Unprecedented endorsements

National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council endorses Donald Trump (“First-Ever Presidential Endorsement In Its History”). Pretty yuge, I’d say. On the other hand, Hillary’s got some newspaper (which has “not recommended a Democrat for the nation’s highest office since before World War II”, mind you) and George H. W. Bush. (Oh, and the Pope’s endorsement turns out to be a hoax — but what difference does that make?)

Ta-Nehisi Coates, political dissident

John Derbyshire once characterized the political dissident thusly:

The dissident temperament has been present in all times and places, though only ever among a small minority of citizens. Its characteristic, speaking broadly, is a cast of mind that, presented with a proposition about the world, has little interest in where that proposition originated, or how popular it is, or how many powerful and credentialed persons have assented to it, or what might be lost in the way of property, status, or even life, in denying it. To the dissident, the only thing worth pondering about the proposition is, is it true? If it is, then no king’s command can falsify it; and if it is not, then not even the assent of a hundred million will make it true.

Well, it looks like we have a latecomer to the praevalebit club — and no less a man than Mr. “black bodieshimself:

Hillary Clinton made a claim—half of Donald Trump’s supporters are motivated by some form of bigotry. “The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic—you name it,” she said. “And unfortunately, there are people like that, and he has lifted them up.”
Whether or not it was a false thing remained uninvestigated.

I have no doubt that Mr. Coates will display the same dispassionate studium towards other controversial issues, such as crime and IQ gaps. Onward, brave soldier! Amicus Plato, sed magis amica veritas and all that.

The Trumpocalypse

Amidst all the talk of what a terrible human being Donald Trump is, there’s precious little discussion about the actual terrible things he’ll do to America as president. At this point, the critics will retort that Trump’s policy proposals are incoherent and keep changing; the man’s unpredictable! So let’s discuss the worst possible plausible scenarios. Oh, and we’ll dispense right away with the sweaty finger on the nuclear trigger. Maybe Stalin or one of the Kims could order a nuclear strike on whim; modern Western leaders simply don’t have that kind of discretion.

So again: what are the plausible nightmare scenarios? Protectionist trade policy? A wall to keep out illegals? Halting Muslim immigration (or possibly all immigration)? Banning/requiring abortion for all? Whatever one might think of such policies, there is no arguing that they can all be fairly easily reversed with no permanent mark on the American nation.

With Hillary, there’s little argument among her supporters and detractors alike about the kind of policies she’s likely to enact. More immigration, more regulation, more activist judges. Some of these policies are not reversible, immigration being the obvious example. Nor is the Obama/Hillary camp at all shy about their ambitions of “fundamentally transforming” America. You can pretty much read “fundamentally” as “irreversibly”.

So here is your basic appeal to #NeverTrumpers: whatever damage Trump might do will be reversible; not so with Hillary.

Terroristic chairs

Andrew Shaver, a Princeton U. public policy PhD student, trots out the usual tired argument that you should be more afraid of furniture than of terrorists (“whether an Islamist radical or some other variety” — natch). My first impulse was to dismiss this as a rare events fallacy, but Scott Alexander even calls the “rare” into question. He exposes Shaver’s shenanigans on loopy death-toll accounting, undercutting his “basic human psychology” factoid that “individuals have strong tendencies to miscalculate risk likelihood in predictable ways”. Alexander comes across as orders of magnitude more nuanced, informed, and intelligent than Shave — and yet I think he too misses a basic point.

I don’t care how many Americans are killed by furniture annually (50? 500? 5000? — not one iota of difference). I imagine if I’d heard of anyone dying from a chair malfunction, I might look into securing my own chairs. But that’s the point: I’m in control. Similarly, I couldn’t care less how many people accidentally shoot themselves. It’s their business, their problem — and those worried about accidentally shooting themselves are free not to own a gun. On the other hand, I emphatically do care how many people are shot by criminals in a given region. Unlike the chairs or guns in my household, I have no control over a criminal’s or a terrorist’s mind.

Furniture and gun accidents are problems largely under the control of the individuals involved. Invest in good furniture and you won’t be killed by falling shelves; invest in gun safety training and you won’t shoot yourself. These tragedies are preventable, and the people affected are largely the ones who didn’t take the necessary precautions (or their friends, I suppose). It’s a different story with terrorism and crime. There is only so much an individual can do to prevent being a victim of either; that’s why these are hotly debated public policy issues. The public’s concern about furniture safety is — correctly! — dwarfed by its concern regarding terrorism and crime; the actual figures are practically irrelevant. And all the smug deathtoll-by-chair people can take a hike.


Update: The “I couldn’t care less” shouldn’t be interpreted as callous indifference towards others’ death and suffering, but rather the irrelevance of these figures in my safety calculus. The latter also requires a caveat: the actual numbers are irrelevant only to a point. Fifty million Americans being killed by chairs in one year is not something anyone can ignore. The furniture vs. terrorism statistics don’t matter as long as they are within a couple of orders of magnitude of each other.

The Weiner double standard

More than a few pundits are puzzled by the apparent incongruity of the political damage suffered by Anthony Weiner for his “sexless sex scandal” — in comparison to, say, Bill Clinton’s sordid stain affair. As a regular reader of Roissy, it’s no mystery to me at all. Weiner was punished precisely because his escapades were so pathetic. Everything about him, from that juvenile handle Carlos Danger (having your kid in the picture is a classy touch) to the fact that he apparently never actually got any live action, screams beta loser. Bill Clinton was a likable guy — and I say this as someone who’s always hated his guts. Talking high-power politics on the phone while getting a hummer from an intern? Total alpha move! By virtue of being elected officials with real power, both had high Sexual Market Value (SMV). Which one are you going to forgive — the one who put it to good use like any bloke would, or the one who stupidly squandered it?