You Can Have My Chi-Squared Test When You Pry It From My Cold Dead Fingers

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Jerry Coyne has a long analysis of a recent skirmish in the ongoing Woke War: Why we can’t use statistics any more. His springboard is a recent article in Nautilus by one Aubrey Clayton: How Eugenics Shaped Statistics.

I could go on and on about the errors and misconceptions of the paper from Nautilus […], whose aims are threefold. First, to convince us that several of the founders of modern statistics, including Francis Galton, Karl Pearson, and Ronald Fisher, were racists. Second, to argue that the statistical tests they made famous, and are used widely in research (including biomedical research), were developed as tools to promote racism and eugenics. Third, that we should stop using statistical analyses like chi-squared tests, Fisher exact tests, analyses of variance, t-tests, or even fitting data to normal distributions, because these exercises are tainted by racism.  I and others have argued that the first claim is overblown, and I’ll argue here that the second is wrong and the third is insane, not even following from the first two claims if they were true.

It's longish, but also devastating.

Briefly noted:

  • Zachary M. Seward notes yet another instance of Apple's Commie cooperation: Apple hobbled a crucial tool of dissent in China weeks before widespread protests broke out.

    Anti-government protests flared in several Chinese cities and on college campuses over the weekend. But the country’s most widespread show of public dissent in decades will have to manage without a crucial communication tool, because Apple restricted its use in China earlier this month.

    AirDrop, the file-sharing feature on iPhones and other Apple devices, has helped protestors in many authoritarian countries evade censorship. That’s because AirDrop relies on direct connections between phones, forming a local network of devices that don’t need the internet to communicate. People can opt into receiving AirDrops from anyone else with an iPhone nearby.

    Apple's November 9 update only applied this "fix" only applies to iPhones sold in mainland China.

    According to this Fox Business story, "Apple did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday."

  • So Donald Trump dined with Kanye West (who currently prefers to be called "Ye") and Nick Fuentes. Andrew C. McCarthy notes that Trump’s Dinner with Fuentes and Ye Renews a Key Question for GOP Voters.

    There is no substantive importance to former president Donald Trump’s hosting at Mar-a-Lago of Kanye West and Nick Fuentes, a pair of disturbed young men who’ve publicly expressed antisemitic and, in Fuentes’s case, racist views. The only significance is in the public’s learning curve, particularly the learning curve of Republican voters.

    To repeat what I’ve said for a long time, it is a ripe dead certainty that Trump cannot win a national election. And at the risk of belaboring a more recent observation, the wheels have come off the Trump Train in the two years since the night he lost the 2020 election. The former president has become increasingly erratic. Yes, he was erratic to start with, but he no longer has an array of experienced, capable people staffing him, advising him, pushing against his self-destructive tendencies, and preventing him from doing crazy stuff. We thus now find him frantically trying to put a benign spin on his dinner with Fuentes and Ye . . . just as it seems like only yesterday he was frantically putting a benign spin on his stubborn recklessness in hording scores of classified documents at the same Palm Beach club (the subject of one federal investigation) . . . much like his benign spin on the Capitol riot (the subject of another federal investigation) . . . and on his phone call with Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger (the subject of a state criminal investigation) . . . which was of a piece with his equally “perfect” phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky (the subject of the first impeachment . . . that preceded the second impeachment). On it goes, and on it will go.

    Trump increasingly erratic? Say it ain't so!

  • Glenn Greenwald has a lot to say about The Media's Deranged Hysteria Over Elon Musk's Promised Restoration of Free Speech.

    It is hard to overstate how manic, primal and unhinged is the reaction of corporate media employees to the mere prospect that new Twitter owner Elon Musk may restore a modicum of greater free speech to that platform. It was easy to predict — back when Musk was merely toying with the idea of buying Twitter and loosening some of its censorship restrictions — that there would be an all-out attack from Western power centers if he tried. Online censorship has become one of the most potent propaganda weapons they possess, and there is no way they will allow anyone to dilute it even mildly without attempting to destroy them. Even with that expectation in place of what was to come, the liberal sector of the corporate media (by far the most dominant media sector) really outdid itself when it came to group-think panic, rhetorical excess, and reckless and shrill accusations.

    Example, from a Taylor Lorenz (who else?) WaPo article:

    “Apple and Google need to seriously start exploring booting Twitter off the app store,” said Alejandra Caraballo, clinical instructor at Harvard Law’s cyberlaw clinic. “What Musk is doing is existentially dangerous for various marginalized communities. It’s like opening the gates of hell in terms of the havoc it will cause. People who engaged in direct targeted harassment can come back and engage in doxing, targeted harassment, vicious bullying, calls for violence, celebration of violence. I can’t even begin to state how dangerous this will be.”

    Yup, that's moral panic all right.

  • We're all told, endlessly, about the conspiracist fantasies of our right-wing friends. And, yes indeed, it's out there, even at one of my local websites.

    But conspiracism is a very human phenomenon, and Stanley K. Ridgley notes an underpublicized hotbed: The Conspiracist Fantasy of University Bureaucracies.

    Critical racialism originated in the crucible of neo-Marxist critical theory and has developed into an unfalsifiable doctrine informed by the psychopathology of paranoia. Now, it is codified into a systematized, conspiracist belief system. The doctrine constructs its own reality according to a central conspiracy myth and encourages the paranoid behavior of its adherents, including a displaced sense of responsibility (blaming others), hyper-suspicion, grandiosity, delusional fixity, the creation of a pseudocommunity of persecutors, and the creation of a hermetic interpretive system within the real, normal world.

    In common parlance, this paranoid doctrine is called antiracism.

    This is how a conspiracy theory can blossom from the psyches of hyper-fearful people who form communities of paranoia. The conspiracy emerges from the tendency of its victims to see exactly what they want to see in the world—and to discount everything else.

    That's pretty relevant to folks like (see previous item) Alejandra Caraballo, isn't it?

Will Subsidies Fix the Energy Industry?

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Jorge Velasco has the answer to that burning question at Reason: Subsidies Won't Fix the Energy Industry. In fact, he argues that ending energy subsidies would cut both carbon emissions and costs.

Having taken back the House, Republicans say they want to revamp domestic energy policy. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R–Wash.), the ranking member on the House Committee on Energy & Commerce and its likely chair next year, has said the party wants "workable solutions to make energy cleaner, reduce emissions, prioritize energy security, and keep energy costs low."

Politicians and bureaucrats have been singing this tune for decades. One thing they've done wrong is waste billions of dollars on energy subsidies. Instead of fueling innovation, subsidies have unfairly cherry-picked certain energy sources and technologies, causing both economic and environmental inefficiencies.

In 2017, the consulting firm Management Information Services, Inc. analyzed federal energy expenditures from 1950 to 2016. It found that nonhydro renewable energies, such as solar and wind energy, were the largest beneficiaries of such assistance. Solar and wind received $158 billion, or 16 percent, of federal energy subsidies, mostly through tax credits. By contrast, the nuclear industry received less than half of that, mostly for research and development purposes.

If we treated food production like we do energy production, … oh, wait, we kinda do that too.

Briefly noted:

  • OK, subsidies won't fix the energy industry.

    But is it kooky to say that anti-capitalists are using climate change as a pretext for a planned economy?

    Well, no. As Dr Rainer Zitelmann points out at FEE: It's Not Kooky to Say Anti-Capitalists Are Using Climate Change as a Pretext for a Planned Economy When They Come Out and Say It.

    World leaders met in Egypt recently to discuss climate change. This time, the focus was on the demands of poor countries that want money from rich countries because of climate change. After more than 50 years of experience with development aid, one can already predict where this money will end up—with corrupt governments in countries in Africa and other poor countries.

    Many so-called climate change activists are not really concerned about the climate and the environment. No, for them, these are merely instruments in the fight against capitalism.

    For the last three years, Greta Thunberg has said that her life’s purpose was to save the world from climate change. Now she told an audience in London that climate activists must overthrow "the whole capitalist system," which she says is responsible for "imperialism, oppression, genocide... racist, oppressive extractionism." The "activists" of the doomsday cult "Last Generation" say quite openly that their goal is the abolition of capitalism.

    I'm old enough to remember when it was thought that socialist systems were simply, scientifically, better at fostering growth and prosperity. (I had that famous Samuelson textbook that claimed “the Soviet economy is proof that, contrary to what many skeptics had earlier believed, a socialist command economy can function and even thrive.”)

    Well, that argument got debunked by reality pretty quickly afterward. So now anti-capitalists grab onto predictions of ecological catastrophe instead. Any excuse to destroy free markets will do.

McCloskey Watch

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Deirdre Nansen McCloskey reviews a new bio of Friedrich Hayek (link at right), and concludes Hayek Was a True Liberal. A small excerpt:

So Hayek and the Austrian School are liberal, in a modern world lurching between the fatal conceits of left and right. On the left nowadays Acemoglu and James Robinson, and more radically Thomas Piketty and Mariana Mazzucato, recommend a bigger and bigger state. They promise it will be a very nice one, you understand. On the right Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin recommend a bigger and bigger state. They make no such promises about niceness. They envision a state of the sort that Hayek opposed in Russia and then in the German lands, growing up with Viennese antisemitic politics and the street violence of Weimar Germany next door. We liberals stand apart from the usual spectrum, recommending as Hayek did a competent but small state, liberty with love.

The peculiarly American term for such a worldview is libertarianism. The usage delivers liberal over to the social democrats. Hayek and I disapprove. True liberalism adopts instead the strange and wonderful idea arising suddenly by happy accident in northwestern Europe during the 18th century that the ancient hierarchies of husband and master and king should not stand. Ordinary people were to be treated for the first time like adults. Such a liberalism could be called adultism.

All this ideological classification can get confusing, even frustrating. It doesn't matter if you're being pigeonholed, or you're self-pigeonoling; there's no USDA regulation for what goes on your philosophical ingredient list.

If I absolutely must label myself, I usually—sorry, Deirdre!—go with "libertarian". Because I want not to be misunderstood, as I would be if I said "liberal". If I'm allowed a few more words, I add "with significant conservative leanings."

Anyway: I'll probably take a pass on the book. 824 pages, and it only goes up to 1950! I think I'd prefer to reread The Constitution of Liberty.

That's Trillion, With a T

An October tweet that was only just now brought to my attention:

That's from CNBC, not some dubious "news" station where the next feature is on Jewish Space Lasers.

And that's not some wacky rando CNBC picked off the streets making that assertion; that's Jeffrey Currie, employed by a little firm called Goldman Sachs. In fact: he is their "global head of Commodities Research in Global Investment Research"

So that's a pretty amazing factoid, indicating a massive waste of capital that could have been more productively directed. As near as I can tell, undebunked; let me know if you see otherwise.

Briefly noted:

  • Now that the Libertarian Party has been taken over by wackos and grifters (even more than usual), I cast my liberty-lovin' eyes once again to the Republicans. Any hope for me there? Bonnie Kristian is not too optimistic: Making the GOP Liberty-Friendly Requires More Than Just Rejecting Donald Trump.

    Former President Donald Trump is running for president again, seeking the nomination of a party which, for the first time in six years, isn't wholly sure it wants him back. What the GOP base decides remains a wholly open question; Trump is still the only candidate officially on offer, and history teaches polling this early in the race is useless. But the sort of Republican voter who airs his opinion in the pages of The New York Times and National Review has decided, emphatically, that the time for Trump is over.

    This may seem like a promising development to any libertarians waxing nostalgic about an earlier era of libertarian-Republican relations—a time when libertarianism was deemed, in Reason's pages, "the very heart and soul of conservatism," when the GOP's rhetorical commitment to limited government made it libertarians' preferred vehicle for political action within the two-party system, when yawning gaps between libertarians and Republicans on social and foreign policy were ignored because, uhhh, you know, communism! Taxes!

    So if the Republican Party finally rejects Trump, is that also a rejection of the authoritarian and illiberal impulses his political career has amplified? I'm open to being pleasantly surprised, but so far, the evidence answers with a resounding "no." Even if Trump loses this primary race, there's every reason to think his party will retain its present will to power.

    I had to hold my nose real hard to vote for Don Bolduc and Karoline Leavitt a couple weeks back. I hope I won't have to do that again.

Happy Thanksgiving 2022

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Veronique de Rugy is Giving Thanks for Low-Skilled Workers.

On Thanksgiving we rightly give thanks. And let's be clear that, amid all the turmoil that consumes daily headlines, we Americans do indeed have a lot to be thankful for. We are still relatively free. We are also incredibly prosperous — a prosperity that would be impossible without uniquely talented and driven entrepreneurs and the courageous investors who back them. But this year I want to give special thanks to those workers we call "low-skilled."

They may not have acquired the know-how or years of education possessed by the people you see on TV, or by academics, tech gurus or financial-market whizzes. But low-skilled workers are nevertheless among the unsung heroes of our lives.

As Vero points out, these are the people who kept the grocery stores open during the pandemic. Also hospitals, restaurants, …

Briefly noted:

  • A video provided at Matt Taibbi's Substack documents the chorus of "independent" media regurgitating the same talking points in pre-election 2020, attempting to debunk the Hunter Biden laptop story as "disinformation": YouTube Censors Reality, Boosts Disinformation: Part 1.

    As subscribers by now are aware, I’m very upset about YouTube’s recent decision to censor a factually accurate video about “rigged election” comments produced for this site by Matt Orfalea. The company has given Matt a strike and labeled his/our work “misinformation,” an insult I’ve decided not to take lying down. I’m going to search for new ways to embarrass the company until they reverse their decision. As it happens, today offers an excellent opportunity.

    CBS This Morning today came out with a story claiming they obtained a copy of Hunter Biden’s laptop, sent for an “independent forensic review,” and determined it “appears genuine.” This follows up confirmation from The New York Times back on March 16th, and more importantly, the exhaustive earlier work of Politico reporter Ben Schreckinger confirming key emails in his book, The Bidens.

    Try watching the video, and try not to get mad. As the Babylon Bee says: CBS News Officially Confirms That Lincoln Has Been Shot.

    I await Part 2, and whatever else Taibbi says on this matter.

  • From the student newspaper at the University Near Here: Ten Classes Worth Taking at UNH. The course titles:

    1. Personal Finance (BUS 530)
    2. Making Babies (NURS 450)
    3. Human Sexuality (HDFS 746)
    4. United States Healthcare Systems (HMP 401)
    5. Organizational Behavior (MGT 535)
    6. Nutrition in Health and Wellbeing (NUTR 400)
    7. Propaganda and Persuasion (CMN 456)
    8. Public Speaking (CMN 500)
    9. Professional and Technical Writing (ENGL 502)
    10. Stressed Out (OT 513)

    Yes, "Making Babies" and "Human Sexuality". Take both, in case you missed something.

    Ah, "Nutrition in Health and Wellbeing". That's a course that's been around, roughly, forever; when I was a grad student, it was called "Animals, Food, and Man". Yes, irredeemably sexist.

    I have a bone to pick with the paper's breezy description:

    More than half of college students suffer from malnutrition, according to Medical Daily. To combat this, Nutrition in Health and Wellbeing is a fantastic class to take. While fulfilling the lab requirement as well as a biological science discovery credit, this class teaches students the science of nutrition and how to eat to make yourself happy and healthy. Your body is a temple, right?

    Emphasis added. That Medical Daily link goes to a 2014 story, with the headline: "Food Insecurity: Why 59% Of College Students May Suffer From Malnutrition".

    So the paper upgraded the "may suffer" to "suffer". Tsk!

    But it gets worse. Following links from the Medical Daily article, brings us to the the paper (in the "Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior") that provides the 59% number: Prevalence and Correlates of Food Insecurity Among Students Attending a Midsize Rural University in Oregon. The full article can (finally) be found here.

    And, control-F tells me that the word "malnutrition" doesn't appear in the paper at all. The actual finding is:

    Over half of students (59%) were food insecure at some point during the previous year.

    Yeah, that's not the same thing.

    Worse: that number is based on a 40-item survey "distributed via e-mail" to all 5438 students at that unnamed college. The researchers got 354 completed surveys. And the 59% "food insecure" figure is based on the self-reporting of 208 respondents.

    The actual questions asked to determine insecurity seem to be here. Example: "In the last 12 months, did you ever eat less than you felt you should because there wasn't enough money for food?"

    And somehow at UNH this gets translated into "More than half of college students suffer from malnutrition". Yeesh.

Not For Me, But Perhaps For Thee

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] The Amazon Product du Jour is but one of the items listed on Reason's The Best Ever Libertarian Gift Guide. Their article's links go to Etsy, another fine site, although I don't get a cut if you buy there:

The "Come Back With A Warrant" doormat is a mainstay of liberty-minded home décor, and for good reason. It fulfills a utilitarian function—giving guests a place to wipe their feet—while also making your legal knowledge known to any state actors who might come a-knocking.

With many stylish variations of the, shall we say, un-welcome mat, there is a design for any taste. The basic version of the doormat is a classic—and it has adorned my entryway for two years, while staying in top condition. However, Etsy is replete with other options, from cutesy to, erm, aggressive.

A little too unneighborly for my tastes, but your mileage may vary according to your neighbors.

Briefly noted:

  • If you're looking for something not to be thankful for, Eric Boehm has a suggestion: A Possible Holiday Railroad Strike Would Risk $2 Billion Per Day.

    A threatened railroad worker strike that appeared to have been derailed by the Biden administration is now back on track and chugging quickly toward the holiday season.

    Four of the 12 unions representing workers on America's freight rail lines have voted to reject a new contract proposed by a special presidential mediation board, once again raising the possibility of an economy-crippling strike next month. The unions that rejected the deal are now indicating that they want additional concessions from the railroads beyond what was negotiated by the Biden administration during the summer, The Wall Street Journal reports.

    Hope you're all stocked up on… whatever it is you get by rail.

  • "Smart" people are fans of Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), which will solve all our problems, including many we didn't know we had. Brendan Patrick Purdy is not smart; he is, in fact, very smart. And if some geek tries to sell you on RCV, shut him down with a pointer to Purdy's article: The Flaws of Ranked Choice. It's heavy on theory, and even gets into Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem. (Bookmark it now, just in case.)

  • Scott Alexander wonders: Is Wine Fake? It's an entertaining look at the expertise of wine connoisseurs. Just one paragraph will give you an idea…

    (Do wines ever have 6-carbon carboxylic acids, or 10-carbon alkanes — i.e., goats, armpits or jet fuel? I am not a wine chemist and cannot answer this question. But one of the experts interviewed on Somm mentioned that a common tasting note is cat urine, but that in polite company you’re supposed to refer to it by the code phrase “blackcurrant bud.” Maybe one of those things wine experts say is code for “smells like a goat,” I don’t know.)

    Scott's article convinced me that I'd be unable to distinguish between Caymus Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon (on sale at the NH Wine Store: $73.99 for 750ml) and the plonk I usually drink (Franzia Dark Red Blend, $18.99 for a 5L box).

Grow, Baby, Grow

Allison Schrager makes an argument for a strategy that should not need defending, but does: Economic Growth Is Still Our Best Hope.

During a meeting several years ago, as I started to explain to my colleagues how different economic policies could boost growth, a young staffer interrupted me. He announced—quickly, so he could get it all out in one breath—that growth should not be a policy objective anymore, because it destroys the environment. I was stunned—but even more so because many of the younger staffers agreed with him.

But I should have known then that this idea of “degrowth,” like many bad ideas that have taken hold lately, was here to stay. In fact, the idea has been around for a long time already. This latest incarnation began with French social philosopher André Gorz in 1972 and gained some popularity among academics and anti-capitalists. Lately, however, interest in the idea has expanded from activists and idealistic journalists to scientists, academics (including Japanese political theorist Kohei Saito), politicians, and even Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate, professor of physics at Stanford University, and Barack Obama’s energy secretary.

Adherents of the degrowth philosophy believe that economic growth harms the planet, and that stopping it is our best hope to avert environmental catastrophe. London School of Economics anthropologist and degrowth proponent Jason Hickel explained that the philosophy does not aim explicitly to shrink GDP, but it does think that people should consume much less and accepts that GDP will probably fall as a result.

Ms Schrager points out the fallacy to see economics as zero-sum game: that if someone gets richer, it's at the expense of someone else getting poorer. But a "degrowth" takes that fallacy and doubles down, turning (via corecive measures) it into a negative-sum game, moving everyone to a worse-off state.

Well, except for those folks implementing "degrowth": they'd be well-paid, of course.

Briefly noted:

  • At Reason, Damon Root notes an amusing possible outcome from a principled legal argument: How a Gorsuch LGBT Ruling May Doom Affirmative Action in College Admissions.

    In Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia (2020), Justice Neil Gorsuch held that the act of firing an employee for being gay or transgender violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating against a job applicant or employee "because of such individual's…sex." "Those who adopted the Civil Rights Act might not have anticipated their work would lead to this particular result," Gorsuch wrote. "But the limits of the drafters' imagination supply no reason to ignore the law's demands. When the express terms of a statute give us one answer and extratextual considerations suggest another, it's no contest. Only the written word is the law, and all persons are entitled to its benefit."

    The results of that strict textualist approach in Bostock were widely cheered by liberals. But liberals probably won't be cheering if Gorsuch adopts a similar stance in the pair of blockbuster affirmative action cases that the Supreme Court is currently weighing. Judging by last month's oral arguments in Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina, the justice does seem to view the statutory debates over LGBT discrimination and affirmative action in a similar interpretative light.

    I liked John Roberts' simple assertaion back in 2007, and it would be nice if SCOTUS (finally) applied it uniformly in the current case: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

  • Charles C. W. Cooke has some advice to GOP wannabes-but-notgonnabes: Don't Run.

    Hey, you. Yes, you. I gather you’ve started hinting that you might run for president in 2024. Here’s an alternative idea: Don’t. Do something else instead. Travel. Learn to cook. Serve on a board. Start a podcast. Build a boat. Just stay the hell out of the field.

    You know who you are. You’re the popular GOP governor of a blue state who believes that, against all odds and in spite of all the laws of supply and demand, he’s going to be nominated in 2024. You’re the Trump appointee who served in the last administration for two or three years and who has for some reason come to think that he might be credible as a MAGA-without-the-baggage candidate. You’re the morally decent Republican politician whose friends have convinced him that all it will take to transcend our current partisan trench warfare is a little integrity and a lot of pluck. You’re the long-retired former party darling who falls asleep each night telling himself that if all the cards fall in the right place, you might squeak to the front of the pack and make it to the convention. And whatever you think is going to happen to you over the next couple of years, you’re wrong.

    Charlie worries that a large GOP field would split the not-Trump vote, and cause (as it did in 2016) Trump to sail to the nomination with a weak plurality, and get creamed in November 2024 by… well, anyone not named "Hillary Clinton".

I'm Sure You Get The Reference

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Bill Barr makes some of that good old common sense: Trump Will Burn Down the GOP. Time for New Leadership.. Skipping down to the bottom line:

It seems to me that Trump isn’t really interested in broadening his appeal. Instead he is content to focus on intensifying his personal hold over a faction within the party—a group that is probably no larger than a quarter of the GOP, but which allows Trump to use it as leverage to extort and bully the rest of the party into submission. The threat is simple: unless the rest of the party goes along with him, he will burn the whole house down by leading “his people” out of the GOP. Trump’s willingness to destroy the party if he does not get his way is not based on principle, but on his own supreme narcissism. His egoism makes him unable to think of a political party as anything but an extension of himself—a cult of personality.

Trump is due credit for stopping progressives’ momentum and achieving important policy successes during his administration. But he does not have the qualities required to win the kind of broad, durable victory I see as necessary to restore America. It is time for the 45th president to step aside.


Last Modified 2022-11-23 4:43 PM EST

The First Three Are Free

[He is not alone]

John Hawkins provides 6 Reasons It’s Always a Mistake to Think of Yourself as a Victim. And they are:

  1. It stops you from fixing your problems.
  2. It spurs you to create oppressors.
  3. It traps you in a cycle of failure.

Well, that's only three. You have to subscribe to his substack to see 4-6, apparently. But, really, do you need more than those three?

Briefly noted:

  • [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

    Virginia Postrel recycles a USA Today article she wrote in support of her latest book, The Fabric of Civilization. It is (sort of) Thanksgiving-related. It's about the recently-restored replica of the Mayflower, the Mayflower II. Specifically, its sails.

    The sails look and feel authentic. But there’s a big difference between the 21st-century versions and the 17th-century originals. The modern fabric is a synthetic that behaves like traditional canvas but keeps its shape and resists sun damage. It will last significantly longer than the linen and hemp used in the Pilgrims’ day, and it took less time to make. Much, much less time.

    “We can’t make cloth,” says sailmaker Dayle Tognoni Ward of Traditional Rigging. “That’s where we hold the line.” Exactly duplicating 17th-century cloth would be prohibitively expensive.

    The original Mayflower’s sails were probably woven with around 30 threads to the inch in each direction. If, like the replica, they used 3,800 square feet of fabric, they would have taken nearly a million yards of yarn. Before the Industrial Revolution, just spinning that much yarn required about two years of work. That doesn’t include the laborious process of harvesting and preparing the plant fibers. Nor does it include weaving on looms powered entirely by the weavers’ muscles.

    Ms. Postrel is as insightful today as she was when she edited Reason magazine (1989-2000):

    If, as Arthur C. Clarke famously observed, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, the reverse is also true. Any sufficiently familiar technology is indistinguishable from nature. We no more imagine a world without cloth than one without sunlight or rain. Textiles are just there.

    And they are another thing to be Thankful for.

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein: We Don't Need No Stinking Evidence

WIRED has the story, as told by Ramin Skibba: NASA Will Not Change the James Webb Telescope’s Name. It's WIRED's usual slant:

James Webb led NASA in the 1950s and 60s, during the Cold War–era “Lavender Scare,” when government agencies often enforced policies that discriminated against gay and lesbian federal workers. For that reason, astronomers and others have long called for NASA to change the name of the James Webb Space Telescope. Earlier this year, the space agency agreed to complete a full investigation into Webb’s suspected role in the treatment and firing of LGBTQ employees.

This afternoon, NASA released that long-awaited report by the agency’s chief historian Brian Odom. In an accompanying press release, NASA officials made clear that the agency will not change the telescope’s name, writing: “Based on the available evidence, the agency does not plan to change the name of the James Webb Space Telescope. However, the report illuminates that this period in federal policy—and in American history more broadly—was a dark chapter that does not reflect the agency’s values today.”

Odom was tasked with finding what proof, if any, links Webb to homophobic policies and decisions. Tracking down evidence of contentious 60-year-old events made for a difficult subject of study, Odom says, but he was able to draw on plenty of material from the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, and the Truman Library. “I took this investigation very seriously,” he says.

Unsurprisingly, Chanda-Prescod Weinstein (assistant professor of physics and astronomy and core faculty in women's and gender studies at the University Near Here) did not appreciate the decision.

The report and NASA’s announcement frustrate critics who for years have been making a case to change JWST’s name. “Webb has at best a complicated legacy, including his participation in the promotion of psychological warfare. His activities did not earn him a $10 billion monument,” wrote Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, an astrophysicist at the University of New Hampshire, and three other astronomers and astrophysicists in a statement on Substack today. They question the interpretation that a lack of explicit evidence implies that Webb had no knowledge of, or hand in, firings within his own agency, writing: “In such a scenario, we have to assume he was relatively incompetent as a leader: the administrator of NASA should know if his chief of security is extrajudicially interrogating people.”

Let's summarize:

  • If there is evidence that Webb had knowledge of, or hand in, firings of gay people at NASA, that means he was a bigot, and the telescope name should be changed.
  • If there isn't evidence that Webb had knowledge of, or hand in, firings of gay people at NASA, that means he was incompetent… and the telescope name should still be changed.
Or: heads she wins, tails Webb loses.