URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Looking for some good news? Try Daniel M. Rothschild at Discourse, who says We Don’t Have to Live Like This.

    It's a look at that silly politispam mail from the CEO of Expensify to customers, which we also looked at back on Sunday. I thought it was an illustration of insulting the people you're trying to convince. Daniel (accurately) sees it as an example of our over-politicization.

    Team Red and Team Blue have become efficiently sorted, as if by algorithm, on lines of geography, class, education and religion. Team members are increasingly unable to explain the views of the other team, and team membership is largely driven by hatred for the other team. To be a member of one team or the other is not just to vote a certain way. It also dictates one’s views on exercise, food, religious practice, travel, sports, childrearing, music, movies, books and much more. And, of course, our team now determines what brands and companies we support, so these brands and companies are increasingly hiving off into supporting one team or the other.

    This is a tragedy. Markets are positive-sum, culture and the arts are generative, religion is formative, sports are entertaining. Politics are none of these things (except possibly entertaining, though that’s a pathology, not a goal). When we politicize all aspects of our society, we don’t elevate our politics; we drag everything else down to its level.

    I'm probably one of those pathological folks who view politics as entertainment. Hey, when there's nothing new on TV, baseball is over, the Patriots suck …

  • An interesting post from (physicist) Sabine Hossenfelder on Covid: Herd Immunity, Facts and Numbers. Warning: there's math. But she looks at the Great Barrington Declaration fairly, which is a plus. And she sticks a sharp pin in the ideological balloon of the "follow the science" folks.

    The authors of the Great Barrington Declaration point out, entirely correctly, that we are in a situation where we have only bad options. Lockdown measures are bad, pursuing natural herd immunity is also bad.

    The question is, which is worse, and just what do you mean by “worse”. This is the decision that politicians are facing now and it is not obvious what is the best strategy. This decision must be supported by data for the consequences of each possible path of action. So we need to discuss not only how many people die from COVID and what the long-term health problems may be, but also how lockdowns, social distancing, and economic distress affect health and health care. We need proper risk estimates with uncertainties. We do not need scientists who proclaim that science tells us what’s the right thing to do.

    Right. I love science as much as the next guy, but scientists who wade into politics automatically make their science suspect.

  • We talked a bit yesterday about the increasing left/progressive hostility to free speech. Here's a more theoretical take, from Sukhayl Niyazov at Law & Liberty: Censoring "Error," Destroying Free Speech. A particularly insightful point:

    There is a widespread opinion, especially among self-described progressives, that by suppressing radical, irrational, and pseudoscientific views, we will get a better political discourse, one more reasoned, rational, and balanced. However, this is not the case. When ideas that seem unacceptable are stamped out, this narrowing of the range of “politically correct” opinions sets us on a path toward gradual winnowing of hitherto admissible beliefs. What has not previously been considered as an extreme opinion becomes so. Purging of radical perspectives shifts our perception of what is right and what is wrong; the truth is not as valued and is not as clear and apparent as when it is contrasted with error.

    Any restriction on the freedom of speech and exclusion of what are perceived as “radical” opinions, is, therefore, prone to shift the definition of what is an “acceptable” opinion. This explains why, all across the United States (especially in academia), people are proclaiming that America has systemic racism and activists are toppling monuments of historical figures like Ulysses Grant because of their supposed connections to slavery or racism—ignoring that moral values are dynamic and change over time. Erasure of history from public memory, removal of unpleasant references, distorts our understanding of what is right and wrong—as the return of racial segregation and race preferential admission policies at some universities demonstrate.

    It's generous to assume that the would-be censors are only looking to the health of the country. That may even be what they tell themselves. I suspect, however, the actual motive is that they know their ideas can't withstand critical examination.

  • Another stupid article from Wired? Well, the title is certainly promising: How to Stop Getting Into Pointless Arguments Online. As someone who started getting into stupid arguments online back in the mid-80's (anyone remember BIX?) I'm probably a good audience.

    OK, it's good advice:

    Time-Saving Strategy: Refrain from attacking. It’s OK to see something and not react to it, not comment on it, and just keep moving on. It’s not your responsibility to inform or educate everyone in the universe about how they’re wrong or what they’re missing. Think about what you would want done if you were in the opposite position and then do that. It will save you time and save others pain.

    Yes, there may still be times when you feel you need or just want to speak up online. If so, that’s fine. But if you’re finding that your online arguments are not only time consuming but also destructive to yourself and others, you may want to consider other ways to get out your energy and use your time: go on a run, learn a new language, write an amazing post, or start playing an instrument. In the end, you’ll be happy you did.

    Or, just start a blog with no comment functionality. Works for me.

  • The Google LFOD News Alert rang for an article in the Nation. Oh boy, way out of my confort zone. Merrimack County resident Molly Bolick asks the musical question: ‘Why Tell Me That We’re Safer Here?’.

    When a retired neighbor tells me we’re less likely to be exposed to the virus, does she say that because a field separates our houses? Or because neither of us works at a meat processing plant, or is in a nursing home? Our risk is certainly lower, but I do not believe that is the only reason motivating her idea of safety. We both shop at the same gigantic supermarket, whose parking lot is consistently full. We both encounter people who don’t wear masks. My neighbor and I are not living on top of one another, but we are living in 2020, and that means living with the threat of viral exposure.

    So, why tell me that we’re safer here? If articulating a belief about safety amidst a global pandemic fills a gap in perceptions of risk, what is the gap? Can it be explained by the trope of Yankee toughness—the dedication to self-reliance and prosperity by one’s own blistered hands? This is the “Live Free or Die” state; can the gap be attributed to a cultural aversion to state intervention?

    An interesting impressionistic take. I prefer the New Hampshire Covid Map and Case Count page from the New York Times, though.

Last Modified 2022-09-30 3:25 PM EDT

Squeeze Me

[Amazon Link]

Carl Hiaasen's latest adult book; I nabbed the Kindle version when Amazon offered it to me for $9.99. I've been reading him for … hm … must be going on thirty years or so, when I picked up one of his books in the McAllen, TX public library while visiting Mom.

The primary protagonist is Angie Armstrong, once a Florida wildlife ranger. She lost that job (and did a stint of jail time) because, due to some hot-headedness, she once fed a poacher's hand to a convenient alligator. Now she's running her own business, dedicated to removing unwanted wildlife, dead or alive from venues where they are not wanted. Things kick off when she's called to a fancy Palm Beach club, where a very large python is digesting a recent meal.

Complication: Kiki Pew Fitzsimmons, a wealthy and petite older woman has disappeared around the same time. Coincidence? (Spoiler: no.) Kiki was a member in good standing of a group of Palm Springs dowagers called the "Potussies" (short for "POTUS Pussies"): fans of the President of these United States. The man himself shows up soon, accompanied by the First Lady.

I can verify, thanks to Kindle's search function, that the words "Donald", "Trump", and "Melania" don't appear in the book, perhaps for legal reasons. Indeed, the book is set in a slightly-alternate universe: the pandemic is over, and Orange Man is still President.

To put it mildly, Hiaasen despises Trump: addicted to Adderall and room-temperature Dr Pepper, obsessed with his tan and science-fiction hair, casual slinger of bullshit and hatred. Hiaasen is equally rough on Trump supporters. Especially his rich supporters; he takes Hillary's "deplorables", and doubles down: they're all hate-filled boobs, ecology-trashers, drunkards, and cheaters. The First Lady comes off only slightly better: she's carrying on a torrid affair with one of her Secret Service guards. Understandable, because her husband is boinking a stripper he keeps passing off as his "nutritionist".

Well. If you like Trump even slightly, this may not be the book for you. (I don't like him at all, and I found Hiaasen's cartoonish caricature tedious and unfunny.) Shear that off, the book is about 60% shorter, and what's left is standard Hiaasen, which is pretty good. As in previous books, an ex-Governor of Florida has taken to the wilderness, playing pranks against the despoilers of the state. There are lowlifes galore with amusing quirks, and Angie, our likeable intrepid hero, finds a way to navigate herself through all the nonsense.

Last Modified 2022-09-30 3:25 PM EDT