Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘Society

TV and defamation of the dead / Follow-up: Sweden, murder, and murder of justice

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Almost exactly fifteen months ago, I wrote about the absurd and grossly unethical attempts to paint a dead man as the murderer of Olof Palme. (Also see several other follow-ups.)

Among other things:

Here we have a potentially innocent man who will be considered the murderer by great swaths of the population and many history books—who has no chance to say anything in his defense.

This fear now risks being cemented: Netflix has released a TV series, which appears* to push this very angle—he did it. For those who can read Swedish, great amounts of discussion can be found in the comments to a Swedish article ([1]).

*I have not, and will not, watch it myself. I go by claims by those who have seen it, including in [1].

This is the more absurd, as my readings since my original text point very strongly to the accusations being faulty. To the degree that they are not faulty, the evidence is so slim that the prosecution would have been laughed out of court, had the alleged murderer still been alive and been brought to trial. Of course, not even all Swedes will have done corresponding readings, and international viewers of this series are quite unlikely to have done so.

No, for many, it will be “I know that he did it—I saw it on TV”.

Excursion on “based on a true story”, etc.:
Generally, even when no immediate fear of major defamation is present, I tend to avoid series and movies that are “based on a true story”, as they tend to be poorly made, necessarily will contain at least some (often considerable) distortion of reality, almost necessarily will be partial, and as they tend give grave mischaracterizations of at least some of the characters.

Similarly, I often react negatively to the inclusion of real historical characters in otherwise fictional works.

Written by michaeleriksson

November 12, 2021 at 7:52 am

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Sabotage and criticize/abolish/whatnot

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Trying to keep myself distracted during construction noise:

I have long contemplated the possibility that some groups, especially Leftist politicians and decision makers, could follow a strategy of “sabotage and X”, where X can be “criticize”, “abolish”, “use as an excuse to get funding”, etc. Two unfortunate hitches is that plain incompetence is often a reasonable alternate explanation and that the planning horizon often would need to be decades into the future.*

*Which does not rule out after-the-fact opportunism, e.g. with nuclear power below, or with the many, many cases of governmental incompetence causing a problem that the government then tries to solve—and takes credit even for attempts that ultimately fail.

Consider the following potential examples:

  1. Recently, the nit-wits around Joe Biden have pushed through an (almost) global regulation of a 15-percent minimum corporate tax. The true reason for this is almost certainly to remove the ability for other countries to compete over tax rates—and the result will be a (further) distortion of markets and market forces, which will reduce growth and, I suspect, is more likely to hit poor countries the harder.

    In a next bonus step, capitalism* and globalization** (the two things sabotaged), or even imperialism and old colonialism, can be used as scape-goats for the lack of growth and the “inequitable” distribution of international wealth—you must vote Left, so that we noble knights of the Left can fight these problems caused by the evil capitalists on the Right (except that we on the Left are really to blame, but you stupid voters are not supposed to understand that).

    *It might be better to speak of “free markets”, here and elsewhere, but I stick with “capitalism” as this is the term typically used in Leftist attacks.

    **With some reservations for what country we discuss. In the current U.S., the Democrats might be keener on globalization than the Republicans, but in e.g. my native Sweden “globalization is evil” and “globalization exploits poor countries” have been long standing Leftist mantras. (A similar, but weaker, U.S. drift seems to apply to capitalism too.)

    Generally, most modern Western nations contain absurd market distortions that cost virtually everyone in the long term, through preventing growth and wealth creation. Some are on the international level, like the above or the EU-wide minimum VAT of 15 percent; some on the national, like overly* high minimum wages, artificial monopolies, subsidies for unprofitable businesses, etc.

    *Any minimum wage is an example, but a sufficiently low minimum wage might be acceptable in the big picture. Even the > 8 Euro German one is too high, however; and the suggested 15 (?) Dollar U.S. one is a complete insanity.

  2. COVID is a potential source of multiple examples, e.g. that the lockdowns and other countermeasures cause immense damage, which is then blamed on COVID (instead of the decision makers and their countermeasures), which is then used to argue how bad COVID is and how vital continued countermeasures are. A very good potential example, depending on future developments, is the risk that lockdowns and leaky vaccines lead to more dangerous versions of COVID, where a more relaxed approach would have led to less dangerous versions. (See [1] and an outgoing link for a little more information.)
  3. Various aptitude tests, especially for academic entry, usually profit from having a high “g loading”. This in particular when we compare with school grades as a predictor of college success, because school knowledge, literacy, and similar are already reflected in the school grades (even if less so today than in the past).

    However, again and again, there is fiddling with e.g. the U.S. SATs or the Swedish Högskoleprovet to remove unpopular (but usually fair) differences in outcome between groups. This leads to a continual lowering of the g loading, because the correlation with g is what causes most of the group differences. With the lowering of the g loading, the tests become worse predictors, and the additional predictive capability over school grades is reduced.

    But now that the additional predictive capability is reduced, the tests can safely be maligned for bringing little value, which makes it easier to abolish them. (This often combined with claims like grades being a “fairer” criterion, which is dubious even today and outright idiotic when a strongly g-loaded test is allowed.)

  4. Let us say that we do have a problem with too much greenhouse gases and whatnots. Why is that? Largely, because nuclear power has been unfairly maligned, to the point that nuclear capacity has been reduced instead of increased. Who has done the maligning? Mostly various “green” parties (notably, in Germany). Who do now, with success, cry for more votes so that they can combat the greenhouse gases? The very same “green” parties!

    (Here we see the problem of the planning horizon: This maligning has been going on since at least the 1970s, while greenhouse gases might have grown into a non-trivial topic in the 1980s or 1990s, and has only taken off as that single, all-important, nothing else matters environmental question in, possibly, the last ten years.)

Of course, this could extend into many other areas, e.g. that a company that wishes to get rid of a certain product (possibly, in favor of one with a higher markup) could drop quality artificially, so that sales numbers will decrease over time, after which the lower sales numbers can be used as an excuse.

Excursion on game theory and the Left:
A partial explanation for idiocies like e.g. a minimum 15 percent tax is that the Leftist leaders and/or their voters do not understand how a changing situation leads to changes in behavior. A common attitude seems to be that “if we raise corporate taxes, corporate profits will grow smaller, and no-one else will be hurt”. In reality, chances are that corporate profits will not change very much, while prices rise, low-level workers are replaced by automation, wage increases are held back, quality compromises are made, etc. (Of course, not all of this is negative to a Leftist politician, as e.g. reduced employment can be used as a welcome argument for why the Leftist should be re-elected, so that they can fight the unemployment they caused the last time around. From Biden’s point of view, rising prices in other countries might be a very good thing, as it would increase U.S. competitiveness relative them. Etc.)

Then again, if profits do sink, this could lead to bankruptcies or investors moving their money somewhere else, as well as a drop in the stock market. Would the country at hand and its citizens truly be better off, compared to unchanged taxes?

Excursion on trade restrictions:
Trade restrictions, as suggested by e.g. Trump, are an interesting example of market disturbances in two regards. Firstly, they are themselves such disturbances. Secondly, the many other disturbances might imply that they are a good idea in at least some situations. (But not as good an idea as removing the other disturbances!) For instance, if two countries (A and B) manufacture and trade a certain product, then (all other factors equal) the one (A) with the lower minimum wages, lower taxes, weaker unions, less pointless or excessive regulation,* whatnot, will have a competitive advantage. The industry of country A will then tend to out-compete the industry of country B, country B will need to import more, will see unemployment rise, and likely a move of e.g. manufacturing plants to country A. If country B sets up an import tax on the products in question, this might well be to the net-benefit of country B (but not country A).

*Which is not to say that all regulation is either of the two. However, such problems are very common and can be very detrimental. Interestingly, areas where more regulation might make sense are usually absent or for show, as e.g. with consumer protection and “truth in advertising”.

Excursion on global taxes and self-serving politicians:
A strongly contributing reason why so many countries have fallen for this nonsense is the self-interest of the politicians: If the tax rate was already above 15 percent, it costs them nothing to agree, while they reap the benefits of other countries weakening their competitiveness. If the tax rate was lower, they now have an excuse to raise the taxes, which politicians seem to love. (Even be it through a naive or absent understanding of economics.)

Excursion on global taxes and democracy:
This looks like a major democracy fail to me. Effectively, the current rulers of this-or-that country make a bargain, while by-passing normal democratic procedures, and knowing that they will very often get a rubber-stamp later because voiding the agreement would look bad. (Similarly, there are rumors that many governments have entered legal agreements with COVID-vaccine makers to even institute new laws, should it become necessary to protect the makers from legal risks. While I do not vouch for this being true, such actions could also subvert democracy—and an already three-quarters dead democracy at that.)

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October 13, 2021 at 6:47 pm

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The Left, the war on language, and the war on the individual

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I am so deeply disturbed by the language insanities of the far Left that I see myself forced to violate my blog-is-closed policy.

Consider e.g. the recent idiocy* of “chestfeeding”: Not only is this a very ugly construction and one that is intended to replace, on a whim, a word used without controversy for a great length of time, but it is also utterly pointless and shows a horrifying lack of insight into the English language.**

*This is, of course, just one of many. However, in many other cases, there at least seems to be some natural purpose behind it, as with e.g. the re-definitions of “racism” to push that intellectually dishonest Blacks-cannot-be-racist/all-Whites-are-racist rhetoric. A particular common problem is that the Left demands tolkningsföreträde when situations change or new terminology would have been beneficial, as with e.g. redefining “man” and “woman” from the age-old meanings, when it would have been so much better to keep the old meanings and introduce new words for e.g. a-man-who-feels-like-a-woman. (Who, of course, in a sane world is a transgender man, not a transgender woman.)

**To this might be added a number of practical complications, including what to do with existing literature (down the memory hole?) or with any differences that might or might not arise between e.g. U.S., British, and Australian English.

Firstly, the historical main meaning of “breast” is identical to that of “chest” (as an anatomical term). This meaning might have predominated as late as a hundred years ago and is still common in many other Germanic languages (cf. e.g. the Swedish “bröst” and the German “Brust”, which both have the same dual meanings of “chest” and (almost) “udder”). Replacing the one with the other would then only be a step on a euphemistic treadmill.

Secondly, in as far as we hold to the meaning of “udder”, “breastfeeding” is more precise and less confusing than “chestfeeding”. The latter could be taken to imply e.g. someone being fed while in a chest (box) or while merely resting on someone’s chest while being fed in a different manner. This even discounting the incompatibility with prior or international use.

Thirdly, this idiocy appears to be rooted in some transgender/-sexual pseudo-equality movement. However, here it misses the point entirely, because (a) the milk-giving parts would be referred to as breasts irrespective of any “transition”, (b) even the individual male parts analogous to the female can be legitimately referred to as “breasts” in the first place. The suggested/demanded-with-outrage change is, then, as idiotic as demanding that football be renamed into “lower-leg ball” in order to, say, make it less male supremacist—a complete and utter idiocy.

Looking at the overall societal crisis, I would suspect that the true goal is to destroy language, just like history and history education, previous culture, higher education, science, etc. is being destroyed. Once language has been reduced to a meaningless Humpty-Dumpty, “Nineteen Eighty-Four” swamp, the people can no longer rely on language and the Left can change meanings and intents of words as they see fit, enabling it to manipulate and distort in a horrifying manner.

A particularly nefarious use of such distortion is the after-the-fact blacklisting of innocents, e.g. by noting that some mid-19th century physician used the horrifyingly sexist term “breastfeeding”, proving himself to be a narrow-minded bigot whose every argument and scientific claim can be safely ignored—nay, must be ignored.

And, no, in today’s Western world this is not paranoia. Consider e.g. the fate which has already befallen authors, even anti-slavery or pro-black authors, who have used the word “nigger” in a historically correct manner in their works—and note that these works and authors are now increasingly blacklisted.* Similarly, there are cases of e.g. lecturers being condemned for merely uttering “nigger” in order to discuss topics around the word and its uses. That a word once was not in the least offensive does not seem to matter either: In my native Sweden, the word “neger” was considered entirely mainstream and unproblematic, more comparable to “negroe” or “black” than “nigger”, and without any of the U.S. historical load—until some point in the 1980s when someone, somewhere, without an ounce of justification, decided that “neger” was also offensive.** We then had a small band of fanatics demanding a ban—and they were ignored or ridiculed by the broad masses. However, after years of shouting “offensive” and “racist” they managed to change public perceptions and turn a perfectly harmless phrase into something that either a majority or a sizable minority unjustifiably considers offensive—a lie repeated often enough is ultimately taken to be the truth.

*Mark Twain and Harper Lee are likely the foremost examples.

**Even when it comes to the U.S. “nigger”, I am not entirely convinced that the word had a truly offensive character in the early days, and I am open to a process similar to the one taking place in Sweden. However, I have neither done the legwork on the issue, nor can I draw on personal experiences.

One of the more common PC abuses of language is the use of “they” not just as a generic singular (bad enough), but increasingly as a sole pronoun, including cases, e.g. regarding animals, where “it” was already established. Or consider the idiocy of “one” and variations of “they”—instead of correctly saying e.g. “one must eat one’s vegetables” formulations like “one must eat their vegetables” are used over and over again. (See e.g. [1] and [2] for earlier writings.)

This fits into another pattern, namely attempts* to destroy individuality—what can be more de-individualizing and humiliating than to be turned from a “he” or a “she” into a “they”? (Or, as in Ayn Rand’s “Anthem”, turned from an “I” into a “we”. The novella is disturbingly farsighted.) Even an “it” still has individuality, a right to be something or someone of and by it self. A “they” is just a worker bee or a member of the Borg Collective.

*This is not unique to today but a recurring issue with the Left. Consider e.g. the uniformity of clothing or address (“comrade”, etc.) pushed by some Leftist dictatorships.

This war on the individual is notable through e.g. the focus on aspects like ethnicity and sexual orientation over individuality, including demands that voters must vote according to these aspects rather than their personal convictions, e.g. the focus on having (or, in doubt, professing) the “right” prescribed opinion rather than one’s own opinion, e.g. the denial of inborn qualities in favor of an outdated-by-fifty-years attitude of “nurture only”—that we are just what others have molded us to be, and with another molding we would be someone entirely different.

Written by michaeleriksson

August 17, 2021 at 6:11 pm

COVID counter-measures (!) wrecking immune systems / Follow-up: COVID-19 reactions doing more harm than good?

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I just encountered a very disturbing read. Among* the claims made:

*I recommend reading the original text in full. The inconsistent quotation marks are present in the original.

Children need to come into contact with dirt (or put more scientifically: bacteria, microorganisms, viruses in general) in order to build immune systems that will carry them through the rest of their lives.

“All the sanitary measures necessary in a pandemic” have meant that this very necessary contact has been massively reduced, pediatrician Mário Cordeiro tells the paper, leading to babies and toddlers particularly becoming dangerously ‘vulnerable’.

This is yet another indication that the counter-measures against COVID are doing more damage than COVID—a cure worse than the disease by far. (And not a very good cure either, at that. Witness Sweden and Florida.)

Apart from the specifics of the article, there are at least two more abstract points illustrated, which, in turn, illustrate the problems with such massive interventions.

Firstly, any major (and many minor) changes of the status quo are likely to have unexpected* side-effects, especially when they are very prolonged. I would argue that even the highly predictable side-effects of the COVID lockdowns and other interventions, e.g. bankruptcies, should have been enough to bring more caution; however, the risk of unexpected side-effects makes it that much more important to be cautious.

*With hindsight (cf. excursion), I do not find this surprising and others might have seen the risk a lot earlier. Maybe, I just missed the risk because my main period of interest was over after the first few months; maybe, I would have missed it anyway. It seems fair to assume, however, that our nitwit politicians did miss it, as they failed to recognize even the more obvious and more short-term threats (and/or willfully choose to ignore them).

Secondly, over-protection is a bad thing. Now, drawing the line between protection and over-protection can be hard, but most of the Western world is highly over-protective. Consider not just COVID and all the “for your own good” measures, but also e.g. colleges that try to prevent (!) students from coming into contact with claims that they disagree with; welfare systems that do not just help the truly needy, instead opting for an elimination of personal responsibility, giving incentives for low earners not to work at all, etc.; schools that do not allow children to walk between school and a near-by home; or so extensive healthcare that biological fitness, be it in evolutionary terms or, similar to the above, short-term individual fitness, is increasingly taken out of the equation, ensuring more and more medical troubles over time. Then (cf. excursion) there is the attitude of many parents …

Excursion on over-protection and myself:
I had an over-protective mother, of whom the above quote reminds me. I was big on putting sand, pebbles, whatnot in my mouth as small child, which always caused protests, often even physical interventions, from my mother. She was certainly well-intentioned and I have since grown to find the habit disgusting, but since I first heard claims like the first paragraph above, I have wondered whether she did not do more harm than good. Her over-protection definitely held me back at times. I can e.g. recall visiting my cousins, who showed me how to use a small* weed-wacker (?). While aunt and uncle were aware and said not one word of protest, my mother threw a fit when she returned and I proudly wanted to show her what I had learned—things like that are worse for a child than a largely imaginary risk of a minor injury.

*As in, could-cut-the-grass-around-a-fence-post-but-not-much-more.

Similarly, because she had a do-everything-for-the-children attitude, both I and my sister entered adult life woefully under-prepared. I enjoyed it at as a child, but adult me paid the price, as I was left to make many mistakes later than was needed (and when she could not help) and with too lacking experiences when it came to e.g. cooking and cleaning. What if she had not protected child or teen me from mistakes, but allowed me to make them and then helped with correcting them and drawing the right lessons?

Written by michaeleriksson

August 6, 2021 at 12:19 am

That noble distraction / Follow-up: That noble cause

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A few years back, I wrote about noble causes and how they are used and abused.

Since then, I have grown ever more suspicious that some of them might serve another purpose than I had anticipated—distraction. (Cf. the idea of starting a war to distract from internal problems.)

If the voters are in a near state of panic over global warming, COVID, “systemic racism”, or similar, chances are that they will be too distracted from worse or real* problems that are less publicized (or where the knowledge is deliberately suppressed)—for instance, the damage done by too large a government and too much government intervention, including high taxes and handing out money to the lazy, poorly controlled immigration, dysgenic pressure within the population, misconstructed** healthcare systems, the destruction of education and science, etc.

*Global warming might be real, but systemic racism is not—unless it is in a pro-Black, anti-White, anti-Asian sense. (As evidence e.g. by Blacks being admitted to college with far lower SAT scores than Whites and Asians, and how Blacks are less likely to be shot by the police than Whites in equivalent incidents.)

**For instance, by giving the potential patients incentives to seek help even when help is not needed, and for the healthcare providers to raise prices, because a third-party pays. Notably, health insurance should actually be health insurance, as in “if something really bad happens, the insurance pays”—not a redistribution mechanism, as in “no matter why I go to the hospital or what medication I want, others will pay for me”.

(And note that many of these problems, while bad for the people and/or the nation, are good for the politicians, in general, or the Leftist politicians, in particular, e.g. because they lead to less informed voters, give an excuse to increase government intervention further to buy votes or to create the impression that the government is a rescuing angel, or similar.)

Written by michaeleriksson

July 7, 2021 at 10:59 am

Rachel from “Friends” / Follow-up: Speculations on the negative influence of female attitudes

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After watching the next episode (S05E01), I have to make a small addendum in Emily’s defense to my previous text:

I had entirely forgotten about her catching Ross about to go (at least officially platonically) with Rachel on what should have been Ross and Emily’s honeymoon. With that misunderstanding, Ross’s behavior must have appeared much more incriminating to her, which makes her later behavior a little more understandable.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 5, 2021 at 11:52 pm

Rachel from “Friends” / Follow-up: Speculations on the negative influence of female attitudes

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I am currently re-watching “Friends”, and (as always) find it full of examples* of poor female behavior, many reflecting the political problems I suspect in e.g. [1]—as well as a male failure to hold women to a reasonable standard and to take a stand, which could also contribute to political issues. This in particular regarding Rachel and Ross and her double-standards, self-centeredness, disregard for the interests of others, and unwillingness to take personal responsibility. Rachel: Me! Me! Me! Ross: You! You! You!

*I caution that “Friends” is in many ways exaggerated and unrealistic, but many of the behaviors of both sexes match what I have experienced myself or seen/heard/read from others reasonably well in quality, if not necessarily quantity.

Consider the last few episodes that I watched, centering on Ross and Emily’s London wedding. Examples include Rachel flying to London to wreck the wedding,* Emily freaking out about a venue problem to the point that she wants to postpone the wedding, leaving a number of overseas (and probably dozens more local) guests with wasted trips and parents with an expensively paid wedding, and Monica supporting this selfish idiocy—while Ross tries to take a stand, only to cave in the face of what amounts to “But this is really, really important to a woman/girl of five!”. That the woman was in singular and the guests in plural, that any sane person considers the marriage** far more important than the wedding, and that we sometimes have to swallow the bitter pill and do what is right, not what we want or what is easy, did not seem to figure into the equation.

*To her credit, she comes to her senses, possibly partially due to a stern talking to from Hugh Laurie (a man who took a stand). That the wedding ends up being wrecked (in the next season) was not her fault.

**Eventually, the wedding took place and the marriage crashed and burned in short order. Of course, the wedding did not take place because someone talked sense into Emily, but because Ross went out of his way to fix up the ruined original venue to cater to her childish ideas.

As to Ross’s classic line “I take thee, Rachel”, which crashed the marriage: I have considerable sympathies for Emily, as this must have been both humiliating and infuriating, but would not a reasonable person in a deep and loving relationship have been able to move past it? Either she was unreasonable for not doing so or for having pushed for a ceremony at a far too early date, before the two knew each other and the depth or shallowness of their love well enough.*

*Note that while Ross pushes harder for the marriage, per se, the extremely short time between proposal and wedding is Emily’s doing—and for a childish and superficial reason (wanting to be married in a particular venue, before it is torn down; again, missing the point of the marriage being more important than the wedding). With another few months to more than a year of engagement, they would have had so much better chances to straighten themselves out or to terminate a mere engagement instead of an actual marriage.

As to Rachel, in general, she is indeed a horrible, horrible woman (to paraphrase Hugh Laurie) and her personality defects ruined most of the Ross–Rachel saga for me. Her very first appearance on the show follows her running out on her own wedding, still in her wedding dress, and more-or-less assuming that she can move in with Monica, whom she had not dignified with her friendship in years (with some reservations for ret-cons).*

*And note that when Chandler does something similar, much later, he is talked back into the wedding, while Rachel was not. If anything, the general sentiment seems to be that Rachel did the right thing—no matter the damage to the groom, the guests, and the whatnot. By all means, she should not get married against her own convictions, but if she were to back out, she should have done so earlier, when the damage to others would have been small, and not on a last minute whim, when the costs for others were large.

Among her many other idiocies and selfish behaviors, I will give only three (watch an episode at random, if you want more):

Firstly, the whole “Were they on a break?” situation: Watch the relevant episodes, and you will find that immediately after the event Rachel (!) claimed that they were on a break, while Ross thought that they were broken up. Over time, Ross appears to have been a chicken and switched to Rachel’s position (on a break), with the effect that Rachel pushed her own position further to his disadvantage (not on a break). (Incidentally, this is another thing that well matches the current political Left. Give them an inch and they next demand an ell, instead of giving an inch of their own.)

Secondly, the events leading up to Ross’s drinking fat as an act of contrition:* Ross is in a hurry to get to an important event, likely one of career relevance to him, with her as his guest. She utterly disrespects** him and his justified (!) urgency with endless and unnecessary delays, eventually throws a childish fit, refuses to come and/or to dress, and behaves as if he had disrespected her … Eventually, in one of the most absurd scenes of television, the adult man has to earn the forgiveness of the spoiled child by drinking fat.

*That episode pisses me off to such a degree that I skipped most of it, this time around. I make corresponding reservations for vagueness and errors in detail.

**Note the hypocrisy and how the women on the show take the exact opposite attitude on so many occasions, when they are the ones believing something to be important. This is a good example of how turning the male and female roles in a certain situation around can be extremely revealing about the pro-woman double-standard that applies in much of modern society (and modern TV). Have a man be cavalier about an important career event (or a wedding!) and women hit the roof over the alleged egoistical pig. When a woman is cavalier? Not so much.

Thirdly, appearing to accept Ross back as her boyfriend, making him break up with his new girlfriend (Bonnie?)—and then springing an 18-page letter (“Front and back!”) upon Ross, making unconditional demands on him that he must accept in order to be her boyfriend. (Notably, demands that he disagrees strongly with.) As she had made him dump Bonnie, this was utterly unreasonable. If she had such demands, she should have brought them in play before the dumping, to give him an informed choice; after, she had made her bed and should have been forced to lie in it, to take responsibility for her own lack of timing. And what about poor Bonnie—either which way?

Excursion on Emily and red flags:
Looking at Emily, she had a number of earlier events, including in her very first scene, when she comes across as bitchy, but most of them, at least when taken alone, seemed to have legitimate causes. That someone is in a bad mood after a long plane ride, followed by a body-cavity search, followed by falling into a puddle, followed by (apparently) being stood up is understandable.* However, with hindsight, they could be seen as early warning signs, and it might pay to take such warning signs seriously in real life. For instance, if a girlfriend flips out once a week, chances are that a better wife can be found and that a proposal should not take place. (And, certainly, the current disastrous political situation follows decades of warning signs that have been ignored by too many until it was too late.)

*To some approximation her state during that first scene. I might have the details wrong, however.

Excursion on the Left and a childish worldview/moral system:
It strikes me again and again that most people on the left move on an apparent level of (not just women but) children in terms of how undeveloped their worldviews and moral systems tend to be. Pick up a typical children’s book or comic and chances are that exactly their type of thinking will be found, e.g. in that the protagonist is always (morally) right, that the “strong” must selflessly help the “weak” without looking into why help is needed, that the “strong” are always wrong in a conflict with the “weak”, that if the one has then he must share, etc. To some part, this might be because the authors are disproportionately often Leftist, but mostly, I suspect, it is simply that Leftists often have not moved on from ideas popular with children. Compare this with e.g. Kohlberg’s stages of moral development.

An interesting case is the Swedish comic “Bamse”, which features an eponymous bear who gains superpowers by eating a particular type of honey (similar to Pop-Eye and his spinach). Either the “bad guys” do what Bamse want, or they are beaten up—with no sign of true moral reflection, e.g. about who is in the wrong and who is in the right. (With reservations for what might have changed in the comic since my own childhood.)

Excursion on Ross and errors:
Ross was by no means ideal either, even if we disregard his weakness and how easily manipulated he was, but, interestingly, the one (off the top of my head!) truly major point where I find him in error, saw him acting in a manner more stereotypically expected of a woman and Rachel of a man: out of jealousy or love he kept pestering Rachel in her office, leading up to an attempt to force her to an anniversary (?) picnic in her office, at a time when she made clear that she had a crisis to handle and that he simply had to wait. Of course, if we switch the roles again, with Ross in the office and Rachel pestering him, chances are that she would have reacted even more negatively than Ross did—and that the female viewers would have lined up to support her.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 4, 2021 at 10:10 pm

Drugs and further mistreatment of athletes / Follow-up: Various

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I have written repeatedly about mistreatment of athletes, in particular in the area of drugs, testing protocols, and similar. (Cf. e.g. [1], [2], [3], [4]; and, outside of drugs, e.g. [5].)

In light of events since then, and especially recent events, it is time for a follow-up:

  1. Most recently:

    Sha’Carri Richardson won the U.S. Olympic trials in the 100m dash, after a season that made her a strong gold candidate in the upcoming Olympics.

    Now, it appears that she has tested positive for cannabis, a drug of very disputable relevance to her performance, and she seems set to miss the Olympics. Notably, even to the degree that cannabis has had a positive effect, mere performance enhancement is not enough to make the ban of a particular drug ethically justifiable—there has to be some actual problem with it, e.g. a non-trivial threat to the health* of the athlete (cf. excursion).

    *I have argued for even lesser restrictions in [1] (and I stand by that text), but such a reduction is unlikely to happen for the foreseeable future.

    Here, I cannot suppress the suspicion that various organizations are trying to enforce a particular way of life upon the athletes, which, then, shows a potential for disastrous developments, e.g. that athletes be forbidden from doing this, forced to do that, and maybe even coerced into holding or professing certain opinions to an even higher degree than today. (You drink alcohol or refuse to sign our “diversity and inclusion” statement? No Olympics for you!) Note that, even should this destructive and unfair road not be taken, the current situation shows the risk that it could be taken, which emphasizes the need for the equivalent of civil rights for athletes, that a “either you ‘voluntarily’ agree to this-and-that or you are not allowed to compete” must be reduced to a “this-and-that” which is reasonable and proportionate, that the presumption of innocence must hold, that the burden of proof must always be on the “prosecution”, etc.

    To make matters worse, there might be an additional lottery component, in that the currently claimed suspension of a mere 30 days would have allowed her to compete, had the time from the trials and/or* the date of her suspension to the Olympics been just a little longer.**

    *The sources that I have seen have not made a clear and informed statement about what the exact modalities are.

    **This with the additional uncertainty of whether she is not allowed to run because she will be suspended during the Olympics, or because her victory at the U.S. Olympic trials has been invalidated. However, if the latter, it again shows the problems associated with the idiotic only-three-athletes-per-country-rule. (Cf. [6].)

  2. Very recently, Christine Mboma ran a fabulous junior world record in the 400 meters, faster than all but six seniors in history, and sailed up as a very strong gold candidate in the Olympics. Now, she has withdrawn (or has been withdrawn) under mysterious circumstance, with speculation that she might exceed certain “legal” testosterone levels—with the apparent option that she might still run the 200 meters. Either she is a biological woman, who has not taken illegal drugs, but who might or might not be an extreme outlier* in some regard, and should then be allowed to compete in any women’s event; or she is not a biological woman and should not compete with women at all;** or she is a drug cheat and should not compete at all, with anyone.

    *If extreme outliers are banned, we would also have to ban athletes who, in some sense, are “too tall”, have “too many fast-twitch fibers”, or similar. There is nothing magical about testosterone. Also cf. [4] for a similar discussion around Caster Semenya.

    **While I have my mind on situations like the one that might have applied to Stella Walsh here, the general idea does apply to the recent phenomenon of gender transitioning. Note that a man who transitions to a woman might have a great number of advantages even after extensive operations and hormone treatments, including a greater height and more athletically suitable limb proportions, compared to e.g. a sister-born-as-a-woman.

  3. Just a little while earlier, Shelby Houlihan, who was at least a medal candidate for the Olympics, received a four-year ban and missed the U.S. Olympic trials for testing positive for nandrolone.

    Her explanation for this, that she had eaten a contaminated burrito bought from a food truck, has mostly been derided—and I am highly skeptical, myself. However, her explanation is not impossible, as such contamination is known to occur. In combination with the “strict liability” and “guilty until proved innocent” approach used today, athletes play the lottery every time that they eat food that has not been strictly controlled. This, of course, is not restricted to burritos from a food truck—even a high-end restaurant might, if with a lesser likelihood, be a source of problems. Consider, e.g. and to tie in with the first item, a disgruntled employee who takes his leave by the (in his eyes) mostly harmless prank of smuggling in some “funny” brownies among the regular ones. (What is the worst thing that could happen? That some stuck-up rich lady has a bit of fun? Oh, oops, someone just lost an Olympic gold, her reputation, and millions in lifetime earnings.)

    Similarly, there is a risk of deliberate sabotage from the competition or fans of the competition. (Consider e.g. more sophisticated versions of the Harding/Kerrigan situation and the stabbing of Monica Seles.)

    These are yet other signs that the impositions on the lives of the athletes are too large and that strict liability (etc.) is too unfair.

  4. There has been a number of new cases of “whereabouts” problems, as e.g. with Christian Coleman, where, as with Meraf Bahta (cf. [1], [2], [3]), the problem is not an actual drug finding, but a mere was-not-at-the-right-time-at-the-right-place.

    I grant that the excuses used by specifically by Coleman seem to have fallen apart;* however, the sum of the athletes hit or almost hit show that the system is too error prone. Note the earlier discussions of Bahta for more details.

    *He is likely the most famous of those fallen to this rule, however, and he was arguably the best sprinter in the world at the time.

In sum, I can only reiterate that the current system is unfair and disproportionate; puts an undue burden of knowledge, effort, and sacrifice on the athletes; is incompatible with the judicial norms applied in “real life”; and contains too large elements of chance.

Excursion on performance enhancers:
I occasionally see an automatic reaction of “enhances performance; ergo, must be banned”. However, there are many things that enhance performance without having any major side-effects and the use of which is often quite uncontroversial. Strictly speaking, this naive attitude would require that e.g. vitamin and mineral supplements be banned. Taking it to an extreme, we might even have to ban training … (Indeed, Olympic-level training can do more damage to the body than limited use of e.g. anabolic steroids.)

If we look at e.g. cannabis, some might want to argue that living as “cleanly” as possible is in the athletes best interest, but neither is that a given nor can perfection be demanded of athletes. Work–life balance applies to athletes just as it does to office workers. Maybe an occasional joint makes life a little easier, just as it does for some office workers,* which makes it easier to keep up with all the other sacrifices, which leads to better performance, etc.—while the relaxation might increase happiness in life. If in doubt, an athlete must not be obliged to sign away his life choices to a third party.

*I have, indeed, repeatedly played with the idea of using it myself, both as a way to relax and as a “mood smoothener”. So far, I have been deterred by the combination of the German ban, which is still in place, and claims of issues with memory retention and brain speed; however, I do not by any means rule out that I will use it in the future.

Even cigarettes, which are almost always a bad thing even for office workers, might have a limited place. At least historically, many high-jumpers have smoked in order to keep their weight down and their results up. For them, it is an indirect performance enhancer, and it is widely considered harmful to overall health. Should we then ban all athletes from smoking? If we do, then why not from dieting or having a too high or too low BMI? Why not from this and why not from that? The results would be (even more) preposterous, the regulations would be too complicated to keep up with, and the athlete’s lifestyle would be too ridiculously reduced relative non-athletes.

Excursion on (truly) illegal drugs and behaviors:
Note that a reasoning like e.g. “cannabis is illegal; ergo, it should be banned in sports; ergo, WADA (or whoever) should test and extend bans for it” is fundamentally flawed (even discounting differences in legality between jurisdictions). WADA is not a law-enforcement agency, and it should not meddle with law enforcement. It should not check for illegal-but-not-banned-in-sports drugs anymore than it should check the homes of the athletes for illegal firearms.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 2, 2021 at 12:21 pm

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Krister Petersson not off the hook (murder of Olof Palme)

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I have repeatedly written negatively about prosecutor Krister Petersson and his defamatory claims towards a dead suspect (Stig Engström) of the Palme murder. (Cf. at least [1], [2], [3].)

For a long time, it looked as if there would be no formal consequences of any kind—no matter how many, including experts on law and/or the Palme murder, were protesting.

Today, there seems to be a minor improvement, as JO (see excursion) Per Lennerbrants has objected strongly. To paraphrase one Swedish source:

JO is harshly critical against Krister Petersson, and believes that he has for all practical purposes pointed to Stig Engström as the guilty party, despite Petersson’s claims that this was not his intention. Particular criticism was directed at Petersson’s failure to mention exculpating things (“sådant”).

This is particularly gratifying to me, because I saw a potential weakness in my own criticism, namely that Petersson might have made sufficiently many disclaimers to, so to speak, be freed on a technicality. This does not appear to be the case, after all.

However, JO appears to be more in agreement with Petersson than I was on the issue of naming names: JO does not necessarily see a problem with the naming, per se, but objects to the strong categorization as “guilty”, not mere “suspect”.

Disclaimer:
I have not dug into the direct statements by JO, and rely on the claims in the source. The source, however, is known as extremely conscientious and knowledgeable. (And the rest of the blog, for those who understand Swedish, provides an enormous amount of analysis and debate on both the Palme murder, in general, and Petersson’s behavior in particular.)

Excursion on JO:
JO/Justitieombudsmannen is a position that has no obvious-to-me equivalent in the English-speaking world, but which, broadly speaking, is a parliamentary “righter of wrongs”, open to petitions from the public and serving as check on the behavior of governmental institutions and civil servants. (And possibly a slew of other things.) On the downside, I suspect that the findings of JO amounts to “Bad boy!” more often than to “Go directly to jail!”.

Written by michaeleriksson

June 22, 2021 at 12:06 pm

Deliberate lies, threats to freedom of speech, etc. based on “Unsettled” / Follow-up: Various.

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A while back, I wrote ([1]):

Indeed, these constant cries of wolf have strongly contributed to my changed take on man-made global warming, from “definitely real” to “I do not know”—my previous belief was based on claims made by journalists and politicians, experience shows that I cannot trust their claims, and I have (to date) never done the leg work to actually form an independent opinion on the matter.

I am currently trying to get some of that leg work done by reading Koonin’s “Unsettled”, but find the most interesting observations with regard to my own thoughts not in the area of the climate, but in the discussions of knowledge and free speech that are present in e.g. [1], [2], [3], and [4], as well as some of my many COVID discussions.

This both with regard to the contents of the book and the reactions against it.

I lack the time for a deeper analysis, but the problems discussed include topics like:

  1. Misleading reporting of science (notably through poor choices of what data to include in graphs and how to present that data), often with each layer of reporting distorting the actual finding further.
  2. Scientists being loathe to speak up for fear of repercussions.
  3. The possibility that some journalists and politicians take it upon themselves to deliberately exaggerate or distort so that the broad masses will be convinced of the “right” opinion, while being robbed of the right to form their own opinions.

(Of course, very similar issues can be found in e.g. I.Q. research, research into biological differences between men and women, and any other academic area which comes into contact with the Left and/or the PC crowd. Ditto COVID-related topics. )

Particularly telling is his repeated references to e.g. Einstein and Feynman with regard to a duty to truth, intellectual honesty, and similar in science. Consider e.g. Einstein’s

The right to search for truth implies also a duty; one must not conceal any part of what one has recognized to be true.

I note e.g. my own suggestions for a new press-ethics in [3], where the very first item is:

To always report the facts in a manner that allows the readers to form their own opinions—even if they happen to deviate from the journalist’s. This includes not selectively filtering facts that that are unpleasant or incongruent with the journalist’s world view, and not presuming to be an arbiter of what is relevant and what not.

In a bigger picture, I have long been concerned that systematic lying and distortion in line with this quote is taking place—an adult version of the “snus” example from [2]. Indeed, much of the discussion in [2] is highly relevant. This tendency has been very, very clear during the COVID-era, where any claim deviating even slightly from the official line is to be stomped out as inexcusable heresy and misinformation—even when the speaker is a legitimate scientist, even when the science is not yet settled, and even when the facts might support the claim.

Finally, I have previously argued that being right or wrong is not the only thing that matters, e.g. in [4]. Based on my experience and readings since [4], including the massive suppressions and distortions relating to COVID, I would suggest at least the following three questions to consider:

  1. Is a certain opinion correct?
  2. Is a certain opinion, its correctness or incorrectness aside, held for a good reason? (cf. [4], especially.)
  3. Has a certain opinion been freely formed by its holder? (As opposed to instilled in him by another party through means like indoctrination, selective reporting of facts, emotional manipulation, or other intellectually dishonest means.)

Of these, I consider the last the most important—and one likely to be answered with a resounding “NO” for most people and most opinions in today’s world. This failure is a far worse threat to civilization than COVID and climate change put together. It could kill science, democracy, and societal progress. It could ensure that more and more opinions are and remain incorrect as there is no competition between ideas, and as ideas will go untested once deemed the “official truth”. Etc. This is the realm of Soviet-style dictatorships and “Nineteen Eighty-Four”.

Casting a slightly bigger net, we might add a “Is the opinion professed the true opinion of the speaker?” (as opposed to a claim made for fear of repercussions, in order to seem enlightened, or similar).

Excursion on the climate and “Unsettled”:
Roughly half-way through the book, my impression of climate change and climate science is mostly unchanged, i.e. (a) there is likely something too it, but (b) there is a lot of exaggeration and panic-mongering going on, (c) what e.g. journalists claim does not automatically match what scientists say (in this and countless other fields), and (d) I still have not done enough leg work for a firm own opinion.

Something very interesting, however, is that “Unsettled”, in my reading, largely comes down with a “global warming is real” (etc.) take,* while others seem to read the opposite, e.g. (paraphrased) that “Finally, someone proves us skeptics right!” or “This is just a pseudo-scientific attempt to discredit the very real threat of climate change!”. This discrepancy between contents and reactions are not only another example of how dangerous the political climate is in the U.S. (in general) and on the Left (globally), but also plays in well with some of my recent thoughts around “The Bell-Curve”. Contrary to being e.g. “racist” or “White supremacist”, that book could be argued as anti-racist: If we look at what individuals from the broad masses with e.g. an anti-Black attitude say, it often amounts to “Blacks have some natural propensity towards crime [or whatnot], which makes them unsuitable for this-and-that.”. In contrast, “The Bell-Curve” has a take of roughly “those with low I.Q.** tend to end up in jail more often, and race is very secondary to I.Q.”, etc. If the Leftist hate-mongers had not been so keen on shouting the book down as racist, this could have been a very strong anti-racist argument, led to a far greater degree of tolerance, and led to policies much more likely to benefit all races over the long term.

*That the science and science reporting is criticized does not imply that the overall picture is rejected. Here, again, I suspect a strict policy of “either you are 100% with us, including by supporting any of our misinformation, or you are against us”.

**The authors usually deliberately do not speak in terms of I.Q., but the end result is the same and my last reading is too far back for me to remember the exact term used.

Written by michaeleriksson

May 25, 2021 at 11:11 pm