The Girl on the Train

[Amazon Link]

Leant to me by one of Mrs. Salad's co-workers. Very kind of her. It's a suspense novel. I'll try to avoid spoilers.

The protagonist and main narrator is Rachel. She's a mess: divorced, alcoholic, compulsive liar, a whiner, and overweight. And also recently unemployed! Can't imagine why.

But in order to deceive her compassionate landlord, and also to fill up her empty life, she takes the train into London on weekdays. She peers out the window into the backyard of a cozy couple, who she names "Jess" and "Jason". She makes up an entire fantasy about them. They happen to live just a few doors down where Rachel used to live with ex-hubby Tom, who now shares the house with new wife Anna. Dickensian!

But then a number of unsettling things happen: Rachel witnesses behavior that's completely at odds with her idyllic notions of Jess and Jason. She gets blackout drunk one Saturday night, and can't remember what happened the day after, but she's wounded and filthy. And the news is filled with stories of an apparent lurid crime!

It's very much a page-turner. I figured out whodunit quite a while before the shocking revelation is made, but that's OK.

They made it into a movie, starring Emily Blunt as Rachel. It's hard to see how it could be bad, but the critical consensus is… it's bad. I might watch it anyway; Lisa Kudrow is in it, playing "Martha", someone I'm pretty sure is not in the book.

URLs du Jour

2017-06-30

Proverbs 24:23-25 strikes me as a bit of bottom-of-the-barrel-scraping:

23 These also are sayings of the wise:
    To show partiality in judging is not good:
24 Whoever says to the guilty, “You are innocent,”
    will be cursed by peoples and denounced by nations.
25 But it will go well with those who convict the guilty,
    and rich blessing will come on them.

Unfortunately, James Comey was not paying attention to this last year. Now he's picking up soda cans by the freeway.

■ My Google LFOD alert was triggered by New Hampshire Senate President Chuck Morse's column in the Concord Monitor: A real ‘Live free or die’ session.

New Hampshire continues to hold true to its motto, first coined by Revolutionary War General John Stark, “Live free or die.” As we gather together next week to celebrate our nation’s enduring freedom on the Fourth of July, we are reminded that this motto can take on many different meanings.

Translation: people ignore and obfuscate the motto's perfectly plain meaning as necessary to justify whatever political position they're currently taking.

But Chuck's column is his defense/explication of the NH Senate's actions over the past year. Example: "We’ve also taken steps to launch the Lakeshore Redevelopment Planning Commission in Laconia to bring in new ideas for the Laconia State School property." Yes, that's the kind of thing General Stark had in mind!

But Chuck tries valiantly to tie in the motto once again:

Our state motto takes on so many different meanings, but ultimately emphasizes the importance of our freedom from oppression and perhaps overstates the need for consistent, measured practicality.

I am in awe of anyone who can read the four words "Live Free or Die", and see anything at all about "consistent, measured practicality", let alone an overstatement about "consistent, measured practicality".

Go back to Salem, Chuck. You've had one too many.

■ But my Google LFOD alert was also triggered by an article by Aaron Keller, at a site called "Law Newz": 'DAMN, SH*T, ASS!’ State Parole Board Caught Swearing At Inmates. Yes, that's our State Parole Board.

New Hampshire is a state known for having beautiful mountains, no income tax, no sales tax, no mandatory seatbelt laws, huge state-run liquor stores in highway rest areas, a tough stance on drugs and alcohol, and a “live free or die” mentality.

Yeah, that's us. So?

Add to the list of the state’s various attributes the following:  the state’s adult parole board, which has the “sole authority to grant parole to a New Hampshire state prison inmate” or to “revoke the parole privilege of any person in its custody and recommit that person to the prison” under state administrative rules, got nailed by New Hampshire Public Radio for using strong and profane language in hearings.

Second link above corrected to point to NHPR story. Unfortunately, no board member actually said "Damn, Shit, Ass"; these are from three separate quotes.

I'm trying hard to be outraged by this, and failing. Some parole board members are insufficiently respectful toward convicted criminals? Boo hoo. But the "Law Newz" article does have some amusing snark about our state.

■ At NRO, David French explains: Why Trump’s Vengeful Tweeting Matters. The occasion being, in case you missed it, our President's reference to MSNBC hosts "low I.Q. Crazy Mika [Brzezinski], along with Psycho Joe [Scarborough]", and blood, and plastic surgery, etc.

A conservative can fight for tax reform, celebrate military victories over ISIS in Mosul, and applaud Trump’s judicial appointments while also condemning Trump’s vile tweets and criticizing his impulsiveness and lack of discipline. A good conservative can even step back and take a longer view, resolving to fight for the cultural values that tribalism degrades. Presidents matter not just because of their policies but also because of their impact on the character of the people they govern. Conservatives knew that once. Do they still?

Well, some do, some don't. But I know that when Trump exits the presidency, he'd be a pretty good pick for the New Hampshire State Parole Board.

■ Good news from Ashe Schow, writing at the Federalist: Trump Administration Signals End To Campus Star Chambers.

For years, college campuses across the country have been conducting witch hunts to expel or punish men accused of sexual assault. Those may soon be coming to an end, thanks to the Trump administration.

Unfortunately, many colleges will probably do the witch hunt thing anyway; it's in their grievance-mongering DNA. But there are judicial remedies for that sort of thing, and at least the Federal Government won't be providing encouragement.

■ At Reason, Matt Welch notes the Fox Hosts for Legalizing Heroin. (Specifically, Kennedy and Kat Timpf.)

This isn't Kennedy's first time making the on-air case for heroin legalization—back in March 2013, when then-host John Stossel talked about how he once struggled with legalizing hard drugs, but then concluded that owning one's body is a "powerful" counter-argument, the non-drug-using former MTV VJ replied "amen," and added: "having drugs be illegal is downright deadly. It's dangerous. And, you know, Ron Paul always made a good point, which was, let's say heroin was made legal right now, like who really wants to go out and jack their vein with heroin?" And in September of last year, when our own Katherine Mangu-Ward reacted to a story about elephant tranquilizers getting cut into smack by saying "this is why we want to legalize heroin now because it would save lives," Kennedy replied "Yes, absolutely. But instead, the problem here is, you know, not that legislators and…city council members are going to wake up and smell the cat food and realize that prohibition is directly leading to death."

I've developed the unfortunate habit of watching the local TV news, which devotes a huge chunk of each broadcast to inducing moral panic on the drug issue; they call this theme "State of Addiction" (Get it?)

■ Nancy MacLean's taxpayer-funded hatchet job on James M. Buchanan gets raked over the coals by David Bernstein: Some dubious claims in Nancy MacLean’s ‘Democracy in Chains’ and Some dubious claims in Nancy MacLean’s ‘Democracy in Chains,’ continued. From the former:

When the book arrived, I eagerly looked for her sources supporting the notion that modern libertarianism owes a massive debt to [slavery fan John C.] Calhoun, a theme on which she spends her entire prologue; later in the book, she claims that the libertarian cause traces its lineage to Calhoun. It turns out that she cites two articles noting similarities between Calhoun’s theories of political economy and modern public choice theory, and also cites to two pages of Murray Rothbard’s 1970 book, “Power and Market.” To put the two pages from Rothbard in perspective, I have in front of me a volume with the entire run of the New Individualist Review, a pioneering libertarian academic journal published at the University of Chicago in the 1960s. The index has multiple citations to Mill, Friedman, Hayek, Hobbes, Montesquieu, von Humboldt, Smith, Rand and other classical liberal and libertarian luminaries. Calhoun, meanwhile, does not appear in the index. Not once.

Do historians have their version of the Ig Nobel Prize? If so, Prof MacLean would seem to have a lock on it.

@JonahNRO eschews the citation-quibbling and puts it into context: Nancy MacLean’s Ideologically Motivated Shortcuts.

Indeed, this is all downstream of the century-old effort to turn Herbert Spencer into some kind of monster because he opposed governmental social engineering. The idea seems to be that because the statists are good, anyone who opposes them must be evil.

The contemporary liberal obsession with claiming that their ideological opponents must be somehow in league with, or modern-day reincarnations of, Klansmen and slavers is just another manifestation of this old, self-indulgent smear. It’s a bit like MacLean set out to reach that destination. When she realized she couldn’t get there by conventional navigation, she put a magnet marked “Calhoun!” or “Slavery!” next to her compass, and that did the trick.

Indeed.


Last Modified 2017-06-30 6:34 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-06-29

■ Dear friends, we continue our study of the Bible with Proverbs 24:21-22. And it's delightfully old-school, telling any would-be snot-nosed rebels against authority to get back on the right side, or else:

21 Fear the Lord and the king, my son,
    and do not join with rebellious officials,
22 for those two will send sudden destruction on them,
    and who knows what calamities they can bring?

The Lord and the king are BFFs, you know. At least, that's what the king says.

■ The Dallas Morning News, to its credit, totally fessed up after publishing an anti-gun propaganda piece: How news organizations, including this one, unintentionally misinformed the public on guns

An eight-paragraph Washington Post article on page 10A reported on a national study about kids and guns. The last sentence said 4.2 percent of American kids have witnessed a shooting in the past year.

“Really?” [DMN subscriber Steve] Doud wrote. “Does it really sound believable that one kid out of every 24 has witnessed a shooting in the last year? I think not, unless it was on TV, in a movie, or in a video game. In that case it would probably be more like 100 percent.”

His instincts were right. The statistic was not.

'Twas too good to check. There's a New Hampshire connection too: the "4.2 percent" number was from a paper from UNH's David Finkelhor; the DMN blames him for a misleading table entry, blames the CDC for misquoting it, and (finally) blames the news organizations, including his, for believing and publicizing it.

■ A particularly brilliant video satire from Remy:

Remy for President!

■ But if you prefer the wordy version, here is @JonahNRO: The Left Espouses Dangerously Stupid Health-Care Rhetoric

The truth is that health-care “reform” has been a story of bipartisan malpractice. Obamacare was lied into passage (“you can keep your doctor,” “you can keep your plan,” etc.) on a strict party-line vote. The Republicans spent the better part of a decade vowing to tear it all down. When the dogs caught the car, they had no idea what to do next. They’ve halfheartedly opted to keep the structure in place but carve off a chunk of money to fund tax cuts (but not for the working-class people most harmed by their bill).

Trump’s irresponsible promise to leave entitlements alone has been memory-holed by Republicans because they want to claim they repealed Obamacare to give the president a “win.” The Democrats, likewise, are more concerned about keeping Obama’s health-care “win” on the books for the sake of his legacy than with fixing Obamacare’s dysfunction. And if that requires calling Republicans murderers, so be it. It’s just words.

OK, so Jonah for President, Remy for Veep.

■ Can you stand one more Nancy MacLean link? Too bad, here's one anyway, from Steve Horwitz at Bleeding Heart Libertarians: MacLean on Nutter and Buchanan on Universal Education. RTWT for the details, but the bottom line is:

This is an example of a running problem with the book. MacLean has, by her own admission, very little knowledge of economics. In addition, her knowledge of Buchanan’s system of thought comes mostly from his autobiography Better than Plowing, The Calculus of Consent, and two secondary sources that are highly critical and have their own problems of good faith interpretation. In the most generous reading, she is misunderstanding arguments and chopping up quotes because she simply doesn’t understand what Buchanan and his collaborators are up to. In the least generous reading, she has a theory and she’s going to cut up the evidence to fit that theory. If one believes that modern libertarians are the enemies of democracy, progress, equality, and all that’s good in the world, and MacLean clearly does, then the evidence will always be read, and sometimes constructed, in ways that support the argument on the side of the angels.

Unfortunately, anyone who takes the time to read the actual sources she’s working from, or who understands public choice theory, can see this exercise for what it is: a travesty of scholarly standards (no, Charles Dickens’ novels do not count as data about the economic conditions of the 19th century) and a smear job on one of the great minds of the 20th century.

Sorry, it's like rubbernecking a dreadful car accident (a taxpayer-funded one in this case). I just can't look away.

■ Finally: are book cover designers getting lazy? You be the judge:

[Amazon Img]   [Amazon Img]

[Note, the above are technically Amazon ads, which you may be blocking. Don't do that, they're just book cover images.]

URLs du Jour

2017-06-28

Proverbs 24:19-20 advises us to chill out about bad guys:

19 Do not fret because of evildoers
    or be envious of the wicked,
20 for the evildoer has no future hope,
    and the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out.

I can't imagine a world where this advice was taken seriously by good guys. I'm not sure whether I'd like it or not.

■ My ears pricked up when I read this Heat Street article from Ian Miles Cheong: Ohio Town Proposes ‘Three Strikes’ for Heroin Addicts, With Treatment Denied to Some on Third Strike.

Middletown [Ohio]’s proposed policy would give heroin addicts two free chances to get Narcan (Naloxone) to treat their overdose. For each rescue, heroin abusers must then perform community service for the equivalent amount of money used on the medical treatment. On their third strike, the heroin users will not be given medical treatment if they have not completed the community service to pay for previous treatments.

Middletown played a starring role in J. D. Vance's best-selling book Hillbilly Elegy (which I highly recommend). It appears they're running out of (1) Other Peoples' Money, and maybe also (2) patience with addicts.

■ My guess is most readers are acquainted with the debate over the minimum wage. @kevinNR covers some of that, and goes on to make a deeper point about psychology in Magical Thinking about Minimum Wages.

But magical thinking is much easier, and much more amenable to the political cast of mind, than undertaking the very hard, thankless, and uncertain work of doing the things necessary to turn low-skilled, low-earning workers into more productive and prosperous workers. Magical thinking is how you get a major political party and its hothouse intellectuals seriously convinced that the way to make health care more affordable is to pass a law called the Affordable Care Act. It is how you get Republican budget proposals that involve jacking up spending on the military, keeping Social Security and Medicare on their current stratospheric trajectories, cutting taxes, and . . . balancing the budget in ten years. (“But we’ll cut foreign aid!”) It’s how you decide to fix the problem of illegal immigration with a wall on the southern border when most illegal immigrants do not enter by sneaking over the border. It is how you spend 60 years thinking your prissy little moral declarations about the necessity of good public education for every child will result in a good public education for every child, how you come to believe that shouting “Health care is a human right!” will somehow summon general practitioners from the vasty deep and exnihilate hospital beds into existence.

Yes, Kevin said "exnihilate". He went there. (Even the Google asks: "Did you mean: annihilate")

■ Megan McArdle breaks the bad news to the GOP: Senate's Obamacare Replacement Is a Suicide Mission.

Republicans want to kill you. Worse than that, they want to kill you so that they can give your money to rich people who don’t need it.

If you’ve been reading social media over the last week, that’s the main message you’d take away. It started when the Senate released its long-awaited health-care bill, the culmination of nearly a decade’s promises to repeal and replace Obamacare. This bill was not so much a repeal as an adjustment, and not so much an adjustment as a tweak. But it did propose to eliminate most of the taxes used to fund Obamacare, including the reviled individual mandate. And alter the funding structure of both Medicaid and the premium subsidies to make them somewhat less generous. So obviously: Republicans want to kill you. Their rich donors need your bodies to use as mulch on their diamond plantations.

No kidding. I made the mistake of watching the local news last night, and it was filled with tear-stained stories of how "Obamacare saved my life, and now I'm gonna die."

■ At the NR Corner, Andrew Stuttaford writes on Looting Google: When Mercantilists Turn to Theft. It's about the just-announced European Union fine of Google for €2.4 billion. That's a lot of money, even measured in American dollars. Stuttaford quotes Robert Atkinson of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF):

The decision in this case shows the fundamental problem with the EU’s approach to antitrust issues: It is willing to take heavy-handed actions to protect competitors, at the expense of consumers. This is evident in the Commission’s decision to levy a record €2.4 billion fine against Google in a case where consumers were helped, not hurt, by the development of a product-comparison tool that allowed users to shop online more effectively. The only real beneficiary of today’s ruling is the EU’s treasury.

Google has hardly been a principled cheerleader for free-market values, but maybe this will move them a bit more in that direction. If, as Irving Kristol quipped, a neoconservative is "a liberal who has been mugged by reality", perhaps a libertarian is a liberal who's been mugged by the state.

■ The Nancy MacLean case continues to fascinate, as more and more scholars notice the underlying shoddiness of her taxpayer-funded "research". Another example, from Phillip W. Magness: How Nancy MacLean went whistlin’ Dixie, which examines the charge that James Buchanan somehow considered himself to be "an intellectual heir to the [Confederacy-sympathizing, racist] Vanderbilt Agrarians of the 1930s." His conclusion:

MacLean’s book has already caught some flak for factual misrepresentations of her sources. In this case she appears to have simply made up an inflammatory association and tacked it onto Buchanan in an effort to paint him as a racist. When scrutinized though in her own sources, it becomes quickly apparent that she has no actual evidence to sustain her many detailed and specific claims. When one actually searches for the link and checks her sources, it quickly becomes apparent that there is none. In fact, one could legitimately note that there are more references to the pro-segregation Vanderbilt Agrarians on Nancy MacLean’s own CV than in the entire Collected Works of James M. Buchanan.

And then we have…

■ David Henderson notes Nancy MacLean's Distortion of James Buchanan's Statement in his essay "Why I, Too, Am Not a Conservative" (whose title was inspired by Hayek's "Why I Am Not a Conservative"), a defense of classical liberalism. Buchanan noted two options in viewing mankind: either (1) "to be treated as natural equals, deserving of equal respect and individually responsible for their actions", or (2) "subordinate members of the species, akin to that accorded animals who are dependent."

Guess which option MacLean picked Buchanan as favoring?

In short, [MacLean] has taken the two options Buchanan laid out, in a passage in which, from context it is clear that he favors the first option--treating people as "natural equals"--and has rejected the second option--treating people as "subordinate members of the species"--and, without even mentioning the first option, she asserts that he favors the second option. This is either incredibly sloppy or incredibly dishonest. How likely is it that it's just sloppy?

I'll answer: not very likely.

And then we have…

■ Donald Boudreaux passing along his letter to the New Republic, who published an interview with MacLean, pointing out More MacLean Mistakes

In her interview with you, Democracy in Chains author Nancy MacLean says about my late Nobel-laureate colleague, James Buchanan, that his market-oriented worldview “does not recognize that private, economic power has a capacity to coerce” (“The Right’s War Against Liberal Democracy,” June 27).  For someone who is credited in some circles for having produced, in Democracy in Chains, an “intellectual biography” of Buchanan, it’s astonishing that Prof. MacLean missed Buchanan’s long support for active antitrust enforcement – that is, his support for a government policy that Buchanan believed was necessary to counter private, economic power with the capacity to coerce.

Prof B. goes on to further demolish MacLean's pretensions toward honest research.

And then we have…

■ Jason Brennan at Bleeding Heart Libertarians, who looks at a lot of the links we've published ourselves, and concludes:

She is either grossly incompetent or a straight up liar.

I left a comment there, which I'll share here:

Michael Bellesiles: : "Boy, I really screwed up. Nobody's going to make my mistakes again."
Nancy MacLean: "Hold my beer."

The LEGO Batman Movie

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

Back in 2014, I thought The LEGO Movie was great, and I thought LEGO Batman was one of the best things about it, so I really expected to like this more. But…

It's a lighthearted look at Batman's dysfunctional go-it-alone-ism. On one side, he refuses to accept the help of would-be allies. On the other, he avoids acknowledging the necessity of his relationship with his perennial villain adversaries, particularly the Joker.

That neurosis is tested when Joker is sent to the Phantom Zone, where a lot of bad guys get dispatched at the end of their movies: there's Sauron, Voldemort, Godzilla, Kong, even Jaws (the shark, not Richard Kiel). Joker promptly dumps his old allies (Harley Quinn, Bane, Riddler, …) and uses the new ones to unleash a fiendish plot against Gotham. It turns out that Batman needs the help of his own crew: the accidentally-acquired Robin, Alfred, and Barbara Gordon.

All this is accompanied by a lot of jokes, both inside jokes and outside jokes, and they're pretty clever, and thank goodness for subtitles, because I would have missed a lot of them otherwise. But the teamwork-is-good moral is laid on with a heavy hand, and that doesn't help the movie.

URLs du Jour

2017-06-27

Proverbs 24:17-18 discourages gloating, but not because it isn't nice:

17 Do not gloat when your enemy falls;
    when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,
18 or the Lord will see and disapprove
    and turn his wrath away from them.

Closely related to advice that Napoleon (never quite) offered: "Never interfere with an enemy while he’s in the process of destroying himself."

The Proverbialist adds the whimsical fickleness of a wrath-dispensing Old Testament God. You don't want to get on His Bad Side.

■ Peter Suderman at Reason notes that the New CBO Report Says the Senate GOP Health Care Would Make Obamacare's Problems Worse. What "problems"? Well, the very problems that Senator Mitch McConnell said back in January that he wanted to fix!

At the time, Republicans had not released their own health care legislation, or shared the framework for their plan. But now they have, and it is hard to square McConnell's criticisms of Obamacare with the legislation his office helped produce. According to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate released this afternoon, the Senate health care bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), would make every single one of the issues that McConnell mentioned worse.

There might be a few Republicans out there that realize that the iron fist of Your Federal Government is absolutely lousy at imposing a grand design on provision of health care services to customers. Unfortunately, they don't seem to have much influence.

■ Nancy Maclean’s recent taxpayer-funded smear job on Nobel Prize-winning economist and scholar James Buchanan also managed to tar-and-feather GMU Econ prof Tyler Cowen. Russ Roberts lays out the details, and concludes: Nancy MacLean Owes Tyler Cowen an Apology. It's a detailed demonstration of how Maclean de-contextualized Cowan's arguments to make him appear to be "a sinister enemy of American institutions and democracy."

Of course I am not an unbiased reader of these issues. I was a fellow at the Mercatus Center for nine years. Tyler Cowen was my colleague. I’ve interviewed him many times for EconTalk and I’ve learned much from him. But I think the full quotes of Tyler Cowen make it clear that MacLean’s portrait of at least this essay of his are not accurate. I hope Nancy MacLean, who is a chaired professor of history at Duke University, will concede that her characterization of Tyler Cowen’s view of democracy is inaccurate or at least incomplete. She owes Cowen (and her readers) an apology.

Maclean's response to Roberts is appended, and it appears no apology is forthcoming.

■ At NRO, David French shares Three Thoughts on the Masterpiece Cakeshop Cert Grant. (The Supreme Count has agreed to hear the case of a Colorado baker who might be forced, against his conscience, to bake a cake for a gay wedding.) Here's thought one:

First, don’t let anyone tell you that this case is about status-based discrimination. The bakery is no more discriminating against gay people than a baker discriminates against white people if he declines to bake a Confederate flag cake. The baker bakes cakes for gay customers. He didn’t want to lend his talents to send a specific message — namely, approval of gay marriage.

Thoughts two and three are at the link. Spoiler: the whimsical Justice Kennedy might be key, as he has a First Amendment angel sitting on one shoulder, and a LGBT-friendly demon sitting on the other.

Power Line's Steven Hayward notes a new discovery out west: Seattle Discovers Gravity Is Not Socially Constructed.

Well not quite gravity, but close enough for post-modernist work. You know how liberals like to attach taxes on cigarettes so we’ll buy fewer of them, and on alcohol so we’ll drink less, etc? Funny, though, how the basic lesson of supply and demand and price sensitivity falls by the wayside when it comes to the minimum wage.

The occasion is a recent study showing that a boost in the minimum wage to $11/hour caused low-wage workers to take home $125/month less in wages.


Last Modified 2017-06-27 11:04 AM EDT

The Gods of Guilt

[Amazon Link]

Continuing on the Michael Connelly project: this book brings us up to 2013! I'm still a little concerned that I'm not reading them as fast as Connelly is writing them. Oh well.

This is a Mickey Haller (aka the "Lincoln Lawyer") novel; his half-brother Harry Bosch makes a brief cameo. Mickey is at a personal low point. His daughter despises him for defending a drunk driver that went on to kill one of her friends. His ex-wife is pretty pissed about that too. He was defeated in his bid to be elected District Attorney. So it's back to his normal work, defending generally less-then-admirable people for crimes which they often actually committed. And he skates right up to (probably over) the edge of ethics and law in doing so.

(It's a tribute to Connelly's writing ability that Mickey remains a likeable character.)

But the main story here is the defense of a "digital pimp" accused of killing one of his prostitutes. He designs and maintains their "escort service" websites, and gets a cut of each, um, service fee. I must admit this path to riches did not occur to me when I was in the website game.

Irony: the pimp hires Mickey because he came recommended by the murder victim; Mickey defended her years back (and Mickey had thought she'd left the profession). The pimp maintains his innocence, but that's not too important to Mickey; can he come up with an alternate theory that might trigger reasonable doubt in a jury?

This is Connelly at his storytelling finest. I usually read at a reasonable pace, scheduling a few dozen pages a day. I ripped through this one like a madman, eager to find out what happens next.


Last Modified 2017-06-27 11:07 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-06-26

■ I'm not sure what to make of Proverbs 24:15-16:

15 Do not lurk like a thief near the house of the righteous,
    do not plunder their dwelling place;
16 for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again,
    but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.

So the bottom line is: rob the wicked, it's easier? That can't be right. Or is it?

■ We've posted a number of links with the opposite opinion, but in the interest of equal time, here's David Harsany at the Federalist: The GOP Senate Health Care Bill Isn’t Great, But It’s Better Than Obamacare.

If Republican leadership had told conservatives in 2013 that they could pass a bill that would eliminate the individual and employer mandates, phase out Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, cut an array of taxes, and lay out the conditions for full repeal later, I imagine most would have said “Sign me up!” Especially if they contemplated the only other viable option: ziltch.

I'm trying very hard to care about this, and not having very much luck. In theory, I'd get behind any bill that might move the country toward a free market in health care, but that seems to be not in the cards.

■ Prof Don Boudreaux opines on the new book purporting to study the Nobel prize winning scholar James Buchanan, and deems it Fiction

As is true of GMU Econ alum Dan Mitchell, I haven’t yet read Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America.  And I’m unlikely to do so any time soon, for what I’ve read and heard about it, this book is a work of fiction masquerading as a work of non-fiction.  MacLean, I gather, tries to show that the scholarship of my late Nobel laureate colleague, Jim Buchanan, somehow fueled efforts by right-wing plutocrats to enrich themselves at the expense of the masses.

Prof Boudreaux further demolishes MacLean's argument. It's interesting.

■ At Heat Street, Emily Zanotti reports: Chicago Gay Pride Bans ‘Jewish Pride’ Flag Over ‘Safety Concerns’.

Members of a Jewish LGBT group in Chicago were said they were insulted and confused after Chicago Pride parade organizers said their “Jewish Pride” flag—a rainbow banner with the Star of David—made other marchers feel “unsafe.”

When you're on the left, some issues trump others.

@kevinNR writes on Civil Asset Forfeiture: Where Due Process Goes to Die:

Current asset-forfeiture practice, like much that is wrong with U.S. law enforcement, has its roots in the so-called war on drugs. The practice of seizing assets is ancient: It dates back at least to 17th-century maritime law, under which ships illegally transporting goods would be seized, along with the contraband inside. Asset forfeiture was used against bootleggers during Prohibition, but it really came into its own in the Reagan era, when the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 empowered federal and local law-enforcement agencies to take property from drug kingpins for their own use. The sudden, unlikely inventory of exotic cars and yachts possessed by law-enforcement agencies inspired that great cultural document of the 1980s: Miami Vice.

The practice was also the premise for a season-five story arc on Justified. But that's about the best that can be said for it. (Season Five was widely considered to be the worst season, even so it was still better than 95% of the dreck on TV.)

There's a long quote from Clarence Thomas in Kevin's article, so you'll want to read that.

Hillbilly Elegy

A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

[Amazon Link]

What's an elegy? I had to look it up to be sure: It's "a mournful, melancholy, or plaintive poem, especially a funeral song or a lament for the dead." I believe the author, J. D. Vance, is referring to the culture he grew up in. It's not dead, but he's left it behind.

The book is pretty good. As I type, it's number seven on the New York Times non-fiction best-seller list, and it's been on the list for forty-seven weeks. Many of these sales, I think, have been to parents giving the book to their kiddos: "See, as bad as you think we were, things could have been lots worse. Specifically, your mother will never demand that you provide her with a clean urine sample that she can provide to her employer as if it were hers."

J. D. Vance, the author, tells the story of his life so far, concentrating on the hillbilly family and culture in which he was immersed growing up. It's brutally honest, and makes no excuses for the various dysfunctions. And there are a lot: e.g., drug abuse, as noted above. Family ties are unstable; at last count, I think J. D.'s mom was on husband number five, and those husbands were interspersed with numerous live-in boyfriends. Paradoxically, family loyalty is strong; funerals, weddings, graduations are all well-attended by even distant relations. (J. D. distinguishes between his "nuclear" family, relatively small, and his "extended" family, which due to all the serial marriage is huge, fluid, and difficult to track.) Generosity is rife, even to a fault.

The hillbilly culture is prone to irresponsibility, short-term thinking, and short-fused conflict, both inside and outside family bounds. In the modern world, this makes long-term employment in non-menial jobs a rarity, and financial stability even rarer. (The generosity mentioned above can cause expensive mistakes.) Within families, psychological warfare seems unremitting.

And more. J. D. is observant and insightful at what makes him and his culture tick. His story is one of both escape and acceptance. Thanks to a loving grandmother (who I pictured as Margo Martindale playing a less criminal, but more profane version of Justified's Mags Bennett) who provided good advice without necessarily following it herself. J. D. (eventually) gets decent grades in school, joins the Marines, attends Ohio State, gets into (to his own surprise) Yale Law School, finds his eventual wife, and… wrote this book. Each step of the way is tricky, and things could have easily gone wrong. A cameo appearance is made by Amy Chua, the famous "dragon mom", who was J. D.'s contracts prof at Yale; her mentoring helped hugely.

OK, I said: good for parents to give their kids. But also… you can't help but notice that a lot of the "hillbilly" dysfunctions are working their way into white working-class cultures in general. That's cause for even more concern.

URLs du Jour

2017-06-25

■ I think we have to classify Proverbs 24:13-14 as, at best, a strained simile:

13 Eat honey, my son, for it is good;
    honey from the comb is sweet to your taste.
14 Know also that wisdom is like honey for you:
    If you find it, there is a future hope for you,
    and your hope will not be cut off.

Reader assignment: compare and contrast with Proverbs 25:27 and Proverbs 25:16. Not to go against the Good Book, but it's difficult to extract consistent honey-based wisdom from Proverbs.

■ This has been stuck in my craw for a while, so it's not quite timely, but anyway. Powerline's John Hinderaker uncovers Another Left-Wing Science Scandal. It involves glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's herbicide RoundUp.

A simple Google search on glyphosate will give you a lot of scary/ominous (and a few level-headed) results. But the scary ones are really scary and seem to come from ostensibly reputable publications like Scientific American ("Weed-Whacking Herbicide Proves Deadly to Human Cells") and National Geographic ("What Do We Really Know About Roundup Weed Killer?"). And the resulting fear, uncertainty, and doubt has made pictures like today's Getty image very easy to find.

Much of this fear springs from a report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) which, back in 2015, declared that glyphosate was "probably carcinogenic". But, as Hinderaker quotes a Reuters report:

Previously unreported court documents reviewed by Reuters from an ongoing U.S. legal case against Monsanto show that [National Cancer Institute epidemiologist Aaron] Blair knew the unpublished research found no evidence of a link between glyphosate and cancer. In a sworn deposition given in March this year in connection with the case, Blair also said the data would have altered IARC’s analysis.

This has caused articles in left-wing publications wouldn't seem out of place in Reason or National Review. Example:

As of yet, there are no signs of IARC backing off its conclusion that RoundUp causes cancer. “Despite the existence of fresh data about glyphosate,” reported Reuters, the agency is “sticking with its findings.”

But the cat is out of the bag. During an EPA budget hearing Thursday, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) asked EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to look into the withheld evidence on RoundUp. [UC Berkeley professor of genetics, genomics, and development Barry] Eisen, meanwhile, worries that IARC’s handling of this case will damage public perception of the group. “This is going to end up undermining people’s confidence in this agency’s ability to do this well,” he said. “They don’t seem interested in getting to the bottom of these things. These decisions seem based in politics.”

Readers, that's from Mother Jones, not previously thought to be a part of the toady corporate press. Wow.

This is something to keep an eye on, mainly to see if all those mainstream publications will back off their scaremongering.

■ The Supreme Court giveth, but also taketh away. Specifically (as Eric Boehm writes at Reason): Supreme Court Deals Blow to Property Rights.

When governments issue regulations that undermine the value of property, bureaucrats don't necessarily have to compensate property holders, the Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The court voted 5-3, in Murr V. Wisconsin, a closely watched Fifth Amendment property rights case. The case arose from a dispute over two tiny parcels of land along the St. Croix River in western Wisconsin and morphed into a major property rights case that drew several western states into the debate before the court.

The whimsical Justice Kennedy voted with the reliably-statist Breyer/Kagan/Ginsbug/Sotomayor bloc. Jazz Shaw at Hot Air quotes Justice Thomas:

Something has gone seriously awry with this Court’s interpretation of the Constitution. Though citizens are safe from the government in their homes, the homes themselves are not.

One can only hope that President Trump will get some more chances to appoint replacements.

■ I am a mild baseball fan, and I'm in agreement with (superfan) George F. Will, who reports from Omaha's TD Ameritrade Park: Baseball’s Pace of Play Needs Some Juice.

From Little League on up, players emulate major leaguers, so Major League Baseball’s pace-of-play problem is trickling down. Four innings into a recent College World Series game here, just seven hits and three runs had consumed 96 minutes. During a coach’s visit to the pitcher’s mound, the other team’s three base-runners visited their dugout to confer with their coach. The Congress of Vienna moved more briskly.

Will suggests (among other things) limiting catchers' visits to the mound. I'd suggest an outright ban, enforced by hungry wolverines, but there are probably downsides to that I'm not considering.

■ And Mr. Ramirez notes that elephants can forget, or at least pretend to:

GOP Repeal

URLs du Jour

2017-06-24

■ Chapter 24 of Proverbs has been at best a mixed bag so far, but Proverbs 24:10-12 is just plain wonderful:

10 If you falter in a time of trouble,
    how small is your strength!
11 Rescue those being led away to death;
    hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
    does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
    Does not he who guards your life know it?
    Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?

■ My Google LFOD alert was triggered by a Union Leader LTE from Richard Whitney, who's on the shitlist of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. Why? Well, there's a clue in the headline: Feeding Stoddard bears is safe and beneficial.

Most citizens are unaware that Fish and Game officers can walk on to anyone’s property, any time, without notice or a warrant. As long as they are at a distance from your house and grounds, they can film you or watch you anytime without your knowing about it. What happened to the Fourth Amendment? We no longer live in a Live Free or Die state.

Mr. Whitney challenges Fish & Game's mantra "a fed bear is a dead bear", and (although I have zero expertise) it seems he knows whereof he speaks.

■ At NR, David French reminds us: Anti-Free-Speech Radicals Never Give Up.

Lest anyone wonder about the actual definition of “hate speech,” look to campus and liberal activist groups. At Evergreen State College in Washington, a progressive professor’s statement against racial separation and division was deemed so hateful that he couldn’t safely conduct classes on campus. Influential pressure groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center label the Ku Klux Klan and other genuine racists “hate groups” but also apply the same label to mainstream Christian conservative organizations such as the Family Research Council. The SPLC has branded respected American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray a “white nationalist.” Moreover, it’s far more forgiving of leftist extremism than of moderate speech that is conservative or libertarian.

It's a good fight to make. Although nobody (yet) is literally "staggering toward slaughter" (see above), this is no time to falter.

■ At Bleeding Heart Libertarians, Jason Brennan notes a new book by historian Nancy MacLean, and deems it a "hit piece" on the late James Buchanan (the Nobel Prize-winning scholar, not the lousy President). And asks: Conspire Me This: Is Nancy MacLean a Hired Gun for the Establishment?

Brennan notes that Buchanan's crime was a clear-eyed and unsentimental look at how government actions are corrupted by interest groups to screw over everyone else. And so?

So, along comes Nancy MacLean. The government paid her over $50,000 to smear Buchanan and people like him. Rather than challenge his ideas, she accuses him of this and that. Yet, all the while, Nancy is quite literally a hired gun for the government seeking to rationalize its oppression and abuses.

The National Endowment for the Humanities should be abolished.

URLs du Jour

2017-06-23

■ Your Pun Salad Challenge du Jour is to distill useful advice or insight out of Proverbs 24:8-9:

8 Whoever plots evil
will be known as a schemer.
9 The schemes of folly are sin,
and people detest a mocker.

Things have changed since those days. Now, you can get a lucrative TV gig when your sole meager talent is mockery. Just ask Jon Stewart, Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert, Chelsea Handler, …

■ Thank goodness for people willing to plunge into the sausage that comes out of the legislative process. For example, Michael F. Cannon of Cato looks at the "Better Care Reconciliation Act": Senate Republicans Offer a Bill to Preserve & Expand ObamaCare. As you might expect, Cannon blows big holes in it. The details are dispiriting, here's the bottom line:

The Senate bill is not even a step in the right direction. If this is the choice facing congressional Republicans, it would be better if they did nothing. Consumers would continue to struggle under ObamaCare’s regulations, but those costs would focus attention on their source. The lines of accountability would be clearer if Republicans signed off on legislation that seems designed to rescue ObamaCare rather than repeal and replace it.

That's an excellent idea.

■ Megan McArdle is also a reliably knowledgable pundit on the topic, and her take is similar: Republicans' Health-Care Bills Boil Down to ... More Obamacare.

Well, you know, if you tilt your head to one side and squint a little, you can sort of see … Obamacare.  I called the House health care bill “Obamacare Lite,” but compared to the Senate bill, the House was offering a radical new taste sensation. The Senate bill touches very little of the underlying architecture of Obamacare; all it does is eliminate the insurance mandates, cut spending and give states somewhat more autonomy in how those dollars are spent. Repeal Obamacare, you say? They’re barely even worrying it.

It would make a lot of sense to run away from this.

■ Had enough? Sorry, one more. Peter Suderman at Reason: The Senate GOP's New Health Care Bill Is Just Obamacare, But Less Of It.

For Republicans, this might be the notable failure to think beyond the terms set by Obamacare. It means that Senate bill not only won't be Obamacare repeal, it might not even be Obamacare lite. Instead, it might be Obamacare lite—later. And later could easily turn out to be never.

Well, we'll see what happens.

■ I can only assume that there's a mole inside the New York Times editorial department, because they published an op-ed from Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Asra Q. Nomani, displeased at the treatment they received at a recent Senate hearing. Kamala Harris Was Silenced. Then She Silenced Us. Although California's Senator Harris gets the headline, as we've mentioned before, she was not alone in her indifference:

Both of us were on edge. Earlier that day, across the Potomac River, a man had shot a Republican lawmaker and others on a baseball diamond in Alexandria, Va. And just moments before the hearing began, a man wearing a Muslim prayer cap had stood up and heckled us, putting Capitol police officers on high alert. We were girding ourselves for tough questions.

But they never came. The Democrats on the panel, including Senator Harris and three other Democratic female senators — North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, New Hampshire’s Maggie Hassan and Missouri’s Claire McCaskill — did not ask either of us a single question.

Maggie's just not interested in learning anything that might not fit into her narrative.

■ If you can't figure out how to breach the NYT paywall, John Sexton at Hot Air excerpts their op-ed, and comments:

I can’t improve on the take by these two women who seem legitimately concerned about human rights and especially women’s rights in the face of primitive and barbaric practices. It’s a shame that their experiences, and the lessons they’ve drawn from them, are so easily dismissed by Democratic women in the Senate. But then, when the former Democratic President of the United States is telling the world that “ISIS is not Islamic,” maybe this sort of avoidance of uncomfortable truths doesn’t come as much of a surprise.

I also tweeted about this, but I don't expect a response.

@JonahNRO asks the musical question: Are Things Getting Better?

The standard brief against the president, from the Left and much of the desiccated center, is that Donald Trump is a threat to the constitutional order. I do not dismiss this view out of hand, and if President Trump were much more popular, I’d worry about it more. But to date, things aren’t working that way.

When you were expecting much, much worse, things simply being bad is sort of a relief.

■ Matthew Continetti has come to the reluctant conclusion about so-called "experts": They’re Wrong About Everything.

Events are turning me into a radical skeptic. I no longer believe what I read, unless what I am reading is an empirically verifiable account of the past. I no longer have confidence in polls, because it has become impossible to separate the signal from the noise. What I have heard from the media and political class over the last several years has been so spectacularly proven wrong by events, again and again, that I sometimes wonder why I continue to read two newspapers a day before spending time following journalists on Twitter. Habit, I guess. A sense of professional obligation, I suppose. Maybe boredom.

I'd like to hear Tom Nichols in response. Maybe Matthew needs to pick his experts better.

Fences

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

Let's see… One Oscar win (Viola Davis, for Best Supporting Actress), three nominations (Best Picture; Denzel Washington for Best Actor; Best Adapted Screenplay for August Wilson). So, yes it's good. But it's way too long.

Or maybe it's just that I like Action Movie Denzel better than Serious Drama Denzel. Maybe I should bump that Magnificent Seven remake a little higher in the Netflix queue.

Anyway, Mr. Washington plays Troy Maxson, a Pittsburgh garbageman. He's had a rocky life: a talented baseball player, years before that could have brought him riches. A prison stint for homicide. But now (the movie's set sometime in the late 50's) he's settled down in a small house with wife Rose (Ms. Davis) and son Cory. There's a grown son from a previous relationship, who (initially) seems to be a deadbeat with dreams of making it as a musician. There's brother Gabe (Mykelti Williamson, Limehouse from Justified!) who's permanently deranged from dreadful war wounds. And best friend Bono, who's a calming and wise presence. Everybody's more or less saintlike, except…

Troy is a complex bundle of love, appetites, charm, frustrations, and rage. There's a lot to admire about him, but also a lot to despise. You can almost see the angels and demons perched on his shoulders. What held my interest was whether his good qualities would prevail over the bad. Unfortunately, the movie went on for a long time after this question was answered to my satisfaction. Everybody just kept talking.

August Wilson wrote the screenplay (uh, before he died) based on one of his many plays. These roots show, as most of the movie is set in the Maxson household.

URLs du Jour

2017-06-22

■ A slightly obscure Proverbs 24:7:

7 Wisdom is too high for fools;
    in the assembly at the gate they must not open their mouths.

So back in ancient Israel "assembly at the gate" was a thing, and fools were admonished to not cause problems there. What would a modern equivalent be?

@kevinNR writes About That Russian ‘Interference’.

Even if one assumes the very worst about President Trump and the people around him (as I am inclined to do), it is unlikely that evidence of collusion would be uncovered because — this is key — it almost certainly is not there. I don’t expect to see any evidence of collusion between Trump and the Russians for the same reason I did not expect to see any evidence of collusion between Lois Lerner’s politicized IRS and President Obama: The invisible hand of the corruption marketplace can do its work without a lot of committee meetings. Lerner didn’t need to be told to persecute conservative political groups, and the wild boys in Moscow weren’t waiting for the keen thinking of Donald J. Trump before they got moving on whatever it is they were actually up to. Contact between the two wouldn’t serve anybody’s interests — it would have endangered both parties’ interests.

This is turning into the Democrat equivalent of the "must be a pony in here somewhere" joke.

■ Jay Nordlinger writes on China dissidents: Hard Choices, Hard Lives.

It is a vicious period for human-rights lawyers in China. The boss of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping, has cracked down on them, hard. Two years ago, the Party rounded up some 250 of them, in what has become known as the “709 Crackdown.” (The arrests started on July 9.) These lawyers have been tortured, some of them into insanity.

There's a link to a longer article by Jay. It would be nice to think that this would be the kind of thing to stop President Trump from kissing up to the Chinese dictator. Not holding my breath.

Power Line blogger Scott W. Johnson writes on his legal woes, all due to his attendance at President Trump's 100-day reception for conservative media in the White House: Don’t Subpoena Me, Bro.

In a sequel to this particular magic carpet ride, however, I have now been caught up in the so-called “travel ban” litigation challenging President Trump’s executive orders “protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States.” On June 10, I was served with a letter and draft subpoena from Tana Lin of the Keller Rohrback law firm’s Seattle office alerting me to my “document preservation obligations with respect to documents that are relevant or potentially relevant to this litigation.” Lin represents plaintiffs in Doe v. Trump, venued before Judge James Robart in the federal district court for the Western District of Washington.

It's chilling, in a legal sense. Johnson notes that it seems "like glorified harassment of a conservative writer."

■ At the Chronicle of Higher Education, Steve Kolowich starts the joke: 2 Professors Walk Into a Dumpster Fire .... The profs are Lawrence Tribe of Harvard and Brendan Nyhan of Dartmouth, the University on the Other Side of the State.

"Bizarrely," wrote Mr. Nyhan last weekend, Mr. Tribe "has become an important vector of misinformation and conspiracy theories on Twitter."

Nyhan is far from a Trump apologist, but he's one of the few honest liberals; he's on the "Blogs I Read" over there on the right, but he seems to have gone over to mostly-Twitter these days. Pun Salad tweaked him years ago here and here.

■ Emily Zanotti at Heat Street reports on the dialog between California Senator Dianne Feinstein and Pun Salad Hero Eugene Volokh: Sen. Dianne Feinstein Defends Campus Fascists Instead of Free Speech. You will not be surprised who got the better of the argument.

[Senator Dianne] claimed that a university could stop a conservative speaker from taking the stage just to protect students’ “general welfare.”

“I think particularly in view of the divisions within this nation at this time which are extraordinary from my experience, I think we all have to protect the general welfare too. And I appreciate free speech but it’s another thing to agitate, it’s another thing to foment, and it’s another thing to attack.”

Constitutional scholar and law professor Eugene Volokh, was forced to explain, slowly and in terms Feinstein could understand, that it’s the government’s responsibility to protect Constitutional guarantees of free speech. A simple difference of ideas is not “fomenting” an attack—students have a choice on how to behave.

Is the 84-year-old Senator immune to education? We'll see, I guess.

■ Charles C. W. Cooke, writing at NRO notes that the FBI Report on Alexandria Quietly Debunks the Gun-Controllers’ Talking Points

Over the past two decades, Democrats have focused on three major proposals for reform. They are: 1) That all private transfers should be contingent upon a federal background check; 2) That firearms that look a certain way should be classed as “assault weapons” and prohibited from sale; and 3) That civilians should be forbidden from buying magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. None of these proposals intersect with what happened in Alexandria.

Specifically, the shooter bought his weapon in Illinois, which had (and has) some of the strictest gun-purchase restrictions in the country.

■ Jazz Shaw (a Navy vet), at Hot Air, notes the heroism of Gary Leo Rehm Jr.: Paying The Last Full Measure Of Devotion On The USS Fitzgerald

Petty Officer Rehm was someone who was up topside at one point as the emergency unfolded. He had “made it” to where there was fresh air and the chance to escape if the ship wound up foundering. He could have chosen to stay there. He could have bailed out. But he didn’t. He went back down below decks into that hellscape of flooding and blaring alarms to rescue his crewmates. He did so repeatedly, saving twenty of them. But his last trip to get the remaining men was one too many.

It's a sobering, inspiring story, and—oh yeah—something not "fit to print" at the New York Times.

I Should Remember This Every June 21

… but fortunately, we have Justice Don Willett.

If I were a presidential candidate, campaign promise number one would be: appoint Willett to the first available Supreme Court vacancy.

URLs du Jour

2017-06-21

■ In Proverbs 24:6, we get a little Sun Tzu-style advice:

6 Surely you need guidance to wage war,
    and victory is won through many advisers.

This reminded me of something… Oh, yeah here it is.

Asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” who he talks with consistently about foreign policy, Trump responded, “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things."

Yeah, this is all starting to make sense.

■ I'm a little tired of the "but Democrats did the same thing" mantra, so I don't see how this is good. Peter Suderman at Reason: Mitch McConnell Might Hold a Vote on an Obamacare Rewrite Next Week. It’s Not Even Drafted Yet.

Is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell planning to hold a vote on the Senate's version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which would rewrite Obamacare, next week?

If so, that would be quite remarkable, given that there is currently no bill available for either the public or Republican lawmakers to see. It is even more remarkable given that Republicans spent the last seven years criticizing Democrats for having rushed Obamacare into place, on a party line basis, without sufficient debate or clear public support.

Suderman offers a number of theories as to why McConnell is embracing this strategy, and any might be correct. Most likely: McConnell doesn't care too much about whether the bill passes or not, he just wants to get it off the Senate's plate.

■ Daniel J. Mitchell likes (with caveats) the latest rankings of states by Government Dependency, as determined by WalletHub: Red State, Blue State, Independent State, Moocher State.

[…] if we look at their 25 least-dependent states, you see a very interesting pattern. Of the 10-most independent states, only three of them are Trump-voting red states (Kansas, Nebraska, and Utah).

By the algorithm used by WalletHub, New Hampshire is in ninth place.

The full WalletHub article is here. When other measures of dependency (financial, job-market, international trade, and "vice") are taken into account, NH rises to fourth place. Wallethub invites me to embed, so I shall:

Source: WalletHub

■ Ben Shapiro writes at NRO on those, left and right, who seem to be Addicted to the Apocalypse. A point we've made before: if "we" adopt the tactics of the left, we're losing something important.

It’s far more dangerous when the self-stated guardians of Judeo-Christian morality declare war. Then nobody is left to stand for decent behavior — to remind us that we are brothers rather than enemies, that the proper response to an unhinged violent attack on members of Congress isn’t storming a stage at a play in Central Park, and that the proper response to a judicial verdict you don’t like isn’t setting local stores on fire.

There's only been sporadic nonsense from "our side", always rebutted and, when necessary, condemned. But it's worrisome nonetheless.

Just One Minute notes, with a certain amount of disgust, a recent New York Times story about the Navy sailors who died in the collision of their destroyer with a Japanese container ship: They All Died Serving Their Country, Even The White Ones.

The NY Times covers the deaths of seven US Navy sailors in a collision with a Japanese freighters and seizes an opportunity to advance their favored diversity narrative. Sadly, that means the two white male sailors who died are left to share one paragraph of a thirty four paragraph eulogy. No tearful interviews or fond remembrances from friends and family for these two. White privilege must always and everywhere be resisted.

Especially galling was the NYT's half-sentence brushoff of Gary Rehm Jr., who (as the Daily Beast reports) saved at least 20 sailors, and gave his life attempting to save more.

URLs du Jour

2017-06-20

Proverbs 24:5 dives again into the difference between wisdom and knowledge:

5 The wise prevail through great power,
     and those who have knowledge muster their strength.

Or does it? Try the King James, which seems to blur the distinction:

5 A wise man is strong; yea, a man of knowledge increaseth strength.

So, no, I'm not sure what's going on here. But maybe this is where Faber College got its motto: "Knowledge is Good".

■ At Power Line, David Horowitz asks the musical question: Have the Never Trumpers No Shame?

Horowitz puts all Trump critics ("both left and right" and "Democrats and Republicans") into one big basket, which is problematic in itself. This allows him to conflate (usually) bogus criticism from left-Democrats with (possibly) valid criticism from libertarians and conservatives. And he doesn't specify any particular person or criticism he considers shameless, so there's a strong strawman component.

And other bits of Horowitz's argument are just bizarre. Here's a sample:

Consider also the most frequent lie about Trump – the claim that he himself is an extraordinary and inveterate liar, somehow even worse than his predecessor or his defeated electoral rival. But the “lies” Trump is accused of telling fall mainly into the category of opinions over which the left differs with him, or the exaggerations of a salesman who makes off-the-cuff claims without bothering to check the facts (not the same thing as a lie proper). The most memorable case of such overreach seems to be his claim that he lost the popular vote to Hillary because of voter fraud committed by illegal aliens. Since no one can seriously claim that voter fraud is non-existent, the “lie” consists in the number of fraudulent votes – three million or so – that Trump seems to have plucked out of the air. Obviously, Trump doesn’t know that there were three million fraudulent votes cast in the 2016 election. But neither do his critics know there weren’t, since there has never been a national survey of voter fraud, while Democrats have done everything in their power to prevent a system of voter identification from being put in place. In other words, both sides are sustained by unsubstantiated claims, although it is Trump alone who has proposed to settle the argument through a new commission that will look into voter fraud across the fifty states.

I almost want to take Horowitz by the shoulders, look him in the eye, and say: "David, President Trump is making wild charges about election integrity without a shred of evidence. Do you seriously see no problem with that?"

[Yes, unlike most Democrats, I think investigations and increased vigilance against vote fraud are good ideas. If Trump had just said that, there would be no problem.]

■ If (1) you are wondering whether Voter-ID laws 'suppress' turnout and (2) your name is Hillary, then you should check out Hans A. von Spakovsky and Benjamin Janacek at NR: No, Hillary, Voter-ID Laws Don’t ‘Suppress’ Turnout. (This in response to non-President Clinton's recent allegations otherwise.)

In fact, turnout data from 2012 and 2016 do not show any “voter suppression” because of ID requirements. Nine of the eleven states that have implemented so-called strict ID Laws either saw an increase in turnout or exceeded the national average in turnout in 2016. Two of them, Wisconsin and New Hampshire, finished in the top five nationally. Meanwhile only two of the 17 states plus Washington, D.C., that have no ID requirement finished among the top five.

So: as it turns out, we would have had a President prone to making wild charges without evidence no matter who won the election. Yay!

■ At Cato, Christopher A. Preble describes The Consensus in Favor of BRAC.

Today a broad coalition of more than 40 different scholars from over 30 different think tanks and academic institutions have issued a letter calling on the relevant House and Senate committees to grant the Pentagon authority to reduce excess military infrastructure. Simply, we need another Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round. The full letter can be found here.

Opposed to a new BRAC are my CongressCritter/Toothache Carol Shea-Porter, and both New Hampshire senators, Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan. Why? Because the beloved sub-destroying Portsmouth Naval Shipyard would definitely be on the chopping block.

■ But there's good news too: In Major Free Speech Victory, SCOTUS Rules for 'The Slants' and Strikes Down Federal Trademark Restriction

Today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-0 in favor of the Asian-American dance-rock band The Slants, holding that the First Amendment protects the rights of the band's members to register a trademark in their band's "offensive" name.

Pun Salad wrote on the case here and here.

■ Which brings me to the tweet du jour from Frank J.:

I'd be OK with a more mild penalty, like automatic expulsion from Congress. And automatic impeachment and conviction for the signing President, if still in office at the time.

Under the Beetle's Cellar

[Amazon Link]

This book I got sometime back in the 90's, and now, probably 20 years later it worked its way to the top of to-be-read list. (Looking at that list gives me somber thoughts about mortality.) Probably I bought it because it was nominated for a bunch of awards, as the author's Wikipedia page shows. I seem to remember reading another book in this series by Ms. Walker, but if I did, it was before I kept track of my reading.

The weird thing about that: after publishing four novels in the 1990's, to (apparently) critical acclaim, Mary Willis Walker seems to have stopped writing. Why? I took a few whacks at Google-seeking the reason, but came up blank. 'Tis a mystery! But in any case,…

The book is more thriller than mystery. Right from page one, we know the terrible premise: ten kids plus their school bus driver have been taken hostage by a wacko apocalyptic cult leader, held prisoner underground in his heavily-armed compound.

I say "taken hostage", but that's not quite right. Their presence is being used to stave off an assault by law enforcement, sure enough. But the cult leader's actual purpose in holding them is worse than that.

Enter the hero, Molly Cates, a journalist for a Texas magazine. She had previously done a story on the cult, and she gets drawn into the standoff. Could she have knowledge that might illuminate the twisted psychology of the leader? Could she bring her investigative powers to bear to help find a lever that might be used to free the kids? (Spoiler: yes, and mostly yes.)

A very decent page-turner, all in all. Ms. Walker avoids a too-saccharine conclusion. So be warned about that, if that's the kind of ending you prefer.

Moana

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

From the non-Pixar side of Disney Animation, a nice movie set in ancient Polynesia. And yet another girl heroine. Aren't they getting tired of that yet? Never mind, it tells an interesting story about likeable characters.

The title character is young and spunky, but under the thumb of her dad, the island chief, who expects her to take the reins someday. Unbeknownst to everyone, the island is about to be the victim of a slow-moving curse, caused by demigod Maui, who stole a green gem, the "heart of Te Fiti". Gradually, Moana gets her mission: she's got to find Maui, he has to reclaim his demigod powers, and together they have to return the gem to its rightful owner.

And yes, you've seen this exact same movie before. There's a wacky animal companion (Moana points out this cliché herself, so thumbs up for that.). There's a wise mentor. Maui is a wise-cracking sidekick. At numerous points in the movie All Seems Lost. But (sorry, spoiler) Moana's pluck, resolve, and bravery triumphs. So yay!

And, sue me, I liked it. I eagerly await Disney's next cookie-cutter movie, because these cookies are delish.

La La Land

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

This movie won six (count them, six) Oscars and was nominated for eight more. (And, for a few seconds, it won Best Picture.) Don't get greedy, La La Land!

I watched with Mrs. Salad and Pun Daughter, and they were both less than impressed. And here I thought it was a chick flick! Mrs. Salad doesn't like any ending (spoiler alert coming…) that is less than unambiguously happy. And Pun Daughter couldn't see what all the hype was about. ("It's not as good as Hidden Figures.") For the record, I liked it fine, but I was in a forgiving mood.

First, as you are possibly aware, it's kind of a musical, with periodic breaks for singing, dancing, and general fantasy. But (unlike most musicals) it's very self-aware about that. Underneath that, it's the story of aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) and fundamentalist jazz musician Sebastian (Ryan Gosling). They both have their career dreams. After "meeting cute" (he honks at her on a crowded LA freeway, she flips him half a peace sign), they gradually fall in love. And this love turns out to complicate their dreams. What will give way?

The acting is impeccable, the musical numbers are creative, And it's the second movie in a row we watched with J. K. Simmons. How could I not give it at least four stars?

URLs du Jour

2017-06-19

Proverbs 24:3-4 is sweetly inspiring:

3 By wisdom a house is built,
    and through understanding it is established;
4 through knowledge its rooms are filled
    with rare and beautiful treasures.

It's interesting that the ancient Proverbialist found "wisdom", "understanding", and "knowledge" to be three separate qualities. No quibbles here.

■ A couple of people disrupted a "Shakespeare in the Park" presentation of "Julius Caesar", in which the stabbee JC was made to resemble Donald Trump. In how many ways was that wrong? Andrew Klavan knows: The Attack on 'Julius Caesar' Was Wrong in Every Way. Key paragraph:

Putting on a tasteless and ugly version of Shakespeare is not an injustice, not an outrage, not an act of war. It is speech — the very stuff we right wingers are fighting to keep free. This is more than a mere matter of law. The First Amendment, which protects us from anti-speech legislation, is not worth the crinkly brown paper it's written on if the values of free speech are not upheld in our hearts and minds.

Andrew's right. If libertarians/conservatives want to be better than their opponents… then they have to be better than their opponents. If you (1) agree, and (2) you want to get somewhat depressed, read the comments (536 as I type).

■ Paul A. Offit writing in the Daily Beast reminds us of How Rachel Carson Cost Millions of People Their Lives. You probably know this already, but it was not due to her somnolent science writing, but her strident crusade against DDT.

Since the mid 1970s, when DDT was eliminated from global eradication efforts, tens of millions of people have died from malaria unnecessarily: most have been children less than five years old. While it was reasonable to have banned DDT for agricultural use, it was unreasonable to have eliminated it from public health use.

Pseudo-scientific advocacy kills. Good to remember.

■ Joel Kotkin asks (and answers) the question in the Orange County Register: Is America now second-rate? Spoiler:

America is likely to remain the dominant country in the world — economically, culturally and technologically — for decades to come. Unlike Germany, China, Japan or Russia, its population will not be shrinking in 2050, and it enjoys both advanced technology and vast resources. Trump may damage our image in the world, but even his clumsiness will not be sufficient to undermine our continuing pre-eminence.

I'm a little more pessimistic, primarily because we can't seem to muster the will to get our fiscal house in order.

@kevinNR recounts Planned Parenthood’s Century of Brutality (from the print magazine). You might know the genesis of Planned Parenthood's genesis in the Progressive movement, but the details are chilling.

[T]he word “planned” in “Planned Parenthood” can be understood to function as it does in the other great progressive dream of the time: “planned economy.”

As Kevin shows, the eugenicist memes live on today.

■ At Cato, Jeffrey Miron has a headline that basically sums up how I feel about pols these days: “Everyone is Terrible”. But (specifically), he notes the terrible bipartisanship displayed in the push for new Federal drug legislation.

Much discussion assumes liberals are more libertarian-leaning on drug policy than conservatives. This is partly right; liberals are more likely to favor marijuana legalization, for example.

But many liberals endorse marijuana legalization because they view marijuana as relatively benign, not because of a principled stance for freedom or a consistent understanding that prohibition of any substance almost certainly causes more harm than good. Thus politicians across the spectrum are indeed “terrible” on drug policy.

Drugs are not "benign". But drug prohibition is worse.

URLs du Jour

2017-06-18

Hope all you dads out there are having as good a Fathers Day as I am. (Got a new Red Sox cap! Woo!)

■ We move to a new Proverbial chapter today, and there's a two-verse combo. Proverbs 24:1-2:

1 Do not envy the wicked,
     do not desire their company;
2 for their hearts plot violence,
     and their lips talk about making trouble.

Good advice, I guess. Assuming you were tempted to envy the wicked, or desire their company. Don't do that.

■ If you were not tempted to click over to @JonahNRO's latest by yesterday's excerpt, here's another from later in the G-File on the Alexandria shooter:

When you believe — as James Hodgkinson clearly did — that all of our problems can be solved by flicking a few switches in the Oval Office, it’s a short trip to believing that those who stand in the way are willfully evil enemies bent on barring the way to salvation. That belief won’t turn everyone into a murderer, but it shouldn’t be that shocking that it would turn someone into one.

A point I've made myself, but not as well.

■ Bjorn Lomborg writes in the WSJ on The Charade of the Paris Treaty.

Environmentalists were aghast when President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate treaty, with some declaring that the very survival of our civilization was at stake. But is the Paris accord really all that stands between the planet and the worst of climate change? Certainly not.

This is not to deny that President Trump’s announcement was problematic. He failed to acknowledge that global warming is real and wrongly claimed that China and India are the “world’s leading polluters.” (China and the U.S. are the largest emitters of carbon dioxide, and the U.S. is the biggest per capita.) It was far-fetched for him to suggest that the treaty will be “renegotiated.” Worse, the White House now has no response to climate change.

Lomborg urges increased research into low-carbon energy sources, and (sensibly) points out that once such sources become economically viable, the entire world will rush to them, making the regulatory/taxation framework activists desperately want pointless and (almost certainly) counterproductive.

■ A very good article from print Reason from John V.C. Nye: Your Neighbor's Fancy Car Should Make You Feel Better About Income Inequality.

Today while I was out running errands in my 5-year-old Honda Accord, I passed a Tesla. If I were a different kind of guy, seeing Elon Musk's latest creation whisk past me as I trundled along in my middleclassmobile might have inspired a sense of personal envy, or even some worry about the social implications of inequality in America.

But I'm an economist. And let's face it: In practical terms, the difference between a $200,000 Tesla and my last car, a beat-up minivan worth $2,000 at trade-in, is not all that large. They're both safe forms of transportation that get you from point A to point B and, given legal limits and the reality of suburban traffic, most of the time they're driven at roughly the same speeds.

Nye helps explain why the "progressive" harping on inequality gets so little traction among normal people.

■ An interesting article from Dana, posting at Patterico: Two Female Experts On Islam Dismissed By Female Democrat Senators. The experts were Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Asra Nomani. And the senators were…

It’s telling that four female Democratic senators, all of whom publicly proclaim their ardent support of women’s rights, demonstrated that their support is limited to only a certain kind of women. Senators Maggie Hassan (NH), Claire McCaskill (MO), Heidi Heitkamp (ND) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) were not terribly interested in what two female experts had to say or the unique first-hand perspectives they provided. Female senators, one assumes, that, along with New Republic’s Sarah Jones, still retain fully intact genitalia. Ironically, these same senators instead turned to the two male witnesses that were also testifying at the hearing. It’s humorous to see a group of staunch feminists ignore two fellow feminists in favor of the men in the room…

Yup. For all the fawning about New Hampshire's all-female Congressional delegation, it's kind of ironic too.

(And I'm pretty sure this is the first time we've referenced our state's junior Senator's lady parts. Hopefully the last.)

URLs du Jour

2017-06-17

Proverbs 25:28 is just a simile. But very apt.

28 Like a city whose walls are broken through
    is a person who lacks self-control.

I have three words: President Donald Trump.

■ The big news in these parts, as noted by Sarah Rose Siskind at Reason: Teen Found Guilty of Manslaughter for Texting Suicidal Boyfriend. First the facts:

On the night of July 12, 2014, 18-year-old Conrad Roy III killed himself by inhaling carbon monoxide in a Kmart parking lot in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. His 17-year-old girlfriend, Michelle Carter, was miles away in Plainville. Yet today Carter was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for Roy's death. She faces up to 20 years in prison.

Why? Because Carter had repeatedly texted Roy prior to his death, "you just need to do it." Bristol County Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz declared this illegal, even though there is no law in Massachusetts against encouraging suicide.

Then the comment:

Carter's punishment does not fit the crime. Involuntary manslaughter is a conviction for a negligent surgeon, for an abusive husband who unintentionally kills his spouse, for a drunk driver who accidentally runs someone down. A reckless text is not a reckless, swerving car. Words are not literal weapons, and the moral turpitude of Carter's comments does not change that.

Some legal experts have speculated that the judge's ruling was an attempt to convince lawmakers to pass legislation making people liable for their online speech. But even if such a bill were a good idea, you shouldn't convict someone for committing a crime that doesn't exist in the hope that lawmakers will someday pass a law to fit the crime. This isn't how our judicial system works.

Well, it's not how it's supposed to work. But in Massachusetts…

■ At NRO, David French is also nonplussed: A Sad and Terrible Verdict in Massachusetts. And I think he gets at the real issue here:

[…] there are real First Amendment implications with this verdict. Carter’s actions were reprehensible, but she was sharing with him thoughts and opinions that he may have found persuasive but had the capacity to reject. A legal argument that renders otherwise-protected speech unlawful because it actually persuades would blast a hole in First Amendment jurisprudence.

Remember that as we go.

■ Via Ann Althouse, Elie Mystal at Above the Law comments:

If “free will” is to mean anything, you cannot “suicide” a person to death. You can murder someone, you can accidentally murder someone, you can pay someone to murder someone for you, you can set up a criminal organization under which murders occur on your behalf, you can even set up conditions so inherently unsafe that you are criminally responsible for anybody who happens to die. But you can’t kill a person who kills themselves. The self-killing breaks the causal chain between your actions, however reprehensible, and the death.

Until today.

Or as her headline puts it: "Being A Bitch Is Now A Criminal Offense, Apparently".

■ OK, a lot of people think the verdict is misguided and stupid. Except there's Issie Lapowsky at Wired, who kinda thinks it's neat. Among her justifications:

[…] according to Danielle Citron, author of the book Hate Crimes in Cyberspace, there are 21 crimes that have to do explicitly with speech—things like threats, extortion, aiding and abetting, and conspiracy. None of these types of speech are protected by the First Amendment. “If the First Amendment’s a house, where inside speech is protected, threats can’t walk in the door. Neither can extortion. Neither can solicitation of a crime,” Citron says. In other words, not all speech is covered by the First Amendment's proverbial roof.

Yes, there are "unprotected" varieties of speech, and invoking the First Amendment won't get you out of legal trouble. But (as I commented at Wired) here's the thing: despite Lapowsky's attempts to imply otherwise, these are all well-known exceptions. And this case doesn't match any of them.

There's a "progressive" effort to degrade First Amendment protections for the vague and ever-expanding category of "hate speech". I suspect that progressives (like those at Wired) are cheering this verdict, since it makes that project a little easier. As French noted, remember, it would "blast a hole in First Amendment jurisprudence."

■ Katie Tubb at the Daily Signal makes sense: Subsidizing Nuclear Is No Strategy for Long-Term Success, noting legislation in Congress to jimmy the tax code to the (continued) benefit of nuclear power. Check out this link-filled paragraph:

To help the nuclear industry, politicians must do the hard work of getting to the roots of its problems—eliminating all energy subsidies, eliminating policies and regulations that favor certain energy technologies and resources over others, tackling regulations that put undue expense on commercial nuclear plants for no meaningful health or safety benefits, streamlining decommissioning, and taking nuclear waste management seriously.

In fact, Ms. Tubb makes so much sense that I expect that few, if any, of her recommendations will happen in my lifetime.

■ Aaaand @JonahNRO's G-File is out: The Reality-TV Presidency

As I’ve talked about a bunch, the mainstream media MacGuffinized Barack Obama’s presidency, making him the hero in every storyline. With Trump, they’re covering the White House like an episode of Big Brother or MTV’s Real World. By encouraging officials to gossip and snipe about each other and the boss, they too are playing the game. Much of MSNBC’s and CNN’s coverage feels like it should be called “Desperate Housewives of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”

I don't watch reality TV at all, but Jonah's theory here is all too plausible.

Nabokov's Favorite Word is Mauve

What the Numbers Reveal About the Classics, Bestsellers, and Our Own Writing

[Amazon Link]

This is a fun book written by "statistician and journalist" Ben Blatt, who brings the power of Python's Natural Language Toolkit to analyze the writings of various famous (and some deservedly unfamous) authors. For example: people (like Steven King) will tell you to avoid adverbs, especially -ly adverbs; there are better ways to communicate. (Sometimes the advice is in joke form: use adverbs sparingly. Heh!)

But how well do authors follow that advice? Are there differences between authors? (Yes: Hemingway and Toni Morrison used relatively few. J. K. Rowling and E. L. James use a lot.) How about different books by the same author? (Also yes, and in many cases an author's more critically-acclaimed works have fewer adverbs than his or her others.) This is all presented with bar charts and tables. Cool!

Other queries: are there significant differences in male and female writing styles? How about between Americans and Brits? Do authors have "favorite" words? (Well, see the title.) How well do authors follow their own writing advice? Can you determine authorship of anonymous or pseudonymous works by crunching word use? (Yes, this was done convincingly for The Federalist Papers, showing that Alexander Hamilton got a little too enthusiastic in claiming authorship of some of them.)

And more.

Blatt doesn't seem to have carried out his investigations in any systematic way, just looking for answers to the questions that occur to him. Although he's not kidding about the "statistician" part—his Harvard degree is in Applied Math—there's not a lot of worry or discussion about whether the results he teases out of the data are significant. That's fine, it's still fun.

URLs du Jour

2017-06-16

Proverbs 25:27 gets a little weird with the dietary/thinking advice:

27 It is not good to eat too much honey,
    nor is it honorable to search out matters that are too deep.

Or maybe this is what Wittgenstein was talking about when he wrote "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."

[He wasn't the Nazi, was he? No, that was Heidegger.]

@kevinNR writes From Americans to Americans. (Although the URL indicates a more pedestrian title, like "A Second Civil War is a Dumb Idea".)

This is a dangerous moment in our history, about which we ought to be honest. President Donald Trump is an irresponsible demagogue who ought never have been elected to the office he holds — but he was, legitimately, fair and square, your favorite Muscovite conspiracy theory notwithstanding. That being said, the actual immediate problem of political violence in the United States is overwhelmingly and particularly a problem belonging to the Left. This is not a “both sides do it” issue: Paul Krugman can speak on any college campus in this country without enduring mob violence and organized terrorism — Charles Murray cannot. There is not anything on the right like the mass terrorism behind the Seattle riots of 1999 or the black-bloc riots of the day before yesterday. The Democratic party, progressive organizations, and college administrations have some serious political and intellectual housekeeping to do here — but, instead, they are in the main refusing to acknowledge that they have a problem. The line between “Punch a Nazi!” and “Assassinate a Republican congressman!” is morally perforated.

A lot of wisdom therein, and a touching tale of our first, last, and only Civil War.

■ Charles C. W. Cooke Everything Wrong with Our Gun Debate In One Tweet. And here's the tweet:

This in response to a reported comment from a GOP rep: “After today I wonder whether or not I will ever feel safe going to a baseball field.” Charles comments insightfully.

I’m sure its author is sincere and means well. Nevertheless, this line represents everything I hate about our debate over gun policy. It’s mawkish, it begs the question, and it smugly assumes that the disagreements over guns are the result of a lack of empathy or experience rather than of conflicting views on the best way to shape law.

It's all about feelings for some people. And it's a short trip from "You disagree with me" to "You are a terrible person because you must not share my feelings."

■ Can humans expect AI to just fight fake news for them? Find out the answer to that pressing question from Tom Simonite at Wired: Humans Can’t Expect AI to Just Fight Fake News for Them. The (so far meager) results of a competition for a fake-news-detecting algorithm, the "Fake News Challenge" are described.

You can expect Fake News Challenge contestants and others to gradually ask more of their news-analyzing algorithms, but don't hold your breath for fully autonomous fact checkers. Existing technology isn't close to having the ability to understand language and make decisions that would be needed. Giving machines to effectively censor certain kinds of information would also come with a lot of baggage. "I think there’s a chance to algorithmically identify things that are more likely than not to be 'fake news,' but they will always work best in combination with a person with a sharp eye," says Jay Rosen, a professor of journalism at New York University.

Rosen also makes the subtle point: "There is almost no interest in the demand for fake news." Gee, why not?

■ We are all outraged by this (I'm picking Jim Treacher, but I could have picked many others): The NYT Is Straight-Up Lying About Sarah Palin And Gabby Giffords. Specifically, going out of its way to blame Palin's "incitement" for the shooting of Giffords and others. That was clearly refuted back then, but that didn't stop yesterday's NYT editorial from resurrecting the libel.

I don’t believe that the New York Times editorial board believes this. They know it’s not true. They’re lying, because they think the lie is necessary. In order to maintain the fiction that they’re the good guys, they need to twist this around and blame the people who are being physically attacked for their beliefs. As Ben Shapiro puts it: “The facts don’t match the narrative, so the facts must die a gruesome, slow death.”

I'm so old, I can't remember when I expected honesty or decency from the New York Times editorial board.

■ The WaPo covers the important story: The surprising number of American adults who think chocolate milk comes from brown cows.

Seven percent of all American adults believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows, according to a nationally representative online survey commissioned by the Innovation Center of U.S. Dairy.

Well… Professor Althouse puts my reaction well:

There's nothing dumber than forgetting that other people might have a sense of humor and are screwing with you.

Let's all try to remember that.

■ Speaking of the important questions: How long was Bill Murray's character (Phil Davis) supposed to be in a time loop in the film “Groundhog Day”? This is at the "Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange", a "question and answer site for science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts" The neat thing about this q-and-a thread is that it includes responses from the movie's director, the late Harold Ramis, and the screenwriter Danny Rubin.

Spoiler: Rubin had a clever mechanism (and wrote some dialog) to let viewers know how many loop iterations Phil had been through, but it was dropped from the actual movie.

URLs du Jour

2017-06-15

■ I think these two verses (Proverbs 25:25-26) belong together:

25 Like cold water to a weary soul
    is good news from a distant land.
26 Like a muddied spring or a polluted well
    are the righteous who give way to the wicked.

I'm seeing too much of the second thing, still waiting on the first thing.

■ David Harsanyi (at the Federalist) makes a lot of sense: If The Alexandria Shooter Alone Is Responsible For His Actions, That Standard Should Always Apply.

Just like those who blame Donald Trump for every random act of violence, including a Montana Republican’s body-slamming of a journalist, those who blame Bernie Sanders are just finding a way to use tragedy for partisanship. Now, obviously every incident varies to some extent. We can call out rhetoric. Some politicians say things that deserve rebuke. We can debate the politics of guns. But we need a standard. And we need to stick to it. We can’t blame heated political rhetoric for some violence and then pretend it has nothing to do with it at other times.

Good luck with asking people to stick to a standard.

■ I'm not sure if @kevinNR is a counterpoint to Harsanyi, but he's always worth reading: The Left Embraces Political Violence.

A great deal of spittle has been deployed in the debate over whether or to what extent the Left’s recent indulgence of its penchant for violent rhetoric can be linked to the shooting of Representative Steve Scalise and other members of a Republican congressional baseball team by an angry Democratic activist and Bernie Sanders partisan. But the relevant question here is not violent rhetoric but violence itself. The violence at Berkeley and Middlebury did not lead to the shooting in Alexandria — they are part of the same phenomenon: The American Left has embraced political violence.

I think Thomas Sowell noted the adherents to the "unconstrained vision" find their opponents to not merely mistaken, but evil. It's not hard to imagine the result of that belief.

■ New Hampshire's own Drew Cline writes at NRO, asking and answering: The Real Hero of the Trump Resistance? James Madison.

The grand progressive project to unravel federalism and replace it with a unified national government capable of transforming society by enacting the will of a supreme executive has made some progress since the 1880s. But Madison’s system has proven surprisingly resilient — thanks largely to conservative efforts to defend and protect it.

For that, the Trump “resistance” should give thanks. If not for the protections built into the very system they have worked so hard to destroy, all the terrible power they tried to give themselves would be in Trump’s hands.

Unfortunately, this lesson will be forgotten a few nanoseconds after Democrats get their hands on the reins of federal power again.

■ From NRO's blog coverage of the Alexandria shoot-em-up yesterday, Rep. Mo Brooks:

“The gun was a semiautomatic,” Representative Mo Brooks said. “It continued to fire at different people. You can imagine, all the people on the field scatter[ing].”

The gun continued to fire.

So Mo Brooks is an idiot, right?

■ Well, no. He just said something dumb. But he also said something pretty smart yesterday. Via Skip at GraniteGrok:

On average, I'd give Mo a solid B grade for his remarks yesterday. I'm a generous grader.

The Kings of Cool

[Amazon Link]

This is billed as a "prequel to Savages", Don Winslow's previous novel about mellow California pot dealers, Ben and Chon, who run afoul of a Mexican drug cartel. As I remember it would have been tough to make a sequel to Savages. And, although I'm a Winslow fan, I didn't care for Savages very much when I read it back in 2012. But… let's give this a try.

And I liked this one a lot. I'm not sure why, it has the same choppy style ("short sentences in short paragraphs, unusual use of whitespace, occasional passages are rendered in screenplay format"). It is an origin tale, mostly set in 2005 as Ben and Chon get into business and immediately run afoul of the Association, who would like to, um, acquire their enterprise.

There are also flashbacks to decades previous. It doesn't become clear why until near the end, but there's some real Ross Macdonald-style reasons for it. There are a lot of characters, and it will behoove the reader to keep them straight. Slight spoiler: people who have read Winslow's oeuvre will be pleased to note a couple cameo appearances from other books.

Overall, it's a sobering tale of how the War on Drugs corrupts and kills.

But conservatives and libertarians will want to read Chapter 35. It's hilarious.

URLs du Jour

2017-06-14

■ I envision that the Proverbian took a bathroom break while composing Chapter 24, and his mischievous cousin, Shecky snuck in, grabbed the writing implement, and dashed off Proverbs 25:24:

24 Better to live on a corner of the roof
    than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.

"Amirite, folks?"

■ Jacob Sullum at Reason is so old, he can remember… By Trump's Logic, His Foot-Dragging on 'Extreme Vetting' Endangers Us All.

When Trump issued his first executive order restricting entry into the country on January 27, he presented it as a temporary measure aimed at facilitating better screening procedures. "We will again be issuing visas to all countries once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days," he said on Facebook. White House Press Secetary Sean Spicer likewise emphasized that the whole point was to "make sure that the people who are coming in are vetted properly." According to the order itself, the 90-day ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries and the 120-day ban on refugees were supposed to give the administration time to "ensure that adequate standards are established to prevent infiltration by foreign terrorists or criminals." That was 137 days ago.

Why, it's almost as if the issue is whether Trump gets his way, instead of making sure the bad hombres don't get in.

■ Also on the Trump/immigration front, @kevinnr notes Trump’s Executive Amnesty:

Getting control of illegal immigration is at the top of Donald Trump’s to-do list, and, on the campaign trail, he vowed to end the Obama administration’s “unconstitutional executive amnesty” on his first day in office.

So why hasn’t he done it?

Why indeed?

■ You know, sometimes it seems Our Federal Government can't do anything right. But, as Henry Miller points out in the WSJ, it has successfully prevented an Attack of the Killer Petunias.

Sometimes government regulators do things that are not merely misguided but gratuitously stupid. A classic example came last month, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture called for the destruction of at least 13 varieties of petunias with striking hues. These plants don’t pose any danger to health or the natural environment. But because they were crafted with modern genetic-engineering techniques, technically they’re in violation of 30-year-old government regulations.

I, for one, welcome our new flowery overlords.

■ David Henderson prefers calling it Forcibly Paid Parental Leave. And notes the damage to the languate committed by those who say the US "has no policy on paid parental leave."

Imagine that you and I are discussing what to do today. You strongly want to go to the zoo. I strongly want not to. You say you have a policy of going to the zoo. That makes sense. But does that mean I don't have a policy on going to the zoo? Not at all. My policy is not to go to the zoo.

I like the zoo, too, but never mind that.

URLs du Jour

2017-06-13

■ It's back to the similes for Proverbs 25:23:

23 Like a north wind that brings unexpected rain
    is a sly tongue—which provokes a horrified look.

I confess that nothing about this proverb works for me. I don't get the simile—rain is supposed to be a good thing in Israel. And I can't imagine a scenario in which a sly tongue causes a horrified look.

It's bad enough to make me go to an alternate translation. Take it away, King James:

23 The north wind driveth away rain: so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.

Ah, there we go. That makes slightly more sense. But we're left with the question: why does the default (New International Version) translation say the north wind brings rain, while the KJV says that it driveth it away? Over to you, Bible scholars.

■ Once you reach a certain age, the AARP ("formerly the American Association of Retired Persons") starts bombarding you with propaganda-filled publications and sales come-ons. But to be fair, some of the articles are good. Did you know that 78-year-old Jane Bryant Quinn is still writing on personal finance? Did you know that she's the stepmother of famous MTV video jock Martha Quinn?

Since AARP is no longer an acronym, how can they justify pronouncing their name "Ay Ay Ar Pee"? They can not. When stuff from them shows up in the mail, I say: "Honey, we got something from AAaaaaarp."

Woops, got off track there.

Anyway, AARP can be irritating. Its latest gimmick is to present the GOP's proposed adjustment to health insurance rates as an "age tax". Right now, the law prevents insurance companies from charging seniors more than three times what younger people pay. The proposal changes that to five times.

Needless to say, they don't refer to current law as a "youth tax".

Also irked at the AARP: Christopher Jacobs at the Federalist: AARP Tars Health Insurance ‘Age Tax’ While Profiting Big From One

[Excerpt] Over the past few weeks, AARP—an organization that purportedly advocates on behalf of seniors—has been running advertisements claiming that the House health-care bill would impose an “age tax” on seniors by allowing for greater variation in premiums. It knows of which it speaks: AARP has literally made billions of dollars by imposing its own “tax” on seniors buying health insurance policies, not to mention denying care to individuals with disabilities.

It's a sleazy group.

■ A recent NR article by Darren J. Beattie purported to help us with Understanding Economic Nationalism

From the immediate abandonment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), to the recent “hire American buy American” executive order, to the strong likelihood of serious and important steps to renegotiate NAFTA, there is much in President Trump’s actions thus far in his term to encourage his economic-nationalist base.

If you like Trump-style economic nationalism, Beattie's article will give you some ammunition to argue for it.

KDW, however, is not a fan: Right-Wing Central Planning Is as Foolish as Left-Wing Central Planning.

The real world is populated by politicians and lobbyists rather than philosopher-kings, but a government of philosopher-kings that tried to micromanage the economy in the way Beattie suggests would fail, just as all similar attempts at putting the economy under political discipline have failed. Right-wing central planning is as foolish as left-wing central planning.

Agreed.

■ At Reason, Jacob Sullum speculates: Trump May Commit a Felony to Cover Up Nonexistent Crimes.

Based on what we know at this point, it is entirely possible that none of Trump's associates had anything to do with the Russian operation. It is also entirely possible that Trump's conversations with Comey did not amount to obstruction of justice. But Trump is now setting himself up to commit a felony by lying about those conversations to federal investigators.

Welcome to Wonderland, Alice.

■ And (relevant to the previous point) your Ramirez toon du jour:

Birdbrain

The Mummy (2017)

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

I have about the same reaction as reviewers: eh, fine. And-don't tell Pun Son, with whom I attended—I fell asleep during the early part of the movie. That's never a good sign of movie quality.

Tom Cruise plays two-fisted soldier of fortune Nick "Nick" Morton. He is unfortunately around when the tomb of an evil ancient Egyptian princess is disturbed, and her aura (or something) infects him with a curse. He is destined to help her plans for world domination (or something), and frankly, it looks pretty bad for the good guys here. Nick would prefer to not be cursed, and in this effort he is assisted by the gorgeous Jenny, an archeologist secretly working for… Dr. Henry Jekyll. Who has, as you probably know, monstrous issues of his own.

The special effects are fine, especially a plane crash that you might have seen in the trailers. There are some laughs, too. (Pun Son doesn't like humor in his monster movies, but I'm OK with it.)

This movie is allegedly part of Universal Studio's plan to reboot its stable of monster flicks. Next up, according to today's WSJ is Bride of Frankenstein, due in 2019 with Javier Bardem as the Monster. This, despite disappointing box office results.

The Meddler

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

A good example of how you can make a movie watchable by flooding the zone with excellent acting talent. The actors here I've heard of: Susan Sarandon, Rose Byrne, J.K. Simmons, Cecily Strong, Michael McKean, Jason Ritter, Casey Wilson. And in minor blink-and-you'll-miss-em roles: Robert Picardo, Harry Hamlin, Laura San Giacomo, Bill Fagerbakke, Randall Park. They didn't skimp on the payroll here, and it shows. Everybody else is good too, but it's an unusual movie where I recognize so many of the actors.

Ms. Sarandon plays Marnie, mother to Lori (Ms. Byrne). Lori's in the divorce process, and she's pretty broken up about it. Marnie doesn't help much; the main problem is she's widowed, and that Lori's now her sole focus, and Marnie's looming ever-presence makes Lori realize that there's not much going on in her life otherwise.

Lori's in the TV biz (by the way), and her job requires her presence in New York. (It's not clear if it's a requirement, or just a convenient excuse to escape.) So Marnie makes do: she happens on a movie set and gets accidentally hired as a walk-on (where she meets divorced ex-cop "Zipper", J. K. Simmons' role); she offers to finance Cecily Strong's fancy lesbian wedding; she drives her Apple Store guru, Freddy, to his community college classes. Hilarity ensues.

It's kind of a chick flick, but it doesn't take itself seriously, and it pinballs from one charming low-cliché scene to another. It won no awards, but if you're looking for a decent popcorn movie….


Last Modified 2017-07-02 3:35 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-06-12

■ I made a mistake yesterday in only providing the first verse of a two-verse Proverb. As it turns out, adding the second verse changes the tone. Let's see Proverbs 25:21-22:

21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
    if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
22 In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head,
    and the Lord will reward you.

Yes, those burning coals add more of that Old Testament flavor to the proverb. And, as a bonus, the Lord will cheer from the sidelines at your successful passive-aggressiveness.

■ Andrew Klavan, truthbringer: Corruption and Collusion: Obama, Comey, and the Press

It now seems clear that Barack Obama was a corrupt machine politician in the worst Chicago mold. He used the IRS to silence his enemies, and the Justice Department to protect his friends. His two major "achievements" — a health care law that doesn't work and a deal that increased the power and prestige of the terrorist state of Iran — were built on lies to the public and manipulation of the press. And that's according to his own allies! Only the leftist bias and racial pathology of the media kept his administration from being destroyed by scandal, as it surely would have been had he been a white Republican.

Readest thou the Thing in its Entirety.

■ Thomas Winslow Hazlett has been writing on various aspects of telecom policy for decades, and he's got a new book out. Excerpt at Reason: We Could Have Had Cellphones Four Decades Earlier

The basic idea of the cellphone was introduced to the public in 1945—not in Popular Mechanics or Science, but in the down-home Saturday Evening Post. Millions of citizens would soon be using "handie-talkies," declared J.K. Jett, the head of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Licenses would have to be issued, but that process "won't be difficult." The revolutionary technology, Jett promised in the story, would be formulated within months.

But permission to deploy it would not. The government would not allocate spectrum to realize the engineers' vision of "cellular radio" until 1982, and licenses authorizing the service would not be fully distributed for another seven years. That's one heck of a bureaucratic delay.

How many times do I have to say it? (And how many times will you have to read it?) Abolish the FCC.

■ KDW@NR writes on Trump’s Credibility Problem. No, it's not the Worlds Longest Book, KDW admirably restricts himself to a column-size summary. Specifically, how do go about investigating the various charges against the Donald?

It is impossible to get at that in a meaningful way without considering the unsettling question: What sort of man is the president of these United States? We know he is a habitual liar, one who tells obvious lies for no apparent reason, from claiming to own hotels that he does not own to boasting about having a romantic relationship with Carla Bruni, which never happened. (“Trump is obviously a lunatic,” Bruni explained.) He invented a series of imaginary friends to lie to the New York press about both his business and sexual careers. He has conducted both his private and public lives with consistent dishonesty and dishonor. He is not a man who can be taken at his word.

Conclusion: "The question isn’t whether the president is a crook. The question is: What kind of crook is he?"

[I can only imagine how Trump might answer: "I am the best kind of crook. Nobody crooks better than me. I will crook so much, so hard, so fast, that you may get bored with all the crookery."]

■ For some reason, every so often, I get mail from people who clearly want to mail someone else: from a Cadillac dealer in Bentonville, Arkansas; from a high-end Merrill Lynch investment advisor in Bethesda, Maryland (who said he "enjoyed the conversation" we [didn't] have earlier in the day); an order confirmation from Orvis to a customer in Glen, Montana.

And then there's Marion F. from (it appears) Deer Isle, Maine. She writes to about a half dozen of her friends (and me) with the Subject "Administration’s Full 2018 Budget Ends Eight Decades of Bipartisan Presidential Support for National Service Programs - Voices for National Service". What's the deal, Marion?

The Trump budget which was proposed a few days ago includes ZERO funding for Senior Corps which for us means no more Bone Builders.

Oh noes! No more Bone Builders!?

Marion urges her friends to click the link she provides to the "Voices for Service" website, which (in turn) allows canned robo-mail to be sent to the clicker's Congresscritters, urging them to keep the taxpayer money flowing to the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).

Coincidentally, I noted this David Boaz post at Cato, whose headline asks the tongue-in-cheek question: What Do the Subsidy Recipients Think about Cutting Subsidies?

A $4 trillion annual budget is about $12,500 for every man, woman, and child in the United States. If the budget could be cut by, say, $1 trillion — taking it back to the 2008 level — how much good could that money do in the hands of families and businesses? How many jobs could be created? How many families could afford a new car, a better school, a down payment on a home? Reporters should ask those questions when they ask subsidy recipients, How do you feel about losing your subsidy?

The CNCS yearly budget is currently slightly north of a billion dollars. The people who deride "trickle down economics" don't seem to mind it when it trickles down to a senior fitness program in Stonington, Maine.

Diving In

[Amazon Link]

[This "review" also published at Amazon at the author's request.]

I know the person behind the "M. Bleekis" pseudonym, and I confess I was expecting a globetrotting thriller involving nuclear proliferation with a two-fisted but brainy hero, something in the style of Lee Child or Tom Clancy.

As it turns out, I got some of that, but... things start out different. The protagonist, Ariel, is a troubled young lady. Her once-promising academic performance has inexplicably gone into the toilet. She once showed phenomenal athletic talent in diving, but suddenly gave it up. She cries a lot. At the urging of a friendly therapist, she enrolls at "Lily Academy", an all-girl boarding school up in the Great North Woods near Jackson, NH.

Just when you think: "this is like an all-girl version of Harry Potter, except no magic, and more Latin verb conjugation" it turns out that one of Ariel's classmates is a member of a family under Witness Protection. And there are bad guys who desperately want to use her as leverage. So, over and above Ariel's problems, there's a lot of nasty skulduggery and (eventually) violence.

And a hungry, irritable, bear. And a secret society of women (you'll note that this book is "Secret Sisters Volume 1"). A sly reference to the 60's British singing duo Chad and Jeremy. And more.

The book is self-published and there are some noticeable typos: e.g., one character's name is sometimes "Kincaid", other times "Kinkaid". And there's some confusion between "discreet" and "discrete". This didn't stop the pages from turning.

URLs du Jour

2017-06-11

■ Just when you thought the Proverbian was running on fumes (the last few have been unconvincing similes on top of a mixed bag of advice), he hits one out of Counterintuitive Park in Proverbs 25:21:

21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
    if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.

You'll note that this is centuries before Jesus provided his own advice about enemies.

■ At Power Line, John Hinderaker does some research to provide Proof That James Comey Misled the Senate Intelligence Committee. It's pretty damning, relating a remarkably similar meeting between Comey and then-President Dubya, contrasting how Comey described it in his recent testimony with previous accounts. Hinderaker's conclusion:

James Comey says there is a pattern to his dealings with presidents: he is an honest man who only needed to create memos to document his conversations with Donald Trump, because Trump is untruthful. But that isn’t the real pattern. The real pattern is that Comey is a snake in the grass who creates tendentious, self-serving memos that can later be used to cover his own rear end or to discredit presidents, but only if they are Republicans.

A warning flag for those who think it's a slam-dunk that Comey is "obviously" telling the truth.

■ A long but worthwhile Cato examination by Ryan Bourne: Would More Government Infrastructure Spending Boost the U.S. Economy? Spoiler: maybe, if it's done right, but there's no reason to believe it will be done right.

The focus on the supposed stimulus and productivity-enhancing effects of infrastructure spending means policy debates center heavily on government funding. Yet proposals for more federal spending, costly tax credits, or public-private partnerships ignore that the primary barriers to responsive infrastructure relate to structures and incentives. Rather than imposing further costs on taxpayers, the new administration should prioritize localizing decisionmaking, removing regulatory barriers to private investment, encouraging the use of user fees, and removing tax exemptions for public investment.

And (no surprise) the macroeconomic "stimulus" benefits of infrastructure spending are shown to overblown at best.

■ Via Marginal Revolution: an interesting site dedicated to analysis of various schemes to decrease atmospheric greenhouse gases: Drawdown. Featuring cold, hard calculations of costs/savings of various methods, ranked by how much (equivalent) CO2 they might bring about.

The surprising thing is the rankings. Number one is Refrigerant Management.

Every refrigerator and air conditioner contains chemical refrigerants that absorb and release heat to enable chilling. Refrigerants, specifically CFCs and HCFCs, were once culprits in depleting the ozone layer. Thanks to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, they have been phased out. HFCs, the primary replacement, spare the ozone layer, but have 1,000 to 9,000 times greater capacity to warm the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

"Oops!" So now we need a strategy to deal with the probems caused by a previous regulatory strategy. Is that irony? I can never tell.

■ But number 3 on the Drawdown list is "Reduced Food Waste". By sheer coincidence, a recent article by Baylen Linnekin at Reason looks at that: To Reduce Food Waste, Government Must Get Out of the Way

The data on food waste, which I discuss at length in my recent book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable, are stark. Americans waste nearly 40 percent of all food, or 133 billion pounds each year. Forty million tons of that food waste ends up in our landfills annually. Put in economic terms, Americans waste $165 billion worth of food every year, or ten percent of the money we spend on food.

Yeah, I think I'm gonna put that book on the things-to-read list.

■ KDW@NR tells us How to Think about Low-Income Housing.

Well, that's the "official" headline. The URL indicates that the original headline might have been "Washington Post Botches Low-Income Housing".

As is his wont, Kevin shows little mercy at debunking the thrust of what he calls the WaPo's Muppet News Flash.

Today’s entry in the great national stupidity sweepstakes comes from Tracy Jan, who is relaying the findings of the latest report from the National Low-Income Housing Association. The report’s basic claim takes a familiar form that falls somewhere between intellectual sloppiness and intellectual dishonesty: People earning the minimum wage cannot afford the average one-bedroom apartment without spending more than 30 percent of their incomes . . . pretty much anywhere in the country. There are some variations on the theme: Sometimes, the rent considered is for a two-bedroom apartment, and sometimes the income considered is the federal poverty line or some figure related to it.

Spoiler: comparing average or median rent levels with low income levels will pretty much guarantee you get dire, but essentially meaningless, results.

URLs du Jour

2017-06-10

Proverbs 25:20 is yet another simile:

20 Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day,
    or like vinegar poured on a wound,
    is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.

So… don't sing to sad people? I'm not even sure that's good advice. I don't want to go against the Good Book, but people should at least check out this Lifehack article: 9 Ways Music Can Cure Depression, Drug Addiction and Stop Suicide.

Maybe not Leonard Cohen though.

■ I liked Jim Geraghty's Morning Jolt newsletter yesterday, and thanks to NRO, you can read it here: What We Learned from Comey Thursday. Yes, there was good news for Trump fans: Comey didn't support a lot of the Democrat/MSM's hopeful theories about malfeasance. But:

Despite all this, Thursday wasn’t a good day for President Trump. Comey painted an ugly portrait of the president as flagrantly and shamelessly dishonest, oblivious to traditional limits on presidential power, obsessed with personal loyalty to him, having no regard for the independence of law enforcement and the justice system, petty, micromanaging, erratic, mercurial, and vindictive. This description of Trump is undoubtedly shocking to all of the Americans who were in comas for the entirety of the 2016 election.

"At least he's not Hillary." Set that to a catchy tune and (see above) sing it to people laden with a heavy heart when they contemplate the future of the country.

■ The other NR newsletter is Jonah Goldberg's G-File, and you can read yesterday's edition right here: Comey, Master of Memos. It's funny, albeit way too heavy on the Game of Thrones analogies. But this point on "whataboutism" holds:

Whataboutism is fine if you want to point out double standards. But the trick is to hold onto your standards while you do it. It is otherworldly to celebrate how Donald Trump doesn’t play by the rules while at the same denouncing anyone who doesn’t play by the rules in response. As I’ve written before, when the president of the United States ignores “democratic norms,” it is naïve to expect that everyone else will abide by them. And it is grotesquely hypocritical to defend Trump’s disdain for the rules while demonizing others for far lesser transgressions.

Good advice. Hope I can follow it.

■ Shikha Dalmia saw it coming (slightly) before the UK election: Playing Tax Collector for the Welfare State Didn't Win British Tories Voters.

Plenty of people love government welfare when it seems like someone else will pay for their benefits. The problem with that, as Margaret Thatcher famously pointed out, is that eventually you run out of other people's money. And when that happens, the state goes after your money – because a government that is powerful enough to give you everything you want is also powerful enough to take away everything you've got.

I know: as someone pointed out recently, we fought a war a couple of centuries back so that we wouldn't have to care too much about what happens in Old Blighty. Think of it as a cautionary tale.

■ My LFOD Google Alert was triggered by a Free Keene article: NH Governor Signs Bill Protecting Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency From Regulation!

On Friday, New Hampshire’s new governor Chris Sununu signed a bill, HB 436, which makes NH the first state to explicitly protect cryptocurrency like Bitcoin from regulation!

This undid previous legislation which treated Bitcoin businesses as "money transmitters", like Western Union.

Free Keene is enthusiastic, naturally enough. (You probably noticed the exclamation points.) If you'd like poorly-concealed contempt, on the other hand, the Concord Monitor's "Granite Geek", David Brooks, will provide: NH banking commission can’t regulate bitcoin currency exchanges.

New Hampshire is one of the most bitcoin-happy states in the country on a per capita basis, thanks largely to the libertarian, all-government-is-bad group called the Free State Project. The group (seduced, like so many have been, by our “Live Free or Die” state motto) created the much-publicized goal of luring 20,000 “like-minded” folks to New Hampshire and using them to remake the state government. It’s having an effect; if nothing else, two of our 400 state representatives now list themselves as Libertarians rather than Republicans or Democrats.

… and it goes on like that for a while. The comments to David's post are adequate rebuttal.


Last Modified 2017-06-11 6:16 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-06-09

Proverbs 25:19's simile is a slight improvement over the previous verse's:

19 Like a broken tooth or a lame foot
    is reliance on the unfaithful in a time of trouble.

I'm pretty sure Trump relied on this insight in his firing of James Comey.

■ We looked yesterday at the heavy-breathing excitement with which some Democrats are greeting the news that Caroline Kennedy might run for political office. Without mentioning Sweet Caroline, Matt Welch looks at the dynastic thinking on the Blue Team: Chelsea Clinton and the Democrats' Dullard Dynasty.

Like former first lady Michelle Obama, whose name has also been whispered fervently by would-be queenmakers, Chelsea Clinton could exist as a hypothetical candidate only in a party that has run out of both ideas and talent. Surely there are more interesting politicians in this country of 320 million than rich, platitude-spewing amateurs with drearily famous last names.

Republicans had the Bushes, of course.

■ Dan McLaughlin writes at NR: Comey Wasn’t Investigating Trump — But Look Who Said He Was. It's a looong list. Conclusion:

Trump is not in the clear after today: His actions in leaning on Comey over the Michael Flynn investigation were plainly improper, to pick the clearest example. But in light of Comey’s repeated confirmation that the FBI was never investigating Trump during his tenure at the FBI, and that he had privately briefed both Trump and Congress to that effect, a whole lot of people — starting with Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren — owe President Trump an apology.

I would not advise anyone to hold their breath awaiting those apologies.

■ Also at NR, Jonah Goldberg was unmoved from his previous positions by yesterday's events: Comey Testimony Confirms Trump Is Still His Own Worst Enemy.

According to Comey, Trump believed the Russia investigation was a “cloud” over his presidency, preventing him from making great “deals” for America. Democrats and the media, desperate to explain away Hillary Clinton’s humiliating defeat, surely deserve their fair share of blame for that cloud. But no sensible person can deny that Trump — with his obsessive tweeting and aphasic outbursts — has done almost everything he can to make that cloud thicker and darker than necessary. It’s like he had a fog machine installed next to his giant TV.

Trump does not have Presidential instincts. As Jonah says: he's "an amateur, a bumbler and, very often, his own worst enemy."

■ Janice Brown got "hate you" mail. Why? Because, 11 years ago, she named her blog Cow Hampshire. She responds in Cow Hampshire Revisited.

In the case of New Hampshire, it is a fabulous place to live. Folks with a “want to be better than you” envy have trouble finding serious reasons to criticize us. Those are the ones doing the derogating. Grasping at udders they use a benign nickname to evoke a heated response. The less informed, the insecure and the hostile-prone will always get offended by name calling. We should view ‘Cow Hampshire’ as a constructive and progressive term.

I left a comment at Janice's blog: she's correct to have been unmooved by this terrabull criticism.


Last Modified 2017-06-09 9:57 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-06-08

■ I have to say Proverbs 25:18 is not one of the Proverbialist's best efforts:

18 Like a club or a sword or a sharp arrow
    is one who gives false testimony against a neighbor.

Yeah, it's like this thing … or that thing … or this other thing…

Worse, it's not as if this wasn't already covered earlier in the Bible.

Anyway, don't do that. I'm looking at you, Comey.

■ I am Facebook friends with people who like to post political stuff, and one pronounced herself "very excited" about this: Caroline Kennedy Just Announced Her Plan To FIGHT Donald Trump And It’s Brilliant.

Well, no. You can click over if you want, it's to a site called "Proud Democrats", which (despite its name) seems to be a one-man operation run by a guy named "Mike Stone". That's the byline on everything, anyway.

And (it turns out) just about everything in that headline is wrong. There's a link to this NYPost story that doesn't have an "announcement" from Sweet Caroline, but instead quotes "Kennedy insiders", "a source", and "another close source", and… well, you get the idea.

But her plan, whether she announced it or not, well, that's brilliant, right? Again, no. The "plan" is to (a) write a memoir; (b) maybe run for the Senate, or maybe something else, in New York. (The "sources declined to reveal Kennedy’s precise political plans".)

The "Proud Democrats" transform this anonymous and vague yarn into a certainty: "Kennedy is planning to run for the U.S. senate in 2018. Bold in original. They're so excited!

But there's nothing in there about FIGHTING Donald Trump. And her alleged candidacy would presumably involve replacing current NY Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, another Democrat.

And my reaction remains the same as the one I quoted from Sean Higgins back in 2008, when Caroline flamed out in her effort to be appointed to the same Senate seat: the one Hillary was vacating to be Obama's Secretary of State:

Dear 'Boomers,

What the hell is it with you and the Kennedy clan? Why do you adore that family so? You have a devotion to them normally only seen in teenage girls for the boy band of the moment. For the love of God, why?

■ Although the people at Reason are enthusiastic about it, pilot Philip Greenspun is less so: King Donald’s Privatized Air Traffic Control System.

[…] It can cost the U.S. 5-10X as much to do anything involving the government, whether run by the government itself or run by a crony (“privatized”), compared to what other countries spend (see New Yorker, for example). We would be bankrupt if we tried to operate a huge subway system that runs every minute like they do in Moscow, for example. We spend 4X as much, as a percentage of GDP, as Singapore on health care. Any argument of the form “people in Country X can do Y” is irrelevant, in my opinion, unless the plan is to import people from Country X to run Y here in the U.S.

Phil argues for trying things out in Alaska, Hawaii, or Puerto Rico first, "giving those three disconnected airspaces to different organizations." Interesting.

■ The WSJ reports what University employees suspected already: Many Colleges Fail to Improve Critical-Thinking Skills.

Freshmen and seniors at about 200 colleges across the U.S. take a little-known test every year to measure how much better they get at learning to think. The results are discouraging.

At more than half of schools, at least a third of seniors were unable to make a cohesive argument, assess the quality of evidence in a document or interpret data in a table, The Wall Street Journal found after reviewing the latest results from dozens of public colleges and universities that gave the exam between 2013 and 2016.

But, for Granite Staters, guess what? The school that did the best job of improving thinking skills was (ta-da!) Plymouth State. Woo!

URLs du Jour

2017-06-07

■ Good advice today from Proverbs 25:17, once again demonstrating that certain truths are timeless:

17 Seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house—
    too much of you, and they will hate you.

I can't help but think that the Proverbialist found himself in this situation, not as the Unwanted Guest, but as the Straining-To-Be-Polite Host.

Today's Getty image is … appropriate.

■ Articles from the latest dead-tree Reason are showing up on the website, and this one is pretty good: Ron Bailey asking the musical question Are Robots Going to Steal Our Jobs? The history of such fears goes back quite a ways:

In 1589, Queen Elizabeth I refused to grant a patent to William Lee for his invention of the stocking frame knitting machine, which sped up the production of wool hosiery. "Thou aimest high, Master Lee," she declared. "Consider thou what the invention could do to my poor subjects. It would assuredly bring to them ruin by depriving them of employment, thus making them beggars."

For those having the knee-jerk reaction "this time is different", Bailey notes that they've been saying that for decades, if not centuries, too.

Imagine a time-traveling economist from our day meeting with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and John D. Rockefeller at the turn of the 20th century. She informs these titans that in 2017, only 14 percent of American workers will be employed in agriculture, mining, construction, and manufacturing, down from around 70 percent in 1900. Then the economist asks the trio, "What do you think the other 56 percent of workers are going to do?"

They wouldn't know the answer. And as we look ahead now to the end of the 21st century, we can't predict what jobs workers will be doing then either. But that's no reason to assume those jobs won't exist.

Good article.

■ The WSJ editorialists note yet another big problem with Trump: The Buck Stops Everywhere Else.

Some people with a propensity for self-destructive behavior can’t seem to help themselves, President Trump apparently among them. Over the weekend and into Monday he indulged in another cycle of Twitter outbursts and pointless personal feuding that may damage his agenda and the powers of the Presidency.

You may have heard about that. Particularly egregious was Trump's petulant bashing of London Mayor Sadiq Khan; even worse was his backstabbing of his own Justice Department.

If this pattern continues, Mr. Trump may find himself running an Administration with no one but his family and the Breitbart staff.

Yes.

I don't know if the WSJ's paywall is breachable, sorry if it isn't.

■ An ill-tempered but amusing and insightful essay from a blogger calling himself "Dystopic": Marxism: A Cross Between Mean Girls & Lord of the Flies.

Marxists live and breathe power politics. This is the whole of their existence, their singular purpose: to seize the property of others and redistribute it, setting themselves up as the fulcrum by which society is measured and weighed. I know better, says the Marxist, you must obey me.

I don't know if the "Marxist" label is accurate or useful. I usually go for "progressive", which has its own problems.

■ Some good news here: Betsy DeVos appoints campus free speech advocate. Liberals are flipping out. The nominee is Adam Kissel, the post is "Deputy Assistant Secretary for Higher Education Programs".

Kissel’s career highlights include working at institutions dedicated to protecting free speech at universities like the director of the Individual Rights Defense Program and vice president of programs at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. A key issue for Kissel is the low standard of evidence needed to convict a college student of sexual assault and harassment, reported Inside Higher Ed..

Among the flipper-outers is Senator Patty Murray, who pronounced herself "deeply troubled". Which is good. Senator Murray has been one of the leaders advocating degraded due-process rights for students accused of crimes.

■ Lest there be any doubt: Gal Gadot is Wonder Woman.

Israeli actress Gal Gadot was five months pregnant with her second child when she did reshoot scenes for the movie that included a climactic battle scene.

She was the best thing about Batman vs. Superman. Specifically, her smile, about seven seconds into this 19-second clip:

■ Finally, Mr. Ramirez on pollution sources:

Liberal Hysteria

URLs du Jour

2017-06-06

■ Graphic dietary advice from Proverbs 25:16:

16 If you find honey, eat just enough—
    too much of it, and you will vomit.

No doubt written from experience. But wait, it's probably also metaphorical! Too much of a good thing, like that? Did you know that phrase is Shakespearean?

■ At Reason, Scott Shackford notes that Theresa May’s Call for Internet Censorship Isn't Limited to Fighting Terrorism.

You'd think Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg himself was the driver of the van that plowed into pedestrians on London Bridge Saturday, the way U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May is talking about the attack. He isn't, but everybody across the world, not just in the United Kingdom, needs to pay close attention to how May wants to respond to the assault.

May believes the problem is you and your silly insistence that you be permitted to speak your mind and to look at whatever you want on the internet. And she means to stop you. And her attitude toward government control of internet speech is shared by President Donald Trump (and Hillary Clinton), so what she's trying to sell isn't isolated to her own citizenry.

As I noted yesterday: we're going to see proposals for, essentially, TSA for the Internet.

■ James Freeman notes that news about Surveillance in the Obama Era is drawing yawns from the watchdog media. And when it is covered, well…

Not that it’s easy, even now, for consumers of news to understand when exactly these violations occurred. The New York Times, for example, has managed to run at least two recent stories that described Obama-era abuses of intelligence powers without ever mentioning the word “Obama.”

■ Let's see some good news: Trump Proposes Major Overhaul of Outdated U.S. Air Traffic Control System.

President Trump, in a speech Monday, promised to replace the current government-owned and operated air traffic control system with a private "self-financing, non-profit organization" relying on user fees, not taxes, to fund itself.

Lest you think this is another free-market-ideologues-gone-wild scheme:

The idea is not new. Canada, the U.K. and Germany are among the roughly 50 countries that privatized air traffic control.

Nav Canada has been around since 1996. It's time we caught up.

■ And your Tweet du Jour:

URLs du Jour

2017-06-05

Proverbs 25:15

15 Through patience a ruler can be persuaded,
    and a gentle tongue can break a bone.

I suppose the Proverbialist is going for something like "slow and steady wins the race", but that metaphor is kind of gross, am I right?

Today's Getty image: victim of a gentle tongue.

■ CNN (via Slashdot) reports: After London Attack, PM Calls For Internet Regulation To Fight Terrorists.

Prime Minister Theresa May has called for closer regulation of the internet following a deadly terror attack in London... May said on Sunday that a new approach to tackling extremism is required, including changes that would deny terrorists and extremist sympathizers digital tools used to communicate and plan attacks. "We cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed," May said. "Yet that is precisely what the internet and the big companies that provide internet-based services provide. We need to work with allied democratic governments to reach international agreements that regulate cyberspace to prevent the spread of extremist and terrorism planning."

Well, of course. TSA for the Internet, I'm sure that will work well. PM May is looking for an easy target to show that she's "doing something".

■ Ian Tuttle at NR explicates The Roots of Left-Wing Violence, concentratining on the "Antifa" (allegedly meaning "Anti-fascist").

We keep coming back to that line from Orwell's 1946 essay "Politics and the English Language": "The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable'." Has anything changed in the more than 70 years since? Tuttle suggest not:

Using words to cloak reality makes it easier to dispose of that reality. Antifa are not satisfied with labeling people fascists; they want them to bleed on that account. On Inauguration Day, in Washington, D.C., an Antifa rioter sucker-punched white nationalist Richard Spencer. Spencer is as near to a prominent fascist as one will find in the United States today, and a bona fide racist (an Antifa twofer). But the imperative of anti-fascism, to reject “all forms of domination and oppression,” applies by anti-fascists’ own inexorable logic no less to Heather Mac Donald — or to the Republicans of Multnomah County, whom Antifa threatened to physically assault if they were permitted to participate as usual in the annual Portland Rose Festival parade. Why not punch them, too?

Any means necessary, baby.

■ And your tweet du jour (via Dave Barry, who reminds us that "spacingmatters":

URLs du Jour

2017-06-04

■ Let's hear from Proverbs 25:14 on this beautiful Sunday morning:

14 Like clouds and wind without rain
    is one who boasts of gifts never given.

I'm OK with rainless clouds and wind, but I can understand why an ancient Israeli might have a different outlook.

Today's Getty image shows… I'm not sure what, exactly, but it looks relevant.

■ KDW@NR has a basic explanation of the congressional budgetary process: United Fiscal Front. I think he might need a question mark after that title, but:

What some congressional Republicans are considering is using reconciliation to impose $400 billion to $500 billion in spending cuts, spread out over ten years, to so-called mandatory spending. Usually, “mandatory spending” refers to the big-ticket entitlement programs: Social Security, Medicare, etc. But because Washington is full of crazy people, Social Security is specifically exempted from the reconciliation process, so that’s off the table. But there is a lot more than the popular retirement entitlements in mandatory spending: There’s also SNAP and TANF and other welfare programs, agriculture subsidies, federal pension and retirement-benefit programs, some grant programs, and much else. Those outlays together add up to an enormous bucket of money, but each of those programs also has a built-in constituency that makes it difficult to impose cuts. It’s the old problem of concentrated benefits vs. dispersed costs: The few thousand people getting big farm-subsidy checks every year will fight a lot harder to keep them than the 300 million people funding those programs will fight to keep the few pennies a year that each of them pays in taxes to support them. While using reconciliation to impose cuts is not universally popular, there are some in Congress who would absolutely love to have reconciliation force them to do the right thing that they don’t have the huevos to do on their own initiative.

Heh: "huevos". KDW is unafraid of being accused of cultural appropriation.

■ George F. Will is bewildered that government funds are still being spent on programs that have outlived their raison d'être, in particular: Public broadcasting’s immortality defies reason

Fifty years and about 500 channels ago, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was created to nudge Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society — it aimed to make America great for the first time — the final inches toward perfection. Today, the CPB, which has received about $12 billion over the years, disperses the government’s 15 percent of public television’s budget and 10 percent of public radio’s. Originally, public television increased many viewers’ choices by 33 percent — from three (CBS, NBC, ABC) to four.

Will asks, sensibly, at what point did America need "government-subsidized journalism that reports on the government." The correct answer: never.

■ Mike Godwin was an occasional debating foe back in my Usenet days. Our opinions seem to have converged since, I'm not sure who's moved more. Here he is at Reason: Everyone Should Be Getting Wikipedia for Free.

What he really means by "for free" is "without incurring extra billing on your cellular data plan." And some providers would like to do that. So what's the problem? Hint: it starts with "N" and ends with "et Neutrality".

Internet providers should be able to experiment with giving subscribers free stuff, such as access to Wikipedia and other public information and services on their smartphones. Unfortunately, confusion about whether today's net neutrality regulations allow U.S. providers to make content available without it counting against your data plan—a practice called "zero-rating"—has discouraged many companies from doing so, even though zero-rating experiments are presumptively legal under today's net neutrality regulations.

Mike, a lawyer, used to be employed at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Their opinions seem to have diverged.

■ Get used to seeing stories in this vein (CNN via Slashdot): Twitter Isn't Removing Enough Hate Speech, Complains The EU.

Twitter is not good enough at removing hate speech from its platform. That's the judgment of Europe's top regulator, which released data on Thursday showing that Twitter has failed to meet its standard of taking down 50% of hate speech posts after being warned that they include objectionable content. Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and Google have all agreed to do more, promising last May to review a majority of hate speech flagged by users within 24 hours and to remove any illegal content.

There's so much wrong here, it's difficult to know where to start. I'll confine myself to one thing: it's semi-alarming how quickly and obsequiously US companies bow to foreign demands for censorship.

■ Your tweet du jour is something not yet (as I type) flagged as "hate speech" by Twitter:

Written, I'm pretty sure, in response to those blaming the latest atrocity in London on "religion".


Last Modified 2017-06-04 11:48 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-06-03

Proverbs 25:13 serves up a refreshing simile:

13 Like a snow-cooled drink at harvest time
    is a trustworthy messenger to the one who sends him;
    he refreshes the spirit of his master.

Ancient Israelis considered themselves extremely fortunate when their messages were successfully transmitted to another.

■ Institution of higher education or psychiatric ward? The College Fix reports: Evergreen State faculty demand punishment of white professor who refused to leave on anti-white day. Nearly a quarter of the faculty signed on to a letter containing this demand, among others:

Demonstrate accountability by pursuing a disciplinary investigation against Bret Weinstein according to guidelines in the Social Contract and Faculty Handbook. Weinstein has endangered faculty, staff, and students, making them targets of white supremacist backlash by promulgating misinformation in public emails, on national television, in news outlets, and on social media.

That's bad enough, but the entire letter (available at the link) is Orwellian. And not in a good way.

■ And (of course) just when it was asserted that there was a dangerous "white supremecist backlash" against Evergreen State, what do you know? An anonymous mass-murder threat was called in to the local cops! John Sexton has the threat of violence that shut down Evergreen State College for two days.

Clearly, the caller presented himself as an armed and angry right-winger upset over the college’s progressive outlook. And it’s entirely possible that’s what he is. But it’s also entirely possible this is the kind of hoax hate crime we’ve seen many times in the last six months, i.e. the gay church organist who painted a swastika, a gay slur, and the phrase “Heil Trump” on his own church in order to “mobilize a movement.”

I know which way I'd bet.

■ David Harsanyi (at the Federalist) asserts and explains: Democrats Have Lost On Climate Change, And It’s Their Own Fault.

Whenever the United States fails to adopt climate-change policy favored by the Left, advocates like to point to polls that allegedly illustrate how a vast majority of Americans support “fighting climate change” or “reducing carbon emissions” or “believe in global warming.” These vague, feel-good moral declarations are equivalent to voters saying they are in favor “reducing poverty” or “helping children.” The more useful question is what are you willing to do? Give up one of your cars? Pay more for energy, food, housing, and everything else? Do you want to empower government to run the economy to help fix the problem?

It's all about power, isn't it? Glenn Reynolds has a recurring refrain: "I'll believe there's a climate crisis when the people who keep telling me there's a climate crisis start acting like there's a climate crisis." So keep that in mind as you read the NYPost story: ‘Eco-friendly’ [NYC Mayor Bill] de Blasio won’t give up SUV rides to gym.

But when asked to explain why he needs a motorcade of gas-guzzling SUVs to take him from Gracie Mansion to Park Slope, Brooklyn, just to exercise at a YMCA, he didn’t have an answer — and declined to give up the habit.

It takes two SUVs ("a regular GMC Yukon XL, which burns 16 mpg in the city, and a Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, which is only slightly more fuel efficient at 20 mpg") to get the mayor from Manhattan to Park Slope and back.

The Mayor was confronted about this on a radio call-in show, just after he'd lectured listeners: "Everyone in our own life needs to change our habits to start protecting the Earth,”

■ Bruce McQuain reflects on the Paris Accord: Trump says ‘no’ to the global elitist scam and the globalists howl, and makes a good point for us at-least-sorta libertarians:

You know, I have to keep saying this to myself to remind myself that even a stopped clock is right twice a day – I’m not a fan of Donald Trump. But then I wasn’t a fan of Barack Obama. Or particularly, G.W. Bush. It’s a cross any libertarian has to bear. But it is also why, for the most part, we can look a bit more dispassionately at circumstances or events than can liberals or conservatives. They have a vested interest in protecting the reputation (and work) that their person is doing (and one of the reasons that you see so much hypocrisy on both sides). We have no such vested interest. However, since libertarians rarely see the work of liberty done, it’s somewhat surprising when it is.

I resemble that remark.

■ And finally, news you probably can't use, but maybe have been wondering about (I know I have): Most of the World’s Bread Clips Are Made by a Single Company.

Bread clips! Consider them for a moment, if you will. They’re those flat pieces of semi-hard plastic formed into a sort of barbed U-shape—you know the ones. They can be found keeping bread bags all over the world closed and safe from spoilage, smartly designed to be used and reused. They’re all around us, constantly providing an amazing service, and yet still, they’re taken for granted. And it turns out they’re almost exclusively all produced by a single, family-owned company.

Today's Getty image is this little bit of American genius in action.


Last Modified 2017-06-03 11:28 AM EDT

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

[4.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

So Mrs. Salad and I decided to stretch our legs a bit, and went to see this at the Regal Cinemas down in Newington. Why, I remember the days when we had to traipse down to Peabody or Lawrence MA to see first-run flicks. And they didn't have reclining chairs in stadium seating. Also, the special effects were cheesy.

And don't get me started on the popcorn.

Where was I? Oh, yes. This movie is a lot of fun. It takes up where the previous one left off, with a shaky quintet of Guardians taking on dangerous missions for hire, like defending a trove of some sort of space batteries against a rampaging monster. This is meant to illustrate (a) the team's bungling-but-eventually-successful approach to dire threats, but also (b) how the team gets exposed to some of those threats, when the thieving Rocket filches some of the batteries they were just hired to protect.

So the Guardians now have another entire planet pissed at them, but they escape with the unlikely help of Kurt Russell. Slight, trailer-level spoiler: he's revealed to be Peter Quill / Star-Lord's father! But is there more there than this joyous reunion seems to be? Hint: yes.

It's a mix of hilarity, action, and gooey sentiment. Fortunately, the hilarity is very hilarious. (Although I'm easily amused.) Everybody's good, although the very end is a little dragged-out. Dave Bautista, playing Drax, seems to be having a lot more fun this time out; he has some of the best lines.

URLs du Jour

2017-06-02

■ In these insane times, will Proverbs 25:12 provide a dollop of wisdom?

12 Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold
    is the rebuke of a wise judge to a listening ear.

Hm. "Like this gold thing, or this other gold thing?" I'm not impressed with the style. But today's Getty illustration is definitely a rebuke to a earring-free, but listening, ear.

■ So, you may have heard, because everyone's talking about it, including the WSJ editorialists: Trump Bids Paris Adieu. Particularly apt is this aside about "leadership":

[…C]laims that the U.S. is abdicating global leadership [are] overwrought. Leadership is not defined as the U.S. endorsing whatever other world leaders have already decided they want to do, and the U.S. is providing a better model in any case. Private economies that can innovate and provide cost-effective energy alternatives will always beat meaningless international agreements. To the extent Paris damages economic growth, the irony is that it would leave the world less prepared for climate change.

So much of the pro-Paris argument relies on the notion that we can regulate, tax, spend, and (above all) plan our way to prosperity. That's not the way to bet. And by the time such arguments would have been revealed to be Obamacare-style lies, it would have been too late.

■ Oren Cass at City Journal does not regret that We’ll Never Have Paris.

Even before President Trump had completed his announcement that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Accord on climate change, howls of disbelief and outrage went up from proponents of the agreement. But the critical dynamic underlying the 2015 Accord, willfully ignored by its advocates, is that major developing countries offered “commitments” for emissions reduction that only mirrored their economies’ existing trajectories. Thus, for instance, China committed to reaching peak emissions by 2030—in line with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s prior analysis. India committed to improving its emissions per unit of GDP—at a rate slower than that metric was already improving. President Obama, meanwhile, pledged America to concrete and aggressive emissions cuts that would require genuine and costly change.

Which was why (a) other countries were so eager to sign on; (b) Obama realized that he could never get this "treaty" ratified by the Senate.

■ At Cato, Patrick J. Michaels presents The Scientific Argument against the Paris Climate Agreement. (Yes, there is one.)

[…] The Paris Agreement is based upon a fundamental misconception of climate history and science. The objective is to hold temperatures to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, and to “pursue efforts” to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The key misconception is that all of the warming since the Industrial Revolution — 0.9 degrees Celsius — is a result of human activity.

And much of it, Michaels argues, is not.

■ Keith Hennessey asks: Is the Paris Agreement QTIIPS?. Which is:

QTIIPS stands for Quantitatively Trivial Impact + Intense Political Symbolism.

As for the first part: the "models" don't predict a substantial effect from the Paris deal, even if fully implemented. But:

QTIIPS policy changes rest on the assumption that the first step is likely to lead to that theoretical quantitatively significant outcome. Most supporters of the Paris Agreement would privately concede that it is only a modest first step, and would then express hope that it could/will/might/should lead to further progress in the future. Opponents of the agreement would share their fears that this first step could/will/might lead to an eventual outcome they fear.

But this shared assumption, of a first step or slippery slope, could easily be wrong. If the Paris Agreement were never to have led to a more significant next step, then a key premise of the fight is wrong. The intense political symbolism and the fierce battles waged over both President Obama’s and President Trump’s relatively small policy moves would then be unsupported by strong policy arguments.

It's an interesting argument.

■ Ron Bailey at Reason has an equally sane take (with graphs, so it's science): Trump Announces Withdrawal From Paris Climate Deal. What Happens Now?

Make the heroic assumption that the climate models are right: What should be done? In an article for Foreign Affairs, the eco-modernists over at the Breakthrough Institute advocate policies encouraging the innovation that would make carbon-free energy cheaper than that provided by burning fossil fuels. This might include, among other things, the entrepreneurial development of radically safer and cheaper nuclear power.

My own solution for any problems that might arise from man-made climate change (and for most other challenges faced by humanity) is to adopt policies that boost technological innovation and wealth creation. For details on what that would entail, go here.

Bailey is credible on both science and economics, a rare combination in the debate.

■ And then there are the naysayers. The Federalist compiles 15 Over-The-Top Reactions To Trump’s Withdrawal From Paris Climate Deal. Number one:

Billionaire and faux environmentalist Tom Steyer said withdrawing would be a “traitorous act of war.”

Does the argument get better from there, or worse. You be the judge!

■ Julie Kelly at NR combs over the same ground: The Left’s Unhinged Freakout over Trump’s Paris Accord Withdrawal. She has Steyer too, but also:

Celebrities who still haven’t learned that their endorsement of anyone or anything usually yields the opposite of the intended effect also weighed in on Trump’s move. Hollywood’s most prolific climate celeb — the bed-hopping, jet-setting, yacht-cruising Leo DiCaprio — said he hoped Trump would make the “moral” decision to stay in Paris, then tweeted shortly after the president’s announcement that “today, our planet suffered.” Unhinged showgirl Bette Midler tweeted that Trump’s exit gave “BigOil a windfall” and that “there has never in US history been such a destructive megalomaniac in the WH. Thank you to US press and other numbskulls who put him there.”

Bette Midler also claims we are entering a despotic age, but that's not stopping her from appearing in a revival of Hello, Dolly, to which a ticket will set you back (as I type) up to $1430. No, I didn't leave out a decimal point. A despotic age can also be a profitable one.


Last Modified 2017-06-25 6:03 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-06-01

Proverbs 25:11 has been studying the judicial opinions of Clarence Thomas:

11 Like apples of gold in settings of silver
    is a ruling rightly given.

The translation footnote says that when they say "apples", they might actually mean "apricots".

Today's Getty image: a judge about to rightly give a ruling. Doesn't that just scream "golden apples in a silver setting" to you?

■ Evergreen State biology professor Bret Weinstein tells his story in the WSJ: The Campus Mob Came for Me—and You, Professor, Could Be Next.

I was not expecting to hold my biology class in a public park last week. But then the chief of our college police department told me she could not protect me on campus. Protestors were searching cars for an unspecified individual—likely me—and her officers had been told to stand down, against her judgment, by the college president.

Scary stuff. Also worth reading on Weinstein/Evergreen is Peter Wood at Minding the Campus, who fits it into the context of other recent illiberal incidents at other colleges. Among Wood's insights:

The less actual evidence there is of racial animosity coming from whites, the more important it is to conjure its insidious presence, and the more urgent it is to teach the coming generation of black Americans to ground their lives in victimhood, resentment, and robust resistance to surrounding society.  This apotheosis of resentment, of course, is not limited to blacks.  Any collection of people willing to band together into an identity group based on a history of victimization can do the same thing.  Women, Hispanics, Native Americans, illegal immigrants, and sexual minorities of all sorts can adapt both the logic and the techniques of revolutionary existential despair.  But black Americans define this territory; the others merely emulate.

And also Bruce McQuain at his Questions and Observations blog.

Dissent. They will brook no dissent. Nor can the professor dissenting expect backup from the school he’s been a part of for 14 years. Instead, students who do what these students did are held unaccountable and their demands are actually given credence. And a man who spoke up for the values of academia ended up teaching in a park because the school couldn’t guarantee his safety.

The only upside is that such incidents make the Cinco de Mayo brouhaha at the University Near Here look mild and trivial in comparison. But only in comparison.

■ At the Federalist, David Harsanyi tells it on the mountain: There Is No Political Tribe That Deserves Your Loyalty. He notes the odd similarity between (a) Dennis Prager's plea for #NeverTrump conservatives to become Trump cheerleaders and (b) the strange new respect afforded the corrupt "dictator-loving conspiracy-theorist" (but Trump-hating) Maxine Waters.

[…] if a person is truly apprehensive about creeping “authoritarianism” — these days, the prevailing concern of the same Democrats who push policies that almost exclusively coerce Americans economically — rigid group-thinking just isn’t feasible anymore. Anti, anti-anti, pro, whatever. The sad truth is that there are simply too many people acting reprehensibly in Washington for many Americans to be a member of any of these tribes.

"Indeed."

■ You might find this long City Journal article from César A. Hidalgo interesting: Not Quite Rational Man. MIT Prof Hidalgo looks at how/whether neoclassical economics can deal with recent strides in psychological research that shows homo economicus, the guy who makes rational economic decisions, isn't a tenable description of the real world. He name-checks a lot of the guys I've been reading over the past few years: Daniel Kahneman, Jonathan Haidt, Daniel Gilbert, Joseph Henrich.

Hidalgo has a book (Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies), which I've stuck on my to-read list. UNH has it, but some facule seems to taken it out of circulation with a 2018 due date. Doh!