URLs du Jour

2018-02-28

[Max, Majel, and Mickey]

Note: The explanation for the (pirated, come and get me, Getty) Pic du Jour is our last item today.

■ See if Proverbs 15:17 doesn't bring at least a small smile to your face:

17 Better a small serving of vegetables with love
    than a fattened calf with hatred.

There are a lot of possible ways to comment on this, but I'll go with the "Even in Ancient Israel" approach: Even in Ancient Israel, other things being equal, they vastly preferred a big hunk of fatty meat over the sensible veggie platter.


■ Nick Gillespie at Reason hammers a theme we've been hammering too: How Authorities Failed To Stop School Shooter Nikolas Cruz.

How can the senseless killing of 17 people at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, be made even more tragic and disturbing? By realizing that it could have and should have been prevented by existing authorities using current laws and policies.

The discourse in the wake of the shooting has mostly been about all the new laws we need to prevent such horrors from happening again—increased ages for rifle purchases, a ban on bump stocks, prohibition of "assault weapons" and semi-automatics, easier ways to commit mentally ill people, and more. But the plain, awful truth is that law enforcement and other agencies had all the information and power they needed. Yet the authorities failed to act both during the shooting itself and in the months and years leading up to it. Creating new programs and laws, many of which have little if no relevance to mass shootings or crime in general, will do absolutely nothing to cure official incompetence and indifference.

What Mr. Gillespie calls "the discourse" seems to be an unholy mixture of cynical opportunism ("Never let a crisis go to waste.") and legislative psychotherapy ("Do something!")


■ Hey, kids, what time is it? Robert Tracinski answers: Why It’s Time To Raise The Voting Age Back To 21.

The events since the Parkland shooting have convinced me that we need to change the Constitution to eliminate an ill-considered amendment that has done more harm than good. We need to repeal the 26th Amendment and raise the voting age back to 21.

Tracinski makes good arguments, and they will be unfortunately ignored.

I remember a class discussion back in the late sixties when I was the only kid in the room against the (then-) proposed lowering of the voting age. Got a lot of crap for it too. But, darn it, I was right.


■ The young-adult site, Vox contentiously lists The states taking the opioid epidemic seriously (and not), in one map. As always, I am a sucker for such state-by-state comparisons. Even when my state comes out short. Here's a (pirated) graphic:

[Comparison Map]

Explanation:

The map looks particularly at the number of buprenorphine providers in the state relative to how many opioid overdose deaths a state has. Buprenorphine is a medication used to treat opioid addiction; along with methadone and naltrexone, it’s widely considered the gold standard of care for opioid use disorder, with studies showing medications can cut the all-cause mortality rate among opioid addiction patients by half or more.

So if a state has less access to the drug and a high number of overdose deaths, it’s likely failing at fully addressing its opioid crisis. Based on the map, that appears to be true for states like West Virginia, Ohio, and New Hampshire, where opioid overdose deaths are very high yet access to buprenorphine is low.

Skepticism is warranted. The source of the research is a consulting biz, with clients that stand to financially benefit when states buy more "access to buprenorphine". And the underlying assumption seems dubious: your state isn't "taking things seriously" unless and until your buprenorphine-to-OD ratio is above average? We can't all be above average, Vox.


■ Guess who wants to be my CongressCritter? Bernie Sanders’ Son Launches Bid for Congress in New Hampshire. Since my Congresswoman/Toothache Carol Shea-Porter is calling it quits, there has been a huge influx of pols looking to take her place. And so…

Sanders, who does not live in the district, says his 17-year career as a legal services analyst in neighboring Massachusetts has prepared him to effectively represent New Hampshire's "working class, who have been beaten up by the system." He plans to run on a platform similar to that of his father, emphasizing universal health care, free college tuition, and a higher minimum wage.

His main qualifications seems to be (1) his name, and (2) his steadfast devotion to getting you utterly dependent on government for "free" stuff and letting you imagine that someone else will pay for it.

But mostly his name.


■ Our second answer to the "Hey, kids, what time is it?" question today is provided by John Ellis at PJMedia: Time to Go Ask Your Local Progressive Bakery to Bake an NRA Cake.

An NRA member needs to find the most progressive bakery he can, and then request an AR-15-shaped cake for a Second Amendment celebration. Walk into the store wearing an NRA shirt and hat. Openly carry a gun if you're legally allowed. Ask for the top of the cake to be decorated with words like "In celebration of the NRA."

When the mortified SJW baker refuses, sue her.

An interesting thought experiment!


■ At Cato, John Samples mourns The Death of an Open Internet.

Today [now yesterday, February 27] the House votes on the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), a piece of anti-sex trafficking legislation. It follows and incorporates an earlier effort by the Senate, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA). The bill at issue today is actually a last minute amendment by Representative Mimi Walters (CA) that brings the worst elements of SESTA into FOSTA, creating a hybrid bill far worse than the sum of its parts. This bill has grave consequences for an open, competitive internet and for some people who use it.

Did our Congresswoman/Toothache Carol Shea-Porter vote for it? You betcha.

And did she on the very same day co-introduce a resolution to "save Net Neutrality"? Of course:

We will not stand by while the FCC allows big corporations to trample on our right to a free and open internet and decide what content we can see, at what cost, and at what speed.”

She's a disgusting hypocrite.


■ But again: Hey, kids, what time is it? David French at NR has another answer for us: It’s Time for Real Talk about the Assault-Weapons ‘Ban’.

It’s back. In the aftermath of the Parkland, Fla., school massacre, House Democrats are making another attempt at banning so-called assault weapons. A “supermajority” (156 of 193) of House Democrats have signed on, leaving no doubt as to the party’s move left on gun control. The bill, called the “Assault Weapons ban of 2018,” is a non-starter — at least so long as Republicans control the House — but it’s a mistake to simply write off any proposal backed so overwhelmingly by one side of the aisle. This debate isn’t going away.

So let’s deal with he bill on the merits, beginning with taking on its inherently deceptive name. The bill calls for a “ban” on both “semi-automatic assault weapons” and “large capacity magazine feeding devices” (magazines holding more than ten rounds). But then — in the very next paragraphs — it exempts every single weapon and magazine lawfully possessed before the enactment of the law.

So it's not a ban. As Mr. French notes: it "preserves the ability of criminals to access guns while restricting the access of law-abiding Americans". Good move, "common sense" gun-controllers.


■ And finally I read in the WSJ yesterday: Mickey Spillane’s Work Keeps Coming, 12 Years After His Death. Even though Mr. Spillane succumbed to The Big Sleep back in 2006, new stuff keeps coming out. How?

This afterlife is due largely to a longtime fan and fellow novelist, Max Allan Collins. Named a 2017 Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, Mr. Collins as a teenager pelted his favorite author with admiring (and unanswered) letters.

It's an interesting and somewhat charming story. Mr. Collins really is the ultimate fanboy.

But here's the thing: the story is illustrated with our pic du jour, a 1995 picture of Spillane, Collins, and … hey, that's Majel Barrett-Roddenberry in between them! Nurse Chapel! Number One! Enterprise Computer Voice! Lwaxana Troi!

What's she doing there?

As it turns out, they're linked by the dreadful 1995 horror film Mommy, which Mr. Collins wrote and directed. Ms. Barrett-Roddenberry played "Mrs. Withers", a victim of "Mommy", played by Patty "Bad Seed" McCormack. And Mr. Spillane played "Attorney Neal Ekhardt". As Nurse Chapel's heartthrob, Spock, might say: Fascinating.

Mr. Collins replaced Jeff Carney as director. Mr. Carney's story, also fascinating, is here.

URLs du Jour

2018-02-27

Just a blogiversary note: the first post to Pun Salad was thirteen years ago today. I've edited the post to remove/update some anachronisms.

Still having fun, thanks for reading.

Proverbs 15:16 explores an either/or choice:

16 Better a little with the fear of the Lord
    than great wealth with turmoil.

Unstated presumption: fear of the Lord decreases turmoil. Are you sure about that, Proverbialist?

And even if that were true, maybe the issue is not so starkly binary. Is there a trade-off between fear of the Lord and turmoil? Can we solve for maximal utility?

I'm probably reading too much into this.


■ At Reason, J.D. Tuccille imparts some above-it-all wisdom to those of us tired of gun debates where everybody repeats the same talking points from previous years: Culture War Is All That’s Left When Gun Policy Battles Become Pointless.

Last year, I noted the growing tendency of the "dominant political tribes to effortlessly taunt each other by waving cultural flags—or putting the legal screws to lifestyle choices that aren't overtly partisan." Since then, the escalating strife between political and cultural factions has turned into economic warfare, as opponents of private ownership of guns pressure businesses to end relations with the National Rifle Association. The culture war is almost guaranteed to harden the sides rather than hand anybody victory. It's also unlikely to go away, since posturing and stigmatizing is all the combatants have as debate over actual policy slides toward irrelevance.

Ironically, predominately progressive gun opponents are adopting the conscience-driven boycott model—an exercise of free association rights—that many of them sought to deny to social conservatives who spurn the business of gays and lesbians (bake a wedding cake, anybody?). So far, Enterprise Holdings, Avis Budget Group, Chubb Limited, MetLife, Delta, United Airlines, and the First National Bank of Omaha are among the companies breaking ties with the gun-rights group, or just discontinuing discounts to its members. The end goal of this project seems to have less to do with policy changes than with flipping the bird to the five million members of the organization most closely associated with opposition to restrictions on self-defense rights.

It is the "do something" syndrome run amok.


■ I've been a longtime reader of Betsy's Page; that link will take you to a recent post (mostly) about gun stuff:

It really is ironic that, after so many mistakes and screw-ups by government officials that have been revealed after the Parkland shooting, that there is this great outcry to give government more power in restricting gun rights.

Or, as in a tweet she links to:

The RTWT score is strong with Betsy. Around 8.5 I think.


■ A. Barton Hinkle of the Richmond Times-Dispatch asks Are You a Russian Troll? And he provides a quiz you can take to make sure! Sample question:

(1) When you see a post online that supports your political tribe, you

  1. treat it skeptically until its assertions can be independently confirmed;
  2. nod sagely and move on;
  3. pause to enjoy the sweet, sweet dopamine hit that comes from having your existing beliefs confirmed; or
  4. immediately share it with everybody you can think of.

Take it and let me know how you do, tovarisch!


■ A local-impact article from Wesley J. Smith at NR on the New Hampshire Medical-Conscience Bill.

The question of “medical conscience,” that is, whether doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and the like can be forced to participate in medical procedures or provide services with which they have a religious or moral objection is heating up. Now, New Hampshire is considering a bill that would provide protection for such dissenting medical professionals.

I'm sympathetic. But the lady-parts doc that is quoted in this Union Leader article makes a good point:

“About 95 percent of patients who come to see us want to have some form of contraception,” he said. “So if a physician who applies to my practice says that he or she won’t provide contraception to our patients, I don’t know how I could hire that person.”

So: "I won't perform 95% of the services provided by your business, but hire me anyway, or I'll sue you." Probably not the wisest thing for the state to weigh in on.


Last Modified 2018-03-02 4:29 PM EST

URLs du Jour

2018-02-26

Proverbs 15:15 inverts the usual Good News/Bad News format. Let's put the bad news first:

15 All the days of the oppressed are wretched,
    but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.

It was very un-PC of the Proverbialist to observe the misery of the opressed and then immediately follow up with "Hey, but these people over here seem happy." So it goes.


■ I read Chris Thomas's book Inheritors of the Earth earlier this month and enjoyed it quite a bit. Let Reason's Ronald Bailey tempt you further with his review: Life Finds a Way

Humanity isn't destroying the natural world. We're changing it. And in many ways, our changes are creating richer and more vibrant ecosystems.

That's the persuasive and liberating argument advanced by the York University conservation biologist Chris D. Thomas in his riveting new book, Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of Extinction. "It is time for the ecological, conservation and environmental movement—of which I am a life-long member—to throw off the shackles of a pessimism-laden, loss-only view of the world," he writes. Instead, he thinks a thriving world of exotic ecosystems and biological renewal is at hand. By the time readers have finished this carefully researched treatise, they should agree.

… and I did agree, so thumbs up to Mr. Bailey for predicting that.


■ The no-longer-on-Twitter Kevin D. Williamson observes sagely: An Enemies List Is Not a Philosophy. Also: a wombat is not a toaster. But that's not important right now. Mr. Williamson begins:

Conservatives used to boast that the Right has ideas, while the Left has only an enemies list. There was a time when that was true, but it isn’t true anymore.

My colleague Jonah Goldberg has done great work illuminating the progressive mode of politics captured by the phrase “the moral equivalent of war.” War is not necessarily ennobling or even unifying (see Iraq), but the two great wars of the 20th century illustrated that the industrial and economic might of the United States can, at least for a time, be turned by the state toward a single national purpose. (We romanticize those wars, especially the second, but our war provisioning was in reality marked by the incompetence, corruption, and profiteering one would expect with any big federal spending project.) As Goldberg writes in Liberal Fascism, “War socialism under Wilson was an entirely progressive project, and long after the war it remained the liberal ideal.” After both wars, there were those in government who argued that Washington should maintain its extraordinary wartime powers in order to turn them to such peaceful ends as a “war on poverty.” Warren G. Harding ran on the opposite idea — his “return to normalcy” — as Dwight Eisenhower did in a less insistent way. (Indeed, Eisenhower’s dismissal of the conservative project seeking a return to the prewar, pre–New Deal settlement was the proximate cause for the founding of this magazine and the modern conservative movement; American conservatives have always been running against the Republican party.)

A few years back, some folks on "our side" got the bright idea to be just as stupid and mean as the "other side". That's not turning out well.


■ Via Slashdot, ("Scientists Say Space Aliens Could Hack Our Planet"), one of the sillier articles I've read in a while, from NBC News.

With all the news stories these days about computer hacking, it probably comes as no surprise that someone is worried about hackers from outer space. Yes, there are now scientists who fret that space aliens might send messages that worm their way into human society — not to steal our passwords but to bring down our culture.

How exactly would they do that? Astrophysicists Michael Hippke and John Learned argue in a recent paper that our telescopes might pick up hazardous messages sent our way — a virus that shuts down our computers, for example, or something a bit like cosmic blackmail: “Do this for us, or we’ll make your sun go supernova and destroy Earth.” Or perhaps the cosmic hackers could trick us into building self-replicating nanobots, and then arrange for them to be let loose to chew up our planet or its inhabitants.

I'm currently reading Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now, and he observes (p. 166) that many can't resist projecting "the megalomania of Homo Sapiens males onto every form of intelligence". Including extraterrestrial forms, obviously.

My guess: hostile ETs with advanced tech would destroy themselves long before they got around to scouring the galaxy.

But there's also this:

Extraterrestrials could simply give us some advanced knowledge — not as a trade, but as a gift. How could that possibly be a downer? Imagine: You’re a physicist who has dedicated your career to understanding the fundamental structure of matter. You have a stack of reprints, a decent position, and a modicum of admiration from the three other specialists who have read your papers. Suddenly, aliens weigh in with knowledge that’s a thousand years ahead of yours. So much for your job and your sense of purpose.

What rings the alarm bells here is "a thousand years ahead". Given the timescales of stellar evolution, the likelihood of an ET civilization being a mere thousand years ahead of us is vanishingly small.

Another thought-provoking article that goes deeper into the likelihood of ETs and their likely motivations is here: The Fermi Paradox. (AKA, "Where is everybody?")

The Judge

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

I was prepared to like this movie better than I did. I like Robert Downey, Jr. Also Robert Duvall is great (he got an Supporting Actor Oscar nomination). But…

It's very long, 2 hours and 21 minutes, and it obviously doesn't need to be.

Mr. Downey plays high-powered Chicago defense attorney Hank Palmer. He specializes in getting his obviously guilty clients acquitted by Whatever Means Necessary, but that's the (insanely well-paid) job. Only problem: his marriage has fallen apart, probably due to his neglect. He has a cute precocious daughter.

And then his small-town Indiana mother dies. He's been estranged from his family for years, but goes back for the funeral. He's immediately at odds with "The Judge", his father, played by the aforementioned Mr. Duvall. The Judge is a hard-nosed lock-em-upper. There are also two brothers: Glen (Vincent D'Onofrio) a once-promising athlete now relegated to managing a tire store, and Dale, mentally challenged, obsessed with filming everything that goes on. (And when I say "filming", that's literal 8mm stuff. Can you even get that developed anywhere?)

Obviously, Hank wants to vamoose back to the big city ASAP. But—oops—fate intervenes when the Judge is credibly accused of intentionally using his Caddy to run down a miscreant just out of the slammer. Obviously, Hank has to come to the Judge's defense. Which involves staying in Indiana for… well, it seems like forever.

Victoria & Abdul

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

As the Oscars approach, 'tis the season to … check out a movie that was obvious Oscar bait, but nonetheless got nearly completely snubbed. (Two nominations, for Makeup and Costumes.)

Although Judi Densch did get a Golden Globe nomination for "Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy". Only problem: this movie is not a musical. Therefore…

Anyway, Dame Judi plays Queen Victoria. As we begin, in 1888, there's a lot of Wretched Imperial Excess involved in celebrating her 50th year as Queen. This includes importing a small golden coinlike object from India, plus two "Hindus" to present it, with all due ostentation.

The movie turns on this oddity: one of the presenters, Abdul (who's actually a Muslim), defies royal protocol, catches the Queenly eye, and eventually works his way into Vicki's good graces. For good reason: he's charismatic, exotic, and charming. But this scandalizes the royal retinue, who are outraged at Abdul's darker complexion, but even more outraged at their relative eclipse from the Queen's favor.

The movie sent me to History vs Hollywood to find out how much liberty was taken to make a good story. A significant amount, it turns out. For one thing, Queen Vicky was probably not very close to the stalwart racial progressive portrayed here. And real-life Abdul wasn't quite as saintlike as portrayed either.

Still, not a bad try. Although she's not Oscar-nominated, Dame Judi acts the heck out of her role, and the rest of the cast is pretty good too. There's a lot of anti-imperialism boilerplate, and the fact that Abdul was a Muslim also hits some PC themes. But it's mainly a good, mostly true, story.

URLs du Jour

2018-02-25

Proverbs 15:14 is close to following our Mad-Libs Proverb Generator:

14 The discerning heart seeks knowledge,
    but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.

We could gripe about the ancient concepts of anatomy: what did the Ancient Israelis think the brain did, anyway? The Proverbialist always saw the hearts and mouths running the show.

But enough with the kvetching. The Proverb is a pretty good description of human nature, written millennia before anyone uttered the term "confirmation bias".


■ And speaking of fools' mouths feeding on folly: a while back I decided to bounce up to MSNBC to see what Rachel Maddow was saying. She was going on an on about some Stunning New Revelation in the Trump-Russia Collusion Scandal. All the time, a thought kept nagging at me: this reminds me of something, but what?

Now, much later, I have my answer. From David Marcus at the Federalist: The Russia Probe Has Turned The News Into ‘Ancient Aliens’.

If you don't know the History Channel show "Ancient Aliens", I'll wait here while you bone up. … Done? Good. Here's Mr. Marcus:

These days, the news, especially when covering the Trump administration, has been following [the "Ancient Aliens"] format in troubling ways. The coverage of the Russia investigation is a prime example. There are plenty of juicy and accurate facts to fill the opening of a segment of foreign interference in the election. Donald Trump Jr. did meet with a Russian offering opposition research against Hillary Clinton, Michael Flynn did lie about Russian contacts, WikiLeaks did try to damage Clinton by attacking the Democratic National Committee’s computer systems.

But, just as in “Ancient Aliens,” so far these interesting facts don’t tell the story the news media wants to tell. So too often we wind up with anchors or experts saying something like this: “Could the Trump campaign have colluded with Russians to interfere with the election? News media experts say, ‘Yes!’”

Here's the "Ancient Aliens" impresario, Giorgio A. Tsoukalos, with the basics:

Key quote: "The only way the ancient astronaut theory can be disproven is when the extraterrestrials show up and say we were never here in the past."

Note that would not work with the Trump/Russia thing. If Putin showed up and said "Ve did not collude with the Donald, dollink", the Maddowites would nod sagely and say: "Just what I expected him to say."


■ People (1) of a certain age with (2) long memories will recall the 1980's "Nuclear Winter" brouhaha, popularized by Carl Sagan, that era's Neil deGrasse Tyson. Matt Ridley speculates on The Russian role in the nuclear winter theory.

Who started the scare and why? One possibility is that it was fake news from the beginning. When the high-ranking Russian spy Sergei Tretyakov defected in 2000, he said that the KGB was especially proud of the fact “it created the myth of nuclear winter”. He based this on what colleagues told him and on research he did at the Red Banner Institute, the Russian spy school.

The Kremlin was certainly spooked by Nato’s threat to deploy medium-range nuclear missiles in Europe if the Warsaw Pact refused to limit its deployment of such missiles. In Darwall’s version, based on Tretyakov, Yuri Andropov, head of the KGB, “ordered the Soviet Academy of Sciences to produce a doomsday report to incite more demonstrations in West Germany”. They applied some older work by a scientist named Kirill Kondratyev on the cooling effect of dust storms in the Karakum Desert to the impact of a nuclear exchange in Germany.

Tretyakov said: “I was told the Soviet scientists knew this theory was completely ridiculous. There were no legitimate facts to support it. But it was exactly what Andropov needed to cause terror in the West.” Andropov then supposedly ordered it to be fed to contacts in the western peace and green movement.

Sagan wasn't a Commie, but he was probably a Commie dupe.


■ Mrs. Salad got to the print WSJ before I did yesterday, and I heard her laughing. And when I read it, I laughed too: What’s The Most Useful Form of Cash? (Hint: It’s not a $100 Bill). Spoiler: it's the $2 bill. And as a one-time Apple nerd, I enjoyed this:

Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak routinely buys uncut sheets of $2 bills. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing gift shop sells uncut sheets of four, eight, 16 and 32 notes at a hefty premium. Mr. Wozniak enjoys taking out a pair of scissors at store registers and cutting out the bills he needs. Sometimes he hires a printing company to perforate four-bill sheets and gum them into notepad format.

In the mid-1990s, he tore off a couple perforated $2 notes to tip a Las Vegas waitress. The tip attracted the attention of a casino security manager. “They don’t make them with perforations,” Mr. Wozniak recalls the man saying.

“They don’t?” Mr. Wozniak responded in mock surprise.

Here's why we laughed: Back in the 1970's Mrs. Salad hoarded $2 bills. Because she was convinced they were going to be worth much more than that someday. (The mechanism was unclear; unlike silver coins, there's no underlying "melt value" for paper currency.)

I'm pretty sure she still has her $2 bill stash around here somewhere…


■ OK, that article was probably behind the WSJ paywall. Which isn't there for print subscribers like me. But it has recently been upgraded from a "wall" to more like a semi-permeable membrane. Description at NiemanLab: After years of testing, The Wall Street Journal has built a paywall that bends to the individual reader.

The Wall Street Journal thinks it might know your reading habits — and your potential spending habits — better than you know them yourself.

For the past couple of years, the Journal — home to one of journalism’s oldest paywalls — has been testing different ways to allow non-subscribers to sample its stories — refining a subscription prediction model that allows it to show different visitors, who have different likelihoods of subscribing, different levels of access to its site.

So if you ignore WSJ links because of past trauma in hitting the paywall, you might want to give it another go. Google Chrome users might try the "Open link in incognito window" option from the menu you get when right-clicking a link.

I don't know how they measure the likelihood of someone subscribing. You might try putting on a Mr. Monopoly top hat and firing up an expensive cigar before clicking a link. Let me know if that works.


■ And, finally, Mr. Michael P. Ramirez (click through for an uncropped version):

If you see something

"Indeed." We can't even get the safeguards we have in place to work, but I'm sure imaginary "common-sense gun control" will flawlessly make us all safer with no unintended consequences.


Last Modified 2018-03-02 4:30 PM EST

URLs du Jour

2018-02-24

Proverbs 15:13 is another good news/bad news fortune cookie:

13 A happy heart makes the face cheerful,
    but heartache crushes the spirit.

Well, I take that back. The fortune cookie company would reject that. "Too insipid. Try again."


■ Andrew Klavan runs with a hypothetical and concludes: A Fair Media Would Have Neutralized the Russians. After detailing the recent sins of CNN:

But what would it be like if the news media reformed itself? By that I mean: what would it be like if media outlets placed enough conservatives and Trump supporters in positions of power so that their reporting began to represent something like an objective account rather than the information arm of the Democrat party?

For one thing, Russian trolls and other fake newsers would lose much of their power if we could watch mainstream news with a reasonable degree of certainty that we were getting a fair take on the day's events. Journalists use President Trump's eccentricities as an excuse for their hysteria, but the virulent attacks on Republicans have been going on for more than two decades. The only difference between a Russian trying to sow discord with falsehoods and CNN is the accent.

I'll disagree in part; we don't need more cheerleaders and ideologues in the news media.

It's nice to imagine a news network that was committed to playing it straight, reporting on things that matter, investigating malfeasance and misfeasance no matter who committed it.

But who—besides you and me, of course—would watch such a network? My guess is that people want to tune into "news" that tends to confirm and reinforce their pre-existing political conditions. It's difficult to blame CNN et al for serving up what their audience demands.

We get the media "we" deserve.


■ At NR, Cathy McMorris Rodgers observes and recommends: There’s a Trust Crisis in Government. It Must Be Fixed.

If you were to ask Americans if they trusted the government to do the right thing, the likely answer is a big, fat No. According to Pew Research, only 3 percent of Americans say they trust that the government will do the right thing “all the time.”

3 percent! If only 3 percent of Americans said they trusted a pilot to land a plane, would you board the flight? If only 3 percent of Americans said they trusted a doctor to write the correct prescription, would you take the pill? What about if only 3 percent of Americans trusted a business to keep their credit-card information secure? Would you make a purchase from their website?

Cathy McMorris Rodgers is a Republican Congresswoman from Washington. She's high up in the GOP House leadership structure. She would be a lot more convincing if she outlined how the GOP-controlled Congress could earn "our" trust.


■ At Power Line, Paul Mirengoff writes on The Confucius Institutes, China’s vehicle for ideological warfare in America.

In the modern world, ideological warfare goes hand-in-hand with military threats. Thus, though few Americans know about it, we shouldn’t be surprised that China is waging ideological warfare on American college and university campuses. What’s surprising, perhaps, is the complicity of our colleges and universities.

China fights its ideological battle on American campuses through Confucius Institutes. Since 2004, the Chinese government has planted “Institutes” that offer Chinese language and culture courses at colleges and universities around the world, including more than 100 in the United States. As the National Association of Scholars (NAS) documented in this report, the Confucius Institutes avoid Chinese political history and human rights abuses, portray Taiwan and Tibet as undisputed territories of China, and educate a generation of American students to know nothing more of China than the regime’s official history.

To repeat: The University Near Here hosts a Confucius Institute. Will any local journalist ask pointed questions and demand answers from UNH about that? Or are they too busy writing about opioids 24/7?


■ Jonah Goldberg's G-File this week is on Courage: The Greatest of Virtues. On the lack thereof in Broward County:

All week, I’ve been hearing people say that anyone who took money from the NRA or who disagrees with the kid crusaders has “blood on his hands” and is on the side of “killing children.” And when someone offers even the slightest skepticism about this rhetoric or the desirability of using traumatized kids as political props, a river of sanctimonious rage pours forth.

But when you criticize a cop for doing nothing, it’s suddenly “Who are you to judge?” for as far as the eye can see. I think that’s weird.

Or: it's not weird at all, once you've chosen your demons.

URLs du Jour

2018-02-23

Demagoguery

Proverbs 15:12 returns to criticize another disfavored group, mockers.

12 Mockers resent correction,
    so they avoid the wise.

Hm, that explains a lot about my Facebook and Twitter experiences. (Mocker: "Oh, sure it does.")

Fun fact: A word search tells us that "mocker" appears 16 times in Proverbs. (22 times in the entire Bible, all Old Testament.)


■ We are fortunate to have David Harsanyi watch CNN so we don't have to. He reports back: CNN’s Shameful Town Hall Is A Clarifying Moment On Guns.

CNN hosted an anti-gun rally “townhall” yesterday featuring freshly grieving children and parents from Parkland High who aimed their ire at the NRA, politicians who are peripherally associated with the NRA and anyone who didn’t say exactly what they wanted to hear. It was an event where a Parkland student could compare Marco Rubio to a mass murderer and question whether NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch truly cares about her children without ever being challenged.

I hope CNN got the rating it was looking for, because it’s almost guaranteed that NRA membership and gun sales are about to spike.

Hopefully the hysteria will burn itself out soon.


NR provides a New Hampshire-related story, by Lindsey Burke: New Hampshire Can Lead the Way on School Choice, But Will It?

"Education Savings Accounts will be our most significant step yet in giving parents and children the ability to choose the education path that is best suited for them,” declared New Hampshire governor Chris Sununu in his latest State of the State address.

A new proposal would make New Hampshire the seventh state to enact ESAs, and potentially the first to provide all families the opportunity to use them. With an ESA, parents who need to find a school or education option that is a better fit for their child can access some of the money the state would have spent on their child in the public system. They can then use those funds to pay for private-school tuition, online learning, special-education services and therapies, private tutoring, and a host of other education-related services, products, and providers. Parents can also roll over unused funds from year to year.

Reporting from Ground Zero: we are seeing the usual scare tactics deployed against the legislation. Fortunately, opponents' arguments consistently demonstrate their values: preserving the "public school system" status quo over improved education for kids.


■ The Club For Growth provides their 2017 Congressional Scorecard! Yay!

Each year the Club for Growth publishes a Congressional Scorecard that tracks how members of Congress vote on economic legislation. Throughout the year, the Club for Growth issues Key Vote Alerts urging Representatives and Senators to vote in favor of economic policies that strengthen our nation’s economy and shrink the size of the federal government. Similarly, Key Vote Alerts are issued when it is imperative that lawmakers strike down legislation that will raise taxes, increase harmful regulations, and grow our already massive government. At the end of the year, the Club for Growth Foundation conducts a study of how members of Congress voted on key issues, including the Club’s Key Vote Alerts, and ascribes a score. The Club shares this congressional scorecard with Club members, the press and with the public. It rewards free-market champions and exposes big-government, tax-and-spend politicians.

How did NH do? Awful.

Both Senators Shaheen and Hassan tied (with a lot of other Democrats) for 58th place. Which doesn't sound so bad, except that they both got that for a single vote for fiscal sanity, against a GOP proposal to increase refundability of the child tax credit. Only six senators had worse scores than Shaheen and Hassan.

Over in the House, Carol Shea-Porter got in 285th place. She achieved this thanks to a single vote: a Nay on making "further supplemental appropriations" for "disaster assistance for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and calendar year 2017 wildfires, and for other purposes",

The other NH CongressCritter, Ann Kuster, couldn't even manage that: she got a perfect zero.


■ And our Google LFOD Alert was set off by a Union-Leader article about one Nellie McKay: With a wry sense of self, she’s equal parts singer, writer, actress, comedian and activist. She's at Concord's Capitol Center for the Arts, tonight!

It's a bouncy interview, in which Ms. McKay reveals herself to be a "citizen of the world", and says a lot of our problems are due to "nation states":

Government. People can organize on a much smaller scale than government. But then why do we have government? It really almost comes down to not trusting people. Not trusting people in other countries or not trusting your neighbor, and you need that regulatory force. But because we don’t trust each other, we imbue that handful of people with an enormous, an obscene, an insane amount of power.

I identify a lot with the New Hampshire spirit of “Live Free or Die,” because of the grotesque over-surveillance and the insane militarization of our society and the police state. You know, “Live Free or Die” has never rung truer.

Oooh, hard core libertarian? Well, not quite. From earlier in the interview:

If we had a universal basic income, coupled with single-payer health care and universal child care, people could just get by. They could take care of family, they could pursue their own dreams and happiness.

And then beyond that, if you want fancier things then you can have a job. We just need a maximum wage, a decent tax on the richest people and the corporations, and then cut through our over-bloated military budget.

Yes, that whole rant about government having an "insane amount of power"? Ms. McKay wants to give it even greater powers of expropriation.

Expropriation from other people, of course.

So never mind about that LFOD thing. Kidding!


Last Modified 2018-03-02 4:33 PM EST

URLs du Jour

2018-02-22

■ Proverbs have tended toward the obvious so far in Chapter 15, so Proverbs 15:11 comes as sort of a slap in the face:

11 Death and Destruction lie open before the Lord
    how much more do human hearts!

This sounds shocking to modern ears: of course God knows all about Death and Destruction; so you better believe He also knows about what's going on in your perverse little psyche.

At least, that's my interpretation.


■ Speaking about that innermost depravity: I am a sucker for these state-comparison things, so let's check out WalletHub's list of 2018’s Most Sinful States in America.

Red states and blue states may like to point to one another as the source of all that is wrong with the U.S., but the truth is that each of the 50 states has its own virtues and vices. For example, Vermont has the worst drug use problem. And it certainly comes as no surprise that Nevada is the most gambling-addicted.

Put it all together (using a somewhat arbitrary scoring/weighting system) and Vermont actually weighs in as the least sinful state. New Hampshire is only slightly more boring less sinful at #44. New England as a whole isn't very sinful at all; the highest scorer is Massachusetts, #33.


■ OK, they're not very sinful over there in Vermont, but that doesn't mean they can't pout and stomp their feet when they don't get their way: U. Vermont Students Demand Administrators Resign Over Failure to Meet Diversity Demands.

University of Vermont​ students and Black Lives Matter activists are demanding top administrators resign over the college's failure to meet student demands for diversity initiatives, including the installation of BLM flags on campus.

Occupying the main administrative building Tuesday, some 200 students loosely organized under a group called NoNames for Justice chanted for the UVM president, provost, and vice provost for student affairs to step down for failing to be adequate allies for students of color.

Oh, wait, I'm pretty sure "wrath" is one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

So far, the University Near Here has been spared such publicity. Any recent campus outrage, as near as I can tell, has been directed at the decision to can 18 lecturers in the College of Liberal Arts. The whining about that has been pretty loud.


■ At AEI, Cliff Asness does some math in We Are the 98 Percent.

The central issue of our time is the debate over the size and scope of government. Two unpleasant but undeniable mathematical truths limit the feasible policy choices. The recent sound and fury of the fiscal cliff follies in the end signified nothing because the resolution was in fact just a denial of both truths.

The first truth is that the current tax rates cannot support the promises made to middle-class Americans. The most unaffordable items in fiscal projections are Social Security for everyone and government-sponsored health care for the middle class. You cannot preserve these even with Draconian slashing of military, infrastructure, welfare, education, and other expenditures.

The second truth is that you cannot pay for the Life of Julia, or any vision of a cradle-to-grave welfare state, without massive and increasingly regressive middle-class taxes. The poor don’t have the money to pay for a European-style welfare state, and the rich, rich as they are, don’t have anywhere near enough.

The article is actually from 2013, but could have been written today.


■ At NR, Jonah Goldberg has some advice: Don’t Overestimate Trump’s Ability to Knowingly Collude with Russia.

He could have cut that to three words: Don't Overestimate Trump. But he's more specific than that:

The conspiracy theories that capture our imagination usually depend on false assumptions about how the world works. They rely on the idea that government (or some other large organization) is both profoundly evil and profoundly competent, particularly at keeping secrets. Sometimes the former may be true, but the latter virtually never is. Conspiracy theories also rely on the belief that objectively bad outcomes are subjectively intended. It’s like trying to read the world like a work of literature, where all actions foreshadow future events.

That’s why I tend to avoid conspiracy theory in favor of what one might call character theory. Character is destiny, as Heraclitus observed, and it serves as a far more reliable guide than feverish dot-connecting of disparate events.

It is President Trump’s character that leads me to think he didn’t do it, at least not in a way the impeachment-hungry mob hopes he did.

Put that way, it's pretty obvious: Trump and many of his retinue are braggarts and egomaniacs; it strains credibility that they could pull off a secret conspiracy of any magnitude.


■ Relax, folks, JLaw has us covered. The Bablylon Bee says: Americans Prepare For Unprecedented Golden Age As Jennifer Lawrence Takes Break From Acting To Fix Nation.

Jubilant citizens from sea to shining sea have begun preparing for an unprecedented Golden Age after Hollywood superstar Jennifer Lawrence revealed in an interview that she will be taking a year off of acting to “fix our democracy.”

“Finally, after all this strife, J. Law is going to save us all!” ecstatic Americans exclaimed Wednesday as they foresaw an idyllic new age of peace, prosperity, and happiness in the United States and around the world. “If Katniss can’t do it, nobody can!”

She is really a fine actress. I'm sure she'll need only a year to fix our democracy.

Bone Deep

[Amazon Link]

I made it up to number 21 in Randy Wayne White's Doc Ford series. I'm ready to call it quits. Nothing personal, Mr. White. It's not you, it's me. Or maybe it's you. I got the feeling too many times while reading this that you were under Contractual Obligation to produce 360 pages.

It's not as if the editors at Putnam care much. At one point, a character says that a conversation contained "Not enough to activate my censors".

Anyway, in this one, Doc is looped into a hunt for stolen Indian artifacts. Which takes him to an abandoned phosphate mine in Central Florida. Which has a lot of other stuff going on: the remnants of Ice Age beasts and civilizations, a possible Conquistador's sword, and … a big old elephant. The owner of the phosphate mine has a large, dysfunctional family. And an elephant. There's a one-handed brain-damaged homicidal biker. Doc has (yet another) rocky romantic relationship with a charismatic lady. And a lot of other poorly-described characters.

I could be lazy. Reading my favorite authors is like moving down a well-paved highway; there may be unexpected turns, sure, but the view is interesting, and I never get lost. Reading Mr. White's last few books is more like navigating a back road filled with potholes, full of dead ends and unimpressive sights.

URLs du Jour

2018-02-21

Proverbs 15:10 (at last) gets away from comparing good and bad people; instead it warns of dire consequences…

10 Stern discipline awaits anyone who leaves the path;
    the one who hates correction will die.

Guess what, Proverbialist? The one who loves correction dies too.


■ Our Google LFOD Alert rang for a Washington Examiner article that's all about the University Near Here! Code Yellow: Ambiguous, contradictory speech codes at the University of New Hampshire. This is news, sort of; it's based on the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) recent evaluation of UNH's policy. Specifically, an alleged contradiction between two sections of the current Student Rights, Rules, and Responsibilities handbook.

While students may not assemble, solicit, or distribute literature without a permit or approval per Section 23.4, they may solicit, distribute literature, and interact with passersby per Section 23.2.

“Why is it that in the Live Free or Die State, UNH desires to regulate the right to free speech down to the transitory and incidental nature?” Young Americans for Liberty Director of Free Speech Alexander Staudt told Red Alert Politics. “It seems to me that the First Amendment is very clear — there should be no law, infringing on the right to free speech and peaceful assembly, regardless of its incidental nature.”

I will offer a minor defense of UNH: its current "Yellow Light" rating is an improvement over the "Red Light" it had just a few years ago. I don't know when it changed.


■ What's goin' down, civil-libertieswize, in New York? At Cato, Trevor Burrus and Reilly Stevens tell it: New York Attorney General Schneiderman Goes After Citizens United’s Donors.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman demands out-of-state charities disclose all donors for his inspection. He does not demand this of all charities, only those he decides warrant his special scrutiny. Schneiderman garnered national attention for his campaign to use the powers of his office to harass companies and organizations who do not endorse his preferred policies regarding climate change. Now, it seems he seeks to do the same to right-of-center organizations that might displease him. Our colleague Walter Olson has cataloged Schneiderman’s many misbehaviors.

He’s currently set his sights on Citizens United, a Virginia non-profit that produces conservative documentaries. While Citizens United has solicited donations in New York for decades without any problem, Schneiderman now demands that they name names, telling him who has chosen to support the group. Citizens United challenged this demand in court, arguing that to disclose this information would risk subjecting their supporters to harassment and intimidation.

As they note, Citizens United has become the "Emmanuel Goldstein of the American left".

But it's a good thing that New York has so little crime that the AG can harass groups and individuals exercising their First Amendment rights.


NR's Ben Shapiro looks at Students’ Anti-Gun Views, as megaphoned by the MSM. Mr. Shapiro notes the inconsistency (a) treating teenagers as if they had some special insight into public policy matters; (b) treating them as irresponsible children otherwise. His bottom line:

This discussion of young people’s political involvement leaves out one crucial element: the responsibility of older people to help inculcate expertise and reason in young people. The whole reason that young people are generally less capable of strong decision-making is that the emotional centers of the brain are overdeveloped in comparison with the rational centers of the brain. And it requires training to fully utilize what psychologist Daniel Kahneman calls System 2 — the analyzing portion of the brain. It’s the job of those who think most rationally to teach those whose rationality is still developing. Leaving individual decision-making, let alone general policy, to young people — those who respond most strongly to System 1, the intuitive, emotional brain areas — may be smart politics. After all, we all respond intuitively to slogans and emotional appeals. But it makes for rotten policy.

But perhaps that’s the point. If we can turn children into our decision-makers, we can infantilize our politics down to simplistic statements like “you’re either with us or against us” on preventing school shootings. And that infantalization certainly helps come election time.

Why it's almost as if all this hoopla was a thinly disguised cynical attempt to gain political power! Say it ain't so, CNN!


■ Which brings us to another LFOD alert, spurred by the LTE-writing Alan Vervaeke in the Laconia Daily Sun. His contribution to adult debate is a suggestion to the heartbroken: Shove your thoughts & prayers. LFOD comes in for insulting purposes:

I won’t go into all of the adults who have died from gun violence since 2014 — it’s just an obscene number and most of you simply don’t care. I won’t explain how women are more likely to die in a weaponized household. You make up stories about why God himself ordained the Second Amendment just so you can cradle them to your bosom at night; because you must “live free or die” and your guns provide a means to do both. People with many guns in their home are far more likely to suffer a deadly shooting in their home. That is a statistical fact. If you own a gun, you are 33 percent more likely to have a shooting in your home. If you have children in that home, they are more likely to be the victim. Again — that is statistical FACT. I hope it isn’t your child.

Alan closes with the irresponsible handwaving we've come to expect from this hysterical debate: "do something".

You know what, Alan? Shove your "do something".


■ But sure, if we ignored the Second Amendment, and enacted sweeping gun prohibitions, and put the government in charge of deciding what things were just Too Scary for you to own, things would be fine, right? Well… Back to NR and the observations of David French: Our Government Is Not Constructed for Competence.

It’s time for Americans to face facts. With few exceptions, our governments — local, state, and federal — are not constructed to be competent. The permanent class of civil servants —the career officials who work for multiple presidents, governors, mayors, or town officials — work within bureaucracies that are designed from the ground up to be insulated from effective accountability and discipline. They enjoy a job security that private-sector workers can’t begin to imagine.

A few years ago, a USA Today report rocketed around the Internet for a few days and then faded into obscurity. Too bad. It should have triggered an extended national conversation and extensive legal reform. The headline was sensational, but true: “Some federal workers more likely to die than lose jobs.” It traced the number of employees laid off or fired in multiple federal agencies and found that turnover was microscopic to nonexistent.

Even assuming that a federal worker is a better class of employee than your average private-sector employee (a debatable presumption), the numbers were amazing. The Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission collectively employed 3,000 people. They fired no one. NASA employed almost 19,000 and fired 13. The EPA employed almost 19,000 and fired 19.

In other words, incompetence is baked into the bureaucratic cake.

But… we get the government "we" deserve. Darnit.

URLs du Jour

2018-02-20

■ The Proverbialist seems to be in a rut, trying to figure out different ways to explain the differences between good and bad people. Proverbs 15:9 is yet another attempt:

9 The Lord detests the way of the wicked,
    but he loves those who pursue righteousness.

No surprises there. That would be pretty much what you would expect.


National Review's Dan McLaughlin urges us to Let the Kids Talk — but That’s Not the End of Any Debate.

In the aftermath of any atrocity, tragedy, or trauma, Americans tend to give a platform to the victims and their families. That’s a good and generous instinct, and it frequently means letting people vent their raw emotions in ways that are overwrought, irrational, angry, even rude, mean, or bigoted. Whether we listen or just turn our heads away respectfully from the scene, the act of speaking on a public platform can be cathartic.

People directly involved in a traumatic event have something to tell us about the event. And in some cases, they may have especially strong claims on subjects such as how the event is memorialized. But of course, because they are sympathetic figures, politicians are all too often tempted to use their raw emotions to score political points. The worst temptation comes when people try to endow them with what Maureen Dowd famously called Cindy Sheehan’s “absolute moral authority” to advance arguments without being questioned. And of course, that rhetorical gambit — especially common on the left side of the aisle — is never deployed symmetrically; for example, Dowd and her crew no longer believed Sheehan’s authority was absolute when she ran for Congress against Nancy Pelosi, and they certainly didn’t think Debra Burlingame had absolute moral authority in the Ground Zero Mosque debate, and they don’t think Steve Scalise has absolute moral authority on guns.

Mr. McLaughlin provides numerous examples. The media have been especially shameless in using kids as props for their gun-controlling advocacy. Disgusting.


■ What do the Experts say about Confucius Institutes? Natalie Johnson tells us: Experts: Universities Need to be Transparent About Money Received from Confucius Institutes.

American universities hosting Chinese-backed Confucius Institutes need to make public the details of their arrangements, including the amount of money they receive from the organization, according to regional experts.

Though Beijing bills the Confucius Institutes as a center to promote Chinese language education and cultural exchange around the world, there are mounting concerns in the United States that they threaten academic freedom, in part by limiting discussion on issues sensitive to the Chinese government.

The University Near Here is one of those hosts. From the linked page, it's unclear how active the Institute is. For example, One item says: "This Spring 8 UNH students are studying abroad in Chengdu from February 22-June 10." But it's pretty clear that this happened last spring.

In any case, I wonder if any enterprising local journalist (Foster's Daily Democrat? WMUR? New Hampshire Commie Public Radio?) would care to uncover the details of UNH's relationship with the Confucius Institute?


■ P. J. O'Rourke, at American Consequences, has Some Thoughts on The History of Trade.

It’s surprising that anyone ever set out to trade at all. And, at first, they probably didn’t.

At first, people set out to be those robbers and brigands. They didn’t trade, they just took stuff from other people and killed them all.

Then it dawned on the robbers and brigands… “We can’t go back and take more stuff from those other people. We killed them all.”

Trade has the advantage of being repeatable. Alas, as the history of the world proves, war turns out to be repeatable too. But it takes a lot longer to recover from bleeding than it does from banking your profits.

As many libertarian scholars have speculated: that's probably how governments and taxation got started as well.


■ And a news story from the Babylon Bee: Kamala Harris Makes Brief Appearance At Gun Violence Protest On Way To Pro-Abortion Rally.

Sources close to U.S. Senator Kamala Harris claim the representative of California stopped to make a brief appearance at a gun violence protest while en route to a scheduled stop to speak at a pro-choice rally Saturday.

“Pull the car over here, I want to posture on violence against children before I deliver a full-throated rally cry for the wholesale slaughter of unborn babies in a couple hours,” the likely 2020 presidential hopeful told her driver upon spotting the gun violence protest in the streets of D.C. “I’ll just be a minute, keep the car running.”

With all the "bought and paid for" huffing and puffing about NRA political contributions, nobody seems to be all that upset about Planned Parenthood or NARAL. Another example of the lack of symmetry mentioned by Dan McLaughlin above.

Wakefield

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

One of Mrs. Salad's Netflix picks. I did not fall asleep while watching it, which these days counts as moderate praise.

Bryan Cranston plays Howard Wakefield, a New York lawyer. He's married to Jennifer Garner (woo!), has two nice twin daughters, a big house in some unspecified suburb, and is kind of a shithead. One day a power failure makes his commute home a nightmare. This (for some reason) tips his vague feelings of dissatisfaction into action. He refuses his wife's incoming calls, and when he finally gets home, he clambers up into the storage space over his garage and spies on his house through a grimy window.

Stupid joke, or something more? Something more. Flashbacks, fantasized scenes, and voice-overs give us a more complete picture. (But that more complete picture just fleshes out the fact that Howard is a demented shithead.) The logistics of living undetected 30 feet away from your family are hinted at; Mrs. Salad pointed out every violation of food safety guidelines. (Readers, do not, under any circumstances, eat a foil-wrapped baked potato that's been allowed to cool off.)

Not bad, but kind of pretentious. Based on a New Yorker story by E. L. Doctorow, which (in turn) was based on a Nathaniel Hawthorne short story. Which you can read here if desired.

Hey, Idiot!

Chronicles of Human Stupidity

[Amazon Link]

This is a stupid book about stupidity. I can't remember why I have it. Did I buy it? That would have been stupid. Maybe a Christmas gift from long ago? That would make more sense; it has the air of something strategically re-gifted.

But I wouldn't—couldn't—shuffle this awful book off to someone else. Pun Salad Manor is where re-gifting chains finally end.

It's 249 pages. Allegedly a "humor" book, but I can honestly say I didn't laugh once. The author, Leland Gregory, has a Facebook page, in which he describes himself as "The Official Chronicler of Human Stupidity".

Which means: he scours the media for oddball stories, cuts and pastes, adds occasional snarky comments, and when he gets to a certain number, Voila, another book crapped out.

I suppose it's a living. At least he's not a politician.

Example, an item titled "Tic-Tac-Don't":

A nine-year-old student from Weems Elementary School in Manassas, Virginia, was suspended under the schools zero-tolerance policy on drugs. The boy had been caught giving his friends a Certs breath mint. The school policy not only bans real drugs but also "look-alikes" that a reasonable person would believe is a controlled substance. Defending his son's reputation, the boy's father said, "He's not a breath-mint addict or anything like that." Not yet, but who knows where something like this might lead?

Thigh-slapper? No. (But here, if you're interested, is the Washington Post story on which the item is apparently based.)

249 pages of this sort of thing is the very definition of tedious reading.

Anyway: I own it, I put it on the to-be-read pile, and eventually it came up. And now I'm using it to inflate my book-reading numbers. Does that make me stupid? Probably.


Last Modified 2018-02-19 6:33 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2018-02-19

Focault pendulum

Proverbs 15:8 is another compare-and-contrast between the good people and the bad people:

8 The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked,
    but the prayer of the upright pleases him.

I'm wondering: why do the wicked even bother with the sacrifice? You're just irking the Big Guy even more than He would be otherwise.


National Review has redone its website, and they're very excited about that. For our purposes, however, they may be relaxing the distinction between print and web content. Anyway, Kevin D. Williamson's new dead-trees article is available, his view on The Intellectual Emptiness of ‘White Supremacy’.

Yes, white supremacists, if you can find them, are definitely intellectually empty. But so are the folks who see "white supremacy" as an Explanation For Everything.

‘White supremacy” serves a broader rhetorical purpose for the Left, which is forever in search of a master theory attached to a master villain. For a century or so, the master theory was Marxism and the master villain was capitalism. For the countercultural radicals of 1968, the master villain was the Establishment, bourgeois society, the Man in the Gray Flannel Suit; for the feminists, it was patriarchy (recently supplanted by misogyny); for 1980s postmodernists of a Foucauldian bent, it was “power,” nebulously defined. (The contemporary Right has its own answers to that: globalists, elitists, etc.)

Those master villains need to have two attributes: One, they must be rooted in sin, either the sin of greed (capitalism) or the sin of hatred, which is why “misogyny” gained currency over “patriarchy” and why some on the left have settled on “white supremacy” as an explanation for what ails black America rather than such traditional factors as poverty, which according to the rhetoric of the moment must be understood as yet another facet of white supremacy. Two, the villains must be impersonal. If culpable racism is being perpetrated by culpable racists who, e.g., victimize African Americans by subjecting them to police abuses, then people of good will start to ask the obvious questions: Which police? Where? Doing what, exactly? That creates problems for the professional activist class — which is what “white supremacy” is all about as a rhetorical matter. E.g.: Between 2007 and 2013, Philadelphia police shot 394 suspects, leading to claims of excessive force and, inevitably, excessive force used in a racially discriminatory manner. But the mayor of Philadelphia was black, and the police commissioner was black, and the police department was 33 percent black (the city is 42 percent black), and many of the shootings that activists questioned involved black officers. “White supremacy” gives you a rhetorical out: “Black cops are subject to the same training, culture and systemic pressures as their white counterparts,” Lauren Fleer of Socialist Worker wrote about the Philadelphia situation.

Yes, he said "Foucauldian". He went there.

Not that it matters, but the world's largest Foucauldian Pendulum can be found in Portland, Oregon, and is today's Pic du Jour.


■ At Reason, Nick Gillespie shares the ideas of Greg Gutfeld: How To Stop Mass Shootings Without Gutting the 2nd Amendment. Example:

  1. If you see something, say something, should be followed with do something. "The punk had a zillion red flags. The FBI were tipped off and blew it." Gutfeld suggests a new motto: See something, say something, do something. Gutfeld explains that part of the problem is that neither of the two main sides in the gun debate trusts the other. "Common-sense gun control" is mostly a euphemism for taking away or harshly limiting gun rights, he suggests, while also implying that gun-rights maximalists are willing to let deranged "creeps" to get weapons as the cost of maintaining their own freedoms. "We need a database" to keep people such as Florida school shooter Nikolaus Cruz from getting guns, says Gutfeld. But as important, he says we need to "tag" people such as Cruz the minute they start acting off. Violation of the database would result in a felony conviction.

Mr. Gillespie notes that he disagrees with a number of Mr. Gutfeld's ideas (as do I), but admires the willingness to come up with something that doesn't involve infringing the rights of the law-abiding.


[Amazon Link] ■ I've previously encouraged the reading of The Captured Economy by Brink Lindsey and Steven M. Teles. If you followed that advice, you would not be surprised by this article in the Economist: Occupational licensing blunts competition and boosts inequality.

Occupational licensing—the practice of regulating who can do what jobs—has been on the rise for decades. In 1950 one in 20 employed Americans required a licence to work. By 2017 that had risen to more than one in five. The trend partly reflects an economic shift towards service industries, in which licences are more common. But it has also been driven by a growing number of professions successfully lobbying state governments to make it harder to enter their industries. Most studies find that licensing requirements raise wages in a profession by around 10%, probably by making it harder for competitors to set up shop.

Lobbyists justify licences by claiming consumers need protection from unqualified providers. In many cases this is obviously a charade. Forty-one states license makeup artists, as if wielding concealer requires government oversight. Thirteen license bartending; in nine, those who wish to pull pints must first pass an exam. Such examples are popular among critics of licensing, because the threat from unlicensed staff in low-skilled jobs seems paltry. Yet they are not representative of the broader harm done by licensing, which affects crowds of more highly educated workers like Ms Varnam. Among those with only a high-school education, 13% are licensed. The figure for those with postgraduate degrees is 45%.

New Hampshire's current list of "Licensed, Certified, and Registered Occupations" takes up a 245-page PDF. Our state protects us not only from the menace of unlicensed Embalmers, but also Wildlife Control Operators. Thanks be to the legislature, we can finally sleep at night, perhaps after seeing a (licensed) Pastoral Psychotherapist.


■ Google Chrome now (allegedly) does some ad-blocking by default, so I've gingerly turned off AdBlock Plus. (What's more obnoxious than sites with ads? Sites that nag you about having an ad-blocker enabled.)

Anyway, James Lileks discusses the ads that make the internet horrible. (It's at the Star-Tribune site, which—ahem—may make you sit on an ad page before proceeding to the article.) For example, there's…

Smarm: There's a picture of a female golfer, or a javelin thrower, or a competitive swimmer, and one of the following phrases: "The cameraman just kept shooting" (implication: because her clothes came off). Or, "She didn't know why the crowd was cheering (because her clothes came off). Or, "The cast gasped but the actress kept going" (which was odd because she didn't know her clothes had come off).

Confession: I sometimes get trapped by clickbait. Even once is too often.


■ Pre-retirement, I had to pay attention to Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures. I'm kind of glad the pressure's off, because this year's list (provided by xkcd) looks challenging:

[xkcd on the 2018 CVE List]

Mouseover: "CVE-2018-?????: It turns out Bruce Schneier is just two mischevious kids in a trenchcoat."

URLs du Jour

2018-02-18

■ Ladies and gentlmen, I give you Proverbs 15:7:

7 The lips of the wise spread knowledge,
    but the hearts of fools are not upright.

Another Proverb fitting the pattern of yesterday's Mad Lib generator. I'm beginning to think I have something here.

And—oy!—again with the lips!


■ Steven Chapman, unlike many pundits, is an adult, speaking to his readers as if they were adults: A Cure for Mass Shootings Doesn't Exist.

Every time there is a mass shooting, a chorus goes up: "We must do something to keep this from happening again. We can't tolerate it any longer."

Revulsion understandably creates a demand for remedies. But every time, we do nothing, to the fury of those who denounce the inaction as shameful.

There is a simple explanation, though, for the inaction. It's not that the National Rifle Association is all-powerful, that too many Americans are blind to reason, or that most are complacent about wanton slaughter. It's that there are no plausible options that offer more than the faintest prospect of preventing a massacre in the next year or the next decade.

Too true, I regret to say. However there's one thing "we" could do…


■ Specifically, as Kevin D. Williamson, suggests, we could Fire the FBI Chief.

Disclaimer: if you are the type of person who gets upset when you fill in the asterisks in 'F***', Mr. Williamson's article may not be for you. Oops, you clicked over already? Too bad.

The guiding principle of American law enforcement is that it is easiest to enforce the law on law-abiding people, while enforcing the law on outlaws is something that looks terrifyingly close to hard work. That’s why gun control so ensorcels the bureaucratic mind. (Which is to say, the progressive mind: The essence of progressivism is replacing organic institutions with permanent bureaucracies.) If you are a federal law-enforcement agent with a comfy desk chair, you probably cannot imagine a more attractive anticrime program than gun control. Gun dealers have federal licenses, and they have to apply for them: You don’t have to go tracking them down — they come to you. They fill out paperwork. They generally operate from fixed addresses with regular business hours. Convenient! What you have is the power of political interposition, which is a mild form of terrorism. Want to operate a sporting-goods store? “F*** you, pay me.” And — mirabile dictu! — they pay. Sometimes, they even evince gratitude that you’ve done them the great favor of taking their money and allowing them, generous fellow that you are, to dispose of their own property as they see fit.

On our 0-to-10 RTWT scale, Mr. Williamson's article is a 9.5. Pissed-off Kevin D. Williamson is the best Kevin D. Williamson.


■ UPenn Lawprof Amy Wax got in PC trouble last August for co-authoring an op-ed that dared to extol the bourgeois virtues. (Previous Pun Salad articles on that imbroglio here, here, here, here.)

Now Professor Wax looks back on What Can’t Be Debated on Campus (behind a possible WSJ paywall).

There is a lot of abstract talk these days on American college campuses about free speech and the values of free inquiry, with lip service paid to expansive notions of free expression and the marketplace of ideas. What I’ve learned through my recent experience of writing a controversial op-ed is that most of this talk is not worth much. It is only when people are confronted with speech they don’t like that we see whether these abstractions are real to them.

[If you can't breach the WSJ paywall, there's an earlier version of the article from Hillsdale College's Imprimis magazine here.]

It's a sad episode in the continuing tragedy of American higher education.


■ Mark Lieberman at Language Log has some fun with this factoid:

Google Translate is disposed to recognize text consisting only of vowels and spaces as Hawaiian, and to hallucinate a coherent if sometimes chilling translation into English.

Professor Lieberman offers a simple R program to generate "Hawaiian":


    N = 150
    Letters = c("a","e","i","o","u"," ")
    cat(sprintf("%s\n",paste0(sample(Letters,N,replace=TRUE),collapse="")))
    

OK, I don't know R, but I can guess well enough what's going on. I wrote an equivalent Perl one liner:


    perl -e "print (map {(split(//,'aeiou ')) [rand(6)] } 1 .. 150);"
    

On the first run, it gave me:

eouiuioeie uieuuuu auauoioieuu a iuooi u u eoooiiueio aueueuioo aeai iii eeoaieaaauouoa ieieooaoiaeie e eaoaaa aoaia eoueooooouiuuou uoao oaooe a

OK, let's paste that into Google Translate, and in English, that's:

you know how much you know and how much you know about how much you know about how to use your

Whoa, that's almost … profound!

URLs du Jour

2018-02-17

■ I initially misread the last word of Proverbs 15:6 as "fun" instead of "ruin". That would have made the Proverb more entertaining:

6 The house of the righteous contains great treasure,
    but the income of the wicked brings ruin.

I wonder if the Proverbialist had an Ancient Israeli version of a Mad Lib generator:

The   (noun)   of the   (good-people noun)     (verb)     (good-thing noun)  
    but the   (noun)   of the   (bad-people noun)     (verb)     (bad-thing noun)  .

I'm willing to accept a generous Federal grant to do research along these lines.


■ Jonah Goldberg's G-File this week deserves your attention, as it contains some deep thoughts on the connection between the Government and the Governed: The People We Deserve.

We don’t have a monarchical, aristocratic, or despotic government — though there are aspects of our government that are far closer to such adjectives than many would like to admit. But we talk about it like we think it should be. In the wake of this horrific shooting in Florida, journalists and politicians are shouting demands at the federal government and the president of the United States that neither can achieve if they are to stay consistent with the Constitution.

“Get rid of the guns!” “Stop this from happening!” TV hosts scream, as the networks shove cameras in the faces of grieving mothers and fathers of children still in body bags, while crediting their utterly understandable cries of anguish as coherent public-policy programs. The assumption is that, if only the president’s heart were in the right place, these terrible things wouldn’t be happening. It reminds me of the old lament of the Jews harassed by the pogroms, “If only the Czar knew!”

Mr. Goldberg quotes Joseph de Maistre (our Pic du Jour): "Every nation gets the government it deserves." He updates: "every government ultimately gets the people it deserves, too."


■ Jim Geraghty suggests we need something that we are unlikely to get: We Need an Accurate National Conversation About Guns.

We keep hearing, “we need to have a national conversation about guns,” and then we keep hearing statements from those same voices that are simply not true. If we’re going to have that national conversation, I want the other side to do its homework first.

I don’t want to hear CNN lamenting that Florida doesn’t require a concealed carry permit for an AR-15 or shotgun. (They are too large to conceal.) I don’t want to hear people referring to the AR-15 as an “automatic assault weapon” and I want them to learn the difference between automatic and semiautomatic, and which kind is already illegal. I don’t want to hear about “the gun show loophole” unless the shooter purchased his gun at a gun show. (To the best of my knowledge, not a single mass-shooter has done so.) I want former presidents to stop asserting that it’s easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than buy a computer or a book.

And of course, there are tweets like this (from my own CongressCritter, Carol Shea-Porter:

I tweet-replied:

I am unsurprised that CSP has not (as I type) corrected herself.


■ David Forsmark list's 'em off: 5 Terrible Things the Media Communicates to Every Potential School Shooter. [RTWT for explanations.]

  1. You will be famous
  2. The world will come to a stop for you and talk about nothing else for days
  3. A school is the target that will get you the most attention
  4. You should use an AR-15; they are the most dangerous and cool
  5. No one will shoot back at you at a school—and we’ll make damned sure it stays that way!

I can't disagree. To add another clause to de Maistre: we get the media we deserve, and the media gets the audience it deserves.


■ The Other Big News is analyzed by John Hinderaker at Power Line: Mueller Indicts Russians For 2016 Election Interference. A number of observations, including:

The indictment is odd, to say the least. Its very first paragraph recites that it is against the law for foreign nationals to spend money to influence US elections, or for agents of foreign countries to engage in political activities without registering. But no one is charged with these crimes. Instead, the indictment is devoted mostly to charging a “conspiracy to defraud the United States.” Normally, that would refer to defrauding the U.S. out of, say, $10,000 in Medicare benefits. Its application to the 2016 election seems dubious. Beyond that, the indictment charges relatively minor offenses: bank fraud (opening accounts in false names) and identity theft.

I would hope that oddness gets clarified sooner than later.


■ There's a new issue of American Consequences out with lots of P. J. O'Rourke content. For one example: The Certain Loser in November’s Congressional Elections. Who?

He isn’t a candidate. He isn’t even alive.

But America is going to be a lot worse off without him.

Adam Smith (1723-1790) founded the discipline of economics, discovered the way economies work, showed how free enterprise creates prosperity, and wrote The Wealth of Nations.

If the message of that masterwork had to be distilled into one sentence it would be, “Free trade is good.”

Actually, the sentence would be more forceful than that:

Free trade is absolutely vital to every aspect of human existence, otherwise your life would be a living hell, but not for long, because you’d die.”

Every pol that tells you otherwise is either a liar or an idiot. Or both.


■ It's impossible to trust any major-party pol's blather about "partisan" gerrymandering. Or for that matter, anything you'll read about it in the media. So it's important to point out people who approach the issue from an outside view, like Walter Olson at Cato: Politicians, Voters, and Gerrymandering.

Libertarians are in some ways especially well-situated to spot the harms that can result when politicians get to select which constituents they would like to represent rather than vice versa. And the issue fits well into a long tradition of classical liberal thinking about the electoral process and representation, among the goals of which is to restrain existing establishments from gathering too much power unto themselves. Voters should choose legislators, not the other way around.

Mr. Olson is too respectable, however, to advocate the Pun Salad Crackpot Proposal on "fairness".

URLs du Jour

2018-02-16

Proverbs 15:5 is a fortune cookie candidate:

5 A fool spurns a parent’s discipline,
    but whoever heeds correction shows prudence.

Hey, I have a million-dollar idea for any wannabe entrepreneur out there: Fortune Cookies for Your Kids. Marketed to parents, the cookies would contain pearls of wisdom specifically encouraging decent/studious behavior. ("A child who scorns mathematics / Will someday be restocking shelves at Walmart.")

This would work, assuming kids are more likely to heed advice they get from the mysterious Orient than that they get from parents.


■ Thomas Winslow Hazlett has a good article in the latest Reason, and now it's available for free reading: Making the Fairness Doctrine Great Again. He discusses the (unsurprisingly) bipartisan clamor from pols/pundits to Do Something Regulatory about the Internet.

It's time to "get us on offense and scare the hell out of Google, Facebook, Twitter," declares Phil Kerpen, top dog at the avowedly free market American Commitment. He has concocted a strategy for conservatives, described in a memo obtained by Axios, which calls for government to treat social media platforms not like the newspapers of the 20th century, with unencumbered speech rights, but like the railroads of the 19th century—as "incumbents with market power [who] therefore pose a serious threat" to society.

Meanwhile, the "establishment" is eager to regulate new media, too. Three senators—two Democrats and a Republican—have proposed a bill to extend campaign finance disclosure rules to the internet, constraining who is allowed to buy online advertisements. Alarmed by Russian provocateurs and by the suspiciously improbable electoral triumph of Donald Trump, they aim to bring the wonders of McCain-Feingold to broader information markets.

History speaks loudly on the merits of these ideas. Twentieth century regulatory policies dedicated to furthering "the public interest" in media—the Equal Time Rule, the Fairness Doctrine, the licensing of broadcast radio and television—triggered perverse outcomes that squeezed competition, pre-empted innovation, and quashed free speech. They scorched the very values they were ostensibly designed to advance.

Google/Facebook/Twitter have come in for some well-deserved criticism, sure. You know what would be worse? The visible fist of US government regulation, that's what.


■ When we ask "What was that bipartisan budget deal loaded with?" the first answer that leaps to mind is …, well, obvious. But, at the Washington Examiner, Timothy P. Carney is more specific: That bipartisan budget deal was loaded with bipartisan corporate welfare. Example one:

The bill includes an extension of the “7-year recovery period for motorsports entertainment complexes.” In other words, it’s a special tax break that applies only to NASCAR tracks and the like. The “7-year recovery period” means that the owner of a racetrack gets to divide its cost over only 7 years for tax deduction purposes. By contrast, if you’re a landlord, you have to divide the cost of your rental home over 30 years. The speedway provision pretends, in effect, that a racetrack survives only 7 years.

Maybe you can justify this special tax break as an “incentive” to stimulate local economies? No. Because the break “shall apply to property placed in service after December 31, 2016,” the bill reads. In other words, this is a tax break for speedways built last year.

Mr. Carney provides additional examples, all should be infuriating.


■ At the Federalist, Alex Grass explains: Why A Schizophrenic Hobo Is More Qualified To Teach Your Kids Than Most College Administrators Are.

Lord, I love that headline.

Puppy therapy. My law school has puppy therapy. Let me slow it down for you. Puppy. Therapy. Let that sink in.

A professional legal educational institution is spending money to bring in puppies for grown adults — future litigators, future trial lawyers, people who are someday going to try rape and murder cases — so they can rub Fido and Spike’s furry little tummies and giggle while they piddle on the rug.

Just to be clear, the puppies are the ones who are piddling on the rug.

Mr. Grass is very funny. To be clear, he's not talking about just any schizophrenic hobo; he's a fan of Wesley Willis, who "wrote songs about trans-fat filled junk food and who tagged the end of every song with a corporate catchphrase." Still, he's more coherent than Grass's college example, Elizabeth Carlin Metz, chair of the Knox College theater department.


■ An interesting story at the Washington Times: FBI investigating Confucius Institutes.

The FBI is investigating scores of Chinese government-funded Confucius Institutes around the country over concerns the institutes are part of covert spying and influence operations.

The centers, mainly located on American college campuses, ostensibly were set up to teach Chinese language and culture. But they have become centers for spreading pro-China propaganda and influence activities, including organizing Chinese communist student groups that challenge human rights activists and others.

There is a Confucius Institute at the University Near Here. Pun Salad wrote on this issue back in 2014, and noted that it was one of those rare issues on which both National Review and (gasp) the Nation were in agreement: Confucius Institutes should not be welcome on college campuses.

And now the FBI is after them. Well, better late than never. I foresee a perp walk out of Hamilton Smith Hall. I hope someone's there to tape it.


■ A bit of levity at the Olympics (see pic du jour up there), but not everyone was amused. North Korean Cheerleaders Were Not Impressed by Kim Jong Un Impersonator.

The impersonator, identifying himself as "Howard," approached the 230-member cheerleading squad while waving a unified Korea flag. The initial response was icy, with several of the cheerleaders openly scowling and others sitting uncomfortably in silence.

Howard, who is of Chinese and Australian descent, told Yahoo Sports that he is a musician and his intent was to enjoy the match, "meet the cheerleaders," and "create some good political satire."

Howard only had a few moments in front of the crowd before two men, who are suspected to be employed by the North Korean regime, attempted to remove him from the scene.

There are also pics out there of Howard hamming it up with a Donald Trump impersonator.


■ The Babylon Bee provides us impatient folk with The TL;DR Edition Of All 66 Books Of The Bible.

The Bible is really long.

Luckily for you, we at The Babylon Bee have studied our official company Scofield Reference Bible for the past 80 years in order to distill each of the 66 books down to a bite-sized snippet even you can understand. We reduced every book to a single, memorable line, so you don’t have to read a word of it for yourself. Nice!

Obviously, we'll look at Proverbs:

Proverbs – GOD PITIES THE FOOL WHO DON’T FOLLOW HIM.

Yeah, that's about right.


■ Confession: I am sort of a T. S. Eliot fanboy, so I was amused by this Tweet

If you know the reference, some obvious Smart Remarks will have occurred to you. Trust me, they've already appeared in the comments.

OK, just one:

URLs du Jour

2018-02-15

Code City, Panel 8

■ More Proverbial oral metaphors in Proverbs 15:4:

4 The soothing tongue is a tree of life,
    but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.

I know the Bible, especially Proverbs, is supposed to contain divinely-inspired wisdom. But verses like these are bromides any random idiot could write.


■ Steven Pinker has a new book out, title Enlightenment Now, and I'm a fan, probably gonna buy it. But I wonder if you can't read most of it by jumping from publication to publication for articles adapted from the text. (Commercialism: if you buy Pinker's book via this link, I get a cut! Even better: buy it and send it to me as a gift! Shipping address here!)

Anyway, here's a good excerpt at the Chronicles of Higher Education: The Intellectual War on Science

The highbrow war on science continues to this day, with flak not just from fossil-fuel-funded politicians and religious fundamentalists but also from our most adored intellectuals and in our most august institutions of higher learning. Magazines that are ostensibly dedicated to ideas confine themselves to those arising in politics and the arts, with scant attention to new ideas emerging from science, with the exception of politicized issues like climate change (and regular attacks on a sin called "scientism"). Just as pernicious is the treatment of science in the liberal-arts curricula of many universities. Students can graduate with only a trifling exposure to science, and what they do learn is often designed to poison them against it.

A wide-ranging, somewhat infuriating, informative article. Recommended.


■ What does Trump's new budget plan prove? Veronique de Rugy at Reason answers: Trump’s New Budget Plan Proves He Won’t Even Pretend to Care About the Debt.

Presidential budgets are usually declared dead soon after their release. President Trump's budget for FY2019, however, was dead before it even arrived. It was doomed by the horrendous budget deal that was made by congressional Republicans and Democrats—and then signed by Mr. Trump himself. Even still, the budget is yet another sign of how little this administration cares about maintaining the barest pretense of fiscal responsibility.

Veronique finds that even with the Rosy Fiscal Scenarios typical of budget projections, the administration couldn't hide the vast oceans of red ink that will be needed for the upcoming deficits.


■ 'Tis the season, apparently, for Progressive nanny statists to come out and nag. My Google LFOD alert chimed for a Concord Monitor column penned by one Nick Perencevich that managed to be childish and ghoulish: If you skip the helmet, give an organ.

I would hope that those individuals who take the risk of not protecting themselves with a belt or helmet would at least carry an organ donor card in their wallet and also inform their families that they are willing to be an organ donor. It would be great if those who take “Live Free or Die” literally in their seat belt and/or helmet choice could at least do something good for those in need or an organ.

Possibly, Rep. Dan Haynes of Merrimack, who is quoted in the editorial as being strongly against the seat belt law, would consider passing a law saying that individuals dying from the lack of a seat belt or helmet would automatically become an organ donor no matter what is in their wallet.

It has been observed that Progressive totalitarians view individuals as, essentially, the property of the State. Perencevich's proposal doesn't do anything to disconfirm that observation.


■ But that's not all! Another Progressive Nanny, state rep Timothy Horrigan (D-Durham, of course) has proposed another bit of legislation designed to shove people around "for their own good": Soda on children's menus could fizz out in New Hampshire

Fewer children will wash down their chicken fingers and fries with soda if a bill limiting beverage choices for restaurant children's meals gets through the New Hampshire Legislature.

The bill would apply to restaurants that serve children's meals that bundle together food and a beverage for one price. Drinks served with such meals would be limited to milk, 100 percent juice or juice combined with water, plain water, or flavored water with no sweeteners. Customers still could purchase soda or other sugary drinks on the side.

Tim has, no doubt, witnessed Other Peoples' Children consuming Too Much Sugar right out in public! This must be stopped!

One of the bill's sponsors told a House committee Wednesday he realizes opponents will portray it as a move toward a "nanny state." But he took a different view.

"A nanny is a person who cares for, protects and teaches small children, so being a nanny is not necessarily entirely a bad thing," said Democratic Rep. Timothy Horrigan. "If this bill is passed, children will be protected from the unhealthy effects of artificial sweeteners and excessive sugars, and they will learn to develop healthier dietary habits.

Tim embraces his nannihood, so a small brownie point—that brownie made without sugar or artificial sweetners—for him.

At a Friendly's restaurant in Concord — where the beverages offered with children's meals include soda topped with candy — Jim Foley was having dinner with two of his grandchildren Monday. He wasn't a fan of the proposed restrictions.

"Where do we live?" he said, in a nod to New Hampshire's "Live Free or Die" motto. "It should be the parent's choice."

Gosh, leaving dietary choices up to parents? Sounds dangerous!


■ And the Babylon Bee reports the insights of "local Christian man Clay Bernard": ‘Theology Doesn’t Matter,’ Says Man In Bold Theological Statement.

At publishing time, Bernard had declared no one could ever be absolutely sure about anything, a fact about which he was absolutely sure.

No further comment needed.

URLs du Jour

2018-02-14

Happy Valentine's Day! A feast day. Also Ash Wednesday, a fasting day. For those needing spiritual guidance navigating the competing messages: How to celebrate Valentine’s Day without compromising your Christian faith on Ash Wednesday.

■ You better not pout, you better not cry, you better not shout, Proverbs 15:3 tells you why:

3 The eyes of the Lord are everywhere,
    keeping watch on the wicked and the good.

That was in Ancient Israel, though. Santa took over this job in the 20th century.

Depending on your domicile, the Eyes of Texas may also be upon you, all the livelong day.


■ A recent Wired essay, "It's the (Democracy-Poisoning) Golden Age of Free Speech", argued for state regulation of speech, because democracy. At Reason, Brian Doherty eviscerates: Wired Thinks Free Speech Has Been Tried and Failed.

It seems that the likes of Wired, though alarmed by a world of Russian bots and alt-right trolls (which one imagines, though they don't spell this out, that they blame for President Trump) manages to perceive the worlds of media and expression as so ineluctably Theirs—their sensitive, progressive, smart, techno-elite but not beholden to Facebook selves—that they can't see the disconnect between "let us manage expression through politics" and "expressive practices we don't like have handed the government over to dangerous people."

The "deeply political decisions" [Wired's essayist Zeynep] Tufekci wants to control expression can and will be made by people who do not necessarily share Wired's beliefs or sensitivities, and it is dangerous even on its own terms to call for making such decisions politically.

The Wired essay is nastily misguided when it assumes that free speech is only good insofar as it promotes certain "values"; it goes further astray when it assumes government regulation of speech would effectively accomplish that nebulous goal.


[Amazon Link]

■ We are still bugged by the media fawning over North Korean despots and enslaved North Korean cheerleaders. But David Harsanyi notes: The Left’s Soft Spot For Communist Propaganda Is Nothing New.

No, not every Western journalist fell for North Korean propaganda efforts at the Pyeongchang Olympics, though there were more than plenty. Some of it, no doubt, is driven by animosity for Donald Trump. Many people live a reactive existence that demands they show admiration for anyone perceived as standing in opposition to the president. The number of liberals asking “are we any better?” than North Korea on social media is horrifying, but, at this point, predictable.

But we also shouldn’t act as if embrace of Communism deception is something new or rare. The Left, and really we have no choice but to treat most big media outlets as functionaries of the Left, has a long tradition of falling (or worse) for this kind of propaganda — from Stalin to the Vietcong to Castro to Sandinistas to Hugo Chavez to fetching DPRK henchwomen.

Harsanyi relates the history. Also see: Paul Hollander.


@kevinNR warns: The IRS Is Coming for Your Passports.

The U.S. government is building the world’s largest debtors’ prison: the United States.

Beginning this month, the Internal Revenue Service will begin denying passports to some American citizens with unpaid taxes and, in some cases, revoking the passports of Americans with tax delinquencies. The government will in effect place those with unpaid taxes under arrest, effectively denying them their right to travel.

Seriously, dude, WTF? Kevin makes the further point:

People should pay their taxes, and the people at the IRS should do their jobs honestly and ethically. Most of them do. But not all of them. Lois Lerner, the IRS boss who illegally targeted conservative groups for harassment in the runup to the 2012 presidential election, is happily enjoying retired life in some Washington suburb while collecting a fat federal pension. She didn’t lose her passport. Former IRS commissioner John Koskinen lied to Congress about the situation and oversaw the destruction of evidence. He still has a passport. The crimes — actual crimes — of the powerful and the connected go unpunished, while those who for whatever reason have an unmet obligation to the IRS are treated like East Germans locked behind the Checkpoint Charlie of the federal bureaucracy. If you want to know why faith in our institutions is at such a low point, meditate on that.

Meditate, and see if you can keep that Valentine candy down.


■ Yesterday I wished for Michael Ramirez to do something clever about curling. But Lisa Benson got to it first:

Artemis

[Amazon Link]

You loved The Martian, right? Both the movie and the book? Me too. So I asked for, and received, Andy Weir's new book, Artemis, for Christmas, and … well, I guess I'm surprised. Pleasantly surprised, but still.

What I expected, and got: science fiction so hard you can see the rivets. A wise-cracking ingenious protagonist who goes from crisis to crisis, coming up with improvised solutions necessary for survival in dire situations. (And, spoiler alert for those who can't see the cover image: it's set on the Moon.)

What I didn't really expect, from an author whose previous hero was the straight-shooting all-American scientist/astronaut Mark Watney: a female protagonist, born in Saudi Arabia, … who's kind of a minor-league lunar criminal. And while The Martian was a survival tale, Artemis is pretty much a noir crime thriller.

The narrator/protagonist is Jasmine Bashara, and her primary criminal activity is smuggling illicit items and substances to the misbehaving residents of Artemis, the (so far) only lunar community, set 40 kilometers south of the Apollo 11 landing site on the Sea of Tranquility. (The layout, operation, and economics of the town are all precisely described, of course. Down to the last rivet.)

Jasmine's poor, struggling to be upwardly mobile. But it's tough. And she makes it tougher by some of her, um, choices. (In one amusing bit she suggests what might have been an alternate book title: Attack of the Moon Woman Who Made Bad Life Decisions.) Her motivations and self-imposed morality are made clearer as the book trundles on. When a billionaire offers her the opportunity to make a Big Score by sabotaging a major bit of lunar industry, she's in. And then her problems are just beginning.

Bottom line: it's a very good page turner, Andy Weir shows that he's not a one-trick pony.

Yes, a movie is in the works. Where can I buy my ticket?

URLs du Jour

2018-02-13

■ More Proverbial oral fixation in Proverbs 15:2

2 The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge,
    but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.

Yes, and so what else did you expect? Things to be the other way around?

We mentioned last week that "lips" appears appears 37 times in Proverbs, "mouth" shows up 20 times; according to the Bible Study Tools website, the count for "tongue" is 18.


■ Our local newspaper, Foster's Daily Democrat, printed a story yesterday with the innocuous headline: Library presents dialogue on Jerusalem.

In a mostly civilized and scholarly conversation two men, representing the viewpoint [sic] of the Israeli and the Palestinian people, talked about the current climate, including the politics of of our own current administration, at Portsmouth Library.

We don't get any further illumination of what "mostly civilized and scholarly" refers to. Perhaps an illiterate savage showed up to briefly disrupt things? We'll never know.

The speakers were Alan Elsner (allegedly representing the "Israeli viewpoint") and Robert Azzi (for the Palestinian side).

We've actually discussed Robert Azzi's views previously in a Foster's LTE that analyzed an op-ed he wrote about the 2015 attempt by two wannabe terrorists to shoot up "The First Annual Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest" set up by Pamela Geller. His primary, and pretty much only, argument was to blame Geller for being a "provocateur".

Alan Elsner, on the other hand, is "Special Advisor to the President" of "J Street", an organization billing itself as the "Political Home for Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace Americans". They are stridently leftist; their political action committee has always been a huge financial backer of my current Congresscritter, Carol Shea-Porter.

But does a J-Streeter really "represent" the "Israeli viewpoint"? That's arguable. In fact, you'll get a contrary argument from Alan Dershowitz (at, of all places, the HuffPo): J Street Can No Longer Claim to Be Pro Israel.

And so what sort of "dialogue" did Elsner and Azzi have? The kind that the folks at Foster's and Portsmouth Library like: where everybody hates Trump.

Both men said that Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem was a bad move.

Were any contrary voices heard? Again: we'll never know from reading Foster's.


■ One bit of a good idea from the proposed budget is described by Katherine Mangu-Ward at Reason: Trump Wants to Privatize the International Space Station.

The Trump administration is going to think about thinking about considering ending federal funding for the International Space Station (ISS) in 2025. Cue a bunch of people freaking out about the prospect of space station privatization.

Before we get into the nitty girtty—a note: if I had a nickel for every major goal set by an American president for the space program with a time horizon of 6 to 20 years, I'd have enough money to continue funding the ISS well past 2025. Every administration comes up with its own blueprint/roadmap/guidebook to go to the moon/Mars/Alpha Centauri with all of the major deadlines conveniently kicking in long after the relevant president is somewhere on a yacht moored outside his presidential library. These plans rarely come to fruition, and even incremental steps are frequently reversed.

Ms. Mangu-Ward outlines the history and issues pretty well. And notes the opposition of "transpartisan" alliances between Congresscritters with large NASA/aerospace presences in their constituencies.


■ At NRO, David French offers Understanding the Media’s Ugly Weekend. The ugliness being the fawning over North Korea and the dictatorship represented by the sister of Kim Jong Un. Examples are provided ad nauseam (and that nauseam bit is a little too literal in my case).

Among the issues.

We can’t pretend for a second that we’d see the same wave of triumphant headlines if Tim Kaine and not Mike Pence were standing, grim-faced, in front of Kim Yo-jong. Instead there’d likely be a bout of moral clarity. “In Icy Stand-off, Kaine Rebukes North Korean Regime.” Even the cheerleaders wouldn’t be spared. “Defectors Detail the Grim Reality Behind the Cheerful Façade.” Reporters are human, and their near-uniform hatred of the Trump administration makes them uniquely vulnerable to false anti-Trump narratives in much the same way that the near-uniform admiration of Obama made them less critical of his blunders and more willing to accept his arguments.

Even the Wall Street Journal was represented in the dictatorial love-in. Et tu, WSJ?


■ And finally, here's Michael Ramirez on the National Debt

I hope he'll do something clever about curling. Man, that is a stupid sport.

URLs du Jour

2018-02-12

■ I believe Proverbs 15:1 is one of the famous ones:

1 A gentle answer turns away wrath,
    but a harsh word stirs up anger.

King James putteth it the way thou may remembereth better: "A soft answer turneth away wrath."

Generally, however, I've found that neither gentle answers nor harsh words work well when "discussing" political issues on Facebook.


■ "Read the whole thing" (RTWT) is usually merely implied in our URLs du Jour items. Occasionally, I'll make it explicit. But I'd like to make an even stronger recommendation now: on a 1-to-10 RTWT scale, The Applied Theory of Bossing People Around by Deirdre Nansen McCloskey at Reason is a solid 10. It discusses the Nobel Prize in Economics given to Richard Thaler for his work in "behavioral finance", which highlights various common fallacies and irrationalities common in individuals.

Yet the politics is clear. Once Thaler has established that you are in myriad ways irrational it's much easier to argue, as he has, vigorously—in his academic research, in popular books, and now in a column for The New York Times—that you are too stupid to be treated as a free adult. You need, in the coinage of Thaler's book, co-authored with the law professor and Obama adviser Cass Sunstein, to be "nudged." Thaler and Sunstein call it "paternalistic libertarianism."

Adam Smith spoke of "the man of system" who "seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board." Thaler and his benevolent friends are men, and some few women, of system. They hate the Chicago School, have never heard of the Austrian School, dismiss spontaneous order, and favor bossing people around—for their own good, understand. Employing the third most unbelievable sentence in English (the other two are "The check is in the mail" and "Of course I'll respect you in the morning"), they declare cheerily, "We're from the government and we're here to help."

I'm a fan of Daniel Kahneman's book, Thinking Fast and Slow, which trod some of the same ground as Thaler's research. I don't think Kahneman made much effort to draw unwarranted public policy recommendations, though.


Granite Grokster Steve MacDonald read last September's "Interim Report" spurred by last May's freakout over Cinco de Mayo ponchos and sombreros at the University Near Here. And notes: Disturbing UNH Campus Climate Report Never Mentions Free Speech.

This entire document can be summarized as follows. People’s feelings were hurt. At UNH, when people’s feelings are hurt our feelings are hurt, and that’s hurtful. We need to stop being hurtful at all cost.

Steve's right; it's awful. Throw enough word salad at a problem, and you'll make it go away? That's the UNH way!

Here's what I left as a comment at GG:

President Huddleston's press release last year (https://www.unh.edu/main/st...) asked for a "Final Report" on this by January 18, 2018.

(Looking at my watch...) Yeah, it's well past that due date. Wonder what's going on?

My (probably overly cynical) guess: they don't want to release it when students are on campus, because local activists will freak out over the lack of submission to their (unhinged) demands. E.g., this from last May: https://www.facebook.com/8P....

We'll keep our eyes open for further developments. Although it's difficult keeping our eyes open when dealing with UNH's rhetorical stylings.


Power Line's Steven Hayward asks the musical question: Is California Starting to Circle the Drain?

I recently became a crime victim for one of the few times in my life. My car was burgled while I was up in the Bay Area on my weekly sojourn to the Peoples Republic of Berkeley. I say “burgled” rather than “broken into,” because there was no smashed window, or picked lock, nor did I leave the car unlocked. Rather, I was the victim of a clever gang of organized car burglars in the Bay Area who are using sophisticated scanners to copy and boost the key-fob signal for recent model keyless entry and ignition cars. Once you latch on to the signal, the car door unlocks at the touch of your hand, as people with such models know. (I learned about this security flaw subsequently as I looked into how this could have happened.) All of the restaurants and retail establishments in my neighborhood have posted printed signs saying “leave no valuables in your car; frequent car thefts in the area.” I have taken electronic countermeasures against this happening again.

Fine, but you should click over for a truly fascinating Twitter tale of how the owner of a SF van rental company tried to get the SFPD interested in the theft of one of his vans. Kafka couldn't have written it better.


[Amazon Link]@kevinNR writes on what's coming sooner than some of us might like: The Crash.

“The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interrèd with their bones.” So must it be with Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, Paul Ryan, Nancy Pelosi, Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Steve Bannon, Sean Hannity, Rachel Maddow, and the lot of them, all the courtiers and jesters and sycophants. They will pass. But the debt is a memento without mori — it is immortal. Like so much else in Washington, it is speeding out of control with no working brakes and no one apparently at the wheel. As Herb Stein famously put it, “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.”

The crash is coming.

I can't wait, because (see his book) it's going to be awesome.


■ Every week, Dan Piraro posts his Bizarro comic panels, which (with Gary Larson in retirement) are probably the funniest comics out there. (He works with a guy named "Wayno", and I'm not sure who does what.)

In between the comics are paragraphs of text, which tend to be tedious, either explanations of the comics for folks who don't "get it" or political (stridently Progressive). Easy to ignore. But I chuckled at this:

Pro tip for artists: If you ever want to draw a turd, use a #2 pencil. If you want to draw urine, use a six-pack of beer.

URLs du Jour

2018-02-11

Proverbs 16:33 grapples with issues with which modern physicists have also wrestled:

33 The lot is cast into the lap,
    but its every decision is from the Lord.

… specifically, I'm thinking of Einstein's well-known quote "God does not play dice with the universe." Which seems, as near as I can tell, to be a punched-up version of what he actually said.

The Proverb is also interesting for the common "Even back in Ancient Israel" reason: Even back in Ancient Israel, they rolled the dice to make decisions when they were otherwise stumped.


■ Matt Welch has a long memory, and (at Reason) he provides a detailed history of How GOP Fiscal Sanity Died, in 7 Easy Steps. Bottom line:

It will be a long time, if ever, before Republican complaints (from anyone not named Paul, Amash, or Massie) about debt, deficits, and federal spending will be met with anything but gales of laughter. The question is more whether anyone besides those three will ever bring the subject up. It's certainly not on the front burner of the party's unchallenged leader. We could soon be in a season where the only alarm bells at Washington's reckless spending will be rung not by national politicians, but by bond traders.

I am failing my usual self-imposed Costello guideline here: I am disgusted by this, and not at all amused.


■ With the first spring training games less than two weeks away (yay!), it's time for George Will to write about some baseball: Play Ball, with Informed Intelligence. One factoid:

Competitive balance exists when every well-run team has a regularly recurring reasonable hope to be among the 10 teams in the post-season. But “regularly recurring” does not mean “uninterrupted.” Change is a baseball constant as veterans’ careers pass their apogees and younger players’ approach theirs. So, cycles of success are, if not inevitable, always the norm. In the previous 25 seasons, 22 of the 30 teams have played in the World Series and 14 have won it. No team has won consecutive World Series since the 1998-2000 Yankees.

Will also explains (convincing my tiny brain) why free agents are having such a tough time finding teams willing to accede to their exorbitant salary demands: statistically speaking, free agency happens when players are on their career's inevitable downslide. (My gut feeling is that David Ortiz was a major exception to this, though.)


Power Line's Paul Mirengoff is rightfully ticked over one aspect of Olympics coverage: Liberal media fawns over Kim Jong Un’s sister.

The young woman in question is one of Kim Jong Un’s closest advisers — “a powerful member of Kim Jong Un’s kitchen cabinet,” as CNN puts it. And the regime she faithfully serves is beyond weird. It starves its own people, operates Nazi-style prison camps, represses political opposition, and executes senior officers and even members of the dictator’s (and his sister’s) own family members in an effort to maintain dictatorial control.

Yes, the "Disgusted/Amused" weathervane has moved back to "Disgusted". Sorry.

But let's try to get back to "Amused" with this reply to a CNN tweet:


■ From our LFOD alert series: the local cell of Commie Radio (aka "New Hampshire Public Radio") clucks its tongue at us: Why is New Hampshire SO Against Having an Income Tax?

It can be a little confusing, especially for someone who's new to the state, like me. And like Mary Douglas, the listener whose question prompted this story. She moved to New Hampshire in 2005.

"Has there been a kind of rhetoric or tone that surprised you," I asked Mary.

"I can’t pin it down to anything. I just wondered why that is. It can’t even be considered and I wondered why. It seems like it might be tied to the 'Live Free or Die' thing, I don’t know," she said.

Seriously, it's a useful history, if you discount the usual slagging of William Loeb and Meldrim Thomson. Here's something I didn't know:

New Hampshire’s state motto wasn’t widespread until Mel Thomson’s tenure. The song “Live Free or Die” comes from “Keep New Hampshire #1” a record filled with songs to promote Mel Thomson’s campaign for a third term.

And, guess what, you can listen to the song on the NHPR page. They say: "It's an earworm. Trust us."

Consumer Alert: do not trust Commie Radio.


Last Modified 2018-02-11 9:06 AM EST

Inheritors of the Earth

How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of Extinction

[Amazon Link]

Recommended by Ronald Bailey in Reason's 2017 Gift Guide, and received from Boston College by the crack Interlibrary Loan team at the University Near Here.

The author, Chris D. Thomas, is a professor of conservation biology at the University of York over there in the United Kingdom. His thesis is refreshingly contrarian: the planet is not (or at least need not be) hurtling toward human-caused ecological doom. Yes, there are problems, but too many self-styled environmentalists have a static way-things-should-be vision based less in science than in sentiment.

Overall, his story views the past and likely future effects of humanity on the biological landscape. Our history is (of course) carnage-filled: ancient humans, the non-gathering hunting components anyway, exterminated a lot of large-mammal species worldwide in a relative eyeblink.

Extinctions are regrettable, of course, and should be (in our modern age) prevented when and where feasible. But they're also natural; implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) failing to view humans as part of nature is an ongoing misperception. Thomas points out that extinctions nearly always happen in a dynamic that increases overall biodiversity, making the resulting system more robust and resilient.

Thomas, therefore, is not to be found on the bandwagon against "invasive species". (You want an example of an invasive species, bunkie? Unless you live in a small region of East Africa, go to the bathroom and look in the mirror.) The invasive-species doomsayers have a static vision of "the way things should be", when actual nature is amazingly dynamic.

Thomas strikes me as the kind of guy you could plop down in the middle of a New Hampshire forest, and he would start rattling off the dozens of species present, where they came from, when they arrived, what's likely in store for them over the coming decades and centuries. He has an engaging and accessible style ("for a Brit"), not averse to being genuinely funny in spots.

Midnight Special

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

Well, first: Why is the movie called Midnight Special? The closing credits feature the traditional folk song , but—trust me—that doesn't answer the question.

It's questions like this that makes me happy to be a skilled Google querier. Here's the answer, such as it is, from writer/director Jeff Nichols:

Q: Let's start with the title, Midnight Special. Why did you decide to call it that?

A: Well to be honest, you know, when I was still developing the story I was just mainly thinking about the genre elements. I hadn't really attached all the personal elements from my life yet, and when I was thinking about it kind of simply as a genre film, it's kind of this badass homage '70's and '80's sci-fi chase movies. I just thought of – I thought of that title and I thought it sounded tough, I thought it sounded cool and I thought it was evocative of the style of film. I wanted it to make it sound like a midnight drive-in movie or something, it just felt kind of muscular, just felt cool. I was a big fan of the song, but there was no real direct connection at that time to the plot, although maybe they kind of crept into my mind through osmosis or something...it's a great song, and I thought it was a cool title.

So… now we know. Sort of. We also know that Jeff is not the kind of guy to just say "I thought it was a cool title" right up front.

The movie, to its credit, starts off on the run: guys named Roy (Michael Shannon) and Lucas (Joel Edgerton) are on the lam with a kid named Alton (Jaeden Lieberher, the hero from It). The cops are in pursuit, an Amber Alert has been issued, …

The movie gradually fills in the answers to all the what's-going-on questions. All is not as it seems. Alton has Strange Powers. Roy is his bio-dad, and whatever their other flaws, he and Lucas have his best interests at heart. And it turns out they're not only on the run from the normal cops, but also a wacky religious cult (led by Sam Shepard in one of his last movies) and the full force of the FBI/CIA/NSA/DHS/etc.

There are a lot of did-not-see-that-coming plot elements. I like those a lot.

All the acting is first-rate. Especially good is Adam Driver in a pre-Kylo Ren role as a sympathetically nerdy NSA analyst. (And I couldn't help but think how much better he is in this role than he is as Kylo Ren.)

URLs du Jour

2018-02-10

Patience

■ YMMV, but I find Proverbs 16:32 a little too pacifistic for my tastes:

32 Better a patient person than a warrior,
    one with self-control than one who takes a city.

Patience has its place—it's one of the Seven Heavenly Virtues after all—but when you need a city taken, I'd recommend the impatient U. S. Army.


■ Robby Soave relates a New Hampshire-related story at Reason: This Sociology Professor Insists Australia Isn't a Country and Failed a Student For Saying Otherwise

A 27-year-old stay-at-home mom taking an online sociology class was shocked to get a failing grade on her final project. She was even more shocked at why she failed: Her professor was convinced that Australia is not a country.

The project required the student, Ashley Arnold, to compare a social norm in America with one in a different country, according to BuzzFeed. Arnold chose Australia. Her instructor, an unidentified professor at Southern New Hampshire University, denied that this was a valid selection.

"Australia is a continent; it is not a country," the professor wrote in an email to Arnold. "That error made it nearly impossible for you to accurately complete your week 2 research outline correctly."

I am not looking to supplement my income, but if I was, it's nice to know that I'm qualified to be a sociology instructor at SNHU. At least better qualified than the ones they hire.


■ Jonah Goldberg's G-File is up at NRO: Politics as the Crow Flies. There's stuff about Rob Porter, but also about Senator Rand Paul, the lonely Senate Republican speaking for fiscal sanity in opposition to the "bipartisan" effort to blow up the federal spending caps.

I have been very hard on Rand Paul over the last year or so, but in this instance, he was on the side of the angels. For the last decade, at least, conservatives have insisted that they were ideologically opposed to precisely the sort of turd burger we saw getting sizzled on the congressional grill this week. Regardless of Paul’s political calculations, his arguments were entirely right. If you passionately insisted that runaway deficit spending was an abomination under Barack Obama, there really is no way you can defend the same thing under Donald Trump. I argued for years that the tea parties were in no small way a delayed backlash against the profligate spending of George W. Bush as much as they were a backlash against Barack Obama. The psychological reasoning boiled down to: “We felt we had to put up with the crap under Bush because of the war or because he was our guy, but we’ll be damned if we’re gonna put up with it from this guy too.”

I hope there are plenty of Libertarians on the ballot in November; I would need a damned good reason to vote Republican again.


■ And, hey, we got a New England-related xkcd comic:

[xkcd on the history of Unicode]

Mouseover text: "Great news for Maine—we're once again an independent state!!! Thanks, @unicode, for ruling in our favor and sending troops to end New Hampshire's annexation. 🙏🚁🎖️""

URLs du Jour

2018-02-09

■ The previous Proverb deduced perversion and evildoing from facial expressions. What can we figure out from … hair color? Proverbs 16:31 tells us:

31 Gray hair is a crown of splendor;
    it is attained in the way of righteousness.

Let's check out our pic du jour … hey, Houston, Proverb 16:31 has been confirmed!


@kevinNR bids Välkommen, Senator McConnell. Varför Svenska, Kevin?

[T]he current Trump-McConnell-Ryan model of Republican economic policy would seem to be moving the United States in a Swedish direction, which would come as a surprise to many of the Trump administration’s progressive critics. It would come as less of a surprise to Trump’s critics on the right, or to those more familiar with the actual ideological orientation of our current right-wing populists and the so-called alt-right allied with the Trump movement. They are “welfare chauvinists” who combine their support for the welfare state, anti-trade policies, etc., with an exclusionary politics focused variously on immigrants (as it is in the United States and the United Kingdom) or on more malicious versions of ethnic or religious minorities. (The Germans still shout “Germany for the Germans!” while Swiss nationalists wink and boast of representing “Swiss quality.”) The alt-right’s rejection of Anglo-American classical liberalism for a more European blood-and-soil-and-welfare conservatism is what distinguishes it from the traditional American Right, which historically has proposed to move the United States in a more Australian direction of lower spending and lower regulation.

The Swedes, however, have the guts to pay for their welfare state. Their top marginal tax rate of 56.9 percent applies to all income over 1.5 times the average income in Sweden. But here in the US of A we prefer to pretend that someone else is gonna pay for the goodies.


■ At Reason, Ken White (we know him as Popehat) provides legal advice to you, me, and President Trump: Donald Trump Shouldn’t Talk to the Feds. And Neither Should You. Why not? If you didn't do anything wrong, isn't the easy solution to just tell the truth?

Some people say, "Well, there's an easy solution—just tell the truth." Casual acquaintance with President Trump suggests that's not an easy solution to him. I'm not saying that he constantly lies consciously and deliberately, but he certainly says untrue things constantly and gratuitously, in the way that characters on Deadwood swear. There's little reason to think he can learn to change for an interview, particularly one with a nemesis who infuriates him.

Anyway, even an honest, circumspect person faces grave peril in such an interview. FBI agents and prosecutors are adept at putting interviewees ill at ease. The pressure is immense. Human memory is fallible, and the interrogators are not disposed to view misremembered statements as accidents. You don't know the significance of everything they are asking you, and most people simply cannot sustain the sort of focus necessary to respond to complicated questions precisely and accurately for a sustained period of time. "Just tell the truth," applied to a complicated interview, assumes that the witness is extraordinarily disciplined and that questioners have an open mind and will act fairly and in good faith. Those assumptions are not warranted.

Good advice, I'll try to remember.


■ Our local media conglomerate profiles the latest effort (spurred by our GOP Governor, no less) to appear trendy: ‘Diversity Speaks NH’ podcast gives voice to inclusion, equality.

Many would say the state of New Hampshire is a novice at diversity work. A newly established council is looking to change that.

Gov. Chris Sununu’s new Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion met for the first time this week. Seacoastonline.com and Fosters.com will chronicle its progress in coming months with a new podcast called “Diversity Speaks NH.”

I generally find that life is too short and busy to listen to podcasts even from people I like. Here's one of the councilcritters:

Allyson Ryder is associate director of Leadership New Hampshire, an organization that increases civic engagement and strengthens communities through connecting and educating a diverse pool of leaders.

Ryder, of North Hampton, identifies as a gay woman and said she’s spent the last decade working for gender and racial equality. She said there’s an outside notion of New Hampshire being a state that is “behind the times, old-fashioned.”

“The more we can do to hear the bias the exists and also simultaneously raising the profile of the acceptance that does inherently exist here in our little state, I just think will help make New Hampshire a more attractive place,” she said. Ryder said she hopes the state can begin to live up to its motto: Live Free or Die.


But shall we ever Live Free of the tedious people who only measure "diversity" by counting the racial/sexual pigeonholes they "identify themselves" into?

■ Finally, Michael Ramirez on Trump's proposed parade:

Trump's Parade for the Military

Stranger in a Strange Land

[Amazon Link]

I've recently re-read some old Heinlein novels that have been re-released in "uncut" versions: Red Planet and The Puppet Masters. And now comes the biggie: Stranger in a Strange Land.

The version originally published in 1961 weighed in at 160 kilowords, cut back at the publisher's insistence from Heinlein's original 220 kilowords. I read it a few years later as an impressionable teen, because I was a Heinlein fanboy. It didn't exactly blow my tiny mind, but I was semi-shocked at all the sex, gratuitous nudity, cannibalism, and its, um, complex attitude toward religion.

And—after all these years—I still had this bit stuck in my head, from one of the book's descriptions of the state of the world:

A colossal campaign opened to sell more sexual organs of plants…

I found it impossible to attend any religious service after that without thinking about the appropriateness of an open and proud display of the sexual organs of plants right in front of all comers. Yes, just a mindworm planted fifty years ago by RAH.

Anyway: Heinlein discorporated in 1988, the original Stranger manuscript was discovered and published in 1991. I have what appears to be a Book Club edition, bought at some point after that, and… it's been sitting unread on my shelf since then, about 25 years. (Sheesh.)

In case you aren't aware of the story: Valentine Michael Smith, or "Mike", is the lone survivor of Earth's first doomed mission to Mars. Adopted as a newborn infant by the Martian "Old Ones", he grows up with their odd notions of time, space, death, and reality. And then he's "rescued" and returned to Earth years later. He's impressively naïve about Terran mores, and also has some interesting mental powers picked up from his alien caregivers.

For some sleazy reason, Earth's government finds it useful to keep Mike under wraps. An intrepid nurse, Jill, and her investigative reporter boyfriend, Ben, uncover the nasty conspiracy. Fortunately, government security doesn't prevent Jill from absconding with Mike, and taking refuge with Jubal Harshaw, who manages to suss out the diplomatic/legal/moral tangles just enough to make Mike a "free man".

And then comes the sex and religion stuff. I see the iconoclastic points Heinlein was trying to make. He's occasionally pretty good at making them. There's a lot of yakking. None of which is particularly realistic-sounding to modern ears; I found myself thinking that it was very similar to how witty people talk in 1940s screwball comedies, turned up to 11.

I can't tell if the extra 60K words improve the book, or just make it longer. In the preface, RAH's widow, Virginia, argues that it's better, and that the publishers agreed.

URLs du Jour

2018-02-08

Proverbs 16:30 takes a side trip into body language interpretation:

30 Whoever winks with their eye is plotting perversity;
    whoever purses their lips is bent on evil.

I'm pretty sure this is an unreliable guideline, but it does give us an opportunity to make fun of Hillary once more in our pic du jour.

"Let me try to make one of those facial expressions that I've observed other humans use to seem 'folksy'. Here goes…"


■ In an entirely predictable taxpayer sellout reported by Peter Suderman at Reason: Senate Reaches Bipartisan Deal to Keep the Government Open By Spending More Money On Everything. Bottom line:

Republican leadership in Congress spent the better part of the Obama years warning that mounting debt posed a dire threat to the nation's future. But now, with control of both chambers of Congress and the White House, it looks likely that the GOP's two most signifcant legislative achievements will be a tax reform law that raises the deficit by $1.5 trillion and a spending deal that increases the federal tab by hundreds of billions more.

With reference to today's Proverb, I'm pretty sure there were plenty of winking eyes and pursed lips in the Senate yesterday.


■ Is our infrastructure "crumbling"? Well, let's ask David Harsanyi. Our Infrastructure Is Not ‘Crumbling.’ Repeat: Our Infrastructure Is Not ‘Crumbling’.

One of the great myths of American politics, no matter who is president and no matter who runs Congress, is that our infrastructure is “crumbling.” Barack Obama repeatedly warned us about our “crumbling infrastructure.” Donald Trump now tells us that our infrastructure is “crumbling.” The next president is going to hatch a giant plan to fix our crumbling infrastructure, as well, because most voters want to believe infrastructure is crumbling.

The infrastructure is not crumbling. Ask someone about infrastructure, and his thoughts will probably wander to the worst pothole-infested road he traverses rather than the hundreds of roads he drives on that are perfectly safe and smooth. That’s human nature.

I must admit, that's where my thoughts wander too, specifically to the stretch of Oak Street between Portland Avenue and Broadway on the Rollinsford/Dover NH boundary line.

But anyway, Harsanyi's article offers a good guideline: if you hear a pol use the phrase "crumbling infrastructure", it's a sign of ignorance or dishonesty. Or maybe both.


■ Or perhaps you're wondering: what does rent control need? At Bloomberg, Megan McArdle answers: Rent Control Needs Retirement, Not a Comeback.

According to the Wall Street Journal, rent control seems to be making a retro comeback. Most forms of intelligent life could be forgiven for asking why.

Serial experimentation with this policy has repeatedly shown the same result. Initially, tenants rejoice, and rent control looks like a victory for the poor over the landlord class. But the stifling of price signals leads to problems. Rent control starts by producing some sort of redistribution, because the people with low rents at the time that controls are imposed tend to be relatively low-income.

Megan makes the point which will probably seem familiar to our readers, anathema to statists: if you want to house people in your city, build more housing. Which means "loosening the legal restrictions and community veto points that make it so hard to add supply."


■ This is a point that (even) some California Democrats are figuring out, as a Wired story relates: A Bid to Solve California’s Housing Crisis Could Redraw How Cities Grow.

Scott Wiener, the California state senator representing San Francisco, has a pretty good idea for how to save the world. In fact, sitting in a coffee shop in his city’s Financial District, Wiener seems downright perplexed that anyone would be against it. Here’s the idea: Build more housing.

So, with his fellow senator Nancy Skinner, he authored a bill, SB 827, that overwrites some metropolitan zoning—putting policies that had been in the hands of cities under the authority of state government—to allow medium-sized multistory and multiunit buildings near transit stops.

This fumbling, limited, step toward letting market forces operate is drawing expected vitriolic opposition from rent-seekers and their political allies. For your amusement:

This isn’t some dry policy fight. The mayor of Berkeley called the bill “a declaration of war against our neighborhoods.” A Los Angeles City Council member said it will make the residential areas he represents in LA’s tony Westside “look like Dubai.” A community organizer in LA wrote that Wiener is a “real estate industry puppet” who supports gentrification and displacement, and compared SB 827 to President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act.

Dubai!

To repeat a point I've made before for Granite Staters: it's easy, but incorrect, to laugh at those reality-challenged, state-obsessed Californians. See the Cato study "Freedom in the 50 States" rankings on land use regulation: California is (sure enough) near-bottom at #48. But New Hampshire is #43.


■ The Google LFOD news alert rang for the latest effort by our statist pols. In the Concord Monitor: Buckle up for new fight in old battle over adult seat belt use in N.H. For folks unfamiliar with the issue: New Hampshire is the only state that doesn't have a law mandating adult seat belt use. And some legislators say…

Democratic Rep. Tim Horrigan of Durham, a co-sponsor of the bill, told the Monitor the state’s “Live Free or Die” motto might be misapplied in this case.

“I think opposing the seat belt law you’re maybe mixing up the slogan and maybe thinking it’s ‘Live Free and Die,’ ” he said

Ho ho! See what he did there?

[Personal note: at the University Near Here, Tim's mom was a great assist to me when I was a grad student, and later a much-admired co-worker.]

Does the Union Leader take a different slant on this? Let's look: NH lawmakers revisit mandatory seatbelt law. Well, at least the article notes that LFOD was quoted by an opponent of the legislation:

“I don’t wear my seatbelt,” [Merrimack Republican state Rep. Dan] Hynes told the House Transportation Committee on Tuesday as it considered House Bill 1259, the first effort since 2009 to introduce a seatbelt law in the Granite State.

“I think it’s a personal choice,” said Hynes. “I have the right in New Hampshire not to do it. We’re the only state in the country that doesn’t require it. That’s even more of a reason for us to continue not requiring it. We shouldn’t be following what the other states do.”

The state’s motto came up several times in the hearing. “Live Free or Die’ is most applicable to this bill,” Hynes said. “It’s right on our license plate … If this bill is passed, it’ll just give police another reason to stop people.”

It's as if some legislators, like Tim, wake up wondering every morning: "How can I use my political power today to shove people around? Uh, for their own good of course."


■ And the Babylon Bee notes that some matters have proceeded to their logical conclusion: Southern Poverty Law Center Adds Itself To List Of Hate Groups

In an update Wednesday to its Hatewatch blog, the Southern Poverty Law Center announced the newest addition to its authoritative list of hate groups: the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“We have identified an organization with a clear history of rank intolerance toward faith communities based solely upon their sincerely held religious convictions,” the statement reads. “This organization has encouraged ostracism and threats toward people, politicians, and businesses that do not adhere to its rigid progressive agenda. It has existed and operated right under our noses for years. It is known as the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).”

I recently reread Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. The above reminded me of a joke therein:

One worm asks another, “Will you marry me?” and the other worm says, “Marry you? I’m your other end!”

URLs du Jour

2018-02-07

■ I think the best way to read Proverbs 16:29 is as a movie plot summary translated from English to Lithuanian and back to English again:

29 A violent person entices their neighbor
    and leads them down a path that is not good.

Examples: Pacific Heights; Lakeview Heights; Arlington Road.


■ At Reason, Eric Boehm describes a pretty good idea: Rand Paul's Plan to Eliminate Government Shutdowns: Automatic 1 Percent Budget Cuts,

Under the terms of Paul's Government Shutdown Prevention Act, which he introduced last month, Congress would agree to ongoing continuing resolutions that would kick-in if a budget was not passed on time. The catch is that the automatic CR would come with an automatic, across-the-board cut of 1 percent for all government agencies. After 90 days, if there is no budget deal, funding would be reduced by another 1 percent.

"Around here, spending 1 percent less ought to be a enough of a punishment to get people to do their jobs and do appropriations on time," Paul said Tuesday during a hearing on his bill. "We know both sides don't want spending to go down. They're all for more spending."

A little gimmicky, but an improvement over the current finger-pointing brinkmanship.


■ If you've been wondering who put the FBI in a bind, David French (at NRO) has a possible answer: American Voters Put the FBI in a Bind.

No one forced primary voters in the Democratic or Republican parties to select two of the sleaziest candidates (and sleaziest campaigns) in modern American history. No one forced Democrats to rally behind a woman whose list of political scandals is older than many Millennials. No one forced Republicans to vote for a guy who praised Vladimir Putin relentlessly and whose near-orbit and medium-orbit featured such luminaries as Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, and Carter Page.

In the face of such sleaze, including sleaze that implicates the Espionage Act or includes alarming contacts with Russian officials, a functioning law enforcement agency in a nation governed by the rule of law will of course investigate. Parties dominated by such sleaze will then invariably clutch their pearls and decry any investigation or action as proof-positive that law enforcement itself is corrupted by their partisan opposition.

Criticizing voters is something you won't hear from politicians—at least the ones who have instincts for self-preservation. And since the pols won't do it, you won't hear cheerleading pundits do it either.

So it remains to lonely iconoclasts like Mencken to point out: "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."

And "we" decided: hey, how about Hillary and Trump?


■ Gregg Easterbrook's final Tuesday Morning Quarterback of the season analyzes the Superb Owl, of course. And that's interesting, but there are also entertaining sidetracks, like…

Bad predictions rule the world! Jeff Sommer shows that Wall Street stock pickers consistently do worse than chance. In recent years Federal Reserve “central tendency” forecasts generally have foreseen more growth than occurs. The overshoot is only by a couple of tenths of a percent. But forecasting more growth than is likely makes the national debt seem less of an issue—a couple of tenths of a percent of growth swings the annual federal deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars. This in turn allows the White House, of either party, to give out goody bags full of borrow-and-spend. Don’t worry, Janet Yellen says there will be no more financial crises in “our lifetimes.” Bear in mind she’s 71.

Easterbrook also belabors the obvious: the NFL needs to rip up its absurdly convoluted definition of "catch". Suggested replacement: "It’s a catch if it looks like a catch." Works for me!

Confession: as a New Englander, I was sorta rooting for the Pats (excuse: "I was a fan even when they sucked.") But the Eagles really had the better game on Sunday.


■ And Elon Musk has our Tweet du Jour:

I retweeted with the comment: "I'm happy I lived long enough to have seen this." And I am.

URLs du Jour

2018-02-06

■ Happy 107th Birthday to Ronald Reagan. There are a lot of articles out there, but I liked Lee Edwards' at the Daily Signal: What Made Reagan a Truly Great Communicator. Full of anecdotes, but here's a tech note:

Here is another “secret” of the Great Communicator. Before his Oval Office talks, an aide would bring the president a glass of water wrapped in a small towel. Why wrapped? Because the water was warm—almost hot—calculated to relax his vocal chords. He had adopted this procedure on the advice of a Hollywood friend who knew something about the voice—Frank Sinatra.

It also helps to have principles.


■ But let us return to our regularly scheduled programming with a look at Proverbs 16:28:

28 A perverse person stirs up conflict,
    and a gossip separates close friends.

Yet another example of the famous Dwight Eisenhower [non]quote: "Things are more like they are right now than they ever have been."


■ At NRO, Frederick Hess and Grant Addison note a recent dreadful Inside Higher Education article describing what happens When College Presidents Mistake Lib-splaining for Conservative Outreach. Using Occidental College's president Jonathan Veitch as an example:

[T]here’s a marked difference between earnest intellectual mentoring and ideologically loaded paternalism. If a college president elects to teach a serious course in conservatism, offer a tutorial on political philosophy, or conduct salons with all politically engaged student groups, terrific. But Veitch is something else entirely: another in a long line of non-conservatives presuming to define what constitutes “acceptable” conservatism. He has taken it upon himself to decide for conservative students which conservative books are worthwhile, what debates “truly matter,” and who the “really smart conservatives” are.

Amusingly, Veitch's "outreach" involved telling his subjects to read Russell Kirk's The Conservative Mind. I read it myself (without it being assigned) back in my teen years; originally written in 1953, it's been updated since, but it's not a great source for understanding 21st century American conservatism.


■ At Reason, Jacob Sullum writes Trump's Critics Worry That He's Undermining Trust in the FBI, As If That's a Bad Thing.

According to a Survey Monkey poll conducted last Thursday and Friday, 38 percent of Republicans have a favorable view of the FBI, compared to 64 percent of Democrats. A "news analysis" in The New York Times blames that counterintuitive partisan divide on Donald Trump, who "has engaged in a scorched-earth assault on the pillars of the criminal justice system in a way that no other occupant of the White House has done." The Times worries that Trump is "tearing at the credibility of some of the most important institutions in American life to save himself."

The charge rings true in the sense that Trump is mendacious and unprincipled, the sort of man who would say anything for political gain. But forgive me if I have trouble feeling bad for the poor FBI. Whatever the merits of Trump's complaints about the investigation of links between his campaign and Russian agents who tried to influence the presidential election, the controversy will do some good if it makes Republicans less inclined to trust the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.

A bonus URL on a related flip-flop: Rick Lowry on the disparate treatment afforded Ken Starr and Robert Mueller.


■ A very long question from Mark J. Perry at AEI: Why is LNG coming 4,500 miles to Boston from the Russian Arctic when the US is the world’s No. 1 natural gas producer? It's a two-part answer, but here's a hint at the first part:

In the past two years, regulatory obstacles have led to the cancellation of two pipeline projects, which is ominous for a region that desperately needs more natural gas to make up for the shutdown of nuclear and coal plants. Moreover, there are those in the region who promote themselves as climate leaders but continually block new gas pipeline capacity.

And also the "relic from the Woodrow Wilson Administration" Jones Act.


■ And the Babylon Bee is, as usual, our go-to source for important religious news: 37 Episcopalians Remaining On Planet Vote To Stop Using Male Pronouns For God.

The last surviving members of the Episcopalian religion voted last week to stop using male pronouns for God, sources at a meeting of the Diocese of Washington, D.C. confirmed.

The 37 remaining Episcopalians on Planet Earth conducted the vote in an effort to make the last three or four Episcopal churches in the country be more inclusive, in the rare case anyone actually showed up to any of their services.

OK, satire. But the actual news on Episcopalianism isn't much different.

The Man Who Knew Infinity

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A Mrs. Salad pick, and it's not bad!

It is the "based on fact" story of the wonderful collaboration between mathematicians G. H. Hardy (played by Jeremy Irons) and Srinivasa Ramanujan (played by Dev Patel). The as-is truth is pretty good: Ramanujan was largely self-taught in mathematics in India, and took to sending his research notes over to England for the recognition that was hard to come by locally. Hardy invited him to Trinity College, where they bumped noggins on all sorts of thorny problems. But Ramanujan grew ill, and moved back to India, and kicked the bucket shortly thereafter.

There are cameos from Bertrand Russell (Jeremy Northam) and John Littlewood (Toby Jones). World War I took place contemporaneously, and that horror is shown, as is the casual expected racism toward Ramanujan by ordinary folk and some of the Trinity faculty. The loneliness of Ramanujan's child bride in India and the posessiveness of his mother also play roles.

It's sort of by-the-numbers (heh) with very good acting. It's pretty brave to make a movie about mathematicians, I suppose. Once you go through John Nash, Alan Turing, and Ramanujan, … I can't think of a lot of stories ripe for moviemaking. Maybe Emmy Noether?

URLs du Jour

2018-02-05

Proverbs 16:27 is not the greatest. No advice, just assertive description.

27 A scoundrel plots evil,
    and on their lips it is like a scorching fire.

Well of course a scoundrel plots evil. That's what they do.

And—oy—again with the lips. The Proverbialist had a thing about lips. Thanks to the Bible Study Tools website, I can tell you that the word "lips" appears 37 times in the Book of Proverbs alone. "Mouth" appears 20 times. Does this evidence some sort of oral fixation?


■ Like me, Daniel J Mitchell is a sucker for quizzes that purport to identify one's "philosophical/political orientation". And should you be in the same boat, he has a bunch of links to ones you can take: Right Wing and Left Wing in a World Driven by Values, Class, and Culture.

He is bemused by a new one that labels him "Genuinely in the Middle", because it asks zero questions on politics. (For the record, it ranked me "Solidly Right-Wing").

Anyway: Mitchell quotes Peggy Noonan on what's driving current political divides:

There are the protected and the unprotected. The protected make public policy. The unprotected live in it. …The protected are the accomplished, the secure, the successful—those who have power or access to it. They are protected from much of the roughness of the world. …They are figures in government, politics and media. They live in nice neighborhoods, safe ones. Their families function, their kids go to good schools, they’ve got some money. All of these things tend to isolate them, or provide buffers. …They’re insulated from many of the effects of their own decisions. …This is a terrible feature of our age—that we are governed by protected people who don’t seem to care that much about their unprotected fellow citizens.

I think there's something to this.

Also: a lot of political rhetoric exploits the fear people have of losing their perceived "protected" status.

More on this, someday, maybe.


■ A trio of NRO writers (Doug Badger, Marie Fishpaw, Michael Needham) look ahead to The GOP’s Coming Obamacare Capitulation.

Since late last year, GOP leaders have been planning to pump tens of billions of dollars’ worth of new federal spending into the veins of insurance companies that are hemorrhaging red ink on the Obamacare exchanges.

The transfusion is expected to be a concoction of two bills. The first, championed by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D., Wash.), would appropriate cost-sharing-reduction payments to insurers. The second, sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins (R., Maine) and Bill Nelson (D., Fla.), would give insurers an additional $10 billion (and perhaps more) in federal cash.

Both bills are a distraction and fail to address the real reasons Obamacare is driving up premium costs and reducing Americans’ insurance options. Republicans would be better off focusing on these problems, rather than diverting their attention to side matters.

Well, sure they would. Will they? Not for nothing do they call it the "Stupid Party".


■ At Reason, Nick Gillespie has more on the memo: "Selective Surveillance Outrage" and "Situational Libertarianism" Isn't Good Enough, Congress!

Somehow, Republicans who typically worship at the cult of the surveillance state are now accusing the FBI of being nothing more than an arm of Hillary Clinton's election effort. And Democrats who screamed bloody murder about Bush-era overreaching are now shocked as hell that anyone anywhere would ever question the sagacity of the national surveillance state.

If our pols and their tribal cheerleaders didn't have double standards, they wouldn't have any at all.


■ On a related matter, the WSJ's James Freeman writes on Obama and the FISA Court. A lot there, and it's probably paywalled, sorry, but this stuck out for me:

Readers concerned about the government’s surveillance authority may be interested to know about one current member of the Intelligence committee who began focusing on this issue all the way back in the George W. Bush administration.

In March of 2007, he announced that he was “deeply troubled” by what he called “abuses of authority” by the FBI in acquiring personal information on U.S. citizens. Over the years, he urged various restrictions on the ability of the executive branch to get information on Americans’ phone calls. In order “to protect privacy and increase transparency” he sought in various ways to reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court—the very court that approved the electronic surveillance of a Trump associate for reasons that are still not entirely clear.

Way ahead of the news, this particular lawmaker specifically introduced the “Ending Secret Law Act” which according to a press release from his office, “would require the Attorney General to declassify significant Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) opinions, allowing Americans to know how the Court has interpreted” its legal authorities.

This lawmaker said that his legislation “will help ensure we have true checks and balances when it comes to the judges who are given the responsibility of overseeing our most sensitive intelligence gathering and national security programs.”

And that man's name was (drumroll) Adam Schiff.


■ An amusing LTE in the Union Leader from Jeffrey Barnes of Deerfield rang the LFOD bell: New to New Hampshire

Although I've been a resident of this state for less than eight weeks, which makes me a carpetbagger, I wonder why the sale of beer occurs at gas stations.

It may be the "Live Free or Die" a slogan that drew me to this state. I'm no teetotaller and I like the quote "A saint is a sinner who lives his best in a world at its worst." Therefore, I'd ask what is the wisdom in selling beer at gas stations? If there is not much wisdom in this current modality, what can be done to fix this situation?

I'm not a politician. I just hate to see alchohol-induced injuries and deaths, court proceedings, and wrecks. I hope I've not offended on what for some is a touchy issue.

Jeffrey, you haven't noticed the state liquor stores with their own turnpike exits?

Anyway, Google does not find any easy answer to which states allow beer to be sold at gas stations. I'm pretty sure it's not just us. I did find this guide for beer snoots: Your Best Gas Station Beers. (Spoiler: Sierra Nevada if possible; Miller High Life a last resort.)

Also this 2009 story: Brewery Draws Ire for Naming Beers After N.J. Turnpike Exits. Yes, some nanny staters are very quick to take humorless offense. Mindy Lazar, executive director of New Jersey's chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, is quoted:

"The combination of a roadway and advertising for any kind of a beer doesn't make any kind of sense," she said. "This is almost a mockery."

Advice to Mindy: if you want to avoid being mocked, don't be ridiculous.

Note that even though the story is from 2009, the Flying Fish Exit Series is still going strong. (Except that as I type "Exit 1 Bayshore Oyster Stout" is unavailable.)

URLs du Jour

2018-02-04

Alice Cooper Aug 09-14

■ Happy birthday to you, Alice Cooper, 70 years young today. And still looking as cadaverous as you did in the 70s!

You might want to cut back on your driving, though.


Proverbs 16:26 notes economic motivation back in Ancient Israel:

26 The appetite of laborers works for them;
    their hunger drives them on.

I don't think the Proverbialist meant this in any metaphorical sense.


■ Mary Katherine Ham provides a tutorial for the sports-ignorant PBS fan: Football 101: The ‘Downton Abbey’ Guide To The Super Bowl. In understandable terms…

In football, a touchdown happens when the offense advances the ball all the way down the field using its downs, and by either passing the ball or running, gets the ball into the end zone. A touchdown is worth 6 points, and is the object of much strategy by the entire team.

On “Downton,” the focus of much of the characters’ lives is a suitable marriage, on which hangs the fate of entire families, great fortunes, and the plot of the whole show.

It all makes sense, eventually.


■ At Reason, Tate Watkins is rightfully peeved at the self-interested rent-seeking moralism of a corporate behemoth: The Puffy Coat Makers at Patagonia Want You to Subsidize Their Rich Customers.

"The President Stole Your Land." That was the message, in stark white letters against a black background, that replaced the usual bright-colored images of puffy jackets and backpacks on the outdoor retailer Patagonia's website last month. "In an illegal move," the text continued, "the president just reduced the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. This is the largest elimination of protected land in American history."

The pop-up was probably jarring for anyone browsing to buy a thermal base layer. It was also inaccurate. Even if the administration's monument reductions survive legal challenges, the area in question wasn't "stolen" from the public: It remains federally owned public land.

Watkins notes that, generally, user fees cover only a fraction of the cost of maintaining unspoilt playgrounds for the well-off. The Rest Of Us pay for their E tickets.


■ At Power Line, a provocative headline from John Hinderaker: Politifact Exposed. Actually, they exposed themselves (but get that filthy image out of your head):

PolitiFact is a liberal “fact checking” operation that serves the Democratic Party by pretending to be credible and non-partisan. To further its mission of providing unbiased “fact checking,” it hired former Florida representative Alan Grayson, perhaps the most despicable Congressman of modern times.

We haven't said anything about Alan Grayson in the entire history of Pun Salad, because he was too easy a target. The amusement inherent in pointing out an unhinged, lying, demagogue is limited. But Hinderaker has the goods, if you'd like to see them.

Eventually (after "about three seconds") Politifact realized that giving Grayson a job in purported "fact-checking" was damaging their pretense of credible objectivity. But:

But one more point is relevant: PolitiFact apparently set out to hire a Democrat and a Republican to join their “fact checking” team. The Democrat was Grayson; they are going back to the drawing board on that one. But the Republican was David Jolly, who, like Grayson, was briefly a Congressman from Florida.

And Jolly is a "prominent Republican critic of U.S. President Donald Trump."

Yes: Politifact's idea of even-handedness is to hire both Democrat and Republican Trump-haters.


■ George Will reports: All Economic News Is Bad News. Wha? Well:

All news is economic news, because everything affects the economy, or reveals attitudes or behaviors that soon will affect it. And all economic news is bad — especially good economic news, because it gives rise to bad behavior.

I like that. I don't know if it's true, but still.

Consider this recent Wall Street Journal front-page headline: “Americans Save Less As Good Times Roll.” The story began: “Soaring stock prices and improving job prospects” — good news? good grief — “have set Americans off on a spending splurge that is cutting into how much they sock away for retirement and rainy days.” Between 2008 and the third quarter of 2017, the net worth of U.S. households surged from $56 trillion to $97 trillion (good news? remember, that’s an oxymoron) but “previous busts — in the mid-2000s and the late 1990s — were preceded by periods of rising asset values and especially low saving.”

America—both its government and its citizenry—is fiscally imprudent. It's difficult to see how this ends well.

URLs du Jour

2018-02-03

J0 - the master definition of 'A
Job' and the acid test for 'Full Employment'

■ At first glance Proverbs 16:25 would appear to be a top candidate for the "Least Helpful Proverb Ever" award:

25 There is a way that appears to be right,
    but in the end it leads to death.

Or could this just be the Proverbialist's macabre method of reminding his audience that all ways eventually lead to death? Might as well pick the one that appears to be right. Right?


■ Hey, how about that memo. Looking for sensible commentary? YMMV, but I'll go with Nick Gillespie at Reason: If You Think The Nunes Memo Will 'Discredit' FBI and DOJ, You Haven't Been Paying Attention For the Past 50 Years.

[Ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee Adam] Schiff [D] is claiming that [House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin] Nunes [R] is acting only out of political interest, a charge that mirrors what Nunes is saying about the FBI and the Department of Justice. They are both almost surely correct. But those of us who actually care about proper governance would do well to think back to, I don't know, a few months before the 2016 election, when then-director of the FBI James Comey, appointed by Barack Obama, laid out a devastating case against Candidate Clinton...before saying he wouldn't recommend bringing charges against her.

As Gillespie pointed out, Comey admitted at the time that normal Americans would likely be strung up for the actions he was letting Hillary skate by.


■ At NRO, Jim "Indispensable" Geraghty has thoughts on the recent Koch brothers confab and The Inadvertently Libertarian Trump. Main point: those who despise both Trump and the libertarian Kochs have serious difficulties in distinguishing between them.

The Koch agenda aligns with Trump’s on the surface, but strongly contradicts it in some key policy areas. The Kochs fought the proposed Border Adjustment Tax tooth and nail last year, criticized the so-called Muslim ban, and aren’t supportive of reducing future levels of legal immigration. Charles Koch periodically refers to the need to recognize the dignity in all human beings and to treat them with that dignity. Whatever you think of the Trump presidency, it is safe to declare that “treat everyone with dignity” is not its mantra.

Geraghty points out that Trump, no doubt "inadvertently", has been a more libertarian president than any libertarian dared hope. [But not appearing in the article: Jeff Sessions.]


■ And the Valley News was not amused at a recent poor turnout in Concord: Too Many No-Shows at N.H. Statehouse Harassment Seminar.

Credit New Hampshire House Speaker Gene Chandler, a Republican from Bartlett, for finding the time to attend Wednesday morning’s sexual harassment prevention training session for state lawmakers in the House chamber — something close to 90 percent of them failed to do.

Alternatively: credit the no-shows for having the sense to avoid a time-wasting harangue that assumes they need instruction from their moral superiors about how to behave decently toward the opposite sex.

Ah, but:

In fairness to those hundreds of lawmakers who did not attend the hourlong training seminar, it was optional — as befits the Live Free or Die state, we suppose. Other hurdles to attendance included a starting time of 8:30 a.m., an hour before most legislators usually get to the Statehouse; a full legislative calendar that day; and too-short notice (House members learned of the session in an email the Friday before; senators received their invitation only the day before).

Ah, yes. If not for LFOD, we could make these secular sermonizing sessions mandatory.


■ An amusing video showing (otherwise) smart contestants going 0-for-5 in a recent Jeopardy! football category:

Not to boast—and it wouldn't be that much of a boast anyway—but I knew every correct response in that category. Even the last one, thanks to my minor fanhood for the Minnesota Vikings in my youth. As Mrs. Salad will attest, I was yelling at the screen. "Put me in, coach!"

URLs du Jour

2018-02-02

Groundhog Day

■ Happy Groundhog Day, everyone! As Bill Murray put it: "A thousand people freezing their butts off waiting to worship a rat. What a hype."

We are getting snow at Pun Salad World Headquarters, so the rat would not see his shadow here this morning.


Proverbs 16:24 has some indirect advice…

24 Gracious words are a honeycomb,
    sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

… generally ignored by politicians, pundits, commenters.


■ Speaking of ignored advice, Colin Grabow has some at Cato: It’s Time to Put the Farm Bill Out to Pasture

Some Americans may be surprised to learn that agriculture in their country is in large part based on a five-year plan. Most commonly referred to as the farm bill, it is up for renewal this year and—just like in years past—is likely to produce a legislative morass in which the primary beneficiaries are lobbyists and the business interests they serve.

Grabow urges pols to (1) take a machete to "the thicket of subsidies and price supports"; (2) break up the gargantuan legislation into smaller bits; (3) spend their resources trying to open up foreign markets for US agricultural products.

All good ideas, none of which will happen.


@kevinNR asks the musical question: Why Free Markets? RTWT, of course, but here's a sample:

The “why” of free markets is the same as the “how”—in short: brainpower.

People have problems. For a couple of hundred thousand years, the main ones were finding things to eat and finding ways to keep from being eaten. Yes, Comcast and Apple, Whole Foods and Walmart, Coca-Cola and those $36.99 bottles of “raw water” that Silicon Valley types with too much money are shelling out for all are the products of the same consumer-driven capitalism — but, love it or hate it, most of our ancestors would have considered themselves rich beyond imagining if they came into ownership of the contents of a 7-Eleven. Life before capitalism was solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, short, and lacking in avocado toast.

Confession: never had avocado toast. Somewhat unsurprisingly, this place has it on their menu (for $12), and … dammit, now I'm hungry.


■ A site called Farnam Street has news you can use about The Feynman Technique: The Best Way to Learn Anything. And here it is, you're welcome, check the article for deets:

  1. Choose a Concept
  2. Teach it to a Toddler
  3. Identify Gaps and Go Back to The Source Material
  4. Review and Simplify (optional)

Did I tell you I met Feynman once? I met Feynman once.


■ The LFOD alert rang for an article in the Los Angeles Sentinel by one "Dr. Maulana Karenga". Still on the Battlefield with Boukman: Remembrance, Religion, Resistance and Revolution.

And it's pretty tedious:

As we come to the end of January and move swiftly into February, the month when we focus most intensely on our history as a world community of African people, let us bridge the months by linking discussions of the Haitian Revolution and how we might better grasp and live the legacy of righteous and relentless struggle it offers us and the world. For January is the month of the celebration of Haitian Independence, the Haitian Revolution and the awesome and world-impactful liberation struggle the Haitian people waged to achieve this.

Yeah, well, where's the LFOD? Ah, here it is:

At the center of the sacred narrative of the Haitian Revolution and liberation struggle is the decisive meeting at Bwa Kayiman presided over by the Hougan (High Priest of Vodou) Dutty Boukman and the Mambo (High Priestess of Vodou) Cécile Fatiman. On August 14, 1791, they called the people together at this historic site to conduct a sacred ceremony to free the people’s minds; strengthen their will to struggle for freedom; reaffirm their rightful belief in a Beneficent God of liberation who would guide and assist them; and to commit all to wage the struggle for liberation until it was won—regardless of cost, casualties and the sacrifices required. They took an oath to live free or dieviv lib o mouri!

That's the motto in Haitian Creole, Granite Staters. Inspiring, but the denouement in Haiti was pretty grim. It is unclear how much of this "Dr. Maulana Karenga" considers to be "awesome" and "sacred".

URLs du Jour

2018-02-01

■ An anatomy lesson today from Proverbs 16:23:

23 The hearts of the wise make their mouths prudent,
    and their lips promote instruction.

I think the King James Version says it better:

The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips.

… but try saying it without sounding as if you're lisping.

Yes, by stupid modern standards, the KJV is irredeemably sexist.


■ At Cato, Randal O'Toole looks at what President Trump had to say about the State of the Union’s Infrastructure.

Remember America’s crumbling infrastructure that supposedly needs trillions of dollars for maintenance and rehabilitation? President Trump doesn’t. Instead, the seven sentences in his State of the Union speech that focused on infrastructure talked about building “gleaming new” projects rather than fixing existing systems.

The only news is that he is upping the ante from $1.0 trillion to “at least $1.5 trillion.” More disturbingly, other than mentioning an “infrastructure deficit” – which could just as easily be interpreted to mean a shortage of new infrastructure as a deficit in maintenance – Trump said nothing about fixing existing infrastructure. Instead, he wants to “build gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways, and waterways.”

O'Toole offers a different vision of what we really need: better funding systems for local infrastructure, and less sentiment about "railways and waterways".

And, please, no "gleaming". That gleam wears off quickly.


■ At Reason, Eric Boehm asks: What About the Debt? Trump's SOTU Ignores a $20 Trillion Time Bomb.

He did not once utter the words "debt" or "entitlement." The only mention of "deficit" came in reference to America's supposed "infrastructure deficit"—in other words, it came in a call for even more government spending. Trump did reference the "sequester," a colloquial name for the 2013 budget act instituting limited cuts in discretionary spending, but only long enough to call it "dangerous" and to ask for Congress to repeal it so more tax money can be shoveled into the Pentagon.

In both parties, the perception is that advocating entitlement reform courts electoral disaster. The Democrat playbook involves postulating some sort of GOP secret plan to yank away Social Security, Medicare, etc.; but that would involve Republicans actually having (1) principles and (2) courage, facts not in current evidence.


■ "What the New York Times Gets Wrong about X" would seem to be a productive headline for many values of X. At NRO, David French tries out: What the New York Times Gets Wrong about Conscience. He quotes from a recent editorial ("The White House Puts the Bible Before the Hippocratic Oath"), and I've helpfully enlarged the key word:

Freedom of religion is essential — and so is access to health care. Current law tries to accommodate both, but the far right has stirred unfounded fears that religion (and Christianity in particular) is under assault, and that people of faith are in danger of being forced to do things they find morally objectionable. “Patient-centered care” is an important goal in clinical training today, but the administration is instead proposing provider-centered care.

French makes the point:

This paragraph is a perfect example of the principle that when it comes to discussions of civil liberties, never read anything before the “but.” Civil libertarians are wearily familiar with hearing would-be censors and authoritarians declare, “I believe in religious liberty, but . . . ” or “I believe in free speech, but . . . ” — and what comes after the but is invariably the exception that swallows the rule.

Previous big "but"s noticed by Pun Salad here, here, here, here, and here.

I've embarked on a Heinlein-rereading project, which will probably not end before I do. But this reminds me of a Lazarus Long quote from Time Enough for Love:

The correct way to punctuate a sentence that states: "Of course it is none of my business, but -- " is to place a period after the word "but." Don't use excessive force in supplying such a moron with a period. Cutting his throat is only a momentary pleasure and is bound to get you talked about.

Not really relevant to French's article; I still like it.


■ A (mostly) non-political URL from Mental Floss, noting how the US was self-handicapped in the early days of spaceflight: The Secret Cold War History of the Missile That Launched America's First Satellite. You may know that was Explorer I, launched by the Army's Jupiter-C rocket, months after the Soviets launched Sputnik I.

What happened?

[General John Medaris, commander of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency in Huntsville, Alabama] was working under heavy restrictions against stiff competition. In 1956, the Secretary of Defense, Charlie Erwin Wilson, had issued an edict expressly forbidding the Army from even planning to build, let alone employ, long-range missiles "or for any other missiles with ranges beyond 200 miles." Land-based intermediate- and long-range ballistic missiles were now to be the sole responsibility of the Air Force, while the Navy had authority for the sea-launched variety.

Huntsville had the ultra-competent ex-Nazi Wernher von Braun. Restricting him to 200-mile rockets was like making David Ortiz use a 20-inch baseball bat.