URLs du Jour — 2013-03-06

  • [Peasants Begone!] The Obama Administration is cancelling all White House tours starting this Saturday, and blaming the Dread Sequester.

    But, as Daniel Halper of the Weekly Standard points out, the White House is still employing a "Chief Calligrapher" (at $96,725/yr). But just in case, there are also two Emergency Backup Calligraphers (at $85,953/yr and $94,372/yr). (I would guess there are also equally prudent expenditures for pens, brushes, parchment, embossers, ….)

    Perhaps the Calligraphers could produce some tasteful signs for the White House entrances. Pun Salad's suggestion illustrates this post.

  • A recent positive report from the Brookings Institution on Amtrak finances was breezily reported in the MSM. At Cato, Randal O'Toole dismantles it.

    As a long-time lover of passenger trains, I wish the report's statements were true, but they are not. To reach these conclusions, Brookings scholars have selectively used data; ignored one of the major travel modes; and relied on Amtrak accounting tricks to disguise losses.

    O'Toole's short post is worth reading to illuminate how fudgy such "objective" reports can be.

  • On a somewhat similar note: David Friedman reminds us that it's also a good idea to be skeptical of "Official Scientific Truth".

    A pattern I have observed in a variety of public controversies is the attempt to establish some sort of official scientific truth, as proclaimed by a suitable authority--a committee of the National Academy of Science, the Center for Disease Control, or the equivalent. It is, in my view, a mistake, one based on a fundamental misunderstanding of how science works. Truth is not established by an authoritative committee but by a decentralized process which (sometimes) results in everyone or almost everyone in the field agreeing.

    David's college work (like mine) was in physics, so he's not a know-nothing.

  • Rich Lowry is funny on the regulatory barriers to construction of the Keystone Pipeline.

    For a taste of the 21st-century American attitude toward building things, I direct your attention to Volume 2 -- not Volume 1, 3, or 4 -- of the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, not to be confused with the three prior environmental studies, including one in August 2011 that was erroneously called the Final Environmental Impact Statement.

    Therein is a section considering the pipeline's impact on endangered and potentially endangered animals and plants. It evaluates the effect on everything from the Sprague's Pipit to the blowout penstemon, although special attention is devoted to the American burying beetle. Just like your congressman, the beetle is a "federally protected invertebrate."

    "Heh. Indeed."

  • Rob Long is (of course) also funny and perceptive in looking at a recent pronouncement from the US Metric Association, which derides America's "old nationalistic prejudice against measurement change".

    There's a US Metric Association? And it's been around for ninety-six years? Wow. I had no idea how hard it is to kill a stupid idea. But, of course, from that telltale phrase -- "nationalistic prejudice" -- we know that this isn't about a system of measurement. It's about teaching American rubes a lesson.

    Metric units make calculations easier. That advantage has been irrelevant for about four decades, since calculators got cheap.

Last Modified 2013-06-19 1:26 PM EDT