Autonomous Mayhem, and Poor Advisors

Well, the autonomous automobile passed a milestone over the weekend. One of Uber’s autonomous vehicles struck a woman pedestrian and killed her. Here is the story from Gizmodo.

Last night a woman was struck by an autonomous Uber vehicle in Tempe, Arizona. She later died of her injuries in the hospital.

The deadly collision—reported by ABC15 and later confirmed to Gizmodo by Uber and Tempe police—took place around 10PM at the intersection of Mill Avenue and Curry Road, both of which are multi-lane roads. Autonomous vehicle developers often test drive at night, during storms, and other challenging conditions to help their vehicles learn to navigate in a variety of environments.

According to Tempe PD, the car—later clarified as a grey 2017 Volvo XC90—was in autonomous mode at the time of the incident, with a vehicle operator sitting behind the wheel. The self-driving vehicle had one operator and no passengers, Uber said.

I’m sorry for the woman, and her family, but it was going to happen someday, and there will be more.

Apparently, the car showed very little sign of slowing down

And here comes a major can of worms for the lawyers to sort. The car was running autonomously, but there was a driver in it. There is video from several angles that has not been released. So who is at fault here? Uber, whoever built the control system, the driver, or the victim. Interesting times, what?

This follows on from yesterday, from The American Spectator.

Mark Twain is supposed to have said of the prospect of being tarred and feathered that, “Except for the honor, I’d as soon skip it.” (Though with Twain you can never be sure. It may be in his case, as Yogi Berra put it, “I didn’t say everything I said.”) Except for the honor of having a (very expensive) sheepskin, young Americans today may find there are many more profitable ways to spend four years than idling at a dumbed down, overpriced, and highly politicized university.

In Friday’s edition of TAS, our Allen Mendenhall calls out a woman history professor for her exercise in misandry poorly disguised as an academic article in that progressive newsletter, the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The men-are-useless-at-best-and-swine-at-worst genre is popular among female academics just now. It mostly derives from free-floating hostility that unhappy women have decided to attach to an easily available and approved target, to wit: men. Annoying, but not to be taken too seriously. In her Chronicle rant, our complaining professor (no point in naming her, there are so many of her out there) rides the usual feminist hobby-horses, too dreary and predictable to enumerate here.

From Professor Discontent’s laughable survey, one cannot conclude, as she invites us to, that women academic advisors are competent and helpful, whereas men advisors are, well, just a bunch of men so what should we expect? But from personal experience I can assure TAS readers that slothful academic advising is hardly a new problem. Perhaps not even a problem at all. At the bachelor’s degree level I managed, not entirely by choice, to dispense with it altogether.

When I filled out an academic course schedule for my first semester at the University of South Florida in Tampa, it was with precious little help from my assigned academic advisor. He was a man with a string of degrees from a certain toney Ivy League University, the annual tariff to attend which now amounts to about what I earned in my first 10 years in journalism. This fellow was cordial enough, and was helpful to the extent that he gave me a sharp pencil to fill in my course schedule with. But it took me mere minutes to determine that on the basis of a quick browse through the USF catalogue, I knew as much about what courses I needed to take as he did, and was far more interested in the matter. (I’m sure other faculty members at USF, and elsewhere, took the advising chore more seriously.)

Keep reading it’s interesting.

I know the feeling, I did much the same thing. My advisor wasn’t from a fancy school, like his, well as far as I know. She was, however head of the department, and apparently had better things to do than advise undergraduates. So I did what he did, figured it out for myself, the information was all published, so it was merely a matter of looking it up, and marking the appropriate tick boxes.

So my experience says that a woman advisor is useless.

What the three of us writing these accounts have really done is demonstrate the weakness of anecdotal data, each of us generated a true set of data points, leading to entirely different conclusions.

That was rather fun, but what he really was talking about in the article (you should read it) is this, and yes, I think the same way.

I’ve no clue about the quality of advice currently handed out to college students, though some of my speculation is truly dreadful. The often daft news out of academe today — about what both professors and students are saying and doing — makes one wonder if perhaps the best advice for a brand new high school graduate today, unless he/she is aiming at medicine, engineering, or the hard sciences, is to not waste four years and a ton of money at one of the most anti-intellectual institutions in the republic. It will just take new degree-holders years in the real world after graduation to de-louse their thinking and to learn something useful. About as long as it will take them to dig out from under the enormous debt they accumulated in order to pay to attend today’s overpriced university.


Shaking up the Universities

This is interesting. I don’t have all that much contact with education anymore, other than college sports on TV occasionally. But I read a lot, and a lot of the nonsense on the internet comes out of various colleges. There is a backlash starting, just ask Mizzou or Evergreen, even Oberlin is starting to feel it. I don’t think that Harvard’s stupidity with its endowment is part of the backlash, but it sounds like that investment officer may well be a product of the left wing academy.

In any case, this is from Steven Hayward of PowerLine who is trapped at Berkeley.

I’ve been predicting, […] that universities would soon begin to divide into two entities—the STEM fields and related practical subjects (i.e., business and economics), and the social sciences and humanities, which would start to shrivel under the weight of the degradations the left has inflicted over the last 40 years. The number of students majoring in the humanities has declined by two-thirds since around 1980.

Here’s part of what I said at Arizona State:

I think we’re already seeing the beginnings of a de facto divorce of universities, in which the STEM fields and other “practical” disciplines essentially split off from the humanities and social sciences, not to mention the more politicized departments.

At this rate eventually many of our leading research universities will bifurcate into marginal fever swamps of radicalism whose majors will be unfit for employment at Starbucks, and a larger campus dedicated to science and technology education.

I added, incidentally, the interesting fact that a new trend is starting to occur in economics. Not only is the discipline subdividing itself into “general economics” and an even more math-centric “quantitative econometrics,” but several economics departments are formally reclassifying themselves as STEM departments for a variety of reasons, but among them surely has to be wishing to disassociate themselves further from other social sciences.

Well, now we have some concrete evidence of this crackup starting to happen. The University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point campus announced last week that it intends to cut 13 majors from the humanities and social sciences. Inside Higher Ed reports:

Programs pegged for closure are American studies, art (excluding graphic design), English (excluding English for teacher certification), French, geography, geoscience, German, history (excluding social science for teacher certification), music literature, philosophy, political science, sociology and Spanish.

The even better news is that some tenured professors are going to be laid off. Naturally, the faculty are not happy. Who’s next?

More at the link, of course.

That is on the whole good news, I think. You all know that I have a firm belief that the humanities provide the solid foundation for a well-rounded man or woman. But they are no longer, in many cases, teaching the humanities, they are indoctrinating left-wing ideas in the kids.

But departments that think Howard Zinn writes history, or that one can teach English without Shakespeare, have no salvage value. They are totally useless. Time to send them to the landfill, and find something of value to replace them.

This may be the only way to fix it, knock it all down, salvage what little might be usable and start over, and pay attention this time.

This is going to take some time, so one is advised to buy futures in popcorn. Gonna be a lot of leftist shrieking. It’ll sound better than most of what passes for music these days, at least.

Secularism and Religion

Many here are aware that the basis of western civilization is in our Judeo-Christian heritage. Often we merely assert this, since we have known it all our lives, but it can be examined fruitfully.

I admire Melanie Phillips greatly because not only is she a very good writer and speaker, she is fully capable of thinking through things. And she does so here. Yes, this is a long read, but I think you’ll find it valuable to read the whole thing.

It has become the orthodoxy in the West that freedom, human rights and reason all derive from secularism and that the greatest threat to all these good things is religion.

I want to suggest that the opposite is true. In the service of this orthodoxy, the West is undermining and destroying the very values which it holds most dear as the defining characteristics of a civilised society.

In truth, in the United States, we don’t hear it explicitly very often, but in Britain, it is quite common in my experience. Not to mention very strident, not only from the secularists, but from Randians, and other assorted libertine groups.

Some of this hostility is being driven by the perceived threat from Islamic terrorism and the Islamisation of Western culture. However, this animus against religion has far deeper roots and can be traced back to what is considered the birthplace of Western reason, the 18th-century Enlightenment.

Actually, it goes back specifically to the French Enlightenment. In England and Scotland, the Enlightenment developed reason and political liberty within the framework of Biblical belief. In France, by contrast, anti-clericalism morphed into fundamental hostility to Christianity and to religion itself.

“Ecrasez l’infame,” said Voltaire (crush infamy) — the infamy to which he referred being not just the Church but Christianity, which he wanted to replace with the religion of reason, virtue and liberty, “drawn from the bosom of nature”.

[…] Instead of God producing heaven on earth, it would be mankind which would bring that about. Reason would create the perfect society and “progress” was the process by which utopia would be attained.

Far from utopia, however, this thinking resulted in something more akin to hell on earth. For the worship of man through reason led straight to totalitarianism. It was reason that would redeem religious superstition and bring about the kingdom of Man on earth. And just like medieval apocalyptic Christian belief, this secular doctrine would also be unchallengeable and heretics would be punished. This kind of fanaticism infused the three great tyrannical movements that were spun out of Enlightenment thinking: the French Revolution, Communism and Fascism. […]

In the Sixties, the baby-boomer generation bought heavily into the idea propounded by Herbert Marcuse and other Marxist radicals that the way to transform the West lay not through the seizure of political or economic control but through the transformation of the culture. This has been achieved over the past half century through what has been called a “long march through the institutions”, the infiltration into all the institutions of the culture — the universities, media, professions, politics, civil service, churches — of ideas that would then become the orthodoxy.

From multiculturalism to environmentalism, from post-nationalism to “human rights” doctrine, Western progressives have fixated upon universalising ideas which reject values anchored in the particulars of religion or culture. All that matters is a theoretical future in which war, want and prejudice will be abolished: the return of fallen humanity to a lost Eden. And like all utopian projects, which are by definition impossible and unattainable, these dogmas are enforced through coercion: bullying, intimidation, character assassination, professional and social exclusion.

The core doctrine is equality. Not the Biblical doctrine that every human being is owed equal respect because they are formed in the image of God: equality has been redefined as identicality, the insistence that there can be no hierarchy of values of lifestyles or cultures. There can no longer be different outcomes depending on different circumstances or how people behave. To differentiate at all is to be bigoted and on a fast track back to fascism and war.

So the married family was kicked off its perch. Sexual restraint was abolished. The formerly transgressive became normative. Education could no longer transmit a culture down through the generations but had to teach that the Western nation was innately racist and exploitative.

Subjective trumped objective. There was no longer any absolute truth. Everyone could arbitrate their own truth. That way bigotry and prejudice would be excised from the human heart, the oppressed of the developing world would be freed from their Western oppressors and instead of the Western nation there would be the brotherhood of man.

All this was done in name of freedom, reason and enlightenment and in opposition to religion, the supposed source of oppression, irrationality and obscurantism.

At the heart of it was an onslaught against the moral codes of Christianity. Those moral codes are actually the Mosaic laws of the Hebrew Bible.

[…] What they [Western “progressives” and the Islamists] also have in common is hostility to Judaism, Israel or the Jewish people. The genocidal hatred of Israel and the Jews that drives the Islamic jihad against the West is not acknowledged or countered by the West because its most high-minded citizens share at least some of that prejudice. Both Western liberals and Islamists believe in utopias to which the Jews are an obstacle. The State of Israel is an obstacle to both the rule of Islam over the earth and a world where there are no divisions based on religion or creed. The Jews are an obstacle to the unconstrained individualism of Western libertines and to the onslaught against individual human dignity and freedom by the Islamists. Both the liberal utopias of a world without prejudice, divisions or war and the Islamist utopia of a world without unbelievers are universalist ideologies. The people who are always in the way of universalising utopias are the Jews.

Do read it all, and there is a deal more than I have given you. The full title is: Secularism and religion: the onslaught against the West’s moral codes. It is simply a superb examination of where our basic morality came from, and how it has allowed us to exceed former civilizations by orders of magnitude, and how it has come to be endangered.

Crossposted from All along the Watchtower.

Disloyalty has its Rewards

So, was anybody paying attention surprised when Rex Tillerson got fired? I thought not. And pretty much for the reason, you thought, too. From the Free Beacon, via Ace.

It was Rex Tillerson’s job to go out to the European states and sell them on this.

Instead, of course, he walked back from what Trump was demanding and instead made softer offers he was never authorized to make — to appease Iran.

You know — gross insubordination of the actual chief foreign policy officer of the United States. And also, appeasement of Iran, in a way that the TruCon Crying Eagle Brigade like to pretend they’re opposed to.

The abrupt firing Tuesday of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson follows months of infighting between the State Department and White House over efforts by Tillerson to save the Iran nuclear deal and ignore President Donald Trump’s demands that the agreement be fixed or completely scrapped by the United States, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.

In the weeks leading up to Tillerson’s departure, he had been spearheading efforts to convince European allies to agree to a range of fixes to the nuclear deal that would address Iran’s ongoing ballistic missile program and continued nuclear research.

While Trump had prescribed a range of fixes that he viewed as tightening the deal’s flaws, Tillerson recently caved to European pressure to walk back these demands and appease Tehran while preserving the deal, according to these sources. The Free Beacon first disclosed this tension last week in a wide-ranging report.

White House allies warned Tillerson’s senior staff for weeks that efforts to save the nuclear deal and balk on Trump’s key demands regarding the deal could cost Tillerson his job, a warning that became reality Tuesday when Trump fired Tillerson by tweet.

And you know, I’ve been around business all my life, never once have a known a boss who would tolerate one of his chief subordinates working directly opposite from his goal, it never has happened and it’s not going to. It just cannot be tolerated. There is a lot of room for discussion, even argument, about any plans, but once the decision is made, one is expected to get on board or quit, anything else is simply disloyal. Looks like Tillerson thought being loyal to Trump was somehow beneath him, well now he has no reason to be.

This was an interesting pick anyway if I understand correctly, he was recommended by Condi Rice. While I find her impressive in many ways, many of her foreign policy ideas do not jibe with mine, nor do I expect they do with President Trump’s either.

The Free Beacon also says that they reported on the Iran deal last week, and they indeed did. This is part of what they wrote:

Iran is undertaking a massive buildup of its ballistic missile program, sparking fears of a “second Holocaust” amid sensitive international negotiations that could see the Trump administration legitimize Iranian missiles capable of striking Israel, according to multiple sources familiar with ongoing diplomatic talks.

As the Trump administration and European allies continue discussions aimed at fixing a range of flaws in the landmark Iran nuclear deal, sources familiar with the progression of these talks say the United States is caving to European demands limiting restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile program.

While the Trump administration went into the negotiations with a hardline stance on cutting off Iran’s ballistic missile program, it appears the United States [that is, Tillerson — ace] is moving closer in line with European positions that would only regulate a portion of the missiles.

Multiple sources with knowledge of the ongoing talks told the Washington Free Beacon U.S. officials [Tillerson] have been backpedaling on key demands originally proposed by President Trump in order to preserve the agreement and appease European allies who are eager to continue doing business with Tehran.

Senior Trump administration officials recently told the Free Beacon the United States is prepared to abandon the nuclear deal if European allies fail to address what it views as a range of flaws in the nuclear deal that have enabled Iran’s missile buildup and allowed it to continue critical nuclear research.

However, it appears the United States is losing ground in the talks, moving closer to the European position, which includes what insiders described as only cosmetic changes to the nuclear deal that fail to adequately address Iran’s massive missile buildup.

Yeah, does anybody really think Trump is going to sign onto a deal that makes Israel more vulnerable? Yeah, me neither. And if this is what our Secstate was agreeing to, and it appears it is, the firing was justified, for sheer disloyalty to his boss. Just plain got too big for his britches, and got swatted down for his trouble. In fact, it was long overdue, this turned out to be one of the worst choices Trump made, and in one of the most important slots.


Thinking about Parkland

Robert Tracinski brought us a thoughtful post over the weekend at The Federalist.

Early this week, I wrote an article taking the Parkland kids to task for spreading a lot of bunkum, not just about guns, but about the general state of the world — which I backed up with some facts and figures, and even some charts and graphs.

In response, I got a lot of the usual hate mail, but what struck me was how the general response was summed up in this exchange.

Logic and facts: what have they ever done for us?

The hyping of the Parkland kids is one giant appeal to emotion. The approach is to go to a school where a shooting happened and carefully select a small number of kids who are reasonably articulate and willing to go along with the full gun-control agenda. Ignore the ones who don’t. Then give these kids the backing of well-funded and well-connected advocacy groups. Fly them around the country and book them on cable TV shows. Then insist that these 17-year-olds are invested with absolute moral authority, and if anyone challenges this, scream at them for being insensitive to the victims of a horrific crime and basically hating children and wanting to see them die.

This only works on two conditions. First, it works because the media cooperates. If the NRA flew pro-Second Amendment kids around and tried to book them on news shows, the media would suddenly develop professional ethics and either turn them down or grill them about being shills for the gun lobby. But the other Parkland kids are treated as concerned citizens, and no one in the media thinks they are under any obligation to note that the kids are basically being bankrolled by Michael Bloomberg.

But the second condition is more important: This works because people want it to work. It aligns with their preconceptions and resonates with their emotions. So they assume that emotional power will sweep away all opposition.

If you are on the left, you are probably now feeling outrage that I am dismissing your advocacy of gun control as mere emotionalism. If you are on the right, you are probably feeling smugly superior to those lefties who are always so invested in their “feels.”

For the benefit of both sides, let me flip the script. Let’s say that instead of invoking the Parkland kids, I were to invoke the parents of Kate Steinle.

Remember her? She was the young woman who was killed in San Francisco by a bullet fired from a gun held by an illegal immigrant. (Prosecutors were unable to prove the shooting was not an accident, which is why he got off on only a weapons charge.) Steinle’s death couldn’t be used to make the case for gun control, because she was shot with a handgun stolen from the car of a law enforcement officer, someone whose weapon would not be banned. But the shooter was an illegal immigrant from Mexico who had been previously deported multiple times, who was released onto the streets of a “sanctuary city.” So this shooting could be used to make the case against sanctuary cities and against Mexican immigrants in general. Which is precisely what Donald Trump did.

Yet the form of the argument is exactly the same in the one case as in the other. It was an emotional appeal to the idea that if only one senseless death could be prevented by taking drastic action, then we’re required to do it — and you’re a monster who doesn’t care about human life if you raise any objections.

Keep reading.

He’s correct, of course, the right did do the same thing in the Kate Steinle case. It was an appeal to emotion, not facts. The right is better than his, at least we better be. Objective fact is not the realm of the Randists, although they do a better job of it than most, they go too far. Emotion matters, but it is not the overwhelming paragon that it often appears that the left thinks it is.

That’s one of the reasons for the old maxim, “Hard cases make bad law”.

Facts Matter.

In truth, when our founders designed out government, one of the reasons they designed the Senate as they did, at a remove for the electorate (elected by the legislature) and for a six year term, was simply to slow things down, to let emotions cool. That was an inherent feature of the design, which the irrational left couldn’t abide, and so the Wilson Government spearheaded it’s repeal. They were wrong, it helps us to maintain an objective, fact based law, not one based on capricious fallible emotion.

Part of their genius, overthrown by much smaller men.

The Late Week in Review

Well, Good Morning or Afternoon or whatever, somebody seems to have stolen an hour last night. What a joke DST has become.

Almost as big a joke as International Woman’s day, which seems to celebrate leftist, women with good jobs, and without the brains to hold them. Or something.

On March 5, 1982, Actor and singer John Belushi died from an overdose of cocaine and heroin.

On a Mission

A bit wordy, but…

Really, BBC? Even for you, that’s pretty bad.

Yesterday was Chuck Norris’ Birthday. Happy Birthday, Mr. Norris

Of course he’d approve.

As usual, most from PowerLine and Bookworm, and a couple from various posts at Ace.

Have a good week.


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