Saturday, April 22, 2017

Quote of the day

T. A. Frank:
You almost have to bow down before someone who could host Shakespeare for dinner and make the agenda wind up sounding like a brochure for the Altria Group. At least Kafka would be on hand to capture the joy of the evening.

Friday, April 7, 2017

FLG Sort of Feels Bad

When FLG heard about this a few days ago, he thought to himself, Wow, sounds pretty cool.   Too bad he's not going to be in Venice any time between now and December:
Millionaire artist Damien Hirst has come to Venice early with an exhibit staged especially for this mysterious and watery city.
NBC News was given special access to the exhibition, "Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable," featuring more than 180 statutes opening Sunday. According to curators, the collection is made up of a hoard of treasures retrieved from the Apistos, an ancient ship that sunk off the coast of Africa some 2,000 years ago.
Underwater footage and photos of the retrieval operation, which Hirst claims he funded, are integral elements of the exhibition.

Then, he read this:
Ultimately, though, Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable offers scale in lieu of ambition, and kitsch masquerading as high art. Perhaps, when the exhibition closes in December, Amotan’s “treasures” should be returned, discreetly, to the bottom of the sea. 

Ouch.   Nevertheless, FLG admires the sheer ambition and audacity of the exhibition.

On an art related note, FLG was walking by The Frick Collection the other day and lamented he didn't have time to stop in and see this exhibition:  Turner’s Modern and Ancient Ports: Passages through Time

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Wu Tang Triumph

FLG has probably mentioned this before, but Wu Tang's Triumph is probably his favorite rap song.   Inspectah Deck's opening is probably his favorite of any rap song ever.   He also really likes RZA's verse.   The word play of terminal, as in illness, with Grand Central Station is particularly clever.


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Celebrity Sightings: Delayed At DCA Edition

On Wednesday, FLG was at DCA trying to fly up to New York.   It was windy as shit across the entire East Coast; so windy, in fact, they shut LGA down for a bit and then only had one runway open.  Given that flying to LGA is a pain in the ass in the best of times, things weren't going well.  Anyway...

While waiting, FLG saw Katie Couric.   Seems like she had just flown in.  She walked fast and kept her head down, clearly didn't want to be recognized, but definitely her.

Not long after, FLG saw Mark Halperin boarding a flight to JFK.   Halperin was not walking fast or keeping his head down, as only FLG and like three other people who watch Morning Joe would've known who he was.

The next day, when FLG when he got of his return flight, he saw Trent Lott and his wife.

Updating the list.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Sunday, March 12, 2017

On Andrew Jackson


Each generation gets to choose the heroes it feels comfortable with. But the case of Jackson should afford a reminder that history is complicated. America didn’t become the country it is today without significant contributions from people once deemed heroic but now thought embarrassing or worse. The problem, if it is one, is not with Jackson; the problem is with American history. That history contains chapters we aren’t proud of, and shouldn’t be.
But while it would be a mistake to celebrate those chapters, it would be a greater mistake to tear them out of the history books. They’re part of what we are today. And they suggest that we’re no innocents ourselves: Almost certainly, we’re doing things that will puzzle and mortify our grandchildren.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Quote of the day

Camile Paglia:
Too many gay men have lost the scathingly cruel wit for which they were famous in the pre-Stonewall era.

FLG isn't quite sure why that stuck out to him, but he chuckled. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Not Relevant To Anybody Really

But FLG really wishes there were a Stew Leonard's in Northern Virginia.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Obama's Foreign Policy

Paul Miller:
In his eagerness to avoid making Bush’s [foreign policy] mistakes, [Obama] made a whole new set of mistakes. He over-interpreted the recent past, fabricating the myth about a hyper-interventionist establishment. As a result, he overreacted to the situation he inherited in 2009 and, crucially, never adjusted during his eight years in office. In this sense and others, he contrasts starkly with Bush, who made major changes in his second term. The result is that Obama retrenched when he should have engaged. He oversaw the collapse of order across the Middle East and the resurgence of great power rivalry in Europe while mismanaging two wars and reducing America’s military posture abroad to its smallest footprint since World War II. Despite the paeans of Obama’s admirers, this is not a foreign policy legacy future presidents will want to emulate.


An aside:   Try as he might, FLG cannot prevent his view that Ben Rhodes is an insufferable hubristic douchebag from influencing his thoughts on Obama's foreign policy, given the supposed mind-meld and all.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

FLG Is Just Confused

The whole Milo Yiannopoulos thing popped up on FLG's radar not long before the riots at Berkeley, back when there was a shooting in Seattle.   FLG watched some videos, read some writings.   Thought he was a definitely a troll, maybe a misogynist, but didn't see evidence of white supremacist statements and was uncomfortable with people using such labels so blithely.   And he certainly thought there were left-leaning reporters who were biased against Yiannopoulos, his supporters, and generally  those who came to listen to him.

Next thing FLG knows, the man is on Bill Maher.  And like five seconds later,  he's accused of supporting pedophilia, loses his book deal, and resigns from Breitbart.  Something about it didn't quite sit right with FLG.   Were Yiannopoulos' statements portrayed correctly?   Why did a year old interview all of a sudden get national attention?  Seemed weird.

As part of FLG's research into this issue this evening, he came across this video, which has that crazy series of connections that one has trouble following, which is so common of conspiracy theories, but nevertheless did make FLG want to learn more about GamerGate.  Because after a little more googling, FLG is actually a little bit concerned that there are a coordinating group of hardcore progressives in the media who were involved in GamerGate, who were burned and believe revenge is a dish best served cold.  (Because despite what the media portrays, FLG things the gamers actually won GamerGate.)  If if that's true, he'd like to at least be aware who they are.  At the same time, he's only slightly less worried he's getting into tinfoil hat zone and overlooking intentionally hateful speech, rather than just extremely provocative jokes. 

Anyway, FLG is very confused about the whole thing.   A large reason why is that he simply doesn't trust journalists to report fairly and accurately on this topic, which means no sources a credible, and the it takes way more time than he really cares to put into it to figure out the truth.   Milo seemed to have said that the legal age of consent was about right, but that his personal experience led him to believe it's an arbitrary age decided in law and that some individuals may be, in fact, be able to engage in sexual activity at a younger age without negative ramifications, perhaps even beneficially, but Yiannopoulos, as far as FLG can tell, didn't advocate changing the law, nor breaking the law. 

By the way, you might be asking....FLG, he was a troll who said a variety of mean things, some consider the things he said to be the various -ists (sexist, racist, etc),  now it appears he said something supportive of pedophilia, why are you even worried about it?     He's not a sympathetic character and it's not worth the effort to find out.    Agreed, he's not sympathetic, but FLG hates the outright mischaracterization and bias of reporting about Yianopoulos.   Troll?  Definitely.   Misogynist?   FLG thinks somethings he said could be considered misogynist.   White supremacist / Neo-Nazi?   Nope, didn't see that.  And it matters to FLG a great deal to see people called something when there isn't evidence of it.   (Though, in fairness, he did say some kinda nice things about some of the more white supremacist / Neo-Nazi wing of the Alt-Right, but FLG doesn't think that's the same thing.)  

Similarly, FLG is also concerned about the people on the Left's increasing accusations of so-called dogwhistles.  That's literally saying that the meaning of the word is different from the commonly understood meaning of the word, so they said one thing but mean another thing that is horrible, but they didn't actually say the horrible thing you have to take their political enemies word that they meant the horrible thing.   It's dangerous allow frivolous claims of this type to become normalized.

To close out a meandering post, FLG is similarly concerned about the post-Truth Trump stuff, but he thinks that's being analyzed to the hilt.   He doesn't need to add yet another post on how Trump's relationship with the truth is a threat to our republic. 



Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Quote of the day

Megan McArdle:
Countries with a big hammer will inevitably end up using it in ways that turn out to be stupid. (See: Iraq.) It also, inevitably means that the security umbrella of the world will be used in ways that the country that owns it likes. (See complaints by every country except the U.S., many of them justified.) But for all that, you can certainly imagine a country with an America-sized military advantage doing much worse things with it. Many worse things. In fact, when you think about alternative histories, we’re pretty far into the “happy” zone of the spectrum. Not all the way to utopia, mind you. But a lot better than you’d imagine, if you’d never heard of the United States of America and you were plotting out your science fiction novel with a dominant, heavily armed nation.

Science Is Probably Correct, But Even It Has Limits

FLG totally understands why many or even most scientists are atheists.   Make sense.  Not a problem.   But sometimes, like all of us, their belief system leads them astray.  For instance, the claim by Brian Cox that the Large Hadron Collider disproved the existence of what he called "ghosts," but from the quotes FLG would argue is more a soul, specifically the immoral part of us that exists after death.

I would say if there's some kind of substance that's driving our bodies, making my arms move and legs move, then it must interact with the particles out of which our bodies are made. And seeing as we've made high precision measurements of the ways that particles interact, then my assertion is there can be no such thing as an energy source that's driving our bodies.

Look, FLG understands why scientists question the existence of these types of supernatural things.   One can argue, very compellingly, about the complete and utter lack of scientific evidence for them.   Got it.  Point conceded.  But to say that we've seen no evidence of supernatural forces after smashing together protons at blistering speeds means that this DISPROVES anything about the afterlife is fallacious.

There's an argument that FLG has heard.   If you say there is an elephant in the courtyard, but we look and don't see one, then the existence of the elephant has been disproven.  But what if you are claiming that there is an elephant that is invisible, tasteless, odorless, silent, and massless.   Well, one, that's not an elephant by an definition FLG has ever heard of, and, yes, the burden of proof is most definitely upon you for making such an outlandish claim, and yes, a rational person would be justified in not believing such an elephant exists and living their life assuming you are delusional.   But, nobody has definitely disproven your claim.



Thursday, February 16, 2017

This Poll Makes FLG Feel Better

Boston Herald:
In a Politico/Morning Consult poll released yesterday, any unnamed Democrat beats President Trump in a 2020 presidential matchup. A dust mop with a “Democrat” sign on it beats Trump. But the Senate’s liberal darling doesn’t. Trump, despite his own series of stumbles, still beats Warren — one of the Democrats’ most prominent national faces — 42-36.

FLG finds Warren insufferable and was beginning to worry the American people didn't.   Here's hoping the Dems actually pick a good candidate.

Monday, February 13, 2017

So True

Saw The Matrix sequels on TV the other day and this is so, so spot on:

Andrew's Back

FLG is exicted to see Andrew Sullivan will be writing more regularly, and he begins thusly:
I want to start with Trump’s lies. It’s now a commonplace that Trump and his underlings tell whoppers. Fact-checkers have never had it so good. But all politicians lie. Bill Clinton could barely go a day without some shading or parsing of the truth. Richard Nixon was famously tricky. But all the traditional political fibbers nonetheless paid some deference to the truth — even as they were dodging it. They acknowledged a shared reality and bowed to it. They acknowledged the need for a common set of facts in order for a liberal democracy to function at all. Trump’s lies are different. They are direct refutations of reality — and their propagation and repetition is about enforcing his power rather than wriggling out of a political conundrum. They are attacks on the very possibility of a reasoned discourse, the kind of bald-faced lies that authoritarians issue as a way to test loyalty and force their subjects into submission. That first press conference when Sean Spicer was sent out to lie and fulminate to the press about the inauguration crowd reminded me of some Soviet apparatchik having his loyalty tested to see if he could repeat in public what he knew to be false. It was comical, but also faintly chilling.


FWIW, FLG has been fascinated by Wilde's Platonic dialogue, The Decay of Lying, since he recently discovered it.    Along with Camille Paglia's contention that the emergence of transgenderism signifies the end of Western culture, it has sparked a keen interest by FLG in the mauve decade.  He's convinced there are lessons to be learned there.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Quote of the day

What?

RealClearLife:
Jesse Eisenberg is a gifted actor, for sure, but all of the movies he’s in, he’s basically the same guy: quirky, dorky, bookish Jesse Eisenberg. 

 FLG would like to take the liberty of rephrasing that statement:  Jesse Eisenberg is a gifted actor, for sure, but he has zero range.   Upon rephrasing, the incoherent nonsense reveals itself.   So, FLG asks, what the fuck exactly is your criteria for good acting?

Look, there are a bunch of actors who FLG enjoys watching, but aren't particularly good actors.   John Travolta, for example, isn't a good actor.   His talent, and to be honest it's a huge talent, is looking like he is having the most fun of his life on screen.   That feeling is infectious, and the audience, or at least FLG, comes away from John Travolta movies happier than he went in.  This is true, even when he's a bad guy.  But he's not a good actor.

Perhaps, for some people, watching a quirky, dorky, bookish Jesse Eisenberg on screen there's a John Travolta effect.   Definitely not true for FLG, it's almost the opposite.   Eisenberg's screen time is like nails on a chalkboard, no more so then his fucking horrible Lex Luthor, the worst part of a bad movie.


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Sugary Sweetness of Climate Science

FLG really wishes Gary Taubes would take a look at climate change science.   Frankly, FLG doesn't know enough about climate change, guesses the climate is probably changing due to human activity mostly because that's what the experts are saying, but is very concerned about the politicization of the entire topic, in particular of those experts.  

As FLG says over and over, once a person goes from describing phenomena to prescribing an action, they've assigned values.  To return to his favorite example, if FLG says you are wet, that's a objective fact.   Once he hands you a towel, he is saying being dry is better than being wet.  

FLG feels the same way about climate change.  The people studying it are most definitely not disinterested observers.   Almost all of them say something needs to be done.   And it seems that a goodly portion think we need to do something IMMEDIATELY TO AVOID CERTAIN DEATH.   Not exactly the type of thing to create a milieu of disinterested observation.  (In fairness, FLG thinks this is largely unavoidable.  Individuals are very often motivated to become experts in some topic because they want to effect some change -- curing cancer, for example, or heart disease, which is what largely led nutrition and public health astray according to Taubes -- so this isn't just a climate change example.)  

In any case, if you replace "public health" with "climate science" in Gary's talk, 1:53 mark until around the 30 minute mark, the discussion describes what concerns FLG about climate science:

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Quote of the day

A few days old, but still made FLG laugh:
China shall, immediately and without hesitation, send us their wall. Done. Boom.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Attitudes Like This Will Re-Elect Trump

FLG isn't very religious at all, but when he reads stuff like this he gets why religious believers believe they are under attack:
Gorsuch, the son of perhaps the most corrupt head of the Environmental Protection Agency in its history, came down on the side of religious zealots in the notorious case of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, Inc., in which the craft chain’s owners won the right to deny their employees contraception coverage despite the ACA’s mandate. In the 10th Circuit’s ruling, Gorsuch attributed to the company the capacity for spiritual reverie. The ACA forced Hobby Lobby to “violate their religious faith” by covering birth control, which “their religion teaches to be gravely wrong.” Gorsuch described birth control drugs and devices as having the effect of “destroying a fertilized human egg”—a claim that is demonstrably false, even in most cases of emergency contraceptive use.
Gorsuch also joined a dissenting opinion when Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell, another challenge to the ACA’s contraceptive mandate, came before the 10th Circuit. The dissent called the mandate a burden to the plaintiffs’ free exercise of religion. In a 1996 amicus brief in a case about physician-assisted suicide, Gorsuch wrote that requiring public hospitals to provide abortions was an instance of “the courts [feeling] free to override the conscience of health care providers.” In other words, Gorsuch believes that doctors, corporations, and individuals should be able to discriminate against women, preventing them from accessing necessary health care, on account of any personal whim they claim to the court.

FLG is in favor of the broad availability of contraception, even Plan B, but he has several objections to the above.   None more so than dismissing religious beliefs, by all accounts sincerely held (in one case we're talking about NUNS FOR FUCK'S SAKE) regarding what they literally consider a life and death issue as personal whims.


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Has Everybody Lost Their Minds?

FLG voted for Hillary Clinton.   Trump was nowhere near his first choice.  However, as far as he can tell, Trump did whatever the fuck he does is immediately portrayed by the media as the worst thing since [insert Biggest Threat to Democracy or American Values since Hitler, Holocaust, or Japanese Internment].  This is then followed by even more hyperbolic meme on Facebook and social media.

Look, FLG gets it.   He's sure people on the Left were like, hey, what the fuck is wrong with everybody on the Right who thinks there are death panels in the Obamacare bill.  There are no death panels in the Obamacare bill.   And people on the Right were like, okay, but that's where this line of policies eventually leads.  So, yes, the slippery slope stuff, FLG gets.   But there is a whole bunch of crazy shit coming from normally sane people.

Or maybe FLG is just whistling past the graveyard here.  But he doesn't think so.   Trump's policies have been unwise and hamfistedly implemented, but don't rise to the level of a constitutional crisis or the end of America as we know it.  Maybe FLG will be proven wrong, and will become aware of the imminent mortal threat to everything this country holds dear too late.   But, jeez, right now, he wants everybody to take a fucking chill pill for a second and ask themselves if they really think, literally, Trump is the third anti-Christ.

Quote of the day

Megan McArdle:
If everything you disagree with is the Holocaust, then you can’t really criticize people for using the Nuremberg Defense. Sometimes, people do have to follow orders they disagree with, even orders that they think may result in someone being hurt. Because the alternative is a society of 300 million freelance legislators. And large-scale anarchy does not generally produce the greater moral good.

FLG also agrees with this:
To lay down a marker: If a court rules against Trump’s executive orders, and he defies that court (not foot dragging or weaselly legal interpretations, but Jacksonian “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it”), then I think Congress will have a moral duty to impeach him. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Quote of the day


FLG is partial to Pacifico, but whole-heartedly agrees.   Stay thirsty, my friends.

HOLY FUCK THIS PISSES OF FLG

Some Bernie Sanders supporting Facebook group is sharing this image saying that we need to remember history.



Full disclosure:  FLG doesn't support the recent Muslim ban temporary refugee restriction, nor the wall, is actually very concerned about Trump's approach to borders generally from tariffs to visas or border enforcement.

HOWEVER, you dumbfucks sharing this.   You learn the fucking history.   The Berlin Wall was to KEEP PEOPLE IN BECAUSE THEY WANTED TO GET THE FUCK OUT OF A COMMUNIST HELL HOLE.  There is a clear, bright, material difference between a country not letting their people leave, which makes the country more or less a massive prison, and a country not letting people in, which is its sovereign right to control its borders (even if the current policies are shit).

The only way that meme makes sense is if one believes that borders shouldn't exist period, which if that's what you think, then say so.   Change to meme to: Why do we build walls to protect imaginary lines or some such nonesense and we can all laugh at you.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Probably Not Fair

Quote of the day

American Housewife:
Westport, Connecticut.  It's the kind of town where people have big houses and tiny butts.  Where every idiot has a boat and a labradoodle.

FLG just learned about the show when some high school friends were talking about it on Facebook.  He watched a couple of episodes, and unfortunately the lines above are probably the funniest part.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Another Example of Plato's Influence On Oscar Wilde

From Dorian Gray:
I knew nothing but shadows, and I thought them real.


Previously in the series.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Outrage Exhaustion

You’re probably seeing the best persuasion you will ever see from a new president. Instead of dribbling out one headline at a time, so the vultures and critics can focus their fire, Trump has flooded the playing field. You don’t know where to aim your outrage. He’s creating so many opportunities for disagreement that it’s mentally exhausting. Literally. He’s wearing down the critics, replacing their specific complaints with entire encyclopedias of complaints. And when Trump has created a hundred reasons to complain, do you know what impression will be left with the public?
He sure got a lot done.
Even if you don’t like it.
In only a few days, Trump has made us question what-the-hell every other president was doing during their first weeks in office. Were they even trying?

FLG was talking with his co-worker about this very topic the other day.   The media is so focused on all these secondary issues, like inauguration attendance, that they are putting far less attention on actual policy making.  The line of thinking seems to be, if Trump is so delusional and sensitive about rather insignificant things to the point where his press secretary is telling lies, then we need to focus on this because then nothing that comes out of the White House should be trusted.    Meanwhile, there's a ton of shit going on.  Executive Orders, etc.  Is it possible that Trump isn't as sensitive as most of us think he is, but rather he's just trolling the media with red herrings?   FLG thinks he probably is as sensitive, but in any case his reactions have beneficial consequences for him. 

Quote of the day

John Arnold:
“The more you read the research, the less you know,” Arnold says. “It became extraordinarily frustrating.”

If FLG made billions he hopes he'd have had the insight to become "the Medici of meta-research," but doubts that he would have.   Thank goodness somebody did.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Media Bias

FLG isn't a supporter of Milo Yiannopoulos, as his goal appears to be just to push buttons for button's pushing sake without true principle behind it.    FLG most objects to his frequent ad hominem attacks.  Although, very reluctantly, FLG will put Milo in the category of Larry Flint, which is to say a champion of free speech who benefits those who value free speech by defending the frontiers of free speech, even if they are obnoxious.   

FLG wouldn't be writing about this, except he thinks reporting on a recent Milo event where, unfortunately a person was shot, is an interesting example of media bias.  Two reports.  One by the LA Times and then another by the Seattle Times, which importantly the LA Times cites.

Here's how the LA Times describes the shooting:

A police official told the Seattle Times late Saturday that the man who fired the gun said he had fired in self-defense and that the man he shot was "some type of white supremacist.” The suspect was released without charges pending further investigation.
Here's the headline and the lede of that article:
Man shot at UW no racist, friends insist, despite shooter’s claim
 Police say the man who fired the gun Friday night at the University of Washington claimed he had been assaulted by the man he shot, and that he believed he was a white supremacist. Friends of the critically injured man, say he is no racist.
LA Times description:

On Friday, black-hooded protesters were shown in videos sparking assaults outside Kane Hall on campus. Police had blocked the entrance after scuffles broke out over the Breitbart editor’s sold-out appearance.

Seattle Times description:


At the UW, people began lining up for the Kane Hall speech, sponsored by the College Republicans, late Friday afternoon. The crowd began clashing about two hours later, when a group of people dressed in black showed up and forced its way to the front of the line.
Police formed a line outside to help ticket-holders get in, but protesters surrounded them. Several people were hit with paint, and officers dodged flying bricks.

Seattle Times also mentioned this, which the LA Times did not:
Once the speech ended, police told audience members to remove their Donald Trump hats and other gear before leaving. Officers escorted the crowd out through an underground parking garage as a crowd of about 250 people remained outside the building.

Clearly, the protestors were the ones who were violent.


But the LA Times did have space for this:
Yiannopoulos was banned by Twitter last January after he sent disparaging tweets about “Ghostbusters” actress Leslie Jones, one of them referring to her as a “black dude.” The African American actress became the target of a flood of harassing tweets, some of them racist, and Twitter concluded that Yiannopoulos had violated its rules “prohibiting participating in or inciting targeted abuse of individuals.”
Yiannopoulos uses a derogatory term for gays in the title of his speaking tour, and his speeches intentionally push the envelope.
 “The thing I most hate about the left,” he said at one appearance, “is that they want to stop us laughing – to prescribe which jokes are OK and which are not OK to make in public and to draw artificial lines around certain subjects. I find all sorts of inappropriate things funny. Islam, tyrannies, AIDS. These are all innately hilarious things. Now and again I even enjoy a good rape joke — especially if I’m the butt of it.”

FLG isn't objecting to including this information about Milo.   He actually only really objects to the middle paragraph.   And not its inclusion, but leaving out a fact that FLG believes is material.  The title of Milo's speaking tour is the Dangerous Faggot Tour because Milo is gay and is the Dangerous Faggot.   This then puts that paragraph, and FLG would argue the following paragraph, in a different context.   Yet, the LA Times never mentions Milo's sexuality.

FLG Is A Huge Batman Fan

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Quote of the Day II

Andrew Stevens:
That Trump is a would-be classical tyrant, I regard as so obvious that it's not even worth discussing. I am nonetheless not terribly worried about him, since he's also a blithering incompetent. He has continually failed at everything in his life except celebrity.  What was astonishing is his sole ability - the ability to draw attention to himself (the core skill of any celebrity) - was enough to get him elected President.

Quote of the day

Ramesh Ponnuru:

Why aren’t you going to the inauguration? Because Trump is an illegitimate president. And what are you going to do about the usurper in the White House? Things like not going to his inauguration.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Don't Ask How the Sausage is Made

Along the way, his administration often seemed to go out of its way to pick damaging fights with conservatives. Perhaps it was just trying to motivate the base with “wedge issues.” But I think it was often simply that the politically “clean,” ideological folks he put in key positions were also often politically inept.
A compromised old glad-hander of a political appointee would have quietly made some accommodation for the Little Sisters of the Poor, for example, no matter how many rules had to be bent, rather than give them a chance to go on television and ask why the administration was trying to force nuns to buy birth control.
A soulless party hack at the Office for Civil Rights would have known that regulatory guidelines that encouraged colleges to punish boys for drunk sex, and informally dictating that high school locker rooms across America must be open to transgender students, was going to trigger a backlash that could ultimately undermine the very rights they were trying to promote.   The Obama administration didn’t think that way; all it thought about was the principle. In some sense, that’s really admirable. In another, it’s completely lunatic.
The Little Sisters of the Poor case always struck FLG as completely politically nuts.  He gets that there are folks who believe access to contraception is a right.   Ok, but what's the actual harm in allowing for religious exceptions?  Who is actually harmed?    Women who have chosen to work for religious organizations or businesses whose owners are very strongly religious?   If one goes to work for the Catholic Church, it's not like you don't know that it's against contraception.   Find another job.   Doesn't seem like an excessive burden on a huge segment of the population.  FLG gets a sort of slippery slope argument there, but doesn't think it's very compelling.   And the politics of forcing those organizations to buy something which they think is immoral for employees who voluntary accepted a job with their organization is politically tone deaf outside of some very ideological individuals.  Compromising a tinsy bit to get a lot more support or avoid a lot more opposition is what makes politics work.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Facts Are Important, But Not All That's Important

FLG gets extremely frustrated when people say stuff like Moynihan's statement, "You are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts."

Don't get FLG wrong!  Facts are important.   He is not in favor of Post-Truth world.  What drives him nuts is not the statement, but that too frequently the person who utters it assumes that their conclusion of what must be done follows directly from the facts.   This isn't the case.

FLG's favorite example is --  You're wet; here's a towel.   You're wet is an empirically verifiable statement.   (Let's assume it for the sake of argument you are wet.)  A fact.  However, my handing you a towel implies a value judgement -- that being dry is better than being wet.    That may or not be the case.   Maybe you prefer being wet.  Maybe it's hot outside.

X might be fact.  Y might be a fact.   But recommending Z action in response to those facts requires a value judgement, which people who claim to be purely fact-based and results-oriented the loudest and most strongly often seem to be completely unaware that their values are entering into the discussion.    If X and Y are true, then Z must follow.  QED.

(This is separate from the often difficult aspect of determining an objective fact, particularly in the social sciences.  Lies, damned lies, and statistics, as it were.)

Anyway, this all comes up because FLG read this article about Obama's foreign failures:
I, or any critic of Obama’s foreign policy, could sit with an Obama administration official, and, even if we agreed on all the facts and specifics of a particular country or conflict, it wouldn’t matter much. Divergences in how people interpret Obama’s legacy have much more to do with fundamentally different starting assumptions about America’s role in the world and even human nature—in other words, the very reasons why we do what we do. In fact, looking back at my own meetings with officials during the Obama era, rarely do I ever recall hearing something and thinking to myself that I had just heard some gross error of fact. This is why I found such meetings so frustrating and circular: The only things we disagreed on were the most important.



Quote of the day

J T Levy:
If Black Lives Matter is “identity politics,” then identity politics has provided one of the most significant political mobilizations in defense of freedom in the United States in my lifetime.

FLG is surprised it took him a month to find this article.   He doesn't agree with all of it, for example even Vox raised doubt about whether the origin of the War on Drugs was racist in origin, but overall it made FLG rethink some of the issues.  

Empirically Testable?

FLG remembers the breathless reporting on the Occupy Movement with reporters hoping that it would become the Left's Tea Party.  A grassroots movement that animates political action.   And then, well, it fizzled.

FLG's hypothesis:  It fizzled as soon as they published their agenda because, well, their agenda.   The upper-middle class, center left mainstream media types were projecting their concerns onto the protestors, but when demands like this are part of the program, they realized it wasn't what they were bargaining for, but instead a political platform rooted in Marxism that was far more radical than they hoped.

Similarly, Black Lives Matter got a ton of press, then in August of last year, they announced their demands and priorities. FLG believes the mainstream press again realized they were projecting (and FLG has to admit he was as well for a while) what they considered legitimate concerns as the priorities of the movement, but again saw a political platform rooted in Marxism.   In this case, even more so than Occupy, for example:
We are committed to disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, and especially “our” children to the degree that mothers, parents and children are comfortable.

FLG's perception is that there has been far less press since August 2016.    Is there a way to empirically test this hypothesis, both for Occupy and BLM, that the publishing of a list of demands led to a drop off in media reporting and support?

Another question -- how was the Tea Party more successful in avoiding the fizzle and translating its priorities into political action by, you know, politicians?   That it was never reliant on the media, as the media was going to be critical of their priorities and was never going to be a cheerleader?   Did the Tea Party make a definitive list of demands?   FLG doesn't think he ever saw one.

Who Knew?

FLG learned today that Pico della Mirandola was likely poisoned, which didn't really surprise him, but the reason, that he was close with Savonarola, did.   FLG would've thought that the person who wrote what is often called the "Manifesto of the Renaissance" and the person responsible for the most famous Bonfire of the Vanities would not have gotten along.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Federalist 10

FLG had an overwhelming urge to read Federalist #10 today.   He hadn't read it to the end in probably five years, but was rewarded for his trouble with this little nugget:
A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it; in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire State.

FLG's chuckled at the description "improper or wicked project."  Makes him wonder how Madison would've described Bernie Sanders' platform.



Monday, January 16, 2017

Didn't Glaucon Already Say That?

FLG received an email in relation to his previous post, in which FLG wrote:
isn't Social Justice akin to:
I proclaim that justice is nothing else than the interest of the weaker

The crux of the email was that Glaucon pretty much said that in Book II of the Republic:
They say that to do injustice is, by nature, good; to suffer injustice, evil; but that the evil is greater than the good. And so when men have both done and suffered injustice and have had experience of both, not being able to avoid the one and obtain the other, they think that they had better agree among themselves to have neither; hence there arise laws and mutual covenants; and that which is ordained by law is termed by them lawful and just. This they affirm to be the origin and nature of justice; --it is a mean or compromise, between the best of all, which is to do injustice and not be punished, and the worst of all, which is to suffer injustice without the power of retaliation; and justice, being at a middle point between the two, is tolerated not as a good, but as the lesser evil, and honoured by reason of the inability of men to do injustice. For no man who is worthy to be called a man would ever submit to such an agreement if he were able to resist; he would be mad if he did. Such is the received account, Socrates, of the nature and origin of justice. 

FLG's point about today's social justice activists isn't Glaucon's, but he doesn't have time to explain now.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Political Correctness, Free Speech, and Thrasymachus

FLG thought this was a solid, decently balanced article taking a look at the issue of political correctness and free speech.    In fact, when he read this passage he had an epiphany:
Bettina Aptheker was one of the leaders of the free speech movement back then, some 52 years ago....We were young and inexperienced back then. We thought everyone should be able to say anything, cost what it may." But now Aptheker ponders the second half of that sentence. One example of the price paid back then, she says, was that a bunch of American neo-Nazis turned up on campus at Berkeley in full regalia -- with swastika armbands and signs reading, "Burn Aptheker." As a student, she didn't like it, but she thought it was tolerable, something covered by freedom of speech....Perhaps such limitations on freedom make some sense. Aptheker says she's no longer certain today whether we should accept a situation where the weaker in society are insulted in the name of protecting free speech. She's learned a lot about microaggression through feminist teachings.

In Book I of The Republic, Thrasymachus famously states:

I proclaim that justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger.

Reading the above concern about the weaker in society being insulted, FLG then wondered isn't Social Justice akin to:

I proclaim that justice is nothing else than the interest of the weaker.

Frankly, Socrates more or less spends the rest of The Republic trying to disprove Thryasmachus's simple statement, and certainly doesn't do so absolutely.   Perhaps the reverse is just as difficult to disprove.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Fuckin' Told Ya.

We found a consistent positive relationship between profanity and honesty; profanity was associated with less lying and deception at the individual level, and with higher integrity at the society level.

link

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Kierkegaard

FLG decided to sign up for this Coursera course:
Søren Kierkegaard - Subjectivity, Irony and the Crisis of Modernity

Which is funny because FLG did the exact same thing back in October of 2013, but didn't get very far.   Until that point, he'd cranked through several of them, but it all stopped with Kierkegaard.  

The first week's readings are Euthyphro and The Apology, which makes it easy.

Freezy Freakies

FLG had the rocket ones when he was a kid.

FLG's Resolution

FLG resolves to use the word Procrustean more frequently.

Who Knew?

NyMag:
The point is that the key experts involved in [Implicit Association Test] IAT research no longer claim that the IAT can be used to predict individual behavior. In this sense, the IAT has simply failed to deliver on a promise it has been making since its inception — that it can reveal otherwise hidden propensities to commit acts of racial bias. There’s no evidence it can.

FLG was legitimately surprised by this article. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

FLG Has Also Been ReReading Tocqueville

...particularly in light of social justice warriors on campus.  

When all the privileges of birth and fortune are abolished, when all professions are accessible to all, and a man's own energies may place him at the top of any one of them, an easy and unbounded career seems open to his ambition and he will readily persuade himself that he is born to no common destinies. But this is an erroneous notion, which is corrected by daily experience. The same equality that allows every citizen to conceive these lofty hopes renders all the citizens less able to realize them; it circumscribes their powers on every side, while it gives freer scope to their desires. Not only are they themselves powerless, but they are met at every step by immense obstacles, which they did not at first perceive. They have swept away the privileges of some of their fellow creatures which stood in their way, but they have opened the door to universal competition; the barrier has changed its shape rather than its position. When men are nearly alike and all follow the same track, it is very difficult for any one individual to walk quickly and cleave a way through the dense throng that surrounds and presses on him. This constant strife between the inclination springing from the equality of condition and the means it supplies to satisfy them harasses and wearies the mind.
It is possible to conceive of men arrived at a degree of freedom that should completely content them; they would then enjoy their independence without anxiety and without impatience. But men will never establish any equality with which they can be contented. Whatever efforts a people may make, they will never succeed in reducing all the conditions of society to a perfect level; and even if they unhappily attained that absolute and complete equality of position, the inequality of minds would still remain, which, coming directly from the hand of God, will forever escape the laws of man. However democratic, then, the social state and the political constitution of a people may be, it is certain that every member of the community will always find out several points about him which overlook his own position; and we may foresee that his looks will be doggedly fixed in that direction. When inequality of conditions is the common law of society, the most marked inequalities do not strike the eye; when everything is nearly on the same level, the slightest are marked enough to hurt it. Hence the desire of equality always becomes more insatiable in proportion as equality is more complete.
Among democratic nations, men easily attain a certain equality of condition, but they can never attain as much as they desire. It perpetually retires from before them, yet without hiding itself from their sight, and in retiring draws them on. At every moment they think they are about to grasp it; it escapes at every moment from their hold. They are near enough to see its charms, but too far off to enjoy them; and before they have fully tasted its delights, they die.
To these causes must be attributed that strange melancholy which often haunts the inhabitants of democratic countries in the midst of their abundance, and that disgust at life which sometimes seizes upon them in the midst of calm and easy circumstances.

To be fair, FLG doesn't quote the above to contend that all of the social justice warriors claims, such as they are, are false.  Just that the quest for perfect equality is both futile, as the world can never be made perfectly just by the hands or minds of human beings, but that even as we converge closer to the highest potential of democratic equality possible in the temporal world people conversely become increasingly dissatisfied.

FLG also found this interesting vis-a-vis the seemingly endless encroachment of the federal government into more and more of our lives, as well as the left's newfound but almost certainly temporary defense of federalism.

 The very next notion to that of a single and central power which presents itself to the minds of men in the ages of equality is the notion of uniformity of legislation. As every man sees that he differs but little from those about him, he cannot understand why a rule that is applicable to one man should not be equally applicable to all others. Hence the slightest privileges are repugnant to his reason; the faintest dissimilarities in the political institutions of the same people offend him, and uniformity of legislation appears to him to be the first condition of good government. I find, on the contrary, that this notion of a uniform rule equally binding on all the members of the community was almost unknown to the human mind in aristocratic ages; either it was never broached, or it was rejected.

The Americans hold that in every state the supreme power ought to emanate from the people; but when once that power is constituted, they can conceive, as it were, no limits to it, and they are ready to admit that it has the right to do whatever it pleases. They have not the slightest notion of peculiar privileges granted to cities, families, or persons; their minds appear never to have foreseen that it might be possible not to apply with strict uniformity the same laws to every part of the state and to all its inhabitants.

On Misunderstanding Plato

In the Age of Trump, FLG has been rereading Plato for a variety of reasons.   Plato, perhaps more than any other philosopher, is open to a variety of interpretations; however, and FLG has mentioned this before (and has possibly even already written this exact post years ago), he has little patience for people* who take his description of the ideal city, Kallipolis, literally.

Most readers pay attention to the literal specifics of the City in Speech and the broader societal implications, but too often pay far less attention to the description of the Justice within the individual and the right ordering of the soul.   Here's how the creation of the City in Speech begins:

suppose that a short-sighted person had been asked by some one to read small letters from a distance; and it occurred to some one else that they might be found in another place which was larger and in which the letters were larger --if they were the same and he could read the larger letters first, and then proceed to the lesser --this would have been thought a rare piece of good fortune.
Very true, said Adeimantus; but how does the illustration apply to our enquiry?
I will tell you, I replied; justice, which is the subject of our enquiry, is, as you know, sometimes spoken of as the virtue of an individual, and sometimes as the virtue of a State.
True, he replied.
And is not a State larger than an individual?
It is.
Then in the larger the quantity of justice is likely to be larger and more easily discernible. I propose therefore that we enquire into the nature of justice and injustice, first as they appear in the State, and secondly in the individual, proceeding from the greater to the lesser and comparing them.
That, he said, is an excellent proposal.
And if we imagine the State in process of creation, we shall see the justice and injustice of the State in process of creation also.
I dare say.
When the State is completed there may be a hope that the object of our search will be more easily discovered.
Yes, far more easily. 

Clearly, the creation of the State is a means to an end, not the end in itself.   Granted, one could easily argue that, 'yes, the State is a means to an end, the end being Justice.  Thus, he is describing the State that manifests Justice.'   FLG contends that the State is merely an allegory for Justice because it is, as he says, 'larger letters.'    But, we then need to proceed to the individual.   But we need to proceed from the beginning directly to the end to really solidify the argument:

[The man of understanding] will look at the city which is within him, and take heed that no disorder occur in it, such as might arise either from superfluity or from want; and upon this principle he will regulate his property and gain or spend according to his means.
Very true.
And, for the same reason, he will gladly accept and enjoy such honours as he deems likely to make him a better man; but those, whether private or public, which are likely to disorder his life, he will avoid?
Then, if that is his motive, he will not be a statesman.
By the dog of Egypt, he will! in the city which 's his own he certainly will, though in the land of his birth perhaps not, unless he have a divine call.
I understand; you mean that he will be a ruler in the city of which we are the founders, and which exists in idea only; for I do not believe that there is such an one anywhere on earth?
In heaven, I replied, there is laid up a pattern of it, methinks, which he who desires may behold, and beholding, may set his own house in order. But whether such an one exists, or ever will exist in fact, is no matter; for he will live after the manner of that city, having nothing to do with any other. 

FLG contends that the City in Speech serves two purposes --   1) it helps to articulate the way soul ought be rightly order and 2) (although he hasn't made is case as strongly for this one) that horrible injustice is required, for example, the state has to lie its citizens about its match-making.



* Even though that seems to include Aristotle

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Quote of the day

Christopher Hitchens:
It is a frequent vice of radical polemic to assert, and even to believe, that once you have found the lowest motive for an antagonist, you have identified the correct one.

Trump as The Joker



That's just so fantastic.

FLG Found This Shocking

Telegraph:
Royal Navy warships will be left without anti-ship missiles and be forced to rely on naval guns because of cost-cutting, the Ministry of Defence has admitted.


Naval sources said the decision was “like Nelson deciding to get rid of his cannons and go back to muskets”

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Collective Narcissism

FLG has been very interested in the political correctness gone bad/social justice warrior thing on campus.  The illiberalism of non-platforming conservative speakers combined with all sorts of jargon and terminology, which seems like a form of newspeak, concerns FLG.   And the more he dug into the what is happening on campus, he said to himself, this sounds like collective narcissism.  He literally used those words in thinking it through.

Anyway, today, FLG was reading Vox and came across this article:

How “collective narcissism” helps explain the election of Trump
“Collective narcissists do not have a sense of humor when their group is concerned,” a psychologist says

The examples provided were all focused on the right side of the political spectrum, and those do make FLG concerned about groups on the right as well, but the descriptions given could easily apply to the left-wing social justice folks just as easily:
Collective narcissists do not have a sense of humor when their group is concerned. Any [insult] could be convincing.
In a way, they are susceptible to any type of propaganda that upsets the in-group image.
Collective narcissists — [that is, people who score high on the collective narcissism scale] — support hostile and aggressive actions toward those who they see as threatening the exaggerated in-group image regardless of the costs of those actions.
Collective narcissists are exclusive in who they are willing to regard as compatriots. And they turn against those who express concern.


FLG will need to read the study because he's convinced collective narcissism is a phenomenon of increasing importance in the age of social media.

Analysis of US-China Conflict

FLG has been thinking about how Trump will handle the rise of China and found this analysis of the potential conflict scenarios, although it's not Trump specific:
any discussion of war between the U.S. and China overestimates either the Chinese capability or the American capability. The Chinese would not be able to take Taiwan. There are too many failure points. The U.S. could blockade China if it was prepared to accept losses. The U.S. is risk averse, and minimizing threats would mean a far larger war than merely a naval picket line.

Each action by either side faces a counter that opens the door not only to failure but also to losing forces neither side can afford to lose. The only practical way to force a change in the balance of power in the region is a shift in alliances by one of the countries, and the Philippines is the one to watch.


A more specific line of thought that is particularly relevant to Trump is this:
the U.S. is highly unpredictable in how it responds to challenges. The Chinese saw this unpredictability in Korea, Vietnam, Kosovo, Operation Desert Storm, Iraq and so on. At times, the U.S. does not respond. Other times it over-reacts, from the Chinese point of view. 

The author is talking about strategic unpredictability going back decades, but this is only exacerbated by a Trump presidency. 
 
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