URLs du Jour

2021-04-24

[Amazon Link]

  • Not Just Friendly Advice. Good Advice. Alan Jacobs provides a bit of friendly advice. And I'll post the whole thing, not the usual excerpt:

    Here’s my suggestion: Assume that everything everyone says on social media in the first 72 hours after a news event is the product of temporary insanity or is a side-effect of a psychotropic drug. Write it off. Pretend it never happened. Only pay attention to what they say when three days have passed since the precipitating event. 

    Although he probably could easily have cast his "write-it-off" net even wider.


  • Socialism Isn't The Future. It's The Past. I saw this in dead-trees National Review, but the author, Marian L. Tupy, also has it on his website: Stone Age Anti-Capitalism.

    To understand capitalism — let alone to appreciate its benefits — requires all of us to distinguish between the personal and the impersonal, between the simple and the complex, and between the limited and the extended. Or, as the ever-insightful Friedrich Hayek put it:

    Part of our present difficulty is that we must constantly adjust our lives, our thoughts and our emotions, in order to live simultaneously within different kinds of orders according to different rules. If we were to apply the unmodified, uncurbed rules of the micro-cosmos (i.e., of the small band or troop, or of, say, our families) to the macro-cosmos (our wider civilization), as our instincts and sentimental yearnings often make us wish to do, we would destroy it. Yet if we were always to apply the rules of the extended order to our more intimate groupings, we would crush them. So we must learn to live in two sorts of world at once.

    Striking a balance between those two sets of rules is a difficult task, and we often fail to do so. When we do fail — as, most recently, in Venezuela — the results can be catastrophic. The predictable collapse of Venezuela’s “21st-century socialism” should provide a warning to future generations; given our inability to learn from the very similar socialist failures of the 20th century, though, it’s unlikely that it will be heeded. I suspect that the defense of free markets will remain, thanks to the predispositions of the Stone Age mind, a never-ending struggle.

    I thought we'd permanently learned this lesson. But I think Marian must be right about the "never-ending struggle."


  • You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. Charles C. W. Cooke (NRPLUS article) notes a recent skirmish on the Woke front: Richard Dawkins Gets Canceled by the ‘Freethinkers’.

    Demonstrating adroitly that nobody is safe from our current bout of gladiatorial Calvinball, the American Humanist Association has decided to retroactively cancel Richard Dawkins on the grounds that he is insufficiently devoted to transgenderism’s creed.

    Dawkins’s crime was to have suggested on Twitter that transgender people are not, in a scientific sense, members of the sex with which they identify. “In 2015,” Dawkins wrote recently, “Rachel Dolezal, a white chapter president of NAACP, was vilified for identifying as Black. Some men choose to identify as women, and some women choose to identify as men. You will be vilified if you deny that they literally are what they identify as.” In response, the AHA said that Dawkins was “making statements that use the guise of scientific discourse to demean marginalised groups, an approach antithetical to humanist values,” and took away an award that it had given Dawkins in 1996, thereby confirming his initial hypothesis.

    Notes:

    • Richard Dawkins is not to be confused with the late Richard Dawson, the smoochy guy from Family Feud.
    • Based solely on the title of his book The God Delusion, I had written him off as another asshole atheist.
    • The "atheist" bit is true. But it turns out he self-identifies as a "cultural Christian", which may degrade the "asshole" adjective a bit. Or let's be generous: a lot.
    • But when I thought about identifying myself as a "cultural Christian", I ran into this RationalWiki article which… well, it turns out to have negative connotations for a lot of people. So maybe I won't do that.

    Update on this, probably, after I finish Rod Dreher's new book, Live Not By Lies.


  • I've Never Had A Problem With The Death Penalty. But when the deeply-respected Paul Graham writes The Real Reason to End the Death Penalty, it's a good reason to pay attention.

    Far from being rare, wrongful murder convictions are very common. Police are under pressure to solve a crime that has gotten a lot of attention. When they find a suspect, they want to believe he's guilty, and ignore or even destroy evidence suggesting otherwise. District attorneys want to be seen as effective and tough on crime, and in order to win convictions are willing to manipulate witnesses and withhold evidence. Court-appointed defense attorneys are overworked and often incompetent. There's a ready supply of criminals willing to give false testimony in return for a lighter sentence, suggestible witnesses who can be made to say whatever police want, and bogus "experts" eager to claim that science proves the defendant is guilty. And juries want to believe them, since otherwise some terrible crime remains unsolved.

    This circus of incompetence and dishonesty is the real issue with the death penalty. We don't even reach the point where theoretical questions about the moral justification or effectiveness of capital punishment start to matter, because so many of the people sentenced to death are actually innocent. Whatever it means in theory, in practice capital punishment means killing innocent people.

    Unfortunately, I keep coming back to questions like: what about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? Timothy McVeigh? Or even Osama bin Laden? Not much doubt there.

    But…


  • Where There's A Will... Let's also hear from George, writing in the WaPo (drop your cookies before clicking): Why capital punishment is finally coming to an end.

    The power to dispense death cloaks government with dangerous majesty. (In “Hitler’s First Hundred Days,” Peter Fritzsche reports sudden German enthusiasm for capital punishment by hand-held ax because its “swift, direct action” emphasized the “superiority of the state.”) Because government-inflicted death cannot later be reconsidered on the basis of new evidence, it must be administered with extraordinary competence, but do not count on this: Capital punishment is a government program. The labyrinthine legal protections surrounding the death penalty guarantee that it will be too infrequent to serve the penological purpose of deterrence. And the argument that there are especially heinous crimes for which death is the morally proportionate punishment collides with the disproportionate drain — millions of dollars — on communities’ and states’ resources.

    So yeah. maybe. I'm not as big a fan as I used to be. Still happy about Osama and Tim. I wouldn't be sad to push the plunger on Dzhokhar myself.


  • The Church Hierarchy Is Often Suspiciously Well Dressed. Sean Cooper writes in Tablet about: Getting Rich in the Diversity Marketplace. (Sigh, probably too late in life for me to pursue this lucrative career.)

    So, yes, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion folks are well-paid. But for me, the interesting bit is:

    Despite a growing body of unflattering evaluations of the effectiveness of ethnic studies in the classroom, its rapid implementation across the country continues. Virginia, Minnesota, and Texas all have ethnic studies legislation in the works. Indiana has enacted its own recently passed ethnic studies requirement, as did New Jersey legislators. Last month, Oregon satisfied legislators’ new ethnic studies requirement by completing a curriculum guide that instructs teachers to teach first graders to “examine social construction as it relates” not only to race and ethnicity, heady topics for 6-year-olds, but also their “sexual orientation.”

    Workplace DEI practices, on the other hand, have been studied by a variety of researchers, who have found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that employees who spend their mornings in a conference room calling each other racist and oppressive often struggle to return to work as colleagues.

    Indeed, rather than reducing bias, improving morale, increasing opportunity for minority groups, or boosting productivity and workplace satisfaction, DEI training initiatives are frequently ineffective and, despite intentions, counterproductive. A growing body of quantitative research has shown that DEI training can make workplaces more biased, atomized, discriminatory, and hostile, even or especially for the very minority groups it’s intended to help.

    That's heresy, of course, and anyone who brings it up is a racist.


  • And the Washingon Examiner examines earth-shattering kabooms in my own state: 'Large explosion' caused by 80 pounds of tannerite in New Hampshire gender reveal party, police say.

    In yet another example of a gender reveal gone wrong, a Kingston, New Hampshire, celebration caused a "large explosion" using 80 pounds of tannerite, according to local police.

    Law enforcement responded to reports of an explosion on Tuesday and confirmed in a press release that it was due to "an over-the-counter, explosive target used for firearms practice [and] sold in kit form" that was set off at a quarry.

    The people who were involved told law enforcement they felt like it was the safest place to set it off, according to local reports.

    The Examiner should be commended for not gratuitously including the NH motto "Live Free or Die" in their story. I thought that was de rigueur for oddball NH stories reported by out-of-staters.

    But also: Hm. Where can I buy 80 pounds of tannerite?

    But also: some homeowners reported their foundations were cracked. Not cool, man.