Quotulatiousness

November 28, 2016

The Liberal Archipelago

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

The New York Times analyzed the voting patterns from the 2016 presidential election and outlined the distinctive areas where Democratic and Republican voters dominated. The Republican map looks mostly like the continental US with a few urban voids, but the Democratic map looks like an elaborate archipelago of islands in a wide open seascape:

the-liberal-archipelago-of-2016

November 26, 2016

The war on science

Filed under: Environment, Health, Politics, Science, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

In City Journal, John Tierney explains why the most serious threats to science come not from the right’s creationist bitter clingers, but from the left’s highly selective “pro (some) science” activism:

I know that sounds strange to Democrats who decry Republican creationists and call themselves the “party of science.” But I’ve done my homework. I’ve read the Left’s indictments, including Chris Mooney’s bestseller, The Republican War on Science. I finished it with the same question about this war that I had at the outset: Where are the casualties?

Where are the scientists who lost their jobs or their funding? What vital research has been corrupted or suppressed? What scientific debate has been silenced? Yes, the book reveals that Republican creationists exist, but they don’t affect the biologists or anthropologists studying evolution. Yes, George W. Bush refused federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, but that hardly put a stop to it (and not much changed after Barack Obama reversed the policy). Mooney rails at scientists and politicians who oppose government policies favored by progressives like himself, but if you’re looking for serious damage to the enterprise of science, he offers only three examples.

All three are in his first chapter, during Mooney’s brief acknowledgment that leftists “here and there” have been guilty of “science abuse.” First, there’s the Left’s opposition to genetically modified foods, which stifled research into what could have been a second Green Revolution to feed Africa. Second, there’s the campaign by animal-rights activists against medical researchers, whose work has already been hampered and would be devastated if the activists succeeded in banning animal experimentation. Third, there’s the resistance in academia to studying the genetic underpinnings of human behavior, which has cut off many social scientists from the recent revolutions in genetics and neuroscience. Each of these abuses is far more significant than anything done by conservatives, and there are plenty of others. The only successful war on science is the one waged by the Left.

November 25, 2016

QotD: Megalothymia, the malady of our age

Filed under: Humour, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

… so many people want to glom onto the moral stature of the civil-rights movement and reenact it for every single American with a grievance (save for conservatives who, like the Civil War re-enactor who’s always forced to play a Confederate, must always be cast as the bad guys). If you take all the people idiotically, reflexively, and sanctimoniously invoking Jim Crow at face value, it’s hard not to conclude they’re reflexive and sanctimonious idiots — or simply dishonest. And while that’s probably true of some, it’s clearly not true of many. Instead, I think you need to see this tendency as a Freudian slip, a statement of yearning, a kind of self-branding or what you (well, probably not you) might call moral megalothymia.

Megalothymia is a term coined by Francis Fukuyama. It’s a common mistake to think Fukuyama simply took Plato’s concept of “thumos” or “thymos” and put a “mega” in front of it because we all know from the Transformers and Toho Productions that “mega” makes everything more cool.

But that’s not the case. Megalothymia is a neologism of megalomania (an obsession with power and the ability to dominate others) and thymos, which Plato defined as the part of the soul concerned with spiritedness, passion, and a desire for recognition and respect.

Fukuyama defined megalothymia as a compulsive need to feel superior to others.

And boy howdy, do we have a problem with megalothymia in America today. Everywhere you look there are moral bullies utterly uninterested in conversation, introspection, or persuasion who are instead hell-bent on grinding down people they don’t like to make themselves feel good. If you took the megalothymia out of Twitter, millions of trolls would throw their smartphones into the ocean.

Make no mistake: This is a problem across the ideological spectrum, because it is a problem of human nature in general and modernity in particular. But in this context, it’s a special malady of elite liberalism.

Jonah Goldberg, “Moral Heroism without Morality”, National Review, 2015-04-03.

November 24, 2016

The Ontario government’s anti-Midas touch in energy projects

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:54

All governments at every level waste money. It’s one of the things that governments do far better than the private sector. Yet the Ontario provincial government takes wasting money to a state of near perfection in their Wolfe Island offshore wind farm dealings:

A few years ago, I took this photo of some of the onshore wind turbines on Wolfe Island. I don't have any photos of the offshore installations, because they haven't been built.

A few years ago, I took this photo of some of the onshore wind turbines on Wolfe Island. I don’t have any photos of the offshore installations, because they haven’t been built.

In 2010, the government of Ontario, keen to jumpstart its green energy sector, signed a 20-year deal to buy 300 megawatts of electricity from turbines that the New York investors behind Windstream agreed to erect.

Things got messy mere months later in February 2011 when the provincial Liberals, fearing they would lose an election, slapped a moratorium on offshore wind projects, none of which had ever been built. Around the same time, Ontario cancelled two unpopular natural gas power plants, a move that cost provincial taxpayers about $1 billion.

After waiting five years to get approval to build their wind turbines, Mars and his group lost their patience.

“I have a group of very high-net-worth individuals who invest across energy and technology,” Mars said in a series of interviews from his office in Manhattan. “The contract remains in force. We would like to either build it or come up with an amicable solution. We have gotten many mixed messages on this.”

They complained to the Permanent Court of Arbitration under Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement. A panel of three arbitrators heard the case in Toronto last February.

“The claimant’s claim that the respondent has failed to accord the claimant’s investments fair and equitable treatment in accordance with international law, contrary to Article 1105 of NAFTA, is granted,” the panel ruled last month.

Police are now apparently probing whether Ontario government employees broke the law when they deleted documents related to the offshore wind project. A source told the Financial Post that Mars will answer police questions in Toronto next week.

So, a billion dollars to cancel two natural gas power plants, then a paltry $28 million that the federal has to pay, as it’s the NAFTA signatory (and the total bill could go up to $568 million or more, with nothing actually being built). As the old saying has it, pretty soon you’re talking real money.

H/T to Ken Mcgregor for the link.

QotD: Black hats and white hats

Filed under: Economics, Government, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

When considering the major failures of recent American governance – the 2008-09 financial crisis, the catastrophe that is U.S. policy in the Mideast – the one thing that any honest-minded person must conclude is: Nobody meant for things to turn out this way. It is impossible to make precise predictions about the effects of government policy; that is the nature of systems characterized by high levels of complexity. It’s one thing to predict that it’ll be colder during the winter, but another thing to predict down to the millimeter how much snow will fall on a particular acre in rural Maine on the third Wednesday in February, which is really what we expect from our public policy.

Classic cowboy movies, in contrast, are not complex at all: The good guys wear white hats, the bad guys wear black hats, all hats remain firmly affixed to all heads at all times, and that’s that. You can pretty much always predict how an old Western is going to turn out.

But that isn’t how the real world works.

On Tuesday, I had a conversation about Elizabeth Warren and Wall Street, pointing out that the popular version of that story – Senator Warren vs. Wall Street – is so oversimplified as to be not merely useless but misleading. The reality is that there are people working on Wall Street who dislike Senator Warren – investors and bankers, mainly – and people who adore her – notably Wall Street lawyers, who are reliable donors to her campaign and to those of other Democrats. My naïve interlocutor said: “Hopefully, it’s the lawyers that fight against Wall Street,” as though there were such a thing, as though there weren’t nice progressive lawyers in Manhattan who jokingly refer to their yachts as the SS Dodd-Frank.

Spend any time writing about this sort of thing and you’ll hear angry and panicked denunciations of derivatives-trading from people who pretty clearly do not know what a derivative is, just as you’ll hear paeans to Glass-Steagall sung by people who don’t understand the difference between a commercial bank and an investment bank, who don’t know how Goldman-Sachs makes its money or what it is that Standard & Poor’s does.

But they’re quite sure they know who is wearing the black hats.

Kevin Williamson, “Black Hats and White Hats”, National Review, 2015-04-15.

November 23, 2016

QotD: The Progressive worldview

Filed under: Government, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:00

In order to understand this, we must first identify what the Progressive worldview is. Boiled down to its simplest, it’s this: “The government can do it better”. Do what? Anything. Individual Progressives might believe that there should be certain limits on what the government should do, but the overall guiding star of the movement is that everything will work better when the government is in charge. It’s nothing more than a Utopian vision: Things aren’t perfect now, but when WE are in charge of them, then we can make them perfect. The fact that perfection is impossible never enters their minds.*

[…]

* I’m taking their stated beliefs at face value, and many of the foot soldiers of the revolution, Lenin’s “useful idiots”, probably do in fact believe that they are working for a “better world”. Most of the leadership behind the Progressive movement is far too smart to believe any such thing. Utopia is just the flashy bling to dazzle the rubes. Their motivations are no different than any other humans. There’s an acronym that identify why people become traitors or spies — MICE — which stands for Money, Ideology, Coercion and Ego. I don’t think it vastly different here, although I’d substitute Power for Coercion in those that seek to be the ruling class.

Weirddave, “Fundamental Concepts – Why the Left Hates Families”, Ace of Spades H.Q., 2015-03-28.

November 22, 2016

ESR – “What if we had a culture war and the other side finally showed up?”

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

ESR posted this on Google+:

Mike Pence gets lectured from on stage at a Hamilton performance on Friday. This [a Trump supporter disrupting a Chicago performance of Hamilton] happens on Monday.

For decades the Left has been routinely trashing the rules of public decorum in in the name of political theater. Because “woke”, and stuff – anything goes to shatter bourgeois complacency.

Welcome to payback time. Me, I would much rather nobody was doing this kind of public disruption. But if it’s going to happen at all, I’d prefer it to be sufficiently universal and obnoxious that we are all incentivized to rediscover a good old-fashioned principle.

That is this: when you’re in a public space, at an event that isn’t explicitly about politics, keep a lid on yours. You’re not special; neither are the Hamilton cast members, or BLM protesters or any other of the Left’s myrmidons.

Until today I wouldn’t have had to say this sort of thing to conservatives, because conservatives didn’t do things like barging en masse into restaurants yelling political slogans. Now that invisible restraint has been broken. There’ll be more of this, much more, before we find a new social equilibrium.

In the meantime…excuse me, I’ll be over here, laughing my ass off at all the leftists who wax indignant at being given a taste of their own medicine.

Several of my friends on the left posted Facebook updates cheering the Hamilton cast and jeering at Pence. A few of them also posted criticism of the Trump supporter’s actions in Chicago. Once you’ve deliberately broken down the etiquette of public performance, you have no right to decry when your opponents also choose to violate decorum and drag politics into your safe spaces. I agree with ESR that both the Hamilton cast and the Trump guy were wrong to do this, and we’d all be better off if both sides agreed to avoid any further disruptions of this kind … but I don’t expect that to happen.

Science, technology, and Il Donalduce

John Tierney on the President-elect’s stated views on science:

What will a Trump administration mean for scientific research and technology?

The good news is that the next president doesn’t seem all that interested in science, judging from the little he said about it during the campaign. That makes a welcome contrast with Barack Obama, who cared far too much — in the wrong way. He politicized science to advance his agenda. His scientific appointees in the White House, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Food and Drug Administration were distinguished by their progressive ideology, not the quality of their research. They used junk science — or no science — to justify misbegotten crusades against dietary salt, trans fats, and electronic cigarettes. They cited phony statistics to spread myths about a gender pay gap and a rape crisis on college campuses. Ignoring mainstream climate scientists, they blamed droughts and storms on global warming and then tried to silence critics who pointed out their mistakes.

Trump has vaguely expressed support for federal funding of R&D in science, medicine, and energy, but he has stressed encouraging innovation in the private sector. His election has left the science establishment aghast. Its members were mostly behind Hillary Clinton, both because they share her politics and because she would continue the programs funded by Obama. Their fears of losing funding are probably overblown — there’s strong support in Congress for R&D — but some of the priorities could change.

Trump has vowed to ignore the Paris international climate agreement that committed the U.S. to reduce greenhouse emissions. That prospect appalls environmentalists but cheers those of us who consider the agreement an enormously expensive way to achieve very little. Trump’s position poses a financial threat to wind-power producers and other green-energy companies that rely on federal subsidies to survive.

November 21, 2016

Creating a bit of actual distance between the President and the press

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

There’s no love lost between the President-elect and the White House press corps. I think enough people would be pleased to see Il Donalduce literally defenestrate the lot of them, but as Jay Currie suggests, moving the press corpse half a mile away from the White House may suffice:

Perhaps it is time for there to be a bit of distance between the President and the Press. Physical distance. Setting up a briefing room and offices for the Press Corps in a basement at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building across the street from the White House would make clear the Press Corps’ status in a Trump Presidency. And a weekly rather than daily briefing would be more than sufficient to cover the routine matters an Administration has to announce. Yes, the media would howl. But so what?

At the moment Trump can get any coverage he wants or needs when he wants or needs it from any number of non-traditional media outlets. Breitbart, Daily Caller, Drudge … Hell, the Daily Mail does a better and less biased job of covering Trump than the US mainstream media.

“Draining the swamp” means more than kicking the lobbyists out of government, it also means breaking up the media cabal which has enabled the swamp to fill up in the first place. Dumping the Press Corps into a basement half a mile from the center of power will make their actual importance very clear.

November 19, 2016

More examples of that “strange new respect” for limiting presidential powers

Filed under: Government, Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

It may have been awkward for Democrats who watched Obama go further, faster than George W. Bush on deportations, surveillance, assassination, and even torture, but they can finally get their groove back on in protesting Donald Trump’s use of exactly the same tools Obama has been using for the last eight years:

Even the extreme legal theories of the George W Bush administration were mild compared to some of the “compromise” positions Obama’s DoJ argued for, and now Donald J Trump gets to use those positions to further its own terrifying agenda of mass deportations, reprisals against the press, torture and assassination, and surveillance based on religious affiliation or ethnic origin.

When it came to things like closing Guantanamo, Obama argued for limits on establishing offshore black-sites and military tribunals, but refused to shut the door on them. So maybe Trump won’t be able to use Gitmo to house the people he has kidnapped by his CIA, but he can use the legal authority that Obama argued for to set up lots of other Guantanamos wherever he likes.

Likewise torture: Obama decided that it was better to move and and bury the CIA torture report, and had his DoJ block any attempt to have torture declared illegal, which would have given people opposing Trump’s torture agenda with a potent legal weapon that is now unavailable to them.

Obama argued that the president should be able to create kill lists of Americans and foreigners who could be assassinated with impunity, and argued against even judicial review of these lists.

Then there’s Obama’s war on whistleblowers — his administration invoked federal law against more whistleblowers than all the other presidents in US history, combined — and his aggressive assertion that journalists have no right to protect their confidential sources. These will be of enormous use to the Trump presidency, which has already promised to use executive powers to persecute hostile journalists who try to hold it to account.

It’s sad that partisans of the current administration can only seem to see the problems in granting the president more powers when those powers are about to be wielded by a president of the other party. A wee bit too late to repent, my friends.

November 18, 2016

“I know that nationalism has broken loose in American politics”

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Colby Cosh ruminates on the US presidential election and wonders if the American civil religion is dying:

To me, Trump’s election indicates a fragmentation of intellectual tendencies in American life. The American political system, thought of as a system, imposes a strong structural requirement for voters to resolve themselves into two parties. During the Cold War, everyone was ordinarily defined, as a voter, by his position on the Cold War. Everything in electoral politics was dove vs. hawk in disguise.

The Cold War ended, and there was no crisis of similar size and urgency to take its place: it looked like the “culture war” would do, but the “clash of civilizations” took centre stage after 9/11, and now … what is the main axis, the statisticians’ “first principal component,” in American politics? What we are witnessing is probably the process of deciding on one. Trump haters and lovers must both admit he cuts across the traditional lines of politics, sometimes with elliptical or even contradictory policy statements.

Nobody is too sure what he is going to do as president. What his voters are sure of is that he stands for a positive attitude toward America, a determination to be explicit about acting on its interests in foreign and immigration policy, and a can-do, businesslike spirit toward practical social difficulties. There is an intellectual tendency on the left, an ultra-progressive tendency that has grown accustomed to a fast-moving wave of social victory, that is only capable of interpreting all this as the pretext for a return of endemic overt racism — the monster they see under every bed. Those progressives are behaving right now, for all the world, like a navel-gazing doomsday cult that has seen its projected Zero Day zoom by without the faithful being lifted into the air.

QotD: The delicate nature of the United States Supreme Court

Filed under: Law, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: — Nicholas @ 01:00

This is first-class flummery: What they really mean is that they will be very angry at the Supreme Court if the case goes against them. This is completely true. It is not completely true that the Supreme Court will somehow destroy itself, or its place in American society, if it offers a ruling that American liberals don’t like. I realize that it may feel this way if you are an American liberal. But if the institution survived Roe v. Wade‘s “emanations and penumbras,” and the sudden discovery after a couple of centuries that capital punishment violated the Constitution, it can certainly survive a narrow statutory case that overturns a still-unpopular program.

To listen to most commentators, the legitimacy of the Supreme Court is a delicate flower. It blooms fiercely whenever the court does something they like — stand by for sonorous pronouncements from these same illegitimacy-mongers that “the highest court in the land has spoken” should the court rule in favor of gay marriage this term. But if it issues a single ruling that they don’t like, then it is a despotic institution mired in bad ideology. These things obviously cannot both be true. If the Supreme Court loses its legitimacy, then its rulings about gay marriage and civil liberties will be exactly as illegitimate as its rulings about Obamacare and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

In fact, all these rulings are well within the scope of a perfectly legitimate court. I may disagree with some of them — hell, I’m still mad about Wickard v. Filburn. But the Constitution and 200 years of legal precedent give the court the power to make these rulings. And frankly, the biggest threat to democracy is not the court; it is commentators declaring that they’re going to take their ball and go home if the institution starts producing rulings they don’t like. Democracy can survive badly reasoned court rulings. It cannot survive a polity, or a policy elite, that thinks support for our institutions is optional, to be withdrawn should the court have the audacity, the sheer unmitigated gall, to stymie that elite’s agenda.

Megan McArdle, “Obamacare Will Not Kill the Supreme Court”, Bloomberg View, 2015-03-04.

November 17, 2016

Remy: Hallelujah (SNL Parody)

Filed under: Humour, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:17

Published on Nov 15, 2016

Remy finds a silver lining in a Trump presidency.

Written and Performed by Remy
Music tracks by Ben Karlstrom
Produced and Edited by Austin Bragg

——–

Lyrics:

I heard the news and i was sad
A crazy man who’ll power grab
He’ll probably bomb countries unapproved, yeah
The debt will double – Won’t abate

He’ll build up the surveillance state
I guess it won’t be all that different, ooh yeah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

He might be so awful, So unhinged
Defense Secretaries leave and then
Imply his White House knows not what to do yeah

He’ll wage a war on whistle-blows
there may be unexpected gropes
He’d be that nightmare
They call “deja vu” yeah

Hallelujah
Hellelujah

He might take the data from our phones
Have citizens killed by flying drones
Mock the disabled oh no we’ll be through yeah
So if you’re mad and on the streets
Concerned about this overreach
Well where’ve you been
It isn’t all that new, yeah

But Hallelujah
Hallelujah

November 16, 2016

Looking back on the “Golden Age” of political satire

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

In Maclean’s, Flannery Dean explains how making politics seem like entertainment may have contributed to the defeat of Hillary Clinton through encouraging apathy among her potential supporters:

The next evening, during his Live Election Night special on Showtime, Colbert quickly lost his taste for the political absurdity that has defined his success. When it was clear Trump’s victory was all but assured, the amiable host couldn’t summon up the heart to tell a joke. Trump as president “is a horrifying prospect,” he confessed. “I can’t put a happy face on that and that is my job.”

Cue the sinking feeling that you didn’t really know what was going on — all this time you thought politics was just a big joke that you shouldn’t take too seriously.

It was a Colonel Kurtz moment for Colbert, his guests, and the audience that had tuned in to be entertained by political humour and not troubled by its complete inadequacy in the face of seismic change.

You can hardly blame them for being caught unaware of the new dark zeitgeist, though. For the past 15 years, satire has become the preferred mode of left-leaning civic engagement. And The Daily Show’s tone — sarcastic, smug, chiding, and then creepily sentimental — has infiltrated mainstream media on TV, in print, and online (take this Nov. 11 story on Slate, for instance, that’s suffused with the adolescent eye-rolling that often accompanies troubling political information these days).

Given satire’s cultural dominance, it is not surprising that many may have naively assumed any real threat to American democracy had somehow been ridiculed into nullity by the likes of Stewart and Colbert, John Oliver, Trevor Noah, Larry Wilmore and Samantha Bee. But Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Rodham Clinton revealed the error of the mainstream faith in political satire as an effective form of political engagement. In reality, our prolonged love affair with cracking wise wasn’t a tonic that shook people out of their apathy — it was a symptom of it.

[…]

“The more liberal you are, the more you see Colbert as a liberal skewering conservatives. But the more conservative you are, the more you see Stephen Colbert as a conservative skewing liberals.”

What did the Left see in Colbert’s murky mirror? Cute and kind of harmless hardliners — wind-up toys for them to play with. It’s hard not to see the mainstream media’s approach to Trump’s candidacy as being tainted by that dynamic: They were entertained by him, but few took him seriously.

That incredulity has legs, unfortunately. Many journalists and thinkers appear to be operating within the old zeitgeist still, assuming American politics is just another genre of entertainment, and that Trump is, at bottom, a soulless entertainer who was only pretending to be a racist, a xenophobe, and a despot in an effort to get elected.

H/T to Colby Cosh for the link.

November 15, 2016

An interview with Andrew Torba, founder of Gab.ai

Filed under: Media, Politics, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

I’ve got an account on Gab.ai, and from my short experience with it, it’s much more than just an alt-right echo chamber (but, as you’d expect, there are lots of alt-right folks there, too). Here’s Lexi Palmieri talking to Mr. Gab himself:

Ray Bradbury once said “There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches.” If you know anything about the social media industry, or “Big Social”, you’ll know that Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg are two such people, with Facebook and Twitter serving as both the book and the match. This isn’t surprising, considering that Silicon Valley employs their own specific bias. From the ashes of the banned speech comes the platform Gab. This week, I was lucky enough to speak with Gab creator, founder, and CEO Mr. Andrew Torba to discuss his platform, his inspirations, and the current state of social networking.

Q: What is Gab’s backstory? What inspired you to create Gab?
T: Prior to Gab I co-founded an ad tech company called Automate Ads. We worked with and built on top of the three Big Social ecosystems of Facebook, Twitter, and Google in Silicon Valley. I was also in Y Combinator’s Winter 2015 batch. After moving to Silicon Valley and working closely with these companies for five years, I got to see the dirty underbelly of how they operate. For years I knew that progressive agendas were being pushed and conservative voices were slowly being shut up. When news broke of the Facebook Trending Topics team member admitting to it at scale, I knew something needed to be done. Shortly after I resigned as CEO from Automate Ads, passing control of the business to my co-founder, and started Gab.

Q: What is your company philosophy/mission statement?
Gab‘s mission is to put people and free speech first. We believe that the only valid form of censorship is a user’s individual choice to opt-out of seeing certain content they don’t want to see. Gab is for everyone. All are welcome on Gab and always will be.

About how big is Gab’s user base right now, and what are your expectations for growth in the next year?
Currently Gab has 50,000 monthly active users from around the world in less than 90 days of being in beta. We have 110,000 people on our waitlist and are sending out thousands of invites every week. We expect this rapid growth to continue and to have millions of users by this time next year.

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