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: