URLs du Jour

2017-11-18

Foolish

■ All good bloggers should all take the opportunity for introspection provided by Proverbs 18:2:

2 Fools find no pleasure in understanding
    but delight in airing their own opinions.

A relevant quote from Obi-Wan Kenobi is our pic of the day.


■ P.J. O'Rourke writes at his new American Consequences gig on (wait for it…) The Next Presidential Campaign. Start drinking early:

Get ready for a lot of lying.

The Republicans will lie about what they’ve accomplished. It will be a straightforward lie. They’ll say they’ve accomplished something.

The Democrats will have a more rich and varied set of lies to tell. These lies will be, per Mencken, in the form of worthless promises to the electorate.

The "per Mencken" to which he refers is a quote worth copying:

The government consists of a gang of men [who]… have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can’t get, and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time it is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is a sort of advanced auction sale of stolen goods.

That was in 1936. Today things are different, because we'd have to add "and women" to that first sentence.


■ At Power Line, John Hinderaker writes that of ominous news: Democrats Revive the “Trickle Down” Smear. Quibble: to say it's "revived" would imply that it was moribund at some point. I don't think so. But Hinderaker's right that they currently want to turn the volume on that particular fallacy back up to 11. And they're getting plenty of help from the media. Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Kevin Hassett's answer to a hostile query is worth quoting:

So trickle-down economics is something that, I guess, people who criticize the idea that taxes affect the economy will use to characterize approaches like the one that we’re pursuing. But I don’t think the idea that’s celebrated by even the non-partisan staff of the OECD — that if you have lower marginal rates, you get economic growth — is voodoo economics or controversial at all.

And yeah, the fact is that countries around the world have cut their corporate rates and had broad-based reforms, like we’re doing on the individual side, and then seeing economic growth result.

I don’t think there’s anybody who thinks that you’ll get no growth or negative growth for this. Maybe there are a few people. But in every economic model I’ve seen, you get growth — either a lot of growth, or sometimes if it’s a closed economy model, a little growth. But you get positive growth out of this. And that growth will benefit workers, and let’s talk about that.

So, right now, the way a U.S. firm avoids U.S. tax is they locate activity, say, in a country like Ireland instead of here. And so if you build a plant in Ireland, then you can sell the stuff back into the U.S. And when you sell the stuff back into the U.S., then it increases the trade deficit and doesn’t do anything for American workers, but it does increase the demand for Irish workers and drive up their wages.

And so what the President wants to do is cut the rate to 20 percent and build guardrails around the tax code so that people can’t transfer price — everything to Ireland anymore. And if we do that, then the people who benefit will be the workers here in the U.S. who have increased demand for their jobs.

Actually, it's the Democrats who want you to think that the Federal Government vacuuming up ever-increasing amounts of tax revenue will somehow trickle its way into your pocket, or something. Instead, it kind of pools up where a cynic would expect. Of the 25 wealthiest counties by median household income, six are in Maryland, and five are in Virginia. (See Mencken quote above for an explanation if necessary.)


Granite Grok's Kimberly Morin notes a certain amount of irony: Hassan and Shaheen to Attend Dinner Revering ‘Serial Sexual Assaulter’

Tonight, New Hampshire Democrats will hold their annual dinner at which they honor two womanizing philanderers, one of whom was accused by multiple women of sexual assault, including rape. The annual Kennedy-Clinton dinner will take place in Hollis and Democrats don’t seem to have any issues with revering these men, even during heightened allegations across the country about women who have been sexually assaulted by politicians and men of power in their beloved Hollywood.

Democrats changed the name of the dinner last year because they felt the Jefferson-Jackson dinner didn’t send the right message due to both men having been slave owners. Apparently, abusing women in modern times is perfectly acceptable to the New Hampshire Democrat Party.

All four of New Hampshire's Congressional delegation, all female, were in attendance. No doubt with frozen smiles on their faces.

My suggestion, left at GG, is to ridicule Democrat hypocrisy as necessary. I've done my part:

■ And a certain amount of ridicule is fun, and probably necessary, but let's not go too far, as @JonahNRO's G-File for the week reminds us: That ’90s Show.

But […] there’s a downside to all the gloating on the right. When people change their minds and accept your position, pelting them with rotten cabbage is not necessarily the best response. As a general proposition, it’s a good thing when people in the wrong “flip-flop” to the right position. If my kid starts cleaning up her room without being asked, I’m not going shout, “Hypocrite!” at her. I understand that the political climate makes that more difficult, given that there really is more than a little cynicism at play. But I think it’s worth keeping in mind.

Again, see the Proverb up at the top of today's post. Don't be a fool.


■ But, again with the gloating, from Michael P. Ramirez.

Al Franken is a big fat idiot and a hypocritical creep

Brimstone

[1.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A Mrs. Salad pick. I'm not sure if she knew what she was getting into, because this is one grim movie. And it's long, too. The R-rating from the MPAA is for "brutal bloody violence, strong sexual content including disturbing behavior, graphic nudity, and language." IMDB indicates that it made the rounds of numerous film festivals, but didn't seem to get a theatrical release before coming out on DVD. Yes, it's a little arty. And long. Did I mention long?

It consists of four "chapters", and (I said it was arty) they are not in chronological order. It is set on the American frontier in the days of semi-lawlessness. It follows the travails of a young woman, "Liz", who's initially semi-happily married, a tongueless mute, and also a midwife. But one day a new preacher shows up at their church, and Liz gets a very worried look on her face. With good reason, as it turns out.

I can't recommend this movie wholeheartedly, unless you enjoy being dragged through a lot of perverse sex, gruesome violence, and disturbing degradation. And there was one "Oh, man, they're not gonna go there, are they? … Oh, crap, they did." moment for me. Might be more for you.

Acting's good, though. And I stayed awake.

URLs du Jour

2017-11-17

■ We start a new Proverbial chapter today with Proverbs 18:1

18 An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends
    and against all sound judgment starts quarrels.

Yeah. It's not as if you weren't warned about Trump.


@kevinNR wonders whether We Were Young is really much of an excuse for progressives who just now realized that Bill Clinton is a pig.

Our progressive friends have discovered their consciences on the Clinton matter at the precise moment the Clintons ceased to be useful instruments of political power. The Clinton camp has been moribund for a while now, stale leftovers from the go-go 1990s, the political equivalents of one of those AOL discs that ironic tech bros save and use for coasters. Political necessity forced the faction that brought Barack Obama to power — call it the New New Left — to make common cause with the Clinton gang, but they’ve been eager to see them off since well before the emergence of the tangerine nightmare currently commanding their dreadful attention. Bernie Sanders wasn’t quite enough to get the job done, but the fact that a rotten old red with a surprising amount of rape porn on his CV — and no formal affiliation with the Democratic party — even laid a glove on Herself is an indicator of just how long the Clintons overstayed their welcome. You think Elizabeth Warren is happy in Mrs. Clinton’s shadow? She’s got problems of her own.

My best guess: people who feel a need to grasp at ever-increasing amounts of political power just might have psychological/sexual issues several sigma outside the mean?

It's not an infallible predictor, but I think it's time to assume guilty until proven innocent.


■ A good article from the latest dead-trees Reason, an interview with Emily Yoffe, has made it out to the web: Dear Prudence Meets Due Process. [Ms. Yoffe previously wrote an advice column, "Dear Prudence", for Slate.] Intro:

"There is no doubt that until recently, many women's claims of sexual assault were reflexively and widely disregarded," journalist Emily Yoffe wrote in a three-part series published in September at The Atlantic. "But many of the remedies that have been pushed on campus in recent years are unjust to men, infantilize women, and ultimately undermine the legitimacy of the fight against sexual violence."

These problems, Yoffe explains, are rooted in a set of directives from the Obama-era Department of Education, which nudged college administrators to adopt new procedures for adjudicating sexual assault disputes under Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in higher education. While the goal of such changes may have been to protect victims and bring perpetrators to justice, the rules have in practice made it vastly more difficult for the mistakenly or maliciously accused to clear their names, obtain legal assistance, confront their accusers, or even make sense of the specific charges against them. What's more, Yoffe shows, many of these efforts were predicated on junk statistics and misconceptions about how human beings cope with unpleasant experiences.

Yoffe's no knuckle-dragging troglodyte. [Unlike me.] She takes sexual assault seriously, though, unlike "feminists" who use it as a political weapon.


■ My state's senior senator, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, is a reliably partisan Democrat, but lets give her credit for taking on some crony capitalism: Senators Aim to Axe Program Giving Farmers Guaranteed Profits While Sticking Taxpayers With the Tab.

A popular federal crop insurance program—the Harvest Price Option, or HPO—will cost taxpayers an estimated $21 billion over the next decade in order to guarantee profits for farmers who experience crop failures.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) are aiming to slash agricultural subsidies by eliminating the Option. The bill would keep traditional insurance crop programs in place.

So: yay, Jeanne. She's also good on sugar reform. Now if she'd only stop her silliness on biodiesel


■ At Cato, Vanessa Brown Calder, shakes her head in wonder at the lack of swamp-draining in one of the most useless Cabinet departments: This is What “Effective” Looks Like at HUD?

Yesterday HUD Secretary Ben Carson tweeted that “The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit [LIHTC] is one of the most effective tools we have to create affordable housing.” And Secretary Carson’s presidential advisor published an op-ed yesterday which lauded LIHTC as a prime example of “the most effective and efficient use of the government’s resources.”

That is high praise for a program known for expense, complexity, lack of oversight, and abuse. LIHTC is arguably one of the most inefficient housing subsidy programs that the federal government administers.

Why, Ben, why?


■ At the American Spectator, Jon Cassidy is a fan of neither Richard Cordray, nor apparently Ohio voters: Cordray Is the Sort of Nanny Ohio Loves.

An official who’s been in charge of a Democrat-created federal office for blame, scapegoating, and extortion announced Wednesday that he’d be stepping down at the end of the month from the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau.

This was followed almost immediately by the news that the official, Richard Cordray, was expected to run for governor of the Ohioans, a people united by a belief that, whatever it is, it’s not their fault. The lassitude of the Ohio economy in one stat: no state spends a higher percentage of its GDP on unemployment insurance, workers compensation and government pensions than Ohio.

I'm inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to a five-time Jeopardy! winner, but … no, he's pretty bad.

URLs du Jour

2017-11-16

■ Chapter 19 of Proverbs sputters to an end with Proverbs 19:29. Again, we're pretty rough on mockers and fools:

29 Penalties are prepared for mockers,
    and beatings for the backs of fools.

The Proverbialist is being metaphorical here, right? I mean … right? Beatings?


■ What should you do when people question your sacred cows? Megan McArdle advises: Listen Up!

… [P]artisans with an axe to grind are often the people who see what others don't. The faked Second Amendment scholarship of Michael Bellesiles, the forgeries that suggested Bush had gone AWOL during Vietnam, the imaginary gang rape at a UVA fraternity -- in all cases, the people who raised questions were dismissed as cranks and partisans, and often this was actually true. And yet, they were the ones seeing clearly, while the people questioning their motives were not.

Truth is powerful stuff; it can be bottled up for just so long before it bursts its container and splatters all over the place. And when that happens, the revelation of the lie hurts the credibility of everyone who embraced it -- and harms the very cause they thought they were helping.

Which brings up …


■ At NRO, Jeremy Carl discusses Democracy in Chains and the Scandal of Tonight’s National Book Awards

A few hours from now in New York City, the National Book Awards will be bestowed on a few fortunate winners. Past recipients of nonfiction awards include such luminaries as George Kennan, Barbara Tuchman, and Robert Caro. Former president Bill Clinton will be presenting an award at this year’s ceremony. And, unfortunately, he’ll be presiding over yet another prestigious American institution that has fallen prey to radical leftism, complete with a farcical judging process, all largely funded and overseen by America’s major publishers, who perhaps need to be reminded that conservatives buy a lot of books. It represents how the definition of merit itself has been twisted by our elite cultural institutions to undermine not only conservatives but anyone who does not share their radical political vision.

I must admit that I knew none of this before I was asked to review Democracy in Chains, by Duke historian Nancy MacLean, which has been listed as one of five finalists for the National Book Award for Nonfiction. It is a book riddled with intentional deception and errors and one that has been criticized by commentators left, right, and libertarian.

[Amazon Link]

Pun Salad has provided a lot of coverage to criticisms of MacLean's book over the past few months, but slagged off after a point, because it was just continuing to shoot fish in a barrel, even after the last fish was already bullet-riddled.

But, yes, the event to which Jeremy Carl refers happened last night, and in a slight win for opponents of tendentious Progressive twaddle, Nancy didn't win.

Instead, the non-fiction winner was The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, by Masha Gessen. The WSJ reviewer found the stories the book about those living under Putinism "compelling", but Gessen's diagnosis to be "a reductionist argument full of psychospeak about “energies” and an entire society succumbing to depression."

Still, probably an improvement over Democracy in Chains.

But I hope you didn't miss that little detail in Carl's report: "Former president Bill Clinton will be presenting an award at this year’s ceremony." Which is interesting, because…


■ In the wake of all the Weinstein/Cosby/Moore/Louis C. K./etc. scandals, even Liberals are noticing how differently Bill Clinton was treated back in the 90s for his equally sordid behavior. And—magically!—those Liberals are expressing Sudden Concern about that. What does David Harsanyi think? Well, here you go: Liberals’ Sudden Concern About Bill Clinton’s Behavior Is Cynical And Self-Serving

In the past few days a number of notable liberals have decided to take allegations of sexual assault against former president Bill Clinton seriously. Let’s just say that discarding the Clintons when they’re no longer politically useful to retroactively grab the higher moral ground isn’t exactly an act of heroism. But if we’re going to re-litigate history, let’s get it right.

“That so many women have summoned the courage to make public their allegations against Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, and Bill O’Reilly—or that many have come to reconsider some of the claims made against Bill Clinton—represents a cultural passage,” says David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker (my italics). It takes plenty of courage to face powerful men with sexual assault allegations. But how much courage needs to be summoned to “reconsider” Bill Clinton’s behavior now, more than 20 years after we first learned about it? Zero. Democrats pay no political price for going after the former president, nor will Clinton face any consequences.

Well, he might not be invited to give out an award at next year's National Book Awards.


■ At Hot Air, Allahpundit, peace be unto him, piles on with a request: Please, Democrats, No More Op-Eds About How Terribly Bill Clinton Behaved 20 Years After It Mattered.

But the stench of opportunism is so thick, it’s suffocating. Only now, 20 years later, with the Clintons at the nadir of their political influence and a storm of sexual misconduct allegations in the media raging against left- and right-wingers alike to provide cover — only now is it safe to say, “Yeah, in hindsight, that wasn’t very woke of us”? Democrats had an opportunity just 18 months ago to reckon with Bill’s behavior and Hillary’s enabling of it by denying her their party’s nomination and they punted again. There’s not a right-winger from coast to coast who believes this sudden moment of candor about Bill’s scumbaggery would be nearly as candid if he and Hillary were in the White House today, assuming the moment came at all. Despite proudly proclaiming themselves the party of feminism, most Democrats would have approached it the same way most Republican voters approached the sexual assault allegations against Trump and the same way most Alabama Republican voters will approach the allegations against Roy Moore — the party simply has too much invested in this particular person to believe the accusations against him, no matter how credible. The women are lying because they have to be lying. Our hold on power depends upon it.

Speaking of stenches, my doggie got sprayed by a skunk the other night. He still didn't smell as bad as "woke-when-convenient" Progressives.


■ You may have the impression that Pun Salad plugs every single article from @kevinNR. Not quite, but close. His latest is Regime Change.

It’s time for regime change, and I’m not talking about throwing President Trump out of office.

Robert Higgs, the great economic historian, coined the term “regime uncertainty” to describe a situation in which investors lose confidence that their property rights as currently constituted will be respected by the government. Regime uncertainty makes productive economic activity difficult, because it inhibits long-term investment. If you believe, for example, that government may be about to violate the rights of landowners and embark on a land-redistribution scheme, then you have to think twice before building a factory on ten acres of land or investing $1 million in new equipment for a ten-section farm. Ask Robert Mugabe’s unhappy subjects how that works out.

A common Progressive misapprehension—I know, there are a lot, but bear with me—is their idea that there's a vast amount of wealth that could be taxed away by the government, in the name of "equality". The problem with that is that a considerable amount of wealth gets its value from the underlying property rights regime. If you erode those rights by suddenly deciding that certain kinds of property are OK for the state to confiscate, that automatically makes such property a lot less valuable.


■ And Mental Floss comes up with some reassuring news: How a Wall of Lava Lamps Makes the Web a Safer Place.

A secure internet network relies on bits of data that hackers can’t predict: in other words, random numbers. Randomization is an essential part of every encryption service, but spitting out a meaningless stream of digits isn't as easy as it sounds. Computerized random number generators depend on code, which means it's possible for outside forces to anticipate their output. So instead of turning to high-tech algorithms, one digital security service takes a retro approach to the problem.

As YouTube personality Tom Scott reports in a recent video, the San Francisco headquarters of Cloudflare is home to a wall of lava lamps. Those groovy accessories play a crucial role when it comes to protecting web activity. The floating, liquid wax inside each of them dictates the numbers that make up encryption codes. Cloudflare collects this data by filming the lamps from a wall-mounted camera.

I have recommended this to a number of my former co-workers at the University Near Here. If UNH can afford a million-dollar football scoreboard, surely it can shell out for a wall of lava lamps. Because security!

Here's the video to which the Mental Floss article refers:

The Puppet Masters

[Amazon Link]

A stray mention in the late William H. Patterson's bio of Robert A. Heinlein caused me to put this oldie in my to-be-read pile. It's the alternative version. It's longer and has more risqué sexual references than the bowdlerized 1951 version. Which I probably last read over fifty years ago—I was a Heinlein obsessive in my youth.

It's a tale of alien invasion, as seen from the viewpoint of "Sam", a crack secret agent working for a shadowy federal department charged with putting out troublesome fires around the world. But their latest call to action is in rural Iowa, where a flying saucer is alleged to have landed. Previous agents sent in have gone silent, so the A-Team, containing the "Old Man" (Sam's boss) and "Mary" (va-va-voom, Sam's about-to-be love interest) fly in. They get to Iowa to find an obvious hoax: a "UFO" constructed from cheap sheet metal and aluminum-sprayed plastic.

But they also find some pretty disgusting aliens, gelatinous parasites that attach to host nervous systems and take over the host's actions. Ish! They barely escape with their lives.

The rest of the book deals with the country's efforts to deal with the invasion, a remarkably tricky task. It doesn't help when Sam is captured by the aliens, and … well, that's enough to say without further spoilers.

The version I got from Amazon (link o'er there) has an introduction by William H. Patterson, Jr. and a long afterword from Sarah A. Hoyt. Both note the strong undercurrent of individualism and freedom running through the book. Ms. Hoyt's words are especially personal and moving. I've always thought that Heinlein exerted a major push to get me where my views are today, and Ms. Hoyt obviously feels the same in her case.

URLs du Jour

2017-11-15

Proverbs 19:28 is not fond of either the corrupt or the wicked:

28 A corrupt witness mocks at justice,
    and the mouth of the wicked gulps down evil.

That second line does not conjure a pleasant mental image. No sir.


@kevinNR offers an executive summary of Glenn Beck's interview with ex-GM honcho Bob Lutz: ‘The World Is Never Finished’.

"The world is millions of years old,” he says sagely. “And the world is never finished.”

Professorial and at times even a little prophetic, Bob Lutz, late of General Motors, isn’t what you’d expect from an old-fashioned American car guy: Zurich-born and Lausanne-educated, he knows a half-dozen languages and did stints at GM Europe, BMW, Ford, Chrysler, and the Marine Corps before returning to General Motors, where he was, among other things, an early advocate of electric cars. In a wide-ranging radio interview with Glenn Beck (who made his reputation as a conservative polemicist but whose straightforward interviews often are terrific and barely touch on politics), Lutz spoke at length about the future he imagines for the automobile industry: autonomous pods that consumers hail on demand rather than owning, networked together in ways that render such familiar 21st-century headaches as traffic jams and car accidents largely (perhaps entirely) a thing of the past. Rich people in the future will own sports cars for the same reason today’s rich people own horses.

Very interesting and insightful, even by @kevinNR standards.


■ Gregg Easterbrook's TMQ for the week is a lot of football, but also muses on the nature of sci-fi time travel. For example:

The Terminator franchise has been sustaining itself with new timelines. The Harry Potter play involves alternative timelines. The 2009 flick simply called Star Trek that rebooted the franchise as super-advanced from the get-go—TMQ liked the Original Series setting in which Starfleet was low-rent and coffee was served in foam cups spray-painted silver—created a new timeline in which the planet Vulcan is destroyed; in which two Mr. Spocks exist simultaneously (there’s Old Original Spock, played by the late Leonard Nimoy, and New Improved Spock, played by Zachary Quinto); in which Scotty possesses tech centuries before the tech is invented; and in which the actors have way better haircuts.

Spoiler in there for the next Star Trek movie, so beware. Well, not a biggie (mouseover to reveal): Kirk's father, George, played by Thor, will be in it. Perhaps McCoy's line will be "He's not dead, Jim."


■ Bill Gertz at the Washington Free Beacon notes a sad story: VOA to Fire Three Employees Over Controversial Radio Interview.

The Voice of America, the official U.S. government broadcaster, has notified three employees of its Chinese language division that it plans to fire them for conducting a controversial interview with a Chinese dissident.

I'm old enough to remember when it was the VOA's frickin' job to broadcast the truth into Commie countries. If we aren't going to do that any more, why have a VOA at all?


■ The LFOD bell chimed for an article by Spencer Tulis in the Finger Lakes Times. link

Riggs Alosa, 23, graduated from Hobart College this past spring. He headed back to his family’s current home in Vermont to ponder his future. He has a degree in English with a focus in poetry but didn’t have immediate plans to enter the crazy 9-to-5 work world quite yet.

Having grown up in New Hampshire, it isn’t a surprise that he takes that state’s motto — “Live Free or Die” — to heart.

Sitting on the family property was a 1969 Volkswagen Westfalia microbus that his dad had bought some 10 years earlier. His dad was a fan of the Grateful Dead but bought it more because he liked the looks of it.

Bottom line: Riggs and his late dad's Westfalia are on a classic American Odyssey. For an English major with a poetry focus, it will no doubt be filled with interesting encounters with the real world. I wish him well, and suggest a return to NH when he's ready to settle down.

A Foot in the River

Why Our Lives Change -- and the Limits of Evolution

[Amazon Link]

Another book in the "thought I would like it better than I did" category. (And after I persuaded the library at the University Near Here to purchase a copy, too!)

The author, Felipe Fernández-Armesto, is a British historian, now at Notre Dame. His broad subject here (as the subtitle hints) is cultural change, and his concern that the notion of "evolution" should not be applied to such changes.

At first his writing style seemed lively and picturesque. As the book wore on, I found it increasingly irritating, opinionated, and unfocused. So it goes.

It didn't help that I've been reading a lot about "cultural evolution" over the past few months, for example: Darwin's Unfinished Symphony by Kevin Laland; The Evolution of Everything by Matt Ridley; The Secret of Our Success by Joseph Henrich. They love using the E-word to describe cultural change. Ridley, for one, describes it as "ideas having sex", producing unexpected results that get selected/deselected in unpredictable ways.

You don't have to buy into this whole notion all the way, but it seems that these writers are onto something. In his dissent, Fernández-Armesto doesn't really engage with this idea, but instead quibbles that "evolution" is a misleading misnomer, with too many Darwinistic implications to be a useful metaphor. That's not a bad argument—nobody wants to misuse a metaphor, or mindlessly apply inapplicable biological lessons. But that's it. Fernández-Armesto mentions (for example) Kevin Laland in a couple of spots, but never seems to fully explore (or understand?) his findings or arguments.

Charles Murray comes in for scorn for The Bell Curve, which Fernández-Armesto describes unfairly. He's also unfairly dismissive of Herbie Spencer.

In a generally positive WSJ review of the book, J.R. McNeill notes that Fernández-Armesto is "striving too hard for effect"; one of his provocative points is that “cannibalism is typically—you might almost say peculiarly—human and cultural.” McNeill then rattles off numerous examples of non-human, not-cultural cannibalism in nature. Geez, if only a scientist had pre-reviewed the book before publication.

And Princess Diana—Felipe's not a fan! "She was, I thought, and think still, a morally abominable person, shallow, meretricious, promiscuous, selfish, exhibitionistic, and talentless." Yeah, but as near as I can remember, she avoided speaking ill of the dead.

Not that Fernández-Armesto's argument depends in any way on Di's alleged character flaws. He just wanted to let us know, a drive-by slagging.


Last Modified 2017-11-15 2:45 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2017-11-14

Truism

■ Obvious good advice from Proverbs 19:27. Maybe a little too obvious, edging over into banal truism:

27 Stop listening to instruction, my son,
    and you will stray from the words of knowledge.

"Duh, Dad."


■ At Reason, A. Barton Hinkle notes that, to his Progressive friends, Money in Politics Apparently Isn't So Bad When Democrats Win.

Political experts have cited many reasons for Democrat Ralph Northam's huge win in Tuesday's elections. Credit has gone to the state's changing demographics. And to high voter turnout. And to loathing for Donald Trump, which helped drive turnout. Some on the right blamed Republican Ed Gillespie not being Trumpian enough.

One explanation was conspicuous by its absence, however: money.

In the closing weeks of the campaign, Northam enjoyed a 2-1 advantage in financing: He went into October with $5.7 million in his pocket, compared to Gillespie's $2.5 million. By the time the polls closed, Northam had spent $32 million to Gillespie's $23 million.

ABH notes further a certain disparity in the way things are covered:

The difference in scrutiny is revealing, in the same way that frequent references to "the gun lobby"—but never "the abortion lobby"—are revealing. When conservative or libertarian groups support a Republican candidate, it's proof that the candidate is "in the pocket of" powerful and nefarious interests who have "bought and paid for" her support. When liberal or progressive groups contribute to a Democratic candidate, it's proof that the candidate's principled stand on important issues has earned the support of ordinary people who share her values.

Hinkle's linkles are interesting, restricting searches for those phrases to the NYT: as I type, "gun lobby" gets 1520 hits, "abortion lobby" gets 57.

Ironically (or is it), a similar hit count disparity is shown if the search is restricted to reason.com.

The hit counts are nearly equal at nationalreview.com.


■ What does the Biden 'Sunday Night Football' interview show? At the Daily Signal, John York has a suggestion: Biden ‘Sunday Night Football’ Interview Shows Campaign Finance ‘Reform’ Would Benefit Media, Not All People.

Many liberals point to the rising price tag of American political campaigns to support calls for campaign finance reform.

According to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and many others, the billions of dollars donated to political campaigns by individuals and corporations amount to “legalized bribery” on the part of big corporations and the super-wealthy.

But constraining private citizens’ ability to fund political speech would not empower the average citizen. Instead, one of the major beneficiaries would be nationwide media conglomerates and their wealthy owners.

Neither York nor I want to tell NBC who they are and are not allowed to interview during a football telecast. But Progressive calls for "campaign finance reform" are largely about cementing in Progressive advantages in getting their mugs on-air in "friendly" situations.


@kevinNR has a suggestion you've seen here before: End the Visa Lottery.

The diversity lottery is emblematic of our wrongheaded thinking about immigration. Here’s the way it works: Countries that have sent lots of immigrants to the United States (more than 50,000 over five years) are put on an exclusion list, and the rest of the world gets to enter an immigration sweepstakes in which first prize is an immigration visa for the United States. Those are much coveted, because there aren’t a lot of other ways for people who do not already have family in the United States or highly prized work skills to immigrate. So, Canadians are out of luck, along with Mexicans, Colombians, Vietnamese, Indians, and those pesky Englishmen who have for generations been packed into the squalid Anglo-Saxon ghettos that mar so many of our otherwise fair cities with their tea and cricket and ironic diffidence.

Not to mention the stiff upper lips.

But Kevin's right: the "diversity lottery" serves no compelling American interest. Junk it. Yesterday, if possible.


■ At the College Fix, Coy Westerbrook got Knox College administration and faculty to open up about their cancellation of "The Good Person of Szechwan", a play centering around a Chinese hooker sex worker: College leaders defend decision to cancel play after students criticized it as ‘racist’.

Mainly notable for the quotes, for example from Elizabeth Carlin Metz, chair of Knox’s theater department:

“I believe that academia needs continually to be vigilant about the shifting nuances in addressing sensitive texts,” Carlin Metz told The Fix. “I think we must put them in our syllabi and on our stages so that we can interrogate our assumptions and examine our past in order to understand [our] present…We need to acknowledge privilege in all sectors and the inherent bias that ensues. And we all need to listen.”

Prof Carlin Metz, master of academic bafflegab. From the "General Interests" of her faculty page:

"As a stage director in both the profession and academia, I am most stimulated and delighted by theatre that is visceral, provocative, and challenging. While I am interested in all forms of theatre, I am most drawn to contemporary non-traditional theatre that explores the human condition. I seek to integrate physical theatre techniques with more traditional Western theatre practices so as to discover new levels of expressiveness and meaning in theatre of all styles and genres and, thus, in the world."

Provocative, but not as provocative as "The Good Person of Szechwan".


■ LFOD alert: Our state's local cell of Commie Radio takes a look at You Asked, We Answered: Why Doesn't Everyone Wear Seat Belts in N.H.?. The NHPR comrade queried Russ Rader at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

I explained to Russ that we have, as a state, collectively considered passing seat belt laws in the past and decided we preferred that the government just stay out of it. I asked him what he thought of that line of reasoning.

“Well, it works,” he said, referring to seat belt legislation.

Studies have concluded that seat belt legislation measurably increases seat belt usage.

“The motto ‘Live Free or Die’ may be ingrained in the culture of the state, but people are dying needlessly because of lack of belt use," Russ said.

"We could be saving a lot of lives if people were required to buckle up.”

What Russ doesn't mention is that we could be saving a lot more lives with all sorts of other laws. Alcohol prohibition, this time with real teeth! Mandatory helmets for passengers and drivers! 25 MPH speed limits everywhere!

Where's the line? Commie Radio didn't ask that.


■ Geoffrey Surtees of the American Center for Law and Justice takes note of movement on the compelled-speech front: Major First Amendment Update: Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Pro-Life Free Speech Case.

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court took a critical first step in protecting the First Amendment right of pro-life pregnancy care centers to speak to their clients free from government coercion.

At issue is a California law requiring those centers to notify all comers of possible "free or low-cost access" to, among other things, baby-killing services. And there's an LFOD connection:

The First Amendment not only prohibits the government from telling people what they cannot say, it prohibits the government from telling people what they must say. Based on that principle of law, the Supreme Court has upheld the right of a New Hampshire citizen to black out the state’s motto (“Live Free or Die”) on his car’s license plate. It has upheld the right of students and teachers not to recite the Pledge of Allegiance if doing so would violate their conscience. It has struck down a state law requiring newspapers to print a reply critical of a paper’s editorials.

So, good luck with that. Kennedy's still on the SC, so I'm not optimistic about their chances.

Bing Desktop Backround Picture Downloading

For Fun and (No) Profit

For a few years now, I've made the Important Life Choice about my computer's desktop backgrounds (aka "wallpaper"): downloaded photos of spectacular vistas, amazing animals, breathtaking architecture, … I'm not particular. Rotate them every so often to avoid boredom. This is often called a "slideshow".

This, even though my open windows usually obscure the background. I know it's there though, and it makes me happy. (And the Start-D key combo works to minimize all windows if I really want to peruse it.)

The OS environments I use (Windows 10, Fedora Linux/Cinnamon) make it easy to configure a slideshow: just find the configuration page, point it to a directory containing the pictures you like, choose a switching interval, and that's it. (If your environment doesn't let you do this easily, maybe you should find a better environment.)

That leaves only one issue: setting up the picture directory. My personal choice is to have my Windows "Pictures" directory shared via VirtualBox's shared folders feature to the Linux guest. (Detail: to allow me to write to this directory from Linux, my account must be added to the vboxsf group. It's on my "things to do" list when creating a new Linux guest.) I keep 400 pictures in this directory; when more new pictures are added, the same number—the oldest ones—are removed.

I used to download daily pictures from the National Geographic site, but they made that difficult awhile back; I don't remember the details, and I haven't checked recently to see if they relented. Instead I grab Bing's home page picture; there's a new one every day, and downloading, while not exactly a breeze, is not too difficult.

The Perl script I use to download is get_bingpics (script here, prettyprinted HTML here). Notes:

  • There's a magic URL at Bing that can be queried (with proper parameters) to divulge the recent Bing pictures and their names. Specifically, the page will contain (at most) the eight most recent. The query I use asks for 16.

  • For some reason, I request the JSON version of the picture data. This is decoded (naturally enough) into a Perl data structure with the decode_json function from the JSON::PP module.

  • For the available images, the script checks each to see if it has already been downloaded. For each image not previously downloaded, it uses the LWP::Simple function getstor to download to the shared directory.

    Although I typically run this script daily, this design allows me to skip up to eight days without missing any pictures. (For example, if I'm on vacation.)

  • I run this script out of anacron daily, details left as an exercise for the reader.

The other part of this equation is getting rid of older pictures. That's accomplished by the remove_old_pics script (script here, prettyprinted HTML here). Notes:

  • It's pretty simple.

  • Its claim to geekery is using the Schwartzian Transform to obtain a list of JPEG files in the picture directory in order by modification time. Sweet!

  • The code can be easily tweaked to change directories, the types of files examined, and how many "new" ones to keep.

  • This too is run daily via anacron.

OK, so how many of you out there are shaking your heads at this and saying: "Doesn't this boy realize he needs professional help?" Let's see a show of hands…


Last Modified 2017-11-16 5:38 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2017-11-13

EA4

■ Some Proverbs are insightful and wise, but Proverbs 19:26 is just belaboring the obvious:

26 Whoever robs their father and drives out their mother
    is a child who brings shame and disgrace.

Yeah, the kid should not have done that. Next?


@kevinNR reads a WaPo article and hits the ceiling about The Myth of the Idle Rich:

The Republican tax plan may be kind of dumb, but if it were three times as dumb as it is, it would only be half as dumb as the Washington Post’s analysis of it.

Catherine Rampell, the scrappy young self-described Princeton “legacy” who handles the class-war beat for the Post’s opinion pages, offers up a truly batty take on the Republican tax plan: that it too strongly favors “passive” income in the interests of those who spend their days — here comes the avalanche of banality — “yachting and charity-balling . . . popping bottles of champagne and hunting endangered wildlife.” All of the usual clichés make an appearance: “passive owners of capital” vs. “workers,” “those who work and those who don’t,” etc. The New York Times isn’t the only newspaper getting carried away with celebrating the centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution, it appears.

Ms Rampell's article is here, should you want to expose yourself to the dumbness.


■ Our Google LFOD alarm bell rang for a Concord Monitor opinion piece by "editor emeritus" Mike Pride: The ongoing perversion of the Second Amendment. Ooh, perversion!

But it's really bad, an argument that has all the logical coherence of a pachinko machine.

Pride starts by telling the story of Howard B. Unruh, who strolled the streets of his Camden, N. J. neighborhood with a Luger, killing 13 and wounding 3. This was in 1949.

Reporters of the day looked into the details of Unruh's life to try to find his motivation. And Pride notes that reporters find themselves doing the same thing today, nearly 70 years later. In fact, everything's the same! Including:

And one other certainty in the pattern: “Now is not the time to discuss gun control.”

And one more certainty: others taking advantage of cheap emotionalism, fear, and virtue-signalling to "discuss" gun control anyway. Pride doesn't mention that, in spite of the fact that he's doing exactly that.

But Pride finally, kind of, gets around to his point:

If the subject comes up, those who resist the idea of banning private ownership of military-style assault weapons are ever-ready with the bromides. Guns don’t kill people, etc. I’m sure that if any of them are reading this piece, they’re thinking: Aha, in your opening paragraphs Mr. Unruh packed only a Luger when he went on his shooting spree. Or hey, the New York mass murderer a few days ago drove a rented truck. What are we s’posed to do – ban trucks?

So Pride advocates "banning private ownership of military-style assault weapons". He doesn't argue for that, however. Instead he takes on the opponents of this idea, with their conveniently-imagined responses. (The "s'posed" is a nice touch: Pride imagines people who might object to a ban as being unable to pronounce words properly. Easy to dismiss those slack-jawed yokels.)

He does, however, brush up against a real argument. The targets of his proposed prohibition, "military-style assault weapons", despite recent headlines, are used in a vanishingly small percentage of homicides.

And there's another point that Pride ignores, and may not be aware of: There's nothing important that distinguishes "military-style assault weapons" from other semi-automatic weapons other than cosmetic features that seem scary to some: pistol grips, detachable magazines, flash supressors, etc. (The clue here is "military-style"; we're talking style over substance.)

Anyway, back to Pride:

But there is only one point to my writing this: It is time – way past time – for this country to stand up against the perversion of the Second Amendment by the Supreme Court and Congress and the moneyed power of the National Rifle Association.

Pride, of course, finds "perversion" in thinking the Second Amendment means what it says. He doesn't bother in making a legal argument. He doesn't have to, because to disagree is simple "perversion". So there.

But the LFOD? Ah, there it is, at the end:

Military veterans and responsible gun owners know this better than anyone. In the Live Free or Die state, they should be first to stand up for what is right. If they did, perhaps Democrats would regain their backbone on this life-and-death issue and sensible Republicans, a sadly shrinking lot, would also see the light.

No, the LFOD invocation makes absolutely no sense whatsoever in this paragraph.


■ We're coming up on the 60th anniversary of The Music Man, and Mark Steyn's song of the week is: "Till There Was You". I liked this:

Meanwhile, four thousand miles away from River City, in Liverpool, a young lad called Paul McCartney was just getting into rock'n'roll. But his cousin, Bett Robbins, was into Peggy Lee and, on her occasional babysitting nights with Paul and his brother, it was Bett who controlled the Dansette. Paul ended up developing quite a taste for Peggy Lee, as did John Lennon, who couldn't stand Sinatra but thought Peg was a different kettle of fish. In 1961, her single of "Till There Was You" was a modest hit on the British charts, and Paul thought it was just another great Peggy Lee record. I sat next to him once at a British songwriters' get-together and, in an effort to avoid more problematic conversational topics such as "Mull Of Kintyre" or "Wonderful Christmas Time", I asked him about "Till There Was You". He said he'd had no idea until years later that it was from The Music Man, but he liked the simplicity of the song and of Peg's arrangement. And so, when the Beatles auditioned for Decca Records a few months later, "Till There Was You" was one of the numbers they offered. They didn't get a contract, but they kept the song in the act at the Star Club in Hamburg.

My face hurts after watching some movies, simply because I'm smiling all the way through them. The Music Man is one of those movies. (Another is Singin' in the Rain.)

Although, as an Iowa native, I'm partial to "Iowa Stubborn":

So, what the heck, you're welcome,
Glad to have you with us.
Even though we may not ever mention it again.


■ And our tweet du jour:

The teacher has nice handwriting, but doesn't have a lot of room for complaint here.

Murder on the Orient Express

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

Both Mrs. Salad and Pun Son were enthusiastic about seeing this in the theater. I was less so, but OK. With Kenneth Branagh, how bad could it be?

Well. The theater has comfy reclining seats. I fell asleep. Despite a number of elbow-pokes from Pun Son, I missed a lot.

I usually say something about the plot, so: It's set in the 1930s. On a famous train. There's a murder. Hercule Poirot is on hand to figure it all out, and does.

It made me wonder just how such movies get made, especially since there have been a couple of decent treatments of the Agatha Christie novel already. Actors must be suckers for the opportunity to dress up in period costumes, affect accents, and chew scenery.

It also made me remember the first movie in which I saw Kenneth Branagh: Dead Again, in which he also played a detective. And, hey, Derek Jacobi was in both movies as well!

I liked Dead Again a lot better. It would have made Murder on the Orient Express a lot more interesting if they had imported more of the cast from Dead Again: Emma Thompson instead of Judi Densch; Andy Garcia instead of Johnny Depp; Wayne Knight ("Oh, hello, Newman.") instead of Josh Gad; Campbell Scott instead of Willem Dafoe; Robin Williams instead of … well, I guess that's not an option.

Daisy Ridley can stay, though.

URLs du Jour

2017-11-12

■ As we've seen before, the Proverbialist was not a fan of mockery. Proverbs 19:25 continues that tradition:

25 Flog a mocker, and the simple will learn prudence;
    rebuke the discerning, and they will gain knowledge.

I can't agree with the disparate treatment advocated here. Although I'm sure it reflects the mindset behind advocates of campus censorship.

Our pic du jour shows some mockery committed against Adam Smith by some rowdy Scottish drunks ("but I repeat myself"). Obviously candidates for flogging. I'll make an exception to my general rule, and as a lame excuse … um … oh, yeah, Scotland has no First Amendment.


■ At Reason, Sheldon Richman wishes for Real Common Sense on Gun Control.

Here's how to judge the pragmatic case for gun control: if the pro-control lobby managed to have each of its favorite restrictions enacted, could we as individuals be more casual about our safety than we are today? The answer clearly is no. So what's the point of the restrictions beyond letting their advocates feel good about themselves?

A false sense of security is worse than no sense of security at all.

A crackpot idea of mine is to amend the Constitution to require all Congressional legislation to have a suicide clause: (a) a list of objective benefits it would allegedly confer; and (b) automatic repeal if those benefits did not materialize.

In short, CongressCritters would have to believe in their pie-in-the-sky promises so strongly that they would bet on them coming true.

I think such a measure would safeguard against proposals such as those discussed in our next item…


■ … in which Eric Boehm (Reason again) looks at a recent proposal from a genuine enemy of liberty: Sen. Feinstein's New Assault Weapons Ban Proposal Is the Perfect, Pointless Response for the 'Do Something' Crowd.

The bill exempts weapons used for hunting, and it would allow anyone who already owns one of the proscribed guns to keep them. In other words, it would be completely ineffective at removing these weapons from American society. But that's not really the goal at all. The goal is to do something about gun violence, and Feinstein's proposal certainly counts as something. Something ineffective and useless, but still a thing. A thing that could be done.

Complete sham symbolism, in other words.

■ But let's move on from guns to simple robbery, committed without violence. Well, only that violence (usually just implicitly, but not always) involved in taxation. An AEI report on farm subsidies claims Agricultural subsidies aid the wealthy, not those in rural poverty.

The subsidy programs that the House and Senate agricultural committees are defending and would like to expand include the federal crop insurance subsidy program, direct payments to farm businesses through so-called supplementary “farm income safety net” initiatives, and outlays on conservation programs.

Taken together, these programs cost about $20 billion every year. Crop insurance subsidies alone cost $8 billion, 30 percent of which goes to private insurance companies. Two additional “safety net” programs — price loss coverage and agricultural risk coverage — cost taxpayers between $6 billion and $8 billion in annual payments. Farm businesses also receive $5 billion a year in subsidies for adopting or simply continuing farming practices (such as soil conservation and protecting the environment) that are already being used because they are profitable.

And folks that like to say "the system is rigged" will find plenty of support from the article:

Who gets all that federal money? About 70 percent of all crop insurance and other farm income safety net payments flow to 10 percent of the largest crop-producing farm businesses. This group comprises less than 100,000 farm operations, each of which on average receives more than $140,000 every year. Those farms are owned by households with annual incomes and levels of wealth that are multiple times higher than those of the typical American family, and certainly far higher than those of families in poverty. Conservation subsidy payments also predominantly flow to the largest farm operations and wealthiest farming households.

Cliche: if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.


■ George F. Will has a modest proposal: Repeal and Replace the Tax Code.

The Republicans’ tax bill would somewhat improve the existing revenue system that once caused Mitch Daniels (former head of the Office of Management and Budget, former Indiana governor) to say: Wouldn’t it be nice to have a tax code that looked as though it had been designed on purpose? Today’s bill, which is 429 pages and is apt to grow, is an implausible instrument of simplification. And it would worsen the tax code’s already substantial contribution to “moral hazard.”

Economists use that phrase to denote circumstances in which incentives are for perverse behavior. Today’s tax code is such a circumstance, and the Republican bill would exacerbate this by expanding the $1,000 child credit to $1,600 with an additional $300 “family credit” for each parent and non-child dependent, and by doubling the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for married couples. These measures would increase the number of persons not paying income taxes and would further decrease the percentage of income tax revenues paid by low-income earners.

The GOP tax proposal has some good ideas, but I can't get excited about it. (1) It only reminds us of how gutless the GOP is on spending, which is the more serious issue; (2) as GFW notes, it's full of social-engineering gimmickry.

Personal note: our family would have benefited from the generous adoption tax credit that was (briefly) on the chopping block, had it been in place back when we adopted the Salad kiddos. But it is (nevertheless) an example of the gimmickry that should go.


■ And our Tweet du Jour speaks for itself:

I, for one, regret party disunity over sex clams.


Last Modified 2017-11-12 10:30 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2017-11-11

■ We interrupt our usual Getty/Flickr embed for Michael P. Ramirez on Veterans Day

Veterans Day

None of this bogus "Veterans Day (Observed)" stuff for Pun Salad.


■ I want to like Proverbs 19:24, but …

24 A sluggard buries his hand in the dish;
    he will not even bring it back to his mouth!

… we have, literally, seen this one before. Specifically, Proverbs 26:15, back on May 13 of this year. We had some fun with it back then, so click over if necessary.


@JonahNRO writes on the Roy Moore scandal, and the reactions thereto: Less Is Moore.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve written about the unfolding corruption of conservatism these last few years, but the events of the last 24 hours have shocked me about how deep the rot goes. Forget the people who refuse to even give the heavily sourced and corroborated Washington Post account a fair reading on the tired and predictable pretense that inconvenient facts are simply proof of the conspiracy against them. What galls and astounds me are the supposedly conservative public figures arguing that even if it’s true that Moore molested a 14-year-old girl, it doesn’t matter because, well, because the Bible said it was okay or Democrats are eeeeevil or it was a long time ago. At least Roy Moore admits that the allegation is serious and has denied it.

Bless my heart, I assumed that people who are so much more sanctimonious and preachy than I am would be able to draw a line at plying 14-year-old girls with booze and molesting them, particularly when the guy they’re defending won’t even defend the behavior himself. You’d think this would be the Colonel Nicholson moment where, like Alec Guinness in Bridge on the River Kwai, they would mutter to themselves, “My God, what have I done?” and collapse to the ground.

But no. They’d rather be more pro-kid-touching than the alleged kid-toucher himself.

At least Colonel Nicholson (spoiler) managed to blow up the bridge and take out the train. That didn't stop Major Clipton from observing, semi-coherently, "Madness! Madness!" What can we say to top that?


■ Clyde Wayne Crews writes at CEI on The Significance of Sen. Al Franken's Call to Impose Net Neutrality on Google, Facebook and Amazon.

In a recent speech at an Open Markets Institute panel session called "Are Tech Giants Too Big For American Democracy?" Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota) had a surprise for big tech.

Not only does the Senator want to preserve government oversight over information flows in the form of regulated "net neutrality" for Internet service providers (the rules that Federal Communications Commission under Ajit Pai wishes to roll back); Franken also wants to extend the neutrality concept to content companies.

As we observed yesterday: for regulation-lovers it's real easy for "more" to become "never enough". The Road to Serfdom is slippery, and once you're on it, brakes can be ineffective.


■ Speaking of the Road to Serfdom thing, over at Cafe Hayek, Don Boudreaux reacts to news that the US citrus industry is looking to undo a USDA rule that allows importing lemons from Argentina: Lemonessence.

Protectionists are masters at frightening economically uninformed people with far-fetched hypotheticals. ‘What if all of our farmers go bankrupt and we are then left at the mercy of our military enemies to supply us with food? Do you want to risk that outcome?!’ – is the sort of absurd ‘argument’ that protectionists mistake for serious argument. This sort of precautionary-principle argument is prevalent when protectionists are trying to persuade people to allow the government to restrict their – the people’s – access to goods and services.

But the true essence of protectionism is captured nicely by this headline about Argentine lemon imports. No one with any sense can possibly interpret this demand by the U.S. citrus industry as reflecting anything other than an attempt to pick the pockets of consumers by denying to consumers access to imported lemons.

The masks keep slipping, but…


■ It's not just lemons, but also aluminum foil. Virginia Postrel makes the (obvious) point that Aluminum-Foil Duties Won't Make America Great.

Aluminum foil wraps burritos, physics equipment and the highlighted tresses of hair-salon customers. It forms flexible ducts and lasagna pans, lines cigarette packs and fast-food sandwich wrappers. It hides between layers of film in flexible packaging. It protects aspirin bottles from tampering, petri dishes from light and tractor engines from overheating. It tops yogurt cups and peanut cans. It backs blister packs of antihistamines, antacids and birth-control pills. It goes into automotive parts and air-conditioning systems.

U.S. manufacturers rely on aluminum foil. So do nail salons, building contractors and bakeries.

To the Trump administration, however, none of these businesses—or their employees—matter as much as a couple of domestic aluminum makers. Disregarding the ripple effects, the Commerce Department has said it will impose preliminary duties of 97 percent to 162 percent on the Chinese imports that supply much of the U.S. market with thin aluminum foil. That’s likely to have much more far-reaching effects on U.S. companies than the minor deals President Donald Trump announced on his trip to China.

So: get ready to pay more for nearly everything. Thanks to President Trump.


■ Like many, I am a Lee Child fan, and I was aware "Lee Child" is a pen name. This WSJ article has (among other things) a cute story of the name's origin: Lee Child Was Saved by the Beatles in Gray Britain. And I'll yank it from behind the WSJ paywall. The story involves his then-girlfriend, now-wife, Jane:

One night we went into the city by train to see a show. On our way back, we had to sit in separate seats. The guy next to me heard my accent and told me he owned a European car—Le Car by Renault. Except he pronounced it “ Lee Car. ”

Later, I told Jane, and we began using it as an inside joke for everything—lee table, lee chair and so on.

When our daughter Ruth was born in 1980, we called her Lee Child. That seemed like a perfect pen name.

Someday, we'll probably read how Jane asked him to fetch sugar from a high shelf, and he replied "Sure, I'll be your Sugar Reacher."


Last Modified 2017-11-11 5:29 PM EST

URLs du Jour

2017-11-10

content

Proverbs 19:23 is just not working for me:

23 The fear of the Lord leads to life;
    then one rests content, untouched by trouble.

Not to complain, but … OK, never mind that, I have a complaint: you are not untouched by trouble, you do not rest content, and you point this out to the Proverbialist, and what does he say?

"You must not have been doing it right, the 'fear of the Lord' thing. Keep trying."


■ Hey, kids, what time is it? According to Daniel Payne at the Federalist: It’s Time For Gun Controllers To Put Up Or Shut Up.

Perhaps the chief problem with the U.S. gun control movement is that its proponents seem to have no idea what they want. Few areas of American public policy debate are as fact-free and as devoid of substantive meaning as the repeated and seemingly endless demands for more gun laws.

"More" is quite easily transformed into "never enough". Payne urges would-be gun-controllers to just be honest about their ultimate goals.

No, I don't see that happening either.


■ You can read a lot of subtext into this NYT story: After Night of Drinking, F.B.I. Supervisor Wakes to Find a Woman Stole His Gun.

An F.B.I. counterterrorism supervisor is under internal investigation after a woman stole his gun following a night of heavy drinking in a North Carolina hotel, according to documents and government officials.

In July, Robert Manson, a unit chief in the F.B.I.’s international terrorism section, had his Glock .40-caliber handgun, a $6,000 Rolex watch and $60 in cash stolen from his room at the Westin hotel in Charlotte, N.C., according to a police report.

According to the story, alcohol was involved! Manson and others "had been drinking with women who said they were exotic dancers." And Manson was (reportedly) still "incapacitated because of alcohol" at 6:30 the next morning.

And I'm still parsing that bit about the $6K Rolex.

So: incompetent, overpaid, morally compromised. The FBI seems like a swell outfit.


■ Speaking of "incompetent, overpaid, unfit", @kevinNR writes on Our Tarnished Media, teed off by one of the tarnishers:

Dan Rather, in a recent interview, says he is worried about the political culture and the bitter divisions within it. I wonder whether he has considered his own unique personal contribution to the bitterness and hysteria of our political discourse.

Donald Trump would have a great deal less credibility dismissing every reality he does not like as “Fake news!” if Dan Rather had not infamously attempted to peddle some actual fake news for the transparent purpose of trying to hurt the presidential campaign of George W. Bush. Rather’s attempt to use forged documents to push a fake story about a Republican candidate for political purposes did more than any other single episode of the past 20 years to undermine the credibility of the mainstream media.

It is a sign of our sick political culture that Dan Rather was not shunned into ignominy 13 years ago.


Reason's Ronald Bailey notes that Public Health Nannies Want to Stop You From Boozing. Why? Because Cancer.

Now come the doyens of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) with their statement on alcohol and cancer. ASCO cites research estimating "3.5 percent of all cancer deaths are attributable to drinking alcohol" in the United States. That would mean some 21,000 of the 596,000 Americans who died of cancer in 2016 were killed by cancers associated with alcohol consumption. In comparison, smoking tobacco is estimated to cause 32 percent of all cancer deaths (about 120,000 deaths).

And the nannies (unlike gun controllers, see above) are not shy about recommendations:

The group treats consuming alcohol as a pure public health problem to which the only solutions are various forms of prohibition. They recommend regulating alcohol outlet density; increasing alcohol taxes and prices; maintaining limits on days and hours of sale; enhancing enforcement of laws prohibiting sales to minors; restricting youth exposure to advertising of alcoholic beverages; and resisting further privatization of retail alcohol sales in communities with current government control.

At least they're honest prohibitionists.


[LFOD Pinot Noir]
■ But our Google LFOD alert was triggered by (of all things) a non-prohibitionist review of a Pinot Noir offering [2015 vintage pictured at your right], written by Jim Beauregard, the Union Leader's wine guy:

So, I was gearing up to write about a big bold red to pair with this chilly season of storms, wind, rain, power outages and so forth, but I was breezing through Harvest Market last week and came across wine that I haven’t written about for a few years — Peter Paul Pinot Noir.

Peter Paul, you may know, is a New Hampshire native, and yes, if you look at the bottom of the label you will see it: “Live Free or Die.” The benefactor for whom UNH’s business school is named, Paul is currently the head of Headlands Asset Management in California, and while still working in the financial industry, his passion for wine remains undimmed.

The usual disclaimer: this Peter [T.] Paul is not the same guy as this guy, Peter F. Paul, serial felon, onetime huge Clinton donor (both Bill and Hill), turned Clinton enemy, …. It's a pretty sordid tale. Stan Lee, yes, that Stan Lee, is also involved.

Anyway: A bottle of the pinot will set you back $22.99 at New Hampshire's fine liquor and wine outlets (on sale this month). Unavailable in the Dover and Somersworth locations, but the big store at the Portsmouth Traffic Circle has 9 bottles in stock as I type.

But is it any good? Here's Jim:

This is a fairly dark Pinot Noir, purple heading into ruby overall, with a clean and refreshing nose of medium intensity that presents delightful aromas of raspberry, and with a little air, strawberry as well. On the palate, it presents itself as a developing wine, dry, with medium acidity, tannin that’s fine-grained and blends well, as well as alcohol at 14.2%. Medium body and medium-plus flavor intensity that run from fruit to some oak hints. The flavor profile includes raspberry, following the nose, but also strawberry, red plum, a slight earthiness and some slight hints of cedar that come and go over the finish, which is long and pleasing.

So that's good, right?

But the big question for me: will I be able to tell any difference between this and the 15-bucks-for-a-five-liter-box plonk I usually buy?

The Feast of the Goat

[Amazon Link]

People who haunt the "Books" view on Pun Salad know that my fiction tastes tend toward the low-middlebrow. I'm even being self-charitable with that. But I came across a Jay Nordlinger column at NRO that raved about The Feast of the Goat by Nobel Prizewinner Mario Vargas Llosa. With praise like this:

And let me tell you: I don’t know of a book that captures more precisely — more searchingly, more deeply, more perfectly — what a dictatorship is, and what a country in the thrall of a dictator is, than this novel, The Feast of the Goat. It is a masterpiece of thought, understanding, and writing.

OK, I can break down and read some highfalutin literature once in a great while. And, of course, Mr. Nordlinger is on-target. The book is only semi-fiction: many of the characters were real, and many of the described events actually happened. I'm nowhere near the expert Mr. Nordlinger is on dictatorships, but Llosa masterfully describes the terror, sycophancy, and horrific arbitrariness involved in despotism, whether in Russia, Germany, China, or some dinky half-island nation.

It's set in the Dominican Republic, and it's centered around the rule and demise of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo, dictator and an all-around corrupt, vain, and murderous asshole. Through much of the book, three plot threads are intertwined.

In the first (entirely fictional), middle-aged Urania Cabral returns from her 35-year self-exile to see her decrepit father. She's now a successful globe-trotting World Bank executive, but she hasn't communicated with anyone on the island since leaving in 1961. Gradually, we learn her story.

The second thread follows Trujillo on the last day of his evil life. (Sorry, I guess that might be a spoiler.)

And finally, the anti-Trujillo plotters are followed, concentrating on the assassins waiting to ambush the dictator as his car travels a predictable path on a country highway. Lesson to would-be tyrants: don't be predictable. Lesson to would-be tyrannicides (also a slight spoiler): have a solid backup plan just in case one of your co-conspirators gets cold feet after the assassination.

The book jumps around in time, so you have to pay attention. Disconcertingly, flashbacks occur with no typographical clues whatsoever other than a paragraph break, so you really have to pay attention. A little disconcerting, but I got used to it. Sensitive readers might be triggered by graphic descriptions of torture, murder, and rape. These are meant to be revolting, and are.

URLs du Jour

2017-11-09

Proverbs 19:22 looks like a non sequitur:

22 What a person desires is unfailing love;
    better to be poor than a liar.

That's the New International Version translation, our default. I believe a paraphrase might be: you're better off getting your unfailing love from a poor man; you won't get it from a liar. That makes a certain amount of sense.


■ John Berlau of the Competitive Enterprise Institute has some bad news: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Still Endanger U.S. Economy.

Nearly a decade since the housing bust of 2008 sent the U.S. economy into a tailspin, much legislation has been enacted and regulation promulgated in the name of “financial reform”—to little effect. Many of the problems that precipitated the financial crisis continue to threaten the American financial system.

Fannie and Freddie haven't been reformed so much as they've been transformed into 100% socialist enterprises. Which means Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer will be on the hook if when things go south, a direction in which socialist enterprises invariably go.


■ At NRO, David French invites us to Lo and Behold the Free-Speech Hypocrisy of the Corporate Left. Working off Apple CEO Tim Cook's acceptance speech of the Newseum's "Free Expression Award"…

Late last month, Cook’s company joined 36 other corporate hypocrites (such heavyweights as Yelp, Amazon, American Airlines, and Citigroup) to urge the Supreme Court to rule against the free-speech rights of a small business, Masterpiece Cakeshop. This tiny Colorado bakery did nothing more and nothing less than exercise the very same rights that Cook proclaimed in April: It used its voice to defend its corporate values. Just as Apple was unwilling to use its App Store to express ideas it found offensive, Masterpiece Cakeshop chose not to create a rainbow wedding cake to celebrate a gay wedding. Just as Apple claims that it engages in expression, not discrimination, Masterpiece Cakeshop says it serves all comers, without regard to race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

I believe the current Apple et. al. ideology is: free expression is just fine, unless we disagree with it.

French's bottom line, with which I agree: "Tim Cook, give back your award."


■ Rand Paul was My Guy in the 2016 election, until he dropped out. Now, thanks to an attack by a friendly neighbor, he's laid up with…

A pleural effusion, it says here, is a buildup of fluid in the cavity around the lungs, making breathing difficult.

Matt Welch notes the outpouring of sympathy deranged ideology-based sneering from our "compassionate" friends on the left: Rand Paul Getting Attacked Is What’s Wrong with Libertarianism. Wait, What?

But if you think a seemingly non-political man-fight would escape the relentless Politicization of Everything, you haven't been paying attention. By dint of his unusual ideology, Rand Paul suffers from the Weird Man's Burden, which means sustaining an unprovoked assault is a splendid occasion to call him an asshole.

Welch has a dispiriting number of examples. It doesn't take any imagination at all to think how the responses would differ if the Rs and Ds were reversed.


■ It's been alleged the attack had nothing to do with politics, instead was over Sen. Paul's insistence on growing pumpkins and maintaining a compost pile. That's now disputed, for example in the Washington Examiner: Rand Paul's neighbors rip media 'landscaping dispute' reports.

But seven neighbors in the Rivergreen gated community told Secrets Wednesday that the Pauls are friendly homeowners who kept their property tidy.

“The Paul’s landscaping looks just like everyone’s place in Rivergreen. Wish I could get him to cut my lawn,” said neighbor Robert Warner. “As a friend, neighbor and senator, Rand has been first class in every way. What I find amazing is the fact that he cuts his own grass. Our neighborhood is fortunate that the Paul’s live here,” he added.

Something smells, and it's not compost.

Man Up

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

A very good screwball romantic comedy, set in England. As near as I can tell, it didn't make it to US theaters. Shame on us.

To start, it follows Nancy (played by Lake Bell), a thirty-something man-shy cynic; she's grown weary of her friends' never-ending efforts to set her up. Due to a Rube Goldberg-style cascade of circumstance set off by a chance encounter with a bubbly young girl on a train, she accidentally/impetuously: finds herself on a blind date with Jack (played by Simon Pegg), a soon-to-be-divorcee looking to restart his life.

They hit it off, thanks to a lot of drinking and a fondness for American movie quotes. But there are complications: an "accidental" meetup with Jack's ex-wife, and the guy she left him for; a goofy sorta-pervy ex-schoolmate of Nancy's who's still infatuated with her.

We laughed pretty much all the way through. Can't ask for more, really.

URLs du Jour

2017-11-08

Proverbs 19:21

21 Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
    but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

There are many modern variants. Yiddish proverb: "Man plans and God laughs." Woody Allen: "If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans." John Lennon, less theologically: "Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans."

On the other hand, kids, I wouldn't let this deter you from maxing out your retirement fund contributions.


■ Do you know what to do about health care? Writing at NRO, Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry would disagree: Nobody Knows What to Do about Health Care.

Conservatives have a simple dream when it comes to health care, and that dream has a name, and it is “Singapore.” And it is a beautiful dream. If Milton Friedman and Elon Musk sat down together to design a health-care system, it would probably look like Singapore’s. In outline, it’s very simple to understand: Everybody gets a health savings account, into which a portion of their paycheck is automatically deposited; from that health savings account, they can purchase catastrophic coverage. The elderly get a voucher for their choice of private insurance plans for age-related illnesses. The poor get top-ups to their health savings accounts and a special insurance scheme.

Sounds great! But keep reading: Gobry argues, convincingly, that it would be a disaster to implement in the USA.

Is there a solution? "No, there isn’t. We’re all doomed."

The article also has a first-paragraph bunch of links to Gobry's previous articles; I encourage you to check them out as well.


[Amazon Link] ■ Also at NRO, Brink Lindsey and Steven Teles write on The Conservative Inequality Paradox.

Conservatives have two intellectual commitments that are increasingly incompatible. They believe that the American economy is clogged up with crony-capitalist corruption that hands out special favors and protections to organized interests. They also hold that economic inequality — in particular, the surging share of total income earned by those at the very top — is morally justified by the rights of property and the tendency of free markets to raise living standards overall.

These two commitments can no longer be squared. If our economy really is riddled with cronyism, then the beneficiaries must have pocketed large amounts of ill-gotten loot. The existing distribution of income and wealth, therefore, does not deserve the deference it would be due if all gains were derived from spontaneous, unregulated market transactions. Call it the conservative inequality paradox: Either conservatives have overstated the amount of crony capitalism, or their dismissal of the concept of inequality as envy is misplaced.

Lindsay and Teles have a new book out [Amazon link above] that I've placed on my library-get list.


■ But it's not just "crony capitalism" that tilts toward the well-off. Megan McArdle writes on How the Republicans' Tax Plan Threatens Higher Ed. The headline (Threatens? Eek!) might obscure some relevant facts, for example:

As a proud alum, I’m glad that the University of Pennsylvania has a $12 billion endowment to sustain it into the future. But it’s hard to see why the school needs a tax subsidy from the government to educate students with a median family income of nearly $200,000 a year. I suspect those parents will ensure that their children get educated even if the government offers no subsidy at all -- and that the students could probably manage to learn even without the shiny new buildings and extensive renovations that have appeared since I left the campus 23 years ago.

I dug this quote out of Milton & Rose Friedman's Free to Choose back in 2013, and it's gotten truer since its original writing:

We know of no government program that seems to us to be so inequitable in its effects, so clean an example of Director's Law, as the financing of higher education. In this area, those of us who are in the middle- and upper-income classes have conned the poor into subsidizing us on the grand scale—yet we have no decent shame, we boast to the treetops of our selflessness and public-spiritedness.


■ Pierre Lemieux writes at EconLog about Puerto Rico's electricity system: Big Brother Does Not Always Help, or Only at a Cost. One of the roots of its woes: it was established in 1941 by then-Governor Rexford Guy Tugwell, FDR crony and ardent advocate for the Planned Economy.

Tugwell thought that competition was a waste and should be replaced by government planning and industrial democracy. Or else, he wrote in his 1933 book, The Industrial Discipline and the Governmental Arts, "we are surely committed to revolution." It is not clear how he reconciled central planning and industrial democracy, by which he meant that firms would be run by their workers and engineers. He was an admirer of the Soviet Union.

1941's shiny monument to Progressive Fascism is today's cesspool of political patronage, corruption, and inefficiency.


■ As always, Gregg Easterbrook's Tuesday Morning Quarterback is an entertaining read even if football bores you silly. Consumer note: I haven't watched a single NFL game so far this year; I did tune in for a lot of the Iowa-Ohio State game, and was pretty excited to see OSU get badly beaten by the Hawkeyes.

But anyway, a note on Donna Brazile:

Maybe Russians Hacked the Donna Brazile Copyedits. Less than a week after publishing a book that claims the Democratic primaries were rigged, Donna Brazile denied they were rigged. This isn’t just a politician trying to have things both ways. Brazile’s claim is a celebrity publishing gimmick: Include scandalous declarations in a manuscript to draw media attention and get the book selling, then have the celebrity make TV appearances denying the claims. The next step, perhaps coming soon, is that Brazile will ask for sympathy by saying she is the victim of a smear campaign, which her own book set in motion.

Perhaps one should place quotation marks around her own “book,” which relies extensively on fake quotes that purport to be exactly what was said, word-for-word, though no one was taking notes. Unless Brazile was wiretapping her phone calls to Bernie Sanders! The “book” is not bound for the Ghostwriters Hall of Fame: “I started to cry, not out of guilt, but out of anger. We would go forward. We had to.” Maybe Brazile is denying the content of her own “book” because she hasn’t gotten around to reading it.

Of course, if you're an NFL fan, Easterbrook's pretty interesting on that subject too.

URLs du Jour

2017-11-07

Advice

■ Some Proverbs are inarguably true, like Proverbs 19:20:

20 Listen to advice and accept discipline,
    and at the end you will be counted among the wise.

On the other hand, ignore advice and discipline, and become President of the United States of America. Your call.


■ Speaking of advice, James Bovard [at USA Today] has some for you Facebookers: Facebook censored me. Criticize your government and it might censor you too.

Facebook blocked a post of mine last month for the first time since I joined it nine years ago. I was seeking to repost a blog article I had written on Janet Reno, the controversial former attorney general who died last year. I initially thought that Facebook was having technical glitches (no novelty). But I checked the page and saw the official verdict: “Could not scrape URL because it has been blocked.”

Bovard's thoughtcrime was to use a photo (viewable here at Texas Monthly) showing the Branch Davidian compound in Waco in flames.


■ And if you're saying, "OK, that's Facebook. But Google's OK, right?" Well… Mytheos Holt [at the American Spectator] would tell you no: Google Can No Longer Be Trusted With Private Data.

The facts are as follows: In the past week, multiple journalists — ironically, not conservatives — reported that they’d gotten locked out of projects they were working on using Google Drive, Google’s cloud storage service. Mark DiStefano of Buzzfeed UK reported the news, and later reported on Google’s “apology” for it, via Twitter. Google explained, “This morning, we made a code that incorrectly flagged a small percentage of Google Docs as abusive, which caused those documents to be automatically blocked. A fix is in place and all users should have access to their docs.”

Yes, if you store stuff at Google Drive, the Googlebots will check it out for "abusive content". Creepy!


■ Candidate for the "Longest Book Ever Written" award: Things Donald Trump Doesn't Understand. But if you take them one at a time, like Robert Tracinski [at the Federalist], it might be manageable: Donald Trump Doesn’t Understand Why We Don’t Have One-Man Executive Rule

It looks like this is going to have to be the era of the civics lesson, because nobody can be bothered any more to gain a basic knowledge of how our government is supposed to work and why it was designed that way. Not even the president of the United States. I know this isn’t going to surprise anyone, but that’s the takeaway from two recent interviews with Donald Trump.

In one, Trump expresses frustration that the FBI and the Justice Department are not putting Hillary Clinton in jail already, just as he promised during one of his debates with her during his campaign last year. He said then that he would instruct his attorney general to prosecute her, but he is now finding that it’s not so simple.

The other example: Trump boasted to sympathetic Laura Ingraham that he "instructed Congress" to get rid of the "Diversity Lottery". As Tracinski notes, that's not how it works.


Reason's Scott Shackford reports from the banks of beautiful Lake Sunapee: N.H. Can’t Monitor This Elderly Doc’s Painkiller Prescriptions, and Now They’re Shutting Her Down.

New London, New Hampshire, a community of 4,400 is not bursting at the seams with doctors. Nevertheless, there may soon be one fewer, thanks to state regulators.

The state's Board of Medicine has taken away 85-year-old Anna Konopka's medical license, and they're resisting her efforts to get it back.

Although the case is not clearcut, Schackford indicates that a large amount of the state's problems with Dr. Konopka might be due to her unwillingness to participate in the opioid prescription reporting program.


■ John Hinderaker at Power Line notes the Fake News About Koi: Why No One Trusts the Press

President Trump has begun a 13-day trip through Asia, beginning in Japan. His meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seems to have gone very well. Abe presented Trump with hats saying, “Donald and Shinzo…Make Alliance Even Greater.”

But of course, in the eyes of the liberal media, the president must never be allowed a success of any kind. So the press invented a “gaffe” for Trump. At one point during his visit, Trump and Abe both fed koi, i.e., Japanese carp. Big deal. But reporters ridiculed the president for ultimately dumping the remainder of his box of food into a pond. CNN, in particular, went nuts on this theme. It is hard to imagine anything more trivial, but for the press, no opportunity to smear President Trump can be foregone.

Initial deceptive editing and reporting of the "gaffe" was eagerly echoed by trusting fools whose Trump-hatred overrode any normal healthy skepticism.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

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

A thoroughly enjoyable superhero movie.

A short prologue establishes the premise: Michael Keaton is busy cleaning up the devastation in the aftermath of the first Avengers movie—you remember, the one with the Chitauri invasion. He and his crew find all sorts of neat technology, on which they expect to make some money, but then government bureaucrat Tyne Daly shows up, summarily fires them, and sends Keaton and his crew on a criminal path with the gadgetry they manage to hold onto.

Years later, Tony Stark recruits Peter Parker/Spider-Man for help in his spat with Captain America. This gives Peter some starry-eyed visions about someday becoming an Avenger, but Tony clearly wants the teenager to lower his sights, becoming (and I quote) a "friendly neighborhood Spider-Man", rescuing kittens from trees and apprehending the occasional local hoodlum.

But one night he notices some thugs using Chitauri tech to rip off an ATM…

Despite this being yet another Spider-Man reboot, the filmmakers eschew the usual origin yarn; in fact, they leave that kind of hazy. Peter's infatuation is with neither Gwen Stacy nor Mary Jane Watson, but with Liz, a beautiful fellow student.

Bottom line: it's a lot of fun. Tom Holland is excellent and believable (to the extent that any of these flicks is believable). No surprise, Michael Keaton continues to be a great actor. And (comic book faithfulness be damned) Marisa Tomei makes a very, very hot Aunt May.

URLs du Jour

2017-11-06

■ Yesterday's Proverb was darned grim, but Proverbs 19:19 is wise:

19 A hot-tempered person must pay the penalty;
    rescue them, and you will have to do it again.

And haven't we seen this scenario play out in countless TV shows and movies? Or in real life. See, for example The Dark Side of Forgiveness: The Tendency to Forgive Predicts Continued Psychological and Physical Aggression in Marriage.

Or, as an exercise, finish the saying "Fool me once…"


■ At Reason, Sheldon Richman opines: Government Protection From Russian Misinformation Would Be 'Cure' Far Worse Than Disease.

Is American society so fragile that a few "divisive" ads, news stories, commentaries, and even lies—perhaps emanating from Russia—threaten to plunge it into darkness? The establishment's narrative on "Russian election meddling" would have you believe that. On its face, the alarm over this is so ridiculous that I doubt any of the fearmongers really believe their own words. They're attempting to provoke public hysteria for political, geopolitical, and financial gain. There's no more to it than that.

A lie doesn't get any truer if you saw it from 100% pure domestic sources.


■ At the (probably paywalled) WSJ, Holman W. Jenkins writes on the same issue: Social Media Is the Trump of Industries. I found these reality-based paragaphs telling:

Twitter, Google and Facebook's, business model of letting the public have its diverse, antic, usually misinformed and often dishonest say about public matters is something new under the sun—and like all things that exist under the sun, can be used for good or ill.

At the same time, only 85-year-old senators are wowed by a report that 135 million Americans were exposed to Russia-sponsored Facebook ads and messages over a 32-month period. Facebook delivers 517 million ad impressions per hour. User posts, messages, photos and shared links pile up at a rate of three million-plus per minute. The average American, from all sources, is estimated to see upward of 5,000 ads or branding messages each day.

This Washington Examiner article provides some numbers to compare: the famous Satan vs. Jesus ad that Democrats pointed to with horror got "71 impressions and garnered 14 clicks"; the "Buff Bernie" coloring book ad "had 900 impressions and garnered 54 clicks".


@kevinNR encourages us to Bring Back Political Parties. He manages two cheers for the probably-illegal mainstream Democrat maneuverings during the 2016 primary season to tip things Hillary's way. Because:

The Democratic party had an excellent reason to exclude Senator Bernie Sanders, the same reason the Republican party had to exclude Donald Trump: He wasn’t a member of the party. Sanders is a socialist independent who briefly joined the Democratic party for reasons of pure political utility. Donald Trump is a . . . whatever in tarnation he is . . . who joined the Republican party for the same reason. Trump, a sometime Democrat and Hillary Clinton donor who had been aligned with the politically insignificant Reform party, knew that he needed the GOP’s machinery to win the presidency, or to even get close, and Sanders knew that his influence and power would grow from running in the Democratic primary rather than as a U.S. affiliate of the Monster Raving Loony party. (I miss Screaming Lord Sutch.) Sanders is no fool: His lakeside dachas aren’t going to pay for themselves, and there’s no money in third-party presidential campaigns — that’s just an expensive hobby. Ask David Koch.

I am a fan of neither party, but Kevin makes a pretty good argument that the two-party system is an extra-Constitutional "secret sauce" that makes our polity more stable.


■ And our Google LFOD alert rang for an LTE in the Concord Monitor from Contoocook's Judith Kumin.

In all the debate about the origins of the “Live free or die” motto, I am surprised not to have heard the following: Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the Haitian independence leader who was born a slave, is said to have used the slogan to galvanize his troops in the revolt against France.

On Jan. 1, 1804, when Dessalines proclaimed Haiti’s independence, he said “Jurons de combattre jusqu’au dernier soupir pour l’indépendance de notre Pays!” (“Let us pledge to fight to the last breath for the independence of our country”). The crowd responded, “Vivre libre ou mourir” (“Live free or die”). Whereupon Dessalines declared himself governor-general for life and shortly thereafter was crowned emperor for life by the Haitian army.

Dessalines reigned for just two years before being hacked to death in November 1806 by opponents of his autocratic rule.

Food for thought.

Judith isn't telling us anything we can't find at Wikipedia. Is it embarrassing that our motto may have been—gasp—of French origin? And (perhaps worse) uttered by an "independence leader" on his way to mass murder and tyranny? Zut alors!

URLs du Jour

2017-11-05

Discipline

Proverbs 19:18 goes dark, and not just a little dark:

18 Discipline your children, for in that there is hope;
    do not be a willing party to their death.

It's too late for Mrs. Salad and me, but if you're looking for advice on parental discipline, I'd go to Bryan Caplan. Sample:

If parents want a happier life, they need to rethink the justification for discipline. The welfare of the child is one legitimate goal. If your toddler runs into the street, zero-tolerance really is for his own good. But the child's welfare is only the beginning. Another legitimate function of discipline is to keep the child from abusing the people around him - and no one is more susceptible to a child's abuse than his own parents. Your kid knows where you live. You're stuck with him, and he knows it. He also knows that you love him, so you're inclined to forgive him his trespasses. Armed with these advantages, your child can make your life awful - unless you stand up for yourself.

I wish I'd read that 30 years ago. Not that we did poorly, our kids turned out fine. But there would have been fewer bumps in the road, I think.


■ Unsurprisingly, a government commission in throes of a moral panic points its shaky finger in the wrong direction: Opioid Commission Mistakenly Blames Pain Treatment for Drug Deaths [Jacob Sullum, Reason].

That response is fundamentally misguided because the narrative endorsed by the commission is wrong in several crucial ways. Doctors did not mistakenly believe that the dangers posed by opioids had been greatly exaggerated. They correctly believed that the dangers posed by opioids had been greatly exaggerated, and they were right to think that excessive fear of opioids had led to inadequate pain treatment. Contrary to the impression left by a lot of the press coverage, opioid addiction and opioid-related deaths rarely involve drug-naive patients who accidentally get hooked while being treated for pain. They typically involve polydrug users with histories of substance abuse and psychological problems. Attempts to prevent overdoses by closing off access to legally produced narcotics make matters worse for both groups, depriving pain patients of the analgesics they need to make their lives livable while driving nonmedical users into a black market where the drugs are more variable and therefore more dangerous.

Sullum is pretty convincing. We are in for—quite literally—a world of hurt. Thanks to our "eek, do something" frenzy, our pols go for the easiest target.


■ At NRO, Jay Nordlinger is wise on tax policy: Flat’s Where It’s At.

It’s not just that the government has its thumb on the scale. It’s that it’s jumping up and down on the scale with its whole large body. We conservatives are often complaining about “social engineering.” A lot of us are willing to be engineers, when it comes to tax policy.

I have a dream, sort of (not to belittle the great dream of civil rights for all Americans): a flat tax with no exemptions — for home, children, charity, what have you. You’re taxed at some reasonable, and reasonably modest, percentage. And what you do with the rest is your own business.

Jay's voice is refreshing, amidst all those folks who are mad because their ox is being gored by the GOP's proposed tax legislation.


■ And, finally, the Google LFOD alert brought us to the Union Leader columnist Mark Hayward: As Manchester ponders flag options, city anthem suggested.

City leaders have decided that the Manchester city flag needs a reboot.

What, why? Also: Manchester has a flag? Yes, you can check it out at the link.

Too many pictures, including a misplaced waterfall and some kind of an outdated tool that only 19th century STEM students would recognize.

I don't know about the waterfall, but that's a governor.

Too many words, including a Latin phrase that only 19th century humanities students could decipher.

The phrase is "Labor Vincit", which even I, with two years of Latin about 50 years ago could translate: "Work Wins". (Hayward provides a more lofty version: "Hard work prevails." Mrs. Cunningham would also find that acceptable.)

But let's get to the LFOD meat and potatoes:

Hard work. Is that all Manchester can say for itself? In a country whose motto is “In God We Trust,” and a state whose best-of-all mottos is “Live Free or Die,” Manchester’s highest valor is in bustin’ our humps for the boss?

Democracies honor God, freedom, truth and justice. Totalitarian regimes praise work. (“Workers of the world unite,” Marx tells us.)

Excellent point. I don't care—sorry, Mancunians—about the flag, but that motto needs fixing. How about Concordia delenda est?

URLs du Jour

2017-11-04

Proverbs 19:17 has good news for the charitably generous:

17 Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord,
    and he will reward them for what they have done.

He'll pay you back with interest. Or not, because usury.


■ Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry shares another one of his uncomfortable truths about American health care: We’re Too Afraid to Die.

About 1 percent of the U.S. population accounts for roughly 20 to 30 percent of health spending, and 5 percent for more than 50 percent, a finding that holds over time. These patients tend to be either newborns with catastrophic issues or the elderly. A 2004 study found that 10 percent of Medicare spending happens in the last trimester of life, and 30 percent in the last year of life. Since then, there has been a lot of gesticulation about doing less aggressive medicine in the last year of life, but “pull up the curtain on these statistics, and the drama that unfolds tells a very different story,” a 2013 summary by Kaiser Health News argued. “End-of-life care continues to be characterized by aggressive medical intervention and runaway costs.” And in the policy debates over health care, KHN noted, end-of-life care is the “third rail.”

I don't know if I'll have the guts (or ability, frankly) to forego "aggressive medical intervention" to prolong my life by a handful of days. That is uncomfortable. In fact, I'm squirming in my otherwise comfy chair just from typing that.


■ More on a powerful pol demanding that private companies do what the government cannot, from Scott Shackford at Reason: Sen. Feinstein's Threat to 'Do Something' to Social Media Companies Is a Bigger Danger to Democracy Than Russia

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) took the opportunity this week to remind social media companies that she's as authoritarian as President Donald Trump and isn't afraid to try to push people around.

<voice imitation="natasha_fatale">Dollink, who is needing fake Facebook ads to fool stoopid Americanskis, when their own politicians do it for us?</voice>


■ Megan McArdle argues that Republicans Turned the Tax Code Into a Weapon. Although she has some nice things to say:

Well, there is the aforementioned budget problem of paying for all this reforming. But there is also the political problem of doing so. It is hard not to notice that this bill is designed to spread benefits among Trump supporters, particularly the Republican donor class, while laying most of the costs on a single group of people: six-figure professionals living in blue states, a group known as the HENRYs (High Earning, Not Rich Yet). One can make a principled justification for levying high taxes on the rich, who can most easily spare the money. One can make a principled justification for taxing everyone equally, share and share alike. But what is the principle by which almost all of the pain of this tax bill should be borne by affluent, but not rich, people who happen to live on the coasts? Other than “we don’t like them.”

I don't disagree, at least not strongly, but the headline implies that the "tax code as weapon" started with this particular tax bill? For example, this noted philosopher demanded a "heavy progressive or graduated income tax" as one of the means to…

… wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible.

To a certain extent, the GOP's "tax reform" is a defense against this type of weaponization.


■ Don't forget to do … something, I forget … to your clocks before settling in for the night tonight. Mr Lileks warns naysayers: Don't even think of getting rid of the 'fall back' hour.

Twice a year we pretend we’re going to have a conversation about doing away with daylight saving time. If it actually happens anywhere, it goes like this:

“It’s unnatural. It’s an archaic holdover from our agrarian days, when children were sent to the fields to gather sheaves, but under modern labor laws ... Mffffff!”

He didn’t finish the sentence because someone stuck a sock in his mouth. We don’t want to hear about changing DST because it gives us that wondrous extra hour of daylight on summer evenings to gambol about in the tenebrous glow of endless June.

It should be noted that Mr. Lileks lives in a town at 93.2650° west latitude. For those of us at 70.8254°, it's not quite as salubrious.


■ Arianna Reyes writes in The Scarlet, the student newspaper at Clark University (Worcester, MA), and triggered our Google LFOD alert: Should Gun Control be Reformed?

Gun control has always been a controversial topic with many points of view. Some groups have always advocated for the right to bear arms. Coming from the state of New Hampshire, this has constantly been a part of my life.

People regularly talked about the importance of the right to bear arms, but personally, I never saw what the big deal was. However, with a state slogan like “live free or die” it’s hard to argue with one another over what people are allowed to do. If you were to ask most of the population of New Hampshire if better gun control laws were needed, it is likely that they would blatantly answer no.

Goodness, that's some … pretty terrible writing. It doesn't get better, click over and read for yourself.

Contra Arianna: If you word your polling questions innocuously enough (like: "do you want better laws"), you can get a comfy majority of NH respondees to agree.

I've also left the following comment on the website:

If your argument were valid, NH’s easy gun availability should make it be a hotbed of murderous violence. But it’s not. Look at state firearm death rates (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firearm_death_rates_in_the_United_States_by_state), NH is in 44th place.

Suggestion: base your advocacy more on facts, less on your childhood fears and traumas.


■ And I liked this xkcd, to which I will hotlink: [Also,
    my lack of blog readers]

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

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

I noticed that this movie was available "for free" (with Amazon Prime), Mrs. Salad was off to do her Day-of-the-Dead thing, so I watched this with my dog. Better than I expected! I read the book a year ago and still remember most of the plot details; I can report that the movie does a half-decent job of hitting most of the main plot points.

After some inadvertent heroism bringing bad guys to justice (in an unnecessarily complex way), Jack resolves to visit Susan Turner, the comely lass (Cobie Smulders, woo!) who has his previous job with the Army's MPs. As in the book, she's somewhat intrigued by the dent left in her desk during his tenure, which he made with some miscreant's head. But when he gets there, Susan's been arrested and jailed on a trumped-up charge, and her life is (obviously, to Reacher) in terrible danger.

So, as in the book, Reacher engineers a nifty jailbreak, and he and Susan are off to investigate the real villains. Complicating things somewhat is a paternity suit against Jack. So they also track down the alleged daughter, Samantha; at first glance, it's completely credible that she's an apple dropping near the Reacher family tree.

There's a cute bit of blink-and-you'll-miss-it trivia that I'll just drag in from IMDB:

Source novelist Lee Child, author of the 'Jack Reacher' novels, has a brief cameo as a TSA agent who is seemingly ambivalent to the fact that Jack (Tom Cruise) does not really match the stolen ID he is using to board the plane. This is a nod to Child's support of the "controversial" casting of the diminutive 5'7" tall Cruise as Child's 6'5 tall," 250lb weighing, and 50-inch wide-chested character of Jack Reacher. Despite a lot of fan backlash at the casting of Cruise, Lee responded: "Obviously, Tom Cruise doesn't match the physical description of Reacher in the books, but the movie is not going to match the book anyway."

Mr. Child is a good sport about this, which may be related to the suitcases full of money he gets from the filmmakers. Which is fine, and I enjoyed the movie, and I like Tom Cruise, but: really, we should be seeing Kiefer Sutherland in this role.


Last Modified 2017-11-05 9:58 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2017-11-03

Censorship

Proverbs 19:16 is refreshingly Manichean:

16 Whoever keeps commandments keeps their life,
    but whoever shows contempt for their ways will die.

And, as you know, we all die. So what are you gonna do?


■ The so-called "Diversity Lottery" lets in one measly mass-murdering terrorist, and people are all up in arms about it. Sad!

But I remembered reading Peter H. Schuck's book, One Nation Undecided, earlier this year, and he called the Diversity Lobby a very stupid policy. He re-ups in a recent NYT op-ed: Why the ‘Diversity Lottery’ Needs to End.

Almost immediately after the Manhattan terrorist attack on Tuesday, President Trump faulted the “diversity lottery” visa program under which the Uzbek immigrant suspected in the attack entered this country, and laid the blame for the program’s existence on Senator Charles Schumer and other Democrats.

As is often the case, he is wrong on his facts — here, about political responsibility for the program, which has been supported by both parties for over 25 years (though Mr. Schumer has backed getting rid of it). But Mr. Trump is right that these visas are bad policy and that the program should be canceled. Better still, they should be used for other, wiser purposes.

Schuck == Sanity. Reliably.


■ An interesting disagreement at NRO on the propriety of "politicizing" current events. Both make interesting points. First up, Jonah Goldberg: Propriety for Thee, but Not for Me? The formula is: (1) dreadful event D occurs; (2) party P near-immediately uses it to advocate A; (3) the other side accuses P of ghoulish how-dare-you "politicization".

This time: D is the Manhattan Bike Path Carnage; P is Republicans; A is "repeal the Diversity Lottery".

A month ago: D was the Las Vegas Massacre; P was Democrats; A was "common sense gun prohibition control".

This is an honest question: Is there a meaningful distinction between the two scenarios? Are there some policy questions that are fair in the wake of a terror attack or mass shooting and others that must be held in check pending a respectful mourning period? Or is “propriety for thee, but not for me” the rule now?

I agree, but…


■ David French makes a good point as well: Sure, Go Ahead and Politicize Tragic Events.

I’m just cynical enough to believe that the vast majority of politicians, pundits, and Twitter warriors who demand that we not “politicize” a tragedy are really begging, “Don’t make me talk about my political opinion in an unfavorable environment. Let’s wait until the news cycle passes, and the public moves on.” But perhaps moments when the public is energized and interested are among the best times for politicians to make political arguments. Do it tactfully. Respect the fallen. But make your case.

If only we had politicians who would do that last bit. But we don't.

And: if only we had a citizenry that wasn't easily swayed by whipped-up fearmongering by utterly cynical pols. Don't have that either.


■ And just 90 minutes down I-95, Brandeis University Does the Wrong Thing: University cancels play accused of criticizing Black Lives Matter

Following a flood of complaints, Brandeis University has scrapped plans for the performance of a controversial play on its campus accused of being critical of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The private university announced recently that it had cancelled plans to present the play “Buyer Beware” on its campus after students and alumni complained the production “seeks to vilify” black voices and issued concerns because its script includes a white protagonist who uses the n-word as part of a comedy routine.

The U is named after Louis Brandeis, who (according to Wikipedia) wrote some of "the 'greatest defenses' of freedom of speech and the right to privacy ever written by a member of the Supreme Court."

So maybe Brandeis should change its name to something more appropriate. Bowdler University has a nice ring to it.


■ We're NRO-heavy today, but I wanted to plug Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry's continuing "uncomfortable truths" series. Part two is: The Most Wasteful Health Spending Is Also the Most Popular.

Gather ’round, children, if you want to hear a scary story. Last time around, I pointed out that while everyone “knows” that there is a lot of waste in American health-care spending, we engage in widespread self-deception about the true magnitude of the problem. That half, approximately, of all U.S. health spending is wasted, is simultaneously scientifically uncontroversial, ignored by health-policy experts, and totally absent from public debate.
But that’s not the worst part. In fact, it could be good news in a way: The magnitude of the problem suggests that there’s a lot of room for improvement; more important, if we can only educate more people about the fact, then positive change might be on the horizon.
Fat chance.

Because the two biggest sources of wastefulness in health care are (see if you can guess): Medicare and employer-sponsored health insurance. Both of which are politically nigh-untouchable.


■ An interesting note of how the Overton Window has shifted over the last quarter-century: PBS documentarian (and NH resident) Ken Burns is a solid Democrat. But his 1990 show on the Civil War is now … well, check it out: Shelby Foote’s Civil War History Defends America Against Insatiable Haters Like Ta-Nehisi Coates

White House chief of staff John Kelly’s interview Monday night with Laura Ingraham, in which he expressed the mundane and historically straightforward view that “the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War,” has produced a spasm of simple-minded and myopic commentary. Our intellectual class, unable to think about the war between North and South in anything but the most reductive terms, has decided not only that Kelly suffers from “nostalgia” about the Confederacy, but that Ken Burns and Shelby Foote should be consigned to the dustbin of history.

Specifically, Kelly has been excoriated for daring to call Robert E. Lee an “honorable man” and expressing the same view of the Civil War put forward in Burns’ enormously popular 1990 Civil War documentary. Up until this week, Burns’ series had been a celebrated work—a restored version of the series aired on PBS just two years ago. But now, at least according to Jonathan Chait of New York magazine, Burns’ masterpiece is a “disaster,” mostly because it relied heavily on interviews with Foote.

Sorry, Ken: you're gonna have to redo "The Civil War" if you want to keep up with where your party's headed.


■ And the Google LFOD alert was issued for New Hampshire Commie Radio's story about George and Maxine Maynard: Live Free? Die? Decades-Old Fight Over N.H. Motto to Get Supreme Court Shout-Out

George and Maxine Maynard have what you might call a complicated relationship with New Hampshire's state motto.

And when the U.S. Supreme Court takes up a controversial free speech case next month, the Maynards' decades-old legal battle over the state’s ubiquitous “Live Free or Die” will be back in the spotlight.

It's the story of how George taped over the LFOD motto on his license plate, got ticketed for it, and the case escalated all the way to the United States Supreme Court. And how that case is now cited as precedent for a baker who doesn't want to be forced to bake cakes for same-sex wedding receptions.

George and Maxine are now in their 80s, live in Connecticut, and …

And yes, they also covered up that state's motto -- “The Constitution State” -- on their license plates.

URLs du Jour

2017-11-02

Proverbs 19:15 takes on the sluggards once again:

15 Laziness brings on deep sleep,
    and the shiftless go hungry.

In 21st Century America, that last bit is not generally applicable.


■ At Reason, Jacob Sullum requests that you Behold the Work of Russia's Evil Advertising Geniuses. If you detect some sarcasm there, congratulations on being a sentient being.

Today members of the House Intelligence Committee released some of the election-related ads placed on Facebook and Instagram by accounts linked to the Russian government. The sampling published by Politico seems inconsistent with the way politicians and journalists generally portray "Russian disinformation," which they describe as a plot to "reshape U.S. politics" and undermine our electoral process by sophisticated operatives who know how to manipulate American voters. In fact, the ads are so lame that I initially thought the Politico story was a prank.

As Sullum notes, the utter lameness of the ads "suggest that the ability of Russian propagandists to destroy American democracy may have been exaggerated."

Fine, but I also hear the counterargument: The ads are stupid, yes, but who's to say that they didn't swing significant numbers of stupid people?

And the counter-counterargument: there were also a lot of dishonest and intelligence-insulting ads being funded by Americans: Democrats, Republicans, PACs, activists. And, by all measures, the volume of those dwarfed the Russian ones.


■ At the Washington Free Beacon, an insightful headline inspired by the overheated rhetoric in a Congressional hearing: Feinstein Blasts Tech Companies for Failing to Do Obama’s Job.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) blasted American tech companies on Wednesday for not doing what the Obama administration's intelligence community failed to do over the previous eight years: face down Russia and defend against cyber warfare.

If it's war, Senator, it's pretty much Your Federal Government that failed to Provide for the Common Defence. Does the "buck stop here", or not?


■ Making some depressing news is Cato's recent polling on American attitudes and opinions vis-a-vis free speech. Emily Ekins asked the question (which should have an obvious answer): Is Supporting Racists’ Free Speech Rights the Same as Being a Racist?.

First, nearly half (49%) of current college and graduate students believe that “supporting someone’s right to say racist things is as bad as holding racist views yourself.” This share rises to nearly two-thirds among African Americans (65%) and Latinos (61%) who agree. Far fewer white Americans (34%) share this view.

All those numbers are sorrow-inducing. At a certain point, it will not matter what the Constitution says: if citizens don't value their liberties, those liberties will be successfully eroded or eventually eliminated.


■ I hope you will be able to evade the WSJ paywall to read James Freeman's essay on Alexandria, Virginia's Christ Church: Where Washington Is Not Welcome.

George Washington risked his life and his fortune to create our country. He also helped build Alexandria, Virginia’s Christ Church. But the folks who now run the place claim that the name of America’s first President on a plaque makes some people feel “unsafe or unwelcome.” So church leaders are removing his plaque from the sanctuary and relocating it to a destination to be named later. Given what’s happened to Christ Church since Washington was a parishioner, perhaps he’d be grateful that his name will no longer be associated with it.

Mark Tooley is quoted too:

This kind of church invariably attracts a demographic that is nearly all middle and upper class, educated, socially liberal urban white people. Churches that stress their welcome-welcome-welcome message of inclusion over a firm orthodox theological message typically are, whether realizing it or not, actually welcoming some and discouraging others. In my visits to Christ Church I have noticed the well-dressed congregation is not very diverse.

No surprise: some people go to church to have their moral superiority confirmed and their Progressive ideology stroked, bathed in the fellowship of the like-minded. Christ Church provides that.

On the other hand, if you're looking for religion, people pretty much have to go elsewhere. (And they are: the article notes that attendance is down 25% in the past decade.)


■ Veronique de Rugy advocates something that should be GOP Econ 101: Tax Reform Should Encourage More Saving, Not Less.

Republicans want tax reform, but their refusal to cut spending forces them to look into all sorts of revenue raisers. Some are good, such as eliminating the deductions for state and local taxes. Others are counterproductive, such as the threat to significantly decrease the tax deduction on 401(k) accounts, potentially reducing the overall levels of savings for the millions of Americans using them.

The Salad household 403(b) accounts (the non-profit version of 401(k) accounts) are the main reason we went into retirement not shivering with financial insecurity. So maybe I'm biased, but, like VdR, I think messing with them is a lousy idea. (The GOP gutlessness on cutting spending doubles the lousiness.)

The article is also recommended for its discussion of Universal Savings Accounts, or USAs: contributions are from your post-tax income, but withdrawals may be made any time, for any reason, and are untaxed (like Roth IRAs).

URLs du Jour

2017-11-01

■ Some Proverbs you can only read and say "Ayup". Proverbs 19:14 is one of them:

14 Houses and wealth are inherited from parents,
    but a prudent wife is from the Lord.

Well, at least the wife part.


■ Michael Tanner asks a good question at NRO: Aren’t Republicans Supposed to Care about the Deficit? It's a grim tale. Bottom line:

Republicans, Democrats, and Donald Trump are all far more interested in buying votes today than in reining in unnecessary government spending. As a result, our children and our grandchildren will be left to pay the bill. As President Trump might tweet, if he cared: Sad.

Also dangerous, but all these people care about is getting re-elected on their fake promises that, somehow, all the money your Federal Government takes from you will somehow trickle back down to your level. Someday.


■ At Reason, Marian Tupy says relax: Corporations Are Not As Powerful As You Think,

Concern over the power of large corporations is back in the vogue. From Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on the left to Fox News' Tucker Carlson on the right, politicians and opinion makers worry about the influence of U.S. corporate giants on politics as well as on the private lives of ordinary Americans. People are concerned about Facebook's censorship of content, Twitter's banning of controversial users and Google's possession of staggering amounts of information about users' search histories, shopping habits, etc.

As a libertarian, I say, pish-tosh! If you don't like a particular company, find an alternative provider or live without a particular service altogether. Alas, most people are not libertarians or as closely wedded to the sanctity of the contract as the latter tend to be.

I also say pish-tosh. Not as often as I should.

Ms. Tupy quotes an interesting factoid from an article by Mark Perry, who compared the 1955 and 2017 versions of the Fortune 500 list:

According to Perry, "only 60 companies … appear in both lists. In other words, fewer than 12 percent of the Fortune 500 companies included in 1955 were still on the list 62 years later in 2017, and 88 percent of the companies from 1955 have either gone bankrupt, merged with (or were acquired by) another firm, or they still exist but have fallen from the top Fortune 500 companies (ranked by total revenues). Many of the companies on the list in 1955 are unrecognizable, forgotten companies today (e.g., Armstrong Rubber, Cone Mills, Hines Lumber, Pacific Vegetable Oil, and Riegel Textile)."

I almost certainly won't be around in another 62 years, but I hope that people then have longer memories than they do today.


■ I'm retired, not looking for a new job, and would not work for the Democratic National Committee if they paid me uness they paid me a huge amount of money. And there's another reason, noted by Town Hall. DNC Email: Straight White Men Need Not Apply.

The Democratic National Committee is hiring for some new positions in their Technology Team, including Chief Security Officer, IT Systems Administrator, and Product Manager. In the email soliciting job applications, it says that the DNC is looking for a "staff of diverse voices and life experiences."

Unfortunately, according to the DNC's Data Service Manager Madeleine Leader, this desire for "diverse voices and life experiences" apparently doesn't extend to "cisgender straight white males." In the closing paragraph of the email, Leader said "I personally would prefer that you not forward to cisgender straight white males, as they are already in the majority."

Town Hall helpfully notes, for those folks not acquainted with current Progressive lingo: "'Cisgender' is a term meaning someone who identifies as the gender assigned to them at birth, i.e. someone who is not transgender."

The DNC claims to be an "equal opportunity employer", so somebody's lying.


■ Gregg Easterbrook's TMQ column doesn't have a lot of non-football content this week, but I liked this, about the anti-Trump Steele Dossier:

As for the Steele Manila Folder, what’s inside may be phony. But supposing some contents are authentic, what could there be that was not already known to the 62 million Americans who pulled the lever for Trump? His lack of qualifications, his narcissism, his smirking disdain for the institutions of our democracy—everybody knew! Ninety-nine percent of the time, the things that everybody knows are more disturbing than secrets.

Even more disturbing: the things we know but nevertheless pretend we do not.


■ Ah, the Google LFOD alarm bell dinged for this Canadian (Penney Kome) to confess: My dad put the tattoo on the Marlboro man's hand. There's a picture. (Specifically, it's the US Marine Corp emblem.)

I must confess that my Dad, Hal Kome, was the advertising creative director who told the art director to put a tattoo on the hand of the Marlboro man. Dad was well versed in Freudianism. He added the tattoo to signify rugged individuality. Marlboro cigarette sales soared, and the Marlboro man became iconic.

But Penney's rambling essay is not really about her dad, it's about that individualism stuff.

But the competitive, individualistic model was always flawed. Not only did individuals burn out, but structures teetered and collapsed from the inherent instability of people competing instead of co-operating. Yet a certain macho streak persevered, crying, "Live free or die!" Some far-right folks in the States declared themselves "sovereign citizens," not under the authority of any government's laws.

Penney writes like an earnest 24-year-old, but she's actually in her late 60s. See if you can make it through her simplistic, tendentious essay without your eyes rolling out of their sockets.


■ I wish I had found this Remy video before Halloween; I would have (at least) posted it in response to the "All Eyes on UNH" diktat on Problematic Costumes. So, belatedly, enjoy: