URLs du Jour

2017-09-19

■ Our (sort of) methodical march through Proverbs stumbles over a lot of clunkers, but Proverbs 20:3 shows that some bits of wisdom are, indeed, timeless:

3 It is to one’s honor to avoid strife,
    but every fool is quick to quarrel.

True then and now.


■ I liked Tom Nichols' book, The Death of Expertise, quite a bit, without totally agreeing on some points. But he expands on one of the major points of agreement in the Chronicle of Higher Education: Our Graduates Are Rubes

The pampering of students as customers, the proliferation of faux "universities," grade inflation, and the power reversal between instructor and student are well-documented, much-lamented academic phenomena. These parts, however, make up a far more dangerous whole: a citizenry unprepared for its duties in the public sphere and mired in the confusion that comes from the indifferent and lazy grazing of cable, talk radio, and the web. Worse, citizens are no longer approaching political participation as a civic duty, but instead are engaging in relentless conflict on social media, taking offense at everything while believing anything.

Let's not leave out the modern university's commitment to indoctrination "changing mindsets" into conformance with Progressive dogma.


■ Like most of America, I avoided watching the Emmys. I've also avoided paying for streaming services beyond Amazon Prime and Netflix. But Rich Lowry at NRO has some useful things to say about an Emmy-winning Hulu series portraying a theocratic dystopia that's been adopted as anti-Trump gospel: The ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ Lunacy. Because, dontcha know, Trump is all about "imposing sexual morality". But:

The president doesn’t want to impose his traditional sexual morality because, for starters, he doesn’t have any to impose. His critics are mistaking a thrice-married real estate mogul who has done cameos in Playboy videos and extensive interviews on The Howard Stern Show with Cotton Mather. He isn’t censorious; he’s boorish.

“I thought this could be a great cautionary tale,” director Reed Morano says of the show. “We don’t think about how women are treated in other countries as much as we should, and I guess I thought this would raise awareness.” Fair enough. The Handmaid’s Tale does have something to tell us about, say, Saudi Arabia. But, in an uncomfortable fact for Christian-fearing feminists, none of the world’s women-hating theocracies are Christian.

To mangle a Tom Wolfe quote: the dark night of theocratic oppression is always descending in the United States and yet lands only in Muslim-dominated countries.


■ Hey, kids, what time is it? Matt Welch knows, and will tell you in this LATimes column: Now's the time to talk about flood insurance, and moral hazard.

Q: What do you call a congressman who votes against emergency aid for hurricane victims?

A: A “piece of [shit].”

Sure, the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce later apologized for that particular characterization of the libertarian-leaning Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), who was one of just three members of the House of Representatives brave and/or foolish enough to vote against the $7.85-billion Hurricane Harvey relief bill. But generally speaking, this is how the public treats heretics who oppose blank checks during times of crisis.

The National Flood Insurance Program, as Welch describes, is all about forcing "South Dakota to bail out South Beach". You'd think Social Justice would be all over that fundamental unfairness, but … nah.

[In fairness, though, Federal agricultural subsidies probably run the other way. But instead of making that an argument for maintaining NFIP, how about ending ag subsidies too?]


■ Sophia Chen writes in Wired: AI Research Is in Desperate Need of an Ethical Watchdog. Ohmigod, why?

About a week ago, Stanford University researchers posted online a study on the latest dystopian AI: They'd made a machine learning algorithm that essentially works as gaydar. After training the algorithm with tens of thousands of photographs from a dating site, the algorithm could, for example, guess if a white man in a photograph was gay with 81 percent accuracy. The researchers’ motives? They wanted to protect gay people. “[Our] findings expose a threat to the privacy and safety of gay men and women,” wrote Michal Kosinski and Yilun Wang in the paper. They built the bomb so they could alert the public about its dangers.

OK, Ms. Chen's snark aside, she treads dangerously close to "let's ban such research, because I didn't like the results." Her solution: adapting/expanding existing "Institutional Review Board"-style regulation of research proposals. That has its own problems.


■ Megan McArdle reacts to demands that "we" not "normalize Trump". After seven long months of the Trump Administration, it's clear: We Didn't Normalize Trump. We Normalized the Left's Violence.

But the process of not normalizing Trump has instead normalized a lot of other things, bad ones. Like public disorder. Like persistent, pervasive anxiety that often looks like mass hysteria. Like people on both sides who try to minimize the illiberal tactics of the radicals on their own side by pointing mostly to the offenses of the other. (Yes, President Trump, I’m looking at you. And also at the folks who held light-hearted debates about whether it was okay to sucker-punch Richard Spencer.)

Her triggering factoid: it cost law enforcement $600K to provide security for a Ben Shapiro speech at Berkeley. The "price we pay" for freedom.


■ And your Tweet du Jour is yet another whack at our favorite punching bag…


Last Modified 2017-09-19 7:22 AM EDT