Bite Me

A Love Story

[Amazon Link]

Another fine book by Christopher Moore. This is number three of a series; the first two were Bloodsucking Fiends (read back in 2011) and You Suck (read in 2016). As you almost certainly guessed from the titles (because I can tell you are a good guesser, reader), vampirism is involved.

I don't much care for vampire books, but it's Christopher Moore, and he does a great job of infusing the genre with humor, profanity, likeable and interesting heroes, nasty villains, and unexpected sweetness. As a consumer note: if you decide to tackle the series, I don't recommend taking a span of seven years to read them. Important plot details fade on that timescale.

Many surviving characters from the previous books are here: Tommy, the aspiring writer from the Midwest, now turned undead, and trapped inside a bronze statue. But he's trapped therein with the lovely Jody, also a vampire. Unfortunately, their help might be needed because there was another cliffhanger in the previous book: Chet, the huge shaved cat, was also vampirized, and he's busy vampirizing other cats, and they've taken to terrorizing the Streets of San Francisco. Initially removing street people, mostly the homeless and hookers, but on their way to eliminating everyone.

Also present is the delightful, R-rated, teenage goth, Allison Green. She calls herself Abby Normal, and she's thrown herself into the vampire thing with a passion. She desperately wants to be one. And (small spoiler) she gets her wish. But (another small spoiler) this turns out to be a very bad idea.

A lot of fun.

URLs du Jour

2018-04-30

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 13:8 may be as close to a joke as Proverbs gets:

    8 The rich can be sued for everything they have,
        but the poor are free of such threats.

    Oops, I'm sorry. That's "The Message". Let's go back to the more reliable NIV:

    8 A person’s riches may ransom their life,
        but the poor cannot respond to threatening rebukes.

    OK, now it doesn't sound so bad to be rich, does it?


  • Novelist Jessica Knoll writes unapologetically at the NYT: I Want to Be Rich and I’m Not Sorry.

    Success, for me, is synonymous with making money. I want to write books, but I really want to sell books. I want advances that make my husband gasp and fat royalty checks twice a year. I want movie studios to pay me for option rights and I want the screenwriting comp to boot.

    To accomplish this, I spent months researching the publishing marketplace before sitting down to write my first book. I pushed to be the one to adapt it for the studio. Now I am working toward producing, directing or running my own show. TV is where the money is, and to be perfectly blunt about it, I want to be rich.

    I think this is the point where I'm supposed to say: "You go, girl."


  • We commented yesterday on UCSD's demand for "Ideological Purity Statements" for wannabe faculty. Don Boudreaux has a pretty good response:

    If I were applying for a faculty position at the University of California at San Diego, I would boast that I spend lots of time promoting so-called “diversity” by arguing against minimum-wage legislation – legislation that inflicts disproportionate harm on low-skilled minority workers.

    It sounds crazy, but it just might… no, wait, sorry, there's no way that could work.

    But speaking of "what works": you might think that progressive academics would take a step back and take a hard look at whether all their initiatives toward "diversity" and "inclusive excellence" were actually working. Do they have any objective measures of their efficacy?

    No, of course not. They don't have much, if anything, to show for all the resources they fling at this ill-defined problem.

    Which should lead us to wonder: do they really want to "solve the problem" at all? Or are they simply interested in virtue-signalling, flaunting their saintly motives?

    It's uncharitable to believe the latter. But… well, I'm sure there's a lot of self-deception going on, too.


  • So (you may have heard) there was a White House Correspondents' Dinner, and there was a lady named Michelle Wolf who gave a talk containing a lot of … well, some say "jokes". The most tasteless were aimed at White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was in attendance. And some people are upset. But Katherine Timpf has an interesting take: Don’t Be Mad at Wolf’s Sanders Jokes if You’ve Never Been Mad at Trump.

    Sanders was visibly upset the entire time, and many people on the right rushed to her defense — saying that Wolf’s jokes were inappropriate and an outrage. Here’s the thing, though: Many of those same people have absolutely no problem with it when President Trump makes fun of people, no matter how low the blow.

    Yes. In case you’ve forgotten, Donald Trump also really likes to make fun of people. On the campaign trail, he referred to Marco Rubio as “Little Marco” and Jeb Bush as “low-energy Jeb.” During a debate, he readily agreed that he’d compare Rosie O’Donnell to a “fat pig,” “slob,” “dog,” and “disgusting animal.” He mocked Carly Fiorina, saying “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?” During his presidency, he made fun of Mika Brzezinski, saying he once saw her “bleeding badly from a face-lift.” The list goes on and on.

    As I've been told by various people nearly my entire life: "I'm not mad. I'm just disappointed."

    Trust me: I'm easily amused. So why am I so often like Homer Simpson here?:


  • Schools are removing analogue clocks from exam halls as teenagers 'cannot tell the time'. As you can tell, from the wacky spelling of "analog", it's happening in Old Blighty, as reported in the Telegraph:

    Teachers are now installing digital devices after pupils sitting their GCSE and A-level exams complained that they were struggling to read the correct time on an analogue clock.

    Silly pupils.

    … although my kids grew up in a nearly-all digital household, and I do remember the (otherwise brilliant) Pun Daughter struggling a bit when I told her I'd pick her up somewhere at "a quarter to four" one afternoon. That's 3:45, kiddo.

URLs du Jour

2018-04-29

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 13:7 breaks out of the usual Proverbial boilerplate.

    7 One person pretends to be rich, yet has nothing;
        another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.

    I see the premise here for a pretty good comedy movie. Could we get Steve Martin, in either role? That would be cool.

    Or the Proverbialist might have something more subtle in mind. The Message "translation" is: "A pretentious, showy life is an empty life; a plain and simple life is a full life." But I'm not sure if that's due to the "translator" stamping his own wishes onto the text.


  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File looks at The Great Divide.

    One of the great intellectual and philosophical divides — a chasm really — is between those who believe in the “perfectibility of man” and those who side with Kant’s observation that “out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.” The perfectibility of man comes with a lot of associated intellectual baggage. It tends to rely on the idea that we are “blank slates.” How could it be otherwise? If we come preloaded with software that cannot be erased, we cannot be perfected. Rousseau, one of the great advocates of the perfectibility of man, got around this by arguing that, in our natural state, we were perfect: “noble savages,” as John Dryden put it. According to this theory, what makes us sinful isn’t our nature but the oppressiveness of our civilization. “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains” is the way that Rousseau put it, arguing that civilization was unnatural and soul-warping.

    But, since we couldn’t go back to our blissful state of nature, the only choice was to go forward and create a new perfect society — an idea that is only possible if you believe that the crooked timber of the people can be shaped.

    [Amazon Link]

    This is not a new idea. I'm pretty sure it's the same one Thomas Sowell pointed out in A Conflict of Visions (originally published over 30 years ago in 1987). But it deserves repeating.


  • Similar ground is covered at Commentary by Noah Rothman: The Fatalist Conceit. Neither left nor right are immune.

    Unexciting governance is limited governance. And the fatalists are driven mad by the limits our system imposes on them because they don’t want governance to be limited. That is exactly why those limits are so necessary and why, rather than getting dirty fighting inch by inch for the things they believe in, fatalists write themselves out of our political life. The danger the fatalists pose is that they are convincing tens of millions more that our system doesn’t work when it most certainly does, just in a fashion they wish it wouldn’t. In doing so, they are encouraging mass despair—and that is an entirely self-imposed affliction.

    I may be a partial fatalist myself, given that the two-party system seems to supply us with a steady stream of dolts, demagogues, con men, and would-be messiahs.


  • AEI's Mark J. Perry publicizes the ideological purity test required for employment at a university out west: All applicants for faculty positions at UCSD now required to submit a ‘contribution to diversity statement’. Probably coming to a University Near Here, soon.

    All candidates applying for faculty appointments at UC San Diego are required to submit a personal statement on their contributions to diversity. The purpose of the statement is to identify candidates who have the professional skills, experience, and/or willingness to engage in activities that will advance our campus diversity and equity goals.

    Haven't done anything diverse? Well, if you want to work at UCSD, you better promise to do better:

    Some faculty candidates may not have substantial past activities. If such cases, we recommend focusing on future plans in your statement. However, please note that a demonstrated record of past effort is given greater weight than articulating awareness of barriers or stating future plans. A more developed and substantial plan is expected for senior candidates.

    Perry suggests that such "Contributions to Diversity Statements" might more accurately be called "Ideological Purity Statements".


  • I loved the book The Captured Economy by Brink Lindsey and Steven M. Teles. At Reason, Gary Chartier is less enchanted: Getting Crony Capitalism Half Right. It's a real review, unlike my brief impressionistic reports. What's the problem, Gary?

    But in many cases there are good reasons to wonder whether their proposals would really reduce the risks of rent-seeking. Concentrated interests are quite capable of finding ways to navigate a reshuffled policy making system.

    Consider their call for fast-tracking domestic legislation. If Congress were required to vote up or down on policy proposals put forward by the president, dealmaking wouldn't be eliminated; it would be relocated from Capitol Hill to the White House. Instead of bringing rent-seeking to an end, they would concentrate it in a more powerful and less accountable arm of the government. Would that really be an improvement?

    Probably a good point.

URLs du Jour

2018-04-28

[Amazon Link]

  • A fortune cookie compare-and-contrast from Proverbs 13:6:

    6 Righteousness guards the person of integrity,
        but wickedness overthrows the sinner.

    Which is better? Let me think on that and get back to you.


  • From behind the WaPo paywall, Megan McArdle bids A farewell to free journalism. The occasion is her former employer, Bloomberg, moving to a paywall model.

    But by the time The Post approached me, I’d already concluded that the battle for the open Internet was lost. Sooner or later, virtually everyone in the industry is going to put his or her content behind a subscription wall. And in general, you should bet on “sooner” rather than “later.” This week, Vanity Fair became just the latest in a long line of publications to say “If you want to read us, you’ll have to subscribe.”

    As New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen noted on Twitter, Bloomberg already has “one of the greatest subsidy systems ever invented”: the terminals that it sells to financial companies at a cost of $20,000 per user per year. If they still want a paywall, we should be bearish on the chances that anyone else in the news business will make a go of the “free content” model.

    Just sayin': I've noticed that a lot of paywalls can be evaded, at least for the present time, via the Google Chrome Incognito Filter. This includes the WaPo.

    Disclaimer: I have print subscriptions to Reason, National Review, Wired, and the Wall Street Journal which (after some legerdemain) let me surf freely on their websites. Three out of those four I highly recommend (guess which).

    As long as I'm on the topic: you can subscribe to dead-trees Consumer Reports and they still don't give you full access to their website content; that's extra. You suck, Consumer Reports.


  • Gee, I thought Mary Eberstadt might have overstated her case in It's Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies. But now that I'm sensitized to the issue, I'm picking up on things like Walter Olson's post at Cato: Feds Try To Force Church Cafeteria To Pay Volunteers As Employees:

    The Grace Cathedral church near Akron, Ohio, found itself in big legal trouble for running a (money-losing) cafeteria open to the public in which much of the labor was provided free by volunteer members of the congregation. Beginning in 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor investigated and then sued it on the grounds that for an enterprise, church or otherwise, to use volunteer unpaid labor in a commercial setting violated the minimum wage provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938. A trial court agreed with the Department and found liability, but now, in Acosta v. Cathedral Buffet et al., the Sixth Circuit has reversed the ruling and sent the case back for further proceedings, noting that “to be considered an employee within the meaning of the FLSA, a worker must first expect to receive compensation.”

    Judge Raymond Kethledge, writing in concurrence, takes issue with what may be the most remarkable argument advanced by the Department of Labor: that the congregation volunteers should count as employees because “their pastor spiritually ‘coerced’ them to work there. That argument’s premise — namely, that the Labor Act authorizes the Department to regulate the spiritual dialogue between pastor and congregation — assumes a power whose use would violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.”

    That whole Church/State "wall of separation" thing doesn't work when State can breach it in order to push Church around. What's next? A demand that church choir members be paid union scale?


  • It's a good thing I don't live in California, because my blood pressure might be much higher after reading things like this (from Reason's Christian Britschgi): California Gov. Jerry Brown Called Gas Tax Opponents 'Freeloaders.' Now He's Spending Billions of Their Money to Fund Transit They Don't Use.

    When California Gov. Jerry Brown was defending SB 1—last year's transportation funding package, which included $5.4 billion in annual gas tax and vehicle registration fee increases—he had an uncharitable term for his opponents: freeloaders.

    "The freeloaders—I've had enough of them," he said at an Orange County event. "Roads require money to fix." The state was strapped for cash, he argued; drivers needed to pay up, lest the roads and highways devolve into gravel paths.

    And—yes, you guessed it—"A total of 28 projectswere awarded SB 1 money. None of them involves road upkeep at all." Suckers.


  • The about-to-be-paywalled Bloomberg columnist Virginia Postrel points out: Gas Mileage Standards Were Never Meant to Fix Climate Change. The occasion is Ford's decision to stop building nearly all of its sedans.

    CAFE [Corporate Average Fuel Economy] regulations implicitly assume that every carmaker offers a full assortment of vehicles. They treat the “fleet” as the relevant unit to regulate. Higher average requirements distort corporate strategies and encourage companies that are good at making trucks to make compact cars as well, even if their customers don’t want them. This artificially induced competition, often at giveaway prices, hurts manufacturers that are good at making small cars. The credit system ameliorates this effect by allowing small-car specialists to sell their credits to competitors who produce larger vehicles, but only in a roundabout way.

    In the real world, on real streets, emissions depend not on car dealers’ full offerings but on individual vehicles and the people who drive them. One drawback of CAFE standards is that they apply only to new cars, a tiny fraction of those on the road. So they take a long time to reduce actual emissions. The rest of us happily go on driving our out-of-date vehicles, using just as much gasoline as ever.

    It appears the Trump Administration is looking to "freeze" current CAFE standards. Which is better than nothing, but better would be nothing: get rid of them entirely.


  • And of course, news you won't see anywhere else from the Babylon Bee: Planned Parenthood Defends Bill Cosby: ‘Sexual Assault Is Only 3% Of What He Does’

    While almost nobody is willing to defend Bill Cosby any longer after he was convicted of sexual assault Thursday, the former television star and comedian found an ally in abortion provider Planned Parenthood.

    President Cecile Richards came forward to claim that since sexual assault is only about 3% of what Bill Cosby performed over his long and illustrious career, the egregious offenses should be overlooked.

    Warning: particularly wicked satire.


Last Modified 2018-04-29 5:10 AM EDT

It's Dangerous to Believe

Religious Freedom and Its Enemies

[Amazon Link]

This relatively short book by Mary Eberstadt documents the efforts here in the US and elsewhere to delegitimize traditional Christian beliefs, to deny their believers an equal place in the public arena, and (what's more) to ostracize and exile those believers from positions of responsibility in private and public institutions.

Ms. Eberstadt explores a lot of case studies to support her views, most of which will be familiar to people following the news. There's Brendan Eich, forced out as Mozilla CEO when it was revealed that he backed the Proposition 8 ballot initiative against same-sex marriage. There's the Obama Administration's attempt to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to provide "contraception coverage" to their employees. There's the effort to compel Catholic Charities to offer adoption services to same-sex couples. Various efforts to restrict/ostracise religious home schooling. And more.

It's a tough life out there for a conservative Christian, in other words. Eberstadt's anecdotes are many and telling.

I think her argument is slightly off-center; there is some hostility to Christianity, but it drops off significantly for the "respectable" fraction of believers; you know, the ones who mix in a healthy dose of Progressivism and avoid saying much about sin when it comes to matters dealing with the naughty bits.

And (for example) James Damore found himself out of a sweet Google job, not because he was too religious, but because he dared to utter heresies against the Progressive social justice gospel of diversity and inclusion.

So I suspect that it's not Christianity per se that gets one in trouble; it's one's dissent from Progressive orthodoxy that brings out the witch hunt.

That said, after adjusting the target, Eberstadt makes a lot of sense that we need to bring back a modicum of respect into the argument, a willingness to deal with opinions that some might find wrong-headed, in order to (say) put babies into adoptive homes more efficaciously.


Last Modified 2018-04-28 7:03 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2018-04-27

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 13:5 brings the ultimate insult to the wicked: dude, you reek.

    5 The righteous hate what is false,
        but the wicked make themselves a stench
        and bring shame on themselves.

    As often happens, the two parts of the compare-and-contrast don't quite jibe.

    Our Amazon product du jour illustrates a young lady bringing shame upon herself. (Kindle version is free, so click away.)


  • The pictured young lady might find the modest proposal from Jeffrey A. Singer at Reason of particular interest: To Save Lives, Make Naloxone an Over-the-Counter Drug.

    This month Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued an advisory that touted the lifesaving potential of naloxone, an opioid antagonist that reverses potentially fatal overdoses. He called for wider distribution of naloxone to opioid users, their relatives, and their close associates.

    Naloxone, approved for use since 1971, works by blocking opioid receptors. It is an effective remedy that can be safely administered by laymen wth minimal training, using either a nasal spray (sold under the brand name Narcan) or an intramuscular auto-injector (Evzio).

    Well, that's one option. Another is to just let these losers die. Most days, I'm indifferent.


  • Drew Cline writes at NR with advice to one of our institutes of higher ed: Take a Hike, Penn State.

    Penn State University’s Outing Club can no longer organize student-led hiking and camping trips, which the club has done for 98 years. This decision is not about the inherent risk of hiking. It is about letting students be independent adults.

    At first, the university explained that the outing, scuba, and caving clubs are “losing recognition due to an unacceptable amount of risk to student members that is associated with their activities,” as a university spokesperson put it.

    The real issue, Drew contends, is that Penn State (like many universities) is committed to keeping its students in a state of perpetual, dependent, irresponsible childhood. He may have a point; it certainly helps explain a lot of other stuff.


  • And it's not just colleges. Richard Epstein writes at the Federalist on a topic we've brushed against a few times recently: Libertarian Paternalism Is A Nice Phrase For Controlling People.

    One of the great academic debates of our time revolves around how people make choices. On the one side, neoclassical theory assumes that individuals generally act in sensible ways in order to advance their individual self-interest. They are motivated to control aggression and monopoly, and to let private parties in competitive markets strike what bargains they like.

    In recent years, this neoclassical approach has come under attack from the field of behavioral economics. Its proponents argue that the neoclassical model of behavior, premised on the fact that human beings are rational decision-makers, does not sufficiently account for the many false heuristics and biases that lead people astray as they make decisions.

    Epstein details why "libertarian paternalism" isn't that libertarian.


  • Our Google LFOD alert rang for a cofessional article by Ted Slowik in the Chicago Tribune, in "honor" of (I am not making this up, unless Ted is) "Illinois Distracted Driving Awareness Week": I’m guilty of distracted driving, but I will keep trying to stop.

    Last year, I drove out to New Hampshire and visited a friend who lives there. New Hampshire — whose motto is “Live Free or Die” — is the only state that does not require drivers to wear a seat belt.

    Because I could, I tried driving a short distance without wearing a seat belt. The ringing alert was annoying, though, and I felt uncomfortable. I fastened my seat belt, not because I had to but because I wanted to.

    Jeez, Ted. Don't wet your pants. The whole point of LFOD is doing what you want in such matters, according to your own standards of comfort and risk.

    Ted's article is filled, by the way, with the usual horrendous stats about distracted driving.

    Distracted driving kills 10 Americans every day and contributed to the deaths of 37,000 people killed in crashes on U.S. roadways in 2016, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

    It sounds as if Ted thinks there were 37,000 distracted-driving fatalities in 2016. But that overstates the count by over a factor of ten. You think he could have been trying to scare us?


  • And the latest amusement from Michael Ramirez:

URLs du Jour

2018-04-26

[Amazon Link]

You ever wonder if you can get a "Don't Tread on Me" doormat? Talk about a mixed message! Anyway, you can, and it's our Amazon Product du Jour.

  • Proverbs 13:4 goes after another favorite Proverbial punching bag, the sluggard:

    4 A sluggard’s appetite is never filled,
        but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.

    I don't find that last part to be consistently true, but close enough.


  • Readers may have noticed that I am a sucker for state comparisons, and the despised-by-progressives American Legislative Exchange Council does a bang-up job on a dedicated website: Rich States, Poor States. And (spoiler) New Hampshire is ranked 17th overall. That's tops in New England, compared to MA (#25), RI (#39), CT (#40), ME (#42), and lowly VT (#49).

    There's a lot to quibble with, if you're a quibbler.

    You can also play with the underlying policies and numbers driving the rankings. Fun fact: if you (hypothetically) switched NH to a right-to-work state (which we came close to doing recently), it would lift our rank from #17 to #11 in the country.


  • Megan McArdle offers her take of the wacky senator from a neighboring state (the one ranked #49 in the previous item) and his jobs plan: Bernie Sanders wants you to have a good job. But there’s a catch. Well, there's probably more than one. For example, the cost, unestimated by Bernie, but ballparked by Megan:

    Perhaps we can help the senator out. With two weeks of paid vacation, each worker would make roughly $31,000 a year. Adding, conservatively, about $10,000 for benefits, would bring the total cost to about $40,000.

    The United States has between 25 million and 50 million workers making less than this total compensation package. Millions more are unemployed or fully out of the labor force. Assuming most of them did the rational thing and signed on, that would make for a $1 trillion to $2 trillion annual program — rivaling or exceeding our total expenditure on Social Security, with maybe Medicaid thrown in for good measure.

    And is it possible that extracting that much money from the private economy would have no negative effects? Well, to ask that question is to answer it.

    This wacky scheme has been signed onto by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Cory Booker (N.J.), showing that economic illiteracy and raw political ambition are positively correlated.


  • Steve Chapman at Reason chuckles at The Beef Lobby's Losing Fight Against Plant-Based 'Meat'.

    When you visit a grocery, literal-mindedness is a handicap. Apple butter is actually not a dairy product. Grape-Nuts cereal omits grapes as well as nuts. Corn dogs don't need leashes.

    The U.S. Cattlemen's Association, however, is appalled that new forms of protein are being sold under names such as Beyond Beef and Impossible Burger. Vegetarian and vegan substitutes for meat have gained a significant share of the market, partly because of health considerations and partly because of aversion to killing harmless animals for food. But the livestock group fears that consumers are being cruelly misled.

    It wants the Department of Agriculture to stop not only the use of these brand names but any term suggesting that there is such a thing as "synthetic beef" or "vegan meat."

    Well, that's nice. Chapman takes us on a brief tour of the regulatory rent-seeking by entrenched food industry groups. (Don't get Wisconsin started on "Almond Milk".)

    With respect to that first paragraph: I was recently shocked to learn that an egg cream contains neither eggs nor cream. Who knew? A lot of people, it turns out. But not I.


  • It's baseball season, and the Red Sox (as I type) snapped their three-game losing streak last night. So how about a baseball-related post from James R. Rogers: Moneyball Illustrates Efficient Markets, Not Behavioral Economics.

    The thing is, though, the story that Moneyball illuminates the insights of behavioral economics regarding the persistence of systematic error and inefficiencies, doesn’t quite work. Moneyball is the story of how Billy Beane exploited systematic error and inefficiencies in the then-existing market for baseball players to turn a low-payroll baseball team into a team that competed with, and won against, teams with much heftier payrolls.

    That’s not a story of systematic error; that’s a story of eliminating systematic error in a market. Billy Beane was essentially an arbitrager, taking advantage of new information to identify and exploit differentials in market evaluations player values versus the values indicated by his.

    Why is this important? As fun as it is—and it's a lot of fun—behavioral economics can be, as Deirdre McCloskey memorably said—the "applied theory of bossing people around". If you only see the mistakes people make in their economic decisions, it aids and abets those policy makers who think that whole economic freedom thing is a bad idea.


  • Wired answers the question you didn't know you wanted to ask: Why So Many People Make Their Password 'Dragon'.

    Each year since 2011, the security firm SplashData has released a list of the most commonly used passwords, based on caches of leaked account credentials. The annual list, intended as a reminder of humanity’s poor password practices, always includes predictable entries like “abc123,” “123456,” and “letmein.” But one entry, finishing in the top 20 every year, has stood out since the beginning: "dragon."

    But why? Is it because of the popularity of the television adaption of Game of Thrones, which first premiered the same year as the popular passwords list? Is it because so many Dungeons & Dragons fans got their accounts pwned? Well, maybe, in part. But the most convincing explanation is simpler than you might think.

    No spoilers here!


  • We looked at—sorry—Uranus yesterday. Today, we note the NYT has another planetary query in mind: What Lies Beneath Jupiter’s Great Red Spot? Could it be a volcano? Well…

    A volcano is an unlikely explanation for the mysterious red storm observed on the surface of Jupiter since the early 19th century. The planet has been found to be mostly gas, lacking a defined crust to rupture in an Earth-style volcanic eruption that would release hot materials from the interior of the planet.

    OK, I'll do a spoiler: nobody knows what lies beneath Jupiter's Great Red Spot. Just that it's almost certainly not a volcano.

10 Lb. Penalty

[Amazon Link]

About 20 years ago—this is before I started keeping track of such things—I realized that I'd read a lot of Dick Francis novels haphazardly. So, probably due to some undiagnosed OCD-like mental quirk, I made a list, in chronological order, of his novels up until that point in time, and resolved to read through them, one by one. This involved a bit of re-reading, but that's OK. (I think that was the genesis of my bookpicker system.)

And now I've finished that "little" project by re-reading 10 Lb. Penalty, published in 1997. Mr. Francis went on to write seven more books, some co-authored with his son Felix, but I caught those as they came out.

10 Lb. Penalty is a goodie. It has an unusually young Francis hero, Benedict Juliard, who's only 17 when the book opens. And it opens inauspiciously for him, as he's getting fired from his dream job with a horse trainer, wrongfully accused of drug abuse.

But that turns out to be a scam orchestrated by his father, George. George is standing for Parliament in England's "Hoopwestern" district. And he wants Benedict to help out, mainly to demonstrate to the voters that he has a family.

Unsurprisingly, since it's a Dick Francis novel, there are dark doings afoot. George stepped on a few feet to grab his party's nomination, and at least two of those feet aim to do him harm. Benedict, because he's a Dick Francis hero, turns out to be invaluable in detecting and thwarting these efforts.

In addition to the usual mix of danger and action, there's a lot of subtext here about father-son relationships, and the process of growing up, realizing that you might not be able to achieve your childhood goals, figuring out how to bounce back from that to have a good life anyway. Wise and moving.


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

URLs du Jour

2018-04-25

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 13:3 is another example of oral fixation:

    3 Those who guard their lips preserve their lives,
        but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.

    So do that first thing, avoid the second, I guess.


  • We track down Kevin D. Williamson so you don't have to. He's at the Weekly Standard with a description of How They Do 'Journalism' at New York Magazine. Spoiler: not well.

    In my recent Wall Street Journal essay on the politics of Twitter mobs, I noted that the episode was accompanied by a great deal of sloppy journalism—remarkably lazy journalism. Of all the mostly denunciatory articles about me that appeared in the big-name press (at least four in the New York Times alone) not a single writer of any of them bothered to ask me about my views on the subjects in question: abortion and capital punishment. Naturally, practically all of them got it wrong (see the corrections) never having bothered to perform the characteristic act of journalism and, you know, ask a question or two.

    KDW offered New York magazine a free essay describing his views on the abortion-punishment issue. They turned it down. The only way you'll hear KDW in New York is through the hostile filter of its editors.


  • Bernie Sanders wants to guarantee a job to every American who wants one. What does David Harsanyi think about that? Well, that Democrats’ Universal Job Plan Would Be A Socialist Disaster.

    One imagines that a quixotic proposal like this polls quite well. I mean, who doesn’t want everyone to have a job? You don’t possess a skill-set that enables you to find productive work? You don’t want to learn a new trade? You don’t want to attain a better education? You have no interest in moving to an area where your work might be in demand? You don’t want to start your career with a lower wage even if the long-term prospects of doing so might be worthwhile? Don’t worry. The government’s got an incentive-destroying job opportunity just for you.

    So: an absurdly expensive program that would destroy important signals in the labor market. What's not to like?


  • At Reason, Ronald Bailey brings us some good news: Global Warming Likely to Be 30 to 45 Percent Lower Than Climate Models Project.

    How much lower? [Researchers Nicholas Lewis's and Judith Curry's] median ECS estimate of 1.66°C (5–95% uncertainty range: 1.15–2.7°C) is derived using globally complete temperature data. The comparable estimate for 31 current generation computer climate simulation models cited by the IPCC is 3.1°C. In other words, the models are running almost two times hotter than the analysis of historical data suggests that future temperatures will be.

    Well, it's not good news for everyone. This doesn't help those making the argument that we need immediate massive, global controls over energy production, accompanied by huge coerced rich-to-poor income transfers. Too bad for them.


  • Mental Floss says It's Official: Uranus Smells Like Farts.

    Poor Uranus: After years of being the butt of many schoolyard jokes, the planet's odor lives up to the unfortunate name. According to a new study by researchers at the University of Oxford and other institutions, published in the journal Nature Astronomy, the upper layer of Uranus's atmosphere consists largely of hydrogen sulfide—the same compound that gives farts their putrid stench.

    Next up, the discovery that the next planet out has an atmosphere that generates harmonious audio vibrations. Yes: Nep Tunes.

    Disturbing fact: searching for "Uranus" on Amazon displays a number of non-astronomical items.

URLs du Jour

2018-04-24

[Amazon Link]

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming…

  • Proverbs 13:2 hits three common Proverbial tropes: (1) reference to the mouth area; (2) good people vs. bad people comparsion; (3) not making a lot of poetic sense.

    2 From the fruit of their lips people enjoy good things,
        but the unfaithful have an appetite for violence.

    That's our default NIV translation. I think the KJV does it a little better:

    2 A man shall eat good by the fruit of his mouth: but the soul of the transgressors shall eat violence.

    And the "Message", as always, goes its own way:

    2 The good acquire a taste for helpful conversation; bullies push and shove their way through life.

    The underlying message, readers: be good, not bad.


  • Nick Phillips asks the musical question at Quillette: Is Political Diversity on the Op-Ed Page Worth Defending?

    The Atlantic’s decision to fire the conservative columnist Kevin D. Williamson has occasioned an avalanche of think pieces, the latest of which is a Wall Street Journal article from Williamson in his own defence. All these commentaries swirl around the same question: Exactly how important is political diversity in media? For some, Williamson’s firing is proof that the mainstream media practices something like institutional discrimination against conservatives. For others, Williamson’s views were so beyond the pale that hiring him in the name of ‘diversity’ would be no more justifiable than a university astronomy department hiring a flat-earther. Diverse, yes, but also disqualifyingly wrong.

    Of the latter group—those who are skeptical of the need for media outlets to pursue political diversity—the ablest pen currently belongs to Osita Nwanevu, who laid out his argument in a piece for Slate entitled “It’s Time to Stop Yammering About Liberal Bias.” There are two layers to his critique: firstly, the media actually has plenty of political diversity, but secondly, this diversity isn’t a particularly important value for publications like the Atlantic to pursue.

    Phillips does a simple head count on Nwanevu's assertion that there are 18 (or maybe 19) "conservative" writers for the ‘big tent’ publications (Atlantic, NYT, WaPo), and that's plenty. But, even if you buy the characterization of those writers as conservative, that's a relative sliver of the 105 regular opinion writers at those publications. Everybody else is a reliable lefty.


  • Reason's Nick Gillespie (optimistically) kicks some dirt onto a grave: Net Neutrality Is Officially Dead. That's a Victory for Free Speech..

    Whatever side of the debate you're on, net neutrality is, at least for now, a dead letter. Supporters will continue to push for its return and could ultimately prevail. All of this sets up a powerful and, I hope, illuminating natural experiment. Before 2015, we had an internet that was lightly regulated. From 2015 til now, the net was governed by stricter rules. From now until the rules may be reinstated, we'll be back to a light-touch regime. Let's see if anyone notices a real difference in his or her online experience.

    My bet: The internet will continue to improve, both in terms of the speed of connection and the range of content, applications, and experiences we'll be accessing. As economist and net neutrality critic Tom Hazlett suggests, there may well be "paid prioritization" and continuing attempts to build "walled gardens" like Facebook's, but they will flourish or die based on whether they serve consumers' interests and needs. The advent of 5G and other technologies that will add to the competitive marketplace for internet access will make current arguments about net neutrality completely moot.

    That's one take, and one I agree with. To see what the other side's saying…


  • There's good old Slashdot, consistent only in its paranoia: Net Neutrality Is Over Monday, But Experts Say ISPs Will Wait To Screw Us.

    "Experts".

    Parts of the Federal Communication Commission's repeal of net neutrality is slated to take effect on April 23, causing worry among internet users who fear the worst from their internet service providers. However, many experts believe there won't be immediate changes come Monday, but that ISPs will wait until users aren't paying attention to make their move. "Don't expect any changes right out of the gate," Dary Merckens, CTO of Gunner Technology, tells Inverse. Merckens specializes in JavaScript development for government and business, and sees why ISPs would want to lay low for a while before enacting real changes. "It would be a PR nightmare for ISPs if they introduced sweeping changes immediately after the repeal of net neutrality," he says.

    In the modern version of the story, Chicken Little doesn't exclaim "the sky is falling!". Instead, he says, "The sky will fall someday, don't expect it soon, it would be a PR nightmare if it fell right away, but don't worry, experts tell us the sky is out there, just waiting to screw us over."


  • The Google LFOD News Alert rang for an LTE from Matt Simon (the New England political director of the Marijuana Policy Project) in my local fishwrap, Foster's Daily Democrat. Marijuana study commission chair shows true colors

    The chairman of New Hampshire’s study commission on marijuana legalization, Rep. Patrick Abrami, R-Stratham, thinks Granite Staters who support ending marijuana prohibition should have waited for his commission’s report before supporting reform efforts in the Legislature (“Commission to deliver pot report on Nov. 1", April 8). While all three neighboring states have already approved legalization measures, Rep. Abrami seems to believe advocates in the “Live Free or Die” state should be content, at least for now, with the fact New Hampshire is finally bothering to study the issue.

    Abrami and Simon seem engaged in a pissing contest about the legalization process (or lack thereof). Can't help but think there is at least one elephant (and maybe more) in the room that neither is talking about.


  • The Greenwood, South Carolina Index Journal marks A fitting conclusion to tragic day in Abbeville. That tragic day was December 8, 2003, and the death of Abbeville County Sheriff’s Deputy Danny Wilson and former deputy, turned state Constable Donnie Ouzts at the hands of Steven Bixby. At issue was a 20-foot easement onto the Bixby's property that the state's DOT wanted to widen the adjacent state highway. And the "fitting conclusion", over 14 years later, is the razing of the Bixby house.

    The Bixbys apparently were not about to give an inch, much less a 20-foot wide strip. Having lived in New Hampshire, they took to heart that state’s motto, “Live free or die.” They threatened the DOT, and when Wilson showed up to try to discuss the matter with the Bixbys he was shot by Steven. His mother proudly told someone her son had shot his first law officer. Steven dragged Wilson inside the house, handcuffed him and let him die. When Ouzts and another officer showed up to check on Wilson but turned from the door to wait for backup, Steven shot Ouzts in the back and the constable died in the yard.

    As the gratuitous LFOD reference shows, the Index Journal editorial writer is a hack. Does our motto make our state a hotbed of homicidal maniacs? No. New Hampshire's homicide rate was lowest in the nation in 2016; South Carolina's relatively optimistic motto, "Dum Spiro Spero" ("While I breathe, I hope") does not stop its inhabitants from racking up the eighth-highest homicide rate, about 5.7 times higher than New Hampshire's.

    Meanwhile, Steven Bixby still sits on Death Row, according to the IJ, because "the state does not have the drugs to perform lethal injections".

Coco

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

It would be easy, all too easy, to dismiss this flick as a politically-correct attempt by a major motion picture studio to cater to the Hispanic demographic. I was apprehensive, myself. But my doubts were quickly swept away, as the movie hit all of my right buttons: a paean to family, honesty, love, and courage. Which still crosses ethnic lines.

It's also gorgeous to watch.

The hero is not Coco. Took me a few minutes to get that straight in my head. It's Miguel. He's a young boy with big dreams in a big family. Unfortunately, his big dreams do not involve the family business, which is shoes. He wants to be a musician, like his hero, the late Ernesto de la Cruz, a movie star/crooner.

Miguel's problems also involve the Day of the Dead, the Mexican holiday where everyone's passed-away ancestors are officially remembered. Due to some supernatural mixup, Miguel is transported to the Land of the Dead, where everyone's a skeleton except him. He gets to know his non-living ancestors. But—hey, just maybe—he can meet up with de la Cruz and get his blessing…

One amazing thing about this movie is its consistent rules about the interactions between the real world and the dead world. Yes, once you buy the premise, and why shouldn't you, it all makes a certain amount of wonderful sense.

Small hint/spoiler: as is common in Pixar movies, the villain is… I can say no more.

Also, I liked the doggie. Pay attention to the doggie. More there than meets the eye.

My Local Paper Lies

[Newspaper Fail]

A page 3 article in the Sunday, April 21 edition of my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, caught my eye: "UNH task force pushes for more inclusive campus". The news hook is the release of the long-awaited Final Report of the "Presidential Task Force on Campus Climate". Which you can read, if you like, here. It is the crowning achievement of the task force, set up last year to mollify dedicated campus activists. People familiar with academia will recognize the report's word-salad muddle, filled with euphemism, obfuscation, and general fog.

But I wanted to point out a few paragraphs from the Foster's story, which is also dreadful:

UNH senior Gabrielle Greaves, BSU co-chair and task force member, said Friday the task force’s almost 40 members have spent months creating recommendations aimed at growing a campus where a diverse student body and faculty is welcome and safety is a mission for all persons of color.

Now look at that last phrase: "where … safety is a mission for all persons of color." Does that even make sense? Is "safety" reasonably described as a "mission"? And is it correct to say that only "persons of color" are on that mission?

No, of course not. This is the mark of someone typing boilerplate phraseology, without really paying much attention to what the words mean.

However, she said the 61-page report and many diversity training events this school year were developed in response to racial incidents after Cinco de Mayo last spring, yet students of color are already unnerved as they have begun to see sombreros on campus. A student of color last year posted a video of her interview with a student wearing a sombrero and this sparked increased violence and threats on social media, which resulted in a sit-in and march and the creation of 16 student demands.

Yes, we are "unnerved". The sombreros are sprouting even before the tulips and crocuses!

But what really bugs me is categorizing that infamous video as an "interview". You can read a contemporaneous, sympathetic article about the incident at The Tab: Video shows sophomore taking on a white student for wearing a poncho on Cinco de Mayo. Note: "taking on", not "interviewing". You can also see a short excerpt of the video, made by the "student of color", Danique Montique. (You'll also notice another signal of Foster's sloppiness: the student is being berated for wearing a poncho, not a sombrero.)

Or you can read the (definitely unsympathetic) coverage at Campus Reform: White student accosted for wearing serape on Cinco de Mayo. Samples:

One of the student’s companions attempted to explain that they were simply “celebrating” the holiday, but was interrupted by Montique, who shouted, “celebrating what?” and “it’s not your holiday!”

This prompted another student to ask which holiday would be appropriate for him and his friends to celebrate, but the query was only met with another lecture about Cinco de Mayo.

“That’s stuff for you white people to figure out. I don’t fucking know! Cinco de Mayo is not your holiday,” she again declared. “You’re perpetuating the stereotype that Mexicans drink and wear ponchos for a living. That’s what you’re doing, and you also have to keep in mind the racial tension that’s happening right now where your president claims that Mexicans only come here, drink, and steal your jobs.”

[…]

Michael then attempted to suggest that his interlocutors were making “too big a deal out of it,” but they quickly dismissed his attempts to settle the dispute, saying “that’s how you feel because you’re not a part of the culture.”

“This stuff actually affects people’s lives, and I don’t think you understand that,” Montique carried on. “You’re perpetuating the stereotype, Michael. It’s not just about you wearing it. It’s about you as a man—a white man, who has the most privilege in this whole fucking country—knowing what’s happening in this country right now.”

Can this be fairly categorized as an "interview"? Only by someone attempting to downplay the aggression and hostility displayed by the "student of color".


Last Modified 2018-04-24 6:22 AM EDT

The Elephant in the Brain

Hidden Motives in Everyday Life

[Amazon Link]

Why it seems only a few weeks back (because it was only a few weeks back) that we read Alan Jacobs' How to Think, in which he observed that books about thinking have a trait in common: "they're really depressing to read."

I don't find them depressing, but I get his point: such books concentrate on all the myriad ways our thinking can go seriously wrong.

Reader, beware: The Elephant in the Brain is one of those books. The authors, Robin Hanson and Kevin Simler, purport to report on why we act the way we do, specifically our motivations for our social behavior. Those motives are not as pure as they appear to be. Down deep, our brains are a product of millions of years of survival-of-the-fittest evolution, looking out for our own procreation and safety. But we've also evolved as a social animal, so our selfish motives are also channelled by the need to get along with others of our tribe. So we've adapted elaborate disguises for our motives, a network of deceptions that outwardly display as noble.

As an added feature, this often amounts to self-deception as well: we convince ourselves we're being nice and socially virtuous, ignoring the "elephant" of our baser instincts. Why? Because, as an evolutionary adaptive strategy, fooling ourselves makes it easier to fool others.

Their high-level picture (snipped from Amazon):

[The Elephant in the Brain]

They could have stolen a title from Harlan Ellison: Love Ain't Nothing But Sex Misspelled.

Hanson and Simler develop this thesis in (what I've come to think of as) the standard way: accumulating evidence from psychological research, animal studies, evolutionary theory. They then show how this model plays out in various specific aspects of life, devoting one chapter to each of: Body Languuage; Laughter; Conversation; Consumption; Art; Charity; Education; Medicine; Religion; and Politics.

The book is accessible, insightful, and fun to read. And made me a tad uncomfortable in trying to find out about my own "hidden" motives. (Yup, there I am: page 302. And probably other places I glossed over.) All in all, recommended to anyone interested in stuff like this.

And yet, I kept telling myself: Hanson and Simler are telling a plausible story, but they are not telling the whole story. The very existence of the book confirms that while we can and do engage in fallacious self-deception about our motivations, we don't always do so. What's typical? Who's better, who's best? How do we improve? How would we measure such improvement? (The book, to its credit, does make a nod toward these issues in its "Conclusion" chapter.)

But I keep coming back to Deirdre McCloskey's "Great Fact": the amazing relatively-overnight improvement in human standards of living after millennia of relative stagnation. That's another real "elephant" that needs explaining. I think Hanson and Simler could have had something insightful to say here, but don't.

URLs du Jour

2018-04-22

[Amazon Link]

  • We move (backwards, sue us) to a new Proverbial chapter today, with Proverbs 13:1:

    1 A wise son heeds his father’s instruction,
        but a mocker does not respond to rebukes.

    Stupid mockers again.


  • At the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Ryan Young writes on Peter Navarro's Economic Ignorance on Trade. Longest article ever written? No. But it may not be comprehensive. Skipping over a couple of points, I liked this bit:

    Third, Navarro thinks in aggregates, not individuals, joining the Keynesian and Harvard-MIT traditions in error. Countries don’t trade with each other, people do. “China” and “America” do not trade with each other; people who live in China and people who live in America do.

    Remember this every time Navarro’s boss tweets something like “We are on the losing side of almost all trade deals. Our friends and enemies have taken advantage of the U.S. for many years. Our Steel and Aluminum industries are dead.” As Ludwig von Mises points out on p. 44 of “Human Action,“ “It is always single individuals who say We”. Also, domestic steel production is above its 40-year running average, according to the St. Louis Fed. Ditto aluminum.

    I pulled my dusty copy of Human Action off the shelf, and: yes, there it is on page 44. And, reading on, I was reminded that Mises was not known for his punchy prose.

    And Young reminds me, if I needed it, that Trump is dangerously ignorant. And proud of it.


  • Patterico has a refreshingly original take on ex-FBI Director Comey's new book: James Comey and the Iron Law of Bureaucracy.

    I’m someone who agrees with Comey that Donald Trump is morally unfit for office. I tend to like Comey and (for the most part) find the universal disdain for him and his book befuddling. But this post constitutes a harsh criticism of Comey, because it’s the thing that has most bothered me about him — and it’s the part of the book that I found most jarring. It’s his inexplicable decision to let Hillary Clinton off the hook. And to my way of thinking, Comey just keeps digging that hole deeper in his book. To me, nothing demonstrates his elevation of the FBI’s reputation over equal justice under the law like his mishandling of the Hillary investigation.

    The "Iron Law of Bureaucracy", by the way, is from the late Jerry Pournelle:

    Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people":

    First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

    Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

    The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.

    Patterico considers Comey to be an example of the second group. He makes a convincing argument.


  • Our Google LFOD News Alert rang (unexpectedly!) for a site called "SNEWS", and an article by Amelia Arvesen: The greenest states in the U.S..

    Spoiler: Greenest is Vermont; least green is West Virginia. But NH made the top 10. Kate Paine, VP of Marketing for a company called NEMO Equipment, based just down the road in Dover:

    "Interestingly, in New Hampshire, famously the 'Live Free or Die' state, a lot of this progressive action is driven from a grassroots movement of individuals and businesses who care and therefore act," Paine said. "There’s a lot of organizing around renewable energy, local agriculture, land conservation, and waste reduction. We’re a member of New Hampshire Businesses for Social Responsibility, which offers a great forum for connecting with businesses who share the same goals. I’ve been really impressed by the motivation and intentionality of the business community in New Hampshire."

    Yes, it's a bullshit-heavy article. The WalletHub article on which the rankings are based is here. Did you know, for example, that NH has the fourth-lowest total municipal solid waste per capita?


  • And a Milwaukee-based news site, Shepherd Express, writes a fawning story about the earnest kids walking out of school (again) to push their ignorant opinions about guns: Area High School Students Continue to Push For Gun Reform. But:

    Two pro-gun advocates were also present at the really, wearing jackets that said “Loaded and Ready,” and “Live Free or Die.” William Polster of Plymouth said he was simply observing the event.

    “I think it’s interesting hearing their concepts, because right now they are being protected by people with firearms,” said Polster, referring to multiple police officers who were parked nearby. “It’s a shame when people fight for their rights, and then their own rights are being taken away.”

    Your experience will probably vary, but when I view the article, there's an add from the United States Concealed Carry Association urging me to click over to their site to "Find Your Perfect Handgun".


  • And our Ramirez du Jour covers the latest outrage:

    Impressive detail, right?

URLs du Jour

2018-04-21

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 14:35 shows what a mixed bag Proverbs can be:

    35 A king delights in a wise servant,
        but a shameful servant arouses his fury.

    Yeah, it's hard to find good help these days. Even if you're King, and living off the backs of the 99.99% of your subjects trapped in dire poverty.


  • Kevin D. Williamson relates the story of his brief employment with the Atlantic: When the Twitter Mob Came for Me. Might be paywalled, which is nature's way of telling you: get a Wall Street Journal subscription, already.

    Anyway: this paragraph is why I will read KDW anytime, anywhere:

    Which brings us back to that event at South by Southwest, where the Atlantic was sponsoring a panel about marginalized points of view and diversity in journalism. The panelists, all Atlantic writers and editors, argued that the cultural and economic decks are stacked against feminists and advocates of minority interests. They made this argument under the prestigious, high-profile auspices of South by Southwest and their own magazine, hosted by a feminist group called the Female Quotient, which enjoys the patronage of Google, PepsiCo, AT&T, NBCUniversal, Facebook, UBS, JPMorgan Chase and Deloitte. We should all be so marginalized. If you want to know who actually has the power in our society and who is actually marginalized, ask which ideas get you sponsorships from Google and Pepsi and which get you fired.

    And, as they say, to ask the question is to answer it.


  • Mr. Greg Weiner, once an aide to Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey, notes an endangered species: old-style liberals. When Liberals Become Progressives, Much Is Lost. Sample:

    A liberal can believe that government can do more good or less, and one can debate how much to conserve. But progressivism is inherently hostile to moderation because progress is an unmitigated good. There cannot be too much of it. Like conservative fundamentalism, progressivism contributes to the polarization and paralysis of government because it makes compromise, which entails accepting less progress, not merely inadvisable but irrational. Even when progressives choose their targets strategically — Hillary Clinton, for example, called herself “a progressive who likes to get things done” — the implication is that progress is the fundamental goal and that its opponents are atavists.

    Progressivism is very like a religion. And not a "nice" one, like Episcopalianism, either: One of those nightmarish ones where devotees hunt down heretics with an eye toward ostracism and ruin.


  • At the WaPo, Megan McArdle describes Democrats’ housing problem.

    Since the late 1950s, economists have paid attention to “housing starts” — the number of times in a month that ground is broken to build a home. In recent years, however, economists have started to pay closer attention to something we might call “housing stops”: the thicket of laws and regulations that make it harder for communities to build.

    Since at least 1950, notes housing economist Joseph Gyourko, there has been a growing price divide between low-cost areas where housing is plentiful and cheap, and desirable areas where housing is scarce and expensive. In 1950, housing in the most expensive metropolitan areas cost twice what it did in an average market. By 2000, it was four times as expensive, and Gyourko expects that difference to keep growing.

    Again, see The Captured Economy by Brink Lindsey and Steven M. Teles, where land-use regulation is one of the prime components of the American game of rent-seeking. Contrary to Megan's headline, it's bad in areas where Democrats are in full control, but it's not great in (for example) New Hampshire, either.


  • And the candidates are starting to show up in our fair state. Andrew Yang is profiled at Vice, with emphasis on his Big Issue: The Presidential Candidate Bent on Beating the Robot Apocalypse Will Give Two Americans a $1,000-per-month Basic Income.

    Next week in New Hampshire, Yang will announce an initiative to give one citizen of the Live Free or Die state the monthly windfall. He’s asking citizens to nominate someone they know who could use the extra income, to offer a real-time test case of his central policy idea. Shortly after, he’ll repeat the process in Iowa (each are swing states, of course, and the first to vote in the primary process).

    <voice accent="yankee">Ayup, nothin' says "Live Free or Die" than becomin' dependent on the government for your financial future</voice>.


  • And xkcd once again looks into my shameful trashy behavior:

    [Clutter Commentary]

    Mouseover: "I found a copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but the idea of reading it didn't spark joy, so I gave it away."

Trumps of Doom

[Amazon Link]

This is number six in Roger Zelazny's ten-book series of novels revolving around the denizens of Amber and its associated realities. The first five books (published between 1970 and 1978) concerned Corwin's efforts to (first) rule and (then) save Amber, the "true" world. (The universe you and I know is a mere "shadow" of Amber, one of a great many. Sorry.) Zelazny began the second set of five books with this one, published in 1985.

In it, Corwin's son Merlin becomes the narrator. Corwin is MIA, variously reported to be dead or insane. Merlin is dwelling on Shadow Earth, a recently-graduated Computer Science student. His main problem being that every April 30, his birthday, someone tries to kill him. The perpetrator is unknown, as is the motive.

But this April 30, the victim is Merlin's ex-girlfriend Julie, who's been killed by a wolflike beast from a different shadow. Merlin sets off on a hunt to find out what's going on, which mainly reveals his cluelessness. But also his carelessness in developing "Ghostwheel", an automated gadget that flips through Shadow like Google flips through web pages. Which turns out to be pretty dangerous.

Lots of characters, all of whom lie about their motives and natures without compunction. A universe with a lot of made-up behavior and rules. I can tell I'm going to have a lot of trouble keeping things straight as I march through subsequent books.

URLs du Jour

2018-04-20

[Amazon Link]

  • Hey, kids! How do you feel about collective guilt? Proverbs 14:34 provides it:

    34 Righteousness exalts a nation,
        but sin condemns any people.

    That's easy to make fun of, but there's a kernel of truth there. Specifically (since I am at least a part-time libertarian), let's see what James Madison had to say:

    To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea.

    On my more pessimistic days, I think that the US is severely testing that assertion.


  • A new issue of American Consequences is out, with quite a few P. J. O'Rourke articles. I liked his take on Greed and Fear.

    Markets are ruled by greed and fear. Or so they say.

    For example, Warren Buffett famously declared, “Two super-contagious diseases, fear and greed, will forever occur in the investment community… We simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful.”

    Which is just a wordier version of the old stock trader maxim: “Buy on fear, sell on greed.”

    And since Pun Salad has long been interested in risk, I enjoyed the bottom line, as expressed by P. J.'s friend Jay Caauwe after they attend a heavily technical session on "Risk Management":

    The quants talked about portfolio performance alphas, volatility betas, standard deviation sigmas, and all the risk sensitivities and hedge parameters expressed in Greek letters – delta, vega, theta, rho, lambda, epsilon… I felt like I was in some awful fraternity initiation shotgunning coffee instead of beer.

    I said to Jay, “I can’t understand a single word they’re saying about measuring risk.”

    Jay just smiled.

    “P.J.,” he said, “if you could measure risk, it wouldn’t be risk.”

    Wise words there.


  • Why, it's almost as if our government's actions to stem opioid abuse are wrong-headed! Because, as Jacob Sullum notes at Reason: As Opioid Prescriptions Fall, Opioid Deaths Rise

    The decline in opioid prescriptions that began in 2011 accelerated last year, according to the latest data. Meanwhile, opioid-related deaths continue to rise. The opposing trends show the folly of tackling the "opioid crisis" by restricting access to pain medication.

    Fearless prediction: the people who assured us that restricting opioid prescriptions would save lives will not accept any responsibility, nor incur any penalty, for their role in increasing pain and death.


  • I know you've been wondering: should conservatives try to punish radical professors for offensive speech? At NR, David French has the answer for you: No, Conservatives Shouldn’t Try to Punish Radical Professors for Offensive Speech. The recent test case is Fresno State's Randa Jarrar, who tweeted out attention-seeking vileness on the occasion of Barbara Bush's death. (Warning: picture of Prof Jarrar at the link.)

    But culture drives law, and law drives culture. Every time that we refuse to tolerate offensive expression, we incentivize the culture of crocodile tears. We motivate government officials to expand state power over speech until the silencing exceptions swallow the free-speech rule. California’s recent efforts to compel crisis-pregnancy centers to advertise for free or low-cost abortions represents what happens when the people, to borrow my friend Greg Lukianoff’s excellent phrase, “unlearn liberty.” Periodic conservative efforts to expel radical professors from the academy demonstrate the pernicious effects of a “fight fire with fire” mentality. In both cases, a culture of coercion triumphs and liberty loses.

    French's solution: deny the lefty trolls the attention they crave. The worst punishment of all.


  • Philip Greenspun has a semi-contrarian view on the recent airline accident: Southwest 1380: think about the flight attendants.

    If you’re looking for heroes, though, think about the flight attendants. They’re in the back of the plane with 140+ screaming passengers. There is a hole in the airplane. At least one person has suffered injuries that will prove to be fatal. Others are injured as well. They have received no training for this scenario. (Most flight attendant training, as I understand it, is directed at evacuations once the aircraft has landed.)

    Not to take anything away from pilot Tammie Jo Shults, but she'd be the first to tell you that a single-engine failure is something pilots are extensively trained to handle via simulator, without drama.


  • And the Babylon Bee reports news from the other side of the state: Libertarian Careens Car Through Back Yards, Open Fields, Off Cliff To Avoid Using Government Roads

    LEBANON, NH—In a calculated move intended to demonstrate the power of the free market, libertarian man Patrick Wallace drove his SUV through dozens of other peoples’ back yards, across several open fields, over a stretch of rocky terrain, and even off a cliff into a small ravine in order to avoid using any government-funded roads, sources confirmed Thursday.

    According to witnesses, the man got into his vehicle to head to work, started it up, and immediately barreled across his lawn, down his neighbor’s side yard, through a row of back yards, and right into an adjacent wood, all while carefully preventing his tires from ever touching any road built by tax dollars.

    Heh! I'm pretty sure, though, that a True Scotsman Libertarian would have more respect for private property rights than that demonstrated by Mr. Wallace.

URLs du Jour

2018-04-19

[Amazon Link]

  • I really like Proverbs 14:33:

    33 Wisdom reposes in the heart of the discerning
        and even among fools she lets herself be known.

    A little bit of optimism there for the foolish; even in their sorry state, they catch a glimpse of something different and better. There's still a chance.

    Note that "The Message" "translation" seems to botch this:

    33 Lady Wisdom is at home in an understanding heart—
        fools never even get to say hello.

    I.e., fools helplessly lost in their foolishness. Sad!


  • At Quillette, Adam Perkins writes on The Scientific Importance of Free Speech.

    When one side of a scientific debate is allowed to silence the other side, this is an impediment to scientific progress because it prevents bad theories being replaced by better theories. Or, even worse, it causes civilization to go backward, such as when a good theory is replaced by a bad theory that it previously displaced. The latter situation is what happened in the most famous illustration of the dire consequences that can occur when one side of a scientific debate is silenced. This occurred in connection with the theory that acquired characteristics are inherited. This idea had been out of fashion for decades, in part due to research in the 1880s by August Weismann. He conducted an experiment that entailed amputating the tails of 68 white mice, over 5 generations. He found that no mice were born without a tail or even with a shorter tail. He stated: “901 young were produced by five generations of artificially mutilated parents, and yet there was not a single example of a rudimentary tail or of any other abnormality in this organ.”

    People acquainted with the term "Lysenkoism" know what's coming next.

    But the real punchline in Perkins' article is right at the top:

    Editor’s note: this is a shortened version of a speech that the author was due to give last month at King’s College London which was canceled because the university deemed the event to be too ‘high risk’.

    Perkins has argued for a genetic basis for a number of socially dysfunctional traits. That is blasphemy. It must not be allowed.


  • Timothy Sandefur recently wrote a biography of Frederick Douglass in which he emphasized Douglass's antipathy toward socialism. In today's mail bag he replies to a reader who attempts to claim socialism as the true "anti-slavery" movement. The reader's bottom line:

    It could be said that libertarians are, on the whole far, more opposed to individual liberty than any true socialist.

    Sandefur's response (in full, because it's brilliant):

    Well, I suppose all sorts of stupid and false things "could be said," but they remain stupid and false.

    Douglass was right to see that socialism posed a risk of enslaving all of mankind instead of just one race, and Frederic Holland's warning about what would happen if it were attempted on a national scale proved correct. "True socialism" is, of course, a fantasy concocted by enemies of liberty to excuse the inevitable results that have flowed from their doctrine ever since their advent--and, no doubt, every time a socialist country degenerates into the typical symptoms of chaos and tyranny, they will continue to deploy that worn, pathetic excuse, "That's not true socialism"--like some hallucinating patient in his death throes insisting "This isn't true syphillis."

    But the reality of the matter is that slavery is, as its great advocate George Fitzhugh called it, the truest form of socialism, because it subordinates the individual to the interests of others, and compels him to work for others' benefit. Socialists may indeed, for pragmatic and tactical reasons, take stands against particular incidents of slavery, just as one religious sect boldly opposes the cruel religious establishment that oppresses the natives of some foreign land--not, indeed, because they believe in liberty, but because they desire the opportunity to oppress those people themselves, without competition from their rivals. The true doctrine of liberty, as Douglass rightly saw, is that each person be free from compulsion, to live his own life for his own sake on his own terms, without being subordinated to the interests of anyone else, and free to enjoy the fruits of his labors in freedom.

    Now, please, don't go telling me that that's what "True Socialism" is about. I've heard it all before.

    I have placed Sandefur's book on the things-to-read list.


  • At the NYT Christopher Buckley remembers Barbara Bush as Mrs. No-Nonsense. He was a speechwriter for GHWB, and occasionally observed… well, I liked this story:

    If she was Mrs. No-Nonsense, she also had a playful, even girlish, side to her. On one occasion, I was alone in a freight elevator with Mr. and Mrs. Bush and their Secret Service detail when it got stuck between floors. Stuck elevators are viewed grimly by the Secret Service. The atmosphere inside quickly elevated (as it were) to Condition Red, with hands reaching for the holstered Glock 9’s, orders barked into wrist-mics and all the rest.

    The Bushes were blithe. I was standing behind them. Mr. Bush’s fingers reached for Mrs. Bush’s derrière and gave it a pinch. She turned to him and grinned like an 18-year-old. “Hi ya, fellah,” she said. So I can claim to have witnessed a primal scene between Mom and Dad Bush.

    I am somewhat surprised by the amount of media coverage devoted to Mrs. Bush's passing. But it allows us to remember a decent lady.


  • And there's even an LFOD connection (revealed via our Google News Alert): at WMUR, Gov. Sununu recalls ‘honorary Granite Stater’ Barbara Bush as ‘impassioned,’ yet ‘down-to-earth’. Our current governor, Chris Sununu, met the Bushes when his dad (John) worked in the White House.

    The governor called the Bushes “honorary Granite Staters.”

    “They spent a lot of time here,” he said. “They really understood what New Hampshire was all about. I think they shared a lot of the values that folks in New Hampshire really believe in – that ‘Live Free or Die’ spirit. It was something they really grew fond of and appreciated.”

    If only that "LFOD spirit" had held him to his "Read my lips, no new taxes pledge…


  • The Heartland Institute interviews NH State Rep Bill Ohm, who is angling toward Giving the Slip to Government Permission Slips.

    New Hampshire State Rep. Bill Ohm (R- Nashua) joins the Heartland Daily Podcast to talk about lawmakers’ work to reform occupational licensing and get people back to work in the Live Free or Die State.

    Ohm, the sponsor of House Bill 1685, says the bill will create a state commission to review and overhaul the state’s many burdensome and arbitrary regulations requiring individuals to obtain occupational licenses before entering a job.

    Unfortunately, the bill was killed earlier this month, thanks to six Republican state senators (Birdsell, Carson, Gannon, Gray, Innis, Reagan). Joining nine Democrats voting "inexpedient to legislate". Innis is especially painful, I liked him.

URLs du Jour

2018-04-18

[Amazon Link]

  • I am not sure of the best way to read Proverbs 14:32:

    32 When calamity comes, the wicked are brought down,
        but even in death the righteous seek refuge in God.

    Turning to other translations doesn't help much.

    The "Message" translation favored for those who like their translations not to be accurate translations: "The evil of bad people leaves them out in the cold; the integrity of good people creates a safe place for living." Ssh, there's no need to mention that death thing!


  • David French at NR reports: California Progressives Launch (Another) Attack on Free Speech. What, again? It is spurred by a Jonathan Chait article that wonders why more Republicans, justly disgusted with their party, don't become Democrats.

    It’s interesting, for example, that Chait makes the argument just as the California State Assembly is set to vote on a bill that would actually — among other things — ban the sale of books expressing orthodox Christian beliefs about sexual morality.

    Such beliefs are heresy against the new secular religion whirling around issues of sex and "gender expression". And heresy cannot be allowed.


  • At Reason, J.D. Tuccille notes the asymmetric concern about disclosure of "sensitive information": Facebook’s Use of Data May Annoy You, But IRS Handling of Your Sensitive Information Is Truly Chilling.

    As we argue over the propriety of Facebook hoovering up personal (but not especially sensitive) information that users voluntarily gave to the social media company, it's a good time to remember that many of us are right now surrendering delicate details of our life to an even less trustworthy entity—the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)—and we have no choice.

    Using a feature of Facebook that was abandoned in 2015, third-party apps were, for several years, able to compile fairly detailed profiles on users who installed them. Among other destinations, the information made it to political campaigns for use in targeted electioneering (variously characterized as innovative when the Obama campaign bragged about its tech savvy, and nefarious when it benefited Trump). This info-siphoning struck many people as creepy as hell (almost certainly why Facebook killed the feature three years ago), but it was based on freely surrendered data through a service that nobody was compelled to use. Anybody uncomfortable with Facebook's policies can just close their account (or creatively populate it with bogus info).

    J. D. alludes to something we've mentioned in the past: you have no obligation to tell the truth when answering nosy questions from social media sites.

    In fact, when you're asked to provide answers to "security questions" to "protect your account", it's far more secure to lie your ass off.


  • Dave Barry shares his sweet memories of the late Harry Anderson. Harry played a fictionalized version of Dave on TV, "Dave's World".

URLs du Jour

2018-04-17

[Amazon Link]

  • We haven't had a lot of Proverbs recently about the poor, but Proverbs 14:31 attempts to make up for that:

    31 Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker,
        but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

    Note that these Proverbs were written when nearly everyone was dirtier-than-dirt poor. The Proverbialist needed an ancient Israeli version of Deirdre N. McCloskey (e.g., our Amazon link du jour) to discover the best way to stop oppressing the poor: use trade-tested betterment to make them unpoor.


  • At Reason, Eric Boehm reports that a Government Watchdog Says Pruitt's $43,000 Phone Booth Broke the Law. Oh oh.

    A soundproof phone booth built for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt cost more than $43,000 and circumvented federal rules for office renovations, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

    In an eight-page letter to congressional Democrats, who had requested a review of Pruitt's phone booth project after reports of it surfaced in the press, GAO General Counsel Thomas Armstrong wrote that the EPA violated two federal laws by failing to notify Congress before spending the money and by using those funds in a manner prohibited by law. The second violation is a function of the first—because the agency did not notify Congress, the funds used to build the phone booth were not legally "available" when the EPA used them.

    The bigger question might be why Pruitt needed a phone booth that costs as much as a brand new BMW.

    Boehm lists off some of Pruitt's admirable EPA reforms, and people who favor prosperity instead of overregulation should check that out. But (bottom line) maybe we could get those same reforms established by someone who doesn't spend taxpayer money like a drunken sailor.


  • Lifezette reporter Brendan Kirby calls attention to: Big Tech Leading Censorship ‘War’ on Conservatives, Report Says.

    Censorship by social media giants is the new front in the “war” on conservative thought — and conservatives are badly losing it, according to a comprehensive study released Monday by a media watchdog group.

    OK, so here's the thing. Well, actually, a number of things. The study is brought to us by the Media Research Center (MRC), which is fine.

    But in order to see the "study", you (apparently) need to go to https://info.mrc.org/censored, a page which will allow you to enter your first name and e-mail address in exchange for "an email containing your digital copy of the full report". And (unless you uncheck some boxes) also subscribe you to some MRC newsletters.

    Uh, no thanks.

    In addition, the summaries of the MRC study suggest that it may be primarily, if not entirely, based on news reports and research done elsewhere. (E.g., this 2016 Gizmodo story that quoted "former Facebook workers" claiming they "routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers".) Any original research that I haven't seen elsewhere, MRC?


  • The Verge reports on something you may have forgotten long ago: OLPC’s $100 laptop was going to change the world — then it all went wrong.

    It was supposed to be the laptop that saved the world.

    In late 2005, tech visionary and MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte pulled the cloth cover off a small green computer with a bright yellow crank. The device was the first working prototype for Negroponte’s new nonprofit One Laptop Per Child, dubbed “the green machine” or simply “the $100 laptop.” And it was like nothing that Negroponte’s audience — at either his panel at a UN-sponsored tech summit in Tunis, or around the globe — had ever seen.

    It didn't work out, yet another—literal—academic scheme to end-run mainstream hardware manufacturers to commodify cheap computing for the third-world masses.

    I played with one once, wangled by a UNH education prof who asked me to help get it on the wireless network. And then I forgot about this would-be world-saving device until now.

    Good thing to remember when some guru comes up with the next grand scheme.


  • The Google LFOD News Alert rang for this WMUR story: Steven Mnuchin, Ivanka Trump heading to Derry to discuss tax reform law. It's happening today! But unless you're already invited, don't bother to just show up: it's closed to hoi polloi.

    A senior Trump administration official said Monday that 150 invited guests will be in the audience at the Derry Opera House on Tuesday for a discussion of the Republican tax reform plan signed into law in December by President Donald Trump.

    As WMUR reported Sunday, Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, who is officially an advisor to the president, and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, will be in New Hampshire on Tax Day to discuss the plan. Former Gov. John H. Sununu will moderate the event, which is not open to the general public.

    But where's LFOD? Ah, there:

    The [aforementioned senior Trump administration] official said that Sununu “celebrates the fact that New Hampshire has a history and tradition of being a state that lives by its motto, ‘Live Free or Die,’ and that includes lower taxes.”

    But, agin, LFOD does not imply that you can just show up at the Derry Opera House and expect to get in to chat up Steve and Ivanka.


  • A funny article at the Daily Mail: Parents reveal the VERY strange things they've taught their children to say - purely for their own amusement. Example: a young man teaching his toddler brother to say something picked up off a billboard: "micro-surgical vasectomy reversal". And added: "He didn't stop saying it for literal[ly] years."

    But also:

    And one confused user remembered his parents rather unique way of dealing with tantrums, writing: 'Whenever my brother threw a tantrum as a baby my parents would chant 'live free or die' until he calmed down it was weird'.

    Must have been Granite Staters.


  • And James Lileks also brought back memories of old Mac Warehouse ads at the Bleat. After some discussion of tax procrastination:

    Don’t think I was ever that bad, but I had a few years of shaving it close, because the anxiety produced by contemplating the forms - THE GOVERNMENT FORMS - made me put it off, and then I’d say “it’s time to get down to it” and I’d drive to Prof. Egghead for software. Ah, damn. They’re out. Well, let’s call Kerry at MacWarehouse. Maybe she’ll pick up.

    Don't remember Kerry? Well, if you're a computer geek of a Certain Age (basically, alive in the 80s), click over. You will.

The Courts of Chaos

[Amazon Link]

[Note: for some reason I appear to have spaced on posting this book report when I read the book back in February. Doing it belatedly, for completeness.]

Winding up the original Amber pentalogy with The Courts of Chaos. After the shocking and fantastic events of the first four books, the hero/narrator Corwin sets of on a perilous, probably futile, quest to save Amber from destruction by the forces set in motion by a rogue Amberite.

Not that it matters, but: I read these books when they first came out in my college/grad school days. On re-reading, I find it's more difficult to keep track of the characters.

Also: I note that there's an alleged TV series in the works. (That's from the summer of 2016 though, so I'm not holding my breath.)

Ready Player One

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

So we went to the cinema to see Steven Spielberg's latest. I liked it a lot.

Set in a mildly-dystopic 2045, where (seemingly) most of the US population has decided to spend its spare time in the virtual reality world of the "Oasis", a huge cyber-environment set up years ago by the late James Halliday. The hero, Wade Watts, lives in a Columbus trailer park slum, but he's gained a measure of virtual fame, via his Oasis avatar "Parzival". His ambition, like that of millions of other players, is to find an Easter Egg Halliday hid in Oasis before his death, and thereby become heir to the Halliday cyber-empire. He is joined by some other plucky young people, and finds himself in conflict with a greedy corporate behemoth.

It's kind of a wonderful mishmash. Let's see if we can sort it out:

  • 50%: gorgeous, amazing, over-the-top CGI virtual-reality exploits and battles, with piles of inside jokes and pop-cultural references.
  • 30%: a standard story of young misfits against the previously mentioned corporate behemoth.
  • 20%: a surprisingly bittersweet backstory of two friends and business partners in love with the same girl, which eventually breaks up their friendship and their business.

Me, I thought Spielberg could have played up the backstory more, and toned down the CGI stuff. Good as it is, it's not the reason we go to the movies, Steve.

Breaking Point

[Amazon Link]

Hardcover picked up at the Barnes & Noble remainder piles for a cool $5.98. An excellent deal, although I'm not sure how much C. J. made on the deal. Something, I hope; judging by his recent book signing in Portsmouth, he's a heck of a good guy.

On the other hand, I'm RetiredOnAFixedIncome, and do not have any NYT best-sellers in my quiver, so I'm pretty sure he can stand it.

Two EPA enforcers are sent out from the Denver office to serve ruinous papers on one Butch Roberson, who is sinning against the environment by attempting to build a cabin on his own land. Unfortunately, by page 13, the EPA guys are dead or dying of gunshot wounds. A manhunt ensues, into which Joe Pickett is swept; he knows Roberson pretty well, can't believe he's become a murderer. And a lot of the details smell fishy to Joe. Why, it's that red herring over there…

Before it's over, there's a few more deaths (one spectacular), and a nasty forest fire (no spoiler, it's on the cover). As usual, Joe barely makes it out alive. But will he have a job at the end?

This is, I think, C. J. Box's most political book of those I've read. The dangerous arrogance and arbitrariness of Federal bureaucracy is a primary theme; it's based on the true story of Mike and Chantell Sackett in Idaho.

URLs du Jour

2018-04-16

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 14:30 is, in all honesty, a timeless bit of wisdom. Definitely an above-average Proverb:

    30 A heart at peace gives life to the body,
        but envy rots the bones.

    Envy is a deadly sin, of course, so you shouldn't do it. But it's not only bad, it's bad for you.

    (And, as Helmut Schoeck noted, when it's uncontrolled, it can work out very badly for your country. See the Amazon link du jour.)


  • Somersworth (NH) High School Principal John Shea penned an op-ed in my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat: Urge Kittery Trading Post to stop selling assault-style rifles.

    With a photo ID and cash or a credit card, almost any of us (18 years or older) can walk into the Kittery Trading Post and purchase a semi-automatic assault rifle like the ones used in the massacres at Stoneman Douglas High, the Las Vegas music festival and Sandy Hook Elementary School – and some high-capacity magazines of 40 rounds each.

    It goes on from there, a remarkably detailed fantasy about which nearby schools a dedicated murderous psychotic could then proceed to shoot up. A disturbing, albeit probably unintentional, look into the dark corners of one Progressive's mindset. Shea urges his readers to join in a boycott of Kittery Trading Post until they stop selling the scary guns.

    I almost titled this post: "Urge John Shea to Mind His Own Business". Literally.

    Students at Somersworth High School scored an average 32% of students proficient for math and reading as tested by the NH Dept of Education. Performance is well below the state high school median of 50% proficiency and places the school's test performance in the bottom 12.8% of New Hampshire high schools.

    I haven't been to Kittery Trading Post in a while. I don't currently need a gun, but I could use a new pair of shoes and maybe some work gloves.


  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File is (mostly) about Paul Ryan, and his title is a classical reference: Cincinnatus Lays Down the PowerPoint. A long, but worthwhile, excerpt:

    The fact that Paul Ryan was a man out of place in his own party says far more about the state of the GOP than it does about the man. Consider this week alone:

    • A president who cheated on his first wife with his second and “allegedly” cheated on his third with a porn star is tweeting that Jim Comey is a “slimeball.”
    • The president’s personal PR team over at Hannity HQ is calling Robert Mueller the head of a crime family.
    • The CBO just announced that we’re in store for trillion-dollar deficits for as far as the eye can see.
    • The president is tweeting taunts about how his missiles are shinier toys than Putin’s.
    • The president’s nominee for secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, a once passionate and thoughtful defender of Congress’s sole right to authorize war, is now invoking law-review articles as justification for a president’s right to wage war on a whim.
    • The president’s lawyer’s office was raided by the FBI (not Bob Mueller’s team, by the way) after getting a warrant from a judge and following all of the onerous protocols of the Justice Department, and the former speaker of the House — and avowed historian — is insisting that the Cohen and Manafort raids are morally equivalent to the tactics of Stalin and Hitler. I’m pretty sure the Gestapo didn’t have “clean teams” to protect attorney-client privilege (particularly of dudes named “Cohen”), and last I checked the KGB wasn’t big on warrants.
    • On Monday evening, the president convened a televised war council and spent the first ten minutes sputtering about how outraged he was by an inquiry into a pay-off of his porn-star paramour.

    And people are shocked that Paul Ryan isn’t comfortable in Washington?

    Endangered species: GOP politicians with integrity. I know they're out there, but …


  • Janice Brown looks at a local curiousity: Samuel Joy and His Spite Tombstone in Durham New Hampshire. No excerpts, Janice discourages those, but it's an interesting bit of diligent research about poisonous posturing preserved for posterity.


  • Space.com recommends: This NASA Video Tour of the Moon in 4K Is Simply Breathtaking. It's a "greatest hits" compilation from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). I'm glad they didn't say "literally breathtaking", because my breath was not taken (but I didn't watch it in 4K either). It is very cool though.

    LRO data not only supports future human missions, but also provides more information about past landings from the Apollo program, all of which took place between 1969 and 1972. The spacecraft has imaged multiple landing sites, as well as the crash sites from the third stage of the mighty Saturn V rocket that lifted humans to the moon. The video zooms in on the Apollo 17 landing site in the Taurus-Littrow valley, revealing astronaut tracks, the rover and even the bottom half of the astronauts' lunar module, Challenger.

    Sobering thought: It's looking dicey as to whether I'll be around to see more humans on the moon. It was neat to be around to witness the first ones, though.


  • And Mr. Michael Ramirez comments on the "investigation":

URLs du Jour

2018-04-15

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 14:29 goes into the "timeless" pigeonhole:

    29 Whoever is patient has great understanding,
        but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.

    As you probably know, Patience is one of the seven heavenly virtues; but a hot temper is not necessarily a sin, unless it leads to Wrath.

    Jesus excepted.


  • Speaking of patience, Reason's Matt Welch has none with The Deep-State Liars of the #Resistance.

    During his half-century spent defending Americans' civil liberties, here's what has changed, according to lawyer Alan Dershowitz: "Now conservatives have become civil libertarians, and liberals have become strong supporters of law enforcement, the Justice Department and the FBI," the professor and pundit said after dining with President Trump on Tuesday night.

    That snorting sound you hear? That's a thousand libertarians shooting coffee through their noses at the notion that the GOP is newly sympathetic to issues of law enforcement overreach and intrusive investigative tools. Republicans had an opportunity as recently as three months ago to rein in warrantless snooping under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. What did they do? They voted overwhelmingly to reauthorize the practice for another six years: 191-45 among GOP members in the House, 43-7 in the Senate.

    So (if you have patience) wait a few years until the political winds shift, and you can watch the corresponding attitudes mutate once again.


  • Philip Greenspun peruses a recent position of the ACLU on an issue you might not expect: Why does the ACLU advocate for paid family and medical leave? Good question, and I especially like this observation:

    One area where the ACLU could make money is management consulting. In the pre-filled letter to send to politicians, the organization suggests that members write that, with this kind of law in place, “employers save money by retaining better staff”. Thus any rational employer should implement a paid leave system even in the absence of a law forcing them to do it. But profit-seeking employers are leaving money on the table, so to speak, by not paying workers to not work. So the ACLU could charge employers to educate them on the profit-enhancing technique that the ACLU knows about, but that employers don’t know about.

    The self-appointed experts that know everything about how businesses should be better run are thick on the ground. Thick in other ways, too.


  • Brought to us via the Google LFOD News Alert is this Union Leader article: Family-leave bill faces veto. Our Governor explains one of a number of reasons:

    "While I believe access to a paid-leave program would provide a benefit to some Granite Staters, it is not in our 'Live Free or Die' nature to force citizens to pay for a service they do not want," states Sununu. "HB 628's current opt-out provision is unduly burdensome on both employees and employers, and the need to have the opt-out document notarized is absolutely unnecessary and cumbersome."

    Now if he were only consistent. But the correct application of LFOD is appreciated where we can find it.


  • Ex-druggie Ryan Fowler of the Concord Monitor, on the other hand, invokes LFOD to explain New Hampshire casualties of the war on drugs.

    Clearly, the winner of the war on drugs is the prison industrial complex. The owners of federally and state contracted jails and prisons are profiting from this crisis at a loss to taxpayers. Disproportionate numbers of poor people and people of color are being locked up for simple drug possession, often to meet contractual detention quotas. These bad deals paved the way for handing out murder convictions for people who share drugs that result in death. These are called “death resulting” cases and have become common over the past year and a half in the Live Free or Die state. Most people who are charged this way are low-level drug users who simply share drugs. These policies help no one and conflict with Good Samaritan laws, keeping people from calling 911 during an overdose event.

    It's my impression that relatively few people are locked up for "simple drug posession" any more. Or even "share" drugs. But (nevertheless), Fowler's correct about the fatal incentives of current law.


  • Out in Michigan, the Mackinac Center (For Public Policy) notes a Strong Link Between Cigarette Tax and Illegal Smuggling Rates. And LFOD shows up, of course:

    At the opposite end of our smuggling spectrum, there are source states. The state with the highest outbound cigarette smuggling is New Hampshire, at a whopping 86 percent. That is, for every 100 smokes consumed in the Live Free or Die State, another 86 are smuggled out. This is not a function of New Hampshire having a particularly low tax rate ($1.78 per pack), but of having one that is just relatively lower than that of its neighbors. Idaho (25 percent), Wyoming (22 percent), Delaware (21 percent) and West Virginia (20 percent) round out the top five.

    New Hampshire's tobacco retailers give thanks every day to (a) God and (b) neighboring state legislatures. Probably in that order, but I'm not betting on that.

URLs du Jour

2018-04-14

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 14:28 gets into the mechanics of royalty:

    28 A large population is a king’s glory,
        but without subjects a prince is ruined.

    "I'm a prince!"

    "Yes. Well, exactly how many subjects do you have, Prince?"

    "Well, um…"

    "Uh huh. You're ruined! I read it in Proverbs!"


  • <voice imitation="professor_farnsworth">Good news, everyone</voice>: An excerpt from Jonah Goldberg's new book Suicide of the West is up at NR, and it's apparently free even to lowly non-subscribers. On the astounding fact of capitalistic modernity:

    Virtually every objective, empirical measure that capitalism’s critics value improved with the emergence of Western liberal-democratic capitalism. Did it happen overnight? Sadly, no. But in evolutionary terms, it did.

    Among economists and anthropologists, this is “settled science.” Economists left and right might bicker over minor details, but they agree that poverty is man’s natural environment. As economist Todd G. Buchholz puts it, “For most of man’s life on earth, he has lived no better on two legs than he had on four.” Nobel Prize–winning economist Douglass C. North and his colleagues write in Violence and Social Orders: A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History that “over the long stretch of human history before 1800, the evidence suggests that the long-run rate of growth of per capita income was very close to zero.” Economic historian David S. Landes is not exaggerating when he writes, “The Englishman of 1750 was closer in material things to Caesar’s legionnaires than to his own great-grandchildren.” For roughly 7,500 generations, everywhere in the world — ancient China and Rome, medieval Europe and Aztec-era Mexico — the average person lived on the equivalent of $3 per day.

    Hint: I have Jonah's book on my Amazon Wish List.


  • In one of the eye-rolling events of the past few days, President Trump has signalled his willingness to, um, revisit his decision to pull the US out of the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP). I.e., attempt to unbreak the dish he tossed on the floor. At NR, Veronique de Rugy points out: Rejoining TPP Won’t Be Easy. There are a lot of hurdles. But the bottom line:

    One final note, I don’t know much about international negotiations but I know that there is a reason why we tell our kids not be obnoxious in their dealing with others, even when they think they have the upper-hand or even if they believe they will never need other kids again. Nasty behaviors may come to bite you you know where at some point. This may be one of those moments for America. We, the people, may learn that painful lesson once again. Will the White House learn it too?

    The Pun Salad Magic 8-Ball says: "Outlook not so good".


  • In another eye-roller (as related by Eric Boehm at Reason), Trump Attacks Syria Without Congressional Authorization (or Clearly Defined Goals).

    The attack commences without two fundamental elements of any hostile engagement against another nation: authorization from Congress, and a clear understanding of the mission's aims. These are not mere technicalities, regardless of how often they have been brushed aside by various chief executives in the name of expediency.

    The childish "do something!" urge is bad enough when it motivates bad legislation; when it inspires warlike activity, it's certainly worse.


  • And of course, some CongressCritters object to the lack of authorization. But Congressman Justin Amash points out just how hypocritical the objections can be:

    For residents of New Hampshire CD1: Yes, of course Carol Shea-Porter signed the letter. She wasn't in Congress in 2013, so I won't speculate on her hypocrisy.


  • New Hampshire Commie Public Radio answers the perennial question: What Is The Free State Project? (brought to us via the crack Google LFOD News Alert Team). It's very nuts and bolts (or, you might say, fruits and nuts) about the inner stresses of the FSP, and the tactics of the anti-FSP folks too. For example, there's a movement to "out" current or former members of the FSP who run for political office.

    Yes: "Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Free State Project?"

    It’s a question that rubs Carla Gericke the wrong way, which isn’t surprising. Carla stepped down from the Free State Project in 2016 and is now running for state senate for the second time.

    "It seems very McCarthey-esque," she told me. "I mean, I could break down the Democratic Party into all kinds of little nuanced groups...maybe I'll send out a thing that asks, you know, 'Are you a socialist?'"

    In addition to running for state Senate, Carla is now heading the Foundation for New Hampshire Independence. Their mission is to “educate citizens on the benefits of the Live Free or Die state peacefully declaring its independence and separating from the federal government of the United States.”

    Yes, NHPR doesn't know how to spell "McCarthy".


  • And finally Michael Ramirez on the Facebook imbroglio:

    Closely related: "What, Facebook makes money from ads?!"


Last Modified 2018-04-14 10:58 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2018-04-13

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 14:27 claims advantages for a certain attitude toward the Deity:

    27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
        turning a person from the snares of death.

    The Bible refers to the fear of God a lot. It's a good thing. Unsurprisingly—OK, somewhat surprisingly—there's a Wikipedia page on the topic, in case you're confused about what that entails.


  • Reason's Matt Welch blows the First Amendment whistle on senators defying their oath to support and defend the Constitution: Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren Want the FCC to Revoke Sinclair's Broadcast Licenses.

    How stupid is the panic over Sinclair Broadcast Group's hamfisted, "must-run" promotional video decrying "fake news"? This stupid: Yesterday 12 senators, including reported presidential aspirants Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), officially requested that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) "investigate Sinclair's news activities to determine if it conforms to the public interest." If such an inquiry were to uncover "distorted news reports," the senators reckoned, that "could disqualify Sinclair from holding its existing licenses" and put the kibosh to its proposed purchase of Tribune Co. television stations.

    FCC Chair Ajit Pai easily shot down this attempt at unconstitutional thuggery.

    I am (slightly) relieved that neither New Hampshire senator signed the letter (linked above). However, I'm (again, slightly) disturbed by Massachusetts senator Edward J. Markey's signature. It appears he hasn't changed it since his fourth-grade penmanship class.


  • And is this irony? I can never tell: CFPB Hacked Hundreds of Times, Risking Sensitive U.S. Financial Data.

    The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, confirmed on Wednesday that it had been struck by at least 240 hack attacks and another 800 suspected hacks, jeopardizing mortgage information, Social Security numbers, and personal banking information of scores of Americans, according to congressional testimony.

    To repeat, "CFPB" stands for "Consumer Financial Protection Bureau". And its idea of "protection" extends to sloppily putting nearly every American's sensitive data at risk.

    But (fearless prediction) there won't be anywhere near the outrage directed at the CFPB that was aimed at (say) Equifax last year. Incompetence and misfeasance from government agencies is measured on a different scale than that in the private sector.

    Also see the 2015 Gold King Mine waste water spill, brought to you by the Environmental Protection Agency.


  • KC Johnson relays the latest news in Laura Kipnis's legal troubles. Her crime: Unwanted Candor.

    Amid a national debate about due process and fairness in campus Title IX adjudications, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently observed, “there’s been criticism of some college codes of conduct for not giving the accused person a fair opportunity to be heard, and that’s one of the basic tenets of our system, as you know: everyone deserves a fair hearing.” Few academics have more powerfully made these criticisms than Northwestern University professor Laura Kipnis, whose 2015 Chronicle of Higher Education essay lambasting Title IX’s application to campus sexual-assault and harassment allegations prompted a university Title IX investigation—against Kipnis herself. Though Kipnis was exonerated, the investigation was a form of punishment, since professors normally aren’t questioned by lawyers hired by their school as the result of publishing in their area of expertise. The experience prompted Kipnis to write Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus, which explores how Title IX has come to threaten the rights not only of accused students but also of faculty.

    One of the Title IX rights-threateners, Lauren Ledyon-Hardy, is suing Kipnis, and (incredibly) this lawsuit has been greenlighted by U.S. District Court Judge (and Obama appointee) Jack Blakey.

    Pun Salad wrote extensively about Laura Kipnis last year: here, here, here, here, a look at her book here, here, and here. I wish her good luck and a speedy deliverance from her legal harrassment.


  • I don't read the Onion much any more, but this is pretty good: Nabisco Snack Physicists Develop Highly Unstable Quadriscuits. Especially recommended if you follow the quantum computing news. I won't quote anything except the punchline: "Ellison added that the snack’s existence cannot be explained by classical Fig Newtonian physics."

URLs du Jour

2018-04-12

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 14:26 assures us that all will be well, if…

    26 Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress,
        and for their children it will be a refuge.

    Good to know, Proverbialist. Thanks. For those looking for something a little more, um, concrete, see our Amazon link du jour.


  • David Harsanyi (at the Federalist) has a takeaway from Mark Zuckerberg's Congressional inquisition: Zuckerberg Hearings Prove Government Shouldn’t Regulate Facebook.

    In the year 2018, at the height of The Russia Scare, the Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was hauled in front of a tribunal of tech-illiterate politicians and asked to explain himself. “It was my mistake, and I’m sorry,” Zuckerberg told senators upset about the company’s exploitation (and fumbling) of user data – which, unbeknownst to them, was social media’s entire business model.

    A number of panics have brought us to this preposterous place: The notion that Russian trolls on Facebook could swing the 2016 election and undermined our “democracy;” the idea that Facebook’s leftward bias is so corrosive the company should be regulated like a utility; and, finally, the general way in which social media tends to reveal the ugly side of human nature — which is indeed scary, but has little to do with any particular platform.

    Harsanyi is, as usual, an insightful commentator, picking whatever wisdom he can out of ongoing absurdities.


  • Tyler Cowan analyzes a Facebook regulatory proposal: Zeynep Tufekci’s Facebook solution — can it work? Spoiler: the proposal is vague, loaded with the feelgood adjectives ("clear", "concise", "transparent", "truly consensual"—as opposed to falsely consensual, I guess.)

    What instead?  I would instead start with the sentence “Most Americans don’t value their privacy or the security of their personal data very much,” and then discuss all the ways that limits regulation, or lowers the value of regulation, or will lead many well-intended regulations to be circumvented.  Next I would consider whether there are reasonable restrictions on social media that won’t just cement in the power of the big incumbents.  Then I would ask an economist to estimate the costs of regulatory compliance from the numerous lesser-known web sites around the world.  Without those issues front and center, I don’t think you’ve got much to say.

    Fine, Tyler, but I think…


  • Arnold Kling has a better approach in Let’s Compete with Facebook. Specifically, I like his opening:

    I am sick of reading about people who want to regulate Facebook. You didn’t come up with the idea. You didn’t build the business. Now that it’s here, who the heck do you think you are telling them how to run it?

    Ah, if only Zuck had said something like that to the Congresscritters. Like one of the heroic characters in an Ayn Rand novel. Alas…

    Arnold has a lot of ideas about what a better social media site would look like. Facebook is stupid.


  • Enough with Facebook Follies. At Reason, Steve Chapman goes Libertarian 101: Overdose Deaths Are the Product of Drug Prohibition

    During Prohibition, drinkers never knew what they would get when they set out to slake their thirst. Bootleggers often sold products adulterated with industrial alcohol and other toxins. Some 10,000 people were fatally poisoned before America gave up this grand experiment in suppressing vice.

    So it was a tragedy but not a total surprise when three deaths were reported in Illinois from synthetic marijuana laced with an ingredient (possibly rat poison) that caused severe bleeding. Nationally, in 2015, says the Drug Policy Alliance, "poison control centers received just under 10,000 calls reporting adverse reactions to synthetic cannabinoids, and emergency rooms received tens of thousands of patients."

    Nowadays, the politicos, aided by an uncritical media, measure their "compassion" on druggies by directing a firehose of taxpayer cash to those offering "treatment". E.g.:

    Or, in short: "Gimme more money."


  • Paul Ryan's going someplace saner than Congress next year. Dan McLaughlin writes at NR on Paul Ryan’s Missed Opportunities on Spending. Specifically, he wasted a lot of time and political capital on unfeasible entitlement reform, when he could have…

    Worse, over the past 15 months, Ryan failed to fix the system for budgeting, a goal that should have appealed to him as a Beltway veteran versed in the process from his time running the House Budget Committee. One of the reasons why it has been so hard to eliminate any individual category of spending is that the House deals only in massive all-or-nothing omnibus bills rather than break down appropriations into smaller pieces that can be individually debated and voted on. This excess of brinksmanship gives a massive structural advantage towards the passage of individual spending items that could not survive on their own, since the choice is literally one between shutting down the government and approving all the spending on everything. Of course, as the leader of the caucus, Ryan understood that those smaller fights could be politically painful for some of his members, but so is voting for a big, ugly omnibus, and the latter has no corresponding positives in terms of showing voters that the people they elected were actually serious about their promises on spending. (This is similar to the strategic failure on health care as well as the persistent and misguided effort to pass thousand-page “comprehensive” immigration bills.)

    We could have done worse than Paul Ryan. We almost certainly will do worse.


Last Modified 2018-04-12 10:39 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2018-04-11

[Amazon Link]

  • The nicest thing you can say about Proverbs 14:25 is that it's timeless:

    25 A truthful witness saves lives,
        but a false witness is deceitful.

    Yes. That's the definition of "false witness", Proverbialist. As the kids today say: Duh.


  • The good folks at Heterodox Academy have put together a spiffy illustrated "good parts" re-explication of Chapter Two of John Stuart Mill's On Liberty. From the intro of All Minus One.

    Mill's main concern was not government censorship. It was the stultifying consequences of social conformity, of a culture where deviation from a prescribed set of opinions is punished through peer pressure and the fear of ostracism. "Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough," he wrote. "There needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling". Mill saw people even as brilliant as Charles Darwin living in fear of the response their views would provoke.

    I would guess it deserves to be read in tandem with every nebulous jeremiad in favor of censoring "hate speech".


  • … or in concert with the current social panic about Facebook. Rich Lowry writes at NR about Mark Zuckerberg’s Insufferable Tripe. (That's the current attention-grabbing headline; the URL indicates the original headline may have been something like "Mark Zuckerberg Runs Facebook as a Business, Not a Nonprofit".)

    It’s not Zuckerberg’s fault that he has suddenly been deemed on the wrong side of history, but the Cambridge Analytica blowup is bringing a useful spotlight on the most sanctimoniously self-regarding large company in America. Facebook can’t bear to admit that it has garnered the largest collection of data known to man to sell ads against and line the pockets of its founder and investors.

    The problem isn’t that Mark Zuckerberg is a businessman, and an exceptionally gifted one, but that he pretends to have stumbled out of the lyrics of John Lennon’s song “Imagine.” To listen to him, Facebook is all about connectivity and openness — he just happens to have made roughly $63 billion as the T-shirt-wearing champion of “the global community,” whatever that means.

    I don't begrudge him his $63 Billion; it's a small price to pay to see what various members of my family, old classmates, and favorite celebrities are up to. I just wish he'd play as nicely with honest conservatives and libertarians as he does with leftists and Progressives.


  • At Techdirt, Mike Masnick wonders: Facebook Derangement Syndrome: The Company Has Problems, But Must We Read The Worst Into Absolutely Everything?

    Since the whole Facebook/Cambridge Analytica thing broke, we've [apparently this is a "royal" we] been pointing out that there are many, many valid concerns about things Facebook has done, but people seem to be freaking out about things it didn't actually do and that's bad, because freaking out about the wrong things will make things worse, not better. Indeed, that seems to be the direction things are heading in.

    One thing I've noticed in having this discussion a few times now both online and off is that there's appears to be a bit of Facebook derangement syndrome going on. It seems to go something like this: Facebook did some bad things concerning our privacy, and therefore every single possible thing that Facebook does or Mark Zuckerberg says must have some evil intent. This is silly. Not only is it obviously wrong, but (more importantly) it makes it that much more difficult to have a serious discussion on the actual mistakes of Facebook and Zuckerberg, and to find ways to move forward productively.

    Masnick offers his idea of an "independent judicial-type system" that would check-and-balance the company's own interpretation of its usage policies. Assuming it's workable, and voluntary, and transparent, that's not the worst idea in the world. Much better than getting browbeaten/coerced by the Feds.


  • At NR, Ben Shapiro has thoughts on Kevin Williamson and the Twitter Mob.

    Kevin Williamson. Sam Harris. Bret Weinstein. Bari Weiss. Dave Rubin. Jason Riley. Heather Mac Donald. Jordan Peterson. Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

    The people above don’t have much in common. They disagree on matters large and small. Ali is a militant atheist; Williamson is a religious Christian. Peterson focuses on the metaphysical import of myths; Harris focuses on verifiable science. Rubin is a gay Jew; Riley is black. Mac Donald is a supporter of stronger policing; Weinstein was a supporter of Occupy Wall Street.

    But there is one thing that everyone on this list has in common: We’ve all been unpersoned by the Left. And that Left is creeping quietly into the mainstream.

    All the more reason to skip back up to today's first item, and download your copy of All Minus One.


  • The headline on Veronique de Rugy's NYT piece could indicate a candidate for "Longest Op-Ed Ever": How Trump Misunderstands Trade.

    President Trump recently tweeted, referring to the United States trade deficit with China, “When you’re already $500 billion down, you can’t lose!”

    In 1776, Adam Smith observed that nothing “can be more absurd than this whole doctrine of the balance of trade.” Sadly, almost 250 years later, the president — along with his economic adviser Peter Navarro and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross — has elevated this economic fallacy into a pretext for protectionism.

    On this issue, Trump is doing his darndest to make us all poorer. Sad!


  • The issue of the "Confucius Institutes" at various American universities interests Pun Salad, since there's one at the University Near Here. At Forbes, George Leef notes the latest national news: China's 'Confucius Institutes' Are Unseemly And Senator Rubio Has A Good Idea For Dealing With Them.

    The Chinese government wants to polish its terribly tarnished image and one of the tactics it has been using is to influence the education of American college students.

    Since 2004, the Chinese have been sponsoring “Confucius Institutes” at colleges and universities around the world that are willing to host them. A Chinese government agency pays for most if not all of the cost of the programs that cover Chinese language, culture and history. Since many students want to learn about China, that seems like a good deal that saves the school money.

    The catch: this gives the Chinese unacceptable leverage, dictating the scope of allowable discussion about China's government and its totalitarian policies.

    "Little Marco's" idea: "make colleges choose between federal funding and Chinese funding." Not bad.

Apollo in the Age of Aquarius

[Amazon Link]

This book was positively mentioned by Tyler Cowen. So I got it, thanks to the ILL staff at the University Near Here, from Brandeis U.

And I am immediately saying: Professor Cowen, did we read the same book? Because I found it simplistic, meandering, and wrong-headed. And I usually start out with a positive bias toward the books I take the trouble to get from the library, because I want to believe that I haven't wasted my time.

The author, Neil M. Maher, is a professor of history in the Federated History Department at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers University, Newark.

The book purports to examine the odd coincidence during the 1960s and early 1970s: we had the Apollo Project, a—literally—unprecedented technological feat that (as Ray Bradbury put it at the time) people would "look back upon a million years from tonight". But we also had hippies, the dawn of modern feminism, the dawn of modern environmentalism, civil rights struggles, Vietnam, Commies,…

I lived through that. I know. It was a weird time to be alive. So I kind of assumed that Professor Maher would have some insights that might make things a little less jumbled in my mind. But no.

It starts off with a promising anecdote: two Apollo 13 astronauts, Jim Lovell and Jack Swigert, attending, post-mission, a Broadway performance of Hair. How appropriate! Apollo 13's Lunar Module—the one that saved the astronauts' lives—had the callsign "Aquarius", and the most memorable song from Hair was… yes, "Aquarius". But Lovell and Swigert walked out after the first act, due to the production's disrespectful treatment of the American flag.

Good conflict-of-cultures story, but then things get tedious. Maher tries to show the interaction between NASA, Apollo, and all that other stuff: the military, environmentalism, feminism, politics. But he never gets beyond making tendentious conclusions and dubious interpretations of conveniently-selected facts.

Part of the problem is that Maher seems weak on the technology, probably due to lack of interest. Warning sign: on page 14 he says the Saturn V "transported astronauts through space at 17,400 miles per hour". Wince. That's near-earth-orbital velocity, Neil. The whole point of Saturn V was to get Apollo into a trans-lunar injection trajectory, requiring somewhere around 23,000 earth-relative mph.

Neither does Maher do a good job of portraying NASA's political history. Give them a slight break: they were tasked with performing a mission that was as much a cold-war gimmick with an arbitrary deadline as it was a technological marvel. Once the post-Apollo been-there-done-that attitude set in, it found itself in a desperate bureaucratic struggle for Maintained Funding, which manifested itself in all sorts of strained efforts to show relevance.

Not helping was the common fill-in-the-blank saying "if we can put a man on the moon, we can surely ________". Where the blank was filled, as appropriate, with whatever the speaker wanted taxpayer dollars spent on. Maher takes all these claims with zero skepticism.

Another irritation was in the chapter on feminism. Much is made of the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova, on Vostok 6 in 1963, and the fact that NASA's crew of astronauts at the time was all-dude. Maher avoids noting how much of a propaganda gimmick Tereshkova's flight was; the USSR didn't bother to fly another woman until 1982. (Sally Ride was the third woman in space in 1983.) The history of women in space is interesting, but Maher only seems interested enough to indict NASA's (and America's) disgusting sexism.

URLs du Jour

2018-04-10

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 14:24 sounds like timeless wisdom:

    24 The wealth of the wise is their crown,
        but the folly of fools yields folly.

    "If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?" is only a small step away from "I'm rich, therefore I'm pretty smart." A logically invalid step, but one that people make all the time.


  • Daniel J. Mitchell notes the WaPo opinion piece from five former [Democrat] members of the Council of Economic Advisers, and calls it A Deceptive and Inaccurate Call for Higher Taxes. The quintet's main point: "Don't blame entitlements" for our country's long-term, entirely foreseeable, fiscal disaster.

    That’s a remarkable claim since the Congressional Budget Office (which is not a small government-oriented bureaucracy, to put it mildly) unambiguously shows that rising levels of so-called mandatory spending are driving our long-run fiscal problems.

    Dan has the charts and links, so check that out. His bottom line is that he's (perversely) happy that "Five top economists on the left put their heads together and tried to figure out the most compelling argument for higher taxes. Yet what they produced is shoddy and deceptive. In other words, they didn’t make a strong argument because they don’t have a strong argument."


  • At Cato, Chris Edwards makes a wouldn't-it-be-nice argument about Federal Spending Rescission.

    Worried that their spending spree in the recent omnibus bill will suppress conservative turnout at the polls this November, Republicans are now considering a “rescission” package. The package of spending cuts—being designed by the White House—could be passed in Congress with simple majorities in both chambers.

    That would be nice. And a refreshing change from the normal GOP spinelessness. Chris has a number of suggestions about what spending especially deserves rescission.


  • Do you think Congress should regulate Facebook and other social media? Well, pilgrim… at Reason, Nick Gillespie describes Why You Shouldn't Want Congress To Regulate Facebook & Other Social Media.

    As Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg prepares to testify before both houses of Congress this week, a little more of the internet prepares to die.

    We are in a social panic over social media, and the final outcome will almost certainly be some sort of government regulation or self-regulation-by-shotgun (think Comics Code Authority) that will ultimately serve only regulators and the dominant companies that help to write the new rules.

    You know what's worse than Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg running Facebook? The government running Facebook.


  • At NR, Nicholas Horton reveals what should be obvious: Medicaid Expansion Is Helping Able-Bodied Adults Instead of the Truly Needy.

    Medicaid was intended to be a safety net for the truly needy. But over time, both federal and state policymakers have lost sight of Medicaid’s core purpose and turned the program into a catch-all, open-ended welfare program for non-disabled adults.

    Obamacare made this problem even worse, giving states the option to expand Medicaid to even more able-bodied adults. Nearly 13 million have been added since that expansion went live in 2014. Today, able-bodied adults in the program now outnumber individuals with disabilities — the people Medicaid was largely designed to serve — by a staggering 17.5 million.

    Medicaid has clearly lost its focus, as I detail in a new report for the Foundation for Government Accountability. The most stunning finding: At least 21,904 individuals have died on Medicaid waiting lists in states since they expanded their programs.

    As often happens, "compassionate" government programs wind up killing people.


  • And—guess what, kids?—break out the party hats and noisemakers, because it's "Equal Pay Day". Mark J. Perry has a different idea about what to celebrate:

    I'll start taking Equal Pay Day seriously when there are as many female loggers, fishers, and roofers as men.

    Which is another way of saying that I will never take Equal Pay Day seriously.

URLs du Jour

2018-04-09

[Amazon Link]

  • Sometimes Proverbs speaks timeless truths, and … sometimes it does not. Proverbs 14:23 is one in the latter category.

    23 All hard work brings a profit,
        but mere talk leads only to poverty.

    The Proverbialist wrote in an era blessed with universal dire poverty. And without TED talks.


  • At Reason, Katherine Mangu-Ward asks the musical question: Was Trump Elected to Take Revenge on Job-Stealing Robots? Noting the emotions that some people feel when watching robot videos:

    The pathetic fallacy is a mental error in which people ascribe human feelings or thoughts to inanimate objects. This mostly leads to irrational behavior, such as resentment on behalf of robots that don't smart from mistreatment but instead grow smarter. It's the same shorthand of thought you indulge in when you say the robots are invading workplaces or stealing jobs. In fact, those are nonsensical concepts, at least for robots as they are currently constituted. Human beings are replacing some portions of many other human beings' jobs with labor-saving devices, as we have done for hundreds of years using tools such as tractors, blenders, and washing machines.

    This is an article from the print version of the magazine, but it's been annotated with the videos to which she could only allude on paper.

    So far, she's been doing a great job at editing one of my two favorite magazines.


  • The "Enlightenment" has gotten a lot of good press lately, most notably from Steven Pinker's fine book Enlightenment Now. David Brooks at the NYT has also been a cheerleader. At the WSJ, Yoram Hazony demurs strongly, revealing The Dark Side of the Enlightenment.

    Boosters of the Enlightenment make an attractive case. Science, medicine, free political institutions, the market economy—these things have dramatically improved our lives. They are all, Mr. Pinker writes, the result of “a process set in motion by the Enlightenment in the late 18th century,” when philosophers “replaced dogma, tradition and authority with reason, debate and institutions of truth-seeking.” Mr. Brooks concurs, assuring his readers that “the Enlightenment project gave us the modern world.” So give thanks for “thinkers like John Locke and Immanuel Kant who argued that people should stop deferring blindly to authority” and instead “think things through from the ground up.”

    As Mr. Pinker sums it up: “Progress is a gift of the ideals of the Enlightenment, and will continue to the extent that we rededicate ourselves to those ideals.”

    Very little of this is true. Consider the claim that the U.S. Constitution was a product of Enlightenment thought, derived by throwing out the political traditions of the past and applying unfettered human reason. Disproving this idea requires only reading earlier writers on the English constitution. The widely circulated 15th-century treatise “In Praise of the Laws of England,” written by the jurist John Fortescue, clearly explains due process and the theory now called “checks and balances.” The English constitution, Fortescue wrote, establishes personal liberty and economic prosperity by shielding the individual and his property from the government. The protections that appear in the U.S. Bill of Rights were mostly set down in the 1600s by those drafting England’s constitutional documents—men such as John Selden, Edward Hyde and Matthew Hale.

    I still strongly recommend Pinker's book, but (as I noted after reading it) he can get "strident and simplistic" when he wanders too far afield from his scientific roots.


  • James Lileks has an entertaining column (as usual) riffing on the mindlessness of Internet advertising: Can you buy a something online without committing to a lifetime of e-mail annoyance? And I mainly liked his acerbic comment on e-mail opt-outs, made necessary by his unwise disclosure of his address to a slipper-seller:

    Anyway: The slipper company sends me an e-mail every day, with a promo code. I have attempted to unsubscribe, and I always get the same huffy message: "You have been unsubscribed to our e-mails. It may take several business days to process your request." Uh-huh. Like someone has to find the hard drive where my e-mail address is located, remove it from the rack and physically scratch the bits off the drive with a sharp tool.

    Um, exactly. He hit a similar theme in the print edititon of National Review (probably subsciber-only, sorry).

    Click. Click. Click. Click. Cart. Buy. After you’ve bought something, ads will follow you around the Internet for a week, each offering the same thing. Imagine buying a toilet seat in a store, then dealing with a guy who pops up at work, on the street, in your garage, offering another toilet seat.

    I have to delete my cookies so I’m not offered more toilet seats, you’d think. Another phrase that makes perfect sense these days.

    You don't even have to buy anything. I made the mistake of checking out the price on complete-season DVD sets of the great misunderestimated David Janssen series Harry O. Spoiler: the price is still exorbitant. But the Internet still remembers I looked, and asks me to come back and look again, day after day.

    But if anyone wants to buy it for me, it's today's Amazon link du jour.


  • And we missed National Beer Day. It was April 7. But (eventually) the Google LFOD alert pointed me to the UK [?] Yahoo! news article: Interesting Facts For All Brew Lovers

    New Hampshire consumes the most beer than any other state, according to a report by 24/7 Wall Street. The 2017 report found that the Live Free or Die state drinks 41.7 gallons of beer annually per capita. Montana and South Dakota followed closely behind with 39.1 gallons and 38.6 gallons of beer respectively.

    My first thought, and perhaps yours as well: I am not doing my fair share. Must try harder.

    But my second thought was: probably it's due to out-of-staters driving to NH to avoid onerous taxes.

    But I can't back that up with obvious evidence. Our usual punching bag, Massachusetts, has no sales tax on beer, and its excise tax ($0.11 per gallon) is much lower than New Hampshire's ($0.30/gallon). Vermont has a slightly lower excise tax rate ($0.27/gallon) but also sticks you with a 6% sales tax. Maine has a slightly higher excise tax ($0.35/gallon). and a 5.5% sales tax.

    All in all, it appears we just like beer. A lot. And is it really that much? 41.7 gallons/year works out to 14.6 fluid ounces/day, just slightly over a standard can or bottle.

URLs du Jour

2018-04-08

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 14:22 is pretty good advice:

    22 Do not those who plot evil go astray?
        But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness.

    … we would like to think so, anyway. Nothing is certain. But it's not a bad way to bet.


  • At Reason, Matt Welch is more than a little peeved with newspapers. Because: Newspapers Care Much More About Bashing Sinclair Than Criticizing an Unconstitutional Attack on Free Speech.

    Jesus was right about how ye shall know them by their fruits, then we might have a good test case for gleaning what the journalism establishment (such as a thing exists) considers an important threat to a free press.

    In one corner we have a must-run cookie-cutter anti-"fake news" promotional video ordered up by the conservative-leaning Sinclair Broadcast Group to its most-in-the-nation 193 local-TV-news outlets, at a time when the company's controversial merger with Tribune Co. is being held up by anti-trust regulators at the Justice Department. In the other we have a Sex Trafficking Act passed overwhelmingly by Congress (388-25 in the House, 97-2 in the Senate) despite being vociferously opposed on free speech grounds by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and reliable civil libertarians such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), the latter of whom warned that "Civic organizations protecting their right to free speech could be [ruined] by their more powerful political opponents" and that subsequently there could be "an enormous chilling effect on speech in America."

    Especially disturbing are the newspaper editorials demanding government intervention against Sinclair. Do those editorialists really imagine that a shredded First Amendment won't be used against them at some point?

    And, yes, all LFOD-state Senators and Congresscritters voted for the "sex trafficking act".


  • Among the (many) heresies in Bryan Caplan's fine book The Case Against Education was a denial that learning a foreign language was that useful. Reality-based Jason Richwine (at NR) notes new debunkery: Evidence Mounts Against the ‘Bilingual Advantage’

    When California reinstated bilingual education in a 2016 referendum, the text of the new law declared: “A large body of research has demonstrated the cognitive, economic, and long-term academic benefits of multilingualism and multiliteracy.” This argument that bilingual education is useful because it confers general mental benefits — such as improved “executive function” and “cognitive flexibility” — has proven irresistible for bilingual advocates. But it’s probably not true. As I detailed in an essay for The American Conservative last year, researchers have struggled to replicate the positive results from previous studies of bilingualism. Many are now skeptical that a “bilingual advantage” exists at all.

    But "bilingual education" is a useful sub-scam in the much larger scam that is the American education system, opening up another hole in taxpayer wallets.


  • Writing at USA Today, Richard Wolf has a useful, if somewhat mainstream, tutorial on the First: What the First Amendment protects — and what it doesn't. Here's the open issue we've discussed before:

    The First Amendment gives you the right to speak out — as well as the right "to refrain from speaking at all," Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote in 1977. That signaled a win for a New Hampshire couple who covered up part of their home state's motto, "Live Free or Die," on license plates.

    The doctrine is up for grabs in three major Supreme Court cases this term. It appears likely the justices will rule that an Illinois state employee cannot be compelled to contribute to his local union. They also seem inclined to say that California cannot force anti-abortion pregnancy centers to inform clients where they can get an abortion.

    The third case is a closer call: Must a deeply religious Colorado baker use his creative skills to bake a cake for a same-sex couple's wedding? Here the court seems split.

    "The case isn't about same-sex marriage, ultimately. It isn't about religion, ultimately," says Jeremy Tedesco, a lawyer with Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents Jack Phillips. "It’s about this broader right to free speech, the right to be free of compelled speech.”

    Unfortunately, the article also contains this bit:

    [The government] can't restrict free speech — not even hate speech or flag-burning or protests of military funerals. But don't try shouting "Fire!" in a theater or threatening folks on Facebook.

    We all should know that "true threats" aren't protected by the First Amendment. But the fire-in-a-theater cliché is rooted in a famous Oliver Wendell Holmes court opinion, and Wolf should read (for example, one among many) Trevor Timm on that: It's Time to Stop Using the 'Fire in a Crowded Theater' Quote.

    But those who quote Holmes might want to actually read the case where the phrase originated before using it as their main defense. If they did, they'd realize it was never binding law, and the underlying case, U.S. v. Schenck, is not only one of the most odious free speech decisions in the Court's history, but was overturned over 40 years ago.

    Wolf is USA Today's "Supreme Court correspondent", and should know better.


  • TV Overmind lists Five Things You Didn’t Know About Eliza Coupe. Make that six things if you, like me, didn't have the slightest idea who Eliza Coupe is. (Or what. Maybe a new car brand?)

    Anyway: she's an actress. And here's why I read the article:

    She also has several tattoos, one of which includes the official state slogan of her birth state, New Hampshire. It reads, “Live Free or Die.”

    She is, as my diligent research discloses, from Plymouth.


  • Michael Ramirez

    Trade war? I'm somewhat reminded of this completely unacceptable bit from Blazing Saddles. Except Trump is apparently serious.

Assignment in Eternity

[Amazon Link]

Since I'd read some "new and uncut" versions of Heinlein novels recently, I thought I would put all the remaining Heinlein books on the to-be-read pile. Most of them I've read just once, umpty-ump years ago. As for this one: I found an Amazon pic of the same fifty-cent Signet edition I own. Yes, that's a very nekkid, albeit artfully blurry, lady on the cover. You could get away with that in those days.

Assignment in Eternity is a collection of four yarns (three longish, one shortish) originally published in SF mags between 1941 and 1949, two under pseudonyms. I had dim memories of the first ("Gulf") and the fourth ("Jerry was a Man"). Of the middle two ("Elsewhen" and "Lost Legacy") I had no recollection whatsoever.

Bottom line: they don't hold up that well, although there are some entertaining flights of fancy and prescient speculations about technology. Example: one character mentions another's "pocket phone". We have those now, Bob; they're just called "phones" though.

But one of the usual Heinlein tropes is here too: the wise and grumpy old fart who stops everything as he pedantically lectures some wet-behind-the-years young'un with some sophomoric-philosophical pseudo-scientific bullshit. Not to say it's wrong (although it sometimes is), but it's a lot less impressive to a guy in his sixties than it was to a lad in his teens.

"Gulf" starts out as an interplanetary secret agent yarn, but then detours into revelations about a secret race of "supermen", evolutionarily ahead of homo sapiens. They are opposed by an evil cabal, led by "Mrs. Keithley", who just happen to have gotten their hands on a doomsday device. Will the supermen be able to stop the Keithley Kabal?

"Elsewhen" is more than a little loopy, positing a multiverse (perhaps one of the earliest explications of that concept), which humans can traverse simply by a sort of self-hypnosis. The adventures of five college students and their professor, travelling between here-and-now earth and barely-recognizable alt-universes is kind of rollicking.

"Lost Legacy" is even more loopy; this time, the self-hypnosis gag is used by a trio of young people to gain superhuman powers (levitation, telepathy, accelerated healing, etc.) and insights. But it turns out to be old news, as they are psychically directed to Mt. Shasta, the redoubt of Ambrose Bierce (yes, that one) and similar supermen who have already gained those powers. They decide to bring their insights to the mass of humanity. Which would be cool, except (yet again) there's an evil cabal determined to keep mankind ignorant of their potential powers.

And finally, "Jerry was a Man" is a look into the future where genetic tinkering is the norm, and can be used to design fripperies like tiny elephants and unicorns. But a fantastically rich lady tycoon becomes aware of a race of chimps that have been bred to near-human intelligence, just enough to do all sorts of scut work. But they are doomed to a lifetime of chattel slavery, and a quick painless extermination when they become too decrepit to be profitable to their owners. Oooh! What follows is a legal battle, funded by the tycoon, to decide whether this arrangement can be maintained.

Bottom line: recommended only for people (like me) who are interested in revisiting their reading youth.


Last Modified 2018-04-08 4:23 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2018-04-07

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 14:21 is a standard two-parter:

    21 It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor,
        but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy.

    … and, as often happens, the two parts don't have any obvious logical connection.

    Obvious objection: what if your neighbor is a mocker or a fool? What's your advice then, Proverbialist?


  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File this week has the major topic of Kevin Williamson, Thought Criminal. After some introductory material:

    Which brings me to my friend Kevin Williamson, who was fired from his new job at The Atlantic almost before he could figure out how to work the coffee machine. Ironically, he was hired for the same reason he was fired. He has strong opinions and he expresses them very well. Jeffrey Goldberg (no relation) courageously hired Kevin because he wants his magazine to be a public square for different points of view. Goldberg is also fascinated with “homeless conservatives” in the era of Trump. Kevin is a critic of the president — even more so than me. He is also fluent in cultural idioms that few elite journalists have the foggiest acquaintance with, by virtue of his humble origins and peripatetic career. Goldberg rightly believed Kevin’s voice would enrich and enliven the pages of The Atlantic (which, by the way, I still think is an excellent magazine, for now).

    The Woke Mob thought otherwise from the get-go, as they always do in these circumstances. Indeed, before we talk about the specifics of Kevin’s situation, it must be pointed out that whenever a conservative or libertarian is hired outside the conservative ghetto, the response is like that of Dutch Dominicans watching Napoleon’s forces convert their church into a horse barn. The excuses for why this or that writer is unacceptably extreme vary with the writer. But the reaction is always the same, if not in degree then in form.

    I will have to take Jonah's assertion that the Atlantic is an "excellent magazine" on faith. I'm still steamed from their 2006 article about inequality with a dishonest graphic using one of the techniques Darrell Huff described in his 1952 book How to Lie With Statistics.


  • At Reason, Scott Shackford implores: I Don't Want to Tell the Census That I'm Gay. Don't Erase Me.

    Two parts of the upcoming 2020 federal Census have gotten a lot of people upset. First, it will ask people if they're U.S. citizens. Second, it will not ask people if they're gay, bisexual, or transgender.

    In all likelihood, there's an overlap: People upset about one are upset about the other, despite the contradiction. That's because they care about the Census to the extent that the answers to the questions can be used to control and influence government. Matt Welch has noted correctly that asking about citizenship is a deliberate effort to undercount illegal immigrants in order to alter the Congressional district map landscape in ways that will be more friendly to Republicans. Democrats and progressives are definitely not happy about that.

    For the LGBT question, the exact opposite is happening: People who want a head count of gays and transgender people believe the data will then be valuable in influencing federal policies and spending on projects that benefit LGBT people—or, more accurately, to benefit certain LGBT organizations.

    At least the citizenship question informs a relatively direct government interest.


  • We'll take Kevin D. Williamson prose anywhere we can find it, and that includes Commentary. He writes on the new Roseanne show in Class Acts.

    The politics are, as one would expect, pretty shallow. Metcalf’s Jackie shows up wearing a pussy hat and a “Nasty Woman” T-shirt, while Roseanne explains that she was attracted to Trump because “he talked about jobs,” as though that were something unusual in a presidential candidate. (One of the most maddening aspects of American political discourse is politicians’ insistence on talking about jobs as though they were ends rather than means. We don’t have farmers so that people living in rural areas can have incomes and something to do all day—we have farmers so that we can have food.) The show promises to touch on health care, aging, opioid abuse, and other highly marketable social issues. The Conner family is now multiracial and includes one gender-nonconforming member, and it soon will “have a different culture moving in next door,” as Barr puts it.

    [Amazon Link]
    Williamson proceeds to meander unexpectedly into Presidential wristwatch styles, which is—admittedly—interesting, because it's Williamson. My seven-year-old Casio GW700A-1V G-Shock Solar Atomic Watch would (apparently) disqualify me for higher office.


  • Our Google LFOD alert rang for the admission from ex-candidate Mark Hounsell. When it comes to Congress, Hounsell claims, I can’t get there from here.

    The threat of a growing federal/central government pushed by the liberal agenda of current leaders of the democratic [sic] party is very real. Their blatant and unabashed attempts to buy New Hampshire’s first Congressional District with out-of state money is an obvious clear and present danger to our “Live Free or Die” Granite State.

    What is alarming is that despite the appeals of NH GOP Chairman Jeanie Forrester to make New Hampshire Red Again, the factionalized Republican Party in this state is hogged [sic] tied by right wing extremists, passing as conservatives. As a result, many unaffiliated independent moderate voters have no reason to feel needed or welcomed to vote Republican this November for NH CD-1. There currently is no candidate for Congress who emulates our successful Governor Sununu in his genuine moderation from his honest conservative character. That is a real problem for the GOP.

    Hounsell (it appears) has a complex set of litmus tests to distinguish between "conservatives", "right wing extremists", and those exhibiting "genuine moderation". That might be interesting to hear more about. Or not.


  • Bitcoin.com has LFOD news as well: New Bitcoin-Only Shop Open in New Hampshire.

    Portsmouth, New Hampshire hasn’t been widely thought to be a hotbed of crypto activity. It just might be, and it probably has something to do with the Free State Project (FSP). Yale doctoral student Jason Sorens basically wrote about a secessionist movement of the most personal sort. It wound up evolving into asking 20,000 freedom-loving people to build a political force in the state of New Hampshire, the “Live Free or Die” state. “A large portion of the people who moved to New Hampshire in search of freedom are bitcoin users,” Derrick J. Freeman explained. “That’s because they know about the Federal Reserve. Once you know about that, and you know there’s an alternative, it’s pretty hard to reconcile your personal responsibility for its perpetuation.”

    I had some free time before attending the C. J. Box book signing in downtown Portsmouth last night, so wandered by the "Shoppe". It was closed, but it looks neat. The real estate in that part of town is astronomical, so I guess they're doing OK.


  • And an LFOD editorial in the Concord Monitor reflects on the over-representation of Granite Staters among the comic class: The state that keeps ’em laughing.

    New Hampshire is a funny, marginally governable place. Consider Australia. It takes up a whole continent and has nearly 20 times the population of the Granite State, yet it has only 226 lawmakers. New Hampshire, which is 317 times smaller than Australia, has 424 legislators plus five executive councilors whose job is to guard the public purse.

    States of old had forts and guard houses on their borders. New Hampshire has liquor stores, plus liquor mega-stores at its toll booths. If New Hampshire had a state tool it would be a corkscrew.

    Ha. The editorial goes on to name-drop Adam Sandler, Seth Meyers,  Sarah Silverman, Mike O’Malley, et al. But LFOD is where… ah, there:

    So really, is New Hampshire’s state motto Live Free or Die, or Live Free and Die Laughing?

    Sigh. This is why Concord Monitor editorialists won't be advancing to the Saturday Night Live writer pool anytime soon.

    And, not that it matters, but a onetime co-worker claimed that Sarah Silverman still owes him from a pot deal back in high school. Sarah, if you're reading this, you know what the right thing to do is.


  • And the Babylon Bee offers what may or may not be the final comment on the Kevin D. Williamson matter: ‘The Atlantic’ Quickly Patches Echo Chamber After Discovering Leak

    WASHINGTON, D.C.—Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg confirmed in a statement Thursday that the magazine and internet outlet has discovered and successfully patched a leak in its echo chamber that had apparently been there for about two weeks.

    “It was a dicey situation. We were exposed for a short while to a dissenting opinion on a social issue, which is unacceptable, and could have wreaked havoc on our homogeneous corporate culture,” Goldberg said in his statement. “We want to thank the frenzied and ruthless social media mob for bringing the abnormality to our attention—it has been successfully dealt with.”

    “Homeostasis has been restored,” Goldberg added, his words echoing loudly and repeatedly off the inner walls of the chamber as the rest of the Atlantic staff cheered and hugged.

    And the rest of the world pointed and laughed.

URLs du Jour

2018-04-06

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 14:20

    20 The poor are shunned even by their neighbors,
        but the rich have many friends.

    That's pretty harsh. A terse verse summing up that old blues song "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out"

    Once I lived the life of a millionaire, spendin' my money I didn't care
    I carried my friends out for a good time, buying bootleg liquor, champagne and wine
    When I begin to fall so low, I didn't have a friend and no place to go
    So if I ever get my hand on a dollar again, I'm gonna hold on to it 'til them eagles grin
    Nobody knows you, when you down and out
    In my pocket not one penny, and my friends I haven't any

    Music fans of a Certain Age will remember this from the Derek and the Dominos version on "Layla". But it's much older and (to my slight surprise) written pre-Depression.


  • So, I was all set up, via RSS feed, to follow Kevin D. Williamson's Atlantic columns, but… yeah, that didn't work out. At Reason, Katherine Mangu-Ward points out the obvious: By Firing Kevin Williamson,The Atlantic Shows It Can't Handle Real Ideological Diversity

    Williamson expressed the view that abortion is murder and should be punished to the full extent of the law (although he also later indicated that he has mixed feelings about capital punishment). I do not share his view. But by declaring Williamson to be outside the Overton window of acceptable political discourse because he believes strongly that abortion is a serious, punishable crime, The Atlantic is essentially declaring that it cannot stomach real, mainstream conservatism as it actually exists in 21st century America.

    Williamson uses colorful and sometimes rash language. He didn't have to detail the grisly form of punishment he would inflict on women who decide to terminate their pregnancies. He chose to do so because he enjoys provoking a reaction. But The Atlantic knew that about him before it hired him.

    A common pro-life slogan: "Abortion stops a beating heart." Also stating the obvious. Williamson chose to deal with that obvious point instead of ignoring it. The folks at the Atlantic can't bear to be reminded of that fact.


  • And Williamson's former colleague at NR, David French, also has thoughts worth your attention: On the Cowardly Firing of Kevin Williamson.

    The Atlantic has caved to the intolerant mob and fired Kevin Williamson, and in so doing has contributed to a slanderous fiction — that Kevin is so beyond the pale that he has no place at one of the nation’s premiere mainstream publications. His millions of words, his countless interviews, and his personal character were reduced to nothing — inconsequential in the face of deleted tweets and a five-minute podcast dialogue.

    So, what are The Atlantic’s readers now missing? I ask you to read Kevin’s February 18, 2016, NR cover story about the opioid crisis. It’s not a chart-filled, graphics-heavy analysis. It’s a story about people. It’s a story told the way only Kevin can. It takes a reader who may not know or may never meet a heroin addict, and it puts you in their world. By the end, your heart breaks.

    Williamson's too good a writer not to land on his feet somewhere or other, so I don't worry about him much.

    I was an Atlantic subscriber on and off over the last few decades. I briefly considered resubscribing when I heard they'd hired Williamson. But didn't. Dodged a bullet there. I don't worry about them, either; I simply hope the magazine will spiral into navel-gazing irrelevance and financial ruin.


  • Also at NR, J. J. McCullough reminds us of something: Roseanne Barr Is a Complete Nut.

    Barr has never met a conspiracy theory she didn’t love. She’s a 9-11 truther who believes that “Bush did it,” and she has called the Boston Marathon bombing one of many “false flag terror attacks” perpetrated by the Obama administration to “remove” the Second Amendment. For good measure, she also believes that the old man Bush killed JFK.

    You can find YouTube videos of her rambling about “MK ULTRA Mind Control” on RT, and she seems particularly fond of the notion that the American ruling class is running some manner of pedophile sex cult. Her views on Jews and Israel fluctuate wildly — in the past, she has called Israel a “Nazi state” and alleged that Zionism was created by the Third Reich (or something — I challenge you to succinctly summarize the opinions expressed here), though more recently she’s taken to accusing Hillary Clinton of plotting Israel’s destruction and labeling aide Huma Abedin a “Nazi whore.”

    I confess I watched the new Roseanne. For about fifteen seconds.


  • Drew Cline makes a too-rare reappearance in the Union Leader: Occupational licensing reform would lift regulatory burdens.

    Here's a bit of trivia: New Hampshire’s tallest building was erected by a general contractor unlicensed by the state of New Hampshire. Before you decide to avoid forever Manchester’s 20-story City Hall Plaza, you should know no building in the state, including your house, was built by a state-licensed general contractor — because New Hampshire doesn’t license general contractors.

    The state doesn’t license carpenters, auto mechanics, welders or asphalt layers either. Yet your home does not fall apart, commercial buildings don’t tumble down, roads don’t dissolve in the rain.

    It turns out that for many occupations that pose significant potential risks to others, the marketplace provides pretty powerful incentives for providers not to kill their customers.

    Not for the first time, I recommend The Captured Economy by Brink Lindsey and Steven M. Teles; the book's chapter on occupational licensing is stellar and radical. As I noted after reading: they don't just go after the "easy" targets, like cosmetologists, but also the sacred cows: doctors, dentists, lawyers.


  • But maybe we should demand occupational licensing for American journalists. Because, as Andrew Klavan documents, American Journalists Are Hysterical Knuckleheads.

    This column has, on occasion, been disparaging toward American journalism, but only because it is now populated by the biggest bunch of knuckleheads ever to be assembled outside of Knucklehead City on the planet Knucklehead. Remember the sitcom news anchor Ted Baxter with the big voice and the slick haircut and minuscule IQ? Well, if you added the emotional stability of a three-year-old having a temper tantrum, you would have your typical American journalist and commentator, not just on cable but at the networks and newspapers too. I could lasso a gorilla, give him a lobotomy, and teach him to do the job better than these clowns in fifteen minutes/

    Don't hold back, Andrew. Tell us how you really feel.

URLs du Jour

2018-04-05

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 14:19 says that everything's going to be all right:

    19 Evildoers will bow down in the presence of the good,
        and the wicked at the gates of the righteous.

    The Proverbialist hedges his bets by not being specific on when this is all supposed to happen. Millennia later, we're still waiting…


  • The NR editors have some advice for Trump: Leave Amazon Alone.

    The president has been on a tear against the nation’s leading online retailer lately, suggesting in a series of tweets and comments that Amazon doesn’t pay sales taxes and takes advantage of special low prices from the United States Postal Service.

    These allegations are false. But more to the point, it is wrong for the president to target a specific company in this fashion — particularly since Trump has openly tied his anti-Amazon crusade to his hatred of the Washington Post, a newspaper owned by Amazon head Jeff Bezos.

    Not that it matters, but: I would wager, dear reader, that I've been an Amazon customer for longer than you; my first order was November 18, 1995, about a month after it announced itself to the public as a retailer. I'm a fan. Trump's a dope.

    Because where else would I get a "Set of 3 Flying Flingshot Howler Monkeys Plush Toys with Sound"? I mean, really, where? I have no idea.

    Betsy Newmark has much more on Trump v. Amazon.


  • But, as Steve Chapman reminds us at Reason, it's not just Amazon: read Trump, the Anti-Business President.

    White House economist Peter Navarro, whose boss claimed credit when the stock market was rising, now thinks it should be ignored. After Monday's plunge, he said, "The market is reacting in a way which does not comport with the ... unbelievable strength in President Trump's economy." Rest easy, Navarro advised. "The economy is as strong as an ox."

    He should hope so, because its burdens are growing. Donald Trump's trade salvos against China moved Beijing to slap new tariffs on U.S. products. He has threatened to end NAFTA, which would wreck the supply chains of U.S. manufacturers and deprive farmers of vital markets. He's itching for a full-scale trade war, and he's likely to get it.

    The tycoon who raised high hopes in the corporate sector has revealed a powerful anti-business streak. Get on his bad side and you may kiss your profits goodbye. He's a perpetual danger to every company in America.

    As we know, it's a mixed bag with the Trump Administration. Because…


  • Sam Kazman writes at the WSJ in support of the relaxation of auto fuel economy regulations: Coffee Won’t Kill You, But CAFE Might.

    The federal government’s auto fuel economy standards have for decades posed a simple problem: They kill people. Worse, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has covered this up. The Environmental Protection Agency, which since 2009 has helped manage the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, known as CAFE, also played a role in burying their deleterious effects. But change finally is coming.

    On Monday EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced he is re-examining the stringent standards set by the Obama administration in 2012. This might finally bring some honesty to the issue of CAFE’s lethal effects and push the safety issue to the forefront of the debate over government efficiency mandates. Or it might not.

    Out on a limb, there, Sam.

    Sam is with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an organization that (among many other things) documents how government regulation has given us lousy dishwashers and bad washing machines.


  • And I am not a lawyer, but Lifezette's Charles Ortel seems to have a point: Family’s Illegal Control of Clinton Charity Violates Multiple State Laws, Regs.

    New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald should do what his Republican counterpart in Arkansas, Leslie Rutledge, and his Democrat counterparts, Eric Schneiderman in New York and Xavier Becerra in California seemingly won’t. He should investigate the required state public filings of the charity started Oct. 23, 1997, and originally known as The William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation.

    I'm not sure if NH law applies to the Clinton Foundation, which (apparently) has its legal headquarters in Arkansas.


  • In today's Annals of Government Dependence, the Free Beacon tells us that Feds Spend $30,000 Researching How to Teach People How to Cook.

    The National Institutes of Health spent $30,000 on a conference dedicated to researching a "novel" practice: teaching people how to cook.

    The government lent its support to the "inaugural 2018 Research Day on Teaching Kitchens and Related Self Care Practices" held by the Culinary Institute of America and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health this February.

    The conference was back in February, held in scenic Napa Valley, CA. Not previously known as an area where people did not know how to cook. But I would imagine a lot of pretentious wine was consumed.


  • And our Tweet du Jour from Mark J. Perry with one of his justly famed Venn diagrams:

URLs du Jour

2018-04-04

  • Proverbs 14:18 is back in compare-and-contrast mode:

    18 The simple inherit folly,
        but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.

    We last saw the simple/prudent dichotomy three verses ago.


  • At Reason, Nick Gillespie has a rebuttal to an article blogged yesterday: Kevin Williamson Declares the 'Passing of the Libertarian Moment.' Again. Let's look for some silver linings in the clouds:

    [Kevin's] emphasis on electoral politics is rhetorically powerful but ultimately misplaced. Williamson, a doctrinaire #NeverTrumper, ignores any possible positives coming out of the current moment, such as the deregulatory regime that is taking place at, among other agencies, the FCC. Trump is blustering about the media and surely has no scruples standing in the way of trying to use the FCC to stifle dissent, just as Nixon and LBJ did in the not-distant past. Good luck trying, though, because of both technological change and Ajit Pai, the head of that particular agency, whose commitment to free speech seems pretty damn strong. At places such as the FDA, the EPA, and the Department of Education, a similar if partial dismantling of the administrative state is under way. Despite his obscene increases in Pentagon budgets, Trump has been less bellicose in foreign policy than his two immediate predecessors; indeed, he's being attacked these days for planning to pull out of Syria, a country with whom we're not technically at war (but never mind). He has also managed to oversee the reduction and elimination of various tax expenditures (mortgage-interest and state-and-local tax deductions) and a thoroughgoing reform of the corporate tax system. During the 2016 campaign, Trump was clearly better on the drug war than Hillary Clinton, believing that pot laws should be dealt with at the state level. Despite his attorney general's recent assertions that he'd be going after legalized marijuana, there's no sign that's going to happen. I don't presume that Trump is following any set of principles other than self-aggrandizement, but as Wired's Louis Rossetto has argued, he is downsizing the stature and ultimately the power of presidency and the government more generally. Both Williamson and I respect the hell out of Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, who told me recently, "I will say that there are some things President Trump has done that I like and there are some things I don't like. Obviously, I like those tax cuts. I think they're good for the economy and good for business. On the other hand, now we're doing tariffs on steel and aluminum."

    It's a mixed bag. It's always a mixed bag. At a certain point, you get used to defeat, and just have to be content with being right about everything, all the time.


  • There are hysterics about Scott Pruitt's EPA doing violence to the Corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards. The (perhaps paywalled) WSJ is OK with it, though, because CAFE is The Fuel Economy Fraud.

    In 2012 the Obama EPA turned up the Cafe dial and mandated a fleetwide average of 54.5 miles a gallon by 2025 with a midpoint review in 2017. After President Trump won the election, Obama EPA chief Gina McCarthy blazed through the review and upheld the 2012 targets no matter the economic and technological obstacles.

    Passenger cars were about half of U.S. vehicle sales in 2012 when gas averaged $3.60 a gallon. But last year they made up only about a third of the fleet mix, and their share has been declining amid lower gas prices. This will make it nearly impossible to hit future targets even with cleaner technologies. By the Obama EPA’s own projections, fewer than 1% of gas-burning vehicles would meet its 2022 target.

    What would be nice, instead of top-down arbitrary diktat: treating consumers as adults, able to make their own calculations about the trade-off between fuel economy and other features.


  • At NR, Robert J. Rubin tells us about Elizabeth Warren’s Sad Sick Joke.

    Ironically, the once-secretive CFPB has been more transparent since Mulvaney throttled its External Affairs Division, the propaganda machine Warren created in 2010 while leading the agency’s yearlong start-up process as a presidential adviser. The division’s copious press releases have been replaced by more-informative leaks from the bureau’s overwhelmingly Democratic employees. Contrary to the stale narrative that liberals craft from the leaks, the acting director does not hate consumer protection; he just hates the CFPB’s structure, which he once described as “a joke . . . in a sad, sick way.” Warren’s obstinacy has only allowed him to validate the now-famous comment and delight in the bully’s comeuppance.

    See two items above: this may not be a "libertarian moment", but watching an intrusive, aloof government bureaucracy get strangled from within is kind of fun.


  • Cato's Michael F. Cannon makes a provocative point: People Who Have Never Experienced Back Pain Have No Business Making Opioid Policy.

    Economist Steven Horwitz writes in USA Today about President Trump’s proposal to reduce legal opioid prescriptions by one third. Such a drastic reduction would inevitably harm people like Horwitz, who relates his experience with excruciating back pain and how opioids were essential to relieving his agony and helping his body heal …

    Arguably, doctors and dentists shouldn't prescribe 30 days opioids for pain expected to last less than a week; that's apparently a thing. But arbitrary restrictions and targets—again, the top-down diktat—will cause more harm than good.


  • Sarah K. Hoyt hosts Frank J. Fleming at her blog, and Frank provides a how-to for aspiring writers: Woke-ify Your Fiction

    A good rule for writing science fiction and fantasy these days: If it’s not woke, it’s putting people to sleep. The key now is being socially conscious. Most people are regular conscious — reactive to basic stimuli like sight, sound, small rocks being thrown at them — but the more pertinent thing to be is socially conscious — reactive to microaggressions and the racism and bigotry that undercut all human activity. And if you want people to buy your fiction these days, it needs to reflect that social consciousness — as tedious as that all sounds.

    I know some are resistant to this idea. You’ve probably heard this quote: “Why do I have to worry about all this political stuff? Can’t I just write fun stories everyone will enjoy?” You know who said that? That’s right: Adolf Hitler.

    I'm on the fence about buying Frank's new book. Didn't much care for the last one.

URLs du Jour

2018-04-03

[Amazon Link]

  • In Proverbs 14:17, the Proverbialist breaks away from the good person/bad person compare-and-contrast format, and just describes the shortcomings and perceptions of those of flawed character:

    17 A quick-tempered person does foolish things,
        and the one who devises evil schemes is hated.


  • <voice imitation="professor_farnsworth">Good news, everyone</voice>: Kevin D. Williamson's first article at the Atlantic website is available.

    But it's also bad news, because… well, it's bad news about The Passing of the Libertarian Moment.

    The GOP’s political situation is absurd: Having rallied to the banner of an erratic and authoritarian game-show host, evangelical leaders such as Jerry Falwell Jr. are reduced to comparing Donald Trump to King David as they try to explain away his entanglement with pornographic performer Stormy Daniels. Those who celebrated Trump the businessman clutch their heads as his preposterous economic policies produce terror in the stock markets and chaos for the blue-collar workers in construction firms and manufacturers scrambling to stay ahead of the coming tariffs on steel and aluminum. The Chinese retaliation is sure to fall hardest on the heartland farmers who were among Trump’s most dedicated supporters.

    On the libertarian side of the Republican coalition, the situation is even more depressing: Republicans such as former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who once offered important support for criminal-justice reform, are lined up behind the atavistic drug-war policies of the president and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose big idea on opiate abuse is more death sentences for drug traffickers. Deficits are moving in the wrong direction. And, in spite of the best hopes of the “America First” gang, Trump’s foreign policy has not moved in the direction of Rand Paul’s mild non-interventionism or the more uncompromising non-interventionism of his father, Ron Paul. Instead, the current GOP foreign-policy position combines the self-assured assertiveness of the George W. Bush administration (and many familiar faces and mustaches from that administration) with the indiscipline and amateurism characteristic of Trump.

    Kevin also observes that if Democrats were smart, they'd make some policy moves to appeal to libertarian-leaners. But they are not smart.


  • You may have heard that there's a ban on studying gun violence. At NR, Dan McLaughlin notes: There’s No Ban on Studying Gun Violence.

    One of the common talking points that liberals throw around in the gun debate is that Republicans have banned even studying gun violence. So you get headlines such as “Lift the Federal Ban on Gun Violence Research” (the New Republic), or “Why Gun Violence Research Has Been Shut Down for 20 Years” (the Washington Post’s Wonkblog), or “GOP Chairman: Congress Should Rethink CDC Ban on Gun Violence Research” (The Hill), or “What’s Missing from the Gun Debate. It’s Simple: Science” (an op-ed in Politico).The reality is different, and it illustrates two contending views of how America should be governed.

    Dan's article is long, reality-based, and describes why "gun violence" shouldn't be studied in the public health domain.


  • Perhaps you've been wondering: Should I look to the state to keep media companies from imposing ideological confirmity? J.D. Tuccille has advice for you at Reason: Don't Look to the State to Keep Social Media Companies From Imposing Ideological Conformity.

    Many giant tech companies that were among the biggest supporters of so-called net neutrality have increasingly turned out to be enthusiastic suppressors of content when left to their own devices. But don't look for help to government agencies for help—not unless you want to empower authorities in a long and well-documented effort to muzzle officially disapproved speech. Instead, people who want to speak freely should actively seek out alternatives that let them do just that.

    This is why the cliché "the cure is worse than the disease" is… yeah, such a cliché

  • Michael Ramirez is a pin in the balloon of Bolton hysteria:

Fool

[Amazon Link]

Another book ticked off in my attempt to catch up to the output of the funny, filthy, Christopher Moore.

It's the Shakespearean tragedy of King Lear, as told by one of the plays' minor characters, the Fool, named Pocket. Pocket is a wise fool who is in Lear's good graces, and can get away with R-rated insults to the nobles that frequent the King's castle. He can also get away with X-rated hijinks with the ladies, too.

Along the way there's a lot of wordplay, violence, anachronism, and theft from other plays: dialog mostly, and the Macbeth witches show up to play an important part in the plot. At one point, Pocket tells a sad lady of how St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland; in return, he's told the "most wondrous miracle of how St. Cinnamon drove the Mazdas out of Swinden."

But since this is a Shakespearean tragedy, we already know pretty much how things are going to end: with nearly everyone dead. (Moore doesn't feel constrained by the Bard's story; there's at least one significant difference.)

And amidst the humor, bloodshed, and smut, there's (surprisingly) a very serious core, having to do with Pocket's origin story. No spoilers here however.

URLs du Jour

2018-04-02

[Amazon Link]

  • Another good guys vs. the bad guys compare-and-contrast lesson in Proverbs 14:16:

    16 The wise fear the Lord and shun evil,
        but a fool is hotheaded and yet feels secure.

    Stupid fools. Pissed off and yet feeling a false sense of security.


  • George F. Will notes a curious stampede, and says wait a minute: Who Will Pay for Paid Family Leave?

    The recent bipartisan budget agreement, which indicates that ten-digit deficits are acceptable to both parties even when the economy is robust, indicates government’s future. So does government’s pregnancy, which was announced nine months ago by this tweet from Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.): “In America, no family should be forced to put off having children due to economic insecurity.”

    The phrase “due to economic insecurity” is a way to avoid saying “until they can afford them.” Evidently it is now retrograde to expect family planning to involve families making plans that fit their resources. Which brings us to the approaching birth of a new entitlement: paid family leave after the birth or adoption of a child. This arrival will coincide with gargantuan deficits produced primarily by existing entitlements.

    As always, Democrats are relying on Republican fecklessness, spinelessness, and gullibility. Usually a safe bet.


  • NYT columnist Bret Stephens writes on The Outrage Over Kevin Williamson and his upcoming writing gig at the Atlantic.

    Dear Kevin,

    You had the right to remain silent. Now every word you’ve ever uttered, and every one you ever will, can and will be held against you.

    I’m sorry to have to write you, for two reasons. Sorry, first, that you have to endure having your character assailed and assassinated by people who rarely if ever read you and likely never met you. Sorry also that your hiring as a writer for The Atlantic has set off another censorious furor in media circles when surely there are more important subjects on this earth.

    This is in counterpoint to a Michelle Goldberg column that argued, no, KDW, should not be permitted to write for the Atlantic. Outside the "parameters of acceptable argument", dont'cha know?


Last Modified 2018-04-02 7:04 AM EDT

How to Think

A Survival Guide for a World at Odds

[Amazon Link]

I think I put this book on my to-get pile via recommendation from Arnold Kling's blog. Thanks to the University Near Here's diligent ILL workers, who snagged me a copy from—egads—Ball State University, out in Muncie, Indiana. It's a short book (156 pages), but it's full of insight, wit, and wisdom. The author, Alan Jacobs, is Distinguished Professor of the Humanities in the Honors Program of Baylor University. But don't hold that against him.

It starts by noting that a lot of books about thinking have a trait in common: "they're really depressing to read." (True, but I would add: if you're in a certain frame of mind, they can be pretty funny too.) But Jacobs' point is that they concentrate on all the many, many, many ways our thoughts can lead us astray, by falling into one or more of they myriad traps: all sorts of biases, fallacies, illusions, and innumeracies. Jacobs observes: "What a chronicle of ineptitude, arrogance, sheer dumbassery."

Jacobs doesn't shy away describing such pitfalls, but he has a number of good ideas about how to avoid them. We can, and should, do better, and here's how.

It would be weird if some of Jacobs' examples didn't come from the world of politics. He handles them artfully and (to my mind, even though I am a sensitive snowflake about such things) inoffensively. I came away with no particular idea about what Jacobs' political positions are. As it should be, I suppose.

I was pleasantly surprised that a lot of the authors Jacobs quotes and draws upon are some of the ones I've learned from too: Daniel Kahneman, Jonathan Haidt, David Foster Wallace, … But also some I probably should go back and study: C. S. Lewis, Eric Hoffer, …

Spoiler alert: the book's Afterword contains the "Thinking Person's Checklist", and some brave soul has Twitterized it:

In short: highly recommended to anyone honestly concerned with the quality of their thinking. I should probably buy the damn thing and re-read it every couple months.

URLs du Jour

2018-04-01

[Amazon Link]

I was going to say something clever about the Easter/April Fools coincidence, but then I saw this t-shirt for sale at Amazon… which eloquently says it all. Probably too late to buy for this year, but you can save it for 2029.

Joke's on you, Satan.

  • Proverbs 14:15 is another two-parter where the parts don't quite mesh:

    15 The simple believe anything,
        but the prudent give thought to their steps.

    The first part isn't bad. Might be as close as the Bible comes to the observation Chesterton (never quite) made: "A man who won’t believe in God will believe in anything."

    As for the second part: isn't that, more or less, the definition of "prudent"? I'm looking for a proverb, not a dictionary entry! Proverbialist, you should have quit while you were ahead.


  • The Google LFOD Alert rang for Hot Air's Jazz Shaw: New Hampshire Democrats Edging Away From The Second Amendment. He is puzzled by a NH Journal interview with Rep. Katherine Rogers (D-Merrimack) who says that Second Amendment repeal is "an interesting discussion that we should have.”

    I understand that Rogers has a D after her name and all, but isn’t this still the state with the motto, Live Free or Die? (It’s on all of their license plates.) It was only last year when they went full Constitutional Carry. You don’t need a license or special permit to carry handguns or long guns, either concealed or openly. They have the castle doctrine. They honor true reciprocity.

    Yes, I know, Jazz. But it's also the state where Bernie whacked Hillary 60.4%-38.0% on the Democrat side in the 2016 Primary. NH Democrats are pretty much as goofy statist "progressive" as Democrats in every other state.

    And as for our media…


  • New Hampshire has its own Commie Public Radio network, and (among other things) it reports on local poets. For example: Liz Ahl on Life as New Hampshire 'Insider'.

    Professor Ahl teaches at Plymouth State and lives in Holderness. The interview concerns her new book, Beating the Bounds, which refers to the statute requiring that the "lines between the towns in this state shall be perambulated, and the marks and bounds renewed, once in every 7 years forever, by the selectmen of the towns, or by such persons as they shall in writing appoint for that purpose."

    Then, of course, there are also things like town meetings, and the transfer station, and the Live Free or Die spirit that our touched on in some of these poems. So it’s New Hampshire, but it is particularly rural New Hampshire, and I think because of its age, because of its oldness, its sense of American history and personal family history, the generations at Old Home Day, really made an impression on me.

    You have to be OK with poetry that reads like prose with random line breaks. Sample: Evangelical Pastors Lay Hands On Donald Trump In The Oval Office, July 12, 2017. And one of her book recommendations:

    4.   Citizen by Claudia Rankine. "This genre-bending, heart-breaking, rage-stoking book is now required American reading, as far as I'm concerned. The retelling of such a range and accumulation of racist incidents -- from daily microaggressions to outright murder -- seems so burdensome to the book's narrator, yet the telling feels so necessary. The use of visual imagery is also highly compelling."

    My guess: her classes might be tendentious.

    Also: I think they should do a Saturday Night Live sketch where she is played by Aidy Bryant. I'd watch that.


  • And our third LFOD alert was actually a false alarm, but (nevertheless) worth a read. It's from the Irish Times, a writer named Patrick Freyne, and a reminder that reality TV isn't that different between Ireland and the US. The subject is the series "Room to Improve", and the show's précis is: Irish folk submit their homes to architect Dermot Bannon for renovation.

    Freyne headlines his review: Go back to Dublin with yourself Dermot Bannon. We’re grand here in the dark.

    The penultimate episode (last Sunday, RTÉ One) is a classic. Dermot is faced with his worst enemy, farm folk who have no truck with his metropolitan notions. Bigger windows? An open-plan kitchen-cum-diningroom? Natural light? Would you go back to Dublin with yourself, we’re grand here in the dark. Over the course of the show, china-collecting teacher Katie and taciturn farmer Pádraig slowly drive Dermot to the brink of madness.

    Ah, but what about LFOD? Ah, there 'tis, in the spoiler-filled summary:

    Anyway, it’s all building towards a twist ending in which it’s revealed that Dermot Bannon had been a ghost the whole time, like Nicole Kidman in The Others or Bruce Willis in Live Free or Die Hard. But then, ultimately, everyone admits that the house does look pretty good, and Dermot tries to convince Katie that maybe he had something to do with this and tries to convince himself that he does, in fact, exist. “I’ll give him 10 out of 10, but don’t tell him,” Katie says to the camera, clearly happy that she has destroyed a man.

    Now that's funny, even in America.