URLs du Jour

2020-09-02

[Amazon Link]

  • John McWhorter writes at the Atlantic: Academics Are Really Worried About Cancel Culture. As befits a linguistics professor, he's got a succinct and accurate definition of that term:

    Our national reckoning on race has brought to the fore a loose but committed assemblage of people given to the idea that social justice must be pursued via attempts to banish from the public sphere, as much as possible, all opinions that they interpret as insufficiently opposed to power differentials. Valid intellectual and artistic endeavor must hold the battle against white supremacy front and center, white people are to identify and expunge their complicity in this white supremacy with the assumption that this task can never be completed, and statements questioning this program constitute a form of “violence” that merits shaming and expulsion.

    Skeptics have labeled this undertaking “cancel culture,” which of late has occasioned a pushback from its representatives. The goal, they suggest, is less to eliminate all signs of a person’s existence—which tends to be impractical anyway— than to supplement critique with punishment of some kind. Thus a group of linguists in July submitted to the Linguistic Society of America a petition not only to criticize the linguist and psychologist Steven Pinker for views they considered racist and sexist, but to have him stripped of his Linguistic Society of America fellow status and removed from the organization’s website listing linguist consultants available to the media. An indication of how deeply this frame of mind has penetrated many of our movers and shakers is that they tend to see this punishment clause as self-evidently just, as opposed to the novel, censorious addendum that it is.

    Prof McW goes on to share some of the correspondence he's received from academics who are a tad on edge about whether something they say (or have said in the past) might serve as grounds for the Woke Red Guard to demand their repentence, re-education, and retribution.


  • Looking at government spending, I've pretty much been an Aieee, we're all gonna die! kind of guy. Although I say that more in resignation than panic. Panic is tough to maintain at my age.

    Kevin D. Williamson looks at the issue and is more sanguine, I think. Here is Fed Inflation Target Adjustment: Manageable.

    The United States has urgent short-term problems. One of them is the current terrorist campaign of left-wing political violence intended to sway the 2020 election. Another is the loss of confidence in police and other municipal agencies in cities such as Minneapolis and Kenosha. Another is the coronavirus response. These are all problems of institutional failure, most spectacularly the failures of American cities dominated by Democratic-machine politics, but also bipartisan failures at the state and federal levels. The United States has long-term problems, too, prominent among them the imbalance between what Washington has to spend and what Washington desires to spend. That, too, represents institutional failure — one that will be, if left unreformed, catastrophic. Faced with so much institutional failure, we should guard jealously the institutions we have that are functioning reasonably well.

    There are people who want to sell you gold coins who insist that we are on the precipice of hyperinflation. They said so yesterday, and they will say so again tomorrow, irrespective of what actually happens in the real world. There are situations in which investing in gold is intelligent and prudent, and there are situations in which the case for gold is hysteria, marketing hype, and narrow financial self-interest on the part of the fearmongers. Sorting out the prudent and the intelligent from the dishonest and the hysterical is difficult at the best of times — in the marketplace, yes, but also at the ballot box.

    Well, we'll see I guess. I have not purchased any gold coins, so maybe I'm subconsciously thinking we'll muddle through somehow.


  • At Cato, Jeffrey A Singer looks at The AMA Opioid Task Force 2020 Report. And finds facts which drug warriors will ignore:

    The American Medical Association recently released it Opioid Task Force 2020 Report. The Task Force found there was a 37.1 percent decrease in opioid prescriptions between 2014 and 2019; a 64.4 percent increase in the use of state prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) in the last year (739 million queries in 2019); and hundreds of thousands of physicians accessing continuing medical education courses on opioid prescribing (now mandatory in some states). However, the report states:

    Despite these efforts, illicitly manufactured fentanyl, fentanyl analogues and stimulants (e.g. methamphetamine, cocaine) are now killing more Americans than ever. The use of these illicit drugs has surged and their overdose rate increased by 10.1% and 10.8%, respectively.

    This should come as no surprise. The government’s own data show no correlation between opioid prescription volume and past month nonmedical use of prescription opioids by persons age 12 and up. Nor does it find a correlation between prescription volume and past year diagnosis with prescription opioid use disorder in person age 12 and up.

    The War on Drugs, in its Opiate Theater, has made sufferers of chronic pain suffer more. And killed a lot of non-medical users. And the drug warriors pat themselves on the back for a job well done.


  • Slashdot provides the headline almost certain to become ubiquitous between now and November: Russians Again Targeting Americans With Disinformation, Facebook and Twitter Say. Quoting the NYT:

    The disinformation campaign by the Kremlin-backed group, known as the Internet Research Agency, is the first public evidence that the agency is trying to repeat its efforts from four years ago and push voters away from the Democratic presidential candidate, Joseph R. Biden Jr., to help President Trump. Intelligence agencies have warned for months that Russia and other countries were actively trying to disrupt the November election, and that Russian intelligence agencies were feeding conspiracy theories designed to alienate Americans by laundering them through fringe sites and social media. Now Facebook and Twitter are offering evidence of this meddling, even as the White House in recent weeks has sought to more tightly control the flow of information about foreign threats to November's election and downplay Russian interference. The Trump administration's top intelligence official as recently as Sunday has tried to suggest that China is a graver risk than Moscow. Facebook and Twitter, which were slow to react to wide-ranging disinformation campaigns on their services in 2016 and continue to face criticism -- even from their own employees -- that they are not doing enough to confront the issue, said they were warned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation about the Russian effort.

    Are Russian-sponsored pixels really more persuasive and dangerous than the misinformation that Americans generate for domestic production? I don't think so.

    For that matter, what about the misinformation in the New York Times?