A Debt Against the Living

An Introduction to Originalism

[Amazon Link]

A short but very readable book by Ilan Wurman. Like me, a physics major who went on to less complex work.

On legal topics, I wear the "dilettante" label, not proudly, but honestly. I've found myself in the too-deep end of the pool while reading in this area before. I'm happy to report this is a Goldilocks book: "just right" for my level of understanding and background.

The title refers to James Madison's rejoinder to Thomas Jefferson's suggestion that the country should invent itself a new system of governance every generation, lest it be enslaved to the "dead hand of the past." Madison rebutted:

If the earth be the gift of nature to the living, their title can extend to the earth in its natural State only. The improvements made by the dead form a debt against the living who take the benefit of them. This debt cannot be otherwise discharged than by a proportionate obedience to the will of the Authors of the improvements.

[Bold emphasis added. Madison was bold-impaired.]

Wurman makes the case, with Madison, against those who prefer the Constitution to be treated as a "living, breathing document." To quote Jonah Goldberg: we "like our Constitution like our beef jerky — cold, dead, tough to chew through."

That's cute, maybe a little too cute for a serious scholar like Wurman. He carefully teases apart the various issues involved in originalism, best stated as the belief that the Constitution's words and phrases should be interpreted according to their original public meaning. He argues that this should be no different from "interpreting" an 18th century recipe for fried chicken: if the recipe stipulates "pepper to taste", it means (a) you've got considerable leeway as to the amount of pepper you put in; (b) it would be an unconscionable error to say "well, let's just use rosemary, instead"; (c) if, in the 18th century, "pepper" meant something other than what we mean today, then you should go with that "original" meaning.

[More on early American pepper here.]

Wurman argues against a number of people, including (most important to me) Randy Barnett and Richard Epstein, who have contended that Constitutional interpretation should proceed from a "presumption of liberty". But also against folks who argue that legislative and executive laws be given the "presumption of constitutionality."

He also approaches the issue of the Constitution's legitimacy; which, on its face, seems problematic for a document whose "We the people" preamble refers to no actual people living today. He makes (at least to my ears) a unique argument about how the Constitution is rooted from the Declaration of Independence three different ways: (1) the easy one, it enshrines the inalienable natural rights of individuals; but also (2) it establishes a democratic order of government, undoing the wrongs of George III; and (3) it was ratified by methods of popular sovereignity, another source of George III gripes.

Wurman is especially good at presenting his opponents' arguments fairly, with understanding and respect. (One measure of this: a couple glowing blurbs on the back are from scholars he takes serious issues with.)

URLs du Jour


Prudence and the Pill (1968)

Proverbs 16:22 endorses what (eventually) became one of the Cardinal virtues:

22 Prudence is a fountain of life to the prudent,
    but folly brings punishment to fools.

Prudence was the 596th-most-popular name for US girl babies in the 1880s, but slipped to its current near extinct status by the 1950s. But Mia Farrow has a sister named Prudence (born 1948), and she was the inspiration for the Beatles' song "Dear Prudence". The lads met her at the Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation clinic in India. The song's lyric "Won't you come out and play" was a reference to her habit of retreating to her room to practice TM.

And of course, there's the long-forgotten Deborah Kerr/David Niven movie, our Pic du Jour. R-rated in 1968!

@kevinNR is no SOTU fan, and he relates the reasons in Night of the Peacock. He quotes from a previous year's article:

The annual State of the Union pageant is a hideous, dispiriting, ugly, monotonous, un-American, un-republican, anti-democratic, dreary, backward, monarchical, retch-inducing, depressing, shameful, crypto-imperial display of official self-aggrandizement and piteous toadying, a black Mass during which every unholy order of teacup totalitarian and cringing courtier gathers under the towering dome of a faux-Roman temple to listen to a speech with no content given by a man with no content, to rise and to be seated as is called for by the order of worship — it is a wonder they have not started genuflecting — with one wretched representative of their number squirreled away in some well-upholstered Washington hidey-hole in order to preserve the illusion that those gathered constitute a special class of humanity without whom we could not live. It’s the most nauseating display in American public life — and I write that as someone who has just returned from a pornographers’ convention.

He urges a return to the 1801-1912 tradition of delivering a written address to be read to Congress by a clerk. (That's been done a few times since, most recently by Jimmy Carter.)

■ Gregg Easterbrook's TMQ column this week delves into the dreadful NFL rules about what happens when a game goes into overtime. But even if you don't care about football, he meanders over to the USA Gymnastic scandal, and its relation to higher ed, specifically Michigan State (MSU):

Disgraced MSU president Lou Anna Simon sounds like a really terrible person, too. Apparently the president of Michigan State didn’t care how many girls and women were molested in the years following the juncture at which the school was warned and failed to act, but did care about her own taxpayer-financed perks. Gymnast Rachael Denhollander went public in 2016, yet Simon kept denying anything was wrong. Michigan State took no action to defend minor girls, but was quick to retain the law firm Skadden Arps to defend itself from liability for the school’s villainy. Simon’s contract, which rings of cronyism and corruption, calls for her to receive more than half a million dollars per year essentially for life, no matter how poorly she performed. Now Simon has ruined the reputation of Michigan State University—but what’s that to her, since she gets her payday and her free benefits? Like [NCAA head Mark Emmert], Simon at MSU knew there would always be money and never be accountability.

Tough but on-target. NCAA delenda est.

■ But, hey, are you ready for the Superb Owl? Mental Floss offers 52 Super Facts for Your Super Bowl Party. (That sounds like a lot, but they only have to come up with one new fact every year.) Number 35:

On Super Bowl Media Day in 2000, a reporter asked Titans defensive tackle Joe Salave’a, “What’s your relationship with the football?” He replied: “I’d say it’s strictly platonic.”

I would guess that most NFL defensive tackles do not have either Salave'a's wit or vocabulary.

■ For those looking for explanations for the dysfunctional behavior of FBI/DOJ personnel into Russia/Trump "collusion", Victor Davis Hanson provides a key: Hillary’s ‘Sure’ Victory Explains Most Everything. Example:

How could former deputy director of the FBI Andrew McCabe assume an oversight role in the FBI probe of the Clinton email scandal when just months earlier his spouse had run for state office in Virginia and had received a huge $450,000 cash donation from Common Good VA, the political-action committee of long-time Clinton-intimate Terry McAuliffe?

Again, the answer was clear. McCabe assumed that Clinton would easily win the election. Far from being a scandal, McCabe’s not “loaded for bear” oversight of the investigation, in the world of beltway maneuvering, would have been a good argument for a promotion in the new Clinton administration. Most elite bureaucrats understood the Clinton way of doing business, in which loyalty, not legality, is what earned career advancement.

Bottom line: FBI and DOJ folks bet a lot on the wrong horse, knowing they'd never get called out for it if Hillary had won.

■ At Reason, Christian Britschgi relates: Politicians, Media Freak Out Over Elon Musk's Flamethrowers.

Firearm regulation often has more to do with a weapon's looks than its lethality. Nothing illustrates this better than the sudden freakout over Elon Musk's new flamethrower venture.

Musk's Boring Company started taking preorders of its $500 "world's safest" flamethrowers this past weekend. Musk claims to have already sold some 15,000 units, which he promises to ship come the spring.

Statist blanch at this factoid: "neither the federal government nor 48 of the states have any laws on the books regarding flamethrowers."

■ Pun Salad Close Personal Friend Dave Barry points to this WMUR story: NH bill would punish owners of trespassing chickens.

The Legislature is considering a bill that would make trespassing fowl a violation, not for the chicken but for its owners. Under the proposal, anyone who knowingly, recklessly or negligently allows fowl to enter or travel over someone else's property without permission can be convicted of a violation.

Trespassing Chickens? As Dave notes: "We saw them open for the Clash."

■ As the Babylon Bee reports: After Killing 20-Week Abortion Ban, Democrats Resume Lecturing People About Compassion.

According to sources within the Senate, Democratic legislators took a short break from their tireless schedule of lecturing the nation about compassion Monday in order to vote against a ban on the barbaric practice of ripping helpless 20-week-old babies limb from limb and pulling them from the wombs of their mothers.

Sometimes the Bee, um, stretches the truth. This is not one of those times.

Last Modified 2018-12-28 4:45 AM EDT


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

I think this is the first James McAvoy movie I've seen where I haven't wanted to give him a good slap. There's something about him…

But here "Slappy" plays [small spoiler alert] a couple dozen different characters. And, what do you know, he's actually very good at that.

Things kick off when he abducts three teenage girls; two, Claire and Marcia, are good-time partiers. But the third, Casey, is unplanned collateral damage, she's unpopular, dark, and moody, and is only in the mix due to a spontaneous ride offer from Claire's dad.

So who do you think will be the plucky heroine here? Good guess.

Also in the mix is Betty Buckley, playing the villain's shrink. It's through her that we gain insights as to what makes the bad guy tick. But she gets surprised at the sheer nature of his disorder. Right in time to be … too late. (Geez, didn't she play the same sort of role in Carrie, the Sissy Spacek one? Yup.)

The movie is written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, and it's kind of a return to form for him, after a string of poorly-performing movies. And here's another spoiler: the final scene reveals a surprising connection to a previous Shyamalan movie. And, oops, looking at IMDB shows that its actually a sequel setup. I'm in.

The Wave

[2.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A choice out of the Netflix streaming queue, a Norwegian disaster film. Based on the fact that the (actual) tourist village of Geiranger is at risk of a tsunami, caused by a (theoretical) collapse of cliffs into the neighbring Geirangerfjord. Apparently, it's not a question of "if" but "when".

I'm not sure how the Geiranger Tourist Board feels about this movie. Because the movie says: let's see what would happen. And the answer is: (spoiler alert) a lot of tourists die. Locals, too, but hey.

That said, I was struck by the sheer number of disaster movie tropes herein: the guy who warns of imminent danger and is ignored; the (same) guy who must save his family; the quirkiness of said family that cause them to be in harm's way; various characters brought in just to be killed off; people futilely running from the much faster disaster; and of course the special effects (pretty good for Norway).

The Foreigner

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

Nearly ten years ago, I suggested that the Oscars establish a new award category: "Best Performance for Doing That Kind of Thing That Jackie Chan Does". Sadly, they have not taken my advice yet. If they had, Jackie Chan would definitely win for his performance here.

Just as an aside, Jackie Chan is a passionate defender of the Chinese Communist dictatorship. I find this both sad and disgusting. In fact, I think this uncontested fact is worse than some of the current accusations about sexual harrassment that are getting movie people blacklisted these days.

But should this affect my movie-watching? I don't know. It hasn't as yet.

Anyway, on to the flick: Jackie plays Ngoc Minh Quan, an ethnically Chinese restaurant owner in London, very protective of his only surviving family member, a teenage daughter. Not protective enough, however, because while getting a dress for the big dance, she gets seriously blown up by a terrorist bomb aimed at a neighboring bank. A faction of the IRA takes credit.

Quan is heartbroken, and (then) increasingly impatient with the pace of the investigation. Frustrated, he decides to confront an Irish politician, once a terrorist himself: Liam Hennessy, played by Pierce Brosnan. (Who actually is Irish, so I imagine the accent he puts on here comes naturally.) Hennessey denies any knowledge of the bombing, and tells Quan he can't help him.

But (it turns out) Quan has what Liam Neeson memorably called "a very particular set of skills". Including knowledge of explosives, weaponry, and (of course) ass-kicking. Also head-kicking, groin-kicking, abdomen-kicking,… Pretty soon, Hennessy finds himself playing Quan's game against his will.

It's an impressively complex plot, with lots of betrayal, revelations, and surprising twists. And a lot of brilliantly-choreographed Jackie Chan-style violence.

If I was Irish, though, I'd be pretty pissed. The bomb (it turns out) was set by a guy named "Patrick O'Reilly". The actual terrorist incidents in England last year were carried out by guys named Ahmed Hassan, Salman Abedi, Khalid Masood, Khuram Shazad Butt, Rachid Redouane, Youssef Zaghba, ….

URLs du Jour


Tread Upon Now What?

Proverbs 16:21, as near as I can tell, is another twofer…

21 The wise in heart are called discerning,
    and gracious words promote instruction.

… unless you can tell what those two conjoined phrases have to do with each other. I'm failing to see it.

Jeopardy! champ Tom Nichols takes to the pages of the WaPo to expound on Trump’s first year: A damage assessment.

Trump’s presidency has done daily damage not only to the Republican Party and the conservative movement but, more important, to our constitutional system of government. The president is eroding the unwritten norms that serve as the civic girders beneath our political and legal infrastructure. And his foreign policy, insofar as he has one, is diminishing our global standing and jeopardizing our security.

It is sometimes difficult, in the wind tunnel of noise created by Trump’s most hysterical critics, to distinguish what is merely appalling from what is genuinely dangerous. Not everything the administration has done is wrong or disastrous — it has even gotten a few things right, such as the strike last year against Syria. But it is clear that Trump has already left so much destruction in his wake that it may be hard to put the pieces together again after he’s gone.

Tom is a smart guy, and even (or maybe especially) Trump fans should check him out.

But unfortunately, at least as I type, there's an embedded video with his article. The WaPo teases the video with a few seconds of Trump giving what appears to be a Nazi salute. A few frames make it clear that it's not; he's just waving. But the initial impression is unmistakeable. Talking about "the wind tunnel of noise created by Trump’s most hysterical critics"!

[Amazon Link]

■ At NRO, Shoshana Weissmann writes on The Underlying Cognitive Dissonance of the Left and the Right. In case you were unconvinced by (or didn't see) my take on the recent book by Brink Lindsey and Steven M. Teles, The Captured Economy: How the Powerful Enrich Themselves, Slow Down Growth, and Increase Inequality, maybe Shoshana will convince you to check it out. Her bottom line:

The Left complains of the undue political influence bought by wealthy special interests, but it regularly trusts the actions and intent of the very government that is subject to that influence. Meanwhile, the Right complains that big government is overly intrusive and burdensome, but it denies the existence of the systemic inequality that results from its overreach. Maybe we should all focus on correcting our own hypocrisies before we turn to those of our political opponents.

Let me just put an Amazon link over there… there!

■ Speaking of wealthy special interests: As we look forward to Superb Owl LII, Steven Malanga and City Journal tell the tale of Minnesota, Plundered by Vikings.

Fans of the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles will travel to the frigid northern city this week because the NFL granted a Super Bowl to Minnesota as a reward for stepping up with more than half a billion dollars in subsidies for the home-state Vikings’ U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened in 2016. For a city whose mayor recently described it as a “shining beacon of progressive light and accomplishment,” this is some feat, and a reminder that the NFL, whatever its troubles, maintains a firm hold on the taxpayer’s purse in many places.

Cronyism is doing just fine in Minnesota. Also lutefisk. Cause and effect? I think so!

■ The State of the Union Address is tonight! I'm so excited, I'll be watching a TiVo'd episode of Scorpion instead. Should you need another reason not to watch, Reason's Nick Gillespie provides one: All the President's Human Props: Welders, Cops, Vets Will Be Trotted Out During SOTU. Among the President's invitees there are, Gillespie notes, "crime victims, veterans, entrepreneurs, and beneficiaries of various Trump actions."

Ronald Reagan is to blame for the nauseating twist on the annual presidential report that's mandated by the Constitution. Back in 1982, the master showman highlighted the heroism of Lenny Skutnik, a Congressional Budget Office staffer who pulled a drowning passenger out of the Potomac River after an Air Florida plane crashed in that slow-moving cesspool. Ever since then, almost every State of the Union address has featured one or more "Skutniks," or Americans who somehow embody everyday heroism, stoicism, victimhood, or identity politics. I've got nothing against Skutnik, who was indeed a hero, but this is a tradition hammier than an Easter dinner. Past Skutniks have included such luminaries as Second Lady and would-be music censor Tipper Gore, steroid-popping and bat-corking baseball slugger Sammy Sosa, and epically corrupt and incompetent Afghan leader Hamid Karzai.

I count 15. And of course, the various CongressCritters in attendance (including my own) have invited their own props.

Last Modified 2018-12-28 4:45 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


Toilet Use instructions

Proverbs 16:20 seems a little… unfocused:

20 Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers,
    and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.

"We can't just say 'Pay attention in school, kids.' That's way too short for a proper proverb."

"Well, just stick some stuff at the end about trusting the Lord. Nobody could complain about that."

■ At NRO, Andrew Stuttaford has some observations on The Idea of ‘Fake News’ and Its Abuses. Which is fine, and good, but I really picked up my ears when he quoted the Pope:

An impeccable argument can indeed rest on undeniable facts, but if it is used to hurt another and to discredit that person in the eyes of others, however correct it may appear, it is not truthful.

Misquote? Mistranslation? Well here is the entire Papal message on the Vatican website.

I belive the Pope has developed his own theory of truthiness.

■ Stupid ideas continue to come not only from the Vatican, but also from the Trump Administration. Fortunately, says Scott Shackford at Reason, the FCC Chair Throws Water on Crazy Plan for Feds to Seize Control of Our 5G Networks. Quoting the chair:

I oppose any proposal for the federal government to build and operate a nationwide 5G network. The main lesson to draw from the wireless sector's development over the past three decades—including American leadership in 4G—is that the market, not government, is best positioned to drive innovation and investment. What government can and should do is to push spectrum into the commercial marketplace and set rules that encourage the private sector to develop and deploy next-generation infrastructure. Any federal effort to construct a nationalized 5G network would be a costly and counterproductive distraction from the policies we need to help the United States win the 5G future.

It's unclear how serious the Trump folks are taking this. Hopefully, it will be disowned quickly. Like before you read this.

■ Pun Salad is not the Official Blog of Super Bowl LII, no matter what you've heard. But Minneapolis-based James Lileks (unlike Trump or the Pope) has a good idea: Let's get a head start on criticizing Super Bowl ads. Example:

High-concept ad with no connection to the product.

Scene: The desert. A cowgirl on horseback appears out of the shimmering sun; a harmonica plays a mournful tune. She cracks a whip. From over the hill comes a herd of men dressed in suits. Vultures carry them away one by one. Camera shows the cowgirl transferring money on her phone app. A man in a suit falls from the sky in front of her horse. Voiceover: "Westhaven Investments knows that the traditional way of investing doesn't work for everyone."

Reaction: It was all fun and games watching football, but boy, now we're super-psyched about managing our nonexistent investments from a smartphone.

More at the link, and most sound completely plausible.

■ Finally, Mr. Ramirez on Trump's Trade War:

Trump Trade War and Tariffs

I encourage you to click through and enjoy the uncropped version. Ramirez is a master.

Last Modified 2018-12-28 4:45 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


■ In Proverbs 16:19 the Proverbialist speaks with relevance to current news items:

19 Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed
    than to share plunder with the proud.

If, in a psychological word association test, a shrink said "plunder", I would likely reply "Bastiat". Here he identifies "two issues … that have always endangered the public peace" in the United States:

What are these two issues? They are slavery and tariffs. These are the only two issues where, contrary to the general spirit of the republic of the United States, law has assumed the character of a plunderer.

Slavery is a violation, by law, of liberty. The protective tariff is a violation, by law, of property.

It is a most remarkable fact that this double legal crime — a sorrowful inheritance from the Old World — should be the only issue which can, and perhaps will, lead to the ruin of the Union. It is indeed impossible to imagine, at the very heart of a society, a more astounding fact than this: The law has come to be an instrument of injustice. And if this fact brings terrible consequences to the United States — where the proper purpose of the law has been perverted only in the instances of slavery and tariffs — what must be the consequences in Europe, where the perversion of the law is a principle; a system?

That was from The Law, first published in 1850. We managed to get rid of slavery a few years after, but… more on tariffs below.

■ First up is George F. Will, speaking truthfully from his WaPo perch: When protectionism is not about protecting America at all.

Fomenting spurious anxieties about national security is the first refuge of rent-seeking scoundrels who tart up their protectionism as patriotism when they inveigle government into lining their pockets with money extracted from their fellow citizens. Sugar producers are ludicrously protected in the name of "food security." Most U.S. steel imports come from four important allies: Canada, South Korea, Mexico and Brazil. The coming steel tariffs/taxes will mean that defense dollars will buy fewer ships, tanks and armored vehicles, just as the trillion infrastructure dollars the administration talks about will buy fewer bridges and other steel-using projects. As Henry George said, with protectionism a nation does to itself in peacetime what an enemy tries to do to it in war.

He is writing, of course, in response to the Trump Administration's initial salvo in its upcoming prosperity-destroying trade war: hefty tariffs on washing machines and solar panels made by them insidious furriners.

■ Trump's move has pleased a lot of anti-trade conservatives. (Who, ironically, share a lot of ideological space with the anti-trade Progressives, like Bernie Sanders.) Kevin D. Williamson wonders: Will the Liberals Take the Lead on Trade?

There’s an opportunity here for Democrats, and one that isn’t limited to the specific question of trade. With the Republican party dominated by Trump-style populism and its harrumphing, nickel-and-dime, zero-sum approach to practically every public question, there is an opening for a party with an interest in reestablishing responsible American in global economic and diplomatic affairs, and to leave the Republicans grousing about whether the Belgians are two-tenths of a point short of their NATO funding commitments. “Leader of the Free World” is a heck of a job title. Maybe Justin Trudeau or Angela Merkel wants it. Narendra Modi surely does. Xi Jinping isn’t so hot on the “free” part, but he is happy to step into the vacuum left by the willful absenting of American leadership. What does Donald Trump want? To save Americans from excellent washing machines offered at reasonable prices.

Good luck on that. At least for my lefty Facebook friends, their criticism seems to be centered on the solar panel tariffs, which they view with horror, because… well, they're solar panels, Progressive religious icons. Washing machines, not so much.

■ But as far as Proverbial plunder goes, Mark J. Parry sums it up in one small graph in our Tweet du Jour:

If you owned Whirlpool stock, congratulations, you're "sharing plunder with the proud".

Last Modified 2018-12-28 4:45 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


■ Is Proverbs 16:18 the most well-known one of all? If not, it's right up there.

18 Pride goes before destruction,
    a haughty spirit before a fall.

If you want "goeth", though, you have to goeth to other translations.

■ I was both amused and disgusted by a short article in my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat. Panelists oppose offshore oil drilling in New England.

Yes, it's the usual advocacy article, thinly disguised as "news". But my soon-to-be-ex CongressCritter, Carol Shea-Porter was in attendance. And…

The discussion was briefly interrupted, however, when an audience member loudly protested Shea-Porter’s support of a defense spending bill, saying she was “increasing climate change.”

Ben Chichester of Rye, son of the late Guy Chichester, a longtime leading Seacoast environmental activist, criticized Shea-Porter for backing the defense funding bill.

“I came here to speak and I’m going to speak,” he said as he raised his voice. “I’m speaking. You don’t like what I’m saying but Carol Shea-Porter is increasing climate change by voting for the largest military in the world that has the largest imprint. So don’t make me raise my voice by trying to shout me down people.”

So, Amusement 1: CSP being subjected to the same sort of treatment that she once enjoyed meting out to Republicans. As James Pindell of New Hampshire Magazine reminds us:

She protested President Bush when he came to the Seacoast, and she was ejected from the event. She hounded incumbent Republican US Representative Jeb Bradley at several of his town hall meetings before she decided to challenge him as a candidate.

On to Amusement 2: audience members reflexively demonstrated their Progressive dedication to Speaking Truth To Power:

Other audience members quickly pushed back, with one suggesting to Chichester “why don’t you shut up.”

CSP offered to "talk about this afterwards", but…

[Chichester] was eventually removed from the event by two Shea-Porter congressional staffers and the panel discussion continued.

No word on how the promised "afterward" discussion went.

That was as far as the amusement went. The article added a new twist at the end though:

No one who supports the Trump administration’s offshore drilling proposal spoke at the event.

Er, maybe because CSP didn't invite them? It would be surprising if she had. Nevertheless, the reporter decided to quote someone not in attendance:

But earlier this week, Americans for Prosperity New Hampshire state director Greg Moore said in a statement that “New Hampshire has some of the highest energy costs in the country, so we need to look at every avenue to make the state more competitive, and the administration should be commended for beginning this process. ... We should embrace an all-of-the-above energy strategy and explore any opportunity to lower costs and give our citizens and employers rate relief.”

An attempt at balanced even-handedness? Not really. Here's the punchilne:

AFP is a national conservative advocacy group funded by the Koch brothers, whose family has made billions in the energy industry.

Once again, the Koch Konspiracy is invoked to assure the readers that they need pay no attention to what they've just read: it's just some paid shill. Was any similar analysis provided for the anti-drillers? Where's a list of contributors to the organizations they represnt? Do you even need to ask?

It's apparent that the "even-handed" effort was a sham, predestined to discredit any contrary argument. Foster's should be ashamed, but won't be.

■ At Cato, Peter van Doren asks: Why Does AT&T Want Net Neutrality Regulation? Here's a hint:

Whereas Title II regulations disadvantaged AT&T, new legislation could create regulations that would benefit it by reducing the number of dimensions over which firms can compete and differentiate themselves. This would disproportionately hurt smaller companies and new market entrants and aid larger companies with larger networks and economies of scale allowing them to offer lower prices than competitors.

Net Neutrality advocates, being largely Progressives, have a hopelessly sentimental attachment to regulation.

■ Let's take a small break from politics and look at a sage observation from Jennifer Doverspike at the Federalist: ‘The Orville’ Isn’t For Everyone, But It’s Better Sci-Fi Than Critics Think.

Critics panned “The Orville” upon its premiere, mostly because they saw it as a parody show that fell flat when it tried to be serious. “Galaxy Quest,” that wonderful cult movie that spoofed Star Trek fandom, worked, they argued, because it pointed gentle, affectionate fun at sci-fi tropes without actually trying to replicate a “Star Trek” episode. “The Orville,” they said, couldn’t make up its mind. Is it a parody, or is it a really bad “Star Trek” clone?

Fans immediately saw what critics didn’t. The show is not a parody at all. “The Orville” is its own earnest show about humans in space, without the Rodenberry directive that humans have “evolved.” On the U.S.S. Orville, we haven’t evolved at all. We’re the same snarky, meme-ing, soundbite culture we are in the 2000s. Just in space.

I was expecting Airplane!-meets-Star Trek. And was somewhat shocked in later episodes to realize, hey, this is pretty good on it's own terms. I'm not quite sure what those "terms" are yet, but I'm on board for more.

■ The Babylon Bee reports: Medical Marvel: Cecile Richards Is Somehow Able To Sleep At Night.

Most of the world knows her as the lame duck CEO of Planned Parenthood, but there’s another side of Cecile Richards you might not have heard of: she’s a verified medical marvel, baffling the medical community for over a decade as she has somehow managed to sleep at night while simultaneously being the head of an organization responsible for the deaths of over 300,000 unborn babies annually.

Additional comment unnecessary.

■ And,finally, a different sort of humor from Remy: Wedu Nagivafaka


URLs du Jour


■ I learned something today from Proverbs 16:17:

17 The highway of the upright avoids evil;
    those who guard their ways preserve their lives.

OK, the advice is good and sensible, but pretty mundane: arrange your life to avoid temptation. Steer away from the lady in our Pic du Jour, for example. I don't see a motorcycle helmet on her, do you?

But… highway? Surely that's a modernism injected into newer translations, to appeal to the youngfolk, right?

<voice imitation="john_mclaughlin">Wrong!</voice> The 1611 King James Version of 16:17 also has "highway". Dictionary.com tells us the word has been present in English since "before 900".

No information found on who was the first to say "My way or the highway."

■ Cato has published The Human Freedom Index - 2017. It's good reading for globetrotters, but basically, I'm just concerned with the "good parts": how the US of A is doing.

  • We ain't number one. (That's Switzerland.) We are not even in the top 10. (Which are, in descending order: Switzerland, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Ireland, Australia, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.)

  • The US is in 17th place.

  • But (let's look on the bright side) we are up from the previous ranking: 24th place in 2014, with improvements both in economic freedom and personal freedom.

  • But (let's look on the dark side) we were in 11th place as recently as 2008.

Bottom line, as usual: considerable room for improvement.

■ There's little controversy that occupational licensing is a dreadful rent-seeking activity. New Hampshire's record in this regard is mediocre (as in: could be worse, should be better). But there's an effort under way to … make things worse. But the good news, sort of, is that it's also kind of silly. As reported by WMUR: State considers licensing art therapists

Lawmakers in Concord are considering licensing art therapists as one way to tackle the state's mental health crisis.

Those who practice art therapy said its healing effects are real, and the greatest skeptics often make the biggest breakthroughs.

It's unsurprising, to say the least, that people making money off art therapy claim that it works. Also unsurprising: the legislator behind this rent-seeking scheme is my very own state senator, David Watters.

I'm skeptical on the benefits of art therapy (see here for an NIH overview of evidence).

There are only six states that issue art therapy licenses. (Six more "regulate art therapy under another professional license"). In the remaining 38, the mentally ill are condemned to exist under the care of unlicensed art therapists.

I, for one, am a big believer in dog-walking therapy. (OK, I said that as a joke, but Googling shows that it's actually a thing.) Where's my license?

■ Have you been wondering what the Russia "Fake News" scare is all about? Good news, bunkie, David Harsanyi has the answer: The Russia ‘Fake News’ Scare Is All About Chilling Speech. The latest iteration claims that the #ReleaseTheMemo Twitter hashtag, asking that the public be allowed to see the GOP-written memo that alleges FBI malfeasance is being driven by Russkiebots. Which caused prominent Democrats to demand that Twitter and Facebook launch an immediate investigation.

I’d rather we live with Russian troll bots feeding us nonsense than authoritarian senators dictating how we consume news. I mean, has anyone yet produced a single voter who lost his or her free will during the 2016 election because he had a Twitter interaction with an employee of a St. Petersburg troll farm? Or do voters tend to seek out the stories that back their own worldviews?

If your argument is that American are uninformed and easily misled, I’m with you. Just look at all the people who believe that a $46,000 buy on Facebook by the Russians was enough to destroy the pillars of our democracy. But if you want to live in a free and vibrant nation, you have to live with the externalities of that freedom.

As Frank Herbert pointed out, all those years ago: Fear is the mind-killer.

■ At Reason, Robby Soave reports: Libertarian Banned from Facebook for Tide Pod Joke That Mocked Liberals. Specifically, a version of this joke (which, as I type, Twitter hasn't censored):

Robby comments:

It's sadly true that thousands of kids ages six and younger eat highly poisonous Tide pods each year, though only a handful of them die as a result. But those were accidents involving little kids who didn't know better. Aside from a handful of yo-yos on YouTube, it simply isn't the case that a host of teenagers are deliberately eating Tide pods. It's a joke, akin to the faux public mourning of Harambe the gorilla.

No one should be freaked out about Tide pod jokes. That includes you, Facebook.

I wonder how large a role the libertarian thrust of the joke played in Facebook's censorship decision?

■ And our Tweet du Jour:

Last Modified 2018-12-28 4:45 AM EDT

December 6

[Amazon Link]

Not to bore you with Tales of Book Shopping, but when I opened this book I found the sales receipt, dated 5/24/03 from the about-to-go-out-of-business Stroudwater Books. Everything 75% off. A little reminder of the brick-and-mortar bookstore bloodbath. The store was on Dover's "Miracle Mile" at the time. Previously, the building was a Star Market, then a Service Merchandise. It's now a Planet Fitness.

I had been (and still am) a fan of Martin Cruz Smith's series about the Russian detective Arkady Renko since reading Gorky Park back in the 80s. Even though this isn't a Renko book, the Smith name plus the steep discount made it an easy choice.

Not that it matters, but also purchased at the same time: Funny Money by James Swain, read last October); Authentically Black by James McWhorter, read back in 2012; and Managing RAID on Linux by Derek Vadala, which I'm pretty sure I never got around to reading and left in my "free, take me" pile at my ex-workplace when I retired.

Sorry. My bookshelves are full of unread guilt. And the blog is my place to confess my lack of literary diligence.

Back to the book. It is mostly set in 1941 Japan, a country that sees itself as sorely beset by the oil embargo established by the US and the Allies. The protagonist, Harry Niles, is the son of missionaries, but he's far from saintly, involved in shady business dealings, prostitution, and the like. He loves much of Japanese culture, but it often doesn't love him back.

There are flashbacks to previous episodes in Harry's life, outlining how he came to the precarious position he finds himself in, on (what we know, but Harry doesn't) the eve of Pearl Harbor and the US entry into World War 2. He is (a) balancing a Communist Japanese mistress, (b) trying to avoid a psychotic samurai who's out to kill him, (c) having an affair with a married Brit, with whom he is planning to escape, (d) attempting to pull off a ruse involving tons of missing oil.

Minor complaint: There are a lot of characters, and my tiny brain had a hard time keeping them straight. Especially during the flashbacks.

There is a lot of action, twists, and surprises packed into the last handful of pages. And all along, Smith does a masterful job of picturing prewar Japan, sights, sounds, smells, mindsets. There are cameos from General Tojo and Admiral Yamamoto. As I've said about Dennis Lehane's historical novels: Smith either did a hell of a lot of meticulous research, or had access to a time machine.

Last Modified 2018-01-26 5:13 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


■ Proverbs 16 had only four verses extolling the virtues of kings, but … it seemed to go on longer than that. Today, in Proverbs 16:16, the Proverbialist provides equally-questionable sagacity:

16 How much better to get wisdom than gold,
    to get insight rather than silver!

Spoken by someone who already had plenty of gold and silver, methinks. And probably youthinks too. If only the Proverbialist had known about Maslow's hierarchy of needs, he might have come up with a more credible Proverb.

■ The great Bryan Caplan quotes the great Michael Huemer on Ultra-Ineffective Altruism.

I see that Bill Miller has given $75 million to the Philosophy Department at Johns Hopkins. Background: Miller is a brilliant investment manager who, it turns out, once studied philosophy at Hopkins and believes that his philosophy training helped him to think clearly and cogently.

I hate* to rain on anyone's parade, but this is among the most wasteful charitable donations I've ever heard of (apart from gifts to even richer universities, like Harvard). Let's review (a) what this money will accomplish, and (b) what else could have been accomplished with a $75 million charitable donation.

[*Note: Here, by "hate" I mean "very much enjoy".]

As a philosopher himself (but not at Johns Hopkins), Huemer is arguing against interest here. The whole thing is funny and insightful.

■ Are college students hopeless snowflakes? A University Not Near Here provides evidence: UConn Offers Counseling for Students Upset at ‘Even the Thought of’ a Ben Shapiro Speech

Upon learning that conservative speaker Ben Shapiro had been invited to campus, the University of Connecticut immediately offered its student body counseling services.

“We understand that even the thought of an individual coming to campus with the views that Mr. Shapiro expresses can be concerning and even hurtful and that’s why we wanted to make you aware as soon as we were informed,” stated a campus-wide email from associate vice president and chief diversity officer Joelle Murchison, according to an article in Shapiro’s Daily Wire.

The NRO author, Katherine Timpf, notes the proactivity of the UConn administration, basically assuming and—to a certain extent—encouraging this sort of maladaptive response to contrary opinion.

■ But where colleges go, is the entire country destined to follow? Don't the college snowflakes deserve protection from hearing contrary opinions for the rest of their sheltered lives? George F. Will wonders what will happen When the whole country becomes a campus safe space. It's an interesting take on a recent study that describes the country's increasing polarization, each side retreating into a safe-space bubble. GFW's bottom line:

We should regret only unjust distrust; distrust of the untrustworthy is healthy. Considering the preceding 50 years, from the Pentagon Papers and Watergate, through Iraq’s missing weapons of mass destruction, and “if you like your health care plan you can keep it,” a default position of suspicion is defensible. And consumers of media products should remember Jerry Seinfeld’s oblique skepticism: “It’s amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper.”

■ Eric the Viking Pundit makes an excellent point on the politics of immigration: The impossible dream.

Here's what I don't understand: Obama and the Democrats had eight years to put in place some kind of legislative remedy to help the "Dreamers."  But despite a promise as a candidate to make immigration reform "a top priority in my first year as president" he did nothing.  Then, once his Democrat majorities were safely squandered away, he flip-flopped on his Presidential authority and launched the illegal DACA program.

Why, it's almost as if Democrats would prefer to keep immigration as a political football instead of actually trying to do something about it.

■ Which brings us to our Tweet du Jour from Mr. Ramirez:

The next few weeks should be interesting. Not good for the country, but at least… interesting.

Last Modified 2018-12-28 4:45 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


■ Oh, gosh, this is getting painful. Proverbs 16:15 is another ain't-kings-great epigram:

15 When a king’s face brightens, it means life;
    his favor is like a rain cloud in spring.

Just embarrassing. Please stop, Proverbialist.

■ At the Federalist, David Harsany offers: Here’s A Crazy Theory: Maybe Americans Just Want A Rational Immigration Policy.

Maybe, once you brush aside the emotionalism and moralizing of Democrats, more voters than we think are uneasy about the lawlessness that is inherent in our immigration non-policy. Maybe the liberal’s own absolutist position on the issue isn’t a winner. Politically speaking, Democrats have gone from advocating America welcome immigrants who embrace American values and follow our laws to arguing that every person in the entire world has an inherent right to come to the United States — legally or illegally — without any preconditions and without any concerns and without any consequences. “Comprehensive immigration reform,” once a batch of wide-ranging ideas about effective immigration, temporary worker permits and enforcement, including funding for a “wall,” has now become euphemism for legalization.

It's frustrating that the rational debate on the issue gets lost amidst all the posturing and sob stories.

■ What does documentary The Final Year, about the last year of the Obama Administration's foreign policy, reveal? Kyle Smith will tell you: The Final Year Reveals the Obama Administration’s Naïvety and Arrogance. Excerpt:

The Obama foreign-policy masters see their three accomplishments as the Paris Climate Accord, the opening to Cuba, and the Iran deal. Given that the former wasn’t presented to Congress for approval, was nonbinding, and was later dumped by President Trump, while the other two amounted to making concessions to American foes in exchange for virtually nothing, this is a bit like bragging that you suckered the Franklin Mint into giving up a souvenir Elvis plate for only $34.95. But to understand why Rhodes and Obama are so pleased with their foreign policy, you have to understand the way they think. The documentary is revealing about that.

Also featured: UN Ambassador Samantha Power's election-night party "with the world’s 37 female ambassadors to toast the inevitable Hillary Clinton landslide." So: to naïvety and arrogance, add misplaced certainty.

■ At the Washington Examiner, Timothy P. Carney recounts The decline and fall of General Electric, the poster child of Obamanomics.

Sometimes we look back a decade or so and reconsider our word choice. For instance, I used to call General Electric — with its heavy lobbying, its intimate ties to the White House, all its bets on green energy, on embryonic stem cells, on Obamacare, on industrial policy — the “for-profit arm of the Obama administration.”

Those words were ill-chosen. Specifically, in describing GE, it was a mistake to use the word “profit.”

No company has spent as much on U.S. lobbying since 2000 as General Electric. And no component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average has performed worse since 2000 than General Electric.

The neighboring city of Somersworth was home to a GE plant employing 2400 people; it has been sold to Aclara, and the most recent news I could find places its workforce at 200.

■ But after Obama's economic blunders, Trump is on his way to make his own. The WSJ [paywalled, probably] editorializes: Trump Starts His Trade War.

Can Donald Trump stand prosperity? Fresh from a government shutdown victory and with the U.S. economy on a roll, the President decided on Tuesday to kick off his long-promised war on imports—and American consumers. This isn’t likely to go the way Mr. Trump imagines.

“Our action today helps to create jobs in America for Americans,” Mr. Trump declared as he imposed tariffs on solar cells and washing machines. “You’re going to have a lot of plants built in the United States that were thinking of coming, but they would never have come unless we did this.”

The scary part is he really seems to believe this. And toward that end he imposed a new 30% tariff on crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells and solar modules to benefit two bankrupt companies, and a new 20%-50% tariff on washing machines to benefit Whirlpool Corp. The tariffs will hurt many more companies and people, and that’s before other countries retaliate.

It's kind of amusing to see my lefty Facebook friends bemoan this. Would (say) Bernie Sanders have been less protectionist?

Despicable Me 3

[2.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

I enjoyed the previous two Despicable movies. I liked the Minions standalone movie just fine. But… I dunno… this one left me kind of cold, wishing I hadn't bothered. There are occasional chuckles, but overall, meh.

Anyway: the refored despicable Gru is assigned to thwart the evil schemes of Balthazar Bratt, a child star from decades past who's decided to continue his bratful ways by (what else) a life of spectacular high-tech crime. Gru fails, is fired, and gets sad. But he discovers he has a long-lost brother, "Dru", who is an unreformed villain. And… zzzz.

Yes, cute kids. Minions. Some clever sight gags. Something seems missing, though, and what's left is the usual transparent motive: a by-the-numbers sequel whose sole cynical purpose is to shake some dollars out of the wallets of fans of the previous entries in the series.


An Economic Tour of the Weird

[Amazon Link]

Never have I experienced such a mismatch between a book's presentation and content. As you can tell from the title, the tone is jocular. It's clearly meant to grab the casual reader. There are praising quotes on the back cover from Tim Harford, Steven D. Levitt, Steven E. Landsburg, and Andrie Sleifer, and I've heard of three of those guys. The author, Peter Leeson, is a Professor of Economics and Law at George Mason.

And although the book's subtitle is "An Economic Tour of the Weird", it's a very specific subset of weirdness: offbeat methods and customs in various societies and cultures, usually methods of legal dispute resolution. The author's unusual approach is to pretend he's a tour guide in a museum of oddities. Complete with a diverse group of attendees, who act as foils for his exposition. (E.g.: A woman who looks like Janeane Garafolo; a guy with a glass eye; a priest; a conventional economist he calls "Dr. Spock"). They leave comment cards at the end. The text is filled with personal anecdotes and jokes.

But shorn of all the frippery, the book is an examination of seemingly irrational legal customs, showing that they make a certain kind of rational sense, given the time, place, and underlying beliefs of the culture. For example, the notion of "ordeals", where a defendant whose guilt or innocence could not be established was required to perform a risky feat. For example: plucking a ring or stone out of a vat of boiling water. If wounds show three days later, you're guilty.

How could that be rational? No spoilers, but that chapter was adapted into a Reason article here.

Other topics: wife sales, suing vermin for damages, physical duels, gypsy taboos, cursing as a legal punishment, divination.

I'm sorry to say that, minus all Leeson's bells and whistles, I did not find the underlying topics that interesting. But I am neither a lawyer nor an economist.

URLs du Jour


Fascism is so 1930s.

Yes, I noticed the spelling error in the Pic du Jour. Or is it a spelling error? Maybe she's trying to make some sort of point by holding the sign in front of her face?

Proverbs 16:14 continues its mediocre monarchical musings.

14 A king’s wrath is a messenger of death,
    but the wise will appease it.

Sure, if they know what's good for them. On the other hand, there's the Neville Chamberlain counterargument to that.

■ We try to avoid the pitfalls of schadenfreude here at Pun Salad, but this CNN report is fine reading for those who want to wallow in it: Progressives fume after vote to end government shutdown. Because mainly of this gem:

"Today's cave by Senate Democrats -- led by weak-kneed, right-of-center Democrats -- is why people don't believe the Democratic Party stands for anything. These weak Democrats hurt the party brand for everyone and make it harder to elect Democrats everywhere in 2018," said Stephanie Taylor, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which represents what it calls the "Elizabeth Warren wing" of the party.

According to CNN's tally, 15 Democrats voted against stopping the shutdown, which means, according to Stephanie, 32 Senate Democrats are "weak-kneed, right-of-center". Gee, I wonder exactly where Stephanie thinks the center is?

Republicans voting against: Rand Paul and Mike Lee. For (I'm pretty sure) one very good reason: the bill continues irresponsible Federal spending.

@kevinNR asks the musical question: Who Was Steve Bannon? For me, the answer is pretty simple: he's the guy who turned the Breitbart website into unreadable hackery. But let's see what Kevin has to say:

Who is Steve Bannon? That’s a question that is of less and less interest with each passing hour. He’s the guy who got out in front of the guy who got out in front of the parade. The right-wing populist fervor that swept Donald J. Trump into the White House predates the Trump campaign. In its most recent iteration, it began with the financial crisis of 2008–09, which drove a wedge between the big-business/free-market wing of the conservative movement and those elements of the Right that are less enthusiastic about what we call “capitalism” and the rest of the world calls “liberalism.” The first fruits of that division was the tea-party movement, the Right’s version of Occupy Wall Street. Barack Obama’s sneering and lordly style of politics — “I won!” — helped to amplify the Right’s angry populist voices, and the coincident weakness of the economy, especially the stagnation of wages and employment, helped those anti-capitalist voices to find wider resonance. The ongoing problem of uncontrolled illegal immigration fed cultural anxiety, as did a series of terrorist incidents perpetrated by immigrants from the Islamic world and Americans connected to Islamic groups at home and abroad. The woeful failure to assimilate Somali immigrants drove resentments, but so did the successful integration of thriving immigrants from poor countries ranging from Nigeria to India, the success of whom provides an unflattering point of comparison for struggling and downwardly mobile native-born communities ravaged by opioid addiction and elusive socioeconomic mobility.

Maybe the right answer to the question is "I don't care any more, if I ever did."

■ I haven't even received the latest dead-trees issue of Wired, but the Condé Nast powers-that-be have already put one of its essays online, by one Zeynep Tufekci of the University of North Carolina: It's the (Democracy-Poisoning) Golden Age of Free Speech. Sample, with the usual key word embiggened:

The freedom of speech is an important democratic value, but it’s not the only one. In the liberal tradition, free speech is usually understood as a vehicle—a necessary condition for achieving certain other societal ideals: for creating a knowledgeable public; for engendering healthy, rational, and informed debate; for holding powerful people and institutions accountable; for keeping communities lively and vibrant. What we are seeing now is that when free speech is treated as an end and not a means, it is all too possible to thwart and distort everything it is supposed to deliver.

And (good news, everyone), there's already a rebuttal in place at Reason, by A. Barton Hinkle: Your Social Media Post Does Not Have To Be Socially Useful.

This invites some obvious questions.

For instance, who gets to regulate social media for the public good—Donald Trump? Ted Cruz? An elite cadre of social-justice warriors? Who gets to decide what constitutes fake news—the man in the Oval Office who screams "Fake news!" at any story about him that is less than fawning?

Also: Which "societal ideals" should government foster? How about virtue? Plenty of religious conservatives—and not just Christian ones, either—think government should teach people to be good, as they define good.

I encourage you to read both pieces, and bemoan the demise of Wired.

■ Or if you can't get enough bemoaning, you can always check out Conor Freidersdorf at the Atlantic as he shakes his head in wondering disbelief at Cathy Newman's interview with Jordan B. Peterson: Why Can't People Hear What Jordan Peterson Is Saying?

First, a person says something. Then, another person restates what they purportedly said so as to make it seem as if their view is as offensive, hostile, or absurd.

Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and various Fox News hosts all feature and reward this rhetorical technique. And the Peterson interview has so many moments of this kind that each successive example calls attention to itself until the attentive viewer can’t help but wonder what drives the interviewer to keep inflating the nature of Peterson’s claims, instead of addressing what he actually said.

Freidersdorf puts his finger on it. Newman's side of the interview contains:

"So you’re saying that…"

"So you're saying…."

"But you’re saying, basically, …"

"So you’re saying by and large …"


"That's what you're really saying."

I will never be asked for an interview by a Progressive journalist. But if I am, I hope I have the good sense to decline.

Last Modified 2018-12-28 4:45 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


week #9/52: fallacy

Proverbs 16:13 continues the absurd sycophancy toward monarchs:

13 Kings take pleasure in honest lips;
    they value the one who speaks what is right.

But what about modern-day pols? That question leads to the next item…

■ Freed up from dead-trees Reason, a Glenn Garvin review of six books purporting to analyze the 2016 election: What the Heck Happened? It's full of interesting anecdotes culled from the books, and relevant to the above verse:

On the day of the convention [Hillary Clinton's] staff had to bring in a coach, because, despite three decades of giving campaign speeches for Bill as well as herself, Clinton still didn't understand how to deliver an applause line.

At least she accepted the speaking advice, noted [Jonathen Allen's and Ami Parnes' book] Shattered; often, her response to criticism was to fly into a rage. When an aide, during a prep session for a debate with Sanders, said one of her responses was "not very good," she furiously replied, "Really? Why don't you do it?" For half an hour, the aide was forced to play Clinton in a mock debate, and no matter what he said, she childishly interrupted him to snarl, "That isn't very good, you can do better."

In her own book, Clinton describes this episode as a lot of chortling good fun; Shattered calls it a "browbeating" and quotes an employee saying: "She was visibly, unflinchingly pissed off at us as a group." Her staff began moving tough questions to the end of debate practice because she so often stormed away and refused to continue.

Hillary was not the kind of person who took "pleasure in honest lips."

One more tidbit, that I hadn't seen before, in discussing Hillary's memoir What Happened?:

There's not a word about the most profoundly damaging misanalysis of the whole election: the Clinton campaign's insanely ironic fear, during the last days, that Trump might win the popular vote but lose in the Electoral College.

This peculiar belief, Politico would report a month after the election, prompted the Clinton braintrust to pour several million dollars into places like Illinois (where Clinton would win 56–39 percent) and Louisiana (where she would lose 58–39) to maximize turnout in Clinton strongholds like Chicago and New Orleans, running up the score in the popular vote. Had that money gone instead to battleground states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, which Clinton would lose by a combined total of just 80,000, it might have turned the election.

All I can say is: thank heaven for insanely ironic fears among the Clinton braintrust.

■ Say what you will about the NYT, but at least there's someone there with a few brain cells, paying Peter Suderman to write there insightfully: The Shutdown Shows the Twisted Rules of a Broken Congress.

This week’s government shutdown is a bipartisan failure, with bad faith all around, and both parties trying to blame the other for the consequences, in hopes of winning one for the team.

But it is also a systemic failure, in which an outdated budget process — the complex set of procedures that keeps the government open — has become an empty ritual, twisted in the service of narrow partisan gain.

The source of today’s dysfunctions goes back more than 40 years, to the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974. That law was passed as a result of a perception within Congress — which under the Constitution holds the power of the purse — that the White House had too much influence over the budget.

Suderman wishes for reform to undo the breakage of 1974. But a Congress mature enough to do that would also be a Congress that wouldn't have put us where we are now.

■ Jay Nordlinger has a pretty fascinating history of the Browder family, which is indeed A Family in History. It starts with him meeting Bill Browder, "a truth-telling foe of the Putin regime".

“Any relation?” I asked him. He said, “To Earl Browder?”

I thought this was puzzling, because who else could I have meant? Anyway, it transpired that Browder was indeed related — he is the grandson of Earl Browder. “My grandfather was the biggest Communist in America,” Bill remarked, “and I became the biggest capitalist in Russia.”

Earl Browder was head of the CPUSA — the American Communist party — in the 1930s and ’40s. Bill Browder created his hedge fund, Hermitage, in 1996. The Kremlin turned on him hard in 2005, declaring him persona non grata. He had been a thorn in the side of Putin’s oligarchs. In 2008, the authorities arrested Browder’s fearless and whistleblowing lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky. They tortured him to death. Real slow, over the course of a year.

Also running in the family: math brilliance. RTWT.

■ Writing in City Journal, Amity Shlaes tells us our policy aims should be Growth, Not Equality.

Free marketeers may sometimes win elections, but they are not winning U.S. history. In recent years, the consensus regarding the American past has slipped leftward, and then leftward again. No longer is American history a story of opportunity, or of military or domestic triumph. Ours has become, rather, a story of wrongs, racial and social. Today, any historical figure who failed at any time to support abolition, or, worse, took the Confederate side in the Civil War, must be expunged from history. Wrongs must be righted, and equality of result enforced.

The equality campaign spills over into a less obvious field, one that might otherwise provide a useful check upon the nonempirical claims of the humanities: economics. In a discipline that once showcased the power of markets, an axiom is taking hold: equal incomes lead to general prosperity and point toward utopia. Teachers, book review editors, and especially professors withhold any evidence to the contrary. Universities lead the shift, and the population follows. Today, millennials, those born between 1981 and 2000, outnumber baby boomers by the millions, and polls suggest that they support redistribution specifically, and government action generally, more than their predecessors do. A 2014 Reason/Rupe poll found 48 percent of millennials agreeing that government should “do more” to solve problems, whereas 37 percent said that government was doing “too many things.” A full 58 percent of the youngest of millennials, those 18–24 when surveyed, held a “positive” view of socialism, in dramatic contrast with their parents: only 23 percent of those aged 55 to 64 viewed socialism positively.

That's not encouraging. Neither is the possible corollary: it might take (yet) another huge economic crisis for millennials to gain a decent appreciation for free markets.

■ Did I say something nice about the NYT above? Sorry, I take that back. Katharine Q. Seelye reports from Manchester on How a ‘Perfect Storm’ in New Hampshire Has Fueled an Opioid Crisis. What can we blame? Seelye reports on a federally-funded study by Dartmouth researchers that fingers (among other things)…

Live Free or Die.” The researchers said the New Hampshire ethos of “self-sufficiency and individualism” could inhibit some residents from seeking help. And for some, they said, the state’s “Live Free or Die” motto might justify risky behaviors. The state does not require drivers to wear seatbelts. It allows motorcyclists to ride without helmets. And state liquor stores are right on the major highways.

Yes, blame our motto.

And I can only gape at the "logic" that that says state-owned-and-operated liquor stores (on the Interstates or elsewhere) are indicators of our LFOD individualism.

■ But at least we don't have the woes of the Ocean State. The online news source What'sUpNewp [i.e., Newport, Rhode Island] reports on Rhode Island’s Tourism Marketing Initiative. It's not working as well as the state's tourism fat-cats want it to. And so what's the problem?

Rhode Island, [Lara Salamano, Chief Marketing Officer of the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation] says, is a state without a slogan.

“You can tell a lot about a place from the slogan it brands with,” said Greig Lamont in a blog on HuffPost in 2013. “That self-professed badge of honour [sic] it fixes to its chest, the indelible stamp it sears into its flesh for all to see: the standard by which it thinks it ought to be judged.

“Tourism slogans are the peacocks’ feathers of places. The mating call of a chunk of land enticing into its clutches passers-by and peregrinators alike, bidding them in for a spot of geographical dalliance, possibly even a cultural roll in the hay.”

So, Massachusetts has used “It’s all here in Massachusetts”; Connecticut is “Still Revolutionary”; we should “Think Vermont”; “Live Free or Die” in New Hampshire; “The Maine Thing”, “Vacationland”, “It Must Be Maine; the Way Life Should Be.”

Hey, how about "Discount Fentanyl!" That would attract folks from New Hampshire!

Last Modified 2018-12-28 4:45 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


Proverbs 16:12 is another apology for monarchy:

12 Kings detest wrongdoing,
    for a throne is established through righteousness.

Said several millennia of history: "Yeah, right."

And yet, the notion is deeply inscribed in world culture, and echoes today even around 21st century US Presidents.

■ David Harsanyi tells us What The Shutdown Tells Us About Modern Democrats. For people of a cynical bent, it is unsurprising:

Democrats, it seems, may [and did] precipitate a government shutdown this week. They’re able to do this because, despite their own best efforts, in the United States, the minority party has a genuine ability to participate in governing the nation. It’s one of our system’s authentic strengths.

Then again, this episode — and many others over the past nine years — reveal something else about the modern Democratic Party: Minority or majority, it doesn’t really matter to them. Process and norms? Largely irrelevant. Not only do they believe it’s undemocratic for elected Republicans to vote against a Democrat president’s agenda when in the minority they believe it’s undemocratic for Republicans to vote for a tax bill even after winning both houses of Congress and the presidency.

The rules get rewritten to fit the situation. I'm sure equally lurid (and probably accurate) takes on GOP hypocrisy are out there, too.

But that's the thing about democracy. We get the governing style we demand.

And when I say "we", I mean "stupid voters".

■ Joel Kotkin has an interesting take on "democracy" at the Daily Beast: Trump Damaged Democracy, Silicon Valley Will Finish It Off. (There's not that much about Trump "damaging" democracy.)

The Silicon Valley and its Puget Sound annex dominated by Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft increasingly resemble the pre-gas crisis Detroit of the Big Three. Tech’s Big Five all enjoy overwhelming market shares—for example Google controls upwards of 80 percent of global search—and the capital to either acquire or crush any newcomers. They are bringing us a hardly gilded age of prosperity but depressed competition, economic stagnation, and, increasingly, a chilling desire to control the national conversation.

Jeff Bezos harrumphs through his chosen megaphone, The Washington Post, about how “democracy dies in the dark.” But if Bezos—the world’s third richest man, who used the Post first to undermine Bernie Sanders and then to wage ceaseless war on the admittedly heinous Donald Trump—really wants to identify the biggest long-term threat to individual and community autonomy, he should turn on the lights and look in the mirror.

I'm not quite the alarmist that Kotkin is, but I'd advise people who scream about the Koch menace should especially check out the article.

■ Deirdre Nansen McCloskey has a [PDF] article written for a recent meeting of the Allied Social Sciences Association. Economic History as Humanomics, The Scientific Branch of Economics.

Sessions in any field of the intellect about “whither the future of X” have a deep intellectual problem of an economic character. The problem is that if you or I were so smart, then you or I would be rich. If anyone could predict the future of, say, mathematics, she could arbitrage between the present and the future. As Tom Lehrer sang long ago, she would “publish first.” She would achieve riches in a coin relevant to her preferences, namely immortal fame. She would be the Euler of the 21st century.

The principle is identical to the more obviously economic one that predictions of the stock market or housing prices or hem lines of skirts are useless. As they say in Hollywood, nobody knows anything. That Rocky was a hit doesn’t mean that Rocky 2 or 3 will be. We have to make predictions, of course, and necessarily we place bets on them. The future is coming, whether we like it or not, and our bets as producers of movies or of mathematics will determine how we personally do. But if good predictions—better than what the average punter makes with his bookie or in the forward markets—were achievable by studying econometrics or by following Warren Buffett, we would all be above average, as in Lake Wobegon. It ain’t happenin’.

It's an interesting take on what "science" means when you're talking about economic matters. Milton Friedman comes in for some criticism, but that's OK.

■ And, getting back to the shutdown, let's see what Michael P. Ramirez has to say:

Government shutdown

Fortunately, the government shutdown will not affect the title games today. Or will it?

Last Modified 2018-12-28 4:45 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


Proverbs 16:11 brings us to the humdrum world of weights and measures, a Godly duty now relegated to the National Bureau of Standards:

11 Honest scales and balances belong to the Lord;
    all the weights in the bag are of his making.

Very much in the spirit of "In God We Trust", I think.

Historical research: IGWT has appeared on coins since the Civil War; it has appeared on paper currency since 1955.

Possibly related fact: a 1955 dollar would buy stuff it takes about $9.13 to buy today. So just because it says "In God We Trust" doesn't mean you can trust it to hold value. Maybe God should sue for the unauthorized endorsement devaluing His brand?

■ I assume you are reading this while cowering under your bed. Because, as Matt Welch and Eric Boehm note at Reason, it's time to extend a: Welcome to the 2018 Government Shutdown!

After spending years blasting congressional Republicans as obstructionists who would rather shut down the government over their pet issue than work with the president on broad legislation, Democrats decided to use what little congressional power they currently have to...shut down the government over their pet issue rather than work with the president on broad legislation.

Well, turnabout is fair play I suppose.

■ My state's senators, both reliable partisan hacks, issued a joint statement:

I could not resist an off-the-cuff snarky reply:

I have no idea whether any low-level flunky is classifying and counting up replies to Senatorial Tweets. My guess is that Twitter is a write-only medium for them.

■ Jonah Goldberg's G-File for the week is shooting fish in the barrel that is politicians' hypocrisy.

There’s an enormous amount of talk about the erosion of democratic norms these days, and I subscribe to much of it. (Heck, I have a book coming out called “The Suicide of the West.”) But what is more dangerous to democratic norms: a president who all but his most besotted worshippers recognize as an irresponsible loudmouth or the quiet-spoken alleged institutionalists who routinely claim that virtually anything Republicans want to do will lay waste to humanity, kill poor people, usher in a paranoid feminist’s dystopia, or “rape and pillage” American citizens? If your answer is that Donald Trump is still more of a threat, fine. I wouldn’t expect otherwise from liberals. But maybe you should at least contemplate that this relentless wolf-crying is one of the reasons you got Donald Trump in the first place.

Jonah's book comes out in April, I might get it as a birthday gift to myself.

@kevinNR writes on The Great Leap Forward. In China, yes. But are we about to make one ourselves, thanks to tax reform? There's reason to be skeptical.

The Trump administration is congratulating itself with great energy on Apple’s recently announced plans to repatriate some of its overseas cash, paying $38 billion in corporate taxes to the U.S. Treasury and investing billions in the United States, creating perhaps tens of thousands of jobs in the process. That is all welcome news. But it is news that is easy to understand, too. Apple did not make any decision to repatriate those overseas funds. The U.S. government in effect seized them. The tax bill simply “deemed” those funds repatriated and imposed a 15.5 percent tax on them. There wasn’t any persuasion involved, and Apple was not responding to economic incentives. That was pure fiat. As for the future investments in U.S.-based facilities and workers, Apple CEO Tim Cook has said forthrightly that a big part of that is related to the tax reform and that a big part of it isn’t. The most arresting observation in the Reuters report on Apple’s $38 billion tax bill is this: “The payment would not represent a major impact on its cash flow this quarter.” Apple had long ago earmarked money for the eventual payment of some U.S. tax on its overseas earnings.

The big news is not how tax reform affects an established company like Apple, but whether it can spur (unpredictable) innovation and prosperity here in the US.

■ Andrew Klavan claims, with some justification, that Democrats Play Women for Fools.

Women — those women who allow feeling states to supersede reality — are driving Trump's unpopularity. The Democrats know this. And they know, if they are going to win back the House in 2018, they've got to convince women that they are #MeToo victims and Trump is somehow to blame — even though their actual lives and their actual country and their actual economic state are all getting better!

The Democrats are assuming women are fools who want to be lied to. Are they right?

Or women could simply find the Trump's loutish behavior trumps all that. Which would be understandable.

■ A new American Consequences is online, and P. J. O'Rourke opines on Pareto and His Principle.

[…] what made Pareto famous is something he simply noticed, early in his career, while working as a civil engineer for the Italian railroad. Going over maps and deeds of right-of-way, Pareto realized that about 80% of land in Italy was owned by about 20% of Italian families.

He did historical and international research and discovered that this 80/20 pattern of land ownership was prevalent around the world and through the ages.

PJ notes the prevalence of the 80/20 rule pattern outside of land ownership. He doesn't mention computers, but he could have:

  • 80% of bugs are found in 20% of the code

  • 80% of time spent fixing bugs is on 20% of the bugs

  • The first 80% of code is done in 20% of time.

And I've heard said that 80% of execution time is spent in 20% of the code.

■ The Daily Signal (rightfully) gloats: Google Removes Fact-Check Feature Targeting Conservative Media.

Google says it is discontinuing its fact-check feature because it proved to be too faulty for public use, directly attributing the decision to an investigation by The Daily Caller News Foundation. The company has no date set for when it will return, if ever.

Gee, just maybe do you think Google was too eager to release faulty features because of their left-leaning bias? Fortunately, that algorithm sloppiness won't show up in self-driving cars, right?

Last Modified 2018-12-28 4:45 AM EDT

North of Nowhere

[Amazon Link]

I have a number of unread books on the shelf by Steve Hamilton, but (for some obscure reason) they got pushed way down on the to-be-read list. In fact, the last Hamiltonian book I read was way back in 2004, pre-blog.

Fortunately, after a year and a half of retirement, I'm starting to whittle away at the unread pile. And so here's North of Nowhere (2002), the fourth book in Hamilton's series with protagonist Alex McKnight. Alex is an ex-baseball player, an ex-cop, and in this book he's also an ex-private eye, having been disillusioned with the profession in the previous book. (No, I don't remember the details. It was 2004, for Pete's sake!)

Alex is OK with simply running his small rustic cabin-rental business in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. But he is dragooned into attending a poker party at the manse of a local tycoon. Which is rudely interrupted by a trio of gun-wielding thugs, demanding that the tycoon give up some of his ill-gotten riches.

Fine, this is no skin off Alex's nose, right? The tycoon is a major jerk. But things are not what they seem! Were any of the poker players actually in on the heist? Unsurprisingly, Alex is forced to get back into the investigatory game.

A not bad caper, although Hamilton does tend to hammer away at the unspoiled beauty of the UP and Lake Superior for more words than absolutely necessary.

URLs du Jour


■ Back in the day, everyone was a lot more respectful towards monarchs. Proverbs 16:10 provides an obsequious example:

10 The lips of a king speak as an oracle,
    and his mouth does not betray justice.

It's not as if the Bible isn't full of counterexamples. And advice to the contrary, for example, 1 Samuel 8:10-18:

10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

Could Murray Rothbard have made things any plainer?

But did the Israelites listen to Sammy? Heck, no.

■ In a preview of an upcoming dead-trees Reason article, a number of thoughtful pundits offer the good news and bad news: Trump Turns One. Katherine Mangu-Ward provides an example of the bad news:

Attorney General Sessions is less a criminal justice reformer than a criminal justice reactionary. During his confirmation hearing, he spoke approvingly of civil asset forfeiture, a practice in which money and other property are taken from people who have not been charged, let alone convicted, of any underlying crime.

A fair-weather federalist, Sessions supports states' rights right up until the moment that states legalize recreational or medicinal marijuana, at which point he thinks Washington should take precedence. He has had a similar response to the rise of sanctuary cities (and states), or jurisdictions that aren't always willing to cooperate with immigration authorities. He also supports strengthening and lengthening sentences for violent and nonviolent offenders alike, and he is skeptical of the idea that increased police oversight is needed.

But at least it was a politically savvy move to pick a guy out of a safe GOP Senate seat… Oh, wait.

■ In the [possibly paywalled] WSJ Best of the Web column, James Freeman describes The Reagan Test

When did President Ronald Reagan realize that his policy mixture of deregulation and tax cuts was increasing American prosperity in the 1980s? “I could tell our economic program was working when they stopped calling it Reaganomics,” he used to say with a chuckle. By this standard our current President is off to a promising start.

Freeman relates the extreme lengths to which pundits and "straight news" outlets are going to credit the current economic good news to Obama policies. (Also doing that: President Obama.)

■ David Harsanyi writes in NRO: Donald Trump’s Greatest Gift Is His Enemies. [He means, specifically, a gift to Trump, not from him.]

Every morning, it seems, President Donald Trump’s most determined opponents awake to find out what sort of obnoxious, fact-challenged, puerile, norm-breaking thing he has offered that day and say to themselves: “Oh, that’s nothing. We can do something dumber than that!”

So the nation wades from one bizarre and nonsensical controversy to another. As I write this, I can’t even recall what topic we were debating last week, but I’m certain it was idiotic. Part of the problem is that those who drive coverage of Trump are obsessed with the president in unhealthy ways, ways that have absolutely nothing to do with policy or governance.

These days, I only watch local TV news (painful enough) and bounce up to the national outlets when I'm feeling particularly masochistic.

■ The Babylon Bee passes along some good news: Paula White Confirms President Trump In Excellent Spiritual Health.

After several serious concerns regarding President Trump’s spiritual health were brought to light in recent weeks, prosperity gospel preacher Paula White examined him and reported that he is in “excellent” spiritual health.

White performed a barrage of examinations on the president’s spiritual health to test his orthodoxy, and confirmed he’s “in perfect spiritual condition.”

“He understands that Christianity is all about the power, money, and prestige it can bring to him, so he’s doing just fine spiritually,” White said. “Any concerns people have about the president’s spiritual health are completely unfounded, and I say this as an expert in using Christianity for personal gain.”

I confess, I didn't know who Paula White was before reading this. But she's chair of President Trump's "Evangelical Advisory Board" (which, yes, is an actual thing). Like Trump, she's on her third spouse. And you can enter into a "partnership" with Paula for a mere $25/$50/$100 per month "recurring committment [sic]". So you'll want to check that out.

The $100/month payment gets you "Paula's Exclusive KJV Bible".

■ Bad news, New Hampshire does not appear on Amazon's short list of 20 candidates to receive Amazon's second headquarters. But (good news) Iowahawk's Tweet du Jour is a chain that handicaps the remaining cities on the list. An appetite-whetting sample:

Last Modified 2018-12-28 4:45 AM EDT

The Intern

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

In this movie, Robert de Niro plays his most daunting role ever: a decent human being. I was somewhat amazed that he brought that off so convincingly.

But seriously folks: he plays Brooklynite Ben Whittaker, a widower, a retiree, bored out of his skull. One day a flyer catches his eye: a startup Internet company, a clothing retailer, is looking for "senior interns".

Does he land the gig? Of course. Does he wind up working for the pretty boss lady, Jules (Ann Hathaway)? You betcha. She is initially reluctant about all this, but (this should be no surprise) Ben's basic skills, his savvy, and powers of observation make him incredibly useful around the company. He's a straightener of things crooked, an organizer of things messy, a listener to things that need to be heard, an observer of things that nobody else notices. He is a total mensch, at least to the extent I understand that term. Ben quickly becomes Jules's invaluable assistant, and that works fine until his powers of observation lead him to notice things he definitely doesn't want to know about.

Rene Russo plays a masseuse who—yes, this is a thing—contracts out to companies to wander around the workspace relieving employee stress. How come we never had that at the University Near Here?

The movie is clever and fun. Especially notable, there is not an anti-capitalistic bone in its body. Jules and her company are trying to make a buck, sure; but it's clear that there is nothing wrong with that. They're honest, diligent, and hard-working. Nobody's trying to sabotage the competition, they want to get ahead by being the best they can be.

Written and directed by Nancy Meyers, who's kind of an old pro.

Wind River

[4.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Didn't expect to like this as much as I did, but (once again) Netflix's prediction algorithm wins here.

Corey Lambert (played by Jeremy Renner) works for Wyoming Game and Fish (not called that in the movie), just like C. J. Box's hero, Joe Pickett. He's not a game warden, though; he's a hunter, devoted to tracking down wolves and mountain lions that prey on local livestock. But while tracking down a mama lion and her cubs (awwww…) he comes across a grisly discovery: a young Indian woman frozen to death in the snow, who had been desperately fleeing from something unknown. Worse, Corey knows her, and corpse dredges up memories of his own personal tragedy.

Signs point to a likelihood of foul play, so in comes FBI agent Jane Banner (Played by Elizabeth Olsen; yes, it's Avengers, Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch, together again.) Jane is—literally—out of her element, on scene because she was the nearest agent available—in Las Vegas.

You might expect the usual Hollywood script clichés: initial hostility grows into mutual respect, etc. Not quite what happens; instead, Corey and Jane respect and help each other from the get-go. And their relationship develops in ways one might not expect. And you do not want to be a bad guy with them on your trail.

Mr. Renner and Ms. Olsen deliver impressive nuanced performances. The supporting cast is great too. The scenery is spectacular, the story is gripping. Trivia: Written and directed by a guy named Taylor Sheridan. Very impressive.

URLs du Jour



Proverbs 16:9 establishes a divison of labor:

9 In their hearts humans plan their course,
    but the Lord establishes their steps.

You're in charge of strategy, but Someone Else is doing tactics.

■ You might have heard about NJ Senator Cory Booker's rant at DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. But do you know what it exposed? According to David French at National Review Cory Booker’s Rant Exposed the Left’s Gender Hypocrisy.

It’s incidents like this that convince so many Americans that identity politics are disingenuous and that lamentations about “norms,” “values,” and “civility” are grotesquely insincere. Talk to any conservative woman and she’ll tell you that all too often the Left’s “respect for women” stops the instant a female pundit, politician, or activist slides just to the right of moderate.


■ And @kevinNR is (at least in spirit) Marching for Life.

Anyone who describes himself as a libertarian has been subjected to at least one game of “Would You Legalize . . . ?”

For me, the answer is mostly “Yes.”

Weed? Yes. Cocaine? Yes. Heroin? Yes. I’d legalize all the drugs. Not because I am indifferent to drug use — I have seen addiction up close and personal, closer and more personally than I ever wanted to, and I know what it does to people. I’m in favor of drug legalization for reasons deontological (I believe that people have the right to do what they will with their own bodies) and consequentialist (I believe heroin users would be better off if heroin were still made by Bayer, with modern pharmaceutical quality controls).

You mustn’t kill your children.

Mr. Williamson is a cogent and serious thinker, and his argument deserves your attention.

■ OK, I don't link to Ann Coulter much, she's kind of a bomb-thrower, but she throws one at a richly deserving target here: The Left’s Dirty Little Secret – Cleaned By Rosa!

The Democrats treat black people like the wife who will iron your shirt for a date with your mistress. They know they don’t have to do anything to keep winning 90 percent of the black vote, so they’ve dedicated themselves to bringing in millions of Latin Americans who will vote for them — and also do their gardening.

Ouch. Hurtful. But true.

■ Sometimes, I swear, the Babylon Bee seems like a straight news site: Sense Of Relief Washes Over Nation As Government Shutdown Grows Increasingly Likely/

As the federal government faces a shutdown at the end of the week with the president and Congress failing to pass a new spending bill and a Friday-night deadline looming, millions of Americans reported Wednesday a sense of relief washing over them like a wave of peace and serenity at the possibility of a powering-down of our volatile governing bodies.

“Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if the federal government would just close up shop and go away for a little while,” one smiling man told reporters. “They’re such a source of strife and frustration in our daily lives—we need a little peace of mind. I really hope they’ll go ahead and take a little break.”

“Don’t worry about us, politicians—we’ll be fine. Just go ahead, shut her down and take as much time as you need,” he added.

Hey, or even longer.

■ And finally, Mr. Ramirez riffs on Presidential doctors' appointments and loose-cannon talk.

Last Modified 2018-12-28 4:45 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


■ After numerous Proverbial assurances that Divine Justice would guarantee good behavior payoffs in the real world, Proverbs 16:8 seems to back off on that a bit. If your life plans don't bring you vast riches…

8 Better a little with righteousness
    than much gain with injustice.

[Sigh] I suppose.

■ We have a lot of LFOD business to transact today. Let's start with a recent LTE to Seacoast Online from Maria Sillari of Portsmouth. She thinks New Hampshire desperately needs more housing options. She makes a number of totally correct points: the Seacoast (and NH generally) do need more housing options; housing shortages mean increased housing prices, which is very bad news for (especially) young people starting out; this (in turn) means people will, on the margin, move to more hospitable states, and this will negatively impact the state's workforce, our demographics, and our economy.

But Maria errs in making it all about the homeless, and "affordable housing" (by which she apparently means state-subsidized housing). And she goes off the rails here:

If we continue to take a Live Free or Die approach to affordable housing, our state motto may soon more appropriately become the Live Free AND Die state.

You see what she did there?

Pun Salad Fact Check: although by many measures, New Hampshire is one of the most economically-free of the states, that emphatically does not apply in areas relevant to housing: land use and zoning restrictions.

See (for example): the Cato site, Freedom in the 50 States. Their New Hampshire page is straightforward: we are number one in overall freedom.

But skip to one of the components, Land-Use Freedom. New Hampshire is not just a little worse on that score; it ranks near the bottom at 45th place.

In summary, Maria has her eye on the problem, but misdiagnoses in attributing it to LFOD. We could use more of it.

Pravda on the Merrimack reports on the nefarious activity of (sigh) my very own state senator, David Watters: Bill would raise age to buy tobacco to 21 in New Hampshire

Mirroring a growing trend across the country, a new bill in the New Hampshire Legislature would raise to 21 the legal age to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Democratic state Sen. David Watters of Dover said the measure he co-sponsored with Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, a Republican, comes down to public health and saving the lives of young people.

I'm very tired of the "logic" that treats 18-to-20 year-olds as "adults but not really". Yes, we trust you to vote, get married, kill your unborn baby, or serve the country in the military. But God forbid (but actually State forbid) that you have a beer or cigarette.

Of course there were naysayers:

But state Sen. Andy Sanborn, a Republican, doesn’t appear to be a fan.

The conservative from Bedford, who’s running for the open congressional seat in New Hampshire’s 1st District, said he had not seen the bill before, but after taking a quick look at it, told the Monitor the legislation “doesn’t seem like the New Hampshire ‘Live Free or Die’ philosophy.”

No foolin'. Although Andy makes it less of a freedom issue when he goes on to bemoan the loss in cigarette tax revenue.

I wish Watters would propose raising the tobacco-buying age to something that would really save lives: maybe 45 or 50? Hey, why not?

■ The Conway Daily Sun editorializes that our state should be Preparing for cannabis. Reacting to the recent NH General Court vote to legalize pot:

Several elected officials, including Sen. Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) and state Reps Frank McCarthy (R-Conway) and Gene Chandler (R-Bartlett), were against it, opining that, given the state’s opioid crisis, now is not the time to legalize another drug.

It is cynical if not laughable that these same politicians don’t trust their constituents with a little weed yet proudly stand behind the ethos of our “live free or die” state, which shamelessly promotes the sale of alcohol at state rest areas and allows everyday people to walk around with concealed, loaded handguns, no permit required.

Well, yeah. Shamelessly. Except a real LFOD state wouldn't have state-owned booze shops.

■ And I believe this may be the most remote LFOD item we've ever blogged. From The Whistler, a Nigerian website, comes news out of Africa: Cameroon’s Separatist Group Warns Buhari, Release Our President Or…

Here is the lede:

Ambazonia’s Interim Government (former British Southern Cameroons) has warned of dire consequences should the Nigerian Government fail to immediately and unconditionally release its President, Julius Ayuk Tabe.

Looking up "Ambazonia" in Google Maps fails, and the Wikipedia article explains why that is. The region is nestled between Nigeria and Cameroun. It has been part of Cameroun since 1961, and the residents have been steamed about that ever since. And …

Southern Cameroons declared its independence on the 1st of October 2017, and officially called its territory made up of the two English speaking regions of current Republic of Cameroon; The Federal Republic of Ambazonia. It has since then formed its Interim Government and the Interim President, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe Julius, has appointed his first cabinet in exile.

This move (apparently) made neither Nigeria nor Cameroun happy. But…

“We have battled the injustice forced upon us by the British Government for Fifty Six years. If the International Community thinks we are now ready to let go at this juncture, it is mistaken. If the UN, EU, Commonwealth, the AU, the US and British governments want to stop a bloodbath in Cameroon, THE TIME IS NOW, not tomorrow. “Every one of us, 8million Ambazonians will be killed before our territory will be made part of Cameroun again. WE WILL “LIVE FREE OR DIE.”

So, we'll see what happens. It would be nice to have an African country with the same motto as New Hampshire, especially with that cool name: "Ambazonia".

And, no, I don't know whether the correct spelling is Cameroun or Cameroon.

And a final geographic note: Southern Cameroon is not south of Cameroun.

■ But that's enough LFOD for today. The BBC asks Has pop music lost its fun? Obviously, yes. [Insert "young people today" rant here.] But I liked this computer-sciencey bit:

Repetition in pop is a key part of its appeal, as essential in Little Richard's Tutti Frutti as it is in Big Shaq's Man's Not Hot. That said, a sterling 2017 report by Daniel Morris on repetition in pop lyrics suggests that hit songs are getting closer and closer to a one-word lyric sheet.

The Lempel-Ziv algorithm is a lossless way to compress data, by taking out repetitions, and Morris used it as a tool to examine 15,000 songs from the Billboard Hot 100 from 1958 to 2014, reducing their lyrics down to their smallest size without losing any data, and comparing their relative sizes. He found two very interesting things. The first was that in every year of study, the songs that reached the Top 10 were more repetitive than their competition. The second is that pop has become more repetitive over time, as Morris points out: "2014 is the most repetitive year on record. An average song from this year compresses 22% more efficiently than one from 1960."

There you go: the science is settled, music today sucks.

URLs du Jour


Hands Off Social Security!

■ So far, Proverbs 16 has had a lot of advertising for how neatly the Lord arranges His divine justice. Proverbs 16:7 continues that:

7 When the Lord takes pleasure in anyone’s way,
    he causes their enemies to make peace with them.

The contrapositive is: if your enemies are not making peace with you, the Lord is not taking pleasure in your way. So shape the hell up, President Trump!

■ At Reason, Veronique de Rugy has good advice for any American likely to be alive in 2034 (est.): Start Saving Now, Because Social Security Is Screwed. This is not news to anyone paying attention:

The Social Security trustees have calculated that the cash-flow deficit over the next 80 years will amount to a staggering $44.2 trillion, and that's after adjusting for inflation. Under current projections, the make-believe assets in the [so-called Old Age Trust Fund] will only be enough to pay full benefits until 2034. At that point, the system will have to revert to paying out only the amount taken in through annual taxes. And that means benefit cuts across the board of 25 percent.

Today's picture is from an allegedly pro Social Security rally. Apparently it's an article of faith among Democrats that they can intone "Hands Off Social Security" until it comes crashing down. Then they will blame Republicans for the disaster.

And I also liked how the photographer lined up the speaker's head with the hand on the poster behind her.

■ Like me, Patterico is no fan of the President, but he'll object when he sees him getting a bad shake in the NYT: The New York Times List of Donald Trump’s “Racist” Quotes Is Garbage.

For example, one of the "racist" claims: "Trump frequently claimed that Obama did not work hard as president."

I’ll grant you that Trump’s criticism of Obama as someone who spent too much time playing golf seems comical today, as the Linksman in Chief never misses a chance to whack the little white ball around the course. But calling Trump’s criticism of Obama’s schedule “racism” reminds us that, according to Big Media, every criticism of Obama by everyone under the sun was racism. Give me a break. Every single president in modern history has been criticized by the opposition for the length and expense of their vacations, for the amount of time they spend golfing (if they golf), and so forth. Calling it “racism” when this completely normal criticism is applied to Obama is absurd.

Trump is not a racist. He's an asshole.

■ At Minding the Campus, Peter Wood takes on Princeton prof Joan Scott, who has been getting some notice for her claims that the the "Right has weaponized free speech." True?

Professor Scott believes that academic freedom is under assault from an anti-intellectual right that hates academics because it fears “excellence, difference, and culture.” Conservatives have some sharp criticisms of the way universities are handling themselves these days, but none that I know of have expressed disapproval of “excellence,” hold “difference” in disapprobation, or quake on encountering “culture.” Indeed, conservatives are more often accused of elitism, precisely because they consider the pursuit of excellence the sine qua non of higher education. They uphold distinctions (“difference”) that the left prefers to flatten. And they are the standard bearers of traditional culture.

Universities that have institutionalized Bias Response Teams and then worry about the threat to academic freedom from conservatives do not exhibit a strong level of intellectual consistency.

■ At Cow Hampshire, Janice Webster Brown reminds us how it was 100 years ago, when Your Federal Government mandated Heatless Mondays. And this was in January.

Janice discourages copying even "fair use" excerpts from her blog (she's been burned by plagiarizers in the past), so I won't do that. But it's a literally chilling story, and yet another example of how the US flirted with Progressive Fascism in that era.

■ James Lileks brings the good news: Diet Coke's new flavors are fully contemporized, bro.

Diet Coke has announced its new flavors. They are:

Frog Sweat

Zesty Plasma

Virginia Ham

Perverted Guava

Well, no. The actual names are Ginger Lime, Feisty Cherry, Zesty Blood Orange and Twisted Mango. Yes, “Zesty Blood,” as though they’ve discovered some athletic vampire portion of the market previously unserved.

The cans also sport a sleek new design. This reminds me of those far off days of 2006, when I "reviewed" Coca-Cola BlăK. Yes, that's how they spelled it. It was ignominiously discontinued in 2008.

■ And finally, your Babylon Bee Tweet du Jour taking on social injustice:

It's an outrage, I tells ya!

Last Modified 2018-12-28 4:45 AM EDT

MLK@UNH 2018: Another Try

The Dream of Martin Luther King,

Last month, I blogged about the apparent lack of a "celebration" of Martin Luther King's birthday at the University Near Here.

Apologies, I blogged too soon; although the secretive application-only MLK Summit 2018 is still scheduled for February 23-25, UNH's Department of "Community, Equity, and Diversity" has posted this year's MLK Programs & Events. Lets take a look!

First up, on February 8, is Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, or just call him "Rev. Sekou". Let us judge him by the content of his character. We learn that the Rev "is a nationally renowned activist, theologian, documentary filmmaker, musician and author who draws his audiences into thinking about racial, social change." But more important, he pushes all the left-wing buttons; for example, in this 2016 interview with Ebony, he's pretty hardcore:

EBONY: You say that neither Sanders nor Clinton are adequate to respond to the needs of the movement. So is voting for the lesser of two evils our only option?

OS: I think we continue to lay out a broader program that looks at the possibilities of a reimagined democracy. Right-wing populism is ultimately dangerous, but they’re not the most dangerous. It’s the anemic liberalism that refuses to take hard positions, including a spineless democratic party.

Note: from the Rev's point of view, Bernie and Hillary are both anemic, spineless liberals.

EBONY: If the democratic party is the most dangerous, how can allies work within the party to root out what you call the spinelessness?

OS: I’m not much for the discourse around allies. Ruby Sales, the SNCC activist, said, “we don’t need allies, we need freedom fighters.” Until White folks realize that racism, sexism, transphobia, classism—the way in which capitalism limits not only the life chances of Black people and brown people and Native American folks, but that they’re spiritually in danger of ceasing to be human because of White supremacy—we won’t get any real traction in this country.

But as we learned over the past few days, Nigerian immigrants to the US seem to be doing fine with their "life chances" under capitalism. A tweet from Mark J. Perry:

It's a mystery, but perhaps maybe they have, as the Rev explains, ceased to be human.

The Rev is also a backer of the anti-Israel Boycott/Divest/Sanctions movement; back in 2014, the Washington Free Beacon was set into a small tizzy when…

The keynote speaker [Rev Sekou] at the Students for Justice in Palestine’s (SJP) national conference, hosted this year at Tufts University, delivered a bizarre, racially charged tirade that drew applause from anti-Israel activists in the audience.

The n-word was deployed, but it's OK to do that when you're the right color.

Maybe I'll go just for the music. His website says it is "an unique combination of North Mississippi Hill Country Music, Arkansas Delta Blues, Memphis Soul and Pentecostal steel guitar." That does not sound bad at all, so…

What else is going on? Well, there's "The Truth Telling Project"!

Telling your story can be a radical act.

At UNH, it means opening our community as a listening space for stories that change the way we see things.

In February, The Truth Telling Collective activists-in residence (Kristine Hendrix and Asia Dorsey) will live on campus as educators & organizers to deepen understandings of current issues impacting communities and campuses across the U.S.

Highlight your voice to help create the UNH story on race and social change. Find the link in the personal story as methodology toward campus-wide social change. Hear what journey lies ahead as we all work together for our collective liberation.

In other words, the usual meaningless (but tedious) Progressive victimology bafflegab; afterwards, they will wonder why they can't get anyone to take them seriously.

The "Truth Telling Collective" has a website where you can read more, if you can stand it. The abovementioned Asia Dorsey has a bio:

Asia Dorsey is a serene, green, radical being. She teaches the art of spreading the seeds of creativity, community, justice and just desserts to anyone brave enough to be themselves. She trades fertilizer with seed activists and stories of future through brown belly-button solidarity. Currently, this whole foods entrepreneur, educator and leader of the Five Points Fermentation Cooperative enjoys her time working with communities around ancestral culinary technology, folk science and dreamwork as a radical framework for the future. Her work is ever cultivating the partnerships needed to create bioregional food economies and medicines rooted in the ethics of people care, land care and fair share.  Formally a graduate of New York University, this Colorado wise woman, wakes up every day newly nourished by the power of everyday people, doing extraordinary things. Asia’s organizing experience includes Occupy, Movement for Black Lives and Ecological Justice.

OK, fine.

Finally, on February 21, we have Ron Stallworth in the house. He is now retired, but back in 1978 he was a Colorado Springs cop who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan chapter in that city. And according to his website: "The irony of this investigation was that Stallworth is… A Black man." Gutsy move!

Last Modified 2018-12-28 4:45 AM EDT

Live By Night

[Amazon Link]

This is the second entry in Dennis Lehane's series about the Boston-based Coughlin family. The first, The Given Day , was set shortly after World War I and focused on older son Danny's woes as a wannabe-honest Boston cop. This one jumps forward to the 1920s, Danny's little teenage brother, Joe, has turned into a 20-year-old criminal. Surprising behavior from someone whose father is a higher-up in the Boston Police Department, but what are you gonna do?

Joe and his misbehaving Irish buddies make the mistake of ripping off a poker game attended by underlings of the local Irish mob boss. During the theft, he meets Emma, and is immediately smitten. This sets him on a very seriously dangerous path that takes him to the Charlestown Pen, down to Florida and Cuba, and all sorts of nefarious activities. Although Joe fancies himself an "outlaw", he eventually finds himself as something he tried not to be: a gangster.

An epic book, but "only" 400 pages. A lesser writer would have gone to 800. As before, Lehane writes as if he had access to a time machine; he writes very believably about the Boston/Florida/Cuba settings.

This book was also the basis for a Ben Affleck (written, produced, directed, stars) movie that was a huge flop. I might watch it when I get the chance.

War for the Planet of the Apes

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

I don't know what accounts for the popularity of monkey movies. Not just the multiple incarnations of Planet of the Apes, but there's also King Kong, and … well, here's a list. Go for it.

That being said, I'm a fan myself. And this one is pretty good. You'll want to have seen the first two in this series first, though.

As the title implies, it's apes vs. humans, and there's no doubt about which side we're cheering for. All the apes want to do, pretty much, is live peacefully in the forest; but the humans, for some reason, are trying to wipe them out. (Speaking of monkey movies: one of the attacking army has "Bedtime for Bonzo" scrawled on his helmet. Heh.)

The humans, at least the ones surviving the "simian flu" outbreak described in the previous movies, are still technologically superior. And it doesn't help that some of the apes are dumb enough to sell out their side. The human leader, Woody Harrelson, is ruthless and demented. And he goes too far in one of the attacks, causing the normally-peaceful ape leader, Caesar, to embark on a path of revenge.

Film buffs will recognize a lot of inspiration from non-ape movies. Comic relief is provided by "Bad Ape", played by everyone's favorite goof-actor, Steve Zahn.

Purists might gripe at the massive deus ex machina at the film's climax. I was about to, but… hey, it's a monkey movie. Slack is demanded.

URLs du Jour


Autokennzeichen: USA (Wyoming -

■ A basic lesson from Proverbs 16:6:

6 Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for;
    through the fear of the Lord evil is avoided.

That's the way it's supposed to work, anyhow.

■ George F. Will observes the culture that is Oregon: Progressives rejoice at a stunning gift: The right to pump their own gas. A point I've not seen adequately made elsewhere:

To be fair, when Oregonians flinch from a rendezvous with an unattended gas pump, progressive government has done its duty, as it understands this. It wants the governed to become used to having things done for them, as by “trained and certified” gas pumpers. Progressives are proud believers in providing experts — usually themselves — to help the rest of us cope with life. The only downside is that, as Alexis de Tocqueville anticipated, such government, by being the “shepherd” of the governed, can “take away from them entirely the trouble of thinking” and keep them “fixed irrevocably in childhood.”

It doesn't take much insight to observe that policies that treat adults like irresponsible children will encourage them to behave like irresponsible children. But Will is saying: yes, that's the intention.

Which makes sense: irresponsible children will always want (and reliably vote for) Mommy Government to protect them.

@kevinNR also has an on-target observation. Donald Trump is The Porn President.

President Trump is a master of changing the subject. Stung by Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury, Trump held an open negotiation on immigration with congressional leaders in order to showcase his executive mettle — and then went on to provide a slow day’s worth of headlines when he voiced his contempt for tropical “s**tholes” and their would-be emigrants. Scatapalooza was a fun news cycle, but it immediately was surpassed by pornapalooza.

That yellow redoubt of anti-Trump tabloid muckraking known as the Wall Street Journal reports that Donald Trump paid Stephanie Gregory Clifford, better known by her stage name, Stormy Daniels, $130,000 in hush money to keep quiet about a sexual encounter with Trump while he was married to his third and current wife, Melania. The White House denies the adultery but not the payment.

Guess: we'll see an exodus of decent people from the Trump Administration this year. They will say it's because they want to spend more time with their families. And, for once, that reason will actually be true.

■ In the Casper Tribune, Jill Ottman muses on Wyoming plates. License plates, that is.

Let us also be thankful we don’t have a motto on our license plates, although I admit I’ve always been partial to New Hampshire’s “Live Free or Die” and our neighbor’s “Famous Potatoes.” Pennsylvania, not content with years of “the Keystone State,” recently went through a disgraceful time with “You’ve got a friend in” plastered on the top of its license plates. Quaker heritage notwithstanding, most Pennsylvanians are not F/friends, and, in fact, the only people of my acquaintance there are certain of my ex-husband’s relatives, whom I fondly hope will not leave. It might be even worse for us: we could have a URL. I am deeply sorry for the hapless citizens of about six states, stuck with URLs on them. My aforementioned mother now lives in the state of “myFLORIDA.com.” That just makes me wince. I’m perfectly happy to live with license plates that identify my vehicle and indicate whether I have or have not paid my registration in a timely fashion that year. Just let me also have my bucking horse and the ability to determine at a glance whether or not I should call out another person’s bad driving.

Wyoming's license plates are (indeed) pretty; see the embedded pic du jour. And if you can't have LFOD on your plates, why bother?

Not that I have anything against Wyoming's Offical State Motto: "Equal Rights".

■ John Pudner writes in Pravda-on-the-Merrimack [aka the Concord Monitor] on that old chestnut of "campaign finance reform": Fix it, America. A paragraph:

A series of Supreme Court decisions, beginning with Buckley v Valeo and continuing through McCutcheon, created this problem. It’s time for American citizens to unite and fix it. We need to clarify that the original intent of the Founders when they wrote the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was to protect free speech – not to forbid any state from determining if they wanted to place any requirements on the practice of giving politicians and lobbyists campaign donations in exchange for your tax dollars. To say otherwise would be to completely undermine the “Live Free or Die” state by practically inviting taxation to fund political donors.

Actually, John, it's the Constitution that "created this problem".

Pudner continues the fine tradition of (a) pretending to respect the First Amendment while (b) advocating that we go ahead and outlaw certain types of political speech.

His solution is the Fix It America Constitutional Amendment. Which (read it yourself) is vague and feelgood, and imagines "Congress and State Legislatures" will legislate restrictions on campaign communications that will not be designed to protect their incumbency. And those restrictions will automatically be deemed constitutional, due to the proposed amendment's language.


■ And finally, Michael P. Ramirez on the candidacy of you-know-who:

Still, this is a country that elected Trump...

Last Modified 2018-12-28 4:45 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


■ Anybody want to bet whether Proverbs 16:5 will have something insightful to say about modern-day events? Let's see:

5 The Lord detests all the proud of heart.
    Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.

To quote the last words of a book I've never read: "Isn't it pretty to think so?"

But I'm sure the Lord does not detest the proud-of-heart girl in today's Getty pic.

@JonahNRO's G-File is on Trump's "shithole" comments: Authentic Asininity. He disdains (of course) the arguments of both the Resistance and the Trumpkins. Here's the real issue:

The long-term threat to conservatism and, by extension, the GOP is profound. Young people — the largest voting bloc now — are utterly turned off to the Republican party. That doesn’t make them right, but that’s irrelevant. Their opinions are hardening every single day, even as old white people shuttle off this mortal coil.

I don't care much what happens to the Republican Party any more, except that in that it's supposed to be the go-to party where principled devotion to the Constitution, individual liberty, and free markets matter. Instead, it's now identified with Trumpism and casual bigotry.

■ At Reason, Christian Britschgi finds another know-nothing GOP state rep: Arizona Legislator Wants to Yank State Support From Groups That Don't Like 'Free Markets'.

This week, Arizona Rep. Bob Thorpe (R – Flagstaff) introduced a bill that would designate "American free-market capitalism" the state's official "political-economic system", and declares the legislature's intent "that taxpayer dollars not be used to promote or to provide material support for any political-economic system that opposes the principles of free-market capitalism."

Among other criticisms, Britschgi makes the pointed query: "What free market group worth its salt would be accepting government support in the first place?"

But the more substantial criticism is: Why is Rep Thorpe doing this when he could be introducing legislation that would actually support principles of free-market capitalism?

■ Matt Labash, writing in the Weekly Standard reviews The Book That Ate Washington. The whole thing is good, but I thought this was very good:

Personally, I’ve enjoyed reading Wolff over the years. You can call him many things […], but never dull. I do not know Wolff nor can I vouch for his credibility. Though I should add that a mutual acquaintance of ours, after spotting an anecdote he’d casually tossed off to Wolff turn up in Fire and Fury, reported this to me of Wolff’s seemingly slack methodology: “[He got it] from me, which I got from a woman on the beach in Florida, who heard it in a carpool line. Literally. I had no idea he was including it. That guy is a serious bullshit artist. Wow.”

I.e., an historian uniquely qualified to report on the Trump Administration.

■ Megan McArdle comments on the ideological skirmishes out west: Silicon Valley Will Pay the Price for Its Lefty Leanings. Can you spell b-o-y-c-o-t-t?

To be sure, boycotts are rarely all that effective. But most boycotts involve minor matters of policy. This is about tribal identity. Google fired a conservative for writing a rather anodyne memo. If it turns out that the company was at the same time tolerating truly vicious conservative bashing in its internal systems—well, no one wants to give their hard-earned money to people or companies that are violently bigoted against them.

Perhaps even more importantly, conservatives vote. They elect legislators and public officials whose actions can deeply affect Google’s business. In general, Google has gotten much friendlier treatment from American regulators than from the EU or China. But American government is currently heavily dominated by Republicans who are unlikely to want to be nice to a powerful corporation whose internal communications suggest that it views advancing a progressive agenda, and bashing conservatives, as part of its corporate mission.

And of course, there's this other bit of evidence that Google does see conservative-bashing as part of its corporate mission…

■ The Daily Caller is rightfully steamed about Google's new "Reviewed Claims" feature, deployed sloppily and asymmetrically against conservative sites. They report: Washington Post: We Didn’t Attack The Daily Caller, and Don’t Know Why Google Is.

Google’s relatively new “fact check” feature proves there’s something fundamentally wrong with at least some of its highly influential algorithms, after an investigation by The Daily Caller News Foundation found that the widget is both blatantly biased and tremendously faulty.

For example, "reviewed claims" that the reviewed source never made. And, to support that judgment, quoting "fact-checkers" that never mention the reviewed source.

I can't wait to ride in a car that's driven by Google-designed "algorithms". Just let me put on my crash helmet first, and arm the ejection seat.

■ Something called the "Science Channel" has a show called "How the Universe Works", narrated by Mike Rowe. One Rebecca Bright, noting some non-Progressive things Mike Rowe has uttered in other venues, demanded: "Cancel this fools [sic] contract and get any of your scientists so often on the show to narrate it."

And Mike Rowe responded to Ms. Bright. And it is a thing of beauty. Just one paragraph:

Anyway, Rebecca, my beef with your post comes down to this - if you go to my boss and ask her to fire me because you can’t stand the sound of my voice, I get it. Narrators with unpleasant voices should probably look for other work anyway, and if enough people share your view, no hard feelings - I’ll make room for Morgan. But if you’re trying to get me fired simply because you don’t like my worldview, well then, I’m going to fight back. Partly because I like my job, and partly because you’re wrong about your assumptions, but mostly because your tactics typify a toxic blend of laziness and group-think that are all too common today – a hot mess of hashtags and intolerance that deepen the chasm currently dividing our country.

Let me make explicit what I usually only imply in these posts: Read The Whole Thing.

■ I've been linking to the Babylon Bee a lot. Because they're funny. And, in good fun: Republican Party Publishes New, Improved Edition Of Jesus’s Beatitudes. Which beginneth:

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down, placing his AR-15 rifle on a rock nearby. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.

He said:

Blessed are the corporations, for they shall receive corporate welfare at the expense of the taxpayers.

Blessed are those who are triggered over the slightest criticism of President Trump, for they shall be comforted by Fox News.

And more. I'm pretty sure even Paul Ryan would laugh.

URLs du Jour


Proverbs 16:4 is cheerfully optimistic:

4 The Lord works out everything to its proper end—
    even the wicked for a day of disaster.

It would be nice if things reliably worked that way, wouldn't it?

■ David Henderson looks at the headline on a recent LATimes article:

Marin County has long resisted growth in the name of environmentalism. But high housing costs and segregation persist

… and asks the obvious question about that second sentence: But or Therefore?

A paragraph from the quoted story:

When a Los Angeles-based nonprofit examined demographic data on wealth, education, criminal justice and other issues, it found that Marin is home to the largest inequities between racial groups of any county in California. Disparities in homeownership rates and housing costs between whites and blacks and Latinos were a predominant factor leading to Marin's ranking.

Yet another confirming data point to a major thesis of The Captured Economy by Brink Lindsey and Steven Teles: rent-seeking exclusionary land use regulation is a major driver of inequality.

Note: Marin County voted 77% for Hillary in the 2016 election.

Further note: Cato ranks California #48 of the 50 states in land-use freedom. But lest we gloat here in New Hampshire, the Live Free or Die state ranks not much better: #43.

@JonahNRO wonders: Why Have We Let Actors Become Our Moral Guides? I think that's a rhetorical question, but let's see, zipping to the final paragraphs:

The interesting question is: Why have movie stars and other celebrities become an aristocracy of secular demigods? It seems to me an objective fact that virtually any other group of professionals plucked at random from the Statistical Abstract of the United States — nuclear engineers, plumbers, grocers, etc. — are more likely to model decent moral behavior in their everyday lives. Indeed, it is a bizarre inconsistency in the cartoonishly liberal ideology of Hollywood that the only super-rich people in America reflexively assumed to be morally superior are people who pretend to be other people for a living.

I think part of the answer has to do with the receding of religion from public life. As a culture, we’ve elevated “authenticity” to a new form of moral authority. We look to our feelings for guidance. Actors, as a class, are feelings merchants. While they may indeed be “out of touch” with the rest of America from time to time, actors are adept at being in touch with their feelings. And for some unfathomably stupid reason, we now think that puts us beneath them.

"Unfathomably stupid" well describes the country whose major-party voters gave us a "choice" between Trump and Hillary last year.

■ At Reason, Ed Krayewski doesn't think much of the Project Veritas exposé on Twitter's regulation of its users: James O'Keefe Panders to Populist 'Conservatives' Who Think Silicon Valley Is the Greatest Threat to Freedom.

Twitter has found out being an open space for racist trolls doesn't entice new users or encourage existing users to stick around, and so in recent months it has tried to impose new policies to minimize that. It should be free to adopt whatever policies it wants—it's a private company, after all.

The idea that Twitter might want to prioritize its bottom line over its users' ability to say whatever they want to whoever they want on the platform has given many modern conservatives the vapors.

I don't disagree, but there's little question that Twitter's stated policies are not employed even-handedly.

■ Patterico comments on the latest imbroglio: President Donald J. Trump on “Shithole Countries”. Quoting the NYT story:

President Trump on Thursday balked at an immigration deal that would include protections for people from Haiti and some nations in Africa, demanding to know at a White House meeting why he should accept immigrants from “shithole countries” rather than people from places like Norway, according to people with direct knowledge of the conversation.

Patterico is appalled, but he lets other people make the argument via Tweets like this:

Yeah, good point. Also see the linked article for a comment from Mia Love, Republican congresscritter from Utah, daughter of Haitian immigrants. Here's her relevant tweet:

■ Providing counterpoint is Jeremy Carl at NRO: Of Trump, Holes, and Our Real Immigration Scandals.

The Center for Immigration Studies has exhaustively examined welfare use by immigrant area of origin . Central America and Mexico are at 73%, The Caribbean at 51% and Africa at 48%. Europe was far lower at 26%. East Asia was at 32% and South Asia the lowest of all groups at 17%. And such disparate outcomes for immigrants by nation-of-origin continue multi-generationally.

So there's that.

Last Modified 2018-12-28 4:45 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


Tread Upon Now What?

■ Advice to the planners from Proverbs 16:3:

3 Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
    and he will establish your plans.

On the other hand, I recommend due diligence.

Note: we default to the New International Version translation here. For important commentary on that, see today's bottom item.

■ The Google LFOD klaxon sounded for this article from our state's local cell of Commie Radio: New Hampshire House Votes for Marijuana Legalization. And LFOD comes up pretty much where you would expect it to:

Advocates, like Rep. Frank Sapareto of Derry, said the "war on pot" should be over. Others cited New Hampshire's "Live Free Or Die" motto, with the Granite State possibly being "an island of prohibition" whereas neighboring states have legalized pot for adults.

It should pain us to be less liberty-loving in this area than Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont.

■ At the Volokh Conspiracy's new home at Reason, David Post notes some good news on the copyright front: The Public Domain is So Hungry. Post relates the history of works originally copyrighted in 1923:

  • Under existing law, the copyright term was 56 years, so they would have gone into the public domain in 1979;
  • But in 1976, Congress extended the period to 75 years, pushing back the PD date to 1999;
  • And then in 1998—just in time!—Congress stuck on another 20 years, which brings us to 2019;
  • Which means that those 1923 works will go public next year! Yay!

But will they actually be allowed to do so, or will Congress step in yet again, with another gift for copyright owners? Many people, myself included, pointed out at the time of enactment of the CTEA, that Congress could just keep on extending copyright duration further and further, every 20 years, thereby contravening the constitutional requirement in Article I that copyrights could only be granted for "limited times." The argument that the CTEA was unconstitutional for this very reason was ultimately rejected by the Supreme Court (in Eldred v. Ashcroft, 537 US 186 (2003)), thereby seeming to give Congress free rein to do just that.

Fortunately, it appears that the likelihood of such an additional extension is relatively low, as Timothy Lee explains in a very interesting essay over at ArsTechnica. This reflects a small but rather significant change in the politics of copyright policy. In the past, copyright owners could get pretty much whatever they wanted from Congress. The benefits of longer copyright term, and broader and stronger protection, were felt by a small and very well organized constituencies - recording companies, movie studios, print publishers - who had/have a substantial financial interest in measures to increase copyright protection, while the costs were largely invisible, spread out among the members of the entire public who were denied free access to previously-copyright protected works.

The legislative history is classic crony capitalism, with a complaisant Congress rolling over to well-heeled rent-seekers. The copyright period is already too long, but at least it appears it won't get longer.

■ David Harsanyi piles on Google's shiny new feature, designed to protect their users from unwanted thoughts: Google’s New ‘Fact-Checker’ Is Partisan Garbage. Specific examples of Google's deployment of this weapon against The Federalist website are provided.

[…] if [Google's method] is the standard for corrections and dissuading people from visiting a site, what possible reason could there be for left-wing sites that regularly make arguable or false assertions about economics, history, science, and politics, like Vox and ThinkProgress and many others, to be spared from this fact-checking? It’s one thing for us to read publications through filters. We do it all the time. But it’s another for a search engine to manipulate perceptions about those sites — and only conservative ones — before people even read them.

In my own Googling, I've found that Google search results are often an active impediment to "getting all sides" of an issue, burying any conservative/libertarian voices deep on subsequent pages, if they're present at all.

■ But perhaps that's not surprising, given this Federalist article listing 19 Insane Tidbits From James Damore’s Lawsuit About Google’s Office Environment. Just one gem:

Google manager Adam Fletcher wrote in 2015 he would never hire conservatives he deemed hold hostile views. “I will never, ever hire/transfer you onto my team,” he wrote. “Ever. I don’t care if you are perfect fit or technically excellent or whatever. I will actively not work with you, even to the point where your team or product is impacted by this decision. I’ll communicate why to your manager if it comes up.”

“You’re being blacklisted by people at companies outside of Google,” he added. “You might not have been aware of this, but people know, people talk. There are always social consequences.”

Yesterday I noted that Google sounds a lot like higher-ed Deep Thinkers, whose response to any Incorrect thought is marginialization, denunciation, and blacklisting. Eighteen more examples at the link. (And they don't mention Cargo Cult Programming!)

■ And (as promised above) the Babylon Bee diagnoses our problem: KJV-Only Pastor Tests Positive For NIV

In a somber announcement, Pastor Philip Wallace confirmed to his congregation at Hartford Ave Fundamentalist Baptist Church, AV1611 Wednesday evening that he has tested positive for NIV.

The man has pastored the congregation of seventeen people for the past thirty years, staunchly defending the purity of the Scriptures as handed down to mankind in the Authorized Version, but confessed he may have contracted NIV while “experimenting” with other translations during his college years.

I'm NIV-positive, and I think you should know that.

Last Modified 2018-12-28 4:45 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


Proverbs 16:2 on self-delusion:

2 All a person’s ways seem pure to them,
    but motives are weighed by the Lord.

Fortunately, there are those of us whose ways are Lord-certified pure.

■ Daniel J. Mitchell notes an interesting NYT story about a town in Mexico. And wonders A Libertarian Paradise in…Mexico? The NYT reports:

Fifteen-foot stone turrets are staffed by men whose green uniforms belong to no official force. Beyond them, a statue of an avocado bears the inscription “avocado capital of the world.” And beyond the statue is Tancítaro, an island of safety and stability amid the most violent period in Mexico’s history. Local orchard owners, who export over $1 million in avocados per day, mostly to the United States, underwrite what has effectively become an independent city-state. Self-policing and self-governing, it is a sanctuary from drug cartels as well as from the Mexican state. …Tancítaro represents a quiet but telling trend in Mexico, where a handful of towns and cities are effectively seceding, partly or in whole. These are acts of desperation, revealing the degree to which Mexico’s police and politicians are seen as part of the threat.

But, as Mitchell notes, that last bit would be more accurately edited: "revealing the degree to which Mexico’s police and politicians are seen as part of the threat." ("There, I fixed it.")

■ Gregg Easterbook's TMQ this week covers the first weekend of the NFL playoffs, but devotes a major section to the corruption of gambling on sports generally, and the NFL in particular, likely to be made worse by the move of the Raiders to Las Vegas.

Easterbrook is no libertarian, and I disagree with his prohibitionist tendencies. But this is right, exactly right:

Forty-four states plus the District of Columbia have government-sanctioned lottos whose purpose is to fleece the poor and working class. There is deep cynicism in state governments claiming to want to help Americans escape poverty, then setting up glittering gambling traps that cause men and women to become mired in cycles of debt. Some lotto players lose everything; the typical state lotto player loses about $120 a year after the token winnings designed to feed gambling addiction. As the Motley Fool notes, “The average lottery player in America loses roughly 40 cents for every $1 in tickets purchased. Talk about a bad return on investment.” Regular state-lotto players are mostly low-income, actively preyed upon by government. That the highly subsidized NFL also preys on the poor by marketing lottos is shameful.

Derek Thompson puts the big picture together, and the key word that applies to the lotto business—sanctioned by government, encouraged by sports owners who boast about their civic responsibility—is shame.

This particular horse has long left the barn, so the gripes of Easterbrook and Hunter are futile. But that doesn't make them wrong.

■ Greg Piper, at the College Fix locates another higher-ed Deep Thinker at the oxygen-deprived University of Denver: Professor defends laziness as a ‘virtue’ that ‘combats the neoliberal condition’.

Prof. Ryan Evely Gildersleeve, whose background is “primarily out-of-classroom learning contexts with non-dominant youth,” argues today in the research journal Qualitative Inquiry that “lazy practices can become useful for postqualitative inquiry that seeks to disrupt normative explanations of the world.”

This immediately recalled Larry Wall's three virtues of a great programmer: Laziness, Impatience, and Hubris. Where "laziness" is understood to be:

The quality that makes you go to great effort to reduce overall energy expenditure. It makes you write labor-saving programs that other people will find useful and document what you wrote so you don't have to answer so many questions about it.

I don't think that's what Prof Gildersleeve had in mind. He should have, but didn't.

Also not what Gildersleeve had in mind: Robert Heinlein's "The Tale of the Man Who Was Too Lazy to Fail" in his novel Time Enough for Love.

This story concerns a 20th-century United States Navy cadet named David Lamb who rises in the ranks while avoiding any semblance of real work by applying himself enthusiastically to the principle of "constructive laziness". Shortly after telling the story Lazarus mistakenly calls David "Donald", which is intended to make the reader think the story is fallacious, while actually pertaining to Lazarus directly.

Now that I'm retired, I have no shame about laziness whatsoever.

■ The Daily Caller is reporting that Google’s New Fact-Check Feature Almost Exclusively Targets Conservative Sites.

Google, the most powerful search engine in the world, is now displaying fact checks for conservative publications in its results. No prominent liberal site receives the same treatment.

And not only is Google’s fact-checking highly partisan — perhaps reflecting the sentiments of its leaders — it is also blatantly wrong, asserting sites made “claims” they demonstrably never made.

This is, regrettably, unsurprising. Google's explanation is here: "Reviewed claims: This shows up when a significant amount of a publisher’s recent content has been reviewed by an authoritative fact-checker."

Google's "algorithm" relies on hopelessly biased fact checkers like Politifact, who are only "authoritative" inside the Progressive bubble.

■ In related news James Damore is suing Google, his former employer. Power Line tells the story in Up From Google. It contains a link to the Scribdized complaint. PL Comments:

Putting the merits of the lawsuit to one side, and the issues raised by its pursuit as a class action, the complaint makes for interesting reading. I have a close friend who is both an extremely successful businessman and a man of character whom I greatly respect. He got my attention yesterday with a message transmitting the complaint against Google: “I couldn’t stop reading this. I cannot even imagine how miserable it would be to work at Google with management like this.”

The complaint contains examples of how Google has inherited the worst of higher-ed's Progressive "inclusiveness" — which requires the elimination of all non-Progressive dissent within the organization. As a retired programmer, I really liked this internal memo, from Googler Christopher K. Davis:

It's time again for the too-frequently-needed reminder that "cargo cult programming" is a problematic phrase that is both racist in origin and often insulting in use.

If you think code is being unnecessarily repeated, say so in those words. It's best to do so while offering a solution for removing the redundancy, since the original author may not be aware of the best ways to reuse code and/or definitions in a givn language. (This particularly goes for things like GCL, where I've managed to break things more than once while trying to limit redundancy.)

We mustn't be disrespectful to the Cargo Cultists! Although I think Davis misunderstands what the term denotes: it's not redundant code, it's an attempt to reuse code without understanding what it does.

■ And finally, your Tweet du Jour.

Not shown: people who look at this diagram and think: "Ooo, boobies!"

Last Modified 2018-12-28 4:45 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


your heaven is a dangerous place to play

■ We continue our backward march through Proverbs with Proverbs 16:1:

1 To humans belong the plans of the heart,
    but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue.

AKA: "Man proposes, God disposes." Very similar to Proverbs 19:21. But the same advice applies: don't let this deter you from maxing out your retirement fund contributions.

Reason editor Katherine Mangu-Ward has thoughts on Why It's So Hard to Get Pervs Out of Politics.

Politics is a high-stakes, winner-takes-all game with irresistible appeal to a certain kind of low-quality human being. There are typically only two viable candidates in any national race, and voters have a lot invested in the idea that bad things will happen if their guy loses.

That means that if their guy turns out to be, say, an unrepentant pedophile, there will be plenty of voters who pause for a minute and wonder whether having an unrepentant pedophile in office who will consistently vote the way they want is worse or better than having a non-pedophile who will consistently vote in a way that they believe will undermine the American experiment. Partisan duopoly creates powerful incentives to wear blinders about the flaws of your preferred candidate, and to make excuses for failings too glaring to deny.

It's interesting that "naked lust for sex" will get politicians in trouble, but "naked lust for power" (arguably more dangerous) will get them applauded and rewarded.

■ Oprah Winfrey gave a big speech at the Golden Globe Awards, and suddenly… @kevinNR asks the musical question: Why Not President Oprah?

Of course she is categorically unqualified for the office. But have fun imagining Republicans making that case in the shadow of Donald J. Trump, Very Stable Genius™. Oprah’s formal educational attainments are modest, whatever political ideas she has seem to be largely undeveloped, and she has an obvious and regrettable weakness for quacks and cranks of sundry sorts: anti-vaccine nuts, Dr. Oz, doctors who use Tarot cards to diagnose thyroid problems, etc. She is a one-woman public-health menace.

At the same time, she more than embodies the virtues attributed to President Trump: She’s a real billionaire, a self-made one at that, a woman who started with nothing and became wildly successful with bupkis to go on but her own grit and shrewdness. President Trump loves to talk about ratings. You want ratings? Oprah has ratings.

I can honestly say that I've never watched an entire episode of Oprah, and of course I skipped the Golden Globes entirely, so I am blissfully ignorant of her appeal. But I can imagine a lot of Americans asking Kevin's question: After Trump, yeah, why the hell not?

■ Virginia Postrel states it clearly: Oprah Is the Living Symbol America Needs Now. But there's a twist…

Forget Oprah Winfrey for president -- for all the reasons cited by my Bloomberg View colleague Jonathan Bernstein. We don’t need another political newbie in the Oval Office. But the response to her eloquent Golden Globes speech demonstrates a craving, and not just on the left, for skills she’s already mastered.

She knows how to represent the country in a unifying and inspirational way. Note the numerous shoutouts to men, from Sidney Poitier to TV executive Dennis Swanson to “some pretty phenomenal men,” in a speech that could easily have become male-bashing.

She’d make a terrific head of state. And we need one.

Unfortunately, there's no Constitutional niche for "Head of State". The Founders kind of dropped the ball there, failing to anticipate that we'd start looking at the President for inspiration, hope, and other general bullshit.

Ms Postrel footnotes that Oprah relies heavily, and unusually, on non-disclosure agreements to keep her privacy. Would that continue to work in a presidential campaign?

■ The Babylon Bee perceptively notes the Nation’s Progressives Suddenly In Favor Of Electing TV Personalities As President.

Moments after Oprah Winfrey gave a rousing speech at the Golden Globe Awards Sunday night in what some claimed to be the soft launch of her 2020 presidential bid, the nation’s progressives declared they were now in favor of TV personalities running for president.

Millions of Democrats who denounced Donald Trump for his lack of experience throughout the 2016 race announced they had changed their minds overnight and are now fully supportive of a television star running the country.

Well, good luck with that.

Last Modified 2018-12-28 4:45 AM EDT


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

The first thing I checked out after watching this movie: what genre does IMDB think it's in? Answer: "Action, Comedy, Drama". "Comedy" is stretching things a bit; I'd toss in "Fantasy". It's safe to say that it's not formulaic.

Anne Hathaway portrays Gloria, initially living with Tim (Matthew Crawley himself, Dan Stevens). She's a mess, unemployed, getting drunk nightly, not coming home until dawn's early light, and generally a loser. Tim tells her to move out, and she returns to the small town in which she grew up. (Which is allegedly in New Hampshire, although the movie was actually filmed in British Columbia.)

But as it turns out when Gloria walks through a certain school playground, a huge monster simultaneously appears in Seoul Korea. And apes her every movement, even when that involves destroying buildings, stepping on mass transit vehicles, etc.

In the background (initially) is an old friend from her elementary school days, Oscar. He now runs his family's bar, and he offers Gloria a waitressing job. But (aha!) is there more to their relationship than meets the eye? (Spoiler: yup.)

A very watchable movie, but a little unfocused as far as the plot goes. (What is Oscar's deal, anyway?)


[Amazon Link]

I see from this interview that James Lee Burke (who is 81 years young, after all) was planning on ending his Dave Robicheaux series with the 20th book, Light of the World, published five years ago. But readers demanded just one more, and JLB had it in him, so…

Spoilers follow, but I think they're the same ones on the dust jacket. As the book opens, Dave has lost his third wife, Molly, a victim of a (apparently) careless pickup truck driver. Which understandably knocks the props out from under him, and he winds up drinking, something he's managed to avoid for a number of previous books, despite the general psychic horrors within.

Worse, the pickup driver turns up dead. And he was killed while Dave was in a alcoholic blackout, and he's unsure about whether he did the deed or not.

The main plot driver, though, is the conflicts that occur over the making of a Civil War movie. It is to be based on the book of a shady writer, an unreformed mob boss wants to produce it, and so does a flashy demagogic politician. And Dave's daughter, Alafair, is thinking about writing the screenplay. Clete Purcel and Helen Soileau are on hand as well.

There are a lot of secondary characters as well: a dirty cop, a simple-minded hit man, various family members, lowlife thugs, … Everyone's complex, most hiding secrets, and there are the usual bizarre physical characteristics. (There need to be a lot of characters in a Robicheaux novel, since so many of them bite the dust during the course of the book.)

JLB has lost none of his writing talents. Consumer note: For some reason, the Kindle version had a lot of typos.

URLs du Jour


Proverbs 17:28 contains a lesson that I should probably learn:

28 Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent,
    and discerning if they hold their tongues.

Are you thinking (as I did) "Oh, yeah. That's pretty much what Abe Lincoln said!"

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.

Or maybe Twain? Well, think again, buddy boy:

In conclusion, there is no substantive evidence that this popular adage was coined or employed by Abraham Lincoln or Mark Twain. The earliest ascriptions to these famous figures appeared many years post death. [Quote Investigator] thinks that Maurice Switzer is currently the top choice for coiner of the expression though future data may reveal alternative claimants.

The Quote Investigator notes the Proverbial roots, but the modern version "is certainly more humorous." Well, you don't go to the Good Book for chuckles, do you?

@kevinNR has one of his dead-trees National Review articles slip out into web freedom: Scott Pruitt’s Reformation. That would be of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt talks quite a bit about differing philosophies captured in the words "stewardship" and "prohibition".

Stewardship, Pruitt says, is making responsible use of our national blessings, including our natural resources: “Feed the world and fuel the world,” he says, over and over. But the Left — and the EPA, which has long been dominated by it — is not interested in stewardship. It’s interested in prohibition, in a lot of Thou shalt and a whole heck of a lot more Thou shalt not. “You have two different approaches, two different worldviews, two very different sets of assumptions,” Pruitt says.

“One side says we exist to serve creation,” he explains. “The other side says creation is there for us to use and manage to the benefit of mankind. Those are competing ideologies, and they drive decision-making. They drive regulation. If you are of the side that says we exist to serve creation, then you have no trouble putting up a fence and saying Do not use. Even though people may starve, may freeze, though developing countries may never develop their economies. That’s something they’re comfortable doing, and I think that’s wrongheaded.”

As it happens, relevant to the starving/freezing bit: another article at NRO noted the response of the Obama administration's Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, in denying an Alaskan fishing village's request for a one-lane gravel road to be built through a wildlife refuge for purposes of medical evacuation: "I’ve listened to your stories, now I have to listen to the animals,"

And the animals said no, so that was that.

Reason's Jacob Sullum brings a little sanity to the current pot fight, asking the musical question: Did Jeff Sessions' Marijuana Memo Restore the Rule of Law?

If there is a rule-of-law problem here, it is similar to the one created by alcohol prohibition. The federal government has decided to ban peaceful activities that violate no one's rights, turning millions of otherwise law-abiding people across the country into criminals. The number of offenders is so large that the feds cannot hope to catch and punish a significant percentage of them, even with the cooperation of the states. Almost everyone who violates the law does so with impunity, while the high prevalence of these so-called crimes gives police and prosecutors dangerously broad authority to harass people and deprive them of their freedom. The treatment of the tiny share of offenders who happen to be arrested and prosecuted seems utterly arbitrary and unjust, inviting jury nullification.

The ban on marijuana is even more offensive to the rule of law than alcohol prohibition was, because it was never authorized by a constitutional amendment. The grotesque stretching of the Commerce Clause required to justify a law that applies to every trace of cannabis in America, whether or not it crosses state lines, down to the plant in a cancer patient's closet or the bag of buds in her dresser, is surely a bigger challenge to the rule of law than a weaselly memo suggesting how federal prosecutors should exercise a power they never should have been given.

Man, wouldn't it be cool if Wickard v. Filburn were overturned?

■ The MinuteMan notes Resistance Madness at the New York Times:

The editors of the flailing NY Times have lost the plot and lost their minds. They have now run not one but two stories hailing tax shelters for and tax avoidance by the rich. OK, they hate Trump but really - what has happened to decades of progressive orthodoxy regarding "tax the rich"? weird.

The first example is really weird: states who are trying to enable their relatively well-off citizens to continue to get a tax deduction for their local taxes.

■ At Town Hall, Derek Hunter discovers the obvious: We Live in Stupid Times.

The big story this week was a book written by a guy known for exaggerating about a guy known for exaggerating with the main source being another guy known for exaggerating. And I’m not exaggerating.

A less euphemistic word than "exaggerating" might have been better, but why quibble?

I've been stupid myself recently, engaging in a Facebook debate with a lefty friend from high school who thought Nancy MacLean's Democracy in Chains was the epitome of good scholarship, instead of the shoddy smear it was.

I should have been content with what I did: asserting that point and pointing to the Reason review as backup evidence. But then he responded, and I responded, and… well, it was on the verge of Getting Personal on my part. (It had already done so on his part.)

Our 50th class reunion is still about a year and a half away, and things might be uncomfortable as a result. Which would suck.

So, a belated New Year's Resolution: Paul, if you must talk about politics in social media, take your best shot, but only one. Do not engage, or debate, or make it personal.

URLs du Jour


Proverbs 17:27

Proverbs 17:27 is one we could preface with: "Even in Ancient Israel, they were able to figure out that…

27 The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint,
    and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.

Punchline: "…but our current political climate discourages that sort of behavior."

Bonus: I was able to find a picture on Flickr to embed that someone else thought illustrative of the proverb. Thanks, Ishak Tjokrokusumo!

■ The folks who want conservative/libertarian critics to go easier on Trump will invariably point to his record so far on deregulation. True, it's better than it would have been under Hillary. But, at Reason, Baylen Linnekin notes that it's not working out everywhere: 'Food Police' Thriving Under Alleged Deregulator Trump. The culprits are FDA director Scott Gottlieb and the USDA:

There's good reason to be skeptical of the willingness of Gottlieb's FDA to cut food regulations. For example, he doubled down last fall on awful Obama administration menu-labeling rules, part of the Affordable Care Act, saying the FDA will act in part because Gottlieb is a "doctor" and "father." He's also continued the Obama administration's nannying pursuit of all things "Loko," going after the snortable chocolate Coco Loko with the same gusto Obama's FDA targeted the caffeinated alcohol beverage Four Loko.

It's not just Trump's FDA that stinks. His USDA has also been lousy. The Trump administration rolled back Obama administration rules on USDA school lunches—so that the rules are different than they were recently but still awful like they were before that—with the embarrassing claim to be "making school lunches great again." The USDA also recently targeted Maine after the state adopted a food sovereignty law that would have allowed cities and towns in the state to deregulate local meat sales.

A good item to shove in the face of the next nattering Trump fan.

@kevinNR thinks the GOP should extend its political appeal From Sea to Shining Sea.

In its quest to “Make America Great Again,” the Republican party, and to a lesser extent the conservative movement that animates itself, has taken a position of enmity toward much of what made America great in the first place. With all due respect to those amber waves of grain, coastal urban America has in many ways led the way: Hollywood, Wall Street, Ronald Reagan, punk rock, Ellis Island, Edison, Apple, Facebook, Google, J. P. Morgan, General Electric.

The modern conservative movement was not a product of the Old South or the Midwest but an intellectual phenomenon that percolated up in Southern California and New York City. (With apologies to Mr. and Mr. Koch, there’s a reason William F. Buckley Jr. did not choose to launch a journal in Wichita.) It’s all good and fine to point to the troubles — and they are many — of the Democrat-dominated states and cities, but in their rhetorical frenzy to abominate the Democrat-leaning parts of the country, Republicans have put themselves at odds with many of our most successful industries, institutions, and communities. Republicans sneer at Silicon Valley and at the elite universities that educate the people who work there. In favor of what? A resentment-driven cultural milieu that insists that the “Real America” is to be found elsewhere, and that the “Real America” looks like Hee-Haw without the music or self-deprecating humor. They insist that San Francisco is Hell on Earth but never ask why it is that so many people want to live there — or they just write off those who do as degenerates and hopelessly un-American.

Kevin thinks that's bad politics, and it's difficult to disagree.

[Amazon Link]

■ It has been 30 years since Thomas Sowell wrote A Conflict of Visions, but it's never too late to review a book, if you are Matt Winesett at the American Enterprise Institute:

If you know someone’s position on gun control, you can probably make a fair guess about their views on everything from corporate tax rates to abortion. It’s not a perfect heuristic, but as Thomas Sowell writes in his 1987 classic, A Conflict of Visions, “it happens too often to be a coincidence and it is too uncontrolled to be a plot.”

This clustering of political beliefs cries out for explanation. It’s fashionable now to blame tribalism, but Sowell provides a different answer: Individuals hold different visions, “constrained” or “unconstrained,” which entail different views of human nature, different senses of causation — in short, different ideas about the way the world works. And it is the conflict between these macro visions that Sowell argues dominates history.

It's one of those books everyone should read.

Last Modified 2018-12-28 4:45 AM EDT

The Big Sick

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

I was aware of Kumail Nanjiani from HBO's Silicon Valley, he also was quite funny when he hosted Saturday Night Live last October. So I put his movie in the Netflix queue (which turned out to be stupid, because I could have streamed in on Amazon Prime, but spilt milk).

It's the based-on-fact story of Nanjiani's rocky relationship with Emily. They meet while he's doing standup in a Chicago comedy club, (conveniently filled with comedy club stereotypes). They hit it off, but… Kumail is constrained by his Pakistani family loyalties, and they demand (a) he remain a good Muslim, and (b) marry a nice Pakistani girl in a classic arranged marriage.

Kumail can't bring himself to tell his family about Emily, nor can he man up to Emily about what his family expects. But she finds out anyway, he fumbles the ball, and they break up as a result.

But the movie isn't called The Big Sick for nothing. Emily comes down with a nasty infection, which sends her to the hospital and a medically-induced coma. Which brings Kumail back into the picture, and a meeting with Emily's parents (played stunningly well by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano).

This sounds like an unlikely plot for a romantic comedy, but it worked for me.

Spoiler: it all works out. In real life, Kumail and Emily have been married for 10 years.

URLs du Jour



Weather update: Brr. Accuweather said the "RealFeel" temperature yesterday was -13. And I can testify that when the wind blows snowblower ejecta back into your face, it seems much lower than that.

Proverbs 17:26 is a candidate for the "Funniest Proverb" award:

26 If imposing a fine on the innocent is not good,
    surely to flog honest officials is not right.

Yeah, but… speaking as a utilitarian, the flogging might put a scare into the dishonest officials and get them to straighten up and fly right. It's a small price to pay. The cost/benefit ratio points to an overall win.

■ I don't usually link to Instapundit—instead, I link to the stuff he links to—but I'll make an exception today. Mandatory diversity course not effective, prof discovers.

An East Carolina University prof actually bothered to survey student attitudes before and after taking her mandatory "Race, Gender, and Special Populations in the Criminal Justice System" course. And found they were pretty much the same. No big deal, except for wasting everyone's time and money.

Instapundit's comment is on-target:

But you can’t judge something ineffective until you know what it’s purpose is, and the real purpose of these mandatory courses is to provide employment for a permanent cadre of lefty activists on campus.


■ I haven't seen Dave Chappelle's new Netflix comedy special yet, but Titus Techera, writing at NRO, encourages me to do so: Dave Chappelle and the Art of Telling Ugly Truths. It's long and insightful all the way through. Here's a bit.

So listen to Chappelle, because he gives you ugly truths with every laugh, and that is true morality — the things you admit are true against your own vanity or self-righteousness. He tells you, yes, that Martin Luther King Jr. had affairs with women and was immoral — but he was also a moral and political hero, and better than the people, liberal and conservative, who wanted to bring him down by spying on his sexual misconduct. Maybe it’s not an accident that he was also the last political champion of natural rights. Yes, liberals want progress, but they also have to learn to stop fainting like fainting goats. It’s bad for them and bad for America and bad for comedy, because you can’t laugh if you’re busy throwing fits.

Fainting goats. Heh.

■ I read an excellent book last year that, among other things, made the case for cutting down on "intellectual property" protections. Here's a BBC article that the authors could have used for additional evidence: White noise video on YouTube hit by five copyright claims.

A musician who made a 10-hour long video of continuous white noise - indistinct electronic hissing - has said five copyright infringement claims have been made against him.

I plan on copyrighting "plain white background" later today; next week, I'll start suing websites with a plain white background. Starting, of course, with the ones with the deepest pockets.

■ Mr. Lileks notes: Raw water fad might make cholera great again. But it's mostly about the "Instant Pot" craze. Among the advantages:

3. It's a pressure cooker. This, frankly, makes me nervous, mainly because I don't know what I'm talking about. I imagine that people who do know their way around a kitchen have conversations like this:

"I've never had manta ray this delicious. How was it cooked? With pressure?" Why, yes! Yes, it was. "I thought so. Can I ask how many pounds per square inch?" Well, I sautéed it with balsamic-infused goat nostrils, then 40 psi for three days. "So that's your secret!"

All of which just makes me wonder: If you cook something at high pressure and everyone eats it too quickly, do they get the bends?

But stick around for the "raw water" stuff too.

■ The Objective Standard is a magazine/website dedicated to Ayn Rand's Objectivism. Which means (a) they're basically OK in my book, and (b) I'm not OK in theirs. But the Google LFOD alert rang for this article from Jon Hersey: Live Free or Die: The Story of General John Stark. An excerpt:

While trapping when he was twenty-four, Stark was captured by Indians. They demanded that he lead them to his party. Stark calmly paraded them two miles in the opposite direction. Believing that Stark simply had gotten lost, his party, which included his brother, signaled their location by firing into the air. Thus, they inadvertently drew in the roving band. Stark batted away several of the Indian’s guns as they chased his friends. This bold act enabled his brother to flee, but Stark remained a prisoner.

Try as they might, Stark’s captors could not break his rebellious spirit. They forced him to run between two lines of men who were poised with sticks and clubs, ready to inflict blows. Stark turned the tables, wresting a club from one of the men and rushing the line, knocking down several Indians while hardly receiving a blow himself. They again tried to humble him by having him hoe corn, a job typically left to the tribe’s women. Stark chopped down the corn, leaving the weeds instead, and then heaved the hoe into the river. If the Indians didn’t regret seizing Stark then, they would have cause to later.

I'm not sure how much of Stark's story gets told even in New Hampshire history classrooms. My guess is: not enough.

■ The LFOD alert was also triggered by this … gulp … HuffPo article about New Hampshire's most famous left-wing old bat: Pssst. Pass it on.....”Granny D”, A Friend Who At 90 Walked Across the U.S. to Remind Us How to Fight and Why..... Her 2004 Senate campaign featured a hopeless run against Judd Gregg:

As a candidate, Doris was out to prove that ordinary citizens who are not millionaires can in fact run without taking money from global financiers and corporations. At rallies, she said, “There’s a cancer, and it’s killing our democracy. A poor man has to sell his soul to get elected. I cry for this country.”

On her bus, she had “Live Free or die!”, the New Hampshire state motto, with two swooping blue cartoon birds, each wearing a copy of her best friend’s hat. Financed entirely by small donations, she. at age 94 with zero time to prepare, got 34% of the vote. Was that a loss or did her message simply spread farther?

Granny did not believe in free speech for people she disagreed with. Who were invariably "global financiers and corporations."

Last Modified 2018-12-28 4:45 AM EDT

Replacing TPGoogleReader

Futurama quote pattern

Note: No actual code here.

Back in July 2013, Google discontinued its "Reader" RSS/Atom feed aggregation service. Basically: you subscribed to a number of websites via their syndication feeds. Google would periodically query the feeds for new content. It would also keep track of what articles you had "read". (More accurately: marked as read. You didn't actually have to read them.) There are a number of services that do that sort of thing. I used Reader because of the independently-developed TPGoogleReader Chrome extension. Specifically, for one lousy feature of TPGoogleReader. You could get it to:

  1. Query Google Reader for your unread articles;

  2. Automatically open up a number of browser tabs showing unread articles, up to a specified maximum;

  3. And this is the critical part: when I closed an auto-opened tab, TPGoogleReader would open up the next unread article in a new tab in the background.

This made browsing a large number of sites an efficient breeze. When I finished reading one article, a tab-closing control-W all by itself would bring up a new background tab with the next unread article in my feed. No mouse-messing. Concentrate on reading content. Bliss.

It took a few years, and numerous false starts, but I'm back at that point again. Here's how:

  • I moved to a free Inoreader account to take over the RSS feed monitoring. They are reliable, active, and seem to be hanging around.

  • I wrote a "fetch" Perl script that uses the WebService::Google::Reader to log into Inoreader and download unread article data. As you might guess from the name, the module author originally developed for Google Reader, but graciously made the necessary changes to make it work with Inoreader.

    I run this script periodically via anacron.

  • The final bit of the puzzle was the Chromix-Too extension for the Google Chrome web browser. This consists of a JavaScript client/server pair that communicate over a Unix-domain socket. The client bit has a simple command interface, and I only use two of them:

    1. Tell me how many tabs the browser has open:

      chromix-too raw chrome.tabs.query '{}'

      The output is a mass of detailed JSON, but that's pretty easy to parse.

    2. Open a new tab in the background with a specified URL:

      chromix-too raw chrome.tabs.create '{"active":false,"url":"URL"}'

I'm leaving out a lot of details, but they are pretty straightforward (and of very little general interest): storing a local list of unread articles, figuring out whether it's appropriate to open one (and if so which one), time delays, etc. I wrap all this logic in a "reader" Perl script which I run whenever I have the browser running.

But I'm back to web-surfing Nirvana again, so that's good. The only downside (sort of) is that all this happens on a single (Linux) host. That's OK for me.

Last Modified 2018-12-28 4:45 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


Woo, that's a lot of snow out there. Obviously, I should get started clearing the driveway blog.

■ Does Proverbs 17:25 say anything about procrastination? No, it's another gripe about kids' shortcomings:

25 A foolish son brings grief to his father
    and bitterness to the mother who bore him.

Note: this is pretty much the same Proverb as four verses previous. The Proverbialist is no fan of fools, especially ones in his family. He takes no responsibility for their foolishness though.

■ We try to keep things PG-13 at Pun Salad, but sensitive souls should skip to the next item: Judge overturns campus rape finding after officials call accused student ‘motherf—er’

Just before Christmas, a judge overturned the University of Southern California’s 2016 sexual-assault finding against an accused student, deeming him the victim of a process that was not “fair, thorough, reliabl[y] neutral and impartial.”

One of the errors made by the private institution? The Title IX coordinator and investigator repeatedly called the male student and his adviser “motherfuckers” after they forgot to hang up on a call with them.

In theory, it's possible for University student conduct investigators to be professional and unbiased. In practice, way too many of them are ideology-driven authoritarian thugs.

The only bright spot: a lot of them are also totally incompetent at making even the pretense of fairness, even at a school like USC.

@kevinNR has some legal advice for POTUS: If Trump Has Been Defamed, He Should Sue.

Michael Wolff has published a sensational new book about the Trump administration. In it, he quotes Steve Bannon, formerly the chief executive of the Trump campaign and chairman of Trump propaganda outlet Breitbart, characterizing meetings between Donald Trump Jr. and Russian operatives as “unpatriotic” and “treasonous.” Bannon also is quoted as saying that there is “zero” chance that Donald Trump himself was unaware of the meetings.

There are many amusing anecdotes in the book that tend to confirm the worst suspicions of the administration’s critics. Wolff writes of Kellyanne Conway’s maneuvering on Election Day, expecting a resounding loss but hoping to parlay her work into a lucrative Fox News contract. There are cabinet secretaries such as Rex Tillerson and quondam allies such as Rupert Murdoch who dismiss the president as an imbecile surrounded by dilettantes, opportunists, and con artists. Trump’s children maneuver fecklessly, and he himself retreats into a cocoon of fast food and cable news. It is the sort of thing that those who take an uncharitable view of the president — and no one takes a more uncharitable view than I do — would have expected.

From what I gather, Wolff has a long history of making stuff up. Trump should have, at most, simply pointed this out, and otherwise ignored him, but that's not in Trump's nature.

■ David Harsanyi has a bone to pick with journalists who breezily invoke tame anti-market economists in articles and columns: ‘Economists Say’ A Lot Of Things. But They’re Mostly Wrong.

“A wave of optimism has swept over American business leaders, and it is beginning to translate into the sort of investment in new plants, equipment and factory upgrades that bolsters economic growth, spurs job creation — and may finally raise wages significantly,” opens a recent New York Times article surveying the state of the American economy.

One imagines readers of the esteemed paper were surprised to run across such a rosy assessment after being bombarded with news of a homicidal Republican tax plan for so many weeks. Not to worry! Over the next few thousand words, the authors do their best to assure readers that neither deregulation nor tax cuts are really behind this new economic activity — even if business leaders keep telling them otherwise.

For example, “There is little historical evidence tying regulation levels to growth,” the Times claims. A few paragraphs later we again learn that, “The evidence is weak that regulation actually reduces economic activity or that deregulation stimulates it.”

Pro tip: you have a good (but not infallible) chance of getting straight economy-related news from the Wall Street Journal.

■ Oregon enacted legislation that would allow (but not mandate) some rural gas stations to have self-service pumps. Alex Tabarrok notes the ridicule being spent on Oregonians freaking out at the concept of customer-operated gas pumps. But wait, there's a more general point being ignored: Collective Action Kills Innovation.

Most of the rest of the America–where people pump their own gas everyday without a second thought–is having a good laugh at Oregon’s expense. But I am not here to laugh because in every state but one where you can pump your own gas you can’t open a barbershop without a license. A license to cut hair! Ridiculous. I hope people in Alabama are laughing at the rest of America. Or how about a license to be a manicurist? Go ahead Connecticut, laugh at the other states while you get your nails done. Buy contact lens without a prescription? You have the right to smirk British Columbia!

… and Granite Staters should not chuckle at Oregon while under the soapy hands of a Shampoo Assistant Apprentice.

■ On the other hand, it's healthy to laugh. The Babylon Bee reports: Oregon Man Attempts To Decipher Gasoline Pump As Though It Were Advanced Alien Technology.

After a new law took effect January 1st overturning a ban on self-service gas stations, local Oregonian Brax Olson got out of his vehicle and stared mesmerized at a gasoline pump, attempting to figure out how it worked as though it were some monolithic piece of alien tech left over from an advanced race of visitors from the stars.

The man stared transfixed at the handle and surmised it was some kind of holding device used by ancient visitors to earth, who may have grasped the bizarre apparatus and somehow fueled their spaceships. Drawing on the wealth of knowledge he had attained gaining his Master’s degree in English literature, the 48-year-old barista figured out how to remove the hose from the eldritch machine and place it in his vehicle, the nozzle miraculously fitting in his Subaru, though it was clearly designed for some kind of interstellar vessel.

Funny. But if you're in New Hampshire, we have our own problems with government restrictions on market transactions. We trust people to be able to pump their own gas, but not to build houses people might want to buy, in places where they might want to live.

Night School

[Amazon Link]

Another page-turning Jack Reacher novel from Lee Child.

It's set back in Reacher's Army days. He's called out of his current duties to attend a vaguely-described school. Which turns out to be a cover story for a small task force to investigate some chilling news out of Hamburg Germany. An infiltrator of a Saudi terrorist cell has reported an overheard snippet of conversation: "the American wants 100 million dollars." And it's in a non-bullshit context.

It's extremely important to find out: who's the "American"? And what can the American possibly offer that's worth $100 mil?

We don't get the answer to that last question until around page 368 of this 442-page book. (And a little Wikipedia-trolling shows this particular Maguffin to be fact-based, but considerably embellished.)

But along the way, there's a lot of international skulduggery, deduction, violence, and Reacher ignoring explicit orders when he needs to do so. Also, wannabe Nazis provide a major plot complication. Everybody hates those guys, and Reacher is no exception. A familiar face from previous books in the series, Sergeant Frances Neagley, plays a major role.

Good stuff. Lee Child makes it look easy, but if it were easy there would be a lot more people doing it.

URLs du Jour



■ As I type, Accuweather tells me the snow's gonna start in 15 minutes.

Amounts: 8-12 inches.

Chance for less than 8 inches: 8%

Chance for more than 12 inches: 52%

I'm not sure of that math, readers.

Proverbs 17:24 notes one difference between fools and non-fools:

24 A discerning person keeps wisdom in view,
    but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth.

I'm not sure what that means, but it sounds like Yoda chastising Luke:

All his life has he looked away... to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing.

And of course, Mr. T pities that sort of thing.

■ You wondered, no doubt, why things have gotten so weird. Well, wonder no more: @JonahNRO tells us Why Things Have Gotten So Weird.

Even as knowledge of, and commitment to, our system of government has been eroding, partisan loyalty has radically intensified. Some studies find that partisan identification is now at least as predictive of behavior and attitudes as race or gender. As we lose our old meaningful attachments, we find new ones in shallow tribalism.

These trends have been in the pipeline for a long time, and while one can point a curmudgeonly finger of blame at the people, particularly these kids today, that wouldn’t be fair. Many older Americans haven’t exactly been model citizens either. Dismayed with the direction of American politics, they often grew as angry at the system as the young radicals. The real blame falls to elites of all stripes and ages — political, journalistic, economic, and educational. Every generation has a responsibility to instruct the next on what is important. As an empirical matter, they — we — failed.

I think he has a point. A very depressing one, because there's no indication those trends will reverse.

■ Megan McArdle writes on Unintended Consequences:

In December, doctors at a VA hospital in Oregon decided to admit an 81-year-old patient. He was dehydrated, malnourished, plagued by skin ulcers and broken ribs -- in the medical professionals’ opinion, he was unable to care for himself at home. Administrators, however, overruled them.

Was there no bed for this poor man? No, the facility had plenty of beds; in fact, on an average day, more than half of the beds are empty, awaiting patients. Was there no money or medicine to care for him? No, and no. Reporting by the New York Times suggests that Walter Savage was, perversely, turned away because he was too sick. Very sick patients tend to worsen the performance measures by which VA hospitals are judged.

Megan notes that such perverse outcomes of "management-by-measurement" abound in "health care and education". She does not, however, note that those are the areas besotted by government finance and regulation. I am reminded, not for the first time, of the legendary Soviet Nail Factory.

■ But there's good news from Reason's Ronald Bailey: Facts Matter After All. Yay!

The scientific fact that facts don't matter turns out to be factually wrong.

Sorry, let me try to put that more clearly. In a superb article at Slate, Daniel Engber revisits the research that concluded that blind partisanship and motivated reasoning are pervasive and that everyone seeks out "facts" that comport with what they already believe. Worse yet, those studies suggested that when highly ideological people are provided simultaneously with misinformation—that weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, that vaccines are unsafe, that Barack Obama is a Muslim—and with corrections to the falsehoods, that paradoxically reinforces their prior belief in the false information. In other words, the correction "backfires."

But as Engber reports, scientists have had trouble replicating the research that purported to reveal a post-truth world. Facts turn out to matter after all.

That's good news. And I choose to believe it.

Last Modified 2018-12-28 4:45 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


Proverbs 17:23 is one of those where we implicitly prepend "Even back in Ancient Israel…"

23 The wicked accept bribes in secret
    to pervert the course of justice.

… but in 21st Century America, they proceed to run for Congress.

■ At American Consequences, P. J. O'Rourke calculates The Price of Being Middle Class.

(Let us pause for a moment to contemplate the chilling fact that the U.S. dollar has lost 93% of its value in one lifetime. And pause also to wonder what other things, fundamental to an ordinary middle-class life, have lost 93% of their value. Trust in our political institutions? Patriotism? Modesty? Virtue? Faith? Hope? Charity?)

Anyway, the results of his calculation may surprise you are detailed and interesting.

■ The WSJ [possibly paywalled] editorialists have (1) long memories, and (2) a bone to pick with hysterical pundits About That Trump ‘Autocracy’.

As Donald Trump heads into his second year as President, we’re pleased to report that there hasn’t been a fascist coup in Washington. This must be terribly disappointing to the progressive elites who a year ago predicted an authoritarian America because Mr. Trump posed a unique threat to democratic norms. But it looks like the U.S. will have to settle for James Madison’s boring checks and balances.

“How to stop an autocracy,” said a Feb. 7, 2017 headline on Vox, ruminating on a zillion-word essay in The Atlantic on how Donald Trump might impose authoritarian rule. Academics and pundits mined analogies to Mussolini, Hitler and Vladimir Putin.

I miss James Taranto referring to Vox as "the young-adult site Vox".

■ At NRO, David French rebuts some conservatives who are attempting to pigeonhole/downplay other conservatives' criticism of Donald Trump: It’s Not Just ‘Tone’ and ‘Style’

I’d submit, however, that there is a difference between “tone” and truth, between “style” and knowledge or even intellectual coherence. Last week, Trump granted an interview to the New York Times’ Michael Schmidt that was so rambling and inarticulate it could hardly be read as a calculated campaign of deception on the president’s part. It was such a “word salad” (to borrow Yuval Levin’s description) that it gave the impression Trump simply doesn’t know what the truth is in many cases, and concocts his own reality as he goes.

Time and again, he made statements that were blatantly untrue, nonsensical, or both. He invented things that Democrats didn’t say, garbled the description of his own policies, bragged like a WWE wrestler hyping his prowess, and in many instances appeared to simply make things up to fit the rhetorical needs of the moment. It wasn’t the first time, either.

A fair point. There's an argument that Trump is simply taking a politician's normal character flaws, and making them obvious by turning them up to eleven.

■ At Reason, Ronald Bailey asks the musical question: Will the Government Ban Human Driving?

When self-driving vehicles become safer than human-driven ones, the government will ban people from driving. Or that, at least, is the claim made in some recent articles in Automotive News and National Review. Bob Lutz, former vice chairman and head of product development at General Motors, declares in Automotive News that vehicles "will no longer be driven by humans because in 15 to 20 years—at the latest—human-driven vehicles will be legislated off the highways." By the time 20 to 30 percent of vehicles on the roads are fully autonomous, Lutz argues, officials "will look at the accident statistics and figure out that human drivers are causing 99.9 percent of the accidents."

It's an interesting topic for speculation. How quickly were horses displaced by cars? Much quicker than your local blacksmith expected, I would guess.

Neil deGrasse Tyson is getting a lot of crap for this tweet:

That's actually a pretty interesting (albeit negative) fact, when you consider how many other significant yearly events are governed by astronomical observations.

The Daily Dot compiles a fascinating graphic showing What each state has Googled more than any other in 2017. The tweet gives you an idea…

Spoiler: New Hampshire googled "Tom Petty" more than any other state. While Vermont googled "Impeachment". I am not sure of the cosmic significance of that; maybe I should Twitter-follow Neil deGrasse Tyson in case he has some insight.

■ I am loving the Babylon Bee for important news you can't get elsewhere: First Baptist Dallas Members Melt Golden Jewelry Down Into Towering Donald Trump Statue.

In a powerful show of devotion to the president of the United States, members of First Baptist Dallas passed their golden jewelry, watches, and personal trinkets down to the front of the sanctuary Sunday morning, where Pastor Robert Jeffress melted the large pile of golden knickknacks into a towering statue of President Donald Trump.

If that behavior sounds a bit familiar to you, there's a reason.

Last Modified 2018-12-28 4:45 AM EDT

Some Graphs

Not that it matters, but about a year ago, I made a Resolution to get more serious about blogging. Specifically: at least one post a day. I've managed to do that, starting December 23, 2016.

A small geek note: I even managed to whack on the blog software enough to allow me to schedule posts to appear in the future. I used this feature when Mrs. Salad and I took off for the Midwest back in August for family visiting and eclipse viewing.

Here's a graph I cooked up (using the Chart::Gnuplot Perl module) showing the monthly blog posts since Pun Salad's birth in February 2005:

[Monthly Posts]

You can see the upturn over the past year. I've never matched the heady days of March 2006 though: 67 posts. I was a madman back then.

Once a geek gets hold of a tool, it's tough to stop. Since I had the data nearby, I also plotted the number of books I've read since I started keeping track back in 2003:

[Yearly Books]

And I've been keeping track of the movies I've watched since 2004, so here's that too:

[Yearly Movies]

"Obviously", the time I used to spend watching movies has been diverted into blogging and reading. I suppose that's OK.

We shall return to the usual insights and bloviations tomorrow.

URLs du Jour


La Convention nationale, de François-Léon
Sicard, 1920 - The Pantheon - Paris France

Hey, Happy New Year out there. The day I get to discover whether the blog software survives a transition to a new year! Let me know if you don't see this, OK?

■ Does Proverbs 17:22 have any New Year guidance for us? Let's look:

22 A cheerful heart is good medicine,
    but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Yes, I'll take that! Avoid spirit-crushers! Good advice!

■ You think you're cold? Let Janice Brown take you back a bit in time to The Way Things Used To Be in New Hampshire: 100 Years Ago: WWI and the New Year.

To complicate things there was a drastic coal shortage, and so the poor of all cities fled to the police and fire stations, and churches seeking warmth. There were a series of fires and explosions as people tried to thaw out their pipes with burning rags, or the water pipes common in kitchen stoves of the day exploded. Frost bite was a common case seen in the hospitals. Nearby military training camp, Camp Devens in Massachusetts, was not immune from the frigid weather. The news reported that the thermometer in front of the Quartermaster Depot registered 34 below zero. There was a great need for more knitted articles for the soldiers, especially helmets and wristers. Work animals suffered too. Police in many places were on the lookout to insure that horses were blanketed.

Brr. Read it and be thankful to live in 2018.

■ Bryan Caplan lets us know that he won all his Ebola Bets. Specifically, in October 2014, he wagered:

$100 says that less than 300 people will die of Ebola within the fifty United States by January 1, 2018.

He got four takers. The grand total body count turned out to be one death. I liked this comment:

As always, you can insist I got lucky. But this would carry far more weight if pessimists were lining up to take my money back in 2014. Needless to say, they weren't. Betting kills hyperbole; and for most people, politics without hyperbole is as dull as watching paint dry.

Any chance we'll overdose on dullness in 2018? I'll bet not.

NYT critic-at-large Wesley Morris rang our Google LFOD news alert with The Acrobatic Artwork That Pretty Much Sums Up 2017

Every once in a while with Twitter, you find something that breaks through the bilge and recrimination. Or, sometimes something finds you. One night, “The Mechanics of History” found me. It’s an art installation by Yoann Bourgeois that sat in a daylit rotunda at the Panthéon, in Paris. And for a long while in late fall, I found myself mesmerized by a video of it, starring men spinning off a staircase and onto a trampoline.

Yes, really. There's video at Twitter:

But where's the LFOD? Ah, here it is:

It’s beautifully ordinary. And occasionally that ordinariness achieves magnificence, like the moment when the camera’s framing captures the succession of staircase-d men so that it rhymes with the electric succession of French Republicans flinging their arms up at the pedestaled “live free or die” ” lady in François-Léon Sicard’s “La Convention Nationale” sculpture, which dominates that section of the building. Video had captured one incarnation of the sublime fleetingly in sync with another; a work about the slipperiness of forever meets a work of actual physical permanence in a way that felt a lot like filmmaking.

Confession of a Philistine: I was unaware of the "live free or die" lady. The sculpture (a Flickr embed is our pic du jour) commemmorates the post-revolution National Convention, which oversaw the delightful Reign of Terror. The big lady is "Marianne", the symbol of the French Revolution, and she overlooks the inscription: Vivre Libre ou Mourir, which I bet you can translate on your own.

■ We also got an LFOD alert from a Union Leader article: Bitcoin believers explain why they've bought in. Among the "belivers" are Derrick Freeman and Steven Zeiler, proprietors of the "Free State Bitcoin Shoppe" in Portsmouth (which I still haven't visited).

Over the summer, Freeman and Zeiler noticed a vacant storefront in Portsmouth and decided to open a retail space where they only accept cryptocurrency. According to their website, they aim to "Help people use better money. Inside the Shoppe, you'll find unique crypto-themed gifts, seditious books, libertarian art, pro-science T-shirts, and "Live Free or Die" propaganda - all available for Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dash, and most other cryptocurrencies. We love to talk tech and are here to answer your crypto questions."

"Propaganda", hmph! What happened to you, Union Leader? It's like I don't even know you any more.

The Free State Bitcoin Shoppe website is here, so checkitout.

Last Modified 2018-12-28 4:45 AM EDT