Friday, June 12, 2015

When talking of poverty, we should remember that we are generally talking about people with mobile phones and TV sets, not people in rags

Of course some people are in genuine need, 
acknowledges the Daily Telegraph's James Bartholomew (thanks to Instapundit),
but it is nothing compared to previous generations — who would kill to be poor in today's society.

The word “poverty” is bandied about as never before. Labour politicians, columnists for The Guardian and The Independent, representatives of charities such as Oxfam, use the term repeatedly, suggesting that poverty in Britain is a major and even a growing problem. Very rarely does anyone on radio or television dare challenge this idea. But what do we mean by the word “poverty” today? And how does our idea of poverty compare with that of the past?

 … As for food, “fresh meat was a luxury only seen in a few of the cottages on a Sunday”. People mostly depended on bread and lard. “Fresh butter was too costly for general use” and “milk was a rare luxury”.

Shoes and boots were barely affordable, to the extent that “how to get a pair of new boots for 'our young Ern or Alf ’ was a problem which kept many a mother awake at night”. Obtaining clothes was “an even more difficult matter” so that “it was difficult to keep decently covered”. Labourers sipped their beer slowly in the evening because they could only afford half a pint. The girls were sent out to be servants in richer households when they were between 11 and 13.
Going back further in time to the beginning of the 19th century, many ordinary people could not afford shoes at all and wore clogs instead. People died of starvation in 1846/47 in Scotland as well as in Ireland during the potato famine. Indeed, Britain was affected by more than 95 famines in the Middle Ages, such as the one in 1235 when about 20,000 Londoners died of starvation and many resorted to eating tree bark in an attempt to survive.

From all this it is clear that the relatively poor of today are vastly richer than the poor of 120 years ago, let alone beforehand. Indeed, at least one leading figure in the Labour Party acknowledged the fact in 1959. Barbara Castle remarked, “the poverty and unemployment which we came into existence to fight have been largely conquered”. Since she spoke, of course, average incomes have risen much higher. As recently as the 1980s people looked at the figures for how many households had inside lavatories and how many had fridges. Now virtually every household has these things, so nobody bothers with the information any more.

Given all this, how is it that so many pundits and charities talk about widespread poverty in Britain?

It dates back to 1962 and the annual conference of the British Sociological Association. Two Left-wing academics, Peter Townsend and Brian Abel-Smith, developed a new way of defining “poverty” based on the income level at which people were entitled to a payment called “supplementary benefit”. One person at the conference reported “a mood of conspiratorial excitement” about the idea of redefining poverty. These are her words, not mine, and they do seem revealing. It is as if some people on the Left were longing to find a way in which poverty had not been “conquered” as Barbara Castle had said. They had found a way in which it would always be possible to use the huge emotional power of the word.

The flurry of excitement about redefining poverty concluded with it being defined as 60 per cent of median incomes with adjustment for family size. This definition was eventually accepted by the British government and the European Union. That is the definition which those who talk about poverty in the media are using.

 … How many households cannot afford a television? Fewer than 1 per cent. How many people aged 16-24 do not have access to a mobile phone? 1 per cent. Who has access to computers and the internet? Among those aged 25-44, 85 per cent use a computer daily. Added to those who use computers less frequently, that means well over nine in 10 young adults have access to a computer.

Overall, the typical person in modern poverty has access to a mobile phone and lives in a household with a television, an inside lavatory, electricity and probably access to the internet. By all means, observers can call this poverty. But it would have been unrecognisable to Flora Thompson. It is riches beyond their dreams for those I have met in a Masai Mara village in Kenya who live in mud huts with not a single one of the above.

Yes, of course there are still people in awful circumstances who need help. There are those who lose their jobs, who get divorced and have mental health problems. It can be awful if several of these things happen at the same time. People struggle and can end up on the streets. But the living conditions of the majority of relatively low earners are unrecognisably better than in the past.

Of course, we should continue to be concerned for the relatively poor and seek ways to help them or enable them to help themselves. But when we hear a mention of “poverty” we should keep a sense of proportion. We should remember that we are generally talking about people with mobile phones and televisions, not people in rags. They are not in a different world to the rest of us. The redefinition of poverty was a bit of a con-trick by the Left. It has led us to care far too much about inequality and not enough about rising prosperity. And it is economic growth that is the real route to greater prosperity, for the relatively poor and everyone else too.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

“Don’t impose your values on me!” should be translated as “Stop trying to defend yourself as we impose our values on you!”

I think the whole Gender Fluidity Industry is for the most part a clown show 
writes Jonah Goldberg (whose latest column is Liberals Now Find Gender Identity Itself Oppressive) in his newsletter.
I’d call it a campus circle jerk, but that’s too base for this refined epistle, so let’s call it an oval of onanism. (Also, the word “jerk” is gender-loaded if you think about it). The idea that there are 56 different genders (and counting!) is the sort of thing only someone paid to talk about gender theory could take seriously.

What I find fascinating is how much magical thinking is involved in all of this. It’s true that gender is a social construction. It’s also true that it’s a social construction built on a natural foundation. If you have a problem with that statement, take it up with the archeological record and the evolutionary psychologists. In other words, gender is an intersubjective cultural term, but culture is also an expression of human nature. There are no cultural institutions designed to deal with people who have laser vision and 14 heads. Why? Because such people don’t exist. Gender roles came about because they are cultural expressions of biological facts rooted in human nature. There has never been a human society where the men all stay home to raise the kids and the women go fight wars. There are plenty of individual exceptions, I’m sure, but they are exceptions that prove the rule.

Personally, as the husband of a brilliant working woman and the father of a girl who wants to be a Navy SEAL, I am delighted that gender roles evolve. But you know what doesn’t evolve (at least not on a schedule that is of any use to “gender activists”)? Sexual categories. You can play lots of word games with gender identities, and that’s fine. But to even come close to changing sexes you need more than a sharp metaphor -- you need a really sharp knife. And even then you are only approximating a sex change. Yes, yes, there have been people born with mix-and-match plumbing. But while such examples might have incredible power in a Bryn Mawr seminar on Herculine Barbin, they amount to statistical noise for biologists -- and sociologists, historians, and gynecologists.

It is one thing to have a cultural argument about cultural institutions, including language. But you venture into a kind of totalitarianism when you insist that facts be bent to, or erased by, ideology as well. (The use of abracadabra words to change reality was hardly created by gender activists. Remember when the editors of Social Text believed that quantum physics was just a social construction? Remember when Arthur had Merlin change his appearance so he could lie with another man’s wife?)

That only biologically female humans can get pregnant and give birth to babies is true no matter how inconvenient it may be. If that fact hurts someone’s feelings, that’s unfortunate. But that’s no reason to change the language to fuzz-up the facts.

This points to one of the things that grates on me about all of this foofaraw. We are tearing down cultural institutions, rewriting language, and demonizing religion for the benefit of a remarkably small number of people. 

 … I’ll say it again: Liberals are the aggressors in the culture war. The only shocking thing about that statement is that it ever shocks liberals. On their own terms, they take pride in being “change agents” and “forces of progress.” But the moment anyone attempts to defend themselves against the social-justice warriors, they are treated as the aggressors in the culture war. “Don’t impose your values on me!” should be translated as, “Stop trying to defend yourself as we impose our values on you!”

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Rainbow science is winning adherents with its fake studies, foregone conclusions, and unfalsifiable hypotheses

Hailed as “the biggest political science study” of 2014 and published in Science magazine, “When Contact Changes Minds” was destined to launch its authors to academic fame
writes Benny Huang.
Too bad the data were faked.

The study purported to demonstrate that door-to-door canvassers who targeted conservative voters could induce long-term attitudinal changes on the question of same-sex marriage through the use of sob stories, or what they called “heartfelt, reciprocal and vulnerable conversations.” It’s easy to see how the study appealed directly to the prejudices of the Left. When one proceeds from the assumption that opposition to same-sex marriage can only be explained by ignorance, then the obvious solution is to “educate” the rubes. If only these stupid old bigots knew more homosexuals they’d understand that “gays” are categorically nice people who suffer real harm from societal prejudice. A little human contact, a little “dialogue” and—voila!—mindless, heartless, bigotry melts away.

The study’s irregularities became apparent when graduate students at UC Berkeley attempted to replicate its results without success. … With a little more digging it became apparent that the study was not just flawed but entirely bogus.

 … No one can doubt your conclusions when you’ve got science to back them up, which explains why homosexual activists nearly always buttress their questionable claims with chest-beating proclamations that the science is settled. Amazingly, it’s on their side… again! Isn’t it always?

I suppose that would depend on what you mean by “science.” If you mean an organized, methodological system for discerning truth through controlled experimentation conducted with no emotional interest whatsoever in the results, then no. But if you mean the scientific establishment, then I suppose that yes, Big Science is on the side of the homosexual movement, or more accurately, it’s in the tank for them. Once you understand this fact it becomes clear why Science magazine published the paper in the first place and why their much ballyhooed peer-review process didn’t spot this obvious fake a million miles away. How rigorous could their fact-checking have been?

It wasn’t always this way. There was a time when psychiatric experts actually classified homosexuality as a pathology. Apparently the experts were fallible in those dark ages, whereas now they’re not. After shrieking homosexual activists crashed a string of psychiatric conventions, the scientists decided, in 1973, to cave to their demands and remove same-sex attraction disorder (SSAD) from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). That’s how science is done, right? When an angry mob doesn’t like your findings, you change them.

Gone are the days when such histrionics are even necessary. Pressure tactics are rarely used anymore because infiltration of the sciences and outright fraud of the variety perpetrated by Michael LaCour work so much better.

Consider for a moment another study from the University of Melbourne that found that same-sex parents actually raise happier, healthier children. The study failed to meet even the most basic scientific standards. Here’s how they reached their foregone conclusion: the researchers placed advertisements for same-sex parents in “gay” magazines and forums, then asked the respondents questions about the health and welfare of their children. The respondents, knowing that they were being studied and why, were nearly unanimous that the kids were okay. No, they were better than okay! They were straight-A students and perfect junior citizens.

It’s science! Okay, so it’s not real science. It’s rainbow science, a shoddy imitation that isn’t bound by any of the old rules.

Rainbow science is actually older than you might expect. I would trace it back to at least 1948, when Alfred Kinsey, a bisexual professor at the University of Indiana, published his “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male,” often regarded as the first shot fired in the sexual revolution. The study came as a shock to American senses because it claimed that men routinely engage in sexual activities that were taboo at the time and some that are taboo even now. Kinsey’s “research” found that an astonishing 95 percent of men had broken sex crimes laws that merited prison time, thus transforming those who were actually in prison into unfortunate souls who had had the bad luck of getting caught. Surely the juries that convicted them were comprised almost entirely of hypocrites who secretly indulged the same desires. This was exactly Kinsey’s desired effect—to make the deviant seem normal and thus to transform traditional sexual mores into badges of hypocrisy. It should be noted that Kinsey was something of a pervert himself who engaged in or condoned pretty much every sexual aberration you’ve ever heard of and few you haven’t. Animals and children were fair game.

 … Rainbow science isn’t science, even if it’s peer-reviewed or appears in a highbrow journal. … Yet rainbow science appears to be winning adherents with its fake studies, foregone conclusions, and unfalsifiable hypotheses.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

"I'm a lifelong Republican, BUT…": Watch Out for the Moby

Watch out for the mobies, warns Stacy McCain (thanks to Dalrock).

And what is the definition of the moby (such as, f'r'instance, "liberal trolls pretending to be Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs) [and] creating fake “hate” against women")?
An insidious and specialized type of left-wing troll who visits blogs and impersonates a conservative for the purpose of either spreading false rumors intended to sow dissension among conservative voters, or who purposely posts inflammatory and offensive comments for the purpose of discrediting the blog in question.

The term is derived from the name of the liberal musician Moby, who famously suggested in February of 2004 that left-wing activists engage in this type of subterfuge:
“For example, you can go on all the pro-life chat rooms and say you’re an outraged right-wing voter and that you know that George Bush drove an ex-girlfriend to an abortion clinic and paid for her to get an abortion. Then you go to an anti-immigration Web site chat room and ask, ‘What’s all this about George Bush proposing amnesty for illegal aliens?’”
The strategy has been frequently attempted on conservative blogs, but has not been nearly as effective as Moby envisioned, since false rumors are easily debunked by fact-checking minions, and cartoonishly extreme commenters often get immediately identified as mobys and banned.
Another definition of a moby goes like this:
Left wing troll who tries to imitate a right winger, usually poorly due to left wing's complete misunderstanding of who right wingers are. Often given away by telltale first line, "I'm a lifelong Republican, BUT..." or "As a lifelong Republican, I have to disagree with (Republican figure)..." 
Moby: I'm a lifelong Republican, but it turns my stomach when I see the fascist rantings of these town hall protesters. What they are doing is worse than Hitler! I am going to vote Democrat until this stops and you should too!
• (Somewhat) Related: Token Articles, Letters, and Other Examples of "Objectivity"

• You will be amazed at how often the opinions expressed by “some” or “many” or “critics” turn out to be left-leaning opinions