URLs du Jour

2020-12-05

  • <voice imitation="professor_farnsworth">Good news, everyone!</voice>: Remy tells the story of Republicans who are Caring Again. About what?

    The federal budget deficit was a record $3.1 trillion in fiscal year 2020, a three-fold increase over 2019. President Trump was able to accomplish that with help from Republicans in Congress, who stopped paying even lip service to fiscal austerity after Obama left office. With a Democrat about to return to the White House, expect GOP lawmakers to remember that—as it turns out—deficits do matter.

    Lyrics (with explanatory links) at the link above.


  • At the Washington Examiner, Timothy P. Carney solves the election mystery. Except: It’s no mystery: Millions of people voted specifically against Trump.

    It's apparently a mystery to the Donald:

    And also to left-leaning columnists:

    Thomas Edsall at the New York Times puzzles over his own mystery. “Honestly, This Was a Weird Election,” is his headline, with his subheading puzzling that “Biden soared among crucial suburban voters. Democrats? Not so much.”

    […]

    What Edsall finds “weird” is that those same congressional districts tended to vote Republican this time around.

    What is weird to Edsall and impossible to Trump has the same explanation (and Edsall, unlike Trump, understands it): Millions of voters find Trump uniquely awful, and they vote explicitly against him and not for a particular party or candidate.

    The corollary to this story is that in 2016, Trump drew perhaps the only politician in the world as off-putting as he himself was: Hillary Clinton.

    As someone who found both major party candidates (and as a one-armed paper hanger) I find this completely credible.


  • OK, here's another "as a one-armed paper hanger" link. As someone who's been, um, conversing with some conspiracy theorists at an ostensibly conservative blog, I'm in sympathy with Jonah Goldberg, who asserts Conspiracy Theories Are Incompatible With Conservatism. First, he notes that he doesn't like "You're not a conservative if…" arguments.

    So why are conspiracy theorists different? Well, for starters, conspiracy theories are almost always offered in bad faith because they are non-falsifiable. The moment you provide evidence disproving a conspiracy theory, the response is invariably to resort to an even deeper conspiracy theory—or to accuse the debunker of being “one of them.” 

    For instance, Attorney General Bill Barr, who has been far too loyal to the president throughout his tenure for my taste, recently told the truth: There’s no evidence for the vast conspiracy theories Donald Trump has belched out to explain his election loss. The response from many of Trump’s most ardent defenders was to insist Barr was in on the “deep state” plot to get Trump. 

    But the incompatibility of conservatism with conspiracy theories is more fundamental. One of the central tenets of conservatism is the idea that society is too complex to be easily controlled by a despot or even cadres of well-intentioned social engineers and bureaucrats, or what Edmund Burke, the founder of modern conservatism, dubbed “sophisters, calculators and economists.” 

    I don't have any deep insights into conspiracy theorists, other than the ones you've seen from wiser folks than I. I'll admit it's difficult to keep a civil tongue in my head, though.


  • Joel Kotkin is a smart guy, and he writes on a red-meat topic at the Daily Beast: The Real Fascist Threat Was Never Trump—It’s Corporate Power.

    For four years America has shuddered watching Donald Trump, the poor man’s Benito Mussolini, doing his Il Duce imitation. Certainly, Trump's timely political demise should be celebrated, but we cannot ignore a far bigger long-term threat to democracy—one that may be further accelerated by the new regime in Washington.

    Under the kindly eyes of Uncle Joe, we soon may find ourselves living under an updated version of the fascist “corporate state”— an alliance between political leaders and a handful of ultra-rich, ultra-powerful companies that increasingly dominate the economy and culture. This new American-style corporate state reflects not a conspiracy but the politics of a society with unprecedented concentrations of wealth and power.

    I agree halfway: partnerships between big government and big business do not work out to my benefit, and probably not to yours either.

    I will note that yesterday's "ultra-rich, ultra-powerful companies" are not today's. (See Mark J. Perry: Only 51 US companies have been on the Fortune 500 since 1955, thanks to the creative destruction that fuels economic prosperity). Kotkin writes as if things are different today.

    He could be right, that this time Walmart/ExxonMobil/Apple/etc have figured out a way to live forever at the top. I have my doubts.


  • If you're not worried about corporate fascism, maybe James D. Miller at Quillette will get you concerned about another menace: The Apocalyptic Threat from Artificial Intelligence Isn’t Science Fiction. After Miller provides a deepfake example…

    While [deepfake] technology may create a bit of social havoc, the truly massive disruption will occur when AIs can match or exceed the thinking power of the human brain. This is not a remote possibility: Variants of the machine-learning AIs that today generate fake pictures have a good chance of creating computer superintelligences before this century is out.

    These superior beings could be applied to wonderful purposes. Just this week, for instance, it was announced that the AI system AlphaFold has been recognized for providing a solution to the so-called “protein folding problem,” which holds implications for our fundamental understanding of the basic building blocks of human biology. If, however, mankind releases smarter-than-us AI before figuring out how to align their values with our own, we could bring forth an apocalypse instead. Even the Pope fears the destructive potential of AI, and he is right to do so.

    Yeah, well, maybe. Steven Pinker devoted a section of his recent book Enlightenment Now to the AI "existential threat" and was complacent about it. For now, I'm leaning that way too, but Miller's take is nonetheless interesting. See what you think

URLs du Jour

2020-12-04

[Amazon Link]

  • One of our annual Christmas traditions is to link to someone else's annual Christmas tradition: Dave Barry Holiday Gift Guide for Christmas 2020. I will quote generously, probably way outside the fair use guidelines.

    But the point is, we can celebrate the holidays, but we need to take certain precautions this year. Specifically we need to follow the Centers for Disease Control’s pandemic holiday guidelines, which include:

    MISTLETOE: Everyone within 25 feet of a mistletoe sprig must wear a hazmat suit.

    CHRISTMAS TREES: According to the CDC, it is “unlikely” that the coronavirus can be transmitted via Christmas trees, but out of an abundance of caution, CDC guidelines state that you should keep your tree quarantined outdoors “until all the needles fall off, or Easter, whichever is later.”

    CAROLING: When singing “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” carolers should stop after Day Ten, to avoid the emission of saliva droplets caused by singing the words “pipers piping.” Also, in “Deck the Halls” carolers should sing the “fa la la la la” parts directly into their elbows.

    EGGNOG: If you’re planning to serve eggnog in a communal punch bowl, CDC guidelines state that your eggnog recipe should “meet the same requirement for alcohol content — 60 percent or higher — as hand sanitizer.”

    CANDLES: There should be no candles within 250 feet of the eggnog.

    FRUITCAKE: Under no circumstances should you allow fruitcake into your home. This is not because of the coronavirus. This is because, according to the CDC, “fruitcake sucks.” Also you should go easy on the figgy pudding, because — again, quoting the CDC — “That stuff will give you a bad case of wassail.”

    Of course these are just a few of the CDC’s holiday guidelines, which run to 237 pages in the full document, titled “Let’s Have A Fun Holiday Season By Reducing Our Risk Of Death.” We urge you to read the whole thing, maybe after a couple of eggnogs.

    The Amazon Product du Jour is one of Dave's picks. And it's supposedly the high-quality one. Dave quotes the creator as warning of “knockoff, low-budget, blurry copycat calendars”. You don't want a blurry picture of a crapping cat on your wall.


  • I keep saying this myself, but maybe you'll belive Steven Greenhut at Reason: Trump Has Only Himself To Blame for Losing the Election.

    […] it's time for President Donald Trump's supporters to consider that, quite possibly, there are reasons beyond a vast voter-fraud conspiracy that explain his decisive loss. The president and his legal advocates have argued that Trump actually won by millions of votes, Democratic operatives stuffed ballots (but were too stupid to fix down-ticket races), and rigged electronic voting software.

    Maybe those local GOP election officials who dispute those claims were actually helping Biden. A dark, deep-state secret might also explain why the Department of Homeland Security disputed them. It's hard to prove a negative. I suppose the only reason you dispute my thesis about aliens is that they have also invaded your body. Prove me wrong.

    I got involved in a voter-fraud comment discussion over at Granite Grok, a site with which I'm normally in sympathy. Probably a bad idea.


  • At the Daily Signal, Victor Davis Hanson asks the musical question: Why Do Progressives No Longer Defend Free Expression?

    A half-century ago, progressives used to push limitless free expression, blasting conservatives for their allegedly blinkered traditionalism. They boasted of obliterating once-normal boundaries in art, music, and literature to allow nudity, profanity, sexuality, and anti-American boilerplate.

    Now?

    The left is Victorian—increasingly puritanical, regressive, and hypersensitive. Even totalitarian censorship and book-burning have weirdly become part of their by-any-means-necessary methods.

    The left (I think) seems Puritanical, but it's only because they're beginning to realize they don't have very good arguments.


  • The passing of Walter E. Williams has brought a lot of tributes out there. But I was especially moved by Thomas Sowell's: Farewell to Economist and Teacher Walter E. Williams, My Best Friend.

    Walter E. Williams loved teaching. Unlike too many other teachers today, he made it a point never to impose his opinions on his students.

    Those who read Walter Williams’ syndicated newspaper columns know that he expressed his opinions boldly and unequivocally there. But not in the classroom.

    Walter, a professor of economics at George Mason University for 40 years, once said he hoped that, on the day he died, he would have taught a class that day. And that is just the way it was when he died Wednesday, Dec. 2.

    He was my best friend for half a century. There was no one I trusted more or whose integrity I respected more.

    The link goes an archive of Professor Williams' columns at the Daily Signal. Lot's of wisdom in a small, convenient package.


  • The Free Beacon notes price-gouging from an unlikely source (but its it really unlikely?): AOC Sells $58 'Tax the Rich' Sweatshirts on Campaign Website.

    Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.), a prominent critic of capitalism, is selling sweatshirts on her campaign website that feature the socialist mantra "tax the rich." The sweatshirt can be yours for a steep $58 (not including tax).

    Just sayin': you can get a "Tax the Rich" sweatshirt with the AOC logo from Amazon for only $30.99. And I don't even get a cut if you use that link; just say no to AOC's price-gouging!


  • And the Babylon Bee notes the latest in social justice: Elliot Page Retroactively Awarded 17 Oscars For Amazingly Convincing Portrayals Of Women.

    At a lavish press conference today, actor Elliot Page received 17 Oscar awards for his previous work portraying women in a variety of films, even though Page himself is a man, which is something we definitely believe, as you can tell by our use of words like “his” and “himself.”

    “We are proud to recognize Elliot’s amazing work in portraying women so very realistically -- most people didn't even know he was a man,” said Brett Long, Director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Subcommittee on Preemptive Apologies and Narrative Alignment.

    It's about time this was remedied.

URLs du Jour

2020-12-03

[Amazon Link]

  • In our occasional "Of Course They Did" Department, the Free Beacon reports: San Francisco Bans Smoking Tobacco in Apartments—but Allows Weed.

    The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to ban smoking in apartment buildings—but made an exception for marijuana, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. 

    Supervisor Norman Yee (D.) brought forward the original measure—which included a ban on smoking weed—last week, with the intent of protecting nonsmokers from inhaling secondhand smoke inside apartment complexes.

    Nothing in the article about vaping. So I guess that's OK, right? Well … from June 2019:

    San Francisco's Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to ban the sale and distribution of e-cigarettes in the city. The city is the corporate home of Juul Labs, the biggest producer of e-cigarettes in the United States.

    Yeah. Only politically correct addictions are allowed in Frisco.


  • Michael Graham of NH Journal noticed (as we have a number of times over the past year): the 'Confucius Institute' Has Ties to Communist Chinese Regime, Support of UNH Officials.

    With the latest report of China’s attempts to mislead the world about COVID-19 by hiding data that could have helped fight the pandemic, the Communist regime is again reminding the world why it cannot be trusted.

    It’s also a reminder of how problematic it is that the University of New Hampshire is currently hosting an organization funded by the Chinese Community Party, one designed to spread propaganda, and which is under investigation by the FBI. Even more concerning, UNH recently renewed the organization’s contract for on-campus operations, despite knowing these facts.

    It’s called the “Confucius Institute.”

    The University Near Here has been stonewalling Graham's inquiries, but he requotes the "Hey, it's free money" excuse provided to NHPR by Asian Studies Professor Lawrence Reardon.


  • A different professor, Jerry Coyne, wonders: Are we “scientific fascists”?. He's responding to a Medium essay, On Scientific Fascism by still another academic, Associate Professor of Sociology at Old Dominion University Roderick Shawn Graham.

    In response to this bit of Graham:

    The scientific fascist adopts as their tools of choice science and reason. The purpose of using these tools is only ever to mount an attack on the ideas underpinning social justice activities. These ideas include “lived experiences”, “safe spaces”, “white fragility”, “heteronormativity”, “systemic racism”, “toxic masculinity” and “microaggressions”, to name a few. This is one of the qualities that separates scientific fascism from scientism. Scientism is an extreme belief in science. [JAC: no it’s not!] Scientific fascists, on the other hand, are using science and reason for the political goal of pushing back social justice activism.

    Coyne responds well:

    Now of course science and reason can be used to criticize any ideology or idea, be it Critical Studies, other aspects of social justice, liberalism as a whole, the ideology of Republicans, Communism, and so on.  But Graham uses the term “scientific fascist” only for those who use science and reason to attack social justice—and his conception of it—which already shows that the two words of his mantra “scientific fascist” have been construed more narrowly.

    But he’s dead wrong in his second quote, for the purpose of using “science” and “reason” is NOT “only ever” to mount an attack on social justice, or to try to “maintain social inequalities and erase the experiences of minority groups from public discourse.” But you could, of course, use science to see if safe spaces work, or if there is such a a thing as implicit bias, but somehow I don’t think Graham would favor that kind of science. He’d rather use “lived experience”—those people who say that they require safe spaces and have been victims of unconscious bias.

    I'd be proud to be called a "scientific fascist" by the likes of Graham.


  • Bryan Caplan tells us The Sense in Which [he doesn't] Trust the Media. But more specifically, he provides multiple reasons for ignoring the media. Here's number three:

    Importance.  Whenever the media cover a story, there’s a subtext.  And the subtext is: This is important! The also goes when the media ignores a story.  The subtext is: This is not important! Even if I knew nothing about the world, I would wonder, “What qualifies these people to adjudicate events’ importance?”  And since I do know a great deal about the world, I am convinced that the media’s sense of importance is radically defective.  These are the kind of people who would rather cover an insensitive tweet than Uighur concentration camps.  They would rather report a fatality-free nuclear accident than the vastly greater health damage of coal.  They would rather investigate the latest terrorist attack than discuss the global murder rate.  These are not isolated shortcomings.  The media’s main function is to distort viewers’ priorities.

    Ever since I was a young 'un, I was impressed with the bogosity of TV shows who managed to fit the "news" into exactly 30 minutes (less commercials) every evening. No matter what actually had happened that day.

    You'd think some days they'd have to cut it short: "Well, that's about it. Not much else going on. Enjoy this video of Erich Brenn!"

    But other days they'd need to go long in order to mention all the important stuff, right?


  • J.D. Tuccille tells a simple truth at Reason: In a Complex World, Politicians Have a Simple Demand: More Power.

    Fans of a large and intrusive state are fond of arguing that leaving people alone is fine for simple, primitive societies, but that the growing complexity of the modern world requires a strong hand and centralized control. It's a convenient position for authoritarians to take, since it leaves them eternally amassing power unless the rest of us give up on roads and electricity and crawl back into caves to preserve our stone-age liberty. It's also completely backwards. Authoritarianism is actually easier to implement (though no more palatable) in settings where rulers can closely monitor their subjects; larger, complicated societies require decentralized power.

    It's a point to remember in a pandemic year that has handed government officials new excuses to expand their authority.

    It's also important to remember how much of the populace cheered each expansion of state authority and derided people who dissented. How long can liberty last in a society that doesn't value liberty that highly?

URLs du Jour

2020-12-02

  • The Free Beacon writes on another do-as-I-say pol: LA Democrat Dines Outdoors After Voting to Ban Outdoor Dining.

    A Democratic Los Angeles County official dined outdoors at a Santa Monica restaurant just hours after she voted to ban outdoor dining, Fox 11 Los Angeles reported Monday. 

    At a county board meeting on Nov. 24, Los Angeles County supervisor Sheila Kuehl voted to ban outdoor dining, which she called "a most dangerous situation" for spreading the coronavirus. After the vote, which passed 3-2, Kuehl stopped by Il Forno Trattoria, an Italian restaurant she frequents, before the outdoor dining ban took effect the following day. 

    But the really interesting thing here was Sheila Kuehl was an actress, playing Zelda on "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" (1959-1963). The TV show Bob Denver was on before "Gilligan's Island". I couldn't find a embeddable pic of her in that role, but the above shows her in a 1971 role: The Feminist and the Fuzz. With Joanne Worley, Penny Marshall, and Barbara Eden.

    And she's definitely checking out the lady on her left.

    And those pics on the wall seem as if they could be pretty raunchy for a TV movie. It was a different time.


  • In other celebrity news, the IMDB page for Elliot Page sure got changed quick. With a whole bunch of "(as Ellen Page)" appended to past roles.

    She was good in Juno.


  • Armond White gives a good review of an old rocker making a comeback as a libertarian dissenter: Van Morrison's 'No More Lockdown' Re-Energizes Pop-Music Rebellion.

    Van Morrison knows what censorship means even if Internet mobs don’t. He has released three new songs, “No More Lockdown,” “As I Walked Out,” and “Born to Be Free,” that movingly speak against the new autocratic culture that too many people — especially trusted media figures, particularly left-leaning pop artists — accept without flinching.

    The hysterical social-media response castigating Morrison’s compassionate new music (a fourth song, “Stand and Deliver,” is promised) only proves his point: We are deep into a second wave of undemocratic submission. It’s taken such a strange turn that Twitter thugs set out to rewrite cultural history, denying Morrison’s expressive genius in songs such as “Gloria,” “Brown-Eyed Girl,” “Domino,” “Moondance,” “Into the Mystic,” and the masterpiece albums Astral Weeks and Irish Heartbeat. The hecklers are trashing his musical legend (“He was never any good!”) merely to explain their own unease. Morrison’s anti-lockdown songs — his freedom songs — disturb their willing obedience to political authority.

    Anything's better than his recent jazz-vocalist albums.


  • Veronique de Rugy is no fan of the shiny new Bipartisan Senate Group Stimulus Compromise.

    I have a running theory that government officials, and the policies they support, are often disconnected from reality. Politicians on both sides of the aisle tend to do what they always do, no matter the current state of the world. They use the same policy tools, whether appropriate or not. They use every opportunity and emergency to push the same old policies they always peddle. And even when they claim they are reforming a program or an agency, they continue to serve the same special-interest groups. This alleged $908 billion compromise deal that includes state, Amtrak, airlines bailouts, unemployment bonuses, childcare subsidies, and a renewal of the PPP is a good example of that.

    A few weeks ago, I wrote about how the Democrats’ Heroes Act — its size, its design, and the programs it includes — is oblivious to the improved economic conditions. They have been pushing this package when the unemployment rate was 14 percent, when unemployment rate was 10 percent, and when, at the end of October, the unemployment rate had fallen to 6.8 percent. They will continue pushing the same package of large unemployment bonuses, individual checks, and state and airline bailouts even if unemployment falls to 5 percent or less. The White House at the time seemed willing to go along with a big chunk of that Democratic wishlist.

    It's the "Do Something" fever at its worst.


  • Lefty Matt Taibbi is pretty hilarious: With Tanden Choice, Democrats Stick it to Sanders Voters.

    The Democratic Party is not known for its sense of humor, but news that Joe Biden will appoint longtime Center for American Progress chief Neera Tanden to his government qualifies as a rare, well-earned laugh line.

    Tanden is famous for two things: having a puddle of DNC talking points in place of a cerebrum, and despising Bernie Sanders. She was #Resistance’s most visible anti-Sanders foil, spending awe-inspiring amounts of time on Twitter bludgeoning Sanders and his supporters as a deviant mob of Russian tools and covert “horseshoe theory” Trump-lovers. She has, to put it gently, an ardent social media following. Every prominent media figure with even a vague connection to Sanders learned in recent years to expect mud-drenched pushback from waves of “Neera trolls” after any public comment crossing DNC narratives. No name in blue politics is more associated with seething opposition to Sanders than Tanden.

    I'm pretty much a sucker for any post that includes the phrase "in place of a cerebrum".

URLs du Jour

2020-12-01

[Amazon Link]

  • At Law & Liberty, Peter Foster predicts Sustainable Newspeak by 2050. Sample:

    Perhaps the most significant new weasel word to have emerged from the UN’s equivalent of the Ministry of Truth is “sustainable.” Commitment to sustainability is now mouthed by every politician, bureaucrat, marketing executive, and media hack on earth. It sounds so benign, so reasonable, but what it actually means is “bureaucratically controlled and NGO-enforced within a UN-based socialist agenda.” Like most aspects of socialism, it is based on incomprehension and/or hatred of the nature and function of market capitalism, not least because markets—which signal scarcity, reward economy, and promote profitable innovation—are the only true source of sustainability. Projected catastrophic man-made climate change was enthusiastically embraced by global socialism becasue it was—in the words of Nicholas Stern, who was ennobled for his manufacture of an egregiously skewed review of climate impacts for his political masters in the UK Labour Party—“the greatest market failure the world has ever seen.” The problem is that we haven’t actually seen it, except, that is, through the biased lens of “official” science and an alarmist crusading media.

    Like “social,” “sustainable” tends to vitiate or reverse the meaning of words to which it is attached. Thus sustainable development is development retarded by top-down control, and whose effectiveness is further compromised by the insertion of a long list of cart-before-the-horse social policy objectives, from gender equity to “responsible consumption.”

    Just buy our Amazon Product du Jour, so the authorities will know your heart's brain's in the right place.


  • Jacob Sullum asks the musical question at Reason: If the President Doesn’t Have Standing to Pursue Wild, Unsubstantiated Claims of Election Fraud, Who Does?. It's about a Sunday morning interview with Trump on Fox News:

    In addition to claiming that voting machines were rigged, Trump said large numbers of fraudulent ballots mysteriously arrived at counting locations to save the day for Biden. "This election was over, and then they did dumps…big, massive dumps in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and all over," he said. "If you take a look at just about every state that we're talking about, every swing state that we're talking about…they did these massive dumps of votes. And all of a sudden, I went from winning by a lot to losing by a little….They started just doing ballot after ballot very quickly and just checking the Biden name on top. " This is another claim that the Trump campaign has failed to substantiate in court. "They backdated all these ballots that came in," Trump said, referring to yet another accusation that did not pan out.

    It's been my limited experience that when you swat down Claim A from a conspiracist, the response is not a rebuttal, but immediately make (equally vague and unsubstantiated) Claims B, C, D. If you bother to chase those down, the response is new Claims E, F, and G. And so on,… But if you're lucky, things eventually circle back to still-unsupported Claim A, an implicit admission that there's no actual search for truth going on.


  • AEI Visiting Scholar Mark Jamison offers 3 broadband mistakes that Biden should avoid. (Implied subtitle: "But Probably Won't".)

    Mistake 1: Allowing politics to distribute subsidies

    Candidate Biden promised $20 billion for rural broadband, a tripling of the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Community Connect program, in addition to unspecified Department of Commerce support for municipal broadband. Biden didn’t say how the $20 billion would be distributed, but agriculture and commerce broadband programs during the Obama administration largely wasted money.

    As I wrote in 2015, Obama’s USDA mishandled $3.5 billion in broadband subsidies: “40 out of the 297 approved projects never started,” “more than $137 million of the approved loans had incomplete or inaccurate applications,” and while the program promised to connect 7 million people, it connected only 729,000 (or fewer). My friends in USDA tell me the program improved during the Donald Trump administration, but it is unclear that the improvements will survive the transition to the new administration.

    Obama’s Department of Commerce spent about $4 billion on broadband development. As I wrote in 2017, “As with other federal spending, these programs favor the politically powerful and are generally wasteful and ineffective.”

    As Robert Frost wrote (about something else): "But waste was of the essence of the scheme."


  • Issues & Insights editorializes on The ‘Great Reset’ Con: Forget The Rhetoric, It’s Just Re-Heated Socialism.

    So-called progressive Democrats are buzzing about a “Great Reset” under Joe Biden, as if they have some completely new ideas to make our economy better and stronger. Sorry, but they’re merely repackaging the failed ideas of socialism and hoping Americans will be suckers enough to buy it. Don’t fall for it.

    After months of COVID-19 lockdowns and growing restrictions on your personal liberties, you’ll soon be hearing from Democrats that this is the “new normal.” To function in this brave new world, we need to join the rest of the nations in a global “Great Reset” to create a better, more sustainable economy.

    Sounds great? It isn’t. In fact, it’s a thinly disguised assault on free markets and Americans’ individual liberties and rights. Once those things are given away, you’ll be little more than a pawn in the globalists’ big game.

    I'm not a fan of dark mutterings about "globalists". We're seeing plain old statists: using the coercive power of the state to move decisions out of private hands and into those of "stakeholders".


  • In his weekly "Tuesday" column, Kevin D. Williamson looks at the new movie Hillbilly Elegy.

    The Ron Howard film Hillbilly Elegy, a cinematic extract from J. D. Vance’s eponymous memoir, has received savage reviews. Remarkably so, in fact. One suspects that this is not entirely a question of its cinematic merits.

    Howard is a conventional Hollywood commercial filmmaker and has made a conventional Hollywood commercial film. Howard’s record for adapting literature into film is mixed: His adaptation of Sylvia Nasar’s A Beautiful Mind is good, but his films based on Dan Brown’s novels are dreck, as are the novels themselves. Howard often has been at his best when there is no underlying literature to agonize over (as in The Paper and Cinderella Man) or when adapting a play, as in Frost/Nixon. In Hillbilly Elegy, Howard has bitten off a big morsel, and, though he intelligently shapes the film as a family drama in which the social commentary is generally implicit, it may be more than he can chew.

    I'll give it a miss, probably. Although I recommend the book.

URLs du Jour

2020-11-30

  • Not only does Biden suck, but (as Ben Shapiro notes at the Daily Signal) so does the "watchdog" press covering him: Media Gushes Over Biden's 'Return to Normalcy' of the Swamp.

    The media spent four long years suggesting that President Donald Trump was steeped in corruption, ensconced in partisanship, enmeshed in dangerous foreign policy fiascos. The media assured us that they would defend democracy from Trump’s brutalities, that they would spend every waking moment fighting to prevent anyone from accepting Trumpian standards as the “new normal.”

    Instead, the media suggested we needed to return to the old “normal”—by which they meant a system in which the media and Democrats worked hand-in-glove together to lie to the American public about the content of policy (“If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor!” — former President Barack Obama); in which conventional wisdom was treated as gospel truth, no matter how wrong it was (“There will be no advanced and separate peace with the Arab world without the Palestinian process” — John Kerry on Israel); and in which cozy relationships between corporations and government were considered de rigueur.

    Sample of the hard-hitting journalism in our near future: the Daily Beast reports Joe Biden’s Dogs Have Told This Pet Psychic a Lot About Their Beloved Master, and His Future. Woof!


  • It's not all bad news, though. Brian Doherty holds out some hope at Reason: Bourgeois Libertarianism Could Save America.

    As the streets of various U.S. cities descended into disorder set off by anger and anguish over police brutality, the domestic tranquility for which Americans theoretically surrender large chunks of their fortunes and freedom to the government seemed out of reach. Some protests devolved into generalized orgies of destruction and even arson—the most fiendishly destructive thing the average person can do in dense cities, and an act committed with careless glee dozens of times.

    In the public debate between angry forces on the left and right wings, too many Americans insist on recapitulating the stark choices Germany seemed to offer its citizens between the world wars a century ago: a controlling, decadent left out to destroy private property, and a right embracing harsh, violent authoritarianism and viewing outsiders of all stripes with suspicion.

    Each side seems so obviously, intolerably evil to the other that both sides agree the only moral or prudential choice is to come out swinging against the other side. The blood on the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin, where in August a right-wing 17-year-old shot three people during a protest is a small preview of where that path leads. Radicals on both left and right seem to agree that traditional American libertarianism either supports the evil side (wittingly or unwittingly) or, at best, provides a pusillanimous, pie-in-the-sky distraction from the necessary business of seizing state power to crush the enemy. But that old-school, nonrevolutionary, bourgeois libertarianism is, in fact, the only peaceful way out for our troubled country.

    Brian hopes for a groundswell of large numbers of Americans minding their own business. A tough prescription for most of us, but probably a good one.


  • A long article in last Saturday's WSJ, probably paywalled, dealing with something I've been thinking about for years. The Census Predicament: Counting Americans by Race.

    As director of the U.S. Census Bureau from 1998 to 2001, Kenneth Prewitt oversaw the first decennial count of the new century. When the enormous job of data collection was finally done, he arrived at a stark conclusion: The government should stop asking every American to report their race. “The race question is incoherent because race is incoherent,” said Prof. Prewitt, now a professor of public affairs at Columbia University. “We pay a price for not having a more subtle, nuanced set of numbers than what we currently have.”

    Prof. Prewitt and many other demographers and sociologists say that the government’s centuries-old classifications no longer reflect realities on the ground, especially when it comes to generations of immigrants who have edged toward assimilation. Racial or ethnic labels are also falling behind the growing diversity within each racial and ethnic group and failing to capture mixed-race people. Americans of two or more races or ethnicities—including Vice President-elect Kamala Harris—are the country’s fastest-growing demographic, and they defy labels.

    I'm not one of those folks who view race as a "social construct". My reading (including Charles Murray's latest book) persuaded me that's not a realistic view.

    On the other hand, having the state pigeonhole us into categories based on our DNA details should give any thoughtful person pause. Will the 2030 Census require us to submit a cheek swab?

    So I'm on Prof. Prewitt's side. Emphatically. But not everyone agrees:

    Most experts continue to see the race question on the census—and the data it generates—as essential. Without it, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would lack the benchmarks it relies on to combat discrimination in the workplace. Federal health agencies wouldn’t be able to measure the disproportionate toll that the Covid-19 pandemic takes on Blacks and Hispanics, or show that people of certain races live years longer than others.

    I think those rationales are bogus. If the EEOC (for example) is relying on census data to "combat discrimination", it probably means they can't make an actual case using facts about discriminatory treatment.


  • We haven't dumped on Robin DiAngelo, author of the best-selling book White Fragility, for a while now. But Coleman Hughes does the good work in City Journal: Black Fragility?.

    DiAngelo’s book does more than rehearse the familiar tenets of Critical Race Theory (CRT)––racism is systemic and pervasive; race-blind standards are really white supremacist standards in disguise; lived experience confers special knowledge on victims of racism; and so on—it also uses simple and direct language to teach white people how to talk about race from a CRT perspective. Drawing on her academic work as well as her experience providing corporate diversity training, DiAngelo puts forth her theory of “white fragility”—a set of psychological defense mechanisms that white people use in order to avoid acknowledging their own racism. These defense mechanisms include “silence, defensiveness, argumentation, certitude, and other forms of pushback” in the face of racism accusations.

    At first glance, it may be hard to understand why such a punishing message would appeal to a white audience. But on closer inspection, the appeal of DiAngelo’s message derives from her masterful exploitation of white guilt. As Shelby Steele has observed, white guilt is less a guilt than a terror—terror at the thought that one might be racist. If one has never felt this terror, then it may be hard to understand how intolerable it can be, and how welcome any alleviation is.

    DiAngelo understands all this and exploits it masterfully. Like most antiracist literature, White Fragility spends considerable time telling white people that they’re racist, but with a crucial twist—it’s not their fault. “A racism-free upbringing is not possible,” she writes, “because racism is a social system embedded in the culture and its institutions. We are born into this system and have no say in whether we will be affected by it.” For DiAngelo, white supremacy is like the English language. If you’re born in America, you learn it without trying. Racism, in her view, transforms from a shameful sin to be avoided into a guiltless birthmark to be acknowledged and accepted.

    Hughes notes that DiAngelo's recommendations are fundamentally condescending toward blacks. Whites are asked to "refrain from crying around blacks." Because that's triggering.

    But: "Holding back tears to spare others’ emotions is not something that adults do around their equals; it’s what parents do around children."


  • David Harsanyi is enthusiastic about one outcome of the election: This election only reinforced the value of the Electoral College. An interesting point here:

    Most free nations don’t have democratic majority votes for their ­executives. Parliamentary systems, for example, aren’t national polls. Between 1935 and 2017, the majority of British voters backed the party that formed a government on only two occasions. Voters don’t even cast a ballot directly for the prime minister. In 2019, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau “lost” the “popular vote.” By eliminating the Electoral College, we are far more likely to spark the creation of smaller parties that would keep presidents from gaining a majority. Of historical interest: Vladimir Putin was elected through a direct national poll.

    As a practical matter, the Electoral College is probably here for good; you could never get enough states to ratify a Constitutional amendment to get rid of it.

URLs du Jour

2020-11-29

[Amazon Link]

  • Could it be possible to include a "Biden Sucks" item in every daily post? Maybe. In today's entry, Kevin D. Williamson looks at the New Normal: Joe Biden cabinet setting presidency up to be 'Swamp Things 2'.

    After a summer of discontent driven in part by protests against racial injustice and in part by the not-altogether-unrelated desire of a great many Americans to be rid of Donald Trump, Joe Biden has responded to his party’s call for sweeping social change by taking a deep dive into the Ivy League trash heap and coming up with the pale desiccated carcass of John Kerry, the man whose chiseled face appears next to the entry for “mediocrity” in the American political dictionary.

    Kerry is leading a parade of familiar faces, a hack pack if ever there were one.

    Mssr. Kerry of Switzerland’s Institut Montana Zugerberg and Yale will be joined in the administration by Anthony Blinken of the Dalton School and Harvard. Kerry will be a special envoy for climate issues, which will ensure that there is no bipartisan progress on climate issues, while Blinken, a sturdy Democratic time-server, will take over Kerry’s old job at State. Mike Donilon (prep school in Providence, then Georgetown), a ghastly political consultant, will serve Biden as a political consultant, though they’ll call him a “senior adviser.” Jen O’Malley Dillon, who has done almost nothing in her life except staff campaigns — a parade of losers and misfits including Al Gore, John Edwards, and Tom Daschle, before striking gold with Obama I and Obama II — will be deputy chief of staff. Janet Yellen, a Federal Reserve lifer who has served that institution in a number of capacities since the 1970s, will head up Treasury.

    We chuckle at a 78-year-old president, but John Kerry will be turning a sprightly 77 in a few weeks. And he wasn't that smart to begin with.


  • Speaking of overestimated intelligence, getting the Nobel in Economics doesn't mean you're going to be automatically good at Constitutional analysis. At Reason, Jacob Sullum notes that Paul Krugman Thinks Holding Religious Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic Is Like ‘Dumping Neurotoxins Into Public Reservoirs’.

    When the Supreme Court blocked New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's restrictions on religious services this week, it was the first time the justices had enforced constitutional limits on government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision predictably provoked hyperbolic reactions from critics who seem to think politicians should be free to do whatever they consider appropriate during a public health crisis.

    Describing the Court's emergency injunction in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo as "the first major decision from the Trump-packed court," New York Times columnist Paul Krugman warned that "it will kill people." He added: "The bad logic is obvious. Suppose I adhere to a religion whose rituals include dumping neurotoxins into public reservoirs. Does the principle of religious freedom give me the right to do that?" Krugman averred that "freedom of belief" does not include "the right to hurt other people in tangible ways—which large gatherings in a pandemic definitely do."

    It was a 5-4 decision, but Jacob notes that a couple of dissenters (Breyer and Roberts) also granted the possibility that Cuomo's decree might have violated the free exercise clause.

    Krugman is a clown.


  • The WSJ editorialists look at The Social Media Fact-Check Farce. Probably paywalled, but…

    In recent years liberals have successfully lobbied social-media companies to police conservative content more and more aggressively. But there’s little evidence that this political interference has reduced the prevalence of misinformation online—and a new study shows how it could make the problem worse.

    In the study—by Dino Christenson of Boston University and Sarah Kreps and Douglas Kriner of Cornell—volunteers were shown a May 26 tweet by President Trump attacking mail-in voting and claiming that “Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed.”

    Groups of participants were also shown “corrections” to Mr. Trump’s tweet, including Twitter’s “explanatory text labeling the claims ‘unsubstantiated’ according to major media outlets, including CNN and the Washington Post.”

    Conservatives did not find mainstream-media assurances convincing. For Republicans who were shown Twitter’s effort to debunk the President, “belief that mail voter fraud occurs was more than 13% higher than in the control.” Or as the authors put it, “corrections increased misperceptions among those predisposed to believe President Trump.”

    Great job, Twitter: In your Resistance zeal, you may have increased the salience of the mail-fraud idea among Mr. Trump’s core supporters. The overall effect was a wash, the authors find, because Democrats were more likely to believe the corrections. But when it comes to Republicans, the site may have played into Mr. Trump’s hands.

    I'm no Trump fan by any stretch, but I'm likely to view a Twitter "fact check" as synonymous with "Leftists are afraid of this idea."


  • Ilya Shapiro writes at Cato over a fantasy-football exercise in governmental design: The Libertarian, Progressive, and Conservative Constitutions. Ilya was on "Team Freedom", and here's a sample of their approach:

    We also circumscribed executive power (as did the other groups in certain ways), including by allowing for impeachment of federal officials for "behavior that renders them unfit for office." We made sure that Congress couldn't coerce the states -- the states are allowed to choose block grants instead of federal funding with regulatory strings -- while a supermajority of the states can reverse a federal law or regulation. And we strengthened or made more explicit what we now consider to be protections under the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments, as well as -- my favorite -- protecting the right to the “fruits of one’s labors” and adding a catch-all “right to live a peaceful life of one’s choosing.” You can read our constitution here.

    It's a good primer on what good thinkers from different ideological camps share, and where they differ.

URLs du Jour

2020-11-28

  • Howie Carr on Twitter provides the rhetorical stylings of our (sorry, conspiracy theorists) President-Elect:

    At Liberty Unyielding, Ben Bowles speculates on mispronunciation:

    The word he substitutes, palmist, is especially unfortunate since it is a term for some one who engages in palmistry, or telling one’s fortune by reading his palm — a practice pretty far removed from organized religion. Then again, like that other devout Catholic on the Democratic side, Nancy Pelosi, Biden tends to be a Sunday Christian, if that. In seeking the Democratic nomination, he renounced his career-long support for the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of federal funds to pay for abortion except to save the life of the woman or if the pregnancy arises from incest or rape. Talk about your deals with the devil!

    I'm pretty sure Kamala Harris can recite Section 4 of the 25th Amendment in her sleep, backwards.


  • At City Journal, Theodore Darlymple muses on a simple, underused, four-letter word: The Age of Cant. No apostrophe. He thinks "hypocrisy", a near-but-not-quite synonym has a bad rap in comparison.

    Cant is more destructive than hypocrisy because it is harder to expose and because a humbug deceives himself as well as others, while a mere hypocrite retains some awareness; he is a rogue rather than a villain. Cant is the vehement public expression of concern for others, or of anger at an opinion casting doubt on some moral orthodoxy that is not, and cannot be, genuinely felt, its vehemence being a shield for insincerity and lack of confidence in the orthodox opinion. Doctor Johnson defined cant as “a whining pretension to goodness, in formal and affected terms.” Cant is contagious, and, when widespread, it creates an atmosphere in which people are afraid to call it by its name. Arguments then go by default; and if arguments go by default, ludicrous, bad, or even wicked policies result.

    I think that we live in an era of cant. I do not say that it is the only such age. But it has never been, at least in my lifetime, as important as it is now to hold the right opinions and to express none of the wrong ones, if one wants to avoid vilification and to remain socially frequentable. Worse still, and even more totalitarian, is the demand for public assent to patently false or exaggerated propositions; refusal to kowtow in such circumstances becomes almost as bad a sin as uttering a forbidden view. One must join in the universal cant—or else.

    I'll try to do better.


  • The newish "CapitalMatters" section of National Review brings us Andrew Stuttaford on the Davos Great Reset: The Culmination of Corporatism. He notes that it even has its own website, which seems to be (and I hope I'm getting this right) exactly the sort of thing Theodore Darlymple is talking about. "Partners" in the Great Reset include "Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, IBM, IKEA, Lockheed Martin, Ericsson and Deloitte."

    Not a partner: me. Probably you neither.

    Recently, one expression of corporatism, “stakeholder capitalism,” has won strong support on both sides of the Atlantic. This might be expected in Europe, but that it has been taken up by the Business Roundtable and many leading firms in the U.S. — allegedly a bastion of both free enterprise and democracy — is depressing. Looked at optimistically, the BRT and its C-suite cheerleaders are useful idiots. Looked at realistically, they are part of a managerial class grubbing for the power that flows from other people’s money.

    Stakeholder capitalism rests on the notion that a company’s management owes a duty to more than its shareholders. It’s something that Klaus Schwab, the WEF’s founder and executive chairman, has been advocating for a long time. A key feature of the Great Reset is the idea that stakeholder capitalism should, one way or another, be adopted.

    I just hope the folks handling my portfolio are nimble enough to ride this seemingly inevitable wave instead of getting pulled under.


  • Also at NR, Kevin D. Williamson writes on more down-to-earth econ: Shopping Superstitions.

    It’s the boss-bossiest time of the year, when Americans getting ready to open up their wallets to buy Christmas presents are lectured by illiterate halfwits about where and how to spend their money. The usual demands: Buy local, or buy from small businesses.

    This is pure nonsense, and you should feel free to ignore it.

    The “buy local” people insist that if you choose, say, your locally owned coffee shop over Starbucks, then the money you spend there will somehow stay in the community, hanging around and providing additional economic benefits. But that isn’t how money works: Most businesses spend most of what they take in and then put the rest in the bank, where it becomes global capital.

    And local businesses do not generally spend their money locally — they can’t. I like my local coffee shop, and I am pretty sure that it does not buy its coffee locally, because I do not live in Colombia or Brazil or Vietnam, and it doesn’t buy its to-go cups from a local maker, since it is not in the shadow of a paper-goods factory, etc. Its lease is probably held by an out-of-town entity, along with its loans. Its espresso machine probably came from Italy or Germany, maybe Hong Kong.

    Fully of insight, as usual, and he avoids the term "comparative advantage". Bonus quip: "The people who want you to believe otherwise are the same ones who want you to give up Bordeaux for wine made in Missouri or Oregon or Illinois — i.e., people who are not to be trusted."

    Fortunately, I'm good with my plonk, Kevin.


  • Apparently my CD shelf is fuller of libertarian artists than I previously expected. The Washington Times reports: Eric Clapton joins Van Morrison's anti-lockdown campaign with new song, 'Stand and Deliver'.

    Music legend Eric Clapton is joining Van Morrison’s efforts to reopen the live music industry amid the coronavirus pandemic by releasing a new anti-lockdown song called, “Stand and Deliver.”

    The song, which was written by Mr. Morrison and performed by Mr. Clapton, will debut Dec. 4 and the proceeds will go toward Mr. Morrison’s Lockdown Financial Hardship Fund, which supports U.K. musicians who are facing financial hardship because of widespread government restrictions on live music, Variety reported.

    “There are many of us who support Van and his endeavors to save live music; he is an inspiration,” Mr. Clapton told Variety. “We must stand up and be counted because we need to find a way out of this mess. The alternative is not worth thinking about. Live music might never recover.”

    Lads, let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic.

URLs du Jour

2020-11-27

Hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. We did Zoom Feast with old people upstairs, kids downstairs. It worked out.

  • Daniel Mitchell wishes us a Happy Thanksgiving from America’s Hypocritical Politicians. Example (from NBC News):

    Denver’s mayor is explaining himself and offering an apology after he traveled to Mississippi for Thanksgiving, though he had urged others to stay home if possible because of the coronavirus pandemic. …The mayor’s trip comes as officials in Colorado have warned about a steep increase in Covid-19 cases that threatens to stress the hospital system, and after warnings from the governor and others to keep Thanksgiving gatherings small and safe. …The station reported he traveled to Houston for the Mississippi trip, and that his account tweeted the guidance to stay home about 30 minutes before his flight.

    Conclusion:

    They genuinely think that they should be exempt from all the nonsensical policies that they impose on everyone else.

    "Indeed." I'd add that the politicians' perceptions of risk may well be accurate and appropriate for their own cases. It's just they don't trust their subjects to exercise the same judgment.


  • Jeff Jacoby observes: The coronavirus curfews make no sense.

    Did you know that the coronavirus, like vampires and werewolves, is deadliest after dark? I didn't either, but it must be true. What other justification can there be for the imposition of curfews on residents and businesses in Massachusetts, Ohio, New York, and elsewhere by governors who claim their purpose is to control the spread of COVID-19?

    In Massachusetts earlier this month, Governor Charlie Baker issued his 53rd "emergency" order , requiring 16 categories of facilities — from restaurants, arcades, golf courses, and drive-in theaters to gyms, zoos, flight schools, and museums — to close their doors to the public by 9:30 each night. Though the order is 5½ single-spaced pages long, it contains not a single sentence explaining how Massachusetts will be better protected from the coronavirus if residents who are permitted to go out for pizza or to work out at 7:45 pm are barred from doing so at 9:45 pm. Neither does the accompanying "advisory ," which counsels all residents of the state to stay home between 10 pm and 5 am.

    I don't know how Governor Baker spent his Thanksgiving, so we'll let him off the "hypocrisy" charge.

    But it seems clear that he (like even some pols up here in New Hampshire) has succumbed to the "do something" mantra. He needs to be seen as "doing something", even if it's stupid.

    And, to be overly fair to Charlie, that's probably what a significant fraction of the Massachusetts citizenry demands.


  • At Reason, Jacob Sullum notes a downside: Senseless Restrictions on Outdoor Activities Undermine the Goal of Curbing COVID-19. After reciting numerous (and when I say "numerous", I mean a lot of) examples of such restrictions:

    There are several problems with these restrictions on outdoor activities. First, many of them are inconsistent and scientifically dubious. Second, foreclosing opportunities for people to recreate or gather outside is apt to increase the risk of virus transmission indoors, especially in private settings where the authorities have no idea what is happening, even if they are notionally imposing limits there. Third, arbitrary COVID-19 edicts that make life more inconvenient and less enjoyable for no rational reason foster resentment and defiance, which make compliance with reasonable safeguards less likely. In their determination to seem like they are doing something to slow the spread of COVID-19, many politicians are actively undermining that goal.

    One of the nanny-state guidelines from the Left Coast: "Californians should not travel significant distances for recreation." What's "significant"? They seem to say it involves driving 2-3 hours. Is that one way or round trip? And what if there's a traffic jam? I understand they have those in California.


  • The current statist mindset seems to be: Hey, as long as we're doing Covid mandates, we might as well mandate some other stuff too. I was surprised to learn from David Harsanyi at National Review of the growing demands for mandatory voting.

    We encourage American to vote as if it is the only rite of a citizen, without any corresponding expectations. And as if that constant cultural haranguing to vote weren’t annoying enough, after every election, no matter how many people participate, there is a campaign to force everyone to do it.

    “America Needs Compulsory Voting,” writes a professor in Foreign Affairs. “A Little Coercion Can Do a Lot for Democracy.” “1 In 3 Americans Didn’t Vote. Should We Force Them To Next Time?” asks BuzzFeed.

    Ideally, in a free nation, the answer to “should we force them?” is almost always “no.” But for the folks at places such as the Brookings Institution and Harvard University’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, the answer is almost always “yes.” In July, these think tanks laid out their case for mandatory voting in a report titled “Lift Every Voice: The Urgency of Universal Civic Duty Voting.” I wish I could whip up an equally anodyne euphemism for “ugly authoritarian instinct,” but none immediately comes to mind.

    Also ugly: the reaction to people who point out ugly authoritarian instincts.

URLs du Jour

Thanksgiving 2020

Among the things I'm thankful for today is the continuing brilliance of Mr. Michael Ramirez. [Happy Thanksgiving]

And there's that whole "being alive and (mostly) healthy and wealthy in 21st Century America". As much as I gripe, it beats the hell out of whatever's in second place.

  • If you haven't heard the story, get it from Drew Cline at the Josiah Bartlett Center: How private property saved the Pilgrims from socialist misery.

    The 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ landing in the New World is a time to reflect on important lessons we want our children to remember about America’s founding. One of the most critical is that hippie communes don’t work.

    Yes, the Pilgrims who arrived in Massachusetts in 1620 promptly tried to create a socialist workers paradise.

    Like all other socialist paradises, it left a failed legacy of starvation and death.

    Next year will be the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving. Hope you and I will both be around for that.


  • Scoring 9.998 on Pun Salad's ReadTheWholeThing Scale is Kevin D. Williamson at National Review: On Being Grateful for Our Gifts and Blessings. Really. It's insightful and moving all the way through. I almost hate to excerpt, but:

    Christians take a distinctly radical view: that suffering is neither an evil to be evaded nor a punishment handed out routinely, like some kind of divine speeding ticket, but something to be entered into willingly in order to become not godlike but more fully and more perfectly human. We learn to be grateful not only for the alleviation of suffering but for the suffering itself — that, too, is a gift. We discover ultimate gratitude when we discover the Ultimate Object of our gratitude. Learning that ultimate gratitude does not necessarily mean wandering around the desert in a supernatural daze, though that has worked for many great men in the past. Some of them even sought out such a wild place as Massachusetts, landing there in the winter in rickety boats, like madmen. They went ashore and gave thanks to God.

    We need not go so far, and, besides, we have business to attend to here at home, to which our attention is likely to be enforced for a few more months. Gratitude may not make us saints, but it should leave us cheerful, useful, modest, and patient, and ever mindful of those gifts and blessings that we could not possibly hope to deserve.

    Whether I can be considered a Christian is a matter of opinion, but that's one Christian view I can buy into.


  • On to the stuff we're not thankful for. Specifically, another cancellation, as reported by Jerry Coyne at Why Evolution is True: A respected journalist is bullied out of the Guardian. That journalist is Suzanne Moore, who dared pen a column that "trans women" differ from biological women in some … um … important respects. From Ms. Moore's farewell:

    The censorship continues and I cannot abide it. Every day another woman loses her job and a witch-burning occurs on Twitter. My fear is not about trans people but an ideology that means the erasure of women — not just the word, but of our ability to name and describe our experience. We are now cervix-havers, birthing parents, people who menstruate. On Amnesty’s latest posters to support the women’s strike in Poland, the literal translation from Polish for the thousands of women who were protesting the awful tightening of abortion laws was: “I stand with people in Poland”. Which people? Women forced to give birth on a plastic sheet to a dead baby with foetal defects? Say it.

    Things are getting more Orwellian by the day, it seems.


  • At the Volokh Conspiracy, the founding conspirator, Eugene, describes the state of play at the University of Maryland: UMD Public Policy School Mandating Ideological Statements on Syllabus, Requiring That Class “Materials” and “Discussions” “Respect All Forms of Diversity”. Here's (apparently) the text:

    Diversity Inclusion and Belonging in the School of Public Policy

    Commitment to an Inclusive Classroom

    It is my intent, as well as the stated policy of the School, that students from all backgrounds and perspectives will be well-served by this course. The diversity the students bring to this class will be seen and treated as a resource, strength and benefit. Materials, discussions, and activities will respect all forms of diversity. All students are expected to promote this aim through their words, actions, and suggestions. If something is said or done in this course, either by myself, students, or guests, that is troubling or causes offense, please let me know right away. The impact of what happens in this course is important and deserving of attention. If you ever do not feel comfortable discussing the issue directly with me, I encourage you to bring the issue to an advisor, administrator or the School of Public Policy Equity Officer.

    Pronouns and Self Identification

    We invite you, if you wish, to tell us how you want to be referred to, both in terms of your name and your pronouns (she/her, he/him, they/them, etc.). The pronouns someone indicates are not necessarily indicative of their gender identity. Visit trans.umd.edu to learn more.

    Land Acknowledgement

    We acknowledge that we are gathered on the stolen land of the Piscataway Conoy people and were founded upon the erasures and exploitation of many non-European peoples. You can find more information about the Piscataway Conoy Tribe at http://www.piscatawayconoytribe.com. For more information about the University of Maryland's project for a richer understanding of generations of racialized trauma rooted in the institution visit https://go.umd.edu/SNW.

    Suggested placements: We suggest this statement should be placed just prior to or after the learning outcomes in the syllabus as well as prominent within your ELMS site. Faculty should vocally review these statements within class as well.

    Eugene notes the creepiness of the school mandating that the syllabus language be "set forth in the professor's voice", obfuscating its origins.


  • And, boy, it's been a long time since I saw anything interesting on a certain site I used to frequent all the time. At Tablet magazine, Armin Rosen wonders: Who Really Runs The Drudge Report?.

    It was the kind of story that would once have had Matt Drudge deploying font sizes that newspapers used to reserve for declarations of war. On Oct. 14, Twitter and Facebook blocked users from spreading a New York Post article alleging that Hunter Biden had brokered meetings between his father, then the vice president of the United States, and executives at a Ukrainian energy firm where the younger Biden held an $80,000-a-month sinecure. The Post’s article included photos of what appeared to be an exhausted and intoxicated-looking Biden in various states of undress.

    Yet the controversy over tech companies restricting the spread of a story unflattering to the Democratic presidential contender was nowhere to be seen in the upper half of The Drudge Report—once the most coveted and agenda-setting real estate in right-of-center media. “RECORD TURNOUT ALARMS REPUBLICANS... BIDEN +7 GA,” screamed the top headlines on Oct. 15.

    Drudge—the real guy—may not be that involved any more.