URLs du Jour

2018-03-24

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 14:8 seems like another fortune cookie:

    8 The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways,
        but the folly of fools is deception.

    … but it's actually quoted in the title of a "New York Times Notable Book", our Pic/Amazon Ad du Jour. Now, as in Ancient Israel, the folly of fools is a thing.


  • As I've said before, Steven Pinker's new book Enlightenment Now is a fine book, recommended even (or especially) if you may not agree (as I didn't) with every last thing he says. At Reason, Nick Gillespie interviews Prof Pinker: Steven Pinker Wants Enlightenment Now!

    Gillespie: You say, 'The world has made spectacular progress in every single measure of human well-being. Here is a second shocker. Almost no one knows about it.' Why don't we acknowledge that more?

    Pinker: Some of it is that we have no exposure to it. Our view of the world comes from journalism. As long as rates of violence and hunger and disease don't go to zero, there will always be enough incidents to fill the news. Since our intuitions about risk and probability are driven by examples, the 'availability heuristic,' we get a sense of how dangerous the world is that's driven by whatever events occur, and we're never exposed to the millions of locales where nothing bad happens.

    I think there's also a moralistic bias at work. Pessimists are considered morally serious. As Morgan Housel put it, 'Pessimists sound like they're trying to help you. Optimists sound like they're trying to sell you something.' We attach gravitas often to the doomsayer.

    You can either read the transcript or watch the video interview at the link. There's no excuse for not doing one or the other!


  • David Harsanyi writes at NR: The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica ‘Scandal’ Is a Nothingburger

    What the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal lacks in relevance it sure makes up for in melodramatic rhetoric. Take Bloomberg, for instance, which reported, “The revelations of the apparent skulduggery that helped Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election keep sending shock waves across the political landscape.” Well, it’s partially true. Everyone is talking about it. The story has consumed most of the mainstream media.

    The theory goes something like this: Facebook obtained information on users who took a personality quiz with their online friends. Another outlet, the advertising firm Cambridge Analytica, harvested that information, brainwashed a bunch of rubes, and then yada, yada, yada. . .Russia! Former Cambridge Analytica contractor Christopher Wylie told CNN that while at the company, he helped build a “psychological warfare weapon” to “exploit mental vulnerabilities that our algorithms showed that [Facebook users] had.” So, in other words, he worked in the advertising business.

    David joins the chorus of sensible voices trying to talk you down from the ledge.


  • The Google LFOD alert rang for this story on a Maine TV station website: Despite setback in legislature, some NH schools resolve to stay gun-free.

    "New Hampshire has this notion of local control. ’Live free or die.’ It's on the license plates," said Vic Sokul, interim principal of Somersworth High School, which is in a district with gun-free zones at every school.

    "Safety's number one. It's the thing that bothers me every day. I don't want our school to be unsafe. And it's a difficult, all-consuming job."

    Equating LFOD with "local control" is, well, problematic. Unless you go on to observe that the most local control is exhibited by each individual over his or her own decisions.

    And, yes, Vic Sokul has a childlike belief that declaring a school a "gun-free zone" will magically prevent guns from entering. Good luck with that, Vic.


  • And just in case you aren't thoroughly disgusted with the Republican Party's free-spending ways, here's Michael Ramirez with a cartoon comment:

    I know. I should try to follow Elvis Costello's advice: Eschew disgust, try to be amused.