URLs du Jour

2018-04-09

[Amazon Link]

  • Sometimes Proverbs speaks timeless truths, and … sometimes it does not. Proverbs 14:23 is one in the latter category.

    23 All hard work brings a profit,
        but mere talk leads only to poverty.

    The Proverbialist wrote in an era blessed with universal dire poverty. And without TED talks.


  • At Reason, Katherine Mangu-Ward asks the musical question: Was Trump Elected to Take Revenge on Job-Stealing Robots? Noting the emotions that some people feel when watching robot videos:

    The pathetic fallacy is a mental error in which people ascribe human feelings or thoughts to inanimate objects. This mostly leads to irrational behavior, such as resentment on behalf of robots that don't smart from mistreatment but instead grow smarter. It's the same shorthand of thought you indulge in when you say the robots are invading workplaces or stealing jobs. In fact, those are nonsensical concepts, at least for robots as they are currently constituted. Human beings are replacing some portions of many other human beings' jobs with labor-saving devices, as we have done for hundreds of years using tools such as tractors, blenders, and washing machines.

    This is an article from the print version of the magazine, but it's been annotated with the videos to which she could only allude on paper.

    So far, she's been doing a great job at editing one of my two favorite magazines.


  • The "Enlightenment" has gotten a lot of good press lately, most notably from Steven Pinker's fine book Enlightenment Now. David Brooks at the NYT has also been a cheerleader. At the WSJ, Yoram Hazony demurs strongly, revealing The Dark Side of the Enlightenment.

    Boosters of the Enlightenment make an attractive case. Science, medicine, free political institutions, the market economy—these things have dramatically improved our lives. They are all, Mr. Pinker writes, the result of “a process set in motion by the Enlightenment in the late 18th century,” when philosophers “replaced dogma, tradition and authority with reason, debate and institutions of truth-seeking.” Mr. Brooks concurs, assuring his readers that “the Enlightenment project gave us the modern world.” So give thanks for “thinkers like John Locke and Immanuel Kant who argued that people should stop deferring blindly to authority” and instead “think things through from the ground up.”

    As Mr. Pinker sums it up: “Progress is a gift of the ideals of the Enlightenment, and will continue to the extent that we rededicate ourselves to those ideals.”

    Very little of this is true. Consider the claim that the U.S. Constitution was a product of Enlightenment thought, derived by throwing out the political traditions of the past and applying unfettered human reason. Disproving this idea requires only reading earlier writers on the English constitution. The widely circulated 15th-century treatise “In Praise of the Laws of England,” written by the jurist John Fortescue, clearly explains due process and the theory now called “checks and balances.” The English constitution, Fortescue wrote, establishes personal liberty and economic prosperity by shielding the individual and his property from the government. The protections that appear in the U.S. Bill of Rights were mostly set down in the 1600s by those drafting England’s constitutional documents—men such as John Selden, Edward Hyde and Matthew Hale.

    I still strongly recommend Pinker's book, but (as I noted after reading it) he can get "strident and simplistic" when he wanders too far afield from his scientific roots.


  • James Lileks has an entertaining column (as usual) riffing on the mindlessness of Internet advertising: Can you buy a something online without committing to a lifetime of e-mail annoyance? And I mainly liked his acerbic comment on e-mail opt-outs, made necessary by his unwise disclosure of his address to a slipper-seller:

    Anyway: The slipper company sends me an e-mail every day, with a promo code. I have attempted to unsubscribe, and I always get the same huffy message: "You have been unsubscribed to our e-mails. It may take several business days to process your request." Uh-huh. Like someone has to find the hard drive where my e-mail address is located, remove it from the rack and physically scratch the bits off the drive with a sharp tool.

    Um, exactly. He hit a similar theme in the print edititon of National Review (probably subsciber-only, sorry).

    Click. Click. Click. Click. Cart. Buy. After you’ve bought something, ads will follow you around the Internet for a week, each offering the same thing. Imagine buying a toilet seat in a store, then dealing with a guy who pops up at work, on the street, in your garage, offering another toilet seat.

    I have to delete my cookies so I’m not offered more toilet seats, you’d think. Another phrase that makes perfect sense these days.

    You don't even have to buy anything. I made the mistake of checking out the price on complete-season DVD sets of the great misunderestimated David Janssen series Harry O. Spoiler: the price is still exorbitant. But the Internet still remembers I looked, and asks me to come back and look again, day after day.

    But if anyone wants to buy it for me, it's today's Amazon link du jour.


  • And we missed National Beer Day. It was April 7. But (eventually) the Google LFOD alert pointed me to the UK [?] Yahoo! news article: Interesting Facts For All Brew Lovers

    New Hampshire consumes the most beer than any other state, according to a report by 24/7 Wall Street. The 2017 report found that the Live Free or Die state drinks 41.7 gallons of beer annually per capita. Montana and South Dakota followed closely behind with 39.1 gallons and 38.6 gallons of beer respectively.

    My first thought, and perhaps yours as well: I am not doing my fair share. Must try harder.

    But my second thought was: probably it's due to out-of-staters driving to NH to avoid onerous taxes.

    But I can't back that up with obvious evidence. Our usual punching bag, Massachusetts, has no sales tax on beer, and its excise tax ($0.11 per gallon) is much lower than New Hampshire's ($0.30/gallon). Vermont has a slightly lower excise tax rate ($0.27/gallon) but also sticks you with a 6% sales tax. Maine has a slightly higher excise tax ($0.35/gallon). and a 5.5% sales tax.

    All in all, it appears we just like beer. A lot. And is it really that much? 41.7 gallons/year works out to 14.6 fluid ounces/day, just slightly over a standard can or bottle.