Namby-Pamby Conservatism

That’s what’s on display in a post by Rich Logis at The Federalist; for example:

[T]ens of thousands of political content creators live in fear that what they produce, whether on a commercial or personal level, will be subject to Big Tech’s arbitrary and baffling speech standards.

I am not looking to put tech companies out of business. What I am looking to do, and what I hope CMIC personalities will consider, is to leverage the free market principles our side claims to hold so dear. There is an untapped opportunity for those who have built immensely visible and influential brands within the CMIC to operate as their own YouTube, where freedom of speech and opinions will thrive, rather than be subjugated to authoritarian-minded arbitration.

I have tried several of the “conservative”* alternatives to Facebook, etc., and they are laughably amateurish. But putting that aside, the possibility that “conservative”* alternatives might eventually become widely known and used doesn’t excuse what amounts to state-sponsored censorship by Big Tech. It is a grave mistake to condone such censorship by erroneously invoking the First Amendment.

Big Tech must be brought to heel before, like public schooling, it becomes an ineradicable instrument of leftist indoctrination.
* “Sneer quotes” because the sites that I’ve tried are intellectually incoherent.

Empty Desk, Empty Mind?

That’s the implication of a quotation erroneously attributed to Einstein (as Bill Vallicella notes):

If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?

Clever, regardless of who said it, but too clever by half. A cluttered desk isn’t necessarily a sign of a cluttered mind; a person with an orderly mind may have a cluttered desk and still be able to quickly retrieve from the clutter whatever item he needs. An empty desk is a sign of a person who likes order (neatness, symmetry), which usually reflects an orderly mind.


A cluttered desk may be a sign of an orderly mind; an empty desk is almost surely a sign of an orderly mind.

The Fatuous David Brooks Rides Again

I haven’t toyed with David Brooks’s earnest offerings in a long time (perhaps not since “Babbling Brooks” in 2016). But it’s hard to resist a pot-shot at a sitting duck, which is what Brooks simulates in his encomium to the “liberal world order” (which is the subtext of this post and this one). Specifically, Brooks writes tearfully that

Americans take a dark view of human nature and withdraw from the world. Wolves like Putin and Xi fill the void and make bad things happen, confirming the dark view and causing even more withdrawal.

Americans (conservatives, at least) rightly take a dark view of human nature, but what does that have to do with “withdrawing from the world”? What serious (conservative) Americans want isn’t withdrawal, it is two connected things: security from military blackmail and defense of legitimate overseas interests, the most important of which is trade with other countries (on legitimate terms).

Those things don’t require meddling in other people’s business, which is what most Americans rightly reject. They require robust military forces, and a demonstrated willingness to apply them. Brooks, in his usual way, omits the obvious and correct view of what (most) Americans want because he is “conservative” only by the standards of The New York Times.

Knot for Me

I was amused by this photo of Jeff Bezos sporting a Full Windsor knot:

(A compensatory device, perhaps?)

When I first learned to tie a necktie, more than 60 years ago, I used what is properly called a Half Windsor Knot (though it is often called a Windsor Knot). The Half Windsor is neater and more elegant than the Full Windsor, which looks like a chin-cushion.

But when I began working in a professional setting, where necktie wearing was then (early 1960s) de rigeur, I adopted the Four-in-hand knot, which is faster and easier to tie than either of the Windsors. The article linked to in the preceding sentence alleges that the four-in-hand is “notably asymmetric”. But it isn’t if one is careful about pulling the knot up into the “notch” between collar points, and sticks to straight-collar shirts (which also lend a more professional appearance than spread collars and button-downs).

In fact, a properly tied four-in-hand is more elegant than its cumbersome Windsor rivals. For one thing, the four-in-hand knot doesn’t overwhelm the long part of the tie, which (if one has good taste in ties) is what one wants to show off.  In addition, the four-in-hand lends itself to a neat dimple, which can be achieved with the Half Windsor but not the Full Windsor.

The neat (centered) dimple says: “I am a fastidious person” — and I am.

Justice Thomas Throws Down Another Gauntlet

In connection with the overturning of Roe v. Wade (see this), I noted here Justice Thomas’s

concurring opinion in Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, Inc., [which] is devastating in its revelations about the racist motives of Margaret Sanger, a founder of Planned Parenthood, and of abortion’s “disparate impact” on blacks. For a synopsis of Thomas’s opinion, see “Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Margaret Sanger Walk Into a Segregated Bar…“, by John Zmirak, The Stream, May 29, 2019.

Now, from Fox News, comes this:

In a concurring opinion in a Supreme Court case announced Monday, Justice Clarence Thomas issued a lengthy call for his colleagues to overturn “demonstrably erroneous decisions” even if they have been upheld for decades — prompting legal observers to say Thomas was laying the groundwork to overturn the seminal 1973 case Roe v. Wade, which established a constitutional right to abortion.

Thomas’ blunt opinion came in Gamble v. United States, a case concerning the so-called “double-jeopardy” doctrine, which generally prohibits an individual from being charged twice for the same crime. But both pro-life and pro-choice advocates quickly noted the implications of his reasoning for a slew of other future cases, including a potential revisiting of Roe.

“When faced with a demonstrably erroneous precedent, my rule is simple: We should not follow it,” Thomas wrote.

Hear, hear.

But will Roberts and Kavanaugh heed Thomas? Roberts is erratic and Kavanaugh may have sold his soul (on abortion) to win the vote and endorsement of Susan Collins.

Beware of Muslim Airline Pilots?

Fox News has a story about Maylasia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared over the Indian Ocean. The details are in the story. Here’s the gist of it:

The night the aircraft went missing, control was seized in the cockpit during a 20 minute period between 1:01 a.m. and 1:21 a.m. and radar records show the autopilot was probably switched off, according to [aviation specialist William] Langewiesche….

When the report by a 19-member international team was released last July, Chief investigator Kok Soo Chon said during a media briefing there was no evidence of abnormal behavior or stress among the two pilots – Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah and co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid – that could lead them to hijack the plane.

Langewiesche notes that while the co-pilot had nothing but a bright future ahead and no red flags in his past, Zaharie’s life raised multiple concerns. After his wife moved out, the captain, who was reported to be “lonely and sad,” also “spent a lot of time pacing empty rooms” and obsessed over two young internet models.

Forensic examinations of the pilot’s simulator by the FBI also revealed he experimented with a flight profile that roughly matched what’s believed to have happened to MH370, and that ended in “fuel exhaustion over the Indian Ocean.” New York Magazine reported in 2016 that the simulated flight was conducted less than a month before the plane vanished.

That’s not all. The story goes on to remind readers of

a similar incident, [in which] EgyptAir Flight 990 crashed off the coast of Massachusetts in October 1999 on its way from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York to Cairo. Audio captured by the co-pilot caught pilot Gameel Al-Batouti say 11 times in Arabic, “I rely on God.”

Two years later, the National Transportation Safety Board determined Al-Batouti had been suicidal and purposely crashed the plane while the first pilot was out of the cockpit.

Yes, there’s also mention of

Germanwings Flight 9525, which crashed into the French Alps in 2015, [and] was also determined to be a case of suicide-by-pilot. Officials determined co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, who had previously been treated for suicidal tendencies, flew the airliner into the mountains on purpose.

The case of Lubitz notwithstanding, there’s more to fear from the likes of Zaharie Ahmad Shah and Gameel Al-Batouti — suicide flying as a substitute for suicide bombing. I’m glad that my days of international air travel are long over.

The “Candle Problem” and Its Ilk

Among the many topics that I address in “The Balderdash Chronicles” is the management “science” fad; in particular, as described by Graham Morehead,

[t]he Candle Problem [which] was first presented by Karl Duncker. Published posthumously in 1945, “On problem solving” describes how Duncker provided subjects with a candle, some matches, and a box of tacks. He told each subject to affix the candle to a cork board wall in such a way that when lit, the candle won’t drip wax on the table below (see figure at right). Can you think of the answer?

The only answer that really works is this: 1.Dump the tacks out of the box, 2.Tack the box to the wall, 3.Light the candle and affix it atop the box as if it were a candle-holder. Incidentally, the problem was much easier to solve if the tacks weren’t in the box at the beginning. When the tacks were in the box the participant saw it only as a tack-box, not something they could use to solve the problem. This phenomenon is called “Functional fixedness.”

The implication of which, according to Morehead, is (supposedly) this:

When your employees have to do something straightforward, like pressing a button or manning one stage in an assembly line, financial incentives work. It’s a small effect, but they do work. Simple jobs are like the simple candle problem.

However, if your people must do something that requires any creative or critical thinking, financial incentives hurt. The In-Box Candle Problem is the stereotypical problem that requires you to think “Out of the Box,” (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?). Whenever people must think out of the box, offering them a monetary carrot will keep them in that box.

A monetary reward will help your employees focus. That’s the point. When you’re focused you are less able to think laterally. You become dumber. This is not the kind of thing we want if we expect to solve the problems that face us in the 21st century.

My take (in part):

[T]he Candle Problem is unlike any work situation that I can think of. Tasks requiring creativity are not performed under deadlines of a few minutes; tasks requiring creativity are (usually) assigned to persons who have demonstrated a creative flair, not to randomly picked subjects; most work, even in this day, involves the routine application of protocols and tools that were designed to produce a uniform result of acceptable quality; it is the design of protocols and tools that requires creativity, and that kind of work is not done under the kind of artificial constraints found in the Candle Problem.

Now comes James Thompson, with this general conclusion about such exercises:

One important conclusion I draw from this entire paper [by Gerd Gigerenzer, here] is that the logical puzzles enjoyed by Kahneman, Tversky, Stanovich and others are rightly rejected by psychometricians as usually being poor indicators of real ability. They fail because they are designed to lead people up the garden path, and depend on idiosyncratic interpretations.

Told you so.

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