URLs du Jour

2017-03-01

Happy March, everyone! Also wishing you an appropriately Ashy Wednesday. Here's Proverbs 29:25:

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.

I feel this deserves a counterpoint. One is provided by Han Solo:

Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.

  • I avoided President Trump's speech to Congress. To the extent of panicky fumbling with the TiVo remote to start Sunday's episode of The Walking Dead playback while Trump was speaking in the "Live TV" corner. Close call!

    But I understand the speech was "good", in the sense that no female Congresscritters were groped, everyone kept their shoes on, etc.

    Only a few nay-sayers were appalled by the lack of fiscal sanity typified in Trump's call for "for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history." Take it, Nick Gillespie. Do we need that?

    Please. Defense spending ratcheted up during the Bush years in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the invasion of Afghanistan, and the war in Iraq. It hasn't come close to coming back down. In a nation that has supposedly wound down two of its longest wars and where the principal threat to the homeland is a group of religious extremists who live thousands of miles away (and are, lest we forget, a byproduct of our own failed occupation of the Middle East), we always need more money for defense, right?

    No, we do not.

    Nick also tackles one of my own pet bugaboos, the notion that defense spending is properly measured in "percent of GDP".

    Defense spending isn't something that scales up or down depending on the size of the economy (or even the number of people in the United States), so the idea that any sort of automatic formula makes sense doesn't pass the laugh test. Do our "enemies"—a loose-enough term to cover by ISIS and, say, North Korea, China, Russia, and Mexican immigrants—get smarter or more devious over time? Probably, but why that would require more money instead of more ingenuity on our part is unclear.

    Up in our corner of the US, the New Hampshire and Maine Congressional delegations would probably go along with Trump on this, especially if it saves the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. (Which currently holds the shipyard record for US submarines destroyed.)

  • Another Pun Salad bugaboo is the Export-Import Bank. Tim Carney offers some qualified good news: "Trump compromise could end 'Boeing's Bank' for good".

    [Treasury Secretary] Mnuchin hinted that Trump may transform the Export-Import Bank of the United States — an agency that mostly subsidizes a few large businesses, their foreign (largely state-owned) customers, and some giant Wall Street banks — into an agency that mostly subsidizes U.S. businesses trying to do business overseas.

    Carney notes that this isn't as good as killing Ex-Im. (And that's apparently still on the table.) But Ex-Im's current "crippled" state, where it can't make loans over $10 million, might become the new normal. And that's better than going back to the previous state of affairs, where most of the money went to subsidizing large corporations.

  • And Slashdot provides the headline for one merriment-inducing story: "Congressional Candidate Brianna Wu Claims Moon-Colonizing Companies Could Destroy Cities By Dropping Rocks".

    Apparently the original headline was "Brianna Wu is a Harsh Mistress", a reference to … OK, if you don't get the reference, use the Google, buy the book you find, and read it.

    Ms. Wu's fears were in response to Elon Musk's privately-funded proposal to send two civilians up and around the Moon, using his company's Falcon Heavy booster and Dragon capsule. Her tweets on the issue (some since deleted) are reproduced at the Federalist. Shorn of twitter-flotsam:

    This is being covered as a fun hijink for rich people, but the idea of a private corporation having access to moon should give you pause. The Moon is probably the most tactically valuable military ground for earth. Rocks dropped from there have power of 100s of nuclear bombs

    Now, shorn of the "private corporation" phobia, Ms. Wu's fears are not that silly. After all, sending sizeable objects from the Moon's surface to Earth was pretty much exactly what we managed to do in the Apollo program. And, given that whole conservation of energy thing, projectiles "dropped" from the Moon approach Earth at roughly escape velocity, 7 miles/sec.

    But this is one of those deals where, if your imagined nefarious "private corporation" supervillain has the technology to implement dastardly scheme A, would also be able to carry out more effective, cheaper, and easier (but even more dastardly) schemes B, C, D, …. So Ms Wu is a lunatic. (Get it? Heh.)

    Note that Brianna Wu was also a major "Gamergate" player, on the side of the Social Justice Warriors. Wu is billed as a "transgender activist"; appropriately enough, because Wu was born with the name "John Walker Flynt".

    So maybe I should go back and put quotes around all those "Ms" above? Nah, too lazy.

  • Wu is running for Congress as a Democrat in Massachusetts's 8th congressional district, against incumbent Dem Stephen Lynch. The last Republican to hold that seat was in the 1950s. As appropriate for the home state of Elbridge Gerry, the current map of the 8th district looks like the penguin Opus from Bloom County, wearing a fedora with a flower, wielding a knife with which to attack Boston Harbor.

    Although that could be just me.

  • And finally, a tweet I made in reply to our state's junior Senator:

    A cheap but accurate shot at the ex-Governor on whose watch things got much worse.

URLs du Jour

2017-02-28

Proverbs 29:24 continues our hot streak of verses relevant to current events:

The accomplices of thieves are their own enemies; they are put under oath and dare not testify.

Is Hillary still under investigation? If so, pay attention to 29:24, Huma Abedin.

Also: have a good Fat Tuesday. Or "Shrove" Tuesday. As in: "Do these pants make me look shrove?"

  • <voice imitation="professor_farnsworth">Good news, everyone!</voice> James Taranto's must-read "Best of the Web Today" at the WSJ has been reborn as "Best of the Web", and James Freeman is the new curator. His initial effort, "Trump and the Media" is strong.

    Who says Donald Trump is against entitlement reform? While he probably won’t propose changes to Medicare or Social Security in his first budget proposal, the President seems eager to consider whether all members of the media establishment should continue to enjoy privileges not available to the average citizen.

    Like Dubya, I'm all for a free press. But there's no special mention in the First Amendment exalting the NYT or CNN as higher beings in the pantheon.

  • And you may ask yourself: Where are the solutions? Fortunately, A. Barton Hinkle (at Reason) knows: "The Solutions Are Sitting Around a Campfire, Not In Congress". It is a response/rebuttal to the Nick Eberstadt Commentary article we previously blogged.

    Hinkle recommends a couple of counterbalances: (1) HumanProgress.org, a site devoted to illuminating reasons for long-term optimism; (2) "try spending a few days with a Cub Scout pack."

    To begin with, you will not hear word one about President Trump. That in itself is a blessing. Because no matter how you feel about Trump, the topic is guaranteed to enrage: Either you are enraged by what the president is doing, or you are enraged by all the people who are enraged by it. The man must be the country's No. 1 salesman for hypertension medication.

    Having lived through the 1960-1979 era, I am firmly in the "We will muddle through. Somehow. Probably. I hope." camp.

  • At NR, John-Clark Levin asks the musical question: "What’s a Reluctant Trump Voter to Do?" Now, I was not a Trump voter (where have you gone, Gary Johnson?), but I think Levin's answer is pretty good: demand accountability.

    First, we must fight the psychological pressure to rationalize and defend everything Trump does. Many of my friends and colleagues voted for Trump with eyes wide open, acknowledging him as a menace, but now twist themselves into partisan pretzels explaining away each fresh outrage. Moral, thoughtful, humane people I love and admire now look me in the eye and straight-facedly justify mocking a disabled reporter or grabbing a stranger’s vulva. Put simply, Donald Trump leads good people to support bad things. If you voted for him, you now have a strong incentive to stick with him rather than confront his odiousness. Recognize the power of this ethical undertow and swim against it.

    I've grepped, and this is the first appearance of "vulva" at Pun Salad in its twelve-year history.

  • Via Instapundit, Brad Torgersen describes: "How the ctrl-Left make it impossible to be a Nice Conservative"

    I’ve slowly, gradually, achingly reached the conclusion that for a committed ctrl-Leftist, there is not now, nor can there ever be, a Good Conservative. There are Nice Conservatives—who will of course be patted on the head and given table scraps, for being willfully second class human beings in the hierarchy of moral perfection—but there are no Good Conservatives.

    Now, I think Torgersen is wrong on many levels. His metaphors are uncompelling, his proposed strategy is ineffective and soul-rotting. It's possible and desirable to be "nice".

    If you want me to go on about this I will.… <crickets> OK, I won't.

    But, as a retired computer geek, I dearly love the "ctrl-Left" label as a counterpart to the alt-Right that we've been hounded with for month after month. Never seen it before, didn't realize it was a thing, but it's genius. As inappropriate as I find the one-dimensional classification of modern political beliefs based on seating arrangements of the National Assembly in eighteenth-century France… I'm gonna use it whenever I possibly can.

  • Jerome Tucille has passed away. I still have a copy of his 1971 book It Usually Begins With Ayn Rand (numerous editions still available at Amazon), and was one of the gravitational influences on my thinking that landed me here, wherever that is.

    All this time, I didn't know how to pronounce his name. (Thanks to the NYT, it's too-CHILLY.)

    His son, J. D. Tuccille remembers him semi-fondly at Reason. RIP.

12 Years a Blogger

Pun Salad's first post was 12 years ago today. I will resurrect/modify my 10-year blogiversary post from 2015, a somewhat arbitrary "greatest hits" selection of posts, one per year. (Apologies for the inevitable link rot.)

2005: Jane Smiley is a Better Human Being Than Holman Jenkins, and Probably Me, and You Too.
2006: Myth Communication: Professor Farrell on Professor Woodward
2007: The Times Channels Engine Charlie
2008: Top XLII Facts About the Super Bowl (Historical note: the Pats lost. I regret the snark directed at the psychic powers of Dionne Warwick in this post.)
2009: MLK Day 2010: UNH Goes With Academic Poet-Thug
2010: President Obama: Not a Fan of the First Amendment
2011: Mark Fernald, Math Whiz
2012: GOVERNMENT WARNING
2013: Carol Shea-Porter: College Does Not Necessarily Make You Employable. Or Smart.
2014: Money is Evil, Unless You're Sending It To UNH
2015: Bias-Free Language Guide Has a Defender
2016: A Dishonest and Stupid Change

Enjoy, if you are so inclined. We'll be back to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.


Last Modified 2017-02-27 6:07 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2017-02-26

Proverbs 29:23 is actually quite nice:

Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor.

I've seen a lot of movies where that happens.

  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File this week is online, and titled: "Down with the Administrative State" Although as usual it rambles aimlessly covers a number of diverse topics. It's why we Goldberg fans are… fans of Goldberg.

    Anyway, Jonah notes with approval Steve Bannon's talk about…

    Deconstructing the administrative state is a kind of nightingale’s song for many intellectual conservatives, particularly my friends in the Claremont Institute’s orbit. It’s been great fun watching mainstream journalists, who are not fluent in these things, talk about the administrative state as if they understand what Bannon means. The “administrative state” is the term of art for the permanent bureaucracy, which has come untethered from constitutional moorings (please read Phillip Hamburger’s Is Administrative Law Unlawful?, or Charles Murray’s By the People, or my forthcoming book — which as of now has some 75 pages on this stuff). Most of the law being created in this country is now created on autopilot, written by unelected mandarins in the bowels of the government. It is the direct result of Congress’s decades-long surrender of its powers to the executive branch. The CIA is not the “deep state” — the FDA, OSHA, FCC, EPA, and countless other agencies are.

    This kind of thing is why I'm a Trumpkin every third day or so.

  • There was An Actual False-Flag Operation at CPAC:

    Jason Charter, 22, and Ryan Clayton, 36, passed out roughly 1,000 red, white, and blue flags, each bearing a gold-emblazoned “TRUMP” in the center, to an auditorium full of attendees waiting for President Trump to address the conference. Audience members waved the pennants—and took pictures with them—until CPAC staffers realized the trick: They were Russian flags.

    If only there had been more vexillologists in the CPAC crowd, they might not have been duped so easily.

    The merry pranksters, Jason Charter and Ryan Clayton, were identified as members of "Americans Take Action", whose goals include impeaching Trump, "restoring free and fair elections, creating a purpose-driven economy, and maintaining an open internet."

    And they are, at least for now, pretending to have a sense of humor, so give them a little credit for that:

    “Remember,” Clayton added, still committed to the fake [Russian] accent, “In Trump’s America, flag wave you!”

    OK, so recycling Yakov Smirnoff jokes from the 1980s may not be the highest form of humor, but it's something.

  • By the way, Yakov is still around, and is active on Twitter. Sample:

    Moan. But what a country!

  • If You Hate Comic Sans it turns out you're a dreadful person. Emily Zanotti at Heat Street:

    [...] at least one prominent social justice warrior now wants you to know that if you can’t handle Comic Sans, that probably means you’re an elitist and worse, someone who hates disabled people.

    Because some people with dyslexia can read text better when it is rendered in Comic Sans.

    Me, I try not to hate people, let alone fonts.

  • And the Atlanta Falcons have found the real villain behind their Super Bowl LI flop: Lady Gaga

    Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu told the NFL Network’s Good Morning Football on Friday that Lady Gaga’s 40-minute halftime performance “definitely did” impact the team’s play in the second half.

    Because it was 40 minutes of inaction for the Falcons, while the Patriots were able to use Coach Belichick's magic TiVo to fast-forward through the break.

URLs du Jour

2017-02-25

Oh, please, Proverbs 29:22, tell us something of relevance today:

An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins.

Ah. Not bad, Proverbs. Keep up the good work.

  • Is the press the enemy? Or even an enemy? Find out the answer in Jonah Goldberg's column: "The Press Is Not the Enemy".

    Except (in case you are not tempted by the title): most of the column is devoted to the mainstream press's dreadfulness. That doesn't make them the "enemy", just another entity that doesn't deserve your trust.

    One need not paint with an overly broad brush or accuse the entire press corps of being part of a knowing conspiracy to manipulate the public. Many mainstream journalists sincerely believe they are operating in good faith and doing their job to the best of their abilities. At the same time, it seems patently obvious that the “objective” press is in the business of subjectively shaping attitudes rather than simply reporting facts.

    Which brings us to…

  • President Trump's CPAC speech transcript. Here's a line that should send a chill down every liberty-lover's spine:

    They [referring to the press] shouldn't be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody's name.

    You don't need to be a slavish MSM fan to be repulsed by Trump's assertion of what they "shouldn't be allowed" to do. You don't need to be a fan of their too-convenient overuse of anonymous sources to find Trump's words odious.

    All you need is to be a fan of the Constitution and the First Amendment.

    You remember: that's what Trump took an oath, just a few weeks ago, to preserve, protect and defend.

  • Another bit from Trump's speech was not as disgusting, but…

    […] we're going to make trade deals, but we're going to do one-on-one — one-on-one — and if they misbehave, we terminate the deal, and then they come back and we'll make a better deal.

    We'll send this one over to Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek, who addresses an "open letter" to the Prez:

    By “we” you mean you.  By “misbehave,” you mean act in ways that you find objectionable (which surely includes offering to sell goods to Americans at especially low prices).  And by “terminate the deal” you mean use threats of coercion to prevent Americans from buying as many imports as Americans would otherwise choose to buy.

    Now I do support the idea of one-on-one trade deals, but I have a radically different proposal for implementing them – namely, that you mind your own business and let each of us Americans make whatever trade deals each of us likes, one-on-one, with whichever suppliers each of us chooses to deal with.

    Even Trump admits [see transcript] that, on trade, he's in the Bernie Sanders corner. That should worry otherwise sensible people.

  • But maybe I worry too much about President Trump. Maybe his goose is well and truly cooked now. Because, as reported in Elle:

    Starting at midnight on Friday, witches around the country are calling for a mass spell to be cast on Donald Trump every night of a waning crescent moon until he's driven from office.

    A WSJ crossword clue on Thursday was "Spelling pro?". Five letters. Beginning with W. Last letter appears to be H. … Oh, now I get it. Moan.

  • At Reason, Thomas W. Hazlett offers unpleasant birthday wishes ("would you just die already") to the Radio Act of 1927: Herbert Hoover's Radio Malware Turns 90:

    On February 23, 1927, Babe Ruth had still to hit 60 home runs in a season. Yet President Calvin Coolidge would that day sign a bill that would establish how radio spectrum—the "economic oxygen" of the emerging information age—would still be governed 90 years later. Markets would be pre-empted, no ownership of the "ether" would be permitted. Public administrators would dole out privileges to deploy wireless networks according to the "public interest."

    Yes, that would be sometime libertarian hero Coolidge. Major mistake, Cal.

    Hazlett takes you through a brief history of US radio, and shows how the Radio Act was pushed through by an alliance of power-grasping pols and radio moguls looking to protect their electromagnetic turf by throwing up barriers to entry.

  • Megan McArdle has news you can use: "'Authentic' Food Is Not What You Think It Is"

    In fact, authenticity is an illusion, and a highly overrated one. Most of the foods we think of as “authentic” are of relatively recent vintage -- since capsaicin-containing hot peppers are native to the Americas, any spicy cuisine like Szechuan or Thai is by definition a Johnny-come-lately invention. Or take artisanal breads, like that crusty, moist peasant bread that most of us eat too much of at restaurants: Nathan Myhrvold, the mad genius of the cookbook world, says that this is a new invention. Our peasant ancestors, who got a large portion of their calories from bread, did not make these richly hydrated doughs, because they’re a pain in the butt to work with. Ciabatta, another bread that America likes because it sounds very authentic, was invented in the 1980s to compete with the baguette. (Itself a product of Industrial Revolution bakeries, not the proud local peasant.)

    Just go for what tastes good.

URLs du Jour

2017-02-24

Proverbs 29:21 [New International Version]:

A servant pampered from youth will turn out to be insolent.

We can speculate about what that shows about social mobility in BC Israel. Or we can switch to a different translation. Here's good old King James:

He that delicately bringeth up his servant from a child shall have him become his son at the length.

… the insolence is gone, and we have, more or less, a heartwarming character arc of a lowly servant becoming one of the family.

The "Holman Christian Standard Bible" pulls no punches about what "servants" really were back in the day. And they stick with the original unsentimentality:

A slave pampered from his youth will become arrogant later on.

Can't have that!

Er, I'm having a difficult time drawing a consistent lesson from today's Proverb, so we now return you to our regularly scheduled program:

  • Ever since reading Jason Brennan's Against Democracy last year, I seem to have become attuned to how Politics Makes Everything Worse. And I've been a fan of Virginia Postrel for decades, so her recent essay was self-recommending: "Don't Let Politics Invade Your Closet or Refrigerator". Her takeoff point:

    After 20 years, the big Outdoor Retailer trade show is leaving Salt Lake City -- not because it ran out of space or got a better deal elsewhere but because Utah lawmakers opposed an expansion of the industry’s biggest federal subsidy.

    The issue being Obama's designation of 1.35 million acres of federal land in Utah as a "national monument", a very contentious move in the state. Utah GOP pols, specifically, were opposed. Which (in turn) raised the ire of the "Outdoor Industry Association", which pulled the trade show.

    Ms. Postrel notes this as just one example of the upswing of politically-motivated boycotts and counter-boycotts. It's hard to see how this ends well.

    Confession: about the only item of which I've joined an announced boycott is Firefox. (But Firefox's market share has been sinking for years, and it's doubtful the boycott has had any effect on that.)

    I have (more in sadness than in anger) stopped reading some authors for their irritating political views: e.g., Ken Jennings, John Scalzi, Stephen King.

    I should be more precise. I don't mind mere disagreement. But when I see statements that demonstrate an author holds my political views and values in utter contempt, that's kind of a deal-breaker.

    As near as I can tell, they haven't missed me.

  • Heat Street reports: Facebook Suspends Christian Homeschool Mom’s Account for Citing the Bible.

    Allegedly. Facebook's suspension mechanisms are opaque, and its rules are vague, so nobody knows for sure.

    Fortunately, my Bible-quoting is restricted to my blog. I'm not in trouble for that, at least not yet.

  • At Reason, Brendan O'Neill finds that "Outlandish Trump Hysteria Mirrors Obamaphobia"

    How thin is the line between reason and delirium. Just a few years ago, Democrats and liberals were presenting themselves as paragons of level-headed politics in contrast to those cranky Obama bashers and birthers in the darker crannies of the worldwide web. Now, four weeks into the Trump presidency, they've become the thing they mocked; they're giving febrile Obamaphobes a run for their money in the paranoia game.

    "Febrile." Heh.

  • Also at Reason, Judge Napolitano is not fond of the methods used to take down Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn. 'Twas the "Revenge of the Deep State".

    Last week, The Wall Street Journal revealed that members of the intelligence community — part of the deep state, the unseen government within the government that does not change with elections — now have acquired so much data on everyone in America that they can selectively reveal it to reward their friends and harm their foes. Their principal foe today is the president of the United States.

    Judge Nap notes this is the near-inevitable result of the "maniacal passion for surveillance" brought about under Dubya and Obama.

    It would be nice to think that Trump will start dismantling that apparatus. But another scenario has him gaining control over it and using it for his own purposes. I wouldn't consider that unlikely.

  • And your Ramirez du Jour:

    Snail's Pace

    ObLink: "Sen. Rand Paul Introduces Replacement for Obamacare". Just grow a spine and do it, Republicans.

URLs du Jour

2017-02-23

Today's Proverb is 29:20:

Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them.

… so I'm being careful to type verrry slooowly today.

  • Ben Shapiro writes at NR: "When the Enemy of Your Enemy Is — Your Enemy". He pleads for to paying more attention to "ideas and values" than with automatically picking sides based on "tribal identity." RTWT, but I found these paragraphs to be especially perceptive:

    Unfortunately, many conservatives have embraced this sort of binary thinking: If it angers the Left, it must be virtuous. Undoubtedly, that’s a crude shorthand for political thinking. It means you never have to check the ideas of the speaker, you merely have to check how people respond to him.

    […]

    The logic of “if he melts snowflakes, he’s one of us” actually hands power to the Left, by allowing leftists to define conservatives’ friends. It gets to choose whom we support. This isn’t speculative. It happened during the 2016 primaries, when the media attacked Trump incessantly, driving Republicans into his outstretched arms. The media’s obvious hatred for Trump was one of the chief arguments for Trump from his advocates: If, as his detractors claimed, he wasn’t conservative, then why would the leftist media hate him so much?

  • My Google News Trigger for LFOD found "Testimony by Peter Sprigg in Opposition to New Hampshire House Bill 478". This bill will insert "gender identity" into the list of qualities by which various entities are not allowed to discriminate. (Current list: "age, sex, race, color, marital status, physical or mental disability, creed, or national origin".) And sure enough:

    Of course, transgendered people have a right to the "pursuit of Happiness" as well. What they do not have, however, is the "right" to enlist the coercive power of the state in an effort to guarantee the attainment of the Happiness that they pursue, at the expense of the liberty of others.

    In a state that proclaims, "Live Free or Die," we should certainly leave people free from government coercion on this issue.

    The existing combination of "sex" and "mental disability" would seem to cover issues of "gender identity" as well, but that's me.

  • In good news: "New Hampshire Enacts Constitutional Carry".

    New Hampshire became the latest state to adopt a permitless concealed gun carry policy on Wednesday [February 22].

    There were plenty of shriekers and fear-mongerers along the way, but the simple fact is that this just allows Granite Staters to operate under the same carry law as their neighbors in Maine and Vermont. Pravda-on-the-Merrimack (aka the Concord Monitor) reports Governor Sununu's remarks:

    “It is common-sense legislation,” he said during a ceremony in Executive Council chambers. “This is about making sure that our laws on our books are keeping people safe while remaining true to the live-free-or-die spirit.”

    As previously noted, I hate that "common-sense" thing. Otherwise, thumbs up.

  • But sometimes things just get silly. Jacob Sullum at Reason finds an "NRA-Backed Law Violates the First Amendment in the Name of Protecting the Second".

    Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit overturned a censorious Florida law that tried to stop doctors from pestering their patients about guns, sacrificing the First Amendment in the name of protecting the Second. Such laws, which the National Rifle Association supports, show how fake rights—in this case, an overbroad understanding of the right to armed self-defense—endanger real ones.

    Smart patients should probably shop around for doctors who don't ask nosy medically-irrelevant questions. Lying is also an option.

  • I know that "what-aboutism" can be tiring, but this seems worth remembering: "When President Obama’s National Security Advisor Lied, The Media Laughed".

    Buried deep beneath the Michael Flynn hysteria this week was Judicial Watch’s release of newly obtained State Department documents related to the Benghazi terrorist attack on September 11, 2012. One email confirms—again—that the Obama administration knew the day after the attack it was not a random act of violence stemming from an anti-Muslim video. That was the excuse shamefully propagated by top Obama administration officials (including the president himself) and swallowed whole by a media establishment desperate to help Obama win re-election six weeks later.

    It's increasingly clear that the media establishment is biased and unfair, rife with double standards and hypocrisy. All made worse by self-righteous preening.

    But see above: the enemy of your enemy is sometimes …

URLs du Jour

2017-02-22

What guidance is provided unto us today by Proverbs 29:19?

Servants cannot be corrected by mere words; though they understand, they will not respond.

In the modern world, I believe this is most applicable to those who deem themselves "public servants". One possible method of non-verbal correction pictured at right.

  • Who trusts media "fact checks"? Nobody, that's who. And for good reason, as the Federalist's Mollie Hemingway shows with "4 Recent Examples Show Why No One Trusts Media ‘Fact Checks’". Chuckle-inducing intro:

    A few weeks ago, Donald Trump responded to Meryl Streep’s insults by calling her overrated. Some fact checks came out saying that Streep, in fact, had won many awards. The Associated Press’ “Meryl Streep overrated? Donald Trump picks a decorated star,” was one such example. Four of the seven paragraphs to the story listed awards and honors she’d received.

    As Victor Morton noted, “‘She has won a bunch of awards’ isn’t even a prima-facie rebuttal of the claim ‘she is overrated’.” He added, “If anything, ‘She won a bunch of awards’ is a necessary precondition for being ‘overrated,’ i.e. rated highly in first place.”

    Ms. Hemingway proceeds from there, with four additional fact-check debunkings.

  • At Reason, Jacob Sullum: "The NEA Today, Entitlements Tomorrow". First paragraph notes hysteria from the Sundance Kid …

    Robert Redford says an Office of Management and Budget memo suggesting the Trump administration might try to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts is "another example of our democracy being threatened." The actor, director, and independent-film booster explains that "arts are essential" because "they describe and critique our society."

    Completely obvious point, made by Sullum: Our democracy might (or might not) be threatened by sinister forces (within and without), but the presence (or absence) of the NEA and its $146 million budget is unlikely to turn the tide (one way or the other).

    (Some say I use too many parentheses. Others say, too few.)

    It's good news and bad:

    According to The New York Times, which reported the highlights of the OMB memo last week, most of the targets have budgets of less than $500 million, "a pittance for a government that is projected to spend about $4 trillion this year." But judging from the examples cited by the Times, the programs on the OMB's list deserve to be zeroed out, since they are either unnecessary (e.g., AmeriCorps, Bill Clinton's attempt to co-opt and take credit for local volunteer work) or positively pernicious (e.g., the Export-Import Bank, which subsidizes deals by big corporations like Boeing, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which tries to put a happy face on the government's immoral war against consumers of arbitrarily proscribed intoxicants).

    In other words: the amounts are dinky, but the symbolism of actually getting rid of various Offices, Bureaus, and Endowments is priceless.

    But: there's upcoming stress predicted between Trump's OMB Director Mick Mulvaney (who's seen as in favor of going after big-ticket items) and Trump (who's not). Who's the boss?

  • Kevin D. Williamson reports from "Planet Nebraska".

    Answer: California, Iowa, Texas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois, Kansas, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Indiana.

    Question: Whatever happened to world hunger?

    On less sunny days, I would bemoan the continued presence of the Department of Agriculture and its indefensible (but politically untouchable) policies/programs/subsidies/etc.

    But thumbs up for the farmers who are actually saving peoples' lives around the world.

  • I've long wanted to try embedding Michael Ramirez editorial cartoons. The "embed.ly" service looks promising, let's try it on …

    Obamacare Flight 101

    Hey, not bad. I'll remember that. ObLink to Megan McArdle, who has a text-based version of the news: "A Sign That Obamacare Exchanges Are Failing"

  • Scott Sumner poses the musical query: "Whither the Ex-Im Bank?". A great job of analyzing the debate (which, as with the NEA item above, shows some disagreement inside the Trump Administration). And:

    One other point. Like government subsidies to NPR, the Ex-Im bank is largely a symbolic issue. There are far worse examples of crony capitalism, such as agricultural subsidies. And it's almost infinitely less important than the differential tax treatment of debt and equity.

    Perhaps. But (one more time) symbolism is important, and if you can't get rid of such an obviously lousy program, how are you ever going to tackle anything bigger?

  • But let me submit that the real answer to "Whither X?" was forever and always answered forty years ago by an impossibly young Jeff Goldblum in the Boston-based movie Between the Lines:

    The only real answer to the question … is "hither". Some misguided people think that the answer is "thither", they're wrong, those theories are passé.

    But you should probably watch the clip for the full flavor:

    … and I just noticed that the girl at 1:06 in the clip looks like Frances McDormand. Is it?

URLs du Jour

2017-02-21

Proverb du Jour is 29:18:

Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom's instruction.

Well, there's your problem, people: no revelation. Fortunately, I got yer revelation (with wisdom instruction at no extra charge) right here:

  • I haven't been very complimentary to the Trump Administration, but College Fix tells me that he could be on the verge of doing something insanely great: "Law professor who slammed kangaroo courts could lead Trump’s education civil rights office". The slamming law prof is Gail Heriot. She is quoted from a letter she co-wrote in 2015 arguing against increased funding for the department she's under consideration for heading, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR):

    Though OCR may claim to be under-funded, its resources are stretched thin largely because it has so often chosen to address violations it has made up out of thin air. Increasing OCR’s budget would in effect reward the agency for frequently over-stepping the law. It also would provide OCR with additional resources to undertake more ill-considered initiatives for which it lacks authority.

    This is like a breath of fresh air.

    Pun Salad noted Prof Heriot once before when she proposed that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights investigate anti-female bias in college admissions. Yes, that's a thing. (The whole sordid story at Inside Higher Ed.)

  • By the way: the etymology of the term "kangaroo court" is (apparently) ambiguous. It could mean a proceeding where the court "jumps over" evidence favorable to a defendant. Or it could mean that the judge in charge of the proceedings is "in the pocket" of someone.

  • David French is a friend to Free Speech, even when … "Free Speech Has a Milo Problem"

    The law is largely solid. Government entities that censor or silence citizens on the basis of their political, cultural, or religious viewpoint almost always lose in court. With some exceptions, the First Amendment remains robust. Yet the culture of free speech is eroding away, rapidly.

    Milo Yiannopoulos is held up, by some, as a fearless warrior in the anti-PC struggle for free expression. Unfortunately, he's a twerp whose only talent is self-promotion and "outrageous" behavior.

    Let’s put this plainly: If Milo’s the poster boy for free speech, then free speech will lose. He’s the perfect foil for social-justice warriors, a living symbol of everything they fight against. His very existence and prominence feed the deception that modern political correctness is the firewall against the worst forms of bigotry.

    But Milo's recently-revealed comments on pederasty might cause his shooting star to fizzle, and free speech advocates might find more worthy heroes to champion.

  • Another bit of good news, as reported at American Thinker: "FEC commissioner who fought to regulate political speech on internet [sic] resigns". That would be Ann Ravel.

    In 2014, Ravel called for "a reexamination of the commission's approach to the internet and other emerging technologies." This was widely interpreted to mean she wanted the FEC to redefine what constitutes political speech on the internet to allow the FEC to regulate it. Blogs and news sites that specifically advocated for a federal candidate would be treated as adjuncts to that campaign and subject to FEC donation limits.

    When her proposal was met with (understandable) outrage, she was quick to play the gender card, claiming to have been "vilified" and characterizing it as "a barrage of really angry, threatening, misogynist responses to me about it."

  • With Major League Baseball coming up, I bet you're wondering "what's Jose Canseco up to these days?" Well, he's a sharp-eyed menace detector, is what: "Jose Canseco Issues Stern Warning Over the Rise of Robots". Sample:

    Of course, he's a Jose-come-lately on this issue. As Sam Waterston pointed out about robots back in 1995: "When they grab you with those metal claws, you can't break free.. because they're made of metal, and robots are strong."

    And, speaking of 1995, there's Bill "Windows 95" Gates who's now arguing for robots to pay taxes. This is, of course, dangerous. Because then "no taxation without representation" would be an effective slogan for the Robot Uprising.

  • Huzzah! Heat Street has discovered the "World’s Dumbest Job: Mall of America ‘Writer-in-Residence’"

    The job market is tight, we know. Luckily, the Mall of America has announced the best writing gig ever: spend 4 days trapped in the country’s largest mall, writing “on-the-fly” impressions about the place and the people.

    I tried to leave a comment there, but failed. I recommended that MofA really should go Full Harlan Ellison with the idea.

  • Bad news for Wisconsinites who want to try the recent WSJ recipe for Champ (Scallion Mashed Potatoes), which recommends "6 tablespoons salted butter, preferably Irish". Because when it comes to butter in the Badger State, no Irish need apply.

    Ornua North America sells Kerrygold Irish butter in all 50 states. Whoops, make that 49. Wisconsin state officials recently reminded distributors that no butter can be sold in the state unless it has been certified by an official panel of experts. Kerrygold, which is imported, hasn't been certified, so anyone selling it faces a fine of up to $1,000 or six months in jail.

    The linked article wonders whether Wisconsin is "shielding shoppers from inferior butter or fending off foreign competitors from Wisconsin's dairy industry." I am willing to bet on that issue. Any takers?

URLs du Jour

2017-02-20

Happy Presidents' Day everybody! (The presence and placing of the apostrophe is open to discussion.)

Does today's Proverb (29:17) have anything wise to say about it?

Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire.

I guess that's a "no". But it's pretty on-target; I consider myself delighted, anyway.

  • Also on-target is Kevin D. Williamson: "Abolish Presidents’ Day".

    Monday is Presidents’ Day, a.k.a. Washington’s Birthday (federally), a.k.a. Washington and Lincoln Day (Colorado, Ohio, Utah), a.k.a. Washington and Jefferson’s Birthday (Alabama), a.k.a. Washington and Daisy Gatson Bates Day (seriously, Arkansas?), a.k.a. another excuse for the sort of underemployed worthless miscreants who get federal holidays off to enjoy another three-day weekend while contemplating the absolute historical and epoch-defining splendor of an august office held by the likes of Andrew Johnson, Millard Fillmore, James Buchanan, Woodrow Wilson’s wife, William Jefferson Clinton’s humidor, and Donald J. Trump.

    Worst. Holiday. Ever.

    At least he left Franklin Pierce off the list, the Granite State's (so far) only contribution to the roll call. FP usually makes the worst list.

  • And Jonah Goldberg also has some President-debunking in his latest G-File: "The President Isn’t the Hero of the American Story".

    I’ve written a bunch about the MacGuffinization of American politics in recent years. Ace of Spades coined the term to describe how the media covered Barack Obama. They cast him as the hero of a drama and the only goal was to see how he overcame problems. It didn’t matter if he was wrong on policy — including the Constitution — what mattered was whether he emerged victorious. “In a movie or book, ‘The MacGuffin’ is the thing the hero wants,” Ace explained. “Usually the villain wants it too, and their conflict over who will end up with The MacGuffin forms the basic spine of the story.”

    Jonah notes that this has continued in the Trump era, with roles reversed. Now, some (but not all) on the conservative side write their narratives with Trump as the belabored hero. Could we get beyond that? Not as long as we persist on being cheerleaders for what we perceive as "our" tribe.

  • Nick Eberstadt first came to attention in the 1980s, debunking Commie myths of prosperity. In a Commentary article much worth reading, he turns his attention to the USA and "Our Miserable 21st Century". Sample:

    Whatever else it may or may not have accomplished, the 2016 election was a sort of shock therapy for Americans living within what Charles Murray famously termed “the bubble” (the protective barrier of prosperity and self-selected associations that increasingly shield our best and brightest from contact with the rest of their society). The very fact of Trump’s election served as a truth broadcast about a reality that could no longer be denied: Things out there in America are a whole lot different from what you thought. 

    It's very wide-ranging. For example, Jim Geraghty picks out this insight: "How You Helped Pay for America’s Opioid Addiction Crisis"

    How did so many millions of un-working men, whose incomes are limited, manage en masse to afford a constant supply of pain medication? Oxycontin is not cheap. As Dreamland carefully explains, one main mechanism today has been the welfare state: more specifically, Medicaid, Uncle Sam’s means-tested health-benefits program.

    Pols diligently look the other way. Or, more accurately, try to make you look another way. "Hey, it's the drug companies' fault."

  • And (sorry) I find it difficult to resist linking to just about anything Kevin D. Williamson writes. The title on yesterday's article is kind of bland: "The Press vs. the President". I prefer the subtitle: "Choosing sides is no substitute for thinking".

    The problem with the man currently leading the Republican party is that he is, as the Washington Post puts it, a hostage to the “fanatical policies of the extreme right.” His administration “insults women” and his unwelcome presence in public life “insults us all.” And, because the Republican party is all about the winning these days, the GOP establishment is “ready to forgive” . . . what? . . . “just about anything — as long as he wins.”

    So says the Post, which is not alone in this estimate: Extreme on economic issues, extreme on the so-called social issues, he even has had an “extreme foreign-policy makeover,” according to The Atlantic. His views on immigration, MSNBC says, represent the Republican party “shrinking down to its most extreme elements.” One cable-news panelist insists he was the most extreme Republican presidential candidate ever. Paul Krugman laments that he has forsaken all serious policy thinking for “dangerous fantasy.” Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times is also alert to the “dangers” he presents, the “most dangerous of all” being his views on Iran, though Kristof also worries that he is too buddy-buddy with that awful, scheming Benjamin Netanyahu. Predictably, Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow dogpiled him for his perplexing relationship with Moscow. Vice calls him a “sociopath” and Maureen Dowd dismissed him as “an out-of-touch plutocrat” who keeps “his true nature . . . buried where we can’t see it,” a devious figure who is so awful deep down inside that he “must hide an essential part of who he is” from the public.

    I'll spoil KDW's punchline: that was what the press said about Mitt Romney.

  • Have you been dismissing President Trump's attacks on the media as mere stupidity? Bret Stephens of the WSJ has some advice for you: "Don't Dismiss President Trump's Attacks on the Media as Mere Stupidity"

    Consider this recent exchange [Trump] had with Bill O’Reilly. O’Reilly asks:

    Is there any validity to the criticism of you that you say things that you can’t back up factually, and as the President you say there are three million illegal aliens who voted and you don’t have the data to back that up, some people are going to say that it’s irresponsible for the President to say that.

    To which the president replies:

    Many people have come out and said I’m right.

    Now many people also say Jim Morrison faked his own death. Many people say Barack Obama was born in Kenya. “Many people say” is what’s known as an argumentum ad populum. If we were a nation of logicians, we would dismiss the argument as dumb.

    We are not a nation of logicians.

    Indeed.

  • When it comes to the Prez vs. Press battle, the striking thing is how much easier either side would have it, if they didn't self-inflict wounds to their own credibility. Power Line looks at the hopeless "fact checking" site that is Politifact, and scores it "Trump 4, Politifact 1" RTWT, and decide for yourself whether Politifact has decided to reform its biased ways. (Spoiler: nope.)

  • Back in the day, I was a semi-avid Usenet poster. I've often thought of blog-comment areas as "Usenet, reinvented poorly". I recently made the mistake of commenting on this Andrew Klavan article. Whoo, boy. I like Mr. Klavan quite a bit, but thought he was wrong headed in this instance. But I was surprised by the blowback. You can click over and read for yourself. Or you can enjoy this dramatization: