URLs du Jour

2017-09-24

■ We interrupt our regular blog format to celebrate the appearance of our official, but uncompensated, blog mascot, Cathy Poulin, in Mount Kisco, NY: Heavenly Productions, Bob's Discount Furniture Spread Joy In Mount Kisco

Heavenly Productions and Bob's Discount Furniture distributed Dr. Seuss books, Dr. Seuss hats and Bob's Discount furniture blankets for 85 children. They then sang "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," while Cathy Poulin of Bob's Discount Furniture dressed up as The Cat In The Hat and read the famous Dr. Seuss book.

And there's a pic, which I have stolen:

[Cathy in Mt. Kisco]

That's Cathy in the front row middle. She's a good sport.


Proverbs 20:8 describes a royal superpower that sounds unlikely to modern ears:

8 When a king sits on his throne to judge,
    he winnows out all evil with his eyes.

You know, that whole separation of powers thing? Especially keeping judicial power away from the executive? That was a good idea.


■ Arnold Kling asks: Did the Suits win the Internet?

Around 1995, the Suits discovered the World Wide Web. Their reaction: this is going to be television on steroids! Media giants will rule the earth, as the Internet becomes a vehicle for mass entertainment.

At that time, the Geeks thought differently. The architecture of the Net was peer-to-peer. You did not need large amounts of capital to build a business. Instead, personal computers, with access to the Net, were putting the means of production in the hands of the individual. Government would be powerless to control or censor the Net.

Good question. I was (and, to some extent, remain) a Geek. But I've also (to some extent) surrendered to the Apple/Microsoft/Google/Facebook/Twitter Suits.

And certainly the Suits in most organizations would prefer to manage interchangeable (and easily replaceable) sub-Suits rather than unruly Geeks.

One sad moment of revelation for me was when I attended a LISA sysadmin conference, once a proud den of Geeks, and a respected member of the organization made an impassioned argument that (basically) said we should all get our MCSE certifications.

I think that might have been the last LISA conference I attended.

(Kling's article is inspired by, and links to a long and interesting Fast Company interview with Alan Kay. You might want to check that out too.)


■ The Google LFOD alert rang for a Concord Monitor op-ed from Matt Simon, of the Marijuana Policy Project: The price of prohibition.

Now that the “Live Free or Die” state has stopped arresting people for possessing small amounts of marijuana, the debate over marijuana legalization and regulation in Concord has finally begun in earnest.

Simon takes on anti-legalization arguments, noting that the sky has not fallen in legal-pot-selling Colorado.


■ And we also got alerted to a wonderfully unhinged LTE from Lance Shoots of Lerna, Illinois, appearing in the local Journal Gazette and Times-Courier: Nation experiencing widespread discontent. It's all one big babbling paragraph:

As a wave of widespread discontent sweeps our beleaguered nation, may no man deny its profound and far-reaching consequences; while a select few will mount the wave and ride it to glorious heights, most will be swept out to sea, hopelessly lost in the deliberately murky waters. The sad state of affairs in which America finds itself is a sign of the times, and there will be no shelter from the coming storm; rich or poor, black or white, male or female, all will feel its fury. We have been subjugated by an oppressive and parasitic system which is manipulated and perpetuated by an elite ruling class bent on maintaining total control of the population, too often at a great cost of life and liberty. Seemingly every second of our lives is inundated with harmful propaganda; one by one, our civil liberties are rounded up, snuffed out, and unceremoniously dumped into unmarked graves as the band plays on. So long as the manipulated majority believe our broken system can't be fixed, they're absolutely right; it's a disastrous self-fulfilling prophecy which serves the interests of the few at the cost of the many. It's simply unacceptable to stand idly by as the rights of our fellow Americans are trampled upon by power-drunk tyrants; lest we forget, every nation gets the government it deserves. Let us replace the self-serving motto 'Don't Tread On Me' with the unifying declaration 'Don't Tread On Any'; let us discard the tragically defeatist slogan 'Live Free Or Die' in favor of the rallying mantra 'Live Free Or Kill'. Our great nation has fallen into the hands of vicious traitors and it's up to us to take it back. We the people built this country and we the people can reclaim it; after all, that's the American way.

"Lance Shoots" is an unfortunate name for someone who wants to replace LFOD with "Live Free or Kill". I don't think that's going on my license plate anytime soon.

URLs du Jour

2017-09-23

Righteous

■ There are some Proverbs that set an impossibly high standard, and Proverbs 20:7 is one of them:

7 The righteous lead blameless lives;
    blessed are their children after them.

It's a good thing that there were (apparently) none of the righteous in the crowd described in John 8:2-11.


■ George F. Will writes on Our dangerous, idiotic national conversation.

At this shank end of a summer that a calmer America someday will remember with embarrassment, you must remember this: In the population of 325 million, a small sliver crouches on the wilder shores of politics, another sliver lives in the dark forest of mental disorder, and there is a substantial overlap between these slivers. At most moments, 312 million are not listening to excitable broadcasters making mountains of significance out of molehills of political effluvia.

That's the down side. On the up side, it gives us plenty of blog fodder.


■ I've been a dog owner for slightly over a year, so I'd like to think that the headline of 's column is true: Dogs’ love of man is real.

One of my favorite kinds of news stories is the report of a new scientific study that verifies the obvious. You’ve seen them. New research finds that heterosexual men are attracted to very attractive women. Evidence collected by wildlife researchers has confirmed that bears really do use the woods as toilets.

… and Emory neuroscientist Gregory Berns has employed MRI to look inside doggie brains—yes, he was able to locate them—to verify that dogs respond to praise, with or without food reward.

You can get Dr. Berns' book from Amazon. The science is therefore settled.


■ What mental image is summoned for you by this Daily Beast headline: Jimmy Kimmel Got a Hand From Chuck Schumer in His Fight Against Obamacare Repeal? You'll find my answer below the excerpt:

Over the past week, opposition to the latest Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare has been driven by a late-night talk show host who had expressed little interest in health care policy prior to this year.

Jimmy Kimmel’s nightly monologues decrying Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy’s (R-LA) bill became must-see TV, as the ABC host systematically attacked both the specifics of the legislation and Cassidy himself.

Behind the scenes, the ABC star was getting an assist. Kimmel and his team were in touch with health care officials, charities and advocacy groups, multiple sources told The Daily Beast. He also was in touch with the office of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y) who, according to a source familiar with their conversations, “provided technical guidance and info about the bill, as well as stats from various think tanks and experts on the effects of [Graham-Cassidy].”

If you're like me: Schumer as the ventriloquist, Kimmel as the dummy. The location of Schumer's "hand" is… left as an exercise for the reader.

Which brings us to our Tweet du Jour


■ Our Google LFOD Alert brought this WMUR report from John DiStaso: Speaker Jasper calls on NHGOP to ‘distance ourselves’ from Free State Project.

New Hampshire House Speaker Shawn Jasper Thursday doubled down on his belief that the Republican Party should reject the Free State Project, warning that it could “destroy” the party.

Jasper has an issue with the "Statement of Intent" Free Staters are asked to sign onto:

I hereby state my solemn intent to move to New Hampshire with the Free State Project. Once there, I will exert the fullest practical effort toward the creation of a society in which the maximum role of government is the protection of individuals' rights to life, liberty, and property.

Jasper thinks the Constitution requires a lot more from government than that. No Lockean he.

Unsurprisingly, Jasper's comments have been cheered by… well, mostly Democrats, as near as I can tell. State Rep JR Hoell, R-Dunbarton begs to differ:

“Thankfully, liberty-minded Granite Staters, both Republicans and independents, have a place where they can work to build the ‘Live Free or Die’ values into effective policy – the House Freedom Caucus,” Hoell said. “We work with members of all parties to promote the notion that government should stay out of your life and your pocketbook. Moreover, we don’t put a litmus test on whether or not individuals moved here from out of state or were born and raised here with these values.”

As NH politicos know, Jasper was first elected Speaker of the House by defeating his own party’s nominee with support from House Democrats. So when he talks about tearing apart the state GOP, he's speaking from experience.


■ But bopping around the Free State Project's website unearthed the blog of FSP founder Jason Sorens, and he has an interesting post on Amazon's casting around for a new headquarters: Why Amazon Won't Choose New Hampshire

Amazon won’t choose New Hampshire, because we simply don’t offer the corporate welfare other states do. According to Bureau of Economic Analysis data, New Hampshire offers less than half the subsidies to business that Amazon’s home state Washington does as a percentage of its economy, and the second lowest amount in the country (after West Virginia).

Interestingly, West Virginia and New Hampshire are also number one and two (respectively) in Drug Overdose Death Rates. Correlation or causation? You be the judge!

URLs du Jour

2017-09-22

Proverbs 20:6 could have been the inspiration for many a popular song and countless pissed-off poems:

6 Many claim to have unfailing love,
    but a faithful person who can find?

Darn it, now I can't get that Carole King song out of my head…


■ The latest outrage at the University Near Here is recounted by the student newspaper. Greek org under investigation amid controversial video.

An unknown member of a UNH sorority posted a video Tuesday night of members singing and dancing to a "popular song that uses the n-word," according to an email that Dean [of Students] Ted Kirkpatrick sent to the UNH student body in wake of the event.

In the press release, Kirkpatrick stated that, "The use of that word runs counter to our values. Moreover, it is a word that diminishes members of our community." He also announced that the incident has been reported to the national chapter and is currently under investigation by both the chapter and the university.

The song is identified as "Gold Digger" by Kanye West. It's well-known enough to have a Wikipedia page of its own. It's not my cup of tea, but a lot of people liked it. Back in 2005, it was number one on the Billboard "Hot 100" chart for 10 weeks, which is a lot of weeks. It won a Grammy for "Best Rap Solo Performance".

So, bottom line: when Kanye sings it, it's OK. Sorority girls, not so much.

I posted the following comment: "To avoid future controversy, I hope Dean Kirkpatrick composes a comprehensive list of songs that sorority girls are not allowed to sing."

Ah, but wait a minute. Via the Facebook page "All Eyes on UNH" (which is some fun to read all on it's own), the sorority has abjectly apologized for … whatever … and the Dean-promised "investigation" has been terminated. A report from report from The Tab: UNH sorority will NOT be investigated for n-word video – and students of color say they’re ‘livid’.

I have mixed feelings about the battle between conveniently-hypersensitive students and an obsequious administration. I'm sad that it's UNH. On the other hand, pass the popcorn.


■ At NRO, Michael Brendan Dougherty is Still Waiting on a Peace Dividend.

It’s just never going to happen for us, is it? It seemed like there were a few weeks of peace dividend in the 1990s. They must have happened sometime between withdrawing from Mogadishu and accidentally bombing the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. Maybe it was the week Princess Diana died, and that’s why it seemed so short to me.

Since then, of course, we’ve elected three consecutive presidents who campaigned on promises of withdrawing America from needless conflicts of choice. Bush’s humble foreign policy. Obama’s end to the “distraction” in Iraq, so we could finish the job in Afghanistan. And then Donald the Dove.

I know: fight them "over there" so we don't have to do it here. I get that. But…


■ Another NRO link, this one from our hero, @kevinNR:An Anti-Growth Tax Cut

Republicans want to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion — while the government already is running a deficit — and they propose to offset those cuts with wishful thinking.

In control of both houses of Congress with a nominally Republican president in the White House, they are pursuing the dead opposite of the immigration policy touted by Donald Trump on the campaign trail, and considering something close to the opposite of their longstanding promises on health care. They are embarrassed by their inability to execute any proposal of great consequence, and have retreated into that great Republican safe space: tax cuts, the more irresponsible the better.

It's more fun than cutting spending, or keeping campaign promises.


■ In case you haven't noticed, there's a new Obamacare sorta-repeal bill in play, and Jimmy Kimmel, late-night network entertainer, has become an expert commentator on it. Patterico shoots that fish in a barrel: Jimmy Kimmel’s Dopey Sketch on Graham-Cassidy Misses the Point. Is it important that Graham-Cassidy pass?

Meh. I don’t think it matters at all. The only health care system that could work is one that depends on actual choice, which is only possible in a free market. But clearly Americans — and consequently their representatives — aren’t up for the sort of solutions that this would require. (I have discussed free-market alternatives for health care before –for example, here). Whether we tinker with a losing situation in this way or that way, in my view, matters little.

It's clear that the debate, such as it is, is fueled by fear, fantasy, and demagoguery. Kimmel is an enthusiastic participant.


■ We talked yesterday about Laura Kipnis's ongoing woes, her payment for being honest about the current university climate on matters sexual. At Reason, Robby Soave has more: Northwestern Investigated Laura Kipnis Again for Violating Title IX with Her Opinions

The forces of darkness really don't want Prof. Laura Kipnis to criticize the campus sex bureaucracy—but they keep proving her right about it.

He includes a tweet that I shall also include here as our tweet du jour.

We used to think this sort of thing was Orwellian. But it's rapidly approaching "Carrollian". As in Lewis Carroll. "Off with her head!"

URLs du Jour

2017-09-21

insight

■ Your mileage may vary, but I kind of like the poetic imagery of Proverbs 20:5:

5 The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters,
    but one who has insight draws them out.

It's a little ambiguous whether the "insight" is into (a) someone else's purposes, or (b) one's own (we could all use a little more self-reflection). Could be both, I suppose.


■ Pun Salad looked at Laura Kipnis's book about abusive and intrusive Title IX investigations, Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus, here. Among other things, she described the investigation she went through at her school, Northwestern. Was she accused of rape? Sexual harassment? No. Her crime was writing an article about Title IX in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Now it turns out that Prof Kipnis underwent another Title IX investigation, this in response to her book. The details are summarized at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education: Laura Kipnis’ second ‘Title IX inquisition’.

The month-long investigation was sparked by complaints about “Unwanted Advances” from four Northwestern faculty members and six graduate students. As with her first investigation, Kipnis was ultimately found not responsible for violating university policy.

However, reviewing Gersen’s report, it’s easy to see how the investigations themselves function as punishment, to say nothing of the threat they pose to academic freedom: in the most recent investigation, Kipnis was asked to respond to at least 80 written questions about her book and to provide her source material. She was also urged to keep the investigation confidential.

I try not to get outraged at my age. But this is outrageous. Prof Kipnis should have some sort of legal recourse against this frivolous abuse.

But it's easy to speculate that the the real chilling message being sent here is to any other would-be critics of "Progressive" university dogma: keep your mouth shut and your head down.


■ For another example of what happens to dissenters in higher ed, Power Line's Scott Johnson brings us up to date on the case of Professors Amy Wax (Penn) and Larry Alexander (San Diego), who said That Which Must Not Be Said. Specifically, they wrote a column for the Philadephia Inquirer extolling the bourgeois culture and virtues of mid-20th century America. Oh oh!

Johnson quotes Heather MacDonald's WSJ column describing the reactions. For example:

None of the professors’ high-placed critics have engaged with any of their arguments. [USD Law President Stephen] Ferruolo’s schoolwide letter was one of the worst examples. The dean simply announced that Mr. Alexander’s “views” were not “representative of the views of our law school community” and suggested that they were insensitive to “many students” who feel “vulnerable, marginalized or fearful that they are not welcomed.” He did not raise any specific objections to Mr. Alexander’s arguments, or even reveal what the arguments were.

It isn't the first time we've trotted out the Underground Grammarian essay titled "The Answering of Kautski", which quoted Lenin:

Why should we bother to reply to Kautski? He would reply to us, and we would have to reply to his reply. There's no end to that. It will be quite enough for us to announce that Kautski is a traitor to the working class, and everyone will understand everything.

The UG wrote this back in 1979, so it's not that this sort of thing is new. The current Leninists just announce that heretics are "creating a hostile environment" and everyone will understand everything.


■ We seem to be on a higher ed rant today. Marc A. Thiessen writes at the American Enterprise Institute: In Berkeley, Shapiro spoke but Antifa won. Yes, Ben Shapiro, "a smart, clever, mainstream conservative", managed to speak. After the school allegedly spent $600K on security arrangements.

That is why Antifa won. Without breaking a single window, or smashing a single head with their shields that say “No Hate,” these radical leftists succeeded in imposing a $600,000 tax on conservative speech at Berkeley. Just the threat of neo-Communist violence was enough to force the school to spend more than half-a-million dollars to protect Shapiro and the students who wanted to listen to him.

Worrisome.


■ And Ben Shapiro himself writes at NRO on College Students vs. Free Speech. He notes the dismal attitudes reflected in that Brookings poll we looked at yesterday, and speculates on what's changed:

[T]oday’s Americans have abandoned that image of America [where individuals are responsible for their own success]. Instead, they’ve substituted a vicious America, a Howard Zinn caricature in which hordes of evil bigots stand between individuals and success. We are supposedly a society plagued with the terrifying and unalterable specters of institutional racism and sexism, of bigotry and brutality. None of this is curable.

And so we have been taught to find meaning within. True freedom doesn’t exist in the outside world, with its soft, unspeakable tyrannies. True freedom exists only in our own self-definition, our subjective sense of ourselves. Solipsism becomes an animating motive.

He's onto something.


■ Enough about higher ed. Here in New Hampshire, we've got bigger fish to fry, like putting Keno screens in local watering holes: Keno to go on Somersworth ballot.

And, yes, it rang our LFOD Google Alert:

Councilor Jonathan McCallion said New Hampshire is the Live Free or Die state and the reality is people are going elsewhere to play Keno now and towns around Somersworth will offer it.

Yes, you really can use LFOD to justify anything.


■ Or desperate writers can use LFOD to pump up their word count, For example: Before You Name That New Baby, Check Out the Most Popular Baby Names in Every State

Live Free or Die” New Hampshire broke ranks with the rest of the country and picked Charlotte as its top baby name for girls. (Emma was second place in New Hampshire.)

Note that nothing there actually depends on LFOD. It's not as if new NH parents looked at the name statistics and said "Screw all those other liberty-hating states with their Emmas and Olivias! We're going with Charlotte!"

The most popular male-baby name in New Hampshire was… Noah. As it was in the rest of the country. So what's the lesson here? Live Free or Don't?

URLs du Jour

2017-09-20

■ "Sluggards" are also a frequent target of Proverbialist taunts (I count 14), and Proverbs 20:4 is another example:

4 Sluggards do not plow in season;
    so at harvest time they look but find nothing.

So, is the problem that sluggards are merely lazy? This suggests an additional feature: they're also stupid.


■ At NRO, Michael Tanner writes on the latest GOP effort to repeal-and-replace: Graham-Cassidy Is a Too-Mild Improvement on Obamacare.

Think about it. In the battle of ideas over health-care reform, Republicans have unilaterally disarmed. When was the last time Republicans explained what a free-market health-care system would look like, how it would work, and why it would be better for health-care consumers? The old adage is true: You can’t beat something with nothing.

That’s why Republicans are once again trying to eke out a narrow win on a bill that slows but doesn’t reverse the ongoing march to socialized medicine.

I am mildly in favor of Graham-Cassidy, but I won't be heartbroken if it loses.


■ An amusing column from David Harsanyi: After Self-Reflection, Journalists Discover They’ve Been Too Critical Of … Democrats.

Journalism is in crisis. After some much-needed self-examination, however, reporters are finally beginning to figure out why many Americans are souring on their industry: They’ve been too critical of the Democratic Party.

As Harsanyi notes, many critics—Hillary Clinton, for one—are maintaining that "the press didn’t do its job — which is to say, help her get elected."


■ Catherine Rampell's reportage in the WaPo has caused a stir: A chilling study shows how hostile college students are toward free speech. For example:

A fifth of undergrads now say it’s acceptable to use physical force to silence a speaker who makes “offensive and hurtful statements.”

Also:

  • 44% of polled students believed, falsely, that the First Amendment does not protect "hate speech".
  • 62% of students believed, also falsely, that the First Amendment requires that a university event with "offensive and hurtful" speaker be balanced with a speaker presenting an "opposing view".

As Rodgers and Hammerstein said: "You've got to be carefully taught."

The kids aren't just "hostile" to free speech.

They are, also, not simply "ignorant" about free speech.

They've been miseducated to believe things about free speech that just aren't so.


■ Jacob Sullum's column this week bemoans the recent vote on Rand Paul's amendment repealing the 2001 open-ended authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against 9/11 perpetrators: Congress Does Not Want Its War Power.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) thinks Trump is a "buffoon." Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) says Trump is attacking "basic institutions of government…in unprecedented ways." Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who last year remarked that Trump "doesn't seem to know what's happening outside of Trump Tower," recently worried that he "tries to make national security policy or foreign policy through tweeting." In July a hot mic caught Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) calling Trump "crazy."

These senators view the president as ill-informed and reckless, if not mentally unbalanced. That they are nevertheless OK with granting him a blank check to use the world's most powerful military as he pleases suggests how desperate members of Congress are to dodge their duties.

For New Hampshirites, our state's other senator, Maggie Hassan, also voted to table Paul's amendment.


■ Matt Ridley takes a contrarian position on "climate change", but even if you disagree, you might want to check out how The poor are carrying the cost of today's climate policies.

Here is a simple fact about the world today:

• climate change is doing more good than harm.

Here is another fact:

• climate change policy is doing more harm than good.

Counterintuitive! And probably correct. Check it out.

URLs du Jour

2017-09-19

■ Our (sort of) methodical march through Proverbs stumbles over a lot of clunkers, but Proverbs 20:3 shows that some bits of wisdom are, indeed, timeless:

3 It is to one’s honor to avoid strife,
    but every fool is quick to quarrel.

True then and now.


■ I liked Tom Nichols' book, The Death of Expertise, quite a bit, without totally agreeing on some points. But he expands on one of the major points of agreement in the Chronicle of Higher Education: Our Graduates Are Rubes

The pampering of students as customers, the proliferation of faux "universities," grade inflation, and the power reversal between instructor and student are well-documented, much-lamented academic phenomena. These parts, however, make up a far more dangerous whole: a citizenry unprepared for its duties in the public sphere and mired in the confusion that comes from the indifferent and lazy grazing of cable, talk radio, and the web. Worse, citizens are no longer approaching political participation as a civic duty, but instead are engaging in relentless conflict on social media, taking offense at everything while believing anything.

Let's not leave out the modern university's commitment to indoctrination "changing mindsets" into conformance with Progressive dogma.


■ Like most of America, I avoided watching the Emmys. I've also avoided paying for streaming services beyond Amazon Prime and Netflix. But Rich Lowry at NRO has some useful things to say about an Emmy-winning Hulu series portraying a theocratic dystopia that's been adopted as anti-Trump gospel: The ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ Lunacy. Because, dontcha know, Trump is all about "imposing sexual morality". But:

The president doesn’t want to impose his traditional sexual morality because, for starters, he doesn’t have any to impose. His critics are mistaking a thrice-married real estate mogul who has done cameos in Playboy videos and extensive interviews on The Howard Stern Show with Cotton Mather. He isn’t censorious; he’s boorish.

“I thought this could be a great cautionary tale,” director Reed Morano says of the show. “We don’t think about how women are treated in other countries as much as we should, and I guess I thought this would raise awareness.” Fair enough. The Handmaid’s Tale does have something to tell us about, say, Saudi Arabia. But, in an uncomfortable fact for Christian-fearing feminists, none of the world’s women-hating theocracies are Christian.

To mangle a Tom Wolfe quote: the dark night of theocratic oppression is always descending in the United States and yet lands only in Muslim-dominated countries.


■ Hey, kids, what time is it? Matt Welch knows, and will tell you in this LATimes column: Now's the time to talk about flood insurance, and moral hazard.

Q: What do you call a congressman who votes against emergency aid for hurricane victims?

A: A “piece of [shit].”

Sure, the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce later apologized for that particular characterization of the libertarian-leaning Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), who was one of just three members of the House of Representatives brave and/or foolish enough to vote against the $7.85-billion Hurricane Harvey relief bill. But generally speaking, this is how the public treats heretics who oppose blank checks during times of crisis.

The National Flood Insurance Program, as Welch describes, is all about forcing "South Dakota to bail out South Beach". You'd think Social Justice would be all over that fundamental unfairness, but … nah.

[In fairness, though, Federal agricultural subsidies probably run the other way. But instead of making that an argument for maintaining NFIP, how about ending ag subsidies too?]


■ Sophia Chen writes in Wired: AI Research Is in Desperate Need of an Ethical Watchdog. Ohmigod, why?

About a week ago, Stanford University researchers posted online a study on the latest dystopian AI: They'd made a machine learning algorithm that essentially works as gaydar. After training the algorithm with tens of thousands of photographs from a dating site, the algorithm could, for example, guess if a white man in a photograph was gay with 81 percent accuracy. The researchers’ motives? They wanted to protect gay people. “[Our] findings expose a threat to the privacy and safety of gay men and women,” wrote Michal Kosinski and Yilun Wang in the paper. They built the bomb so they could alert the public about its dangers.

OK, Ms. Chen's snark aside, she treads dangerously close to "let's ban such research, because I didn't like the results." Her solution: adapting/expanding existing "Institutional Review Board"-style regulation of research proposals. That has its own problems.


■ Megan McArdle reacts to demands that "we" not "normalize Trump". After seven long months of the Trump Administration, it's clear: We Didn't Normalize Trump. We Normalized the Left's Violence.

But the process of not normalizing Trump has instead normalized a lot of other things, bad ones. Like public disorder. Like persistent, pervasive anxiety that often looks like mass hysteria. Like people on both sides who try to minimize the illiberal tactics of the radicals on their own side by pointing mostly to the offenses of the other. (Yes, President Trump, I’m looking at you. And also at the folks who held light-hearted debates about whether it was okay to sucker-punch Richard Spencer.)

Her triggering factoid: it cost law enforcement $600K to provide security for a Ben Shapiro speech at Berkeley. The "price we pay" for freedom.


■ And your Tweet du Jour is yet another whack at our favorite punching bag…


Last Modified 2017-09-19 7:22 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-09-18

Proverbs 20:2 reminds us that arbitrary tyranny wasn't a bed of roses:

2 A king’s wrath strikes terror like the roar of a lion;
    those who anger him forfeit their lives.

Note: the Proverbialist doesn't really see anything wrong with that state of affairs; it's simply the way things were. Don't poke the lion.

Nowadays, we're much less likely to worry about random violence from irked governmental officials. (But you still have to watch out for the IRS.)

Instead, you have to be careful not to anger the crowd of the perpetually offended. They will mess you up.


■ For example, the Google LFOD alert rang of an Adam Liptak NYT front page article: Cake Is His ‘Art.’ So Can He Deny One to a Gay Couple? "He" is Jack Phillips, operating Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado. He'd prefer not to construct wedding cakes celebrating gay marriages, and that case is going to the Supreme Court. And one of the presented arguments is one we've seen before:

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian group that represents Mr. Phillips, said in a brief that the Supreme Court has long recognized a First Amendment right not to be forced to speak. In 1977, for instance, the court ruled that New Hampshire could not require people to display license plates bearing the state’s motto, “Live Free or Die.”

Anger the Progressive Lion and you'll find yourself fighting for your livelihood, if not your life.


NR's Kyle Smith piles on the literary stylings of Her Royal Entitledness: The Real Title of Hillary’s Book: Why I Should’ve Won.

[…] the book only makes sense when you realize that What Happened is a fake title, a P. T. Barnum–style ruse to draw in the suckers. The real subject of this 500-page chunk of self-congratulation and blame-shifting — its real title — is “Why I Should Have Won.” If Hollywood is a place where you peel off the fake tinsel only to find the real tinsel underneath, Hillary Clinton is homo politicus all the way through. It’s all she has. It’s all she is. She earned the Oval Office, dammit, and she wants you to know it. Peel off the phony, power-addled political hack, and all you’ll find is the real, power-addled political hack underneath.

A telling factoid about the book in which Hillary promised to "let her guard down": there are "two pages about her hairdressers, but only two clipped paragraphs about that time she collapsed on 9/11".


■ Arnold Kling takes pains to analyze political faction dispassionately. He counts Four political parties in the fractious US today. And I am in…

4. Conservatarians, meaning conservative-flavored libertarians or libertarian-flavored conservatives. I don’t count the fringe folks on the alt-right–they are electorally irrelevant and out of the picture. There are some Republicans in Congress who are conservatarians, but not any that I know of on the alt-right. Conservatarians worry about unsustainable fiscal policy, the power of the regulatory state, and a loss of key values, such as individual responsibility and respect for freedom of speech.

None of the four parties are close to a majority, Kling believes, which means that there will be a lot of nose-holding in our future.


■ Scott Sumner has some New Hampshire-related content at his Money Illusion blog. Poverty does not cause social problems (and the cream rises to the top). The odd factoid: The two states with the highest rates of opioid fatalities are West Virginia, one of the poorest states and New Hampshire, one of the richest.

Of course it’s silly to argue that affluence causes addiction—correlation doesn’t prove causation. But it’s equally silly to suggest that people in West Virginia become drug addicts because they are poor. There are a billion poor people (by American standards) in China, and very few are heroin addicts.

Scott doesn't actually explain New Hampshire's opioid problem (West Virginia's either). But he knocks off the economic explanation pretty handily.


■ The LFOD alert also chimed for this NH1 news report: NH becomes 22nd state to decriminalize marijuana.

“The governor and Legislature both deserve a lot of credit for moving the state forward with this commonsense reform,” said Matt Simon, the Manchester-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Unlike his predecessors, who opposed similar proposals, Gov. (Chris) Sununu appears to understand that ‘Live Free or Die’ is more than just a motto on a license plate.

Now if we could just expand it beyond pot smoking…


■ The Caledonian Record is "a family-owned, independent daily newspaper serving six counties in Northeastern Vermont and Northern New Hampshire." And our local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, could take a few editorial lessons from it. I invite you to read: Tale of Two States

The United States Census Bureau released income data this week and a couple things jumped out at us.

First, the highest median household income in the nation is being earned in New Hampshire. Granite State households are bringing in $76,260/year - 30-percent more than the national median of $59,039.

Second, Vermont is the only state in the country that suffered a rise in our poverty rate. Data shows that over 71,000 Vermonters are now living below the poverty line ($12,228 for individuals & $24,399 for families)… 10,000 more than last year. By way of comparison, New Hampshire has the lowest poverty rate in the country, at 6.9 percent.

And of course…

With their “Live Free or Die” ethos turbo-charging their robust economy, New Hampshire taxes neither sales nor income.

Vermont has a lower opioid death rate, though. So they have that going for them.

URLs du Jour

2017-09-17

Beer-Brawl-VI

■ We move ahead (but actually backward) to a new chapter today with Proverbs 20:1:

1 Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler;
    whoever is led astray by them is not wise.

Or: "Go home, you're drunk."

By my quick count, there are 16 occurrences of "mocker" in Proverbs. Is there any doubt the Proverbialist was a frequent target of mockery, perhaps by wine drinkers?


■ I've mentioned occasionally that P. J. O'Rourke is editor of the new online magazine American Consequences. You can sign up for the e-mail version, as I did (and get periodic come-ons for investment tips). But their website is free, no paywalls. So (for example) you can read P. J.'s recent essay on Innovations That Get No Respect. This bit is (I'm pretty sure) inspired by the quiche-eating bitter opponents of the Northern Pass power line, proposed to bring Hydro-Québec’s electricity down to the US, through (oh oh) the White Mountain National Forest.

The part of the taken-for-granted infrastructure that fascinates me most is the electrical grid. So many people think phone poles and power lines are unsightly. News for you folks, in the dark everything is “unsightly.”

Don’t bury the power lines, lift them up on high, to remind us of our blessings.

He's a national treasure, insightful, knowledgable, and funny. You can poke around the AC website for more PJ content, but here is a bonus URL: The New Mutant Capitalism.


■ Smart and insightful, but not quite as funny, is @kevinNR, and his insight du jour is that: Trump Didn’t Get Rolled by Pelosi and Schumer. Bottom line:

With no market-oriented health-care reform and no hawkish immigration reform and the prospects of far-reaching tax reform looking shaky — even though Republicans exist for no obvious purpose other than cutting taxes — Trump is still looking for his big win. Even those who were willing to suspend the fully formed adult parts of their brains and give him the benefit of the doubt are coming around to the realization that he has no beliefs and no principles, and that he will sell out any ally, cause, or national interest if doing so suits his one and only true master in this life: his vanity. He didn’t get rolled by Pelosi and Schumer: His voters got rolled by him. That’s the real deal.

"Indeed."


■ All the way out in sunny California, Patterico brings the latest news in Expensive New England Higher Education. Middlebury College: Violent Protestors Will Now Decide Who Speaks at Our Campus. Specifically, Middlebury will "consider canceling" any and all events if they feel there's a "imminent and credible threat" of a violent protest. Patterico (correctly) sees this as implicitly disfavoring conservative/libertarian speech, because violent protests overwhelmingly come from the left.

The worst thing about this is the incentive it creates to threaten and engage in violence. One thing the right finds frustrating about the left is the left’s seeming inability to understand the concept of incentives. What do you think leftists hear when you tell them that the more violence they threaten, and the more violence they engage in, the greater chance they have of getting a conservative speech cancelled? They hear this: if you threaten violence, and engage in violence, you will win.

Non-leftists hear a different message: Shut up, keep your head down, don't make waves.


■ Joseph Bottum has a pretty good one-line review of Hillary Clinton's campaign memoir: She Doesn’t Understand How Bad She Was, And Still Won’t Go Away. But he probably had to pad that out a bit to get the Washington Free Beacon to pay him for his thoughts.

Almost no commentator, no reviewer, has mentioned the most newsworthy fact about Hillary Clinton's latest memoir—which is the near total lack of anything actually newsworthy in the book. With What Happened, Clinton would at last "let down her hair," Simon & Schuster's publicists loudly proclaimed before the book's publication. And that was the line dutifully repeated by reporter after reporter, as though it were a fact. As though, coming from Clinton's people, it didn't need to be checked or reported with even the slight distancing of "Hillary Clinton says she's let down her hair in her new book."

Bottum concludes, at bottom: "Maybe the best way to look at her new memoir is that the book represents a determined, powerfully willful effort not to understand just how bad she was."


Just One Minute looks at single-payer healthcare, aka Mr. Sanders Wild Pony Ride.

Bernie Sanders made a splash by promising free stuff to kids and now with his "Medicare for All" proposal he is promising free stuff to everyone. OK, "free-ish" in the sense that no one knows who is paying for it but Democrats assume it will be Somebody Else, presumably Mitt Romney and his kids. Or other sinister rich people. Whomever.

The whole healthcare "system" sometimes seems like an elaborate scheme to disguise (1) from whom the money comes from, and (2) to whom it goes.

URLs du Jour

2017-09-16

Tribalism

■ We wind up Proverbs 21 with verse 31, and it's a puzzler:

31 The horse is made ready for the day of battle,
    but victory rests with the Lord.

In a fight between the Lord and a horse, don't bet on the horse. I guess.


■ As a classical liberal, Russ Roberts is used to living in a nation that's less than ideal. But he's really down these days: The World Turned Upside Down (and what to do about it).

The main way I’ve been dealing with this feeling of despair is to stop paying close attention. I don’t know what depresses me more — the stupidities and dishonesty and tolerance of darkness that come out of the President’s mouth or the response from those that oppose him. Given that I don’t like the President, you’d think I find the response of his enemies inspiring or important. But the responses scare me too, the naked hatred of Trump or anyone who supports or likes him. And of course, it goes way beyond Trump and politics. The same level of vitriol and anger and unreason is happening on college campuses and at the dinner table when families gather to talk about the hot-button issues of the day. Everything seems magnified.

I think Professor Roberts' what-to-do suggestions are excellent, but I won't spoil them here, lest you be encouraged to not Read The Whole Thing.


■ At NRO, David French also has useful advice: Want Less Sexual Trauma on Campus? Stop Telling the Big Lies.

The root of the problem is an ideology that deliberately attempts to strip sex of its inherent spiritual meaning and transform it into little more than transactional, physical, pleasure-seeking behavior. It’s an ideology that denies differences between men and women, including the emotional differences in the way that many men and women experience sex.

French writes from a socially conservative position I don't entirely share, but he's onto something: a society that eschews "fuddy-duddy moralism" about sex shouldn't be surprised when its most impressionable members act on their appetites.


@JonahNRO's G-File for the week is titled Trump’s Triangulation. Why, Jonah asks, are Trump supporters so surprised/upset at his compromise/surrender to the Schumer/Pelosi axis? (Wow, that's a lot of slas/hes.)

There are two reasons why Trump’s maneuver seems so weird and came as such a shock to the leaders of Trump Inc., as well as to some of the Trump voters suffering from political Stockholm syndrome. First, Trump’s presidency hasn’t been “normal” in the same way a fluorescent-green cycloptic grizzly bear wearing Mr. Rogers’s sweater as he plays Chopin on a banjo is not “typical.”

The second reason, which is obviously related to the first, is that he’s simply winging it. I am convinced Trump agreed to the debt-ceiling deal last week on the fly in the Oval Office as way to piss off Mitch McConnell and nothing more. He liked the results in the media so, like the tic-tac-toe chicken I mentioned in last week’s “news”letter, he kept pecking in that direction.

Jonah's insight here is … insightful.


■ But (roughly on the same topic) perhaps you're wondering: Is Trump ready to sell out his base? Megan McArdle has your answer: Trump Is Ready to Sell Out His Base.

Trump may be afraid of voters, but as for the rest: He has neither ideology nor principle, neither desire to appear consistent nor shame about failing to, neither allies nor any sense of personal loyalty. If he thinks he can get away with selling out his base, he will. (Perhaps most disconcertingly, you cannot even trust him to accurately gauge whether he can safely sell out his base.)

Unlike Jonah and Megan, I have zero confidence in my ability to predict, or even comment knowingly on, where Trump's antics will take the country next. Loose cannons gotta roll randomly around the deck.


American Thinker's Robert Curry notes when it All Went Wrong for the US of A. 1913: The Turning Point.

Nineteen-thirteen gave us the 16th and 17th Amendments to the Constitution. That year also saw the creation of the Federal Reserve. This burst of changes marks the effective beginning of the Progressive Era in American politics, the era in which we now live. Wilson was to do much more that would once have been considered out of bounds, but these three changes were enough to change everything. In 1913, the fundamental agreement the Founders made with the American people about the relation of the states and the federal government was broken.

As you know if you check out the "Media I'm Consuming" section of the right-hand column, I'm currently reading Mark R. Levin's Rediscovering Americanism, which makes similar, and correct, observations.


■ NHPR rang the Google LFOD Alert with the news: Even New Hampshire is Considering a Pitch for Amazon's Second HQ.

New Hampshire is considering adding its name to the list of states making a pitch for Amazon's proposed second company headquarters.

Taylor Caswell, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Business and Economic Affairs, says the "Live Free Or Die" state's quality of life and tax advantages -- including no state income tax -- could be one of the incentives.

Eyeballing the Tax Foundation's 2017 State Business Tax Climate Index, New Hampshire is in a solid seventh place. And the states above it in the list don't seem to have easy access to the high-tech labor pool Amazon might desire.

So, maybe.


■ Also in LFOD news, the Laconia Daily Sun published Edward Engler's good-for-what-ails-ya LTE: Hotel/casino on State School property is just what doctor ordered.

Our state motto, "Live free or die" is a great sentiment. If it was the case once, it is no longer true. New Hampshire is far from a tax-free state. Sales-tax free, yes, with the exception of the rooms and meals tax. We do have taxes though, real estate and car registration, also a form of tax, are the two highest. Plus highway tolls for the use of roads.

Yeah, yeah. But comparing apples to apples, Edward, we're pretty good on the tax burden index.

Bottom line, Edward has golden living dreams of visions of a posh casino on the site of the long-defunct Laconia State School. It sounds like a good premise for a generic horror movie.

URLs du Jour

2017-09-15

Proverbs 21:30 is a head-scratcher:

30 There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan
    that can succeed against the Lord.

First thought: well, of course. He's omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent, y'know. (Thanks, Lutheran upbringing!) That makes wisdom, insight, and planning very ineffective tools in comparison.

But on second thought, you might as well try. The Lord might not care enough about your plans to squash them like a bug. He may even think they're cute.


■ The Washington Free Beacon brings the latest news from the University Near Here: UNH Seeks to ‘Ensure Civility’ to Develop Campus Diversity.

University of New Hampshire students who do not behave with "civility" could face disciplinary action, according to the co-chair of the UNH presidential task force on campus climate.

Fearless predictions: (1) the vague "civility" test will not be deployed with an even content-neutral hand, but only in alignment with the Progressive oppressor/oppressed narrative; (2) Anyone who might even question that narrative in a public setting will be accused of "uncivil" behavior, investigated, and pilloried; (3) Should such disputes ever make it to the court system, UNH will be slapped down, hard, and deservedly so.


@kevinNR says what needs to be said about so-called "price gouging": Price-Gouging Is a Public Service. It's about more than that, and well worth your time to read. But:

Prices are how we ration scarce goods, and the pain associated with paying unusually high prices is how we learn not to put off laying in supplies until after the disaster has already happened. The guy with supplies to sell has, either through luck or foresight, managed to put himself in possession of what you need — and you did not. You don’t have to thank him, but you do have to pay his price. The profit he makes encourages him to keep planning for the future. If that hurts — it should. Maybe you’ll learn to do better next time. But the alternative to paying the higher prices isn’t paying a lower price — it is having no gasoline or water or toilet paper at all, at any price. You can try to regulate away that reality; ask the Venezuelans how that’s going for them.

I've had little to laugh at over the past few weeks of news, but one report tried to generate outrage over a gas station allegedly charging a woman "nearly $70" for … wait for it … "two cases of beer".

Lady, I suggest a simple remedy. Should you be asked to pay $70 for two cases of beer, just walk away. Unless it's really good beer.


■ Our Google LFOD alert rang for an article plugging the new movie American Assassin: Producer Reveals How Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp Reached the Big Screen.

The producer [Lorenzo di Bonaventura] won the author over when he said, "I'm from New Hampshire. I'm from the Live Free or Die State. You don't have to worry about me and violence."

… and, free plug here, that movie opens today.


■ John Tierney writes at City Journal: The Corruption of Public Health.

The tobacco industry faces an unprecedented threat. Since a new rival, the electronic cigarette, emerged in 2010, the smoking rate in America has plummeted, especially among young people. The e-cigarette delivers nicotine in vapor without the hundreds of toxins and dozens of carcinogens in cigarette smoke, eliminating at least 95 percent of the harm of smoking, according to England’s national health agency, which endorsed its use after extensive studies. The Royal College of Physicians, Britain’s most eminent medical authority, reached a similar conclusion and warned that it would be “unjust, irrational and immoral” for public officials to discourage smokers from switching to a safer form of nicotine.

… and, Tierney writes, that “unjust, irrational and immoral” activity is exactly what's happening here in the good old USA, with "public health" officials in the forefront.


■ If you don't trundle down to the multiplex for American Assassin this weekend, Robert Tracinski has an alternate suggestion: Watch This Movie To Debunk The ‘Tech Monopoly’ Hysteria. What's the movie? Well, first, let's hear the setup:

The frenzy to regulate big technology firms as “monopolies” is starting to spread like influenza across the political spectrum. Turning Web search and social media into government-regulated utilities is an idea now endorsed by Josh Marshall on the Left and Steve Bannon on the Right. It also got the surprising support of neoconservative intellectual Bill Kristol as part of a “No Labels” agenda. So now this idea is coming at us from the left, right, and center.

This is the surest sign that it’s probably a bad idea.

OK, here's the spoiler: the movie Tracinski suggests is 1998's You've Got Mail. The main plot thread was that Tom Hanks' discount mega-bookstore was imminently going to drive Meg Ryan's cute cozy corner (full retail price) bookstore out of business, through the forces of brute capitalism.

The film was released in 1998. Amazon was founded in 1994 and had its IPO in 1997. It was about to crush big discount bookstores—does anyone still remember the other big chain, Borders?—and nobody had a clue. There isn’t a single mention in the film of Amazon or online sales.

And of course, our older readers will recognize the movie title as a reference to America Online. And then realize that they haven't thought about America Online for about a decade.

Tracinski: "The overall lesson is the folly of judging “monopoly” power from a static snapshot at one moment in time."


■ Another day, another "heckler's veto" successfully used to shut down a controversial speaker: Charles Murray disinvited from New England Catholic college.

A small private university in New England recently cancelled a speaking event by speaker Charles Murray due to the fear that his appearance there would generate violent protests.

That's Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts; although Murray recently spoke at Harvard without violence, the Catholic college's officials were unwilling to make the Assumption they'd be as lucky/competent.


■ I might get back into football-watching after the World Series. (Specifically: after the Red Sox either win the World Series, or don't.) But for even mild football fans like me, Gregg Easterbrook's "Tuesday Morning Quarterback" is a lot of fun to read. It's moved to the Weekly Standard site this year, and if you can evade their obnoxious subscription pleas, it's recommended. Here is: is a lot of Tuesday Morning Quarterback: There's Plenty of Time to Panic Later. And it's not just football. Easterbrook notes the imminent fiery (intentional) demise of the Cassini spaceprobe, and reflects on the space program, and…

Three years ago, Congress told the Air Force to stop using the Russian-built RD180 engine that for more than a decade has powered most rockets that place spy satellites in orbit. Last week the Wall Street Journal reported the replacement-engine project is so fouled up, U.S.-built engines equivalent to the RD180 won’t fly till at least 2022, and maybe not till 2025. Eleven years is the span between the Vanguard rocket blowing up on the pad in 1957, and the crew of Apollo 8 reading the Genesis story from lunar orbit on Christmas Eve 1968. Yet that’s how long the ultra-subsidized U.S. aerospace establishment says it now takes to produce a rocket engine similar to long-existing engines. Please join me in rooting for Elon Musk to disrupt this business.

I'm rooting for both the Pats (Easterbrook: "Flying Elvii") and Musk.