Monday, March 23, 2015

The Devil and the Dongle

The Adria Richards story below is a true story.  See here.  It's the story of an attention-seeker who ended up getting more attention than she bargained for

The question every tempter and junior devil in Hell asks himself as he is toasting on the flame, wailing and gnashing his teeth in the darkness, and hoping to snare one or more sons of Adam to share his misery, is this: How do you make a happy man volunteer to be miserable?

How do you turn a wise, brave, intelligent and compassionate man into a blind and willing slave of the Darkness?  How do you trick him into selling his soul, an infinitely precious treasure, and getting nothing in return, nothing at all?

The answer, as it so happens, is remarkably simple. Two examples out of countless will suffice. The first is Donglegate.

A young professional man with a wife and three kids was in the audience for a conference of tech developers, and he and his friend were making silly pun on the words ‘fork’ and ‘dongle’ and giggling. In tech jargon: to fork means to make a second copy parallel to the software in the version control library; a dongle is any small hardware attached to a computer to enable separate functions.

A black jewess named Adria Richards seated ahead of them stood and took their photo. She complained of sexual harassment, getting them first upbraided by the conference organizers, and eventually she got the man fired from his job.

When asked, Miss Richards described the incident this way:

“Have you ever had an altercation at school and you could feel the hairs rise up on your back… [I felt I was in ] danger. Clearly my body was telling me, ‘You are unsafe.’”

When asked what possible danger she might be in, surrounded by two thousand bystanders, she replied:

“Have you ever heard that thing, men are afraid that women will laugh at them and women are afraid that men will kill them? He’s a white male. I’m a black Jewish female. He said things that could be inferred as offensive to me. And those people [the bystanders] would probably be white and they would probably be male.”

Can you see what is missing from her account? More likely than not, a modern man will answer in the negative, and see nothing missing.

She is describing an offense to good taste, an off-color joke, as a murder, a physical assault.

She is like a Victorian matron who calls for the smelling salts. (Except, of course, the Victorian matrons of the modern age hector and slander their victims, instead of merely pretending to faint.)

Now it is very unlikely that she actually was afraid of being murdered by a geeky middle-class Caucasian engineer with a wife and three children. The number of times geeky middle-class family men, without premeditation and without motive, have murdered a perfect stranger before the eyes of more than a thousand witness is, statistically speaking, too rare to be expressed without the use of scientific notation.

To be afraid of that is less rational than to be afraid of dying in an elevator crash exiting the conference, which might actually happen. It is on par with being afraid that the CIA is beaming messages into your brain from low-orbiting brainwave-satellites shaped like pumpkins.

Let us assume the lady in question is not a confirmed psychotic who has suffered a total break from reality. Why, then, would she think it wise to speak as if she were, and to a newspaper reporter, no less?

For the answer to this, let us turn to a second example:

It seems that Common Core standards, as well as nearly all modern scholastic instruction, when asking students to distinguish between facts (something that can be tested and proved) and opinions (what someone thinks, feels, or believes), place the answer to the question ‘Is it wrong to cheat on your boyfriend or girlfriend?’ in the category of opinion.

The Common Core institute provides a helpful page full of links to definitions, lesson plans and quizzes to ensure that students can tell the difference between facts and opinions here: And see here, question six.

A conclusion that Don Juan cheating on Anna, Elvira, Zerlina and one thousand other Spanish lasses is less praiseworthy than the fidelity of Penelope for Ulysses is classed as precisely the same as preferring vanilla to chocolate: a mere matter of arbitrary opinion.

Heroes and villains are the same, saints and sinners are the same. And therefore preferring happiness to misery, or success to failure, is likewise merely arbitrary.

Logically, if asked whether to cheat on the worksheet questions about fact and opinion is wrong, the student must answer that this is a matter of opinion, because wrongness is not a matter of fact.

This putrid nonsense is being taught to the unsuspecting youth of our nation (ironically) as a fact, not as opinion. If they answer that moral imperatives are not opinion, the question is marked wrong, not marked that is an interesting opinion.

But the answer to our first question is here: you get a happy youth to volunteer to be miserable by teaching him that there are two and only two categories of statements: facts, which are objective, and opinions, which are arbitrary.

The categorization is false, as false as if one were to say that there are four colors rather than seven. To be sure, there are languages which make no distinction between blue and green. We are not discussing an absurdity but a depravation, a blindness. The lad whose language cannot distinguish between blue and green will be disadvantaged at the Army-Navy game, since he will have no way, except by an awkward circumlocution, to distinguish between the two uniforms of the servicemen. The lad will see the one hue is a different shade than the other, but he will have no word for it.

The false categorization leaves the happy youth with no category in which to put statements about virtue and vice, imperatives about what one ought or ought not to do.

Virtue is difficult on the surface, demanding self-restraint, but offers tranquility, peace, and joy in the depth; whereas vice is not only pleasant on the surface, it is glamorous and alluring, as alluring as tinsel. It offers only misery in the depth, endless misery, and even the shallow and animal pleasures of wine, women, and song lose their pleasure, and the only thing left is the slavery of addiction.

Now, to be sure, the fisherman puts a real worm on the hook, nice, fat and juicy, which indeed contains nutriment for the fish and is no doubt a delight to his piscine taste buds. Vices are always pleasant at first. But once the barbed iron hook is in the fish’s mouth, the pleasure is unlikely to continue.

So, all the junior devils in Hell needs to do to get the fish to volunteer to place the iron hook willingly in his mouth is to get him to categorize all things into two categories: tasty and non-tasty.

The crucial distinction, the distinction on which the fish’s life and happiness depends, in fact, is whether the worm is on or off the hook, and this is the one distinction not being made. The category should be (at least) threefold: tasty bait, tasty worm, and non-tasty.

Likewise here. Miss Richards, if she is typical of the modern intellectual, has only two categories of morality in her empty head: fact and opinion. All opinions are completely subjective and have nothing to do with reality. All facts are physical things that can be measured. Whether or not a joke is offcolor is a matter of opinion, ergo had nothing to do with reality. Murder is a physical fact where no opinion is involved: either the body is laying on the floor dead, or not, and any objective observer will see the corpse.

Hence, the only way open to her limited mind to express the moral outrage a Victorian matron by rights must feel when overhearing an offcolor joke, is to scream bloody murder.

Merely saying ‘Ladies are present; guard your tongue’ will not do.

By modern standards, there are no ladies, since refined behavior cannot be held to be superior to vulgar behavior, and there are no women, since to distinguish between the way to treat women and the way to treat men is forbidden as politically incorrect. This, despite that in this case, the woman was indeed too sensitive to be subjected to overhearing a vulgar joke. But the categories of vulgar and refined, male and female, must all be eliminated. All that is non-fact: It goes in the box falsely labeled opinion.

You see, the real Victorians, and every other civilization before the current generation, had more than two categories. There were seven or eight categories at least: there was objective fact, established empirically; there was rational deduction, established by logic, as with a legal argument or proof of geometry; there was moral truth, established by its own self evident nature; and there was good taste, which came from trained aesthetic judgment; good sense, which came from prudence; there was conventional wisdom, which came from communal experience; divine revelation, which came from God; and private opinion, which was subjective and arbitrary.

But the modern mind is deprived of the categories of reason, morality, good taste, good sense, convention, and revelation. It can reason about none of these matters.

It cannot reason about matters of opinion, since those are arbitrary, and it cannot reason about matters of fact, since those are objective, not to be changed by reasoning.

The modern mind knows, because it is one of those truths no human being can prevent himself from knowing, that offenses against morality are outrages.

But the only outrage political correctness allows as factual are outrages against persons, that is, assault and murder. Even insults are considered insulting on the fictional grounds that it increases the physical danger of the insult victim, as if a mob of Nazi Klansman are waiting to jump out of the broomcloset as soon as some black woman is called a dongle.

The answer to our second two questions follow simply from what has been established. You turn a wise, brave, intelligent and compassionate man into a blind and willing slave of evil by the same method. You forbid him from using the words that distinguish between wisdom versus folly — these, as if by magic, become matters of opinion — courage versus cowardice — opinion — intelligence versus ignorance — opinion — compassion versus hatred — also opinion, all opinion, nothing but opinion.

How to forbid him? Use his own desire to be wise and compassionate against him. Tell him it is unwise and heartless, even unscientific, to mistake facts for opinions, or to impose your opinions on others as if they were facts. Tell him there are no facts, no morality, no truth, no sanity. Tell him that these are illusions, merely illusions, and he is gullible if he believes.

To render a man lower than the beasts, you steal from him the divine gift of speech.

If he can no longer use words like good and evil or true and false or fair or foul (because these are all matters of opinion, and it is wrong to condemn another man’s opinion as wrong) then he can no longer reason about the good, the true, and the beautiful. He can no longer see God, and he can no longer see himself as a being with an immortal soul. He is merely a physical body, no different from a hairless ape, or a clever automaton like Disney’s Meet Mister Lincoln.

If you rob a man of his moral vocabulary, then you rob him of his ability to say what is good and what is evil. You rob him of the ability to categorized reality according to realistic categories.

At that point, he can no longer cling to the good and avoid the evil. He can no longer cling to anything. You do not need him to sell his soul in a formal contract like the devils in times gone by did with Faust. He will give it away, leave it in a gutter, drop it without noticing it, tear it to bits to feed to the pigeons in an idle moment of absentmindedness.

Once the gift of speech is gone, the tempters lure a man into throwing his soul away with both hands, because he will no longer be able to recognize it, not see its value, not see it at all, not even so much as to see that it exists.


Should Teachers Be Paid Based on Student Performance? What This New Study Shows

There are long term benefits to paying teachers by how well students perform in the classroom, according to a new study released by Israeli economist Victor Lavy.

The author analyzed current income and demographic data for a set of students who graduated from high schools that were part of a trial program that paid teachers according to their students’ performance on standardized tests during 2000 and 2001. Lavy compared the educational attainment and yearly earnings of students in schools who participated in the program to their peers at comparable schools who did not.

The pay-for-performance program raised tests scores. It also apparently helped students in other ways. Graduation rates rose, and college enrollment rates were 5.5 percentage points higher. The number of years of post-secondary education completed by students in the trial program was 63 percent higher than among their peers in the control group.

As adults, the students from pay-for-performance schools earned 7 percent more than the control group. They were also 2 percent less likely to need unemployment benefits during the measurement period.

The benefits cited here were measured across students from the entire trial-program school, not just those whose teachers won the performance bonuses.

Lavy’s study shows long-run benefits of paying teachers by how well they teach. The results are supported by economic theory and prior research. In a 2010 paper, Eric Hanushek found that good teachers dramatically improve the lifetime earnings of their students. Lavy’s new work shows that paying teachers according to student results helps students learn more in the short term and increases their economic prospects in the long run.


‘Unsubstantiated’ child neglect finding for free-range parents

The Maryland parents investigated for letting their young children walk home by themselves from a park were found responsible for “unsubstantiated” child neglect in a decision that has not fully resolved their clash with authorities over questions of parenting and children’s safety.

Danielle and Alexander Meitiv hoped the nationally debated case — which has lit up social media and brought a dozen television film crews to their Silver Spring home — would be dismissed after a two-month investigation by Montgomery County Child Protective Services.

But the finding of unsubstantiated child neglect means CPS will keep a file on the family for at least five years and leaves open the question of what would happen if the Meitiv children get reported again for walking without adult supervision.

The parents say they will continue to allow their son, Rafi, 10, and daughter Dvora, 6, to play or walk together, and won’t be swayed by the CPS finding.

“We don’t feel it was appropriate for an investigation to start, much less conclude that we are responsible for some form of child neglect,” said Danielle Meitiv, who said she and her husband plan to appeal and worry about being investigated again by CPS.

“What will happen next time?” she asked. “We don’t know if we will get caught in this Kafkaesque loop again.”

The case dates to Dec. 20, when police picked up the two Meitiv children walking in Silver Spring on a Saturday afternoon after someone reported them. The parents said that they gradually let the pair take walks on their own and that their children knew the area, which is along busy Georgia Avenue.

The Meitivs said they would not have allowed the one-mile outing from Woodside Park to their home if they did not feel their children were up to it. The siblings made it halfway before police stopped them.

The Meitivs’ decision letter, dated Feb. 20, said the CPS investigation had been completed and would be closed. It cited a finding of unsubstantiated child neglect and made note of an appeals process.

Montgomery County Child Protective Services officials referred calls Monday to state officials. Paula Tolson, spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Human Resources, said the state cannot comment on specific cases because of confidentiality requirements.

Tolson said as a general practice, CPS officials in Maryland reach one of three possible findings after neglect investigations: ruled out, unsubstantiated or indicated.

An unsubstantiated finding is typically made when CPS has some information supporting a conclusion of child neglect, or when seemingly credible reports are at odds with each other, or when there is insufficient information for a more definitive conclusion, she said.

Tolson said a conference involving a CPS supervisor is the first step of the appeals process in cases of unsubstantiated neglect. It can often resolve some issues, she said.

Asked how authorities would respond if the children were reported again for walking unsupervised, she said CPS would become involved if a complaint was made about the safety of the children. In such cases, “if we get a call from law enforcement or from a citizen, we are required to investigate. Our goal is the safety of children, always.”

The Meitivs’ case has produced strong reactions about what constitutes responsible parenting, how safe children really are and whether the government overstepped its role.

The Meitivs, both scientists by training, embrace a “free-range” philosophy of parenting, believing that children learn self-reliance by being allowed to make choices, build independence and progressively experience the world on their own.

Though children have played unsupervised for generations, the so-called “free-range” movement goes back to 2008, when New York journalist Lenore Skenazy wrote a piece titled “Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone.”

Skenazy, who developed a following for pushing back against what many see as a culture of helicopter parenting, said Monday that the Meitiv case follows others that raise similar issues but that it became the “walk heard round the world.”

“I think it has shifted the national narrative,” she said, suggesting that people have reacted with more concern about government intrusion and less focus on predator danger.

“The go-to narrative in the last 20 or 30 years for parents was, ‘Take your eyes off your kid for even a second and he’ll be snatched.’ What the Meitiv case did was pivot the story to: ‘Give your kid one second of freedom and the government will arrest you.’ ”

Russell Max Simon, co-founder of Empower Kids Maryland, created just after the Meitiv case became public in January, called the CPS decision “flat-out ridiculous” for holding parents responsible for an unsubstantiated claim.


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