URLs du Jour

2020-09-16

  • Oscar Wilde famously said about Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop: “One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing.” On that basis, see how you do with the video in this Tweet.

    I'm especially amused by the "Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!" lady.


  • Kevin D. Williamson's weekly free column mulls on Illegitimate Illegitimacy. Which is about a thorny problem, that I'm pretty much convinced has no solution, see here. But I'd rather quote (probably more than I should under fair use) KDW on a subsequent topic:

    Our friend David French has written a typically intelligent and sensitive essay about “critical race theory,” which does not require any elaboration by me except to note the borderline illiterate writing from UCLA ideologues French quotes to define critical race theory:

    CRT recognizes that racism is engrained in the fabric and system of the American society. The individual racist need not exist to note that institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture. This is the analytical lens that CRT uses in examining existing power structures. CRT identifies that these power structures are based on white privilege and white supremacy, which perpetuates the marginalization of people of color. CRT also rejects the traditions of liberalism and meritocracy. Legal discourse says that the law is neutral and colorblind, however, CRT challenges this legal “truth” by examining liberalism and meritocracy as a vehicle for self-interest, power, and privilege.  CRT also recognizes that liberalism and meritocracy are often stories heard from those with wealth, power, and privilege. These stories paint a false picture of meritocracy; everyone who works hard can attain wealth, power, and privilege while ignoring the systemic inequalities that institutional racism provides.

    I take an indulgent view of slightly pretentious spelling variations (engrained vs. ingrained). But I take a less liberal view of “identifies that,” which is an illiterate pseudoscientific dressing-up of “claims that”; the agreement problem in the same sentence; “the American society” where “American society” would do; the clumsy run-on sentence that tries to make “however” do the work of an ordinary coordinating conjunction; the agreement problem in “liberalism and meritocracy as a vehicle”; etc. The logic is no better than the grammar: The false claim that liberalism asserts that “everyone who works hard can attain wealth, power, and privilege” is the dopiest straw man since Ray Bolger in The Wizard of Oz.

    There isn’t much point in my rehearsing arguments that George Orwell made more compellingly three quarters of a century ago. But it remains true that bulls*** writing is the witch’s familiar of bulls*** thinking. Understanding this kind of bulls*** for what it is — a decently paid career path for intellectual mediocrities — makes the otherwise perplexing careers of Rachel Dolezal, Jessica Krug, and Shaun King much more easily understood. Race-hustling is a pretty good gig, and Donald Trump on his best day couldn’t build a wall high enough to keep college-educated middle-class white people out of a pseudo-intellectual sinecure that sweet. The women’s-studies departments simply are not large enough to absorb the surplus in the market.

    That's a brilliant takedown, and I wish I could write that well.


  • Another Oscar Wilde moment (see above) is inspired by Philip Greenspun: Rich Californians complaining that they aren’t getting federal disaster money from Donald the Cruel.

    My Facebook feed has been alive for weeks with Californians complaining that the Great Father in Washington does not love them and therefore is not showering them with federal disaster relief cash despite their worse-than-usual fire season.

    (As with many complaints about Trump, emotions may be more important than facts. The Great Father actually declared a disaster in California and approved federal aid last month: “California Wildfires Burn Million Acres; Trump OKs Disaster Aid” (VOA, August 22))

    Suppose that Trump had not approved federal aid for the richer-than-average state. The fire are upsetting, yes, and sometimes tragic. And of course we can all sympathize with anyone who has lost a loved one or a home. However, in light of their own cherished values, third and thirdmost of which is fighting inequality (avoiding COVID-19 and BLM being #1 and #2, of course), should Californians even ask for aid? California is a rich state with 40 million people. Why does it need to be bailed out by lower-middle-class taxpayers in Arkansas, Indiana, Maine, and Kentucky? Why not use state funds to assist those who have been affected by the fires?

    Might be a different story if the money were actually going to help poor people. But, nope, it's going to the state government.


  • It's (roughly) the fiftieth anniversary of Milton Friedman's article in the New York Times: "A Friedman doctrine‐- The Social Responsibility Of Business Is to Increase Its Profits". At Reason, Brian Doherty looks at the folks who are still a little put out by that: Milton Friedman Accused of Making Corporations Greedy.

    The New York Times brings you news that's news to you: Before evil libertarian Milton Friedman came along, corporations did nothing but help the people in pursuit of "social responsibility."

    This is the implication of an overkill series of think pieces and a roundtable hooked to Friedman's essay "The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits," which the Times itself ran in 1970. The newspaper now insists, without rigorous evidence, that this article was "arguably the most consequential economic idea of the latter half of the 20th century." (It also argues that businesses are now turning against the idea that their only social responsibility is to their shareholders.)

    It would require a lot more facts and analysis than the Times chooses to present to prove that corporations decided in the past 50 years to try to make profits their main concern because of a New York Times article by an economist. People starting and running businesses have traditionally done so to make a living and to make the business do well; attributing this to Friedman's "theories on the primacy of shareholders and the priority of profits" requires more business history and social history than the paper is able to do.

    I think Uncle Milton had the better of the argument then, and continues to do so. But see what you think.


  • What is Power Line's Academic Disgrace of the Week? Competition was stiff, but the University of Chicago English Department was a clear favorite with this announcement:

    Faculty Statement (July 2020)

    The English department at the University of Chicago believes that Black Lives Matter, and that the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Rayshard Brooks matter, as do thousands of others named and unnamed who have been subject to police violence. As literary scholars, we attend to the histories, atmospheres, and scenes of anti-Black racism and racial violence in the United States and across the world. We are committed to the struggle of Black and Indigenous people, and all racialized and dispossessed people, against inequality and brutality.

    For the 2020-2021 graduate admissions cycle, the University of Chicago English Department is accepting only applicants interested in working in and with Black Studies. We understand Black Studies to be a capacious intellectual project that spans a variety of methodological approaches, fields, geographical areas, languages, and time periods. For more information on faculty and current graduate students in this area, please visit our Black Studies page.

    Well, fine. There goes my dream of a graduate degree in English from Chicago.


  • And apologetic bad news from Bjørn Lomborg in the NYPost: Sorry, solar panels won't stop California's fires. You know the story: yes, "climate change" plays a role, but (as it turns out) California's unwillingness to clear out decades of deadwood from its forests.

    One prominent study published in Nature Sustainability this year estimated that California will have to burn about 20 percent of its area to get rid of all the excess fuel. But owing to popular opposition, legal challenges and regulatory limits, California manages prescribed burns for less than one-thousandth of that.

    Instead of focusing on more prescribed burns, Newsom focuses on climate change as the overarching source of his state’s fires. He suggests that the answer is to speed up California’s transition to 100 percent renewable energy sources.

    But any realistic climate solution will achieve next to nothing. A Californian change of policy will have virtually no impact on global climates. But even if the ­entire United States were to cut all its emissions tomorrow and for the rest of the century — an ­incredibly fanciful and enormously expensive assumption — temperatures would still climb, just 0.3°F less.

    Good luck talking sense to Californians, who blame everything on (1) climate change and (2) Trump.


Last Modified 2020-09-17 8:32 AM EST