URLs du Jour

2020-09-18

[Amazon Link]

  • The WSJ has it's annual College Ranking List. The dead-trees version did not have the University Near Here listed, but the online version confirms that it's down, way down. So far down that they put it in a 100-way tie for 501st place ("501-600").

    That's in a set of "nearly 800" US colleges and universities.

    Could be worse. Another college near here, the University of Southern Maine, is just in the ">600th"-place. When will they just give up?


  • Princeton, on the other hand, is in a very respectable seventh place overall, tied with Caltech. Which makes this story (as related by Jerry Coyne at Why Evolution is True) … well, let him tell it: Princeton hoist with its own petard: Admits systemic racism, investigated for it by the Department of Education, and then denies it.

    I have to say that I find this pretty amusing. After Princeton’s President (like officials of many other colleges) wrote a letter flagellating himself and his University for systemic racism, the U.S. Department of Education has begun investigating Princeton for violating Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The charge is taking federal money for years while purporting to abide by federal nondiscrimination and equal-opportunity standards. If Princeton is indeed rife with “systemic racism” that it hasn’t addressed, then surely they have violated that agreement.  An article in the Washington Examiner (below) says that this investigation is not politically motivated—that the Department of Education has a legal obligation to investigate possible violations of federal civil rights protections, even if that violation is revealed by the University itself.

    This is amusing because I don’t believe that Princeton is systemically racist, though there may be private instances of racism. And yet the University had to admit deep-seated racism to keep in tune with the Zeitgeist. By so doing, it got itself investigated. It’ll be interesting to see how Princeton plays this one, maintaining that it has a climate of systemic racism but yet doesn’t violate federal statues. They’ve responded already (see below), but they’re taking the mustelid path of Weasel Words.

    It would be refreshing if a university president simply said: "Yeah, that stuff we said about systemic racism was bullshit, but it seemed to work to shut up our students and faculty. Win."


  • At National Review, Michael Brendan Dougherty observes that The Left Bullies Social-Media Giant to Protect Itself, Not Democracy.

    Hillary Clinton is angry. “We can have democracy—or we can have social networks that allow the spread of weaponized disinformation about our elections,” she tweeted this week, while linking to a pressure campaign meant to “demand social media platforms protect democracy.” Bloomberg Businessweek, in a long and largely misleading piece on Facebook published yesterday, attempted to bully CEO Mark Zuckerberg into more aggressively disadvantaging Donald Trump and his supporters. Zuckerberg got an outsized portion of the blame for Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016, and he’s being warned that he’s in the firing line again.

    It’s not really Facebook’s algorithms that the forces behind such efforts detest, nor is it misinformation, nor the “manipulation” undertaken by shadowy groups such as the now-infamous Cambridge Analytica. Remember, it was just a decade ago that liberals believed social networks would, almost by themselves, create progressive revolutions across the globe. It was just eight years ago that the Obama campaign’s social-media operation — far larger than anything Cambridge Analytica ever managed — was hailed as the work of digital masterminds who boldly “blew through an alarm that [Facebook] engineers hadn’t planned for or knew about.”

    No, what bothers the Left about Facebook is that it is the most powerful media company in the world and it is a place conservative people can talk, and share ideas, with relatively less manipulation and guidance from progressive editors and censors.

    Hey, remember the IRS being weaponized to go after "right wing" non-profits? This is the same idea, except the lefties want to use Facebook as a proxy. Probably more legal.


  • At Reason, Jacob Sullum has an issue with CDC Director Robert Redfield: Suggesting That Face Masks Are More Effective Than Vaccines, the CDC’s Director Exemplifies the Propaganda That Discourages People From Wearing Them. Redfield stated that the face mask he was holding up (but not wearing) "is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine."

    Let's mercifully skip over what "more guaranteed" might mean. Something is either "guaranteed" or it's not. And face masks are not. And probably a vaccine won't be either. So? I suppose the issue is: which is more likely to spare you and the people you encounter from illness?

    The honest answer is that we don't really know, since that comparison depends on how effective cloth face masks actually are and how effective vaccines prove to be. But we don't actually have to choose between those two strategies, and in practice we are pursuing both. Face masks are a tool to reduce virus transmission, especially to people who face the greatest risk from COVID-19, while we wait for vaccines that we hope will work well enough to make such precautions unnecessary.

    Government officials tend to oversimplify science, ignoring nuances and glossing over uncertainty, in the interest of sending clear public health messages aimed at encouraging behavior they believe will reduce morbidity and mortality. But that approach can backfire when officials make statements that clearly go beyond what we actually know.

    It would be nice if "government officials" were as precise and honest as possible, including about their own uncertainties. Let the mainstream media distort what you say, that's their job.


  • Hey kids, what time is it? Randal O'Toole tells us at Cato: it's Time to Shut Down the DC Metro Rail.

    Highway traffic in the Washington DC metro area returned to 80 percent of its pre‐​pandemic levels in July, but DC transit carried only 16 percent as many riders as it did in July 2019. Metro’s own surveys have found that most of its riders don’t plan to return until and unless an effective COVID vaccine is found.

    Given this, there is no better time to simply shut down the Metro rail system, thus saving taxpayers billions of dollars. Conceived with racist assumptions and faulty financial projections, the system has proved to be a financial and operational disaster. The region would do better rely more on cars and, in some places, buses.

    Advice that won't be taken, but what else is new?


  • And my go-to source for the 21st-century American Progressive mindset, Wired, has some good news: Science Journals Are Purging Racist, Sexist Work. Finally.

    One paper from 2012 linked darker skin to aggression and sexuality in humans. Another from that year claimed to show that women with endometriosis are more attractive. A third, published last December, lamented physicians who posted casual pictures of themselves online—including some in which they’re wearing bikinis—as being unprofessional.

    All three of these articles have recently been retracted after outraged readers took to social media. In the past three months, at least four other articles, too, have been called out for both their content and their lack of scientific rigor, and then either flagged or withdrawn by their science publishers.

    I'm sure there are a lot of crap papers published. But it's clear that what Wired sees as a promising trend is the effort to de-publish anything that might run afoul of current dogma on issues of race, culture, and sex. The crap papers that reinforce that religion will be unaffected.

Mr. Jones

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Geez, about time we got even a mildly anti-Commie movie. But it's really rough on the New York Times.

Safely at the remove of 87 years or so, but we'll take what we can get.

Mr. (Gareth) Jones is played by James Norton, known in this house as the vicar in the TV show Grantchester. (Mrs. Salad, I'm pretty sure, adds the adjective "hunky" to that description.) He is a Welsh journalist, also a semi-official advisor to Prime Minister Lloyd George. As the movie opens, he's trying to raise some alarm at home about the Nazi menace—he's managed an interview with Hitler and Goebbels—to little avail. His career hanging by a thread, he decides to attempt another coup, an interview with Stalin, to find out the truth about those unlikely stories of economic success peddled by (for example) Walter Duranty in the New York Times.

When he gets to Moscow, he's unprepared for the totalitarianism of the state. But he's really unprepared for the corruption of the Western press in Moscow. The movie shows them to be a dissolute bunch, more interested in kinky partying than diligent fact-finding. And they're strangely unconcerned about a fellow journalist who got gunned down in the street a few days previous. But Jones persists, travelling to the Ukraine, where he witnesses the horrors of the Holodomor. And barely escapes with his life.

It's a grim story, and one of the backdrops is the US recognition of the USSR. This is also hinted as corrupt, pushed by Big Business looking for trade opportunities with the Commies.

A couple screens at the end show the differing fates of Jones and Duranty: Jones was murdered in 1935, probably by the NKVD, in Mongolia, where he was reporting on the Japanese occupation. Duranty, on the other hand, died in Orlando, Florida in 1957 at the age of 73, of natural causes.