URLs du Jour

2017-03-31

■ We've had a few good days in a row with our Proverbs. Will 28:25 be dreamy, or a dud?

The greedy stir up conflict, but those who trust in the LORD will prosper.

Pun Salad says: this is probably not the best financial advice you will hear today. But (funny thing) if you Google How to prosper, a lot of the top links are God/Bible based. Just sayin'.

■ Ashe Schow asks: Why Is It So Impossible for the Media to Be Honest About Guns? Case in point: the recent public debate about "silencers". She catalogs a litany of misinformation and disinformation from our Trusted Media on the issue. Her modest proposal:

After the 2016 election, the Decision Desk’s John Ekdahl asked journalists if they knew anyone who owned a pickup truck. I think it’s time to ask journalists if they know anyone who owns a gun (or have ever even spoken to someone who does or who uses one regularly).

Ms. Schow also recommends Sean Davis's work at the Federalist: 7 Gun Control Myths That Just Won’t Die. For those of you who like to arm themselves for battle in the court of public opinion, that's a link you should open-carry.

■ At Cato, Daniel J. Mitchell shares Six Sobering Charts about America’s Grim Future from CBO’s New Report on the Long-Run Fiscal Outlook. Unfortunately, I'm already sober, so it's just depressing.

I sometimes feel like a broken record about entitlement programs. How many times, after all, can I point out that America is on a path to become a decrepit European-style welfare state because of a combination of demographic changes and poorly designed entitlement programs?

But I can’t help myself. I feel like I’m watching a surreal version of Titanic where the captain and crew know in advance that the ship will hit the iceberg, [funny embedded graphic]yet they’re still allowing passengers to board and still planning the same route. And in this dystopian version of the movie, the tickets actually warn the passengers that tragedy will strike, but most of them don’t bother to read the fine print because they are distracted by the promise of fancy buffets and free drinks.

People not taking this seriously, however, include (1) all Congressional Democrats; (2) nearly all Congressional Republicans; (3) Donald J. Trump.

■ So far the most honest response I've seen to the feminist outrage about VP Pence's dining rules is from Glenn Reynolds: Feminists Wage War on Men, Then Blame Men For Results. And it's a one-liner:

So you drastically expand the definition of “sexual harassment,” and then promote an ethic that says that all accusations must be believed, and then you’re shocked that workplace men don’t want to hang out with women? How stupid are you?

I assume that last question is rhetorical, but if not, here you go.

■ My Google News Alert for LFOD took me to a Union Leader [Wednesday] story about an apparent Manchester homicide early Tuesday morning. The story invites us to connect the dots: a ruckus is heard at the scene "between 2 and 2:30 a.m.". A man in a hoodie leaves the house. And then:

At 2:39 a.m. Tuesday, the 534 Douglas St. building owner’s son, Jordan Gamache, 34, added this post to his Facebook page: “LIVE FREE OR DIE.”

I predict an arrest shortly, although I've been wrong about such things before.

■ If you want to get an early start on tomorrow's festivities, I recommend a paper from Eve Armstrong, who works at the BioCircuits Institute at UCSD: A Neural Networks Approach to Predicting How Things Might Have Turned Out Had I Mustered the Nerve to Ask Barry Cottonfield to the Junior Prom Back in 1997. From the abstract:

We use a feed-forward artificial neural network with back-propagation through a single hidden layer to predict Barry Cottonfield’s likely reply to this author’s invitation to the “Once Upon a Daydream“ junior prom at the Conard High School gymnasium back in 1997. To examine the network’s ability to generalize to such a situation beyond specific training scenarios, we use a L2 regularization term in the cost function and examine performance over a range of regularization strengths. In addition, we examine the nonsensical decision-making strategies that emerge in Barry at times when he has recently engaged in a fight with his annoying kid sister Janice. To simulate Barry’s inability to learn efficiently from large mistakes (an observation well documented by his algebra teacher during sophomore year), we choose a simple quadratic form for the cost function, so that the weight update magnitude is not necessary correlated with the magnitude of output error.

It is a classic. By the time you get to "restraining order" you will be hooked.


Last Modified 2017-04-01 3:41 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-03-30

■ Let's spin the wheel on Proverbs 28:24:

Whoever robs their father or mother and says, "It's not wrong," is partner to one who destroys.

Ah. I'm looking at you, Frank Guinta:

U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta’s mother and sister contradict his claim that $355,000 given to his 2010 campaign was his own money, newly released Federal Election Commission documents show.

Leading to this classic Union Leader editorial (in its entirety):

Frank Guinta is a damned liar.

As for being "partner to one who destroys": this paved the way for Carol Shea-Porter squeak (44.2% to 42.9%) to victory over Guinta last November. Right on, Proverbian!

■ Nick Gillespie of Reason has been looking for many years, but he's finally ended his quest: Finally, the WORST Argument for Public Funding of the Arts. I believe it's this, from AEI's Norman Ornstein:

Absurdity, thy name is Ornstein. A sample of Nick's rant:

For the people who work there and the people who get money from the endowments, killing the two agencies would be at least a minor irritation, sure. But to the extent that their work mattered, folks would step in to keep it going or, same thing, they would reduce their asking price to keep them going. Donald Trump is widely and probably accurately described as a brute with no interest in art and culture. This is a guy who relaxes by watching Fox News, not listening to Philip Glass or probably even watching HBO. But however vulgar Trump may be, he doesn't come close to the primitivism embodied in the idea that a country can only be great when it forces taxpayers to pay for shit they don't want. That's not artistic, it's despotic. And it betrays no understanding of how the creative world works anyway.

Probably the NEA and NEH will sputter along, but very few people would actually notice if they didn't.

■ Kevin D. Williamson (at NR, of course) debunks arguments for a specific tax increase: Bad Medicine on ‘Carried Interest’. It's not short, and not simple, but the bottom line is worth quoting:

The broader discussion about taxes and fairness and — odious phrase — “social justice” is a waste of time. Taxes are not an instrument of justice: They are an instrument of revenue. The federal government requires x dollars to do the things we demand of it, and the only end of tax policy should be raising those dollars in a way that causes as little economic disruption as possible and invades our privacy as little as possible. At the moment, our model is lots of disruption and maximal invasion of privacy — and all of it handled by the incompetent, corrupt, politicized agents of the Internal Revenue Service.

Those are the tax-code problems we should be addressing. Instead, we are addressing some unhappy Americans’ envy and resentment. That isn’t tax policy — it’s psychotherapy.

And isn't that true about other major issues du jour?

■ Virginal Postrel writes at Bloomberg: How to Save Twitter Two Pennies at a Time.

Well, first, I think that needs a comma: "How to Save Twitter, Two Pennies at a Time". Quibble aside, the problem is that Twitter lacks what the businessfolk call a "viable business model" (in which it resembles Pun Salad, but never mind):

So why not try something drastic? Charge for Twitter’s true value: the opportunity to tweet.

Give everyone a small ration of free tweets, say five a week. After that, charge a few cents each. The motto could be, “Give the world your two cents’ worth.” To kick things off, the company could give everyone a dollar or two in credit.

It's crazy, but it just might work. But I average maybe 0.5 tweets/week, so maybe I'm not the best judge of that.

■ And, speaking of business models, just as a reminder, the unobtrusive, tasteful links over there on the right (no, your right), which you should not adblock, will take you to Amazon, where you should buy lots of stuff.

■ The NR editors offer a primer in how to respond to the distortions of Neil Gorsuch's judicial record: The Democrats v. Gorsuch.

And they have complained, oh have they complained, about the Republicans’ refusal to allow President Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, to sit on the Supreme Court. The Constitution gave the Republicans the right not to schedule hearings for Garland. It gives the Democrats the right to complain about it, and even to filibuster Gorsuch’s nomination in response. It also gives the Senate Republicans the power to end filibusters of Supreme Court nominees. Gorsuch is a good enough nominee, and the cause of getting judges committed to the rule of law is sufficiently important, that Republicans should exercise that power should it prove necessary.

Downside: Mrs. Salad will have to endure me saying "nuclear option" over and over, which I both (a) mispronounce and (b) accompany with sound effects (usually, just "BOOM"; occasionally "ka-PLOOie" or "baROOM".)

■ And, Mr. Ramirez, will you please:

Clowns


Last Modified 2017-03-30 9:59 AM EDT

Red Planet

[Amazon Link]

As I've mentioned once before (oops, make that twice before) (well, actually, thrice before), Red Planet, by Robert A. Heinlein, was the first "big boy" book I read, checked out from the Oakland, Iowa public library at some point in the late 1950s, when I was seven or eight years old. It hooked me on science fiction generally, and Heinlein specifically. It could have easily appeared on my Ten Influential Books list back in 2010, but it already had two other Heinlein books on it, and I didn't want to look like a total fanboy. (I left that until now, I guess.)

So why reread it now, nearly sixty years later? Second childhood? Well, maybe, but my official reason was an intriguing factoid from the Heinlein biography written by William H. Patterson. The version of Red Planet that made it into my grubby little hands back in Iowa was the product of a contentious dispute between Heinlein and Alice Dalgliesh, the editor at Scribners for his "juvenile" novels. Among other things Ms. Dalgliesh was adamant about the plot's reliance on some of the characters carrying handy weapons at all times. Aieee, what do you think this is, Robert? America?

So, yes, this is Heinlein's restored, uncensored version of Red Planet. Cool!

The story has teenage hero Jim Marlowe, a Mars colonist from Earth. He has (sort of) adopted a native Martian pet, a "bouncer" he's named "Willis". Willis is usually a featureless beachball, but occasionally eyes pop out, and protuberances he uses for locomotion as necessary. Willis also has an uncanny ability to listen to sounds—conversations, music, what have you—and play them back flawlessly. This becomes an important plot point.

Jim is sent off to school, accompanied by his close buddy Frank. Things rapidly take a turn for the disastrous when the easygoing head of the school is replaced with a petty martinet, fond of imposing arbitrary rules on his charges. When he discovers Willis, dollar signs appear in his eyes, and the bouncer is confiscated for nefarious purposes.

But it tuns out that this school tyranny is only a shadow of worse things in store for the entire Martian colony. Jim and Frank set out to make things right, only to become wanted fugitives on the run, over hostile Martian wilderness.

So, yes, it's a lot of fun. There are the usual Heinlein character types that show up in a lot of his work: the cynical, wise-cracking mentor/sage, the officious, snooty, older female (think Margaret Dumont, except nastier, and no Groucho in sight).

I didn't notice any major differences in the "uncensored" version. But I probably wouldn't after (see above) nearly sixty intervening years. What I do fondly remember from the original was the Clifford Geary illustrations. You can find some of them with some Googling, but it would have been neat to have them here. Maybe some diligent publisher will put it all together someday. If that happens, I'll open my wallet one more time.

URLs du Jour

2017-03-29

■ Proverbs 28:23 has reassuring words for Pun Salad:

Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favor rather than one who has a flattering tongue.

Excellent! I'd say rebuking people is, like, 90% of our content. I'll strive to do even better, with the Proverbialst's encouragement.

■ Well, it was only a couple days ago when Pun Salad predicted that New Hampshire's senators, Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen, partisan hacks that they are, would oppose Neil Gorsuch's confirmation to the Supreme Court.

I'm nearly wrong in all predictions, but this one was pretty safe. Here's Senator Maggie's statement and here's Senator Jeanne's.

Both statements are (roughly) 52% pious crap and 47% tedious bullshit, cut-n-pasted from standard party talking points, not worth discussing in detail. Or at all.

The one bit of fact: both will support an attempted filibuster. Maggie euphemizes this as "maintaining the traditional 60-vote threshold for confirming Supreme Court nominees" and Jeanne describes it as "support[ing] a 60-vote threshold for approval, an appropriate high bar that has been met by seven of the eight current Supreme Court justices.”

It's amusing (but not surprising) that Democrats will try to paint their tactics as "traditional" and setting an "appropriate high bar". In fact, it's just the latest step in the battle Jonathan H. Adler observed back in 2013:

What this history shows is that there are no clean hands. [F]or over twenty-five years, Senators have engaged in an escalating game of tit-for-tat, in which each side seeks to out do the other, has now gone on for over twenty-five years. Should this trend continue, things will only get worse.

And now they have. Congratulations to Maggie and Jeanne for their contributions.

■ Jacob Sullum at Reason notices: Gun-Owning Expert on Logical Fallacies Deploys Them Against Gun Ownership. The expert is Daniel J. Levitin, author of Weaponized Lies: How to Think Critically in the Post-Truth Era. Sullum notes Levitin's op-ed citation of a CDC "study" that "having a firearm in the home almost doubles the risk of a violent death there." He comments:

The CDC study cited by Levitin, which was published in 2004, found that "persons with guns in the home" were twice as likely as people living in gun-free residences to die "from a homicide in the home." Contrary to what Levitin says, that does not mean "having a firearm in the home almost doubles the risk of a violent death there," because correlation does not prove causation. It could be that owning a gun increases the risk of being killed, but it also could be that other factors increase the risk of being killed as well as the likelihood of owning guns. If people who anticipate violent confrontations, such as residents of high-crime neighborhoods or women with angry ex-husbands, are especially likely to arm themselves, for example, that tendency could partly or completely explain the association found in this study.

This is not encouraging me to read Levitin's book, although we'll see.

■ As all Decent People Know, there's a general War on Science, perpetrated by today's Know-Nothings. And, as George Will observed back in 2014, when "victimhood [is] a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate."

And (by inexorable logic) when you are a Victim, what you must do is March. And so we have (ta-da) the March for Science scheduled for April 22.

But all is not well in Victimhood Land, as reported by HeatStreet: Massive March for Science Planned for Washington Plagued by Infighting

At the core of the dispute are divergent opinions about the march’s core message. While some argue the march should promote science itself, pushing for better funding, objectivity and recognition of scientific achievement, others say it should champion intersectionality and use the platform to highlight racial and gender-based discrimination faced by scientists in their respective fields.

A couple months back, Steven Pinker tweeted on the issue:

This won't end well, but it could be massively entertaining.

■ I am amazed at the seeming ease certain writers show in tossing off massive amounts of insightful, funny, clear prose. One of those is James Lileks, and his Bleat for today dissects an example of "futurism" that's (in actuality) a "smug variety that uses futurism as a criticism of the present".

Now, of course, RTWT. Here's an example, though: the "futurist" writes that "our great-grandchildren will be amazed that we could function without direct brain-computer interfaces." Lileks responds:

As for great-grandchildren being AMAZED that we couldn’t control computers with our brains, that’s like being AMAZED that people in the 18th century couldn’t project their voice over wires.

These future people sound like idiots.

Alas, if trends continue, they probably will be.

URLs du Jour

2017-03-28

■ Come on, Proverbs 28:22, give us something enlightening:

The stingy are eager to get rich and are unaware that poverty awaits them.

Ack. This calls for a counterpoint, and there's nothing better than this old Steven Landsburg article from Slate, back when it was good: What I Like About Scrooge.

Scrooge has been called ungenerous. I say that's a bum rap. What could be more generous than keeping your lamps unlit and your plate unfilled, leaving more fuel for others to burn and more food for others to eat? Who is a more benevolent neighbor than the man who employs no servants, freeing them to wait on someone else?

Take that, economically-ignorant Proverbialist.

■ Writing at NR, Kevin D. Williamson offers advice to modern Presidents: be Like Ike.

It is not 1957 anymore, and a return to Eisenhower-era policies would be neither wise nor popular. But a return to modesty, prudence, and genuine responsibility? That is something to which we ought to aspire. The great events of Eisenhower’s day went from Great War to Depression to Holocaust to Cold War, a ghastly progression, but Eisenhower remained famous for his sunny disposition and his winning smile — which was, of course, partly genuine and partly camouflage that protected others from the burdens he bore. The United States does not need a Dwight Eisenhower holiday to go along with the days set aside for men such as Washington and Lincoln. What the United States does need is 365 days in the year on which we insist that the men with whom we entrust the nation’s business endeavor to live up to the example set by men who did so much more with so much less in incomparably harder times — that they, to the extent that they have it in them, be like Ike.

We did not know how good we had it.

■ Patterico asks the question and tells us where too look for the response: What Should Be the Next Step on Repealing ObamaCare? Ted Cruz Has the Answer. It's long, but well worth your while. Sample adult thinking:

Here’s where it gets tough, because there’s a bitter pill that, in my view, Americans have to swallow: we have to get rid of the ObamaCare provision that requires companies to insure pre-existing conditions. Now I can already hear a bunch of people yelling: hold up there hoss, that’s never going to work and people don’t want that. Do me a favor: hear me out. There’s a way to address the concerns people have about insurance companies’ refusal to insure against pre-existing conditions without this mandate. The answer lies in Cruz’s suggestions in his op-ed, which contains terms that may seem abstract to some people, such as “guaranteed renewal” and “equal tax treatment for individual plans” and “portability.” But if you stick with me for a moment, I’ll explain the reality behind these abstract terms, and how they can help solve the problem.

I am pessimistic. That seems to be my default setting these days.

■ At Reason, Nick Gillespie takes issue with a recent comment from a Trump advisor, ex-Breitbart guy: Steve Bannon Hates Libertarians Because *We're* Not Living in the Real World? ("it's all this theoretical Cato Institute, Austrian economics, limited government — which just doesn't have any depth to it.")

President Trump is so famously post-factual that he cites riots that never happened as pretexts for executive orders, invents crime statistics out of thin air, and insisted for years that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. But it's libertarians who are nuttier than a squirrel's turd? Sure, why not.

Bannon's antipathy is echoed in the demonization of the Trump/Ryan GOP Freedom Caucus, blaming them for the defeat of Trumpcare. I'm with Patterico (yes, back to him): those guys are heroes. Leon Wolf's response to the attack on the FC is quoted:

Ryan would have you believe that the Freedom Caucus was solely responsible for the scuttling of his deeply unpopular pet project to “repeal” Obamacare. The media, which are largely ignorant of the internal dynamics of the House GOP caucus because they are largely staffed by ex-Democrat Hill staffers, have been happy to carry Ryan’s water in this regard — either because they, too, dislike the Freedom Caucus or because they are too lazy to dig even an inch below the surface and learn the truth.

Wolf is pretty accurate about what really sank the bill.

■ Even smart guys like Tyler Cowen can get suckered by the mainstream media. At 3:17am on Monday, he made an aside:

Those of us who predicted gridlock, stasis, and an excessively weak Trump presidency are so far right. Hardly anything has gotten through, though we have managed to scare off 40% of the potential foreign applicants for higher education, one of America’s most successful export industries.

Only problem: Tyler took that last bit from an NYT article. And about four hours later: "This one is a real blooper and I cannot let it pass by".

The NYT:

Nearly 40 percent of colleges are reporting overall declines in applications from international students, according to a survey

But the opening sentence of the survey itself:

39% of responding institutions reported a decline in international applications, 35% reported an increase, and 26% reported no change in applicant numbers.

Comments Tyler:

The NYT article does not reproduce the more positive pieces of information, from its own cited study, which may be suggesting international applications are not down at all, or perhaps down by only a small amount. If you look at all the data, they probably are down, but by no conceivable stretch of the imagination should the 40% figure be reported without the other numbers.

He thinks a retraction of the entire article would be in order. Fine. But, Tyler, here's the real issue: You f'd up. You trusted them.

■ And your Pun du Jour is from one of my favorite comic strips. Brevity:

From Benito Mussolini to Hugo Chavez

Intellectuals and a Century of Political Hero Worship

[Amazon Link]

Back in the pre-blog dark ages (mid-1980s or so), I read a fine book, Political Pilgrims, by Paul Hollander. It chronicled the voyages (physical and intellectual) taken by some Western intellectuals to the Communist world, and how they reported back glowingly about the wonders they found. The book was both ludicrously entertaining and damned depressing, I remember.

So I requested Professor Hollander's new book from Interlibrary Loan. UNH's crack library staff got it from UMass/Amherst, where Hollander is an Emeritus. (Given what I've read about UMass/Amherst, Hollander must be sort of a sore thumb there.)

To avoid treading the same ground as Political Pilgrims, Hollander concentrates about intellectuals' attraction to dictators, rather than to ideologies. There's some overlap, of course, but it's a fruitful line of inquiry. Intellectual objects of affection have included Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Castro, Che Guevara, Hugo Chavez, and a host of less-major tyrants. Hollander does his forensic duty, combing through the works and biographies of various Deep Thinkers who found these dreadful people admirable, looking for common threads.

It was not a matter of "charisma": although some of these guys had it (Castro, Hitler, Mussolini,…) others did not (Stalin, Mao, …). Instead, it seems that (as Hollander's subtitle implies), there's a bit of "worship" involved. A cult-like secular devotion develops as a replacement for more traditional religious feelings. (As Chesterton (never quite) said: "A man who won’t believe in God will believe in anything."). Some of the sycophantic quotes Hollander unearths in this regard are telling and (should have been) embarrassing. Example, I. F. Stone on Che:

In Che one felt a desire to heal, and pity for suffering. It was out of love, like the perfect knight of medieval romance, that he had set out to do combat with the powers of the world. […] In a sense he was, like some early saint, taking refuge in the desert. Only there could the purity of the faith be safeguarded from the unregenerate revisionism of human nature.

The intellectuals chronicled also seemed to be united in their hatred of bourgeois liberalism, capitalism, and individualism, which seemed "empty" to them (and, significantly, tended to not afford them the respect they thought they deserved). This found a natural partnership in revolutionaries striving to overturn the corrupt and decadent, replacing it with something shinily egalitarian and communitarian. So much that when such revolutions inevitably turned to terror, mass murder, and repression, intellectuals were ready with a panoply of excuses: it's all America's fault, the "good intentions" of the dictators must be respected, etc.

Intellectuals' sycophancy was also nourished by whatever camaraderie they could extract from the objects of their affections. Dictators obviously found such devotion useful, and did their part to encourage intellectual gullibility.

The book appears to have been lightly edited. Page 94 tells us of two "Noble" Prize winners, "Philip" [should be Philipp] Lenard and Johannes Stark, who were early Hitler cheerleaders. And page 166 contains a nod to Joseph Needham, who hailed Stalin "in the 1903s". I got these mistakes without looking, so it's safe to assume there are some more, hopefully none more significant that typos.

All in all, a fine entry in the educational/entertaining/depressing genre of historical research.


Last Modified 2017-03-27 6:59 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-03-27

■ Proverbs has been hit-or-miss lately, either wackily incoherent or devastatingly on-target. Let's see about 28:21:

To show partiality is not good-- yet a person will do wrong for a piece of bread.

I am not even sure what that means. The other translations on that page are not much clearer. Maybe something like this:

You might expect fairness from people as a matter of common decency; but, in fact, they'll sell you out, and they'll do it for cheap.

"There, I fixed it."

■ Last week I went on a mini-rant about the UNH/Carsey "study" that purported to show that the public's "concerns about scientists" might "undermine efforts" in public health (specifically Zika). Or, in other words: "those darned science-haters are gonna get us all killed."

Since then, I've been a little more alert for items in the same vein. One candidate is a recent book, The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters by Thomas M. Nichols. Here's a bit of the cover blurb:

People are now exposed to more information than ever before, provided both by technology and by increasing access to every level of education. These societal gains, however, have also helped fuel a surge in narcissistic and misguided intellectual egalitarianism that has crippled informed debates on any number of issues. Today, everyone knows everything: with only a quick trip through WebMD or Wikipedia, average citizens believe themselves to be on an equal intellectual footing with doctors and diplomats. All voices, even the most ridiculous, demand to be taken with equal seriousness, and any claim to the contrary is dismissed as undemocratic elitism.

At Reason, there's a review of the book by Noah Berlatsky: The Limits of Expertise. Berlatsky starts off with a pretty good shot:

Nichols, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College, is an expert on Russia and national security; he is not, however, an expert on expertise. His hand wringing about kids today is not grounded in a scholarly background in education policy or the history of student activism. He is a generalist dilettante writing a polemic against generalist dilettantes. As such, the best support for his argument is his own failure to prove it.

Ouch. I'll probably get around to reading Nichols' book, but not without Berlatsky's review at hand.

■ Steve Chapman (also at Reason) answers your unspoken question: Why Trump Can’t Fix Health Care.

Because he's not a dictator? Well, somewhat. The actual problem is, well, you and me. But also: them. As in the American voting public, who want (1) health care, but (2) not to pay for it. But:

You can't have it all. Our aversion to this simple truism has yielded a dubious achievement: Compared with other Western nations, we have more people without insurance, spend far more of our national income on health care and are less happy with our system. That's what you get when you resist fundamental tradeoffs.

Americans who want a solution that has no downside don't really want a solution. Not to worry: They won't get one.

Keep your fingers crossed for a "muddle through" solution. That's probably the best we can hope for.

<voice imitation="professor_farnsworth">Good news, everyone!</voice>. At Hot Air, Jazz Shaw informs us: AP style guide is updated to normalize “gender” as not being related to sex.

In terms of the Social Justice Warriors and their efforts to discard millennia of science in favor of gender impersonation, the Associated Press has taken a large and alarming step toward the normalization of such thinking. Their stylebook has now been updated with cautions issued to authors about being too old fashioned when referring to men, women and the gender definitions of our species.

The link goes to a Washington Times story.

I'm all for being polite and respectful to people who, for whatever reason, find themselves mentally uncomfortable with their own biology. But when ideologues attempt to leverage that general decency into enforceable dogma…, well you get things like AP Stylebook changes, and worse.

■ And our Tweet du Jour is from California's junior US Senator, Kamala Harris, pointing to her reasons for opposing Neil Gorsuch's confirmation to the Supreme Court:

Hey, I think that's our state's ex-Senator, Kelly Ayotte, over there on the left!

Now, the link goes to Senator Harris's op-ed in the SF Chronicle, and you can go there if you want. But the bottom line, the key phrase she chose to tweet, is that, ohmigod, Gorsuch goes by "legalisms".

Also known as: the law.

I'm relatively sure our own state's senators, being predictable partisan hacks, will oppose Gorsuch. One can only hope that their stated rationales will be as entertaining as Senator Harris's.

URLs du Jour

2017-03-26

■ And we move along today to Proverbs 28:20:

A faithful person will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.

As with many Proverbs, I'm not so sure about that. But this prompted me to revisit what Jim Koch, the Boston Beer Co (Sam Adams) founder said a few years back: Unless you're a sociopath, being happy is better than being rich.

"To me, when you start a business, you should really go for the big prize, which is start a business that is going to make you happy. Getting rich is life's biggest booby prize," Koch told CNBC at the Iconic conference last week in Boston. "People who aren't happy want to be rich. I'd rather be happy."

Now, Jim Koch is rich. Somewhere in the area of billionaire-rich. So I'm not sure about his implied dichotomy. And I'm also not sure that what he learned from beermaking is readily applied to less joyful industries.

But I'd like to believe him. Our Getty image du jour: happy Jim. More power to him.

■ I thought Mark Krikorian's article in the Saturday WSJ was pretty good: The Real Immigration Debate: Whom to Let In and Why. Especially this bit:

If we are ever to have a rational debate about immigration—rather than a screaming match among combatants mostly intent on signaling their own moral virtue or ideological purity—the starting point has to be a candid acknowledgment of our goals and preferences. Politicians and ordinary voters shouldn’t be allowed to get away with saying “Of course there should be limits on immigration, but…” without explaining what they mean.

That would be nice. Start with numbers: how many legal immigrants should be admitted per year. Then we can talk about issues like where they should come from, how skilled they should be, etc.

■ Here's an example, I think, of what Krikorian is talking about. Christopher Freiman at the Niskansen Center writing on The Classical Liberal Case Against Nationalist Immigration Restrictions.

If any part of liberalism needs revitalizing, it’s the case for liberalizing immigration.

Nationalists on the left and right argue that easing immigration restrictions would make Americans worse off. During the Democratic primaries, Bernie Sanders criticized open borders as a “right-wing proposal” that would “make everybody in America poorer.” And of course Donald Trump is calling for “an impenetrable physical wall on the southern border” to protect “the jobs, wages and security of the American people.” He has even floated the idea of an “ideological screening test” to ensure that the U.S. only admits those “who share our values and respect our people.” His executive orders banning citizens of six Muslim-majority countries from even setting foot in the U.S. seems to reflect this idea, and have met judicial resistance on the ironic grounds that they violate the values of the American people embodied in the constitutional guarantee of religion liberty.

Yes, fine. Freiman presents a pretty good theoretical free-market case for … well, that's the problem, I can't tell exactly. You'll note that the quote mentions "open borders" (i.e., implying no restrictions whatsoever on immigration) but also "liberalizing immigration" and "easing immigration restrictions" (i.e., implying that limits should still be maintained, just relaxed somewhat). Freiman fails the Krikorian test.

■ Kevin D. Williamson notes a dispiriting and troubling trend, both in the USA and worldwide: more and more people "On the Outside, Looking Out".

We do not have a problem of privation in the United States. Not really. What we have is something related to what Arthur Brooks […] describes as the need for earned success. We are not happy with mere material abundance. We — and not to go all Iron John on you, but I think “we” here applies especially to men — need to feel that we have earned our keep, that we have established a place for ourselves in the world by our labor or by other virtues, especially such masculine virtues as physical courage and endurance. I suspect that is a big part of the reason for the exaggeratedly reverential, practically sacramental attitude we current express toward soldiers, police officers, and firemen. Of course they are brave and deserve our gratitude, but if we had felt the need to ceremonially thank everyone for their service in 1948, we’d never have done anything else with our time. In 2017, there are many more jobs for courtiers than for soldiers, and the virtues earning the highest return are not bravery or toughness but conversational cleverness, skill in social navigation, excellence in bureaucracy, and keenness in finance.

I'd like to be optimistic, but the trends are not good. (But I was around for the 1970s, and the trends were not good then either. We muddled through.)

■ At Reason, Baylen Linnekin reports one small piece of good news: Appeals Court Embraces Free Speech, Rules Skim Milk is ‘Skim Milk'.

The case, Ocheesee Creamery v. Putnam, has its roots in 2012, when Florida's state agriculture department ordered Ocheesee, a small creamery in the state's panhandle, to stop selling its skim milk. The state claimed Ocheesee's skim milk ran afoul of Florida's standard of identity for skim milk, which requires creameries and dairies to add vitamin A to their skim milk.

A glimmer of sanity in an insane world.

Sully

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Clint Eastwood directed, Tom Hanks is Sully, and it's about as good as it could be.

As we all know, back in January 2009, a US Airways flight out of LaGuardia hit a flock of geese as it was ascending, and both engines were lost. Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger kept his head, judged his options and chances, and set the jet down in the Hudson River, just off Manhattan. Thanks to him, the rest of the flight crew, and some quick-thinking rescuers, the fatality count was zero, when it could have been 155. Or more, if the Airbus had crashed somewhere in NYC.

But the entire flight took about five minutes, the rescue took about twenty minutes, how do you make a decent sized movie out of that?

Well, they fudged a bit, turning the subsequent NTSB investigation into more of an Inquisition than it actually was. Playing the primary (and entirely fictitious) heavy is the immortal UNH grad, Mike O'Malley, and he seems (at least for most of the movie) to want to argue that Sully could have made a safer return to LaGuardia, or made it to Teterboro NJ. Spoiler: given the time involved in diagnosis and alternative-weighing, probably not. Sully is vindicated, as also we already know.

Still: Tom Hanks does his usual fine job of getting into his character's skin. Everybody else is good too. It's always nice to see Valerie Mahaffey, who plays one of the passengers. And the special effects are pretty good, too: you'll swear that they just re-enacted the whole thing for the movie.

URLs du Jour

2017-03-25

■ Proverbs 28:19 rates an A+ on relevance and accuracy:

Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty.

In related news: Venezuela Food Shortages See Nearly 75 Per Cent Of People Lose Average Of 19 Pounds

Venezuela’s economic crisis has sent many people into poverty — and some have seen dramatic physical effects on their bodies.

An annual survey reported last week on Venezuelan living conditions found nearly 75 per cent of respondents lost an average of 19 pounds unintentionally in the past year.

There seems to be an autoplay video at the link, and it appears that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has not been losing any weight.

■ Jonah Goldberg's G-File is online, and he reports on his Close Encounters with a ‘Living Constitution’.

The unifying theme here is what has been the central premise of progressivism for the last 100 years: It’s about power (See: Progressives & Power). When the Living Constitution yields the desired ends of progressives, the Living Constitution is a vital means. When the Living Constitution is inconvenient to those ends, we must bow down to the immutable and unchanging authority of super, super-duper, and supercalifragilisticexpialidocious precedents.

Jonah also refers to the late Joe Sobran's observation: "When people appear to apply a double standard, it means they are actually applying a hidden single standard — one they don’t want to admit."

■ Kevin D. Williamson makes The Case for Petty Partisanship. He offers a number of ways the ostensibly-in-control Republicans can and should defund the left. Example:

Congress should also adopt a general prohibition on distributing federal settlement funds to nonprofit organizations. Billions of dollars in federal settlements have been directed to “non-victim entities” such as the Urban League and La Raza, which are fundamentally political organizations. If Republicans cannot bring themselves to act out of prudence and principle, then they at least ought to have a sense of self-preservation sufficient to stop funding campaigns against themselves.

KDW's suggestions make so much sense that it's difficult to believe the GOP will take them.

■ I bet you're wondering why the GOP's Obamacare Repeal Bill is dead. Well, Peter Suderman of Reason is here to tell you: The GOP’s Obamacare Repeal Bill Is Dead Because Trump Doesn’t Understand How Health Policy Works.

The bill Trump backed made no attempt to balance either the policy or political interests of the legislators, influence groups, or stakeholders involved. Trump spent the week negotiating changes to the bill, but because he neither cared nor understood what was in it, and what lawmakers wanted from the bill, he couldn't act as an effective negotiator. A handful of last minute updates to the bill intended to pick up holdout votes backfired: One reduced the bill's projected deficit reduction, while another was so imprecisely drafted that it ran the risk of killing the individual insurance market entirely, while leaving the federal government in control of the regulations it was supposedly devolving to states.

Yes, Trump not was ignorant on policy and politics. But let's not forget that he also lacks guiding principles, like a devotion to personal liberty or free markets.

■ And your Tweet du Jour:


Last Modified 2017-03-27 4:45 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-03-24

■ Proverbs 28:18 has some bad news for our politicians:

The one whose walk is blameless is kept safe, but the one whose ways are perverse will fall into the pit.

"Giant sinkhole swallows most of Washington DC. God blamed. Film at 11."

■ Don Boudreaux's Quotation of the Day at Cafe Hayek was (for yesterday) a quote from Hayek himself, on the 25th anniversary of his death. Comments Don:

Hayek’s great lesson is that each of us, individually, can know only an infinitesimally small amount of the knowledge the full use of which is required for any great and prosperous civilization to exist – but that, when we engage with each other under the laws of private property, contract, and tort (what Hayek called “the rules of just conduct”), each of us is led by this engagement to combine his or her speck of knowledge with the specks of knowledge of countless others in a way that causes this use of these dispersed bits of knowledge to produce and sustain a great and prosperous civilization.

Which reminds me: Richard Feynman was asked: if all scientific knowledge were somehow destroyed, and only one sentence could be passed on to the "next generation of creatures", what would it be?

Well, you can click on the link to find out. But if the same question were asked about economic knowledge, I think the quoted sentence above would be a pretty good one.

■ Bryan Caplan writes on Good Manners vs. Political Correctness. He's a foe of "political correctness", as are all decent folk. But:

These days, however, I'm also often appalled by the opponents of political correctness. I'm appalled by their innumeracy. In a vast world, daily "newsworthy" outrages show next to nothing about the severity of a problem. I'm appalled by their self-pity. Political correctness is annoying, but the world is packed with far more serious ills. Most of all, though, I'm appalled by their antinomianism, better known as "trolling." Loudly saying disgusting things you probably don't even believe in order to enrage "Social Justice Warriors" further impedes the search for truth - and makes your targets look decent by comparison.

I'm disappointed and (somewhat) surprised by conservatives who think that it's appropriate to emulate the worst tactics of their opponents.

■ Not that it doesn't sometimes work the other way. Katherine Timpf reports on the progressive doin's at Gustavus Adolphus College: College ‘Diversity Council’ Admits to Posting Fake Racist Flyers On Campus. The College Fix has a Facebook post with an example:

Ms. Timpf comments:

Hey, kids? If you want to “help put an end to bias-related incidents that happen on our campus,” how about you address those incidents instead of distracting from them by making up a fake one? Seriously — just what is bringing awareness to a fake issue going to solve? It’s not going to help solve that issue, because — and sorry if I’m blowing your mind here — a problem has to actually exist in order for you to be able to solve it.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has a slightly different take: Torn down ‘Report Illegal Aliens’ posters at Gustavus Adolphus College turn out to be art installation criticizing anti-immigrant attitudes

The posters deployed by activists at Gustavus Adolphus aren’t imaginary or far-fetched; they’re duplicates of earnest posters being propagated at campuses across the country. Similar posters — which, unlike the Gustavus Adolphus posters, included the address of a white supremacist website — were recently removed by police at the University of Maryland. Others have been found at George Washington University.

FIRE goes on to note (however) the irony of Gustavus Adolphus administrators being pleased that (some) students tore down the signs and reported on the "hate speech" of their fellow students.

Refusal

[Amazon Link]

As we know, the writing of Dick Francis novels has been taken over by his son, Felix. In fact, the "official" title of this book is Dick Francis's Refusal, but that seems a little silly to me. It might seem silly to Felix as well: this title doesn't appear on his book page, at least not as I type. The page otherwise seems definitive. What's the deal?

And, after I was less than thrilled with Felix's previous DF novel Bloodline, I had kind of thought I would stop reading his efforts. But I saw this on the remainder display at Barnes & Noble, and (as you'll notice over there on the Amazon pic) there's a little red toothy circle that says: "Sid Halley RETURNS".

Well, OK. I like Sid a lot. Let's see what Felix does with him.

It turns out Sid is in retirement from his previous job as a racing investigator. He's now married to a molecular biologist, they have an adored six-year-old daughter, and he's making a decent living as an investment advisor. But (of course) that would make a pretty dull book. Out of nowhere, an old friend calls him to investigate some races that exhibited odd betting behavior on the "Tote" (Britspeak for "parimutuel"). Could the races have been fixed, without the notice of racing officials? Sid is reluctant but agrees to check the list his friend provides.

Well, before you can say "watch out, Sid", the friend is dead, an "apparent suicide". And a mysterious phone call threatens Sid unless he writes a note to the racing officials saying "Nope, nothing shady going on as far as I can tell."

Sid soon finds himself up against a very nasty guy, who's not shy about utilizing every nasty tactic in the extortionist's cookbook: kidnapping, dognapping, arson, frameups, physical violence, and more. Could Sid be, at last, outmatched?

Well, no.

URLs du Jour

2017-03-23

■ Proverbs 28:17 has an interesting take on self-punishment:

Anyone tormented by the guilt of murder will seek refuge in the grave; let no one hold them back.

I am not sure how well this squares with the story of King David and Uriah the Hittite.

■ Daniel Payne of the Federalist has perhaps the least shocking news of the past few days: Cosmopolitan Doesn’t Understand How The Constitution Works.

Jill Filipovic’s latest essay at Cosmopolitan is like the Lernaean Hydra: it is almost impossible to know where or how to strike it, given its multi-headed absurdities. Every so often—really, quite often—there comes along a piece of political literature that is almost impossible to wrangle. Conceptually, factually, logically, aesthetically—everything about it is a total mess. This is what Filipovic has written and a number of Cosmo editors inexplicably, indefensibly green-lit.

Ms Filipovic's essay is entitled "9 Reasons Constitutional Originalism Is Bullsh*t", asterisk in the original. As the nice Hispanic lady at the health screening told me about my blood pressure: "Ees not good."

■ Another Gorsuch-related item: the Washington Free Beacon's Chandler Gill is (I hope) well-paid to watch CNN and report on stuff like this: CNN Analyst: Gorsuch ‘Knows so Much More About Everything He’s Being Asked Than the Senators’'

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said Tuesday evening that Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch has a "tremendous advantage" in his confirmation hearing because he "knows so much more about everything he's being asked" than the senators posing him questions.

Well, who can expect senators to know about that Constitutional Law stuff? I mean, it's not as if they took an oath to support and defend… oh, wait a minute.

■ At Reason, A. Barton Hinkle notes that there's no Goldilocks Zone for folks opposed to fiscal sanity: Apparently Tax and Spending Cuts are Either Too Small or Too Big, but Never Just Right. Sample:

The combined budgets of the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, complained one critic in Slate, "total under $300 million, which is less than 0.01 percent of the total federal budget." The Washington Post took this tack as well. When White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said the administration did not want to ask a coal miner or a single mom to pay for programs on the chopping block, the paper's fact-checker retorted with "A Coal Miner's Plight: Paying for Public Broadcasting Is Less Than a Dollar of His Taxes."

Although some cuts are trivial, others are so major that they condemn us to (as previously noted) "a world where the only infrastructure is megacities connected by Fury Roads".

■ Ben Shapiro, writing at NR: To Promise Free Things Is to Lie. A headline that should be posted above every politician's desk, at eye level.

Democratic politics is riven by a central conflict: the conflict between truth and desire. People generally want things; they want government to give them those things. Conservatives aren’t wrong when they say they can’t compete with Santa Claus — it’s far harder to draw voters to your side by telling them they won’t get something than by telling them that they’ll get real estate on the moon.

Shapiro doesn't exempt Trump and the Republicans. In fact, he specifically goes after them. Good for him.

■ Can't get that song out of your head? USA Today has news you can use: Here's how to get that song out of your head.

A  2016 study found pop songs and some classic rock standards often are big culprits. British researchers found instances of Involuntary Musical Imagery — aka earworms — are produced from songs with easy-to-remember melodies, fast tempos and repetition among other characteristics.  The study found three of the most common earworm-inducing songs were by Lady Gaga, but Katy Perry, Queen, KylIe Minogue and yes, Journey, also made the list.

I do not know any Lady Gaga songs. I'm old. For me, it's pretty much the drum solo from "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida", all the time.

■ And this is Pun Salad, so let me try embedding the latest xkcd;

[Color Pattern]

I am also partial to the verse I learned many years ago:

When an eel rushes out,
And he bites off your snout,
That's a Moray

Moan. See you tomorrow.

Zika (and Carsey) Skepticism

I was moved to comment on this Granite Geek post from David Brooks ("No, the other one") of the Concord Monitor: Mistrust of scientists can hinder fight against Zika, says UNH study. I'll expand on my comment here.

Brooks begins:

As a confirmed skeptic, I agree that it’s a good take to not blanket accept the statements of others but to consider them and weigh evidence when it exists. That is not the same thing as saying “I never believe X, period” – that’s a stupidly superficial response.

Excellent attitude. Except then Brooks immediately proceeds to uncritically echo a new study emitted from the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University Near Here.

What do you have to say about that, John Arnold?

Before we look at the study, let's note that the "Carsey School of Public Policy" is hardly an imprimatur of unbiased policy analysis. As we discussed back in November, the school's director, Michael Ettinger, sent (Wikileaked) mail to the Hillary Clinton campaign, offering to "be helpful from my perch" as director, and offered to connect the campaign with the "large population of influential and well-off progressives" in Portsmouth. [I'd speculate Ettinger had his eyes peeled for a plum job in the Hillary Clinton Administration, but such positions turned out to be only available in an alternative-fact universe.]

The Carsey school's benefactor, Marcy Carsey, is a reliably heavy contributor to Democratic Party causes and candidates. As is (to an appropriately smaller dollar figure) one of the study's authors, Lawrence Hamilton. Not that that necessarily means anything with respect to the study itself. But political bias has certainly been known to tilt what researchers, especially in social science, choose to study and the results they expect to get.

Maybe not in this case. But also: maybe.

Now that our skepticism detectors have been calibrated, lets move on to the "new study": The Zika Virus Threat. Subtitle: "How Concerns About Scientists May Undermine Efforts to Combat the Pandemic".

Well, there's another problem right there. A "pandemic" is something pretty dire. And (sure enough) you can find a lot of Google hits claiming that Zika might become a pandemic. They are notably, entirely from 2016. You'll find precious few claiming that Zika was (let alone is) a pandemic. The notable exception is a New England Journal of Medicine article from February 2016 from Drs. Anthony Fauci and David M. Morens of NIH, asserting "pandemic" status for Zika. The Carsey study treats this as definitive, and reflects the current state of affairs. But that's dubious.

Although definitions are fuzzy, the relevant Wikipedia article on Zika deems Zika an epidemic. Which is bad, but not as bad as a pandemic. Even more relevant, in the lead paragraph of the article, these two sentences are adjacent:

In January 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) said the virus was likely to spread throughout most of the Americas by the end of the year. In November 2016 WHO announced the end of the Zika epidemic.

Um. It's difficult to read that and avoid thinking that most of the fear-mongering and heavy breathing about Zika was, at best, overblown. And it doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in pronouncements from "science".

That's not to say there are no reasons to be concerned and vigilant. Obviously it's a good idea to stomp on Zika until its danger to humans is minimized, assuming that's the most efficient use of scarce epidemiological resources. But how much trust can we put in the Carsey study when the headline recycles the panic-inciting yarns from last year as fact?

Moving on, because it gets worse. The Carsey study is entirely based on an October 2016 Granite State Poll, carried out by the UNH Survey Center. Around the same time, the Survey Center was also doing election polls. Their final polling, published two days before the election, contrasted poorly with reality:

  • In the Presidential race, the Survey Center predicted "51% for Clinton, 40% for Trump, 6% for Johnson, 1% for Stein and 2% for other candidates." The actual percentages were 48/47/4/1. They overestimated Hillary's winning margin by 10 percentage points.

  • In the Senate race, the prediction was "52% for [Democrat] Hassan, 47% for [Republican] Ayotte, and 1% for other candidates". Actual percentages: 48/48/4. An overstatement of the winning margin for the Democrat by 5 percentage points.

  • In the Governor's race, the prediction was "55% for [Democrat] Van Ostern, 44% for [Republican] Sununu, and 2% for other candidates" Actual percentages: 47/49/4, Sununu winning. A 13 percentage point miss here.

So there's every reason to take the roughly-contemporaneous polling here with more than a grain of salt.

Let's look at one of the polling questions:

Do you agree or disagree that scientists adjust their findings to get the answers they want? If agree or disagree: Is that strongly or just somewhat?

The results:

Strongly agree 17%
Agree 26%
Neutral/Don't Know 13%
Disagree 20%
Strongly disagree 24%

How did the researchers report this?

Nearly one-half of New Hampshire residents agreed with the statement, “scientists adjust their findings to get the answers they want.” These individuals were significantly less likely to trust the CDC as a source of information about Zika.

"Nearly one-half" is actually 43%. "Adjusted findings", indeed.

I think if I were asked this question, I'd respond something like this:

It's not that simple.

Scientists are human beings, and are therefore subject to bias, both conscious and unconscious. They have strong incentives to be seen as "productive", because that is the pathway to their professional success. There might be some saintly automatons out there that rise above these human failings, but it's a sight less than 100%.

So I would have to be a damn fool to think that these factors cannot sometimes cause some scientists to report "answers" that don't reflect reality and can't be reproduced. In fact, there have been studies done that show this is a huge issue in psychological research.

I'm not sure how that extends to other fields, but I'm relatively certain it does. Nor am I sure what you mean when you say "adjust their findings", but I think it skews what gets published.

I wonder how the Survey Center would pigeonhole that response? Probably as "Agree". Shoot me.

The study further concludes:

These results suggest that the erosion of trust in scientists not only affects highly politicized issues but may also undermine efforts to curb the spread of infectious disease and protect public health.

I'm pretty sure the Carsey researchers mean this to imply that the public should be less skeptical of "scientists". I'd argue that it indicates that scientists should make efforts toward being more trustworthy.

URLs du Jour

2017-03-21

■ What do you have for us today, Proverbs? What's that? 28:16?

A tyrannical ruler practices extortion, but one who hates ill-gotten gain will enjoy a long reign.

Fine by me.

■ For some reason, I was irked by the reported comments of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) at the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on the Gorsuch nomination: Feinstein: Constitution A 'Living Document;' 'Originalism... Very Troubling'. Apparently an accurate quote:

I firmly believe the American Constitution is a living document intended to evolve as our country evolves.

I (on the other hand) firmly believe (like Jonah Goldberg) that the only good Constitution is a dead Constitution. But we know that argument, and we expect DiFi to be on the other side. What really irked me was what she said next:

In 1789, the population of the United States was under four million. Today, we're 325 million and growing. At the time of our founding, African-Americans were enslaved. It was not so long after women had been burned at the stake for witchcraft, and the idea of an automobile, let alone the internet, was unfathomable.

OK, we know about slavery. But burning women at the stake for witchcraft?

The last time that happened in America was… well, never.

And the last American executions for witchcraft were in 1692. To say, as DiFi does, that the Constitution was written "not so long after" this is roughly like saying "Donald Trump became President not so long after the Red Sox traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees."

■ Megan McArdle asks and answers: Does the U.S. Overpay for Health Care? Not Really. And there's a Babe Ruth connection:

As with many political memes, its usefulness to policy wonks is inversely proportional to the weight that its casual proponents place on it. As stated, this meme is true enough: America does have higher health-care costs than anywhere else, and we do indeed have shorter life expectancies than some nations. But of course people are not introducing these facts as a fun bit of trivia, like “Babe Ruth used to wear a cabbage leaf under his baseball cap to keep cool.” What they are actually interested in communicating is the implication that America could switch to a single-payer health-care system and thereby enjoy longer life expectancies at lower cost. And that implication is considerably more dubious.

It's a good article to keep in your mental hip pocket when some tedious lefty trots out this tired meme.

■ Also offering a useful remedy to economic nonsense is (no surprise) Kevin D. Williamson at National Review: The Social Machine.

American factories are one of the wonders of the world, and, in spite of what President Donald Trump, Senator Bernie Sanders, and other lightly informed populists claim, they are humming. U.S. manufacturing output is about 68 percent higher today in real terms (meaning inflation-adjusted terms) than it was before NAFTA was enacted; manufacturing output is about double in real terms what it was in the 1980s and more than three times what it was in the 1950s. As our factories grow more efficient, output per man-hour has grown, too, which is what troubles the populists and demagogues: Our factories employ a much smaller share of the U.S. work force than they once did.

Also Star Trek and Pappy Van Winkle references. And one more quote: "The great sources of friction in our public life right now have to do mainly with a few areas in which abundance has not been allowed to emerge." You know what those are.

■ The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education reports depressing but unsurprising news: In anti-intellectual email, Wellesley profs call engaging with controversial arguments an imposition on students.

While paying lip service to free speech, the email is remarkable in its contempt for free and open dialogue on campus. Asserting that controversial speakers “impose on the liberty of students, staff, and faculty at Wellesley,” the committee members lament the fact that such speakers negatively impact students by forcing them to “invest time and energy in rebutting the speakers’ arguments.”

This was apparently triggered by the appearance of Northwestern University Prof. Laura Kipnis who spoke at Wellesley for their (I am not making this up) "Censorship Awareness Week".

Prof Kipnis's reaction is quoted at the link. Priceless:

“I’m going to go further and say — as someone who’s been teaching for a long time, and wants to see my students able to function in the world post-graduation — that protecting students from the ‘distress’ of someone’s ideas isn’t education, it’s a $67,000 babysitting bill.”

■ Ann Althouse has your word for the day, and that word is "Opsimath". A state I aspire to.

Arrival

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

Let's see… IMDB counts 8 Oscar nominations (including Best Picture), and one win. Amy Adams also got nominated (Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, BAFTA, …) for her performance as Louise, the genius linguist academic. So, yes, it's pretty good.

First Louise is shown as an (apparently) single mom raising a cute kid, only to lose her at a too-young age. But then we move to the real plot: 12 huge alien vessels appearing at random spots around the world, their origin and purpose a mystery. Louise is dragooned by a humane but tough Colonel (Forest Whitaker) to attempt to solve the riddles. She's helped out by Ian (Jeremy Renner), an affable theoretical physicist from Los Alamos.

A little slow at times, but that's OK. No-spoiler advice: pay close attention to everything Louise says (in dialog and voice-over) in the early going, as it will help illuminate things later. And afterward, you might want to check out the IMDB trivia page too, if you miss the joke about the names Ian suggests for their alien contacts.

URLs du Jour

2017-03-20

■ Pun Salad delivers your Proverb du Jour, 28:15:

Like a roaring lion or a charging bear is a wicked ruler over a helpless people.

Our Getty image today: not Donald J. Trump.

■ Trump doesn't resemble a roaring lion or a charging bear, and Kyle Smith at the NYPost argues Trump’s first two months prove he’s anything but a fascist. Because, this little thing called the Constitution. Kyle has a longer memory than your average progressive:

Remember when The New Yorker was running “Our Broken Constitution” (Dec. 9, 2013) and saying, “The compromises, misjudgments and failures of the men in Philadelphia haunt us still today.”? Remember “Let’s Give Up on the Constitution”? (New York Times op-ed, Dec. 30, 2012) and “Let’s Stop Pretending the Constitution is Sacred” (Salon, Jan. 4, 2011)?

Yes, that was back when progressives were cheering for Executive Overreach; the Presidency was in their hands, and they imagined it would be so forever.

■ Peter Suderman at Reason discovers that Republicans Are Trying to Embrace Obamacare’s Ideas Without Embracing Obamacare. And he adds: "It Won't Work."

Suderman looks, specifically, at the Rube Goldberg way the GOP plan tries to backdoor-mandate "coverage". He argues, convincingly, that the result will be worse than the Obamacare status quo, quite a feat.

The core problem for Republicans, and for the House health care bill, is that they are trying to replicate Obamacare's basic structure in a form that is somehow not Obamacare. It is not the same exact plan, but like Obamacare it relies on a system of insurance market subsidies and regulations, along with financial penalties for those who don't stay covered.

Obamacare was already a politically compromised piece of legislation with serious flaws and real uncertainty about its long-term stability. Republicans have decided to use an unstable version of its already-kludgy policy scheme for the individual market as a foundation for their own plan, buying into its essential ideas even as they claim to reject them.

As a geek, I approve Suderman's correct use of "kludgy".

■ Kevin D. Williamson reflects on Daniel Hannan's remarks at the recent "Ideas Summit" put on by the National Review Institute, and says some perceptive things about democracy, populism, and liberty: The Anglo-Americans.

But there was much that was said, honestly and in good faith, that left me increasingly convinced that the current expression of populism — Trump populism, in short — is simply incompatible with a politics based on property rights, individual liberty, and the traditional moral and social order and the hierarchies that sustain it. There is more to conservatism than free trade, but the argument for free trade contains within it practically the whole of conservative economic thinking and a great deal of conservative thinking beyond economics: facing reality, making choices, enduring the consequences, accepting tradeoffs, accepting responsibility. The right to trade is implicit in the right to own (and hence to control) property. A right to trade that exists at the sufferance of the sovereign is not an unalienable right with which we are endowed by our Creator. It is something else, and something less.

KDW's positions (which, 99.9% of the time, I share) are not "on the table" at this time. It's not quite accurate to say they're "unpopular", I think. It's more like they're being resolutely ignored by people who should know better.

■ Your Tweet du Jour:

■ And your Toon du Jour:

A Bad Plan Rots From The Head Down

Specialization and Trade

A Re-introduction to Economics

[Amazon Link]

A little book (in the "physically small" sense) from Arnold Kling, published by Cato. Impeccable credentials, there.

The book sets forth Kling's argument for a new epistemological approach to the field of economics. He calls it a new "framework of interpretation", but potayto, potahto. Either way, it's very similar to the sort of thing ("paradigm shift") Thomas Kuhn described in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions: the old ways of "doing" economics are losing explanatory power, its "expert" predictions are too often off the mark, and there's a general air of musty stagnation around the field. It's as if physicists were still building their research efforts around phlogiston and the luminiferous aether.

Kling proposes starting over with a change in the fundamentals: analysis should begin with the atomic concepts of (guess what) specialization and trade. He argues, convincingly, that without specialization, you don't even have much of an economy. And, indeed, economic history is very much the story of how individuals perform increasingly "special" tasks, none that important in themselves, trading with each other as necessary to generate general prosperity.

Kling's explanation is clear and his enthusiasm is obvious. He proceeds to apply this framework, showing its explanatory power in various areas. His criticisms of alternate frameworks, especially Keynesianism and "MIT"-ism, are compelling. (His chapter titles betray an unfortunate obsession with alliteration, but we'll forgive him that.) There is special emphasis on the 2007-8 financial crisis that "nobody saw coming".

URLs du Jour

2017-03-19

■ Proverbs 28:14 provides advice:

Blessed is the one who always trembles before God, but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble.

This is the New International Version. A number of other translations make that last word "calamity". Don't you prefer that?

■ At NR, Walter Olson finds another example of MSM fake news: Outrage on Wheels.

It made for great copy — irresistibly clickable and compulsively shareable. “Trump’s Budget Would Kill a Program That Feeds 2.4 Million Senior Citizens,” blared Time’s headline. “Trump Proposed Budget Eliminates Funds for Meals on Wheels,” claimed The Hill, in a piece that got 26,000 shares.

But it was false. And it wouldn’t have taken long for reporters to find and provide some needed context to the relationship between federal block grant programs, specifically Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), and the popular Meals on Wheels program.

You might think the MSM would start worrying when the default sensible attitude toward their stories is skepticism-verging-on-disbelief.

■ At the WSJ, Tunku Varadarajan interviews Thomas Sowell: The Education of an American Sage. I especially liked this anecdote, from Mr. Sowell's early years in Harlem, up from dirt-poor North Carolina:

A family friend called Eddie—a boy roughly Mr. Sowell’s age—had taken it upon himself to help the callow little Southerner navigate his new metropolitan minefields. “I was assigned to a junior high school in a really very bad part of Harlem, and Eddie told me, ‘You don’t have to go there. You can ask to be sent to a different school.’ That’s what he’d done. And then I followed him to Stuyvesant”—a selective high school for smart kids. “He led me. If you take Eddie out of my life, there’s virtually no way I could have followed the same path that I did.”

This resonates with me. I'd always been "kinda" good at school, but fate dropped me at Lewis and Clark Junior High School in Omaha for 7th and 8th grades. The school had a high proportion of Jewish kids—I remember being surprised on the first Rosh Hashanah when about 60% of my classmates didn't show up—and it seemed that just about every one of them was smarter than I. That certainly prompted me to up my academic game a few notches. Like Sowell, my path would have been far different otherwise.

■ My LFOD Google Alert was triggered by a wonderful article about the coiner of that hallowed motto by Janice Webster Brown in New Hampshire magazine: John Stark: A Hero for His Time and Ours.

“Live free or die,” our dire ultimatum of a motto, is used so often these days that it’s nearly meaningless. We apply it to everything, with varying degrees of jocularity — no state income tax? Live free or die. Fireworks shops on backroads and liquor stores on highways? Live free or die. Today, the word hero is also tossed around with little regard to its actual meaning. Tom Brady and David Ortiz are New England sports gods, but heroes? Sorry, not even close. Heroism is putting your life on the line for a cause or for the sake of others. Around 200 years ago, when General John Stark wrote “live free or die,” he meant exactly what it said. And he lived his life accordingly.

Janice writes on Granite State history and genealogy at her Cow Hampshire blog, highly recommended.

■ Cold-hearted Virginia Postrel sheds no tears over the Death of the Shoe Salesman, Finally.

Macy’s recently said it would convert more shoe departments to an “open sell” format, where customers serve themselves from stacks of boxes. J.C. Penney is experimenting with the format. It’s the way sales have long worked at stores like DSW and TJX Co.’s Marshall’s and T.J. Maxx.

Bonus—if that's the word—Al Bundy clip at the link. (I never thought that guy was funny. Jay Pritchett is hilarious, though.)

■ At Minding the Campus, John Leo wonders: Crime But No Punishment at Middlebury?

Two weeks have passed since a student mob shouted down visiting lecturer Charles Murray at Middlebury College, injured a professor, and jumped up and down on Murray’s car. But college President Laurie Patton still hasn’t acted to deal with any of the perpetrators. The action necessary was laid out clearly and forcefully by Rod Dreher in the American Conservative: “Middlebury College is on trial now. Its administration will either forthrightly defend liberal democratic norms, or it will capitulate. There is no middle ground. “

I'm not holding my breath. The University Near Here (in cooperation with Durham cops) did a better job with its Super Bowl vandals. But places like Middlebury seem hopeless. I'll let you know if future events prove me wrong, or right.

■ At HeatStreet, Ian Miles Cheong notes: Amy Schumer Blames Trump and the ‘Alt-Right’ for Bad Reviews.

Amy Schumer’s latest foray into comedy, a Netflix standup special titled ‘The Leather Special’, has failed to gain her many new fans, as bored viewers inundated it with thousands of bad reviews. Her fans really hate it, and they’ve been keen to voice their dislike. But Schumer blames those bad reviews on the “alt-right.” She also believes that Trump is out to get her.

For the record (not that it matters):

  1. I watched a couple episodes of Amy Schumer's skit show on Comedy Central, and thought she was funny and talented.
  2. Her politics are regrettable, but if I relentlessly boycotted every celebrity progressive, I'd find my viewing choices severely limited.
  3. I have no special problems with dirty female comedy. For example, I find Iliza Shlesinger's Neflix shows to be perceptive, hilarious, but undeniably filthy.
  4. But I watched the Schumer show mentioned above, and it was amazingly unfunny. I mean, I sat there for an hour without a chuckle or smile.
  5. Well, except for maybe ten minutes or so, because I nodded off a couple times. Because in addition to not being funny, it was also tediously boring.
  6. Readers will know that I'm neither "alt-right" nor a Trumpkin, just a guy who's relatively easy to amuse.

Sorry, Amy. To channel my inner Homer:

■ And finally—you might have wondered if I would ever get around to this—Dan McLaughlin, the Baseball Crank, saith RIP Chuck Berry, The Founding Father of Rock. You will find many obits and tributes to Mr. Berry, but I am pretty sure you will find none with as many YouTube clips of artists covering "Johnny B. Goode". Yes, even Michael J. Fox. Two, in fact.

More MSM News Fakery

Not the most earth-shattering story you'll hear about today, but illustrative.

As part of a "Friends of Ireland" luncheon the other day, President Trump made the following reference:

As we stand together with our Irish friends, I’m reminded of that proverb -- and this is a good one, this is one I like; I’ve heard it for many, many years and I love it -- “Always remember to forget the friends that proved untrue. But never forget to remember those that have stuck by you.” We know that, politically speaking. A lot of us know that, we know it well. (Applause.) It’s a great phrase.

Legions of Trump-hating fact-checkers jumped to their Interweb terminals! And so we started seeing stories like [NBC News] Did Trump’s Irish Proverb Come From a Nigerian Muslim Poet?

But as viewers were quick to point out after Trump's meeting with [Ireland's Minister for Defence Taoiseach Enda] Kenny aired on MSNBC, a Google search for the proverb quickly leads to a longer poem posted online in January 2013 by a Nigerian Muslim bank manager named Albasheer Adam Alhassan.

Trump quoting a Nigerian Muslim as if he were Irish! LOL!

And … this is CNN: Trump's 'Irish proverb' appears to be a Nigerian poem

A few people sleuthing for the proverb online posted links to Alhassan's poem, which includes a similar stanza. His poem is featured on PoemHunter, a website that collects famous poems, as well as verses submitted by users. Alhassan submitted his poem in January 2013.

And even the Washington Post:

Across social media, many pointed out that a poem by Nigerian poet Albashir Adam Alhassan includes a similar stanza.

… and embedded a tweet for "proof":

But wait a minute. Doesn't this just scream "too good to check"?

Exactly. Local researcher Janice Webster Brown (no Trumpkin, she) actually did some research on the quote. And she took issue with (especially) CNN on Facebook:

She snipped out the 1936 occurrence:

I will only quibble with her "CNN is silly" comment. In fact, CNN is lazy, sloppy, and malicious. As are NBC, the Washington Post, and the many others jumping on this yarn with glee.

Even the left-leaning Politifact's skeptical Spidey-sense was triggered, although (predictably) they posed it as a Trump-debunk: Donald Trump's St. Patrick's Day 'Irish proverb' was probably not Irish

During the annual meeting between American and Irish leaders, Trump recited an Irish proverb that he said he’s "heard for many years."

"Always remember to forget the friends that proved untrue, but never forget to remember those that have stuck by you," Trump said.

But the "Irish proverb" might not actually be Irish.

Well… nice try, Politifact. You might expect that Trump might quote an Irish proverb at the Irish-heavy gathering. You might plausibly suspect that Trump thought he was quoting an Irish proverb.

But in fact, (as the linked transcript and the video they provide show) Trump did not claim the proverb was Irish. Politifact was wrong to put "Irish proverb" in quotes they way they did, as if they were quoting something Trump said.

That's the bad news for Politifact. The good news is they go even farther in debunking the "Nigerian Muslim" provenance. They dig out another "poet" claiming the phrase ("JoAnne Tuttle, a Texas woman who included the poem, dated Feb. 9, 2003, in a collection titled Crystal Inspirations: Poems by JoAnne Tuttle").

And they dig out another 1936 source: a "1936 volume of the International Stereotypers' and Electrotypers' Union Journal." (Can't tell whether this is credited to Levi Furbush, or someone else.)

Bottom line: don't trust 'em.

Suggestion for Your Local Conservative Politician

My local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, had an insert this morning advertising health and wellness lectures. One caught my eye, click to embiggen if desired:

[Advancements in Conservative Spine Care]

Just in case any conservative pols you might know are in need of help with their spines, feel free to forward this information to them.

URLs du Jour

2017-03-17

■ Proverbs 28:13:

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

I regret to inform the Proverbalist that this is no longer applicable:

When Lois Lerner, who headed the tax-exempt division of the IRS, was subpoenaed to appear before congress to explain her agency’s targeting, she exercised her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. She eventually resigned, with the Obama Justice Department exonerating her of any criminal wrongdoing.

Lerner is retired and drawing a comfortable federal pension.

■ My Google Alert for LFOD turned up an article from a site called "Romper" ("a site for a new generation of women figuring out what motherhood means for us". Bold in original.): A Girl Scout Is Trying To End Child Marriage In Her State, But GOP Reps Voted Against Her. Oh no!

Apparently, the motto "Live free or die" doesn't apply to child brides. When Cassandra Levesque, a New Hampshire Girl Scout, learned that child marriage is perfectly legal in her state, she worked to create legislation to change the legal age for marriage to 18. The current law allows for boys to marry at age 14, and girls at 13, provided they have permission from their parents and a judge. Last week, Levesque and her parents watched as state legislators debated, and ultimately rejected her bill. The representatives voted 179 to 168 to indefinitely postpone an actual vote on the bill, meaning it's now "effectively killed for two years," as Democratic Rep. Jackie Cilley, the bill's sponsor, told the Concord Monitor.

I don't have a strong opinion on this, but it would seem that a strict application of LFOD would work the opposite way from the article's implication. But I am not a Girl Scout.

■ At NR, Kevin D. Williamson notes a strange reversal in party philosophy since the 1980s (when KDW "was a Republican for about ten minutes"): Conservatism for Losers. Sample:

In neither party’s case does this recent evolution constitute an improvement: It would be one thing if the Democrats had embraced their inner aristocrats with a decent and forthright spirit of public service rather than their current nastiness and stupidity, or if the newly class-conscious Republicans were proceeding as people who are (as Someone once put it) “poor in spirit,” putting generosity of spirit rather than seething resentment at the center of their new concern for those at the margins of modern life. But that is not the case. The Democrats have become ordinary snobs of a particularly embarrassing variety, and the Republicans have become incontinent rage monkeys, looking for someone — anyone — to blame. They are much more interested in afflicting the comfortable than in comforting the afflicted. But there is another approach to life’s losers, a better one, if only they could remember.

… and conservatives of a Certain Age will immediately recognize the quote that follows.

■ What would President Trump's budget do to American Science? Well, Adam Rogers at Wired is here to tell you, bunkie: Trump’s Budget Would Break American Science, Today and Tomorrow. He notes that budget proposals are never, ever, enacted without change. But:

It’s still worth looking at the budget, though—not as a blueprint for governing but as a map of a government, a philosophy of a state. From that angle it’s a singularly terrifying document, fundamentally nihilistic, that assumes a violent present instead of attempting to build a future of peace, security, and absence of want. By eviscerating federal funding of science, this budget pays for a world where the only infrastructure is megacities connected by Fury Roads.

Ah, don't ever change, Wired. Please continue telling us how the American taxpayer must continue funding studies like "The neural and cognitive correlates of aimed throwing in chimpanzees: a magnetic resonance image and behavioural study on a unique form of social tool use" (aka poop-flinging monkeys). Otherwise researchers in other countries—maybe Russia—might make make vital gains in this area, leading to a primate-shit-throwing gap!

[If you said "WTF are Fury Roads?" to the above quote, go watch this movie.]

■ While not new, this poster seems to be enjoying a resurgence:

At the Federalist, Robert Tracinski points out that it's a pretty good guide: How To Be A ‘Woke’ White Person: Join The Alt-Right.

The first thing that struck me about these rules are that the white people who comply with it most fully are: the resurgent racists of the “alt-right.”

Tracinski points out they're perhaps a little weak on items 3 and 7, but otherwise… scoring 8/10 is pretty good! Keep trying, alt-righters!

Moonglow

[Amazon Link]

Pun Daughter gave me this book for Christmas last. Although my fiction tastes tend to run toward the less serious, I quite enjoyed it. And I'm not alone. Click on the book image to take you to the if-you-buy-it-I-get-a cut Amazon page and you'll see a long list of honors, including the WSJ's Best Novel of the Year. I've only read a couple of other books by the author, Michael Chabon. I think I'll probably track down some more now.

It is (despite appearances, fictional) history of Chabon's maternal grandfather, a story told with heaps of humor, sex, violence, sadness, suspense, and horror. And a deadly Florida python who may have eaten a stray cat. All tied together with masterful punch-you-in-the-face style.

Real life people show up: Alger Hiss, Wild Bill Donovan, and (most notably) Wernher von Braun. The book jumps around in time more than Slaughterhouse-Five, as Grandpa reveals his story to Chabon from the bed where he's suffering from terminal cancer. Additional characters, fully explored, are "my grandmother" and "my mother". But the actual relationships are more complex than that.

I repeat: apparently all fictional, although I had to check reliable sources to make sure. (There's a "this is a work of fiction" disclaimer at the front. A cheeky "Scout's honor" is appended.)

URLs du Jour

2017-03-16

■ Proverbs 28:12:

When the righteous triumph, there is great elation; but when the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding.

Corollary: If people aren't in hiding, then your rulers just aren't wicked enough. Try again.

■ Matt Welch at Reason reports: John McCain Makes Heinously False Charge That Rand Paul ‘is now working for Vladimir Putin’.

What do you call a U.S. senator who opposes the expansion of NATO to include the troubled former Yugoslav republic of Montenegro, a country that survived a (reportedly Russia-backed) coup attempt as recently as last fall? If you're Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), and that colleague is intervention-skeptic Rand Paul, you call him, remarkably, a pawn of Vladimir Putin.

On the Senate floor, no less. I stand by an observation I made over seven years ago on this very blog: "McCain's a jerk. Yes, he's a hero, and admirable in many ways. And I'll probably be voting for him, with one hand holding my nose, in November. But still: he's a jerk."

■ At NR, David French notices: The New York Times Publishes a Bizarre Story About Neil Gorsuch.

The New York Times headline is enticing and perhaps even a little bit ominous — “Neil Gorsuch Has Web of Ties to Secretive Billionaire.” It conjures up images of backroom deals, favor-trading, and shadowy, rich figures manipulating the law from oak-panelled rooms. Is the esteemed Judge Gorsuch a mere puppet? Who’s the puppeteer?

Answer: Philip Anschutz. Who's actually pretty well known, and Gorsuch's "web of ties" is pretty much that he used to do lawyer stuff for Anschutz, like lawyers do.

Entertaining is French's imagined NYT coverage if Gorsuch and Anschutz were "progressive":

Here’s a suggested headline: ”Friendships Formed in Court; A Humble Billionaire Bonds With His Brilliant Lawyer.” Or, how about this: “A Progressive and His Mentor: How a Case Forged a Relationship.”

Don't ever change, New York Times.

■ David Harsanyi does something I really dislike in his column: Chuck Schumer’s Attacks On Neil Gorsuch Are Un-American.

[…] Schumer trotted out a bunch of sad cases that supposedly illustrated the heartlessness at the core of Gorsuch’s ideology. “Judge Gorsuch’s decisions had negative real-life implications for working Americans,” tweeted Schumer. “When the chips are down, Judge #Gorsuch rules for the powerful few over everyday Americans trying to get a fair shake,” Schumer says.

No, that's not what I dislike. Harsanyi's totally right to point this out, debunk it, and to expose Schumer's argument as antithetical to Constitutional principles of an unpoliticized judiciary.

What I don't like is this:

It’s up to communities and government to show empathy. It’s the job of judges to rule on law. Schumer is arguing that the impartiality of the courts should be ceded to the identity of the participants. That’s un-American.

"Un-American" … Well, America is large, and contains multitudes. Including, unfortunately, lots of people who feel exactly the same way as Schumer. Argue with them, fine. Call them un-American? Not so much.

■ George F. Will encourages us to Abolish the National Endowment for the Arts. Sample:

Government breeds advocacy groups that lobby it to do what it wants to do anyway — expand what it is doing. The myriad entities with financial interests in preserving the NEA cloyingly call themselves the “arts community,” a clever branding that other grasping factions should emulate, e.g., the “military-industrial community.” The “arts community” has its pitter-patter down pat. The rhetorical cotton candy — sugary, jargon-clotted arts gush — asserts that the arts nurture “civically valuable dispositions” and a sense of “community and connectedness.” And, of course, “diversity” and “self-esteem.” Americans supposedly suffer from a scarcity of both.

GFW calls the fight to defund the NEA doomed to "certain futility". We'll see. Because…

■ The NYT reports: Trump Proposes Eliminating the Arts and Humanities Endowments. Yay! Or, put on a frowny face and cue the ominous music for the lead paragraph:

A deep fear came to pass for many artists, museums, and cultural organizations nationwide early Thursday morning when President Trump, in his first federal budget plan, proposed eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Not just a fear! A deep fear. Of what? Arbitrary arrests? Mobs bearing pitchforks? Laws against pretentious crap?

Nope, just deceased funding.

Also <metaphor class="tired">on the chopping block</metaphor>: the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Three items on every libertarian's short list of Things That Should Just Go Away.


Last Modified 2017-03-16 10:34 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-03-15

■ Proverbs 28:11 goes after the 1 percent:

The rich are wise in their own eyes; one who is poor and discerning sees how deluded they are.

… centuries later, they're making movies and sitcoms on that very premise. Good job, Proverbs!

And that verse is also kind of relevant to our first item…

■ An unexpected site (Brookings) notes where free speech is most often under attack: Illiberal arts colleges: Pay more, get less (free speech).

We have crunched some numbers using data gathered by the non-partisan Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and found that the schools where students have attempted disinvite speakers are substantially wealthier and more expensive than average. Since 2014, there have been attempts at some 90 colleges to disinvite speakers, mostly conservatives. The average enrollee at a college where students have attempted to restrict free speech comes from a family with an annual income $32,000 higher than that of the average student in America.

An accompanying graph does a pretty good job of illustrating the issue. Not only are certain schools (like, ahem, Middlebury) catering to the upper crust, those are the places more likely to suppress conservative speech.

■ George Leef at NR has a good idea: How about Facts Rather Than Emotion in the Campus Concealed-Carry Debate? As we've noted, a lot of college campuses ban firearms altogether for their students and (ahem) employees, including the University Near Here. But anyone else can carry according to the laws of the locality; the most the school can do is "politely ask them to leave." So should colleges just give up this stupid idea?

The “progressives” instantly say “No!” because firearms are bad things that ought to be owned only by government officials. And on college campuses, the opponents of firearms say that if students are allowed to carry them, the result will be professors afraid to bring up controversial topics for fear that some gun-toting student will get angry and start shooting.

Note that Colorado has repealed that exception for its schools, and the predicted bloodbath in that state hasn't occurred. Why, its almost as if "progressives" are engaged in baseless fear-mongering!

■ The wonderful Virginia Postrel has some wonderful advice for the Feds: Don't Just Roll Back Back Fuel Standards. End Them.

Fighting over the right level for fuel-economy mandates obscures the fundamental problem, however. The CAFE standards are lousy environmental policy. Instead of targeting the real issue -- burning less gasoline -- the mandates meddle in corporate strategy, impose enormous hidden costs, and encourage drivers to hang on to their old gas guzzlers. Republicans should scrap the standards altogether while they control the White House and Congress. The CAFE rules are a terrible way to achieve either fuel savings or lower carbon emissions.

Of course, letting consumers decide for themselves on tradeoffs between fuel economy and other factors is anathema to statists.

■ Megan McArdle offers some pretty good advice to GOP pols: Best Health-Care Plan for Republicans? Wait.

Republicans will have to do something eventually, but they will be in a better position to do that something if they wait. If the exchanges survive, they will have time to come up with a plan and sell it to the public. If they don’t survive, then Republicans will be in an even better position, because they will no longer be contending with loss aversion. People hate losing anything they already have. Most interest groups are organized to make darned sure they never lose an existing benefit. Once the exchanges have collapsed, and you are no longer taking something away from people, you have a lot more freedom to design alternatives.

They'll take some political heat for this, but we could wind up with something better than their current proposal.

■ At Reason J. D. Tuccille wonders at the mutual animosity of Clinton/Trump voters, and prescribes a chill pill for both: If Gary Johnson Voters Can Tolerate Clinton and Trump Supporters, The Two Groups Can Live With Each Other.

But remember, just months ago, Americans agreed that [Clinton and Trump] were both crappy and distasteful. That really doesn't give the people who chose either major party candidate the moral authority to bash backers of the other. Meanwhile, those of us who voted for other candidates who we actually found to be decent human beings have made our peace with the election outcome. We may not be happy with the results of the final tally, but we're not going to shun those who were so foolish as to vote for Trump or Clinton—even though our political choices were vastly better than the ones they made.

As a Johnson voter myself, I say: right on, J. D.

■ For aficionados of understated humor: My wife and I visit IKEA again and I try to figure out why.

I want his wife's t-shirt.

URLs du Jour

π Day 2017

■ Does Proverbs 28:10 provide any good advice on enduring a March Nor'easter?

Whoever leads the upright along an evil path will fall into their own trap, but the blameless will receive a good inheritance.

Not really. But later today, lo, I shall be "leading" my snowblower along the "evil path" of the Pun Salad Manor driveway, dealing with the massive piles at the street end, a "good inheritance" left to "blameless" me from the town plow.

■ Yes, it's π Day as well. Rhett Allain of Wired brings his π-love by urging: Let's Calculate Pi on a Raspberry Pi to Celebrate Pi Day. I admire the hardware hack, the Raspberry Pi running a Monte Carlo simulation in Python for the calculation, results displayed in real time, everything mounted on a poster board for easy demo.

■ But wait! There's more! Rhett also demonstrates a π calculation with a different simulation, a random walk. (He doesn't derive the formula he uses, but Wolfram MathWorld does, if you're interested.

Note: geeky as they are, what both examples show is: Monte Carlo methods are a lousy way to estimate π. They take a long time to get not very precise estimates.

■ Ah, but at least they do better than the Bible, right? "Everybody knows" the Bible says π is 3. Stupid Judeo-Christians!

Ah, but wait a minute. Elizabeth Stapel at Purplemath runs the numbers, and comes to the surprising conclusion: "Perhaps those Phoenicians were fairly accurate after all."

(Actually, these days, pages that debunk the Bible-says-π-is-3 meme are easier to find than the original bunkers.)

■ Can you bear one more DST URL? Too bad, here's one anyway: Andrew Heaton at Reason writes on Why We Have Daylight Saving Time and Why We Should Scrap It. He's a comedian and it shows:

There's a healthy debate about whether places like California should scrap DST and permanently move an hour forward or backwards. Television companies consider darkness their ally, and know that the earlier the sun sets the quicker viewers drop irritating habits like family picnics or soccer games and return to the vital activity of watching The Big Bang Theory. Conversely, the Chamber of Commerce and its chorus of retailers lust for delayed sunsets, because shoppers will stay out later buying The Big Bang Theory paraphernalia at malls.

I did not previously realize that we are, essentially, innocent timezone bystanders in a lobbying war between Big Media and Big Retail.

■ Good golly, Miss Molly, there is a lot of commentary out there about ObamaCare, TrumpCare, CBO cost estimates, etc.. Where to begin? More importanly, where to stop?

Well, let's start with Daniel J. Mitchell who describes The World’s Most Inefficient Healthcare System, Part I: Created by Government, Financed by Government. Problem One:

For all intents and purposes, instead of buying healthcare with their own money, [American consumers] use other people’s money, a phenomenon known as third-party payer. And because most of their health expenses are financed by either government (thanks to Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, etc) or insurance companies (thanks to the tax code’s healthcare exclusion), consumers focus only on quality and don’t care much about cost.

No surprise, but still worth pointing out. Much more at the link, including pictures and graphs.

■ Peter Suderman at Reason (yes, a second Reason link today, pray that I don't give you a third) claims: CBO’s Report on the GOP Obamacare Repeal Bill Offers More Proof That Neither Party Offers Health Care Choices People Want.

Obamacare's individual mandate is forcing millions of people to buy coverage they don't want—but the GOP's replacement plan wouldn't give them desirable insurance options either.

In one sense, this is trivially obvious: what people would find "desirable" is to get topnotch medical care on demand without paying anything whatsoever. And, in actuality, what they settle for is a system that delivers adequate care, and manages to obscure actual costs as much as possible.

Other than that, Suderman correctly indicates the difficult minefield any legislative proposal must navigate. (Sorry for the tired metaphor.)

URLs du Jour

2017-03-13

■ Proverbs 28:9 would have been a good motto for the Hillary Clinton campaign:

If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction, even their prayers are detestable.

Or, as Hillary would have said, deplorable.

■ Everyone survive the switch to Daylight Saving Time? I'm still waiting for my Atomix Digital Wall Clock to pick up the signal from Fort Collins, CO. But if you're still a little bleary-eyed from the disruption, you'll be happy to know that you're also at risk to yourself and others. Because Bloomberg writer Ben Steverman has Proof Daylight Saving Time Is Dumb, Dangerous, and Costly.

If you hate daylight saving time and all the confusion and sleep deprivation it brings, you now have solid data on your side. A wave of new research is bolstering arguments against changing our clocks twice a year.

The Science, as they say, is Settled.

■ Kevin D. Williamson writes on Word Games.

Every few years, a word or bit of terminology comes along and captures the political imagination. During the George W. Bush years, the magic word was “neocon.” For years, it was used as a term of abuse by the Left; later, it was adopted as a term of abuse by some elements of the Right. What they had in common is that neither camp had the faintest idea of what the word meant.

And now, the "the new favorite conservative bugbear" is the "Deep State". Kevin traces its journey from the political fringes (surprisingly, of both Left and Right) to its usage today: "a nice, vague enemy that can be blamed for practically anything."

Plus, there's a quick nod to James George Frazer’s The Golden Bough, which made me glad I read it.

If someone wanted to update Orwell's essay "Politics and the English Language" to modern America, KDW would be the guy to do it.

Muslim Travel Ban? Michael P. Ramirez comments pictorially:

Muslim travel ban lesson

Ramirez has a point. (You may have to click to get the whole picture.) I'm not a fan of the "Muslim Travel Ban", but calling it that is, at best, a signal that you've adopted the language of its its more unhinged critics.

■ Your Tweet du Jour:

Explanation (if necessary) here and here.

URLs du Jour

2017-03-12

■ Proverbs 28:8 ventures into the realm of economics:

Whoever increases wealth by taking interest or profit from the poor amasses it for another, who will be kind to the poor.

If I fuzz up my eyes a bit, I can almost turn this into something more or less true:

Whoever does business with the poor benefits both himself and the poor, despite what you frickin' Commies think.

Today's Getty image is one example of that. Maybe I should start work on the Pun Salad Translation of the Bible.

■ I don't consider myself a Bleeding Heart Libertarian, but Roderick Long is one, and he makes a good point here: Stop Banning Muslims, Stop Banning Guns.

The debate over President Trump’s travel ban and the debate over gun control look surprisingly similar – except for who’s on which side.

Pun Salad Truth-O-Meter: True.

Now (before you say anything) I know that they're separate issues, one involving a Constitutional right, the other not, etc.

That aside: (1) both are marketed by fear-mongering demagoguery (poison Skittles, anyone?) And (2) both Trump's ban and gun-grabbing proposals are largely "do-something" symbolism which don't do much if anything to curb actual problems. And (3) opponents fear that the proposals are merely foot-in-the-door, nose-in-the-tent, frog-in-hot-water, slippery-slopes bound to lead to something drastically worse down the road.

But that may be just a specific instance of a more worrisome trend: this is how we argue about political issues these days, because it "works".

■ My LFOD Google Alert was set off by some good news: New Hampshire Exempts Bitcoin from Money Transmitter Regulation.

New Hampshire is known as the ‘Live Free or Die’ state. Living up to its nickname, the state house passed House Bill 436 early Wednesday morning. The bill exempts virtual currencies like bitcoin from costly money transmitter regulations and could pave the way for Bitcoin businesses to flock to New Hampshire.

With all the bathroom-bill hoopla (which also generated its share of LFOD Alerts), I'd missed this. The article has an amusing second paragraph:

“Listening to twenty politicians debate an esoteric issue is fantastically entertaining,” Jeremy Kauffman, who served as New Hampshire’s governor-appointed advisor for the virtual currency bill, tells Bitcoin.com. “At one point in committee, there was a fifteen-minute debate as to whether or not a previous bill [pertaining to virtual currency] would have regulated Beanie Baby trading, and whether or not such trading should be regulated even if it did.”

Not that it matters, but my kids are sitting on a horde of Beanie Babies acquired in their youth, in hopes they will fetch ludicrous prices in 2050 or so.

■ The print version of Reason had a fine interview with Simon Tam, and now it's available online. Tam plays bass for The Slants: The Band Who Must Not Be Named.

Simon Tam didn't think it would be a big deal when he applied for trademark protection on the name of his band, The Slants. It was 2011, and the band—a dance-rock group whose members are all Asian-American—had been getting some buzz. A lawyer buddy told Tam he'd do the application, saying the process would take a couple hundred bucks and six months, tops.

But—you probably saw this coming—it didn't work out that way. The article is yet another example of a large government bureaucracy acting arbitrarily and unconstitutionally. The matter is now before the Supreme Court.

Worth linking is the (PDF) Supreme Court brief filed in support of Tam and The Slants: BRIEF OF THE CATO INSTITUTE AND A BASKET OF DEPLORABLE PEOPLE AND ORGANIZATIONS AS AMICI CURIAE SUPPORTING RESPONDENT. I detect the deft hand of P.J. O'Rourke within; it's almost certainly the funniest legal brief you will read today.

[Amazon Link] ■ A plug for Michael J. Knowles' Reasons To Vote For Democrats: A Comprehensive Guide, available at Amazon. And, as I type, their number one best selling book.

Consumer note: if you haven't got the idea from the title, there's a "Look Inside" feature you might want to explore before buying. And the reviews are kind of a hoot ("I can't wait for its release on Audible!")

■ Sensible parents of smart high-schoolers should probably scratch Wellesley off their shortlists: Anti-rape activists ‘shut down’ female professor who decried ‘sexual paranoia’ on campus.

Nearly two years after she beat a Title IX investigation stemming from her essay on “sexual paranoia” on campus, Northwestern University Prof. Laura Kipnis got a rude welcome to Wellesley College.

Specifically, the "welcome" was in the form of a video titled “Shutting Down Bullshit with SAAFE” [Sexual Assault Awareness For Everyone]. a Wellesley student group proactively yammering about Prof. Kipnis, who gave a talk last week as part of the college's "Censorship Awareness Week." (Video at the link, if your tastes run to potty-mouthed smug female undergrads.)

And what better response to "Censorship Awareness Week" than a video about "Shutting Down" ideas you don't happen to agree with?

That said, Professor Kipnis apparently gave her talk (despite the College Fix headline implying otherwise), and nobody required hospitalization afterward. Pun Salad's suggestion for Wellesley's new motto: "We want you to shut up, but probably won't resort to mob violence."


Last Modified 2017-03-12 10:48 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-03-11

■ Proverbs 28:7 is a good one for dads to keep in reserve:

A discerning son heeds instruction, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father.

"You know, son, I've noticed you tend to hang out with some real porkers."

■ In moments of quiet reflection, perhaps on peaceful forest walks, you've no doubt wondered: "Is Chelsea Clinton the Great Democratic Hope?" Fortunately, Jim (Indispensible) Geraghty has the answer (and you can go back to wondering about more sensible things): Chelsea Clinton Is Not the Great Democratic Hope.

Chelsea Clinton is not fascinating. But the repeated insistence that Chelsea Clinton is fascinating . . . is actually rather fascinating. It’s like a giant social experiment, in which everyone who has spent decades building connections to the Clinton political dynasty attempts to make the world see the president’s daughter as someone she isn’t.

Chelsea's history is replete with jobs for which she's had no obvious qualifications and unwarranted (but fawning) media attention; as J(I)G notes, "she’s the living embodiment of inherited privilege."

Ann Althouse has a perfectly perceptive reaction to Nate Silver's recent article on the "liberal media bubble".

(The point he's making is so ridiculously obvious that the length and seriousness of this piece is evidence of the pathetic dilapidation of the press.)

After that, if you want to read Silver's article … well, go ahead.

■ My LFOD Google Alert fired on a story in the student newspaper of the University Near Here: University continues to prohibit firearms on campus

New Hampshire has long prided itself on its state motto, “Live free or die,” due to its intent to allow its citizens to live responsibly apart from government interference. And though the freedom to carry a concealed pistol or revolver without a permit has recently been added to the list of freedoms New Hampshire maintains, the University of New Hampshire’s policy of prohibiting firearms on campus remains unchanged.

The story is … remarkably even-handed! Both Republican and Democrat students are quoted. My local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, usually doesn't do that well.

■ You may not have heard the news: Stunning close-up of Saturn’s moon, Pan, reveals a space empanada.

Picture at the link. As near as I can tell, nobody has yet accused Saturn of cultural appropriation for inauthentic display of a Mexican food item. If that happens, they can always start calling it a "space ravioli", which it also resembles, and the Italians don't seem to get as upset about the cultural appropriation thing.

Darn it, now I'm hungry.

■ VA Viper has a fine collection (from last year) of pictures, videos, and other links related to Daylight Saving Time. As I get older, I find DST ever more an abomination. And my overall position remains unchanged: we should erect a wall of separation between time and state.

Tweeting to Jeanne Shaheen

A recent tweet-reply to my state's senior US Senator, Jeanne Shaheen:

Background: one of the provisions of the GOP's repeal-and-replace legislation allows insurers to charge premiums to old people up to five times greater than those charged to young people.

The AARP, demagogic as always, caught on this proposal and slapped the #AgeTax hashtag on it, and off we went. Senator Jeanne is more than happy to go along.

Note that the current Obamacare price controls allow a factor-of-three age-based premium difference. So despite all the heavy breathing, we're really talking about a factor-of-three vs. a factor-of-five. [Added: I should perhaps make it clear that neither regulation is an appropriate the state to make; we're simply talking degrees of hideous road-to-serfdom meddling.]

This Daily Signal article has more info. Key para:

The more accurate characterization is that the Obamacare rating provision “taxes” younger adults by making their premiums more expensive than they need to be, and “subsidizes” older adults by making their premiums cheaper than they should be. Thus, undoing that provision would simply remove a tax on young people and end an artificial (hidden) subsidy to older individuals.

That was the point of my tweet, so far ignored by Senator Jeanne. As I've noted previously about my Congresswoman's Twitter account, Jeanne's also seems to be all-talk, no-listen, never-respond.


Last Modified 2017-03-10 8:37 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2017-03-10

■ Once again, Proverbs gives us stark contrast. Here's 28:6:

Better the poor whose walk is blameless than the rich whose ways are perverse.

And for those of us (a) not poor; (b) not that rich; (c) not blameless; but (d) not really that perverse (honest)… the Proverbialist offers little wisdom.

It almost goes without saying that "the poor" in 21st century America are richer than "the rich" in 8th century BCE Israel. That kind of muddies the Proverbial waters as well.

■ Megan McArdle continues to write utterly sensibly about health care: Republicans Should Kill Obamacare or Let It Die. But first she wants to talk about concrete:

Concrete is a marvelous substance. There’s a reason it is the backbone of modern cities, and some much-loved ancient treasures, like Rome’s Pantheon, as well as much-hated eyesores, like Boston’s appalling City Hall or North Korea’s notorious “Hotel of Doom”: It's cheap. It's strong. It's versatile … until it sets. Then you're basically stuck with it.

[Today's Getty image: a view of Boston's appalling City Hall.]

Megan's analogy is well put. Given the huge, brutal, ugly "concrete" of the existing American health care system, doing anything will incur huge costs, political and financial. As will doing nothing, since that concrete is also structurally unsound.

I don't envy the GOP's position, finally being tossed the keys to the American political automobile. But this is what they wanted.

■ At Reason, David Harsanyi offers his analysis: The GOP Repeal Plan Sucks. But Is it Better Than Nothing?

First of all, the preferred free-market plan for health care policy should be no plan whatsoever. The idea that we need a federal top-down strategy to manage a huge chunk of the economy is at the very heart of the problem. We don't need a federal plan for health care. Yet Republicans have allowed liberals to frame the entire health insurance debate in these anti-market terms.

Republicans, as usual, will talk your ear off about how much they love the free market. Right up until it's time to actually write legislation to move in that direction.

■ Also at Reason, Veronique de Rugy chimes in: House Republicans' Obamacare Replacement Plan Is a Disaster. Here's Why.

But at the heart of the Republicans' inability to reform health care is their commitment to this notion that the provision of health insurance is the goal rather than the provision of health care or, more fundamentally, the production of health itself. Though insurance companies love it because it guarantees overinflated profits for their industry, this idea goes a long way toward explaining why the supply of health care remains so expensive.

I think there are better ideas out there, like Rand Paul's, but their chances seem slim.

OK, enough about health care.

■ At NR, Kevin D. Williamson writes on A Misunderstood ‘Diversity’. Specifically, the one vignetted here:

A Houston scene: Three men at a high-end health club, two of them middle-aged, one of them a teenager. The older men wear bespoke button-down shirts with their jeans and high-dollar cowboy boots, while the younger man is still wearing his workout clothes. They switch back and forth easily between English and Spanish. They are talking about the sports they played while in school. The young man says that he recently has taken up Ultimate Frisbee. “Frisbee,” says one older man, the contempt in his voice accentuated by his heavy Mexican accent. “Frisbee is for dogs.”

Kind of heartwarming, but KDW notes that that Houston's robust not-quite-melting pot is something that's been, literally, a couple centuries in the making, and is not easily translatable to Greenwich CT, or even LA, CA.

■ Hey, how about that political polarization today? Pretty striking, isn't it? Well, waitaminnit, bunkie. Jonah Goldberg is here (well, at NR) to tell you Today’s Political Polarization Isn’t as Striking as We Think. The actual division is more political (and I would say "tribal") than ideological, and disagreements are, while bitter, over relatively marginal issues. Jonah's conclusion:

“Polarized” is precisely the kind of “dying metaphor” Orwell had in mind. The country is indeed polarized. But it is more socially and politically divided than it is ideologically. The root of the disagreement has more to do with making sure “our” team has power. What it does with that power is, at best, a secondary consideration.

HeatStreet notes another skirmish in the Grievance Wars: US Academic Accuses England Rugby Fans of Cultural Appropriation for Singing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.

An American academic has criticized those supporters of the England rugby team who sing the 19th century spiritual slave song “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” while watching matches.

Josephine Wright, a professor of music and black studies at the College of Wooster, Ohio, said that she found it “unfortunate” and an example of “cultural appropriation”.

No word on whether any American academics will take offense at "Sweet Caroline" singalongs at Fenway.

URLs du Jour

2017-03-09

■ Proverbs 28:5 compares and contrasts:

Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully.

… but, once again, those of us in between just muddle along.

■ Today's Getty image is from their front page (as I type), which they claim is one of sixteen used to illustrate—and I am not making this up—"Women in Hollywood Fighting the Pay Gap". So there's no possible way I can be accused of sexist objectification here, right? Right?

■ Speaking of sexism, The Science is Settled! Gender Reversed Presidential Debate Reveal Trump’s Allure to Clinton Voters (as reported by Ed Krayewski in Reason).

Two professors, one from INSEAD and one from New York University, put together Her Opponent, a re-enactment of the Trump-Clinton debates with the genders reversed—the Donald Trump role was played by Rachel Whorton and the Hillary Clinton role by Daryl Embry.

The results will shock you! No, honestly, they might. The researchers went into this re-enactment "assuming that the gender inversion would confirm what they'd each suspected watching the real-life debates: that Trump's aggression—his tendency to interrupt and attack—would never be tolerated in a woman, and that Clinton's competence and preparedness would seem even more convincing coming from a man." But they had to admit—and good for them that they were able to admit—that the results didn't demonstrate the sexism they were looking for.

■ At NR, Jonah Goldberg laments The False Prophecy of the Presidential Pivot.

Trump is destroying his presidency one tweet at a time. On Friday morning, Trump reportedly chewed out his senior staff for letting allegations of his campaign’s collusion with Russia distract from his post-speech agenda. By dawn the next morning, his tweets had made the Russia allegations a much bigger story and led to Spicer asking Congress to investigate whether his boss was onto something.

As mentioned yesterday, Trump's best move at this point would be to delegate a Secret Service agent whose sole job would be to wrest the phone from his hand when he goes on Twitter.

■ The pun here is so obvious, I will let you make it on your own:

■ And Mr. Michael P. Ramirez shows (once again) his unique combination of artistic talent, wisdom, and (in this case black) humor.

Obamacare Disaster

URLs du Jour

2017-03-08

■ Proverbs 28:4 has relevance to today's "Day Without a Woman" events closing schools in numerous lefty bastions:

Those who forsake instruction praise the wicked, but those who heed it resist them.

Well, sort of. Note: Our default translation ("New International Version") has "instruction" where most others seem to have "the law" instead.

■ James Freeman has more on that: School’s Out.

Wednesday is looking like another tough day for the anti-Trump resistance. The people who brought you the “Women’s March on Washington” on Donald Trump’s first full day in office have organized tomorrow’s “Day Without a Woman.” It’s intended as a general strike to protest gender oppression. But it seems that the oppressed may be too busy to participate.

If Mrs. Salad goes on strike, I might have to … I don't know, make a pizza or something?

■ There are too many reactions to the GOP's Obamacare replacement plan to list them all, but Megan McArdle seems definitive: The Republican Plan Is Even Worse Than Obamacare. She takes off from where her husband left off yesterday (at Reason): "In general, it's not clear what problems this particular bill would actually solve."

While I loathe couples who quarrel in public, I must point out that it’s actually quite clear what problem this bill solves: the problem of Republican legislators who want to tell their base that they repealed Obamacare, just like they promised. Tada!

My husband is, of course, completely right that it’s not clear what other problems this solves. It will not, for example, make the looming possibility of a "death spiral" in the individual market any less possible, and indeed may make it more likely. Passing this bill would certainly ensure that Republicans will 100 percent own any ensuing death spiral, and will have little luck whining that it was gonna death spiral anyway, because Obamacare. In other words, even if we leave aside any policy effects, this bill will be a disaster for the long-term political fortunes of the Republican Party.

Not that that's necessarily a bad thing. Might leave some room for that party we were talking about the other day, the one committed to free-market principles, the Constitution, individual liberty, … As events are making clear, only a few Republicans are even pretending their party is interested in that any more.

■ At NR, Kevin D. Williamson details The Problem with Investigating Trump:

The Obama administration left us with a poison bouquet, a federal government whose investigatory agencies are thoroughly corrupted, politicized, and untrustworthy. We know for a fact that the Internal Revenue Service, acting after demands from Democratic elected officials, targeted conservative-leaning activist groups for investigation and harassment, and that this harassment was outrageous, including demands that religiously oriented organizations disclose the very contents of their prayers. We know that that Internal Revenue Service illegally and maliciously leaked information about the donors of the National Organization for Marriage, in order to facilitate political and financial retaliation against them. We know that evidence, including e-mails, was destroyed to subvert investigation into this criminal conspiracy, and that congressional Democrats went to extraordinary lengths to protect IRS officials from being punished for their wrongdoing. We know that one of the key figures in that case, Lois Lerner, is enjoying a large federal pension rather than a small federal prison cell.

Hey, how about the investigative press?! Oh, right, the same guys that pooh-poohed and/or ignored all of the above.

■ Are you a White Girl? Well, then, as reported by Jennifer Kabbany at The College Fix, you could use some fashion advice: White Girl, Take Off Your Hoops.

Students of color at Pitzer College have a message for their white peers: Take off your hoop earrings. Literally, that’s their message — spray painted on the school’s free speech wall recently.

Also—I am not making this up—"winged eyeliner, gold name plate necklaces, etc." Because Cultural Appropriation, girl.

■ Not that the University Near Here is totally free of worry on such matters. Ms. Allison Bellucci, Executive Editor of the student newspaper, whitegirlsplains for her readers:

Practicing a culture is cultural appreciation. Adapting a culture to your own is cultural adaptation, taking credit for that culture and in the process denying the people who created it or ignoring them and the meaning of elements in said culture is cultural appropriation.

Got that? That third thing thing is bad, and you shouldn't do it. And maybe that second thing too. Except (as Allison admits) "the lines between cultural appropriation, adaptation and appreciation are blurred, and knowing when a line is crossed can be difficult." Bad news for those not wishing to offend!

But never fear, there are some absolutes. "Blackface is never okay." And "Don’t adapt sacred artifacts or accessories into a costume or outfit." Although I would imagine that rule is relaxed if the sacred objects are associated with Christianity.

Oh, a special word for two months from now: "a sombrero on Cinco de Mayo is a very similar concept." Although probably not a sacred one.

Alison probably picked this stuff up from some class about Victimhood and Grievance, but for those who were taking math or physics instead, she's here to help. No word on whether she's gotten the news about hooped earrings.

■ At Cato, Daniel J. Ikenson is unimpressed with a recent WSJ op-ed by Peter Navarro, Harvard Ph.D. Economist, Trade Warrior.

The analytical errors and the fallacies portrayed as facts in that op-ed are so numerous that it is bewildering how a person with a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University—and a potentially devastating amount of influence within the White House—could so fundamentally misunderstand basic tenets of introductory economics.

So you probably shouldn't read Navarro without Ikenson.

■ And finally, a comment from Michael P. Ramirez on a certain President's unPresidential habit:

Fisagate and the Presidential Twitter feed

Or, as a guy I'm following on Twitter put it:

The Good Dinosaur

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Definitely a minor Pixar effort here. We wisely waited for the DVD to percolate to the top of the Netflix queue.

The plot: you know the massive meteor that (in our reality) hit Earth and caused the extinction of the dinosaurs? Let's postulate it just grazed the atmosphere instead, causing the great lizards to look up briefly, think Huh! What was that?, and go back to their dino-lives.

Millions of years pass, evolution does its thing, and now dinosaurs have invented language, tool-making, and agriculture. But no machinery, they rely on their brute strength to clear their fields, plow the earth, and build rudimentary structures.

Into one such farming family is born Arlo. He's relatively small, clumsy, and cowardly, but loved anyway. It's what dinosaur families do. But Dad's patience is tested when Arlo can't manage to do one simple thing right: kill a pesty "critter" who's been stealing corn from their farm. In the effort to "man up" Arlo, Poppa unthinkingly leads them into a dangerous situation, and before you can say "hey, they're not going to go all Lion King on us, are they?" … yeah, that's exactly what they do.

So Arlo is now small, clumsy, cowardly, and under extreme levels of guilt. This causes him to go off after the "critter", which is (well you can see from the DVD picture over there) is a cave-boy. Yes, evolution has allowed a more-or-less-human species, although they seem to have a lot of canine qualities too: howling, panting, scratching… (The critter eventually gets named "Spot".)

Arlo's critter-bashing quest quickly goes awry, and he finds himself lost, and his only option is an uneasy alliance with Spot. And… well, I'm pretty sure you can figure out the general outlines of the plot from there. It's pretty generic.

Pixar renders the dinosaurs cartoonishly, which is a little surprising. They appear to be made of the same rubbery stuff as their sold-at-WalMart action figures.

But (on the other hand) Pixar has gotten really good at environments and landscapes. Some of the scenery seems photorealistic and breathtaking.

And there are a few indications that there's still brilliant cleverness at Pixar. Arlo and Spot encounter a seemingly-wise-but-actually-confused Styracosaurus named "Pet Collector" who delivers a short but hilarious bit of dialog. (Spoilers in IMDB's "quote" section if you must, but it's almost worth sitting through a lot of the movie's sentimental dreck instead.)

The Upside of Inequality

How Good Intentions Undermine the Middle Class

[Amazon Link]

Another book obtained via UNH Interlibrary Loan, from Brandeis. Surprisingly, I'm not the first borrower! I know, because some previous borrower wrote illegibly in pencil here and there. Might be Spanish? Can't tell.

Anyway, the author, Edward Conard, was Mitt Romney's business partner at Bain Capital. His first book, Unintended Consequences, was published in 2012; there, he discussed what he saw as the underlying causes of the 2008 financial crisis. As he admits, his relationship with Romney gave the book a lot more attention and controversy that it would have otherwise received.

This book seems to be, more or less, a continuation of that debate, covering what has turned out to be a rather lackluster recovery from the Great Recession.

Specifically: although the book's title might lead you to believe that it's mainly about inequality, it's really more about the macroeconomic state of the US; inequality is just one of the manifestations of that, and not (in Conard's mind, and I'm in agreement) a very important one.

The inequality bit is also easiest to dispose of: Conard argues, convincingly, that it's a natural occurrence of today's economy that concentrates on scalable mass services. To the extent that it is a problem, it's caused by two major factors: trade imbalances and low-skilled (legal and illegal) immigration.

Other than that, the book is wide-ranging and not always "conservative". For example, most free-market economists I read aren't that concerned with the US's long-running trade deficits. Conard is; he argues that what we "get back" from other countries as a result is "risk-averse savings" (a phrase he invokes tirelessly), which we neither need or want in such volume. He proposes a statist fix: if someone wants permission to import $X dollars of goods from country Y, they'll need to arrange for Y to buy an equivalent amount of product from US. (Or some other country, Z. These licenses could be traded off.)

He's also in favor of putting the thumb on the immigration scale, getting as many high-skilled immigrants to come to the US as possible. He argues that one of the causes of our current doldrums, a constraint on economic growth, is the lack of "properly trained talent".

The book is marred by Conrad's writing style, which is coma-inducing. (The Commentary review by John Steele Gordon says it's "well-written". Lie! The National Reviewer deemed it "rousing". Wrong!) Example: Amazon's "search inside the book" feature counts 60 occurrences of the phrase (noted above) "properly trained" (usually "properly trained talent" but sometimes "properly trained workers"). This gets tedious around repetition number five or so.

That said, I'm reluctant to judge Conard's arguments and proposals on their merits. He writes authoritatively, but turgidly, and I'm pretty sure I lost the thread a number of points along the way. I won't say I gleaned nothing from the book, but I'm maybe not his audience. (It was a NYT best-seller, so I'm wondering how many of those readers feel the same way.)

URLs du Jour

2017-03-07

■ Will Proverbs continue its relevant streak? C'mon, 28:3:

A ruler who oppresses the poor is like a driving rain that leaves no crops.

I don't think President Trump "oppresses the poor", but the description is otherwise apt, isn't it?

[Today's Getty image: driving rain! Heh, get it?]

■ We turn to Peter Suderman at Reason for his initial take on House Republicans' efforts: The GOP’s Obamacare Repeal Bill Is Here. Is This Just Obamacare Lite?

After months of confusion and secrecy, House Republicans have finally revealed their Obamacare repeal legislation. While it's useful to have House Republicans on the record with a legislative plan, the plan doesn't offer any estimate for how much it would cost, or how many people it would (or wouldn't) cover. In general, it's not clear what problems this particular bill would actually solve.

I trust Suderman when he says: "it's better than nothing. But it's not enough."

■ Suderman's better half, Megan McArdle, pens advice in her Bloomberg column: Attention, Student Protesters: Use Your Words.

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you. Or so we were told by our mothers. But events on both sides of continent in recent weeks seem to belie that old adage. A new generation of protesters has come to the conclusion that words do hurt -- and that therefore, extreme measures, up to and including physical force, are justified to keep them from being spoken.

I would only quibble with the implication that the driving force behind the recent violence is "new". As I've noted previously, it's practically Marcuse 101.

■ Those trying to keep track of the status of the horrible Export-Import Bank should check out Melissa Quinn's article at the Daily Signal: Trump’s Mixed Signals on Export-Import Bank Leave Door Open for Conservatives. Can we finally drive a stake through the heart of this undead institution of corrupt cronyism?

There is just one problem: Trump has sent mixed signals on where he stands on the Export-Import Bank, and though his budget director and advisers oppose the agency, Trump signaled early in his administration he could be swayed.

Translation: Trump operates more on whim than principle. So it's anyone's guess what will happen next.

■ The College Fix reports the sad news: Columbia sorority’s domestic violence fundraiser canned due to ‘insensitivity,’ ‘transphobia’.

Why? Well, the Alpha Chi Omega sorority's event "invited students (including males) 'to wear high heels and traverse college walk, and sends proceeds from the event to charities for survivors of domestic violence in New York.'" And so…

But according to the Columbia Spectator, some criticized the Walk as being too “comedic,” that it “frame[d] the crossing of traditional gender boundaries” as a “spectacle,” and “implie[d] that only women are targets of gender-based violence.”

So, yeah, can't have that. Fortunately, there are no doubt some Alpha Chi Omega sisters who now realize the futility in dealing with True Believers.

■ And finally, horrible news from the European Union: Makers of Blue Wine Thwarted by EU Regulations.

A group of young entrepreneurs from the Basque region of Spain who launched a new kind of blue wine in 2015 is now facing resistance from national and supranational bureaucrats. An anonymous complaint that the Spanish Wine Federation, which represents three-fourths of the country's wine producers, insists it did not file yielded a fine from Spain's agriculture ministry for violating wine regulations. The company that produces the blue wine, Gïk, has relabeled its product and added 1 percent grape must to avoid being considered a "pure wine."

Yeah, I can't parse that last sentence either. But the lesson is clear: once again we are being denied the blue food.

URLs du Jour

2017-03-06

■ Proverbs continues to Speak Truth to Power with 28:2:

When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers, but a ruler with discernment and knowledge maintains order.

Is that last bit likely to happen anytime soon? My Magic 8-Ball says "Outlook not so good".

■ Charles Murray writes at the American Enterprise Institute about his Reflections on the revolution in Middlebury. A poignant moment during Murray's initial attempt to speak:

I stood at the podium. I didn’t make any attempt to speak—no point in it—but I did make eye contact with students. I remember one in particular, from whom I couldn’t look away for a long time. She reminded me of my daughter Anna (Middlebury ’07) — partly physically, but also in her sweet earnestness. She looked at me reproachfully and a little defiantly, her mouth moving in whatever the current chant was. I’m probably projecting, but I imagined her to be a student who wasn’t particularly political but had learned that this guy Murray was truly evil. So she found herself in the unfamiliar position of activist, not really enjoying it, but doing her civic duty.

Thugs won at Middlebury. Murray wonders, as do I, whether this will be disastrous for "American liberal education". And if it is, can America as a whole be far behind?

■ An unexpected take on the issue from Robert Stacy McCain at the American Spectator: From John Lennon to Charles Murray: We All Want to Change the World. Begins:

Permit me to suggest a semester’s worth of work that some college students may wish to undertake: Study the life of John Lennon and, after you finish reading two or three biographies of the famous leader of The Beatles, go read The Bell Curve by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray. When you have completed those assignments, read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. The purpose of this proposed curriculum is to understand how the abandoned son of an English sailor became one of the most influential figures in popular culture during the remarkable decade of the 1960s. What was it about Lennon, or the circumstances of his childhood, that enabled this boy from Liverpool and his friends to conquer the musical world? Ah, but first things first.

You don't even have to be a college student to follow Stacy's suggestions. It would probably help not to be one.

■ Patterico reports: NYT: Comey Trying to Get DoJ to Debunk Trump Wiretap Assertions. Which is not that big a deal in itself, but his comment contains wisdom:

I tend to believe Trump’s assertions are moronic misunderstandings of stuff he saw on the teevee, based on common sense, the lack of reporting to confirm any aspect of Trump’s claims, and a plausible narrative that involves an imbecile rushing to Twitter after seeing a Fox News report. But it’s also impossible to give any credence to stories in the New York Times based wholly on anonymous sources. So we’re back to square one, where we know nothing, meaning partisans on both sides will make confident pronouncements to fill the vacuum. Yay.

I won't hold my breath waiting for unambiguous clarity on this issue, given that Trump, the Democrats, and the MSM are all trying to out-stupid each other.

■ The "fact-checkers" at Politifact are hopeless left-tilted shills. But et tu, Snopes? William A. Jacobsen at Legal Insurrection seems to have a valid gripe: .@Snopes falls short on terrorism conviction of #DayWithoutAWoman co-organizer Rasmea Odeh. Why does that matter?

This matters because Snopes still carries weight among people seeking fact checks.

As of today, the Snopes page Jacobsen references is last-updated March 1, and contains a long quote from one of Odeh's (rabidly anti-Israel) apologists, presented without the debunking points Jacobsen cites. Before you cite Snopes as an unbiased fact-checker, you might first want to check how they proceed on this matter.

■ I don't really know how Twitter works, but I retweeted this:

As I noted on my retweet: Ideological combat pay is due those who pay attention to what @NancyPelosi says.

Nexus

[Amazon Link]

A mind-blowing book about (mostly) blowing minds. (Heh, see what I did there?) The author is Ramez Naam, and I mostly liked his non-fiction book The Infinite Resource a few years back. And this book co-won the 2014 Prometheus Award (given by the Libertarian Futurist Society). It was also on the "shortlist" for the Arthur C. Clarke Award too. Wish I liked it better.

Set in the near future (just a couple decades away, more or less), Nexus postulates, plausibly, that advances in nanotechology, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology have come together in exciting, but also extremely scary, ways. In fact, due to an unfortunate incident where a bunch of (literal) Hitler Youth managed to kill tens of thousands of midwesterners in barely-thwarted bioterror plot, a lot of such innovation has been made illegal by world treaty and Your Federal Government.

That doesn't stop our young hero, Kaden Lane. He and his ragtag team have developed "Nexus 5", a drug/computer that expands one's mental powers to superhuman levels. Instant access to the Internet, of course. But also the ability to take on different personalities and abilities as if they were Halloween costumes. And also direct mind-to-mind linkups with your fellow Nexus-imbibers. And… well, lots more.

Which gets him and his friends in trouble with the Feds, although all they want to do is put on a rave, treating Nexus as kind of super-Ecstasy. The Man, in the form of the beautiful-yet-deadly Samantha infiltrates Kaden's group undercover. (Aided, of course, by some of the same technology.) And in the aftermath, Kaden gets blackmailed/recruited as a spy, using his academic credentials to investigate a mysterious Chinese lady who's apparently up to some nefarious doings in Thailand. What follows is lots of action and violence. (Thanks to biotech, the survivors of each bloodbath are patched up as much as possible to do it all over again in a few dozen more pages.)

Based on its amazing premises, Nexus coulda/shoulda been a great book. But …

It seems absurdly padded. Inside this 500+ page book is a 250-page book screaming to get out.

Page 234: "It was 9pm, halfway into the 8pm to 10pm mixer…" Gee, thanks, for telling us how time and arithmetic work, Ramez. (Note: nothing whatsoever depends on this detail.)

People say/think various forms of the F-word, especially during violence. I got the Kindle version for free (thanks, Amazon Prime) and it counts 147 Fs in the book. Frankly, it seemed like more.

[Added later] Finally, a consumer note: this is volume one of a trilogy, and the ending is pretty much a come-on: "Buy the next book to find out what happens next." After slogging through (again) 500+ pages, that seems a little weak to me.


Last Modified 2017-03-06 6:52 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2017-03-05

■ We jump to a new Proverbs chapter. 28:1 is one you've no doubt heard half of:

The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.

Going with King James here, because frankly it's better than the more recent translations. You gotta say "pursueth".

■ What does America need? At Reason, Robert Zubrin has the answer: America Needs a Liberal Party.

America needs a new political party, one opposed to isolationism, protectionism, nativism, authoritarianism, and ecologism — but which also supports free enterprise, constitutional government, human equality, liberty, dignity, and the defensive alliance of all nations committed to such ideals.

That would be fine. Zubrin's probably right that the best name for such a party would be "liberal". I'd probably vote for that party's candidates.

But the bad news is: I'd be joined by (optimistically) 10% of the voting public.

■ Jonah Goldberg's latest G-File is online, As usual, it rambles. He makes an excellent point about King Kong movies, his dad makes a good (but sadly posthumous) point about color pictures in newspapers, and more. Good observation here:

To the extent that Donald Trump has damaged democratic norms (and he has), his success is attributable to the fact that elites — in journalism, but also in academia and elsewhere — have corrupted those norms to the point where a lot of people see them as convenient tools for only one side in the political and cultural wars of our age.

But (as I shouldn't feel I need to keep saying) RTWT. Why can Jonah emit such a firehose of funny, insightful prose seemingly on demand, and I often have trouble with coming up with a few sentences daily? I dunno.

■ Also at NR, we have Kevin D. Williamson on Fake Hate Crimes. Springing off the recent arrest of a left-wing disgraced journalist for calling in bomb threats against Jewish sites, he recites the string of other similar cases. I'll jump to the conclusion:

The Left, for the moment, cannot seriously compete in the theater of ideas. So rather than play the ball, it’s play the man. Socialism failed, but there is some juice to be had from convincing people who are not especially intellectually engaged and who are led by their emotions more than by their intellect — which is to say, most people — that the people pushing ideas contrary to yours are racists and anti-Semites, that they hate women and homosexuals and Muslims and foreigners, that they could not possibly be correct on the policy questions, because they are moral monsters. This is the ad hominem fallacy elevated, if not quite to a creed, then to a general conception of politics. Hence the hoaxes and lies and nonsense.

Phony hate crimes. Phony hate.

… and he doesn't even mention the actual hate crime perpetrated at Middlebury College recently.

■ At HeatStreet, Jillian Kay Melchior reports: Ohio Bookstore Flips Male-Authored Books, Displaying Them Backwards. It's for Women’s History Month!

Eight of the all-female employees of Loganberry Books went through about 10,000 books, a process that took about two hours. They’ll leave the books turned around for the next two weeks.

Harriett Logan, the owner of the "feminist-leaning bookstore", is quoted: “To give the floor and attention to women, you need to be able to hear them, and if someone else is talking over them, that just doesn’t happen.”

I'm not certain the implied message Ms. Logan is sending is the one she intends. Female authorial voices are so weak—in a all-female-employee, feminist-leaning bookstore, mind you—that "silencing the male voice" is necessary?

■ I've previously noted my love for Frank Sinatra's version of the song "You and Me (We Wanted It All)" by Carole Bayer Sager and Peter Allen. As it turns out, I have company in (ladies and gentlemen) Mr. Rich Little.

Back in the late 1980s, I was coming out of the first of my four marriages and was pretty broken up. My wife and I seemed to have it all—but we came apart anyway. During this period, I listened often to Frank Sinatra’s “You and Me (We Wanted It All),” from his 1980 “Trilogy” album.

OK, I didn't say we liked it for the same reasons; my first and only marriage is pretty solid. But I can see how it might hit someone in Rich's shoes pretty hard. Because, in that song, Frank makes you relate, feel the pain and confusion of guys like Rich.

Or not. You might prefer "Rock Lobster".


Last Modified 2017-03-05 10:17 AM EST

Murray@Middlebury

I've been a fan of Charles Murray's for a few decades now. I think his 1988 book In Pursuit: Of Happiness and Good Government remains one of the best explications of American political philosophy I've read. Everything I've read by him shouts that he's a mensch, albeit a curmudgeonly one, who wishes nothing more or less that all Americans be treated with whatever respect is due them, without regard to race, creed, sex, religion, etc. etc. He thinks seriously and writes honestly about American social trends.

That "writes honestly" bit lands him in a spot of trouble now and then.

So the news this week from Middlebury College, where Murray was invited to speak, was disheartening, but not surprising. And all the more disheartening because it was not surprising.

A group of demonstrators at Middlebury College in Vermont “aggressively confronted” guest speaker Charles Murray and a Middlebury professor Thursday afternoon, a skirmish that turned violent and left the professor injured.

That's the Boston Globe. Note the quote marks around “aggressively confronted”. Why are they there? Nobody is mentioned saying those words. Are they supposed to be sneer quotes? As usual with the Globe, it's hard to figure out.

And the bare facts, even as reported by the Globe show that "aggressively confronted" is a euphemism for "violently attacked". In addition to the injury delivered to Professor Allison Stanger ("One protester pulled Stanger’s hair and injured her neck. She was taken to a hospital, where she was treated and released."):

When Murray finished his speech, he left the building with Stanger and [Middlebury College spokesman Bill] Burger, but was met by a group of protesters who wore bandanas to cover their faces. Burger said he believed they were “outside agitators” who had been barred from the event, rather than Middlebury students.

Flanked by security officers, the three moved toward Burger’s car. By that point, more than 20 demonstrators had gathered.

One threw a stop sign with a heavy concrete base in front of Burger’s car, and several others rocked, pounded, and jumped on the vehicle.

The Globe also passes along a second-hand slur:

The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Murray as a “white nationalist” who believes in the intellectual and moral superiority of white men and advocates for the elimination of welfare and affirmative action.

The SPLC's page about Charles Murray is here, under its "Fighting Hate" category. Of course, pigeonholing Murray as a "white nationalist" is despicable nonsense, and its page is full of lies, mischaracterizations, and context-dropping. Just one obvious point: Murray doesn't call for the "elimination of welfare"; in fact he wrote an entire book advocating that the US adopt a universal basic income plan for all citizens.

But smears from the SPLC are the kind of language that lends cover to the thuggish mob at Middlebury. Hey, they're just "fighting hate", like the SPLC told them to do.

I was moved to tweet to the SPLC, in reply to its bemoaning of bomb threats against Jewish community centers.

I'll be ignored, but …

URLs du Jour

2017-03-03

Proverbs 29:27 might be construed as hate speech in these sensitive times:

The righteous detest the dishonest; the wicked detest the upright.

… and those in the vast middle ground just hope to be left alone.

  • Kevin D. Williamson has had Enough with the ‘Presidential’.

    “Presidential” is an essentially reflexive adjective, i.e., that which is “presidential” is related to the presidency. If “presidential” is meant to describe a way of comporting oneself in public, then we surely must consider that there is not really all that much that our presidents have in common that they do not have in common with other reasonably responsible human beings. They know when to joke and when to be serious, what occasions call for what degree of formality, etc.

    KDW (1) reminds us of the, uh, colorfully diverse personalities of past chief executives; (2) likes Ike; (3) would prefer that "presidential" not come to mean "omnipresent, purporting to be omnipotent or near to it, hysterical, histrionic, messianic"—i.e., like the current guy, or the one immediately past.

  • Veronique de Rugy, a name I probably enjoy typing too much, has a good idea for Trump: Trump Should Expand Audits of Programs That Waste Taxpayers' Funds.

    Cutting regulations is great, but it's just one small part of the battle. The large number of improper payments by government agencies is another area that could use the president's attention, with the worst culprit being the Medicare fee-for-service system. As I have written in the past, the Government Accountability Office estimates that the government makes roughly $137 billion in improper payments per year, a third of which is related to Medicare alone.

    The people at the other end of the $137 billion firehose are obviously interested in keeping the flow going, and they've had some success in that. But this is one area where "waste, fraud, and abuse" could actually be trimmed with some effort by the Executive. Even better, that's the sort of thing the Constitution actually empowers the Executive Branch to do. So, Donald?

  • I think the Sessions-is-a-Russian-spy thing is, objectively, a nothingburger. But it's interesting how the MSM shapes and, as necessary, reshapes its narrative to fit their goals. For example, Patterico discovers DEVASTATING PROOF OF MEDIA BIAS: New York Times Airbrushes Away Democrat’s Embarrassing False Claim Without a Trace. That Democrat would be Senator Claire McCaskill, who claimed (in a 7:06am tweet yesterday) that she had "No call or meeting w/Russian ambassador. Ever."

    … Which claim was dutifully reported in a subsequent NYT story.

    … Which claim also was quickly debunked by numerous sources. Of course, she had met with the Russian ambassador.

    … And around 5:18pm, the NYT quietly memory-holed the whole embarrassing thing from its story.

    Comments Patterico:

    I’m going to say that again, because it’s important. If the New York Times were interested in simply reporting newsworthy material, they would have left in McCaskill’s claim, and reported that she was wrong.

    But, you see, they’re not interested in simply reporting newsworthy material. They have an agenda. This didn’t fit their agenda. So they disappeared it. Without a trace. Without a hint that it had ever been there.

    As Mr. Marvin Gaye observed: "Believe half of what you see, Son, and none of what you read in the New York Times."

  • I remember back in the day when people touted the benefits of race-based college admissions, usually euphemized as "diversity". The students will be "exposed to different viewpoints". Yay!

    Little did they suspect that the differently-viewpointed students might not exactly welcome the effort involved in said exposure. For example at Scripps College: White Students Should Pay Minorities for ‘Emotional Labor’

    Scripps College, a prestigious women’s school outside Los Angeles, is promoting the idea that non-white students must be given monetary compensation for the “emotional labor” of having to deal with so-called microaggressions.

    Campus resident assistants at the school are hanging up two sets of posters titled “Emotional Labor 101”: one for whites, and another for minorities, whom the posters dub as “victims of emotional labor.”

    The poster images are at the link, and they are kind of a hoot. Unless you start musing on the educational quality at Scripps (tuition $50,766.00/year), in which case you might get a tad depressed. And I bet you won't be compensated for that emotional labor.

URLs du Jour

2017-03-02

Proverbs 29:26:

Many seek an audience with a ruler, but it is from the LORD that one gets justice.

This may be Proverbs gently suggesting that I'm wasting my time tweeting at my Congresswoman and my state's Senators. Maybe just pray my ass off instead.

  • A lot of people liked President Trump's address to Congress Tuesday night. But Kevin D. Williamson found it to be Wishful Thinking, Again. His three-word summary: "gross fiscal irresponsibility."

    Populism does not mean putting the American people first. Populism means telling the American people whatever it is they want to hear, even if it is bull and everybody knows it.

    Trump is a populist, and we're in deep fiscal doo-doo.

  • Also unimpressed was Veronique de Rugy, who detected Trump's Economic Illiteracy on Display in Address to Congress.

    Many agree that Donald Trump came across as presidential during last night's speech to a joint session of Congress. He even came across as somewhat coherent. But if being presidential and coherent means raking up more debt, being a nationalist protectionist who believes in destructive "Made in America" and import-bashing policies, and railing against immigrants as if they were responsible for all of the crimes and welfare spending in the country, then it's hard to see any value whatsoever in being presidential and coherent.

    Mister, we could use a man like Calvin Coolidge again.

  • Can you take another one? Try Ryan Bourne (at Cato), who descibes Trump’s Bad Economic Reasoning on Infrastructure. He finds two problems: (1) Trump's invocation of the Interstate Highway System was a poor example, because that was a "one-off". There's little evidence that there are any comparable infrastructure projects on the table today. (2) Holding up “creating millions of new jobs” isn't actually a good thing, if resources and opportunites are diverted from more productive application in the private economy. Good anecdote:

    Upon visiting an Asian country in the 1960s, Milton Friedman is frequently quoted as reacting to the absence of heavy machinery in a canal build by asking why the project was being undertaken by men with shovels. Upon being told it was a “jobs program,” he is said to have remarked: “Oh, I see. I thought you were trying to build a canal. If you really want to create jobs, then by all means give these men spoons, not shovels.”

    Also, you know who else was a big believer in "infrastructure creating jobs".

  • Do you know exactly what Joe Biden does at UPenn? If so, please contact the proper authorities, because No One Knows Exactly What Joe Biden Does at UPenn.

    […] Biden’s spokesperson says he isn’t teaching any classes, and the University itself isn’t sure what his plans are. UPenn spokesperson, Stephen MacCarthy, told the [student] newspaper that administrators weren’t able “to have conversations around [Biden’s] specific role until he left office four weeks ago, so details are still being ironed out.”

    I'm pretty sure he won't be teaching any math courses.


Last Modified 2017-03-02 9:09 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2017-03-01

Happy March, everyone! Also wishing you an appropriately Ashy Wednesday. Here's Proverbs 29:25:

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.

I feel this deserves a counterpoint. One is provided by Han Solo:

Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.

  • I avoided President Trump's speech to Congress. To the extent of panicky fumbling with the TiVo remote to start Sunday's episode of The Walking Dead playback while Trump was speaking in the "Live TV" corner. Close call!

    But I understand the speech was "good", in the sense that no female Congresscritters were groped, everyone kept their shoes on, etc.

    Only a few nay-sayers were appalled by the lack of fiscal sanity typified in Trump's call for "for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history." Take it, Nick Gillespie. Do we need that?

    Please. Defense spending ratcheted up during the Bush years in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the invasion of Afghanistan, and the war in Iraq. It hasn't come close to coming back down. In a nation that has supposedly wound down two of its longest wars and where the principal threat to the homeland is a group of religious extremists who live thousands of miles away (and are, lest we forget, a byproduct of our own failed occupation of the Middle East), we always need more money for defense, right?

    No, we do not.

    Nick also tackles one of my own pet bugaboos, the notion that defense spending is properly measured in "percent of GDP".

    Defense spending isn't something that scales up or down depending on the size of the economy (or even the number of people in the United States), so the idea that any sort of automatic formula makes sense doesn't pass the laugh test. Do our "enemies"—a loose-enough term to cover by ISIS and, say, North Korea, China, Russia, and Mexican immigrants—get smarter or more devious over time? Probably, but why that would require more money instead of more ingenuity on our part is unclear.

    Up in our corner of the US, the New Hampshire and Maine Congressional delegations would probably go along with Trump on this, especially if it saves the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. (Which currently holds the shipyard record for US submarines destroyed.)

  • Another Pun Salad bugaboo is the Export-Import Bank. Tim Carney offers some qualified good news: "Trump compromise could end 'Boeing's Bank' for good".

    [Treasury Secretary] Mnuchin hinted that Trump may transform the Export-Import Bank of the United States — an agency that mostly subsidizes a few large businesses, their foreign (largely state-owned) customers, and some giant Wall Street banks — into an agency that mostly subsidizes U.S. businesses trying to do business overseas.

    Carney notes that this isn't as good as killing Ex-Im. (And that's apparently still on the table.) But Ex-Im's current "crippled" state, where it can't make loans over $10 million, might become the new normal. And that's better than going back to the previous state of affairs, where most of the money went to subsidizing large corporations.

  • And Slashdot provides the headline for one merriment-inducing story: "Congressional Candidate Brianna Wu Claims Moon-Colonizing Companies Could Destroy Cities By Dropping Rocks".

    Apparently the original headline was "Brianna Wu is a Harsh Mistress", a reference to … OK, if you don't get the reference, use the Google, buy the book you find, and read it.

    Ms. Wu's fears were in response to Elon Musk's privately-funded proposal to send two civilians up and around the Moon, using his company's Falcon Heavy booster and Dragon capsule. Her tweets on the issue (some since deleted) are reproduced at the Federalist. Shorn of twitter-flotsam:

    This is being covered as a fun hijink for rich people, but the idea of a private corporation having access to moon should give you pause. The Moon is probably the most tactically valuable military ground for earth. Rocks dropped from there have power of 100s of nuclear bombs

    Now, shorn of the "private corporation" phobia, Ms. Wu's fears are not that silly. After all, sending sizeable objects from the Moon's surface to Earth was pretty much exactly what we managed to do in the Apollo program. And, given that whole conservation of energy thing, projectiles "dropped" from the Moon approach Earth at roughly escape velocity, 7 miles/sec.

    But this is one of those deals where, if your imagined nefarious "private corporation" supervillain has the technology to implement dastardly scheme A, would also be able to carry out more effective, cheaper, and easier (but even more dastardly) schemes B, C, D, …. So Ms Wu is a lunatic. (Get it? Heh.)

    Note that Brianna Wu was also a major "Gamergate" player, on the side of the Social Justice Warriors. Wu is billed as a "transgender activist"; appropriately enough, because Wu was born with the name "John Walker Flynt".

    So maybe I should go back and put quotes around all those "Ms" above? Nah, too lazy.

  • Wu is running for Congress as a Democrat in Massachusetts's 8th congressional district, against incumbent Dem Stephen Lynch. The last Republican to hold that seat was in the 1950s. As appropriate for the home state of Elbridge Gerry, the current map of the 8th district looks like the penguin Opus from Bloom County, wearing a fedora with a flower, wielding a knife with which to attack Boston Harbor.

    Although that could be just me.

  • And finally, a tweet I made in reply to our state's junior Senator:

    A cheap but accurate shot at the ex-Governor on whose watch things got much worse.