.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Generic Confusion

When you leave, my blog just fades to grey
Nu ma nu ma iei, nu ma nu ma nu ma iei

News? Check. Politics? Check. Music? Check. Random thoughts about life? Check. Readership? Ummm.... let me get back to you on that. Updated when I feel like I have something to say, and remember to post it.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Bribe Your Way Into Yale

Quite the story going around now, about the wealthy advancing from merely making large donations to universities to outright bribing the schools into admitting their less than capable children.

The linked article is about how the elite hates standardized tests, and quotes a tweet from one ultraprivileged individual (who is too cool to use capital letters):

a casual reminder that lots of upper middle class parents (perfectly legally) improve their kids’ SAT scores by paying tutors to teach them to game the system. mine did. my math score jumped almost 200 points, which i promise reflected no similar increase in my command of *math*
without that systemic leg up, i doubt i would have gotten into yale, from which i graduated with honors etc. i was exactly the same applicant pre & post tutoring. i just looked different on paper. well aware most of my peers’ families could not afford to give them that advantage.

Well, 200 points is not actually enough to swing an average SAT score to Yale-bound levels.  But she needed it, because Yale had minimal standards, even for someone part of Hollywood royalty.

From the article:

And it’s likely that many commentators will use this event as an opportunity to attack the SAT and the ACT. Progressives view test-based admissions as inequitable because some marginalized groups are significantly underrepresented among the pool of top-scoring college applicants.

I've long rejected the idea that these standardized tests are biased against certain groups.  I'm willing to be proven wrong, and this is how you would demonstrate that the exams are biased:

  1. Come up with three standardized tests to measure intelligence.
  2. Have experts in the fields say that these are all tests designed to measure intelligence.
  3. Say that on test 1, group A will outperform group B.  On test 2, group A and group B will score about the same.  On test 3, group B will outperform group A.
  4. Demonstrate these assertions by actual members of group A and group B taking these three tests.

The article continues:

But millionaires and elites also hate standardized admissions tests, because their children’s admission to top colleges is contingent upon test scores.

So true!

Thursday, January 03, 2019

The Thanos solution

Thanos, from the Marvel comic universe, has the solution to global warming: kill off half the world's population.

What, too far?

Well, global warming is an existential threat, right?  Everything should be on the table?

Let's define the existential threat.  It assumes the following four points are true:

  1. The earth is warming
  2. A significant portion of this warming is attributable to human activity
  3. Warming will have a catastrophic effect on the world
  4. There are actions humans can take to reduce warming in such a way that it is no longer catastrophic.
If 1. isn't true, then there's no problem,  If 3. isn't true, then there's little problem.  If 2. isn't true, or if 4. isn't true, then our focus has to be on mitigating the impacts.

So you want the world to do something major.  Thanos is off the table, but what about a mT (millithanos)?  A millithanos would be around 3.5 million dead.  And since any solution to global warming would involve keeping the third world in poverty, stopping the economic growth of nations like India and China, and sending developed nations into an economic depression, I could see quickly reaching 3.5 million additional deaths over the null scenario of doing nothing and letting economic growth happen worldwide.

So you better be sure.

Why, specifically, do I bring up Thanos?  Because one thing Thanos promises is to make it fair.  Half of the universe, no favoritism.

We do have something in America's past that could compare to the efforts that would be needed to combat global warming: the shared sacrifice on the home front during World War II.  Rationing, recycling, putting money into war bonds, going without new consumer goods.  We did it in the past.

Could we do it again?  I fear we're too selfish.  But if it were to happen, it would again have to be an example of shared sacrifice.

And that's why it's a huge problem for liberal politicians to live in mansions, for celebrities to fly in private jets, for environmentalist groups to hold conferences to discuss how to deal with global warming at five star resorts on another continent.  Because that shows that the loudest voices have no intention of making this a shared sacrifice.  If you want to convince people that global warming is an existential threat that requires a response like World War II, you have to show that you're willing to sacrifice.  Show some leadership!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Michael Dukakis: the original woke?

My biggest problem with policies of the political left is that they don't work.  Or if they work, they have consequences.  The left doesn't go beyond first order thinking, thinking only in terms of the plan to do X doing X, not thinking that X will lead to Y and Z.  In the U.S., the Democrats force this line of thinking through the CBO's use of static scoring.  Static scoring assumes no behavioral changes or substitutions.

Even when politicians say out of one side of their mouth that increasing the tax on tobacco will drive people to quit smoking and convince others never to pick up the habit, they direct the CBO to assume that a 10% tax rate increase will increase tax revenues by exactly 10%.

The greater, and increasing, danger comes from the fact that a particular liberal elite is driving the political debate.  The primary goal of the elite is to improve their standing among their fellow elite.  To do so, they propose policies with good intentions, but they get more and more "out there" each year.  People outside the elite notice the obvious consequences of these policies, but their voices are ignored or worse, shouted down as XXXist.

To take one example, a policy favoring increased immigration, illegal or otherwise, is popular among some groups on all sides of the political spectrum.  To the liberal elite, it is all about preening and posturing: Look how noble and open-minded and diverse and not bigoted I am.  To the mainstream population, they see a variety of possible consequences: competition for jobs driving down wages, increased crime, and the strain on public schools and social programs.

But I increasingly fear that the liberal elite does know about the consequences of their policies, and they just don't care.  They are free to not care because they are insulated from the consequences of the policy decisions they support.  The illegal immigrant isn't going to work as a television journalist or hedge fund manager or think tank fellow or professor or head of a nonprofit.  Their children aren't going to be enrolled in their private schools.  They won't be seeking care in their hospitals.  They won't enter their gated communities.

(Unless it's to clean their house or tend to their yard.  Because if there's one thing true of wealthy liberals, they're deathly allergic to paying a living wage to someone outside their social class.)

The recent passing of President George H. W. Bush has brought a lot of details about his political life to the public eye for the first time in decades.  One of those was his criticism, during the 1988 election, of Governor Michael Dukakis' prison furlough program.  (Aside: It was an obvious criticism, and one first raised by Senator Al Gore during the primaries.)

Dukakis was the stereotypical northern white liberal, declaring he was a proud card-carrying member of the ACLU and everything.  To that mindset, it was right and good to be compassionate to criminals, because that would help make them better people.  The furlough policy made him look good in the eyes of people like him.  It was very woke of him, decades before the term was coined.

The real fear that, say, a murderer on a furlough release would go on to rape a woman?  Perhaps he didn't think about that.

Or, perhaps, he knew that a released murderer would never go to his neighborhood, and would never harm him or his family due to his armed security.

Remember that he also flubbed a debate question, reacting with a strange lack of emotion to the idea of his wife being a victim of violent crime.  Now that I think back, maybe this is the same issue.  He couldn't conceive of this happening because he knew he was insulated from the danger.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Black Panther is just a movie

It's rather amusing the number of people who have tried to make political points using the fictional African nation of Wakanda from the Black Panther movie/comic.  The movie was a good, entertaining comic book movie, but that's all it was.  It's not some commentary of what Africa could be without colonialism or racism or what have you.  Sure, they have the world's only supply of vibranium, and that's the source of their super powers.

Vibranium is another word for magic.

Most super heroes have special powers, and the source of their power could be described with the word magic just as well as their actual backstory.  Superman gets his power from the yellow sun/magic.  Spider-Man gets his power from radioactive spider genes/magic.  It's even true for someone like Iron Man, who invents world-changing technologies because he's a genius scientist.  But why can only he, of the thousands of genius scientists, understand this technology?  Magic.

If you think about the details of Wakanda as if it were a real place, and compare it to the real world, the flaws are obvious.  They possess this super valuable material, and as a result created technologies powered by it.  Now switch to the real world, and imagine the oil-rich nations of the world as they were in the 17th century.  How many advanced technologies did they make to use their abundant natural resource?

The most laughable example of this from the movie is how vibranium is somehow a super medicine.  After all, everyone knows the healthiest thing for the human body is to ingest large quantities of heavy metals.

The simple fact is that a nation that chose to remain isolated from the world community would lag behind the world.  The free exchange of knowledge is what drives progress.  It's why, historically, the vast majority of the world's inventions and discoveries came from the largest interconnected land area, namely the Mediterranean, Europe, and Asia.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

The purveyors of privilege

A random Tweet I saw wondered why people who talk about social justice talk about demographic issues (race, sex) rather than social class.

As I've said before, the ultimate privilege is being the person who says who is privileged and who is in need of social justice.  And since social class is one place where these arbiters are advantaged, they want to make the discussion about something other than social class.

Let's talk more about the typical purveyor of privilege, the kind seen on college campuses.

You can tell they're of a high socioeconomic class because they devote hours to social justice.  They don't spend their hours working in the campus cafeteria and tutoring on the side to make enough money to barely cover their living expenses.

They're privileged to get into the university from which they hold court, often one of the best universities in the world.

They don't need to spend long hours studying.  Only people who are smart enough to pass with minimal studying can spend this much time on social justice issues.

When they speak, they do so with a support network of allies, both student and faculty.  They have a platform, often one sanctioned by the university.

The ultimate social class advantage is they don't have to worry about the things they say in college being the first thing employers find when they search their name on Google.  They have the family wealth not to care, or the connections to help them land one of those jobs where having a viral video is a positive, not a negative.

Thursday, September 27, 2018


America's Democratic Party leaders are remarkably literate, culturally and historically.

Why, just this week, they've shown a mastery of Orwell, Kafka, Stalin, and McCarthy.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

How to enjoy Dungeons & Dragons

Seen on Twitter (paraphrasing):

I cringe when someone says "I play Dungeons & Dragons" and some yahoo says "Oh yeah?  What level is your character?"

I cringe at seeing someone being judgmental, automatically assuming the worst of intentions.  To illustrate, I'll assume the best of intentions.  The person talking to you is expressing an interest in talking about your hobby.  Is they way they phrased that the best?  Not at all.  But consider the person may have only oblique exposure to role-playing games through things like MMORPGs, where that is a better question.  Perhaps they played a long time ago, and the fact that characters have levels is one of the few details they remember.  Or maybe the way they currently play the game is to focus on one character.  Maybe they'd be interested in trying a different scheme, where one plays multiple characters in related campaigns with rotating DMs?

All I can say is if you react hostilely, you won't get a positive reaction.

There are multiple things a person could enjoy about a game like Dungeons & Dragons.  I'll give examples from Lord of the Rings.  One person may favor creating a character and his back story, and watching the character and his relationships develop during the game, as Frodo and Samwise do when they leave the Shire and go on their adventure.  Some people may favor the story, the epic adventure to destroy the One Ring and stop Dark Lord Sarumon's evil plot.  And others may favor the crunchy numerical combat aspect, like Legolas and Gimli competing over who could fell the greatest number of foes.  There are many ways to enjoy the game.

The original poster called the "What level is your character?" question gatekeeping.  Gatekeeping is when someone tries to enforce how people can enjoy a hobby and who can enjoy it.  This person is saying the person who favors combat and building a character's statistics is enjoying the game wrong.  In other words, she's the only one gatekeeping here.