URLs du Jour

2022-05-09

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  • That's … not a hard choice. Andrew Stuttaford looks at investment options: ESG or Consumer Welfare? Choose One.

    We’ve been hearing for a while that, under its “progressive” chairwoman, Lina Khan, the FTC’s enforcement activities are being ratcheted up. The agency has Big Tech and any other “big” that, uh, big government reckons is too big for “our” own good in its sights. That this is bad news for the economy, the consumer, and, at a time when technological supremacy will be vital in seeing off China’s challenge, for the nation’s security, doesn’t seem to bother the central planners now running competition policy. Dogma trumps prosperity. Theology trumps geopolitical reality.

    Writing for the Wall Street Journal in July, Robert H. Bork Jr. noted how Khan’s FTC and the administration, more generally, was

    executing a campaign to undo the consumer-welfare standard and replace it with a full-on effort to regulate pharmaceuticals, healthcare, agriculture, telecom, technology and manufacturing. Through a “sweeping” executive order signed Friday, Mr. Biden aims to empower the alphabet of federal agencies to use their authority to second-guess and undo business decisions that could “harm competition.” Should these agencies falter, the new White House Competition Council and Ms. Khan will be there to remind them who is boss.

    Got me wondering where my money was invested. Fidelity has a vanilla page explaining ESG: Investing based on your principles. Unfortunately, it's all aimed at trendy leftist goals. E.g., "addressing wealth inequality."

    Actually, my investment goals include increasing wealth inequality. Specifically, mine.

    I wouldn't mind a mutual fund that excluded companies that were corporate welfare queens or have a history of kowtowing to China. But apparently nobody's had the bright idea of setting one up. Fidelity's own ESG offerings seem to lean heavily on the "sustainability" buzzword, but there's also the "Fidelity Women's Leadership Fund" and the "Fidelity Select Environment & Alternative Energy Portfolio".

    Diving down into my own portfolio, I don't seem to be invested in any of them. Whew!


  • It's not obvious, Sam. Jacob Sullum looks at the leaked Alito opinion overturning Roe, and finds one dubious aspect: Samuel Alito Thinks It's Obviously Absurd To Suggest That Drug Prohibition Violates the Constitution.

    Justice Samuel Alito's draft majority opinion overturning the Supreme Court's abortion precedents touches on drug legalization in a way that raises interesting issues regarding the government's authority to forbid the consumption of certain intoxicants. "Attempts to justify abortion through appeals to a broader right to autonomy and to define one's 'concept of existence' prove too much," Alito writes. "Those criteria, at a high level of generality, could license fundamental rights to illicit drug use, prostitution, and the like. None of these rights has any claim to being deeply rooted in history."

    I am not so sure about that. It is true that courts have not been receptive to the argument that drug prohibition inherently violates fundamental rights. But if the test for whether a right is "deeply rooted in history" hinges largely on whether Americans were long accustomed to exercising it without government interference, the freedom to consume intoxicants seems like a more plausible candidate than the right to abortion. If Alito delved into the history of drug legislation, he would discover a long tradition of pharmacological freedom. And even if that record does not impress him, he should recognize that the federal government's authority to ban drugs is based on the sort of implausible, ahistorical constitutional interpretation that he condemns in the context of abortion.

    Jacob dives deeply into the (pretty obvious) historical parallels that Alito skimmed over.


  • Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son. Jerry Coyne notes a magazine that's hitting the gas pedal on one of Dean Wormer's criteria: Time Magazine goes full stupid: “free speech has become an obsession of the mostly white, male members of the tech elite”. He provides a detailed takedown of Charlotte Alter's op-ed, headlined Elon Musk and the Tech Bro Obsession With 'Free Speech'. Coyne notes Alter has brewed a toxic combination of older anti-free speech arguments:

    But now, according to Time Magazine, we have yet another reason to ban free speech: it’s a tool of white technocratic males (Musk, Zuckerberg) who are insensitive to the “nuances” of free speech and are pushing it so they can use their platforms to broadcast disinformation and suppress minorities.

    This is a new combination of the “hate speech” and “disinformation” arguments, but with opprobrium towards white males tacked on.  But this argument fares no better than the previous ones. Sure, any commercial platform need not abide by the First Amendment, which is about the government censoring speech, but I am pretty much a free speech hard-liner, and think that the courts’ interpretation of the First Amendment (and its exceptions) should hold pretty much everywhere, including colleges and social media.

    Coyne quotes Alter extensively, and rebuts extensively.

    Pun Salad previously recommended Jazz Shaw's criticism of the Time column here.


  • Also stuck on stupid. Mike Masnick is amazed that the New Yorker’s Famed Fact Checking Crew Apparently Unaware Of The 1st Amendment?.

    The New Yorker magazine is famous for its fact checking effort. Indeed, the New Yorker itself has written multiple pieces about how ridiculously far its fact checking team will go. And when people want to present the quintessential example of how “fact checking” should work, they often point to The New Yorker. Of course, I don’t doubt that the magazine does more of a form of fact checking than most any other publication out there, but that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily that good at it. Remember, it once published an article that heavily implied that a game I helped create to better understand the role of technology in elections, was actually created by a billionaire nonsense peddler to relive the glory of influencing elections.

    Anyway, recently, the New Yorker had a provocatively titled article, How Congress Can Prevent Elon Musk from Turning Twitter Back into an Unfettered Disinformation Machine, by John Cassidy. I clicked with interest, because while I don’t want Twitter to turn into an “unfettered disinformation machine,” I even more strongly don’t want Congress determining what speech is allowed on any website — and I’m pretty sure that the 1st Amendment means that Congress can’t prevent Musk from turning Twitter back into an unfettered disinformation machine. If he wants to, he absolutely can. And there’s nothing Congress can or should do about it, because if it can, then it can also do that for any other media organization, and we have the 1st Amendment to stop that.

    Bizarrely, Cassidy’s article doesn’t even mention the 1st Amendment. Instead, it points to the (already extremely problematic) Digital Services Act in the EU, which is taking a very paternalistic approach to content moderation and internet website regulation. It is a sweepingly different approach, enabling governments to demand the removal of content.

    I fail to understand why journalists (specifically, Alter and Cassidy) don't understand why their arguments for "regulating" free speech won't come back to bite them in the ass when the censors deploy those same arguments against a free press.


  • But for real stupidity… Good old WIRED comes through, with a contribution from Brandy Schillace: Science Is Redefining Motherhood. If Only Society Would Let It.

    Subhed: "It's time to decouple maternity from womanhood. Recent advances in fertility science are helping pave the way toward inclusivity."

    Karl, a PhD and lecturer at MIT, gave birth to both of his children—and despite being the one with the baby bump, he was routinely asked to wait outside while the nurses attended to his (not pregnant) wife. People were unable, he says, to see both a man and a pregnant body; as a result, Karl became a “fat man” rather than a pregnant person. Despite being assigned female at birth (AFAB) and possessing a uterus and glands for lactating, Karl was not—in the eyes of even the medical staff—the mother. Karl considered himself a PaPa; other transgender parents choose more androgynous terms, largely because of the way motherhood has been construed. At best, says Karl, unconventional pregnant parents cause “total gender confusion” even among medical practitioners, but at worst it results in trauma, violence, and harm, in trans men failing to get emergency care during miscarriages, in trans women being treated as pedophiles, and in nonbinary identities being entirely erased.

    And yet woman and mother are not, nor have they ever been, synonymous. In fact, neither term has any objective reality at all.

    "Science", of course, is not "redefining motherhood".

    Transgenderism ideologues are trying to redefine motherhood. And denying that "woman" and "mother" have "any objective reality at all" is part of that.

    From Brandy Shillace's "about" page:

    I always liked the line by Walt Whitman: I contain multitudes. Each of us are completely unique sets of data and DNA, blood and bones, bits and pieces of ancient stardust (and some microplastics). We don’t just have fingerprints. We are fingerprints — completely unique phenomenon in the universe, never before and never to be again. I am a truck, a train, a bulldog in a wind-tunnel; I’m also autistic. I live in the middle spaces where the contradictions are, containing bits of astral matter, aspects of both genders and possibly some dragons and vampires. I do history the way most people climb mountains–I get my hands dirty–I end up in catacombs, archives, basements. As you can imagine, this sort of thing doesn’t fit in a box very well. Then again, life is more interesting at the intersections.

    A person who claims to contain "possibly some dragons and vampires" maybe shouldn't be lecturing the rest of us on "objective reality".