William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Category: Culture (page 1 of 172)

The best that has been thought and written and why these ideals are difficult to meet.

Scenes From A Mid-Sized University

A feminist riot is an ugly sink, unt, I think that it is just about time dat ve had vone!

A couple of small but notable items, lifted from one issue of a mid-sized university school newspaper.

  • “Student success is a major component of the strategic plan…” Component? Strategic plan? This from an article showing how STEM fields will receive more, and even primary, attention. The strategic plan includes “new Active Learning Classrooms”. As opposed to inactive?
  • “Student Government Associate vice president, [Name] believes if you’re not outraged by what’s going on in the world then you’re not paying attention…’There are so many really intense and scary things going on in America and overseas,’ [Name] said. ‘If we actually empathized those issues, weren’t so separated and actually paid attention to those, we wouldn’t be scared.'”

    So which is it? Outraged or scared? If you’re “outraged”, it’s a good bet you’ve have never read history or a novel which wasn’t chosen by the demographic characteristics of its author.

  • 3,000 is a big number. In an article about September 11, “‘When you hear the number 3,000 it’s a lot, it’s a big number,’ [Name] said. ‘But when you see 3,000 then you realize it’s a big number.'”
  • Headline: “Pizza and networking event aims to end sexual assault.” The hidden power of pepperoni?
  • The above event was sponsored by—can you guess?—the “Women and Gender Studies Program”, the director of which said, “It’s an opportunity to make a collective calendar and learn to be riotous and active and amazing feminists on campus.”
  • A student said about the event, “It’s all about getting people talking and having conscious raising discussions that raise awareness.” I’m confused about what’s being raised, consciouses or awarenesses?
  • In the papers’ op-ed, a student explains her “lifestyle choice”: “For me, eating meat differs from accidentally eating a food I dislike.” It’s the same for me.
  • The rest of the paper, considerably more than half, was given over to the school’s sports teams.

Mark Zuckerberg Dresses Like A Bum



Why I am writing about this, what might seem to you, not-too-pressing subject? The answer is discovered below.

Before the reveal, an example of an ad hominem fallacy: “Facebook is not intelligently run because Mark Zuckerberg is rather plain in the looks department.” It’s the “because” that kills that argument because, of course, the visage of a man has little to do with his intelligence (there is even a slight negative correlation: hello Hollywood!).

An example of true proposition: “Mark Zuckerberg dresses like a negligent college student whose Friday night started late Thursday afternoon (hello CMU!).” Stating true propositions, simple statements of fact, is never a fallacy.

Here’s another: Zuckerberg has seven orders of magnitude more money than I: he rates thirty-some billion, whereas Yours Truly is rapidly approaching (but more usually receding from) multiple triple digits. A point of interest not because it is my duty to provide Facebook free content and Zuckerberg’s to profit from it, but because your author manages to invert the wealth ratio in terms of dress.

Meaning it costs very little to look beautiful. Zuckerberg has much, much more than very little, therefore he can afford to dress beautifully. And it is his duty to do so.

Zuckerberg has so much money that he can pay somebody to buy and take care of his clothes. Zuckerberg himself need never be involved,; he need take no more time than he currently takes in choosing his wardrobe, which is obviously no time at all, except for the microsecond it takes to grab what has fallen on the floor the night before.

One last assertion of fact: this result from a Google image search (one such is found at the top of this post).

Go ahead and try. You’ll see a limited range of images, most containing him in an ugly t-shirt in jeans, but occasionally wearing event-appropriate clothing. Which proves that he knows what it required of him, and sometimes acts on this requirement. But there are several images, such as one at some quasi-governmental official economic forum, in which he should dress nice but is dressed as if suffering from a hangover and has mixed up his wife’s t-shirt with his.

These facts being asserted, it must be that Zuckerberg knows the rules but chooses to flaunt them, knows what it means to dress beautifully but chooses for the most part to be ugly.

So why pick on Zuckerberg?

That’s the wrong question. The better query is: why is Zuckerberg is picking on us?

The man is in the public eye, knows he is, knows we have to look at him, knows that some will emulate him, knows what his duty is but flaunts it, thus he is a major contributor to the degradation of society.

“Briggs, you haven’t been drinking enough. Major contributor to the degradation of society? Time to crack open a bottle, brother. You’ve lost it.”

Major contributor, I say. You’ve heard of the broken windows theory, have you not? How letting little things slide, like graffiti on walls, trash on the lawn, and broken windows encourages far worse crimes like theft, listening to NPR, and voting for Democrats? Indeed, the theory isn’t a theory but common sense put succinctly; isn’t that so?

“Well, yes.”

Same thing here. Zuckerberg’s sloppy t-shirts, jeans, and tennis shoes lead to worse behaviors like instead of looking taking pictures with smart phones wherever one goes, veganism, and public boasting of small “carbon footprints”, not to mention he causes pain every time we have to see him, which, given the media’s obsession with money, is all too often.

But it’s the emulation that is the real curse. The young see a figure in authority clad in dollar-store rejects and figure they can and should do the same. And so whenever we venture outside we all have to pay the price of ugliness surrounding us.

This reminds me: a good statistical project could be to chart the amount of clothing worn by the average individual. Barbarians wore little to nothing; civilization, especially as it probed northwards, led to layering. But increasing decadence is peeling off these layers one by one. If I’m right (and I am), and controlling for weather, most people by 2100 will be down to an extra-large t-shirt, maybe drawers, and flip flops (encrusted with various expensive doodads to signal one’s allegiances).

Update Holy moly! Even the New York Times (sort of): The Death of Adulthood in American Culture (subtract standard self-flagellation about being a white man).

Movie Review: Calvary. Guest Post By The Blonde Bombshell


If you’ve seen the trailer or read a review of Calvary, you may get the impression that the movie is a mystery set in a quaint Irish village. If you’ve read interviews with the director or cast, you may get the impression that the movie’s deeper message has something to do with the sex abuse scandal that has plagued the Catholic Church.

Many non-Catholics and lapsed Catholics cannot get enough of the sex abuse scandal, even though the rates of abuse are reportedly much higher in many (US) public schools. Reports of abuse conducted outside of the Church are often cast off with a shrug, and not met with screams that public education must be reformed and calls that teachers must be married. It is not my intention to minimize the claims of those who have been injured and emotionally hurt by sex abuse, but to plead for a degree of perspective, especially from the media who report on such matters. Abuse of this nature is reprehensible and criminal.

The movie’s name, Calvary, suggests that there will be a sacrifice of an innocent. Calvary, of course, is the spot where Jesus was crucified, but to many Christians, “Calvary” is amplified to mean the crucifixion itself. “The road to Calvary” is not necessarily the geographic route that Jesus walked dragging his cross, but encompasses the events leading up to the crucifixion. The potential of this imagery is powerful, and is not mined to the fullest extent by writer/director John Michael McDonagh.

The movie has a promising beginning with an epigraph from St. Augustine:

Do not despair; one of the thieves was saved.
Do not presume; one of the thieves was damned.

For the uninitiated, when Christ hung on the cross, there were two criminals, commonly believed to be thieves, who were crucified at the same time, one on his right and the other on his left. One of them taunted Jesus, and dared him to “save yourself and us” (Luke 23:39). The second admonished the first by saying: “‘Don’t you fear God…since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom'” (Luke 23:40-42). Jesus turns to the second criminal and answers, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.'” (Luke 23:44).

St. Augustine directs our attention to the first thief who, by echoing the jeers of the Roman soldiers and the elders, damned his soul to perdition. Even as life dripped from his body, he wanted to be in the cool crowd and to be accepted by his tormentors.

If St. Augustine’s remark is meant to be foreshadowing, it is a confused foreshadowing. While nearly every sin of man is exposed during the film, no thievery has been confessed (accusations made, maybe, but no facts). Perhaps “thief” is meant to be “sinner” and that is a thread that can be followed for a little bit, before it unravels. It cannot be said with any confidence that anyone in the movie was or will be saved, and perhaps they all were or will be damned.

The movie opens in the confessional where the priest is warned that he’ll be killed on the following Sunday, and the suggestion is made that maybe he should get his “house in order”. The “penitent” tells the Father James (played by Brendan Gleeson) in startling graphic terms that he had been harmed by a priest in his youth and childhood and reasons that that the priest must pay, even if he is not personally guilty of sodomy.

The appointment for murder on Sunday is a little perplexing, and if the priest were meant to be a Christ figure, one may be inclined to think that he would meet his doom on the Friday before.

Characters and their assorted sins float in and out of the picture. With few exceptions, their lives neither seem intertwined nor dependent on one another. The priest’s daughter (legitimate daughter; born in marriage before he was widowed and took up his vocation), Fiona, enters, recovering from a failed suicide attempt. At one point, in the confessional, she asks her father if suicide is a sin, and he says that he had to give the matter some thought. He didn’t say that he was going to consult the Magisterium, but the viewer is led to believe that the fruit of the priest’s own thought would be able to provide the answer.

Inexplicably, Father James is called on to visit a serial killer/cannibal, who seems neither penitent nor contrite. It seems that he called for the priest more or less for his own amusement, to lessen the tedium of confinement. The murderer snivels, “God made me.” Modern audiences can fill in what is unspoken: God made me; ergo, He must accept and celebrate all that I do.

There is a sexually frustrated young man to whom Father James suggests pornography as a means of relieving his tension. The young man has already availed himself of the outlet, and is on to transsexuals. Father suggests that be might try his hand in Dublin, where the lasses may be more agreeable. The young man thinks that his own salvation will be to enter the military, which causes a problem for the priest: “The commandment, ‘thou shalt not kill’ doesn’t have an asterisk.” “What about self-defense?” asks the young man. “That’s a tricky one, all right,” says the priest.

There is the town floozy, to put it nicely, who is married to the butcher but who is sleeping with the mechanic (among others, so it seems) but all three march up to receive the host, and it is all okay. God made them, too.

There is the elderly writer that Father visits and brings food and drink. He requests a gun from the priest, to help him off this mortal coil, should the need arise. Father does manage to procure a gun from Inspector Stanton, but first we have to be introduced to his unstable gay lover who slyly suggests that he also passes time with the bishop.

This gun, unlike Chekhov’s, is tossed off a cliff and is rendered useless—that is, after the priest takes in too much beer and whiskey and shoots up the pub. This is after a quite moment when the proprietor confidentially tells him that he is facing foreclosure.

The nearest thing to the thief is the rich man, played by Dylan Moran (Black Books). He fears that charges will be brought against him for financial irregularities. His family has already left him, and it is just himself rambling around in his old house, where he is free to urinate on masterworks of art. It is a small mercy that the rich man does not gallop in with his checkbook to save the day for the pub owner or that the town does not band together to hold a raffle and a bake sale to save their favorite watering hole.

There is tourist who is mortally injured in a traffic accident and Father is called in to give last rites. The widow, who survived, is perhaps the most faithful and godly character in the movie, but she is only on screen for a few minutes. She is heartbroken, but she will survive. Father asks her to pray with him, and he starts, “Hail Mary, Full of Grace…” This may be an error, as I don’t know if the intention was to pray the rosary, which usually begins with the Apostles’ Creed.

After his bad night at the pub, the priest (inexplicably) heads to Dublin under the soothing tones of Roger Whittaker. We see him in the airport where he encounters the widow again, and we see a worker lean on her husband’s casket as easily as he would lean across the bar. Apart from showing the lack of reverence for the dead, it is not clear why the priest went to Dublin.

The movie is crisscrossed with other characters and events that may or may not be related to the denouement, and the viewer is left with a mystery. The movie is billed as a “black comedy”. There are light moments, and there are genuine comedians playing dramatic roles, such as Chris O’Dowd and Mr. Moran; however, “comedy” may be an overstatement.

In an interview with the San Diego Reader, writer/director John Michael McDonagh said:

(Having been married) I think that the priest is more able to comment with authority on moral issues. He’s somebody who has lived a full life. If he’s, say, mediating between a warring couple, he can actually speak about marriage and sex and everything else. I mean, most priests obviously can’t, and yet they do. Why have they got that authority to talk about something they don’t know anything about? Father James has it. But also, he struggled with alcoholism. So, he’s suffered, and he’s battled, and he’s not an entirely saintlike person. But he’s trying to be…

The writer/director has had some religious education when he was younger, but there are some gaps in that he doesn’t quite grasp the teachings of the Church or fully appreciate the gifts of scripture and tradition. A priest does not have to have the misery or joy of married life to intervene in a troubled marriage. In fact, even with Father James’s vast experience with married life, he was unable to bring peace to the butcher’s difficult marriage.

Perhaps it was a tricky one, all right.

New York City’s St Patrick’s Day Parade Caves: Update

The three is for the Trinity.

The three is for the Trinity.

In the end they caved for the oldest of reasons. Money. And now, flush with cash, the world has yet another parade devoted to (anti-evolutionary) sexual desire.

As if we needed it.

Last year, anti-Catholic brewers Guinness and Heineken pulled funding for the parade in the name of “diversity” and “inclusion” and, of course, sodomy. This encouraged other sponsors to either do the same or threaten it this year.

Parade organizers, anxious for their fees, caved, though each undoubtedly wondered whether political leader Timothy Dolan, this year’s Grand Marshall, would forget that the purpose of the parade was “honor of the Patron Saint of Ireland and the Archdiocese of New York“.

They needn’t have fretted. The far-left New York Times reports Dolan saying that “[I] pray that the parade would continue to be a source of unity for all of us.”

At press time here, it was unknown whether Dolan offered that prayer to Saint Patrick.

Good thing for organizers they have Dolan and not some more recalcitrant leader like, say, this gentleman:

In 1993, then-Cardinal John O’Connor, facing gay protesters who staged a sit-in during the parade, vowed that he “could never even be perceived as compromising Catholic teaching” by entertaining their admission as an identifiable group in the event. “Neither respectability nor political correctness is worth one comma in the Apostles’ Creed,” O’Connor declared in his homily at a Mass for St. Patrick’s Day that year.

The parade has always allowed adulterers, murderers, thieves, pederasts, puppy haters, those who don’t call their mothers, and yes even those who are sexually “oriented” toward goats or toward those of the opposite sex. But none of those sinners—and each of us is—was allowed to carry a sign “celebrating” their personal favorite perversion.

Now they are.

Strike that. Now only the homosexuals are. Those sinners without advocacy groups will either have to get organized fast, or continue to disguise their noncomformities.

I ask you: is that fair?

Well, maybe it isn’t. But your mother was once legally allowed to ask you rhetorically, who said life was fair?

The dominoes have already began to tumble. The press is gleeful, naturally. Dolan, a masterful politician, murmurs nice-sounding nothings. And even walking volcano William Donohue, president of the Catholic League and former fighter-to-the-death, has been quieted. He said “there should be no controversy” at this year’s parade.

The committee that organizes the parade insists that it is “remaining loyal to church teachings”—except, of course, for those teachings which are expedient to disavow.

Which makes one wonder if these people really understand what they have done. Doubtful, very doubtful. Why?

Yours Truly lives in Manhattan and has been to this parade many times. The loudest cheers are usually for the garbage men who scoop up horseshit, though at times, active duty military units have had that honor, and on one notable occasion, even the cops (in 2002).

But is there anybody who will bet against me, for any amount, that this year it will be the unit which advertises it sexual hobbies? The press will be there in force. The other 300-some units, except for a bagpipe group which will flit across your screens to set the context, will be ignored. The parade will be all sodomy all the time.

We’ve all seen “pride” parades, and to call these lewd and lascivious would be a gross understatement. Yet the St Patrick’s parade probably won’t meet that fate, if only because snow is not rare on March 17th, and the route is cold and long. Still, I predict at least once incident of near undress, probably in the audience. Don’t worry about missing it. The media will be sure to spotlight it.

Since there will be at least two cameras per “LBGT” marcher, the high-school and pipe bands, police benevolent groups, and military veterans will become jealous. After this year, a few groups will elect to eschew the parade, half for the jealousy and half because of the abandonment of tradition.

The organizers this year are only allowing one “orientation” unit. This will not be seen to be enough. The 2016 parade will have at least three.

Finally, there will be some squirming about the name. Saint Patrick? Isn’t that rather religious? Why not be more inclusive and call it Paddy’s Day? An event where “all” (where “all” means politically active) are welcome?

Update Monsignor Pope: It’s time to cancel the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the Al Smith Dinner. Looks like Msgr Pope took the post down. Curious, that.

Update Here’s why.

Update Rorate Caeli has the entire text of Msgr Pope’s original post. Worth a read. “We don’t need parades and dinner with people who scoff at our teachings, insist we compromise, use us for publicity, and make money off of us. W’’re being played for (and are?) fools.”

Dan Farber, Berkeley Lawyer, Confused Climate Clinger

According to the public figure's Facebook page, this is a self portrait.

According to the public figure’s Facebook page, this is a self portrait.

For the art of the sophist is the semblance of wisdom without the reality, and the sophist is one who makes money from an apparent but unreal wisdom. —Aristotle

Dan Farber calls himself a “public figure“, and I believe him.

Unfortunately, it’s not a distinguished category, and, given his performance (outlined below), the appellation invites unfortunate comparisons.

Rosie “9-11″ O’Donnell is a public figure, and so was Bozo the Clown (though the latter was beloved). And who could forget the People’s own scientist, comrade Trofim Lysenko?

But when I first read Farber’s “From germ theory to global warming, science denialism is beyond parody”, given the extreme violence he committed to calm reason and his mutilation of informed argument, the semblance which sprang to mind was public figure Jeffrey Dahmer.

Don’t think I’m picking on this heretofore unknown Dan Farber, God bless him. He is merely a symptom and not the disease. Delineating symptoms is an important part of understanding illness, however, so think of this article as a physician’s case report, all the while keeping in mind we’re dealing with a larger phenomenon than the mental corruption of one man.

Farber, like many, is a Climate Clinger. A man who, at least according to his public record, has no background in the science of fluid flow—would he, off the cuff, even know the atmosphere is a fluid? Did you?—yet who feels he knows enough to lecture his betters on (say) the modeling of radiative transfer using statistically derived inputs from satellites. How does instrument drift affect the input uncertainty?

Unburdened (it seems) with this knowledge, Farber apparently believes, and probably desires, the solution to global warming, but who (it’s a good bet) possess no real knowledge of the subject, beyond which he gleans from the media and other not-too-technical sources.

It’s surreal. It’s as if the bien pensant have been given their “talking points”, which they are able to parrot without having done the hard work of thinking, and who are so eager to please their masters that whoever is able to wound their enemies with the most vicious, facts-be-damned insult is to be awarded the highest position in that bright future which is to come.

Consider Farber’s feeble attempt to tie climate scientists who doubt the theory of apocalyptic global warming to those who deny the germ theory of illness.

If you’re inclined to doubt science, why not start with the germ theory of disease? After all, isn’t it implausible that illness, death, and even mass epidemics are caused by tiny invisible organisms that invade our bodies?

And what’s the evidence for that, really? Just the findings of scientists who can get big grants from NIH to study these so-called bacteria — not to mention studies financed by Big Pharm which makes a lot of money with supposed cures — and the views of doctors whose professional status and incomes are pumped up by their use of chemical antibiotics to treat diseases. And don’t forget about the massive government spending for sanitation and water treatment to eliminate “germs,” and the extensive regulation of the food industry, Big Government in action!

Sigh. This proves Farber has only read lightly, or has only retained little, of science history. That vapors, miasmas, and bad humors were the cause of disease was the consensus of the early nineteenth century. Why, 97% of scientists, and maybe even more, toed that line, and not only dared anybody to cross it, but they slew those who did.

Consider Ignaz Semmelweis who pleaded with his colleagues—with The Consensus—to at least listen to his arguments. Semmelweis’s reward? He was fired and hounded to an early grave.

The continued criticism and lash out finally broke him down. By 1865, he was suffering from depression, forgetfulness and other neural complaints and was eventually committed to an asylum. He only lasted there for two weeks and died on August 13, 1865 at the age of 47.

“When I look back upon the past, I can only dispel the sadness which falls upon me by gazing into that happy future when the infection will be banished…The conviction that such a time must inevitably sooner or later arrive will cheer my dying hour.”

Farber must have been possessed of a vague intuition that his intimation was ignorant, for he also said, “it turns out, there actually are germ denialists who accept that germs exist but don’t think they’re the real cause of disease. Rejection of the germ theory is found across the political spectrum…”.

That’s true, but misleading; because the stereotypical modern germ “denier” is a forty-four year-old first-time mother who aggressively pushes her stroller (affixed with faded “Obama-Biden 2012″ sticker) around Park Slope, Brooklyn, actively looking for reasons to be aggrieved. Curiously, this woman will also wholeheartedly “believe” in global warming.

So much for the disease. The cure? Since the malady feeds on (perceived or real) approbation, cut off its supply. With, say, articles like this.


Readers might have noticed the unusual number of qualifiers (“seems”, “probably”). Farber is a lawyer, and these folks when wounded have been known to abandon truth and to start barking about the law. It’s a good strategy, because it distracts their opponents while allowing them to avoid admitting they were wrong.

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