Quotulatiousness

April 14, 2017

QotD: How to negotiate

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

All negotiations are defined by something called the ZOPA: the Zone of Possible Agreement. The boundaries of that zone are defined by another buzzword, the BATNA: the best alternative to negotiated agreement.

The ultimate deal has to be better for both sides than their BATNA. Anything that either side considers worse than no deal at all is outside of the ZOPA, and no amount of strategery is going to get you there. Getting rid of Social Security and Medicare: outside of the ZOPA. Raising tax rates to Danish levels: outside of the ZOPA. Single-payer health care: outside of the ZOPA. Defunding Planned Parenthood: outside of the current ZOPA.

Is the ZOPA fixed? Nope. If a Republican president were in the White House, and a few more Republicans were in the Senate, defunding Planned Parenthood might well be feasible. The massacre at Newtown moved the ZOPA on gun control leftward. The financial crisis made all sorts of previously unthinkable things — like TARP and a nearly $900 billion stimulus bill — eminently feasible. The ZOPA moves all the time, which is why we’re no longer debating the free and unlimited coinage of silver at a ratio of 16 to 1.

But note that these movements didn’t come from some sort of deft negotiation strategy. They came from external events that changed the BATNA of one side or the other. Note too that even though the ZOPA had shifted in his favor, President Obama lost on gun control because he included an assault weapons ban in his list of demands as a bargaining chip, and the other side decided to walk away instead of negotiating a deal.

How did this happen? Because the bargaining chips you include send signals about your intent, and how serious you are about negotiating — and they can therefore change the facts on the ground in ways that hurt you rather than help you.

Imagine that you tried negotiating for a car by announcing that you intended to pay no more than $2,400 for a fully-loaded new truck. Would this improve your bargaining position? Of course not; the salesman would decide that you were wasting his time, and go find another customer. Similarly, if the car salesman announced that he wanted $100,000 for a well-used Camry, that wouldn’t make you more willing to pay $30,000 for it; it would make you go seek a dealer who wasn’t obviously crazy.

Megan McArdle, “Let’s See What Republicans Learn From Losing Boehner”, Bloomberg View, 2015-09-25.

April 13, 2017

QotD: Soviet statistics

Filed under: Europe, History, Quotations — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Being a correspondent in Moscow, I found, was, in itself, easy enough. The Soviet press was the only source of news; nothing happened or was said until it was reported in the newspapers. So all I had to do was go through the papers, pick out any item that might be interesting to readers of the Guardian, dish it up in a suitable form, get it passed by the censor at the Press Department, and hand it in at the telegraph office for dispatch. One might, if in a conscientious mood, embellish the item a little … sow in a little local colour, blow it up a little, or render it down a little according to the exigencies of the new situation. The original item itself was almost certainly untrue or grotesquely distorted. One’s own deviations, therefore, seemed to matter little, only amounting to further falsifying what was already false.

This bizarre fantasy was very costly and elaborate and earnestly promoted. Something gets published in Pravda; say, that the Soviet Union has a bumper wheat harvest – so many poods per hectare. There is no means of checking; the Press Department men don’t know, and anyone who does is far, far removed from the attentions of foreign journalists. Soviet statistics have always been almost entirely fanciful, though not the less seriously regarded fro that. When the Germans occupied Kiev in the 1939-45 war they got hold of a master Five Year Plan, showing what had really been produced and where. Needless to say, it was quite different from the published figures. This in no way affected credulity about such figures subsequently, as put out in Russia, or even in China.

Malcolm Muggeridge, Chronicles of Wasted Time, 2006.

April 12, 2017

QotD: Different interpretations of cause and effect

Filed under: Africa, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

On December 8, 1979 two Zairean air-force jets approached the airport in Kinshasa, the capital what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The tower radioed the pilots, telling them they couldn’t land; the air-traffic controllers were concerned about low visibility.

But when the pilots were told that they “couldn’t land,” they didn’t think, “I can’t land right now,” they thought, “I can’t land, ever.” So they ejected from their planes, letting two perfectly good Mirage jets crash into the Atlantic Ocean.

These men weren’t fools. Idiots don’t fly jets. It’s just that, for an instant, they were thinking according to an entirely different set of rules about how life works. “Can’t” means “never, ever, possible” according to these rules — not “wait an hour,” or “find a different runway.” And so they hit the eject button.

Longtime readers may recall I got this story from a great book, David Lamb’s The Africans. Lamb went on to observe that many Africans have a slightly different interpretation of cause and effect. In the West, the lesson the average person would take from a near-fatal car crash at high speeds on a hairpin turn would be “Man, that was close. I better not try that again.” But in Africa, Lamb writes, “if an oncoming car has to swerve off the road to avoid his vehicle, and there are no collisions or injuries, the African does not say, ‘Next time I’d better not do that.’”

I’ve heard similar stories about drivers throughout the developing world, particularly in Latin America, where traffic accidents and fatalities are much higher than in more advanced nations — even though the rate of car ownership is much lower.

Jonah Goldberg, “Is Trump Really the Anti-PC Warrior His Fans Make Him Out to Be?”, National Review, 2015-08-15.

April 11, 2017

QotD: The great American humourists

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

The great American humorists have something in common: hatred.

H. L. Mencken and Mark Twain both could be uproariously funny and charming — and Twain could be tender from time to time, though Mencken could not or would not — but at the bottom of each man’s deep well of humor was a brackish and sour reserve of hatred, for this country, for its institutions, and for its people. Neither man could forgive Americans for being provincial, backward, bigoted, anti-intellectual, floridly religious, or for any of the other real or imagined defects located in the American character.

Historical context matters, of course. As Edmund Burke said, “To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely.” Twain was born in 1835, and there was much that was detestable in the America of Tom Sawyer. Mencken, at the age of nine, read Huckleberry Finn and experienced a literary and intellectual awakening — “the most stupendous event in my life,” he called it — and followed a similar path. Both men were cranks: Twain with his premonitions and parapsychology, Mencken with his “Prejudices” and his evangelical atheism. He might have been referring to himself when he wrote: “There are men so philosophical that they can see humor in their own toothaches. But there has never lived a man so philosophical that he could see the toothache in his own humor.”

The debunking mentality is prevalent in both men’s writing, a genuine fervor to knock the United States and its people down a peg or two. For Twain, America was slavery and the oppression of African Americans. For Mencken, the representative American experience was the Scopes trial, with its greasy Christian fundamentalists and arguments designed to appeal to the “prehensile moron,” his description of the typical American farmer. The debunking mind is typical of the American Left, which feels itself compelled to rewrite every episode in history in such a way as to put black hats on the heads of any and all American heroes: Jefferson? Slave-owning rapist. Lincoln? Not really all that enlightened on race. Saving the world from the Nazis? Sure, but what about the internment of the Japanese? Etc. “It was wonderful to find America,” Twain wrote. “But it would have been more wonderful to miss it.”

Kevin D. Williamson, “Bitter Laughter: Humor and the politics of hate”, National Review, 2016-08-11.

April 10, 2017

QotD: Noblesse Oblige, pre-teens, and teenagers

Filed under: Europe, Liberty, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

This – ah – female privilege of course established “the way girls fight” usually underhanded, and without the adult noticing. Pinches, kicks to the ankle (my poor male friends in middle school) and also gossip and character destruction and other, less physical means of retaliation.

Because women are still human and will still fight.

But by middle school, we had it well established. A boy understood he would take whatever the girl dished out physically, if a girl were so uncouth as to hit him, and treat it as a joke. (And by that time they were that much stronger – thanks to testosterone – that they could do that, in most cases.) The girl in turn knew if she’d hit a boy, short of self-defense in a dark classroom, where he ambushed her, thereby putting himself beyond the protection of social rules, she’d committed a social sin and broken a major unspoken rule.

This kept fist fights between the sexes from happening. And most girls, though they might character assassinate one another, had learned to keep the boys out of it, because they weren’t adroit in the art and therefore were as vulnerable to that type of war as women to punches.

Or to put it another way, as the good professor says, “Chivalry imposed obligations upon both sexes.” And it can’t continue when one breaks the compact. The same way that other imbalances of power in society can’t continue unless both parts play by the rules.

When one part forgets the rules, they don’t leave the peasants enough to live on, and the peasants chop their necks off.

Look, I’m a libertarian and in the US. I believe all men and women should be equal under the law. But you can’t eliminate imbalances of power unless you stop being human. Communism fails, in large measure, because it wants to eliminate imbalances of power completely by making humans into something different. They believe they can shape a social ape into something more like ants or bees (don’t argue. Yeah, they do want to have rulers. One ruler over faceless millions. Because someone has to enforce equality. Yes, I know about the myth of the vanishing state.) Hence the myth of the homo Sovieticus, the selfless, perfectly acting man who would emerge once the distortions of capitalism were removed from the “natural” man who was of course a Rousseaunian noble savage. No, I don’t believe it. No one should believe it. The rejects of that culling program have filled a hundred million graves and bid fair to fill more. Because Rousseau was wrong and the mythology of communism is a hot and sticky repulsive mess.

Some people will always be taller, larger, stronger. Some will be smarter. Some will, for whatever reason like “my ancestors got here earlier” have the advantage of a better adaption to the society they live in.

I, for instance, got both sides of the noblesse oblige speech because I was taller than most of my male teachers by 13, and probably stronger too. It took. Sort of. I knew how to subdue a badly acting male without hitting him by the time I was 20, and only psychopaths did not respond. (And for those there was hitting, hence the weaponized umbrella.)

Because I WAS a walking imbalance of power, frankly.

Noblesse oblige is needed to keep things from coming to extremes.

Sarah Hoyt, “Noblesse Oblige and Mare’s Nests”, According to Hoyt, 2015-05-05.

April 9, 2017

QotD: Re-assessing the pulp era’s racism

Filed under: Asia, Books, History, India, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The skepticism I’m now developing about ascriptions of racism in pulp fiction really began, I think, when I learned that it had become fashionable to denigrate Rudyard Kipling’s Kim and other India stories as racist. This is clearly sloppy thinking at work. Kim was deeply respectful of its non-European characters, especially the Pathan swashbuckler Mahbub Ali and Teshoo Lama. Indeed, the wisdom and compassion of Kipling’s lama impressed me so greatly as a child that I think it founded my lifelong interest in and sympathy with Buddhism.

But I didn’t begin thinking really critically about race in pulp fiction until I read Tarzan and the Castaways a few years ago and noticed something curious about the way Burroughs and his characters used the adjective “white” (applied to people). That is: while it appeared on the surface to be a racial distinction, it was actually a culturist one. In Burroughs’s terms of reference (at least as of 1939), “white” is actually code for “civilized”; the distinction between “civilized” and “savage” is actually more important than white/nonwhite, and non-Europeans can become constructively “white” by exhibiting civilized virtues.

Realizing this caused me to review my assumptions about racial attitudes in Burroughs’s time. I found myself asking whether the use of “white” as code for “civilized” was prejudice or pragmatism. Because there was this about Burrough’s European characters: (1) in their normal environments, the correlation between “civilized” and “white” would have been pretty strong, and (2) none of them seemed to have any trouble treating nonwhite but civilized characters with respect. In fact, in Burroughs’s fiction, fair dealing with characters who are black, brown, green, red, or gorilla-furred is the most consistent virtue of the white gentleman.

I concluded that, given the information available to a typical European in 1939, it might very well be that using “white” as code for “civilized” was pragmatically reasonable, and that the reflex we have today of ascribing all racially-correlated labels to actually racist beliefs is actually unfair to Burroughs and his characters!

Eric S. Raymond, “Reading racism into pulp fiction”, Armed and Dangerous, 2010-01-18.

April 8, 2017

QotD: “Fake perfection” in woodworking

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

After the 2016 election, I did what every sane American did: I eliminated the annoying people from my social media feeds on both the left and the right who had become singularly obsessed with politics. And then I took another healthy step: I eliminated feeds from the “fake perfectionists.”

Who are the “fake perfectionists?” You probably know them. They are the people who post beautiful photos of their work on social media and never seem to experience a single glitch. And, in the cases of schools with “fake perfectionist” feeds, they crow about the beauty, detail and perfection of the work being taught there.

To which I say: Hogwash.

Woodworking is about failure. In fact, I consider successful projects to be ones that simply endured less failure than usual. Stuff goes awry. Wood chips out. Table legs go into the burn pile. If you aren’t making errors – of the hand or of the mind – you are a robot and need to have your firmware downgraded.

Christopher Schwarz, “Failing Daily Since 1993”, The Christopher Schwarz Blog, 2017-03-16.

April 7, 2017

QotD: You may not have to be crazy to be President, but it helps

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

Does Mr. Trump really have serious psychiatric problems as increasing numbers of shrinks are suggesting?

Since in their DSM-5 [PDF] (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition), the Mental Health Guild has classified just about every possible combination of human emotion and behavior as a psychiatric disorder, they can certainly find Mr. Trump — along with the rest of us — has conditions they would gladly treat but not necessarily cure. For a nice fee, of course.

They suggest he’s grandiose, antisocial, narcissistic, and paranoid etc. And, since an Australian study found that 1 in 5 CEOs are psychopaths, we can probably add that and/or “sociopath” to the list.

And they say he’s deceitful and tells lies, so far, at least 129 of ’em. And counting. Well, DUH! That IS how politicians get elected after all. And most of the folks who manage to get a shot at the position are quite accomplished at it.

Bill Clinton was notable, and his wife is no slouch. Obama was quite slick at it and Dubya & Company told 935 thoroughly documented whoppers to get “us” to attack, kill, maim, and displace hundreds-of-thousands of innocent Iraqi men, women and children. Etc.

So, since as POTUS (President Of The United States), Mr. Trump will almost certainly be responsible for killing, etc. large numbers of innocent folks, being a bit of a sociopath — maybe even a psychopath — will help. And to feel better about it — and possibly avoid PTSD — he can follow previous Presidents and call most of those innocent victims “collateral damage” instead of “murder victims.”

The bottom line is that to serve as president, sociopathy etc. has become helpful and lying is necessary. As Historian Zinn put it, “If governments told the truth, they wouldn’t last very long.”

L. Reichard White, “Is Trump Nuts? Does it Matter?”, Libertarian Enterprise, 2017-03-26.

April 6, 2017

QotD: The “real” “synergies” of corporate mergers

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

There can be a few factors behind consolidation. For example, massive economies of scale. Or … well, I’m afraid this is a bit delicate, but I can’t let it go unmentioned: Industries consolidate to reduce the number of players in the market, giving the remaining players more pricing power. Antitrust regulators tend to put on their big frowny face if companies cite the latter reason, so the public statements made by companies in consolidating industries tend to focus on more superficially attractive reasons like cost savings and “broader industry reach,” or more ethereally vague words like “synergies.”

True to form, Anthem is claiming that nearly $2 billion in synergy savings will be realized by the merged entities. This is probably true, to some extent. But you should keep in mind that mergers are themselves extremely costly. And I don’t just mean the fabulous fees that investment bankers and consultants collect to facilitate them. Joining two entities into one is really difficult: Corporate cultures clash, turf wars damage morale and profits, IT systems never do work right together, key employees leave, customers are alienated. So in general, these sorts of statements should be taken, not just with a grain of salt, but while sitting next to a salt lick with a big bag of Mr. Salty Pretzels and some cocktail peanuts to wash the whole thing down.

Megan McArdle, “No Wonder Insurers Want to Merge”, Bloomberg View, 2015-07-24.

April 5, 2017

QotD: Sir John Falstaff

Filed under: Britain, History, Media, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

… in the back of my mind always ran the great anti-perfectionist utterance of Sir John Falstaff, Shakespeare’s indelible comic character, in Part 1 of Henry IV: “Banish plump Jack, and banish all the world.” A world of perfect sense and good behavior would be well-nigh intolerable: we need Falstaffs, even if we are not Falstaffian ourselves.

If we were to describe a man as deceitful, drunken, cowardly, dishonest, boastful, unscrupulous, gluttonous, vainglorious, lazy, avaricious, and selfish, we should hardly leave room in him for good qualities. No one would take it as a compliment to be described in this way, and we would avoid a person described in such a fashion. Falstaff was all those things, but probably no character in all literature is better loved. Only Don Quixote can compete; and our love of Falstaff is not despite his roguery but because of it. Certainly we would rather spend an evening in his company than with the totally upright Lord Chief Justice of Part 2 of Henry IV. A world of such rectitude, in which everyone had the justice’s probity, would be better, no doubt: but it would not be much fun.

But there is everything in the fat old knight to repel us also: he is almost certainly dirty, and, as a doctor, I would not have looked forward to performing a physical examination on him. He is so fat that the slightest physical effort causes him to exude greasy sweat. As Prince Hal says, he “lards the lean earth as he walks along.” To enjoy Falstaff, you have to be in a tavern; but the world, for most people, cannot be a giant tavern, and outside that setting, Falstaff is distinctly less amusing.

[…]

When Falstaff toward the end of Part 2 of Henry IV learns from Pistol that the old king is dead and that Prince Hal has succeeded him, he immediately sees his opportunity for the unmerited advancement not only of himself but of his cronies. He knows the worthlessness of the rural magistrate, Robert Shallow, and of the ensign, Pistol, only too well; yet he says: “Master Robert Shallow, choose what office thou wilt in the land, ’tis thine. Pistol, I will double charge thee with dignities.” He gives not a moment’s thought—he is temperamentally incapable of doing so—to the consequences of treating public office as a means only of living perpetually at other people’s expense.

Again, when given the task of raising foot soldiers, Falstaff has no compunction in selling exemptions from service and appropriating to himself the money for arms and equipment, leaving his soldiers ill prepared for the battle and with, as he says, “not a shirt and a half” between them: “I have led my ragamuffins where they are peppered [with shot]. There’s not three of my hundred and fifty left alive.” Falstaff sheds not even a crocodile tear for his lost men; their fate simply does not interest him, once they have served his turn and he has made his profit from having recruited them. Even Doctor Johnson is too indulgent when he says: “It must be observed that he is stained with no enormous or sanguinary crimes, so that his licentiousness is not so offensive but that it may be borne for his mirth.” True, he is not sanguinary as a sadist is sanguinary; but depriving 150 men of the means to fight before a battle that ends in their deaths is no mere peccadillo, either.

Why, then, do we forgive and even still love him? If he had been thin, we might have been much less accommodating of his undoubted vices (Hazlitt, in his essay on Falstaff, emphasized the importance of his fatness). At a time when to be a “stuffed cloak-bag of guts,” as Prince Hal calls him, was unusual and most men were, of necessity, thin, Falstaff’s immense size was a metonym for jollity and good cheer — as fatness still is with Santa Claus. It would not have made sense for Julius Caesar, after noting that “Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look,” to say that such men are well contented. And had Falstaff been slender, he would not have been what Johnson called him, “the prince of perpetual gaiety.”

Falstaff appeals to us because he holds up a distorting mirror to our weaknesses and makes us laugh at them. Falstaff’s dream is that of half of humanity: of luxurious ease and continual pleasure, untroubled by the necessity to work or to do those things that he would rather not do (Falstaff will do anything for money except work for it). There is luxury in time as well as in material possessions, and no figure lives in greater temporal luxury than Falstaff, to whom the concept of punctuality or a timetable would be anathema. Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was — or rather, appeared to be — a kind of Falstaff figure, admired by many, though eventually detested by even more, who seemed to lead an effortless life of merrymaking and who was unafraid of the world’s censure. He was therefore able to say heartless but witty things that the rest of us, cowed by the moral disapproval of others, laughed at under our breaths but would not dare to say ourselves.

Theodore Dalrymple, “Why We Love Falstaff: There is some of Shakespeare’s incorrigible rogue in all of us”, City Journal, 2015-08-16.

April 4, 2017

QotD: The last 30 years of Vikings football

Filed under: Football, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Watching the Vikings the past three decades has been like chronicling an ’80s hair band. It’s been all fun and games except for the times the lead singer got busted and the drummer spontaneously combusted.

For a franchise that has been frequently competitive, the Vikings have rarely experienced what felt like sustainable success.

They were once owned by a Gang of 10 that feuded with the general manager, who was replaced by a non-football executive who wore coach’s shorts and a stopwatch.

Their next owner lived in San Antonio, and, once he realized he couldn’t win big or get a stadium built, stripped the team to make it attractive to new buyers.

Red McCombs sold to Zygi Wilf, whose jagged learning curve led to the hiring of Fran “I know New Mexico Football” Foley and Brad Childress.

Jerry Burns was an elderly coach who would have retired even if he had won a Super Bowl. He gave way to Dennis Green, who collected enemies the way a coffee shop message board collects business cards. Green gave way to Mike Tice, who had never been a coordinator at any level before he became a head coach, and eventually Childress, who saved time by burning bridges before he bothered to build them.

Childress gave way to Leslie Frazier, who served as the asbestos quilt that ownership threw over their constant brushfires, then tossed aside once the flames went out.

The Vikings’ best teams since the mid-’80s have been one-offs: The 1987 team that backed into the playoffs, then won two games with Wade Wilson at quarterback. The 1998 team that resurrected Randall Cunningham. The 2000 team that relied on Daunte Culpepper to outscore a shoddy defense. The 2009 team that hired Brett Favre as a temp. The 2012 team that made the playoffs in Christian Ponder’s lone showing of competence.

The past 30 years of Vikings football have felt like annual acts of desperation. That might be changing.

Jim Souhan, “Vikings finally have the makings for long-term success”, Star Tribune, 2015-09-13.

April 3, 2017

QotD: Female “pacifism”

Filed under: Quotations, Randomness — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I’m really bad at fighting. Oh, not physical fighting, though I suppose I’m bad at that too at this point, since I haven’t been exercising like I used to and I’m not twenty anymore.

And I don’t mean I’m not good at landing metaphorical blows. No. The part I’m bad at is staying angry.

It’s funny, as much as we get accused of “hating” the only things and people I’ve hated are historical people and regimes that have killed millions of their citizens. Yeah, yeah, I hate red and black fascism, aka Nazism and Communism like I hate hell, all Capulets and … well. Not thee. The other things I hate are more things I strongly dislike: Licorice, bad, preachy books, teachers who don’t do their job, cold days. I don’t spend my time sitting around and going “I hate you snow, I do.” I just mumble disconsolately about not being able to walk and my fingers hurting with cold even while inside.

There is on the left this certainty that women are more peaceful than men that I think comes from two things: first the empathy which women have, or at least display more, which is part of raising infants; two women’s inability to stay burning at peak flame and the ability to find excuses for even the worst misdeeds, in order to keep their “tribe” together. What my mom called “Mothers always love the worst child the best.” (I never asked whether this was an admission I’m her favorite.)

This doesn’t mean, mind you, that women are not capable of aggression and war. I’ve said before that having attended an all-girl high school I could tell these people something about women and fighting.

It’s just that when women are bad, they’re very, very bad. They tend to fight in an underhanded way that leaves plausible deniability and the ability to pose as an angel before the world.

Sarah A. Hoyt, “Weaponized Empathy”, According to Hoyt, 2015-09-06.

April 2, 2017

QotD: Gluttony and nutrition

Filed under: Health, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

… in what kind of culinary culture could a product advertise itself, apparently with success, as a Whopper? The answer, of course, is crude and childish. We are almost back to the stage of some of the Stone Age tribes of New Guinea, who, at a feast, eat so much pig meat that they die of acute protein poisoning afterward. Except that we do not have their excuse of living in conditions of food insecurity in which the possibility of feast is very uncommon. Increasingly in our supermarkets it is difficult to find small portions of anything, which is a paradox because more and more of us are living alone and therefore need small portions. But once you have bought more than you need it is tempting to eat it because not to do so seems a waste, though in fact it is just as wasteful, and bad for your health to boot, to eat more than you need or even want as it is to throw it away. We need more self-control in matters of food consumption than ever before, unfortunately just as self-control has been derided as an inherently oppressive or even ridiculous notion.

Not long ago I read a book by Dr. Robert Lustig about the evils of sugar. It was abominably written but came, persuasively enough, to the conclusion that John Yudkin, a professor of nutritional science, came to 40 years ago or more: namely that sugar was the root of all evil (Yudkin’s famous, but also neglected, book had the splendid title Pure, White and Deadly).

Lustig blamed the food companies and government farming subsidies for the epidemic of type 2 diabetes (they are, of course, guilty as charged), but never the people themselves. This is because it is nowadays regarded as proper to blame only the rich and powerful for anything and never “ordinary” people, including the fat: Though where the sins of the rich and powerful come from then becomes a little mysterious unless it is assumed that they are a caste biologically apart from the rest of humanity. However, Lustig does relate the story of a young mother who gave her child a gallon of orange juice a day, with the natural result that the child soon came to resemble a prize pig at Blandings Castle. To explain her strange child-rearing practices the mother told Lustig that the government said that orange juice was good for children, from which she concluded that the more the better. Against stupidity the gods themselves, let alone mere government public health departments, struggle in vain, though in extenuation it must be entered that Linus Pauling, one of the few men ever to win two Nobel Prizes, believed more or less the same thing, and that heroic doses of vitamin C were the path if not quite to immortality, at least to much increased longevity. (I don’t want to sound like an American liberal, but honesty compels me to admit that it will now be very difficult for the fat boy raised on orange juice ever to lose weight, and I doubt that he will ever be slender.)

Theodore Dalrymple, “Gluttons for Punishment”, Taki’s Magazine, 2015-07-25.

April 1, 2017

QotD: Philosophy

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

One quarter of philosophy is about Being; one quarter about Knowing; one quarter about the Being of Knowingness and one quarter about the Knowing of Beingness.

Ace, “Terrific Bill Whittle “Afterburner” Video Essay on The Great Unlearning”, Ace of Spades H.Q., 2015-08-18.

March 31, 2017

QotD: Government as Superman … reality as Kryptonite

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

… politics is all details. And each of those tiny little details has to be endlessly negotiated, because the system is set up precisely to frustrate a powerful guy with a big idea. You may recall your middle school social studies teacher talking about “checks and balances.” This is what that looks like. Kryptonite, if you will.

So there is no shortcut around the long days spent debating whether the tax credit should be 3.45 percent or 3.65 percent, and drafting pages of legislation that amend some obscure subclause of the immigration code to read “that” rather than “which,” and ending up with a middling, pork-riddled program that costs too much and doesn’t do anything close to what its visionary proponents promised.

Governing is not like building a building; it’s not like running a business. It’s like, well, trying to herd three branches of government in roughly the same direction. These branches are composed of thousands of people, each of whom has their own agenda, and represents millions more, each of whom has their own agenda, and will hound out of office anyone who strays too far from it. This is a wildly ponderous and inefficient way to do anything, which is why I am a libertarian; almost anything can be done better when you’re not trying to build it by a committee.

But in a representative democracy, this is what we have. There is no superhero strong enough to overcome the villain. There is actually not even a villain to defeat, only the unslayable amoeboid agglomeration of 300 million citizens’ worth of unenlightened self-interest. In the immortal words of P.J. O’Rourke: “Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy the whores are us.”

Megan McArdle, “Voters Want Change. Candidates Disappoint. Repeat.”, Bloomberg View, 2015-08-21.

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