URLs du Jour

2017-07-31

Knowledge

Proverbs 22:12 is optimistic about supernatural intervention on the side of the knowledgable good guys:

12 The eyes of the Lord keep watch over knowledge,
    but he frustrates the words of the unfaithful.

In 2017 America, I wouldn't rely on that being reliably true.

■ Good news from Wired: Darpa Wants to Build a BS Detector for Science

Adam Russell, an anthropologist and program manager at the Department of Defense’s mad-science division Darpa laughs at the suggestion that he is trying to build a real, live, bullshit detector. But he doesn’t really seem to think it’s funny. The quite serious call for proposals Russell just sent out on Darpa stationery asks people—anyone! Even you!—for ways to determine what findings from the social and behavioral sciences are actually, you know, true. Or in his construction: “credible.”

The author, Adam Rogers, has kind of a Tom Wolfe vibe, which I enjoy. But you'll be amazed (or, if you've been following this stuff for awhile, not amazed) at how much bullshit there is in the soft sciences.

■ My Google LFOD alert went off for Adam Ozimek's Forbes article: Dear Homesteaders, Self-Reliance Is A Delusion.

I am a big fan of shows about doomsday preppers, homesteaders, survivalists, generally people who live off the grid. Some of my favorites are Homestead Rescue and Live Free Or Die. But there’s a central delusion in these shows that is never far from my mind when I’m watching these shows: off the grid people are not self-reliant, but instead are mooching off of the civil society, government, and safety net the rest of us contribute to.

Comment: yes, "Live Free or Die" is an actual TV show, on the National Geographic Channel. Which, unlike Mr. Ozimek, I have not seen. Much of Mr. Ozimek's thesis relies on his supposition that those folks on the show would go whimpering back to modern society if they experience a medical crisis. Leaning so much on hypothetical hypocrisy is an uncharitable mistake.

But Ozimek's deeper point is: modern society's specialization and worldwide trade isn't the bug that the LFOD protagonists assume; it's a feature.

■ It is the 50th anniversery of the Doors' Light My Fire hitting number one on the charts. Mark Steyn (as usual) provides history and musical insight and a pretty good anecdote:

Invited to perform on "The Ed Sullivan Show", the Doors were instructed to eschew "Girl, we couldn't get much higher" for "Girl, we couldn't get much better", which, unlike "Girl, you're starting to perspire" or "Girl, my pants are in the dryer", doesn't even rhyme. Come the big night, on live TV, Jim Morrison forgot to sing "better" and sang the usual "higher". Ed Sullivan was so furious he refused to shake Morrison's hand: Man, you couldn't get much ruder. The producer said they'd never be booked on the Sullivan show again: Girl, we couldn't get re-hired.

Try to get through that without chuckling.

URLs du Jour

2017-07-30

Bob Wills - Your Friendly King of Western
Swing

■ Is Proverbs 22:11 relevant in 21st Century America? I am struggling to interpret it in some way to make it so:

11 One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace
    will have the king for a friend.

Not getting anything, sorry. Unless maybe it's the Friendly King of Texas Swing, Bob Wills?

No, probably not. Still, we take them as they come.

■ Hey, Guys of a Certain Age: Remember the old (but not that old) Tom Swift books? They had such cool titles: Tom Swift and the Asteroid Pirates! Tom Swift and his Megascope Space Prober!

For some reason, they came to mind when I read the headline of Andrew C. McCarthy's NRO article: Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the Pakistani IT Scammers. Worst Young Adult Book Series title ever!

The prime Pakistani IT Scammer is a guy named Imran Awan. And (speaking as an ex-IT guy), Imran really had it going on, for himself and his family:

Congressional-staff salaries are modest, in the $40,000 range. For some reason, Awan was paid about four times as much. He also managed to get his wife, Alvi, on the House payroll . . . then his brother, Abid Awan . . . then Abid’s wife, Natalia Sova. The youngest of the clan, Awan’s brother Jamal, came on board in 2014 — the then-20-year-old commanding an annual salary of $160,000.

Um. I understand you can't get a decent IT guy for $40K. But you can get one, even in DC, for well under $160K.

Anyway, McCarthy's summary of the game so far raises a lot of questions. Just One Minute amusingly notes the lack of interest, combined with misdirection, demonstrated by the New York Times headline: "Trump Fuels Intrigue Surrounding a Former I.T. Worker’s Arrest".

Yes, if they can make it All About Trump, they can make sure all decent people sniff and say "nothing to see here".

@kevinNR makes the parallels between David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross and a certain Presidential administration: Death of a F***ing Salesman. I didn't know, because I am an idiot, that Alec Baldwin's character in the movie, Blake, didn't appear in the original play. But anyway:

What’s notable about the advice offered to young men aspiring to be “alpha males” is that it is consistent with the classic salesmanship advice offered by the real-world versions of Blake in a hundred thousand business-inspiration books (Og Mandino’s The Greatest Salesman in the World is the classic of the genre) and self-help tomes, summarized in an old Alcoholics Anonymous slogan: “Fake it ’til you make it.” For the pick-up artists, the idea is that simply acting in social situations as though one were confident, successful, and naturally masterful is a pretty good substitute for being those things. Never mind the advice of Cicero (esse quam vider, be rather than seem) or Rush — just go around acting like Blake and people will treat you like Blake.

If that sounds preposterous, remind yourself who the president of the United States of America is.

Kevin kind of wimped out there translating the Latin esse quam vider for us. I'm old enough to remember when NR readers were presumed to know Latin.

[Update: I am reliably informed that the Latin phrase should be Esse quam videri. Tsk, Kevin! The ghost of WFBJr will haunt you for that.]

■ A few days ago, I muttered that "Occupational licensing has to be dismantled at the state level." At Reason, Eric Boehm notes that the SCOTUS got involved a few years back, in North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission, finding that licensing boards were not immune from Federal antitrust laws. Which raises the question: how do they get immune? And so… State Licensing Laws Are Mostly Awful; Sen. Mike Lee Might Have a Solution.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, on Thursday will introduce a bill that would give states two paths to immunity. The first by bringing state licensing boards under direct supervision by the legislative and executive branches. The second by requiring states to show why a certain licensing requirement is necessary to protect public health and safety.

Better than nothing. Best would be: states just say no to "professions" looking to limit competition via licensure.

■ Stephen Gutowski of the Daily Beacon answers the question you may not have realized you were asking: What It’s Like to Shoot a Machine Gun from a Helicopter Over the Nevada Desert.

Like any honest reviewer, I feel compelled to include some of the downsides of the experience. For one, I've never been to Las Vegas in the summer, and the moment I stepped out of the airport I felt as though I'd stepped into a pizza oven. It was never under 100 degrees the entire time I was there. I suppose the targets I was shooting at from the helicopter could've been more interesting. Plus, the NBA Summer League was in town and the San Antonio Spurs were staying at my hotel—all the professional basketball players walking around made me feel short. Also, the gun jammed a couple times during the flight and that was kind of ann—OH WHO AM I KIDDING THIS WAS ONE OF THE MOST INCREDIBLE EXPERIENCES I'VE EVER HAD IN MY ENTIRE LIFE! EVERYBODY SHOULD DO THIS!

Readers, the Machine Gun Helicopters site is pretty much at the URL you would expect it to be.

■ And finally, we can all join with Michael Ramirez in experiencing That Sinking Feeling

That sinking feeling

Glug.


Last Modified 2017-07-31 6:33 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-07-29

MOCKER

■ Advice to the Trump Administration from Proverbs 22:10:

10 Drive out the mocker, and out goes strife;
    quarrels and insults are ended.

So if only we could find the mocker… Wait! Wasn't that him behind the desk in the Oval Office?

We last saw Proverbial mockers back in 29:8; they weren't looked on favorably then either.

■ Ever wonder why the left can't solve global warming? Find out from Shikha Dalmia at Reason: Why the Left Can't Solve Global Warming. Spoiler:

Because they've gone about it all wrong. Instead of treating global warming like a problem that needs to be addressed regardless of what caused it, the green left has been more obsessed with establishing humanity's culpability and embracing ever more extreme and painful mitigation steps, as if they were more concerned with punishing the perpetrators than solving the problem.

I'd add: see Arnold Kling's The Three Languages of Politics. The Progressive Left talks and thinks about issues in terms of Oppressors and Oppressed; hence, as Ms. Dalmia notes, it's about finding the bad guys.

■ There are a lot of forensic commentators out there, performing autopsies on the GOP's foot-shooting Obamacare-repeal botch. If you can bear to read one, I suggest Megan McArdle: RIP, Repeal and Replace.

You have a neophyte president who doesn’t know how Washington works, and doesn’t care to learn, and therefore provides none of the leadership that is normally necessary to get a major policy bill through Congress. You have a Republican caucus that spent six years promising to repeal Obamacare without bothering to make plans for, or get a consensus on, how they would actually do so. And thus we were repeatedly treated to the incredible sight of bills that literally no one in the legislature actually wanted, even as they were voting to move them forward. The only way people could bring themselves to cast that “Aye” was by nervously assuring each other that somewhere down the line, someone would come to their senses and stop this thing from actually becoming the law of the land -- the Senate, or the conference committee, or in the most desperate scenario, perhaps the president could … well, I’m sure the conference committee will come up with something we can actually like.

What next? Democrats, who love to excoriate insurance companies, are also proposing legislation to … bail out insurance companies trapped in the Obamacare death spiral. (You'll see this euphemized as "the permanent payment of cost-sharing reduction fees to help stabilize the individual market".)

■ New Hampshire voters will want to peruse Americans for Prosperity's New Hampshire Legislative Score Card.

AFP-NH does not score every vote. Rather the focus of this Score Card is to consider the most important votes cast in a number of key areas that impact a free market, such as taxes, spending, health care, education choice, worker freedom, regulation, free speech, property rights and ending cronyism. This year, the Legislature had the opportunity to vote on important issues in these areas, such as making New Hampshire a Right to Work state and lowering business taxes to make the state more competitive.

My House reps are poor performers, with only one exception.

Roger R. Berube (D)17% (F)
Matthew Spencer (R)92% (A)
Dale R. Sprague (D)33% (F)
Catt Sandler (D)10% (F)

In the Senate, I'm "represented" by David H. Watters, Durham Democrat, who managed a 0% score from AFP.

Mental Floss helps out those who might want to stare at the sun on August 21: How to Make Sure Your Eclipse Glasses Are Safe. Spoiler: get a name brand, check the fine print.

URLs du Jour

2017-07-28

[Amazon Link]

Proverbs 22:9

9 The generous will themselves be blessed,
    for they share their food with the poor.

Coincidentally, James Lileks has a relevant tale from the Nice Belt:

Outside the building today, by Smoker’s Cove: four construction guys sitting on the ground, eating pizza. They were there yesterday as well, but were eating something different. I might never see them again, but two days in a row made them seem notable; no one sits on the ground and eats by the building. Food trucks line the street, but no one sits on the ground.

Homeless guy walks up. He says:

“Give me some of that.”

One of the construction guys looks up at him, and starts to tear off a piece of his pizza. He has two pieces.

“More than that,” says the homeless guy.

Another worker hands over one entire piece.

Homeless guy walks away without saying another word. Sits on the sidewalk. Sticks his legs out and everyone walks around his big grey Crocs.

So, with respect to the Proverb: you, generous person, may be blessed. But not necessarily by the poor.

■ Our illustration du jour is an Amazon ad for Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign memoir, What Happened. If you click thereon and purchase therein, I get a cut. But, dear reader, I don't expect you to. Because, as David Harsanyi at the Federalist puts it: We Already Know ‘What Happened,’ Hillary.

In your upcoming “tell-all” memoir, “What Happened,” you write: “In the past, for reasons I try to explain, I’ve often felt I had to be careful in public, like I was up on a wire without a net. Now I’m letting my guard down.” After over 30 years of living with this calculating, fictional character, most of the public is looking forward to finally getting to know the real Hillary Clinton. The problem, of course, is that we all know exactly what happened in 2016: You lost to Donald Trump.

Also: America dodged a bullet, only to wander into bar-closing traffic.

■ Prof Althouse also meta-comments on the most embarrassing thing in a CBS News "puff piece" about Hillary's book. Said piece is here, and yes, as I type, it still says:

In the introduction of the novel, Clinton writes: "In the past, for reasons I try to explain, I've often felt I had to be careful in public, like I was up on a wire without a net. Now I'm letting my guard down."

Emphasis added. No further comment necessary.

But here's an unnecessary comment: Amazon claims the book will be 512 pages. And I could barely make it through that 35-word excerpt.

■ Our friends at Granite Grok note the latest from the University Near Here: Million Dollar National Science Foundation Grant Funds New Anti-Bias Guide from UNH. Not quite a million ($999,752), but still a hefty chunk of change. Grokster Steve puts it in context:

In 2016 the University of New Hampshire was awarded the Most Microaggressed Campus in America. An award it received in part for the Bias free language guide and some other indiscretions including an NSF funded gender microaggression pamphlet designed to improve the climate for UNH faculty through fair and equitable policies, practices and leadership development.

And now they’ve got a fresh influx of federal dollars to fan the flames of a Free speech culture that has been hanging by a thread for some time. Research that aligns with their 2010-2020 Inclusive Excellence Strategic plan [link fixed-ps]. A plan not dissimilar to those at many Universities across the nation. Not all of whom have violated students constitutional rights, too much, or too often, just yet.

Can it be as bad as that? Sure it can. One can find the NSF grant award announcement pretty easily.

This project addresses the need to efficiently and effectively increase awareness of bias incidents in the academic work environment while also enhancing STEM faculty and university leaders' abilities to address bias incidents in a manner that will result in more positive outcomes for all. The project will create systemic institutional change by scaling up the levels of awareness about and interventions used to address implicit bias in scientific research and learning settings.

I belive, sorting through the grantees' grantese, that they will be addressing intrafaculty "bias incidents". I.e., it's pretty much open season on white male profs. Good luck, fellows.

I don't want to hear any whining about cuts to National Science Foundation funding. Clearly, they've got at least a million dollars too much money.

■ Be careful out there, wannabe eclipse viewers: Solar-eclipse fever means counterfeit glasses are flooding Amazon’s market.

As August 21 nears, eclipse-chasers are realizing that if they want to see the sun disappear behind the moon, they can’t just wake up on the day of the astronomical event and step outside their homes. They’ll need solar eclipse glasses. And so, in the past few months, a cottage industry has sprung up to accommodate this market need. The problem is that many of these newly arrived sellers of solar eclipse glasses are fly-by-night manufacturers looking to turn a quick profit by selling subpar and potentially dangerous goods to unsuspecting Americans.

I hate to say it, but it seems your best bet is to spring for a reputable name brand, like Solar Eclipse Glasses - BILL NYE Exclusive Edition - 6 Pairs Assortment - Folded and Sleeved.

Then, if you do suffer retinal burnout on August 21, you can sue Bill Nye.

Mental Floss asks the hard questions: Why Is Soda Measured in Liters? And the answer here at Pun Salad is:

.

But this caught my eye:

Ken Butcher of the National Institute of Science and Technology has been working with the government’s tiny Metric Program for years. Speaking to Mental Floss back in 2013, Butcher explained that we’re so entrenched in our way of doing things that switching measurement systems now would be both chaotic and expensive.

Whoa, your Federal Government still has a Metric Program? Why, of course it does:

The Metric Program helps implement the national policy to establish the SI (International System of Units, commonly known as the metric system) as the preferred system of weights and measures for U.S. trade and commerce. It provides leadership and assistance on SI use and conversion to federal agencies, state and local governments, businesses, trade association, standards development organizations, educators, and the general public.

Well, Congressional budget writers, let me just help you out:

NIST Metric Program : $0.00

I won't take Metric Program advocates seriously until they demand that TV weatherdroids report temperatures solely in degrees Kelvin. ("It'll be warm today with temperatures near 300. But a rapid cooldown to 285 this evening, so maybe throw on an extra blanket.")

Because I frickin' love Science.

Who in Hell is Wanda Fuca?

[Amazon Link]

Another book I bought a long time ago (c. 1996) and only now made it to the top of the to-be-read pile. I think I might have seen a good review somewhere. Although I might have noticed Wikipedia that it was nominated for the 1996 Anthony Award, Shamus Award for "Best First Novel" and the Dilys Award for "Best Novel". This was G. M. Ford's first novel, and the debut of his long-running private eye hero, Leo Waterman. (The series seems to be active, with the seventh book published last year.)

It is set in Seattle, and I suspect that a lot of Seattle mystery fans buy it for the local shout-outs, much as we New Englanders devour Spenser novels.

Leo is from a prominent, semi-reputable family, and he has contacts up and down the social ladder. In this case, he's hired by a mostly-retired hood to track down a wayward granddaughter. As it turns out, she's running with a gang of eco-terrorists, and they're acting secretively enough to spur Leo into looking deeper into their activities. Unfortunately, this involves him nearly getting killed when one of the group apparently gets incinerated by a different bunch of baddies. And one of the derelict Seattle street people Leo hires for surveillance purposes gets tortured and killed too. So that makes it personal.

It's a decent page turner, with occasional flashes of humor and absurd situations. I was disappointed slightly when the villains revealed at the end resort to purple mustache-twirling dialog. (Not that I'm saying they have mustaches. No spoilers here. But if they did have mustaches, they'd be twirled.)

Oh yeah, don't read the blurb on the Amazon page, it gives too much away.

All Nighter

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

One of Mrs. Salad's picks. She apparently has a thing for J. K. Simmons. That's OK, so do I. For his acting talent only, I assure you. Although I admire his hairstyle too. And, for the record, his was the best J. Jonah Jameson portrayal so far in a Spider-Man movie.

The movie is direct-to-DVD, I think; its "Box Office/Business" link at IMDB is grayed out.

It's a cute idea, though. Martin (Emile Hirsch) is a professional banjo player; his relationship with Ginnie (Analeigh Tipton) is serious enough to warrant a meeting with Ginnie's dad (and that would be J. K. Simmons). But Emile is a laid-back slacker, while Dad is a zero-nonsense international businessman with a bespoke suit. The get-together is a slow-motion disaster.

Jump to six months later, Martin and Ginnie have broken up. Dad shows up at Martin's door, looking for her. He can't find her, she's not answering her phone. Not that Martin has any idea where she is either, but he's dragooned into a search through their colorful acquaintances for the remainder of the evening, into the early morn.

Does the Martin/Dad odd couple relationship gradually evolve into a bit of a bromance, based on their mutual like of Bob Seger? Yes, you saw that coming. To its credit, the movie avoids a different cliché (which I won't spoil).

And Mr. Simmons' performance is nuanced and interesting, of course. Wouldn't expect anything different.

URLs du Jour

2017-07-27

Bailey Puggins Putting On Her Best Poker
Face

Proverbs 22:8 strikes an optimistic note:

8 Whoever sows injustice reaps calamity,
    and the rod they wield in fury will be broken.

To quote Hemingway: “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

■ At NRO, Kyle Smith chronicles The Democrats’ Anthropological Field Trip to Study Americans.

The Democrats have sensed weakness, and chosen this moment to pounce. To capitalize on Donald Trump’s low approval ratings they are rolling out Elizabeth Warren (38 percent approval), Nancy Pelosi (29 percent), and Chuck Schumer (26 percent). Delivering the message that the party has fresh ideas are three emissaries who are a combined 211 years of age, deploying a phrase — “a better deal” — that harks back to the hottest policy proposals of 1933. To prove they’re in tune with the concerns of middle America the Democrats are dispatching emissaries from Harvard, San Francisco, and Brooklyn. Oh, and the Democrats’ chief problem, according to the Democrats? Americans just aren’t mentally supple enough to understand how great our program is for them.

Let me be the 637th person to point out that the new Dem slogan, while undoubtedly focus-grouped out the wazoo, sounds like a Papa John's ripoff.

■ A. Barton Hinkle, writing at Reason, pens a short history: Good Intentions, Bad Outcomes: The Story of Government. One example:

[…] Consider a Kentucky program aimed at reviving poor rural areas by retraining workers to become computer programmers. The effort to breathe new life into the coalfields was part of President Obama's TechHire Initiative, and was conducted in concert with the Appalachian Regional Commission.

According to report from The Daily Signal, the job-training program was intended to turn out 200 skilled workers who could write code for smartphone apps and similar high-tech ventures. But the effort has fallen short: After $1.6 million, only 17 program participants have landed tech jobs. Some are quite happy with where they landed, but others who went through the program are not: "I am now in a job that has absolutely nothing to do with programming," says one.

A worthwhile Constitutional amendment would be to require every new Federal program to state its objective, measurable goals; if those goals are unmet, the program is automatically killed.

■ I noticed some brouhaha over a new HBO series in the works: Confederate, a Civil War dystopia from the Game of Thrones creators, is already controversial

Per HBO’s July 19 press release, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’s Confederate “chronicles the events leading to the Third American Civil War. The series takes place in an alternate timeline, where the Southern states have successfully seceded from the Union, giving rise to a nation in which slavery remains legal and has evolved into a modern institution.”

Some people went bonkers about this.

Gasp, sputter. It's a dystopia, right? Two recent examples are The Handmaid's Tale (male chauvinists won) and The Man in the High Castle (Nazis won). So here, Confederates won. It's not as if they'll be shown as the good guys. Why the outrage?

Well, the article resides at the young adult website, Vox, and this seems to be at the heart of the matter:

The one aspect of Confederate that has early critics breathing a tentative sigh of relief, however, is that Benioff and Weiss are being joined by the Spellmans as executive producers, so the creatives involved won’t be all white men. In fact, their partnership was heavily emphasized throughout that Vulture interview, with Malcolm insisting that he and Nichelle are “not props being used to protect someone else." Furthermore, he continued, Confederate will be “deeply personal” for them, “because we are the offspring of this history. We deal with it directly, and have for our entire lives.”

Ah, a sigh of relief that the people involved won't all be white men.

Coming up on 54 years since MLK had a dream that his four little children would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. People (like ReBecca Theodore) are doing everything they can to put that day off.

It's possible to imagine shows and movies constructed according to intersectional activist demands won't be tedious and lousy. It's just not the way to bet.

■ If you've been wondering about what all that public pubic shouting you've been hearing lately is for, here's an explainer from PJMedia's Megan Fox: Feminists Shout 'VAGINA' in Public for Planned Parenthood. WTF..

If I were paid to disrupt the left and make them look stupid, I would have invented Vagisil's #VaginaChallenge. Modeled after the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge of a few years ago, this one asks women to go into a public place and take a video of themselves shouting "VAGINA!" at the top of their lungs for "women's health" or something. (I don't know if wearing a vagina costume gets you extra credit or not.)

This must be a false flag GOP operation. Has to be. Right?


Last Modified 2017-07-27 9:34 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-07-26

The Prisoner  KAR 120C

■ As we've noticed previously, some Proverbs are really just Observations. Proverbs 22:7 is like that; it also sounds like it could have been written by the Bernie Sanders of the day:

7 The rich rule over the poor,
    and the borrower is slave to the lender.

Man, that's rough. Don't be poor, don't go into debt.

But the Bible doesn't say "neither a borrower nor a lender be". That was a different guy.

■ President Trump is down on Jeff Sessions, I've heard. But not for the right reasons. Reason's Jacob Sullum has one of the right reasons: Jeff Sessions Lets Cops Be Robbers.

Donald Trump made two things abundantly clear during a meeting with county sheriffs last February: He did not know what civil asset forfeiture was, and he wanted to see more of it. The president will get his wish thanks to a directive issued last week by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has a clearer idea of what civil forfeiture entails but is only slightly more sensitive to its potential for abuse.

No libertarians like civil asset forfeiture, and I haven't seen a lot of conservatives defending it. (Actually: I haven't seen any conservatives defending it, but I must be missing something.)

But it did show up as a plot driver in a few Justified episodes, so: not all bad.

@kevinNR bemoans the A National State of Non-Emergency. (The URL suggests the original headline was something like "Republicans' Ridiculous Health Care Process Shows Everything Wrong With US Politics".) It's a historical tour of how we got to this sorry state. Basically, we can blame Joe Biden, Robert Byrd, and Ted Kennedy; it's a side effect of giving us the term "Borking". And today we have…

The recently proffered Republican health-care bill instantiates much of what is wrong with our politics: The bill was constructed through an extraordinary process in which there were no hearings, no review from the Congressional Budget Office, and no final text of the legislation until shortly before the vote. The process is erratic and covert rather than regular and transparent. It was put together in a purposeful way to avoid substantive debate and meaningful public discourse, making the most of the majority’s procedural advantages for purely political ends. The Republicans are perfectly within their legal authority to proceed that way. But that’s no way to govern. We all know this. As Rod Dreher recently put it, Republicans will have to choose whether they love the rule of law more than they hate the Left. Democrats faced the same choice, once, and they chose poorly, having set upon a course of political totalism that has seen the weaponization of everything from the IRS to the state attorneys general. Republican populists who argue that the GOP must play by the same rules in the name of “winning” have very little understanding of what already has been lost and of what we as a nation stand to lose. The United States will not thrive, economically or otherwise, in a state of permanent emergency.

Nobody seems willing to back down from the barricades.

■ Tired of all the Trump-bashing here at Pun Salad? Me too, at times. So let's cheer some good news from the Daily Signal: Trump’s Labor Secretary Targets Occupational Licensing for Elimination.

Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta took on occupational licensing reform Friday, calling for the elimination of unnecessary licenses and the streamlining of those that make sense.

Occupational licensing has to be dismantled at the state level. But having a powerful Fed on the side of the angels is an advantage.

■ Cartoonist/comic Scott Meyer is a pretty funny guy, and he shares my ironic love for the old TV show The Prisoner. Let me share this bit…

I had a boxed set of The Prisoner on DVD. It came with a documentary, made while the creator (head writer and star of the show, Patrick McGoohan) was still alive. Everyone they interviewed said he was a gentleman, that it was an honor to work with him, and that people didn’t understand the last few episodes of the show because he was misunderstood and ahead of his time.

Now I have a boxed set of The Prisoner on Blu-ray. That set came with a documentary made after Patrick McGoohan’s death. Many of the people interviewed say that he was a nightmare to work with, and that the last few episodes made no sense because he was making it up as he went, had written himself into a corner, and ended up having to turn in whatever ideas he had whether they made sense or not.

You can click over to read Scott's comic commentary on The Prisoner; if you go, and you're a fan of Star Trek, don't miss Ask Captain Pike.

Mental Floss headline: Researchers Say You’re Exercising More Than You Think.

I, for one, am Thinking more than I Exercise. Take that, Researchers!

[Also posted to Facebook and Twitter. I'm almost certainly too fond of this.]

URLs du Jour

2017-07-25

CHINESE PROVERB:  ANCIENT
WISDOM

And we now return you to our regularly scheduled programming…

Proverbs 22:6 sounds famous to me:

6 Start children off on the way they should go,
    and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

That's our default translation, the NIV. The KJV used less inclusive phrasing:

6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

I wonder if that's more faithful to the original Hebrew? It's good advice in any case.

@kevinNR is unimpressed with the White House's recent efforts to plug "Made in America" products: ‘Made in America.’ So What?

One of the great enduring stupidities of modern economic life is the belief that buying American is somehow beneficial to the United States as a whole. A related daft notion, very popular among our progressive friends horrified at the chauvinism of “Buy American” campaigns, is that buying local helps your local community and economy. This stuff has been studied and studied and studied, and the short version is that buy-American/buy-local efforts amount to approximately squat. It makes sense if you think about it: You can buy a bag of green beans from your local farmers’ cooperative and feel good about yourself, but that farmer is going to use the money to pay his bills, probably to a faraway financial company that holds his mortgage, a carmaker overseas, or a tractor-financing company abroad. He might buy his diesel from a local retailer, but that diesel very likely comes from crude oil drilled in some faraway place (from Canada to the Middle East) and refined in another faraway place. The components that went into those green beans — seeds, fertilizer, farming equipment — probably weren’t locally made. Money likes to move around.

If I restricted myself to "buy local" when it comes to pharmaceuticals, I'd probably be dead.

■ At Reason, Eric Boehm notes a different problem with the same efforts: Trump’s 'Made In America Week' Inadvertently Highlights Corporate Welfare.

A Reason review of the 50 businesses invited to Trump's "Made in America" event reveals that 21 of them have received some form of government grant, subsidy, loan guarantee, or other economic incentive since 1997, according to records aggregated by Good Jobs First, a union-funded nonprofit that opposes corporate welfare.

Running the names of the 50 businesses through the "subsidy tracker" database maintained by Good Jobs First revealed more than 870 records of individual handouts totaling more than $598 million in spending at the local, state, and federal level.

Boehm points out that President Obama was widely derided back in 2012 for his "you didn't build that" remarks. Some people foolishly thought that President Trump would have a different attitude; they should be embarrassed by his celebration of corporate welfare queens.

But they won't be.

■ Patterico praises principled people: These Three Conservatives Make Me Feel Like There Is Still Sanity in the World. Spoiler alert: Ben Shapiro, Charlie Sykes, and Jonah Goldberg. Each is extensively quoted.

Thank you, Mr. Shapiro. Thank you, Mr. Goldberg. Thank you, Mr. Sykes.

Thank you for setting an example. Thank you for reaffirming that decency is not a joke — in a culture that increasingly treats it as one.

For each of you, saying these words, and staking out these positions, is both easy and very difficult. Easy, because it’s the only way you know. You would never become one of the panderers — we all know they exist and who they are — who openly praise the worst of Trump’s immorality, and decry as “sissies” anyone who disagrees. So in a way, it’s easy for you . . . because you would never contemplate being other than who you are.

I would add a few folks to Patterico's list, but he's otherwise on target.

■ Ah, the Google LFOD alert rang for a Sunday op-ed in my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, by one Crystal Paradis: The trouble with tipping.

There are also plenty of economic detractions to tipping — the turnover rate for the hospitality industry is drastically higher than all other industries (20.7 percent in 2016) and part of this can be linked to the instability of what restauranteur Danny Meyer calls a “false economy” that doesn’t factor service into base pricing. Taking all of this into consideration, what if a restaurant owner decided to simply get rid of tips and put all employees on salary? New Hampshire law prohibits this. In the “Live free or Die” state, an employer is not allowed to make their own decisions about employee compensation, even if they’ve concluded paying salaries would save costly turnover rates and training time.

The author blurb at the end of the column approaches self-parody:

Crystal Paradis works with progressive organizations who prioritize intersectional feminist leadership, LGBTQIA+ equality and environmental protection and conservation. She promotes and practices values-centric work. She can be reached at [...].

OK. Just a guess, but I don't think that Ms. Paradis completely supports employers and employees making unregulated free-market agreements on compensation.

■ We now return to the topic of parent/child relations. It's not recent, but my attention was drawn to an advice column in (of all places) the Village Voice. Ask Andrew W.K.: My Dad Is a Right-Wing Asshole. Because I am both a dad and (some would say) a right-wing asshole. From Andrew W.K.'s reply to the RWA's son:

When we lump people into groups, quickly label them, and assume we know everything about them and their life based on a perceived world view, how they look, where they come from, etc., we are not behaving as full human beings. When we truly believe that some people are monsters, that they fundamentally are less human than we are, and that they deserve to have less than we do, we ourselves become the monsters. When we allow our emotions to be hypnotized by the excitement of petty bickering about seemingly important topics, we drift further and further away from the fragile and crucial human bond holding everything together. When we anticipate with ferocious glee the next chance we have to prove someone “wrong” and ourselves “right,” all the while disregarding the vast complexity of almost every subject — not to mention the universe as a whole — we are reducing the beauty and magic of life to a “side” or a “type,” or worst of all, an “answer.” This is the power of politics at it’s most sinister.

You know, I'm not immune to that sort of bad behavior myself. Probably even in what you've read above. My apologies, specifically, to Crystal Paradis. I'll try to do better.

A Letter to the Editor

2017-07-24

snowflakes

[A recent op-ed by Marion Blair Kelley ("Don’t call me ‘snowflake’") in my local paper spurred me to reply. I thought I'd blog it too.]

[Update: they published it.]

Marion Blair Kelley's recent column relates being called a "[bad word] snowflake" in a Portsmouth traffic circle road-rage incident, accompanied by the too-common obscene hand gestures. Fortunately, only feelings were hurt. But I agree that yelling foulmouthed insults at even awful drivers is bad.

However, consider Ms. Kelley's op-ed revenge: to belatedly insult her antagonist in front of a much wider audience. He is a "young punk" and, as her subsequent paragraphs clearly imply, almost certainly an incipient [bad word] anti-Semitic Nazi stormtrooper.

And Ms. Kelley criticizes the use of "snowflake" because it is a "conversation ender." Irony is apparently lost on her.

Her drive-by lexicography of the origins of "snowflake" is tendentious, apparently based on a few seconds of scanning through the Urban Dictionary's various definitions to cherry-pick the vilest. If only she'd spent a few more Google-seconds, she'd easily have found a more accurate history. "Snowflake" was used as a political insult as far back as the 1860s, when Missouri abolitionists threw it at pro-slavery Democrats of the day, implying they favored white people over black people. Its more recent usage is probably due to its use in Chuck Palahniuk's 1996 novel "Fight Club", and the popular movie. Today, it's most clearly a metaphor for the easily-offended, those who "melt down" easily in response to relatively mild stimuli: greeting conservative campus speakers with disruption and violent confrontation; detecting "microaggressions" in everyday conversations; finding racism in sombrero-wearing Cinco de Mayo celebrants; deducing that a short-tempered insult must be coming from a wannabe brownshirt.

And some people have made the obvious point: if "snowflakes" are people who lash out when confronted with even mild criticism, the most prominent example is the current President. Sad!


Last Modified 2017-07-25 4:10 AM EDT

Get Out

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

It's that old story: guy meets girl, girl takes guy to meet parents, parents are kind of a nightmare. But in an unusual way, so that's good.

There is a slight racial angle. The guy, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), is black; the girl, Rose (Allison Williams) is white; Mom and Dad (Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford, respectively) are also People of Pallor. And they're super rich.

But they're not bigoted. Oh no no. The servants (or are they servants) are black. And at least one of the folks invited to the house for a big party has a young black husband! But as it turns out all those black people are giving off kind of a Stepford-wife vibe. Rose's brother is seriously creepy. And poor Chris keeps getting little hints what something bad is happening. And of course it is.

It's written and directed by Jordan Peele, who actually has (it says here) a white girlfriend, and is himself the product of a black dad and white mom. So it's not as if he's generally against that sort of thing (and of course neither am I), but I'd be asking him about it.

Make Me

[Amazon Link]

Ah, another Reacher novel from Lee Child. Another relentless page-turner. (Ooops, Kindle version: make that screen-swiper.) And another literally unbelievable plot-driver: Reacher happens on yet another massive criminal conspiracy simply by getting off the train in a certain place, at a certain time.

Specifically, he's intrigued by the name of a small town: "Mother's Rest". Maybe a beloved parent passed away there? Or did a wagon train need to stop there for a few days while a new mom recovered from an unexpected delivery? Reacher resolves to find out!

Spoiler: he doesn't find out, not until the very end anyhow. What he does find is Michelle Chang, an ex-FBI agent, now private investigator, who's waiting for someone else to get off the train. Who doesn't. (And we as readers know he won't, because Chapter One describes the bad guys burying his body deep in a hog pen.)

As usual, what follows is a lot of intrigue, exceptional detective work, some violence, and the gradual unveiling of the big secret, which is truly sordid. Chang turns out to be more than a worthy sidekick. It ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. And since (I peeked) the next book in the series is a flashback, looks like I won't see it resolved for a while.

URLs du Jour

2017-07-23

Pitfall Str

■ I am a little confused by Proverbs 22:5:

5 In the paths of the wicked are snares and pitfalls,
    but those who would preserve their life stay far from them.

I call an Ambiguous Pronoun Reference foul on the Proverbialist. There are three things to which the final "them" could refer: (1) the wicked; (2) the paths taken by the wicked; (3) the snares and pitfalls on said paths. Which, specifically, are we to avoid?

My guess is "the wicked". Avoid the wicked, you automatically avoid the paths, and the snares and pitfalls thereon.

■ The good old Google LFOD Alert drew me to Ms Paula Hodges' column in the Concord Monitor. She warns: ‘Election Integrity Commission’ is just a voting rights rollback. She's not a fan:

We need to immediately work together to stop this dangerous misuse of power. Every Granite Stater should call Gov. Sununu’s office and Secretary Gardner’s office to demand they choose our interests in New Hampshire. Let’s work together to show Sununu that Granite Staters care about our voting rights and our privacy.

In the spirit of “Live Free or Die,” let’s make sure that the governor understands we won’t let this issue pass without a fight.

Ms. Hodges is NH's director for America Votes: "We lead COLLABORATIVE EFFORTS to advance PROGRESSIVE POLICIES and WIN ELECTIONS in key states…" NH being one of those keys. Their partner list (Planned Parenthood, House Majority PAC, NextGen Climate, Brady Campaign,…) leaves little doubt about who they want to win those elections.

■ The second trigger for LFOD was an unexpected source: the Brunswick [Georgia] News, which relates a tale from 1803 on the Georgia coast: Igbo landing a defiant act for freedom. A ship arrived with prospective slaves, and…

Rather than submit to an existence of bondage and forced labor at the hands of another, these products of proud warrior stock made a staggeringly poignant declaration of independence with their very lives. It happened right here in the Golden Isles, way back in May of 1803. Some 13 members of the Igbo tribe walked as one in chains into St. Simons Island’s Dunbar Creek and drowned themselves rather than accept a life of slavery.

We get the occasional chuckle out of people (like Paula Hodges, above) who invoke LFOD to support nearly every conceivable position under the sun. But this is the real deal, friends.

This striking testament to the harsh legacy of slavery is revered and preserved within the local African American community. It also is a much-cherished story among their descendants back in the Igbo homeland in present day southeastern Nigeria. But there is little in the way of a public marker here on St. Simons Island to commemorate the Igbo’s resolve to live free or die. That seems a shame. Their sacrifice embodies the distinctly American traits of independence, self determination and, when forced, strong-arm rebellion in the name of freedom. Like those 200 Texans at the Alamo in 1836, these Igbo gave their lives in a desperate last stand for that most treasured concept. Thus, they deserve an equally celebrated place in the hearts and minds of all Americans.

Indeed.

■ David Mamet relates how some literature doesn't sit well with him. Specifically: Charles Dickens Makes Me Want to Throw Up.

There I was, sitting on a bench and reading, minding my own business in Harvard Square, where I had an office for 20 years. An old professorial type came up to me. “What are you reading?” he asked. “Trollope,” I said, “he’s the greatest.” Here the man admonished me. “ George Eliot is the greatest,” he said, and walked off.

I had just been given the Received Word, and one could be certain, for the fellow had a beard. Though affronted, I gave it some thought. And I concluded that he, though entitled to his opinion, had not only placed his ex cathedra chip on the wrong square, but also on my shoulder. Sheesh.

Hope you can get through the WSJ paywall to find out why Mamet dislikes Dickens. (He likes A Tale of Two Cities, though.)

■ Mark Steyn remembers Martin Landau: Keeping His Hand In. Title is a reference to Landau's Mission: Impossible character.

There's an anecdote involving Landau's villainous role as "Leonard" in North by Northwest. The director, Alfred Hitchcock, thought it would be neat if Leonard wore better suits than Cary Grant's character. So…

[…] he sent the actor to see Grant's tailor, Quintino of Beverly Hills. A couple of weeks later, Landau arrives to shoot his payphone moment at LaSalle Street Station in Chicago, and gets there in the middle of Cary Grant's scene. So he stands in the middle of a crowd of Chicagoans who are watching all the comings and goings. He's hardly been there a few minutes when there's a tap on the shoulder, and he turns to find Grant's English valet behind him. "Only two people in the world make a suit like that," the guy says, unaware that Landau's in the film. "One's in Beverly Hills, the other's in Hong Kong. Mr Grant wants to know where you got yours."

Impressive.

URLs du Jour

2017-07-22

Humility poster

Proverbs 22:4 is pro-humility:

4 Humility is the fear of the Lord;
    its wages are riches and honor and life.

It seems like a deal: you get a lot of good stuff in return for humility.

@JonahNRO's weekly G-File is out, and it discusses Trump, Party of One, and it's largely about the True Believers in the Cult of Trump.

If you’re a cultist, the only thing that will snap you out of it is Trump himself. At some point, he will do something that will cause the worshippers — or at least most of them — to recognize he was a false god all along. It will be like that scene in The Man Who Would be King, when the girl bites Sean Connery on the cheek. When he bleeds, the faithful realize he is but a mortal.

That was a great movie. I can only hope Trump's fate is better than Daniel's.

■ Michelle Malkin notes the latest effort to stem inner-city carnage: Baltimore promotes ‘nobody kill anybody’ weekend… next month.

You think she's kidding, but she is not. She quotes the Baltimore Sun:

Organizers aim to stop the shooting from Friday, Aug. 4, through Sunday, Aug. 6, with a unified and blunt message: “Nobody kill anybody.”

Hey, they could add: "Aim to maim!"

Or: "Please arrange your murdering schedule appropriately. If you must murder that weekend, please do so outside the Baltimore city limits."

■ If you missed the link on Instapundit, do not miss it here. At Ars Technica, Cyrus Farivar recounts an epic yarn: Man ridicules Olive Garden’s demand letter over trademark dispute.

At issue is OG's demand that blogger Vincent "Vino" Malone remove "all metatags, keywords, visible or hidden texts including [Olive Garden] trademark(s) presently appearing" on his website. Among the paragraphs in his response:

I am not aware of any law against reviewing food and describing it using the name of the company from which it was procured. Some might even call it Nominative Fair Use. I have helpfully included a link to Wikipedia™, The Free Encyclopedia™, for more information on this concept, in case you are new. Just click on the blue words to access the HyperLink™, and you will be transported there in great haste.

I can only wish that Darden, OG's parent company, will bravely smile and offer Mr. Malone some apologetic OG gift cards.

■ Ed Morrissey notes a ghoulish Arizona politician, Dr. Kelli Ward: Ward To McCain: Step Down So I Can Be Appointed To Replace You.

Washington DC is a place for grand ambition, a place that no one gets without having something of a killer instinct. Usually it’s disguised a little better than in this WOWO interview with Kelli Ward, the woman who challenged John McCain in the 2016 primary, picked up here by CNN. Ward, a physician by trade, tells the Indiana station that the prospects for McCain’s health are “low,” and that he should get out of the way immediately in order to open up the seat for … Kelli Ward[.]

Dr. Kelli Ward should be kept far, far away from the levers of political power. She is ostensibly a Tea Partier, but …

■ David Henderson quotes Frank Knight on John B. Watson. Watson was a behaviorist psychologist and held the usual behaviorist contempt for "free will".

Knight is a man of wicked humor:

A man who can stand before the cream of the intelligentsia and exhort them to believe that they do not believe, but only react, to think that there is no such thing as thinking, but only muscle-twitching, that the whole idea of struggle and error is an error against which we must struggle until we see that seeing is an illusion, and illusion likewise an illusion--in short, one who repeats that "I am not saying anything, and you are not hearing anything, the gears are in mesh, nothing more," and makes them like it and pay to hear it--I say such a man should be worth at least $1,000,000 in any properly ordered civilization.

I hope I can remember to dig this out when the next "free will" discuussion breaks out.

True fact from Wikipedia:

Watson was the maternal grandfather of actress Mariette Hartley, who suffered with psychological issues she attributed to her being raised with her grandfather's theories.

I love Mariette Hartley; I last remember seeing her in a Mentalist episode where she was the "Actress Too Famous To Be In The Bit Role, So Must Be The Villain".

URLs du Jour

2017-07-21

Prudent Caution :)

Proverbs 22:3 is not so much a Proverb as it is an Observation:

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

I've noticed that myself! Unfortunately, simply telling the simple "Be prudent!" is not efficacious.

■ One continuing theme in Nancy MacLean's dishonest interview attempting to defend her work Democracy in Chains in the Chronicle of Higher Education the other day was the whine that critics "appeared not to have read the book". Well, at Reason, Brian Doherty (an actual libertarian historian) has read the book, and reported back to us on What Nancy MacLean Gets Wrong About James Buchanan.

It's a relatively long article. No surprise there.

[…] The historian has little to no evidence for her history. She invents some when necessary, and will at times just make assertions to suit her narrative, mustering neither real nor phony evidence to back them up. Many of her factual and interpretive errors have already been covered elsewhere, in venues ranging from Vox to The Washington Post. Rather than get lost in the weeds of covering every false statement or misleadingly gerrymandered quotation in this book, I want to focus here on the core claims that it gets wrong:

MacLean fundamentally misunderstands Buchanan's intellectual project, treating his theories about politics as an apologia for the wealthy and powerful. This gives short shrift to a serious body of thought, and it fails to see that his arguments can indict the wealthy as much as anyone else.

I suppose the furor over Prof Nancy's shoddy hit job will eventually die down. But it's kind of fun to watch until then.

■ What's the problem on health care? @JonahNRO knows: On Health Care, Bipartisan Dishonesty Is the Problem.

I like partisan fights when those fights are about something real. The Medicaid fight was at least about something real. But most of this nonsense is a battle of liars trying to protect past lies in the hope of being able to make new lies seem just plausible enough for the liars to keep repeating them.

The battle has for years not been about improving affordability and availability of health care—which would mean moving toward a free market—but simply claiming victory for one side, or (better) defeat for the other.

■ And how worried should you be about the future of free expression? David Harsany knows: Be Very Worried About The Future Of Free Expression.

“Ads that perpetuate gender stereotypes will be banned in UK, but not in the good ol’ USA!” reads a recent headline at the Web site Jezebel. Yay to the good ol’ USA for continuing to value the fundamental right of free expression, you might say. Or maybe not.

Why would a feminist — or anyone, for that matter — celebrate the idea of empowering bureaucrats to decide how we talk about “gender stereotypes”? Because these days, foundational values mean increasingly little to those who believe hearing something disagreeable is the worst thing that could happen to them.

Why, it almost makes me mad enough to want to perpetuate a gender stereotype. In a manly way, of course.

■ It was a banner day for my Google LFOD Alert. One revealed a bit of New Hampshire history of which I was unaware, in this Laconia Daily Sun article about our Governor and Executive Council visiting the Funspot arcade, claimed to be the largest in the world. Here's the thing about the owner, Robert Lawton:

He was elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives in the 1960s and introduced a bill that resulted in the state motto, “Live Free or Die,” appearing on vehicle license plates.

So: undying gratitude to Mr. Lawton.

■ And if you're into body art, and have some spare time this weekend, you can boogie into Manchester and attend

The 11th annual Live Free or Die Tattoo Expo will again draw plenty of colorful buzz to the Queen City.

More than 3,000 people are expected at the three-day event in Manchester, with more than 200 tattoo artists and body piercers offering their services on site.

I will not be attending, but the deets are at their website.

And—wow, this is kind of fascinating—one of the sponsors is North Conway's Samuel O'Reilly House, which bills itself as the "World's First Tattoo Bed and Breakfast".

Which implies that there's more than one, I guess?

■ Ah, but the most common occurrence of LFOD in recent news is due to You Know What.

  • Five Thirty Eight:

    New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu signed HB 640 and made New Hampshire the 22nd state to decriminalize marijuana. The “live free or die” state was slower than the likes of Mississippi and Nebraska in making this change.

  • The Washington Times:

    The Live Free or Die State has become the last in New England to decriminalize marijuana after New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu autographed a bill rolling back penalties for cannabis possession.

  • The young-adult website Vox:

    New Hampshire just took another step in ensuring its state motto — “live free or die” — is true for marijuana.

Sigh. OK, we get it. LFOD is all about pot and tats.

Although, of course, it's not not about pot and tats. Or Pats and Tots.

If you want me, I'm headed up to Funspot.

■ And finally, your tweet du jour:

URLs du Jour

2017-07-20

Ayn Rand has a posse

■ I have no quarrel with Proverbs 22:2:

2 Rich and poor have this in common:
    The Lord is the Maker of them all.

We all remember the famous zinger from the comedy duo Fitzgerald & Hemingway:

"The rich are different from you or me."

"Yes, they have more money."

And as is all too common with quotes that "everyone knows", the real story is somewhat different.

■ You may have heard: Nancy MacLean wrote a shoddy, sloppy, fundamentally dishonest (but Federally subsidized) book about Nobel Prize-winning economist James Buchanan. The refutations and revelations continue to come thick and fast, because frankly, as Steven Hayward notes, "there is literally a howler on every page." I've long since given up on linking to everything about Prof Nancy.

But this, I promise, is pricelessly illuminating: three weeks ago, Jonah Goldberg wrote on the imbroglio, and opened:

In Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid there’s that great bit about the super-posse that chases the outlaws. They’re led by a legendary law man, Joe Lefors, and an Indian Scout (Lord Baltimore), who can follow horse tracks over rock and water.

I mention this because if I were Nancy MacLean, I’d much rather have Lefors and Lord Baltimore coming after me than to have Don Boudreaux, Steve Horwitz, Jonathan Adler, Russ Roberts, and the rest of the libertarian super-posse on my ass.

Pun Salad linked to Jonah's comments at the time, quoting a different couple paragraphs.

I mention this in light of an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education: Nancy MacLean Responds to Her Critics. Specifically, this is how she characterizes Jonah's remark:

And some of the rhetoric has been quite threatening. Jonah Goldberg, senior editor of National Review, said I should worry about the "the libertarian super-posse on my ass."

Gee, Nancy. Had you asked me for advice on how to respond to criticism of your lazy and fraudulent scholarship, I would have pointed out that you should avoid dishonestly describing a colorful metaphor as "quite threatening". People will correctly conclude that you're either a habitual prevaricator, or in the throes of self-dramatizing delusion.

■ But that was the second part of her answer to the Chronicle interviewer. Here's the question, and the first part of her answer:

Do you have any evidence for your claim in that Facebook message that the attacks on your work are "coordinated"?

I’m not saying they called each other up and planned a series of critical responses to my book. What I’m saying is many of the critics come from similar backgrounds — they are libertarians who trained at or are employed by the very institutions I write about in my book.

Holy cow. She should have just said "no". It's like she's never heard of the law of holes: When you find yourself in one, stop digging.

The Facebook message in question accused "the Koch operatives" of "using Washington Post [Volokh Conspiracy] blogposts as a seemingly respectable pivot for a coordinated and interlinked set of calculated hit jobs."

Apparently, now she wants us to think that "coordinated" and "calculated" means "from people of similar backgrounds".

That's the kind of straight-shooting honesty we've come to expect from Prof Nancy.

■ When it comes to prevaricating GOP senators, Patterico is not in a forgiving (or forgetting) mood: This Means WAR: The ObamaCare Betrayal by Senators Capito and Murkowski Can Never Be Forgotten or Forgiven.

Capito and Murkowski are the most worthless type of hypocrites imaginable. They have postured as being against Obamacare, but they never really were. They voted in favor of the (partial) repeal in 2015 — and yet they claim they cannot vote for the same bill today, in 2017.

I have lost my capacity for outrage at the GOP, but Patterico hasn't.

■ At the Federalist, Ashe Schow notes the predictable response to an overdue change: As Policy Shift Looms, Left Smears Campus Due Process Advocates As Rape Apologists

A good way to tell if the Left currently believes one of their beloved policies will disappear is how viciously they write about the potential change. In this case, they’re trying to smear people who believe those accused of heinous crimes should be able to defend themselves as somehow supporting the heinous crime. That is where we are in society.

Ms. Schow names and shames.

■ Dan Mitchell takes The Libertarian Hypocrisy Test! But unfortunately…

For all intents and purposes, the test is just a series of “gotcha” questions. [The "test" author] probably hopes that libertarians will get flustered when confronted by this collection of queries.

But Dan is not flustered.

■ And finally, my Google LFOD alert was triggered by a Patch article: Sununu Signs NH Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Into Law.

“The governor deserves credit for his steadfast support of this commonsense reform,” said Matt Simon, the New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Unlike his predecessors, who opposed similar proposals, Gov. Sununu appears to understand that ‘Live Free or Die’ is more than just a motto on a license plate.”

Yes. We also put it on our highway signs.

Wonder Woman

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

I couldn't find anyone in the Salad family to go see this movie with me. Sigh. So on a sultry evening when Mrs. Salad was off at a church event, I got a second-row ticket at the Regal Cinema in Newington, and…

I should mention that I think Gal Gadot deserves an Oscar for this performance. I swear that if she looked me in the eyes and said "I am an immortal Greek goddess, brought up by Amazons on a supernaturally hidden island", I would say "Uh, OK. What can I do for you?"

Also, if Gal Gadot looked me in the eyes and said "I am the cousin of a Nigerian astronaut who was sent on a secret mission to a Soviet space station back in the 80s", I would also probably say "Uh, OK. What can I do for you?" And then we'd get into the details of my bank account numbers, etc.

Anyway: Ms. Gadot plays the mature Diana. She's always been an out-of-place rebel there on her Amazonian island. (Because she's the only kid. They're all women, duh.) One day a World War One-style biplane penetrates the island's cloaking device, and crashes offshore. She rescues the pilot, and he's Captain Kirk! And—oh oh—he's being pursued by World War One-style German troops. There's a fierce battle, but the Krauts are no match for Diana, the Amazons, and Captain Kirk. (World War One Germans aren't as bad as World War Two Germans, but it's close.)

This leaves an unstable situation on the island; Diana and Captain Kirk set off on what they perceive to be different missions. Needless to say, they're both slightly wrong about that, and what ensues is a good deal of comic-book battling. It's a lot of fun.

No Second Chance

[Amazon Link]

I've read a few Harlan Coben books in the past, but the most recent one was nearly twelve years ago. It's not that he's a terrible writer, he's pretty good. His website claims that his last ten consecutive novels all debuted at number one on the New York Times bestseller list, and who am I to doubt that? But it's like Steven King: I'm not sure I want to make that sort of commitment.

But this book, No Second Chance, was leant to me by a friend in return for me loaning her a Dennis Lehane book. (Which, ahem, hasn't been returned yet.) So I felt obligated to read it. And it's not bad, but again, nothing that tempts me to read Coben's entire oeuvre.

It opens with our protagonist, Dr. Marc Seidman, in the hospital, recovering from a near-fatal gunshot wound. That's not the only bad news: his wife was fatally shot, and their six month old baby daughter, Tara, has vanished. That's some pretty intense stuff to go through.

Marc, obviously, has one goal: find out what happened to Tara and, if possible, get her back. Soon enough, there will be a ransom demand, with the usual boilerplate demands: no cops, come alone. Fortunately, his dead wife's daddy is rich. With the assistance of his good buddy and lawyer Lenny, he … notifies the cops, the ransom is taken, but no Tara. Marc goes deeper into despair, but life moves on.

But soon enough (but not very soon), there's another ransom demand. Marc is savvy enough this time to enlist an old flame, ex-FBI agent Rachel, in an effort to outwit the bad guys. But it becomes apparent that there's more going on, something totally sordid and unexpected.

It was a page turner, but felt contrived all the way through. A colorful character is brought in unexpectedly, which is fine, but it's not difficult to notice that the character's presence and nature is extremely convenient for the plot to resolve in the way it does.

URLs du Jour

2017-07-19

Incompetence

■ We start a new Chapter of Proverbs today with Proverbs 22:1:

1 A good name is more desirable than great riches;
    to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

Fair enough.

■ Peter Suderman is one of the libertarian go-tos on health care policy. At Reason, he offers condolences: Obamacare Repeal, R.I.P.. It's a brief history of the GOP train wreck resulting from the party's solemn pledge to "repeal and replace".

And, more importantly, the party could never settle on any clear systemic goals for health policy. It wasn't like not being able to pick a design for a house. It was more like not knowing whether you want to build a house or a boat or a tractor. The most basic elements of a health care plan were always up in the air.

I don't know what will happen next. It's likely to be bad.

■ When you believe in Science, the holy forces of Peer Review will inevitably lead you to Truth, right? Well, unless your prized theory is getting shot down. Then, you call up a lawyer. At NR, Robert Bryce looks at the latest green-debunking: Climate Lawsuit Brewing?

Mark Jacobson, the Stanford engineering professor who became the darling of the green Left by repeatedly claiming the U.S. economy can run solely on renewable energy, has threatened to take legal action against the authors of an article that demolished his claims last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

That is PNAS, not "Dave's Corporate Shill Journal".

In an amusing sidenote, Jacobson warns Bryce that quoting his lawyer-invoking email "would be considered a copyright infringement.”

■ At the Atlantic, Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff make a point you think might be obvious: Why It's a Bad Idea to Tell Students Words Are Violence.

Of all the ideas percolating on college campuses these days, the most dangerous one might be that speech is sometimes violence. We’re not talking about verbal threats of violence, which are used to coerce and intimidate, and which are illegal and not protected by the First Amendment. We’re talking about speech that is deemed by members of an identity group to be critical of the group, or speech that is otherwise upsetting to members of the group. This is the kind of speech that many students today refer to as a form of violence. If Milo Yiannopoulos speaks on the University of California, Berkeley, campus, is that an act of violence?

Let's recall a local data point, from this past May: the young lady attending the University Near Here claiming that “Blackface is a direct death threat." You can't just make stuff like that up on your own. You have to be very carefully taught.

■ At Reason, Andrea O'Sullivan notes the incoherent mess that the feelgood advocates of "Net Neutrality" are advocating: Net Neutrality Supporters Should Actually Hate the Regulations They're Endorsing

If you went on the internet at all last week, you could not help but miss some of the web's most popular websites publicizing their campaigns that defend the Obama-era telecommunications regulation known as the Open Internet Order (OIO). Last Wednesday, tech heavyweights like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and even Pornhub held a "Day of Action" to support the controversial FCC rules. The websites bombarded users with blog posts encouraging folks to contact their representatives and popup messages bemoaning the future of a slow and tiered internet. But ironically, these websites' stated goals are in direct contradiction of the regulations that they ostensibly support.

Ms. O'Sullivan has a good summary of the History So Far, and how the true-believing NetNeuts went astray in hitching their blurry dreams to real-world pols.

■ My Google LFOD alert was triggered by an unlikely source, an LTE from one Frank Pagano of Jay NY, published in the upstate NY paper The Sun: We’re all in healthcare fight together. It's a stirring plea!

The U.S. has much higher infant mortality than the EU and Canada so pre- and postnatal care is crucial. “Live free or die” sounds great, but what’s the societal and economic impact of preventable illnesses and birth defects?

Mr. Pagano, probably correctly, notes that LFOD implicitly frowns on robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul schemes, even when Paul is Paulette, and you're actually paying Paulette's doctor. You're encouraged to look at the Human Progress website's take on infant mortality.

■ The news (from TechCrunch) is that Disney is opening an immersive Star Wars Hotel where each guest gets a storyline Specifically:

All of the employees (or ‘cast members’, in Disney Park lingo) will be in costume and in character.

"Hello, room service? The minibar is out of macadamia nuts."

"I am altering the contents of your minibar. Pray I don't alter it any further."


Last Modified 2017-07-19 10:43 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-07-18

It's Not a Hangover; It's Wine
Flu!

■ The windup to Proverbs 23 is a seven-verse epic on the perils of ancient Israeli wine: Proverbs 23:29-35

29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
    Who has strife? Who has complaints?
    Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes?
30 Those who linger over wine,
    who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.
31 Do not gaze at wine when it is red,
    when it sparkles in the cup,
    when it goes down smoothly!
32 In the end it bites like a snake
    and poisons like a viper.
33 Your eyes will see strange sights,
    and your mind will imagine confusing things.
34 You will be like one sleeping on the high seas,
    lying on top of the rigging.
35 “They hit me,” you will say, “but I’m not hurt!
    They beat me, but I don’t feel it!
  When will I wake up
    so I can find another drink?”

Translation note: at verse 33, King James has instead "Thine eyes shall behold strange women." That sounds kind of appealing!

But I can't help but think some ancient Israeli vintner managed to mix in some hallucinogenic 'shrooms with his product, and slipped it to the Proverbialist.

■ After a short break, @kevinNR is back with a wide-ranging essay on risk: Apartment Fires and Health Insurance. The opening is provocative:

Three people have died in a condominium fire in Honolulu. It was their fault.

The fire almost certainly would have been contained with no loss of life and minimal damage to property if the building had had a modern sprinkler system installed. It didn’t. The building did not have a sprinkler system installed because the residents, through their condominium association, had rejected a proposal to install sprinklers and had lobbied against being required to install them by the local authorities.

How should a free society think about risk management and regulation? It's a general topic that hits on a lot of specific issues, not just building codes and health care. Given the wide variability in peoples' risk tolerance, and also the proclivity toward irresponsible Pollyannism, it's a very thorny problem, and Kevin does a fine job of covering the issues involved.

■ Perhaps you're a liberal who thinks that protecting the Medicaid status quo will save patients. If so, Shikha Dalmia, has some news for you: Sorry, Liberals: Protecting the Medicaid Status Quo Won't Save Patients.

Medicaid provides health care to 75 million Americans. It's also a hideously expensive program that is at the center of the raging health-care debate in Washington. Republicans want to scale back the program, and Democrats warn that doing so will cause nothing short of mass death.

But that is not a credible—or responsible—claim.

The time interval between any given Democrat (a) pontificating against GOP "fear-mongering" and (b) claiming that GOP legislation will cause mass death grows ever shorter.

■ At the Federalist, Robert Tracinski notes The Hypocritical Dishonesty Of The Net Neutrality Campaign. He is triggered by Mozilla's ginning up its Firefox browser to echo the claim of "Concerned Internet Citizen, Malcom IA" that "without Net Neutrality big companies could censor people and perspectives online." Tracinski notes some … well, let's be charitable and call it "irony".

Mozilla is the company that, all the way back in the misty past of 2014, fired its co-founder and CEO Brendan Eich when it was revealed that he had made a small donation to a campaign to put gay marriage on the ballot in California. So he was hounded out of his job because “love wins,” or something. But by all means, Mozilla is now very concerned that corporations might try to dictate what people can think.

As Tracinski notes, a major portion of the Net Neutrality debate is not about deep principles of liberty and fairness; it's about money. Who's gonna pay for all the network infrastructure necessary for everyone, even in Malcom IA, to be able to watch glitch-free porn? Companies like Mozilla, Google, Amazon, etc. want the government, in the form of the FCC, to make sure the answer is: not them.

■ My Google LFOD alert was triggered by an article from Luke Poteat at a website called The Conservative Nut: Libertarian Party Gaining Ground as Primary Parties Lose Support.

The state of New Hampshire has become in a sense the epicenter of Libertarian activity, its state motto of “live free or die” clearly aligning with the party’s principles. The past year has seen three state representatives switching to the party, two coming from the Republicans and one from the Democrats. In a statement regarding why he chose to change, Rep. Brandon Phinney shared that he felt the Republican Party was pressuring him to push certain ideas that didn't align with his own principles. Rep. Joseph Stallcop, the Democratic convert, said that the primary parties’ goal is simply to expand government and their own agendas, ignoring the protection of the people’s rights. The Libertarian Party of New Hampshire is now gaining ground in passing legislation that aligns with their values too, hoping to soon create laws that legalize recreational marijuana and outlaw the death penalty.

Well, that's optimistic. Still, some mainstream NH pols are getting antsy about the Libertarian Menace in our state. I belatedly link to Derrick J. Freeman's longish article at Free Keene: Free State Project EXPOSED! | How Libertarians Took Over New Hampshire

On May 24 2017 I attended, “Exposing the Free State Project,” 90 minutes of slander and lies by Zandra Rice Hawkins. Hawkins is a propagandist with Granite State Progress, a political arm of the New Hampshire Democrats. She apparently missed her calling as a preacher of the fire and brimstone variety, given the fear, mistrust, and terror she attempted to sow throughout the crowd. In the end, attendees seemed rightfully doubtful of Hawkins’ spurious claims that Free Staters are wolves in sheep’s clothing, secretly plotting to dismantle every beloved societal institution they can. Instead, Free Staters were seen as open, willing to engage others on the issues that matter most to them, and find common ground where possible to make a better life for everyone.

So there.

■ A few years back, I noticed that Pun Salad was getting a lot of hits via people searching for "Jane Austen Puns". Which resulted in this article. We're no longer the first site that pops up for that search, but we're still pretty well up there.

So there's always been a soft spot for Jane here at Pun Salad. And she managed to work herself even deeper in my affection when I read this Mental Floss article: Jane Austen, Home Brewer.

When she wasn’t penning beloved novels, Jane Austen brewed her own beer. And she wasn’t the only Regency-era woman to try her hand at craft brewing, either. In fact, brewing beer was part of women’s lives for centuries, long before beer was branded as a beverage for dudes.

The article contains a recipe for spruce beer. I will probably stick with Sam Adams.

Baby Driver

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

Like all thinking individuals, I have made a point to see all and any movies with titles taken from 47-year-old Simon and Garfunkel songs. Next up is Bridge over Troubled Water, a based-on-actual-events story of the 1940 Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse, starring Denzel Washington as a crusty civil engineer whose warnings go unheeded, and Kirsten Dunst as "Lady in Car".

No, just kidding. Heh. Although I would go see that movie.

The IMDB raters currently have Baby Driver as #146 of the Top 250 Movies of all time. And I'm like: please. It's neat, yes. But better than Fargo? The Big Lebowski? Or… again, please.

"Baby", played by young actor Ansel Elgort, is a troubled young man who has been roped into the job of "getaway driver" by criminal mastermind "Doc" (Kevin Spacey). His goal, of course, is to do One Last Job, and then he's off. Reinforcing that desire is his meeting of lovely young Debora (Lily James), who's amenable to them driving off into the sunset, but she's blissfully unaware of the nature of his day job.

Also complicating things are the violence-prone members of Doc's heist teams, always threatening to shoot, maim, or otherwise obliterate anyone standing in their way, or people who might get in their way. Also, criminals double-cross each other a lot. Everyone knows that.

The "relatively innocent getaway driver" genre isn't exactly fresh, but writer/director Edgar Wright manages to make it a lot of fun to watch. He's very good at choreographing on-screen action and visual gags with the movie soundtrack. Especially pay attention during the opening scenes.

I knew I'd seen Lily James before, but could not think of where. As it turned out, 'twas in a totally different context: she was Lady Rose in Downton Abbey. She makes a seamless transition to Diner Waitress.

Weaponized Lies

How to Think Critically in the Post-Truth Era

[Amazon Link]

I had my doubts about spending an Interlibrary Loan request on this book. With a title/subtitle combination like that, there was a possibility that it would be a partisan screed, perhaps the same old anti-Trump boilerplate, something on which I've already overdosed. (Not that the anti-Trump boilermakers aren't correct—he does indulge in fantastical untruths. It's just that—yeah, I got that already.)

But it turned out to be not that political. And I wasted my ILL pick for a different reason: it's overlong, repetitive, poorly organized, and unfocused. I'm sure the author, Daniel J. Levitin, is a nice guy, but this book is not good.

Underneath the attention-grabbing title (a previous edition had the more pedestrian title, A Field Guide to Lies), what the book tries to be is an introduction to the basic tools of critical thinking: how to recognize when you're being bamboozled, either intentionally or unintentionally. Or, perhaps more important: how not to bamboozle yourself. Those are worthy goals, and Levitin does uncover a number of useful tactics. In that, it's like an updated version of Darrell Huff's 1954 classic (and still in print) How to Lie With Statistics. Except there's stuff in here about how to lie without statistics as well.

I'm not sure about the audience Levitin intended for this book. I would think that about 95% of the material could be comprehended by high-schoolers with a little math background. He gets into Bayesian probability here and there, and that's a little more advanced. Anyway, I found myself confronted with page after page of The Obvious.

The book occasionally meanders into seemingly stream-of-consciousness irrelevancies. One detour was a little irritating: on page 93, Levitin goes off on IQ testing. "It is used to assess people's intelligence, as if intelligence was a single quantity, which it is not—it manifests itself in different forms, such as spatial intelligence, artistic intelligence, mathematical intelligence, and so forth. And IQ tests are known to be biased toward middle-class white people."

Levitin's claims are at best controversial, and shouldn't be presented as bare fact, especially in a text concerned with distinguishing fact from non-fact. The assertion about the "middle-class white" bias would come as news to anyone who knows that East Asians outscore whites on average IQ.


Last Modified 2017-09-21 7:55 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-07-17

The Wayward Wife - La
provinciale

■ The Proverbialist ventures into PG-13 territory with the father-son advice in Proverbs 23:26-28

26 My son, give me your heart
    and let your eyes delight in my ways,
27 for an adulterous woman is a deep pit,
    and a wayward wife is a narrow well.
28 Like a bandit she lies in wait
    and multiplies the unfaithful among men.

This is the NIV translation. In contrast, jolly old King James did not euphemize; the "adulterous woman" was simply a "whore".

I can't help but wonder if Marco Rubio is going to make this one of his tweeted Proverbs. Yesterday's was … pretty tame:

C'mon, Senator. Let's get to the Proverbs about hookers and wayward women!

■ P. J. O'Rourke writes in the new issue of American Consequences on cryptocurrency: A Blockhead Confronts the Blockchain

Government treats your money like a stalker treats posting things on your Facebook page. A couple of clicks of a Federal Reserve keyboard, and there's another creepy rant. The original rant didn't have much value, and subsequent rantings are increasingly worthless and worrying. But "unfriending" the government is hard.

American Consequences seems to be based on a convoluted scheme to get you to view their ads: the "magazine" is an online PDF page-turner. I wish them luck with that.

■ There's a lot of insight in this short post from Arnold Kling: John Goodman on health legislation prospects. Here's a bit:

This is a $3 trillion industry and basically all the special interests want to keep the basic structure of Obamacare. Each wants to get rid of its own Obamacare tax. But they want to keep the taxes on everyone else. That’s the main reason why the Obamacare revenues will stay in the system and there will be almost no federal health reform.

No fooling. It seems there's a daily sob-story in our local paper about people dying in the streets if the GOP legislation is passed. Not surprising that the people to whom the money flows want it to keep flowing.

■ Patterico also has an accurate point on Rand Paul, ObamaCare, and the “Don’t Let the Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good” Argument.

It has become accepted wisdom in Washington that the most we can do about ObamaCare is tinker with it around the edges. Make marginal improvements. Don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good, we are told.

One man, and one man alone, has consistently made a strong and public case insisting that Republicans keep their promise to repeal ObamaCare. That man is Rand Paul.

I think he deserves some praise and support, for being (as far as I can tell) the only Republican vocally demanding that the GOP do what it promised to do.

As Patterico says, it's a lonely position to hold, and Senator Paul deserves credit.

■ Or, as Mr. Ramirez draws:

Walking Dead


Last Modified 2017-07-17 5:57 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-07-16

contradictions

■ It's a four-verse extravaganza in Proverbs 23:22-25

22 Listen to your father, who gave you life,
    and do not despise your mother when she is old.
23 Buy the truth and do not sell it—
    wisdom, instruction and insight as well.
24 The father of a righteous child has great joy;
    a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him.
25 May your father and mother rejoice;
    may she who gave you birth be joyful!

OK, honor your father and mother, and all that. But that advice in the middle: "Buy the truth and do not sell it." That's a head-scratcher. Because if everyone followed that advice…

Reminds me of that Catch-22 quote (movie version): "Suppose everyone thought the same way you do." "Then I'd be a damn fool to think any different."

■ We like people that make things as simple as possible for us. And at NR, Matthew Continetti, is one of those people: The One Sentence That Explains Washington Dysfunction.

The other day Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania explained why Republicans are having such trouble with health care. Speaking at a town hall during the July 4 recess, Toomey said, “I didn’t expect Donald Trump to win. I think most of my colleagues didn’t. So we didn’t expect to be in this situation.”

Continetti has the same reaction I have: "No kidding."

This not only explains why Congress is fumbling; it also explains why Trump is way behind on staffing executive agencies. He won't hire anyone who criticized him during the campaign, and that's a lot of people.

■ Released to a stunning lack of fanfare was the annual report from the Social Security Board of Trustees. Viking Pundit, however, is still paying attention, and reports the bottom line: Social Security still not fixed. Quoting the report:

The year when the combined trust fund reserves are projected to become depleted, if Congress does not act before then, is 2034 – the same as projected last year. At that time, there will be sufficient income coming in to pay 77 percent of scheduled benefits.

Doing the math, let's see, in 2034 I'll be… well, I'll be real old. Probably beyond caring. Eh.

■ We've slagged Neil deGrasse Tyson a couple times in the past, at times lumping him in with Bill Nye the Science Guy. That's really unfair, because Neil's an actual scientist, with a PhD in astrophysics. And he's willing to buck the Progressive crowd on at least one issue. As Baylen Linnekin notes in his interview with one of the makers of the new pro-GMO food documentary Food Evolution:

[Linnekin]: How do you describe Food Evolution? Is it a pro-GMO film?

[Producer Scott Hamilton Kennedy]: Excellent question. Yeah. I go to Neil deGrasse Tyson for this answer. He gets cornered sometimes asking if he's still pro-GMO. And he says "I'm not pro-GMO. I'm pro-science." And the science currently says that all GMOs on the market are safe for ourselves and safe for the environment. The rest can be taken on a case-by-case basis.

And we might as well … sigh … be fair to Bill Nye, too. He's been on the science side of this issue, at least for a while.

■ Mark Steyn marks the twentieth anniversary of the movie Air Force One. Which was made back when it was cool to join with the Russkies to put down terrorists. (Come to think of it, I wonder if the movie occupies like 90% of President Trump's brain: what would Harrison Ford do if this was a movie?).

Anyway, Mr. Steyn observes:

In Air Force One, President Harrison Ford starts by giving a speech in Moscow: "Never again will I allow our national self-interest to deter us from doing what is morally right." This line manages to be both patently absurd and unnervingly plausible: Indeed, it's all too easy to imagine Barack Obama intoning it at the UN shortly before idly standing by while ISIS beheads the entire population of Mosul, or North Korea accidentally nukes Slovenia. It sits a little more awkwardly in the mouth of Harrison Ford - and happily, by the time it's over, he's shot dead several terrorists; cunningly spoken fluent Russian to them; taught himself to fly the presidential jet and dodge MiG fighters; hung off the edge of the plane's open parachute bay, clinging on by his fingernails; hung off the edge of the parachute bay a second time, with the added complication of being locked in mortal combat with a Kazakh terrorist leader while snarling through clenched teeth, "Get. Off. My. Plane." Scoff if you must, but that line has lingered with me sufficiently that every time I see Air Force One - as in Paris a couple of days ago - it springs unbidden to my lips.

It's not quite up to par with The Fugitive, but it's up there close. Very, very close.

Which also got me thinking about Xander Berkeley. Has he ever played a good guy, save for the first two seasons of 24? (And even then, he wasn't a totally good guy until the end.)

URLs du Jour

2017-07-15

Charging Bull - New York City

■ Fatherly advice from Proverbs 23:19-21:

19 Listen, my son, and be wise,
    and set your heart on the right path:
20 Do not join those who drink too much wine
    or gorge themselves on meat,
21 for drunkards and gluttons become poor,
    and drowsiness clothes them in rags.

Again, some more enlightened translations fudge "my son" into "my child" to avoid the ancient Israeli sexism.

@JonahNRO's syndicated column this week considers ‘The Ugly Environmentalist’.

One of the hallmarks of the “Ugly American” is the habit of thinking foreigners will understand what you’re saying if just shout it louder and louder.

The Ugly Environmentalist does something similar. He exaggerates the challenge of global warming by using ever more hysterical rhetoric, thinking that if the last doomsday prediction didn’t work, this one will.

If you have politically active Progressive friends on Facebook … sigh … you'll know what Jonah is talking about.

■ Should I be reluctant to do two @JonahNRO links in a row? Nah, what the hell. His "respectable" syndicated column is balanced nicely with this week's after-a-few-drinks style G-File: The Benefit of the Doubt Is Gone. Three guesses about the subject.

Why on God’s good Earth would you defend any of this? Since I’ve been having this ridiculous argument all week, let me skip ahead. Yes, “Crooked Hillary,” Ted Kennedy, and a host of other liberals did bad things. Whether those bad things were analogous to this is highly debatable. But let’s just concede the point for argument’s sake. Let’s also accept the president’s grotesquely cynical and false claim that pretty much anyone in politics would have done the same thing and taken the meeting. (I for one am perfectly happy to concede that Sidney Blumenthal would happily have done equally sleazy things for his Queen-master. But I have every confidence that if some shady Russian cutouts approached, say, James Baker with a similar scheme to “incriminate” Michael Dukakis, he would become a helicopter of fists.)

But here’s the thing: Who gives a dirty rat’s ass? If you spent years — like I did, by the way — insisting that the Clintons were a corrupt affront to political decency, invoking their venal actions as a moral justification for Team Trump’s actions is the rhetorical equivalent of a remake of Waterworld set entirely in the main vat of a sewage-treatment plant, i.e., the intellectual Mother of Sh*t Shows. This is a point Ben Shapiro made well earlier this week (and which I’ve been writing about for two years now). If you want to make the case that Democrats or the media are hypocrites, whataboutism is perfectly valid (and quite fun). But if you want to say that it’s fine for Trump to do things you considered legally and morally outrageous when Hillary Clinton did them, you should either concede that you believe two wrongs make a right or you should apologize for being angry about what Clinton did. And you should be prepared to have no right to complain when the next Democrat gets into power and does the same thing.

The comments are a depressing litany of insults from Trumpkins. ("The whole NR crowd wishes so much that Hillary had won." Sure they do.)

■ New material from Deirdre Nansen McCloskey is always welcome: Manifesto for a New American Liberalism. Twenty-five PDF pages, full of insight. And I liked this David Boaz quote specially:

In a sense, there have always been but two political philosophies: liberty and power.

As Arnold Kling notes: "Ah, yes, the liberty-coercion axis." That resonates with me.

■ Just when you thought it was safe to write off Snopes as just another lefty-apologist "debunking" site, it comes up with The Lies of Donald Trump’s Critics, and How They Shape His Many Personas. His critics "know" that Trump can be fit into the pigeonholed "personas":

  • Donald Trump: International Embarrassment
  • Trump the Tyrant
  • Donald Trump: Bully baby
  • Trump the Buffoon.

… and once you've got the pigeonholes, you can hammer just about anything into them, using:

  • Alarmism
  • A lack of historical context or awareness
  • Cherry-picking of evidence (especially visual evidence)
  • A failure to adhere to Occam’s Razor — the common-sense understanding that the simplest explanation for an event or behavior is the most likely.

Snopes has numerous examples of many combinations of the above. Both the Trumpkin Tribe and the victims of Trump Derangement Syndrome are sad cases. May you, and I, join neither.


Last Modified 2017-07-17 8:49 AM EDT

Florence Foster Jenkins

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

While watching Florence Foster Jenkins, I found myself wondering, of all things: in what genre does IMDB classify this? As it turns out: "Biography, Comedy, Drama". I suppose that's fair enough.

It's based on actual people, as they existed in 1944 New York City. Sometimes, after watching "real people" movies, I'll dig up one of those articles that describe how much artistic license is taken in putting a good story on the screen. I felt no desire whatsoever to do that in this case, because I really would rather think things happened just like this.

The titular Florence is played by Meryl Streep; she's an heiress, devoted to promoting musical performances in NYC during WW2. She's married to charming and debonair St Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant). And her dream is to transcend her moneybag role and actually give a vocal performance in Carnegie Hall.

Problem is, she is a very bad singer. It's not that she has no talent; in fact, she's extremely talented at singing badly. You, or I, or 99 out of a hundred people picked off the street could do better. But she's blissfully unaware of this. So she arranges for lessons and a dedicated accompanist (Cosmé McMoon, played by Howard Wolowitz himself, Simon Helberg), and aims herself relentlessly at her goal.

To the movie's credit, this is not simply a laff riot. Florence may be deluded about her talent, but there are other things going on with her, and they come out gradually. Her relationship with her husband is, um, unconventional, and that complexity is tastefully revealed too.

Simon Helberg is a pleasant surprise, especially if you've only seen him on The Big Bang Theory. He's a pretty good actor! (Although I kind of knew it, because I was impressed with his small role in A Serious Man.) He's also a decent piano player; he and Ms. Streep performed all the music here.

Sign of the Unicorn

[Amazon Link]

Number three in Roger Zelazny's Amber series, and things are getting complicated. Avoid reading further if you haven't read one and two.

Series protagonist Prince Corwin has taken over in Amber, and a saner person would realize that maybe he should have just kicked back and enjoyed a long and healthy life on Shadow Earth (where you and I live) instead. One of those nasty only-sorta-human beasts from the first book has invaded Amber and offed one of Corwin's brothers—fortunately, he has a number of others—and maybe tried to frame Corwin for the deed. It appears that Amber is slated for destruction by forces unknown, and some of the Amberites might be, intentionally or unintentionally, in on that scheme. Key players are missing. Nobody trusts anyone else.

So what we have in this book is a detective story, as Corwin works with his brothers and sisters to unwind the mysteries presented in the first two books. Can a missing brother be retrieved? (Yes, but that rescue is almost thwarted by violent treachery.) Will Corwin himself be in danger? (You bet, and his escape is narrow, and to an unexpected place.)

Do I understand what's going on? Not really. Fantasy is not really my thing, and it is very easy to get lost in the intricacies of familial double- and triple-crossing even in the absence of magical complications. Still, it's a page turner.

URLs du Jour

2017-07-14

EAR OIL

Proverbs 23:17-18 has a rebuttal to Leo Durocher's famous quote (but something he only kinda said), "Nice guys finish last".

17 Do not let your heart envy sinners,
    but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord.
18 There is surely a future hope for you,
    and your hope will not be cut off.

Take that, Leo. The Lord is not on your side. I hope He had a chance to point this out to you Himself.

■ A Harvard faculty committee recently recommended that all "exclusive social clubs" for Harvard students be shut down. At the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), Harvard Prof Steven Pinker explains why that's a terrible idea. RTWT, of course, but here's one of his main points:

A university is an institution with circumscribed responsibilities which engages in a contract with its students. Its main responsibility is to provide them with an education. It is not an arbiter over their lives, 24/7. What they do on their own time is none of the university’s business.

Would it be too much to hope that administrators at our nation's institutions of higher education print that up and put it on a wall?

I know: yes, it's way too much to hope for.

■ David French has good advice for the media. Specifically, Media Beware: The Southern Poverty Law Center Has Become a Dangerous Joke.

I have a confession to make: I’m a hater lurking at a convention of haters. Our thoughtcrimes are clear and inexcusable. I’m at a meeting of Christians who believe the Bible is true, who believe that mankind is fallen and in need of a Savior, and who believe that we should live according to certain moral rules — including rules that govern sexual conduct. We believe that we should have the basic liberty to live according to that faith, and we also believe that other human beings should be able to live according to the different dictates of their consciences, so long as we all respect each other’s fundamental rights. To make matters even worse, I used to work for this hate group. I was a senior counsel, supervising a whole platoon of hateful litigators.

The "hate group" is the Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization that fights legal battles on behalf of religious liberty, and that despicable label was applied to them by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). As French outlines, ABC and NBC uncritically stuck that label onto stories passed on to their (dwindling) viewers. And, in a time of deranged violence-prone leftists, that's irresponsible and dangerous.

As Mollie Hemingway points out at the Federalist:

And they’re not a fringe group either. They just weeks ago won their most recent Supreme Court victory — Trinity Lutheran v. Comer — 7-2. It was their fifth Supreme Court victory in seven years, during which time they’ve had no losses at the high court.

Maybe the SPLC will start labelling the Constitution as a "hate document"? That doesn't sound too farfetched.

I would only demur with the verb tense in French's headline. The SPLC has not just "become" a dangerous joke. Way back in 2010, UNH invited SPLC honcho Morris Dees to its upcoming Martin Luther King Day fiesta, and Pun Salad pointed out that Dees and the SPLC were in the business of "scarifying nonsense". They haven't improved since.

■ And finally, Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute presents the latest version of A Plan to Cut Federal Government Spending

Federal government spending is rising, deficits are chronic, and accumulated debt is reaching dangerous levels. Growing spending and debt are undermining economic growth and may push the nation into a financial crisis in coming years.

The solution to these problems is to downsize every federal department by cutting the most harmful programs. This study proposes specific cuts that would reduce federal spending by almost one-quarter and balance the budget in less than a decade.

The plan is full of excellent ideas, and I didn't see one that had a hope in hell of being enacted. But Edwards and Cato deserve our thanks anyway.

URLs du Jour

2017-07-13

Wisdom

■ Some of the Proverbs are weird products of a bygone age, but Proverbs 23:15-16 gets it timelessly right:

15 My son, if your heart is wise,
    then my heart will be glad indeed;
16 my inmost being will rejoice
    when your lips speak what is right.

It would be nice if they threw in the daughters there too, but what are you gonna do?

Well, you fudge the translation, and change "son" to "child". See, for example, the New Revised Standard Version.

And I can imagine President Trump reading Proverbs 23:15-16, looking at Donald Jr., and heaving a deep sigh. "Oh, well."

■ Considering the Jr. Imbroglio, Dan McLaughlin makes a lot of sense at NRO: It’s Not Treason, but It’s Not Defensible, Either.

One of the rules you should try to follow, if you talk or write about politics, is to apply the same basic standards and rules for longer than just whatever gets you through the current news cycle. That’s true of what you think is right and wrong and scandalous, and it’s doubly true of what’s legal and illegal. The rule of law exists so that we know what rules apply to our friends and political foes alike. When it comes to yesterday’s big bombshell story, too many Trump defenders are forgetting to apply that to the question of what’s right and wrong, and too many Trump critics are forgetting to apply it to the law by throwing around words like “treason.”

Given how rare that attitude is, we should give thanks that people like McLaughlin exist, no matter how lonely their voices.

■ At the Federalist, David Harsanyi is tired of a certain argument. Specifically, he explains Why The ‘Whataboutism’ Charge Is Dishonest. His conclusion:

At the end of the day, it’s best to take consistent positions always support strengthening the separation of power. If you were cheering on the last president as these standards were being corroded, your laments about abuse of power can’t be taken very seriously. In fact, it’s legitimate to point out that you’re part of the problem. Either working with a foreign agent is treason or it isn’t. Coddling up to Russian authoritarians (or Iranian Islamists) is gross, or it’s not. Ruling by fiat is how we do things when the opposing party is engaged in “obstruction,” or it isn’t. We can’t keep changing the rules every time it’s convenient for Democrats, then cry whataboutism when someone points it out.

An interesting take on "whataboutism" is this entry at the Rational Wiki. The wiki-author insists on a more narrow meaning that what we're seeing today; in order to be considered "whataboutism", the "what about" issue really should be an irrelevant "red herring". Instead, we are seeing a storm of more general tu quoque.

Perhaps the term has shifted in meaning—that happens—or maybe people are just being sloppy, or maybe they just don't like using Latin.

■ At Reason, Carrie Lukas notes Libertarians' Lost Voice in the Paid Leave Debate.

Policy leaders are pressing the government to ensure workers have paid time off. Whether government has any businesses dictating what benefits must be included in the employment packages of Americans is rarely considered. The libertarian perspective is all but entirely absent in the discussion. That needs to change.

Our federal government has limited responsibilities, and micromanaging leave practices isn't one of them. Even the best-intentioned policies have unintended consequences that backfire on those they are supposed to help. We need to call out policymakers who use the excuse of a safety net to justify any new rules and regulations that needlessly restrict options for all Americans.

One of the sorriest trends of recent years is that the headline "Libertarians' Lost Voice in the X Debate" can be applied to almost any issue X.

Wired's Adam Rogers says, gee whiz, it Looks Like Google Bought Favorable Research to Lobby with.

Officially, the online search giant Google’s mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” According to two new reports—one from The Wall Street Journal and one from the nonprofit, nonpartisan Campaign for Accountability’s Google Transparency Project, the company doesn’t just organize. When Google wishes it had information that’d maybe help further its policy and regulatory goals, it just pays academics under the table to gin it up.

That’s pretty evil, y’all.

I don't see big corporations as either saintly or the epitome of capitalistic evil, but given Google's strident politicking on behalf of "net neutrality", I'm willing to assume that it has bought and paid for every last academic in that advocacy corner.

Well, probably not. But still, it's worth taking with the same skepticism that other funded research receives.

■ My Google LFOD alert was triggered by a slow news day for Portland ME's channel 6 news: Patriots support is rock solid in Granite State.

It should come as no surprise that the team with a motto of "Do your job" finds plenty of support in the state with a motto of "Live free or die."

<sarcasm>Yes, deep down, those mottos express exactly the same mindset!</sarcasm>

The occasion: the Pats' Vince Lombardi trophy is on tour, and visited Dover NH's Henry Law Park this previous Monday.

And (by the way) the dateline on the story is "Dover, Maine". Only off by a few hundred miles; thanks, professional news organization!

■ I suppose you're wondering if the Kelly Miller Circus animal caretakers are hiding anything? Well, you can find out in this NH1 news story: Kelly Miller Circus animal caretakers take on activists: 'We're not hiding anything'. Circus General Manager, Tavana Brown, is quoted on the animal rights protesters besetting her business, and I bet you can see this coming:

“We’re in New Hampshire. Live Free or Die, right? You have a right to protest, you have a right to your opinion, but you don’t have a right to be disruptive or use profanity.”

Well, that's at least half bullshit. Or maybe elephant.

■ And finally, good news from Julie Kelly at NRO: The Organic Industry Is in Turmoil. Wha?

Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, the grocer that brought pricey organic food to the masses, comes during a time of turmoil in the organic industry: The Department of Agriculture is continuing to investigate the importation of millions of pounds of phony organic grains. The move is in response to a lengthy Washington Post exposé published in May that tracked shipments of corn and soybeans from Turkey, Romania, and Ukraine that were labeled “organic” but were not (I wrote about it here).

There's a whole host of things to Shake Your Head about here: (1) the base story of fraudulent organic grain from overseas; (2) the idea that consumers are willing to pay a pricey surtax for the "organic" label that probably means nothing (specifically, in this case, but also generally); and (3) your Federal Government is involved in "regulating" this phony food fad; and (4) doing a lousy job at it.

URLs du Jour

2017-07-12

cylon

Proverbs 23:13-14 contains advice not currently fashionable:

13 Do not withhold discipline from a child;
    if you punish them with the rod, they will not die.
14 Punish them with the rod
    and save them from death.

The usual phrasing "Spare the rod, spoil the child." doesn't appear in the Bible, but this is pretty close.

■ At Reason, Deirdre Nansen McCloskey exposes The Myth of Technological Unemployment. It begins:

As a savvy reader, you already know that technological change is why the jobs in manufacturing are drifting away from Youngstown, Ohio. You know that most of the drift goes to other American cities, such as Houston or Chattanooga. You know that Appalachian jobs in coal mining are not coming back, because new techniques have permanently cheapened natural gas. You know that the Trump administration's scapegoat, foreign competition, bears little responsibility for any of this. And when foreign encroachment does happen, you know it's good, not bad, for most Americans.

… and it just gets better, debunking-wise, from there. I'd quote the whole thing, but that's overkill. Highly recommended.

■ Speaking of debunking, I've slacked off on blogging various refutations and criticisms of Professor Nancy MacLean's Democracy in Chains, the taxpayer-subsidized hit-job book on James Buchanan (specifically) and libertarians (generally), because they just keep coming, and the underlying point is always the same: her book is tendentiously dishonest and sloppy.

But Professor Nancy is the gift that keeps giving. At the WaPo-hosted Volokh Conspiracy, David Bernstein reports on Nancy MacLean’s conspiratorial response to criticism of ‘Democracy in Chains’

Nancy MacLean, author of “Democracy in Chains,” has not responded to substantive criticisms of her book. What she has done, however, is circulate a fanciful and potentially libelous post accusing Jonathan Adler and me of being at the center of a Koch-backed conspiracy to discredit her book. She refers to “Koch operatives and the riders of their academic ‘gravy train’ ” and writes, “It appears they are using Washington Post blogposts as a seemingly respectable pivot for a coordinated and interlinked set of calculated hit jobs.”

I sometimes wonder if "Koch Operative" is a position one could apply for. I hear it's highly paid! Or at least that's what's implied by my lefty friends … and now Nancy MacLean. Where do I send my résumé?

Um, seriously. Bernstein debunks MacLean's paranoid ravings. They are an eminently predictable outburst from an mediocre academic whose work has been shown to be slipshod and borderline fraudulent.

■ I'm a sucker for state rankings, and the Mercatus Center is Ranking the States by Fiscal Condition. Yay!

The financial health of each state can be analyzed through the states’ own audited financial reports. By looking at states’ basic financial statistics on revenues, expenditures, cash, assets, liabilities, and debt, states may be ranked according to how easily they will be able to cover short-term and long-term bills, including pension obligations.

Zzzzz… Oh, sorry. Spoiler: New Hampshire is … smack dab in the middle, 25th place. Which isn't great, but it's a relatively sober island in otherwise fiscally-drunk New England. Maine is #35, Connecticut #37, Rhode Island #38, Vermont #40, and Massachusetts is not-quite-last at #48. This is based on 2015 data; I bet that Connecticut is currently in worse shape than that.

■ My Google LFOD alert was triggered by a New Hampshire Public Radio interview with our affable governor: On Energy, Election Commission, & Education, Sununu Casts Himself As More Pragmatist Than Politician.

I don't have a lot of patience with pragmatists—and is there a less pragmatic state motto than "Live Free or Die"?—but here he is on the Kris Kobach-helmed Election Integrity Commission's request for voter data:

In a way we’re giving the federal government access to information they already have access to. In other states, it might be different – they might collect birth dates or social security numbers or things like that. But that’s not part of the public database here. We’re unique here because we keep our information so limited, because we have that live free or die spirit here, if you will, and I think we respect the integrity of people’s personal and private information.

Not that it matters, but I liked Chris's brother, John E., a lot. For a Republican politician, that is.

■ Olivia Goldhill of Quartz Media asks the musical question: Why are so many smart people such idiots about philosophy? And the recent example of idiocy is:

There’s no doubt that Bill Nye “the Science Guy” is extremely intelligent. But it seems that, when it comes to philosophy, he’s completely in the dark. The beloved American science educator and TV personality posted a video last week where he responded to a question from a philosophy undergrad about whether philosophy is a “meaningless topic.”

The video, which made the entire US philosophy community collectively choke on its morning espresso, is hard to watch, because most of Nye’s statements are wrong. Not just kinda wrong, but deeply, ludicrously wrong. He merges together questions of consciousness and reality as though they’re one and the same topic, and completely misconstrues Descartes’ argument “I think, therefore I am”—to mention just two of many examples.

Well, darn. <sarcasm>And I had previously thought that Bill Nye was a bona fide genius in any and all areas he chose to comment upon!</sarcasm>

But seriously, folks: the news here is not that Bill Nye is unqualified to offer 'expert' insight on matters philosophical. It's that he's also unqualified to offer 'expert' insight on anything else.

Ms. Goldhill also indicts Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Stephen Hawking for their philosophical babbles. She doesn't mention Richard Feynman, but she could have.

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

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

The Salad family has fond memories of the animated version. It came out in 1991 when the kiddos were just old enough to enjoy it. I think we still have the VHS tape rattling around in a closet somewhere (although the VCR needed to play it is long gone). It was the second flick in Disney Animation's resurgence, after The Little Mermaid. And now, since CGI can do magic a quarter-century later, they brought out this live-action version. Cool! Although the kids have moved out…

The story's still the same, a heavily embellished version of the original fairy tale: an ill-behaved prince treats an importuning crone uncivilly; as a result, he's turned into a … well, you know what. A number of his innocent servants are turned into houseware as well.

Meanwhile, in the nearby provincial village, young feminist Belle and the villagers view each other with mild hostility. (Except for male dimwit/hunk/villain Gaston, who pines for her hand in marriage.) Her dad loves her, though. But he bumbles into the Beast's castle, and to rescue him, Belle must submit to captivity.

You probably knew all that plot anyway.

The tunes are still very catchy (still stuck in my head, in fact), the script is captivating and clever enough, and all the actors are talented. For some reason, the live-action versions of Lumière, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, Chip, et al. came off as a little creepy for me, but I'm not sure why.

URLs du Jour

2017-07-11

Liberty

Proverbs 23:12 brings us back to relatively normal good advice:

12 Apply your heart to instruction
    and your ears to words of knowledge.

I can't add to that.

■ I get Cato's Letter for free, and so can you, but I liked George F. Will's leadoff article in the most recent issue: Connoisseurs of Liberty. Among his insights:

The Declaration of Independence has many luminous words, the most important of which is “secure.” All men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, and governments are instituted to secure those rights. First come rights, then comes government. Rights preexist government. This is why the first progressive president, Woodrow Wilson, urged the American people not to read the first two paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence, which he said were Fourth of July folderol.

Mr. Will, I think, refers to this 1914 speech, and this seems to be the relevant paragraph:

Have you ever read the Declaration of Independence or attended with close comprehension to the real character of it when you have heard it read? If you have, you will know that it is not a Fourth of July oration. The Declaration of Independence was a document preliminary to war. It was a vital piece of practical business, not a piece of rhetoric; and if you will pass beyond those preliminary passages which we are accustomed to quote about the rights of men and read into the heart of the document you will see that it is very express and detailed, that it consists of a series of definite specifications concerning actual public business of the day. Not the business of our day, for the matter with which it deals is past, but the business of that first revolution by which the Nation was set up, the business of 1776. Its general statements, its general declarations cannot mean anything to us unless we append to it a similar specific body of particulars as to what we consider the essential business of our own day.

Wilson's take-home point: those "preliminary passages" can be attached in justification for any particular thing the Federal Government feels like doing. For example, the just-created Federal Reserve Bank.)

■ An amusing tale of hypocrisy from Daniel J. Mitchell: Elizabeth Warren other Rich Leftists Talk the Talk, but Don’t Walk the Walk. At issue is Massachusetts' optional 5.85% income tax rate, slightly over the required top 5.2% rate.

The state of Massachusetts has a program for voluntary tax payments, but the Boston Globe revealed that Elizabeth Warren somehow couldn’t bring herself to cough up additional money to finance bigger government.

The linked Globe story quotes Senator Warren's campaign as saying the debate “not about funding government through voluntary contributions...but about our values.”

And her values are: demand that others cough up more money to government.

■ At Reason, Ira Stoll responds to a WSJ op-ed from David Chavern of something called the "News Media Alliance". His summary: Newspaper Publishers Want Congress to Bail Them Out of Bad Investments

It's the sort of brazen move that might ordinarily trigger a front-page news story or an outraged editorial—a bunch of very rich individuals asking Congress to write them a law that would give them better negotiating power against other rich individuals.

Yet in this case, the rich individuals wanting special treatment are the newspaper owners themselves. The Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos (worth $83.9 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire's Index), The New York Times largest shareholder Carlos Slim (worth $61.1 billion), and Buffalo News owner Warren Buffett ($76.9 billion), publicly pleading poverty, are asking Congress for a helping hand in their negotiations with Google, controlled by Sergey Brin ($45.6 billion) and Larry Page ($46.8 billion).

The idea is to allow the news media an exemption from anti-trust laws, allowing them to act in concert to negotiate with Google and Facebook. Stoll points out that it's not a good idea to carve out a special legislative exemption for a single industry.

If publishers want to permit competing suppliers to negotiate prices and terms on a cooperative basis, then let them support changing the law to allow it in every industry, without special treatment for journalistic enterprises.

Good point.

■ A long and detailed discussion from Ilya Somin of Nancy MacLean's thesis in her recent taxpayer-funded libertarian-trashing book: Who wants to put democracy in chains? As it turns out, nearly everybody wants some chains.

On one issue, however, she is largely correct: it is indeed true that libertarians want to impose tight limits on the power of democratic majorities. Calling this agenda a “stealth plan” is, of course, ridiculous. It is much like saying that pro-lifers have a “stealth plan” to restrict abortion, or that Bernie Sanders has a secret agenda to expand government control over the economy. Skepticism about the power of democratic majorities has been a central – and completely open – feature of classical liberal and libertarian thought for centuries. Most of the Founding Fathers, John Stuart Mill, Alexis de Tocqueville, and many others held such views. It was Thomas Jefferson, writing in protest of the Alien and Sedition Acts, not James Buchanan and the Koch brothers (the central villains of MacLean’s story), who wrote that “[i]n questions of power,… let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”

Of course, as a good, predictable, Progressive, Prof MacLean interprets any and all disagreement with her agenda as an effort by the Oppressors to keep Oppressing the Oppressed. Couldn't be anything else.

■ Mark Steyn detects Lutey Tunes in the Progressive rants against Trump's Warsaw speech. In reference to Jonathan Capehart's charge that the speech was filled with "white-nationalist dog whistles", James Taranto is quoted:

The thing we adore about these dog-whistle kerfuffles is that the people who react to the whistle always assume it's intended for somebody else. The whole point of the metaphor is that if you can hear the whistle, you're the dog.

I kind of miss Taranto's "Best of the Web Today" columns at the WSJ, but he's moved on to (I hope) better things.

■ Outrageous news revealed by The Mideast Beast: UNESCO Declares Katz’s Deli ‘Palestinian Heritage Site’

In yet another blow to the Jewish People, UNESCO has declared Katz’s Delicatessen, a well-known Jewish, kosher-style establishment, a Palestinian world heritage site.

I hasten to say: I get it, it's satire. But I clicked through to the deli's site, and now I'm very hungry.

$21.45 for a hot pastrami sandwich?! Oy vey!

URLs du Jour

2017-07-10

France-Switzerland boundary
stone

Proverbs 23:10-11

10 Do not move an ancient boundary stone
    or encroach on the fields of the fatherless,
11 for their Defender is strong;
    he will take up their case against you.

Apparently encroachment was a thing back in ancient Israel, and was especially prevalent against the fatherless. (Imaginary taunt: "Oy! What are you gonna do, get your daddy to beat me up?") Fortunately, God is on the right side here.

As is the State of New Hampshire, in NH Rev Stat § 472:6 (2015):

Any person who purposely commits or causes to be committed any of the following acts with regard to a boundary marker knowing it to be a boundary marker shall be guilty of a misdemeanor: defacement, alteration of location, or removal of a stone wall or monument, or a mark on a tree, made for the purpose of designating a point, course or line in the boundary of a tract of land or in the dividing line between towns.

Hear that, boundary-marker movers? A misdemeanor! You're in a heap slight amount of trouble now!

NH law doesn't mention any special treatment when the victim is fatherless, so that's still in God's hands. And that's the Old Testament God, so…

■ I swear I did not know this: Marco Rubio Is Tweeting the Most Republican Part of the Bible. And, according to Joel S. Baden of Politico, what's that part?

Marco Rubio had a message for his nearly 3 million Twitter followers on the morning of June 26: “As dogs return to their vomit, so fools repeat their folly. Proverbs 26:11.”

That one might have been his most head-snapping, but Rubio, the Republican senator from Florida, had been tweeting verses like that one since May 16. He has tweeted a biblical verse almost every day since then. Almost all of them come from the Old Testament, and specifically the book of Proverbs.

Hah! Pun Salad has been blogging (but not tweeting) Proverbs, I'm pretty sure daily, since February 3. (And we got Proverbs 26:11 back on May 9.) So, if anything, Rubio got his bright idea from Pun Salad!

OK, so that's unlikely. But … Republican?

Proverbs is notable in that is presents a fairly consistent view of the world: The righteous are rewarded, and the wicked are punished. In the understanding of Proverbs, everyone gets what is coming to them; behavior is directly linked to reward or punishment. This worldview has social consequences: Those who succeed in life must be more righteous than those who struggle.

Baden—actually, it's Professor Baden of Yale Divinity School—characterizes Proverbs as having an "almost social Darwinist worldview". So no wonder it appeals to those nasty Republicans.

■ Senator Rubio issued a gentle rebuttal to Prof Baden:

(Although we should note, with Baden, that Proverbs is generally held to be a hodgepodge collection of ancient wisdom, and its connection to Solomon is not as simple as Rubio represents.)

■ But also see the rebuttal to Prof Baden from Tyler O'Neil of PJMedia, who notes a number of Proverbs that cut against the Social Darwinist claim. In addition:

Even accepting Baden's ridiculous premise that all Republicans are social Darwinists, was Barack Obama secretly a Republican when he quoted Proverbs 28:1 in his remarks at the National Peace Officers' Memorial on May 15, 2010? "The wicked flee when no man pursueth; but the righteous are as bold as a lion," Obama declared. Does this inspiring verse suggest social Darwinism?

Baden neglected to mention this quote, but he did admit former President Bill Clinton's reference to Proverbs 29:18 when accepting the Democratic Party nomination in 1992. "Where there is no vision, the people perish," Clinton quoted (neglecting the second half, "but he who keeps the law, happy is he").

O'Neil notes that Proverbs has 31 chapters, and many Christians read one chapter per day, based on the day number in the month, and that seems to be what Rubio is doing.

But not Pun Salad. Frankly, doing one verse per day is taxing.

■ But enough Bible study. Do you like art? If you do, then Kyle Smith at NR has some advice: If You Like Art, Don’t Take the Bechdel Test. What's that, you say?

Assuming you’re a normal person, and not a film critic, you may never even have heard of the Bechdel Test. Named for the lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel, it first appeared in an underground comic called Dykes to Watch Out For in 1985, in which it was called “the rule.” “The rule” is that a movie must have at least two (named) female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man. One Bechdel character sniffed that she would go only to movies that pass this test.

Smith (very entertaingly) notes (a) the arbitrariness of the test, and (b) a lot of good movies fail the test, a lot of bad movies pass.

I don't have a "Pun Salad Rule" for movies, but now I'm going to start working on one.

■ Scott Shackford at Reason asks the musical question: Do Americans Have a Right to Know If Their Government Is Incompetent?

Actually, all sentient Americans know that already. Scott means: do we have the right to know the details ASAP after any given incompetence occurs?

A new report put together by the staff of the Senate's Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs warns of an "avalanche" of leaks from President Donald Trump's administration. The report contends these leaks are threats to our country's safety and security, but we should be very wary about accepting such assertions given how little evidence the report provides.

Shackford notes that one leak describes the National Security Agency's responsibility for original authorship of security-breaching tools now used in various crimes. That's something the NSA would prefer us not to know, but (on the whole) we're better off knowing.

Hidden Figures

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

Pun Daughter thinks this is the best movie ever. And it was nominated for three Oscars (Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay). And (sorry), I'm like … meh.

It's the story of three African-American women working for NASA as "computers" in the early 60's, in Virginia's Langley Research Center, back when calculations were arduously chunked out on huge electomechanical contraptions. (Oddly, there's nary a slide rule in sight, I'm not sure how accurate that is.) Langley was, and is, in Hampton VA, in the deep southern, segregated, part of the state, and as you can imagine, that's an issue.

The primary focus is on Katherine Gobel Johnson (played by the great Taraji P. Henson), recognized as a math prodigy from a young age. Her efforts on calculating the trajectories of the early Mercury flights (Shepard, Grissom, Glenn) are covered.

Also Dorothy Vaughan (played by Oscar nominee Octavia Spencer), NASA's first African-American manager. Seeing the future was dim for human "computers", she taught herself FORTRAN, and then taught it to the ladies under her wing,

And, last but not least, Mary Jackson (played by Janelle Monáe), another whiz in math and science. She had aspirations (and qualifications) to be an engineer, but had to take some formal classes at the then-segregated Hampton High School. A dramatic courtroom scene in the movie, where she gets a judge to force her admission.

No question: the story of these women is interesting and dramatic. And it would make for a pretty good movie.

My main problem with the movie is that it badly trashes actual history in order to make a "good story". Although the movie explicitly places itself in 1961-1962, a lot of the stuff portrayed actually happened well before that. In one ludicrous scene, a gathering of Langley techs is lectured on the difference between suborbital trajectories (like Shepard's) and orbital trajectories (like Glenn's); that's something that would have never happened, since everyone, down to the NASA custodians, probably knew this already.

In one of the demonstrations of Katherine's genius, she's portrayed at figuring out a supposedly top-secret fact that the Redstone rocket was incapable of putting a Mercury capsule into orbit, and everyone's in awe. In fact this was well-known at the time. Like, even to ten-year-old kids. Me.

Shepard's flight is described by a TV news reporter as reaching "an altitude of 116 miles per hour" and would land "about 35 miles off the coast of Florida". Eesh! In fact, the flight had an apogee of about 116 miles, reached a speed of 5,180 mi/hr, and was recovered around 300 miles downrange from Cape Canaveral.

John Glenn was shown to demand that his re-entry trajectory be recomputed by the "smart one" (Katherine) on the day of his flight as more or less a sine qua non of him getting into the capsule. That would have been interesting, and the history is unclear, but there's no way Katherine could have done recalculation on the day of the flight as shown.

Glenn's flight is shown to be planned for seven orbits, but was abruptly cut short to three because of an anomalous reading showing the capsule's heat shield might have come loose. In fact, three orbits were always planned, although there was a lot of understandable concern about the heat sheild.

I may sound like a cranky quibbler, but (honestly) all this impaired my enjoyment of the movie. It's as if a movie about the American Revolution climaxed with a dramatic horseback swordfight between Generals Washington and Cornwallis, after Cornwallis had killed George's best buddy, the Marquis de Lafayette. ("Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert! Nooooo!")

URLs du Jour

2017-07-09

Fool

Proverbs 23:9 is short and sweet…

9 Do not speak to fools,
    for they will scorn your prudent words.

OK. Today's Flickr embed is (frankly) a better version of the proverb, from the Doobie Brothers.

■ At Reason, Katherine Mangu-Ward has an item to add to your "This Will Change Everything" list: Giant Ziplock Baggies Full of Lambs Are Going to Change Everything.

In April, researchers announced they had managed to keep several extremely premature lambs alive and growing in artificial wombs. After spending up to four weeks in a clear plastic "extra-uterine device" at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, each sheep transformed from a decidedly undercooked fetal specimen to a much more robust critter with long limbs and a fluffy wool coat, the sort of animal you wouldn't be terribly alarmed to see plop to the ground in a field on a spring afternoon.

And, yes, the plan is to, eventually, use the technology on humans. And, as Ms. Mangu-Ward notes, those lambikins are "already taking sledgehammers to some of the most precarious coalitions in American politics."

■ At Power Line, John Hinderaker notices that It’s True: Liberals Hate Western Civilization. And it's a fine compilation of unhinged Progressive responses to President Trump's recent speech in Warsaw. For example, Sarah Wildman at Vox, deemed it an "alt-right manifesto”:

In his address, Trump cast the West, including the United States and Europe, on the side of “civilization.” With an undercurrent of bellicosity, he spoke of protecting borders, casting himself as a defender not just of territory but of Western “values.” And, using the phrase he had avoided on his trip to Saudi Arabia, he insisted that in the fight against “radical Islamic terrorism,” the West “will prevail.”

Hinderaker comments: "Is this what is meant by 'alt-right'? I am so old, I can remember when 95% of Americans would have thought that such propositions verged on the self-evident."

As Arnold Kling notes, Trump is speaking a language that Progressives do not (and, largely, do not want to) understand.

■ I don't link to Jay Nordlinger as much as I should. Over at NRO, they're having a Trump-speech-inspired discussion of Western Civ, Universalism, and so on. In America, the West, and the Rest Nordlinger makes an interesting observation:

Some years ago, I was talking with a Falun Gong practitioner — a member of a group that has been persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party. There are all too credible reports of organ harvesting, for instance.

This man said, “The government is always saying that Falun Gong is foreign to China. But the truth is, Falun Gong has deep roots in China: our history, our culture. You know what’s a foreign imposition? Communism. Marxism-Leninism. It came from you guys, in the West! It was imposed on us in the 1940s, and it is utterly alien to Chinese culture. For instance, we have always placed great importance on the family. It was always the center of our lives. Then came this one-child policy.”

Ouch. Like many good points, that one stings a little.

URLs du Jour

2017-07-08

Carpe Diem

■ We are back to the dinner-table advice in Proverbs 23:6-8. And it's disgusting:

6 Do not eat the food of a begrudging host,
    do not crave his delicacies;
7 for he is the kind of person
    who is always thinking about the cost.
    “Eat and drink,” he says to you,
    but his heart is not with you.
8 You will vomit up the little you have eaten
    and will have wasted your compliments.

Maybe it's a metaphor for something else? If so, I can't see it.

■ But, hey, maybe the "begrudging host" is CNN, and the delicacy-craver is "HanAssholeSolo," the Redditor who came up with the CNN-lampooning meme tweeted by President Trump, and…

No, that doesn't really work. But at Reason, David Harsanyi outlines What CNN's Threat to Dox a Redditor Tells Us About the State of Journalism

If you're going to create nasty memes to get attention, demand people give you credit for those memes and celebrate when the president of the United States shares one with his roughly 33 million followers, I have no sympathy for you. You're not a martyr for the cause of free expression. There was a time when anonymity allowed Americans with unpopular or unconventional beliefs to make their arguments without fear of retribution. Today, the internet has created an environment that incentivizes people to create detestable messages meant to troll and harass.

Then again, this story isn't really about online harassment or the Reddit user "HanA**holeSolo," who has taken credit for the creation a GIF of President Trump body-slamming a wrestler—which I feel the need to reiterate is fake violence—with a CNN logo imposed on his face. The story itself means little. This is about how places like CNN function these days: how it overreacts to everything the president does, how many of today's newsrooms give some people a pass and destroy others.

I'd boycott CNN and Reddit, except that I never watch CNN, and I never go to Reddit.

@JonahNRO's G-File this week is In Defense of Western Civ! And it needs it! Because of the reaction of some progressives to Donald Trump's recent speech in Warsaw.

We’ve reached a pathetic and dangerous point in our culture where anyone who celebrates our traditional culture, our country, and, now, our civilization must be doing so for base and evil reasons (see Rod Dreher for more on this). Today, all other cultures must be celebrated while every ill is blamed on us. This is, to borrow a phrase from social science, garbage thinking. Slavery is a human universal, appearing in every culture around the world. What makes the West unique is not that we had slavery, but that we put an end to it because it was not compatible with our values. The same goes for nearly every charge in the indictment against the West, from racism and misogyny to imperialism and war.

Not that it matters, but I was reading Arnold Kling's recent book The Three Languages of Politics concurrently with all the discussion, pro and con, about Trump's Warsaw speech. Which turned out to be a perfect illustration of Kling's thesis: our political "tribes" ostensibly speak English, but effectively speak in mutually incomprehensible gibberish, because they (by which I mean "we") start from incompatible heuristic frameworks. If you're interested in my take on the book, it's hot off the presses here.

■ And yet another LTE triggered by my Google LFOD alert, this one from Sherman Pridham of Stratham, who is Questioning the integrity of the president’s Commission on Voter Integrity

Let’s change our state motto from “Live Free or Die” to something like “OK, Whatever!” That seems to be the attitude of our state leaders when it comes to delivering information, including personal data like the last four digits of our Social Security number, to a group of guys President Trump has cobbled together calling them the “Commission on Voter Integrity.” Depending on who you read or listen to, the commission is charged with giving people more confidence in their election process, distracting attention from the investigation(s) into Russia’s role in our 2016 election, a plot to gather personal information on voters, combining it with other data bases and using it for political purposes, all of the above and much more. The commission is chaired by Kris Kobach who is known for his efforts to impede voter registration streamlining.

I, for one, would allow Progressives like Sherman to order alternative-motto New Hampshire license plates.

[OK, WHATEVER]

There you go, Sherman.

The Three Languages of Politics

Talking Across the Political Divides

[Amazon Link]

I quite enjoyed Arnold Kling's "re-introduction" book about economics, Specialization and Trade earlier this year. When I noticed this book was available in an updated version (and, better yet, e-book versions available for free), I was in. Like Specialization and Trade, it's short but powerful.

It's about the nature of political disagreement, which, when you come to think of it, is damned odd. We humans confront the same facts about reality, with more or less the same brains, and yet come to no agreement on the best course of collective action (or inaction). Or, specifically, our agreement is limited to the fellow members of our political "tribe". Our efforts at convincing different-thinkers are nearly always in vain. Each tribe is convinced of its own moral superiority.

It's all fun and games until someone brings a rifle to softball practice.

Kling considers the three major political tribes of American politics: Progressives, Conservatives, and Libertarians. He argues that, although they are ostensibly all speaking English, they're actually talking in mutually incomprehensible languages, starting from different "dominant heuristics". Your dominant heuristic governs how any particular situation or fact is perceived, measured against your one-dimensional scale (or, as Klein says, "axis") of political value.

Specifically, Libertarians measure along the coercion-liberty axis. Progressives measure along the oppressor-oppressed axis. Conservatives measure along the barbarism-civilization axis.

So (for example), the health care issue. Libertarians despise Obamacare because it reflects unacceptable coercion in its taxes, mandates, forced subsidies, and increased regulation. Conservatives hate it because it erodes the civilizational pillars of responsibility and prudence. Progressives think that it's great, since it helps an "oppressed" class, those not rich or fortunate enough to have insurance.

For this new edition, Kling analyzes the Trump phenomenon, something neither he nor just about anyone else saw coming a few years back. He speculates that Trumpkins might be speaking a fourth language, measuring their facts against a "bourgeois bohemian" ("bobo") axis. You're either a sophisticated bobo ("more comfortable in Prague than Peoria") or a salt-of-the-earth other-countries-suck American.

Not that I've thought about it much, but I think adding a fourth axis isn't that necessary. Trump appeals to the white working class in Progressive oppressor/oppressed language, urging that they see themselves as oppressed. At the same time, he appeals to the Conservative civilization/barbarism axis. Yes, this appeal falls on a lot of deaf ears in both camps. But it's still there.

As it happens, I was reading this book when there was a lot of discussion of Trump's "Western Civilization" speech in Warsaw. It was an unfiltered and (mostly) eloquent appeal to the Conservative civilization/barbarism axis, and (unsuprisingly, and correctly) the Conservatives unanimously cheered the speech. On his blog, Kling noticed this as well. As I said in a comment there: it's almost as if he assigned me homework.

Equally as predictable, Progressives reacted with shock and horror to the speech. The WaPo's Jonathan Capehart could hear nothing in the Western Civ defense except for (oppressor/oppressed) "white-nationalist dog whistles". The American Conservative's Rod Dreher catalogs a number of other Progressive reactions and concludes: "yes, they really do despise their civilization". You couldn't ask for a better demonstration of Kling's thesis.

As I said, it's a short book, but that's because Kling doesn't blather a lot. There's a lot of concentrated food for thought here. He urges us to at least try to understand (if not agree with) where our political opponents are coming from. One intriguing chapter is devoted to the "Ideological Turing Test": could you make an argument as if you were a member of an opposing tribe, in such a way that you could convince members of that tribe that you were "one of them"?

URLs du Jour

2017-07-07

Poverty Sucks

■ Yesterday's Proverb contained bizarre etiquette guidelines for dining with a ruler; today's Proverbs 23:4-5 is bizarre financial advice:

4 Do not wear yourself out to get rich;
    do not trust your own cleverness.
5 Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone,
    for they will surely sprout wings
    and fly off to the sky like an eagle.

So: be lazy, and don't pay any attention to your financial position? Hm. My advice would be to ignore this advice and instead buy a copy of Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover instead.

@kevinNR looks at Trump’s Nuclear Non-Policy, and he's not a fan:

The upside of having Donald Trump as commander in chief is that he is a coward, and the downside is that he is a fool. His instinct will be to pursue the least-risky course of action, which may be prudent, but he is so willfully ignorant that he cannot possibly understand the risks associated with the channels of action open to him, including the risks of inaction.

Although I'm a Williamson fan, what's missing from his article is: what Trump should do instead. (I admit to being stumped myself.)

■ Kevin's colleague, @JonahNRO has some thoughts, inspired by President Trump's Poland speech: The Dangers of Arrogant Ignorance. And (somewhat of a surprise) he's not referring to Trump! Wisdom:

It is a common human foible to think you know more than you do and to assume that when someone, particularly someone you don’t like, says something you don’t understand that the fault must be in the speaker, not the listener. “It’s a universal law — intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education,” observed Alexander Solzhenitsyn. “An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility.”

President Trump isn't a cause of our "political polarization […] fueled by plain old ignorance"; he's a symptom.

■ Oh well, let's move on to Wired's Rhett Allain, who examines that great lecture demo: The Physics of Almost Whacking Someone With a Bowling Ball. He's inspired by a show on one of those ephemeral cable networks called Outrageous Acts of Danger.

One recent episode riffed on the classic physics demo in which you hang a heavy ball (bowling balls are common) on a wire and release it near someone's head. The ball swings away in an arc and returns, barely missing the person's face. It helps people understand a harmonic oscillator and conservation of energy (and maybe scares them just a little, too.). The guys at Outrageous Acts of Danger did it with a one-ton ball because a one-ton ball is pretty outrageous. But the physics are the same.

It's interesting to speculate whether the participants/targets in this demo have (a) faith in the conservation of energy; or (b) knowledge of the conservation of energy.

Just be sure the ball doesn't get a little extra nudge when it's initially released…

■ My Google LFOD alert got a workout. First up is LTE-writer Suzana Mihajlica of Portsmouth NH, who thinks Secretary of State Bill Gardner should deny Kobach. (The reference is to Kris Kobach's request for states to provide "publicly available" voter registration data to his commission on election integrity.)

Kobach’s commission embarks on this crusade with shady intentions and justifies it with debunked and dangerous lies. I certainly do not want them to have any data on me. As a fellow resident of the Live Free or Die state, I would hope our Secretary of State, Bill Gardner, would understand my misgivings.

Fine. But somehow I think Suzana would be just fine with states passing along their data on (say) gun ownership and licensing to the Feds.

■ The Toledo [Ohio] Blade considers A baker’s free speech to include the right to not bake a cake for a gay wedding. And remembers relevant precedents:

The Free Speech Clause prohibits the government from forcing people to affirm a message officials choose for them. The Supreme Court has ruled that schoolchildren may not be forced to say the Pledge of Allegiance, and drivers may not be forced to display license plates that say “Live Free or Die.” The pledge and that motto may be laudable messages, but Americans are free to decide they do not agree. Similarly here: The government has no right to force Mr. Phillips to agree with the Supreme Court, to think the “right” thoughts, or to bake a cake for someone he does not wish to bake it for.

A lot of free speech jurisprudence has New Hampshire roots: Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire; Cox v. New Hampshire; Sweezy v. New Hampshire; and (as the Blade remembers) Wooley v. Maynard.

■ And finally an unexpected link to a UK publication called The List which looks at (I am not making this up): The best Scottish music from June 2017.

Orchestra number three on the list is the Tinderbox Orchestra, whose fiercely inclusive approach to workshopping with young talent and bringing in a rich palette of international sounds has informed their debut album, Tinderbox (●●●). It's a confident and diverse collection, although by its very nature it throws up some more successful experiments than others: 'Quetzalcoatl', for example, capably fuses a meaty, retro jazz-funk groove with a pastoral mix of flute and wordless choral singing, while the Black Diamond Express-featuring 'Live Free or Die' is an anthem which surges on strings, horns and an upbeat quality which does a good impersonation of Coldplay. While elements of Balkan and Scottish folk styles add richness, however, there's a rawness and a certain underdevelopment of some songs which suggests a group still getting to grips with their huge potential.

Yes, our state's motto has invaded Scotland. You can get the song as an MP3 at Amazon, which will set you back a cool 89¢. (You can also hear a thirty-second excerpt.)

URLs du Jour

2017-07-06

GLUTTONY

■ We leave Proverbs 24 and move … backward … to Chapter 23. And it starts out with Emily Post-style advice gone horribly wrong in Proverbs 23:1-3

1 When you sit to dine with a ruler,
     note well what is before you,
2 and put a knife to your throat
    if you are given to gluttony.
3 Do not crave his delicacies,
    for that food is deceptive.

Not for the first time, I'm trying to flesh out this scenario, trying to picture the situation that caused the Proverbialist to issue this advice. Maybe something like the baseball bat-wielding Al Capone's dinner party in The Untouchables? Did something like that happen in ancient Israel?

■ Veronique de Rugy has a late Independence Day post at Reason: we're also (sort of) Celebrating Our Independence—From the Export-Import Bank

In an imperfect environment where cronyism—that's the unhealthy relationship between government and businesses—runs rampant, the fact that Boeing, General Electric and other giant manufacturers haven't been able to benefit from taxpayer-backed loans for the past two years is a huge victory. For the first five months of that period, the bank's charter had actually expired —but even since it was renewed, it hasn't been able to extend loans above $10 million.

The doomsaying was unwarranted, when it wasn't outright dishonest. Ms. de Rugy urges that Ex-Im be put out of its misery, and it would be nice to think that the GOP-controlled Congress could manage that.

■ At the Washington Examiner, Byron York is a little mystified: Why the rebellion over Trump voter commission?

In the past week election officials in dozens of states have rejected a request from the newly-formed Presidential Advisory Commission on Electoral Integrity to provide voter records for a study on the extent (if any) of election fraud. Some of those officials have expressed great indignation that the commission would even ask. Yet many of those same officials would gladly sell those very same records — to campaigns, to candidates, to political consultants, even to you. It's a situation that baffles some political veterans.

I'm baffled too. I can get that Democrats might freak out over anything that might illuminate and quantify voter fraud issues, but there are a lot of Republicans clutching their pearls too.

I recently learned that the SMH acronym stands for "shaking my head", and so: SMH.

■ At Cato, David Boaz looked himself up in the index, and yes, we have Another Misleading Quotation in Nancy MacLean’s “Democracy in Chains”. The relevant single sentence:

David Boaz of the Cato Institute […] speaks of the "parasite economy" that divides us into "the predators and the prey."

This is supposed to illustrate the "big lie of the Koch-sponsored radical right" that the "takers" in America are mooching off the "makers".

Almost needless to say: Boaz's point in The Libertarian Mind (which MacLean cites as her evidence for the above characterization) was different. It was in the midst of a discussion of public choice theory, rent-seeking, etc. And:

Let’s be clear: when public choice economists and I talk about “rent seeking” and “concentrated benefits,” and we point to “subsidy, tariff, quota, or restriction on their competitors,” we’re not trying to protect the rich. We’re talking about ways that businesses, unions, and other organized interest groups seek to use government to gain advantages that they couldn’t gain in the marketplace. And when we suggest limiting the power of government to hand out such favors, we are arguing in the interests of workers and consumers.

Why, it's almost as if Nancy MacLean was a dishonest hack!

■ But wait, it gets worse. At the Skeptical Libertarian blog, Daniel Bier outlines his problems with the leadoff quote from the same paragraph Boaz quotes in The Juvenile “Research” of “Historian” Nancy MacLean.

Prof MacLean's Nazi-baiting:

“If you tell a great lie and repeat it often enough, the people will eventually come to believe it,” Joseph Goebbels, a particularly ruthless, yet shrewd propagandist, is said to have remarked.

Problem being: Goebbels said no such thing, as near as anyone can tell. Bier provides the easily-done research that MacLean was too lazy to do.

Of course, none of that really matches up to the version that MacLean made up and misattributed to Goebbels, either. But it’s certainly the original source for the dumbed-down, badly mangled fake version that she probably saw on a half-forgotten Internet meme. This is the caliber of thought and effort that you’d expect from a drunk Facebook status or a circa 2002 “Gore really won the election!” Geocities blog post.

It is baffling that MacLean — a tenured academic historian at Duke University — wrote this laughable nonsense and that her editor (if she had one) let it be published. It’s the kind of dumb, unsourced, pseudo-profound “deep thought” that freshmen use to lard up a half-assed term paper. D- — apply yourself!!

■ But here's my own meager contribution to MacLean-debunking. From the same paragraphs quoted by Boaz and Bier, purporting to debunk the "big lie":

[…] Is it true that the wealthiest among us are being unfairly fleeced by government? If so, how do we square that with what is now common knowledge that the secretary to a billionaire will often pay a higher tax rate than her boss?

People who were paying attention at the time know that this allegation was pumped by Warren Buffett alleging that his secretary, Debbie Bosanek, paid tax at a higher rate than he did. Ms Bosanek declined to make her tax returns available to check whether this was true or not. That didn't stop then-President Obama from using it as a rhetorical bludgeon to advocate raising taxes on "the rich".

It might be true, since a lot of Buffett's income comes from capital gains, and Bosanek might have an unusually high salary income for a "secretary". (Her actual duties were far above normal secretary-level.)

But is it "common knowledge" that this situation "often" happens? No. That's actually the "Big Lie" involved here. Even the left-leaning Politifact had to demur, after a lot of hemming and hawing: Does a secretary pay higher taxes than a millionaire?

As we said at the outset, we don't get into questions of opinions such as whether secretaries should pay a higher tax rate than billionaire bosses. But that situation is possible under the current tax code, if an employee is sufficiently well paid and if the boss's income comes from stock market investments or managing a hedge fund.

Is it the norm? No. Millionaires who count on a salary pay higher taxes than those who draw most of their earnings from investment income. And most secretaries earn too little to pay such high rates.

Nancy MacLean is a dishonest propagandist.

Cold Wind

[Amazon Link]

Number 11 in C. J. Box's continuing adventures of Joe Pickett, now returned to his dream job, Game Warden in the Saddlestring District of Wyoming. Daughter Sheridan is decamping for the University of Wyoming, which is causing Joe some angst, because his other two daughters have "special qualities" that set his teeth on edge.

Joe's mother-in-law Missy has been a recurring pain-in-the-butt character in previous books; she has a habit of "marrying up", and she's now on Husband Five. Who's very rich, but also, right in Chapter One, also very dead. Joe finds him swinging from the blade of one of the hundred wind turbines he's installed on his acreage, not all acquired honestly. And number one suspect is Missy. That can't be true! Or can it? Ordinarily, that wouldn't be a game warden's business, but the family connection causes him to investigate, to the chagrin of many of the normal law enforcement folks.

Meanwhile Joe's sometime-friend, Nate Romanowski is being stalked by a woman bent on revenge. She hires two idiots to do the dirty work; they bungle the job, but there is collateral damage that hurts Nate to his core. He's soon enough on the track as well, and there turns out to be a surprising connection between his quest and Joe's.

I've heard rumors of C. J. Box's general conservative/libertarian tendencies; they crop up here, without being strident.

Is it good? Heck yes. Another can't-put-it-downer.

Biting the Hands that Feed Us

How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable

[Amazon Link]

I've seen the author, Baylen Linnekin, both at the Reason website and magazine, writing a lot of sense about American food policies. So I requested this book from the Interlibrary Loan service of the University Near Here, and it showed up all the way from the University of Wyoming. Thanks as always to everyone involved.

There is a general long-running libertarian critique of government regulation: it is born out of the early-1900's Progressive/Fascist mindset that the State Knows Best, and that via mandates, rules, taxes on some, subsidies for others, the anarchy of the free marketplace could be tamed into a smooth-running machine free of "wasteful" competition.

What actually happens, time and again: powerful entrenched special interests (often, but not always, corporate) dominate the rule-making and political processes, seeking rents. Subsidies flow to the politically powerful. Upstart competitors find that they're fighting on an unlevel playing field. The few protected companies grow fat, lazy, and un-innovative.

And government rule-makers, needless to say, gotta make rules. They operate on LaPetomaine's Phony Job Protection Provision:

Linnekin does a great job, anecdote by anecdote, of demonstrating how this plays out in getting food into the American mouth. Current rules damage both farmers and consumers.

For example, in the name of "food safety", many regulations mandate processes, not results. (E.g., demanding that small vendors refrigerate their products, not simply use ice.) On the margin, the compliance costs are often too great for the "little guys", driving them out of business.

Antiquated labelling laws also stifle innovation. Example: a couple in New York developed a high-end nut milk they called "OMilk". State regulators stepped in (after years) and demanded that the couple now comply with the state rules regarding "melloream", set up decades earlier to "protect dairy producers from lower cost imitators".

And on. And on. Most importantly for current debates, Linnekin shows how a ton of regulations actually encourage (and in some cases, demand) massive amounts of food waste. As pointed out on the Drawdown List of Solutions to greenhouse gas emissions, number three in terms of efficacy is "Reduce Food Waste". There's little reason to not yank the rules that get in the way of that goal.

Linnekin's approach is occasionally outright libertarian: as long as willing producers and willing consumers can agree on a price, free of fraud or misrepresentation, let the market do its work. Regulators go home. But it's clear that he wants to appeal to a broader audience that us hardcore types. One side effect is right up there in the subtitle: he leans heavily on the foodie buzzword "sustainable". That got mildly irritating after the first nine dozen repetitions. To his credit, he's clear that his definition of "sustainable" is more economic than sentimental: efficient processes, discovered through market processes.

Another irritation, also seen in the book's subtitle: Linnekin notes strongly that he's not against all rules, but they should be "smart". This is eye-rolling for me. Who's against "smart"?

URLs du Jour

2017-07-05

''Plough deep while sluggards
sleep.'' - Benjamin Franklin

■ We wind up Chapter 24 of Proverbs with a five-verse extravaganza. Ladies and gents, turn your attention to Proverbs 24:30-34:

30 I went past the field of a sluggard,
    past the vineyard of someone who has no sense;
31 thorns had come up everywhere,
    the ground was covered with weeds,
    and the stone wall was in ruins.
32 I applied my heart to what I observed
    and learned a lesson from what I saw:
33 A little sleep, a little slumber,
    a little folding of the hands to rest—
34 and poverty will come on you like a thief
    and scarcity like an armed man.

Chapter 24 was kind of a cut-and-paste job, with no overall theme or internal logic, and the quality was uneven. But this is kind of moving. Although I'm not sure how the Proverbian jumps from the fact that his countryman was a "sluggard" with "no sense" to his overall conclusion that your prosperity can be wrecked by a few moments of inattention. Still.

Our photo embed du jour is from Ben Franklin, with more or less the same idea.

■ A painful, but probably worthwhile debate at National Review between John McWhorter and Robert VerBruggen. First, Professor McWhorter urges us to Stop Obsessing Over Race and IQ.

Is the issue of whether IQ differs innately between races as unequivocally settled as that of whether genocide is okay? If not, does it fit into the class of things that ought to be up for discussion? In fact, I suggest that race and IQ is an exceptional topic, in the literal sense. The data are not all in, yet I see no value in including this topic in our liberal-arts discussions. Certainly scientists will research the topic and will share their findings, which will always be available online for those interested. However, those aggrieved that this particular issue is not aired more widely in general discussion need to make their premises clearer — upon which, I suggest, those premises will seem less convincing than they are aware.

And the counterpoint from VerBruggen is here: Why I Write about Race and IQ

[…] I rather doubt that an effort to further stigmatize the discussion of race and IQ could have more than a minor effect on how often people actually discuss it. And even if people did stop discussing it openly, I suspect many would still become curious about the topic and research it online, where people feel considerably freer to explore the taboo. This subject sits at the nexus of numerous others that are inherently interesting, for perfectly legitimate reasons. How did evolution shape humanity as a whole, and to what extent did it shape different populations differently? Why do we have such stark inequality among different groups of people, and not just blacks and whites in the U.S.?

I think that VerBruggen has the better argument here, but both writers make excellent and thoughtful points.

■ At Reason, Andrew Heaton explores a burning topic: Why Society Hates Entrepreneurs.

We're fickle about entrepreneurs, at least if they actually become successful. Whether or not they add value to society is beside the point.

When they're handsome and charismatic entrepreneurs are "innovators" and "game changers." They get invited to sex parties in Davos. If they're homely or awkward, they are merely wealthy drivers of inequality, and thus, evil.

That's because our culture simultaneously hates rich people but loves celebrities. When entrepreneurs manage to become celebrities, they are exempted from socialist tirades.

A helpful Venn diagram is included at the link. Heaton is, among other things, a professional comedian. Don't let that dissuade you.

■ Philip Greenspun went to to the Aero Club of New England‘s annual Cabot Award luncheon, where the honoree was Harrison Ford. You know, the actor? And the famously irascible Mr. Ford had interesting things to say, recounted here: Harrison Ford on flying and freedom. Phil's favorite bit:

  • Q: were you ever scared?
  • A (in front of 300 people): I’m scared right now.

Looking back at Mr. Ford's movies, it's tough to pick a favorite. He's been great in his iconic roles, but I'll watch The Fugitive just about anytime.

URLs du Jour

2017-07-04

Happy Independence Day! Mr. Munroe summarizes the recent past and near future of the holiday:

[Fourth of July]

Mouseover text: "Strangely, they still celebrate by eating hot dogs. Since they don't have mouths, they just kinda toss them in the air and let them fall back down into their propeller blades. It's pretty messy."

Portsmouth, NH did a spectacular job with its fireworks last night. Parking hassles, sure, but worth it.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming:

Proverbs 24:29 might be connected to the previous verse, but also stands alone well:

29 Do not say, “I’ll do to them as they have done to me;
    I’ll pay them back for what they did.”

Good counterpoint to those who think the Old Testament was all about eye-for-an-eye.

@kevinNR writes on A People without a King:

King George III surely had courtiers and sycophants who demanded that the colonials “respect the office.”

And they meant it about the office: The idea that a people could not only survive but thrive without a king, or something very like a king, was seen as beyond radical and more like just plain nuts. Even the Most Serene Republic of Venice had its doge. The Americans thought differently, and they sent the king and his courtiers a public letter written by Thomas Jefferson: “Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.”

That is polite 18th-century English for “Kiss my ass.”

As I've said: we're here because they were there. A good day to offer them silent thanks.

■ Perhaps it's the season, but my Google LFOD alert lit up with a number of items. Out in the suburbs of Chicago, there's a paper called the Daily Herald, with Jim Baumann penning a column called Grammar Moses. He shares:

[…] I received the following email from Stephen Foust of Batavia: "A while back I lived in New England where we enjoyed bucolic rural drives, particularly during foliage season. There often appeared on the back roads of New Hampshire a road sign declaring 'Fine for Littering.' I suppose that's fitting for the Live Free or Die state, but I am wondering if there are any other states where littering is fine. Or is that just in New Hampshire?"

Heh.

■ And there were two LFOD hits from the Union Leader. First was a story about the Firestorm over call for info on elections.

The sweeping demand from a new anti-voter fraud commission for state election officials to broadly turn over voter records has been met with bipartisan resistance while President Donald Trump doubled down Saturday on why he's asked for them in the first place.

Yes, some people are pretending that it's totally outrageous for one bit of government share data with another bit of government. And the LFOD…

"This broad net the commission is throwing is all about trying to promote a narrative that's got no basis in reality, that there was rampant voter fraud in New Hampshire and other key states," said Democratic National Committeeman Peter Burling of Cornish.

"Whatever happened to New Hampshire's tradition of Live Free or Die? Just say no, Mr. Gardner."

Mr. Gardner (the NH Secretary of State) has said he'll provide the same data to the "anti-voter fraud commission" that he currently sells to private companies for a few thousand bucks.

■ Hey, New Hampshire, what time is it? UL Business Editor Mike Cote has the answer: Time to get your mojo working, New Hampshire.

Start with a good, long look in the mirror. Some mornings, you simply don't like yourself much. And that aura surrounds you when you bump up against other states. It doesn't help that New Hampshire has been portrayed as a place to hide for criminals on the run in the final seasons of both "The Sopranos" and "Breaking Bad," each in episodes titled "Live Free or Die."

Mike thinks that a little more braggadocio on our part will help attract entrepreneurship.

■ In the Pun Salad Credit Where Credit is Due Department: recently President Trump tweeted:

And our state's senior Senator Jeanne shot back:

And Senator Jeanne is right. I know, a stopped-clock comment might be appropriate here. And I have my doubts whether this springs from some newfound commitment to free market principles; more likely it's due to special-interest pleading from our local chocolate producer Lindt & Sprüngli. (Motto: "With a name like Sprüngli, it has to be good.")

A principled recent argument against Trump's "deal" (and the crony capitalism involved) is available at the Daily Signal: Sugar Subsidies Are a Lose-Lose for American Workers and Consumers. Bottom line:

Americans deserve a much sweeter deal: End the U.S. sugar program once and for all.

That would be just fine.

URLs du Jour

2017-07-03

Drops of Independence

Proverbs 24:28 sayeth:

28 Do not testify against your neighbor without cause—
    would you use your lips to mislead?

I'm sorry, Proverbialist, but didn't we already cover this in the Ninth Commandment?

■ This is a looong Fourth of July weekend, I think it started about the middle of last week. George F. Will has a holiday-relevant column, discussing a new Philadelphia museum dedicated to The Scars of Our Nation’s Violent Birth

Some American history museums belabor visitors with this message: You shall know the truth and it shall make you feel ashamed of, but oh-so-superior to, your wretched ancestors. The new Museum of the American Revolution is better than that. Located near Independence Hall, it celebrates the luminous ideas affirmed there 241 Julys ago, but it does not flinch from this fact: The war that began at Lexington and Concord 14 months before the Declaration of Independence was America’s first civil war. And it had all the messiness and nastiness that always accompany protracted fratricide.

We're here because they were there.

■ You may have been wondering: Why is socialism back? At RealClearPolitics Joel Kotkin will tell you: Why Socialism Is Back. One symptom: the popularity of far-left pols like Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK.

The “Bernie Bros” who made Sanders such a sudden and unlikely political force in 2016 were disproportionately young white voters who swelled the ranks of the precariat -- part-time, conditional workers. The numbers of such people is destined to grow with the emerging “gig economy” and the digitization of retail, which could cost millions of working-class jobs. Even university lecturers in Britain, notes the Guardian, fear that their jobs will be “Uber-ised,” a phenomena also seen at American universities.

I'm not sure I agree with everything Kotkin says, but it's an interesting take on current trends. Would that we had a President and party that were interested in effectively reviving entrepreneurship-driven prosperity.

■ Along with California, Minnesota seems to be on the leading edge of our country's drift into Nice Socialism. Nice, unless you're misbehaving in some way. Then, as Ilya Shapiro and Thomas Berry note at Cato, it's Minnesota Not-Nice

The First Amendment right to free speech extends far beyond just verbal expression. Some of the most iconic First Amendment cases have concerned the right to make silent but powerful statements, such as wearing a black armband to protest a war, Tinker v. Des Moines (1969), or an impolite shirt to protest the draft, Cohen v. California (1971). As these cases have recognized, what we choose to wear often plays an important role in how we express ourselves.

But in Minnesota, such personal expression has been unjustifiably prohibited. The state completely bans the wearing of any “political badge, political button, or other political insignia” in or around the polling place on election day. When several Minnesota citizens attempted to vote wearing clothes expressing support for the Tea Party movement or buttons reading “Please I.D. Me,” they were told that such apparel violated the law. They sued to overturn the law, but their challenge has twice been rejected by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

That could never happen in New Hampshire, home of Live Free or Die, right?

Wrong, my friend.

The [New Hampshire] secretary of state’s office is suggesting moderators have a poncho on hand for Election Day, and not to protect against the weather.

A new state law prohibits people from wearing campaign pins, stickers or clothing inside polling places. Offenders could face a fine of up to $1,000 under the statute, though it’s not clear how strictly the new measure will be enforced.

Somehow "Live Free or Face a Fine of Up To $1000" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

■ Not very recent, but in case you missed it, here's Jonathan V. Last's Weekly Standard interview with Camille Paglia: On Trump, Democrats, Transgenderism, and Islamist Terror. It's a wide-ranging discussion with the Bernie Sanders/Jill Stein voter who (nevertheless) manages to defy pigeonholing. Example:

It is certainly ironic how liberals who posture as defenders of science when it comes to global warming (a sentimental myth unsupported by evidence) flee all reference to biology when it comes to gender. Biology has been programmatically excluded from women's studies and gender studies programs for almost 50 years now. Thus very few current gender studies professors and theorists, here and abroad, are intellectually or scientifically prepared to teach their subjects.

The cold biological truth is that sex changes are impossible. Every single cell of the human body remains coded with one's birth gender for life. Intersex ambiguities can occur, but they are developmental anomalies that represent a tiny proportion of all human births.

You can get into serious trouble saying that at many universities.

Logan

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

An R-rated swan song to Logan/Wolverine and Professor Xavier, at least in their Hugh Jackman/Patrick Stewart incarnations. As I type, the IMDB raters have it pegged as #144 of the best movies of all time, and I can't go quite that far.

It's the year 2029, and all the mutants have been killed, captured, or driven way underground. And (at least Logan believes) there have been no new mutants born for years. Logan works as a limo driver, and takes care of Professor X, who's safely hidden away in a bleak industrial landscape. Prof X is succumbing to the ravages of age, which in his case means the occasional mindstorm, laying telekinetic/psychic waste to people and objects in the area.

Enter nurse Gabriela, who's got a young mute child, Laura, in tow. Would Logan and Charles mind taking her up to North Dakota? Unsurprisingly, Laura is being murderously pursued by an Evil Corporation; this puts Logan and Charles in their sights as well. She's eventually revealed to be Logan's "daughter", although that's not through traditional baby-making processes.

As I said, it's rated R, and that's for "strong brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity." Among other things, the damage done by Logan's claws is the explicit version of what was only hinted at in the PG-13 movies. More generally, the bloodshed is graphic and unremitting. And the movie doesn't have any compunction about killing off sympathetic characters.

Passengers

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

Hey, I liked it as much as Netflix thought I would! Win!

Although, I'm not sure if it's possible to make a bad Jennifer Lawrence movie.

I'll try to avoid spoilers, but if you've seen previews, you kind of know what's going to happen. The setup is: interstellar spacecraft Avalon is on a 120-year voyage to Homestead 2. Everyone's asleep, due to wake up a few months before arrival. But something goes badly wrong when Avalon is unable to evade some nasty space rocks. Symptoms involve Jim (Chris Pratt) waking up early—90 years early—to find himself the only one awake.

If you have seen the previews, you know that (eventually) JLaw's character, Aurora Lane, wakes up too. And there's a wacky, friendly, android bartender. And there's deadly peril, explosions, EVAs, and pulse-pounding action.

But this turns out not to be the insane CGI-effects-driven big movie that the previews seem to promise. Instead, it's a small movie inside all that hoopla, about loneliness, ethics, courage, and forgiveness.

There are some who despise this movie, but I think they're either not paying attention, or they would have written it differently to adhere to their own ideologies.

URLs du Jour

2017-07-02

American Gothic

■ Is it Proverbs 24:27 or "Hints from Heloise"? You make the call:

27 Put your outdoor work in order
    and get your fields ready;
    after that, build your house.

I'm not sure if that was good advice even back in ancient Israel, and in any case I'm glad my house was built first.

■ Slightly old news, but I still wanted to comment: California Issues ‘Travel Ban’ on Some Red States.

California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced on Friday [actually, Thursday June 22] that the state would no longer fund travel to states deemed “discriminatory” toward LGBT people.

The travel-banned states are (so far): Alabama, Kentucky, South Dakota, Texas, North Carolina, Mississippi, Kansas, and Tennessee.

Consigning eight states to pariah status is in marked contrast to other California news last month, for example, this fawning LA Times story: Gov. Jerry Brown, America's unofficial climate change ambassador in the Trump era, heads to China.

Just a reminder about the status of freedom in China from Freedom House's latest report; it's bad and getting worse:

China received a downward trend arrow due to the chilling effect on private and public discussion, particularly online, generated by cybersecurity and foreign NGO laws, increased internet surveillance, and heavy sentences handed down to human rights lawyers, microbloggers, grassroots activists, and religious believers.

Hey, but they're in the Paris Climate Accord, so it's all groovy with California.

■ Ronald Bailey has good advice at Reason: Go Ahead, Put Salt on Your Food

"Salt," an unknown wit once said, "is what makes things taste bad when it isn't in them." In that sense, government nutrition nannies have spent decades urging Americans to make their food taste bad.

In June 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued proposed guidelines to the food industry to reduce the amount of sodium in many prepared foods. The agency, noting that the average American eats about 3,400 mg of sodium daily, wants to cut that back to only 2,300 mg. That is basically the amount of sodium in one teaspoon of salt. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) similarly advises that "most Americans should consume less sodium" because "excess sodium can increase your blood pressure and your risk for a heart disease and stroke."

There's one problem: Evidence has been gathering for years that government salt consumption guidelines might well kill more people than they save.

I will confess that I really want this to be true, so take that bit of confirmation bias into account.

■ Steve Horwitz at Bleeding Heart Libertarians has yet another complaint about a recent book produced in part by government-funded "research": The Butcher with a Smile – More Mangling from Nancy MacLean. Horwitz looks at MacLean's claim that James Buchanan and co-author Gordon Tullock (in The Calculus of Consent) asserted that the 'nation’s decision-making rules were closer to “the ‘ideal’ in 1900 than in 1960.”'

Horwitz looks at the actual text and concludes (by now, you should see this coming):

The point at issue is that claiming that Buchanan wants to go back to what he saw as the “ideal” constitution of 1900 is simply false. [MacLean] has waded into a much more complex and nuanced discussion that she has reduced to a simplistic falsehood.

It confirms one of the most trenchant criticisms of the book: she does not understand Buchanan’s system of thought. She cannot parse the context and meaning of his arguments, and given her fervor to counter the Trump presidency and the connection to Buchanan and libertarianism she imagines it has, she reads into Buchanan exactly what she imagined and hoped would be there. The problem is that it’s just not there.

I'll add that Horwitz's quote from The Calculus of Consent doesn't win any sparkling-prose awards. It's ponderous and dense, and requires serious skull-sweat to follow. But MacLean didn't.

■ "Hey, did you see that New Fidget Spinners Are Catching On Fire?"

Yeah, man, they're totally cool, and cheaper too!"

"No, dude, I mean they are literally on fire."

"I know, man, they are most thoroughly en fuego!"

"No, dude…"

URLs du Jour

2017-07-01

Happy July, everyone. 162 days into the Trump Presidency and we're all still alive.

Proverbs 24:26 is a pretty simple simile:

26 An honest answer
    is like a kiss on the lips.

Whoa! But, unless my memory is failing me, it's not exactly like a kiss on the lips.

■ I believe this headline from Michael Brendan Dougherty might be the best ever to appear at NRO: Trump Should Get Off His Phone and Start Lying to My Face.

Trump should get off his phone and start lying to my face. All our faces. We, the American people, deserve it. I think.

Some eight years ago, when Democrats were trying to pass their major reform of the American health-care system, Barack Obama put down his golf clubs, got out there in front of me. There were “supercut” videos of the president repeating over and over again that those who liked their insurance could keep it. He got out there and said it to different audiences across the country and in national interviews. He lied like it was his job. In a way, it was. At least he did it.

Mr. Dougherty manages to be both funny and wise.

■ This is an NRO-heavy blog post. We also have @JonahNRO's weekly G-File, which also discusses Trump's woeful failings. He should walk away from Twitter, sure enough. But the tweets are "just a symptom" of the underlying issue:

The second thing is the more bitter pill. The president of the United States really just isn’t a very good person. There is no definition of good character that he can meet. You certainly can’t say he’s a man of good character when it comes to sexual behavior. His adulterous past is well-documented. You can’t say he models decency in the way he talks. He’s not honest (you can look it up). He brags about whining his way to winning. He boasts of double-crossing business partners. If you want to say he’s charitable, you should read up on how he used his “charities” as leverage or for publicity stunts. I think we can all agree he’s not humble or self-sacrificing. When asked what sacrifices he’s made, in the context of his spat with the Kahn family, he couldn’t name anything save for the fact that he worked very hard to get rich and that he employs people (presumably because it profits him to do so). I don’t know how anyone could absolve him of the charge of vanity or greed. He’s certainly not pious by any conventional definition.

I believe Jonah is irrefutable on this score.

■ And @kevinNR weighs in with his own analysis. Trump is like a Junkie Running Dry:

Some people simply cannot handle the fact that Donald Trump was elected president.

One of those people is Donald Trump.

Trump has shown himself intellectually and emotionally incapable of making the transition from minor entertainment figure to major political figure. He is in the strange position of being a B-list celebrity who is also the most famous man in the world. His recent Twitter attack on Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC’s Morning Joe exemplifies that as much as it does the president’s other by-now-familiar pathologies, notably his strange psychological need to verbally abuse women in physical terms.

Also on-target. Apologies to any Trump fans, but the simple fact is that we have a president who is not acting close to presidential, and doesn't show any signs that he wants to.

■ Yet another Nancy MacLean link, this one from one of her Duke colleagues, Poli Sci Prof Michael C. Munger, who happens to be also a past president of the Public Choice Society. Public choice, of course, is one of the pivotal topics of MacLean's taxpayer-funded research into James M. Buchanan. It's long and detailed, but Munger leaves little doubt about devastating-with-praise bottom line: On the Origins and Goals of Public Choice

As I hope has been clear, as a book Democracy in Chains is well-written, and the research it contains is both interesting and in many cases illuminating. But as an actual history, as a reliable account of the centrality of the work of James Buchanan in a gigantic conspiracy designed to end democracy in America, it turns far away from its mark. It is the story of an alternative past that never actually happened.

I would like to be a fly on the wall at the next Duke faculty soirée.

■ At Reason, Matt Welch has perhaps the days least shocking headline: Libertarians Still Arguing About Gary Johnson’s 2016 Campaign. Don't libertarians (especially those in the Libertarian Party) argue about everything all the time? But anyway, Jack Hunter is quoted:

Johnson had his chance, the biggest chance the Libertarian Party will likely ever have in our lifetimes, and his campaign did more to diminish liberty than promote it. Johnson’s simple 2016 task was two-fold: First, present libertarianism coherently, and hopefully, attractively. Second, don’t look like an idiot.

He failed on both.

Yes, the media was out to get him. The thing is: he should have known that, and prepared adequately.

And yes, I still voted for him. And would again.


Last Modified 2017-07-02 7:25 AM EDT