URLs du Jour

2018-04-19

[Amazon Link]

  • I really like Proverbs 14:33:

    33 Wisdom reposes in the heart of the discerning
        and even among fools she lets herself be known.

    A little bit of optimism there for the foolish; even in their sorry state, they catch a glimpse of something different and better. There's still a chance.

    Note that "The Message" "translation" seems to botch this:

    33 Lady Wisdom is at home in an understanding heart—
        fools never even get to say hello.

    I.e., fools helplessly lost in their foolishness. Sad!


  • At Quillette, Adam Perkins writes on The Scientific Importance of Free Speech.

    When one side of a scientific debate is allowed to silence the other side, this is an impediment to scientific progress because it prevents bad theories being replaced by better theories. Or, even worse, it causes civilization to go backward, such as when a good theory is replaced by a bad theory that it previously displaced. The latter situation is what happened in the most famous illustration of the dire consequences that can occur when one side of a scientific debate is silenced. This occurred in connection with the theory that acquired characteristics are inherited. This idea had been out of fashion for decades, in part due to research in the 1880s by August Weismann. He conducted an experiment that entailed amputating the tails of 68 white mice, over 5 generations. He found that no mice were born without a tail or even with a shorter tail. He stated: “901 young were produced by five generations of artificially mutilated parents, and yet there was not a single example of a rudimentary tail or of any other abnormality in this organ.”

    People acquainted with the term "Lysenkoism" know what's coming next.

    But the real punchline in Perkins' article is right at the top:

    Editor’s note: this is a shortened version of a speech that the author was due to give last month at King’s College London which was canceled because the university deemed the event to be too ‘high risk’.

    Perkins has argued for a genetic basis for a number of socially dysfunctional traits. That is blasphemy. It must not be allowed.


  • Timothy Sandefur recently wrote a biography of Frederick Douglass in which he emphasized Douglass's antipathy toward socialism. In today's mail bag he replies to a reader who attempts to claim socialism as the true "anti-slavery" movement. The reader's bottom line:

    It could be said that libertarians are, on the whole far, more opposed to individual liberty than any true socialist.

    Sandefur's response (in full, because it's brilliant):

    Well, I suppose all sorts of stupid and false things "could be said," but they remain stupid and false.

    Douglass was right to see that socialism posed a risk of enslaving all of mankind instead of just one race, and Frederic Holland's warning about what would happen if it were attempted on a national scale proved correct. "True socialism" is, of course, a fantasy concocted by enemies of liberty to excuse the inevitable results that have flowed from their doctrine ever since their advent--and, no doubt, every time a socialist country degenerates into the typical symptoms of chaos and tyranny, they will continue to deploy that worn, pathetic excuse, "That's not true socialism"--like some hallucinating patient in his death throes insisting "This isn't true syphillis."

    But the reality of the matter is that slavery is, as its great advocate George Fitzhugh called it, the truest form of socialism, because it subordinates the individual to the interests of others, and compels him to work for others' benefit. Socialists may indeed, for pragmatic and tactical reasons, take stands against particular incidents of slavery, just as one religious sect boldly opposes the cruel religious establishment that oppresses the natives of some foreign land--not, indeed, because they believe in liberty, but because they desire the opportunity to oppress those people themselves, without competition from their rivals. The true doctrine of liberty, as Douglass rightly saw, is that each person be free from compulsion, to live his own life for his own sake on his own terms, without being subordinated to the interests of anyone else, and free to enjoy the fruits of his labors in freedom.

    Now, please, don't go telling me that that's what "True Socialism" is about. I've heard it all before.

    I have placed Sandefur's book on the things-to-read list.


  • At the NYT Christopher Buckley remembers Barbara Bush as Mrs. No-Nonsense. He was a speechwriter for GHWB, and occasionally observed… well, I liked this story:

    If she was Mrs. No-Nonsense, she also had a playful, even girlish, side to her. On one occasion, I was alone in a freight elevator with Mr. and Mrs. Bush and their Secret Service detail when it got stuck between floors. Stuck elevators are viewed grimly by the Secret Service. The atmosphere inside quickly elevated (as it were) to Condition Red, with hands reaching for the holstered Glock 9’s, orders barked into wrist-mics and all the rest.

    The Bushes were blithe. I was standing behind them. Mr. Bush’s fingers reached for Mrs. Bush’s derrière and gave it a pinch. She turned to him and grinned like an 18-year-old. “Hi ya, fellah,” she said. So I can claim to have witnessed a primal scene between Mom and Dad Bush.

    I am somewhat surprised by the amount of media coverage devoted to Mrs. Bush's passing. But it allows us to remember a decent lady.


  • And there's even an LFOD connection (revealed via our Google News Alert): at WMUR, Gov. Sununu recalls ‘honorary Granite Stater’ Barbara Bush as ‘impassioned,’ yet ‘down-to-earth’. Our current governor, Chris Sununu, met the Bushes when his dad (John) worked in the White House.

    The governor called the Bushes “honorary Granite Staters.”

    “They spent a lot of time here,” he said. “They really understood what New Hampshire was all about. I think they shared a lot of the values that folks in New Hampshire really believe in – that ‘Live Free or Die’ spirit. It was something they really grew fond of and appreciated.”

    If only that "LFOD spirit" had held him to his "Read my lips, no new taxes pledge…


  • The Heartland Institute interviews NH State Rep Bill Ohm, who is angling toward Giving the Slip to Government Permission Slips.

    New Hampshire State Rep. Bill Ohm (R- Nashua) joins the Heartland Daily Podcast to talk about lawmakers’ work to reform occupational licensing and get people back to work in the Live Free or Die State.

    Ohm, the sponsor of House Bill 1685, says the bill will create a state commission to review and overhaul the state’s many burdensome and arbitrary regulations requiring individuals to obtain occupational licenses before entering a job.

    Unfortunately, the bill was killed earlier this month, thanks to six Republican state senators (Birdsell, Carson, Gannon, Gray, Innis, Reagan). Joining nine Democrats voting "inexpedient to legislate". Innis is especially painful, I liked him.

URLs du Jour

2018-04-18

[Amazon Link]

  • I am not sure of the best way to read Proverbs 14:32:

    32 When calamity comes, the wicked are brought down,
        but even in death the righteous seek refuge in God.

    Turning to other translations doesn't help much.

    The "Message" translation favored for those who like their translations not to be accurate translations: "The evil of bad people leaves them out in the cold; the integrity of good people creates a safe place for living." Ssh, there's no need to mention that death thing!


  • David French at NR reports: California Progressives Launch (Another) Attack on Free Speech. What, again? It is spurred by a Jonathan Chait article that wonders why more Republicans, justly disgusted with their party, don't become Democrats.

    It’s interesting, for example, that Chait makes the argument just as the California State Assembly is set to vote on a bill that would actually — among other things — ban the sale of books expressing orthodox Christian beliefs about sexual morality.

    Such beliefs are heresy against the new secular religion whirling around issues of sex and "gender expression". And heresy cannot be allowed.


  • At Reason, J.D. Tuccille notes the asymmetric concern about disclosure of "sensitive information": Facebook’s Use of Data May Annoy You, But IRS Handling of Your Sensitive Information Is Truly Chilling.

    As we argue over the propriety of Facebook hoovering up personal (but not especially sensitive) information that users voluntarily gave to the social media company, it's a good time to remember that many of us are right now surrendering delicate details of our life to an even less trustworthy entity—the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)—and we have no choice.

    Using a feature of Facebook that was abandoned in 2015, third-party apps were, for several years, able to compile fairly detailed profiles on users who installed them. Among other destinations, the information made it to political campaigns for use in targeted electioneering (variously characterized as innovative when the Obama campaign bragged about its tech savvy, and nefarious when it benefited Trump). This info-siphoning struck many people as creepy as hell (almost certainly why Facebook killed the feature three years ago), but it was based on freely surrendered data through a service that nobody was compelled to use. Anybody uncomfortable with Facebook's policies can just close their account (or creatively populate it with bogus info).

    J. D. alludes to something we've mentioned in the past: you have no obligation to tell the truth when answering nosy questions from social media sites.

    In fact, when you're asked to provide answers to "security questions" to "protect your account", it's far more secure to lie your ass off.


  • Dave Barry shares his sweet memories of the late Harry Anderson. Harry played a fictionalized version of Dave on TV, "Dave's World".

URLs du Jour

2018-04-17

[Amazon Link]

  • We haven't had a lot of Proverbs recently about the poor, but Proverbs 14:31 attempts to make up for that:

    31 Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker,
        but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

    Note that these Proverbs were written when nearly everyone was dirtier-than-dirt poor. The Proverbialist needed an ancient Israeli version of Deirdre N. McCloskey (e.g., our Amazon link du jour) to discover the best way to stop oppressing the poor: use trade-tested betterment to make them unpoor.


  • At Reason, Eric Boehm reports that a Government Watchdog Says Pruitt's $43,000 Phone Booth Broke the Law. Oh oh.

    A soundproof phone booth built for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt cost more than $43,000 and circumvented federal rules for office renovations, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

    In an eight-page letter to congressional Democrats, who had requested a review of Pruitt's phone booth project after reports of it surfaced in the press, GAO General Counsel Thomas Armstrong wrote that the EPA violated two federal laws by failing to notify Congress before spending the money and by using those funds in a manner prohibited by law. The second violation is a function of the first—because the agency did not notify Congress, the funds used to build the phone booth were not legally "available" when the EPA used them.

    The bigger question might be why Pruitt needed a phone booth that costs as much as a brand new BMW.

    Boehm lists off some of Pruitt's admirable EPA reforms, and people who favor prosperity instead of overregulation should check that out. But (bottom line) maybe we could get those same reforms established by someone who doesn't spend taxpayer money like a drunken sailor.


  • Lifezette reporter Brendan Kirby calls attention to: Big Tech Leading Censorship ‘War’ on Conservatives, Report Says.

    Censorship by social media giants is the new front in the “war” on conservative thought — and conservatives are badly losing it, according to a comprehensive study released Monday by a media watchdog group.

    OK, so here's the thing. Well, actually, a number of things. The study is brought to us by the Media Research Center (MRC), which is fine.

    But in order to see the "study", you (apparently) need to go to https://info.mrc.org/censored, a page which will allow you to enter your first name and e-mail address in exchange for "an email containing your digital copy of the full report". And (unless you uncheck some boxes) also subscribe you to some MRC newsletters.

    Uh, no thanks.

    In addition, the summaries of the MRC study suggest that it may be primarily, if not entirely, based on news reports and research done elsewhere. (E.g., this 2016 Gizmodo story that quoted "former Facebook workers" claiming they "routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers".) Any original research that I haven't seen elsewhere, MRC?


  • The Verge reports on something you may have forgotten long ago: OLPC’s $100 laptop was going to change the world — then it all went wrong.

    It was supposed to be the laptop that saved the world.

    In late 2005, tech visionary and MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte pulled the cloth cover off a small green computer with a bright yellow crank. The device was the first working prototype for Negroponte’s new nonprofit One Laptop Per Child, dubbed “the green machine” or simply “the $100 laptop.” And it was like nothing that Negroponte’s audience — at either his panel at a UN-sponsored tech summit in Tunis, or around the globe — had ever seen.

    It didn't work out, yet another—literal—academic scheme to end-run mainstream hardware manufacturers to commodify cheap computing for the third-world masses.

    I played with one once, wangled by a UNH education prof who asked me to help get it on the wireless network. And then I forgot about this would-be world-saving device until now.

    Good thing to remember when some guru comes up with the next grand scheme.


  • The Google LFOD News Alert rang for this WMUR story: Steven Mnuchin, Ivanka Trump heading to Derry to discuss tax reform law. It's happening today! But unless you're already invited, don't bother to just show up: it's closed to hoi polloi.

    A senior Trump administration official said Monday that 150 invited guests will be in the audience at the Derry Opera House on Tuesday for a discussion of the Republican tax reform plan signed into law in December by President Donald Trump.

    As WMUR reported Sunday, Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, who is officially an advisor to the president, and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, will be in New Hampshire on Tax Day to discuss the plan. Former Gov. John H. Sununu will moderate the event, which is not open to the general public.

    But where's LFOD? Ah, there:

    The [aforementioned senior Trump administration] official said that Sununu “celebrates the fact that New Hampshire has a history and tradition of being a state that lives by its motto, ‘Live Free or Die,’ and that includes lower taxes.”

    But, agin, LFOD does not imply that you can just show up at the Derry Opera House and expect to get in to chat up Steve and Ivanka.


  • A funny article at the Daily Mail: Parents reveal the VERY strange things they've taught their children to say - purely for their own amusement. Example: a young man teaching his toddler brother to say something picked up off a billboard: "micro-surgical vasectomy reversal". And added: "He didn't stop saying it for literal[ly] years."

    But also:

    And one confused user remembered his parents rather unique way of dealing with tantrums, writing: 'Whenever my brother threw a tantrum as a baby my parents would chant 'live free or die' until he calmed down it was weird'.

    Must have been Granite Staters.


  • And James Lileks also brought back memories of old Mac Warehouse ads at the Bleat. After some discussion of tax procrastination:

    Don’t think I was ever that bad, but I had a few years of shaving it close, because the anxiety produced by contemplating the forms - THE GOVERNMENT FORMS - made me put it off, and then I’d say “it’s time to get down to it” and I’d drive to Prof. Egghead for software. Ah, damn. They’re out. Well, let’s call Kerry at MacWarehouse. Maybe she’ll pick up.

    Don't remember Kerry? Well, if you're a computer geek of a Certain Age (basically, alive in the 80s), click over. You will.

URLs du Jour

2018-04-16

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 14:30 is, in all honesty, a timeless bit of wisdom. Definitely an above-average Proverb:

    30 A heart at peace gives life to the body,
        but envy rots the bones.

    Envy is a deadly sin, of course, so you shouldn't do it. But it's not only bad, it's bad for you.

    (And, as Helmut Schoeck noted, when it's uncontrolled, it can work out very badly for your country. See the Amazon link du jour.)


  • Somersworth (NH) High School Principal John Shea penned an op-ed in my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat: Urge Kittery Trading Post to stop selling assault-style rifles.

    With a photo ID and cash or a credit card, almost any of us (18 years or older) can walk into the Kittery Trading Post and purchase a semi-automatic assault rifle like the ones used in the massacres at Stoneman Douglas High, the Las Vegas music festival and Sandy Hook Elementary School – and some high-capacity magazines of 40 rounds each.

    It goes on from there, a remarkably detailed fantasy about which nearby schools a dedicated murderous psychotic could then proceed to shoot up. A disturbing, albeit probably unintentional, look into the dark corners of one Progressive's mindset. Shea urges his readers to join in a boycott of Kittery Trading Post until they stop selling the scary guns.

    I almost titled this post: "Urge John Shea to Mind His Own Business". Literally.

    Students at Somersworth High School scored an average 32% of students proficient for math and reading as tested by the NH Dept of Education. Performance is well below the state high school median of 50% proficiency and places the school's test performance in the bottom 12.8% of New Hampshire high schools.

    I haven't been to Kittery Trading Post in a while. I don't currently need a gun, but I could use a new pair of shoes and maybe some work gloves.


  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File is (mostly) about Paul Ryan, and his title is a classical reference: Cincinnatus Lays Down the PowerPoint. A long, but worthwhile, excerpt:

    The fact that Paul Ryan was a man out of place in his own party says far more about the state of the GOP than it does about the man. Consider this week alone:

    • A president who cheated on his first wife with his second and “allegedly” cheated on his third with a porn star is tweeting that Jim Comey is a “slimeball.”
    • The president’s personal PR team over at Hannity HQ is calling Robert Mueller the head of a crime family.
    • The CBO just announced that we’re in store for trillion-dollar deficits for as far as the eye can see.
    • The president is tweeting taunts about how his missiles are shinier toys than Putin’s.
    • The president’s nominee for secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, a once passionate and thoughtful defender of Congress’s sole right to authorize war, is now invoking law-review articles as justification for a president’s right to wage war on a whim.
    • The president’s lawyer’s office was raided by the FBI (not Bob Mueller’s team, by the way) after getting a warrant from a judge and following all of the onerous protocols of the Justice Department, and the former speaker of the House — and avowed historian — is insisting that the Cohen and Manafort raids are morally equivalent to the tactics of Stalin and Hitler. I’m pretty sure the Gestapo didn’t have “clean teams” to protect attorney-client privilege (particularly of dudes named “Cohen”), and last I checked the KGB wasn’t big on warrants.
    • On Monday evening, the president convened a televised war council and spent the first ten minutes sputtering about how outraged he was by an inquiry into a pay-off of his porn-star paramour.

    And people are shocked that Paul Ryan isn’t comfortable in Washington?

    Endangered species: GOP politicians with integrity. I know they're out there, but …


  • Janice Brown looks at a local curiousity: Samuel Joy and His Spite Tombstone in Durham New Hampshire. No excerpts, Janice discourages those, but it's an interesting bit of diligent research about poisonous posturing preserved for posterity.


  • Space.com recommends: This NASA Video Tour of the Moon in 4K Is Simply Breathtaking. It's a "greatest hits" compilation from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). I'm glad they didn't say "literally breathtaking", because my breath was not taken (but I didn't watch it in 4K either). It is very cool though.

    LRO data not only supports future human missions, but also provides more information about past landings from the Apollo program, all of which took place between 1969 and 1972. The spacecraft has imaged multiple landing sites, as well as the crash sites from the third stage of the mighty Saturn V rocket that lifted humans to the moon. The video zooms in on the Apollo 17 landing site in the Taurus-Littrow valley, revealing astronaut tracks, the rover and even the bottom half of the astronauts' lunar module, Challenger.

    Sobering thought: It's looking dicey as to whether I'll be around to see more humans on the moon. It was neat to be around to witness the first ones, though.


  • And Mr. Michael Ramirez comments on the "investigation":

URLs du Jour

2018-04-15

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 14:29 goes into the "timeless" pigeonhole:

    29 Whoever is patient has great understanding,
        but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.

    As you probably know, Patience is one of the seven heavenly virtues; but a hot temper is not necessarily a sin, unless it leads to Wrath.

    Jesus excepted.


  • Speaking of patience, Reason's Matt Welch has none with The Deep-State Liars of the #Resistance.

    During his half-century spent defending Americans' civil liberties, here's what has changed, according to lawyer Alan Dershowitz: "Now conservatives have become civil libertarians, and liberals have become strong supporters of law enforcement, the Justice Department and the FBI," the professor and pundit said after dining with President Trump on Tuesday night.

    That snorting sound you hear? That's a thousand libertarians shooting coffee through their noses at the notion that the GOP is newly sympathetic to issues of law enforcement overreach and intrusive investigative tools. Republicans had an opportunity as recently as three months ago to rein in warrantless snooping under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. What did they do? They voted overwhelmingly to reauthorize the practice for another six years: 191-45 among GOP members in the House, 43-7 in the Senate.

    So (if you have patience) wait a few years until the political winds shift, and you can watch the corresponding attitudes mutate once again.


  • Philip Greenspun peruses a recent position of the ACLU on an issue you might not expect: Why does the ACLU advocate for paid family and medical leave? Good question, and I especially like this observation:

    One area where the ACLU could make money is management consulting. In the pre-filled letter to send to politicians, the organization suggests that members write that, with this kind of law in place, “employers save money by retaining better staff”. Thus any rational employer should implement a paid leave system even in the absence of a law forcing them to do it. But profit-seeking employers are leaving money on the table, so to speak, by not paying workers to not work. So the ACLU could charge employers to educate them on the profit-enhancing technique that the ACLU knows about, but that employers don’t know about.

    The self-appointed experts that know everything about how businesses should be better run are thick on the ground. Thick in other ways, too.


  • Brought to us via the Google LFOD News Alert is this Union Leader article: Family-leave bill faces veto. Our Governor explains one of a number of reasons:

    "While I believe access to a paid-leave program would provide a benefit to some Granite Staters, it is not in our 'Live Free or Die' nature to force citizens to pay for a service they do not want," states Sununu. "HB 628's current opt-out provision is unduly burdensome on both employees and employers, and the need to have the opt-out document notarized is absolutely unnecessary and cumbersome."

    Now if he were only consistent. But the correct application of LFOD is appreciated where we can find it.


  • Ex-druggie Ryan Fowler of the Concord Monitor, on the other hand, invokes LFOD to explain New Hampshire casualties of the war on drugs.

    Clearly, the winner of the war on drugs is the prison industrial complex. The owners of federally and state contracted jails and prisons are profiting from this crisis at a loss to taxpayers. Disproportionate numbers of poor people and people of color are being locked up for simple drug possession, often to meet contractual detention quotas. These bad deals paved the way for handing out murder convictions for people who share drugs that result in death. These are called “death resulting” cases and have become common over the past year and a half in the Live Free or Die state. Most people who are charged this way are low-level drug users who simply share drugs. These policies help no one and conflict with Good Samaritan laws, keeping people from calling 911 during an overdose event.

    It's my impression that relatively few people are locked up for "simple drug posession" any more. Or even "share" drugs. But (nevertheless), Fowler's correct about the fatal incentives of current law.


  • Out in Michigan, the Mackinac Center (For Public Policy) notes a Strong Link Between Cigarette Tax and Illegal Smuggling Rates. And LFOD shows up, of course:

    At the opposite end of our smuggling spectrum, there are source states. The state with the highest outbound cigarette smuggling is New Hampshire, at a whopping 86 percent. That is, for every 100 smokes consumed in the Live Free or Die State, another 86 are smuggled out. This is not a function of New Hampshire having a particularly low tax rate ($1.78 per pack), but of having one that is just relatively lower than that of its neighbors. Idaho (25 percent), Wyoming (22 percent), Delaware (21 percent) and West Virginia (20 percent) round out the top five.

    New Hampshire's tobacco retailers give thanks every day to (a) God and (b) neighboring state legislatures. Probably in that order, but I'm not betting on that.

URLs du Jour

2018-04-14

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 14:28 gets into the mechanics of royalty:

    28 A large population is a king’s glory,
        but without subjects a prince is ruined.

    "I'm a prince!"

    "Yes. Well, exactly how many subjects do you have, Prince?"

    "Well, um…"

    "Uh huh. You're ruined! I read it in Proverbs!"


  • <voice imitation="professor_farnsworth">Good news, everyone</voice>: An excerpt from Jonah Goldberg's new book Suicide of the West is up at NR, and it's apparently free even to lowly non-subscribers. On the astounding fact of capitalistic modernity:

    Virtually every objective, empirical measure that capitalism’s critics value improved with the emergence of Western liberal-democratic capitalism. Did it happen overnight? Sadly, no. But in evolutionary terms, it did.

    Among economists and anthropologists, this is “settled science.” Economists left and right might bicker over minor details, but they agree that poverty is man’s natural environment. As economist Todd G. Buchholz puts it, “For most of man’s life on earth, he has lived no better on two legs than he had on four.” Nobel Prize–winning economist Douglass C. North and his colleagues write in Violence and Social Orders: A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History that “over the long stretch of human history before 1800, the evidence suggests that the long-run rate of growth of per capita income was very close to zero.” Economic historian David S. Landes is not exaggerating when he writes, “The Englishman of 1750 was closer in material things to Caesar’s legionnaires than to his own great-grandchildren.” For roughly 7,500 generations, everywhere in the world — ancient China and Rome, medieval Europe and Aztec-era Mexico — the average person lived on the equivalent of $3 per day.

    Hint: I have Jonah's book on my Amazon Wish List.


  • In one of the eye-rolling events of the past few days, President Trump has signalled his willingness to, um, revisit his decision to pull the US out of the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP). I.e., attempt to unbreak the dish he tossed on the floor. At NR, Veronique de Rugy points out: Rejoining TPP Won’t Be Easy. There are a lot of hurdles. But the bottom line:

    One final note, I don’t know much about international negotiations but I know that there is a reason why we tell our kids not be obnoxious in their dealing with others, even when they think they have the upper-hand or even if they believe they will never need other kids again. Nasty behaviors may come to bite you you know where at some point. This may be one of those moments for America. We, the people, may learn that painful lesson once again. Will the White House learn it too?

    The Pun Salad Magic 8-Ball says: "Outlook not so good".


  • In another eye-roller (as related by Eric Boehm at Reason), Trump Attacks Syria Without Congressional Authorization (or Clearly Defined Goals).

    The attack commences without two fundamental elements of any hostile engagement against another nation: authorization from Congress, and a clear understanding of the mission's aims. These are not mere technicalities, regardless of how often they have been brushed aside by various chief executives in the name of expediency.

    The childish "do something!" urge is bad enough when it motivates bad legislation; when it inspires warlike activity, it's certainly worse.


  • And of course, some CongressCritters object to the lack of authorization. But Congressman Justin Amash points out just how hypocritical the objections can be:

    For residents of New Hampshire CD1: Yes, of course Carol Shea-Porter signed the letter. She wasn't in Congress in 2013, so I won't speculate on her hypocrisy.


  • New Hampshire Commie Public Radio answers the perennial question: What Is The Free State Project? (brought to us via the crack Google LFOD News Alert Team). It's very nuts and bolts (or, you might say, fruits and nuts) about the inner stresses of the FSP, and the tactics of the anti-FSP folks too. For example, there's a movement to "out" current or former members of the FSP who run for political office.

    Yes: "Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Free State Project?"

    It’s a question that rubs Carla Gericke the wrong way, which isn’t surprising. Carla stepped down from the Free State Project in 2016 and is now running for state senate for the second time.

    "It seems very McCarthey-esque," she told me. "I mean, I could break down the Democratic Party into all kinds of little nuanced groups...maybe I'll send out a thing that asks, you know, 'Are you a socialist?'"

    In addition to running for state Senate, Carla is now heading the Foundation for New Hampshire Independence. Their mission is to “educate citizens on the benefits of the Live Free or Die state peacefully declaring its independence and separating from the federal government of the United States.”

    Yes, NHPR doesn't know how to spell "McCarthy".


  • And finally Michael Ramirez on the Facebook imbroglio:

    Closely related: "What, Facebook makes money from ads?!"


Last Modified 2018-04-14 10:58 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2018-04-13

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 14:27 claims advantages for a certain attitude toward the Deity:

    27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
        turning a person from the snares of death.

    The Bible refers to the fear of God a lot. It's a good thing. Unsurprisingly—OK, somewhat surprisingly—there's a Wikipedia page on the topic, in case you're confused about what that entails.


  • Reason's Matt Welch blows the First Amendment whistle on senators defying their oath to support and defend the Constitution: Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren Want the FCC to Revoke Sinclair's Broadcast Licenses.

    How stupid is the panic over Sinclair Broadcast Group's hamfisted, "must-run" promotional video decrying "fake news"? This stupid: Yesterday 12 senators, including reported presidential aspirants Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), officially requested that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) "investigate Sinclair's news activities to determine if it conforms to the public interest." If such an inquiry were to uncover "distorted news reports," the senators reckoned, that "could disqualify Sinclair from holding its existing licenses" and put the kibosh to its proposed purchase of Tribune Co. television stations.

    FCC Chair Ajit Pai easily shot down this attempt at unconstitutional thuggery.

    I am (slightly) relieved that neither New Hampshire senator signed the letter (linked above). However, I'm (again, slightly) disturbed by Massachusetts senator Edward J. Markey's signature. It appears he hasn't changed it since his fourth-grade penmanship class.


  • And is this irony? I can never tell: CFPB Hacked Hundreds of Times, Risking Sensitive U.S. Financial Data.

    The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, confirmed on Wednesday that it had been struck by at least 240 hack attacks and another 800 suspected hacks, jeopardizing mortgage information, Social Security numbers, and personal banking information of scores of Americans, according to congressional testimony.

    To repeat, "CFPB" stands for "Consumer Financial Protection Bureau". And its idea of "protection" extends to sloppily putting nearly every American's sensitive data at risk.

    But (fearless prediction) there won't be anywhere near the outrage directed at the CFPB that was aimed at (say) Equifax last year. Incompetence and misfeasance from government agencies is measured on a different scale than that in the private sector.

    Also see the 2015 Gold King Mine waste water spill, brought to you by the Environmental Protection Agency.


  • KC Johnson relays the latest news in Laura Kipnis's legal troubles. Her crime: Unwanted Candor.

    Amid a national debate about due process and fairness in campus Title IX adjudications, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently observed, “there’s been criticism of some college codes of conduct for not giving the accused person a fair opportunity to be heard, and that’s one of the basic tenets of our system, as you know: everyone deserves a fair hearing.” Few academics have more powerfully made these criticisms than Northwestern University professor Laura Kipnis, whose 2015 Chronicle of Higher Education essay lambasting Title IX’s application to campus sexual-assault and harassment allegations prompted a university Title IX investigation—against Kipnis herself. Though Kipnis was exonerated, the investigation was a form of punishment, since professors normally aren’t questioned by lawyers hired by their school as the result of publishing in their area of expertise. The experience prompted Kipnis to write Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus, which explores how Title IX has come to threaten the rights not only of accused students but also of faculty.

    One of the Title IX rights-threateners, Lauren Ledyon-Hardy, is suing Kipnis, and (incredibly) this lawsuit has been greenlighted by U.S. District Court Judge (and Obama appointee) Jack Blakey.

    Pun Salad wrote extensively about Laura Kipnis last year: here, here, here, here, a look at her book here, here, and here. I wish her good luck and a speedy deliverance from her legal harrassment.


  • I don't read the Onion much any more, but this is pretty good: Nabisco Snack Physicists Develop Highly Unstable Quadriscuits. Especially recommended if you follow the quantum computing news. I won't quote anything except the punchline: "Ellison added that the snack’s existence cannot be explained by classical Fig Newtonian physics."

URLs du Jour

2018-04-12

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 14:26 assures us that all will be well, if…

    26 Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress,
        and for their children it will be a refuge.

    Good to know, Proverbialist. Thanks. For those looking for something a little more, um, concrete, see our Amazon link du jour.


  • David Harsanyi (at the Federalist) has a takeaway from Mark Zuckerberg's Congressional inquisition: Zuckerberg Hearings Prove Government Shouldn’t Regulate Facebook.

    In the year 2018, at the height of The Russia Scare, the Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was hauled in front of a tribunal of tech-illiterate politicians and asked to explain himself. “It was my mistake, and I’m sorry,” Zuckerberg told senators upset about the company’s exploitation (and fumbling) of user data – which, unbeknownst to them, was social media’s entire business model.

    A number of panics have brought us to this preposterous place: The notion that Russian trolls on Facebook could swing the 2016 election and undermined our “democracy;” the idea that Facebook’s leftward bias is so corrosive the company should be regulated like a utility; and, finally, the general way in which social media tends to reveal the ugly side of human nature — which is indeed scary, but has little to do with any particular platform.

    Harsanyi is, as usual, an insightful commentator, picking whatever wisdom he can out of ongoing absurdities.


  • Tyler Cowan analyzes a Facebook regulatory proposal: Zeynep Tufekci’s Facebook solution — can it work? Spoiler: the proposal is vague, loaded with the feelgood adjectives ("clear", "concise", "transparent", "truly consensual"—as opposed to falsely consensual, I guess.)

    What instead?  I would instead start with the sentence “Most Americans don’t value their privacy or the security of their personal data very much,” and then discuss all the ways that limits regulation, or lowers the value of regulation, or will lead many well-intended regulations to be circumvented.  Next I would consider whether there are reasonable restrictions on social media that won’t just cement in the power of the big incumbents.  Then I would ask an economist to estimate the costs of regulatory compliance from the numerous lesser-known web sites around the world.  Without those issues front and center, I don’t think you’ve got much to say.

    Fine, Tyler, but I think…


  • Arnold Kling has a better approach in Let’s Compete with Facebook. Specifically, I like his opening:

    I am sick of reading about people who want to regulate Facebook. You didn’t come up with the idea. You didn’t build the business. Now that it’s here, who the heck do you think you are telling them how to run it?

    Ah, if only Zuck had said something like that to the Congresscritters. Like one of the heroic characters in an Ayn Rand novel. Alas…

    Arnold has a lot of ideas about what a better social media site would look like. Facebook is stupid.


  • Enough with Facebook Follies. At Reason, Steve Chapman goes Libertarian 101: Overdose Deaths Are the Product of Drug Prohibition

    During Prohibition, drinkers never knew what they would get when they set out to slake their thirst. Bootleggers often sold products adulterated with industrial alcohol and other toxins. Some 10,000 people were fatally poisoned before America gave up this grand experiment in suppressing vice.

    So it was a tragedy but not a total surprise when three deaths were reported in Illinois from synthetic marijuana laced with an ingredient (possibly rat poison) that caused severe bleeding. Nationally, in 2015, says the Drug Policy Alliance, "poison control centers received just under 10,000 calls reporting adverse reactions to synthetic cannabinoids, and emergency rooms received tens of thousands of patients."

    Nowadays, the politicos, aided by an uncritical media, measure their "compassion" on druggies by directing a firehose of taxpayer cash to those offering "treatment". E.g.:

    Or, in short: "Gimme more money."


  • Paul Ryan's going someplace saner than Congress next year. Dan McLaughlin writes at NR on Paul Ryan’s Missed Opportunities on Spending. Specifically, he wasted a lot of time and political capital on unfeasible entitlement reform, when he could have…

    Worse, over the past 15 months, Ryan failed to fix the system for budgeting, a goal that should have appealed to him as a Beltway veteran versed in the process from his time running the House Budget Committee. One of the reasons why it has been so hard to eliminate any individual category of spending is that the House deals only in massive all-or-nothing omnibus bills rather than break down appropriations into smaller pieces that can be individually debated and voted on. This excess of brinksmanship gives a massive structural advantage towards the passage of individual spending items that could not survive on their own, since the choice is literally one between shutting down the government and approving all the spending on everything. Of course, as the leader of the caucus, Ryan understood that those smaller fights could be politically painful for some of his members, but so is voting for a big, ugly omnibus, and the latter has no corresponding positives in terms of showing voters that the people they elected were actually serious about their promises on spending. (This is similar to the strategic failure on health care as well as the persistent and misguided effort to pass thousand-page “comprehensive” immigration bills.)

    We could have done worse than Paul Ryan. We almost certainly will do worse.


Last Modified 2018-04-12 10:39 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2018-04-11

[Amazon Link]

  • The nicest thing you can say about Proverbs 14:25 is that it's timeless:

    25 A truthful witness saves lives,
        but a false witness is deceitful.

    Yes. That's the definition of "false witness", Proverbialist. As the kids today say: Duh.


  • The good folks at Heterodox Academy have put together a spiffy illustrated "good parts" re-explication of Chapter Two of John Stuart Mill's On Liberty. From the intro of All Minus One.

    Mill's main concern was not government censorship. It was the stultifying consequences of social conformity, of a culture where deviation from a prescribed set of opinions is punished through peer pressure and the fear of ostracism. "Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough," he wrote. "There needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling". Mill saw people even as brilliant as Charles Darwin living in fear of the response their views would provoke.

    I would guess it deserves to be read in tandem with every nebulous jeremiad in favor of censoring "hate speech".


  • … or in concert with the current social panic about Facebook. Rich Lowry writes at NR about Mark Zuckerberg’s Insufferable Tripe. (That's the current attention-grabbing headline; the URL indicates the original headline may have been something like "Mark Zuckerberg Runs Facebook as a Business, Not a Nonprofit".)

    It’s not Zuckerberg’s fault that he has suddenly been deemed on the wrong side of history, but the Cambridge Analytica blowup is bringing a useful spotlight on the most sanctimoniously self-regarding large company in America. Facebook can’t bear to admit that it has garnered the largest collection of data known to man to sell ads against and line the pockets of its founder and investors.

    The problem isn’t that Mark Zuckerberg is a businessman, and an exceptionally gifted one, but that he pretends to have stumbled out of the lyrics of John Lennon’s song “Imagine.” To listen to him, Facebook is all about connectivity and openness — he just happens to have made roughly $63 billion as the T-shirt-wearing champion of “the global community,” whatever that means.

    I don't begrudge him his $63 Billion; it's a small price to pay to see what various members of my family, old classmates, and favorite celebrities are up to. I just wish he'd play as nicely with honest conservatives and libertarians as he does with leftists and Progressives.


  • At Techdirt, Mike Masnick wonders: Facebook Derangement Syndrome: The Company Has Problems, But Must We Read The Worst Into Absolutely Everything?

    Since the whole Facebook/Cambridge Analytica thing broke, we've [apparently this is a "royal" we] been pointing out that there are many, many valid concerns about things Facebook has done, but people seem to be freaking out about things it didn't actually do and that's bad, because freaking out about the wrong things will make things worse, not better. Indeed, that seems to be the direction things are heading in.

    One thing I've noticed in having this discussion a few times now both online and off is that there's appears to be a bit of Facebook derangement syndrome going on. It seems to go something like this: Facebook did some bad things concerning our privacy, and therefore every single possible thing that Facebook does or Mark Zuckerberg says must have some evil intent. This is silly. Not only is it obviously wrong, but (more importantly) it makes it that much more difficult to have a serious discussion on the actual mistakes of Facebook and Zuckerberg, and to find ways to move forward productively.

    Masnick offers his idea of an "independent judicial-type system" that would check-and-balance the company's own interpretation of its usage policies. Assuming it's workable, and voluntary, and transparent, that's not the worst idea in the world. Much better than getting browbeaten/coerced by the Feds.


  • At NR, Ben Shapiro has thoughts on Kevin Williamson and the Twitter Mob.

    Kevin Williamson. Sam Harris. Bret Weinstein. Bari Weiss. Dave Rubin. Jason Riley. Heather Mac Donald. Jordan Peterson. Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

    The people above don’t have much in common. They disagree on matters large and small. Ali is a militant atheist; Williamson is a religious Christian. Peterson focuses on the metaphysical import of myths; Harris focuses on verifiable science. Rubin is a gay Jew; Riley is black. Mac Donald is a supporter of stronger policing; Weinstein was a supporter of Occupy Wall Street.

    But there is one thing that everyone on this list has in common: We’ve all been unpersoned by the Left. And that Left is creeping quietly into the mainstream.

    All the more reason to skip back up to today's first item, and download your copy of All Minus One.


  • The headline on Veronique de Rugy's NYT piece could indicate a candidate for "Longest Op-Ed Ever": How Trump Misunderstands Trade.

    President Trump recently tweeted, referring to the United States trade deficit with China, “When you’re already $500 billion down, you can’t lose!”

    In 1776, Adam Smith observed that nothing “can be more absurd than this whole doctrine of the balance of trade.” Sadly, almost 250 years later, the president — along with his economic adviser Peter Navarro and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross — has elevated this economic fallacy into a pretext for protectionism.

    On this issue, Trump is doing his darndest to make us all poorer. Sad!


  • The issue of the "Confucius Institutes" at various American universities interests Pun Salad, since there's one at the University Near Here. At Forbes, George Leef notes the latest national news: China's 'Confucius Institutes' Are Unseemly And Senator Rubio Has A Good Idea For Dealing With Them.

    The Chinese government wants to polish its terribly tarnished image and one of the tactics it has been using is to influence the education of American college students.

    Since 2004, the Chinese have been sponsoring “Confucius Institutes” at colleges and universities around the world that are willing to host them. A Chinese government agency pays for most if not all of the cost of the programs that cover Chinese language, culture and history. Since many students want to learn about China, that seems like a good deal that saves the school money.

    The catch: this gives the Chinese unacceptable leverage, dictating the scope of allowable discussion about China's government and its totalitarian policies.

    "Little Marco's" idea: "make colleges choose between federal funding and Chinese funding." Not bad.

URLs du Jour

2018-04-10

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 14:24 sounds like timeless wisdom:

    24 The wealth of the wise is their crown,
        but the folly of fools yields folly.

    "If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?" is only a small step away from "I'm rich, therefore I'm pretty smart." A logically invalid step, but one that people make all the time.


  • Daniel J. Mitchell notes the WaPo opinion piece from five former [Democrat] members of the Council of Economic Advisers, and calls it A Deceptive and Inaccurate Call for Higher Taxes. The quintet's main point: "Don't blame entitlements" for our country's long-term, entirely foreseeable, fiscal disaster.

    That’s a remarkable claim since the Congressional Budget Office (which is not a small government-oriented bureaucracy, to put it mildly) unambiguously shows that rising levels of so-called mandatory spending are driving our long-run fiscal problems.

    Dan has the charts and links, so check that out. His bottom line is that he's (perversely) happy that "Five top economists on the left put their heads together and tried to figure out the most compelling argument for higher taxes. Yet what they produced is shoddy and deceptive. In other words, they didn’t make a strong argument because they don’t have a strong argument."


  • At Cato, Chris Edwards makes a wouldn't-it-be-nice argument about Federal Spending Rescission.

    Worried that their spending spree in the recent omnibus bill will suppress conservative turnout at the polls this November, Republicans are now considering a “rescission” package. The package of spending cuts—being designed by the White House—could be passed in Congress with simple majorities in both chambers.

    That would be nice. And a refreshing change from the normal GOP spinelessness. Chris has a number of suggestions about what spending especially deserves rescission.


  • Do you think Congress should regulate Facebook and other social media? Well, pilgrim… at Reason, Nick Gillespie describes Why You Shouldn't Want Congress To Regulate Facebook & Other Social Media.

    As Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg prepares to testify before both houses of Congress this week, a little more of the internet prepares to die.

    We are in a social panic over social media, and the final outcome will almost certainly be some sort of government regulation or self-regulation-by-shotgun (think Comics Code Authority) that will ultimately serve only regulators and the dominant companies that help to write the new rules.

    You know what's worse than Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg running Facebook? The government running Facebook.


  • At NR, Nicholas Horton reveals what should be obvious: Medicaid Expansion Is Helping Able-Bodied Adults Instead of the Truly Needy.

    Medicaid was intended to be a safety net for the truly needy. But over time, both federal and state policymakers have lost sight of Medicaid’s core purpose and turned the program into a catch-all, open-ended welfare program for non-disabled adults.

    Obamacare made this problem even worse, giving states the option to expand Medicaid to even more able-bodied adults. Nearly 13 million have been added since that expansion went live in 2014. Today, able-bodied adults in the program now outnumber individuals with disabilities — the people Medicaid was largely designed to serve — by a staggering 17.5 million.

    Medicaid has clearly lost its focus, as I detail in a new report for the Foundation for Government Accountability. The most stunning finding: At least 21,904 individuals have died on Medicaid waiting lists in states since they expanded their programs.

    As often happens, "compassionate" government programs wind up killing people.


  • And—guess what, kids?—break out the party hats and noisemakers, because it's "Equal Pay Day". Mark J. Perry has a different idea about what to celebrate:

    I'll start taking Equal Pay Day seriously when there are as many female loggers, fishers, and roofers as men.

    Which is another way of saying that I will never take Equal Pay Day seriously.