February 16, 2018 § 13 Comments
February 16, 2018 § 6 Comments
February 13, 2018 § 30 Comments
Every real world economy is filled with real people, and there are all kinds of people in the world. There are always criminals, grifters, scammers, market manipulators, thieves, frauds, and tax evaders. There are always financially ignorant monomaniacal idealists: people who don’t grasp the difference between reality and their beloved simulations and fictions; people who believe that messy human authority and fallibility can be dispensed with and replaced by machines. There are always substantial numbers of naive gamblers and bagholders, lured into getting fleeced by their own avarice and ignorance.
Cryptocurrency exchanges may represent a natural economic evolution, nature’s way of attracting many of these elements out of the real economy and into a buggy, hackable, scammable, get-rich-quick speculative open source video game.
You can think of cryptocurrency exchanges as a heat sink. A heat sink is a large thermal mass which carries destructive waste heat away from the parts of a system where that waste heat can do harm.
Cryptocurrency exchanges are like a heat sink, except for stupidity and vice rather than heat: they are economic stupidity-and-vice sinks. The real economy is doing very well at present, despite what is technically a very long running bull market. I wonder if that isn’t at least in part because a lot of the insanity which typically accompanies bull markets has voluntarily walled itself off in its own video game world. A lot of the craziness that we saw in the dot com era has literally locked itself away from reality inside an electricity-wasting computer game, at a cost of less than six billion dollars taken out of circulation.
Some people predict that the price of cryptocurrencies will soon go to zero; that they will shortly be left behind in the dustbin of financial history. Personally I have my doubts. I think society produces enough stupidity and graft to keep cryptocurrencies running indefinitely. They may well stick around for a long time, as the economy’s evolved way of avoiding sepsis from what amounts to an intestinal blockage of greed and stupidity.
February 6, 2018 § 153 Comments
Some days it seems like I am the only person on earth who actually respects women. Men and women are different, both individually and when considered as populations. But one of the ways we are the same – at least in my view – is that both men and women are moral agents, responsible for the behaviors we choose.
Yet a great many people – notably feminists and the mainstream pro-life movement, though those two are hardly exhaustive – really don’t seem to think this is the case at all.
In the comment thread below reader Jay posted a link to the following image:
This image was allegedly posted in a Facebook advocacy group started and governed by the very same young woman who accused her ex-boyfriend of rape (a year and a half after the alleged incident), in a case we discussed here.
There are several things to observe about this image. I’ll point out a few.
First, the image characterizes the distinction between rape/sexual assault (a very serious matter) and consensual sex (at best a minor matter, probably nobody else’s business) as something which occurs strictly and only in the woman’s mind. If she was subjectively afraid to say no and did not actually say no, he is guilty of sexual assault or rape.
Personally I would have no problem with colleges punishing extramarital sex – as demonstrated by actual evidence – severely, independent of consent. The idea that consent turns extramarital sex into a minor matter in the first place is simply wrong. Premarital sex is a grave, despicable, life-wrecking moral wrong. Consenting to fornication is a grave moral wrong. Physically forcing someone else’s participation in a morally despicable act is itself a morally despicable act, but the idea that fornication is just no big deal while rape is a terrible moral violation is false. They are both grave moral wrongs and should be treated as such.
Second, we would never buy the “I was afraid to say no” line of argument if the action was, for example, murder. The particulars matter, as always, but the most the particulars could do – even when in fear for your own life – is mitigate some of the guilt for actively participating in a murder. Saying no, resisting attempted persuasion or compulsion to do evil, is a basic obligation of every moral agent without exception. Failure to resist evil is itself a moral failure. And yes, this of course includes women – at least if you have any respect for women.
Third, if this image in fact comes from the alleged source – from the actual young woman who years after the fact accused her boyfriend of “rape” in the Shenandoah wilderness where she drove him – it appears to be a tacit admission that, whatever actually did happen between them, she didn’t actually say “no”.
January 29, 2018 § 43 Comments
When a man and a woman meet privately they often come away giving different accounts, to the rest of us, of what happened in the encounter.
When this sort of “he said, she said” situation arises the important thing is to believe the man, not the woman; at least according to recent critics of Christendom College who favor a gossip-based approach to justice over an evidence-based approach.
January 28, 2018 § 79 Comments
Consider two college classmates, Bob and Fred. For a time they seemed to be friends; later they stopped being friendly.
Fred talks to a professor about his falling out with Bob. Fred claims that a year and a half prior Fred had driven Bob out into the Shenandoah wilderness to go hiking. He says that the two had disagreed about how far into the wilderness they were going to hike, and that when Fred insisted that they go no further the larger and stronger Bob attacked him, beat him up, and forced him to go all the way to Old Rag. Then Fred drove the two of them back to campus and said nothing about the incident for a year and a half.
The professor (correctly) tells Fred that if this story is true he was a victim of criminal assault and battery.
Bob denies that he ever threatened (criminal assault) or hit (criminal battery) Fred, and says that Fred was the one insisting that they go on a longer hike.
As an administrator at this small college with a very small campus and very limited resources, you have to decide what to do. Fred already has a psychiatrist/counselor, and in the course of investigating one of the things you do is ask Fred if you can talk to his counselor. The college is far too small, maybe a few dozen classrooms in total, to enforce a regime of strict separation every time two students don’t get along and accuse each other of wrongdoing.
Knowing all this Fred’s parents continue to send him back to the college, where his alleged attacker also continues to attend, because apparently they themselves don’t think he is in any danger. Bob is subjected to special scrutiny; is reprimanded and punished in a few cases where there is evidence of obnoxious behavior toward Fred.
Seven years later a flock of shrieking harpies descend, demanding justice for Fred’s victimization to “assault and battery,” carefully avoiding the inconveniently truthful word “alleged.” The form of justice they demand is to insist that the college must “take accusations seriously” — that is, the college must treat (some) gossip and rumor as if it were true for the purpose of making administrative decisions.
It is at this point that you, gentle reader, have to decide what sort of society you really want to live in: a civilization where public justice is carried out based on evidence available to third parties, third parties who out of necessity have to make authoritative decisions about what to do; or a banana republic in which public justice is carried out based on unverifiable gossip. It is indeed a weakness of evidence based justice that some people get away with wrongdoing; though of course this is also true, to an even greater extent, in a gossip-based system.
Be careful what you decide; because the most common refrain some time after saying “what could it hurt?” is “how were we supposed to know?” You are setting up your own daughters to fall victim to a future transsexual/non-cis gossip system of justice; since natural, surgically unaltered women are not at the top of the liberal victim hierarchy.
 The gossip and rumor which must be treated as authoritatively true are the gossip and rumor that the harpies favor. Other gossip and rumor is to be discounted. The criteria for accepting some gossip and rejecting other gossip is ambiguous, but definitely does not involve evidence.
January 19, 2018 § 133 Comments
Apparently an attention starved Catholic mommy blogger wrote a hit piece against Christendom College. I won’t link to the two part article itself because I’m not interested in driving traffic to trolls; but what follows is easily verifiable. As usual with hubbubs like this I have a few specific things to point out, and no intention of addressing everything that everyone is saying on the subject.
The central ‘stage setting’ incident in part one of the hit piece took place in 2009. Apparently a young female student drove herself (she was the driver with the car keys) and her boyfriend away from the college, past the local town with its hundreds of businesses and thousands of residences, deep into the Shenandoah mountains, to an isolated location in a national park. A year and a half later she was talking about it with a professor and claimed she now realized that she was raped, in a classic “he said she said, long after the fact” scenario.
I find this story perfectly plausible. It is also manifestly unverifiable.
By all accounts the college did everything it could do in as professional, compassionate, and (nontrivially) legal a manner as anyone could reasonably expect. The young man was investigated and punished for actually verifiable behaviors on campus, etc — the details (putative and otherwise), again, are available elsewhere so there is no need to rehash them here.
At least one of the individuals cited in the article series claims, in the combox, that the blogger’s citation is a tendentious misrepresentation of what was said in the interview. So the veracity and fairness of the article is publicly disputed by one of its own sources. But even if we grant the entire factual situation as reported, the articles are a complete hash of emotive nonsense. The young woman who claims she was raped explains, as paraphrased by the blogger using her as clickbait:
But several former and current students say the school’s sheltered, highly structured campus culture actually facilitates sexual assault …
She says that the rules against romantic public displays of affection were so restrictive, it drove couples off campus.
So the central point of the article (its very title is “Are Women Safe in Christendom’s Bubble?”) seems to be that the College does such a great job enforcing decent behavior on campus that this forces students to go off campus to drink, engage in sexual debauchery, etc. Horrors! Christendom is so well-governed that it is virtually impossible, certainly in comparison to most colleges, to sexually assault women on campus!
And apparently in this specific case the mere proximity of the campus was so oppressive that it was necessary for the alleged victim herself – again she was the driver – to motor, not just a few miles into the nearby town, but to far off in the isolated Virginia mountain wilderness. How else to fully escape the aura of moralistic oppression at Christendom and make possible the campus rapeyness that everyone in the Current Year has come to expect?
The logic doesn’t get any better as the lengthy articles progress. The young woman’s father complains that students are punished for being drunk on campus but are not punished for “being a rapist” on campus:
“I always find it interesting they always try to punish students for drinking off campus, if you come back to campus drunk,” [the father] said. “I say, if you rape off campus, when you come back to campus, you’re still a rapist.”
In case the category error isn’t obvious, consider a different situation — streaking, say. Nobody would fault the college for punishing a student caught running around naked on campus. Everyone with any modicum of sanity would fault the college for punishing Student A with no evidence other than that Student B unverifiably claims to have seen Student A streaking deep in the Shenandoah wilderness after she drove him there. (“But women very rarely lie about streaking” come emotion-laden shrieks from the Estrogenic Cloud).
A commenter suggested that the risk men bear of being falsely accused of sexual assault or rape is analogous the risk that women bear of getting pregnant: that this somehow balances things out (which is the important thing). The obvious difference is that a man can be falsely accused of rape even if he did nothing wrong at all; whereas pregnancy only comes about in a very specific, concrete, well understood way. No woman needs to adopt the (at this point well vindicated) Pence rule to refrain from sexual intercourse and avoid pregnancy. But any man who doesn’t follow the Pence rule is taking on the risk of being falsely accused of sexual harassment or worse.
The question of actual evidence and its relation to “victim blaming” gets to the heart of the matter. If this young man in fact legitimately raped this young woman, as demonstrated by actual solid evidence, by all means punish him in the harshest manner as a rapist. There is no statute of limitations on rape, and nobody is responsible for an act of rape itself except the rapist.
But punishment in this case – indeed public rendering of the truth at all – is not (as reported at least) possible, because there isn’t any evidence. The only people who actually know what actually happened are the two people who were there at the time: he said, she said.
A more pertinent question then is, who is responsible for there not being any evidence? Who put us in this situation? Was it Christendom College with its overbearing and oppressive institutional success, when compared to pretty much all colleges everywhere, in keeping rapeyness and even consensual debauchery off campus; or was it someone else?
The most proximate person responsible for the impossibility of determining the truth in an objective, public way is the person in the literal driver seat who chose to drive the two of them, alone, deep into the Virginia wilderness. And in close proximity to that person – perhaps carrying the greater responsibility, because responsibility comes along with age, wisdom, and authority – are parents who give driver’s licenses to young women and send them off to college hundreds of miles distant without any inkling that a seventeen year old driving deep into the wilderness with a random boyfriend is every bit as imprudent as a ten year old getting into a car with a stranger offering candy.
Close behind are trolling mommy bloggers who write self-serving hit pieces against an obviously well managed Catholic college precisely because of that college’s undeniable success, versus all of its peers, in keeping rape at the status of an off campus problem rather than an on campus problem.
UPDATE 1/21/2018: Added the sentence “So the veracity and fairness of the article is publicly disputed by one of its own sources. ” Corrected the word “estrogenic”.
December 20, 2017 § 171 Comments
In this post I will present an argument that it is immoral to sell digital pornography and/or bitcoin.
Premise 1: It is immoral to sell property for an unjust price.
Premise 2: Context can make particular property more or less valuable; for example, water is more valuable in the desert than in a mountain lake. Call this a context multiplier.
Premise 3: Personal preferences or needs can make particular property more or less valuable to a particular buyer. I like whiskey but I don’t care for wine. Call this a subjective multiplier.
Premise 4: It is possible for particular property to have zero or negative intrinsic value: for particular property to be literally useless or harmful. (Alternatively, it is possible for the typical and intended uses of a particular kind of property to have zero or negative intrinsic value. Call this “Premise 4 light”).
Premise 5: When property (or its typical use case: call this “Premise 5 light”) has zero or negative intrinsic value, neither a context multiplier nor a subjective multiplier can make its just price greater than zero.
Digital pornography has negative intrinsic value: its typical use case is destructive to the user. Unlike paper pornography it has no useful material substrate which enables atypical uses: paper pornography might be used as fuel for a fire, for example, but digital pornography cannot even be burned to produce heat. Purchasing copies of digital pornography might be justifiable when doing so is part of a plan to destroy it or to attack its production; but this limited warrant to purchase-for-destruction does not justify the sale of digital pornography to purchasers who are likely to use it for its intended purpose.
Pornography has negative intrinsic value because it promotes vice, a false picture of reality, and other disorders in relation to the truth about the good.
Bitcoin is also a digital product which promotes vice, a false picture of reality, and other disorders in relation to the truth about the good.
Therefore selling bitcoin is immoral. (“Light” version: therefore selling bitcoin to buyers who are likely to use it for its typical use cases, is immoral).
Obviously Premise 5 is doing the heavy lifting here, though Premise 4 may also be controversial.
November 20, 2017 § 1 Comment
Re-posting this since the Parable of the Talents was yesterday’s Gospel reading.
November 15, 2017 § 7 Comments
Cane Caldo recently objected to my contention that violence is the besetting sin of incontinent men, citing federal prison statistics. One problem with citing federal prison statistics — even stipulating the veracity of official methods which categorize various crimes proximate to violence (e.g. burglary) as as nonviolent — is that the federal prison population is not representative of the prison population in general:
Obama made this a key point in his NAACP speech: “But here’s the thing: Over the last few decades, we’ve also locked up more and more nonviolent drug offenders than ever before, for longer than ever before. And that is the real reason our prison population is so high.”
This claim, which is widely accepted by policymakers and the public, is simply wrong. It’s true that nearly half of all federal inmates have been sentenced for drug offenses, but the federal system holds only about 14 percent of all inmates. In the state prisons, which hold the remaining 86 percent, over half of prisoners are serving time for violent crimes, and since 1990, 60 percent of the growth in state prison populations has come from locking up violent offenders. Less than a fifth of state prisoners — 17 percent — are serving time for nonviolent drug offenses.
In other words, for all the talk about nonviolent offenders, a majority of our prisoners have been convicted of a violent act, and even more have some history of violence.