“I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing. Unless it is politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing, the right people will not do the right thing either, or if they try, they will shortly be out of office.”
― Milton Friedman

“Human beings are born with different capacities. If they are free, they are not equal. And if they are equal, they are not free.”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

In which SCOTUS agrees with FDR

Today the Supreme Court ruled on compulsory government sector union fees, recognizing such fees as a First Amendment issue about compelled political speech. To summarize:

JANUS v. AMERICAN FEDERATION OF STATE, COUNTY, AND MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES
States and public-sector unions may no longer extract agency fees from nonconsenting employees. The First Amendment is violated when money is taken from nonconsenting employees for a public-sector union; employees must choose to sup- port the union before anything is taken from them. Accordingly, nei- ther an agency fee nor any other form of payment to a public-sector union may be deducted from an employee, nor may any other attempt be made to collect such a payment, unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay.
This opinion essentially agrees with that of famous Progressive Franklin Roosevelt:
All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress. Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters.
There is no such thing as a "public-sector" union. There are government unions, of which the public is the employer, where bureaucrats "negotiate" among themselves, and a third party payer is stuck with the results.

When you name such unions "government unions", it's much easier to understand that government "management" and government "labor" have common goals and the employer doesn't even have a seat at the table.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Trade War Casualties

In addition to US tariffs raising the cost of the steel and aluminum Harley uses to make motorcycles for Americans, TrumpTrade is driving US manufacturing jobs to Europe. Doesn’t say how many jobs will be lost, but 40,000 motorcycles a year are no longer going to be made here. Meanwhile, Harley has to eat $30 to $45 million in 2018.

Tit-for-tat going as expected. It’s all the fault of those dumb Europeans, of course.

Harley-Davidson To Move Some Production Outside US Over EU Tariffs

Saturday, June 16, 2018

A trout in the milk

Unfortunately, the DoJ IG report failed to reach any number of stunningly obvious conclusions about breach of trust by FBI and DoJ executives, because none of them overtly stated in any surviving official document that they were intent on subverting the 2016 election.

"Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?" seemed to be a good enough model.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better illustration of Henry David Thoreau’s dictum; "Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.” Along with some river pebbles, sea shells, lilly pads, and some sunken treasure.

The IG’s Report May Be Half-Baked
By ANDREW C. MCCARTHY
June 15, 2018 2:08 PM

If you don’t know him, McCarthy "is a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. He led the 1995 terrorism prosecution against Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and eleven others. He also contributed to the prosecutions of terrorists who bombed U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. He resigned from the Justice Department in 2003. He is a contributing editor of National Review and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.”

IMO, he’s the best single analyst of the venality and corruption at the highest levels of the DoJ and FBI.

RTWT.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Justice among the socialists

A New York City high school which produces makers is under attack by looters.

No Ethnic Group Owns Stuyvesant. All New Yorkers Do.
-Boaz Weinstein
"Admission to Stuyvesant was and remains determined by a single test available to all middle school students in the city. There are no soft criteria for admission: no interviews, no favoritism for legacies, no strings to be pulled. It’s all about whether you do well on the test, which best determines whether or not you can do the academic work.

You would think that Mayor Bill de Blasio would celebrate Stuyvesant as the crown jewel of the city’s school system. Instead, he has announced a plan that will destroy it in all but name.

This month, the mayor said he would seek legislation that would eliminate the test completely. Instead, he’d guarantee automatic admission to Stuyvesant — and the seven other specialized high schools in the city — for the top students at every middle school, regardless of their abilities.

The mayor says he is trying to address what is undoubtedly a heartbreaking problem: the gross underrepresentation of black and Latino students at Stuyvesant and schools like it. In 2016 black and Latino students constituted 44 percent of the kids who took the test (and 65 percent of the New York City school population). Yet they make up just 4 percent of Stuyvesant students and 15 percent of students at the specialized high schools overall.

But the mayor’s solution is no solution at all.

For one thing, his plan seems purposely oblivious to his administration’s utter failure to prepare students across the city for the admissions test — and for a school as challenging as Stuyvesant. In nearly one quarter of the city’s public middle schools, zero seventh graders scored at the advanced level on the annual New York State Mathematics Exam in 2017. Mr. de Blasio would send the top 7 percent of students at every middle school to the specialized high schools, but at 80 middle schools — or one out of every six — not even 7 percent of seventh graders passed the state math exam."
Mayor de Blasio is insisting on equal outcomes for Middle School students. Never mind if there aren't 7% of a school's graduates who are even competent (much less excellent) in math, he's going to insist they be placed in a group where they will certainly struggle. If the school system for which the Mayor is responsible produces innumerate graduates, he'll just lower the definition of numeracy.

I'll bet vanishingly few of those 44% taking the entrance exam were students at the 80 schools where not even 7% can pass the state math exam. Graduating with no math competence is the problem, and throwing those kids into an advanced program is doing them no favor.

It's not a numeracy problem to the Mayor, it's a melanin content problem. The breakdown of the freshman admittees at Stuyvesant:

      Asian     — 613
      White     — 151
      Hispanic — 27
      Black      — 10

I wonder how the 37 black and brown students who passed the entrance exam feel about Mr. de Blasio's proposal. They represent 4.62% of the freshman class. We know that 44% of the aspirants who took the test in 2016 were black and brown. That means over 10% of them passed. Will the 3% who made it based on a meritocratic exam be denied admittance in favor of the new "7% from all" social justice rules?

Before those 37 graduate from Stuyvesant, dozens of kids who don't know what a square root is may be their classmates.

One consequence is that few, if any, outcome equal, square-rootless admittees will succeed. Another is that resources will be diverted from those who could do the work, and some of them will fail when they could have succeeded. So, how long do you think it will be before de Blasio's Equal Outcome parameters will also be applied to Stuyvesant graduates? Stuyvesant diplomas will become certificates of participation. The equal outcome will be pre-ordained graduation, whether earned or not.

If de Blasio is successful, the vast benefit this school brings to us all - equal opportunity for everyone to become better, happier, and wealthier by standing on the shoulders of merit - will vanish.

The arc of equal outcomes bends toward the lowest common denominator. A term with which Mr. de Blasio's new Stuyvesant students will be unfamiliar.

That's what he wants. Any other result promotes the idea that people are not interchangable parts to be arranged in life by Government whim. De Blasio's utopian project cannot tolerate that.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

This is new

But it still shows President Trump's confusion on trade and tariffs. From whitehouse.gov:
Press Conference by President Trump After G7 Summit

Emphasis mine.
Q Mr. President, you said that this was a positive meeting, but from the outside, it seemed quite contentious. Did you get any indication from your interlocutors that they were going to make any concessions to you? And I believe that you raised the idea of a tariff-free G7. Is that —

THE PRESIDENT: I did. Oh, I did. That’s the way it should be. No tariffs, no barriers. That’s the way it should be.

Q How did it go down?

THE PRESIDENT: And no subsidies. I even said no tariffs. In other words, let’s say Canada — where we have tremendous tariffs — the United States pays tremendous tariffs on dairy. As an example, 270 percent. Nobody knows that. We pay nothing. We don’t want to pay anything. Why should we pay?

We have to — ultimately, that’s what you want. You want a tariff-free [sic], you want no barriers, and you want no subsidies, because you have some cases where countries are subsidizing industries, and that’s not fair. So you go tariff-free, you go barrier-free, you go subsidy-free. That’s the way you learned at the Wharton School of Finance. I mean, that would be the ultimate thing. Now, whether or not that works — but I did suggest it, and people were — I guess, they got to go back to the drawing and check it out, right?
So, they did teach him that tariffs are a bad thing in his Econ 101 course. One would think this attitude would have made NAFTA easy to re-negotiate.

Since this is the first time I can recall any mention of it in the President's otherwise protectionist, multitudinous rants; maybe he's just now remembered it. Better late than never, but his recall is incomplete and confused.

Canada does, indeed, levy a 270 percent tariff on milk imported from the US. However, it is not the US that pays that tariff, it is Canadian consumers. Just like it's American consumers and businesses who pay US tariffs on softwood lumber, steel, aluminum, washing machines, cars, etc., etc..

As to no subsidies: If Canada wants to subsidize US purchases of steel, aluminum, softwood lumber, or cars: I say let them. Those are subsidies given to US consumers by Canadian taxpayers. It's stupid for Canada to do it, but it isn't our problem.

President Trump is confused about who pays tariffs, and he appears to view trade as a zero sum game. If one side wins the other side must lose. Nothing could be further from the truth. By definition, in any freely conducted trade all the traders win.

If he could just remember that lesson from Wharton, he'd be a much better CEO. Maybe he missed class that day.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Mercantilist revivalism

Used to be when you said "conservative" people had a clear idea of what you meant philosophically. Adam Smith, W. F. Buckley, Goldwater, Reagan, or Cruz might come to mind. Maybe it would invoke the tea party, free trade, Constitutional originalism, free markets, and opposition to deficit spending. Now, it's all a mess thanks to a long run of "conservatives" like John McCain, George Bush, and Donald Trump

There's "conservative," "neo-conservative," "cuckservative," "Trump conservative," "Alt-right," etc.. TOC has worried in the past about this philosophical dilution - defining freedom down. The current round of internecine attacks, including selective rejection of long standing principles, have been more damaging than anything the Progressives have accomplished.

Cronyism and protectionism are seen as fine if the correct people do it. Now protectionism is "conservative," along with corporate bailouts.

We all need to reread Friedrich Hayek's Why I am Not a Conservative: "The tug of war between conservatives and progressives can only affect the speed, not the direction, of contemporary developments." Hayek was a classical liberal, a qualifier required since the collectivists stole the original word. Now we're witnessing the further muddling of what has been meant in the United States by "conservative," i.e., "classical liberal."

The latest example; "Conservatives" who defend Trump's populist trade shenanigans as 'bargaining positions' are expediently abandoning moral leadership.

Why Trump's Higher Tariffs Now are Unlikely to Result in Lower Tariffs Later
I think it is absurd to assume that Trump's real intention is to get us to a new equilibrium with lower tariffs all around the world. He does not understand the value of free trade and his closest adviser on this issue is an ardent protectionist. Trump's negotiation experience is all in zero-sum games where he is trying to extract the most of a fixed pie for himself, not in trying to craft win-win solutions across multiple parties.

But here is the real reason this won't work: The current relatively-free trade regime that exists today was built almost totally on America's moral leadership on the issue...

[M]many of the most powerful political actors in our trading partners actually represent large corporations (some state owned and some just highly-aligned with the state) and powerful labor unions who would be perfectly happy to pursue additional crony protectionism of their industry even at the expense of the majority of their country's consumers and businesses. All these forces for protectionism have always been kept at bay in large part by America's leadership on the issue.
Not any more.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Redefining "The Right Stuff"

Maybe we'll have to redefine STEM as Sanctimonious Tyrannical Extortion of Mediocrity.

How Identity Politics Is Harming the Sciences
“All across the country the big question now in STEM is: how can we promote more women and minorities by ‘changing’ (i.e., lowering) the requirements we had previously set for graduate level study?”
Diversity, determined solely by skin color and/or "gender orientation," is becoming the most important characteristic for designing bridges, spacecraft, and medical devices.

Expect slower innovation, more engineering failures, and greater risk from surgeries.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

A thought on President Trump's apparent renewed Trade War

Any price increase due to import taxes, aka protectionist tariffs, exactly equals the reduction in the disposable income of consumers in the country imposing the tariff.

While this benefits the general government coffers, it loots every citizen’s pocket - even those who never buy the good in question: The consumer is forced to either buy less of that good or less of some other good.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Gettin' by with a little Halp from his friends

Well, I think we know the source of the $3K Stefan Halper paid George Papadopoulos. See below if you wonder what that means.

Note: the date of the payment is contemporaneous with Halper's meeting with Papadopoulos.

Update, 4:41PM.
I want to qualify that last sentence. I don't consider "contemporaneous" to be a year later.

Halper was "investigating" Papadopoulos in July 2016. Halper was on a $411K retainer.

May 17, 2017 is the date Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller as Special Counsel.

July 2016 is the date Stefan Halper "reportedly begins meetings with Trump advisers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, secretly gathering information for the FBI."

The "investigator" started early, or the investigation was already in progress. Same point, but emphasized.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Let me Halp

New York Times headline:
F.B.I. Used Informant to Investigate Russia Ties to Campaign, Not to Spy, as Trump Claims

Merriam-Webster:
Investigate: "to observe or study by close examination and systematic inquiry"

Spy: "to watch secretly usually for hostile purposes"

Perseveration: "continuation of something (such as repetition of a word) usually to an exceptional degree or beyond a desired point"

We could concede that the Pink Lady's use of "investigate" usefully distnguishes what (CIA/MI6 asset and virulently anti-Trump) Professor Stefan Halper did vis-a-vis the Trump campaign from "spying."

Or, we could ask whether the words "secretly" and "hostile" would actually improve our understanding of what Professor Halper attempted as an agent of the FBI.

"Secretly," as in "FISA warrant."

"Hostile," as in comments from Comey, Page, Strozk, Yates, McCabe, Brennan and Clapper, et al..

"Perseveration," as in, well... MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, Hillary Clinton, Adam Schiff, etc., etc., etc., etc..

We might conclude that "spying" is "investigation" with secret, darker motive. Or, we could conclude the Times would consider use of the word "spy" as a barrier to their perseveration.

The Times indirectly acknowledges the secrecy (emphasis mine):
After opening the Russia inquiry about a month later, they took steps, those officials said, to ensure that details of the inquiry were more closely held than even in a typical national security investigation, including the use of the informant to suss out information from the unsuspecting targets. Sending F.B.I. agents to interview them could have created additional risk that the investigation’s existence would seep into view in the final weeks of a heated presidential race.
Worth noting is that "the inquiry" was a national security investigation. Probably because there was no jusitification for a criminal inquiry. Unlike, for example, Hillary Clinton's private email server investigation.

We might wonder why the DOJ so very vigorously objected to naming Professor Halper in defiance of Congressional demand, citing national security and personal safety issues, when he had been known to be working for the CIA for decades - a fact the Times omits - and why the Times did everything it could to identify him, while coyly withholding his name. After it was leaked to them by someone in the CIA or FBI.

Mr. Halper, aka "the informant," "[T]ried to press Mr. Papadopoulos about what he might know about the Russian effort..." to influence the election. Mr. Halper also paid Mr. Papadopoulos two dollars a word for an essay on "a disputed gas field in the eastern Mediterranean Sea." The Times is silent on where the money for that came from. Curious minds want to know.

The Times mentions that, "The role of the informant is at the heart of the newest battle between top law enforcement officials and Mr. Trump’s congressional allies...", without further speculation on what that FBI role was.

Let me help. It was to conceal his true purposes when he met with Mike Flynn, Carter Page and George Papadopoulos (all charged, along with Manafort, by Mueller with things irrelevant to Russian Facebook ads, DNC email hacking or Hillary's WikiLeaks contretemps) under the aegis of, as the Times admits, a "secret warrant" - obtained by the FBI using fake information supplied by a British ex-MI6 operative, and paid for by the opposing political party. Halper told his targets he wanted to 'help' the Trump campaign.

Halper has appeared in the NYT before. From July, 1983:
'He was never very specific. He struck me as being just obsessed with the idea of hurting Jimmy Carter's re-election.' Coyle said he believed the man, who was not identified, was upset because he was refused some kind of grant. He said he told the man to leave and informed Carter officials in the summer of 1980 about the incident...

The New York Times reported the Reagan campaign headquarters conducted a data-gathering operation to collect inside information on Carter foreign policy and used a number of former CIA officials in the effort.

It said Stefan Halper, a campaign aide who handled communications for Bush and provided news updates and policy ideas to the traveling Reagan party, was in charge of the operation. Halper called the report 'just absolutely untrue.'
Since the Times considers Halper abandoned spying on political campaigns, they should at least have named him a "clandestine investigator" - a euphemism perhaps too close to the plain English word for Times readers.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Looting and Freedom

Whether political freedom or economic freedom is more important is a moot question.

The most basic property right is self-ownership. To the degree that right is compromised, so is freedom. A commenter at the linked article above noted this:
“I propose in the following discussion to call one’s own labor, and the equivalent exchange of one’s own labor for the labor of others, the ‘economic means’ for the satisfaction of needs, while the unrequited appropriation of the labor of others will be called the ‘political means’.”
   – Franz Oppenheimer, The State. New York: Free Life
      Editions, 1908 (1975), pp. 24-25

Beyond the unabashed wealth redistributionism of a Bernie Sanders, ‘unrequited appropriation of the labor of others’ includes all forms of rent-seeking: Regulation favoring entrenched business (from tariffs to requiring hair braiders to take hundreds of hours of training, to subsidies for solar panels, movies, art, mortgages, etc., etc., etc.); union shops; civil asset forfeiture and eminent domain; and zoning laws.

We may agree politically to give some portion of some of those freedoms to the State, but we will, by definition, be less free; and bureaucracies will always take more than is granted.

Principled resistance to the looting is a requirement of freedom.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Canadian model?

At Neo-neocon: The cost of Canadian health care

It's not just the financial cost, it's also the suffering cost while waiting for an appointment.
There is no free lunch. There is no free health care. And anyone comparing outcomes in different countries by comparing statistics on infant mortality and life expectancy is comparing apples and oranges. These matters are influenced by much more than a healthcare insurance system.
Among other things, it's whether you count preemies who die as stillbirths. In the US, it is far more likely they'll be counted as live births.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Stoic Justice Warriors

Jordan Peterson channels Marcus Aurelius: Life is hard. Stand up straight with your shoulders back. Get your room clean before you decide to start changing the world. Pick up the biggest weight you can carry, it will give meaning to your life. Treat yourself as someone you care for. Pay attention.

Marcus Aurelius on How to Turn Around a Rotten Day
“...there will always be difficulties to drag through your day… Nothing has to go right today for you to act with honor and character. ...we, not other people, are the problem. ...things don’t have to go well for you have to a good day. ...instead of treating yourself with respect, you have entrusted your own happiness to the souls of others. ...Concentrate every minute…on doing what’s in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice."
Peterson has become notorious because so few have ever heard this. Modern University courses would regard Marcus Aurelius as a white-privileged, patriarchal colonizer; if they mentioned him at all.

That, and they're all clamoring about their "rights" with no regard for their responsibilities.

Update. 5:47 PM.
I notice I am not the first to make this association:
Jordan Peterson and the Return of the Stoics

Thursday, May 03, 2018

The Long March

On April 17th I wondered:
Is free speech under assault on college campuses? Well, some people, including President Trump, think not.
Then we have this idiot show up to assure us that to think free speech is in danger on campuses (including those where e you can't be sure using the made up pronoun "zir" is the only way to avoid administrative persecution) is a vast delusional right-wing conspiracy.

The vastness is only limited by the number of people who weren't conscripted for the ‘[L]ong march through the institutions.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Colluding with the Russian Oiligarchy

Russian trolls' post-election task: Disrupt Florida and other U.S. energy pipelines
Russia’s hidden hand in the Florida pipeline protests was extensive, according to sources familiar with the operations. At least eight Russian accounts, most tied to the troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency, sent at least 16 social media messages excoriating the Sabal Trail pipeline or retweeting messages from one of its most prominent opponents, a frequent guest on RT. The tweets were sent to a total of more than 40,000 followers as well as anyone else who saw them via hashtags.
This is just one example of Russian manipulation of useful Green idiots. The Russians do a lot of this in Canada, too.

If we're worried about Russian election shenanigans, we should be equally concerned about this tampering. It's gone on longer, involved more money, and is intended to reduce US national security and divide Americans, while boosting Russian oil revenues and world-political influence.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Crimestop

Is free speech under assault on college campuses? Well, some people, including President Trump, think not.

Most of those skeptics promote a distinction between free speech and "hate speech," a term Mr. Zuckerberg has yet to define for us; but he's working on an AI to apply the definition he comes up with: Once all those messy linguistic, contextual, semantic issues humans can't even deal with are programmed.

That is, he dreams of automating enforcement of Silicon Valley values conforming to regulation he's requested from our technology-naive and Constitutionally slipshod Congressional placeholders. They'll be looking to erect an emanating penumbra since: No, there’s no “hate speech” exception to the First Amendment. They have to help Mr. Zuckerberg add one.

We can look to George Orwell for insight into how that public/pirate partnership is likely to work out.
"The mind should develop a blind spot whenever a dangerous thought presented itself. The process should be automatic, instinctive. Crimestop, they called it in Newspeak."
-George Orwell, 1984
A model is already apparent. Google fired James Damore for failure to crimestop. On campus, they're calling it "self-censorship."
The Skeptics Are Wrong Part 2: Speech Culture on Campus is Changing

Click to enlarge.

Very Liberal students care far less about giving offense than about being judged. That is, they worry more about tribal membership in-good-standing and find it implausible their opinions would offend anyone. A collectivist approach.

Conservative students are much more concerned about campus thought police than Liberal students. I would have liked to see them less concerned about giving offense to peers as an indication of individualism, but they know they are surrounded by a great number of people who easily take offense. And they are probably just more polite.

I'm sure you can infer other interesting theories yourself, but the result is not good for any of these students: The Stifling Uniformity of Literary Theory
One wonders whether the students that the academy is producing today could if asked to, provide the arguments of their ideological or political counterparts, without resort to crude caricature or ad hominem...

What might a course look like if a race theorist such as Derrick Bell was studied alongside someone like Thomas Sowell? For about thirty years both Bell and Sowell were consistently among the top five most cited black scholars in American Academia according to The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.12 However, as with so many prominent intellectuals, while Sowell is revered among classical liberals, libertarians and conservatives, he is practically unheard of on the left, despite his pioneering work on the economics of race and ethnicity.13 To borrow Jonathan Haidt’s phrase, liberal intellectuals are in danger of being ‘blind’ not only to the other side’s moral taste buds, but also to their most important thinkers.14
Here's another post I think helps explain why Liberals don't like free discussion of ideas. They mean well, but can't be bothered to examine consequences in their quest to perfect the rest of us.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Dispatches from the NRA's Kremlin office

NPR is all over it.

Caught in the intersectionality of Sen. Ron Wyden's (D-Ore.) grandstanding, pervasive Russian collusion hysteria, and teenager induced attacks on civil rights, the National Rifle Association has revealed that it received contributions from individuals with some unspecified ties to Russia.

Might be US citizens living there. Might be Russian nationals living here. Might be Vladimir Putin himself. Who knows? We need to know the extent of this conspiracy.

OK: A total of 23 individuals have been identified.

They contributed a little over $2,500 to the NRA.

Since 2015.

Most of it was membership dues.

The usual suspects, like Everytown for Gun Safety and Media Matters, are outraged. But, for their main money-persons $2,500 wouldn't even make a car payment - assuming Bloomberg and Soros, for example - didn't just pay cash for Maseratis, Rolls, or Ferraris. Or armored Escalades.

Simultaneously, the Russians appear to have funneled several orders of magnitude more money into Green activist groups opposed to fracking and the building of pipelines.

But, don't take my word for it. Here's Hillary on June 18, 2014:
Clinton Talked About “Phony Environmental Groups” Funded By The Russians To Stand Against Pipelines And Fracking. “We were up against Russia pushing oligarchs and others to buy media. We were even up against phony environmental groups, and I’m a big environmentalist, but these were funded by the Russians to stand against any effort, oh that pipeline, that fracking, that whatever will be a problem for you, and a lot of the money supporting that message was coming from Russia.” [Remarks at tinePublic, 6/18/14]”
There is other evidence of Russian interest in disrupting energy supplies, which should come as no surprise from a kleptocracy heavily dependent on oil and gas revenue. See here, here and here for Russian efforts to protect Gazprom revenues.

And, of course, the Russians also used Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to spread energy-guilt propaganda. It was a bigger effort than their campaign to disrupt our elections, which we know was a few million dollars. Scroll down here to see some of the Russian social media ads attacking pipelines and fracking.

The Left hasn't complained about those ads because they like them. Even if they were interested in the Russian attempt to stifle US energy independence, they'd have a hard time finding it at NPR, where a search for 'russia frack' turns up 3 hits, none related to Russian interference.

Which of these stories seems more important for people to know about? I'm looking at you, NPR.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The President's hugest success?

Achieving Durable Success in the Fight for Deregulation
By virtually any metric, President Trump’s regulatory agenda has achieved nearly unprecedented results. Neomi Rao, the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), has carried out Trump’s one-in, two-out executive order (EO 13771) to the letter, just as his supporters had hoped and detractors had feared.
Well done.

Feminist: Biological sex real

... judge demurs.

Radical feminist warned to refer to transgender defendant as a 'she' during assault case

Truce in the pronoun wars? Note the judge's (apparent) use of "Miss" and "she." If the quote's inaccurate The Telegraph is in trouble.
"District Judge Kenneth Grant warned Ms MacLachlan to refer to Miss Wolf as “she” while giving evidence.

He said: "The defendant wished to be referred to as a woman, so perhaps you could refer to her as 'she' for the purpose of the proceedings."

Ms MacLachlan replied: "I'm used to thinking of this person who is a male as male."

The row was the latest in an ongoing battle between Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs), who believe that transwomen should not be given the same rights as those born female, and transgender activists."
Female Privilege? Just a ploy to stop 26 year old males from punching you if you're a 61 year old female? Maybe that's redundant.

And, what are the exclusive rights of those born female?
"She [the accused] described the event as a hate rally and said the fight broke out because she feared Ms MacLachlan planned to out her as transgender online."
Um, isn't the point of participating in a public rally to make sure people know you're trans? How can we get woke if it's not pushed into our faces?

BTW, the verdict was "guilty." And the accused's desire not to be outed seems to have been frustrated. Her picture is even more prominent after her conviction. And what do you bet "Miss" Wolf has a Facebook page?

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Free the Post Office!

Amazon Controversy Makes the Case for a Private-Sector US Postal Service

Read it. Then consider who is the author of USPS troubles.

The only mention of postal services in the Constitution appears in Article 1, Section 8: The Congress shall have Power To establish Post Offices and post Roads; That’s it. Not has to, has power to.

The Congressional mandate for universal postal service and the creation of a government protected monopoly is a legislative choice, not a Constitutional mandate.

But, don't take my word for it. In a footnote to its 2014 report on postal finances, the Library of Congress' Congressional Research Service had this to say:
The USPS often is mischaracterized as a quasi governmental or private entity. It is neither. The USPS is a government agency that was created by Congress to achieve various public purposes. Federal law defines what products and services the Postal Service may offer. Additionally, the USPS’s employees are federal employees who participate in the Civil Service Retirement System, the Federal Employees Retirement System, and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.
The Post Office suffers from its slavery to politicians and union potentates who put their own interests first. The result for the USPS is 'corporatism without the benefits.'

The pretense that the USPS is a not a government agency is a crony-capitalist obfuscation. The USPS has the WORST of both worlds, the congress controls what they can do and must do, yet forces them to do business whether it’s profitable or not. Congress micro-manages USPS real estate and employment rules and also sets the price of USPS’s mandated services.

Contrary to President Trump's narcissistic whining (which is really about WaPo coverage), Amazon is not the problem. A little fenced off corner of The Swamp is the problem.

But acknowledging that won't help his poll numbers or justify his poorly disguised animus toward a man who probably could benefit from a dispassionate thumping.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Dumb f**ks

Mark Steyn had exactly the same reaction I did. I watched some bits of Zuck's testimony on Fox News because I wanted to see the bland boy-face of evil and I wasn’t disappointed. He performed magnificently enough that my wife became pissed off at me for yelling at the TV. The snippet Steyn notes provoked my second loudest yell and an admonition to stop ranting.

On Fox, this bit came before the weaseling he did under examination from Ted Cruz, when I erupted with my loudest commentary. My wife changed the channel at that point.

Zuckerberg's intentions are what he thinks makes him a misunderstood white hat. In his ignorant isolation he truly thinks his intentions are good: That is what makes him evil.

When he speaks about “protecting the “community”” he sneeringly arrogates moral superiority, and is too ignorant to even recognize it. When he speaks about “protecting the electoral process” he is saying “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” He had no concern about "protecting" the 2012 election, when his company actively aided Obama. So be it, as long we as define that as campaign "contribution in kind," but stop with the maternalistic condescension.

And give up the moral preening that your mission is defining "hate speech."
One senator who did understand the dangers ahead was Nebraska’s Ben Sasse. Earlier in the hearing, Zuckerberg had suggested that Facebook will eventually develop algorithms that will sniff out hate speech and be able to address it immediately. “Hate speech — I am optimistic that, over a five to ten-year period, we will have A.I. tools that can get into some of the nuances — the linguistic nuances of different types of content to be more accurate in flagging things for our systems.”

When Sasse’s turn to question Zuckerberg arrived, he asked a simple question: “Can you define hate speech?”

Zuckerberg said it would be hard to pin down a specific definition, and mentioned speech “calling for violence” as something Facebook does not tolerate.

Does anyone at Facebook understand the ramifications of a vague definition of hate speech? Does Zuckerberg think that the sometimes-violent opposition to any viewpoint that is even remotely conservative on college campuses happened in a vacuum?
He’ll be using Fahrenheit 451 as the instruction manual. And on that, Facebook stock rises. We are dumb f**ks.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

"Equal Pay Day" is December 31st

...if you consider occupation, hours worked, experience, education, job security, work safety, working conditions, and continuous length of time in the workplace. None of which factor into the feminist mythology of "equal pay day."

For Equal Pay Day: Evidence of employers paying women 19.5% less than men for the same work is as elusive as Bigfoot sightings

If women did the same work as well or better than men for lower compensation, why would the patriarchal capitalist oppressors hire men?

Put another way, women as a group would rather have a Masters in Education than in Engineering.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

TERF War

Academia’s Consilience Crisis
Appearances by Gad Saad, Jordan Peterson, Nassim Taleb, E. O. Wilson and anti-science poster boy and Professor of Sexual Diversity Studies, Nicholas Matte.
Recommended.
[C]onsilience
... refers to the principle that evidence from independent, unrelated sources can "converge" to strong conclusions. That is, when multiple sources of evidence are in agreement, the conclusion can be very strong even when none of the individual sources of evidence is significantly so on its own. Most established scientific knowledge is supported by a convergence of evidence: if not, the evidence is comparatively weak, and there will not likely be a strong scientific consensus.
One might say, "Interdisciplinary scientific method."

The Quillette article doesn't mention Intersectionality, but it bears some discussion as the evil twin of Consilience. It's what Dr. Matte applies as an alternative to scientific method when he flat out denies the reality of biological sex differences.
Intersectionality
...is an analytic framework which attempts to identify how interlocking systems of power impact those who are most marginalized in society. Intersectionality considers that the various forms of what it sees as social stratification, such as class, race, sexual orientation, age, disability and gender, do not exist separately from each other but are complexly interwoven.
One might summarize, "A means of creating victim identity groups."

Implict, but missing from the definitions is another difference. Intersectional analysis begins with its result already decided. It is not falsifiable by experience or logic. That does not mean there are not competing and conflicting "theories," but debating such differences is problematic because any such conversation is bounded only by opinions about the relative power of various victim identity-groups. It's postmodernists shouting their foregone conclusions at each other.

For example, the TERF war (TERF is trans exclusionary radical feminists) revolves around who can claim to be a woman. At issue are claims by some feminists that trans-women (i.e., men) aren't really women. While science is on their side, this does put the TERF feminists in a bit of a bind. They appear to be claiming "biological determinism is only a fallacy when used against them, not when they use it against others." Of course, by "biological determinism" both sides of the TERF war mean to reject the idea that there is a biological difference between sexes. Differences between men and women are determined wholly by social conditioning.

If both sides agree with Dr. Matte that there's no such thing as biological sex, why do they care who calls themselves a woman? Well, if your biological sex can be determined moment by moment at your whim, what’s the point of Women’s Studies? If it can't be, what's the point of Transgender Studies? People's careers are at stake. So is the basis of their power.

Consilience bears a superficial similarity with intersectionality in weaving together multiple points of view, but consilience compares independent observations in an attempt to falsify theories - a way of seeking objective truth. For example, that there is a better than 99% correspondence between physical characteristics and how people identify as men or women; that in utero exposure to testosterone has permanent developmental effects; and that, with vanishingly small exceptions, males and females differ by huge tracts of genetic material, tend to strongly confirm profound biological differences between men and women - identity group power struggles notwithstanding.

Intersectionality is anti-science, so it allows some to claim that math is racist, rigorous discipline in engineering is sexist, physics is based on white privilege, and chemistry is colonialist. The emphasis on power as the only arbiter of truth gives rise to claims that speech criticizing intersectionalist claims is literally violence, while intersectionalist speech is beyond reproach.

In the TERF war we're seeing what happens when intersectionalists engage in their only useful activity.

Pass the popcorn.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Canada the Goof

Jesse Brown may be Canadian, but he's definitely not forthcoming, eh? Mr. Brown has an Op-Ed in the New York Times:
"There is a certain image that Canada projects to the world, one that is particularly compelling to Americans. It’s the image of Canada as a tolerant, progressive, kind and humanitarian nation, populated by mild-mannered and polite people. The idea of Canada the Good — a Scandinavian-style socialist democracy, with the added bonus of multicultural harmony — is an attractive one, helpful in providing Canadians with some kind of national identity, and left-leaning Americans with a handy rhetorical device for political arguments: Look at what’s possible, right next door!

But it’s worth remembering that this image of Canada, currently personified by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is a relatively recent construction, largely put forth by Mr. Trudeau’s father, former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. "
Justin Trudeau's father was a snooty playboy who married... shall we say a goofy development-arrested woman 30 years his junior. She was 22 upon their marriage, he was 51.

Justin's contribution to "Canada the Good" follows soundly in the flower-child traditon of his mother. Just search the 'net for 'justin trudeau gaffes.'

I can tell you that many, many Canadians, at least since the 60s, thought of their country as "Canada the Good," many of them did so in comparison to the 'US Imperialists.' The identity being expressed is, "We're NOT Americans." Which is tautologically true, if somewhat insubstantial as a national identity.
"Canada is home to many more Jordan Petersons than Justin Trudeaus."
Debatable. Take a walk down Bloor Street and ask a few people some political questions. Say, about socialized health care, pronouns, CAGW, multi-culturalism or firearms.
"Pierre Trudeau might have technically been a liberal, but he was the kind of liberal who declared martial law in 1970"
Pierre Trudeau's good friend Fidel Castro might technically have been a socialist, but Castro was the kind of socialist who tortures political prisoners. Pierre Trudeau was not a liberal, despite the name of the party he headed. He was an elitist authoritarian. He was a long, long way from classical liberalism.
"[T]he New Democratic Party, ostensibly the major party farthest to the left, ran its last campaign on a platform of balanced budgets and fiscal responsibility."
That's like our Democrats saying "We don't want to take your guns." The NDP is far left by our standards. Even the conservative party is the "Progressive Conservatives."
"Not even the Green Party dares to suggest divesting from Alberta’s oil sands."
No, they just block the pipeline construction needed to sell that oil and are wholly supportive of a punitive carbon tax Justin Trudeau is pushing.
"Canadian conservatism is not brash. It not belligerent, it is not loud. It is not Fox News."
True, Canadian conservatism is more like Joe Lieberman Democrats.
"The proposed human rights policy that made Mr. Peterson famous is now Canadian law, and no instance of “compelled speech” has occurred as a result of it or resulted in criminal charges, as Mr. Peterson feared. On the issue of legal requirements for pronoun use, things remain the way Mr. Peterson wanted them — the same."
If things are the same, one wonders why the law was needed.

There have been no charges yet, but Jesse Brown deftly ignores Lindsay Shepherd's experience at Wilfred Laurier University, where she was threatened with that very law for showing her class a video snippet of Jordan Peterson from an Ontario public television current events show. While the inquisitors were wrong, they did think the law could be used to compel Shepherd to toe the line. It's only a matter of time before it's applied to compel speech.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Albanian collusion

When Democrats are facebooking some unwoke foreigners, it's just the natural order of Progressive Privilege.

State Department Records Show Obama Administration Helped Fund George Soros’ Left-Wing Political Activities in Albania
The new records released by Judicial Watch include an April 2016 memo from the U.S. Embassy in Tirana that reveals that the embassy “sponsored” a survey along with Soros’s Open Society Foundation to measure Albanian citizens’ “knowledge, support, and expectations on justice reform.” The Soros group survey reported that “91% of respondents either ‘fully support’ or ‘somewhat support’ the need for judicial reform.” The poll did not specify the type of reform the Soros group was seeking.
Push polling, then.

I'd say yes to vague questions about judicial reform too, though not likely in line with the Obama/Soros intent.

He's right about one thing

Facebook's Zuckerberg faces reporters' questions
"Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) has two basic questions to address in the Cambridge Analytica data leak scandal, CEO Mark Zuckerberg says on a conference call with media: Can it protect users, and can it make sure it's not used to undermine democracy."
The answer to those questions is no, and they aren't the basic questions, even about the Cambridge Analytics problem he's trying to pretend is the real issue. Cambridge Analytics is just one example in a long list of Facebook exploitations of its users. A more salient question is, "Can a business whose very basis is slight-of-hand betrayal of trust be trusted?" The answer to that question is also no.

The second question is simply absurd. First, speech intended to undermine democracy is a right those living in our Republic already possess. Second, Facebook, by its actions to help elect Barack Obama, invented the practice Zuckerberg decries. Cambridge Analytics didn't even exist when Facebook demonstrated the concept.
"Zuckerberg also says that most users should assume that their publicly available information has been scraped; he's referring here to those who enabled the ability for friends to search for them by phone number or email address.

"We've seen some scraping," he says. "I would assume if you had that setting turned on that someone at some point has access to your public information in some way.""
He means, of course, "accessed by scrapers not employed by Facebook." Facebook scraping also includes information not intended to be public, such as scanning all your Facebook Messenger content. And keeping all the videos you thought you had deleted. What does this tell us? That Facebook wasn't concerned about protecting their most precious resources - your trust and your personal information - despite having been called out on it multiple times. Incompetence by design?

Well, "you" had the setting allowing scraping turned on: It's your fault. Nothing to do with Facebook's decisions about default settings buried under three menu layers. And if you didn't "assume that [your] publicly available information" was going to be scraped then Zuckerberg's right - it is your fault, because as he's said, you're a "dumb f**k."

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Post part'em

Some numbers showing United States Postal Service delivery subsidization tendencies. The largest single subsidy is federally mandated. Spoiler, it's first class mail.

2016 USPS financial and load figures, except where noted:
Net loss - $5.6 billion.
Total Operating Revenue - $71.4 billion.

Total mail volume - 154.3 billion pieces.
Total first class volume - 61.2 billion pieces.
Marketing mail volume - 80.9 billion pieces
.

Calculated first class revenue at $.55 per piece - $33.7 billion.
Marketing mail revenue - $17.3 billion.

Source for marketing mail revenue is 2010; it tracks very closely with 2016 volume figures. I do not know how this was calculated, since the junk mail rates are complex. In any case, we know the junk rates are much lower. This mainly represents a subsidy to smaller, local businesses.

Meanwhile, the "true cost of delivering a letter is likely more than twice what we now pay."

Assuming the post office is efficient (that is, they are properly staffed, paid market rates, have appropriate equipment and infrastructure), proper pricing of first class mail should have brought the Post Office at least an additional $30 billion. Even if they aren't efficient, they're a monopoly. Don't monopolies get to set whatever price they want?

Obviously, the USPS regulators and legislative gurus think the USPS is less than 50% efficient, since that's where they cap first class rates. President Trump thinks the problem is Amazon.

What exactly is being subsidized? Well, certainly first class mail.

Picking winners and losers is unavoidable in any government regulation - from postal rates to road placement, from income tax deductions to zoning laws. The way to approach this problem is to minimize regulation. Privatization is the first step.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Post scriptum

Apropos of President Trump's Bezos bashing is this 2017 article from the Wall Street Journal: Why the Post Office Gives Amazon Special Delivery

Myopia is the first word that springs to mind on reading this. Well, the first polite word. The author knows regulation is the problem, and proposes more regulation as the solution.

Yes, United States Postal Service delivery of parcels is probably (it’s debatable that USPS even knows*) mis-priced, but it’s most definitely not Amazon’s fault. And it won’t be fixed by tweaking regulation, because if it could be it wouldn't be a problem in the first place.

At the margin - "[USPS] has filled its spare capacity by delivering more boxes” - USPS would be far worse off without Amazon. It’s evident that without Amazon - whose parcels arguably cost the USPS next to nothing to deliver, since they’re making all those mandated stops anyway - USPS losses would be much greater. USPS must think so, too, since it has been making Sunday parcel deliveries in peak periods for some time now.

At least taxpayers get something back for subsidizing the government delivery service if they shop at Amazon. Or Newsweek, or National Review... USPS subsidized periodicals with $273 million in 2006.

All USPS problems result from its monopoly on first class mail, attendant regulatory price caps and other interference, consequent market cluelessness, and a refusal to innovate typical of government supported monopolies. USPS pricing errors are no “accident of history.” Unless you use Obamacare pricing as your definition of 'accident.'

Maintaining delivery capacity USPS can't fill is mandated by the Federal government. Rather than enable USPS to compete, our Congresscritters cap the first class mail rates and then make "it illegal for the Postal Service to price parcel delivery below its cost.”

Of course, *"calculating cost can be devilishly subjective.” So, to fix the problem legislators caused, the regulator decides to layer on some more regulation - "its regulator determined that, at a minimum, 5.5% of the agency’s fixed costs must be allocated to packages and similar products. A decade later, around 25% of its revenue comes from packages, but their share of fixed costs has not kept pace.” Well, they don’t actually know that, do they?

And, why not 5.8%, or 6.49%? And, kept pace with what? Isn't 5.5% still 5.5%? And, isn't that still the 'right' number a decade after it was imposed by the wise men? Or, did variable costs change "unexpectedly"? And, if 5.5% is a minimum regulatory stricture, why hasn't USPS already raised it - since it's illegal not to?

Gotta admire the precision decimal acumen of those nimble central planners, who can't react to internet disruptions even as rapidly as every 10 years, and base pricing on fixed costs.

What do you bet UPS and FedEx know their total costs and don’t calculate them the way USPS does?

Yep, "devilishly subjective" pricing is a perfect scenario for a stultifyingly bureaucratic, government unionized organization with health care and pension liabilities at 169% of the fiscal 2016 revenues, and $15 billion in low interest loans from the U.S. Treasury.

"Select high-volume shippers are able to drop off presorted packages at the local Postal Service depot for “last mile” delivery at cut-rate prices. With high volumes and warehouses near the local depots, Amazon enjoys low rates unavailable to its competitors.” Let me rephrase that, “Because Amazon has invested in efficient logistics and well planned locations, it makes it easier for any delivery company to transport its goods. Especially an organization with tens of thousands of locations in that 'last mile'” What do you bet Amazon gets volume discounts from FedEx and UPS?

“[T]he Postal Service needs to stop picking winners and losers in the retail world.”? How? There is no way to subsidize a government delivery service without "picking winners and losers in the retail world."

Spare me the "universal-service obligation—to provide for all Americans at uniform price and quality. This communication service helps knit this vast country together, and it’s the why the Postal Service exists” argument. If that’s the mandate nobody should be surprised we have to subsidize it. Stop whining about the cost resulting from that choice, and stop scapegoating the companies (there will always be some) who can take advantage of regulatory winner/loser decisions, until you are willing to privatize the USPS.

Of course, as in Europe, the Post Office should be privatized. To do that, the first class mail monopoly must be eliminated. Then USPS can compete on price and service. Delivery to marginal locations will become more expensive and/or a bit slower. IAC, the "first class” mail rates would rise to market values. Junk mail volume would plummet, and we’ve been subsidizing that too. If "[T]wo-thirds of Amazon’s domestic deliveries are made by the Postal Service," the Post Office's burdensome real estate holdings might even become an advantage. At current pricing, they already are.

Or we could nationalize UPS and FedEx. That would fix the problem and provide more jobs for regulators.

USPS demonstrates exactly what happens to protected industries; misallocation of capital, mispricing, insensitivity to customer needs, complacency about markets - resulting in inability to innovate or compete.

The President’s ire is misdirected. Since it’s an economic question, that’s unsurprising. Well, actually, it’s petty personal animus toward Jeff Bezos, but that’s even less surprising.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Check your privilege Chelsea

"My armed guards aren’t killing children and don’t have semi automatic weapons."
— Chelsea Handler (@chelseahandler) March 28, 2018

I'm not sure who she is, but she obviously thinks she has a right to physical protection. I agree with that bit. Unfortunately, I can't afford armed guards.

My armed guard (me) sometimes carries a semi-automatic handgun and sometimes a revolver. In both cases, one squeeze of the trigger produces one discharge. The main difference is that my usual semi-auto carry holds 7 rounds and my usual revolver carry holds only 5.

If I were hired to defend someone else, I'd be less concerned about comfortable carry. I'd be much less concerned that someone could tell I had a firearm: Maybe it's a deterrent if you realize someone has a professional armed guard you have to shoot first?

Since I'd be more concerned about multiple assailants, I'd definitely carry something that held 10 or more rounds: I.e., a larger semi-auto. If Ms. Handler's guards aren't doing so, then she should fire them.

I'm not shooting any children, either.

So. She thinks she should be allowed to pay someone else to defend her, and that I should not be allowed to defend myself.

No. If I can't defend myself with a gun, Ms. Handler can't be allowed to let someone else defend her with one.

And, you know what? If I thought I needed armed guards, I'd still carry my own. Especially then.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

But that trick never works!

        This time for sure!
        -Bullwinkle J. Moose.

Facebook Quietly Begins Fact-Checking Political Photos and Videos
Facebook announced today that the company began fact-checking political photos and videos on Wednesday in an attempt to root out fake news. The company announced in a blog post that the changes come as a result of Facebook's plan to review "ongoing election efforts."

"By now, everyone knows the story: during the 2016 US election, foreign actors tried to undermine the integrity of the electoral process," Guy Rosen, vice president of product management at Facebook, wrote. "Their attack included taking advantage of open online platforms — such as Facebook — to divide Americans, and to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt." Rosen said although the clock cannot be turned back, "we are all responsible for making sure the same kind of attack [on] our democracy does not happen again." He said Facebook is taking its role in the effort "very, very seriously."
Mr. Rosen conveniently neglects to mention Facebook's direct assistance to the Obama campaign in 2012, and ignores Facebook's unethical psychological experimentation on its users. So, by "same kind of attack" he apparently excludes domestic actors, like Facebook and the Obama campaign, trying "to undermine the integrity of the electoral process," when they do the same thing of which those pesky Russians are accused. He's not alone among Facebook luminaries in his facile ethos.

Alex Stamos (Facebook chief security officer) had this to say:
Stamos singled out "organized, professional groups" whose motivation is money. "These cover the spectrum from private but ideologically motivated groups to full-time employees of state intelligence services," he said. "Their targets might be foreign or domestic, and while much of the public discussion has been about countries trying to influence the debate abroad, we also must be on guard for domestic manipulation using some of the same techniques."
Stamos apparently is as devoid of self reflection as he is deficient in sense of irony.

What is Facebook but an ""organized, professional group" whose motivation is money"; an "ideologically motivated", "domestic manipulation [clique] using some of the same techniques"? Explicitly including what Mr. Rosen called spreading "fear, uncertainty and doubt", which they euphemized as "mood manipulation" when they did it.

Further reading, or piling on:

Facebook — even as it apologizes for scandal — funds campaign to block a California data-privacy measure

Facebook scraped call, text message data for years from Android phones

Promises, promises: Facebook's history with privacy

Former Facebook Workers: We Routinely Suppressed Conservative News

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Jordan Peterson and the Problem of Evil

I hereby cede the rights to this post's title to J. K. Rowling.

Here's another "I lean left and I'm embarrassed to say I like Jordan Peterson" book review. Thoughtful and worth reading.
     BOOK REVIEW: TWELVE RULES FOR LIFE
       by Scott Alexander

This passage caught my attention, because its snark and jarring misapprehension seem out of place in an otherwise balanced, even sympathetic, article. Peterson, author of Maps of Meaning, refuses to answer THE question about the search for meaning?
What about the most classic case of someone seeking meaning – the person who wants meaning for their suffering? Why do bad things happen to good people? Peterson talks about this question a lot, but his answers are partial and unsatisfying. Why do bad things happen to good people? “If you work really hard on cultivating yourself, you can have fewer bad things happen to you.” Granted, but why do bad things happen to good people? “If you tried to ignore all bad things and shelter yourself from them, you would be weak and contemptible.” Sure, but why do bad things happen to good people? “Suffering makes us stronger, and then we can use that strength to help others.” But, on the broader scale, why do bad things happen to good people? “The mindset that demands no bad thing ever happen will inevitably lead to totalitarianism.” Okay, but why do bad things happen to good people? “Uh, look, a neo-Marxist transgender lobster! Quick, catch it before it gets away!”
"[W]hy do bad things happen to good people?," is also known as the Problem of Evil.

Despite the mockery, the quality of the rest of the article makes me charitable: This is probably not deliberate misrepresentation. But it is a serious error. Alexander acknowledges Peterson does address the Problem of Evil, "“Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street” is about a heart-wrenchingly honest investigation of the Problem of Evil," (Rule 12) and then puts that paragraph in?

Still, there's more than one class of evil. There's evil chosen by man, and then there's the random, impersonal, perverse chaos of existence. Let's see if Peterson is evading either of those.

To the first evil, Peterson tells us in no uncertain terms one of the reasons bad things happen to good people is that "good people" lie - often to themselves. This answers questions about why there is war; speaks (mostly and in the present, at least) to why famine; and tells us the cause of all manner of man-made evil. It's explained by Rule 8, forms the basis for Peterson's admiration of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and informs many of Peterson's lectures.

Other bad things come under the heading of "Why does the universe tend toward perversity, when innocent people are randomly made to suffer terribly?"

That is, why cancer? Why Alzheimer's? Why chaos? Why... Well, I can't miss the opportunity to quote (truncated) one of my favorite Joeseph Heller passages from Catch-22:
"And don't tell me God works in mysterious ways," Yossarian continued... "There's nothing so mysterious about it. He's not working at all. He's playing. Or else he's forgotten all about us. That's the kind of God you people talk about -- a country bumpkin, a clumsy, bungling, brainless, conceited, uncouth hayseed. Good God, how much reverence can you have for a Supreme Being who finds it necessary to include such phenomena as phlegm and tooth decay in His divine system of creation? What in the world was running through that warped, evil, scatalogical mind of His when He robbed old people of the power to control their bowel movements? Why in the world did He ever create pain?”

...

"Stop it! Stop it!" Lieutenant Scheisskopf's wife screamed suddenly, and began beating him ineffectually about the head with both fists. "Stop it!”

... "What the hell are you getting so upset about?" He asked her bewilderedly in a tone of contrite amusement. "I thought you didn't believe in God.”

"I don't," she sobbed, bursting violently into tears. "But the God I don't believe in is a good God, a just God, a merciful God. He's not the mean and stupid God you make Him out to be.”

Yossarian laughed... "Let's have a little more religious freedom between us," he proposed obligingly. "You don't believe in the God you want to, and I won't believe in the God I want to. Is that a deal?”
I think the God Jordan Peterson doesn't believe in is the God you can blame your suffering on, thereby absolving you of responsibility for your own life. The God who cares about every sparrow's fall is the God who also doesn't do anything about it. The totalitarian state is like that, too. When they're not engaged in actively shooting the sparrows. Which is a difference between man-made evil and random evil.

Peterson addresses the Problem of Random Evil extensively in his lectures Maps of Meaning and The Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories.

He confronts the problem and suggests a psychological/ evolutionary-biological answer is at least partly in the archetypal stories humans have created over millenia. More succinctly than 60 hours of lectures: "Take up your own burden. Learn from mistakes, take corrective actions, and don’t repeat. Don’t whine." One of the received truths is that you have to take responsibility for yourself - in doing so you find not the answer to life, the universe and everthing, but meaning. It's all you can ask for. Ignoring it leads to evil.

Maybe the the offending paragraph results from the fact that this is narrowly a book review, and perhaps Alexander is not well acquainted with Peterson's other works:
The politics in this book lean a bit right, but if you think of Peterson as a political commentator you’re missing the point. The science in this book leans a bit Malcolm Gladwell, but if you think of him as a scientist you’re missing the point. Philosopher, missing the point. Public intellectual, missing the point. Mythographer, missing the point. So what’s the point?
...
The non-point-missing description of Jordan Peterson is that he’s a prophet.
...
[Peterson is] the only person in the world who can say our social truisms and get a genuine reaction with them...
Maybe that's because they aren’t social truisms anymore. Why? Well, that brings us to an oversight in the piece. It's because many people have never heard them, and there's an organized effort to suppress them.

So, one might ask the question "If Peterson is indeed evading the Problem of Evil with cliches, what is the alternative?" Well, one popular on our campuses is the postmodernist answer, which Peterson identifies as evil for good reason. Here's their answer:
Postmodernism, the school of "thought" that proclaimed "There are no truths, only interpretations" has largely played itself out in absurdity, but it has left behind a generation of academics in the humanities disabled by their distrust of the very idea of truth and their disrespect for evidence, settling for "conversations" in which nobody is wrong and nothing can be confirmed, only asserted with whatever style you can muster.
-Dr. Daniel Dennett
That is, the Problem of Evil is irrelevant - if it did have any relevance it would be sexist, racist and patriarchal. Only power matters. All this angst about good and evil is pointless. Cultural relativism and moral equivalency are absolutes in a universe where truth cannot be known.

This nihilism could serve as a definition of evil. It's what Peterson stands against. If his metaphysical answers to the Problem of Evil are somehow less than satisfactory to you, fine; but to assert he's evading the question is simply ludicrous.

And Alexander knows it. One of the ideas continually showing up in reasoned critiques of Peterson is that he is a good man.
And it makes me even more convinced that he’s good. Not just a good psychotherapist, but a good person. To be able to create narratives like Peterson does – but also to lay that talent aside because someone else needs to create their own without your interference – is a heck of a sacrifice.
Yes. Exactly. How did he become a good man? By squarely facing the Problem of Evil.

So, he provides a role model, which is another thing prophets* do. He came to be that model by prolonged, intense grappling with the question, among other phrasings, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" You can even see him continuing to do that when he frequently pauses to make sure he's telling the truth (Has anything changed since I last thought this thought which would cause me to change my mind? Are these words the right words?).

The more of him you see the more you will be convinced he is intelligent, articulate, polymathic, grounded, kind, thoughtful and humbly aware of his own exhaustively examined faults. One of which is not refusing to answer the question about why bad things happen to good people. It's not possible to spend a little time listening to him and come to any other intellectually honest conclusion.

It is unreasonable to complain Peterson hasn't supplied a tidy sound bite answering the Problem of Evil to your satisfaction, it's quite another thing to mock him for it when his life-work has been dedicated to answering it.


*Alexander's word. I'm not claiming it, and I'm quite sure Jordan Peterson would be uncomfortable with it. Because he knows full well the danger.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

One man

Highly recommended article at Quillette.
Why Jordan B Peterson Appeals to Me (And I Am on the Left)
A slice:
There is the lecturer, who juxtaposes mythological and religious themes with psychology and evolutionary biology, presenting a synthesis of science and religion, and then there is the social media culture warrior. Watching Peterson’s lectures versus watching snippets of him online, in recent interviews, you are watching two different men...

Maps of Meaning is an attempt to take the wisdom of religion and ancient cultures and explain, through a contemporary lens of modern psychology, what these cultures got right. It is an attempt to revive the past as a source of deep knowledge, not wreckage to be discarded at the altar of scientific materialism, or a postmodern presentism.
I agree one could perceive two men (or more, there's also the serious scholar), if one worked at it, because of Internet fractionalization - mostly on the basis of hyperbolic click bait headlines - not content. Seeing two men is superficial. An examination of his works reveals just one.

I quibble over a minor point. It has some truth in it, but rankles slightly because it's hard to think of anyone more totally integrated as a person than Jordan Peterson. Peterson as a teacher and Peterson as a social media presence are exactly the same man. Calling him "two men" concedes something to his critics that they don't deserve.

Maps of Meaning was published in 1999. Peterson's lectures on TV Ontario are twenty years old. His interview with Cathy Newman was an educational exercise. He's been saying what he's saying for a long time. There are several platforms, but only one man. It's the message, not the medium. And it's not who follows him, though who his critics are is revealing.

Another way of looking at this is:
There is a man whose many years studying psychology, and vast experience as a clinical psychologist, have convinced him that postmodernism is an existential, nihilist danger. Until his government decided to apply postmodernist principles to him through the mechanism of compelled speech, he was invisible to the Internet. Then he made his conclusions explicitly public.

There are not two men there, there is one man with the courage of his convictions, thrust into unexpected notoriety for the act of speaking. An action he surely saw in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Peterson has often praised Solzhenitsyn's insight: "One man who stopped lying could bring down a tyranny."

Peterson said, “I don’t think he meant that as a metaphor–or hyperbole.”

The one man is the one who's been trying to identify and prevent tyrannical acts for twenty years. That there are more tyrants whose message has become more ingrained, and that dissemination of ideas has become easier since 1999 does not bifurcate the man. The author never quite recognizes the problem as one of perception, but comes close by explaining the damage the Left is doing to itself.
The problem is simple: journalists guilty about inequality portray Peterson as an anti-trans, Cold War lunatic. Then, people who read that commentary and end up watching videos from his Biblical Series, or his Maps of Meaning lectures, do not find a right-wing radical. Instead, they find a passionate lecturer against authoritarianism who is deeply invested in a symbolic, archetypal understanding of human nature. Now, they realize that all these left-leaning outlets have lied to them. Instead of exposing a bigot, they’ve smeared a serious scholar.
He mentions (excuses?) only Peterson's strictly academic presentations. I've watched hundreds of hours of both his University of Toronto classes and his more forceful interviews and podcasts. Some examples of the latter, totally consistent with his academic message:

5 minutes

7 minutes

44 minutes