Chesterton spinning in his grave

I have watched a bit of the new Father Brown series. It is pretty awful. "Based on" a character from GK Chesterton, a man who wrote Orthodoxy, this version is a woolly-minded progressive Who is constantly telling people not to be "judgemental" and suggesting that suicide is not really a sin.

But the writers can't even get elementary facts correct when they are trying to show off their intellectual bona fides. In one episode a character quotes Confucius, and says, "you know: Buddhism." (The character is supposed to be an expert who studies these things seriously.) In another episode, a father is criticizing his teenage daughter's reading. He says, "at your age, I was reading Rousseau and Derrida."

The show is supposed to be set in the early 1950s. The father himself looks to be 50-something. And Derrida was born in 1930.

So the father must have been reading Derrida about 10 years before that writer was born. Which is fairly prescient of the dad.

Private property in the means of production...

is aggression.

According to socialists.

This makes the point that libertarians (reasonably) can't just claim aggression and shut down the discussion: other people have other definitions of aggression.

(H/T to Samson Corwell for the link.)

NOTE: I disagree with socialists here. But this shows that one's notion of aggression needs to be argued for, not simply asserted.

Annoying the user

I typed my card number 3 times before I realized that the programmer who wrote the code for the site I was on actually demands spaces in the card number! This is incredibly lazy programming: any format should be OK that contains the correct numbers. It can be converted to any other format with one line of code.

So then I typed the number with spaces... and was told "Maximum authorization attempts exceeded"! Why let me try again, when I was already at the limit?!

There should be a message saying "That was your last attempt" after attempt three, not one that says "Ha ha! We let you try one more time, even though we knew we weren't going to accept it!" after attempt four.

Measuring in Listerines

I keep a bottle of Listerine in my desk drawer. (Hey, you do need something to kill the smell of the whiskey, don't you?)

Sometimes I bring it to the bathroom with me, but tonight, it was late, I just took a mouthful at my desk, and then got up to walk to the bathroom to spit it out.

In doing so, I realize that the bathroom is just about one full Listerine from my office, where "a Listerine" is the maximum distance you can walk with a mouthful of Listerine before it burned so badly that you just spit it out wherever you are. So you could tell someone, "Don't put that Listerine in your mouth here: the bathroom is at least three Listerines away! You're going to wind up spitting that stuff out right outside the CEO's office door."

Lions are not better than tigers

Nor are tigers better than lions.

But they are also not equal, not in the sense of equal as "the same." If you need a pack hunter to bring down very big game, you'd better hire the lions. Need a stealth hunter to sneak up on something alone? Get your self a tiger.

Some people might misread my post on sports performance as implying that men are "better" than women. (In fact, progressive ideologues will want to misread it that way, so they can hurl accusations of "misogyny," because that is how they silence opposition.)

Well, men are better... weight lifters, on average. And "better" serial killers, and genocidal maniacs, and better rapists. None of the last three are at all good things to be better at.

Men and women are equally children of God. But very different children.

Adopting Methodological Individualism...

is like poking out one of your eyes, and then telling everyone that you see no evidence of depth in the world around you.

A methodological individualist mistake

I was just told that because individuals in a nation have diverse interests, the "national interest" does not exist: I was trying to "homogenize" these different groups and treat them as if all of their interests were identical.

As pointed out many times here before, methodological individualism is nonsense, and pernicious nonsense to boot: it leads smart people to say silly things like the above.

Not every cell in my body needs to benefit from a course of action for that course of action to be in my self interest. My foot may need to be amputated for me to survive, but this is very bad for the cells in my foot. (They might have lived another month if left attached, but now they die immediately after the operation.) The interest of cancer cells in my body may run directly against the survival of my body.

Not every player on a sports team needs to benefit from a course of action for that action to be in the team's interest. Benching Callahan might be the best thing for the team, even if it signals that Callahan's career is over.

The people in a corporation may be there for a wide variety of reasons. Some of them may be corporate saboteurs. And many of them may be there just to get a paycheck, and not care at all about the survival of the corporation beyond the last day they are going to work there. Nevertheless, we can still reasonably talk about what is in the interest of the corporation: whatever helps the corporation to survive and become stronger is in its interest.

It is no different with the nation: that which promotes the survival of France as an entity is in France's interest, and that which retards that survival runs against its interest. It makes no difference at all that there may be many residents of France who are indifferent to its survival, or even wish it to disappear. (No difference at all in determining what is in France's interest: of course, if a lot of people inside France want France to disappear, it will have a harder time surviving!)

How to keep your init files on GitHub

I puzzled over this for a little while before figuring out a good approach: create a hard link from your .vimrc, .bashrc, etc. to a repo for all of your inits (mine is InitFiles: Then check in these hard-linked files.

You will have to recreate the hard links on every machine you want to update from this repo.

But then, that's it! You edit your init files on the machine you are on, push the changes to the repo, and then pull the changes down to your other machines. Your /home/yourname/.bashrc simply is the same file as InitFiles/.bashrc, and you are good to go!

The marginal efficiency of Russell Westbrook

Today he went 10 for 28 (35.7%), while his team mates shot 32 for 57 (56.1%).

Economic logc would seem to indicate that the Thunder are leaving a huge gain in point output on the table, by failing to shift shot production from an area with lower marginal yield (Westbrook shoots) to one with higher marginal yield, e.g., Steve Adams (80% tonight) shoots. (FYI, these stats, while extreme, are not a one-game anomaly: for the season Westbrook shot 42% while Adams shot 57%.)

Why doesn't this shift occur? Is it that Westbrook is such a valuable player in other ways that the coach does not want to put him into a funk by demanding to shoot less? Other explanations?

You Won't Believe Who Kevin Durant Is Reportedly Dating

I saw this headline today. Well, if you tell me "you won't believe who Kevin Durant is dating"... that might be true. If I found out, for instance, that he was dating Theresa May, I would be very surprised.

But once you add in the word "reportedly," then statements of the class "You won't believe the X is reportedly dating Y" are false for all possible values of X and Y. If you tell me "Donald Trump is dating Beyoncé," I will find that very difficult to believe. But if you tell me that somewhere, someone is reporting that Donald Trump is dating Beyoncé, I will just shrug my shoulders, and say "Of course."

The fable of our time

Is the emperor's new clothes. It can be applied again and again and again.

All over our culture today, we see ideological constructs that are clearly illusory (the emperor is actually naked), but for which the illusion is sustained by the threat of reputational destruction for anyone who states the obvious.

I will give you one example of what I mean, and you can generate many more yourself. Consider the barrage of ads that have been showing this winter and spring, claiming things like "sports knows no gender."

Applying this principle, the US women's soccer team talked about going on strike, because although they were doing "equal work" to the men, they were getting paid less.

Well, that same women's team just lost to a JV high school boys team by a score of 5-2. So the very best women's team in the world just lost to a group of 14-year-old boys from a single high school!

Clearly, far from being equal to the best male players in the world, the very best female players in the world would have great difficulty in making a top-notch boys high school team. I would guess that not a single one of them could make a decent Division One men's university team.

So how could anyone possibly believe all these advertisements? It is like advertisements were claiming that the average American is 20 feet tall, or were selling you dirt, telling you it is a tasty and nutritious food.

Well, they work, because to question the illusion at all is to invite utter social condemnation. Just the way the illusion that the emperor had a grand new suit of clothes on was maintained.

Bad vinegar?

My distilled vinegar says it is only good until January 28, 2021.

What happens after that? Does it turn to wine?

What is the scientific basis for Halal?

I was looking up the rules for Halal food, because I was cooking for a Muslim student of mine. One of the things I found online was frequent questions, from Muslims, along the lines of the title of this post.

This just goes to show how deeply scientism has infected the entire world culture. Why in the world would some religious dietary restrictions need a "scientific" basis? Isn't the fact "God told us not to eat this" enough?

And if you're eating a certain way because you're convinced of the health effects of eating that way, than you are no longer doing it for a religious purpose!

A Peasant Surprise

"When peasants in developing countries lose their direct access to land and the means of production, and become reliant on markets for food, land, and wage labour, they can actually become more dependent and even more vulnerable than they would have been in a peasant society with limited market influence..." -- Bas van Bavel, The Invisible Hand?, p. 6

PS -- Apple voice recognition rendered the previous text as "Bas van Bavel and the invisible hand." This suggests a new series of Harry Potter novels, e.g.:

Harry Potter and the tragedy of the commons
Harry Potter and the prisoner's dilemma
Harry Potter and the paradox of thrift
Harry Potter and the fable of the bees


COBOL woes

The language won't die, but that doesn't mean the programmers won't!

Funny quote:

'"Just because a language is 50 years old, doesn't mean that it isn't good," said Donna Dillenberger, an IBM Fellow.'

Right Donna: it's the fact that COBOL sucks that means it isn't good, not the fact that it is old.

The Clinton Foundation is old hat

"The Iraqi elites started to immobilize their wealth in waqfs, or religious and charitable foundations, partly in order to shield it from taxation by the state. The waqf, as an unincorporated and inalienable trust, appeared on the stage around the mid-eighth century and grew in importance by the ninth century, especially in Iraq... A major motive for the foundation of a waqf was the wish to serve a religious, charitable, or public purpose... For the founder, some additional advantages of using this instrument was that he could appoint himself as an administrator of the waqf, he could set his own salary to be paid out of the waqf's funds, he could nominate relatives to positions paid for by the waqf, And he could designate his children as his successors. This last advantage help to circumvent the Islamic inheritance laws… What the same time he could shield the family property from taxation by public authorities." Bas van Bavel, The Invisible Hand?, p. 76

It will be an integer, between -1 and 1

Those frustrating times when we think of the perfect comeback, but too late:

Bryan Caplan was presenting at the NYU colloquium on market processes. His paper relied on a notion of "rationality" that certainly could not pass philosophical muster.

In attempting to show the weakness of his notion of rationality, I commented, "Let us say that someone is working on the assumption that the Bible is the revealed word of God. Wouldn't it be rational for that person to act differently than your 'rational actor' would act?" (I was trying to point out that his notion of rationality could not rationally defend its own assumptions, and that given different assumptions, what constituted a rational action might appear quite differently.)

He responded, "What, we should pay attention to some book written thousands of years ago by some desert shepherds?" (I quote from memory.)

Let me note that Professor Israel Kirzner was sitting next to me in the room at the time Bryan said this. Caplan surely knew that Kirzner is an orthodox rabbi, so his response was pretty much a slap in Kirzner's face. I think I was too flummoxed by the degree of disrespect Caplan showed (to a much greater thinker than himself) to respond as I should have:

"Gee, Bryan, 2500 years from now, how many people do you think will be reading your work?"

The answer is in the post title.

More on liberal "tolerance"

Liberal say they are "tolerant of everyone but the intolerant."

By "the intolerant" they mean "non-liberals."

In other words, liberals will tolerate… other liberals!

How accommodating of them.

The Invisible Hand?

My latest review assignment is The Invisible Hand? by Bas van Bavel. Here is the main thesis:

"the rise and dominance of markets for land, labour, and capital are self-undermining, as... feedback mechanisms results in welfare declining again and markets losing their quality in facilitating successful and rapid exchange, with a relative or even absolute downfall of the market economy in question." (pg. 2)

Market-dominated societies have arisen before, and they always self-destruct, and in the same way, and for the same reason: they are fundamentally anti-human.

So let's try it again!

Our line-up for Critics of Rationalism

BSing with phony precision

The problem with the claim that every H1B visa creates 1.83 new American jobs is the absurd precision with which this result is put forward. We are dealing with a topic of vast complexity, where a myriad of causal factors are interacting to produce the observed outcome, and for which we have no control group and no ability to do repeated experiments using a controlled environment.

"But we used the most sophisticated statistical techniques to produce our result!" the researchers might respond. Very amusing: I guarantee that, with the same data set, an anti-H1B visa group could produce a study that "proves" that for each H1B visa issued, .794321 American jobs are lost.

"1.83" is an attempt to snow the reader with precision: "Wow, if they can cite the number to 2 decimal places, they must really know what they are saying!"

Here is a claim I would be willing to believe: "Based on our research, we are pretty sure that each H1B visa issued creates between one and three new American jobs."

Never have so many

packed so much stupidity into such a small amount of video:

Philodoxers versus philosophers

Plato may a very important distinction between philosophers and philodoxers. A philosopher is a lover of wisdom (σοφια). He tries to align his views with what is true. As such, the philosopher is always engaged in a search (ζετεσισ), since he realizes that he has views are never as true as they could be. We will see him continually updating and revising his views as he comes to see the truth more fully.

The philodoxer, on the hand, is a lover of appearances (δοχα). The philodoxer doesn't care about being good; the philodoxer cares about appearing good, in the opinion of others. The philodoxer doesn't care if his opinions are true; he cares about whether others will approve of his opinions. (I recently had a philodoxer, on hearing what I thought about some topics, respond, "I don't see how you can get on in the modern world with those views!" He had no interest in whether what I said was true; it was enough for him to know my views are unpopular, and for him that was a fully sufficient reason to reject them.)

To the philodoxer, the philosopher's search appears senseless: it is easy to tell which set of views will make one popular with this faction or that faction: what one has to do is simply pick one's faction, and then adopt that faction's approved views. The idea that the philosopher is continually making progress towards the truth precisely by continually updating his views is simply beyond the horizon of the philodoxer: in the end, such a procedure is only sure to make the philosopher unpopular with every faction, since to the extent he agrees with some faction on some point, the agreement is provisional and not based on "being a part of the tribe." Since the philodoxer evaluates his views based on how much others approve of those views, the search for truth appears like a senseless flitting about in a search for approval from one group after another.

Why Liberalism Failed

I'll be reviewing Patrick Deneen's book with that title for The American Conservative.

Of course, by "liberalism," Deneen does not mean the term in the way the American press uses it, to describe Democrats. He is using the standard meaning from political theory, in terms of which both major American parties (and most minor parties) are thoroughly liberal.

What I wish to note here is that the title of Deneen's book is correct: liberalism has already failed. We do not need to predict its failure: its collapse is visible all around us, to anyone not blinded by wishful thinking. And it had to fail, since at its core it is based on a false anthropology, making it a fundamentally anti-human view.

"Each H1B Visa...

produces 1.83 new American jobs."

I saw an article asserting the above. There is a huge problem here: what is it?

UPDATE: Most people are philodoxers; their immediate reaction to a study is not to ask whether it is true or not, but to see if the approve of its findings.

But if this is the way you are looking at the above sentence, it is going to completely blind you to the terrible problem sticking out like a randy, drunk man in a convent choir. Because that problem has nothing to do with whether H1B Visas are good for the country or not.

I will post the answer a little later today.

Is this a new app?

I was in the men's room at school. Someone was in one of the stalls. As I was washing my hands, from inside the stall I heard the person's phone say:

"You're all set! Let's go!"

Has someone released a "let me know if the paperwork is done" app?

Is it racist to say this?

If American culture is to be revived, the revival will come from our African-American population.

I think this whenever I see a sporting event, and a black athlete is interviewed, and ends the interview by saying, "All honor to God." And I see that quite often.

The Democrats' Immigration Strategy

My democratic friends strongly reject any policy involving expelling or punishing illegal immigrants.

But when I ask them, "So, you are in favor of open borders?" they recoil with horror: "Of course not! That is just a fringe position."

And they also strenuously object to any attempt to check legal voting status when elections are held.

I admire open-border libertarians (although I think they are wrong) much more than these conniving bastards: these people want lots of angry, easily exploitable people in the United States, and then want to make sure no one can block them from voting, because they are certain that such a population will be a continual source of votes for Democrats.

I.e., lots of garment district sweatshops or sex-slave massage parlors = lots of votes for Democrats, so those things are A-OK!

Suicide amongst the "trans-gendered"

The attempted suicide rate is enormous.

The politically correct explanation is that "discrimination" explains this high suicide rate.

Does anyone really think that men who want to be women or vice-versa really face harsher discrimination than, say, did African-Americans in the American South up until the last few decades? And did 40% of African-Americans try to commit suicide as a result of that extremely harsh regime of discrimination they experienced?

No, folks, the explanation for this high suicide rate is quite obvious, and staring us in the face.

No Christian (or Buddhist, etc.) should hate someone who is suffering confusion about who they are. We should help them through their confusion.

The politically correct attitude has nothing to do with helping these people. Progressives are using these troubled people as a battering ram against all traditional religions.