URLs du Jour

2021-11-20

  • Tom Nichols is a guy I follow on Twitter. I mostly liked his book on expertise. He was on Jeopardy! But his retweet-with-comment, erm:

    I cant help but wonder about further details of the counterfactual universe generated inside the heads of Nichols and O'Brien. OK, say the shooter is a black guy. I want to ask:

    Do you also change the races of the three shooting victims from white to black?

    Is this in the midst of a riot by mostly white guys?

    Is the riot generated by the shooting of a white guy by a black cop?

    And here's the thing about your answers: I don't care what your answers are.

    Because your counterfactual universe is (once again) inside your own head. No doubt it's a place where your fantasies and fears play out according to your priors. But it is evidence-free, and it has nothing to with reality or the law.

    And … bing! … make that "Tom Nichols is a guy I used to follow on Twitter."


  • A belated unhappy birthday to… Robby Soave tells us why The TSA's 20th Birthday Should Be Its Last.

    Exactly 20 years ago today, President George W. Bush signed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act into law and created the Transportation Security Administration, better known as the TSA. A response to the 9/11 attacks, the TSA was thought to be a necessary tool for confronting the new reality of terror in the skies.

    Two decades later, the TSA has more than 54,000 employees, a budget of $8 billion dollars, and a long track record of harassing passengers for no good reason. Far from contributing to actual safety, the TSA is a stunning example of government failure: Its absurd travel restrictions make air travel no safer, deprive passengers of their civil liberties, and make the process of flying much more costly, time-consuming, inconvenient, and unenjoyable. The agency should never have been created, and its 20th birthday is as good a time as any to abolish it.

    While you're at it, Uncle Stupid, repeal the RealID requirement. The long delay proves it isn't necessary for security.


  • More on Christopher DeMuth's "National Conservatism" WSJ piece. A no vote from Jonah Goldberg: Mugged by Fallacy. (Which is a reference to Christoper DeMuth's notion that national conservatives are conservatives who have been "mugged by reality".

    When Irving Kristol said neoconservatives were liberals mugged by reality, he had in mind the realization that the unconstrained vision of progressivism led to folly. The laws of unintended consequences, the limits of reform, and what Friedrich Hayek called “the knowledge problem” were too powerful to overcome (at least predictably and reliably) with even the most well-intentioned planning from above. This is why he considered the American Revolution a “successful revolution”—because it took human nature into account.  

    DeMuth makes it sound like conservatives embraced market-based policies only because the left wasn’t all that bad. But that’s not how it worked. They embraced market-based policies partly out of principled conviction, but also because they thought the left’s approach, based in technocratic arrogance and the blunt use of political force, was both wrong and dangerous (particularly in the context of the Cold War). In short, they were realists. DeMuth’s “mugging” inverts Kristol’s. The “NatCon” realists are now mugged by nationalism, and fantasies of total and permanent victories for the “highest good” defined entirely on their terms. They forget that Hayek’s warnings against planning were universal in application. Conservative planners don’t skirt the knowledge problem because their intentions are “better.”

    It's at the Dispatch, it's not paywalled as near as I can tell, so check it out.


  • I wonder about this too. Paul Mirengoff writes a Betteridge's Law-confirming headline: Will the Times and the Post Return Their 2018 Pulitzers?

    The Washington Post is doing a little house cleaning in the form of correcting two stories, one from 2017 and the other from 2019, that peddled false allegations against then-President Trump regarding the fabricated Steele dossier. The New York Times may follow suit.

    But Roger Simon poses this excellent question: When will the Post and the Times return their 2018 Pulitzer prizes for their reporting of the false Russia collusion story?

    Roger now works at the Epoch Times, and that's where that last link goes. He's a wonderful guy, but that site is pretty intrusive about demanding information from visitors before they let you read anything. But Mirengoff's excerpts are pretty inclusive.


  • Good advice for FBI idolaters. Scott Shackford suggests: Don't Worship an FBI That Took the Steele Dossier Seriously

    New York Times columnist Bret Stephens now says he was wrong to defend James Comey when then-President Donald Trump fired Comey as director of the FBI amid the federal investigation into alleged Russian influence on Trump's 2020 presidential campaign.

    In 2017, when Trump fired Comey, Stephens saw it as proof that the president was trying to obstruct the investigation against him. "When the president calls news 'fake' or a story 'phony,'" Stephen wrote, "you know the truth quotient is likely to be high. And, again, you know he knows you know it."

    But revelations about the FBI's poor handling of the investigation, as well as a new federal arrest related to the sourcing of the unsubstantiated Steele Dossier, have Stephens rethinking what he thought he knew.

    It used to be that J. Edgar Hoover's FBI was seen by lefties as the Gestapo, while we righties thought every agent was Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. Shoes have switched feet since.


  • And fuel is way to expensive to waste on that. Veronique de Rugy notes that we're Pouring Fuel on the Spending Fire.

    President Joe Biden has united the American people — in disapproving of his performance, with 70% of Americans disliking the direction the economy is going and over 6 in 10 blaming him for it. The impact of inflation on people's pocketbooks and concerns over the expanding role of government are important in explaining those low approval numbers. A good time to change course is now.

    A recent Washington Post-ABC poll asked, "How concerned are you, if at all, that Biden will do too much to increase the size and role of government in U.S. society?" Some 59% said they were "very" or "somewhat" concerned, while 38% said they were "not so" or "not at all" concerned. I, for one, am glad Americans are noticing the Democrats' power grab.

    Government's expansion didn't start with this administration, of course. Both parties are responsible for the continued growth of the size and scope of the federal government that began long before 2020. These parties also joined forces to spend as much as they could on everything related (or not related) to COVID-19 throughout the last year. But today's Democrats are ambitiously pushing the envelope by further enabling the federal takeover of child care, paid leave, energy and more.

    I note my "moderate" CongressCritter, Chris Pappas, voted for the monstrous "Build Back Better" bill yesterday. I guess he's pretty much resigned to losing next year.


  • What are humanity's long-term chances? When it comes to Controlling Super-Intelligent AIs it seems (according to an article cited by GeekPress), the answer is "poor".

    The idea of artificial intelligence overthrowing humankind has been talked about for many decades, and in January 2021, scientists delivered their verdict on whether we'd be able to control a high-level computer super-intelligence. The answer? Almost definitely not.

    The catch is that controlling a super-intelligence far beyond human comprehension would require a simulation of that super-intelligence which we can analyze. But if we're unable to comprehend it, it's impossible to create such a simulation.

    Rules such as 'cause no harm to humans' can't be set if we don't understand the kind of scenarios that an AI is going to come up with, suggest the authors of the 2021 paper. Once a computer system is working on a level above the scope of our programmers, we can no longer set limits.

    I'd suggest getting Captain James T. Kirk to weigh in on this. I seem to recall he was very good at getting AIs to tie themselves in self-contradicting knots.