Update on Trump predictions

It’s hard to keep updated on my Trump predictions since I have stopped following the news, but as I’ve said before, bits and pieces slip by my personal journalism embargo. So I know that recently Trump fired Bannon, and I remember hearing something about Sessions being close to the chopping block too.

The day after Trump was elected, I predicted there would be massive turnover in his administration, and it seems like the examples above fit that pattern.

Part of that prediction was that with all the turnover, the Trump administration would gradually become more liberal. I don’t know whether that part of it is happening.

The gist of my predictions was that Trump would turn out to be an overall left-of-center president whose actual policies far more resembled what Hillary’s would have been than those outlined in his campaign. I am now much less confident in that overall prediction. (Luckily nobody took me up on it with a bet.) I now think Trump might be motivated in large part by a combination of contrarianism and narcissism that combine to make him inclined to want to please alt-right types so long as it keeps him in the news.

…Unless this is just all some long game he’s playing, which I don’t rule out either.

The main thing that’s changed is I’m no longer motivated to watch and seeing how things play out. Whereas before I at least wanted to see if my predictions came true because it would indicate whether my model of Trump was accurate, I’ve now mostly lost interest.

Am I a feminist?

I don’t normally think of myself as a feminist but I must be one in the larger scheme of things. Here are a few of my feminist “credentials,” as such:

  • I am unhappy with the notion of women being treated unfairly or unkindly just for being women.
  • I admire and am genuinely impressed with many of the women I have worked with or for.
  • I believe that a woman can be as good as a man at basically any job (with the understanding that there will be statistical divergences).
  • I happily support and perpetuate my daughter’s apparent interest in “unladylike” things such as cars/trucks, bugs, dirt, worms, and laughing at farts.
  • I don’t think it should be illegal or even an undue hassle for women to vote, drive, own property, run businesses, etc.

So what differentiates me from feminists? Why don’t I think of myself as one?

I think the overarching answer may be that unlike most feminists, I am either comfortable with or encouraging of human sexual dimorphism in all its forms; no active push against sexual dimorphism exists as part of my thought process, or at least I can’t recall any.

Some of it boils down to taste, of course. For instance our society exaggerates some forms of sexual dimorphism, such as with the convention that women wear relatively long hair on their heads but shave off their leg- and armpit-hair–and I am supportive of this; I would not rally for this to be overturned.

There might be subconscious biological underpinnings here: body hair retains scent-producing bacteria very well, and strong scents are used by many animals–perhaps including humans for most of our evolutionary history?–as markers of dominance or territorial ownership, so by shaving their body hair women remove a path to dominance and territorial ownership, which would benefit me as a man…but that’s highly speculative. Had I grown up in a society where women wore their hair short and didn’t shave, I doubt I’d object.

Some of the difference between me and feminists boils down to our viewpoints too though. I don’t see an inherent problem, for example, with women being underrepresented or overrepresented in various fields, or tending to perform better or worse on standardized tests, or things like that. To me these are just instantiations of sexual dimorphism. I am OK with them, while feminists actively oppose them.

Contrary to many feminists, I also think sexual dimorphism explains a lot of the obstacles many women face (and blame on men). For example, women claim they are often talked over or assumed less competent by men at work. There are certainly some misogynistic men out there, but I feel confident the vast majority of these cases simply fall into the “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” problem where men and women are accustomed to interacting in different ways that don’t always translate well when their roles are interposed. We should be aware of our behavior and thoughts and try and correct for that in a work environment, but I don’t see it as a Huge Moral Atrocity That Needs A Policy Solution  Right Now.

Some aspects of feminism, as with identitarianism in general, seem to me like a monomania in which little molehill inequalities are constantly discovered and made into mountainous issues backed by conspiracy theories. For instance, men sometimes separate their legs when seated. Maybe there are physical reasons, maybe it’s acculturated, but it doesn’t matter because This Is Man-Spreading! The Patriarchy even wants power and influence over space on subway seats and park benches!

For one thing, stuff like that often betrays bad faith and an eagerness to fight rather than merely correct wrongs. But for another thing it’s a kind of autistic obsession in which the nuances of life are considered intolerable. I believe the world can accommodate a few double-standards. Some double-standards benefit me, others do not, but unless I specifically know where they came from and am confident that they serve no useful purpose (I seldom have this confidence or understand where one might get it) I tend to see them as Chesterton Fences.

There are other aspects of feminism that definitely repel me. Not every feminist does this, but there is a contingent who is quick to blame everything they dislike on men, or everything they dislike a man doing on the fact that he is a man, complete with made-up pathologies and strawman reasoning. I have even seen them get offended at men who don’t join in with them while they do this.

 How could I be expected to get down with that?

Losses all around

I can’t think of a single winner from the recent events in Virginia:

  •  Obviously the biggest losers are the victims who wound up dead or in the hospital. No innocent person should ever expect to meet that fate when they go out into public.
  • I’m a great admirer of Robert E. Lee, and he deserves better advocates than these autistic reactionaries whose whole world is an echo chamber on the internet. Lee’s memory has already been dragged through the mud for decades, and it fares even worse from an event like this.
  • The Alt-Right, Neo-Nazis, and the Klan are totally clueless on PR. In fact, I can’t think of a more perfect way to paint them as vile lunatics than the actions and messages they’re already propagating on their own. It’s like Conquest’s Third Law, except it’s applied to a loosey-goosey jacky-wacky internet movement instead of a bureaucracy.
  • Trump hasn’t done himself any favors here either. My most charitable interpretation is that Trump is aware that news stories almost always blame the pro-white side in a clash of any kind but then quietly reveal facts later that indicate it was the other side who was the real aggressors, so Trump wants to distinguish himself by not jumping into the fray and dogpiling on the pro-white side the way Obama did. Also, Trump is constantly attacked, viciously, by the same journalists now awaiting a statement of condemnation from him, and he might take it personally.
  • America’s race relations probably won’t unravel from this event (in fact I think they’re generally much stronger than the media would have us believe) but crap like this sure doesn’t help.

The New McCarthyism

To most people, the name Joe McCarthy is synonymous with paranoia and witch-hunts. “McCarthyism” itself has become a term to describe an organizational state in which innocent people are subjected to accusations and have their careers and lives ruined by those with a mob mentality.

Of course, there really were communists in positions of influence in McCarthy’s time, and McCarthy exposed many of them. McCarthy is so reviled today not because we are now communists (although the term “communism” has lost a bit of its sting to many people) but because his methods seem to us so out of proportion to the threat he was trying to counter. Thanks to McCarthy, someone who merely expressed reasoned and even limited criticisms of capitalism, or who merely associated with critics of capitalism, risked being brought before a tribunal and blacklisted for life as a traitor.

A succinct way to summarize a typical modern commentary on McCarthyism would be that it was the conflation of “wrong” with “evil.” It is somewhat ironic, then, that McCarthyism is perfectly encapsulated in recent events at Google, the “Don’t be evil” company.

Last week a Google employee wrote a long, polite-yet-firm criticism of diversity hiring practices and the assumptions behind them. He made it explicit that he was not opposed to the goals of those practices, and offered suggestions for other ways to accomplish them. This piece of writing was quickly labeled a “screed” and a “fulmination” by journalists, and held up (mostly by people who never read it) as evidence of the very oppression the employee claimed was fallaciously assumed. Here, the people seethed, was a living specimen of evil!

After several days of fuming editorials and much public outcry for the employee’s head on a stake, Google fired him. The mob cheered for a moment and then began chanting its familiar mantra: “Not enough!”

One of the secondary points that had been made by the ousted employee was that Google claimed to support a culture of openness in which weighing evidence was valued over succumbing to bias, but that he knew the “women and minorities in tech” issue was such a sacred cow no dispassionate conversation about it would be permitted. This was his explanation for writing anonymously, and Google proved it to have been a valid one.

Cultures need immune systems. As a society that values inclusion and equal opportunity, we benefit from having a mechanism to identify and disenfranchise malicious racists, misogynists, and would-be traitors.

But this mechanism needs to remain finely calibrated to be useful, otherwise it causes a turbulent backlash. The end result of ordeals like this one at Google is not that women and minorities are put on their way to better representation in tech, but that all the people quietly keeping their heads down grow more resentful and less receptive to change. It’s a massive own-goal from a Progressive standpoint, but they might not realize it until decades later when people are calling them the new McCarthyists.

On tattoos

Tattoos (and piercings and other similar body modifications, alluded to in this post collectively under the term “tattoos”) are by now far too popular for me to say that people who get them are bad or indecent in any way, even in terms of those people’s general ability to make choices about their bodies. There are simply too many people who are smarter, healthier, more moral, more attractive, etc. than me–and covered in tattoos–to make such a claim.

So it definitely is without judgment of people who have tattoos when I say I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking of tattoos as OK for themselves. Yes, this makes me a stodgy hold-out from an earlier time, opposed to and out of touch with the direction of my generation. What else is new?

The skin my kids–and really, all kids–were born with is as good and as beautiful as it can possibly be. Markings on the skin can be expressive and fun, but that’s what temporary tattoos or skin paint is for. Tattoos are a permanent alteration and they can only leave the skin in a worse condition aesthetically and potentially otherwise.

No sane, loving parents have ever held their newborn child, inspected its body, and found a place where they longed to put a tattoo. There’s also no reason why this sense of rightness about our children’s skin should fade after children grow up. There must be a part of every parent that grieves when their child goes out and gets a tattoo. I feel sorry for the parents of every tattooed person I see.

Similarly I never could imagine looking down at a fresh tattoo on my own skin and thinking “Good, that part of my skin looks better now than it did before.” That’s the main reason I don’t have any tattoos. (There are other reasons too, ranging from the logical to the spiritual, but they are less fundamental and less important; they are nothing I could stand on when urging my kids to avoid tattoos.)

Studies report varying rates of (obviously hard to measure) tattoo-regret, but how could anyone feel they are improved by a tattoo unless they suffer from some body dysmorphic disorder? Given the popularity of tattoos, it might be interesting to find out whether BDD is more widespread than we think.

As much as I may try to urge my kids to avoid tattoos, it is like many other aspects of their rearing: an uphill battle against the surrounding culture. Not impossible, and in fact I have confidence they will eventually display the same characteristics that kept me from getting tattoos–but the trick is trying to keep them from getting tattooed until then.

I don’t remember my own parents ever talking about tattoos one way or another, though of course they hardly needed to since tattoos didn’t really start to become popular until I was almost through high school. So I don’t know how, from experience at least, to apply the model of “don’t push the kids too hard toward X or they’ll push back toward -X vs. don’t not push them toward X because if you don’t nobody else will and it’s all -X out there.”