URLs du Jour

2017-11-30

■ A poignant Proverbs 18:14:

14 The human spirit can endure in sickness,
    but a crushed spirit who can bear?

Yeah, that sucks. (Metaphorical spirit-crushing in our pic du jour.) But it need not be permanent or fatal.

Which reminds me: today is my wedding anniversary. 32 years of mostly ups, some downs, but never a crushed spirit.


■ Is a "revenue trigger" the solution to fiscal responsibility? Well, according to Veronique de Rugy [at NRO], A ‘Revenue Trigger’ Isn’t the Solution to Fiscal Responsibility.

First, our debt problem is not a revenue problem: It’s a spending problem. To some important extent, it is also a growth problem. Tax increases and the uncertainty introduced by this trigger won’t address these problems. In fact, the trigger will hurt economic growth, and it will fail to address the explosive growth of spending on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Raising taxes, if it successfully raises revenue, will only scratch the surface of what is needed to fill the gap between spending and revenue in the next two decades. Raising taxes would also be counter-productive if the reason for the below-projection revenues is that the country is in a recession. Oh and by the way, the prospect of a potential automatic tax hikes in the future could hinder business investments and excitement today and accelerate the move toward a slowdown.

I've mused in the past on legislative suicide clauses, and kind of like the idea in general. But Veronique makes a good case that the resulting uncertainty wouldn't be good for economic decision making.


■ Add Mollie Hemingway [of the Federalist] to those disgusted with fact checkers: Calling Pence A Liar While Protecting Warren Is Why People Hate Media. She notes the disparate treatment afforded to the VP and a certain sitting Senator:

Okay, so if [Pence's] true statement gets three — almost four — Pinnochios, what does Warren’s unsubstantiated claim of being Native American get? Eleventy billion Pinocchios? Twenty gazillion? Just the maximum of four?

If you guessed that the media would run interference, obfuscate, and decline to judge the veracity of her unsubstantiated claim, congratulations, you’re one of the millions of Americans who has finally figured out how this game works.

Last year, during the height of Trump’s insult game against Warren, the Post “fact checker” ran a fact check on Trump, headlined “Why Donald Trump calls Elizabeth Warren ‘Pocahontas’.” The fact check admitted there is precisely “no documented proof of Warren’s self-proclaimed, partial Native American heritage” but then concluded the fact check with a refusal to fact check. “We will not rate Trump’s claim, but urge readers to look into it on their own and decide whether Trump’s attacks over Warren’s background have merit.”

Democracy dies in darkness, and the WaPo is happy to turn out whatever lights are necessary to avoid embarrassing a Democrat.


■ A recent research paper didn't get a lot of publicity, but it should have. ["These findings support the possibility that the [Obamacare-mandated] Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program has had the unintended consequence of increased mortality in patients hospitalized with heart failure."] Arnold Kling notes our Killer health care policy, thanks to David Cutler.

You think that high readmission rates are an indicator of inefficiency, so you tell hospitals to lower their readmission rates. They do so, and you get the “unintended consequence of increased mortality.” In your technocratic wisdom, you kill people.

It's reminiscent of the (possibly apocryphal) story of the Soviet nail factory: when "incentivized" to produce nails by quantity, it churned out piles of tiny, useless nails. When that was "corrected" to incentivize by weight, they produced huge, equally useless, nails.

Of course, that didn't kill anyone. (The Soviets used more direct measures to do that.)


■ Debra Heine of PJMedia reports: Former Intel Watchdog Says Hillary's Allies Threatened Him Over Email Probe.

A former government watchdog says Hillary Clinton's campaign threatened retribution against him and his loved ones when he raised concerns about classified info on Clinton's private email server while it was being investigated in 2016.

Unsurprising. We really dodged that Hillary bullet. Only to get hit by the Trump bullet, but what are you gonna do?


■ Bryan Caplan notes the troublesome trend to identify murderers, especially mass murderers, by their group identity: Why It Matters Whodunit.

On reflection, though, whodunit is tremendously important.  Why?  Because in our society, the routine reaction to mass murder is to try to punish millions of innocent people.  If the murderer is a Muslim, the public want to punish millions of peaceful Muslims by depriving them of the right to visit or live in the U.S. If the murderer is a non-Muslim who used a gun, the public want to punish millions of innocent gun-owners by making it harder for them to buy and sell firearms.  If the murderer is a Democrat, Republicans try to paint millions of innocent Democrats as sympathizers.  If the murderer is a Republican, Democrats try to paint millions of innocent Republicans as sympathizers.  Even if the murderer is apolitical and didn't use a gun, many want to punish innocent disturbed people by easing standards for involuntary psychiatric commitment.

I can't claim to be innocent of the reaction Bryan describes, and I'll try to be better in the future.


■ Aaron M. Renn asks at City Journal: Who’s Really Censoring the Web? The answer may surprise you! Especially if you're one of those well-meaning people who drone on about "net neutrality".

The basic idea of net neutrality makes sense. When I get a phone, the phone company can’t decide whom I can call, or how good the call quality should be depending on who is on the other end of the line. Similarly, when I pay for my cable modem, I should be able to use the bandwidth I paid for to surf any website, not get a better or worse connection depending on whether my cable company cut some side deal to make Netflix perform better than Hulu.

The problem for net neutrality advocates is that the ISPs aren’t actually doing any of this; they really are providing an open Internet, as promised. The same is not true of the companies pushing net neutrality, however. As Pai suggests, the real threat to an open Internet doesn’t come from your cable company but from Google/YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and others. All these firms have aggressively censored.

Good point, eh? As a good laissez-faire guy, I don't think the state should tell Google or Comcast how to arrange their business models.


Last Modified 2017-11-30 8:58 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2017-11-29

■ Needless to say, many things were different in Old Testament days. But Proverbs 18:13 illustrates one thing that's exactly the same:

13 To answer before listening—
    that is folly and shame.

"Indeed."


■ Caitlin Johnstone correctly notes that Sinclair Lewis didn't say "When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." However:

It’s a good quote, whoever said it. It warns that if manipulative oppressors are going to seize control of a nation’s government, they will obviously need to do so by appealing to the spirit of the times, the current values system of the masses. They’re not going to make their entrance screaming “Freedom is slavery!” while a band plays the Darth Vader theme. This is obvious to anyone who possesses any insight into how people think and behave.

But it’s a quote from a bygone age. Christianity and flag-waving patriotism still hold value in red states, but they’ve become largely invisible to the major culture factories of New York and Los Angeles, and thus to the dominant culture of the greater United States. If fascism came to America wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross today, it wouldn’t have enough broad public support to implement its agendas, because crosses and flags don’t hold that much sway over America’s dominant value system. In order to rope in those who don’t value the old cultural value symbols, something more is needed.

So when fascism came to America, it came wrapped in a rainbow flag, and wearing a pussyhat.

… and demanding "net neutrality".


■ Daniel J. Mitchell notes: Sequesters Are Good for Prosperity, Tax-Hike Triggers Are Bad for Growth.

At the start of the year, I pointed out that it would be possible to both balance the budget and approve a $3 trillion tax cut if spending grew each year by an average of 1.96 percent.

That modest bit of fiscal discipline apparently was asking too much. When Trump’s budget was released in May, he proposed that spending should increase by an average of 3.5 percent annually.

But neither Trump nor Republicans on Capitol Hill have done much to hit even that lax target (which is especially disappointing since they actually did a good job of restraining spending when Obama was in the White House). So the federal budget instead is operating on auto-pilot and spending is now projected to increase by 5.2 percent annually, more than [two]-and-one-half times faster than needed to keep pace with inflation.

Republicans should learn that they won't out-compete the Democrats at spending taxpayer money. But they really are the stupid party.


■ At Reason, Eric Boehm observes that the Fight Over CFPB Director Shows—Again!—How Powerful Government Entities Backfire on Their Creators. He's deeply amused that the architect of the CFPB, Elizabeth Warren, now claims that the Trump Adminstration will "turn the CFPB into a disaster."

Ordinarily, independent agencies authorized by Congress—like the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission—must have a multi-member commission at the helm. The CFPB was created by Congress but a political compromise during negotiations over Dodd-Frank left the bureau with a single executive.

That's a compromise that CFPB supporters might now wish hadn't been made, because the unchecked power of the CFPB's director may soon reside in the hands of someone who, in Warren's mind at least, wants to tear down the agency she worked to create.

"I designed an unaccountable agency, immune from normal checks and balances, and now I see that was a bad idea!"

Which brings to mind…


■ One of these days, we'll start keeping track of the phonies running for President. But at NRO, David French gets a head start on us: Elizabeth Warren, Progressive Fraud.

My favorite Elizabeth Warren story involves a cookbook. Warren, who was at that time posing as a trailblazing Cherokee, actually contributed recipes to a recipe book with the name, I kid you not, “Pow Wow Chow.” But here’s the best part of the story. She plagiarized some of the recipes. Yes indeed, her version of “pow wow chow” came directly from a famous French chef.

"Pow Wow Chow." Isn't that racist?


■ James Freeman asks [from behind the WSJ paywall, unfortunately]: Why Is the ‘Resistance’ Harassing This Man? That man being FCC chair Ajit Pai.

The resisters are casting as a fundamental free speech right what was essentially a gift to tech lobbyists. Companies like Netflix, which by some measures generates more than a third of all North American Internet traffic, and Google, which also generates significant traffic via its YouTube video service, didn’t want to pay market rates to companies like Verizon for moving that traffic. Essentially, Silicon Valley wanted to cut its phone bill and it persuaded President Obama to instruct his supposedly independent telecom regulators to make it happen.

I have a number of Progressive friends on Facebook who have been taken in by this scam. Their default position is unskeptical support for statist regulation; combine this with reflexive hatred for all things Trump-connected, and you get a toxic mix. Sad!


■ At the Federalist, David Harsanyi relates: This Is Why We Can’t Trust Factcheckers, Part Infinity.

During a speech at the Tax Foundation last week, Vice President Mike Pence dropped a meaningless but innocuous political talking point about the U.S. economy. “There are more Americans working today than ever before in American history,” he reportedly said.

This statement really irritated one of The Washington Post’s factchecking professionals. “Amazingly,” Nicole Lewis contends, Pence’s statement “met with applause.” Because superficial rah-rah declarations by politicians are typically met with pie charts, I guess. The “economic boast is so mindlessly dumb we can’t believe we have to fact check it,” reads the abstract on the story.

The "fact checker" awarded Pence three Pinocchios out of four. For a literally true (albeit trivially so) statement. Is the WaPo in a competition with Politifact to see who can be the bigger Democrat shill?


Mental Floss reveals The Most Common "Why Do" Questions People Are Asking In Your State, According to Google. I'm a sucker for this sort of thing.

Luckily for internet users across America, Mental Floss has answers for some of these pressing questions. For example, residents of Oregon, Iowa, Kansas, and Kentucky wondered why cats like to knead, or "make biscuits." This puzzling behavior could be chalked up to cats trying to mark humans as "territory" using the scent glands in their paws. Or, it could be a "neotenic behavior," or a kittenish trait that cats retain as adults.

New Hampshire, like Maine and Vermont, wants to know "Why do leaves change color?"

I want to know: "Why is there something, rather than nothing?" Google sends me here.

URLs du Jour

2017-11-28

Proverbs 18:12 is a sage observation:

12 Before a downfall the heart is haughty,
    but humility comes before honor.

… except in the dictionary! Hah!

Come to think of it, the Proverbialist was unaware of English dictionaries. He would not have gotten this joke.


■ The Washington Free Beacon reports on "Federal Fumbles", this years compilation of wasted taxpayer dollars: Sen. Lankford Singles Out ‘Doggie Hamlet’ in Wasteful Spending Report.

Doggie Hamlet? Yes, and it was performed in our very state:

"This is Weird, Right? A $30,000 NEA grant supports the production of Doggie Hamlet," Lankford's report states.

"The adaptation does not include any actual lines from Hamlet, is conducted outdoors in a 30-by-50-foot field in New Hampshire, and is mostly humans yelling or running toward confused sheep and dogs," according to the report.

Unfortunately, the University Near Here was not involved; instead 'twas that college on the Other Side of the State.

The performance is defended Gia Kourlas, a dance critic for the NYT, who asks and answers: But Is It Art? In the Case of ‘Doggie Hamlet,’ Yes.

At first glance, it doesn’t seem like a performance. The stage is a meadow, and the score is a collection of sounds, including the commands of a dog handler and the pounding of hooves. A woman extends her arms while four sheep, trailed by a determined dog, trot in a circular formation. In quick cuts, we see bigger flocks — a blur of curly wool and strong snouts — race by. Moments later, a young man holds a sheepskin and spins, before collapsing onto the grass.

Pun Salad is (a) outraged over this waste of money; (b) a bit wistful that I didn't catch any performances.


■ Peter Suderman at Reason notes yet another extra-Constitutional dumpster fire in DC: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Now Has Two Different Acting Directors.

For a preview of what policy battles will increasingly look like as they are separated from the legislative arena, consider the current leadership showdown at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

As of [the morning of November 27, 2017], two different people are claiming to be the agency's acting director.

That also seems to be the case as I type. Unfortunately, a little too early in the day for popcorn.


■ But, as David Harsanyi notes, This Is The Perfect Time To Destroy The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Republicans have long argued that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is corrupt, unaccountable, and unconstitutional. This week, Democrats proved that’s exactly how they like it.

After resigning as CFPB director, Richard Cordray named his former chief of staff, Leandra English, as interim head of the agency. The Dodd-Frank financial regulation law empowered Cordray to pick someone in “absence or unavailability of the Director.” So Donald Trump made Mick Mulvaney available, invoking the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, which allows the president to temporarily fill a vacancy with a government official whom the Senate has confirmed. The CFPB’s own top lawyer, a Democrat appointee, sided with Trump. It seems unlikely that a clause in Frank-Dodd meant to prevent vacancies will supersede the legitimate powers of the president, but we’ll see.

Democrats set up the CFPB, stacked it with Progressive ideologues, and act as if it's a fourth branch of government. Swell idea.


■ A candidate for "Longest Books Ever Written": Things About Which Nancy Pelosi is Profoundly Confused. David French, at NRO, contributes a chapter: Nancy Pelosi Is Profoundly Confused about Due Process. He contrasts (a) Pelosi's championship of "Title IX"-based denial of due process for college students accused of sexual misconduct with (b) her demand that "icon" John Conyers be afforded "due process" in the multiple charges of sexual misconduct.

That sound you hear is the legion of non-iconic, vulnerable college students (who at many schools are disproportionately black) wondering why due process strengthens Congress but not the campus. In reality, however, the hypocrisy is even deeper than you think. Members of Congress enjoy due-process protections so extensive and so biased against accusers that if they were applied to student accusers at college, they’d be considered a civil-rights violation.

Good luck squaring that circle, Nancy.


■ At Town Hall, Kurt Schlicter offers Dating Tips For Prominent Democrats.

We’ve learned so much about what women face in the last few weeks, and you liberal men should take this as an opportunity to change – specifically, out of your flapping bathrobes and into some Dockers. Groping, flashing, molesting shrubs – believe it or not, some women consider these things to be wrong. Crazy? Sure, but for now it’s no more monkey business as usual. As a noted Democrat, you need to maintain your political viability, and you can exploit the respect and concern for women you’ve always pretended to have to help you dodge responsibility for whatever you’ve already done!

Given the example set by Teddy Kennedy, it's no surprise that pols consider a D next to their names to be a free pass.


WalletHub has news you can use: 2017’s Most Sinful Cities in America.

Las Vegas isn’t the only sinful place in America. In other cities, bad things happen and stay there, too. From beer-loving Milwaukee to hedonistic New Orleans, the U.S. is filled with people behaving badly. No place is innocent. We all have demons.

Their methodology is interesting and—sing it, brother—they consider "laziness" to be a sin, even though God didn't see fit to mention it in the Commandments. (Number one lazy city in the US? Providence, RI. I've been there, and it's hard to disagree.)

For Granite Staters, Manchester is the city in which to misbehave, although it's a mediocre 97th place in the US.

Rapid City, SD is number 29?!? What's up with that?

Here's the embed, feel free to poke and prod:

Source: WalletHub


■ And the Google LFOD alert was sent out for a Dave Bartosiak article in The Drive: Porsche Exec Sees Future with Mods On-Demand

Maybe it’s my patriotic, “live free or die” mentality, but there’s a part of this whole autonomous future that really scares the pants off me. I don’t want to get stuck in a world where I have to give up driving because robots are better at it. For me, it’s bad enough that I have to turn off traction control every time I get in the car. One Porsche exec set out to calm my fears in an interview this week. The quote of the day was, “You will still want to drive a Porsche on your own in the future.”’

I, however, can see an upside, LFOD-wise, since I'm at the age where driving skills are presumed to decline. Just ask the local squirrels—I'm a menace.

URLs du Jour

2017-11-27

Resentment

Proverbs 18:11 is … well, a bit out of the ordinary fare of railing against liars, sluggards, and mockers:

11 The wealth of the rich is their fortified city;
    they imagine it a wall too high to scale.

Enough with the class-warfare rhetoric, Proverbialist.


Reason's Nick Gillespie will tell you, in case you were wondering, Why Net Neutrality Was Mistaken From the Beginning (AOL Edition).

Current Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai memorably told Reason that "net neutrality" rules were "a solution that won't work to a problem that doesn't exist."

Yet in 2015, despite a blessed lack of throttling of specific traffic streams, blocking of websites, and other feared behavior by internet service providers (ISPs) and mobile carriers, the FCC issued net neutrality rules that gave the federal government the right to punish business practices under Title II regulations designed for the old state-enabled Bell telephone monopoly.

Also: "activists" have hung signs outside Pai's house naming his kids. Classy details at the link.


■ At NRO, Heather Mac Donald wonders: Why Is the New York Times Taking Astrology Seriously?

Here’s what the feminization of the news room looks like: The New York Times — that self-appointed scourge of fake news and the alleged war on science — has published a fawning article about astrology in its news pages. “Leaning on the Stars to Make Sense of the World,” by Alexandra S. Levine, treats Times’ readers to heaping doses of astrological mumbo jumbo: “Saturn’s move from a fire sign to an earth sign next month.” It respectfully conveys astrologers’ hilariously self-important evaluations of their “profession”: “‘It’s so important that we give quality literature, quality interpretation, quality astronomy and astrology,’” says the astrology columnist for Harper’s Bazaar. The article never once asks the obvious questions, including: What is the theory behind astral influence? Do stars emit some physical force, wave, particle, or gravitational field that affects events on earth, and if so, has it been measured? What is astrologers’ ex post facto batting average — how do their daily newspaper predictions stand up? Have they predicted major events with anything other than random success?

I'll take a crack at answering Heather's obvious questions: There's none; no; poor; no.

Heather also has a priceless response to the NYT's admission that horoscopes are "in some cases" fraudulent.


■ I have it on good authority that good Progressives in Cambridge and Beacon Hill have their servants excise Jeff Jacoby's column from their Boston Globe every morning so there's not even a chance that they'll see a heretically unsafe word therein. For example, yesterday's plea to Scrap the Obamacare mandate.

From the outset, Americans across the spectrum resented the notion that the federal government could order citizens to buy something they didn't want — not as a condition to doing something, the way auto insurance is required for those who wish to drive a car on public roads, but simply for being alive. According to an Economist/YouGov survey in February, the requirement to have health insurance or pay a tax penalty was opposed by two-thirds of US adults. In May, a Harris Poll found that 58 percent of the public opposed the individual mandate, with only 24 percent in favor.

I don't care much about the polling numbers, but I'm in full agreement with killing off the mandate. ("Obamacare: an idea so good it has to be mandatory!")


■ Did you like the liberal Russia-collusion mania? Not me! I didn't care for it one bit. But maybe you did. If so, Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion's William A. Jacobsen notes that If you liked liberal Russia-collusion mania, you’ll love Koch-Time freak out. [In case you haven't heard, Koch Equity Development financed Meredith Corporation's purchase of Time Inc.] Jacobson quotes the Blogfather:

The thing is, those magazines and Web sites see themselves, pretty consciously, as a propaganda arm of the Democratic Party. So while nine out of 10 articles may be the usual stuff on sex, diet and shopping, the 10th will always be either soft p.r. for the Democrats or soft — or sometimes not-so-soft — hits on Republicans….

This kind of thing adds up, especially among low-information voters. They may not know or care much about the specifics, but this theme, repeated over and over again, sends a message: Democrats are cool, and Republicans are uncool — and if you vote for them, you’re uncool, too.

Despite Koch Equity Development's claim that they won't have input on "managerial or editorial operations", that's not stopping the "freak-out". Although said freak-out is not without its genuine amusements:

I know what you're thinking: I wish!

But it's my other devout wish that Progressive pundits would stop referring to the "extreme right-wing" or "radical right" Koch family. A debunking [2016] quote from Jonah Goldberg:

I have myriad problems with [sloppy] usages of “radical right,” but let’s just stipulate for the sake of argument that this is the correct term in such circumstances. How, then, are the Kochs members of the radical Right? They are pro-gay marriage. They favor liberal immigration policies. They are passionate non-interventionists when it comes to foreign policy. They are against the drug war and are spending a bundle on dismantling so-called “mass-incarceration” policies. They’ve never seized a national park at gunpoint.

They are members of the radical Right for the simple reason that they don’t like big government and spend money to make that case.

A point I've made before: when you start calling everything you don't like "fascism", your sloppiness helps the actual fascists.


■ Ah, I hear the Google LFOD alert going off for… hm. An article in Decider recapping Episode Nine of (hopefully only the first season of) the Netflix series The Punisher: Give Me Death.

In this episode of The Punisher, the show takes all the live free or die, molon labe, good guy with a gun horseshit that the kinds of folks who have Punisher window decals with stars-and-stripes or blue-lives-matter patterns superimposed on them espouse and shows them [sic] for what they [sic] are: the ideology of murderers.

Whoa. That's Sean T. Collins typing on his spittle-flecked keyboard there, folks. Not me.

Translating into normal speech: the episode apparently contains standard left-wing anti-gun anti-conservative propaganda. That's OK, I'll watch it anyway. (Someday. I fell asleep at some point during Episode 2 last night, didn't wake up until the middle of episode 3.)

Note to Mr. Collins: buttressing your political hatreds via comic book-based fantasy entertainment is as unsound as your grammar.

Note to New Hampshire drivers: you don't want to cruise by Sean's house with an unobscured state motto on your plate, lest he run out and call you a murderer.

URLs du Jour

2017-11-26

Proverbs 18:10 looks like advice in times of peril:

10 The name of the Lord is a fortified tower;
    the righteous run to it and are safe.

I'm glad that works out for the righteous, but what about the rest of us?


■ Another fine article from dead-trees Reason appears for free, Ronald Bailey on The Noble, Misguided Plan to Turn Coal Miners Into Coders. It begins by describing the previous plan to social-engineer Appalachia out of poverty.

Even in coal's heyday, Appalachia was still relatively poor and backward. At the time, policy makers blamed its lack of economic development on mountainous inaccessibility. Their solution: End the region's isolation with massive infrastructure projects, most notably a network of four-lane highways that would connect the region to the rest of the country.

So in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Appalachian Regional Development Act, creating the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). Over the subsequent five decades, ARC has spent $27 billion (in 2015 dollars) to build nearly 3,000 miles of the Appalachian Development Highway System that is threaded throughout the mountains.

The highways, constructed along officially designated "Corridors," are splendidly engineered—and largely empty. They utterly failed to spark an economic renaissance. Despite tens of billions in federal money, the "region's performance relative to the national average is similar to its position in the 1960s," reported economists Carl Kitchens and Taylor Jaworski in a 2016 study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. They calculate that the gigantic transportation investment boosted incomes in the region by just $586 per capita.

The new plan is to build "eCorridors", fiber throughout the region, then to train the newly well-connected inhabitants to write code. The favored appellation seems to be "Silicon Holler".


■ Pun Salad fave Jonathan Haidt gave the "2017 Wriston Lecture" to the Manhattan Institute earlier this month, and an excerpt (retrieved from the WSJ paywall) is available: Identity Politics.

Today’s identity politics . . . teaches the exact opposite of what we think a liberal arts education should be. When I was at Yale in the 1980s, I was given so many tools for understanding the world. By the time I graduated, I could think about things as a utilitarian or as a Kantian, as a Freudian or a behaviorist, as a computer scientist or as a humanist. I was given many lenses to apply to any given question or problem.

But what do we do now? Many students are given just one lens—power. Here’s your lens, kid. Look at everything through this lens. Everything is about power. Every situation is analyzed in terms of the bad people acting to preserve their power and privilege over the good people. This is not an education. This is induction into a cult. It’s a fundamentalist religion. It’s a paranoid worldview that separates people from each other and sends them down the road to alienation, anxiety and intellectual impotence. . . .

An hourlong video of the lecture is viewable here.


Oh no:

I suppose it was only a matter of time.


Last Modified 2017-11-27 9:34 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2017-11-25

■ Proverbs is very rough on fools, mockers, liars, and gossips. And let us not forget slackers. Proverbs 18:9 lets loose:

9 One who is slack in his work
    is brother to one who destroys.

Back to work, lazybones. The Proverbialist is on the side of Management, Owners, and other Fat Cats.


■ A traditional joy of the Christmas season comes around once more: Dave Barry’s 2017 Holiday Gift Guide! A sample, if you haven't clicked over already:

There are many things wrong with today’s young people. They pay extra for jeans that look like they have been attacked by rabid moths. They stick metal things through their noses. They constantly take pictures of themselves. They call people “salty.” They live with their parents until age 37. The list of their flaws is endless. But without question one of the worst things about young people is their hideous taste in music, what with their “rap” tunes and their “hard metal.”

If you have a musically misguided young person on your holiday list, we have the perfect gift for him or her: The Barry Manilow Coloring Book. We got it from the official website of Barry Manilow, and it is everything you’d hope it would be, assuming you’d hope it would be a book of photographs of Barry Manilow that have been converted to faded line art so you can sort of color them in.

Imagine the look on some lucky young person’s face when he or she unwraps this item, along with a pack of crayons (not included) and you say, quote: “If you think this Barry Manilow coloring book is exciting, just wait until you hear his music!” Then you turn on your stereo system (not included) and the room fills with the scintillating sounds of “Copacabana” or one of the many other Barry Manilow hits from the past two centuries. Pretty soon that young person will develop an appreciation for good music. Either that, or that young person will move out of your house. Either way is good.

Should you need a link to the Official Website of Barry Manilow, it's at the link, pervert.

I don't want to overstate things, but everything that has gone wrong in the USA since 2005 is due to Dave's retirement from writing his regular humor column.


■ At Reason, Ronald Bailey asks the question: How Concerned Should You Be About Species Extinction? And the answer may be: not very. He quotes from a WaPo op-ed from George Washington University biologist R. Alexander Pyron:

Developed human societies can exist and function in harmony with diverse natural communities, even if those communities are less diverse than they were before humanity. For instance, there is almost no original forest in the eastern United States. Nearly every square inch was clear-cut for timber by the turn of the 20th century. The verdant wilderness we see now in the Catskills, Shenandoah and the Great Smoky Mountains has all grown back in the past 100 years or so, with very few extinctions or permanent losses of biodiversity (14 total east of the Mississippi River, counting species recorded in history that are now apparently extinct), even as the population of our country has quadrupled. Japan is one of the most densely populated and densely forested nations in the world. A model like that can serve a large portion of the planet, while letting humanity grow and shape its own future.

Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and Doomsayers gotta doomsay.

Up here in New Hampshire, it's a very common sight walking in the woods: rock walls snaking through the trees, built back when the forest was a farm.


■ It's a recycled G-File from @JonahNRO this week, but it's a goodie, especially for being written in the "back parking lot of a random Ramada in Williamsburg, Va." When We Say ‘Conservative,’ We Mean… Especially on Thanksgiving weekend, I appreciated this:

Gratitude captures so much of what conservatism is about because it highlights the philosophical difference between (American) conservatism and its foes on the left (and some of its friends among the libertarian camp). The yardstick against which human progress is measured shouldn’t be the sentiments and yearnings that define some unattainable utopian future, but the knowable and real facts of our common past.

[…]

Gratitude is just one facet of love, which is why conservatism is so inextricably bound up in patriotism. To be patriotic, one must love one’s country for what it is, not what it can be if only the right people are put in charge and allowed to “fundamentally transform” it. We love people for what they are, not what they could be. If you think you love someone or something not for what it is but solely for what it could be, that’s not love, it’s lust.

Jonah Goldberg is one of the reasons I don't consider my political philosophy to be full-fledged libertarianism, but rather a quantum superposition of libertarianism and conservatism. You, and I, never know where we're gonna come down on an issue until my wave function collapses.


■ Paul Mirengoff of Power Line demurs from the self-backpatting WaPo motto "Democracy Dies in Darkness". In fact, he contends, Darkness lives at the Washington Post.

Janell Ross covers “race” for the Washington Post. Judging by this article, she does so stupidly and less than honestly.

Ross is also a left-wing activist. This would not distinguish her from many of her Post colleagues except for the fact that she recently sat on a panel at a secret meeting of Democrats during which she offered strategic advice.

As Instapundit says (a lot): "Just think of the media as Democratic operatives with bylines, and their omertàs all make sense."


■ It's the 75th anniversary of a wonderful movie, and the WSJ celebrates it with [possibly paywalled]: We’ll Always Have ‘Casablanca’. Surprisingly, the filming was not smooth:

On screen, the warm translucent sensuality of Ingrid Bergman perfectly complemented the dark, brusque Bogart—but off-screen they didn’t click. Unhappy in a foundering marriage, he kept to himself during filming and drank heavily. A veteran film crook, he was uncomfortable in love scenes: “I don’t do it very well.”

“I kissed him but I never knew him,” Bergman said. She thought her film-husband Paul Henreid a prima donna. During filming she was eagerly looking beyond, to a role in an ambitious—and now forgotten—film of Ernest Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” with Gary Cooper, who at 6 feet 3 inches tall would give her a co-star to look up to. She was noticeably taller than Bogart, an awkward disparity disguised by shoe lifts and camera angles. They never worked together again.

The writer, Robert Garnett, assures us that the movie's "plot groans with inconsistencies and absurdities." That may be true. Oh, heck, I assume it's true. But great movies make you believe.

The Infidel and the Professor

David Hume, Adam Smith, and the Friendship That Shaped Modern Thought

[Amazon Link]

A surprisingly entertaining book about the relationship between David Hume (aka "the infidel") and Adam Smith (that would make him "the professor".) A much more interesting subject than I would have guessed.

Here's the basic math: Hume (1711-1776) met Smith (1723-1790) in 1746. They remained steadfast friends until Hume's death. It may sound like an odd-couple deal; Hume was a famed near-atheist religious skeptic; Smith was (at least perceived as) more devout. Hume was a conservative Tory, Smith a liberal Whig. Hume was an airy philosopher, Smith a hard-nosed economist.

The author, Dennis Rasmussen, corrects these and other misperceptions. What's not a misperception, however: Hume had a big, gregarious personality; Smith was more reserved, had odd habits, and tended to be absent-minded. Still, their relationship was a true bromance.

The book works not only as a story of a relationship between two Scotsmen, but also mini-biographies of both, and a picture of their times, especially about the philosophical/religious controversies. Making cameo appearances are Ben Franklin and Voltaire. A chapter is devoted to Hume's misadventures with Jean-Jacques Rousseau; Rousseau comes across as more of a lunatic than I had previously thought. James Boswell and Samuel Johnson come across as a couple of snotty prigs.

One major theme is Hume's death; it was widely speculated that, as a well-known religious skeptic, Hume might see the error of his ways as the end drew near. He did not; in fact, Smith wrote a letter chronicling Hume's cheerfulness and unrepentant irreligiousity to the end, and also detailing his opinion that Hume was one of the most ethical men he'd known.

Publication of this letter cause a lot of vituperation to be directed at Smith for conveying his accurate impressions. He wrote that he experienced "ten times more abuse" from that short letter than he had received for "the very violent attack" he had made against "the whole commercial system of Great Britain" (aka The Wealth of Nations).

One last point: Hume was funny, even to modern ears. Rasmussen's quotes bring a number of chuckles. One example: when asked whether he would extend his series of books on the history of England, Hume demurred: "Because I'm too old, too fat, too lazy, and too rich."

URLs du Jour

2017-11-24

Proverbs 18:8 seems familiar…

8 The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;
    they go down to the inmost parts.

Ah, yes: because it's the exact same as Proverbs 26:22 which we looked at back in May. I didn't think it made a lot of sense then, and see no reason to change my opinion now.

But I hope you got a lot of choice morsels for Thanksgiving. I did.


■ Arnold Kling writes on a discussion between Jordan Peterson and Jonathan Haidt. Haidt is a scholar who's notable for elucidating the differences between peoples' moral visions and how that plays out in their political views; Jordan Peterson is a politically-incorrect Canadian scholar; as noted yesterday, an instructor up north got in some hot water over daring to show a three-minute video clip of a "gendered pronoun" debate in which he participated.

At the end, Haidt predicts that there will be a split in the academic world. There will be a “University of Chicago model,” which underlines a commitment to truth and spurns indoctrination, and a “Brown University model” that does the opposite. He predicts that the market will reward Chicago and punish Brown.

I didn't watch the discussion. Because: one hour, thirty-four minutes, fifty-four seconds. Kling is less optimistic than Haidt about which model would win out.


■ At Power Line, John Hinderaker asks the important question: Were You Influenced By Russian Propaganda? Spoiler: almost certainly not, Facebook's absurdly inflated claims about the "reach" of the ads they host. But:

Meanwhile, if you really want to know whether you have been influenced by Russian propaganda, just ask yourself two questions: 1) Did you support the nuclear freeze movement of the 1980s? 2) Are you opposed to fracking? If you answered either question Yes, you almost certainly have been influenced by covert Russian propaganda.

People weak-minded enough to be swayed by Russian propaganda would certainly be equally swayed by any other propaganda. Show me that isn't a wash.


■ Jeff Tucker is pretty jazzed about the FCC's Internet regulation rollback: Goodbye Net Neutrality; Hello Competition.

Net Neutrality had the backing of all the top names in content delivery, from Google to Yahoo to Netflix to Amazon. It’s had the quiet support of the leading Internet service providers Comcast and Verizon. The opposition, in contrast, had been represented by small players in the industry, hardware providers like Cisco, free-market think tanks and disinterested professors, and a small group of writers and pundits who know something about freedom and free-market economics.

I use Google, Netflix, and Amazon (and strongly avoid Yahoo!); they are best-in-breed. But alarm bells go off for me when they cheerlead for increased government regulation. As they should have, but didn't, for "Net Neutrality" advocates.


■ But just because I use Google doesn't mean I love Google. My impression is that its page-rank algorithm tilts left. That's not great, but I can route around it. Here's something else to note, from John Samples at Cato: Censorship Comes to Google

At Saturday’s Halifax International Security Forum, Eric Schmidt announced that Google will alter its search algorithm to “de-rank” results from Russia Today.

Why did Google do this? Perhaps they were concerned about Russia meddling in American elections or they thought their customers wished to see less of Russia Today. It matters not. Generally Google has broad power to police its platform. We might not like the decision, but it is not ours to make.

There is a second possibility. Government officials may have threatened Google to bring about this “de-ranking” of Russia Today. If so, the First Amendment poses questions for us. We need answer such questions, however, only if government officials did in fact threaten Google.

Samples notes the bullying tone of Senator Feinstein questioning a Google exec during Senate Intelligence Committee hearings on Russian influence in the 2016 election. Post hoc, propter hoc? Samples suspects yes, maybe.


■ And here's a suggestion in our Tweet du Jour

I'm hunkering down for the day.

URLs du Jour

2017-11-23

■ We were kind of hoping for a Thanksgiving-relevant Proverb today, but no. We take them as they come. Proverbs 18:7 is another about the lips and mouths of fools. Just like yesterday. It's not as if the Proverbialist is obsessed about that, or anything:

7 The mouths of fools are their undoing,
    and their lips are a snare to their very lives.

One of the downsides of our chosen translation (New International Version, NIV) is its obtrusive adherence to non-sexist language. The KJV says it more powerfully: "A fool's mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul."


■ But we do have a Thanksgiving-relevant URL to share. Mark J. Perry at AEI is Giving thanks for kaleidoscopic market energy, the invisible hand of strangers (‘market benefactors’) and no turkey czars.

Like in previous years, most of you probably didn’t call your local supermarket ahead of time and order a Thanksgiving turkey this year. Why not? Because you automatically assumed that a turkey would be there when you showed up, and it probably was there when you appeared “unannounced” at your local grocery store and selected your Thanksgiving bird. Or it will be there today or tomorrow when you do your holiday grocery shopping, or when you “skip the trip” to the grocery store and get 2-hour delivery from Amazon Prime Now (fresh and frozen turkeys now available in some markets e.g., New York City, DC, Chicago, Seattle, and LA).

The reason your Thanksgiving turkey was waiting for you without an advance order? Because of the economic concepts of “spontaneous order,” “self-interest,” and the “invisible hand” of the free market. Turkeys appeared in your local grocery stores primarily because of the “self-interest” (maybe even greed in some cases) of thousands of turkey farmers, truck drivers, and supermarket owners and employees who are complete strangers to you and your family. But all of those strangers throughout the turkey supply chain co-operated on your behalf and were led by the “invisible hand” to make sure your family had a turkey on the table to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. The “invisible hand” that was responsible for your holiday turkey is just one of millions of everyday examples of the “miracle of the marketplace” where “individually selfish decisions must lead to a collectively efficient outcome,” as economist Steven E. Landsburg observed.

I'm currently reading a book about the friendship between David Hume and the guy that invented the "invisible hand" metaphor, Adam Smith. I've seen a lot of ridicule poured on that metaphor over the years, but—see the Proverb above—the fools that engage in said ridicule always seem to get their Thanksgiving dinner.


■ We noted a Reason article about our LFOD state yanking the medical licence of New London's Dr. Anna Konopka couple weeks back. Stat, an offshoot of the Boston Globe, reports on her case with more detail: A defiant country doctor fights for her license and a disappearing style of medicine. Some biographical detail:

When she was born, in 1933, her father was a judge in the small city of Rzeszow, about 60 miles from Ukraine in one direction and Slovakia in the other. But by the time she was graduating high school, her family had moved to Krakow, the country was aligned with the Soviet Union, and her family had lost almost everything except their reputation as members of the gentry.

“They wanted to recruit me for the Communist Party. I told them that I am not interested because my moral standards and their moral standards — they are two different standards,” she said. “Therefore they put me on the blacklist.”

She's a tough old bird.


■ If you've wondered: Do deficits still matter? @kevinNR has the answer: Yes, Deficits Still Matter.

It is becoming something of an unfortunate tradition in American politics that deficits matter only to the party out of power. Republicans wailed and moaned about the Obama-Pelosi-Reid deficits and, to their credit, reduced them when they came to power in Congress. But having whiffed on health-care reform and much else toward which they have turned their increasingly addled, muddled, and unample attention, they are desperate to pass some kind of tax-cut package, even though the government’s continued deficit spending means that there is effectively no such thing as a tax cut, only a tax deferral.

There are some things to like about the currently proposed tax legislation, but it should have been at least "revenue neutral".


■ Or, hey, maybe not. Larry Kudlow, Arthur Laffer, and Stephen Moore weigh in: The GOP tax bill is good, but Congress can make it better.

Repeal of the state income tax deduction will force states and cities to start spending more judiciously and help weed out waste in city hall and state capitals. New York and Connecticut spend almost twice per person on state and local government what New Hampshire spends, and yet services are better in the “live free or die” state. No longer will Uncle Sam underwrite one-third of municipal services. We hope this leads to more privatization of services and tax cuts all over the nation.

Yes, they got Pun Salad attention via an LFOD invocation. Good move, Larry, Art, and Steve!


■ We like to think that we're a little nuttier in the US than our stolid neighbor to the north. But they have their own problems with PC cops run amok: Graduate Instructor Who Showed Gendered-Pronoun Debate to Class Is Basically Hitler, Says School.

As Lindsey Shepherd was pleading her case before Wilfrid Laurier University faculty and staff, the 22-year-old Canadian grad student and teaching assistant seemed caught off guard by their demands. Her superiors weren't saying she couldn't show a televised debate over gender-neutral pronouns in the context of a classroom discussion on language—they just needed her to condemn one side of the debate first. To do otherwise, they said, was "like neutrally playing a speech by Hitler, or Milo Yiannopoulos."

Ms Shepherd was called before a tribunal, and she had the presence of mind to secretly record her interview, and a transcript is available at the National Post website. Here's a bit of the interaction between Shepherd and her supervising professor Nathan Rambukkana:

Shepherd: Like I said, it was in the spirit of debate.

Rambukkana: Okay, “in the spirit of the debate” is slightly different than ‘this is a problematic idea that we might want to unpack.’

Shepherd: But that’s taking sides.

Rambukkana: Yes.

Shepherd: It’s taking sides for me to be like “oh, look at this guy, like everything that comes out of his mouth is B.S. but we’re going to watch anyway.”

Rambukkana: I understand the position that you’re coming from and your positionality, but the reality is that it has created a toxic climate for some of the students, you know, it’s great —

Shepherd: How many? Who? How many? One?

Rambukkana: May I speak?

Shepherd: I have no concept of how many people complained, what their complaint was, you haven’t shown me the complaint.

Rambukkana: I understand that this is upsetting, but also confidentiality matters.

Shepherd: The number of people is confidential?

Rambukkana: Yes.

Kafka, Canadian style! It's difficult not to be amused by how quickly Rambukkana and the rest of the Canadian Inquisitors retreat behind the rhetorical fog of "toxic climate", "positionality", "unsafe learning environment", etc.

But, sorta good news, Shepherd's school has retreated somewhat from the idiocy. But, as we've noted a more than a few times before: the process is the punishment.

Anyway, the moral of the story:

She's not backing down. Good for her. Wish she were an American.

Force of Nature

[Amazon Link]

Another compulsive page turner from C.J. Box. It's not a guilty pleasure, but a proud one: Mr. Box is a very fine writer.

The book starts out with a humorous, but also gruesome, discovery: an inept fly fisherman (who got into the sport to meet girls, with no success) is casting in the Twelve Sleep River, when a seemingly abandoned drift boat floats down toward him. He manages to stop it, only to find three very dead bodies and a lot of blood.

We back up to discover the cause: Joe Pickett's friend, Nate Romanowski, acting in self-defense. We know from reading the previous book in the series (and I suggest that people read the series in order) that Nate has been hiding out from a shadowy group of assassins who want to kill him, and also just about anyone who knows him. Their lethal ruthlessness is demonstrated throughout.

Why? Well, we find out along the way, also with revelations about Nate's back story. (An Air Force Academy cadet? Hm, did not see that coming.)

This is billed on the cover as a "Joe Pickett Novel", and Joe's a major presence here, but I'm not sure that Nate's exploits don't get more pages. That's OK. Joe is torn three ways: between his loyalty to his friend, his desire to stay on the right side of the law, and the safety of his family. His course here is as perilous as Nate's, in its own way.

URLs du Jour

2017-11-22

Proverbs 18:6 shows very little respect for the First Amendment, which protects the speech of both fools and sages:

6 The lips of fools bring them strife,
    and their mouths invite a beating.

I've always wondered about the provenance of the famed grade-school taunt "You're pleading for a beating." There it is.


■ Megan McArdle comments on the undoing of "Net Neutrality" rules by the FCC, and doesn't see the big deal, because The Internet Had Already Lost Its Neutrality.

The internet will be filled today with denunciations of this move, threats of a dark future in which our access to content will be controlled by a few powerful companies. And sure, that may happen. But in fact, it may already have happened, led not by ISPs, but by the very companies that were fighting so hard for net neutrality.

Consider what happened to the Daily Stormer, the neo-Nazi publication, after Charlottesville. One by one, hosting companies refused to permit its content on their servers. The group was forced to effectively flee the country, and then other countries, too, shut it down.

One of my Progressive Facebook friends is a major cheerleader for "Net Neutrality", and also cheered the banishment of the neo-Nazi site. I didn't have the heart to ask him to square that circle.


■ Tyler Cowen is also copacetic about the regulatory demise: The End of Net Neutrality Isn't the End of the World.

Eliminating net neutrality is, in the best and worst case scenarios, either necessary to keep the internet up and running, or will lead to a dystopian future where a few major corporations control our thoughts. The more prosaic reality, however, is that a world without net neutrality will work just fine. I am therefore not incensed (or very excited) about the Federal Communications Commission proposal released Tuesday that will move away from net neutrality.

Tyler admits he used to be in favor of "Net Neutrality", but has changed his mind.

(I am nowhere near as smart as Tyler, but I always thought "Net Neutrality" was a focus-grouped buzzphrase to avoid the more obvious "Government Regulation of the Internet".


[Amazon Link]

■ Peter Suderman interviews Aaron Carroll, the author of The Bad Food Bible, which I've placed on my Things-To-Read list from the title alone. At Reason: You Don’t Have Listen to the Government. Eat the Foods You Like.

Reason: Something I really appreciate about your book is that it's not moralistic or restrictive. Although you do issue some warnings about certain behaviors to avoid, a big part of your message is that it's actually fine to consume most food and beverages. It's a book that repeatedly says, sure, it's okay to eat or drink that, at least in moderation.

That's quite a bit different from a lot of the diet advice we see, which tends to be heavily restrictive and focused on what you should avoid consuming. And it's also different than the moralism found in a lot of hand-me-down health wisdom, which is all about which foods are inherently good and which are inherently bad.

What's the appeal of restrictive diet moralism? Why does it persist—and in many cases spread? It can't be because it's pleasurable to eat that way!

Aaron Carroll: For as long as I can remember, nutritional advice has always been about telling me I'm doing something wrong. It was always telling me I was eating the wrong things. Don't eat cholesterol. Don't eat fat. Don't eat carbs. You have to eat something.

I think there are likely a few reasons for this. One is that some people think that making people feel shame is a motivating factor. Another is that we tend to think that being overweight or obese is somehow your "fault" and that you, therefore, are to "blame". Too often we equate being overweight with a moral failing.

We also shouldn't discount the financial drivers. There's lots of money to be made by making people feel afraid, and it certainly works in food.

As the cliché goes: you can add years to your life via healthy eating, but those added years come at the wrong end.


■ At NRO, Deroy Murdock reads the open letter from "high net worth individuals, many in the top 1%" who oppose the current tax reform legislation and implore Congress: "Do not cut our taxes." And Murdock has a Modest Proposal, the Higher-rate Optional (H.O.T.) Tax, which would Let the Guilty Rich Soak Themselves.

Congress should add the H.O.T. tax to the legislation now coursing through Capitol Hill. It would be simple, fair, and voluntary. Any taxpayer who feels undertaxed could fill the H.O.T. line on IRS Form 1040 with whatever higher tax rate makes her happy, multiply by taxable income, and submit that larger total.

I like it. But there's already a mechanism in place for voluntary contributions to Your Federal Government.

URLs du Jour

2017-11-21

Proverbs 18:5 belabors the obvious.

5 It is not good to be partial to the wicked
    and so deprive the innocent of justice.

So if you notice people being partial to the wicked, depriving the innocent of justice, be sure to tell them: "That's not good."


■ In the [possibly paywalled] WSJ, Adam O’Neal asks the tough question: What Will Tax Reform Do for Puppies?

As tax reform snakes its way through the legislative process, it’s becoming clear that one critical group could come out behind: dog families. This inequity must be remedied. I suggest Republicans cancel their proposed Child Tax Credit expansion and instead offer a fully refundable Canine Tax Credit worth at least $500 a dog.

Congress is preparing to maybe even double the Child Tax Credit. But what about couples who opted for dogs instead of children? Or those who are preparing for parenthood by taking on a cuddly critter for a couple of years? It’s as if the Child Tax Credit’s biggest boosters are stuck in 1997, when Congress first approved the handout.

O'Neal efficiently skewers the mindset of social engineers who use the tax code to clumsily reward taxpayers for their allegedly socially beneficial behavior (assuming they have their papers in order).


■ For example of the above, peruse the Reason post from Christian "Only Two Vowels in My Surname" Britschgi: Tax Reform Fight Shows Why Subsidies Never Die.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed by the House last week, promised to save about $12.3 billion over the next decade by scaling back a "production tax credit" mostly used by wind energy producers. It was a tepid but welcome change to a program that has far outlived whatever usefulness it might have had. Sadly, even this marginal reform seems to be too much for Senate Republicans, who have left the credit untouched in their version of the bill.

Main obstacle to getting rid of this boondoggle is Iowa Republican Senator Grassley. I was in Iowa this summer, and there sure were a lot of windmills dotting the countryside, slicing up the birdies, and also your tax dollars.


■ Another article from dead-trees Reason contains news you can use, if you are a US teen, or know one who needs legal guidance: Sex, Jobs, and Smoking: What's Legal for Teens in Your State? Example:

In New Hampshire, girls can get married at 13; boys can get married at 14; and neither can consent to sex until 16 unless legally married.

So there you go.


■ I was inordinately amused by this tweet from Christopher J. Scalia:

If you don't get it, this explanation will probably ruin the joke, but here goes:

  1. That's Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett on the right, who was recently nominated to the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals.

  2. Maybe you recall Senator Dianne Feinstein's infamous comments during confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the 7th Court of Appeals. Noting Barrett's staunch Catholicism (aieee!), Feinstein complained that "the [Catholic] dogma lives loudly within you".

  3. And during Willett's confirmation hearings, this April 2015 tweet became an issue:

    … attacked by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy for being insufficiently respectful to Obergefell, the SC's gay-marriage decision. Which didn't occur until June 2015.

So… apologies for the joke explainer. But now it's funny, right?

URLs du Jour

2017-11-20

Grampa Abe Simpson

■ The Proverbialist gets metaphorical in Proverbs 18:4:

4 The words of the mouth are deep waters,
    but the fountain of wisdom is a rushing stream.

Actually, I'm relatively sure that the words of the mouth can be, and often are, very shallow waters. And wisdom deserves to be perused and contemplated, just as a rushing stream typically isn't.


■ At NRO, Henry Olson wonders: What Happened to the ‘Libertarian Moment’? And there's a University Near Here connection:

In our book The Four Faces of the Republican Party (2016), University of New Hampshire professor Dante Scala and I looked at 20 years of exit-poll data to discern what Republicans believed. We found that at most one in six could be called liberty-minded conservatives, people who wanted both smaller government and lower taxes and made that their principal priority. These voters, whom we called “very conservative seculars,” were the smallest of the GOP’s four factions and had been since at least 1996, when our data series began. Their favorites for the nomination, candidates such as Steve Forbes and Fred Thompson, always lost, and usually quite early, as the favorites of the other GOP factions trounced them in the early states, where momentum is built.

Ah, well, that explains it. Yes, I was a fan of Steve Forbes in 1996 (when he lost the New Hampshire Primary to Bob Dole with 12.2% of the vote). And also in 2000 (when he lost the primary to Dubya with 12.6% of the vote).

And in 2008, I enthusiastically voted for Fred Thompson (who wound up losing to McCain, only getting 1.2% of the vote).

And, as I've done many times since, I took a deep breath, and thought to myself: "Oh well. If I can't win, I guess I'll just have to settle for being right."


■ Charles Manson finally kicked the bucket yesterday, and Roger L. Simon has a sendoff and meditation: Charlie, the Monster, Is Dead — Was My Generation Insane?

For many of us who have resided a long time in Los Angeles, it feels as if this monster has been with us all our lives. He is the dark side of this city personified, but even more the dark side of our generation, the dark side of hippiedom -- turn on, tune in, drop out, taken to its bloodiest extreme.

And here's a haunting fact. The murderous rampage that took seven lives at the homes of actress Sharon Tate and director Roman Polanski, himself back in the news for his own repellent activities, and then supermarket exec Leno LaBianca and his wife occurred in August 1969 -- 48 years from today, but only 24 years from the liberation of Auschwitz. It was considerably closer to Nazi times than to ours.

For those who think we live in exceptionally crazy times: you either weren't around for the late 60s, or you don't remember them well.


■ Sarah Hoyt has an observation about you. Specifically: You're Making Social Engineers Cry. She made this observation based on "The Global Gender Gap Report 2017" from the World Economic Forum.

Pardon me if I didn’t carefully read the entire report. Even as a science fiction writer, I have trouble swallowing more than three unsupported assertions or outright lies in a paragraph.

Ms Hoyt's essay is a tour de force of refutation, so check it out.


■ It's a challenge to myth-bust in a single tweet, but Mark J. Perry manages it, I think:

The only possible criticism is the chart's implication of a zero-sum "fixed pie" over the decades. But show this to anyone lamenting the "disappearance of the middle class".


■ We had a Michael P. Ramirez cartoon yesterday about Senator Creepy Al. Equal time demands:

Judge Roy Moore questions Moses in Michael P. Ramirez Cartoon

[The embed.ly embedder cuts off the top and bottom of MPR cartoons, so click through to see the whole glorious thing. MPR is my current favorite editorial cartoonist.]

URLs du Jour

2017-11-19

Proverbs 18:3 is pretty straightforward:

3 When wickedness comes, so does contempt,
    and with shame comes reproach.

Profound, and yet unsurprising. These being shameful and wicked times, Pun Salad promises to keep up its part, delivering plenty of contempt and reproach.


■ Last night's concert at the University Near Here gave the "All Eyes on UNH" Facebook group a useful opportunity to lecture on who can sing along with what:

Tonight PnB Rock, Metro Boomin, and T-pain are performing at the Whittemore Center. We want all students that are attending the concert to have a great time and to be safe. All non- Black students should be mindful and not say the n-word while singing along.

Beware: Ta-Nehisi Coates autoplay video at the link.

One can only wonder if DNA tests were available so the kiddos could determine whether they were genetically qualified to sing "the n-word". Would there be a cutoff? The one-drop rule, perhaps?


■ A legal victory for exclusionary zoning just a few towns away is reported in my local newspaper, Foster's Daily Democrat: Court affirms Lee’s tiny homes law.

The Strafford County Superior Court has affirmed the decision by the town of Lee, not to allow the construction of tiny homes for veterans.

The would-be tiny home builder, Peter Macdonald, is now on the hook for a $70,675 fine.

"Thank you, veterans, for your service, but please don't do anything that might jeopardize property values."

Lee is just next door to Durham, and not quite as Progressive. (Hillary got a mere 66% of the vote in Lee, as opposed to 73% in Durham.) And, as near as I can tell, unlike Durham, they haven't passed a virtue-signalling Diversity Welcome Statement. So unfortunately, I can't easily mock their hypocrisy.

I can't help but wonder whether Macdonald would have any better luck in Durham, though. I would guess not.


@kevinNR unloads on Louise Linton, The Treasury Secretary’s Wife. Sample:

She also published a book, In the Shadow of Congo, a memoir about the semester abroad she spent in “war-torn Zambia,” a tale replete with child soldiers, Hutu–Tutsi ethnic warfare, monsoons, and the general horror of the Congolese war that beset the “angel-haired” (her description of herself) visitor from the United Kingdom. There were many problems with that account, including the fact that the Congolese war wasn’t fought in Zambia, which has in fact never been at war, but if it had been at war, that war wouldn’t have been the Hutu–Tutsi conflict, which happened in Rwanda, which isn’t where Linton was. She was down in Zambia, which does not have the monsoons she claimed to have endured. The book was a gross and embarrassing example of the “white savior” genre, and a particularly illiterate and dishonest one at that. It has been withdrawn from publication.

She's a vain and vapid airhead. Athough the head is pretty good looking. A perfect addition to the Trump Administration.

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: