URLs du Jour

2017-05-27

■ A proverb so big it takes two verses to contain it: Proverbs 25:4-5

4 Remove the dross from the silver,
    and a silversmith can produce a vessel;
5 remove wicked officials from the king’s presence,
    and his throne will be established through righteousness.

See? Even in Ancient Israel, they had wicked Deep State officials thwarting the plans of the righteous king! Get rid of 'em!

■ Which brings us to Kimberley A. Strassel's case study: Anatomy of a Deep State.

On May 8 a woman few Americans have heard of, working in a federal post that even fewer know exists, summoned a select group of 45 people to a June meeting in Washington. They were almost exclusively representatives of liberal activist groups. The invitation explained they were invited to develop “future plans for scientific integrity” at the Environmental Protection Agency.

The woman is Francesca Grifo, who became the EPA's "Scientific Integrity Official" (yes, a real thing) after a long stint as a general-purpose activist with the left-wing Union of Concerned Scientists. The post is not considered "political", so she's difficult to fire. And there's every indication that she'll be using her position to propagandize for "progressive" regulation.

■ You know, I trash Senator Elizabeth "Fauxcahontas" Warren quite a bit here at Pun Salad. So when she takes a stance in favor of free expression against repressive dictatorships, I should acknowledge that.

Alas, today is not that day. As the Free Beacon reports, Elizabeth Warren Coordinated Response to Tibetan Student With UMass Admin.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) coordinated with the University of Massachusetts Amherst to respond to a student who had pleaded for the senator's help after having her request to carry the Tibetan flag to a commencement ceremony rejected by the school, according to emails obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Foreign students are allowed, nay, encouraged, to carry flags from their respective countries, but UMass-Amherst (conveniently) takes its marching orders from the official "list of nations" issued by the US State Department. Senator Liz, instead of trying to work out an agreement, just asked the UMass-Amherst administration how best to present a united front against the student.

■ At Reason, Veronique de Rugy finds An Excellent Trump Budget Cut: International Organization Contributions. The proposal is to decrease such payments from $1.59 Billion in FY 2017 to "only" $900 million in FY 2018. Veronique has a suggestion for an easy $77 million cut:

I, for one, hope that the State Department will have the good sense to zero out the budget of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The U.S. paid $77 million last year just so that the OECD bureaucrats can push for international tax cartels, the end of privacy, redistribution schemes, and other big-government fantasies. That’s what I call working against U.S. interests.

I know the proposed budget has zero legal force, and has woeful problems. But sometimes you just feel like looking for the pony.

■ At Reason, Scott Shackford detects hypocrisy: People Who Called Snowden a Traitor Shocked to Learn About All This Domestic Surveillance. The (relatively new) issue is a recent report detailing not-just-technically illegal distribution of surveillance results within Your Federal Government.

The story, via a media outlet called Circa, documents a recently released report from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court). The report features examples of the FBI passing along private data it collected without warrants to people who should not be seeing it.

It's an important story, and it's great that it's getting attention. But what it reveals is well-known to anybody who has been paying attention to the surveillance disclosures and FISA Court document releases that have slowly been surfacing since Edward Snowden started leaking. The federal government is accessing and spreading around more information about U.S. citizens than we realize. That's what Snowden's disclosures were about, right?

I think it's possible for people to think Snowden broke the law and that a lot of Fed snooping is (literally) unwarranted.

Another upside to the Trump Administration: people might take these issues more seriously than they did when Obama was president.

■ Theodore Darlymple has thoughts on the (so called) Right to Health.

No doubt there has always been high-sounding verbiage in the world, but it is never entirely innocent, in as much as it implicitly demands consent without thought, much less contestation. No one bothers to argue with a slogan, especially when it is so obviously virtuous, for what kind of monster would wish illness on anyone? Health for all is obviously desirable: as are many other impossible things.

The slogans do not explicitly say that health is a right, but the proximity of “health for all” with “rights for everyone” certainly encourages their conflation. And indeed, it is not difficult nowadays to find not only health care but also health itself propounded as a human right.

The absurdity of this is obvious. If I discover tomorrow that I have a fatal tumor, my rights have not been denied me, any more than they were when I was born less handsome than I should like to have been. Even health care is not a right, though it is obviously desirable that everyone should have access to it, for the simple reason that it is better to prevent or relieve suffering than not to do so.

Good luck on making this simple truth heard in these times of debased political language.

■ Matt Walther (Free Beacon) notes a new thing: When Self-Compassion Becomes Self-Abuse.

The idea of "self-compassion" may strike you as oxymoronic, like "a deliberate mistake" or "congressional accountability." You are probably not alone if it sounds to you like an abstract brief for narcissism. But you are also up against the wall that is the fiscal-politico-academic-internationalist consensus: the purveyors of woke capital, the chai financiers and yoga programmers and eco-friendly growth consultants who run our banks and advise our city councils and "develop" our young at centers of higher learning—the painfully well-informed powers that be who, sometime between the end of the Cold War and now, when nobody much was paying attention, managed to usurp the old boring WASP establishment in this country. These folks are famous for liking to "break sh—." But they also like to fix sh—, at least when the thing they are fixing is their feelings.

It's pretty funny stuff. There's a Granite State connection, too: one of the Believers is Tim Desmond, a co-founder of Morning Sun Mindfulness Center over in Alstead. (The "All Ages Mindfulness Retreat" will set you adults back $220; but you get to "explore how to to bring mindfulness practice into our daily lives.")

■ Gizmodo reveals: Here’s What Happened When Computers Tried Naming Metal Bands. And the results were … remarkably true-to-life. I was particularly fond of "Inhuman Sand", in the "Melodic Death Metal" subgenre, from Russia (with love).

URLs du Jour

2017-05-26

Proverbs 25:3 gets pretty mystical on us:

3 As the heavens are high and the earth is deep,
     so the hearts of kings are unsearchable.

They're special people. Unsearchable hearts, and (as we saw yesterday ) they're able to uncover what God Himself conceals.

Today's Getty image: the wrong way to search a king's heart.

■ At NR, Ian Tuttle notes the phony labelling involved in "Net Neutrality": The FCC’s ‘Open Internet Rules’ Make the Internet Less Open. A good history of the controversy. Bottom line:

Last week, the FCC voted (2–1, along party lines) to begin a review of the 2015 regulations, launching the process by which the current rules could be overturned. Predictions of apocalypse have ensued: Democratic senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii accused Republicans of trying to “end the Internet.” In reality, it is more nearly the opposite. The “Open Internet” regulations promulgated in 2015 threaten to turn the Internet into one more fiefdom of the federal government, and thereby to strangle the impulse toward innovation and improvement. A smarter regulatory framework would make the government a partner to a dynamic, competitive Internet, not an enemy.

A preferable course of action would be to abolish the FCC, but I'll take second-best.

■ Steve Chapman at Reason dissects Trump's Half-Baked Budget.

Donald Trump's first budget proposal is a brazen mix of ideology and dishonesty, seasoned with irresponsibility and pulled out of the oven as soon as it was half-baked. Those qualities make it surprisingly similar to the budgets of Barack Obama and George W. Bush—and largely in accord with public desires. Its defects are neither new nor accidental.

Those defects are: an unwillingness to get Social Security and Medicare under control and an expanded defense budget.

■ Betsy Newmark is a conscientious daily blogger (as I'm trying to be), and her "Crusing the Web" posts are approximately the same as my "URLs du Jour" posts: she excerpts and comments on stuff she finds interesting. One recent example looks (sadly) at documents obtained by BuzzFeed from the Princeton U. admissions process. You might be surprised/dismayed to the extent that admissions personnel are obsessed with race/ethnicity. Betsy comments:

We already knew that admissions committees search for qualified racial minorities. Now we see that they especially want minorities who are themselves focused on their own race. They don't just want a Native American; they want someone who pumps up his race on the application. A mixed-race Hispanic student who is high-performing is not enough. The applicants also need to make sure to write an application about his or her race. And Asian Americans are just out of luck; it's not enough to be high-achieving and involved in community service. That's to be expected. There is something quite despicable about this attitude that students should be so focused on race that they insert racial comments into their applications. I would have thought that students who are focused on academic success and community service without regard to race, theirs or others, would be wonderful students that any university would want. But that's not enough for Princeton. They want young people who are full of racial concerns. We're never going to get to the post-racial society we were told would happen with Obama's election if universities penalize young people who aren't obsessed with race. Once this story gets out, students will know how they have to slant their admissions essays. Expect future applicants to be writing about their racial consciousness whether or not they have such thoughts.

Why, it's almost as if today's progressives don't want a "post-racial society".

■ I know you (like me) occasionally wonder if you could buy Megan McArdle something that would impress her. She drops a hint here on what not to do: A $2,000 Dishwasher Will Never Impress Me.

Partly that’s because I have a somewhat eccentric perspective on kitchen renovation: Unlike most people, I really don’t care if my appliances match, and I won’t spend extra for upscale unless I can see a clear utilitarian benefit. (Impressing visitors doesn't count as a utilitarian benefit.) The wall ovens, if we get them, will be the proletarian Samsung, not highbrow Wolf or Miele. The dishwasher that could get me to spend $2,000 would have to not only clean my plates, but also collect them from the dinner table, and stack them neatly in the cabinets when it was done.

OK, so maybe a nice melon baller instead.

URLs du Jour

2017-05-25

■ We're all done with chapter 26, so let's flip back to Proverbs 25:2:

2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter;
    to search out a matter is the glory of kings.

If I fuzz up my eyes a bit, I kind of like that. God hides, the King reveals. Interesting relationship.

Today's Getty image: a concealed kitty. Let's see if the King can find him!

■ So Chelsea Clinton spoke extemporaneously at a recent lefty conference. It was not pretty, as she stumbled to string together clichés she'd heard somewhere into semi-coherent thoughts. But this struck me as unintentionally revealing:

We also have to recognize, particularly at this moment, that sexism is not an opinion, Islamophobia is not an opinion, racism is not an opinion, homophobia is not an opinion, jingoism is not an opinion,

I recommend watching the video to get the full flavor of how she delivered this line with condescension and faux profundity. She is, indeed, her mother's daughter, and this is another repackaging of Hillary's basket of deplorables remark (replacing "xenophobia" with "jingoism").

The takeaway is, of course, that having opinions is generally OK. "You're entitled to your own opinions." But since those three -isms and two -phobias are not opinions, it's OK to take "whatever means necessary" against people who are deemed to be racists, Islamaphobes, etc.

Those five things are weaponized labels, defined vaguely, applied to enemies as it becomes convenient to do so. Not a new thing. I keep coming back to Orwell's essay "Politics and the English Language". In this case, note what he said about …

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

Nowadays, George would have noted that you can plug any and all of Chelsea's five deplorable non-opinion words for Fascism.

■ One of my thoughts as I heard about the horror in Manchester: How long before people start blaming Trump?. I didn't have to wait long to find out. Gabriel Schoenfeld, writing at USA Today: Manchester attack spotlights Trump damage to fight against terrorism. The argument (such as it is):

  • Trump fails to maintain "good relations with the leaders of the Muslim community". Because that worked so well with Obama, except for those untidy incidents in San Berndardino, Orlando, …

  • Trump fired FBI Director Comey. (Who had done such a swell job preventing San Bernardino, Orlando, …)

  • Trump wants to cut State Department funding, which will lead to more "Benghazis". Except that we had an actual Benghazi on the Obama/Hillary watch; was the problem inadequate funding, or a failure to foresee the outcome of a disastrous Libya policy?

To a first approximation, the number of people whose opinions about Islamic terrorism were changed by the Manchester body count seems to be zero.

■ They aren't all budget-cutters in the Trump Administration. At Cato, Randal O'Toole examines An Electrifyingly Bad Decision.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s decision to give $647 million to California to electrify a San Francisco commuter rail line tells states and cities across the nation that they should plan the most expensive and wasteful infrastructure projects they can and the Trump administration will support them. The Caltrains electrification project had no political, economic, social, or environmental justification, so Chao’s support for the project despite its lack of virtues does not bode well for those who hoped that the Trump administration would take a fiscally conservative stance on infrastructure and transportation.

Could we "savagely" cut another $647 million from the DOT budget, please?

■ An interesting look from the (left-wing) Guardian is titled: How Facebook flouts Holocaust denial laws except where it fears being sued. The implication, I guess, is that Facebook should follow the local laws even if it's in no danger of being sued.

Fine, whatever. But the general problem is age-old: once you get in the business of censorship, things rapidly get arbitrary and hair-splitting, involving "protected categories" (e.g., sexual orientations) and "non-protected categories" (e.g., political affiliations).

Other comments that flout Facebook’s guidelines include “French girls are stupid” and “Irish are stupid”. But moderators are told to ignore “Blonde women are stupid” and “Redheads are disgusting”. According to the documents, Facebook tells moderators to err on the side of allowing content if they are unsure.

Fair game: white guys.

■ In Portland OR, the rise and fall of Kooks Burritos is chronicled: White women's burrito shop is forced to close after being hounded with accusations it was 'culturally appropriating Mexican food and jobs'. Their crime was being a little too observant of the food prep techniques in Nuevo Laredo:

Explaining their trip, [one of the owners] told the newspaper: 'I picked the brains of every tortilla lady there in the worst broken Spanish ever, and they showed me a little of what they did.[…]'

The resulting furor, examples at the link: a strange combination of dismaying and hilarious. Resulting in one less burrito truck in Portland.

■ I wasn't a fan of the Roger Moore James Bond movies, but Mr. Moore was a heck of a good guy. Check out James Freeman's tribute at the WSJ's "Best of the Web": The Spy Who Loved Us, and don't fail to read the charming anecdote from Marc Haynes therein.

URLs du Jour

2017-05-24

Proverbs 26:28 is unfond of flattery and lying:

28 A lying tongue hates those it hurts,
    and a flattering mouth works ruin.

You put a lying tongue in a flattering mouth, and … you get your average politician.

■ A twofer on my LFOD Google Alert today. First, Bud's New Camo Bottles Will Be Hard to Miss on Store Shelves. Why is that? Well, because they'll be on your store's shelves, not hidden in foliage. Duh.

The LFOD bit is a different marketing effort:

Separately, the brewer appears poised to roll out packaging highlighting the names of states where it is brewed. The brewer has sought and gained regulatory approval for individual labels carrying names including New York, Missouri, Ohio, California, Colorado, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Virginia, Florida and Texas. […] Each state label carries a unique saying, such as "live free or die" for New Hampshire, according to filings with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

I don't usually buy Budweiser, but I may make an exception here.

■ The second alert was caused by a Union Leader LTE from Portsmouth's Zorana Pringle, writing in opposition to the anti-voter-fraud measure in the NH legislative process: Protect voting rights.

The right to vote is at the heart of democracy. Yet, Republican lawmakers across the country are trying to curb citizens’ ability to vote. The Supreme Court helped put an end to the restrictive voter ID law in North Carolina that primarily affected minority voters. Now the right to vote is at risk in the Live Free or Die state, too.

If you subscribe to a New Hampshire newspaper, I bet you're seeing similar. A counterpoint and a link to the bill info is here.

Does Ms. Pringle think that anyone who happens to be in New Hampshire on an election day should be allowed to vote? As near as I can tell, the answer is yes.

■ Cato's Daniel J. Mitchell enumerates: The Five Most Important Takeaways from Trump’s Budget.

It’s both amusing and frustrating to observe the reaction to President Trump’s budget.

I’m amused that it is generating wild-eyed hysterics from interest groups who want us to believe the world is about to end.

But I’m frustrated because I’m reminded of the terribly dishonest way that budgets are debated and discussed in Washington. Simply stated, almost everyone starts with a “baseline” of big, pre-determined annual spending increases and they whine and wail about “cuts” if spending doesn’t climb as fast as previously assumed.

Mr. Mitchell's first two takeaways: (1) the proposed budget "cuts" will result in $5.71 Trillion spending in 2027, compared to $4.06 Trillion in 2017. (2) This reflects a spending growth rate of 3.5% per year.

Dishonest doesn't begin to cover it.

■ But not everyone is enraptured with the Trump Budget. For example, KDW@NR thinks it heralds The Return of the Naïve Supply-Sider.

President Donald J. Trump has produced a very silly budget proposal. Thankfully, presidential budget proposals have all the effect of a mouse passing gas in a hurricane — Congress, not the president, actually appropriates funds and writes the tax code.

Presidential budget proposals are not received as actual fiscal blueprints but as statements of priorities, and so we must conclude that President Trump’s top priority is refusing to deal with reality.

Here’s the situation: About 80 percent of federal spending is consumed by five things: 1. National defense; 2. Social Security; 3. Medicare; 4. Medicaid and other related health-care benefits; 5. Interest on the debt. President Trump wants to increase spending on defense by about 10 percent while shielding Social Security and Medicare from cuts. Short of a default, he doesn’t have any choice but to pay the interest on the debt. So that leaves things pretty tight.

On top of that, he wants to pass what he boasts is one of the largest tax cuts in history . . . and balance the budget.

KDW's recipe for fiscal responsibility is simple: "genuine tax reform that is something close to revenue-neutral, significant entitlement reforms that will be politically unpopular, and defense spending that is flat or slightly lower." But that sort of sanity is unpopular in DC.

■ At Reason, Jacob Sullum asks: Did Trump Know Enough to Obstruct Justice?

[Generally, when the question is "Did Trump know enough to X?" the safe way to bet is "Ha! No."]

For almost a year, Donald Trump has been complaining that FBI Director James Comey gave Hillary Clinton "a free pass for many bad deeds," as the president recently put it on Twitter. Trump thinks his opponent in last year's presidential election should have been prosecuted for her loose email practices as secretary of state, even if she did not deliberately expose classified information.

The president might want to reconsider that hardline attitude. The reason Comey cited for not recommending charges against Clinton—a lack of criminal intent—could prove crucial in rebutting the allegation that Trump obstructed justice by trying to impede the FBI's investigation of ties between his associates and the Russian government.

Always willing to help, I offer something the President could practice with:

■ On more somber notes: if you don't do a lot of blog-hopping, JVW at Patterico's Pontifications offers a good Round-Up of Opinion, Post-Manchester. Example, Brendan O'Neil:

After the terror, the platitudes. And the hashtags. And the candlelit vigils. And they always have the same message: ‘Be unified. Feel love. Don’t give in to hate.’ The banalities roll off the national tongue. Vapidity abounds. A shallow fetishisation of ‘togetherness’ takes the place of any articulation of what we should be together for – and against. And so it has been after the barbarism in Manchester. In response to the deaths of more than 20 people at an Ariana Grande gig, in response to the massacre of children enjoying pop music, people effectively say: ‘All you need is love.’ The disparity between these horrors and our response to them, between what happened and what we say, is vast. This has to change.

But, sorry, this will not change.


Last Modified 2017-05-25 3:55 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-05-23

■ We are up to Proverbs 26:27:

27 Whoever digs a pit will fall into it;
    if someone rolls a stone, it will roll back on them.

Also known as: what goes around, comes around; a man reaps what he sows; etc. The ancient Israelis knew about karma, man.

■ David French on last night's horror: Manchester: The Chilling Sound of Terror.

There is no reasoning with this hate. There is no “legitimate grievance” with the West that triggers such violence. It is the product of fanatical devotion to the most evil of all causes, a cause that perversely promises paradise for the slaughter of innocents. There is no way for the West to be “good” enough to appease terrorists. There is no policy short of religious conversion that will cause them to relent. The best deterrent to jihad is the obliteration of jihadists. They thrive on victory, not defeat.

Tonight, sadly, they won a victory, and here’s all you need to know to understand the character of our enemies – they relish the sound of young girls’ screams.

How many more wake-up calls will Western Civilization need?

<voice imitation="professor_farnsworth">Good news, everyone!</voice> According to Chris Edwards at Cato: Trump Budget to Cut Federal Pensions.

The Washington Post said [predictably - Ed.], “The thought of Trump’s assault on federal retirement programs becoming law enrages federal employee leaders.” It certainly does. The paper quotes union leaders calling the proposals an “outrageous attack,” “downright mean,” and “beyond insulting.”

On the contrary, trimming the 47 percent advantage in benefits enjoyed by federal workers is a sensible attack on overspending. Furthermore, it is mean and insulting to taxpayers to give gold-plated pensions to workers inside the government bubble, especially since those favored few also have much higher job security than the rest of us.

Somedays, the Trump Administration is a trainwreck, but it occasionally does something good.

■ The College Fix winds up the story of Paul Griffiths, formerly of Duke Divinity School: Professor who called diversity training a ‘waste’ resigns after dean punishes him. Quoting from Griffiths' statement:

It’s over because I recently, and freely, resigned my chair in Catholic Theology at Duke University in response to disciplinary actions initiated by my dean and colleagues. Those disciplinary actions, in turn, were provoked by my words: critical and confrontational words spoken to colleagues in meetings; and hot words written in critique of university policies and practices, in support of particular freedoms of expression and thought, and against legal and disciplinary constraints of those freedoms. My university superiors, the dean and the provost, have been at best lukewarm in their support of these freedoms, preferring to them conciliation and accommodation of their opponents. And so, I reluctantly concluded, the word-struggle, the agony of distinction and argument, the search for clarity by dramatizing and exploring difference—these no longer have the place they once had in the university.

The heretic against the religion of progressivism has been cast out of the temple.

Heat Street's Emily Zanotti reveals: ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Under Fire for Not Casting Enough White Dudes.

The series stars  Sonequa Martin-Green as a high-level officer on the ship who has most of the show’s adventures (the captain, a white man, is just there for window dressing). Michelle Yeoh stars as another ship’s captain, who aides Martin-Green, and the two lead a cast of humans and aliens charged with saving the galaxy, before the events of Star Trek: The Original Series.

Well, for one thing: Michelle Yeoh. I hadn't planned on shelling out any money to watch Yet Another Star Trek series, but… Michelle Yeoh. Hm.

Yeah, get over it, fellow white dudes. As Ms Zanotti says: "But, it turns out, not just progressives can be snowflakes."

■ At the Free Beacon, Sonny Bunch does the world a great service by saying what needs to be said: Best Burger Chain? Five Guys, Obviously. Sonny's got opinions:

Obviously, Five Guys is the best. And Five Guys is the best because it has the best array of toppings. But with so many options, how do you know which ones to get to maximize the burger-to-topping ratio without overwhelming the burger itself? Behold, the perfect burger:

Five Guys Cheeseburger, with ketchup, mayo, mustard, pickles, sauteed onions, mushrooms.

That's it. That's the perfect burger. Put nothing else on it (lettuce? gtfo) and leave none of the above off of it (I don't care if you don't like mushrooms, develop your palate you philistine). Don't @ me, I don't care about your garbage opinion.

I'll try that. But… pickles and mushrooms? OK. I usually go for the jalapeños and barbecue sauce, but hey.

Of the top ten list Sonny discusses, we only have three in our area. Seacoast New Hamphire is not a burger hotspot.

I'm a little puzzled by Fuddruckers' omission from the top 10 list. I've not been there a lot (the nearest one to Pun Salad Manor is in frickin' Methuen MA), but my memories are fond.

■ Eric S. Raymond has a project to resurrect ADVENT, the adventure game that we geezers played in the 1970s on the timesharing PDP-10, when and if we could: The Adventure begins again.

Though there’s a C port of the original 1977 game in the BSD game package, and the original FORTRAN sources could be found if you knew where to dig, Crowther & Woods’s final version – Adventure 2.5 from 1995 – has never been packaged for modern systems and distributed under an open-source license.

Until now, that is.

Eric's discussion of the mechanics and esthetics of translating ancient memory-optimized Fortran code into something slightly more modern is excellent reading for software geeks. (As are the comments.)

URLs du Jour

2017-05-22

■ A three-verse day for us. Proverbs 26:24-26 is really down on the Proverbial enemies:

24 Enemies disguise themselves with their lips,
    but in their hearts they harbor deceit.
25 Though their speech is charming, do not believe them,
    for seven abominations fill their hearts.
26 Their malice may be concealed by deception,
    but their wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.

Not six or eight abominations, mind you: seven.

■ A disheartening editorial in my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, showing just how far left/stupid the paper has moved over the past few years. The editorial demand: Put an end to racism at UNH. This is all stemming out of the Cinco de Mayo brouhaha.

Fortunately, it's awful and nearly self-refuting. Starting with the title: end racism. Seriously? Where's the magic wand to do that, a goal that has never been accomplished by any society, ever?

Let's grant that the editorial starts (as such arguments always do) with Good Intentions. The writer wants students at UNH to respect each other, to be treated as dignified individuals without prejudgment due to their race. (Or, no doubt, any other characteristic in the laundry list: age, sex, color, marital status, physical or mental disability, creed, or national origin.) Fine.

And the editorial is against violence, threats, and vandalism. Also fine. But those things are already well-covered by the law, and the UNH conduct code. So?

Once the editorial goes beyond that, things get problematic. The editorial (vaguely) promotes responses that are (a) disproportionate to the observed offenses at UNH, (b) probably unconstitutional; (c) almost certainly a recipe for further campus strife.

The editorial takes at face value various UNH incidents: the N-word written on a "diversity-themed" bulletin board, scrawled swastikas in a dorm, a rock thrown at a bicycling "student of color". All meant to show that racism is prevalent on campus.

We've noted this before. Such incidents may be perpetrated by bigoted students. But sometimes such incidents are hoaxes. They may be, as with one recent bit of nastiness, "a strategy to draw attention to concerns about the campus climate.”

Nevertheless, the editorial proceeds to demand that UNH "do more": "it needs to be made clear that these acts won’t be tolerated — that students can be expelled for such acts."

Wait a minute, what acts? Exactly. Should a student be expelled for wearing a sombrero on May 5?

That's not too far-fetched. Boston.com reported that students are demanding that the conduct code be amended "to expel students who post 'racially insensitive' content."

Not just "hate speech". Insensitive speech.

And the rhetorical overkill is tremendous: one young lady at a UNH forum, claimed “blackface is a direct death threat."

What can you say, except: No. No, it's not.

Again, I recommend Eugene Volokh, written as a response to a similar editorial in the Washington Post. I was thinking about writing an irate letter to Foster's, but I realized I'd probably just be plagiarizing Volokh.

The Post has long benefited from strong First Amendment protection and has long defended it. It’s a shame that it is affirmatively calling for viewpoint-based speech suppression here.

For my take, please reread that with Foster's substituted for "The Post".

■ On to happier matters, by which I mean the continuing degradation of democratic norms in political debate. David Harsanyi lectures: Putting Country Above Party Works Both Ways. A point we made yesterday:

Now, I realize there is no room for half-measures in this political environment. You must be wholly, 100 percent convinced every day on every topic that Donald Trump is guilty of every act floated by every anonymous source in every publication or you will accused of abetting the coup against the American people.

But it's worth pointing out that Democrats, at least rank-and-file liberals, seem to have convinced themselves that this saga ends with articles of impeachment and removal. Who knows? Maybe they'll be right. But it's not concern-trolling to point out that having this level of certitude about an outcome has the potential to be self-destructive for the country as well.

■ David French wrote an article about Chelsea-used-to-be-Bradley Manning, and was attacked. But not on the substance of the article, but… Chelsea Manning and the Problem with Pronouns. Yes, David referred to Manning as a "he".

Immediately I was deluged with passionate but reasonable tweets explaining to me exactly what was wrong with my pronoun usage. No, wait. That was in a parallel universe. Here in the real world, I received a series of tweets you can’t post on a family website. In the real world, I was called a transphobe, “America’s worst person,” and many other names simply because I wouldn’t identify Manning as a woman.

I'm pretty sure that's the sort of thing people have in mind when they demand that people be expelled for "insensitivity".

In the secular faith of the illiberal Left, pronoun mandates have become the equivalent of blasphemy codes. On this most contentious of issues, one must use approved language and protect the most delicate of sensibilities. It’s bad enough to see this mindset work itself through Twitter or in shouted arguments on the quad. When it makes its way into law, then intolerance moves from irritation into censorship. It’s identity politics as oppression, and it’s infecting American debate. May it not corrupt American law.

Interesting times, aren't they?


Last Modified 2017-05-22 11:22 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-05-21

■ Proverbs 26:23 gets into film noir territory:

Like a coating of silver dross on earthenware
    are fervent lips with an evil heart.

I saw that movie! Barbara Stanwyk was in it, I think. Or maybe Gloria Grahame.

■ Since we discussed this dreadful story previously, an update is in order: Feminist Journal That Apologized for Article About Rachel Dolezal Now Apologizes for Apologizing.

The article in question, by an assistant philosophy professor at Rhodes College, looked at society’s level of acceptance for Caitlyn Jenner vs. Rachel Dolezal. She questioned why we’re Ok with Jenner self-identifying as a woman, but not OK with Dolezal thinking she’s black. Rebecca Tuvel, the author, argued her case for “transracialism.”

They seem confused about this stuff.

Reason puts a recent print interview with a great Granite State resident online: P.J. O'Rourke: Things Are Going to Be Fine. Famously, P. J. voted for Hillary. Why not Gary Johnson, P. J.?

He just ran a terrible campaign. There were so many moments, it seemed to me, over this campaign cycle that lasted for two years, when libertarian stuff could catch fire, and it didn't. I had some hope for [Kentucky Sen.] Rand Paul, but Rand is unfortunately burdened by intellect. You ask Rand a question and you get the whole answer. While that's great for an interview, it's not great on the stump. You don't get the joke that you got from Reagan. You don't get the thing boiled down.

More at the link, of course.

■ Is escalating hyperbolic political passion turning us into a banana republic? KDW@NR runs down the ominous parallels: Six Days in May.

The doings in Washington have a distinctly tropical feel to them, and it isn’t global warming. Republicans who rallied to Trump are now learning that it is very difficult to steer the ship of state with one middle finger. American institutions are very robust, and this moment’s banana-republic stuff probably can be digested, provided there is not too much more of it. But there is no sign that Democrats will be satisfied with paralyzing the administration — at the grassroots, it is plain they will be satisfied with nothing less than driving him from office, and maybe not even with that.

But that is not how constitutional, democratic republics work.

It behooves all of us to think what we can do to keep the country from sliding off the rails.

■ Glenn Greenwald isn't a common reference here, but here you go: Key Democratic Officials Now Warning Base Not to Expect Evidence of Trump/Russia Collusion.

The principal problem for Democrats is that so many media figures and online charlatans are personally benefiting from feeding the base increasingly unhinged, fact-free conspiracies — just as right-wing media polemicists did after both Bill Clinton and Obama were elected — that there are now millions of partisan soldiers absolutely convinced of a Trump/Russia conspiracy for which, at least as of now, there is no evidence. And they are all waiting for the day, which they regard as inevitable and imminent, when this theory will be proven and Trump will be removed.

This isn't concern-trolling. I don't care much if the Democrats self-destruct, I just don't want them to take the country along with them.

URLs du Jour

2017-05-20

■ Proverbs 26:22 seems to have mixed feelings about gossip:

The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;
    they go down to the inmost parts.

Some translations, like King James, say "wounds" instead of anything about morsels. So there seems to be some confusion there. Best ignore this proverb.

■ My Google LFOD alert was triggered by (of all things) this article in the Buenos Aires Herald (yes, that's Argentina) by Edgardo Zablotsky: Learn free or die. It's a discussion of school choice initiatives in the US, and…

New Hampshire may soon be the next state to establish a universal right to freedom of education. The Senate opened up this possibility by passing a universal ESA bill that would give parents who withdraw their kids from public schools 90 percent of funds of their child’s per-pupil state allocation. Legislation is now facing resistance in the GOP-controlled House. If Republicans don’t lose their nerve, they would be fortifying the state’s motto to “Live free or die” by embracing the freedom to learn.

Republicans losing their nerve is a pretty safe bet, but we'll see.

■ What could possibly get Grandma Clinton in trouble? Let's find out: Hillary Clinton in Trouble for Using Fake ‘African Proverb’ on Her New Website.

Hillary Clinton says her newly launched political group Onward Together takes its name from an old African proverb that’s displayed prominently on the group’s site: “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

I wonder if there isn't some guy in a basement somewhere making up these treacly aphorisms and attributing them to some ancient culture (African, Indian, Chinese, whatever) or or revered American statesman (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, …).

But anyway, it's nice to have a phony hit on Hillary again. Brings back memories of the campaign. Good times.

■ KDW@NR takes the occasion of depraved MSNBC mutterings in the wake of pedestrians' deaths in MYC to look at how "we" handle drunk drivers in the US of A: Sobering Success. As a Schrödinger-cat libertarian, this paragraph leapt out at me:

Libertarians may wish to avert their gaze, but prohibition played a big role in [preventing a significant number of traffic deaths]. As NIH runs the numbers, the single policy change that had the most significant effect was raising the legal drinking age from 18 to 21. Some of you will remember that the states did this under duress, with Washington threatening to withhold highway funds from non-compliers under the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984. The federal law did not call for a ban on alcohol consumption by those under 21, but only on sales. This had the effect of moving teenage drinking from bars and restaurants to house parties and other settings where young drinkers might be less likely to drive — and where arranging for alcohol to be served required some organization and forethought, qualities not generally associated with the general run of 19-year-olds.

It's an interesting question: what role should the government play in reducing risk to the citizenry via its coercive functions? It's easy to make fun of the "if it saves just one life" nanny-statists, but KDW is highlighting a policy that seems to save about 1000 deaths per year. Is that a high enough number for you?

■ Whatever Trump's misdeeds, takeover of the FCC by Ajit Pai has brought cheer to the hearts of all. At PowerLine, Scott Johnson summarizes the Life of Pai.

As a conservative Republican of libertarian stripe, Pai forcefully opposed the FCC takeover. See Tim Heffernan’s 2015 National Review article “Ajit Pai’s fight for Internet freedom.” My daughter Eliana had more background on Pai’s struggle at the FCC in the 2014 NRO column “Ajit Pai’s next move” (quotable quote: “It’s hard to think of any regulated utility in our economy that’s cutting edge”).

As a bonus, Mr. Pai reads "mean tweets" in a video.

■ A thoughtful article at the Tech Liberation Front from Adam Thierer: Does “Permissionless Innovation” Even Mean Anything?. Thierer has long been seen as advocating permissionless innovation, so that's kind of an interesting title. He thinks we may be headed toward a "soft law" compromise course between "permissionless innovation" and its nemesis, the "precautionary principle". (Characterized: Don't do anything unless it can be proved that it won't have negative effects.)

Much as Churchill said of democracy being “the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time,” I think we are well on our way to a world in which soft law is the worst form of technological governance except for all those others that have been tried before.

Hey, maybe! Thierer has certainly thought about this more seriously and deeper than I have.


Last Modified 2017-05-20 11:18 AM EDT

Mickey Kaus's Most Important Chart, More Data

This was inspired by Mickey Kaus's Kausfiles recent post The Most Important Chart, which included a graph showing relative changes to "real hourly wages" since 1973, based on education level. The data was credited to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

I griped (somewhat) in a comment at Kausfiles because the chart's newest data was from 2005, over a decade old.

I googled around a bit, and discovered that EPI had more recent data online here. After some moaning and groaning with Google Docs spreadsheets …

Here is EPI's raw data, "average hourly wages of workers disaggregated by the highest level of education attained" (2016 dollars).

As noted above, Mickey's chart is "normalized" to track changes relative to 1973 wage levels. Here's that chart (1973 = $100):


Last Modified 2017-05-19 6:35 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-05-18

■ Rolling the dice on Proverbs 26:21. C'mon, baby:

As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire,
    so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife.

So true! In related news, today's Getty image is a reconstruction of the Oval Office meeting between President Trump and James Comey.

■ At NR, Ben Shapiro clarifies: Trump Isn’t Playing 8-D Chess. Looking at recent developments:

Trump failed miserably on all fronts — not because of his political principles, which were never philosophically conservative, but because Trump is a deeply flawed man, and thus an even more flawed leader. His obsession with others’ perceptions led him to fire FBI director James Comey — who should have been fired, by all rights, months ago — for the sin of failing to respect Trump’s bizarre theories about Obama-era “wiretapping.” Meanwhile, in an act of extreme arrogance, Trump appeared on national television and proceeded to destroy the supposed rationales for the Comey firing. His pathological insecurities then led him to tweet about “tapes” of Comey, which he then refused to allow his communications team to sweep under the rug.

Yes, Hillary could have arguably been worse. That argument is wearing thin, not even four months in.

■ But impeachment? Nick Gillespie (at Reason) is dismissive: All This Impeachment Talk Is Pure Trump Derangement Syndrome.

Donald Trump, the most-unlikely and least-liked president in the history of the United States, had barely celebrated his first 100 days when calls for his impeachment started flying faster than Anthony Weiner dick pics at a Girl Scout cookout. For the good of democracy, don't you see, the Republicans must not only be kicked to the curb in the 2018 midterms, but the president himself must be thrown into the street, just like he once tried to evict that old lady from her house in Atlantic City!

Good luck with that, Democrats.

■ Moving on to less political, but more interesting, affairs: Tyler Cowan has a brief blurb about a new book from Ben Blatt, Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve. For example comparing authors' Number of -ly adverbs per 10,000 words (Hemingway: 80; E L James: 155).

In the novel The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien used the word “she” only once.  In The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, however, she relative to he is used 79% of the time, the highest ratio of the classics surveyed.  Female authors are very strongly represented on that side of the curve, let me tell you.  And male authors do the “he” far more, in relative terms, than female authors do the “she.”

Definitely going into my things-to-read list.

■ A good one from Michael P. Ramirez:

Speaking of Obstruction of Justice

All true! Life is unfair.

■ And James Lileks has this YouTube video in his Bleat today, animation from a Utah high-schooler. Watch, you won't be sorry.


Last Modified 2017-05-19 6:36 AM EDT

The Cake and the Rain

A Memoir

[Amazon Link]

I have been a Jimmy Webb fanboy for about 50 years, ever since I noticed that those sweet Glen Campbell songs ("Wichita Lineman", "Galveston", …) and a lot of songs off the Johnny Rivers "Rewind" album, and … whoa, Richard Harris's "Macarthur Park" were all written by the same guy.

So over the years, I've bought his albums, I've bought albums from artists who recorded his songs (Art Garfunkel, Linda Ronstadt, even Michael Feinstein, etc.). I've seen him in concert three or four times (I lose track). At one of those concerts, I even got his signature on a poster off his "Archive" 5-CD set.

I used to be kind of bashful about this, but the hell with it. "I celebrate the guy's entire catalog."

Well, actually, that's not true. There are some clinkers. But every songwriter has those.

In his concerts, Jimmy is quite the engaging raconteur, telling yarns about his encounters with Sinatra, Richard Harris, the city of Galveston, etc. He also displays this talent in a lot of documentaries: I'll Be Me (about Glen Campbell); Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him?), The Wrecking Crew, etc. You can kind of think of this memoir as an version of those anecdotes, much expanded and R-rated. The book only covers his early life, up to 1973 or so. A hint is dropped at the end that there may be another tome in the pipeline.

I've been reading numerous memoirs from artists I've enjoyed over the years. Mostly musicians: Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Donald Fagen, Willie Nelson, and more. Looking for insights into the creative process, but about the only common threads I can discern: (1) mild mental illness; (2) substance abuse, usually illicit and multiple; (3) violation of one or more of the seven deadly sins. Jimmy's no exception; in his case, the most noticeable sins are lust, gluttony, and pride. He loves the ladies, including those married to other people. There are hilarious/horrible tales of drug use, including an episode at the end of the book (co-starring Harry Nilsson and John Lennon) that nearly kills him. And his tales invariably seem to involve dangerous levels of irresponsibility, stupidity, and (often) wretched excess.

It's not all glibly sordid, however. Jimmy tells some genuinely moving stories about his mom and dad, and his passion for gliding.

As noted, I would have liked to read a little more about his creative process, but there's not a lot of insight here. There is (on the other hand) a lot about the mechanics of songwriting: what songs are offered to who, the logistics of putting together recordings or concerts, dealing with disappointing reviews/sales, and so on.

True fact: "Macarthur Park" was originally offered to The Association, and they turned it down! Surely the course of world history was altered, the planet wobbled in its orbit, and empires fell because of that decision.

URLs du Jour

2017-05-17

■ If you squint up your eyes a bit, you can see relevance to recent headlines in Proverbs 26:20

Without wood a fire goes out;
    without a gossip a quarrel dies down.

Pardon the Getty illustration; it's sexist, ageist, and probably problematic in other ways I can't discern.

■ My Google LFOD alert was triggered by a letter to the Concord Monitor, a shockingly sensible response to the recent legislative "investigations" into online comments by state reps Sherry Frost and Robert Fisher. (Briefly, Fisher, a Republican, is accused of being a troglodyte misogynist; Frost, a Democrat, is accused of being a potty-mouthed man-hater.) Letter-writer Jon Meyer states, simply: Legislature should not act as the thought police.

This is wrong. The New Hampshire Legislature should not be in the business of investigating or judging the social media of state representatives, particularly when that expression is not part of their legislative duties. The Legislature is not the thought police.

At the intersection of free speech and live free or die is the right to express oneself, even if the opinions are extreme or offensive, feminist or anti-feminist. And that right is not lost by being elected as a legislator.

Ah, bingo. Let Fisher's and Frost's respective constituents decide whether they should be in the legislature.

■ At College Fix, Daniel Payne demands: Enough with the hate crime hoaxes.

But it is on college campuses that the hate crime hoax seems to find the most purchase. By now we are familiar with the cycle: a racist note or a hateful flier or a KKK hood or something else is discovered on campus, invariably by a student who also happens to be an outspoken progressive activist on campus. Word spreads; the college administration pledges to get to the bottom of things; students assemble, march, often issue a set of demands, vow to extinguish the (racist/sexist/ableist/transphobic) climate on campus. Soon enough somebody starts asking questions, and within a few days or even a few hours the entire hoax falls apart. Then everything calms down until the next offensive thing is discovered.

Administrators should stop acting like scared puppies every time activists cite conveniently anonymous incidents as leverage for their stupid demands. E. g.:

Some University of New Hampshire students say the school has failed to address currents of racism on campus and are demanding that it double the number of students and faculty of color, offer diversity training for all staff and amend the student conduct code to expel students who post “racially insensitive” content.

Required reading for anyone spouting that last bit of nonsense: Eugene Volokh.

■ At the Niskansen Center, Jacob T. Levy suggests we not take The Shortcut to Serfdom. I assume readers will get the Hayek reference.

A deceptive, ruthless, nationalist executive, unconstrained by either traditional rules of law or by parliamentary or legislative oversight, choosing particular firms and industries for favor and disfavor, seeking to undo the international system of trade: this is very much the shape of the rising populist and nationalist authoritarianism in the world, from Turkey to Hungary to the United States. Hayek’s warning is that the good intentions of the democratic left can lead to bad results like that. To embrace those results for the sake of keeping the democratic left at bay is to dishonor the warning, not to heed it. This is true even if the lawless nationalist authoritarian promises a few pro-market victories on policies or personnel: some deregulation here, a tax cut there, a couple of undersecretaries.

Shortcut to reading Levy: I don't think that Hayek would have liked Trump; you shouldn't either.

■ KDW@NR offers helpful advice: How to Read the Newspaper.

What is happening right now is not salubrious skepticism but a kind of mass hysteria, millions of heads plunging with struthioniform insistence into the same sand, as though insisting that reality is something other than what it is, or merely averting our gaze, would somehow alter the truth. Something has changed radically with remarkable speed. Not long ago, when I would inform someone that they had passed along an Internet hoax or erroneous claim (writers on public affairs spend a fair amount of their correspondence thus engaged) the response would be a sheepish “oops.” About once a week, someone will inform me that Hillary Rodham Clinton was disbarred for misconduct (she wasn’t) or that Barack Obama’s mother-in-law is receiving a six-figure federal pension for having babysat his children (she isn’t) or some other such nonsense, and then cry “fake news!” when corrected. The irony is that they have fallen for fake news, and retreat into “fake news!” when their gullibility is shown.

Yes, he said "struthioniform". He went there.

(OK, I looked it up. And I'll probably steal it over the coming months.)

■ At Reason, Christian "five consecutive consonants in my last name" Britschgi bemoans: Washington Post Ed. Board Says Life Insurance Regulations Would Cut Down on Child Homicides. The WaPo went for the scary headline, and Britschgi asks: really? Numerous examples are offered, but:

The Post fails to mention that each of the crimes they describe involves the fraudulent bypassing of regulations already on the books. Murderers, in the business of fraud and deception, are more than likely to be undeterred by additional regulation.

The WaPo's argument has—I guess this isn't surprising—a lot of parallels to the gun debate; both seem to be based in the ever-naïve faith that magic regulations will stop evil people from committing evil acts.

Wonderland

How Play Made the Modern World

[Amazon Link]

Steven Johnson is a gifted writer of history, with a real knack for pulling together oddball yarns from various sources, making unexpected connections, and drawing surprising conclusions. I was inspired to read his latest book by a glowing review from Virginia Postrel in Reason.

Not that I'm a Steven Johnson fanboy. The last book I read by him was back in 2005 and I was less than impressed. But this one is better.

It is wide-ranging, but the overall theme is expressed by the subtitle: a lot of what we see around us today, the technological miracles, unimaginable prosperity, and ongoing breakneck innovation, has its roots not in sober and dismal business backrooms, but in "play": people not searching for better ways to deliver the essentials of food, clothing, and shelter, but instead coming up with entertainments, luxuries, fripperies, pleasures, and general fun.

Johnson devotes a chapter to a subtopic: fashion/shopping; music; spicy food; illusion; games; and various forms of "public space" (e.g., saloons and coffeehouses). In each he relates various examples of how the craving for enjoyment, rather than more serious topics, drove innovation, trade, and breathtaking social change.

A particularly telling anecdote from chapter one tells the story of how ingenious mechanisms to simulate human movement had their origins in current-day Iraq (which, in turn, had swiped a lot of their inspriration from the inventions of Ancient Greece). A thousand years later, this resulted in mechanical dolls (close to robots), one of which is a lady who is programmed to walk across a room. Years later, the inventor takes an eight-year-old boy up to his attic for the still-functional Walker.

And that boy was Charles Babbage.

Good story, and the book is packed with them. And play-inspired events interact in unexpected ways. Example: Combine (1) the field of probability, birthed by gamblers looking to gain an edge on their opponents and (2) the coffeehouse, a wildly popular "public space" caused by the unexpected pleasures of tasty drinkable caffeine. The result: the first modern insurance company, Lloyds of London, born out of the realization that you could make a business out of betting on the likelihood of ill fortune.

Not that it's perfect, there are a lot of blind spots. Johnson talks about the drives at the dawn of modern capitalism, but doesn't mention Deirdre McCloskey. There are nods toward the concepts of cultural evolution, but I've read a lot about that recently from Matt Ridley, Kevin Laland, and Joseph Henrich; I didn't notice any citations of them in Wonderland. His discussion of how "open spaces" (fueled by booze and, often, illicit sex) could have used a nod to Thaddeus Russell. Also MIA: Virginia Postrel. There's no excuse.

URLs du Jour

2017-05-16

■ A two-verser today, because one verse cannot hold the truths expressed in Proverbs 26:18-19:

18 Like a maniac shooting
    flaming arrows of death
19 is one who deceives their neighbor
    and says, “I was only joking!”

I love the imagery, the overblown simile, and the realization that yes, they had those guys too, back in Ancient Israel.

Also reminds me of the great Venezuelan nightclub comedian Fericito:

■ Rich Lowry has a pretty good clickbait headline for his column: The Worst Word in American Politics. Spoiler: it's "rigged". And it's an excellent worst-word contender.

It is a word of grievance and conspiracy. It is a word of institutional distrust. It is a word of larger forces beyond our control taking advantage of us. It is a word that says, “We wuz robbed — and we will make the bastards pay.”

In short, it is the perfect term for a fevered era in our national life.

I can think of phrases I despise: "asking the rich to pay their fair share"; "health care is a right". But as single words, I'm not coming up with anything better than "rigged".

■ The latest kerfuffle, as reported by Reason's Robby Soave: Report: Trump Gave Russian Ambassador 'Highly Classified Information' About ISIS. Who knows?

Many will no doubt interpret this revelation as yet more evidence that Trump is at best a Russian stooge, and at worst, a willing participant in a vast conspiracy orchestrated by Moscow. An independent investigation, which Reps. Justin Amash and Eric Swalwell have called for, still seems like the best way to resolve the question. In the meantime, gross incompetence and stupidity, exacerbated by a sociopathic need to make inappropriate boasts (the best intelligence, everyone says so), still seem like the most logical explanations. One might have expected that in the wake of the Access Hollywood tapes, Trump had learned his lesson about making rash statements to random public figures, but apparently not. Or maybe the lesson he learned was that he truly can get away with anything.

Jonah Goldberg notes the denials coming from the Administration, and sugggests: Trust But Verify.

I don’t know if the Washington Post story is accurate, but I do think its entirely plausible. Put aside whether the story is properly sourced and all that. When you heard the news, did you think it could be true?

If your answer is yes, think about that for a moment. That right there is a problem.

In my case, my answer was yes.

■ For some reason, I was thinking about Sophia Wilansky this morning. If you don't remember who Sophia Wilansky is, perhaps this recent article from the left-wing Jewish site Forward will jog your memory: The Jewish Lessons We Can Learn From This Young DAPL Protestor.

On Sunday evening, May 21, The Shalom Center will honor Sophia Wilansky, an extraordinarily heroic young activist who was acting on the best of Jewish tradition and values as a Water Protector at Standing Rock when she was cruelly wounded — her left arm shattered — by the militarized police.

Right. The young lady was badly injured during pipeline protests in October 2016 when … well, something nearly blew her arm off. Her side said "something" was a concussion grenade thrown by law enforcement; the Other side said, I'm pretty sure it wasn't and speculated about propane canisters being rigged improvised as anti-cop weaponry.

Well, this is pretty easy to clear up, right? I mean, this is an era of ubiquitous video. Well, a grand jury has been convened, and Wilansky's side is curiously reluctant to come forward with any solid evidence: Dakota pipeline protester will defy grand jury to “keep his dignity”. Jazz Shaw quotes the LA Times:

Steve Martinez, 42, a pipeline protester from Williston, N.D., has been ordered to testify regarding the arm injury of Sophia Wilansky, 21, of New York, according to his attorney, Ralph Hurvitz. Protesters maintain she was injured by a grenade thrown by police, but authorities say she was hurt by a small propane tank that protesters rigged to explode…

Martinez had been scheduled to testify before the grand jury Wednesday, but Hurvitz said the matter was delayed to Feb. 1. Martinez made a statement outside the courthouse, saying he would refuse to cooperate and was prepared to go to jail if found in contempt of court.

“Losing my freedom is a small price to pay for keeping my dignity and standing up for what’s right,” he said.

Jazz Shaw is skeptical, and so am I.

■ I rarely blog about sports, and I detest the intersection of sports and politics. But I like Jason Gay of the WSJ, and he writes on a lousy sports city, asking for a "little love": Winning? Not Much in Washington, D.C.

I know: it’s hard. No matter what your politics are, it’s difficult to see the daily goings-on inside the nation’s capital as anything other than a third-rate reality show, thick with cowards, liars and ninnies. Yes: I said “ninnies.” When Washington’s ineptitude isn’t busy dimming our faith in democracy it’s ruining human civility, public dialogue, newspaper comments sections, and of course, social media, where half of everyone’s friends have been turned into insufferable, frothing polemicists. Remember the old days, when people logged onto social media to post pictures of stray dogs, beach vacations, and 1-year-olds face-planting into birthday cakes? Opening Twitter or Facebook in 2017 is like letting a colony of vampire bats into your house—vampire bats who have watched too much terrible cable news.

Jason's occasion for writing (yesterday) was the game-7 NBA conference semi-final showdown between the Washington Wizards and the Boston Celtics. It was not good for the Wizards.


Last Modified 2017-05-16 10:31 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-05-15

■ OK, this is more like it. We're done with the Insults for at least one verse. Proverbs 26:17:

Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own.

That's good advice. Don't do either of those things. Unless you're a blogger. Then don't do the first thing. The dog thing.

■ Because rushing into a quarrel not my own is what I do. For example, looking at the continuing embarrassment for the University Near Here. Let's go to the leftist The Tab for its slant on Swastika graffiti on UNH campus.

In a week that has already seen a bitter scandal sparked by cultural appropriation and students posing in blackface, nine swastikas were daubed on the walls of Stoke Residence Hall.

People who've been following this story will recognize that (1) the description of the events as a "bitter scandal" is inaccurate and overblown; (2) any "sparking" was done by people vociferously objecting to what they characterized as "cultural appropriation"; (3) one student who was claimed to be posting in blackface almost certainly was not; (4) "daubed" is off, too; I'd say "scrawled".

Anyway, there's a picture at the link. The swastikas are drawn backwards from Nazi swastikas, suggesting the vandals are slightly more illiterate than you would expect swastika-scrawlers to be.

The Tab claims the swastikas were "dismissed by the administration as an act of 'bias and vandalism.'" Actually, that's a quote from an e-mail sent out by the Stoke Hall Director, not exactly a UNH spokesperson. Never mind, it fed the outrage.

Faye DiBella, the outgoing president of UNH Hillel, told The Tab: “The Hall Director Kaleigh did send out an email. It was extremely unacceptable what she said. She called it an act of bias and vandalism. To call a hate act a form of bias is ridiculous. It needs to be explained: This is a hate crime.

“I was absolutely outraged but not surprised. We’ve had two incidents of blackface this week. Why swastikas now? The racism on this campus is unbelievable. It makes me really worried and concerned for students who live on campus. I want to reach out to Jewish students on campus and make sure they are OK.”

It should be mentioned (but almost never is) that such incidents are sometimes hoaxes. (“It was apparently a strategy to draw attention to concerns about the campus climate.”) Sensible people (but not Faye DiBella) will wait before jumping to conclusions.

■ George F. Will has a column which should be read by anyone nattering about "cultural appropriation". Especially faculty, staff, and students at UNH. Kids, ‘Appropriation’ is how culture works.

The hysteria du jour, on campuses and elsewhere, against “appropriation” illustrates progressivism’s descent into authoritarianism leavened by philistinism. This “preening silliness” — the phrase is from The Federalist’s David Marcus — is by people oblivious to the fact that, as Marcus says, “culture blending is central to the development of, well, everything.”

Marcus's linked article is a couple years old, but continues to be relevant too.

■ At Reason, Sheldon Richman unveils The Base Rhetoric of Mainstream Taxation Talk. Richman takes off from Thomas Szasz's description of "base rhetoric" as that which attempts to disguise the speaker's value judgments "behind an ostensibly scientific and nonvaluational semantic screen."

We can see the base rhetoricians in action whenever they talk about taxation. From the terms of their discussion, you would never know that the money in question actually belongs to particular individuals, who obtained it through voluntary exchange or gift. Rather, the terms suggest that it belongs collectively to society, with the government being its agent of distribution. The only question, then, is: what's the fairest distribution?

■ New Hampshire's own Drew Cline writes at The Weekly Standard on Modern Medicis. That turns out to be … us, not the National Endowment for the Arts.

Eliminating the NEA would not decimate American arts. It would not usher in a new dark age. It simply would increase the private sector's share of nonprofit arts funding from 93.3 percent to 94.5 percent. Arts supporters should stop wasting their time defending the indefensible diversion of federal taxpayer money to the arts and concentrate their energies on more worthy political battles—or perhaps even on creating art themselves.

Kill the NEA, please.

■ Ah California. What would the other 49 states do without you to set a bad example of destructive over-regulation? Today's data point from the Pacific Legal Foundation: California threatens to shut down book signings and therefore small booksellers.

Acting on purported consumer protection concerns, the legislature recently expanded its autograph law (which formerly only applied to sports memorabilia) to include any signed item worth over $5—including books. Under that law, sellers must produce a certificate of authenticity and maintain detailed records of every sale for seven years.

And it just gets more onerous from there. The PLF is suing, but if they lose, will the last small bookstore leaving California please turn out the lights?

URLs du Jour

2017-05-14

■ They really should have split these into a separate book, named Insults. Here's Insults 26:16:

A sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven people who answer discreetly.

You're not just lazy, dude. You're a delusional know-it-all.

■ I slag on my state's Congressional delegation quite a bit, but I have to give a thumbs up to Senator Jeanne Shaheen for her efforts reported (last month, sorry) in The Hill:

A bipartisan pair of senators is urging Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to meet with Russian opposition activists during his trip to Moscow next week.

In a letter Wednesday, Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) asked Tillerson to meet with people such as Vladimir Kara-Murza, a prominent activist who has twice been poisoned.

Unfortunately, Tillerson wimped out:

Mr. Tillerson’s first visit to Moscow as America’s most important diplomat was also striking in what was conspicuously missing: There were no meetings with political dissidents or opponents of Mr. Putin. The subject of crackdowns or human rights in Russia never came up.

Sad!

■ KDW@NR adds some more confirmatory evidence that the Trump Administration is screwing up foreign policy on matters of Personnel and Policy.

With North Korean nuclear threats escalating into a genuine international crisis, the ordinary thing to do would be to have our ambassadors in Seoul, Beijing, and Tokyo keep in close consultation with the relevant authorities in those countries. A problem: As Evelyn Cheng points out at CNBC, we do not have ambassadors in South Korea, China, or Japan.

There's no excuse, other than the Bible verse above: Trump is a sluggard who is wise in his own eyes.

■ At Reason, Baylen Linnekin warns: Local Officials Are Coming for Your Garden. Well, here and there. Specifically, in Columbiana, Ohio, there's a legislative push to allow backyard gardens. Why is that necessary? It sounds like a parody of libertarian paranoia, but …

"The city had no laws pertaining to residential gardens, which means they were technically not allowed," reports the local Salem News. "According to the city's laws, if something is not permitted it is prohibited."

Here in scenic Rollinsford NH, never mind gardens: I've noticed neighbors with horses, chickens, bees, llamas, goats, and probably other domesticated beasties. If our town tried to regulate gardens, I assume there would be pitchfork-wielding mobs surrounding City Hall.

URLs du Jour

2017-05-13

■ Sluggards just can't catch a break from the Proverbian. Continuing with 26:15:

A sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth.

Who knew Don Rickles was writing Proverbs back in ancient Israel?

By the way, the implication is correct: ancient Israelis probably ate solid food with their hands. I was shocked, shocked to learn that the fork is a relatively recent invention, and …

People have always eaten with their fingers, which may be messy, but efficient. And even before Emily Post or Miss Manners there was a correct way to use one’s fingers at mealtime. During the mid-1500s it became the custom that refined people ate ate with only the first three fingers, thus clearly distinguishing the lower class who used all five from the upper class.

Erasmus, Dutch humanist and author of the first modern book of manners in 1526, was among the first concerned about table manners. He insisted that diners never lick their fingers or wipe them on their coats. It was better, according to Erasmus, to wipe one’s fingers on the tablecloth, a custom that, unfortunately, some people observe today.

"Don't lick your fingers! That's why we got a dog!"

Heat Street summarizes the latest embarrassment for the University Near Here: Students Refuse to Take Exams After Photo of Classmate Wearing ‘Blackface’ Resurfaces.

Students at the University of New Hampshire are boycotting final exams after a student uploaded a picture of another white student in what appears to be a bedtime facial mask, implying it’s “blackface.”

An authoritative source close to the blogger says that faculty members are being asked by their deans to be (um) flexible in final exam scheduling for students who claim their fee-fees have been hurt.

■ President Trump is no doubt guilty of many sins, but treason? KDW@NR has an answer: No, It Is Not ‘Treason’. Spelling out what should be obvious:

“Treason” is the word of the moment, along with “traitor.” And this allegation is not coming only from yahoos on Twitter but from yahoos on Twitter who are university professors at Harvard. Laurence Tribe, who once was considered a possible candidate for a Supreme Court seat, is among those who recently have taken to the public square to suggest that President Trump may be guilty of “treason.” Treason is a well-defined crime, the elements of which are specified in no less a document than the Constitution itself. There is no plausible case that Trump is guilty of treason, inasmuch as even if he were entirely guilty of whatever it is the Democrats imagine him to have done, there exists no state of hostilities between the United States and Russia, which would be necessary for treason to have been committed.

Were Orwell writing his "Politics and the English Language" essay today, no doubt there'd be a section on language inflation. This is one example. Off the top of my head:

  • We saw another yesterday with the UNH student who claimed “Blackface is a direct death threat.”

  • Express the slightest skepticism toward progressive's climate-change theology and you're a "denialist", lumped in with Holocaust denialists.

  • A few years back, we noted more than a dozen preachers penning a self-righteous missive decrying the "violence of current political rhetoric". Which did not involve actual violence.

The disturbing thing about this inflation is not just that it's imprecise, it's that it degrades the actual item. If you natter on about "violence" that isn't violence, "treason" that isn't treason, "death threats" that aren't death threats, etc., it becomes harder for us to get excited about the real thing, if and when it occurs.

■ And, yes, that link to Orwell's essay goes to a site in the .ru TLD. Laurence Tribe would probably find that treasonous. Come and get me, Prof Tribe!

■ At Reason, Christian Britschgi reveals more rhetorical dishonesty: Elizabeth Warren's Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Bill Tries to Sell More Regulation As Less Regulation.

And, of course, it's not true. Far from stripping away regulation to make it simpler and cheaper for people to care for their hearing needs, the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 loads on regulation that would, if passed, likely drive low-cost alternatives to hearing aids out of the market.

One of our state's senators, Margaret Wood Hassan, has signed up as a co-sponsor. Unsurprising.

URLs du Jour

2017-05-12

Oy vey! Again with the sluggard, in Proverbs 26:14:

As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed.

It's nice to know that even thousands of years ago, (a) there were door hinges; (b) people liked to sleep.

■ An eminently predictable trajectory of news stories over the past week, focusing on the University Near Here.

  1. Students with nothing better to do shortly before finals fill their empty lives with alcohol at the slightest excuse [Seacoast Online]: Drinking UNH students celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Attractive young ladies wearing sombreros are pictured, with young men named Alex Sanchez and Andre Filadelfo, who don't seem to have any problems with it. There's misbehavior, of course:

    Kristine Claremont was dropping off her daughter at Oyster River Middle School around 1:30 p.m. and witnessed a man urinating in the parking lot of the school. “It’s disgusting. Absolutely disgusting,” she said, questioning why the district would even hold school.

    … but, other than drunken rowdiness, no problemo!

  2. Ah, but that's not to last! [NH1]: UNH student says others behaving improperly toward Mexican culture on Cinco De Mayo.

    A University of New Hampshire student's video calling out another student for wearing a poncho on Cinco de Mayo has sparked a national conversation about cultural appreciation.

    Danique Montique, a sophomore at the University of New Hampshire, posted to Facebook about her feelings regarding the "students who chose to demean and appropriate Mexican culture," on Cinco de Mayo.

    In her post, Montique added a video posted to YouTube of her yelling at a student for wearing a poncho, saying he is perpetuating stereotypes of Mexican culture.

  3. And things escalated [WMUR]: Students, faculty at UNH discuss recent racial incidents.

    Following accusations of racial injustice from students at the University of New Hampshire, the school’s administration is hoping it can work with students to solve the problem.

    The university held a packed meeting on campus following protests overnight.

    The students involved in the protest said it started when one of them posted videos from Cinco de Mayo of fellow students dressed in sombreros and ponchos, something she took offense to. The videos went viral and prompted a backlash, including threats and a social media post of someone in blackface. The group called that a tipping point.

    UNH issued a written statement! So you know it's serious.

    "There has been an increase in incidents involving uncivil, even hateful, behavior," UNH said. "We condemn all such acts. Every member of our community deserves to feel safe and respected, and we will not tolerate threatening behavior or bullying on social media or in person."

    No word as yet about how many "incidents" were fabricated "to draw attention to concerns about the campus climate”.

    People were really hacked off about that "blackface" thing, though:

    “Blackface is a direct death threat,” another student said. “You will never know how that feels because you cannot take this skin off. I’m black and you’re white, and you’ll never understand what it feels like to walk on this campus as a person of color.”

  4. But for the record, the blackface guy pleads innocence [NH1]: UNH student seen in 'racist blackface' on Instagram says it was bedtime facial mask.

    Twenty-one-year-old Eric Buchwald said he is wearing a red robe and a dark-gray clay mask in a photo posted to Instagram by another user. The photo of Buchwald was posted to the account "blackoutlamers" Wednesday with the caption, "as a black woman, I was forced to become the very thing society deemed me to be; angry."

    The caption was apparently added by someone else.

  5. And even the Boston media is taking notice [NBCBoston]: University of New Hampshire Group Calls for Change After Cinco de Mayo Celebration.

    A community group at the University of New Hampshire is calling for change after a wild Cinco de Mayo celebration at the Durham campus. The group says students who celebrate with sombreros, fake mustaches and ponchos are appropriating Mexican culture.

    Representatives from a Facebook group called “All Eyes on UNH” refused to be identified and wouldn’t talk on camera, but told NBC Boston over the phone, “It’s time for students to understand that Americans celebrating Cinco de Mayo in this way is not only culturally insensitive.”

    It's unclear whether the alleged student on the phone stopped talking without completing that thought, or if the NBC reporter just stopped listening.

    You can check out the Facebook group All Eyes on UNH; their "About" says: "We are members of the UNH community that hold the mirror up to those who act unjustly."

    Because political activism at UNH is not strident enough.

■ Possibly related, although I hope not: the College Fix notes a recent editorial from the WaPo, and the reaction: Washington Post urges colleges to censor speech if someone thinks it’s racist.

In response to the racist-banana incident at the private American University – now under investigation by the U.S. attorney in D.C. as well as the FBI – the editorial board has declared that all colleges should censor students if someone thinks their speech or behavior is racist […]

That editorial didn't sit well with many First Amendment fans, including Eugene Volokh at the Volokh Conspiracy blog, hosted by … the WaPo itself.

And the editorial’s proposal is an awful idea. At public universities, it would violate the First Amendment; at private universities, it would violate many of the universities’ stated commitments to open debate, as well as basic principles of academic freedom.

As usual, the "liberals" are getting increasingly illiberal.

■ Advice to convenient Constitutionalists from David Harsanyi at Reason: You Want Checks and Balances? Stop Ignoring the Constitution When You're in Power. He applies Occam's Razor to recent news:

It's difficult to believe that President Donald Trump is both a clueless idiot, unable to spell or read or earn a single cent on his own merit; and a nefarious mastermind, capable of bamboozling the entire nation so he can hand over the White House to Russia. The truth is the plausible explanation for the timing of the Comey firing—and the many other political missteps of this administration—is remarkably undramatic. Trump just isn't very good at being president.

There, that was easy.

URLs du Jour

2017-05-11

■ After numerous verses of fool-castigation, the Proverbian turns his scornful attention to "sluggards" in verse 26:13:

A sluggard says, "There's a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets!"

Really, you think there would be more to that story. Is the sluggard just trying to convince himself that he shouldn't go out, just stay under the bedcovers, lest he become Purina Lion Chow? Or is he, perhaps, trying to distract his listeners, so that they'll stop trying to get him off his lazy ass? I don't know. The Proverb just ends there.

■ When will Washington get healthcare right? At Reason, A. Barton Hinkle has a credible estimate: Washington Is Never Going to Get Healthcare 'Right'.

To be fair, Obamacare has done some good, e.g. by reducing the proportion of uninsured Americans to historic lows. But its gargantuan flaws seem to have been conveniently forgotten because the House GOP's replacement also has gargantuan flaws. So will the Senate bill, whenever it arrives. And so will every other proposal, because no reform ever addresses the root cause of what ails U.S. health care: The nearly universal demand for unlimited medical care, with the bill sent to somebody else through the political process.

The minute anyone says anything resembling "healthcare is a right" tells me that they will never, ever, have anything useful to say on that issue.

■ Chris Edwards at Cato notes a little-known cesspool in the tax code: Low Income Housing Tax Cronyism.

The Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) is a federal program that subsidizes the construction of housing for poor tenants. The $8 billion program suffers numerous failures, as discussed in this study. One problem is that the program’s subsidies may flow more to developers and financial institutions than to the needy population that is supposed to benefit.

Fun fact: the director of Florida's housing agency was "forced to resign from the agency after an audit revealed he spent more than $50,000 on a steak and lobster dinner for affordable housing lenders and gave his own staff almost half a million dollars in bonuses."

■ Andrew Biggs at the WSJ looks at the Democrats' plan to "save" Social Security. Well, what do you know? The Democrats’ Social Security Plan Means Much Higher Taxes.

For low- and middle-income workers, lifetime payroll taxes would rise by nearly one-fifth from current levels. For a high earner with an average annual salary of $237,000, payroll taxes would more than double. Absent any other tax reform, the effective top federal marginal tax rate on earned income (inclusive of Medicare taxes and limitations on deductions) would rise from the current 44.6% to 59.4%. State income taxes could boost the total marginal rate as high as 72.7% for California residents. Under the Democrats’ Social Security plan the U.S. would have, by far, the highest top marginal tax rate in the developed world.

My immediate reaction: I bet my Congresscritter/Toothache Carol Shea-Porter is one of the 160 co-sponsors of this economy-killing scheme. And… bingo.

■ Hey, how about that Comey firing? According to Megan McArdle, it's confirmatory of two things: Trump Confirms His Autocratic Instincts. And His Ineptitude.

Start with the reason Comey was fired. Coming from the man who basked in chants of “Lock her up!” at his campaign rallies, firing someone for mishandling the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails does no more than provoke helpless laughter, liberally mixed with tears. Politico’s reporting offers a much more plausible explanation: Trump was frustrated by the investigation into his campaign’s Russia connections, and wants it to go away. So he fired the guy at the head of the agency that’s conducting it.

Well maybe! Let's also hear from Tim Lynch at Cato: Trump Fires Comey.

We can do much better than James Comey. If Trump can repeat the careful process by which he selected Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court and secure a fairly swift confirmation vote, this matter will soon be forgotten. If the selection process is mishandled, the political storm clouds will hang over the White House for quite some time.

As always, I'm torn between despising Trump and despising his critics.

■ A few weeks ago it was news that Merriam-Webster declared "sheeple" to be an Official English Word. In case they need to have a video example to put in their online dictionary, a recent Stephen Colbert monologue is a gift: Colbert gets audience to completely change opinion about Comey firing in a mere 60 seconds.

Colbert started off by breaking the news of President Trump’s firing of James Comey — The audience roared in approval. A surprised Colbert then said the crowd must be loaded with “HUGE Donald Trump fans.” After that, Colbert mentioned Jeff Sessions (who recommended that Trump fire Comey) and the audience booed wildly. A complete 180-degree change in audience opinion, all within the span of 60 seconds.

No surprise here. I occasionally watched his Comedy Central show, and it struck me that his audience was much like a set of trained seals, carefully trained to whoop and applaud at the proper times.

But "sheeple". I guess that works too.

Little White Lies

[Amazon Link]

The title, according to Amazon, is technically Robert B. Parker's Little White Lies, but the implied attribution of such lies to the late Mr. Parker is "honoring" him entirely too much. The (understandable) little white lie here is that he had anything to do with writing the book, and that's on the publisher, not Mr. Parker.

A more honest book jacket would say

Another Attempt to Shake Money
Out of the Wallets of Fans of

Robert B.

Parker's

Spenser Novels

LITTLE WHITE LIES

BY ACE ATKINS

Hey, I'm not ashamed to admit: I am hooked. This is Ace Atkins' sixth Spenser-novel authorship, and it's fine. I just want to see what Spenser and his crowd are up to these days.

What he's up to this time: his sweetie-shrink Susan has sent over one of her patients, Connie Kelly, to see him. Connie's troubles extend beyond the psychological: her boyfriend, M. Brooks Welles, seems not only to be "a phony, a liar, and a two-timing, backstabbing, son of a bitch", but also a con man, making off with a cool $260,000 of Connie's savings.

Welles claims to have had an interesting, shadowy past: Harvard man recruited into the CIA, involved with all sorts of anti-terrorist, anti-Commie efforts. He's even a staple of right-wing TV news shows. And he seems to be involved with the local Massachusetts gun nuts hobbyists.

[I should point out that the politics in the book is mildly, simplistically, anti-conservative. Later on, there's even a phony church run by charlatans using Jesus as boob-bait. Tedious. I fast-forwarded through this.]

Hawk's here. Other characters from past books: Rachel Wallace, Tedy Sapp, Belson. No Quirk, I think he retired.

Finally, another consumer note: the unsubtle cover illustration might lead you to suspect that there's a money-laundering scheme underlying the plot. There is not. I swear, they must have had this illustration lying around and said: "What the hell, use it."

URLs du Jour

2017-05-10

■ In Proverbs 26:12, the Proverbialist finds people he considers even more hopeless than the fools he's been ragging on in previous verses:

Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them.

I'm looking at you, Bill Nye.

■ KDW@NR writes on El Camino de Servidumbre, which I'll let you translate on your own.

Socialism is either the unluckiest political movement in the history of political movements, one that just happens to keep intersecting with the careers of monsters, or there is something about socialism itself that throws up monsters. There is nothing wrong with Venezuelans, and nothing unusual about them: Here at home, our own progressives dream of imprisoning people for holding unpopular political views, nationalizing key industries, and shutting down opposition media. They have black-shirted terrorists attacking people with explosives on college campuses for the crime of holding non-conforming political views. And they aren’t averse to a little old-fashioned Stalinism, either, provided there’s a degree or two of separation: Bernie Sanders, once an elector for the Socialist Workers party, remains the grumpy Muppet pin-up of the American Left.

Do I need to suggest: lee todo? Probably not.

■ Matt Ridley asks the musical question: The Paris climate treaty is weak, so why do climate activists defend it? Specifically, why is it such a big deal that Trump might pull the US out of the (Senate-unratified) "treaty"?

I am not quite sure why his critics mind so much. Indeed, if I were one of those who thought climate change the biggest threat to humankind bar none, then I would be far more critical of the Paris agreement than I actually am. I would rail against the fact that it is a futile gesture, neither legally binding enough to be enforceable, nor of sufficient scale to make a difference to climate change. It’s those people who most worry about global warming who should be most critical of Paris.

Why, it's almost as if the whole thing were about increasing government power instead of dialing down the global thermostat.

■ I got a chuckle out of this Slashdot post: FCC Should Prove DDoS Attacks Stopped Net Neutrality Comments.

After John Oliver urged viewers of HBO's Last Week Tonight to fight again for net neutrality and post comments in support of it, people hit a wall — the FCC's site essentially crashed. Originally, it was believed that the number of people trying to access the site caused the problem, but then the FCC released a statement saying "multiple" DDoS attacks -- occurring at the same time Oliver sent viewers to the site -- caused the site to crash[…]

The article goes on to note: "People are even questioning whether the FCC's tech team knows what a DDoS attack is."

Yes, the same people that advocate the FCC be given vast power to regulate the Internet are skeptical that the FCC knows what a DDoS attack is. (I've left a comment at Slashdot pointing out this cognitive dissonance.)

As bears repeating, the FCC should be abolished.

■ Another don't-know-whether-to-laugh-or-cry incident in Academia was a recent article in Hypatia, a self-styled "feminist journal". Title: "In Defense of Transracialism" by philosophy prof Rebeccal Tuvel. Writing in The Hill, David S. D'Amato outlines the issue and the funny/depressing reaction: If progressives believe gender is fluid, then why not race?

In it, Professor Tuvel argues that we ought to support those who identify with a racial group other than the one into which they were born just as we support transgender people.

But:

Outrage ensued, and Hypatia has, in less than a day’s time, apologized for publishing the article, enumerating several spurious problems with it.

You can read D'Amato's defense of Tuvel, or…

■ You can check out uber-hacker Eric Raymond's thoughts on the issue: Your identity is not your choice.

As a culture, we got to the crazy place we’re at now by privileging feelings over facts. The whole mess around “identity” is only one example of this. It’s time to say this plainly: people who privilege feelings over facts are not sane, and the facts always win in the end. Though, unfortunately, often not before the insanity has inflicted a great deal of unnecessary suffering.

I left a comment to this effect: I wonder about the "not sane" bit. How much of this gasbaggery is garden-variety delusion, how much is cold-blooded calculation aimed at gaining power, status, and (above all) keeping one's phony-baloney job?

URLs du Jour

2017-05-09

■ Proverbs continues its anti-fool tirade with (I'm pretty sure) a famous simile in 26:11:

As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.

The number of images that Getty returns when you search for "dog vomit" might surprise you.

■ Speaking of a fool repeating his folly: by my count, this is Pun Salad post number 4158.

■ My Google LFOD alert was triggered by a story at casino.org: New Hampshire Rejects Casino Bill, “Live Free or Die” State Not Living Up to Motto.

New Hampshire residents shouldn’t expect to be gambling in their home state anytime soon after the House of Representatives there voted against a casino bill that the Senate had approved.

Of course, a real Live Free or Die state would just legalize gambling, period. NH State Senator Lou D’Allesandro's "casino bill" was just another tax on stupidity, making sure the casinos sent a hefty cut of their profits to… wait a minute, let the casino.org reporter tell us.

It was D’Allesandro’s 19th effort to end casino prohibition in the “Live Free or Die State.” He projected that gaming could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue for Hartford, but it once again wasn’t to be.

Well, no wonder the bill failed. Sending all that money to Hartford? [I've left a comment at casino.org; it might be fixed.]

■ At Reason, Nick Gillespie tries to talk sanely about the Colbert imbroglio: The FCC Isn't Singling Out Stephen Colbert for his "Cock Holster" Crack at Trump.... For those claiming that the FCC's "investigation" is the harbinger of the upcoming American Fascist Nightmare: they are just doing their legislatively-mandated job. For those complainers about Colbert's "homophobia": please stop telling us you think this a real issue.

So we arrive at a place where right-wingers are concern-trolling a liberal comedian as homophobic and where progressives are trolling a government bureaucracy for doing its job (double-plus-good irony: The FCC is the very agency which left-leaners believe should have the right to control all ISPs and thus the Internet via expansive Net Neutrality rules).

Nick's suggestion? Well, it's one we've made ourselves. Hint: the first word is "Abolish".

■ Entire websites are built around revealing the intolerant illiberalism of American Higher Education. I don't even try to keep up here. But Rod Dreher covers a particularly egregious case for The American Conservative: Duke Divinity Crisis: The Documents Are Out.

RTWT, but it starts with a "Dear Faculty Colleagues" missive sent out by Anathea Portier-Young:

On behalf of the Faculty Diversity and Inclusion Standing Committee, I strongly urge you to participate in the Racial Equity Institute Phase I Training planned for March 4 and 5. […]

… followed by some boilerplate invective about the "fierce, ever-present, challenging force" of racism, "one which has structured the thinking, behavior, and actions of individuals and institutions since the beginning of U.S. history."

Yes, behavior and actions. The rule for such things: don't use fewer words when you can think of more.

Which drew a "Dear Faculty Colleagues" response from facule Paul Griffiths:

I exhort you not to attend this training. Don’t lay waste your time by doing so. It’ll be, I predict with confidence, intellectually flaccid: there’ll be bromides, clichés, and amen-corner rah-rahs in plenty. When (if) it gets beyond that, its illiberal roots and totalitarian tendencies will show. Events of this sort are definitively anti-intellectual. (Re)trainings of intellectuals by bureaucrats and apparatchiks have a long and ignoble history; I hope you’ll keep that history in mind as you think about this instance.

Which (executive summary) caused the shit to hit the fan. For example, an entertaining letter from the Dean of DDS advised Griffiths: "Beginning immediately, you will not be permitted to attend or participate in faculty meetings or committee meetings…"

Yes, attend or participate in. Did I mention: don't use fewer words when you can think of more.

Bottom line: Griffiths has resigned, effective at the end of the 2017-18 academic year.

■ You might want to check out The Bill To Permanently Fix Health Care For All. It's long, somewhat cranky, but thoughtful.

Darwin's Unfinished Symphony

How Culture Made the Human Mind

[Amazon Link]

Another book from a scientist reflecting back on a lifetime chasing answers to intriguing questions. It's pretty good.

The scientist in this case is Kevin Laland. He begins nicely, with the quoted poetic final paragraph from Darwin's The Origin of Species, where an "entangled bank" is contemplated, rife with plants, bugs, worms, singing birdies, etc. All this produced via the "war of nature", natural selection. Darwin, it's evident, took a bit of (justifiable) pride in describing how all that wonderousness could have come to be.

When Laland looks out his window, he sees the biological stuff too, but in addition sees all the artifacts of humanity that signify how different we are from the birdies and bugs: massive buildings, electric poles, hospitals, cars, the Internet, and Major League Baseball. Well, he doesn't see that last bit, he's British. But still… you have to ask the Darwinesque question: how did all that come about? He's spent a lifetime working on the answers. Which aren't all in yet, but there's been a lot of progress made toward them, and Laland and his research teams have done their part.

Laland major theme is the examination of how cultures evolve, often in concert with corresponding biological evolution. (Called, naturally enough, "coevolution".) Humans aren't the only species where that happens. There's a fascinating diversion into the social learning talents of the threespine stickleback, a fish that was shown to learn by observing the feeding behavior of its peers. (A closely related species, the ninespine stickleback, is relatively stupid at this task.)

Via a combination of good storytelling and rigorous science, Laland shows how humans took a number of traits present in the animal kingdom and more or less turned them up to eleven. In addition, humans were able to take advantage of teaching, which is relatively rare in other animals. And teaching is made much more efficacious when combined with our talent for language (completely absent in other animals).

My only quibble is that Laland seems to avoid what I think of as Deirdre McCloskey territory: he doesn't attempt to explain the hockey-stick increase in economic prosperity in a mere eyeblink of evolutionary time.

[He does, however, go into an area where I haven't seen others go: the evolution of artistic expression, concentrating on dance. Didn't see that coming.]

I seem to be reading in this area a lot. If you're interested, I can also recommend The Evolution of Everything by Matt Ridley and The Secret of Our Success by Joseph Henrich.

URLs du Jour

2017-05-08

■ The Proverbialist just can't get off the topic of fools. Continuing with 26:10:

Like an archer who wounds at random is one who hires a fool or any passer-by.

OK, fine. But here's what I don't understand. The link above goes to biblehub.com, which provides numerous different translations for the same verse. Understandably, there's some variation. But this is the first one I've noticed where some are totally different. For example, here's the good old King James Version:

The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors.

Whoa, KJV. What did you do with that crazy archer? Seriously, what's going on here?

■ Daniel J. Mitchell writes on Occupational Licensing, Government Thuggery, and Greed-Fueled Cronyism. Asking the musical question:

What word best describes the actions of government? Would it be greed? How about thuggery? Or cronyism?

Mr. Mitchell makes the good argument that when it comes to occupational licensing, the state does a fine job of combining all three.

■ KDW@NR examines The ‘Right’ to Health Care. Spoiler: there's no such thing. Excerpt:

Declaring a right in a scarce good is meaningless. It is a rhetorical gesture without any application to the events and conundrums of the real world. If the Dalai Lama were to lead 10,000 bodhisattvas in meditation, and the subject of that meditation was the human right to health care, it would do less good for the cause of actually providing people with health care than the lowliest temp at Merck does before his second cup of coffee on any given Tuesday morning.

Stay for the punchline: “Do you really want a doctor who can’t afford a Ferrari?”

Additional comment: there's no way to magically convert a scarce good into a non-scarce one. But if you read KDW's article in concert with Mitchell's immediately above, you'll get an inkling that reforming occupational licensing in the health care field would help a lot in the right direction.

■ Needless to say: A lot of libertarians hate Trump/Ryancare. At Hot Air, Taylor Millard does a fine job of collecting comments from Our Side. His summary:

Mandates and tax credits don’t work, especially when the government has no plan whatsoever to reduce government spending (unfilled federal jobs aside). An actual solution to letting the free market take over medicine again, could take decades. This doesn’t mean Obamacare can’t be destroyed, and a more free market bill (like letting people go across state lines to buy insurance) can’t be put in place. But the root of the issue is the government’s expanded role in taking care of others. The federal government should be willing to look at privatizing Social Security, or eliminating it entirely for people under the age of 50 (they would get a check for the amount the government has taken from their paycheck). Those 50 and older could be allowed to either keep Social Security or get the same lump sum the others are getting. Medicare and Medicaid would have to be shut down over a period of 40 years, so other non-state alternatives can be formed and funded. It’s an overly simple solution, but one which should be considered to save the country’s longterm future. It also unfortunately solves only part of the problem, and the rest would have to be solved through eliminating corporate welfare and cutting spending on everything elsewhere (including military spending).

The political impossibility of all that speaks for itself.

At least in the near term. In the less-near term, there's always the possibility that it's going to be awesome.

■ Andrew Klavan finds that the Liars at Media Matters Lie About Bill Whittle.

George Soros mouthpiece Media Matters has unleashed a disgusting and dishonest attack against my pal Bill Whittle. In a deceptively worded post entitled "Meet the NRA's Resident Academic Racist," MM suggests that Bill — who's recently become a commentator for NRATV — accepts theories that blacks are genetically inferior. They seize on an exchange between Bill and commentator Stefan Molyneux, whose work, I must confess, I'm only vaguely familiar with.

Back in the day, I admired Mr. Whittle's takedown of 9/11 "truthers". Unfortunately I can't find his essay online any more, but here's a quote that applies equally well to the Media Matters ghouls:

How much hate for your own society do you have to carry in order to live in such a desolate and ridiculous mental hell?

■ On a lighter note, National Review's Kyle Smith looks at the unlikely heir to the Clinton Dynasty: Her Chelseaness: How to Be Entitled and Boring without Really Trying. Now, Ms. Clinton isn't the first (and won't be the last) talentless nonentity pushed to fame for no good reason. But we can have a certain amount of sympathy for writers that struggle mightily to come up with some way to make her interesting and profound.

Variety’s writer Ramin Setoodeh whipped up this pulse-pounder to open his profile: “Chelsea Clinton is about to tell you some things you may not know about her. In an interview with Variety, she lists the last great movie she saw (Hidden Figures), her most surprising job (an internship at a cattle ranch in 1999), and her favorite food growing up (cheddar cheese).”

■ She was asked a softball question: "You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?". Her Chelseaness responded:

James Baldwin, Shakespeare, Franz Kafka. If I could have three more, at this moment in time, I would choose Albert Camus, Jane Jacobs and Jane Austen.

Even the very liberal New Yorker may have given up on Chelsea. Writer Josh Lieb imagines the transcript of Chelsea Clinton’s Dream Dinner Party,

chelsea clinton: Is everyone comfy? Got something to nosh on? Jane, would you like to try a quinoa empanada? They’re sustainably sourced.

jane austen: I do not know what any of those words mean.

The whole thing is hilarious. Via Prof Althouse, who has further thoughts.

URLs du Jour

2017-05-07

■ Proverbs 26:9, again down on fools:

Like a thornbush in a drunkard's hand is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.

I have to say, I like the bizarre imagery. Why would a drunk pick up a thornbush? Don't even ask. He's got one. He's waving it around! He's yelling barely-intelligible gibberish, staggering into the marketplace crowds! "Look out!" they cry. "He's got a thornbush!"

And a proverb emanating from a fool's mouth is just like that.

■ KDW@NR describes The Inquisitor’s Heirs

Progressives claim to love science, but what they truly love is power.To be a good progressive is to adhere simultaneously to two incompatible notions: one, that science provides the final word on any question about which scientists offer any opinion; two, that the scientific method is illegitimate, a tool of the sundry atavistic forces conspiring to keep down the female, the black, the brown, the poor, the gay, the disabled, the gender-fluid — everybody except Mitt Romney.

Real non-Nye science requires "an environment in which people are at liberty to speak, debate, and publish". And when push comes to shove, progressives can't allow that.

■ I gave up on reading the WaPo's "conservative" blogger, Jennifer Rubin, awhile back. A snide and grating tone, name-calling instead of arguments, … What's she up to these days? Let's look: Trump’s hypocrisy on the opioid epidemic sees bipartisan outrage — and rightfully so. The issue is the proposal to cut the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP, aka the "Drug Czar") by 95 percent. Jen's against that:

This issue reflects a more fundamental problem. While the president is insistent on a huge tax cut for the rich, increases in defense spending and no reform of our entitlement programs, worthwhile functions such as this are going to be slashed or eliminated. If permitted, it will amount to a huge transfer of wealth and abandonment of much of the safety net. The populist hero is turning out to be the enemy of the most vulnerable members of our society.

Jen, as is her wont, provides (1) a lot of sputtering outrage, (2) dodges into irrelevant asides, and (3) zero evidence that the Drug Czar actually does anything worthwhile. For an alternate take, see Mike Riggs at Reason: Donald Trump Reportedly Plans to Gut the Drug Czar's Office. He reports that not everyone would be sad to see the Czar be gutted:

"If Trump's volunteering to abolish the office, I say, 'Go for it,'" Ethan Nadelmann told Pacific Standard in February (the first time we heard rumors of the agency's demise).

The former executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, Nadelmann was advocating medication-assisted therapy, maintenance doses of heroin, clean needle exchanges, and safe injection facilities long before Obama's first drug czar conceded that America could not arrest its way out of the drug problem. Nadelmann continued to call for those evidence-based, life-saving policies after the federal government continued trying exactly what it says it can't successfully do. And you know what? He's likely right that no Trump appointee will embrace meaningful drug policy reform.

One of the things I've been thinking about lately is what Richard Feynman called Cargo-Cult Science; I think that ONDCP is an example of Cargo-Cult government policy: the semi-religious faith that combining good intentions, symbolism, and (above all) government funding will solve problems. If it doesn't work, the only possible solution is: more funding!

■ It's been well over 40 years since I lived in Nebraska, but I (nonetheless) was a little proud to see this WSJ article from Nebraska's Senator Ben Sasse: How to Raise an American Adult. Full of good advice.

URLs du Jour

2017-05-06

■ OK, we get it. The Proverbian is unfond of fools. Here's 26:8:

Like tying a stone in a sling is the giving of honor to a fool.

Today's Getty illustration shows that David was no fool.

■ The Heat Street guys publicize a bit of campus tomfoolery: U of Wisconsin Student Leader Urges Minorities to Quit School Because ‘All White People Are Racist’

A University of Winsonsin-Madison [sic] student leader, who describes herself as “woke”, has sent out an open letter to a campus community saying “all white people are racist” and urged minorities to stop attending the university.

Ms. Carmen Goséy packs a lot of claptrap into her one-page letter to the "Campus Community". But I'll confine my comments to her remedy: by her logic, shouldn't it be the "white people" leaving the university?

■ Jonah Goldberg tackles The Dangers of Empathy. The basics:

Empathy is different than sympathy or compassion. Sympathy is when you feel sorry for someone. Compassion is when you do something about it.

But empathy is something else. Researchers studying the brain can actually see how the various centers controlling certain feelings light up when we observe or imagine the experiences of others. “If you feel bad for someone who is bored, that’s sympathy,” writes Yale psychologist Paul Bloom in his brave and brilliant new book, Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion, “but if you feel bored, that’s empathy.”

Bloom argues (and Jonah agrees) that empathy is an enemy of rationality, "illuminat[ing] a specific person or group, plunging everything and everyone else into darkness." Good thing to remember.

■ At Reason, Christian Britschgi notes that, among the recent budget bill's many faults: Congress's Budget Bill Spends Billions on Useless Light Rail. Trump's proposed 13% cut to the Department of Transportation budget would have reduced the illusion of "free money" from the Feds appearing in your community for mass transit. Especially egregious is the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program

Initially created as an economic recovery program under the Obama Administration's stimulus plan, these TIGER grants have gone on to dole out $4.6 billion to transit projects in the years since the Great Recession has ended, and not without controversy.

A 2014 Government Accountability Office report found the Department of Transportation had violated its own internal control practices in administering the TIGER program, giving grants to projects that applied after deadlines or which were rated inferior to other applicants.

The GAO report also found that DOT failed to document the reasons for these violations of its internal controls which it warned could "give rise to challenges to the integrity of the evaluation process and the rationale for the decisions made." You don't say.

Monday's spending bill gives TIGER another $500 million.

Mr. Britschgi notes that there is negligible outrage from voters over such wasteful spending, which is why it will continue.

■ Also at Reason, Andrew Heaton has a suggestion for the Pope: Lighten Up, Francis. At issue is the (alleged) papal rant about the "grave risks associated with the invasion of the positions of libertarian individualism at high strata of culture and in school and university education." RTWT, but here's a sample:

Before we start breaking down these (literal) pontifications, let's get one fallacy out of the way: just because someone is an authority in their field doesn't mean they know anything about another field. If Paul Krugman started lecturing Catholics about theology, they wouldn't seriously listen to his musings on the filioque. What next, taking Krugman's economics seriously? Pope Francis appears to know about as much about economics as Prince Charles knows about lawn mower maintenance.

Andrew's very funny. In case you need a refresher about the "Lighten up, Francis" provenance:

■ And your wisdom-imparting Tweet du Jour from Iowahawk:


Last Modified 2017-05-06 3:26 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-05-05

■ Proverbs 26:7 continues its examination of foolishness:

Like the useless legs of one who is lame is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.

Ableism! Aieee!

Ars Technica reports that California seeks to tax rocket launches, which are already taxed.

The proposal says that California-based companies that launch spacecraft will have to pay a tax based upon "mileage" traveled by that spacecraft from California. (No, we're not exactly sure what this means, either). The proposed regulations were first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, and Thomas Lo Grossman, a tax attorney at the Franchise Tax Board, told the newspaper that the rules are designed to mirror the ways taxes are levied on terrestrial transportation and logistics firms operating in California, like trucking or train companies.

I'm not sure what to laugh at harder here.

  • There's the obvious: "progressive" California government needs to squeeze as much cash from successful private entrepreneurs as possible, even if they have to apply fanciful notions of "mileage traveled from California" to satellites.

  • Or the less obvious sputtering of Ars Technica which notes that launch companies are "already taxed". (They've apparently never heard of the California income tax which applies to, yes, income that's already been taxed by the Feds.)

■ You may have heard that late-night TV entertainer Stephen Colbert tried very hard to insult Donald Trump the other evening, and the worst that he could come up with was … a vulgar insinuation that Trump was gay. This resulted in accusations of "homophobia", of course. Should Colbert lose his job?

Nay, saith David French (at NR), who invites us to look at the real problem: Colbert's audience (both in-studio and remote) eat this crap up with a spoon. So Don’t Fire Colbert — Fire His Crowd.

If you want an explanation for why the Colberts of the world say the things they do, there it is in the adulation of the audience. He is their voice. He’s speaking out their rage. He’s not leading them; he’s riding their wave of progressive scorn, anger, and hate. If he fell, another would rise to take his place. Angry progressives demand cathartic mockery, and they shall have it one way or another.

Trumpkins do not escape French's gaze either.

■ Robert Stacy McCain has his thoughts as well: Of Hypocrisy and ‘Homophobia’

During the long campaign that led to the 2015 Obergefell ruling, the LGBT argument generally, and for same-sex marriage specifically, was that homosexuality is an innate characteristic — the “born that way” thesis. Therefore, homosexuality was analogous to racial identity, as a matter of civil rights law, and opposition to policies advocated by the LGBT movement was analogous to segregations defending Jim Crow. Whenever the term “homophobia” was coined, and whatever it was originally intended to mean, by the late 1990s, liberal journalists had adopted this as a word to be deployed quite casually — almost haphazardly — to describe any number of phenomena. This was what the social and political subtext of the 1993 Seinfeld episode “The Outing,” in which a well-meaning reporter assigned to write a magazine profile of Jerry Seinfeld mistakenly assumes that he and his friend George Costanza are homosexual lovers. The famous punch line — “Not that there’s anything wrong with that” — highlighted the difficulty posed to people in disavowing the accusation of “homophobia.”

Not that it matters, but this is what I find odd:

  • The whole notion of "mental illness" is meant to remove responsibilty for behavior that might otherwise be seen to be bad/sinful behavior that the perpetrator might be held responsible for. "It's not his fault! He's sick, not evil!"

  • Among such mental illnesses are "phobias" -- unusual fears of open spaces (Agoraphobia), confined spaces (Claustrophobia), spiders (Arachnophobia), etc. Once again: having these is not your fault. You're ill, not evil.

  • But that does emphatically not apply to some phobias, notably homophobia. (Also xenophobia.) Are you homophobic? You are a bad person.

I'd really appreciate a language cleanup here.

■ KDW writes very sensibly on Health Care, from the Top. Which means, unfortunately, that his writing has nearly zero relevance to current political debates, other than to point out how divorced from economic reality they are. In response to those who maintain that health care is different because it is a "life or death good":

We have perfectly functional markets in all sorts of life-and-death goods. They expect you to pay up at the grocery store, too, but poor people are not starving in the American streets, because we came up with this so-crazy-it-just-might-work idea of giving poor people money and money analogues (such as food stamps) to pay for food. It is not a perfect system, but it is preferable, as we know from unhappy experiences abroad, to having the government try to run the farms, as government did in the Soviet Union, or the grocery stores, as government does in hungry, miserable Venezuela. The Apple Store has its shortcomings, to be sure, but I’d rather have a health-care system that looks like the Apple Store than one that looks like a Venezuelan grocery store.

We have a system that (largely successfully) hides the costs and actual payers from the customer. Dysfunction is inevitable.

The Black Box

[Amazon Link]

Slowly, oh so very slowly, catching up with Michael Connelly's novels. This one came out in November 2012, a mere 4.5 years ago! It's a Harry Bosch book, and Harry's in his usual fine form.

Twenty years previous, Harry was assigned to a near-hopeless task: investigate homicides committed in the midst of the 1992 Los Angeles riots. One was the murder of a female Danish journalist, found crumpled in an alley off Crenshaw Boulevard. What was she doing there? Was this random violence or was there a motive? While riot cops and National Guardsmen look on, Harry investigates, with partner J. Edgar, as best he can, before getting hustled along to the next victim. Eventually, the murder gets assigned to a special task force, which does its best with a hopeless case.

But present-day Harry works for the Open-Unsolved Unit. Fortuitous forensic advances allow analysis of the shell casing found at the scene, tracing it to other shootings in the years since. It's a thin, two-decade-old, reed to work with, but there's nobody better at working thin reeds than Harry. Unsurprisingly, Harry has to contend with reluctant witnesses and a new boss who despises Harry's loose-cannon ways.

Another page-turner, of course, with a slam-bang satisfying finish.

I think I've mentioned this before, but I've also been streaming the Amazon series Bosch. It's a tribute to Titus Welliver, who plays Harry, that I now "see" him when I read the books. The series really gets Harry right.

URLs du Jour

2017-05-04

■ Proverbs 26:6 continues the chapter's musing on fools:

Sending a message by the hands of a fool is like cutting off one's feet or drinking poison.

Ouch! Or as Obi-Wan might say: Who's the more foolish, the fool or the fool who sends a message via fool?

Yes, it's May-the-Fourth-Be-With-You, so I figured I'd wedge (heh) a Star Wars angle in here somehow. I think that's it for the day, though.

■ I believe I extracted this lesson from reading Tom Nichols' book The Death of Expertise: "Approach expert advice with a certain combination of skepticism and humility." I'd add: adjust that "certain combination" appropriately, considering the source.

For example, if the United Nations is involved, crank up the skepticism. At the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Angela Logomasini claims that Polluted Logic Taints WHO Reports on Children’s Health.

Two recent World Health Organization (WHO) reports claim that pollution kills 1.7 million children a year—a claim that captured many news headlines. Policy recommendations outlined in the reports include reducing the use of fossil fuels and certain “toxic” chemicals. But these supposed solutions will do more harm than good because “pollution” is not really the issue as much as the lack of economic development.

One of the WHO reports points an alarmed finger at “endocrine disrupting chemicals”; I'm reasonably convinced such fearmongering is junk science. But as Ms. Logomasini details, that's not the only WHO sin.

NR's Jonah Goldberg analyzes the reaction to the new NYT (ex-WSJ) columnist's debut op-ed and finds that The Left Took the Bait on Bret Stephens.

Stephens wrote that the “warming of the earth since 1880 is indisputable, as is the human influence on that warming.” The work of climate scientists is “scrupulous,” Stephens insisted, and he went on to clarify that he does not “deny” climate change.

The reaction? A Slate headline captured it well: “Bret Stephens’ First Column for the New York Times Is Classic Climate Change Denialism.”

Never let the facts get in the way of a good witch-hunt.

■ Veronique de Rugy reports for us on The Fear-Based Campaign to Control the Net.

Public fear is an ally of big government. When fear sets in among the populace—often with encouragement from self-interested politicians—the result is usually an expansion of governmental power and a loss of individual rights.

Politicians typically stoke fear by exaggerating some perceived threat or by inventing one out of whole cloth. They then declare that government alone can provide the answer. Take the demonization of a recent move led by Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., to undo last-minute Obama-era rules from the Federal Communications Commission regulating online privacy.

Even self-described geeks overstated (but eventually corrected) the allegedly dire threat to privacy.

■ Some of my left-leaning Facebook buddies haven't unfriended me yet, but that's probably because I don't get in their political faces that often. One posted fawning words about Hillary Clinton's recent interview with sycophantic Christiane Amanpour—how nice it would have been to have a President who spoke coherent thoughts in complete sentences!

I thought, but did not post, my snarky comment. Which was approximately the same as that provided by Jake Tapper:

“Hillary Clinton today accepting full responsibility for the election loss,” Tapper said. “Except for the part when she blamed Comey, Putin, Wikileaks, misogyny, and the media.”

Yes, but she did all that in complete sentences!

Or I could have posted the recent work of Michael P. Ramirez:

A Curse of Her Own Making

Is it just me, or does that bring to your mind …

The Seen and Unseen at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

It has been almost a month since this article appeared in local media with the headline "Shipyard accounts for $756 million in economic activity". "Shipyard" is our local Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (PNSY), just down the street in Kittery, Maine. And this is an exercise performed annually by the Seacoast Shipyard Association (SSA), an association of "individuals, businesses and communities dedicated to the continued existence of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard".

But the article stuck in my craw a bit, because I've also read the masterful 1850 essay by Frédéric Bastiat "What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen". The classic example Bastiat provided was the activities of the "incorrigable son" of James Goodfellow who breaks a pane of glass, giving rise to Goodfellow's fury. But:

If you have been present at this spectacle, certainly you must also have observed that the onlookers, even if there are as many as thirty of them, seem with one accord to offer the unfortunate owner the selfsame consolation: "It's an ill wind that blows nobody some good. Such accidents keep industry going. Everybody has to make a living. What would become of the glaziers if no one ever broke a window?"

Yes, it's good for the glazier, Bastiat admits.

The glazier will come, do his job, receive six francs, congratulate himself, and bless in his heart the careless child. That is what is seen.

It is a nasty fallacy to stop at considering with "what is seen", because one might conclude that it's "good to break windows." Bastiat demands we consider…

It is not seen that, since our citizen has spent six francs for one thing, he will not be able to spend them for another. It is not seen that if he had not had a windowpane to replace, he would have replaced, for example, his worn-out shoes or added another book to his library. In brief, he would have put his six francs to some use or other for which he will not now have them.

So, 167 years later, Bastiat's crowd of onlookers has moved across the ocean, organized itself into the SSA, and aligned itself with complaisant pols. And our Bastiat-ignorant media uncritically showers its customers with its "seen" factoids like …

The shipyard accounted for $756,068,941 in total economic activity in 2016, according to the report. Total civilian payroll of nearly $500 million represents an increase of more than $14 million from 2015, which allowed more than 200 new employees to be hired, according to the report.

That might draw a snort of French contempt-mixed-with-amusement from Bastiat. "Oui! That is what is seen, mes amis! Tell me what is unseen?"

As it happens, Bastiat considers an even more pertinent example in his essay, involving the military. He's no peacenik, but he realizes that defense expenditures are costs, spending money that can't be devoted to other items:

A nation is in the same case as a man. When a man wishes to give himself a satisfaction, he has to see whether it is worth what it costs. For a nation, security is the greatest of blessings. If, to acquire it, a hundred thousand men must be mobilized, and a hundred million francs spent, I have nothing to say. It is an enjoyment bought at the price of a sacrifice.

He offers a concrete example:

A legislator proposes to discharge a hundred thousand men, which will relieve the taxpayers of a hundred million francs in taxes.

Suppose we confine ourselves to replying to him: "These one hundred thousand men and these one hundred million francs are indispensable to our national security. It is a sacrifice; but without this sacrifice France would be torn by internal factions or invaded from without." I have no objection here to this argument, which may be true or false as the case may be, but which theoretically does not constitute any economic heresy. The heresy begins when the sacrifice itself is represented as an advantage, because it brings profit to someone.

The SSA, its co-dependent politicians, and the media don't ignore this heresy. Instead, they embrace it with inane anecdotes like…

Loco Coco’s Tacos on Walker Street in Kittery, Maine, started as a small takeout taco stand in a parking lot.

Over the years more and more Portsmouth Naval Shipyard workers grabbed lunch at the stand, providing so much business, Loco Coco’s eventually expanded into the sit-down restaurant it is today, according to Ginny Griffith, a member of the Seacoast Shipyard Association’s board of directors.

“To see what that has turned into from this small business to what it is today is one example of the impact the shipyard has,” Griffith said during the SSA’s annual presentation of its economic impact report.

Yes, PNSY "brings profit to someone". Loco Coco’s Tacos. Duh. Bastiat imagines the SSA representative of his own day:

"Discharge a hundred thousand men! What are you thinking of? What will become of them? What will they live on? On their earnings? But do you not know that there is unemployment everywhere? That all occupations are oversupplied? Do you wish to throw them on the market to increase the competition and to depress wage rates? Just at the moment when it is difficult to earn a meager living, is it not fortunate that the state is giving bread to a hundred thousand individuals? Consider further that the army consumes wine, clothes, and weapons, that it thus spreads business to the factories and the garrison towns, and that it is nothing less than a godsend to its innumerable suppliers. Do you not tremble at the idea of bringing this immense industrial activity to an end?"

As a contemporary of Bastiat's observed: plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. Again, Bastiat says, consider the unseen:

But here is what you do not see. You do not see that to send home a hundred thousand soldiers is not to do away with a hundred million francs, but to return that money to the taxpayers. You do not see that to throw a hundred thousand workers on the market in this way is to throw in at the same time the hundred million francs destined to pay for their labor; that, as a consequence, the same measure that increases the supply of workers also increases the demand; from which it follows that your lowering of wages is illusory. You do not see that before, as well as after, the demobilization there are a hundred million francs corresponding to the hundred thousand men; that the whole difference consists in this: that before, the country gives the hundred million francs to the hundred thousand men for doing nothing; afterwards, it gives them the money for working. Finally, you do not see that when a taxpayer gives his money, whether to a soldier in exchange for nothing or to a worker in exchange for something, all the more remote consequences of the circulation of this money are the same in both cases: only, in the second case the taxpayer receives something; in the first he receives nothing. Result: a dead loss for the nation.

And he observes [paraphrasing]: if defense spending is by its nature so economically beneficial, why don't we put the entire nation to work in it, and get rid of all these fripperies produced by the private economy?

Our local politicians are huge fans of "what is seen", of course. They vociferously oppose any effort that might consider any base closures whatsoever. PNSY was on the chopping block in 2005, but was saved after intense politicking.

Since then, they've done mostly good work, but a civilian employee managed to destroy a sub there too. That's a "seen" cost, but the SSA doesn't like to mention such things.


Last Modified 2017-05-03 11:08 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-05-02

■ OK, I'm far from a Bible scholar, but this is what our default NIV translation provides for Proverbs 26:4 and 26:5:

4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.

Hm. I'm having difficulty distilling useful advice from those adjacent verses. Is it just me?

■ John McWhorter writes at the Daily Beast on The Know-Nothing Campus ‘Protest’ Movement. He looks for, and fails to find, any logic in "protesting" in order to prevent the appearance of campus speakers whose words are easily available to anyone with a cable TV subscription, a library card, or an Internet connection.

What’s going on here, then? The term “crazy” fails us here. It refers to behavior that contrasts to a norm, whereas sadly this form of protest has become a norm itself in progressive circles of the collegetown orbit. Clinical insanity is not subject to faddism and copycatting. Equally off-target is the “snowflake” catcall, implying that these protesters just think they’re extra-special and must have things exactly their way. We are dealing with nothing plausibly classifiable as whining. The gloweringly indignant sarcasm, the screaming and profanity, the physical threats—people hurled an unearthed stop sign complete with its concrete base at a car Charles Murray was in—this is not pouting; it is fury and menace.

Odds are against McWhorter getting invited to speak at any campus near you, or me. Way too honest.

■ Thomas Sowell emerges from his semi-retirement to growl at the folks bemoaning ‘Tax Cuts for the Rich’.

One of the painful realities of our times is how long a political lie can survive, even after having been disproved years ago, or even generations ago.

A classic example is the phrase “tax cuts for the rich,” which is loudly proclaimed by opponents, whenever there is a proposal to reduce tax rates. The current proposal to reduce federal tax rates has revived this phrase, which was disproved by facts, as far back as the 1920s — and by now should be called “tax lies for the gullible.”

Another unlikely campus invitee…

■ At NR, David French opines upon America’s ‘Smug Liberal Problem’. He notes TV's Samantha Bee's smug efforts to deny her smugness, and the reaction to Bret Stephen's debut NYT op-ed column, insufficiently orthodox on "climate change". (One must not deny the urgency of "doing something" right now.)

Liberal dogma is rapidly becoming a secular religion, a “faith” that conspicuously omits any requirement that one love his enemies. Christians have long struggled to keep one of Christ’s most difficult commands, but many leftists don’t even try. To many, it’s not even a virtue. Indeed, the same kind of vitriol is a hallmark of the post-religious Right and is part of the explanation for extreme polarization. Post-Christian countries eschew Christian values, including the very values that can and should prevent even the most ardent activists from becoming arrogant . . . and intolerant.

Another symptom: "humor" shows that rely on politically-correct mockery. Like Samantha Bee's.

■ At Reason, Andrea O'Sullivan bids Goodbye and good riddance to the Obama administration's "Open Internet Order." (I usually use the article headline as the URL link text, but this is the subheadline, and I like it better. Anyway …)

Libertarians, rejoice—a U.S. regulator took the bold step of deciding that his office simply doesn't have the jurisdiction to control major parts of the internet. Last Wednesday, the free market-friendly Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai unveiled his plan to roll back the FCC's controversial 2015 Open internet Order (OIO), which granted the telecommunication regulator expansive discretionary authority over how internet Service Providers (ISPs) can operate and compete.

It's a big win; if you read O'Sullivan's article, you'll see how big.

But we can do better. I don't agree with Larry Lessig a lot, but I'm with him on this issue: Demolish the FCC.

URLs du Jour

2017-05-01

■ PETA would not approve of two-thirds of Proverbs 26:3:

A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the backs of fools!

But for you, dear reader: a basket of puppies.

■ At NR, Deion Kathawa looks for The Roots of Campus Progressivism’s Madness.

The first thing to know is that the picture that is painted in the media of campuses as incubators and hotbeds of far-left radicalism is, too often, accurate — and depressing. What’s more, too many of the most politically active liberal students understand neither free speech nor one of its prime functions: to discover what’s true. And why would they? After all, free speech and truth itself are nothing more than oppressive, white-supremacist social constructs! Nearly every liberal college student with whom I have spoken in-person or engaged online believes that the First Amendment proscribes so-called hate speech, by which they seem to mean nothing more than speech that expresses ideas with which they disagree or that offend them. And when they find out that the First Amendment does not actually achieve this, to them, desirable end, they bristle: Well, it should!

Let me say up front: Kathawa's not wrong! But his article doesn't seem to contain the word "Marcuse", according to my browser's search function. I found that kind of surprising, and left a comment to that effect at NR.

■ Charlie Martin records yet another outbreak of Trump Derangement Syndrome. President Trump Declares Loyalty Day: Collapse of Democracy Imminent. The reactions Martin records will probably not surprise you. Nazi Trump! Fascist Trump!

Now, I get it. "Loyalty Day" is kind of creepy. (I don't care for the Pledge of Allegiance either.) But, tweet-spoiler alert:

■ Oh, yes. That "first 100 days" thing. KDW@NR reviews them and declares: A Show about Nothing. Except for Gorsuch (KDW: "well done, whoever had the job of explaining to Donald Trump what a Gorsuch is"), things have been iffy:

Trump’s first 100 days are a bust. For the next 100, Republicans should try something else: Having Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell send him useful and responsible pieces of legislation to sign. These need not be dramatic and far-reaching: In fact, it would be better if they were not. Send him a bill reforming corporate taxes instead of a tax-reform omnibus. Create stronger federal penalties for employing illegal immigrants and see to it that federal law-enforcement agencies get serious about enforcing them. Figure out what you think about health care, if you can. Republicans will get reform the same way Johnny Cash got his Cadillac: one piece at a time.

KDW doesn't mention deregulation. That's pretty good too.

■ And here's the great Ramirez:

Trump's First 100 Days

Yes, I'd have to count that as a plus as well.

■ And if you need a laugh, or a few dozen laughs, let Dave Barry provide them via this 20-year-old article: Classic '97: Altered States - The success seminar to end all success seminars.

What is the secret of success?

Why is it that one child grows up to become just an ordinary, ho-hum, middle-of-the-pack, blah of a person such as -- no offense -- you; while another child grows up to become a Theodore Roosevelt, a Mother Teresa, a Donald Trump, an Attila the Hun?

Is it luck? Is it genes? Is it upbringing? Did Mr. and Mrs. Hun teach young Attila some secret lesson that put him on the path to becoming No. 1?

Or is success something that any of us can achieve, even later in life, if we're willing to work hard, use our imaginations, learn from our mistakes, keep a positive mental attitude and -- above all -- pay money for a seminar?

Yes, kids, Donald Trump was a punchline even 20 years ago.