Monthly Archives: September 2015

Jason Kuznicki has written a post critical of what he calls the “new presentism” from the academic left. He notes that questions such as “was Shakespeare sexist?” don’t point to any worthy of consideration. The answer is “yes, he was probably sexist” but uninteresting because it tells us too little and relies on a present-day category [read the whole thing, etc., etc.]:

The problem with presentism is that presentist questions do little analytical work for us. At first they may appear bold, but they are entirely too easy to answer. Rather than digging deep, a presentist reviews only his or her own pre-existing feelings; presentist questions answer themselves almost mechanically. The past becomes an empty canvas, on which we paint all of our least courageous judgments.

He also warns libertarians. The lede for his essay advises libertarians to “engage with the past on its own terms. That means seeing beyond boringly obvious historical manifestations of sexism and racism.” In the essay itself, he urges his readers to remember that presentism is a tactic:

We should not infer from certain ugly, anti-intellectual tactics used in fighting social wrongs that racism, sexism, or the like are true or good. This is a path down which I see way too many young non-lefties going. As they do, they lose all interest in liberty: except, of course, for those of precisely their own kind.

A few of my own thoughts on Jason’s essay:

One: Historians need to realize that just pointing out that something is ahistorical or “presentist” means that it’s bad history. It doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. That’s of course what Jason is saying. But I just wanted to drive that home because historians (including yours truly) make that error a lot.

Two: The question “was Shakespeare sexist” is presentist. But the questions “what were Shakespeare’s attitudes toward women as expressed in his work?” or “in what way does Shakespeare ‘construct’ gender in his work?” are less presentist. They may reflect present-day concerns in a way that would’ve been unrecognizable in Shakespeare’s day. They also contain certain value-laden assumptions about the “constructedness” and socially contingent nature of gender. But they’re also open questions for which the answers can be interesting and not overdetermined.

Three: It’s very, very hard–and maybe impossible–not to be presentist in some ways. We’d all do well to heed that point and at least recognize the presentism in our own arguments. Libertarians no less or more so than others. The terms they use to critique government power–“liberty” and “freedom”–sometimes shade into shibboleths that libertarians use as if those terms are eternal truths whose meaning transcends time and place. And anyone who objects to the way that shibboleth is used is “against freedom” or “against liberty.”

One person’s freedom or liberty can be something that to another person helps justify the denial of liberty. “Freedom from want” can sometimes mean “compelling third parties to subsidize others’ lives” and “denying choices to some people in the name of helping them be free from hunger.”* “Economic freedom” can mean “freedom to starve” or “freedom to be taken advantage of by fraudsters.” Not that there’s no common ground here–libertarians usually recognize the need to help the less-well off and to protect against fraud, and at least some liberals recognize that expanding choice in the marketplace is a good thing–but the two freedoms have an inherent tension that becomes clearer when we examine who and in what historical context embraced those freedoms

My point is not to say that libertarians are wrong. We all commit and probably can’t avoid committing presentism. But libertarians would do better to recognize that error, too.

*I forget the page number, but somewhere in The Road to Serfdom (I think in a footnote), Hayek notes that Britain’s post World War II Labour government, probably concerned about fuel shortages, seriously considered a plan to force people to work in the mines because too few people were willing to do the work.

Category: School

EmailAddyChangeFor Hit Coffee readers going back to the Age of Half Sigma – as well as anyone who isn’t HBD-averse – you might find this (in which Jayman introduces himself to the people of Unz) a treasure trove of interesting stuff.

Do you fondly remember the Rockford Files? Well, now you can download the famous answering machine messages (or listen to them on YouTube). I was more of a Simon & Simon guy.

Median household earnings for African-Americans are lower in Minnesota than Mississippi.

A Detroit neighborhood is looking for a few good squatters.

Hungary, the site of much resistance to the refugees, looks like be getting another 40,000.

Croatia opened its arms to refugees, only to quickly close them.

And even Germany has its limits, and they’re not alone.

Paul Romer says “Let them come and they will build it.”

Things to do in Denver When You’re Dead. Rather, things to do in California when your bank thinks you’re dead.

Some industrious Russian youths did not accept their prison walls. Also, they wanted a Jaguar.

Some folks in Sunnyvale, California, are suing a family with an autistic child to have said child declared a “public nuisance” and kept out of public. The family moved out, but the neighbors have not dropped their case.

A look back at the Unabomber’s manifesto.

Halo, a producer of ecigarettes, has a pretty great piece on vaping etiquette. The vaping community needs more of this.

Cato takes a look at the pros and cons of guaranteed national income.

It looks like the geeks are giving up on the fake island.

Category: Newsroom

This New York Times essay  [hat tip, Saul DeGraw] relates an experience that’s probably not in itself very common but that represents some of the challenges first generation college students face. The author discusses her first week of class. She and her parents didn’t realize that it was okay and even expected for the parents just to drop their child off and let them begin college. The parents, instead, stayed for several days during the orientation and first few days of class, having to use up their vacation days to do so.

The anecdote fits too neatly into the point the author makes about it. I wonder if there’s more to the story than what the author is admitting. Still, it is a pretty good reminder of how college can be an alien experience for first generation students.

Category: School

I can’t even describe why I love these videos. Perhaps the increasing sense of panic. The mystery of the circumstances surrounding everything. Whatever the case, I recommend giving them a watch:

Category: Theater
Be free. Believe in nothing.

Be free. Believe in nothing.

So, as some suspected, it turns out that Tanya Cohen was not real after all.

Kevin D Williamson writes the editor notes that he wishes the New York Times foreign desk editor had written.

Anthony Weiner lasted only a couple weeks at a PR firm, only to be canned. The PR firm being a PR firm, they tried to minimize the conflict by suggesting it was mutual, but Weiener was having none of it.

Those Ashley Madison leaks sure were funny, weren’t they?

ICP vs FBI, cntd.

This bothers me more than the pig.

I was wondering about this: Deez Nuts may have committed a campaign violation.

Before Donald Trump ruined everything, Jeb Bush ruined everything.

Big Mountain Jesus emerges victorious against some atheists who wanted it gone.

In case there was any uncertainty, Kim Davis’s cause is a political loser, and actually threatens more credible cases. Also, in case you wondered what the marriage licenses look like.

So when can we start donating to Brian Mason’s County Clerk campaign? The slogan writes itself: “Mason ’18: He does his job.”

Meanwhile, in the next county over, the County Clerk is not Kim Davis.

Zaid Julani passes on a story of some Georgia cops refusing to move to a racist call, and explaining that no, they won’t investigate cases of a single white kid in a car full of non-whites.

Europe may be looking at wave upon wave of refugees.

According to Margaret Wente, Sweden is presently feeling the pinch, having some difficulty with assimilation and integration.

It’s… really hard to look at these pictures and come away with the belief that however things turn out, it’ll be bad. With neither the support to let them in, nor the resolve to keep them out, the result is inevitably that it’s going to be a long time before they feel close to being “home” at wherever they’re headed, but that also that’s where they’re nonetheless going to be.

Median household earnings for African-Americans are lower in Minnesota than Mississippi. This could be related to the refugee debate see also, Maine).

Category: Newsroom

Today one of my students Facebooked that “Every college student in the United States should be required to take a Race & Ethnicity course.” Several people immediately agreed, of course. But ever the contrarian, I asked some questions.

1. When have we intruded too far into people’s personal choices?

2. Who bears the cost?

3. How will this be enforced?

4. Would there be a required perspective? Could a college teach a course with the perspective that race is a myth with no scientific validity? Or a course that emphasizes the genetic inferiority of certain races?

5. What about the people who don’t go to college? Do they not need it as much, perhaps more, than people who have gone to college?

It’s easy to assert that there ought to be a law. It’s harder to provide good answers to the practical questions of implementation.

Category: School

I’ve commented on a couple of occasions that the US Postal Service doesn’t deliver packages to our house. The reason they give is that there is not sufficient room on our street for them to turn around. It seems to be left to the discretion of the carrier, because when we have someone other than our typical carrier they do deliver packages.

This became a really big deal during my wife’s pregnancy, because we were waiting on some medication sent from Arapaho and if it both (a) didn’t fit into the mailbox and (b) arrived on a Saturday, that would mean that we wouldn’t get it until Monday. We were already worried about the pregnancy at that point, and that didn’t help our state of mind. I was checking the mailbox every day at two o’clock ready to drive to the post office at 3:30 if need be. It turned out to be a non-issue because it arrived on Friday, did fit in the mailbox, and the pregnancy was not a successful one for unrelated reasons.

Even so, after years and years of hearing about how great the USPS is while UPS and FedEx only deliver packages to about three metropolitan areas or somesuch, it’s funny that the first time we have run into this problem is with the USPS and not UPS and FedEx, both of which delivered to everywhere we have lived up to and including the town with less than 5,000 people in it. But the USPS won’t come up our street. Which, to be fair, seems like an unusual circumstance.

Except we’re not alone:

In the past, the United Parcel Service would leave the parcels at your doorstep. Instead, USPS wants to cram it into your mailbox. But if you miss your mail for a day or the package doesn’t fit into your mailbox, you’re out of luck… the parcels end up back in the dead letter room at your local post office.

So instead of delivery, the Amazon customer has to go to pick up the package at the Post Office. That’s a line even more dreaded than Wal-Mart’s. Americans hate standing in the USPS line. And this is what’s happening to thousands of Amazon customers around the nation.

Instead of enjoying the delivery of Amazon Prime, you’re now faced with the hell of waiting in the line at the Post Office.

What sounded like a good idea on paper is a disaster for the Amazon customer. I wonder if Jeff Bezos and the other leaders of Amazon know what they’re doing to their own customers.

The person from whom I got the link has also had problems with the USPS both at home and at work. I don’t know if there has been an official policy change, if the carriers are expected to cover more ground and therefore don’t have time to get out of their car, or what. Either way, it’s making them look kind of bad.

The article is about Amazon. It’s possible that Amazon is aware of what’s going on because sometime earlier this year, they stopped using the USPS. Now almost everything is arriving by way of FedEx. Which is great for whenever I order from Amazon because now it arrives at our doorstep. I still have to worry about trips to the Post Office when I get something off eBay, though.

The funny thing is that at a previous time in my life, I might have even preferred picking up packages at the Post Office. I remember at various times worrying about a package being left at my doorstep and taken. It only happened once, in Cascadia, but it was a doozy*. UPS and FedEx wouldn’t let you say “Just leave it at the depot and I’ll pick it up” which always annoyed me. Now they seem to have ways to do that, which is great. It took them too long, though, and it doesn’t help us any.

The whole thing is made a bit more complicated by the fact that the recipient isn’t the customer. So the sender has less reason to care whether it’s unsafe to leave a package at my doorstep, or the USPS won’t deliver to our house. Sometimes they give you the option, but usually only if you’re willing to shell out. But it’s definitely preferable if they were to simply be able to look at your address and have a note that says “residents prefer to pick up package” or “residents would prefer the package be left in this particular spot if no one is home.”

* – It was a computer monitor, and other things. It was shipped in the original packaging which probably made it a more enticing item. On the other hand, I had considered our shipping situation there relatively safe because they would leave it on the back porch. So it wouldn’t be sitting streetview for hours on end. Someone may have seen them take it to the back, though.

Category: Market


In the infamous Planned Parenthood videos, the organization feared the kinds of headlines that the New York Times might run if their actions were publicized. Turns out, they needn’t have worried.

Freddie deBoer has a couple of good pieces on some of the lefty tendencies towards ideological conformity.

The folks at 538 discuss their bets for the GOP nomination. For my part, I’d Buy Cruz (a lot), Rubio (some), Kasich (a little). Sell Jeb (some), Trump (to almost 0), Fiorina (to almost 0), Carson (to 0), Huck (to 0). (These odds laid down on 9/19)

I wonder what would happen if a kid took this clock to school.

The Clintons and Haiti.

My wife and I have been muttering on the small size of our recycling bin, but it turns out smaller may be better.

Here’s a nice story of a program in Tennessee to help foster kids adjust to their post-fostered lives.

John McWhorter argues that we need to start accepting a paradigm-shift in writing, that people are going to start writing more how they speak.

Behold, the accomplishment of the ramen noodle.

I am intrigued.

I am intrigued.

Tyler Cowen believes that Canada desperately needs a research and development cluster to stay relevant, going forward.

Here’s an interesting study on rats and empathy, which discovered that rates will forgo chocolate to save a drowning comrade.

I already knew this, but in case you didn’t: Don’t get sick or injured in July.

Aaron K defends the infamous Armored Daredevil costume. Though not perfect, I actually thought it was pretty great and a step up from the typical costume. On the other hand, I think the first Jean-Paul Valley Batman costume was superior to Bruce Wayne’s in every way, but at the same time it just wouldn’t have worked as a permanent costume. Maybe Armored Daredevil couldn’t work, either.

Money doesn’t equal happiness. When it comes to lawyers, at least.

Cracked looks at why modern CGI looks so crappy.

Paul Campos writes more on the subject of college costs.

Category: Newsroom

Samsung is giving physical keyboards on smartphones another chance… sort of:

Never content to sit on the sidelines, Samsung is now trying its hand at blending yesterday’s hardware keyboard with today’s modern, slab-style phones. A new accessory for the just-announced Galaxy Note 5 and S6 Edge+ brings back those tactile keys that so many people have long forgotten.

Unlike the Typo keyboard, which communicated with the iPhone over Bluetooth and extended the length of the device to unwieldy proportions, Samsung’s keyboard case snaps on top of the phone’s display, effectively blocking half of the screen. The phone recognizes the keyboard and adjusts its user interface accordingly, shrinking everything to the top half of the screen. Keypresses are sensed by the screen underneath, eliminating the need for any batteries or Bluetooth pairing hassles in the keyboard itself. You can pop the keyboard on and off pretty easily, and if you want the full glory of an unobstructed display, you can snap it to the backside of the phone for storage.

And not-unexpectedly, Blackberry:

Taking a look at the images attached below, we’re getting a good look at the Venice’s display and slide-out keyboard. Although we can’t be entirely certain of the display size, previous rumors have pointed to a 5.4-inch screen size. As for the software experience, this device seems to stick very closely to vanilla Android, with some added BlackBerry features thrown in. For instance, our anonymous tipster tells us there will be keyboard shortcuts available for creating quick tasks and a few others. As you can see from the third image below, there also looks to be some software shortcuts when swiping up from the home button. Aside from the normal Google Now shortcut, you’ll also be able to perform a quick local search and create a new message with ease.

Blackberry appears to be releasing the phone that might have been quite the splash five years ago. Today… I’d be surprised if they made a whole lot of progress. The brand loyalty is gone. As is the love affair with keyboards.

I do still miss the physical keyboards. I still don’t think the virtual keyboards are an adequate replacement for more serious use. But I have gotten at least moderately comfortable with the viboards and adequate is good enough. While Blackberry is releasing the phone I wanted a few years ago, the advantage of having a physical keyboard is no longer sufficient to completely outweigh other factors, such as memory, storage, and battery. If they are competitive on the other things, though, I will give them a look.

In part because I’m going to be in the market for something new next time around. Samsung has gone the Dark Side, and two of the big reasons I’ve been a repeat customer – replaceable batteries and storage cards – are going away. It seems like LG is the only hold out, making it more likely that LG will by next phone. But maybe not. I am addicted to the replaceable battery, but the storage cards don’t mean as much (in part because of Android’s new way of handling them). Maybe I’ll get over it. Due to Samsung’s betrayal, I will probably be holding on my Note 4 for a really long time. It’ll take a lot for a successor phone to compensate for everything the Note 4 has. If I stick with Samsung, I’ll lose the replaceable battery. If I switch to LG, I’ll lose the S-Pen.

I will be looking at both the Samsung tack-on and the Blackberry for Clancy’s replacement phone whenever that time comes. But there, too, physical keyboards are not the end-all, be-all. Her Stratosphere 2 disappeared for a while and she was using a Galaxy S3 and I think she’s become accustomed to the viboard. But she doesn’t need nearly as much screen space as I do (nor does she switch out batteries), making the Samsung option viable. And the Blackberry might be right up her alley. The S3 is becoming increasingly dated, so she will be in the market for a new phone sooner rather than later.

Category: Server Room


This explains a lot:

There’s a funny thing about [Scott Walker]: The governor has a curious verbal tic—well known among some Walker watchers but largely ignored by everyone else—where, well, he says yes to everything.

Ask him a question at a press conference or in a gaggle, and he’ll bob his head up and down while saying something like “Yeah” or “Yeah, absolutely.” He says that the way other people might say “Um,” or “Listen,” or “Hmm.” It’s a filler word.

But here’s the thing: Not everyone knows that.

I had sort of picked up on it. Which is to say there were two back-to-back cases where everyone looked at what he said and drew a completely different conclusion than I did. The first instance was the Birthright Citizenship question, where the “Yeah” was followed by what looked to me like an evasion of the question and a desire to speak in generalities rather than answer the question asked. But everyone reported it as “Scott Walker wants to repeal the 14th Amendment.” And I couldn’t say otherwise[1], because as much as a lot of people want to pretend otherwise a desire to repeal birthright citizenship is, by any reading of popular opinion, a political mainstream opinion. It’s one I disagree with and more than that it’s a position that would make me less likely to vote for a person who supports it, but it wouldn’t have surprised me that it was Walker’s position. He later said it wasn’t.

But however non-surprising I might have found that position to be, the notion that Walker would even rhetorically support a Canadian Wall was not credible to me and a quick reading of what was said demonstrated it as much. Really, Walker’s argument didn’t even make sense on his critics’ own terms. He hates Mexicans so much he wants to build a wall to keep out Canadians? That’s a weird pander. If he had stuck by it, I would have guessed it would have had more to do with not wanting to seem racist by shrugging and saying “Sure, let’s keep out white people, too, because border and I’m not racist.” But he didn’t stick by the comment and it once again seemed to me there was some midwestern agreeableness going on along with saying “Yeah” at the top. From the Daily Beast article:

“[P]art of this may be due to Walker’s unfortunate verbal tic where he answers questions with what appears to be an affirmative before giving his intended answer,” Sykes wrote on Right Wisconsin. “If a reporter approached him at the Paducah County Fair and asked Walker if he supported a federal plan to beat baby whales to death with the bodies of baby whales, Walker might reply, ‘Yeah…. But what we should focus on is returning power to the states and the …’”

Sykes should know. He’s one of the single most powerful conservative voices in the Badger State, and estimates he’s interviewed Walker hundreds of times since his early days in the State Assembly.

“We joke about it all the time,” he told The Daily Beast. “It’s almost like a parlor game: What did you get him to say yes to, initially? Anything!”

And perhaps this is why I ended up coming a bit to Walker’s defense. It wasn’t because I liked the candidate. If I an open to his getting the nomination it’s basically by figuring he will lose and it would be better for the party for him to lose than Jeb to lose. It wasn’t even because of my belief that contrary to the assumptions of everyone the GOP isn’t all trying to out-Trump Trump[2], because I wouldn’t have been surprised if Walker had made a lunge for Trump supporters. But I actually find myself coming to his defense because… well, I have a similar verbal tic.

I, too, say “Yeah” or “Yes” or even “sure” before saying what I intend to say which can completely contradict what I just said “Yeah” to. It’s less a verbal stall – though it may be that a little – and more an acknowledgement of polite “I gotcha.” I have actually been known to say “Yeah, no I don’t agree with that at all.” Some people want to build a wall to block off Canadians? “Yeah, [let me tell you what I think about that].” Now, in my case, I might say something to the effect of “Yeah, I understand that some people are really considered about border security to the north, but while I don’t even believe a wall blocking off Mexico is an especially good idea I believe it’s a really bad one to try to block off Canada.”

That’s not what Walker did, of course. Walker avoided answering the question, which added undue importance to the verbal tic. Of course, Walker is a politician and he has to be careful in what he says and so it’s understandable that he would fall into a trap I’d be at least modestly more likely to clear. But… he’s a politician, and this is definitely exposing a weakness of his. Journalists may be aching to get him to agree to just about anything to get a good story (rather than accurately assess his views), but at some point Walker himself needs to account for that. He’s not. And while I think he’s getting too much criticism for holding views that it seems apparent he doesn’t affirmatively hold, that itself should give any waffling Republican primary voter pause. Because it’s not going to magically go away if he secures the nomination.

[1] Except to say that “Terminating birthright citizenship” is not the same thing as “Repealing the 14th Amendment.” That this was the accepted framing is, like the notion that ending birthright citizenship is an outrageous position, an indication of a disconnect between popular opinion and people with a license to actually be heard.

[2] If anything, Trump’s audaciousness has had a bit of a calming effect. Because almost everybody realizes that they’re not willing enough to go far enough out there to meet Trump in hard core anti-immigration land. Instead, while Ted Cruz has made the calculated decision to try to reap a post-Trump windfall, most of the rest really haven’t. Instead, relatively casual comments have been assumed to be what they don’t actually seem to be.

Category: Statehouse