Ann Althouse, the Green Reaper and Calculus

Yesterday Ann Althouse wrote about the Green Reaper mascot that the Department of Energy created in 2013, a monster that was sent out to elementary schools during the Obama era.  She appends this note:  

Wow! It was designed to scare children! I remember being scared through my entire childhood by the threat of nuclear bombs. And for thousands of years, people have scared children about Hell. The fact that you’re sure a threat is real doesn’t justify scaring children. I laughed at this mascot at first, but it really shows how evil people are towards children.”

Greens are all over the schools like a bad rash, terrifying children all day every day about global warming and species loss. Green has been infused through every subject. Maps and charts from green organizations hang in every classroom and library and cafeteria.  All of them seed fear and lies into the hearts and minds of the most vulnerable.    

I append this note: Green math is crap. Even I can break it down. The assumptions are flawed, the spatial equations are flawed, the sampling is bullshit, every single number is politicized. We do not know what is happening to the physical world, because greens have polluted the science to the point where it only lies. And by the way, green economics suffers from the same failings. I was excited by it enough to dig into it. I wanted to believe. I even devised my own case study: building a carbon-neutral LEED-certified house. And no. Just no. Green econometrics are fantasy-land. Green economics is as false and destructive as erstwhile Soviet 5-year plans.

This fact, when I came upon it, researching EcoFascists actually terrified me, that something so fundamental to human knowledge, so based on the proper measurement of the real world had been annexed by political interests and falsified.

A note about me and math.  I was so busy flirting in my freshman year in college, that I received 0 in math at Christmas, and managed to just pass with 51%.  I decided to retake it and my then boyfriend, now a heart surgeon, beat it into me over a period of 8 weeks. Result:  87%   Then, when I decided to get an MBA, I nailed myself to the couch and taught myself calculus, first reviewing trig and intermediate algebra.  This isn’t as hard as it sounds.  There are dozens of workbooks that will walk the average punter through the maze.  I respect math because it took me so long to master it.  I recognize that most people cannot be bothered to look behind the assertions of outfits like the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and the thousands of others, but I will bet $1000 that every single major assertion they make is based on flawed math.

    The very worst thing, given this blanket obfuscation of the truth, is that we don’t know what the real problems are.

The Dopamine hit always wins

If we learned anything this week, it is that it is virtually impossible to censor the hive on the net.  The media attempt to crucify a bunch of Catholic schoolboys was stopped by a titanic blowback by tens of thousands of unconnected individuals that only crashing Facebook and Twitter for four days could have stopped. One expects massive reordering in the media business over the next six months, as bosses figure out how to prevent the next horror show.  This will only add to their current attrition. The Washington Post reported yesterday that Buzzfeed, HuffPost, Gannet, Vice, Vox, Mic, Refinery 29, etc have shed up to 10% of their staff recently.  At Conde Nast, the once titanic Vogue is losing $150 million a year, and lynchpin Glamour, which once had a circulation of over a million has gone digital.  I wouldn’t want to be sitting in a newsroom these days.  Attrition is across the board and the only survivors are small operations who are hitting the actual news with regularity, and these, at present, are almost exclusively on the right and 100% digital.  The Atlantic is now supported by Steve Jobs widow, and it will be a while before she gets tired of losing a hundred million a year.  But she will tire of it.

I won’t belabor the media shaming of last weekend, but when I went through on-the-job training at Time Magazine before it was turned into a piece of garbage, both errors – #CovingtonBoys and Buzzfeed’s claim that Trump told his sleazy lawyer to lie to the FBI – would have led to the wholesale firing of every single individual involved.  Today, of course, that would have meant that every single newspaper, magazine and network news show would have lost 80% of their reporters, editors and fact checkers, not that these latter exist anymore.

People on the right have for the past five years panicked at the attempts of the millennials in Silicon Valley to censor right-of-center thought and posters of said thought.  Facebook alone has 15,000 moderators trying to work out what is acceptable speech.  This has led, hilariously enough to the demand for regulation and even trust busting by ‘public intellectuals’ who have built their careers on calling for less government.

Over Christmas, the New York Times explained to us rubes just how diligent the digital emperors are in rooting out disallowed speech:

The guidelines for identifying hate speech, a problem that has bedeviled Facebook, run to 200 jargon-filled, head-spinning pages. Moderators must sort a post into one of three “tiers” of severity. They must bear in mind lists like the six “designated dehumanizing comparisons,” among them comparing Jews to rats.

In the December issue of Wired Magazine, an essayist compared Alex Jones to Voldemort and attempted to prove that Jones had to be de-platformed because he was evil.  The writer then proceeds to call for a culture-wide disallowing of thought with which he disagrees.

Legislators, courts, users, and the platforms themselves have to be involved. There are some precedents we could use from older technologies. Some updated version of the fairness doctrine, which required radio and television stations to devote time to issues of public importance and seek out a multiplicity of views, could be revived for the digital age. We could come up with a kind of Fair Credit Reporting Act that gives users a right to challenge a platform banishment. There could be antitrust actions against centralized platforms (along with user protections), or upstarts could offer alternatives (with better business models). As with most social problems, we have to accept that there is no single, perfect solution, no avoiding trade-offs, and also that inaction is a decision too.

Good luck with that baby-people.  The insults, mockery, job losses, humiliations, of the last few days indicates that there is no stopping humans addicted to the dopamine hit of truth-telling.  Maybe try some.

Gwyneth and Samin Nozrat will save us

It occurred to me last night, as I was assembling the thirty ingredients for a recipe from a cookbook received for Christmas, that cookery and the pursuit of beauty will integrate us far faster than hate speech laws, sensitivity training and the hectoring of our superiors.  Our senses are ravenous for novelty and where is it easily acquired?  The culture of the mysterious other.  Two of the three cookbooks I recently acquired focus intensively on Middle-Eastern and Asian cookery, and because I am bored rustling up the usual European country fare or Waspish hunks of roasted meat, I will inevitably slide over to Iranian-American Samin Nozrat or Donna Hay’s investigation of Middle Eastern cookery or even in a mad courageous moment OttoLenghi who remains the ascendant god in cookery circles. Even his salad ingredients can be 20 ingredients long, and mastering that complexity is a perfect antidote for the bored and restless.

Upper-middle-class women have defined culture for five thousand years. Even in these ferociously egalitarian days, the shoppers, the drivers of the marketplace are women of leisure.  Women with or without children with the time and money and taste to beautify their lives and the lives of their family are the culture, the Ting, the investigators and originators of pleasures high and low.  Without them, capitalism falters and fails.  Everyone follows them whether they like it or not.  And who are they following?  Gwyneth Paltrow and cooks like Iranian-American Samin Nosrat, who trained at Panisse and has a four-part hit Netflix show on the refinement of the fundamentals of cooking.

I would argue that these days we are all upper-middle-class women, especially those in the gig economy because more often than not, in the leisure time provided by the gig economy, we acquire and investigate in their footsteps.

Paltrow’s Goop does the same for beauty and fashion, and Paltrow, with her blend of crazy and gorgeous married to vertiginous prices, owns the space.  There is no better marketer around, the Chinese and Koreans knock her off within seconds, selling her products to the less well-heeled at a fraction of the price.  Paltrow draws from every culture, Korean, Indian, African, whatever, if it promises grooming or health that will put its user ahead in the sexual game, Goop editors don’t care, up it goes on the site, and eagerly purchased it is.  I  cannot wait for the update from the seraglio.

The NYTimes Magazine published an essay last weekend trying to establish why the hell animals display beauty beyond the mating season.  This observation is frustrating to the usual reader of the NYTimes because properly, everything must be reduced to its utilitarian purpose.  But in fact, as the writer observes:

“Sometimes beauty is the glorious but meaningless flowering of arbitrary preference. Animals simply find certain features — a blush of red, a feathered flourish — to be appealing. And that innate sense of beauty itself can become an engine of evolution, pushing animals toward aesthetic extremes. In other cases, certain environmental or physiological constraints steer an animal toward an aesthetic preference that has nothing to do with survival whatsoever.”

Turning our attention to beauty and pleasure is probably a lot healthier than engaging in the psychotic shrieks of alarm that pervade our public lives.  And when next we turn around, all will be peace.

Heart Berries, Land Rights and Reconciliation

I am reading happily along in a memoir I have just discovered, published last year to near-universal acclaim by a young indigenous woman from Sea-bird band, when I lose my way and it takes some time to find it again.  Heart Berries is by  Terese Marie Maillot,35, from the Interior Salish tribe, the ancestral range of which stretches through British Columbia, Washington state and Oregon.   I was excited that there was a literary voice from a nearby native clan to whom I could relate.  Plus, reading the memoir of young women, especially those once marginalized, is like visiting one’s shadow teen self, with all the chaos, narcissism and bone-shaking insight of that time. Maillot is driven near mad from childhood sexual abuse, her mother’s death, losing her son to his birth father and finally, losing the (Anglo) man she loves, and eventually marries.  A spell in the looney bin, ‘Indian sickness’, she calls it, rescues her.  As does a sexual need so strong that satisfied, pitches her into an ecstasy which makes her life worth living. Maillot’s is a success story. Her talent, her willingness to strip herself naked, her steel, put her in a position where graduate schools paid for the privilege of teaching her.

Rupi Kaur, the Iranian-Canadian poet’s Milk and Honey is written along those lines, as were Elizabeth Wurtzel’s various addiction memoirs, The Chronology of Water, Wild, Cherry, and so on.  So intimate you cannot tear away your attention, the imminent train wreck almost certain, these are dispatches from a country still not fully charted.

Over the past thirty years, specific indigenous educational programs have helped stand up native culture in a way Maillot’s activist mother couldn’t have anticipated. I personally think this is a good thing.  However, and this is crucial, early on in Heart Berries, Maillot claims that Canada’s residential school system was so brutal that priests and nuns stacked the bones of native children inside new school buildings.  An American friend, who lives on the far side of Bohemia made this claim a few years ago. Metaphor is necessary among victims, she insisted.  No, it’s not. Beefing up the crimes of the past to force reconciliation only causes more resentment, more anger, and down the road, payback.  The New York Times review of Heart Berries repeated this falsity, thereby ensuring it will be considered fact down the line. The source is a mad priest looking for a gig, encouraged by the truly terrible people who continue to feed off Aboriginal communities.  In the ongoing mess of reconciliation, contested land rights, and, with luck, down the road, a form of integration, surely it is not too much to ask for the truth.

New Year’s Resolve

Plain words on plain paper.

Remember what Orwell says, that good prose is like a windowpane.

Cut every page you write by at least a third.

Stop constructing those piffling little similes of yours.

Work out what you want to say. Then say it in the most direct and vigorous way you can.

Eat meat. Drink blood.

Give up your social life and don’t think you can have friends.

Rise in the quiet hours of the night and prick your fingertips and use the blood for ink; that will cure you of persiflage!                                      

But do I take my own advice? Not a bit. Persiflage is my nom de guerre. (Don’t use foreign expressions. It’s elitist.)

Hilary Mantel, Giving Up the Ghost