So this is how The Giver started
March 30, 2015, 9:01 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Ok my views on abortion and related matters are often wishy-washy, but I do know I have nothing in common with the sort of monstrous ‘experts’ who could decide this:

Killing babies no different from abortion, experts say

The article is a veritable fount of Orwellian, Nazi-esque Newspeak:

The article, published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, says newborn babies are not “actual persons”

Oh. Well in that case.

He said those who made abusive and threatening posts about the study were “fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society”.

Interesting right? Don’t want to murder babies, you’re a ‘fanatic’ and opposed to ‘the very values of a liberal society’. What then are those ‘values’, one wonders? And what is this ‘liberal’ thing? Count me out of your version of ‘liberal’.

The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual.”

“attribution of a right to life”. Not an inherent, inalienable right to life, but something we ‘attribute’.

Rather than being “actual persons”, newborns were “potential persons”. They explained: “Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life’.

Proof by semantics. I know I’m convinced

“We take ‘person’ to mean an individual who is capable of

“We take ‘person’ to mean”

Well isn’t that special.

As such they argued it was “not possible to damage a newborn by preventing her from developing the potentiality to become a person in the morally relevant sense”.

Where’s the cutoff, one wonders. Eight months? Eighteen? I suppose ultimately the Supreme Court will tell us.

“what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled”.

There’s actually a different way to read this – one that undermines the case for abortion itself. Maybe this all just proves that abortion should not be permissible in any cases.

Is this a tongue-in-cheek ‘modest proposal’ designed to show the slippery-slope?

They preferred to use the phrase “after-birth abortion” rather than “infanticide”

I’m sure they did. Who wouldn’t prefer the former phrase to the latter?

“This “debate” has been an example of “witch ethics” – a group of people know who the witch is and seek to burn her. It is one of the most dangerous human tendencies we have. It leads to lynching and genocide.

Wait. Would that be bad? Why?

Rather than argue and engage, there is a drive is to silence and, in the extreme, kill, based on their own moral certainty. That is not the sort of society we should live in.”

Dude there’s only one side arguing for any killing under the imprimateur of their PhD’s and Fancy Journals here.

They have to cast Idris Elba as James Bond now
March 30, 2015, 7:20 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

It’s getting to the point where they’re going to have to cast Idris Elba as James Bond simply because now if you express any uncertainty about let alone disagreement with doing so you’re a racist. Only one solution remains then: cast Idris Elba as James Bond.

It’s white to be ‘hip’
March 28, 2015, 8:30 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’ve been saying for a while that the ‘hipster’ phenomenon is mostly just a way for white (and, honorary-white) people to build themselves an identifiably-separate and insulated white subculture under the radar, separate and apart from er other-race-influenced subcultures, while immunizing themselves to accusations of being racist or even having a racial footprint at all.

Oh well, looks like the party’s over; folks must’ve caught on.

What subtextually-but-not-overtly-white subculture will white people try to build next, in this never-ending game of cat & mouse? What could even possibly remain to base it on? ‘Indie’ rock, complicated coffee, and lumberjack beards were pretty thin gruel as it was. Some sort of English folk dancing? How long before people figure out how white that is?

Bad Justice
March 24, 2015, 9:57 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Fascinating piece at ThinkProgress claiming to identify the Five Worst Supreme Court Justices In American History. I certainly don’t know anything about the number one choice, Stephen Johnson Field; nor would I want to necessarily cast my reputational lot with this Field, who presumably was a racist or other sort of old-fashioned badthinker of some stripe or another. But it’s still worth noting that the author’s fascinating brief against him, consisting largely of opinions that Field wrote, has the interesting property of containing literally no statements that are evidently false or bad.

For example:

“The old Constitution,” Field’s campaign warned in a pamphlet that traced America’s original sin at least as far back as the John Adams administration, “has been buried under the liberal interpretations of Federalist-Republican Congresses and administrations, grasping doubtful powers and making each step towards centralization the sure precedent of another.”

Is this false? Or:

Field’s campaign argued that he was “the proper candidate of the party whose life-giving principle is that of local self-government.”

Is local self-government bad? Or:

When Illinois enacted a law forbidding this price gouging, however, Field responded with an angry dissenting opinion labeling this law “a “bold assertion of absolute power by the State to control at its discretion the property and business of the citizen.”

Which…it wasn’t? Finally, the coup de grace:

Years later, after Congress enacted a modest income tax on upper-income earners, Field complained that it was an “assault upon capital” which “will be but the stepping-stone to others, larger and more sweeping, till our political contests will become a war of the poor against the rich; a war constantly growing in intensity and bitterness.”

And…he was subsequently proven wrong?

Meh, not really. And interestingly, the author doesn’t even attempt to make that case, apparently believing that merely to cite these ‘damning’ quotes suffices to refute them.

This might also place his choice for the #5 worst Supreme Court Justice in some perspective.

Judging Mozeeya
March 10, 2015, 7:06 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Gene Callahan explains why, in the case of hacker disapproval of Mozilla’s treatment of Brendan Eich, it’s incoherent to ‘use a universal ban on “judgmentalism” to judge those who violate it’. He’s correct. Someone who cites a supposed ‘hacker culture’ that requires ‘you are to be judged by the quality of your work alone’ can’t then consistently judge Mozilla on this non-quality-of-work basis.

Fortunately I’m not part of any ‘hacker culture’ nor do I believe in a ‘universal ban on judgmentalism’. I’m just a consumer free to make up my mind regarding which free-thing-providing companies to patronize with my hard-earned-nothing, and thus free to judge those companies on whatever basis I want. No inconsistency.

In the case of Mozilla, what that means of course is that when this Brandan Eich thing happened I vowed in disgust never to touch a Mozilla product again (side note: for obvious cultural-sensitivity reasons I prefer to pronounce Mozilla so as to rhyme with ‘tortilla’). Now, I forgot about that ‘vow’ in a day or two, of course, but I think I’d made my point. They heard me. Oh, they heard me.

Thanks econosphere for finally explaining why I shouldn’t pay attention the concept of ‘involuntary unemployment’
March 9, 2015, 7:31 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’d never really been able to parse what economists meant by ‘involuntary unemployment’. Luckily the econosphere, including Farmer and others, has been arguing about it for the last few days (here’s a summary post by Nick Rowe putting the best foot forward for the ‘involuntary unemployment’ side) and now I get it.

In particular, I now understand that the concept of ‘involuntary unemployment’ is stupid and probably counterproductive.

Noticing that participants in a market sometimes? often? face choice-tradeoff landscapes That They Wish Were More In Their Favor, Like Back Then At That Other Time just does not seem like an interesting observation to me. The fact that, when this happens, it’s ‘involuntary’ goes without saying and just isn’t somehow some noteworthy thing. Don’t we all wish all the choice-tradeoff landscapes we faced were all better, uniformly, at all times? (My gold-ETF share price going down was ‘involuntary’ too, so what?)

Economists of all should people know that this possibility is, to some extent or another, a feature of all markets at all times; highlighting only when it happens in the employment market, at certain times, doesn’t seem to add anything, and meanwhile abuses language because the ‘involuntary’ descriptor/distinction often misleads the casual observer into thinking it must mean that when employment is ‘involuntary’ rather than ‘voluntary’ there’s some Problem which the government should Do Something About.

Oh wait, I guess that’s the whole point of the misleading, stupid phrase. Well played. Carry on.

When the ‘facts change’, don’t make up your mind in the first place
March 8, 2015, 12:31 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This has become one of our most beloved internet rituals.

Person 1: I think I’ve changed my mind about that thing.
Person 2: [grumble grumble slight disapproval / slight teasing / mild I-told-you-so’s]
Person 1: Golly thanks yeah I guess I did change my mind when the facts changed now that I think about it humblebrag that didn’t even occur to me aw shucks humblebrag
Person 2: [leaves, shamed]

I am informed that this whole thing traces back to a thing where Lord & Savior Keynes (PBUH) said something like: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir.” (Not sure who ‘sir’ was.) Like “in the long run we are all dead” despite the apparent trite sentiment and shoddy reasoning, I am given to understand that we’re supposed to treat this as high wisdom. So, there we are.

Now look, on some level I’m right there with all y’all, yes yes sure people can/should change their minds when the situation calls for, that’s all great and well and good etc. I’m just saying that when it gets to the point where we gush lovingly over any Person 1 merely for ‘changing their mind’, the whole ritual’s been taken way too far.

Some points.

1. ‘Facts’ don’t actually change. That’s why we call them ‘facts’. Facts are facts.

2. If you’re finding yourself in a situation where you’re tempted to think some ‘facts changed’, I submit to you that one of three things is really going on: (a) the thing you earlier thought was a ‘fact’ wasn’t really a fact; (b) the thing you thought the fact ‘changed’ to? It actually didn’t, check your facts; (c) neither the thing you previously thought was a fact nor the thing you thought the fact changed to was a fact.

3. Since this whole aphorism is meant to cover the advisability of ‘changing your mind’, one way to avert the supposed dilemma is not to be so quick to make up your mind so readily in the first place. Note that in (2a) and (2c) above the real problem was that you were indeed wrong to think the thing was a ‘fact’. If you hadn’t made up your mind on the basis of that erroneous ‘fact’ you wouldn’t now be in a position to have to ‘change your mind’ in the first place. Essentially, a little humility and intellectual honesty here goes a long way: much of the time we don’t have solid reason to think the things we think are ‘facts’ really are facts. This seems like it should be especially true of people who are going around thinking ‘facts changed’ all the time.

4. You might think I’m off base because the aphorism is meant to cover inherently time-dependent facts, like (oh say) the unemployment rate. The unemployment rate was X at time 1 and now it’s Y at time 2. Sure, that’s a ‘fact’ that changed.

5. This point doesn’t really rescue the aphorism though. Possibly, the earlier ‘fact’ that has now changed had so much error-bars around it that you shouldn’t have been so secure in even thinking it a ‘fact’ in the first place. Unemplyment wasn’t X, it was somewhere in [X-E,X+E]. It’s also often problematic to work off of theories that are so non-robust and data-dependent: What exactly is the thing you had made up your mind about so concretely at time 1 on the basis of unemployment being X that now is undermined if unemployment is Y? How can that have been a good theory on which to make up your mind?

6. Better theories will contemplate the full spectrum of possibilities here: that the ‘fact’ in question could be either X or Y, at different times, depending on [stuff]. But when you’re working off such a theory you don’t have to ‘change your mind’ when the thing changes from X to Y, your theory covers that possibility, you just update the inputs to it.

All of these considerations point in the direction of having some humility before interpreting and relying on ‘facts’ so readily to ‘make up your mind’. If you do that, you don’t have a made-up mind to ‘change’ later when facts ‘change’. Someone who does ostentatiously ‘change his mind when the facts change’ is therefore telegraphing that he showed no such humility earlier. I don’t see this as praiseworthy. Person 2 above is right to tease/I-told-you-so in response, and the gushing overflowing praise from Smart Person 3 is almost certainly unwarranted.


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