A meritocracy reading list

Meritocracy has been on everyone’s minds lately, it seems. Reading Daniel Markovits’ “The Meritocracy Trap,” I was fully ready to condemn the concept completely. I may be still; but I need to take a moment to think about it more fully. Here’s the problem with condemning meritocracy outright: if we look at ability on a case-by-case basis, would you rather a well-trained, accomplished pilot or a mediocre one? Would you rather go to a concert performed by a scratchy third-rate violinist or someone whose pedigree includes Juilliard, Curtis, or the like?

Duncan's Law

Opposite day Trump lawyer and all-around whackadoodle Rudy Guiliani claims he’s the most ethical person ever. Of course, his association with one of the least ethical people ever suggests otherwise. Thus, it prompts me to articulate “Duncan’s Law.” Succinctly stated, if someone claims absolute superiority in some particular characteristic, his actual performance in that characteristic is actually somewhere between average and the least performant.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018. U.S. Election Day

Trumphannity Yes. Yes, they’ve done a fine job for “you”. But what about the rest of us? Moreover, what about the “us” in perpetuity, those who will have to deal with the erosion of civic norms? I’m an atheist, but I’m familiar enough with the Christian canon that this photograph of “President” Trump with “journalist” Sean Hannity reminded me of a verse from the Gospel of Matthew (Chapter 16, verse 26):

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Politico has a piece today about Trump’s outrageous claims in the face of weather disasters. In almost every context, he reveals himself to be an abject fool; but lurking beneath that idiocy is another layer of loathsomeness - the complete lacking in understanding of science. I want a reporter to ask him any of the following questions about hurricanes: “Mr. Trump, can you describe for us your understanding of how hurricanes form?

How fascism works

A recent piece in The Atlantic by Peter Beinart filled in a cognitive gap in understanding how a large minority of U.S. citizens continue to support an abjectly incompetent, almost certainly criminal, willfully ignorant, and generally hateful man as president. The article Why Trump supporters believe he is not corrupt makes the argument that when Trump defenders concern themselves with the idea of corruption they are not thinking of political corruption so much as corruption of the purity.

Quarantining extremist ideas

This is an interesting essay in The Guardian on the idea of quarantining extremist ideas. A non-trivial proportion of the population regards the media as having a responsibility to represent all idea with equal validity. So the appearance of extremist ideas in the press, even if they are treated negatively, results in more legitimacy than they are due. The authors in this essay make a case for quarantining these extreme ideas, refusing to cover them.

A letter to Jerry Brown

Dear Governor Brown, By now you are aware of Nicholas Kirstof’s piece1 in The New York Times in which he presents abundant evidence that investigators and prosecutors framed Kevin Cooper for the murder of four people in Chino. Advanced DNA testing could produce potentially exculpatory evidence. Or not. But the truth must be pursued. You have rejected calls to exercise the authority of your office to order such testing. It beggars belief that you would not use that authority wisely in the search for truth, when the evidence was distorted for malicious purposes is so strong.