Trust Me

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

I like Clark Gregg. I liked him in The New Adventures of Old Christine, I liked him as Phil Coulson in all those Marvel movies and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. And I saw his smirking face on the DVD box for this movie, and expected a light-hearted comedy that gently lampooned Hollywood and its denizens. (In addition to being the star—he's in every scene, I think—Mr. Gregg wrote and directed the movie.)

Oops. Maybe I should have read the plot synopses a little more carefully. Well, it never hurts to be surprised, I guess. The IMDB says "Comedy, Drama". I say, more like "Film Noir".

Anyway, the plot: Mr. Gregg is Howard Holloway, a "struggling" agent specializing in child actors, because he once was one. (We hear how his acting career got derailed late in the movie.) His efforts are often thwarted by the machinations of the relatively despicable people he has to deal with: parents, competing agents, conniving producers.

But, by luck, he happens on his Big Chance: an extraordinarily gifted 13-year-old actress, Lydia, whose drunkard father is schlepping her around to casting calls. Can Howard help start her out on a solid career and also maintain his soul?

I liked the movie. Mrs. Salad hated the ending, but (once I got the genre right) I kind of saw it coming.

URLs du Jour

2017-10-31

Death of Socrates

■ Every so often the Proverbialist drops little hints that his home life isn't all he hoped it would be. We get another one of those in Proverbs 19:13:

13 A foolish child is a father’s ruin,
     and a quarrelsome wife is like
    the constant dripping of a leaky roof.

"When are you going to fix the roof, Elihu? What are you waiting for, the Messiah?"

"Hah! You tell him, Mom!"


■ At Reason, Robby Soave tells the tale: Philosophy Professor Tells Bisexual Student Who Criticized Islam 'We're Not Going to Let You Damage the Program'. Can't have that!

A bisexual male student at the University of Texas–San Antonio said during an informal conversation outside class that he was uncomfortable with Islam because people still receive the death penalty for being gay in 10 Muslim-majority countries.

For expressing this thought, the student—Alfred MacDonald, who no longer attends the school—was instructed to meet with the chair of the philosophy department, Eve Browning. Prof. Browning told MacDonald in no uncertain terms that he had committed the crime of "offending" someone, and she warned him that his habit of saying what he thinks could bring down the entire program. She threatened to call the Behavior Intervention Team and refer MacDonald to counseling. She did everything but send him to Room 101.

MacDonald (wisely) brought a recorder to the encounter, so there is a cringe-inducing transcript of the Browning-MacDonald interrogation at the link. It must be read to be believed.

Kid, you're probably better off learning philosophy on your own. Otherwise, it's only a matter of time before the faculty spike your punch with hemlock at the departmental Christmas party.


■ With everyone else concentrating on likely legal repercussions of the Paul Manafort indictment, @kevinNR has some larger observations on Swamp Things.

The usual Trump apologists spent yesterday afternoon eating up a great deal of AM-radio and cable-news airtime emphasizing that the crimes with which Manafort is charged do not relate to his work for the Trump campaign, but preceded it. Tighten in and focus on that word: preceded. It may be the case that Manafort did nothing wrong during his time as Trump’s campaign manager, but that does not mean that the indictment against him tells us nothing about the president or his campaign. It tells us a great deal: about his judgment, about his character, about the sort of people with whom he is comfortable doing business.

Drain the swamp? Trump & Co. are the Swamp Things.

I know: "better than Hillary". But that's increasingly a deflective argument, about to become a defective argument.


■ Tom Nichols points out something that I would have thought to be obvious: Comparing Donald Trump To Ronald Reagan Is An Insult To Reagan.

Now that we’ve had nearly a year of the dingy, vulgar carnival that is the Trump presidency, conservatives and Republicans (who are not always the same people) have settled into various camps. Some, like me, remain committed Never Trumpers; whether inside or outside of the GOP, we feel that our worst predictions have been vindicated.

Others have thrown what few principles they once had onto the Trump bonfire, abandoning any pretense of conservatism in the name of tribal victory. They dance around the flames while chanting “But Gorsuch” and whooping about the anger they have elicited from their hated enemies in the media, the academy, and the people who shower before going to work.

But a third group has opted for denial. Having eschewed the dread of the Never Trumpers, but too respectable and thoughtful to join the Steve Bannonite ritual political theater of kilt-lifting and buttock-slapping in the face of the royal archery, they instead have chosen to see Trump as firmly in the tradition of modern conservative heroes like Ronald Reagan. No, really.

I don't like the "Never Trump" label, it lost meaning after the election. It might be relevant again in a couple years, though.

Understanding it as a shorthand for "Trump continues to be a lying narcissistic slimeball" might make more sense.


■ Allison Schrager writes at Quartz: A new American revolution is starting in New England—against Daylight Saving Time.

“Why do we keep doing this to ourselves?” Donna Bailey, a Democratic state representative in Maine and crusader against anachronistic and dangerous institutions, asked the Wall Street Journal (paywall). It’s an excellent question.

Earlier this year, Bailey sponsored a bill that would move Maine to the Atlantic Time Zone, an hour ahead of its current position in the Eastern Time Zone, and no longer observe Daylight Saving Time. The bill passed both chambers of the Maine state legislature. But the Senate added a provision that Maine voters must approve the change in a referendum, and the referendum could only be triggered by neighboring Massachusetts and New Hampshire changing their time, too. Since neither of those states had immediate plans to change their time zones, the move seemed doomed.

But now some people in Massachusetts are thinking about it too!

Ms. Schrager previously advocated that the US move to just two time zones back in 2013. At the time, Pun Salad advocated something even more radically crackpot (but also brilliant): The Right Number of Time Zones is Zero. It continues to make more sense to me than any of this other twiddling.


■ Woo, it's Halloween. I hate Halloween. But I like James Lileks, and he asks and suggests: Think you're scare-savvy? Try this Halloween quiz. Sample:

3. In “Dracula,” which line did not occur?

A) “Ah, the cheeldren uf the night, vhat sveet mooosic they make.”

B) “I don’t drink” — dramatic pause, eyebrows arching — “wine.”

C) “It’s a naive Type O without any breeding, but I think you’ll be amused by its presumption.”

D) “AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!”

See how many you get right!


■ And the Google LFOD alert bell rang for a Union Leader article: Inventor Kamen urges Granite State businesses to support tech education. I don't need to tell you who Dean Kamen is; his message to a recent conference was to advocate New Hampshire as a high-tech Silicon Valley of New England via education and entrepreneurship.

The former New Yorker said the state’s motto, “Live Free or Die,” minted on its license plates convinced him to move here more than three decades ago. He urged the business people not to disappoint him.

Otherwise, Kamen said: “I’ll look at more license plates.”

What would (say) Maine need to put on its license plates to entice Kamen away? Switch from "Vacationland" to "TANSTAAFL", maybe? I don't see that happening.


Last Modified 2017-11-02 2:34 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-10-30

Proverbs 19:12 sycophantically describes the moodiness of kings:

12 A king’s rage is like the roar of a lion,
    but his favor is like dew on the grass.

I would have improved the parallelism with "the purring of a kitten" instead of "dew on the grass". But I guess that's why God didn't hire me to write the Bible.


■ The campus activists/wannabe Torquemadas at AllEyesOnUNH posted their Halloween costume no-nos:

Amusingly, they're getting some flak in the comments due to (a) the political incorrectness of "gypsy" and (b) a discussion about whether dressing in "drag" has anything to do with being transgender.

Me, I'm wondering how someone could come up with a costume that would violate as many of those rules as possible. Liberace in a hijab?

I already linked to this Reason article by Lenore Skenazy and Jonathan Haidt yesterday, but let me quote from it again:

At Yale in 2015, after 13 college administrators signed a letter outlining appropriate vs. inappropriate costume choices for students, the childhood development expert and campus lecturer Erika Christakis suggested that it would be better to allow kids to think for themselves. After all, Halloween is supposed to be about pushing boundaries. "Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little obnoxious…or, yes, offensive?" she wrote. "Have we lost faith in young people's capacity—your capacity—to ignore or reject things that trouble you?"

Apparently, yes. Angry students mobbed her husband, the professor Nicholas Christakis, surrounding him in the courtyard of the residential college where he served as master. They screamed obscenities and demanded he apologize for believing, along with his wife, that college students are in fact capable of handling offensive costumes on Halloween. "Be quiet!" a student shouted at him at one point. "As master, it is your job to create a place of comfort and home for the students!" She did not take kindly to his response that, to the contrary, he sees it as his job to create a space where students can grow intellectually.

As it turns out, Halloween is the perfect Petri dish for observing what we have done to childhood. We didn't think anything was safe enough for young people. And now we are witnessing the results.

Two years later, we'll see if the UNH petri dish works out any different than Yale's.


■ Tyler Cowen does some history in the wake of the Russian purchase of Facebook ads: That was then, this is now, Soviet-Russian media subsidies edition

This is the week of hearings on Facebook ads, as well as Twitter and Google promotion of pro-Putin or sometimes pro-Trump or disruptive ideas.  So far we know that Russia-linked ads on Facebook cost about $100,000, a laughably low number.  Maybe there is much more hidden, but so far I don’t see it.

$100,000 is exactly the amount the Comintern gave in the 1920s to organize a campaign against John L. Lewis leading the mine union.  No, I am not adjusting for inflation, so in real terms the sum in the 20s was much higher.  The Comintern also gave at least $35,000 to start the Daily Worker, again that is a nominal figure from the 1920s.  The American Communist Party received subsidies too.  Many other communist subsidies, media and otherwise, remain hidden or at least uncertain.

Since I am (on occasion) a Commie-hater, I welcome any and all new assistants to the cause of finding Russians under our beds.


■ Andrew Klavan writes on The Trouble With Maggie Haberman. Given the subject matter—Haberman is senior White House correspondent for the New York Times—I'm surprised his article isn't book-length, but:

Maggie Haberman is shocked — shocked — to find that Hillary Clinton's people are dishonest. Some of you may remember Hillary Clinton. This is the woman who lied about her husband's infidelity, her trip to Bosnia, the cause of the Benghazi massacre, her illegal emails and just about everything else she's ever talked about. But when the Clinton people told Haberman that they had nothing to do with the now-infamous Steele dossier filled with dubious Russian dirt on Donald Trump, Maggie apparently bought it hook, line and sinker. "Folks involved in funding this lied about it, and with sanctimony, for a year," she complained on Twitter. Shocked.

Don't worry, Mr. Klavan. Pretty soon Maggie will snap back to her usual attitude of Progressive gullibility.


■ And George Washington’s Church Is Going to Rip Out His Memorial. Really:

The Virginia church that George Washington attended for two decades plans to tear out a memorial to the nation’s first president because the plaque could make some worshipers feel “unsafe or unwelcome.”

I can't help but think they just made a lot more of their parishioners feel unwelcome by this action, but we'll see.


Last Modified 2017-10-30 12:23 PM EDT

Funny Money

[Amazon Link]

Another book I bought long ago (circa 2003, I think) for reasons I have long since forgotten. If it was award-nominated, I can't find any record of it. There's a glowing blurb on the front cover from Michael Connelly ("James Swain is the best new writer I have come across."), so that might have been it. I'm not typically seduced by blurbs, though.

Never mind the reasons, it was an enjoyable read. Not quite enough to dump James Swain's seventeen other novels onto my to-be-read pile, but a veritable page-turner.

It is the second book in Swain's "Tony Valentine" series. Tony is an ex-cop from Atlantic City, a recent widower, and runs a consulting service out of his Florida digs, specializing in figuring out how gambling casinos are being ripped off by their patrons and employees. He has a wayward son who keeps making bad choices.

I cast the movie after only reading a few pages: Gregory Jbara, the guy who plays Frank Reagan's assistant Garrett on the TV show Blue Bloods. Don't know why, but he just popped into my head and stayed there while I was reading.

Anyway, Tony's ex-partner gets killed (no spoiler, that's page 8) while he's on the phone with Tony. So: this time it's personal. It's apparently tied in with a casino being taken at blackjack by a gang of scruffy players of European descent. Along the way, Tony meets a beautiful lady professional wrestler, a mobster who's threatening Tony's son, a bunch of Atlantic City cops (clean and dirty), and the Governor of Florida. And many more.

It's a lot of fun, and there's a nice twisty revelation in the penultimate chapter that I seriously did not see coming.

My Book Picker (and Unpicker)

Another example of the mental aberration that causes me to write Perl scripts to solve life's little everyday irritants. In this case two little irritants:

  1. I noticed that I had a lot of books on my shelves, acquired long past, that I never got around to reading. Either because (a) they were dauntingly long and dense (I'm thinking about Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace); or because (b) they just fell through the cracks. Both poor excuses, but there you are.

  2. I sometimes want to methodically read a series of books in a particular order.

In other words, I needed a way to bring diligence and organization to my previous chaotic and sloppy reading habits.

Here's how I went about scripting that:

I conceptualized my "to be read" books as a collection of book stacks, like the picture at (your) right (except more of them). Each stack is a list of books:

  1. either organized around a specific theme (usually an author) or is a catchall (e.g. "non-fiction"); and

  2. maintained in the order I want to read them. (This goes back to the issue mentioned above: sometimes a series really "should" be read in publishing order, for example C.J. Box's novels featuring protagonist Joe Pickett.)

The implementation of this concept: each stack is a .list file in my Linux directory ~/var/reading_lists. As I type, sixteen of them:


(pas@oakland) ~/var/reading_lists: ls -l *.list
-rw------- 1 pas pas 183 Oct 20 17:47 amber.list
-rw------- 1 pas pas  41 May 17 18:05 asimov.list
-rw------- 1 pas pas 242 Jul 25 06:09 box.list
-rw------- 1 pas pas  93 Oct  9 12:27 connelly.list
-rw------- 1 pas pas  43 Sep  7 10:28 conservative_lit_101.list
-rw------- 1 pas pas  75 Sep 17 13:32 docford.list
-rw------- 1 pas pas  46 Jun 30 11:12 elmore.list
-rw------- 1 pas pas  83 Mar 29  2016 francis.list
-rw------- 1 pas pas 266 Oct 28 06:52 genfic.list
-rw------- 1 pas pas  65 Apr 13  2017 monkeewrench.list
-rw------- 1 pas pas 144 Oct 16 17:11 moore.list
-rw------- 1 pas pas 199 Oct 25 13:47 mystery.list
-rw------- 1 pas pas 523 Oct 16 13:12 nonfic.list
-rw------- 1 pas pas  56 Jul 18 15:04 reacher.list
-rw------- 1 pas pas 333 Aug 30 15:37 sci-fi.list
-rw------- 1 pas pas  45 Jun 11 15:50 winslow.list

Each list has one or more lines:


(pas@oakland) ~/var/reading_lists: wc -l *.list
   6 amber.list
   1 asimov.list
  11 box.list
   3 connelly.list
   1 conservative_lit_101.list
   5 docford.list
   4 elmore.list
   2 francis.list
   8 genfic.list
   4 monkeewrench.list
   5 moore.list
   6 mystery.list
  13 nonfic.list
   2 reacher.list
   9 sci-fi.list
   2 winslow.list
  82 total

… and each line in each file contains a different book title. Example with elmore.list, a list I created in lieu of watching the six seasons of Justified on Amazon Prime for the fourth time.


(pas@oakland) ~/var/reading_lists: cat elmore.list
Pronto
Riding the Rap
Fire in the Hole
Raylan

I.e., four books written by the late Elmore Leonard where Raylan Givens appears as a character.

The picking algorithm is simple and "works for me". When it's time to choose the next book to be read from this agglomeration, I pick a pile "at random" and take the book from the "top of the pile" (i.e., the one named in the first line of the file).

There is one more little tweak: the "random" pick is weighted by the length of the list. So (for example) since there are 82 books total in all lists above, and the nonfic.list has 13 lines, a book from that list would be picked with probability 1382. (Note the probabilities calculated this way add up to 1, the probability that some book from pile will be picked.)

That's not as hard as it might sound. I'd pseudocode the algorithm like this:

Given: N lists (indexed 0..N-1) with Bi books in the ith list…

Let T be the total number of books in the lists, B0 + B1 + … + BN-1

Pick a random number r between 0 and T-1.

i = 0
while (r >= Bi)
     r -= Bi
     i++

… and on loop exit i will index the list picked.

So: the "picking" script, bookpicker, is here. A prettyprinted HTML version is here. Notes:

  • You just run the script with no arguments or options.

  • I left "debugging" print statements in.

  • You're responsible for maintaining the lists; no blank/duplicate lines, etc.

  • For the "picked" list, the script writes a smaller file with the picked title missing. The old list is saved with a .old appended to the name. That's important, because next…

One last little gotcha: the randomization is sometimes a little too random. Specifically, sometimes after reading a book by a certain author, the picking script picks… the next book in the list by the same author. I don't want that. Variety is better.

So  there's also a script to "undo" a previous pick, bookpicker_unpick. If you run it before any other changes are made to the list files, it will find the most-recently-modified .list file, and "restore" the corresponding .list.old file. The script, is here. A prettyprinted HTML version is here.


Last Modified 2017-10-30 6:17 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-10-29

■ After yesterday's flirtation with aristocratic cheerleading, we are back to plain old sensible advice in Proverbs 19:11

11 A person’s wisdom yields patience;
    it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.

Today's picture: a wise Boston terrier exhibiting extreme patience in overlooking an offense.

And, as it happens, not overlooking minor offenses is kind of a theme in what follows today.


■ I'm in the middle of reading The Fragile Generation in dead-trees Reason, a wise article from Lenore Skenazy and Jonathan Haidt. But (good news, everyone) you can read it for free, and you should.

Beginning in the 1980s, American childhood changed. For a variety of reasons—including shifts in parenting norms, new academic expectations, increased regulation, technological advances, and especially a heightened fear of abduction (missing kids on milk cartons made it feel as if this exceedingly rare crime was rampant)—children largely lost the experience of having large swaths of unsupervised time to play, explore, and resolve conflicts on their own. This has left them more fragile, more easily offended, and more reliant on others. They have been taught to seek authority figures to solve their problems and shield them from discomfort, a condition sociologists call "moral dependency."

This poses a threat to the kind of open-mindedness and flexibility young people need to thrive at college and beyond. If they arrive at school or start careers unaccustomed to frustration and misunderstandings, we can expect them to be hypersensitive. And if they don't develop the resources to work through obstacles, molehills come to look like mountains.

And just by calendarical coincidence…


■ … we read that authority figures at the University Near Here are, indeed, trying to shield the technically-no-longer-children under its aegis during upcoming festivities. From the student newspaper: Administration preps for Halloween.

The Academic Deans of UNH sent out an email Tuesday regarding Halloween weekend. The email outlined the university’s concerns about the health and wellness of students and encouraged mutual respect of all Wildcats.
According to Dean of Students Ted Kirkpatrick, the email is one of the many preparations that have been in the works since September to prepare for the festivities.

Student Body President Carley Rotenberg says she hopes that students will read the email and consider evaluating how they will celebrate Halloween and what kind of costume they will be celebrating in.

"Students aren’t forced to do this,” Rotenberg said. "But we strongly recommend [they] don’t wear anything that will offend anyone.”

Back when I worked at UNH, during long meetings I would imagine glowing animated running dollar totals above each attendee's head, showing the salary earned while sitting there. At the end of the meeting, a grand total would appear: "This meeting cost the University $X".

I can only guess at the total involved in the "many preparations" that the Academic Deans worked on.

Perhaps someday people will look back at these times and wonder: why, of all things, did people decide to get offended by costumes? Why, it's almost as if they were looking for things to offend them, and costumes were the most likely target.

Echoing Skenazy and Haidt: how did these molehills become mountains?

But wait, there's more:

Associate Vice President for Community, Equity and Diversity Jaime Nolan has also been working with Student Senate and members of the administration to help students understand the difference between what is disrespectful to someone’s culture versus celebratory and fun.

"There’s been a lot of opportunities for lessons, including Instagram postings and so on, and I think there’s been a real genuine effort on a lot of people’s parts to want to fix that or at least think about it differently,” Nolan said.

While Nolan says she understands some people might ask what the big deal is surrounding costumes and cultural appropriation, it’s important that students are, "willing to step into the shoes of somebody else and just pause,” she said. "We forget that there’s this accumulation of things, even with costumes,” Nolan said.

Nolan used an example she had learned previously when trying to explain the significance of cultural appropriation to others.

"In the morning you stub your toe, then you go about your business. Then someone accidentally stomps on you, and then three or four more things happen and then at the end of the day, someone drops a piece of paper on your foot and you freak because you’ve had so much happen to your foot all day,” Nolan explained. "If I crunch your foot I should apologize for stepping on your toe even if I didn’t mean to.”

I am reminded of a Raylan Givens quote:

Rotenberg echoed Nolan, stating the importance of perspective.

"Find something that would offend you and picture someone else dressing up as that, and now you can say, okay, I get it,” Rotenberg said.

OK, Carley, I've found something that offends me: University administrators with six-figure bullshit jobs, holding vast arbitrary powers to ruin students' academic careers, pontificating on those students' acceptable Halloween attire.

And now I'm picturing someone dressing up that way, perhaps in Puritan garb? And blue nose. Handing out stickers for people's costumes that say either "ACCEPTABLE" [with a smiley face] or "PROBLEMATIC!" [frowny face].

You know what? I'm OK with that. In fact, I wish someone had the wit and courage to dress up that way.

Though awareness of cultural appropriation has been an aspect of preparations for Halloween, according to Kirkpatrick, what students wear and how they act is ultimately up to them.

"I don’t want to abridge and neither does the institution, any free expression,” Kirkpatrick said.

Reader, I dare say you can guess the very next word out of Dean Kirkpatrick's lips.

"But if you and I knew that by doing something it would hurt somebody, why would we want to keep doing it?”

I would ask Dean Kirkpatrick: "Dean, you know that you disgust and offend me when you treat ostensible adults as children and hector them on their costume choices. Why do you keep doing that?"

Other preparations for the weekend include diversity training in the residence halls with hall directors and residence assistants, working with law enforcement to prepare for events like Halloween, talking to Greek life, as well as talking to professors about academic expectations, according to Kirkpatrick.

Kirkpatrick and other academic deans will be walking around campus Friday and Saturday night as part of Kirkpatrick’s Red Coats initiative he started a few years ago with the purpose of looking out for students and possible dangerous situations.

He emphasizes that, though they will be looking out for students, they will not be policing students or "taking notes on costumes,” he said. Joining the Red Coats this weekend are the Weekend Walkers, who are a group made up of professional staff and faculty from many areas of campus according to the university’s website, and law enforcement.

"We’re not police. It was just for the students to know that we care about things, to encourage people to be safe and to take care of each other and make good choices, and when you see people that are obviously impaired, to do what you can to help,” Kirkpatrick said.

Oh, they're not "police" and they're not "taking notes". Still, I think there's an implicit "but" involved. Suggestion: snappy brown shirts under the red coats.

Despite thorough measures by the administration and Student Senate to make sure Halloween weekend goes smoothly, Rotenberg says she is remaining positive about the outcome of the weekend. Kirkpatrick echoed Rotenberg, reminding students not to, "miss a moment,” and, "have a great time,” but having fun, "shouldn’t spill into the real reason why you’re here which is to earn a degree and then when you’re out after graduation to do great things.”

Pun Salad's advice to UNH students: unless you can be wickedly courageous and clever (see my suggestion above), be an adult and dodge the whole mess by staying in your room and studying. Give Halloween back to the kids.


■ Ah, but we're not done. UNH student Jordyn Haime issues her demand in a student newspaper column: Be respectful this Halloween.

I remember my band instructor’s Halloween costume during my senior year of high school very well. It was the annual Halloween parade in some nearby rural New Hampshire town, and we were all required to wear Halloween costumes. My instructor dressed up as a “Native American chief,” complete with headdress and flute. But the accessories weren’t enough: he felt the need to yell nonsense noises and songs at the crowd; I suppose that was his interpretation of what a Native American sounded like.

Did you ever notice that Social Justice Warriors are able to dig up detailed anecdotes from their past that, so conveniently, just happen to exactly illustrate their thesis?

Yeah, me too.

It’s easy enough to understand what’s offensive about putting on a headdress or a sombrero and calling it a costume before going out to party with your friends. Someone else’s culture is not your costume, and you need to be careful about the costumes you buy and what you represent on Halloween.

Apparently Jordyn doesn't understand what's offensive about telling her fellow students what they "need to be careful" about doing.

Let’s take the “Hombre” costume I saw at Wal-Mart the other day as an example. It came with a colorful poncho, a sombrero, and a stick-on mustache.

For the record, I can only find this. Out of stock, and it doesn't include a mustache.

Now, think about why anyone would want to buy that costume. Think about why you would want to dress up as what you think a Mexican looks like. And think about the costume itself: the poncho, the sombrero, the mustache.

Yes. Think. Obviously, Jordyn knows the story. She's already arrived at the conclusion she wants you to come to. Just like her band instructor, anyone who "would want to buy that costume" is just evil.

How many Mexicans do you know? Do they wear colorful ponchos and sombreros to school or to work? Do they wear them on Cinco de Mayo? The answer is no. The costume is just that: a costume; a caricature that draws on harmful and racist stereotypes and makes them the punchline to a joke.

On the contrary: the only people who can look at ponchos and sombreros and see "harmful and racist stereotypes" are those who want to see them that way.

When you’re planning your costume this Halloween, please, ask yourself first: why am I doing this? What makes this funny? What stereotypes am I provoking with this costume? Who could I be hurting? Consider the history. Consider your own stereotypes perceptions of culture and people of color. Just stop for a second, and ask yourself why.

Here are some questions Jordyn might ask herself: Why am I getting so upset about other peoples' costumes? What makes this the most critical thing I can concern myself with? What gives me the right to assume the worst motives about people from their costume choices? Have I asked myself if people might enjoy portraying themselves as members of some other culture, and have perfectly innocent reasons for doing so?

If you’re planning on being an “hombre” for Halloween, or Pocahontas, or Moana, or a Geisha, or a Rabbi, just don’t. Freedom of expression is of the utmost important [sic]to all of us. But freedom to exist safely and comfortably in a space is also an essential right. There are plenty of other costumes you can wear and still have a great time without hurting anyone, provoking racist stereotypes, or making a mockery of a culture that you don’t understand.

Moana? Seriously?

Rabbis are bad. Go figure. How about the Pope? Is the Pope OK? How about Torquemada, the famous Grand Inquisitor, determined to root out heresy? Hm. Jordyn, I think that would be a fine costume for you.

All I’m asking is that we be kind and respectful of one another this Halloween, and make UNH a safer and more welcoming place for all of us.

Nobody with an ounce of proportion or sanity is made less safe by someone else's choice of Halloween costume.

URLs du Jour

2017-10-28

socialism

■ We occasionally run up against a Proverb that seems jarring to modern ears, and Proverbs 19:10 is one of those:

10 It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury—
    how much worse for a slave to rule over princes!

Other translations say "servant" instead of slave, so that's a little better, but I suspect "slave" is the more accurate translation. The message is pretty clear: Know your place, peon. The folks at the top are there because they deserve to be.

We take 'em as they come.


■ Protectionism often seems like a fine idea except when it comes time to buy stuff you need. When you're trying to recover from a disaster, that makes it somewhat worse. At Reason, Christian Britschgi notes a recent example: Federal Ban on Foreign Sand Rubs Florida the Wrong Way

Thanks to an obscure provision of the 1986 Water Resources Development Act, the federal government and the South Florida communities hit by Hurricane Irma have been prohibited from procuring foreign sand for their beach replenishment projects until all other feasible domestic sources have been tapped.

Note that since Your Federal Government is paying for a lot of this, it's your tax dollars at issue here. Pity that all those people complaining about "price gouging" have gone silent.


■ Oh no! A marketing magazine notes that New Hampshire Newcomer Maura Sullivan Commits Logo Gaffe in Joining a Congressional Race. Ms. Sullivan wants to be my CongressCritter, replacing Carol Shea-Porter. The magazine is not local, as it takes pains to make clear:

We tend not to hear too much about New Hampshire, with the U.S. presidential election cycle’s tabbing of its primary as the first one in the race for the White House arguably being its chief claim to fame. Though the Granite State will not grab its next share of the limelight in that context until January 2020, its residents nonetheless take pride in their political sway and civic engagement, the latter deftly exemplified by their “Live Free or Die” motto. Politics and pride converged Monday when Maura Sullivan, in announcing her candidacy for the state’s First Congressional District vacancy, issued a campaign logo that excised a part of her new state’s southwest corner, drawing rebukes from constituents.

I would bet that it drew more snickers than rebukes. Here 'tis, stolen from the Boston Globe:

[Sullivan Botched Logo]

Horrors.

Ms. Sullivan's website has the now-fixed logo. Over it is the quote:

"Just as I fought in the Marines, and fought for Veterans, servicemembers, and their families in the Obama Administration -- I am ready to fight tirelessly for Granite State families."

Yes, she was in the Marines. You'll note the theme: fought, fought, fight. She's a fighter. That focus-groups well. (The rest of the text on that web page contains three "fighting"s, 1 "fight", another "fought".

The Globe article notes her deep roots in New Hampshire: she has lived here since June.


■ Another LFOD was spotted by the Googlebot at a commercial real estate site, costar.com, in an article by one Mark Heschmeyer: Hundreds of Localities Fortify Their Amazon HQ2 Bids with Hefty Financial Incentives. "Hefty" as in Irvine, CA's $5 billion, Philly's $2-$3 billion, etc. But:

Taking its extreme slogan of 'Live Free or Die' to heart, New Hampshire's proposal offered no incentives but simply highlighted the fact that the state has no use tax, sales tax, estate tax, internet access tax, capital gains tax, broad-based personal income tax and low business taxes.

"New Hampshire does not rely on complex and contingent special tax deals because New Hampshire never collects the tax in the first place. So, our government process does not pick winners and losers. Instead, every citizen and every business is a winner," the proposal stated.

The state estimated the benefits of its tax policy to Amazon at $600 million a year.

Extreme? Kiss my ass, Mark.


■ Richard Greene, writing in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, writes of a visit to our fair state, and his discovery that Texans and Yankees share common heritage. Original Declaration signers William Whipple and Josiah Bartlett [signers number 2 and 3, respectively, just behind J. Hancock], and Matthew Thornton are profiled.

These men were the personification of the state’s famous motto — “Live Free or Die!” They knew their rebellious behavior was a hanging offense but declaring their birthright to freedom was well worth the risk.

Such an aggressive statement of resolve against tyranny would echo through the little Texas town of Gonzales in 1835 in the first military engagement of the Texas Revolution.

When Mexican soldiers approached Gonzales with orders to seize the town’s cannon, they were greeted with a flag bearing the famous and proud words, “Come and Take It.”

"Come and Take It" could have been the Texas state motto, but they kind of wimped out with "Friendship".

URLs du Jour

2017-10-27

Devil Girl candy bars

Proverbs 19:9 prophesies doom for a large number of people…

9 A false witness will not go unpunished,
    and whoever pours out lies will perish.

Anyone paying attention to the news must be getting impatient for this retribution to occur. Any day now! (Not that I wish any politician, diversity educator, or MSM journalist ill, of course.)


■ Ann Althouse is peeved with Newsweek for its breathless story on [Chinese] kids today, with the lede: "Young people in China are rejecting Communist party propaganda for Western-style movie stars and celebrity culture...". Ms Althouse is ruthless.

"... that’s the lesson behind the box office flop of a series big budget propaganda films according to observers. When the movie 'Founding Fathers of the Army,' which tells the story of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army, recently hit cinemas, officials hoped it would inspire an outpouring of patriotic feeling — instead it was mocked for trying to use popular film stars to lure younger viewers."

Or so Newsweek tells us. No details of this mockery appear in the linked story. I see that the movie was a "flop" in relation to its "big budget," but there are no numbers, and who knows what constitutes a "flop" or a "big budget" when the proportions are Chinese? Assuming it was a flop, how do we jump to the conclusion that the young people of China long for a Western-style culture? What's the evidence of that? Maybe the movie was boring.

In other words, Newsweek gives us one of those stories that makes you feel dumber for having read it. (But Ms. Althouse's article led me to today's picture du jour.)


■ Megan McArdle offers good advice, not that anyone is likely to take it: Be Careful Who You Call a 'White Supremacist'

“The NFL Protests Are a Perfect Study of How White Supremacy Works” reads the headline on a recent article at the Root. Which is confusing if you think of “white supremacy” as an apartheid system like Jim Crow, and “white supremacists” as angry people running around in sheets and hoods. The Root's looser use of “white supremacy,” to describe something considerably less explicit than advocating a race war, has become increasingly common.

It's like a game of Orwellian mad libs.

                     has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’.

Orwell filled in the blank with "The word Fascism". Today, "The phrase white supremacy" also fits.


@JonahNRO tells us the brutal truth that the latest revelations about the "Steele Dossier" just confirm further: The Clintons Are Just Not That in to [sic] You. Yes, yes, there were lies. But:

But the lies were always a symptom of a deeper pathology. The Clintons saw themselves as better than the institutions they were supposed to serve, from the White House and the State Department to the Democratic party and even the country. The rules are for other people. That’s why Clinton Inc. collected millions upon millions of dollars from foreign governments, Wall Street, and Hollywood while demonizing their opponents as shills for corporations and wealthy interests. That’s why Hillary flouted the rules for her email server. That’s why Bill flouted the rules for pretty much everything.

And at every step, they expected others to protect them, lie for them, clean up after them, and, if necessary, go to jail for them.

Not to harp on this, but… OK, I am harping on this: People are (correctly) cheering Jeff Flake for his honest criticism of Trumpian coarseness and indecency. When will an equally brave Democrat start taking on the Clintons?


■ Peter Suderman has good advice for any Congresscritter willing to take it: For Congress, the Best Deal on Obamacare May Be No Deal At All.

What would a compromise deal on health care actually look like? Following President Trump's decision to cut off funding for insurers under Obamacare, lawmakers are struggling to work out a legislative response. The best outcome for everyone may turn out to be doing nothing.

Suderman finds the Alexander/Murray bill too lopsided in favor of ObamaCare supporters. And competing proposals that are less tilted face the same problem we saw earlier this year: it's hard to get Republicans to agree on what "repeal and replace" means.


■ The United Nations is promoting "Sustainable Development Goals", and has emitted a report (primary author is Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia econ prof) ranking countries on how they're doing with that. Daniel J. Mitchell summarizes: According to Bizarre Rankings from Jeffrey Sachs, Cuba Scores above the United States for Achieving the U.N.’s “Sustainable Development Goals”. Pardon the scatalogical language, but how far up one's ass one's head must be to arrive at that result? Here's example one:

For the first goal of “no poverty,” the report includes a measure of income distribution rather than poverty. This is same dodgy approach that’s been used by the Obama Administration and the OECD, and because almost everyone is Cuba is equally poor, that means it scores much higher than the United States, where everyone is richer, but with varying degrees of wealth. I’m not joking.

Why it's almost as if the UN and Sachs were tilted toward statism.

URLs du Jour

2017-10-26

Still avoid . . .

Proverbs 19:8 is sunnily optimistic about the fruits of knowledge acquisition:

8 The one who gets wisdom loves life;
    the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.

Corollaries: If you don't love life, you are a fool; if you haven't prospered yet, you don't adequately cherish understanding. Keep trying, though.


Power Line asks the musical question: What is the ACLU prepared to do to defend free speech on campus?. As we mentioned a few weeks back, Claire Gastañaga, executive director of the Virginia ACLU, was shouted down by Progressive students when she attempted to speak at William & Mary. Disgusting, and…

After Gastañaga was shouted down, she issued a statement on behalf of the ACLU of Virginia. The statement declared that “disruption that prevents a speaker from speaking, and audience members from hearing the speaker, is not constitutionally protected speech even on a public college campus subject to the First Amendment” but instead is “a classic example of a heckler’s veto.” It also stated that actions on campus “that bully, intimidate or disrupt must not be without consequences. . .” and that “a public college like William and Mary has an obligation to protect the freedom of the speaker to speak. . .”

Not long afterwards, however, the ACLU chapter removed this language. The watered-down version doesn’t even mention the Constitution or the First Amendment, except in identifying the topic of Gastañaga’s suppressed talk.

Yes, the Virginia ACLU decided that its original hearty defense of free speech needed to be toned down a bit.

Maybe they should change their name.


[Amazon Link] If you don't subscribe to Reason (you should, though), Deirdre Nansen McCloskey's essay from the November issue is online, and a lot of fun: Max Weber Was Wrong

Max Weber, the north German economist, proud reserve officer in the Kaiser's army, literal dueler with academic opponents, and co-founder of modern sociology, sits on every college reading list for his 1905 book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. If you didn't read it in college, it's time to turn off the TV, Google it, and do so. It's a stunning performance, one of my top 100 nonfiction books of the 20th century. The book is brilliant, readable, short. (By the way, henceforth you should exhibit your sophistication by pronouncing his name correctly. It's "VAY-ber," not like the "WEB-er" hamburger grill you've just put away for the year. You get extra points for saying "Max" in echt deutsch: "Maahx," not like "Mad Max.")

OK, one more quote:

But that a book is "great" does not mean it is correct, or is to be taken as good history or good economics or good theology. Marx's Das Kapital is indubitably a great book, one of the very greatest of the 19th century, as I say to annoyed friends of libertarian or conservative bent. But then I say to my left-wing friends, annoying them too, that Marx was wrong on almost every point of economics, history, and politics. Which is why I haven't got any friends.

I probably won't be reading Weber or Marx, because life is too short. But I heartily recommend McCloskey.


■ At the Federalist, David Harsanyi says We’re About To Find Out If Democrats Really Care About Russian Interference. (Spoiler: they do not.)

If we found out that Donald Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee had paid a firm working for the Russians to create a file of fabricated attacks on Hillary Clinton during the election, would the media treat it as an impeachable offense? Would such efforts be considered an attack on the foundations of our democracy? Would liberal columnists make sensationalistic claims that the Russians had “carried out a successful plan to pick the government of the United States”? Would they argue that the election had been rigged? Would they demand that Republicans pick their country over their party?

Of course they would.

While Democrats are falling all over themselves praising the "courage" of Senator Jeff Flake, have you seen any of them getting even slightly perturbed about this? Let me know if so, but until then I'll assume they're all simply cowardly weasels.

[Note: I like Jeff Flake, who was tied for ninth on the Club For Growth's 2016 Senate scorecard. His replacement almost certainly won't score as well. But I despise the Democrat/MSM phony "strange new respect" for him.]


■ At Cato, David Boaz wishes a happy 250th birthday to Benjamin Constant, Eloquent Defender of Freedom. Some paragraphs from an 1833 speech:

First ask yourselves, Gentlemen, what an Englishman, a Frenchman, and a citizen of the United States of America understand today by the word “liberty.”

For each of them it is the right to be subjected only to the laws, and to be neither arrested, detained, put to death or maltreated in any way by the arbitrary will of one or more individuals. It is the right of everyone to express their opinion, choose a profession and practice it, to dispose of property, and even to abuse it; to come and go without permission, and without having to account for their motives or undertakings.

It is everyone’s right to associate with other individuals, either to discuss their interests, or to profess the religion which they and their associates prefer, or even simply to occupy their days or hours in a way which is most compatible with their inclinations or whims.

Finally it is everyone’s right to exercise some influence on the administration of the government, either by electing all or particular officials, or through representations, petitions, demands to which the authorities are more or less compelled to pay heed.

Monsieur, nous pourrions à nouveau utiliser un homme comme Benjamin Constant. [At least according to Google Translate.]


■ We dropped the ball on keeping tabs on all the criticisms of Nancy MacLean's Democracy in Chains. Because, as Hillary said in a far less honest context: "What difference, at this point, does it make?" Once you get up to a few dozen lies, mistakes, and obfuscations, does it matter when people keep finding dozens more?

Well, let's let Brian Doherty, at Reason, bring us up to date: Just How Much Did Nancy MacLean Get Wrong?.

Nancy MacLean's Democracy in Chains, an error-filled screed against Nobel Prize–winning economist James Buchanan, is one of five finalists for a National Book Award.

Wow, just like Michael A. Bellesiles' Arming America won the Bancroft Prize. For a while?

Is that honor deserved? It is worth considering, as the award's nominators did not, that nearly every reviewer with actual independent knowledge about her book's topics has pointed out a startling range of errors of citation, interpretation, narrative, and fact. (This includes my own review in the October Reason, in which I demonstrate that a central element of her historical narrative—that in the 1990s Buchanan's ideas became the secret influence behind the political machine run by billionaire Charles Koch—is based on an absurd and unsupportable reading of the only textual evidence she offers.) MacLean still refuses to engage any of her critics on points of substance.

I wonder if the National Book Award awarders will beclown themselves. I guess we'll find out next month.

Against the Grain

A Deep History of the Earliest States

[Amazon Link]

James C. Scott, a Yale PoliSci prof, writes here (I take it) a contrarian view of how the earliest "states" came into being. He brings a (basically) anarchist perspective to his analysis, which means that he's not buying the standard narrative that increasing numbers of people living under state control automatically implies "progress" toward "civilization".

In the following, you have to remember that I'm not even a worthy dilettante in this field. I may be offbase on a number of issues.

Apparently the mainstream view is that states were automatically brought about by the advent of sedentary agriculture of grain crops. Scott argues that such agriculture preceded the earliest states by centuries, if not millennia. So there must have been some other mechanism in play.

Scott is critical of early states, describing how they were dependent on coerced labor, taxation, and theft (but I repeat myself). They had a number of other non-obvious downsides: peoples' diets were less diverse, probably leading to suboptimal nutrition. Gathering lots of people into a relatively small area gave rise to all sorts of nasty disease; obviously, the sanitation systems appropriate for nomadic hunter/gatherers didn't scale well at higher population densities. And, tyrannies that they were, the earliest states were "planned" economies, where the planning all happened in the rulers' heads. Scientific socialism, without very much science, in other words. Shortages, gluts, thievery, and slacking-off must have been endemic.

So you would expect the early states to have been extremely fragile, apt to break down in response to shifts in climate, marauding bands of nomadic raiders, or simple emigration. Scott points out a couple times that the walls erected by early states may have been to keep people in, not just enemies out.

Also interesting: the early states invented writing, for how else are you going to keep track of taxes, inventories, and the like? OK, that does sound pretty civilized, even in service to oppression.

One thing that troubles me about Scott's argument: although he's pretty convincing that early states were founded on (and depended on) coercive violence, he doesn't seem to compare that to the levels of violence outside the state. Since I've read Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of our Nature, I thought such violence was pretty intense too. Scott doesn't seem to be a believer in the idyllic "noble savage", but it would have been nice to see an engagement with the view that the state improved things, violence-wise.

I requested this book from UNH Interlibrary Loan, but before it showed up, a review was published in the WSJ: I’m From Pharaoh and Here to Help. The reviewer, Felipe Fernández-Armesto, has a number of serious criticisms of Scott's work. So take it with a grain (heh) of salt. [I have Professor Fernández-Armesto's recent book on order from UNH, we'll see how that goes…]

The Hand of Oberon

[Amazon Link]

Number four in Roger Zelazny's Amber series. I repeat my usual warning: Avoid reading further if you haven't read one through three.

Where we left off: Protagonist Corwin, with buddy Ganelon and brother Random, just made a remarkable discovery about the nature of Amber. It's not quite what they thought it was, and that may well make the long term survival of that unhappy world less likely. Or, now that they know about it, more likely. Who knows? Yes, it's one of those fantasy series that seems unsatisfied with the fantasy-rules laid out in the first book, and seeks to alter them.

Why, it's almost as if Zelazny was making this stuff up as he went along.

Anyway: it's the usual mix of intra-family betrayal and lies, hallucinogenic trips to alternate universes, a quick visit to "our" earth, violent clashes with both fantastic beasts and humans. It ends up with a thrilling battle between good and evil. And, oh yeah, a shocking twist ending. No spoilers here, although you might see it coming if you look at the title of the book.

URLs du Jour

2017-10-25

Proverbs 19:7 is another verse from Jimmy Cox's "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out".

7 The poor are shunned by all their relatives—
    how much more do their friends avoid them!
  Though the poor pursue them with pleading,
    they are nowhere to be found.

Bottom line on the Proverbial advice: don't be poor.


Power Line reports: And Now for Some Real “Fake News”. The perpetrator of "ugly incidents of vandalism targeting blacks" at Eastern Michigan University was not an underground chapter of the KKK, but a black former student. Good advice here:

Here’s an idea: Instead of going to DefCon1 every time someone splashes some racist graffiti on a college campus, how about ignoring it? How about not getting all “shaken” every time someone does something stupid? One reason leftist provocateurs keep doing this is that it gets the desired reaction. Keep in mind that a key demand of race-mongering campus radicals these days is that courses on race, class, and gender be required for all students, and required to be offered in every department—even physics. That the demand their outlook be made compulsory subject matter shows how weak it is. And few things supposedly reinforce the “need” for such instruction that some kind of racist “incident” on campus.

An example of DefCon1 from the University Near Here last spring: the [Boston] Tab reporting that UNH was "a college in racial meltdown" due (in part) to campus scrawlings of swastikas and the n-word.

So far the perps are unidentified. But …


■ At NRO, Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry reports an uncomfortable truth: Half of All Health Spending Is Wasted.

There is a strange combination of two facts. First, it is the consensus of the relevant studies and health-policy experts that about half of all health-care spending in the U.S. is wasted. That is, if we spent half as much as we spend, we wouldn’t be worse off at all, so long as we spent the remaining money on what’s truly needed. In fact, we might be better off, and not just because an enormous dead weight would be lifted off the economy.

Second, not only has this fact not registered at all on the American public consciousness, but the vast majority of health-policy experts are in denial about it — not in the sense that they straightforwardly reject the non-controversial finding, but in the sense that they seem very reluctant to admit it or talk about it and certainly seem to behave as if it were not the case.

A primary cause: funding that, as much as possible, hides costs from health care consumers.

And there's a corollary: there are a lot of people making very nice livings off that waste. Their vested interest is in the status quo.


■ We have a lot of recent Google-Alerted LFOD news too. For example, the Concord Monitor reports on a quixotic legislative quest from a local pol: N.H. rep proposes statewide single-payer health care.

A proposal to create a single-payer health care system in New Hampshire drew mixed reactions in the House on Monday, with some denouncing it as a wayward fantasy and others heralding an opportunity for a conversation on broader reform.

The legislative service request, sponsored by Rep. Peter Schmidt, D-Dover, is titled “establishing a New Hampshire single payor (sic) health care system.”

To quote Google: "Did you mean: "single payer". When the Concord Monitor is making fun of your spelling, you're in trouble, Pete.

But let's get to the LFOD bit:

Committee member William Marsh, R-Wolfeboro [declined to directly comment on Schmidt’s proposal without seeing the drafted bill first]. But speaking on the idea generally, Marsh argued the idea would never work.

To start, he said, the volume of health care services the state of New Hampshire currently outsources to Boston is too vast for the state to pay for or substitute itself. And while Marsh conceded that teaming up with other New England states might be more workable overall, he said the costs would still be prohibitive for the Live Free or Die State.

Marsh is wrong. "Teaming up" with other states would not be "more workable": it would invariably result in NH taxpayers subsidizing consumers in those other states.

But he's also (sort of) wrong in saying "the idea would never work." Because he probably thinks "the idea" is to improve the health of the citizenry. How old-fashioned! Instead, "the idea" is to make the citizenry utterly dependent on the state for health care. That's what single-payer proponents want. And, given proper degrees of coercion, that would probably "work" just fine, by that standard.


■ At the Salem [NH] Patch, Jilletta Jarvis asks the musical question: What Does 'Live Free or Die' Mean to Me?

So, what does it mean to “Live Free or Die” to me specifically? It means that the people in my state should be allowed to make choices for themselves and their families. To have that freedom to decide where my money goes and who I support (businesses, charities, political figures, sports teams, celebrities, etc.). It means making the choices that affect my family without the government telling me what those choices must be. It means being able to walk down the street and say hello to random people I’ve never met before and having them say hello back to me because neither of us fear each other.

It means driving down the highway with my seatbelt on because I made the personal choice to do so, not because a government told me I had to. It means having a government that is run by the people, not by the upper 1 percent who don’t care what the average person wants. It means doing whatever I can to make sure that others have these same freedoms. It’s supporting my neighbors’ right to disagree with me, their right to shoot off fireworks on a Friday night.

Ms Jarvis is running for governor under the Libertarian Party banner. I am looking forward to voting for her if she appears on the ballot.


■ At a site called Ozy, writer Nick Fouriezos wonders: Can Made-to-Order Organs Revive This Former Mill Town? The town is Manchester, NH; one of the people behind the manufacturing of "regenerative organs and tissues" is Dean Kamen. So, as Glenn Reynolds likes to say: faster, please.

It would be a surprising turn of events for Manchester and the “Live Free or Die” state, which was identified as an epicenter for the opioid epidemic during last year’s presidential election. “Manchester is an urban city in a sea of rural communities,” says Mike Skelton, president of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, and thus carries some crime-and-drugs stigma, he admits. “It’s not to say we don’t have those challenges — we do — but we might unfairly be labeled as a place that’s struggling,” Skelton adds. “We have some work to do to get that message out and rebrand Manchester.” That criticism doesn’t just come from outsiders. “Culturally, the Northeast, we have a healthy amount of skepticism,” Skelton says. “If there is one challenge we are battling internally … it’s the perception of what we are, and what we can be.”

I am pretty sure Manchester can manage to be both a vibrant technology center and a drug-ridden hellhole. We multitask up here.


■ And a tourist guide to Fall Foliage: Where to Catch the Last Colours of the Season in New England. Yes, "colours", because this advice is provided by the UK's Independent. Among their suggestions:

Mount Washington, New Hampshire

The state of New Hampshire – whose motto is ‘Live free or die’ – has the highest peaks in the north-east of the US. The highest of these is Mount Washington at 1,917m (6,288ft), and experienced walkers can hike through the foliage of the White Mountain National Forest. Although the Mount Washington Auto Road runs all the way to the summit, it closed in mid-October, meaning that adventurous hikers can enjoy the foliage here in near-privacy (www.mountwashington.org)

This has to be one of the more gratuitous uses of LFOD in recent memory. What was going through the writer's mind? "I need seven more words to reach my assigned word count for this article. What to do? Oh, I know!"

And to all our UK readers: as I type, Mount Washington is considered "past peak" as far as foliage goes. It's still nice to visit for other reasons.


■ And news you can use from NASA's "Astronomy Picture of the Day": Where Your Elements Came From. Check it out, and here's their explanation, links included:

The hydrogen in your body, present in every molecule of water, came from the Big Bang. There are no other appreciable sources of hydrogen in the universe. The carbon in your body was made by nuclear fusion in the interior of stars, as was the oxygen. Much of the iron in your body was made during supernovas of stars that occurred long ago and far away. The gold in your jewelry was likely made from neutron stars during collisions that may have been visible as short-duration gamma-ray bursts or gravitational wave events. Elements like phosphorus and copper are present in our bodies in only small amounts but are essential to the functioning of all known life. The featured periodic table is color coded to indicate humanity's best guess as to the nuclear origin of all known elements. The sites of nuclear creation of some elements, such as copper, are not really well known and are continuing topics of observational and computational research.

As Joni Mitchell and Carl Sagan said: we are stardust. [Not meant to imply that I endorse their other views.]

URLs du Jour

2017-10-24

Proverbs 19:6 is another verse that Speaks To Our Time:

6 Many curry favor with a ruler,
    and everyone is the friend of one who gives gifts.

As we noticed just a couple days ago, the Proverbialist can be cynical about friendship. Tying it to political corruption is a bonus.


■ At Reason, Liz Wolfe notes the frustrations of would-be college censors: Bias Response Teams Thwarted in Their Goal of a Sensitive Campus by the First Amendment.

The Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice released a first-of-its kind study on bias response teams, a relatively new invention in the ever-expanding world of college free speech management.

Interviews with administrators who police and discipline students who have used insensitive language or display insensitive attitudes reveal their frustration with the free speech guarantees that prevent them from punishing students. The First Amendment, some of them say, constrains them from creating sensitive, inclusive communities.

Previous Pun Salad article on the report here. To quibble with the thrust of the article: (1) "bias response teams" can go after any member of the campus community, not just students; (2) while the First Amendment can eventually protect free-speaking individuals, that doesn't always prevent Kafkaesque "investigations" into their heretical expressions; in such cases, the investigation is the punishment. For an example of both, see the case of Laura Kipnis.


■ I really liked Peter Schuck's book One Nation Divided. And (unsurprisingly) I like his article at Minding the Campus: Free Speech–Where Are the Adults in the Room?

Almost two years have passed since the Halloween imbroglio at Yale in 2015, which launched the current era of student mobilizations against speech that some students don’t want to hear.  Whatever their ideological stance, these protests aim to intimidate controversial speakers and those who would invite them to campus, to prevent others from hearing them, and to banish certain ideas and terms from campus discourse.

Professor Schuck accurately diagnoses the issues, and calls out the fecklessness of college administrators whose first instinct is to apppease the intimidating activists. He suggests a number of possible avenues for moving toward campus sanity. I liked this observation:

Diversity-talk on college today’s campuses is obsessed with gender, race, sexual orientation, and other constructions of identity. In excess, these obsessions degrade intellectual discourse, interpersonal civility, and campus life generally. Colleges now emphasize and promote these often divisive identities rather than fostering the civility, candor, and thicker skins necessary to sustain a robust and competitive diverse society. Colleges’ highest educational priority should be intellectual, methodological, and socioeconomic diversity, not a campus peace based on a patronizing co-optation of sullen groups.

Sensible! Will anyone pay attention at the University Near Here?


■ At Cafe Hayek, Don Boudreaux has thoughts on Stereotyping.

[…] one problem with stereotypes is that they mask significant differences among the individuals in whatever group is stereotyped. To stereotype is to treat a group as if it is the relevant unit of analysis. To stereotype is to judge an individual not according to his or her own merits and demerits but, instead, according to the group to which he or she is believed to belong. To stereotype is to ignore the individual; to stereotype is often to show either a careless disregard for persons as individuals. And sometimes, let us be honest, the stereotyping is not innocent: it is sometimes malevolent.

Yet the same “Progressives” who are on 24/7/365 intrepid patrol against certain varieties of stereotyping – varieties such as racial, ethnic, or sexual-preference stereotyping – are themselves proud practitioners of many other varieties of stereotyping. For example, “Progressives” are especially prone to think of “workers” (or, at least, “blue-collar workers”) as a unified group – as one big blob in which each individual is identical to the rest, in which each worker’s interest is the same as any other worker’s interest. Likewise with “big business” or “capitalists” (or “capital”): all the same in the minds of “Progressives.” What’s good for big business A is also good for big businesses B through Z. What’s bad for big business Z is also bad for big business A through Y.

Professor Boudreaux may be stereotyping "Progressives" here. But that's OK.


■ At Language Log, Mark Liberman examines Air quotes. The OED finds an example from 1927:

[1927 Science 8 July 38/2 Some years ago I knew a very intelligent young woman who used to inform us that her ‘bright sayings’..were not original, by raising both hands above her head with the first and second fingers pointing upward. Her fingers were her ‘quotation marks’ and were very easily understood.]

As near as I can tell, Joey Tribbiani's confusion about the concept is not referenced:

URLs du Jour

2017-10-23

Proverbs 19:5 is optimistic…

5 A false witness will not go unpunished,
    and whoever pours out lies will not go free.

… but, since Donald J. Trump, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and most of our other pols remain unincarcerated, I assume it is no longer functional.


@kevinNR asks the musical question: Tax Cuts . . . And?

House Republicans and Senate Republicans were at an impasse on Friday after the Senate produced its budget document. The House, led by Representative Diane Black (R., Tenn.), who chairs the Budget Committee, wanted at least $200 billion in cuts from so-called mandatory spending (mostly meaning entitlements); the Senate wanted to give President Donald Trump his “MASSIVE” (the president is fond of capital letters) tax cut, even if that meant adding $1.5 trillion — note the “t” — to the debt. The impasse lasted about four minutes before the House leadership went down like Galtieri facing British commandos — the “battle” they’d promised over spending cuts turned out to be as lopsided as the Falklands War.

Time to put on that Elvis Costello song. You know, the one with the lyric "I used to be disgusted and now I try to be amused"? It's getting real hard to be amused.


■ Also weighing in on the GOP's fiscal will of jello is Matt Welch at Reason: Republicans Officially Give Up Trying to Cut Spending.

After the rise of the Tea Party in 2009 as a grassroots expression of revulsion at government bailouts, spending, and Obamacare; after a series of insurgent Tea Party primary victories in 2010 over big-spending incumbents and hand-picked establishmentarians; after Republicans re-took the House that November thanks in part to that new jolt of fiscally conservative energy; after the House majority from 2011-14 successfully used its power of the purse to force debate and at least some temporary agreements on the debt ceiling, long-term entitlements, and year-on-year spending, and then after Republicans re-took the Senate and eventually the White House…after all this activity, when it finally came time for the GOP to stand up and demonstrate its values of fiscal stewardship and limited government, you could count the number of Republicans voting to restrain government spending on exactly one finger[…]

And, yes, that finger is Rand Paul. The guy whose campaign didn't even make it to the New Hampshire Primary last year.


■ And the WSJ notes that it's not just Congressional Republicans who are mealy-mouthed weasels on an issue they once assured us was important. Because: Trump Caves on Ethanol.

The bipartisan pull of corporate welfare—also known as the swamp—is powerful. Last week it swallowed up no less than Donald Trump and his fearless Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Scott Pruitt. They caved under pressure from the ethanol lobby and political extortion from Republican Senators Joni Ernst, Deb Fischer and Chuck Grassley.

Mr. Pruitt announced Thursday that EPA won’t reduce its proposed 19.24 billion gallon biofuels quota for 2018, and may even increase it. The EPA will further consider giving biofuels a pass to pollute that no other industry enjoys, via what’s known as a Reid Vapor Pressure waiver for high-ethanol blends.

There was a lot of pressure applied to the Trump Administration by a "bipartisan" group of Senators (including NH's own Jeanne Shaheen).


■ Always on the lookout for bad news, I noted the dire headline in the student newspaper at the University Near Here: Diversity enforced in ENGL 401 curriculum. Enforced? Oh oh.

In response to student demands made last spring following the Cinco de Mayo incidents, the dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Heidi Bostic, and the English department co-sponsored an event that brought Dr. Teresa Redd to campus. Redd, a nationally-renowned and now-retired composition professor and also former Director of Howard University’s Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning & Assessment (CETLA), visited campus on Oct. 5 to discuss the ENGL401 program and how different views of diversity could be included in the classroom.

The initiative was conceptualized and proposed by Dr. Christina Ortmeier-Hooper, associate professor of English at UNH and also the director of composition. In an email exchange with Ortmeier-Hooper, she stated, "In the past, English 401 instructors have worked on best practices in the teaching of writing, inclusive pedagogy, responding to multilingual writers and integrating college and career-readiness concerns. This year, in addition to these ongoing efforts, English 401 instructors are participating in training on diversity, tolerance and civic engagement.”

In other words, the alleged course in "English" was a muddle of politically-correct indoctrination before, and it's going to get a little worse.

But no talk in the article about the headline-promised enforcement. It could be the headline writer meant to type "reinforced", which would be more accurate, at least in a Newspeak way.


■ And another page-one article has a barely-coherent headline: Discussion talks limits of free speech.

UNH hosted a panel of experts from the UNH School of Law on Monday for students, faculty, staff and members of the community to discuss the issue of offensive speech and the First Amendment on campus and online.

And—good news here—the headline-promised "limits" do not appear in the body of the article. And what we do get is pretty good. For example, Associate Dean for Faculty Research and Development and Professor of Law John Greabe was tossed a softball on "hate speech" and he proceded to knock it, if not out of the park, perhaps for a triple:

Quoting the amendment itself in the beginning of the forum, Greabe began by saying that offensive speech or hate speech does not, "receive lesser protection under the First Amendment.”

Greabe explained that public universities like UNH act as "arms of the government,” meaning they must stand by the First Amendment. He quoted John Marshall Harlan, who served as an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, when he said, "One man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric.”

"What one person finds hateful, another person finds to be the core of protected speech and a means for trying to urge change,” Greabe said.

Answering Idahosa’s question, Greabe explained that though hate speech and offensive speech are "horrible and distressing,” speech under the law without intent is "just speech. It is not something that in and of itself can be punished.”

All in all, the forum doesn't seem to have provided any aid and comfort to would-be campus censors.


■ And the venerable tech news site Slashdot is coming up on its 20th anniversary, and ran a celebratory experiment: When an AI Tries Writing Slashdot Headlines.

For Slashdot's 20th anniversary, "What could be geekier than celebrating with the help of an open-source neural network?" Neural network hobbyist Janelle Shane has already used machine learning to generate names for paint colors, guinea pigs, heavy metal bands, and even craft beers, she explains on her blog. "Slashdot sent me a list of all the headlines they've ever run, over 162,000 in all, and asked me to train a neural network to try to generate more." Could she distill 20 years of news -- all of humanity's greatest technological advancements -- down to a few quintessential words?

And "the answer may shock you". For some reason there was a lot of suing. Samples:

Steve Jobs Sues Death of the Future
Sun Sues Open Source Project Content
Sun Sues New Star Trek To Stop The Math
Sony Sues Apple Server For Seconds Off From SpaceX Project
Why Open Source Power Man Sues Java

For youngsters: "Sun" was Sun Microsystems, a once-proud computer company that now belongs to Oracle. Probably because they wanted Star Trek to stop the math.


Last Modified 2017-10-23 11:50 AM EDT

A BCD Clock Simulator

[Amazon Link]

I got a "binary-coded decimal clock" (made by the good folks at Anelace Inc.) a few Christmases back. Picture via Amazon link at right, if you're not seeing it, turn off your ad blocker. The time shown is 10:48:36.

[And make no mistake, Anelace is a Good Company. I shorted out the power supply adapter by clumsy accident. I emailed, asked where I could buy a replacement, they just sent me one, free. Whoa.]

When I worked at UNH, I kept it in my cubicle as a conversation piece. The thing that sticks in my mind today is how many IT managers needed me to explain what it was and how to interpret the LEDs. No geeks they.

Shortly afterward, on a lark, I wrote a small Perl script to simulate the clock display in a terminal window. I recently exhumed and updated the script to more modern standards. It's short and (I think) fun.

Here's a screen snapshot of what it looks like in action. The red dots inside indicate "on" LEDs. The LED array is updated every second, as is the time displayed at the bottom.

[Screenshot]

Plaintext source is here; Prettyprinted HTML source here.

Notes:

  • The Term::ANSIScreen Perl module available from CPAN handles text positioning, color, and formatting. I think most terminal emulation programs do ANSI commands these days.

  • The LED-on "dot" is a UTF-8 character. If your terminal program doesn't handle UTF-8, the code has a commented out alternate that might work: a space with a red background.

  • The Term::ReadKey module handles non-blocking terminal reads. This was implemented so that pressing the Q key will quit. [Pressing control-C might leave your terminal window in a funny "raw input" state. Fixing that left as an exercise for the reader.]

  • It could well be that a more judicious selection of fonts, characters, etc. would make the display more pleasing. Obviously, it's easy to play with.

  • There's a "sleep 1" in the script's main loop. Since the calculations inside the loop also take a finite amount of time, it's likely that a second will be skipped every so often. I haven't noticed that happening, though.

Questions? Comments? Let me know.


Last Modified 2017-10-23 7:10 AM EDT

Esquire Presents: What It Feels Like

To Walk on the Moon, etc.

[Amazon Link]

This is one of the books I own that I don't remember when, why, or how it was obtained. It has a copyright of 2003, so after that sometime. And I put it in my cyber-to-be-read list at some point. And it popped up. So…

Esquire magazine ran this "What It Feels Like" feature for a while. (I don't know—or care—if they do any more.) Each was a first-person account from someone who underwent a situation in which most of us will never find ourselves. This book collects those, and adds in a bunch more, a total of somewhere around 60. Each is just a page or two, which makes the book very short, 143 pages.

People in dire situations tend to drop the f-bomb a lot.

The most famous person: Buzz Aldrin, who contributes "What it Feels Like to Walk on the Moon". No f-bombs from Buzz.

Also semi-famous: Barry Rosen, Iranian hostage. "What it Feels Like to be Held Hostage". Almost 40 years later, I still got a little pissed at Iran.

Some people are eloquent, like Jenny Lundy: "What it Feels Like to be 105 Years Old".

And some are just interesting. "What it Feels Like to Win the Lottery" by Washington Iowa's Ed Brown, for example. Unlike the infamous lottery winners who crash and burn, Ed seems to have been remarkably level-headed. Bottom line: "I guess I liked who I was before I won the lottery and I decided not to change."

But it's a hodgepodge, with all that implies. I suggest you look at the table of contents at Amazon to see if there's anything in here you really want to know about. You can pick up a used copy for about $5 at Amazon.

URLs du Jour

2017-10-22

I wanna be your dog

Proverbs 19:4 offers a bleak view of friendship:

4 Wealth attracts many friends,
    but even the closest friend of the poor person deserts them.

Perhaps this was the inspiration, thousands of years later, for Jimmy Cox's 1923 "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out"?

Once I lived the life of a millionaire,
Spent all my money, I just did not care.
Took all my friends out for a good time,
Bought bootleg whiskey, champagne and wine.

Then I began to fall so low,
Lost all my good friends, I did not have nowhere to go.
I get my hands on a dollar again,
I'm gonna hang on to it till that eagle grins.

Today's picture: a poor friendless dog. Awww!


@JonahNRO's G-File this week is low on jocularity, but high on insight. Bush and Kelly: Truth Tellers. Keying off recent speeches by Dubya and General John Kelly, which were widely interpreted as attacks (respectively) on Trump and Democratic congresswoman Frederica Wilson. And were harshly criticized (respectively) by Trumpites and Progressives. But:

I’m disgusted with a great deal of this, but rather than argue against any of that, I want to ask you to entertain a thought experiment. Imagine, if just for a moment, that all of you who fall into one of these camps are entirely wrong.

What if President Bush was aiming his fire at Democrats and liberals? What if Kelly was actually lecturing his boss?

If you can take off the partisan blinders and restrain your tribal instincts, it’s not all that hard to see it that way.

It's really not.


■ P.J. O'Rourke writes at American Consequences on This Month’s Two Worst Political Ideas Ever. (Just "this month", according to P.J., because "worst political idea ever" is a rapidly moving target. But anyway, the ideas are (1) Universal Basic Income and (2) Single-Payer Health Care.

If the Universal Basic Income idea really gets going and smashes into the single-payer health care idea, the collision will leave American society a total wreck.

Americans will be turned into beggars and thieves.

We’ll all be panhandlers squatting on the curb of the political avenue, rattling our tin cups at our elected officials to bum more spare change off the government.

P.J. illustrates his contention with a couple stories from his past. I'm convinced.


■ Tales of higher-ed insanity are coming thick and fast as the semester rolls along. Even an Ivy League school like UPenn finds itself in a far-left fever swamp, as related by Robby Soave at Reason: This UPenn Teacher Justifies Her Refusal to Call on White Male Students: It's 'Progressive Stacking'

No, this isn't a Clickhole story; if you're a white man in Stephanie McKellop's history class, you might be called out, but you probably won't be called on.

McKellop, a graduate instructor at the University of Pennsylvania who describes herself as a "queer disabled feminist," recently tweeted, "I will always call on my Black women students first. Other POC get second tier priority. WW [white women] come next. And, if I have to, white men." McKellop eventually deleted the tweet, but not before the internet immortalized it.

Undergrad yearly tuition at UPenn is $47,416 (as I type). If you're a white male, do you get a discount if you wind up with Stephanie McKellop for a teacher?


■ Chapman University out in Orange CA is not Ivy League, and compared to UPenn, tuition is a low, low $25105. But if you're a white male, you can still get in trouble for expressing your opinion about "diversity", as noted at the College Fix. White, male student under fire for defending diversity of thought: ‘punchable, drag him, expel him’.

A white, male student at Chapman University has been maligned on social media after penning an op-ed for his school newspaper that argued campus diversity efforts, while seemingly offered with good intentions, actually breed radicalism and silence dissent.

Sophomore Ryan Marhoefer, a business administration major at the private university in Southern California, received major backlash in comments about the article that included calling him a white supremacist and suggesting he should be expelled or physically assaulted.

Chapman was founded in 1861 by "members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)". Its students today seem to be experts at persecution of heretics.


Mental Floss picks out 10 Far-Out Facts About Futurama. And here's one I didn't know: the remarkable similarity of the Futurama theme to a 1967 composition “Psyché Rock" by Pierre Henry. Have a listen:

■ And have you played the Paperclips game? It's a certain amount of fun, and I dinked around until I realized … I'd spent about an hour dinking around.

But if I had persisted… this Wired story has much more information: The Way the World Ends: Not With a Bang but a Paperclip.

Paperclips, a new game from designer Frank Lantz, starts simply. The top left of the screen gets a bit of text, probably in Times New Roman, and a couple of clickable buttons: Make a paperclip. You click, and a counter turns over. One.

The game ends—big, significant spoiler here—with the destruction of the universe.

I guess I should have been more patient.

URLs du Jour

2017-10-21

Proverbs 19:3 is an insight into the human psyche:

3 A person’s own folly leads to their ruin,
    yet their heart rages against the Lord.

I've noticed that my successes are due to my brilliance and diligence; failures are due entirely to bad luck and the machinations of others. I should probably post this Proverb somewhere I can see it daily.


American Consequences brings us an excerpt from P.J. O'Rourke's classic Parliament of Whores, updated by the man himself.

What is this oozing behemoth, this fibrous tumor, this monster of power and expense hatched from the simple human desire for civic order? How did an allegedly free people spawn a vast, rampant cuttlefish of dominion with its tentacles in every orifice of the body politic?

The federal government of the United States of America takes away between a fifth and a quarter of all our money every year. That is eight times the Islamic zakat, the almsgiving required of believers by the Quran. It is double the tithe of the medieval church and twice the royal tribute that the prophet Samuel warned the Israelites against when they wanted him to anoint a king.

     He will take the tenth of your seed,
    and of your vineyards… He will
    take the tenth of your sheep… And
    ye shall cry out in that day because
    of your king.

P.J. helpfully adds: "In 2017, combined federal, state, and local government spending exceeds 36% of GDP."

Parliament of Whores is also the source of the classic quote: "Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys."


@kevinNR pens a long, provocative, and insightful essay: The White-Minstrel Show. It's unexcerptable, but let me try:

Ludwig von Mises was as clear-eyed a social critic as he was an economist, and he noted something peculiar about the anti-Semitism of the Nazi era: In the past, minority groups were despised for their purported vices — white American racists considered African Americans lazy and mentally deficient, the English thought the Irish drank too much to be trusted to rule their own country, everybody thought the Gypsies were put on this Earth to spread disease and thievery. But the Jews were hated by the Nazis for their virtues: They were too intelligent, too clever, too good at business, too cosmopolitan, too committed to their own distinctness, too rich, too influential, too thrifty.

Our billionaire-ensorcelled anti-elitists take much the same tack: Anybody with a prestigious job, a good income, an education at a selective university, and no oxy overdoses in the immediate family — and anybody who prefers hearing the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center to watching football on television — just doesn’t know what life is like in “the real America” or for the “real men” who live there. No, the “real America,” in this telling, is little more than a series of dead factory towns, dying farms, pill mills — and, above all, victims. There, too, white people acting white echo elements of hip-hop culture, which presents powerful and violent icons of masculinity as hapless victims of American society.

The “alpha male” posturing, the valorizing of underclass dysfunction, the rejection of “elite” tastes and manners — right-wing populism in the age of Trump is a lot like Bruce Springsteen’s act, once acidly (and perfectly) described as a “white minstrel show.”

Mr. Williamson is tough, but (I think) very accurate.


■ At PJMedia, Tom Kingston says: Study Finds 'Bias Response Teams' Have Difficulty Balancing Duties and Free Speech.

Yes, I know: the same study also found that water was wet, the sky blue, and that bears tend to defecate in forested areas. Tom, to his credit, realizes this:

Bias response teams exist solely for the purpose of infringing on free speech. Administrators can claim they're true believers in free speech until they're blue in the face, but the organizations they support and lead exist to tell some students that they're not allowed to say certain things. If that's not contrary to the First Amendment, what is?

Only quibble is that it's not just students. The University Near Here has an entire website, reportit.unh.edu, devoted to alerting the campus authorities to "incidents of bias or hate, discrimination and/or harassment directed to members of our UNH community and guests." And they'll accept complaints about anyone, faculty, staff, or students.

If you look at the reporting form, there's no explicit way to report that you are being intimidated, harassed, or discriminated against for exercising your First Amendment rights. I guess that would be "other".


■ Dan Hannan, although British, has his fingers on the American pulse: How to anger a feminist: Criticize Harvey Weinstein the wrong way. Amazingly, Mayim Bialik is not mentioned.

The curse of our age is that it elevates the moralistic (holding the right opinions) over the moral (doing the right thing). Several Democrats were slow to condemn Weinstein, who had raised a more than $2.2 million for them. Some Hollywood liberals were guilty of stunning hypocrisy, fulminating against Donald Trump while attending Weinstein fundraisers, even while the movie director's behavior was an open secret. It's reminiscent of Gloria Steinem's defense of Bill Clinton on grounds that his theoretical feminism canceled out his personal debauchery.

But (as Hannan also notes) "our side" is not without its problems: if you waved away the lechery problems with Trump and Fox News, you're not in a great position to loudly disclaim about Harvey.


[Amazon Link] The NYT has been taking some deserved fire for some of its recent hagiography about Communism. But let's be generous. This review of a recent Lenin biography, Lenin: The Man, the Dictator, and the Master of Terror by Victor Sebestyen is unsparing: The First Totalitarian. And (bonus) there's a limerick:

There was a great Marxist named Lenin
Who did two or three million men in.
That’s a lot to have done in
But where he did one in
That grand Marxist Stalin did 10 in.

We'll take the truth when offered, even from the NYT.


■ James Lileks asks: How badly do we want the new Amazon headquarters? Where "we" in this case is Minneapolis, but his lessons are portable to other locales.

But what Amazon wants is this:
  • Billions of dollars in subsidies, delivered to the office by the mayor wearing a leprechaun costume and dragging a pot of gold, smiling for the cameras, flush with humiliation.
  • The winning town renamed Bezosia, after the company founder.
  • Alexa installed on every street corner so you can bark out an order for paper towels while waiting for the light.
… and more, of course. Much more.


■ And (moan) my friends at UNH's Granite State Poll asked their respondents about the 2020 presidential race. Too soon? No, never too soon.

While nearly all likely Democratic primary voters are still trying to make up their minds in the 2020 New Hampshire Presidential Primary, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, and Elizabeth Warren are the early frontrunners. More than three-quarters of Republicans are still trying to decide whom to support, and just under half say they currently plan on voting for Donald Trump, considerably lower than the proportion of Democrats who planned on voting for Barack Obama in October 2009. Interest in the 2020 primary is quite high and greater than at this point in the last two electoral cycles.

In November 2020, Joe will be 78; Bernie will be 79; Liz will be (however) a sprightly 71. You think the Democrats just might have a fresh-face problem?

The GSP provided a list of potential candidates to their respondents, so it's possible every other candidate listed (Cory Booker, Martin O'Malley, John Hickenlooper, Mark Zuckerberg (!), Kamala Harris, Tim Ryan, Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand, John Delaney) suffered from a "who?" problem.


Last Modified 2017-10-22 6:58 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-10-20

Proverbs 19:2 is … pretty good, actually:

2 Desire without knowledge is not good—
    how much more will hasty feet miss the way!

… especially when one makes a (textually unwarranted) connection between the two parts: if you're already fumbling in the dark while acting on some imprudent urge, don't make things worse by being in a hurry.


@kevinNR notes that, when it comes to the GOP, Unity Is Overrated:

The Republican party is either going to be a political outfit that supports free trade or it isn’t. The Republican party is either going to be a political outfit that supports free speech or it isn’t. Republicans will throw in their lot with Lincoln, Eisenhower, and Reagan, or they will throw in with Putin, Le Pen, and Götz Kubitschek. The Republican party is either going to remember “When Character Was King” or it is going to forget all that happy talk about “family values” and make its peace with habitual dishonesty, adultery, and betrayal — so long as those things go along with winning elections. Which they very well may, but the Republicans will have to do it without my vote.

Unlike Kevin, I am still nominally a Republican, but only because I enjoy voting in primary elections (seemingly invariably voting for losing candidates, though). [Yes, I know there's a way around that, but it involves too much talking to people at City Hall.]


■ [Adapting a previous confession re Tina Fey:] I confess: I love Mayim Bialik. And when I say "love", I mean in a way that's completely inappropriate, given our age difference, our respective marital statuses, our incompatible social circles, geographical separation, and a host of additional irreconcilable differences.

So I was sad to read that she apologized for her NYT op-ed column about the Harvey Weinstein imbroglio.

In a perfect world, women should be free to act however they want. But our world isn’t perfect. Nothing — absolutely nothing — excuses men for assaulting or abusing women. But we can’t be naïve about the culture we live in.

And, well, if you are acquainted with how a certain type of feminist mind works, you'll know what happened after that.

Et tu, Emily Ratajkowski?

Anyway: you were right before, Ms. Bialik. You had nothing to apologize for.


■ Bryan Caplan diagnoses the ills of our current debate. We (and when I say "we", I mean "all those other people") are driven by Resentment Not Hate.

People often claim that their political opponents are motivated by sheer hatred.  Thus, we have "hate-mongers," "hate speech," "hate groups," and even "hate maps."  But almost no one openly claims "hate" as their political motive.  When accused of hatred, the normal reaction is something like, "My God, you're naive.  You can't even imagine that anyone on Earth sincerely disagrees with you.  Oh, we're all horrible villains."

I try not to "hate". But I will admit to a maybe-unhealthy degree of loathing. I should maybe work on that?


■ Veronique de Rugy provides an update in the continuing struggle over the Export-Import Bank: Ex-Im Cronyism Redux

Last week, Representative Charlie Dent (R., Pa.) introduced a bill trying the make the Export-Import Bank less accountable. This is yet another attempt by the lawmaker to get rid of the bank’s quorum requirements that there be three members on the board to approve loans of more than $10 million. Needless to say, this move is not meant to benefit the little guys but the Boeings and GEs of the world. The bank has only had two members for the last two years and yet, as you may have noticed, the sky didn’t fall. Exporters are exporting, foreign buyers are buying U.S. goods, Boeing is getting richer selling planes that don’t even have government support, and GE is still doing well too.

As I type, Dent's bill has 32 GOP co-sponsors, which pushes me a little bit more out the GOP door. And with respect to the item above this, I can't help but loathe these people.


■ At Power Line, Paul Mirengoff notes another milestone on the road to campus fascism: The campus shout-down movement takes its next logical step. At UC Santa Cruz, the activists were summoned to wreck a meeting of College Republicans.

Heeding this call, lefty students disrupted the meeting by banging open the door to the meeting space and shouting accusations that the members were “fascists,” “racists,” and “white supremacists.” The College Republicans say they offered to discuss the concerns of the protesters. The brownshirts replied: “dialogue is violence.”

Coming soon to the University Near Here? Or near you?


■ And Manchester Ink reports on the efforts to put Amazon's new headquarters in our fair state, with an LFOD shout-out: Ship free or die: Will Amazon find Londonderry a good fit for HQ2?

Londonderry is the new sweet spot for business in NH – or at least, that’s the pitch. On Wednesday Gov. Chris Sununu unleashed a formal invitation to Amazon to move to the “Live Free or Die” state and build it’s new headquarters. The 78-page proposal  promotes the state’s freedom loving motto, includes a big endorsement from Dean Kamen, and also a small jab at our metropolitan Massachusetts neighbor, with a section called: “All the benefits of Boston without all the headaches.”

There was considerable whining from Boston about the "trash talk", but Boston's Mayor Walsh was pretty classy in his remarks.

URLs du Jour

2017-10-19

■ We open up a new Proverbial chapter today with Proverbs 19:1:

1 Better the poor whose walk is blameless
    than a fool whose lips are perverse.

I'd say that's a safe bet. Still, here in the US of A, even perverse lips enjoy First Amendment protection (within well-defined bounds).


■ A dead-trees National Review article from @kevinNR, On Amazon and the Tech Monopolies, has burrowed its way out to the NRO website, and there was much rejoicing:

Everybody hates Amazon. It’s kind of weird.

Donald Trump, as a candidate, threatened to bring antitrust actions against Amazon and accused the Internet retailer of dodging taxes, and as president Trump has taken a special interest in the company’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post, which offends Trump by reporting on his antics from time to time. “Believe me, if I become president, oh, do they have problems,” he said. “They are going to have such problems.” Farhad Manjoo, writing in the New York Times, said Amazon’s behavior during its dispute with book publisher Hachette “is confirming its critics’ worst fears and it is an ugly spectacle to behold.” Tony Schwartz blasted Bezos for having an overly aggressive management style marked by periodic angry outbursts. (Tony Schwartz is the man who actually wrote Donald Trump’s Art of the Deal.) Paul Krugman insists Amazon “has too much power, and it uses that power in ways that hurt America.” Krugman also suggested that Amazon was scheming to help Republicans’ electoral chances. The company has been the target of boycotts since the 1990s, and it has been criticized for its handling of taxes, for selling and not selling certain items, and for — incredibly enough — not making enough of a profit. Junie Hoang, an actress you’ve never heard of (Hood Rats 2: Hoodrat Warriors), once sued the company for revealing her age on IMDb, which Amazon owns. Whole Foods shoppers, who tend to be as crunchy in their political preferences as in their produce preferences, have lamented Amazon’s acquisition of the high-end grocery chain, perhaps unaware that Bezos’s politics are well to the left of those of Whole Foods’s libertarian founder, John Mackey. Daniel Ellsberg of the Pentagon Papers pronounced himself “disgusted by Amazon’s cowardice and servility” for kicking WikiLeaks off of its Web-hosting service.

Kevin's article is wide-ranging, thoughtful, and highly recommended.


[Amazon Link] An entertaining left-eats-its-own article at NRO from Kyle Smith: Mob Rule in the Book World. It's about American Heart, an upcoming book from Laura Moriarty.

American Heart, a young-adult novel to be published in January, is a kind of Huckleberry Handmaid’s Tale, only with Muslims. In a dim dystopian U.S. of the near future that’s been overtaken by a nasty “patriotic” movement, a white girl is oblivious to the burgeoning horror of Muslims being placed in internment camps, but she experiences an awakening and decides to strike out against them to rescue a Muslim immigrant from Iran, who is in hiding and needs to flee the country to save herself. Ho-hum, says the experienced observer. Since 9/11, the Left has been spooking itself with scary tales about how the anti-Muslim Inquisition is going to start any minute now.

Ah, but the book (apparently) runs afoul of a different leftist tenet about popular entertainment: Thou shalt not feature a "white savior" aiding your oppressed minority.

And you won't believe what happened next. Or maybe you will.


■ A replay of the 2016 Presidential election is shaping up in the Alabama election to replace Jeff Sessions, as in "which candidate do you have to hold your nose harder for". The GOP guy is Roy Moore, and, as chronicled by Robby Soave at Reason, Roy Moore Says Kneeling for the Anthem Is Illegal, and He’s Totally Wrong.

The former judge—who was twice removed from office for his conservative culture war agenda, contrary to the law—told TIME magazine that NFL players who kneel during the national anthem are actually breaking the law.

"It's against the law, you know that?" said Moore. "It was a act of Congress that every man stand and put their hand over their heart. That's the law."

The law in question is here. It appears to have been passed in 1931, when American pols were much more enamored with Fascism.


■ Matt Ridley writes from across the pond on The Curse of Good Intentions:

The curse of modern politics is an epidemic of good intentions and bad outcomes. Policy after policy is chosen and voted on according to whether it means well, not whether it works. And the most frustrated politicians are those who keep trying to sell policies based on their efficacy, rather than their motives. It used to be possible to approach politics as a conversation between adults, and argue for unfashionable but effective medicine. In the 140-character world this is tricky (I speak from experience).

If you're not sure how to reliably distinguish between: "here's what I think would be a good idea" and virtue-signalling, Ridley's column is a good place to start your inner discussion.


■ Opting for a higher position on the "do as I say, not as I do" list: Bernie Sanders’s Senate Campaign Spent Nearly $40K on Private Jets Last Quarter.

The campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) spent nearly $40,000 on luxury private jet travel during the third quarter, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Sanders, who has said global warming is causing "devastating problems" and is in favor of a carbon tax, made the payments for the posh private travel arrangements from his Senate campaign committee, Friends of Bernie Sanders, to Apollo Jets, a New York-based private charter company that is "dedicated to providing a luxury flight experience based on superior safety and exceptional customer care," its website states.

Bernie is running for re-election to the Senate in 2018. But he won re-election in 2012 with 71% of the vote—it's Vermont—so I'm skeptical about how much money he really needs to spend on his campaign.

As previously noted, Bernie will be within walking distance this coming Sunday. While I don't want to shell out $20 for a ticket (that would only cover 0.05% of his private jet travel), maybe I should make a sign and do the activist thing outside the venue.

URLs du Jour

2017-10-18

Proverbs 20:30 is the last verse in the chapter, and it is …

30 Blows and wounds scrub away evil,
    and beatings purge the inmost being.

Whoa. Disturbing. Kinky. Sick. I don't want to see the movie.

Today's pic is one of the milder ones displayed when you type in the obvious search term at GettyImages. Stop hitting yourself, Proverbialist!


■ While in the USA, we're busily making up purity tests for historical memorials, @kevinNR relates that, in India, they are wondering: should they Knock Down the Taj Mahal?

Indian architecture is very old — the Mahabodhi Temple, which is still in use, was built around the time of the First Punic War — but the Republic of India is very young: It is, in fact, younger than Donald Trump. Inevitably, most of the historically important architecture and public monuments were built during India’s long period of domination by alien powers, and often built by those alien powers. This is, understandably, a sensitive subject. India also is having a particularly ugly period of Hindu chauvinism, which has manifested itself in ways that are serious — the emergence of violent anti-conversion campaigns targeting Christians and anti-conversion laws in several Indian states — and in ways that are comical, for instance the exclusion of the Taj Mahal from a government-published guide to historical sites in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. About 10 million people a year visit the Taj Majal, but there is an effort under way to read Islam and Islamic rulers out of India’s history.

Knocking down stuff doesn't change history. But it makes certain people feel like they've "done something".


■ Also see Jonah Goldberg on the Arch of Titus:

I keep thinking of the Arch of Titus, the model for similar arches all around the world, including most famously the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. For those who don’t know, Titus — who would later become emperor — led the siege of Jerusalem in the first Jewish-Roman War. Hundreds of thousands of Jews, mostly non-combatants, were slaughtered, and the Second Temple — the holiest site in Judaism — was destroyed. Tens of thousands of Jews were captured and sold into slavery.

So how do Jews react to the Arch of Titus? Sensibly, keeping their dignity and memory intact.


<voice imitation="professor_farnsworth">Good news, everyone!</voice> Amazon Has a Chance to Redefine Corporate Responsibility! Or so says Virginia Postrel, and she's almost always correct about this stuff.

To be a good corporate citizen requires acting to protect the efficiency and fairness of the system that allows the company to prosper in the first place. True corporate social responsibility prohibits using political influence to undermine competition and erode legal equality. It means not soliciting favors that hurt rivals or offer advantages unavailable to those without connections.

So Amazon has a choice. It can act as a responsible corporate citizen, viewing its headquarters search as a challenge to get cities thinking about how to create better environments for all sorts of enterprises. Or it can ignore ethics and go looking for handouts.

Speaking as an Amazon customer since 1995, I hope Mr. Bezos listens to Ms. Postrel.


■ At the WSJ, William McGurn notes The New York Times’s Double Standard on the NFL. Specifically, the NYT has editorially demanded that NFL players must be allowed to "take a knee" during the National Anthem without employment repercussions. But when it comes to their employees….

Because within three weeks of blasting those who believe NFL players have no First Amendment right to use the football field to make political statements, Mr. Baquet issued a memo about social media warning Times reporters not to use their “vibrant presence” on these platforms to express their own, uh, deeply felt fears and grievances.

Oh well. To steal a cute phrase someone made up: without double standards, the NYT would have no standards at all.


■ But we aren't done with football, because Gregg Easterbrook's TMQ column, the one you don't have to like football to enjoy, is out. One of this week's musings concerns, gee, why are Americans so cynical and disillusioned about government. Well, consider…

(Here’s your obligatory “spoiler alert” about the plots of some small-screen shows.) The latest season of Homeland, for instance, wrapped with the CIA dragging away members of the cabinet so traitors in the White House could rip up the Constitution. In the latest iteration of Fox’s 24, the Director of National Intelligence secretly is an Islamist fanatic who cackles about slaughtering innocent Americans. On NBC’s Timeless, America is secretly run by “Rittenhouse,” a Freemason-style plot whose goal is to turn the United States into an absolute dictatorship. Among other things, the show’s protagonists discover that the 18-minute gap in the Watergate tapes was to erase Richard Nixon discussing his fear of being murdered by the all-powerful Rittenhouse puppet-masters. On ABC’s Designated Survivor, traitors at the top blow up the Capitol during the State of the Union Address, murdering most of America’s government—a government so incompetent that no one noticed thousands of pounds of explosives being placed under the Capitol Dome.

He could have added the invariably evil corporate bigwigs that also show up in movies and TV. But that would make a long column even longer.

It makes for a certain amount of dramatic sense. If you want your protagonists to engage in an epic struggle against powerful foes, the foes' power has to come from somewhere. Government and wealth are the obvious sources. (Or you can play the Stephen King game, and have it spring from the inexhaustible supernatural.)


■ And our LFOD alert rang for an article at CalvinAyre.com, a site "covering the global gambling industry." But they noticed poor little us: New Hampshire online gambling bill springs to life.

New Hampshire legislators have dusted off the state’s online gambling bill after sitting idly in Congress [sic] for months. […] The bill [HB 562-FN] is a stub, seeking only to insert a new subparagraph exempting “gambling done over an internet connection on a website on the internet” from the state’s list of illegal gambling offenses.

There may be something going on behind the scenes involving an online state lottery. Yay! Make it easier for stupid people to throw their money at the state! But anyway:

In the off chance that HB 562-FN makes the grade in the Live Free or Die state, its provisions would take effect January 1, 2018.

A coercively-enforced monopoly to ensure that private citizens are prohibited from doing what the state does? That doesn't sound like LFOD to me.

Fedora 27 Beta

Some Informal Notes

Fedora

I've been using the Fedora Linux distribution since, well, since there was such a thing as Fedora. (Wikipedia dates this as November 2003.) Over the past couple years, I've taken to installing pre-release versions. Occasionally Alpha releases, but they stopped doing that. Fedora 27 Beta (F27) was released on October 3, I installed it on my home workstation that very day, and it has been "in production" since.

This is not an installation tutorial—other people out there do that better—but I did run into a "gotcha" that may affect a handful of folks. Unfortunately, it requires some background explanation.

I would probably fail a Linux geek purity test, because I don't install Fedora on "bare metal". Instead, I run Oracle's (free) VirtualBox software on a Windows 10 host, and install Fedora as a virtual guest. I started using this method back on my pre-retirement work computers, and it worked so well-like having two computers, one Windows, one Linux, at my fingertips—I continued the scheme at home, post-retirement.

Also: over the past few releases, I've grown fond of the Cinnamon desktop over the default GNOME desktop Fedora provides. Your mileage may vary, and that's fine, but there's a reason that (as I type) Googling "arrogant GNOME developers" gets "about 85,900 results".

I have, by now, ritualized the upgrade method. Which, oddly enough, doesn't involve an upgrade of the existing system. There are a lot of advantages to virtualization, and one of them is that it's easy to generate a new OS installation from scratch, keeping the previous one in reserve in case you mess up.

One of the goodies of Virtualbox is its so-called Guest Additions, which installs into the guest OS and provides (among other things) "shared folders", directories available to both the host and the virtual guest. That's useful to an easy upgrade, as we'll see.

An outline of my upgrade process:

  1. Save my custom configurations and data from Fedora N to a shared folder. (I have a script to do this, so I don't forget anything.)

  2. Shut down Fedora N.

  3. Install Fedora N+1 in a new virtual guest. (The sainted Fedora developers make this easy for Cinnamon-preferers: they provide a Fedora Cinnamon Spin on the same release schedule as default Fedora.)

  4. Install any and all necessary custom packages not included in the default install.

  5. Install VirtualBox's Guest Additions and restore the shared folder configuration.

  6. Restore the saved configurations and data from the shared folder in step 1 into the new guest.

And that's it! I'm eliding a lot of gory details. But…

In Step 4, it's not always obvious what non-default packages you should install, for two reasons: First, the default installation package set always changes between releases, so you might need to explicitly install something you didn't have to previously. Second: You don't want to install something you don't need. So, in practice, it's an iterative process; you observe some breakage due to something you missed, you go back to figure that out. (To a certain mindset, this detective work is kind of fun. As long as you're not racing against the clock to fix something critical to your organization. But I'm not in that position any more.)

But what happened this time is Step 5 failed silently. Why?!

Two reasons:

  1. Cinnamon (apparently) has a new default terminal emulation application: tilix. Which is fine (this isn't Russia) but as near as I can tell, they don't install any other terminal applications.

    Problem occurs when the Guest Addition script runs: as it turns out, it looks for a terminal emulation program using a list of fixed names: Konsole, gnome-terminal, mate-terminal and xterm. So the script fails. Silently.

    So: install xterm and try again…

  2. And we fail again, because the Guest Additions installation requires the dkms (Dynamic Kernel Module Support) package to be installed. Also no longer in the default set of installed packages. So install that and try again. (This also drags in the C compiler and kernel development packages.)

And then things worked. Yay!

Finally, not that it matters, but: tilix is not my cup of tea. I've grown used to/fond of a gnome-terminal feature: tabbed sessions in a single window. You can't do that in tilix, and the developers say: Sorry, no.

The Crossing

[Amazon Link]

I continue to consume Michael Connelly novels. Have I mentioned that he's a masterful storyteller? Only a few dozen times, I imagine. This is billed as "A Bosch Novel", as in Connelly's prime protagonist, Hieronymus "Harry" Bosch. But Harry's half brother, defense attorney Mickey Haller, shows up prominently too.

Harry is no longer working for the LAPD, thanks to a small mistake he made in the previous book that allowed his departmental enemies to wreck his career. Well, he was getting close to retirement anyway, so he's been working on restoring an old Harley-Davidson bike. But we know something he doesn't: his heart isn't in it.

Enter Mickey, who's famous for getting his guilty clients off on technicalities. But he has a sympathetic client he really thinks is being framed for a brutal murder. And his usual investigator, Cisco, has been sidelined by a nasty bike accident. (Except we know, from page 4, that it really wasn't an accident at all.)

Harry's reluctant; he would be "crossing" over to work for one of the LAPD's bêtes noires. But after a few looks at the evidence, he sees some loose ends. And there's nobody better than Harry at pulling at loose ends until the whole nasty mess unravels.

Yes, it's really good. Of course. Keep 'em coming, Mr. Connelly.


Last Modified 2017-10-17 1:32 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-10-17

Proverbs 20:29 shows that the wisdom of the Proverbialist was not confined to musings on God, kings, sins, and virtues. No, sometimes the Proverbialist just wants you to know what he likes:

29 The glory of young men is their strength,
    gray hair the splendor of the old.

So there you have it. But that's not why we have Bernie Sanders in our Pic du Jour. It's because of…


■ … this story in the Concord Monitor: Sanders making second trip to NH in less than two months, fueling 2020 speculation.

The longtime independent senator from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate will headline the Strafford County Democrats’ Fall Celebration this Sunday at the American Legion Hall in Rollinsford.

I would not mention this otherwise, but the Legion is literally within easy walking distance of Pun Salad Manor. Specifically, I usually walk the dog down that way every morning; we take a loop around the ball field, along the banks of the Salmon Falls River. It's quite nice, and he likes to poop there.

Unfortunately, the Strafford County Democrats are charging a cool $20 for admittance, and that's about $18 more than I'm willing to pay to hear a crazy old statist, even one who has a splendid mane of gray.

But the Monitor article helpfully lists other incoming Threats to Liberty:

Sanders is far from the only potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate to pay a visit to New Hampshire so far this year. That list includes former Missouri secretary of state Jason Kander, the founder and president of Let America Vote, a newly-created voting rights organization. Kander has made five trips to New Hampshire. Former Maryland governor and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley has been to the state three times.

Other possible 2020 Democratic presidential contenders who have already visited New Hampshire this year are former vice president Joe Biden, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Congressman John Delaney of Maryland (who has already announced he’ll run for the 2020 nomination) and Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio, who will return to the Granite State early next month to headline a Manchester City Democrats event.

That list raises a lot of questions. Well, two questions: for Biden, it's "Can't he just go away?" And for everyone else, it's "Who?"


■ SF writer Sarah Hoyt writes at PJ Media on Slavery and Freedom. She pulls worthwhile lessons from Heinlein:

In both of Heinlein’s novels dealing with slavery [Citizen of the Galaxy and Friday], the characters finally feel themselves to be free when they realize they are the same as other humans: whatever their history or their mode of birth, they’re just humans like everyone else. Their freedom and their achievements, from then on, depend on themselves alone, and they can’t be enslaved again. No matter how many circumstances are against them, or what others think of them, they are free.

This is a dangerous message. It’s the message encapsulated in one of Heinlein’s other quotes as “You can’t enslave a free man. You can only kill him.”

That's a slightly longer version of "Live Free or Die". But we'll take it.


■ Good News from the Great White North: the Toronto District School Board will remove ‘chief’ from job titles out of respect for Indigenous people. Ryan Bird, apparently a board member, is quoted by the Globe and Mail:

"It may not have originated as an Indigenous word, but the fact is that it is used as a slur in some cases, or in a negative way to describe Indigenous people," he said in an interview Wednesday. "With that in mind, as it has become a slur in some cases, that's the decision the administration has made to be proactive on that."

Pun Salad has always been good at pointing out the obvious, so let's do that: the Toronto District School Board has way too much time on its hands. For other commentary let us defer to NRO's Katherine Timpf for commentary:

I’m sorry; I’m all for sensitivity, but this? This is stupid.

If a word is being used offensively, then of course you should be against that usage. No good person wants to hurt anyone else. But honestly, I just have to ask: What in the hell is the point of stopping people from using a word in a way that is not offensive — seeing as it is, you know, not offensive?

But that's not as much fun as being "proactive".

Ms. Timpf also has some fun with the word "princess", which, come to think of it, is far more problematic.

URLs du Jour

2017-10-16

Boston terrier

Proverbs 20:28 muses on royal security:

28 Love and faithfulness keep a king safe;
    through love his throne is made secure.

Yet another Proverb with implications for President Trump. Donald, you need to concentrate more on that love and faithfulness stuff!

Or, you could do what most Presidents do, and just get a dog.


■ Dan McLaughlin, the Baseball Crank, writes at NRO with advice, not to kings or presidents, but to Progressives who (a) exaggerate the influence of the alt-right, and (b) slag conservatives who aren't part of the alt-right at all. Here's How Not to Marginalize the Alt-Right:

Efforts to paint such sites as the Federalist and the Daily Wire as alt-right propaganda outlets inevitably devolve into a “marginalize the mainstream” drive, and vividly illustrate why so many conservatives feel that invitations to “national conversations” about race relations are just a plan to sandbag them in bad faith. “They’re going to call you that anyway” is the siren song of the alt-right, and one that seduced all too many on the right into excusing Trump’s sins in the 2016 campaign. It’s why those of us who’d like to seek out common ground and practical solutions on these kinds of issues keep getting drowned out by flag protests and glowing amulets.

Actually, I'd love to see just one Progressive call for a "conversation" that wasn't made in bad faith.


■ Via Instapundit and Granite Grok, here's Derek Hunter at the Daily Caller with a sad but predictable story: Apple VP Of Diversity Apologizes For Suggesting Diversity Of Thought Is Important.

Apple’s Denise Young Smith, the newly minted Vice President of Diversity at the tech giant, has caused outrage in the industry over comments she made in defense of diversity of thought. Silicon Valley has been in an all-out push to bring in more women and minorities, so when Smith said, “I focus on everyone. Diversity is the human experience,” without focusing specifically on race or gender, liberal publications criticized her.

Smith ultimately apologized for the sentiment.

Ms. Smith accidentally tried to speak truth to power. She tried to have a "conversation". It didn't work out, because "diversity" is all about pigeonholing people by DNA. Saying anything outside that narrative framework will get you shot down faster than a drone over the White House. DNA über alles!


■ An interesting article from Shai Shapira at Quillette: Universal Basic Income and the Threat of Tyranny.

There has been criticism of the idea, but so far the debate tends to focus on two issues: the economic reasoning behind a universal basic income, and the ethics of allowing a majority of non-workers to live off the fruits of the labour of a small minority. What is not discussed enough, however, are the political implications–what would a universal basic income do to the relations between citizens and government. Because when we examine historical trends in politics and economics, we can spot a basic pattern: political rights are strongly correlated with economic participation. Societies where the state economy depends on small inputs from many different citizens tend to give their citizens significantly more rights, including the right of participation in the government itself. Societies where the state economy comes from natural resources, or other sources that require only a small, fixed number of people to defend or maintain them, tend to develop autocratic regimes with little concern for the welfare of their citizens.

An intriguing point. Norway is brought up in the comments as a counterexample, but that's arguable.


■ And your tweet du jour from Mark J. Perry:

Unfortunately cut off on the left and right, but you get the gist.

URLs du Jour

2017-10-15

■ Proverbs 20 is kind of an olio, but Proverbs 20:27 is pretty sweet:

27 The human spirit is the lamp of the Lord
    that sheds light on one’s inmost being.

No further comment.


■ My local paper covers the latest at the University Near Here: UNH takes hard look at cultural misdeeds. Sample:

According to Holly Cashman, a professor in the Languages, Literatures and Cultures (LLC) Department, she and a team of faculty members organized the teach-in after witnessing students celebrate Cinco De Mayo on campus and because of the deadly event in Charlottesville,West Virginia, in August. Cashman said her department has organized events of multicultural appreciation in the past, but this year, they felt they needed to be more direct in their effort to reach students.

Because students looking for a drinking excuse inevitably leads to deadly clashes between demonstrators, I guess.

[Cashman] said her department is interested in incorporating ideas of diversity and inclusion into the required curriculum of classes. “It’s great to have events like these, but often we are preaching to the choir. So we made a real effort to reach out to Residential Life and Greek Life and make them aware of this event. The hope is that we reached more than our usual crowd of students,” she said.

News flash: faculty member hopes that students will be required to take courses that she teaches.

Halloween is only a few weeks away, with the opportunity to further hector the students about their problematic costumes.


■ Eugene Volokh notes that President Trump is not alone in his ignorance/disdain of the First Amendment: Congress members threaten Twitter with regulation if it doesn’t suppress ‘racially divisive communications’ and ‘anti-American sentiments’. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) and Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) wrote a letter to the Twitter CEO, containing:

[...] we are concerned that insufficient government oversight over your firm is inadvertently leading to deeper racial divisions and threats to our democracy. If Twitter continues to prove unable or hesitant to grasp the seriousness of this threat and combat the racialized climate that is being stimulated on your platforms, we, as Members of Congress, will be left with little option but to demand for increased regulations and government oversight of this industry to address these problems.

What's the bigger "threat to our democracy": Twitter, or Democrat Congresscritters who invariably want to "regulate" speech, or have others do it for them?


@kevinNR writes on fiscal woes: The Black Budget. [The reference being to chairman of the House Budget Committee, Diane Black.]

Representative Black (R., Tenn.) has been chairman of the House Budget Committee for about a year, and she’s enjoyed the experience so much that she’s . . . trying to get the hell out of Washington, hoping to head to Nashville as Tennessee’s next governor. (She declined to comment on the gubernatorial race.) It is difficult to blame her for not wanting to cling to that gavel: Running the House Budget Committee is kind of a stupid job.

Not that it’s an unimportant job — far from it: In fact, it is a critically important post. A few years ago, I was invited to speak to a group of Republicans on the House Budget Committee, and I told them as plainly as I could that the decisions made by their panel and its Senate counterpart over the next several years would very likely mean the difference between a relatively manageable national fiscal crisis at some point in the future and an uncontrollable national fiscal catastrophe with worldwide consequences. I also told them that I was not entirely confident that they’d make the right choices. I wasn’t invited back.

A few years back, Kevin (I call him Kevin) wrote a book titled The End Is Near and It's Going to Be Awesome; now it sounds as if he may have changed his mind about the awesomeness thing. (I left a comment on the article to that effect.)


■ George F. Will writes on The widening gyre that is Trump.

With Trump turning and turning in a widening gyre, his crusade to make America great again is increasingly dominated by people who explicitly repudiate America's premises. The faux nationalists of the “alt-right” and their fellow travelers like Stephen Bannon, although fixated on protecting America from imported goods, have imported the blood-and-soil ethno-tribalism that stains the continental European right. In “Answering the Alt-Right” in National Affairs quarterly, Ramon Lopez, a University of Chicago Ph.D. candidate in political philosophy, demonstrates how Trump's election has brought back to the public stage ideas that a post-Lincoln America had slowly but determinedly expunged. They were rejected because they are incompatible with an open society that takes its bearing from the Declaration of Independence's doctrine of natural rights.

I find it difficult to believe that Trump buys into the alt-right bullshit; for one thing (as Will notes) that would mean that he's thought about it, and there's no sign that he thinks that hard about anything that abstract.

But what Trump almost certainly notices is that alt-right creeps are his most reliable cheerleaders. And he loves that.


[Amazon Link]

■ And our Google LFOD alert buzzed on this article from the Garden City (Kansas) Telegram: Banda sentenced to 12 months probation.

Medical marijuana advocate Shona Banda was sentenced on Friday to 12 months of mail-in probation after being convicted in August of possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to manufacture, a level-five drug felony, following approval of a plea agreement.

But what's the big LFODing deal with that?

Banda is well-known for her use of cannabis oil to treat her Crohn’s disease. She wrote a book on her healing process using cannabis, titled “Live Free or Die,” where she extensively documented the reasoning behind her lifestyle choices. She also has been featured in numerous YouTube videos and online articles, where she espoused her belief in the medicinal benefits of cannabis oil. The story of her son’s removal from her home in 2015 drew national attention and calls to decriminalize medical marijuana in Kansas.

Ah, I get it. Kansas is one of the few states that hasn't even tried to legalize medical marijuana.


Last Modified 2017-10-15 3:59 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-10-14

■ Please, nobody show Proverbs 20:26 to President Trump:

26 A wise king winnows out the wicked;
    he drives the threshing wheel over them.

I'm especially looking at you, Senator Rubio.


■ With respect to Trump's decision to stop Cost Sharing Reduction payments to insurance companies, you couldn't ask for a wider disparity in commentary between Obamacare fans and foes. But Megan McArdle has always been a straight shooter on this topic: Obamacare Was Built With the Flaws Trump Now Exploits.

Remember how we ended up with the particular version of Obamacare that became law. Democrats had 60 votes in the Senate, and a growing sense that they were on the verge of a second New Deal. They thought they didn’t need Republicans, and they thought they couldn’t get Republicans, so they made little effort to involve Republicans in drafting, beyond offering token concessions to a handful of liberal Republicans who might have made nice bipartisan window-dressing at the signing ceremony. Republicans, predictably, spent a year talking down the bill, and by the time it was nearing passage, a majority of the public opposed it.

The resulting creaky mess required continual extralegal executive patch jobs to sputter along. And now we have an executive not really interested in playing that game any more.


@JonahNRO's G-File this week is headlined Binders Full of Asininity. Recalling Mitt Romney's "binders full of women" from the 2012 campaign, widely mocked on the left.

“Virtue signaling” is an over-used term these days. One problem with the concept is that it often implies a touch of cynicism to the signaler: “I want people to believe that I’m as righteous as this symbolic gesture suggests.”

To be sure, there often is cynicism involved. For instance, people who drive Teslas in states in which electricity is predominately coal-generated signal a lot of virtue — but they do nothing about greenhouse-gas emissions because their cars essentially run on coal and condescension. More relevant, Harvey Weinstein, that bloated carbuncle of hormones and insecurity, virtue signaled with cash quite a lot. In his initial statement after the scandal broke, Weinstein tried it again, offering to atone for his transgressions by going after the NRA. Even for Hollywood liberals, that was too pathetic. It wasn’t virtue signaling so much as an attempt to buy an indulgence from the Church of Liberalism.

Bottom line (which I've said before, and will again): if you want to be a member in good standing of the Virtue Police, you can't blind yourself to the sins committed by members of your political tribe.


■ Which brings us to @kevinNR and his comments on Trump vs. the First Amendment.

President Donald Trump’s recent (most recent) testing of the censorship waters is disturbing in a by-now-familiar way, combining the hallmark elements of the president’s political style: ignorance, stupidity, pettiness, and malice.

It's kind of a whipsaw with Trump, combining the correct refusal to spend money that Congress has not appropriated with… well, this. But:

You’d think that Americans would love the First Amendment, which gives every ordinary yokel on Twitter the right to say the president is a fool and the police chief is incompetent and the chairman of the board might profitably be replaced by a not-especially-gifted chimpanzee. But it isn’t very popular at all: Gutting the First Amendment is one of the top priorities of the Democratic party, which seeks to revoke its protection of political speech — i.e., the thing it’s really there to protect — so that they can put restrictions on political activism, which restrictions they call “campaign-finance reform.” They abominate the Supreme Court’s solid First Amendment decision in Citizens United, a case that involved not “money in politics” but the basic free-speech question of whether political activists should be allowed to show a film critical of Hillary Rodham Clinton in the days before an election. (Making a film and distributing it costs money, you see, hence “money in politics.”) They lost that one, but every Democrat in Harry Reid’s Senate — every one of them — voted to repeal the First Amendment.

And—I'm sorry to harp on this, but it really bugs me—we have at the University Near Here a journalism instructor who thinks the First Amendment doesn't apply when someone considers you "ignorant and hurtful".


■ And the (eminently predictable) reaction to left-wing shoutdowns of campus speakers: Trump Supporters Shout Down Liberal Speakers. It happened at Whittier College ("alma mater of Richard Nixon") and the speakers were California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and California State Assembly Leader Ian Calderon.

The disruptors, who apparently were not students, shouted slogans like: “Build that wall,” “lock him up,” “respect our president,” and “American first.” Becerra’s question and answer session with Calderon was severely disturbed and cut short as a result.

I'd say "serves 'em right." Except that it doesn't.

And it would be nice if Trump would condemn things like this. But he won't.


■ Our Google LFOD alert rang for an article in (of all places) the San Francisco Chronicle: Governor's panel on regulatory reform holds first meeting. And it's not Jerry Brown, it's Chris Sununu.

A committee aimed at making New Hampshire more business friendly heard about burdensome regulations affecting ski areas, builders, bagpipe makers and more on Thursday.

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who called New Hampshire a "regulatory police state" during his campaign, appointed a regulatory reform steering committee last month to conduct in-depth reviews of state regulations and recommend changes.

Though critics note that the state already has a committee tasked with reviewing regulations and call Sununu's efforts a political stunt, he told the committee Thursday that it's time to "clear out the gunk" and return the state to its "Live Free or Die" foundation.

Well, that's excellent. But… bagpipe makers? Isn't that totally illegal? Shouldn't it be totally illegal? Apparently not. And there's an explanation:

Rich Spaulding, operations manager at Gibson Bagpipes in Nashua, told the group he is struggling not with state regulations but international regulations regarding the wood his company uses to make its products. Even if he obtains the necessary federal permit, he said he'd have to drive to New York to have the products inspected before shipping them out of the country.

The wood in question is African Blackwood, and international treaties require that exports containing it be "inspected". But the only US inspection station is at JFK airport in NYC.


■ And have you been wondering why NH won't land Amazon? Fortunately, we have an answer from NH Business Review: Here’s why NH won’t land Amazon. Unsurprisingly, the answer involves our state's unwillingness to pony up corporate subsidies. For example, Tax increment financing (TIF):

This is not unique to New Hampshire. It is used widely around the country, including Vermont. But that state subsidizes the municipality’s share. In exchange, the state must approve each program. In the Live Free Or Die state no such permission is needed, but the towns shoulder the entire cost.

Apparently being paid by the word, the author writes "the Live Free Or Die state" to avoid writing "New Hampshire" again.


■ And here's your Tweet du Jour, leading to one of the best threads ever seen on Twitter:

An impressive use of infographics, and diligent research by Twitterers.

But nobody found any occurrence, anywhere, of "New Hampshire Fried Chicken". Understandably. Although such a restaurant could have the motto "Live Fried or Die".

Blogkeeping

2017-10-13

housekeeping

I've added a new "view" to Pun Salad over there on the right—no, your right: "Geekery" joins the longstanding views "Books" and "Movies".

I use views to separate out posts that might not be of interest to Pun Salad's normal readers: the Geekery view will be used to describe various adventures in scripting, Linux administration, and whatever else that might vaguely fit. It probably won't be high volume; I went back and reclassified some older posts as Geekery, and there were only 21. Over a twelve year span, that's not very many. But now that I have a place for them, I may do more.

URLs du Jour

2017-10-13

Proverbs 20:25 is just plain good advice:

25 It is a trap to dedicate something rashly
    and only later to consider one’s vows.

… but do you think it's possible that the Proverbialist didn't always get along well with Mrs. Proverbialist?


■ At FIRE's blog, Zach Greenberg imagines A world without hate speech.

It takes as little as a flyer, a speech, a newspaper article, or a comedian to trigger calls for “hate speech” bans on college campuses. Considering that many college students support the prohibition of hate speech, let’s imagine if the would-be censors got their way — what would our society look like?

First, we must acknowledge that, in the United States, hateful speech is fully protected by the First Amendment. There’s no “hate speech versus free speech” debate raging in our nation’s judiciary. Nor is there a balancing test, an exemption, or a special constitutional provision allowing the government to prohibit it — hateful speech is categorically protected in our nation, including at public colleges and universities, and that’s not changing anytime soon.

Zach's article is a tour de force, and while "read the whole thing" is usually an implied suggestion here, I'll make it an explicit suggestion in this case.


■ For example, even though I'm a generally libertarian sort, I'm prepared to advocate that all college students be required to read Zach's article and pass a test on the content. Because I keep reading about things like this (from Stanley Kurtz at NRO): Campus Chaos: Daily Shout-Downs for a Week. Yes, daily. Just one example:

Tuesday, October 10: Tuesday night, student protesters at Columbia University shouted down and largely stopped a talk via skype by Tommy Robinson, the controversial former leader of the English Defense League. Invited to the event by the Columbia College Republicans, Robinson is not my idea of an ideal speaker. Given their beleaguered state, I can understand why campus conservatives might turn to provocateurs like Robinson. Even so, I don’t think it was a particularly inspired choice. That said, the Columbia College Republicans made it clear that they weren’t endorsing Robinson. And of course they have a perfect right to invite whomever they want. The leftist shut-down of Robinson’s talk was an outrage. Students blocked entrances to the speech, shouted over Robinson, then stormed the stage and forced him to abandon his talk. After it was over, Columbia College Republican President Ari Boosalis told Campus Reform, “I’m very depressed with how the event went. I realize free speech is dead.”

Is it time to invoke anti-Ku Klux Klan laws to restore campus sanity?


■ And, if anyone needs reminding, Trump is still a dangerous Constitution-shredder when he mutters about retaliating against news organizations who write stories he doesn't like.

Ah, but (you say) maybe he wasn't serious. David Harsanyi's answer to that: Even If Trump's Threat Against NBC Isn't Serious, It's Still Destructive. Bottom line:

The entire "fake news" outrage—from Trump's usage of the phrase to the Facebook presidential election scare—is an excuse for someone to limit speech. No, it doesn't matter if most journalists now lecturing you about the First Amendment are a bunch of enormous hypocrites. Nor does it matter that their biased coverage has eroded your trust. There is a bigger marketplace for news now than ever. Don't watch NBC.

But even if you're not idealistic about free expression, it might be worth remembering that any laws or regulations you embrace to inhibit the speech of others, even anchors reporting fake news, could one day be turned on you. This is the lesson big-government Democrats and Republicans never learn.

Why does this lesson continue to need relearning?


■ But not everything Trump does is clumsily authoritarian. Good news on that front from Michael F. Cannon at Cato: Trump Executive Order Could Save Millions from ObamaCare.

President Trump today signed an executive order that urges executive-branch agencies to take steps that could free millions of consumers from ObamaCare’s hidden taxes, bring transparency to that law, and give hundreds of millions of workers greater control over their earnings and health care decisions.

Schadenfreude isn't the noblest emotion, but it's pretty delicious to hear all the whining from the Obamacare cheerleaders.


■ An amusing memory-holing of an embarrassing sponsor: NPR Says Russian Software Company Behind Hacks Is No Longer a Corporate Underwriter

National Public Radio told the Washington Free Beacon that the Moscow-based software company Kaspersky Lab, which was used by hackers to steal classified documents from the National Security Agency, is no longer one of its corporate underwriters.

Gee, does this mean I can't call NPR "Commie Radio" any more?

To its credit, a simple Google search reveals that NPR's news branch has been reporting on Kaspersky's shadiness for years, and has been diligent about mentioning Kaspersky's NPR sponsorship in those reports.

URLs du Jour

2017-10-12

‘Free will’.

Proverbs 20:24 enters, I think, uncharted territory:

24 A person’s steps are directed by the Lord.
    How then can anyone understand their own way?

Am I wrong, or is the Proverbialist denying free will here? This really shakes the foundations of his own religion.


■ At NRO, Michael Tanner uses the Fraser Institute's latest Economic Freedom of the World report to muse on Our Halting Progress toward Maximum Economic Freedom. The news for the US is good and bad:

As disappointing as it is to see the U.S., once the model for free-market capitalism, trailing not just countries such as New Zealand and Switzerland, which have long embraced free markets, but also more surprising competitors such as Ireland, the United Kingdom, and even Mauritius, this actually represents a big improvement. Last year we were 16th.

The other (possible) good news is also (possible) bad news: the report reflected 2016, Obama's last year. So Trump has a lot of room to improve things with deregulation, tax reform, etc. But Trump also has a lot of room to wreck things via protectionism, corporate welfare, etc. So who knows?


■ Amidst all the Progressive whinery about Trump's undoing of the Obama Administration's decree that all employers must offer no-copay birth control "coverage", regardless of their religious convictions otherwise, Jeff Jacoby points out the obvious: If you can pay for aspirin, you can pay for birth control. And so:

Religious concerns aside, the new White House rule leaves the birth-control mandate in place. Trump's "tweak won't affect 99.9 percent of women," observes the Wall Street Journal, "and that number could probably have a few more 9s at the end." Washington will continue to compel virtually every employer and insurer in America to supply birth control to any woman who wants one at no out-of-pocket cost.

Yet there is no legitimate rationale for such a mandate. Americans don't expect to get aspirin, bandages, or cold medicine — or condoms — for free; by what logic should birth control pills or diaphragms be handed over at no cost? It is true that a woman's unwanted pregnancy can lead to serious costs, but the same is also true of a diabetic's hyperglycemia. Should insulin be free?

If you can't push around the Little Sisters of the Poor, people will start wondering why they're being pushed around. Can't have that.


■ I don't think I've posted on the controversy over Bruce Gilley's article, "The Case for Colonialism", in (of all places) Third World Quarterly. John Hinderaker at Power Line brings us up to date, with sad news: The Sword is Mightier than the Pen The article has now been memory-holed, due to "serious and credible threats of personal violence" leveled at the journal's editor. Bottom line:

Do our liberal friends want to know what fascism looks like? This is what fascism looks like.

Indeed.


■ But it's not only "our liberal friends" who want to keep from hearing things. President Trump denied an NBC News story that claimed that he "wanted a tenfold increase" in the nuclear warhead stockpile. But, going farther than a denial, he tweeted:

Fortunately, as Matt Welch points out at Reason: FCC Chair [Ajit Pai] Preemptively Rubbishes Trump’s Dumb Tweet About Challenging Media Licenses.

Pai said that he also sees "worrying signs" at the FCC, pointing to Twitter messages in which "people regularly demand that the FCC yank licenses from cable news channels like Fox News, MSNBC, or CNN because they disagree with the opinions expressed on those networks."

"Setting aside the fact that the FCC doesn't license cable channels, these demands are fundamentally at odds with our legal and cultural traditions," Pai said.

As we pointed out a couple days ago, our college students are being told that First Amendment rights "come with responsibilities" and that those rights don't give journalists "a license to be ignorant and hurtful". So it could be that Trump has been paying too much attention to such blitherings.


@kevinNR keys off the recent Trump/Tillerson debate about who's smarter, with Trump suggesting they "compare IQ tests". Kevin says oh yeah: Why Not an IQ Test?

Trump, who cannot spell “honored” or “principles” — or “tap,” “counsel,” “coverage,” “hereby,” “unprecedented,” “ridiculous,” “waste,” “judgment,” “paid,” and much else — likes to talk about his IQ. He assures us it is very high. How high? “One of the highest.” He has challenged Mark Cuban, an actual billionaire, to an IQ contest. He has blasted Chris Matthews as having a low IQ, and has claimed, on separate occasions, that his IQ is higher than those of Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Jon Stewart, Jeb Bush, and others. He suggested that Rick Wilson should be given an IQ test before he is allowed to appear on television again.

I really would like to see that. As Kevin says: put up or shut up.

I'm on record with this modest proposal:

A requirement for running [for high elected office] would be to subject yourself to a battery of tests to measure your intelligence (maybe an IQ test); general knowledge and academic achievement (something like the SAT); maybe a quiz on current affairs (where's Aleppo?) or general civic knowledge; maybe specialized queries on economics or science.

You wouldn't disqualify anyone based on test scores, but you would publicize everyone's scores. Would voters pay attention? Maybe enough on the margin to improve results.

Still sounds like a fine idea to me.


■ And our Google LFOD alert rang for the Seacoast Online LTE from Rye's Ronna Flaschner: Republicans make criminals of women and their doctors. Oh no! At issue is the recent passage of a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks.

Where does our Governor stand in our state of live free or die? With women and their doctors or with an inept President and a group of ignorant House Republicans who think they can legislate a way to punish women? Does our Governor stand with a President who has NO respect for women?

Interesting factoid (as claimed by President Trump, and discussed in the WaPo): the US is one of only a handful of nations that currently allow late elective abortions. Jonah Goldberg comments.

Surfing Uncertainty

Prediction, Action, and the Embodied Mind

[Amazon Link]

I was encouraged to read this book (written by Andy Clark, professor of philosophy and Chair in Logic and Metaphysics at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland) via this post on Eric Raymond's blog, which pointed to this review at Slate Star Codex. I regret to say it's one of those "I looked at every page" books. It's not aimed at the dilettante or layman; I would expect that you would need a thorough grounding in neurophysiology and neural networks to fully appreciate it. Lots of references, endnotes, etc.

Professor Clark is (also) clearly articulating his own views here, engaging in a debate/discussion with people with other views. I have no idea whether the thesis he's expounding is actually on target, or if he's engaging in easily-debunked handwaving bullshit. I expect more the former, but don't take any bets on my say-so.

His thesis is, broadly, that the mysteries of consciousness, perception, decision, action, etc. are tied up with the predictive nature of the nervous system. That is, the whole shebang works its magic by building internal predictions of what outside stimuli will be incoming from our senses. This is never a perfect match, but when it happens, it sets off a bunch of nervous activity "error" events that look to obtain better information (for example, automatically pointing your eyes at different locations to figure out what's going on).

This activity involves neurons up and down the chain, and also back and forth. It's a very holistic view, and one that's been in development for years.

There are a number of telling observations that I could understand and appreciate, mostly involving optical illusions. For example, the picture here; seeing a cow may be a challenge at first, but once you see it, you can't go back to not seeing it. Funny how that works.

Bottom line, writing-wise, Andy Clark is no Steven Pinker. But he may be onto something.

The Tipping Point

How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

[Amazon Link]

I believe I put this book by Malcolm Gladwell in my to-be-read list a long, long time ago. Back during its initial hype-filled publication, circa 2000. After waiting for it to come off the reserve list at the UNH library (it never did, I think), I picked up the 2002 paperback. And it sat on my shelves until now.

And it did not age well.

These days, we would say it's a study of how things "go viral". Or, more soberly, how dramatic cultural changes can happen in a relative eyeblink. Gladwell's first example is how Hush Puppies shoes made a dramatic comeback in the mid-90s after dwindling to their near-demise. And then he moves on to the dramatic decrease in New York City crime, starting in the 90s. And (along the way) there are other examples, described in an attention-grabbing way (Gladwell's a good writer): Sesame Street vs. Blue's Clues; a suicide epidemic in Micronesia; the book Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. And many more.

Gladwell attempts to come up with a theoretical framework that would explain all these examples of sudden change. He describes three kinds of people that can set things off, change agents: "Connecters, Mavens, and Salesmen". He looks at the concept of "stickiness"; once people adopt a change (or catch a disease), it has to stick around long enough so that other people can "catch" it. And there's the power of "Context": how receptive the target population and the surrounding environment to the change.

Gladwell's examples, each interesting, seem at times to be round pegs that Gladwell tries very hard to pound into the square holes of his big theory. The predictive value of his insights seems to be negligible; the thing about "viral" outbreaks is that nobody sees them coming. True back when Gladwell wrote, true today.

Which brings me to the point mentioned above: Gladwell wrote at the dawn of the 21st century. And the closest he gets to writing about the Internet is his 2002 Afterword, when he muses on e-mail, and notes that he has a website: (gladwell.com, currently inactive).

In other words: before Facebook (est. 2004), Yelp (est. 2004), YouTube (est. 2005), Twitter (est. 2006), Instagram (est. 2010). I can't help but think that popular social media sites haven't irrevocably changed the landscape Gladwell discusses.

URLs du Jour

2017-10-11

■ If you think that stand-up comics have difficulty coming up with fresh material, consider Proverbs 20:23:

23 The Lord detests differing weights,
    and dishonest scales do not please him.

If you're experiencing déjà vu, there's a good reason: the Proverbialist said the same thing just 13 verses earlier:

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

OK, we get it, Mr. Consumer Reports.


■ More University antics: Texas Southern University president storms into student event, shuts down speech. The TSU Federalist Society had invited Texas state Rep. Briscoe Cain to speak. The event was initially disrupted by student protesters, but campus cops escorted them out. The speech continued until…

Then [TSU] President [Austin] Lane, accompanied by Democratic state Sen. Boris Miles, entered the room. Rep. Cain, a Republican, then exited the room and president Lane invited the protesters back into the room.

Mission accomplished, speech censors!

President Lane's quoted remarks invoked "time, place, and manner" regulation—at least four times—as an excuse for the shutdown. See if you can fit his reasoning in with this explanation of time/place/matter regulation. And see if you can guess how a court case might come out.


■ So I haven't gotten too excited about the Harvey Weinstein thing, because the hypocritical pervyness lurking behind the thin, shiny veneer of the entertainment industry is not exactly shocking to anyone paying attention. But people, like Roger L. Simon, are making some interesting observations: Harvey Weinstein Has Destroyed Hollywood -- Now What?

Hollywood’s politics have always been a self-serving charade, a liberal masquerade for a rapacious and lubricious lifestyle. But now, thanks to the Weinstein scandal, we see it more clearly than ever. And it couldn't be more repellent. (I had always thought Bill Clinton would have made the greatest studio executive of all time. Now I'm convinced of it.)

But…


@JonahNRO casts a somewhat wider net: The Harvey Weinstein Scandal Leaves a Trail of Hypocrisy. Specifically, after noting the selective courage of stars who "bravely" spoke out about Trump while giving Weinstein a pass:

So far, many right-wing readers are probably nodding along to this column. Well, stop. If you never spoke up about Trump, or if you responded to those accusations with a dismissive, “What about Bill Clinton?” you should probably just sit this one out.

Because if you decry piggish behavior only when it helps your side, or if you think accusers are telling the truth only when they speak up about people you hate (or don’t need professionally), then you don’t actually care about sexual harassment.

Jonah's right: a lot of folks have forfeited their membership in the Morality Police by looking the other way when members of their political tribe misbehaved.


■ At Reason, Jacob Sullum asks: Does Reproductive Freedom Mean Forcing People to Sin?

Last Friday the Trump administration unveiled regulations that let a wider range of employers claim a religious exemption from the Obamacare mandate requiring health plans to cover birth control. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) responded by invoking The Handmaid's Tale, the Margaret Atwood novel, now a Hulu series, set in a patriarchal dystopia where the government controls women's bodies and forbids them to read, write, or work outside the home.

Lowey is not the only critic of the new regulations who conflates freedom from coercion with a right to forcibly extracted subsidies. Such overwrought reactions obscure the real issue raised by religious exceptions to the contraceptive mandate: When does respect for religious freedom require relieving some people of the obligation to obey rules that everyone else has to follow?

Sullum does a fine job delineating the areas of controversy in a short column.


■ And Gregg Easterbrook, the Tuesday Morning Quarterback, didn't watch the games this week. (He has a good excuse.) But he makes a decent argument as to why we should Ban Youth Football. After summarizing recent research:

Such research suggests a bright line. Organized tackle football before age twelve does engage tremendous neurological risk; but don’t start football until middle school and the sport’s neurological hazards are roughly the same as those associated with soccer, diving, and bicycling. Maybe someday soccer, diving, bicycling, and football all will be banned as too dangerous. Based on what’s known today, football is not notably more dangerous—so long as you don’t start until middle school age.

If youth tackle football were abolished by legislation—or if parents and guardians refused to allow young children to join full-pads leagues and endure helmet-to-helmet hits—the societal harm caused by football would decline dramatically.

I find Easterbrook's argument pretty convincing, but see what you think.

URLs du Jour

2017-10-10

Proverbs 20:22 cautions about retaliation:

22 Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!”
    Wait for the Lord, and he will avenge you.

I wonder if Marco Rubio has ever tweeted this Proverb, and I wonder if he's implicitly aimed it at a certain incumbent President?


■ A belated second-Monday-in-October item from Michael Graham in the Federalist: Why ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Day’ Is Far Worse Than Columbus Day. It's especially aimed at people who equate Columbus with imperialistic genocidal evil, while ignoring…

When thinking of pre-Columbian America, forget what you’ve seen in the Disney movies. Think “slavery, cannibalism and mass human sacrifice.” From the Aztecs to the Iroquois, that was life among the indigenous peoples before Columbus arrived.

For all the talk from the angry and indigenous about European slavery, it turns out that pre-Columbian America was virtually one huge slave camp. According to “Slavery and Native Americans in British North America and the United States: 1600 to 1865,” by Tony Seybert, “Most Native American tribal groups practiced some form of slavery before the European introduction of African slavery into North America.”

Could it possibly be that the anti-Columbus people don't get the same frisson of self-righteousness in contemplating history through a non-Zinnian lens?

But let's offer equal time to Reason's Nick Gillespie, who's against Depicting Native Americans as Bloodthirsty Savages on Columbus Day.

One of the hallmarks of culture wars is that everything must be reduced to a Manichean struggle of good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, left vs. right, you name it vs. you dread it. […] The only way to win at this game is not to play it. Demand a different and better conversation about politics, culture, and ideas, one in which simply mocking and shouting down other people and perspectives isn't the be-all and end-all.

I understand his point here. It's not that Native Americans weren't bloodthirsty savages (they were). It's not that Columbus's journeys didn't start a long string of violence and injustices aimed at Native Americans (they did). It's that posturing about that stuff today is childlishly divisive and unproductive.

I'll try to do better, Nick.


■ A short post from Michael Huemer (via Bryan Caplan) on: What's Killing Us? He observes (a) the leading causes of death in the US, and (b) the fact that political activism/discourse is entirely aimed at things way down on the list.

Hypothesis: We don't much care about the good of society. Refinement: Love of the social good is not the main motivation for (i) political action, and (ii) political discourse. We don't talk about what's good for society because we want to help our fellow humans. We talk about society because we want to align ourselves with a chosen group, to signal that alignment to others, and to tell a story about who we are. There are AIDS activists because there are people who want to express sympathy for gays, to align themselves against conservatives, and thereby to express "who they are". There are no nephritis activists, because there's no salient group you align yourself with (kidney disease sufferers?) by advocating for nephritis research, there's no group you thereby align yourself *against*, and you don't tell any story about what kind of person you are.

There's a lot of wisdom in what Huemer says here.


■ But we got a lot of LFOD action to report. Even some from overseas, like the Guardian, which provides Guardian readers' views on gun control. For example, "David" from North Carolina:

I am sorry to hear about tragic shooting incidents like the one in Las Vegas, but restricting gun rights from the vast majority people who use them properly is not just and is not the answer. We live in a country which was founded on the precept that individual liberty is more important than the collective good – “give me liberty or give me death”, “live free or die”. While tragic, incidents like Las Vegas are the price we pay for individual liberty. Proposed gun restrictions might actually reduce these violent incidents, but at what price?

There are other views as well. Should you need to hear them one more time.


■ My local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, prints a weekly feature from Ron Cole entitled Dover Doin’s. This week, he discussed a recent visit to our state by a delegation from Kyrgyzstan:

Guess what was one of their favorite things about the Granite State? Our motto. One of the fellas on his way to the airport commented that after interacting with so many New Hampshire residents, he really appreciated how we epitomized, “Live Free or Die.”

For the record, Freedom House rates Kyrgyzstan as "partly free"; the Heritage Foundation ranks it, economic-freedomwise, as "moderately free"


■ The Concord Monitor bemoans: In New Hampshire, suicide stressors are abundant. And chief among them are those four little words on the license plates:

When it comes to suicide, New Hampshire’s “Live Free or Die” attitude may not be helping.

“There’s this mentality that, ‘Hey, I’m not going to ask for help. I can do this myself. And if I can’t, I’m just not going to get someone else involved,’ ” Elaine de Mello, Training and Services Manager of the Connect Suicide Prevention Project, said. “It’s this sense of privacy, like, ‘I don’t want to make a mountain out of a molehill.’ A struggling person doesn’t know what to do, so they don’t do anything.”

It's expected that some legislator will propose changing the license plate wording from "LIVE FREE OR DIE" to "PLEASE DON'T KILL YOURSELF".

The CDC puts New Hampshire's (2014) suicide rate at 17.8 per 100K. That puts us (by my count) behind 14 other states. Vermont edges us out with an 18.7 rate; what's their excuse?


■ New Hampshire Rep. Marjorie Porter, D-Hillsborough takes to the "New Hampshire Center for Public Interest Journalism" website to advocate Time To Make The Laws, But Please Kill Private School Voucher Bill.

I am always amused by the number of new laws legislators in the Live Free or Die state feel are necessary. One colleague from across the aisle has filed thirty-two, all by himself! So much for smaller government.

Well, Marjorie, it depends on what the bills do, right?

[And I, for one, am always amused at those people who claim to be "always amused" when it's pretty clear they aren't even slightly amused, let alone "always".]

Marjorie's gripe is with SB193, which she calls "the private school voucher bill". Its actual title is Establishing education freedom savings accounts for students. It would funnel state funds to said "accounts", which then could be used to pay for private, or home, schooling.

One potential roadblock is NH's Blaine Amendment, an anti-Catholic measure added to the Constitution in 1877.


■ And LFOD made it to the Irish Independent, in a travel article by Deirdre Conroy: Living free in New Hampshire: A road (and ski) trip to remember.

'Live Free or Die' is the motto on every New Hampshire licence plate - a declaration originally made about the American Revolution by General John Stark. I was inclined to just 'Live and Drive Carefully' - but, even so, was pulled over by a state trooper when just 5mph over the limit. I was sent on my way after a full Homeland Security check. "You keep warm, ma'am."

Ah, another possible license plate replacement for LFOD: "KEEP WARM".


Last Modified 2017-10-11 7:18 AM EDT

UNH Lecturer Speaks Untruth to the Unpowerful

This is another post "inspired" by an article in a recent issue of The New Hampshire, the student newspaper at the University Near Here. (If you weren't with us yesterday, the first post is here.)

The article in question is at the bottom of page one, by Jordyn Haime ("Staff Writer"), headlined "Community interprets First Amendment rights". It starts by recapping a recent outrage:

A video of UNH’s Alpha Phi chapter singing the n-word in Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” went viral in September, sparking a campus-wide conversation around First Amendment rights and freedom of speech.

After the video was posted on the “All Eyes on UNH” Facebook page on Sept. 19, Dean of Students Ted Kirkpatrick sent an email to the student body condemning the use of the word and stated that the university was investigating the matter.

We discussed the imbroglio here a few weeks back. The article relates the abrupt about-face regarding the Dean-promised "investigation":

In a follow-up email on Sept. 21, Kirkpatrick corrected that assertion, stating that “this is a matter of common decency, not law,” and that the sorority was not under investigation by the university. The email also included an apology letter from Alpha Phi chapter president, Megan Shields.

“The University of New Hampshire remains fully committed to the First Amendment,” Kirkpatrick wrote.

Cooler heads eventually prevailed, in other words, probably after some panicked legal advice was offered. But it's still grimly amusing that Dean Kirkpatrick's first reaction to students singing a Grammy-winning song was to threaten an "investigation".

But that was weeks ago. Let's move on, because it gets worse:

The First Amendment of the Constitution grants citizens the freedom to exercise religion and free speech. However, no right is absolute, and every right comes with responsibilities, says Kathy Kiely, a UNH lecturer in journalism.

"No right is absolute" is a trite truism. But the limits on Constitution-protected speech are known relatively well. I recommend the First Amendment Library at the website of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), or the First Amendment FAQ at the website of the Newseum Institute.

Beyond that, Kiely is clearly out of her Constutional depth. "Every right comes with responsibilities" is meaningless, vapid claptrap. It's a bromide tossed out exclusively by people who want the power to erode your rights. (I suppose they think the alliteration makes it seem profound. Like "trite truism".)

But Kiely has more, by which I mean "even worse":

“As a journalist, I’ve never felt I have the right to say whatever I want just because I have First Amendment protections,” Kiely said. “The right to speak truth to power doesn’t give us all a license to be ignorant and hurtful.”

Sorry, Ms. Kiely: the First Amendment does grant journalists—and everyone else, for that matter—a legal right to be "ignorant and hurtful". You can say just about any stupid or insulting thing you want in a newspaper, a magazine, on a soapbox in the town square—or, ahem, your blog—and you will not get in legal trouble for it. (Within the well-defined limits mentioned by the references above: libel, kiddy porn, blackmail, etc.)

[Update: I said "grant" above. That's not right. The FA recognizes and protects rights; it does not "grant" them. Sorry.]

It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: I think being "ignorant and hurtful" is a bad idea, and you shouldn't do it. But, simply said, you have the right to be wrong.

As far as "ignorant and hurtful" goes, it seems that Kathy Kiely is (a) pretty ignorant about Constitutional law, and it is (b) sort of hurtful (at least to my sensibilities) that she's in a position to spread her ignorance to UNH students. Her smug reference to "speak[ing] truth to power" is especially galling when she hasn't even got the "speaking truth" part down pat yet.

[Smugness is a theme with Ms. Kiely. Her UNH profile quotes: "My goal as a journalism teacher is very modest — to save civilization as we know it." Eeesh.]

And she keeps going downhill, because it's a slippery slope:

Our system of government also operates on check and balances, Kiely points out, and the 14th Amendment grants that citizens may not be deprived of “life, liberty or property without due process of law.” Hate speech is speech that might deprive others of that right, she says.

If Kiely had been paying attention back in high school, she might have remembered that "checks and balances" refers to the delegation of power among branches of government, not the exercise of rights. And the relevance of the Fourteenth Amendment is actually that it expands the First's "Congress shall make no law" language and extends it to (specifically) public universities. Like UNH.

Kiely either didn't know this, or didn't mention it to the reporter. Which is worse?

But in addition to that illiteracy, Kiely's "hate speech" assertion is simply wrong. As law professor Eugene Volokh has said: There’s no “hate speech” exception to the First Amendment.

“I would just ask the free-speech-at-all-cost advocates to consider how they might feel if it were their life and their liberty in the balance,” Kiely said.

Well, it's all about how you feel, isn't it?

I would just ask Ms. Kiely: what would she think—not "feel"—would be the disadvantages of having UNH administrators hold sway over the academic careers of lowly students who run afoul of the Speech Policers. For extra credit: identify the "power imbalances". And then "speak truth to power".


Last Modified 2017-10-11 7:23 AM EDT

It

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

A horror movie based on an old Stephen King novel. It's got high production values and excellent special effects. But…

It's set in the largish Maine town of Derry, sometime in the late 1980s. As it turns out, the town has been cursed by periodic appearances of the evil clown Pennywise, who's especially fond of luring young people to their doom. The townspeople mostly live in fear/denial of this unfortunate happenstance.

But this time he's up against a group of young "losers". The leader is a stammering kid who's lost his kid brother to Pennywise. There's a black kid, a Jewish kid, a kid who's too smart-alecky for his own good, a fat kid, an asthmatic, and a girl who's been branded a slut.

Gosh, this sounds a lot like Stranger Things, doesn't it? Even though I know that it was Stranger Things ripping off paying homage to Stephen King, my movie-brain kept seeing the causality go the other way. And I also couldn't help but notice how manipulative the whole lovable-losers-vs-evil schtick was.

Still, a decent yarn. Along the way, there's a lot of grossness, scariness, occasional humor. It's long, and (I assume) they didn't want to make it longer by spelling out where Pennywise came from, the nature of his relationship with the town [it's pretty clear that some adults are at least semi-complicit], nor [semi-spoiler] what happened to all those kids at the end, or what the red balloons mean.

UNH Working On Its Next Policy Embarrassment

Censorship Causes Blindness: READ!

Although Mrs. Salad and I have both retired from the University Near Here, we still get into campus now and then. On a recent trip I picked up the October 5 issue of the student newspaper, which can sometimes be entertaining, in an infuriating way. And there was a considerable amount of that in the issue.

The lead article on page 1, "UNH drafts social media standards", describes an effort to craft additions to the student rulebook relevant to Facebook, Twitter, et. al. We're informed that a draft policy exists, it was submitted to the Student Senate", and a final version "is expected to be available within the next few weeks."

But as near as I can tell, the draft isn't available for mere mortals to view. One of the drafters, Charles Putnam ("Clinical Professor of Justice Studies and Co-Director of Justiceworks"), provided a needle-threading description:

The policy articulates guidelines the university encourages students to follow on social media. Within the document are policies that, without breaching the First Amendment rights of students, hold students accountable for what they post on social media. Finally, there is a procedure that outlines what happens if faculty, staff, or students bring evidence of violations of the policy to the administration, according to Putnam.

Despite the First Amendment genuflection, I can only read this to mean that UNH is looking for additional ways to punish students for "violations" that the local chapter of the Red Guards fellow members of the UNH community decide to report to the authorities. And they will be held "accountable", which is a euphemism for "punished".

But the draft needs work, according to some. For example, student Elena Ryan ("Community Development Chairperson" for the Student Senate):

At its current state, Ryan believes the draft needs more explicit guidelines and procedures before it can become policy. Specifically, it needs to, “mention racism and other forms of discrimination,” Ryan said. “The policy right now is basically just encouraging students to be respectful and that’s not enough.”

"Not enough." Clearly, Elena wants UNH to have more power to punish students who post content she deems to be racist (or, vaguely, exhibit "other forms of discrimination").

Also on the "not enough" side is Jhenneffer [sic] Marcal (chair of the "Diversity Support Coalition"):

“It needs a lot of work,” Marcal said, due to the general wording of the clause and the possibility of loopholes. “When you talk about career development, we always talk about how you present yourself through social media is very impactful on your future, so why wouldn’t an institution such as UNH have a policy that would hold students accountable?” Marcal said.

"Loopholes" no doubt refers to those pesky First Amendment issues. But note the non sequitur at the end. Yes, your future prospective employers may look at the stupid, drunken, offensive posts you made to Facebook when you were in college and decide to file your résumé in the nearest wastebasket.

But what does that imply for UNH? Nothing. UNH has First Amendment obligations that don't apply to private employers. Jhenneffer either doesn't understand this, or she wants to fast-talk her way around this.

Fortunately, there are still some voices of sanity at UNH—even though I'm retired, heh—and (to its credit) the student newspaper reporter tracked down one of them, Dan Innis ("Chair of the Faculty Senate and Professor of Hospitality Management and Marketing"):

“I’m opposed to a social media policy. I’m not opposed to social media suggestions, but I am opposed to a social media policy. It’s overregulation,” Innis said. “It’s not enforceable, and secondly, we have no business in that area. To me, it’s speech, and it’s protected by the First Amendment.”

After reading Putnam, Ryan, and Marcal, Innis's straightforward, euphemism-free language is refreshing to hear.

The article refers to a Faculty Senate motion on the subject, passed last month: "on a model of mutual respect". I really like this paragraph:

An environment of mutual trust and respect is necessary if an institution seeks to act with integrity. They are prerequisites for open communication and honest dialogue about the values, goals and expectations held by the institution and its members. Trust and respect require freedom of expression without fear of retribution, institutional or otherwise. Respect for the diversity of persons, ideas and choices differing from one's own strengthens and supports the culture of the university. Establishing and supporting a diverse community encourages discovery and creativity. Both respect for individuals and respect for institutional values involves balancing the claims of personal autonomy with the goals and mission of the institution. All members need to be alert to prevent the power structure of the classroom and the university as a whole from suppressing beliefs and practices. If trust should break down, we need to explore the reasons for the breakdown and identify ways for the community to rebuild trust among its members.

Corollary: It is not a sign of "respect" to have a student brought up on charges before an academic Star Chamber because they tweeted something that hurt your feelings.

There's another article in the newspaper just below this one that I might rant on as well… Maybe tomorrow, for Columbus Day Indigenous People’s Day.

URLs du Jour

2017-10-07

Proverbs 20:21 (I think) discourages mooching off Mom and Dad until they're safely pushing up daisies:

21 An inheritance claimed too soon
    will not be blessed at the end.

… on the other hand, it might be a smart way to avoid death taxes.

No, I don't know what the story is with that little Asian girl in our image du jour. She came up when I searched Getty Images for "inheritance", and she was too cute to pass over. You're welcome.


■ Meredith Dake-O'Connor, at the Federalist speaks to her gun-grabbing buddies, listing 6 Reasons Your Right-Wing Friend Isn’t Coming To Your Side On Gun Control.

So many gun control advocates are begging for a conversation on this issue, and it’s unfortunate they don’t see the Second Amendment advocates as willing to engage. I find it hard to have an honest and vulnerable conversation about a deeply held right when the starting point is often challenging my motives while coming from a place of ignorance on firearms. If you’re really looking to win over your gun-loving friend, try reading up on firearms, dumping anti-NRA talking points, and assume her or she is equally committed to preventing these evil acts.

As always, when a Progressive demands a "conversation", the underlying subtext is invariably: "shut up and listen to me hector you."


■ At Reason, Peter Suderman notes the big problem with "tax reform": Republicans Want to Cut Taxes, But Not the Size of Government.

The Republican party, in other words, has chosen to deal with the fiscal consequences of its tax policies by pretending those consequences do not exist. The GOP's mistaken yet persistent belief in the overwhelming power of dynamic effects is politically convenient. But their stubborn fantasy presents a barrier to more stable fiscal policy, to a more streamlined tax code, and to more effective limits on government, because it hides the cost from view. It turns out that what Republicans really want is to cut taxes, but not the size of government.

The GOP proposal offered some good ideas (eliminate state/local tax deductions, kill the death tax) but it's those good ideas that seem most likely to be sacrificed to come up with a deal.


@JonahNRO's G-File this week discusses the latest attempt to rehabilitate socialism/communism: Red Dawn at the New York Times.

The Times has been running a series on Communism called “The Red Century.” It’s really, really weird. At times, it feels like the greatest high-brow trolling effort in recorded history. Some of the headlines read like they were plucked from the reject pile at The Onion. I particularly enjoyed “Why Women Had Better Sex Under Socialism.” One wonders what all the women who had to service their prison guards for a crust of bread would think about that. With the exception of one essay by Harvey Klehr, the upshot seems to be an effort to rehabilitate Communism for a certain kind of New York Times liberal who desperately needs to cling to the belief that he was on the right side of an argument he lost.

It isn't too surprising from the rag that employed Walter Duranty and Herbert Matthews.


■ One of my lefty Facebook friends has been mulling that Puerto Ricans should be encouraged to move to Florida and turn it Democrat. Megan McArdle notes that won't do PR much good: Debt Alone Won't Crush Puerto Rico. Depopulation Is the Curse. The woes are many-factored, but here's one thing:

[PR's unfunded pension liabilities] will only grow, because the biggest problem of all is Puerto Rico’s rapid demographic decline. There has long been a steady migration from Puerto Rico to the mainland. By 2008, there were more Puerto Ricans in the rest of the U.S. than there were in Puerto Rico. But the economic crisis has accelerated that flow to staggering levels. Worse still, the flow is selective: young families, professionals and skilled workers migrate in search of better opportunity, while the old and the dependent stay home. In just one year, 2014, almost 3.5 percent of the young adult population migrated.

So I suppose where you stand on this depends on how much you value the health of your political tribe with the economic well-being of an American territory. (But, honestly, PR sounds like an economic disaster no matter what.)


■ And finally, the Google LFOD alert was set off by (of all places) an article in the Arab American News Muslims March Against Injustice in Dearborn.

Many participants held signs that said "Labayka ya Hussein" (I'm at your service, Oh Hussain) and one of the imam's central messages, "Live free or die with dignity."

"Huss(a|e)in" refers to Husayn ibn Ali (Wikipedia spelling) who lived from 625-680; if he really did say that as claimed, it would considerably predate our General Stark. (We won't quibble with the "with dignity" add-on; if you're giving up your life for your liberty, your dignity is strongly implied.)


Last Modified 2017-10-08 5:01 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-10-06

Second Amendment Rally handmade
sign

Proverbs 20:20 doubles down on that Fourth Commandment (Lutheran Numbering):

20 If someone curses their father or mother,
    their lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness.

… and Mom and Dad will probably be there to light it for you again. That's what they do.


■ A lot of things are predictable following a mass shooting, and one of them is the claim that the NRA spends an unusual amount of money to keep pols in their back pocket. @JonahNRO dubunks that: Politicians and Guns: Follow the Votes, Not the Money.

Oh, it’s certainly the case that the NRA and related groups have given a good amount of money to Republican politicians (and quite a few Democrats) over the years. But in the grubby bazaar of politician-buying, the NRA is a bit player.

Consider that $3.5 million in donations over nearly 20 years the Washington Post made such a fuss about. According to Opensecrets.org, the legal profession contributed $207 million to politicians in 2016 alone. Fahr LLC, the outfit that oversees the political and philanthropic efforts of billionaire anti-global-warming activist Tom Steyer, gave $90 million (all to Democrats) in 2016.

We talked about this yesterday too; I guess the issue strikes a chord for me. Yesterday, I claimed "ideological bias" was the cause of the differential treatment of the NRA vs. "Progressive" organizations doing comparable things. Jonah is more specific:

Part of the problem, I think, is that people who hate guns and gun rights cannot believe that people disagree with them in good faith. There must be evil motives, chiefly greed, that explain everything.

I think that's on the right track. For all the Progressive disdain for "moralism" and "hate", they are (a) pretty moralistic themselves, and (b) their hatred is all the worse for their being unaware of it.


■ Elizabeth Nolan Brown (writing at Reason) relates a sad but predictable story: My Alma Mater American University Cancelled My Title IX 'Hate Speech' Panel.

Last night I was supposed to participate in a panel at my alma mater, American University, on feminism, free speech, and Title IX. My co-panelists were to include a former president of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the current head of a group that fights for students' rights, and two staffers from the British website spiked—not what you might think would be a controversial lineup. But in the days leading up to the event, the AU chapter of American Association of University Women organized a campaign to "Keep Our Campus Safe," describing the panel as "hate speech" and "violence" designed to undermine "decades of work... to make campuses safer for victims of sexual violence."

To adapt a Monty Python quote, the AAUW was not only proud of getting the event killed, they were smug about it:

We are STOKED to announce that the Unsafe Space Tour has been canceled at AU! In their words, they,“got word of...

Posted by American Association of University Women at AU on Thursday, September 28, 2017

University Women … being married to one, I better not say much more. I don't want to put myself in an Unsafe Space.


■ Tyler Cowen has sobering words for the GOP tax-cutters: Today's Tax Cuts Are Tomorrow's Tax Increases.

For all the analyses of President Donald Trump’s tax plan, one big factor is missing for a final assessment. Once we’ve lost some revenue, which taxes will need to rise in the future? In other words, the plan is really a (less glorious) tax shift rather than a tax cut.

In the absence of spending cuts, government spending has to be paid for by someone at sometime. Tyler is not optimistic that the results from travelling down the GOP's proposed road will be rosy.


■ At City Journal, Theodore Dalrymple hits an Orwellian (as in "Politics and the English Language") theme: The Devil’s in the Diction.

Some words in the press are used not only for purposes of shorthand but also as Pavlovian bells to get the ideological saliva running. They have only to be printed or uttered for thought to cease, and since thought is often painful and poses the danger of arriving at unwanted conclusions, such words offer protection against such pain and discomfort. Among them, for certain people, especially in Europe, are poverty, liberalism and austerity (the list is far from exhaustive).

"Liberalism" means something different in the Old World than the New. It would be nice if we could get that word back again.


■ The Google LFOD alert rang for an article in Crux, a Catholic news site: New Hampshire front at Rome’s child safety summit: ‘We can do something!’

New Hampshire is the lone state among the original 13 American colonies in which no Revolutionary War battle was fought, but militias from the “Live Free or Die” state did play key roles in several turning points in the struggle for independence, including helping the Continental Army win the Battle of Saratoga.

To be honest, the LFOD invocation doesn't do much here; the sentence reads just fine without it.

I guess the raid on Fort William and Mary doesn't count as a Revolutionary War battle, but that's OK.

Oh, and if you want to read about the child safety stuff, click on over.

URLs du Jour

2017-10-05

Gossip

Proverbs 20:19 offers a stern warning:

19 A gossip betrays a confidence;
    so avoid anyone who talks too much.

In these days of modern times, I wonder if the Proverbialist would add "… or who blogs too much."

Consumer note: searching Flickr for "gossip" brings up a bunch of pictures of women, many in attire inappropriate for work. Why is that?

Also, it tells me that I can see more gossip photos when I "Sign up with Yahoo". Yeah, no thanks, Flickr. Because Every single Yahoo account was hacked - 3 billion in all.


■ Robby Soave at Reason notes the latest college hijinx: Black Lives Matter Students Shut Down the ACLU's Campus Free Speech Event Because 'Liberalism Is White Supremacy'.

Students affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement crashed an event at the College of William & Mary, rushed the stage, and prevented the invited guest—the American Civil Liberties Union's Claire Gastañaga, a W & M alum—from speaking.

Coming soon to a university near you, I guess.

Another William & Mary alum was Jerry Robinson. Which led to one of the funniest sitcom episodes… Oh, heck, I'll just embed; skip ahead to about 11:45 if you'd like to get to the W & M content quickly:


■ One of the longest books ever written, in theory: What the Left Misunderstands. And at NRO, David French has written a short chapter therein: The Left Misunderstands the Power of the NRA. He notes the reflexive blaming of the NRA whenever "gun control" fails to win sufficient support to pass.

Journalists often treat the NRA differently from every other consequential activist group in the United States. Yes, they recognize that liberal groups like the National Education Association and Planned Parenthood are important, but they do not treat progressive politicians as those organizations’ puppets. Instead, they do the accurate thing: They cast progressive politicians and progressive organizations as part and parcel of a larger progressive community that shares certain ideas and values and speaks for tens of millions of American citizens.

Why not treat the NRA in the same way?

To ask the question is almost to answer it: the ideological bias of "journalists".


■ A related, impressive, WaPo op-ed from Leah Libresco: I used to think gun control was the answer. My research told me otherwise.

Before I started researching gun deaths, gun-control policy used to frustrate me. I wished the National Rifle Association would stop blocking common-sense gun-control reforms such as banning assault weapons, restricting silencers, shrinking magazine sizes and all the other measures that could make guns less deadly.

Then, my colleagues and I at FiveThirtyEight spent three months analyzing all 33,000 lives ended by guns each year in the United States, and I wound up frustrated in a whole new way. We looked at what interventions might have saved those people, and the case for the policies I’d lobbied for crumbled when I examined the evidence. The best ideas left standing were narrowly tailored interventions to protect subtypes of potential victims, not broad attempts to limit the lethality of guns.

A good debunking of progressive shibboleths on gun control. Ms. Libresco is identified as the author of the book Arriving at Amen, which chronicles her journey from Atheism to Catholicism. Which also sounds interesting.


■ And more Adventures in Professional Journalism: Politico Magazine Adds Massive Correction to Op-Ed Blaming Koch Brothers for Puerto Rico Crisis.

A recent Politico Magazine op-ed arguing that the Koch brothers were responsible for the condition of Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria was corrected after publication to admit there was no evidence that was the case.

The correction is pretty awesome:

Corrections: An earlier version of this article stated that associates of the Koch brothers proposed and lobbied Congress to pass the law establishing Puerto Rico's fiscal control board. There is no evidence of any Koch involvement in the passage of the law. An earlier version of this article also stated that the fiscal control board had reduced the minimum wage in Puerto Rico to 4 dollars an hour. The board did not lower the minimum wage, the governor did. And the governor raised it this year. An earlier version of this article stated that the U.S. Congress imposed austerity measures on Puerto Rico. The fiscal control board established by Congress instructed the commonwealth to work towards balancing its budget. The governor decided what cuts to make.

The op-ed's author does (however) make at least one good point: the 1920 Jones Act has been strangling the Puerto Rican economy for decades.


Last Modified 2017-10-05 12:03 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2017-10-04

Proverbs 20:18 goes all Sun Tzu on us:

18 Plans are established by seeking advice;
    so if you wage war, obtain guidance.

"… maybe you should read The Art of War, for example. The Kindle version is free at Amazon!"


■ Charles C. W. Cooke has An Open Rant Aimed at Those Who Would Repeal the Second Amendment. Or, more specifically, those who say they want to:

That being so, here’s the million-dollar question: What the hell are they waiting for? Go on, chaps. Bloody well do it.

Seriously, try it. Start the process. Stop whining about it on Twitter, and on HBO, and at the Daily Kos. Stop playing with some Thomas Jefferson quote you found on Google. Stop jumping on the news cycle and watching the retweets and viral shares rack up. Go out there and begin the movement in earnest. Don’t fall back on excuses. Don’t play cheap motte-and-bailey games. And don’t pretend that you’re okay with the Second Amendment in theory, but you’re just appalled by the Heller decision. You’re not. Heller recognized what was obvious to the amendment’s drafters, to the people who debated it, and to the jurists of their era and beyond: That “right of the people” means “right of the people,” as it does everywhere else in both the Bill of Rights and in the common law that preceded it. A Second Amendment without the supposedly pernicious Heller “interpretation” wouldn’t be any impediment to regulation at all. It would be a dead letter. It would be an effective repeal. It would be the end of the right itself. In other words, it would be exactly what you want! Man up. Put together a plan, and take those words out of the Constitution.

Mr. Cooke wrote that in 2015.


@kevinNR makes a related point: It’s Time to Do Nothing about Guns.

As the White Rabbit said: “Don’t just do something — stand there.”

In a podcast the day after the massacre in Las Vegas, Michael Graham asked me what supporters of the Second Amendment ought to do in reaction to such horrifying events. My answer at the time was: nothing. And nothing that has transpired since then has shown me cause to modify that position. It is in the nature of reactionaries to react, but very often the right course of action is inaction.

To my friend Michael, that’s cold-fish stuff. What’s needed, he argued, is passion: an emotional discharge in the service of a proactive agenda. While bookish types such as myself are mustering evidence and reason behind a dispassionate analysis of the facts, he argued, the gun-grabbers and other demagogues are getting the rubes all riled up (I am rephrasing) to do . . . something. “We have to do something!” he insisted.

Well, no. Kevin explains why not.


■ Also check out Jacob Sullum at Reason, who notes, correctly: A Massacre Is Not an Argument.

The morning after a gunman murdered nearly 60 people in Las Vegas, Hillary Clinton tweeted that "we can and must put politics aside, stand up to the NRA, and work together to try to stop this from happening again." The former Democratic presidential nominee's commitment to putting politics aside was gone in an instant, and her implicit claim that she knows how to "stop this from happening again" was equally empty.

There's a grim amusement in noting that the Woman Who Came Too Close to the Presidency can't even keep from contradicting herself within the space of a short tweet.


■ As usual, Gregg Easterbrook's TMQ column this week has interesting non-football content, but I liked this too:

That the Star Spangled Banner Concerns War Between the United States and England Never Comes Up When the Song Is Sung at London NFL Games. Before the London game, three Miami players knelt during the National Anthem but stood for God Save the Queen. Britain was highly active in the slave trade in North America and the Caribbean, yet somehow now is due respect that African-American players deny to the United States. At least this stanza of God Save the Queen was not performed: “Scatter [the Queen’s] enemies and make them fall / Confound their politics, frustrate their knavish tricks.”

Good luck making sense out of NFL players' pre-kickoff acrobatics.


■ And our Google LFOD alert was triggered by a Free Keene article: Shielded ZCash Transaction at NH Retail Store.

A customer purchased a “Live Free or Die” wood plaque and a “Legalize Gay Marijuana” bumper sticker at the Free State Bitcoin Shoppe in Portsmouth, New Hampshire using an encrypted digital currency called ZCash.

"Legalize Gay Marijuana". Heh.

Uncompensated link: the Free State Bitcoin Shoppe. They're hardcore.

The Unlikely Spy

[Amazon Link]

Spurred by a John J. Miller article at National Review, I picked up a Kindle version of Daniel Silva's first novel for the unlikely price of $1.99! (Nowadays it goes for $4.99, which is still a pretty good deal.)

It's a World War 2 spy thriller, centered around one of the war's big secrets: where the Allies planned to invade France in 1944. The Germans are deeply (and correctly) suspicious of the quality of information they're getting from their existing spy network, so they activate one of their sleeper agents, "Catherine", a deadly and beautiful woman working as a nurse. She targets a young widower American engineer; he's been recruited to work on massive concrete structures, the Mulberry artificial harbors. The Nazis don't know what they're for, but if they figure it out, it could be an important clue, leading to the defeat of the invasion.

The "Unlikely Spy" is history professor Alfred Vicary, personally recruited by Churchill to ferret out agents like Catherine. What ensues is a cat-vs-rat thriller, eventually resulting in a high-seas shootout. Lots of violence, some sex, and a twisty ending you might not see coming. (I detected that there would be a twist, but didn't know what it was.)

There's an interesting mix of real characters (Churchill, Hitler, Himmler, Canaris) underlying the fiction. Much of the subtrefuge related in the book actually happened, too. (For example, Patton's First United States Army Group and MI5's Double-Cross System.) The fictional characters are well-crafted, even the Nazis are recognizably human. Well, except for Hitler and Himmler. Understandably.

Yes, we know how it comes out. Allies win. This doesn't detract from the book, it's still a fine page-turner (or screen-swiper).

URLs du Jour

2017-10-03

Proverbs 20:17 is pretty good:

17 Food gained by fraud tastes sweet,
    but one ends up with a mouth full of gravel.

I would hope so.


■ Another day, another horror, another round of predictable knees jerking. Brian Doherty at Reason asks: How Could Anyone Deny the Need for Tougher and More Stringently Enforced Gun Laws in the Wake of the Vegas Slaughter?

To resist an instant call to more or tougher gun laws or enforcement in the wake of terrors like Vegas, you need to understand it is not only that existing laws and regulations will not reliably prevent such crimes as long as guns exist. All the new or expanded national gun control laws advocated as sensible and necessary would have had no effect on horrible crimes such as occurred in Las Vegas last night, even if perfectly enforced, as Jacob Sullum explained at Reason earlier today. (Nor, it seems to me, would wider skilled civilian possession of guns likely done much good in this particular scenario. Hard as it is to admit, some tragedies are not meaningfully preventable.)

This is grown-up thinking. Here's the opposite, from my own CongressCritter, Carol Shea-Porter:

"Something".


■ George F. Will asks: Is the Supreme Court about to plunge into a political thicket?

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments tempting it to plunge into an impenetrable political thicket. It will consider a lower court’s ruling that, if allowed to stand, will require the judiciary to determine whether and when partisanship in drawing electoral districts — something as old as the Constitution — is unconstitutional. And courts will wrestle repeatedly with cases requiring them to decide how to decide how much partisanship is too much.

Gee, that sounds like a swell idea. Once again, I recommend my own crackpot idea to obviate gerrymandering.


■ Tom Petty died, and that's sad, especially since he was only a few months older than I am. But Monty Hall also passed away, and that got me thinking about the Monty Hall problem, Marilyn vos Savant, and how many smart people made fools of themselves: The Time Everyone “Corrected” the World’s Smartest Woman.

Despite its deceptive simplicity, some of the world’s brightest minds -- MIT professors, renowned mathematicians, and MacArthur “Genius” Fellows -- have had trouble grasping [the Monty Hall problem's] answer. For decades, it has sparked intense debates in classrooms and lecture halls.

As one of the experts quoted says: "Our brains are just not wired to do probability problems very well."


■ This is Pun Salad, and Halloween is a'coming, so we would be remiss if we did not point you to 26 Punny Halloween Costume Ideas From a Pun Champion. All guaranteed to induce moans. For example:

13. Wear a sign that says Route 666. When people point out the extra 6 as a mistake, correct them by saying “No, I’m the Route of All Evil.”

I'll be dressed as usual: small-town homeowner wishing he had a moat.


■ And your tweet du jour:

URLs du Jour

2017-10-02

The Lion of Judah

■ Trying to understand the scenario underlying Proverbs 20:16:

16 Take the garment of one who puts up security for a stranger;
    hold it in pledge if it is done for an outsider.

Nope, not getting much besides a general warning about loans made to people you don't know.

Interestingly, King James renders the NIV's "outsider" as "a strange woman." That offers up additional possibilities for interpretation.


■ Sheldon Richman, writing at Reason, has a bold proposal: By All Means, Let's Take Politics Out of Sports—Starting With the National Anthem. He's pretty hardcore:

Sacralization of the flag and uniform—and the anger directed at even mild dissent—are further demonstrations that, contrary to popular myth, church and state in this country have not been separated. They have been fused. The church is the state, and the state is the church. That's where nationalism takes you.

If you look at it without preconceptions, it's pretty odd that we do the National Anthem thing before sports events, but mostly not in other entertainment venues: movies, plays, concerts. (Although I do remember that back when TV stations went dark at night, they usually did something patriotic.)


■ Frederick M. Hess and Grant Addison relate, at NRO: Betsy DeVos vs. the Mindless Mob at Harvard. She gave a pretty good speech, and a fraction of the crowd did their distracting best to try to get people not to listen.

Little of what DeVos said, however, seemed to matter to her “academic” audience, a large swath of which seemed more concerned with its antics than with listening — much less with engaging in any semblance of scholarly give and take. Students stood, raising fists and holding banners reading “White Supremacist” and “Our Students Are Not 4 Sale!” Perhaps fearing that their ratty signage had proven insufficient, as DeVos exited the stage, students chanted, “What does white supremacy look like? That’s what white supremacy looks like!”

Well, at least she wasn't drowned out, and nobody got hurt.


Power Line's Steven Hayward wonders: A Reckoning for Silicon Valley Coming? He keys off of Google's meek acceptance of a Spanish court demanding that they delete an application that Catalan independence supporters were using to spread information about an independence referendum.

Beyond this instance, we know that Google, Apple, and other Silicon Valley tech giants are utterly supine in the face of demands for their cooperation with heavy government censorship especially in China. It is curious that Google and Apple, so confident in their pronouncements about How Things Should Be in America (example: Apple CEO Tim Cook saying he can’t understand why there is any debate at all about DACA—I guess the rule of law only counts when it’s being used to protect Apple’s intellectual property rights), are so timid when it comes to Chinese demands. Does China really want to eschew what Google has to offer? I can recall when American companies told South Africa that they would not cooperate with Apartheid laws there, and the South African government capitulated rather quickly.

Wouldn't it be nice if some tech giant actually did something to promote liberty, here or abroad, by saying "no" to some government demands?


■ At the NYT Ross Douthat is Speaking Ill of Hugh Hefner.

Hugh Hefner, gone to his reward at the age of 91, was a pornographer and chauvinist who got rich on masturbation, consumerism and the exploitation of women, aged into a leering grotesque in a captain’s hat, and died a pack rat in a decaying manse where porn blared during his pathetic orgies.

Brutal. Probably true.

I started watching an episode of Playboy After Dark once, many years back, and Hef's struggling efforts to appear hip and "with it" were pathetically funny for a few minutes, then just got painful.

Did I have a Playboy collection? Why yes I did. Not proud of it, though.

One from the Heart

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

This movie came out in 1982; I remember saying to myself "Francis Ford Coppola, Teri Garr, how bad could it be?" But I never got around to finding out. It was a box office disaster, gone from theaters in an eyeblink. It was still a few years before VCRs were common, so it slipped through the cracks.

But I noticed that it was streamable via Amazon Prime. And so I decided to give it a try. And I can see why some people hated it back then. It wasn't like anything else: a simple story buried in quirkiness and garishness. (Since then, Baz Luhrmann has taken over this creative space, I think.) More to the point, it wasn't like the four previous movies Coppola directed, which were: (1) The Godfather; (2) The Conversation; (3) The Godfather: Part II; and (4) Apocalypse Now. Whoa.

Anyway, it's about Hank (Frederic Forrest) and Frannie (Teri Garr), who have been living together in Las Vegas for years, but can't seem to reconcile their differences: she's looking to be carried off on romantic getaways, while he's looking to put down domestic roots. On their Fourth of July anniversary, an argument escalates into Frannie walking out on Hank. ("You stupid bastard, Hank. She looks just like Teri Garr!")

Frannie and Hank find consolation and advice from close friends (Lainie Kazan and Harry Dean Stanton, respectively). And they wind up canoodling with interesting new people (Raul Julia and Nastassja Kinski, respectively). Will they return to each other, or will one or both wind up with another?

The whole movie was shot inside a studio, including a replica of Las Vegas' McCarran Airport - complete with a jetway and jet airliner. Impressive! But maybe also ill-advised, as it led to Coppolla's eventual bankruptcy.

One review I read trashed Teri Garr's dancing. I thought she did fine.

Much of the movie is accompanied by songs sung by Tom Waits and … again, whoa … Crystal Gayle. There's an odd couple for ya, but Ms. Gayle did a fine job singin' with Mr. Waits.

URLs du Jour

2017-10-01

Richard Feynman

■ We've been critical of Proverbial profundity in recent days, but Proverbs 20:15 gets it right:

15 Gold there is, and rubies in abundance,
    but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel.

Only possible criticism is the imagery of disembodied speaking lips. Eek!

[Consumer note: searching for "lips" on image sites doesn't get you a lot of knowledge-speaking lips. So I went with Feynman.]


@kevinNR emits a cheer for A Conservative Tax Hike.

President Donald Trump’s tax-reform plan is in total a very expansive steaming pile of irresponsibility — and the president’s argument that it will lead to sustained 6 percent economic growth is pure fantasy — but it does have one attractive provision: raising taxes on blue-state progressives.

Check it out, but Representative Thomas Massie tweets an executive summary:

Representative Thomas Massie has just leapt to the top of the list of People Who I Wish Were My Congressperson Instead Of Carol Shea-Porter.


■ Tom Nichols writes at USA Today: Health care fail: GOP caves to ignorant voters who want revenge, not facts. Tom notes commentators who (gleefully) note the GOP's rush to "pass a bill to find out what's in it", usually the Democrat's schtick.

There’s a lot of truth in this, but the reality here is that expertise wouldn’t have mattered. GOP legislators know that their base isn’t interested in the mumbo-jumbo of actual health care experts. These voters are not interested in analysis, or extended debate. They don’t care who’s in favor of it or who’s against it, or for what reason. They’ve been told that Obamacare — which they hate — would be repealed, and the Affordable Care Act — which they like — would be improved.

If that sounds strange, remember that a third of all voters and about a quarter of GOP voters don’t realize these are the same things, and that’s the rub. No amount of expert testimony is going to change anyone’s mind about Obamacare. What the most vocal and angry part of the Republican base wants is a repeal of this thing called “Obamacare” because it is a political symbol and because President Trump promised them it would be repealed, totally and completely, on day one of his administration. What that would mean is as much a mystery to those angry voters as it is to many of the senators who supported that repeal.

Tom may be hammering the Obamacare square peg into his "death of expertise" round hole, but that's OK.


Granite Grok's Steve MacDonald demonstrates that the Progressives' worst enemy is someone with a long memory: Remember Those ‘Climate Mayors’ Who Swore to Uphold the Paris Agreement?

Earlier this year a group of mayors clung together in the name of the Paris Climate Accord. They insisted, wrongly, that the “treaty” was necessary and they intended to take action locally to support its goals. Some 379 municipal leaders signed on to Climate Mayors.org, which was all most of them ever intended.

As a group, they have done nothing meaningful since.

Left as a GG comment: How much politics is driven by politicians' need to feel good about themselves, and bask in the warm approval of other members of their tribe?