Stalker’s Delight

People sometimes wonder why I pick on–“stalk”–Jason Brennan so much. The answer is that I like wringing concessions out of his arrogant ass, and often get exactly what I’m looking for.

Like this:

UPDATE: I modified this slightly, because I realized that I don’t know what Krugman thinks about trade all-things-considered. 

No, I don’t mean the claim about Krugman. I mean the hyper-conscientiousness Brennan now shows about alerting his readers to the substantive changes he makes in his posts for 200-Proof Liberals. Remember when, at BHL, he self-righteously asserted the prerogative to write and re-write and re-write and re-write his posts without notice so as to evade criticisms? I do, and so does everyone who read the site. Now, without further ado, he’s forgotten all his “arguments” on that issue, and changed course by 180 degrees. Conscientious Brennan now makes sure to tell us when he’s made substantive changes. Continue reading

Dominance and Submission

From the classic discussion of the psychology of interruption in discourse: a power-oriented interruption is an attempt to establish dominance over an interlocutor by non-rational, semi-coercive means. In a televised debate, the television audience is a sort of interlocutor, so interruptions can be interpreted as attempts to establish dominance over the audience.

In this context, the relevant question is not who won the debate, but whether the audience acquiesces in domination or resists. The outcome of the “debate” was irrelevant because it wasn’t one. The whole event was simply a bid for domination, full stop, and its success or failure as an attempt depends on how the audience responds to the bid. Does the audience play along with the bid, take its aims for granted, and make excuses for it? Or does it push back in wholehearted rejection? There’s not much room here for neutrality or agnosticism.

Each one of us knows the answer to that question in our own case, and has the power to figure out what it is, partly by bringing it about. Voting may not give you much power or control over the powerful. But that one act does.

When Arguments Fail: A Response to Jason Brennan

So far, the BHL crowd has had literally nothing useful–explanatory, action-guiding, otherwise illuminating–to say about the COVID-19 pandemic. They have mostly kept their counsel, and offered up a series of pointless, incoherent, ranting tweets masquerading as the latest wisdom in statistical modeling. Add it all together, and it amounts to less in the way of insight than might be dished up by a just-buried corpse. Continue reading

Imagine All the People

When Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election, there were people out there who were absolutely certain that the explanation was sexism: the American people couldn’t (they insisted) handle the idea of a female president, and voted accordingly. You couldn’t get such people to consider the possibility that maybe Hillary Clinton lost the election because she was a complacent, uninspiring candidate. Continue reading

Vigor Mortis

I didn’t watch last night’s Democratic debate–I somehow managed to fall ill without doing so–but I was struck by this passage from what was supposed to be a news story about it. They’re talking about Biden’s performance at the debate:

The former vice president demonstrated more vigor than at many of the previous debates, when he often seemed somnolent. He sprinkled local references into his comments, sought to interject even when he was not called on and complained when he felt he was not given enough time.

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Donald Trump’s Slurred Speech: A Diagnosis and Prescription

While teaching a class today, I slurred over a word. I’m so far gone that I don’t even remember what word it was. It might have been “statistical,” but I can’t remember.

Am I drunk? Am I on drugs? Am I suffering from ADHD, or some neurological disease? All of the above?

No, as it turns out, I only got four hours of sleep last night. When I’m tired, I slur my words. Illy coffee helps, but not entirely. Continue reading

The Unwarranted Demonization of Scot Peterson (6): Vengeance Is Theirs

Friday was the second anniversary of the tragic Parkland shooting. The shooting was remembered in an appropriate-enough way in the media, except for one (to me) conspicuous thing: the continued, thoughtless, fact-free demonization of Scot Peterson, the School Resource Officer universally blamed for not entering the building where the shooting took place. Almost without exception, journalism about Parkland continues to take for granted the unexamined dogmas that Peterson “failed” to enter Building 12 and “failed” to confront the shooter, that he knew where the shooter was but deliberately hid from danger, and that his malfeasance goes beyond cowardice to legally actionable neglect, and beyond civil wrong to outright criminality. Continue reading

Caught with Your Pants Down: The Strange Case of Mayor John Roth of Mahwah

I’m about to recount an almost entirely inconsequential political incident, the strange case of John F. Roth, mayor of Mahwah, a small, affluent town in northeastern New Jersey. But while the incident is almost entirely inconsequential, I’d say that precisely one feature has broad significance. Let’s see if you and I agree on what it is.

About a month ago, John F. Roth, the mayor of Mahwah, went to a party at the home of a Mahwah Township employee. You’re not going to believe this, but alcohol was served at this party. Yes, alcohol. And–hold on to your hats here–but Roth actually consumed some of this alcohol. I wouldn’t lie about something like this. Having done so, he managed to get drunk. He must have realized that he was drunk, because instead of driving home–like a normal person–he decided to walk into a bedroom or guestroom of the house, take off his pants, and fall asleep on a bed. He was later discovered pants-less in that very bed. A call was placed to his wife, who arrived to retrieve him. Retrieved, I gather that he went home to sleep it off, very possibly pants-less, in his own bed. Continue reading

Cancel Culture Blues: The Strange Case of Steven Wilson

I need to stop reading stories like this, because if I do, I’m in danger of lapsing into Michael Young’s running dog reactionary views on cancel culture.* I’m still a big fan of cancellation as an idea, but if this is what “cancel culture” is going to be, then my thought is: leave me the hell out of it. But this isn’t what cancel culture has to be. We have a choice about what form it will take.

[Steven] Wilson was the chief executive of Ascend, the consortium of central Brooklyn charter schools he built, beginning with plans devised on his dining room table in 2007.

But Mr. Wilson was effectively barred from celebrating with his students.

Several weeks earlier, he had written a blog post embracing the values of a classical education; some younger members of his staff perceived it as racially traumatizing. Others found it simply tone-deaf. He was in a kind of purgatory, still employed by Ascend but taken out of its day-to-day operation.

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