URLs du Jour

2021-05-24

[Amazon Link]

  • UNH Embarrasses Itself Again. Of course, I noticed this Instapundit item:

    And that link goes to Campus Reform, which provides more info:

    The University of New Hampshire hosted a separate supplemental graduation celebration specifically for certain racial groups and religions, as well as “LGBTQIA+” individuals.

    According to the University of New Hampshire’s Beauregard Center For Equity, Freedom and Justice website, the school hosted a celebration "honoring Students of Color, LGBTQIA+ Students, Students of Diverse Religious Faiths/Cultures/Spiritualities, Students with Disabilities, and Aspiring Ally Students who will be graduating from UNH in May 2021.”

    The link confirms that this is an accurate quote.

    I'm puzzled by the "Diverse Religious Faiths" criterion. Does UNH have an official list of the faiths that are considered to be "diverse"?

    Perhaps fortunately, the registration form doesn't ask a prospective attendee which pigeonhole(s) she/he/ze/sie/zie/ey/per/they considers herself/himself/zirself/hirself/eirself/perrself/themself to be. It (of course) asks for your pronouns. And a picture. And…

    Please share a quote that is important to you [which we will share at the celebration]. We invite you to share an inspirational quote that describes what's important to you, who you are, your experiences at UNH, and/or where you are heading. This quote can be something of your own or by another person/author/artist/singer/etc. [Please include the full name of the person who said/wrote the quote]

    Here's one I bet nobody selected: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." You know who.


  • Not A Pretty Picture, Emily. John Hinderaker presents an interesting Twitter skirmish, Senator Ted Cruz vs. MSNBC's Brian Williams. You need to click over to get the Whole Thing, what touched it off, but here's how Cruz's Twitter thread response to Williams starts off:

    Woo. And it just gets better (or, if you're an MSNBCphile, worse) from there.


  • Carrie, You Ignorant… New Hampshire Journal does a small debate, reminiscent of the old Shana Alexander/James J. Kilpatrick spats on 60 Minutes. Starting off is Carrie Sheffield with Point: Americans’ Trust in Media Is Broken; Here’s How to Fix It.

    Part of the media’s value gaps can be explained by data from Pew Research, which in 2004 surveyed more than 500 reporters and editors. It found 34 percent of those in the national media identified themselves as liberal, but only 7 percent conservative. This contrasted with the 20 percent of the general public who described themselves as liberal and 33 percent as conservative. A 2014 survey by Indiana University found that only 7.1 percent of journalists called themselves Republicans, but 28.1 percent self-identified as Democrats. Are most journalists aware of this lopsided worldview among their ranks?

    Unfortunately, Carrie's solution is "ideological diversity". Affirmative action for conservatives, essentially.

    The real solution is the defeat of activist journalism. People in charge of ostensibly "straight" news outlets can and should demand that events should be covered without bias.


  • Things Can't Get Worse? Hold My Beer. Yosef Getachew and Jonathan Walter present the Counterpoint: The Path to Restoring Journalism As a Pillar of Our Democracy. Here's where I stopped reading:

    For starters, Congress can fund journalism that puts real dollars behind local media, and community, and public media of all kinds. Funds should be targeted at preserving newsrooms and reporting jobs at local commercial and nonprofit news outlets, and investments to address the civic-information needs of communities most affected by the long-term decline of local news.

    Whoa. Hard pass, Yosef and Jonathan!

    Can you imagine anything worse than "media" that depend on government funding? Why don't you just call it Pravda?


  • Probably Also: What, When, Where, Why. Chris Stirewalt has some probably-won't-be-taken advice: Republicans Should First Ask How, Not Who.

    In an era of weak parties, low entry barriers for candidates, and savage factionalism, the priority for partisan leaders should be less about picking the right person and more about picking the right process. For Republicans, that means embracing ranked-choice voting for primary elections.

    Maine has already adopted the practice for both primary and general elections. Since 2018, voters there have been able to rank the candidates in order of their preference. When no one wins a majority in races with three or more candidates, it goes like this: If your top choice finishes last in the first round, he or she is eliminated and your vote rolls over to your second choice and so on until one candidate breaches the 50-percent line. Last year, Alaskans approved ranked-choice, multiparty primary elections. Candidates from all parties will run in one primary with the top two finishers after ranking, regardless of party, advancing to the general election.

    Later in the article, Stirewalt uses South Carolina as an example of how ranked-choice might have played out in the 2016 primary there. I'll take New Hampshire: Trump won by receiving 35.3% of the vote. The next eight (!) candidates (Kasich, Cruz, Jeb!, Little Marco, Christie, Fiorina, Carson, Gilmore) got about 63%.

    It's tough to imagine that Trump would have been the second-place choice for a lot of those non-Trump voters. If ranked-choice had been in place, we could have had a different winner.

    The downside to ranked-choice is that it strains the brains of a lot of voters, discouraging turnout. Or, viewed in a certain light, that might be a plus!


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:18 AM EDT

Consciousness Explained

[Amazon Link]

Usually books like this have subtitles. Dan, where's your subtitle?

I'm interested in the "free will" debate. Some claim free will is an illusion. I'm not too sure about that, and one of my objections has been the existence of consciousness. Is that supposed to be an illusion too? Are we actually self-deluded zombies, cruising on a deterministic path, deluded that somehow "we" are in control of our choices?

Then I noticed that I had this book on my shelf. It's thirty years old, but I couldn't remember having read it. (I have a lot of books like that.) So I decided to read it.

Or maybe I should put some sneer-quotes in there: "I" "decided" to read it. Maybe I had no choice!

Anyway, Dennett provides less of an explanation than he does an argument. He's arguing against the "Cartesian Theater" view of consciousness. Which is, essentially, the "common sense" view of our own selfhood: there's an "I" in a control room, somewhere inside our heads, sitting at the controls, taking in data from the outside world, deciding to hit various levers and buttons that produce actions: speech, movement, what have you.

Dennett points out that doesn't mesh well with current neuroscience; our brain activity is decentralized, a loose (but not too loose) cooperation between various subsystems. What we experience as "consciousness" is really the brain talking to itself. Specifically, the invention of language to communicate with others was so useful, we (under the thumb of natural selection) found it advantageous to use it to communicate with ourselves (usually unvocalized). He calls his explanation the "multiple drafts" model, appropriate for an academic: it's analogous to multiple authors writing a (more or less) coherent article for publication. The revisions might take weeks or months for the article; for our brains, it takes a few milliseconds. But still, the result is a (more or less) appropriate response to sensory inputs.

Or maybe I got this totally wrong. (See the Wikipedia page for probably a more accurate version.) I almost certainly wouldn't pass a quiz on the book; it's one of those "I looked at every page" reads. I'm able to follow along with some popular science/psychology/philosophy texts just fine, but I bounced off a lot of Dennett's prose in this case.

Part of the problem is that this book is one salvo in an ongoing discussion between cognitive scientists and philosophers. The reader is (essentially) coming in at the middle of the debate, with multitudinous references to other skirmishes. So we're only getting a 30-year-old snapshot of one side.

So it wasn't the most enjoyable read, but I came away with an improved understanding of the debate. (Or at least "I" "think" so.)


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:18 AM EDT