URLs du Jour

2020-02-19

[Amazon Link]
Cute Amazon Product du Jour. But I have a quibble. Complaining on the Internet at least has a non-zero chance of persuading readers. (I'm assuming that "complaining" also covers … whatever it is I'm doing here. Complaining Plus™, maybe.)

But my voting, on the other hand, persuades zero people, and has a negligible chance of affecting the electoral outcome.

So I'm pretty sure the cute t-shirt is wrong. But it leads into our first item…

  • The good folks at Issues & Insights ask: Does Expressive Voting Trump The Rest?

    Say there was a (wildly optimistic) one-in-a-million chance that your vote would swing an electoral outcome to a result benefitting you by $10,000. Viewed instrumentally — solely as a means to an improved end — the expected value of that vote is one cent ($10,000 divided by 1 million). Such a small payoff cannot explain choosing to vote, much less adamant support for a particular candidate.

    However, people often also care about the expressive value of voting — what a vote says about the voter. Perhaps best expressed by Geoffrey Brennan and Loren Lomasky’s classic “Democracy & Decision,” it reflects the fact that, beyond voters’ instrumental incentives, they might also want to vote for something because it makes them feel better by, say, embellishing a noble self-characterization. For instance, a vote could validate one’s sense of self-worth by illustrating that “I care,” “I am patriotic,” “I am not a racist,” etc.

    It turns out that I'm pretty much an "expressive" voter. But it's not (honest) all about "burnishing my halo". I'm simply going for the candidate who, however imperfectly, aligns with my political values.

    For the life of me, I can't imagine why people do anything else.

    Which (once again) reminds me of a quote from an old movie, Catch-22:

    Dobbs: Look Yossarian, suppose, I mean just suppose everyone thought the same way you do.

    Yossarian: Then I'd be a damn fool to think any different.


  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson says we got trouble. Trouble in the Workers’ Paradise. That starts with T, and that rhymes with AOC, and that stands for …

    Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is precisely the sort of campaign surrogate you want, especially if you are Bernie Sanders: She is young, energetic, charismatic, popular (with the people she needs to be popular with, anyway), and, happily, currently ineligible to run for the presidency herself.

    Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is precisely the sort of campaign surrogate you don’t want, especially if you are Bernie Sanders: She is callow, flippant, vain, shallow, and prone to making policy pronouncements that are even battier than your own, and she forgets to mention you at all in the course of making appearances that are in theory on your behalf.

    Senator Sanders is, in his bizarre way, the conservative in the Democratic presidential primary: Republicans are accused of “wanting to turn the clock back” to the 1950s, but Sanders, the confessing socialist, wants to turn the clock back to the 1930s. (The senator himself is culturally a product of the 1970s, which is what his weird little rape-fantasy literary œuvre is all about.) In the New York Times, former economist Paul Krugman poo-poos the idea that Senator Sanders means that he is a socialist when he says he is a socialist, but Sanders’s prescriptions do have a certain dustily familiar aspect to them: Health care? Nationalize it by making Medicare an effective public monopoly. Banking? Nationalize it by having the government operate its own banks, i.e. by having the state literally own the means of production.

    Which reminds me of another quote, this one from the Notebooks of Lazarus Long, by Robert A. Heinlein:

    If you are part of a society that votes, then do so. There may be no candidates and no measures you want to vote for … but there are certain to be ones you want to vote against. By this rule you will rarely go wrong.

    If this is too blind for your taste, consult some well-meaning fool (there is always one around) and ask his advice. Then vote the other way. This enables you to be a good citizen (if such is your wish) without spending the enormous amount of time on it that truly intelligent exercise of franchise requires.

    It looks as if when November rolls around, I'll be voting against … a lot of people.


  • At American Greatness, Stephen Milloy is unimpressed with The GOP’s Carbon Capture Dodge.

    House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is releasing a climate bill this week. The purpose is “to put the GOP on the map on climate” in response to polls reporting that enough young voters have finally succumbed to a lifetime of being propagandized on climate.

    No sane Republican politician would saddle our economy with pointlessly expensive—the only kind that there are—climate regulations. But there are many who would gladly try to appease climate alarmists by throwing around limited amounts of taxpayer dollars on various boondoggles to make it look like they take the matter seriously. One of these boondoggles is carbon capture and sequestration (CCS)—which is the focus of McCarthy’s bill.

    Milloy goes into detail on the various boondoggles, one that (kind of obviously) increases atmospheric carbon.

    Fun note: Milloy blogs at junkscience.com where he's not shy of quoting all the people who tar and feather him as a "denier".


  • And, back to our almost-theme of voting, CNET looks at the latest technology: Microsoft ElectionGuard ("This could be Microsoft's most important product in 2020. If it works.")

    Key caveat there: "If it works."

    ElectionGuard is open-source voting-machine software that Microsoft announced in May 2019. In Microsoft's demo, voters make their choices by touchscreen before printing out two copies. A voter is supposed to double-check one copy before placing it into a ballot box to be counted by election workers. The other is a backup record with a QR code the voter can use to check that the vote was counted after polls close. 

    Open source is good for this kind of thing, of course.


  • And Sky News previews the American "Medicare for All" future with the latest from Old Blighty: NHS staff can refuse to treat racist or sexist patients under new rules.

    Sexist and racist patients could be barred from non-emergency care at NHS trusts, under new rules to be enforced from April.

    Currently, staff can refuse to treat non-critical patients who are verbally aggressive or physically violent towards them.

    But these protections will extend to any harassment, bullying or discrimination, including homophobic, sexist or racist remarks.

    No slippery slope there.