Quotulatiousness

September 14, 2016

“BLM seems to be stuck in a pointless do-loop of disruption and virtue-signalling”

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

Warren Meyer on the attention that the Black Lives Matter movement has drawn, and their apparent problem with deciding on or implementing the next steps:

Well, it appears that Black Lives Matter has moved on to climate activism, or whatever, but has mostly fallen off message on police accountability. Protests in the vague hope of ending racism by closing busy highways and airports and kneeling during the National Anthem are going to get nothing done — the solution to the problems that sparked the BLM movement are to be found in legislative efforts to create better police accountability measures and to roll back a number of egregious protections from accountability that exist in many union contracts. The solution is not to throw blanket hate on police officers, many or most of whom are doing a good job, but to recognize that when we give officers unique powers to use force, they need extra accountability to go with those powers. Today, most police have less accountability for their use of force than you and I do.

Unfortunately, doing that is hard. It is a tough legislative slog that has to go local city by local city, with few national-level shortcuts available. It faces opposition from Conservatives who tend to fetishize police, and from Liberals who are reluctant to challenge a public employees union. And it requires that BLM translate their energy from disruption and attention-grabbing (which they are very good at) to policy and legislation, which they have shown no facility for. They need to be working on model legislation and pushing that down to the local level. This original plan actually looked pretty good, but apparently it has been rejected and gets little or no attention.

As a result, BLM seems to be stuck in a pointless do-loop of disruption and virtue-signalling. I just want to scream at them, “OK, you have our attention — and many of us are sympathetic — what in the hell do you want done?” Unfortunately, their current lists of goals have almost nothing to do with police accountability and appear to be a laundry list of progressive talking points. It appears to be another radical organization that has been jacked by the Democratic establishment to push mainstream Democratic talking points.

Here is a good example, for a number of reasons. In the past, the officer likely would have been believed and the woman might have been convicted of something. I think this happens to people across the racial spectrum, but African-Americans have had a particularly hard time — given both racist perceptions and lack of good counsel — in these he-said-she-said cases with police. Not to mention that African-Americans — for a variety of reasons including racial profiling in things like New York’s stop and frisk program to the tendency of poor black municipalities to fine the crap out of their citizens to generate revenue — come in contact with police disproportionately more often.

September 6, 2016

Could this be a winning strategy for Il Donalduce?

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

Jay Currie suggests a three-part plan that might bring about a Trump victory in November:

First, announce that a Trump administration will decriminalize marijuana.

Second, announce that every single person serving time for marijuana related offences is going to be pardoned on condition that they spend a three month intensive period in a pre-employment boot camp. And announce that, from the day Trump takes office, any criminal record for marijuana offences will be expunged as of right and right now.

Third, commit serious federal resources to creating paths to employment for the people who have either been in jail or who have had criminal records as a result of pot convictions.

You can picture Trump saying, “Let’s bring our kids, and their fathers, home.”

The last twenty years have been about incarcerating black people and Latinos for all sorts of crimes. Some of that is justified, but a lot of it has been felony marijuana arrests which should have been traffic tickets but got bumped because of priors, plea bargains and three strikes laws. It’s time for that to stop.

People’s children, husbands and wives have been sent to prison for a reason that an increasing number of states think is wrong. Washington, Colorado, Oregon and Alaska have legalized recreational pot and the federal government has gone along. Medical marijuana is legal in many other states. More states have either medical marijuana or recreational marijuana on the ballot in November.

The Donald does not have to say pot is a good thing. In fact, if he is smart he will say it is a bad thing and that he does not want any sensible American to use it; but it should not be a criminal thing because, if it is, there will be a disproportionate impact on black, Latino and poor white communities. That is just a fact.

August 20, 2016

“[S]tudio executives from the wage-gap capital of the world mansplain feminism”

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Bre Payton wants Hollywood to start treating women as people:

Here’s how I imagine the pitch meeting for Ocean’s 8 went down in a smoky executive boardroom somewhere in Warner Bros.’ studio office.

    Balding Male Executive #1: Gee, Colombia Pictures got loudly applauded for that lousy ‘Ghostbusters’ reboot. We could really use some nice tweets from Lena Dunham.

    Male Executive #2: You know she doesn’t tweet anything herself, right?

    Glasses-wearing Male Executive #3: We could just make another biopic about a queen. . .

    Male Executive #2: I’ve got it! We’ll pick a well-loved film and recast all the male leads with female actors.

    Balding Male Executive #1: Brilliant! And we can pay them all less because they’re ALL women.

    Executive #2: I’ll make some calls.

I’m not the only one who’s sick of having studio executives from the wage-gap capital of the world mansplain feminism. As Amy Roberts points out, Hollywood seems to only be interested in throwing “cinematic slops” to women.

“In 2016, why is it that the movie industry feels as though it can only entrust a blockbuster movie to women as long as the film’s story and characters are based on already successful male ones?” she writes.

She has a point — this is Hollywood — the place where women are consistently paid less than men, the town that forgets about women the second they turn 40, the place where it’s hard for women to get roles any deeper than the shallow end of a kiddie pool, the city that hides its actresses of color.

June 24, 2016

“[W]hite activists [need to] stop casting Indigenous peoples as magical pixie enviro-pacifists”

Filed under: Books, Cancon, History — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Jonathan Kay on the problem with discussing First Nations people as if they are “Magical Aboriginals”:

… the path toward reconciliation doesn’t always run through Ottawa or Rome. Reconciliation also can take place at the level of friends, family members and neighbours. In a newly published collection of essays, In This Together, editor Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail brings together fifteen writers — some Indigenous, some not — who describe how this process has played out in their own lives. “[The authors] investigate their ancestors’ roles in creating the country we live in today,” Metcalfe-Chenail writes in her introduction. “They look at their own assumptions and experiences under a microscope in hopes that you will do the same.”

In This Together is a poignant and well-intentioned book, and one that deserves to be bought and read. It is also informative and unsettling — though not always in the way the authors intend. Taken as a whole, the stories betray the extent to which guilt, sentimentality and ideological dogma have compromised the debate about Indigenous issues in this country.

[…]

In describing the stock “Magical Negro” who often appears in popular books and movies, Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu once noted that this type of character typically is shown to be “wise, patient, and spiritually in touch, [c]loser to the earth.” (Think of Morgan Freeman’s portrayal of Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding in The Shawshank Redemption.) In This Together contains a menagerie of similarly magical-seeming Aboriginals who are “soft-spoken” and “insightful.” A typical supporting character is the hard-luck Aboriginal child whose “entire face seemed to radiate a quiet knowing.” Older characters speak in Yoda-like snippets such as “There is much loss — but all is not lost.”

White characters in this book mostly are presented in the opposite way. They tend to be cruel, obese (“bulging,” “fat, red-faced,” “plump”), and soulless. Streetly goes even further, describing outsiders who come to Tofino as “faceless, meaningless” — as if they were robots. In a story about a First Nations woman with the dermatological condition vitiligo, Carol Shaben casts whiteness as an imperial disease — “an ever-expanding territory of white colonized the brown landscape of her skin.” In matters of economics, whites often are depicted as amoral capitalist marauders (“quick to brand and claim ownership”), while Indigenous peoples are presented as inveterate communitarians — gentle birds who “soar above the land, take stock, perch without harming, settle without ownership, and be grateful without exploitation.”

[…]

For decades, it has been a point of principle that Indigenous peoples in Canada must chart their own future without interference from outsiders. Our First Nations will have to make difficult decisions about what mix of traditional and modern elements they want in their society; and address wrenching questions about integration, relocation, language use, and education. Addressing these hard questions will be all the more difficult if Canada’s leading thinkers — even those with the best of intentions, such as the authors of In This Together — build the project of reconciliation on a foundation of attractive myths.

It is our moral duty as a Canadians to acknowledge the full horror of what was done to Indigenous peoples. But we must not respond to this horror by seeking to conjure an Indigenous Eden of postcolonial imagination — a society that never truly existed in the first place.

May 26, 2016

Terry Teachout on silent movies

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

Ten years ago, Terry Teachout finally got around to watching D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, and found (to his relief) that it was just as offensively racist as everyone had always said. He also discovered that silent movies are becoming terra incognita even to those who love old movies:

None of this, however, interested me half so much as the fact that The Birth of a Nation progresses with the slow-motion solemnity of a funeral march. Even the title cards stay on the screen for three times as long as it takes to read them. Five minutes after the film started, I was squirming with impatience, and after another five minutes passed, I decided out of desperation to try an experiment: I cranked the film up to four times its normal playing speed and watched it that way. It was overly brisk in two or three spots, most notably the re-enactment of Lincoln’s assassination (which turned out to be quite effective – it’s the best scene in the whole film). For the most part, though, I found nearly all of The Birth of a Nation to be perfectly intelligible at the faster speed.

Putting aside for a moment the insurmountable problem of its content, it was the agonizingly slow pace of The Birth of a Nation that proved to be the biggest obstacle to my experiencing it as an objet d’art. Even after I sped it up, my mind continued to wander, and one of the things to which it wandered was my similar inability to extract aesthetic pleasure out of medieval art. With a few exceptions, medieval and early Renaissance art and music don’t speak to me. The gap of sensibility is too wide for me to cross. I have a feeling that silent film – not just just The Birth of a Nation, but all of it – is no more accessible to most modern sensibilities. (The only silent movies I can watch with more than merely antiquarian interest are the comedies of Buster Keaton.) Nor do I think the problem is solely, or even primarily, that it’s silent: I have no problem with plotless dance, for instance. It’s that silent film “speaks” to me in an alien tongue, one I can only master in an intellectual way. That’s not good enough for me when it comes to art, whose immediate appeal is not intellectual but visceral (though the intellect naturally enters into it).

As for The Birth of a Nation, I’m glad I saw it once. My card is now officially punched. On the other hand, I can’t imagine voluntarily seeing it again, any more than I’d attend the premiere of an opera by Philip Glass other than at gunpoint. It is the quintessential example of a work of art that has fulfilled its historical purpose and can now be put aside permanently – and I don’t give a damn about history, at least not in my capacity as an aesthete. I care only for the validity of the immediate experience.

[…] Thrill me and all is forgiven. Bore me and you’ve lost me. That’s why I think it’s now safe to file and forget The Birth of a Nation. Yes, it’s still historically significant, and yes, it tells us something important about the way we once were. But it’s boring — and thank God for that.

May 18, 2016

QotD: When emotional abuse is your means to an end

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

Whenever I see screaming, hate-filled behavior like hers the important part never turns out to be whatever principles the screamer claims to be advocating. Those are just window-dressing for the bullying, the dominance games, and the rage.

You cannot ameliorate the behavior of people like that by accepting their premises and arguing within them; they’ll just pocket your concessions and attack again, seeking increasingly abject submission. In one-on-one relationships this is called “emotional abuse”, and like abusers they are all about control of you while claiming to be about anything but.

Third-wave feminism, “social justice” and “anti-racism” are rotten with this. Some of the principles, considered in isolation, would be noble; but they don’t stay noble in the minds of a rage mob.

The good news is that, like emotional abusers, they only have the power over you that you allow them. Liberation begins with recognizing the abuse for what it is. It continues by entirely rejecting their attempts at manipulation. This means rejecting their terminology, their core concepts, their framing, and their attempts to jam you into a “victim” or “oppressor” identity that denies your lived experience.

The identity-jamming part maradydd clearly gets; the most eloquent sections of her writing are those in which she (rightly) rejects feminist attempts to jam her into a victim identity. But I don’t think she quite gets how thoroughly you have to reject the rest of the SJW pitch in order not to enable their abuse.

This is why, for example, I basically disengage from anyone who uses the phrase “white privilege” or the term “patriarchy”. There is a possible world in which these might be useful terms of discussion, but if that were ever our universe it has long since ceased to be. Now what they mean is “I am about to attempt to bully you into submission using kafkatraps and your own sense of decency as a club”.

Eric S. Raymond, “Meredith Patterson’s valiant effort is probably doomed”, Armed and Dangerous, 2015-01-19.

April 14, 2016

QotD: “Dehumanism”

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

What is Dehumanism?

Dehumanism is a term I have coined to describe that soft-edged cloud of modern thinking beloved of the Progressive elite. There is no rigorous definition of dehumanism for the same reason there is no Magisterium for the Wicca, and no Supreme Ruling Council of Anarchists. We are talking about a loose and incoherent alliance of incoherent thinkers. The central principle of Dehumanism is that it lacks principle. It is a disjointed admixture of Machiavelli, Darwin, Marx, Freud, Nietzsche and Nihilism.

Its Machiavellian view of morals says that the ends justify the means, and says that noblest ends, such as world Utopia, justify the basest means, such as genocide; Its Darwinian view of history says that races and bloodlines are locked in remorseless and eternal war to extinction, that men should be bred like dogs, and the weak and unwanted be exterminated; Its Marxist view of economics is that the free market is a Darwinian war between economic classes which must regard each other as implacable foes; Its Freudian view of ethics says that to repress the natural and selfish impulses in a child leads to neurosis, therefore ethics is unnatural, whereas pride and lust and greed and ire and perversion are not only natural, but healthy. Its Nietzschean theology says that God is dead and therefore Power is God. Its Nihilist philosophy says that nothing means anything, therefore no philosophy has meaning and no reasoning is reasonable.

Let me hasten to add that no one person holds all these beliefs, or to the same degree. The beliefs contradict each other and contain lunatic paradoxes, so of course no one can embrace all Dehumanist ideals simultaneously or with equal fervor.

Some wax and wane. The theme of Eugenics, for example, was quietly dropped from the Dehumanist diapason after Hitler betrayed Stalin. Eugenics is no longer welcome in polite society unless disguised as a concern about overpopulation.

Eugenics is not gone forever, of course. The notion is built into the world view of Progressivism, which sees reality as an endless war of race against race, selfish gene against selfish gene. The National Socialists celebrated this alleged reality and sought the totalitarian power to throw the victory of the Darwianian war to the Teutonic race; whereas the Fabian Socialists abhor this alleged reality, and seek the totalitarian power to impose a cease-fire on the Darwianian war.

The Christian idea of a brotherhood of man, or the Enlightenment idea of limits to government, is alien to Progressive thinking and abominated by them. They think colorblindness permits un-umpired competition between the Teutonics and their dusky inferiors; the duskies cannot win; and not to win means to be oppressed; hence, by the twisted logic of Progressivism, a non-racist government or a non-totalitarian government unable to umpire the competition between races leads inevitably to Teutonic triumph and ergo is racist. The only way to stop pro-White racism is by anti-White racism. This requires Whites to act against their own personal self-interest or Darwinian clan interest. Such interests, oddly enough, by the Nietzschean and Machiavellian theology and ethics, is the only source of life’s moral code. It is merely a matter of time before another variation Progressivism arises with some new formulation of Eugenics in its van. The selfish gene demands no less.

The average Progressive or National Socialist or Leftist or New Ager or Lover of Imbecility does not buy fully into these beliefs simply because no one could: these beliefs are deadly, and only the dead could practice them consistently.

The average Progressive or Leftist or New Ager or Imbecilophiliac does not except in small ways support them: he is like a man who burns his leaves and his trash in his backyard, and empties his spittoon off the dock, while the smokestack factories of Academia fill the air with gassy smog, and the overflowing sewer of Hollywood pours liquid sludge by gallons unnumbered into the flood.

He is himself neither truly a Nihilist nor a Marxist; his contribution to the general moral and mental pollution of the age is minimal, but real, and every little bit hurts. He is someone happy to call M. Night Shyamalan a racist for not hiring blue-eyed Eskimos to play the roles of hydrokinetic tribesmen from a make-believe world.

But such is the poisonous moral atmosphere of the modern age. I call it Dehumanism because ours is the first era in history which holds, as its basic postulate of moral reasoning, that there is no moral code, merely arbitrary or useful social myths, and no such thing as reasoning.

John C. Wright, “Supermanity and Dehumanity (Complete)”, John C. Wright’s Journal, 2014-12-13.

March 13, 2016

Artillery and Officer Training – Treatment of Colonial Troops I OUT OF THE TRENCHES

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 12 Mar 2016

Indy sits in the chair of wisdom again to answer your questions and this week we are talking about artillery training, the education for officers and NCOs and if colonial troops were used as first in trench warfare.

January 22, 2016

Top 10 Onion parodies on higher education

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

Yeah, I know it’s a bit late in the year to still be publishing lame “top ten” roundups, but these are pretty funny:

1. Sex partner must say ‘yes’ every 10 minutes or it’s rape, 10th graders taught in California
2. Princeton student say he’s victim of microaggression over way he says ‘Cool Whip’
3. Study urges people to accept those who ‘identify as real vampires’
4. Professor: Harry Potter Helped Obama Get Elected
5. All-You-Can-Eat Taco Bars Deemed Offensive, Face Campus Extinction
6. Harvard Students Celebrate ‘Incest-Fest’ (tied with: Harvard University workshop to teach students how to have anal sex
7. Professors: Motorists more likely to run over black people than white people
8. Professor’s Book Hails ‘Apostle Barack,’ Compares Him to Jesus
9. University axes homecoming ‘king’ and ‘queen,’ replaces it with gender-neutral ‘royals’
10. Sexuality courses: Black dildos are proof of racism against African Americans

Update: Oh, wait. Sorry. These aren’t actually headlines from the satirical website The Onion. They’re all real headlines. My mistake.

December 20, 2015

When the police are afraid to investigate crimes

Filed under: Britain, Law — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the town of Rotherham, the local police have been effectively hiding a massive criminal conspiracy for fear of being accused of racism:

Fifteen years ago, when these crimes were just beginning, the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry into the conduct of the British police was made by Sir William Macpherson a High Court judge. The immediate occasion had been a murder in which the victim was black, the perpetrators white, and the behaviour of the investigating police lax and possibly prejudiced. The report accused the police – not just those involved in the case, but the entire police force of the country – of ‘institutionalised racism’. This piece of sociological newspeak was, at the time, very popular with leftist sociologists. For it made an accusation which could not be refuted by anyone who had the misfortune to be accused of it.

However well you behaved, however scrupulously you treated people of different races and without regard to their ethnic identity or the colour of their skin, you would be guilty of ‘institutionalised racism’, simply on account of the institution to which you belonged and on behalf of which you were acting. Not surprisingly, sociologists and social workers, the vast majority of whom are professionally disposed to believe that middle class society is incurably racist, latched on to the expression. MacPherson too climbed onto the bandwagon since, at the time, it was the easiest and safest way to wash your hands in public, to say that I, at least, am not guilty of the only crime that is universally recognised and everywhere in evidence.

The result of this has been that police forces lean over backwards to avoid the accusation of racism, while social workers will hesitate to intervene in any case in which they could be accused of discriminating against ethnic minorities. Matters are made worse by the rise of militant Islam, which has added to the old crime of racism the new crime of ‘Islamophobia’. No social worker today will risk being accused of this crime. In Rotherham a social worker would be mad, and a police officer barely less so, to set out to investigate cases of suspected sexual abuse, when the perpetrators are Asian Muslims and the victims ethnically English. Best to sweep it under the carpet, find ways of accusing the victims or their parents or the surrounding culture of institutionalised racism, and attending to more urgent matters such as the housing needs of recent immigrants, or the traffic offences committed by those racist middle classes.

Americans too are familiar with this syndrome. Political correctness among sociologists comes from socialist convictions and the tired old theories that produce them. But among ordinary people it comes from fear. The people of Rotherham know that it is unsafe for a girl to take a taxi-ride from someone with Asian features; they know that Pakistani Muslims often do not treat white girls with the respect that they treat girls from their own community. They know, and have known over fifteen years, that there are gangs of predators on the look-out for vulnerable girls, and that the gangs are for the most part Asian young men who see English society not as the community to which they belong, but as a sexual hunting ground. But they dare not express this knowledge, in either words or deed. Still less do they dare to do so if their job is that of social worker or police officer. Let slip the mere hint that Pakistani Muslims are more likely than indigenous Englishmen to commit sexual crimes and you will be branded as a racist and an Islamophobe, to be ostracised in the workplace and put henceforth under observation.

November 22, 2015

What was the German Secret on the Eastern Front in 1915? I OUT OF THE TRENCHES

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 21 Nov 2015

Indy sits int he chair of wisdom again to answer your questions about World War 1. This time we are explaining the secret to the German success on the Eastern Front in 1915, who Eugene Bullard was and how pilots would navigate.

November 21, 2015

QotD: Investigating the reactionary view of racism

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

Almost all of our hard data on race comes from sociology programs in universities – ie the most liberal departments in the most liberal institutions in the country. Most of these sociology departments have an explicit mission statement of existing to fight racism. Many sociologists studying race will tell you quite openly that they went into the field – which is not especially high-paying or prestigious – in order to help crusade against the evil of racism.

Imagine a Pfizer laboratory whose mission statement was to prove Pfizer drugs had no side effects, and whose staff all went into pharmacology specifically to help crusade against the evil of believing Pfizer’s drugs have side effects. Imagine that this laboratory hands you their study showing that the latest Pfizer drug has zero side effects, c’mon, trust us! Is there any way you’re taking that drug?

We know that a lot of medical research, especially medical research by drug companies, turns up the wrong answer simply through the file-drawer effect. That is, studies that turn up an exciting result everyone wants to hear get published, and studies that turn up a disappointing result don’t – either because the scientist never submits it to the journals, or because the journal doesn’t want to publish it. If this happens all the time in medical research despite growing safeguards to prevent it, how often do you think it happens in sociological research?

Do you think the average sociologist selects the study design most likely to turn up evidence of racist beliefs being correct, or the study design most likely to turn up the opposite? If despite her best efforts a study does turn up evidence of racist beliefs being correct, do you think she’s going to submit it to a major journal with her name on it for everyone to see? And if by some bizarre chance she does submit it, do you think the International Journal Of We Hate Racism So We Publish Studies Proving How Dumb Racists Are is going to cheerfully include it in their next edition?

And so when people triumphantly say “Modern science has completely disproven racism, there’s not a shred of evidence in support of it”, we should consider that exactly the same level of proof as the guy from 1900 who said “Modern science has completely proven racism, there’s not a shred of evidence against it”. The field is still just made of people pushing their own dogmatic opinions and calling them science; only the dogma has changed.

And although Reactionaries love to talk about race, in the end race is nothing more than a particularly strong and obvious taboo. There are taboos in history, too, and in economics, and in political science, and although they’re less obvious and interesting they still mean you need this same skepticism when parsing results from these fields. “But every legitimate scientist disagrees with this particular Reactionary belief!” should be said with the same intonation as “But every legitimate archbishop disagrees with this particular heresy.”

This is not intended as a proof that racism is correct, or even as the slightest shred of evidence for that hypothesis (although a lot of Reactionaries are, in fact, racist as heck). No doubt the Spanish Inquisition found a couple of real Satanists, and probably some genuine murderers and rapists got sent to Siberia. Sometimes, once in a blue moon, a government will even censor an idea that happens to be false. But it’s still useful to know when something is being censored, so you don’t actually think the absence of evidence for one side of the story is evidence of anything other than people on that side being smart enough to keep their mouths shut.

Scott Alexander, “Reactionary Philosophy In An Enormous, Planet-Sized Nutshell”, Slate Star Codex, 2013-03-03.

November 7, 2015

QotD: Humane punishment for criminals

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

Modern countries pride themselves on their humane treatment of prisoners. And by “humane”, I mean “lock them up in a horrible and psychologically traumatizing concrete jail for ten years of being beaten and raped and degraded, sometimes barely even seeing the sun or a green plant for that entire time, then put it on their permanent record so they can never get a good job or interact with normal people ever again when they come out.”

Compare this to what “inhumane” countries that were still into “cruel and unusual punishment” would do for the same crime. A couple of lashes with the whip, then you’re on your way.

Reader. You have just been convicted of grand theft auto (the crime, not the game). You’re innocent, but the prosecutor was very good at her job and you’ve used up all your appeals and you’re just going to have to accept the punishment. The judge gives you two options:

1) Five years in prison
2) Fifty strokes of the lash

Like everyone else except a few very interesting people who help provide erotic fantasies for the rest of us, I don’t like being whipped. But I would choose (2) in a fraction of a heartbeat.

And aside from being better for me, it would be better for society as well. We know that people who spend time in prison are both more likely to stay criminals in the future and better at being criminals. And each year in jail costs the State $50,000; more than it would cost to give a kid a year’s free tuition at Harvard. Cutting the prison system in half would free up approximately enough money to give free college tuition to all students at the best school they can get into.

But of course we don’t do that. We stick with the prisons and the rape and the kids who go work at McDonalds because they can’t afford college. Why? Progressives!

If we were to try to replace prison with some kind of corporal punishment, progressives would freak out and say we were cruel and inhumane. Since the prison population is disproportionately minority, they would probably get to use their favorite word-beginning-with-“R”, and allusions would be made to plantation owners who used to whip slaves. In fact, progressives would come up with some reason to oppose even giving criminals the option of corporal punishment (an option most would certainly take) and any politician insufficiently progressive to even recommend it would no doubt be in for some public flagellation himself, albeit of a less literal kind.

So once again, we have an uncanny valley. Being very nice to prisoners is humane and effective (Norway seems to be trying this with some success), but we’re not going to do it because we’re dumb and it’s probably too expensive anyway. Being very strict to prisoners is humane and effective – the corporal punishment option. But being somewhere in the fuzzy middle is cruel to the prisoners and incredibly destructive to society – and it’s the only route the progressives will allow us to take.

Scott Alexander, “Reactionary Philosophy In An Enormous, Planet-Sized Nutshell”, Slate Star Codex, 2013-03-03.

November 6, 2015

QotD: The slow erosion of freedom of expression

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

This slow erosion of freedom of expression has come about in ways both social and legal. Before the 1960s, arguments for censorship tended to focus on sexual morality, pornography and obscenity. The censors themselves were usually depicted as benighted moral conservatives — priggish maiden aunts. Freedom of political speech, however, was regarded as sacrosanct by all. As legal restraints on obscenity fell away, however, freedom of political speech began to come under attack from a different kind of censor — college administrators, ethnic-grievance groups, gay and feminist advocates.

The new censors advanced such arguments as that “free speech can never be an excuse for racism.” These arguments are essentially exercises both in begging the question and in confusing it. While the principle of free speech cannot justify racism any more than it can disprove racism, it is the only principle that can allow us to judge whether or not particular speech is racist. Thus the censor’s argument should be reversed: “Accusations of racism can never be an excuse for prohibiting free speech.”

Meanwhile, the narrowly legal grounds for restricting speech changed, too. Since the 18th century, the basic legal justifications for restricting political speech and publication were direct incitement to harm, national security, maintaining public order, libel, etc. Content wasn’t supposed to be considered (though it was sometimes smuggled in under other headings).

Today, content is increasingly the explicit justification for restricting speech. The argument used, especially in colleges, is that “words hurt.” Thus, universities, parliaments, courts and various international bodies intervene promiscuously to restrict hurtful or offensive speech — with the results described above. In the new climate, hurtful speech is much more likely to be political speech than obscene speech.

John O’Sullivan, “No Offense: The New Threats to Free Speech”, Wall Street Journal, 2014-10-31.

September 23, 2015

QotD: The Platonic Ideal of a Guardian column

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

The Guardian’s Aisha Mirza bemoans the “psychic burden” of living among white people, which is worse than being mugged.

The more I think about it, the more this may exemplify a near-perfect Guardian article, the ideal to which all other Guardian columnists should aspire. It’s haughty and obnoxious, is ignorant of relevant subject matter, is frequently question-begging, and its imagined piety is premised on a rather obvious double standard. Specifically, Ms Mirza’s belief that people who leave London do so, secretly, because they don’t feel comfortable living among people with skin of a darker hue, which is racist and therefore bad, and her own simultaneous preference not to live among people whose skin is paler than hers, which is somehow not racist at all, and is in fact aired as the last word in righteousness.

David Thompson, “Reheated (45)”, davidthompson, 2015-09-08.

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