Toothpaste for Dinner, recently

It's inconsistent (although daily, too), but occasionally Toothpaste for Dinner has some hilarious cartoons:

Bookmarks, random

Well, the Blogger platform has gone over to some new format and wants me to switch to Chrome.  So far, I would say that the new format sucks.  It's difficult to look at.

Anyhow, here are some things I'm cleaning out of my bookmarks today:

Addiction for Nurses review

Addiction for Nurses seems to me a very good overview of the current (published 2010) trends in thinking about addiction in the health care field. The author is from the UK, so some of the comments he makes about professional opportunities for nurses in the field of addiction don't apply, but his foreign status also gives his writing a wider perspective.

Specifically, he addresses the theory of "harm reduction," which apparently tends to get short shrift in the US. If you work in public health, you may be familiar with this interventional modality, but as a student who went from school right into critical care, I don't ever remember hearing the term before this book. Harm reduction is a recognition that quitting addictive substances is extremely hard, and that it may be more productive to get users to change behavior related to their addictions rather than stop. In alcoholics, this might entail designated driver campaigns, while in IV drug users, it might entail needle exchanges. Simple ideas that have been tried in teh US before, but the presentation of a paradigmatic interventional strategy puts these programs in a different light and suggests others.

The book is not only about harm reduction, however. It also has chapters that can be used like a workbook to challenge the reader's assumptions about addiction and addicts. And it presents information on professional matters as well as outlining current interventional strategies for a variety of substances and summarizing the research on the effectiveness of these strategies. I had never heard of Motivational Interviewing or Brief Interventions before, either, but both are shown to work with equal or greater effectiveness compared to 12-step programs.

This is a great book for nurses to read, I think. Much of it is available as a preview at GoogleBooks.

Drunken Comportment review

In this book originally published in, I believe, the 1970s and re-issued in 2003, the authors take issue with what was then and still seems to be the widely held assumption that the behavioral effects of alcohol are due to disinhibiting of alcohol on the brain. In place of that model, they propose that behavior when drunk is learned and socially conditioned. Much of the book contains examples from around the world of cultures in which the behavior of people when drunk does not conform to our expectations of drunkenness. The book concludes with an examination of Native American alcohol abuse tries to put that in a cultural-historical context as against the widely held notion that "Indians can't hold their liquor."

While there is definitely some truth in the book, it is not a thorough success. Their cultural examinations are both interesting and informative. To give an example that does not appear in the book, the Japanese now or in the recent past had a habit of going drinking with their boss after work. During these drinking bouts, people were allowed to say things to one another that would not be acceptable in a state of sobriety. This is what the authors call a "time-out," and is the purpose they say alcohol serves in most cultures. This part of the book is very believable. There is no doubt that alcohol can serve as a "time-out."

However, the authors are also transparently at the task of blaming the conditions of Native American alcohol use on Europeans and European culture. If NA are universally violent while drunk, it is because they learned that this is how drunk people act from being around fur traders, frontier soldiers, etc. This is a thin argument. As the authors themselves point out, the violence perpetrated by drunk NA was simply perpetrated by sober NA before the introduction of alcohol by Europeans. So, what Europeans introduced was social restraint with "time-out"s for violence, a net improvement I think most people would say over constant violence.

Another problem the authors don't really address is the fact that most the alcohol "time-out"s they site from South American, Asia, and Africa are connected with cultural rituals, whereas NA would simply drink and get violent when alcohol was available. This poses two problems for the authors. First, if alcohol and rituals are connected in "time-out," is there is a reason to believe that "time-out" occurs when not connected to ritual. The experience of modern bar-goers will demonstrate that people all act very differently when drunk, and also differently when drinking alone as opposed to in groups. Is it possible that some people simply are disinhibited? Second, if there is no ritual reason for drinking, and drinking results in murders and other violence, the question arises why people would seek out alcohol.

Also, the book essentially addresses only the problem of binge or group drinking. The loner dependant who buys up his family's food and education money in booze does not fit into this model.

However, the general point that there are at least some cultural learning effects on drunken behavior is no doubt true. And that point has definite suggestions as far as public health and policy are concerned. I don't know what happened to this theory of alcohol abuse in the decades since 1980 or the years since 2003, but I think it is a good book for nurses to read. Especially those who live ethnically diverse communities where they may be dealing with alcoholics from very different cultures.

Derbyshire: somebody set us up da bomb

As I was writing about Derb's The Talk, someone I know (let's call her "Hair Red") was escorting a school class in Florida.

I try to avoid talking about politics with her, but, when she returned, we talked on the phone and she told me about some local yokels, who were making rude comments about her class, who were the same age as Trayvon Martin.

This circumstance was compelling because Derb's advice in The Talk's bullet point (10a-e) applied to the situation my friend was in as well as the situation of the local yokels. I like and generally agree with Derb, but who did I agree with here--Derb vs Hair Red?

Well, frankly, Hair Red. I agree with Derb that, statistically speaking, your chances of being in danger at any given event are greater, but, without compelling data, I can't say I would feel threatened by being at a public event like a sports competition while a group of black highschool kids were there. Even if they were rowdy. Even if they were very rowdy. I might feel annoyed if they were very rowdy, but I wouldn't feel threatened.

I'm comfortable, morally and in terms of social niceties, with my instincts. I wouldn't feel safe in a poor, heavily black neighborhood in a major metropolitan area, especially at night, but I also wouldn't attend a soccer game in England for wanting to avoid soccer hooligans. (When I was visiting England years ago, I was actually trapped with some drunk soccer hooligans post-game in a train car. They yelled, sang, and argued. They eye'd me. I, a foreigner, was alone. I wouldn't repeat that experience.)

Now, if you're the same type as Barro, you probably think this is a no-brainer... of course, you can't feel threatened by any group of black youths... that would be, ipso facto, racist.

This post is about how that attitude, through its sheer stupidity and the exasperation of dealing with its ubiquity, can lead otherwise well-intentioned people into mental errors.

Dewey: you have no chance to survive make your time. Ha ha ha ha....

If you're like most Americans, you think Barro's no-brainer is not only morally correct but also sensible, because you've been raised in an educational establishment dominated by educators who are in compliance with the dominant state ideology.

It's difficult to describe to someone who's inside this cave how to get out. I can say only that for me it happened by reading about animal liberation. Once you start to engage seriously with the idea that people really are intelligent animals rather than a special class of beings outside nature, it can start to change your view of society. Maybe the walls start to melt, maybe the heavens rend, or maybe--as I think happened with Derb--you start seeing lots of data points. This is my fantasy about Derbyshire: when he sees a news story like "couple stomps elderly man to death amid domestic dispute," he sees something like this:

Imagine for a moment that you're in the jungle and surrounded by a bunch of apes. You don't quite know the rules in the jungle. You can sense that something is wrong, but you don't know if you're trespassing or what, and, mostly, you don't know if or when you're going to get set upon by this troupe of your cousins, who could take advantage of you at any time. This is essentially what Wall Street is like for me and most Americans. I don't quite have a good enough understanding of finance to keep my finances safe around those investment apes. But in fact all cities and all of human society are only larger versions of the same thing--concrete jungles full of apes.

Editor: I left off writing this post at this point, and now I don't remember all of what I was going to write.  But I do remember it was on the theme "All your beliefs are belong to us".  Hence the post title. I think the analogy of modern life being like concrete jungles where you have to constantly be aware of when you are out of your element is a good and analogy, so I'll just leave it here and post as is...

Happy Paleo Easter

Seven-hour lamb. Fell off bone. Delicious.

Happy Easter

Someone e-mailed me this graphic. I don't know where it came from, but I note that the Easter bunny would be hiding his eggs in grains, legumes, and non-food items if he were hopping around the subsidized garden...

Derbyshire's The Talk and hypocrisy

I tried to tune in to RadioDerb today, but the regular Friday broadcast from Buckley Towers in the heart of Manhattan was silent. On investigating, I discovered that Derb has drawn some attention to himself with the publication of an essay known as "The Talk," about advice people could give to children, and which many people find offensive for its racial content. Forbes magazine called for him to be fired from National Review, and NR editors are Tweeting their disapproval/disavowal.

Derbyshire: gives The Talk "in bits and pieces as subtopics have arisen"

The Atlantic magazine claims Derbyshire hasn't been fired from National Review previously because he is useful for drawing in money from racist donors. I can say that I've attended an NR "fundraiser" in the form of an NR cruise, and I find The Atlantic's position laughable. Not just wrong, but laughable.

NR does not appeal to backwoods rednecks for funding. Derb is a math geek, sort of nerdy and... not a schmoozer. Even less does NR appeal to those who'd be interested in donating to VDARE or similar publications where Derb geekery would be appreciated.

The talk among NR staff and potential donors on an NR cruise sounds very much like any other people from the urban upper middle classes, with paeans to diversity included. NR editors are just modern American urbanites with slightly different views on deficits and taxes from those on the left. Derb says this outright in his book We Are Doomed, pointing out that, despite its image, National Review is full of atheists who are completely at ease in the East Coast urban cultural milieu.

As far as race goes, the class of people to which NR editors belong are mostly hypocrits. As one federal government employee likes to point out, the type of upper middle class white person who works and lives in Boston, NYC, Philly, etc actually acts as though they believe what's in The Talk despite what they tell each other or themselves. When I moved to Crystal City to work in Washington, DC, I was told by a Democrat who graduated from the hyperliberal "Kremlin on the Crum" not to take a certain exit ramp while driving into our fair capital or I wouldn't make it out of the neighborhood alive.

Commenting on The Talk at TakiMag, "clairesolt" writes:
I do think some of the advice should be race neutral. when people asked me about living in DC being scary, I always replied that you stay away from bad neighborhoods everywhere. btw, there are very good black neighborhoods in DC.
This is more typical that the advice I got. "clairesolt" lives her life knowing that it is too dangerous for her in certain black neighborhoods. But she makes qualifying statements in order to avoid any cognitive dissonance. "clairesolt"s term "race neutral" doesn't mean without noticing race, it means without talking about race.

The year I was in Washington, there were people who simply wouldn't go into the city on certain days if there were demonstrations. This is essentially the same attitude as Derbyshire's bullet point number 10, which Gawker calls a "hideous monstrosity." Most people in DC probably assume there are important differences between their views of crime risks and Derb's, but there aren't. The difference is only in what type of social signaling you want to send.

If you doubt the hypocrisy, consider what is arguably The Talk's most cynical advice, that whites should cultivate black friends. Now take a look at Stuff White People Like #14. Derb's advice is internalized widely enough that it could be incorporated into self-effacing humor four years ago. Just make sure you don't talk about this stuff any more seriously than SWPL.

why did Derb write The Talk at this time?

The Talk is a response to the Talk black parents are recently reported to have with their boys. Commenters are suggesting that Derb's essay is a parody and a complaint similar to people who are complaining about the bias in the original Martin & Zimmerman photos. I think it's obvious there's some sort of reaction here, but also a serious opinion. Derb's essay has a quality that says he isn't just making the hypothetical case "what if a white person said what this black person just said."

The Atlantic goes to lengths to demonstrate that Derb has a history of racist statements that have been ignored by NR's editors, but de-contextualized quotations notwithstanding, The Atlantic article was apparently written by someone who is not familiar with Derbyshire's writings. Derb is actually a measured and careful thinker--a math geek as I said--who is entirely unsentimental but concerned about the potential impact of counterfactual beliefs about such an inflammatory issue as race. The Atlantic fails to note, for example, Derb's recent warning that current denial of social science data could result in a divisive racist backlash among the upper middle class elites.

Derb's views are more nuanced than his critics can allow. Gawker's title "Most Racist Article Possible" sets the tone for the criticism. Importantly, all of The Talk's bullet points address either questions either of probability or of the vagaries of living in a society where one's career can be destroyed for accusations of incorrect thought. What's interesting is that I haven't even seen yet a critic who has bothered to say that Derb's advice is, statistically speaking (because that's how the Derb rolls), not more likely to keep you safe and successful.

As I pointed out recently, Derb has cancer. I don't know his prognosis, but he's recently been revisiting his childhood, writing about his dead mom, thinking about the end of western civilization, and ruminating/fantasizing Buchanan's ouster from MSNBC. He recently started a RadioDerb broadcast with the line

"this is my last contract with NRO"

and ended one with an Irish song that concludes

"Ah, but I'm sick now, my days are numbered so come all ye young men and lay me down."

In short, sick or not, he's in a morbid and fatalistic mood.

On the recent NR cruise I took, Derbyshire was on a panel discussion on pessimism in conservatism. He re-stated some of the points from We Are Doomed, but he didn't bother to engage any of the "optimistic" panelists. It felt like he had been over the points before with the others present and wasn't interested in arguing anymore. My guess is that Derb works on the assumption that he's going to be the target of a putsch at some point.

And my guess is that The Talk is doing just what Derbyshire would like it to do. If you want to understand, read Derb's comments at CPAC and on the coming end of multiculturalism. His view is that it's only a matter of time before science trumphs the dogmatic denial of science, and that the sooner we can deal with political questions rationally, the better we'll be at avoiding the social, political, and economic disintegration of the nation. The Talk is opportunistic, but it isn't a screed. It's an intentional attempt to get people to engage with the problems Derb sees coming on the horizon by piggybacking on some current popular news.

update 20:00 April 7:

Somehow, this post became the #7 Google search result for "Derbyshire The Talk":

Also, Rich Lowry of National Review announces that Derb has been booted, as I suspect he expected. (Download the last episode of RadioDerb soon, before it's gone!) I, for one, will probably let my NR subscription lapse soon. Not out of retaliation, but because there's not much point. The main reason to read the magazine in recent years has been the columnists, of which Florence King and John Derbyshire were two of the best, and both are finished now.

I understand this editorial decision on NR's part. There really wasn't any other choice. It's a shame, though, because now Derb's voice is going to be relegated to publications like TakiMag, which is provocative, but also frequently wrong and embarassing. Lowry is right that Derb's association with NR gave a mainstream veneer to Derb's writing. Derb deserves to have a mainstream veneer as his lack of dogmatism and interest in science and research in fields both related and unrelated to politics were a welcome addition to the intellectual smorgasbord of the conservative movement. Only Razib Khan fills a similar role (and aren't we all waiting for him to weigh in, too?).

Derbyshire will probably be hurt personally in all this, too. I can't say I agree with all his points in The Talk, either. Much of the essay is simply impolite, but I can't agree with his approach to personal relations, such as manipulative friendships or ignoring those in obvious distress. And his comment about vetting politicians probably had as much to do with being burned by his recent early endorsement of Hermann Cain as anything, and was I suspect a mistake that he doesn't entirely believe himself.

Anyhow, I guess that's all done with now.