The elements of Fargo

The show Fargo is pretty great. Each season though is familiar though not the same as the other seasons. The stories are different. But there are common elements. What are the common elements?

Setting

Each episode is set in some smallish town in Minnesota. Last names are Swedish. Tonnes of snow. Minnesota accents and ways of talking. Minnesota here represents ordinary, simple, basic decency.

Characters

Cop

Usually one cop, always a local and often a woman. She is decent, very down to Earth and extremely family oriented. Half the time she is pregnant or someone in her family is. This sets up a very strong contrast between her and the violence and criminals that surround her. She is a symbol of decency, goodness and vulnerability amidst a dangerous, evil uncaring world and her ability to overcome this evil represent the ultimate triumph of ordinary goodness over extraordinary evil.

The Devil

Usually a man. Extremely intelligent psychopath with zero compunctions about using violence to achieve his ends. Often extremely proficient and very good at what he does. He is usually charming, seductive, brilliant, daring, deeply philosophical, violent and evil. A lot of the most interesting parts of the show are parts where the Devil is articulating his philosophy.

The Loser

A person who is basically a loser. In their marriage or in their life. They suck. They are usually the setup for almost all the action that later takes place.

Often they end up being involved in a crime of some sort. This sets up a sort of triangle and the action is between the Loser, the Devil and the Cop. The loser in this situation is pathetic, nervous, scared, desperate. He is a counterpoint to the Devil and to the Cop. Whereas the cop represent ordinary good, the devil extraordinary evil, the loser represents someone in the middle…a sort of ordinary evil. He doesn’t commit evil because he is fundamentally evil but rather out of pathetic desperation. As time goes on the Loser who doesn’t want to be involved in what’s happening becomes increasingly involved and commits increasingly desperate acts.

Criminals

Usually there are a number of criminals involved and a lot of them are outsiders. The criminals are necessary to the plot because they basically add all the violence and death. The create the danger. They contrast hugely with the Minnesota setting which is normally boring, ordinary and simple.

The Devil is easily able to navigate this violent world and much of his obvious power is demonstrated in how he is able to manipulate any situation to his own advantage. The Loser, pathetic and desperate, is often able to figure out ways to survive but only by doing increasingly evil and dangerous things. We often end up rooting for him despite this because he is such an underdog.

The cop appears outmatched and its unclear how he/she who is just an ordinary good decent person can deal with a world of violence. A tremendous tension here is created by the extraordinary evil and the ordinary, simple decency of the cop. The cop in contrast to the brilliant devil and the desperate Loser is able to succeed not through daring acts or through becoming more more evil but instead by diligence, persistence, bravery and resoluteness.

The cop succeeds through ordinary good police work.

Liberal Stupidity: Insane Black Liberal Edition

It seems Andrew Sullivans explanation struck a cord. Salon’s clickbait comes from Chauncey DeVega.  DeVega’s explanation of Asian outperformance is basically a non-explanation. He dances around the topic but never really get in any blows. But what can you really expect from the poor man’s Ta-neshi Coates.

He trots out some liberal standards. Asians are not a monolith. Some Asians such as Cambodians are actually doing worse than the general population. Its really kind of hilarious. This fact doesn’t weaken the idea that culture explains success…it actually supports it.  I am really kind of amazed at this rhetorical jujitsu.

They way he managed to accomplish this feat is by first creating a strawman. He says that Andrew Sullivan is really supporting the model minority myth. He then tried to tear down the idea of model minorities by claiming Asians are not a monolith. He is right they aren’t. But the point that Andrew Sullivan was making was not that Asians are a monolith…his point was that culture matters. This point is made even stronger when you disaggregate large categories like Asian and look into  sub-components. You can do the same with Whites and Blacks.

With Blacks you will see African groups like the Nigerian Igbo’s consistently outperforming in schools regardless of where they immigrate. With whites you will see groups like the Azores Portuguese consistently failing in school. Andrew Sullivan used the short hand Asian but disaggregating into sub-groups, his argument is even stronger.

Chauncey DeVega isn’t the first to engage in this jijitsu. The best job of it was done by Stephen Steinberg. He tried to account for Russian Jewish success but in doing so he outline a series of advantages Russian Jews had due to their history, values and practices. For instance, Russian Jews lived in cities and so tended to have strong experience when it came to urban professions and so they tend to do well when they move to cities. Stephen Steinberg does not consider this to be part of their culture. Its a typical move, you construct a weak argument you say your opponent is making and then you try to destroy the weak argument.

But of course your opponent was never making that argument. In Stephen Steinberg case the weak argument is the idea that some groups like Russian Jews have some mystical grittiness and ambition the enables them to succeed in every possible environment.  This is of course ridiculous. But that was never the argument that conservatives like Thomas Sowell were making. Sowell was really saying that it was incorrect to presume that the differences between different ethnicities are the result of current racial discrimination. Instead different groups would have massive variations in their success due to historical circumstances, culture, values etc. Stephen Steinberg doesn’t actually weaken this point he massively strengthens it. He makes nearly the exact same argument as Sowell that Jewish economic success can be explained by their history in Eastern Europe: the skills they learned as primarily urban inhabitants and how well these skills matched the requirements in urban US cities, their relatively high rates of literacy etc.

This is exactly the point Sowell made. Its interesting that Steinberg fails to realize how massively his arguments weaken the idea that differences between ethnic groups can be explain by current discrimination. Steinberg doesn’t bother to even try to explain what happened to the Russian Jews by current discrimination. When your opponent in arguing against your point actually is forced to support your point with your exact arguments its a pretty strong indication that you are right.

How to develop a habit

A good habit is an amazing thing. It can enable a person to change their life without really even trying. Taking up exercise is a good example. But people find it tremendously difficult to start a good habit. I will start with general principles of successfully developing a habit and then I will translate this into practical suggestions.

Principles

Focus on Consistency

The most important principle of developing any habit is that consistency should be your number one goal. The number one enemy of consistency is AMBITION. The more ambitious you are with any habit, the greater your chance of failure. Don’t worry about how much you do. Don’t worry about the quality of what you do. Once a habit is developed those things will almost automatically improve.

Make it easy to Succeed

The reason you fail is because you set yourself up for failure. You made it too difficult. Do less not more.

Start Smaller and Grow very slowly

Whatever you had in mind its too much. Start smaller. Make your habit initially as small as possible. If you feel like its too easy…that’s a good sign. Only very very slowly grow your habit into something bigger. Be very comfortable with the feeling that you are essentially doing nothing.

Stop Before it Gets Hard

Lets say you are exercising as part of your daily habit. And it starts feeling hard. You start feeling pain where you don’t normally or you are tired or it feels like a long time. If you are beyond your minimum for the day, Stop!! Habits should never be hard. You should stop well before it even gets hard. Your minimum should be such that you should rarely feel an difficulty.

Eliminate Decisions and Options

Your habit should involve few decisions or options.  A choice of time…that’s an option. A choice of what to do…that’s an option. A choice of where to do it…that’s an option. Make your habit as structured and familiar as possible. Eliminate as many of these things as you can but not so many that you feel too constrained. Remember principle number one: Focus on consistency.

Use Social

Use people to help you with your habit. There are all sorts of ways of doing this but generally speaking people can be the most powerful means of ensuring you stick to a habit.

Use Environment

A change of environment and being consistent with this is powerful. If you always know you have to do X when you enter environment Y then you will have no difficulty.

Basically the whole idea of habits is to make things automatic. To exploit the fact that when it comes to certain things humans are like click…whirr machines. When they encounter a particular stimulus (click) they generate an automatic response (whirrr…or in our case a good habit).

Techniques

The following is the set of techniques that are based on the above principles:

The Seinfeld calendar

A good way to optimize for consistency is the suggestion of Seinfeld. You setup a year long calendar and every time you do your habit you make a red X for that day. Pretty soon you have a chain of red X’s and your objective is to not break the chain. Again this is principle number 1: focus on consistency.

Minimum habits and the 15 minute rule

The consistency principle implies that when you start off your habit it should be as easy as possible. Because the easier it is the higher the likelihood you will do it. One way to do that is to start off by doing your habit for a very small amount of time. Even better make your habit a minimum one…meaning that you commit to do your habit for at least X minutes everyday. When I was learning to invest I made my minimum time 15 minutes. This had three advantages

  1. it was just enough time to get something meaningful done
  2. it was small enough that I could do even on my worst days
  3. it was just large enough that once I started doing it, it was easy for me to keep going. I would often spend more than 1 hour because once I got mentally involved I didn’t want to stop

I call this the 15 minute rule but really 15 minutes is arbitrary. In exercise I actually made it 7 minutes of running. The goal here is to create a minimum that you can commit to doing for the rest of your life…on your wedding day, when your depressed, when your girlfriend breaks up with you, when you are on vacation. Something like brushing your teeth.

Get a Partner

When I was forming my exercise habit I did it with my friend. This helps enormously. Its much much easier to do anything if you do it with a partner

Make a Bet or Other Social Commitment

Even with the 15 minute rule and Seinfeld Calendar I still repeatedly failed in my investing habit. The thing that worked for me was to make a $100 bet with by friend. If I didn’t invest for 1 day, I would pay him $100. This worked beautifully. I paid out once for New Years Eve.

Its best to make these bets unilateral. It should never be, I will bet $100 I will invest but only if you are willing to bet $100 you will quit smoking. This never works since you are let off the hook if your friend fails. Your bet is meant to make your habit stick…potentially paying your friend money is a small price to pay. 

Betting is one very strong form of social commitment. There are others: you can make a contract and sign it with friends as witnesses. You can make a public announcement. The whole idea generally is to make a social commitment. Bets work best since they are simultaneously a social commitment and a monetary penalty.

Social commitments aren’t rational but they work extremely well. Often the bet is never paid out but just the idea of the bet itself is often enough to spur one into action.

Jamelle Bouie’s Liberal Pathology

Slate just keeps getting dumber. Here is a fantastic example for Jamelle Bouie, Slate’s resident insane black liberal.

According to liberal religion any difference between races must be caused by racism: I will call this, “THE MAN DID IT” TMDI. But of course how to explain asian over-achievement. Or for that matter Jewish over-achievement? Liberals have tried various explanations. All of them are crap. I’ll destroy the standard ones later.

Jamelle Bouie’s article comments on this observation by Andrew Sullivan:

Asian-Americans, like Jews, are indeed a problem for the “social-justice” brigade. I mean, how on earth have both ethnic groups done so well in such a profoundly racist society? How have bigoted white people allowed these minorities to do so well — even to the point of earning more, on average, than whites? Asian-Americans, for example, have been subject to some of the most brutal oppression, racial hatred, and open discrimination over the years … Yet, today, Asian-Americans are among the most prosperous, well-educated, and successful ethnic groups in America.

What gives? It couldn’t possibly be that they maintained solid two-parent family structures, had social networks that looked after one another, placed enormous emphasis on education and hard work, and thereby turned false, negative stereotypes into true, positive ones, could it? It couldn’t be that all whites are not racists or that the American dream still lives?

Andrew Sullivan is basically right. His point is right. Racism is insufficient to explain differences in performance between different cultures. Asians and Jews are both examples. They have done tremendously well despite facing tremendous obstacles.

But Jamelle Bouie reached a new level of stupidity. He presents the explanation of a new liberal children’s story titled: “The Color of Success: Asian Americans and the Origins of the Model Minority”. According to this story,

The United States’ battles against fascism and then Communism meant that Asiatic Exclusion, like Jim Crow, was no longer tenable.

So basically America ended racism against Asians because they couldn’t afford the image problem. This has got to be the dumbest explanation I have ever heard. I have read about fascists criticizing the US. I have read about communists criticizing the US. Unfailingly they bring up the treatment of Black people. Occassionally they will talk about Native Indians…and even more occasionally Jews. The reason for this is straightforward, it was enormously well known that black people were treated like shit in America. So improving the situation for Asians would not help the US in the least…no one in the world gave a shit about how Asians in America were treated. They still don’t to this day. In fact I would say Asians themselves barely care either world wide or in America itself. For instance, Asians have done little to nothing to combat the tremendous discrimination they face in the Ivey League university system.

But there are still other problems with this moronic theory. Consider for instance the Chinese. Chinese don’t just do well in the US, they also do well as immigrants to other countries within Asia itself. For example, they do well in Thailand, Philippines, and Malaysia. I believe in all three, ethnic Chinese, most having immigrated to these countries within the last 150 years, control over 50% of the wealth despite being around 10% of the general population. So what happened then? Did not all the American but also the Filipino, Thai and Malaysian societies simultaneously make a decision that Chinese were to be successful? Is there a meeting where they all agreed to this? Are there meeting minutes? Can liberals provide us with any evidence of this meeting? If there wasn’t how did they co-ordinate among themselves to ensure Chinese success.

Does this make any sense. Why  would the Chinese succeed in 4 different countries in hugely different circumstances. And why would the formula for Chinese success be the same everywhere…basically study engineering. medicine or some lucrative profession.

My explanation is a single, simple one. Chinese are successful because they have a culture and values that enable them to be successful in the modern world. The liberal explanation is much more complicated one since it should be based on how the dominant society treats Chinese. But this requires 4 different explanations for 4 different countries and somehow magically all 4 different explanations must result in exactly same outcome in every country: Chinese economic success. As I said liberals are morons.

All liberal explanations must inevitably be convoluted because truth favors simple explanations. For liberals to get around the truth the have to invent increasingly ridiculous explanations.

An example is the proposed liberal explanation for the incredibly success of Russian Jews in America as being due to the fact that their entry into the United States coincided magically with a massive boom in the textile industry which they just so happened to enter at exactly the same time. This liberal theologian, Stephen Steinberg,  goes on to additionally credit Jewish success to multiple inventions the Jewish textile manufacturers just happened to stumble upon. And the entrepreneurial structure of the industry which Jews just happened to occupy. You see in liberal land, absolutely nothing you do can be credited to you…it all just a series of fortune coincidences. Its not based on choice you made, values you had, ideas you developed, work you did…no its all just accidental.

Self-selection effect

A typical liberal explanation is that immigrants are basically self-selected supermen who are better than people who don’t immigrate. Liberals propose this explanation all the time yet provide little to no evidence its true. I have met a lot of immigrants and I can tell you one thing about them… they are mostly losers. Not all. But many of them. They don’t leave their country because they were successful. They leave their country because it was shit and they were not successful when they lived there. I’ve met many immigrants and I have never said to myself..wow these guys are amazing. The strike me as pretty ordinary people who were doing so badly in their own country that the left it. There are few superstars.

And of course the selection effect ignores the tremendous obstacles immigrants face that the native born don’t. IMMIGRANTS DON’T SPEAK THE FUCKING LANGUAGE. Not all but most. This is a huge fucking disadvantage. 

And almost as bad as this is the fact that immigrants don’t have a social network. Not having a social network: friends you knew since university or high school, relatives, its fucking death if your trying to get a job. In North America all jobs are through connections. Not having those….shit I don’t know what I would do in that situation.

There are many additional points I could make like the fact that African immigrants are hugely successful. So successful in fact that a particular group, Nigerian Igbos, even outscores other ethnic model minorities such as Chinese and Indians. Interestingly the liberals typically say that Blacks failure on the SATs is due to the SATs being culturally biased. But biased against whose culture exactly? Black culture I guess.  I wonder then how children of African immigrants outscore whites on the SATs or white British on the GSCE. I guess African culture is not black culture.

Was Edmund Burke really just Hitler in disguise

Edmund Burke is the liberal that liberals love to hate because they associate him with modern conservatism. Burke also committed the incredible sin of opposing the French Revolution. And this is a big problem because of the tremendous influence of Marxism over modern liberals. Marx had a hard on for the French Revolution since Marx was basically a psychopath. Modern liberalism is really based on the idea that all means are fully justified…including beheading women as long as it leads to politically correct ends. And it got this evil idea from Marx.

Liberals have no problem with the French Revolution and the beheading of Marie Antoinette. The reason is that the whole French Revolution was supposed to be on behalf of the poor. The ends (helping the poor) justify the beheading of a young mother. Anybody who disagrees is a fascist.

Reading Burke its pretty clear that his opposition to the French Revolution was because he was disgusted by it. They beheaded Marie Antoinette. Now for any man there is this natural biological impulse to protect women. Its not rational, it can’t be justified intellectually. But its present. So naturally when Marie Antoinette was beheaded…it was something that Burke really didn’t like. It was something he didn’t like so much that he wrote a screed attacking the Enlightenment values in his pamphlet: Reflections on the Revolution in France.

Not liking a movement that cuts young women’s heads off. Does that make you Hitler? Well according to Martin Pugh it very much does. In fact Pugh thinks Burke is so bad for believing that being civilized should mean that you don’t cut a young mothers head off that he basically says Burke was Hitler. I am exaggerating a bit but really a lot less than Martin Pugh. I am also playing fast and loose with facts:  Burke wrote his Reflection on the Revolution in France BEFORE Maria Antoinette was beheaded. But why let facts, history and context get in the way of a good argument…it certainly never stopped Martin Pugh.