologists typically deny the very existence of some of the most important causal factors on human behavior (like genetics), you’d think their theories would make about as much sense as Galenic medicine or Freudian psychology — not even wrong. Their theories should not make antisense — more like random nonsense.

Probably they manage this by denying experience. Experience can show that a method works centuries before anyone has a correct theory of why it works. There are things that your grandmother (and her grandmother) knew — (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, blood is thicker than water) — and without those grannies, sociologists wouldn’t know what to disbelieve.

Rangerettes are Back At It

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

The Rangerettes are back at it. Here’s how the process works:

And just like clockwork, here’s Phase II of the entirely predictable campaign to lower standards for women until they can compete, without regard to the consequences of such a policy.

Phase I, of course, is to admit women to the competition under the express condition that standards will in no way be lowered even if every female candidate fails. Phase II is, when all of the female candidates fail, immediately start pressuring everyone concerned to say that obviously the women failed because of discrimination. Phase III will be to create a loophole or different scoring system so women who fail the course are deemed to have passed anyway.

Phase IV will be sending soldiers home in body bags because members of their unit couldn’t hack it but were included anyway out of political correctness, but we never talk about Phase IV. I mean, even less than we never talk about the first three phases.

All Confederate Flags Must Go

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

Apple has pulled everything from the App Store that features a Confederate flag, regardless of context. That includes all Civil War games.

A Product of Status, Wealth and Freedom

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

The self-serving Leftist mythology is that it is a product of oppression, but, Bruce Charlton argues, the opposite is the case:

Leftism is always a product of increasing wealth and freedom — or indeed of established luxury and status.

The earliest Leftists were the industrial proletariat — who were probably the wealthiest and free-est working class group who existed in the world at that time. Early (middle to late 19th century) socialism became established, therefore, among the well-paid workers in the urban areas and among new industries such as coal mining, shipyards, steel making etc.

For example, the late 19th century miners in Newcastle upon Tyne were so wealthy (for their time) that they were renowned for their fancy clothes and expensive pastimes such as drinking, gambling and having fun. They were, indeed, so well-off that their wives did not need to earn any money — and it became a source of ‘macho’ pride to be a sufficiently successful bread-winner that the wife would stay at home and look after the house.

Socialist miners formed the backbone or shock-troops of British socialism until the unsuccessful strike of 1984.

Meanwhile, a few miles down the road, the farm workers remained extremely poor, with no money left over for fun and games, and their wives and children needed to work as much as possible simply to get enough to eat.

Yet Leftist parties almost always opposed the Industrial revolution, which — following Marx’s mistake/ deliberate error — they depicted as impoverishing the working class. In fact, as Greg Clark shows in A Farewell To Alms, the Industrial Revolution benefited the poor far more than the rich — and ended up by abolishing structural poverty altogether — fought every inch of the way by socialism, which afterwards re-wrote history and took the credit for the improvements.

If you read honest memoirs by the likes of Shelby Steele and Thomas Sowell, it can be seen that an analogous situation applied in the USA. The ‘civil rights’ era came after the great improvements in the wealth, status and freedom of the ex-slave population in the USA the situation. As usual, Leftism took credit for, and exploited, what had already been achieved without Leftism, and indeed most fought by the most Leftist parties.

[...]

Thus Leftism is a phenomenon invariably associated with increasing wealth, freedom and status — because when people really are oppressed, poor and miserable they are too weak — when the laws and social practices really are against them, when they really are ‘minorities’ — people are much too frightened, vulnerable and exhausted (and with good reason!) to become Leftists and mount political campaigns.