URLs du Jour

2018-09-22

[Amazon Link]

  • Bad news: Jonah Goldberg's first draft of Suicide of the West (our Amazon Product du Jour, which you should buy) was too long for the publisher, so he cut out some stuff. Good news (for us): the cut material will be recycled, where possible. Our first example is at Commentary: Socialism Is So Hot Right Now.

    It's very smart, RTWT, here's a sample, on the nailing-jelly-to-a-tree difficulty socialists have in even defining socialism:

    In a piece called “It’s Time to Reclaim ‘Socialism’ from the Dirty-Word Category,” the Washington Post’s Elizabeth Bruenig says, “Clarifying exactly what ‘socialism’ means once and for all likely won’t happen anytime soon.” One common tactic is to point to countries that liberals like and dub them real-world models of socialism. Thus Scandinavian countries with generous social safety nets become the real-world proof that socialism works. Others will just point to government-run programs or institutions—national parks, the VA, whatever—and say “socialism!” (What about Venezuela? “Shut up,” they explain.)

    Corey Robin, in a New York Times op-ed, acknowledges that definitions have always been a burden for American socialists. He notes that the best definition Irving Howe and Lewis Coser, editors of the socialist journal Dissent, could come up with in 1954 was “socialism is the name of our desire.” The “true vision” of socialism, Robin says, is simply “freedom.” Robin objects to the way we must enter the market in order to live—since we need to work if we are to eat. “The socialist argument against capitalism isn’t that it makes us poor,” he writes. “It’s that it makes us unfree.” If you can get past the utopianism—where in the world has it ever been true that most people did not need to work in order to live? How do you create a society where work is optional?—there’s much to admire about the honesty of this definition.

    The primary problem, as Jonah develops, is that socialism is all about the feels, no matter how some socialists prattle on about how scientifically objective they're being.


  • At NR, Michael W. Schwartz has an excellent idea: Censure Dianne Feinstein

    Regardless of the fate of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination, the Senate should censure the ranking Democratic member of the Judiciary Committee, Dianne Feinstein. Her deception and maneuvering, condemned across the political spectrum, seriously interfered with the Senate’s performance of its constitutional duty to review judicial nominations, and unquestionably has brought the Senate into “dishonor and disrepute,” the standard that governs these matters. As a matter of institutional integrity, the Senate cannot let this wrong go unaddressed.

    Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution provides that each House of the Congress may “punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour.” Nine times in American history the Senate has used that power to censure one of its members. Feinstein has richly earned the right to join this inglorious company.

    They did it to Tail Gunner Joe McCarthy, should be a no brainer for Di-Fi.


  • At Reason, Nick Gillespie writes on Partisan Hackery, Supreme Court Confirmations, and the Decline of Public Trust.

    Virtually everyone acknowledges that given the nature of the accusations and the passage of time it may be impossible to ever know the truth of exactly what happened in that Bethesda bedroom so many years ago. Even Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who basically brought the charges to public view, admits as much. People of good faith can disagree about what should come next. But politics, especially in D.C. and especially when it comes to Supreme Court nominations, are rarely conducted in good faith. An astonishing set of statements makes that clear.

    National Review's Ed Whelan comes in for some well-deserved bashing, as does DiFi (if you needed any additional information about her perfidy).


  • Bryan Caplan weighs in on the latest brouhaha concerning a George Mason University econ prof (Robin Hanson). His message to Robin's critics: You Don't Understand Our Culture. A "for starters" list of ten items on which GMU econ culture differs from "mainstream intellectual culture", I especially liked:

    1. Hyperbole is the worst thing in the universe.  Most problems and effects are marginal.  If you’re really certain that X, you should happily bet at 1000:1 odds.

    That goes into our sub-headline rotation.


  • Kai von Fintel at Language Log is amused by some Massachusetts yard signs for the upcoming election: Nurses say yes and no. Examples:

    [nurses say yes!][nurses say no!]

    The linguistical spin:

    Now, inquiring minds might wonder: what is it, do nurses say yes or do they say no?

    The grammatical construction used by the signs is known in linguistics as a “bare plural”. The plural is “bare” in that it doesn’t come with any determiners or quantifiers (such as “most nurses”, “some nurses”, and so on).

    We pretty much stay out of that state, but we do get their TV commercials. A lot of money is being dropped by both sides. Which means, I assume, that a lot of money is riding, one way or 'tother, on the vote's outcome.

    Which brings me to the essential phony dishonesty of the campaign: neither side bothers to say: "Oh, by the way, this is going to mean more money in my pocket."

    Which reminds me of why I'm so unconcerned about Russians buying "fake" political Facebook ads: they couldn't possibly be any less honest than the ones we Americans come up with on our own.


  • I'm old enough to remember when Science was pretty staid, failing to resort to clickbait headlines. Those times are gone, as its website discusses a paper that proposes a "Minimal Turing Test" consisting of… Want to convince someone that you’re human? This one word could do the trick.

    Suppose you and a humanoid robot stood before a judge who planned to kill the nonhuman. What would you say to prove you’re the real deal?

    Researchers asked 1000 online participants to imagine that scenario. Volunteers came up with words like “love,” “mercy,” and “banana”—perhaps thinking that a machine wouldn’t have use for such verbiage. The scientists then paired the most popular words together and asked 2000 online participants to guess which of the two came from a human and which from a robot (even though they both came from humans).

    That's two paragraphs from the magazine's three-paragraph blurb, so you'll have to click over to know what that word is.

    (Of course, now the AIs know that secret word, …)