Friday Four

Friday, September 30, 2016

1. "How to read a book a week," reads the teaser for a piece at The Verge in a recent link dump at Marginal Revolution. I strongly recommend the piece, as well as another it mentions right off the bat. I'm trying this advice already with Heather Mac Donald's The War on Cops, and hope to apply it to another couple of things I've had trouble moving along ever since we relocated.

Tyler Cowen gives the reward in one line, so I'll try doing the same with the method: Use existing habits as a basis for starting new ones. That may sound unimpressive, but a less-than-intimidating amount of effort is half the charm.

2. No. You don't have to call him her "master."

But Sally is asking for more than that: She's asking you to get involved in and play along with a specific dynamic of their relationship. It's entirely reasonable to decline to do that. Whatever she and Peter agree to do together is all well and good, but you and your co-workers don't need to participate in it.

And the fact that this is happening at work, as opposed to just in a social situation, gives this a whole additional layer of weirdness and discomfort. It would be odd enough if Sally were just doing this socially, but it's infinitely weirder and more disturbing that she's making it A Thing at work -- where people normally have stronger boundaries than this, where she has something of a captive audience, and where people feel pressure not to cause tension in their relationships with her.
Once again, Allison Green nails an issue most would find complicated, sitting as it does at the intersection of new professional norms and the opportunities for psychological manipulation they represent for some people.

3. Courtesy of my beer-a-day calendar, I have learned of a brew whose premise grosses me out a little, I will admit:
Someone joked that brew master John Maier's 34-year-old beard might be a perfect medium to grow yeast. He agreed to try it, and plucked nine hairs from his beard, which were sent to White Labs for testing and culturing (culturing makes it seem as if the hairs watched opera and read Shakespeare, but it means they were primed to grow yeast). It turns out, Maier's beard hairs can produce yeast -- and pretty decent yeast at that.

Maier's beard yeast is a blend of Rogue's workhorse yeast, Pacman, and a wild brewer's yeast. Wild brewer's yeasts act unpredictably, only fermenting some of the alcohol, but in the case of the beard yeast, it worked so well that it created a crisp flavor not typically associated with the unruly varieties. It was such a shock that the scientists at White Labs double-checked the results because they feared they had accidentally profiled the Pacman yeast instead of the beard yeast.
That said, and although it is not of a style I typically drink, I will try Rogue's Beard Beer some time, if I happen upon it.

4. After being here for months, I have finally heard someone call Baltimore "Ballmer", in a local radio ad. I knew about this accent from back in my Navy days. Either it's dying out or I live in the wrong part of the Baltimore area.

-- CAV

An Impossible Standard

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Thomas Sowell makes an interesting point regarding the idea that "people would be evenly or randomly distributed in incomes, institutions, occupations or awards, in the absence of somebody doing somebody wrong":

Something as simple as age differences among groups can doom any assumption of even or random outcomes.

If every 20-year-old Puerto Rican in the United States had an income identical with the income of every 20-year-old Japanese American -- and identical incomes at every other age -- Japanese Americans as a group would still have a higher average income than Puerto Ricans in the United States. That is because the median age of Japanese Americans is more than 20 years older.

People with 20 years more work experience usually make higher incomes. And age difference is just one of many differences between groups.
It has always been astounding to me that such a standard exists at all because its underlying assumption is questionable, anyway. But perhaps I shouldn't be, since few people concern themselves with justice these days. Or with individual rights, whose violation, in the form of theft, such a standard is used to excuse. These two things are the real problems with the idea, and bringing them back to our cultural consciousness will be key to killing off egalitarianism. Nevertheless, perhaps an attorney handling litigation in a case involving this principle can buy a small, short-term victory with Sowell's observation, while the longer battle to improve our culture goes on.

-- CAV


: Corrected typo in title.

Evaluation vs. Wishful Thinking

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

It has been interesting to follow, over the past few years, the development of alternative work arrangements that improved communications technologies have made possible. One notable aspect of the phenomenon has been the "shiny-newness" of it. We're all familiar with more traditional arrangements and all have our gripes with them: Wouldn't it be great if we could just throw all those problems away? So it is that working from home, which lacks (or appears to lack) some of those problems -- and has problems of its own we haven't heard of yet -- looks like the savior we've all been waiting for.

I have noticed a sobering of the commentary about such arrangements over the years, culminating in the kind of advice we really need, such as that from Ionut Neagu, in "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Remote Work (After 5 Years of Experience)":

[B]efore you envy that one person on Facebook who always posts cool pictures of them working from a weird location, or before buying yet another course on "living your dream by working remotely on an island somewhere," do some research. Try talking with people who already did it. Learn about their struggles. You know the good, so now get to know the ugly too. Decide if you're really ready for them, or if maybe your current situation is more in-tune with who you are after all.
Some of this isn't possible with a new option, but we can still learn to consider the idea that, in those cases, there may be "unknown unknowns" that might make us yearn for the tried and true, but less glamorous old way. It is wise to evaluate the new and the old on their merits, free of wishful thinking.

-- CAV

Tamping Down Little Dictators

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

"Evil HR Lady" Suzanne Lucas opens a column about a new overtime regulation:

A few weeks ago, a friend commented on an article about the new overtime regulations that are going into effect on December 1, 2016. These regulations say that to be an exempt employee (not eligible for overtime), you will have to earn $47,476 per year ($913 per week), a huge jump from the current $23,000. She said that it was about time, and that she was tired of these horrible managers taking advantage of their employees.

Fast forward a few weeks, and this same friend who had praised the new regulations now starts complaining. Her boss is making her track her hours. She has to come in at a certain time and cannot clock in early or late. She can no longer run to a doctor's appointment during the day without either losing pay or deducting it from her PTO bank. She was upset. She just wants to be treated like a professional! What happened? [links in original, bold added]
If it weren't for the fact that we are all affected by this law (and the precedent it sets), it would be comical to see this fool getting exactly what she deserves, but it isn't. Those of us who realize that flexible hours are a two-way street and want the freedom to accept or reject them are losing this choice. (This turns out to include telecommuting.)

Perhaps there is no cure for what I call the "dictator fantasy," but perhaps there is something we can do to blunt its effects. The next time I hear someone fantasize about "managers" (or any other "bad" guy du jour) "getting theirs", I plan to consider how that might blow back on them and ask how that suits them. Perhaps, if more of us who don't use the government as a substitute brain help those who do, we will tamp down on all the foolish clamoring for the government to dictate every aspect of our lives. This is no substitute for broader cultural activism, but perhaps it can buy some time by slowing down the rate of growth of government "planning."

-- CAV

A Dangerous Mockery

Monday, September 26, 2016

The latest round of race riots, this one in Charlotte, turns out to have been sparked in part by the blatant mischaracterization of a justified police shooting and deliberately escalated by non-residents. Emily Zanotti of Heat Street notes of the incident reported to have sparked the "outrage:"

Yes, the journalists who've come to North Carolina (just for a few days) are determined to expose police officers as abject racists, and to focus their institutional biases on Charlotte and the South as a whole. They also keep omitting, rather conveniently, the key detail in the Charlotte story: the officer who shot Keith Lamont Scott is also black.
Another detail about the shooting that has gone missing is that the police confiscated a firearm from Scott. Zanotti further elaborates on the usual tired stereotypes about the South "really" being run by bigoted white troglodytes and reverting to its "true" character -- despite the massive cultural change that has largely reshaped the region over the past few decades.

Regarding the rioters themselves, a blogger at Zero Hedge notes something that has been going on since Ferguson: many of the most violent "protesters" are arriving from elsewhere to create mayhem. He quotes from a CNN interview with a local police union spokesman:
"This is not Charlotte that's out here. These are outside entities that are coming in and causing these problems. These are not protestors, these are criminals."

"We've got the instigators that are coming in from the outside. They were coming in on buses from out of state. If you go back and look at some of the arrests that were made last night. I can about say probably 70% of those had out-of-state IDs. They're not coming from Charlotte." [bold in original]
The post goes further to finger George Soros as bankrolling this travesty, but it is clear that many journalists are dupes at best and accomplices at worst.

For a more comprehensive analysis of the many deceits behind this mockery of a real civil rights movement, I refer you to Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute, whose book, The War on Cops, is a must-read.

-- CAV

9-24-16 Hodgepodge

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Worse Than Watching Hollywood Depict One's Field

Pharma blogger Derek Lowe reacts to an announcement by Microsoft that it intends to "solve the problem of cancer" within five or ten years:

I have beaten on this theme many times on the blog, so for those who haven't heard me rant on the subject, let me refer you to this post and the links in it. Put shortly -- and these sorts of stories tend to put actual oncology researchers in a pretty short mood -- the cell/computer analogy is too facile to be useful. And that goes, with chocolate sprinkles on it, for all the subsidiary analogies, such as DNA/source code, disease/bug, etc. One one level, these things do sort of fit, but it's not a level that you can get much use out of. DNA is much, much messier than any usable code ever written, and it's messier on several different levels and in a lot of different ways. These (which include the complications of transcriptional regulation, post-transcriptional modification, epigenetic factors, repair mechanisms and mutation rates, and much, much, more), have no good analogies (especially when taken together) in coding. And these DNA-level concerns are only the beginning! That's where you start working on an actual therapy; that's what we call "Target ID", and it's way, way back in the process of finding a drug. So many complications await you after that -- you can easily spend your entire working life on them, and many of us have. [links in original]
Lowe does note something Microsoft could do that would help along cancer research, but I agree that the company "should just go and try it and report back when something interesting comes out of it, rather than beginning by making a big noise in the newspapers."

Weekend Reading

"[G]overnment puts productive people into a lose-lose situation by offering subsidies in the first place." -- Michael Hurd, in "Trump Legally Used Tax Breaks" at Newsmax

"[L]ittle kids can't reason like adults, but this doesn't mean they're mindless." -- Michael Hurd, in "To Spank or Not to Spank" at The Delaware Wave

It's Not Just Me: iTunes Is Rubbish

From my first attempt to use it, I thought iTunes was garbage. But I am a bit of an oddball when it comes to computers, and my knowledge about them has plenty of holes. So I am always willing to take my own conclusions with a bit of salt. That said, it looks like my impression of iTunes was accurate, based on the observations of a long-time user, who concludes:
At this point, whatever the causes of the product problems with iTunes and related iOS apps -- feature scope, management, team structure, etc. -- we can be pretty sure that the only 'solution' will appear when this software achieves end-of-life, the same way that the mystery of how to set recording time on VCRs was finally solved by their obsolescence.
Way back when the iPod was the Bright Shiny New, I received one as a gift and was astounded at how difficult it was to (figure out how to?) simply move audio files around from one device to the other. I cast about for better alternatives in pretty short order, ultimately going so far as to replace its firmware so I could completely avoid iTunes.

-- CAV

Friday Four

Friday, September 23, 2016

1. My three-year-old son has lately incorporated a large "family," as he calls it, into his bedtime routine. They -- or most of them, anyway -- are pictured below.

Every evening, Little Man brings them upstairs, and every morning, he takes them downstairs. The biggest are the adults, then are the kids, and then, the tiny, oddly-shaped one -- there is also a Mickey -- are the pets. He piles them all into his bed at night and, somehow, manages to sleep.

One morning this week, in the process of helping him collect his mice, I found something I had no idea was in our possession: a small, round, stuffed Mickey. I'll call it a Mickey-ball for lack of a better term. Once we had everything, including this new addition, downstairs, I started doing what I often do with balls: dribbled it like a soccer ball.

"Don't kick him! He's my baby," said Little Man, immediately reminding me by contrast of his older sister's games of "Hello Kitty soccer."

2. Intrigued by a claim that the man who built Umami Burger wasn't afraid to tell someone his idea was stupid, I ended up finding the following amusing lesson learned:
I learned that the manager you hire at restaurant number two is not going to be the manager who oversees five locations. I had one guy who was great, but he had absolutely no systems or organization. One day, there was a rat, and he volunteered to sleep in the restaurant with a BB gun to shoot it. How's that going to scale?
The burger chain hasn't made it to my neck of the woods, yet, but it sounds like it's right up my alley. I'll keep an eye out.

3. A Belgian town I visited about a decade and a half ago (scroll down for a photo) has just installed a crowd-sourced beer pipeline from a brewery to a bottling plant on the coast:
Backers are to be rewarded "with free beer for life in proportion to their contribution," Mr. Vanneste said. "For example, someone that only made a small investment will get maybe a pack of beer every year on his birthday. But someone who paid the maximum amount may receive up to one bottle of beer a day for the rest of his or her life."
I love this example of privately-funded infrastructure.

4. No! The "Frankenbroom" curling scandal isn't some fevered dream out of South Park. It's real:
I watched as two-time world champion and Olympic gold medalist, Canadian Ben Hebert, scrubbed the ice in front of a stone with a furious rhythm. Hebert, along with fellow athletes -- and there is no doubt, curling requires a remarkable degree of athleticism and finesse -- took turns at sweeping, directed by the rather insistent voice blaring out of the public address system.

An array of sensors was positioned on the ice, including a laser scanner that built a detailed picture of the ice surface each time the brush passed. Other sensors were attached to stones to measure their distance, path, speed, temperature, acceleration and rotation.

Periodically, an instrumented broom was given to the athletes to capture the pressure being applied to the ice, as well as the frequency of the sweeping action.
Interestingly, the advent of the new brushes caused people to start "to apply some serious science to how sweeping works," and come up with better techniques that also work with old-style brushes, hence the need to study the matter before making rule changes.

-- CAV


Thursday, September 22, 2016

From an article interesting on the merits of its major subject, "Why Fruits and Veggies Are So Crazy Cheap in Chinatown," also comes the following interesting revelation:

[Author Valerie] Imbruce knows shoppers often equate low prices with exploitation, but that isn't what she saw on the more than 75 farms she visited. The farmers, she said, were pleased to be growing for the Chinatown wholesalers because they could cultivate an array of crops, leading to economic and agronomic stability.

"Some said it was the best situation they'd had in a long time," she said.
This now-common -- and wrong -- stereotype about capitalism reminds me of "A Hippie Discovers Economics, and You'll Never Guess What Happens Next!," which discusses a sign at a farmer's market that went viral some time back.

-- CAV

Do Kids Need a Little Boredom?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

As if raising a child doesn't already provide enough opportunities to second-guess yourself, changing times can do the same. That's what an article about a trend I have noticed and question reminds me of. Writing at Quartz, Olivia Goldhill questions the practice -- for which there also seems to be a lot of pressure -- of scheduling every moment of a child's life:

There are activities and summer camps galore to fill children's time and supply much needed childcare when kids are out of school. But psychologists and child development experts suggest that over-scheduling children during the summer is unnecessary and could ultimately keep kids from from discovering what truly interests them.

"Your role as a parent is to prepare children to take their place in society. Being an adult means occupying yourself and filling up your leisure time in a way that will make you happy," says Lyn Fry, a child psychologist in London with a focus on education. "If parents spend all their time filling up their child's spare time, then the child's never going to learn to do this for themselves." [links dropped]
I fondly remember my long summers at home and am already concerned about my kids not getting the same in our two-professional household. Although I can't replace that time, I will resist the urge to overschedule and will remember the list Fry suggests later in the article.

-- CAV

Zapping Verbal Tics

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Melody Wilding of Forbes writes a good article about how to communicate more professionally at work, but its title fails to do it justice. Wilding's "Ban These Words From Your Vocabulary to Sound More Confident at Work" does indeed cover some words and phrases, but it also discusses other ways people (usually women) undermine their own professional credibility when speaking or writing. Here's an example of a common practice that I find particularly annoying, even in a non-professional setting:

"That is like, so great!"

Talking like Shoshanna from Girls -- using habits like uptalk or using "Valley girl" jargon -- can distract your audience from what you're saying. A common indicator of this "vocal fry" [sic] is raising your voice at the end of statements. This can indicate uncertainty, make you appear hesitant, and create a lack of trust among your audience. The solution isn't to learn to talk like a man, but to find ways to communicate more clearly so that your language habits don't detract from your message.

How to Quit: Try this technique called kinesthetic anchoring: hold one arm straight out in front of you. Begin reading aloud from a book or magazine. Whenever you reach a period, lower your arm down to your side, and drop your pitch at the same time. Your arm movement will trigger your voice to mimic its drop. [first link added, second in original]
I have a tendency to notice things like this spreading in the culture, even as many seem to obliviously adopt them through psychological mirroring. And yes, a decade after I first noticed this, my mind still responds with something like, "That's not a question," or "Why do you feel the need to make an emotional bond?", or "Can't what you say stand on its own?" I try to get past this, but the author is correct that it imposes more cognitive work on the audience when the goal is to have it concentrate on what is being said.

My satisfaction at seeing someone point out an annoying practice and, better yet, motivate and prescribe a cure, is far outweighed by the fact that I found the rest of the article thought-provoking and, yes, useful. I would add that the question, "Does that make sense?" can, though well-intended, also come across as a dig that a point should be obvious. And I myself have to watch out for qualifying things I say. I think the piece is well worth a read.

-- CAV

Torts, Insurance, and Quasi-Regulations

Monday, September 19, 2016

Wondering why I recently was called upon to waste over an hour of my life filling out forms for our pediatrician to sign -- just so my children can use sunscreen, mosquito repellent, and itch cream at school -- I came across the following in a guest post by an attorney, at Lenore Skenazy's FreeRangeKids blog:

Where you have the influence or power, try to get organizations to self-insure so that they aren't subject to arbitrary rules by insurance companies. Even though you pay them to defend you against lawsuits, insurance companies are afraid of having to spend their money on an unpredictable suit even though it probably won't ever materialize. It's not their fault -- they need to protect their business just like everyone else. Still, they are looking out for every single little thing that could cause a lawsuit, no matter how unlikely. This kind of thinking encourages fear and contributes to the feeling that a lawsuit is just a matter of time. [bold added]
Tiffany Gengelbach is offering tips on what to do about fear of lawsuits, but has, in the process, revealed a huge source of de facto regulations on top of the already-onerous ones imposed by the state. I don't yet know whether this is why, in my particular case, I am having to ask a doctor to sign onto something I should have the authority to order myself, but I can see it. (Back in Missouri, I was able to do this.)

The entire piece is an interesting read on how a sensationalist press and a tort system in need of reform lend an air of plausibility to precautionary thinking and make daily life unnecessarily difficult in many unexpected ways.

-- CAV

9-17-16 Hodgepodge

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Title Says It All

In "Don't Pretend to Have a Question Just So You Can Talk About Yourself," Allison Green of Ask a Manager advises against a practice that used to annoy the bejesus out of me. She starts off speaking about job interviews, but expands to life in general:

A similar version of this is true of questions that people ask not because they really care about the answer, but because they think the act of asking the question will look good. That's not what this time is for, and it's often pretty obvious when someone is doing it (because they tend not to appear to be thinking critically about the answer, just running down a list).
The realization that this tactic was obvious made the practice less annoying to me, although, as Green rightly points out, there is still the matter of wasted time.

Weekend Reading

"In other words, although lower taxes stimulate investment and production, the more important value -- i.e., the redistribution function of a global welfare state -- requires a willingness by producers to pay higher taxes." -- Peter Schwartz, in "Fact-Checking The Fact-Checkers" at The Huffington Post

"Lying undermines your relationship with your employer and it imposes burdens on you." -- Michael Hurd, in "Lying Can Be a Full-Time Job" at The Delaware Wave

"If you want to reduce stress, think about how to modify your attitudes and beliefs." -- Michael Hurd, in "Doing Less Does Not Always Mean Less Stress" at The Delaware Coast Press

"I'd much rather [Clinton's] opponents focus their energies against her public policy positions." -- Paul Hsieh, in "No, There's No 'Smoking Gun' in Clinton's Doctor Letter" at Forbes

"Our enemy is defined, not primarily by their use of terrorist means, but by their ideological ends." -- Elan Journo, in "15 Years After 9/11, We Still Don't Understand the Enemy" at The Federalist

My Two Cents

In addition to health-based attacks on Hillary Clinton distracting from substantive issues and making the GOP less creditable, I have noticed they are causing Democrats to speculate about replacing her with Bernie Sanders. Somehow, I don't see Sanders saying, "I'm tired of hearing about all the damned hacking." I really don't want this to turn into a contest between two of the few people who could make me consider voting for Mrs. Clinton.

Is the Medicine Also This Advanced Down Under?

My interest in open-source software has led me to the following interesting nugget about an Australian medical agency:
There may not be as many of these people in 2016, but they're still there! We don't know if these are FreeDOS or some other DOS, but there's the car company that uses an old Compaq laptop running DOS software to service luxury McLaren F1 cars and the South Australian Government is still running their electronic health records on a DOS-based system. Probably my favorite example is author George R.R. Martin (author of the 'Game of Thrones' series) writes all his books and manuscripts on a DOS computer, running the WordStar word processor. [bold added]
That said, FreeDOS is something to look into for middle-aged folks feeling nostalgic about the computer games they used to play -- and somehow still in possession of the requisite stack of floppies.

-- CAV

Friday Four

Friday, September 16, 2016

1. Have you ever wondered why files from Microsoft products are often not-quite-compatible with third-party applications? Wonder no more:

You see, Excel 97-2003 files are OLE compound documents, which are, essentially, file systems inside a single file. These are sufficiently complicated that you have to read another 9 page spec to figure that out. And these "specs" look more like C data structures than what we traditionally think of as a spec. It's a whole hierarchical file system.
The author notes the original design considerations, as well, such as having to open quickly on old computers. And, much later:
They have to reflect the history of the applications. A lot of the complexities in these file formats reflect features that are old, complicated, unloved, and rarely used. They're still in the file format for backwards compatibility, and because it doesn't cost anything for Microsoft to leave the code around. But if you really want to do a thorough and complete job of parsing and writing these file formats, you have to redo all that work that some intern did at Microsoft 15 years ago. The bottom line is that there are thousands of developer years of work that went into the current versions of Word and Excel, and if you really want to clone those applications completely, you're going to have to do thousands of years of work. A file format is just a concise summary of all the features an application supports. [bold changed to italics]
I usually avoid Microsoft products unless I am being paid to use them, in part because of compatibility-related issues. But having read this, I will find them a little less annoying next time. At least there is a non-nefarious, non-incompetent reason. (That helps me, anyway.)

2. It has been an amusing week to listen to feminists: One has accidentally admitted that the gender pay gap is a crock; and another unintentionally put into words what "has been obvious to even the casual observer" about "the style of a great deal of modern feminism."

3. I never eat them, but I was still glad to hear that automation saved Twinkies:
Where Twinkie once employed 22,000 workers in more than 40 bakeries, their workforce is now down to just 1,170, reports the Washington Post, relying mostly on robotic arms and other forms of automation. "This 500-person plant produces more than 1 million Twinkies a day, 400 million a year. That's 80% of Hostess' total output -- output that under the old regime required 14 plants and 9,000 employees."

"We like to think of ourselves as a billion-dollar startup," Hostess chief executive Bill Toler said Tuesday, announcing that Hostess Brands, which had twice filed for bankruptcy, now plans to become a publicly-listed company valued at $2.3 billion. [format edits, links dropped]
For more details, see the linked article at Slashdot.

4. The breathless headline reads, "Snorting a Brain Chemical Could Replace Sleep," to which my immediate reaction was, "Sure it will. I'll let the 'biohackers' and early adopters sort that one out." The article does, nevertheless, discuss some interesting sleep research that may ultimately help narcoleptics or provide an alternative to stimulants.

-- CAV

When Simple Choices Become Hurdles

Thursday, September 15, 2016

There's an interesting article about why so many people stop filling out web forms with selection menus, although the very existence of same makes me hesitant to use a form at all if there is an easier alternative, due to what the author calls "flow interruption":

Most forms begin with text fields where users type in their input. But when a select menu appears, they have to move their hands from keyboard to mouse to select an option. This interrupts their typing flow and slows them down.
Don't get me wrong. I can see good reasons for web site proprietors to want to use such forms, primarily because, by restricting the number of possible inputs to a form, the owner of a site can save time. But, as the article indicates, many of these menus are tedious to use, and there are often better ways of narrowing down the range of possible inputs, such as by radio buttons or auto-completion. (The article doesn't mention that many such menus are cluttered with irrelevant choices, but that is is separate issue.)

I have two quibbles with the author. First, the author lays out, "the only time to use a select menu":
There's only one situation where you should use a select menu. That's when you want the user to answer with your specific terminology.

For example, if you want to know the ethnicity of your users, you have to provide options in your own terminology. If you don't provide specific options, users could give you vague answers. They could type in "Asian" instead of "Chinese" or "European" instead of "German". [format edits]
Actually, this is lays out the only time a web designer should use input restriction in general. Selection menus are such a pain that they should be used only in some cases where the list of choices is both large and unlikely to be known by a typical user -- and one of the other options is unsuitable for some reason. The example of ethnicity might be one of these cases -- but "home state" would not, for a site Americans are expected to use.

My other quibble is with the introduction, in which he asserts that, "Form abandonment is like someone agreeing to meet up with you but then canceling last minute." That makes users sound a little flighty. I'd add, "... when they learn that you're a multi-level marketer." The web is supposed to make things easier, not harder, than older ways of exchanging information.

-- CAV

Rights and Etiquette

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

It was good to see an article about the difference between discussion group moderation and censorship that said mostly correct things about the difference between the two. The author draws the following analogy after using an XKCD cartoon to explain that what some call "censorship" is actually just a showing-of-the-door to someone who has made himself unwelcome:

It can help to think of your audience as a unique subset of people within a larger city, and your site, a neighborhood cafe where this community can assemble. Laying down some "house rules" and enforcing them effectively will make your core community members feel safe and welcome every time they step across your digital threshold. Imagine a group of friends who like to discuss comic books at your cafe. What are you doing to ensure they feel safe and happy? It's reasonable to assume that this group should not have to tolerate some jerk behind the communal couch throwing bagels at their heads. You would likely kick that bagel-flinging assailant to the curb as quickly as possible. Simple as that.

Just like in real life, there are behavioral rules for public spaces like a cafe.
So far, so good, but I find myself having the same thought as when I first encountered the title, which read, "When Does Moderation Become Censorship?" The thought? "When the government steps in."

Wondering why I thought this, I looked back at the above passage and a few of the comments, and noticed (1) the adjective, "communal" being used to describe a couch the proprietor was letting his customers use, and (2) a commenter rightly describing instances of moderators using their power to silence opposing views (rather than enforce decorum). I think both issues would become clearer with a more explicit mention of property rights. The reason a cafe (or discussion forum) owner may eject customers or guests as he sees fit is because he owns that cafe or forum. There is nothing "communal" about either, and the prerogative of moderating is an application of the individual's right to property, not some allegedly holy aspect of some woozy "community."

Both the government and an anti-intellectual moderator can silence discussion on a forum, but only the government (with its monopoly on the use of force (which is properly only retaliatory)) can force this on an entire society (in fact or via threat of precedent-setting examples). Thus, even an abusive moderator is not a censor: his victims are free to move to better forums and tell others about the abuse.

The failure to mention property rights thus left the issue less-than-clear and opened the door for commenters to make confused remarks like the following:
[T]hey are just petty closed minded individuals who use their position to discriminate against a point of view. It's censorship and saying it's not does not change it. [grammar edits]
No. The petty-mindedness of a proprietor does not negate his property rights. The solution is to move to another forum or start one of your own. In addition to sowing more confusion about the source of a moderator's power, this omission also distracts from a real concern: Some moderators may indeed sometimes have doubts about when a decision might appear to be directed against a point of view rather than a violation of etiquette or forum rules. I think the article addresses this issue reasonably well, but could have headed off such confusion by clarity on how property rights apply to forums where people express their opinions.

-- CAV

No Serenity in the Conventional Wisdom

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

In the process of explaining why she works when she doesn't have to, "Evil HR Lady" Suzanne Lucas points out the folly of making important decisions based on what others think. "[T]here is no way to win that battle," she warns as she ticks off examples of the kind of contradictory and ill-informed moral judgements disguised as "advice" that many parents receive unsolicited and free of charge:

  • If you work when your spouse could support the family, then you are a bad mom. (This never goes the other way. I've never heard a dad being accused of being a bad dad because he works.)
  • If you work because otherwise, your family wouldn't have sufficient income to survive, you should have planned ahead or not had so many kids.
  • If you stay at home and have a college degree, you wasted that expensive education.
  • If you stay at home and don't have a college degree, don't you think you should go back to school so you can set a good example for your children?
  • If you stay at home when your kids are in school, you're lazy.
  • If you go to work when your kids are in school, surely you know that older kids need a stay at home parent more than younger ones do.
This list reminds me of the time I got yelled at for "child abuse" while crossing a street with my son when he was an infant. I've heard some of these before and plenty like it, and I'm sure I'll hear plenty more of that kind of noise in the future.

But beyond momentary annoyance, this has never bothered me or factored into my thinking. Why? Because morality isn't an easy field and judging others has additional difficulties. There are no actions that can be evaluated as good or bad without context, and, given that I know my context and why I do what I do, such snap judgements tell me far more about those who make them than they do about me. Whatever the source (such as intrinsicism, second-handedness, or context-dropping, to name a few), I remain serene in the knowledge of why I chose a given action, and the fact that I can't make another person think. I am hardly claiming to have lead an error-free life here, nor to be immune from sometimes suffering the unjust consequences of other people wrongly appraising me. But reading the Lucas piece has helped me realize that one reward of actively thinking about morality over the years has been a sense of serenity that people who take refuge in the conventional wisdom can never have. I am grateful to Ayn Rand's clear thinking on the subject for that, and many, many other things.

-- CAV

"Right" by Accident

Monday, September 12, 2016

If there is anything I'd like Republicans to learn from this election, which I hope doesn't end with Donald Trump in the White House, its to quit being worried about currying favor with leftists. Lifelong Democrat and Pragmatist loose cannon Donald Trump accidentally provided a good example of what this might look like some time ago, when he turned down an "invitation" to appear before the NAACP:

Give Mr. Trump credit, however, for not doing something that too many Republican presidential candidates before him have done, only to have it blow up in their face. When the NAACP asked Mr. Trump to address its annual convention last month, he declined. Good for him. Giving speeches to civil-rights groups like the NAACP isn't effective black outreach. It's a setup. Blacks open to Republicanism aren't likely to be found at NAACP gatherings, which are thinly disguised Democratic political rallies. And younger blacks who might be interested in hearing out the GOP have little use for the NAACP. Republicans who try to reach black voters by going through the civil-rights establishment have nothing to gain, unless they like to watch footage of black people booing them on CNN. [bold added]
As erratic as Trump is, however, calling this a good move is dubious, for that would entail having something other than whim or a sort of animal-like cunning behind it. The Wall Street Journal provides good reasons, but even if they were directly quoting The Donald, ascribing those motives to him would be like ascribing knowledge to something a parrot said that happened to sound like a truth. So, perhaps I misspoke: In the future, I'd like Republicans to do what the Wall Street Journal was pretending Donald Trump did.

-- CAV

9-10-16 Hodgepodge

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Libertarian "Big Tent" Paved Way for Trump

This week, the Washington Post ran an article by Matthew Sheffield (HT: Snedcat) that explores the connection between Libertarianism and the emergence of Donald Trump and the so-called "alt-right":

To solve the problem that few Americans are interested in small government, Rothbard argued that libertarians needed to align themselves with people they might not like much in order to expand their numbers. "Outreach to the Rednecks" was needed to make common cause with far-right Christian conservatives who hated the federal government, disliked drugs and wanted to crack down on crime.

All of these paleolibertarian positions were offered in Duke's 1990 Senate campaign and 1991 gubernatorial campaign. But they were also offered by another politician Rothbard admired: Ron Paul, the Libertarian Party's presidential candidate in 1988.
As past successful movements such as abolitionism have demonstrated, a far more effective approach than pandering to opponents is to ... convince others of the merits of your cause.

This article is helpful in showing a consequence of the failure of the Libertarian movement to challenge entrenched political philosophy by championing a positive alternative. That said, I cannot recommend it wholeheartedly. While, yes, it does differentiate the influence of Ayn Rand on some Libertarians from that of Murray Rothbard and his ilk, it later refers to those libertarians who pander to racists as "extremists," continuing an age-old smear -- of advocacy of limited government with racism -- that should have been buried long ago.

Neither Jim Crow nor slavery are "extreme" versions of capitalism: They are violations of individual rights that would not exist in a capitalist society. Anyone who advocates either has no business calling himself a capitalist, and anyone who ignores such a distinction is being careless to say the very least. Libertarianism may deserve to be associated with bigotry, but capitialism does not.

Weekend Reading

"Two researchers recently concluded that narcissism involves a conviction of superiority over others, while genuine self-esteem has more to do with a positive self-image without reference to others." -- Michael Hurd, in "What's the Difference Between Self-Esteem and Narcissism?" at The Delaware Wave

"Remember the waning days of the Soviet empire, before Gorbachev came to power, and a series of Russian dictators were reportedly ill and on their deathbeds before the government would disclose anything?" -- Michael Hurd, in "CNN Fires 'Dr. Drew' for Doing Right on Hillary's Health" at Newsmax

"If you can objectively identify something healthy and enjoyable that you get out of spending time with this person, then pursue that interest and forget the bottomless quagmire of political nitpicking." -- Michael Hurd, in "Politics Got You Down?" at The Delaware Coast Press

"Under the campaign finance laws, every new way to speak about politics becomes a 'loophole' that must be closed." -- Steve Simpson, in "Overturning Citizens United Would Be a Disaster for Free Speech" at The Hill

Find a New Way to Clean Your Grill

Here's an alarming health recommendation from the press that, for once, isn't all hype:
Canadian surgeons are urging people to throw out wire-bristled barbecue [cleaning] brushes, because none of them have figured out a surefire way of removing the wires when they get stuck in people's throats.

The thin, sharp wires can come off the brushes, attach to barbecue grills and cling to food without being noticed. If it's swallowed it can cause damage to the throat and epiglottis, which is the flap of cartilage that covers the opening of the windpipe when swallowing.
I insert "cleaning" because when I started reading this, I first thought something like, "Who would use a wire brush for basting?" The fun doesn't end in the upper digestive tract, either, and serious consequences, including death, can result from, say, a stray wire bristle working its way through the wall of your small intestine.

-- CAV

Friday Four

Friday, September 09, 2016

1. Three cheers for the University of Chicago, whose recent letter in favor of freedom of speech seems to have started a trend. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE):

FIRE is seeing an encouraging uptick in pro-free speech statements by college administrators early in this academic year. In just a few weeks' time, administrators at schools like Columbia University, Brown University, and Claremont Mckenna College (CMC) have all made public statements committing to protect freedom of expression on campus.

The catalyst for this recent batch of speech-friendly statements seems to be the "academic freedom letter" the University of Chicago (UChicago) sent to incoming students last month, advising them not to expect "intellectual 'safe spaces'" when they arrive on campus. The letter was widely reported on, and reignited the national debate over campus speech restrictions. It also seems to have resonated with many other college administrators. [links in original]
I hope this trend continues, and gathers momentum.

2. My daughter, who is now in kindergarten, has hair that tends to tangle. One morning, she started to cry after her mother hit a particularly bad knot while combing it. Her little brother, who has always been protective of her, came over and wrapped his arms around her. "That's my sister!" he said, sternly, to his mother.

3. I think calling it a potential "cure" for cancer is hyperbole at best, especially since the subtitle to the news story admits it only applies to ninety percent of types of cancer. But still, it is interesting that some scientists have realized that an approach to protecting pregnant women from malaria can also be used to deliver drugs specifically to cancer cells:
The scientists have found that in both cases the malaria protein attaches itself to the same carbohydrate. It is the similarities between those two things that the cure could exploit.

The carbohydrate ensures that the placenta grows quickly. But the team behind the new findings have detailed how it serves the same function in tumours -- and the malaria parasite attaches itself to the cancerous cells in the same way, meaning that it can kill them off.
This is good news, tempered with the usual caveats about potential therapies, of course.

4. If you can't decide whether you like road trips or perfect weather more, someone has come to your aid:
... Meteorologist Brian Brettschneider mapped the route that's likely to keep a body exposed to daily high temperatures of 70 degrees, and it meanders for 13,000-plus miles from the southern tip of Texas up to Alaska and down again to San Diego.  [links dropped]
As a bonus for those who'd like the high to be a little warmer or cooler, Brettschneider kindly explains his methodology.

-- CAV


: Corrected a formatting error.

Don't Kowtow to Experts: Question Them

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Blogger Jessa Gamble comments on a recent paper that got lots of press recently. The paper, about the migration of the ancestors of Amerindians from Asia to the Americas, was widely misunderstood to have called this theory into question. In fact, it did nothing of the sort. Gamble considers why this misconception spread so rapidly:

All this became clear to me after reading the paper, but I can see why the wrong story got out. Though the paper is clearly titled -- "Postglacial viability and colonization in North America's ice-free corridor" -- the press release is vaguer: "Textbook story of how humans populated America is 'biologically unviable,' study finds". It opens: "The established theory about the route by which Ice Age peoples first reached the present-day United States has been challenged by an unprecedented study which concludes that their supposed entry route was 'biologically unviable'".

If the average person knows anything about how America was first populated, they know that people are supposed to have crossed from Asia over a land bridge during the Ice Age. That's probably about it. So when you tell them the "established theory" is wrong, this is what they think about. Confusing the Bering Land Bridge with the "ice-free corridor" is even easier given that the latter doesn't really have a name and the former is kind of corridor-like.

In general, non-specialists are usually satisfied with one point about any given topic about which they have no particular interest. If it makes sense in their narrative of the world, it lodges into their general knowledge in the place where curiosity might have been. Camel humps? Something about storing water in the desert. Never mind that they evolved to store fat for warmth in the Arctic. Michael J. Fox's middle name? Starts with J. (It's Andrew). [bold added]
I attribute this partly due to the fact that no one person can know everything: Past a certain point, we have to rely on an intellectual division of labor. But part of the problem is cultural, and pertains to the proper way to approach expert advice, as Alex Epstein indicates at several points in The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels:
To be sure, we absolutely need experts. Experts are an indispensable source of information about the state of knowledge in specific fields -- whether economics or energy or climate science -- that we can use to make better decisions. But we can get this benefit only so long as the expert is clear about what he knows and how he knows it, as well as about what he doesn't know. (p. 27) [emphasis in original]
And this works both ways. For example, a couple of people I know take the opposite approach to expertise, and will occasionally latch on to something they have heard about from an "expert" and begin proselytizing. It is astounding how many times I have gotten "advice" from them, only to immediately find problems on a cursory internet search. And I am always floored that they apparently don't even bother with the first step to evaluating anything being put forth as knowledge: Seeing how it fits in with everything else they know -- or finding what else they might need to know before making a judgement.

So how would this play out for an average person hearing that "the" commonly-accepted theory about Amerindian origins had been called into question? First of all, like experts, we should be clear in our own minds about what we know and don't know. Such news would challenge the premise that we know how the Americas were first populated, but that would really just underscore that what we "knew" came from experts in the first place, and that we would need further investigation to understand what that meant, and whether, say, an alternate theory was proposed. It would not, without even this minimal level of investigation, warrant "shooting down" someone who, in casual conversation, advanced the "old" theory.

I might try an experiment the next time I encounter someone I know to approach the use of experts in the wrong way. I bet, after the many times I have challenged unquestioned "expert" wisdom, they will take pleasure in "informing" me that I am wrong.

-- CAV

Workers Deserve More Than "Right to Work"

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

... and so do their employers.

I agree with Mark Mix, who writes at Investor's Business Daily that we should, "consider the injustice of forced union dues," but my agreement largely ends there. Mix is, understandably, a proponent of so-called "Right to Work" laws, which I once advocated. I no longer do so, because, like the federal laws that force employers to deal with unions, they violate the right to contract.

That said, Mix correctly notes how well "Right-to-Work" states do economically, as compared to those that acquiesce to forced unionization:

According to the National Institute for Labor Relations Research (NILRR), from 2005-2015, civilian employment growth was more than twice as high in Right to Work states compared to non-Right to Work states (9.1% to 4.0%).

NILRR also reports that, last year, residents of Right to Work states had on average per capita nearly three thousand dollars more to spend in cost-of-living-adjusted disposable personal income ($41,112 to $38,212).

Of course, the better economic climate might explain why NILRR reports that, from 2005 to 2015, Right to Work states saw their resident population in their peak earning years (age 35-54) grow by more than 3% while non-Right to Work states suffered a peak earning year population decline of more than 6%. Americans are voting with their feet and Right to Work states are winning.
That said, the kind of legislation Mix advocates is, at best, a stop-gap measure that achieves a mitigatory effect via two wrongs cancelling each other out. Or: these laws might alleviate some of the prosperity-killing symptoms of improper government while the disease marches merrily along. Thomas Bowden, writing against so-called "Employee Free Choice Act" (aka "card check"), once made this point at Capitalism Magazine:
Congress should not only reject the transparent power grab known as the Employee Free Choice Act, it should start hacking at the root of the complex federal regime that denies free choice in bargaining. That means repealing the Wagner Act, so that labor law can recognize and protect the absolute right of companies and employees to deal with each other on an entirely voluntary basis.
The increased prosperity of the so-called "Right to Work" states -- not to mention indignity over an abridgement of the right to contract -- should inspire more than state-by-state skirmishes for quasi-exceptions to an immoral law that ought to be removed root and branch.

-- CAV

GOP Should Cut Losses

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

I have encountered a couple of pieces outlining, from slightly different angles, why the worst possible outcome in this election is a Trump victory. Some months ago, Jonathan Hoenig of Capitalist Pig made the case (HT: Steve D.) from the perspective of the pro-capitalist:

... Donald Trump's business credentials are exactly what makes him so dangerous. In the minds of voters, Trump represents capitalism. But as was pointed out in this space five years ago, Donald Trump is explicitly anti-capitalist on issues ranging from taxes to anti-trust to trade.


Because he is in business, Trump's progressive taxes, threats to CEOs and tariffs against consumers will be legitimized as capitalist, as moral, as just. They're not.

And when Trump's policies fail, as they will, American capitalism will unquestionably get blamed.

This is why I'm supporting Clinton: Long term, the damage levied by Donald Trump to capitalism in America will be immeasurably worse than that wrought by Hillary Clinton. [emphasis and links in original]
And then, in a piece aimed squarely at the GOP, home of many who favor limited government, there is a Reason Magazine piece by Steve Chapman, which includes the following:
[The Republicans] are in the position of a bride who, on the eve of her wedding day, knows she's making a mistake. If she backs out, she'll bring a mess down on her head. But if she doesn't, she'll be caught in a snare that will be painful and hard to escape, with consequences she will have years to regret.

The first harm from Trump is that he would be the new identity of the party. Forget the legacy of Ronald Reagan. Never mind what Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan propose. He would be the one defining the national agenda. If President Trump wanted to intern Muslims, launch drones against Mexico or put David Duke up in the Lincoln Bedroom, his fellow Republicans would wear the stain.

One of the miseries they have suffered in recent months is waking up each day anxiously wondering what new folly their candidate is about to commit. It's bad enough having to put up with his insulting of a gold star mother, not knowing that Russia has invaded Ukraine, accusing Barack Obama of founding the Islamic State, and retweeting white supremacists.

But all this amounts to an ignorant egomaniac running his mouth. In the White House, Trump would be acting, not just talking. He would possess powers that can be wielded in all sorts of destructive ways. As Republicans have learned from Obama's use of executive authority, it's hard to stop a determined president from doing whatever he damn well pleases.
Chapman goes on to speculate about all sorts of other things Trump might try, like dumping Melania and dating. Such speculation would be incredible, and thus either easily dismissed as rude or satirical for practically any other candidate, but not for this one. And it underscores what the Republicans have set up for themselves -- and our country -- by backing him.

Both pieces deserve full reads, and emphasize that the Republicans should get the pain over with sooner, rather than let things fester for four years and suffer far more, and for longer, later. Hoenig helps put the pain of Clinton presidency into perspective, and Chapman reminds us that the sky is the limit for Trump's unpredictable foolishness.

-- CAV

Mirror-Induced Derangement

Monday, September 05, 2016

A writer at Breitbart has taken it upon himself to re-imagine (HT: HBL) a scene from Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, an endeavor he introduces as follows:

Though Ayn Rand's abilities as novelist have been praised by everyone from actress Anne Hathaway to the late professor of aesthetic theory John Hospers, critics on the left often suffer from Ayn Rand derangement syndrome, unable to give her a hearing as an artist or a thinker because of her assertion that she was a "radical for capitalism."

Probably the novel that upsets them most is Atlas Shrugged. And the scene that gets them going is one where a train tunnel collapses, after a variety of new and contradictory bureaucracies, regulations, and Presidential edicts leave the industry imploding. Harper's magazine was fuming about this scene just two years ago -- 60 years after the novel was published!

This year our Nation's Capital has seen the subway system (Metro) that transports lobbyists, political staffers, and federal bureaucrats to work every day, shut down for weeks for repairs, experience electrical fires, and reveal a wannabe ISIS member among its employees. [format edits, links removed]
But why does this compelling scene upset so many? Its conclusion gives us a clue:
There was not a person aboard the train who did not share one or more of their ideas. As the Metro train went into the tunnel, the glowing sunlight off the memorials on the National Mall was the last thing they saw on earth.
The common idea that the moral and the practical are opposites plays a big part, because it gives people who preach the irrational, impractical, and immoral morality of altruism license to ignore the real-world consequences of putting it into practice. This scene removes that pretense for too long for such people to ignore, leaving each to face his basic moral choice for too long to be unaware that he has one. Some will choose to think, many for the first time, about cherished (but unexamined) notions, and some will not. Many of the latter will react angrily, and attempt their version of shooting the messenger.

-- CAV

9-3-16 Hodgepodge

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Do We Already Have Effective Drugs for Zika?

Last week, you might have heard news to the effect that several existing drugs might show promise against Zika. Amesh Adalja cuts through the hype and helps us see what that actually means, in terms of several considerations that apply to the use of any drug. For example:

In vitro needs to become in vivo: The most obvious next step to be taken with this finding is to see if it holds up--and provides a clinically meaningful benefit--in animal models. Can effective doses be achieved? How robust is the response in an animal model? Do they cross the placenta? Are they safe in pregnancy (at least niclosamide is)? These are the types of questions that would be pursued with an animal model and provide an ability to gauge the feasibility of these drugs as actual treatment options.
Adalja also discusses "concept of operations," or how a drug might be used. There is promise, but with less drama than many media outlets might want.

Weekend Reading

"Casey Ross of Stat News described a recent study by Dr. Adel Bozorgzadeh detailing how federal government guidelines have created perverse incentives for hospitals to turn away transplant patients." -- Paul Hsieh, in "How Government Quality Guidelines Hurt Transplant Patients" at Forbes

"My experience has shown that the parents who are the most happy are the ones who look at child rearing as a choice and a challenge." -- Michael Hurd, in "Changing Moods Does Not Equal Happiness" at The Delaware Wave

"When they arrive in my office, fighting over money, sometimes I suggest they separate their accounts, if only as a temporary measure." -- Michael Hurd, in "Money in Marriage: Separate or Together?" at The Delaware Coast Press

"When we coddle, hover over, and clear the path for our children, we send some clear messages to them: 1) adversity is an aberration, a problem, something to be avoided, and 2) you are not capable of bearing or overcoming it." -- Lisa VanDamme, in "GOOD: An Antidote to Overparenting" at Medium

My Two Cents

The VanDamme piece mentions a book, Extreme Ownership, which sounds like it could do double duty as a guide to both self-improvement and parenting.

Paper Mashes up Dennis the Menace and The Far Side

Some time ago, and on two separate occasions, a newspaper transposed captions for the cartoon strips mentioned above, inadvertently improving them. Go here for images. (HT: Snedcat)

-- CAV

Friday Four

Friday, September 02, 2016

1. Scott Holleran has written about Gene Wilder, who passed away earlier this week:

Mr. Funny Face, the great actor, comedian and writer Gene Wilder died today. The star of Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein (which he also wrote) and Silver Streak was 83 years old. And, though he is associated with a streak of absurdist comedy brought forth chiefly by his frequent creative partner Mel Brooks, a wonderful source of silliness grounded in seriousness has been lost.
Read the whole thing.

2. Last week, I finally got a chance to try the red imperial stout from Founders, one of my favorite craft breweries. Here is their description:
reDANKulous Imperial Red IPA is a no frills, bold 9.5% ABV India Pale Ale. It pours a pleasing burnt amber with some sweetness due to the Caramalt and roasted barley used in the malt bill. But hops are the true headliner in this elaborate sensory experience. The spicy, piney, tropical complexities of Chinook, Mosaic and Simcoe hops hit you right away with their dank aroma -- and they stick around. Take a sip to have your palate simultaneously walloped and caressed in all the right places. Combined, the hops take the beer to 90 IBUs. It's not just ridiculous. It's reDANKulous. [bold added]
No. I don't know where they're getting "DANK" from, either. That said, Beer Advocate also rates this highly.

I was a little surprised to learn that this beer contains Simcoe hops, which have a very distinctive flavor. Not to detract from this excellent beer, but I'd recommend Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA to fellow hopheads unfamiliar with that variety.

3. Hah! The United States may be a latecomer to soccer, but we already have at least one great tradition: the bald goalkeeper.

4. To some, it may seem to be a case of the good news being the bad news, but it's very interesting, anyway: Tasmanian Devils seem to be evolving to resist a transmissible cancer that looked like it was going to wipe them out.

-- CAV

Ability Takes Back Seat to Multi-Culti Cliches

Thursday, September 01, 2016

George Leef of Forbes reports that unaccountable bureaucrats at the SEC are preparing to saddle corporate boards with demographic quotas:

Back in 2009, the SEC instituted a requirement that publicly traded companies disclose plans they might have regarding the diversity of their boards of directors. That is to say, the racial, ethnic and gender characteristics of board members -- as if those attributes were the essential, defining attributes of a person.

But now SEC Chairman Mary Jo White has concluded that the earlier rule was too soft, leading only to vague disclosures about board diversity. As we learn in this Wall Street Journal editorial, she wants a new rule mandating that firms "include in their proxy statements more meaningful board diversity disclosures on their members and nominees."

Chairman White's idea dovetails with the thinking of Canadian law professor Aaron Dhir, who has been crusading for rules to compel companies to consider "the socio-demographic composition of their boards" and of Representative Carolyn Mahoney of New York, who wants the SEC to force companies to identify each member of their boards according to gender, race, and ethnicity. [links in original]
Leef goes on to indicate, correctly that rules about the demographic composition of corporate boards would "push [companies] into poor decisions" and fail at truly mimicking our nation's diversity, anyway. In addition, he echoes George Will's admonitions some time ago about bureaucratic autonomy.

These things are all true, but the real problem is that it is wrong for the government to violate the rights of the individuals (e.g., who own and run businesses) to make their own decisions about whom to work with. Were we to constrain the government to its proper function, we wouldn't have to worry about it making companies obsess over every characteristic but the relevant one -- ability -- when making personnel decisions.

-- CAV