URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 14:14 strikes an optimistic note of eventual justice:

    14 The faithless will be fully repaid for their ways,
        and the good rewarded for theirs.

    I've said this before, but: to quote the last words of a book I've never read, "Isn't it pretty to think so?"

  • Joshua Holdenried writes at the Daily Signal of The Key Difference Between Conservatives and Libertarians, and Why It Matters. Let it be said that Joshua is a conservative. I think this paragraph encapsulates what he sees as "key":

    Despite our ongoing political alliance, it is becoming increasingly difficult for conservatives and libertarians to agree on the purpose of politics. Libertarians offer a reductionist solution that can be appealing in its clarity and in its conformity to liberal cultural norms. Questions over personal character, moral duty, and civic obligations are reduced to the singular doctrine of “live and let live.”

    I've described myself as a Schrödinger's-Cat conservative/libertarian; on a number of issues, I don't even know myself from day to day where I'm likely to land. Usually it's on the side of whatever plausible position I've read most recently.

    That said, I think Holdenried tends to oversimplify libertarian thought in this area. Consider the last two quoted sentences: can you imagine a libertarian accepting that as an accurate statement of his position?

    To be fair, it's also easy to imagine a libertarian oversimplifying conservative positions in a similar way.

  • I had never heard of "The Lost Kitchen" restaurant before, but this is kind of interesting: This famously remote Maine restaurant now only accepts reservations via mail

    When The Lost Kitchen (TLK), a 40-seat restaurant in a remote Maine town, opened for reservations last year, it received 10,000 calls in 24 hours, thanks in part to attention it received from national publications like Tastemade and Martha Stewart Living.

    This year, TLK owner Erin French will try something unconventional. Instead of taking reservations online or by phone, those interested in dining at the restaurant in 2018 must send their requests by mail.

    That's snail mail, gourmands.

    TLK is in Freedom, Maine, which is not that remote. The writer probably means "darn far from Maine places I usually go to". I suggest a trip to Baxter State Park for him.

  • At last, we have directions. How To Argue On The Internet: A Step-By-Step Guide. From the Babylon Bee, so… Step the first:

    1.) Do background research on your opponents’ position by finding lots of memes that reinforce your worldview. Whatever you do, don’t do any actual research into what your opponent actually believes and why. This might humanize them. Instead, create a wild straw-man caricature of their beliefs by looking up a bunch of memes designed to make their worldview look stupid and your worldview look awesome.

    I hope to follow this guide more closely in the future.

  • And finally, Greg Dennis of the Addison County [Vermont] Independent reports on scoring An interview with President Trump

    MIDDLEBURY AIRPORT, April 1, 2018 — Here’s a lightly edited transcript of my recent conversation with President Donald Trump.

    GD: Thanks for stopping on the Middlebury airport tarmac for an interview today.

    DT: Of course. It’s great to be back in New Hampshire. “Live free or die” and all that.

    GD: Actually, sir, you’re in Vermont.

    DT: Great place, Vermont. I won the primary here by the biggest margin anyone has ever won an election.

    Lest you (1) run off to Google to find the Vermont primary results (Trump won, but only by edging John Kasich 32.7% to 30.4%; meanwhile on the Democrat side, Bernie whacked Hillary 86.1%-13.6%) or (2) start wondering if Air Force One really landed at the Middlebury Airport…

    Yes, check the date on the article. And, yes, I got this article via a Google LFOD News alert.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 14:13 is another downer:

    13 Even in laughter the heart may ache,
        and rejoicing may end in grief.

    Still, other things being equal, I recommend laughter and rejoicing over the alternative.

  • At the Independent Institute's Beacon, Robert Higgs writes On Socialism’s Rhetorical Appeal.

    Socialism’s appeal has always lain primarily in its vision of living in a fantasy land, a land of lollipops and lemonade, a land where everyone has plenty and all have the same. Aside from the utter impossibility of attaining such abundance without private property and free markets, this vision has a fatal element of abstraction from the realities of the Iron Law of Oligarchy. It declares that “society” or “the community” will own all the means of production, but in reality this communal ownership always boils down to de facto ownership by a political elite with untrammeled power and a determination to obliterate individual rights, first private property rights, then all other rights, including the entire litany of civil rights. Socialism is a mythical, impossible ideal employed as a rhetorical enticement to mobilize large groups in favor of collective action that leads ultimately if not immediately to their own enslavement. That so many young people in the West now regard socialism as the most desirable form of political economy is a tragedy in the making.

    Or, in a nutshell, the childish socialist dream of economic equality demands a nightmarish reality: massive inequality of coercive power.

  • Chris Edwards writes at The Hill about the Omnibus: Dems take GOP — and future generations — to the cleaners.

    The 2,232-page omnibus spending deal signed into law last week threw fiscal sanity out the window. While entitlement spending has continued to grow, the relative restraint in discretionary spending had provided hope that federal budget control was possible.

    But that hope is now dashed under this president and Congress. The omnibus hiked discretionary spending 13 percent in a single year, while scraping the budget caps that were the singular achievement of reformers after the landmark 2010 election.

    It's easy to blame "our" elected officials, but hey, guess who put 'em there? That's right: "we" did.

  • But some Republicans are pushing for a constitutional "Balanced Budget Amendment". That's good, right? No. At NR, Charles C. W. Cooke makes a point succinctly in his headline: If a Balanced Budget Amendment Could Pass, We Wouldn’t Need One.

    As usual, I am deeply, deeply skeptical. It’s not that I’m opposed to it in principle; I’m not, although if we’re going to have a government that does what ours does there are some excellent arguments against permanently depriving Congress of the power to run a deficit. Rather, it’s that if a proposal such as this had the requisite support, it wouldn’t be necessary in the first place. The federal government routinely fails to balance its budget because Congress does not want to balance the budget. And Congress does not want to balance the budget because voters do not want to balance the budget. Or, more accurately, they don’t want to do what would be necessary in order to do so. There are, in truth, very few fiscal hawks in Washington — or in the country at large. Some politicians want to cut taxes; others want to increase social spending; yet more want to increase defense spending. Rare is the elected official who wants to increase taxes and slash spending, and those that do exist would probably be kicked out of office if they actually managed to do it. That — not for lack of a constitutional mandate — is why spending is out of control. Nobody will touch entitlements. Nobody will jack up taxes. Nobody will even defund NPR.

    It's insanity, but it's a widely shared insanity.

  • We had a lot of action from the Google LFOD alert lately. For example, Democrat (and former speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives) Terie Norelli in the Concord Monitor uses it to argue: Safe, affordable abortion access is crucial to women’s health care.

    Before Mike Pence’s visit to New Hampshire to fund raise with Gov. Chris Sununu, the vice president shared his belief that legal protections for abortion would end in his lifetime. His foreboding claim is, unfortunately, largely indicative of a growing resurgence of the anti-choice movement that’s taken place since President Donald Trump’s election. Even worse, it’s become clear that the New Hampshire Republican Party is not immune. In the past year and a half, Gov. Sununu and his party seem to have willingly forgotten our state’s “Live Free or Die” creed in their mad dash to support or silently accept restrictive abortion legislation.

    Terie believes LFOD implies "taxpayers must pay for abortion". It's a very flexible motto for Democrats.

  • Down in the Ozarks, Bret Burquest writes for Areawide News on a New State Motto for Arkansas. And LFOD is cited…

    Every state in America has a state motto. They tend to be inspirational catchwords, brief yet powerful, no doubt meant to inspire the populace to greatness.

    The mottos are heavy on truth, justice and the American way – much like Superman without the blue tights, red cape and the need to masquerade as a mild-mannered reporter.

    The most famous state motto is New Hampshire – “Live free or die.” It leaves little doubt where the citizens of the Granite State stand on various issues. Being a wimpy outsider in New Hampshire is a lot like going to a clown convention in full costume and accidentally showing up at a Sicilian funeral for a guy named Big Tony the Enforcer – you tend to be noticed.

    Mr. Burquest has amusing insights on other state mottos, and suggestions for improvements. I quibble with the following, though:

    The smallest state in the Union, Rhode Island, has the shortest motto – “Hope." There's nothing wrong with being small or short, however calling yourself an island when you are surrounded on two sides by land is either a sign of ignorance or a sign of wishful thinking, also called hope.

    Maps show that it's more accurate to describe Rhode "Island" being surrounded on three sides by land, since it has a lot of real estate on the other side of Narragansett Bay.

    And, if you're interested, this article on the origins of the "Rhode Island" name will almost certainly tell you more than you want to know about it.

  • And finally, ArtSlant mentions LFOD in Ali Fitzgerald's article: Clash of Political Visuals Part Two. It's part of "a blog and visual diary" which promises to "explore France’s evolving visual relationship to propaganda, looking deeply at aesthetics of nationalism and politicized otherness." Lest there be any doubt where Ali is coming from:

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we forge the symbols and icons of resistance. Last week, during the March for Our Lives, images of Parkland High School student and gun control activist Emma Gonzalez circulated which recall older, lionizing posters of resistance fighters. In fact, her frontal, defiant pose resembles several wartime depictions of Joan of Arc.

    … with illustration. But LFOD comes up too, in a WW2 French Resistance poster:

    [Vivre libre ou mourir]

    We've noted that French Connection before.

    Ali makes no connection between today's gun-grabbers and those of the past:

    SS chief Heinrich Himmler decreed that 20 years be served in a concentration camp by any Jew possessing a firearm. Rusty revolvers and bayonets from the Great War were confiscated from Jewish veterans who had served with distinction. Twenty thousand Jewish men were thrown into concentration camps, and had to pay ransoms to get released.

    The U.S. media covered the above events. And when France fell to Nazi invasion in 1940, the New York Times reported that the French were deprived of rights such as free speech and firearm possession just as the Germans had been. Frenchmen who failed to surrender their firearms within 24 hours were subject to the death penalty.

    So there's no serious effort made to imagine how French Resistance fighters would have felt about modern efforts to disarm the citizenry. That would complicate the narrative.

    Also, not that it matters, but: Amazon returns some really bizarre and disturbing products when you search for "vivre libre ou mourir".

Last Modified 2018-03-30 7:03 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 14:12 is not something you want to extract from your fortune cookie:

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

    Thanks a lot, Proverbialist. Really helpful, there.

  • For years, I've admired the writing of Kevin Williamson. (And I'm mostly in agreement with his points. Even to the extent that when we disagree, I start from the presumption that I'm in the wrong.) Now he's moving from National Review to The Atlantic. And (as David French notes in NR) we are now in for The Sliming of Kevin Williamson.

    Once again a prestige media publication — in this case, The Atlantic — has hired a conservative writer and suffered immediate, furious backlash. Once again, the publication’s leadership is explaining itself to its own staff. The New York Times’ Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss have faced their own internal and external wannabe firing squads. The Washington Post endured a mini-tempest when it hired Megan McArdle.

    Now it’s Kevin Williamson’s turn. Kevin was our much-beloved and much-respected “roving correspondent.” He’s supremely talented and undeniably provocative. He’s also incredibly prolific. He’s written millions of words, granted countless media interviews, and sent thousands of tweets (at least when he was still on Twitter). So of course he’s now subject to the unbelievably tedious “gotcha” exercise of angry progressives combing through that body of work, yanking the most irritating examples from the whole, and attempting to define Kevin entirely through a few paragraphs, a sentence here or there, or an ill-considered tweet or two.

    Invariably out of context, I might add. I hope the Atlantic will set up a Kevin-only RSS feed.

  • At the Washington Examiner, Hans von Spakovsky notes the hubbub over the inclusion of an "Are you a citizen" question in the 2020 census. And notes: Only in the US is it controversial for the census to ask about citizenship.

    We have also been in the midst of a contentious debate for more than a decade about immigration. To have an informed debate, shouldn’t we have accurate information about the citizen/noncitizen population of the country? In fact, even the United Nations recommends that its member countries ask a citizenship question on their census surveys, and countries ranging from Australia to Germany to Indonesia all ask this question. Only in the U.S. is this considered at all controversial — and it shouldn’t be.

    Speculation: as with voter fraud, citizenship is an area where Progressives want us to be as ignorant of the facts as possible. Even to the extent of throwing up roadblocks against discovering what the facts are.

  • At the Free Beacon, Elizabeth Harrington notes the latest waste of your tax money: Feds Spend $999,951 Getting Kids to Scold Parents Into Using Less Energy.

    The National Science Foundation is spending roughly $1 million to study ways to use children as a means to get their parents to use less energy.

    The Oregon State University study seeks to change "hearts and minds," and deploys Red Guard Girl Scout troops in an array of interventions aimed at "behavioral modifications."

    Obviously the NSF has at least $1 million too much money.

  • And (hooray) it is Opening Day today, and if you can evade the paywall, the WaPo will let you take George Will’s 2018 Opening Day Quiz.

    Question 15 should be easy for fans residing in a Certain Area:

    [Who] Is the only non-Yankee with 500 home runs and three championships.

    Yeah, I remember that guy fondly.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 14:11 is probably not meant to be taken literally, but…

    11 The house of the wicked will be destroyed,
        but the tent of the upright will flourish.

    You'll know the wicked have been defeated when we're all living in tents, pitched among the ruins of their destroyed houses. They'll be nice tents. They'll be the best tents ever. After a while, you be sick of the tents, you'll go "Please, please, could we get a slightly less flourishing tent?"

  • At NR, Kyle Smith breathes a sigh of relief: At Last, Honesty from the Left about Hating the Second Amendment.

    I don’t think conservatives realize just how huge a win it is for our side that the Left has finally been smoked out on the Second Amendment. Progressives are finally coming clean about how much they hate it, and wish to see it repealed. Good luck with that.

    The essence of the Left is that they must always be pushing on toward some previously unthinkable social goal; once upon a time it was racial equity and, starting in the 1990s, gay marriage. Gradually the position of the most dreamy-eyed among them takes hold with the most left-wing officials in the safest seats, then spreads out to become dogma for the Democratic party as a whole. The gun debate is, for the Left, moving very quickly away from the reasonable center. Having first center-right columnist Bret Stephens then retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens (who was appointed by Gerald Ford and hence can be labeled s a “Republican appointee” though he was notoriously left-wing) call for repealing the Second Amendment in the New York Times is a godsend for Second Amendment fans. Check social media and you will find wild, unrestrained cheering on the bicoastal Left for the idea of repealing the Second Amendment. This is the party’s fervent base, and their views have a way of steering the party due to their cultural influence and their ties to the fund-raising apparatus of the party.

    It would be smart for the GOP to… OK, I realize the unlikelihood of what I just typed there, but anyway… It would be smart for the GOP to get every Democrat up for election to commit themselves on this issue.

  • At the Federalist, David Harsanyi advises the aforementioned retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens: You Can Try To Repeal The Second Amendment, But You Can’t Repeal History.

    Whether repeal of the Second Amendment is feasible or not, historical revisionism is meant to mangle its meaning into irrelevancy.  Stevens claims that his conception of gun rights is “uniformly understood,” yet offers no legal precedent to back the contention up. Stevens claims the Second Amendment’s explicit mention of “the right of the people” does not create an “individual right” despite the inconvenient fact that other times the term is mentioned — in the Fourth, Ninth, and 10th Amendments — they have been found to do exactly that.

    Now, I’m not a legal scholar, but the idea, as the former justice argues, that the Founders wanted no limits on the ability of federal or state authorities to take weapons from law-abiding citizens conflicts with the historical record. Never once in the founding debate did a lawmaker rise to argue that gun ownership should be limited. Most state constitutions already featured language to protect that right. A number states demanded that the national constitution include such a provision, as well.

    [Amazon Link]

    Four years ago, Stevens wrote a book (link at right) advocating a Second Amendment repeal-and-replace. Which contained, as Cato's Trevor Burris pointed out, a common "grevious error" in describing weaponry used in mass shootings. Gun ignorance never stopped John Paul from ruling on matters concerning them.

    Now apparently he's just going for repeal.

  • Reason brings out a print-edition article by Eric Boehm: Gerrymandering Is Out of Control. (Could have really used an exclamation point in the headline, but that would be too unReasonable. Get it?) Boehm relates the recent history, if you're interested, of the Pennsylvania redistricting battles. And there's math:

    Various methods for calculating compactness have been proposed. The Polsby-Popper system, invented by two lawyers in the 1990s, compares the ratio of a district's area against a theoretical circle with the same circumference as the district's perimeter. That ratio indicates how much the district is indented on a scale of zero to one. The national average for a district is about 0.223, but the infamous Pennsylvania 7th scored just a 0.041, making it one of the least compact districts in the country.

    There are other methods for measuring compactness as well. The Schwartzberg score is similar to Polsby-Popper, except it's the ratio of a district's perimeter measured against the circumference a circle whose area is equal to the district's. The Reock score requires drawing the smallest possible circle that would encompass all points of a district, then comparing the area of the circle to the area of the district.

    But as I've said before (and tiresomely): the "fairness" problem isn't so much a matter of district line-drawing, but about the winner-take-all feature of elections: voters backing the candidate with a winning plurality get 100% of the representation they desire; other voters get nada. So (once again), I recommend my article from last year: Pun Salad Crackpot Proposal: Congressional "Fairness" Reform.

  • And my Google LFOD alert rang for an article in—whoa!—the Socialist Worker, which is published by the International Socialist Organization: Trump's cruel stunt in a state full of suffering. And that state full of suffering is … New Hampshire! Ohmigod!

    Standing before a handpicked crowd of supporters, local politicians and law enforcement officials in Manchester, New Hampshire, Donald Trump outlined his vision for combatting the opioid crisis. And combative it was.

    Instead of throwing his support behind the growing calls to treat the epidemic as a public health crisis, Trump made clear his intention to launch a revamped war on drugs.

    Here's the first thing that sprang to my mind: Google considers the Socialist Worker to be a "news" site, instead of a propaganda outlet for a discredited, ugly ideology. Hm.

    But in fact the article is relatively tame. Yes, it's predictably tendentious, contains a lot of easily-debunked cant, and is mostly insight-free. But in that, it's similar to a lot of stuff you'll get from MSM sources.

    Like that "cruel" adjective in the headline. How many times have you seen that in the past few weeks?

    Anyhow, where's LFOD? Ah, there it is:

    The very ethos of New Hampshire seems to reflect a form of idealism that is at odds with the holistic approach necessary for a statewide recovery effort. Encapsulated by its motto "Live Free or Die" there's a pronounced libertarian streak that exaggerates personal autonomy and dismisses the sociological phenomena that strongly influence behavior. Just as Ronald Reagan pitched the idea that many are "homeless by choice," there seems to be a lingering sentiment in New Hampshire that opioid addicts are solely responsible for their affliction, and the sole agents of change to overcome it.

    Yes, unsurprisingly there's LFOD-hostility among the International Socialists.

The Shape of Water

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

Politics and movies are nearly always a toxic mix, and I was prepared to find this movie pretty tedious, based on comments referring to it as "SJW Splash". But, guess what, if you go into a movie expecting it to be ludicrously cartoonish in its good guy/bad guy setups, you can actually have a good time.

It had 13 Oscar nominations and won 4, including Best Picture, so it really does have more stuff going for it than its political correctness.

It is set in 1962 Baltimore. The heroine, Elisa (Sally Jenkins), is a lonely mute living above a dying movie theatre. She's friends with Giles (Richard Jenkins), an equally lonely closeted gay artist. She's fond of self-gratification in her bathtub. And she works at a super-secret underground government complex (with colleague Zelda, Olivia Spencer).

Which is fine, until the villainous feds bring in a creature discovered in Brazil, for no apparent purpose other than torture and eventual vivisection. The villains behind this are Michael Shannon, and also Nick Searcy as his cold-blooded military superior.

The creature, of course, is intelligent, which Elisa discovers. She also finds him sexy. So (eventually) she hatches a scheme to rescue him and return him to a safe watery abode.

IMDB genricizes this as "Adventure/Drama/Fantasy", but I'd add "Comedy". If you're in the right frame of mind, it's frickin' hilarious.

URLs du Jour


  • We've seen our share of trite Proverbs, but Proverbs 14:10 is surprisingly dark and profound:

    10 Each heart knows its own bitterness,
        and no one else can share its joy.

    Feeling isolated, alienated, estranged from humanity? The Bible advises: That's normal. Grow up and deal with it.

  • At Reason, Nick Gillespie has his own advice for you, not as profound as Proverbs, but still useful: Don't Let President Trump Distract You with Stormy Daniels.

    Early on in Trump's ascendancy, Politico's Jack Shafer counseled that we should all "stop being Trump's Twitter fool," that we should focus on the song and not the singer. The Stormy Daniels interview lands just a few days after the president signed a ridiculously swollen omnibus spending bill that pours more gas on the nation's dumpster fire of debt while accomplishing virtually none of his party's legislative or policy goals. It also comes after he's named invasion-crazy John Bolton as his new national security adviser. Turn away from conversations about whether the pre-presidential Trump used a rubber during his adulterous assignation with a smart and serious adult-film auteur and start reading the budget bill that nobody in Washington had time to read. It is, like the budget deal preceding it, the worst of all possible worlds: It gives defense fanboys everything they want and more, while also blowing out any possible restraint on the domestic-spending side.

    I am not sure who benefits from the Stormy Distraction, but I'm pretty sure it's not the citizenry.

  • At the Reason-hosted Volokh Conspiracy, Paul Cassell reports on recent research: The 2016 Chicago Homicide Spike - Explained.

    As the Chicago Tribune reported this morning, University of Utah Economics Professor Richard Fowles and I have just completed an important article on the 2016 Chicago homicide spike. Through multiple regression analysis and other tools, we conclude that an ACLU consent decree trigged a sharp reduction in stop and frisks by the Chicago Police Department, which in turn caused homicides to spike. Sadly, what Chicago police officers dubbed the "ACLU effect" was real—and more homicides and shootings were the consequence.

    In other words: a causal link between the ACLU's actions and increased violent death, far more direct than anything the NRA has been convincingly charged with.

    Wouldn't it be swell if there were mass protests in Chicago, with plenty of signs demonizing the ACLU as a terrorist organization?

    Yes, it would be swell, but I'm not holding my breath waiting for it to happen.

  • On the other hand, maybe I shouldn't wish for that. Because as David Harsanyi points out at the Federalist: Marching In The Streets Is Not An American Virtue.

    Marching in the streets and condemning your ideological opponents as abettors of mass murder is just a common impulse of passion, a growing and caustic ingredient in American political life. We see it online all the time. Simply because you scrawl your thoughts on a sign rather than tweet them to your friends doesn’t imbue them with any more pertinence. This goes for all of us. Yet we live with the insufferable need to act as if protesting is tantamount to patriotism rather than a collective act of frustration. This is merely confusing activism with good citizenship.

    That confusion is encouraged (asymmetrically) by the mainstream media.

  • [Amazon Link]

    At NR, Razib Khan reports on the Latest Research: Humanity’s Genes Reveal Its Tangled History. It relates the results obtained by Harvard Med School's David Reich, whose new book (Amazon link at right) I have put on my to-get list.

    Who We Are and How We Got Here buries the classic “Out of Africa” theory that had emerged out of the notion of “mitochondrial Eve.” In this framework, humanity was born 50,000 years ago in East Africa, fully formed like Athena from the head of Zeus, and went on to conquer the rest of the continent and the world while leaving our cousins to be footnotes in prehistory. Both the fossil evidence and human genomics no longer support that idea. Our species does have roots in the African continent that go back hundreds of thousands of years — but other populations that contributed to our ancestry, at a minimum including the Neanderthals and the Denisovans, were already present when modern humans were expanding out of Africa 50,000 years ago. The ancestors of these groups had left Africa over half a million years ago. And modern humans were present within Africa for hundreds of thousands of years before one small branch fatefully migrated out of that continent 50,000 years ago. Rather than being created in an instant, modern humans were evolving, changing, and interacting within Africa as distinct populations for hundreds of thousands of years before a few left. So an “Out of Africa” thesis still holds, but it’s hard to pack into a few concise sentences.

    I've been pretty glib about this over the years: "We're all African-Americans around here." I'll try to be more careful.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • The two halves of Proverbs 14:9 don't mesh very well, but each is a trivial sage observation.

    9 Fools mock at making amends for sin,
        but goodwill is found among the upright.

    Note: again with the mockery. The Proverbialist really hates mockery. Some sort of traumatizing childhood experience?

  • A point/counterpoint on John Bolton's appointment as Trump's National Security Advisor. First, at Reason, Jacob Sullum lists 5 Things About John Bolton That Are Worse Than His Mustache. Only five? Here's the fifth, anyway:

    5. Bolton favors attacking North Korea. While Trump recently agreed to a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the hope of negotiating denuclearization, Bolton (as always) favors a more aggressive approach. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece last year, he laid out three "military options," including a pre-emptive strike on "Pyongyang's known nuclear facilities, ballistic-missile factories and launch sites, and submarine bases."

    That's not good, of course.

  • But at NR, David French counters (noting that the NYT cited the same op-ed): John Bolton Isn’t Dangerous. The World Is.

    Even one of the pieces that the New York Times cites to justify its alarm — Bolton’s 2017 Wall Street Journal article analyzing military options in North Korea — contains this key sentence: “The U.S. should obviously seek South Korea’s agreement (and Japan’s) before using force, but no foreign government, even a close ally, can veto an action to protect Americans from Kim Jong Un’s nuclear weapons.”

    This is a sensible statement, indicating both the desire for agreement with key allies and the necessity of national self-defense, and the Times fails to effectively grapple with the truth underlying Bolton’s essay — a quarter-century of American nonproliferation policy has failed.

    This is one of the times my libertarian/conservative coinflip mostly comes out conservative, albeit with an option to flip back if I see a rational, serious argument otherwise. But see what you think.

  • A story from Omaha, where I used to live long ago: Omaha man ‘liked’ a tweet, and then he lost his dream job. His name is Roy Jones, his employer was Marriott, and his dream job was the overnight shift in an Omaha office building responding to tweets.

    It was in this hectic environment that Jones says it happened. While logged into an official Marriott Twitter account, he believes he probably — and accidentally — clicked “like” on a pro-Tibetan tweet thanking Marriott for listing Tibet as its own country, and not a part of China, on a survey.

    This "like" moved the Chinese dictatorship to anger, Marriott has lots of business interests in China, so Roy was sacrificed to appease the Chinese.

    Kind of disgusting, but maybe Roy can get a job working for John Bolton. I'm pretty sure Bolton's not worried about irking Chinese Communists.

  • Our Google LFOD alert rang for another Nebraska-sourced story, just down I-80 from Omaha. The Lincoln Journal-Star reports Lincoln area below national average in seat belt usage, police say; extra enforcement efforts planned.

    Lincoln-area drivers and passengers wear seat belts slightly less than the national average, a recent survey found.

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had observers monitor how many people were wearing seat belts last week in crash hot spots in the city, near the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus and in Lancaster County, Lincoln Police Chief Jeff Bliemeister said at a news conference Friday.

    The observers found seat belts were in use 85 percent of the time, four percentage points lower than the national average of 89 percent, he said.

    Four percentage points! Oh, the shame. Oh, the humanity!

    Yes, the NHTSA was on the taxpayer-funded job, spying on people driving by to see how well they measured up to the state's diktat.

    The story is a not-too-thinly-veiled advocacy of making seatbelt non-use a primary offense (i.e., cops can pull your car over solely because someone isn't belted). Right now, in Nebraska, it's a secondary offense.

    But where's LFOD?

    A 2016 survey of states by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found states with primary offense seat belt laws had higher usage rates than those with secondary laws.

    Georgia, which has a primary offense law, had the highest rate — 97 percent — while New Hampshire had the lowest rate at 70 percent, the survey found.

    The "Live Free or Die" state has no seat belt law.

    A sloppy inaccuracy there (and I've commented at the paper's site): Seat belt usage is required for 18-and-unders. Adults are allowed to make their own decisions about risky behavior. At least in this specific area. At least for now.

Carol Shea-Porter is Marching, Marching to Shibboleth

[Classical reference sung here.]

My current CongressCritter and perpetual toothache, Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH01) has only a few peevish months left before she (voluntarily, this time) gives up her seat. In the past, she favored her constituents with an occasional "Carol's Column" for local op-ed pages. They were (frankly) hilarious, and I occasionally "fisked" them. Samples: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

That was back in 2013, though. During her current term in office, she's been much more reticent, mainly preferring the drive-by thought-free style of Twitter.

But the whole gun thing drew her out. Her latest: "Marching (and legislating) for our lives".

So: another fisking. I am reproducing her entire column here, on the (appropriate) left, with a lovely #EEFFFF background color; my comments are on the right.

Five years ago, a gunman shot and killed 20 little children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I am still praying for the families of those sweet six- and seven-year-olds, who should be happy sixth graders right now. Whenever I see or hear their family members talk about how their hearts still break, mine does also. It’s a pain that I cannot imagine and that they should not have to bear. CSP takes a brave stand against little-kid murder. She has feelings about it. We all do.

Do her feelings give her any special insight into the issue? No.

Since Sandy Hook, parents and communities across the country have organized to advocate for safer gun laws. They have not been able to break the grip of the NRA on Congress, and the slaughter has continued. In 2016, Democrats in the House of Representatives sat on the floor of Congress for 25 hours, trying to force Speaker Ryan to allow a vote on legislation to prevent terrorism suspects who are barred from flying from purchasing a firearm. The only result of that was Speaker Ryan threatened to sanction the Democrats for sitting on the floor. CSP refers to a childish election-year stunt that failed to get a vote on a terrible idea: disallowing gun sales to people in (or who have the same name as someone in) the "Terrorism Screening Database". Which is a glamorous name for a list compiled by anonymous government officials, to which someone can be added without notice, from which it takes onerous steps to be removed.

It was not only the NRA who had problems with this stupid, probably unconstitutional, scheme; so did the ACLU.

But as for CSP's contention that "the slaughter has continued": any look at the numbers will tell you otherwise. See, for example, this New York magazine "Daily Intelligencer" article with the headline: "There Is No ‘Epidemic of Mass School Shootings’." (Otherwise, note, the article comes from a very much anti-gun perspective; they simply can't go along with hysterical propaganda when it's contradicted by the facts.)

On Valentine’s Day, 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The traumatized and angry students rejected the idea of a moment of silence in Congress and “thoughts and prayers” from politicians. They fought back, demanding the right to be safe in school. And now we are seeing students across the country speak up, walk out, and make their voices heard, too. You remember CSP's own "thoughts and prayers", described a mere two paragraphs previous? Never mind. The students rejected them. I'm not sure CSP noticed this.

The Republican majority in Congress continues to ignore their call to action, and Speaker Ryan is still blocking any votes, but something is different this time. The youth of America want change, and they won’t be ignored. Today, they are marching all over the United States for gun safety laws, with the appropriate slogan, “Never Again.” I am proudly marching with them. Kids, I have some advice: Democrats will happily pretend to support your harebrained ideas just as long as such support is politically useful. After that … well, acquaint yourself with the history of Cindy Sheehan. You'll be joining her in Obscureville.
The failure of leadership to act while 400 more people have been shot on school property in over 200 separate shootings since that awful December day is both immoral and inexcusable. Our children are being gunned down in their schools As even Time magazine noted: those numbers (from the "Gun Violence Archive") are wildly inflated propaganda. CSP either knows this and doesn't care, or thinks she can get away with it.

In other words: she's either gullible or dishonest. Which is a worse quality in a Congresscritter?

It’s difficult to argue with people who are looking at Congress and wondering if too many Senators and Representatives are too close to the NRA and the gun manufacturers to take any action. Too many elected leaders continue to offer their “thoughts and prayers,” all the while holding their hands out for that next campaign check and coveting an A+ NRA rating. [Oy, again with the thoughts and prayers.]

If "elected leaders" were really the craven tools of the NRA, as CSP alleges, it would be pretty easy to buy them off, wouldn't it? At Reason, Dave Kopel claims that "Michael Bloomberg and allied billionaires now far outspend the NRA" on their gun-grabbing efforts.

It could be that CSP's demonology is just flawed.

Our responsibility as elected officials extends well beyond the offering of thoughts and prayers. We were sent here to take the bold actions necessary to ensure that our children and their parents can live their lives free from fear. We are supposed to protect our citizens at school, at work, at play, at the grocery store, at the movies, at religious services, and wherever else they are--but we aren’t even allowed to vote on a single bill that could do that. [Yes, CSP is kind of a broken record on the "thoughts and prayers" thing. This is why I'm pretty sure she writes these columns on her own; no hired writer would think this mindless invocation was a good idea.]

CSP is silent on the specific dereliction of duty by law enforcement officials in Parkland; it doesn't fit her legislative priorities to point out how poorly the cops are at doing their job with existing law. But she assumes they'll magically become omnisciently efficacious, not only at schools, but also at workplaces, churches, playgrounds, retail stores, movie theatres, ‥ Once her new laws go into effect, of course. We'll all be safe everywhere, praise the holy state!

Two weeks ago, I rallied outside the Capitol with students and gun violence prevention advocates. A young girl was standing there quietly with a sign that said, “Am I next?” You know, I'm old enough to remember when it was Democrats blaming Republicans for the politics of fear. But now please witness CSP, in effect, shouting to that little girl: "Yes! You are next! Unless you can get your Mommy and Daddy to vote for Democrats!"
And so now I ask my colleagues: Will you let her be next? Or will Congress step up and address the gun violence crisis in our communities? When 18-year-olds are leading the country with moral courage, it’s time for us to respond in kind. Sorry, CSP. It takes zero courage for a kid to go along with this mindless/dishonest anti-gun crusade. The actual courageous students are the ones saying: "Hey, wait a minute."
There are steps we can take that will protect people and our Second Amendment. As a member of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, I support enacting common sense measures to reduce gun violence in America. I agree with police officers across this country who say, get the AR-15s out of the hands of dangerous people. The data is clear--the assault weapons ban worked. Gun massacres fell 37 percent between 1994 and 2004, when the previous assault weapons ban was in effect, and the number of people who died from gun massacres fell by 43 percent. After the ban expired, gun massacres increased by 183 percent, and gun massacre deaths increased by 239 percent. One law won’t stop every mass shooting, but we can make them less deadly and less frequent. CSP trots out a well-trodden fictoid. Even Politifact rates this mostly false. (And again the question arises: is CSP ignorant or dishonest? Could be both, I suppose.)

Another point: Democrats had control of the House, Senate, and White House from 2009-10. They could easily have reinstated the "assault weapons ban" then. They didn't. Why not?

Suspicion: they are much more interested in having this as political red meat they can dangle in front of their base than actually accomplishing their stated goal.

I support closing background check loopholes and improving the background check system. We must limit high capacity magazines, and ban bump stocks. These weapons of war were designed for offensive military use, not home defense. They kill humans, and kill them quickly and efficiently. CSP is, of course, protected at work (and probably elsewhere) by competent men and women of the Capitol Police equipped with (undoubtedly) "weapons of war". And, if necessary, they'll use such weapons to kill people quickly and efficiently.

Ask James Hodgkinson about this. Oh wait, you can't, he's dead.

But really, shouldn't we peons have access to the same style of protection as do CSP and her colleagues?

We also need to look at access to mental health care. I am a longtime proponent of universal access to physical and mental health care. It is sheer hypocrisy, however, for Congressional Republicans to point only to mental health as the cause of mass shootings eight years into their repeated attempts to strip mental health care from millions. CSP puts in a plug for socialized medicine. I'm unaware of any evidence whatsoever that recent shooters lacked access to "mental health care". In fact, this CBS story claims the Parkland shooter refused mental health care. Is the problem lack of access, or the lack of action on obvious warning signs?
There is some good news. We made a little progress this week. Since 1996, Congress has banned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from funding research into gun violence prevention. However, we finally passed legislation as part of the omnibus that will allow the CDC to provide grants to look into gun violence in America. We also included legislation to improve the background check system.

While important, these changes fall far short of what will ultimately be needed to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.
CSP pretty much gives the game away here. When the "good news" measures prove inadequate (as they inevitably will), there will be more demands. It's a "never enough" game with CSP and her ilk.
The American people will keep their voices raised until Congress is forced to pass laws that help stop this sequence of avoidable tragedies and spare American families from such unimaginable grief. Speaker Ryan, the Republican who makes the decision about which bills get considered, must do the will of our constituents and put meaningful legislation on the floor of the House for a vote. He and his Republican Caucus must allow the debate to begin. Our people are dying, and we cannot wait any longer for gun safety action. Incoherent sloganeering. CSP says she wants to "allow the debate", but the main techniques she's bringing to the "debate" are apparently dishonesty, demagoguery, and irrational fear-mongering. And, in her tiny mind, there's only one acceptable conclusion. Why does she even pretend she's interested in debate?


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

This movie made the "Biggest Movie Bombs of 2015" lists. There was a lot of competition, including Jupiter Ascending, and Tomorrowland. But Mrs. Salad saw a preview, and asked for it to go on her portion of the Netflix queue. And so here it is.

It is the origin story of Peter Pan. Left at the door of a London orphanage by his teary mom, Peter grows up under the thumb of the tyrannical nuns that run the place. And as it turns out, the nuns are also greedy; their side business is allowing a few orphans each night to be kidnapped by pirates flying in from Neverland. Eventually, Peter is grabbed.

Yeah, but not that pirate. The head guy is named "Blackbeard" (played by Hugh Jackman), and he uses his orphans to supplement his slave labor force, working in the mines to extract fairy dust. Er, for some reason. Brings immortality, or something? I may have nodded off briefly.

Anyway: Peter meets up with fellow-prisoner Hook, who's more or less a Han Solo character here. (Even though he's called Hook, he still has both his hands in this movie.) Hook and Peter form an uneasy partnership, escape from Blackbeard's clutches and join up with Tiger Lily, whose native tribe engages in warfare to protect Neverland from Blackbeard's ecological depredations.

Also appearing: Smee, crocodiles, mermaids, Tinkerbell. The movie obviously had a very big budget. But: it can't make up its mind whether it wants to be silly or deadly serious. At times, it nearly becomes a musical. Seems a lot longer than 111 minutes. Slight spoiler: there's room for another movie between this one and standard-Disney-issue Peter Pan. But (see "bomb" comments above) that movie will never be made.


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

This movie has Oscar-intentions written all over it. Didn't work out, sorry: just one nomination for "Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song)". And it lost to a song from Coco.

"Marshall" is Thurgood Marshall, and it's set just before World War II. Marshall (played by T'Challa/Jackie Robinson himself, Chadwick Boseman) is a lawyer working for the NAACP, looking to stop the judicial railroading of African-Americans wherever it occurs. And in that timeframe, it happens a lot.

The movie centers on the alleged rape of a Greenwich socialite (Kate Hudson) by her chauffeur (Sterling K. Brown). The trial is set in Bristol County, Connecticut, which is not as bad as Mississippi, but almost. Marshall hooks up with local lawyer Sam Friedman (Josh Gad) for the trial. And what follows is pretty standard courtroom drama, with the added complications of racial tension.

There's a lot of good acting here, and extra points for earnestness, but no surprises. As is standard with "based on a true story" movies, there were liberties taken with history.

Here's what I didn't remember about Chadwick Boseman: he was in an episode of Justified! It was not a recurring role, unfortunately, as his character made the mistake of waving a gun around Rachel Brooks.

Blood is the Sky

[Amazon Link]

This 2003 book is number 5 in Steve Hamilton's series about hero Alex McKnight. (Yes, I'm playing catchup with Steve Hamilton.) The back cover has advance-praise blurbs from some heavy hitters: Michael Connelly, Lee Child, T. Jefferson Parker, Harlan Coben, George P. Pelecanos. And they are not wrong: it's an excellent outing, and to my (dim) memory, head and shoulders better than the previous four books in the series. (And that's saying something, since I already liked Steve Hamilton enough to continue reading his books.)

Anyway, this book: Alex—really—wants to get out of the drama and peril of his life-so-far, and just run his tourist cabin business in the scenic Michigan Upper Peninsula. And rebuild the cabin that the bad guys in the previous book burned down. He is helped with the cabin rebuilding by reconciling with his old friend Vinnie, a Native American living up the road.

But Vinnie turns out to be no help whatsoever in keeping Alex out of the white-knight business. Vinnie's ex-con brother, Tom, has gone missing while guiding a hunting party up in the wilds of northern Ontario. And since—technically—Tom's having left the US is a parole violation, Vinnie and his family don't want to get law enforcement involved on either side of the border. So Alex and Vinnie are off to Canada to track down Tom and the hunters, based on only vague notions of where they went.

Without getting too spoilerish, what ensues is a lot of mystery, ominous/creepy suspense, mortal danger, and murderous wilderness hijinks. It really is a page-turner; although I usually take several days to read novels, I finished this one up in a single day. Found it difficult to put down.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 14:8 seems like another fortune cookie:

    8 The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways,
        but the folly of fools is deception.

    … but it's actually quoted in the title of a "New York Times Notable Book", our Pic/Amazon Ad du Jour. Now, as in Ancient Israel, the folly of fools is a thing.

  • As I've said before, Steven Pinker's new book Enlightenment Now is a fine book, recommended even (or especially) if you may not agree (as I didn't) with every last thing he says. At Reason, Nick Gillespie interviews Prof Pinker: Steven Pinker Wants Enlightenment Now!

    Gillespie: You say, 'The world has made spectacular progress in every single measure of human well-being. Here is a second shocker. Almost no one knows about it.' Why don't we acknowledge that more?

    Pinker: Some of it is that we have no exposure to it. Our view of the world comes from journalism. As long as rates of violence and hunger and disease don't go to zero, there will always be enough incidents to fill the news. Since our intuitions about risk and probability are driven by examples, the 'availability heuristic,' we get a sense of how dangerous the world is that's driven by whatever events occur, and we're never exposed to the millions of locales where nothing bad happens.

    I think there's also a moralistic bias at work. Pessimists are considered morally serious. As Morgan Housel put it, 'Pessimists sound like they're trying to help you. Optimists sound like they're trying to sell you something.' We attach gravitas often to the doomsayer.

    You can either read the transcript or watch the video interview at the link. There's no excuse for not doing one or the other!

  • David Harsanyi writes at NR: The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica ‘Scandal’ Is a Nothingburger

    What the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal lacks in relevance it sure makes up for in melodramatic rhetoric. Take Bloomberg, for instance, which reported, “The revelations of the apparent skulduggery that helped Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election keep sending shock waves across the political landscape.” Well, it’s partially true. Everyone is talking about it. The story has consumed most of the mainstream media.

    The theory goes something like this: Facebook obtained information on users who took a personality quiz with their online friends. Another outlet, the advertising firm Cambridge Analytica, harvested that information, brainwashed a bunch of rubes, and then yada, yada, yada. . .Russia! Former Cambridge Analytica contractor Christopher Wylie told CNN that while at the company, he helped build a “psychological warfare weapon” to “exploit mental vulnerabilities that our algorithms showed that [Facebook users] had.” So, in other words, he worked in the advertising business.

    David joins the chorus of sensible voices trying to talk you down from the ledge.

  • The Google LFOD alert rang for this story on a Maine TV station website: Despite setback in legislature, some NH schools resolve to stay gun-free.

    "New Hampshire has this notion of local control. ’Live free or die.’ It's on the license plates," said Vic Sokul, interim principal of Somersworth High School, which is in a district with gun-free zones at every school.

    "Safety's number one. It's the thing that bothers me every day. I don't want our school to be unsafe. And it's a difficult, all-consuming job."

    Equating LFOD with "local control" is, well, problematic. Unless you go on to observe that the most local control is exhibited by each individual over his or her own decisions.

    And, yes, Vic Sokul has a childlike belief that declaring a school a "gun-free zone" will magically prevent guns from entering. Good luck with that, Vic.

  • And just in case you aren't thoroughly disgusted with the Republican Party's free-spending ways, here's Michael Ramirez with a cartoon comment:

    I know. I should try to follow Elvis Costello's advice: Eschew disgust, try to be amused.

Last Modified 2018-12-27 10:53 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • The Proverbialist's good advice is marred by his oral fixation in Proverbs 14:7:

    7 Stay away from a fool,
        for you will not find knowledge on their lips.

    They could have a wise tattoo somewhere on their bodies, but I would tend to doubt that too. It's not the way to bet.

  • Ross Douthat makes a good point at the NYT, debunking the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica mind-control "freakout": Trump Hacked the Media Right Before Our Eyes.

    No doubt all the activity on Facebook and the apparent use of Facebook’s data had some impact, somewhere, on Trump’s surprise victory. But the media format that really made him president, the one whose weaknesses and perversities and polarizing tendencies he brilliantly exploited, wasn’t Zuckerberg’s unreal kingdom; it wasn’t even the Twitter platform where Trump struts and frets and rages daily. It was that old pre-internet standby, broadcast and cable television, and especially TV news.

    Start with the fake news that laid the foundation for Trump’s presidential campaign — not the sort that circulates under clickbait headlines in your Facebook feed, but the sort broadcast in prime time by NBC, under the label of reality TV. Yes, as media sophisticates we’re all supposed to know that “reality” means “fake,” but in the beginning nobody marketed “The Apprentice” that way; across most of its run you saw a much-bankrupted real estate tycoon portrayed, week after week and season after season, as a titan of industry, the for-serious greatest businessman in the world.

    And then things continued with the endless hyping of the Trump campaign on the "respectable" network news, eclipsing his more boring Republican rivals.

  • Michael Brendan Dougherty writes on The Social-Media Panic at NR:

    ‘Make no mistake: 2016 will never happen again.” Historians are not always reliable predictors of the future, but Niall Ferguson’s analysi of how Silicon Valley and the center-Left would react to the successive and surprise victories of Brexit and Donald Trump is proving correct. Conservatives and populists will not be allowed to use the same tools as Democrats and liberals again, or at least not use them effectively.

    Silicon Valley is working with its media and governmental critics to limit the damage to the center-Left going forward. You can see the dynamic in the way that the media generates a moral panic out of stories about how Brexit and the Trump election happened, and the way Silicon Valley responds. Fake news becomes a problem, and Silicon Valley responds by hiring progressive journalists as censors. I mean “fact-checkers.” You can see it in the demonetization of YouTube videos. Or in the new sets of regulation being imposed in European countries that deputize the social-media networks themselves as an all seeing social censor.

    Will Facebook/Google/Twitter slant their algorithms in favor of the Progressive left? I think that's already happening.

  • At the Federalist, Robert Tracinski describes How The Second Amendment Prevents Tyranny.

    The latest gun control hysteria being stoked by the press has revealed an enormous amount of confusion about the role of the Second Amendment as a guarantee of liberty in our constitutional system.

    That role is alternately embraced in rather simplistic form or dismissed as an absurdity: how could ragtag bands of rednecks with AR-15s ever hope to take on the U.S. military, with its full panoply of tanks, helicopters, and elite troops? The same people who say this will also insist that any American military action overseas is a mistake, because the U.S. military, with its full panoply of tanks, helicopters, and elite troops, can never hope to defeat ragtag bands of insurgents with AK-47s. But don’t look for consistency in partisan politics, and don’t be surprised when a Democratic politician wanders off script and suggests that if President Trump were to “ignore the courts,” then “this is where the Second Amendment comes in, quite frankly.”

    As Thomas Jefferson did not say: "Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty."

  • At Marginal Revolution, Alex Tabarrok provides the interesting news: Vehicle Safety Inspections Don’t Increase Safety.

    In 2003 I wrote The Politician and Mechanic Conspire to Rip Me Off in which I cited a study (another here) showing that annual automobile safety inspections do not increase safety but do waste time and money and generate unnecessary repairs. I have continued to rant about these wasteful policies ever since.

    A surprising number of states have ditched them, including New Jersey, a state that won't let you pump your own gas. While here in New Hampshire, we meekly trudge off to the inspection station every year. What happened to LFOD?

  • Ah, here it is. A change.org petition to Replace Rep. Patrick Abrami as Chair of N.H. Marijuana Study Commission. Rep. Abrami's sin is his vehement opposition to pot legalization.

    In light of this strong public support for reforming our state’s antiquated cannabis laws, the people of New Hampshire deserve a study commission chairman who is fair and unbiased, if not outright supportive of reform. As residents of the “Live Free or Die” state, we respectfully request that you relieve Rep. Abrami from his duties on the commission and appoint a more fair-minded representative to serve in his place.

    Pun Salad recommendation: junk the "study" commission, just legalize.

Razor Girl

[Amazon Link]

I couldn't help thinking while reading Razor Girl: the Carl Hiaasen universe woud make a fine cable/streaming series along the lines of Justified or Bosch. Of course they'd have to clean things up a bit for the tube, especially for FX, but even some for HBO. Nobody wants to see video of some of this stuff.

Then I think: oh, right: Striptease. A fine Hiaasen novel turned into unwatchable dreck. Except for Demi Moore's, uh, routines. Anyway, I could see reluctance to finance any more Hiaasen-based productions after that. (But according to IMDB Skinny Dip is in "pre-production", so… maybe that taboo has been lifted.)

Another problem: for some reason, I see most of the major male roles being played by the same actor: Donal Logue, the guy that plays Harvey Bullock on Gotham. That probably wouldn't work out in reality.

Anyway, let's go to the book. It's more or less a sequel to Bad Monkey, Hiaasen's previous book for grownups. That book's protagonist, Andrew Yancy, is still a disgraced ex-cop with poor impulse control, working as a restaurant inspector in Key West. He is diligently trying (1) to prevent the construction of a hideous dwelling on the lot adjacent to his house; (2) to regain his cop job; (3) and to preserve his romantic relationship with lovely Rosa, a medical worker who's tired of all the southern Florida crime detritus.

The "razor girl" is Merry Mansfield, a carefree scam artist whose current gig is intentionally rear-ending other vehicles while pretending to, uh, landscape, her, uh, lady regions. This sends her victims into enough of a carnal tizzy so her co-conspiritor can proceed with whatever felonious activities the gig demands with minimal opposition.

Merry and Andrew are the most likeable characters in the book. Following close behind is Dominick "Big Noogie" Aeola, a mafia mobster who occasionally needs to order a whack or two. Other cast members are various flavors of despicable/moronic: a lawyer who's made his riches from those class-action lawsuits you see advertised on late-night TV; the entire cast of a TV show, Bayou Brethren, fake hillbilly chicken farmers who construct fishing lures from the feathers of their roosters; the agent representing "Captain Cock", one of said TV stars, and… well, there are a lot more. Hiaasen does his usual fine job of describing the R-rated hijinks of his stable of crooks, idiots, and good guys.

Bottom line: a fun read.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 14:6 again slams the mockers. John Oliver, are you listening?

    6 The mocker seeks wisdom and finds none,
        but knowledge comes easily to the discerning.

    I really have my doubts whether knowledge comes easily to anyone, even the discerning. Maybe they had lower standards for knowledge back in Ancient Israel. After all, there was less stuff to know.

  • At NR Jonah Goldberg goes out on a limb: Republicans May Come to Regret Their Silence on Trump. He outlines the GOP "dilemma":

    The president divides the Right while he unifies the Left. Praise Trump on his controversial statements and you risk alienating suburban Republicans, particularly women. Criticize Trump and you risk not only his wrath, but also the wrath of the portion of his base that demands rhetorical fealty to Trump in all things. Because this constituency has disproportionate influence in conservative media and GOP primaries, the safest course of action is often silence, or some clever dodge like, “I don’t respond to tweets.”

    The GOP has created a kind of collective-action problem for itself. By making these individual decisions out of self-interest in the moment, the party as a whole ends up getting pulled in a direction not of its own choosing.

    I get it. And I'm not in the set of people Jonah is criticizing. But I would be dismayed if (somehow) it became part of my job description to give a thumbs-up-or-down for everything Trump says or does. Saying "Yeah, he can be an idjit" over and over… yeesh.

  • Congressional Republicans should not be silent on Trump, but maybe also they should figure out how to do their jobs better. Because, as Veronique de Rugy points out at Reason, The Omnibus Spending Bill Is a Fiscal Embarrassment.

    Republicans are once again proving why they actually deserve the label of the biggest swamp spenders. The latest gigantic omnibus spending bill would fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year—with a price tag of $1.3 trillion. That doesn't include entitlement funding or payments for the interest on our debt—which continue to grow and drive our debt higher, as Republicans have apparently given up on slowing down spending.

    I am in complete agreement with Veronique's further observation: "Democrats are, of course, loving it."

  • Paul Hsieh makes a "common sense" proposal at Forbes: Any Study Of 'Gun Violence' Should Include How Guns Save Lives. He proposes three principles that ought to guide research by the CDC or anyone else:

    • Firearms save lives as well take lives.
    • The value of firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens should be measured in terms of lives saved or crimes prevented, not criminals killed.
    • The right to self-defense does not depend on statistics and numbers.

    Pun Salad Truth-O-Meter: True. Yet all three principles will be ignored by agenda-driven "research".

  • Ana Stankovic writes in the Los Angeles Review of Books: I Am Not a Marxist.

    CALL ME A KILLJOY but I am sick to death of hearing about Karl Marx. I am sick of his name, his -isms, his undoubted genius, and his “philosophy.” I am sick of him “having reason,” as the French say, or “being right.” But most of all I am sick of his “relevance.”

    As someone whose parents were born and grew up in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and who missed the same fate by the skin of her teeth, I know perfectly well what Marx’s relevance amounts to. Marx gave it a name, even if for him it meant something else than it did for the people of Yugoslavia. I am talking about the oft-quoted and seldom understood “religion of everyday life.”

    A bitterly amusing essay about the guy that the lefties can't seem to let go of.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 14:5 seems … kind of superficial:

    5 An honest witness does not deceive,
        but a false witness pours out lies.

    Still, a good reminder for all those involved in the Mueller investigation.

  • Back in the days when I attended professional conferences for computer system administrators, a must-hear speaker was Dan Geer. His talks were uniformly insightful, humorous, and useful.

    Theory: at some point, the conferences that the University Near Here could afford to send me to were no longer able to afford Dan Geer. So it's been a while since I've seen him in action.

    But here's the next-best thing: the Hoover Institution has published his latest essay: A Rubicon. I appreciate the density of the abstract, where every sentence is something to mull over:

    Optimality and efficiency work counter to robustness and resilience. Complexity hides interdependence, and interdependence is the source of black swan events. The benefits of digitalization are not transitive, but the risks are. Because single points of failure require militarization wherever they underlie gross societal dependencies, frank minimization of the number of such single points of failure is a national security obligation. Because cascade failure ignited by random faults is quenched by redundancy, whereas cascade failure ignited by sentient opponents is exacerbated by redundancy, (preservation of) uncorrelated operational mechanisms is likewise a national security obligation.

    It might help to brush up on what a "black swan event" is, ahead of time.

  • Elizabeth Warren's bitter clinging to her Native American heritage spurs Victor Davis Hanson to muse on the one-drop worldview of The Confederate Mind.

    But what if indeed the pink and blond Warren were found to have 1/32nd or even 1/16th Native American “blood”? Why would that artifact magically make her “Indian,” much less a victim of something or someone, or at least outfitted with a minority cachet?

    Does she have an idea of the absurdity of current progressive race obsessions and their creepy pedigrees? In wartime Western Europe, one of the justifications for making Jews wear yellow stars was that it was otherwise impossible to determine whether they were Jews at all, which of course made the entire Nazi edifice of supposed overt racial inferiority a nightmarish joke.

    "Creepy" is a good adjective to use for the underpinnings of the Progressive worldview.

  • In the Week, Shikha Dalmia notes that the creepiness sometimes degenerates into… The sad hysteria of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Case in point: their treatment of conservative feminist scholar Christina Hoff Sommers:

    The SPLC, which was formed in the aftermath of the Civil Rights movement with the noble goals of seeking justice for victims of racial violence and fighting hate, recently published a piece in which it accused Sommers of giving a "mainstream and respectable face" to groups peddling "male supremacy."

    It was a single, throwaway line about Sommers in a much-longer report — but it prompted Portland's Lewis & Clark Law School's eagerly excitable students to declare her a "known fascist" and condemn the Federalist Society, the center-right outfit of legal scholars that had invited her to speak on campus, for perpetrating an "act of aggression." They hooted and heckled her, forcing her speech to be cut short.

    Let me (once again) quote the Underground Grammarian essay titled "The Answering of Kautski", which (in turn) quoted Lenin:

    Why should we bother to reply to Kautski? He would reply to us, and we would have to reply to his reply. There's no end to that. It will be quite enough for us to announce that Kautski is a traitor to the working class, and everyone will understand everything.

    An old quote (the UG essay is from 1997), but it's still on target. The SPLC and its disciples know that they need not debate, or even acknowledge, what Sommers is actually saying. She would reply to them, and they would have to reply to her reply, and so on. There's no end to that. It will be quite enough for them to announce that Sommers is a traitor to her sex, and everyone will understand everything.

  • Speaking of creepy — it seems to be a theme today — Ann Althouse reacts to a Nicholas Kristof essay in the NYT, which contains "an insult from cannibalism days on Easter Island": "The flesh of your mother sticks between my teeth.". Kristof's essay is a tedious lecture on sustainability, the (allegedly bad) example of Easter Island. What sets Ann's teeth on edge: he led a tour for The New York Times Company to the island. Did the group paddle there, like Thor Heyerdahl? No.

    How on earth — a place we've all been — did Nicholas Kristof think he could get away with that sanctimony?! DO NOT LECTURE US! Let your example come first, and then you can talk. You flew to Easter Island — you led a tour, enticing others to fly to Easter Island — so obviously, you think nothing of your carbon footprint or the carbon footprint of all those other people who jetted out there with you. When your actions are so radically different from your words, I don't believe your words. The depredations of global warming may be coming, but I don't believe that you believe it.

    Kristof exempts himself and his high-income tour group from the rules he wants to impose on us peons.

  • I forgot to mention that we had a recent famous visitor to our fair state. But Inside Sources noticed, and it triggered our LFOD alert: President Trump Brings Big Government to the Granite State to Fight Opioid Addiction—And Republicans Cheer!

    Based on the enthusiastic response to President Donald Trump’s speech in New Hampshire, the era of small government is over. The crowd at Manchester Community College on Monday was in no mood for “Live Free Or Die” politics. Speaking to an invitation-only audience, President Trump pledged to use federal money, federal programs, and–the biggest “big government” idea of all—the federal death penalty to fight the opioid crisis that’s had such a devastating impact on New Hampshire.

    Of course, our complaisant GOP pols could not disagree. Our Democrat pols (Senators Shaheen and Hassan are quoted) disagree only in urging "more resources" (aka “more spending”) be dumped into NH from DC.

    My libertarian eyes roll.

  • Another LFOD alert sprang from a somewhat surprising source: Elon Musk. (A big-picture Instagram embed, scroll to the bottom…)

    Paid respects to Masada earlier today. Live free or die.

    A post shared by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on

    Good for Elon. Almost makes me want to buy a Tesla. Maybe someone in state government could arrange for an honorary set of license plates for him.

Last Modified 2018-03-22 4:12 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 14:4 is a puzzler:

    4 Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty,
        but from the strength of an ox come abundant harvests.

    So it's good… to have oxen? I guess. Perhaps there's something metaphorical going on here, but we'd need a farmer to tell us what it is.

    [Okay, if you want to cheat, here's one interpretation that sort of makes sense.]

  • At Reason, Robby Soave provides more rebuttal to the don't-worry-be-happy young adults that want us to chillax about threats to free speech: Some Pundits Say There's No Campus Free Speech 'Crisis.' Here's Why They're Wrong.

    When I talk to students who are protesting speakers they find offensive, they generally tell me that they support the First Amendment and don't want the government to arrest or punish people for engaging in free speech. They also tell me some combination of the following: Hate speech isn't free speech; if marginalized people feel threatened by the speech, the speech is actually violence; neither campus authorities nor mobs of angry students are forms of government force, and thus it's not illegal or unethical when these entities shut down offensive speech.

    But let's say [the don't-worry pundits] Yglesias, Sachs, and Hartman are right: that most young people are more pro–free speech than both older Americans and young people of the past. This still would not necessarily mean there is no campus free speech "crisis." That's because the initiators of campus P.C. incidents are not the entire student body; they're a small subset of left-wing activists. These radicals may be completely outnumbered on campus. Their ranks may not be growing—they may even be shrinking, to judge from the data about college as a civilizing experience and the increasing tolerance of young people in general. But what matters is whether their power to enforce their desire for censorship is increasing.

    There's a lot more evidence for "Campus Free Speech Crisis" than there is for "Campus Sexual Assault Crisis".

  • One of my Facebook friends recently worried about Cambridge Analytica using their personality-quiz results to "create stories that would influence a peson's voting preference".

    As I said in a reply: I'm skeptical about that. The breathless, ominous stories I've seen about this could easily be turned around. If Hillary had won, and had similar (vague) connections to big-data companies, there would have been fawning stories in Wired and the NYT about her campaign's "smart" and "sophisticated" data mining operations outmaneuvering Trump's knuckle-draggers. Any Republican efforts to Point With Alarm would be dismissed as the whiny complaints of sore losers.

    At NR, Jim Geraghty is also a skeptic: Is Cambridge Analytica Really an ‘Information Weapon’ in a ‘Data War’?

    Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower at the center of these stories, really makes it sound like mind control: “Cambridge Analytica will try to pick at whatever mental weakness or vulnerability that we think you have and try to warp your perception of what’s real around you.”

    Guys . . . it’s Facebook, not a Hypno-Ray or Loki’s staff. At the heart of this is the question of whether a Facebook ad or any kind of clever advertising can get you to do something you otherwise would not do. Sure, an image of delicious food can make you hungry, but does it make you go to the restaurant and eat? Does the car commercial showing the guy driving fast through an empty road in the wilderness make you buy the car? Or does it just persuade you that enjoying that experience is worth the cost of the car?

    Loki's staff. Ha!

  • One of P. J. O'Rourke's classic quotes: “If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free.” You'll be able to come up with a similar observation once you read Jennifer E. Walsh: Why States Should Abandon the ‘Free College’ Movement.

    Although the underlying motivation of “free college” may be admirable, evidence suggests that such policies will likely fail. Funneling students into a handful of public institutions will lead to impacted conditions and lessen the likelihood that students will graduate. Moreover, masking the cost of education by removing tuition and fees will lessen the impact of the sunk-cost effect and decrease the likelihood that students will be good stewards of public resources. Additionally, artificially subsidizing public institutions will undermine the efforts of private nonprofit universities that expand opportunities for student choice. Instead of asking taxpayers to absorb the full cost of a college education, it would be better for state leaders to expand financial support for college students who are enrolled in institutions — public or private — that are already performing well. In this way, they will attain their goal of increasing the rate of college graduates without disrupting the market as a whole.

    Professor Walsh ably dissects what's wrong with "free college" proposals, but misses the real problem: as Bryan Caplan has recently (and, to my mind, convincingly) argued, today's education system is a waste of time and money.

  • At Commentary, Sohrab Ahmari writes about transgenderism and The Disappearance of Desire.

    The trans movement is asking Americans to accept and indeed to make their lives and their perceptions of reality conform to a set of extraordinary ideas based on very little debate. These claims are often put forth in the language of psychiatry and psychology, and they implicate the lives of real people, many of whom suffer genuine, sometimes unbearable anguish. Which good American can say no to the cries of a suffering minority, especially when they are amplified by scientific authority?

    The science isn’t there yet, in point of fact. The case for accepting and advancing the cause of transgenderism is, at root, a radical philosophical argument—one that goes to the heart of what it means to be human. Accepting the trans movement’s argument requires us to lend credence to an extreme form of mind-matter dualism, and involves severing the links between bodily sex, gender identity, and erotic desire.

    Not only is the science "not there yet", there's a concerted effort to make sure that any acceptable "science" conform to the underlying dubious philosophy.

  • It's apparently our day to Hurt Peoples' Feelings. At the Federalist, Brad Polumbo tells the truth: The Student Debt ‘Crisis’ Is Students’ Fault, And They Shouldn’t Get A Bailout.

    When a survey asked recent graduates what they would sacrifice to pay off their debt, “less than half were willing to do without concert tickets, lattes, food delivery, alcohol purchases or travel.” Around 15 percent didn’t even know how much money they owed. Nearly a third of students polled planned to use some of their student loan money to pay for their spring break trips, while 23 percent said they had used loans to purchase alcohol, and 6 percent said they used the money for drugs. We have a student debt crisis, but the real issue isn’t the number on the balance sheet. It’s a generation trapped in perpetual adolescence, confused about how to get out.

    Did I mention Bryan Caplan already? Yes, I guess I did.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • The Proverbialist displays (once again) his oral fixation in Proverbs 14:3:

    3 A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride,
        but the lips of the wise protect them.

    President Donald J. Trump, this Proverb is for you.

  • J. D. Tuccille notes that the concept of free speech is not getting a lot of love these days: Trump's Anti-Speech Agenda Gets a Boost From Lefty Lawyers and Academics.

    It may not yet be "the end of free speech," but that particular fundamental right is probably a bad candidate for a new life-insurance policy.

    We have an environment in which the president of the United States is dismissive of the free speech rights of his opponents, prominent constitutional scholars sniff at free speech unless it's used by the "right" people for their favored goals, and the country's leading civil liberties organization is suffering an internal revolt by staffers who oppose "rigid" support for free speech protections.

    RTWT, of course. The anti-Constitutional babblings of Georgetown Law prof Louis Michael Seidman are criticized, as well as the suddenly weak-kneed ACLU, which has been chided by its own staff for its "rigid stance" on the First Amendment. Rigidity is … frowned upon these days.

  • Cathy Young hits the same theme in USA Today. You may have heard about some earnest young adults denying there's a war on free speech on college campuses. Are they right? Cathy saith nay: Deniers of the war on free speech on college campuses are dead wrong.

    Does leftist zealotry on American college campuses imperil freedom of speech and liberal values, or is this a largely made-up issue that distracts from far more serious threats on the right? The latest polemics about this have been ignited by an incident at Lewis & Clark College law school in Portland, Ore., where protesters tried to shut down a talk by author, scholar and feminism critic Christina Hoff Sommers.

    After a failed attempt to get her disinvited, the students repeatedly disrupted her talk with chanting and loud music. To opponents of “political correctness,” this is a sign of chilling authoritarianism. Skeptical progressives argue that, despite a few highly publicized conflicts, actual data show free expression on college campuses is alive and well — and supported by most students, especially political liberals.

    But there is plenty of evidence that the problem of left-wing intolerance in the universities is real and damaging.

    The "don't worry" Progressives cite polling data showing (mostly) growing support for abstract free-speech cases. Fine, but the people responding to polls are not in charge, and most of them would be unwilling to stick their necks out to defend controversial speakers against a vocal and vicious minority.

  • Did we say we were going to stop talking about the Children's Gun-Grabbing Crusade? Oops, sorry. The Independent Journal Review reports: Ohio Student Suspended for Refusing to Leave Classroom During Gun Control Walkout.

    A high school student in Hilliard, Ohio, didn’t want to pick sides in the contentious gun debate surrounding Wednesday’s “National Walkout,” so he stayed in class instead of joining the largely anti-gun protest or an alternative “study hall.”

    Hilliard Davidson High School senior Jacob Shoemaker was then reportedly slapped with a suspension.

    Good news, Jacob. I'm sure the University Near Here will let you in. As they say in a pinned tweet:

    Or at least I would hope so. I'm not sure declining to join in "peaceful protests" is considered a legitimate exercise of First Amendment rights at UNH.

    Also, the out-of-state tuition is brutal.

  • Back here in New Hampshire, the Google LFOD News Alert siren sounded for the musings of Plymouth State Teaching Lecturer Bonnie J. Toomey, writing in the Fitchburg, Massachusetts Sentinel & Enterprise: We should be shooting for more love and less hate.

    Yes, she's writing about guns. You see what she did there with "shooting"?

    But never mind that, because Ms. Toomey is actually a sane voice of reason:

    We all know that when firearms get into the hands of people who are mentally unstable and are obtained illegally by criminals, that is where the problem lies. To own a gun, to live free or die as they say in New Hampshire, is not going away anytime soon, and I do not want it to. I rather like the idea that I am surrounded by good, law-abiding people who know how to respect and use firearms responsibly and properly. That does not make them insensitive people who don't care about gun violence. I rather like being a sheep who lives with sheepdogs who'd quickly protect us from the wolves out there.

    So good on Ms. Toomey.

Last Modified 2018-03-22 4:13 AM EDT

My Cousin Rachel

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

One of Mrs. Salad's picks. I think she enjoyed it, but I couldn't wait for it to end. It's not particularly long (1.77 hours), but when your brain is screaming I don't like these people, I don't care what happens to any of them, I don't care whodunit. … well, it can seem longer.

It takes place mostly on the scenic Cornish coast, I think sometime in the 19th century (sorry, wasn't paying attention to that). The protagonist, Philip, is enraptured with/by Rachel, the widow of his older cousin Ambrose. Even though Ambrose suspected that Rachel was poisoning him, and in league with the slimy Italian Count Rainaldi. There's a large estate involved.

It is based on a Daphne Du Maurier novel, just like a lot of good movies are. In fact, this is a remake of a 1952 version that starred Olivia de Havilland and Richard Burton! Masterpiece Mystery did a version, too.

I suppose part of the appeal is all the scenery, the costumery, the mansions, the English accents. Wonder how it would work translated to present day Omaha? Calling Alexander Payne…

Rachel Weisz plays Rachel, and I think I will give this flick an extra half-star for that. Because she delivered one of my all time favorite movie lines in The Mummy.

Last Modified 2018-03-18 7:13 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 14:2 is another good people/bad people exercise in contrast:

    2 Whoever fears the Lord walks uprightly,
        but those who despise him are devious in their ways.

    I'd mark down the Proverbialist for missing the obvious parallelism; those last five words should have been something like "… scurry in filth and darkness like rats."

  • Cause for celebration: there's a new American Consequences issue out, with P. J. O'Rourke content. He has re-read Orwell's 1984 and notes that, in the 21st century US, Big Everybody Is Watching.

    I forgot what a powerful, terrifying, and tragic novel 1984 is. I forgot because I had read the book a couple of times and was under the impression that I understood it.

    1984 tells the story of a totalitarianism so total that it’s not satisfied with eliminating Winston Smith, a decent, conscientious individual. It must also eliminate his decency, his conscience, and his individuality first.>br>
    When I read 1984 in high school I thought, “This is what the Commies are doing in the Soviet Union.”

    When I read 1984 in college I thought, “This is what ‘The Man’ is doing in AmeriKKKa.”

    But when I read it as a mature (that is to say, old and worried) adult I was shocked. I realized, “This is what we’re doing to ourselves!”

    This encourages me to reread the book myself. It's been about 50 years, maybe it's time.

  • Jonah Goldberg channels Carly Simon's "Anticipation" and realizes these are the good old days. Specifically, The ‘Good Old Days’ of the Trump Presidency.

    I have no problem whatsoever conceding that the press exaggerates anti-Trump narratives and is out to get him, because that is obviously true. But I’ve talked to people in the White House. I’ve talked to congressmen and senators off the record. And I’ve talked to far more people who’ve talked to such people. They all say that things behind the scenes in Trump World are nuttier than Mr. Peanut’s stool sample.

    Wish I could write like that.

  • At Reason, Jacob Sullum provides 5 Reasons Not to Feed the Russian Troll Hysteria. Reason number two:

    Russian trolls supposedly had the Machiavellian know-how to infiltrate the American political system, but their social media posts don't look very sophisticated. The posts often featured broken English and puzzling topic choices. A post promoting a "buff" Bernie Sanders coloring book, for instance, noted that "the coloring is something that suits for all people." Another post showed Jesus and Satan in an arm wrestling match under this caption: "SATAN: IF I WIN CLINTON WINS! JESUS: NOT IF I CAN HELP IT!" The post generated very few clicks and shares.

    Well, I'm convinced. (Note that the underlying pic is available as a poster from Amazon, sizes ranging from 4"x6" to 40"x60". Just the thing for the kids' bedrooms!

    Oh, yeah, there's also a video, if you prefer:

  • And Michael Ramirez might just provide our last thousand words on the Children's Crusade for Gun Grabbing: Children of Rage

    Children of rage

Last Modified 2018-12-25 7:16 AM EDT

The Case Against Education

Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money

[Amazon Link]

This is one of those rare non-fiction books with a thesis in which I am in 100% agreement.

For author Bryan Caplan, the education system is an emperor with no clothes. And not only is the emperor merely naked, he's downright ugly, with disfiguring diseases. Also stupid and misguided. He should have no claims on your allegiance.

Education-system apologists point to an obvious fact: people with "more education" wind up with better results in society. Specifically, they make more money. Caplan notes that's so, but disputes the assumed underlying reason for that success. Education does increase one's "human capital", sure, but that's only a part of the story, and a relatively small part at that. A much bigger reason for success is that obtaining a degree is a "signal" to employers of three things: that the degree holder (1) has a certain amount of necessary intelligence; (2) has employment-compatible work habits; (3) exhibits a certain degree of conformity; they followed instructions in school without making much of a fuss, so it's a safe bet they won't rock the boat on the job, either.

Fine, but it gets worse. While it's likely that increased education levels are a good deal for the student, people tend to jump to the "obvious" conclusion that they're good for society as a whole as well.

First off, Caplan points out this is the "fallacy of composition". You can get a better view if you stand up at a concert; but if everyone does that, nobody gets a better view. So it is with education: when employers start looking at a Bachelor's degree to get a job as (say) a cab driver, that's a zero-sum game: the non-degree cab drivers get crowded out.

Not only is the argument fallacious, it's also quantitatively wrong. Caplan works the stats to discover the "social return" to education, and discovers a surprising result: even under generous assumptions, it's negative. In the US, the trillion-or-so dollars fed annually into the gaping maw of education system is worse than wasted. We'd get better results from putting that money toward cancer research, veteran health care, space travel, or even (shocking notion) letting taxpayers keep it and spend it on things they want.

Caplan writes from inside the system; he's an econ prof at George Mason, and, before that, he's had the requisite lifetime experience as a diligent student. He's a whistleblower, and casts a realistic eye over what he's seen: most students are bored, and going through the motions; most teachers are boring and also going through the motions; most "required" courses are required for no good reason, with most of the material soon forgotten, with (mostly) no ill effects.

Caplan tells the story with a moderate amount of cheeky humor. He realizes that (almost certainly) not enough people will buy his thesis to make a difference in policies. But that doesn't mean he isn't completely correct. As near as I can tell, he is. Read the book to see if he doesn't convince you.

Blade Runner 2049

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

To be honest, I'm not sure if I've ever made it through the original Blade Runner without nodding off somewhere or other in the middle. All those dark artsy atmospherics kind of put me to sleep.

And similarly with Blade Runner 2049, I'm sorry to say. First try was a dismal failure, as I cut out about twenty minutes in. Second try was better, I'm pretty sure I only missed a few minutes. Or maybe slightly more than a few minutes. Difficult to tell, really. It's very long (only 17 minutes short of three hours).

Ryan Gosling plays "K"; like Harrison Ford's original Deckard, he's a replicant (sorry, spoiler there for the original) who's tasked with hunting down and (if necessary, and it's always necessary) terminating fugitive replicants.

His latest mission uncovers a decades-old box of bones. They're easy to track down because of a replicant serial number, and—guess what—they are Rachael's. And they can tell she died in childbirth. Oh oh.

So K starts looking for the missing kid, which involves him finding (I'm pretty sure you know this already) Deckard. But the Evil Corporate Forces behind it all have their own plans too, involving (for some hazily-specified reasons) heartless and arbitrary violence.

I liked this mainly for Harrison Ford's performance; I think he should have gotten an Oscar for it. And the great Edward James Olmos comes back as Very Old Gaff, too.

Moral, I think: always make sure your girlfriend is routinely backed up to the cloud.


[Amazon Link]

Should I binge-watch all six seasons of Justified one more time? Yeah, probably not. Instead, I put the Raylan Givens-containing books of Elmore Leonard on my cybernetic to-be-read pile; this is the first.

Summary: Florida bookie Harry Arno has a pretty good, albeit illegal, life. But (bad news) in order to get the goods on his boss, "Jimmy Cap", the Feds have started a rumor that Harry is skimming off Jimmy's cut of the profits. (He is, he readily admits, but not more than anyone else does.)

Enter Raylan. He and Harry have a history: Harry escaped his clutches once before, when Raylan trusted him a tad too much while going for ice cream. So … Harry immediately does it again, fleeing to Italy under Raylan's nose.

Which raises Raylan's hackles, so he's off to Italy, on his own time to track Harry down. Because Jimmy Cap's minions are after Harry as well, and they're just looking to do him in.

There are an assortment of supporting characters, all richly developed. Leonard was a master of "show, don't tell", so we get to know everyone through their conversations (often loopy) and their actions (sometimes surprising).

For a fan of the TV series, it's fun to recognize the bits and pieces of the book that got transmogrified. A book showdown scene in Italy between Raylan and some mafiosos moved to the Mexican border on TV, with different mafiosos and slightly different results. Tommy Bucks, who was in Season One, Episode One, Scene One of the TV show, appears here too as a Givens antagonist. Without spoilers, the outcome is similar, but the circumstances differ significantly.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • We start a new Proverbial chapter today with Proverbs 14:1:

    1The wise woman builds her house,
        but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.

    I think there's something metaphorical going on here, but never mind that. I think this is the first Proverb we've covered that talks specifically about women. Or even acknowledges the notion that they can be as wise/foolish as men.

    The suggested Amazon link… well, we try to keep things PG-13 here, but I could not resist.

  • Jonah Goldberg writes at Commentary on Karl Marx’s Jew-Hating Conspiracy Theory. But not just that. Jonah treads some Deirdre McCloskey ground:

    From the time of antiquity until the Enlightenment, trade and the pursuit of wealth were considered sinful. “In the city that is most finely governed,” Aristotle wrote, “the citizens should not live a vulgar or a merchant’s way of life, for this sort of way of life is ignoble and contrary to virtue.” In Plato’s vision of an ideal society (the Republic) the ruling “guardians” would own no property to avoid tearing “the city in pieces by differing about ‘mine’ and ‘not mine.’” He added that “all that relates to retail trade, and merchandise, and the keeping of taverns, is denounced and numbered among dishonourable things.” Only noncitizens would be allowed to indulge in commerce. A citizen who defies the natural order and becomes a merchant should be thrown in jail for “shaming his family.”

    As history ground on, anti-commerce became linked with anti-Semitism. (Jonah notes the Jew-hatred of Martin Luther; even as a mostly-technical Lutheran, I'm feeling some shame about that.) But mostly he notes the anti-Semitic roots of Marxism: "The atheist son of a Jewish convert to Lutheranism and the grandson of a rabbi, Karl Marx hated capitalism in no small part because he hated Jews."

  • The Google LFOD Alert rang for a Seton Hall University page, written by one Steven Kairys M. D.: Medicare, Medicaid and the Rising Tide of Health Care Costs: Will We Ever Get It Right? What's the problem? Well, LFOD is the problem:

    Root causes of our national polarization are not obtuse. We are a country that prides itself on personal freedom and independence: the New Hampshire Live Free or Die morality; the American mythos that the rare stories of people making it out of desolation are the normative path for anyone with the will and energy to follow; the moral failures of those left behind. This is the American Myth embedded into every controversy about rights and privileges.

    These American Myth success stories are more persuasive in our national debate on benefits and entitlements than all the data and studies that continue to pile up to refute the Myth-- especially for the population of swing voters who are themselves poor and hanging on – who believe that it is all "those others" that abuse the system and take away dollars and services that should be aimed at the more deserving.

    Kairys sets up his "myth" strawman, but embraces a bigger myth on his own: as Bastiat put it: "The state is the great fictitious entity by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else."

  • An editorial in the Caledonian Record (a paper serving northeastern Vermont and northern New Hampshire) notes some bad press for our state: In N.H., Shots In The Dark.

    When grading the “Live Free or Die State,” the Center for Public Integrity most recently gave New Hampshire an “F” on Public Access to Information; Political Financing; Electoral Oversight; Judicial Accountability; and Ethics Enforcement. N.H. gets a “D-” for Legislative Accountability; Lobbying Disclosures; and State Civil Service Management. It scores a “D” for Procurement; a “C-” for State Pension Fund Management; and a “C” for Internal Auditing and Executive Accountability.

    To be fair, even though the Center for Public Integrity's state rankings (last performed in 2015) give NH a D- overall grade for Integrity, they are a tough grader; their highest grade was a C (for Alaska). California and Connecticut got C-'s; everyone else was D+ or below. Didn't they ever hear of grading on a curve?

  • They even invoke LFOD down in Pennsylvania. The (Ardmore PA) Main Line Times reports on: Hundreds of students from Main Line schools take part in walkouts against gun violence.

    Noting that some of the students were carrying a “Live free or die” banner, a reporter asked if some held differing opinions about gun control. [Lower Merion High School Superintendent Robert] Copeland agreed that some do but said discussions on the issue have been civil.

    Although the reporter quoted liberally from the gun-grabbing students and their enablers, he couldn't be bothered to actually interview anyone with "differing opinions".

  • The Hill reports: High cigarette taxes have led to thriving black market across America. And of course…

    Cigarettes are also smuggled out of states, particularly when their neighbors have a much higher excise tax. The opportunity is large, not only for individuals trying to save a buck by crossing into another taxing jurisdiction, but also for organized crime cells seeking to make thousands of dollars. The top outbound smuggling state in this year’s study is New Hampshire, at 85 percent. For every 100 cigarettes consumed in the Live Free or Die State, another 85 are smuggled elsewhere, probably to neighboring states.

    The authors of the underlying research, Michael D. LaFaive and Todd Nesbit, are affiliated with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a free-market advocacy group. So they tend to see the neighboring states' high taxes as the problem, not NH's relatively low one.

  • And whether you view this xkcd cartoon with a chuckle or a shudder, depends, I guess:

    [xkcd on
    the Robot Future]

    Randall Munroe's mouseover text: "I mean, we already live in a world of flying robots killing people. I don't worry about how powerful the machines are, I worry about who the machines give power to."

    Will Randall follow through on this train of thought and go full libertarian? Doubtful, but we'll see.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Appears to me that Proverbs 15:33 is really two unrelated Proverbs. Can you see any way to relate the first line to the second?

    33 Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord,
        and humility comes before honor.

    "… except in the dictionary! Ha!" [Waits for bolt of lightning to strike.]

  • Depressed? No? Well, here's something to bring you down, from Rachel Boward at the Federalist: The Next Big Republican Spending Bill Is Packed With Liberal Priorities.

    Republicans may have majorities in the House and Senate, but the only group they seem to care about pleasing are the Democrat minorities. As the next funding deadline approaches, Republicans in Congress are working on a $1.3 trillion spending bill that includes all kinds of provisions that fly in the face of campaign promises, principles, and even their party’s platform.

    Readers, beware: Rachel has compiled a very long list. Among the items is one we've followed on and off over the past few years:

    Restoration of the Export-Import Bank

    The fate of the Ex-Im Bank has been a rare win for conservatives who fought Obama tooth and nail over bank’s corporate welfare. By keeping the bank devoid of the quorum necessary to make million-dollar loans to huge corporations like Boeing, Caterpillar and the like, conservatives have managed to keep the bank’s cronyism largely at bay. Enter the Republican majorities, who are reportedly planning to pass a provision lowering the quorum requirements for the bank to approve loans. Looks like Iran may get those taxpayer funded Boeing jets after all.

    Well, that sucks.

    My problem: who do I gripe to about this? Both my state's senators and my congresscritter are Democrats. They'll just cackle at me.

    I could write to the national GOP and threaten to withhold my heretofore generous contributions. Problem: my contribution to GOP has been $0.00 for a long time. (Wait! Did I contribute to the Rand Paul campaign? Maybe! Oh, wait, that's probably a negative for the rest of the party.)

  • Another item on Rachel's list is also criticized in the WSJ editorial (and perhaps paywalled) page: The GOP’s Internet Tax.

    Republicans have spent the last year cutting taxes and regulations, which hasn’t been easy. But now some Members of Congress want to blunt their handiwork by passing an online sales tax. Yes, they actually believe this would be good policy and politics.

    A large faction of House Republicans are pressing GOP leaders to attach legislation to the omnibus spending bill that would let states collect sales tax from remote online retailers. South Dakota Rep. Kristi Noem’s legislation, which has 50 co-sponsors, would let some 12,000 jurisdictions conscript out-of-state retailers into collecting sales and use taxes from their customers. A bipartisan companion bill in the Senate has 27 co-sponsors.

    This doesn't directly impact New Hampshire residents, although it's a kick in the teeth for any and all less-than-Amazon-sized businesses with nationwide retail sales.

  • At NR, Jonah Goldberg notes the announced retirement of Arthur Brooks at the American Enterprise Institute: The Coming End of an Era.

    Arthur Brooks is a strange creature by Washington standards. Heck he’s a strange creature by bipedal standards. A former French horn player who decided to be an egghead late in life, he is a unique mix of Catholic piety, data obsession, sartorial connoisseurism, physical fitness, old-soul wisdom and basic decency. He reminds me of William F. Buckley in several ways. But at the top of the list: He shares Bill’s commitment to good manners, and, for a guy who seemingly knows everything, he is remarkably interested in the opinions of others. (The Arthur you hear in this podcast I did with him is the Arthur I know).

    Waaay back in 2014 I heard him speak at the NH Freedom Summit; he had the most compelling talk of the day, and that was from a list of speakers that included four then-sitting senators, three congresscritters, an ex-governor, a talk-show host, and … oh yeah, Donald Trump.

    A profoundly decent human being, a true mensch. I wish him well in his future endeavors.

  • Blogger Bruce McQuain observes gun-grabbers' exploitation of the kiddos, and is in agreement with Megan Fox that it resembles the Lord of the Flies reunion tour.

    That characterization struck me for some reason. Lord of the Flies, as I remember it, was all about tribalism. In the case of the kids in the book, it was a reversion to primitive tribalism (even though we recognize that in their former more modern school life, they were members of tribes of sort as well).

    In this case, the tribe in question is the left and they’ve stolen the conch shell and have exploited the anti-gun sentiments of these kids mercilessly. And to their detriment too, I believe. These teens quickly went from “authentic” in their rage and angst to obviously coached and spouting left-wing anti-gun talking points. Whatever [cachet] they owned by being at the scene of the murders and surviving it was quickly squandered by the obvious source of their talking points and the broadening of their protest to anything conservative.

    And Democrat operatives and MSM coverage (but I repeat myself) fall over themselves with paeans to this clown show.

  • But the big news of the day has to be… Democrats Announce All 2020 Candidates Will Forego Armed Security To Protest Gun Violence.

    Democratic National Committee spokesperson Michael Tyler announced Thursday that all candidates who run in the 2020 presidential election as Democrats will completely forego armed security for the entirety of their campaigns, in a clear and bold stance against gun violence in America.

    “We’ve talked to all possible candidates and everyone has agreed. Gun violence is a huge issue in our country, and guns are the problem. So whoever runs for president as a Democrat in 2020—be it Bernie, Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Jerry Brown, and/or whoever else throws their hat in the ring—they will steadfastly refuse to employ security teams who carry scary firearms.”

    Yes, in case you haven't already guessed: the Babylon Bee.

  • Janice Brown announces: Cow Hampshire is 12. No excerpts (Janet disapproves of them) but I encourage you to check it out.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Listening obediently to disciplinarians is a prominent theme in Proverbs, and Proverbs 15:32 hits that baby one more time:

    32 Those who disregard discipline despise themselves,
        but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.

    For correction-heeding, I suggest large quantities of BIC Wite-Out, our Amazon Product du Jour.

  • An amusing column from A. Barton Hinkle, reproduced at Reason: A Consumer Report on Donald Trump. Sample:

    Driving and Handling

    On the highway, the Trump's performance is much the same as it is around town: loud, clumsy, and frequently disconcerting. Handling is extremely awkward; the Trump is prone to swerve suddenly to the left or right, and at times even our professional drivers were unable to control it. This certainly makes the Trump brand exciting — something many people are drawn to — but it can become tiresome quickly.

    Over smooth pavement, the Trump can be temperamental; over uneven ground it behaves even worse, reacting volcanically to the slightest bump in the road, and it has been known to throw passengers out of its cabinet at unexpected moments. Braking is erratic; at times the Trump will screech to a sudden stop all by itself, while at other times it is impossible to stop even when heading for the edge of a cliff.

    Acceleration is another matter: The 2018 model, like earlier versions, can go from zero to 60 in under two seconds — shockingly fast for such a heavy vehicle. The FlexFuel system can run on both normal fare and fast food (although it will not accept ethanol blends). Despite claims of having the strongest powertrain in its class, however, our Trump felt underpowered and lacking in traction when we took it around D.C.

    Hinkle has been underappreciated at Pun Salad so far. I'll try to do better.

  • Jennfier Kabbany of the College Fix writes on the new anti-oppression guide posted by the Boston institution I always call "Simmons Beautyrest® College": Saying ‘God bless you’ after sneeze listed as microaggression on college’s anti-oppression guide.

    Suffice to say, it's the usual higher-ed explication of the prevailing Progressive pigeonholing theology. But I hadn't seen this before:

    The guide’s authors explain that they replaced the typical suffix “phobia,” such as Islamophobia, with the term “misia,” because the term “phobia” is offensive to people with phobias.

    “So when we use terms like ‘homophobia,’ we are equating bigotry with a mental health disorder,” the guide states. “Misia (pronounced ‘miz-eeya’) comes from the Greek word for hate or hatred.”

    I'll give them points for (at least trying to) patch up a glaring intellectual contradiction:

    1. A "phobia" implies a mental illness.

    2. But one of the guiding ideas behind "mental illness" is to remove responsibility from its sufferers. It's not your fault if you're sick!

    3. And fault is the major thing Progressives want to assign to the people they see as their oppressors. How can you name, blame, and shame someone who's suffering from a disease?

    So I would expect that "misia" may be a suffix coming soon to a University Near You (although I don't see it yet at the University Near Here).

    Kat Timpf also comments on the guide here.

  • Instead of learning about π yesterday, a bunch of schoolkids "walked out" in support of … something about guns. It didn't make a lot of sense, but was heavy on the feels. At the Federalist, Robert Tracinski explains: The National School Walkout Sums Up Our Middle School Politics.

    The National School Walkout perfectly sums up politics in 2018. It makes total sense to draft school kids as political activists, because all of our politics is already just an inflated version of middle school.

    The most striking fact about this walkout is how it became effectively a school sponsored political event in many areas. Actually, that’s only the second most striking fact. The most striking fact is that it was the brainchild of the Women’s March, an organization founded and still run by fangirls of a rabid anti-Semite. So naturally their initiatives are embraced by the nation’s teachers. I’m glad everybody got the memo about not tolerating bigots.

    Apparently the feelings-based rhetoric favored by your local fifth-graders feeds into the highest reaches of our government, as in this tweet from our state's senior senator:

    Twitter is a write-only media for Senator Jeanne, so replies are pointless and stupid. I made one anyway:

    Politicians are supposed to be smarter than a fifth-grader. Aren't they?

Last Modified 2018-03-18 7:10 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

π Day 2018

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 15:31 is another fortune cookie:

    31 Whoever heeds life-giving correction
        will be at home among the wise.

    And perhaps they will give you Σ π. Ha!

  • The WaPo's Elizabeth Bruenig has made some noise lately advocating for socialism. Steven Horwitz takes her as seriously as possible, and imagines What a Good-Faith Discussion of Socialism Might Really Look Like. He quotes Breunig:

    [C]apitalism…encourages and requires fierce individualism, self-interested disregard for the other, and resentment of arrangements into which one deposits more than he or she withdraws. (As a business-savvy friend once remarked: Nobody gets rich off of bilateral transactions where everybody knows what they’re doing.) Capitalism is an ideology that is far more encompassing than it admits, and one that turns every relationship into a calculable exchange. Bodies, time, energy, creativity, love — all become commodities to be priced and sold. Alienation reigns. There is no room for sustained contemplation and little interest in public morality; everything collapses down to the level of the atomized individual.

    Horwitz's rebuttal:

    It takes some chutzpah to define capitalism that way then complain your critics are arguing in bad faith, given what a bad-faith explanation of capitalism that is. I could spend this whole space picking apart that definition claim by claim, especially its ignorance about the nature of exchange. It might be easier to ask folks who have lived under nominally socialist regimes whether that paragraph better describes their lives under socialism or capitalism. I’m pretty sure it’s the former, not the latter.

    Bruenig's problem, Horwitz argues, is that she defines socialism in terms of its goals, not its structure. That's not enough.

  • But we have enough real-life instances of "democratic" socialistic policies here in the US already. At Cato, Chris Edwards describes Federal Fuel Foolishness

    The federal government imposes a mandate to blend ethanol into gasoline. This “Renewable Fuel Standard” harms consumers, damages the economy, and produces negative environmental effects. The mandate has also spawned a bureaucratic trading system in ethanol credits, which the Wall Street Journal reports is bankrupting a refinery in Pennsylvania.

    The rubber hits the road with that “10% Ethanol” sticker you see on the pump when you fill your tank. The sticker signifies that the government is imposing a foolish policy on the nation at the behest of a handful of selfish senators, who are bucking the interests of America’s 220 million motorists.

    Those senators are Republicans from Iowa and Nebraska; so much for the GOP being a reliable friend of capitalism. From the linked WSJ article:

    The core problem is that the federal government has distorted the energy market by using subsidies and mandates to support biofuels. The solution is to end this political favoritism. But if the Trump Administration lacks the political fortitude to stand up to the ethanol lobby, at least it can limit the most destructive effects. When policy is this bad, almost anything is an improvement over the status quo.

    The "almost anything" advocated by the WSJ writer: the EPA should grant waivers to independent oil refiners who can't meet the biofuel mandates.

  • Hillary Clinton made news again by revealing her deep contempt for the folks that voted against her. Michael Brendan Dougherty writes at NR about Hillary’s Bitter Clinging. Quoting HRC:

    I won the places that represent two-thirds of America’s gross domestic product. . . . So I won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward. And his whole campaign, “Make America Great Again,” was looking backwards. You know: “You didn’t like black people getting rights, you don’t like women, you know, getting jobs, you don’t want to, you know, see that Indian-American succeeding more than you are, whatever your problem is, I’m going to solve it.”

    Yes, of course she was speaking in India. Note the pandering.

    Dougherty comments:

    Although she is not running anymore, Clinton’s comments are in some ways worse than Obama’s ["bitter clingers" comments]. He attributed the bitterness in “small towns in the Midwest” to the policy failures and false promises of the Clinton and Bush years. He prefaced the remark by saying, “Each successive administration has said somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.”

    Clinton’s remarks manage to combine self-pity with contempt. They are unhelpful to Democrats trying to get elected. And they articulate what is becoming the central myth of the liberal elite: We are beautiful and successful because we’re morally superior. Clinton’s remarks connect the expanding GDP of her constituents to their commitment to diversity, and the economic trouble of the red states to their supposed opposition to “women having jobs” and civil rights.

    How do Progressive Democrats reconcile their inequality blather with their "hey, rich people vote for us" blather?

  • We're looking forward to a day of strident moral posturing about gun-grabbing. At Reason, J. D. Tuccille isn't having it: Your Right to Free Speech, Like My Right to Self-Defense, Isn’t Open to Debate.

    Today, some students, teachers, and other Americans who share their views are walking out of classes across the country to call for limits on the right of free assembly. Wait, strike that. They're walking out of classes to call for further restrictions on protections against unreasonable search and seizure. Nope, that's not it either. Wait, I have it: they're protesting for greater regulation of self-defense rights. Yup, there we go.

    Of course, they're exercising their free speech rights in the process, and that's as it should be (although at least some of the kids have been conscripted into exercising somebody else's free speech rights by school officials who expect that their charges will adhere to officially endorsed positions). After all, the exercise of individual rights shouldn't be subject to popular opinion or debate.

    If Progressives get their legislative druthers, their War on Guns will make the War on Drugs look like a minor skirmish.

Black Panther

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

So we went to see a theater movie, one that pretty much everyone else in America has seen by now: Black Panther. There was a surprisingly decent crowd in the theater for a 12:50pm Monday showing.

The hero, of course, is T'Challa, in line to ascend to the throne of the Kingdom of Wakanda with the blowing-up death of his father in the last Captain America movie. Wakanda is trying to keep secret its vast riches and technical prowess, a result of its sitting on a vast amount of vibranium, the major ingredient in Cap's shield. It turns out it's a major source of technological mumbo-jumbo as well.

But there are problems, because the bad guys are figuring out the vibranium stuff, too, notably "Ulysses Klaue", who masterminds the theft of an invaluable vibranium weapon from a British museum. He is assisted by "Erik Killmonger", who (it turns out) has reasons of his own for wanting to torment T'Challa and Wakanda.

So: a rich story, very good acting, very very good special effects. I'm pretty immune to the hoopla about finally having a superhero of African descent. (Hey, we're all of African descent, kids.)

Last Modified 2018-11-26 7:02 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

Looking forward to another nor'easter today. Accuweather predicts 12 to 24 inches of global warming. And the Red Sox home opener is 23 days away; hope they can get the snow off the field by then.

  • Proverbs 15:30 is surprisingly upbeat:

    30 Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart,
        and good news gives health to the bones.

    I'm not going to argue with that. Although I would also recommend calcium, vitamin D, and physical activity.

  • At Cato, Jeffrey A. Singer notes the obvious: The War on Opioids Has Become a War on Patients.

    As Anne Fuqua recently pointed out in the Washington Post, non-medical drug users accessing heroin and fentanyl in the underground drug market are not the only victims in the opioid crisis. Many patients whose only relief from a life sentence of torturing pain are also victims. That is because policymakers continue to base their strategies on the misguided and simplistic notion that the opioid overdose crisis impacting the US, Canada, and Europe, is tied to doctors prescribing opioids to their patients in pain.

    Data point: just last night our local TV station reported on the sentencing of Rekha Luther, convicted of bringing fentanyl and steroids to her workplace, Pembroke Academy, where she was Dean, back in 2016. (She got three months in jail.) And of course:

    She told the court that she got hooked on opioids the way many people do, with prescription painkillers.

    I am skeptical about that. Ms. Luther's then-fiancé, Jonathan Pesa, reportedly died of a drug overdose in 2015.

  • At NR, Jim Geraghty provides Ten Reasons We Can’t, and Shouldn’t, Be Nordic. What, only ten?

    Spoiler alert: the big reason is that our government is largely dysfunctional:

    A lot of progressives seem to think that conservatives distrust the government because of some esoteric philosophical theory, or because we had some weird dream involving Ayn Rand. In reality, it’s because we’ve been told to trust the government before — and we’ve gotten burned, time and time again.

    Government doesn’t louse up everything, but it sure louses up a lot of what it promises to deliver: from the Big Dig to Healthcare.gov; from letting veterans die waiting for health care to failing to prioritize the levees around New Orleans and funding other projects instead; from 9/11 to the failure to see the housing bubble that precipitated the Great Recession; from misconduct in the Secret Service to the IRS targeting conservative groups; from lavish conferences at the General Services Administration to the Solyndra grants; from the runaway costs of California’s high-speed-rail project to Operation Fast and Furious; from the OPM breach to giving Hezbollah a pass on trafficking cocaine.

    The federal government has an abysmal record of abusing the public’s trust, finances, and its own authority. Now some people want it to take on a bigger role? If you want to enact a massive overhaul of America’s economy and government to redistribute wealth, you first have to demonstrate that you can accomplish something smaller, like ensuring every veteran gets adequate care. Until then, if you want to live like a Norwegian, buy a plane ticket.

    That's an impressive list, and I'm sure anyone who's been paying attention for the past few decades could add a number of items to it.

  • Jake Rossen of Mental Floss answers the burning question you didn't realize you needed to ask: What is the Riot Act, and Why Don't I Want It Read to Me?

    The idiom, which has been in use for centuries, is generally thought to mean the admonishment of a person or persons who have committed an error in judgment. But the origin of the term "riot act" concerns a very particular wrongdoing—an unlawful public assembly that peace officers of the 16th century fought with a pre-written warning to disperse or face serious repercussions. Like death.

    Fortunately, the phrase has gotten a lot less literal in the intervening centuries.

  • But there's good news from the Bablyon Bee: Harvard Now Offering Four-Year Degree In Feeling Oppressed.

    Responding to consumer demand, Ivy League bellwether Harvard University announced Monday its new four-year Bachelor’s degree in Feeling Oppressed.

     “For those lucky enough to be able to afford the quarter-million-dollar cost of attending our prestigious school, we are offering a comprehensive program that will prepare you for a lifetime of convincing yourself that you are a perpetual victim and nothing that happens in your life is your own fault,” Harvard president Drew Faust announced in an afternoon press conference.

    Well, that's good, that they're making that official.

Bad Moms

[0.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A Mrs. Salad pick. She said a lot of the women in her Facebook milieu, mostly ex-students, loved it. I tremble for the future of our country, also their families. It was awful.

Mila Kunis is the protagonist, Amy, Bad Mom Prime. She is every cliché in the book: time-stressed, overworked, underpaid, on the hairy edge of a nervous breakdown. And, oh yeah, her slimy husband is cyber-cheating on her.

So she tosses him out of the house, and takes up with two other Bad Moms, meek Kiki (Kristen Bell) and earthy Carla (Kathryn Hahn). They band together to find their liberation, which involves a lot of gutter language and alcohol abuse.

I'm not kidding about the gutter language, it's at Tarantino levels. If that's what floats your boat, go for it. But I think Kathryn Hahn kind of goes over the line; without getting into specifics, she uses a word to describe her son that, um, no mother should ever use to describe her son.

Christina Applegate plays the PTA president-from-hell, Gwendolyn. The sole reason for rating this movie a half-star: she has a pretty amusing video presentation accompanying her announcement of how the upcoming school bake sale will be run. See if you can find this on YouTube, and you'll find the only thing I chuckled at in this movie.

The Cartel

[Amazon Link]

A sequel to Winslow's 2005 book The Power of the Dog which I read back in 2007, and enjoyed. In the sense that a novel containing tons of unremitting violence and betrayal can be enjoyable.

It's more of the same here. As we begin, the villain in the previous book, drug kingpin Adán Barrera, is in an American prison. Where the diligent DEA agent (and his onetime friend) Art Keller placed him at the end of The Power of the Dog. But the decades-long path of the previous book was fatal to Art ever leading a normal life; he's now doing beekeeping in a remote monastery in the desert.

But Barrera finds an out: by betraying some of his former allies in Mexico, he wangles a deal that gets him transferred to a Mexican prison. Whose keepers turn out (as Barrera knows) to be so corruptible that it's more like a luxury hotel which you are technically not allowed to leave. But re-establishing your pre-eminence as drug lord? Hey, no problem. And he eventually "escapes" anyway.

Which, in turn, brings Keller out of the monastery, and back into the game.

The book covers about eight years of the cat-and-mouse game between Barrera and Keller. With the cats and mice equipped with plenty of weaponry. There's lots of violence, some sex, and surprisingly little drugs. A lot of supporting characters to keep straight, especially on the bad-guy side; you might want to take notes.

Winslow has long been a must-read author for me. You can read this book as mindless escapism if you want. However, the underlying theme is clear: the American "war on drugs" is a massive failure; while the US gets the drugs, what Mexico gets in return is violence, corruption, and lawlessness. In a sobering dedication Winslow lists the Mexican journalists "murdered or 'disappeared'" during the writing of the book. It is a very long list.

If you want a true-fact version, I suggest Jay Nordlinger's recent article Reporting under the Gun. If anything, the danger to journalists has gotten far worse since Winslow wrote this book.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 15:29 reminds us that the Lord could hear our prayers, sometimes he doesn't feel like it:

    29 The Lord is far from the wicked,
        but he hears the prayer of the righteous.

    Today's Pic du Jour: a suggested t-shirt for the Lord.

    Hm, that comes off as a tad sacrilegious. Sorry.

  • I'm currently reading Bryan Caplan's The Case against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money.

    My credentials: I spent around 20 years as a student, and 22 years working for the University Near Here, 7 of those years as an Instructor in Computer Science. Comparable amounts of time for the wife and kids.

    At this point, about 20% of the way through the book, I am in complete agreement with Bryan Caplan. As Robert Frost points out in another context: "But waste was of the essence of the scheme."

    Or as Mel Brooks put it (in a still different context): "We've got to protect our phony baloney jobs here, gentlemen!"

    That said, I encourage you to read (for free) a couple articles adapted from the book at Reason. The first: Going to College Is Selfish. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but…

    If you've always been a strong student, spending your time and money on education pays well. The evidence is overwhelming. Even after scrupulously correcting for ability bias—the brains, discipline, and other advantages you'd possess with or without school—formal education provides a big career boost. At an individual level, investing in your own education often compares favorably to not just corporate bonds, but long-run stock market returns.

    Since individuals' investment in their own education is personally rewarding, you might infer that government investment in society's education would be socially rewarding. But this is a classic "fallacy of composition." If one person stands up at a concert, he sees better; it does not follow that if everyone stands up at a concert, everyone sees better. The same goes for education. Yes, schooling is selfishly lucrative—at least for strong students. On a societal level, however, it is shockingly wasteful for students weak and strong. Federal, state, and local government spends far too much money educating Americans.

    The second article: A Heretical Plan for Cutting Spending on Education.

    In the U.S., spending on public elementary, secondary, and tertiary schools now amounts to almost $1 trillion a year. Private education also relies on subsidized student loans and other government support. This gives society a nearly foolproof remedy for educational waste: Cut budgets for public education and subsidies for private education. Give schools less taxpayer money. The central question isn't "How?" but "Where do we start?"

    Bryan argues the best education policy would be "no education policy at all: the separation of school and state". He goes on to assure the reader that it isn't necessary to accept his "crazy extremism" in order to acknowledge the overall correctness of his supporting argument.

  • George F. Will points out an area where clarity is demanded: A War without an Objective, 6,000 Days In.

    With metronomic regularity, every thousand days or so, Americans should give some thought to the longest war in their nation’s history. The war in Afghanistan, which is becoming one of the longest in world history, reaches its 6,000th day on Monday, when it will have ground on for substantially more than four times longer than U.S. involvement in World War II from Pearl Harbor to V-J Day (1,346 days).

    Will asks: what's the point, here? Do we have one?

  • Jeff Jacoby tells the story of China's corporate tools. As in: Marriott, Delta, Mercedes-Benz, and Apple. Apple? Apple!

    When Apple CEO Tim Cook accepted the Newseum Free Speech award last spring, he emphatically declared that Apple has no higher value than the promotion of free speech and robust debate. "We work to defend these freedoms by enabling people around the world to speak up. And . . . we do it by speaking up ourselves," Cook said. "Companies can and should have values."

    But when it comes to China, Apple's values vanish. Last year Apple scrubbed hundreds of virtual private network applications, with which Internet users can bypass government censorship, from its App Store in China. It thereby denied hundreds of millions of Chinese residents their only realistic means of accessing the Internet without restriction. "This App Store purge just created one of the biggest setbacks for the free Internet in China's history," commented TechCrunch, an industry publication.

    Jacoby calls this "nauseating hypocrisy." He's right.

  • And there's another T-shirt in our Tweet du Jour:

Last Modified 2018-03-18 7:11 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 15:28 is another Proverbialist Mad Lib, and works in his oral fixation as well:

    28 The heart of the righteous weighs its answers,
        but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.

    As Horatio Caine might say: Proverbs has a vast amount of wisdom, but some of the verses are …

        ( •_•)>⌐■-■ 
    … half-vast.


    [Classic reference explained, if necessary, here. Thanks to Iowahawk for the graphics.]

  • Reader, did you remember to Spring Forward? Whether or not, you'll want to check out Slashdot's question: Are The Alternatives Even Worse Than Daylight Saving Time? Lots of links. Memorable paragraph:

    The article associates Daylight Saving Time with "a spike in heart attacks, increased numbers of work injuries, automobile accidents, suicides, and more." And in addition, it also blames DST for an increased use of gasoline and air conditioners -- adding that it will also "rob humanity of billions of hours of sleep like an evil spacetime vampire."

    "Other than that, though, it's great."

    Let me link (yet again) a classic Pun Salad Crackpot Proposal from 2013: The Right Number of Time Zones is Zero.

  • In this week's G-File, Jonah Goldberg writes a followup to the column (which appeared in USA Today) that speculated on The Wisdom of Youth. Or lack thereof. Sample:

    This is what I hate about all forms of identity politics. It’s an effort to get credit or authority based upon an accident of birth. The whole point of liberalism (the real kind) is the idea that people are supposed to be judged on the basis of their own merits, not as representatives of some class or category. Of course, one needn’t be absolutist about this. A little pride in your culture or ethnicity won’t do any harm. But reducing individuals simply to some abstract category is the very definition of bigotry.

    Also: the Progressive media cynically exploit these kids in order to advance the Progressive media's agenda.

  • My lefty Facebook friends take every opportunity to fearmonger about imagined "cuts" to entitlement programs. Like Veronique de Rugy at Reason, I want to tell them: don't worry, Fellow ElderlyPersonOnAFixedIncome: Uncle Sam Continues to Stick His Head in the Sand on Entitlements.

    Social Security and Medicare are the two biggest programs driving the growth of our debt. What's more, they provide benefits for senior Americans generally, without regard to need. It's time to change the way we think about these programs.

    It's difficult to overstate how much of our budget goes toward these programs. Numbers from the Congressional Budget Office show that in the past 10 years, 70 percent of real spending increases have gone to Social Security and Medicare. In fiscal 2017, the federal government spent $4 trillion. Of that, 40 percent—$1.5 trillion, or 8 percent of our gross domestic product—went to Social Security and Medicare. These two programs will consume $3 trillion in the next decade, and that doesn't include the interest charged on Uncle Sam's credit card.

    Ms. de Rugy cites an NR article from Brian Riedl, which is behind the paywall. Sad!

  • Probably not going to be a hit movie comparable to When Harry Met Sally, but the great Katherine Mangu-Ward relates, in the NYT When Smug Liberals Met Conservative Trolls.

    Modern American political discourse can seem disjointed to the point of absurdism. But the problem isn’t just filter bubbles, echo chambers or alternative facts. It’s tone: When the loudest voices on the left talk about people on the right as either beyond the pale or dupes of their betters, it is with an air of barely concealed smugness. Right-wingers, for their part, increasingly respond with a churlish “Oh, yeah? Hold my beer,” and then double down on whatever politically incorrect sentiment brought on the disdain in the first place.

    Sensible people—and I am apparently not one of them—will turn off both sides.

  • At the Federalist, David Harsanyi debunks a lefty meme: No, Government Isn’t ‘Banned’ From Studying Gun Violence. What's behind the assertion? Not much:

    In 1996, a few years after the Center for Disease Controls had funded a highly controversial study that has since embedded itself into the “scientific” case for gun control, Arkansas Republican Jay Dickey* added an amendment to a funding bill that dictated “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control” should be used to “advocate or promote gun control.” That same year, Congress also cut $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget, the amount it spent on gun control efforts. Bill Clinton signed it into law.

    Absolutely nothing in the amendment prohibits the CDC from studying “gun violence,” even if this narrowly focused topic tells us little. In response to this inconvenient fact, gun controllers will explain that while there isn’t an outright ban, the Dickey amendment has a “chilling” effect on the study of gun violence.

    Something to deploy the next time you see this nonsense on Facebook.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 15:27 screams out for one of Mark J. Perry's Venn diagrams:

    27 The greedy bring ruin to their households,
        but the one who hates bribes will live.

    The implied dichotomy seems incomplete. There's no intersection between set A (the greedy) and set B (those "who hate bribes")?

    Anyway, we'll get to a Perry Venn diagram in a bit…

  • At Reason, Declan McCullagh makes a point that should be obvious: Don’t Blame Tech Companies for Russian Election Trolls.

    If Moscow can create cover identities for actual spies living in the United States, it can surely devise an identity for an would-be advertiser or simply impersonate an American citizen online. Identity fraud is no obstacle for a government willing to violate U.S. criminal laws. Silicon Valley companies shouldn't be expected to conduct counterespionage operations of their own.

    Put that way, the Russkie shenanigans around the 2016 election seem woefully amateurish and were relatively easy to unravel. At least that was true of the ones we know about… Hm.

  • As previously noted, Levi, son of Bernie, is in the running for the New Hampshire Congressional District One seat in the U. S. House of Representatives. An amusing article in the HuffPo digs out some of his old Facebook posts: Bernie Sanders’ Son Is Extremely Mad Online. One (small) example from 2015, in a reply to someone noting that Houston, TX had relatively low gas prices:

    I think we all know what he meant, the "o" and "i" keys are right next to each other, after all.

    I seem to remember that Trump got into a little controversy with this sort of language.

    I detect (however) a planted story by some Democrat activist working for a different candidate.

  • And finally, the Mark J. Perry Tweet du Jour:

Last Modified 2018-03-18 7:10 AM EDT

A Letter I Wrote to Steven Pinker

[Amazon Link]

I recently read Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress. My take is here. But something about the book bugged me enough to look up Professor Pinker's email address and dash off a missive. Here it is:

Dear Professor Pinker --

I'm a longtime reader, since The Language Instinct. I lean a bit more (OK, a huge amount more) toward the libertarian/conservative side than you do, but that's OK. Your occasional heresies against Progressive dogmas tell me you're a straight shooter.

So I hope you will consider a minor criticism of an instance where your shot is off-target.

I bought and read Enlightenment Now and mostly enjoyed it, but one thing bothered me enough to spur this mail. On page 343:

"Charge the cockpit or you die!" shrieked a conservative essayist, comparing the country to the hijacked flight on 9/11 that was brought down by a passenger mutiny.

And on page 449:

(Hence Anton's hysterical essay "The Flight 93 Election," mentioned in Chapter 20, which compared the country to the airliner hijacked on 9/11 and called on voters to "charge the cockpit or you die!").

I read the essay when it came out, and found it unconvincing. (I voted for Gary Johnson.) But I didn't recall the hysterical shrieking. So I went back to check...

Here's the problem: the exclamation point you (twice) put in quotes does not appear in the original essay. It's just a plain old period. Your insertion inside the quote marks is unfair and misleading, causing the casual reader to think the essayist you're criticizing was significantly more strident than he actually was.

I hope this is something you'll consider correcting.

In any case, best wishes, I look forward to your future work.

Only response so far has been an auto-reply. Understandable, he's a busy man. I'll update this post if I hear anything substantive.

URLs du Jour


  • Proverbs 15:26 reminds us that the omniscience of the Lord rivals that of Santa:

    26 The Lord detests the thoughts of the wicked,
        but gracious words are pure in his sight.

    So be good for goodness' sake.

  • As promised, here is Reason's April cover story from Jacob Sullum: America's War on Pain Pills Is Killing Addicts and Leaving Patients in Agony. It is long, detailed, and deserves your attention. Sample:

    […] the truth is that patients who take opioids for pain rarely become addicted. A 2018 study found that just 1 percent of people who took prescription pain medication following surgery showed signs of "opioid misuse," a broader category than addiction. Even when patients take opioids for chronic pain, only a small minority of them become addicted. The risk of fatal poisoning is even lower—on the order of two-hundredths of a percent annually, judging from a 2015 study.

    Despite such reassuring numbers, the government is responding to the "opioid epidemic" as if opioid addiction were a disease caused by exposure to opioids, a simplistic view that ignores the personal, social, and economic factors that make these drugs attractive to some people. Treating pain medication as a disease vector, the government has restricted access to it by monitoring prescriptions, investigating doctors, and imposing new limits on how much can be prescribed, for how long, and under what circumstances. That approach hurts pain patients by depriving them of the analgesics they need to make their lives livable, and it hurts nonmedical users by driving them into a black market where the drugs are deadlier.

    A large majority of opioid-related deaths now involve illicitly produced substances, primarily heroin and fentanyl. As usual, the government's efforts to get between people and the drugs they want have not prevented drug use, but they have made it more dangerous.

    Unsurprisingly, the overall narrative emphasizes scapegoating and prohibition.

  • Jason Brennan, author of Against Democracy, notes the irony of The Anti-Democratic Ethos of Pro-Democracy Academics. Examples are cited. And:

    What these academics and groups have in common are two things: 1. They believe themselves to have strong commitments to democracy. 2. Their commitments to democrat ends are apparently so strong that they license themselves to blatantly violate the democratic ethos. They reject the spirit of free, open-minded, and fair debate, and show little willingness to engage with and reach understanding with contrary points of view. Instead, they straw man and attack others, misrepresent what others believe and why, use epithets like “racist” or “fascist” unfairly and inaccurately, and use violence, power, and discrimination to silence others, often while clutching their pearls and complaining that they are the real victims. The lack of self-awareness is stunning–assuming, of course, that they don’t know what they’re doing.

    Let's throw in some journalists, like Jane Mayer into that pot as well.

  • Jonah Goldberg describes how Youth politics has tainted the gun debate.

    But the simple fact is that young people are not, as a group, better informed, wiser, smarter or even more enlightened than older people. This is a fact of science and social science alike. We are born ignorant of the world we live in and only lose that ignorance over time.

    Think about what you knew and understood at half your current age. Were you smarter then? Wiser? Why assume it works differently for anyone else?

    Spoiler to our younger audience: It does not.

    Jonah also makes a point relevant to our previous item:

    Democracy depends on arguments that are not contingent on your age. Lots of kids don’t understand that, but grown-ups are supposed to.

    "Assuming, of course, that they don't know what they're doing."

  • David Harsanyi notes that some Progressive pundits have been rudely taken to school for their ignorance of firearms, and are now complaining of their butthurt. But: If You’re Trying to Ban Guns, the Least You Could Do Is Learn the Basics.

    The Washington Post recently published an op-ed by writer Adam Weinstein in which he argues that Second Amendment advocates “use jargon to bully gun-control supporters.” “While debating the merits of various gun control proposals,” he contends, “Second Amendment enthusiasts often diminish, or outright dismiss their views if they use imprecise firearms terminology.”

    How dare Second Amendment advocates expect that those passionately arguing to limit their constitutional rights have some rudimentary knowledge of the devices they want to ban? To point out the constant glaring technical and policy “faux pas” of gun controllers is to engage in “gunsplaining,” a bad-faith argument akin to intimidation.

    The gun-grabbers want to rely on panicked emotionalism to win the day. Demanding that they be specific and precise isn't "bullying". But it does get in the way of their preferred mode of argument.

Who I Am

[Amazon Link]

Another book in my quest to understand the roots of creative genius. And also another failure at that quest. It's probably time to give up on this idea of seeking insights from celebrity memoirs. (Previous tries: Jimmy Webb; Bruce Springsteen; Donald Fagen; Eric Clapton; Tina Fey; Steve Martin; Bob Dylan.)

Pete Townshend's book is longer and probably more literate than most. It's full of introspection, but the takeaways are not that insightful.

But does it hit all the major themes of rock-god autobiographies?

Drugs? Check. A lot of cognac, but also cocaine, pot, prescription drugs, heroin, LSD, …

Sex? Check. Mostly fumbling, some unconsummated, mostly at the expense of long-suffering wife Karen. Surprising: Theresa Russell!

Psychological problems? Oh heck yes.

Weird religious beliefs? Have you ever heard of Meher Baba? Pete is is most devoted disciple. Did that keep him out of trouble? No. But maybe he'd have been in even worse shape without.

Some random observations:

  • He's admitted to the Daltrey/Entwistle band on page 46. His memory of the "audition" is Roger asking "Can you play E? Can you play B? Can you play 'Man of Mystery' by the Shadows? "Hava Nagila"? OK, then. See you for practice at Harry's."

    From such inauspicious beginnings…

  • Keith Moon gets into the band on page 67, replacing the "too old" Doug Sandom. Hey, Sandom may have been old and boring, but you know what? Unlike Moon, he's still alive.

  • It's funny how Townshend's musings about his music differ from my fanboy impressions. I liked the Who OK, but when Who's Next came out in 1971, I thought it was a masterpiece. Still do, in fact. Turned me into a lifelong fan. Mr. Townshend seems to view it as a thrown-together hackwork to appease contractual obligations after the collapse of his ambitious Lifehouse project.

  • On page 377, he refers to song he's written "for my friend, Harvey Weinstein." Wince. Wonder if he'd like to have that one back.

  • On page 107, he recalls in 1966 listening to "the Beach Boys' stereo masterpiece, Pet Sounds". I like Pet Sounds too, but it wasn't released in a stereo mix until 1997.

  • As an example of the book's introspection without insight: on pages 438-9, he mentions going to a couple sessions of couples counselling with long-suffering wife Karen. Upshot? "The first session was all right, but the second was less successful." Pete, could you have made that anecdote any less interesting? If you're not going to go into specifics, why are you telling us this at all?

Anyway, I'm glad Pete didn't die before he got old.

URLs du Jour


  • Proverbs 15:25 is … a little weird:

    25 The Lord tears down the house of the proud,
        but he sets the widow’s boundary stones in place.

    Taken literally, the Lord is sort of a vigilante vandal/handyman, dispensing destruction/aid as appropriate. I think we have to look for a more metaphorical interpretation here.

  • At NR, Jonah Goldberg observes: Trumpism Is a Psychology, Not an Ideology.

    Intellectuals and ideologically committed journalists on the left and right have a natural tendency to see events through the prism of ideas. Trump presents an insurmountable challenge to such approaches because, by his own admission, he doesn’t consult any serious and coherent body of ideas for his decisions. He trusts his instincts.

    Trump has said countless times that he thinks his gut is a better guide than the brains of his advisers. He routinely argues that the presidents and policymakers who came before him were all fools and weaklings. That’s narcissism, not ideology, talking.

    Insightful, and … oh yeah, we're in a heap of trouble.

  • Concerned about the assault on the Second Amendment by Progressives? You should be. But as A. Barton Hinkle points out at Reason: Some Progressives Targeting the First Amendment, Too.

    Many progressives have long believed America would be a much better place without the Second Amendment. These days, some of them seem to think we'd also be better off without the First.

    That might sound like an exaggeration. But it's hard to square the First Amendment with a recent proposal in The New Republic: "Ban Facebook Before Elections." And yes, the headline accurately represents the text:

    "If fake news truly poses a crisis for democracy," writes Jeet Heer, "then it calls for a radical response. Instead of merely requiring greater transparency of social media and empowering the courts to ban users and websites... perhaps governments should outright ban Facebook and other platforms ahead of elections.

    Fun! But as Hinkle points out, the principle that bans Facebook under certain circumstances can equally be exteded to The New Republic, National Review, or even The New York Times.

    But Progressives aren't really interested in principles these days, only the power to make people behave the way they want.

  • AEI's James Pethokoukis explains it for you: Why populists of the left and right are soulmates on trade. (We've previously noted the fact that Trump's anti-free trade positions taken during the campaign were similar to Bernie Sanders', and Pethokoukis provides additional examples.)

    Why the common ground? Well, because populists gonna populist, whether they are on the Bernie Bro left or the “drain the swamp” right, although each side may be loathe to admit how much they have in common. But in reality, it’s quite a bit. Both are deeply suspicious of capitalism as a positive force in bringing about a peaceful and prosperous society. Both rhetorically champion “the people” against “the elite” or “the establishment.” And both tend to ignore possible constraints on their actions, which is one reason they dislike markets. (This tends to be true of populists everywhere.) As presidential candidates, Sanders and Trump had the two most implausible economic plans, with both assuming super-fast economic growth to make their numbers work. When you’re a populist politician with big dreams of Medicare for all or mega-tax cuts for all, it’s a real drag to have to worry about debt-to-GDP ratios or what bond investors might think.

    At least back in the good old days of Smoot-Hawley, Congress had to pass actual legislation to screw up the American economy. Today, the President can do that all by his lonesome.

  • And Michael Ramirez comments pictorially:

    Punishing steel exporters by the numbers

    That's regrettably clipped, so please click through.

Last Modified 2018-12-27 10:53 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


  • Proverbs 15:24 advocates for prudence:

    24 The path of life leads upward for the prudent
        to keep them from going down to the realm of the dead.

    It's easy to be snarky here: even Maximum Prudence will not save you from eventually kicking the bucket. But it could be that this is one of the (rare) instances of the Old Testament mentioning the afterlife.

    In which case, the proper attitude might be: Hey, all it takes is prudence? That seems easy!

  • My fair state—whose motto, don't forget, is "Live Free or Die"—makes the (web) pages of Reason, and not in a good way. Scott Shackford reports: What Forfeiture Reforms? New Hampshire Police Bypass State Law, Keep Taking People's Stuff.

    In theory, New Hampshire has reformed its asset forfeiture laws. The state passed a bill in June 2016 to keep police from seizing and keeping people's property unless those people have been convicted of a crime.

    And yet New Hampshire Public Radio reports this week that the state's cops are still trying to keep stuff seized from people who have been accused but not actually convicting of criminal behavior. Just months after the reform was passed, NHPR reports, state highway patrol officers grabbed a bag with $46,000 in cash out of a man's Hyundai during a traffic stop. They couldn't prove that the man had broken any laws, but they're attempting to keep the money anyway.

    The Commie New Hampshire Public Radio link has more information, including a link to the filed complaint from the Feds: United States of America v. Forty Six Thousand Dollars ($46,000) in U.S. Currency, more or less, seized from Alex Temple.

    The story of Mr. Temple's interaction with the NH State Police and the subsequent investigation is (frankly) pretty hilarious. And I say that without being Under the Influence of any Substance, other than my morning Folger's.

  • At the WaPo, Megan McArdle asks and answers: The real risk to Trump’s tariffs? American jobs.

    Remember, industries that consume steel and aluminum employ more Americans than steel or aluminum mills. These are “good” jobs, manufacturing jobs of just the sort that Trump has promised to protect. The products made by those industries will now become less competitive compared with foreign goods. They’ll lose domestic sales and export markets — and, with them, jobs.

    And that’s not all. China’s exports to us are already considerably restricted. The hardest-hit will be other trading partners, the ones that buy plenty from us. And they will be itching to retaliate with tariffs of their own. Depending on how far this escalates — and given Trump’s temperament, it could escalate pretty far — those secondary losses could be quite substantial.

    Ms. McArdle's article is a good brief description of the political and economic realities involved.

  • Writing at the American Conservative, Nick Phillips describes Oxford’s Junk Science on Fake News.

    Is National Review “junk news”? A panel of Oxford scientists says yes. Their study, “Polarization, Partisanship and Junk News Consumption over Social Media in the US,” purports to show that on social media, conservatives are far more likely than others to share “junk news.” That conclusion has earned them glowing write-ups in left-of-center outlets like The Guardian, Salon, and The Daily Beast.

    And what’s junk news? According to the study, a source is junk if it “deliberately publishes misleading, deceptive or incorrect information purporting to be real news about politics, economics or culture.”

    Mr. Phillips shows how the "scientists" utilized vague criteria, unevenly applied. The study is a bad joke.

  • Bryan Caplan debated a WaPo columnist, Elizabeth Bruenig, at LibertyCon the other day. Topic "Capitalism vs. Socialism". Ms. Bruenig posted her opening statement at Medium. Bryan Caplan responds: Capitalism vs. Socialism: Reply to Bruenig.

    RTWT—both things—of course, but I enjoyed this response to Ms. Bruenig's assertion that the "great authors of the Western tradition, the ancients and the late antique and medieval luminaries who laid out the foundations for what remains true and beautiful in our culture, would look see [sic] us as profoundly unfree."

    Caplan's response:

    I spent many years studying intellectual history. Still, my honest reaction: While these "luminaries" were smart, most were also profoundly ignorant and dogmatic - and apologists for the brutal societies in which they lived. Most had near-zero knowledge of what actually sustains the true and beautiful in our culture, namely: science, tolerance, and markets. They have far more to learn from us - both factually and morally - than we do from them.

    That said, I suspect the large majority of these luminaries would look at us with amazement. Indeed, when they exited of the time machine, they'd wonder if they'd died and gone to heaven. After all, they'd witness amazingly well-fed, healthy people enjoying a cornucopia of technology and art beyond their wildest dreams. Then they'd learn about the abolition of slavery and serfdom, the amazing progress of women, and the peaceful co-existence of conflicting religions and philosophies. And hygiene. And Netflix.

    Did I say RTWT? I did, but consider it said again.

URLs du Jour


I'm pretty sure today's URLs are a hodgepodge, with no overall theme. But if you discover one, let me know.

  • The Proverbialist shows his unexpected classical liberal leanings in Proverbs 15:23:

    23 A person finds joy in giving an apt reply—
        and how good is a timely word!

    … as long as the timely words and apt replies don't descend into mockery. As we know, the Proverbialist despises mockers.

  • In the "Should Have Seen That Coming" Department, Ira Stoll [Reason] notes an upcoming counterproductive idiocy: Trump and Trial Lawyers Target Drug Companies Over Opioid Addiction

    The opioid addiction issue is headed for the next stop on what is now a well-worn path: from public health crisis, to subject for award-winning and heart-tugging journalism, to payday for trial lawyers.

    The lawyers are poised to do to prescription drug companies, pharmacy chains, and drug distributors what they did to tobacco companies and asbestos manufacturers—wring from them a multibillion dollar settlement, with a sizeable chunk going to the lawyers themselves.

    They may even do so with an assist from President Trump. "Hopefully we can do some litigation against the opioid companies," Trump said earlier this month at a White House "Opioids Summit." "I think it's very important because a lot of states are doing it, but I keep saying, if the states are doing it, why isn't the federal government doing it? So that will happen."

    There's a long and insightful article from Jacob Sullum on pain-pill opioids in the current dead-tree Reason; I'll link to it when it goes to free access in a few days.

  • In his Bloomberg column, Tyler Cowen offers A Radical Solution to the Overuse of Occupational Licensing. Problem (as you may know):

    Criticism of the proliferation of occupational licensing is now bipartisan. Occupations such as dog walkers, interior designers, auctioneers and barbers do not need state licenses, and those legal restrictions serve mainly to raise prices for consumers and restrict supply, eventually limiting innovation and job creation, too.

    But how to move forward? There are thousands of licenses, covering almost a third of U.S. workers, and licenses are proliferating at the city and county levels, too. Constitutional and antitrust and legal challenges to this trend are beneficial, but they bring only piecemeal victories and cannot undo the current morass of restrictions.

    Spoiler: Professor Cowen proposes a federal takeover of the licensing game. Upside: uniform rules across the nation, not the current patchwork. Criticism: eroding federalism. And he may be a tad optimistic about the benefits.

  • Philip Greenspun notes the irony: People who hate inequality want poor Americans to pay for a $30 billion Wall Streeter tunnel. At issue is a proposed Hudson River tunnel between Newark and Manhattan, which Trump doesn't want Federal cash to flow to, at least as long as Chuck Schumer keeps being a yutz. Mr. Greenspun observes:

    $30 billion for a short tunnel? The world’s longest and deepest tunnel, opened in 2016, cost roughly $10 billion (Wikipedia). I accepted the assumption that the president of a country that is $21 trillion in debt wouldn’t oppose this purely on the grounds of efficiency and a theory that, if $30 billion must be borrowed, it could be better spent elsewhere.

    A Facebook debate between Mr. Greenspun and pro-tunnellers is featured.

    But to make an observation I've made before: In the future—even the near future—is that region's economy going to depend on spending vast sums of money to shuttle ever-increasing numbers of people back and forth daily across/under the Hudson River? Really? Or is this another preparation for a future that's not gonna happen?

  • At NR, George Leef notes how higher-ed folks are Exaggerating the Economic Impact of a University.

    Governmental institutions like to exaggerate their benefits since that helps ward off questions about their efficacy. State universities are a good example. Taxpayers might wonder why we spend so much on them, given that lots of college grads seem to have learned little of use from their college years.

    Recently, one of the University of North Carolina campuses (Asheville), put out a study purporting to be an “economic impact statement” of the university. As with all such studies (we find the same thing with studies about convention centers, sports stadiums, and so on), the researchers came to the conclusion that the school has a huge impact on the local economy. So there, you nit-pickers!

    Mr. Leef notes that such "studies" routinely ignore opportunity costs. Or, as Bastiat memorably put it, emphasizing the "seen" over the "unseen".

    The University Near Here devotes an entire website section to essentially argue that the state give it more money. It relies heavily on the kind of "analysis" that Leef (and Bastiat) debunk.

    Not to toot my own horn… OK, to toot my own horn a little bit… I'm still a little proud of this Pun Salad essay from last year: The Seen and Unseen at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, covering similar ground.

  • At the Federalist, David Harsanyi calls 'em like they is: Jeff Flake’s ‘No Fly, No Buy’ Is A Stupid Anti-Constitutional Idea.

    This is what a real attack on American values looks like.

    One day Sen. Jeff Flake is warning America about rising Stalinism and the next he’s supporting a bill that strips the rights of citizens who’ve been arbitrarily placed on secret government lists without any probable cause or due process. Make no mistake, that’s exactly what the legislation a group of senators plan to re-introduce this week does.

    “Terrorists,” explains Flake, “shouldn’t have access to guns, and this legislation has the teeth to make sure they don’t.”

    Hey, forget the guns! Why aren’t Flake and the Democrats introducing legislation to immediately detain all these “terrorists?” If the watch lists are enough to convict a man, then it’s safe to assume that there are over a million violent extremists walking our streets with impunity. Because surely — surely — Flake, sainted martyr of real conservatism, a man who took an oath to “support and defend the Constitution,” isn’t arguing that we should circumvent the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments for those placed on extrajudicial lists by bureaucrats? Surely he’s not arguing that simply being suspected of potentially engaging in criminal activity is now enough to preemptively deprive people of their rights? That would be downright authoritarian.

    Um, exactly. Flake has earned plaudits for his libertarian-tinged conservatism, but he seems to be determined to undo that reputation on his way out the door.

  • Andrew Klavan makes an insightful post at his PJMedia perch: Two Op-Eds Draw a Stark Portrait of Left vs. Right.

    Last Friday, two op-eds, one in a leftist newspaper, one in a paper that leans right, drew the starkest possible portrait of the difference between our two political cultures.

    On the left was The New York Times, a former newspaper, which now reads like a cross between Pravda and a cluster of six-year-old girls who have just seen a mouse. On the op-ed page I like to call Knucklehead Row, David Brooks delivered himself of the opinion that the left is winning the culture war. How? By brute force.

    You should RTWT for the … well, the whole thing. But I just wanted to quote the bit I really enjoyed: "a cross between Pravda and a cluster of six-year-old girls who have just seen a mouse."

Last Modified 2018-03-07 3:51 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


  • Proverbs 15:22 is an ostensible ode to collaboration:

    22 Plans fail for lack of counsel,
        but with many advisers they succeed.

    This Proverb was inserted thanks to the generous support of the Judean and Israeli chapters of the International Brotherhood of Plan Advisers. Our motto: "Plans Failing? Hire More Advisers!"

  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson shares Jamie Kirchick's insight: "Everything Trump says makes sense when you just preface it with, ‘Donny from Queens, You’re on the Air’."

    The formal term for what’s at the root of all this is “rational ignorance.” Many of you will have experienced the phenomenon of the very smart person who has very dumb ideas about politics — and who, if challenged, will immediately retreat into the vaguest of generalities, and often ends up displaying surprising ignorance about the most basic public-policy questions. These are the people who believe that you can walk into Walmart and buy a machine gun, that foreign aid represents half of federal spending, that the CIA introduced crack into inner-city neighborhoods, etc., and who tend not to know things like who their representative in Congress is or how our tax system works. Why are these smart and often very successful people so ignorant about politics? Because they’ve spent their lives getting really smart about a different subject and achieving their success in a field in which political knowledge isn’t very important. This is why Albert Einstein had such batty ideas about politics.

    Bottom line: Trump has learned one big thing: given the reality of tribal loyalties and antipathies, his ignorant babbles don't impact what he really cares about. Which is, to a first approximation, satisfying the appetite of his massive ego.

  • The Daily Signal calls attention to new frontiers in proposed judicial meddling: Progressive Activists Look to Courts to Undermine the Electoral College.

    Having failed to generate enough support to abolish the Electoral College through a constitutional amendment, the institution’s detractors are now looking to the courts to upend it.

    A new lawsuit, spearheaded by Harvard University law professor Lawrence Lessig and filed in four states, charges that the “winner-take-all” element of how states divvy up their Electoral College votes is unconstitutional.

    I'm no fan of "winner-take-all" and (let me yammer about it one more time) my crackpot election reform proposal showed one way around it for Congressional elections. But—here's the thing—I realize it would take an actual Constitutional Amendment to implement.

    Lessig and his ilk should simply say what they really want: "Let's get the judicial system to rewrite the rules of the game until we win".

  • Richard Bernstein, writing at the New York Review of Books website, lists off The Brands That Kowtow to China.

    A couple of years ago, a satirist on Taiwan, the democratic self-governing island that China claims as a province, created an online “Apologize to China” contest. Shortly before, an eighteen-year-old Taiwanese pop singer named Chou Tzu-yu had prompted patriotic outrage in mainland China when it was discovered that she had waved a Taiwanese flag on South Korean television, a gesture taken as disrespect for the sacrosanct One China idea. Facing furious demands that she be banned from performing in China, Chou made a video in which she tearfully begged for forgiveness for her offense, which itself aroused a good deal of dismay on Taiwan about Chinese bullying of a naive teenager. Hence the “Apologize to China” contest.

    It was a joke, but there’s been no joking as the apologies to China have come thick and fast in recent weeks, issued not by teenage singers but by some of the largest and richest multinational corporations in the world—the German luxury car manufacturer Daimler, the Marriott Hotel chain, Delta Airlines, and others. Like Chou Tzu-yu’s statement of regret, moreover, the apologies have been striking in their abjectness, their reaffirmation of China’s position on crucial issues like Taiwan and Tibet, even the use of boilerplate language right out of China’s propaganda lexicon.

    What pricked up my ears a bit: Delta Airlines is kowtowing to China? The same company that made a big deal of yanking its discount for National Rifle Association members?

    They would prefer to do the bidding of a Communist dictatorship instead?

    Delta's sin, as reported by Reuters:

    China’s aviation authority on Friday [Jan 12] demanded an apology from Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) for listing Taiwan and Tibet as countries on its website, while another government agency took aim at Inditex-owned (ITX.MC) fashion brand Zara and medical device maker Medtronic Plc (MDT.N) for similar issues.

    The apology was swift:

    Delta Air Lines apologized on Friday [also Jan 12] and said it recognized the seriousness of the issue after it was criticized by the Chinese aviation regulator for listing Taiwan and Tibet as countries on its website.

    But the funny thing is: the press release that Delta issued back in January seems to be unavailable on its website. (You can still find cached versions on Google.)

    And: Taiwan is still shown on Delta's route map, labeled as "Taiwan" in the same typeface as used for other countries. Both "Tibet" and "Taiwan" appear as pulldown menu options on Delta's Group Travel Request Form. Tibet does not appear on their "Countries & Territories" list, but Taiwan does. And they have a page devoted to Taiwan Instant Savings.

    Gee, I hope I don't get Delta in trouble by pointing this out. Oh, wait: I hope I do.

  • Alton Bay's Robert Wyszynski pens a Concord Monitor LTE, and it triggered our LFOD alert: Ban conversion therapy.

    Right now under New Hampshire law, parents can force their children to undergo therapy designed to brainwash their children into believing that who they are and who they love is wrong. This practice, conversion therapy, has been proven to increase rates of depression, anxiety and suicide among teens, and it must be stopped.

    OK, fine. Good luck finding any full-throated support on the web for "conversion therapy". (Sometimes called “reparative” therapy. Whether you call this a euphemism or not depends on how you feel about what's going on.) About the best I could do was an anti-banning op-ed (from 2013) at the NYT.

    But what about LFOD? Ah, here it is:

    If we truly want to live by the “Live Free or Die” motto, then we have to work to make sure that our children can live free from discrimination and judgment, and we can do this by banning gay conversion therapy for minors.

    Because nothing says freedom like getting the state to ban things.

URLs du Jour


  • The Proverbialist reveals that he is not a fan of folly in Proverbs 15:21:

    21 Folly brings joy to one who has no sense,
        but whoever has understanding keeps a straight course.

    Unlike the Proverbialist, I am kind of a folly fan, so my feelings are understandably hurt here.

  • On the other hand, I am no fan of certain kinds of folly, specifically what the WSJ editorial board calls Trump’s Tariff Folly.

    Donald Trump made the biggest policy blunder of his Presidency Thursday by announcing that next week he’ll impose tariffs of 25% on imported steel and 10% on aluminum. This tax increase will punish American workers, invite retaliation that will harm U.S. exports, divide his political coalition at home, anger allies abroad, and undermine his tax and regulatory reforms. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.7% on the news, as investors absorbed the self-inflicted folly.

    "Other than that, though, it's fine!" Said nobody, ever.

  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File this week reveals that the tariffs aren't just folly. They are, in fact, A Conspiracy against the People.

    The funny thing is that this move toward protection is celebrated or condemned as a fulfillment of Trump’s “populist” agenda. I get that we label protectionism “populist” these days — though I’m old enough to remember when protectionism was a technocratic cause. But populism is supposed to mean putting the interests of “the people” first. (The problem with populism is that populists never mean all the people; they only mean their people.) And this move isn’t in the interests of most people. How is it “populist” to punish over 300 million consumers and the 6.5 million workers in steel-consuming industries for the benefit of 140,000 workers in the steel-producing industry? Trump says trade wars are “good” — but when other nations retaliate, farmers, truckers, manufacturers, and Americans in general will pay the price.

    This isn’t populism in any literal meaning of the word; it’s elitism of the rankest sort. The president is abusing a law beyond its intended purpose to heap favor on a specific industry, while telling Americans that they aren’t paying enough for cars, aluminum cans, and countless other goods. Despite the fact that the U.S. steel industry already provides 70 percent of the steel used in America. This is literally conspiracy against the public.

    I just finished Steven Pinker's new book, Enlightenment Now, which is (unfortunately) plagued by tedious political fumbles, not least of which is identifying Trump with "authoritarian populism". As Jonah notes, that's far from an accurate characterization.

  • And Matt Welch at Reason also comments: Trump's Impulsive Trade War Is Lousy Economics and Worrisome Politics.

    It is not new for a modern U.S. president to impose protectionist tariffs. Barack Obama did it with Chinese tires, costing American consumers an estimated $1.1 billion in return for preserving 1,200 jobs in the domestic tire industry. And as Steve Chapman has noted in these pages, "When George W. Bush imposed duties on foreign steel, experts concluded, he destroyed some 200,000 jobs in other sectors—exceeding the total employment of the American steel industry."

    Trump's moves, coming on the heels of his recent tariffs on Chinese solar panels and imported washing machines, threaten to be far more ruinous, "the most significant set of U.S. import restrictions in nearly half a century," Edward Alden concluded over at the Council on Foreign Relations. That's in part due to the centrality of protectionism to both Trump's presidential campaign and his lifelong economic worldview. He really, truly believes that "trade wars are good, and easy to win," and that his commitment to this belief is part of why he won the presidency. That's a potent combination.

    There's an amusing Robert Reich video making the rounds that claims Donald Trump is some sort of Ayn Rand hero. As I commented to one of my Facebook friends: I wish. In fact, given Rand's explicit advocacy of free trade, Trump has shown himself to be more like Wesley Mouch than Howard Roark.

  • Two years ago on Pun Salad, I noted an interesting article on fake news in The Hill: Fake NYT article shows Warren endorsing Sanders. In the middle of the primary campaign:

    An imitation New York Times article is making the rounds on social media, duping readers into believing Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has backed Bernie Sanders’s Democratic presidential campaign ahead of Super Tuesday.

    The imitation article was produced using Clone Zone, a site that still exists and "lets you create your own version of popular websites", mimicking their look-n-feel, while dropping in your own content.

    The Hill went on to note the NYT's concern: "As of late Monday evening, the imitation story had 50,000 shares, 15,000 of them on Facebook, the Times added."

    As near as I can tell, nobody claimed, then or now, that this was Russians. What it was, was a lot of American gullibility.

URLs du Jour


  • Proverbs 15:20 is another head-scratcher for moderns:

    20 A wise son brings joy to his father,
        but a foolish man despises his mother.

    Seems pretty straightforward… Wait, what about the daughters? What does their wisdom, or foolishness, portend?

    I know, Ancient Israel. Nobody cared about the daughters, save that they would someday become mothers.

  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson patiently explains something any Republican should already know: How Tariffs Cause Chaos in the Real World.

    There are a handful of U.S.-based steel companies operating a relatively small number of facilities and employing about 142,000 people. That’s nothing to sneeze at, and we should wish them all well. But holding practically the entire U.S. manufacturing sector and construction sector hostage to the narrow corporate self interests of small but politically connected group of companies is deeply foolish. It’s also unjust.

    But I suppose that’s only of interest to people who live in buildings or drive cars, or who consume products that are made and stored in buildings or transported via truck, train, ship, or airplane. And the shareholders and workers at Caterpillar, GM, Boeing, Ford, Toyota, United Technologies . . .

    It is somewhat ironic (however) to hear the protests coming from Bernie Sanders fans. Because (as even Politifact knows), Trump and Bernie had "very similar" views on trade.

  • At Cato, Christopher A. Preble makes the case for Another BRAC Now.

    Last month, Congress authorized a massive increase in defense spending as part of a two-year budget deal. In 2018 alone, the Pentagon will receive an additional $80 billion, increasing the topline number to $629 billion. War spending will push the total over $700 billion. Though such a windfall might prompt Defense Department to ignore cost-saving measures, the White House pledged that “DOD will also pursue an aggressive reform agenda to achieve savings that it will reinvest in higher priority needs.” Noticeably absent, however, was another Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), even though Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and at least four of his predecessors, have called for such authority in order to reduce the military’s excess overhead, most recently estimated at 19 percent.

    That's a lot of moola.

    Our state's senators both oppose another BRAC, because one of the obvious candidates for cutting wasteful Defense spending is the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. My CongressCritter/Toothache Carol Shea-Porter is also opposed. The ladies are united in mainly seeing the DOD budget as a welfare spigot for (some) NH residents.

  • The Federalist's Daniel Lee notes a Progressive saying out loud what many are only thinking: Don’t Say ‘Gun Control’ So We Don’t Scare Americans With The Truth.

    A piece in New York Magazine last weekend pressed the case for abandoning the term “gun control” in favor of the less frightening “gun reform.” Writer Benjamin Hart calls the former an “unhelpful phrase.” He says it “has long been the default for well-meaning citizens who want to curb the killings that are a fact of American life. But it’s well past time to retire it and come up with something more effective.”

    The amusing thing here is that "gun control" is already a euphemism. To adapt an old Thomas Szasz quote: There's no such thing as "gun control"; there is only citizen control.

    Steven Pinker coined the term "euphemism treadmill" to describe how people invent "polite" language to replace offensive/emotional words or phrases; but eventually that polite language also offends, requiring new euphemisms to be created. This isn't quite the same thing, but pretty close.

  • We previously plugged the USNews "Best States" compilation. Minnesotan James Lileks wonders, amusingly: How could Minnesota have lost 'best state' award to Iowa?

    Iowa? The state that looks, on a map, like it’s Minnesota’s commode? Not that we would say such things out loud, but look at our neighborhood. Wisconsin leans into us like a drunk who won’t shut up about the Packers. North and South Dakota stand there like twins with nothing much to say, and Canada is the roof covered with snow. Iowa is what Minnesota would be if it fell into a trash compactor.

    Not that I'm a fanboy or anything, but in a "best states" competition, Minnesota should probably get some extra credit for being home to James Lileks. (And Florida would get some love for Dave Barry, but not enough to get it out of fifteenth place.)

  • Some days I blog an article simply on the strength of its headline. This is one of those days, because at Mental Floss we have: Poop Visible From Space Helped Scientists Find a Remote 'Supercolony' of Penguins.

    Penguin poop visible from space just helped scientists discover a previously unknown, massive colony of Adélie penguins on a chain of remote Antarctic islands, according to a new study published in Scientific Reports.

  • The Babylon Bee stings… Facebook Sends Warm Reminder To Publishers That It Is In Complete Control Of Their Livelihood

    Facebook, Inc. sent a personal message Friday to each publisher using its service, warmly reminding them that they are utterly dependent on the social media giant for traffic and that it is in complete control of their livelihood.

    “Publishers are important to Facebook,” the message sent to countless page admins read. “We want you to know that we care about you. Also, we will not hesitate to choke off your traffic until your organization ceases to be financially viable, should we feel the desire to do so at any time.”

    I eagerly await the Snopes fact check on this!

Enlightenment Now

The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

[Amazon Link]

As I'm sure I've mentioned before: I'll read anything that comes of Steven Pinker's keyboard. Fanboy here. Despite the fact that I am now ElderlyOnAFixedIncome, I sprang for the dead-trees hardcover at Amazon.

This book consists of two main themes: first, it's sort of a sequel to Pinker's 2011 book The Better Angels of Our Nature (which I reported on here). The positive worldwide trends he reported in that book continue: our Collective Statistics continue to improve, we're living longer, healthier, wealthier, safer, smarter lives, increasingly free of violence, pollution, and despotic governance. What's not to like?

The second theme, which I think he hits more strongly here than he did in Better Angels, is when he describes the likely causes and possible future of such progress. Basically, he sees our Enlightened history as a long process of shucking off the chains of tribalism and superstition. And our future progress depends on continuing that trend, and embracing an (explicitly atheistic) humanism. And, oh yeah, he despises Donald Trump. And Republicans, generally.

Pinker is a very good science writer, one of the best popularizers. But when he wanders outside of his professional fields of psychology, linguistics, and cognition, he can seem more than a little glib. When he gets into the philosophical/political/economic realm—as he does here, to I think a greater extent than in previous books—he manages to appear both strident and simplistic. (For example, he rails against "populism", but it becomes clear that he's using that term to mean "political positions I don't like". Fine, I don't like most of 'em either, but your terminology is non-standard, Steve.)

To be fair, I think Pinker can be an equal-opportunity offender: he has zero patience with left-wing PC Progressivism when it serves the forces of irrationality, intolerance, ignorance, and global pessimism. As a result he's been smeared by (some) leftists. So good on him for that.

But he seems to have his own faith. He's a big believer in "problem solving". As if the divisive issues confronting us were simply more advanced versions of the end-of-chapter exercises in math textbooks. Hey, just plug the numbers into the formulas, and they'll tell us technocrats what to do, and we'll just make that happen! There are no trade-offs.

While he gives lip service to "the freedom of people to screw up their own lives" (p. 344), it's unclear what that implies. He never seems to come to grips with it. Frustrating to those of us with libertarian sensibilities.

Added later that same day: Tyler Cowen calls this review ("Why Steven Pinker is Wrong") "one of the very best". I think we're in agreement: read Pinker, but don't take his philosophical/historic musings as gospel (heh).

Last Modified 2018-03-03 5:46 PM EDT

URLs du Jour


  • The Proverbialist remembers: "Hey, I haven't mentioned sluggards recently. Man, I hate those guys! Let me write down Proverbs 15:19…"

    19 The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns,
        but the path of the upright is a highway.

    Bible Gateway's keyword search tells us that there are 14 occurrences of "sluggard" in the Bible, and they are all in Proverbs. No guarantees about getting to them all.

  • The University Near Here can keep a secret when it wants to: UNH refusing to release the names of finalists for president. And this is irking some outside agitators:

    Leaders of the Seacoast National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the New Hampshire American Civil Liberties Union are demanding more transparency in the search for UNH’s next president.

    On Monday, it was announced that the presidential search committee had selected finalists to be interviewed by the University System of New Hampshire Board of Trustees.

    That committee will make the final hiring decision.

    The NAACP and ACLU want to ensure the new guy ticks off all the Progressive boxes for "diversity". Their statement is here. John Small, Chair of both the Board of Trustees and the search committe makes his argument for secrecy here. We link, you decide.

    Disclaimer: Pun Son is on the search committee. I can assure you that he's not blabbing anything to anyone, including Mom and Dad.

  • On the national front, Reason's Alec Ward tells us that Ben Carson Spent $31K on a Dining Table, and 5 Other Times Trump Cabinet Members Wasted Your Money.

    On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that Housing and Urban Development (HUD) officials spent $31,561 on a custom hardwood dining table and chairs for Secretary Ben Carson's personal offices, violating a department policy capping office redecoration expenses at $5,000.

    A career agency employee alleged she was demoted from a high-level position within HUD after she repeatedly refused to approve expensive office redecoration plans being pushed by Carson's wife, Candy. A department spokesman told reporters that Carson was not aware of the purchase, but did not believe the price was too high, and would not be returning the table.

    Yes, one of those Deep State Swamp Dwellers actually tried to save you some money, taxpayer. Other money-wasters: Steve Mnuchin [Treasury]; Ryan Zinke [Interior]; David Shulkin [VA]; Scott Pruitt [EPA]; Tom Price [ex-HHS].

  • I bet you've wondered: Is Trump's big stupid mouth a real problem? Fortunately, Patterico provides the answer at RedState: Yes, Trump’s Big Stupid Mouth Is A Real Problem.

    Let’s review the bidding. Trump has said so many crazy things in the last 24 hours, a writer doesn’t even know where to start.

    But start he does. Pick the quote that most offends you; for me it's his accusation that Senator Pat Toomey is "afraid of the NRA" for not falling in line with some gun-controller hysterical talking point.

    But there's more.

  • At NR, Veronique de Rugy discovers: The Swamp Is Alive! It Is Alive!

    The beauty of the modern age is that you can just turn on your TV and witness live how cronyism works.

    Just a few hours ago, President Trump hosted a “listening session” with steel and aluminum executives, whom he had summoned to the White House. Right there, on live TV, we witnessed these CEOs pleading for government support that will inevitably result in higher prices for consumers of steel and aluminum. And, as we all sat there, stunned, we watched the president grant their demand and make policy on live TV.

    Who's being protected by protectionism? The answer is: "Almost certainly not you."

  • At Reason, Steven Greenhut deals with a topic I've long found of interest: Are Health Advocates Finally Wising Up About the Nature of Risk?

    It's a fascinating topic. Every year, the Isle of Man—a self-governing British dependency in the Irish Sea—hosts a motorcycle race that zooms through the island's gnarled, twisting roadways. Competitors in the Tourist Trophy are routinely killed, with the total death count on the Snaefell Mountain Course hitting 255. It's amazing reading accounts of this risky contest.

    I doubt that Americans would tolerate such a dangerous spectacle. But we do accept everyday activities that have a high body count. Nearly 89 Americans die each day in car crashes. And 13 motorcyclists are killed in the U.S. daily on top of that, but risks for bikers are far higher when one factors in vehicle-miles traveled. Motorcyclists account for only 0.6 percent of the miles traveled yet riders account for 21 percent of all vehicle fatalities, according to the National Motorcycle Institute. Bikers are 38 times more likely to die in an accident than people in cars.

    And you can engage in risky behavior just walking around. See the recent report of record-high pedestrian fatalities. (But maybe that's due to weed.)

    Anyway: Mr. Greenhut goes on to make the point about advocates "wising up" to the fact that just about any substitute nicotine delivery system is less risky than combustible cigarettes. More generally, though, policymakers need to come to grips with the fact that there's a wide range of risk tolerance in the adult populace. In a free country, how do you deal with that?

  • Facebook is stupid, part 1249: Facebook Threatens Satire Site Babylon Bee over CNN Story That Snopes Rated 'False'

    Christian satire site The Babylon Bee received a terse warning from Facebook this week after the "independent fact-checkers" at Snopes reported that one of the site's humor articles was "false."

    Adam Ford, who runs The Babylon Bee, was warned by Facebook that a recent satire article about CNN "contains information disputed by (Snopes.com) an independent fact checker." Repeat offenders, Ford was told, "will see their distribution reduced and their ability to monetize and advertized [sic] removed."

    Pun Salad links to Babylon Bee a lot, but neither I, nor, I assume, any reader would mistake their hilarious articles as containing "facts" ripe for "checking".

    Nevertheless, here's the article: CNN Purchases Industrial-Sized Washing Machine To Spin News Before Publication.

    In order to aid the news station in preparing stories for consumption, popular news media organization CNN purchased an industrial-sized washing machine to help its journalists and news anchors spin the news before publication.

    The custom-made device allows CNN reporters to load just the facts of a given issue, turn a dial to “spin cycle,” and within five minutes, receive a nearly unrecognizable version of the story that’s been spun to fit with the news station’s agenda.

    And, yes, here's the Snopes "debunking".

    Although it should have been obvious that the Babylon Bee piece was just a spoof of the ongoing political brouhaha over alleged news media “bias” and “fake news,” some readers missed that aspect of the article and interpreted it literally. But the site’s footer gives away the Babylon Bee’s nature by describing it as “Your Trusted Source For Christian News Satire,” and the site has been responsible for a number of other (usually religious-themed) spoofs that have been mistaken for real news articles.

    Wouldn't it be better if "some readers" were simply encouraged to be less stupid?

    But I can't help but wonder if "some readers", dismayed at the Bee's conservative slant, intentionally put the Snopes/Facebook wheels in motion to achieve the desired threatening result?

  • And finally, a nice article in the Laconia Daily Sun about retired Brigadier General Donald Bolduc.

    His company commander discouraged him from leaving military service and entering a civilian law enforcement career, telling him, “I really see you as a sergeant major. I just don’t think you’re going to be successful as a police officer.”

    “I took that as a challenge, and as a compliment, because all of the officers in my company were West Point, except for one, and that’s the one everybody liked. ... I decided to go active duty. I’m very proud that I’m from New Hampshire, the Live Free or Die state, from Laconia, the son of a farmer, grandson of a farmer, went to a small school, learned small community values, learned good ethics, learned to be a God-fearing man, learned that no one is going to give you anything for free and, if they do, you should be suspect of it. While the odds were against me to make general officer, I will do that, but I didn’t do that without the help of many, many people.”

    Good for him.

Last Modified 2018-03-02 4:28 PM EDT

No Middle Name

The Complete Collected Jack Reacher Short Stories

[Amazon Link]

Bottom line (up here at the top): Reacher stories are pretty good, too. Not better, not worse, just different. Lee Child gets to play around, experiment a bit. When he's having fun, the reader does too. There's no doubt about that. It's a collection of twelve stories, four of which I'd already read, either as Kindle singles or as paperback extras. But I had fun re-reading them.

Random notes:

  • In one 43-page story, Reacher doesn't even show up until eight pages from the end.

  • As always, ultra-Dickensian coincidence plays a major role in the yarns where Reacher is out of the Army, just wandering around the world. He always somehow seems to fall into the middle of some skulduggery, conspiracy, or mystery. (Just one exception, and it's kind of sweet. I'll let you find it.)

  • A couple of stories involve Young Reacher, one as a thirteen-year-old with his Marine family in Okinawa, one as a sixteen-year-old in New York. Even back then, recognizably Reacher.

  • In one story, there are major characters named Aaron, Bush, Cook, and Delaney. In another: Alice, Briony, Christine, and Darwen. Reacher remarks on the latter coincidence. I don't mind this sort of thing that much, but it took me out of the stories a bit, wondering why Lee Child did that.

  • Reacher beats the crap out of one or more deserving characters in many of the stories. And displays his super-Sherlockian powers of observation and deduction in many too. I didn't keep careful track of how many of each, though, sorry.

URLs du Jour


Proverbs 15:18 is another fortune cookie candidate:

18 A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict,
    but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.

Patience, of course, is one of the Seven Heavenly Virtues, and is held in opposition to the Deadly Sin of Wrath.

Our pic du jour is an illustration of someone patiently waiting to calm a quarrel.

■ Charles C. W. Cooke just became an American citizen last week, and he's already griping: The Age of Majority Is a Mess.

When is a person an “adult”? When are they deemed to be independent, responsible, their own master? Does anyone care, except when seeking a temporary political advantage? As I type, some Americans are trying to raise the age at which one may buy a rifle from 18 to 21 — usually on the grounds that one’s brain isn’t developed until one reaches 25. At the same time, many of the same people are arguing for lowering the voting age to 16 — and possibly younger. What’s the rationale? It is often glibly asserted that voting never hurt anyone. Does anyone familiar with history believe that to be remotely true?

Not me. Here in NH, there are currently bills being considered to (a) raise the tobacco purchase age from 18 to 21; and (b) lower the age for consuming alcohol from 21 to 20.

■ A funny post by Damon Root at the Reason blog notes a Supreme Court exchange between Justice Alito and lawyer Daniel Rogan, who argued in favor of Minnesota's ban on a "vast array of political badges, buttons, insignias, and other attire at polling places." It’s OK to Ban Voters From Wearing 2nd Amendment T-Shirts at the Polls, Minnesota Tells SCOTUS.

Justice Alito: How about a shirt with a rainbow flag? Would that be permitted?

Mr. Rogan: A shirt with a rainbow flag? No, it would be—yes, it would be—it would be permitted unless there was—unless there was an issue on the ballot that—that related somehow to—to gay rights….

Justice Alito: Okay. How about an NRA shirt?

Mr. Rogan: An NRA shirt? Today, in Minnesota, no, it would not, Your Honor. I think that that's a clear indication—and I think what you're getting at, Your Honor—

Justice Alito: How about a shirt with the text of the Second Amendment?

Mr. Rogan: Your Honor, I—I—I think that that could be viewed as political, that that—that would be—that would be —

Justice Alito: How about the First Amendment?


Laughter, indeed.

[Amazon Link] Again with the "here in New Hampshire" connection: Section 659:43 of our legal code contains:

No person shall distribute, wear, or post at a polling place any campaign material in the form of a poster, card, handbill, placard, picture, pin, sticker, circular, or article of clothing which is intended to influence the action of the voter within the building where the election is being held.

The fine can be up to $1000, so think hard before you order the t-shirt over there on your right.

■ As Buck Murdock once noted: Irony can be pretty ironic sometimes. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has an article confirming that proverb: After Florida school shooting, ‘Worst Colleges for Free Speech’ promising high schoolers a right to protest.

In the wake of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 dead and many more injured, school districts nationwide are warning students that they could face suspensions and other disciplinary measures for participating in walkouts and protests over guns and gun violence. Now, a number of colleges have released statements with an encouraging message for high school students who want to speak their mind on this issue: Engaging in peaceful protest won’t impact your college admission status.

As you might expect, the University Near Here has joined the mighty chorus; to do otherwise might impact the school's already dismal finances:

As I commented: But once you get here... Make sure to follow the dress code for Cinco de Mayo and Halloween. And there are other areas where you might want to tread cautiously.

Lifezette notes The Son Attempting to Rise: Son of Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders Is Seeking Seat in New Hampshire. Again, he wants to be my CongressCritter, despite living in Claremont, which is on the NH-Vermont border, the other end of the state from my Congressional district.

Andy Sanborn, a Republican running for the 1st District, slammed Sanders on Tuesday as an “out-of-district socialist” whose views don’t align with the state’s motto, “Live Free or Die.”

"I am appalled, but not surprised, [that] Bernie Sanders is sending his socialist son here to dismantle our state motto," Sanborn said in a statement. "We are a state that believes in personal freedom, personal liberty, and individual rights, yet Sanders' socialist views look to turn New Hampshire residents into government-controlled zombies, where you lose the right to think for yourself, act for yourself, and live free."

Andy Sanborn has his campaign website up and running, and it contains Pun Salad bait:

Known for his quick wit, inability to spell, sharp financial acumen and fierce loyalty to friends and family, this 4th generation NH native unabashedly fights for limited government, economic opportunities for all and as his friend US Senator Rand Paul says, “A government so small we can barely see it.”

I might remain a registered Republican just so I can vote for Sanborn in the primary.

■ At NR, Alexandra DeSanctis notes what should be obvious: NRA Critics Ignore Political Influence of Planned Parenthood. A factoid:

Planned Parenthood also — and unlike the NRA — rakes in over half a billion dollars in government funding each year. The group then turns around and spends much of that money not only to fund abortion procedures for low-income women (albeit indirectly), but also to lobby the federal government for additional funding and elect Democratic politicians who will vote to eliminate restrictions on that funding, and on abortion itself.

Good luck getting anyone on the left to square that circle.

■ And New Hampshire is hitting above average in USNews comparisons of Best States.

Some states shine in health care. Some soar in education. Some excel in both – or in much more. The Best States ranking of U.S. states draws on thousands of data points to measure how well states are performing for their citizens. In addition to health care and education, the metrics take into account a state’s economy, the opportunity and quality of life it offers people, its roads, bridges, internet and other infrastructure, its public safety and the fiscal stability of state government.

Spoiler: number one is Iowa. But NH is a solid fifth.

Last Modified 2018-03-02 4:23 PM EDT