Tweeting to Carol Shea-Porter (II)

Background: I have taken to following my Congresscritter/Toothache Carol Shea-Porter on Twitter. There's no doubt a certain amount of masochism involved there, but there's also a bit of fun in occasionally Speaking Truth To Power, like yesterday.

A number of her tweets follow a certain formula: (a) link to an article containing some morsel of left-wing Democrat outrage (pretty thick on the ground these days); (b) prepend the comment: "Republicans, speak up. Now!"

I don't know about you, but I find this remarkably petulant and tone-deaf. CSP is a "public servant". (If you don't believe that, just read her press releases.) Where does she get off making demands of her constituents? And not all her constituents, mind you: just a subset of them: Republicans.

It's especially mystifying in a practical-politics sense: consider CSP is only in office by capturing a bare plurality (44.2%) of votes, eking out a 1.9% win over a weak, ethics-challenged GOP opponent, Frank Guinta. Can she really afford this kind of strident hyper-partisanship?

So I attempted to squeeze all that into a tweet:

How's that? The 140-character limit is tough for me.

URLs du Jour

2017-01-31

Trying hard to find the reasonableness. Only occasionally succeeding.

  • Mr. Charles W. Calomiris shares "A Neutral Voter’s Lament"

    As someone who supported neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton during the recent election, I find myself surprisingly repulsed by the anti-Trump protests on Inaugural weekend, and I’ve been puzzling over why. Part of the answer is that I don’t accept the caricature of the Trump administration that the mainstream media and the Democrats supply, and I’m bothered that the masses are so willing to do so. The campaign is over, and now Trump and the talented people he has assembled deserve a chance to show us how they will govern before they’re dismissed as monsters.

    He recommends Proverbs 29:11. As do I.

  • James Lileks also reflects my own attitude:

    Reading Twitter for the last 72 hours proves my lame adage: nothing is true and everything is plausible. It’s like events are a high-speed train moving on tracks that occasionally narrow, diverge, and cross - everything keeps moving forward, somehow, but there aren’t any straight rails. The calm voices make sense. The skeptical voices make sense. The furious voices make sense. You feel as if you should be more suspicious of what you think you know, just to keep yourself honest. You feel as if you should resist doubting what you believe because there’s pressure to conform.

    I especially enjoyed untangling that last sentence.

  • But enough mournful angst about the state of American political discourse. Kevin D. Williamson has an idea we can all get behind: a blue-state tax hike:

    Congressional Republicans and the Trump administration will disagree about many things, but it is rare to find a Republican of almost any description who will turn his nose up at a tax cut of almost any description. As Robert Novak put it: “God put the Republican Party on earth to cut taxes. If they don’t do that, they have no useful function.” And tax cuts are coming. But there are two proposals in circulation that would constitute significant tax increases — tax increases that would fall most heavily on upper-income Americans in high-tax progressive states such as California and New York. The first is a proposal to reduce or eliminate the mortgage-interest deduction, a tax subsidy that makes having a big mortgage on an expensive house relatively attractive to affluent households; the second is to reduce or eliminate the deduction for state income taxes, a provision that takes some of the sting out of living in a high-tax jurisdiction such as New York City (which has both state and local income taxes) or California, home to the nation’s highest state-tax burden.

    Do not hold your breath waiting for the inequality warriors to congratulate Republicans for proposing these significant tax increases on the rich. Expect lamentations and the rending of garments, instead.

    Well, that lamentations thing has much to recommend it. Given that the blue states shout the loudest about Inequality and the Desperate Need for Tax Revenue, it's far past time to make them put their money where their speaking orifices are.

  • But enough about politics. I'm so steeped in it these days, that when I saw a headline about "Instant Pot", I assumed it was related to Maine's recent legalization of "recreational" marijuana. But no.

    Chances are you or somebody you know has recently become the owner of an Instant Pot, the multifunction electric pressure cooker that can produce fork-tender pot roasts in less than an hour, as well as brown meat, cook beans without soaking, and even do the job of a rice cooker or crockpot. The Instant Pot­­ isn't advertised on TV or in the newspapers, and yet it's become a viral marketing success story, with owners often describing themselves as "addicts" or "cult members." That's the kind of word-of-mouth publicity Instant Pot founders dreamed of when they first began designing the countertop appliances.

    Whoa, I want one! But (Mrs. Salad reminds me) we already have a crockpot and a rice cooker. And, in our decades of cohabitation, we've never, ever, needed a pressure cooker. Still… buttons! LEDs!

  • But as long as I was talking about "recreational marijuana": that adjective has always seemed a little off to me. Like you should at least be playing badminton or something, concurrently with consuming. Will use be regulated by towns' Recreation Departments? I swear, you don't have to be stoned to ask these questions!

  • Another culinary item: Mr. Likeks muses on the Zen of Taco Bell and Chinese takeout menus. At the Bell:

    […] It's all the same stuff. Really. They remix the same five or six ingredients into something new every other month. "Announcing the Quesodillorita Crunch Supreme! Two Flavors: Ranch and Bold, neither of which are really flavors at all! New! Limited Time! We'll yank it away for no reason and never explain why! We will deny it ever existed!"

    I don't really get to go to Taco Bell as much as I'd like. Which is probably why I'm blogging instead of in cardiac rehab.

Tweeting to Carol Shea-Porter

It's fun, easy, and (so far) protected by the First Amendment.

URLs du Jour

2017-01-29

Moan. I suppose we have to talk about refugees and immigration, teed off by the reaction to President Trump's recent executive order that … did something about that, I guess.

  • David W. French at NR concerns himself with separating fact from hysteria. He does a noble (but not difficult) job in finding plenty examples of the hysteria. A welcome reality check on anyone who's shouting "Muslim Ban! Muslim Ban!":

    [… Y]ou can read the entire executive order from start to finish, reread it, then read it again, and you will not find a Muslim ban. It’s not there. Nowhere. At its most draconian, it temporarily halts entry from jihadist regions. In other words, Trump’s executive order is a dramatic climb-down from his worst campaign rhetoric.

    But French is not a mindless cheerleader:

    However, there are reports that the ban is being applied even to green-card holders. This is madness. The plain language of the order doesn’t apply to legal permanent residents of the U.S., and green-card holders have been through round after round of vetting and security checks. The administration should intervene, immediately, to stop misapplication. If, however, the Trump administration continues to apply the order to legal permanent residents, it should indeed be condemned.

    As near as I can tell, it's unclear whether (a) Trump's executive order was meant to apply to green-card holders and (b) whether it is being applied to green-card holders.

  • But, once we shed ourselves of the hysteria, is Trump's EO legal? Writing at the NYT, David J. Bier of the Cato Institute argues "nope"

    More than 50 years ago, Congress outlawed such discrimination against immigrants based on national origin.

    But, at NR, Andrew C. McCarthy rebuts: yup, is too.

    Let’s start with the Constitution, which vests all executive power in the president. Under the Constitution, as Thomas Jefferson wrote shortly after its adoption, “the transaction of business with foreign nations is Executive altogether. It belongs then to the head of that department, except as to such portions of it as are specifically submitted to the Senate. Exceptions are to be construed strictly.”

    Bier and McCarthy are recommended to those who enjoy debates over the applicability of Section 1152(a) of Title 8, U.S. Code as opposed to Section 1182(f) and Section 1187(a)(12).

    But for me, there is no better time to trot out the cliché disclaimer: I Am Not A Lawyer.

  • OK, hysteria and legalities aside, how about the remaining question: good idea, or not? The estimable Veronique de Rugy writes at Reason: "Taking In Refugees Is Good for America" She dismisses the terrorist-importing argument:

    Arguably, no act of terrorism has been committed in the last 40 years by refugees in the United States (though a tiny number of refugees have been arrested on terrorism-related charges, and depending on the precise definition of refugees used, the Boston marathon bombing or other incidents may count). And the long wait time and high costs of entering the country as a refugee make that an extremely inefficient way for terrorists to get in.

    She also acknowledges and rebuts various economic arguments.

    Arguing the other side: Roger L. Simon: "My Islam Problem and Yours".

    You can be a virtue-signaling moral narcissist and get all exercised about Donald Trump's executive order suspending visas from seven primarily Muslim countries for the next ninety days, but I have a question for you: what do we do about Islam?

    No quibbles for Roger about whether Trump's EO is a "Muslim Ban" or not.

This is the very definition of an overheated argument. There's a surfeit of finger-pointing, a dearth of good faith arguments for clear policy goals backed up by realistic assessments of risk and economic impact. You're either a slobbering Islamaphobe or a let-em-in oikophobic elitist who worries nobody will be available to trim the shubberies at the yacht club.

Worse: it's a fast-moving topic, and this post may be obsolete by the time you read it. Hey, I haven't checked recently, it may be obsolete as I'm typing it.

Personal

[Amazon Link]

I'm slowly but surely catching up in Lee Child's Jack Reacher series, a project started back in 2009. I've given up my quibbles and tergiversations about Dickensian coincidences and convenient revelations; these books are great fun.

A chance glance at the personal (note title) ads in a castaway Army Times newspaper in Seattle causes Jack to get in touch with a supervisor from his aforementioned MP days. Jack is jetted off to North Carolina, where he's asked to participate in a desperate manhunt. A sniper has taken a shot at the French president. A miss, and Jack doesn't care about that too much anyway, but there are indications that the attempt was a warmup for another assassination in a few days.

Again, Jack asks, why me? Well, it turns out one of the prime suspects was a gifted sniper Jack outwitted and brought to justice during his MP days. And now he's out, looking for work. Aha! This time it's personal! Off to Paris.

Jack brings his usual powers of observation, deduction, and lethal violence to bear on the issue. He is assisted by a female sidekick named "Casey Nice"; also teams up with agents from England and Russia. But, as is the case with every character in a Reacher book: you have to be skeptical whether or not they can be trusted. Things are never as they seem at first, and you have to sort through the numerous red herrings to find… what? The real herrings? I guess.

One character notes the combination of Reacher's vagabond lifestyle and his detective skills, and dubs him "Sherlock Homeless". Heh! That's very accurate.

URLs du Jour

2017-01-28

A week into the Trump Administration, and no nuclear holocaust yet! I'm cautiously optimistic!

  • But speaking of nuclear holocaust, you may have seen the stories about the "Doomsday Clock" being pushed up to 11:57:30 PM. Aieee!

    But what is the "Doomsday Clock"? Fortunately, Sonny Bunch has the answer to that burning (heh) question: "The Doomsday Clock Is Fearmongering Gobbledygook With an Intellectual Veneer".

    The Doomsday Clock is the worst sort of pseudoscientific claptrap, one given a veneer of respectability by the fact that NOBEL SCIENTISTS are the ones who arbitrarily move the hands on its face closer to, or further away from, midnight, the zero hour, the time when we wipe ourselves from the face of the Earth. How do I know that NOBEL SCIENTISTS are the ones who arbitrarily pick and choose where to place the minute hand? Because many, many outraged people on Twitter informed me that NOBEL SCIENTISTS are totes in charge of it when I pointed out that calling a press conference to announce the movements of a fake clock is the height of silliness.

    Wikipedia is more sober about the Clock, but you can't help but notice that when we were actually close to nuclear war, the clock was relatively copacetic:

    • In 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis: 11:53 PM.
    • In 1973, during the Yom Kippur War: 11:48 PM.

    And now it's 2.5 minutes before midnight? Please.

  • Robert Tracinski got a New York Times reporter to admit: "Our Readers Are Too Dumb To Understand Global Warming Numbers".

    Well, almost. What Justin Gillis, the NYT reporter actually tweeted was: "You really think those numbers would mean anything to the ordinary reader?"

    Well, actually, reporting actual numbers, and their uncertainties, might indicate a healthy respect for the ability of ordinary readers to make up their own minds. But Gillis is more in the business of pushing a one-sided narrative. Tracinski is not impressed:

    In short, a New York Times reporter’s job is to repeat the talking points of government agencies and transcribe quotations from partisans for one side of the scientific and political debate. Gillis refers to this as “a 1970s journalism model,” as if that’s supposed to reassure us, but there’s another name for it. It’s “press-release journalism”—journalism that consists, not of questioning or investigation or skepticism, but of restating partisan press releases. It’s the lowest, laziest form of journalism.

    Hey, I've seen lazier.

  • Someone who does exhibit respect for his readers: Ronald Bailey of Reason, who notes a new study showing "Energy Efficiency Mandates Are Worse for Poor Americans Than Energy Taxes".

    Both are regressive, in the sense that they hit lower-income citizens harder than the rest. And the benefits, such as they are, flow to upper income families. Bailey concludes:

    Levinson does not speculate on why politicians and advocates tend to favor energy efficiency mandates over energy taxes, but I will. Energy taxes are obvious to voters, while the effects of energy efficiency standards are sneakier. The latter allow cowardly politicians to avoid telling their fellow citizens that they'll pay more for the privilege of consuming energy.

    Cowardly politicians… but I repeat myself.

  • Looking to re-establish her theocracy, Nancy Pelosi.

    Of Republicans, the Democrat congresswoman from California declared, "They pray in church on Sunday and they prey on people the rest of the week. And while we're doing the Lord's work, ministering to the needs of God's creation, they are ignoring those needs which is to dishonor the God who made them."

    I, for one, eagerly await Nancy Pelosi going full Matthew 21:12 and overturning tables in Congressional anterooms. Well, light ones anyway. She's not a young woman.

  • At Bleeding Heart Libertarians, Steve Horvitz finds "Liberalism in the Balance". He has issues with libertarians who attempt to "find a pony" in Trump's moves to deregulate, cut taxes and (some) spending, etc., while ignoring the illiberalism in his other rhetoric.

    [Trump] is a baboon flinging shit at the liberal tradition and the liberal order, while some libertarians sit around, covered with it, thinking that the drink of water he’s promising them later somehow offsets it.

    Ouch! [Puzzled by the "find a pony" bit? Please click here.]

  • At NR's Bench Memos blog Adam I. Klein takes apart a WaPo op-ed calling Antonin Scalia a "part-time liberal". Klein knows what the WaPo writer does not:

    Unfortunately, the piece makes the all-too-common error of classifying judicial decisions by their policy consequences — a valid metric for grading legislators, not judges — rather than their reasoning. Justice Scalia was a full-time originalist, and that’s what explains both his “conservative” and his “liberal” opinions.

    It's not so much an "error" as a way of thinking, attempting to fit everything into a right-to-left political spectrum, and getting surprised when someone like Scalia doesn't fit neatly into your fallacy. One can only hope that Scalia's replacement will do as good a job at confounding the prejudices of WaPo writers.

  • I enjoy reading Rich Cromwell's "The Week in Weird Twitter" at the Federalist, and you might as well. If you, as I, laugh out loud at stuff like this:

    … you should check it out.

URLs du Jour

2017-01-27

If 2016 was bad for rock stars, 2017 seems to be shaping up as a bad one for TV actors…

  • Yes, I was a devoted watcher of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. But also Mannix. (In fact, when I first joined Netflix, I went through the Mannix DVDs, all eight seasons, in the first few months.) James Lileks has a goodbye for Mike Connors. RIP.

  • Not that it matters, but I'd also like to watch Harry O again. Unfortunately, the DVDs are prohibitively priced, and Netflix doesn't offer them. It's available on Warner Archive, $10/month, first month free, but I'd have to watch on my computer…

    First world problems, right? Why can't I watch anything I want, when and where I want, without spending any more money? Waaaahh…

  • At Cafe Hayek, Don Boudreaux is banging his head against a wall. Specifically, the one President Trump still wants to build between the US and Mexico. And, even more specifically, the one that "will be funded by 20 percent import tax on Mexican goods."

    That's "making Mexico pay for the wall"? Not quite.

    [Update: See Prof B.'s revision and extension.]

    Because only people, not imports, pay taxes on imports – and because the people who pay the bulk of the taxes on imports are the people who buy the imports – and because the people who will buy the Mexican imports that the Trump administration will tax are Americans – the Trump administration’s plan will result in the bulk of the bill for the border wall being paid by Americans.

    We've said a few nice things about Trump in recent days. But his economic illiteracy on trade and immigration is likely to make us all poorer.

  • Another "benefit" of the Trump Administration is that we get to go down some philosophical rabbit holes, unvisited since that class we took as sophomores. For example, we could ask practically every day: "Is it a lie if Trump believes it?" Fortunately, Jacob Sullum has an answer: "It's Not a Lie If Trump Believes It".

    Trump, perhaps the most openly narcissistic man ever to occupy the White House, clearly wants to believe he won the popular vote, just as he wants to believe his historically narrow Electoral College victory qualified as a "landslide." It is therefore plausible that he credulously latched onto crackpot claims about widespread voting by illegal immigrants, just as he credulously latched onto crackpot claims about vaccines and autism. You could argue that his refusal to back down in the face of persuasive debunking shows he is now consciously lying about voter fraud. Presumably that was New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet's reasoning when he approved the use of the word lie. But Trump's stubbornness also can be explained by his emotional attachment to a flattering fiction, a general reluctance to admit error, and a tendency to dismiss information from sources he views as hostile, which seem to include pretty much anyone who questions him.

    Trump and his acolytes are going full John 18:38. You never want to go full John 18:38.

  • Another sensible scribe, David Harsanyi advocates: "Let’s Hold All Politicians Accountable For Lying. Not Just The Ones We Dislike". For example, if the NYT and CNN are going to shout "lie" at Donald Trump, how about…

    Just yesterday, as an example, Sen. Bernie Sanders (most Democrats use the same rhetoric) were telling voters that Republicans who want to cut government funding for the abortion provider Planned Parenthood are seeking to “deny” 2.5 million women “access” to clinics. This is a lie on a number of levels. It is meant to misinform people for political gain. This isn’t a debate about semantics or a dollar’s fungibility, it is wholly untrue. This goes on all the time on all kinds of issues.

    An honest press would… oh, why am I even thinking about what an honest press would do?

  • Christopher J. Scalia had a very funny op-ed in the WSJ yesterday: "Bend It, Don’t End It: Resistance to Anti-Trump Clichés Is Futile". For example, one of the current (heh) clichés sparking (heh) the progressive crowd is "The Resistance".

    The beauty of “The Resistance” is that it connotes scrappy bands of righteous rebels across Europe fighting Nazis and their propagandists at Breitbart. The term’s popularity may also owe something to “The Force Awakens,” the 2015 Star Wars sequel that features a rebel group with the same name. Basically, the liberals are incipient Jedi preparing to take down the heir to Darth Vader and Adolf Hitler.

    In case you don't know (I did not): Christopher is Antonin Scalia's son. Wit runs in the family.

    (The article is probably behind the WSJ paywall. Here is a tutorial on evading paywalls if you need it.)


Last Modified 2017-01-27 8:55 AM EST

Finding Dory

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

Coincidentally, we watched the Finding Dory DVD soon after the movie was snubbed for an Oscar nomination. While two non-Pixar Disney animations (Moana and Zootopia got nominated? Pixar, it's time to step up your game.

That's not to say it's bad. It's pretty good. But not in the league of Up, The Incredibles, Toy Story [1..3], etc.

Anyway: you remember Dory from Finding Nemo, the cute little blue fish with short-term memory troubles. She now realizes that, hey, she had a mom and dad way back when. And she misses them. But all she can remember is the phrase: "the jewel of Morro Bay, California". Can that possibly be enough?

Well, (spoiler) sure it is. But only after numerous misadventures, involving a lot of fishy characters, and general hilarity. And the voice of Sigourney Weaver. Nemo and dad Marlin are back, but there's also Hank, a cranky octopus missing one arm. (So, as Dory points out, a "septopus". With her memory issues, how did she get up to speed so well on ordinal prefixes?)

Consumer note: fans of Finding Nemo will want to watch a post-credits scene.

Consumer note 2: the DVD also includes the short Piper, which was Oscar-nominated. It's pretty good too.

URLs du Jour

2017-01-26

Number of times I've heard that I turn the world on with my smile: zero.

Number of times Mary Tyler Moore heard the same: maybe 103,982? More?

  • JPod on "Mary Tyler Moore: the greatest woman TV star ever".

    Mary Tyler Moore, who died Wednesday at the age of 80, did something no one else ever did in the history of television: She starred in two landmark sitcoms playing two very different characters.

    FactCheck: true! The only woman I can think of that's close is Patricia Heaton, but even as hugely talented as she is, you'd have to stretch about the "landmark" bit.

  • Don't want to be politically tedious about MTM, but at the Daily Signal, Genevieve Wood tells us "Why Mary Tyler Moore Refused to Join the Feminist Movement". Key para:

    In an interview in 2009, Moore told Parade magazine, “When one looks at what’s happened to television, there are so few shows that interest me. I do watch a lot of Fox News. I like Charles Krauthammer and Bill O’Reilly.”

    When asked if that meant she was a “right-winger,” Moore replied, “Maybe more of a libertarian centrist.”

    Aw, I'm in love all over again.

  • Last but not least, the immortal Lileks checks out some of 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' Minneapolis locations on a short video. Hat throwning, he points out, is not something Minnesotans are prone to do.

  • But it's not all MTM at Pun Salad today. Andrew Napolitano is a notoriously difficult guy to please, but (at Reason) he finds President Trump's initial moves to unwind Obamacare to be "breeze of freedom on a sea of regulation."

    He ordered that regulations already in place be enforced with a softer, more beneficent tone, and he ordered that no penalty, fine, setoff or tax be imposed by the IRS on any person or entity who is not complying with the individual mandate, because by the time taxes are due on April 15, the IRS will be without authority to impose or collect the non-tax tax, as the individual mandate will no longer exist. Why take money from people that will soon be returned?

    Then he ordered a truly revolutionary act, the likes of which I have never seen in the 45 years I have studied and monitored the government's laws and its administration of them. He ordered that when bureaucrats who are administering and enforcing the law have discretion with respect to the time, place, manner, and severity of its enforcement, they should exercise that discretion in favor of individuals and against the government.

    Credit where credit is due.

  • Writing at one of our other libertarian go-tos, the Cato Institute, Randal O'Toole compares and contrasts Trump's "infrastructure" proposals with the Democratic alternative.

    [… T]the Trump plan is more bottom-up than top-down, as most if not all of the projects on the possibly fake priority list are supported by state and local officials. And while Trump brought a new idea to the table, the Democrats’ plan is the same old borrow-and-spend formula that they have used in the past. This is actually worse than tax-and-spend because taxing and spending doesn’t leave huge debt problems and interest payments for the future.

    While we can hope that Trump’s projects will rely more on user fees more than taxes, at the moment the score has to be Trump 1/2, Democrats minus 1.

    As said above: credit where credit is due. But "better than the Democrats" is kind of a low bar to clear.

  • News you can use from Kevin D. Williamson: "How to ‘Resist’ Trump". Seriously good advice, and I'll quote this gem:

    If you opposed (and oppose) Donald Trump, then you have a couple of options. One is to make an ass of yourself by dressing as a set of genitals and vandalizing a Starbucks in Oakland. (The Keynesians may thank you, but Bastiat will not.) But we really shouldn’t pretend that that is politics — it is only adolescent self-gratification, and those engaged in it aren’t the Resistance, but the Nursery.

    The next paragraph begins "The more intelligent option is…" but those intelligent to care enough will have already clicked over.

  • Google presents "The Year in Language 2016". They make a living out of the data they scrape out of people's searches, but this is non-commercial and fascinating. Example, what words puzzled people enough to ask the big G for a definition?

    In 2016, these 10 words led the pack: Triggered, Shook, Juju, Broccoli, Woke, Holosexual, Shill, Gaslighting, Bigly, and SJW.

    I think I'm OK on most of those. But "broccoli" has some new meaning? I guess this. And I'm OK with not ever knowing what a "holosexual" might be.

URLs du Jour

2017-01-25

Let's get to it:

  • I will freely admit to watching Saturday Night Live since its inception. Yes, even now. But it's been in the news this week with its obvious partisan biases: (1) Writer Katie Rich tweeted that 10-year-old Barron Trump would be the "first homeschool shooter." (2) The show closer this past weekend was a completely creepy rendition of "To Sir With Love" by two cast members, a "goodbye" to President Obama. At Reason, Robby Soave provides advice: "SNL Should Have Suspended the Writer Who Planned the Obama Song, Not the Writer Who Made Fun of Barron Trump". Fact check: True!

    My take on the episode: I didn't laugh once during the opening bit (shirtless Brent Bell as Putin). Aziz Ansari's monologue was also laugh-free. But it got better. Then it got much worse.

  • At NR, Jonah Goldberg is "Missing All That Racial Healing", noting Melissa Harris-Perry's "poem-essay-thingamabob" at the Women's March, a long rant on America's shortcomings.

    But what does it say that, after eight years of Obama’s transformational leadership, some of his biggest fans think — at least in some figurative, imaginary, paranoid way — that slavery and other evils are once again live questions in American life? Everyone here knows I am not Donald Trump’s biggest booster, but he is not poised, or interested in, dragooning blacks into the hulls of ships, and suggesting otherwise with haughty sanctimony to great applause is not the path back to winning the White House for Democrats.

    Nor is making Angela Davis a featured speaker, but I've said that before.

  • I have slagged the Trump Administration's thin-skinned ego-driven approach to truth. But Power Line's John Hinderaker does an able job in defense, noting the Associated Press's "war" on Trump.

    Here, as we saw during the campaign, Trump can be accused of exaggeration. But the liberal press is far more guilty of outright falsity, and its accusations vastly overstate Trump’s purported sins.

    Contra Hinderaker, I think Trump's problems with the truth go beyond "exaggeration". But his point remains: the press, associated or not, should play it straight.

  • Hey, the Oscar noms are out. And were immediately sliced, diced, and pigeonholed into racial categories. At Heat Street, Emily Zanotti documents the results: "Activists Not Happy with Diverse Oscar Nominations, Say It’s All for Show"

    The 2017 Oscar nominations were announced Tuesday morning, and it was immediately clear that after last year’s #OscarsSoWhite fiasco, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had gone out of its way to improve diversity in the acting categories.

    But a number of activists are already suggesting that it’s is just tokenism.

    If you want to play that game, you'd have to argue that Asians are pretty low in representation. (The lone nominee this year in the major categories seems to have been Dev Patel, for Lion.)

  • With the WSJ's "Best of the Web Today" feature on hiatus awaiting a new curator, someone's gotta do it:

    Bottom Story of the Day

    Mark Zuckerberg Says He’s Not Running For President.

Born to Run

[Amazon Link]

True story: in my 1974 graduate dorm at the University Near Here, I was down with the flu. Miserable, unable to do anything, just lying in my tiny thin-mattressed bed listening to the Boston rock station WBCN on my stereo.

But then: on comes a song like nothing I'd heard before. A majestic symphony of drums, guitars, and saxophone. Incandescent lyrics of young love and desperate hopefulness. My heartrate spiked, and I truly believe all the illness was flushed from my body within the four and a half minutes song duration. After it was over, I arose from my bed, feeling fine.

The song was Born to Run. And I had been healed by a guy named Bruce Springsteen.

So I was kind of a natural reader of this book, and I got it as a Christmas gift. Not slim, at 500 pages of main text, and I took my time reading it.

Compared to the other celebrity memoirs I've read, this one falls in between "just the facts in chronological order" (e.g, Clapton) and a consciousness-stream of impressions and interactions (e.g., Dylan's Chronicles). Bruce is big on YELLING IN UPPERCASE sometimes with EXCLAMATION POINTS! And he often overwrites, lapsing into colorful and wacky prose about his artistic influences and opinions. Fine. But I'll also say: sometimes he is, to my ear, exactly on target: when he writes about his parents, or getting stuck in a mountain-pass blizzard while crossing the Rockies on his way to California. You are there with him.

I read these memoirs, I think, because I'm looking for some clue about the secrets of creative genius and talent. So far I've failed, and Bruce's book is not an exception. The common thread seems to be pretty pedestrian: work hard, learn from your musical heroes without copying them, keep your eyes on the prize, practice.

Oh yeah: you also might want to get a good accountant (so you don't get in trouble with the IRS) and have an honest lawyer check on those contracts your manager wants you to sign. Two things Bruce didn't do.

Bruce is relentlessly honest, while being nothing less than gracious to bandmates, family members, managers, etc., even when (maybe especially when) the underlying relationship was contentious. Even though his personal politics are annoyingly left-wing, his professional dealings with his bandmates are hard-nosed; you might call him a benevolent dictator, but the "benevolent" bit is kind of a stretch. (There's a telling and funny anecdote about how he responded to one of the E Streeters asking for a raise.)

One surprising anecdote: Bruce became buddies with fellow Garden Stater Frank Sinatra. Did not see that coming. In fact, he and wife Patti were invited to the Chairman's 80th birthday bash. And there: "Sometime after dinner, we find ourselves around the living room piano with Steve [Lawrence] and Eydie Gorme and Bob Dylan."

Kaboom. As the kids say, "mind = blown". I don't even think of those people living in the same universe.

Given his cheerful public persona, I was also surprised to learn about his psychological problems. He's been on anti-depressants for decades, and in therapy for even longer. I might be reading more into this than I should, but it seems that anti-depressants haven't been good to his creativity. To my ear, there are no recent Springsteen songs that have the spark of Born to Run, Rosalita, or Promised Land.

But that's a quibble. Because, once again: Bruce healed me.


Last Modified 2017-01-24 2:20 PM EST

The Comedians

Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels and the History of American Comedy

[Amazon Link]

The Daily Signal said: "Here Are 21 Books You Should Read in 2017". This was one of 'em, and I said OK, I like comedy, and asked the University Near Here to obtain it via Interlibrary Loan.

It's written by a guy with the unlikely name of "Kliph Nesteroff", and he brings an amateur enthusiasm to his project, a "History of American Comedy". (But he doesn't go all the way back to 1776; for Kliph, history starts with vaudeville in the 1920's.)

Roughly chronological, the book moves on from vaudeville to increasingly modern venues: radio, nightclubs, early TV (primetime and late night), Vegas, comedy clubs, cable.

The book makes some efforts toward scholarliness: there's a "Notes" section at the end and an index. But overall, the tone and coverage is uneven. That's somewhat forgiveable, because there are a lot of interesting stories to tell, and Kliph tells a lot of them. People looking for insights or broad lessons will probably be disappointed. The history is, for better or worse, just a bunch of guys and gals struggling to make a living at making people laugh. As with other celebrities, there's a lot of sex, licit and illicit Substances, unprofessional behavior, and even criminality along the way.

Especially interesting was the tale of "Jack Roy", whose "persona was combative and unlikeable. It didn't matter how funny the material was—the audience despised him." So he quit comedy, went into the home improvement business, which involved criminal scams, which led to his racketeering arrest. So (after an implied plea bargain), he went back into show biz, using the name Rodney Dangerfield. Which, you may have heard, worked out better than his previous try.

Kliph's prose occasionally descends into blog-style commentary. For example, after relating Jack Paar's 1960 walkoff from The Tonight Show: "Talk about a drama queen." And all too often, we get sentence after sentence about how X was represented by Y, but moved on to Z, after being accused of stealing jokes from W, U, and T. Zzz.

Well, I pulled out one broad lesson, actually: The postwar nightclubs were mostly mob-controlled. Comics were basically OK with that—for one thing, it made their access to drugs easier. During the 50s and 60s anti-organized crime efforts shifted ownership to legitimate businessmen. But the comedians tended to prefer the mobsters—they were pretty genial and generous when they weren't engaged in their profession, while the businessfolk were less humorous, more oriented to the old bottom line.

I mentioned there's an index? Yeah, but it's kind of spotty. One of my first lookups: Jimmy Durante. Not there! Outrageous! But Durante does show up in the actual text.

Given the non-comprehensive index, it's difficult to say for sure that someone is not mentioned in the book. There's a lot of name-dropping, especially near the modern-day parts. But one comic apparently missing from the book is Steven Wright. Incomprehensible! And also outrageous!


Last Modified 2017-01-24 9:41 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2017-01-24

Madonna may fantasize about blowing up the White House. But I am fantasizing about replying to thousands of blog articles, tweets, and Facebook posts with: "Your logical fallacy is tu quoque".

  • One more shot at our nation's ongoing epistemological nightmare from Reason's Jacob Sullum: "Alternative Facts' Cannot Hide Trump's Petty Dishonesty"

    The ongoing spat about the size of the audience at Donald Trump's inauguration, in itself a trivial issue, is significant because it highlights the new president's vanity, pettiness, lack of discipline, and casual disregard for the truth. Presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway took that last character flaw to a new level in a Meet the Press interview yesterday when she described White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer's verifiably false assertions about attendance at the inauguration as "alternative facts."

    If you feel compelled to respond to that with something about "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan", fine, but see above: your logical fallacy is tu quoque.

  • Or, I should say, may be tu quoque. At NR, David French uses the issue to offer free (and very good) advice: "Don’t Shred Your Credibility for Your Tribe".

    Our politics is devolving into the pathetic spectacle of liars indignantly calling out liars for lying. Rule-breakers are outraged that other rule-breakers break rules. Norms that could be violated with impunity for “social justice” can’t be violated for “nationalism.” We stick with our tribe, through thick and thin — through truth and lies.

    Our tendency toward tribalism is probably innate and unavoidable. People who think they're free from it are deluding themselves. But step one is recognizing it for what it is.

  • Also at NR, John Fund relates Obama’s Final Whopper as President. (Soon to be followed by "Obama's First Whopper as Ex-President", but let's not get ahead of ourselves.) The issue is Voter ID, Obama's attempt to link it to Jim Crow, and his claims that (1) voter fraud is negligible, and (2) no other "advanced democracy" requires ID.

    Fund observes, sensibly, that nobody knows how widespread voter fraud is, because Democrats do their darndest to thwart any efforts to measure it. But Obama's claim about Voter ID's absence in other countries? "Demonstrably false."

    All industrialized democracies — and most that are not — require voters to prove their identity before voting. Britain was a holdout, but last month it announced that persistent examples of voter fraud will require officials to see passports or other documentation from voters in areas prone to corruption.

    Also worth noting is Fund's conclusion:

    Which is precisely why it’s so disappointing to see Barack Obama use it to raise baseless fears that voter ID is a racist form of voter suppression. Even as he leaves office, the president who promised to unify us is continuing his level best to polarize and divide us.

    Obama's methods of "racial healing" will continue, in other words.

  • Also at NR, Kevin D. Williamson on "Our Unimaginative Politicians, and the Need to Stop Rewarding Them". His immediate topic is political bloviating on wealth and the economy, but his bottom line is more general.

    We’ve just had a weekend of political rioting after progressive-leaning and Democrat-affiliated celebrities and public figures called for, among other things, a military coup d’état to overthrow the democratically elected government of the United States and the imposition of martial law. But after the hysteria dies down — and it will die down — we’ll still be back where we were before: a prosperous, stable, healthy nation with some very serious problems that need addressing, and that cannot be addressed until we learn how to speak and think about them intelligently and until we — we citizens — demand that our leaders do. And that means, among other things, that we forgo rewarding political and media figures with money and power for peddling lies and stupidity. A politician is like any other dumb animal: He’ll do what gets him fed and avoid what gets him whipped. And lament “the system” as much as you like, we citizens still control both the carrot and the stick.

  • At Patterico, "JVW" makes note of a WaPo article: "Shocking Development: Throwing Money at Troubled Schools Doesn’t Seem to Accomplish Much"

    Which most clear-eyed folks have known for decades. But this is a new data point, and it only cost $7 Billion-with-a-b to get this extra smidgen of confirmation. Quoting the WaPo:

    The money went to states to distribute to their poorest-performing schools — those with exceedingly low graduation rates, or poor math and reading test scores, or both. Individual schools could receive up to $2 million per year for three years, on the condition that they adopt one of the Obama administration’s four preferred measures: replacing the principal and at least half the teachers, converting into a charter school, closing altogether, or undergoing a “transformation,” including hiring a new principal and adopting new instructional strategies, new teacher evaluations and a longer school day.

    The Education Department did not track how the money was spent, other than to note which of the four strategies schools chose.

    Yet another thing to remember when Democrats blather about Betsy DeVos's "lack of qualifications". This is what happens when the "qualified" people have been in charge for eight years.

    Also commenting on this is Nick Gillespie, who uses it as a springboard to advocate for school choice. Video:

    Adds Gillespie: "Extra credit if you can guess what letter the asterisk is for." I got it, did you?

URLs du Jour

2017-01-23

Vanity plate seen on an approaching car at Walmart yesterday: "IDNTW8". Made sure to yield the right of way to him.

  • The Trump Administration continues to hand rhetorical ammunition to its enemies. Take it away, Patterico:

    [On Meet the Press,] Chuck Todd asked Trump spokespiehole Kellyanne Conway about Sean Spicer’s pack of falsehoods in yesterday’s press conference on the trivial (but important to Trump’s ego) issue of crowd size at the inauguration. Conway did her usual shtick of aggressive deflection combined with aggressive horseshit, but one moment stood out: Conway’s statement that Spicer was simply offering “alternative facts” […]

    "Spokespiehole". Heh. You may see me steal that. The twitmemes came thick and fast:

    Not that stone-casting Chuck Todd was entirely without sin. Ann Althouse entertainingly scores the exchange as a nine-round bout. Bottom line:

    Final score: 4 to 4. It's a draw. Nice going, you crazy kids.

    Losers in a fight between a hopelessly biased MSM and a thin-skinned ego-driven Administration: everyone else.

  • At PJ Media, Charlie Martin has a modest demand: "Stop Making Me Defend Trump!" Because he's not a fan. But:

    But seriously people, the degree of utter nincompoopery in the last days has just gotten completely out of control. It was bad enough with the moron who thought it was a good idea to harass Ivanka Trump, her three kids, and her husband on an airplane, and the nincompoops who defended the moron; then we got Kevin Williamson, who rightly suggested this was unmannerly—but really spoiled the effect by adding "Uday and Qusay" to the Trump family. (Pro tip, Kev—adding two psychopathic mass-murdering rapists to the Trump family really plays hell with your paean to manners.)

    Yes, a rare misstep for KDW.

  • But the general point remains. For all the Trump-side prevaricating buffoonery, the anti-Trump side seems dominated by shrieking left-wing crazies and thugs. Mickey Kaus notes the fearful Reductio ad Hitlerum articles and memes sprouting like kudzu.

    Of course, you don’t need these examples if you have Democratic Facebook friends.  Just read their posts — alarms about journalists jailed and killed, brownshirts, ethnic cleansing, pervasive surveillance, people living in fear, exterminationist violence, the whole nein yards. They’re scared.

    Speaking as someone with Democratic Facebook friends: this is so, so true. Another data point provided by MSNBC fembot, Rachel Maddow, asked what "first question" she would hypothetically pose to then-PETOUS Trump.

    “Are you going to send me or anybody I know to a camp?” she said she’d ask the Republican.

    [Obvious response: "Of course not, Rachel. Who do I look like, Franklin Delano Roosevelt?"]

  • But (true enough) it's not as if the ongoing verification of Godwin's Law started this year. Last November, Larry Elder sifted through enough history to conclude: "Comparing Republicans to Nazis has long been a national pastime of the Democratic Party." A memorable example from (I think) 2005:

    Former Vice President Al Gore said: "(George W. Bush's) executive branch has made it a practice to try and control and intimidate news organizations, from PBS to CBS to Newsweek. ... And every day, they unleash squadrons of digital brown shirts to harass and hector any journalist who is critical of the President."

    Ah, digital brownshirts. Al Gore called me that. Good times.

    So, yes, Charlie Martin, I'm with you.

  • Speaking of crazies and thugs: Ashley Judd sucked enough air out of the room so that relatively little notice was given to one of the other featured speakers at Saturday's "Women's March". Angela Davis. Who the MSM blandly termed an "activist". David Horowitz provides a non-whitewashed bio of her bloodstained career. A high point:

    In 1970 Davis was implicated by more than 20 witnesses in a plot to free her imprisoned lover, fellow Black Panther George Jackson, by hijacking a Marin County, California courtroom and taking hostage the judge, the prosecuting assistant district attorney, and two jurors. In an ensuing gun battle outside the court building, Judge Harold Haley’s head was blown off by a sawed-off shotgun owned by Ms. Davis. To avoid arrest for her alleged complicity in the plot, Ms. Davis fled California, using aliases and changing her appearance to avoid detection.

    So (a) the march organizers were hard-left enough to be just fine having Davis as one of the faces of their movement; (b) they didn't think this would detract from the march's respectability in the eyes of the nation; and (c) it seems they were correct about that, because the :watchdog" MSM totally bought it. I guess I find this disturbing.

URLs du Jour

2017-01-22

Over 24 hours into the Trump Administration, and no nuclear holocaust yet. I'm cautiously optimistic.

  • At Reason, Ronald Bailey asks the musical question: "Is President Trump a 'Climate Menace'?". Answer: everyone seems to think so, based on selective snippets of tweets and speeches. But, Trump being Trump, he's not especially coherent or consistent on the issue.

    Looking at the Cabinet picks, Bailey picks up a different vibe:

    In the hearings for various cabinet nominees, Democrats have sought valiantly to unmask them as "climate change deniers." So far, not one has questioned the scientific reality of man-made global warming. On the other hand, they have tended not to be as alarmed as their interlocutors, and/or have failed to endorse the climate policies that Democrats prefer.

    That last bit is key. It's possible to stake out a middle ground, accepting the reality of anthropogenic climate change without buying into massive scaremongering and proposed statist power grabs.

  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File is online, written on January 20 from D. C. But:

    I didn’t go down to the Mall today, but it’s not because I was “boycotting” Trump. A team of scientists could harvest the DNA of Abe Lincoln, Calvin Coolidge, Ronald Reagan, Phil Gramm, William F. Buckley, Winston Churchill, and Rowdy Roddy Piper and create some sort of super president with laser vision and a Kung Fu grip and I still wouldn’t want to go down to the Mall, get bumped by other people, and stand in the cold for hours only to hear a speech in the rain.

    Jonah rambles, but it's an entertaining ramble.

  • At the NYT, it's John McWhorter with News You Can Use: "How to Listen to Donald Trump Every Day for Years" Step one is to accept Trump's impossible-to-diagram word flow.

    The truth is that President Trump’s choppy, rambling self-expression is not so exotic. A great many thoroughly intelligent people talk more like Donald Trump than they might know. What’s new is that someone who talks like this in public has become the president of the United States. Yet it isn’t surprising, and if we are not to spend the next four to eight years alternating between exasperation and confusion as he sounds off, we need to learn a new way of listening.

    Yes, the New York Times does, on occasion, still print things worth reading. I know, I was surprised myself.

  • But all is not well, sorry. At Reason (again), Eric Boehm invites us to "Listen to CIA Spooks Applaud Trump for Baselessly Accusing 'The Media' of Lying About Inauguration Crowds".

    Trump discoursed on the media, "among the most dishonest human beings on Earth", drawing applause.

    Apparently feeding off the applause, Trump doubled down and claimed, without any evidence at all, that the media had covered up the size of the crowd at his inauguration. He claimed to have seen a report this morning claiming turnout of 250,000 for his speech, but the president said that could not have been true because he saw people lined up "all the way back to the Washington monument" when he spoke.

    This was a "same old Trump" moment, displaying one of his most worrisome traits, one noted during the campaign: he's obsessed with crowd numbers, applause, TV ratings. Trump's self-aggrandizement combined with his thin skin is notable, even for a politician.

    As Boehm and Patterico note, this obsession leaked into last evening's press conference with Sean Spicer, who … well, let's turn it over to this guy:

    But (unless I've missed something) all the Kristallnacht-style violence and overheated rhetoric is still coming from the other side. So that's something. Although that "something" is far from reassuring.

URLs du Jour

2017-01-21

Inspired by Jay Nordlinger: fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, reactionaries (like me) gotta react. So:

  • Gee, I wonder whether Robert Higgs liked the Inaugural Address?

    […] I would rank it among the very worst political speeches I have ever had the displeasure to hear. Its recipe seems to have been: combine three parts mercantilist fallacies, three parts offensive nationalist bombast, and four parts sheer populist hot air about how great the American people are and how great they will soon be again, thanks to Trump. Serve accompanied by half-hearted applause from the assembled members of the political criminal class. All in all, simply an appalling performance, even by the abysmally low standards applicable to such egregious ceremonies.

    … I guess not.

  • Back to Jay Nordlinger:

    Before the Republican convention, I had this thought: that Trump’s acceptance speech would be artful, nuanced, pretty — not the true Trump. Trump with a mask on. I was wrong. It was pure, 100 percent Trump. Total Trump.

    Same with today’s speech. Same with the inaugural address. Exactly the same.

    People waiting for Trump to turn down the thermostat on overheated political rhetoric should not hold their breath.

  • Walter Olson notes missing words from the address:

    […] I wish the speech had used the word “Constitution,” or “law” in a way beyond the phrase “law enforcement,” or “Framers” or “Founders,” or “Declaration” or “Amendment” or “individual” or perhaps “rights.” The one occurrence of “right” was in a passage about “the right of all nations to put their interests first.”

    OK. For other entrail-readers out there, Aaron Bandler does some textual analysis and comparisons of Inaugural Addresses past and present. For our porpoises, the most interesting stat:

    References to liberty or freedom:

    • Trump: One.
    • Obama: Two.
    • Bush: Two.
    • Clinton: One.
    • Reagan: Eight.
    • Roosevelt: Zero.
    • Wilson: Zero.

    Moan.

  • It's not all thumbs down. Paul Mirengoff liked it:

    It was well-written, well-delivered, and very powerful. He struck many of the right themes. There was plenty to like about it.

    As did Granite Grok's esteemed founder, Skip Murphy:

    […] My initial takeaway is that this was the antithesis of Barack Obama’s Presidency. I think its theme, America First (and screw the references back to WWII and Charles Limburgh), summarized why people voted for him. The last 8 years has been the Progressive Period on steroids and Flyover Country got short shrift.

    I'm not sure if the "Limburgh" is a pun. America First has a stinky history, for sure. But puns are my thing, Skip!

  • We can only take so much reassurance from the plain fact that, while Our Side's reactions are mixed at best, The Other Side has gone off-the-rails deranged. The Daily Signal provides a photo essay of the vandalism and violence committed by the forces of Peace, Love, and Understanding. KDW's tweet is spot on:

  • There was a lot of rhetorical bomb-throwing as well. Stacy McCain notes Chris Matthews' Reductio ad Hitlerum (with bonus Mussolini reference). And Andrew Stiles at Heat Street noticed:

    ABC News’ Chief Foreign Correspondent Terry Moran criticized Donald Trump’s use of the phrase “America First” in his inaugural address on Friday, saying the term contained “anti-Semitic” “overtones from the 1930s.”

    I don't believe Trump is anti-Semitic. But it's stupid to resurrect "America First" in any context.

  • The aforementioned Kevin D. Williamson detects "an epidemic of political diaper rash" on the left.

    Funny word, “adult.” We use the word communicating “maturity” to describe the most immature forms of expression. “Adult entertainment” should mean Moby-Dick. But this is a time of childishness, which, in some ways, should give us hope: If the Democrats really thought President Trump were going to be some sort of Hitler figure, they’d be acting differently. They’d be stockpiling firearms and that freeze-dried apocalypse lasagna they’re always peddling on talk radio, or looking very closely at the real-estate listings in Zurich or Montreal. They would be acting like adults.

    In reality, they are doing the opposite.

    If you must Read only one Whole Thing today, make it that one.

URLs du Jour

2017-01-20

I stand with Patterico: Inaugurations are stupid.

  • I read and enjoyed Jason Brennan's book Against Democracy, which argued that there was little to recommend investing so much political power to the thoughtless and irresponsible masses. So I also enjoyed this Bleeding Hearts Libertarians post where he responds to a critic, one Claire Lehmann: "Hurting Low-Information Voters’ Wittle Feelings".

    Let’s be clear: Part of my mission is to downgrade the status we attach to politics. I argue for elitism about politics in the same way I argue for elitism about plumbing. The average person knows jack shit about plumbing, but that doesn’t make him an inferior person. Still, the average person’s opinions on plumbing aren’t worth much more than the stuff we flush down the pipes. Same goes for the average person’s opinions on trade policy, immigration policy, and so on. To have a reasonable point of view requires knowledge of particular relevant facts (let alone social scientific knowledge), but we have 65 years of data showing most people lack awareness or are uninformed about even the most basic relevant facts. “It hurts my feelings when you say that!” Sorry, precious, but I ain’t your mommy.

    The book makes the same point in more academic prose.

  • Jim Treacher takes note of our MSM in action: "CNN Devotes Entire Segment To Trump Assassination Fantasy". That's the way they think, readers.

  • And the Washington Post beclowned itself by labelling David Gelernter, being considered for Trump's science advisor, as "fiercely anti-intellectual". Heatstreet's Ian Miles Cheong debunks, while noting Gelernter's political sorta-conservatism.

    Regardless of Gelernter’s contentious politics, there’s no way call him an “anti-intellectual” at face value – unless your definition of the term only refers to leftist politics in academia. A computer scientist by trade, and a vocal critic of the academic establishment, Gelernter might just be the right person for the job.

    Note that Gelernter isn't afraid to depart from the conservative mainstream either. Here he notes "the next time a multi-billionaire tech bigshot tells me how wonderful capitalism is, I’m going to throw up."

  • At Reason, Nick Gillespie catches out the other MSM flagship: "New York Times Publishes Fake News About Rick Perry and Department of Energy". Good advice:

    Simply put: Don't believe everything you read, especially if you basically agree with the outfit reporting it and want to believe whatever moral lesson is being imparted (this goes for Reason loyalists, too, of course). I write this not as a Trump supporter or even as a Trump apologist. I would rather that he not be president of the United States. But he is and much of the media despises him while a solid chunk will also explain all of his bullshit moves. In either case, caveat lector, friends: Let the reader beware. We are entering one of the least-expected and weirdest episodes in American history and I remain optimistic that what we are witnessing are the death throes of a post-war Leviathan that is ideologically exhausted, financially unsustainable, and wildly unpopular. Almost a year ago, as the GOP presidential debates got underway, the need for a new political and cultural operating system, one based one mass personalization, de-politicization of everyday life, and self-regulating systems was plain as day.

    Warning: disturbing GIF of Rick Perry at the link.

  • A stanza I could have added to my Updating Niemöller poem a couple days ago:

    Then the HHS came for the Little Sisters of the Poor, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a nun.

    At NR, James Capretta advocates Trump undoing the Obamacare mandate that would force religious institutions to fund "health care" that runs against their fundamental beliefs. One interesting point:

    The Obama administration seemed to have two motives for waging this entirely unnecessary fight. First, for ideological reasons, it seemed to want to take the position than any objection to the provision of free contraceptives was illegitimate and therefore not worthy of being accommodated. Second, for political reasons, the Obama administration found it useful to be in a fight over the provision of free contraception. During the 2012 presidential campaign, as the proposed rule was rolled out, supporters of exemptions from it were accused of waging a “war on women.”

    A twofer, in other words: soothing an anti-religious ideological itch, and implementing a cynical political ploy.

  • Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, has aroused much lefty ire for her support for educational choice. "Unqualified" is the cri de cœur. So I got a chuckle (albeit heavily tinged with bitterness) at the WSJ article: "Student Debt Payback Far Worse Than Believed".

    When The Wall Street Journal analyzed the new numbers, the data revealed that the Department previously had inflated the repayment rates for 99.8% of all colleges and trade schools in the country.

    An Department of Education spokesdroid blamed the previous misreporting on a "technical programming error." No doubt adding, in a whiny voice: Math is hard!

    This is what the Ed Dept does when the qualified people are in charge. I'm pretty sure Betsy would be an improvement.

URLs du Jour

2017-01-19

Ah, Inauguration Eve.

  • Apparently The American Interest website allows non-subscribers only one free article per month. Unless you're familiar with cookie surgery. But whether you are or not, I suggest you spend it on Elliot A. Cohen's "Truth in the Age of Trump". Cohen notes, correctly, that conservatives (which I am, around half the time) have a special responsibility to call out Trump on his lies. And, make no mistake, Trump will be a target-rich environment:

    Trump lies because it is in his nature to lie. One suspects that there is nothing inside this man that quivers, however slightly, at an untruth. It is not uncommon for politicians, to a greater extent than most people, to believe what they want to believe, or to change their take on reality depending on what is convenient for them. With Trump, however, this will to believe is pathological: his psyche is so completely besotted by Trump that there is no room for anything, or anybody else.

    Trump is pissing off "the right people". We can take whatever comfort we can from that. It's fun and somewhat useful to hoist those folks on their own petards. But—I've said this before—schadenfreude is not something on which you want to anchor your intellectual life.

  • But that doesn't mean we can't kick around Obama's on-my-way-out-the-door-so-who-gives-a-shit moves. At Reason, Andrew P. Napolitano notes "President Obama's Parting Shot at Personal Freedom"

    On Jan. 3, outgoing Attorney General Loretta Lynch secretly signed an order directing the National Security Agency — America's 60,000-person-strong domestic spying apparatus — to make available raw spying data to all other federal intelligence agencies, which then can pass it on to their counterparts in foreign countries and in the 50 states upon request. She did so, she claimed, for administrative convenience. Yet in doing this, she violated basic constitutional principles that were erected centuries ago to prevent just what she did.

    Yeah, bad idea. There are a lot of Obama decrees that Trump could un-decree, but I fear this won't be one of them.

  • Ever wonder why liberals just love to set terrorists free? Find out at the New York Post, where Bob McManus reveals "Why liberals just love to set terrorists free". The occasion is (1) Obama's commutation of the life sentence of Puerto Rican nationalist-terrorist Oscar Lopez Rivera, and (2) NY Governor Andrew Cuomo's early release of Weather Underground conspirator Judith Clark. Both with body counts to their credit. Why?

    To wit, in Progressiveland, some lives matter more than others; that dead and maimed cops and unlucky bystanders matter less than justly convicted and incarcerated radicals — and that in the final analysis benevolent government is meant to stand with the bad guys. (And gals, as the case may be. Isn’t everybody a victim these days?)

    Clark and Rivera should have been left to rot. Maybe sharing a cell with Bradley/"Chelsea" Manning.

  • Megan McArdle discusses the Obamacare "death spiral", worthwhile reading as Trump and Congress fumble their way through "repeal and replace". Megan is pessimistic about that process:

    In a normal administration, we could make at least some broad predictions about where health-insurance policy was likely to end up in six months. But at this point, any number of wildly divergent scenarios seems possible. Congress could repeal the whole thing -- or just the subsidies and the individual mandate. This would unquestionably send the market into a death spiral.

    The big unknown is just how much of a loose cannon Trump is going to be. That uncertainty is itself contributory to possible disaster.

  • My esteemed Congresscritter tweets a smear:

    The company in question is Zimmer Biomet, which makes knee and hip implants. Power Line notes the problem with the alleged timeline, credited to the Trump transition team:

    Why this is a non-issue: (a) the account (and the associated purchase) was broker-directed, not directed by Dr. Price; (b) the extremely small purchase of Biomet was part of a larger portfolio rebalancing of Dr. Price’s portfolio (which involved the sale and purchase of dozens of stocks in a wide variety of sectors – again directed and chosen by the broker); (c) Dr. Price did not become aware of the stock purchase until 4/4/16 (as noted in the timeline) – a date well after the bill in question in the CNN story was introduced; and (d) Dr. Price was engaged on the general issues involved in this legislation dating back to 2015 (as described below), including putting out a Dear Colleague letter to that effect in September 2015.

    And at the WSJ, the editors note:

    […] the Zimmer Biomet purchase was made by Mr. Price’s Morgan Stanley broker and became known to him only for financial-disclosure compliance. The broker bought 26 shares whose total value has risen by about $300 in the months since. If Mr. Price really is self-dealing, he’s doing a lousy job.

    The WSJ recommends that all elected pols, Democrat and Republican, direct their stock investment into index funds. (That's a decent idea for anyone, by the way.)

  • And your tweet du jour, on the Supreme Court case on whether the Asian-American band "The Slants" can be denied a trademark on their name because of "disparagement":

Updating Niemöller

In honor of the upcoming Trump Administration, some overly dramatic friends have been posting the famous poem by anti-Nazi German Pastor Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Because Trump is Hitler, you see.

But it got me thinking about what a more honest, updated version would look like. And so:

First the FEC came for Citizens United , and I did not speak out—
Because I did not want to defend an anti-Hillary movie.

Then the IRS came for Tea Party groups, and I did not speak out—
Because those teabaggers irritated me.

Then the authorities came for Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, and I did not speak out—
Because he was a convenient scapegoat for Benghazi.

Then the DOJ came for a Fox News correspondent, and I did not speak out—
Because, hey, Fox News.

Then the social network mob came after Brendan Eich, and I did not speak out—
Because I did not agree with him.

Then Donald Trump got elected, and I'm now really concerned about arbitrary abuses of power—
And all these people are just laughing at me!

Obviously, I could have added more verses. Disclaimer: despite the "then"s, I didn't bother to put things in chronological order.

URLs du Jour

2017-01-18

True story: I was doing the acrostic in the Saturday WSJ, and one clue was:

Grammy-winning singer whose career began in the Cotton Club chorus line in 1933 (2 wds.)

Nine letters. Hm. An older African-American woman, obviously. Eartha Kitt? Maybe, but the letters didn't fit well into the grid. Oh, well, let's think about it…

But later that day, I was reading a book I got from the library, The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels and the History of American Comedy. And there on page 129 was a story about Steve Allen getting hate mail from a bigot because Allen had dared to kiss a black woman on the cheek after her performance on his 1950s TV show.

The woman: Lena Horne. Hey! Where did I put that puzzle?

Coincidences can be … pretty coincidental sometimes.

  • Kevin D. Williamson offers a remedy to all those oleaginous Obama flacks deeming his tenure to be scandal-free. The VA? Spying on the press? Weaponizing the IRS and the BATF? …

    It is one thing to have a degenerate president. It is something else — something far worse — to have a degenerate government. Barack Obama may have spent the past eight years as sober as a Sunday morning (his main vice, we are told, is sneaking cigarettes) and straight as a No. 2 pencil, but he leaves behind a government that is perverted.

    … something the MSM reported as little as possible, and has now memory-holed.

  • The Live Free or Die state made Reason, but not in a good way: "Rape, Child Molestation Allegations Would Require Outside Corroboration Under Ridiculous New Hampshire Bill"

    In New Hampshire, those who commit rape or sexual abuse without witnesses present could be all but guaranteed to get away with it under a new proposal from state Rep. William Marsh (R-District 8). The measure, House Bill 106, stipulates "that a victim's testimony in a sexual assault case shall require corroboration" when the defendant has no prior sexual-assault convictions. It does not elaborate about what kind of corroboration would be sufficient.

    As the article notes, Marsh's bill would require a higher standard of proof for sexual assault than exists for other violent crimes.

  • Meanwhile, the much-ballyhooed "Women’s March on Washington", should more properly be renamed "Some Women's". Katrina Trinko at the Daily Signal: "Once Again, Feminists Silence Pro-Life Women"

    The Women’s March on Washington, scheduled to occur the day after President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, had listed a pro-life group, New Wave Feminists, as a partner organization. After The Atlantic highlighted the group’s participation as a partner in the march, the Women’s March took the group off the list, saying its inclusion had been an “error.”

    That "inclusive" thing only goes so far.

  • Roger L. Simon claims to have discovered "The Real Reason John Lewis and Company Boycott the Inauguration". Executive summary: fear that Trump might succeed. I liked this:

    In any case, this is all happening against a background of what is indeed an unspoken calamity for the media, Lewis, his ideological cohorts, and whoever it is investing all this money (Soros, et al.). Liberalism and progressivism are dead. They're out of ideas. That's the untold story behind the failure of the Hillary Clinton campaign. She had no plan to run on because there is no longer a liberal-progressive plan to have, one that works anyway. There was no longer a there there. Trump won because of that, even with all those forces aligned against him.

    "Out of ideas." Exactly. These days, it's all about the accumulation of political power.

  • Speaking of which, my own CongressCritter/Toothache has announced where she will be during the Inauguration:

    Praying is good. However, I can't help but appreciate the blunt honesty of Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader:

    But [Trump] hasn’t proved himself to me at all yet, so I respectfully decline to freeze my ass out there in the cold for this particular ceremony.

    Why can't NH's Democrats be more like Oregon's? "Live Free or Freeze Your Ass Out There".

URLs du Jour

2017-01-17

Steely Dan once dreamed about a time "when the sidewalks are safe for the little guy". Now that I've taken on dog-walking chores, I'm hoping the sidewalks are safe for the big geezer. It's hip-breaking season in New Hampshire!

  • We slag on the New York Times a lot, and deservedly so. But this is pretty neat: "You Draw It: What Got Better or Worse During Obama’s Presidency". You are invited to "draw your guesses" on a number of charts "to see if you’re as smart as you think you are." Who could resist a challenge like that?

    Unfortunately there's no scoring, but I think I did OK. It's fun, try it out, see how well your educated guesses match up with reality.

  • Jim "Indispensible" Geraghty asks today's musical question: "What’s the Difference Between Praising a Company and Endorsing It?" The query is in reference to Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub's tsk-tsking Donald Trump for:

    Shaub noted that government employees are prohibited from "Endorsing any product, service, or company".

    Fine. It's a good thing Trump isn't a government employee yet. Still, Geraghty asks:

    Is it an ethically problematic area when a president or president-elect starts touting a particular company? Sure. But how different is “Buy L. L. Bean” from Obama heading to the factory of a soon-to-be-defunct solar-panel manufacturer and declaring, “It’s here that companies like Solyndra are leading the way toward a brighter and more prosperous future.” That’s not an endorsement?

    Whatever. Nary a peep from the Ethics cops at the time, though. Geraghty runs through a few more examples, and requests a clearer standard than “it’s bad when the presidents I don’t like do it but okay when the ones I do like do the same.”

  • At Reason, A. Barton Hinkle tells us "How to Replace Obamacare".

    You can't swing a dead cat these days without hitting someone who has made fun of congressional Republicans for not having a plan to replace Obamacare. And the critics are right: Republicans don't have a plan. They have a whole bunch of plans. House Speaker Paul Ryan has one. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has another. HHS nominee Tom Price not only has a plan, he has a bill: The Empowering Patients First Act. The trouble is that Republicans haven't collated all those plans into one single, omnibus proposal.

    Hinkle has some good ideas. The GOP, earning its "Stupid Party" moniker, will probably ignore them.

  • At NR, Austin Yack correlates "The Ten Most Bizarre Questions from Last Week’s Senate Confirmation Hearings". The hard part was limiting it to ten, I suppose.

    The funny bit for us Granite Staters: our state's senior Senator, Jeanne Shaheen, owns three of the ten. Example:

    8. New Hampshire senator Jeanne Shaheen asked [Secretary of State nominee Rex] Tillerson, “In your view, is it helpful to suggest that as Americans we should be afraid of Muslims?”

    No indication of how much Tillerson's eyes rolled at that point.

    Just a few days ago, I incredulously speculated that of the four women in NH's Congressional delegation, Shaheen seemed like "the smart one". Now it's looking more like a race to the bottom.

  • Math is hard, part of a continuing series: Harvard Ecom Prof espies "Careless Headline Writing" at Time (as published by Yahoo! News). The body of the article:

    The gap between the super-rich and the poorest half of the global population is starker than previously thought, with just eight men, including Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg, owning as much wealth as 3.6 billion people, according to an analysis by Oxfam released Monday.

    But the article's headline turns that claim into:

    Half of the World’s Wealth Is in the Hands of Just Eight Men, Study Says

    Prof Mankiw notes, gently:

    Of course, this conclusion does not follow from the fact reported in the story and is not even close to being true.

    Deeming this to be "careless" is overly diplomatic. In the MSM, such carelessness only seems to work in one political direction.

URLs du Jour

2017-01-16

Happy MLK Day!

  • Our nearly-annual commentary on the MLK celebration at the University Near Here is here. Note that the actual festivities don't take place for another month.

    Since I wrote that, the U has added more events, taking place February 1-22. Don't (for example) miss Mr. Ken Nwadike and his "Free Hugs Project"! Although Mr. Nwadike's politics are a bit too predictably tedious, still … free hugs!

  • Kevin D. Williamson gets a predictably amusing column out of NPR editor Marilyn Geewax's dark implication that HHS Secretary-to-be Tom Price was pro-cancer because he failed to clap sufficiently at the proper point in Obama's last State of the Union Address.

    Applause was a serious business in the Soviet Union, as it is in Cuba, as it is in Venezuela, as it is in all unfree societies and at our own State of the Union address, which is modeled on the ex cathedra speeches of unfree societies. The less free you are, the more you are obliged to applaud. Joseph Stalin’s pronouncements were greeted with perfervid applause, which would continue, rapturously — no one dared stop — until Stalin himself would order its cessation.

    "Perfervid." Heh. (My vim spellchecker is flagging that for a possible misspelling, but, c'mon vim, its a perfectly cromulent word.)

  • Vik Khanna debunks "The Phony ‘Public-Health Crisis’ of Gun Violence", noting two recent articles appearing in once-respectable medical journals.

    The first shot across the bow appeared in the November 8 Journal of the American Medical Association, where esteemed Stanford University health economist Victor Fuchs published a paper on the problem of life expectancy in the black community. Near the end of his lamentation, Fuchs asserts that increasing life expectancy in the black community “depends more on public health measures such as gun control than on medical care.” The second shot came with the release of the January issue of JAMA Internal Medicine, which has four papers and an editorial devoted to firearms violence, with a heavy emphasis on suicide prevention, which would benefit whites much more than it would the black community.

    Public health initiatives were once about clean water and polio shots, but activists increasingly use "public health" to justify controlling people "for their own good".

  • Career tip for government school personnel: don't correct your students' misspellings on social media.

    It would be difficult to find a better example of everything that's wrong with education in America: a Maryland public school fired the woman who ran its Twitter account because she corrected a student's spelling.

    As she was escorted from the building, her co-workers consoled/advised: "Forget it, Katie. It's Frederick."

  • Andrew Klavan manages to capture my own feelings about the current political climate.

    Look, I don't care if the Trump fan-bots rail against me, Trump is an unreliable chap, to put it mildly. He doesn't know what he doesn't know and he throws away his promises too easily and a lot of his instincts are leftist in the worst way. Everything he's done so far could be scuttled on the rock of his personality.

    But that hasn't happened yet and every day is another day. And today, after eight years of a dishonest, undemocratic, anti-American scold in the White House, I am feeling gleeful. Almost pretty. Okay, gleeful.

    Andrew's optimism/pessimism ratio is higher than mine, but otherwise: yeah.


Last Modified 2017-01-17 11:03 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2017-01-15

Those painful Chevy commercials assure us that the folks oohing and aahing about their cars and trucks are "Real People. Not Actors." I wonder how actors feel about the implication that they're not real people? Pretty bad, I bet.

  • At Reason, Nick Gillespie has a long and thoughtful post about John Lewis's remark that he doesn't see Trump "as a legitimate president."

    I write as a #NeverTrumper (I voted for Gary Johnson), but I find Lewis's comments and broader attempts not simply to disagree with political opponents but to delegitimate them troubling for several reasons.

    First, they are simply a continuation of a tedious, decades-long unwillingness by losers to acknowledge the basic rules of the very game they have rigged. Remember when George W. Bush was not "elected" but "selected" in 2000? Listen closely any time someone from The Nation shows up on MSNBC and there's a good chance that'll still come up.

    To use a different metaphor: politics is a rhetorical arms race that both parties keep escalating. It's hard to see how this ends well.

  • Your tweet du jour:

  • I'm not actually sure what the deal is here: "8 Glad Restaurants Where the Chefs “Live Free or Die” in Keokuk, Iowa".

    Keokuk, Iowa is stocked with chic diners and many are open late. Sometimes you start shopping for later and you ask the trusty, old cell: “Where can I buy organic corn and chickens in Iowa?” And then you realize it would be easier to let a professional handle dinner.

    The article seems to have been generated by some sort of Mad Libs algorithm, but the designer didn't know English very well.

    But in any case: Keokuk chefs, you can't have our motto!

URLs du Jour

2017-01-14

Peeve of the day: when did it become de rigueur for ensemble crime/action shows to set aside long stretches of touchy-feely interactions between members of the "team" of good guys?

I'm looking at you, Hawaii Five-O. I like Masi Oka, and his character Max, as much as the next guy. But his farewell at the end of last night's episode was interminable and dramatically pointless.

Maybe the point is to show the characters as "human", with "feelings"? Sigh. Fine. But can't you do it by weaving it into the story? Preferably while there are chases, gunplay, and explosions going on concurrently?

Exception: family dinners on Blue Bloods. Because Tom Selleck.

  • We can't get enough commentary on Obama's Farewell Address. Charles C. W. Cooke muses on what it shows about Obama's old "hope and change" motto. The subtext of "change" was always "change we approve of" and "hope" always implied … "hope we get away with it"?

    Cynical as it may be, Obama’s trick is a clever one, for it has allowed him to cast even his most reactionary instincts as downright futuristic, and to portray the critics of his agenda as the enemies of progress per se. On the question of, say, entitlement reform, this president has been an unabashed champion of the status quo, whereas Paul Ryan is a radical and a reformer. That, though, doesn’t fit into Obama’s model. That’s bad change, and bad change must by rights be conservative. Nod as he might to the sanctity of democratic control, there has always been something of the millenarian about Barack Obama. Properly understood, politics is the process by which free people work out their civic differences without resorting to arms. In his rhetoric, Obama implies otherwise: There’s a path toward History, he is fond of contending, and he is walking straight down the middle line.

  • One of Trump's better picks: Betsy DeVos for Education. (I'd prefer someone who would oversee the shutdown of the department, turning out the lights and locking the doors on her way out, but that's not going to happen this year.) So, naturally, she's the one drawing the most nasty flak. At Reason, Robby Soave points the finger at "teachers unions and Title IX zealots". In regard to the latter:

    Title IX supporters portray their critics as radicals who believe that every rapist should go free and that every woman is a liar. Of course, this is not the case. The Education Department's Office for Civil Rights's (OCR) interpretation of Title IX has come under fire precisely because OCR has taken a radical position: It believes that university students accused of sexual misconduct should be left with very little means of proving their innocence before poorly trained bureaucrats. It is OCR's opinion—not Congress' or the Supreme Court's—that federal law requires universities to investigate wrongdoing in accordance with a definition of sexual harassment so broad that it threatens academic freedom and free speech while denying fundamental due process to the accused.

    The WSJ notes that Ms. DeVos "has committed the unpardonable sin of devoting much of her fortune to helping poor kids escape failing public schools."

    Progressives and their media allies have spent the last week roughing up Mrs. DeVos in preparation for her Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday, which will feature the charms of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Liberals claim that Mrs. DeVos, wife of former Amway president Dick DeVos, is unqualified to lead the Education Department because she’s never been a teacher.

    Yet the same crowd howls that bankers shouldn’t be regulating banks. Which is it? Managing a bureaucracy isn’t like running a classroom, though both require a steely resolve. Most Education secretaries have been former teachers or school superintendents—not that student test scores are better for it.

    Political rhetoric forecast for the coming week: overheated phony bluster accompanied by periods of brain-freezing insults to our intelligence.

  • Um. "German court rules synagogue torching not anti-Semitism, but act to ‘criticize Israel’"

    A Wuppertal judge last Friday upheld a lower court’s 2015 ruling that German-Palestinians convicted of arson against the city’s synagogue did so merely to “criticize Israel” and “bring attention to the Gaza conflict.” Fire damage caused by 31-year-old Mohamad E., 26-year-old Ismail A. and 20-year-old Mohammad A. (full names withheld by German authorities) totaled almost $850.

    Hey, when I want to criticize Israel, I always go looking for a synagogue to torch. Who's to say this isn't a First Amendment protected activity?

  • Oh, yeah: in another one of his on-my-way-out-the-door-so-who-gives-a-shit moves, Obama ended a couple of policies that made it easier for Cubans to escape the Communist hellhole and come to the US. At Cato, David Bier deems that a "mistake".

    President Obama is abandoning America’s five decade-old policy on asylum seekers that guarantees Cubans asylum in the United States The change comes at a time when more Cubans will have arrived at U.S. borders than at any time since 1980, and it is a major win for the Cuban regime and opponents of immigration, both of which oppose Cuban immigration to the United States. But the sudden reversal is bad policy that will harm efforts to secure the border and aid the regime most hostile to human rights in the Western Hemisphere.

    I'm not a fan of unrestricted immigration, but I'm fine with making plenty of exceptions for people seeking liberty. But is Bier accurate in calling Obama's move a "mistake"? At the Daily Signal Mike Gonzalez argues that Obama pretty much knew what he was doing:

    […] that’s the thing about Obama: his apparent desire to please the octogenarian American-hater [Raul Castro] in Havana is only matched by his obvious disregard for the Cuban people’s legitimate desire for freedom.

    He seems to forget that they are trapped inside an authoritarian military dictatorship. In his announcement he once again said that “the future of Cuba should be in the hands of the Cuban people”—as if they lived in Ohio or the south of France.

    What Obama can decree, Trump can un-decree, though. It would be nice if he found some totalitarian dictator to piss off.

  • Megan McArdle notes that PEOTUS Trump managed to wipe out $25 billion of market value in 20 minutes with some of his loose-cannon press conference remarks on Wednesday.

    But those were "Big Pharma" companies, so good luck in getting any sympathetic attention.

    Megan—I call her Megan—debunks the notion that there's some basic magic in "price negotiation" that will lower consumer drug prices. You have to look at the reality of bargaining power.

    That bargaining power does not come from sheer size. America’s large health insurers and pharmaceutical benefit managers each cover more people than, say, Norway. These companies -- which also cover a lot of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries -- negotiate quite fiercely on drug prices, because every dollar they shave off the price is either a dollar in their pocket, or a dollar of savings they can shave off their own prices, thus giving them an advantage over their competitors.

    Negotiators need to be willing to not pay for expensive drugs. But, Megan notes, that's less likely to happen in the US.

  • And finally, Granite Geek (and Concord Monitor reporter) David Brooks tells the story of NH legislative efforts to remove "bonding and licensing" regulations for selling Bitcoins. Which is kind of interesting in itself but I liked this bit:

     * If you’re a reporter is New Hampshire, you get really tired of hearing people intone “As it says on the license plate, Live Free or Die!” to support any point of view about anything.

    Heh. But I doubt that. And I enjoy living in a state where license plate words can be used to support some point of view. Unlike, say, "Lobster" in Maine. That's not going to be a Bruce Willis movie any time soon.


Last Modified 2017-01-14 10:35 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2017-01-13

Friday the Thirteenth! Oooh. Be careful out there.

  • At Reason, David Harsanyi confronts "The Comforting Convictions of Obama's Farewell Speech"

    Obama loves to conflate progressivism and patriotism, pitting the forces of decency and empathy—his own—against the self-serving profiteers and meddling reactionaries who stand in the way. All of it is swathed in phony optimism.

    And Jonah Goldberg observes: "Obama’s Farewell Address Was a Campaign Rally in Disguise"

    Barack Obama formally ended his presidency the way he came in, talking to adoring fans about how lucky we are to have him in our lives.

    And at the WSJ, Richard Beneddetto asks the musical question: "How Can We Miss a President Who Won’t Go Away?" Because, unlike most other ex-Presidents, Obama is sticking around in D.C., at least for a while. Interesting:

    One must go back nearly a century, to Woodrow Wilson, to find another president who stayed in Washington after leaving office. But Wilson was too ill to become a political force.

    All modern presidents are probably above average on ego, but both Obama and Trump are outliers.

  • At NR, Alexandra Desanctis notes two tweets from Marilyn Geewax, Senior Business Editor at National Public Radio:

    Yes, Ms. Geewax thought her year-old tweet was so insightful, she resurrected it yesterday.

    Reader, if you think Price is pro-cancer because he declined to join in the mindless clapping at a State of the Union speech, congratulations: you have the policy analysis tools necessary to become an NPR senior editor!

  • You don't think you need something until you see it: the "Animal Fart Database" Yay!

    I must quote the entry for "Domesticated Dogs". Do they fart? Yes, […]

    but often takes blame from nearby hominid, Boston Terriers are famous for their farting; known to scare selves with their farts

    Pun Salad Truth-O-Meter: True!

  • Maybe I've overdosed on so many pretentious celebrity videos that my judgment is skewed, but I kind of liked this one:

    Me and you too, I hope.

URLs du Jour

2017-01-12

Looking forward to sharing the following with you:

  • A few days ago Pun Salad proclaimed irritation with politicians' use of "common sense" and "smart" to describe their own policies.

    There's a flip side to that: using "extreme" or "extremist" to deride people or policies you oppose. Nearly always meaningless, question-begging, and intelligence-insulting.

    Which made me wonder about President Obama's Farewell Address. Yup:

    For the fight against extremism and intolerance and sectarianism and chauvinism are of a piece with the fight against authoritarianism and nationalist aggression […]

    Call in the airstrikes on Fox News Headquarters!

    When Congress is dysfunctional, we should draw our districts to encourage politicians to cater to common sense and not rigid extremes.

    Yes, a twofer: for "common sense", against "extremes".

  • That last bit was Obama's advocacy of "redistricting reform". Comments Kevin D. Williamson:

    In his final presidential speech, Obama proposed redrawing congressional districts to make them less partisan. Who in his right mind would trust the people who weaponized the IRS — and who are at this very moment using prosecutors’ offices across the country to try to criminalize global-warming dissent — to do that in a fair and honest way? He proposed new campaign-finance rules that would purportedly reduce the role of money in politics, but who in his right mind would trust him and his colleagues — Lois Lerner, Loretta Lynch, Harry Reid — to oversee such regulations?

    Since I am in my right mind, I would not. (Nor would I trust Trump and his colleagues, but they're not the ones with the proposals.)

  • Arizona Senator Flake has issued this year's Wastebook: "50 examples of egregious government spending including fish on a treadmill, loans repaid in peanuts, and a Desperate Housewives-watching computer". See if you can get to number ten before smashing your computer screen against the wall.

    Number One is "Spaceport to Nowhere":

    A rarely used rocket launch facility in Alaska that was constructed as part of an illegal kickback scheme between midlevel Department of Defense (DOD) employees and contractors, is being kept in business by a “sole source” contract awarded by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) that “could total up to $80.4 million.”

    There have been no launches since 2014, and that one blew up.

  • Nick Gillespie recommends James Poulos's new book The Art of Being Free: How Alexis de Tocqueville Can Save Us from Ourselves.

    When you throw in [with depressed politicos] folks who are terrified that global warming is about to swamp the Midwest along with good old-fashioned religious end-timers, just about everybody is convinced these are the last days of modern Rome. Against such a background, Poulos' The Art of Being Free isn't just a pleasant diversion from the dog-eat-dog world of 24/7 news and partisan bickering. It's an all-you-can-eat buffet for the mind, groaning with allusions to history, political science, economics, literature, and pop culture: Socrates, Nietzche, Netflix, The Smashing Pumpkins, Seinfeld, Stendahl, and Scooby-Doo all make appearances in this essay about getting beyond superficial politics to the parts of life that really matter. And along the way, he charts a path that just might lead back to politics that will help us all be free to become whomever we think we want to be.

    Definitely going on the things-to-read list.

  • Samantha Harris of FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, is incredulous about people trying to make Betsy DeVos's contributions to FIRE an issue.

    They probably do see. They probably see it as a plus.

URLs du Jour

2017-01-11

Seen on Twitter: "You can't spell 'journalism' without 'urinal'." Close enough.

  • Math is hard. From Wired's binge-watching guide to Sherlock:

    Time Requirements: Don’t let the fact that there are only 10 episodes of the show in its first three seasons fool you. Because each episode is a 90-minute movie, those three seasons equal a total of 900 hours of viewing. [...]

    I assume they'll fix that soon.

  • At Reason, Jesse Walker has a request: "Let's Be Clear About Who Drained the Meaning from the Phrase 'Fake News'", This is in reaction to Margaret Sullivan's "let's stop saying 'Fake News'" column in the WaPo that also irritated Pun Salad yesterday. His conclusion:

    Once you've started slapping the "fake news" label on anything that looks like sloppy reporting or ideological bias in the alternative press, you've pretty much guaranteed that people will start flinging it when they think they've spotted sloppy reporting or ideological bias in the mainstream. No media-machine efficiency was required. Ask the right who taught them how to do this stuff, and they can look up from their bed and tell you: You, all right? I learned it by watching you!

    Kids, if the reference in that last bit isn't obvious to you, please click over to have your horizons widened a bit.

  • Speaking of fake news, our state's new US Senator, Maggie Hassan, has only been on the job a few days, and already she's been falling for the "Russkies hacked the Vermont power grid" yarn, as reported both by Granite Grok and the Daily Caller.

    Think on it: of the four people in NH's Congressional delegation, it seems that Jeanne Shaheen is the smart one.

  • In other Hassanic news, the Washington Free Beacon reports: "Hassan ‘Very Concerned’ About Education Secretary Nominee’s Support for School Choice".

    New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan (D.) joined the ranks of Senate Democrats attacking Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos, despite her own support for charter schools as governor.

    If you want to keep the teacher-union support, I suppose you have to alter your positions accordingly.

  • Ann Althouse shakes her head in wonderment at a different line of attack on Betsy DeVos: she contributed to FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education! Prof A quotes the Politico article:

    “Ms. DeVos must fully explain whether she supports the radical view that it should be more difficult for campus sexual assault victims to receive justice,” said Sen. Bob Casey, (D-Pa.), a member of the [Health, Education, Labor & Pensions] Committee.

    She wonders (as do I): "When did due process become a 'radical view'?!"

  • At Power Line, Steven Hayward reports: "Fake News Jumps Fake Shark". Bottom line:

    I’ll bet this story falls apart faster than a Dan Rather memo on national guard service.

    I'm kind of irritated that all the journalistic malpractice devoted to smearing Trump and delegitimizing the results of the election are… making me sympathize with Trump! I have to keep reminding myself that he's more of a petulant loose-cannon jerk than you really want the US President to be.

  • Which makes Nick Gillespie's observations all the more relevant: "Thanks, Liberals! You Applauded Obama’s Imperial Presidency, and Now We’ve Got Trump Rex".

    It’s all well and good that Joe Biden is now lecturing us that “the worst sin of all is the abuse of power,” but where the hell was he—and where were you—for the past eight years, when the president was starting wars without Congressional authorization, passing major legislation with zero votes from the opposing party, and ruling almost exclusively through executive orders and actions?

    Perhaps when someone asks Trump where he got the idea he could act this way, he could say "You, all right? I learned it by…". Oh, wait, we already used that today.

  • Back in the dark ages, F. A. Hayek wrote a classic essay: "Why I Am Not a Conservative". I can now add another reason: I'm not good looking enough:

    A recently published study in the Journal of Public Economics concludes that the attractiveness of a candidate does correlate with their politics. They find that politicians on the right are more good looking in Europe, the United States and Australia.

    OK, but are the results significant if you toss out Mitt Romney?

URLs du Jour

2017-01-10

A wealth of interesting things out there:

  • Kevin D. Williamson asks the musical question: "When Do Deficits Matter?" According to NYT writer/weathervane Paul Krugman, it's…

    Like homelessness and military casualties, U.S. government deficits are an issue that bleep into visibility on the progressive radar almost exclusively during Republican presidencies. On October 23, 2016, Professor Krugman wrote that the “debt scolds should be ignored,” and that Hillary Rodham Clinton, then presumed to be the next president, should engage in “years of deficit-financed infrastructure spending, if she can.” A grand total of 78 days later, Professor Krugman declared, “Deficits matter again.”

    As the article makes clear, Krugman was once a respectable economist. These days, his economics takes a back seat to politics.

  • Wondering why America hates Hollywood, or should? Fortunately, there's Paul Mirengoff to tell us "Why America Hates Hollywood, or Should". Concentrating on Meryl Streep's widely noted speech at the Golden Globe Awards ceremony:

    […] David French points out that during the same event in which Streep condemned Trump, she applauded a man who did something far worse. She, and most of the other assembled Hollywood worthies, applauded Roman Polanski who received a Golden Globe award.

    Anyone need reminding why that's problematic should click over. Unlike the late Nat Hentoff, Meryl tailors her condemnations and celebrations to fit in with those of her tribe.

    I can't help but think, however, that in all probability Linda from The Deer Hunter would have been a Trump voter last year.

  • Meanwhile, at least some folks think the Golden Globes didn’t bash Trump enough.

    When will Hollywood stop doubling down on its bubble? An entertainer’s job is to entertain. A steady diet of smug lectures, or bitterly partisan jokes, does neither — certainly not for the average Joe or Jane looking for an evening of escape.

    I, for one, welcome next few years of unremitting partisan rancor from the entertainment/news media! Daily Show-style political attacks coming to a sitcom near you! Newspaper restaurant reviews will rate based on owners' political contributions! Miss Sloane II: You Will Be Made to Care! Bring! It! On!

  • Continuing in the Hollywood vein… We hear all the time about one big tech company or another meekly giving in to the demands of one totalitarian government or another. So it's nice to hear about one website saying "Shove it." And that's the Internet Movie Database.

    Back in September, the state of California passed a new law that banned sites that offer paid subscriptions, and allow people to post resumes, from publishing individuals' ages. It's a law that has the potential to affect many sites, but it is the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) that hit the headlines.

    [...]

    A full week into 2017, IMDb has not only chosen to ignore the new law, but has also filed a lawsuit in a bid to stop California from implementing Assembly Bill No. 1687. The reason? IMDb believes that the law is a violation of the First Amendment and it says the state has "chosen instead to chill free speech and to undermine access to factual information of public interest" rather than trying to tackle age-discrimination in a more meaningful way.

    Granted, it's just California. But still, a welcome move. Where does Meryl Streep stand on this?

  • Ian Tuttle notes: "Planned Parenthood Doesn’t Need Our Taxes". Ian's not a fan:

    Planned Parenthood is an industrial-scale baby abattoir responsible for more than 300,000 American deaths annually and a degradation of human dignity on the order of Josef Mengele, and the urgent issue of the day is whether it should be privately or publicly funded. Democrats are for the latter. Republicans are of the more modest opinion that if you want to slaughter your child in utero, you should have to pay for it yourself. That is what would happen if congressional Republicans succeed in defunding Planned Parenthood, which they currently plan to do as part of the process of dismantling President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

    Government funding of PP is a symbol, one that the pro-abortion crowd would desperately like to keep in place.

  • Hey, kids, what time is it? According to Margaret Sullivan of the Washington Post, "It’s time to retire the tainted term ‘fake news’".

    Executive summary: it was fine when we were calling out fake news sites. But then those icky conservatives starting calling us out for our errors and biases using the term. Hence, "tainted".

  • Concord Monitor reporter David Brooks writes an obituary for a Wikipedia article: "chess-related deaths". It's a surprisingly violence-inducing game, and it makes one wonder why Meryl Streep hasn't called for its prohibition.

  • In response to this:

    This:

    Heh!

Dead Run

[Amazon Link]

Number three in P. J. Tracy's Monkeewrench series, which my sister recommended. Summary: I didn't like it as much as the first two.

It's clear from Chapter One that something nasty is going on in the remote village of Four Corners, Wisconsin. A milk truck overturns because of careless driving on a bumpy road, and… hey, wait a minute, that's not milk at all!

Also, down the road a bit (sorry, my Wisconsin geography is weak), a kid diving to retrieve his beer in an abandoned quarry is startled to find… eek, corpses!

Into all this drops three women: Grace and Annie from the Monkeewrench software company, and Sharon, a cop from the first book, now an FBI agent. They're on their way to Green Bay, but have taken a detour to view an unspecified attraction. (Spoiler: this.) But their car breaks down, they need to walk for help, they witness brutal murders, they get chased by the same guys,…

It's an interesting departure from the first two books in the series, which were murder mysteries, a tad gimmicky, but that's OK. This one is more like Lee Child, a massive conspiracy threatening the lives of thousands. (But also gimmicky, because the pulse-pounding climax depends mightily on the sheer coincidence of genius hackers just happening to be in the area when needed.)

The writing style seems to have taken a turn for the worse here, too, with pointless floweriness cropping up throughout, when you just want to say "get on with it already." But I'll keep reading the series.

URLs du Jour

2017-01-09

Where are the world's most expensive coffee beans plucked from? Answer below, and be prepared to say "Ewwww!"

  • Ever wonder what to think about global warming? Kevin D. Williamson is here for you, friend, with "What to Think about Global Warming".

    Given the stakes in the global-warming debate — trillions of dollars in economic costs and/or climatic catastrophe — conservatives should not simply dismiss the Copenhagen talks, even though the revelations of Climategate may tempt us to do so. The debate is polarized, and it is natural to throw one’s lot in with one camp or another — The World Is Ending vs. Global Warming Is a Hoax — but there are more than two propositions to consider. And those propositions are not mostly scientific in character, but political.

    Kevin—I call him Kevin—goes through Propositions One through Six, in "increasing order of unlikeliness".

    All I ask: a "solution" that doesn't make us worse off than the problem.

  • Nat Hentoff died, one of those rare birds who came to his opinions as an individual, not to get along as a member of one tribe or another. There are a lot of tributes out there, but I liked Jesse Walker's.

    Hentoff was less likely to be called a liberal later in life. That's partly because his brand of free-speech absolutism was growing less common on the left, and it's partly because of his heterodoxy on abortion. (Hentoff was pro-life, arguing against abortion on the same grounds that he argued against capital punishment and war. Or, at least, against some wars—he eventually rended his seamless garment to support interventions in Rwanda and Iraq.) But you couldn't really cast him as a man of the right either: Besides his intense distrust for the police agencies that conservatives tend to revere, he was a longtime democratic socialist who held onto a lot of his leftist economic ideas in old age. It's not even quite right to call him an ACLU liberal, because he kept butting heads with the ACLU. (The nation's most prominent civil libertarian organization wasn't always civil libertarian enough for him.) Best to think of him as his own man, with at least a couple of views to offend pretty much anyone.

    That's a good goal to shoot for. If I haven't offended you yet, keep reading.

  • James Lileks' The Bleat is a weekday stop for me, a tour of his quick and witty observations on life in Minneapolis. Today's entry contains his reaction to Rogue One.

    The Empire continues to make questionable tactical decisions, such as poorly-defended access points to entire planets, easily recognizable data-centers, failure to observe sensible distances between Star Destroyers, and the Rebel Alliance continues to burn through their X-Wing fleet at an alarming rate; it’s a wonder they had anything left for that run on the Death Star. But these were passing thoughts that didn’t interfere with the enjoyment, and the gratitude.

    As many folks have observed over the years: there's no OSHA in the Galactic Empire.

  • Via GeekPress: "Daredevil Japanese Photographer Explores Urban Landscapes From A New Perspective". Who could resist that? Consumer notes: (1) not all urban; (2) not all show daredevilishness; (3) who cares if the guy is Japanse? But they're nearly all impressive pictures.

  • OK, if you've been wondering since that opening teaser: the "World's most expensive coffee beans [are] plucked from elephant excrement". You're welcome.

    They have a website, where it's put more delicately: "An artisanal process whereby the finest Arabica coffee cherries have been naturally refined by rescued elephants." 35 grams of Black Ivory coffee will set you back 73 US Dollars. (But free shipping.)

    Intriguing! But sticking with Folgers here at Pun Salad Manor, thankyouverymuch.

Thinking, Fast and Slow

[Amazon Link]

I'd had this 2011 book on my to-be-read list for years, but it kept going on "course reserve" lists at the University Near Here library. I finally broke down and ordered the Kindle version from Amazon. It's very good. The author, Daniel Kahneman, won the 2002 Nobel Economics Prize for his research into how humans make decisions, and that research, and more, is reported here. It is a wonderfully written and accessible book; it's clear that Kahneman really wants to tell you interesting stuff, and he wants you to understand it.

It's the kind of book that makes you think Big Thoughts. Like: Darwinists tell us, and they're probably right, that our brains are the product of eons of evolution; for nearly that entire time, that meant the basics: figuring out how to reproduce, get food, try to avoid becoming food, defend against the elements, etc. But somehow that brain, developed for brute survival, has in a relative eyeblink in time, allowed us to plumb the secrets of the universe, develop all sorts of gadgets, construct art, language, Major League Baseball …

How could that possibly have happened? It's enough to make one believe in Intelligent Design!

But, as Kahneman demonstrates convincingly, our "intelligence" is quirky enough to argue against that thesis too. If God designed our brains to act this way, He's open to a lot of criticism. They work OK, but not that OK.

Anyway: the book discusses (as you might guess from the title) two distinct modes of thinking. Kahneman nearly anthropomorphizes these modes, calling them "System 1" and "System 2". (He's careful to note that this is a shorthand for what's actually going on.)

System 1 is the fast thinker. It's responsible for most of the activities we carry out "without thinking" (although it is thinking). It is impulsive, liable to reach conclusions on the basis of incomplete information, therefore gullible, and does a decent job most of the time. Its operations are mostly subconscious.

But it's overmatched on any issue that requires deliberation, calculation, or other higher reasoning, for which it calls in "slow" System 2. Problem is, System 2 is—Kahneman's own word—lazy. (I think this implies that the brain areas involved in System 2 thought gobble up a lot more energy; evolution-wise, it makes sense to use System 2 only when absolutely needed.)

Now, if you're a researcher into how this all works, as Kahneman is, your methods involve mostly trickery: lead System 1 into error, see under what conditions System 2 is invoked, see when System 2 rolls over, goes back to sleep, tells System 1 to just deal with it already. It turns out to be absurdly easy to lead our brains into fallacy, bias, and irrational choices. Kahneman tells these tales with a lot of sly humor—which makes sense, because such mental errors seem to be the source of a lot of comedy as well. Some of Kahneman's humor is refreshingly self-deprecating; he's not shy about discussing the episodes in which he was led into fallacy.

He details a large variety of those biases and how they manifest themselves in everyday life. Another "big idea": most entrepreneurship and innovation is, strictly speaking, based in fallacious optimism about how things could turn out. Most entrepreneurs crash and burn, most innovations aren't necessary, many new businesses fail, etc. But the ones that do prevail, against the odds, drive economic prosperity.

So we may be rich, not in spite of our flawed mental processes, but because of our flawed mental processes. Hm.

Now it's not all wonderful. Kahneman veers into the political in his final chapters, arguing that Research Shows the untenability of the "Chicago School" economics as explicated by (say) fellow Nobelist Milton Friedman. Instead he seems to advocate "libertarian paternalism" like "Nudge" authors Sunstein and Thaler. I remain skeptical.


Last Modified 2017-01-08 8:24 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2017-01-08

The Makers of CeraVe® Skincare have declared today National Winter Skin Relief Day. So get out there and moisturize.

  • Today's pet peeve: labelling your stupid policy proposals as "common sense" or "smart". Today's example:

    President Obama advocated for more gun control measures in an editorial he wrote for the Harvard Law Review on Thursday.

    In a lengthy essay titled “The President’s Role in Advancing Criminal Justice Reform,” Obama urged the country to “take commonsense steps to reduce gun violence” while celebrating the executive orders he has enacted.

    The about-to-be-ex President's essay contains multiple occurrences of "commonsense". (I don't know why he spells it like that.)

    • "… adopting commonsense measures to keep firearms out of the hands of those who are a threat to others or themselves …"

    • "Here are commonsense steps that I am hopeful could be accomplished in the next few years,…"

    • "I believe we can take commonsense steps to reduce gun violence that are consistent with the Second Amendment.…"

    • "Congress should pass the kinds of commonsense reforms supported by most of the American people …"

    Even more common is "smart":

    • "… the Department of Justice has made important changes to federal charging policies, starting first and foremost with the “Smart on Crime” initiative …"

    • "… equal justice depends on individualized justice, and smart law enforcement demands it."

    • "One promising proposal in my second term was the Smarter Sentencing Act,…"

    • "… smarter ways to integrate new technologies, like social media, to enhance public trust and public safety …"

    • "A few years ago, the Department of Justice also launched the Smart on Juvenile Justice Initiative …"

    • "… I have pushed for reforms that make the criminal justice system smarter, fairer, and more effective …"

    Now, let it be said: it's not just Obama. Or even those on the left. Everybody wants to be on the side of "common sense". Everybody wants to be "smart".

    But slapping "smart" or "common sense" into an argument is pointless, dishonest, and lazy:

    Pointless because it never adds anything useful to the discussion;

    Dishonest because it's almost never true, it's just there to sound good and sway the easily gulled;

    Lazy because it's not an argument; it's meant to substitute for an argument that the writer is unwilling, or unable, to make.

    Bottom line: don't tell me you're smart, and that your proposals embody "common sense", show me. I bet you can't.

  • At Reason, Baylen Linnekin notes Congressional efforts to protect us all from the dangers of…

    Last month more than 30 Members of Congress wrote a letter to the FDA asking the agency to require makers of non-dairy milks—including almond, rice, and soy—to stop using the term "milk" to describe their milk. The congressional letter is ridiculous, and reeks of a mix of unconstitutional protectionism and unconstitutional restrictions on free speech.

    Leading the effort is Rep. Peter Welch (D-Ben&Jerry's). A little searching finds the referenced letter; NH CongressCritter Ann McLane Kuster signed on to the ridiculosity. (My own CongressCritter/Toothache, Carol Shea-Porter, has only been in the job a few days, give her time.)

    I like Linnekin's alternate modest proposal: the dairy industry should be required to label their own product more honestly: not "Milk", but "Cow Milk". I would go further. In the interest of providing consumers useful information, the cartons should replace "milk" with "cow lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum". Which is actually shorter than the full legal definition. But I don't want to be unreasonable.

  • Back in the campaign, Trump issued a list of his possible Supreme Court picks. On the list was Texas state Supreme Court Justice Don Willett. That wasn't enough to make me vote Trump.

    Yesterday's print WSJ had a funny article: "A Week in the Life of Justice Don Willett".

    From the article:

    I’m probably the tweetingest judge in America, which, admittedly, is like being the tallest Munchkin in Oz. Americans can debate whether the judiciary remains government’s “least dangerous branch” (Hamilton’s description). But “the branch with the costumes” (my daughter’s description) is certainly the least understood.

    Fingers crossed that Trump will keep this promise, in this specific way.

  • A team of geniuses has figured out how to get two Google Home devices to literally converse with each other. The result is pretty amusing.


Last Modified 2017-01-08 10:05 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2017-01-07

After nearly thirty years' residence at Pun Salad Manor, I've finally acquired a snow blower. Looks as if I'll get a chance to take it out later today.

Why now? Mrs. Salad was worried about me keeling over while shovelling. Fine, honey. But reading through the manual shows the snow blower can kill (or maim) me in all sorts of different ways.

So, if this is my last post, you'll know what happened.

  • Have you been wondering what the upcoming "Women's March on Washington" is really about? Find out from PJ Media's D. C. McAllister: "What the 'Women's March on Washington' Is Really About".

    Whether it’s dictating to private companies their work-leave policies, redistributing earnings, put[t]ing the safety of Americans at risk by ignoring immigration laws, taking over healthcare decisions from individuals and families, demanding use of public restrooms by the opposite sex, pushing for violation of Second Amendment rights, suppressing free speech on college campuses, violating religious liberty, or telling fellow Americans that they have to pay for women’s contraception and abortions, this group’s agenda is about taking power from the individual and private sector, expanding the role of the Washington in our lives, and increasing dependency on the state.

    Today's Getty pic: women marching in Washington, wondering: "Where is everyone?"

  • The "Russia hacked our election" story will peter out and die someday, I suppose, but today is not that day. The Director of National Intelligence released a declassified version of their evidence of Russian meddling. Disturbing!

    But, as Power Line's John Hinderaker notes, the report is long on assertion, short on actual evidence, that Russia was behind the break-in of John Podesta's e-mail account. Fact remains: it was an unsophisticated hack that any moderately talented black-hat could have managed.

    But as Hinderaker also notes in a separate post, the report is pretty credible in documenting Russia's history in interference in other areas of US politics (continuing the tradition of the USSR). The Russia Today (now "RT") cable channel, for example, put its thumb on the scale for Trump over Clinton, true enough. But they also were pro-Obama before that, provided aid to the Occupy movement, engaged in anti-Diebold voting machine FUD, and are notable in their anti-fracking propaganda. Hinderaker concludes:

    So, while it is pathetically inadequate as support for the claim that Putin’s regime somehow influenced our 2016 presidential election, today’s report provides interesting and long-overdue perspective on Soviet and Russian efforts to influence American politics through the decades.

    We don't get RT at Pun Salad Manor. Sad!

  • At NR, Andrew C. McCarthy recommends a new US policy toward the UN: goodbye, get out, good riddance. Bottom line:

    It is not enough to cut off funding from a bad organization. We should disassociate from that bad organization. We should stop helping it be a consequential bad organization by denying it legitimacy. Don’t defund the U.N. Just say, “Go!”

    Works for me.

  • Oh, yeah. The GOP promise to "repeal and replace" Obamacare is probably going to be a disaster. Peter Suderman has been one of the most knowledgeable critics of Obamacare since it was first proposed, and now he notes:

    Republicans have talked about repealing and replacing Obamacare for years, but it's not clear that many of them ever thought much about how they would do so or what the consequences might be. At this point, it's enough to make you wonder whether the GOP really wants to repeal and replace Obamacare—or simply say they did.

    I don't like to keep mindlessly appending "Read the Whole Thing" to these pointers, it should be obvious, but… really, if you want to understand what's going on with Obamacare repeal, Read the Whole Thing.

  • Hey kids, remember when Bernie Sanders stressed that he was a "democratic socialist", and simply wanted the US to be more like Denmark? Where they have, like, free college and stuff?

    Well, well:

    The Danish parliament on Monday passed a bill that will bar students from taking a second university degree.

    They need the money that would have paid for that "free" stuff, and use it to pay for different "free" stuff.

    As Margaret Thatcher (not quite, but essentially) observed: "The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money."

  • Back on December 27, I blogged the story about Bill Murray getting assisted by Rochester, NH civilians after a rental car breakdown. I speculated that it might be fake news at the time.

    Guess what? It was! Other celebrities getting good-samaritaned by local yokels: Adam Sandler, Miley Cyrus, Bruce Willis, … And all over the country, too, not just Rochester.

    But I stand by my original position: I really wanted that story to be true.

URLs du Jour

2017-01-06

Our periodic reminder: there's an implied "Read the Whole Thing" attached to most of these links.

  • At Reason, David Harsanyi speaks for people who can hold two ideas in their minds at once: "Russia Isn't Our Friend, but That Doesn't Make the Democrats' Conspiracy Theories True". Paraphrasing: (1) Putin is a danger, both to his Russian citizens and to freedom-lovers everywhere; (2) he didn't "hack" our election.

    Now, I understand why so many on the left want to force Republicans to choose between these two statements. They'd like to delegitimize the democratic validity of Trump's presidency (in much the same way they did with President George W. Bush) and smear those who don't join them in this endeavor as unpatriotic Putin-defending lackeys. Considering their own past and Obama's accommodating attitude toward the Russians (and the Cubans, the Iranians, Fatah, Hamas and other illiberal regimes), this seems an uphill battle.

    I wonder if there's some way to invest in political double standards. It's a booming market.

  • John Ekdahl set off a Twitter storm by idly wondering how many of his co-journalists knew anyone who owned a pickup. As a metaphor for the journalistic bubble, this worked great. Kevin D. Williamson offers his thoughts: "The Search for the Real America".

    The responses were predictable: The sort of smug progressives who are proud of their smugness scoffed that pick-ups, pollution-belching penis-supplements for toothless red-state Bubbas, are found mainly in the sort of communities where they’d never deign to set foot; the sort of smug progressives who are ashamed of their smugness protested that it is a silly question (which it is — that’s part of the point) and made strained connections with pick-up-owning childhood friends back home in East Slapbutt; conservatives mainly said “Har har stupid liberal elites.”

    But, really: Read the Whole Thing.

    Personal note: as I was musing to my co-workers, friends, and family about retirement, I said I was gonna get (1) a dog and (2) a pickup. Because every week I went to the Rollinsford NH "Transfer Station" (AKA the dump), it seemed that everyone there but me had both.

    Now retired, I did get a dog. He's a sweetheart. And I take him to the dump with me.

    But when I looked at pickup prices, and thought long and hard about whether I actually needed one, after decades of not needing one, I wimped out and got a Subaru Impreza instead.

  • Speaking of my ex-coworkers, the Portland Press Herald has a great article touching on one of them: Marty England. And there's a Rollinsford connection too.

    At the time, Martin England never understood why his father made him mow the lawns of the old ladies who lived in downtown Rollinsford, New Hampshire, where England grew up. But whenever the lawns needed mowing, England’s dad dropped him off with a lawnmower and paid him for his time.

    Marty's now doing good works in North Berwick, Maine, running an "arts collective" that helps aspiring kids from rural Maine pursue music and art by providing instruments, mentoring and incentives." All while leading a band and keeping his day job at the IT Department of the University Near Here.

    Marty also kept a "Bernie 2016" bumper sticker on the back of his car way after Bernie's campaign was over. (It may still be there, I haven't checked lately.) (Update: checked today. Yes, still there.) So we don't share a lot of political common ground, but he's a fantastic guy.

  • Via Bruce Schneier, a look at the cryptographic capabilities of the Barbie Typewriter.

    When the E-115 was adopted by Mattel as an addition to the Barbie™ product line, it was aimed mainly at girls with a minimum age of 5 years. For this reason the product was given a pink-and-purple case and the Barbie logo and image were printed on the body. As it was probably thought that secret writing would not appeal to girls, the coding/decoding facilities were omitted from the manual. Nevertheless, these facilities can still be accessed if you know how to activate them.

    The encoding is a weak substitution cipher, but would-be spies have to start somewhere.


Last Modified 2017-01-06 3:25 PM EST

URLs du Jour

2017-01-05

Pet peeve du jour: sites that post huge generic pictures at the top of each article, forcing you to scroll down to get to content. Maybe that's impressive on some mobile devices, but to the Rest of Us, it's just pointless and irritating. I'm looking at you, Daily Signal.

  • You'll hear it over and over: ohmygod, repealing Obamacare will be so disruptive! Don Boudreaux says all there is to say about that:

    I have little respect for those who, when seeking to maintain interventionist legislation, argue that repeal will be disruptive, but who, when seeking to implement such legislation, either ignore or dismiss concerns about the disruption that the legislation will unleash.

    Me neither. ObJimmyWebbLyric: "The Yard Went On Forever"

  • In other double-standard news: Patterico notes the eminently predictable partisan weathervane that is the editorial section of the New York Times on the US Senate filibuster. History is recited, and the bottom line is:

    You could get whiplash trying to follow the way they careen back and forth between positions — unless you kept their actual principle in mind: we support whatever helps Democrats. Then their positions become very easy to follow.

    I like the idea of a filibuster, but it's kind of pointless if it's only used to obstruct one party.

  • You may have seen the latest video with a bunch of self-righteous celebrities urging Congresscritters to oppose, oppose, oppose… oh, you know who. At Reason, Robby Soave takes it to the dumpster. (I especially like the article's literate subtitle: "A boot stomping on a human face and muttering 'Dear members of Congress,' forever.")

    Too many people in the media and entertainment industries don't seem to understand that folks hate being treated like morons. I'm not thrilled about America's choice for president, but I wasn't thrilled about the other choice, either. I'm supposed to be shamed for not wanting Hillary Clinton, a key supporter of the disasters in Iraq and Libya, to fly the plane?

    Personal note: I've found some of those celebrities (the ones I recognize, anyway) have given powerful performances portraying nuanced, human characters in the past. It somehow makes those performances even more impressive when you realize they're such partisan political airheads.

  • At FEE, Steven Horwitz says what needs to be said about Trump's trade policy. Although his (vague) promises to deregulate many areas of economic activity are promising, everything else … not so much.

    It’s good to hear Trump talk of regulatory relief – every sector desperately needs this! – but true regulatory relief, as well as broad economic growth that will benefit all Americans, comes through the free movement of goods and people. Genuine free trade requires no new regulations or bureaucracies – in fact, it requires that we eliminate things like the Ex-Im bank and the intrusive and rights-violating immigration bureaucracy.

    ObMovieQuoteInvocation: Horwitz, you magificent bastard, I read your book!

  • Also taking Trump to task on trade: Sheldon Richman:

    President-elect Trump complains that trade with China is "one-sided." Does he speak English or what? One-sided trade is like one-sided triangle: you can say it, but you can't mean (think) it. Chinese folks deliver goods to Americans (through Walmart, etc.), and we willingly buy them. The Chinese then invest some of their proceeds in the United States. Well, I guess that is one-sided -- but wait! They later reap rewards from their successful investments.

    ObOrwellQuote: "The great enemy of clear language is insincerity." Trump has waged war on clear language for many months.

  • I'm not a huge Glenn Greenwald fan, but when he's right, he's very, very right: "WashPost Is Richly Rewarded for False News About Russia Threat While Public Is Deceived"

    In the past six weeks, the Washington Post published two blockbuster stories about the Russian threat that went viral: one on how Russia is behind a massive explosion of “fake news,” the other on how it invaded the U.S. electric grid. Both articles were fundamentally false. Each now bears a humiliating editor’s note grudgingly acknowledging that the core claims of the story were fiction: The first note was posted a full two weeks later to the top of the original article; the other was buried the following day at the bottom.

    Greenwald provides other examples of MSM hyping of scary Russkie stories detailing how the inevitable corrections and retractions never quite catch up to the original allegations. It's an important story.

URLs du Jour

2017-01-04

Let us get to it:

  • James Taranto did Best of the Web Today for the online WSJ for many moons, but yesterday was the final entry for him; he's moving on to a new position at the newspaper and James Freeman will be taking over BOTWT. Taranto was funny and insightful, and he had the philosopher's gift of making fine distinctions.

    He also accepted a few suggested links I thought he'd find appropriate for the column, which shows… I was going to write "good taste", but let's not get carried away: it probably just shows we find the same things amusing, which is not the same thing at all.

  • Many folks have made the parallel between the "intelligence community's" last-decade findings on Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction" and the recent allegations about Russia's election-hacking. Jesse Walker looks beyond the obvious.

    And keep your eye on the ball. Just as focusing on WMDs yielded too much ground to the argument for war, focusing on Russia's alleged election antics yields too much ground to Trumpism. We may be entering an ugly age of paranoid nationalism. If you want to fight that, you shouldn't put paranoid nationalism at the center of your critique of the new order.

    Good advice. Don't assume there are Russians under the bed, but (on the other hand) it doesn't hurt to keep checking under the bed.

  • Don Boudreaux posts his LTE, sent to the WaPo "Trump’s Ignorance Is Matched Only by His Thuggishness". At issue is Trump's saber-rattling at GM for its plans to make some cars in Mexico.

    Suppose that Mr. Trump is your neighbor and that he complains that the auto mechanic who you regularly hire is from another neighborhood. So he threatens to have his bodyguards confiscate a portion of your income until and unless you hire a more-pricey mechanic from your immediate neighborhood. Would anyone excuse such unethical – indeed, predatory – behavior? Of course not. So what is it about such behavior that makes it excusable if it is simply carried out on a larger scale? Answer: nothing at all. This behavior, regardless of scale, is that of a thug.

    Also, bad economics that will hurt Americans. Twofer!

  • Matt Ridley notes that 2017 is the centennial of Communism-in-practice.

    Human beings can be remarkably dense. The practice of bloodletting, as a medical treatment, persisted despite centuries of abundant evidence that it did more harm than good. The practice of communism, or political bloodletting as it should perhaps be known, whose centenary in the Bolshevik revolution is reached this year, likewise needs no more tests. It does more harm than good every time. Nationalised, planned, one-party rule benefits nobody, let alone the poor.

    Also recommended for the student: Bryan Caplan's Museum of Communism and the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.

  • Nick Gillespie thanks Gary Johnson, "the best thing in 2016".

    Gary wasn't perfect and I still don't really comprehend anything about that tongue-thing while talking to NBC reporter Kasie Hunt, who was understandably all like, Get me the hell out of here. But in the end, Johnson pulled almost 4.5 million votes (3.3 percent of the total), compared to 1.3 million votes (1 percent) four years ago. Of course, all of us who voted for Gary Johnson wanted him to do better still, but the world exists to disappoint us believers in small government.

    I'm OK with that, too. It was nice having someone to vote for without gagging.

Kubo and the Two Strings

[4.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Would it be ungenerous to say this is the kind of movie Pixar doesn't seem to want to make any more? Probably. But I'll add another data point when Finding Dory shows up this week.

The opening scene is chilling as a young woman on a flimsy boat battles a raging storm and is washed up, barely alive, on a beach. A cry from a nearby pile of flotsam (or is it jetsam) reveals… Kubo! A baby down to one eye. It's clear that they've just barely escaped a perilous situation.

Skip forward a few years. Kubo and his mother live in a hidden cave above a small town of friendly folk. Mom is near-catatonic, and Kubo makes ends meet by showing off his magical origami talents to throngs in the town's marketplace. But (of course) one night he disobeys Mom's strict rule to get back to the cave before nightfall. And (of course) disaster strikes.

This sets Kubo off on a mission of revenge. He's accompanied by a monkey, mystically generated from an old talisman. And (eventually) a samurai warrior created from a beetle. Perils abound and (slight spoiler) there's eventual victory, but it's bittersweet at best.

Highly recommended. I know it sounds grim from my description, but there's a lot of funny stuff along the way too. Best movie I've seen so far this year. (Heh.)

URLs du Jour

2017-01-03

Finally managed to put up my new Futurama calendar. <voice imitation="professor_farnsworth">Good news, everyone!</voice> Only January, and it's already much better than last year's lazy effort. I think this is a good omen.

  • Reason's Nick Gillespie quotes the Washington Post's Moscow Bureau Chief David Filipov: "Russia is not the Soviet Union, this is not the Cold War, and Moscow is not looking for world domination." Gillespie relates Filipov's views to:

    For the American press and many partisans, one of Donald Trump's very gravest sins is his "bromance" with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. It's a sure sign of The Donald's stupidness, ignorance, naiveity, or flat-out lack of any moral seriousness that he seems to be OK with the Russians grabbing Crimea, edging its way into Ukraine, helping an even-bigger POS, Bashar al Assad, in Syria, and even "hacking" an election (or maybe not).

    I'd work the causality the other way: MSM partisans hate Trump so much that that hatred overwhelms their normal biases.

    I do hope, however, that David Filipov is not this century's Walter Duranty.

    More about Russia in a bit, but first…

  • Fake news is all over these days. For example, at the New York Times, where one Susan Dynarski's Upshot column is headlined: "Free Market for Education? Economists Generally Don’t Buy It".

    Skeptics drilled down into the actual evidence for that claim. And what do you know?

    [T]he more accurate summary would be “About twice as many economists believe a voucher system would improve education as believe that it wouldn’t”

    Hm. Maybe Susan Dynarski is this century's Walter Duranty.

  • And speaking of MSM fake news: I've been fascinated by the debunking of the WaPo's "Russian hackers penetrated U.S. electricity grid" story. At Forbes, Kalev Leetaru writes at how the story "evolved", nearly hour by hour, as the original sky-is-falling yarn fell apart. The newspaper, as Leetaru tells it, has been memory-holing its blunders as much as possible, and has been mostly opaque in describing how it got things so wrong.

    [P]erhaps most intriguing is that, as with the Santa Claus story, the Post did not respond to repeated requests for comment regarding how it conducts fact checking for its stories. This marks twice in a row that the Post has chosen not to respond in any fashion to my requests for more detail on its fact checking processes. Given the present atmosphere in which trust in media is in freefall and mainstream outlets like the Post are positioning themselves as the answer to “fake news” it certainly does not advance trust in the media when a newspaper will not even provide the most cursory of insight into how it checks its facts.

    Leetaru's brutal analysis is good as far as it goes, but misses what is (for me) the obvious chain of causation: (a) the WaPo is heavily invested in delegitimizing Trump; (b) part of that effort involves painting the Russkies as dangerous, nefarious super-cyber-hackers that threw the election Trump's way; and so (c) when something appeared that seemed to further bolster that narrative, the paper jumped on it like a trout at a May-fly.

  • Which brings us, naturally enough, to the much-ballyhooed "election hacking" that the Obama Administration blames on Russia and Putin. But, according to Power Line's John Hinderaker: the "Evidence For Russian Involvement in DNC Hack is Nonexistent". Not just weak, mind you: nonexistent.

    Hinderaker's argument is plausible and compelling (he refers to the same Wordfence analysis we referred to on New Year's Day); so is his conclusion:

    Nevertheless, the Democratic Party operatives who masquerade as reporters in the U.S. have uncritically swallowed the administration’s line, and are hectoring Donald Trump and his aides to admit that Vladimir Putin was responsible for “hacking the election.”

  • Pun Salad loves the Constitution to death, but as Tyler Cowen points out, the so-called Emoluments Clause is getting a hard look, because (guess what) anti-Trumpers see it as a possible line of attack. But it's far from clear what it covers, and how it might be enforced.

    But what I really wanted to quote is Cowen's final sentence:

    I would gladly learn more about this topic, and I am afraid that this year I am about to.

    That's so true about so many things.

  • Patterico looks at " Check Your Privilege Cards: Yet One More Way To Smugly Say, 'I Am Better Than You'". I've never embedded an Instagram before, let's see if it works…

    Wow, I'm hitting seven out of seven there. (Assuming you're generous with the "Christian" and "Able-bodied" items.)

  • And I just finished up reading the January 2017 issue of Reason and noted this quote in their "From the Archives" feature.

    If education is truly valued, why do we allow the state to become involved?

    That's Manny Klausner from their January 1977 issue, forty years ago. How long will it take for more people to realize that there's no good answer to that question?

URLs du Jour

2017-01-02

A true hodgepodge today…

  • Any Star Wars geek will want to read "Leia Organa: A Critical Obituary"

    While Leia Organa’s letters, doctrines and later, command directives formed the ideological-strategic core of the Alliance, she avoided the leadership roles assumed by her father and Mon Mothma. Indeed, she used the courtesy title Princess (afforded by her adopted parents, as elected officials in Alderaan’s post-monarchic democracy) sparingly, and purely for political effect. She became a field operative instead, managing diverse intelligence assets under the cover of diplomatic and sapient-relief travel. Before the Battle of Scarif, her missions shared intelligence with numerous Alliance cells. Her uncanny ability to predict the actions of enemies and allies alike made her essential, but the Alliance treated her warily, concerned she might manipulate its forces for her own ends.

  • Mark Steyn has a wonderful obit for Debbie Reynolds.

    When Arthur Freed and his directors Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen cast Debbie Reynolds in Singin' In The Rain, she was a 19-year-old who was good at gymnastics. But she wasn't a dancer, and she was supposed to dance with two of the greatest screen dancers of all - Kelly and Donald O'Connor. MGM wanted her youth and sweetness and wholesomeness - which were vitally important in a cast of wisecracking cynics and fakers. But they also needed her to move around at a high level of fluidity and competence. Kelly was impatient, and cruel and dismissive. (Afterwards, he was amazed that Reynolds was still willing to speak to him.) At the end of shooting one day, MGM's other dance star Fred Astaire happened to be wandering past the sound stage and noticed sobbing sounds coming from the piano. Underneath he found a distraught Debbie. Astaire offered to help teach her the routines. Her pep and pluck got her the rest of the way. If you watch "Good Morning" carefully, you can see Kelly and O'Connor are the two old pros and she's the neophyte. But so what? That was kind of her character in the plot, and she keeps up, and holds her own. At the end of the sequence, her feet were bleeding - and, as she famously said, the two hardest things she ever did were childbirth and Singin' In The Rain. And on the latter there was no CGI to serve as a production epidural.

    I own the Singin' in the Rain DVD; after I watch that movie, my face hurts from all the smiling.

  • Ah, but it's not all about dead movie stars at Pun Salad today. At NR, Kevin D. Williamson puts the grades on "Obama’s Last Report Card". Parallels with LBJ are drawn, because neither guy performed up to the expectations implied by their elections.

    Republicans know what Barack Obama has accomplished: The GOP practically has never been in a better position politically, with the state legislatures and governorships, the House and the Senate, and a newly minted Republican president. (A ritual acknowledgement of Hubris, who is also a jealous god, is here appropriate.) But Democrats should be asking themselves what Barack Obama has accomplished, too: He has decimated their party. The things they care the most about are, from the progressive point of view, mostly either in stasis or in regress: climate-change legislation, economic inequality, abortion, transnational governance, etc. The Left is strangely focused at the moment on exotica such as which dressing room transsexuals use at the gym and whether nonconformist bakers can be obliged at gunpoint to bake a cake for Bill and Ted’s excellent wedding. Their national leaders are elderly, intellectually narrow hacks of the kind who give hacks a bad name. Their great hope is an author of self-help books who smoothed her academic career by pretending to be a Cherokee.

    Heh! Save that last sentence for 2020.

  • Megan McArdle notes the latest proposed Democrat hack to get Merrick Garland on the Supreme Court. How would they manage that feat?

    That’s a very good question! The answer some progressives have come up with is that there will be a nanosecond gap between when the outgoing senators leave office, and the new ones are sworn in. During that gap, there will be more Democrats left than Republicans. So the idea is to call that smaller body into session, vote on the nomination, and voila! -- a new Supreme Court justice. Alternatively, President Obama could use that gap to make a recess appointment.

    Megan submits this plot to a deserved amount of scorn, both theoretical and practical.

  • James Lileks: his resolutions are better than yours and mine.

    I resolve not to ask the dog who's a good boy, because not one of the male children I've met ever chewed up a lame chipmunk. I will ask, "Who's a familiar representative of his species? You are! Yes, you are." And the tail will thump just the same.

    I will adopt that one too, assuming I can remember it.

  • The post-election Donald:

    The pre-election Donald:

    The only thing we have is a phony, artificial stock market. So people think—But I’ll tell you what, nothing relates to the stock. Even in New York, on Wall Street and stuff, people think Wall Street. It’s a whole different world. The stock market is a phony number and it’s gotten there because nobody is paying any interest. When interest rates go up a little bit, you’ll see some very bad and very interesting things happen.

    Less than five months between these two statements. Why, it's almost as if he's making stuff up as he goes along!

  • But he's far from alone. (Pardon the language.)

    "Laci Green", according to Wikipedia is "an American YouTube video-blogger, public sex educator, and feminist activist. She has hosted online sex education content on behalf of Planned Parenthood and Discovery News." And she's moody.

URLs du Jour

2017-01-01

Happy New Year, readers.

  • I got a little (actually, a lot) lazy about blogging this year. I toyed with making a New Year Resolution about blogging more. But then I said: why wait until the New Year? So far I've managed slightly over a week of daily blog posts.

    Can I keep up that pace? "Time will tell."

  • For those who might be interested: my yearly summary pages of the 61 books I read and 58 movies I watched in 2016. Turn off thy ad-blocker, lest you miss the attractive and tasteful Amazon links therein.

  • The Washington Post managed some fake news recently. Their headline screamed: "Russian hackers penetrated U.S. electricity grid through a utility in Vermont, officials say". Aieee!

    The significantly less scary reality emerged a few hours later. A routine scan of the computers at the Burlington Electric Department turned up a malware signature of "Grizzly Steppe" on a single laptop, one that had no connection to the electricity grid.

    And so:

    According to "Tyler Durden" at ZeroHedge it's worse than that: the "evidence" used to blame this all on Putin & the Russkies is worse than shaky.

    According to some cybersecurity specialists, the code came from an outdated Ukrainian hacking tool. As RT notes, IT specialists that have analyzed the code and other evidence published by the US government are questioning whether it really proves a Russian connection, let alone a connection to the Russian government. Wordfence, a cybersecurity firm that specializes in protecting websites running WordPress, a PHP-based platform, published a report on the issue on Friday.

    The analysis in the Wordfence article is impressively detailed. But the bottom line seems to be as Durden claimed. "Grizzly Steppe" is publicly available to black-hatters; its presence doesn't demonstrate "Russian hackers" at work, let alone a Russian government connection.

    As a conservative, I'm supposed to buy into every Commies-under-the-bed conspiracy theory that comes down the pike. But come on.

  • PowerLine provides "The Year in Pictures". You'll enjoy it.

  • And from Mr. Michael Ramirez, a look ahead: