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).