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?