URLs du Jour - 2014-11-13

  • We've occasionally run into Mark Bittman, who specialized in writing in the NYT about food (and did a fine job with that, as far as I know) and "food policy" (a very, very poor job of that). (Pun Salad articles mentioning Bittman here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.) He recently teamed up with Michael Pollan, Ricardo Salvador and Olivier De Schutter to write a WaPo op-ed: "How a national food policy could save millions of American lives"

    Opening paragraph:

    How we produce and consume food has a bigger impact on Americans’ well-being than any other human activity. The food industry is the largest sector of our economy; food touches everything from our health to the environment, climate change, economic inequality and the federal budget. Yet we have no food policy — no plan or agreed-upon principles — for managing American agriculture or the food system as a whole.

    It's (of course) nonsense to claim that "we" have "no food policy". We have, in fact, a vast collection of laws, regulations, subsidies, prohibitions, programs, mandates, nudges, and nags all designed to affect what gets produced and eaten. What the authors really mean is: they don't like this current policy.

    But it's not hard to see where these earnest statist nannies are going:

    This must change.

    (Picture four fists hitting the table to punctuate this totalitarian demand.)

    Bittman and his co-authors prattle (on and on) about the current "food system" but the "system" of letting people freely decide what to consume on their own and letting the marketplace provide it is never really considered. Quoting myself from a few years ago:

    The whole notion of food being a "system" that can be "fixed" is another instance of what Thomas Sowell called the "unconstrained vision": the unexamined, unshakeable belief that it's all one big well-understood machine, and to get the outcomes we prefer, all we have to do is "fix" it. And there's the obvious corollary: anyone who disagrees is either evil or foolish, and can be safely ignored, or made ineffective "by any means necessary".

    And (indeed) the four authors assure us:

    Only those with a vested interest in the status quo would argue against creating public policies with these goals.

    Any opposition is illegitimate.

  • Which naturally brings us to "Liberal Bullshit" from the perceptive writer William Voegeli (excerpted from his new book). See how this relates to the "policy prescription" set forth by the aforementioned nannies:

    A bullshit prescription, by the same token, might actually work to some degree, but any such efficacy is inadvertent and tangential to the central purpose: demonstrating the depths of the prescriber’s concern for the problem and those who suffer from it, concerns impelling the determination to “do something” about it. As the political project that exists to vindicate the axiom that all sorts of government program X’s can solve an endless list of social problem Y’s, liberalism is always at risk of descending into prescriptive bullshit. Liberal compassion lends itself to bullshit by subordinating the putative concern with efficacy to the dominant but unannounced imperative of moral validation and exhibitionism. I, the empathizer, am interested in the sufferer for love of myself, Rousseau contended. Accordingly, an ineffectual program may serve the compassionate purposes of its designers and defenders as well as or better than a successful one.

    Vogeli's book is going on my read-someday list.

  • The Fire tells the story of a recent panel at Smith College, where Wendy Kaminer used words that made the ladies shriek and stand on their chairs. Well, figuratively. There was the n-word, for example, but that's not all. The student newspaper published a bowdlerized transcript of the discussion, including the following from Ms Kaminer (WK):

    WK: And by, “the c-word,” you mean the word [c-word]?

    The paper also couldn't resist expurgating a word used by Smith President Kathleen McCartney:

    Kathleen McCartney: … We’re just wild and [ableist slur], aren’t we?

    The [ableist slur]? It was "crazy". As in "You don't have to be [ableist slur] to send your daughter to Smith, but it helps."

  • Read David Weigel on the "nobody" Rich Weinstein, who's made it a sideline to discover the "speak-o"s and "off the cuff" remarks of Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber that revealed how intentionally dishonest and opaque the process of crafting the legislation was.

    This is kind of priceless:

    “The next day, I woke up and turned on my iPad,” Weinstein recalls. “I did a quick search. You know, 'Gee, if I wonder if anything is out there about this Jonathan Gruber guy?' And the first result was about this video. 'Holy crap, what is going on?' Excuse my language. It just kept getting bigger and bigger. Later that day, a friend told me that Rush Limbaugh was talking about this video. I’m at WaWa, and I'm eating a sandwich in the car, and Limbaugh comes back from commercial and says 'There's more on this Gruber video. The White House is responding.' I’m like, 'What do you mean, the White House is responding?'”

    If our mainstream news organizations weren't such mindless shills for the left, uncovering this story would have been their job. But in this world, it's left up to folks like Weinstein.

  • Back this summer when I saw Dawn of the Planet of the Apes I mentioned that Andy Serkis, who played the noble Ape leader Caesar, deserved on Oscar for his performance. I'm happy to report that according to this Wired article, that could happen. (Video at the link.)

  • … and your tweet du jour is from the great Dean Norris:

    I can't be the only one wishing that he'll bring a little Hank Schrader to his role.

Last Modified 2014-11-14 3:55 AM EST