Paradise Valley

[Amazon Link]

C. J. Box's regular series concerns Wyoming Game and Fish Warden Joe Pickett, but he took some time to pen the "Highway Quartet", and this is the last entry there.

I just finished a book where "page-turner" was unfortunately meant in the sense let's keep the pages turning so I can be done with this tedious mess. This one, like most all Box's stuff is a page-turner in a better way: holy crap, what's gonna happen?

But, consumer note, you really should read the first three in the series, in order, before you tackle this one: Back of Beyond, The Highway, and Badlands.

In this book, Cassie Dewell, Chief Investigator of the Bakken (North Dakota) County Sheriff's Department, is about to spring a trap on the Lizard King, a long-distance trucker whose sideline is kidnapping truck-stop prostitutes and (eventually) murdering them. The trap goes dreadfully awry, however, and Cassie winds up losing her job over the mess. But meanwhile, Kyle, a plucky kid from the previous book, is about to fulfill a lifelong dream: taking off with a buddy in a drift boat down the Missouri. Kyle and his friend wind up missing, and nobody much cares, except Cassie. And since she's out of a job, she decides to follow up a lead that the real cops seem to be uninterested in. And things go in unexpected directions from there.

The first book in the series, Back of Beyond, seems to be kind of an outlier, as there's no Lizard King in that tale. But Box manages to tie in a major character and locale from that book here. Satisfying.

URLs du Jour

2020-04-02

  • George Will warns us of A second pandemic: Virus opportunism.

    America’s encounter with covid-19 is causing people already enthusiastic about enlarging government to strenuously affirm the self-evident: the fact that government can perform indispensable functions. And a new pandemic — virus opportunism — is intensifying calls by perennial advocates of substantially enlarged government for just that. Government, they say, should be understood sentimentally as (in words ascribed to former Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank) “simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together.”

    Mr. Will goes on to give an example of "the things we choose to do together" in the case of Miladis Salgado, whose home was raided on a false tip, $15K in cash confiscated.


  • Writing on roughly the same topic at AIER, Phillip W. Magness detects Socialism Under the Cover of Pandemic.

    “Never let a crisis go to waste,” the old adage goes. Unfortunately, political activists and public officials from across the spectrum are now taking this advice to heart amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. While many policy responses to the current crisis are well-meaning, even if misguided, be vigilant of those who would cynically weaponize it to advance their pre-COVID ideological goals.

    We may see this latter tendency in a new proposal by Berkeley economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, the data-massaging duo behind a flurry of misleading and false empirical claims about taxation and inequality in the United States. 

    Writing for the New York Times, Saez and Zucman use the occasion of the coronavirus’s economic disruptions to argue for the immediate adoption of a massive public jobs security program, accompanied by sweeping and punitive forms of taxation upon corporations and the wealthy. If you think this sounds suspiciously similar to the economic policy agenda that this same pair was advocating long before the COVID outbreak, you are not mistaken.

    Which makes me want to resurrect this Iowahawk tweet treat from a couple days back:

    I fear that's going to be an increasingly relevant observation as time goes by.


  • Shall we look at a different bugaboo? Cato's David Boaz is pushing on an open door for me when he says The Census Is Too Intrusive.

    Signs have popped up all over my neighborhood in Arlington, Virginia, urging us to respond to the census – so that the 8th wealthiest county in America won’t miss out on funding collected from taxpayers across the country.

    Census Bureau materials stress to local officials that census data will help them get “their fair share of funding” from hundreds of federal programs. Obviously this is a zero‐sum game. If my neighbors and I all fill out the form, then you and your neighbors will get less from the common federal trough. But at least we’ll be getting our “fair share.”

    But where does the government get the authority to ask me my race, my age, and whether I have a mortgage? In fact, the Constitution authorizes the federal government to make an “actual enumeration” of the people in order to apportion seats in the House of Representatives. That’s all. Not to define and count us by race. Not to ask whether we’re homeowners or renters, or involved in a same‐​sex marriage or partnership. Just to ask how many people live here, so they can apportion congressional seats.

    I’m not interested in getting taxpayers around the country to pay for roads and schools and “many other programs” in my community. All the government needs to know from me is how many people live in my house.

    My feelings exactly. I've previously mentioned the irritating TV ads sponsored by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (another much-richer-than-average locale) also demanding their "fair share".

    How about zero, Virginia and Massachusetts? Does zero sound fair to you?


  • I wouldn't mention this blurb from a site called "Science Focus" except I don't like the answer to the question: Does a USB drive get heavier as you store more files on it?

    Believe it or not, they get lighter. USB drives use Flash memory, which means the the ones and zeros of your data are stored on transistors. When you save data, a binary zero is set by charging the float gate of the transistor, and a binary one is set by removing the charge. To charge it, we add electrons, and the mass of each electron is 0.00000000000000000000000000091 grams. This means that an empty USB drive (which mostly holds zeros) weighs more than a full USB drive (which has ones and zeros). Add data, reduce the weight. However, you would need to weigh more USB drives than exist on the planet together at once before the difference in weight became easily measurable.

    It's been a long time since I took my last electronics course, but I'm pretty sure a bit gets toggled by moving electrons around on a transistor, not removing them from the device entirely. (Which is what would have to happen if the drive got even immeasurably lighter.)

    And if somehow a 0 → 1 transition caused electrons to leave the USB drive, wouldn't that mean the drive would acquire a positive static charge? And wouldn't that last only as long as there wasn't a path to ground?

    As I said, it's been a long time, but the more I think about it, the more I think the author wasn't thinking too hard.


  • And those wacky kids at Free Keene rang the Google LFOD News Alert once again for their semi-civil disobedience in Concord: Over Ten People Exercise Right to Assemble at NH State House in Violation of Governor’s Order.

    Donning masks from “V for Vendetta”, more than a dozen activists gathered at the New Hampshire state house in Concord today in violation of “HIS EXCELLENCY” governor Chris Sununu’s “order” banning assembly of over ten people. Not only did the police who passed by the event today use their discretion and ignore the event, one Concord police officer even waved to the group, suggesting that he also supported the human right to assemble. While responses from passing motorists varied, the majority were positive, including thumbs-ups, honks, and waves. Negative responses included middle fingers, shaking heads, a thumbs-down, and verbal “quarantine shaming”. Of course, any protest for any topic always elicits negative responses and this one was not unusual.

    The group took a picture in front of the state house's statue of General John Stark, American popularizer of LFOD. The article observes that "Stark is likely rolling in his grave".

    Somebody should check. He's right here.

URLs du Jour

2020-04-01

[Amazon Link]
Our Amazon Product du Jour is "Modern-Depo High-Back Swivel Gaming Chair Recliner with Bluetooth 4.1 Speakers, Footrest, Headrest and Lumbar Support | Height Adjustable Ergonomic Office Chair - Black & Orange". A mere $174.99.

I admire that last adjective: "Office".

  • Andrew Stuttaford writes at National Review about the pandemic response and: Setting a Precedent.

    […] there should be no illusions that some default instinct towards freedom will stop Americans from succumbing to the intellectual temptations that the response to COVID-19 may send their way. Turning to Uncle Sam in times of insecurity, especially in a country where hard times can be much harder than many places elsewhere in the West is understandable enough. There’s also an unsettling aspect of human nature to consider. It may seem odd to describe a society as mobilized — when so many and so much have been immobilized — but that’s what America now is, thus the frequent wartime comparisons. Despite chafing against some of the restrictions that typically come with it, there are plenty of people who rather like being mobilized. That’s just another reason why countries that have been mobilized tend to stay so for far longer than an emergency might call for, and why the state almost never retreats the whole way back to where it was before that emergency begun.

    Well, on that cheerful note…


  • Let's lighten the mood. At Reason, Peter Suderman notes The World Health Organization Classified Video Game Addiction as a Disorder. Now It’s Telling People to Play Video Games. (And our Amazon Product du Jour is perfect for that, just sayin'.)

    There's nothing inherently contradictory about the WHO's messaging, but it does serve as a reminder that gaming has social and health benefits. Although video games have become far more popular in recent years, they are still sometimes subject to a cultural stigma, a perception that they are time-wasters at best, socially corrosive at worst. That stigma has been around for as long as I can remember, from the early 1990s congressional hearings on violence in games like Mortal Kombat to the continuing efforts by politicians and pundits to tie acts of real-world violence to playing video games—despite the persistent lack of evidence

    I'm pretty sure I'm going to stick with Spider Solitaire.


  • At AEI, Mark J. Perry quotes William McGurn on ‘Harvard’s China virus’.

    Amid the coronavirus wreckage, there seems to be a bright spot. The pushback against referring to Covid-19 as the “China virus” indicates a welcome new sensitivity for the racial discrimination directed at Chinese-Americans. Or does it?

    Ever since people began referring to “the China virus”—or to be precise, ever since the White House press corps realized it was Donald Trump’s preferred term—the American people have been given repeated warnings that this is not only insensitive but dangerous.

    It’s hard not to notice the chasm between this new hypersensitivity and the indifference toward another, very real discrimination affecting this same community. That is the racial discrimination keeping Chinese-Americans out of America’s most elite educational institutions. Some of the same people who fret so loudly about how we refer to Covid-19 are utterly indifferent to this other racial discrimination affecting Chinese-Americans.

    Mark sums it up in one of his famous Venn diagrams:

    [China Virus]


  • Pierre Lemieux reminds us what happens When Free-Market Prices Are Banned.

    One would think that basic economics and economic history, including a century of communist experiments, have demonstrated one thing: when prices are forbidden to adjust, shortages are created, the allocation of goods by government becomes a nightmare, and black markets develop. It would seem that especially in times of emergency, whatever government does, it should leave prices alone.

    Prices of medical products related to the current epidemic (face masks, disinfecting products, medical gowns and gloves, ventilators, and such) just like prices of common consumer goods were already capped by states’ “price gouging” laws triggered by the governors’ emergency declarations. Price controls have been further tightened by President Trump’s March 23 Executive Order on Preventing Hoarding of Health and Medical Resources to Respond to the Spread of COVID-19 and by the March 25 Notice of Designation of Scarce Materials or Threatened Materials issued by the Department of Health and Human Resources. Not surprisingly, shortages have appeared.

    I get that nobody likes high prices. But they're trying to tell you something; it does no good to plug your ears and sing "La la la…".


  • And our Google LFOD News Alert rang from way 'cross the pond, specifically from Yorkshire Coast Radio, where one Jeremy Thompson muses on Coronavirus: FaceTime, pilates and lockdown humour. ("Jeremy Thompson is a former Sky News presenter in his seventies.")

    Some friends around my age report back on their first trip out to "oldies' hour" at the supermarket.

    Quite civilised apparently, with staff politely monitoring shoppers' ages and carrying bags to their cars.

    Even so, a few "younger" shoppers still try to jump the seniors' queue or break the two-metre cordon sanitaire. Ah, good old Brits, all pulling together! When will we ever learn?

    I read about one GP weeping at the foolishness of folk still gathering in contagion clusters, recklessly disregarding the medical facts. It's like some people are determined to live by New Hampshire's state motto: Live Free or Die.

    Nice: they know about our state motto, even in old Yorkshire, which is way up by Hadrian's Wall, and about the only thing they're known for is pudding.

    All right (sigh): the Brontë sisters, too.

    Not so nice: equating our state motto to, essentially, "Act Stupid, Irresponsible, and Selfish." I think that's missing some … nuance.

URLs du Jour

2020-03-31

We open this fine Tuesday with some tweeted wisdom from Iowahawk:

Guilty as charged, I guess.

  • For once we're linking to Kevin D. Williamson's "Tuesday" feature actually on Tuesday: ‘Shane, Come Back!’. RTWT, of course, but his last bit notes an observation from Michael Smerconish:

    On March 18, he predicted on Twitter that Donald Trump would seek to put his own signature on any stimulus checks that were sent out to Americans as part of the coronavirus-emergency stimulus. On March 27, the Wall Street Journal reported that President Trump desires to do exactly that:

    Mr. Trump has told people he wants his signature to appear on the direct payment checks that will go out to many Americans in the coming weeks, according to an administration official. The White House didn’t comment. Normally, a civil servant — the disbursing officer for the payment center — would sign federal checks, said Don Hammond, a former senior Treasury Department official.

    There is an epidemic under way. Hundreds of thousands of people already are sick, and the number is likely to reach into the tens of millions before this is over. Thousands of Americans already have died, with many more sure to follow. There are shortages of everything from medical masks to ventilators, the U.S. government’s response has been a series of bungles (negotiations with GM have been a tragedy of errors, a typical one), and President Donald J. Trump, occupant of the highest office in the land and the most powerful political figure in the world, is thinking about how he might use this for petty personal aggrandizement.

    Are the media unfair to President Trump? At times, yes. Are the Democrats awful? Of course. But it is not the media or the Democrats forcing President Trump to conduct himself in this clownish fashion. He behaves like a clown because he is a clown-souled man. The Right’s excuse-making (and its positive celebration) of this clownishness is well beyond what political necessity requires or decency allows. It is shameful, and it will come with a price in the end.

    This put me in mind of Richard M. Nixon's signature on the Apollo 11 and 17 lunar lander plaques. "What, he went too?"


  • Kyle Smith reports from his post at the New York Post: Woke stupidity is spreading as fast as the coronavirus pandemic.

    The coronavirus has already caused far more disruption than 9/11, and figures to take far more lives, albeit in slo-mo rather than on one fireball-strewn morning. You may ask, “Is there anything good about the pandemic? Will it make us more serious? Will it rejuvenate common sense?” Since Britney Spears is now a Marxist, I’d say probably not.

    Spears was once registered to vote as a Republican and supported President George W. Bush during the Iraq War. This week she shared a meme on Instagram calling for a general strike that was decorated with rose emojis symbolizing the international socialist cause. “We will feed each other, re-destribute [sic] wealth, strike,” declared Comrade Spears. Someone might want to inform her that those who have a net worth of $215 million stand to lose if there is much wealth redistribution, but if she thinks well of the idea, she is free to turn her fortune over to the International Communist Workers Party right now. Come the Revolution, she’ll quickly discover how hard it is to secure a Pilates trainer and a blowout in the gulag.

    Also featured in Kyle's crosshairs: Fran Drescher, and (sigh) Gal Gadot "and her Justice League of Idiots".


  • At AIER, Jeffrey A. Tucker analyzes Coronavirus as Ideology. Which is kind of the long form of Iowahawk's tweet above.

    This penchant for channeling one’s ideology was obvious from the beginning of this. Even back in February, you had people going to their corners into camps: this is all a lie vs. we are all going to die. The lie camp was occupied by the people who don’t believe anything ever. The die camp was merely exercising an apocalyptic vision of either left or right. 

    There have been some surprises here, pundits with no previous knowledge of anything medical much less epidemiological who were cocksure that this disease was the new Black Death. They couldn’t wait to explain it to the rest of us. Meanwhile, in the millenarian religious press, we heard that this is proof of the coming rapture, god’s vengeance against a sinful world, the fulfillment of prophecy. 

    There are those who shape everything they believe in opposition to Trump who is the Great Satan. These have been challenging times for them because Trump has whipsawed from one end to the other. He began as a dismissalist who couldn’t even be bothered to follow the news about it, much less look into the egregious failures of testing that were the fault of his own regulatory agencies. Then possibly sensing a chance to exercise the powers of an emperor, he flipped the other way. Now he is this extremely strange mix of opinions but with one overriding theme: he is the hero. 

    Trump has indeed whipsawed on the virus, but has been constant in his belief that it's all about him.


  • J.D. Tuccille has a suggestion at Reason: Tear Up Your Census Form for a Better America.

    If, like me, you've received not one but three mailings from the U.S. Census Bureau proclaiming "Your Response Is Required By Law," you're probably wondering whether to respond, toss the questionnaire in the trash, or fill it with bogus information. We're in good company, since about a third of households plan to ignore the census, according to the government itself.

    In the past, I've filled in preposterous answers, then repeated them with a straight face when a harried-looking census field worker knocked on my door (that's a pleasure I'll miss this year, with in-person interviews suspended). It's good fun, it denies potentially dangerous information to a government agency that has a history of misusing the data it collects and, if repeated far and wide, it might spur nosy bureaucrats to try something less intrusive.

    Less intrusive would be nice.

    Since I occasionally watch Boston-based TV stations, I've been irritated by the recent spew of ads from dog-faced pony soldier William M. Gavin, Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Respond to the Census, Gavin implores, else Massachusetts will be denied an adequate Federal funding for commuter trains, schools, etc.

    By most measures Massachusetts is one of the richest states in the union. Gavin is essentially demanding that other states pay for stuff Massachusetts should be able to afford itself.

    In fairness, Massachusetts is (again, by most measures) a donor state, with its citizenry sending off more money to the Feds than the state receives.

    But I suppose there are a lot of people wondering "Hey, why shouldn't all states get more money from the Feds than they send in?" (Not readers of this blog, I'm sure.)


  • And the Google LFOD News Alert rang for this Concord Monitor item from Granite Geek David Brooks: ‘Hempcrete’ is a small way to fight climate change (no, you can’t smoke it).

    Hempcrete is made by chopping up hemp plants and mixing them with a lime binder to create a material that can be cast in molds. It is often made into bricks with high insulation value or used as insulating fill inside walls. Either way, it can replace Fiberglas or some petroleum-based products.

    Because it uses plants, which have pulled carbon out of the air as they grow, and then locks them inside material that last for decades, hempcrete can be carbon-negative. Using more plant-based material in construction in place of material that requires the release of carbon when manufactured – in particular, steel and concrete – is one of the steps we need to take to stop loading up the atmosphere with heat-trapping gasses.

    As is usual, there's no mention of how much it costs compared to concrete. The LFOD is right here:

    Hemp, of course, has a complicated history here. Despite everybody in New Hampshire saying “live free or die” at the drop of a hat, we have been perfectly happy to prevent people from freely growing hemp because the relationship to cannabis spooks us.

    Eye roll at the cheap LFOD. The current state of hemp legality seems to be summed up at NHPR.


Last Modified 2020-04-02 12:53 PM EDT

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

This was unexpectedly good. Unexpected, because I was never a Mr. Rogers fan.

It's the based-on-true story of magazine writer Lloyd Vogel, who has a cynical view of humanity, especially "heroes": he likes to take them down a peg or two in his work. His editor assigns him to write a vignette on Mr. Rogers. The movie is set while "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" is still in production, so Lloyd is off to Pittsburgh, and the studio where it all happens.

Now, Lloyd has problems of his own. He's estranged from his father, who abandoned his family when his wife, Lloyd's mom, was painfully dying. And dad has just resurfaced, bringing with him all those ugly memories.

And it turns out that Fred Rogers really is a nice guy, skilled at digging out Lloyd's neuroses, helping him reevaluate his family and professional relationships.

Tom Hanks plays Mr. Rogers near-perfectly. Matthew Rhys is Lloyd, and it's nice to see him in a role that doesn't involve him being a murdering commie spy.

The Number of the Beast

[Amazon Link]

Warning: spoilers ahead for a forty-year-old book. (It came out in 1980, after a seven-year hiatus for Heinlein novels. He was ill during that period with a carotid blockage that "interfered with his mental acuity".)

I moved this book up in the queue, because I recently got the Kindle version of The Pursuit of the Pankera, which is related in some way. Now I wish I had (at least) read Time Enough For Love beforehand. And maybe Methuselah's Children before that. But what's done is done.

Anyway: Zeb Carter is at a party, where he meets Deety, daughter of math prof Jake. The party is hosted by Hilda. Zeb and Deety decide to get hitched, Jake and Hilda do the same, and then it develops that some baddies—the "black hats"—are trying to kill Jake for his discovery/invention of the means to travel between parallel universes. Deety and Hilda are impregnated, the universe-hopping gadget is installed in Zeb's flying car, and they're off. Not trying to save the world, but avoiding death. Understandable, if not heroic.

All this happens in the first sixty pages or so of this 500-page book.

It's pretty rough sledding, because there's way too much Heinlein know-it-all yakking between the four protagonists. A lot of tedious bickering. A lot of nudity and sexual references. Much detail on the voice interface to Zeb's car's computer.

And about two-thirds of the way through, things take an unexpected turn, which is why I kind of wish I'd reread the Lazarus Long novels before I read this. Yes, suddenly we have quite a few more Heinlein characters who yak, bicker, and know-it-all. Ah, well, keep those pages turning.

URLs du Jour

2020-03-30

We start off today with some cheer from Michael Ramirez:

[Pandemic vs. Epidemic]

Hm, that's not cheery at all. The bad aftereffects of this crisis will outlast the crisis itself.

  • Kevin D. Williamson thinks big at National Review in an NRPlus article: Coronavirus Pandemic: First Great Crisis of the Post-American Era.

    It is easy to criticize President Trump for his pettiness — in rhetoric and in fact — but he is not the cause of American surrender, only its symptom. It is impossible to blame the American people for their weariness. For one thing, the critics of JFK-style imperialism and those Poughkeepsie pothole-watchers are not without a point: There is an economic and a moral price to be paid for that kind of leadership, and government should, in most ordinary times, be mainly preoccupied with those potholes and not with dreaming up new crusades through which to aggrandize itself and its officers. And didn’t Hercules himself, sometime between killing the Nemean lion and that unpleasant Augean housekeeping business, look over his shoulder and mutter about the unfairness of it all, and wonder aloud why the . . . Belgians . . . weren’t shouldering more of the burden? “They have been very unfair to us,” I am sure he said.

    The coronavirus epidemic is a global problem, one that points to the current deficit in global leadership. Americans are paralyzed by resentment. The European Union, having just been gutted by the departure of the United Kingdom, does not know quite what to do, and those European universal health-care systems so admired by U.S. progressives are failing. China has just reminded the world that it is a socially backward gulag state that is stalled right there between Mexico and Bulgaria in real economic performance. Putin is the czar of Twitter trolls. The U.S. president has two pornographic films, six bankruptcies, and a game show on his curriculum vitae, and the country is so short of emergency supplies that Ralph Lauren is making medical garments and Tito’s is producing hand sanitizer instead of vodka — not exactly in a position to exercise global leadership.

    He makes a good point: it was tiring for us to be out front of everything for decades. Obvious problem: who's gonna step into that vacuum?


  • Jonah Goldberg's G-file says This Pandemic Will Change Us. We Just Don’t Know Quite How Yet.

    By now my joke that this should be called the Confirm Your Priors Virus has become almost a banal observation. But that won’t last. There are still people who think the pandemic proves they were right all along about tax cuts—or socialized medicine or the Green New Deal—but they’re learning to shut up or change their tune. As the crisis worsens, medically, economically, or both, even once-loyal dogmatic voters will start to lose their patience with politicians who refuse to leave their comfort zones—or try to steer the conversation back to them. At some point, they will look at these politicians like the old artillery officer staring at the men holding the horses that weren’t there. 

    I don’t think this is necessarily good news. The West’s commitment to liberal democratic capitalism was already fraying (which is why I wrote a book called Suicide of the West (now out in paperback!)). It’s easy to imagine events going in a direction that tears that commitment even more—or severs it entirely. One could also imagine events going in a direction that is altogether inhospitable to those who only know how to talk about intersectionality or identity politics. I don’t think any of these are the most likely outcomes, but like everyone else I have no idea what the future holds. Unlike a lot of people, I’m willing to admit it.  

    I'm willing to admit the same: Jonah has no idea what the future holds.


  • Michael Huemer looks at the recent spate of "gotcha" questions and wonders: What Should Candidates Know? Come on, man!

    Back when she was still running for President, Amy Klobuchar was criticized for not knowing the name of the President of Mexico. That was reminiscent of the criticism of Gary Johnson in 2016 for not knowing what Aleppo was. (On the other hand, Trump seemed to be undamaged, though he was certainly ridiculed for it, by the revelations that he thought that Frederick Douglas [sic] was still alive, that we might be able to stop a hurricane with a nuclear bomb, or that we might be able to stop Covid-19 with an ordinary flu vaccine.)

    Incidentally, I don’t believe the news media who report on things like this have any interest in those facts, except to attack someone for not knowing them. The Gary Johnson story was literally the first and last time I ever heard the word “Aleppo” anywhere other than in a computer game, and pretty much the only fact about Aleppo that they reported was that Gary Johnson didn’t know about it. Likewise, the only information I have heard about the current President of Mexico is that Klobuchar didn’t know his name.

    I can spot a major difference: Trump volunteers his ignorance; he doesn't have to be asked.

    Michael goes on to make some very good points about the kinds of questions we should be asking potential leaders: what are your justifications for the policies you support? What are basic views of justice, and morality? What rights of Americans do you consider inviolate?


  • The online Keene Sentinel is the source of our recent Google LFOD News Alert, where Paul Soltysiak asks us to Consider the cost of social isolation.

    Good mental health treatment and suicide prevention is about building connections with others, having meaning in one’s life, making sure we are free to choose. This mandatory “social distancing” is coming at grave cost. I am deeply concerned that lives will be lost because of it. What’s worse: No one in government has really stopped to think about that. In the “Live Free or Die” state, should I not be free to choose if I want come to work or school, even in the face of a pandemic?

    I am sympathetic with that.


  • And those wacky dudes at Free Keene have a bone to pick with our Governor and his Stay-at-Home Order.

    Sununu claimed on his facebook post announcing the “order” that disrupting Granite Stater’s daily lives is only done in the greatest of emergencies. Really? This Coronavirus thing isn’t even as bad as the flu yet – even if you go by the government numbers, which of course are in no way trustworthy.

    What is happening is government goons are grabbing power as quickly and as firmly as they can, and they are using fear to do it. It’s the same old scam, but this time they are going farther than ever. Though Sununu hasn’t gone as far or as hard as New York, he’s made it clear that “Live Free or Die” is just an empty slogan. Sadly, the fearmongering works, and many people are begging to be told what to do under the auspices of safety.

    And I am not unsympathetic with that. But here's the thing: that link that says government numbers are untrustworthy goes to the RT.com site, i.e., Russia Today. I mean, come on.

The Farewell

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Mrs. Salad read the synopsis, and said "I don't want to watch that." She's averse to "grandma's dying" movies. So I was relegated to watching this at my downstairs desk.

Then she asked from upstairs: "What are you laughing at?" Honest, honey: it's IMDB-billed as "Comedy, Drama". And there are some funny bits.

A Chinese matriarch gets tested for some respiratory problems, and in a development that I'm pretty sure couldn't happen in the USA, the doctors do not tell her the gloomy prognosis. Instead, the family finds out, and they decide to not tell her. But they want to get the family together one last time for her, so they arrange for a wedding for some hapless kid. Enter Billi (played by the wonderful Awkwafina), mostly American, and she's aghast at the deception. She can't really afford to go to China, but she does anyway. But will she spill the beans? Over the next few days, she's torn. And she has secrets of her own.

It's a good movie for looking at cultural differences and similarities. Apparently a universal attribute of families is to realize that scrupulous truth-telling isn't always the best recipe for family harmony. Of course, as here, sometimes things get a little out of control.

The Phony Campaign

2020-03-29 Update

Interesting development: We have a new candidate on the list, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, popping up with a small but qualifying win-probability of 3.2%. I assume this is entirely due to Joe Biden's ineffective efforts to look relevant. (Note Joe's nearly five percentage point decline in the betting markets over the week.)

I can see a dramatic scenario unfold that involves a bunch of cancelled primaries, a pile of unpledged delegates up for grabs at the Democratic Convention, maybe a few more Biden incoherencies, and voilà.

Andrew is also our phony leader, nearly two-to-one over Trump. What's up with that?

Candidate WinProb Change
Since
3/22
Phony
Results
Change
Since
3/22
Andrew Cuomo 3.2% --- 2,740,000 ---
Donald Trump 48.7% +1.7% 1,400,000 -130,000
Joe Biden 41.1% -4.9% 422,000 -47,000

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • Let's welcome Andy to our standings with a recent article in Irish Central: AOH condemns NY Governor Cuomo’s fake Irish accent.

    The Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) are shocked and disappointed that during a 3/11 press conference dealing with the response to the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and the heartbreaking announcement that for the first time in 258 years the NY St. Patrick's Day parade will not take place on March 17th, that NY Governor Andrew Cuomo decided that this was an appropriate time to engage in stereotypical stage-Irishmanism. 

    Video at the link. Putting on a fake Irish accent to mock a St. Patrick's Day parade cancellation is apparently acceptable. It was only a matter of bad timing that he avoided making fun of the cancellation of Black History Month events with an an Amos & Andy accent.


  • Mona Charen's column deals with China's Lies, and Ours. Well, not "ours". Trump's. And we know about China, but:

    President Donald Trump engaged in a series of soothing statements himself. On Jan. 22, after the first U.S. case was reported, he said, "We have it totally under control." On Feb. 2, he boasted that "we pretty much shut it down coming in from China." Twice in February, the president promised that "when we get into April, in the warmer weather — that has a very negative effect on that, and that type of a virus." On Feb. 26, when cases topped 60, Trump claimed, "We're going very substantially down, not up." In South Carolina, on Feb. 28, Trump likened criticism of his handling of the pandemic to impeachment, saying that "this is their new hoax." On March 6, he continued this theme. Facing criticism for his false statement that "anyone who wants a test can get a test," Trump tried to string together a "fake news"/Ukraine theme. He said the tests were "beautiful," adding, "The tests are all perfect, like the letter was perfect, the transcription was perfect, right?" Asked whether he was concerned about the virus's spread on March 7, the president said, "No, we've done a great job."

    Throughout the first 10 weeks of the pandemic, Trump praised China effusively, as The Bulwark's Jim Swift chronicled. On Feb. 7, for example, Trump said: "Great discipline is taking place in China, as President Xi strongly leads what will be a very successful operation. We are working closely with China to help!" A few days later, he shared with Fox News his view that "China is very, you know, professionally run, in the sense that they have everything under control. I really believe they are going to have it under control fairly soon."

    I don't expect Trump to be an expert epidemiologist. And I expect him to bullshit. It's a bad combination when he's bullshitting about epidemiological issues that are killing Americans.


  • Megan McArdle looks at one thing Trump had right… and then proceeded to change his mind about: Why the Defense Production Act won’t get us ventilators any faster.

    General Motors has just been nationalized for the second time in 11 years.

    Well, not the whole company this time, the way it was in 2009. But President Trump has decided to compel General Motors to manufacture ventilators under a formerly obscure law called the Defense Production Act.

    For days, as disturbing reports mounted from hospitals in urban covid-19 hotspots, both Trump’s opponents and some of his supporters have been urging the president to use this authority. The president repeatedly said it wasn’t needed, then abruptly changed course as negotiations between GM and the government broke down.

    Trump had it right the first time. This is undoubtedly good political theater, but it doesn’t actually get us ventilators any faster.

    His instincts are poor, and his principles are absent.


  • At the Washington Examiner, Andrew Mark Miller looks at a recent claim from our other major candidate: Biden sparks confusion after claiming he 'became a professor' after leaving the Senate.

    Biden became vice president after leaving the Senate in 2009 and received the title of "Benjamin Franklin Presidential Practice Professor" from the University of Pennsylvania in 2017. He never taught any classes, according to his own spokesperson at the time.

    […]

    Biden was present on the University of Pennsylvania campus four times to make speeches in 2017 and again in 2018. He was paid $776,527, which amounted to nearly double the average salary of the professors on campus at the time, according to PhillyMag.

    Well, in Academia it's all about the titles, so I don't agree with those who claim he's not a professor. Clearly, he is.

    I'm not sure it shows great judgment for him to draw attention to yet another six-figure sinecure for someone named "Biden".


  • And, oh yeah, Joe also got metooed. At NR, David Harsanyi looks at the controversy and wonders: Will Biden Live Up to His Own Principles?.

    Need I mention Betteridge's law of headlines?

    In the midst of the Democrats’ campaign to deny Brett Kavanaugh confirmation to the Supreme Court, Lawfare’s editor in chief, Benjamin Wittes, took to the pages of The Atlantic to argue that traditional concepts of due process were not applicable under the circumstances. Justice, he wrote, was merely an “optical” consideration, and in this case, “Kavanaugh himself bears the burden of proof.”

    This upending of liberal ideals had nothing to do with the veracity of Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations — opaque, decades old, and unprovable — and everything to do with the accused party, upon whom, Wittes noted, we were about to “bestow . . . an immense honor that comes with great power.”

    We don’t know if, in 1993, presidential hopeful Joe Biden sexually assaulted a woman named Tara Reade by pressing her up against a wall and digitally penetrating her without her consent. But under Wittes’s standard, it shouldn’t matter. Indeed, that we do not know is all that we need to know. No person in America is accorded a more “immense honor” or more “great power” than the president. Surely, as with Kavanaugh, the existence of the accusation is disqualifying?

    It would be nice to see the hair-splitting arguments that claim "this is different".


  • And Slashdot reports that Great White Mother Elizabeth Warren is freeing her code to roam this vast land: Elizabeth Warren's Campaign Is Making Its Software Open Source.

    While most politicians are pro copyright maximalism and patent exclusivity, Elizabeth Warren's campaign just open-sourced a bunch of software and are proud of having used open source to save money, and build upon the shoulders of other giants. Way to go! "Our tech team worked hard to make getting involved with @ewarren's campaign as easy as possible," reads a tweet from @TeamWarren. "We leaned heavily on open source technology, and we want to contribute back. So we're open-sourcing some of our most important projects for anyone to use."

    Fortunately, they were unable to come up with any software that would convince voters she was their best choice.


Last Modified 2020-03-29 2:08 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2020-03-28

[Amazon Link]

  • At the Josiah Bartlett Center, the question is asked: How many New England governors really issued "stay home" orders? And answered:

    Here’s a surprise. In New England, only the Republican governors of New Hampshire and Vermont have issued COVID-19 executive orders that direct all individuals to stay home unless otherwise allowed to go out.

    JBC goes on to note that New Hampshire's "order" has piles of exceptions. As noted yesterday, including florists.


  • In his column, Jonah Goldberg says Pandemics Are a Terrible Time for a Frivolous Spending Spree. And he's right!

    During the debate over the economic rescue package last week, House Majority Whip James Clyburn said this crisis offers a “tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.” The House version of the bill was full of gratuitous nonessentials such as regulations for forced diversity hiring. (The bill included 32 instance of the word “diversity.”) The final version has $25 million in funding for the Kennedy Center.

    If you want to convince normal Americans to take a crisis seriously, you have a moral obligation to act as if you take it seriously too. Using it as an opportunity to get things you couldn’t successfully argue for before the crisis tells people you’re not as serious as you expect them to be. And that is a surefire way to sow precisely the sort of partisan distrust you decry.

    As with past crises, Jonah notes, "a lot of the stuff progressives propose to fight it are things they want to do anyway."

    Also see: the Patriot Act, way back when.


  • At National Review, David Harsanyi has shocking news: Political Media Are Failing America.

    Here are some of the public figures and institutions that Americans hold in higher esteem than the media according to Gallup:

    • Hospitals
    • Their child’s school and daycare centers
    • State governments
    • Their employer
    • CDC and NIH
    • Mike Pence
    • Donald Trump
    • Congress

    Only one institution that Gallup asked about, the media, had negative approval rating — sitting 19 points behind its archenemy Donald Trump. And there are likely many other people and places that the public has more trust in than journalists.

    I'll go against the grain somewhat and opine that my local TV station and the Wall Street Journal have been pretty good. But I haven't bothered with CNN, MSNBC, Fox, ABC, …


  • At Reason, Paul Detrick: The Coronavirus Testing Debacle Stems From Decades of Bad FDA Policy. One example:

    Take the case of Alex Greninger, a doctor and researcher at the University of Washington, who, according to a report in GQ, submitted his application to create a coronavirus test via email. Then he learned that he also needed to submit a paper copy, and then another version burned to a compact disk or loaded onto a drive and delivered to the FDA's Maryland headquarters.

    After he complied, the FDA did not approve his test right away, according to a report in ProPublica. They asked him to make sure his test didn't cross-diagnose with SARS and MERS, other coronaviruses which hadn't been seen in the U.S. in years. His test was finally certified on February 29, at which point the fatal outbreak in his home state of Washington was already underway. 

    As the crisis worsened and the testing shortage drew headlines, the FDA simplified the process. But then on March 20, it shut down efforts to rapidly make available at-home testing kits on the grounds that they were unvetted and could be fraudulent.

    As they say, the country's in the very best of hands.


  • And the Google LFOD News Alert rang for Matt Simon: Coronavirus threatens medical cannabis program, endangers patients. Specifically, those who use it to alleviate pain, manage nausea from chemotherapy, etc.

    Patients living in neighboring states are much more fortunate in this regard than those in New Hampshire. Vermont, Massachusetts, and Maine all allow dispensaries to deliver medical cannabis to patients, and they also allow individuals to grow their own plants at home.

    Sadly, patients in New Hampshire do not have either of those alternatives. Here, patients’ only in-state option is to drive or send a designated caregiver to one of five dispensary locations. And home cultivation, which is now legal for adults in all three neighboring states, remains a felony for patients in the “Live Free or Die” state.

    How about it, Governor Sununu? As long as you're issuing decrees…