URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • At AEI, James Pethokoukis makes: The case for growth.

    Gordon Gekko missed the mark with his famous Wall Street monologue about American capitalism. It is not greed but economic growth that is, for lack of a better word, good. Growth is right. Growth works. Growth clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Growth has marked the upward surge of mankind. And growth—you mark my words—will save that malfunctioning corporation called the USA.

    This is probably pretty obvious to most Americans. Strong economic growth means more jobs and higher wages. Just take a look at the current expansion. It has only been moderate as goes the pace of growth, but it has been sustained. And month after month of a growing economy has brought down the unemployment rate to its lowest level since 1969, even as real wages continue to grow for all income levels. That’s especially true for working-class Americans. The 3.5-percent unemployment rate for Americans with only a high school diploma is the lowest since 2000. Indeed, despite all the debate about income inequality, earnings have been growing faster for those at the bottom than at the top.

    Mr. Pethokoukis writes in response to those on the right, like Oren Cass, who have departed from the free market faith. Repent, Oren!

  • At NR, David French makes the case between last year's nonsense and this year's (latest) nonsense: Covington School Is the Terrible Sequel to the Kavanaugh Case.

    In the Kavanaugh case, conservative men and women looked at decades-old, uncorroborated allegations, the unquestioning acceptance of those claims, and the furious effort to destroy a man’s reputation and career – even by passing along the wildest and most implausible claims – and thought, “That could be me” or “that could be my husband.”

    Now, these same people look at the reaction to the Covington Catholic kids and think, “That could be my son.”

    Indeed. But actually, I did some pretty stupid things in high school. If Trump offers to nominate me to the Supreme Court, I'd probably decline, because who wants that stuff on the news?

    Although it would be nice to see Gayle again.

  • Greg Mankiw asks the musical question: Who is the prototypical rich person?.

    I recommend this op-ed by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman. . Not because I agree with its recommendation of super high tax rates on the rich, but because it makes clear the perspectives and motives of the Left.

    In the standard economic approach to optimal redistribution (such as Okun and Mirrlees), the case for progressive taxation is based on diminishing marginal utility. But that is not the essence of the matter, according to Saez and Zucman. They view rich people as fundamentally undermining democracy. It is more a political argument than an economic one.

    Prof Mankiw's link will take you to the op-ed. It is remarkable for its lack of sophistication. Pretty much: hey we used to have high taxes on the rich, it was an "American tradition" for a few decades, undone by that rascally Ronnie Reagan.

    But now we've had (relatively) low marginal rates on the "rich" for almost the same amount of time. Disaster? No, they just don't like the esthetics.

  • And breaking news on the fact-checking front from the Babylon Bee: Snopes Introduces New 'Factually Inaccurate But Morally Right' Fact Check Result.

    Popular fact-checking site Snopes.com confirmed Wednesday they are debuting a new "Factually inaccurate but morally right" fact check result for claims they don't want to debunk because they coincide with Snopes editors' worldview.

    The fact-checking website will now label inaccurate claims that they deem "morally right" with the new label, giving public figures whose hearts are in the right place a pass.

    "We were often running into situations were a truth claim was absolutely absurd, but it supported progressive causes," said one Snopes editor. "So sometimes we just called it a 'Mixture,' but then people might get the idea that our favorite politicians are being slightly dishonest sometimes."

    It's nice that Snopes is finally coming clean on this. (Even though they aren't.)

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

Anyone know an emoji that represents: "OK, my first instinct was disgust and outrage, but then I kind of thought it was funny, and then I realized it was yet another symptom of the frivolous irresponsibility and vicious tribalism of our times"?

The closest thing I can find is the "eyeroll" emoji, which you can get on a t-shirt as our Amazon Product du Jour. Suggestions for anything closer are welcome.

  • William McGurn writes in the WSJ today on The Shaming of Karen Pence. Her sin is to teach art part-time at Immanuel Christian School, whose employment contract specifies employees must agree with the traditional definition of "marriage": one guy, one gal, makin' appropriate amounts of baby-generating whoopee.

    Today’s militant secularists ironically resemble the worst caricatures of religious intolerance of early America. Where the Puritans humiliated sinners with the stocks, the modern intolerant have Twitter. Where the Amish shunned those who lived contrary to their beliefs, today’s violators find themselves driven off the public square. And whereas in Hawthorne’s novel Hester Prynne was forced to wear a scarlet “A”—for adulterer—today we have folks such as Jimmy Kimmel using their popular platforms to paint the scarlet “H”—for hater—on people such as Mrs. Pence.

    Why it's almost as if the disease of intolerance is playing Whac-A-Mole with us. Defeated and defanged one place, it pops up elsewhere. Unexpectedly!

    (Except, as McGurn notes, Justice Sam Aliito did expect it in his Obergefell dissent.)

  • One of my New Years Resolutions: pay closer attention to Arthur C. Brooks. He writes in the WaPo: Failed your resolution already? Here’s how to make change that lasts.. Key finding:

    But maybe you think that going on a diet and exercising will make you more self-confident and attractive, thus improving your marriage or romantic prospects. Then you’ll be happy, right?

    The data don’t support this. According to the 2014 General Social Survey , the average body mass index for people who classify themselves as “very happy” is 27.4, which is about halfway between overweight and obese. The average BMI for those who are “pretty happy” is 28.1 and “not too happy” is 29. The measurement is clearly not a meaningful indicator of happiness. The average BMI for people who say they have “very happy” marriages is 28, which once again is indistinguishable from that for those with pretty-happy and not-so-happy marriages. Simply put, if your life lacks love, skipping those cherished potato chips won’t solve your biggest problem.

    Spoiler: Mr. Brooks' suggestions are (1) look at the true sources of happiness ("faith, family, friends and meaningful work that serves others") instead of the barriers you perceive to happiness; (2) Make process resolutions instead of outcome resolutions. Good advice, probably.

  • What's wrong with single-payer medicine, currently dishonestly dubbed "Medicare for all"? Kevin D. Williamson says it mathematically: Public-Sector Monopolies = Rule by Bureaucrats.

    The case against a single-payer health-care system is not only, or principally, its cost. It is that government-enforced monopolies are undesirable for other reasons, from their propensity to abuse their monopoly positions to the fact that they cultivate an attitude of dependency — which also can be exploited for political purposes. Just as workers have more power in an economy with a large number of employers competing for their labor, would-be college students and health-care consumers are better off when they have a great range of choices offered in an environment of strong competition. (The best indictment of the U.S. health-care system, pre- and post-ACA, is that it does not actually produce or encourage such a consumer-empowering environment.) Monopolies in the public and semi-public sector are no more desirable than monopolies in the private sector.

    The "cost" arguments are good enough, but it would be nice if we lived in a time where Kevin's argument was dispositive all by its lonesome.

  • At the Federalist, Ariana Welsh is kind of put out with the an exhibit at her college, Appalachian State, which heaped undeserved praise on an unlikely group: The Black Panthers Were Murderous Thugs Who Don't Deserve Accolades.

    Hosted, rather ironically, by the school’s Center for Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies, the photos, according to the front board, “reveal the humanity of the groups’ members rather than their invented personae.” Black Panther members “are real people, with real stories, who are your next door neighbors. They don’t fit the profile of rabid, anti-white, cop-hating terrorists…”

    Ericka Huggins is one of the smiling old ladies in the exhibit. She helped torture young Alex Rackley with other Black Panther members, boiling the water they used to pour over his chest and commanding him to be quiet when he pleaded for mercy. Now she’s a lecturing professor. Rackley is dead. After falsely admitting he was an informant in hopes of stopping the hours of torture, Black Panthers killed him and dumped his body in a river.

    Actually (according to the link above) Rackley lived for a number of hours after being dumped in the river.

  • The Power Line title might indicate "Longest Article Ever", but it's just one example Why Scientists Are Distrusted.

    The latest issue of Nature magazine has a fascinating article that goes some of the way in vindicating Ronald Reagan’s infamous “gaffe” about how trees cause air pollution (because they do), but offers much much more about the problems of politicized and supposedly “settled” climate science. The article is called “How Much Can Forests Fight Climate Change?“, and it walks through just how unsettled this question is. The subhed to the story offers a good summary: “Trees are supposed to slow global warming, but growing evidence suggests they might not always be climate saviours.”

    And, yes, the Nature article does contain a quote from an actual scientist, Christopher Williams at Clark University in Worcester, MA: “I have heard scientists say that if we found forest loss cooled the planet, we wouldn’t publish it.”

  • At the Beacon (a blog at the Independent Institute), Robert Higgs notes a suspicious rule: Many Different “Problems,” Identical “Solution” in Every Case.

    • Terrible working conditions
    • Lots of poor people
    • Industrial and financial instability
    • Economic depressions that won’t self-correct
    • Inadequate supplies of “affordable” housing
    • Widening economic inequality
    • Racial and ethnic discrimination
    • “Market failures” of many kinds
    • Environmental degradation
    • Threatened or disappearing species of animals and plants
    • Global cooling
    • Global warming
    • Climate change

    These are among the many problems that people have perceived as plaguing economically advanced societies during the past century or so. They differ greatly and involve different causes, mechanisms, and consequences.

    Yet in every case the solution has been widely seen as the same: vastly enlarging the power of government. It’s almost enough to make a skeptic wonder whether each perceived or proclaimed problem has been intended from the start to serve as a pretext for a government power grab—especially when one appreciates that somehow the problems that enhanced government power is supposed to solve never get solved to the satisfaction of those who sought the power, but only cry out in their view for even greater augmentation of government power.

    Mr. Higgs missed a few, of course. Opioid overdoses! Suicide! Divorce! All easily fixable by just tossing more control and money to the state.

Last Modified 2019-01-23 8:00 AM EST

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

Happy MLKJr day to all!

  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File (from last week) concerns National Solidarity: An Old & Dangerous Idea.

    In my eons on the internet, one lesson I have tried to take to heart — not always successfully — is that in the long run, it’s best to stand on the sidelines of the great race to be wrong first.

    To that end, I’ll just say that I don’t know if the BuzzFeed story alleging that Donald Trump ordered Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, and other nefarious doings, is true. One of the main reporters may or may not be trustworthy. All of the sources are anonymous. The story claims that there are documents supporting the charge, but the reporters may not have seen them, so if the sources are lying about the major facts, why wouldn’t they lie about the corroborating facts as well? As Brit Hume often likes to note, exclusive bombshells don’t stay exclusive for very long. If we go much longer without another news outlet corroborating the story, it’s likely because it can’t be corroborated for a reason.

    But are the charges believable?

    Trump defenders are right that we’ve been here before. Blockbuster allegations are reported. A few days later, the story either falls apart or deflates significantly. But here’s the interesting thing. Between the time of the initial report and the correction, one rarely hears the professional defenders say, “This story is unbelievable and false.” It’s only when the correction comes that they are suddenly overcome with indignation that anyone would suggest such a thing. Only after they have a factual backstop do they shriek, “you had to be suffering from Trump derangement syndrome to have believed the report in the first place!” These rhetorical lacunae are revealing, because I think it shows that the praetorians believe the charges are possibly true. (Also revealing: The tendency to stop shouting “Fake News” whenever MSM reporting is beneficial to the White House.)

    Well, that's not actually about "national solidarity". That comes later in the text, and it's good too.

    Trump is fortunate in having completely unhinged and irresponsible adversaries in the "respectable" press.

  • My lefty Facebook friends went apeshit over the confrontation between a saintly Native American and a wise-ass Catholic kid at the National Right to Life March in DC. I remember thinking: this looks bad, and it might be, but something about the narrative smells a little too perfect.

    Taking Jonah's advice above, I decided not to enter "the great race to be wrong first." Fortunately. Because, as Robby Soave writes at Reason: The Media Wildly Mischaracterized That Video of Covington Catholic Students Confronting a Native American Veteran.

    Partial video footage of students from a Catholic high school allegedly harassing a Native American veteran after the anti-abortion March for Life rally in Washington, D.C., over the weekend quickly went viral, provoking widespread condemnation of the kids on social media. Various media figures and Twitter users called for them to be doxed, shamed, or otherwise punished, and school administrators said they would consider expulsion.

    But the rest of the video—nearly two hours of additional footage showing what happened before and after the encounter—adds important context that strongly contradicts the media's narrative.

    It's especially a good idea to decline membership in an Outrage Mob. (I hope Amusement Mobs are OK. Despair Mobs probably, too.)

  • Interesting story from the College Fix about opacity in higher ed: University demands student pay $500 for public records on its Chinese propaganda institute.

    Under scrutiny from lawmakers of both parties and academic groups, universities have been closing their Chinese government-run centers at a brisk pace.

    The University of Kansas has not publicly moved to shutter its Confucius Institute, however, and a KU student wanted to know if administrators had discussed the possibility. He filed a public records request a month ago.

    The taxpayer-funded university gave him an answer Thursday: $506.50.

    Back when I worked at the University Near Here, we used to get "public records requests" (also subpoenas) that demanded we search through mailboxes for matching messages. This required expenditures of employee time that could have been spent doing something else, of course. (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook,…)

    But $506.25 isn't outrageous, especially if it involves redacting non-relevant bits of matching messages. I doubt that it implies that the University of Kansas has something it wants to hide.

    (Although they might have something they want to hide.)

    Anyway, GoFundMe was invoked, the $506.25 was raised, and we'll see what happens next.

    The University Near Here still has its Confucius Institute; in fact, next week it will be holding the "China National Intangible Cultural Heritage Tung Oil Paper Umbrella Exhibition" in Huddleston. Can't wait!

  • And the Google LFOD News Alert rang for a Concord Monitor editorial with an especially tendentious title: Confronting the myths of the free market.

    Nowhere in America is belief in the merits of free markets stronger than in New Hampshire. Last year, for the third time in a row, two groups, the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Canada’s Fraser Institute, declared that “New Hampshire, the Live Free or Die state, has the highest level of economic freedom among all U.S. states.” On its website, the Concord-based Josiah Bartlett Center proudly declares itself to be a “free-market think tank.” The platform of the state’s Libertarian Party declares that the only economic system “compatible with the protection of individual rights is the free market.”

    Free markets are the supposed solution to lower costs for energy, health care and all manner of things, and they supposedly work better when taxes are low. But the market has failed to deliver. American life expectancy is growing shorter. Even two-income families feel they can’t get ahead. Government, in the midst of the longest shutdown in U.S. history, is broken.

    To adapt something I'm pretty sure I heard Thomas Sowell say once: Listen up, Concord Monitor: I don't have a "belief" in free markets. I have facts about free markets.

    The Concord Monitor, on the other hand, seems to have a childlike faith in the state. Even though it's "broken". All we need to do is IncreaseTaxesOnTheRich! This will unbreak government! Families will feel like they can get ahead! Life expectancy will increase! Magic!

  • And a Dr. William Hall of Whitesboro, NY writes a LTE to the Utica Observer-Dispatch: There’s silver lining to our nation’s cloud.

    In our anger with the political party in power we don’t always see the silver linings. Nothing happens without a reason and I see a positive trend emerging since the 2016 election.

    Democrats outnumber the Republicans 2 to 1 and being shocked out of complacency / apathy a number of great things started happening. The Blue Wave happened and is continuing to spread. The urgency in this grassroots movement has increased to a “live-free-or-die” level regarding the president behaving as a Russian agent and becoming more autocratic as the Mueller investigation intensifies.

    Dr. Hall sees the "blue wave" as a harbinger of LFOD? I beg to differ. As would the Concord Monitor.

  • And down in Connecticut, at Greenwich Time, David Rafferty demonstrates the flexibility of the topics to which LFOD can apply: No excuse for dog poop incivility.

    As a nearly everyday walker at [Tod's] Point, I’ve been witness to many instances of dog owners flaunting the rules sometimes innocently, but often deliberately when it comes to excrement. Being a live-free-or-die libertarian Yankee is no excuse for dog poop incivility. No excuse for walking your dog over to a shady spot and watching him defecate without picking it up and sneering at me when I give you the stink eye. Encouraging your dog to run into the bushes to relieve himself…out of sight, out of mind. No excuse for not paying attention to your pup laying a trail of droppings as he walks like the elephant in the parade. No excuse for kicking sand over your dog’s dung, not 25 feet away from the supply of poop bags the town puts out for you to use.

    Hey, I'm (arguably) a live-free-or-die libertarian Yankee, and I religiously bag up my dog's poop on our walks. And I don't mean just on Sundays.

    And, like Dave, I really don't get the people who don't.

The Phony Campaign

2019-01-20 Update

[Amazon Link]

Yes, that's a phony (pardon me, "Faux") rock, available for a mere $51.69 at Amazon. No idea how much of that price is due to the hoity-toity "Faux" descriptor.

In nomination-odds news this week, both Hillary and Julian Castro have dipped below our 3% Predictwise criterion for inclusion, as bettors thought better.

In our phony standings, Kamala has taken the lead with a (almost certainly illusory) 4.9 million increase in her Google hits over last week. Beto has come crashing back down (losing 11.5 million hits) and so has Nikki Haley (down 1.7 million).

Candidate NomProb Change
Kamala Harris 19% unch 5,750,000 +4,915,000
Donald Trump 64% -1% 2,220,000 +130,000
Beto O'Rourke 19% unch 1,090,000 -11,510,000
Nikki Haley 6% -2% 793,000 -1,727,000
Sherrod Brown 5% +1% 411,000 -513,000
Kirsten Gillibrand 5% +1% 315,000 +155,000
Mitt Romney 4% +1% 211,000 -11,000
Bernie Sanders 6% +1% 203,000 -16,000
Joe Biden 12% -1% 181,000 +12,000
Elizabeth Warren 6% unch 164,000 +18,000
Mike Pence 5% -2% 131,000 -22,000
Amy Klobuchar 5% -1% 95,500 -14,500
Cory Booker 5% +2% 48,500 0
John Kasich 3% -2% 43,900 -3,900

Standard disclaimer: Google result counts are bogus.

And there was no shortage of phony news this week. I hope this is the cream of the crop:

  • George F. Will does not care for the cut of the presidential jib, nosirree. His recent column is a mixture of contempt and pity: The shabbiest U.S. president ever is an inexpressibly sad specimen.

    Dislike of him should be tempered by this consideration: He is an almost inexpressibly sad specimen. It must be misery to awaken to another day of being Donald Trump. He seems to have as many friends as his pluperfect self-centeredness allows, and as he has earned in an entirely transactional life. His historical ignorance deprives him of the satisfaction of working in a house where much magnificent history has been made. His childlike ignorance — preserved by a lifetime of single-minded self-promotion — concerning governance and economics guarantees that whenever he must interact with experienced and accomplished people, he is as bewildered as a kindergartener at a seminar on string theory.

    Which is why this fountain of self-refuting boasts (“I have a very good brain”) lies so much. He does so less to deceive anyone than to reassure himself. And as balm for his base, which remains oblivious to his likely contempt for them as sheep who can be effortlessly gulled by preposterous fictions. The tungsten strength of his supporters’ loyalty is as impressive as his indifference to expanding their numbers.

    Just brutal. And accurate.

  • Via Power Line (Welcome to the Class Struggle Primaries), Brit researcher David Klemperer provides Progressive Yanks with the only rating that matters. (For the rest of us, it's a measure of how screwed we'll be, should any of them win.)

    I assume the "1793" suffix on David's Twitter handle refers to the French Revolution's "Year I", back when Louis XVI went to the guillotine. Good times!

    Comments Paul Mirengoff:

    It’s a safe bet that Kirsten Gillibrand had a lower “class struggle” rating when she represented a less than out-and-out liberal congressional district, rather than the entire state of New York. She’s a phony.

    I wonder how much her phoniness can be expected to degrade her class warriorship?

  • But as long as we're talking Kirsten, she announced her candidacy this week. And, according to the Washington Examiner, It looks like Kirsten Gillibrand was lying about running for president the entire time. From her October 25, 2018 debate with whoever her opponent for the NY Senate seat was:

    Moderator: Can you tell New Yorkers, who plan to vote for you on November 6, that you will, if re-elected, serve out your six-year Senate term?

    Gillibrand: I will.

    Moderator: Just want to make this clear, you’re saying that you will not get out of the race and you will not run for president? You will serve your six years?

    Gillibrand: I will serve my six-year term.

    Well, congrats to Kirsten. Dishonesty on that level shows her to be a worthy competitor for Donald Trump. An impressive display of New York values!

  • But Kirsten is a target-rich environment, phonywise. At NR, Alexandra DeSanctis looks at The Opportunism of Kirsten Gillibrand. She details the needle-threading history of her public pronouncements on Al Franken's wandering hands.

    It wasn’t until December 6, 20 days after the first claim had surfaced, that Gillibrand leapt out ahead of her fellow Democrats to call for Franken’s resignation. Her statement was followed, within minutes, by similar calls from other Democratic senators.

    To join the Democratic donor class in blaming Gillibrand for Franken’s demise, then, is wholly unfair. But so too is it unfair to celebrate her as a #MeToo hero who put her popularity on the line for the greater good. She was merely holding up a finger in the wind and drifting wherever the ethos of the moment dictated.

    This tendency has defined her career. Consider just one example: When she ran for the Senate in 2010, she held an A rating from the NRA. That rating was immediately downgraded to an F after she won the election and, following her party’s trend, completely reversed her stance on the Second Amendment.

    She will probably distinguish herself in the Democratic field by being the candidate most likely to say whatever she thinks … will help her get the necessary votes.

  • A twofer from Jim Geraghty this week, the first about the guy who is trying to catch up with Beto and Kamala. Yes, I'm talkin' Uncle Joe Biden: 20 Things You Probably Didn't Know. Let's take a gander at number…

    12. Biden publicly stated that, at the moment of decision about the raid that would ultimately kill Osama bin Laden, he had believed the mission was not worth the risk and told Obama, “Mr. President, my suggestion is don’t go.” But in a 2018 interview, he said he had publicly overstated his doubts to ensure Obama got more credit for making the decision to launch the raid. Unnamed Biden aides also claimed that Hillary Clinton had falsely claimed she had completely supported the decision to launch the raid, calling her account of the raid decision the “a**-covering, opportunistic version.”

    A debate for the ages: who's phonier, Joe or Hillary? They each have their special qualities.

  • Well, how about Kamala Harris: 20 Things You Didn’t Know? Again, there's a wealth of information to choose from, but:

    15. For nearly ninety years, California state law prohibited images of handguns from being used in signs for gun stores. In 2014, after Harris’s office cited several gun shops, they sued, arguing that the law violated the First Amendment. Harris’s office argued that the law was needed to prevent handgun-related crime and suicide. Last year a federal judge ruled “the government has provided no evidence directly linking [the law] to reduced handgun suicide or crime,” concluded that the law was a “highly paternalistic approach to limiting speech,” and declared it “unconstitutional on its face.”

    That was when Kamala was California's Attorney General. I'm sure you're wondering: didn't she have to take an oath to support and defend the Constitution in order to land that gig?

    Answer: yes she did.

    Any chance Kamala would take the US presidential oath of office more seriously? I would bet against.

  • And Beto O'Rourke, should he decide to run, has a different phony approach to the issues: O'Rourke Not Sure How to Address Illegal Immigration: 'I Trust the Wisdom of the People'.

    Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D., Texas) opposes the White House's desired southern border wall, but he deferred to the "wisdom of the people" on a range of other immigration questions in a new interview.

    O'Rourke, one of dozens of potential Democratic 2020 White House contenders, wasn't sure what to do about visa overstays—"I don't know"—and told the Washington Post that the answers to other questions surrounding illegal immigration will come through open debates […]

    Noted above: Kirsten Gillibrand will take whatever position necessary to get people to vote for her. Beto, on the other hand, will avoid taking positions, lest those positions cause people to not vote for him.

    A bold strategy! By which I mean: cowardly and phony.

  • And he even is unable to take a strong stand on what should be a slam dunk. Beto O'Rourke Not Sure the Constitution Still Works. (Kyle Smith at National Review, looking at the same WaPo interview as the item above.)

    Most of the WaPo interview on Beto O’Rourke is a nonprescription sleep aid. O’Rourke thinks he maybe has something to say about immigration and the border but apart from opposing the wall he isn’t too sure what. He says things like “I don’t know” and “worth debating.” He equivocates on what to do about border security, about withdrawing troops from Syria, about the Green New Deal. He says “I don’t know what to do” in so many ways that you wonder why he bothered to give an interview. Apparently it went on for two hours. How many espressos reporter Jenna Johnson needed to ward off somnolence is unknown.


    O’Rourke blathers on. It takes a moment for it to sink in that he isn’t sure the Constitution still works. “I’m hesitant to answer it because I really feel like it deserves its due, and I don’t want to give you a — actually, just selfishly, I don’t want a sound bite of it reported, but, yeah, I think that’s the question of the moment: Does this still work? Can an empire like ours with military presence in over 170 countries around the globe, with trading relationships…and security arrangements in every continent, can it still be managed by the same principles that were set down 230-plus years ago?” (Emphasis mine.)

    Beto, like Kamala, will have to swear (or affirm) to "preserve, protect and defend" the Constitution if he wins, a tough call if he doesn't think it "works" any more. I hope someone asks him about that.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • At American Consequences, P.J. O'Rourke writes on Trade Routes.

    Trade itself may be a happy activity, but trade means transport, and transport means trade routes, and trade routes are where people are brought together… not always in a happy way.

    When we trace the globe’s ancient trade routes, it is unpleasant to see what contentious regions they traverse and what grievous political fault lines they follow. Even worse is to note that most of these antique grudges are still evident on modern maps.

    Check it out as Peej guides you "past the IEDs of Sinai terrorists, through the Gaza kill zone, past trigger-happy Israeli checkpoints, across the chaos of Lebanon, into Syria where ISIS is no less murderous just because it’s “almost defeated,” only to wind up in Baghdad."

  • At NR David French belabors what should be obvious, but isn't: Karen Pence & Christian Sexual Morality: Love Is Not Hate. It's those triggered by Mrs. Pence teaching at a school that has old-fashioned (i.e., what used to be "conventional") ideas about sex.

    […] When I see critics respond to a Christian by telling them that they’re a bigot because of their loving beliefs, they’re telling that Christian he’s a liar. They’re telling that Christian he’s insincere in the origin and purpose of his deepest convictions. Every Christian can and should be prepared for questions about his faith. In fact, it’s a biblical imperative that Christians “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

    The claim of bigotry, however, is wrong. When it is used to attempt to drive Christians out of the public square, to block them from public offices, or to shame them out of even their own ministries, it’s an instrument of injustice. It’s intolerance in the name of tolerance — and, yes, sometimes it’s even hate in the name of love.

    It's tempting to speculate that people who carelessly attribute bigotry to others are simply projecting: "You must hate me… because I hate you."

    I'm old enough to remember the good old Moral Majority. As our Amazon Product du Jour, its stridency hasn't gone away, it's just popped up on the other side.

  • Amelia Irvine writes at the Federalist: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Setting Women Back Light Years In Politics. Is this a case of using "light year" as a unit of time instead of distance? Who knows? The term doesn't appear in the article. Still:

    “I think that there’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right,” Ocasio-Cortez told Cooper after he asked about her careless and incorrect analysis of the defense budget. In one sentence, Ocasio-Cortez portrayed herself as a woman who is ready to subordinate facts to her moral convictions, confirming achingly anti-female stereotypes. She may as well have driven erratically down the highway or failed to catch a gently thrown ball. Of course, she later admitted that being factually correct is “absolutely important.” She just doesn’t seem to care much about facts and numbers when she’s tweeting.

    Or, for that matter, when she’s speaking. In discussing with Cooper her proposal for a “Green New Deal,” which would use the full force of the government in an attempt to convert the United States to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, she could not offer an actual answer for how such an enormous transformation would be possible. “It’s going to require a lot of rapid change that we don’t even conceive as possible right now,” was all she could say.

    Said it before, but: I'm old enough to remember how the MSM treated the occasional verbal blunders of Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin. There's a real difference with AOC.

  • We looked at a debunking story the other day, but Slashdot finds a respectable Harvard astronomer who's willing to Go There: Have Aliens Found Us? A Harvard Astronomer on the Mysterious Interstellar Object 'Oumuamua.

    On October 19, 2017, astronomers at the University of Hawaii spotted a strange object travelling through our solar system, which they later described as "a red and extremely elongated asteroid." It was the first interstellar object to be detected within our solar system; the scientists named it 'Oumuamua, the Hawaiian word for a scout or messenger. The following October, Avi Loeb, the chair of Harvard's astronomy department, co-wrote a paper (with a Harvard postdoctoral fellow, Shmuel Bialy) that examined 'Oumuamua's "peculiar acceleration" and suggested that the object "may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth's vicinity by an alien civilization." Loeb has long been interested in the search for extraterrestrial life, and he recently made further headlines by suggesting that we might communicate with the civilization that sent the probe.

    There are links in the article to an interview with Loeb in the New Yorker and Loeb's article about 'Oumuamua in Scientific American.

    I can't help but think if Heinlein were still alive we'd be firing up a torch ship to go out and catch up to the sumbitch.

  • Granite Grok's Steve MacDonald brings the good news to Granite State lovers of Asian cuisine and liberty: City of Keene Caves - "Pho Keene Great" Sign "Approved".

    Over at Free Keene (check out their modified banner it’s Free Keene Great) where we first picked up the story, things sound a bit more like what typically goes on in Keene. The city was stupid. It expected the restaurant to roll over. It didn’t. A court case based on the first amendment seemed likely if they kept pushing. So, Keene decided not to push their luck.

    "Depend upon it, sir, when a town knows it is to be the object of nationwide derision, it concentrates its mind wonderfully."

  • The student newspaper of the College Not Near Here covers another bit of legislation: NH Democrats introduce firearms ban in school zones.

    On Jan. 2, House Bill 101 — which would allow school districts to regulate firearms in school zones — was introduced by seven Democrats in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

    Since 2011, the state of New Hampshire has had authority over the sale, ownership, use, possession and permitting of all firearms in the state. However, this new bill would redistribute some of that power to individual school districts and allow them to enforce gun-free zones.

    The leaders of both the College Republicans (anti) and the College Democrats (pro, of course) are quoted. The latter caused the LFOD news alert:

    “This bill comes at a pertinent time in the question of the tension between common sense gun regulation and personal gun ownership, especially in a state like New Hampshire where the culture is ‘Live Free or Die,’” [College Democrats president Gigi] Gunderson said. “We continue to support policies that make our schools and New Hampshire residents safer.”

    Gigi at least gets the four words of the state motto correct, although I suspect she'd prefer it to be "Live Safe and Obey".

    Obligatory reference: 97.8% of mass public shootings occur in gun-free zones. (Note: There is a lot of definitional quibbling involved here.)

  • And the Smoking Gun reports on local shenanigans: Live Free or Die Trying.

    While stopped at a red light Tuesday afternoon, a New Hampshire motorist was living his best life, smoking crack cocaine and being fellated by a woman in the passenger seat, police report.

    As Dave Barry would observe: soon we will have no rights left at all.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • At the WSJ, James Freeman takes a stroll down memory lane: Remember When Politicians Promised to Make College Affordable?.

    Expanding federal grants and loans to finance higher education has predictably given colleges the ability to raise prices, which in turn requires students to take on even more debt to pay the new higher prices. It’s not a new story. In 1965 Washington launched a program to make college “affordable” by offering a taxpayer guarantee on student loans. By an amazing coincidence college costs have been rising much faster than inflation ever since.

    James quotes from coverage of the June 2008 Detroit campaign stop of then-candidate Obama. A "tearful" young lady noted that she was "about $1500 short" of paying for her dental hygeine studies at Wayne County Community College.

    In response, Obama promised “I will make college affordable for every American. Period.”

    It's unknown whether the student somehow managed to get her schooling, but certainly that's a broken promise.

    As a Pun Salad value-added, I was able to find a spreadsheet showing the historical tuition rates for Michigan community colleges, including Wayne County. Since the 2008 event, it appears that their per-credit hour tuition has gone up about 6.6% annually. About double the CPI increase since then.

    Bottom line: when politicians promise to make things "affordable", run away.

  • At Quillette, Jonathan Kay fits that woke Gillette ad into the long history of advertising bullshit: Gillette's Progressive Politics: 'Corinthian Leather' for the Progressive Soul.

    Being a metallurgical engineer (as I, too, would later become), my father was especially irritated by ads for razors. In one well-known spot for the Vintage Stainless Steel Doubled-Edged Blade (this was before my time, but he often talked about it), an actor would be asked to compare a “Personna Stainless, seven shaves old” with another “well-known blade, brand new”—shaving half his face with each. The actor, of course, identifies the Personna as being the more comfortable of the pair. The announcer then hammers home the fact that the Personna prevailed despite being seven shaves old. But that fact was meaningless, my father would tell me (and others), because the main cause of shaving-blade degradation isn’t contact with skin. It’s the gradual oxidation that takes place when the blade dries off, over hours or days, after it’s been used—a phenomenon that wouldn’t apply to a blade that (as in this case) presumably had been used seven times in rapid succession.

    It’s an example my dad would bring up repeatedly whenever a dumb commercial would come on TV, since the same general principle applies to most ad campaigns for mass-market products. Coca-Cola doesn’t make you smile. The “Rich Corinthian Leather” that Chrysler used to upholster car seats wasn’t actually from Corinth. And smoking Virginia Slims doesn’t actually mean “You’ve come a long way, baby.” It probably just means you’re going to die of lung cancer.

    I'm tempted to oversimplify: there are two kinds of people in the world, those who actually like politically-correct virtue-signalling, others who find it obnoxiously off-putting. These groups will never understand each other.

  • At American Consequences, P.J. O'Rourke writes on The Bet. Specifically, the one between the late Julian Simon and Paul Ehrlich. You might have heard about that, and know how it came out. If not, click through and RTWT. But the underlying debate rages. Some more current data:

    In a paper released at the end of last year, Cato scholar and Human Progress Founder Marian Tupy and Brigham Young University economist Gale Pooley describe what they call “The Simon Abundance Index.” Tupy and Pooley created the index by expanding the original wager made by Simon and Ehrlich to include a basket of 50 “foundational commodities” – energy, food, materials, and metals – and by using price data from 1980 to 2017.

    Even though the population of the world increased by 69.3% during those 37 years, the price of the 50 commodities declined by 36.3%.

    Tupy and Pooley’s conclusion: “Every additional human being born on our planet appears to make resources proportionately more plentiful for the rest of us.”

    Make your bets in the commodity market any way you want, but never bet against people.

    A good thing to read when you're feeling pessimistic. But remember: "people" elected our politicians.

  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson has a good suggestion to which nobody in power will listen: No-Deal Brexit Solution: Unilateral Free Trade. (NRPlus, sorry.)

    The born-again mercantilists and daft neo-nationalists fundamentally misunderstand trade: The benefits of trade are the imports; the exports are the cost. Contemporary trade skeptics — and American nationalist-populists in the Donald Trump mode are not least among them — get it backward. They hear about “trade deficits” and, misunderstanding that term — it is an intentionally misleading one, after all — believe that our trading partners are somehow getting over on us. Difficult as it is to believe in the particular — that you’ve been victimized by your new Mercedes — it somehow feels plausible as an abstraction: They get $50 billion, and we get only $30 billion. Of course, they get only $30 billion worth of actual goods and services, while we get $50 billion worth.

    Unilateral free trade may sound like a radical idea, but other countries have had pretty good luck with it, including one that may be of interest to the English: England. When the English rescinded the Corn Laws in the middle of the 19th century, they did not do so as part of a broad and reciprocal agreement with their grain-producing trade partners, some of whom — the French — they didn’t particularly like. They did it because the sensible English finally came to the sensibly English conclusion that English people would be better off as a whole if there were more food coming from more sources at better prices, even if that diminished the earnings of the relatively small cartel of big landowners who had benefited the most from anti-trade measures. Great Britain in fact grew vastly wealthy while maintaining trade arrangements that paid relatively little attention to reciprocity even in principle. British territories, notably Hong Kong, grew wealthy while following much the same model.

    Make Britain Great Again!

  • I've been a Virginia Postrel fanboy for decades, ever since she edited Reason magazine. She sat for an interview at the Writers on Writing website. Part of her answer to a softball "role of the sane writer in insane times" query:

    While I understand the market forces that push writers to feed outrage in order to get traffic, I also feel a civic responsibility to keep my cool, not to attribute motives to people that they wouldn’t themselves recognize, and to think about what might actually persuade people who disagree with me. I don’t always live up to those standards—we all get outraged sometimes—but the older I get and the more history I read, the easier it is to do.

    It also helps that, unlike many, perhaps most, female writers, I have never felt either market pressure nor a personal desire to write about my personal experiences and emotions. What interests me is learning and writing about the world.

    We need many more writers and thinkers like Ms. Postrel.

  • And a mini-rant:

    I go to the Mental Floss website, since it's supposed to be aimed at the smarties, and I like to imagine I'm one of them.

    And yet, it seems that way too often I get offered articles like the one headlined…

    The Real Reason Harry Potter Named His Son After Severus Snape.

    I would normally post an excerpt followed by a (theoretically) pungent comment, but I'm not even gonna bother with the excerpt.

    Because Harry is a fictitious character. So is Snape. And so is Harry's son. They had no "real reasons" to do anything, because they are not real themselves.

    If you find this painfully obvious, congratulations: you may be too smart to read Mental Floss.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Kevin D. Williamson notes the odd political inversion (probably) in progress: Democrats & Republicans: Trading Socioeconomic Places.

    The Democrats have become the party of snobbery. Consider those endless fights over the treatment of evolution in high-school textbooks. Nobody seriously believes that if a high-school science teacher in Muleshoe, Texas, is legally permitted to mention heterodox views of evolution, in 20 years’ time Stanford and MIT will be intellectual backwaters. Those fights aren’t about science — do you hear progressives hounding the Washington Post about its horoscopes or lamenting Obamacare’s blessing of sundry New Age quackeries? — they’re about the loathing of those people. You know the ones: They care a great deal about football and eat at McDonald’s, love guns and Jesus, and probably voted for Trump.

    The Republicans have embraced a kind of militant inverted snobbery: “Were you born in a barn?” isn’t a question your Republican mother asks you when you’re behaving poorly — it’s a question the Republican National Committee asks, hopefully, when it is thinking about backing you for Congress.

    Things change in politics, and more quickly than you’d think. In 1984, Ronald Reagan won 49 states; Richard Nixon had done the same thing twelve years before him. (Minnesota held out against Reagan, Massachusetts against Nixon.) It is difficult to imagine a Republican doing that today. I blame Rudy Giuliani.

    Well, things change. They may change back, but I doubt they'll do so quickly enough so I'll be around to see it.

  • President Trump had yet another disgraceful "Good Lord, when will he ever just shut up" moment last week, and the disgrace was compounded by how little it was noticed. But Jeff Jacoby noticed: In extolling 'honorable' tyrants, Trump shames America.

    DONALD TRUMP is a compulsive insulter. When faced with any criticism or opposition, he resorts instinctively to taunts and put-downs. His smears and invective are so unremitting that they no longer shock. It's simply a given: If you spar with Trump, you'll be slandered by Trump.

    For all that, the president's jeers still sometimes manage to set a new low for indecency.

    Last Thursday, taking questions from reporters on the White House lawn, Trump was touting his administration's economic record.

    "We have the best job numbers in at least 50 years," he claimed. "The economy is incredible. We're negotiating and having tremendous success with China."

    Then he abruptly pivoted to his budget dispute with Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

    "I find China, frankly, in many ways, to be far more honorable than Cryin' Chuck and Nancy. I really do," he said. "I think that China is actually much easier to deal with than the opposition party."

    I am, of course, no fan of either Chuck or Nancy. But to describe murderous Chinese dictators as far more honorable than US politicians is utterly brain-damaged. People who voted for him should be ashamed. Again.

  • Peter Suderman commemorates an ignominious anniversary: The 100th Anniversary of the Ratification of the Amendment That Led to Prohibition Is a Reminder of the Lasting Damage Bad Policy Can Do.

    One hundred years ago [January 16, 1919], Nebraska became the 36th state to ratify the 18th amendment, which set Prohibition in motion a year later. Prohibition is widely, and rightly, remembered as one of the 20th century's greatest policy mistakes, and it contains more than a few lessons that remain relevant today.

    The decision by the states and the federal government to outlaw the manufacture, sale, and transportation of most alcohol in the United States was born of racism, nativism, government paternalism, and moralizing religiosity.

    Yeah, it was bad. But at least back then, the government felt it needed an amendment to the Constitution in order to tell people what substances they could not legally imbibe.

  • At Law & Liberty, Alex J. Pollock has thoughts about financial blind spots. And he's not optimistic, because nearly by definition In Finance, the Blind Spots Will Always Be With You.

    The first reason is that all finance is intertwined with politics. Banking scholar Charles Calomiris concludes that every banking system is a deal between the politicians and the bankers. This is so true. As far as banking and finance go, the 19th century had a better name for what we call “economics”—they called it “political economy.”

    There will always be political bind spots—risk issues too politically sensitive to address, or which conflict with the desire of politicians to direct credit to favored borrowers. This is notably the case with housing finance and sovereign debt.

    The fatal flaw of the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) is that being part of the government, lodged right here in the Treasury Department, it is unable to address the risks and systemic risks created by the government itself—and the government, including its central bank—is a huge creator of systemic financial risk.

    For example, consider “Systemically Important Financial Institutions” or SIFIs. It is obvious to anyone who thinks about it for at least a minute that the government mortgage institutions Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are SIFIs. If they are not SIFIs, then no one in the world is a SIFI. Yet FSOC has not designated them as such. Why not? Of course the answer is contained in one word: politics.

    I'm old enough to remember when it was "obvious" than Fannie and Freddie were leftover New Dealisms that deserved to die. Sigh. Good times.

  • And finally a pungent Facebook observation from Robert Higgs.

Last Modified 2019-01-18 6:21 AM EST

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Let's do some equal time. A what's-the-big-deal query from Robby Soave at Reason: The Gillette Ad Tells Men Not to Hurt People. Why Is This Offensive?.

    Gillette, the shaving company, debuted a new commercial this week that assails "toxic masculinity" and challenges men to behave better toward women and each other. But since modern cultural discourse involves two constantly outraged tribes careening wildly from one controversy to the next, this perfectly inoffensive message has somehow been rendered bad by team red.

    Well, Robby, it's annoying to be preached to by corporations that presume to be morally superior.

    Also: presuming that an entire group bears the stigma of a subset of bad apples is invidious stereotyping, a gateway to bigotry.

  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson reads the lefty mags (so we don't have to) and makes an interesting observation: Left Wing Pro-Russians Scoff at Collusion.

    The Nation, in particular, seems to have shed a few dozen IQ points since November 2016; its voice today is a good deal less Victor Navasky and a good deal more Joan Walsh, which is a good deal for no one. (Not even for Joan Walsh, really.) But The Nation is a bit less predictable than the median hysterical lefty in one interesting way: the skepticism of its writers regarding Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election.

    In fact, The Nation is broadly defensive of Russia. From Jan. 11, 2019: “Proponents of the Trump–Russia collusion theory wildly overstate their case, again.” From January 9: “What Trump’s Syrian Withdrawal Really Reveals: A wise decision is greeted by denunciations, obstructionism, imperial thinking, and more Russia-bashing.” From Dec. 28, 2018: “New Studies Show Pundits Are Wrong About Russian Social-Media Involvement in U.S. Politics: Far from being a sophisticated propaganda campaign, it was small, amateurish, and mostly unrelated to the 2016 election.”

    The Nation used to be hilariously pro-Soviet; if you can dig up P. J. O'Rourke's tale of his 1980s trip to the Soviet Union under the magazine's auspices, do so.

  • The Google LFOD alert rang for an article in Ammoland by Jared J Yanis: Red Flag Bill Submitted in New Hampshire. Oh oh.

    An Extreme Risk Protection Order Bill (ERPO) has been submitted in the gun friendly State of New Hampshire…the “Live Free or Die” state.

    Jared argues, plausibly, that such bills, which allow judges to "suspend" (via confiscation) an individual's access to guns, "have only one intended goal: to circumvent the 2nd Amendment and confiscate guns from people who are then considered guilty until proven innocent."

  • And at Cato, Matthew Larosiere notes another tactic used by the controllers: The ATF Attempts to Deny Non-Binary and Trans Americans Guns.

    At the end of January, someone at the National Shooting Sports Federation asked the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) about non-binary people purchasing firearms. The ATF responded that, despite gender non-binary licenses being acceptable identification, the individual must still select either “male” or “female” on the standard firearm transfer form 4473.

    The ATF’s rigid, unreasoned response makes it clear there’s a huge disconnect between the purpose of the form, and the ATF’s interpretation. Form 4473, which everyone must fill out when they purchase a firearm from a federally licensed dealer, is intended to identify the purchaser of the firearm, have them confirm they are legally eligible to receive the firearm, and give enough identifying information to run a background check.

    That poses a dilemma for Progressives: do you side with the LGBTQ people wanting weaponry, or the bureaucrats?

  • At Wired Adam Rogers writes on a recent visitor to our solar system, currently headed out of town: Is ’Oumuamua an Alien Spaceship? Sure! Except, No.

    Is it possible that ‘Oumuamua, the nominally cigar-shaped, somewhat mysterious visitor that a Hawaiian telescope spotted leaving our solar system in 2017, might be neither comet nor asteroid but an alien spacecraft? Not a rock whirling through the uncaring void but the fossilized wreck of a magnificent, light-powered starship?

    Well … it’s possible. A little bit. Is it likely? Hah. No.

    Fun to speculate, though. Assuming it's just an odd-shaped rock, its mere occurrence means that such objects must be vastly more common than previously thought.

The Ashtray

(Or the Man Who Denied Reality)

[Amazon Link]

Back in the day, specifically my college days, I read The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. Kuhn. In fact, it's one of the few books from that era that I still have on my shelves (I just looked: yeah, there it is).

You see, Caltech insisted that even us physics geeks had to take one course per term in non-stem fields: history, English, econ, … or philosophy. And even though I didn't (still don't) have the type of brain suited to deep thinking about questions that people have been thinking about for millennia without getting answers, I said: sure, I'll take that philosophy of science course.

So I read Kuhn, and I was far more impressed by his argument than I should have been.

Which was, loosely speaking: during normal, non-revolutionary periods, scientists operate within the dominant paradigm relevant to their research field. For example, Ptolemaic astronomers observed the heavens and hammered their findings into the Ptolemaic geocentric cosmos. With difficulty, of course, but, hey, science is not easy.

But along comes a revolutionary theory with a new paradigm, like Copernicus's, that does a better job of describing reality. (Although the theories, Kuhn said, were 'incommensurable'; you couldn't really refute or support one via appeals to the other.) Then we have a paradigm shift, adherents to the old theory either adapt or die, and the new paradigm establishes its dominance, usually without literal trips to the guillotine.

About the same time I was inordinately impressed by Kuhn, a grad student named Errol Morris was at Princeton, enrolled in the Program in the History and Philosophy of Science, which Kuhn headed. They did not get on. According to Morris, Kuhn was a petty chain-smoking tyrant, forbidding him from attending lectures from other competing philosophers. And things culminated in Kuhn (allegedly) throwing this book's butt-filled titular object at Morris's head during a particularly heated "philosophical" discussion.

So Morris went on to become a famous documentary filmmaker instead of an obscure philosopher. But he still retained an interest, and (I think it's fair to say) kind of a grudge, and this book, safely published two decades after Kuhn's death.

It's a full-throated attack on the Kuhnian viewpoint, which Morris contends is a hopeless denial of human ability to apprehend reality and truth, crushed as we are by the weight of our dominant paradigms, only on occasion to escape, just to be recrushed by the next paradigm we just shifted to. Morris makes his philosophical case for (instead) the pursuit of truth "through reason, through observation, through investigation, through thought, through science".

Morris is a political leftie, and his book is kind of interesting also as a sidelight onto just how radically left academia was back then. He interviews the late Hilary Putnam, once a proud member of the Maoist Progressive Labor Party while a Harvard prof. And Noam Chomsky. And he tells of his arrest while blocking the entrances to the Institute for Defense Analysis near Princeton back in 1972. Et cetera.

If that were all, this book would be pretty grim and tedious. But there's a lot of humor too, some pop culture references. Since he's a filmmaker, Morris knows his flicks: there are long asides discussing particular aspects of Citizen Kane and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence. Numerous footnotes, not quite at the volume preferred by David Foster Wallace, but close. (One of the footnotes mentions Morris's fondness for, yes, David Foster Wallace.) And there are lots of offbeat illustrations, about one per page. My personal favorite:

Jean Léon Gerome 1896 La Vérité sortant du puits.JPG

By Jean-Léon Gérôme - Sergey Prokopenko, Public Domain, Link

We don't often do naked ladies here at Pun Salad, but it's art, so it's OK. That's "Truth Coming Out of Her Well". She's pissed.

I've seen a number of reviews that suggest Morris may be overstating his case in his eagerness to trash all things Kuhnian. I am (see what I said about my brain up there) not one to judge. But this is a relentlessly entertaining book, especially if you skim over all the philosophical navel-gazing.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Jonah Goldberg writes last week's G-File on Kamala Harris & Tucker Carlson: Common Clichés.

    About 20 minutes ago (my time), I caught some of Senator Kamala Harris’s road show on Morning Joe. If there were a platitude-eating fungus that rapidly reproduced, by the end of the segment, everyone would have died from the crushing weight of the world’s largest mushroom.

    I don’t really take offense at the platitudes, given that we are talking about a politician and also a U.S. senator running for president. What did bug me quite a bit, though, was how she oozed the sense that she was just nailing it. And no, this isn’t a sexist thing. I know we’re in the phase of the asinine conversation when we’re supposed to believe that finding a specific liberal woman annoying or unlikable proves that you hate all women.

    I reject all of this and all attempts to bully me into compliance. I belong to the school that says women are human beings, and that means they are distributed up and down the likability scale, just like men. I find Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez likable, but not as likable as Amy Klobuchar, and more likable than Elizabeth Warren. And, just to establish a baseline,  compared to, say, the late Helen Thomas (the Stygian goblin who used to roost in the White House press gallery, her scaly talons glistening under the camera lights), they’re all so likable I’d join their cross-country Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants if it meant not sitting next to Thomas on a short flight.

    Anyway, former senator Bill Bradley had the same quality as Harris. He’d say something like “Elections are vital to democracy” and then stop talking, as if the audience needed time to absorb the shockwave of a truth bomb of such magnitude. I read somewhere that Bradley didn’t like to hear applause at the end of his speeches because he interpreted silence as a sign of the audience’s awe at his wisdom.

    Harris wasn’t that bad, but it was close.

    That's a long excerpt, sorry. Didn't know where to stop clipping. Or start.

    But Jonah's point about the similarity between Kamala's rhetoric and that of Tucker Carlson is spot on: they both embrace the all-too-convenient notion that "once good-intentioned nationalists control the knobs and buttons of the state, we’ll fix all of the problems with our culture." Uh-uh.

  • At the Boston Globe, Jeff Jacoby asks the musical question: Would MLK honor Angela Davis?. It's in response to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute's yearly honorary award, typically going to people like Vernon Jordan. But…

    This year, the institute blundered badly. It announced in December that the 2019 Shuttlesworth Award would go to Angela Davis, a Birmingham native and longtime political activist. The institute hailed Davis as a “civil rights icon” and claimed that she “has been deeply involved in movements for social justice around the world.”

    In reality, Davis is an extremist, an anti-Semite, and a communist stalwart. She was involved in violence, praised terrorists responsible for the murder of innocent victims, and defended some of the cruelest and most repressive regimes on Earth. To bestow upon Davis an award named for Shuttlesworth — a man who was targeted for assassination yet never abandoned his commitment to nonviolence — struck many of Birmingham’s civic leaders as scandalous.

    Read through for Jacoby's documentation of those charges. (I was equally outraged when the University Near Here saw fit to invite Davis for its MLK festivities ten years ago, but Jacoby's indictment is more complete than the one I made back then.)

  • [Amazon Link]
    On the occasion of the paperback release of Enlightenment Now (Amazon link at right, a very good deal at $12.19 as I type, you have simply no excuse for not buying it), Steven Pinker responds to his critics at Quillette: Enlightenment Wars: Some Reflections on 'Enlightenment Now,' One Year Later.

    You wouldn’t think that a defense of reason, science, and humanism would be particularly controversial in an era in which those ideals would seem to need all the help they can get. But in the words of a colleague, “You’ve made people’s heads explode!” Many people who have written to me about my 2018 book Enlightenment Now say they’ve been taken aback by the irate attacks from critics on both the right and the left. Far from embracing the beleaguered ideals of the Enlightenment, critics have blamed it for racism, imperialism, existential threats, and epidemics of loneliness, depression, and suicide.  They have insisted that human progress can only be an illusion of cherry-picked data. They have proclaimed, with barely concealed schadenfreude, that the Enlightenment is an idea whose time has passed, soon to be killed off by authoritarian populism, social media, or artificial intelligence.

    Never fear, says Steve: I was, and still am, right about everything. (You might find this sort of attitude to be arrogant and off-putting, I kind of find it charming.)

    Locals can go see Prof Pinker and his famous hair January 30 at the Music Hall in Portsmouth. Each 1-2 tickets include a (mandatory) voucher for the book, so that's actually a disincentive for people who already own the book, like me.

    Finally: You'd think the high-class site Quillette would have high-class commenters. You'd be wrong about that.

  • The irrepressible Jim Treacher analyzes the latest effort of a big company to show that it is woke: Gillette Tells Men They're Repulsive Creeps. Now Give Them Your Money, You Piece of Garbage.

    Are you a man? That is to say, are you a genetic male who also happens to identify as a "man," for some increasingly antiquated reason? If so, are you under the mistaken impression that you're not a rapist?

    Our society has come a long way in shaming men for behaving in any way that anybody anywhere doesn't like, and reminding men that we're all complicit even if we don't behave that way. But it's not nearly enough. The mere fact of maleness is shameful and problematic. Men and boys everywhere need to be reminded that we're evil. We must learn to hate ourselves as much as everyone else hates us. The patriarchy must be castrated.

    And who better to do it than a company that makes razors?

    I'm tempted to boycott, except I've got about a six-month supply of disposable Mach 3 razors in my bathroom cupboard. And a can of Foamy that lasts about that long too. Even if they could detect my boycott, it wouldn't have any effect until this summer. By which time this whole thing will have blown over, I hope.

    Or maybe I could just grow a beard. Another thing the heirs of King wouldn't notice.

    And wny stop at Gillette? Shouldn't I really boycott the entire P&G family? Toss my Oral-B toothbrush? My Crest toothpaste? My Tide pods? Mr. Clean Magic Erasers? All the Swiffers?

    Sorry, impractical. I'll have to signal my disgust some other way. Oh, right, I just did that.

  • As a Columbia prof, John McWhorter has had it with a certain ex-student's prose: What Trump's Typos Reveal.

    The president of the United States has many faults, but let’s not ignore this one: He cannot write sentences. If a tree falls in a forrest and no one is there to hear it … wait: Pretty much all of you noticed that mistake, right? Yet Wednesday morning, the president did not; he released a tweet referring to “forrest fires” twice, as if these fires were set by Mr. Gump. Trump’s serial misuse of public language is one of many shortcomings that betray his lack of fitness for the presidency.

    I subscribed to the late Richard Mitchell's Underground Grammarian newsletter for years. He liked quoting Ben Jonson:

    Neither can his mind be thought to be in tune, whose words do jar; nor his reason in frame whose sentence is preposterous; nor his elocution clear and perfect, whose utterance breaks itself into fragments and uncertainties.

    Ah, well, you can't say we didn't know what we'd be getting.