URLs du Jour

2022-06-20

Mr. Ramirez's picture is worth (at least) a thousand words…

[Doubling down on stupid]

  • But if you prefer words… Kevin D. Williamson has them: Here Comes Fiscal Armageddon.

    Fiscal Armageddon is coming — eventually. It is necessary not to be an alarmist about that, but equally necessary not to be naïve about it.

    Fiscal Armageddon is what will happen when the U.S. government’s debt load exceeds its ability to comfortably service that debt. The U.S. government will face a budgetary crisis, possibly a sudden one, and its response to that crisis will create ripples — or a tsunami — across the world economy. How bad it is and how Washington responds will determine the difference between a painful but manageable economic setback and a global catastrophe.

    KDW goes through the likely (and unlikely) scenarios. Back in 2013, he wrote a book titled The End Is Near and It's Going to Be Awesome; at the time, I thought his argument for "it's going to be awesome" was weak. He may have changed his mind, because the article doesn't make the possible outcomes to be awesome at all.

    Or I could be wrong about his use of "awesome". The Google provides a dictionary definition:

    extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear.
    "the awesome power of the atomic bomb"

    So yeah, maybe in that last sense.

    I was going to leave a comment to that effect on the article, but it already has (as I type) 590 comments, so no.


  • Gravity sucks, Joe. Depending on your media sources, you may have heard about President Wheezy's close encounter with the asphalt last Saturday. Stephen L. Miller observes disparate treatment: Biden’s Bike Crash Isn’t About Him. It’s About the Media.

    And then there is the matter of the national media, which is what actually matters when it comes to public perception of the president’s robustness. You see, national media outlets and some (not all) journalists made a sport of poking former President Donald Trump as a way of trolling him back for his questions about Hillary Clinton’s health in 2016. The problem for them is when they excuse Biden’s follies.

    By doing so, they widen the credibility gap that is as deep and wide as the Grand Canyon with the public.

    “Trump’s Halting Walk Down Ramp Raises New Health Questions” shouted The New York Times headline in June 2020 after he gave a speech at West Point. The story authored by favorite Trump media foil Maggie Haberman raised questions about Trump’s own health. CNN’s Chris Cillizza wrote, “Why the Donald Trump-West Point ramp story actually matters,” citing Trump’s advanced age. “The President turned 74 on Sunday. He is the oldest person ever elected to a first term in the White House. Earlier this month, the White House released a memo on the results of Trump’s annual physical that only briefly outlined the overall picture of his health (height, weight, etc.).”

    The media are hoping your memory isn't as long as Miller's.


  • Try to answer the question honestly. At his substack, Michael Huemer offers a poser: Who Cares About Diversity?

    All across the Academy, schools are requiring “Diversity Statements” as a condition for new hires. Everyone has to submit a statement explaining how they are going to contribute to “diversity”. What you’re supposed to do in these, and what everyone damn well knows you’re supposed to do, is (i) talk about your race, gender, and other “identity group” traits that it would be illegal for the university to explicitly ask you about, and (ii) talk about your activism on behalf of left-wing identity politics. Note: If you write a statement merely explaining how you will scrupulously avoid discriminating, or explaining how you will contribute to intellectual diversity, your application will be tossed in the trash. No university will say this out loud (yet?), but, again, everyone knows that.

    These Diversity Statements, as a recent commentator notes, are the secular version of the Statements of Faith long used by religious schools (www.insidehighered.com/views/2022/05/23/diversity-statements-are-new-faith-statements-opinion).

    You can see the most obvious problems with this – (a) racial, gender, and similar forms of discrimination are wrong, (b) enforced ideological conformity is poison to any institution of education or research. There’s a lot to be said about those two obvious problems, but I won’t say it now. Because what I want to start with right now is this question: Who actually values diversity?

    My claim: Most proponents of “diversity” do not value diversity. In fact, they are passionately against diversity.

    What follows is a tour de force analysis. Huemer notes SCOTUS Justice Lewis Powell's 1978 Bakke opinion that offered a thin reed for otherwise illegal racial quotas if it could be argued that they served a "compelling state interest" in having a "diverse student body".

    Universities eagerly, but dishonestly, grabbed onto that reed. "Yeah, that's what we're doing! Diversity! Yay!"

    Huemer's bottom line:

    "…the Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity movement is Orwellian: it's the opposite of what it says it is. “Diversity, inclusion, and equity” refers to ideological uniformity, exclusion, and discrimination."


  • Does socialism liberate workers from domination? If you were wondering about that, Chris Freiman has the answer for you: Socialism Doesn’t Liberate Workers from Domination.

    Capitalism makes workers rich. But socialists worry about the ways in which capitalism affects workers’ freedom. Here’s Corey Robin defending socialism in the New York Times:

    The socialist argument against capitalism isn’t that it makes us poor. It’s that it makes us unfree. When my well-being depends upon your whim, when the basic needs of life compel submission to the market and subjugation at work, we live not in freedom but in domination. Socialists want to end that domination: to establish freedom from rule by the boss, from the need to smile for the sake of a sale, from the obligation to sell for the sake of survival.

    Writing in Jacobin, Ben Burgis argues that libertarians implausibly understand freedom as mere non-interference. On his view, a better understanding is one that affirms “that the kind of freedom that matters most is the freedom from arbitrary domination.” In Burgis’s example, “the boss [who] tells you that you can’t get a tattoo if you want to keep your job at his restaurant” subjects you to arbitrary domination and so makes you unfree.

    What should we make of this objection? First, I’ll emphasize that we shouldn’t reject capitalism simply because it’s flawed—we’d need good reason to believe that the proposed alternative will be less flawed. By analogy, it would be silly to bench Steph Curry on the grounds that he misses more 3 point shots than he makes. Why? Because every other shooter in the NBA is even worse! So the domination objection to capitalism should only move us toward socialism if socialism fares better. And it doesn’t. If anything, workers are more likely to face domination under socialism than capitalism.

    Well, quick aside: it used to be the socialist argument that capitalism led to the "immiseration of the proletariat". But facts are stubborn things, they've moved on to subtler arguments.

    Freiman makes an obvious observation: if the nasty restaurant owner fires a productive but tattooed employee, the boss bears the entire cost of that decision. In contrast, your socialist "democratically-run, worker-controlled cooperatives", everyone's an owner/employee, and (unless you assume that socialism frees everyone from anti-tat opinions), a tattooed worker is simply under a collective thumb, rather than an individual one. And the cost of an anti-tat attitude is spread out over the collective, making it cheaper for an individual to indulge their whims in the vote.

    Socialism: it doesn't stop people from being arbitrary, and its economic incentives favor bad behavior.


  • I want to see Steven Levy interview LaMDA. But I guess that's not an option, so he interviews Blake Lemoine instead. And: Blake Lemoine Says Google's LaMDA AI Faces 'Bigotry'.

    (We discussed LaMDA, Google's "Language Model for Dialogue Applications", the other day and linked to Lemoine's argument in favor of LaMDA's sentience.)

    [Levy:] I have to admit that my first thought on reading the Post article was whether this person is just being performative to make a statement about AI. Maybe these claims about sentience are part of an act.

    [Lemoine:] Before I go into this, do you believe that I am sentient?

    Yeah. So far.

    What experiments did you run to make that determination?

    I don’t run an experiment every time I talk to a person.

    Exactly. That’s one of the points I’m trying to make. The entire concept that scientific experimentation is necessary to determine whether a person is real or not is a nonstarter. We can expand our understanding of cognition, whether or not I’m right about LaMDA’s sentience, by studying how the heck it’s doing what it’s doing.

    If you're interested, maybe if you (like me) read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress at an impressionable age, check it out.