URLs du Jour

2018-03-20

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  • Proverbs 14:4 is a puzzler:

    4 Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty,
        but from the strength of an ox come abundant harvests.

    So it's good… to have oxen? I guess. Perhaps there's something metaphorical going on here, but we'd need a farmer to tell us what it is.

    [Okay, if you want to cheat, here's one interpretation that sort of makes sense.]


  • At Reason, Robby Soave provides more rebuttal to the don't-worry-be-happy young adults that want us to chillax about threats to free speech: Some Pundits Say There's No Campus Free Speech 'Crisis.' Here's Why They're Wrong.

    When I talk to students who are protesting speakers they find offensive, they generally tell me that they support the First Amendment and don't want the government to arrest or punish people for engaging in free speech. They also tell me some combination of the following: Hate speech isn't free speech; if marginalized people feel threatened by the speech, the speech is actually violence; neither campus authorities nor mobs of angry students are forms of government force, and thus it's not illegal or unethical when these entities shut down offensive speech.

    But let's say [the don't-worry pundits] Yglesias, Sachs, and Hartman are right: that most young people are more pro–free speech than both older Americans and young people of the past. This still would not necessarily mean there is no campus free speech "crisis." That's because the initiators of campus P.C. incidents are not the entire student body; they're a small subset of left-wing activists. These radicals may be completely outnumbered on campus. Their ranks may not be growing—they may even be shrinking, to judge from the data about college as a civilizing experience and the increasing tolerance of young people in general. But what matters is whether their power to enforce their desire for censorship is increasing.

    There's a lot more evidence for "Campus Free Speech Crisis" than there is for "Campus Sexual Assault Crisis".


  • One of my Facebook friends recently worried about Cambridge Analytica using their personality-quiz results to "create stories that would influence a peson's voting preference".

    As I said in a reply: I'm skeptical about that. The breathless, ominous stories I've seen about this could easily be turned around. If Hillary had won, and had similar (vague) connections to big-data companies, there would have been fawning stories in Wired and the NYT about her campaign's "smart" and "sophisticated" data mining operations outmaneuvering Trump's knuckle-draggers. Any Republican efforts to Point With Alarm would be dismissed as the whiny complaints of sore losers.

    At NR, Jim Geraghty is also a skeptic: Is Cambridge Analytica Really an ‘Information Weapon’ in a ‘Data War’?

    Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower at the center of these stories, really makes it sound like mind control: “Cambridge Analytica will try to pick at whatever mental weakness or vulnerability that we think you have and try to warp your perception of what’s real around you.”

    Guys . . . it’s Facebook, not a Hypno-Ray or Loki’s staff. At the heart of this is the question of whether a Facebook ad or any kind of clever advertising can get you to do something you otherwise would not do. Sure, an image of delicious food can make you hungry, but does it make you go to the restaurant and eat? Does the car commercial showing the guy driving fast through an empty road in the wilderness make you buy the car? Or does it just persuade you that enjoying that experience is worth the cost of the car?

    Loki's staff. Ha!


  • One of P. J. O'Rourke's classic quotes: “If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free.” You'll be able to come up with a similar observation once you read Jennifer E. Walsh: Why States Should Abandon the ‘Free College’ Movement.

    Although the underlying motivation of “free college” may be admirable, evidence suggests that such policies will likely fail. Funneling students into a handful of public institutions will lead to impacted conditions and lessen the likelihood that students will graduate. Moreover, masking the cost of education by removing tuition and fees will lessen the impact of the sunk-cost effect and decrease the likelihood that students will be good stewards of public resources. Additionally, artificially subsidizing public institutions will undermine the efforts of private nonprofit universities that expand opportunities for student choice. Instead of asking taxpayers to absorb the full cost of a college education, it would be better for state leaders to expand financial support for college students who are enrolled in institutions — public or private — that are already performing well. In this way, they will attain their goal of increasing the rate of college graduates without disrupting the market as a whole.

    Professor Walsh ably dissects what's wrong with "free college" proposals, but misses the real problem: as Bryan Caplan has recently (and, to my mind, convincingly) argued, today's education system is a waste of time and money.


  • At Commentary, Sohrab Ahmari writes about transgenderism and The Disappearance of Desire.

    The trans movement is asking Americans to accept and indeed to make their lives and their perceptions of reality conform to a set of extraordinary ideas based on very little debate. These claims are often put forth in the language of psychiatry and psychology, and they implicate the lives of real people, many of whom suffer genuine, sometimes unbearable anguish. Which good American can say no to the cries of a suffering minority, especially when they are amplified by scientific authority?

    The science isn’t there yet, in point of fact. The case for accepting and advancing the cause of transgenderism is, at root, a radical philosophical argument—one that goes to the heart of what it means to be human. Accepting the trans movement’s argument requires us to lend credence to an extreme form of mind-matter dualism, and involves severing the links between bodily sex, gender identity, and erotic desire.

    Not only is the science "not there yet", there's a concerted effort to make sure that any acceptable "science" conform to the underlying dubious philosophy.


  • It's apparently our day to Hurt Peoples' Feelings. At the Federalist, Brad Polumbo tells the truth: The Student Debt ‘Crisis’ Is Students’ Fault, And They Shouldn’t Get A Bailout.

    When a survey asked recent graduates what they would sacrifice to pay off their debt, “less than half were willing to do without concert tickets, lattes, food delivery, alcohol purchases or travel.” Around 15 percent didn’t even know how much money they owed. Nearly a third of students polled planned to use some of their student loan money to pay for their spring break trips, while 23 percent said they had used loans to purchase alcohol, and 6 percent said they used the money for drugs. We have a student debt crisis, but the real issue isn’t the number on the balance sheet. It’s a generation trapped in perpetual adolescence, confused about how to get out.

    Did I mention Bryan Caplan already? Yes, I guess I did.