URLs du Jour

2017-04-17

■ Hope everyone had a nice Easter. Proverbs 27:12 is kind of a letdown, but our self-imposed rules tell us to take 'em as they come:

The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.

That is not so much a proverb; rather it's a description of the difference between "prudent" and "imprudent". Proverbialist, I seek wisdom, not something I can figure out from the dictionary!

■ "Flagg Taylor is associate professor of political science at Skidmore College", and he writes at the American Interest on The Meaning of Middlebury, where (you may remember) a violent mob disrupted Charles Murray's speaking engagement. Prof Taylor points his finger at educators who neglect what should be the primary goal (the "cultivation of the mind" paired with modesty and respect) and instead promote "real world" preparation, "relevancy", "passion", and "engagement".

It is wrong, however, to think that liberal arts colleges can “train” students and strive for relevancy while also remaining dedicated to the cultivation of the mind. “Passion” and “engagement” are not only poor substitutes for virtues like moderation, courage, and prudence, they create an environment hostile to their cultivation. Further, the demands of the “real world” are ever-changing, and adapting the cultivation of the mind to the instrumental goals of society results in a limitation and adulteration of that delicate process. By trying to imitate the real world that has already changed before our imitation can be constructed, as Václav Havel once wrote, we end up falsifying the real world. The humanities and social sciences have retreated from the cultivation of the mind and their devotion to the discovery of truth and the human good. With the question of purpose left unasked and the possibility of truth not considered, space is left open to politically correct dogma and those willing to demonstrate their passionate commitment to the cause.

Good luck unwinding the knotted mess that "liberal arts" education has become.

■ For once, let's link to a National Review article not written by either Goldberg or Williamson. Here's Ben Shapiro, noting that In Trump’s Government-by-Applause, All Bets Are Off. It's a refutation of those who saw Trump's lack of principles (which they spelled "ideology") as a good thing. Trump was a pragmatist!

Unfortunately, even those who lack an ideology have a worldview, and Trump’s is essentially self-centered: What is good for his popularity is good for the world. This, it should go without saying, leaves him subject to co-option by those with a more ideological bent. When reality hits him in the face, he reacts spontaneously — and in doing so, he aligns with movements that have long pre-existed him, and that cheer him along. Spurred by that applause, he is drawn into the orbit of those ideologues who supply it.

We are careening toward the void, I tells ya.

■ Another symptom of careening toward the void: The FDA’s Pizza Minders, as described by the WSJ. The imposition of the rules regarding posting calorie counts on fast-food chain menus is imminent.

The more than 100-page rule, perhaps the longest meditation on fast food ever published, says that pizza purveyors must display per slice calorie ranges. Dominos offers 34 million potential combinations, and the number of pepperonis on a pizza can vary based on whether a customer also tosses on green peppers or something else. FDA suggests displaying verbiage like “pepperoni—200 added calories for a one-topping pizza” for every topping. Better have a calculator when ordering.

It's pointless, stupid, but understandable. Bureaucrats have a perpetual need to "do something", expand their domain, pad their résumés. What next?

■ Politics and math intersect in the thorny topic of redistricting, drawing lines on a map describing which people are voting for which representatives. A nice geeky article in Quanta magazine: How to Quantify (and Fight) Gerrymandering. The lead paragraph:

Partisan gerrymandering — the practice of drawing voting districts to give one political party an unfair edge — is one of the few political issues that voters of all stripes find common cause in condemning. Voters should choose their elected officials, the thinking goes, rather than elected officials choosing their voters. The Supreme Court agrees, at least in theory: In 1986 it ruled that partisan gerrymandering, if extreme enough, is unconstitutional.

However (you'll read on): the Supremes have never actually invalidated a case of "partisan gerrymandering", nor specified any test for lower courts to apply. They simply stated that challenges to district lines could proceed under the Constitution's "equal protection" clause.

I'll pause to remark that interest in "fighting" partisan redistricting rose along with GOP dominance in state legislatures. When Democrats were drawing their sneaky snaky lines, there was less "concern".