URLs du Jour

2018-06-20

[Amazon Link]

  • We've had a couple of good Proverbs in Chapter 11, but Proverbs 11:3 returns to mediocrity:

    3 The integrity of the upright guides them,
        but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.

    Not great, but (let's be generous) not awful. As the author of our Amazon Product du Jour, Dennis Prager, might point out: a broken moral compass sends one astray.


  • You can't read much social psychology without encountering the disheartening tale of psych prof Philip Zimbardo's "Stanford Prison Experiment", in which it was allegedly demonstrated that normal people off the street would, given the opportunity, turn into sadistic prison guards. Many scholars pulled their chins and drew Deep Lessons from that result.

    But 'twas not so. At Medium, Ben Blum looks at the SPE: The Lifespan of a Lie.

    The appeal of the Stanford prison experiment seems to go deeper than its scientific validity, perhaps because it tells us a story about ourselves that we desperately want to believe: that we, as individuals, cannot really be held accountable for the sometimes reprehensible things we do. As troubling as it might seem to accept Zimbardo’s fallen vision of human nature, it is also profoundly liberating. It means we’re off the hook. Our actions are determined by circumstance. Our fallibility is situational. Just as the Gospel promised to absolve us of our sins if we would only believe, the SPE offered a form of redemption tailor-made for a scientific era, and we embraced it.

    "We" here being the psychological research community. The rest of "us" were just the suckers who trusted them.


  • At NRO, Rafael A. Mangual's headline threatens a long article: Elizabeth Warren’s Criminal-Justice Illiteracy. But relax, it's just the latest example. Senator Faux is quoted, at a gathering of like-minded progressives:

    [Criminal-justice reform] starts on the front end, with the activities we criminalize — for example, low-level drug offenses. More people [are] locked up for low-level offenses on marijuana than for all violent crimes in this country. That makes no sense at all. No sense at all. [Emphasis added.]

    Comments Rafael:

    She’s right, it doesn’t make sense — because it’s not true. In fact, it’s so at odds with the publicly available data that one can only conclude that Warren is either totally unlettered on the subject or was willfully deceiving the audience.

    And which of those would be worse?


  • At the Federalist, David Harsanyi points out the obvious: Our Debate On Illegal Immigration Is A National Disaster.

    When emotionalism meets scaremongering, it’s difficult to have a useful debate about anything. Yet for immigration, those seem to be the two choices.

    The Trump administration has adopted a “zero tolerance” policy requiring law enforcement to prosecute illegal immigrants. Yes, the policy comports with the law. Yes, the Obama administration engaged in a similar policy on a smaller scale — and yes, the media covered it very differently.

    But, no, President Trump doesn’t “have to” temporarily break up families. He chooses to strictly implement the law, claiming, among other things, that it is a necessity in stopping gang violence. Trump officials’ inability to deal with the mess they created incompetently implementing their policy, and the public relations disaster resulting from that ineptitude, is on the administration, and no one else.

    But read on: Harsanyi notes the Democrats' cake of cynical political posturing with a thick frosting of cheap emotionalism. (Some Republicans too, of course.)


  • Mental Floss has the kind of article I am a sucker for: From Snoopy to Shark Bait: The Top Slang Word in Each State

    There’s a minute, and then there’s a hot minute. Defined as “a longish amount of time,” this unit of time is familiar to Alabamians but may stir up confusion beyond the state’s borders.

    It’s Louisianans, though, who feel the “most misunderstood,” according to the results of a survey regarding regional slang by PlayNJ. Of the Louisiana residents surveyed, 72 percent said their fellow Americans from other states—even neighboring ones—have a hard time grasping their lingo. Some learned the hard way that ordering a burger “dressed” (with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayo) isn’t universally understood, nor is the phrase “to pass a good time” (instead of “to have” a good time).

    Spoiler: New Hampshire's contribution to national misunderstanding is (according to Mental Floss) "X-Y-Z".

    What?

    It stands for "eXamine Your Zipper". If someone murmurs "X-Y-Z" to you in Penacook or Peterborough, they are telling you your fly is open.

    I have literally never heard that.

    Yeah, me neither.

    The linked PlayNJ article is a little more credible: it cites "bang a uey" (translation: "perform a U-turn") and "banger" (translation: "old car that you don't mind beating up"). I've heard those.


  • And, as the Babylon Bee reports, it's not all crazy news out west: New Ballot Initiative Proposes Dividing California Into Tiny Bits, Feeding It To Sharks.

    A new initiative proposing that the state of California be separated into hundreds of tiny, bite-sized pieces and then fed to sharks in the Pacific Ocean has made it onto the November ballot.

    The radical proposal claims that the whole nation would benefit from California’s decentralization and subsequent consumption by hungry oceanic predators.

    Works for me.