The Seen and Unseen at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

(A Pun Salad Rerun)

[Pun Salad is on reruns for a few days. For less time than the TV networks, promise! In the meantime, please enjoy this Bastiat-inspired commentary from last May on the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.]

It has been almost a month since this article appeared in local media with the headline "Shipyard accounts for $756 million in economic activity". "Shipyard" is our local Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (PNSY), just down the street in Kittery, Maine. And this is an exercise performed annually by the Seacoast Shipyard Association (SSA), an association of "individuals, businesses and communities dedicated to the continued existence of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard".

But the article stuck in my craw a bit, because I've also read the masterful 1850 essay by Frédéric Bastiat "What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen". The classic example Bastiat provided was the activities of the "incorrigable son" of James Goodfellow who breaks a pane of glass, giving rise to Goodfellow's fury. But:

If you have been present at this spectacle, certainly you must also have observed that the onlookers, even if there are as many as thirty of them, seem with one accord to offer the unfortunate owner the selfsame consolation: "It's an ill wind that blows nobody some good. Such accidents keep industry going. Everybody has to make a living. What would become of the glaziers if no one ever broke a window?"

Yes, it's good for the glazier, Bastiat admits.

The glazier will come, do his job, receive six francs, congratulate himself, and bless in his heart the careless child. That is what is seen.

It is a nasty fallacy to stop at considering with "what is seen", because one might conclude that it's "good to break windows." Bastiat demands we consider…

It is not seen that, since our citizen has spent six francs for one thing, he will not be able to spend them for another. It is not seen that if he had not had a windowpane to replace, he would have replaced, for example, his worn-out shoes or added another book to his library. In brief, he would have put his six francs to some use or other for which he will not now have them.

So, 167 years later, Bastiat's crowd of onlookers has moved across the ocean, organized itself into the SSA, and aligned itself with complaisant pols. And our Bastiat-ignorant media uncritically showers its customers with its "seen" factoids like …

The shipyard accounted for $756,068,941 in total economic activity in 2016, according to the report. Total civilian payroll of nearly $500 million represents an increase of more than $14 million from 2015, which allowed more than 200 new employees to be hired, according to the report.

That might draw a snort of French contempt-mixed-with-amusement from Bastiat. "Oui! That is what is seen, mes amis! Tell me what is unseen?"

As it happens, Bastiat considers an even more pertinent example in his essay, involving the military. He's no peacenik, but he realizes that defense expenditures are costs, spending money that can't be devoted to other items:

A nation is in the same case as a man. When a man wishes to give himself a satisfaction, he has to see whether it is worth what it costs. For a nation, security is the greatest of blessings. If, to acquire it, a hundred thousand men must be mobilized, and a hundred million francs spent, I have nothing to say. It is an enjoyment bought at the price of a sacrifice.

He offers a concrete example:

A legislator proposes to discharge a hundred thousand men, which will relieve the taxpayers of a hundred million francs in taxes.

Suppose we confine ourselves to replying to him: "These one hundred thousand men and these one hundred million francs are indispensable to our national security. It is a sacrifice; but without this sacrifice France would be torn by internal factions or invaded from without." I have no objection here to this argument, which may be true or false as the case may be, but which theoretically does not constitute any economic heresy. The heresy begins when the sacrifice itself is represented as an advantage, because it brings profit to someone.

The SSA, its co-dependent politicians, and the media don't ignore this heresy. Instead, they embrace it with inane anecdotes like…

Loco Coco’s Tacos on Walker Street in Kittery, Maine, started as a small takeout taco stand in a parking lot.

Over the years more and more Portsmouth Naval Shipyard workers grabbed lunch at the stand, providing so much business, Loco Coco’s eventually expanded into the sit-down restaurant it is today, according to Ginny Griffith, a member of the Seacoast Shipyard Association’s board of directors.

“To see what that has turned into from this small business to what it is today is one example of the impact the shipyard has,” Griffith said during the SSA’s annual presentation of its economic impact report.

Yes, PNSY "brings profit to someone". Loco Coco’s Tacos. Duh. Bastiat imagines the SSA representative of his own day:

"Discharge a hundred thousand men! What are you thinking of? What will become of them? What will they live on? On their earnings? But do you not know that there is unemployment everywhere? That all occupations are oversupplied? Do you wish to throw them on the market to increase the competition and to depress wage rates? Just at the moment when it is difficult to earn a meager living, is it not fortunate that the state is giving bread to a hundred thousand individuals? Consider further that the army consumes wine, clothes, and weapons, that it thus spreads business to the factories and the garrison towns, and that it is nothing less than a godsend to its innumerable suppliers. Do you not tremble at the idea of bringing this immense industrial activity to an end?"

As a contemporary of Bastiat's observed: plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. Again, Bastiat says, consider the unseen:

But here is what you do not see. You do not see that to send home a hundred thousand soldiers is not to do away with a hundred million francs, but to return that money to the taxpayers. You do not see that to throw a hundred thousand workers on the market in this way is to throw in at the same time the hundred million francs destined to pay for their labor; that, as a consequence, the same measure that increases the supply of workers also increases the demand; from which it follows that your lowering of wages is illusory. You do not see that before, as well as after, the demobilization there are a hundred million francs corresponding to the hundred thousand men; that the whole difference consists in this: that before, the country gives the hundred million francs to the hundred thousand men for doing nothing; afterwards, it gives them the money for working. Finally, you do not see that when a taxpayer gives his money, whether to a soldier in exchange for nothing or to a worker in exchange for something, all the more remote consequences of the circulation of this money are the same in both cases: only, in the second case the taxpayer receives something; in the first he receives nothing. Result: a dead loss for the nation.

And he observes [paraphrasing]: if defense spending is by its nature so economically beneficial, why don't we put the entire nation to work in it, and get rid of all these fripperies produced by the private economy?

Our local politicians are huge fans of "what is seen", of course. They vociferously oppose any effort that might consider any base closures whatsoever. PNSY was on the chopping block in 2005, but was saved after intense politicking.

Since then, they've done mostly good work, but a civilian employee managed to destroy a sub there too. That's a "seen" cost, but the SSA doesn't like to mention such things.

Some Book Recs

Pun Salad is going into rerun season for a few days. But before we do that, I thought I'd mention some good non-fiction books I've read over the past few months. You can click on the book image to go to the relevant Amazon page (assuming your ad blocker lets you see them, which it should, they're very tasteful), or click on the title to go to my take on the work.

Usually people do a "Top 10" list. As Nigel Tufnel might say, this one goes to 11. In no particular order:

[Amazon Img] Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. An interesting book by a Nobel Prize winner. Although he's a psychologist, he got the Econ prize. Read the book to find out why.
[Amazon Img] The Undoing ProjectA Friendship That Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis. Might well be read before or after you read the one above. This is the "outside" view on the research of Kahneman and his late longtime partner, Amos Tversky.
[Amazon Img] The Three Languages of PoliticsTalking Across the Political Divides by Arnold Kling. His simple explanation of why our various political tribes are so mutually incomprehensible, and why that matters.
[Amazon Img] One Nation UndecidedClear Thinking about Five Hard Issues That Divide Us by Peter H. Schuck. A masterful analysis of five "hard" issues facing America today. Schuck's purpose is to not just provide the facts and arguments behind those issues; he also provides an example of what civilized debate could look like about these issues. But doesn't.
[Amazon Img] Hillbilly ElegyA Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance. Mr. Vance grew up hillbilly, and provides an unsentimental look about that culture's strengths and flaws. A longtime best-seller, and deservedly so.
[Amazon Img] The Death of ExpertiseThe Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters by Tom Nichols. A very readable, and a tad cranky, book about the decline in respect for the American Expert. Some wounds are self-inflicted, but not all of them,
[Amazon Img] WonderlandHow Play Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson. A very entertaining and readable book about unexpected connections between yesterday's pursuit of the seemingly frivolous and the shape of the modern world.
[Amazon Img] The Boys in the BoatNine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown. Another deserved best-seller. I didn't think a book about young men engaging in competitive rowing could be so captivating. Wrong again.
[Amazon Img] Against Democracy by Jason Brennan. Brennan doesn't quite slay the sacred cow of "democracy", but does a pretty good job of desacralizing it. But if you want an impetus for reading this book, take a cold hard look at the people "we" elected to have power over us.
[Amazon Img] The Secret of Our SuccessHow Culture Is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter by Joseph Henrich. A "big idea" book (I've been a sucker for those lately) which examines the concept of "cultural evolution". Or: why didn't humans become tiger chow millions of years ago?

The linked post has an inexplicable slam at Mr. Craig Kimbrel. I assume he must have had a poor outing at the time of writing. I apologize.

[Amazon Img] Unwanted AdvancesSexual Paranoia Comes to Campus by Laura Kipnis. A clearly-written take on the epidemic of kangraroo courts in our nation's colleges and universities, adjudicating and punishing alleged sex-related misbehavior with little respect for due process, or, too often, truth.

URLs du Jour

2017-08-15

Mission plan

■ Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Proverbs 21:5:

5 The plans of the diligent lead to profit
    as surely as haste leads to poverty.

… or "How to Get Rich the Bible Way".


■ Patterico points out the devious scheme of Economic Trumpism: Kurt Schlichter’s Plan to Regulate Google Into Submission.

At Townhall.com, Kurt Schlichter has a piece titled Conservatives Must Regulate Google And All of Silicon Valley Into Submission. The piece captures the spirit of Trumpism admirably, by turning a company’s ability to engage in free enterprise into a privilege that can and should be withheld when the company does something to tick off someone in power.

There's a possibility that Schlichter's is a satirical "modest proposal". But even if so, it's too similar to what I've seen here and there over the past few years from some ostensibly conservative minds, roughly: "let's play as dirty as the left does."

That's not a path to anything worth winning.


■ John Daniel Davidson writes at the Federalist: Charlottesville Was A Fight Between The Tribal Right And Tribal Left, Intended To Polarize America.

Let’s get something out of the way: Charlottesville is not about Confederate statues or Robert E. Lee or the Civil War or American history. What happened on Friday night and Saturday is about power, specifically about forcing the great mass of Americans to choose sides in a zero-sum clash between contemporary American versions of Weimar gangs.

The moral is the same as with Patterico's Schlicter rebuttal: whether violence is involved or not, don't choose sides in a game of loser vs. loser.


■ Let me also embed a recent Facebook post from …

O'Neil is another sense-maker.


■ My Google LFOD alert clanged for a recent op-ed in my local paper: Jeff Chidester on the Very Man Himself, Gen. Stark’s legend of American heroism.

A casual look at history confirms that Gen. Stark most likely was not the first person to use the term “Live Free or Die,” but that doesn’t matter. By most accounts, the addition to that phrase (“Death is not the worst of evils”) was original to Stark. Stark never claimed to be the author of “Live free or die,” which was offered as a written toast in honor of the men who fought at the Battle of Bennington. Stark knew the patriots who fought alongside him Aug. 16, 1777, earned every one of those words. Live free or die is more than just a state motto; it is a eulogy, a testament to those that believed in the promise of this country that they were willing to lay down their lives for an ideal greater than themselves.

Something to be forgotten at our peril.


■ But on a more modern note, a Vermont paper bemoans a troublesome trend: For Some, Seat Belt Use Not Clicking.

With 80 percent of drivers and passengers using their seat belts, Vermont was 10 percentage points below the national average. Georgia ranked No. 1 at 97.2 percent.

Care to guess which state brought up the rear, at 70.2 percent? Yes, the Live Free or Die state, and it’s probably no coincidence that New Hampshire is the only state that doesn’t require adults to buckle up and it ranks last in seat belt use.

I, for one, want to see draconian legislation mandating crash helmets for vehicle drivers. If it saves just one life, wouldn't that be worth it?

For the record, it's hard to see the lack of a mandatory seat belt law making a huge difference in people being killed. Some 2015 stats, copied from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety:

  • The US as a whole experienced 10.8 auto-accident fatalities per 100,000 population, and 1.13 deaths per 100 million miles traveled.

  • New Hampshire fell below that average: 8.6 deaths per 100,000 population, 0.87 per 100 million miles.

  • Vermont, with its mandatory seat belt laws: 9.1 deaths per 100,000 population (slightly above NH), 0.78 per 100 million miles (slightly below NH).

  • Amusingly, Massachusetts sort of defies its stereotype of the Mecca of bad drivers: 4.5 deaths per 100,000 population, 0.52 deaths per 100 million miles.

We also have pull-off state liquor stores on our Interstates.

URLs du Jour

2017-08-14

Haughty Monkey

■ Does Proverbs 21:4 say anything of relevance to our troubled times?

4 Haughty eyes and a proud heart—
    the unplowed field of the wicked—produce sin.

Well … maybe. I'm stuck on whatever the Proverbialist is trying to evoke with the "unplowed field of the wicked" imagery.

Our Flickr embed du jour: a haughty monkey. No doubt pondering an unplowed field of the wicked.


■ Roger L. Simon asks the musical question: Is Charlottesville What's Really Going On in the USA? Spoiler: not really.

[…] For the next week or two -- assuming we're not at war with North Korea -- we will hear non-stop geschreiing from our media about what a racist nation we are, how we have to come together, rend our shirts, investigate this and that and endlessly discuss how bad we are until we're finally forgiven at some undetermined point in an ever vanishing future that seems never to arrive.

Don't play that game. What happened in Charlottesville isn't us. It's just a small group of real bad people. Indict them, convict them, and lock them up for a long as possible. The rest of us should move on. We have a lot better things to do.

Can't wait until the next atrocity causes people to … continue to behave exactly the same way they always have.


■ At Power Line, Scott Johnson writes on the Evil Losers on Parade.

What a sickening display of racism, anti-Semitism and all the rest the “white nationalists” served up in their demonstration over the decision to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville. According to the New York Times, the planned rally was promoted as “Unite the Right,” attracting groups like the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis and movement leaders like David Duke and Richard Spencer.

One would only hope these folks could somehow drown in the poison in their hearts.


■ Jay Nordlinger, an extraordinarily decent fellow, writes at NR About Yesterday, and Today (and Tomorrow). And he notes what a lot of ostensible conservatives shy away from: President Trump's lack of "truth, decency, and honor."

When pro-Trump conservatives asked other conservatives to look away from the question of truth, decency, and honor, they asked a lot — more than they might have known. It was too much to ask, too much to accept.

If I had my way, the Republican party — starting with Trump — and the conservative movement would tell the alt-Right, or whatever it should be called, to take their frog and their torches and their buzzwords — “globalist” and all the rest – and stuff it.

I think that, if conservatism gets associated in the public mind with nationalism, populism, demagoguery, grievance, race-consciousness, and tribalism, we are cooked. And the country too.

Call that "moral preening" if you like. But consider why you need to need to resort to that: could it be that you're unwilling to look honestly at Trump's deeply flawed character?


■ At Reason, Cathy Young scores An Interview With James Damore. Example:

CY: A lot of the criticism has focused on charges that you were essentially telling the women in tech jobs at Google they're not as good or well-suited to those jobs as the men. What's your response?

JD: The purpose of my document was mainly to discuss the ideological echo chamber. As for the gender things, I was trying to explain why we might not expect 50/50 representation in tech largely due to differing interests, and I don't say anything about individual women, especially those in tech.

Damore sounds pretty reasonable. Google should be ashamed.


■ Mark Steyn's Song of the Week Wichita Lineman, and it's a glorious yarn with Glen Campbell, Jimmy Webb, and others. (And a side appearance by Frank Sinatra, asking "Who's that faggot on guitar?" He'd find out.)

[…] in theory it should have been a tough sell: "I've got this song about an employee of the electric company..." Yet, unbeknown to Webb, [Glen Campbell's producer and arranger] Al De Lory's uncle was an actual lineman for the county, in California, in Kern County. "As soon as I heard that opening line," De Lory recalled, "I could visualize my uncle up a pole in the middle of nowhere." What do they think about, those guys up on those poles? Love? Dinner? Hunting season? "I wanted it to be about an ordinary fellow," said Jimmy Webb. "Billy Joel came pretty close one time when he said 'Wichita Lineman' is 'a simple song about an ordinary man thinking extraordinary thoughts.' That got to me; it actually brought tears to my eyes. I had never really told anybody how close to the truth that was.

Also mentioned: Carol Kaye's extraordinary opening bass line.

Kong: Skull Island

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

I dearly love King Kong movies, but this one … eh.

After a small opening scene set at the end of WWII, we jump forward to 1973, as American troops pull out of Vietnam. That leaves warriors like Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) sad. Fortunately, he and his troops are roped into a mad scheme hatched by Bill Randa (John Goodman): to explore Skull Island, which has only now been discovered by satellite photos.

Of course, we have a general idea of what they'll find. Along for the ride are hero James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and heroine Fay Wray Mason Weaver (Brie Larson). Humor, sort of, is provided by the survivor from that WW2 scene, played semi-crazed by John C. Reilly.

Acting is pretty good, as you might expect with that cast. Special effects are fine, but (honestly) we're used to that by now. There are numerous shout-outs to Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Coppola's Apocalypse Now. These come off as pretentious. Other than that, the script goes through the motions. Spoiler: they don't get Kong off the island, so there's no New York climax with planes and skyscrapers, and only a few characters escape with their lives. There's some effort to be imaginative with the carnage; the best scenes involve Kong fighting off the invading helicopters.

A post-credits scene sets up the patient audience for what comes next. Hint: starts with "God", ends with "Zilla".

Bottom line: I prefer Peter Jackson's version.

Unwanted Advances

Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus

[Amazon Link]

Not that it matters, but Pun Salad was on-hand when the Obama Administration issued its famous/infamous Title IX "Dear Colleague" letter back in 2011, announced by VP Biden himself in the Memorial Union Building at the University Near Here. Looking back at what I wrote that day, I seem to have been mostly accurate ("aggrieved parties will have significantly more avenues to pursue their gripes"), but woefully blind at predicting what would come in the following years. This book by Laura Kipnis (a professor in the Department of Radio/TV/Film at Northwestern University) is a handy, microscopic, look at the (predictable? regrettable? tragicomic? outrageous?) results as it played out at Northwestern and elswhere.

What's the best adjective to use to describe the process by which universities adjudicate and punish accusations of sexual misbehavior among their employees and students? Kafkaesque? Orwellian? McCarthyite? (Maybe "Kipnitian" will take hold.) Which historical trials offer the best parallels? Salem witches? Spanish Inquisition?

Professor Kipnis bills herself (on page one) as a "left-wing feminist", but defies that stereotype forming in your head by having a sense of humor (or it could be irony—as she says, also on page one, she likes irony). Whatever, she writes clearly and honestly about her observations, and there's very little ideology, other than her clear devotion to truth, rights, and justice. (That sounds corny. It's not meant to be.)

One of her primary observations: feminism used to be, and still claims to be, about female equality, that claims of delicate femininity needing special protections are bunkum. Yet, this feminism was "hijacked by melodrama" in higher ed; there, women are seen as helpless waifs in the sway of powerful males. Often they don't see themselves as victims until weeks, months, even years later! When it's been explained to them.

Kipnis tells the story of Philosophy prof Peter Ludlow, under fire from two accusers (both pseudonymous in the book). She was Ludlow's "faculty support person" at Northwestern's conclave. At first, she thought Ludlow probably was guilty, or at least guilty enough to be shitcanned; she came around to think that charges were unmerited. Yet, Ludlow resigned his position before Northwestern could fire him. Kipnis demolishes the charges against Ludlow in both cases; they were based on contestable (and sometimes changing) stories; they were often contradicted by the concurrent actions of the accusers. What Ludlow had was lousy judgment, in the sense of Algren's Third Rule of Life: "Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own."

Kipnis had her own woes. She wrote a piece for the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled "Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academe". Which echoed a lot of themes in this book but—oops—caused Title IX complaints to be brought up against her. Chilling effect, you see. And (surprise, surprise) this very book has generated its own lawsuit, from the graduate student pseudonymed "Nola Hartley" therein. Here's hoping Professor Kipnis comes out alive and well on the other end.

Finally, I very much appreciated Professor Kipnis's reaction to being lectured on "confidentiality" and "conduct befitting a professor". It's about the same as I had when I (and other UNH employees) were "asked" by our superiors to sign a public document averring to “Never commit, condone, nor remain silent about violence against women.”

Professor Kipnis's response is one I didn't myself have the guts to make at the time: "Kiss my ass."

The Burning Room

[Amazon Link]

Yes, another masterful page-turner from Michael Connelly, chronicling the latest exploits of LAPD Detective Harry Bosch. Or, more accurately, then-latest. Two have come out since, and another is in the pipe for October of this year.

Harry is on the cold case detail ("Open-Unsolved Unit"), looking to solve long-past crimes. A victim of a seemingly-random shooting ten years back was slowly and agonizingly poisoned by the slug in his spine. Now he's died, and the bullet is pried out to reveal … a thread of new evidence!

Bosch has a new partner, too. Due to LAPD social-engineering politics, it's a young Hispanic woman, Lucia Soto, with no detecting experience. Bosch is skeptical, even more so when Lucia seems to have her own secret agenda. Never mind, it turns out that she is, to a first approximation, very Bosch-like in her interests and obsessions. Amusing bit: there's an unstated competition between Bosch and Soto as to who can get into the squad room first in the morning. Slight spoiler: It turns out this book has two cold cases, and Bosch and Soto cut some corners in order to work on both.

Another not-so-slight spoiler: the book ends with both cases "solved" but very little justice meted out. And there's kind of a cliffhanger as far as Harry's future detecting career goes. But: it's hardly a spoiler to know that there at least three more Bosch books after this, so it's safe to assume things work out somehow.

URLs du Jour

2017-08-13

Sacrifice

Proverbs 21:3 claims to know the mind of the Lord:

3 To do what is right and just
    is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.

I suppose that's good news for people who prefer not to sacrifice. Just do what's right and just. Didn't anyone tell Jesus this?


■ At NR, Michael Brendan Dougherty points out the disparity in Trump's condemnations. Specifically, when it comes to the Charlottesville slimeballs, Trump should have said the same thing he said about the Ariana Grande terrorists: These Guys Are Losers Too.

Even if you believe as I do, that Spencer’s form of white nationalism is a marginal movement granted far too much attention, the sight of hundreds of unmasked young men marching through Charlottesville with torches and chanting racist slogans inspires genuine fear in many Americans. Trump was given a chance to speak to that fear today, and to offer the same moral condemnation and deflation he’s given others. Instead he essentially repeated his disgraceful half-disavowal of Duke. He refused to call out these white supremacists by name, and condemn them. He merely condemned “all sides.” An energetic law and order president who had any sense of the divisions in his country would have announced today that he was instructing his Justice Department to look into the people in these groups, and zealously ferret out and prosecute any crimes they turned up.

To use a phrase from a few years past: too many times, Trump is stuck on stupid.


■ Not that "stuck on stupid" is a criticism confined to Trump. Keith Ellison Saying Kim Is “More Responsible” Than Trump Is Part Of A Disturbing Pattern Of Moral Equivalence. Ellison is a solid Democrat, US House member from Minnesota, Deputy Chair of the Democratic National Committee. And he said:

North Korea is a serious thing. You have [President Trump] making bellicose threats against somebody else who has very little to lose over there.

Kim Jong-un, the world always thought he was not a responsible leader, well he’s acting more responsible than [President Trump] is.

Ellison has since "retracted" this statement. Take it away, Patterico:

Even if we’re just talking rhetoric, Ellison is full of it. You don’t have to agree with Trump’s rhetoric (I don’t) to recognize that Kim’s rhetoric is far less responsible. At Hot Air, the always thorough John Sexton gives several examples of Kim’s explicit threats of aggressive nuclear first strikes against the United States. The threats have been going on for years, and most sentient beings are familiar with them.

But to me, the outrageousness of Ellison’s statement goes deeper than a mere comparison of the rhetoric.Look: Trump may display all of the Seven Deadly Sins. He may be a personally awful human being all the way around. (OK, forget “may.” He does, and he is.) But Kim is evil. His regime is evil. He starves his people, runs secretive prison camps for political opponents, and engages in murder, rape, and torture as a matter of government policy. There is zero free press. The entire nation is one giant personality cult. As cultish as some Trumpers can be, there is no comparison between the two countries. Anyone who says there is — or that Trump is worse — is giving aid and comfort to one of the most purely malevolent regimes on the planet.

Our "leaders" are not to be looked up to.


■ Arnold Kling asks the musical question: Is the economy illegible? For example, is it possible to aggregate fundamentally different "goods and services" and disparate labors of "workers" (L) to come up with an economy's "total output" (Y)? Especially when making comparisons over time?

Once you look at differences across decades, adjusting for price changes becomes important but impossible. For example, Bret Swanson says that the computing power in his iPhone would have cost $12 million in 1991. If for the purpose of comparing Y/L today to Y/L in 1991 you valued every iPhone at $12 million, you would report an enormous increase in real GDP and hence in productivity.

"Important but impossible." Hm. Kling, as always, gives even us non-econ-profs something to munch on thoughtfully.


■ Ah, the Google LFOD alert rang for this Chicago Tribune editorial: Illinois' abortion notification law harms free speech. At issue is the Illinois law that requires doctors who decline to perform abortions must, on request, provide patients referrals or information on where to get an abortion.

One essential component of freedom of speech is the freedom not to speak. In 1943, the Supreme Court ruled that public school students could not be forced to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. In 1977, it said the state of New Hampshire could not require motorists to display its "Live Free or Die" motto on their license plates. The First Amendment, it said in that case, protects the right of all people "to refuse to foster ... an idea they find morally objectionable."

Observation: There are a lot of license plate holders on sale whose upper frame is big enough to obliterate LFOD.


■ And LFOD sprang up again in a publication called the Daily Meal: Adventure Travel for Women: Spend the Weekend With REI Outessa. It's straining a bit to call this "news" or "journalism", but:

If you’re an adventurous woman who likes to try new things and step out of your comfort zone — or if you want to be that kind of gal — then REI Outessa is for you. This weekend-long women-only trip will expose you to new activities and sports. Are you new to trail running? Have you always wanted to attempt rock climbing, mountain biking, kayaking, or stand-up paddleboarding? Maybe you’d like to brush up on your backpacking and outdoor survival skills or learn how to wield a Leather(wo)man tool? REI Outessa has brought in the best guides and adventure women — seriously, they’re incredibly supportive, understanding and knowledgeable — to lead you through these exhilarating experiences that you can take at your own pace and skill level.

That's the kind of gritty outdoorsmanship you just don't get from Field & Stream! But where's LFOD? Ah, there 'tis:

Whether you’re a mom traveling with your daughter, a newly divorced woman traveling solo, a young twenty-something between careers, a wild, live-free-or-die adventurer, or a cancer survivor with a new lease on life, you will get something out of a weekend spent in the outdoors.

Note: if you are a wild live-free-or-die adventurer in New Hampshire, you'll have to drive down to Reading MA for the nearest REI store. (Real New Englanders, of course, just go to L. L. Bean.) But one of the "Outessa" events is in Waterville Valley in September, and it's a mere $799 per person for the event, plus $199 to reserve your own tent spot. (Pricier options are sold out as I type.) Hope you have some money left over from your treatments, cancer survivor!


■ From Mental Floss, one for the "What Would We Do Without Experts" category: Experts Say Trying to Force Yourself to Be Happy Doesn't Work. Or perhaps it's the "News You Can Use" category:

A new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology finds that people who accept their difficult emotions are better off in the long run than those who try to force their way into a better mood.

Gosh, psychology sure has made a lot of progress over the centuries. Glad they finally got around to checking that out.

URLs du Jour

2017-08-12

goolag

■ Reader, I invite you to ponder Proverbs 21:2:

2 A person may think their own ways are right,
    but the Lord weighs the heart.

No, I'm not sure what that means either. Something like: You might think you're right, but the Lord might think you're wrong?


■ Peter Suderman revisits a subject we'd all probably like to forget: Why Republicans Didn't Repeal and Replace Obamacare. Based off this TrumpTweet:

Suderman's response:

It's a fair question. Part of the answer is that elected Republicans failed for years to seriously engage with the question of how to replace the health care law they campaigned so adamantly against. But it's also an exercise in calculated blame shifting, one that demonstrates how little the president understands about the policy process. In other words, it's the entire party's fault.

Let us not forget to blame irresponsible voters, who continue to demand that Other People's Money be used to pay for things they think they have a "right" to.


■ Jonah Goldberg's G-File this week is Nork Agonistes. Some fun with the WSJ reporting "what happens to markets in the event of an all-out nuclear war."

From the article in the Wall Street Journal, not The Onion: “Strategists at Nordea Markets estimate that in the unlikely event of ‘a potentially uncontained military conflict’ in which global superpowers like China and Russia get involved, the European Central Bank would have to implement ‘highly dovish forward guidance’ and the yield curve would likely flatten due to weaker risk appetite.”

Oh, well, as long as the ECB will be issuing “highly dovish forward guidance” as the rest of us drink glowing puddle water and fight over rat meat, what is there to worry about?

He has more serious thoughts as well, assessing Kim Jong Un's options and rationality.


■ And (sorry) back to Google's Ideological Echo Chamber, from the man himself, James Damore: Why I Was Fired by Google

I was fired by Google this past Monday for a document that I wrote and circulated internally raising questions about cultural taboos and how they cloud our thinking about gender diversity at the company and in the wider tech sector. I suggested that at least some of the male-female disparity in tech could be attributed to biological differences (and, yes, I said that bias against women was a factor too). Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai declared that portions of my statement violated the company’s code of conduct and “cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.”

And, of course, the word "heresy" appears, because it's accurate. There's a nice picture of Damore with a "Goolag" t-shirt. (Which is also our image du jour, which is not new: it's from 2006.)


■ And we rarely link to Instapundit here, because so many of his posts are simply pointers to elsewhere. But there's a longish post from Ed Driscoll on (there's that meme again) the Google Archipelago.

[…] the world's biggest search engine is well on its way to becoming The Google Archipelago. In an article Orwellianly titled “Internal Messages Show Some Googlers Supported Fired Engineer’s Manifesto” (heaven Lenin forefend — root out the hoarders and wreckers!) in Wired, which began as a libertarian-leaning publication before being purchased by the lefties at Condé Nast, the writer quotes from an anonymous Google employee. “‘Let's take a step back,’ the Googler wrote, ‘and look at what is actually making everyone in Google upset on this thread and in general since the start of the 2016 election season.’ He went on to describe how the apparent uniformity of thought at Google led people like Damore to feel ‘like they are being forcibly dragged into [sic] ideological indoctrination chamber,’” including these passages that sound like mash notes smuggled out of the Ministry of Truth:

As the Instaguy his own self might say: Read The Whole Thing.


■ And, yes, they went there: Yale Covers Up Gun in Stone Carving of Puritan, Indian.

Yale University has covered up a musket on a stone carving depicting a hostile interaction between a Puritan settler and an American Indian, leaving the latter’s bow and arrow uncovered.

Pictures at the link, and I'm not sure how they justified leaving the bow and arrow uncovered. But I'll try to pay attention long enough to find…zzzzz


■ And, finally VA Viper celebration of all things Schrödinger, including the Box, on the 230th anniversary of his birth. Long on jokes. For example, stop me if you've heard this, Schrödinger is pulled over by a cop:

The cop insists on searching the car […] and then asks Schrödinger, "Do you know you have a dead cat in the trunk?",

Schrödinger replies, "Well, now I do."

Where is PETA when you need them?

URLs du Jour

2017-08-11

Fire Island Pines Spray Weekend - Spray
Party 10; Iman Water Spray

■ We start a new Proverbial chapter today, continuing to move (unaccountably, sorry) backward in the book. Anyway, here is Proverbs 21:1:

1 In the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water
    that he channels toward all who please him.

I'm sure that metaphorical image was a lot less comical in arid ancient Israel than it sounds today.


■ Someday we will Move On from the Great Googly Moogly Diversity Dustup, but today is not that day. David Harsanyi notes the destroy-the-village-in-order-to-save-it mentality involved: Stifling Diversity to Protect Diversity.

By firing the Google-memo author, the company confirms his thesis. Most of the mainstream media refer to the former Google engineer’s leaked internal memo as the “anti-diversity memo.” The technology website Recode calls it “sexist.” And Google fired James Damore for “perpetuating gender stereotypes.” But in reality, the problem isn’t diversity; it’s that a senior software engineer admitted, perhaps unwittingly, to pondering three of the most scandalous thought crimes of contemporary American society.

Those thought crimes are: (1) Advocating true meritocracy rather than pigeonholing people by race, sex, ethnicity, etc.; (2) Saying ideological diversity is important; (3) Alleging men and women differ in their talents, interests, and goals.


■ At Reason, Nick Gillespie bares what sounds like it could be an uncomfortable truth: The Google Memo Exposes a Libertarian Blindspot When It Comes To Power. Well, to those libertarians who say (paraphrasing) "Who cares what the private company Google does? Libertarianism is all about coercion by governments."

The Google Memo controversy reveals the limitations of such narrow or "thin" libertarianism. Political correctness—which is both the enforcement of an orthodox set of beliefs and the legitimization of any criticism of those beliefs—is an attitude that is hardly limited only to state capitols, state agencies, and state universities. It exists everywhere in our lives and should be battled wherever we encounter it since it undermines free-thinking and free expression, the very hallmarks of a libertarian society. We have not just a right to criticize the actions of private actors but arguably a responsibility to do so, even if there is no public policy change being called for (Google should be allowed to fire whomever it wants, though its grounds for doing so are fair game for public discussion). Libertarianism is ultimately grounded not in anything like knowable, objective, scientific truths, but in epistemological humility built on (per Hayek and other unacknowledged postmodernists) a recognition of the limits of human understanding and that centralization of power leads to bad results. That is, because we don't know objective truths, we need to have an open exchange of ideas and innovation that allows us to gain more knowledge and understanding even if we never quite get to truth with a capital T. At the same time, we need to allow as many "experiments in living" (to use John Stuart Mill's phrase) as possible both out of respect for others' right to choose the life they want and to gain more knowledge of what works and what doesn't. Political correctness is not simply an attack a given set of current beliefs, it is an attack on the process by which we become smarter and more humane. That's exactly why it's so pernicious and destructive.

A valid point.


■ For those arguing about the actual claims made James Damore's Diversity Memo (and, once again, the memo's title is "Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber", not "Google Should Be a He-Man Woman-Haters Club") Sean Stevens and Jonathan Haidt cast a dispassionate eye on the evidence: What Does the Research Say About Gender Differences?

Our verdict on Damore’s memo: Damore is correct that there are “population level differences in distributions” of traits that are likely to be relevant for understanding gender gaps at Google. Even if we set aside all questions about the origins of these differences, the fact remains that there are gender differences in a variety of traits, and especially in interest/enjoyment (rather than ability) in the adult population from which Google and all other tech firms recruit.

Note the careful distinction between "interest/enjoyment" and "ability".


■ And finally, our Google (yes, we still use Google) LFOD alert was triggered by the Connecticut Post article by "humor columnist Jim Shea": Time for a dress code for politicians.

Seems some women were not allowed in the U.S. House chamber and the Speaker’s lobby — the private hallway connected to the chamber — because they were wearing sleeveless dresses and open-toed shoes. The decision to bar them entry was made by a House official called the sergeant-at-arms. Who knew the duties of the sergeant-at-arms were to be taken so literally?

Does the House also have: A sergeant-at-legs? A sergeant-at-necks? A sergeant-at-hairdos? Obviously, it must have a sergeant-at-toes. What about a sergeant-at-cleavage, although someone with that responsibility would probably be called an inspector.

Okay, that's not bad. For Connecticut. But what about LFOD? Ah, there it is:

What about sleeveless suits, or shirts unbuttoned to reveal hirsute chests? (If male cleavage is allowed, it would, obviously, call for a sergeant-at-gold chains.)

With all the exposed skin the patriotic tattoo — the eagle, the flag, the USA logo — would surely follow. And let us not forget the slogans: E Pluribus Unum, Don’t Tread on Me, Live Free or Die (or in the case of tax-allergic New Hampshire legislators, Live For Free or Die).

Oh, man: a cheap shot at "tax-allergic New Hampshire legislators". As if our legislators were continually frustrating the aching will of the electorate for increased taxes.

Of course, Connecticut is in a sound fiscal position to criticize … Oh, wait.

Connecticut, the richest state in the nation, has racked up $74 billion in debt. Its finances have more in common with Puerto Rico than Massachusetts, as the home of America’s financial wizards struggles to pay off its massive obligations big as the bills come due on decades of mismanagement.

If only they'd had a better dress code!