URLs du Jour

2018-05-26

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 12:8 sheds no light on the state of current debate. Nor, I would wager, on debate back in Ancient Israel:

    8 A person is praised according to their prudence,
        and one with a warped mind is despised.

    In other words: "We like people who agree with us, and dislike people who don't."


  • I'm currently reading Jonah Goldberg's new book Suicide of the West. One of the more interesting metaphors he employs is that of the "English garden" vs. the "French garden". The French gardener "imposes his vision on nature", generating "ornate, geometric, nature-defying designs". Whereas the English gardener "lets nature take its course", allowing each component to "achieve its own ideal nature".

    The application of this metaphor to political theory is pretty clear.

    Jonah's G-File this week uses a slightly different gardening metaphor: The Hedges of the Garden of Liberty.

    The Constitution is a bit like the blueprint for a hedge maze. It lays out on paper the paths for the travelers who trod through it. But the Constitution itself is not a hedge. Those plants grow from the ground up, rooted in the soil. The blueprint “works” because the hedges do their part. But what if the hedges start to die from lack of care? When big holes in the green walls appear, shortcuts will become all the more tempting. And when the hedges disappear altogether, people will start walking as the crow flies, taking the shortest route to their desired destination.

    The Founders made any number of assumptions about the country that they were imposing their Constitution upon. Among the most significant, however, was that the people themselves were constrained by the requirements of virtue, a fear of shame, and the belief that the fear of an all-knowing, all-seeing God would help regulate the society. These were the hedges of the new garden of liberty that the Founders were constructing.

    What does this have to do with current events? Well, in Jonah's view, the hedges are in dire need of repair, due to our laxity in excusing scandalous behavior, first by the Clintons, now by Trump. See if you don't agree.


  • Or perhaps there's a different problem. It is described at Law & Liberty by Mark Judge: The Donald, Chaos Magician

    Historians are going to be spending decades trying to divine the reasons why Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States. But what about divination itself? That’s the explanation given in a new book by occult historian Gary Lachman. Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump argues that the President and his alt-Right followers used positive thinking, magic, and occult practices to defeat Hillary Clinton.

    The idea is that Trump came to power through the use of “New Thought,” which is a generic name for “a variety of different beliefs, philosophies, and practices that have as their central theme the idea that the mind can influence reality directly, that through mental effort alone we can ‘make things happen,” writes Lachman, a musician and the author of critical studies of Karl Jung, Rudolf Steiner, Madame Blavatsky, and other figures in the Western esoteric tradition.

    Uh, sure. I've made Lachman's book our Amazon Product du Jour, so if anyone out there finds it convincing (Judge thinks the "claim does not make rational sense, and many of the facts contradict it.") let me know.

    Or I might see if I can get it via Interlibrary Loan. Surely some wacky nearby university has ordered it.

    A bit of odd trivia I bounced across: Gary Lachman was the bassist for Blondie back in the 1970s.


  • At NR, Wesley J. Smith reports on the Democratic Attack on Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The RFRA was passed overwhelmingly in 1993, but Democrats are currently dismayed that religious freedom might be construed to apply to Christians. Or at least the ones who dissent from progressive orthodoxy. And so they've proposed the "Do No Harm Act". Smith quotes and analyzes:

    [The wording of the statute] would effectively eliminate the Hobby Lobby decision and allow federal bureaucrats to compel nuns to provide contraception coverage.

    It would also probably destroy existing medical-conscience protections that prevent discrimination against professionals who refuse to participate in abortion, and would likely be deployed in other areas of health care, compelling doctors to perform medical services with which they are religiously opposed.

    Of course, the bill is especially aimed at eliminating religious-rights defenses in LGBT-involved federal cases, and could certainly eliminate crucial shields against government coercion in other areas of public life, such as education.

    And if you're wondering whether my CongressCritter/Toothache Carol Shea-Porter is a co-sponsor, the answer is: of course she is.


  • And you probably noticed the latest dietary news. As reported (by Ronald Bailey at Reason): New Cancer Report Tries To Scare You Out of Eating Sausage and Bacon.

    "No amount of alcohol, sausage or bacon is safe," declares the Daily Mirror. The article is about the latest cancer prevention dietary guidelines from the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), which isn't actually as alarmist as that sentence sounds. The WCRF report estimates that eating the equivalent of two strips of bacon a day would boost your risk of colorectal cancer by 16 percent. Translation: Eating about 38 pounds of bacon a year—or the equivalent weight in sausages and hot dogs—will raise your lifetime risk of colorectal cancer from about 4.5 percent to 5.2 percent for men and from 4.15 percent to 4.8 percent for women.

    To put that "16 percent" in context, Bailey notes that "the risk that persistent cigarette smokers will develop lung during their lifetimes is 1,100 percent greater than the risk that a nonsmoker will."

    Another observation from the article: another cause of cancer is simply living too long. If you don't croak from something else, your cells will eventually come to botch their regeneration and turn cancerous.

    So cheer up and toss a brat on the grill.


  • And I slagged Randall Munroe and his four-year-old misstep into political issues yesterday. But (you may have noticed) a lot of sites announcing privacy-policy changes, and xkcd is no exception.

    [Privacy Policy]

    Mouseover: "By clicking anywhere, scrolling, or closing this notification, you agree to be legally bound by the witch Sycorax within a cloven pine."

    Yes. This is Pun Salad's Privacy Policy as well. Consider it so.

URLs du Jour

2018-05-25

[Amazon Link]

  • The Proverbialist becomes, I'm afraid, a bit delusional in Proverbs 12:7:

    7 The wicked are overthrown and are no more,
        but the house of the righteous stands firm.

    This all-is-well spirit lives on in the position of White House Press Secretary. Sarah Huckabee Sanders should open every press briefing by reading Proverbs 12:7.


  • Nicole Gelinas at City Journal writes on the privacy rights of lottery winners: The Big Reveal.

    Do all lottery winners wind up broke? Despite the popular myth, studies that purport to prove that winning the lottery ruins your life aren’t convincing, often relying on small or distorted samples. Some people do suffer after hitting the jackpot: more than a few people have been gruesomely murdered for their money, others have succumbed to drugs or suicide, and some just go bankrupt after making unwise investments or spending too lavishly on themselves, family, and friends.

    Nicole argues for allowing big winners to keep their identities from being disclosed, lest they be endlessly importuned (or, as she notes, murdered). She refers to the recent New Hampshire case where a $560 million winner successfully remained anonymous.

    For the record: I despise state lotteries as a tax on the stupid. Don't they have enough problems?


  • Matthew Hoy offers a does of reality into the mass-shootings issue: A mental health problem, not a gun problem.

    But the fact of the matter is that new laws passed by state legislatures or the congress will only affect law-abiding citizens. Banning “assault weapons” or limiting magazine size won’t stop criminals from getting them.

    The Heller decision made it clear that the only weapons that the government could ban are those that are “unusual or dangerous.” Despite several lower courts flouting this standard, the AR-15 is by no means unusual or dangerous. It’s a very good rifle for self-defense situations because of its versatility (you can make all sorts of ergonomic adjustments to the rifle very easily, along with mounting things like flashlights and lasers for targeting) as well as the number of rounds it can carry.

    Any gun control law that puts the law-abiding at a disadvantage to the criminals they may have to face is a bad one. Limiting me to a 10-round magazine because some nut shot up a school with a 60-round drum magazine and a home invader is likely to have a 30-round magazine is morally wrong.

    The gun-grabbers seem to be infected with a weird kind of animism, attributing a sort of evil, demonic essence to guns. This, I suppose, is easier for some to accept than simply attributing evil to the evildoers.

    It also makes it easier to come up with facile "common sense solutions".


  • Via Instapundit, our Tweet du Jour:

    Wow, has it really been four years since the xkcd guy, Randall Munroe, posted that stupid cartoon? Wonder if he's reconsidered yet?

    Pun Salad comments on the cartoon: here and here.

URLs du Jour

2018-05-24

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 12:6 looks like a gripping, picturesque metaphor…

    6 The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood,
        but the speech of the upright rescues them.

    … sounds like the upright win the debate! Yay!


  • At NR, Ben Shapiro reveals Trump’s Superpower. Spoiler: "He can make Democrats defend anything."

    Democrats have increasingly defined themselves by opposing anything Trump does. Trump, unlike his predecessor, has promulgated a mainstream conservative agenda: He’s cut taxes and regulations and spent more on defense. Most Americans aren’t averse to that agenda, particularly considering the booming economy and a relatively quiet foreign sphere. But Democrats painted Trump during the campaign as an emissary of Cthulhu, and now they’re struggling to justify that depiction.

    If they were smart, they’d stick to Trump’s obvious heresies, of course: his Twitter foolishness, his inane rants. But they can’t muster up that kind of discipline. Instead, they simply oppose anything Trump does, which leads them to the rather uncomfortable conclusion that the worst people on earth are preferable to even temporary alliance with Trump himself.

    Can we count on Democrats to screw up another off-year election? Ben thinks so.


  • Ma belle Michelle Malkin names the Crapweasel of the week: Educrat Arne Duncan. The occasion is Arne's call for parents to yank their kids out of school until (presumably) gun laws to his liking are passed.

    As Obama’s meddling power-hungry education secretary, Duncan attacked “white suburban moms” and their children who turned to homeschooling in protest of the top-down Common Core “standards”/testing/data-mining program. Duncan sneered that he found it “fascinating” that the grass-roots anti-Common Core revolt came from “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.”

    This elitist control freak revealed his fundamental disdain for rabble-rousing parents who’ve taken educational matters in to their own hands. By characterizing the movement against Common Core as “white” and “suburban,” Duncan also exposed his bigotry against countless parents “of color,” like myself, who’ve long opposed Fed Ed’s sabotage of academic excellence, local control and student privacy in school districts across the country.

    Michelle also points out that Arne sends his kids to the exclusive, private University of Chicago Laboratory Schools in tony Hyde Park, which a Lab Schools brochure brags is 'patrolled by the University of Chicago Police Department and private security.'"

    Our Amazon Product du Jour is (I am not making any of this up) a song titled "Moon - Prince - Crapweasel Is Fading over the Porch" by the artist 'Studio Danilenko "Koresh"' from his (their?) album "Music Shows. From Ear to Ear. № 39 For Ten Jews". It will set you back 99 cents, and (full disclosure) Pun Salad theoretically gets a cut of that if you use the link.


  • At Cato, Jeffrey A. Singer notes the completely predictable results of the "DO SOMETHING" impulse: plenty of "unintended consequences" which, in this case, includes a lot of death: While Politicians Cut Opioid Prescriptions, Fentanyl—With Help From the “Dark Web” and the USPS— Becomes the Number One Killer.

    With all the evidence that the majority of non-medical users are not patients—with all the evidence that prescription rates have come down while overdose rates keep going up—with all the evidence of fentanyl and heroin flooding the black market and causing those deaths, it is time for policymakers to disabuse themselves of the false narrative to which they’ve been stubbornly clinging. This narrative blames the overdose problem on doctors prescribing pain relievers to their patients. The overdose problem has always been primarily caused by non-medical users accessing drugs in the dangerous black market created by drug prohibition. And our current restrictive policy is only driving up the death rate by pushing these users to more dangerous drugs while making patients suffer in the process.

    What’s the definition of insanity?

    Let's not forget that the "DO SOMETHING" impulse is also directing a lot of tax dollars to ineffective "treatment" and feelgood "programs". The beneficiaries of that green windfall have every motive to keep the cash coming, i.e., not to "solve the problem" (and, if anything, create new problems).


  • And our Google LFOD News Alert rang for a Union Leader story: Proposed ordinance targeting 'nuisance' items sparks debate over property rights in Raymond.

    A battle over property rights is brewing as selectmen consider a town ordinance aimed at cracking down on properties that some residents believe are littered with junk that could attract rodents.

    Town officials have been trying to address concerns initially raised by Pat Couturier, who lives on Regina Avenue in the Green Hills Estates manufactured housing community.

    “There’s people that have been doing this stuff for 10 or 15 years and it’s just continuing. It’s just escalating,” she told selectmen at Monday’s meeting.

    She insisted that New Hampshire’s “Live Free or Die” motto “doesn’t mean you can do everything that you want.”

    Sigh. Pat's right: it doesn't mean you can do everything that you want. I've checked on that. Fortunately, no criminal indictments or civil suits resulted from my research.

    Further on, Raymond Selectman John “Jack” Barnes is quoted as a counterpoint.

    Barnes said that if the property is posing a health problem, then the town would address it, but selectmen are struggling with the definition of nuisance because something that one person finds to be a nuisance might not be considered a nuisance to someone else.

    “If I want my grass to grow 12 inches high or if I want to have my son or my two sons bring their cars in the yard and park them so they can work on them, that’s not Live Free or Die. That’s my right. I own the property… I don’t need Big Brother telling me I can’t do this and I can’t do that,” he said.

    Jack seems to have a firmer grasp of LFOD than Pat.


  • The Gloucester [MA] Daily Times publishes the "Midweek Musings" of local Rabbi Steven Lewis: The persistence of idolatry and sacrifices to freedom. Rabbi Steve's key paragraph:

    The most challenging and entrenched idolatry is the inappropriate worship of those things that we feel are important or essential. Indeed, a powerful idol has been forged out of one of our highest national values: Freedom. Freedom, as on the New Hampshire license plate: “Live Free Or Die!” is often invoked as being of ultimate importance. Freedom is so important that we who believe in freedom should be willing to die to protect it. But freedom has become an idol. In deference to this god of Freedom, for whom we must be ready to die, we have become powerless to prevent murder. The arguments, made in the name of freedom, against protecting us from being murdered by guns elevate freedom from being a value that serves life, to an idol to which lives must be sacrificed.

    Yes, it's a rabbinical call for freedom-eroding gun laws. He's specifically OK with the freedom-eroding part, because, hey, freedom is just an idol. Because he says so.


  • Writing in the Concord Monitor, Tyler Deaton opines: If he wants to be re-elected, Trump should leave Mueller alone.

    And New Hampshire is still suffering from an unmitigated public health crisis with very little help from the federal government. This past March, more than a year after taking office, Trump took a break from railing against Mueller and his own DOJ to finally announce a drug policy, the crux of which is higher criminal penalties for drug users, including the death penalty for drug dealers. He has named authoritarian Singapore, where people are caned for spitting gum, as a model for solving our crisis. This is not exactly in the spirit of our motto “Live Free or Die.”

    Are people caned for spitting gum in Singapore? No.

    Tyler Deaton is "a Republican activist and former secretary of the New Hampshire Young Republicans." He is not the same Tyler Deaton who probably didn't kill his wife.

URLs du Jour

2018-05-23

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 12:5 is another good/bad contrast where the parts don't really match up:

    5 The plans of the righteous are just,
        but the advice of the wicked is deceitful.

    It follows (I suppose) that the righteous should not take advice from the wicked about plan implementation. Good to know. Because, otherwise, I would totally do that.


  • Slashdot has the big news today: Giant Predatory Worms Are Invading France.

    In a Peer J study published on May 22, "Giant worms chez moi!" zoologist Jean-Lou Justine of the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris, entomologist colleagues, and Pierre Gros, outline a discovery that "highlights an unexpected blind spot of scientists and authorities facing an invasion by conspicuous large invasive animals."

    "Large", in this case, is "about 10 inches". You may sneer, but that's big for a flatworm. You might want to stock up on Amazon's Product du Jour.

    Needless to say, the French have already surrendered. "Je souhaite la bienvenue à nos seigneurs de vers plats."


  • Geraghty had a good Morning Jolt yesterday. Take home points: (1) if you were bothered by Hillary's flouting of security, you should be bugged by Trump's cellphone shenanigans too; (2) Democrats in Alabama have some weird choices in the upcoming primary; (3) Netflix has signed up Mr. and Mrs. Obama to a production deal. Geraghty has a sneak of one of the new O-series coming to your screen:

    Even Stranger Things: A group of innocent, adorable, bike-riding kids stumble onto a series of sinister government conspiracies — VA hospitals leaving veterans dying waiting for care, the Internal Revenue Service targeting Tea Parties for extra scrutiny and hostile treatment, insufficient security at consulates in hostile countries, massive data breaches at the Office of Personnel Management, loan guarantees to solar-panel companies that collapse. The kids learn that because of a nefarious government experiment in the 1980s, all of these programs are invisible to the eyes of anyone of cabinet rank or higher.

    I am a loyal Netflix customer, but (seriously) this is unseemly.


  • At Reason, Matt Welch has a little list: 9 Times John McCain Slams Conservative Media in New Book.

    Today is publication day for John McCain's career-capping book, The Restless Wave: Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights, and Other Appreciations, co-written with longtime speechwriter Mark Salter. I have written here previously about the book's surprising (though unsurprisingly unreflective) admission that the Iraq War was a "mistake," and also its unrepentance about accusing Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) last year of "working for Vladimir Putin."

    The combination of the book, the forthcoming Memorial Day HBO documentary John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls, and the busy end-of-life arrangements are producing what Politico media columnist Jack Shafer calls "the last McCain swoon" from America's political journalists. "Not even Derek Jeter and David Ortiz were flurried with as much confetti when they departed," Shafer acidly observes.

    Pun Salad stands by its decade-long evaluation of John McCain: I'm sorry he's dying, I appreciate his military service, I shudder at his POW experiences, but he's an asshole.


  • Via Steve MacDonald at good old Granite Grok, there's a Michael Graham report at NHInsider on a study from the Family Prosperity Initiative: Maine Vs. N.H. Shows “More Government Means More Poverty”

    The annual Family Prosperity Index is out and, while New Hampshire didn’t make the Top 10 (it’s ranked #16), the study’s authors did use the Granite State to make their case for more economic liberty vs. reliance on government. They used the case study of New Hampshire and its neighbor, Maine (FPI ranking: #39).

    Back in 2011, an advocacy piece posing as a "news story" in my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, about Maine's allegedly-superior "social services" got me pissed off enough to write a letter to the editor. I think it still holds up. I relied heavily on a 2010 Amity Shlaes article, now tucked away behind the Bloomberg paywall.

    The Family Prosperity Index, by the way, is interesting reading not just for the NH-vs-ME thing. You want some bad news? New Hampshire's demographics are a disaster, a population getting smaller and more wrinkled. NH ranks #47 (!) overall. But the entire Northeast is in bad demographic shape, especially the New England part: MA is #44; RI is #45; CT is #46; ME is #49; and VT brings up the rear in fiftieth place.


  • And the Babylon Bee reports on the Title X controversy: Democrats Warn That Defunding Planned Parenthood Will Reduce Access To Essential Campaign Donations.

    The Republican proposal to withdraw Title X federal funding from Planned Parenthood could cause a dangerous drop in the abortion provider’s campaign contributions to liberal political candidates, Democratic leaders sternly cautioned during a press conference earlier today.

    “Planned Parenthood does much more than perform abortions,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters. “They provide crucial services to marginalized Democrat candidates, like spending over $30 million to support pro-abortion candidates in the upcoming midterm elections.”

    I suppose the clue-impaired Facebook/Twitter/Snopes/Politifact gang have already labeled this as fake. No, Nancy didn't say that.

    But she was almost certainly thinking that.

URLs du Jour

2018-05-22

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 12:4 gives the guys advice on spouse-picking:

    4 A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown,
        but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones.

    Whoa. And I'm somewhat surprised that even the more modern translations don't try to bowdlerize the sexism here. Is there any equivalent Proverb cautioning wives about bad husbands? Haven't seen one, but I'll let you know if I do.


  • RIP, Robert Indiana, who in did that "LOVE" thing—see the Amazon Product du Jour—back in the 1970s. According to the Bangor Daily News: "In his later years, he was known for living an increasingly reclusive life 15 miles off the [Maine] mainland on Vinalhaven, where he moved in 1978." Love only goes so far.


  • My local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat published an op-ed from one Jim Fabiano, identified as "a retired Newmarket Jr./Sr. High School teacher and writer living in York, Maine." Warning, it's pretty whiny: It’s time for all teachers to be able to afford a great day. It begins … unpromisingly:

    Teachers across the country can no longer survive on the salaries they are offered to do the most important job of all.

    The median annual salary for high school teachers was $58,030. in 2016. The poverty level for a family of four in 2016 was $24,300 [48 contiguous states, AK and HI slightly higher].

    But Mr. Fabiano's fact-impaired whining is not the only problem.

    On the saying "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach.":

    I do get a kick out of this statement because those who can do because they were taught how too [sic].

    Referring to (I assume) student transport:

    The busses [sic] arrive.

    And on the diversity of student achievement:

    Some are better in English than math and vica-versa [sic].

    Trust me, these are just the easy-to-find spelling errors. Punctuation is (to be kind) non-standard, and stylistic blunders abound.

    I've been known to make errors myself, but Foster's did Mr. Fabiano's argument serious damage by not editing his prose before publication.


  • Haven't read Steven Pinker's new book, Enlightenment Now yet? Well, maybe his interview with Reason's Nick Gillespie will nudge you into it: Steven Pinker Loves the Enlightenment. Sample, on nuclear energy:

    [Gillespie:] You talk about how there's a strong argument for nuclear energy if what you care about is how to get the most energy out of the fewest greenhouse gases. How did you come to appreciate nuclear

    [Pinker:] Partly from thinking through that we really do need scalable, abundant, affordable energy, particularly in the developing world. There's a moral imperative to allow India and China and Africa to enjoy the benefits that we've enjoyed from abundant energy. Nuclear energy doesn't involve burning anything, so it doesn't emit carbon, and a lot of our dread of nuclear energy is because it hits all of our cognitive buttons for the fear response: It's novel; we can imagine a catastrophe; it's man-made as opposed to natural. There are a few salient events that lodge in our cultural memory, mainly Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and now Fukushima, despite the fact that the human damage in each case was trivial compared to what we tolerate day in and day out from burning coal.

    I hadn't thought about it in these terms, but you mention that only 60 or 100 people died directly in Chernobyl.

    Yeah, and then there probably was a slightly elevated cancer rate, barely detectable.

    So is this a case where we can imagine the disastrous outcome and that overwhelms the cognitive ability to talk about this stuff rationally?

    That's right, because the far greater number of deaths come from fossil fuels—from mining, from transporting, from pollution. It just never happens all at once in a photogenic event. Coal kills, according to one estimate, about a million people a year, but that doesn't make the headlines.

    Also not making the headlines: countries getting out of nuclear energy using fossil fuels instead.


  • Clinton pollster Mark Penn makes some sense at The Hill: Stopping Robert Mueller to protect us all.

    The “deep state” is in a deep state of desperation. With little time left before the Justice Department inspector general’s report becomes public, and with special counsel Robert Mueller having failed to bring down Donald Trump after a year of trying, they know a reckoning is coming.

    At this point, there is little doubt that the highest echelons of the FBI and the Justice Department broke their own rules to end the Hillary Clinton “matter,” but we can expect the inspector general to document what was done or, more pointedly, not done. It is hard to see how a yearlong investigation of this won’t come down hard on former FBI Director James Comey and perhaps even former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who definitely wasn’t playing mahjong in a secret “no aides allowed” meeting with former President Clinton on a Phoenix airport tarmac.

    An interesting take.


  • Also interesting is David Harsanyi, who has just one more question: Did The Obama Administration Spy On Trump Using Flimsy Evidence? Let’s Find Out.

    If the Justice Department and FBI are, as we’ve been told incessantly over the past year, not merely patriots but consummate professionals incapable of being distracted by partisanship or petty Washington intrigues, why are Donald Trump’s antagonists freaking out over the fact that an inspector general will assess whether political motivation tainted an investigation into the president’s campaign? The American people should get a full accounting of what transpired during 2016. Isn’t that what we’ve been hearing since the election?

    You believe Trump is corrupt. I get it. But surely anyone who alleges to be concerned about the sanctity of our institutions and rule of law would have some cursory curiosity about whether an investigation by the administration of one major party into the presidential campaign of another major party was grounded in direct evidence rather than fabulist rumor-mongering. Otherwise, any administration, including Trump’s, could initiate an investigation for whatever cooked-up superficial reason it wanted.

    I better check the larder to see if we have enough popcorn.


  • The Cato Institute's Daniel J. Ikenson claims, credibly: Trump’s Trade Policy is a Disaster, But Postponing the China Trade War Was Smart.

    This weekend’s announcement, arguably, was the first piece of good trade policy news the Trump administration has delivered during its tumultuous 16-month reign. Yes, the administration’s trade policy has been a comedy of errors from the outset. Trump’s America First policies have betrayed his administration’s utter ignorance of the interdependence of the global economy, divided the country, and strained long-standing relationships with governments, businesses, and people on every continent. Had the president been remotely informed about international trade before taking office—instead of taking his primer courses on our time and on our dime—we might have been spared 16 months of wrenching policy mistakes.

    I also suggest this twitter thread from Ilan Goldenberg:

    It's not a pretty picture, Emily.


Last Modified 2018-05-22 10:53 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2018-05-21

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 12:3 is definitely above average:

    3 No one can be established through wickedness,
        but the righteous cannot be uprooted.

    The Proverbialist maintains an apt, evocative metaphor in both parts of the proverb, something he didn't always manage to do.

    I'm just not sure how true it is.


  • The University Near Here is (for now) on the side of the angels, but George F. Will's column this week shows that not all institutes of higher education have gotten the message: Battling Campus Oppression of the Freedom of Expression

    On election night 2016, Mark Schlissel, the University of Michigan’s president, addressed more than 1,000 students, declaring that the 90 percent of them who had favored the losing candidate had rejected “hate.” He thereby effectively made those who disagreed with him and with the campus majority eligible to be targets of the university’s “bias response teams.” That his announced contempt for them made him a suitable target of the thought police is a thought that presumably occurred to no one, least of all him.

    Now, however, this leader of a public institution is being sued for constitutional violations. So are some members of Michigan’s archetypal administrative bloat — the ever-thickening layer of social-justice crusaders and orthodoxy enforcers who, nationwide, live parasitically off universities whose actual purpose is scholarship. These include Michigan’s vice-provost for equity and inclusion and the director of the Office of Student Conflict Resolution. Such bureaucrats have professional stakes in finding inequities to rectify and conflicts to resolve.

    So I'm wondering: if UNH has actually limited the scope of its intrusions into expressive conduct, will there be a proportional decrease in the number of bureaucrats? Fingers crossed.


  • The headline on Robby Soave's Reason post pretty much tells the story: Study: Voters Worried About Political Correctness Flocked to Candidate Trump. But I wanted to quote, as Robby does, the abstract of the study he considered ("Donald Trump as a Cultural Revolt Against Perceived Communication Restriction: Priming Political Correctness Norms Causes More Trump Support"):

    Donald Trump has consistently performed better politically than his negative polling indicators suggested he would. Although there is a tendency to think of Trump support as reflecting ideological conservatism, we argue that part of his support during the election came from a non-ideological source: The preponderant salience of norms restricting communication (Political Correctness – or PC – norms). This perspective suggests that these norms, while successfully reducing the amount of negative communication in the short term, may produce more support for negative communication in the long term. In this framework, support for Donald Trump was in part the result of over-exposure to PC norms. Consistent with this, on a sample of largely politically moderate Americans taken during the General Election in the Fall of 2016, we show that temporarily priming PC norms significantly increased support for Donald Trump (but not Hillary Clinton). We further show that chronic emotional reactance towards restrictive communication norms positively predicted support for Trump (but not Clinton), and that this effect remains significant even when controlling for political ideology. In total, this work provides evidence that norms that are designed to increase the overall amount of positive communication can actually backfire by increasing support for a politician who uses extremely negative language that explicitly violates the norm.

    Preponderant Salience of Norms will be playing a set down at Fury's Publick House in Dover next weekend.


  • The Associated Press's Holly Ramer is a girl after my own heart, looking at the variety of LFOD usage in local politics: Live Free or Die’ motto often invoked, with mixed results

    Written by Revolutionary War Gen. John Stark in 1809 and adopted as the state motto in 1945, the phrase won praise from then-candidate Donald Trump just before the 2016 presidential primary.

    “What a great slogan,” Trump said in a Facebook video. “Congratulations, New Hampshire. Wonderful job.”

    To Trump, the motto stood for everything from free enterprise and border security to “taking care of our vets.”

    Based on this session’s debate, some New Hampshire politicians would add protecting transgender individuals and crime victims, texting at stoplights and growing marijuana.

    Also: car inspections. I missed the comments of state Rep. Glen Dickey, R-New Boston, who sponsored an unsuccessful bill to require inspections only every two years instead of the current annual pain.

    “Do we have a cultural value of aiming for the potholes or the trees? Is there something in the water that makes us extra reckless?” he said on Feb. 15. “You would think if we were that distinct from inhabitants of other regions we would be drowning in sociological studies describing the Live Free or Die gene or the New Hampshire death cult.”

    I wish Glen lived in Rollinsford so I could vote for him.

    Back in March, I noted Marginal Revolution's Alex Tabarrok's post Vehicle Safety Inspections Don’t Increase Safety. There's no excuse for them.


  • And Commie National Public Radio brinks the LFOD snark, which is richly deserved in this instance: N.H. Liquor Stores Are At The Center Of Cross-Border Bootlegging Stings

    New Hampshire may proudly have a libertarian streak, but the Live Free or Die state also boasts about its state-run liquor stores. Alcohol's a big revenue generator for the government - low prices in stores located near the state's borders draw in customers from across the region. As New Hampshire Public Radio's Todd Bookman reports, that convenience is also attracting modern-day bootleggers and prompts a wave of recent arrests.

    A transcript of Todd's report follows, detailing the odyssey of Juncheng Chen from Queens, NY, who bought over 1000 bottles of booze from six NH state stores, "including more than 500 bottles of Hennessy cognac". But he was being tailed by a criminal investigator with the New York State Department of Taxation, and was promptly arrested once he crossed back into NY.

    I, for one, miss the days of Governor Meldrim Thomson, Jr., who ordered NH state troopers to chase away Massachusetts revenooers taking down license plate numbers of their citizens' cars in NH liquor store parking lots.

URLs du Jour

2018-05-20

[Amazon Link]

  • I'm afraid Proverbs 12:2 is yet another one of those good people rule/bad people drool bromides from the Proverbs Fortune Cookie factory:

    2 Good people obtain favor from the Lord,
        but he condemns those who devise wicked schemes.

    To quote Hemingway one more time: "Isn't it pretty to think so?"


  • Andrew C. McCarthy analyzes a claim about the 2016 election, peddled by Democrats and the MSM (but I repeat myself), that "Government investigators were savagely public about Clinton’s trifling missteps while keeping mum about the Manchurian candidate’s treasonous conspiracy with Putin." In Politicized Justice, Desperate Times Call for Disparate Measures.

    As we contended in rebuttal on Thursday, the Times’ facts are selective and its narrative theme of disparate treatment is hogwash: Clinton’s bid was saved, not destroyed, by Obama’s law-enforcement agencies, which tanked a criminal case on which she should have been indicted. And the hush-hush approach taken to the counterintelligence case against Donald Trump was not intended to protect the Republican candidate; it was intended to protect the Obama administration from the specter of a Watergate-level scandal had its spying on the opposition party’s presidential campaign been revealed.

    McCarthy is righteously pissed at this narrative, and it shows. The "disparate" treatment was exemplified, for example, by the mother-may-I approach to getting evidence in the Clinton case, versus (say) the predawn no-knock raid on Paul Manafort's house.


  • At Reason, Nick Gillespie asks: What Can Be Done To Stop School Shootings Without Shredding the Constitution? Long and reflective, here's the bottom line:

    A good starting point for famously Vulcan-like libertarians would be to openly acknowledge the pain of survivors and the unspeakable horrors that unfold in locations such as Santa Fe and Parkland. It also makes sense to foreground what is surely common ground with the vast majority of Americans, even "gun-grabbers," which is that we all want a more-peaceful, less-violent America. From there, it is essential to provide arguments and insights that will alleviate rather than inflame concerns about safety, rates of violence, and how guns are used. Conservatives and groups like the NRA are fond of blaming broadly defined "mental illness" for gun violence, along with video games, drug-taking, and Democratic rule in cities such as Chicago. Libertarians should combat those weak arguments and discuss how policies such as the war on drugs intensify and concentrate gun violence in urban communities while also explaining how school, social-service, and law-enforcement authorities routinely shirk their responsibilities to identify and contain true threats (this is perhaps the biggest policy takeaway from Parkland). Reflexively reaching for often-thin arguments simply based on originalism, the Founders' intent, or contempt for any form of gun control isn't going to help very much. "Coming up with something" doesn't need to mean introducing a whole new set of gun laws. It can also mean having meaningful, informed, empathetic conversations with people on the other side of a particularly controversial and fraught issue.

    Not for the first time, I'll note that progressives aren't usually interested in "meaningful, informed, empathetic conversations". They're in favor of getting to the bottom line, which involves pushing people around who haven't done anything wrong.


  • Our Google LFOD alert sends to the Harvard Business School newspaper (the "Harbus") and its incisive report: 3rd Annual Comedy Night Highlights Student Standup Talent.

    The audience remained buoyant throughout the 90-minute show, hosted by New Section D’s Dilan Gomih, and was not disappointed as comics recounted their recruiting travails, lamented interactions with strangers, and dove into life at HBS. New Section E’s Ninad Kulkarni drew laughs as he shared his difficulty discussing sex with his imperious mother, and New Section F president Spencer Fertig brought the house down with his tales of awful aviation consumer experiences. Even the author managed to get few lines in, dropping jokes about his commuter student life that he could then shamelessly quote in his show review.

    “My wife and I live an hour away, because when I got in here we decided we prefer grocery shopping in New Hampshire,” he said. “Live Free or Die, motherf****r.”

    Hilarious? Maybe you had to be there. But that would be an interesting tweak to our state motto.


  • Also down in Massachusetts, the Greenfield Recorder reports: Warrior Writers group creates cathartic experience for veterans.

    The first poem came to him mid-brush stroke, as he painted a house in Worcester five years ago.

    “I was in a dark place in my life when I fell into (writing). It was an accident. I was up on this ladder and I was literally attacked by a poem. I had to write it down,” remembered Eric Wasileski, 46, of Shelburne, while sitting among fellow military veterans at a weekly luncheon hosted by the Greenfield Elks Lodge.

    That was two years after he’d graduated from a master’s program at Andover Newton Theological School, more than a decade since the Iraq War started, and 15 years since he left the Navy.

    The poem, called “Live Free (or die),” which eventually became a book in 2014, contrasts President George Bush’s May 1, 2003 victory announcement in the Iraq War to the subsequent crumbling of New Hampshire’s “Old Man on the Mountain” a few days later. It was the first Wasileski ever wrote.

    Eric's book ($15) is our Amazon Product du Jour. In what is either (a) an enticement for you to buy the book or (b) a blatant violation of copyright, here's his "Live Free (or die)":

    In New Hampshire there was once a sign 
    That God made people 
    Granite chiseled into the side of Cannon 
    Mountain bore the resemblance of a Man in profile 
    The Old Man of the Mountains 
    Magnificent and majestic he stood the long watch 
    
    Live Free or Die is the motto of the land 
    and stands as a marker and guidepost 
    To inspire, both ourselves and our progeny 
    to live a life worth living 
    of bettering ourselves 
    and pursuing happiness 
    as is our unalienable right 
    
    Yet on that May afternoon, back in '03 
    the day after our President announced 
    "mission accomplished" in Iraq 
    The Old Man, knowing it is better to live free or die 
    heard this great lie 
    that our nation was telling 
    And did the only thing he could 
    as one who has granite integrity 
    He died 
        

    Ah. Eric really dislikes Dubya. To be fair, however, "mission accomplished" is one of those things "everybody knows" Bush said, but actually didn't. But, you know, poetic license.

The Highway

[Amazon Link]

Continuing on my C.J. Box-reading project, this brings me up to 2013. I've come to expect decent page-turning thrillers from Mr. Box. But, truth be told, I was somewhat less enthused about plowing through this one; the subject matter was kind of off-putting. But that's me.

The book is a sorta-sequel to Back of Beyond which I read back in 2014. Returning characters are Cody Hoyt, an alcoholic cop; his upright son, Justin; the admirable teenage girl Gracie Sullivan and her slutty older sister Danielle.

Unfortunately, things aren't going well for Cody. As the book opens, he's planting evidence to implicate a drug dealer in a murder; unbeknownst to Cody, this is being witnessed by his current partner, Cassie Dewell. This is not the best way to further your law enforcement career, especially when your boss despises you anyway.

But at the same time, Gracie and Danielle are being stalked by a psychotic truck driver who's developed the persona of the "Lizard King". (Yes: he's a killer on the road, his brain squirming like a toad.) Will Danielle's irresponsible attitudes toward car maintenance and sex land them in deep peril? Well, of course. Will Cody head off to the rescue? Sure.

As indicated above, all the sordid details about the Lizard King's crime spree were a slight turn-off. But Box pulls something surprising mid-book that I totally didn't see coming. (I saw something coming; just not that.) No spoilers, but I'd go so far as to say that it flouts an unwritten rule of the crime/mystery/thriller genre. Box has the ability to pull such things off.

URLs du Jour

2018-05-19

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 12:1 makes yet another pro-discipline argument:

    1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
        but whoever hates correction is stupid.

    Seems somewhat masochistic, but that's Proverbs.

    [Our Amazon Product du jour is a self-published self-help book about self-discipline. Amazon's "Look Inside" feature will give you a decent taste. If you buy the book, read it, and go on to be a gazillionaire as a result, please remember Pun Salad.]


  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File this week concerns The Tribe’s Useful Idiots. And he's not talking about Cleveland Indians fans.

    I’ve always been fascinated by useful idiots — and I don’t mean interns who are good at fetching coffee or pumicing my feet. I mean “useful idiots” in the Leninist sense (even if Lenin may not have in fact coined the term). Useful idiots, according to lore, were the Western intellectuals who could be counted on to defend or apologize for Bolshevik or Soviet barbarisms and other crimes.

    The Soviet effort to cultivate, feed, and support useful idiots is an absorbing tale in its own right. But the fascinating part is how the real heavy-lifting was done by the Western intellectuals themselves.

    Since human nature is what it is, we have more modern manifestations of useful idiots today, operating with unshakeable cognitive biases.

    Probably including me. Caveat lector.


  • Tom Nichols writes in USA Today: I'm still a Republican, but my party needs to be fumigated.

    Republicans once believed in limited government, fiscal restraint, support for the defense and national security establishments, family values, and a strong American role in maintaining global order. More than that, we were the party that believed in logic and prudence over emotion. Our hearts were perhaps too cold, but never bleeding.

    Today’s Republicans, however, are a party of bellowing drama queens whose elected representatives blow up spending caps, bust the deficit, and attack America’s law enforcement and national security agencies as dangerous conspirators. Their leader expects banana republic parades, coddles the Kremlin, protects violent men in positions of responsibility, and overlooks child molestation. The rank-and-file GOP members who once claimed that liberals were creating a tyrannical monarchy in the Oval Office now applaud the expansion of the presidency into a gigantic cult of personality.

    Somewhat overstated rhetorical carpet-bombing, but close enough to the target. Tom's preferred solution is a sound Republican defeat in November, and for as long after that as it takes to "break the fever" of Trumpism.


  • The new issue of American Consequences is online, and P.J. O'Rourke writes within: My Lousy Education.

    It may say “B.A.” on my diploma, but what I’ve got a degree in is “B.S.”

    I can talk the shingles off a barn roof. Or, as the case actually was, I can talk them back on.

    Yes, I’d be smarter if I had a “STEM” (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education. If I’d studied trigonometry, I would have realized that cutting down a 50-foot pine tree that was 20 feet from my barn might result in certain sine, cosine, tangent, and crushed barn roof problems. And no, I don’t know a hypotenuse from a possum belly.

    But… you should have heard me with the insurance adjuster. Euclid, Archimedes, and Pythagoras put together weren’t a patch on me. (Even less so since they’d be talking to the insurance adjuster in ancient Greek.) By the time I got done, the insurance company had not only paid for a new barn roof, it had paid for a new barn to go under it and a new chainsaw and a new pine tree and three cows to replace the cows that would have been killed when the barn roof collapsed if I’d had any cows.

    I have a B.S. and an M.S., and I can assure P.J. that neither saves you from doing stupidly destructive things around your domicile, with even less excuse than "I don't know trig".


  • KC Johnson writes at Minding the Campus on The Fallout From Weaponizing Title IX.

    In April of 2011, the Obama administration changed Title IX policy, pressuring colleges to adopt procedures that dramatically increased the chances of a guilty finding in sexual misconduct cases. Justice for accused males became so rare that many turned to the courts, filing suit for loss of due process. Since then, universities and colleges have suffered 97 setbacks in these suits, few of them as dramatic as the ruling last Monday in a lawsuit against Johnson & Wales University of Providence, Rhode Island.

    Two observations: (1) It's sad—not to mention expensive and wasteful—when males have to resort to the court system to get a fair shake out of universities; (2) Feminist ideology about "rape culture" has made universities stupidly cling to inherently unfair disciplinary tactics that can't be defended in the real legal world.


  • And our Google LFOD News Alert rang for a press release at Manchester Ink Link: Oracle ramps up, ready to lead Manchester into the high-tech industrial revolution. Oracle bought a Manchester company called Dyn back in 2106. Dean Kamen, Mr. Segway, was invited to speak at the event marking rebranding of the old mill building where Dyn was headquartered.

    “I grew up in the people’s republic of New York, a dense place in many ways,” said Kamen, who delivers remarks with the cadence of a seasoned Long Island comedian.

    “I moved here having never been here, but when I was in Boston I saw New Hampshire license plates all over the place, ‘Live free or die.’ One time I was about to get back on a plane and head back to New York, but I made a turn to the left instead of a turn to the right,” he says. “Instead of sitting in that freaking tunnel, I came up here, and — the rest is history.”

    I've never been an Oracle fan, but I haven't noticed any substantial "Oracle is Evil" stories in recent years. So maybe they've gotten less evil.

URLs du Jour

2018-05-17

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 13:24 is a famous—albeit often misquoted—one:

    24 Whoever spares the rod hates their children,
        but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.

    This is the NIV translation, our default; other, wimpier, translations leave out the explicit reference to the rod.


  • While I cheered the Green Light Free Speech Rating given to the University of New Hampshire by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, I was simultaneously wondering: "Wow, how did that happen?" The College Fix has details: Public university gets stellar free-speech rating by reining in its bias response team.

    “Conduct that is protected by the First Amendment is not actionable under law, or the UNH Student Code of Conduct.”

    This reining in of the bias response team at the University of New Hampshire helped the taxpayer-funded institution earn a “green light” rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

    The university’s policies have been judged to “nominally protect free speech” with the revision of the “bias incident protocol,” demonstration and posting regulations, the civility code and a residence hall policy, FIRE wrote in a blog post Monday.

    UNH has admirably talked the First Amendment talk; it is to be hoped they prove they can walk the walk as well.


  • A little bit of thought-control totalitarianism from Daniel DeNicola, professor and chair of philosophy at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania: You don’t have a right to believe whatever you want to.

    Do we have the right to believe whatever we want to believe? This supposed right is often claimed as the last resort of the wilfully ignorant, the person who is cornered by evidence and mounting opinion: ‘I believe climate change is a hoax whatever anyone else says, and I have a right to believe it!’ But is there such a right?

    Spoiler: Professor Dan concludes the answer is "no".

    Professor Dan does not venture much beyond that conclusion, but (for the rest of us) the interesting part is: once you've identified an individual with heretical, "dangerous", beliefs, what then? Presumably, since the victim has no right to such beliefs, anything is fair game: imprisonment, involuntary "therapy", execution?

    Non-professor Jonah Goldberg defends "the right to be wrong" here. Quote:

    People are growing intolerant of any dissent from their idea of what everyone should believe. Agree with me and you’re one of the good guys; disagree with me and you’re not just wrong, you’re my enemy, a heretic, a traitor, a bigot. Opportunists recognize that exacerbating this polarization redounds to their own benefit, because at least for now, doing so helps raise money, ratings, clicks, and poll numbers.

    We are a long way off from putting beliefs of the mind to the judgment of the sword, but that is the logical destination of the path we are on, because we have lost faith in the utility of upholding the right to be wrong.


  • Sarah Hoyt has a response to writers like Sarah MacLean who are … altering … their fiction in the Age of Trump: Note to Those Politicizing Fiction Against Trump: Shut Up and Write

    This is me groaning audibly. Look, guys, I’ll read just about anything. Any genre, or lack of genre.

    Let me tell you something. You know what traditional publishing isn’t short on? Leftist propaganda.

    Unless you're Ayn Rand—and sometimes even if you are Ayn Rand—putting political lectures in your fiction is, at best, a sure way to turn off readers.


  • Veronique de Rugy is a little too kind on Seattle when she discusses Seattle's Idiotic Tax on Amazon.

    The tyranny of local government was on full display this week. The culprits are some greedy members of the Seattle City Council. Backed by their union friends, they just voted to impose a "head tax" on large employers, such as Amazon and Starbucks. The real victims, of course, will be the companies' employees.

    Thanks to Seattle's many thriving businesses, its revenue base has been growing much faster than its population. Unfortunately, the City Council is doing what it does best and, rather than look into streamlining and cutting its ineffective spending programs in order to combat Seattle's homeless problem, is looking for fresh cash. Seeing as large companies have it, the council set out to take it.

    Today's progressives do not worry themselves with airy theories of tax fairness. Their underlying justification is

    1. I want money.
    2. You have money.
    3. Therefore, give me your money.


  • Dan Mitchell takes another Political Compass Test. And is slightly bemused at the "somewhat crazy" examples. (Was Benito Mussolini really "far right for economic policy"? No.)

    For what it's worth, my result is here. About the same as Dan's.


  • And are you in the mood for The 50 Funniest Jokes About All 50 States? From Reader's Digest? Well, OK. Here's the Granite State:

    The state motto is "Live Free or Die," which appears on license plates made by prisoners.

    Credited to "Jon Stewart on The Daily Show". Is it true? Yes. Funny? Well…

    New Hampshire is also mentioned in a couple of other jokes, and for what it's worth, I found this classic still amusing:

    After surveying property along the New Hampshire and Maine border, some engineers decided the boundaries needed to be changed. So they stopped to tell a farmer that he was no longer in Maine but in New Hampshire. "Good," said the farmer. "I couldn't take another one of those Maine winters."

    It may help if you imagine that punchline delivered in a broad Yankee accent.


Last Modified 2018-05-18 5:30 AM EDT

The Wizard and the Prophet

Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow's World

[Amazon Link]

After reading a couple of his history books (1491 and 1493), I decided author Charles C. Mann was a must read. It took awhile, but here's another one, covering much more recent history and associated controversies.

The "Wizard" is Norman Borlaug, Nobel Peace Prize winner, often dubbed the father of the "Green Revolution", the strides in agricultural production that (essentially) ended famine as a major world problem in the span of just a few decades. The "Prophet", on the other hand, is William Vogt: today he's obscure, but Mann makes the convincing case that he's the forefather of most of the threads of the modern environmental movement.

It's—really!—a fascinating story. Borlaug grew up in rural Iowa, about 75 miles east of where my own parents grew up, at about the same time. Vogt, on the other hand, grew up in then-rural Long Island, where he enjoyed observing the local flora and fauna. Both grew up to be scientists, each enduring massive hardships in painstaking research in foreign lands: Borlaug attempting to develop strains of wheat that could be grown in Mexico; Vogt attempting to discover what was going wrong with the (at the time) lucrative guano-producing islands off the coast of Peru.

Broadly speaking, though, Borlaug and Vogt are just standins for their general attitudes and approaches toward humanity and the environment. Painting with a very broad brush: The "prophets" tend to be pessimistic, look for (and usually find) doom around every corner; favor "soft" approaches to supplies of food, air, water, and energy; preach a lot about "limits" and "sustainability". "Wizards" are the flip side: optimistic, technocratic, always (and usually finding) scientific workarounds to obstacles, and look to centralized "hard" solutions to resource supplies.

Mann is an ideal reporter on this, for many reasons. He's a fantastic writer, who can (and does) make details of guano production and wheat cultivation riveting. He's also well-versed in technical issues. You won't want to miss his discussion of rubisco, (aka "Ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase") the most important enzyme you've never heard of. It acts as a catalyst for photosynthesis, so, yeah, without it there would be no you and me. It evolved once, 3.5 billion years ago. The reaction it catalyzes is agonizingly slow; just slugging along at 2-3 per second. It's also (in Mann's word) inept; the reaction is "supposed" to use CO2, but rubisco often grabs onto O2 instead, which is useless, photosynthesis-wise.

And yet, nature hasn't produced anything better in 3.5 billion years. I can't decide whether this is a point for or against "intelligent design". Yes, rubisco is slow and stupid, but if it were any smarter or faster, … again, we wouldn't be here. We might have life, Jim, but not as we know it.

Mann only missteps once, as near as I can tell, on technical issues. when he discusses semiconductors (pp 284-285). Doping silicon with a scattering of other elements cause a surplus (or deficit) of free electrons, but Mann claims this causes the crystal to become negatively/positively charged. I don't think so. Quibble.

Mann is also good because he's relentlessly agnostic on the issues that bitterly divide Wizards and Prophets. (Specifically: "On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I think Vogt was correct. On Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, I go for Borlaug. And on Sunday, I don't know.") He is relentlessly both fair to, and skeptical of, both sides, and that makes his insights all the more credible.

What Mann can't bring himself to say explicitly: the weight of the evidence so far swings the scales in favor of the Wizards. Time and again, he rattles off the failed predictions and disastrous policy positions of the Prophets. (E.g., Paul Ehrlich's "population bomb" that fizzled.) To be fair, the Wizards' record isn't spotless either. And both sides tend to be more than a little, um, pushy in implementing their policies. Both sides are enthusiastic top-down social engineers.

For folks interested in the University Near Here, Mann relates his discussion with UNH's Dennis Meadows, who was on the Limits to Growth team back in the day, a dedicated Prophet. Dennis got a little exasperated at Mann's queries. Heh. I remember that Dennis got a little exasperaated with me at times, on technical issues. No matter, I remember him fondly.

URLs du Jour

2018-05-16

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 13:23 is a toughie, interpretation-wise:

    23 An unplowed field produces food for the poor,
        but injustice sweeps it away.

    My best guess: the poor can—or could—live on food harvested from unowned property, but "injustice"—somehow—prevents them from doing that. Maybe, maybe not.

    This leads me to check out alternate translations than our default NIV. How about King James?

    23 Much food is in the tillage of the poor: but there is that is destroyed for want of judgment.

    This seems to blame the poor themselves, maybe? Their silly lack of judgment destroys their means of sustenance?

    The "Message" is always amusing, though:

    23 Banks foreclose on the farms of the poor, or else the poor lose their shirts to crooked lawyers.

    Ah. The Man always finds a way to screw the Little People.


  • The writer Tom Wolfe passed away, and there are a lot of words out there about that. I enjoyed Kyle Smith's take on The Great One.

    Thirty years ago, B.T.W. (before Tom Wolfe), I was an aspiring postmodern novelist. An undergraduate in the Yale English department, I marinated in the wordplay of James Joyce. I steeped myself in Thomas Pynchon. I would write novels that would sell in the tens. On the side, I would deconstruct other people’s novels, locate the damning signifiers that were hidden deep within, undetected even by their authors. Then a friend gave me a stack of unwanted books from a class she had completed. One of them was The Right Stuff.

    To this day, no book has ever hit me harder. The acuity of Wolfe’s social analysis, the depth of his reporting, and most of all the mad, exhilarating gallop of his prose style rerouted my mind, redirected my intentions. Wolfe’s impassioned admiration for the courage and ingenuity of test pilot Chuck Yeager and the Mercury space-program astronauts jarred all my ironic, postmodernist, Ivory Tower assumptions. I was a Mike Dukakis–loving liberal Democrat, but in the book’s jovial respect for what would later be known as red-state culture (it was Wolfe who popularized the phrase “good ol’ boy”) came the first low rumblings that I might someday become patriotic, maybe even conservative.

    Maybe the best way to memorialize Mr. Wolfe is to dig up and read something he wrote. Here are my brief takes on I Am Charlotte Simmons; Back to Blood; The Kingdom of Speech.


  • At Law and Liberty, John O. McGinnis hits on a theme we've mentioned here, more than a few times: Why Progressives Want to Revive Norms Against Blasphemy.

    Why has progressivism changed its position on the role of open debate? First, progressivism is not as confident that the facts of the world will back up their policy prescriptions as they once were. In part, that is because their policy prescriptions have become more radical. The progressive view, for instance, was once that women should be able to go as far as their abilities and inclinations take them. Today for many progressives, there is something amiss with the world if we do not observe relatively equal proportions of men and women in physics departments at major universities. If you become less confident of the factual support for your ideas, you naturally want to hobble your opponents by fiat rather than reason.

    Second, modern progressivism holds metaphysical beliefs, not unlike those of a religion, that are beyond factual dispute. No facts can be allowed to get in the way of whatever the diversity policies of the day mandate. Norms against blasphemy shut down debates about the God and His nature. Many modern progressives are opposed to religions in their traditional form, but modern progressivism is adopting the most traditional of religious moves—putting the sacred beyond question.

    I'll be uncharitably ad hominem, probably a mistake: many progressives occupy lucrative "priesthood" positions in our nation's institutions that depend on those beliefs being unquestioned—and fully funded.

    Or, as Mel Brooks explained in Blazing Saddles: "We have to protect our phoney baloney jobs here, gentlemen!"


  • Occasionally a naysayer is allowed within the sanctum, however. For example, Gerard Alexander in a NYT op-ed, noting: Liberals, You’re Not as Smart as You Think.

    I know many liberals, and two of them really are my best friends. Liberals make good movies and television shows. Their idealism has been an inspiration for me and many others. Many liberals are very smart. But they are not as smart, or as persuasive, as they think.

    And a backlash against liberals — a backlash that most liberals don’t seem to realize they’re causing — is going to get President Trump re-elected.

    People often vote against things instead of voting for them: against ideas, candidates and parties. Democrats, like Republicans, appreciate this whenever they portray their opponents as negatively as possible. But members of political tribes seem to have trouble recognizing that they, too, can push people away and energize them to vote for the other side. Nowhere is this more on display today than in liberal control of the commanding heights of American culture.

    To sum up: Liberals used to be better at disguising their contempt for their opponents.


  • At the Technology Liberation Front, Brent Skorup debunks the outcome of (essentially) a push poll: No, “83% of Americans” do not support the 2015 net neutrality regulations

    Lawmakers frequently hear impressive-sounding stats about net neutrality like “83% of voters support keeping FCC’s net neutrality rules.”  This 83% number (and similar “75% of Republicans support the rules”) is based on a survey from the Program for Public Consultation released in December 2017, right before the FCC voted to repeal the 2015 Internet regulations.

    Brent notes that in order to get their positive results, the pollsters misrepresented the actual content of the "nearly 400-page" NetNeut regulations into a couple of misleading feelgood soundbites.


  • You might not expect an organization named "The Center for Land Use Interpretation" would produce such an interesting web document: United Divide: A Linear Portrait of the USA/Canada Border. No wait, I'm not kidding! It is interesting, full of pictures, anecdotes, trivia, and oddities. Following the border, starting from "Machais Seal Island, a 20-acre treeless outcrop which is still claimed by both nations", all the way to "Strait of Jaun [sic] de Fuca, into the Pacific Ocean, where it dissolves completely into the sea."

    Found via Granite Geek, which focuses, naturally enough on a Granite State question: Why are there two obelisks, really close to each other, marking the NH border with Canada? Said obelisks are up in Pittsburg. No spoilers here, but the answer may surprise you!


  • And I just want to quote something I hadn't noticed at xkcd: the site's browser guidelines. (In really tiny type.):

    xkcd.com is best viewed with Netscape Navigator 4.0 or below on a Pentium 3±1 emulated in Javascript on an Apple IIGS at a screen resolution of 1024x1. Please enable your ad blockers, disable high-heat drying, and remove your device from Airplane Mode and set it to Boat Mode. For security reasons, please leave caps lock on while browsing.

    I think I'm going to steal that last bit…

URLs du Jour

2018-05-15

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 13:22 has an … um … interesting take on inheritance:

    22 A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children,
        but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.

    An interesting proposal for people looking to alter estate taxation. The rate should be directly proportional to the sinfulness of the decedent! And the proceeds distributed directly to the demonstrably righteous! Over to you, Senators Shaheen and Hassan!

    Everyone else, proceed to our Amazon Product du Jour.


  • Wow, I'm actually cheered by some good news: The University of New Hampshire earns FIRE’s top rating for free speech.

    New Hampshire’s flagship public research university has become the fortieth institution in the country to earn the highest rating for free speech from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. The University of New Hampshire revised five speech codes, including a demonstration policy and a posting policy, to earn a “green light” rating, signifying that the university’s written policies do not imperil free speech.

    Outgoing UNH President Mark Huddleston is quoted.

    I've been griping, directly and indirectly, about UNH's poor FIRE rating since 2006. I don't, however, imagine for a second that my complaints had anything to do with this good news.


  • How many stupid ideas can come out of California? Well, at least one more, as reported by Christian Britschgi at Reason: Sacramento Wants to Boost Rail Ridership By Banning Drive-Throughs and Gas Stations Near Transit.

    Faced with falling ridership, American cities have been experimenting with increasingly desperate measures to get people back onto buses and trains.

    New York, which saw subway ridership plunge by 30 million trips from 2016 to 2017, is cracking down on transit's competition, with politicians pondering a cap on the number of rideshare vehicles allowed in the city and a mandatory floor for Uber and Lyft prices. Los Angeles, where transit use is stubbornly stuck at about 5 percent of all trips, is spending billions to build out its light rail network and cluster more development around transit stops. Washington is investing in flashy marketing campaigns and a new merch shop to reverse its Metro system's near 20 percent decline in ridership since 2012.

    But Sacramento has the most creative approach. Absurd, but creative. City staff there are drafting an ordinance that would ban building new gas stations, drive-throughs, and other auto-related businesses within a quarter mile of any of the city's 23 light rail stations. (Also to be prohibited, for reasons unclear: marijuana cultivation sites.) Other businesses "not considered transit-supportive"—car lots, auto repair businesses, manufacturing sites, wholesale outlets—would still be allowed, but only if the city grants them a special permit.

    I can't pretend to understand the logic involved here, but it's easy to parody: "Citizens, since you underutilize the nice things we've built for you, we'll throw some inconvenience at you as well. Maybe you'll learn to do better."

    Is this the famous libertarian paternalism I've heard so much about?


  • At the NRO Corner, David French muses On the Morality of Waterboarding

    Last week, the Internet briefly lit up with the claim that President Trump’s nominee to run the CIA, Gina Haspel, repeatedly dodged and evaded when asked to opine about the morality of waterboarding and other forms of “enhanced interrogation.” California senator Kamala Harris was particularly tenacious in trying to tie Haspel to a yes or no answer to the question of whether “previous techniques” were immoral.

    It’s not a question susceptible to a yes or no response. The true answer is highly dependent on the technique at issue and the circumstances of its use.

    Morality in war is a complex and shifting thing. Let’s take, for example, two of the most famous and most successful operations in American military history — Sherman’s March to the Sea and Truman’s atomic-bomb strikes on Japan. Both of them involved deliberate, mass-scale targeting of civilian assets. The atomic bombings also included the deliberate mass killing of innocent men, women, and children. In ordinary times and in more “ordinary” wars, the morality of both actions is clear and unequivocal. They’re wrong. Indeed, in ordinary times and in ordinary wars, they’re more than just wrong — they’re unlawful.

    French makes some fine distinctions, which will be lost on lightweights like Senator Harris.


  • Wired, part of the Condé Nast stable of progressivism, can be politically tedious. But (surprise) Sean W. Fleming makes a good point here: Lessons from Montecito: Science's Credibility Is At Stake.

    Background: more than 20 people were killed in Montecito, California by mudslides ("debris flows") after they were warned to evacuate. Because they didn't find the warnings, made by expert scientists, to be credible.

    Worse still, even the most earnest communication efforts often demonstrate, to paraphrase The Big Bang Theory, how dumb smart people can be. At a recent physics conference, I heard an outreach expert tell us how as scientists we need to “teach people how to think” (a classist and anti-democratic notion), that only science allows us to “process complex issues” (evidently, Hemingway, Rachmaninoff, and Picasso brought nothing to the table), and that a society’s degree of spirituality gauges its collective level of ignorance (effectively demanding that traditional peoples from Haida Gwaii to Tibet choose between indigenous culture and Western science).

    Such prejudiced, tone-deaf, and increasingly strident megaphoning is echoed by some of the best-known STEM communicators. Even the recent and well-intentioned March for Science, wasn’t immune, where the sloganeering included t-shirts reading, “We are scientists. Ask us anything!” The organizers presumably thought this would be cute, and it sort of is, but it also reinforces the stereotype of scientists as obnoxious know-it-alls. That’s precisely the kind of image we shouldn’t put on public display—least of all when populism, a worldview that’s inherently skeptical of the integrity of experts, is taking hold across the entire political spectrum.

    I would disagree only in part: the "March for Science" was "well-intentioned" only if you think that imposing progressive "solutions" under the imprimatur of "science" is a good thing.


  • And the Babylon Bee reports, for once, straight news: Man Frequently Compared To Hitler Recognizes Jerusalem As Israel’s Capital.

    A man whose detractors frequently compare him to Nazis and even Adolf Hitler fulfilled a promise Monday by moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and officially recognizing the historic city as the capital of Israel.

    Let's combine that with our Tweet du Jour from the estimable Frank J.

    Mazel tov to the Israelis, who have the guts to act in their own self-defense.

URLs du Jour

2018-05-14

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 13:21 looks like yet another fortune cookie based on the "bad things happen to bad people, good things to good people" template:

    21 Trouble pursues the sinner,
        but the righteous are rewarded with good things.

    But if you know your Bible, you probably know, via Romans 3:23, that we're all sinners. So…

    (Also see today's Amazon Product du Jour.)


  • Jack Shafer writes at Politico: This Is How a Newspaper Dies. The newspaper being…

    For a preview of the newspaper industry’s coming death, turn your gaze to Colorado, where the withering and emaciated Denver Post finds itself rolling in profits.

    The Post’s controlling owner, “vulture capitalist” Randall Smith, has become journalism’s No. 1 villain for having cheapened and starved not just its Denver paper but many of the titles—including the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the San Jose Mercury News and the Orange County Register—that his firm, Alden Global Capital, operates through the Digital First Media chain. At the Post, Smith’s firm cut the newsroom from 184 journalists to 99 between 2012 and 2017, Bloomberg News’ Joe Nocera writes. Over the same time, Smith’s Pottstown Mercury fell from 73 journos to 10 while its Norristown Times-Herald went 45 to 12. And the cuts just keep on coming. For newspaper lovers, the cuts have been a disaster.

    And yet, the papers in question continue to be profitable! What's going on?

    Allow yourself to sympathize with Smith for a moment. He’s deeply invested in a stagnant industry whose primary audience is approaching its own expiration date. Think of the Denver Post and most other newspapers as your grandfather who is on dialysis, has a pacemaker and totes an oxygen tank behind him. He looks alive, but he’s overdue. Your grandfather is a pretty good stand-in for the average newspaper subscriber, too. Habituated to his morning newspaper, he’ll resist cancelling his subscription no matter how raggedy the paper gets or how high the owners jack up the price. (Alden is among the most aggressive in boosting subscription prices, Doctor tells the Daily Beast.)

    The business-school label for tactics like Alden’s, in which you get fewer customers to pay more for less, as Philip Meyer wrote in his book The Vanishing Newspaper, is “harvesting market position.” By raising prices and lowering quality, a stagnant business can rely on its most loyal customers to continue to buy the product, allowing it to squeeze and squeeze and squeeze its customers as they croak. This slow liquidation of an asset’s value, destroying even its reputation in the process, kills the product. Wherever newspapers can be found reducing page size, cutting news pages, narrowing coverage area, reducing staff, shrinking circulation area, postponing the purchase of new equipment and raising subscription prices, they are harvesting market position. Faced with two business options, earn small sums from his newspapers over an indeterminate time or cash in big all at once, perhaps hastening the end, Smith has chosen the latter.

    Man, this sounds familiar. My local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, is also owned by a nationwide chain, Gatehouse Media ("We operate in 565 markets across 38 states.").

    Raising prices and lowering quality? Check!

    Relying on aging, stupid "loyal customers" to keep buying the product anyway out of sheer inertia? I look in the mirror… oh oh. Check!


  • Jeff Jacoby writes on history we don't remember, but should: The Palestinians' real 'nakba'.

    SEVENTY YEARS AGO this month, on May 14, 1948, the state of Israel proclaimed its independence. The next day, a story in The New York Times — "Jews In Grave Danger In All Moslem Lands" — reported that Jewish communities throughout the Arab world were under siege. Jews were starting to be fired from their jobs and terrorized into fleeing. Across the region, said the Times, "the stage is being set for a tragedy of incalculable proportions."

    What ensued was a purge of Jews from Arab lands: nearly a million there in 1948, near zero today.

    And yet, today there's no "Jewish refugee" problem. The "Palestinian refugees"—well, that's a different story. Why? Well, because of cynical Arab leaders, who like to keep 70-year-old wounds festering.


  • I was previously unaware of the web-based publication VTDigger, but there seems to be first-rate journalism in its recent article on the unlikely serial winners of the Vermont Lottery: More Than Luck?

    A VTDigger investigation has found that some store owners and clerks are claiming winning tickets with remarkable frequency, and that total payoffs for some individuals have reached into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    Who are these people? Well, they're owners/employees of stores selling lottery tickets. One of a number of examples:

    Elisha Steele won $224,000 from scratch tickets of $500 or more between 2011 and 2014 in Windham County, where she had been employed at several stores.

    Interviewed officials of the Vermont Lottery Commission seem unconcerned and clueless. Statisticians are also interviewed, and are unsurprisingly skeptical about the winners' claimed "luck".

    I've long said you have to be an idiot to play the lottery. I should amend that: Unless you're a crook, you have to be an idiot to play the lottery. Obviously, the crooks make the odds even worse for the suckers.


  • The (Canadian) CBC News reports How romance novels are getting a makeover in the Trump era. And one brave soul leading the charge is…

    A day after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, bestselling New York-based author Sarah MacLean said she vowed to use her "very considerable platform" to step up and speak up, as she wants to "make a difference in the world."

    MacLean said she realized the book she was writing "had 275 pages of a character who probably would have voted for Donald Trump," so she deleted the entire manuscript. "I threw it all out and started over."

    I have less-than-zero interest in that genre, so I don't care much. Except to note that if you can cheerfully discard 275 pages of prose, it strongly indicates that, deep down, you know it's something you're churning out just as mechanically as Hormel makes spam.


  • James Lileks on podcasts: Not keeping up with podcasts is the new 'not keeping up with Netflix'. There's the true-crimers:

    “This ... is ‘Under the Night.’ ”

    (Sad music. A lonely violin played by an orphan in a graveyard.)

    Narrator: “In the rural Iowa town of Rurliwa, there’s not much to do on a summer night. The Tastee-Squeeze is open until 10, the neon sign buzzing like the lost soul crying for justice, except using a buzzing sound. Years ago the high school boys might lay a crowbar across the train tracks to derail the 10:52 out of the Quad Cities, but the train hasn’t come to Rurliwa since the mattress factory closed.”

    I've tried and failed to fit podcasts into my so-called lifestyle. Maybe while dog walking?


Last Modified 2018-05-15 4:52 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2018-05-13

[Amazon Link]

  • After a series of clinkers, Proverbs 13:20 actually provides good advice:

    20 Walk with the wise and become wise,
        for a companion of fools suffers harm.

    Corollary: if you can't tell whether your companions are wise or foolish, maybe you're the fool.


  • "Incels"—the lazy person's way to say "involuntary celibates"—have been in the news, mainly because a self-described Canadian incel killed 10 people with a van. At NR (possibly paywalled), Kevin D. Williamson has Advice for Incels.

    There has been some pretty elevated stuff written on that subject, and if you want to take that particular high road, then Professor Robert George of Princeton is your guy. But consider the low road, too. There’s another conclusion, maybe a little bit cynical, that could be drawn from this: If you are a sexually frustrated young man, the smart play would be to join a church.

    Seriously. Join a church.

    That advice won’t do much good for the guys toggling between anime porn and Reddit all night while concocting elaborate revenge fantasies. It probably is not the case that those guys are maladjusted fruitcakes because they can’t get a girl; more likely, they can’t get a girl because they’re maladjusted fruitcakes. But you more or less normal, nonpsychotic, workaday types having trouble meeting a girl: Join a church. Today. Or Sunday. If you don’t know which one to go to, pick whichever one your parents or grandparents went to, unless they were hippies or atheists, in which case go Catholic.

    RTWT, and if you can't get it because of the paywall, just pay the money. It's the best advice you'll get this year.

    Bonus: in his closing paragraph, refers to an alleged Billy Graham quote of which I was unaware, but shows the guy could be drily amusing:

    If you find a perfect church don’t join it: You’d spoil it.


  • Viking Pundit comments on the recent stupid embarrassment at the University Near Here, where student activists attempted to shut down and (failing that) disrupt the appearance of Dave Rubin, sponsored by the UNH chapter of Turning Point USA: Shut up and die in New Hampshire.

    These people are trapped in a collective form of insanity. All Rubin is trying to say is that hate speech exists, and it sucks, but there's nothing the government can do about it. It just never occurs to them (well, maybe that rambling girl got it) that subjective laws designed to constrain speech you don't like can be turned around to constrain speech you do.

    "That rambling girl" can probably be seen and heard in the video which VP included:

    It's over an hour, and (disclaimer) I haven't watched it myself.


  • At Reason, Baylen Linnekin notes some different insanity: Vegetarians and Meat Eaters Are Trying to Stifle Interstate Commerce.

    Nearly a decade ago, vegetarian and vegan activists in California scored a policy victory that raised the stakes for meat consumers across the country. Assembly Bill No. 1437, signed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, prohibited California poultry farmers from housing their hens in subjectively small cages. This was a huge policy change in and of itself, but the law contained an even more far-reaching provision: an eventual ban on the sale of all eggs laid in such a cage, even if the chickens were raised in another state.

    These types of laws can cut the opposite way as well. In Missouri, legislators are currently considering a ban on labelling products as "meat" if they come from plant matter or were grown in a lab, regardless of how closely they resemble actual animal meat.

    In both cases, state legislators are attempting to regulate interstate commerce, but that's not their job.

    Also see: the Live Free Or Die state's gangster tactics in attempting to block direct-to-consumer wine shipments from out of state.


  • And Daniel J. Mitchell provides Two Sentences that Capture the Essential Difference Between Libertarians and Statists. Which he captured in a tweet from Jacob Leddy:


Last Modified 2018-05-15 4:55 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2018-05-12

[Amazon Link]

  • Another good/bad fortune cookie in Proverbs 13:19, but…

    19 A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul,
        but fools detest turning from evil.

    … as sometimes happens, I can't connect the two on any level. Instead, querulous queries pop into my head: Are all fools evil? What about an evil longing? Is its fulfillment sweet to the soul? Sometimes you wish the Proverbialist had been an Essayist instead, so he could explain this stuff at length.


  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File this week concerns Turning Windmills into Giants (for fun and profit).

    The great thing about fighting windmills on the assumption that they are actually evil giants is that you get to celebrate your courage without risking very much in the process.

    See: just about every story coming out of academia these days.


  • At the WaPo, Megan McArdle criticizes a new report from UC-Berkeley's "Commission on Free Speech". Megan asks: What is the greatest threat to free speech on campus?

    The report was commissioned after several violent protests reacting to pro-Trump rallies, a speech by conservative commentator Milo Yiannopoulos and a canceled speech from Ann Coulter. How to explain the violence that ripped apart the campus last year? “Ultra-conservative rhetoric, including white supremacist views and protest marches, legitimized by the 2016 presidential election and its aftermath,” the commission concludes, “encouraged far-right and alt-right activists to ‘spike the football’ at Berkeley. This provoked an at-times violent (and condemnable) response from the extreme left, tearing at the campus’s social fabric.”

    The Berkeley document does not condemn the violence, mind you; that is virtually the only direct mention of it. But apparently, antifa’s violence is now eligible for condemnation, if someone else had a mind to provide it.

    They have plenty of harsh words, however, for the conservatives who were targeted. “Many Commission members are skeptical of these speakers’ commitment to anything other than the pursuit of wealth and fame through the instigation of anger, fear, and vengefulness in their hard-right constituency.” Their invitations to speak represented “the assertion of individual rights at the expense of social responsibility by a handful of students.” As a result, the commission finds speech of this kind “hard to defend, especially in light of the acute distress it caused (and was intended to cause) to staff and students.”

    Yeah, they were asking for it, dressing all slutty and everything… Oh, wait, that's a different topic.

    Or is it?


  • The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education notes a problem just up I-95: By censoring art, University of Southern Maine misses an opportunity

    Last month, the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn campus removed three oil paintings from their Atrium Art Gallery by local painter Bruce Habowski, despite objections from the exhibition’s curator, after it was discovered that Habowski is a convicted sex offender.

    I'm not a fan of sex offenders per se, but c'mon. As the article notes, if we start taking down artwork from every morally questionable artist, we'll have a lot of museums with a lot of big empty walls.

    In other censorship news, the controversy over the "Cruel Adversity" mural at the Durham NH Post Office seems to have been resolved (for now) with the addition of a poster "adding context" to the picture referencing the 1694 Oyster River Massacre.


  • The Social Security Administration has crunched the numbers to tell us America's Top 10 Baby Names of 2017. "Liam" wins for boys, "Emma" for girls.

    Fun fact: "Caitlyn" has had a precipitous drop in popularity. After ranking as high as #115 back in 1998, it had faded to #599 in 2015. And then it disappeared from the top 1000 names for both 2016 and 2017.

    Gee, what happened in 2015 that might have caused that?


Last Modified 2018-05-13 4:21 AM EDT

Revolt in 2100

[Amazon Link]

Continuing my trek through previously-read-but-dimly-remembered Robert Heinlein books. This one was eminently skippable, were it not for my borderline OCD about "doing it right".

It is a collection of three stories from Heinlein's "Future History" universe.

Have you ever wondered what Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale would have been like in Heinlein's hands? Wonder no longer, partner: "If This Goes On—" describes the USA in the grip of an oppressive, evil theocracy. The protagonist, John Lyle, is a minor soldier assigned to guard duty at the palace of the head dude, the Prophet. One night, he encounters Sister Judith, a Virgin designated to "service" the Prophet. It's love at first sight, of course. But Judith is shocked and aggrieved when she discovers what that "service" entails. And John, for his part, resolves to make sure Judith is rescued from her servitude. Which, essentially, means he has to shake off his loyalty to the theocracy, as well as his own puritanical beliefs, and sign up with the underground revolutionary movement looking to restore freedom. And (spoiler) he winds up playing a key role in the decisive battle.

"Coventry" is set post-Revolution, and the USA has been turned into a libertarian sorta-paradise. The only crime is physically harming someone—in which case you must either submit to psychological "readjustment", or go to Coventry, a walled-off area for people who'd rather not submit. David MacKinnon, in trouble for punching a guy in the nose, chooses the latter. MacKinnon is (initially) agressively stupid and petulant, totally unprepared for Coventry. Which, as will surprise no reader of political theory, isn't Anarchtopia, but has developed its own semi-thuggish governments, in conflict with themselves, but also looking to break out and wage war against the outside world.

And finally, there's "Misfit", a relatively short yarn about the early career of Andrew Jackson Libby. He's signed up with the "Cosmic Construction Corps", an outfit that performs dangerous feats of building space infrastructure. As it turns out, Libby is a math prodigy, able to perform detailed calculations quickly in his head. Heinlein, like the other SF writers of the era, totally missed the point that computers would make this sort of ability near-worthless. But in this story, it saves everybody's bacon a couple of times. Yay, Libby!

URLs du Jour

2018-05-11

[Amazon Link]

  • The Proverbialist is just coasting, I'm afraid, in Proverbs 13:18:

    18 Whoever disregards discipline comes to poverty and shame,
        but whoever heeds correction is honored.

    Sound familiar? Given our backwards pace through Proverbs, we've seen nearly exact versions of this before, in Chapter 15. See verses 5, 10, and 32. My mad Bible search skills tell me that we still have a few to go.

    Well, (sigh) I suppose it's a good point.


  • David Harsanyi speaks truth to the out-of-power: The Obama Legacy Deserves To Be Destroyed.

    It’s strange that a president who had such a transformative effect on our national discourse will leave such a negligible policy legacy. But Barack Obama, whose imperial term changed the way Americans interact and in some ways paved the way for the Trump presidency, is now watching his much-celebrated and mythologized two-term legacy be systematically demolished. This, in many ways, tells us that American governance still works.

    When Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Iran deal, he could do so without much difficulty because the agreement hinged on presidential fiat rather than national consensus. But Obama’s appeasement of Iran was only one in a string of unilateral norm-busting projects that deserve to be dismantled.

    David rattles off a number of other examples of Obama's fragile "legacy" that fully deserve to be undone.


  • At Reason/Volokh Conspiracy, Jennifer Rothman muses on the The Market in Dead People.

    Michael Jackson earned $75 million dollars last year. He beat out Arnold Palmer, and Elvis Presley for the top spot on the annual list of high-earning dead celebrities. Many of these "delebs" earn more than living performers. This lucrative market in the dead is made possible by a state law called the "right of publicity" that some states have extended after death.

    Most people haven't spent much time pondering whether extending rights over a person's identity after death is a good idea, yet New York and Minnesota have both recently considered adding such rights. Although advocates for such rights often use the language of honoring the dead, and giving the living survivors tools to protect the memory of their deceased loved ones, the reality is quite different. Those who profit from the dead are not always the close, loved ones of the deceased that one might imagine.

    CGI will eventually span the "uncanny valley" and be able to, essentially, resurrect vast armies of dead actors. For example, Casablanca: A Beautiful Friendship starring, as near as anyone can tell, Bogie and Claude Rains. The legal (and, I admit, artistic) issues are more daunting than the technical ones.


  • Two of my favorite things, LFOD and wine, come together in Wine-Searcher article: New Hampshire Lowers the Boom on Wine Shipping. Boom!

    When is free trade not free trade? When it's between states in the Union, it seems.

    As interstate shipping becomes a more contentious issue in more states, many are stepping up to try to better regulate it. New Hampshire, as a somewhat progressive control state, has long allowed wine entities with the right permits to ship directly to consumers. This option was intended to give the state’s residents access to additional wine brands and vintages.

    So this has caused "abuse", when out-of-state companies ship wine to NH citizens that—gasp!—they could have purcased at a State Liquor Store. So the NH Liquor Commission is pissed. So they run to the Legislature to ban such shipments, so far unsuccessfully.

    "I find it ironic that the 'live free or die' state regulates the sale of alcohol," says Mark Osborne, a partner in the Nashua, New Hampshire-based law firm of Shepherd & Osborne, a reference the to state motto.

    "I have always had a problem with the state government having a monopoly on selling booze," he continues. "In Missouri if you want a bottle of Jack you go to the grocery store." He calls letting the state liquor board regulate the sale of wine a capricious standard and adds that "depriving the government of revenue shouldn't be a deciding factor" in how wine is sold. "As long as an entity can satisfy licensing and permit standards in the state they should be able to ship into the state," he adds.

    Osborne suggests "that it is time to change the state laws on interstate wine shipping or the state's license plate."


  • Home Health Care news presents the kind of article I love: Best and Worst States for Retirement. Especially since I'm retired. And we are in the top quintile:

    9. New Hampshire—The “live free or die” state lives up to its motto with regard to not taxing Social Security and other retirement income, while also not levying a sales tax. In addition, the state ranks fifth for senior health. The cost of living is 18% above the national average and average health care costs were $424,052.

    The five worst states for retirees: California, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York.

    When I moved from Maryland to New Hampshire back in 1981, I was planning way ahead, I guess.

URLs du Jour

2018-05-10

[Amazon Link]

  • I may be missing something in Proverbs 13:17:

    17 A wicked messenger falls into trouble,
        but a trustworthy envoy brings healing.

    I'm not sure for whom this advice is meant. Hiring messengers was probably a thing in Ancient Israel, since there was no Postal Service, right?

    But isn't it pretty obvious that, given the choice between "Wicked Messengers, Inc." and "Trustworthy Envoys, LLC", you would probably go with the latter? Even without the Proverbial advice?

    Nevertheless, I should mention that this verse inspired a Bob Dylan song, which is our Amazon product du jour.


  • J.J. McCullough wrote a provocative essay NRO the other day: Time for a Compromise on Transgenderism. Basically: conservatives should grant that transgender men and women are "entitled to basic human dignity". Whereas progressives should cease advocacy of "the use of state authority to impose accommodation of transgenderism in a fashion far more totalitarian than is rationally justified."

    Uh, fine. But as a practical matter, progressives are never interested in "compromise", except as a temporary "lock in" tactic to ensure their final victory down the road.

    David French, also at NRO, has further objections: In the Transgender Debate, Conservatives Can’t Compromise the Truth.

    I don’t know any serious social conservative who doesn’t believe that a transgender man or woman is entitled to “basic human dignity.” No one is claiming that they should be excluded from the blessings of American liberty or deprived of a single privilege or immunity of citizenship. Any effort to strip a transgender person of their constitutional liberty should be met with the utmost resistance. But that’s not the contemporary legal controversy. Current legal battles revolve around the state’s effort to force private and public entities to recognize and accommodate transgender identities. The justification for this coercive effort is often the state’s alleged interest in preventing so-called “dignitary” harm. Thus, men are granted rights to enter a woman’s restroom, even when gender-neutral options are available. Thus, private citizens are forced to use false pronouns. Girls are forced to allow a boy to stay in their room on an overnight school trip, or they’re forced to compete against boys in athletic competition.

    David notes that the question (on this and other matters) can be boiled down to: Are we allowed to tell the truth? Well, we can try.


  • At Reason, Veronique de Rugy writes on The Tyranny of the Administrative State.

    The tyranny of the administrative state is real and hard to tame. Americans would be horrified if they knew how much power thousands of unelected bureaucrats employed by federal agencies wield. These members of the "government within the government," as The New York Times' John Tierney describes them, produce one freedom-restricting, economy-hindering rule after another without much oversight. These rules take many forms, and few even realize they're in the making—until, that is, they hit you square in the face.

    Yeah. I was present at the announcement of one of those made-up rules, the allegedly-Title-IX-based "Dear Colleague" demands on sexual assault on college campuses. Which turned out to be awful.


  • At Cafe Hayek, Don Boudreaux takes off on a Bryan Caplan quote, urging us to invoke "Put your money where your mouth is" as a bullshit detector. Comments Don:

    Whenever you hear a politician – or a professor, or a preacher, or a pundit, or anyone – assert that there is some ‘imperfection’ or ‘failure’ in reality that government should forthwith ‘correct’ or ‘fix’ with some combination of force and other-people’s money, beware. Before you take such a person seriously, first ask why he or she isn’t personally seizing the opportunity to profit from the imperfection that he or she so confidently insists exists. It’s possible that, should you ask this question, you’ll arrive at an acceptable answer depending upon the particulars of the circumstances. If so, give the person who issues such a declaration more attention.

    I promise to try to look for more opportunities to put this plan in action.


  • WalletHub has updated its Most Fun States to Visit in America data. To get a hint on what they consider "fun": California, New York, and Nevada are the top three states.

    Where's New Hampshire, you ask? It's number 40. Outrageous!

    New England is not much fun at all. Connecticut is #38; Maine is #39; Vermont is #45; Rhode Island is #47. Our only salvation is Massachusetts, and it's pretty mediocre: #21.

    I blame the Puritans. I guess.

URLs du Jour

2018-05-09

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 13:16 likes the prudent, dislikes fools:

    16 All who are prudent act with knowledge,
        but fools expose their folly.

    Well, sure. Almost by definition.


  • Are you a left-winger wondering what's obstructing your dreams? Judging by my Facebook friends, I'd say it's those Kochs! But Megan McArdle has a more realistic answer: What’s really obstructing left-wing dreams.

    Almost always, when I point out the difficulties of enacting some social program much desired by the left, I am met with some version of the following rejoinder: “Other countries have managed to do this. We passed Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security and most recently, Obamacare. It is obviously possible to do these sorts of things, even in America. The obstructionism of people like you is the only reason we can’t have nice things.”

    The obstruction of people like me is, obviously, one of the reasons that we can’t have “nice things.” (Though, just as obviously, we obstruct because we think the not-nice aspects would outweigh whatever benefits might ensue.) But the obstruction doesn’t only come from the right. The American left has developed a fantasy that a large expansion of the welfare state can be financed by taxing only the rich — a term that is ever more frequently defined to exclude urban professionals earning well into the six figures. In fact, European welfare states pay for themselves by taxing ordinary people very heavily. If the U.S. income tax were designed along Scandinavian lines, its top tax bracket would kick in at around $90,000 a year per household. We’d also have a heavy value-added tax — a highly efficient, but also regressive, kind of sales tax.

    In one word, the main obstacle to left-wing dreams is "math". Or, to paraphrase Margaret Thatcher, "you run out of other peoples' money".


  • I thought the Trump Administration was supposed to be deregulatory. Here's a contrary data point illuminated by Jacob Sullum at Reason: FDA Chief Distorts Data While Cheerleading for Mandatory Calorie Counts.

    The federal requirement that chain restaurants include calorie counts on their menus took effect yesterday, and FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb was so excited that he got a bit carried away in describing the evidence that such mandates make people thinner. "We know that providing calorie information on menu labels actually inspires consumers to make smarter choices about overall consumption, when they want to," Gottlieb told The Washington Post. "It does reduce overall caloric intake. Studies show a reduction of anywhere from 30 to 50 calories a day, on average, for consumers who are eating out."

    That article links to a February 2018 analysis in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, the conclusion of which is not nearly as confident. "Findings from a small body of low-quality evidence suggest that nutritional labelling comprising energy information on menus may reduce energy purchased in restaurants," the authors say. "Additional high-quality research in real-world settings is needed to enable more certain conclusions."

    You can blow away those imaginary "30 to 50 calories" with a single 78-calorie hard boiled egg. (Remove shell before eating, don't even think about mayo.)

    Just another reason why we should abolish the FDA.


  • You can imagine the question, but Charles C. W. Cooke has the answer in the NR Corner: It’s the Senate, Stupid.

    President Trump has signaled his intention to leave the Iran deal. I shall leave analysis of the merits and demerits of this decision to others. This is not my area, and I shall affect no expertise. But I do want to quickly note one thing — namely, that those who are worried about the effect this will have on America’s “standing” in the world should be extremely angry with President Obama today. Ben Rhodes, who admitted to lying to credulous journalists in his attempt to get the deal through, is scared that the reversal will be “devastating to U.S. credibility globally.” “Why,” he asks, “would anyone trust an international agreement that the U.S. negotiates?”

    The answer to this, traditionally, is “because the deal was ratified by the Senate.”

    Beyoncé could have told Obama: if you liked it, then you should have put a ring on it submitted it to the Senate for ratification.

URLs du Jour

2018-05-08

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 13:15 is another good news/bad news fortune cookie where the two bits don't quite match up:

    15 Good judgment wins favor,
        but the way of the unfaithful leads to their destruction.

    The Message "translation" is a little more lenient:

    15 Sound thinking makes for gracious living, but liars walk a rough road.

    Hey, just a rough road; lie away! I prefer the Old Testament judgmentalism of "destruction", though. Preferably via fire and brimstone. (I'm well aware that this sort of attitude won't get me a writing gig at the Atlantic any time soon.)


  • I went back to fix a very old [July 2006] blog post in which the Nu Html Checker discovered some noncompliance. The post made fun of Happy Planet Index which (at the time) had made something of a splash by naming the "happiest place on Earth": Vanuatu!

    Which made me wonder: is that stupid Happy Planet Index still around? Yes, as it turns out; click above to see it.

    Followup question: is it any more in touch with reality? No, it's not.

    They've changed their pseudo-scientific calculation of the Index since 2006 to add in an "Inequality of Outcomes" factor. It's graphical at the site, but in words (definitions at the link):

    HPI = Wellbeing x Life expectancy x Inequality of outcomes
    Ecological Footprint

    [Note: In order for this to make ideological sense, I think the "Inequality of Outcomes" should be instead "Equality of Outcomes". Anyway, the formula is clear: the bigger that number, the happier the country.]

    Executive summary: The US of A is a pretty miserable place, with its HPI of 20.7 sticking it 108th place out of 140 ranked countries.

    Easily beating us out are such Edenic places as Venezuela: HPI 33.6, in 29th place overall. Where, as the NYT reported last December, As Venezuela Collapses, Children Are Dying of Hunger.

    Many families scavenge for food in the streets or at garbage dumps. Few are homeless, and most said they had never had trouble finding food before the crisis. Hundreds of people can be seen picking through garbage cans each evening when restaurants, grocery stores and residential buildings take out their trash for collection.

    Well, maybe the Happy Planet folks dropped a decimal point somewhere in their calculations. Hey, another happy place is Nicaragua: in seventh place with its HPI of 38.7!

    Just the place from which you expect to see this sort of headline, from just a few days ago: As Nicaragua Death Toll Grows, Support for Ortega Slips.

    It has been two weeks since lethal clashes between protesters and pro-government forces erupted in Nicaragua, and the number of deaths is still not clear. But this much is: It keeps climbing.

    By Friday, the toll of students, counterprotesters, bystanders and police officers who died in five days of student-led demonstrations against President Daniel Ortega’s government had risen to at least 45 and was expected to climb further. In this Central American country of six million people, that tally makes this the deadliest unrest by far since nearly three decades of war ended in 1990.

    I could go on, but … won't. The Happy Planet folks truly live in an alternate reality, dangerous to the extent that anyone takes them seriously.


  • At the American Spectator's "Spectacle" blog, David Catron asks, provocatively: Is New Hampshire’s Medicaid Work Requirement Racist?

    Yesterday, New Hampshire became the fourth state to get approval from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to implement work requirements for some able-bodied adults receiving Medicaid benefits. It will be interesting to see how the Democrats and other leftist opponents of work requirements spin this news.

    The party line is that such requirements are based, as it has been phrased in the Nation, “on age-old racist and sexist tropes about ‘lazy’ people who don’t want to work, especially people of color and women of color.” And this nonsense hasn’t been limited to hoary Stalinist rags. USA Today issued the following call to arms several months ago:

    [I]t’s important that we expose the argument for work requirements for what it actually is — an attempt to perpetuate myths that stereotype people of color and stigmatize popular public programs that opponents simply don’t like.

    I'll connect the dots: if you see "work requirement" and automatically think "aimed at 'people of color'", then it just might be you who's harboring an invidious racial stereotype.


  • Higher education is Chronicled, unflatteringly, in the Chronicle of Higher Education: He Makes a Joke. She Isn’t Laughing: ‘Lingerie’ Comment in Elevator Leads to Uproar Among Scholars.

    He says he was joking when he asked to be let off an elevator at the ladies’ lingerie department. A female scholar who was attending the same annual meeting of the International Studies Association was not amused, and neither was the association when she complained.

    Now his refusal to formally apologize has touched off the latest skirmish in the #MeToo battles rocking academe. At issue is whether a comment made in jest rises to the level of a punishable offense, and what happens when a complaint some deem as trivial results in a vicious online backlash against the offended party.

    The "offended party" with her ladies’ lingerie in a bunch is Simona Sharoni, a professor of women’s and gender studies at Merrimack College, just down the road in North Andover, MA. The elevator was in a Hilton in San Francisco, where both accused and accuser were at a swanky meeting of the "International Studies Association".

    It's clear to me that Professor Sharoni is not merely easily offended. I'm willing to bet that she is eagerly looking for things to be offended by. It's one of the more prevalant campus diseases.


  • At NRO, Jim Geraghty notes A Strange Criticism of Illegal Gun-Possession Prosecution in the NYT. Specifically, a news article that bemoans the Trump Administration push to start cracking down on illegal gun posession. Comments Geraghty:

    What’s indisputable is that for a long time, through administrations of both parties, federal prosecutors largely looked the other way on illegal attempts to purchase a firearm. In 2013, the Washington Post concluded, “Neither the Bush administration nor Obama administration ever prosecuted even one-quarter of one percent of the people who failed to pass a criminal background check.” Attempts to prosecute straw buyers were similarly rare; it simply was deemed a low priority.

    The Times article seems to suggest that prosecuting individuals for illegal possession of a firearm is a waste of time, money, and law-enforcement resources. But we’ve seen several mass shooters in recent years who shouldn’t have been able to purchase a gun because of past criminal behavior (the Charleston church shooter, the Texas church shooter, the Waffle House shooter) or past run-ins with police that did not result in charges (the Parkland shooter). Every dangerous criminal is “low priority” at the beginning of his career.

    It's telling when the advocates of "common sense gun regulation" can't bring themselves to cheer enforcement of actually existing regulations. Why, it's almost as if their real aim is to start pushing the country down a slippery slope…

    Also commenting on the same point is the Minute Man: Enforcing The Law? Nooooo!

    Awkard! "Let's pass tougher gun laws but not enforce them against minorities" is unlikely to be a catch-fire message. On the other hand, "Let's lock up more ethnics!" may not play to the Democratic base.

    Yes, if you get serious about enforcing gun crimes, there's gonna be "disparate impact".


  • At Granite Grok, Steve MacDonald reports on some welcome fiscal news: So-Called ‘Free Money’ for Rail Study Yanked From New Hampshire Transportation Budget.

    In late April the NH Senate pulled a four million dollar rail study line-item out of the State’s ten-year transportation budget. The Senate passed the amended version, denying the choo-choo fetishists yet another expensive act of engineering voyeurism.

    The advocates for waste, fraud, and abuse were not happy.

    Steve's exactly right: this is another study covering precisely the same issues as previous ones. (See: Einstein's apocryphal definition of "insanity": doing the same thing, expecting a different result.)

    There is simply no justification for spending (lowball estimate) hundreds of millions on a choo-choo to transport (generously) a few thousand NH people to and from work in MA each day.


  • And Dave Barry pointed out this wonderful wedding notice in the Palm Beach Daily News: Palm Beach Wedding: Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Johnson.

    The marriage of Savile Collins de Montenay FitzAlan de Dinan Lord to Kenneth Lowell Harvey Oscar Johnson took place Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017, in Palm Beach.

    Whoa. That's a lot of names. How do you fit that on a driver's license?

    But here's the punchline:

    The bride is manager of the SPAM® Museum in Austin, Minn., and community relations at Hormel Foods.

    Darn. That's only a bit over 40 miles from where Mom used to live. We could have easily visited the SPAM® Museum, if only we knew it was there.

Avengers: Infinity War

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

It looks to be a bountiful summer for movie blockbusters, and it seems this will be one of the blockbusteriest. So Mrs. Salad and I travelled down to Newington on a rainy Sunday afternoon to check out Marvel's latest effort.

Mrs. Salad's thumbnail review: "So much fighting." Mine: "Cool!"

Anyway: this is the big lollapalooza that the movies have been foreshadowing for about six years: Thanos is coming to town, looking for those "infinity stones" that have been carelessly scattered around the galaxy. Oh, but he has a noble purpose in mind: slaughter of half the population to forestall scarcity and ecological disaster.

Yes, Thanos is evil, but he's also a moron. Given that we're also seeing easy interstellar travel and limitless energy sources, it's difficult to imagine that it wouldn't be simple to arrange prosperity for all sentient creatures. Certainly simpler than his herculean efforts to obtain the stones.

But that wouldn't make much of a movie, I guess. As we begin, the Avengers have split up, thanks to the spat in the previous movie. And a few members are totally MIA. But (fortunately) those lovable Guardians of the Galaxy stumble in to assist. And Doc Strange, Mister of the Mastic Arts. A lot of battles ensue over far-flung planets and Earth. All winding up in a big showdown in Wakanda.

And a truly shocking conclusion. Albeit one with enough ambiguity to gift us with overwrought fanboy speculation until the next movie comes out next year.

URLs du Jour

2018-05-07

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 13:14 returns to good advice:

    14 The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life,
        turning a person from the snares of death.

    I can't argue with that. But isn't the issue distinguishing the "wise" from the pretentious twits and charlatans?


  • At NRO, George F. Will asks the musical question: Are We Trapped in a Debt Spiral?

    From Scotland, where Adam Smith pioneered systematic thinking about economics, comes an adjective, “carnaptious,” that fits people who are allergic to economic euphoria. It means cantankerous. Let’s think carnaptiously about this fact: The interest rate on ten-year Treasury bonds recently rose briefly to 3 percent, and soon may move above this. This is more than evidence of the economy’s strength. It also is a harbinger of a coming day when the great driver of the national debt will be . . . the national debt. Pour a Scotch and read on.

    The economy’s growth, which slowed in 2018’s first quarter, is not brisk; it still is not even the 3 percent that is the low end of presidential boasting. At the end of this month, the economy will amble into the tenth year of the expansion that began in June 2009. This month is its 108th, making it almost twice as long as the average expansion (58 months) since 1945. Unless Mr. I Alone Can Fix It has banished the business cycle forever — modesty would not have prevented him from mentioning this — a contraction is somewhere in America’s future. It might begin in fiscal conditions resembling today’s because this is now normal: trillion-dollar annual budget deficits while the economy is at full employment. (The 3.9 percent unemployment rate is impressive, even give the decades-long decline in the work-force-participation rate, which today is 62.8 percent.)

    The upcoming elections don't augur well for restoring fiscal sanity, either. But maybe a miracle will happen.


  • At Reason, Baylen Linnekin explains Why a Bad GMO Law Makes Good GMO Regulations Impossible.

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture earlier this week finally released long awaited proposed rules for labeling genetically modified foods, or GMOs. But for the last year or so, it seemed like these rules would never come up for public discussion.

    Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced last month that the agency would likely miss the July deadline for introducing the final rules mandated under a controversial 2016 law, the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Act.

    Baylen notes that Act is "a bad law, and likely unworkable." Unsurprising, given Wikipedia description of its sausage-making legislative history (references elided):

    Public Law 114-216 was passed after previous attempts to introduce a national GMO labeling bill had failed. It was fast-tracked without debate or committee review. The original bill S. 764 - “A bill to reauthorize and amend the National Sea Grant College Program Act, and for other purposes” - had nothing to do with food and stalled after having passed the Senate. Hollowed out of its content it was replaced with a bill to defund This bill was then replaced with a bill creating to outlaw state-level GMO labeling and setting a voluntary GMO labeling bill. When this bill failed, the S. 764 husk was used to rush through the present bill, just in time before the Vermont GMO food labeling requirement would have been activated on July 1.

    Activists are upset that the law limits their ability to scare the crap out of consumers about GMOs.


  • Although your blogger isn't particularly religious, like Mark Hemingway of the Weekly Standard, he enjoys The Sharp Sting of the Babylon Bee

    One of the most successful new media outlets in America does nothing but publish fake news. If that seems like a bad thing, it should be noted that the website in question is even more dedicated to spreading the Good News. Adam Ford, the founder and only full-time employee of the Babylon Bee, a Christian satire website, is clearly surprised at his success. “On the first of March, we celebrated two years in existence, and a couple of days later I noticed we had passed 100 million page views,” Ford tells The Weekly Standard. The Bee’s social media presence—it now has over 400,000 followers on Facebook and nearly 100,000 followers on Twitter—has grown quickly too. “All of this was totally organic. We’ve never run an ad, never boosted a post, never spent a dollar on spreading the word. And we’ve had no outside funding. Our growth has been totally driven by the content.”

    If you’re one of the shrinking number of people to have never encountered an article from the Babylon Bee, the publication could be described as something like a Christian (largely Protestant) version of the Onion. With such headlines as “Treasure In Heaven Revealed To Be Bitcoin,” “Satan Sprinkles A Few More Stegosaurus Bones Across Nation To Test Christians’ Faith,” and “Opinion: My God Is An Imaginary Deification Of My Idiotic And Contradictory Personal Opinions,” you can see where the site gets some of its conceptual inspiration.

    Particularly amusing is the obliviousness of fact-checking sites like Snopes, who rated the story “CNN Purchases Industrial-Sized Washing Machine to Spin News Before Publication” as false.


  • So I was looking for documentation about my iPod's "shuffle" algorithm. Is it really random? I didn't find that, but LifeHacker apparently thought my interest indicated that I might find their video useful: Watch This If You Get Too High:

    Gee, thanks, I guess. Spoiler: drink some water, get fresh air, watch some undemanding sitcoms. Which is pretty much what I do anyway. Dude.

URLs du Jour

2018-05-06

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 13:13 seems designed to probe the libertarian/conservative fault line:

    13 Whoever scorns instruction will pay for it,
        but whoever respects a command is rewarded.

    I must be feeling libertarian today; the Proverb seems to be dogmatic and authoritarian: "Shut up and obey!"


  • At the AEI blog, Mark J. Perry asks: STEM crisis? Then why are girls entering college with superior academic qualifications in STEM than boys? After some telling stats:

    Girls today are entering college with far superior academic qualifications and a better background in STEM classes than boys. Unless women suddenly face gender bias and stereotyping at the college level that didn’t exist in K-12, or existed but didn’t stop them from excelling in STEM classes, perhaps it’s then a personal choice of college degree programs that leads to female underrepresentation in certain STEM fields. While under-represented in engineering and computer science, females are nevertheless over-represented in many STEM fields like biology, health sciences, veterinary medicine, anthropology, zoology, pharmacology, genetics, biomedical sciences, etc. To the extent that there is a gender gap in STEM, it’s not universal and certainly doesn’t exist in all fields, and is limited to certain STEM fields. High school girls are excelling in math and science and are doing just fine continuing their academic success in the college degree programs that they voluntarily choose, both in STEM and non-STEM fields.

    The underlying assertion/assumption is "underrepresentation" of a favored group must be caused by invidious discrimination. That doesn't stand up to even slight scrutiny. But it is a convenient argument for those looking to maximize their political dominance.

    Almost certainly recommended: our Amazon Product du Jour, Discriminations and Disparities by Thomas Sowell. Which I haven't gotten around to reading yet, but I assume…


  • John Gregg of Valley News provides a Pop Quiz on N.H. for Levi Sanders, who wants to be my CongressCritter, despite not living in my congressional district. Sample question:

    9. What is the New Hampshire motto?

    1. Good Guys and Gals with Guns.
    2. Tax Free! (except for the auto excise tax, the property tax, the business profits tax, and the 5 percent tax on more than $2,400 in interest and dividends nobody mentions until you retire here.)
    3. Live Free or Die.

    I, for one, would like all candidates for local, state, and federal offices to take that quiz.


  • At the Union Leader, Jennifer Horn points out: Devaluing human life is no laughing matter. Reviewing Michelle Wolf's abortion "joke" at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans cases, the Down Syndrome holocaust, and the New Hampshire legislature's failure to protect in utero babies beyond the age of viability:

    A majority of House members believe it is acceptable in the Live Free or Die state to purposefully end the life of a baby who has reached a level of development that would allow it to survive, and, with medical support, eventually thrive. Why are we shocked to see judges literally pull the plug on living babies whose parents and other medical professionals seek desperately to love and care for them?

    Well, we shouldn't be, should we?


  • The (LBGT-themed) Washington Blade reviews the state of play, ‘Ex-gay’ therapy bans, anti-LGBT adoption bills advance in states, extensively quoting Cathryn Oakley, state legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign. And we're in the crosshairs:

    “New Hampshire is the Live Free or Die State, and what could more live free or die than non-discrimination bills, making sure that people are able to be who they are?” Oakley said.

    Unless you have traditional religious beliefs on such matters. Then the state can push you around with impunity. Unsurprisingly, something called the "Human Rights Campaign" doesn't care about that.


  • The ghost of General Stark asks: Dude, where's my barn? It turns out, General, that it's down in Florida: Barn built in 1700s by ‘Live Free or Die’ general relocated to Odessa for tourism

    Gen. John Stark, whose portrait hangs in the White House, built the barn in the late 1700s on his family’s farm in Dunbarton, N.H. A veteran of the battles of Bunker Hill and Bennington, Stark was known as the "Hero of Bennington" and coined New Hampshire’s state motto: "Live free or die."

    Inspired by this history, retired Odessa resident John Zumwalt III bought the barn at 6930 Lutz Lake Fern Road in 2013. Over a three-year period, the hand-hewn, post-and-beam barn was dismantled, trucked to Odessa and painstakingly restored and reassembled.

    On Saturday, May 5, it will begin a new chapter as The Barn at Stark Farms, a "living history" education center and lodging house providing lessons in colonial-era crafts and farming techniques, the history of the Revolutionary War and the values of Americans who fought for independence.

    I can't get too upset. Free market transaction, something I hope the General might approve. Website here.


  • Another LFOD from an unexpected state: New Orleans magazine presents Hope Gutwrench's Postcards of the Imagination.

    As is with many visitors, there was something indefinable but appealing about Hope Gutwrench’s first hours in New Orleans.

    “The magic of long-armed trees reaching over the streets, the thick air, the warmth of the people. I love the slow pace of July, the stupid heat and sudden showers and realizing you just have to slow down,” she said.

    A transplant in New Orleans from New Hampshire — states similar in a way, both seemingly living by the motto “Live Free or Die” — Gutwrench has a way with words.

    Ms Gutwrench's website is interesting.

    And, not to quibble, but Louisiana's state motto is actually Laissez les bons temps rouler "Union, Justice and Confidence", but that's a quibble.

URLs du Jour

2018-05-05

[Amazon Link]

  • I am a little disappointed in Proverbs 13:12:

    12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
        but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

    OK, so it's nice to have your wishes come true. But you know what would have been even better advice? "Sometimes things don't work out like you hoped. Suck it up and move on."

    I mean, I thought those Old Testament guys were supposed to be hard asses.

    And not that it matters, but there are a shocking number of books titled "Hope Deferred". Just ask Amazon.


  • In response to an NRO article from Sarah Quinlan ("Conservatives Are Wrong to Dismiss Feminism"), Kevin D. Williamson writes at Commentary: Dismissing Feminism? After taking a lot of women’s studies classes as a University of Texas undergrad…

    I came to conclude that feminism is an intellectually null non-philosophy. In its mild form—the version deployed for public-relations purposes—feminism is a small collection of banal and largely unobjectionable moral truisms. “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people,” as one feminist writer put it in the 1980s, asserting a claim that no one in the civilized world really disputes. If feminism is the idea that women ought to enjoy equality before the law, full economic opportunity, personal autonomy not dependent upon fathers or husbands, etc., that’s also a claim that is rarely if ever disputed, at least as a political and legal question. (Many people believe that society would be better off if more women stayed at home raising children rather than working, but few seek to make that a legislative matter.)

    Beyond the banalities, however, is an "academic" feminism that's "infected with pseudo-science, … intellectually incoherent, illiberal, and shallow."


  • In his G-File, Jonah Goldberg looks at the (apparently never-ending) conflict between Trump fans and Trump non-fans: War on the Right. He begins, naturally enough, with that nasty idea William James came up with: the Moral Equivalent of War:

    Normally, I’d go on for several paragraphs — or pages — demonstrating how MEOW has been the central idea of American liberalism for over 100 years: from John Dewey’s “social benefits of war,” to Woodrow Wilson’s “war socialism,” to FDR’s explicit embrace of martial organization to fight the New Deal, to the New Frontier and the War on Poverty, straight up to Barack Obama’s call for America to be more like Seal Team Six. Instead, I just asserted it in a single sentence. The idea can simply be understood as the progressive version of nationalism, minus the word “nationalism.” When you say, “We’re all in it together” or, “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country,” you’re making a nationalist argument, even if you think, as so many liberals do, that the word itself is icky.

    While many causes associated with the moral equivalent of war are well-intentioned and honorable in spirit (fighting poverty, conservation, etc.), the problem with the idea itself is that it is totalitarian — in a psychological, if not always in a political, sense.

    As with Kevin's argument in the previous item, Jonah is arguing with an essay by the pseudonymous "John Ericsson" in the Federalist: "It’s Time For The Right To Realize The Left Is A Much Greater Threat Than Trumpism". So maybe you should read that first.

    I flirted with this once myself, when I made the mistake of commenting negatively on an Andrew Klavan "you have to choose sides" article last year. People get irked when you reject the notion that you have to crawl into bed with Trump, or you're implicitly on the "side" of the leftists.


  • Remember the lyrics to Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues"? David Post asks the question that has nagged me for decades: If You Shot a Man in Reno, Why are You in California State Prison?

    I thought at first that this was pure poetic license - Cash needed "Reno" to rhyme with something else. But a look at the verse shows that's not correct (although it does provide a kind of false rhyme with "blowin'"). He could've used any two-syllable town name (with the emphasis on the first syllable - what the poets call a "trochee"): Merced, Fresno, Jackson, or even Tahoe. [Tahoe would be a good one - it borders Reno, leading to the intriguing possibility that the shooting took place right at the border, with the shooter in California and the deceased in Reno (or vice versa), leading to a nice jurisdictional battle between the two States over who can prosecute him and where he can be prosecuted.]

    An alternative explanation is that he wasn't actually charged with a crime for having shot a man in Reno (just to watch him die); he's in California prison because of some subsequent offense committed in California, and he's just reflecting, as country singers are wont to do, on his evil life and evil ways.

    Also of note: why would that train with the lonesome whistle be chugging past Folsom Prison on its way to "San Antone"? That's pretty far away from there. Fortunately, there's a good answer for that.


  • Andrew Klavan has something he wants to say to leftists triggered by cultural appropriation: Your Culture is My Underpants.

    I mention this because, earlier this week, a young lady named Keziah Daum tweeted a picture of herself in a Chinese-style prom dress. In the picture, Keziah was standing with her date. She looked absolutely adorable in the pretty dress and her date was obviously wondering how he got so lucky. It was a photo to inspire a smile in anyone who feels pleasure at the sight of youth, beauty, life, love, joy or the harmless delights of just being human.

    Andrew notes further: "People who get angry about pretty girls wearing pretty dresses have lost the plot of life." Also those college folks who will (almost certainly) get pissed at ponchos and sombreros tonight.

Ice Run

[Amazon Link]

Continuing my effort to catch up with the output of a pretty good writer, Steve Hamilton. This isn't quite as good as the previous entry in his series of novels featuring ex-ballplayer, ex-cop, ex-private eye Alex McKnight. But it's a page-turner, no doubt.

In the previous book, Alex met Canadian lady cop Natalie Reynaud. Sparks flew. And, despite the fact that Natalie seems rather reticent about her past and hesitant about taking on the relationship, they set up a Serious Date up in "Soo" (Sault Ste. Marie) Michigan. But they can't help but notice an old odd guy, wearing an old odd hat, behaving oddly. Like he knows something Alex and Natalie don't. And he leaves the hat, full of snow, at their hotel room door, with an odd note: "I know who you are!"

And then the old guy turns up oddly dead, frozen in a snowbank.

Alex can't help but try to figure out what's going on. He is surprised when his investigation meets with violent hostility. Not only surprised, but also hospitalized. And it becomes apparent that Natalie knows more than she's letting on. Eventually, we're in what I think of as Lew Archer land: today's crimes are the echoes of decades-old sins, coming back to bite the survivors in the ass.

URLs du Jour

2018-05-04

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 13:11 offers sound financial advice:

    11 Dishonest money dwindles away,
        but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.

    For some reason, this reminded me of a two-year-old New York Daily News story: Curse of the lottery: Tragic stories of big jackpot winners.

    It's more likely you'll get struck by lightning than win the Powerball — but if you do win, there is an even better chance that you'll go broke.

    Nearly 70% of lottery winners end up broke within seven years. Even worse, several winners have died tragically or witnessed those close to them suffer.

    I really dislike those odds. I'll stick with the weekly WSJ crossword contest, thankyouverymuch. Entry is free, assuming you can figure out the puzzle, winning gets you a WSJ mug, and is unlikely to wreck your life.


  • At NR, George F. Will writes on The President Who Knew Too Little about the Electoral College.

    Among the recent garbled effusions from today’s temporary president — cheer up; they are all temporary — was one that concerned something about which he might not have thought as deeply as the subject merits. During an episode of government of, by, and for Fox & Friends, he said: He won the 2016 election “easily” but wishes the electoral-vote system were replaced by direct election of presidents by popular vote. He favors this “because” — if you were expecting him to offer reasons drawn from political philosophy or constitutional theory, grow up — “to me, it’s much easier to win the popular vote.”

    He added, accidentally stubbing his toe on a truth, that running for president without the Electoral College would involve “a totally different campaign.” Which, he does not realize, is one reason for retaining the Electoral College.

    Will offers a spriited and convincing (to me) argument for the EC.


  • It's amazing how some companies manage to get any work done. The WSJ (possibly paywalled) considers Google vs. Google: How Nonstop Political Arguments Rule Its Workplace. The lead anecdote is telling:

    Ingrid Newkirk, co-founder and president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, flew to Silicon Valley earlier this year for a long-planned speech to Google employees. It wasn’t until she sat waiting in a parking lot that a call came through notifying her the event was canceled.

    Ms. Newkirk had been invited by some employees to discuss her view that animals can be subject to prejudice just as people can, as part of the company’s “Talks at Google” series. Another group of employees said the topic was offensive to humans who face racism, and they protested.

    First thought: Wow. Lunatic disinvited due to pressure exerted by even bigger lunatics.

    Second thought: What are these people afraid of?

    Third-through-nth thought: left as exercises for the reader.


  • But if you want to cheat a bit on those exercises, I think Jonah Goldberg can offer you a clue, albeit with respect to a slightly different issue: Cultural-appropriation Outrage Shows People Are Desperate To Be Offended. Jonah takes off from the Great Offense Taken in response to a Utah teen wearing a Chinese-style dress to her prom. I liked this bit:

    Without cultural appropriation, American blacks would never have picked up European musical instruments to create the blues and jazz. Without cultural appropriation, white and black artists alike would never have spun these wonderful creations into rock and roll.

    Nearly every meal you've ever eaten is the byproduct of centuries of cultural appropriation, to one extent or another. This column is written in English, a language that contains hundreds of thousands of words appropriated from other tongues. Just under two-thirds of our language derives from Latin or French. About a quarter is Germanic in origin. And about a sixth comes from Greek, Arabic and other languages.

    And even Swedish Meatballs, my friends. After centuries, the Swedes have finally come clean about their true origins:

    As I long suspected. Sneaky Swedes.

    Unfortunately, nobody's claiming Norwegians stole lutefisk from anyone else. As a Norwegian-American, I accept my share of our collective guilt.


  • The Federalist's Neal Pollack—the Greatest Living American Writer, it says here—probably has the last word on the White House Correspondents’ Dinner kerfuffle: Michelle Wolf Finally Spoke The Truth About Donald Trump. Someone Had To Do It

    The White House Correspondents Association Dinner is a peculiar institution that needs a better caterer. It brings together the news media, the people they cover, bartenders, valet-parking attendants, and, when Barack Obama was president, rich hipsters. Unlike at other times in American history, when the media and political elite weren’t in bed together, the dinner operates under a central fiction, a lie, that journalists and politicians and comedians and the people who sign their checks can hang out together in nice clothes and still maintain their objectivity.

    This must end. People must stop enjoying themselves on the weekends. Journalists should remain in their shoddy apartments, tying together blurry photographs with string to deduce patterns. Politicians must simply murder anyone who gets in their way. And comedians need to go to jail as free-speech martyrs after publicly uttering the f-bomb in Greenwich Village. East is East and West is West and never the Twain shall meet, because Twain never met the president.

    I believe Pollack has the most accurate take I've read on the dinner.


  • howmuch.com has a shocker: This Map Shows Every State's Biggest Export. Specifically, given ten or so guesses, I would never have guessed New Hampshire's biggest export. It's the same as a number of other states', including California, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Florida. Check it out. Then explain it to me, OK?


  • And Gizmodo has news you will almost certainly never use: This Is the Longest Straight Path You Could Travel on Water Without Hitting Land. "Straight" in this context means "geodesic", of course. Bonus: the longest straight path on land without hitting a major body of water. Thanks to non-Google researchers:

    The researchers, Rohan Chabukswar from United Technologies Research Center Ireland, and Kushal Mukherjee from IBM Research India, created the algorithm in response to a map posted by reddit user user kepleronlyknows, who goes by Patrick Anderson in real life. His map showed a long, 20,000 mile route extending from Pakistan through the southern tips of Africa and South America and finally ending in an epic trans-Pacific journey to Siberia. On a traditional 2D map, the path looks nothing like a straight line; but remember, the Earth is a sphere.

    Had Rohan and Kushal been working for Google, they'd have to deal with co-workers questioning their arbitrary dichotomy between "land" and "water".


Last Modified 2018-05-15 4:54 AM EDT

LTE on Walking the Free-Speech Walk

[Amazon Link]

[I wrote an LTE to my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, duplicated with links added below. I'll update if it gets printed.]

In the May 1 edition of Foster's ("UNH hopes Unity Day replaces Cinco de Mayo") I saw that UNH Dean of Students John T. Kirkpatrick is claiming to be "a champion of the First Amendment right to freedom of speech." Excellent! Although his real concern seemed to be that students avoid dressing in Mexican attire for Cinco de Mayo, lest some of their peers take offense. Noteworthy quote: "The key is education,” said Kirkpatrick. “We can’t say ‘no sombreros,’ but we can tell them why it’s bad.”

(If this sounds familiar, it's because he said similar things about regrettable costumery last October during the preparations for Halloween.)

The very next day, May 2, another front-page article ("Not all welcome UNH free speech event") described the previous evening's happenings at an event sponsored by the UNH chapter of Turning Point USA, where some students attempted to "stop it from occurring by keeping attendees from entering the arena and by attempting to disrupt the talk given by political commentator and comedian Dave Rubin." A "human chain" was formed to try to block attendees' access; efforts were made to silence the speaker with chants and noisemakers.

This is a wonderful opportunity for Dean Kirkpatrick to demonstrate that he really is the "champion of the First Amendment" he declares himself to be. The attempt to shut down and silence peaceful campus speakers is a clear challenge to free expression. Will the Dean condemn such behavior with at least the same public enthusiasm he shows in criticizing poncho-wearing students?

There's a more concrete issue as well. Unlike the odd culture-appropriating student, these students were actually violating UNH's Code of Conduct. (See Article III, item 2: "disrupting or obstructing" University activities is an offense.) Perhaps the Dean could take a small timeout from lecturing kids "why it's bad" to wear a sombrero, and a little more time educating the disruptors about civil and respectful behavior when some members of the UNH community dare to challenge the prevailing campus orthodoxy.

URLs du Jour

2018-05-02

[Amazon Link]

Our Amazon product du jour poses a puzzler: if you buy this for a dog that's not a chihuahua, is it unacceptable cultural appropriation? Discuss among yourselves.

  • Proverbs 13:10 concerns itself with arrogant know-it-alls (according to "The Message"):

    10 Where there is strife, there is pride,
        but wisdom is found in those who take advice.

    "… especially in those who take my advice."


  • We have not one, but two stories from my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat today. First, from yesterday's print edition; it's all about hope at the University Near Here: UNH hopes Unity Day replaces Cinco de Mayo.

    The University of New Hampshire is hoping to turn the last Saturday before classes end in the spring into a new campus tradition — Unity Day.

    Dean of Students John T. Kirkpatrick announced in an email last week that students, staff, faculty and town leaders are working together to “craft a day and a way for all of us to serve our community this year.”

    And, as it just so happens, "Unity Day" falls on May 5 this year, which translated into Spanish is… well, I'll leave that as an exercise to the reader.

    As detailed in the recent report from the Presidential Task Force on Campus Climate, "Unity Day" is UNH's attempt to respond to one of the "demands" issued last year by "the Students of Color at the University of New Hampshire, the Black Student Union and other members of fellow Diversity Support Coalition". Specifically:

    We demand the immediate cancellation of the annual “End of year barbecue” which falls on Cinco de Mayo, and facilitates racist stereotypes that students perpetuate. In addition, we would like the University to issue a formal denunciation of the ‘celebration’ annually.

    UNH is basically saying: well, we can't do that. How about this instead?

    The Foster's article is mainly a vehicle for Dean Kirkpatrick to express his earnest hopes that nobody will offend the easily-offended this year (key words embiggened):

    Kirkpatrick is a champion of the first amendment right to freedom of speech and isn’t calling for bans on self-expression. That said, he’d like to see the cultural appropriation associated with past Cinco celebrations go. It’s a free country as long as you’re not threatening someone, Kirpatrick said, but just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

    There won’t be any legal repercussions for students wearing sombreros, serapes, ponchos, and the like, however, Kirkpatrick wants students to understand the consequences of their actions. “Why would you willingly do something that you know hurts someone else?” he asked.

    “The key is education,” said Kirkpatrick. “We can’t say ‘no sombreros,’ but we can tell them why it’s bad.”

    This is basically a rehash of what Dean Kirkpatrick said in the runup to Halloween last year. You know, the other day of the year on which people choose to be offended by what other people are wearing. Which I commented on at the time. Let me repeat what I said back then:

    I would ask Dean Kirkpatrick: "Dean, you know that you disgust and offend me when you treat ostensible adults as children and hector them on their costume choices. Why do you keep doing that?"


  • And in today's Foster's, there's a story about the Turning Point USA event held at UNH. Unsurprising headline: Not all welcome UNH free speech event.

    A student-sponsored free-speech event at the University of New Hampshire was moved last minute because of alleged threats of violence to the Whittemore Center, where about 200 audience members sat in a 7,500 seat arena.

    While there was no hint of violence during the Tuesday night talk sponsored by the UNH chapter of Turning Point USA, some students felt the event was inappropriate and hateful and tried to stop it from occurring by keeping attendees from entering the arena and by attempting to disrupt the talk given by political commentator and comedian Dave Rubin.

    See above item, where the UNH Dean of Students is described (I assume self-described) as a "champion of the first amendment right to freedom of speech". Dean, I'll eagerly await to hear about your condemnation and discipline of the students who tried to stop this event from occurring.


  • Jacob Sullum's wonderful review of two books ( The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President and Thomas S. Szasz: The Man and His Ideas) was in last month's Reason, and is now available on the Interweb: The Myth of Donald Trump's Mental Illness.

    Is the president of the United States mentally ill, or is he just an asshole? That is the puzzle posed by The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President. The question would have amused Thomas Szasz, the late psychiatric iconoclast whose legacy is considered in a new essay collection edited by Jeffrey Schaler, Henry Zvi Lothane, and Richard Vatz.

    Szasz, who died in 2012 at the age of 92, spent his career calling attention to the ways in which "the myth of mental illness" (the title of his best-known book) muddles our thinking about troublesome people and problematic conduct. The sweeping, creeping medicalization of thought and behavior that Szasz decried is epitomized by the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which is where "mental health experts" look when trying to diagnose Trump (or anyone else).

    Sullum makes a good choice in juxtaposing these two books. There's a lot of things there for people interested in the nature of "mental illness" and how it applies to all politicians, not just Trump.


  • And there's a new Facebook group in town, dedicated to "common sense" proposals to eliminate the danger to Americans from sharp pointy things: Everytown for Knife Safety. Sample:

    Working on tips from concerned students, authorities detained a Michigan community college business major and...

    Posted by Everytown for Knife Safety on Tuesday, April 17, 2018

    It's essentially just one joke, over and over, but brilliantly executed.


Last Modified 2018-05-04 2:17 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2018-05-01

[Amazon Link]

  • Speculation: the ancient Israeli Proverbialist had a crude AI bot to churn out boilerplate proverbs. Like Proverbs 13:9:

    9 The light of the righteous shines brightly,
        but the lamp of the wicked is snuffed out.

    High-level algorithm:

    1. "It's good to be good. Bad to be bad."
    2. Wrap that in a metaphor.

    It's easy:

    9a The automobile of the wise drives without flaw,
        but the vehicle of the foolish winds up on fire in the ditch.


  • There's inherent conflict when the University (a) promises to establish a "community where all are welcome, safe and valued" and (b) community members opportunistically claim not to feel "safe" when contrary opinions show up. So it was only a matter of time before… Event sponsored by conservative student group sparks protest at UNH.

    Some University of New Hampshire students said they plan to protest an event planned for Tuesday by a conservative youth organization.

    Protesters said they're concerned with the timing of the event, which will be a discussion of cultural appropriation and free speech. There were tense moments on campus last year surrounding Cinco de Mayo parties in which some students challenged other students over their costumes.

    "I have duct-taped my mouth," protester Samrawit Silva said. "To me, it symbolizes how I'm not being heard."

    You can see Samrawit's duct-taped mouth at the link. Unfortunately (but unsurprisingly) she removes it to speak to the reporter and the entire WMUR news audience. Thereby contradicting herself, but what are you gonna do?

    The event is hosted by the local chapter of Turning Point USA, and tickets are no longer being offered to the public as I type.


  • Steve Macdonald at Granite Grok reports on the University Near Here: UNH Institutes Anti-Free Speech ‘Social Media Policy’

    The Univerity of New Hampshire has added a Social Media Policy to its Student’s Rights, Rules, and Responsibility code of conduct. It’s a Big Brother chill-blanket on free speech that allows anyone to report anyone else whenever they think their feelings have been hurt or the feelings of others might be hurt.

    It's pretty bad, true enough. The University shouldn't have a "Social Media Policy" for its (mostly, putatively, adult) student population.

    Steve notes that this will chill free expression; who wants the hassle of having to answer to UNH apparatchiks about something you posted to Facebook, because someone else's feelings were hurt thereby? Better to play it safe.

    But (I think, and I've left a comment at Grok to the effect that) the policy was also, and maybe primarily an attempt to mollify campus activists, who demanded a much more draconian policy last year.

    They had demanded hat "students caught posting racially insensitive content will be removed from the University". They didn't get that. But they got enough to shut them up, calm them down.


  • We almost have a theme today: at the Volokh Conspiracy David E. Bernstein reports (and debunks): USC Law Professor: Supporters of Campus Free Speech are 'Preying on Vulnerable Teenagers'.

    USC law professor Michael Simkovic has a blog post up at Leiter Law School Reports which I can charitably deem "remarkable." The basic proposition is that the only problem with free speech on university campuses is that a cabal of right-wing provocateurs are luring immature students into trying to shut them down, to make universities look bad for the benefit of a Koch-inspired war on higher education.

    Did I mention that Charles Koch sends me a check for $4.72 every time I mention that universities generally (and UNH specifically) treat every dissent from the progressive faith as heresy to be derided, ostracized, chilled, and eventually stamped out?

    Well, probably not, because that doesn't happen.


  • I remember becoming a Marco Rubio non-fan; 'twas at the National Review pre-primary confab where we were watching the candidates debate on the big screen; in an exchange with the loathesome Chris Christie, Rubio simply could not get off a tired talking point. The conservative audience groaned audibly.

    But things have changed, and Senator Rubio has … gotten worse. Veronique de Rugy, at NR: Marco’s Makeover Shows The Senator Doesn’t Understand Tax Policy. Specifically, his comments in an interview that "big corporations" have used their tax cuts unwisely: "there’s no evidence whatsoever that the money’s been massively poured back into the American worker."

    Veronique comments:

    That’s exactly the wrong way to think about the benefits of the tax cut. Indeed, economists usually agree that lowering marginal tax rates on investment (or any other taxes) gives companies incentives to earn more taxable income, thus leading them to invest in other businesses and the expansion of their factories. This additional investment, in turn, raises workers’ productivity, and ultimately leads to higher wages. This process takes time.

    In other words, the benefit of the tax cut will manifest itself by incentivizing companies to invest more. On the other hand, the case for the rate cut has little to do with what these companies do with the extra cash in the short term, as Rubio argues. Whether they buy back stocks with their cash or  they distribute bonuses to their employees tells you nothing about whether the tax cuts will or will not benefit workers.

    Rubio should know better. Despite Veronique's headline, he may know better. He may just be trying out a new phony populist persona for an upcoming second try at the Oval Office. Either way, not likely to make me a fan again.


  • At the Federalist, David Harsanyi dissents from one conservative's know-nothing comment: Of Course Journalists Have A Responsibility To Call Out Lies. All Lies.

    Matt Schlapp, chair of the American Conservative Union, told CNN Monday that “journalists should not be the ones to say that the president or his spokesperson is lying.” This is an absurd statement. Journalists should always be uncovering the lies of the powerful, whether explicitly pointing out falsehoods or by laying out the facts. And that’s the problem. Many voters no longer have faith that the media is doing so fairly or accurately, and they have exceptionally sound reasons to be skeptical.

    This point isn't particularly subtle or hard to grasp, Schlapp.