URLs du Jour

2017-09-30

■ A few days back, the Proverbialist got cranky and suspicious about maybe getting cheated by a vendor; today, the shoe is on the other foot. Proverbs 20:14 invites us to contemplate that consumers are no bed of roses either:

14 “It’s no good, it’s no good!” says the buyer—
    then goes off and boasts about the purchase.

You almost wish they'd go a little lighter on the implicit ethnic stereotyping.


■ Do you ever wonder whether U.S. antitrust law is broken? Virginia Postrel has the answer: U.S. Antitrust Law Is Not Broken.

We’ve seen this movie before.

Upstarts seize new technological opportunity, overturning the old business order in the process. They’re celebrated as entrepreneurial heroes as they grow rich and self-important. Then public opinion sours on their success. Competitors complain they’re too powerful. The government brings antitrust action and threatens to break them up. Years of bureaucratic struggle ensue (cue the montage of lawyers with piles of paper, economists writing on whiteboards, and multiple presidential inaugurations). In the final act, a settlement is reached, but it’s largely irrelevant: While the lawyers were fighting, a new generation of upstarts overturned the business order once again.

The original basis for the Feds to swing into antitrust activity was effects on consumer welfare. That doesn't fit very well these days, so the goalposts are moving: Democrats in particular are pushing for considering a "variety of factors" which are less amenable to objective measure and "might include just about anything people don’t like."


■ At Cato, Neal McCluskey reflects on the American Library Association's "Banned Books Week", which coincides with a Cambridge school's librarian's (Liz Phipps Soeiro) rejection of a gift of (racist!) Dr. Seuss books from Mrs. Trump. Is It “Banning” To Reject the Book in the First Place? McCluskey asks us to consider the "root problem":

Public institutions force all taxpayers to fund decisions by other people about what books are valuable, or age appropriate, or just plain morally upright. We are forcing them to fund someone else’s speech and opinions, even if they find that speech or those opinions offensive, or just wrong, and even if their views are rejected.

Indeed.


■ But "Dana" at Patterico has a slightly less philosophical take: The School Library Where Good Manners Go To Die And Dr. Seuss Gets The Racist Treatment. And makes a painfully obvious point:

If Mrs. Obama had gifted Soeiro’s library with the same titles, you and I both know this letter would not have been written, and the books would have been graciously received, whether needed or not. And it would have been taken as an honor and distinction to have been recognized in this way.

And includes the tweeted ironic juxtaposition of a couple of pix of Ms. Soeiro:

How Cambridge can you get?


■ Cato and Michael F. Cannon find plenty to dislike about the Trump Administration. But: The Trump Administration Isn’t Sabotaging ObamaCare—That Was Democrats.

If Democrats or the media want to get angry at someone for sabotaging ObamaCare, there are plenty of targets. They can start with the Democratic politicans who – though they now clamor for bipartisanship now – enacted ObamaCare in 2010 on a purely partisan basis, spent seven years refusing to compromise, and as a result sowed the seeds for the GOP’s electoral gains. Then there’s the Democratic president who – and this was perhaps the sole exception to Democrats’ general refusal to compromise – himself sabotaged the law by agreeing to limit so-called “risk-corridor” subsidies to ObamaCare carriers. Then there was the time when ObamaCare was making voters so angry, that same Democratic president even violated the ACA by allowing people to keep non-ACA-compliant plans. That decision counts as an act of double-sabotage, because it continues to make Exchange premiums higher than they otherwise would be.

Ending with a plea with which we concur: "Now stop making me defend the Trump administration, people. Sheesh."

URLs du Jour

2017-09-29

Proverbs 20:13 has get-rich-quick advice.

13 Do not love sleep or you will grow poor;
    stay awake and you will have food to spare.

Or maybe it's don't-be-poor advice. Anyway, I doubt it's the whole story. Our Getty image du jour: a guy staying awake.


■ A good, if depressing, report from the Fraser Instutute: Economic Freedom of the World: 2017 Annual Report.

The index published in Economic Freedom of the World measures the degree to which the policies and institutions of countries are supportive of economic freedom. The cornerstones of economic freedom are personal choice, voluntary exchange, freedom to enter markets and compete, and security of the person and privately owned property. Forty-two data points are used to construct a summary index and to measure the degree of economic freedom in five broad areas.

And the US of A is … drumroll … number 11! [sad trombone]


@JonahNRO's column is suitably geeky: The Blade Runner Curse and the Overestimation of Corporate Might. Hey, remember how 1982's Blade Runner demonstrated Big Corporations Taking Over Everything Dystopia with giant logos of actual corporations on buildings and blimps?

By my count, of the eight companies depicted in the movie, five either disappeared, were broken up, or were bought by other firms. Atari, which controlled 80 percent of the home video-game market, went belly-up, though the name has been bought and revived by another company. Koss and Cuisinart went bankrupt (though Conair bought the Cuisinart brand out of Chapter Eleven in 1989). Bell Telephone was split into a bunch of different companies. Coca-Cola survived, of course, but in 1985 it took it on the chin with the New Coke debacle.

Hollywood progressives keep pointing with alarm to that imminent corporatocracy, but it never seems to show up.


■ We take good news where we can find it, and the excellent news is that President Trump nominated Don Willett (currently on the Texas Supreme Court) to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. At NRO, Carrie Severino asks: Who is Justice Don Willett? Among other things:

Justice Willett is a Texas native and grew up in Kaufman County. He is the adopted son of parents who did not graduate from high school, and is the first college graduate in his family. Justice Willett is married and has three children. He is a former rodeo bull rider.

And I follow him on Twitter. Because of tweets like this:

This wouldn't have happened with President Hillary.


■ David Harsanyi's advice: Republicans Should Reject ‘Bipartisan’ Solution for Obamacare.

The latest iteration of Obamacare repeal has likely failed. Senate Republicans were unable to pass a watered-down repeal effort that offered states some meager level of federalism in the form of block grants. Now, we’re again going to hear a lot of noise about the need to embrace a “bipartisan” approach to fix health care.

“Since nearly every promise we made with Obamacare has failed, you now have a responsibility to save it”: To many, this might seem like a shamelessly counterintuitive thing to say, but it’s very popular among Democrats. The problem is that any effort that further entrenches a wholly partisan law is not, in any genuine way, “bipartisan.” And Republicans have zero reason to play along.

Republicans are the Stupid Party, so they probably won't heed Harsanyi's good advice.


■ The Trump Administration did another good thing in (finally) waiving the Jones Act, allowing all ships to bring aid to Puerto Rico. But it shouldn't just be "waived", it should be repealed. Read, at Cato, The Jones Act’s Bloody Cost.

Traditionally, Jones Act criticism has focused on its financial harm to American consumers. One recent estimate is the law results in higher prices totaling $1.8 billion a year, which is about $5.50 for each American man, woman, or child. But now there’s growing evidence that it also exacts a cost in human lives.

It's from 1920, back when "progressive" corporate welfare was the rage.


■ Matt Ridley, the Rational Optimist, doesn't sound that Optimistic about one recent trend: Is the Enlightenment dimming?

Mel Brooks said last week that comedy is becoming impossible in this censorious age and he never could have made his 1974 film Blazing Saddles today. A recent poll found that 38 per cent of Britons and 70 per cent of Germans think the government should be able to prevent speech that is offensive to minorities. If you give a commencement speech at a US university these days and don’t attract a shouty mob, you’re clearly a nobody. “There’s an almost religious quality to many of the protests,” says Jonathan Haidt of New York University, citing the denunciations.

Matt is pretty rough on early Christians, so if you think you might be offended by that… man up, and read it anyway, snowflake.


■ In the wake of the NFL Knee Kerfuffle, a lot of people have been pointing to a 2015 report from Senators Flake and McCain: Paid Patriotism, detailing how the Pentagon shovelled cash to the NFL/MLB/MLS/NHL/NBA/…

The report shows that contrary to the leagues’ assertions, 72 of the 122 contracts amounting to $6.8 million contained some form of paid patriotism. Certain contracts show that DOD paid for specific activities including on-field color guard performances, enlistment and re-enlistment ceremonies, performances of the national anthem, full-field flag details, and ceremonial first pitches and puck drops.

In a world where DOD cheerleaders are crying poverty, demanding more and more billions, that's a bad idea.

But it may have been stopped, due to the McCain/Flake report. And the NFL actually refunded $724K to the Feds. So I'm not sure of the relevance to the current situation.


■ But what about the memes? E.g., "NFL players did not stand for the national anthem until the Defense Dept. started paying the league to stage patriotic displays in 2009." Snopes examines that claim:

WHAT'S TRUE:

NFL players were not required to be on the sidelines during the playing of the U.S. national anthem for primetime games prior to 2009.

WHAT'S FALSE

Players always had the option of standing on the sidelines during the national anthem, and there is no evidence that "paid patriotism" initiatives begun in 2009 required them to do so.

Snopes can be biased, but they seem to have remained straight on this matter.

URLs du Jour

2017-09-28

Coming Soon to a Texas Public School
Textbook Near You!

Proverbs 20:12 is a little puzzling:

12 Ears that hear and eyes that see—
    the Lord has made them both.

I'm hearing the complaints: "Well, yeah. We knew that from Genesis 1. Your point being? Are you trying to correct those people who think the Lord made ears, but not eyes? Or vice versa? There are no such people."

I just don't get it. Why stop there? Brains that think, muscles that contract, tongues that taste, noses that smell…


Reason's Christian Britschgi notes (yet another) betrayal of campaign promises from … well, who else? In Stunning Reversal, Trump Gives Up on Private Sector Infrastructure Investments.

Infrastructure was one of the few areas where a Donald Trump presidency offered any cause for optimism among libertarians.

On the campaign trail and in office, Trump had promised to tap private capital to deliver $1 trillion in infrastructure investments, spin off the nation's air traffic control system from direct federal management, and pump the breaks [sic] on the billions in federal pork currently wasted on local transit projects.

Now Trump appears to be bailing out on that pledge, But as Britschgi notes: "It is also possible that the ever-mercurial Trump is just saying stuff."


■ Also at Reason, Matt Welch notes that Trump's knee-jerk protectionism in the case of the Jones Act (which demands that only American-owned ships transfer emergency supplies from US ports to Puerto Rico) doesn't augur well for any other reform that might make economic sense: Jones Act Protectionism Is Why Tax Reform Is Probably Doomed to Fail.

It's hard to imagine a more vivid example of the notion of concentrated benefits and dispersed costs than the Jones Act, a 97-year-old Mercantilist garbage-law that requires all ships traveling between U.S. ports to be totally American, which in practice means everything on U.S. islands (including hurricane relief) is way more expensive than it should be. As free-trader Scott Lincicome quickly tabulated, "At best, it's 1400 workers in Jones Act shipping in/around PR (GAO 2013) vs 3.4 MILLION suffering Puerto Ricans." The moral calculus is hideous.

If it weren't so hideous the irony might be amusing: "economic populism" causing the unnecessary suffering of actual people.

If ostensibly "free-market conservative" pols can't overcome entrenched special interests to get rid of the Jones Act, how can you expect them to muster up the courage to do actual tax reform? It's not a great bet.


■ But speaking of tax reform, @kevinNR has some thoughts.

I have for a long time been sympathetic to the idea of capping the total annual taxes paid by an individual, say at $1 million a year. I call it the Max Tax. There’s no good economic reason for it, I’ll be the first to admit. Barack Obama used to say that, at a certain point, you’ve made enough money. I think that, at a certain point, you’ve paid enough tax, at least for the year. The Left likes to talk about “fair share,” even though right now, as things stand, the top 20 percent of income earners pay basically all the federal income tax — their share of taxes is wildly disproportionate to their share of income. Call me old-fashioned, but I think a million bucks a year is more than one’s “fair share.” I like the idea of other tax caps, too: For example, I’d cap the lifetime property taxes on a residence at the price of the house itself. If you’ve paid off your house once, and then paid for it again through property taxes, it should be, at long last, your house. Yes, this would create some weird economic incentives, but I’m okay with some of that, and much of it could be mitigated through designing the cap rules intelligently.

Looking at my property tax bill: yes, let's do that.


■ Jonah Goldberg has some wise warning words: If you deny the ‘right to be wrong,’ blood will flow.

People are growing intolerant of any dissent from their idea of what everyone should believe. Agree with me and you’re one of the good guys; disagree with me and you’re not just wrong, you’re my enemy, a heretic, a traitor, a bigot. Opportunists recognize that exacerbating this polarization redounds to their own benefit, because at least for now, doing so helps raise money, ratings, clicks and poll numbers.

Goodness knows that I'm no fan of left-wing celebrity/athlete showboating. But I can't excoriate Google for firing James Damore, then turn around and argue that (say) ESPN should fire Jemele Hill.


■ Alex Griswold of the Washington Free Beacon notes some recent ignorance from MSNBC host Chuck Todd: Roy Moore Doesn’t ‘Believe In The Constitution’ Because He Thinks Rights Come From God

Todd, introducing his discussion of the former Alabama Chief Justice, said that "the phrase ‘Christian conservative' doesn't even begin to describe him."

"First off, he doesn't appear to believe in the Constitution as it's written," Todd said.

He then played a clip of Moore saying, "Our rights don't come from government, they don't come from the Bill of Rights, they come from Almighty God."

Griswold does what any historically literate person could do: quote the Declaration's "endowed by their Creator" language.


■ A number of bloggers have pointed out an amusingly brutal book review by Emory prof Harvey Klehr: The agony of Alger. The book is Alger Hiss: Framed by Joan Brady. And…

Her book is not only very bad history, but also embarrassingly stupid. She betrays a remarkable ignorance of the American legal system and American government, makes numerous errors, relies on quacks and discredited commentators, and entertains breathtaking conspiracy theories. It would not merit serious attention, except that it bears endorsements from British notables like the former shadow minister Clare Short, the former Nation editor Victor Navasky, and the Pulitzer Prize winner Kai Bird. To boot, Brady is an award-winning novelist, demonstrating once again that, for leftists of a certain variety, evidence, logic, and coherence are not allowed to get in the way of vindicating a core ideological value. When it comes to Soviet espionage they write fiction in the guise of nonfiction.

But (see the Goldberg item above), she has the right to be wrong. So very wrong.


■ But there's good news for New England history buffs who aren't afraid to get their hands dirty: Paul Revere’s Outhouse? North End Dig May Have Found Colonial Privy.

Workers digging at the Paul Revere house in the city’s North End believe they may have found an archaeological jackpot that could give them a unique window into history–the Revere family outhouse.

Yes, there's lots and lots of historical poop. But early Americans tossed a lot of more archeologically interesting objects down the unporta-potty.

URLs du Jour

2017-09-27

Air Traffic Control

Proverbs 20:11 seemingly continues the cranky-old-man theme we noticed yesterday:

11 Even small children are known by their actions,
    so is their conduct really pure and upright?

"They tromp on my lawn. And their music? It's just noise!"


■ One of Reason's first editors, Robert W. Poole, has long been an acknowledged expert on transportation policy. He returns to the pages of the magazine with a (frankly infuriating) look at the USA's socialistic and antiquated Air Traffic Control system: Your Flight Is Delayed.

Amid the staggering number of political and policy controversies to roil Washington this year, one of the most significant has—forgive me—flown under the radar. It's a battle that will determine the future of the United States air traffic control (ATC) system. And while the particulars may seem esoteric, the consequences could be huge.

Every time you board a plane, you are putting yourself at the mercy of an inefficient system guided by 1930s radio beacons, 1950s radar surveillance, and paper ticker-tape flight tracking. Far from being the envy of the world, the U.S. system for guiding aircraft is a backward analog relic in a digital age.

For all the continuous political babble about "infrastructure", this really should be getting more attention. ATC is stuck with 20th century technology, and it's not even late 20th century technology.


■ Also from Reason, Damon Root recalls another centennial: When the Government Declared War on the First Amendment.

One hundred years ago, the U.S. government declared war on the First Amendment.

It all started with President Woodrow Wilson. On April 2, 1917, Wilson urged the nation into battle against Germany in order to "make the world safe for democracy." But the president also set his sights on certain enemies located much closer to home. "Millions of men and women of German birth and native sympathy...live among us," Wilson observed. "If there should be disloyalty, it will be dealt with with a firm hand of repression."

President Wilson, Democrat, Progressive, Racist, Autocrat. He was worse in actuality than President Trump's most vehement critics imagine Trump might be.


■ A plea from NRO's Kyle Smith: Make America Normal Again.

If you’re an NFL fan, you can only be aghast at what Trump has done. His side — our side, the side that said you shouldn’t insult the flag because of the mistakes made by some police officers — was winning. All Trump had to do to secure this small but important victory was keep his mouth shut. Kaepernick had suffered the twin humiliations of being forced to recant his position last spring by promising to end his pregame protests and being snubbed by every NFL team this summer, which left him free to spend the opening weeks of the season protesting injustice from his couch. Copycat demonstrations were dwindling out.

Now, thanks to Trump, Sunday brought the spectacle of more dismaying national-anthem protests than ever before. Players were taking a knee from coast to coast. We were presented with the mind-boggling spectacle of Patriots players being booed by Patriots fans for being unpatriotic.

"All Trump had to do was … keep his mouth shut." Why, that reminds me of a song!


■ Gregg Easterbrook writes Tuesday Morning Quarterback, the football column you can read even if you don't care much for football. This week:

First let’s bear in mind that Trump was the man who drove the USFL into the ditch, costing fans an alternative to the NFL football monopoly and investors hundreds of millions—about a billion of other people’s money lost, converted to current dollars. Trump is a failure as a manager of a professional sports league, and now lashes out at others who are able to do what he could not. One need not hold an advanced degree to diagnose this as a mental health concern.

Trump’s invective against football players who won’t stand to salute the American flag, and against NBA players who criticize him, seemed—and here’s another un-credentialed psychological opinion—pure narcissism. His goal is to focus all attention on himself, and he succeeds with Twitter-storm after Twitter-storm. Through the weekend, sports fans, the commentariat, and star athletes talked Trump, Trump, Trump. So from his standpoint, the president’s deranged observations were a total success. Anything that focuses attention on Trump is, to Trump, a success. The public good? The national interest? Fuggedaboutit.

Sad. True.

Also in the TMQ column this week: a hilarious list of New York Times corrections over the past few years.


■ But conservatives in search of a politically correct sport don't have far to look. NASCAR owners side with Trump, take firm stance against anthem protests. In fact, it was just up the road a bit at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon:

On the day Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan linked arms with players in a silent protest before an NFL game in London, if any NASCAR competitors shared the political opinion of athletes expressing themselves elsewhere, they fell completely in line anyway. In a state whose motto is “Live Free or Die,” crewman, including numerous African-Americans, stood in rows as usual for the national anthem, adhering to the prevailing opinion of the sport’s team owners.

Nothing says LFOD more than a 100 percent show of unity! Right?

More on that issue from Rick Moran at American Thinker.

Several individual NASCAR owners have come out against their employees taking part in any protest against the National Anthem, with several of them saying they would fire anyone who took a knee during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner.

Ah, well. <sarcasm>I'm sure those firing threats were unnecessary</sarcasm>.


■ Google Alert also brings us good LFOD news from an unexpected source, specifically the Salford Star: The Moods Debut Album Missing Peace Gets Five Salford Stars.

After years of gigging and honing their craft, The Moods are about to release their debut album, Missing Peace. The hotly-tipped band has caused a stir with a live act unlike any other. The Moods fuse hip-hop, reggae, pop, and (even) brass-band with poetic and poignant lyrics. After catching the band live, it was obvious that they had an eclectic bunch of songs ready and waiting for an official release.

The Salford Star (it turns out) is published in Salford, England, which is (it also turns out) just outside Manchester. What's the LFOD connection? It's the lyrics, baby:

Live free or die by the rules
Everybody is being taken for a fool.
The government we trust hangs us out to dry.
The system is corrupt can't deny the lies...

Catchy! That's from the opening track, "P.O.P (Profit Over People)", which the Star reviewer claims "uses an upbeat form to introduce prevalent themes whilst confronting injustice and inequality."

You can order the album, if you want, from Amazon. As I type: $20.99 for the CD, $32.99 for vinyl. So, even amidst all the injustice and inequality, the Moods are not above a little free-market capitalism.

URLs du Jour

2017-09-26

For when political correctness just
isn't enough /Poster for @satoridifference / #poster
#dontbeanasshole #graphicdesign #designer #design #simplycooldesign
#itsnicethat #designard #graphicroozane #graphicdesigncentral #gfxmob
#visualgraphc #graphicuniver

■ You might expect the Proverbialist to stick to his game: providing brief, punchy aphorisms that express the rules for living a righteous life. But sometimes he sounds like a cranky consumer who suspects that he's been screwed by some fast-talking vendor. For example, Proverbs 20:10:

10 Differing weights and differing measures—
    the Lord detests them both.

Or maybe this is a prophecy of difficulties converting between English and Metric units. It's—literally—damned difficult.


@kevinNR takes on Commie Radio's (aka "NPR") fatuous Terry Gross, who was caught wondering to an interviewee: ‘Isn’t Thanksgiving a Secular Holiday?’ Kevin replies:

Well, Skippy, let’s think on that for a minute, shall we? Thanksgiving was instituted by the Pilgrims, who were a bunch of fairly fanatical Christians, if you’ll recall. To whom does Terry Gross imagine they were giving thanks? Beyoncé? Jeff Bezos, Peace Be Upon Him?

The phrase "illiterate peon" also appears. You won't want to miss that.


■ Don Boudreaux has an interesting proposal: Separate Sport and State. Sharing the words of one of his correspondents:

When I go to Walmart no one on the staff “takes a knee” before stocking a shelf or selling a product.

Neither does this happen at Home Depot or McDonald’s or anywhere else that I spend my money. Of course, none of these businesses pipe the national anthem into their stores.

My entertainment dollar is no different than my grocery dollar.

Um, good point, I think. We've become inured to mass displays of Mandatory Patriotism at sporting events. Maybe we shouldn't have.


■ Also making that point is Tyler Cowen: Dial Down the National Anthem at Sporting Events.

The awkward, hard-to-admit truth is that the American national anthem is a form of right-wing political correctness, designed to embarrass or intimidate those who do not see fit to sing along and pay the demanded respect. I’ve been at sporting events where I’ve seen some people not sing along, and not put their hands over their hearts, only to hear that they will be punched in the face. Whether or not the threat was serious, this is classic “snowflake” behavior from the threat-makers, and should be recognized as such. For all of the right-wing complaints about left-wing political correctness, the right has long had its own version of the practice. It is time to dial it down.

It would be nice if Both Sides would Dial It Down. Because:


■ Yes, they went there: ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Cast Takes a Knee After Show’s Premiere.

The cast members of Star Trek Discovery were slammed by social media users Sunday after a photo of the CBS show’s stars taking a knee went viral online.

The show also does a heavy-handed allegory with war-happy Klingons standing for President Trump and his fans.

I watched the first-one-is-free premiere episode. Meh. I must confess that I had zero intention of paying $6/month for more. But now I really have no intention of paying $6/month for more.

URLs du Jour

2017-09-25

the new medusa -- "it's a good
thing i can't see myself", scott richard

■ Pun Salad returns to regular order with Proverbs 20:9, asking (I'm pretty sure) a rhetorical question:

9 Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure;
    I am clean and without sin”?

As a sorta-Lutheran, I can raise my hand with the answer. However, being in an otherwise Catholic family, I may have to revise and extend as necessary.


@kevinNR asks another (also rhetorical?) question: Is Trey Trainor too Catholic for the FEC? Trainor has been nominated by President Trump to the Federal Elections Commission. He is a devout Catholic, thinks that Catholicism is the best religion. And some people don't like that. Or claim they don't.

But please. The real issue with Trainor is…

Trainor has been described as a “principled libertarian” by retiring FEC commissioner Lee Goodman, whose term Trainor will complete if he is confirmed. He describes himself as someone who simply wants to see the law implemented. “At the end of the day, the First Amendment says what it says, and there’s a reason it’s the First Amendment: The right of political speech of citizens is of utmost importance if we want to continue to have a functioning republic.” The real debate, he says, is not so much over the content of federal election law but the question of where — and to whom — that law applies. Questions about donations to candidates, campaign committees, and political parties are largely well-settled, but there are live issues involving organizations that have broader missions and that are controlled neither by candidates or political parties.

People—you know, or you can guess, who—don't like that Trainor thinks the First Amendment applies to political speech. The religious test is a smokescreen; if Trainor were opposed to Citizens United, it wouldn't even come up.


■ Don Boudreaux has thoughts about Donald Trump's reaction to the NFL, and the National Anthem:

This past January 20th Trump took an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Apparently he didn’t read the document that he solemnly swore to uphold. Nowhere in the Constitution, or in any of the vast accretion of Anglo-American common law upon which that document rests, is there the faintest hint that an individual’s freedom to earn a living requires that individual to pay homage to – or even to refrain from showing disrespect toward – flags and other symbols of the state. Indeed, the spirit of both the American Declaration and the Constitution is that individuals are and ought to be free from any pressure applied by government to express or to not express themselves in whatever peaceful ways they choose and for whatever reasons they have.

I'm not a fan of overpaid athletes (or other entertainers) using their podium for blathering about Amerikkka. But I'm even less of a fan of Trump's disrespect of free speech.


■ Good news from Robby Soave at Reason: Betsy DeVos Withdraws 'Dear Colleague' Letter That Weaponized Title IX Against Due Process.

The previous guidance chipped away at due process in several ways. It lowered the burden of proof to a "preponderance of the evidence" standard, which meant that accused students could be found responsible for sexual misconduct if administrators were only 51 percent convinced of the charges; it discouraged allowing the accused and accuser to cross-examine each other, reasoning that this could prove traumatizing for survivors of rape; and it stipulated that accusers should have the right to appeal contrary rulings, allowing accused students to be re-tried even after they had been judged innocent.

As we (tirelessly) remind our readers: Pun Salad was there at the announcement of the Obama Administration's "Dear Colleague" letter.


■ Our state's senior senator tweeted her sorrow at DeVos's action:

I could not resist tweeting in reply:

Like Donald Trump, Jeanne Shaheen also took that oath about the Constitution. It would be nice if she bought into that presumption-of-innocence thing that most people think the Constitution demands.


■ And blogger Ken Wrightman gives his views on the proper attitude of principled conservatives: I May Not Agree With Everything Trump Says, But It’s My Duty As An American To Repeat All Of His Talking Points Basically Verbatim.

As a conservative voter, there are parts of Trump’s agenda that I agree with and other actions he’s taken that I find troubling or simply bizarre. However, as a patriotic American it’s my duty to memorize Trump’s talking points, ignore my own misgivings, and defend the president by quoting him essentially verbatim.

For the humor-impaired:

URLs du Jour

2017-09-24

■ We interrupt our regular blog format to celebrate the appearance of our official, but uncompensated, blog mascot, Cathy Poulin, in Mount Kisco, NY: Heavenly Productions, Bob's Discount Furniture Spread Joy In Mount Kisco

Heavenly Productions and Bob's Discount Furniture distributed Dr. Seuss books, Dr. Seuss hats and Bob's Discount furniture blankets for 85 children. They then sang "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," while Cathy Poulin of Bob's Discount Furniture dressed up as The Cat In The Hat and read the famous Dr. Seuss book.

And there's a pic, which I have stolen:

[Cathy in Mt. Kisco]

That's Cathy in the front row middle. She's a good sport.


Proverbs 20:8 describes a royal superpower that sounds unlikely to modern ears:

8 When a king sits on his throne to judge,
    he winnows out all evil with his eyes.

You know, that whole separation of powers thing? Especially keeping judicial power away from the executive? That was a good idea.


■ Arnold Kling asks: Did the Suits win the Internet?

Around 1995, the Suits discovered the World Wide Web. Their reaction: this is going to be television on steroids! Media giants will rule the earth, as the Internet becomes a vehicle for mass entertainment.

At that time, the Geeks thought differently. The architecture of the Net was peer-to-peer. You did not need large amounts of capital to build a business. Instead, personal computers, with access to the Net, were putting the means of production in the hands of the individual. Government would be powerless to control or censor the Net.

Good question. I was (and, to some extent, remain) a Geek. But I've also (to some extent) surrendered to the Apple/Microsoft/Google/Facebook/Twitter Suits.

And certainly the Suits in most organizations would prefer to manage interchangeable (and easily replaceable) sub-Suits rather than unruly Geeks.

One sad moment of revelation for me was when I attended a LISA sysadmin conference, once a proud den of Geeks, and a respected member of the organization made an impassioned argument that (basically) said we should all get our MCSE certifications.

I think that might have been the last LISA conference I attended.

(Kling's article is inspired by, and links to a long and interesting Fast Company interview with Alan Kay. You might want to check that out too.)


■ The Google LFOD alert rang for a Concord Monitor op-ed from Matt Simon, of the Marijuana Policy Project: The price of prohibition.

Now that the “Live Free or Die” state has stopped arresting people for possessing small amounts of marijuana, the debate over marijuana legalization and regulation in Concord has finally begun in earnest.

Simon takes on anti-legalization arguments, noting that the sky has not fallen in legal-pot-selling Colorado.


■ And we also got alerted to a wonderfully unhinged LTE from Lance Shoots of Lerna, Illinois, appearing in the local Journal Gazette and Times-Courier: Nation experiencing widespread discontent. It's all one big babbling paragraph:

As a wave of widespread discontent sweeps our beleaguered nation, may no man deny its profound and far-reaching consequences; while a select few will mount the wave and ride it to glorious heights, most will be swept out to sea, hopelessly lost in the deliberately murky waters. The sad state of affairs in which America finds itself is a sign of the times, and there will be no shelter from the coming storm; rich or poor, black or white, male or female, all will feel its fury. We have been subjugated by an oppressive and parasitic system which is manipulated and perpetuated by an elite ruling class bent on maintaining total control of the population, too often at a great cost of life and liberty. Seemingly every second of our lives is inundated with harmful propaganda; one by one, our civil liberties are rounded up, snuffed out, and unceremoniously dumped into unmarked graves as the band plays on. So long as the manipulated majority believe our broken system can't be fixed, they're absolutely right; it's a disastrous self-fulfilling prophecy which serves the interests of the few at the cost of the many. It's simply unacceptable to stand idly by as the rights of our fellow Americans are trampled upon by power-drunk tyrants; lest we forget, every nation gets the government it deserves. Let us replace the self-serving motto 'Don't Tread On Me' with the unifying declaration 'Don't Tread On Any'; let us discard the tragically defeatist slogan 'Live Free Or Die' in favor of the rallying mantra 'Live Free Or Kill'. Our great nation has fallen into the hands of vicious traitors and it's up to us to take it back. We the people built this country and we the people can reclaim it; after all, that's the American way.

"Lance Shoots" is an unfortunate name for someone who wants to replace LFOD with "Live Free or Kill". I don't think that's going on my license plate anytime soon.

Night Moves

[Amazon Link]

This is my twentieth Doc Ford book. I've already bought number 21, and I'll get around to it. I'm not sure I'll continue beyond that, it's getting pretty tedious. All respect to the author, Randy Wayne White. He's certainly found a niche, and he's writing his books the way he wants, more power to him. But I'm losing interest.

This one starts out well. Doc and his permanently drug-addled buddy Tomlinson team up with pilot Dan Futch to solve a real life mystery, the fate of Flight 19, five US Navy torpedo bombers that flew out of Fort Lauderdale in 1945 on a routine training mission. Is it possible they got really lost and crashed in the remote Everglades? They pile into Futch's plane to check it out.

Unfortunately, Futch's plane has been sabotaged, and they are nearly killed. Somebody's trying to kill … one of them, or maybe some combination of them. There is no shortage of suspects: Ford, of course, has any number of enemies that might have tracked him down. Tomlinson has been contending with a Haitian drug dealer, and he's also balling the estranged hot-to-trot wife of a zillionaire (who also has an in-law with violent tendencies). And Futch has problems with … I forget who his antagonists are, sorry.

And also appearing in Doc's marina is a mysterious, suave, Brazilian hit man. Is he after Doc? Or someone else?

Oh, and Doc gets a dog. And has woman problems, as usual.

So it's a complex story, and after that promising beginning, it just kind of meanders and bumbles around until it finally ends.

URLs du Jour

2017-09-23

Righteous

■ There are some Proverbs that set an impossibly high standard, and Proverbs 20:7 is one of them:

7 The righteous lead blameless lives;
    blessed are their children after them.

It's a good thing that there were (apparently) none of the righteous in the crowd described in John 8:2-11.


■ George F. Will writes on Our dangerous, idiotic national conversation.

At this shank end of a summer that a calmer America someday will remember with embarrassment, you must remember this: In the population of 325 million, a small sliver crouches on the wilder shores of politics, another sliver lives in the dark forest of mental disorder, and there is a substantial overlap between these slivers. At most moments, 312 million are not listening to excitable broadcasters making mountains of significance out of molehills of political effluvia.

That's the down side. On the up side, it gives us plenty of blog fodder.


■ I've been a dog owner for slightly over a year, so I'd like to think that the headline of 's column is true: Dogs’ love of man is real.

One of my favorite kinds of news stories is the report of a new scientific study that verifies the obvious. You’ve seen them. New research finds that heterosexual men are attracted to very attractive women. Evidence collected by wildlife researchers has confirmed that bears really do use the woods as toilets.

… and Emory neuroscientist Gregory Berns has employed MRI to look inside doggie brains—yes, he was able to locate them—to verify that dogs respond to praise, with or without food reward.

You can get Dr. Berns' book from Amazon. The science is therefore settled.


■ What mental image is summoned for you by this Daily Beast headline: Jimmy Kimmel Got a Hand From Chuck Schumer in His Fight Against Obamacare Repeal? You'll find my answer below the excerpt:

Over the past week, opposition to the latest Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare has been driven by a late-night talk show host who had expressed little interest in health care policy prior to this year.

Jimmy Kimmel’s nightly monologues decrying Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy’s (R-LA) bill became must-see TV, as the ABC host systematically attacked both the specifics of the legislation and Cassidy himself.

Behind the scenes, the ABC star was getting an assist. Kimmel and his team were in touch with health care officials, charities and advocacy groups, multiple sources told The Daily Beast. He also was in touch with the office of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y) who, according to a source familiar with their conversations, “provided technical guidance and info about the bill, as well as stats from various think tanks and experts on the effects of [Graham-Cassidy].”

If you're like me: Schumer as the ventriloquist, Kimmel as the dummy. The location of Schumer's "hand" is… left as an exercise for the reader.

Which brings us to our Tweet du Jour


■ Our Google LFOD Alert brought this WMUR report from John DiStaso: Speaker Jasper calls on NHGOP to ‘distance ourselves’ from Free State Project.

New Hampshire House Speaker Shawn Jasper Thursday doubled down on his belief that the Republican Party should reject the Free State Project, warning that it could “destroy” the party.

Jasper has an issue with the "Statement of Intent" Free Staters are asked to sign onto:

I hereby state my solemn intent to move to New Hampshire with the Free State Project. Once there, I will exert the fullest practical effort toward the creation of a society in which the maximum role of government is the protection of individuals' rights to life, liberty, and property.

Jasper thinks the Constitution requires a lot more from government than that. No Lockean he.

Unsurprisingly, Jasper's comments have been cheered by… well, mostly Democrats, as near as I can tell. State Rep JR Hoell, R-Dunbarton begs to differ:

“Thankfully, liberty-minded Granite Staters, both Republicans and independents, have a place where they can work to build the ‘Live Free or Die’ values into effective policy – the House Freedom Caucus,” Hoell said. “We work with members of all parties to promote the notion that government should stay out of your life and your pocketbook. Moreover, we don’t put a litmus test on whether or not individuals moved here from out of state or were born and raised here with these values.”

As NH politicos know, Jasper was first elected Speaker of the House by defeating his own party’s nominee with support from House Democrats. So when he talks about tearing apart the state GOP, he's speaking from experience.


■ But bopping around the Free State Project's website unearthed the blog of FSP founder Jason Sorens, and he has an interesting post on Amazon's casting around for a new headquarters: Why Amazon Won't Choose New Hampshire

Amazon won’t choose New Hampshire, because we simply don’t offer the corporate welfare other states do. According to Bureau of Economic Analysis data, New Hampshire offers less than half the subsidies to business that Amazon’s home state Washington does as a percentage of its economy, and the second lowest amount in the country (after West Virginia).

Interestingly, West Virginia and New Hampshire are also number one and two (respectively) in Drug Overdose Death Rates. Correlation or causation? You be the judge!

URLs du Jour

2017-09-22

Proverbs 20:6 could have been the inspiration for many a popular song and countless pissed-off poems:

6 Many claim to have unfailing love,
    but a faithful person who can find?

Darn it, now I can't get that Carole King song out of my head…


■ The latest outrage at the University Near Here is recounted by the student newspaper. Greek org under investigation amid controversial video.

An unknown member of a UNH sorority posted a video Tuesday night of members singing and dancing to a "popular song that uses the n-word," according to an email that Dean [of Students] Ted Kirkpatrick sent to the UNH student body in wake of the event.

In the press release, Kirkpatrick stated that, "The use of that word runs counter to our values. Moreover, it is a word that diminishes members of our community." He also announced that the incident has been reported to the national chapter and is currently under investigation by both the chapter and the university.

The song is identified as "Gold Digger" by Kanye West. It's well-known enough to have a Wikipedia page of its own. It's not my cup of tea, but a lot of people liked it. Back in 2005, it was number one on the Billboard "Hot 100" chart for 10 weeks, which is a lot of weeks. It won a Grammy for "Best Rap Solo Performance".

So, bottom line: when Kanye sings it, it's OK. Sorority girls, not so much.

I posted the following comment: "To avoid future controversy, I hope Dean Kirkpatrick composes a comprehensive list of songs that sorority girls are not allowed to sing."

Ah, but wait a minute. Via the Facebook page "All Eyes on UNH" (which is some fun to read all on it's own), the sorority has abjectly apologized for … whatever … and the Dean-promised "investigation" has been terminated. A report from report from The Tab: UNH sorority will NOT be investigated for n-word video – and students of color say they’re ‘livid’.

I have mixed feelings about the battle between conveniently-hypersensitive students and an obsequious administration. I'm sad that it's UNH. On the other hand, pass the popcorn.


■ At NRO, Michael Brendan Dougherty is Still Waiting on a Peace Dividend.

It’s just never going to happen for us, is it? It seemed like there were a few weeks of peace dividend in the 1990s. They must have happened sometime between withdrawing from Mogadishu and accidentally bombing the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. Maybe it was the week Princess Diana died, and that’s why it seemed so short to me.

Since then, of course, we’ve elected three consecutive presidents who campaigned on promises of withdrawing America from needless conflicts of choice. Bush’s humble foreign policy. Obama’s end to the “distraction” in Iraq, so we could finish the job in Afghanistan. And then Donald the Dove.

I know: fight them "over there" so we don't have to do it here. I get that. But…


■ Another NRO link, this one from our hero, @kevinNR:An Anti-Growth Tax Cut

Republicans want to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion — while the government already is running a deficit — and they propose to offset those cuts with wishful thinking.

In control of both houses of Congress with a nominally Republican president in the White House, they are pursuing the dead opposite of the immigration policy touted by Donald Trump on the campaign trail, and considering something close to the opposite of their longstanding promises on health care. They are embarrassed by their inability to execute any proposal of great consequence, and have retreated into that great Republican safe space: tax cuts, the more irresponsible the better.

It's more fun than cutting spending, or keeping campaign promises.


■ In case you haven't noticed, there's a new Obamacare sorta-repeal bill in play, and Jimmy Kimmel, late-night network entertainer, has become an expert commentator on it. Patterico shoots that fish in a barrel: Jimmy Kimmel’s Dopey Sketch on Graham-Cassidy Misses the Point. Is it important that Graham-Cassidy pass?

Meh. I don’t think it matters at all. The only health care system that could work is one that depends on actual choice, which is only possible in a free market. But clearly Americans — and consequently their representatives — aren’t up for the sort of solutions that this would require. (I have discussed free-market alternatives for health care before –for example, here). Whether we tinker with a losing situation in this way or that way, in my view, matters little.

It's clear that the debate, such as it is, is fueled by fear, fantasy, and demagoguery. Kimmel is an enthusiastic participant.


■ We talked yesterday about Laura Kipnis's ongoing woes, her payment for being honest about the current university climate on matters sexual. At Reason, Robby Soave has more: Northwestern Investigated Laura Kipnis Again for Violating Title IX with Her Opinions

The forces of darkness really don't want Prof. Laura Kipnis to criticize the campus sex bureaucracy—but they keep proving her right about it.

He includes a tweet that I shall also include here as our tweet du jour.

We used to think this sort of thing was Orwellian. But it's rapidly approaching "Carrollian". As in Lewis Carroll. "Off with her head!"

Rediscovering Americanism

And the Tyranny of Progressivism

[Amazon Link]

I was dimly aware that Mark Levin is a talk-radio host, and that genre is pretty far off my radar. But both Kevin D. Williamson and Andrew C. McCarthy wrote favorably at NRO about this book. That was good enough for me to fire up an Interlibrary Loan request at the University Near Here. And (eventually) the sainted ILL staff at Dimond Library wangled a copy out of Brandeis U.

After such authoritative praise, I was surprised to find myself a little disappointed. The book is not bad. I'm in agreement with nearly everything Levin has to say here. But it's pretty standard stuff, and not likely to change minds.

Levin's project is to outline "Americanism" as he understands it, grounded in the Founders' vision, as described in the Declaration, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and elsewhere: dedicated to the timeless transcendent principles of inalienable natural rights, and limited Federalist republican government.

In opposition, we have the source of all our political woes, the Progressive movement. Starting in the late 19th and early 20th century, they too-successfully championed a politics unchained from the dead-hand constraints of the past. They especially derided the lofty language of the Declaration, and desperately sought to reinterpret the Constitution in a way that might legalize governmental plunder intrusions into previously forbidden areas.

Okay, but we know all that. But I suppose I could recommend this book to the reader who (a) doesn't know all that, and (b) is open-minded enough to learn about all that.

Levin's style employs a lot of quotes, mostly historical. They come from good guys (Locke, Jefferson, Mill, Montesquieu, Berlin, Hayek, Friedman, Coolidge, …) and bad guys (Marx, Hegel, Rousseau, Wilson, Croly, Dewey, …). There are a lot of quotes, and they are long. (Do we really need to quote all ten amendments making up the Bill of Rights? Even the Third Amendment?)

Which brings me to my biggest problem with the book: its quoting style. Levin doesn't use block-quoting for most of his lengthy quotes. (Sometimes he does, mostly he doesn't.) Often there's just a sentence or two of Levin's own words stuck in between paragraph after paragraph of (for example) the tedious pomposity of John Dewey.

Cynical me wonders: what percentage of the words in this book are actually Levin's, and how much is just copy-n-paste from his sources?

Less-cynical me says (however): that's not necessarily bad. When your sources are saying something insightful or revealing, it's best to quote to quote them fully in context.

But I'd like to see things clearly demarcated. That's what block quotes are for.

URLs du Jour

2017-09-21

insight

■ Your mileage may vary, but I kind of like the poetic imagery of Proverbs 20:5:

5 The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters,
    but one who has insight draws them out.

It's a little ambiguous whether the "insight" is into (a) someone else's purposes, or (b) one's own (we could all use a little more self-reflection). Could be both, I suppose.


■ Pun Salad looked at Laura Kipnis's book about abusive and intrusive Title IX investigations, Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus, here. Among other things, she described the investigation she went through at her school, Northwestern. Was she accused of rape? Sexual harassment? No. Her crime was writing an article about Title IX in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Now it turns out that Prof Kipnis underwent another Title IX investigation, this in response to her book. The details are summarized at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education: Laura Kipnis’ second ‘Title IX inquisition’.

The month-long investigation was sparked by complaints about “Unwanted Advances” from four Northwestern faculty members and six graduate students. As with her first investigation, Kipnis was ultimately found not responsible for violating university policy.

However, reviewing Gersen’s report, it’s easy to see how the investigations themselves function as punishment, to say nothing of the threat they pose to academic freedom: in the most recent investigation, Kipnis was asked to respond to at least 80 written questions about her book and to provide her source material. She was also urged to keep the investigation confidential.

I try not to get outraged at my age. But this is outrageous. Prof Kipnis should have some sort of legal recourse against this frivolous abuse.

But it's easy to speculate that the the real chilling message being sent here is to any other would-be critics of "Progressive" university dogma: keep your mouth shut and your head down.


■ For another example of what happens to dissenters in higher ed, Power Line's Scott Johnson brings us up to date on the case of Professors Amy Wax (Penn) and Larry Alexander (San Diego), who said That Which Must Not Be Said. Specifically, they wrote a column for the Philadephia Inquirer extolling the bourgeois culture and virtues of mid-20th century America. Oh oh!

Johnson quotes Heather MacDonald's WSJ column describing the reactions. For example:

None of the professors’ high-placed critics have engaged with any of their arguments. [USD Law President Stephen] Ferruolo’s schoolwide letter was one of the worst examples. The dean simply announced that Mr. Alexander’s “views” were not “representative of the views of our law school community” and suggested that they were insensitive to “many students” who feel “vulnerable, marginalized or fearful that they are not welcomed.” He did not raise any specific objections to Mr. Alexander’s arguments, or even reveal what the arguments were.

It isn't the first time we've trotted out the Underground Grammarian essay titled "The Answering of Kautski", which quoted Lenin:

Why should we bother to reply to Kautski? He would reply to us, and we would have to reply to his reply. There's no end to that. It will be quite enough for us to announce that Kautski is a traitor to the working class, and everyone will understand everything.

The UG wrote this back in 1979, so it's not that this sort of thing is new. The current Leninists just announce that heretics are "creating a hostile environment" and everyone will understand everything.


■ We seem to be on a higher ed rant today. Marc A. Thiessen writes at the American Enterprise Institute: In Berkeley, Shapiro spoke but Antifa won. Yes, Ben Shapiro, "a smart, clever, mainstream conservative", managed to speak. After the school allegedly spent $600K on security arrangements.

That is why Antifa won. Without breaking a single window, or smashing a single head with their shields that say “No Hate,” these radical leftists succeeded in imposing a $600,000 tax on conservative speech at Berkeley. Just the threat of neo-Communist violence was enough to force the school to spend more than half-a-million dollars to protect Shapiro and the students who wanted to listen to him.

Worrisome.


■ And Ben Shapiro himself writes at NRO on College Students vs. Free Speech. He notes the dismal attitudes reflected in that Brookings poll we looked at yesterday, and speculates on what's changed:

[T]oday’s Americans have abandoned that image of America [where individuals are responsible for their own success]. Instead, they’ve substituted a vicious America, a Howard Zinn caricature in which hordes of evil bigots stand between individuals and success. We are supposedly a society plagued with the terrifying and unalterable specters of institutional racism and sexism, of bigotry and brutality. None of this is curable.

And so we have been taught to find meaning within. True freedom doesn’t exist in the outside world, with its soft, unspeakable tyrannies. True freedom exists only in our own self-definition, our subjective sense of ourselves. Solipsism becomes an animating motive.

He's onto something.


■ Enough about higher ed. Here in New Hampshire, we've got bigger fish to fry, like putting Keno screens in local watering holes: Keno to go on Somersworth ballot.

And, yes, it rang our LFOD Google Alert:

Councilor Jonathan McCallion said New Hampshire is the Live Free or Die state and the reality is people are going elsewhere to play Keno now and towns around Somersworth will offer it.

Yes, you really can use LFOD to justify anything.


■ Or desperate writers can use LFOD to pump up their word count, For example: Before You Name That New Baby, Check Out the Most Popular Baby Names in Every State

Live Free or Die” New Hampshire broke ranks with the rest of the country and picked Charlotte as its top baby name for girls. (Emma was second place in New Hampshire.)

Note that nothing there actually depends on LFOD. It's not as if new NH parents looked at the name statistics and said "Screw all those other liberty-hating states with their Emmas and Olivias! We're going with Charlotte!"

The most popular male-baby name in New Hampshire was… Noah. As it was in the rest of the country. So what's the lesson here? Live Free or Don't?

URLs du Jour

2017-09-20

■ "Sluggards" are also a frequent target of Proverbialist taunts (I count 14), and Proverbs 20:4 is another example:

4 Sluggards do not plow in season;
    so at harvest time they look but find nothing.

So, is the problem that sluggards are merely lazy? This suggests an additional feature: they're also stupid.


■ At NRO, Michael Tanner writes on the latest GOP effort to repeal-and-replace: Graham-Cassidy Is a Too-Mild Improvement on Obamacare.

Think about it. In the battle of ideas over health-care reform, Republicans have unilaterally disarmed. When was the last time Republicans explained what a free-market health-care system would look like, how it would work, and why it would be better for health-care consumers? The old adage is true: You can’t beat something with nothing.

That’s why Republicans are once again trying to eke out a narrow win on a bill that slows but doesn’t reverse the ongoing march to socialized medicine.

I am mildly in favor of Graham-Cassidy, but I won't be heartbroken if it loses.


■ An amusing column from David Harsanyi: After Self-Reflection, Journalists Discover They’ve Been Too Critical Of … Democrats.

Journalism is in crisis. After some much-needed self-examination, however, reporters are finally beginning to figure out why many Americans are souring on their industry: They’ve been too critical of the Democratic Party.

As Harsanyi notes, many critics—Hillary Clinton, for one—are maintaining that "the press didn’t do its job — which is to say, help her get elected."


■ Catherine Rampell's reportage in the WaPo has caused a stir: A chilling study shows how hostile college students are toward free speech. For example:

A fifth of undergrads now say it’s acceptable to use physical force to silence a speaker who makes “offensive and hurtful statements.”

Also:

  • 44% of polled students believed, falsely, that the First Amendment does not protect "hate speech".
  • 62% of students believed, also falsely, that the First Amendment requires that a university event with "offensive and hurtful" speaker be balanced with a speaker presenting an "opposing view".

As Rodgers and Hammerstein said: "You've got to be carefully taught."

The kids aren't just "hostile" to free speech.

They are, also, not simply "ignorant" about free speech.

They've been miseducated to believe things about free speech that just aren't so.


■ Jacob Sullum's column this week bemoans the recent vote on Rand Paul's amendment repealing the 2001 open-ended authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against 9/11 perpetrators: Congress Does Not Want Its War Power.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) thinks Trump is a "buffoon." Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) says Trump is attacking "basic institutions of government…in unprecedented ways." Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who last year remarked that Trump "doesn't seem to know what's happening outside of Trump Tower," recently worried that he "tries to make national security policy or foreign policy through tweeting." In July a hot mic caught Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) calling Trump "crazy."

These senators view the president as ill-informed and reckless, if not mentally unbalanced. That they are nevertheless OK with granting him a blank check to use the world's most powerful military as he pleases suggests how desperate members of Congress are to dodge their duties.

For New Hampshirites, our state's other senator, Maggie Hassan, also voted to table Paul's amendment.


■ Matt Ridley takes a contrarian position on "climate change", but even if you disagree, you might want to check out how The poor are carrying the cost of today's climate policies.

Here is a simple fact about the world today:

• climate change is doing more good than harm.

Here is another fact:

• climate change policy is doing more harm than good.

Counterintuitive! And probably correct. Check it out.

URLs du Jour

2017-09-19

■ Our (sort of) methodical march through Proverbs stumbles over a lot of clunkers, but Proverbs 20:3 shows that some bits of wisdom are, indeed, timeless:

3 It is to one’s honor to avoid strife,
    but every fool is quick to quarrel.

True then and now.


■ I liked Tom Nichols' book, The Death of Expertise, quite a bit, without totally agreeing on some points. But he expands on one of the major points of agreement in the Chronicle of Higher Education: Our Graduates Are Rubes

The pampering of students as customers, the proliferation of faux "universities," grade inflation, and the power reversal between instructor and student are well-documented, much-lamented academic phenomena. These parts, however, make up a far more dangerous whole: a citizenry unprepared for its duties in the public sphere and mired in the confusion that comes from the indifferent and lazy grazing of cable, talk radio, and the web. Worse, citizens are no longer approaching political participation as a civic duty, but instead are engaging in relentless conflict on social media, taking offense at everything while believing anything.

Let's not leave out the modern university's commitment to indoctrination "changing mindsets" into conformance with Progressive dogma.


■ Like most of America, I avoided watching the Emmys. I've also avoided paying for streaming services beyond Amazon Prime and Netflix. But Rich Lowry at NRO has some useful things to say about an Emmy-winning Hulu series portraying a theocratic dystopia that's been adopted as anti-Trump gospel: The ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ Lunacy. Because, dontcha know, Trump is all about "imposing sexual morality". But:

The president doesn’t want to impose his traditional sexual morality because, for starters, he doesn’t have any to impose. His critics are mistaking a thrice-married real estate mogul who has done cameos in Playboy videos and extensive interviews on The Howard Stern Show with Cotton Mather. He isn’t censorious; he’s boorish.

“I thought this could be a great cautionary tale,” director Reed Morano says of the show. “We don’t think about how women are treated in other countries as much as we should, and I guess I thought this would raise awareness.” Fair enough. The Handmaid’s Tale does have something to tell us about, say, Saudi Arabia. But, in an uncomfortable fact for Christian-fearing feminists, none of the world’s women-hating theocracies are Christian.

To mangle a Tom Wolfe quote: the dark night of theocratic oppression is always descending in the United States and yet lands only in Muslim-dominated countries.


■ Hey, kids, what time is it? Matt Welch knows, and will tell you in this LATimes column: Now's the time to talk about flood insurance, and moral hazard.

Q: What do you call a congressman who votes against emergency aid for hurricane victims?

A: A “piece of [shit].”

Sure, the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce later apologized for that particular characterization of the libertarian-leaning Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), who was one of just three members of the House of Representatives brave and/or foolish enough to vote against the $7.85-billion Hurricane Harvey relief bill. But generally speaking, this is how the public treats heretics who oppose blank checks during times of crisis.

The National Flood Insurance Program, as Welch describes, is all about forcing "South Dakota to bail out South Beach". You'd think Social Justice would be all over that fundamental unfairness, but … nah.

[In fairness, though, Federal agricultural subsidies probably run the other way. But instead of making that an argument for maintaining NFIP, how about ending ag subsidies too?]


■ Sophia Chen writes in Wired: AI Research Is in Desperate Need of an Ethical Watchdog. Ohmigod, why?

About a week ago, Stanford University researchers posted online a study on the latest dystopian AI: They'd made a machine learning algorithm that essentially works as gaydar. After training the algorithm with tens of thousands of photographs from a dating site, the algorithm could, for example, guess if a white man in a photograph was gay with 81 percent accuracy. The researchers’ motives? They wanted to protect gay people. “[Our] findings expose a threat to the privacy and safety of gay men and women,” wrote Michal Kosinski and Yilun Wang in the paper. They built the bomb so they could alert the public about its dangers.

OK, Ms. Chen's snark aside, she treads dangerously close to "let's ban such research, because I didn't like the results." Her solution: adapting/expanding existing "Institutional Review Board"-style regulation of research proposals. That has its own problems.


■ Megan McArdle reacts to demands that "we" not "normalize Trump". After seven long months of the Trump Administration, it's clear: We Didn't Normalize Trump. We Normalized the Left's Violence.

But the process of not normalizing Trump has instead normalized a lot of other things, bad ones. Like public disorder. Like persistent, pervasive anxiety that often looks like mass hysteria. Like people on both sides who try to minimize the illiberal tactics of the radicals on their own side by pointing mostly to the offenses of the other. (Yes, President Trump, I’m looking at you. And also at the folks who held light-hearted debates about whether it was okay to sucker-punch Richard Spencer.)

Her triggering factoid: it cost law enforcement $600K to provide security for a Ben Shapiro speech at Berkeley. The "price we pay" for freedom.


■ And your Tweet du Jour is yet another whack at our favorite punching bag…


Last Modified 2017-09-19 7:22 AM EDT

The Accountant

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

Netflix's auto-rating system thought I would like this movie, and they hit the nail on the head. It's an intelligent crime thriller, with stellar acting. (Two Oscar winners, Ben Affleck and J. K. Simmons. Two other Oscar nominees, Anna Kendrick and John Lithgow. And some folks who'll be recognized someday, I'm sure.)

Mr. Affleck plays "Christian Wolff" (an alias), a high-functioning autistic, and he's in the titular occupation. His claim to fame: he helps all sorts of people (often bad people) track down financial irregularities in their (often criminal) enterprises. That's an extremely lucrative, but also extremely dangerous, calling. So far he's survived. But a brash young DOJ agent is tasked with tracking him down. Also, his newest assignment for an ostensibly honest tech firm turns out to be as dangerous as the ones he accepts from mobsters.

The main narrative is punctured with flashbacks to "Wolff's" family history and influences. This doesn't seem necessary, until it is. Stay with it, and pay attention. This movie does a better job of tying up loose ends in unexpected fashion than any I've seen recently.

Freddy and Frederika

[Amazon Link]

Another pick off National Review's 2010 Conservative Lit 101 list. Which has not failed me yet, this one is excellent. (I've got one left to go, No Country for Old Men. Someday.)

It is a massive (550 page) tale, set in a slightly-alternate universe, of the English monarchy. Currently, Queen Phillipa sits on the throne, kept company by her husband Prince Paul. But she's getting up there in age, and there are many concerns about the heir apparent, Freddy, Prince of Wales. Who is married to the lovely, but large-snouted, Frederika.

One thing you'll note right away, is that the Royal Family is a bit … off. They are not without their admirable qualities, but their environment, isolated from both commoners and budgetary constraints, has made them psychologically odd. Freddy especially is given to inappropriate humor and wacky causes. (He became aware that most published books were about mammals. Out of a desire for uniformity, he importuned a publisher to make him general editor of a series of books not about mammals. And so it came to pass, each book containing his introduction: "Though the volume that follows is by a mammal, it is not about a mammal, and a jolly good thing, too.")

But there's a strong (and justified) concern that Freddy might not cut it as monarch. Enter the mysterious Mr. Neil, who has allegedly been advising the monarchy for ages. His prescription: Freddy and Frederika must travel incognito to the USA and persuade them to rejoin the mother country. Piece of cake, right?

Well, although it takes until page 155, they eventually parachute into America (specifically, a fetid New Jersey swamp), and their quest begins. More, I shall not reveal.

The book is very funny, with frequent dodges into hilarity. The author, Mark Helprin, is not above low-brow humor (there's a lot of "Who's On First"-style dialogue), but you'll get generous amounts of middle- and high-brow entertainment as well. But how can you resist cracking a grin when Freddy's mistress's name turns out to be "Lady Phoebe Boylingehotte"?

Not that it's all funny. There are some dark turns near the end. All in all, it's a moving work as well as a comic one.

I kept thinking: "They should make this into a thirteen-part miniseries. And cast it with great British actors." Sadly, it's hard to see how such an effort could do justice to the book.

URLs du Jour

2017-09-18

Proverbs 20:2 reminds us that arbitrary tyranny wasn't a bed of roses:

2 A king’s wrath strikes terror like the roar of a lion;
    those who anger him forfeit their lives.

Note: the Proverbialist doesn't really see anything wrong with that state of affairs; it's simply the way things were. Don't poke the lion.

Nowadays, we're much less likely to worry about random violence from irked governmental officials. (But you still have to watch out for the IRS.)

Instead, you have to be careful not to anger the crowd of the perpetually offended. They will mess you up.


■ For example, the Google LFOD alert rang of an Adam Liptak NYT front page article: Cake Is His ‘Art.’ So Can He Deny One to a Gay Couple? "He" is Jack Phillips, operating Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado. He'd prefer not to construct wedding cakes celebrating gay marriages, and that case is going to the Supreme Court. And one of the presented arguments is one we've seen before:

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian group that represents Mr. Phillips, said in a brief that the Supreme Court has long recognized a First Amendment right not to be forced to speak. In 1977, for instance, the court ruled that New Hampshire could not require people to display license plates bearing the state’s motto, “Live Free or Die.”

Anger the Progressive Lion and you'll find yourself fighting for your livelihood, if not your life.


NR's Kyle Smith piles on the literary stylings of Her Royal Entitledness: The Real Title of Hillary’s Book: Why I Should’ve Won.

[…] the book only makes sense when you realize that What Happened is a fake title, a P. T. Barnum–style ruse to draw in the suckers. The real subject of this 500-page chunk of self-congratulation and blame-shifting — its real title — is “Why I Should Have Won.” If Hollywood is a place where you peel off the fake tinsel only to find the real tinsel underneath, Hillary Clinton is homo politicus all the way through. It’s all she has. It’s all she is. She earned the Oval Office, dammit, and she wants you to know it. Peel off the phony, power-addled political hack, and all you’ll find is the real, power-addled political hack underneath.

A telling factoid about the book in which Hillary promised to "let her guard down": there are "two pages about her hairdressers, but only two clipped paragraphs about that time she collapsed on 9/11".


■ Arnold Kling takes pains to analyze political faction dispassionately. He counts Four political parties in the fractious US today. And I am in…

4. Conservatarians, meaning conservative-flavored libertarians or libertarian-flavored conservatives. I don’t count the fringe folks on the alt-right–they are electorally irrelevant and out of the picture. There are some Republicans in Congress who are conservatarians, but not any that I know of on the alt-right. Conservatarians worry about unsustainable fiscal policy, the power of the regulatory state, and a loss of key values, such as individual responsibility and respect for freedom of speech.

None of the four parties are close to a majority, Kling believes, which means that there will be a lot of nose-holding in our future.


■ Scott Sumner has some New Hampshire-related content at his Money Illusion blog. Poverty does not cause social problems (and the cream rises to the top). The odd factoid: The two states with the highest rates of opioid fatalities are West Virginia, one of the poorest states and New Hampshire, one of the richest.

Of course it’s silly to argue that affluence causes addiction—correlation doesn’t prove causation. But it’s equally silly to suggest that people in West Virginia become drug addicts because they are poor. There are a billion poor people (by American standards) in China, and very few are heroin addicts.

Scott doesn't actually explain New Hampshire's opioid problem (West Virginia's either). But he knocks off the economic explanation pretty handily.


■ The LFOD alert also chimed for this NH1 news report: NH becomes 22nd state to decriminalize marijuana.

“The governor and Legislature both deserve a lot of credit for moving the state forward with this commonsense reform,” said Matt Simon, the Manchester-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Unlike his predecessors, who opposed similar proposals, Gov. (Chris) Sununu appears to understand that ‘Live Free or Die’ is more than just a motto on a license plate.

Now if we could just expand it beyond pot smoking…


■ The Caledonian Record is "a family-owned, independent daily newspaper serving six counties in Northeastern Vermont and Northern New Hampshire." And our local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, could take a few editorial lessons from it. I invite you to read: Tale of Two States

The United States Census Bureau released income data this week and a couple things jumped out at us.

First, the highest median household income in the nation is being earned in New Hampshire. Granite State households are bringing in $76,260/year - 30-percent more than the national median of $59,039.

Second, Vermont is the only state in the country that suffered a rise in our poverty rate. Data shows that over 71,000 Vermonters are now living below the poverty line ($12,228 for individuals & $24,399 for families)… 10,000 more than last year. By way of comparison, New Hampshire has the lowest poverty rate in the country, at 6.9 percent.

And of course…

With their “Live Free or Die” ethos turbo-charging their robust economy, New Hampshire taxes neither sales nor income.

Vermont has a lower opioid death rate, though. So they have that going for them.

URLs du Jour

2017-09-17

Beer-Brawl-VI

■ We move ahead (but actually backward) to a new chapter today with Proverbs 20:1:

1 Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler;
    whoever is led astray by them is not wise.

Or: "Go home, you're drunk."

By my quick count, there are 16 occurrences of "mocker" in Proverbs. Is there any doubt the Proverbialist was a frequent target of mockery, perhaps by wine drinkers?


■ I've mentioned occasionally that P. J. O'Rourke is editor of the new online magazine American Consequences. You can sign up for the e-mail version, as I did (and get periodic come-ons for investment tips). But their website is free, no paywalls. So (for example) you can read P. J.'s recent essay on Innovations That Get No Respect. This bit is (I'm pretty sure) inspired by the quiche-eating bitter opponents of the Northern Pass power line, proposed to bring Hydro-Québec’s electricity down to the US, through (oh oh) the White Mountain National Forest.

The part of the taken-for-granted infrastructure that fascinates me most is the electrical grid. So many people think phone poles and power lines are unsightly. News for you folks, in the dark everything is “unsightly.”

Don’t bury the power lines, lift them up on high, to remind us of our blessings.

He's a national treasure, insightful, knowledgable, and funny. You can poke around the AC website for more PJ content, but here is a bonus URL: The New Mutant Capitalism.


■ Smart and insightful, but not quite as funny, is @kevinNR, and his insight du jour is that: Trump Didn’t Get Rolled by Pelosi and Schumer. Bottom line:

With no market-oriented health-care reform and no hawkish immigration reform and the prospects of far-reaching tax reform looking shaky — even though Republicans exist for no obvious purpose other than cutting taxes — Trump is still looking for his big win. Even those who were willing to suspend the fully formed adult parts of their brains and give him the benefit of the doubt are coming around to the realization that he has no beliefs and no principles, and that he will sell out any ally, cause, or national interest if doing so suits his one and only true master in this life: his vanity. He didn’t get rolled by Pelosi and Schumer: His voters got rolled by him. That’s the real deal.

"Indeed."


■ All the way out in sunny California, Patterico brings the latest news in Expensive New England Higher Education. Middlebury College: Violent Protestors Will Now Decide Who Speaks at Our Campus. Specifically, Middlebury will "consider canceling" any and all events if they feel there's a "imminent and credible threat" of a violent protest. Patterico (correctly) sees this as implicitly disfavoring conservative/libertarian speech, because violent protests overwhelmingly come from the left.

The worst thing about this is the incentive it creates to threaten and engage in violence. One thing the right finds frustrating about the left is the left’s seeming inability to understand the concept of incentives. What do you think leftists hear when you tell them that the more violence they threaten, and the more violence they engage in, the greater chance they have of getting a conservative speech cancelled? They hear this: if you threaten violence, and engage in violence, you will win.

Non-leftists hear a different message: Shut up, keep your head down, don't make waves.


■ Joseph Bottum has a pretty good one-line review of Hillary Clinton's campaign memoir: She Doesn’t Understand How Bad She Was, And Still Won’t Go Away. But he probably had to pad that out a bit to get the Washington Free Beacon to pay him for his thoughts.

Almost no commentator, no reviewer, has mentioned the most newsworthy fact about Hillary Clinton's latest memoir—which is the near total lack of anything actually newsworthy in the book. With What Happened, Clinton would at last "let down her hair," Simon & Schuster's publicists loudly proclaimed before the book's publication. And that was the line dutifully repeated by reporter after reporter, as though it were a fact. As though, coming from Clinton's people, it didn't need to be checked or reported with even the slight distancing of "Hillary Clinton says she's let down her hair in her new book."

Bottum concludes, at bottom: "Maybe the best way to look at her new memoir is that the book represents a determined, powerfully willful effort not to understand just how bad she was."


Just One Minute looks at single-payer healthcare, aka Mr. Sanders Wild Pony Ride.

Bernie Sanders made a splash by promising free stuff to kids and now with his "Medicare for All" proposal he is promising free stuff to everyone. OK, "free-ish" in the sense that no one knows who is paying for it but Democrats assume it will be Somebody Else, presumably Mitt Romney and his kids. Or other sinister rich people. Whomever.

The whole healthcare "system" sometimes seems like an elaborate scheme to disguise (1) from whom the money comes from, and (2) to whom it goes.

URLs du Jour

2017-09-16

Tribalism

■ We wind up Proverbs 21 with verse 31, and it's a puzzler:

31 The horse is made ready for the day of battle,
    but victory rests with the Lord.

In a fight between the Lord and a horse, don't bet on the horse. I guess.


■ As a classical liberal, Russ Roberts is used to living in a nation that's less than ideal. But he's really down these days: The World Turned Upside Down (and what to do about it).

The main way I’ve been dealing with this feeling of despair is to stop paying close attention. I don’t know what depresses me more — the stupidities and dishonesty and tolerance of darkness that come out of the President’s mouth or the response from those that oppose him. Given that I don’t like the President, you’d think I find the response of his enemies inspiring or important. But the responses scare me too, the naked hatred of Trump or anyone who supports or likes him. And of course, it goes way beyond Trump and politics. The same level of vitriol and anger and unreason is happening on college campuses and at the dinner table when families gather to talk about the hot-button issues of the day. Everything seems magnified.

I think Professor Roberts' what-to-do suggestions are excellent, but I won't spoil them here, lest you be encouraged to not Read The Whole Thing.


■ At NRO, David French also has useful advice: Want Less Sexual Trauma on Campus? Stop Telling the Big Lies.

The root of the problem is an ideology that deliberately attempts to strip sex of its inherent spiritual meaning and transform it into little more than transactional, physical, pleasure-seeking behavior. It’s an ideology that denies differences between men and women, including the emotional differences in the way that many men and women experience sex.

French writes from a socially conservative position I don't entirely share, but he's onto something: a society that eschews "fuddy-duddy moralism" about sex shouldn't be surprised when its most impressionable members act on their appetites.


@JonahNRO's G-File for the week is titled Trump’s Triangulation. Why, Jonah asks, are Trump supporters so surprised/upset at his compromise/surrender to the Schumer/Pelosi axis? (Wow, that's a lot of slas/hes.)

There are two reasons why Trump’s maneuver seems so weird and came as such a shock to the leaders of Trump Inc., as well as to some of the Trump voters suffering from political Stockholm syndrome. First, Trump’s presidency hasn’t been “normal” in the same way a fluorescent-green cycloptic grizzly bear wearing Mr. Rogers’s sweater as he plays Chopin on a banjo is not “typical.”

The second reason, which is obviously related to the first, is that he’s simply winging it. I am convinced Trump agreed to the debt-ceiling deal last week on the fly in the Oval Office as way to piss off Mitch McConnell and nothing more. He liked the results in the media so, like the tic-tac-toe chicken I mentioned in last week’s “news”letter, he kept pecking in that direction.

Jonah's insight here is … insightful.


■ But (roughly on the same topic) perhaps you're wondering: Is Trump ready to sell out his base? Megan McArdle has your answer: Trump Is Ready to Sell Out His Base.

Trump may be afraid of voters, but as for the rest: He has neither ideology nor principle, neither desire to appear consistent nor shame about failing to, neither allies nor any sense of personal loyalty. If he thinks he can get away with selling out his base, he will. (Perhaps most disconcertingly, you cannot even trust him to accurately gauge whether he can safely sell out his base.)

Unlike Jonah and Megan, I have zero confidence in my ability to predict, or even comment knowingly on, where Trump's antics will take the country next. Loose cannons gotta roll randomly around the deck.


American Thinker's Robert Curry notes when it All Went Wrong for the US of A. 1913: The Turning Point.

Nineteen-thirteen gave us the 16th and 17th Amendments to the Constitution. That year also saw the creation of the Federal Reserve. This burst of changes marks the effective beginning of the Progressive Era in American politics, the era in which we now live. Wilson was to do much more that would once have been considered out of bounds, but these three changes were enough to change everything. In 1913, the fundamental agreement the Founders made with the American people about the relation of the states and the federal government was broken.

As you know if you check out the "Media I'm Consuming" section of the right-hand column, I'm currently reading Mark R. Levin's Rediscovering Americanism, which makes similar, and correct, observations.


■ NHPR rang the Google LFOD Alert with the news: Even New Hampshire is Considering a Pitch for Amazon's Second HQ.

New Hampshire is considering adding its name to the list of states making a pitch for Amazon's proposed second company headquarters.

Taylor Caswell, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Business and Economic Affairs, says the "Live Free Or Die" state's quality of life and tax advantages -- including no state income tax -- could be one of the incentives.

Eyeballing the Tax Foundation's 2017 State Business Tax Climate Index, New Hampshire is in a solid seventh place. And the states above it in the list don't seem to have easy access to the high-tech labor pool Amazon might desire.

So, maybe.


■ Also in LFOD news, the Laconia Daily Sun published Edward Engler's good-for-what-ails-ya LTE: Hotel/casino on State School property is just what doctor ordered.

Our state motto, "Live free or die" is a great sentiment. If it was the case once, it is no longer true. New Hampshire is far from a tax-free state. Sales-tax free, yes, with the exception of the rooms and meals tax. We do have taxes though, real estate and car registration, also a form of tax, are the two highest. Plus highway tolls for the use of roads.

Yeah, yeah. But comparing apples to apples, Edward, we're pretty good on the tax burden index.

Bottom line, Edward has golden living dreams of visions of a posh casino on the site of the long-defunct Laconia State School. It sounds like a good premise for a generic horror movie.

Allied

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

One of Mrs. Salad's picks. She loooves Brad Pitt. Spoiler: she did not care for the ending. I had high hopes, slightly disappointed, due to Robert Zemeckis being in the director's chair. This is no Back to the Future. The following description is about what you would get from watching the trailer, but (beware) it's about the whole first half of the movie.

It's another WW2 movie for Brad. He plays two-fisted assassin Canadian Max Vatan, going undercover in Casablanca around 1942. ("I wonder if he'll go to Rick's? Everybody goes to Rick's." But I think this set is after Rick left town.) Max's assignment: kill the German ambassador to Morocco, because he's an asshole Nazi. To accomplish that, Max must hook up with the local pièce de résistance, specifically including the lovely Marianne Beauséjour, played by the equally lovely Marion Cotillard. They must pose convincingly as man and wife to get invited to a party….

Real love develops between Max and Marianne, because they are Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, duh. Post-Casablanca, they settle down to domestic bliss in London, having acquired a lovely infant daughter along the way. But (oh oh) Max is called in by his superiors, who have bad news: Marianne is suspected of being an asshole Nazi spy! Friends, you might think you have domestic troubles now and then.

It's a decent movie, although I wish it had moved along a little faster. It made the Hollywood Reporter list of 2016's biggest box office flops.

URLs du Jour

2017-09-15

Proverbs 21:30 is a head-scratcher:

30 There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan
    that can succeed against the Lord.

First thought: well, of course. He's omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent, y'know. (Thanks, Lutheran upbringing!) That makes wisdom, insight, and planning very ineffective tools in comparison.

But on second thought, you might as well try. The Lord might not care enough about your plans to squash them like a bug. He may even think they're cute.


■ The Washington Free Beacon brings the latest news from the University Near Here: UNH Seeks to ‘Ensure Civility’ to Develop Campus Diversity.

University of New Hampshire students who do not behave with "civility" could face disciplinary action, according to the co-chair of the UNH presidential task force on campus climate.

Fearless predictions: (1) the vague "civility" test will not be deployed with an even content-neutral hand, but only in alignment with the Progressive oppressor/oppressed narrative; (2) Anyone who might even question that narrative in a public setting will be accused of "uncivil" behavior, investigated, and pilloried; (3) Should such disputes ever make it to the court system, UNH will be slapped down, hard, and deservedly so.


@kevinNR says what needs to be said about so-called "price gouging": Price-Gouging Is a Public Service. It's about more than that, and well worth your time to read. But:

Prices are how we ration scarce goods, and the pain associated with paying unusually high prices is how we learn not to put off laying in supplies until after the disaster has already happened. The guy with supplies to sell has, either through luck or foresight, managed to put himself in possession of what you need — and you did not. You don’t have to thank him, but you do have to pay his price. The profit he makes encourages him to keep planning for the future. If that hurts — it should. Maybe you’ll learn to do better next time. But the alternative to paying the higher prices isn’t paying a lower price — it is having no gasoline or water or toilet paper at all, at any price. You can try to regulate away that reality; ask the Venezuelans how that’s going for them.

I've had little to laugh at over the past few weeks of news, but one report tried to generate outrage over a gas station allegedly charging a woman "nearly $70" for … wait for it … "two cases of beer".

Lady, I suggest a simple remedy. Should you be asked to pay $70 for two cases of beer, just walk away. Unless it's really good beer.


■ Our Google LFOD alert rang for an article plugging the new movie American Assassin: Producer Reveals How Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp Reached the Big Screen.

The producer [Lorenzo di Bonaventura] won the author over when he said, "I'm from New Hampshire. I'm from the Live Free or Die State. You don't have to worry about me and violence."

… and, free plug here, that movie opens today.


■ John Tierney writes at City Journal: The Corruption of Public Health.

The tobacco industry faces an unprecedented threat. Since a new rival, the electronic cigarette, emerged in 2010, the smoking rate in America has plummeted, especially among young people. The e-cigarette delivers nicotine in vapor without the hundreds of toxins and dozens of carcinogens in cigarette smoke, eliminating at least 95 percent of the harm of smoking, according to England’s national health agency, which endorsed its use after extensive studies. The Royal College of Physicians, Britain’s most eminent medical authority, reached a similar conclusion and warned that it would be “unjust, irrational and immoral” for public officials to discourage smokers from switching to a safer form of nicotine.

… and, Tierney writes, that “unjust, irrational and immoral” activity is exactly what's happening here in the good old USA, with "public health" officials in the forefront.


■ If you don't trundle down to the multiplex for American Assassin this weekend, Robert Tracinski has an alternate suggestion: Watch This Movie To Debunk The ‘Tech Monopoly’ Hysteria. What's the movie? Well, first, let's hear the setup:

The frenzy to regulate big technology firms as “monopolies” is starting to spread like influenza across the political spectrum. Turning Web search and social media into government-regulated utilities is an idea now endorsed by Josh Marshall on the Left and Steve Bannon on the Right. It also got the surprising support of neoconservative intellectual Bill Kristol as part of a “No Labels” agenda. So now this idea is coming at us from the left, right, and center.

This is the surest sign that it’s probably a bad idea.

OK, here's the spoiler: the movie Tracinski suggests is 1998's You've Got Mail. The main plot thread was that Tom Hanks' discount mega-bookstore was imminently going to drive Meg Ryan's cute cozy corner (full retail price) bookstore out of business, through the forces of brute capitalism.

The film was released in 1998. Amazon was founded in 1994 and had its IPO in 1997. It was about to crush big discount bookstores—does anyone still remember the other big chain, Borders?—and nobody had a clue. There isn’t a single mention in the film of Amazon or online sales.

And of course, our older readers will recognize the movie title as a reference to America Online. And then realize that they haven't thought about America Online for about a decade.

Tracinski: "The overall lesson is the folly of judging “monopoly” power from a static snapshot at one moment in time."


■ Another day, another "heckler's veto" successfully used to shut down a controversial speaker: Charles Murray disinvited from New England Catholic college.

A small private university in New England recently cancelled a speaking event by speaker Charles Murray due to the fear that his appearance there would generate violent protests.

That's Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts; although Murray recently spoke at Harvard without violence, the Catholic college's officials were unwilling to make the Assumption they'd be as lucky/competent.


■ I might get back into football-watching after the World Series. (Specifically: after the Red Sox either win the World Series, or don't.) But for even mild football fans like me, Gregg Easterbrook's "Tuesday Morning Quarterback" is a lot of fun to read. It's moved to the Weekly Standard site this year, and if you can evade their obnoxious subscription pleas, it's recommended. Here is: is a lot of Tuesday Morning Quarterback: There's Plenty of Time to Panic Later. And it's not just football. Easterbrook notes the imminent fiery (intentional) demise of the Cassini spaceprobe, and reflects on the space program, and…

Three years ago, Congress told the Air Force to stop using the Russian-built RD180 engine that for more than a decade has powered most rockets that place spy satellites in orbit. Last week the Wall Street Journal reported the replacement-engine project is so fouled up, U.S.-built engines equivalent to the RD180 won’t fly till at least 2022, and maybe not till 2025. Eleven years is the span between the Vanguard rocket blowing up on the pad in 1957, and the crew of Apollo 8 reading the Genesis story from lunar orbit on Christmas Eve 1968. Yet that’s how long the ultra-subsidized U.S. aerospace establishment says it now takes to produce a rocket engine similar to long-existing engines. Please join me in rooting for Elon Musk to disrupt this business.

I'm rooting for both the Pats (Easterbrook: "Flying Elvii") and Musk.

In Which a Dismissal of "Free Will" is Itself Dismissed

Confession: Mrs. Salad is a member of AARP. It was free, she was (relatively) young and careless at the time, and the only side effect is that we get a lot of mail from them.

AARP once stood for "American Association of Retired Persons", but they dropped that long ago. You could say that AARP no longer stands for anything. Except, of course, keeping the money flowing from taxpayers to elderly beneficiaries of entitlement programs. And also making sure people buy its Medicare supplementary coverage.

But at least their publications occasionally make for interesting reading at the kitchen table. Which is what this post is really about. The August/September issue of AARP The Magazine (presumably named to distinguish it from AARP The Motion Picture) contains an interview with Stanford brain researcher Robert Sapolsky plugging his new book Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst. And this Q-and-A simply leapt out at me:

[No Free Will]

Um. Wait a minute.

I am sure Sapolsky is a nice guy, a smart guy, and a careful researcher. (Well, maybe. Truth be told, I have no idea. It seems like a charitable thing to say though.) But what he says here is just irredeemably stupid and self-contradictory.

It seems obvious that, in opening up the door to free will in matters of shirt choice, it's a logical necessity that the door remains open for other choices too. If you can use free will to choose your shirt, you can also use it to choose how to spend your time and resources, who to marry, which career to pursue, your ethical beliefs, and… well, just about everything important in life.

How Sapolsky can dismiss such things as "uninteresting" is (to understate it significantly) puzzling.

Yes, I understand that his business is neuroendocrinology, and it's true enough that it's "mighty hard to find" free will at that level.

But that's similar to the very old joke:

[The Light is Better here]

Sapolsky's research can't find free will, because it's not where he's "interested" in looking. But the light is better there.

Now, I've placed Sapolsky's book on my things-to-read list—it's very well reviewed—and I will probably get to it someday.

I don't know if it has additional arguments about free will, but if it does, I will carefully consider them. I will weigh them against other things I've read. And then I will decide…

Woops! I will decide? Using what mental facility, exactly?

Exactly.

URLs du Jour

2017-09-14

■ I am not a fan of the construction of Proverbs 21:29:

29 The wicked put up a bold front,
    but the upright give thought to their ways.

Well, first, it's not just the wicked that put up a bold front.

But my real problem is: the two parts of the proverb don't seem to be strongly related. What's next? "The wicked kick puppies, but the upright obey traffic signs."?


■ I am (once again) a sucker for these state comparisons. Wallethub provides us with 2017’s Happiest States in America.

In this study, WalletHub’s analysts drew upon the findings of “happiness” research to determine which environmental factors are linked to a person’s overall well-being and satisfaction with life. Previous studies have found that good economic, emotional, physical and social health are all key to a well-balanced and fulfilled life.

Spoiler: Minnesota comes out happiest. I won't disclose the least happy state, but let's just say I no longer find that John Denver song particularly credible.


■ John Daniel Davidson, writing at the Federalist explains Why The Free Speech Fight Is Really About Smearing The Right As Racists.

In the era of Trump, efforts to shut down free speech by force have come almost exclusively from the Left, and are part of a larger project to redefine the boundaries of political discourse in America. Anyone who espouses conservative views or support for the president (or even insufficient opposition to him) can now expect to be labeled a racist, fascist, or white supremacist.

It has been over 70 years since Orwell wrote (in "Politics and the English Language"): "The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’." Thanks to lefties, we can also toss in "racism", "white supremacy", and "hate".


■ At Reason, A. Barton Hinkle relays good news about his column: This Column Will Pay For Itself!

The Dutch love their bicycles, if we are to believe what we read in The New York Times. A quarter of all trips are made by bicycle, the paper reports, "and the federal government has been building up the country's bike infrastructure over the last decade."

This is very nice, but also: So what?

Here's what: "The yearly investment of roughly 500 million euros, or about $600 million, pays for itself, proponents say, by reducing health, social and other costs."

Hinkle does a fine job revealing the eagerness with which pols push their schemes with the "pay for itself" scam. Rarely are such claims rigorously evaluated, either before or after the fact.

But did I mention that buying stuff at Amazon via the links you'll find here will pay for itself?


■ Our state's senior Senator, Jeanne Shaheen, has signed onto Bernie Sanders' "single payer" government health care takeover. If only she had read Peter Suderman in Reason: Bernie Sanders’ New Single Payer Plan Is a Wild Legislative Fantasy.

Today, Bernie Sanders will release a proposal for single-payer health care, co-sponsored by 15 Democrats. To call it a plan is, in some sense, too generous: Although it envisions a sweeping and generous system that would make government the primary payer for nearly all health care in the United States and virtually wipe out employer health coverage in the space of just a few years, it is not really a plan. Instead, it is a legislative fantasy built on a combination of wild overconfidence in government and an almost comical refusal to grapple with costs or trade-offs.

"Other than that, though, it's fine!"

■ Our Tweet du Jour is from @JamesHeartfield, one of those brave souls who reads Hillary Clinton's new book so you don't have to:

Unsurprising; if Hillary understood Orwell, her head might explode.


Non-Stop

[2.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

This 2014 movie has been rattling around my Netflix queue for years; finally faced with the decision to either get it or delete it, I decided to get it. Bad call. It's not awful, but I wish I had gone with any of a few dozen others.

Liam Neeson plays air marshal Bill Marks. His job is to thwart airplane-based terrorism by riding undercover on flight after flight. The thing is, he hates flying. He's also a drunk, and sneaks cigarettes in the lavatory. (Yes, he intentionally tampers with the smoke detector, which, as anyone who listens to the flight attendant announcement knows, is a violation of Federal law, which provides for a penalty of up to $2,000.)

So Bill is pretty miserable. But it gets worse. He gets a message on his phone telling him that that people on the flight will be murdered, one every 20 minutes, unless $150 million is deposited into an offshore account.

And even worse! The account is in his name, leading to suspicion on the ground that he might be behind this whole scheme.

There are a lot of suspects, red herrings, accusations, etc. Bill is not a very clever detective. The denouement is not very credible either.

URLs du Jour

2017-09-13

Proverbs 21:28

28 A false witness will perish,
    but a careful listener will testify successfully.

That's bad news for Donald J. Trump, because…


■ … as @kevinNR points out, despite the President's claims otherwise, The U.S. Is Not the Highest-Taxed Nation in the World.

You can tell that President Trump is getting serious about tax reform, because he has started lying about it.

In that, he is in unpleasant company:

The problem for the Left is that Democrats cannot, under most circumstances, tell the truth about U.S. taxes, either, because the American middle class does not want to hear that it isn’t paying enough in taxes to fund the benefits it wants. The Left insists that something, somewhere — somebody rich, preferably in a Republican-voting state — is getting over on us, that the rich are not paying “their fair share.” It is true that the highest-income Americans do make a great deal more money than do the poor and the middle class — that’s what it means to be high-income — but they already pay an even more disproportionate share of the taxes. The top 20 percent takes in about 55 percent of all income but pays about 70 percent of all federal taxes as Curtis Dubay, formerly of the Heritage Foundation, runs the numbers. Other analysts have come to similar conclusions. That’s what you’d expect: We have a progressive tax code, after all.

Whenever politicians use "fair share" in their babbling, it's time to stop listening; they're lying. (Examples: Carol Shea-Porter; Jeanne Shaheen; Maggie Hassan.)


■ Peter Suderman's recent article in dead-trees Reason is now on the magazine's website, and I liked it: Government Almost Killed the Cocktail.

The classic "old fashioned" is the simplest of cocktails—sugar, bitters, and whiskey, stirred over ice, then served on the rocks with a citrus rind—and also, possibly, the best.

Thanks to the federal government, we almost lost it forever.

Spoiler: because of Prohibition, the innovative American artisans dedicated to making booze more drinkable went into other occupations, and their accumulated knowledge nearly disappeared.

I am strictly a beer 'n' wine guy, but Suderman's article makes me want to try an old fashioned just to find out what the fuss is about.


@JonahNRO writes about the Progressive abuse of "science": Oh Scientia! Oh Mores!

Over the last two weeks we’ve heard a lot of folderol and bambosh about Republicans, conservatives, Texans — etc. — not “believing” in science because recent hurricanes have been bad and climate change is causing it and blah blah blah.

As you can probably tell, I don’t think much of all that. We had a historic lull in hurricanes until the lull was over. Once the hurricanes started back up, so did the claim that climate change caused the hurricanes just as the scientists predicted — the same scientists who didn’t predict the lull. Similarly, California had a historic drought that recently came to an end. Most of the climate models say that California should get wetter because of global warming. But that didn’t stop President Obama and others from suggesting the dry spell was a symptom of climate change. Then, when California experienced huge amounts of precipitation, suddenly the models were prescient.

Another signal to stop listening to someone: when they invoke the concept of "belief in science" non-ironically.


■ At the [paywalled, sorry] WSJ, William McGurn notes The Cruelty of Barack Obama. Generally, pro-immigration, McGurn notes the attention grabbed by the folks obsessed with slamming shut America's "in" doors. But…

What gets almost zero press attention is the sneakier folks, Mr. Obama included. Truth is, no man has done more to poison the possibilities for fixing America’s broken immigration system than our 44th president.

Summary: Obama killed off a compromise-filled "bipartisan immigration package" when he was in the Senate by insisting on deal-breaking amendments; he failed to advance immigration legislation when Democrats held both House and Senate (he went with Obamacare instead, thanks a lot). And he poisoned the well with his illegal executive action on "Dreamers", showing, accurately, that he couldn't be trusted to act in good faith.


■ At Power Line, Scott Johnson rescues much of Carol Swain's paywalled WSJ op-ed: Victim of the SPLC. Swain's crime was to note (at HuffPo!): "Rather than monitoring hate groups, the Southern Poverty Law Center has become one."

The SPLC’s retaliation was vicious and effective. On Oct. 17, 2009, my photo appeared on the front page of my local newspaper, the Tennessean, with the headline “ Carol Swain is an apologist for white supremacists.” That was a quote from Mark Potok, at the time the SPLC’s national spokesman. The context for Mr. Potok’s attack was a review I gave for a film titled “A Conversation About Race.” I endorsed it for classroom use because it offered a perspective on race rarely encountered on university campuses. Mr. Potok argued that the filmmaker was a bigot. I felt then and now that the perspective needed to be heard.

Ms. Swain's story is a good one to deploy in rebuttal to anyone who pretends to take the SPLC seriously. (There are a lot of others.)


■ I don't know if you've heard, but Hillary Clinton wrote a book about the election! In which she blames, among many, many others, the media for her loss. At the Federalist, David Harsanyi talks back: Yes, Hillary, The Media Did Help Trump Win. So Did You

[…] Clinton’s claim happens to contain a morsel of truth, if not in the way she intended. When supporting Trump seemed advantageous, the media — not only left-leaning outlets like CNN or the Washington Post, but ratings-chasers like Joe Scarborough — did much help lift the fortunes of the soon-to-be president. This was obvious to anyone observing coverage of the primaries, but for those who need confirmation, The Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy conducted a study that found that during the year 2015, major news outlets covered Donald Trump “in a way that was unusual given his low initial polling numbers — a high volume of media coverage preceded Trump’s rise in the polls.”

I was in a restaurant during the early days of the GOP primary campaign, mid-2015, and CNN was on a big screen; they spent endless minutes showing video of Trump's plane as it was circling for a landing, somewhere in Alabama. I remember thinking: "This isn't news. Why are they doing this?"

Easy: they pushed Trump in 2015 because they thought Trump would be the easiest to defeat in November 2016. Hillary, as Harsany notes, made the same mistake.


■ At Hot Air, Jazz Shaw notes that Someone Finally Found A Reason To Drop New Hampshire’s First Primary Status.

What would it take for either party to finally step up and challenge New Hampshire’s first in the nation primary status? We’ve finally found out. Turns out that all they needed to do was pass a voter ID law and someone would come along and suggest they lose that seemingly eternal privilege.

Spoiler: it's Howard Dean! Aaaargh!

URLs du Jour

2017-09-12

Chinese Choir Episode 9

■ Since I am, technically, a Lutheran, Proverbs 21:27 goes into a familiar area

27 The sacrifice of the wicked is detestable—
    how much more so when brought with evil intent!

Our attitude toward "good works" performed by the wicked isn't just neutral—such works are detestable. Rough news for the wicked who occasionally do nice things. Got me thinking on Martin Luther's attitude toward Good Works.


■ Of course, the wicked don't usually do nice things. It's safe to bet they're up to no good. For example, as Joe Albenese asks at NRO: Is Big Ice Cream Trying to Hijack Our Democracy? Well, more accurately, they're trying to shut some of us up:

It may shock you to learn that the multimillionaire co-founder of a global ice-cream empire has been meeting with elected officials in the hopes of fundamentally altering our Constitution. This individual proposes amending the Bill of Rights for the first time to give Congress nearly unlimited power to limit political speech.

That's Ben Cohen, the more-wicked half of Ben&Jerry's. He's awful, and this almost makes me want to keep away from their Strawberry Cheesecake ice cream. Almost.


■ At Cato, Michael F. Cannon examines Congess’ Illegal ObamaCare Exemption and Its Nixonian Defenders.

Thousands of members of Congress and congressional staffers are benefiting from an illegal scheme that gives Congress special treatment both by exempting them from the harshest part of ObamaCare and by providing them each up to $12,000 in benefits that federal law prohibits them from receiving. Last week, the Heritage Foundation’s John Malcolm and I furnished additional evidence that the government officials who implemented this scheme violated federal criminal laws. (Malcolm is a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division.) Few government officials or legal scholars are willing to defend this scheme. Those who are nevertheless have been unwilling to comment on these new revelations or to offer a legal basis for this scheme. At least one seems to suggest that, because the executive branch did it, it must be legal.

My Progressive friends on Facebook sometimes post memes demanding that Congress be subjected to "the same healthcare they give us".

Yes, I know, but that's their mindset: government "gives" us healthcare.

Still, I'm pretty sure they would be surprised to find themselves in bed with Cato on this issue.


■ Yet another Obamacare outrage is described by Peter Suderman at Reason: Obamacare Repeal Is Dead. Here Come the Bailouts. You'll see the bailout proposals euphemized as "stabilization". But there's a mild improvement in the works:

Today [actually yesterday], Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) are expected to release draft legislation that would essentially convert Obamacare into a system of block grants to states. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who helped kill the last GOP health care legislation in a dramatic late night vote in July, has already said he is willing to support it. Like previous GOP health care legislation, the new plan would eliminate Obamacare's individual mandate but maintain its rules requiring insurers to cover everyone. It would also eliminate Obamacare's system of health insurance subsidies. Instead, it would take most of the funding now used to pay for Obamacare and allow states to use it as they saw fit, meaning that the subsidies could be retained or altered. The block grants would be constrained from growing, so that a decade from now the total amount would be much less than under Obamacare.

Suderman notes that this would leave Obamacare mostly in place, but in terms of federalism and fiscal sanity would be an improvement over the status quo.


■ Patterico's 9/11 post recalls Donald Trump After WTC Collapsed on 9/11: Now I Have the Tallest Building in Downtown New York! Yes, he really did say that, quote at the link. I concur with Patterico's comments:

Let’s assume he followed that up with something about how horrible the collapse of the World Trade Center was, and how sad the loss of life was, and all that was edited out by the partisan who created this video. Assume all that to be true, Trump defenders. We don’t know it, but assume it anyway.

I don’t care. His first reaction was to gloat about how he now had the tallest building in downtown Manhattan.

Donald Trump is a pathological narcissist and a complete dick. This is the way he has always been. This is the way he will always be.

He may end up doing some policy things that are OK, and if so I will acknowledge that. But he is a terrible, awful, immoral human being with no positive traits whatsoever.

Emphasis in original.


■ Robert Tracinski at the Federalist has related news: The Schadenfreude Phase Of The Trump Administration Is Hitting Already.

Those of us who opposed Donald Trump from the beginning have passed beyond the #NeverTrump phase, past the “take what we can get” phase, and even past the cringing embarrassment that he’s the leader of our party. Now comes the cackling-maniacal-laughter schadenfreude stage. Yes, that’s right. This is so big that we need a really nasty German word to describe it.

This is the stage some of us have been waiting for since the beginning: the stage when Trump tacks back to the Left and makes nice with Democrats—and not just any Democrats, but the worst of the swamp creatures. It’s the point where he wrecks every part of the supposed Republican agenda and sells out his core supporters, even as they struggle desperately to convince themselves that it’s all a super-smart feint to Make America Great Again.

It's also the "we told you so" phase.


■ American academia is insane mentally unstable, part CXXVII: Title IX coordinator under investigation for screening video disputing 1-in-5 campus rape stat.

Fordham University has launched an investigation into its Dean of Students and Deputy Title IX Coordinator Christopher Rodgers after several RAs reportedly left a sexual assault training in tears because he screened a Prager University educational video that uses facts to dispute the stat that one-in-five women will be sexually assaulted or raped during their college years.

You would have thought the RAs might have found that to be good news.

It's not as if debunking the "one-in-five" assertion is new. It was dubious way back in 2011 when then-VP Joe Biden invoked it at the University Near Here in support of the "Dear Colleague" letter.


■ I happened on this YouTube mashup (do people still say that?) of Emma Peel + Cake. Works for me:

Emma Peel would not have left a sexual assault training session in tears.

URLs du Jour

2017-09-11

■ Sluggards are also a favorite target of the Proverbialist. He returns to the theme in Proverbs 21:25-26:

25 The craving of a sluggard will be the death of him,
    because his hands refuse to work.
26 All day long he craves for more,
    but the righteous give without sparing.

Sluggards and mockers bedevil us even today. Fortunately, the righteous are around too.

[Note: verse 26 continues verse 25. I didn't notice this when I initially posted, sorry.]


■ Nothing new to say about 9/11. I still like my post from 2011, though.


Powerline's Stephen Hayward asks the musical question: Have Colleges Completely Lost Their Minds?. Answer: yes. On to the next question.

No, but seriously. Hayward quotes the Telegraph news story:

An acclaimed British conductor has been fired from a prestigious American music festival after a seemingly innocent joke he made to a black friend was labelled racist.

Matthew Halls was removed as artistic director of the Oregon Bach Festival following an incident in which he imitated a southern American accent while talking to his longstanding friend, the African-American classical singer Reginald Mobley.

A third party overheard the "joke", and Halls was reported to the Thought Police Red Guards University of Oregon crack bias response team. And, without further discussion, Halls was sacked from his UofO position; his contract had been scheduled to run until 2020.


■ Ah, but the disease isn't confined to the coasts. Even in as-midwest-as-you-can-get Ames, Iowa: Iowa State requires applicants agree to ‘diversity and inclusion’ pledge.

Iowa State University has added new language to its job applications that requires prospective employees to pledge they will “demonstrate their contribution to diversity and inclusion” once hired.

Calling itself a “global and culturally diverse university committed to providing an inclusive, equitable, and diverse environment for both learning and employment,” the new language stipulates that the “university has an expectation that all employees will demonstrate a contribution to diversity and inclusion as embodied in Iowa State University’s Principles of Community.”

They told me that if I voted for Donald Trump, public employees would have to sign ideological loyalty oaths. Well, I didn't vote for Trump, but we got that anyway.


■ Attention Sheldon Cooper, and all other vexillologists: The New (and Unofficial) Flag of Mars. You can't say he misses important details:

The aspect ratio (height : width) of the flag, 17 : 32, is close to the ratio of an Earth year to a Mars year.

You can click over to see the result, but it would basically be a fine banner to unfurl over the battlefield in the next interplanetary war.


Last Modified 2017-09-12 5:40 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-09-10

Mockery

■ The Proverbialist is obsessed with "mockers", and Proverbs 21:24 takes up the cudgel once again:

24 The proud and arrogant person—“Mocker” is his name—
    behaves with insolent fury.

OK, we get it. Pride, arrogance, mockery, insolence, especially when combined with fury: bad stuff. We know all that, but we elected Donald Trump anyway.


■ Dave Barry, national treasure writes from Florida: Even with Irma knocking at our door, we here in Miami are NOT FREAKING OUT AT ALL!

Here’s how I know a hurricane is coming: We have lentils.

We NEVER eat lentils. I am not 100 percent sure what a lentil is. I do know for a fact that not once has anybody in our household ever said, “You know what would be great for dinner tonight? Lentils!”

But at the moment we have roughly a 45-year supply of lentils on hand. This is because we are in Hurricane Preparedness Freakout Mode, and one of the things we Floridians do in this mode is go to Publix and get in long lines to buy mass quantities of things we will never eat. Publix could put out a big display of cans labeled “Toad Intestines Packed In Snail Vomit” and we Floridians would snap them all up in minutes. That’s how prepared we are.

I wish Dave well. Also the other people in Irma's path.


■ Patterico notes a tongue-bath for the President from an unexpected source: New York Times Gives Trump a Taste of That Highly Addictive Media Praise.

Yesterday I explained (adding my voice to a chorus of others) that Trump is very likely at the beginning of a bromance — not with Chuck Schumer, but with the media. The lure of Strange New Respect is a siren song that cannot be resisted by any aging narcissistic white man who pretends to be conservative but actually leans left in many ways.

Trump is a sucker for this stuff. He'll be totally shocked when the media turns on him at the next convenient opportunity.


■ Baylen Linnekin writes on the latest legal madness at Reason: Too Many Calories in Your Candy? That's a Lawsuit!

Last week, the Chicago Tribune reported that an area man had sued eminent Chicago-based candy maker Wrigley, alleging the packaging of the company's Starburst candies deceived him.

Plaintiff Artur Tyksinski alleges the front of the company's Starburst package he allegedly purchased claims the candy contains ten fewer calories per piece (130) than the FDA-mandated "Nutrition Facts" panel on the back of the package says it actually contains (140).

Actually, it's not "per piece", it's "per serving". And, yes, the FDA regs imagine that candies are doled out in servings, like peas and carrots.

For Starburst, the serving size is 9 pieces. Which makes me paraphrase the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch instructions:

Then, shalt thou count to nine, no more, no less.

Nine shalt be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shalt be nine.

Ten shalt thou not count, nor either count thou eight, excepting that thou then proceed to nine.

Eleven is right out.


■ Joseph Bottum at the Washington Free Beacon notes a comedown for a cultural prophet, Richard Florida: Consequences of the Creative Class.

It’s tempting to mock Richard Florida: the hipster urbanist with the hipster name, the new day’s heir to yesterday’s Jane Jacobs. In 2002, he wrote a book that just everyone with an ounce of hipness bought and read—a book about how hipsters were saving the nation’s cities. And now, 15 years older and not quite as hip anymore, he’s written a follow-up that says, in essence, whoops.

It's tempting to mock, but we shouldn't. See today's proverb.

But who could have predicted that hipsters would be unreliable?


■ Out in Pasadena, Larry Wilson rang the Google LFOD Alert with his musing on proposals to create two, or three, or maybe six, states out of the Golden State. He finds them wanting: Its personality might be split, but California should remain one state.

It’s just that with our boundaries of today, there’s room to move. If New Hampshire’s motto is Live Free or Die, ours might be Don’t Fence Me In.

Well, Larry, New Hampshire's motto is Live Free or Die. But I regret to inform you that California's is "Eureka!" (including the exclamation point). As near as I can tell, they're not proud enough of the motto to put it on license plates.

URLs du Jour

2017-09-09

loudmouth matthews

Proverbs 21:23 is of use for those who wear a belt and suspenders. And also for President Donald Trump:

23 Those who guard their mouths and their tongues
    keep themselves from calamity.

Mouths and tongues. Can't be too careful.


■ The estimable Katherine Mangu-Ward writes at Reason: Trump, Pelosi, and Schumer Are Besties: The Case Against Bad Bipartisanship. What's wrong with the debt ceiling deal? It was set up to spite fiscal conservatives, for one thing. But there's worse.

What's worse: To the extent that today's deal was driven by a common understanding between parties, it's a wrongheaded, economically illiterate populist one—the belief that ever-increasing debt-funded spending on both a permanent and emergency basis can solve America's fiscal and economic problems.

Or as Mr. Michael Ramirez pictures it:

Debt Hurricane


@JonahNRO's G-File this week is neither happy nor surprised at Trump's antics: Trump’s Dance with Dems. But he's really down on the Trump hagiographers who see genius strategery behind the antics.

So much of the “analytical” punditry about Donald Trump’s genius isn’t analysis at all. It’s a form of haruspicy. The priests of the Trump cult look at Trump’s kneejerk, in-the-moment, utterly instinctual, and unthinking outbursts and spasmodic actions like the death rattle of a vivisected chicken and imbue them with meaning that simply isn’t there. They connect cherry-picked dots to create an image of sagacity, sometimes brilliantly, but the dots are just dots.

Jonah will explain for you, if necessary, what "haruspicy" is. Bonus double feature, at no extra charge: a Rachel Maddow takedown.


■ KC Johnson, who has made a career out of shining a light on campus disciplinary nonsense, has a City Journal article on Betsy DeVos's recent speech: Sanity on Title IX.

Education secretary Betsy DeVos’s address this week at George Mason University has received widespread attention for her call to move beyond the “failed” Title IX policies of the Obama administration and pursue a “better way” in how colleges and universities handle sexual-assault allegations. But its real importance comes in DeVos’s ability to shift dramatically the tone of how the federal government has responded to the issue of campus sexual assault—emphasizing fairness, nuance, and due process over her predecessors’ extremist vision of the rights of the accuser.

Sometimes Trump gets it right, and one of those times was the DeVos nomination.


■ Nerds like me have heard about the Star Trek: Discovery series. But the news is … not good: New Star Trek Episodes to Make Klingons Into Trump Supporters.

The upcoming season of the show will tell the story of a war between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire, which will be a loose allegory for the 2016 election, Entertainment Weekly reported Thursday.

I can see it now, a wrinkly-headed alien snarling "Make the Empire Great Again". Because that's the kind of subtlety we've long come to expect when Trek tries to get topical.

All but the first episode will be on CBS's "All Access" service, which will cost money. But not my money.


■ The Google LFOD Alert on an actual NH-related item from Hunt Lawrence and Daniel J. Flynn in the American Spectator: Education Savings Accounts Are the Best Choice in School Choice. The authors like ESAs, and the legislation pushed by NH State Senator John Reagan.

ESAs mesh well with a state that boasts Live Free or Die as its motto. But it’s really the efficiency of the program that appeals to frugal Yankees. In New Hampshire, where state senators such as Mr. Reagan make $100 a year, saving dollars — in government coffers and personal pocketbooks — makes sense.

Hmph. A real LFOD advocate would advocate repeal of compulsory education laws. But until that happens, ESAs are OK.


■ And in other LFOD news: Getty Images announces its 2017 grant winners. And one of those is Barbara Peacock. You can see a sampling of her "American Bedrooms" pictures here. Barb is quoted:

"I live in New Hampshire where the motto is 'Live Free or Die. That's pretty much it."

That's the caption on this picture (which I stole from the above link, come and get me J. Paul):

[LFOD]

For the record, Pun Salad does not recommend chain-smoking cigarettes in your truck bed pop-up camper.

URLs du Jour

2017-09-08

Clueless.

■ As we move through a so-far disappointing Proverbs Chapter 21, we finally get to a verse with relevance to current events, Proverbs 21:22

22 One who is wise can go up against the city of the mighty
    and pull down the stronghold in which they trust.

Unfortunately, Donald Trump was elected instead.


@JonahNRO nails a problem: Trump Just Doesn’t Get It.

The news that President Trump abandoned Republicans to strike a deal with congressional Democrats on a three-month extension of the debt limit yielded a predictable response from his predictable cheerleaders: It was brilliant and typically shrewd for the author of The Art of the Deal to take the very first offer the Democrats made and ask for nothing in return.

The near future is also eminently predictable: Democrats will take this victory as a blueprint for the future. And the country will wobble down the path to insolvency significantly faster.


■ The Union Leader reports: Questioned voters in 2016 greater than Senate race margin of victory.

A new report on the 2016 election found nearly 1,100 people who cast ballots here in New Hampshire were either under investigation for voting in more than one place or signed affidavits with addresses that may no longer be valid, House Speaker Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson disclosed Thursday.

The article also notes a problematic larger number: "5,526 voters who showed out-of-state driver's licenses on Election Day by Aug. 31 had neither obtained an in-state driver's license nor registered a car in the state."

Democrat responses are included: they're all just college kids, and the law says they can vote here. To paraphrase Mr. Bumble: if the law says that, then the law is an ass.


■ Megan McArdle's column is charitably headlined: Southern Poverty Law Center Gets Creative to Label 'Hate Groups'. I'd say instead of "creative", more like "despicably dishonest".

Some of the groups named are what anyone would think of as a hate group, like, you know, the Ku Klux Klan. But other entries are a festival of guilt-by-association innuendo about people with at best a tangential relationship to the target institution, and whose statements fall well short of blanket group-calumny or calls for violence. Or the center offers bizarrely shifting rationales that suggest that the staff started with the target they wanted to deem hateful, and worked backward to the analysis.

It might be nice, in theory, to have an independent group dedicated to ferreting out potentially dangerous nutbars. It's a fine line between that and the Thought Police, though.


■ One example of SPLC's stupidity is Charles Murray, who they labeled a "white nationalist". He gave a talk on Wednesday at Harvard, and College Fix reports the news is good: Charles Murray, ‘Confederate statue on wheels,’ surprisingly not assaulted in campus speech.

Harvard University students showed their New England peers how to protest a speaker they don’t like: get up and walk out quietly.

No violence, no heckling, no fire alarms pulled. Good for Harvard. Murray's own description of the event is at the Weekly Standard.


■ The Google LFOD Alert rang for Michael Lorrey's LTE to the Valley News, which serves both Vermont and New Hampshire. Michael's from NH, and he's disturbed by Toxic Letters From the Left.

Having grown tired, after many years, of seeing Valley News letters to the editor hopelessly biased by incessant, irrational, left-wing thought, most often from readers in Vermont, I read with some amusement an article on Wired Magazine today that discussed with Disqus, the online commenting service, about their analysis of the toxicity of online comment posters across the nation (www.wired.com/2017/08/internet-troll-map/). Lo and behold, their data for New Hampshire versus Vermont matches my own impressions of Valley News letters pages. Vermont online commenters are the most toxic, offensive, trollish posters in the nation, while New Hampshire commenters are the most polite and least trollish. Yes, that New Hampshire, of the “Live Free or Die” ethic, Free State Project, first-in-the-nation political primaries, etc., is the most polite in the entire country. Perhaps this is why New Hampshire is best to be first in the nation: We go about our business tolerating others’ opinions far more than anyone else. Vermonters could take a lesson from us Granite Staters, but I doubt they will.

In Vermont's defense, any state that can produce Ben & Jerry's Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream can't be all bad. I try not to think of the tedious leftism I'm funding with every bite.

An Object of Beauty

[Amazon Link]

I've been a Steve Martin fan for … um … a real long time. "Just slightly before he became huge", as I put it in the past. I was first impressed by his work as a comedian. And two of his movies, Roxanne and L. A. Story, are solidly in my all-time favorites. Since he walked away from stand-up comedy, I was aware that he's gotten very good notices for banjo playing. I read his memoirs. I read (at some point) his short novel Shopgirl, which was OK. And I was dimly aware of his interest in collecting art. So this is not much of a surprise, a novel based in the world of high-end art dealing.

I got it off a remainder table at a very attractive price. Mr. Martin, if you're reading, I'm sorry about that.

The book is narrated by an art critic, Daniel Chester French Franks. But the subject is Lacey Underall Yeager, who Daniel meets in college. (They "had sex together exactly once", Daniel admits.) The book is reminds me a little of The Great Gatsby in having a bystander recount the life of an incandescent, but flawed, personality. (This comparison is made facile by the fact that I've never read The Great Gatsby. But I've seen both Redford and Dicaprio movie versions!)

Mr. Martin tells Lacey's story with sharp and insightful observation. Which occasionally veers into wit. (I was going to say the book is funny in spots, but that seems disrespectful.) As a nice touch, when actual artworks are mentioned, illustrations are provided. Classy!

The tale is interweaved with a lot of actual events: the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum heist, 9/11, the onset of the Great Recession. Lacey's quest for personal/professional success (some combination of money, art, and social position) is combined with her questionable ethics, to an extent which is only made clear near the end. Daniel, unfortunately, gets most of the eventual blowback from one of Lacey's schemes..

URLs du Jour

2017-09-07

Proverbs 21:21 is reassuring:

21 Whoever pursues righteousness and love
    finds life, prosperity and honor.

One can always hope, I suppose.


■ It's rough out there at California's College of the Canyons, as described by the College Fix: Prof hands out white privilege checklist, then warns students who stereotype will be punished.

An anthropology professor at a community college in California has instructed her students that stereotyping someone in class is a punishable offense — on the same day that she handed out a four-page white privilege checklist listing common generalizations about white people.

The instructor is Amanda Zunner-Keating. A quote from her syllabus:

Any student who disrespects their instructor, disrespects their classmates, or purports identity-based stereotypes will be considered an interruption and will be a) be barred from participating in class, b) lose all participation points for the day, and c) referred to the Dean of Students.

I have no words. Oh, wait, I do: don't take anthropology from Amanda Zunner-Keating. She is in the business of indoctrination, not education.


■ At Reason, Robby Soave (re)discovers that "advocates" are extremely willing to jettison due process if it gives them the results they want. Lawyer: In Campus Rape Disputes, the Accused Should Not Be Presumed Innocent.

The mask slips once again. Laura Dunn, a lawyer and prominent advocate for sexual assault victims, admitted that Title IX—the federal statute behind the Education Department's efforts to compel universities to adjudicate sexual assault—does not require investigators to presume that accused students are innocent.

Yes, Soave notes, Dunn finds that to be a feature, not a bug.


■ Also at Reason, Ed Krayewski has some fun with Hillary's frustration with Bernie, as revealed in her election memoir. Hillary: I Lost Because Bernie Promised Everyone a Pony.

In her forthcoming book about the 2016 election, What Happened, Hillary Clinton complains that her chief opponent in the primaries, Bernie Sanders, consistently undercut her by one-upping her "bold" and "ambitious" proposals without explaining how his policies would work.

In other words, Sanders did to Clinton what Democrats have done to their critics for years: Frame any worry about the costs and unintended consequences of a program as a lack of concern for the problem the program is supposed to address. After years of cultivating economic illiteracy, the party reaped the results.

As Krayewski points out, we're at the point where both parties promote "economic illiteracy", because promoting cost-free "solutions" for what ails the nation gets more votes than sobering reality.

Bonus, from Josh Barro at (ad-block hostile) Business Insider: Hillary Clinton complained about Bernie Sanders by relating him to 'There's Something About Mary,' a film she did not understand.


■ Patterico is impressed by recent journalism: THE UNDRAINED SWAMP: Lobbyists Line Donald Trump’s Pockets by Buying Memberships at His Clubs.

USA Today has the results of a remarkable investigation out today, showing how lobbyists buy pricey memberships to Trump’s golf clubs — an arrangement that puts money in his pocket. Not his campaign’s coffers. His own pocket.

Patterico invokes a reverse-whataboutism here, and he's absolutely right to do so: "Anyone who complained about Hillary Clinton’s corruption should be beside themselves over this."


■ The Google LFOD Alert rang for an LTE in our local paper from Portsmouth's Dick Rozek: My brother, Joe, had the right ideas. That's his dead brother Joe. But before he died:

In a text discussion a few days before his passing (yes, he was very much into computers, cell phones, apps, and more) Joe noted, “tragic to see what is going on in dad’s birthplace (Syria)...maybe someday I’ll read or hear a rational explanation of the evil impulses that seem to overwhelm the inherent goodness with which Man is created. Still waiting.” That begged the issue of what’s happening in America and especially in southern New Hampshire, the “Live Free or Die” state.

What's happening is: immigration officials suddenly enforcing the law against people who would prefer to continue to ignore it. Dick uses LFOD to imply "don't deport illegal immigrants".


■ Another LFOD appearance, this time at Cato, from Ilya Shapiro and David MacDonald: Stop Forcing Wedding Vendors—or Anyone Else—to Create Expressive Art for You. It's an argument we've seen before, citing an LFOD-related Supreme Court decision, and it's worth repeating:

Although making cakes may not initially appear to be speech to some, it is a form of artistic expression and therefore constitutionally protected. There are numerous culinary schools throughout the world that teach students how to express themselves through their work; couples routinely spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars for the perfect cake designed specifically for them. Indeed, the Supreme Court has long recognized that the First Amendment protects artistic as well as verbal expression, and that protection should likewise extend to this sort of baking—even if it’s not ideological and even if done to make money. The Court declared nearly 75 years ago that “[i]f there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.” W.Va. Board of Education v. Barnette (1943). And the Court ruled in Wooley v. Maynard—the 1977 “Live Free or Die” license-plate case out of New Hampshire—that forcing people to speak is just as unconstitutional as preventing or censoring speech. The First Amendment “includes both the right to speak freely and the right to refrain from speaking at all” and the Supreme Court has never held that the compelled-speech doctrine is only applicable when an individual is forced to serve as a courier for the message of another (as in Wooley). Instead, the justices have said repeatedly that what the First Amendment protects is a “freedom of the individual mind,” which the government violates whenever it tells a person what she must or must not say. Forcing a baker to create a unique piece of art violates that freedom of mind.

I understand that it will puzzle Progressives to consider that the First Amendment might be used to defend behavior that will make them unhappy.


■ Writing at "Manchester Ink Link", Nancy West finds New Hampshire to be A state of contradictions, especially if you are mentally ill.

New Hampshire fights like mad to hold onto its first-in-the-nation presidential primary and the right to ride a motorcycle helmet-free.

Only children are required to wear seatbelts in the Live Free or Die state. New Hampshire values individual rights, and the 424 lawmakers who are paid only $100 a year in the fourth-largest legislature in the world guarantee them time and time again.

Yeah, so?

But it’s a very different story when it comes to the rights of mentally ill people, especially those in crisis.

Ah. Well, not simply those "in crisis". Nancy finally gets to her gripe:

Unlike all other states, mentally ill people in New Hampshire who have been civilly committed to the state psychiatric hospital can be transferred to the State Prison for Men’s Secure Psychiatric Unit just a few miles away in Concord, even if they haven’t been charged with or convicted of a crime. They need only be deemed a danger to themselves or others to be transferred.

Nancy makes an arguable case that New Hampshire is a poor place to be violently crazy.


■ On a lighter note, Mental Floss has a short video with irritating music, but the title is: Things You Didn't Know Came From New Hampshire. And I didn't know some of them! Check it out.


Last Modified 2017-09-07 8:02 AM EDT

The Founder

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

Breaking news: Ray Kroc was a visionary. Also a megalomaniac, a cheater (in both his business and his marriage), and a ruthless manipulator.

This movie tells his story, starting from when he was a failing milkshake-mixer salesman, traipsing over the countryside pushing his five-spindle mixers to mostly unreceptive drive-in restaurant owners. But one little outfit in San Bernardino buys a lot of 'em, so Ray drives out there to see what's going on. It's the McDonald brothers, Dick and Mac, who have ingeniously re-invented their restaurant with walk-up windows, disposable packaging, bare-bones menu, and an optimized production design. Ray sees the future, and the rest is history. Including a lot of rewritten history, as Ray eventually squeezes out the innovative brothers and presents himself as the McDonald's "founder".

The McDonald brothers were transplants from New Hampshire! I did not know that.

I like movies about business, and this one held my interest throughout. Michael Keaton is a force of nature as Ray, and the rest of the cast is first rate, especially Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch as the screwed-over McDonald brothers.

Bonus: when Ray meets wife-to-be Joan (played by Linda Cardellini), she's playing piano and singing in a prospective franchisee's swanky restaurant. At this point they're both married to other people, but that doesn't stop them from getting moony-eyed over each other. Pretty soon, they're duetting on Joan's piano, and that's actually Michael Keaton and Linda Cardellini performing. They're good!

If you watch The Founder, and you're interested, you can do a reality-check here, a page set up by Lisa Napoli, author of the biographical Ray & Joan. As might be expected, the movie did a lot of fact-manipulation in order to tell a good story.


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

URLs du Jour

2017-09-06

Proverbs 21:20 is a paean to prudence:

20 The wise store up choice food and olive oil,
    but fools gulp theirs down.

Also, they buy lottery tickets.


@JonahNRO makes a useful distinction: Antifa Is Trouble, but Not Terrorism. It's a good review of Antifa antics, their too-often-successful "heckler's veto" (although their tactics are well beyond "heckling"), and the regrettable overreach of some anti-Antifa folks. Bottom line:

Elevating Antifa to the category of terrorist organization would fuel the worst trends in our politics. It would entice President Trump to indulge his strongman shtick, and it would give Antifa the stature it clearly craves. It would also likely accelerate vigilante violence among the white nationalists. Launching a federal crusade against domestic enemies would only fuel the fallacy that anyone Antifa attacks is a fascist. We should fight crime, whatever guise it takes, on the local level — as the founders intended.

There's no reason to start shredding the Constitution over either the alt-right neo-Nazi scumbags or the Antifa scumbags.


■ At the Federalist, David Harsany opines: Rescinding DACA Is The Right Thing To Do. He is (rightly) irritated by…

The reaction to DACA exposes much of the disingenuousness of the post-election “norms” crowd. How could those who took part in the national hissy fit over the “unconstitutional” short-term executive restriction on immigration from terrorist-ridden nations now act as if DACA is a proper way to govern? I mean, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has threated to sue the president for rolling back the executive actions of another president, which were enacted ostensibly on the idea of prosecutorial discretion. Sue over what—following the law as written?

It would be nice if people took a principled stand against unconstitutional executive action, no matter who the executive happens to be.


■ At Reason, Marian Tupy notes an Inconvenient Truth: Europe's Anti-GMO Stance Is Killing Africans.

While imports of GMOs are not barred from Europe by law, the EU food labelling system obliges companies to indicate if the food or feed they produce contains GMOs. This labelling applies when GMOs account for at least 0.9 percent of the food or the feed. Since Europeans have been brainwashed into believing that GMO foods are unsafe, scary labelling could dampen European demand for African agricultural produce. As such, much of Africa has not only refused to grow GMOs, but also refused U.S. food aid.

… and the results are pretty much what you would expect. Dead Africans, which the rest of the world ignores.


■ The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has a new Due Process Report, rating "the top 53 universities in the country" (based on the US News list) as to their "due process and fundamental fairness" policies for student accused of misbehavior.

Due process and fundamental fairness are in crisis on America’s college and university campuses. Colleges today investigate and punish offenses ranging from vandalism and housing violations to felonious acts of sexual assault, taking on the responsibility—often at the behest of the federal government—to punish offenses that are arguably better left to courts and law enforcement. But this willingness to administer what is effectively a shadow justice system has not been accompanied by a willingness to provide even the most basic procedural protections that should accompany accusations of serious wrongdoing.

It's a dismal report. FIRE summarizes their findings on an A-F scale, with no school receiving an A. Among those getting Fs: Caltech, Harvard, Penn State. Dartmouth received an F for its policies on alleged sexual misconduct, a D for non-sexual conduct. (A number of schools "have one set of standards for adjudicating charges of sexual misconduct and another for all other charges".)

The University Near Here does not appear on the list because it is not in the US News top 53. Dodged a bullet there, UNH.

URLs du Jour

2017-09-05

On the government’s latest handout to
agri-business

■ The past few days have been rocky for our study of Proverbs. Proverbs 21:19 reiterates the point made just 10 verses before:

19 Better to live in a desert
    than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.

Yes, we get it, Proverbian: being married to a shrew is no fun. Let me propose an alternate wording, based on the words of the Prophet Henny:

19 Taketh thy wife everywhere,
     In hope that she will eventually not findeth her way back.


■ In the "of course they do" Department, let me share a recent press release from the website of my Congresscritter/Toothache, Carol Shea-Porter: Shea-Porter, Shaheen, Hassan, Kuster, Bipartisan Group of New England Members Urge USDA to Provide Relief to Dairy Farmers.

As dairy farmers across New England continue to struggle with historically low milk prices, Congresswoman Shea-Porter (NH-01), Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Senator Maggie Hassan, and Congresswoman Annie Kuster joined a bipartisan, bicameral group of members of Congress on Wednesday [August 23] in urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to use its authority to provide dairy farmers with the relief and new insurance they desperately need. In a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, the members of Congress emphasized that safety net programs for dairy farmers, such as the Margin Protection Program (MPP), have failed to provide farmers with adequate support. Led in the House by Congresswoman Kuster, the letter urged the Agriculture Department to make milk an eligible commodity under the Federal Crop Insurance Program – which successfully insures farmers across the country for hundreds of different kinds of crops – and to work with USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) to develop new insurance products for dairy producers.

I believe an adequate translation, shorn of euphemism: dairy farmers aren't getting enough money they think they deserve from the citizenry through voluntary free-market exchange, so we need the government to force people to cough up the difference.

This Downsizing Government is a useful remedy to the euphemism-laden pleas for agricultural subsidies. For example, the "Federal Crop Insurance Program":

Crop insurance run by the USDA's Risk Management Agency has become the largest farm program with annual outlays of about $8 billion. Subsidized insurance protects against various business risks, such as adverse weather, low production, and low revenues. It covers more than 100 crops, but corn, cotton, soybeans, and wheat are the main ones. It subsidizes both insurance premiums and the administrative costs of the 19 private insurance companies that offer policies to farmers.

Everyone makes out: the private insurance companies get to overcharge for premiums, and most farmers get more money in claims than they spend for premiums. And the private component makes the program opaque, avoiding those exposés about wealthy recipients of taxpayer largesse.

So it's no surprise that the entire New Hampshire Congressional Delegation finds that to be an excellent program to extend to dairy farmers.


■ An unexpectedly sensible op-ed column from Bari Weiss, staff editor and writer for the New York Times: Three Cheers for Cultural Appropriation.

These days our mongrel culture is at risk of being erased by an increasingly strident left, which is careering us toward a wan existence in which we are all forced to remain in the ethnic and racial lanes assigned to us by accident of our birth. Hoop earrings are verboten, as are certain kinds of button-down shirts. Yoga is dangerous. So are burritos and eyeliner.

It’s no longer just the online hordes that will string you up for your unintentional sins, though the cost of that public shaming can be devastating. In Portland, Ore., activists recently created a list of “white-owned appropriative restaurants” for residents to boycott on the grounds that white people probably shouldn’t make banh mi or dosas. This summer, the University of Michigan posted a job for a “bias response team” employee to “enact cultural appropriation prevention initiatives.” I wonder if they’ll go after people for using algebra (thanks, Muslims).

I promise not to use eyeliner if I can still get burritos.


■ Andrew C. McCarthy suggests a good idea at National Review: To End DACA, Follow the Constitution. DACA, for those living under a rock without an NPR-receiving radio, is "Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals", President Obama's executive action, taken because "Congress failed" to take the legislative action he desired.

There has never been a shred of honesty in the politics of DACA. Democrats have taken the constitutionally heretical position that a president must act if Congress “fails” to. They now claim that to vacate DACA would be a travesty, notwithstanding that the program is blatantly illegal and would be undone by the courts if President Trump does not withdraw it. For his part, candidate Trump loudly promised to repeal Obama’s lawless decree but, betraying the immigration-permissivist core that has always lurked beneath his restrictionist rhetoric, Trump has wrung his hands through the first eight months of his presidency. As for the Republican establishment, DACA is just another Obamacare: something that they were stridently against as long as their objections were futile, but that they never sincerely opposed and — now that they are accountable — cannot bring themselves to fight.

This is one of those times where (gasp) Trump seems to be doing the right thing. (Except waiting so long to do it.)


■ At Reason, Elizabeth Nolan Brown discovers More Evidence That Everything the Government Teaches Us About Eating Is Wrong.

The ongoing Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) project has found both saturated and unsaturated fat intake linked to better heart health, that a high-carb diet is a better predictor of health risks than fat consumption, and that the health benefits of fruit, vegetables, and legumes like beans and chickpeas may plateau at three to four servings per day.

Bad news: my morning bagel and orange juice is killing me. I'd say "see you tomorrow", but… who knows?

URLs du Jour

2017-09-04

Mission Impossible

Proverbs 21:18 is kind of a head-scratcher:

18 The wicked become a ransom for the righteous,
    and the unfaithful for the upright.

On first glance, I was not sure what this meant. The same goes for second, third, fourth, … glances.

Looking at other translations, it seems to be: the wicked/unfaithful will eventually suffer, which will (somehow) deliver the righteous/upright from their predicaments. Justice prevails in the next life, if not this one.

Well, why didn't he just say that?


■ A funny August 25 column at the Chicago Tribune by Rex Huppke: Amazon lowering Whole Foods prices will hurt those who think they're better than you.

Whole Foods has long been a top grocery destination for shoppers eager to spend unnecessarily large amounts of money on food that makes them feel superior to others.

Sadly, that dynamic is about to end. Online retailer Amazon is expected to close on its acquisition of Whole Foods next week and will immediately start — hold my locally sourced camel milk — lowering prices.

Since Mr. Huppke wrote, both those things have happened.

The nearest Whole Foods markets are about an hour away from Pun Salad Manor (either Bedford NH or Portland ME); there was talk of putting one in Portsmouth, but apparently that fell through. (We already have a snooty supermarket, so maybe that scared them off.)


■ Good news, TV executives! Not satisfied with running its own business, Google wants to run yours. Most TV computer scientists are still white men. Google wants to change that.

Google is calling on Hollywood to give equal screen time to women and minorities after a new study the Internet giant funded found that most computer scientists on television shows and in the movies are played by white men.

The USA Today story is supportive of this PC bullying. Because if little "women and minorities" watch TV shows with "women and minorities" doing computer science stuff, it will "inspire underrepresented groups to pursue careers in computer science."

I am doubtful that career self-counseling based on the antics of fictional TV characters is a wise move. Even less wise is to be further persuaded, one way or the other, by the Google-assigned race/sex/ethnicity pigeonholing of those characters.

Of course, it could be that Google recognizes this too, and just enjoys pushing people around.


■ Sad news that half of Steely Dan has passed away. Terry Teachout pens an obit for Walter Becker, R.I.P.

Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, the creative nucleus of Steely Dan, were the Stephen Sondheims of rock, ironic, disillusioned, and musically and lyrically sophisticated to the highest possible degree. I first heard their music (not counting the hit singles from Can’t Buy a Thrill) when The Royal Scam came out in 1976. No sooner did I hear the line “Turn up the Eagles/The neighbors are listening” in “Everything You Did” than I knew that I’d found my rock group. A couple of years later, I bought the original-cast album of A Little Night Music, and that was that: the door of musical adulthood swung wide, never to shut.

Well, there's my problem: I never got A Little Night Music Original Cast Album. And so my iPod is loaded with Steely Dan, Van Morrison, The Who, and various other tunes from my perpetual musical adolescence.

Well, as the Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose said: it's too late to turn back now.

In any case, I can cross "seeing Steely Dan in concert" off my bucket list.


■ Scott Johnson notes the antics of a late-night host: Conan Does Israel

Conan O’Brien has been touring Israel over the past week for a Conan Without Borders episode of his late night show on TBS. In Israel he acted like a tourist. He hit the highlights. He approached Israelis in an ingenuous spirit of appreciation and the appreciation was mutual. If you’ve been to Israel, you know that Israelis are grateful to be seen in the same light as the rest of humanity.

And who can quarrel with…

If only more Norwegian-Americans had been TV late-night talk show hosts when I was young and impressionable, I could have been inspired to choose that career, and that could have been me that close to Gal Gadot. Or at least that's the story according to Google.


■ At Cafe Hayek, Don Boudreaux provides [yesterday's] Bonus Quotation of the Day from Hayek:

There is indeed, as he [Reinhold Niebuhr] says elsewhere, “an increasing tendency among modern men to imagine themselves ethical because they have delegated their vices to larger and larger groups.” To act on behalf of a group seems to free people of many of the moral restraints which control their behavior as individuals within the group.

How many unpleasant stories in your local newspaper would just go away if that weren't the case?

URLs du Jour

2017-09-03

■ Might as well say this up front. Proverbs 21:17 is ridiculously wrong:

17 Whoever loves pleasure will become poor;
    whoever loves wine and olive oil will never be rich.

Maybe this made a lot more sense in an era in which nearly everyone was desperately poor.


■ At Heterodox Academy, Saint Jonathan Haidt writes In Defense of Amy Wax’s Defense of Bourgeois Values. He runs down the history of Wax's op-ed, and the frenzied Progressive reaction to it, good if you've missed it. His analysis is accurate:

I have gone to great lengths to show that Wax’s central claim about culture is probably correct. But the choice to denounce or not denounce should not really hinge on whether Wax was correct; it should hinge on whether she was making an argument in good faith using methods of argumentation that fall within the normal range of her part of the academy. There are no footnotes in a Philly.com opinion essay, but in Wax’s other writings on family law it is clear that she knows and is informed by the relevant social science research. Do Wax’s colleagues believe that her essay in Philly.com constituted a profound violation of professional ethics, akin to data fabrication or taking a bribe? Or do they just believe that she was wrong?

Haidt connects this up with other academic cases. He doesn't mention James Damore's non-academic experience with making "an argument in good faith" at Google. Bottom line: bucking Progressive ideology on matters genetic or cultural is an increasingly dangerous thing to try, whether you're in academia or out.


■ Baylen Linnekin at Reason brings us some bad news: FDA Pushing Forward with Terrible Menu-Labeling Rules.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced the agency will forge ahead with implementing the Obama administration's costly, misguided, pointless, reckless, and potentially unconstitutional menu-labeling rules.

Is Trump's FDA to blame? Just slightly; the real problem is that Obamacare mandates it.


@kevinNR finds The Hope in Houston.

Hurricane Harvey has inflicted appalling suffering upon Houston, a city I called home until only a few months ago. But those flood waters have revealed more than they have covered, and what they have revealed gives us cause for hope.

A simplistic reader of Kevin's work might characterize him as hard-headed and unsentimental. And, for that reader, his essay here might seem wildly out of character. But look deeper: he's consistent in the cultural traits he knows and admires.


■ Rabbi Yonatan Neril, writing at HuffPo, rang our Google LFOD alert with Earth to Houston: We Have a Problem.

The moment we learn that an iceberg may be ahead, everything needs to change. We all need to correct course to curb climate change, even though it may be inconvenient. In this country, the philosophy of “live free or die” resonates deeply, and many of us are resistant to changing how way we live or having our freedoms compromised by policies like a carbon tax. Nature goes by a different motto: live sustainably or die, and the Gulf Coast and the Bay of Bengal today proves that sooner or later, our lives will suffer the consequences of our carbon-intensive lifestyles. Choices we can make that impact our carbon footprint include how often we fly, drive a personal car, eat meat, and buy food from outside our locality. We need to put both the present and future of our children and grandchildren first, over maintaining and expanding our own standard of living.

Rabbi Neril provides a standard climate-change rant, which you will either find persuasive or not, but (fearless prediction) it's not going to shake you from your previously-held opinions.

However, this bit:

Flooding on the Gulf Coast and in South Asia impacted 60 million people, killed 1,200, […]

That's kind of like saying that California and New Hampshire rang up 1830 homicides in 2014. It's true but misleading. As I type, Harvey's death toll is about 45. Dreadful but much smaller than what's being reported out of India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

In any case, Rabbi Neril's suggestion of "Live Sustainably or Die" is unlikely to show up on New Hampshire license plates any time soon.


■ Susan the Bruce has (I think it's fair to say) a rant on the libertarian silence concerning the recent "pop up Border Patrol Inspection" on I-93 up in the White Mountains. She connects this with …

Privacy advocates were howling in outrage at the thought of a “national ID card.” It proved so unpopular that the date for compliance was put off several times. In 2007, it was announced that compliance by states would be put off till 2009. In 2008 the deadline was extended to 2011. NH was one of the states that fought hard against REAL ID. That opposition was in character with the “live free or die” philosophy we’re supposed to be famous for embracing. It was in character with our reputation as a libertarian leaning state.

Susan's not wrong. New Hampshire caved badly, and REAL ID is not the only example. Her conclusion: "Live Free or Die has become Roll Over and Submit."


■ Whoa, somebody report Pun Salad as a hate site! We're linking to Breitbart: 12 States Where the Second Amendment is Your Carry Permit. Showing that Susan the Bruce isn't wrong, but she's not entirely right either:

New Hampshire–On February 22, 2017, Gov. Chris Sununu (R) signed legislation abolishing a permit requirement for concealed carry in New Hampshire. Open carry without a permit was already legal in the state and those who permitless concealed carry argued that they were just making the laws congruent. After the bill was signed, Fox News quoted Sununu saying, “This is about making sure that our laws on our books are keeping people safe while remaining true to the live-free-or-die spirit.”

LFOD lives a complicated life here.


Last Modified 2017-09-03 10:21 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-09-02

Prudence : les bisous !

Proverbs 21:16 wanders back to giving good advice to those who seek it:

16 Whoever strays from the path of prudence
    comes to rest in the company of the dead.

Not to quibble, but those who stay on the path of prudence eventually come to rest in the company of the dead too.


@JonahNRO chronicles The Idiot Boys of Antifa and the Alt-Right in this week's G-File. This bit is insightful, especially the last sentence:

It seems to me the elephant in the room people that keep breezing past is whether or not these people are psychologically similar. I remember when Antifa types first started showing up on television breaking stuff, setting fires, punching people, and the like, my wife said, “Those are just idiot boys looking for an excuse to break stuff and get in fights.”

Can anyone really dispute that this is a huge part of what’s going on with all these radicals on the left and the alt-right? A big swathe of the bad things that have happened over the last 10,000 years can be attributed to hormonally charged young men pulling stupid crap.

Bonus Irving Kristol quote: “When we lack the will to see things as they really are, there is nothing so mystifying as the obvious.”


■ At Learn Liberty, Michael Munger will tell you Why a Canadian city tore down the staircase its residents had always wanted to build.

Toronto city officials recently threatened a man with fines for building an unlicensed staircase in a local park. Then they tore down his staircase, which had cost him $550 to build, and replaced it with one that cost $15,000.

Munger takes this story in an unexpected direction. Check it out.


■ In the "of course she is" department: Hillary Clinton charging big bucks for book tour events. For example:

For $2,375.95 (or $3,000 in Canadian dollars), Clinton fans in Toronto can obtain a “VIP platinum ticket” for her Sept. 28 talk. That ticket includes two front-row seats, a photo with Clinton backstage and a signed book.

The closest she's coming to me is the Boston Opera House on November 28. This (independent) ticketing site has no "VIP platinum" pricing as I type, but you can plunk down $666/person for seats down front, or you can sit up in the nosebleed section, like a schmuck, for a mere $368/person.

To eliminate any possible confusion: that's what you pay them for tickets. I know, you thought it might make more sense the other way around. Understandable.


■ An article from the dead-trees Reason by Rona Kobell: Hemp Comes Home. Specifically, Kentucky. It's an interesting tale of, essentially, a mistaken classification of a useful plant. It was illegalized in 1937 by the Marihuana Tax Act, which required growers to by a prohibitively expensive tax stamp. It was re-legalized for World War II, and then…

When the war ended, the stamp came back. By then DuPont was making synthetic fibers like Nylon for less than the labor costs to process and dry hemp, and the market went bust. In 1970, President Richard Nixon designated both hemp and marijuana Schedule I drugs, the government's category for the most dangerous controlled substances. There they remain today. Hemp, a plant as likely to produce a high as a cup of radishes, is as dangerous as heroin, according to the feds.

A major plot driver for Season 6 of Justified was the assumed upcoming legalization of marijuana driving an agricultural boom in Kentucky. The main bad guy (Sam Elliott) had a scheme to buy up a lot of prime pot-growing farmland ahead of time. They didn't mention hemp.

URLs du Jour

2017-09-01

Proverbs 21:15 returns to a (somewhat boring) sanity:

15 When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous
    but terror to evildoers.

I have no argument there.


■ Otherwise, it's an all-LFOD day here at Pun Salad, as the Google Alert keeps clanging. For example, NE Patriots owner Bob Kraft was up here the other day with an offer one could not refuse: Patriots-inspired lottery tickets debut in New Hampshire.

“We feel very close to the state of New Hampshire,” Kraft told a crowd of about 100. “I love the people. All the people I meet here have that live free or die mentality. It’s about living free and being entrepreneurial and being good to your neighbors, which is so important.”

I'm not sure what Bob's methodology was for detecting an LFOD "mentality", but I'm sure it was psychologically valid.

I don't know (however) if he appreciated the irony of being up here to pimp a state-run gambling enterprise. Try running your own free-market lottery up here, Bob, and see how far an LFOD defense will get you in the courts.


■ Kraft used LFOD to compliment New Hampshire residents. Over at Jalopnik, Michael Ballaban (a self-admitted New Yorker) uses it as an insult: Please Put On A Helmet You're Freaking Us All The Hell Out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Yes, he really did use all those exclamation marks.)

I am not some sort of finger-wagging ninny, I’ll say that upfront.

Reader, can you guess the next word in Ballaban's article?

But I am a human being, and frankly, sir, when I see you riding your motorcycle without a helmet, it makes me nervous as all hell. Stop it. Right now.

I’m in New Hampshire right now with my esteemed colleague, Raphael Orlove, on an adventure full of... things. And for those who have never been here, New Hampshire is the where they take the whole “live free or die” thing extremely seriously, to the extent that you don’t need a car insurance, a seat belt, or even a motorcycle helmet when riding, because all of those things are evil socialism.

Yeah, OK, Mike. Let me invoke this article that ranks states on dangerous drivers: NH is number 48 on that list. New York is a mediocre #32.

Your next paragraph, though:

(The liquor stores, on the other hand, are all government-run, which is also socialism.)

Can't argue with you there, Mike. Also, see lotteries, above.


■ And news from over on the other side of the state involves a Hanover restaurant: Skinny Pancake Adds Waitstaff, Menu Items — And Cocktails. "Skinny Pancake" is a small restaurant chain, and they specialize in crêpes. (Get it?) The article notes the changes at the Hanover location:

These changes are Skinny Pancake’s response to a company-wide customer survey, which indicated that many customers in Hanover wanted more options: non-crepe options, the option for table service and more alcohol options.

Fulfilling these first two requests also will allow Skinny Pancake to meet the third and, in some ways, trickiest one. New Hampshire has what Adler feels are surprisingly puritanical liquor licensing laws, given the Granite State’s live-free-or-die attitude.

I imagine the scenario: a burly Hanover dairy farmer, dragged to Skinny Pancake by his spouse, looking at dozens of crêpe menu items and muttering "Elfod! Is there any way to get a burger and a scotch?"


■ From NH1 news: Attention outdoor enthusiasts: 'North Woods Law: New Hampshire' is back for season 2

I gotta admit, I was unaware of season 1. My bad.

"Whether the Conservation Officers are assisting biologists in managing the state's wildlife, patrolling backcountry roads during hunting season, or conducting search and rescue operations on windswept mountains and roaring rivers, every day presents a new challenge in the Live Free or Die state," the [Animal Planet] promotion continued.

At the link, you'll see a Conservation Officer pointing his shotgun at some unspecified target. I can imagine him saying, Dirty Harry-style: "You've gotta ask yourself one question, punk: Live Free … Or Die?"


■ There's more serious stuff too, for example "TheNewspaper.com" notes that US Border Patrol Sets Up New Hampshire. At issue is a roadblock set up in Woodstock, not particularly near the Canadian border.

Despite the motto "Live Free or Die" on its license plates, New Hampshire has accelerated the use of roadblocks throughout the state. Earlier this year the state legislature gave Border Patrol agents operating to the north in Coos County the full authority of state law enforcement officers.

That's another part of the LFOD usage taxonomy: people tend to invoke it whenever the state is involved in doing something they dislike. More sensible than not, I suppose.

What's missing from the TheNewspaper.com story? Let's try the Union Leader:

Federal border patrol agents arrested 25 illegal aliens during a three-day checkpoint this past weekend on Interstate 93 south in Thornton, the first such checkpoint in the Granite State in five years, the agency said.

Also: two pounds of pot, "smaller amounts of cocaine, psilocybin mushrooms and hash oil."


■ Commie Radio has the story over in our part of the state: The Legacy of the N.H.-Maine Lobster War and Why It May Wage On. Why? Because (1) out at sea the border between the states is ill-defined; (2) Maine and New Hampshire differ in acceptable lobster sizes by one-sixteenth of an inch. "Of course you know, this means war."

What's LFOD got to do with it, you ask? Well, the War has been proceeding since 1973, when Mel Thomson was Governor. And (since it's NH Public Radio) they list off Mel's many sins, including

He the replaced the word “Scenic” on the state license plate with “Live Free or Die.”

I'd like to thank Mel, but this is Fake News: the legislature mandated LFOD in 1969, Mel became Governor in 1973.

■ And oftentimes, LFOD shows up in non-New Hampshire news, for example: When movie franchises go for a fourth...

Other examples of fourth instalments that didn’t work include Live Free or Die Hard, which manages to be less fun or coherent than any of its predecessors (and yet they made another one after that…)

I don't know how many Granite Staters went to that movie expecting to see some exciting John McClane action up in the White Mountains or something. But no. Maybe we could put together a class action suit?