URLs du Jour

2017-04-30

■ Proverbs 26:2 continues the simile streak:

Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest.

We'll try to make all our curses deserved. Nothing peskier than a curse flying around.

■ The Washington Free Beacon has the gee-didn't-see-that-coming story of the day: IRS Tax Fraud Prevention Program Costs Taxpayers $18.2 Million, But Doesn’t Work. Among the misfeatures of the "modernization" begun in 2009:

"Despite the recognized need to get the [Return Review Program] in place in a timely manner, the program is still in development, and is now estimated to be completed in 2022," [Citizens Against Government Waste] explains. "The program is also ineffective."

Speaking as a onetime occasional software developer: working for the IRS sounds like paradise. No working code demanded! Or, I'd speculate, expected.

■ I've been reading a lot about how and why people fall into error and fallacy, so this report from Heat Street is not a shocker: Liberals Suffer From Confirmation Bias Even If They Pretend Otherwise.

I would quibble: people who fall prey to confirmation bias are not pretending. That's what bias is all about. Nevertheless, this factoid from the article stuck out:

As New Scientist points out, Seattle, a city that voted 87 percent for Hillary Clinton and stands as one of the most educated in the US, has a polio vaccination rate lower than that of Rwanda, a third-world country ravaged by poverty and lack of education. The city is—as writer Alex Berezow notes—not “terribly fond of biotechnology, rejecting GMOs, and even vaccines.”

The Seattle March for Science site has nothing I can see on such topics.

■ George F. Will sighs: Alas, the Mortgage-Interest Deduction Cannot Be Pried Away

The deductibility of mortgage-interest payments, by which the government will forgo collecting nearly $1 trillion in the next decade, is treated as a categorical imperative graven on the heart of humanity by the finger of God because it is a pleasure enjoyed primarily by the wealthy. About 75 percent of American earners pay more in payroll taxes than in income taxes, and only around 30 percent of taxpayers itemize their deductions. Ike Brannon, of the Cato Institute and Capital Policy Analytics in Washington, argues that, given America’s homeownership rate of about 62 percent, not even half of all homeowners use the deduction. Its principal beneficiaries are affluent (also attentive and argumentative) homeowners, and its benefits, as Brannon says, “scale up” regressively: The larger the mortgage and the higher the tax bracket, the more valuable the deduction is.

It has been many years since Pun Salad Manor threw off that tax break. I would have gladly traded it for a rate decrease.

■ I confess, I don't pay much attention to the Pope. (I'm the only non-Catholic in the family.) But some do, especially when the Holy Father decides to go full anti-libertarian. Which causes people to whom I do pay attention to demur, like David Henderson, reporting on Pope Francis's Distorted Vision. Noting this Papal quote:

"I cannot fail to speak of the grave risks associated with the invasion of the positions of libertarian individualism at high strata of culture and in school and university education," the Pope said in an message sent to members of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences meeting in the Vatican and subsequently shared with Breitbart News.

Henderson replies:

Which universities is he referring to? Yale? Berkeley? Middlebury? I think the Pope and I are perceiving the world very differently. I don't mean our values are different, although that's probably true too. I mean that what we think is factually true is different. He perceives a university system in which libertarians are becoming important. I perceive one in which the left, with whom he seems often to agree, is dominant. At least one of us is wrong.

Agreed. And I know which way I'd bet.

I should note, as Henderson does, that the source is Breitbart, so it could be bullshit. Like Henderson, I've failed to find anything resembling an original source.

Stephanie Slade at Reason is also on the Papal chase: On the 'Invasion' of 'Libertarianism,' Pope Francis' Ignorance Is Showing. She invites him to self-educate:

He might, for instance, be taken aback to discover that many libertarians hold beliefs that transcend an Ayn Randian glorification of selfishness (and that Ayn Rand rejected us, too, by the way). Or that what Pope Francis calls an "antisocial" paradigm in which "all relationships that create ties must be eliminated" (Breitbart's words) is better known by another name: the liberty movement, a cooperative and sometimes even rather social endeavor among people who cherish peaceful, voluntary human interactions. Or that lots of us are deeply concerned with the tangible outcomes that policies have on vulnerable communities, and that libertarians' support for capitalism is very often rooted in its ability to make the world a better place. Or that some of us are even—hold on to your zucchetto—followers of Christ.

"Zucchetto" Hee.

URLs du Jour

2017-04-29

■ We open up a new chapter in Proverbs with 26:1:

Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, honor is not fitting for a fool.

Let's go through the list of Kennedy Center Honors and start scratching out the fools: Carole King, Shirley MacLaine, Harry Belafonte, Pete Seeger, … Oh, wow, too easy.

■ Jonah Goldberg writes a corrective history column this week: Berkeley Didn’t Birth ‘Free Speech,’ but It Seems Intent to Bury It. What should be obvious: "free speech" had a long and deep tradition in classical liberalism. And Mr. Free-Speech-Movement Mario Savio was a raging leftist who urged his followers to oppose liberal democratic capitalism by "put[ting] your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels . . . upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop!"

Whatever legacy Savio has for the cause of free speech is dead, but this mindset lives on. The rioters and goons — along with their pusillanimous enablers in the administration — are carrying on this tradition. It is a tradition that says this is our sacred place and anyone not loyal to our faith must be resisted, rejected, and renounced. All the talk of “hate speech” is clever marketing — like the label the “Free Speech Movement” itself.

Well, the "hate speech" marketing is showing itself to be less clever day by day.

Mr. Ramirez also comments on UCB:

Far-Left Californians drive Free Speech extinct

■ Andrew Klavan visited Oberlin, got heckled, and observed The Cruelty of the Academic Left.

Observation shows and science confirms that a young person's brain does not fully mature until age 25. Your college years should be years in which your mentors train you to integrity, reason, self-confidence and broad-mindedness. Instead, the bullying leftists of academia are betraying their charges for the purpose of imposing their political view.

Shame on them.

Unfortunately, they're shameless.

■ Another weekend, another march, and (at Reason) Ronald Bailey looks at the upcoming Peoples Climate Movement March for Jobs, Justice and the Climate. Looking at the unintentional hilarity of the "march line-up":

The pre-march line-up confirms the organizers' social justice aspirations. Heading off the parade are the "protectors of justice," which includes native youth and youth of color, the indigenous women's delegation, and Black Lives Matter activists, among others. Next up are the "creators of sanctuary," which includes immigrants, LGBTQI, women, Latinos, Waterkeepers, and food sovereignty and land rights marchers. Third in line stand the "builders of democracy," who are representatives from labor, government workers, voting rights, and democracy organizations. The fourth contingent is the "guardians of the future," who speak for kids, parents, elders, youth, students, and peace activists. Fifth come the "defenders of the truth," representing scientists, educators, technologists, and the health community; sixth are the "keepers of faith," consisting of religious groups. The "reshapers of power" are seventh: anti-corporate, anti-nuclear, anti­–fossil fuel, and pro–renewable energy activists, plus bicyclists and other transportation advocates.

The final place in the lineup is called "many struggles, one home." It's reserved for environmentalists, climate activists, the business community, and everyone else.

Waterkeepers? Well, shame on me for not keeping up with leftist taxonomy. Googling says it's a thing.

■ Steve MacDonald at Granite Grok notes political censorship at the University Near Here: UNH Employees Cannot Appropriate University Resources to Express Partisan Political Views. At issue were some Shepard Fairey posters in his recent "We the People" theme (you can check them out here) that an unidentified Memorial Union Building droid posted in the hallway. Which were subsequently removed by higher-ups. GG quotes the student paper:

“The ‘We the People’ posters were hung in the Memorial Union Building by an employee. While artwork posted in public spaces and meeting rooms in the MUB is done at the discretion of the building’s management team, UNH is a public university and employees cannot appropriate university resources to express partisan political views,” [UNH Director of Media Relations, Erika] Mantz said.

This is a topic I know something about. (I left a comment at GG as well.)

Erika is wrong (or, charitably, sloppy). Back when UNH used to host this very blog in its early years (full of political views, even back then) I sensibly made sure it was in compliance with official UNH policy . Faculty and employees operate under the same rules. There is no carve-out for "partisan" political views. You're OK as long as you make clear that you're not "speaking for the instutution." And, believe me, I was not.

The actual case here is a little more dicey, since the MUB hallways can be perceived as a place where the "institution" speaks for itself.

But—this is a point I've made before—I speculate that UNH administration is especially wary of parents on college tours getting the perception that the university is a hotbed of lefty indoctrination. That could well mean some lost tuition money, when Mom and Dad decide to send little Susie or Sammy to someplace less besotted with progressivism.

Or as they say: "When a fellow says, 'It hain't the money, but th' principle o' the thing,' it's th' money."

URLs du Jour

2017-04-28

■ Proverbs doesn't always hold to the simple 1 proverb/verse rule, and Chapter 27 takes five verses to make its point. 27:23-27:

Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds;
for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations.
When the hay is removed and new growth appears and the grass from the hills is gathered in,
the lambs will provide you with clothing, and the goats with the price of a field.
You will have plenty of goats' milk to feed your family and to nourish your female servants.

Oy vey! We get it: prudence is a good thing. We knew that. An off day for the Proverbian.

■ Roger L. Simon asks the musical question: Will Fascism Come to America through Its Colleges and Universities?. Spoiler alert in paragraph one:

If fascism comes to America, it will be through our college and university system.

Thanks for making that point upfront, Roger. But seriously, folks:

The biggest cowards in our country today are many, if not most, of our college and university administrators followed closely by a fair amount of their faculty. They are allowing their institutions to be taken over by a monolithic world view that is increasingly totalitarian and antithetical to the diversity of opinion on which the search for truth depends.

There are cowards, no doubt. The university life can be safe, secure, and profitable for those unwilling to rock the boat, go with the "collegial" flow, and keep their heads down as necessary.

That said, there are a lot of administrators/faculty who are eager and willing activist Marcusians, evangelizing their hard-left theology to the kiddos, eager to shut down any dissenting opinion.

Roger's right: that's a toxic brew.

■ At Reason, Steven Greenhut articulates an idea that was bouncing around my cranium too, because of the "March for Science": Yes, Science, But How About a March for Math?.

It's a stretch to suggest that the prominence of scientific knowledge in general is falling under "hard times" because of recent proposals to trim the budget of some massive government bureaucracies. Judging by the anti-Trump signs and demands for more funding for various programs that proliferated at the marches, it seems they were more about political science than the kind of hard science that March for Science organizers had touted.

Nevertheless, the marchers are onto something, although their concept should be applied instead to a different discipline. "I think we need to have a March for Math. How you gonna be over $19 trillion in debt and still spending?" wrote commentator Julie Borowski. Indeed. Our political leaders, in California especially, are enthralled by climate science and have embraced myriad programs to deal with the issue of man-made global warming.

I keep going back to my CongressCritter/Toothache Carol Shea-Porter's remarks at the local march, that "we" need to "take this country back from people who don’t believe in science".

How about math, Carol? How are you on math?

■ Even though I enjoy a Netflix subscription, I do not need to watch Bill Nye's series thereon to find that Bill Nye’s View Of Humanity Is Repulsive. But David Harsanyi did, so:

Bill Nye has some detestable ideas about humanity. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Many environmental doomsdayers share his totalitarian impulses (Nye has toyed with the idea of criminalizing speech he dislikes) and soft spot for eugenics.

I wish Netflix would spend its money (some of which used to be my money) on expanding its movie selection instead of funding tedious propaganda.

■ Ever wonder what fans of The Handmaid's Tale prefer to ignore? Fortunately, Jim "Indispensable" Geraghty is on that: What Fans of The Handmaid’s Tale Prefer To Ignore. Margaret Atwood's American-set dystopia isn't very credible, but…

But Margaret Atwood could have set her tale in other places and made it practically a modern-day documentary: Say, Saudi Arabia. Or any corner of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

Or (as Geraghty continues) Yemen, the Congo, Egypt, Sudan,… But those less reality-challenged sites wouldn't make convenient vehicles for bashing conservative evangelical Christians.

■ In USA Today, Tom Nichols asks: Are Trump voters ruining America for all of us?. He keys off the notion that nearly all Trump voters (a poll says 96%) have no regrets over their votes.

The wide disagreement among Americans on the president’s performance, however, is more than partisanship. It is a matter of political literacy. The fact of the matter is that too many Trump supporters do not hold the president responsible for his mistakes or erratic behavior because they are incapable of recognizing them as mistakes. They lack the foundational knowledge and basic political engagement required to know the difference between facts and errors, or even between truth and lies.

Or stream-of-consciousness bullshit, which continues to rain down on us from the White House.

■ Today's Getty image is the surviving members of the Monkees in concert. Which I looked up because I enjoyed Wesley Stace's review of Mike Nesmith's memoir, Infinite Tuesday.

The most famous thing about “ Mike Nesmith ” is that he was in the Monkees, the groundbreaking 1960s TV show and the band, remembered universally with almost unmitigated joy. The most famous thing about Michael Nesmith is that he has spent the rest of his life distancing himself from Monkee Mike, which has left him in the unenviable position of seeming to sneer at the one thing most people like about him.

The title, Infinite Tuesday, is explained in the review (no spoilers here). It's funny, yet Nesmith seems to extract zero amusement from it. That theme, according to Stace, resonates throughout the book.

I wonder if I still have those old Monkees records on vinyl…


Last Modified 2017-04-29 5:25 AM EDT

Zodiac

[Amazon Link]

This is early Neal Stephenson, his second novel after The Big U. He says on his website that it took "about a month" to write. It's set mostly in the Boston environs, and thanks to occasional Red Sox shoutouts, we can determine that it's set in the late 1980s, the era of Dwight Evans, Sam Horn, and Marty Barrett.

I enjoyed it, although it's not on the par with later work like Snow Crash, Cryptnomicon, and so on. To a certain extent, it's refreshing to know that, a few decades back, Stephenson was merely "pretty good" as opposed to "masterful."

The protagonist, Sangamon Taylor, is a self-described "granola James Bond", an eco-warrior working for a Greenpeace-like organization called GEE ("Group of Environmental Extremists"). He's kind of an asshole (and Stephenson, in his "Acknowledgments", avers that this is what he was going for). He has an unfortunate laughing gas habit, but his heart is in the right place.

Mostly his work involves publicizing, and semi-illegal vandalizing, of firms' criminal toxin-dumping. Plugging pipes that dump dioxins into rivers, for example. But he runs across something very nasty around Spectacle Island in Boston Harbor—you don't want to eat those lobsters, fellah. Before you can say "massive conspiracy", there's murderous gunplay (and boatplay) involving (maybe?) the Mafia, a presidential candidate, an evil corporation, mad scientists, Satan-worshipping fans of a metal band ("Pöyszen Böyzen"). A lot goes on.

Needs a map of (at least) Boston and Boston Harbor so the interested reader can follow Sangamon on his travels. As an occasional visitor, I was able to mostly keep track, but someone less familiar might get swamped in the geography.

URLs du Jour

2017-04-27

■ Proverbs 27:22 advises on efficacy of one popular tactic against foolishness:

Though you grind a fool in a mortar, grinding them like grain with a pestle, you will not remove their folly from them.

Thanks to the Proverbialist, we don't do that any more. No matter how tempting it might seem at times.

■ I'm not a huge Ann Coulter fan, but you don't have to be one to be saddened/outraged by recent efforts to keep people from hearing her speak. There are many comments out there, but let's go with this: FIRE statement on the cancellation of Ann Coulter’s speech at UC Berkeley.

Today, Ann Coulter announced that she will no longer attempt to speak at the University of California, Berkeley tomorrow, Thursday, April 27, because of safety concerns. This latest success for those willing to threaten or engage in violence in order to silence a campus speaker establishes a genuinely dangerous precedent.

But on the plus side, we can add another stanza to our Niemöller pastiche:

Then they came for Ann Coulter, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not Ann Coulter.

■ And (gosh, they're coming thick and fast these days) here's another stanza:

Then they came for Multnomah County Republicans, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Multnomah County Republican.

One of the staples of Portland, Oregon—”Portlandia” to TV viewers— is the annual Rose Festival, now in its 82nd year, and it has for several years now featured a kickoff parade, akin to the Rose Parade in Pasadena on January 1 every year. But this year’s parade, scheduled for this weekend, has been cancelled. The reason: It was going to include—gasp—Republicans! And this is too much for the hardened left, which threatens to shutdown the parade by violent means if it includes Republicans. And the city of Portland has caved.

What next?

■ At NR, KDW has an immodest (but entirely correct) proposal: End the Corporate Tax.

Mitt Romney was mocked for insisting “corporations are people,” but he was right: A corporation is a cooperation, a group of people acting together as one corpus for a particular purpose. And it would be easier and more simple to tax the people.

He notes that "untaxed" money has to go somewhere, and can be taxed when it lands in peoples' pockets, almost certainly at a higher rate than it would have been at the corporate level.

■ Cato's Ross McKittrick makes The Case for Pulling the U.S. Out of the Paris Climate Accord.

EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt has argued that the Paris Agreement on Climate Change is a bad deal for the U.S. because it doesn’t bind China and India. But that implies it could be fixed by imposing the same ruinous terms on developing countries—which would in fact just spread the damage. The real reason for pulling of the Paris Accord is that it is a futile gesture based on empty and dishonest premises.

The details McKittrick lays out will shock you! OK, if you're reading this blog, they probably won't.

■ Someday we'll stop ragging on her, but today is not that day, because: Chelsea Clinton Gets Another Award For Doing Nothing Special

Like her mother before her, Chelsea Clinton appears to be creating a cottage industry for herself in receiving random awards for her unparalleled contributions to society, scintillating takes on current events, and incredibly generous heart.

Not content with just her Variety-sponsored “achievement award,” Chelsea on Tuesday night accepted the annual City Harvest Award for Commitment in fighting hunger in New York City.

Her participation was: "On a single day in 2017, she helped City Harvest pack some grapefruit."

But is was no picnic growing up Clinton. Literally. A Daily Mail article relates her hellish childhood:

'I wasn't allowed to have sugar cereal. We only had dessert on the weekends or special occasions. I also loved cheese, so the healthy foods I wasn't maybe so thrilled about, my mother just melted cheese on top of broccoli until I learned to love broccoli.'

If only Hillary had become President! She would have melted cheese on top of all sorts of nasty crap until we learned to love it.

URLs du Jour

2017-04-26

Getting started a little late today…

■ Does Proverbs 27:21 have anything to say about getting started a little late? That would be amazingly coincidental…

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but people are tested by their praise.

Nope, I can't make that stretch. Again notice the sexism-avoiding pluralization. (KJV: "…so is a man to his praise."

But it's nice that praise is less painful than furnaces or crucibles, I suppose.

■ Good news for people who like food to taste like something: Eating Less Salt Does Not Lower Blood Pressure for Most Americans, Says Yet Another Study.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that "most Americans should consume less sodium." The CDC asserts, "Your body needs a small amount of sodium to work properly, but too much sodium is bad for your health. Excess sodium can increase your blood pressure and your risk for a heart disease and stroke. Together, heart disease and stroke kill more Americans each year than any other cause."

… but "a new study shows" that might not be true for anyone except a small fraction of people who are sodium-sensitive.

I harp on this stuff because of that stupid UNH/Carsey study we looked at last month, that basically claimed that skepticism toward "science" generally and the CDC specifically was likely to send us all to our doom, because we were unlikely to follow CDC advice.

But given the above, why in the world shouldn't we be skeptical of CDC advice?

Slashdot has news from the Peoples' Republic of Oregon: Oregon Fines Man For Writing a Complaint Email Stating 'I Am An Engineer'.

In September 2014, Mats Jarlstrom, an electronics engineer living in Beaverton, Oregon, sent an email to the state's engineering board. The email claimed that yellow traffic lights don't last long enough, which "puts the public at risk." "I would like to present these facts for your review and comments," he wrote. This email resulted not with a meeting, but with a threat from The Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying [stating]: "ORS 672.020(1) prohibits the practice of engineering in Oregon without registration -- at a minimum, your use of the title 'electronics engineer' and the statement 'I'm an engineer' create violations." In January of this year, Jarlstrom was officially fined $500 by the state for the crime of "practicing engineering without being registered."

Woops. Since I read the backpage ads in Reason magazine, I wondered whether the Institute of Justice might offer some help to this occupational licensure board run wild.

And the answer is… Lawsuit Challenges Oregon Law Prohibiting Mathematical Criticism Without a License

Although Oregon resident Mats Järlström’s mathematical theories are more earthly than Galileo’s or da Vinci’s, he faced a similar inquisition by the Oregon engineering board after he publicly criticized the standard formula used to time yellow traffic lights.

But now Mats, working in partnership with the Institute for Justice, is fighting back against the state’s unconstitutional ban on mathematical debate. Today he filed a lawsuit against the board in federal court challenging the constitutionality of the state’s requirement that citizens must obtain an engineering license in order to publicly debate anything involving “engineering.”

Here's hoping The Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying gets so publicly humiliated by this…

■ And can you stand one more March-on-Science post? Too bad, here's one anyway, Ben Shapiro at NR: Science vs. Science™!.

This is the dirty little secret of the Left’s sudden embrace of Science™ — it’s not science they support, but religion. They support that which they believe but cannot prove and do not care about proving. Bill Nye isn’t interested in a scientific debate about global warming — how much is occurring, the measurement techniques at issue, the sensitivity of the climate to carbon emissions, the range of factors that affect the climate. He wants you to accept his version of the truth — not just that global warming is happening, but that massive government intervention is necessary in order to avert imminent global catastrophe.

As previously noted: when people (like Carol Shea-Porter) talk about "belief in science", they're basically talking a religious stand, one conveniently in line with their political predelictions, and without all that messy talk about sin and grace.


Last Modified 2017-04-27 4:51 AM EDT

The Undoing Project

A Friendship That Changed Our Minds

[Amazon Link]

A few months ago, I read the wonderful book Thinking, Fast and Slow by psychologist Daniel Kahneman, describing the research that led to his Nobel (in economics). This book, by famous non-fiction author Michael Lewis is the "outside view" of Kahneman's remarkable life and research, and that of his longtime collaborator Aron Tversky. (Kahneman and Tversky are referred to as "Danny" and "Aron" throughout; I'll return the favor by calling Lewis "Mike" here.)

Things are especially compelling in the early going: Danny was born in Tel Aviv in 1934, but spent his early childhood in France. He was Jewish. Friend, you can do the math here: much of his early life was spent close to horrible death. Lewis relates this dark story with many odd and compelling details.

Aron's background was slightly less hectic: he was born, and stayed in what-was-to-become-Israel during WWII. But (here's a story), while training with the Israeli army in the mid-50s, Arib was present when another soldier fainted on top of a bangalore torpedo he had just armed to clear a barbed wire barrier. Against orders, Aron trotted over to the doomed soldier, dragged him away from the torpedo, and fell on top of him before the explosion. Amos got a lifetime supply of shrapnel embedded in his back. And a medal. And advice from Moshe Dayan: "You did a very stupid and brave thing and you won't get away with it again."

Aron died in 1996 of cancer. They don't award the Nobel to dead people, unfortunately.

Anyway: Mike is one of the best at telling these stories that combine personal stories with a lot of geeky detail, in this case psychology. I'd recommend reading this book, before or after Danny's.

What I noticed: Mike notes the career progress of Don Redelmeier, a Candadian doctor who wound up doing some work with Aron. One of Don's insights was spurred by a brain-dead helmetless motorcyclist who'd run into a tree: people were bad at judging risks, "even when their misjudgment might kill them." And there's a small advocacy of mandatory helmet laws.

This is kind of a bugaboo of mine, that misses an important point: people have wildly differing appetites for risk. I'm wary of people who pretend there's a "right" level for acceptable risk, and want to back that up with legislation.

Worse: Danny's two-pack-daily cigarette habit is mentioned, without similar comment. How risky was that? (Note: Danny's still alive and kicking at age 83.)

URLs du Jour

2017-04-25

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming…

■ Proverbs 27:20 is insightful:

Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are human eyes.

Note: Don't show this to a Bible literalist simultaneously with Jesus' sermonic suggestion in Matthew 5:29.

■ My Google LFOD alert was triggered by Kurt Schlicter, writing at Town Hall: Liberals Want To Kill Free Speech, So We Patriots Must Fight Back. Now, be warned, his language is ill-tempered and immoderate, but he's not wrong:

Understand that if America is stupid enough to let liberals take power again, they will persecute and prosecute normal Americans like us who dare to dissent. That’s not a guess or a prediction – that’s a commitment they have made to their fascist followers. They’ve seen what the truth can do to their schemes. After 2016, there’s no way they are going to take a chance on another electoral rejection by us normals, so they don’t even pretend to support free speech anymore. It will be one gender neutral being-one vote, one more time, and then never again.

Kurt relates an impressive history of Democrat chin-pulling about how that whole First Amendment thing might need some fixin', one recent example being Howard Dean's Constitutional legerdemain declaring "hate speech" to be outside the umbrella of protection. Concludes:

That un-American, wannabe fascist Howard Dean need only look at a license plate from neighboring New Hampshire to understand how this is going to end. We’ll either live free or die.

There you go.

■ Another enemy of liberty was given a plum spot in the NYT the other day: Ulrich Baer, "vice provost for faculty, arts, humanities, and diversity, and professor of comparative literature at New York University", also multi-thousand-dollar contributor to the Hillary campaign. Philip Greenspun takes on one of America’s greatest minds on display (and I'll quote the whole, priceless, thing):

[Baer's column] is interesting because it shows how one of America’s greatest minds (a professor of comparative literature at NYU who has been selected by peers to be “vice provost for faculty, arts, humanities, and diversity”) restates the sentence “Everyone who disagrees with me is wrong and I don’t want to hear from them.”

[The sheer length of the piece is fascinating, as though the professor had entered a contest for who could use the most words to restate “Everyone who disagrees with me is wrong and I don’t want to hear from them.”]

Only quibble: neither Baer, nor Howard Dean, are pleading for self-protection against hearing those disagreeable voices. It's not so much "I don't want to hear from them". It's instead: "I don't want anyone to hear from them."

■ Professor Althouse is also (correctly) dismissive. After quoting a paragraph where Baer asserts that freedom of expression "requires the vigilant and continuing examination of its parameters":

I don't think I have ever read 4 consecutive sentences containing as much bad writing and bad thinking. I'm a bit awestruck at the badness. I'm certainly glad that it was published. I was going to criticize it, but I think it speaks for itself. I'll just say thanks for hanging your ideas out where we can see them. I'm moving on, looking for other parameters to examine.

Let us do the same…

■ Well, after this one last thing. Wesley J. Smith at NR is also Baer-brutal: NYT Publishes Speech Suppression Advocacy.

I have been thinking for some time that on issues of speech, we are watching a contest between the American Revolution–that guarantees the right to express unpopular social and political views–and the French Revolution that unleashes Jacobins to suppress heterodoxy.

But after reading Uhlrich, I think we face something even more dangerous to liberty: A full-blown Mao-style Cultural Revolution is gestating on college campuses. If we don’t restore American ideals of speech freedom to those “snowflake” enclaves, we could well see a violent avalanche materialize that threatens the peaceability of our broader social discourse.

OK Ann, now we'll move on.

■ Jeremy Samuel Faust at Slate describes The Problem With the March for Science.

[T]he march revealed the glaring dissonance of opposing that trough of ignorance by instead accepting a cringe-worthy hive-mind mentality that celebrates Science as a vague but wonderful entity, what Richard Feynman called “cargo cult science.” There was an uncomfortable dronelike fealty to the concept—an oxymoronic faith that information presented and packaged to us as Science need not be further scrutinized before being smugly celebrated en masse. That is not intellectually rigorous thought—instead, it’s another kind of religion, and it is perhaps as terrifying as the thing it is trying to fight.

As previously noted, local "March for Science" featured speaker was non-scientist Carol Shea-Porter, who urged marchers to "take this country back from people who don’t believe in science".

Emphasis added. CSP's faith-based language demonstrates the nasty phenomenon Faust describes.

■ At Wired, Emma Pierson ("a computer science PhD student") harangues: Hey, Computer Scientists! Stop Hating on the Humanities. What does she mean by that? Well, computer scientists are often less than respectful toward fuzzier disciplines. But that's not all!

The fact that so many computer scientists are ignorant or disdainful of non-technical approaches is worrisome because in my work, I’m constantly confronting questions that can’t be answered with code. When I coded at Coursera, an online education company, I developed an algorithm that would recommend classes to people in part based on their gender. But the company decided not to use it when we discovered it would push women away from computer science classes.

Note: Emma doesn't say whether she implemented a valid algorithm that offered good advice to students. That didn't matter. The important thing was: its results went against ideology. Lest there be any doubt, she doubles down:

It turns out that this effect—where algorithms entrench societal disparities—is one that occurs in domains from criminal justice to credit scoring. This is a difficult dilemma: In criminal justice, for example, you’re confronted with the fact that an algorithm that fulfills basic statistical desiderata is also a lot more likely to rate black defendants as high-risk even when they will not go on to commit another crime.

I think "fulfills basic statistical desiderata" means that the algorithm in question gave an accurate calculation of risk. I have my doubts that "the humanities" will provide any useful insight when deciding which algorithms to ignore when they give answers that collide with "thorny ethical questions".

■ What could go wrong? Former Obama Official Suggests ‘Opposing Viewpoints Button’ for Facebook.

Cass Sunstein, former administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration, suggested that Facebook experiment with an “opposing viewpoints button” in the website’s newsfeed but cautioned against the company curating content based on policy positions.

Sunstein is (I have to admit) just about the only ex-Obama Administration source from whom I'd seriously consider proposals to modify Facebook's efforts to shield its users from incorrect thought.

Pun Salad Crackpot Proposal: Congressional "Fairness" Reform

Awhile back, this article in Quanta caught my eye: How to Quantify (and Fight) Gerrymandering. Specifically, this bit (emphasis added):

Partisan gerrymandering — the practice of drawing voting districts to give one political party an unfair edge — is one of the few political issues that voters of all stripes find common cause in condemning. Voters should choose their elected officials, the thinking goes, rather than elected officials choosing their voters. The Supreme Court agrees, at least in theory: In 1986 it ruled that partisan gerrymandering, if extreme enough, is unconstitutional.

My gut reaction: Unfair?! Hey, I'll tell you about unfair!

I live in New Hampshire Congressional District 1. The November election results were:

Candidate Party Votes Percent
Carol Shea-Porter Democrat 161,828 44.2%
Frank C. Guinta Republican 157,011 42.9%
Shawn O'Connor Independent 34,612 9.4%
Robert Lombardo Libertarian 6,842 1.9%
Brendan Kelly Independent 6.046 1.7%

At least for the purposes of this post, I don't want to get into the details, personalities, and parties of my oddball district. Instead, let's concentrate on fairness, and what it means to have a "representative democracy", at least for the purposes of the US House of Representatives.

To wit: Carol Shea-Porter now sits in the 115th United States Congress, with one whole vote therein. But it's clear from the table: she only "represents" a minority of voters in her district. A large minority, but still.

Specifically: she does not represent me, in any meaningful sense. (I voted Libertarian, if that matters.) I don't bother to write her about my views on the issues, because she doesn't have any interest in representing me. I'm alienated from the political process, and everyone tells me that's a bad thing!

I submit to you, reader, that this is the great unfairness of our current system, far greater than the kvetching about gerrymandering. It's winner-take-all, and everyone else can just go hang.

So here's my crackpot notion, which would require some Constitutional tinkering: Any candidate for the US House of Representatives who receives greater than 1% of the popular vote in the general election shall be entitled to a vote in the House equal to the fraction of the vote he or she receives.

So, if the 2016 election had been held under that system, and the same result obtained: instead of Carol Shea-Porter casting 1.00 vote, she would instead be entitled to cast a mere 0.442 votes on the House floor. Guinta would have 0.429 votes. O'Connor, Lombardo, and Kelly would submit 0.094, 0.019, and 0.017 votes respectively.

Let's also assume that Congresscritter salaries are also in proportion to their votes.

Yes, this would greatly expand the size of the House, probably by a factor of between 2 and 3. This is more of an infrastructure issue than anything else, and arrangements could be made for secure remote voting.

Members not happy with their fractional vote and salaries can quit. Or just not show up for work. This isn't Russia, after all. But don't bother wasting the voters' time in the next election.

Advantages:

  • As long as their candidate got above that 1% threshold, people would have someone in office they thought of as "their representative", decreasing political alienation.

  • Conversely, the elected representatives would have a greater incentive to pay attention to (i.e., actually represent) the people who voted for them.

  • Citizens residing in overwhelmingly "blue" or "red" districts are probably marginally discouraged from voting under the current system. Why bother, when the outcome is foreordained? Under this proposal, they'd have more incentive to get to the voting booth. Maybe even more of an incentive to get informed on issues of interest.

  • Gerrymandering becomes much less of an issue (and my guess it would be negligible), since just about everyone gets "represented".

Note: this scheme wouldn't apply to the Presidency. We can only have one President, not (say) a mixture of half-Trump and half-Hillary. (That would be scary, though.)

Nor would it apply well, I think, to the US Senate: Senators represent states, not people.

And I don't have any smart ideas how this would play out in House procedures, like committee assignments and the like. My hand-waving impulse would be to treat a district's representatives as a unit for the purpose of committees. So instead of having Shea-Porter with 1.00 vote in the House Armed Services Committee, it would be (again) Shea-Porter, Guinta, O'Connor,... with 0.442, 0.429, 0.094, ... votes respectively.

The natural question: how would that have worked out in the 2016 election? I found a handy spreadsheet that had election results for all 435 Congressional districts. Unfortunately, it only shows Democrat, Republican, and "Other" percentages, and I'm not sure how accurate it is. (It shows Shea-Porter with 45.8%, Guinta with 44.4%, "Other" with 9.8%, which doesn't exactly match the official totals.) But if we add up the fractions, it's bad news for Republicans. Under the Pun Salad proposal:

Party Vote
Democrat 212.810
Republican 209.439
"Other" 12.736

I.e., the Democrats have a slight edge over Republicans in this alternate-fact universe, but not a majority. (Totals don't quite add to 435.00 because of rounding.)

But I hasten to say: if the election had been held under this scheme, the voting incentives would have looked a lot different, so too the results.

URLs du Jour

2017-04-23

■ Proverbs 27:19 is pretty wise, even by 21st century standards:

As water reflects the face, so one's life reflects the heart.

■ A mere two days ago, NPR assured us that March For Science Organizers Work To Maintain Non-Partisan Position.

A March for Science will be held Saturday in Washington, D.C., and hundreds of other cities in the U.S. Organizers say the march is a non-partisan celebration of science. It's meant to both encourage political leaders to fund science and rely on scientific evidence when making policy decisions. Critics worry the march will turn into an anti-Trump rally and paint scientists as just another interest group.

As it turns out, our local march organizers did not get that memo, as related by our local news source: Hundreds join Occupy NH Seacoast’s March for Science. Our guest speaker was Democrat, my CongressCritter, and general toothache, Carol Shea-Porter, and …

“This is a wonderful showing but we have so many more days before the next election and the election after that where we step forward and take this country back from people who don’t believe in science,” Shea-Porter said as people drove by honking their horns and waving in support of the crowd.

Doesn't exactly say "non-partisan" to me, how about you? I would love to see Carol take a basic scientific literacy test, or as Instapundit suggests, solve a quadratic equation.

An interviewed marcher was less partisan, but…

Chris Schera of Nashua turned out on Earth Day in Portsmouth “because science is important, because science is under fire and people just need to be aware that things are real.”

A bold stand indeed: "things are real". Hey, Chris? What can you tell me about the roots of the equation x2+1=0?

Hint: they're not real!

■ Oh well, let's get away from destroying Science and work on the Arts and Humanities. At NR, Deroy Murdock encourages us to draw the Curtains for NEA and NEH. His advice to the nay-sayers:

The Left should stop whining about the NEA and NEH and, instead, do something productive: They should fight for President Trump’s tax-cut plan. If Congress snaps out of its permanent vacation and puts Trump’s tax proposal on his desk for signature, Hollywood and Broadway artists and executives would see their top rate sliced from 39.5 percent to 35 percent. Major media companies such as Time Warner and NBCUniversal would see their corporate taxes MOABed from 35 percent to 20 or, even better, 15 percent. When wealthy show people pass away, their death taxes would have plunged from as much as 40 percent to 0 percent. Trump’s tax system would liberate billions or even trillions of dollars that could be donated to and invested in a new generation of American artistic masterpieces, honorable mentions, and beloved near-misses.

Among many other examples, Murdock notes that Orson Welles didn't need an NEA grant to make Citizen Kane.

■ My LFOD Google alert was triggered by a letter in Pravda on the Merrimack, aka the Concord Monitor, from Bill Walker: My Turn: Marijuana reform sabotaged in state Senate.

There is no way to have a world without drugs; there are still drugs in our prisons. There are only two real choices in drug policy. One is the path of personal freedom, which results in harm reduction, easy access to treatment, safe drugs and no drug cartels. The other is Prohibition, with all the cost, corruption and death. We can have a Live Free or Die New Hampshire, or we can keep paying taxes for our New Deal drug bureaucracy and admit that we aren’t as free as Massachusetts or Vermont.

Bill blames, convincingly, Republican Jeb Bradley.

■ Rod Dreher notes (however) that Vermont's Middlebury College is hardly a bastion of liberty. Instead, he describes Middlebury’s Obscene Cowardice. He quotes (in full) the craven statement of Bertram Johnson, chair of Middlebury's Political Science department, and comments:

This capitulation to the ideological thugs who attacked Murray and others on Middlebury’s campus deserves wide denunciation. A professor from the man’s own department was physically assaulted by these goons, and sent to the hospital — and nobody has been held accountable for any of this by Middlebury. As a scholar and as an American, Bert Johnson, the poli sci department head, should be ashamed of himself. He has shown himself to be a lickspittle to the campus left, and will be treated exactly that way by the radicals he is helping to empower.

If only those earnest marchers-for-science were one-tenth as concerned about the often-violent suppression of free expression on college campuses…

■ OK, one more NR piece, this one from KDW. He writes on Little Creep. In case you don't get the reference, and KDW doesn't explain it: there's the Big Creep, from whence we got Mrs. Creep, and…

Chelsea Clinton, most recently lionized on the cover of Vanity Fair, is a 37-year-old multi-millionaire who has never uttered an interesting word about any subject at any time during the course of her life. Judging from the evidence of her public statements, she has never had an original thought — it isn’t clear that she has had a thought at all. In tribute to her parents, she was given a series of lucrative sinecures, producing a smattering of sophomoric videos for NBC at a salary of $600,000 a year. She later went more formally into the family business, leaving her fake job at NBC for a fake job in her parents’ fake charity. She gave interviews about how she just couldn’t get interested in money and bought a $10 million Manhattan apartment that stretches for the better part of a city block.

KDW is wickedly and hilariously on-target.

URLs du Jour

2017-04-22

■ I wonder if Proverbs 27:18 will have any relevance to Earth Day? Let's call it up and see:

The one who guards a fig tree will eat its fruit, and whoever protects their master will be honored.

Sort of. I suppose. Because of the figs.

The thing that sticks out for me is the "their", presumably to avoid the sexist construction seen in more accurate translations. (E.g., KJV: "he that waiteth on his master shall be honoured.")

■ At Reason, Ronald Bailey writes on the Scientists’ March on Washington. Asking: Do researchers risk becoming just another leftwing interest group?

The mission statement proclaims that the marchers "unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policy makers to enact evidence based policies in the public interest." Setting aside the fact that the march was conceived in the immediate wake of the decidedly partisan and specifically anti-Trump Women's March on Washington, how credible are these claims to non-partisanship?

My answer: not very. Bailey worries, understandably, that the general public's (currently relatively high) respect for "science" will degrade if it comes to be perceived as just another tedious progressive special interest group.

■ On the same topic, Wired answers a question you were probably not asking: Why Memphis Has Two Marches for Science. To a first approximation: one's for scientists, the other for activists. They couldn't resolve their squabbles about whose hand would be on the tiller:

The tension in Memphis parallels debates in the larger scientific community over the March for Science, and the relationship between science and politics. After many revisions of its mission statement, the national March for Science now explicitly describes itself as a political movement—and more than that, that it’s officially about diversity in science. But some scientists in Memphis, along with many others nationwide, want to keep the movement’s focus on improving public understanding of science and underlining the importance of funding for research. They wanted to avoid associations with a political movement—and even more emphatically, partisan politics.

So there's inner turmoil on primary goals: should it be about (a) using the veneer of "science" to push a lefty agenda, or (b) keeping the taxpayer money flowing. I'm kind of a science fanboy myself, but I can't help but find myself with a can't they both lose attitude.

■ Here in Seacoast NH, it's all about progressive activism, baby. The march in Portsmouth is being brought to you by …

Nope, nothing partisan to see here! Move along!

■ At NR, Robert Atkinson writes In Defense of Robots. It's a refreshing analysis of, and rebuttal to, increasingly popular neo-Luddism, the fear that technological progress will leave millions, if not billions, of people without jobs. Bottom line:

If the elites really want to help low-wage workers, they can start by once again becoming full-throated advocates of technology-led automation and productivity growth, coupled with stricter limits on low-skilled immigration and better labor-market-adjustment policies for workers displaced by productivity improvements. That, rather than robophobia, will help everyone get ahead.

■ An amusing prayer from a source you might not expect, T. A. Frank, writing in Vanity Fair: Please, God, Stop Chelsea Clinton from Whatever She Is Doing.

Amid investigations into Russian election interference, perhaps we ought to consider whether the Kremlin, to hurt Democrats, helped put Chelsea Clinton on the cover of Variety. Or maybe superstition explains it. Like tribesmen laying out a sacrifice to placate King Kong, news outlets continue to make offerings to the Clinton gods. In The New York Times alone, Chelsea has starred in multiple features over the past few months: for her tweeting (it’s become “feisty”), for her upcoming book (to be titled She Persisted), and her reading habits (she says she has an “embarrassingly large” collection of books on her Kindle). With Chelsea’s 2015 book, It’s Your World, now out in paperback, the puff pieces in other outlets—Elle, People, etc.—are too numerous to count.

Usually I only excerpt one paragraph per article, but this is too good to miss:

Chelsea, people were quietly starting to observe, had a tendency to talk a lot, and at length, not least about Chelsea. But you couldn’t interrupt, not even if you’re on TV at NBC, where she was earning $600,000 a year at the time. “When you are with Chelsea, you really need to allow her to finish,” Jay Kernis, one of Clinton’s segment producers at NBC, told Vogue. “She’s not used to being interrupted that way.”

The entitlement-force is strong with this one.

■ Econ prof and overall smart guy Tyler Cowen: 'Fight Inequality!' Is a Poor Rallying Cry. Among the counterintuitive gems:

A recent research paper, by Graham Wright of Brandeis University, found that polled attitudes about economic inequality don’t correlate very well with the desire for government to address it. There is even partial evidence, once controls are introduced into the statistics, that talk of inequality reduces the support for doing something about it. So, if you are a conservative, the next time you get upset about that Paul Krugman column, keep in mind he might just be, unintentionally, working for you.

One can only hope.

■ Space.com relates a geeky lecture at NYC's Museum of Mathematics: Star Trek: The Math of Khan given by James Grime. Among the thorny questions considered: was wearing a red shirt on the Enterprise really a death sentence?

That claim, in fact, is false — more "redshirts" died on-screen than any other crew type (10 gold-shirted, which are command personnel; eight blue-shirted, who are scientists; and 25 red-shirted, Grime said), but that calculation fails to take into account that there are far more redshirts on the ship to start with than any other crew type.

Also considered: how many times did Captain Kirk talk computers to death? The answer may surprise you!


Last Modified 2017-04-23 6:33 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-04-21

■ I think I know what Proverbs 27:17 is trying to say:

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

"Ouch, that hurts!"

■ The Pats went to the White House the other day. Well, many of them. Those who abstained for political reasons were huzzahed in the progressive media. But Heat Street's Stephen Miller invites us to a Flashback: When Boston Bruin Snubbed Obama at White House, Media Reaction Was Very Different. The Bruin was Tim Thomas, and he made this statement:

“I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties and Property of the People.

This is being done at the Executive, Legislative and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.

Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.

This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT”

And he was roundly pummeled for it, by worthies at ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and (of course) the Boston Globe. Goes without saying that the Trump-boycotting Pats are being treated differently.

■ That wasn't the only bit of media bias evident in the reporting of the Pats' White House visit. Since tweets are easy to embed:

Bwhahaha! Stupid Trump! Football players hate him! Not like wonderful Obama!

The Pats quickly sacked the NYT

Which led to this mea culpa from the responsible NYT editor:

Translation: I couldn't get away with inserting my obvious bias into the news…this time.

All via Allahpundit at Hot Air: Fake news: When the New England Patriots fact-checked the New York Times; Update: “I’m an idiot,” says Times editor.

■ We don't often link to the New York Daily News, but their Page Six item is pretty funny: Hillary camp scrambling to find out who leaked embarrassing info. The scramble is (once again) over that book, Shattered.

One source said, “The knives are out to find the people who spoke about the campaign to the authors of this book. Dennis [Cheng, the campaign's finance director] has been texting prominent campaign staffers, asking who talked. He’s on a witch hunt to find out who talked to save their own skin, throwing Hillary and her campaign manager Robby Mook under the bus.”

Emphasis added. Dennis, if you're hunting for a witch, I have a candidate in mind.

But: knives out to find a witch who threw people under a bus. That's lively writing right there.

■ And finally, news you can use: How to Survive the Total Solar Eclipse of 2017

Over the course of about 90 minutes, the skies will darken along a 70 mile-wide (113 kilometers) path from Oregon to South Carolina as the moon's shadow moves across the country from the northwest to the southeast. [Total Solar Eclipse 2017: Path, Viewing Maps and Photo Guide]

I think that will be something to see.

Chasing Midnight

[Amazon Link]

This is (according to Amazon) number 19 in the Randy Wayne White's Doc Ford series. And—sorry, Randy—I didn't care for it much. In which I seem to agree with a lot of Amazon reviewers, many of them claiming to have been (like me) longtime fans. The 1-star reviews are (as I type) the most common (27%) with only 24% giving it 5 stars.

Ah, well. I'll continue reading the series. Because that's the way I roll. There must be some name for this mental illness quirk, if you know it could you tell me? Maybe it's the sunk cost fallacy?

Anyway: Doc and Tomlinson find themselves on a Gulf Coast island, amidst a conclave of Beluga caviar moguls, environmental activists, and assorted hangers-on. They have odd names: "Odus", "Kahn", "Kazlov", "Umkeo". And (right from the get-go) things go poorly: the island's power is cut, communications with the outside world are jammed, and people start shooting. At Doc, of course. There's a lot of dodging, bobbing, and weaving. Dire threats are issued.

Part of the problem is that White continues a writing device that he's used in the past: start the book in the middle of action (presumably to grab your attention), then introduce the setting and the characters in flashbacks. This didn't work for me.

And I kept reading to the end, but I have to confess: I could barely tell the characters apart, could not figure out their motivations, and I didn't care about the caviar plot driver enough to make sense out of it,

URLs du Jour

2017-04-20

■ We're gonna do a twofer today, for reasons that will become obvious. Proverbs 27:15-16:

A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm;
restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand.

The Proverbalist speaks to us over the millennia, and we respond: I hear you, my brother.

Ladies, feel free to substitute appropriately for your situation. That works, too.

I question the wisdom of whoever decided to break that up into two verses, however.

■ Yesterday, we linked to KDW, who asked whether Trump's "Buy American" policy was "cynical or ignorant". David Harsanyi (in the Federalist) points out that, in any case, Trump’s ‘Buy American. Hire American’ Policy Is Dangerous Nonsense.

“We don’t have a level playing field for our workers,” Donald Trump told a group of workers in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Tuesday. Truth is, if we ever leveled the playing field with countries like Mexico and China, the average American worker would be making $3 an hour and spending their pittance on third-world health care and decrepit housing. Please don’t level the playing field, thank you very much.

And then there's …

■ … the estimable Ben Shapiro at NR offers an alternate (but not contradictory) view: Trump’s ‘Hire American, Buy American’ Is Redistribution by Another Name.

This week, President Trump reiterated his commitment to his “hire American, buy American” program — a supposedly crucial element in his “economic nationalist” program. The notion here is threefold: American companies should be forced to hire American labor; government contracts should go to American companies; American producers should be protected from domestic competition by revoking or altering international trade agreements.

All three of these policies have a long, ingloriously stupid history.

Why, yes they do.

■ Unfortunately, politics is more tribal than rational. At Reason, A. Barton Hinkle notes: In Trump Era, Many Political Activists Follow Their Leader, Not Their Principles. And the results can be surprising and depressing:

Even political identity itself is undergoing a shift. The Atlantic reports on recent findings by two political scientists examining the views of the conservative base. Grassroots activists now judge senators with very conservative voting records—such as Jeff Flake of Arizona and Ben Sasse of Nebraska—as moderate, while deeming others with moderate records more conservative.

The researchers posit that this is because Flake and Sasse have sharply criticized Trump—never mind that Trump himself deviates from traditional conservatism on a whole host of issues, from free trade to eminent domain.

There's also the "enemy of my enemy" factor, which notes that Trump is pissing off the right—by which I mean left—people, and picks sides that way. I confess, I'm probably not immune to that myself.

But I would question the "In the Trump Era" qualification. This predates Trump, doesn't it? Or is it worse now?

■ Huzzah! Andrew Klavan is Back from Vacation. And he summarizes what he gathers has been happening in his absence, for example:

After a poison gas attack in Syria, Ivanka Trump apparently got very upset and demanded that Daddy bomb someone right this minute. President Trump, who can never deny his daughter anything because she’s just so hot, unleashed a devastating aerial attack on either Syria or Iraq or Steve Bannon, he always gets those three confused. North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un responded, for some reason, by detonating a nuclear device that blew him into the kitchen pantry where he spent the next three days eating a particularly succulent Jop-chae Pork with potato noodles.

Yes, that's the way I remember it too.

URLs du Jour

2017-04-19

■ Ah, now this is a good one. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Proverbs 27:14:

If anyone loudly blesses their neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse.

Wise and funny is our Proverbian.

■ In my college days, I remember being amused by the National Lampoon cover that posed the question: "Pornography: Threat or Menace?". According to Wikipedia, this was a steal from the Harvard Lampoon, and it's been widely imitated/adapted since. Including, now, by KDW@NR: The ‘Buy American’ Order: Cynical or Ignorant?

Trump, who is surrounded by people who fancy themselves “nationalists” (in the cause of what nation, it is not entirely clear), is wading deep into an ancient puddle of stupidity most recently explored by Barack Obama (remember his “nationalist” moment, which lasted for about a month in 2011?) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the woman who (accidentally) did more than anyone other than Kellyanne Conway and Hillary Rodham Clinton to put Trump in the White House. To call it “economic nationalism” would be too grand: It is merely a very narrow form of special-interest politics consisting of backdoor handouts to favored corporate interests.

With Trump, "whatever gets me the most applause" seems to be the way to bet.

■ My politics are catlike, by which I mean Schrödinger's cat. It's about 50/50 between "conservative" and "libertarian", and in the cases where that makes a difference, even I don't know until I open the box where things are going to wind up. A good test today is deciding which is more convincing:

  • This fawning Daily Signal piece about a recent speech by the Department of Homeland Security chief: Top 5 Reasons John Kelly Is Right for Homeland Security.

    No one is more mission-oriented than a Marine and DHS is a department with a serious mission. Running it calls for a plain-spoken, nonpartisan leader who puts the security of Americans above the political squabbles of the day.

  • Or this critical shot at Reason: DHS Head to America: Shut Up, Be Terrified, and Do What You’re Told.

    Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly has heard all of that criticism from Americans who are upset at the way his employees treat them and other people, and he has a response for all of you ingrates: Shut up.

Today, I'm coming up… libertarian.

■ Caitlin Flanagan writes in the Atlantic about How Late-Night Comedy Fueled the Rise of Trump. Caitlin's no Trumpster, but she's pretty dead-on concerning normal-people perceptions of what passes for political-themed "comedy" these days.

Though aimed at blue-state sophisticates, these shows are an unintended but powerful form of propaganda for conservatives. When Republicans see these harsh jokes—which echo down through the morning news shows and the chattering day’s worth of viral clips, along with those of Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, and Seth Meyers—they don’t just see a handful of comics mocking them. They see HBO, Comedy Central, TBS, ABC, CBS, and NBC. In other words, they see exactly what Donald Trump has taught them: that the entire media landscape loathes them, their values, their family, and their religion. It is hardly a reach for them to further imagine that the legitimate news shows on these channels are run by similarly partisan players—nor is it at all illogical. No wonder so many of Trump’s followers are inclined to believe only the things that he or his spokespeople tell them directly—everyone else on the tube thinks they’re a bunch of trailer-park, Oxy-snorting half-wits who divide their time between retweeting Alex Jones fantasies and ironing their Klan hoods.

Or just a basket of deplorables.

■ That book about the Clinton campaign (Shattered) is out, and I probably won't read it, but some of the reviews are entertaining. An interesting nugget from the WSJ review: How Hillary Lost the White House:

For those few unhappy addicts who wish to relive the 2016 presidential campaign so soon, “Shattered” offers a number of gratifying revelations. Among them: Mrs. Clinton’s tinkering with a certain computer server. Not that server—a different one. After losing to Mr. Obama in the protracted 2008 primary, she was convinced that she had lost because some staffers—she wasn’t sure who—had been disloyal. So she “instructed a trusted aide to access the campaign’s server and download the [email] messages sent and received by top staffers.” This tells us, first, that Mrs. Clinton possesses an almost Nixonian paranoia about treachery and, second, that her use of a private email server at the State Department was never the naive “mistake” she pretended it was. In fact, she didn’t want anyone reading her emails the way she was reading those of her 2008 staffers.

Big Sister was watching.

<voice imitation="professor_farnsworth">Good news, everyone!</voice> Heat Street informs us that Weirdly Sexual Bernie Sanders Coloring Books Are Now for Sale [Amazon Link]

According to its Amazon description, the book features “over 20 pages of exquisitely muscular Bernie Sanders drawings for you to color and enjoy… however you so choose, you naughty thing, you.”

Amazon link over there on your right. Usually those Amazon click-ads are pretty tasteful. My apologies for this one.

■ Should President Trump walk away from the "Paris Climate Treaty"? Nay, saith Joseph Bast of the Heartland Institute: President Trump Should Run, Not Walk, Away From The Paris Climate Treaty. One reason:

If President Trump does not withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Treaty and, even better, from the [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change], then the leaders of other countries will use the treaties as a huge stick with which to beat U.S. consumers and producers. American independence and prosperity—and greatness—will be impossible. The American people, and the middle class in particular, will once again have been betrayed by the political class in Washington DC.

Technically, I don't think it's a "treaty", since it wasn't submitted to the Senate, let alone ratified.


Last Modified 2017-04-19 11:29 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-04-18

Consumer note: The dog and I went for a walk in Vaughn Woods State Park yesterday. At $1 for a non-Maine senior, it was a bargain.

■ Proverbs Chapter 27 has been hit-or-miss. And mostly miss lately. Come on, 27:13:

Take the garment of one who puts up security for a stranger; hold it in pledge if it is done for an outsider.

If you're like me, your immediate reaction is: Huh?

But I think this is a continuation of 27:12, encouraging you to be prudent, especially when others are imprudent.

I note that other translations make that "outsider", variously, "an adultress", "a strange woman", "a wayward woman", "an immoral woman". I fear that our default translation (New International Version) may have been bowdlerized against sexism.

■ Northwestern University professor Laura Kipnis has appeared here on occasion as a victim of campus moral panic. She self-identifies as a "left-wing feminist", but that doesn't mean she can't see the elephant in the room. An excerpt from her new book appears at Reason: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus

I'm all for feelings. I'm a standard-issue female, after all. But this cult of feeling has an authoritarian underbelly: Feelings can't be questioned or probed, even while furnishing the rationale for sweeping new policies, which can't be questioned or probed either. The result is that higher education has been so radically transformed that the place is almost unrecognizable.

■ By the way, a recent report at NPR's WBUR (Boston) affiliate covering Prof Kipnis's talk at Wellesley described her as a "provocateur". Implication: she's looking to stir up trouble!

Another reason to defund NPR.

■ The College Fix notes another sad story reflecting the prevailing Marcusian ideology on campus: Black students condemn ‘truth’ as invention of white people, want conservatives expelled. Their issue was with the president of Pomona College, David Oxtoby, who dared suggest the college's mission was "founded upon the discovery of truth". Nuh-uh, said the students:

The idea that there is a single truth--’the Truth’--is a construct of the Euro-West that is deeply rooted in the Enlightenment, which was a movement that also described Black and Brown people as both subhuman and impervious to pain. This construction is a myth and white supremacy, imperialism, colonization, capitalism, and the United States of America are all of its progeny. The idea that the truth is an entity for which we must search, in matters that endanger our abilities to exist in open spaces, is an attempt to silence oppressed peoples.

As Orwell noted: "One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool." And the kiddos writing such foolishness didn't come up with it on their own; they had to be carefully taught.

■ The Daily Signal tries to be optimistic: Conservative Says Trump’s Export-Import Bank Nominations Could Bring in Era of Reforms. The nominations of two former GOP Congresscritters, one of whom was an ardent foe of Ex-Im, is the pony in the midst of all the horseshit for some:

“Having worked with both of these gentlemen so closely on the Financial Services Committee, I am hopeful they will safeguard taxpayer dollars and put an end to the bank’s well-documented management failures,” [Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb] Hensarling, R-Texas, said in a statement. “With Ex-Im so captured by special interests, the president was right to choose principled leaders like these to safeguard the agency against further mission creep, fraud, waste, and abuse.”

We'll see. But I fear…

■ … that the truth (sorry, Pomona undergrads!) might be more accurately reflected by KDW@NR, in his missive to Trump supporters: Ya Got Took.

No fighting China on currency, no wall, no NATO reform. Add a few more items to the list: Janet Yellen was definitely out before she wasn’t; our relationship with Russia was “great” during the campaign but today is a “horrible relationship” that is “at an all-time low” (he may not know about the Cuban missile crisis); the president could not make war on Syria without congressional approval (“big mistake if he does not!”) until he could. The Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land. Steve Bannon of Goldman Sachs, Gary Cohn of Goldman Sachs, Steven Mnuchin of Goldman Sachs, and Dina Powell of Goldman Sachs are firmly ensconced in their various roles throughout the Trump administration. The alt-right basement-dwellers and sundry knuckleheads beamed that Trump was going to be a “nationalist,” and that he would give the boot to coastal elitists, moderates, and Ivy League snoots. In reality, Trump is a New York Democrat who is being advised by other New York Democrats — Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner prominent among them — who are more or less the sort of people who brought you the Obama and Clinton administrations: business-friendly corporate Democrats, people who think of themselves as post-ideological pragmatists, consensus progressives who are much more interested in opening up backdoor channels to Planned Parenthood than they are in the priorities of people they consider nothing more than a bunch of snake-handling rustics and talk-radio listeners stockpiling gold coins and freeze-dried ice cream in their basements. Trump was a Clinton donor and a Chuck Schumer donor, and he is acting like one.

Whew! (Note: some of those Trump-reversals were actually good news.)

URLs du Jour

2017-04-17

■ Hope everyone had a nice Easter. Proverbs 27:12 is kind of a letdown, but our self-imposed rules tell us to take 'em as they come:

The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.

That is not so much a proverb; rather it's a description of the difference between "prudent" and "imprudent". Proverbialist, I seek wisdom, not something I can figure out from the dictionary!

■ "Flagg Taylor is associate professor of political science at Skidmore College", and he writes at the American Interest on The Meaning of Middlebury, where (you may remember) a violent mob disrupted Charles Murray's speaking engagement. Prof Taylor points his finger at educators who neglect what should be the primary goal (the "cultivation of the mind" paired with modesty and respect) and instead promote "real world" preparation, "relevancy", "passion", and "engagement".

It is wrong, however, to think that liberal arts colleges can “train” students and strive for relevancy while also remaining dedicated to the cultivation of the mind. “Passion” and “engagement” are not only poor substitutes for virtues like moderation, courage, and prudence, they create an environment hostile to their cultivation. Further, the demands of the “real world” are ever-changing, and adapting the cultivation of the mind to the instrumental goals of society results in a limitation and adulteration of that delicate process. By trying to imitate the real world that has already changed before our imitation can be constructed, as Václav Havel once wrote, we end up falsifying the real world. The humanities and social sciences have retreated from the cultivation of the mind and their devotion to the discovery of truth and the human good. With the question of purpose left unasked and the possibility of truth not considered, space is left open to politically correct dogma and those willing to demonstrate their passionate commitment to the cause.

Good luck unwinding the knotted mess that "liberal arts" education has become.

■ For once, let's link to a National Review article not written by either Goldberg or Williamson. Here's Ben Shapiro, noting that In Trump’s Government-by-Applause, All Bets Are Off. It's a refutation of those who saw Trump's lack of principles (which they spelled "ideology") as a good thing. Trump was a pragmatist!

Unfortunately, even those who lack an ideology have a worldview, and Trump’s is essentially self-centered: What is good for his popularity is good for the world. This, it should go without saying, leaves him subject to co-option by those with a more ideological bent. When reality hits him in the face, he reacts spontaneously — and in doing so, he aligns with movements that have long pre-existed him, and that cheer him along. Spurred by that applause, he is drawn into the orbit of those ideologues who supply it.

We are careening toward the void, I tells ya.

■ Another symptom of careening toward the void: The FDA’s Pizza Minders, as described by the WSJ. The imposition of the rules regarding posting calorie counts on fast-food chain menus is imminent.

The more than 100-page rule, perhaps the longest meditation on fast food ever published, says that pizza purveyors must display per slice calorie ranges. Dominos offers 34 million potential combinations, and the number of pepperonis on a pizza can vary based on whether a customer also tosses on green peppers or something else. FDA suggests displaying verbiage like “pepperoni—200 added calories for a one-topping pizza” for every topping. Better have a calculator when ordering.

It's pointless, stupid, but understandable. Bureaucrats have a perpetual need to "do something", expand their domain, pad their résumés. What next?

■ Politics and math intersect in the thorny topic of redistricting, drawing lines on a map describing which people are voting for which representatives. A nice geeky article in Quanta magazine: How to Quantify (and Fight) Gerrymandering. The lead paragraph:

Partisan gerrymandering — the practice of drawing voting districts to give one political party an unfair edge — is one of the few political issues that voters of all stripes find common cause in condemning. Voters should choose their elected officials, the thinking goes, rather than elected officials choosing their voters. The Supreme Court agrees, at least in theory: In 1986 it ruled that partisan gerrymandering, if extreme enough, is unconstitutional.

However (you'll read on): the Supremes have never actually invalidated a case of "partisan gerrymandering", nor specified any test for lower courts to apply. They simply stated that challenges to district lines could proceed under the Constitution's "equal protection" clause.

I'll pause to remark that interest in "fighting" partisan redistricting rose along with GOP dominance in state legislatures. When Democrats were drawing their sneaky snaky lines, there was less "concern".

The Death of Expertise

The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters

[Amazon Link]

Tom Nichols wrote this very readable and entertaining book on a depressing subject: why "expertise" has become increasingly disrespected in recent US history, and why that's problematic. His analysis is imperfect, but he writes with honesty and straightforwardness, and is (relatively) fearless about calling out the people responsible. (One exception: he recalls a working for a US Senator who threw him "out of his office in a fusillade of curses during a principled disagreement". The Senator is unnamed, but it doesn't take a lot of digging to discover: the late John Heinz.)

And best of all (from his Wikipedia page: "Nichols is an undefeated five-time Jeopardy! champion and one of that game's all-time top players." (Unfortunately, his run came in 1994 before they dinked the rules to allow contestants to play as long as they kept winning.)

Anyway, to the book: Nichols is (rightly) disturbed by the increasing levels of know-nothingism in the American populace. Specifically, he's put off by the aggressiveness demonstrated by the willfully ignorant. Caricature: "My opinion's as good as yours! even though you have a Ph.D. and years of experience in the field, I spent a few minutes with the Google and found these websites…"

The sources driving expertise-demise are named and shamed. Four big culprits:

  • The system of US higher education, which has become corrupted by a "customer is always right" mentality, concentration of "lazy river"-style entertaining fripperies for students at the expense of academics, grade inflation, and a dumbing-down of course content. As a result, a college degree (depending on the major, of course) has become devalued, but the students coming out of the process seem to be increasingly arrogant and entitled.

  • The Internet. It makes it easy to look up lies and errors, and (probably worse) social media sites make it easy to connect with the equally-deluded, and to establish an echo chamber/bubble in which people can remain cozily unchallenged in their delusions.

  • Journalists. They're unskeptical, biased, and often unqualified to sort out nonsense from fact. (It doesn't help that they're products of our higher education system — see above.) Like colleges, they cater to their customer base. What results is a "product" which has to be treated with huge amounts of skepticism.

  • Experts themselves. As Nichols shows in a late chapter, they can be wrong, and arrogant about it. Surprise: they're human beings too. And instead of being patient, tolerant, and unbiased, they can be … the opposite of those things. Understandably, the rest of us react poorly. Especially, when an "expert" is caught unpantsed, it tarnishes the whole group, and degrades the notion that experts should be (at least) recognized as more reliable sources of information and advice than Joe Schmoe.

I mentioned imperfections. Here are a couple:

Nichols has a (funny/depressing) rant about raw milk. He notes a CDC report that claimed "raw dairy products were 150 times more likely than pasteurized products to cause food-borne illness".

Now, I don't disagree with Nichols' main point: consumers should make food choices based on solid information. But the "150 times" factoid is pretty useless for determining that; it's just a scary big number. What might be important and useful to know is the absolute risk, not the relative risk.

Specifically: If the illness risk for pasteurized products is negligible, then 150 times that risk might also be negligible. And (I bet) that risk goes down a lot if you buy from a reputable source, and follow sensible food safety procedures.

And Nichols' factoid is absent of context. Even if he had reported the absolute risk for raw milk, how does it compare to the risk of food-borne illness from other sources? My gut (heh) feeling is from news reports of food recalls and hospitalizations: problems are entirely from produce and meat, nothing from dairy. Am I wrong? Maybe. But good luck finding out relevant facts from "expert" sources.

[Disclaimer: raw milk is legal in New Hampshire—live free or die, baby!—and I tried some once. I did not die.]

The second issue is Nichols' occasional overbroad brush. I was taken by this (page 111):

The deeper issue here is that the Internet is actually changing the way we read, the way we reason, even the way we think, and all for the worse.

I read that, and I thought: hey, someone talk Tom down from that ledge. His "we" is certainly overstated ("what do you mean 'we', white man?") and "all for the worse" is unsubstantiated and (almost certainly) false. And I bet he'd rewrite that if he had the chance.

Note: I was led to this book by this Noah Berlatsky review in Reason. I liked the book better than Berlatsky did, but that may be because I'm slightly more conservative than the average Reasonoid. Still, Berlatsky's critique is worth reading in conjunction with Nichols' book.

URLs du Jour

2017-04-16

■ Happy Easter, all. Will Proverbs 27:11 be especially Eastery?

Be wise, my son, and bring joy to my heart; then I can answer anyone who treats me with contempt.

Well, no. But I can imagine the Proverbalist saying "Have you met my son, the doctor? And how's your boy down there on the camel ranch? I understand he's got a real talent for castration."

■ [late addition] For your Easter thoughts, KDW: ‘He Is Not Here’. No excerpts, just go and read. You won't be sorry, even if you're not (like me) much of a Christian.

College Fix reports on an amusing appointment: Department of Ed. Office for Civil Rights pick’s traditional views ‘raise questions’.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s […] choice for her department’s Office for Civil Rights chief is being questioned in part because the pick once claimed she faced discrimination for being white.

The nominee is Candice Jackson. Her sins against Progressivism are many, including:

  • She took a class at Stanford that had a section providing "extra help", which she desired to enter, only to learn that it was "reserved for minority students." She objected.

  • She wrote a paper at Pepperdine favorably reviewing The Ethics of Liberty by Murray Rothbard, noted libertarian (and occasional nutbar, but that's me).

  • She wrote a book, Their Lives: The Women Targeted by the Clinton Machine, about eight (!) women abused in various ways by the Clintons: Juanita Broaddrick, et. al..

  • She also helped arrange for several of Clinton’s accusers to attend the second 2016 presidential debate … and even [gasp!] sat among them.

So, she sounds interesting.

■ There are many entertaining reactions to this tweet:

But Iowahawk wins the coveted Pun Salad Award for "Best Response to a Bernie Sanders Tweet in April 2017".

I know, April's not over yet, but can you see anyone outdoing the Hawk?


Last Modified 2017-04-16 6:56 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-04-15

■ Proverbs 27:10 provides disaster-planning advice:

Do not forsake your friend or a friend of your family, and do not go to your relative's house when disaster strikes you-- better a neighbor nearby than a relative far away.

I can only imagine that this is based on some specific disaster that befell the Proverbalist. Once, years ago, a camel stampede wiped out his hut. He went to live with his brother a few towns over while repairs ensued. But things didn't go well with his sister-in-law, a lousy cook, who didn't appreciate his recipe suggestions. His nieces and nephews were resentful brats, just because they were displaced from their own beds temporarily. And his wife kept making snide remarks about how much more successful his brother was.

Yeah, better that you impose on a nearby neighbor. Nothing could go wrong there.

■ Everybody's talking about it, so here it is. The "staff editorial" in the Wellesley College student newspaper, reassuringly titled Free Speech is not Violated at Wellesley. Its fascinating logic emanates (remember) from the future Hillary Clintons of our country, and I recommend you read the whole chilling thing. Here's the bit that everyone has highlighted:

We have all said problematic claims, the origins of which were ingrained in us by our discriminatory and biased society. Luckily, most of us have been taught by our peers and mentors at Wellesley in a productive way. It is vital that we encourage people to correct and learn from their mistakes rather than berate them for a lack of education they could not control. While it is expected that these lessons will be difficult and often personal, holding difficult conversations for the sake of educating is very different from shaming on the basis of ignorance.

Could any Red Guard cheerleader have said it better? Well, yes. They probably would have written "We have all made problematic claims." But otherwise: "We are grateful for our indoctrination, correcting our Thoughtcrimes. We must extend the same to our peers as necessary, even though it's an unpleasant struggle."

Ah, but what if those Thoughtcrimes persist?

This being said, if people are given the resources to learn and either continue to speak hate speech or refuse to adapt their beliefs, then hostility may be warranted. If people continue to support racist politicians or pay for speakers that prop up speech that will lead to the harm of others, then it is critical to take the appropriate measures to hold them accountable for their actions. It is important to note that our preference for education over beration regards students who may have not been given the chance to learn. Rather, we are not referring to those who have already had the incentive to learn and should have taken the opportunities to do so. Paid professional lecturers and politicians are among those who should know better.

Or: You had your chance, Winston. Now things are gonna get ugly.

As I've pointed out (tiresomely) in the past: this is Marcuse 101, aka "repressive tolerance". The academics weaned on this ideology in the 60s and 70s are now "mentoring" their replacements.

■ As some wag said back in the day: "a fish, a barrel, a smoking gun". So if you'd like more comment on the Welleslian illiberality, here's Patterico who notes another confused sentence in the editorial: "Shutting down rhetoric that undermines the existence and rights of others is not a violation of free speech; it is hate speech."

Do they mean to say that shutting down speech is hate speech? I think they meant to say: “Rhetoric that undermines the existence and rights of others is not free speech; it is hate speech.” That would still be a nonsensical statement, but at least it would convey the message the authors intended to convey — even if that message is a vapid parroting of leftist cant.

If you can't get your left cant right…

■ And there's good old Allahpundit:

You would think the Committee of Public Safety would give all citizens an opportunity to recant their thoughtcrimes and accept reeducation before “appropriate measures” are taken. But no, they’re quite explicit that if you’ve resisted previous efforts at deprogramming, “beration” is the only correct course. You can confess moral error or you can be flogged for it. Rarely do these screeds reveal their essence as religious manifestos as clearly as this one does.

Tuition, Fees, Room and Board at Wellesley is $66,984 for the upcoming academic year. Parents, if you want your kids to be either (a) successfully indoctrinated or (b) berated, you can probably get that a lot cheaper elsewhere.

■ One more commentary, from Heat Street's prolific Joe Simonson (who cites an incorrect tuition figure, but never mind).

Metaphysical implications about the inability to “exist in the real world” aside, the author argues free speech isn’t threatened at the all-female liberal art’s [sic] college (alumnae include two-time failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, dowager news siren Diane Sawyer, and professional wrestling manager and pornographic actress Tamara Lynn Sytch), but only that the “Wellesley community will not stand for hate speech, and will call it out when possible.” Such a pronouncement might be reasonable if anyone with half a brain had faith in college students or professors to honestly and accurately identify supposed “hate speech.”

I have half a brain (approximately), and I have faith in college students and professors to honestly and accurately identify "hate speech" as "anything I don't happen to agree with."

■ Oh well, off with college follies, and onto Jonah Goldberg's G-File. There's an announcement: The Post-Trumpism Presidency Begins. And he makes a point you've seen here numerous times (mostly because I've stolen it from him, and expressed it less well):

Trump isn’t an ideological or philosophical conservative. He has no ideology or philosophy, rightly understood. This was obvious from the beginning and, contra Mike Allen, some of us saw it from day one. That doesn’t mean he can’t be a good president or have a politically successful presidency. But it will be difficult for an array of reasons both psychological and political. There’s lots of talk in Washington about how to fix the White House staff in order to properly constrain, channel, or direct Trump to victory. Good luck with that. I have zero confidence that Trump will reliably and consistently trade opportunities for political success — “wins” — for conservative victories over time. I also never bought that he was a particularly good manager. His presidency so far gives me no reason to rethink that.

Also a plague of bits about the NYT (correcting itself at Jonah's request), NPR's obudsman, and the dogs.

■ If you feel like irking an advocate of mandatory "paid leave" for moms, you can point them to this Cato blurb: Paid Leave Means Women Pay

Importantly, if the U.S. did move toward paid leave or job entitlements for women, the loss of wages and/or opportunities during childbearing-aged years would not be one-time penalties. Being passed over for a job, involuntarily mommy-tracked, or having wages slashed to pay for prospective benefits can have impacts that last a professional lifetime.

And don't forget: mandatory paid family leave also kills people.

■ At Reason, Glenn Garvin notes two worthwhile documentaries: Documentaries Put Spotlight on War Propaganda, one about each world war. The first (PBS's "The Great War"), notes

What The Great War does do, in truly spectacular fashion[,] is limn the voracious expansion of the American government midwifed by World War I. When Woodrow Wilson's uncertain attempts at neutrality floundered and he called for a declaration of war in 1917 because "the world must be made safe for democracy," it made the United States unique among the combatants, notes a historian in The Great War: "It was not fighting for survival. It was fighting for an ideal."

But as The Great War documents in horrifying detail, that ideal was the creation of a Leviathan state with unprecedented power: to draft young men and send them to a foreign war. To set price controls on food and impose dietary restrictions. To arrest and even deport political dissidents. To create a powerful government propaganda organ aimed not at enemy nations but the American people. (It expanded from one employee to about 100,000 in a couple of months.) To send goon squads known as Liberty Loan Committees roaming neighborhoods offering deals on war bonds that couldn't be refused.

When asked about America's worst Presidents, most historians point to Pierce or Buchanan. I'm not a historian, and I'd put Wilson pretty high on the list, if not at the top.

URLs du Jour

2017-04-14

■ Proverbs 27:9 strikes an optimistic note on this Good Friday:

Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.

■ Hey, kids, what time is it? Well, I'm not sure, but according to Veronique de Rugy, It's Past Time to Dump the OECD. The US provides 21% of the budget for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). And for that, we get…

In practice, despite the OECD's heavy reliance on American taxpayer funds, the organization persistently works against U.S. interests, arguing for international tax cartels, the end of privacy, redistribution schemes and other big-government fantasies.

So, yes, if we must keep the zombie Export-Import Bank around, maybe we could spin off the OECD?

■ At Granite Grok, Skip notes the decline of a TV show: “Designated Survivor” just went full anti-gun SJW. Things were pretty OK until…

[…] It was one of the few (VERY few) network shoes that I would watch; I actually liked it! For a show about politics in DC, it stayed rather un-political. Except starting last week, it went full SJW-auto concerning “gun violence” and did a PR commercial on the behalf of the Brady Campaign for Civilian Disarmament to Prevent Gun Violence who helped them to come out all guns blazing (see what I just did there?) on the issue.  The BCPGV made it quite clear on their purpose when they briefed the DS staff on their gun demands views.  This group, if you discard its title and burrow into its real purpose, truly does believe that Force should be only held by Government;  Second Amendment be damned.  And this week, the show doubled down and pretty much made it clear the entire show – guns are too scary for we plebes to have and we MUST have more gun control.  And they did it in a way that was not “fair and balanced”.  In fact, those characters that are pro-Second Amendment are put into a dim light indeed. While it was about “universal background checks to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people”.  Yeah, and never mentioned the under story that UBCs is all about Government violating the Right to Private Property and outlaws private sales.

As I said at a GG comment: We watched last week's show here at Pun Salad Manor. (Haven't watched the latest episode yet.) Mrs. Salad did not appreciate the moaning, groaning, and eye-rolling coming from my end of the sofa.

The show is OK when it concentrates on the original premise: a massive bombing during the State of the Union Address has killed most of the top levels of all three branches of the federal government. So it's up to nebbish Kiefer Sutherland and a small group of allies to (a) discover whodunnit and why; (b) keep the country going.

But now the show seems to have developed a West Wing-done-poorly vibe, where Sutherland gets all earnest and preachy.

And even the find-the-evildoers plot has its limitations: does it have to keep going for as long as the show lasts? I think Sutherland's old show, 24, did this right: at the end of the season, the bad guys were unmasked, and things were done. I fear Designated Survivor is just going to sputter along until the plug is pulled, then they'll weakly pull something together.

■ KDW@NR profiles Peter Navarro: Trump’s Nutty Economics Professor (an article from the print magazine now available online).

In the collected works of Peter Navarro, there is a peculiar paradox: Some of the dullest prose imaginable challenges the sharp edge of Hanlon’s razor, the aphorism that advises us: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” Professor Navarro of the University of California at Irvine has hanging on the wall of an office or a den somewhere a doctorate in economics from Harvard; barring some Forrest Gump–level chain of coincidence, it does not seem likely that anything as innocent as stupidity explains his literary output, which consists of a few how-to-make-money-in-the-stock-market books (an actual title: “If It’s Raining in Brazil, Buy Starbucks”) from earlier in his career and a half dozen or so low-minded books about China with such talk-radio-ready names as “Death by China” and “The Coming China Wars,” two books that contain 80 exclamation points between them, as well as several pamphlets summarizing the main points of his books.

Hang on: you'll be convinced that, like Elizabeth Warren, Navarro is "battier than Bruce Wayne’s basement."

■ And what's a factor of a thousand between friends? Or between a newspaper and its readers? The Washington Free Beacon notes: USA Today Tweets Out Massively Inaccurate Chart About Power of Atomic Bomb.

USA Today significantly misstated the power of the atomic bomb used against Hiroshima in a chart it tweeted out after a U.S. bombing conducted in Afghanistan on Thursday.

The bad tweet is at the link above. Here is the corrected tweet:

Pretty much the same except for that pesky "kilo" prefix. But as a commenter tweets: "But the MOAB is still a much *longer* bomb. Point stands. So there."

URLs du Jour

2017-04-13

■ Will Proverbs 27:8 continue the winning streak of relevant wisdom?

Like a bird that flees its nest is anyone who flees from home.

Um… I guess not. Fleeing the nest is what birds do, right?

■ Well, if you're not a fan of corporate welfare, let Jesse Walker at Reason depress you. Trump's Budget Director Confirms: The Export-Import Bank Will 'Continue to Exist'.

Were you hoping, against the odds, that Donald Trump would do an about-face and decide that he wants to kill the Export-Import Bank? If so, I'm afraid I'll have to be the bearer of disillusioning news: OMB chief Mick Mulvaney has now confirmed that the White House wants the bank to "continue to exist."

As a bonus, Donald Trump is quoted in a WSJ interview saying that Ex-Im is a "very good thing". I am not disappointed, because I always thought that Trump had zero principles.

Veronique de Rugy, however…

■ Are Democrats the party of science? Jonah Goldberg answers that burning question: Democrats Aren’t the Party of Science. The occasion is Hillary Clinton's recent remark to a friendly crowd: “Before anybody jumps to any conclusions, I will state clearly: Women are not inherently more peaceful than men. That is a stereotype. That belongs in the alternative reality.”

That might be a feminist-friendly attitude, but it's completely at odds with reality. And (worse) it came immediately after Hillary had congratulated herself on her devotion to "research, evidence, and facts." Comments Jonah:

What’s annoying about Clinton’s cheap partisan preening isn’t simply that she’s wrong (and I suspect she knows it). It’s that she is perpetuating an infuriating tendency of liberals today to claim science is always on their side.

Yes. When it's convenient to do so.

■ A new book describing the inner workings of Hillary's campaign is coming out, and The Hill publishes some juicy excerpts: Clinton campaign plagued by bickering. A teleconference between Bill, Hillary, and the campaign's top staffers went poorly:

Hillary’s severe, controlled voice crackled through the line first. It carried the sound of a disappointed teacher or mother delivering a lecture before a whipping. That back end was left to Bill, who lashed out with abandon. Eyes cast downward, stomachs turning — both from the scare tactics and from their own revulsion at being chastised for Hillary’s failures — Hillary’s talented and accomplished team of professionals and loyalists simply took it. There was no arguing with Bill Clinton.

We can comfort ourselves with "thank goodness the country dodged that bullet." Unfortunately only to be nailed by a different bullet, but …

■ The WSJ's James Freeman has a thoughtful essay on Fighting Fake News, spurred by (1) First Lady Melania Trump's winning $2.9 million in damages and legal costs from the Daily Mail and (2) Rolling Stone's settlement (involving an unknown amount of cash) with Nicole Eramo, who was trashed in its bogus University of Virginia rape-hysteria story. Freeman notes that's a far more effective deterrent to "fake news" than…

Ostensibly in an effort to combat fake news, companies like Facebook and Google have lately allied with various liberal media outfits purporting to be disinterested fact checkers. The predictable result will be a concerted effort to block conservative sites and a less aggressive effort against those on the left. And fake news will likely continue to thrive. Not that any of us wants to live in a society where fake news has been completely eradicated, given the regulation of speech that would be required to achieve such a goal. The founders were often infuriated by fake news but they also understood that a free society comes with a price.

We are at the sorry state where the "fact checkers" need as much checking as those they pretend to check.

Snow Blind

[Amazon Link]

Number four in the sister-recommended Monkeewrench series. It's a page-turner!

The grabber here (after a couple of flashback prologues to be explained later) is the murder of two cross-country-skiing cops in a Minneapolis park. The lurid detail: they've been stood up and entombed in snowmen.

Meanwhile, a dangerous wife-abuser abducts his parole officer, and is off to a remote part of Minnesota, where his ex-wife has taken up residence in an unusual community of women. The local sheriff is a newly elected woman with minimal law enforcement experience. She lives on a remote and spooky farm, and … what do you know? … the abuser just happens to pick her farm in which to take shelter on his quest to mete out more abuse.

So, yes, it's a little contrived. By which I mean, a lot. And, despite the series name, the Monkeewrench gang doesn't play a big role here. But, as I said above. It's a page-turner, because the mother-daughter "P. J. Tracy" writing team is pretty good.

URLs du Jour

2017-04-12

■ Proverbs 27:7 can be read metaphorically if you wish:

One who is full loathes honey from the comb, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.

■ KDW at NR has a modest proposal: Censure the President.

Our so-called constitutional conservatives treat the national charter the way a certain kind of Christian treats the Bible: They like to carry around copies of it, to wave it at their rivals, to talk about it, and to treat it as a kind of magic item — but if you should suggest they actually read it or apply it, well, that sounds awfully idealistic.

Congress should either claw back its war-declaring power, or as KDW puts it, they should "stop calling themselves “constitutional conservatives,” because those who knuckle under now are no such thing."

■ To move briefly to a happier topic: Marian Tupy edits www.humanprogress.org, an optimistic data-driven site devoted to "correcting misperceptions regarding the state of humanity through the presentation of empirical data that focuses on long-term developments." At Reason, she presents Data as History: Charting the Last 2000 Years of Human Progress.

Considering that Homo sapiens only emerged as a unique species of hominids some 200,000 years ago, our experience with prosperity is incredibly short, amounting to no more than 0.1 percent of our time on Earth. The remarkable novelty of our present abundance may, perhaps, explain our unease with it ("all good things must come to an end") and our eschatological obsessions ranging from overpopulation to out-of-control global warming.

You hear about "white privilege" a lot. Probably people should talk more about "present privilege". We're all pretty fortunate to live in the world that "intellectual enlightenment, classical liberalism and free exchange" built.

■ Coming soon to an institution of higher education near you: Texas student commits suicide after Title IX kangaroo court.

A male student who was accused of sexual harassment committed suicide just days after the University of Texas at Arlington ignored its own policies in order to punish him. The accused student’s father, a lawyer acting as the administrator of his son’s estate, is now suing the school for violating his son’s Title IX rights.

It's a Kafkaesque horror story.

■ Who should we blame for this United mess? Well, according to "Cranky Flier": Don’t Blame Overbooking for This United Mess. It's a "regular part of doing business", and he has data to show that (overall) airlines have gotten "smarter and better" at it.

On the whole, the airlines make more money overselling flights than they lose paying out compensation. And this actually does help keep fares lower. If airlines couldn’t oversell flights, they would generate less revenue overall and have to find a way to recoup those costs. You can connect the dots on what that means. Of course, if enough people were impacted that the pain was too great, then either the airlines or the feds would do away with overbooking. But considering how many people benefit from being on an oversold flight and volunteering to get paid (over 550,000 in 2015), it’s not something that a lot of people WANT to go away.

I'm looking for a good answer here… I know we're not supposed to blame overbooking, but

United Airlines boots seated passenger

URLs du Jour

2017-04-11

■ Proverbs 27:6 is another could-have-been-written-yesterday bit of wisdom:

Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

Trusted Wounds would be a pretty good song title.

■ Robby Soave at Reason works on the United Airlines brouhaha: United Did a Bad Thing, But the TSA Has ‘Re-Accommodated’ Airline Passengers for Years.

… [W]hile [U]nited's treatment of the passenger in the video was stunning and uniquely awful, let's not forget that the entire airport experience is oriented toward misery—and that's the fault of government policies that treat every passenger like a potential security threat. paying customers aren't people with rights and dignity, according to this model: they are nails to be hammered into place.

Surely there are better security models out there.

Power Line's John Hinderaker Democrats Lose Argument, Try to Burn Books. Well, not burn them. Recycle. Quoting a Daily Caller article::

Three senior House Democrats asked U.S. teachers Monday to destroy a book written by climate scientists challenging the environmentalist view of global warming.

The Children must only be exposed to the correct propaganda! Hinderaker further comments:

Why do you think our federal government has funded global warming alarmism to the tune of $40 billion? It is all about power and money. And if you blow the whistle on the liberals’ scam, your book should be thrown in the trash! We wouldn’t want America’s students to get a balanced view of the facts relating to climate, not when so much money is at stake.

"Indeed."

■ At the Federalist, Bethany Mandel takes on yet another MSM "story" that tries very hard to connect the dots. And those dots are Jews! Who Needs Alt-Right Conspiracy Theories About Jews When You Have Politico?

We’ve spent the better part of the last year being warned about the dangers of the rise of the alt-right. Even I doubted the power the alt-right apparently wields, which apparently includes the ability to convince a mainstream American publication to publish 4,000 words of anti-Semitic garbage on the eve of a major Jewish holiday. Can they silence the rest of the mainstream media, which reports breathlessly on every headline related to Jews at Breitbart?

I'm surprised Carol Shea-Porter hasn't breathlessly retweeted this yet.

■ Quotes from famous people are a funny thing. Specifically, people using such quotes to support their arguments. Who cares what Lincoln said about corporations? Or Jefferson about government schools? Maybe they got it wrong!

Still, there's a mini-industry around quote-mongering. A lot is careless about sourcing, especially if the quote sounds as if it could be valid. And so there's also a smaller, but significant, group deployed in debunking fake quotes.

And now there's a book about fake quotes, written by an expert quote detective, and quote-gourmet Fred R. Shapiro reviews it in the WSJ: Things You Know That Ain’t So.

If you hear that “Mark Twain said” something, the one thing you can be pretty sure of is that Mark Twain never said it. Famous quotations become famous because, for many people, they have an irresistible allure. Yet their wording, their meaning and, particularly, their origins have often been fictionalized by the popular mind or careless quoters or people with an ax to grind. We may be inspired, comforted, amused or educated by quotes, and if the quote is put into the mouth of a celebrated sage like Twain, so much the better. We impress ourselves or others with the borrowed wisdom of the sage.

Other victim of fake-quoting: Yogi Berra. And, oh yeah, according to the book title, Hemingway.


Last Modified 2017-04-11 12:07 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-04-10

■ Proverbs 27:5 is brief and to the point:

Better is open rebuke than hidden love.

I am not so sure The Band felt that way.

Now there's no love
As true as the love
That dies untold

I'm impressed with the Proverb, though.

■ Heather MacDonald channels Bob Marley: Get Up, Stand Up. Her City Journal article relates her recent experiences in speaking at Claremont McKenna College and UCLA. At CMC:

I completed my speech to the accompaniment of chants and banging on the windows. I was able to take two questions from students via live-streaming. But by then, the administrators and police officers in the room, who had spent my talk nervously staring at the windows, decided that things were growing too unruly outside to continue. I was given the cue that the presentation was over. Walkie-talkies were used to coordinate my exit from the Athenaeum’s kitchen to the exact moment that a black, unmarked Claremont Police Department van rolled up. We passed startled students sitting on the stoop outside the kitchen. Before I entered the van, one student came up and thanked me for coming to Claremont. We sped off to the police station.

Young people are our future.

■ Skip at GraniteGrok noticed some fightin' words in local news: NH House Speaker Jasper can’t get it done, turns to scapegoating. Jasper tried and failed to get a state budget passed, despite the GOP having a 226-173 edge over Democrats (there's one Libertarian). At the Union Leader article Skip links to:

"I am not a person that gives in to essentially terrorism," said Jasper, R-Hudson, during a lengthy interview Friday about the maverick team of 32 conservatives who helped block passage of the budget.

Skip notes:

Yeah, that’s rhetoric right out of the Democrat playbook.  I know – that’s the kind of language the Progressives (who ALWAYS rachet up government) used against us in the TEA Party movement.  They did so because we wanted a government that stayed within its Constitutional bounds, was frugal, and espoused Free Markets.  And Jasper calls this new NH Freedom Caucus “terrorists”?  Standing up for Principles – Republican principles?

Jasper's language is also vile. And (for that matter) also burning-bridges dumb; if he ever wanted to set up a compromise down the road, this makes it a lot harder.

■ At Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen says a "new study shows" it: Fairness > equality. Click over for details, but let me quote:

As I said in a talk at Harvard Business School a few days ago, “if you hear the word “inequality,” the chance that what follows will be wrong is at least 3/4.”

■ Ian Miles Cheong at Heat Street reports on Angry Witches: ‘Magic Is Not For White People!’. Example anger (sorry for the language):

If only those (I'm pretty sure lily-white) ladies down in Salem had taken this advice!

URLs du Jour

2017-04-09

■ Proverbs 27:4:

Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?

Impressive. Chapter 27 is, so far, dud-free.

■ My LFOD alert rang for Live Free or Die: Art is Expression, an exhibition going on until April 29 at the Robert Lincoln Levy Gallery of the New Hampshire Art Association in Portsmouth. They say:

Artwork, whether playful, political, representational, abstract, big or small, is an essential form of expression that is encapsulated in the New Hampshire state motto. What does it mean to ‘Live Free or Die’ in 2017 in New Hampshire, in the United States, in the world? Does it mean the freedom to expressively move paint across a canvas? Or the freedom to capture your vision through the camera lens or molded clay?

“No other state motto has captured the popular imagination like New Hampshire’s. The bold, assertive phrase that greets you the minute you cross the border into New Hampshire can be found emblazoned on everything from license plates to pint glasses and has inspired the titles of countless books, films, advertising slogans, and even an episode of The Sopranos. This exhibition seeks works of art across all media that engage with and interpret this iconic phrase within the context of our contemporary moment.

Sounds pretty neat. Also pretentious, but, you know, they're artists. Maybe I'll walk the dog down in Portsmouth and peek in their window.

■ Meanwhile, over at Reason, Baylen Linnekin sounds the alarm: Maine Lawmaker Targets Foragers on Private Property:

The bill, An Act To Prohibit Foraging on Private Land without Permission, would amend an existing law that serves primarily to prohibit people from going onto private property to chop down and transport Christmas trees. Under the proposed law, three convictions in a 10-year period would brand the violator a felon.

The status quo is that unless the property is posted otherwise, forage away.

I am not a lawyer, but in NH the burden of prohibiting foraging (and hunting, and trespassing, and any other "physical activity") would seem to on the property owner, according to RSA 635:4.

■ KDW at NR says Trump's Syrian tomahawking is War, Willy-Nilly.

On Wednesdays, we are at war with the Islamic State. On Thursdays, we are at war with the Islamic State, in effect acting as a cat’s-paw for the world’s leading jihad brigade against the government of Bashar al-Assad, who apparently intends to murder Syrians until he is pleased with what is left.

We should let him.

Trump (however) seems to have pretty solid political support for his unconsitutional frolic.


Last Modified 2017-04-10 4:33 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-04-08

■ I gotta say, I am so far liking Chapter 27 of Proverbs quite a bit. Here's 27:3:

Stone is heavy and sand a burden, but a fool's provocation is heavier than both.

Evocative and true. The only imaginable way to improve it would be to make it rhyme:

Stone is heavy
And sand a burden
But the jerk who irks you
Needs avertin'

There, I fixed it.

■ Deirdre N. McCloskey debunks the Excuses for Statism, and for Staying Poor.

The formula for an economy to get rich nowadays is as easy as H2O.

It is: Follow China and India. Containing four out of every ten humans, the two gradually gave up on central planning, China after 1978, India after 1991. They gave up the socialism imposed by Nehru and Mao, imitated later by Castro and Chavez, first imposed by Lenin and Stalin, first imagined in the nineteenth century by Saint-Simon and Marx and Luxemburg. For decades after World War II the economies of China and India had been run so badly that as late as the 1970s they looked hopeless. Not anymore. Before their takeoff years they were growing miserably, in inflation-corrected terms at 1 percent per year per capita, 2 in a good year. After the partial freeing of markets they started growing at 7 to 12 percent.

It's not that tough, but as McCloskey shows, excuses and detours abound.

■ I've come to believe that one major problem (in addition to the ones McCloskey cites) is the seductive metaphor. For example: "trade war". Econ prof Don Boudreaux replies to a correspondent who refers to his "naïve willingness to unilaterally disarm us in our trade war with China.”: Just Shoot Me.

With respect, what you (and many others) call a trade war is quite the opposite of war.  It’s peaceful trade.  And through such trade we Americans are made better off the less we export in exchange for what we import.  So to the extent that the Ex-Im Bank succeeds in its mission to artificially increase American exports, it makes us worse off by arranging for us to sacrifice for the imports we receive an unnecessarily larger amount of exports.  Put differently, the Ex-Im Bank obliges us to work harder to maintain and improve our standard of living.  How are we enriched by such an outcome?  In what universe is such an outcome a victory rather than a defeat?

I don't want to go all Sapir-Whorf on you, but it sometimes seems that addiction to a faulty metaphor can rewire one's brain, the metaphor becoming more "real" than reality.

■ Veronique de Rugy asks the musical question: Is the Sky the Limit for the Debt Ceiling?

When the national debt ceiling's suspension was automatically lifted March 15, yet another countdown commenced. Congress will be compelled to raise the government's borrowing limit again before April 28 and fund the government. Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office released yet another report showing that our debt crisis may be here sooner than later and be bigger than ever.

Addressing these budget deadlines should be done with the CBO's warning in mind. It goes something like this: The government's overspending has produced a lot of debt, and it's adding debt at a pace faster than the economy is growing—so it will only get worse.

That's the challenge. My elected representative, however, is much more concerned with retweeting stuff like this…

■ Egg on my face department. Yesterday, I said "life comes at you pretty fast" was a "Ferris Bueller meme". I should have checked first. According to knowyourmeme.com, it's really derived from an old series of Nationwide Insurance commercials.

What Ferris said instead was "Life moves pretty fast." And added: "If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Maybe some variation on that will show up in our Proverbs.

Tweeting to Jeanne Shaheen (II)

My state's senior US Senator, Jeanne Shaheen, tweets on the just-invoked Nuclear Option to get Neil Gorsuch onto the Supreme Court:

Note: She deplores the "unprecedented tactics" and "changing this long-standing Senate rule".

It took about 15 seconds with the Google to find a relevant DailyKos article from 2013: NH-Sen: Jeanne Shaheen (D) Calls For Real Filibuster Reform. Containing

I support filibuster reform because you deserve better. It doesn’t matter if the president is a Democrat or a Republican, he or she deserves to have qualified nominees confirmed. That’s true of President Obama, whether Republicans like it or not.

The Senate’s role is “advise and consent,” not obstruct and delay.

She urged petition-signing at "http://www.reformthefilibusternow.com/". That site, of course, has long since been memory-holed.

Hence my reply (using the probably too-tired Ferris Bueller Nationwide Insurance meme):

I don't expect a response.


Last Modified 2017-04-08 6:32 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-04-07

■ Proverbs 27:2 is just plain old good advice:

Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips.

Of course, you could always try doing something praiseworthy and see what happens.

■ David French had advice for Trump yesterday afternoon (4:03pm EDT): Rand Paul Is Right; Don’t Launch War in Syria Without Congressional Approval

If Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the United States Constitution means anything, it means that the president must obtain congressional approval before taking us to war against a sovereign nation that has not attacked the U.S. or its allies and is not threatening to attack the U.S. or its allies. Senator Rand Paul said as much in an interview today, and I agree with him. As Senator Paul said, “The first thing we ought to do is probably obey the Constitution.”

But (as you may have heard) that decision had probably already been made by 4:03, and it wasn't Constitution-respectful. If you would like to read French's three quick (post-attack) thoughts, go ahead. Trump probably won't. Summary: (1) a single strike like this probably won't affect the overall situation much; (2) the long term impact is unknowable; (3) it's even more unclear what US policy is toward Syria.

But I got a chuckle out of the headline of George Neumayr's American Spectator analysis: Trump Tears Up Obama’s Half-Assad Policy.

■ At the Federalist, Sean Davis notes the effectiveness of the current anti-Bill O'Reilly campaign: 7 Companies That Pulled Bill O’Reilly Ads Gave Money To Bill Clinton’s Tax-Free Group.

Seven of the companies that announced they would not run advertisements on Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox News in the wake of sexual harassment allegations nonetheless donated up to $6.6 million to Bill Clinton’s personal tax-free foundation.

Why, it's almost as if this is not a principled campaign against powerful males getting away with lechery, but a simple partisan hit job.

■ At Hot Air, Ed Morrissey writes (to someone named Virginia) about the curious lack of curiosity in our major media outlets: Yes, Virginia, there might be two scandals worth pursuing.

Suddenly, the media has become very, very worried about distractions rather than covering the news. When Bloomberg’s Eli Lake reported that former national security adviser Susan Rice had a pattern of requesting the names of US persons redacted in surveillance transcripts, media outlets rushed to assure viewers, listeners, and readers that “there’s nothing to see … move along, move along,” as Joe Scarborough mockingly characterized the reaction. Within hours of Lake’s reporting, more media outlets expressed anger over Lake than curiosity about Rice.

■ The "Yes, Virginia,…" chestnut should be retired, by the way. I know I have Virginia Postrel's support in this.

■ But returning to the Rice thing, David Harsanyi suggests: These Are the Questions Susan Rice Needs to Answer (under oath)

For instance: Why did you lie to PBS about having no knowledge of the unmasking of Trump officials or family?

"Congressman, I have a long history of lying about stuff when (a) I think it might be to my advantage to do so, and (b) I don't think I'll get caught."

■ And Megan McArdle has had it with Perfectly Nice Policies, With Less-Nice Side Effects.

What happens when you suddenly offer parents generous family leave benefits, paid at the expense of the government? You can probably think of dozens of outcomes. But here’s one you might not have been expecting: people die.

Here's the abstract of the paper Megan links to:

Nurses comprise the largest health profession. In this paper, we measure the effect of nurses on health care delivery and patient health outcomes across sectors. Our empirical strategy takes advantage of a parental leave program, which led to a sudden, unintended, and persistent 12% reduction in nurse employment. Our findings indicate detrimental effects on hospital care delivery as indicated by an increase in 30-day readmission rates and a distortion of technology utilization. The effects for nursing home care are more drastic. We estimate a persistent 13% increase in nursing home mortality among the elderly aged 85 and older. Our results also highlight an unintended negative consequence of parental leave programs borne by providers and patients.

Sorry, gramps!

I don't think this will make much of an impact on advocates for mandatory parental leave. Because their primary question seems to be: "Will taking this position make me feel morally superior?"

Doctor Strange

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

Once again a boring story from my younger comic-reading days (approx. 1969-1973): I devoured the Marvel tales of Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Iron Man, the Avengers, Captain America, etc.. But I never got much beyond reading one or two issues of Doctor Strange. For some reason, all the magic seemed like cheating; you can always pull an unexpected spell out of your ass, right?

Yes, that's right. All those other comic heros were totally believable for me.

And also, I got the impression that Steve Ditko was writing/drawing Doctor Strange when he was on LSD. (Which turns out to be totally wrong by the way.)

So I was not especially moved to see this movie in the theater. But I noted the good reviews, and lo and behold, I really enjoyed the movie, once Netflix sent it to me.

It is (of course) an origin tale, with Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role. Initially, Strange is a gifted, egomaniacal surgeon. But one fateful night he foolishly pushes his hot car a little too fast, and smashes himself up pretty badly. He won't play the piano again, nor will he be able to do the surgery he's famous for.

So, what to do, what to do? A new career calls: saving Earth from the Dark Dimension and the evil plots of Dormammu. Things look pretty bleak, because Strange is just learning how to become Master of the Mystic Arts, and Dormammu is a pretty bad dude. Nonetheless, … well, you know how these movies work.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well Cumberbatch fit in the role, as in "now I can't imagine anyone else in the role". He also sports a convincing American accent. I don't know anything about acting, but I think that one of the toughest things for an actor to do is spout off lines like "Dormammu, I've come to bargain!" with a straight face. There should be an Oscar for BC for that. (And Tilda Swinton, who plays "The Ancient One", should get two of them.)

URLs du Jour

2017-04-06

■ We start a new Proverbial chapter with 27:1:

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.

Is it just me, or does this make you think about that catchy Fleetwood Mac song?

■ James Freeman notes the shifting stand of the NYT editorial page on the Senate filibuster of Supreme Court nominees: this year, they bemoan that its demise hearkens the dawn of the Court as a ‘Partisan Tool’.

Freeman recalls 2013, when the same editorial page hailed the demise of the filibuster for appointees to lower courts and executive-branch nominees with "Democracy Returns to the Senate" and the change was "long overdue".

A former writer of this column might argue that this change simply represents a bargain for longtime Times readers, because they can now enjoy two papers in one.

Mrs. Salad is currently "enjoying" me doing an explosion sound effect whenever the TV news says "nuclear option".

■ Timothy P. Carney corrects the record at USA Today: Actually, Neil Gorsuch is a champion of the little guy. As Carney notes, you can't get much littler than the Little Sisters of the Poor, or New Haven, Connecticut's eminent domain victim Susette Kelo. Bottom line:

The rule of law doesn’t care if you’re powerful or powerless; it applies to all. Gorsuch has spent his years on the bench reading the law and applying it, without animus or favor. That’s bad news for those, such as New London’s mandarins or the Obama administration’s HHS, who want special treatment. It’s good news for the little guy.

"You mean the leprechauns?"

■ Virginia Postrel takes on the latest widely-despised ad from Pepsi: The Company Desperately Trying to Be Something It Isn't.

At issue is a short-lived new commercial starring model Kendall Jenner, a member of the Kardashian clan, along with a large crew of telegenic millennials of assorted races and creative professions. One, a handsome Asian cellist, leaves his studio to join a swelling protest march. He catches Jenner’s eye as he passes by the photo shoot she’s posing for. In response, she strips off her blond wig, wipes off her lipstick, and -- having paid homage to the glamour of authenticity -- joins the crowd. As she strides down the street, she grabs a Pepsi and hands it to one of the young, handsome, and un-armored policemen standing guard over the march. A gorgeous photographer wearing a hijab snaps her picture. Peace, love, and understanding prevail.

Thanks to TiVo, I don't see a lot of ads any more, but the other day I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of eyes suddenly rolled in their sockets in contempt. I feared something terrible had happened. Now I know it was Pepsi.

■ Not that it matters, but when I type "Pepsi tastes like" into the Google search box I get the suggestions: "dirt", "soap", "metal", "cinnamon", and "flat coke". YMMV. Cinnamon doesn't sound that bad though.

■ At NR, John J. Miller notes that the inventor of the Internet is up to his old tricks: Al Gore’s Lincoln Lie. At issue: an anti-corporation Lincoln "quote" from Gore's 2007 book The Assault on Reason.

I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign . . . until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands.

It turned out the quote was an assault on honesty, convincingly revealed as an 1888 forgery.

But here it is, 2017, and there's a new edition of The Assault on Reason, and… the quote's still there.

Today, however, Gore knows that he’s peddling a lie. Ten years ago, in more innocent times, he introduced the quote by writing that Lincoln “perceived the dangers” of corporate power and “noted” them in his 1864 letter. In the new version, however, Gore pulls back from his assertion: “Lincoln may have perceived the dangers” of corporate power, “and some historians attribute the following statement to him.” (Emphasis added.)

Pun Salad has been holding Gore in contempt since 2006.

■ At Cato, Randal O'Toole suggestions that you Protect Your Privacy and Save Money by Telling NHTSA No to the Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communications Mandate.

If approved, it will be one of the most expensive vehicle safety rules ever, adding around $300 dollars to the price of every car, or (at recent car sales rates) well over $5 billion per year.

O'Toole also notes that it's innovation-stifling, prematurely settling on one technology when others may (someday) do the job better and cheaper.

■ If you've been wondering who the worst enemy of the Trump Presidency is, NR's Jonah Goldberg has a candidate: The President Is This Presidency’s Worst Enemy.

Trump brings the same glandular, impulsive style to meetings and interviews as he does to social media. He blurts out ideas or claims that send staff scrambling to see them implemented or defended. His management style is Hobbesian. Rivalries are encouraged. Senior aides panic at the thought of not being part of his movable entourage. He cares more about saving face and “counterpunching” his critics than he does about getting policy victories.

In short, the problem is Trump’s personality. His presidency doesn’t suffer from a failure of ideas, but a failure of character.

Now, to be honest, there's quite a bit of "I told you so" here. But … you know, he did tell us so.

The Art of Being Free

How Alexis de Tocqueville Can Save Us from Ourselves

[Amazon Link]

Back in January, I noted a glowing article from Nick Gillespie at Reason about The Art of Being Free by James Poulos. ("If You Want To Find Freedom in Trump's America, Read This Book!") So I eagerly put it on by things-to-read list, and requested it via the Interlibary Loan program of the University Near Here (thanks, Bowdoin College!) and…

Well, rarely have I been so let down. I am frankly puzzled about Poulos's intended audience for the book. At times he seems to be talking to himself. But, given Gillespie's praise, I suppose I'd also guess he's talking to guys like Gillespie. But not me, sorry. This is one of those books where "I read it" means, pretty much, "I looked at every page."

Poulos's thesis, as near as I can tell, is that Tocqueville's Democracy in America, written in the 1830s, has much of value to tell us of the current American situation. We are still in what Poulos calls the "Great Transition" between the ancien régime, the age of aristocracy, and the age of democracy. And it's driving us Americans all crazy (Poulos uses "crazy" a lot). He analyzes how this trend and our mental states, play out in different arenas, each one a chapter title: Change, Faith, Money, Play, Sex, Death, Love. The book bursts with references to serious social philosophers (Nietzsche, Philip Rieff, Robert Bellah, Emerson, …), but also to literary/pop culture icons: Bret Easton Ellis, Marilyn Manson, Batman, Beck, … One gets the feeling that unless your reading and entertainment habits match Poulos's pretty closely, you're going to miss whatever points he's trying to make.

And let me tell you: I'm pretty sure Poulos took the movie Zoolander a lot more seriously than you did.

The prose is… not for the fainthearted. (The reviewer for National Review deemed it "prolix". I wouldn't be that complimentary. Picking a page (137) at random:

We long for unity through the medium of our equality—seeing ourselves in the image of money, not (for instance) the image of God; if only we could be as mutable, commensurable, and passable as that which constantly reinforces and reminds us of our interchangeable insignificance.

Yeah, whatever. I would object that making such a sweeping generalization about what "we long for" would be unwarranted, if only I could figure out what he meant in the first place.

I'll give him a slight thumbs up, when he suggests that while our official motto In God We Trust might capture a popular response to "the craziness of everyday life", a more useful motto might be "Deal With It".

That's pretty good, I'm willing to back whatever legislation needed to make it so, but it also appears on page 2, and the book never gets back to that level of accessibility.

That's me, though. If you're more like Nick Gillespie, you will almost certainly like it better.

The Cleanup

[Amazon Link]

As readers may know, my to-be-read pile is deep, and my attacks on it are whimsical. So when Amazon tells me that I bought this paperback in August 2007… well, that's not surprising.

It has a lot going for it. There are glowing cover blurbs from Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, and Laura Lippman! I think the reason I got it, however, was (somehow) I became aware that it was set in Omaha, where I spent many of my Formative Years (1961-1969, age 10-18). And I can (finally) report: it's pretty good, crime fiction in the Elmore Leonard vein.

The protagonist, Matt Worth, is an Omaha beat cop whose career, and life generally, is on a downward slide. His wife left him for a homicide detective, and the resulting altercation got him assigned to the graveyard shift at SaveMore, an open-all-night supermarket. There, his attention is drawn to a young cashier, Gwen. She's nice, but occasionally comes to work with injuries that Worth's cop instincts (correctly) deduce are due to an abusive boyfriend.

Then things take a turn for the disastrous. Gwen's hospitalized, the boyfriend turns up dead, and Matt finds himself in the boyfriend's car with the corpse in the trunk (along with, unbeknownst to Matt, a boatload of cash). Also complicating matters: organized crime, dirty cops, a freak October snowstorm, a nosy neighbor, and discount furniture. So that all keeps the pages turning.

At the time of the book's writing, the author, Sean Doolittle, lived in Omaha, and it shows. The protagonist went to Central High, and there are references to real places like Creighton U, Clarkson Hospital (that's where I got my tonsils out in 1956!), Westroads, etc.. The "SaveMore" grocery store is placed at Saddle Creek and Leavenworth, which Google Maps tells me is really a Baker's these days.

UNH Censors Again

Or, to quote Buck Murdock: "Irony can be pretty ironic sometimes."

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has the story: University of New Hampshire’s removal of anti-sexual harassment exhibit undermines free speech.

FIRE and others are asking questions about the University of New Hampshire’s decision to remove a student-led exhibit criticizing street harassment and allow it to be re-posted only after making changes apparently acceptable to administrators’ tastes about what language is sufficiently inoffensive to be shared on a university campus.

"Street harassment" is a thing now. It refers to guys making sexually suggestive remarks (of varying degrees of offensiveness) to women in public. The exhibit in question (there's a picture of it at the FIRE link) contains somewhere around three dozen examples, all allegedly based on survey results gathered by UNH's Sexual Harassment & Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP), where students were invited to submit things they actually heard said to them on the street. The exhibit appeared in the primary hallway of the Memorial Union Building (MUB).

To state the obvious: a college town like Durham is an overflowing petri dish of young-person hormones combined with varying degrees of desperation, insecurity, and general stupidity.

And the latter is enhanced via copious amounts of cheap beer and weed.

And finally, on the "street", especially on Thursday-Saturday nights, an additional factor comes into play: the notion that everyone's on the prowl, "looking for a good time".

So it's not very surprising that "street harassment" happens in Durham. In fact, SHARPP's Director, Amy Culp, is completely believable when she claims that the display was restricted to some of the "milder" comments submitted.

"I understand that some found them to be concerning; however, it’s important to note that these were far less vile than the other list of comments that were reported,” [Culp] said.

The FIRE article is pretty brutal in describing the censorship imposed by UNH Administration. FIRE reports the student newspaper's quote from Dean of Students Ted Kirkpatrick:

Additionally, open house season for admitted students and their families began last week and, according to Kirkpatrick, some of the “language used on the MUB wall placards was not suitable for young children or for those members of our publics and our campus community who have strong personal convictions that may originate from religious, spiritual or ethnic roots.”

Something FIRE missed in the above is the "open house season" factor. Specifically: prospective college applicants and their families flock to UNH at this time of year, and a lot of them traipse through that MUB hallway.

Now, Dean Kirkpatrick's claimed concern for "young children" etc., is fine, but I can't help but think he had a bigger, unstated, worry: that moms and dads would see the display and think that just maybe they didn't want to plonk their daughter into such a self-admitted sexually-besotted environment. Which, in turn would impact the UNH pocketbook. Can't have that!

Of course, when it comes to the UNH Administration vs. SHARPP, there's a certain "isn't there some way they could both lose" schadenfreude involved. SHARPP has long been a force for stupidity at UNH, subordinating the worthy goal of a less-sexually-toxic environment to the more important goal of tediously hectoring the student body against "sexism, racism, heterosexism, classism, able-bodyism, ageism and other oppressions."

The "brains" behind the street harassment display is Jordyn Haime, described as "a freshman journalism major and SHARPP community educator". If you have the time and inclination, you can read her student-newspaper op-eds here and here. She is a living example of George F. Will's aphorism: when colleges and universities "make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate."

But I was struck by this bit in the (sympathetic, of course) Huffington Post story about the controversy:

“I think I started carrying a pocketknife with me when I was 16, I bought myself a can of pepper spray for my 18th birthday, and my mom bought me a new container of mace before I went off to college,” Haime told [the author] via email. “So I think that speaks a lot to what young people are expected to deal with on college campuses or just walking down the street.”

Hey, Jordyn? I'd like to draw your attention to the rules:

The University of New Hampshire is a weapon free campus. This applies to all residence halls and apartments. Weapons include but are not limited to, firearms, simulated firearms, dangerous chemicals, any explosive device, nunchucks, brass knuckles, butterfly knives, paintball guns/equipment and any other materials that can be used to intimidate, threaten or endanger others, are prohibited on campus. Any knife, including a butter knife, used as a weapon shall be considered a violation of this policy.

So you better hope that the dorm cops don't read the HuffPo.

URLs du Jour

2017-04-04

■ When I read Proverbs 28:28, I thought I'd somehow gotten my verses out of sequence:

When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding; but when the wicked perish, the righteous thrive.

But no. Instead it appears the Proverbs guy kind of ran out of steam here, recycling something he'd already pointed out sixteen proverbs earlier.

■ Jacob Sullum at Reason summarizes: We Can't Cut the NEH, New York Times Columnist Says, Because Books Are Important. The columnist in question is Nicholas Kristof, and he echos a bad argument from Norman Ornstein that we noted last week: if you oppose federal funds for arts and humanities, you oppose arts and humanities. Sullum:

By the same logic, you oppose education if you oppose the Department of Education, and you oppose shelter if you oppose the Department of Housing and Urban Development. For Ornstein and Kristof, there is no difference between valuing something and insisting that the federal government force other people to pay for it—an attitude that is far more fiscally consequential than the programs they happen to be defending right now.

To belabor the obvious: it rarely occurs to folks inside the progressive bubble how absurd their arguments seem to those of us on the outside.

■ KDW (I'm just going to call him that from here out) makes his nomination for "the dumbest word in politics". And that word is ‘Politicized’. RTWT, but:

People tend to complain about things’ being “politicized” most intensely when the politics is going against them, and the Democrats seem to just be getting the news that Barack Obama’s remarkable self-centeredness made him very, very good at winning elections — for himself. The rest of the Democratic party is in pretty poor shape. And the question they face in the immediate future is not whether to politicize the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch but whether to do so in a stupid and self-destructive way, attempting to do from their current minority position what Republicans did to poor old Merrick Garland (for excellent, political reasons) from their majority position. The problem with that isn’t that it is political, but that it is a terrible idea.

I also got a chuckle from: "The Bill of Rights is, properly understood, a List of Stuff You Idiots Cannot Be Trusted to Vote On."

■ At the Observer, Ashe Schow does a fine debunking of "Equal Pay Day": Today We Judge Women by How Much They Earn. Good point here:

Why do we care so much what people make? Why are women being valued solely by their income, when so many non-income-related things make a person valuable to society? Things like volunteer work, charity and, of course, raising the next generation should be considered. We shouldn’t be telling anyone that they are only as good as the money they earn.

There are numerous fallacies behind "Equal Pay Day", but that's a biggie.

■ Northwestern University's Laura Kipnis writes at the Chronicle of Higher Education of her experiences being Eyewitness to a Title IX Witch Trial.

Torch the miscreant, resanctify the community. It was the campus equivalent of a purification ritual, and purifying communities is no small-scale operation these days: In addition to the five-person faculty panel, there were three outside lawyers, at least two in-house lawyers, another lawyer hired by the university to advise the faculty panel, a rotating cast of staff and administrators, and a court reporter taking everything down on a little machine. Ludlow had his lawyer (and on one occasion, two). And there was me.

Professor Kipnis is rightly disturbed. Her article is long, the ending is sad, but it's an invaluable snapshot of What's Wrong.

■ You may have noticed that Atlanta lost an freeway bridge a few days back. Wired's Rhett Allain (physics prof) runs the numbers on his modest proposal: Sure, Atlanta Can Fix Its Freeway—Or Build a Ramp to Jump It. Bottom line:

[The ramps—one for takeoff, one for landing] might be quicker to build than it would be to replace the missing section of the interstate. Also, it would serve as a type of speed enforcement. If you are driving too slow you won’t make the jump. If you are driving too fast, you will miss the landing ramp. Oh, it would also be cool to watch. Everyone driving over the jump would also be required to yell “YEEEEEEE HAAAWW”.

Yessss. Professor Allain is at Southeastern Louisiana U, which should be higher on any college applicant's list of schools than Northwestern.

URLs du Jour

2017-04-03

■ We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming, with Proverbs 28:27:

Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.

Again with the poor. (Yes, when I read the Old Testament, I can come off sounding a tad Jewish.) Allow me to share a paragraph from P. J. O'Rourke's latest book How the Hell Did This Happen?:

In 1966, at the height of Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty," the U.S. poverty rate was 14.7% and 28.5 million Americans were living in poverty. Now the U.S. poverty rate is 14.5% and 45 million Americans are living in poverty. Thus Democratic politicians care so much about poverty that—far from warring on it—they have become a kind of conservationist group, devoted to preserving it forever. Democrats are the Sierra Club of Poverty.

I have to go with P. J. over Proverbs.

NR's Kevin D. Williamson sounds the alert: Here Come the Pizza Gestapo. At issue: the new federal restaurant regulations that demand "posting signs in the shop with calorie counts for every item on the menu and for every variation on that item." Yes, even at Domino's, where the vast majority of orders are placed not "in the shop", but over phone and Internet. And where there are (you may be aware) myriads of different combinations of pizza toppings. And nobody pays attentions to calorie counts "in the shop" anyway.

So: useless and expensive. But:

But Uncle Stupid is dead serious about this: Violating the new federal pizza rules is not a civil offense but a criminal one. A pimply-faced teen-ager who throws an extra handful of cheese onto a large Cali Chicken Bacon Ranch pizza could be thrown in the federal lockup for a year.

There's been a lot of whining about Trump's proposed FDA budget cuts, but obviously he didn't cut enough.

■ The WSJ interviews Jonathan Haidt on the Cultural Roots of Campus Rage. Very sober and serious, and I will spoil the very end for you, sorry:

If you lean left—even if you adhere to the campus orthodoxy, or to certain elements of it—you might consider how the failure to respect pluralism puts your own convictions at risk of a backlash. “People are sick and tired of being called racist for innocent things they’ve said or done,” Mr. Haidt observes. “The response to being called a racist unfairly is never to say, ‘Gee, what did I do that led to me being called this? I should be more careful.’ The response is almost always, ‘[Expletive] you!’ ”

He offers this real-world example: “I think that the ‘deplorables’ comment could well have changed the course of human history.”

■ And, this being Pun Salad, I can not resist (heh):

As one commenter says: terminally funny.

Tweeting to Carol Shea-Porter (V)

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

Background: CSP's recent twit-strategy seems to be mindlessly retweeting any anti-Trump/GOP meme she can find. This one is based on a WaPo article: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spends his first weeks isolated from an anxious bureaucracy. Inauspicious beginning:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson takes a private elevator to his palatial office on the seventh floor of the State Department building, where sightings of him are rare on the floors below.

Fearless speculation: it's the same "private elevator" and the same "palatial office" used by Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. Somehow, the WaPo didn't manage to notice that until just now.

But what sent the progressive fingers to keyboards was:

Most of his interactions are with an insular circle of political aides who are new to the State Department. Many career diplomats say they still have not met him, and some have been instructed not to speak to him directly — or even make eye contact.

No eye contact? Who does Tillerson think he is, Katy Perry?

Never mind, it's nonsense, as related by NR's Jim I. Geraghty

Matt Lee, the chief diplomatic writer for the Associated Press, calls BS on the implausible “no eye contact” rule: “This is not true and people repeating it are making it more difficult to address very real issues. I was told of this allegation – weeks ago – and checked it out.”

Also see the link in my tweet. CSP is a careless mud-thrower.

Tweeting to Maggie Hassan

A recent tweet-reply to my state's junior US Senator, Maggie Hassan:

Background: The cited WaPo article awards three Pinocchios to Bernie Sanders' wriggling attempt to avoid using the word "filibuster" to describe Democratic Party tactics to block Judge Gorsuch's nomination to the Supreme Court. Those are the "rules", he claims. Comments the "fact checker" Glenn Kessler:

Once again: There is no “traditional” 60-vote “standard” or “rule” for Supreme Court nominations, no matter how much or how often Democrats claim otherwise.

I am not sure whether Bernie is calling himself a Democrat this week, but whatever. Senator Maggie's official statement on the nomination copies-n-pastes this unoriginal talking point.

[…] I support maintaining the traditional 60-vote threshold for confirming Supreme Court nominees.

As the WaPo shows, Maggie is using "traditional" in the sense of "conveniently unprincipled and ad hoc".

URLs du Jour

2017-04-01

■ Our relentless march through Proverbs continues (even though it is April). Here is 28:26:

Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.

That's a thought-provoker, even though it seems to say that I shouldn't trust any conclusions I might derive from those provoked thoughts.

Perhaps it's similar to what Richard Feynman said in his 1974 Caltech commencement speech on "Cargo-Cult Science".

The first principle [of scientific integrity] is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.

It's (honestly) a complete coincidence that our April 1 proverb concerns fools. As always, you are urged to be careful out there today.

Yesterday's Pun Salad prediction turned out to be on the mark.

Jordan Gamache, 34, was arrested Friday and charged with second-degree murder, according to the Attorney General's Office.

I will trumpet these little victories as they occur. They're certainly rare enough.

■ Jacob Weindling lists The 25 Best Never Trump Conservatives to Follow on Twitter. No, I didn't expect Pun Salad to be there. But I did kind of think that Jonah Goldberg and Kevin D. Williamson would make the cut. It's a list targeted to his unconservative readers, so I suspect that he didn't want to expose them to too many sources of insight and accuracy.

■ Speaking of KDW, here he is on Trump's tweeted declaration of war on the GOP Freedom Caucus: Prelude to a Sellout. His bottom line:

Conservatives should not be under any illusions about President Trump’s orientation at this moment. After the health-care debacle, he is proceeding as though he believes that conservatives are his enemies, and he is ready to recruit Democrats, who will bring their policies with them, into that fight. Trump being Trump, nobody knows where he’ll be politically the day after tomorrow, but from one point of view it makes no sense to worry about Trump’s selling out conservatives: He was never a conservative to begin with, and it is impossible to betray principles that one does not in fact hold.

This is not news, but it bears repetition for folks who don't want to be singing that Who song one more time. As Robby Soave noted months ago:

Donald Trump is not a man of ideological principles, conservative or otherwise. He's a reflexive authoritarian who thinks the answer to virtually every problem is more government involvement, at least and especially if "winners" like himself are in charge.

Reason's May issue articles are filtering out to the website. David Bier had a good one: Why the Wall Won't Work. His bottom line:

In a sense, the wall merely represents the Trump administration's worst instincts and desires. It is harmful, wasteful, and offensive, but an ineffective wall is nonetheless better than the surge of 5,000 new Border Patrol agents and 10,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to round up and deport people that the president also wants. No wall has ever arrested, robbed, battered, or murdered nonviolent people, as immigration enforcement has. A wall will not create an interest group to lobby for itself, endorse nationalist presidential candidates, and demand more power and funding, as the Border Patrol union does.

The wall is more than a symbol. It will harm the lives of thousands of border residents and immigrants while wasting billions of tax dollars. But in a world run by nationalists, the one small source of comfort for non-nationalists over the next four years may be the knowledge that it could be worse.

Now, you may not like Bier's implicit advocacy of loosey-goosey immigration. But he does a pretty good job of showing that (specifically) Trump's Wall is an expensive folly.

And I was struck by how much it resembles other Prohibitionist follies: the original one on booze, and subsequent actual/attempted ones on drugs, guns, etc.

■ Bo Winegard and Ben Winegard write on A Tale of Two Bell Curves. A good introduction to what Charles Murray and the late Richard J. Herrnstein really wrote in their book back in 1994, and…

There are two versions of The Bell Curve. The first is a disgusting and bigoted fraud. The second is a judicious but provocative look at intelligence and its increasing importance in the United States. The first is a fiction. And the second is the real Bell Curve. Because many, if not most, of the pundits who assailed The Bell Curve did not and have not bothered to read it, the fictitious Bell Curve has thrived and continues to inspire furious denunciations. We have suggested that almost all of the proposals of The Bell Curve are plausible. Of course, it is possible that some are incorrect. But we will only know which ones if people responsibly engage the real Bell Curve instead of castigating a caricature.

But castigating a caricature is so easy!


Last Modified 2017-04-01 6:09 PM EDT