URLs du Jour

2017-02-28

Proverbs 29:24 continues our hot streak of verses relevant to current events:

The accomplices of thieves are their own enemies; they are put under oath and dare not testify.

Is Hillary still under investigation? If so, pay attention to 29:24, Huma Abedin.

Also: have a good Fat Tuesday. Or "Shrove" Tuesday. As in: "Do these pants make me look shrove?"

  • <voice imitation="professor_farnsworth">Good news, everyone!</voice> James Taranto's must-read "Best of the Web Today" at the WSJ has been reborn as "Best of the Web", and James Freeman is the new curator. His initial effort, "Trump and the Media" is strong.

    Who says Donald Trump is against entitlement reform? While he probably won’t propose changes to Medicare or Social Security in his first budget proposal, the President seems eager to consider whether all members of the media establishment should continue to enjoy privileges not available to the average citizen.

    Like Dubya, I'm all for a free press. But there's no special mention in the First Amendment exalting the NYT or CNN as higher beings in the pantheon.

  • And you may ask yourself: Where are the solutions? Fortunately, A. Barton Hinkle (at Reason) knows: "The Solutions Are Sitting Around a Campfire, Not In Congress". It is a response/rebuttal to the Nick Eberstadt Commentary article we previously blogged.

    Hinkle recommends a couple of counterbalances: (1) HumanProgress.org, a site devoted to illuminating reasons for long-term optimism; (2) "try spending a few days with a Cub Scout pack."

    To begin with, you will not hear word one about President Trump. That in itself is a blessing. Because no matter how you feel about Trump, the topic is guaranteed to enrage: Either you are enraged by what the president is doing, or you are enraged by all the people who are enraged by it. The man must be the country's No. 1 salesman for hypertension medication.

    Having lived through the 1960-1979 era, I am firmly in the "We will muddle through. Somehow. Probably. I hope." camp.

  • At NR, John-Clark Levin asks the musical question: "What’s a Reluctant Trump Voter to Do?" Now, I was not a Trump voter (where have you gone, Gary Johnson?), but I think Levin's answer is pretty good: demand accountability.

    First, we must fight the psychological pressure to rationalize and defend everything Trump does. Many of my friends and colleagues voted for Trump with eyes wide open, acknowledging him as a menace, but now twist themselves into partisan pretzels explaining away each fresh outrage. Moral, thoughtful, humane people I love and admire now look me in the eye and straight-facedly justify mocking a disabled reporter or grabbing a stranger’s vulva. Put simply, Donald Trump leads good people to support bad things. If you voted for him, you now have a strong incentive to stick with him rather than confront his odiousness. Recognize the power of this ethical undertow and swim against it.

    I've grepped, and this is the first appearance of "vulva" at Pun Salad in its twelve-year history.

  • Via Instapundit, Brad Torgersen describes: "How the ctrl-Left make it impossible to be a Nice Conservative"

    I’ve slowly, gradually, achingly reached the conclusion that for a committed ctrl-Leftist, there is not now, nor can there ever be, a Good Conservative. There are Nice Conservatives—who will of course be patted on the head and given table scraps, for being willfully second class human beings in the hierarchy of moral perfection—but there are no Good Conservatives.

    Now, I think Torgersen is wrong on many levels. His metaphors are uncompelling, his proposed strategy is ineffective and soul-rotting. It's possible and desirable to be "nice".

    If you want me to go on about this I will.… <crickets> OK, I won't.

    But, as a retired computer geek, I dearly love the "ctrl-Left" label as a counterpart to the alt-Right that we've been hounded with for month after month. Never seen it before, didn't realize it was a thing, but it's genius. As inappropriate as I find the one-dimensional classification of modern political beliefs based on seating arrangements of the National Assembly in eighteenth-century France… I'm gonna use it whenever I possibly can.

  • Jerome Tucille has passed away. I still have a copy of his 1971 book It Usually Begins With Ayn Rand (numerous editions still available at Amazon), and was one of the gravitational influences on my thinking that landed me here, wherever that is.

    All this time, I didn't know how to pronounce his name. (Thanks to the NYT, it's too-CHILLY.)

    His son, J. D. Tuccille remembers him semi-fondly at Reason. RIP.

12 Years a Blogger

Pun Salad's first post was 12 years ago today. I will resurrect/modify my 10-year blogiversary post from 2015, a somewhat arbitrary "greatest hits" selection of posts, one per year. (Apologies for the inevitable link rot.)

2005: Jane Smiley is a Better Human Being Than Holman Jenkins, and Probably Me, and You Too.
2006: Myth Communication: Professor Farrell on Professor Woodward
2007: The Times Channels Engine Charlie
2008: Top XLII Facts About the Super Bowl (Historical note: the Pats lost. I regret the snark directed at the psychic powers of Dionne Warwick in this post.)
2009: MLK Day 2010: UNH Goes With Academic Poet-Thug
2010: President Obama: Not a Fan of the First Amendment
2011: Mark Fernald, Math Whiz
2012: GOVERNMENT WARNING
2013: Carol Shea-Porter: College Does Not Necessarily Make You Employable. Or Smart.
2014: Money is Evil, Unless You're Sending It To UNH
2015: Bias-Free Language Guide Has a Defender
2016: A Dishonest and Stupid Change

Enjoy, if you are so inclined. We'll be back to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.


Last Modified 2017-02-27 6:07 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2017-02-26

Proverbs 29:23 is actually quite nice:

Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor.

I've seen a lot of movies where that happens.

  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File this week is online, and titled: "Down with the Administrative State" Although as usual it rambles aimlessly covers a number of diverse topics. It's why we Goldberg fans are… fans of Goldberg.

    Anyway, Jonah notes with approval Steve Bannon's talk about…

    Deconstructing the administrative state is a kind of nightingale’s song for many intellectual conservatives, particularly my friends in the Claremont Institute’s orbit. It’s been great fun watching mainstream journalists, who are not fluent in these things, talk about the administrative state as if they understand what Bannon means. The “administrative state” is the term of art for the permanent bureaucracy, which has come untethered from constitutional moorings (please read Phillip Hamburger’s Is Administrative Law Unlawful?, or Charles Murray’s By the People, or my forthcoming book — which as of now has some 75 pages on this stuff). Most of the law being created in this country is now created on autopilot, written by unelected mandarins in the bowels of the government. It is the direct result of Congress’s decades-long surrender of its powers to the executive branch. The CIA is not the “deep state” — the FDA, OSHA, FCC, EPA, and countless other agencies are.

    This kind of thing is why I'm a Trumpkin every third day or so.

  • There was An Actual False-Flag Operation at CPAC:

    Jason Charter, 22, and Ryan Clayton, 36, passed out roughly 1,000 red, white, and blue flags, each bearing a gold-emblazoned “TRUMP” in the center, to an auditorium full of attendees waiting for President Trump to address the conference. Audience members waved the pennants—and took pictures with them—until CPAC staffers realized the trick: They were Russian flags.

    If only there had been more vexillologists in the CPAC crowd, they might not have been duped so easily.

    The merry pranksters, Jason Charter and Ryan Clayton, were identified as members of "Americans Take Action", whose goals include impeaching Trump, "restoring free and fair elections, creating a purpose-driven economy, and maintaining an open internet."

    And they are, at least for now, pretending to have a sense of humor, so give them a little credit for that:

    “Remember,” Clayton added, still committed to the fake [Russian] accent, “In Trump’s America, flag wave you!”

    OK, so recycling Yakov Smirnoff jokes from the 1980s may not be the highest form of humor, but it's something.

  • By the way, Yakov is still around, and is active on Twitter. Sample:

    Moan. But what a country!

  • If You Hate Comic Sans it turns out you're a dreadful person. Emily Zanotti at Heat Street:

    [...] at least one prominent social justice warrior now wants you to know that if you can’t handle Comic Sans, that probably means you’re an elitist and worse, someone who hates disabled people.

    Because some people with dyslexia can read text better when it is rendered in Comic Sans.

    Me, I try not to hate people, let alone fonts.

  • And the Atlanta Falcons have found the real villain behind their Super Bowl LI flop: Lady Gaga

    Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu told the NFL Network’s Good Morning Football on Friday that Lady Gaga’s 40-minute halftime performance “definitely did” impact the team’s play in the second half.

    Because it was 40 minutes of inaction for the Falcons, while the Patriots were able to use Coach Belichick's magic TiVo to fast-forward through the break.

The Great Wall

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

Pun Son and I went to see this before it disappeared from our local theatres. His choice.

Consumer report: I dozed fitfully during the first half. In terms of grabbing the viewer's interest right from the start, I'd have to rate that a failure. But things seemed to perk up at the end. So overall, three stars ("OK"). I don't think I was snoring. Had I been snoring, I'd knock it down a star.

Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal play a couple of mercenaries on their way to China to pick up some black powder. You know, the kind that explodes. They figure this is their road to riches if they're able to make their way back to Europe with a decent amount. That's illegal, but they are used to doing illegal sorts of things.

Unfortunately, they arrive in China during one of the every-sixty-year outbreaks of monstrous giant carnivorous lizards. Each one has, like, 298 razor-sharp teeth. They are, it turns out, what the Great Wall was put there to protect against.

So Matt plays the reluctant hero, throwing his mad archery skills into helping the Chinese fend off the pesky lizard onslaught. He gets less reluctant as time goes on, as the beautiful soldier Lin Mae captures his heart and draws out his better nature.

I guess this did OK in China, but not so well here in the US.

URLs du Jour

2017-02-25

Oh, please, Proverbs 29:22, tell us something of relevance today:

An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins.

Ah. Not bad, Proverbs. Keep up the good work.

  • Is the press the enemy? Or even an enemy? Find out the answer in Jonah Goldberg's column: "The Press Is Not the Enemy".

    Except (in case you are not tempted by the title): most of the column is devoted to the mainstream press's dreadfulness. That doesn't make them the "enemy", just another entity that doesn't deserve your trust.

    One need not paint with an overly broad brush or accuse the entire press corps of being part of a knowing conspiracy to manipulate the public. Many mainstream journalists sincerely believe they are operating in good faith and doing their job to the best of their abilities. At the same time, it seems patently obvious that the “objective” press is in the business of subjectively shaping attitudes rather than simply reporting facts.

    Which brings us to…

  • President Trump's CPAC speech transcript. Here's a line that should send a chill down every liberty-lover's spine:

    They [referring to the press] shouldn't be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody's name.

    You don't need to be a slavish MSM fan to be repulsed by Trump's assertion of what they "shouldn't be allowed" to do. You don't need to be a fan of their too-convenient overuse of anonymous sources to find Trump's words odious.

    All you need is to be a fan of the Constitution and the First Amendment.

    You remember: that's what Trump took an oath, just a few weeks ago, to preserve, protect and defend.

  • Another bit from Trump's speech was not as disgusting, but…

    […] we're going to make trade deals, but we're going to do one-on-one — one-on-one — and if they misbehave, we terminate the deal, and then they come back and we'll make a better deal.

    We'll send this one over to Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek, who addresses an "open letter" to the Prez:

    By “we” you mean you.  By “misbehave,” you mean act in ways that you find objectionable (which surely includes offering to sell goods to Americans at especially low prices).  And by “terminate the deal” you mean use threats of coercion to prevent Americans from buying as many imports as Americans would otherwise choose to buy.

    Now I do support the idea of one-on-one trade deals, but I have a radically different proposal for implementing them – namely, that you mind your own business and let each of us Americans make whatever trade deals each of us likes, one-on-one, with whichever suppliers each of us chooses to deal with.

    Even Trump admits [see transcript] that, on trade, he's in the Bernie Sanders corner. That should worry otherwise sensible people.

  • But maybe I worry too much about President Trump. Maybe his goose is well and truly cooked now. Because, as reported in Elle:

    Starting at midnight on Friday, witches around the country are calling for a mass spell to be cast on Donald Trump every night of a waning crescent moon until he's driven from office.

    A WSJ crossword clue on Thursday was "Spelling pro?". Five letters. Beginning with W. Last letter appears to be H. … Oh, now I get it. Moan.

  • At Reason, Thomas W. Hazlett offers unpleasant birthday wishes ("would you just die already") to the Radio Act of 1927: Herbert Hoover's Radio Malware Turns 90:

    On February 23, 1927, Babe Ruth had still to hit 60 home runs in a season. Yet President Calvin Coolidge would that day sign a bill that would establish how radio spectrum—the "economic oxygen" of the emerging information age—would still be governed 90 years later. Markets would be pre-empted, no ownership of the "ether" would be permitted. Public administrators would dole out privileges to deploy wireless networks according to the "public interest."

    Yes, that would be sometime libertarian hero Coolidge. Major mistake, Cal.

    Hazlett takes you through a brief history of US radio, and shows how the Radio Act was pushed through by an alliance of power-grasping pols and radio moguls looking to protect their electromagnetic turf by throwing up barriers to entry.

  • Megan McArdle has news you can use: "'Authentic' Food Is Not What You Think It Is"

    In fact, authenticity is an illusion, and a highly overrated one. Most of the foods we think of as “authentic” are of relatively recent vintage -- since capsaicin-containing hot peppers are native to the Americas, any spicy cuisine like Szechuan or Thai is by definition a Johnny-come-lately invention. Or take artisanal breads, like that crusty, moist peasant bread that most of us eat too much of at restaurants: Nathan Myhrvold, the mad genius of the cookbook world, says that this is a new invention. Our peasant ancestors, who got a large portion of their calories from bread, did not make these richly hydrated doughs, because they’re a pain in the butt to work with. Ciabatta, another bread that America likes because it sounds very authentic, was invented in the 1980s to compete with the baguette. (Itself a product of Industrial Revolution bakeries, not the proud local peasant.)

    Just go for what tastes good.

URLs du Jour

2017-02-24

Proverbs 29:21 [New International Version]:

A servant pampered from youth will turn out to be insolent.

We can speculate about what that shows about social mobility in BC Israel. Or we can switch to a different translation. Here's good old King James:

He that delicately bringeth up his servant from a child shall have him become his son at the length.

… the insolence is gone, and we have, more or less, a heartwarming character arc of a lowly servant becoming one of the family.

The "Holman Christian Standard Bible" pulls no punches about what "servants" really were back in the day. And they stick with the original unsentimentality:

A slave pampered from his youth will become arrogant later on.

Can't have that!

Er, I'm having a difficult time drawing a consistent lesson from today's Proverb, so we now return you to our regularly scheduled program:

  • Ever since reading Jason Brennan's Against Democracy last year, I seem to have become attuned to how Politics Makes Everything Worse. And I've been a fan of Virginia Postrel for decades, so her recent essay was self-recommending: "Don't Let Politics Invade Your Closet or Refrigerator". Her takeoff point:

    After 20 years, the big Outdoor Retailer trade show is leaving Salt Lake City -- not because it ran out of space or got a better deal elsewhere but because Utah lawmakers opposed an expansion of the industry’s biggest federal subsidy.

    The issue being Obama's designation of 1.35 million acres of federal land in Utah as a "national monument", a very contentious move in the state. Utah GOP pols, specifically, were opposed. Which (in turn) raised the ire of the "Outdoor Industry Association", which pulled the trade show.

    Ms. Postrel notes this as just one example of the upswing of politically-motivated boycotts and counter-boycotts. It's hard to see how this ends well.

    Confession: about the only item of which I've joined an announced boycott is Firefox. (But Firefox's market share has been sinking for years, and it's doubtful the boycott has had any effect on that.)

    I have (more in sadness than in anger) stopped reading some authors for their irritating political views: e.g., Ken Jennings, John Scalzi, Stephen King.

    I should be more precise. I don't mind mere disagreement. But when I see statements that demonstrate an author holds my political views and values in utter contempt, that's kind of a deal-breaker.

    As near as I can tell, they haven't missed me.

  • Heat Street reports: Facebook Suspends Christian Homeschool Mom’s Account for Citing the Bible.

    Allegedly. Facebook's suspension mechanisms are opaque, and its rules are vague, so nobody knows for sure.

    Fortunately, my Bible-quoting is restricted to my blog. I'm not in trouble for that, at least not yet.

  • At Reason, Brendan O'Neill finds that "Outlandish Trump Hysteria Mirrors Obamaphobia"

    How thin is the line between reason and delirium. Just a few years ago, Democrats and liberals were presenting themselves as paragons of level-headed politics in contrast to those cranky Obama bashers and birthers in the darker crannies of the worldwide web. Now, four weeks into the Trump presidency, they've become the thing they mocked; they're giving febrile Obamaphobes a run for their money in the paranoia game.

    "Febrile." Heh.

  • Also at Reason, Judge Napolitano is not fond of the methods used to take down Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn. 'Twas the "Revenge of the Deep State".

    Last week, The Wall Street Journal revealed that members of the intelligence community — part of the deep state, the unseen government within the government that does not change with elections — now have acquired so much data on everyone in America that they can selectively reveal it to reward their friends and harm their foes. Their principal foe today is the president of the United States.

    Judge Nap notes this is the near-inevitable result of the "maniacal passion for surveillance" brought about under Dubya and Obama.

    It would be nice to think that Trump will start dismantling that apparatus. But another scenario has him gaining control over it and using it for his own purposes. I wouldn't consider that unlikely.

  • And your Ramirez du Jour:

    Snail's Pace

    ObLink: "Sen. Rand Paul Introduces Replacement for Obamacare". Just grow a spine and do it, Republicans.

URLs du Jour

2017-02-23

Today's Proverb is 29:20:

Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them.

… so I'm being careful to type verrry slooowly today.

  • Ben Shapiro writes at NR: "When the Enemy of Your Enemy Is — Your Enemy". He pleads for to paying more attention to "ideas and values" than with automatically picking sides based on "tribal identity." RTWT, but I found these paragraphs to be especially perceptive:

    Unfortunately, many conservatives have embraced this sort of binary thinking: If it angers the Left, it must be virtuous. Undoubtedly, that’s a crude shorthand for political thinking. It means you never have to check the ideas of the speaker, you merely have to check how people respond to him.

    […]

    The logic of “if he melts snowflakes, he’s one of us” actually hands power to the Left, by allowing leftists to define conservatives’ friends. It gets to choose whom we support. This isn’t speculative. It happened during the 2016 primaries, when the media attacked Trump incessantly, driving Republicans into his outstretched arms. The media’s obvious hatred for Trump was one of the chief arguments for Trump from his advocates: If, as his detractors claimed, he wasn’t conservative, then why would the leftist media hate him so much?

  • My Google News Trigger for LFOD found "Testimony by Peter Sprigg in Opposition to New Hampshire House Bill 478". This bill will insert "gender identity" into the list of qualities by which various entities are not allowed to discriminate. (Current list: "age, sex, race, color, marital status, physical or mental disability, creed, or national origin".) And sure enough:

    Of course, transgendered people have a right to the "pursuit of Happiness" as well. What they do not have, however, is the "right" to enlist the coercive power of the state in an effort to guarantee the attainment of the Happiness that they pursue, at the expense of the liberty of others.

    In a state that proclaims, "Live Free or Die," we should certainly leave people free from government coercion on this issue.

    The existing combination of "sex" and "mental disability" would seem to cover issues of "gender identity" as well, but that's me.

  • In good news: "New Hampshire Enacts Constitutional Carry".

    New Hampshire became the latest state to adopt a permitless concealed gun carry policy on Wednesday [February 22].

    There were plenty of shriekers and fear-mongerers along the way, but the simple fact is that this just allows Granite Staters to operate under the same carry law as their neighbors in Maine and Vermont. Pravda-on-the-Merrimack (aka the Concord Monitor) reports Governor Sununu's remarks:

    “It is common-sense legislation,” he said during a ceremony in Executive Council chambers. “This is about making sure that our laws on our books are keeping people safe while remaining true to the live-free-or-die spirit.”

    As previously noted, I hate that "common-sense" thing. Otherwise, thumbs up.

  • But sometimes things just get silly. Jacob Sullum at Reason finds an "NRA-Backed Law Violates the First Amendment in the Name of Protecting the Second".

    Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit overturned a censorious Florida law that tried to stop doctors from pestering their patients about guns, sacrificing the First Amendment in the name of protecting the Second. Such laws, which the National Rifle Association supports, show how fake rights—in this case, an overbroad understanding of the right to armed self-defense—endanger real ones.

    Smart patients should probably shop around for doctors who don't ask nosy medically-irrelevant questions. Lying is also an option.

  • I know that "what-aboutism" can be tiring, but this seems worth remembering: "When President Obama’s National Security Advisor Lied, The Media Laughed".

    Buried deep beneath the Michael Flynn hysteria this week was Judicial Watch’s release of newly obtained State Department documents related to the Benghazi terrorist attack on September 11, 2012. One email confirms—again—that the Obama administration knew the day after the attack it was not a random act of violence stemming from an anti-Muslim video. That was the excuse shamefully propagated by top Obama administration officials (including the president himself) and swallowed whole by a media establishment desperate to help Obama win re-election six weeks later.

    It's increasingly clear that the media establishment is biased and unfair, rife with double standards and hypocrisy. All made worse by self-righteous preening.

    But see above: the enemy of your enemy is sometimes …

URLs du Jour

2017-02-22

What guidance is provided unto us today by Proverbs 29:19?

Servants cannot be corrected by mere words; though they understand, they will not respond.

In the modern world, I believe this is most applicable to those who deem themselves "public servants". One possible method of non-verbal correction pictured at right.

  • Who trusts media "fact checks"? Nobody, that's who. And for good reason, as the Federalist's Mollie Hemingway shows with "4 Recent Examples Show Why No One Trusts Media ‘Fact Checks’". Chuckle-inducing intro:

    A few weeks ago, Donald Trump responded to Meryl Streep’s insults by calling her overrated. Some fact checks came out saying that Streep, in fact, had won many awards. The Associated Press’ “Meryl Streep overrated? Donald Trump picks a decorated star,” was one such example. Four of the seven paragraphs to the story listed awards and honors she’d received.

    As Victor Morton noted, “‘She has won a bunch of awards’ isn’t even a prima-facie rebuttal of the claim ‘she is overrated’.” He added, “If anything, ‘She won a bunch of awards’ is a necessary precondition for being ‘overrated,’ i.e. rated highly in first place.”

    Ms. Hemingway proceeds from there, with four additional fact-check debunkings.

  • At Reason, Jacob Sullum: "The NEA Today, Entitlements Tomorrow". First paragraph notes hysteria from the Sundance Kid …

    Robert Redford says an Office of Management and Budget memo suggesting the Trump administration might try to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts is "another example of our democracy being threatened." The actor, director, and independent-film booster explains that "arts are essential" because "they describe and critique our society."

    Completely obvious point, made by Sullum: Our democracy might (or might not) be threatened by sinister forces (within and without), but the presence (or absence) of the NEA and its $146 million budget is unlikely to turn the tide (one way or the other).

    (Some say I use too many parentheses. Others say, too few.)

    It's good news and bad:

    According to The New York Times, which reported the highlights of the OMB memo last week, most of the targets have budgets of less than $500 million, "a pittance for a government that is projected to spend about $4 trillion this year." But judging from the examples cited by the Times, the programs on the OMB's list deserve to be zeroed out, since they are either unnecessary (e.g., AmeriCorps, Bill Clinton's attempt to co-opt and take credit for local volunteer work) or positively pernicious (e.g., the Export-Import Bank, which subsidizes deals by big corporations like Boeing, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which tries to put a happy face on the government's immoral war against consumers of arbitrarily proscribed intoxicants).

    In other words: the amounts are dinky, but the symbolism of actually getting rid of various Offices, Bureaus, and Endowments is priceless.

    But: there's upcoming stress predicted between Trump's OMB Director Mick Mulvaney (who's seen as in favor of going after big-ticket items) and Trump (who's not). Who's the boss?

  • Kevin D. Williamson reports from "Planet Nebraska".

    Answer: California, Iowa, Texas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois, Kansas, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Indiana.

    Question: Whatever happened to world hunger?

    On less sunny days, I would bemoan the continued presence of the Department of Agriculture and its indefensible (but politically untouchable) policies/programs/subsidies/etc.

    But thumbs up for the farmers who are actually saving peoples' lives around the world.

  • I've long wanted to try embedding Michael Ramirez editorial cartoons. The "embed.ly" service looks promising, let's try it on …

    Obamacare Flight 101

    Hey, not bad. I'll remember that. ObLink to Megan McArdle, who has a text-based version of the news: "A Sign That Obamacare Exchanges Are Failing"

  • Scott Sumner poses the musical query: "Whither the Ex-Im Bank?". A great job of analyzing the debate (which, as with the NEA item above, shows some disagreement inside the Trump Administration). And:

    One other point. Like government subsidies to NPR, the Ex-Im bank is largely a symbolic issue. There are far worse examples of crony capitalism, such as agricultural subsidies. And it's almost infinitely less important than the differential tax treatment of debt and equity.

    Perhaps. But (one more time) symbolism is important, and if you can't get rid of such an obviously lousy program, how are you ever going to tackle anything bigger?

  • But let me submit that the real answer to "Whither X?" was forever and always answered forty years ago by an impossibly young Jeff Goldblum in the Boston-based movie Between the Lines:

    The only real answer to the question … is "hither". Some misguided people think that the answer is "thither", they're wrong, those theories are passé.

    But you should probably watch the clip for the full flavor:

    … and I just noticed that the girl at 1:06 in the clip looks like Frances McDormand. Is it?

URLs du Jour

2017-02-21

Proverb du Jour is 29:18:

Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom's instruction.

Well, there's your problem, people: no revelation. Fortunately, I got yer revelation (with wisdom instruction at no extra charge) right here:

  • I haven't been very complimentary to the Trump Administration, but College Fix tells me that he could be on the verge of doing something insanely great: "Law professor who slammed kangaroo courts could lead Trump’s education civil rights office". The slamming law prof is Gail Heriot. She is quoted from a letter she co-wrote in 2015 arguing against increased funding for the department she's under consideration for heading, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR):

    Though OCR may claim to be under-funded, its resources are stretched thin largely because it has so often chosen to address violations it has made up out of thin air. Increasing OCR’s budget would in effect reward the agency for frequently over-stepping the law. It also would provide OCR with additional resources to undertake more ill-considered initiatives for which it lacks authority.

    This is like a breath of fresh air.

    Pun Salad noted Prof Heriot once before when she proposed that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights investigate anti-female bias in college admissions. Yes, that's a thing. (The whole sordid story at Inside Higher Ed.)

  • By the way: the etymology of the term "kangaroo court" is (apparently) ambiguous. It could mean a proceeding where the court "jumps over" evidence favorable to a defendant. Or it could mean that the judge in charge of the proceedings is "in the pocket" of someone.

  • David French is a friend to Free Speech, even when … "Free Speech Has a Milo Problem"

    The law is largely solid. Government entities that censor or silence citizens on the basis of their political, cultural, or religious viewpoint almost always lose in court. With some exceptions, the First Amendment remains robust. Yet the culture of free speech is eroding away, rapidly.

    Milo Yiannopoulos is held up, by some, as a fearless warrior in the anti-PC struggle for free expression. Unfortunately, he's a twerp whose only talent is self-promotion and "outrageous" behavior.

    Let’s put this plainly: If Milo’s the poster boy for free speech, then free speech will lose. He’s the perfect foil for social-justice warriors, a living symbol of everything they fight against. His very existence and prominence feed the deception that modern political correctness is the firewall against the worst forms of bigotry.

    But Milo's recently-revealed comments on pederasty might cause his shooting star to fizzle, and free speech advocates might find more worthy heroes to champion.

  • Another bit of good news, as reported at American Thinker: "FEC commissioner who fought to regulate political speech on internet [sic] resigns". That would be Ann Ravel.

    In 2014, Ravel called for "a reexamination of the commission's approach to the internet and other emerging technologies." This was widely interpreted to mean she wanted the FEC to redefine what constitutes political speech on the internet to allow the FEC to regulate it. Blogs and news sites that specifically advocated for a federal candidate would be treated as adjuncts to that campaign and subject to FEC donation limits.

    When her proposal was met with (understandable) outrage, she was quick to play the gender card, claiming to have been "vilified" and characterizing it as "a barrage of really angry, threatening, misogynist responses to me about it."

  • With Major League Baseball coming up, I bet you're wondering "what's Jose Canseco up to these days?" Well, he's a sharp-eyed menace detector, is what: "Jose Canseco Issues Stern Warning Over the Rise of Robots". Sample:

    Of course, he's a Jose-come-lately on this issue. As Sam Waterston pointed out about robots back in 1995: "When they grab you with those metal claws, you can't break free.. because they're made of metal, and robots are strong."

    And, speaking of 1995, there's Bill "Windows 95" Gates who's now arguing for robots to pay taxes. This is, of course, dangerous. Because then "no taxation without representation" would be an effective slogan for the Robot Uprising.

  • Huzzah! Heat Street has discovered the "World’s Dumbest Job: Mall of America ‘Writer-in-Residence’"

    The job market is tight, we know. Luckily, the Mall of America has announced the best writing gig ever: spend 4 days trapped in the country’s largest mall, writing “on-the-fly” impressions about the place and the people.

    I tried to leave a comment there, but failed. I recommended that MofA really should go Full Harlan Ellison with the idea.

  • Bad news for Wisconsinites who want to try the recent WSJ recipe for Champ (Scallion Mashed Potatoes), which recommends "6 tablespoons salted butter, preferably Irish". Because when it comes to butter in the Badger State, no Irish need apply.

    Ornua North America sells Kerrygold Irish butter in all 50 states. Whoops, make that 49. Wisconsin state officials recently reminded distributors that no butter can be sold in the state unless it has been certified by an official panel of experts. Kerrygold, which is imported, hasn't been certified, so anyone selling it faces a fine of up to $1,000 or six months in jail.

    The linked article wonders whether Wisconsin is "shielding shoppers from inferior butter or fending off foreign competitors from Wisconsin's dairy industry." I am willing to bet on that issue. Any takers?

The Guns of Avalon

[Amazon Link]

Consumer note: this post discusses the second book in Roger Zelazny's Amber series. Skip if you want to avoid spoilers for the first book, Nine Princes in Amber.

Which reminds me: I noticed that the back cover of this omnibus volume lists the first novel as Nine Princes of Amber. That's kind of a sloppy mistake for a publisher to make.

Anyway: when we left our hero, Corwin, he had just escaped from Amber's dungeon, vowing revenge upon his imprisoner/usurper/brother, Eric. That's the story here: Corwin's scheme is carried out with the help of his old ally from past conflicts, Ganelon. He encounters another brother, Benedict, who's distrustful, but agrees to keep Corwin safe from Eric's clutches, at least for a while. And there's the mysterious young Dara, who spins a story believable enough to convince Corwin she's just an impetuous youngster. Again: at least for awhile.

All this is set in the Amberian cosmology, which is: Amber is the only "real" world, all others, including our own Earth are merely shadows. Corwin and his kin have the knack of journeying between Amber and shadow worlds.

There's lots of room to quibble with this arrangement. We discover that the laws of physics differ enough between shadows to make (for example) gunpowder unworkable as a firearm explosive/propellant in Amber. (The source of the book's title.)

But you can only play that game so far before you make life itself impossible. How do you avoid accidentally bouncing into one of those life-hostile shadows?

Worse, it seems that there are an infinitude of shadows. How do you get to the precise one you're aiming for?

Maybe I missed something. Or maybe an explanation is forthcoming. I'll let you know if I find out.

URLs du Jour

2017-02-20

Happy Presidents' Day everybody! (The presence and placing of the apostrophe is open to discussion.)

Does today's Proverb (29:17) have anything wise to say about it?

Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire.

I guess that's a "no". But it's pretty on-target; I consider myself delighted, anyway.

  • Also on-target is Kevin D. Williamson: "Abolish Presidents’ Day".

    Monday is Presidents’ Day, a.k.a. Washington’s Birthday (federally), a.k.a. Washington and Lincoln Day (Colorado, Ohio, Utah), a.k.a. Washington and Jefferson’s Birthday (Alabama), a.k.a. Washington and Daisy Gatson Bates Day (seriously, Arkansas?), a.k.a. another excuse for the sort of underemployed worthless miscreants who get federal holidays off to enjoy another three-day weekend while contemplating the absolute historical and epoch-defining splendor of an august office held by the likes of Andrew Johnson, Millard Fillmore, James Buchanan, Woodrow Wilson’s wife, William Jefferson Clinton’s humidor, and Donald J. Trump.

    Worst. Holiday. Ever.

    At least he left Franklin Pierce off the list, the Granite State's (so far) only contribution to the roll call. FP usually makes the worst list.

  • And Jonah Goldberg also has some President-debunking in his latest G-File: "The President Isn’t the Hero of the American Story".

    I’ve written a bunch about the MacGuffinization of American politics in recent years. Ace of Spades coined the term to describe how the media covered Barack Obama. They cast him as the hero of a drama and the only goal was to see how he overcame problems. It didn’t matter if he was wrong on policy — including the Constitution — what mattered was whether he emerged victorious. “In a movie or book, ‘The MacGuffin’ is the thing the hero wants,” Ace explained. “Usually the villain wants it too, and their conflict over who will end up with The MacGuffin forms the basic spine of the story.”

    Jonah notes that this has continued in the Trump era, with roles reversed. Now, some (but not all) on the conservative side write their narratives with Trump as the belabored hero. Could we get beyond that? Not as long as we persist on being cheerleaders for what we perceive as "our" tribe.

  • Nick Eberstadt first came to attention in the 1980s, debunking Commie myths of prosperity. In a Commentary article much worth reading, he turns his attention to the USA and "Our Miserable 21st Century". Sample:

    Whatever else it may or may not have accomplished, the 2016 election was a sort of shock therapy for Americans living within what Charles Murray famously termed “the bubble” (the protective barrier of prosperity and self-selected associations that increasingly shield our best and brightest from contact with the rest of their society). The very fact of Trump’s election served as a truth broadcast about a reality that could no longer be denied: Things out there in America are a whole lot different from what you thought. 

    It's very wide-ranging. For example, Jim Geraghty picks out this insight: "How You Helped Pay for America’s Opioid Addiction Crisis"

    How did so many millions of un-working men, whose incomes are limited, manage en masse to afford a constant supply of pain medication? Oxycontin is not cheap. As Dreamland carefully explains, one main mechanism today has been the welfare state: more specifically, Medicaid, Uncle Sam’s means-tested health-benefits program.

    Pols diligently look the other way. Or, more accurately, try to make you look another way. "Hey, it's the drug companies' fault."

  • And (sorry) I find it difficult to resist linking to just about anything Kevin D. Williamson writes. The title on yesterday's article is kind of bland: "The Press vs. the President". I prefer the subtitle: "Choosing sides is no substitute for thinking".

    The problem with the man currently leading the Republican party is that he is, as the Washington Post puts it, a hostage to the “fanatical policies of the extreme right.” His administration “insults women” and his unwelcome presence in public life “insults us all.” And, because the Republican party is all about the winning these days, the GOP establishment is “ready to forgive” . . . what? . . . “just about anything — as long as he wins.”

    So says the Post, which is not alone in this estimate: Extreme on economic issues, extreme on the so-called social issues, he even has had an “extreme foreign-policy makeover,” according to The Atlantic. His views on immigration, MSNBC says, represent the Republican party “shrinking down to its most extreme elements.” One cable-news panelist insists he was the most extreme Republican presidential candidate ever. Paul Krugman laments that he has forsaken all serious policy thinking for “dangerous fantasy.” Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times is also alert to the “dangers” he presents, the “most dangerous of all” being his views on Iran, though Kristof also worries that he is too buddy-buddy with that awful, scheming Benjamin Netanyahu. Predictably, Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow dogpiled him for his perplexing relationship with Moscow. Vice calls him a “sociopath” and Maureen Dowd dismissed him as “an out-of-touch plutocrat” who keeps “his true nature . . . buried where we can’t see it,” a devious figure who is so awful deep down inside that he “must hide an essential part of who he is” from the public.

    I'll spoil KDW's punchline: that was what the press said about Mitt Romney.

  • Have you been dismissing President Trump's attacks on the media as mere stupidity? Bret Stephens of the WSJ has some advice for you: "Don't Dismiss President Trump's Attacks on the Media as Mere Stupidity"

    Consider this recent exchange [Trump] had with Bill O’Reilly. O’Reilly asks:

    Is there any validity to the criticism of you that you say things that you can’t back up factually, and as the President you say there are three million illegal aliens who voted and you don’t have the data to back that up, some people are going to say that it’s irresponsible for the President to say that.

    To which the president replies:

    Many people have come out and said I’m right.

    Now many people also say Jim Morrison faked his own death. Many people say Barack Obama was born in Kenya. “Many people say” is what’s known as an argumentum ad populum. If we were a nation of logicians, we would dismiss the argument as dumb.

    We are not a nation of logicians.

    Indeed.

  • When it comes to the Prez vs. Press battle, the striking thing is how much easier either side would have it, if they didn't self-inflict wounds to their own credibility. Power Line looks at the hopeless "fact checking" site that is Politifact, and scores it "Trump 4, Politifact 1" RTWT, and decide for yourself whether Politifact has decided to reform its biased ways. (Spoiler: nope.)

  • Back in the day, I was a semi-avid Usenet poster. I've often thought of blog-comment areas as "Usenet, reinvented poorly". I recently made the mistake of commenting on this Andrew Klavan article. Whoo, boy. I like Mr. Klavan quite a bit, but thought he was wrong headed in this instance. But I was surprised by the blowback. You can click over and read for yourself. Or you can enjoy this dramatization:

Tweeting to Carol Shea-Porter (IV)

A recent tweet-reply to my Congresscritter/Toothache Carol Shea-Porter:

Sorry, I know I've harped on this before. I'm going to keep harping on it as long as CSP keeps shedding crocodile tears about the First Amendment. Or until she drops her support for gutting the First Amendment. Realistically, I doubt either will happen.

Background: in her previous Congressional term, CSP was a co-sponsor of H. J. RES. 34; Bernie Sanders filed the corresponding S.J.Res.11 in the Senate, so it's sometimes referred to as the "Sanders Amendment". Its claimed purpose (deep breath now):

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to restore the rights of the American people that were taken away by the Supreme Court's decision in the Citizens United case and related decisions, to protect the integrity of our elections, and to limit the corrosive influence of money in our democratic process.

In fact, the proposed amendment did nothing to "restore the rights of the American people". It actually opened up a gaping barn door for Congress to take away such rights.

The First Amendment begins straightforwardly: "Congress shall make no law…". The proposed amendment essentially says: "Oh, well, Congress can make some laws."

There are numerous problems with the proposed amendment, but let's just look at one: it restricts "the ability to make contributions and expenditures to influence the outcome of public elections" only to "natural persons". Even the anti-Citizens United group "Citizens Take Action" found that to be so broad as to be self-defeating (emphasis in original):

For example, since political parties are not natural born persons, under Sanders’ proposal would political parties be allowed to send mailers to registered voters, publish information on their website, or even have a convention to nominate a presidential candidate since each of those activities are clearly expenditures that influence the outcome of public elections? If a nonprofit organization spends $50 to distribute flyers urging people to Vote For Candidate X would those funds count as an expenditure to influence the outcome of public elections? Due to the sheer number of entities affected by Sanders’ proposal and the vagueness of the phrase “expenditures to influence the outcome of public elections” it is difficult to say exactly what the Sanders amendment would prohibit and what it would allow. 

That's not really the can of worms you want to open up in your Constitution. (Not to say that "Citizens Take Action" is advocating anything better. They are not.)

The proposed amendment opens up vaguely-defined question-begging areas where "Congress and the States" can legislate: e.g., to "limit the corrupting influence of private wealth in public elections". Would legislators have to show that their speech-restricting legislation actually "limited" such influence, or is it good enough to claim that it would? Your guess is as good as, or perhaps better than, mine.

And let's be clear: the bottom line here is allowing legislatures to suppress political advocacy using either criminal or civil penalties.

No doubt CSP likes this approach because she imagines she'll wield this newfound legislative power for Good. Perhaps she imagines, eventually, putting the Koch brothers in jail for their dreadful habit of advocating for candidates favoring free market capitalism.

But in fact, this and other proposed speech-eroding amendments grant powers too dangerous to give to any politician, Republican or Democrat. If CSP doesn't get this, she doesn't deserve to be anywhere near the levers of political power.

URLs du Jour

2017-02-18

Moving right along to Proverbs 29:16:

When the wicked thrive, so does sin, but the righteous will see their downfall.

Good news for me, because I am so very very righteous.

  • Jonah Goldberg with a word, but almost certainly not the last word, on Michael Flynn's resignation as Trump's national security advisor: "How the Center Does Not Hold"

    Some of the things Trump has done to turn the page on politics-as-usual are probably good, and some are obviously bad. The problem with a bull in a china shop is that he doesn’t discriminate between the lousy dishware and the good stuff. More importantly, what distinguishes the lousy from the luxury is in the eye of the beholder.

    As Jonah notes, we're living in an age where both sides have their bull-in-a-china-shop factions. Alinksy advocated “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” Not: "Be as crazy as your enemy."

  • I could have added another stanza to my Niemöller pastiche:

    Then they came for a Washington florist, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Washington florist.

    A Washington florist who refused to participate in a same-sex wedding lost a unanimous decision yesterday at the state Supreme Court. The 9-0 ruling rejected her claim to a First Amendment right to exercise her right to religious liberty in favor of the state’s anti-discrimination law.

    The case is on its way to the USSC.

  • At Reason, Brian Doherty writes on Trump's Dangerous Anti-Libertarian Nationalism". His argument: although libertarians might cheer some of Trump's appointments or policies, they shouldn't be fooled, because…

    Trump is openly a type of illibertarian leader we haven't seen in a while. The "open" part is important. Those wanting to downplay the threat of Trump can, justly, point to all sorts of crummy and illiberal policies that past administrations and imagined alternate administrations did or might also pursue. In the context of the current political debate, that scarcely matters. Trump is the president we have, and his policies are what we have to face, and fight. It may fit any given person's amour propre to not ever risk seeming to overstate or overguess exactly how bad Trump is or might be, but it doesn't necessarily help the cause of promoting liberty.

    Those on the conservative side should adapt Doherty's points to their own: Trump isn't very conservative either.

  • Case in point. Daniel J. Mitchell writes on Trump's apparent π-radian reversal on the Export-Import Bank.

    I often joke that these are people who start out thinking Washington is a cesspool but eventually decide it’s a hot tub.

    During the presidential campaign, Trump said he wanted to “drain the swamp,” which is similar to my cesspool example. My concern is that El Presidente may not understand (or perhaps not even care) that shrinking the size and scope of government is the only effective way to reduce Washington corruption.

  • A standard anti-libertarian trope goes more or less like this: "Under libertarianism, we'd have no USDA to make sure our meat is safe. Aieee!" As it turns out, the real-world USDA has identified an insidious threat at the West Michigan Beef Company, owned by Donald and Ellen Vander Boon. What's the problem? Is it Campylobacter jejuni? Free-range rats? No, something far worse:

    The Vander Boons are facing closure due to the United States Department of Agriculture threatening to pull inspectors from reviewing their business. The department had made a decision that “prohibits [the] family-owned Michigan meatpacking facility from including religious literature concerning marriage on a break room table,” according to Alliance Defending Freedom.

    Unapproved pamphlets in the break room! Ohmigod!

    So let's add one more stanza to Niemöller:

    Then they came for the West Michigan Beef Company and I did not speak out—
    Because I didn't approve of the literature provided in their employee break room either.

  • And yet another stupid story in online Wired: "Tina Fey Nailed It: Hollywood Has a Serious Ageism Problem"

    Back in ye olden times of 2014, before the Golden Globes became the place for Meryl Streep sonning President Trump, it was noteworthy for a different Streep-related zinger, this one courtesy of co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. “Meryl Streep is so brilliant in August: Osage County,” Fey said during in the pair’s opening monologue, “proving that there are still great parts in Hollywood for Meryl Streeps over 60.” The audience laughed, and Streep acknowledged the remark with a knowing nod.

    [Aside: sonning? I thought at first 'twas a sloppy typo, but apparently it's a thing.]

    Wired continues:

    Now we know that not only was Fey’s joke funny—it was true.

    Because science.

    A new study from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism analyzed 1,256 speaking parts in 25 movies that received Best Picture Oscar nominations from 2014 to 2016. It found that only 148 (12 percent) of those characters were 60 years of age or older—and, of those 148 characters, 78 percent were men and 22 percent were women. That’s 3.5 men for every woman in an already tiny category. (Streep actually wasn’t among those few women, since none of her movies got a Best Picture nomination, but the sentiment stands.)

    For not the first time, we'll dig out this gem (ironically found via print-Wired):

    Let me defend Tina Fey: she is that rare combination of smart, funny, and beautiful, and my feelings for her are (a) enthusiastically fond, (b) irrespective of her (I assume dreadful) politics, (c) almost certainly inappropriate for a man of my age and marital status. She deserves better than to be used in a clickbait headline touting "a new study".

    But as to that study: you'll already notice skepticism-inducing warning signs: just 25 movies? How long did that data take to analyze? A couple hours with IMDB?

    Another factoid from the study:

    Seniors represent about 19 percent of the US population, but only 11 percent of the people with speaking roles in the top 100 movies of 2015.

    Since I'm not obsessed with quotas, that gives rise to numerous Questions and Observations:

    • The 19% and 11% numbers are different, but not that different.

    • Should movies be cast according to the demographics of the US population?

    • Shouldn't that be worldwide demographics, you ignorant Trumpian xenophobe?

    • This assumes consumers want to see people of their demographic pigeonholes in their movies. I, for one, do not. Even though I am, technically, a senior. I don't want to see, for example, James Caan as Batman.

    Oh, yes. Wired also notes other "depressing findings": For example "90 percent of the seniors on screen were white; none were Latino, and none were LGBTQ."

    No LGBTQ seniors in 25 movies! How can I even go on?

URLs du Jour

2017-02-17

Today we have Proverbs 29:15:

A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother.

Note the ugly, but non-sexist language. It's the "New International Version", which biblehub.com puts at the top of its verse listings. Let's scan down to King James instead:

The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.

Ah, there you go.

  • Sad news for fans of the Monopoly Thimble:

    Hasbro announced Thursday that it is removing the thimble game piece from Monopoly after it did not garner enough votes in a contest that will determine the eight tokens in an updated version of the board game. The thimble had been part of the game since its introduction in 1935 but apparently did not translate well to a modern era in which far fewer people sew their own clothes.

    At least people who need to use the Thimble can use a real thimble instead of relying on Hasbro to provide one. The previous retired token was the Iron. Numerous fans tried to use a real iron as a replacement, but that proved impractical for game play.

    An article on Monopoly token history is here. Our Getty Image du Jour is the Horse & Rider token, also retired.

    I had a computer version of Monopoly that animated the Horse & Rider token very imaginatively; now that programming effort is lost in time, like tears in rain.

  • Which brings us to Virginia Postrel's review of a new Steven Johnson book, Wonderland: "When Play Drives Progress". Johnson's book is full of insightful yarns:

    In his chapter on spices, for example, he pronounces Doritos "true citizens of the world." Corn, he explains, "was originally domesticated as maize in Mexico; soybeans first took root as an ancient East Asian crop; sunflowers were mostly native to North America; cheddar cheese was first crafted in England, while Romano comes from Italy. The milk in buttermilk and other cheeses dates back to the first cows that were domesticated for milk in Southwest Asia ten thousand years ago. No one knows for sure where onions first originated, but they are likely as old as agriculture itself. While we think of tomatoes as staples of the cuisines of Spain and Italy, the tomato plant first grew in the Andes of South America. Sugarcane hails from Southeast Asia, garlic came from Central Asia, and red and green pepper were native to Central and South America. An entire planet's worth of flavors converge every time you savor the tangy, sharp taste of that Doritos chip." The quest for new and pleasurable tastes, he argues, drove exploration and trade, drawing the world together.

    Ms. Postrel's review is so good, I almost think I don't need to read the book.

  • A sign that a new sheriff's in town is provided by this Slashdot post: "FCC Chairman Wants It To Be Easier To Listen To Free FM Radio On Your Smartphone"

    Now that's not a bad idea: you can imagine a number of dire scenarios where being able to get an FM signal would be useful. And in years past, you could bet an "FCC Chairman wants" observation would eventually be followed by an iron-fist FCC rule. But, hallelujah, new FCC chair Ajit Pai is quoted:

    Although Pai thinks smartphones should have the FM chip turned on, he doesn't think the government should mandate it: "As a believer in free markets and the rule of law, I cannot support a government mandate requiring activation of these chips. I don't believe the FCC has the power to issue a mandate like that, and more generally I believe it's best to sort this issue out in the marketplace."

    Let me be the first to utter: Ajit Pai for President!

  • At NR, Julie Kelly wants you to know: "A Climate Scientist Is Smeared for Blowing the Whistle on ‘Corrected’ Data"

    Less than 72 hours after a federal whistleblower exposed shocking misconduct at a key U.S. climate agency, the CEO of the nation’s top scientific group was already dismissing the matter as no biggie. On February 7, Rush Holt, head of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), told a congressional committee that allegations made by a high-level climate scientist were simply an “internal dispute between two factions” and insisted that the matter was “not the making of a big scandal.” (This was moments after Holt lectured the committee that science is “a set of principles dedicated to discovery,” and that it requires “humility in the face of evidence.” Who knew?)

    Ms Kelly tells a sordid tale of hopelessly politicized agenda-driven climate science.

  • At Reason, Veronique de Rugy outlines: "Why Trump Should Reject Calls for a Carbon Tax".

    This is an important issue, and it is important to do it right rather than act based on knee-jerk reactions as is typically done in Washington. Unintended consequences, such as chasing high-carbon activity into markets with fewer controls, would most likely reduce the impact of a carbon tax even further. The intended consequence of raising the costs of energy on Americans would be bad enough, and it wouldn't be justified by the offered benefits. Let's hope President Trump can see through the arguments of these carbon tax petitioners.

    Whiny self-interested note: after decades of paying income taxes, it would be pretty galling for low-income retirees (like me) to be slapped with a massive shift into sales taxes. A carbon tax would be one example; a VAT another.

  • Tim Carney has the unintentionally revealing story of the day: "Elizabeth Warren brags that financial giants are on her side in regulation fight". That's entirely accurate: big firms tend to love the anticompetitive side effects of burdensome regulations. Why?

    The largest firms in any field are always most able to shoulder the costs of regulation. That's why Philip Morris supported Obama's regulation of tobacco, Mattel supported Obama's regulation of toys, Monsanto supported regulation of genetically modified foods, Costco and Walmart have supported hikes in minimum wage and mandates that employers provide health insurance.

    Gosh, if only there was a word for the economic system where nominally private firms were allowed to flourish as long as they served the will of their political masters…


Last Modified 2017-02-17 8:47 AM EST

Betsy DeVos Causes Stupidity (Part II)

Meant to get to this earlier, but wanted to comment on another reaction to Betsy DeVos's confirmation as Secretary of Education :

Explanation: some of my Facebook friends are full-tilt-boogie lefties. I don't believe in defriending people over politics, so I see a lot of this.

Is it too ridiculously stupid to respond to? Hey, maybe! But let's do it anyway.

So: "fascist agenda"? Especially in relation to DeVos's confirmation? Please.

Over the years, we've linked to George Orwell's essay "Politics and the English Language" numerous times. It griped Orwell (who, don't forget, went up against actual fascists) to see the term approach worthlessnesss:

The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’.

This appears to be pretty much the case with CREDO Action (a self-proclaimed "progressive" activist group). Their statement repeats the "fascist" smear, but (unsurprisingly) offers nothing specific to back it up.

Let's assume the motivation for the "fascist" label is what CREDO calls DeVos's "disregard for public education", which (let's further assume) is her advocacy for school choice, via vouchers, charter schools, etc.

In which case, the "fascist" charge is utterly deranged. But it's not uncommon. In his book Liberal Fascism, Jonah Goldberg noted an episode of the TV show The West Wing where Mallory (Allison Smith) deemed Sam (Rob Lowe) a fascist because he dared argue in favor of school vouchers. Never mind about that, by the way, because Sam was just playing devil's advocate there, and Mallory mistook that for his actual views. Presumably, in West Wing land, had those been Sam's actual opinions, Mallory would have been entirely justified in deeming him a fascist.

Which is damned odd. By which I mean "insanely stupid". Because (as Jonah points out) "school choice is arguably the most un-fascist public policy ever conceived, after homeschooling".

(And yes, Betsy DeVos considers homeschooling to be a "perfectly valid educational option".)

The simple fact is that actual fascists were completely in favor of state schooling, and implacably hostile to educational institutions and arrangements outside the control of the government.

  • In Italy, Mussolini's 1919 Fascist platform demanded the "obligation of the state to provide and maintain schools whose character decisively and soundly shapes a national conscience, impartial in character but rigidly secular". And, of course an obligation to "fully enforce the law concerning mandatory schooling".

  • Up in Germany, the Nazis demanded "a fundamental reconstruction of our whole national education program" which would "enable every capable and industrious German to obtain higher education". (Hey, just like Bernie!) Catholic schools were closed under Nazi rule.

Why it's almost as if the CREDO dimwits didn't stop for one millisecond to ask themselves: "Isn't it likely that Fascists would disapprove of kids being educated outside state control?" Which all brings us back to Orwell again:

Since you don't know what Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism?

Orwell deemed this attitude (ascribed to "Stuart Chase and others") an "absurdity". Guess what, George? We live in absurd times.

URLs du Jour

2017-02-16

Today's Proverb is 29:14:

If a king judges the poor with fairness, his throne will be established forever.

Its relevance to a republic with a term-limited executive and an independent judiciary is left as an exercise for the reader…

Oh, heck, no. I'll just say it: the Proverb has zero relevance to a republic with a term-limited executive and an independent judiciary. Try harder, Proverbs.

  • The Daily Signal has the bad news, and asks the relevant question: "US Economic Freedom Has Hit a Historic Low. What Happened?" It's a long-term trend:

    The Heritage Foundation’s 2017 Index of Economic Freedom—an annual global study that compares countries’ entrepreneurial environments—highlights the urgent need for the U.S. to change course. For the ninth time since 2008, America has lost ground.

    Out of 180 countries ranked, the US is number 17, which is depressing. Heritage points its shaky-with-outrage finger at Obama and "increased government spending, regulations, and a failed stimulus program that enriched the well-connected while leaving average Americans behind."

    The Index web presence is kind of spiffy, with tools to create your own graphs and explore the data.

    Today's Getty image is from Hong Kong, number one in the Heritage Index.

  • Virginia Postrel, insightful as always, declares the US to be "One Nation, Divisible by What Scares Us Most".

    Red America worries about deliberate human action. Blue America dreads unintended, usually inanimate, threats. Red America focuses mostly on the body politic. Blue America emphasizes the body. In the pre-Trump era, that meant conservatives talked about crime, foreign enemies, and moral decay while liberals emphasized environmental poisons, illness, unwanted pregnancies, and material deprivation. As we’ll see, Donald Trump added a twist of his own (and jettisoned the old conservative moral concerns). But the basic people-vs.-things division remains.

    Ms. Postrel's observations are apt. If you're not depressed enough by the country's decaying economic freedom, then you can always contemplate how well fear-mongering works as a tool of political persuasion for both Red and Blue pols.

  • I don't know what to think about the Michael Flynn kerfuffle, but I found a number of arguments to be interesting, if not slam-dunk convincing. Certainly David Harsanyi has good advice: "When It Comes To The Michael Flynn, Everyone Needs To Get A Grip"

    A person can believe that Trump’s footsie-playing with Vlad Putin is misguided and harmful, and that a politically motivated deep state that drops selective leaks meant to sink a national security advisor is also unhealthy for the republic. You don’t have to like Donald Trump to understand that spooks shouldn’t use their power to undermine elected governments and that functionaries of a previous administration shouldn’t sabotage new ones to preserve their Russia-approved Iran deals.

    "Get a grip" is generally good advice.

  • Mr. Harsanyi's link goes to Eli Lake's Bloomberg column, also much worth reading, on "The Political Assassination of Michael Flynn"

    Normally intercepts of U.S. officials and citizens are some of the most tightly held government secrets. This is for good reason. Selectively disclosing details of private conversations monitored by the FBI or NSA gives the permanent state the power to destroy reputations from the cloak of anonymity. This is what police states do.

    Aaaaand that's what happened here. Good luck stuffing that demon back into the box.

    (Although it's interesting to compare peoples' attitudes toward (a) leaks of Hillary-damaging private mail by (alleged) Russian intelligence; and (b) leaks of Trump-damaging private conversations by American intelligence. There seems to be some double standards in play!)

  • At NR, Andrew C. McCarthy advocates: "Make the Flynn Tape Public".

    For now, the so-called deep state — the intelligence operatives and highly placed officials who run the United States government because they have the power to ruin their opposition — would apparently prefer that we not hear the tape. Many of them are Obama functionaries who are content to shape opinion by leaking their edited version of events to media allies. Some of them are Trump functionaries whose mishandling of what may be a tempest in a teapot has made them vulnerable less than four weeks into the new administration. Perhaps, they calculate, handing up Flynn’s scalp makes their problem go away. In reality, it is just whetting the opposition’s appetite.

    Mr. McCarthy's article is full of relevant details and likely hypotheses. One drive-by observation: "We now know that during the campaign — even as Democrats were expressing outrage at the suggestion that Trump, if he won, might have Hillary Clinton investigated — Obama was actually having Trump investigated." So, as Bob Dole might ask, where's the outrage?

  • And finally, "Dr. Nick" Gillespie asks the musical question: Is Michael Flynn's Resignation a Sign of the Deep State's Power, or a Sign of Its Vulnerability?

    But in the aggregate, the leaks inspired by Trump taking office serve the useful function of making visible the deep state and the permanent government in Washington that persists regardless of which party holds the White House and Congress. On the surface, that's demoralizing to those of us who are interested in shrinking the size, scope, and spending of government. It's the old "you can't fight City Hall" line extrapolated to the nth degree. Trump will almost certainly gain fuller control of government agencies once he purges Obama loyalists and folks interested in crippling his administration's ability to set its own agenda. But in the meantime, the "unprecedented" volume of leaks serve an ironic function against the people making them: They show the extent to which bureaucrats are dug in and willing to go to almost any length to maintain a status quo that is plainly not working not working for taxpayers and citizens. The government is deeply in debt due to persistent, high levels of spending, foreign policy in the 21st century has simply lurched from disaster to the next, the intel community has been exposed repeatedly for unauthorized and unaccountable surveillance, and more. Donald Trump's agenda, which veers clearly towards authoritarianism and paranoid secrecy in many ways, is forcing the deep state to make itself visible, which is a necessary (though not sufficient) step in cutting it down to size.

    Dr. Nick is a glass-half-full kind of guy.

Tweeting to Carol Shea-Porter (III)

My Congresscritter/Toothache Carol Shea-Porter tweets her outrage:

I've commented before on CSP's habitual imperious tweeted demands for Republicans (only) to (somehow) speak out (or up) about one Trumpian outrage or another. And readers will note I do some of that, albeit not as much as CSP might prefer.

But: "Country over Politics". Really, Carol? You want to go there? My puckish reply:

No reply yet. Or, I would guess, ever. If I get one, I'll update this post. As near as I can tell, CSP's Twitter account is all-talk, no-listen, never-respond.

You do not want to bet, even at extremely favorable odds, on CSP acting bravely against her political party. C-Span keeps track of how often a CongressDroid "votes against party majority." Here is her record:

  • 110th Congress (2007-2008): 2 votes out of 1841 (0.11%)
  • 111th Congress (2009-2010): 2 votes out of 1597 (0.13%)
  • 113th Congress (2013-2014): 1 vote out of 1163 (0.09%)
  • 115th Congress (2017-): 0 votes out of 92 (so far, 0.00%)

Yes, over four Congressional sessions you can literally count her votes against her party's majority on one hand.

This should not be shocking. Back in 2007 when she was challenged about her non-independent voting record, she rattled off the widely-lampooned defense: she voted with her party "because frankly I think they’re 100 percent right." Convenient!

Now, I hasten to add that our recent GOP CongressPuppet, Frank Guinta, was not significantly better during his periods in office:

  • 112th Congress (2011-2012): 2 votes against party majority out of 1559 (0.13%)
  • 114th Congress (2015-2016): 10 votes against party majority out of 1302 (0.77%)

But the bottom line is: they're politicians. When they implore us to but "country above politics", they are emitting egregious bullshit. Someone should demand that they file environmental impact statements with the EPA beforehand.

URLs du Jour

2017-02-15

Today's Proverb is 29:13:

The poor and the oppressor have this in common: The LORD gives sight to the eyes of both.

I can't help but think that's an incomplete list, but that quibble would probably indicate that I'm Missing the Proverbial Point.

  • Patterico's not a fan of the announcement that the IRS won't require tax filers to declare whether or not they have health insurance: "ALL HAIL THE KING! Trump’s IRS Will “Turn a Blind Eye” to Enforcement of the ObamaCare Mandate"

    I’m sure plenty of Trump supporters will cheer this — because, you know, Trump. But if you’ll recall, conservatives (including myself) screamed bloody murder — with good reason — when Obama unilaterally decided to delay enforcement of ObamaCare provisions like the employer mandate. For me and for many others, this was a genuine and principled concern. But I think we’re about to find out that, for some conservatives, the complaints about Obama’s actions were pure partisanship — and for these unprincipled hypocrites, non-enforcement is about to be cool again.

    Patterico also links to this 2014 article by Charles C. W. Cooke, written in response to President Obama's decision to (as the NYT euphemized it) "enforce the nation’s [immigration] laws with discretion". Cooke was astonishingly prescient:

    In our more frustrated moments, those of us who still hope to forestall the constitutional crisis that President Obama’s executive action is almost certainly going to provoke will resign ourselves to showing rather than telling. Thwarted by the considerable difficulty of explaining constitutional and historical norms to an audience that is either too impatient to absorb the context or too self-interested to care about anything other than its own desires, the president’s opponents eventually resort to blunt and brutal threats of retaliation. “I can’t wait until President Cruz decides to reform the tax code on his own,” we muse darkly. “And imagine what will happen in 2017,” we add, “when a Republican executive tires of the stasis and simply refuses to enforce Obamacare.” For the more cynical among the progressive champions of what Ross Douthat has accurately described as “the will to power of this White House,” such prospects should rankle. If we can’t convince the vandals that Obama is entering “extraordinarily brazen territory,” our thinking goes, we can at least remind them that he is opening the door for his opponents to tear apart everything that they hold dear.

    Just s/Cruz/Trump/ .

  • Mark Liberman of Language Log writes on "-ism Exceptionalism", spurred by Jonah Goldberg's recent claim:

    I’m reminded of Martin Diamond’s point that the concepts of “Americanism,” “Americanization,” and “un-American” have no parallel in any other country or language.

    If you're wondering: is that really true?, there are no better places to ask than Language Log. Just ask them if it's true that Eskimos have N words for "snow". (No.)

    Now, they're academics over there, and there's a little reflexive leftism in Liberman's discussion, and a lot more in the comments. But after reading them through, I think Jonah's point stands up pretty well.

  • We've been blogging a Proverb a day for a little over a week now. I'm happy to note that others are joining in:

    I am not sure whether Senator Rubio is a Pun Salad reader. It may just be a case of "great minds think alike".

    Or it could be a case of: "I got nothin'… Maybe I'll just quote something random from the Bible."

URLs du Jour

2017-02-14

Our Proverb du Jour is 29:12:

If a ruler listens to lies, all his officials become wicked.

I have to say, this was remarkably prescient.

  • Arnold Kling reveals at last: "What I Believe About Education". An even dozen, numbered. Here are the first three:

    1. The U.S. leads the world in health care spending per person, but not in health care outcomes. Many people look at that and say that health care costs too much in the U.S., and we should be able to get the same our [sic] better outcomes by sending less. Maybe that is correct, maybe not. That is not the point here. But–
    2. the U.S. leads the world in K-12 education spending per student, but not in student outcomes. Yet nobody, says that education costs too much and that we should spend less. Except–
    3. me. I believe that we spend way too much on K-12 education.

    A good thing to remember when talking about either topic.

  • Online Wired goes back to being awful: "Diehard Coders Just Rescued NASA’s Earth Science Data" Yay, diehard coders!

    On Saturday morning, he white stone buildings on UC Berkeley’s campus radiated with unfiltered sunshine. The sky was blue, the campanile was chiming. But instead of enjoying the beautiful day, 200 adults had willingly sardined themselves into a fluorescent-lit room in the bowels of Doe Library to rescue federal climate data.

    Like similar groups across the country—in more than 20 cities—they believe that the Trump administration might want to disappear this data down a memory hole. So these hackers, scientists, and students are collecting it to save outside government servers.

    Alternative title: "Easily-alarmed Publicity-seeking Geeks Imagine Threats Where None Exist."

    But seriously, would you trust research data that had passed through the hands of people with such an obvious political agenda?

  • And a twofer. Wired complains about "The Unbearable Tameness of This Year’s Grammys".

    EVERY YEAR, THE Recording Academy tries to make #GrammyMoments a thing. The hashtag never catches on, but there’s usually at least something that qualifies as one of those moments. Maybe it’s a Kendrick Lamar performance, maybe it’s a Taylor Swift dig at Kanye West. That was before the 2016 election, though, and all of its ensuing controversy; as last night’s awards ceremony grew nearer, it seemed the Academy would finally get its wish. Yet, despite occurring during the Trump administration’s tempestuous first 100 days—and in a room filled with people who had not only backed Hillary Clinton, but campaigned actively on her behalf—the night’s biggest shock was that, in a room full of outspoken artists, hardly anyone said a thing.

    Not that the ceremony was free of Trump-bashing, mind you. It was notable, and unavoidably reported upon.

    But it wasn't enough for Wired tastes. Alternative title: "Grammys Don't Go As Far As Wired in Making Everything About Politics". (Also left as a comment at their site.)

  • I think it's fair to say that longtime tech site Slashdot tilts a bit toward the left. Until, of course, it affects their audience in the pocketbook: "H-1Bs Reduced Computer Programmer Employment By Up To 11%, Study Finds".

    Immigration "reformers" tend to get a little itchy when and if their own jobs are threatened.

The Boys in the Boat

Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

[Amazon Link]

This book was recommended to me by my ex-boss. It also appeared on the conservative Daily Signal's article "Here Are 21 Books You Should Read in 2017". And finally, one of Mrs. Salad's co-workers loaned me her copy, unbidden.

OK, I can take a hint.

I was dubious about the subject. Of all sports, competitive rowing appears at the bottom of my interest list, down there with rivals cross country, field hockey, and water polo. But the author, Daniel James Brown, made me care about it, at least for the duration of reading this book. Specifically, the eight-oar nine-man crew from the University of Washington that beat all American rivals and went to the Berlin Olympics in 1936. (The person you've heard most about in connection with that Olympics, Jesse Owens, barely gets mentioned here.)

Brown is convincing: there is really no other sport like this. To compete at a championship level requires an extraordinary amount of raw physical endurance coupled with meticulously precise oar placement and synchronization among the team members down to tiny fractions of a second. The boats themselves are marvels of nautical engineering, optimized down to a whisker, thanks to the absolute obsessive perfectionism of their master craftsman, George Yeoman Pocock.

Brown concentrates on just one of the team members, Joe Rantz; it's practically his biography. His tumultuous family life could well have sent him on the road to Nowheresville. Instead, he excelled at school, and got into the University of Washington. There, he just happened to sign up for crew, gaining team membership in a fiercely competitive field. And the rest is history, told with masterful skill and (even though we know the outcome) exciting suspense.

Brown also does a fine job placing Joe and the team into historical context. These are the days of the Depression, the Dust Bowl, the building of the Grand Coulee Dam (a summer job for Joe), and, oh yeah: Nazis. As noted in the subtitle: the 1936 Olympics was held in fully-Nazified Berlin. (Ironically, the pageantry and ceremony around the modern Olympics seems to originally have been a Nazi innovation, kind of like the VW Beetle.) The world was suckered, however briefly, by all the glamour ginned up for the events, as recorded by the master cinematographer, Leni Riefenstahl. Brown notes a number of (perhaps) sleazy maneuvers that might have tipped the race to the Germans. Nothing worked, our boys prevailed.

A couple of things I noticed in passing:

  • The massive Olympic Stadium was, by Hitlerian decree, made by hand as much as possible, even when machines could have done the job quicker. I was unaware that Hitler was such a believer in Keynesianism.

  • A side character at the Olympics is the British rower Ran Laurie, the father of actor Hugh Laurie. Ran won a gold medal in a different rowing event. But he was so modest about it that Hugh's first knowledge of it was when he came across the medal in his father's sock drawer.

URLs du Jour

2017-02-13

Proverbs 29:11:

Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.

The US is running short on wisdom these days.

  • Kevin D. Williamson notes totalitarianism in the classified ads: "No Republicans Need Apply".

    One of the less understood criticisms of progressivism is that it is totalitarian, not in the sense that kale-eating Brooklynites want to build prison camps for political nonconformists (except for the ones who want to lock up global-warming skeptics) but in the sense that it assumes that there is no life outside of politics, that there is no separate sphere of private life, and that church, family, art, and much else properly resides within that sphere.

    KDW notes the dispiriting responses he received when he advocated declaring good proportions of your life as politics-free zones.

  • An article from print-Reason now available at their website: "Uganda's Bad Seeds" by Francisco Toro. Asking a simple question: why did the Green Revolution seem to skip Africa. First stop: visiting Uganda's ghost-town National Seed Testing Laboratory and its director, Divine Nakkede.

    Ensuring that farmers have access to good seed should be at the forefront of Uganda's fight against hunger, and a sample of each lot of agricultural seed produced in the country is supposed to be tested here. But the lab barely functions at all.

    Is insufficient funding the problem? Not quite. Expensive-looking machinery is all around us. Yet none of it, I slowly realize, is plugged into the wall.

    "Oh, yeah," an aid official tells me days later. "All the equipment at the Kawanda lab is fried."

    Six-word synopsis: Do-goodism meets corruption, and loses interest.

  • Ah, Meryl. "Meryl Streep Pledges to Stand Up to ‘Brownshirts’ in Tirade Against Trump"

    Meryl Streep, in a fiery speech criticizing President Trump on Saturday night, pledged to stand up against “brownshirts and bots” at a time when she and others are increasingly denouncing his administration’s policies and the president himself.

    The "brownshirt" thing is recycled Al Gore. The self-dramatization and delusion involved in holding oneself up as a brave opponent of modern Nazi scum should be clear to anyone not wedded to that narrative.

    She really is a good actress, though. All those roles where she played a sane, well-balanced individual—had me totally fooled.

Betsy DeVos Causes Stupidity (Part I)

Specifically, a remarkably silly and ahistorical tweet from my state's junior Senator, Maggie Hassan:

If you want to gain a full appreciation for the Founders' vision for the Federal government's proper role in education, I've compiled the references to that issue appearing in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution:

 

Yes, that would be zero.

Well, what about the Federalist Papers? Ah, there's one, in Federalist No. 62, discussing the US citizenship-duration requirement for Representatives and Senators (seven years and nine years, respectively):

The propriety of these distinctions is explained by the nature of the senatorial trust, which, requiring greater extent of information and tability of character, requires at the same time that the senator should have reached a period of life most likely to supply these advantages; and which, participating immediately in transactions with foreign nations, ought to be exercised by none who are not thoroughly weaned from the prepossessions and habits incident to foreign birth and education.

Irrelevant aside: today's diversity-mongers would plotz at that xenophobic attitude! But in any case, hardly supportive of Maggie's point.

But let us give Senator Hassan's tweet every chance. What, specifically, about Jefferson? Maggie's chosen quote is from a letter TJ sent to George Wythe [from] Paris, August 13, 1786. He's referring to his proposed (but unpassed) bill to the Virginia legislature; his scheme is described and analyzed here (from an admittedly libertarian perspective). One of numerous facts inconvenient to Maggie's implied thesis:

Jefferson’s plan […] called for a highly decentralized system in which small wards (“districts of five or six miles square”) would establish and control their own schools. Jefferson feared centralized authority, so he did not want even a state government to “take this business [of elementary education] into its own hands.” In his “Plan for Elementary Schools” (1817), Jefferson warned that if a governor and state officials were to control the district schools, “they would be badly managed, depraved by abuses,” and would soon exhaust the available funds.

Bottom line: if Maggie Hassan really wanted an education system in line with the Founders' views, then (among other things) she'd immediately sign on to the proposal to abolish the Department of Education. And I'd vote for her re-election in 2022.

But I'm confident that neither of those things is going to happen.

URLs du Jour

2017-02-12

Proverbs 29:10:

The bloodthirsty hate a person of integrity and seek to kill the upright.

I guess the Proverbist was watching Senate confirmation hearings.

  • Why I read Ann Althouse's blog, and maybe you should too: She takes apart a news article reporting Apple CEO Tim Cook's views on "fake news". A British news report is quoted:

    Cook also called for governments to lead information campaigns to crack down on fake news in an interview with a British national newspaper.

    As Ann points out, an awful sentence. And (worse) after quite a bit of Googling, I can't find any source that tells me what Cook actually said on this precise point.

    I encourage you to RTWT. A comment I left there:

    Trivia: for what Ministry did Winston Smith work in Nineteen Eighty-Four?

    [Today's Getty image: a statesman peruses his own government's effort to crack down on fake news.]

  • Hey, kids, what time is it? Veronique de Rugy knows: "It’s Time to Permanently Abolish the DOE Green-Energy Loan Programs".

    Politicians, of course, love these loans because they are able to use them to reward interest groups while hiding the costs of this government-granted privilege. Congress can authorize billions of dollars in guaranteed or direct loans with minimal visible impact on the federal budget because of the way the government accounts for loan programs. Moreover, unlike the Solyndra case, most failures take years to play out, or never happen at all because the company wasn’t an overly risky bet in the first place and had plenty of access to capital — such as in the case of 90 percent of the 1705 loan-program recipients. Loan programs allow politicians to collect the rewards of granting a loan to a special interest while skirting political blame years later when or if the project defaults. It’s like buying a house on credit without having a trace of the transaction on your credit report.

    It would be nice if this went away, along the lines Ms de Rugy describes. But there's every reason to be pessimistic: the Crony Party encompasses a large fraction of both Democrats and Republicans, and five days out of seven, President Trump.

  • I was a fan of the late D. Keith Mano. National Review resurrects one of his 1987 articles, where he reports on a group of independent student journalists at Columbia.

    You can still get a good education at Columbia — yes, and Soviet fishing trawlers still do fish. Nonetheless, in that maison tolérée of academic leftism, where political truth is found torso-murdered daily, one student publication had a shocking headline — Divest now in the USSR. This at Columbia, where all right-brain functions are lobotomized during freshman week: first major university to divest from South Africa. They call that one student publication The Federalist Paper (after Columbia alumni Hamilton and Jay) and Vol. I, No. I came out last October. Came out written in elegant, witty, temperate diction, with a fine sense of place and moral errand. FP’s molto is Veritas Non Erubiscit (Truth Doesn’t Blush). And, to quote the first Statement of Purpose, “it will not be shouted down.”

    Making this relevant: one of the students is Neil Gorsuch.

    Yes, D. Keith Mano arises from the grave to report on our Supreme Court nominee.

    Gallows humor, but Mr. Mano might have appreciated it.

  • Slashdot reports a ZDnet story: College Network Attacked With Its Own Insecure IoT Devices.

    An attacker compromised over 5,000 IoT devices on a campus network -- including vending machines and light sensors -- and then used them to attack that same network.

    Eek! The campus is not disclosed, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't the University Near Here. I think I would have heard about that. And maybe I'm behind the times, but a campus with 5000 IoT devices? Isn't that a huge number?

  • At City Journal, Heather MacDonald examines UC Berkeley's descent "From Culture to Cupcakes".

    UC Berkeley’s Division of Equity and Inclusion has hung vertical banners across the main campus reminding students of the contemporary university’s paramount mission: assigning guilt and innocence within the ruthlessly competitive hierarchy of victimhood. Each banner shows a photo of a student or a member of the student-services bureaucracy, beside a purported quotation from that student or bureaucrat. No rolling cadences here, no mythical imagery, no exhortations to intellectual conquest. Instead, just whining or penitential snippets from the academic lexicon of identity politics.

    I suppose you can still get a good education at UC Berkeley, but as with most schools, you have to navigate through a lot of claptrap.

  • Sharp-eyed Clayton Cramer notes a news story out of not-so-gay Paris, which is spending $22 million to erect a "protective barrier" around the Eiffel Tower in order to more effectively keep out terrorists. Key quote from deputy mayor Jean-François Martins:

    “It’s not a wall, it’s an aesthetic perimeter.”

    Donald Trump, take a hint.

  • Your Tweet du Jour, from the immortal Frank J.:


Last Modified 2017-02-14 4:34 AM EST

Trump is Crony-in-Chief

Rather consistently through the past campaign season, many conservative/libertarian commentators noted that Trump had no deep-rooted allegiance to free markets or limited government. Example, from Jonah Goldberg:

I think he’s a vain ignoramus and bully who mocks the disabled with a long history of exploiting and abusing the little guy. His instincts are nationalistic and authoritarian, not patriotic and liberty-loving.

Or Keith Hennesey:

His ignorance of economic and national security issues is breathtaking. He makes up most of his policy views on the fly in interviews. He knows far less about policy than does a regular Wall Street Journal reader, and he cannot hold a coherent in-depth conversation about the economy or America’s role in the world. […] He is faking it on policy, and not that well.

Here's what I have to say three weeks into the Trump Administration: those guys were totally correct.

A relatively new data point: Trump is apparently pulling a switcheroo on the Export-Import Bank, that semi-endangered outpost of corrupt cronyism. In case you need reminding, here's Veronique de Rugy (writing in those heady days of 2015 when Ex-Im seemed doomed):

Contrary to lobbyist talking points, the Ex-Im Bank is firmly in the “big business” business. On the domestic side, 40 percent of its activities benefit one giant company: Boeing. Over 60 percent of the bank’s financing aids 10 giant beneficiaries, like Caterpillar, Bechtel, and General Electric. On the foreign side, the cheap loans go to state-owned companies like Pemex, the Mexican government’s oil and gas giant, or Air Emirates, the airline of the wealthy United Arab Emirates.

Oh, sure. Trump made occasional free-market noises during the campaign:

TRUMP: I don’t like [the Export-Import Bank] because I don’t think it’s necessary. It’s a one-way street also. It’s sort of a feather bedding for politicians and others, and a few companies. And these are companies that can do very well without it. So I don’t like it. I think it’s a lot of excess baggage. I think it’s unnecessary.

But that was then, this is now:

A Senate Democrat said Thursday that President Trump has agreed to restore full lending powers to the Export-Import Bank, an about-face from his campaign rhetoric.

Almost certainly there will now be enough support from "moderate" Democrats and Republicans in Congress to fully resuscitate Ex-Im.

My regrets to the conservative/libertarian Trump supporters. Those bloodstains from where you were stabbed in the back are gonna be tough to wash out.

URLs du Jour

2017-02-11

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Proverbs 29:9:

If a wise person goes to court with a fool, the fool rages and scoffs, and there is no peace.

The Proverbian speaketh once again to current events.

  • At Reason, Brendan O'Neill notes recent best-sellerdom of a classic anti-authoritarian novel in response to (Aiee!) President Trump, and hopes new readers will notice that "Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four Describes the Authoritarian Left Better Than It Does Trump"

    Trump will be authoritarian, that's for sure. But his is likely to be a clumsy authoritarianism, oafish rather than Orwellian. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, leftists and millennials won't find a dystopian, fictionalized version of Trumpism—they'll find themselves. In the Party, in the treatment of ideas as disorders, in the Two Minutes Hate against those who are offensive or different, in the hounding of unpopular opinions, in the memory-holing of difficult things, they will see their own tragic creed reflected back to them. They will find a stinging rebuke from history of their own embrace of the sexless, joyless, ban-happy urge to control almost every area of individual thought and life. I hope they heed to this rebuke, and change.

    If you don't want to trudge through 1984, Orwell's essay "Politics and the English Language" is a quicker read.

    Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

    We live in very windy times.

  • Hey, have you been wondering if that meme about female computing pioneers is correct? Let PJ Media columnist Charlie Martin answer: "No, That Meme About Female Computing Pioneers Is Not Correct".

    For example, was Ada Lovelace the "inventor of the computer", as claimed? Uh…

    She didn't. Babbage did. She was either the first programmer or the first tech writer, and she absolutely was the first person to speculate on the possibility of using the Analytical Engine to do other things besides arithmetic. She was a brilliant woman and deserves to be recognized for her accomplishments.

    Hers.

    The meme-writers ("Women Rock Science") are falsifying history in a "good cause". What could go wrong there?

    Since I'm in the habit of belaboring the obvious, I'll point out the connection with the previous item: Winston's job in 1984: rewriting history to fit the current Party line.

  • <voice imitation="professor_farnsworth">Good news, everyone</voice>. And, also, bad news, from The Daily Chronic:

    New Hampshire won’t be joining neighboring states of Maine and Massachusetts in legalizing marijuana, but the Granite State could soon follow the rest of their New England neighbors in treating marijuana possession as a violation, rather than a crime that carries a penalty including the possibility of jail time.

    I have no patience with haggling over whether marijuana possession should be a "violation" or a "crime". Especially in the "Live Free or Die" state, it should be neither. But, OK, downgrading it to a violation is improvement.

    [In case you're tempted to think I am a regular reader of The Daily Chronic: I have a Google News Alert set for "Live Free or Die", which appears in the linked article's subtitle: "Could 2017 be the year the "Live Free or Die" state of New Hampshire stops treating simple marijuana possession as a crime?"]

  • Oh, yes. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos went to visit a DC government school yesterday, and:

    Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was greeted with protesters when she tried to enter a Washington middle school on Friday morning.

    A video from the scene shows DeVos walking away from one entrance of Jefferson Middle School after being physically blocked from the entrance. One protester stood in front of the stairway entrance in the school, and DeVos walked back to her vehicle.

    So this shot was easy, but on target.

Getting Risk Right

Understanding the Science of Elusive Health Risks

[Amazon Link]

Another pick obtained for me via the Interlibrary Loan folks at the University Near Here. Thanks, folks!

I've been interested for a while about the general topic of risk, and how it might best be regulated in a free society. I'm still in the weeds, but maybe if I keep reading…

The author, Geoffrey Kabat, is an epidemiologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine; he's deep in the field of quantifying health risks. This book outlines the pitfalls and biases that researchers investigating causes of disease can fall prey to. And the realities of funding and publication pressures on researchers can, and does, incentivize a lot of bad, misleading, and unreproducible results. (For more on that topic, see the recent Wired article about John Arnold.) The discussion here is technical and valuable.

Kabat then turns to four recent case studies, two bad, two good. The bad: efforts to show that cell phone usage causes brain cancer, and the notion of "endocrine disruptors" in the environment. Both areas were sensationalized, and wasted a lot of funding that could have been spent on more productive areas.

The good: research into dangerous "Chinese herbal supplements" containing aristolochic acid; and how varieties of human papillomavirus (HPV) can result in various cancers, mostly cervical. These are heroic stories, as the scientists involved i-dotted and t-crossed their studies in order to tease out valid results, exposing disease processes that can take decades to actually kill you.

Kabat's prose is unfortunately wooden and to-be-sure mannered, and he's mind-numbingly diligent about dropping names and professional affiliations of the researchers he discusses. Fine, but that gets in the way of the narrative. (He's no Daniel Kahneman, sorry.) But, even given that, the book is a good discussion on how to do research right, and also wrong.

He (also unfortunately) doesn't get close to my main concern: once you've identified and quantified a risk, what's the proper policy response, especially given that people have widely varying tolerance for risky behaviors?

Also, a pet peeve: he refers to "socioeconomic inequality" (p. 179) when he almost certainly means "poverty".

URLs du Jour

2017-02-10

Instead of getting out there and clearing my driveway, let us consider Proverbs 29:8:

Mockers stir up a city, but the wise turn away anger.

What do you think? My thoughts:

  • I kind of like mockers, if they're also funny.
  • But if they're not funny, they're just stupid.
  • Wait a minute, they had mockers back then?
  • How funny could they have been?
  • Isn't the "but…" part kind of a non sequitur?
  • Maybe the concept of non sequitur hadn't been invented yet?
  • Ah! Maybe mockers invented the non sequitur!
  • Maybe, just maybe, a mocker wrote this proverb!

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming:

  • The great Kevin D. Williamson offers a modest proposal: "Make Bureaucracy Great Again".

    Americans do not much trust their government, for good reason. And this has immediate, important real-world consequences. For example: It can be difficult to distinguish between hysteria about Islam and well-founded concern about Muslim immigration into the United States, but who seriously thinks that our public institutions are up to the job of properly investigating tens of thousands (or more) refugees, asylum-seekers, and ordinary immigrants every year? If Donald Trump’s temporary order seems to you unreasonable, ask yourself what the next-best option is and how much confidence we should have in it. The U.S. government has been flubbing the problem of radicals crossing our borders since Lee Harvey Oswald was simmering in Minsk. How many terrorists and school shooters were already on the authorities’ radar, and had been for years, before they committed spectacular atrocities? A half-dozen examples come to mind.

    It's really not too much to ask of our "public servants" that they be held to standards of competence and efficiency that we get from the private sector.

  • At the WSJ, John J. Miller asks the musical question: "Who’s Afraid of Student Journalists?". As it turns out, the answer is: the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

    In a 1,000-word statement released last month, the AAUP bemoaned “new efforts by private groups to monitor the conduct of faculty members,” which it likened to “witch hunts.” Then it named names: Professor Watchlist, Campus Reform and the College Fix.

    The AAUP would like avoid scrutiny of political professorial antics in the classroom, and pressure journalistic whistleblowers to Just Shut Up. Not surprising, and fortunately likely to fail.

    John J. Miller is the founder and executive director of The College Fix, a good read.

  • Is Federal infrastructure spending a good deal? Find out the shocking answer from Veronique de Rugy at Reason: "Federal Infrastructure Spending Is a Bad Deal"

    Well, the headline is not quite accurate. It can be a bad deal. As Obama demonstrated, it's not great at "stimulating the economy" in the short term. And politicians are spectacularly lousy at picking projects that make economic sense in the long term. But:

    On the bright side, Trump wants to address the "mountain of red tape" that slows down construction projects. His plan would link spending to reforms that "streamline permitting and approvals, improve the project delivery system, and cut wasteful spending on boondoggles."

    He shouldn't stop there. A new report by Michael Sargent at the Heritage Foundation encourages the president-elect to reduce the federal role in highway construction and mass transit. I would go further: He should put an end to the whole idea that infrastructure should be centrally planned, taxpayer-funded, and the responsibility of the federal (as opposed to state or local) government. The current system obliterates the discipline that comes from knowing a project needs to pay for itself to survive.

    I'm never optimistic about Trump doing sensible things, but maybe. The referenced Michael Sargent report can be found here.

  • Ryan Bourne watched the recent debate between Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders about socialized medicine, and found both to be long on anecdotes, short on data. And he offers a remedy. Much of the debate whirled around comparing the US with the UK. Surprising (to me): although "everybody knows" that the US spends a lot of money for a system that supplies inferior health outcomes, for example:

    In the United States, the age-adjusted breast cancer 5-year survival rate is 88.9 percent, compared with just 81.1 percent in the UK.

    Similarly for prostate cancer, lung cancer, bowel cancer, leukemia, ovarian cancer, stomach cancer, liver cancer, and strokes. Bourne's amusing conclusion:

    All of which is to show that your probability of dying from a range of common conditions is much higher in the UK than here. Perhaps that’s why (with no hint of irony) The Guardian’s write-up of a Commonwealth Fund Report suggesting the UK’s health system was “the best in the world” said “the only serious black mark against the NHS was its poor record on keeping people alive.”

    OK, maybe not that amusing if you're at the mercy of the NHS.

  • Matt Ridley examines the issue of whether NOAA has its Thumb on the Scale of Temperature Trends. It's quite a dustup. The usual storm of nasty charges and counter-charges. But:

    This is more than just a routine scientific scandal. First, it comes as scientists have been accusing President Trump and other politicians of politicising science. Second, it potentially contaminates any claim that climate science has been producing unbiased results. Third, it embarrasses science journalists who have been chronicling the growing evidence of scientific misconduct in medicine, toxicology and psychology, but ignored the same about climate science because they approve of the cause, a habit known as noble-cause corruption.

    Just waiting for the dust to settle. Been waiting for a couple decades now.

  • David Harsanyi has an interesting idea: "Republicans Should Make Elizabeth Warren The Voice Of Democrats"

    […] few things are more unintellectual, irrational, or un-American than demanding people comport their political worldviews to their skin color, sex, or ethnicity. And if a Warren candidacy — or anyone else’s — ensures that Democrats will spend another four years accusing half the country of being moral troglodytes while waiting for demographics to win them elections, Republicans should support their efforts.

    As Harsanyi himself admits, this isn't an ironclad strategy: a lot of Democrats thought Trump would be the form of GOP's destructor. Before the election.

URLs du Jour

2017-02-09

Our Proverb du Jour is 29:7:

The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.

Interesting that the issue is framed as "justice for the poor", and not "making the poor not so poor". Back then, that was not seen as an option. Fortunately, nowadays, we know how to do that.

Exercise for the reader: rewrite Proverbs 29:7 in light of modern developments, while avoiding lightning bolts sent down from above against your heresy.

  • Power Line's Paul Mirengoff notes half of the Granite State's US Senate crew is having difficulty keeping her story straight: "Sen. Shaheen Sends Mixed Signals on a Gorsuch Filibuster". In a speech, she pooh-poohed South Dakota's Senator Thune "suggesting we are going to filibuster" and she advocated "an up-or-down vote" on Gorsuch. But then Ryan Nickel, allegedly "Communications Director" for Shaheen chimed in:

    But, in that case, her denial of Thune's filibuster allegation makes no sense.

    Mr. Nickel has a tough job. He can't say, obviously, that his boss had no idea what she was talking about.

    In the contest for "smartest person in New Hampshire's Congressional delegation", it's a race to the bottom.

  • A couple good articles from the print version of Reason have gone online. Katherine Mangu-Ward: "Is it time to dust off the word fascist to describe Donald Trump?"

    In a technical sense, the word is a pretty good descriptor for what we've seen of Trump's economic policy so far. That is to say, he seems to be embracing the notion, which blossomed in Benito Mussolini's Italy, that the business of government is best conducted where an authoritarian state dominated by a powerful strongman and the leaders of large corporations meet and decide the fate of a nation.

    Don't worry, Trump Fans. Her conclusion is that "we're not quite there with this particular seven-letter word. Yet."

  • And David Henderson notes the five tools that President Trump apparently intends to employ to Make America Great Again: "Bribe Bully Beg Borrow Steal".

    Henderson uses the Carrier "deal" as example, but he differs somewhat from the usual condemnation of it as "crony capitalism".

    But a closer look reveals Trump's up to something a little different, and potentially more damaging. His actions will almost certainly lead to more cronyism than we have now. But his behavior in the Carrier case looks more like President John F. Kennedy's treatment of U.S. Steel in the early 1960s and President Barack Obama's treatment of General Motors and Chrysler bondholders in 2009. And it has disturbing implications both for our economic well-being and for our freedom.

    I.e., it's worse than cronyism. That whole "rule of law" thing is looking shaky, for example.

  • At NR, Jonah Goldberg patiently explains: "The Right Can’t Defend Trump’s Behavior".

    By now you may have noticed the difficulty many conservatives have defending everything President Trump does and says. I’m not just referring to the big policy moves, most of which conservatives can support fairly easily (so far). I mean the whole whiplash-inducing spectacle: the unfiltered, impulsive tweeting, bizarre interview non sequiturs, glib insults, and distractions.

    Trump makes it easy for his critics, and very difficult for his would-be defenders. Jonah's conclusion:

    When a political leader replaces fixed principles and clear ideological platforms with his own instincts and judgment, he gives his supporters no substantive arguments to rely on. Eventually, the argument to just say “Have faith” in our leader, he knows best, is the only safe harbor.

    That's not a healthy attitude.

  • Also at NR, Kevin D. Williamson lets go on Hillary Clinton's video speech to the MAKERS conference. Put on by AOL, or as Kevin says: "AOL, which still exists". He pays attention to the only memorable line in the speech, which was: "The future is female." Wha?

    That line caught the attention of Le Figaro, which breathlessly headlined a report: Hillary Clinton:Oui, l’avenir est féminin!” It is likely that the editors at Le Figaro are better-read than Mrs. Clinton is and recognized the sentiment from the contemporary French novelist Michel Houellebecq, who used the line in his dystopian novel The Elementary Particles. Houellebecq, an aging hedonistic intellectual who writes very sad novels about aging hedonistic intellectuals, imagined a future in which sexual rivalry and unhappiness between the sexes both have been abolished with a single master-stroke: the abolition of the human race and its replacement by an engineered successor species that reproduces asexually and is entirely female.

    KDW, generously, admits: "Perhaps that is not what Mrs. Clinton has in mind." I agree, that seems unlikely. But not impossible.

Gilead

[Amazon Link]

I came to this work via National Review's list of Ten Great Conservative Novels. Not that the book is without other plaudits: it won a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Critics Circle award for fiction, and probably some others out there too. And (it turns out) even Barack Obama is a huge fan of the author, Marilynne Robinson.

As it turns out, all the praise is justified. Uncomfortable as I am with agreeing with the ex-President.

The setup is not especially promising since my fiction tastes (you may have noticed) tend to run to crime thrillers and hard science fiction. The book is narrated by John Ames, a Congregational pastor in the small southwest Iowa town of Gilead; the setting is the mid-1950s. John has heart trouble that everyone knows will kill him soon, and he's decided to write a mini-memoir to his (then) seven-year-old son, in hopes that it will be read some decades in the future.

What develops is a series of revelations about John's Christian faith, and how that faith was manifested in his (pacifist) father and his (fierce abolitionist) grandfather. Recollections of his first wife and child, long dead, and the loneliness that resulted. The surprising blessing of his current wife and son. And his Presbyterian-minister best friend, Boughton, and his family.

That last relationship turns the memoir into something else, when Boughton's son, Jack, turns up in town after a long absence. Jack is a severe test to John's ideas of how a Christian should behave toward sinners.

I think I can safely say that after reading this book, you'll get to know more about John Ames than you might know about even your closest acquaintances. You might wind up knowing John better than you know yourself.

One personal note: one scene in the book mentions wading in the West Nishnabotna River. Whoa: that was the river that ran through the town where I lived as a young 'un, Oakland Iowa. This sent me to research, and it turns out Ms Robinson based fictional Gilead on Tabor Iowa, just down the road from Oakland, 40 miles or so. Funny!

URLs du Jour

2017-02-08

Proverbs 29:6 is especially applicable to current events:

Evildoers are snared by their own sin, but the righteous shout for joy and are glad.

So keep your sunny side up, up.

  • Is Wired dreadful or awesome? Another tickmark on the "dreadful" side: "Gun Violence Researchers Race to Protect Data From Trump". Aieee! Trump is coming for your data!

    AROUND 11 AM Pacific on January 20th, while newly-inaugurated President Trump finished a celebratory lunch in the Capitol Rotunda, Magdalena Cerdá noticed something different about the White House’s website: All of its references to climate change had disappeared. Cerdá is an epidemiologist at UC Davis’ Violence Prevention Research Program, which focuses on another politicized region of science—gun violence. So she knew what that meant.

    Cue the ominous music: dum dum dum. Server room screens with progress bars showing data wipeouts. Cut to: Shadowy figures in dark rainy alleys passing encrypted flash drives while looking over their shoulders.

    OK. Most of my professional life was as an IT guy. I believe in backing up your data. On 80-column punch cards if necessary. But the article muddles the obvious difference between (1) taking down pages advocating policies the Trump Administration doesn't support and (2) erasing (or making inaccessible) collected data. (1) is obviously going to happen; (2) -- well, I'll believe it when I see it.

    And bemoaning research as "politicized"? Who is doing the politicizing? Especially when you self-label your research field as "gun violence"; this leads me to assume your "research" is mainly torturing your data into supporting your predetermined hypotheses and policy recommendations.

  • But Wired can be awesome too, and I recommend this fascinating article on billionaire John Arnold and his funding of research into bias and flawed research in science. RTWT, but Arnold's skepticism is displayed in a tweet:

    Real scientists shouldn't fear skepticism.

  • J. D. Tuccille, writing at Reason: "Thugs Indulge Their Weimar Dreams and Become the Totalitarians They Claim to Hate". The recent violent incidents involving Milo Yiannopoulos and Gavin McInnes on college campuses are cases in support of that thesis. Their mob violence is bad enough, but Tuccille notes that they're also (no surprise) intellectually lazy and misguided, locked into an 80-year-old narrative.

    In short, the political cause of the age isn't an anti-fascist holy war against Nazis; it's a more complicated wariness toward an unpredictable and preening chief executive who inherited excessive power amassed by his already disturbing, but more polished, predecessors.

    But that more difficult task is likely to get overshadowed by loons indulging their fantasies about the righteousness of launching punches, bricks, and pepper spray at foes who look less like Weimar-era brownshirts and more like anybody who disagrees with them.

  • At Cato, Randal O'Toole debunks the romantic (but common) notion that the European rail system is obviously superior to America's: "Why Trains in Europe Function So Badly".

    According to a Pew study, freight shipped by truck uses about ten times as much energy, and emits far more greenhouse gases, per ton-mile than freight shipped by rail (see page 2). Because rail cars weigh more, per passenger, than automobiles, rail’s comparative advantages for passengers are much smaller, and unlike trucks it will be very easy for cars to close the gap: a Prius with a average of 1.67 occupants, for example, is more energy efficient than almost any Amtrak train. Thus, to save energy, it is better to dedicate rail lines to freight rather than to passengers.

    The American system, flawed as it is, does a far more efficient job in allocating of passengers and freight between different modes of transportation.

  • Can you stand one more link about the dreadful Audi Super Bowl ad? ("Audi of America is committed to equal pay for equal work.") Sure you can! Ashe Schow: "Audi Borrows From Obama After Twitter Outs Hypocrisy of ‘Gender Wage Gap’ Ad". Somebody pointed out that Audi's female salaries average less than males. And then…

    Audi’s official Twitter account responded: “When we account for all the various factors that go into pay, women at Audi are on par with their male counterparts.”

    So when they have a wage gap, it’s due to “factors,” but everyone else’s wage gap is due to discrimination. This is the same tactic the Obama White House used when it was discovered women, on average, were earning less than men. The gap was due to more women in junior positions, with more men in senior positions. But when earnings are compared, women as a whole are compared to men as a whole.

    Ms. Schow is an up-and-comer.

  • Back when he was doing the WSJ "Best of the Web Today" column, James Taranto had a "Fox Butterfield, Is That You?" category. Which came to mind when I saw this tweet:

    (For more on the "Butterfield Effect", see his Wikipedia page.)

URLs du Jour

2017-02-07

Our Proverb du Jour is 29:5

Those who flatter their neighbors are spreading nets for their feet.

Fine, but … waitaminnit, whose feet? Flatterers or flaterees? I believe this shows that ambiguous pronoun references were a problem even back in the eighth century BC.

  • Econ prof Bryan Caplan is appalled by the definition of "Communism" in the Princeton Review's test prep book Cracking the AP Economics Macro & Micro Exams:

    Communism is a system designed to minimize imbalance in wealth via the collective ownership of property.  Legislators from a single political party - the communist party - divide the available wealth for equal advantage among citizens.  The problems with communism include a lack of incentives for extra effort, risk taking, and innovation.  The critical role of the central government in allocating resources and setting production levels makes this system particularly vulnerable to corruption.

    Prof Caplan invites you to "dissect it sentence-by-sentence." As you might expect from a dissection, the subject is left bloody and mangled on the table.

  • Sorry to blog again about that dreadful Audi ad at the Super Bowl, but people keep writing about it. The latest, from Dennis Prager at NR: "Audi: The Car for the Unhappy Woman"

    If there was ever a more mendacious or socially destructive ad on television, let alone during the Super Bowl, I am unaware of it.

    … and he proceeds from there, calling for a boycott of Audi.

    Fine, there is zero probability that I will buy an Audi in the future. (Unfortunately, this isn't really participating in the boycott, since the pre-SB probability was also zero.)

  • At Reason, Robby Soave reports: "To Thwart Fascism, Leftist Students Start Self-Defense ‘Fight Club,’ Which Actually Sounds Awesome".

    Did conservative students accidentally convince their liberal counterparts to take the right to self-defense seriously? To guard against Trump-inspired hate crimes, a socialist student club at the University of Central Florida has started a "Leftist Fight Club"—an ode to the well-known Chuck Palahniuk book and fi[l]m—to practice hand-to-hand combat and self-defense.

    There was a certain amount of hand-wringing in response. But it appears to be about self-defense, and if this makes even one leftist learn about taking responsibility for their own safety, it's probably a Good Thing.

    [Added slightly later, after caffeine kick-in] Of course, we should always ask "what could go wrong?" And in this case, that's pretty easy to detect: self-proclaimed leftists are prone to view normal discourse and advocacy as "violence", and their "self-defense" isn't unlikely to amount to initiation of actual violence. So there's that.

  • The always-marvelous Virginia Postrel columnizes: "Trump Would Crush the Winners of the U.S. Economy"

    Donald Trump says it all the time: “We don’t win anymore.” If you got all your economic news from the presumed Republican nominee, you’d think U.S. businesses hadn’t added any new jobs or accomplished anything worthwhile since sometime in the Johnson administration. Americans nowadays, he keeps suggesting, are total losers.

    While Trump’s rhetoric denigrates the achievements of U.S. companies and their millions of employees, his specific proposals are worse. They reveal a vision of the good economy as static, uninnovative and controlled from the White House. President Trump’s America is, despite the rhetoric, an economy with no place for winners.

    In a saner world, Virginia Postrel would be President.

  • And your Tweet du Jour from the immortal Frank J.:


Last Modified 2017-02-07 8:12 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2017-02-06

Well, that was quite a Super Bowl. Does Proverbs 29:4 have any insight into the outcome?

By justice a king gives a country stability,
    but those who are greedy for bribes tear it down.

… I guess not.

  • I'm a Wired subscriber. It is in the Condé Nast stable of magazines, which means a frustrating mixed bag: wonderful occasionally, dreadful when it feels the need to inject political commentary into its content.

    This seeps into its online presence too. An example of "pretty good": "A Blackjack Superstar Explains the Odds of the Historic Patriots Win"

    Up 28-10 with two minutes left, the Falcons had a 99 percent chance to win the game. That probability comes from readily-available calculators—which run Monte Carlo simulations, taking into account the four variables of possession, down, distance, and score. But then the Falcons made a series of errors in basic strategy.

    [What were they? If you know much about football, the answers aren't too surprising: they should have run more time off the clock between plays, and shifted to rushing over passing.]

    But then, the dreadful: their view of the best Super Bowl commercials. Criteria for judging? Production values and cleverness, not so much. Heavy-handed stroking of progressive sensibilities? Ding! For example, "the best" is Budweiser:

    Eberhard Anheuser meets German immigrant Adolphus Busch in this tale of the founding of one of America’s most well-known breweries. Is it a not-subtle commentary on President Trump’s immigration policy? Yes. But does it make its point? Also yes.

    You have to still be reading Slate to learn the ad is largely fictitious.

    Yes, Wired also adored the dreadful Audi commercial.

  • President Trump seems to be as bad as Candidate Trump when it comes to apologizing for murderous thuggish dictators, invoking an asinine moral equivalence argument. Jay Caruso at RedState:

    Forget President Obama’s “apology tour.” The deference Donald Trump shows to Vladimir Putin is astounding. It’s one thing for an incoming administration to be cautious take some time to assess a situation before making any grand statements. But Trump’s infatuation with Vladimir Putin is dangerous, and in an interview with Bill O’Reilly on Fox News, Trump didn’t allay those concerns. In fact, he made it much worse.

    The relevant bit of transcript:

    O’REILLY: But he’s a killer, though. Putin’s a killer.

    TRUMP: A lot of killers. You got a lot of killers. What, you think our country’s so innocent?

    Patterico notes that we've come to a pretty pass when Mitch McConnell shows more testicular fortitude than Trump:

    McCONNELL: Well, look: Putin’s a former KGB agent. He’s a thug. He was not elected in a way that most people would consider a credible election. The Russians annexed Crimea, invaded Ukraine, and messed around in our elections. No, I don’t think there’s any equivalency between the way that the Russians conduct themselves and the way the United States does.

    Which brings us to our Tweet du Jour:

  • At the Daily Signal, Caleb Ecarma informs: "Conservatives Pressure 12 Democrats on Supreme Court Pick".

    Two conservative advocacy organizations hope to stop Senate Democrats from blocking President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

    The twelve Sentate Democrats listed in the article are those from states Trump carried, or otherwise considered persuadable. The list does not include either of New Hampshire's Senators Shaheen or Hassan, even though Trump barely lost the state. I assume this is because both ladies have been written off as hopeless partisan rubber stamps.

  • Ooooh, a "March for Science" on April 22 in DC. Hey, I like science! But at NR, Wesley J. Smith notes the the real game being played:

    The march folks bill it as "nonpartisan", which means they'll accept anyone who meets their totalitarian purity test.

  • If you enter a single word into its search box, Google will often produce a definition for you. Derek Hunter at the Daily Caller thinks there just might be some funny business there: "Google Redefines The Word ‘Fascism’ To Smear Conservatives, Protect Liberal Rioters"

    Motives aside, here are the relevant bits of Google's definition (as I type):

    an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.
    […]
    (in general use) extreme right-wing, authoritarian, or intolerant views or practice.

    Derek objects that the harbingers of fascist oppression (violence, speech supression, etc.) are coming mainly from the non-Right Side these days. Fine. But (for me) the more important question is: why are we still pretending the seating arrangements of the National Assembly in eighteenth-century France have anything illuminating or useful to say about modern politics?

    I know, I'm as guilty as anyone.

  • And finally, Ian Miles Cheong of Heat Street tells us that "Distorted Dr. Seuss Rhymes are the Latest Form of Protest Against Donald Trump". Specifically, adapting the Green Eggs and Ham scheme. Sample:

    Mr. Cheong notes:

    Ironically, at the end of Green Eggs and Ham, the book ends with the character liking what he didn’t like after he gave it a chance.

    Also ironically, Dr. Seuss was a huge fan of rounding up racially suspicious folks and sending them to camps.

URLs du Jour

2017-02-05

How about Proverbs 29:3?

A man who loves wisdom brings joy to his father,
    but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth.

That's true, I suppose.

  • Super Bowl! Nine years ago, I came up with "Top XLII Facts About the Super Bowl"

    The New York Football Giants upset the Pats in SB XLII that year. (And believe me, they were very upset.)

  • Sunday is a good day to think about the Big Picture, and a good way to Put Things In Perspective in that Picture is to read Kevin D. Williamson's "Sweet Land of Liberty". Sample:

    Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren want you to believe that the economy and the political system are “rigged” against you, that you have no real hope of prospering, rising, and thriving in what Senator Sanders insists is an “oligarchy.” (He pronounces it “Allah-garchy,” and, sharia hysteria notwithstanding, we aren’t getting one of those, either.) The guys on talk radio want to sell you gold coins and freeze-dried ice cream, and so they need you to believe that we are on the verge of total anarchy, that somebody — the Islamic State, Black Lives Matter, Chicago gangsters, somebody — is coming to get you. Politicos and angst-peddlers left and right want you terrified and anxious, and they want you to believe that these United States comprise a vast impoverished anarchic Eliotic wasteland, a kind of gigantic continental Haiti with lots of shopping malls and a surprisingly large number of Range Rovers.

    But if you drive around the country, it doesn’t look like that at all. It looks, for all its very real problems, amazing.

    I am, as usual, in Williamson-awe.

  • OK, back to the nitty-gritty: at Reason, Baylen Linnekin lets us know: "Congress Takes Steps to Renew Farm Bill Boondoggle".

    The Farm Bill is perhaps best known for handing billions of dollars of taxpayer money to a small number of the shrinking percentage of Americans who farm. Pres. Franklin Roosevelt's agriculture Henry Wallace pitched payments to farmers during the Great Depression as "a temporary solution to deal with an emergency." The emergency—the Depression—ended around the same year that my grandparents went to prom. But the subsidies remain. In fact, they've only mushroomed in the decades since their adoption.

    In an ideal world, Congress would observe how dairy farmers wean calves, and proceed to get farmers of the Federal tit.

  • Power Line asks the musical question: "Anti-Free Speech Riot at NYU: Crazier Than Berkeley?" It's as if there were a competition.

    On Thursday evening, Gavin McInnes, a comic, commentator and co-founder of Vice Media, attempted to give a speech at New York University, at the invitation of the NYU Republican group. A crowd of anti-free speech rioters battled police officers and ultimately succeeded in shutting down McInnes’s speech.

    Accompanying video contains a profanity-filled rant aimed at NYPD cops by a woman claiming to be a "professor". Entertaining, until it gets tedious. The woman is (probably) Rebecca Goyette, and (if so) she's a piece of work. A plug for her recent "film", Ghost Bitch U.S.A. should give you a taste of where her head is at:

    Goyette locates our election woes in the gender dynamics and xenophobia of our puritanical past. With a nightmarish humor, she has adorned the gallery walls of Freight + Volume with genitalia, patriotism, and zealous castration scenes where Puritans and Donald Trump lookalikes are victims. Many of these works are obvious if bold statements against the Republican nominee. The most striking is “T-Rump,” which simply features what Goyette calls a “foam-cast ass mask” wearing a blonde wig and Trump’s patented “Make American Great Again” hat. Oh, and there is a sculpted piece of poop sitting just below the ass mask. Clearly, Goyette’s unrelenting anger does not care for subtlety or gentleness.

    Or rationality. Much more, if you like chuckling at derangement taken seriously, at HuffPo: "Why Porn Is The Perfect Weapon To Fight Hatred, Fear, And Trump".

URLs du Jour

2017-02-04

Proverbs Chapter 29 continues to be a rich source of wisdom.

When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice;
    when the wicked rule, the people groan.

Left as an exercise for the reader: what's the deal when some of the people are rejoicing, and some others are groaning? And some others, like me, doing both, depending? I might have to rethink that whole getting-wisdom-from-Proverbs thing.

  • Nebraska news via (once again) Dave Barry: "Nebraska flag flew upside down at Capitol for 10 days and 'nobody noticed'.

    I japed on Facebook that New Hampshire and Nebraska could swap state flags and pretty much nobody would notice:

    … but that's not quite fair; we're slightly more colorful.

    On the other hand, Nebraska shoehorned its state motto onto its flag. New Hampshire should do that, because our state motto is the best state motto.

    But the general point is: both flags are pretty easy to accidentally fly upside down, especially if the typical viewer is quite a long way away. Another approach is New Mexico's:

    There you go. Just try to fly that puppy upside down.

    Over to you, Dr. Cooper.

  • So the Super Bowl is tomorrow, and I'm kind of wishing for a "just show me the game" button on my remote. The Lady Gaga halftime show (talented as she is) promises to be tedious. (She promises a "unifying message", which nearly always has the subtext "on my terms".)

    In my dim memory, you could at least look forward to the commercials, which were often funny and clever. But this year? Well, there's an Audi commercial in support of "equal pay"; the heavy-handed symbolism of a kids' car race in which a plucky young heroine defeats the piggish boys, after which she and her dad triumphantly drive off in his Triumph Audi S8. At The Truth About Cars, Jack Baruth comments: "The Real Message Behind Audi’s Super Bowl Ad Isn’t Exactly An Uplifting One" You should really Read The Whole Thing: there's video, a scene-by-scene analysis, and an inescapable conclusion:

    At the end, what does this ad do? It just reinforces our natural biases. Poor is bad, rich is good, and most importantly, rich people deserve their fortune because they are inherently better than the rest of us. You might not like that message, but it’s been selling cars for a very long time. If Audi wanted to try some authentic activism, they might consider showing us an African-American man or woman who overcame a tough upbringing to become an actual customer, or perhaps a differently-abled person who’s achieved enough to buy himself an S8 as a reward for his hard work. But that’s not terribly aspirational, is it? Who wants to be those people? And, by the same token, who wouldn’t want to be that handsome father lifting his beautiful daughter out of someone else’s winning race car?

    Yes, fine. Just. Show. Me. The. Game.

  • Did the GOP just repeal the background check system or give guns to the mentally ill? At NR, Charles C. W. Cooke has the answer: "No, the GOP Did Not Just Repeal the Background Check System or Give Guns to the Mentally Ill". Charles reproduces various major media outlets' headline hyperventilation. But:

    [...] here’s the thing: None of them is true. Not at all. This was yet another sordid episode of The Press Is Having a Breakdown, coupled with a special installment of Celebrities Tweet Falsehoods Without Knowing It. Contrary to the AP’s suggestion, the background check system remains in place. Contrary to The Hill’s implication, the rule change in question did not repeal the limitations on the “severely mentally ill.” None of that happened.

    You might also want to follow up on this topic with Brian Doherty at Reason. His conclusion: "How a Never-Enforced Rule Being Voted Down by the House Got the World Fearing Gun Background Checks Were Dead and the Mentally Ill Could Buy Guns Willy-Nilly"

    Government sells itself, when questioned about its legitimacy, as necessary to keep us safe. It patently is unable to ever keep us safe from any given person meaning to do us harm in real time. When it pursues policies that disarm the innocent, especially the stigmatized innocent, with no reason to believe any larger good would arise from it, it's perfectly appropriate that Congress make the executive stop.

    Unfortunately, the media reaction to this story shows that too many Americans are ready to cheer the imposition of, and fear the removal of, policies that take away the core human right of self-defense for the most cliched or prejudiced reasons.

    You can't trust the media, Chapter MDCCXII.

  • This week, Jonah Goldberg's G-File contains:

    Anyway, what really gets my goat are coyotes. Which is why I have to keep buying new goats.

    There's a bunch of serious stuff too.

URLs du Jour

2017-02-03

I blogged a verse from Proverbs a few days ago. Just ten verses up from that:

Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes
    will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.

They should slip that into a fortune cookie the next time the White House orders Chinese take-out.

  • So, I clicked over from Dave Barry's blog, because I am a sucker for All Things Omaha: "Omaha man helps rescue squirrel with head stuck in cereal bowl". Aw. Cute story! And then at the end, the squirrel rescuer is quoted:

    "The last two weeks haven't been the best for a lot of people," he said. "Even if this is the smallest thing I can do to make things better, maybe it will brighten up someone else's day a little bit."

    Last two weeks? What is he talking about? Oh, right.

    If you're keeping track, this is chapter 2,143 in the continuing series: "Let's Tediously Inject Politics Into Everything".

  • You may have heard about rioters at UC-Berkeley successfully shutting down a scheduled talk by Milo Yiannopoulos. At Bleeding Heart Libertarians, Jason Brennan provides a primer:

    There are certain strands of critical theory and postmodernist thought which hold that all speech is an exercise of power. On this view, to talk is to coerce. On this view, too [sic] argue for or defend social injustice, or even to discuss such ideas in the classroom, is a form of violence.

    This hard-left ideology is promulgated mostly in humanities departments of universities, and naturally excuses actual violence in response to any speech sufficiently offensive to the listener. It's self-defense!

    It's not exactly new; it's practically Marcuse 101. But we may be in for a rough ride.

  • President Trump has expressed his displeasure with Berkeley's handling of the incident, and threatened to yank Federal funds from the institution! Aieeee! But also:

    At Cato, Walter Olson has a more sober, serious look at the issue "Trump, UC Berkeley, and the Federal Funding Whip"

    A President may not find it simple or straightforward to use direct executive orders to cut off funds to universities that tolerate disruption of speech or exclude speakers based on the content of their speech. (That’s this morning’s Presidential tweet story, if you slept in.) But the power that the Department of Education and allied agencies have gathered to themselves over university life has steadily mounted, often against feeble resistance from the universities themselves, as in the Title IX instance. That gives an administration plenty of handles to make its will known, a process previewed in October, as to Trump, by Chronicle of Higher Education correspondent Steve Kolowich, who also spoke to me for the story. He quotes Alexander Holt, an education-policy analyst at New America, saying: “I could see a Trump administration going crazy on these ‘Dear Colleague’ letters.”

    Mr. Holt could well have cut off those last five words.

  • The nomination of Neil Gorsuch led to a small flood of Fake News. For instance (as noted by Patterico):

    Alana Goodman at the Daily Mail had a Big Scoop today: Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee founded a club in high school called “Fascism Forever!”

    Yeah, no. Of course not. But that "story" was picked up and echoed by credulous twits everywhere. For example, Jefferson Morley at Salon, a story uncorrected as I type.

  • And the sharp-eyed Patterico also notes: "OOPS! NBC News Breathlessly Attributes to Neil Gorsuch Opinions Written by Someone Else". Did you know that Gorsuch "opposed military recruiting on campus precisely because it discriminated against gays and lesbians?" Again: Yeah, no.

    To their (slight) credit, NBC has fixed the piece. But let's invoke the old Mark Twain quote (which he never actually said): "A lie can travel around the world and back again while the truth is lacing up its boots."

    (Twain was supposed to have said that in 1919. That was nine years after his unexaggerated death. But, in any case, long before the Internet made the quote even more accurate.)

URLs du Jour

2017-02-02

Can't we all just get along and celebrate Groundhog Day? It's a good day to read (or re-read) (or re-re-read) (or…) Jonah Goldberg's essay on the classic movie.

I once got the idea that I would watch Groundhog Day every year on February 2. But once you've memorized the movie…

Case in point: every time I see Stephen Tobolowsky on screen, I yell out "Bing! Needlenose Ned! Ned the Head!" Mrs. Salad just suffers in silence.

  • Roger L. Simon is "Looking for Mr. Good Anarchist". And failing.

    Okay, I'll come out of the closet. (No, not that way.) These demonstrators -- the Berkeley crew, the ones at the airports, the Women's Marches, violent, non-violent, whatever -- are operating out of world views so old (actually the ghost of the ghost of those world views) they should only be allowed to protest at assisted living centers in slippers and bathrobes while on liquid diets.

    Old. Also convincingly debunked.

  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson wonders: "What Is the Democratic Party?" When it comes down to the interests of the people against the powerful and well-heeled teacher union contributors…

    The Democratic party in reality is the cartoon version of the Republican party stood on its head, with cold-eyed self-serving economic interests using the so-called social issues to stir up the rubes while they go about seeing to their own paydays and pensions.

    Data point: of all Trump's cabinet nominees, Betsy DeVos faces the steepest cliff. Why is that? Because she's the biggest threat to the Democrats' real special interests: government school employees.

  • Jonah Goldberg gets two links today. His theory: "Trump Is Taking the Bannon Way". The chaos surrounding the "Muslim Ban" and the juvenile arguments about crowd sizes seem to bear the mark of Bannon, who "relishes sowing chaos and demonizing the press."

    The Bannon Way might work on the campaign trail, but it doesn’t translate into good governance. It’s possible — and one must hope — that Trump can learn this fact on the job.

    But what if he doesn’t? He could put the country in serious peril.

    Not that it matters, but: I was once a devoted reader at Breitbart, linking to their articles a lot, but reluctantly gave up last year when Bannon turned it into a Trump cheerleading section.

  • A lot of NR links today, for some reason. Charles C. W. Cooke suggests: "On Gorsuch, Democrats Need to Choose a Path". Basically: if you're the type that thinks Trump is going to wield unacceptable levels of executive power, Gorsuch is exactly the kind of guy you want on the SC. Opposing him makes zero sense, unless you don't really believe your own rhetoric. Applicable beyond matters Gorsuch:

    The last 24 hours have made me wonder, once again, whether there isn’t some play-acting going on here. When Adam Gopnik says that Trump might literally be the next Hitler, but then turns around and rails against the Second Amendment, one has to wonder how scared he really is. When the Women’s March casts itself as being in an existential fight but then turns around and rejects potential allies, one has to raise an eyebrow. And when Chuck Schumer says that what America needs is a justice who will “fulfill the role in our democracy as a check & balance on the other branches of govt” — and means it as a criticism of Neil Gorsuch, one has to laugh out loud. Reading the statements of dissent last night I was struck both by now normal they sounded and by how uncrisislike was their context. In almost every anti-Gorsuch release, the focus was on abortion and contraception — issues, that is, that would have been at the top of the list if, say, John Kasich were president.

  • And Jonathan H. Adler (also at NR) looks at the Democratic whining about the political tactics used to "steal Merrick Garland's seat" on the SC, and finds it … inconsistent. Well, incoherent. Also conveniently remembered. Conclusion:

    What the Senate Republicans’ failure to consider Garland indicated was that Senate Republicans were unwilling to uphold prior norms at the cost of unilateral disarmament in the judicial nomination wars. We can lament that it came to this — I certainly have — but we should not accept a revisionist history of how the Senate’s refusal to consider Garland came to pass.

  • At Cato, Lawrence H. White discusses the latest Prohibition target: cash. And, like booze prohibitions, the dramatis personae involved are remarkably similar: "Baptists and Bootleggers in the Organized Effort to Restrict the Use of Cash"

    In a classic account of why prohibitions and other economic restrictions harmful to consumers arise and persist, economist Bruce Yandle noted that such restrictions are often promoted by a coalition between two groups. The first group are morally motivated do-gooders (“Baptists”) who think that the restrictions will promote the public interest. The second group are profit-motivated business people (“bootleggers”) who may adopt the language of the first group but whose aim is to profit by legally quashing potential competition. In Yandle’s example, the prohibition of liquor in the United States during the 1920s was loudly promoted by Baptists and others who considered liquor consumption sinful, and quietly backed by bootleggers whose profits from rum-running depended on the absence of legal liquor.

    Who are the analogs of Baptists and Bootleggers in the war on cash? The answer may surprise you! Or, if you're up on this sort of thing, may not surprise you.

URLs du Jour

2017-02-01

It's February. And it's snowing.

  • President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Conservatives seem uniformly ecstatic. Ed Whelan notes Gorsuch's "impressive judicial record as an originalist". Ramesh Ponneru calls him "a textualist and an originalist Supreme Court justice in the vein of Antonin Scalia". Eugene Volokh pronounces himself "delighted" which pretty much seals the deal for me right there.

    Any reasonable naysayers? Well, let's go over to Reason and see what Damon Root has to say! There's good news:

    Gorsuch demonstrated admirable and reassuring judgment in these cases. Not only did he cast a principled vote against overreaching law enforcement, he cast a principled vote against the overreaching executive branch. It's not difficult to imagine Gorsuch imposing the same severe judicial scrutiny against the misdeeds of the Trump administration.

    And maybe not so good news:

    On the hot-button issue of abortion, Gorsuch's judicial record is quiet. But in his 2006 book The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, he did seemingly point in an anti-abortion direction, rejecting the case for legalizing assisted suicide on the grounds that "human life is fundamentally and inherently valuable, and the taking of human life by private persons is always wrong." Gorsuch also rejected the "libertarian case for assisted suicide" because, he argued, "faithful adherence to libertarian theory" would also justify the legalization of "mass suicide pacts...duels, and the sale of one's life (not to mention the use of now illegal drugs, prostitution, or the sale of one's organs)."

    Overall, Gorsuch seems to be the best one could hope for from Trump. Things will get more interesting (and by "interesting" I mean "batshit crazy") if and when Trump nominates a replacement for one of the lefty Supremes.

  • Note the "inherently valuable" quote above. Seems pretty straightforward, right? Well.

    If you ever wanted to gain a fuller appreciation of the term "mealy-mouthed", you could do worse than read "Eric Swalwell’s Mealy-Mouthing on Value of Human Life", provided by Wesley J. Smith at NR. The setting is Tucker Carlson's interview with Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA), a rising Democratic Party star. Topic: Neil Gorsuch. The kickoff is:

    Carlson: He (Gorsuch) wrote in a book about ethics, “All human beings are intrinsically valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.” Do you believe that?

    What ensues is not pretty, as Swallwell desperately recites pro-abortion talking points instead of just answering the question.

  • David Harsanyi at the Federalist makes a good point: "On Trump, Conservatives Have Little Choice But To Take It Issue By Issue"

    There’s an expectation — often, a demand — that movement conservatives be all in or all out on the Donald Trump presidency. Lock-stepping partisans of both varieties offer this false choice. The election phase of the debate is over. Traditionally, presidents offer a menu of policies that more or less comport with the worldview of their party. This is different. So while I don’t contend to speak for all conservatives, I do imagine many are horrified/excited/sad/happy/content/embarrassed by what’s going on — often on the same day.

    Heck, even in the same hour.

  • Not exactly a burning issue, but an interesting one. Daniel J. Mitchell contends: "The Government’s War on Money Laundering Is Causing the Wrong Kind of Casualties". He points out that if Trump is serious about deregulation,

    […] so-called anti-money laundering regulations should be on the chopping block. Banks and other financial institutions are now being forced to squander billions of dollars in order to comply with laws, rules, and red tape that require them to spy on all their customers. The ostensible purpose of AML policies is to discourage criminal behavior, but experts have concluded that this approach has been a failure.

    Also see J. D. Tucille: "Cash Means Freedom, Which Is Why So Many Officials Hate It".