URLs du Jour

2017-05-27

■ A proverb so big it takes two verses to contain it: Proverbs 25:4-5

4 Remove the dross from the silver,
    and a silversmith can produce a vessel;
5 remove wicked officials from the king’s presence,
    and his throne will be established through righteousness.

See? Even in Ancient Israel, they had wicked Deep State officials thwarting the plans of the righteous king! Get rid of 'em!

■ Which brings us to Kimberley A. Strassel's case study: Anatomy of a Deep State.

On May 8 a woman few Americans have heard of, working in a federal post that even fewer know exists, summoned a select group of 45 people to a June meeting in Washington. They were almost exclusively representatives of liberal activist groups. The invitation explained they were invited to develop “future plans for scientific integrity” at the Environmental Protection Agency.

The woman is Francesca Grifo, who became the EPA's "Scientific Integrity Official" (yes, a real thing) after a long stint as a general-purpose activist with the left-wing Union of Concerned Scientists. The post is not considered "political", so she's difficult to fire. And there's every indication that she'll be using her position to propagandize for "progressive" regulation.

■ You know, I trash Senator Elizabeth "Fauxcahontas" Warren quite a bit here at Pun Salad. So when she takes a stance in favor of free expression against repressive dictatorships, I should acknowledge that.

Alas, today is not that day. As the Free Beacon reports, Elizabeth Warren Coordinated Response to Tibetan Student With UMass Admin.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) coordinated with the University of Massachusetts Amherst to respond to a student who had pleaded for the senator's help after having her request to carry the Tibetan flag to a commencement ceremony rejected by the school, according to emails obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Foreign students are allowed, nay, encouraged, to carry flags from their respective countries, but UMass-Amherst (conveniently) takes its marching orders from the official "list of nations" issued by the US State Department. Senator Liz, instead of trying to work out an agreement, just asked the UMass-Amherst administration how best to present a united front against the student.

■ At Reason, Veronique de Rugy finds An Excellent Trump Budget Cut: International Organization Contributions. The proposal is to decrease such payments from $1.59 Billion in FY 2017 to "only" $900 million in FY 2018. Veronique has a suggestion for an easy $77 million cut:

I, for one, hope that the State Department will have the good sense to zero out the budget of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The U.S. paid $77 million last year just so that the OECD bureaucrats can push for international tax cartels, the end of privacy, redistribution schemes, and other big-government fantasies. That’s what I call working against U.S. interests.

I know the proposed budget has zero legal force, and has woeful problems. But sometimes you just feel like looking for the pony.

■ At Reason, Scott Shackford detects hypocrisy: People Who Called Snowden a Traitor Shocked to Learn About All This Domestic Surveillance. The (relatively new) issue is a recent report detailing not-just-technically illegal distribution of surveillance results within Your Federal Government.

The story, via a media outlet called Circa, documents a recently released report from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court). The report features examples of the FBI passing along private data it collected without warrants to people who should not be seeing it.

It's an important story, and it's great that it's getting attention. But what it reveals is well-known to anybody who has been paying attention to the surveillance disclosures and FISA Court document releases that have slowly been surfacing since Edward Snowden started leaking. The federal government is accessing and spreading around more information about U.S. citizens than we realize. That's what Snowden's disclosures were about, right?

I think it's possible for people to think Snowden broke the law and that a lot of Fed snooping is (literally) unwarranted.

Another upside to the Trump Administration: people might take these issues more seriously than they did when Obama was president.

■ Theodore Darlymple has thoughts on the (so called) Right to Health.

No doubt there has always been high-sounding verbiage in the world, but it is never entirely innocent, in as much as it implicitly demands consent without thought, much less contestation. No one bothers to argue with a slogan, especially when it is so obviously virtuous, for what kind of monster would wish illness on anyone? Health for all is obviously desirable: as are many other impossible things.

The slogans do not explicitly say that health is a right, but the proximity of “health for all” with “rights for everyone” certainly encourages their conflation. And indeed, it is not difficult nowadays to find not only health care but also health itself propounded as a human right.

The absurdity of this is obvious. If I discover tomorrow that I have a fatal tumor, my rights have not been denied me, any more than they were when I was born less handsome than I should like to have been. Even health care is not a right, though it is obviously desirable that everyone should have access to it, for the simple reason that it is better to prevent or relieve suffering than not to do so.

Good luck on making this simple truth heard in these times of debased political language.

■ Matt Walther (Free Beacon) notes a new thing: When Self-Compassion Becomes Self-Abuse.

The idea of "self-compassion" may strike you as oxymoronic, like "a deliberate mistake" or "congressional accountability." You are probably not alone if it sounds to you like an abstract brief for narcissism. But you are also up against the wall that is the fiscal-politico-academic-internationalist consensus: the purveyors of woke capital, the chai financiers and yoga programmers and eco-friendly growth consultants who run our banks and advise our city councils and "develop" our young at centers of higher learning—the painfully well-informed powers that be who, sometime between the end of the Cold War and now, when nobody much was paying attention, managed to usurp the old boring WASP establishment in this country. These folks are famous for liking to "break sh—." But they also like to fix sh—, at least when the thing they are fixing is their feelings.

It's pretty funny stuff. There's a Granite State connection, too: one of the Believers is Tim Desmond, a co-founder of Morning Sun Mindfulness Center over in Alstead. (The "All Ages Mindfulness Retreat" will set you adults back $220; but you get to "explore how to to bring mindfulness practice into our daily lives.")

■ Gizmodo reveals: Here’s What Happened When Computers Tried Naming Metal Bands. And the results were … remarkably true-to-life. I was particularly fond of "Inhuman Sand", in the "Melodic Death Metal" subgenre, from Russia (with love).

URLs du Jour

2017-05-26

Proverbs 25:3 gets pretty mystical on us:

3 As the heavens are high and the earth is deep,
     so the hearts of kings are unsearchable.

They're special people. Unsearchable hearts, and (as we saw yesterday ) they're able to uncover what God Himself conceals.

Today's Getty image: the wrong way to search a king's heart.

■ At NR, Ian Tuttle notes the phony labelling involved in "Net Neutrality": The FCC’s ‘Open Internet Rules’ Make the Internet Less Open. A good history of the controversy. Bottom line:

Last week, the FCC voted (2–1, along party lines) to begin a review of the 2015 regulations, launching the process by which the current rules could be overturned. Predictions of apocalypse have ensued: Democratic senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii accused Republicans of trying to “end the Internet.” In reality, it is more nearly the opposite. The “Open Internet” regulations promulgated in 2015 threaten to turn the Internet into one more fiefdom of the federal government, and thereby to strangle the impulse toward innovation and improvement. A smarter regulatory framework would make the government a partner to a dynamic, competitive Internet, not an enemy.

A preferable course of action would be to abolish the FCC, but I'll take second-best.

■ Steve Chapman at Reason dissects Trump's Half-Baked Budget.

Donald Trump's first budget proposal is a brazen mix of ideology and dishonesty, seasoned with irresponsibility and pulled out of the oven as soon as it was half-baked. Those qualities make it surprisingly similar to the budgets of Barack Obama and George W. Bush—and largely in accord with public desires. Its defects are neither new nor accidental.

Those defects are: an unwillingness to get Social Security and Medicare under control and an expanded defense budget.

■ Betsy Newmark is a conscientious daily blogger (as I'm trying to be), and her "Crusing the Web" posts are approximately the same as my "URLs du Jour" posts: she excerpts and comments on stuff she finds interesting. One recent example looks (sadly) at documents obtained by BuzzFeed from the Princeton U. admissions process. You might be surprised/dismayed to the extent that admissions personnel are obsessed with race/ethnicity. Betsy comments:

We already knew that admissions committees search for qualified racial minorities. Now we see that they especially want minorities who are themselves focused on their own race. They don't just want a Native American; they want someone who pumps up his race on the application. A mixed-race Hispanic student who is high-performing is not enough. The applicants also need to make sure to write an application about his or her race. And Asian Americans are just out of luck; it's not enough to be high-achieving and involved in community service. That's to be expected. There is something quite despicable about this attitude that students should be so focused on race that they insert racial comments into their applications. I would have thought that students who are focused on academic success and community service without regard to race, theirs or others, would be wonderful students that any university would want. But that's not enough for Princeton. They want young people who are full of racial concerns. We're never going to get to the post-racial society we were told would happen with Obama's election if universities penalize young people who aren't obsessed with race. Once this story gets out, students will know how they have to slant their admissions essays. Expect future applicants to be writing about their racial consciousness whether or not they have such thoughts.

Why, it's almost as if today's progressives don't want a "post-racial society".

■ I know you (like me) occasionally wonder if you could buy Megan McArdle something that would impress her. She drops a hint here on what not to do: A $2,000 Dishwasher Will Never Impress Me.

Partly that’s because I have a somewhat eccentric perspective on kitchen renovation: Unlike most people, I really don’t care if my appliances match, and I won’t spend extra for upscale unless I can see a clear utilitarian benefit. (Impressing visitors doesn't count as a utilitarian benefit.) The wall ovens, if we get them, will be the proletarian Samsung, not highbrow Wolf or Miele. The dishwasher that could get me to spend $2,000 would have to not only clean my plates, but also collect them from the dinner table, and stack them neatly in the cabinets when it was done.

OK, so maybe a nice melon baller instead.

URLs du Jour

2017-05-25

■ We're all done with chapter 26, so let's flip back to Proverbs 25:2:

2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter;
    to search out a matter is the glory of kings.

If I fuzz up my eyes a bit, I kind of like that. God hides, the King reveals. Interesting relationship.

Today's Getty image: a concealed kitty. Let's see if the King can find him!

■ So Chelsea Clinton spoke extemporaneously at a recent lefty conference. It was not pretty, as she stumbled to string together clichés she'd heard somewhere into semi-coherent thoughts. But this struck me as unintentionally revealing:

We also have to recognize, particularly at this moment, that sexism is not an opinion, Islamophobia is not an opinion, racism is not an opinion, homophobia is not an opinion, jingoism is not an opinion,

I recommend watching the video to get the full flavor of how she delivered this line with condescension and faux profundity. She is, indeed, her mother's daughter, and this is another repackaging of Hillary's basket of deplorables remark (replacing "xenophobia" with "jingoism").

The takeaway is, of course, that having opinions is generally OK. "You're entitled to your own opinions." But since those three -isms and two -phobias are not opinions, it's OK to take "whatever means necessary" against people who are deemed to be racists, Islamaphobes, etc.

Those five things are weaponized labels, defined vaguely, applied to enemies as it becomes convenient to do so. Not a new thing. I keep coming back to Orwell's essay "Politics and the English Language". In this case, note what he said about …

The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable'.

Nowadays, George would have noted that you can plug any and all of Chelsea's five deplorable non-opinion words for Fascism.

■ One of my thoughts as I heard about the horror in Manchester: How long before people start blaming Trump?. I didn't have to wait long to find out. Gabriel Schoenfeld, writing at USA Today: Manchester attack spotlights Trump damage to fight against terrorism. The argument (such as it is):

  • Trump fails to maintain "good relations with the leaders of the Muslim community". Because that worked so well with Obama, except for those untidy incidents in San Berndardino, Orlando, …

  • Trump fired FBI Director Comey. (Who had done such a swell job preventing San Bernardino, Orlando, …)

  • Trump wants to cut State Department funding, which will lead to more "Benghazis". Except that we had an actual Benghazi on the Obama/Hillary watch; was the problem inadequate funding, or a failure to foresee the outcome of a disastrous Libya policy?

To a first approximation, the number of people whose opinions about Islamic terrorism were changed by the Manchester body count seems to be zero.

■ They aren't all budget-cutters in the Trump Administration. At Cato, Randal O'Toole examines An Electrifyingly Bad Decision.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s decision to give $647 million to California to electrify a San Francisco commuter rail line tells states and cities across the nation that they should plan the most expensive and wasteful infrastructure projects they can and the Trump administration will support them. The Caltrains electrification project had no political, economic, social, or environmental justification, so Chao’s support for the project despite its lack of virtues does not bode well for those who hoped that the Trump administration would take a fiscally conservative stance on infrastructure and transportation.

Could we "savagely" cut another $647 million from the DOT budget, please?

■ An interesting look from the (left-wing) Guardian is titled: How Facebook flouts Holocaust denial laws except where it fears being sued. The implication, I guess, is that Facebook should follow the local laws even if it's in no danger of being sued.

Fine, whatever. But the general problem is age-old: once you get in the business of censorship, things rapidly get arbitrary and hair-splitting, involving "protected categories" (e.g., sexual orientations) and "non-protected categories" (e.g., political affiliations).

Other comments that flout Facebook’s guidelines include “French girls are stupid” and “Irish are stupid”. But moderators are told to ignore “Blonde women are stupid” and “Redheads are disgusting”. According to the documents, Facebook tells moderators to err on the side of allowing content if they are unsure.

Fair game: white guys.

■ In Portland OR, the rise and fall of Kooks Burritos is chronicled: White women's burrito shop is forced to close after being hounded with accusations it was 'culturally appropriating Mexican food and jobs'. Their crime was being a little too observant of the food prep techniques in Nuevo Laredo:

Explaining their trip, [one of the owners] told the newspaper: 'I picked the brains of every tortilla lady there in the worst broken Spanish ever, and they showed me a little of what they did.[…]'

The resulting furor, examples at the link: a strange combination of dismaying and hilarious. Resulting in one less burrito truck in Portland.

■ I wasn't a fan of the Roger Moore James Bond movies, but Mr. Moore was a heck of a good guy. Check out James Freeman's tribute at the WSJ's "Best of the Web": The Spy Who Loved Us, and don't fail to read the charming anecdote from Marc Haynes therein.

URLs du Jour

2017-05-24

Proverbs 26:28 is unfond of flattery and lying:

28 A lying tongue hates those it hurts,
    and a flattering mouth works ruin.

You put a lying tongue in a flattering mouth, and … you get your average politician.

■ A twofer on my LFOD Google Alert today. First, Bud's New Camo Bottles Will Be Hard to Miss on Store Shelves. Why is that? Well, because they'll be on your store's shelves, not hidden in foliage. Duh.

The LFOD bit is a different marketing effort:

Separately, the brewer appears poised to roll out packaging highlighting the names of states where it is brewed. The brewer has sought and gained regulatory approval for individual labels carrying names including New York, Missouri, Ohio, California, Colorado, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Virginia, Florida and Texas. […] Each state label carries a unique saying, such as "live free or die" for New Hampshire, according to filings with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

I don't usually buy Budweiser, but I may make an exception here.

■ The second alert was caused by a Union Leader LTE from Portsmouth's Zorana Pringle, writing in opposition to the anti-voter-fraud measure in the NH legislative process: Protect voting rights.

The right to vote is at the heart of democracy. Yet, Republican lawmakers across the country are trying to curb citizens’ ability to vote. The Supreme Court helped put an end to the restrictive voter ID law in North Carolina that primarily affected minority voters. Now the right to vote is at risk in the Live Free or Die state, too.

If you subscribe to a New Hampshire newspaper, I bet you're seeing similar. A counterpoint and a link to the bill info is here.

Does Ms. Pringle think that anyone who happens to be in New Hampshire on an election day should be allowed to vote? As near as I can tell, the answer is yes.

■ Cato's Daniel J. Mitchell enumerates: The Five Most Important Takeaways from Trump’s Budget.

It’s both amusing and frustrating to observe the reaction to President Trump’s budget.

I’m amused that it is generating wild-eyed hysterics from interest groups who want us to believe the world is about to end.

But I’m frustrated because I’m reminded of the terribly dishonest way that budgets are debated and discussed in Washington. Simply stated, almost everyone starts with a “baseline” of big, pre-determined annual spending increases and they whine and wail about “cuts” if spending doesn’t climb as fast as previously assumed.

Mr. Mitchell's first two takeaways: (1) the proposed budget "cuts" will result in $5.71 Trillion spending in 2027, compared to $4.06 Trillion in 2017. (2) This reflects a spending growth rate of 3.5% per year.

Dishonest doesn't begin to cover it.

■ But not everyone is enraptured with the Trump Budget. For example, KDW@NR thinks it heralds The Return of the Naïve Supply-Sider.

President Donald J. Trump has produced a very silly budget proposal. Thankfully, presidential budget proposals have all the effect of a mouse passing gas in a hurricane — Congress, not the president, actually appropriates funds and writes the tax code.

Presidential budget proposals are not received as actual fiscal blueprints but as statements of priorities, and so we must conclude that President Trump’s top priority is refusing to deal with reality.

Here’s the situation: About 80 percent of federal spending is consumed by five things: 1. National defense; 2. Social Security; 3. Medicare; 4. Medicaid and other related health-care benefits; 5. Interest on the debt. President Trump wants to increase spending on defense by about 10 percent while shielding Social Security and Medicare from cuts. Short of a default, he doesn’t have any choice but to pay the interest on the debt. So that leaves things pretty tight.

On top of that, he wants to pass what he boasts is one of the largest tax cuts in history . . . and balance the budget.

KDW's recipe for fiscal responsibility is simple: "genuine tax reform that is something close to revenue-neutral, significant entitlement reforms that will be politically unpopular, and defense spending that is flat or slightly lower." But that sort of sanity is unpopular in DC.

■ At Reason, Jacob Sullum asks: Did Trump Know Enough to Obstruct Justice?

[Generally, when the question is "Did Trump know enough to X?" the safe way to bet is "Ha! No."]

For almost a year, Donald Trump has been complaining that FBI Director James Comey gave Hillary Clinton "a free pass for many bad deeds," as the president recently put it on Twitter. Trump thinks his opponent in last year's presidential election should have been prosecuted for her loose email practices as secretary of state, even if she did not deliberately expose classified information.

The president might want to reconsider that hardline attitude. The reason Comey cited for not recommending charges against Clinton—a lack of criminal intent—could prove crucial in rebutting the allegation that Trump obstructed justice by trying to impede the FBI's investigation of ties between his associates and the Russian government.

Always willing to help, I offer something the President could practice with:

■ On more somber notes: if you don't do a lot of blog-hopping, JVW at Patterico's Pontifications offers a good Round-Up of Opinion, Post-Manchester. Example, Brendan O'Neil:

After the terror, the platitudes. And the hashtags. And the candlelit vigils. And they always have the same message: ‘Be unified. Feel love. Don’t give in to hate.’ The banalities roll off the national tongue. Vapidity abounds. A shallow fetishisation of ‘togetherness’ takes the place of any articulation of what we should be together for – and against. And so it has been after the barbarism in Manchester. In response to the deaths of more than 20 people at an Ariana Grande gig, in response to the massacre of children enjoying pop music, people effectively say: ‘All you need is love.’ The disparity between these horrors and our response to them, between what happened and what we say, is vast. This has to change.

But, sorry, this will not change.


Last Modified 2017-05-25 3:55 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-05-23

■ We are up to Proverbs 26:27:

27 Whoever digs a pit will fall into it;
    if someone rolls a stone, it will roll back on them.

Also known as: what goes around, comes around; a man reaps what he sows; etc. The ancient Israelis knew about karma, man.

■ David French on last night's horror: Manchester: The Chilling Sound of Terror.

There is no reasoning with this hate. There is no “legitimate grievance” with the West that triggers such violence. It is the product of fanatical devotion to the most evil of all causes, a cause that perversely promises paradise for the slaughter of innocents. There is no way for the West to be “good” enough to appease terrorists. There is no policy short of religious conversion that will cause them to relent. The best deterrent to jihad is the obliteration of jihadists. They thrive on victory, not defeat.

Tonight, sadly, they won a victory, and here’s all you need to know to understand the character of our enemies – they relish the sound of young girls’ screams.

How many more wake-up calls will Western Civilization need?

<voice imitation="professor_farnsworth">Good news, everyone!</voice> According to Chris Edwards at Cato: Trump Budget to Cut Federal Pensions.

The Washington Post said [predictably - Ed.], “The thought of Trump’s assault on federal retirement programs becoming law enrages federal employee leaders.” It certainly does. The paper quotes union leaders calling the proposals an “outrageous attack,” “downright mean,” and “beyond insulting.”

On the contrary, trimming the 47 percent advantage in benefits enjoyed by federal workers is a sensible attack on overspending. Furthermore, it is mean and insulting to taxpayers to give gold-plated pensions to workers inside the government bubble, especially since those favored few also have much higher job security than the rest of us.

Somedays, the Trump Administration is a trainwreck, but it occasionally does something good.

■ The College Fix winds up the story of Paul Griffiths, formerly of Duke Divinity School: Professor who called diversity training a ‘waste’ resigns after dean punishes him. Quoting from Griffiths' statement:

It’s over because I recently, and freely, resigned my chair in Catholic Theology at Duke University in response to disciplinary actions initiated by my dean and colleagues. Those disciplinary actions, in turn, were provoked by my words: critical and confrontational words spoken to colleagues in meetings; and hot words written in critique of university policies and practices, in support of particular freedoms of expression and thought, and against legal and disciplinary constraints of those freedoms. My university superiors, the dean and the provost, have been at best lukewarm in their support of these freedoms, preferring to them conciliation and accommodation of their opponents. And so, I reluctantly concluded, the word-struggle, the agony of distinction and argument, the search for clarity by dramatizing and exploring difference—these no longer have the place they once had in the university.

The heretic against the religion of progressivism has been cast out of the temple.

Heat Street's Emily Zanotti reveals: ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Under Fire for Not Casting Enough White Dudes.

The series stars  Sonequa Martin-Green as a high-level officer on the ship who has most of the show’s adventures (the captain, a white man, is just there for window dressing). Michelle Yeoh stars as another ship’s captain, who aides Martin-Green, and the two lead a cast of humans and aliens charged with saving the galaxy, before the events of Star Trek: The Original Series.

Well, for one thing: Michelle Yeoh. I hadn't planned on shelling out any money to watch Yet Another Star Trek series, but… Michelle Yeoh. Hm.

Yeah, get over it, fellow white dudes. As Ms Zanotti says: "But, it turns out, not just progressives can be snowflakes."

■ At the Free Beacon, Sonny Bunch does the world a great service by saying what needs to be said: Best Burger Chain? Five Guys, Obviously. Sonny's got opinions:

Obviously, Five Guys is the best. And Five Guys is the best because it has the best array of toppings. But with so many options, how do you know which ones to get to maximize the burger-to-topping ratio without overwhelming the burger itself? Behold, the perfect burger:

Five Guys Cheeseburger, with ketchup, mayo, mustard, pickles, sauteed onions, mushrooms.

That's it. That's the perfect burger. Put nothing else on it (lettuce? gtfo) and leave none of the above off of it (I don't care if you don't like mushrooms, develop your palate you philistine). Don't @ me, I don't care about your garbage opinion.

I'll try that. But… pickles and mushrooms? OK. I usually go for the jalapeños and barbecue sauce, but hey.

Of the top ten list Sonny discusses, we only have three in our area. Seacoast New Hamphire is not a burger hotspot.

I'm a little puzzled by Fuddruckers' omission from the top 10 list. I've not been there a lot (the nearest one to Pun Salad Manor is in frickin' Methuen MA), but my memories are fond.

■ Eric S. Raymond has a project to resurrect ADVENT, the adventure game that we geezers played in the 1970s on the timesharing PDP-10, when and if we could: The Adventure begins again.

Though there’s a C port of the original 1977 game in the BSD game package, and the original FORTRAN sources could be found if you knew where to dig, Crowther & Woods’s final version – Adventure 2.5 from 1995 – has never been packaged for modern systems and distributed under an open-source license.

Until now, that is.

Eric's discussion of the mechanics and esthetics of translating ancient memory-optimized Fortran code into something slightly more modern is excellent reading for software geeks. (As are the comments.)

URLs du Jour

2017-05-22

■ A three-verse day for us. Proverbs 26:24-26 is really down on the Proverbial enemies:

24 Enemies disguise themselves with their lips,
    but in their hearts they harbor deceit.
25 Though their speech is charming, do not believe them,
    for seven abominations fill their hearts.
26 Their malice may be concealed by deception,
    but their wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.

Not six or eight abominations, mind you: seven.

■ A disheartening editorial in my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, showing just how far left/stupid the paper has moved over the past few years. The editorial demand: Put an end to racism at UNH. This is all stemming out of the Cinco de Mayo brouhaha.

Fortunately, it's awful and nearly self-refuting. Starting with the title: end racism. Seriously? Where's the magic wand to do that, a goal that has never been accomplished by any society, ever?

Let's grant that the editorial starts (as such arguments always do) with Good Intentions. The writer wants students at UNH to respect each other, to be treated as dignified individuals without prejudgment due to their race. (Or, no doubt, any other characteristic in the laundry list: age, sex, color, marital status, physical or mental disability, creed, or national origin.) Fine.

And the editorial is against violence, threats, and vandalism. Also fine. But those things are already well-covered by the law, and the UNH conduct code. So?

Once the editorial goes beyond that, things get problematic. The editorial (vaguely) promotes responses that are (a) disproportionate to the observed offenses at UNH, (b) probably unconstitutional; (c) almost certainly a recipe for further campus strife.

The editorial takes at face value various UNH incidents: the N-word written on a "diversity-themed" bulletin board, scrawled swastikas in a dorm, a rock thrown at a bicycling "student of color". All meant to show that racism is prevalent on campus.

We've noted this before. Such incidents may be perpetrated by bigoted students. But sometimes such incidents are hoaxes. They may be, as with one recent bit of nastiness, "a strategy to draw attention to concerns about the campus climate.”

Nevertheless, the editorial proceeds to demand that UNH "do more": "it needs to be made clear that these acts won’t be tolerated — that students can be expelled for such acts."

Wait a minute, what acts? Exactly. Should a student be expelled for wearing a sombrero on May 5?

That's not too far-fetched. Boston.com reported that students are demanding that the conduct code be amended "to expel students who post 'racially insensitive' content."

Not just "hate speech". Insensitive speech.

And the rhetorical overkill is tremendous: one young lady at a UNH forum, claimed “blackface is a direct death threat."

What can you say, except: No. No, it's not.

Again, I recommend Eugene Volokh, written as a response to a similar editorial in the Washington Post. I was thinking about writing an irate letter to Foster's, but I realized I'd probably just be plagiarizing Volokh.

The Post has long benefited from strong First Amendment protection and has long defended it. It’s a shame that it is affirmatively calling for viewpoint-based speech suppression here.

For my take, please reread that with Foster's substituted for "The Post".

■ On to happier matters, by which I mean the continuing degradation of democratic norms in political debate. David Harsanyi lectures: Putting Country Above Party Works Both Ways. A point we made yesterday:

Now, I realize there is no room for half-measures in this political environment. You must be wholly, 100 percent convinced every day on every topic that Donald Trump is guilty of every act floated by every anonymous source in every publication or you will accused of abetting the coup against the American people.

But it's worth pointing out that Democrats, at least rank-and-file liberals, seem to have convinced themselves that this saga ends with articles of impeachment and removal. Who knows? Maybe they'll be right. But it's not concern-trolling to point out that having this level of certitude about an outcome has the potential to be self-destructive for the country as well.

■ David French wrote an article about Chelsea-used-to-be-Bradley Manning, and was attacked. But not on the substance of the article, but… Chelsea Manning and the Problem with Pronouns. Yes, David referred to Manning as a "he".

Immediately I was deluged with passionate but reasonable tweets explaining to me exactly what was wrong with my pronoun usage. No, wait. That was in a parallel universe. Here in the real world, I received a series of tweets you can’t post on a family website. In the real world, I was called a transphobe, “America’s worst person,” and many other names simply because I wouldn’t identify Manning as a woman.

I'm pretty sure that's the sort of thing people have in mind when they demand that people be expelled for "insensitivity".

In the secular faith of the illiberal Left, pronoun mandates have become the equivalent of blasphemy codes. On this most contentious of issues, one must use approved language and protect the most delicate of sensibilities. It’s bad enough to see this mindset work itself through Twitter or in shouted arguments on the quad. When it makes its way into law, then intolerance moves from irritation into censorship. It’s identity politics as oppression, and it’s infecting American debate. May it not corrupt American law.

Interesting times, aren't they?


Last Modified 2017-05-22 11:22 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-05-21

■ Proverbs 26:23 gets into film noir territory:

Like a coating of silver dross on earthenware
    are fervent lips with an evil heart.

I saw that movie! Barbara Stanwyk was in it, I think. Or maybe Gloria Grahame.

■ Since we discussed this dreadful story previously, an update is in order: Feminist Journal That Apologized for Article About Rachel Dolezal Now Apologizes for Apologizing.

The article in question, by an assistant philosophy professor at Rhodes College, looked at society’s level of acceptance for Caitlyn Jenner vs. Rachel Dolezal. She questioned why we’re Ok with Jenner self-identifying as a woman, but not OK with Dolezal thinking she’s black. Rebecca Tuvel, the author, argued her case for “transracialism.”

They seem confused about this stuff.

Reason puts a recent print interview with a great Granite State resident online: P.J. O'Rourke: Things Are Going to Be Fine. Famously, P. J. voted for Hillary. Why not Gary Johnson, P. J.?

He just ran a terrible campaign. There were so many moments, it seemed to me, over this campaign cycle that lasted for two years, when libertarian stuff could catch fire, and it didn't. I had some hope for [Kentucky Sen.] Rand Paul, but Rand is unfortunately burdened by intellect. You ask Rand a question and you get the whole answer. While that's great for an interview, it's not great on the stump. You don't get the joke that you got from Reagan. You don't get the thing boiled down.

More at the link, of course.

■ Is escalating hyperbolic political passion turning us into a banana republic? KDW@NR runs down the ominous parallels: Six Days in May.

The doings in Washington have a distinctly tropical feel to them, and it isn’t global warming. Republicans who rallied to Trump are now learning that it is very difficult to steer the ship of state with one middle finger. American institutions are very robust, and this moment’s banana-republic stuff probably can be digested, provided there is not too much more of it. But there is no sign that Democrats will be satisfied with paralyzing the administration — at the grassroots, it is plain they will be satisfied with nothing less than driving him from office, and maybe not even with that.

But that is not how constitutional, democratic republics work.

It behooves all of us to think what we can do to keep the country from sliding off the rails.

■ Glenn Greenwald isn't a common reference here, but here you go: Key Democratic Officials Now Warning Base Not to Expect Evidence of Trump/Russia Collusion.

The principal problem for Democrats is that so many media figures and online charlatans are personally benefiting from feeding the base increasingly unhinged, fact-free conspiracies — just as right-wing media polemicists did after both Bill Clinton and Obama were elected — that there are now millions of partisan soldiers absolutely convinced of a Trump/Russia conspiracy for which, at least as of now, there is no evidence. And they are all waiting for the day, which they regard as inevitable and imminent, when this theory will be proven and Trump will be removed.

This isn't concern-trolling. I don't care much if the Democrats self-destruct, I just don't want them to take the country along with them.

URLs du Jour

2017-05-20

■ Proverbs 26:22 seems to have mixed feelings about gossip:

The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;
    they go down to the inmost parts.

Some translations, like King James, say "wounds" instead of anything about morsels. So there seems to be some confusion there. Best ignore this proverb.

■ My Google LFOD alert was triggered by (of all things) this article in the Buenos Aires Herald (yes, that's Argentina) by Edgardo Zablotsky: Learn free or die. It's a discussion of school choice initiatives in the US, and…

New Hampshire may soon be the next state to establish a universal right to freedom of education. The Senate opened up this possibility by passing a universal ESA bill that would give parents who withdraw their kids from public schools 90 percent of funds of their child’s per-pupil state allocation. Legislation is now facing resistance in the GOP-controlled House. If Republicans don’t lose their nerve, they would be fortifying the state’s motto to “Live free or die” by embracing the freedom to learn.

Republicans losing their nerve is a pretty safe bet, but we'll see.

■ What could possibly get Grandma Clinton in trouble? Let's find out: Hillary Clinton in Trouble for Using Fake ‘African Proverb’ on Her New Website.

Hillary Clinton says her newly launched political group Onward Together takes its name from an old African proverb that’s displayed prominently on the group’s site: “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

I wonder if there isn't some guy in a basement somewhere making up these treacly aphorisms and attributing them to some ancient culture (African, Indian, Chinese, whatever) or or revered American statesman (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, …).

But anyway, it's nice to have a phony hit on Hillary again. Brings back memories of the campaign. Good times.

■ KDW@NR takes the occasion of depraved MSNBC mutterings in the wake of pedestrians' deaths in MYC to look at how "we" handle drunk drivers in the US of A: Sobering Success. As a Schrödinger-cat libertarian, this paragraph leapt out at me:

Libertarians may wish to avert their gaze, but prohibition played a big role in [preventing a significant number of traffic deaths]. As NIH runs the numbers, the single policy change that had the most significant effect was raising the legal drinking age from 18 to 21. Some of you will remember that the states did this under duress, with Washington threatening to withhold highway funds from non-compliers under the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984. The federal law did not call for a ban on alcohol consumption by those under 21, but only on sales. This had the effect of moving teenage drinking from bars and restaurants to house parties and other settings where young drinkers might be less likely to drive — and where arranging for alcohol to be served required some organization and forethought, qualities not generally associated with the general run of 19-year-olds.

It's an interesting question: what role should the government play in reducing risk to the citizenry via its coercive functions? It's easy to make fun of the "if it saves just one life" nanny-statists, but KDW is highlighting a policy that seems to save about 1000 deaths per year. Is that a high enough number for you?

■ Whatever Trump's misdeeds, takeover of the FCC by Ajit Pai has brought cheer to the hearts of all. At PowerLine, Scott Johnson summarizes the Life of Pai.

As a conservative Republican of libertarian stripe, Pai forcefully opposed the FCC takeover. See Tim Heffernan’s 2015 National Review article “Ajit Pai’s fight for Internet freedom.” My daughter Eliana had more background on Pai’s struggle at the FCC in the 2014 NRO column “Ajit Pai’s next move” (quotable quote: “It’s hard to think of any regulated utility in our economy that’s cutting edge”).

As a bonus, Mr. Pai reads "mean tweets" in a video.

■ A thoughtful article at the Tech Liberation Front from Adam Thierer: Does “Permissionless Innovation” Even Mean Anything?. Thierer has long been seen as advocating permissionless innovation, so that's kind of an interesting title. He thinks we may be headed toward a "soft law" compromise course between "permissionless innovation" and its nemesis, the "precautionary principle". (Characterized: Don't do anything unless it can be proved that it won't have negative effects.)

Much as Churchill said of democracy being “the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time,” I think we are well on our way to a world in which soft law is the worst form of technological governance except for all those others that have been tried before.

Hey, maybe! Thierer has certainly thought about this more seriously and deeper than I have.


Last Modified 2017-05-20 11:18 AM EDT

Mickey Kaus's Most Important Chart, More Data

This was inspired by Mickey Kaus's Kausfiles recent post The Most Important Chart, which included a graph showing relative changes to "real hourly wages" since 1973, based on education level. The data was credited to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

I griped (somewhat) in a comment at Kausfiles because the chart's newest data was from 2005, over a decade old.

I googled around a bit, and discovered that EPI had more recent data online here. After some moaning and groaning with Google Docs spreadsheets …

Here is EPI's raw data, "average hourly wages of workers disaggregated by the highest level of education attained" (2016 dollars).

As noted above, Mickey's chart is "normalized" to track changes relative to 1973 wage levels. Here's that chart (1973 = $100):


Last Modified 2017-05-19 6:35 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-05-18

■ Rolling the dice on Proverbs 26:21. C'mon, baby:

As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire,
    so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife.

So true! In related news, today's Getty image is a reconstruction of the Oval Office meeting between President Trump and James Comey.

■ At NR, Ben Shapiro clarifies: Trump Isn’t Playing 8-D Chess. Looking at recent developments:

Trump failed miserably on all fronts — not because of his political principles, which were never philosophically conservative, but because Trump is a deeply flawed man, and thus an even more flawed leader. His obsession with others’ perceptions led him to fire FBI director James Comey — who should have been fired, by all rights, months ago — for the sin of failing to respect Trump’s bizarre theories about Obama-era “wiretapping.” Meanwhile, in an act of extreme arrogance, Trump appeared on national television and proceeded to destroy the supposed rationales for the Comey firing. His pathological insecurities then led him to tweet about “tapes” of Comey, which he then refused to allow his communications team to sweep under the rug.

Yes, Hillary could have arguably been worse. That argument is wearing thin, not even four months in.

■ But impeachment? Nick Gillespie (at Reason) is dismissive: All This Impeachment Talk Is Pure Trump Derangement Syndrome.

Donald Trump, the most-unlikely and least-liked president in the history of the United States, had barely celebrated his first 100 days when calls for his impeachment started flying faster than Anthony Weiner dick pics at a Girl Scout cookout. For the good of democracy, don't you see, the Republicans must not only be kicked to the curb in the 2018 midterms, but the president himself must be thrown into the street, just like he once tried to evict that old lady from her house in Atlantic City!

Good luck with that, Democrats.

■ Moving on to less political, but more interesting, affairs: Tyler Cowan has a brief blurb about a new book from Ben Blatt, Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve. For example comparing authors' Number of -ly adverbs per 10,000 words (Hemingway: 80; E L James: 155).

In the novel The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien used the word “she” only once.  In The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, however, she relative to he is used 79% of the time, the highest ratio of the classics surveyed.  Female authors are very strongly represented on that side of the curve, let me tell you.  And male authors do the “he” far more, in relative terms, than female authors do the “she.”

Definitely going into my things-to-read list.

■ A good one from Michael P. Ramirez:

Speaking of Obstruction of Justice

All true! Life is unfair.

■ And James Lileks has this YouTube video in his Bleat today, animation from a Utah high-schooler. Watch, you won't be sorry.


Last Modified 2017-05-19 6:36 AM EDT