URLs du Jour

2018-06-30

[Amazon Link]

  • The Proverbialist is sometimes wise, but other times… Well, have a look at Proverbs 11:13:

    13 A gossip betrays a confidence,
        but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.

    "Duh. By definition."

    We can do this all day:

    13a Spendthrifts waste their money,
        but a prudent person saves for the future.


  • Another week, another horror story. But Amy Swearer at the Daily Signal reveals why we won't have to hear about it for very long: 2 Reasons Why the Media Will Drop Coverage of the Capital Gazette Shooting. Reason the first; because it doesn't fit the narrative.

    This shooting can’t be blamed on lax gun laws. Maryland has some of the strictest gun control laws in the country, earning it an A- rating from the Giffords Law Center—one of only six states to earn above a B+ score. It has enacted almost all of the gun control measures commonly proposed by gun control advocates.

    And yet, despite this, not only did this incident occur, but Baltimore is one of the worst cities in the U.S. for gun-related violence, and was recently named by USA Today as “the nation’s most dangerous city.” In the last sixth months, 120 Baltimore residents have been murdered with firearms—21 in the last 30 days. Maryland itself does not fit the gun control narrative.

    And (of course) it was a "gun-free zone". Yet somehow saying that didn't make it so.


  • National Review editors say goodbye and Good Riddance, Justice Kennedy.

    While it is true that Justice Anthony Kennedy was a disappointment to conservatives, the observation misses the point. Kennedy did not owe conservatives decisions that they liked. What all Americans deserved from him was the conscientious application of the law. That they did not get it is the true indictment of his time on the Supreme Court.

    Again and again, Kennedy made rulings that aggrandized the power of the Court and of himself as its swing justice. No justice, right or left, was more willing to substitute his judgment for that of elected officials and voters. No justice was less willing to tie himself down to clear rules or a legal philosophy that would constrain him in future cases, let alone rules or a philosophy that bore a plausible relation to the Constitution. We moved toward a system of government no Founder intended, in which his whim determined policy on a vast range of issues.

    As a (small) counterpoint: as Michael Barone points out, among others, "in every one of the past year’s 19 cases decided in 5-4 votes, he came out against the four Democratic-appointed justices."

    So there's that. Little question, however, that whoever Trump nominates will move the needle to a little-less-living Constitution.


  • Speaking of which, a USA Today symposium asks the musical question: Who should Donald Trump nominate to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court? Glenn Reynolds has his answer ready to go:

    Who would I pick from Trump's list? (And note how unprecedentedly transparent and helpful it is to have a president with such a list.) My personal first choice would be former Texas Supreme Court Justice and 5th Circuit Judge Don Willett. Writing in Patel v. Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, Willett quoted Frederick Douglass' joy on receiving the first money he earned as a free man and observed, "Douglass’ irrepressible joy at exercising his hard-won freedom captures just how fundamental — and transformative — economic liberty is. Self-ownership, the right to put your mind and body to productive enterprise, is not a mere luxury to be enjoyed at the sufferance of governmental grace, but is indispensable to human dignity and prosperity."  There are, sadly, few other judges who understand this.

    I think Justice Willett would be by far the best choice based on his Twitter feed. Example, on last year's anniversary of the Boston Tea Party:

    The Constitution would be in steady hands with Supreme Court Justice Willett.


  • The WSJ editorial page has a disturbing headline: Trump Boils Maine Lobstermen. (Also New Hampshire Lobstermen, but that's a quibble.)

    These should be halcyon days in lobstertown. Maine harvests more lobster than any other U.S. state or Canadian province. Last year it landed nearly 111 million pounds—its fourth-largest annual haul—which it sold for $450 million. The lobster industry accounts for 2% of Maine’s economy.

    And China represents a hungry new market. The post-molt lobsters Maine harvests from July through November have softer shells than Canadian lobsters, so they’re lower quality. But they also sell for several dollars less a pound. In the price-sensitive Chinese market, that has given the U.S. industry a competitive advantage over its Canadian counterparts. In 2017 the U.S. exported more than $137 million in lobsters to China, up from $52 million in 2015.

    Yet Mr. Trump’s unilateral tariffs are about to erode the price advantage of American lobsters. After the U.S. announced on June 15 plans to impose a 25% tariff on $50 billion in Chinese goods, Beijing retaliated with a new 25% tariff on American seafood, farm products and autos, effective July 6. That’s on top of the 10% to 15% tariffs China already imposes on U.S. and Canadian lobster.

    Initial reaction: "Well, that leaves more for us."

    But, really, you don't want to piss off the lobstermen from any state.


  • And in case you don't go to xkcd every day:

    [Rock]

    Must suck to be a rock.

The Incredibles 2

[5.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Five stars. That's my limit. The stars don't go above that. If they could, for this movie, they would.

I suppose I should say something about the plot. It takes up right where The Incredibles wound up (whoa) 14 years ago: battling the new super-villain "The Underminer". Things don't go well, a lot of hilarious destruction, and all the goodwill the Incredibles built up at the climax of the previous movie is basically squandered in a few minutes.

But they try again, thanks to a megatycoon who wants to bring superheroes back into the mainstream. Helen, as Elastigirl, is the obvious best choice, and what do you know, she's great at thwarting the evil schemes of the (conveniently newly-active) villain "Screenslaver" who can take over peoples' wills by just playing some funky psychedelics on their CRTs.

But is there more here than meets the eye? You bet. Is there a lot of hilarity, as Bob, Mr. Incredible, has to stay at home with the kids and gradually discover (as we know from the last movie) that baby Jack-Jack has powers that make child care … more than a little challenging? Yup.

Edna Mode? Of course, and she's even better here than in the first movie.

It is just so much darn fun to watch. It's smart, funny, and heart-touching. Brad Bird is a genius.

There's an initial animated cartoon, called "Bao". Very moving and (it turns out) symbolic. Also made me hungry, because I don't know anywhere up here in New Hampshire that I can get good bao.

The Consciousness Instinct

Unraveling the Mystery of How the Brain Makes the Mind

[Amazon Link]

Although the author, Michael S. Gazzaniga, is new to me, he's actually a well-known neuroscientist and author of a number of other popularizing books on brainy topics. As usual, I can't quite remember why I put this on my things-to-read list, but it's one of those "big question" topics I'm interested in, in my usual dilettantish mode. Professor Gazzaniga is currently at UCSB, but he's been all over. (Thanks to the University Near Here's library, who scored the book from Dartmouth. Keeping them on their toes this summer.)

His task here is (obviously, from the title) to explain how we, you and I, can possibly be "conscious", when all that's going on inside us is chemistry, and also some electricity. There's an initial discussion of the history of speculation on the topic, going all the way back to Aristotle, on up through Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, James, and the like. Gazzaniga, fortunately, is comfortable with the philosophical arguments. But he nicely mixes in current research (including his own) in cognitive psychology and neurophysiology.

Way back in the 1960s he worked with Roger Sperry at Caltech, on the famous split-brain experiments. It turns out (as with so many things) that sometimes the easiest way to discover interesting things about how the brain works, is to look at what happens when it's not working that well: when, through injury or disease, some parts are malfunctioning, or not working at all.

His interesting observation: even in cases of severe brain damage, one's consciousness still functions. Sometimes far different than normal, but never really absent. This indicates that it's a property more or less distributed throughout the brain, not localized to any one area.

Gazzaniga finds it useful to think of the brain as having a (conceptually) layered architecture. Since I'm a computer ex-geek, I naturally analogized this to the OSI stack model, with high-level (application) layers, medium-level (e.g. driver) levels, and low-level (e.g. hardware) layers. Each layer doesn't have to "know" anything about the functionality of the layers below and above; there just has to be some sort of communication protocol.

Another important concept is modularity: brain-parts that do some sort of well-defined task; these can also have internal layers. Again, the key points are independence, and relative ignorance.

Interestingly, the book then veers into insights provided by quantum mechanics, which brought me back to my physics-major days. Gazzaniga analogizes the wave/particle duality of elementary particles, and the correspondence principle to life itself. Well, I'm not sure whether this is meant to be an analogy, or if he's saying that there's something quantum-like causing brain consciousness. Anyway, intriguing.

All this goes to argue (as you probably guessed from the title) is that consciousness is an instinct, like fear, hunger, lust, etc. Yeah, maybe.

I expected there to be some more stuff about "free will" in this book, as it seems (to me anyhow) to be tied together with consciousness. But I see he has another book on that specific topic. So I might check that out someday.

URLs du Jour

2018-06-29

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 11:12 is in favor of neighborliness:

    12 Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense,
        but the one who has understanding holds their tongue.

    Problem: We've seen many, many Proverbs railing against the unfaithful, the godless, the wicked, the foolish, the slothful, the proud, … So what if your neighbor is one or more of those? Does this Proverb take precedence?

    Searching at Amazon for "bad neighbor" returns all sorts of sordid books and movies, but today's Product du Jour seems pretty innocuous.


  • Stuart Reges is a name I recall from my days as a computer science instructor; he's written or co-written a number of programming textbooks. These days he's at the University of Washington, and seems to be in a fair spot of trouble for his Quillette essay: Why Women Don’t Code.

    Ever since Google fired James Damore for “advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace,” those of us working in tech have been trying to figure out what we can and cannot say on the subject of diversity. You might imagine that a university would be more open to discussing his ideas, but my experience suggests otherwise.

    […]

    Saying controversial things that might get me fired is nothing new for me. I’ve been doing it most of my adult life and usually my comments have generated a big yawn. I experienced a notable exception in a 1991 case that received national attention, when I was fired from Stanford University for “violating campus drug policy” as a means of challenging the assumptions of the war on drugs. My attitude in all of these cases has been that I need to speak up and give my honest opinion on controversial issues. Most often nothing comes of it, but if I can be punished for expressing such ideas, then it is even more important to speak up and try to make the injustice plain.

    Oh, right. I remember that Stanford thing too.

    Reges proposes a variation on Hanlon's Razor, which is usually expressed:

    Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

    Reges':

    [N]ever attribute to oppression that which is adequately explained by free choice.

    That would be anathema to the hordes of SJWs whose very livelihood is based on denying that simple principle. Unsurprisingly, Reges is getting slammed further for his heresy.


  • A column in the Canada Free Press by John Burtis on our state's Junior Senator rang the Google LFOD News Alert, and it is funny and brutal: Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Jaw Cramps, Granite in the Brains Department, Out of State Interns.

    What can I say?  Absolutely nothing.  But I tried, and so did all of my friends.

    We all called Senator Hassan’s offices to register our disgust with the activity of her sainted out of state college coed female intern’s telling the President of the United States:  “F**k You!”  Such class hurled across the crowd in the Capitol rotunda.  But, as a wag was quick to point out, she’s a doggone millennial!  And so she is.  But she “works” for a US Senator!  And that US Senator also “works” for us!  But it ain’t summer camp in the White Mountains or even the Poconos.  More on that a bit later.

    Alright, I reside in New Hampshire, the Granite State, the Live Free or Die State.  But how was I to know that my US Senator, Maggie Hassan, (D-NH), also had big chunks of granite upstairs?  You know, in the brains department.  It has become very clear now that Maggie, like John Forbes Kerry, suffers from rockitis.  Especially after l’affaire d’intern.

    I don't want to hear Senator Maggie prate about "civility" anytime soon. Or ever.


  • Dedra McDonald Birzer, a lecturer in history at Hillsdale College and the author of a forthcoming book on Rose Wilder Lane, takes issue with a seemingly unnecessary orginatization, the "Association for Library Services to Children" (ALSC), which recently decided to rename its "Laura Ingalls Wilder Award" because of alleged political incorrectness: Librarians without Chests: A Response to the ALSC’s Denigration of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Here's a good point:

    Most news stories covering the travesty of renaming the Wilder medal have cited the earliest known objection to Wilder’s representation of the Kansas landscape in Little House on the Prairie (1935) as empty of people. “There the wild animals wandered and fed as though they were in a pasture that stretched much farther than a man could see, and there were no settlers. Only Indians lived there.” Until 1953, the text read, “there were no people. Only Indians lived there.” A reader complained in 1952 to Nordstrom. Her response to the reader clearly reflected her horrified shock at the realization of how the passage read. “I must admit to you that no one here realized that these words read as they did. Reading them now it seems unbelievable to me that you are the only person who has picked them up and written us about them in the twenty years since the book was published.” The letter emphasized the response of everyone at Harpers & Row: “We were disturbed by your letter. We knew that Mrs. Wilder had not meant to imply that Indians were not people.” Indeed, Wilder responded just as Nordstrom predicted. “Your letter came this morning,” Wilder wrote on October 4, 1952. “You are perfectly right about the fault in Little House on the Prairie and have my permission to make the correction as you suggest. It was a stupid blunder of mine. Of course Indians are people and I did not intend to imply they were not.”

    To repeat: A self-admitted stupid blunder fixed over sixty years ago.


  • And the Babylon Bee has another scoop: First Star Destroyer In Space Force To Be Named

    WASHINGTON, D.C.—During an address Thursday, President Trump revealed that the first Star Destroyer warship to be christened in the new United States Space Force program will be named the USS Civilityin honor of the kind of civil discourse the president has “always made a priority” throughout his administration.

    The Civility will be armed with dozens of turbolaser batteries, TIE fighters, AT-AT walkers, and nearly 10,000 stormtroopers, and will be ready to invade and wipe out any foreign countries, planets, or entire star systems that have even a minor dispute with America. Currently being built at a secret Lockheed Martin stardock, it is expected to launch in 2020.

    This is good news for those of us disappointed with The Last Jedi. Hopefully, the 7pm news will be more entertaining sci-fi.


Last Modified 2018-06-29 2:44 PM EST

URLs du Jour

2018-06-28

[Amazon Link]

  • Another oral reference crops up in Proverbs 11:11:

    11 Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,
        but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed.

    If you have a city with both upright blessers and wicked mouthers, then you have … kind of a Schrödinger's cat situation, I guess. What will happen today, exaltation or destruction?

    But if you have mouth-of-the-wicked problems, might I suggest our Amazon Product du Jour, Tom's of Maine Natural Wicked Fresh! Mouth Wash? You're welcome.


  • There sure has been a lot of Supreme Court news over the past few days, amirite? One of the bits of good news is reported by Father Matthew P. Schneider at Patheos: Supreme Court Protects Crisis Pregnancy Centers from Forced Speech. He's particularly brutal (for a priest) on the claim made by Cecile Richards that "fake clinics … lie to women about their pregnancies and withhold medical information."

    Besides the bias that calls them “fake clinics” while calling abortion “medical information,” we have a deeper claim. She is claiming these centers lie. There are plenty of laws on the books in every state against lying and false advertising. I have not heard of any one of the 2,500 Crisis Pregnancy Centers being guilty of false advertising. On the other hand, not mentioning what you don’t provide isn’t lying. My brother-in-law owns a series of vending machines. It would be ridiculous to force him to post on the front of those machines a list of snacks 7-Eleven provides that are not in his vending machines.

    I've noticed that a lot of abortion advocates can't even bring themselves to utter the word "abortion" any more. Which was already a euphemism.


  • We previously linked to George F. Will's column urging his readers to vote against Republicans in November. In the interest of equal time, I suggest Dan "Baseball Crank" McLaughlin at NRO: Don’t Throw the Republicans Out: A Response to George Will

    There are four main reasons why running Republicans out of Congress will not produce the results that Will is seeking. One, Democrats do not respect the values Will champions and cannot be counted on to advance them. Two, the recent history of divided government shows that it moves policy toward the out-party’s ideology and away from the in-party’s, but it does not actually restrain corruption or abuse of executive power; if anything, it tends to expand them. Three, if voters follow Will’s advice, it will make the Trumpist faction more, rather than less, powerful within the Republican party. Four, Will underestimates the importance of the judiciary and the administrative state and the extent to which Democratic control of Congress would empower them to further erode the constitutional powers of Congress as well as those of the presidency.

    These points are expanded in the remainder of Dan's essay.

    As I've (no doubt tediously) said before: neither NH senate seat is involved in the election this year, but New Hampshire Congressional District One is up for grabs as usual. I can't see myself—sorry, George—voting for whatever Democrat is nominated, but I'm still on the fence about whether to vote Republican or Libertarian. Depends on the nominees.


  • At the WSJ's "Best of the Web Today", James Freeman profiles The Dishwasher Rebellion.

    The digital revolution relentlessly enables consumer products to become better, faster and cheaper. But environmental regulation has for decades been making household tasks more difficult, time-consuming and expensive. A new effort to rewrite some old rules suggests a consumer backlash may be brewing.

    “Make dishwashers great again. It should not take 2-3 hours to clean a dishwasher full of dirty dishes,” writes consumer Laurelle Hess in one of more than 2,000 public comments collected by the Department of Energy in response to a rule-making petition from the Competitive Enterprise Institute. The free-market think tank is asking the feds to reconsider their long-term campaign to degrade the kitchen appliance.

    Consumer's Union ("the advocacy division of Consumer Reports") which bills itself as a pro-consumer group, is unsurprisingly on the anti-consumer side on this matter. They would prefer consumers not be given the choice of dishwashers that are able to use slightly more energy and water to get dishes cleaner.

    They should change their name.


  • At Reason, Veronique de Rugy is Telling the Truth on Trade With China.

    We hear quite a bit of misleading rhetoric against China these days. Let's grant, for argument's sake, that the Chinese overproduce steel, dump some of that steel into Canada and Europe before it makes its way to the United States, pilfer intellectual property and have a plan to dominate the world by 2025. It's still not a good reason to protect a few privileged American producers by slapping tariffs on the stuff other U.S. firms use to manufacture their goods—or for the government to restrict the supply of goods that households consume to raise their standard of living.

    Since when do free market advocates believe that a communist authoritarian regime like the one in China can successfully and centrally plan and execute economic growth? These days, newspapers are full of quotes by noted free marketeers who would usually oppose trade barriers such as those put in place by the Trump administration but nevertheless support such barriers because they worry that China's 2025 "plan" will successfully lead to its domination of many industries.

    America: soon to be 242 years old, and still unable to keep its free market story straight. Well, maybe someday.

  • And Mr. Ramirez cartoon-tweets on civility:

The Late Show

[Amazon Link]

In this book, Michael Connelly introduces a new character: Detective Renée Ballard. (It says this right on the front cover.) It's a page turner, but feels a little padded. 405 pages, could have easily been cut back to 300. But I suppose that's what Connelly's book contract demanded he churn out.

The book's title refers to Renée's work shift: the early A.M. hours. That's where she was stuck after losing a sexual harassment complaint against her one-time superior, Lt. Olivas. Which loss was incurred due to betrayal by her partner, Det. Chastain. She's professionally moribund.

But there's always cop stuff to do in LA. Three cases: (1) an elderly lady reports a stolen credit card; (2) a transvestite hooker gets badly beaten up and left for dead; and (3, the biggie) a mass shooting at a crowded Hollywood dance club. Renée is dragged into the latter while at the hospital checking on the nearly-dead hooker; one of the victims is brought there in the (futile) attempt to save her life.

Renée exhibits, unsurprisingly, a Bosch-like devotion to dig out the perpetrators in all these cases. Up to and including investigatory behavior that would get her shitcanned if the department found out about it. She seldom sleeps, loves to paddleboard in the Pacific, has a rescue dog, and (small spoiler) finds herself in mortal peril on one occasion. (It's not a spoiler, since this book is "introducing" her character, to observe that she escapes and prevails.)

Not that it matters, but there's a weird (but amusing) interplay here: one of the club murder victims is an innocent employee, a waitress looking to break into acting. One of her credits is "Girl in Bar" on the TV show "Bosch". Oh yeah, Renée thinks, that's the show based on the exploits of that now-retired detective.

So yes, I'm reading a fiction book where TV shows have fictionalized versions of its already-fictional characters. But there is a Bosch TV show in our "real" world…

Connelly does this on occasion. It's funny, but it also makes my head hurt. Is this the sort of thing Jorge Luis Borges did?

Not that it matters either, but I often "cast" book characters in my mind while reading. Initially, I envisioned Renée as being played by Stephanie Beatriz, who plays Rosa Diaz on "Brooklyn Nine-Nine". That would be fine, but as the 405 pages of the book went by, I kept seeing her as … don't laugh … Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

OK, you can laugh. Mrs. Salad did.

URLs du Jour

2018-06-27

[Amazon Link]

  • The seemingly optimistic theme of the current chapter is maintained in Proverbs 11:10:

    10 When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices;
        when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.

    Those of us who are extremely skeptical of mob rule are … skeptical about the thrust here.


  • At NRO, Robert VerBruggen looks at a recent book: Mona Charen vs. the Feminists.

    At the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this year, Mona Charen drew boos — and eventually needed a security escort out of the building — for criticizing conservatives’ shift of late regarding sexual propriety. “How can conservative women hope to have any credibility on the subject of sexual harassment or relations between the sexes when they excuse the behavior of President Trump?” she asked in a subsequent New York Times op-ed. “And how can we participate in any conversation about sexual ethics when the Republican president and the Republican Party backed a man credibly accused of child molestation for the United States Senate?”

    In her new book Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense, Charen lays out the case the Right should be making on these topics. It’s an excellent issue-by-issue overview of conservative thinking on, well, sex matters — from the wage gap, to abortion, to the rise of unwed childbearing, to the mommy wars, to the hookup culture and alleged rape crisis on college campuses, to the new debate over transgenderism. Its one major limitation is that it focuses far more on pushing back against feminism than on offering a positive conservative vision of what relations between the sexes should look like.

    My only gripe here is "common sense", a phrase from which America deserves a respite. I suggest replacing it with "Things That Should be Painfully Obvious" in this case.

    After an interesting historical overview of feminist thought, Charen launches into “Vive La Difference,” a chapter diving into the science of sex differences — the kind of thinking that got James Damore in trouble at Google. It’s a concise and readable summary of the research supporting the commonsense idea that men and women are different, and not just because they’re socialized differently.

    Let’s start with the differences we can observe. Men are bigger, more aggressive, and more physically powerful than women, and many of their traits are more “variable” — e.g., there are more male geniuses but also more male dullards. On average, men outperform women in spatial skills (such as mentally rotating objects) and abstract math; women outperform men when it comes to language skills, concrete mathematical calculation, and interpreting facial expressions. In terms of interests, women are more likely to care about people, while men are more likely to be fascinated by things.

    The idea that we can close our eyes and pretend that sex differences don't exist is one of those things—and there seem to be a lot of them these days—that people in decades hence will look back on and wonder: how could anyone have thought that?


  • And continuing on that general theme, Kevin D. Williamson wonders at the Weekly Standard: What Happens When the Trans Movement Meets Sports?

    Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face and suffer a concussion, a broken orbital bone, and injuries requiring seven staples in the head—before the end of the first round.

    That’s what happened in the famous case of Boyd Burton, a mixed martial arts fighter and Navy veteran who, as a 31-year-old father, began living life as a woman called Fallon Fox. Fox began competing professionally as the sport's first openly transgender athlete, and in one fight delivered a savage beating to Tamikka Brents. Fight fans might have seen in that non-contest a pugilistic spectacle, but many critics—feminists prominent among them—saw something else: A man beating a woman half to death.

    That was in 2014. Things have not grown simpler in the past five [sic] years.

    It must be tough thinking that you've been assigned the wrong sex. But (as this Mental Floss article relates) it's also tough thinking you have bugs crawling under your skin. Such people should be treated with respect and compassion, but saying "yeah, that's true" is going a bridge too far.


  • In New Hampshire-related news, the Hill reports: Intern who shouted 'f--- you' at Trump has been 'held accountable for her actions'.

    The quotes in the headline should be interpreted as "not really".

    Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) on Tuesday defended the one-week suspension of an intern who shouted an expletive at President Trump, saying the employee has been “held accountable.”

    Hassan told Sean Sullivan of The Washington Post that the intern “took full responsibility” for her actions, and turned the blame around on Trump for failing to do the same.

    Uh huh. Suggested reading for Senator Maggie: the Wikipedia article on the Tu quoque fallacy.


  • At his Freespace blog, Timothy Sandefur is honestly torn: I hate the travel ban decision—but it’s right.

    Today’s Supreme Court decision upholding the President’s authority to ban people from specified Middle Eastern countries from entering the United States is upsetting, perhaps—but it’s pretty clearly the right legal decision. The travel ban may be cruel and stupid, but the President has the constitutional authority to be cruel and stupid in many ways, and this I one of them.

    The arguments against the travel ban basically boil down to two: 1) does it amount to religious discrimination that violates the First Amendment? And 2) does it violate the Immigration and Naturalization Act, a federal statute that allows the President to bar the entry of “all aliens or any class of aliens” if he “finds” that their entry would be contrary to the national interest. That word “finds” is really important, as we’ll see.

    I think "cruel" is (yet another) political adjective that should be retired, but "stupid" is apropos. Still, legal, as five SC justices noted.


  • The Google LFOD alert rang for a Laconia Daily Sun article: Taxes for online sales could be a deal-breaker for local businesses. Taylor Caswell, commissioner of the state’s Department of Business and Economic Affairs, is quoted:

    "The Wayfair decision handed down...by the United States Supreme Court tells New Hampshire businesses that they now must collect taxes for politicians in other states that they did not elect. This is unacceptable,” Caswell said in a statement released on June 21. “New Hampshire businesses have never, ever, collected a sales tax and New Hampshire residents have never, ever, paid an income tax. Imposing this new requirement on us isn’t just an administrative burden, it goes against what New Hampshire stands for: Live Free or Die... I am working with state leaders to determine a path forward aimed at defending New Hampshire’s business community from this modern-day taxation without representation scheme."

    Please. General Stark would not have "worked with state leaders to determine a path blah blah blah". He would have said "I'm not playing your game, South Dakota. Come and get me."

Darkest Hour

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

Why yes, we did watch two Winnie-the-C movies within the span of a couple of weeks. Good catch. This one is much much better. Gary Oldman, playing Churchill, grabbed the Oscar for Best Actor. It also won for "Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling" (because you probably couldn't tell that's Gary Oldman). And it was nominated for four more Oscars, including Best Picture.

This movie is set around the events of May 1940, roughly spanning the time between Churchill's becoming Prime Minister (May 10) and Dunkirk (starting May 26). In between is a lot of political skulduggery and uncertainty about the war. Churchill's own Conservative Party machinery doesn't like him much, but they're forced into making him PM due to pressure from Labor opposition. That doesn't stop people like Neville Chamberlin and Lord Halifax from advocating a negotiated capitulation to Hitler's "peace offers".

Churchill undergoes a crisis of self-doubt. Does he really want to preside over what might be a disastrous Nazi invasion of the sceptred isle?

Well, we know what happened. The movie makes things "more interesting" by having Winnie meet with a random sample of British citizens on the Underground to Westminster. This almost certainly never happened. Still, it was in keeping with Churchill's actual personality, as opposed to the previous movie's made-up cowardly persona.


Last Modified 2018-08-23 5:55 AM EST

A Walk Among the Tombstones

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

This 2014 movie had been stuck in my Netflix DVD queue for a long time. Finally, the day came when my queue monitor said: get it, or delete it. So I got it.

I am kind of a Lawrence Block fan, especially of the novels involving his alcoholic ex-cop unlicensed-PI protagonist Matt Scudder. There was a previous Scudder movie in 1986, 8 Million Ways to Die, starring Jeff Bridges as Matt. Not quite right. Liam Neeson is a much better choice. And here he is!

Matt picks up his cases by chance; in this case, it's from a fellow addict that just happens to have a drug-kingpin brother. Whose wife was kidnapped, ransom paid, wife returned. But in pieces. Ick!

The kingpin (hey, isn't that Matthew Crowley?) is averse to getting the cops involved (for obvious reasons). And he's more interested in revenge than justice, anyway. Matt starts investigating, and (of course) gets into a lot of seediness, moral depravity, and violence.

I was also happy to see book character TJ show up. The kid playing him is "Astro"; in addition to being an actor, also a rapper.

Bottom line: it was OK, but there are inevitable problems in translating a good mystery novel into a movie, and this movie doesn't solve all of them.


Last Modified 2018-09-21 5:38 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2018-06-26

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 11:9 combines the Proverbialist's oral obsession with (as seems to be a Proverbs 11 theme) good news for the righteous:

    9 With their mouths the godless destroy their neighbors,
        but through knowledge the righteous escape.

    This could be the premise for a pretty good movie, although it would probably be better if there were more gunplay, less talking.

    Those interested in the 'godless' topic should feel free to purchase today's Amazon Product du Jour via the link.


  • Hooray, there's Kevin D. Williamson content at NRO: Venezuela’s Future — and Ours

    Progressives will consider the case of Venezuela or North Korea (the American Left’s longstanding admiration of Castro’s Cuba, and its celebration of Hugo Chàvez only a few years ago, has been memory-holed) and say that the problem with those countries is not socialism but a lack of democracy, political violence and instability, etc. But repression on the Venezuelan model is not extraneous to socialism — it is baked into the socialist cake. Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro (and Castro!), Chàvez, Maduro, Honecker, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot, the Kim dynasty, Shining Path: No ideology is that unlucky. Violence and oppression is not something that just happens to accompany efforts to impose political regimentation on the economy — which is to say, on private life — but is an inescapable accompaniment to it.

    The Venezuelan case is a textbook example of the evolution of socialism. While the Soviets and the Maoists had intricate five-year plans, Venezuela had essentially one big plan: Use the profits from state-run oil companies to fund a massive welfare state, and use the leverage thus gained to fortify support for Hugo Chàvez and his political party until they achieved power sufficient to move Venezuela’s assets and its people around like pawns on a chessboard. The problem is that people are not chessmen. Chàvez et al. turned out to be pretty poor chess players, but even if they had been grandmasters, it would not have been enough. Economies cannot in fact be controlled and managed in the way that socialists imagine, something that is much better understood today (thanks to our deepening appreciation of complexity) than it was when Ludwig von Mises and F. A. Hayek described the limitations of central planning in more qualitative terms.

    And, as Hayek said: the worst always get on top.


  • David Harsani's column at the Federalist observes: The Real World Is Starting To Resemble Twitter, And That’s A Problem.

    The next phase of our ginned-up national moral panic will contain public shunning and harassment in their private lives of people we disagree with. If that’s the way society is heading — a divorce — by all means do this thing right. In the United States, even the pretend oppressed can kick the imaginary Nazi out of their establishment, as we saw when the co-owner of the Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia booted White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders from her restaurant.

    Certainly politicians don’t deserves safe spaces from peaceful protest or even confrontation (of course, spitting at Republicans is not peaceful). You want to make their lives miserable, humiliate them, and show everyone how principled and right-thinking you are, by all means stop them from having those chimichangas. That’ll teach ‘em.

    But don’t fool yourself into self-idealization. You’re no budding MLK. No matter what you think of Trump, you’re still an insufferable a–h-le. You’re a member of a tribalist, blindered mob, imbued with a false sense of certitude that allows you justify incivility. That is to say, you’re like a Twitter troll made real.

    I have a better than average Twitter experience, I guess. Because I keep all the obnoxiousness on my blog.


  • But speaking of Red Hen and Sarah Huckabee Sanders… Nick Gillespie at Reason lays out The Libertarian Case FOR Serving Sarah Huckabee Sanders (and Other People You Disagree With).

    […] Sanders wasn't forced from the Red Hen by an angry mob—she was asked to leave by the property owner, who was exercising freedom of conscience. Just as libertarians wouldn't want a Christian cake baker to be forced to endorse a same-sex wedding by preparing a cake for it, we shouldn't force a restaurant owner to serve a government official involved in policies the owner believes are immoral.

    The Red Hen's owner is free to deny service to Sanders, so too is everybody else free to criticize that decision. As cruel as it may seem for conservatives to destroy Red Hen's Yelp rating, recall that liberals played this game, too (remember Memories Pizza?).

    I'm wondering if some of the trendy eateries down Portsmouth way will start giving their prospective patrons ideological purity tests at the door. "Open borders, yes or no? No? Away with thee, bigot!"


  • But as Nick asks: remember Memories Pizza? Jim Treacher does! Red Hen, Memories Pizza, Whatever.

    You may not think [Red Hen proprietor Stephanie] Wilkinson has the right to do this, but I disagree. A restaurant should be able to eject anyone, for any reason. Even if I disagree with the reasons. Hell, especially if I disagree with the reasons.

    And our moral, ethical, and intellectual betters on the left feel the same way, except when they don't. Discrimination is bad, except when it makes them feel good.

    Aren't double standards wonderful? Isn't it marvelous that the same people who tried to destroy Memories Pizza, just for giving the wrong answer to a hypothetical question, are now standing up for another business owner who actually refused someone service on moral and ethical grounds? Isn't it great that they don't care how hypocritical and outright insane they look to everybody else?

    The current landscape is littered with Calvinball rules, dictated by the tribalists. Fun on the comics page, not so much in real life.


  • OK, enough politics. At Language Log, Victor Mair is in Germany, and is fascinated with their Long words. Specifically:

    The first day I was here, in the afternoon I went out for a walk. After taking about 50 steps from the front door of my hotel, I saw this lettering on the glass facade of a nearby building:

    "Rechtswissenschaftliche Fakultät".

    My feet were glued to the ground. I just looked up at that big, long word and pondered. "Hmmmm," I thought to myself. "How would we say that in English?"

    "'Law Faculty' or 'Faculty of Law.'"

    That made me even more unwilling to move on.

    I sometimes peruse alternate translations. Google makes this easy.

    WASH HANDS BEFORE RETURNING TO WORK
    LÁVESE LAS MANOS ANTES DE VOLVER A SU PUESTOR DE TRABAJO

    Or:

    HARD HAT AREA
    CASQUE DE SÉCURITÉ OBLIGATOIRE

    Much more often than not, the English will be shorter than the alternate. Xenophobe that I am, my conclusion: English is better than other languages, full stop.

URLs du Jour

2018-06-25

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 11:8 is another optimistic take on the benefits of good behavior:

    8 The righteous person is rescued from trouble,
        and it falls on the wicked instead.

    Darned if the first thing that sprung to my mind wasn't: Just like those old Road Runner cartoons! Inspiring our Amazon Product du Jour.


  • At NRO, Brian Reidl chronicles Sixty Hours of GOP Dysfunction on Spending.

    Here is the portrait of a dysfunctional party: On Tuesday, the House Republicans unveiled a budget that set a goal of spending cuts totaling $6,454 billion. On Wednesday, Senate Republicans defeated legislation to cut spending by $1 billion. On Thursday, House Republicans voted to renew $20 billion per year in farm subsidies.

    The 2018 GOP talks like Barry Goldwater and spends like Lyndon Johnson.

    Good luck in November, guys. You are essentially telling your supporters: "You f'd up. You trusted us."


  • On a cheerier note, Virginia Postrel dives into some fabricated (heh) history: Before Drug Prohibition, There Was the War on Calico.

    On a shopping trip to the butcher's, young Miss la Genne wore her new, form-fitting jacket, a stylish cotton print with large brown flowers and red stripes on a white background. It got her arrested.

    Another young woman stood in the door of her boss' wine shop sporting a similar jacket with red flowers. She too was arrested. So were Madame de Ville, the lady Coulange, and Madame Boite. Through the windows of their homes, law enforcement authorities spotted these unlucky women in clothing with red flowers printed on white. They were busted for possession.

    It was Paris in 1730, and the printed cotton fabrics known as toiles peintes or indiennes—in English, calicoes, chintzes, or muslins—had been illegal since 1686. It was an extreme version of trade protectionism, designed to shelter French textile producers from Indian cottons. Every few years the authorities would tweak the law, but the fashion refused to die.

    Sounds silly now. Hopefully it won't take centuries before people look at our current prohibitions and protections as equally silly.


  • Betsy [Newmark]'s Page seems to be written by a kindred spirit. Here she is on the current kerfuffle:

    There are some days, I just see what is trending on Twitter and immediately shut it down and go read a book. All this brouhaha over the restaurant in Lexington, Virginia that asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave which she and her party did. The server posted online about what had happened. Sanders later posted about this on Twitter and both sides assumed battle positions and went on the attack. People in the area went to stand outside the restaurant in this small town in western Virginia and shout at each other pro- and anti-Trump slogans. People went on their Yelp page to post positive and negative reviews of a restaurant that, undoubtedly, few had ever visited. Both sides accused each other of hypocrisy in comparison to their stance on the Colorado Masterpiece Cakeshop case. Republicans who had supported the right of a baker to refuse to bake a cake for a gay wedding now are angry at a restaurant manager declining to serve a member of the Trump administration. Those who supported government action against the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop for refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding now support the choice of a restaurant manager to refuse to serve someone she and her employees don't like.

    Is this what we really want in our society? I agree that the restaurant has the right to ask her to leave. She had the right to tweet about it. Other potential customers can decide if they want to patronize this restaurant or not. Apparently, a lot of people don't understand the difference between individuals making their own choices and government getting invovled to enforce a mandate and punish a business for not acting in a prescribed manner.

    Indeed. (I take exception, however, to her anti-Elon Musk tirade later in the post.)


  • Rest in peace, Donald Hall:

    Donald Hall, one of the last major American poets of his generation, died Saturday night at Eagle Pond Farm in Wilmot, where he hayed with his grandfather during boyhood summers and later cultivated a writer’s life. Hall was 89 years old and had been in declining health.

    He was a literary dynamo, writing poetry, memoir, criticism, magazine articles, plays, short stories and children’s books.

    “I worked on Christmas Day in order to be able to brag that I worked on Christmas Day,” he told one of his last interviewers. He wrote almost to the end of a career of more than 60 years.

    I wrote a small appreciation back in 2006 when he was named Poet Laureate.


  • The Google LFOD News Alert sounded for a Keene Sentinel LTE from one Sarah Wilton: Don't let corporations control our farms.

    Warning signal: the paper identifies Sarah Wilton living at 127 School Street in Keene, which is not a farm. So when she says "our farms", she's being less than truthful, maybe a little Stalinist. Anyway:

    The Live Free or Die state has avoided the corporatocracy’s (the establishment) attempt to destroy/monetize what’s left of the natural world, until now.

    Eye roll.

    According to the latest USDA data, 97% of US farms are family-owned. New Hampshire's percentage is … about the same as everyone else's.

URLs du Jour

2018-06-24

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 11:7 breaks the bleak news to us:

    7 Hopes placed in mortals die with them;
        all the promise of their power comes to nothing.

    What a downer! Reminding me of the somewhat better known: Psalm 146:3 (KJV)

    3 Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man in whom there is no salvation.

    And as long as I'm here, I couldn't help but be amused at how The Message "translates" this:

    3 Don’t put your life in the hands of experts who know nothing of life, of salvation life.

    I expect to see Tom Nichols tweet angrily at the Psalmist someday soon.


  • But speaking of experts, let's take a look (via Jonah Goldberg's G-File) at the late Charles Krauthammer’s Take on Life.

    As I mentioned on the Remnant podcast last week (and on TV this morning), one of my goals was to make Charles laugh on the Special Report panel. I had once said about someone — I have no idea who — that he was “a couple fries short of a Happy Meal” or something like that. And Charles cracked up. He’d bring it up every now and then, like it was an inside joke. Well, to mutilate the metaphor horribly, Charles — a truly happy man in the broadest sense — had more fries in his Happy Meal than any man I can think of. He had more reason to be bitter or haughty or vain than the next 100 men, and yet he overflowed with eudaimonia. He couldn’t use most of his body, but he was a man in full. And just being around him made me feel lucky — like finding that mysterious curly fry amidst all the normal ones.

    I will always be (probably more than a) couple of fries short of a Happy Meal, but I was somewhat surprised at the number of of times I quoted Mr. Krauthammer over the years. Thanks to grep: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. He was an expert at spotting phonies, and that's been kind of a thing here too.


  • As usual, another state offers us a cautionary tale, relayed by Nikhil Sridhar of Reason: New York State Spends $1.4 Million on an Old Movie Theater To Create 6 Jobs.

    On Saturday, New York state officials participated in the groundbreaking for the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center. The center will reportedly "restore the Sag Harbor Cinema and preserve the showing of independent, foreign and documentary films on the East End of Long Island."

    The center is being developed by the nonprofit Sag Harbor Partnership, which pledged $13 million toward the project. However, they aren't the only investors. The Regional Economic Development Council awarded the Hampton theater a $1.4 million grant last December through Empire State Development. The result of that massive bill to the taxpayers? Six jobs, according to the government's own report. That's over $230,000 per job!

    Well, I spoke too soon about that "cautionary tale" thing. Because our fair state has a Film and Television Commission as well. Budget seems to be slightly north of $1 million/year. Other than maintaining a blog, a Facebook presence, and a Twitter account, they … do what, exactly, for that money?


  • George F. Will urges us to Affirm nation’s honor in November. By doing what, exactly?

    Amid the carnage of Republican misrule in Washington, there is this glimmer of good news: The family-shredding policy along the southern border, which was merely the most telegenic recent example of misrule, clarified something. Occurring less than 140 days before elections that can reshape Congress, the policy has given independents and temperate Republicans — these are probably expanding and contracting cohorts, respectively — fresh if redundant evidence for the principle by which they should vote.

    The principle is: The congressional Republican caucuses must be substantially reduced. So substantially that their remnants, reduced to minorities, will be stripped of the Constitution’s Article I powers that they have been too invertebrate to use against the current wielder of Article II powers. They will then have leisure time to wonder why they worked so hard to achieve membership in a legislature whose unexercised muscles have atrophied because of people like them.

    I probably won't go so far as to vote for a Democrat to replace my current CongressCritter/Toothache Carol Shea-Porter. Current wisdom says I'll vote for the Libertarian nominee, current candidates seem to be Dan Belforti and marijuana activist Rich Paul (whose Facebook page seems to be defunct).


  • Language Log's Mark Liberman eulogizes Koko, the sign language-using gorilla, and speculates on The (Non-) Evolution of language.

    That makes it all the more mysterious that non-human animals have not gone further down the road of developing and using symbolic communication systems. What's to stop them? Where are all the other participants in Jungle Book conversations? If language is as valuable and useful as we instinctively believe it to be, and if some species of animals are so ready to learn, why does it take thousands of hours of expert human training to get a gorilla to Koko's stage of quasi-linguistic interaction?

    What caught my eye is that Liberman describes this as a "one-planet version of the Fermi paradox". There are other capabilities that evolved multiple times: swimming, flight, vision, sound generation, etc. Why not language?

    I'm feeling very creationist lately.

The Man Who Sold the Moon

[Amazon Link]

Another book down on the Heinlein to-be-read stack. Which leaves, uh, 34 to go.

This is another collection of short stories, plus the titular novella. They are placed early in Heinlein's "Future History", where he details a number of imagined near-future technological breakthroughs.

Some verge on fantasy. "Life-Line" is the sad story of Dr. Pinero, who invents a gadget that allows people to know their precise date of death. This irritates Big Insurance. Obvious, when you think about it. Does Pinero know the consequences of that? (Answer: yes he does, because he used the machine on himself.)

"Let There Be Light" is the story of two inventors (a guy and a girl) who invent—easily!—a device to efficiently convert sunlight into electricity. Again, Big Business tries to shut 'em down. Solution: release their technology to the world for free!

"The Roads Must Roll" is a tale of a totally impractical transportation technology: people are transported from place to place on gigantic high-speed conveyor belts. (This is all described in detail, except for a realistic estimate of the energy needed to power the contraption.) But an evildoer in thrall to a lunatic economic/political ideology threatens to put a monkey wrench into the whole works! There may have been an actual monkey wrench involved, I may have missed that detail. Fortunately, heroism saves the day.

"Blowups Happen" was originally written in 1940, but the version here has obviously added post-WW2 detail. It's about peaceful nuclear energy, but the implementation is unimaginably dangerous: one little slipup could unleash a nuclear explosion! Yeah, RAH didn't know much about nuclear engineering back then. Anyway, the solution: launch the reactor into space!

Which works fine for a while, but in "The Man Who Sold the Moon", it's resulted in disaster. Oh well. Tycoon Elon Musk D. D. Harriman wants to go there, and the story covers his convoluted efforts, via semi-shady business practices, to build and launch the first manned mission to Luna. Alas (spoiler) he is denied what he really wants, to set foot on the Moon himself.

All the above stories feature the usual Heinleinisms: everyone smokes. (Techies have their cigarettes, businessmen cigars.) The dialogue is snappy and smart-ass, right out of 1940s movies. Technical issues that in the real world take years and decades to iron out are solved in hours and days.

Which brings me to "Requiem". Which is (to my eye, anyhow) a beautiful gem of a short story. It's about the dying Harriman wangling his lifelong dream. I remember it brought tears to my young eyes when I first read it back in the 1960s. Didn't quite do the same fifty years later, but it's still an Astounding Story. (Notably, it was originally published before the story "The Man Who Sold the Moon".

Consumer note: I bought the Kindle version because of its relative cheapatude, plus which it included Orphans of the Sky at no extra charge. But the cheapness shows in the formatting: specifically, the scene-break visual clues in the printed versions are missing, it's just one paragraph after another.

URLs du Jour

2018-06-23

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 11:6 has more bad news for the bad guys:

    6 The righteousness of the upright delivers them,
        but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires.

    I have no idea how the unfaithful even get out of bed in the morning. Shouldn't they just lie there, trapped by their evil desires?

    Still, they do manage to arise and cause mischief. I know the Proverbialist wanted to encourage righteous behavior, but sometimes I think he might have oversimplified things in pursuit of that goal.


  • We previously remarked on the delicious irony of Northeastern Professor Suzanna Danuta Walters writing a WaPo op-ed titled Why Can't We Hate Men?, while being employed at an institution that steadfastly describes itself as a school "in which hate has no place". At NRO, Frederick M. Hess and Grant Addison provide A Half-Hearted Cheer for Northeastern University’s Tepid Defense of ‘Hate’.

    Many have rightly wondered whether someone making the opposite argument would have enjoyed the same staunch support that Walters received. Doubtful. As we have seen time and again, certain “controversial” statements are more equally protected than others. And, of course, there’s also the question of whether a teacher who openly professes her hatred of men can educate her male students in a fair and unbiased manner.

    One can only wonder how long universities can pretend that their preening about "hate" only works in one heavily-politicized direction?


  • Ronald Bailey provides the latest on the Fermi Paradox. Specifically: there's no paradox, We Are Most Likely Alone in the Universe. Bottom line:

    Two takeaways: First, there is no reason for us to keep quiet and cower at home as some timorous souls have counseled. And second, the galaxy is ours for the taking. Let's go.

    Indeed.

    I've noted some people out there are passionate on extraterrestial life, jumping on every bit of evidence involving water or organic chemicals. They very much Want To Believe.


  • The LFOD alert rang as expected in the wake of recent decrees, for example at the Union Leader: Supreme Court lets states force online retailers to collect sales tax. And… yes, here it is:

    Taylor Caswell, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Business and Economic Affairs, said, “Imposing this new requirement on us isn’t just an administrative burden, it goes against what New Hampshire stands for: Live Free or Die.”

    Oh, geez, Taylor, stop whining. LFOD isn't a debating point.

    I'd suggest (at least) massive civil disobedience. Too bad the Tea Party isn't around any more.


  • Megan McArdle, writing at the WaPo, is more despondent: Goodbye, tax-free Internet sales. We sure will miss you. Megan notes that big companies (Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, etc.) are already collecting sales tax from buyers who reside in states where the local government demands it.

    It will, however, affect companies like Wayfair, making it harder for them to compete against bigger retailers. Ultimately, the effect of this ruling will be not to keep tech giants like Amazon from stealing business from mom-and-pop shops, as critics of those firms might hope. Rather, the ruling will make it harder for upstarts to unseat massive incumbent Internet sellers that can afford to have a physical presence in every state, or to collect sales taxes even where they don’t.

    Despite the ruling’s negative impact on small businesses, states will likely move quickly to avail themselves of this newly legal source of tax revenue. So bid a fond farewell to those great deals from Internet upstarts. We sure did enjoy them while they lasted.

    I got a chuckle out of David Brooks' mea culpa, discovered when he was writing a Concord Monitor story about the decision:

    I wrote the story, and encountered a problem that probably didn’t affect reporters in 45 other states: It’s been so long since I’ve paid any sales tax that I sort of forgot how they work. Several times I got all muddled up and had to stop and work my slowly through the process of who pays what, when, to whom.

    So I'm asking: does David Brooks never go out to eat in New Hampshire? Nine percent, baby!


  • And good advice from (of course) the Babylon Bee: Opinion: It’s Important To Hear Blatant Lies From Both Sides Before Forming Your Opinion On Any Political Issue

    It’s time to talk about a troubling trend in how we handle our national discourse: the current political landscape is full of lies, half-truths, and fake news, but the average person only ever consumes half of that. Thanks to people being ever more partisan in their news consumption, most people are only exposed to one distorted version of reality, completely missing out on an equally ludicrous alternative version of events.

    Also good: "Two half-truths added together equals a whole truth. That’s just math."

URLs du Jour

2018-06-22

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 11:5 is relentlessly optimistic about the struggle of Good vs. Bad. Basically, the Good have it in the bag:

    5 The righteousness of the blameless makes their paths straight,
        but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness.

    Stupid wicked people! Couldn't they see that coming?


  • At NRO, Victor Davis Hanson writes on some wicked people who should be brought down by their own wickedness, if Proverbs 11:5 has it right: Scandals Sanitized with Linguistic Trickery. VDH's bottom line:

    If the IG report on the Clinton email scandal is any guide to these upcoming investigations, expect widespread abuse of the English language to warp reality.

    The media is using the antiseptic “informant” in place of the cruder but more accurate “spy” or “mole.”

    The off-putting but accurate “wiretapping” has become the more professional “surveillance.”

    The sanitized “improper” always sounds cleaner than the more accurate “illegal.”

    In sum, “2016” could make a logical sequel to “1984.”

    To quote Ben Jonson: "Neither can his mind be thought to be in tune, whose words do jar; nor his reason in frame, whose sentence is preposterous; nor his elocution clear and perfect, whose utterance breaks itself into fragments and uncertainties."


  • So Bill Weld, once governor of Massachusetts, wants to be the Libertarian Party candidate for president in 2020. George F. Will asks the musical question: Can this libertarian restore conservatism?

    The former twice-elected Republican governor of Massachusetts has been visiting Libertarian Party state conventions and will be in New Orleans at the national convention June 30-July 3. There he will try to persuade the party, which sometimes is too interested in merely sending a message (liberty is good), to send into the autumn of 2020 a candidate representing what a broad swath of Americans say they favor: limited government, fiscal responsibility, free trade, the rule of law, entitlement realism and other artifacts from the Republican wreckage.

    I don't know if Weld can recover from his 2016 performance as the LP's VP candidate: because, as Aaron Blake of the WaPo noted back then: Libertarian Party VP nominee Bill Weld basically just endorsed Hillary Clinton.

    In an interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, Weld, a former Republican, said he was "vouching" for Clinton and praised her effusively while arguing that the choice between the two major candidates is clear -- all while not really vouching for the top of his own ticket, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson.

    Still, if the choices on the November 2020 ballot are (a) Weld; (b) Trump; (c) any Democrat; and (d) some Jill Steinish socialist… yeah, I'll vote for Weld.


  • An interesting decision from the Supremes, which has some NH online retailers moaning: South Dakota v. Wayfair: A Taxing Decision.

    Today, the Supreme Court handed the states a victory in their battle to collect taxes on online sales, but, in doing so, dealt a heavy loss to the national market, small businesses, and the people at large. South Dakota v. Wayfair’s focus was on whether to overturn Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, which held that states could not impose tax collection obligations on businesses with no physical presence in the state. In a bizarrely split 5-4 decision–with Justice Kennedy writing the majority joined by Thomas, Ginsburg, Alito, and Gorsuch and Chief Justice Roberts writing the dissent joined by Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan–the Court held that states can charge sales taxes on completely out-of-state businesses.

    That is a bizarre split.

    Only bright spot is the possibility that the decision might wake up Congress to do its job and regulate interstate commerce.


  • And on the LFOD front, the Concord Monitor reports: N.H. Moose Plates are so popular they need another letter.

    The state’s Moose Plate program has proved so popular that it’s starting to take over the alphabet.

    When the first Conservation Number Plates were issued in December 2000, the letter “C” for “conservation” was part of each five-digit number combination. As “C” plates sold out, the letter “H,” for “heritage,” replaced the “C.”

    Now plates are starting to carry the letter “P,” for “preservation.”

    Moose Plates show a drawing of a moose designed by New Hampshire artist Jim Collins, as well as the state motto “Live Free or Die.” They cost an extra $30.

    LFOD is free, but the moose will cost you extra.

URLs du Jour

2018-06-21

[Amazon Link]

  • Hey, how's your summer going so far?

  • Proverbs 11:4 is a little ominous:

    4 Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath,
        but righteousness delivers from death.

    And don't we seem to be living in the "day of wrath" every damned day? I mean, check the news, if you can stand to do so.

    Still, wealth is not currently worthless—I just checked—so I assume things could get (even) worse, wrathwise.

    Which allows me to plug Pun Salad's choice for Best Movie of 1982 as our Amazon Product du Jour.


  • We have a (slight) theme today: what you can and can't say on Twitter. At the Federalist, Jon Del Arroz unintentionally discovered a thing you can't say: After I Said Transgenderism Is A Mental Illness, Twitter Blocked My Account

    Recently I logged into my account after a robust debate with a friend, only to find my Twitter account had been suspended. I had merely stated “transgendered people are mentally ill by definition” in a civil conversation about gender identity.

    Twitter’s response said I was violating their “rules against hateful conduct.” That was further defined as “you may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people based on race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.”

    As usual, I'll revert to my mild Szaszianism: the concept of "mental illness" is deeply flawed. It was invented, in part, to relieve certain oddly-behaving people from moral stigma. If you're sick, it's not your fault. From a transgender point of view, that's a good thing.

    But it also implies dysfunction and the possibility of cure. And that's unacceptable for transgenderists, of course.

    I've become more convinced that someday, I hope soon, people will look back on our current understanding of "mental illness" as hopeless quackery.

    Anyway…


  • OK, so gender dysphoria isn't a mental illness according to Twitter, but you know what is, according to the World Health Organization (WHO)? USA Today tells us: Video game addiction is a mental health disorder. (They hasten to add "but some health experts don't agree").

    The Geneva-based WHO said it will include "gaming disorder" in the 11th edition of its International Classification of Diseases, which is due out this month and is used by professionals across the globe to diagnose and classify conditions. It will describe the disorder as "impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences."

    Ah, but can you say that on Twitter? Try it, and tell me what happens.


  • What (apparently) you can say on Twitter, according to Nina Bookout of Victory Girls Blog: Occupy Wall Street Tweets About Killing ICE Agents And Twitter Allows It.

    The narrative regarding ILLEGAL immigration and kids supposedly being forcibly separated from their parents and locked in cages is scaling new heights of pearl clutching. Facts don’t matter to those on the left and that’s been obvious for the last few days. However, this from Occupy Wall Street is horrific on every level.

    The post in question was entitled "What to do if you encounter an ICE agent", and among the suggested instructions (with graphic cartoon): "Grab the ICE Agent from behind and push your knife into his chest with an upward thrust breaking through his sternum" and "Reach into his chest and pull out his still beating heart".

    It's no longer on Twitter, but it's unclear who removed it. It's claimed that Twitter at least initially said that it "did not violate their terms of service".


  • Our Google LFOD alert rang for a WCAX [Burlington Vermont] story: More NH police departments using license plate readers.

    Well, specifically, one more:

    The Sunapee Police Department is preparing to roll out a new license plate reader for its officers. It will be only the second department in the Granite State to have one since a new state law was passed two years ago. And while many support anything that can help keep their community safe, others say it's just another example of big government busting into people's lives.

    The other community using LPRs is apparently Lincoln.

    But where's LFOD? Ah, here it is, in a non sequitur:

    "Jjust [sic] another way to infringe on our freedoms and our rights," said John Coleman, who is against the scanners.

    New Hampshrie's [sic] state motto is "Live Free or Die," and Coleman is among those that feel the LPRs are too intrusive. "Seems kind of unnecessary. This is supposed to be a free country. There is electronic surveillance everywhere you go," he said.

    John is, as near as I can tell, just some random guy (literally) on the street that the TV reporter decided to interview.


  • And Michael Ramirez with our Editorial Cartoon du Jour: The Pawn:

    The Pawn in illegal immigration game

    [Click through to Mr. Ramirez's website for an uncropped version.]

URLs du Jour

2018-06-20

[Amazon Link]

  • We've had a couple of good Proverbs in Chapter 11, but Proverbs 11:3 returns to mediocrity:

    3 The integrity of the upright guides them,
        but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.

    Not great, but (let's be generous) not awful. As the author of our Amazon Product du Jour, Dennis Prager, might point out: a broken moral compass sends one astray.


  • You can't read much social psychology without encountering the disheartening tale of psych prof Philip Zimbardo's "Stanford Prison Experiment", in which it was allegedly demonstrated that normal people off the street would, given the opportunity, turn into sadistic prison guards. Many scholars pulled their chins and drew Deep Lessons from that result.

    But 'twas not so. At Medium, Ben Blum looks at the SPE: The Lifespan of a Lie.

    The appeal of the Stanford prison experiment seems to go deeper than its scientific validity, perhaps because it tells us a story about ourselves that we desperately want to believe: that we, as individuals, cannot really be held accountable for the sometimes reprehensible things we do. As troubling as it might seem to accept Zimbardo’s fallen vision of human nature, it is also profoundly liberating. It means we’re off the hook. Our actions are determined by circumstance. Our fallibility is situational. Just as the Gospel promised to absolve us of our sins if we would only believe, the SPE offered a form of redemption tailor-made for a scientific era, and we embraced it.

    "We" here being the psychological research community. The rest of "us" were just the suckers who trusted them.


  • At NRO, Rafael A. Mangual's headline threatens a long article: Elizabeth Warren’s Criminal-Justice Illiteracy. But relax, it's just the latest example. Senator Faux is quoted, at a gathering of like-minded progressives:

    [Criminal-justice reform] starts on the front end, with the activities we criminalize — for example, low-level drug offenses. More people [are] locked up for low-level offenses on marijuana than for all violent crimes in this country. That makes no sense at all. No sense at all. [Emphasis added.]

    Comments Rafael:

    She’s right, it doesn’t make sense — because it’s not true. In fact, it’s so at odds with the publicly available data that one can only conclude that Warren is either totally unlettered on the subject or was willfully deceiving the audience.

    And which of those would be worse?


  • At the Federalist, David Harsanyi points out the obvious: Our Debate On Illegal Immigration Is A National Disaster.

    When emotionalism meets scaremongering, it’s difficult to have a useful debate about anything. Yet for immigration, those seem to be the two choices.

    The Trump administration has adopted a “zero tolerance” policy requiring law enforcement to prosecute illegal immigrants. Yes, the policy comports with the law. Yes, the Obama administration engaged in a similar policy on a smaller scale — and yes, the media covered it very differently.

    But, no, President Trump doesn’t “have to” temporarily break up families. He chooses to strictly implement the law, claiming, among other things, that it is a necessity in stopping gang violence. Trump officials’ inability to deal with the mess they created incompetently implementing their policy, and the public relations disaster resulting from that ineptitude, is on the administration, and no one else.

    But read on: Harsanyi notes the Democrats' cake of cynical political posturing with a thick frosting of cheap emotionalism. (Some Republicans too, of course.)


  • Mental Floss has the kind of article I am a sucker for: From Snoopy to Shark Bait: The Top Slang Word in Each State

    There’s a minute, and then there’s a hot minute. Defined as “a longish amount of time,” this unit of time is familiar to Alabamians but may stir up confusion beyond the state’s borders.

    It’s Louisianans, though, who feel the “most misunderstood,” according to the results of a survey regarding regional slang by PlayNJ. Of the Louisiana residents surveyed, 72 percent said their fellow Americans from other states—even neighboring ones—have a hard time grasping their lingo. Some learned the hard way that ordering a burger “dressed” (with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayo) isn’t universally understood, nor is the phrase “to pass a good time” (instead of “to have” a good time).

    Spoiler: New Hampshire's contribution to national misunderstanding is (according to Mental Floss) "X-Y-Z".

    What?

    It stands for "eXamine Your Zipper". If someone murmurs "X-Y-Z" to you in Penacook or Peterborough, they are telling you your fly is open.

    I have literally never heard that.

    Yeah, me neither.

    The linked PlayNJ article is a little more credible: it cites "bang a uey" (translation: "perform a U-turn") and "banger" (translation: "old car that you don't mind beating up"). I've heard those.


  • And, as the Babylon Bee reports, it's not all crazy news out west: New Ballot Initiative Proposes Dividing California Into Tiny Bits, Feeding It To Sharks.

    A new initiative proposing that the state of California be separated into hundreds of tiny, bite-sized pieces and then fed to sharks in the Pacific Ocean has made it onto the November ballot.

    The radical proposal claims that the whole nation would benefit from California’s decentralization and subsequent consumption by hungry oceanic predators.

    Works for me.

Stone Cold

[Amazon Link]

The 2014 copyright on this book tells me I'm a mere 4 years behind on my C.J. Box reading. I'll catch up before I die. I hope.

It's a Joe Pickett book, with a strong appearance from plays-by-his-own-rules Nate Romanowski. Nate has fallen in with an (um) interesting gig: he's seemingly on assignment as a freelance vigilante, bringing rough justice to bad people the ordinary system hasn't been able to punish.

Meanwhile, Joe is up in the mountains with Dave "Comic Relief" Farkus, trying to retrieve a Wyoming Game and Fish pickup left stranded near a mountaintop in a previous book. When, out of the blue, he's called in to meet with colorful Wyoming Governor Rulon. (He's the kind of governor you wish your state had.) Joe's back on secret-agent duty, looking to investigate some weird, possibly nefarious, goings on in remote (and fortunately fictional) Medicine Hat County. Specifically, there's this guy, Wolfgang Templeton, that might be up to no good.

Keep a low profile, Joe is advised. Stick with your cover story, just observe what's going on. And, oh yeah, the last guy sent up there died in an "accidental fire".

Needless to say, Joe doesn't keep a low profile. And finds himself in deep doo-doo. Fortunately, Joe has learned a lot about survival among desperate people over the years.

Meanwhile, Joe's daughter, Sheridan, is an RA at her University of Wyoming dorm. And one of the students in her charge is exhibiting strange behavior. As if his high school yearbook picture had "Most Likely to Be a Mass Shooter" caption. That's also suspenseful.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

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

It's impressively acted, cleverly written. Didn't care for the ending. It was nominated for seven Oscars, and won two: Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor.

The Best Actress, Frances McDormand, is Mildred, about as far from Marge Gunderson as you can get and still identify as female. She's difficult, and events have made her more so: months back, her daughter was raped and murdered, and there's been zero progress in the investigation. So to draw attention to this miscarriage, she posts three … well, you see the movie's title. They are designed to let others feel her outrage. (And also make up for the guilt she feels.) The local cops are unhappy, because they know there's no magic spell that can turn zero leads into more than zero leads.

The main local cop, Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), is somewhat sympathetic, but he's got pancreatic cancer with a grim prognosis. One of his deputies, Dixon (Sam Rockwell, the other Oscar winner), is a real loose cannon, under a cloud of a torture allegation. (And, give subsequent events, that's an entirely credible allegation.)

The movie proceeds with considerable bad language, very black humor, occasional violence, shocking plot twists, and so on. And then… well, did I mention that I didn't care for the ending?

I searched for enlightenment using Google, and happened upon a New Yorker pre-Oscar essay on the movie by Tim Parks The Feel-Good Fallacies of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”. Keeping in mind that "feel-good fallacies" you might share with a New Yorker writer might be the null set, I think he put his finger on something:

How does a film so empty of emotional intelligence, so devoid of any remotely honest observation of the society it purports to serve, sweep the board on prizes? This in a time when intolerance and gun violence are rife, when both would seem to demand a more serious response. “Three Billboards” gives us a world in which cleverness is all-important. All of the confrontations involve quips; the characters are intelligent only insofar as they know how to attack one another. But it goes deeper. In one of the few moments when the film attempts to suggest real grief on its heroine’s part, Mildred is sitting on the ground, having just witnessed the destruction of her billboards. Beaten, she weeps. Her head drops, she looks at her pink slippers, and the clever script, by the extremely clever [screenwriter/director Martin] McDonagh, has this distraught woman start a hell of a clever conversation between the two fluffy creatures on her feet about what she should do. Grief quickly dissolves into grim comedy, with one slipper deciding that the police had better watch out for Mildred’s response, and the other challenging her to live up to this bold claim. It is at once one of the slickest and sickest moments in a movie that constantly encourages its audience to believe that it is watching something serious while it is actually being fed a diet of eye candy, violence, and standard repartee.

Ouch! Part of this is Park's feeling that Our Times Call For … some different movies, I guess.

URLs du Jour

2018-06-19

[Amazon Link]

  • It is difficult to argue with Proverbs 11:2:

    2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
        but with humility comes wisdom.

    This is almost the famous "pride goeth before a fall". Usually, however, that bit of wisdom is credited to Proverbs 16:18. The humility recommendation is a bonus here.


  • OK, just one more P.J. O'Rourke article from American Consequences. This one's a cheer: Who Do We Appreciate? The Electoral College.

    The operation of the Electoral College is complicated, but the effect is simple: It gives the parts of America with a thin head-count more say over who becomes president than they would have if only thick heads were counted.

    However, before we discuss whether this is a good thing or a bad thing (although it’s obviously a good thing), let us first not discuss the 2016 presidential election.

    While it’s true that a certain person – who insists on repeatedly, constantly, endlessly reminding us – won the “popular vote” (or not quite, since she got 48.2%), it’s also true that she was, as it were, trumped by another person in the Electoral College, 304 to 227.

    BUT… The two of them knew the rules and campaigned accordingly. If they had been running to gain a majority of the popular vote instead of a majority of the Electoral College vote, they would have conducted different campaigns. Worse campaigns. Campaigns aimed at the lowest common denominator of voters – at the masses, the mob.

    The winner-take-all feature of electoral college votes isn't exactly "fair". Example: in New Hampshire, Hillary beat Trump 47.62% to 47.25%, less than 3K votes out of 743K cast. But Hillary got all four electoral college votes from the state. Hence, the 52.38% of voters who didn't vote for her… got nothing for that effort.

    Not that it matters, but while I was looking that up, I discovered that Reform Party candidate Rocky De La Fuente got 677 votes here, good enough for sixth place (behind Hillary, Trump, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, and write-in Evan McMullin).

    This year, Rocky—I am not making this up—"filed as a candidate for US Senate in the 2018 elections in seven states, and remains in the running in six." (Specifically: Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming.) Interesting! What would happen if he won more than one?


  • Kevin D. Williamson writes at NRO about Asymmetrical Capitalism.

    I have for many years argued that most people would be enthusiastic about capitalism if not for their interactions with a small number of businesses that unfortunately occupy critical positions in the everyday economy: banks and credit-card companies, insurance companies, cable providers, airlines, and a few others. Most of those companies have a few things in common. They tend to be located in industries that are heavily regulated, which leads to consolidation and weak competition. They generally are located at choke points, meaning that many people in the ordinary course of affairs are obliged to do business with them in order to simply get on with their lives. And they often are located at the intersection of big government and financial services. And in almost all cases, they put consumers on the losing end of an asymmetrical relationship.

    Here’s what I mean by asymmetrical: If I’m at Walmart and I’m told there’s going to be a six-hour delay at check-out, I flip the metaphorical bird to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, drop my purchases where I stand, and mosey on down the road to Target or AutoZone or Academy or whichever store it is that has what I want. Walmart and I have the right kind of free-market relationship, because we both have the power of exit: It’s easy for Walmart to say “No” if I want the company to start stocking Armani or to cut the price of bananas by 20 percent, and it’s easy for me to walk away if Walmart isn’t giving me what I want at a price I like. That’s why companies such as Walmart and McDonald’s — and other firms in markets that have lots of buyers and lots of sellers making lots of transactions — cannot simply raise prices or unilaterally set terms.

    Spoiler: KDW suggests that the odds be evened somewhat by giving consumers more power of exit.


  • You might have heard about it. Or maybe not: The Mass Shooting Nobody Will March Against. Jazz Shaw at Hot Air:

    In the pre-dawn hours yesterday [June 17], the nation experienced yet another mass shooting. One dead, 22 injured, including a 13-year-old boy. It took place at the crowded Art All Night Trenton festival in New Jersey. To their limited credit, a couple of cable news outlets mentioned the shooting in their coverage yesterday and this morning. The New York Times wrote a rather lengthy article about it, though it showed up on page A-17. It received similarly “not prominent” coverage in other major papers. The Associated Press took a fairly deep dive on it, but you need to search around a bit on their website to find it.

    Why the reluctance to wave the bloody shirt? Doesn't fit the narrative. Perps and victims were the wrong color. Weapons weren't those scary-looking ones. The dead guy had been recently released from prison, where he served 14 years of an 18-year sentence for aggravated manslaughter.


  • A bit of cheery news is related by Scott Johnson at Power Line: SPLC Hate Cult Pays Up. Specifically, $3.375 Million to the (self-described) "counter-extremism organisation" Quilliam International and its founder. From the press release:

    The Southern Poverty Law Center, Inc. has apologized to Quilliam and its founder Maajid Nawaz for wrongly naming them in its controversial Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists. In a public statement, the SPLC’s president, Richard Cohen, explained that “Mr. Nawaz and Quilliam have made valuable and important contributions to public discourse, including by promoting pluralism and condemning both anti-Muslim bigotry and Islamist extremism.”

    Can't help but wonder: How do your average SPLC contributors feel about their money being used to compensate victims of the SPLC's reckless sliming?


  • Speaking of hate cults: A recent WaPo op-ed was provocatively/wistfully titled Why Can't We Hate Men?. The author, Suzanna Danuta Walters, is "a professor of sociology and director of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at Northeastern University".

    The wags at the College Fix took a gander at Northeastern's anti-"hate" policies, and said, hey, it could be amusing to get the college to weigh in on this. And: ‘Hate has no place here’: University responds to prof’s call to hate men. Or, mostly, doesn't respond.

    It is unclear if Waters discriminates against male students who enroll in her classes. Numerous Northeastern faculty members and officials, including Title IX coordinator Mark Jannoni and the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies department did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

    Reached via email, campus spokeswoman Shannon Nargi emailed The College Fix a statement that simultaneously seemed to denounce Waters while defending her call for hatred as a “controversial idea.”

    “Northeastern University steadfastly supports a safe and inclusive learning and working environment in which hate has no place,” the statement reads. “The university has more than 1,000 faculty members whose viewpoints span the entire political spectrum. Consistent with our unwavering commitment to academic freedom, the opinions of an individual professor do not reflect the views of the university or its leadership.”

    Well, there you go. Can't help but think that any student-identifying-as-male enrolled in Prof Suzanna's class might be a tad concerned about fair treatment, though.

    I don't usually go to Rate My Professors, but Prof Suzanna's score is pretty dismal there (1.8, compared to 3.58 for the average Northeastern instructor). A recent comment:

    Do you want a good grade in her class? Then, agreeing with her is mandatory. It is probably the best if you just avoid taking a class from her.

    I will keep it in mind.

URLs du Jour

2018-06-18

[Amazon Link]

  • We move (backward) into a new Proverbial chapter today. Proverbs 11:1 notes that, at times, the Lord concerns Himself with the small details of life:

    1The Lord detests dishonest scales,
        but accurate weights find favor with him.

    Today, the watchful eyes of the Lord have been usurped assisted by the Office of Weights and Measures, part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. (Hey, I used to live just across the street from there!)

    I have nothing but admiration for the diligent Federal employees who are no doubt doing the Lord's work in producing prose like this (from "Update for the Test Procedure for 3.13. Determining Net Contents of Compressed Gas in Cylinders"):

    The NIST Office of Weights and Measures (OWM) received an inquiry about compressed gases and legal metrology require‐ ments. Upon research and discussion with Dr. Eric Lemmon, NIST Thermophysical Properties of Fluids Group, we learned that NIST Handbook 133, “Checking the Net Contents of Packaged Goods,” Section 3.13. Determining the Net Contents of Compressed Gas in Cylinders test procedures did not provide an updated reference document. The current test procedure cites an obsolete NIST Technical Note 1079 (1985), “Table of Industrial Gas Container Contents and Density for Oxygen, Argon, Nitrogen, Helium, and Hydrogen.”

    Note that, unlike much of what Your Federal Government does these days, this is all quite Constitutional:

    The Congress shall have Power […] fix the Standard of Weights and Measures […]

    If only they had stuck to that.


  • P.J. O'Rourke writes on the 2018 Farm Bill, and his conclusion is: Stick a Fork in It, It’s Done.

    On May 18, the big, stupid, wildly expensive farm bill – the “Agricultural and Nutrition Act of 2018” – was voted down in the House of Representatives.

    Traditionally, a farm bill is a cozy bipartisan boondoggle. But in this case, the partisan doggles failed to cozily boon.

    Democrats refused to vote for the bill because they’re furious about its stricter work and job-training rules for Food Stamp recipients. And 30 conservative Republicans refused to vote for the bill because they’re furious about… all sorts of things… about the ridiculous spending in the bill, but also about the refusal of Democrats to compromise on immigration policy, and about other Republicans being complicit with Democratic intransigence, and…

    In short, the House of Representatives is so bitterly divided by ideology that its denizens cannot agree on even such an obvious piece of log-rolling and jobbery as the farm bill.

    The farm bill – which, with an even-handed picking of the taxpayers’ pockets – dispenses boodle, booty, and pelf to both the hopeless clodhoppers of stalwart Republicanism and the urban slobs of the Democratic base.

    The House of Representatives can’t get anything done.

    Thank goodness.

    But (as P.J. says): don't get your hopes up.


  • You may have heard that pretty damning evidence has been uncovered showing that Harvard put its learned thumb on the admissions scales to be sure they don't have too many of … those people … getting into their school. By which I mean: people of Asian descent. At NRO, Michael Brendan Dougherty calls it A Different Kind of Diversity.

    It’s been an open secret for a long time that Harvard and Yale viciously discriminate against Asian-Americans. Now it is getting even more public attention in light of a new lawsuit aimed to stop it. Harvard typically admits classes where roughly one in five students are Asian-Americans. This is done by systematically downgrading Asian-American students on the subjective portions of the admissions process. An internal review found that if Harvard only looked at academic achievement, Asian Americans would rise to 43 percent of Harvard’s class.

    Michael suggests that, instead of attempting to achieve "diversity" in exactly the same way, "elite" schools could adopt diverse (but explicit) admissions goals. While (say) Caltech just looks at raw academic achievement, Harvard could instead aim for a reasonably accurate mirror of US demographics, Yale could do … something else. And so on.

    Wouldn't matter, as long as schools were open and honest about their standards, and applied them fairly. And could get away with doing it without threats from Your Federal Government.


  • At Reason, Steve Chapman tells the sad story of How Trump's Republican Party Went Soft on Communism.

    If you had told Ronald Reagan in 1988 that in 30 years, the president of the United States would be chummy with communist dictators in China and North Korea, eager to please a brutal Kremlin autocrat, and indifferent to the needs of our military allies, he might have said: That's what you get for electing a Democrat.

    Today's Republicans make up a party he wouldn't recognize. For decades, the Russians and Chinese dispatched spies and enlisted American sympathizers to try to harm the United States and tilt its policies in their favor. Under Donald Trump, they don't have to. They have a friend in the Oval Office.

    Chapman notes that in the behavior of GOP leaders, there are weird echoes of the old CPUSA's whiplash reversals during the 1930s, to reflect whatever Stalin was doing at the time.


  • And our Tweet du Jour is from @Reverend_Scott:

    Ah, it's good to know my dog is, more or less, normal. For a dog.

Churchill

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

So this movie had the bad fortune to come out near-simultaneously with Darkest Hour, another historical movie about wartime Winston Churchill, nominated for six Oscars, winning two (including Best Actor).

And this movie was nominated for zero Oscars, winning zero. Oh well.

Brian Cox plays the man, and I guess he does a decent job of acting. The time period covered is early June, 1944, the lead-up to D-Day. Ike shows up in the person of John Slattery. Miranda Richardson plays wife Jennie.

The problem that kills this movie is that it is (apparently) nearly completely divorced from historic fact. Churchill is painted as an ardent opponent of the Allied invasion plans, insisting on a broader attack front, coupled with diversionary strikes in the Aegean and Norway. (He's haunted by the WWI disaster at Gallipoli, you see.) He is a constant incompetent thorn in the side of Ike and Monty. When his efforts to influence the invasion plans are thwarted, driven by vanity and guilt, he demands to go into the battle himself, taking the King along as well.

And, finally, when that's vetoed, he prays—literally, on his knees—that God send bad weather in order that the invasion be called off.

None of this happened. See, for example, Andrew Roberts' review, documenting that the flick "gets absolutely everything wrong".

I'll give it 1.5 stars for getting something right: Churchill did, apparently, smoke cigars and drink a lot.

World Gone By

[Amazon Link]

This is book three in Dennis Lehane's gripping saga of the Coughlin family. Previous two books looked at here and here. While the first book was deeply grounded in historical settings, especially in Boston, the second book was less so, and the third book just about not at all. There are some real-life folks showing up, notably Meyer Lansky and other gangsters. But this is basically a Godfather-like tale of organized crime and its rotting effect on one of its participants.

Specifically, that participant is Joe Coughlin. The time is 1943, years after the bloody finale of the second book, Joe has settled into a semi-respectable life in Ybor City, Florida. He's a good dad to his beloved and precocious son, Tomas. (Mom is, well, out of the picture — did I mention the bloody finale of the previous book?) He spends his days doing civic and charitable work. Never mind that a good part of his wealth and income relies on illicit activity and corruption.

But Joe gets credible word that there has been a hit taken out on him. Justifiably concerned, his detective work takes him through the decadent highs and very sordid lows of Florida Gulf Coast culture.

And, oh yeah: he starts seeing a ghost. Eek!

Will he come out of this OK? Will there be a fourth book in the series someday? No spoilers here.

Lehane is a gifted writer, and I had a fine time.

Who We Are and How We Got Here

Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past

[Amazon Link]

Another "big questions" book provided by Dimond Library at the University Near Here. The author, David Reich, is down at Harvard Medical School, but don't hold that against him. He's a leading researcher in the field of "Ancient DNA", a field that's blossomed over the past few years. Basically: you dig up people from past millennia, extract some reasonably intact genetic material, feed it into some hairy industrial biochemical processors, feed the data output by that into some high-strength computational algorithms, and out comes information concerning just where your Dead Guy fits into humanity's family tree.

But one of Reich's lessons is that a "family tree" is not a particularly accurate metaphor for how the various offshoots of humanity developed through history. Instead, it's more like a latticework: the DNA shows that ancient humans were surprisingly mobile and also, um, familiar with the other folks they ran across.

And they weren't particular in their familiarity, either. As a result, one of Reich's specific findings is that today's non-African people have a significant amount of Neanderthal DNA lurking in their chromosomes. (Added hundreds of mediocre stand-up comics: "… which will not come as a surprise to my wife.")

So just in a relative eyeblink, DNA research has provided new insights into our ancestry. Reich explores not only the Neanderthal stuff, but also how DNA reveals more about how and when people got to their "native" lands; it's far from the simple stories you and I heard about in school. Chapter by chapter, he looks at Europeans, Native Americans, Africans, Australians, Asians.

It's not without controversy, and (for me) that's a little more interesting than the dry recitation of research results. You may have heard that some Native Americans are reluctant to let researchers analyze those ancient American bones found at burial sites. They claim ancestry; the major problem with that claim is that research indicates that, almost certainly, the "native" people buried at a site 10K years ago are not related to the "native" people living there today.

Later chapters dig (inevitably) into deeper controversies of "racism". Reich dissociates himself from extreme thoughts on both sides: the notions that race is a mere "social construct" can't be supported by DNA research. Nor that racial differences are restricted to superficial matters of skin color and gross physiognomy.

He also distances himself from any controversial claims on what may be termed "the other side". Specifically, he dislikes folks like Nicholas Wade (whose book I looked at back in 2014). Reich was one of the signatories of this anti-Wade letter back then.

Frankly, I think he protests overmuch.

URLs du Jour

2018-06-17

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 12:28 reassures the folks worried by death:

    28 In the way of righteousness there is life;
        along that path is immortality.

    We are told that the afterlife is rarely discussed in Jewish life, but that seems to be merely a matter of good manners on their part. Why needlessly irk the goyim?

    But speaking of paths…


  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File this week, after extended pop-culture references, discourses about Staying on the Path.

    Staying on the path may be the most conservative concept there is. “What is conservatism?” asked Abraham Lincoln. “Is it not the adherence to the old and tried against the new and untried?” People who think conservatism is opposed to all change miss the point entirely. Paths go places. They might not get us where we want to go as fast as we would like. But the conservative is deeply skeptical of shortcuts and simple plans to save time or effort. The rationalist temptation to “out think” the simple rules — what Oakeshott called “making politics as the crow flies” — may not always lead to tyranny or oppression, but the odds that it will are too great to justify the attempt.

    The whole point of my book is that, for 250,000 years, humans wandered on the wrong paths — or without any paths at all — and then, accidentally, we stumbled through a miraculous portal that has delivered once-unimaginable prosperity and liberty. But rather than have a sense of gratitude for our good fortune, we bathe ourselves in resentment for the path we’re on and where it brought us. The rationalist progressives think they’re better cartographers and can map a better route. The hard or nostalgic nationalists want to double back to a shady bend in the road behind us. The ugly racists want to march even further backward. The sophomoric socialists are convinced that everyone should throw their kits onto the road and divvy up our wares more equitably. Others of a socialist bent are convinced that we can somehow get on a bus to the future, sparing us the effort and providing equal seating for all. The identity-politics obsessives think the path is a private road benefitting only white people or white men. But the path is for anyone willing to stay on it.

    And you know who was unwilling to stay on that path? The freakin' FBI, that's who.


  • Remember those Dos Equis ads featuring the Most Interesting Man in the World? An old acquaintance from my Usenet days, Mike Godwin, reviews the posthumous sorta-memoir from the guy who actually had a claim on that title: The Insanely Eventful Life of Grateful Dead Lyricist John Perry Barlow.

    John Perry Barlow, who died this year at age 70, was a Grateful Dead lyricist, a pioneer in the fight for online civil liberties, and possibly a mutant. As Barlow recounts in his posthumously published memoir, Mother American Night, his mother as a girl was treated for tuberculosis by a quack who administered a prolonged beam of X-rays right into her hip. Forty-five minutes of this treatment gave her radiation sickness. Her hair fell out, she suffered severe burns, and she was informed that, oops, she'd been sterilized.

    The sterilization didn't take. Two decades later, in 1947, she gave birth to John Perry Barlow. One of his X-Men superpowers seems to have been to unerringly locate centers of the American zeitgeist and discover some pivotal role he could play in them.

    I heard him speak once at a USENIX conference. His point of view was (… um …) unique and oblique. For a sample, this Washington Monthly article contains his essay "Sympathy For The Devil", on Dick Cheney:

    As I’ve mentioned, I once knew Cheney pretty well. I helped him get elected to his first public office as Wyoming’s lone congressman. I conspired with him on the right side of environmental issues. Working closely together, we were instrumental in closing down a copper smelter in Douglas, Arizona the grandfathered effluents of which were causing acid rain in Wyoming’s Wind River mountains. We were densely interactive allies in creating the Wyoming Wilderness Act. He used to go fishing on my ranch. We were friends.

    With the possible exception of Bill Gates, Dick Cheney is the smartest man I’ve ever met. If you get into a dispute with him, he will take you on a devastatingly brief tour of all the weak points in your argument. But he is a careful listener and not at all the ideologue he appears at this distance. I believe he is personally indifferent to greed. In the final analysis, this may simply be about oil, but I doubt that Dick sees it that way. I am relatively certain that he is acting in the service of principles to which he has devoted megawatts of a kind of thought that is unimpeded by sentiment or other emotional overhead.

    So I've paced Mother American Night on my TBR pile. Which just seems to be getting longer as the months and years pass, so…


  • At American Consequences, P.J. O'Rourke muses on The Coastals Versus The Heartlanders.

    They infest the metropolises of the Left Coast and the Eastern Seaboard and they swarm the atolls-of-the-trendy in between…

    You find them in Ann Arbor, Michigan… Austin, Texas… Boulder, Colorado… all the other places where the smell of pot is stronger than the smell of factory smoke, crop fertilizer, heavy equipment diesel fumes, or the sweat of hard work…

    They know all about organic, sustainable, non-GMO, pesticide-free, fair-traded, locavore, artisanal, gluten-free, hypoallergenic, and vegan. But they don’t know hay from straw…

    They are the “Coastals” – the enlightened, the progressive, the sensitive, the inclusive, the hip, the aware, the woke.

    They are also the tedious, the predictable, the arrogant…


  • And, finally, for Father's Day, Michael Ramirez draws his thoughts:

URLs du Jour

2018-06-16

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 12:27 is a precious puzzler:

    27 The lazy do not roast any game,
        but the diligent feed on the riches of the hunt.

    The NIV translator notes about "roast": "The meaning of the Hebrew for this word is uncertain." Let's look at the always-amusing "Message" translation:

    27 A lazy life is an empty life, but “early to rise” gets the job done.

    I'm not sure that's right either. Let's resort to good old King James:

    27 The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious.

    OK, that's fine with me. Taking it super-metaphorically: the diligent see a project through to its end, while the lazy drop off the track somewhere along the way, and wind up the poorer for it. How's that?


  • Well, you can't argue with science. Especially since: We’re all getting dumber, says science.

    Researchers at Norway’s Ragnar Frisch Centre for Economic Research now have scientific proof of something we’ve long suspsected—we’re all getting dumber.

    In their paper, “Flynn effect and its reversal are both environmentally caused,” which was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Bernt Bratsberg and Ole Rogeberg report that IQ scores have been steadily dropping since the 1970s.

    Before you say: "Mike Judge saw this coming in Idiocracy", note that the researchers chalk the decline up to environmental factors, not that smart people are having fewer kids.

    Or my theory, that I've mentioned before: smart people leave Norway.


  • Speaking of smartness, Philip Greenspun looks at a new book: Losing the Nobel Prize (our Amazon Product du Jour). For all the current hoopla about STEM education:

    Battle is an apt metaphor for what we scientists do. There is a fierce competition that begins the day you declare yourself a physics major. First, among your fellow undergraduates, you spar for top ranking in your class. This leads to the next battle: becoming a graduate student at a top school. Then, you toil for six to eight years to earn a postdoc job at another top school. And finally, you hope, comes a coveted faculty job, which can become permanent if you are privileged enough to get tenure. Along the way, the number of peers in your group diminishes by a factor of ten at each stage, from hundreds of undergraduates to just one faculty job becoming available every few years in your field. Then the competition really begins, for you compete against fellow gladiators honed in battle just as you are. You compete for the scarcest resource in science: money. Surprisingly, not by brains alone does science progress; funding is its true lifeblood. Cosmology’s primary funding agency is the National Science Foundation. But the NSF proposal success rate is currently only about 20%, across all fields of physics and math: the lowest it has been in over a decade.

    As a onetime physics major myself, I stepped off that treadmill about ten years after I got on it. It didn't seem like a wise decision at the time, just a realistic one, but things basically worked themselves out.

    But this makes today's Proverb … whoa, kind of harsh, dude.


  • At Reason, David Harsanyi notes Trump's Awful Embrace of 'Fair Trade'.

    "Fair trade," once used predominately by progressives, is a neologism without meaning. It allows a person to oppose complex agreements for a litany of reasons. The word "fair" is elastic and ambiguous, which is why it's so popular with adolescents.

    The billions of people in developing nations who work tedious menial labor jobs probably don't find it "fair" that Americans use the savings we gain from their work to build our unprecedented wealth. Is it fair that some countries sit atop vast amounts of fossil fuels or prime farmlands while others sit on arid or barren land?

    Let's hope trade doesn't get "fair" for us any time soon.

    It's (grimly) amusing to see all the previous advocates of "fair" trade pirouetting to an anti-Trump-tariff position. Not too amusing to see a lot of Republicans embracing Trump's awfulness.


  • Just plain amusing is Steven Hayward's Power Line post, full of merry fun-poking at Food Justice??

    One of the central affectations of the modern left is the irrepressible practice of attaching a modifier to the noun “justice.” Apparently, seeking to achieve plain old ordinary justice is not enough, even though Plato should have taught us in The Republic that simple justice is difficult enough to attain without any special adjectives. But the left is all about “social justice” (is there such a thing as “anti-social justice”?), and, lately, “climate justice”—the phrase appears in the Paris Climate Accord. What does it mean: everyone is entitled to the same climate?

    Add to this “food justice.” Okay, maybe this could mean that everyone should be assured of basic nutrition, food being a daily necessity for all human beings. But that would be wrong, of course.

    Steven posts a picture of a slide present at a recent talk on "black veganism", which is just as mired in the bafflegab of modern identity politics as you might expect.

    If you didn't think "black veganism" was a thing, googling the term will bring you to surprising conclusion: it's a thing. A stupid thing, but still. For example, this page echoes some things seen at Power Line:

    Black veganism investigates the root and scope of colonial thought.[…]

    Black veganism forces us to consider the ways the idea of race extends beyond human bodies.[…]

    Black veganism scrutinizes how “animal characteristics” are negatively attributed to both nonhuman animals and non-whites.[…]

    Sure it does. But all this talk about food is making me hungry.


  • And the Google LFOD alert rang loudly for a local politico's announcement: Gov. Sununu files for re-election. But the LFOD deployment was reserved for NH GOP chair Jeannie Forrester's press release:

    For over a decade under Democratic Governors, our state lost sight of what Live Free or Die means by focusing on growing the burden of government not shrinking it, eliminating opportunity not increasing it, and putting the best interest of all Granite Staters last not first. Eighteen months ago Granite Staters decided the time had come to make a change and elected Governor Chris Sununu.

    True fact: Gov. Sununu won the Lydia’s House of Hope 2017 Lebanese Cook-Off:


  • And sad news for dads from the Babylon Bee for what you thought was gonna be your day tomorrow: Father’s Day Updated To ‘Toxic Masculinity Awareness Day’

    WASHINGTON, D.C.—In a special session called to order Friday, Congress voted unanimously to do a complete overhaul of Father’s Day, renaming the holiday “Toxic Masculinity Awareness Day” and redefining the day’s meaning to encourage citizens to heap shame and disgust on all fathers, current or potential.

    Well, shoot.

URLs du Jour

2018-06-15

[Amazon Link]

  • I am dubious of the implied causality expressed in Proverbs 12:26:

    26 The righteous choose their friends carefully,
        but the way of the wicked leads them astray.

    Isn't it more likely, Mr. Proverbialist, that choosing friends poorly might lead one to wickedness, rather than the other way around?

    As we tell the kiddos: "Make good choices."


  • Kevin D. Williamson seems to have found a new (semi-permanent?) home at the Weekly Standard. His latest is an extended essay on the inconsistent rules for celebrity pariahdom: Watch What You Say. Someone Else Is. Long, but here's an excerpt that talks about an issue that's been bugging me of late:

    Consider, for example, the bubbling kulturkampf over transgender issues. To believe, as many radical feminists do, that Chelsea Manning is not a woman in the same sense that Chelsea Clinton is—or that Bradley Manning is no more a woman in that sense than Bradley Cooper is—may be controversial, but that belief alone does not place one among the infidels. What does bring out the takfiri tendency is “misgendering,” refusing to—or simply failing to—conform to the orthodox court etiquette touching these issues. The gentlemen at National Public Radio found that out the hard way when in the interest of journalistic clarity they used the name Bradley Manning in a story about Bradley Manning deciding to adopt a new name and to begin living as though he were a woman—which is to say, they used the name Bradley Manning at a time when everybody who followed the news knew who Bradley Manning was but nobody had ever heard of Chelsea Manning.

    No one seriously believes that the people who manage editorial practices at NPR have the sexual politics of Rick Santorum or Mike Huckabee. And if hooked up to a polygraph machine by electrodes attached to the genitals associated with the sex assigned to them at birth, not many people would take seriously the insistence that a biologically male human being who entered this vale of tears capable of fathering children becomes a woman in the same sense as a biologically female person who walks this Earth capable of bearing and nursing children simply because we monkey around with a few pronouns and call the result a “trans woman.” Much of the social tension associated with gender dysphoria could be managed with such old-fashioned bourgeois values as kindness and liberality rather than the carefully cultivated group psychosis currently prescribed. But bourgeois values are unfashionable to speak about, especially among those who profit most handsomely by living in accord with them. Some of that is homeopathic magic straight out of The Golden Bough, but more of it is etiquette obsession straight out of Versailles.

    Watch what you say: Someone is.

    Helpfully defined: "A takfiri is a Muslim who accuses another Muslim of apostasy—of being impure."


  • At the Federalist, David Harsanyi (a straight-shooter in my book) lists 3 Takeaways From The IG Report That Seriously Undermine The FBI’s Credibility. Only three? Commenting on the now-famed Strzok→Page "We'll stop it" text:

    According to the IG, Strzok claims he doesn’t remember sending the text, BUT he also somehow remembers that text was “intended to reassure Page that Trump would not be elected, not to suggest that he would do something to impact the investigation.”

    Now, texts don’t necessarily prove an agent acted unprofessionally. Maybe Strozk was showing off to his lover. Maybe Strozk was blowing off steam. But if a law enforcement agent charged with scrutinizing your business says he’s going to “stop you” — on top of dozens of other statements demonstrated high levels of prejudice, including one self-righteous exchange where he praises himself for being in a position to stop the Trump “menace” — would you consider that person professionally unbiased? There’s no reasonable argument that can guarantee that this agent’s work was uncontaminated by his animosity for Trump.

    Somewhere, someone is wondering: in these hyper-politicized times, how do you trust any branch of the government to investigate possible wrongdoing by government officials or political candidates?


  • At Cato, Trevor Burrus asks the burning question: Did Minnesota Lose Their Free Speech Case at Oral Argument?

    In a 7-2 decision today, the Supreme Court struck down Minnesota’s blanket ban on wearing anything with a political insignia at a polling place. Chief Justice Roberts’s opinion agreed with many parts of Cato’s brief, particularly regarding the inherent unworkability of such a broad ban on political speech. The decision is a small but important victory for free speech.

    In highlighting the unpredictability of the what counts as “political,” Chief Justice Roberts’s opinion cites one moment from oral argument that Supreme Court observers found particularly telling. When asked by Justice Alito whether the law would ban a shirt with the text of the Second Amendment, Daniel Rogan, counsel for Minnesota, said “I think that that could be viewed as political.” Alito then immediately asked whether the same would be true of a shirt with the text of the First Amendment. Observers in the courtroom laughed, and Rogan said “no your honor, I don’t think the First Amendment,” only to be interrupted by the Chief Justice, “No what, that it would be covered or wouldn’t be allowed?,” Roberts asked. “It would be allowed,” replied Rogan, but the Chief Justice seemed surprised, “it would be?,” he asked.

    I am somewhat surprised that the decision wasn't 9-0, but the Unwise Latina, joined by Justice Breyer, couldn't find anything wrong with Minnesota's selective dress codes.

    The relevant New Hampshire law, in case you're wondering:

    No person shall distribute, wear, or post at a polling place any campaign material in the form of a poster, card, handbill, placard, picture, pin, sticker, circular, or article of clothing which is intended to influence the action of the voter within the building where the election is being held.

    Order our Amazon Product du Jour to test the Constitutional waters at your polling place. (NH Primary coming up on September 11.)


  • Jeff Jacoby has some advice, and that is to Leave Google alone. A sample:

    Google gives away its foremost product, Internet search, for free. Ditto most of its hundreds of other products, from Gmail to Translate to Google Earth to Waze. It plowed $14 billion into R&D last year, more than any company in America except Amazon. Of the brands Americans love most, according to Morning Consult's authoritative polling, Google is number one.

    Yes, Google's left-wing bias can be obnoxious. But to target a private corporation because of its politics is something no conservative should favor. This conservative certainly doesn't.

    As Jacoby points out, the tech landscape is littered with the barely-twitching remnants of former dominant players: AOL, Yahoo, MySpace,… Is Google somehow immune from humbling competitive forces? Hey, maybe. But that's not the way to bet.


  • And our close personal friend, Dave Barry, writes an early Father's Day column: On Father's Day, don't forget the soccer dads — or their 'warrior' daughters.

    This Father’s Day I want to sing the praises of soccer dads. I am one. My daughter, Sophie, started playing youth soccer 14 years ago, when she was 4 years old and roughly the same height as the more mature dandelions on the field. Back then my primary responsibility as a soccer dad was to stand on the sideline with the other parents and shout “Sophie, kick the ball!” several hundred times per game.

    Not that it helped. Sophie went two solid years without ever kicking the ball. You think I’m exaggerating, but I am not. Sophie has always been a cautious, meticulous person; she hates to do the wrong thing. Even at age 4, she was afraid that, if she kicked the ball, she might kick it in the wrong direction (not that there really is a “wrong direction” in 4-year-old soccer). Sophie’s strategy back then was to hover near the ball, frowning at it with concern, but to leave the actual, physical kicking of the ball up to the other players.

    Dave is noted for his weird, one could say un-American, love for soccer. But we forgive him.


Last Modified 2018-06-15 7:03 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2018-06-14

[Amazon Link]

  • A small note on our Amazon Product du Jour: the seller seems to think this is a pro gun control message. In which case we'll classify it as "unintended honesty".

  • Proverbs 12:25 isn't very profound:

    25 Anxiety weighs down the heart,
        but a kind word cheers it up.

    … a sweet fortune cookie, undeniably true.


  • At NRO, Joseph Siegel shares my distaste for the increasing invocation of "common sense" in national debates: Parkland and the Trouble with Appealing to ‘Common Sense’

    Since the shooting in Parkland, Fla., gun-control advocates have escalated the vitriol in an already polarized political climate. These activists publicly berated Marco Rubio at a good-faith debate and brandished $1.05 price-tag stickers: allegedly the value of a Florida student’s life in NRA contributions. Abetted by the media, they essentially claim that Republican legislators all know that we could eliminate school shootings, but choose to do nothing because the NRA is so deep in their pockets — or because they simply do not care enough about kids being shot in class.

    After Parkland, Barack Obama also shared his thoughts, once again calling for “common-sense gun safety laws” on Twitter. While Obama’s favored policies certainly lack sense, it is the rhetoric of his pet phrase, now widely assimilated into the gun debate, that has committed the greatest harm, toxifying our discourse to its current post-Parkland state.

    I speculate that usually "common sense" is used simply because it focus-groups well. And it only indicates that "common sense" advocates are happy to insult the intelligence of their listening audience. "You can be persuaded by meaningless feelgood question-begging phraseology."

    But Joseph is right that it implies the venality of your opponents: if you're not in favor of "common sense", you are obviously operating in bad faith and in the employ of the evildoers.


  • At Reason, Veronique de Rugy laments Trump’s Economic Ignorance on Tariffs. (I know: longest article ever written, amirite? But trust me, it's short.)

    Another week, another bumbling trade declaration from President Donald Trump. After a very confrontational G-7 meeting, he threatened to cut all member countries—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom—off from the U.S. market if they don't reduce their tariffs on American exports. He told the press, "It's going to stop, or we'll stop trading with them."

    As a reminder, this whole drama started when President Trump imposed stiff steel and aluminum tariffs on everyone, including our closest trading partners, friends, and security allies. Adding insult to injury, he argued that imports from these friendly countries are a security threat to the United States, even though the Department of Defense said they are not.

    Could we please have some small symbolic concessions that might persuade Trump to declare trade-war victory and bring the troops home restore (at least) the status quo ante?


  • But at International Liberty, Daniel J. Mitchell is encouraged by some Trumpian rhetoric, that the G-7 countries mutually remove all tariffs: Trump’s Zero-Tariff Proposal: Throwaway Line or Serious Offer?

    Let’s treat Trump’s statement as a serious offer. Or as something that could evolve into a serious offer.

    And I’ll start by observing that mutual disarmament on trade among G7 countries would be good for America, especially from a Trump-ish perspective. That’s because the U.S. currently is slightly better on trade according to the Fraser Institute’s measures of both tariff and non-tariff barriers, so other G7 countries would have to do more if we had complete trade liberalization.

    Dan has interesting numbers at the link.


  • Are you looking for some theory that might explain our country's mass psychosis? Aren't we all? Well, bunkie, Megan McArdle has tracked one down for you: The game theory that explains our country’s mass psychosis. For example, Robert De Niro's recent Tony awards outburst.

    When a successful man in his 70s is screaming profanities at another septuagenarian, to wild applause, it seems safe to say the whole country has lost its bloody mind.

    Two things about this bout of madness are striking. The first is that not just celebrities but ordinary adults as well have started to make public displays that would have horrified them a few years back — and yet they are still outraged when the other side throws a similar tantrum. The second is that everyone defends this behavior as having been made necessary by the appalling outbursts across the aisle.

    As far as game theory goes, Megan notes the strategy is pretty basic: "tit for tat". And quotes a game theorist: “One little slip up and the cooperation of tit-for-tat unravels.”

    And we get (for another example) a Texas city councilwoman screaming at a 14-year old for wearing a pro-Trump t-shirt in a cookie store.

URLs du Jour

2018-06-13

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 12:24 sounds kind of ominous for the indolent:

    24 Diligent hands will rule,
        but laziness ends in forced labor.

    I suppose this means something like: Hard work eventually pays off. You get to be in charge! Sloth, on the other hand, results in … slavery? Sounds unpleasant. (But perhaps you could use our Amazon Product du Jour!)


  • Ronald Baily, at Reason, notes that Trump's Totally Free Trade Idea Is Really Smart.

    However, the subhed: "It's a damned shame that he doesn't seem to really believe in it."

    At the G-7 summit meeting in Quebec, President Donald Trump reportedly suggested the idea of totally free trade to the leaders of Canada, Germany, Britain, France, Italy, and Japan. "Ultimately that's what you want, you want tariff free, no barriers, and you want no subsides because you have some countries subsidizing industries and that's not fair," Trump said. "So you go tariff free, you go barrier free, you go subsidy free, that's the way you learned at the Wharton School of Finance." Let's call that insight waging trade peace.

    Well, hooray! Tariffs and other trade barriers are taxes on consumers and protections for the profits of uncompetitive corporations. So how high are tariffs now? According to the World Bank, U.S. tariffs applied to all products average about 1.6 percent. That happens to be the identical rate for Germany, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom. Japan's average is 1.3 percent and Canada's is the lowest at 0.8 percent. In other words, we and our allies are well down the path toward totally free trade.

    Ron also points out that the USA loves to subsidize its agricultural sector. Will Trump throw his weight toward getting rid of those? Don't hold your breath.


  • A bit of good news, reported at the Tech Freedom blog: Court Rejects Trump DOJ Suit to Block AT&T/Time Warner Merger

    Last November, the Department of Justice stunned the antitrust world by suing to block AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner. No such “vertical” deal (between two companies that do not compete directly) had been blocked in four decades. President Trump’s relentless attacks on CNN, Time Warner’s crown jewel, prompted widespread speculation that the DOJ was stretching antitrust law to serve the President’s political agenda. AT&T made this argument in court, asking to cross-examine Makan Delrahim, Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division, about White House interference in a law enforcement action.

    Today, the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia handed AT&T a complete victory — delivering a stinging rebuke to the Trump Administration and handing the DOJ its first loss in an antitrust case since 2004.

    The lawsuit was a silly waste of time and taxpayer money.


  • Hey, kids, what time is it? At NRO, Robert Poole has the answer: It’s Time to Rethink America’s Failing Highways. He notes the poor condition of some thoroughfares, while the public and many pols resist raising fuel taxes to pay for fixes.

    Fuel taxes were sold to the public last century as “highway-user fees.” And originally, they were used solely to build and maintain highways. Yet that is far from the case today. Nearly one-fourth of all federal fuel taxes are used for non-highway purposes, and it’s worse than that in some states. In California, over the next 30 years, $18 billion of state gas-tax money is pledged for paying off bonds issued to build Jerry Brown’s high-speed-rail boondoggle.

    It’s not hard to see that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way we fund and manage the highways we all depend on. Highways are one of our basic public utilities — along with water, electricity, natural gas, telephones, etc. Yet we don’t have huge political battles over how to pay for those utilities. Every month you get a bill from your electric company, water company, phone company, and satellite or cable company. You pay for the specific services you used, and the money goes directly to the company that provided those services. None of that is true for highways.

    Yes, Robert is a "sell the streets" libertarian. Check him out, you might become one too.


  • Arnold Kling comments on Eric Weinstein on the IDW. Which is the so-called "Intellectual Dark Web".

    Although he uses different terminology, Weinstein seems to suggest that institutions of the mainstream media–he names CNN, NPR, the NYT, and “magazines like The Atlantic“–have degenerated into put-downs and expressions of outrage at the expense of reporting the news. Stories that would reflect badly on the ability or moral conduct of oppressed groups, or that would reflect favorably on the moral conduct of privileged groups, cannot be processed by these institutions that hitherto were fairly reliable curators of news. The IDW is a reaction against, or an alternative to, the dereliction of duty on the part of the mainstream outlets. Not an alternative news source, but an alternative source of discussion and analysis.

    Eric Weinstein is the brother of Bret, who, you may remember, objected to the "Day of Absence" at Oregon's Evergreen State College, in which white people were "encouraged" to not show up.

URLs du Jour

2018-06-12

[Amazon Link]

  • I find the first part of Proverbs 12:23 to be … a bit overstated:

    23 The prudent keep their knowledge to themselves,
        but a fool’s heart blurts out folly.

    I want to argue with the Proverbialist: "Come on. You have to say that, in many cases, prudence dictates that knowledge be shared with others. How else are people supposed to learn stuff?"

    But the second part is on-target. Of course a fool's heart blurts out folly.

    Not literally, though. That would be gross.


  • At Cato, Roger Pilon is disappointed with everyone on the Supreme Court except Justice Gorsuch: Legislative Presumption and Judicial Deference Trump the Contracts Clause

    If you designate a beneficiary on a life insurance policy, should you expect your intent to be honored upon your death? You may not be able to if you live in Minnesota or more than half of the nation’s other states. So said the Supreme Court today—despite the plain language of Constitution’s Contracts Clause, which categorically prohibits states from passing “any … Law impairing the Obligations of Contracts.” The case was Sveen v. Melin. The decision was 8-1, Justice Elena Kagan writing for the Court. The dissent by Justice Neil Gorsuch goes to the heart of the matter.

    Yes, Neil Gorsuch was the only one on the side of the Contracts Clause. (Et tu, Clarence Thomas?) For the other eight justices, maybe get a copy of our Amazon Product du Jour.


  • In the "Of Course It Did" Department, Katherine Rohloff at Daily Signal reports: Government Agency Funds ‘Trans Theater Works’ With Taxpayer Dollars.

    Among the $3,381,375 the NEA awarded to Massachusetts in its Spring 2017 grants announcement, $15,000 was given to the Boston-based Theater Offensive for its production of “They, Them, Theirs: Showcasing Trans Lives."

    The NEA said that the grant would be used “to support the development, production, and tour” of the show, as well as “a post-show analysis about the topics raised through forum theater techniques, discussions, and workshops.”

    Once production began, the show’s name was changed to “The Heart of the Matter.” It focuses on the lives and experiences of transgender and “queer” youths and adults of color through narratives set in both the past and the present.

    “[‘The Heart of the Matter’] utilizes immersive, participatory performance strategy to challenge theatrical conventions and confront audiences with adult, white, middle-class culpability in the oppressive systems LGBTQ youth face,” Matt Gelman, associate managing director of the Theater Offensive, said in a press release.

    I know there are weightier matters. But could we please just defund the National Endowment for the Arts?


  • At Reason, Robby Soave does his poop-scooping due diligence and finds: This Study, 'Rape Culture and Queer Performativity at Urban Dog Parks,' Is, Uh, Real

     Have you always harbored a secret desire to lurk at dog parks, tirelessly inspect the dogs' genitals in order to record their sexes, observe how frequently they hump each other, and ask their owners personal questions?

    If so, you might enjoy a new study, "Human Reactions to Rape Culture and Queer Performativity at Urban Dog Parks in Portland, Oregon." Yes, the paper is about dog-on-dog rape and what it means for feminism and queer theory. Essentially, it posits that studying "rape culture" among animals at the dog park is a useful vehicle for understanding rape among human beings.

    Robby read the "study" and found that it wasn't quite as ludicrouse as one might imagine.

    The author, one Helen Wilson, lists her affiliation as with the "Portland Ungendering Research Initiative", an organization that I strongly suspect is entirely made up of (and by) Helen Wilson.


  • And our Google LFOD News alert rang for an ABC News story (via Good Morning America), from the other side of the state: Mindy Kaling shares practical and inspirational advice during Dartmouth commencement speech.

    Mindy Kaling returned to Dartmouth College to deliver a commencement speech filled with hilarious tidbits from her time on the campus, practical advice -- like, "buy a toilet plunger" -- and other inspirational advice that anyone could use.

    Kaling, an alumna of Hanover, New Hampshire, Ivy League college, began her speech by reflecting on her time at the school. She reminded graduates, students and proud parents alike that the New Hampshire state motto is "Live Free or Die."

    "But when you're here in January, die actually sounds like a pretty good option," the comedian quipped.

    Although the story claims the speech contained "hilarious tidbits", none were actually quoted.

Dust

Silo series Book 3

[Amazon Link]

So this completes the reading mini-project I set for myself when I read Hugh Howey's Wool back in 2015: to read the remaining members of the trilogy. Number two was Shift, which I read back in August 2017. Overall, I liked Wool a lot, Shift not so much, and Dust even less. But it was a worthy effort. As always, what follows could be considered spoilerish.

Another lesson: don't let too much time elapse between reading books in a strongly plot-connected series; I found myself wondering: Um, who are these people again, and what did they do in the previous books? I eventually remembered enough to make sense out of the plot here.

Basically: inhabitants of the silos have come to a dim realization of their reality. They're buried in deep Georgian soil, the outside world might be uninhabitable (or it might not), the folks running the show are only slightly more aware of the situation, and the real (cartoonish) bad guy has no compunctions whatsoever about mass murder.

As we open, the inhabitants of Silo 18, led by the intrepid Juliet, are using their newly-discovered driller to tunnel over to Silo 17. This isn't easy, and there's plenty of opposition. And (as we know) Silo 18's population is far from saintlike. And (as we also know) if Silo 1 gets wind of these doings, they'll wipe out both 17 and 18. So everything's fraught with danger, physical and mental despair, and also sentimentality. (A significant subplot: a cute kid loses her puppy—conveniently named "Puppy"—and gets involved with some nasty people instead.)

The problem I had with Shift is more-than-slightly magnified here: too many words to support a thin plot and characters.

URLs du Jour

2018-06-11

[Amazon Link]

  • There's more orality in Proverbs 12:22:

    22 The Lord detests lying lips,
        but he delights in people who are trustworthy.

    Unlike the Proverbialist, I can't claim to know the mind of the Lord. But in my 34-second Google research, I found a site claiming an interestingly significant correlation: The Most Swear-Prone US States Are Also The Most Trustworthy. It's from a site calling itself "IFLScience", and you can probably guess what the "IFL" initials stand for, and why they might have a pro-swearing bias.

    Apparently, most people think those that swear and curse and turn their air blue on a regular basis are untrustworthy. This always seemed like a strange connection to make, as if swearing somehow is equivalent to spouting prevarications. I hate to think what people subscribing to this theory think of our own site.

    Evidence is beginning to surface, however, that the very opposite is true, and that sweary types are actually often more honest than their courteous counterparts. Now, a brand new study set to be published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science seems to back up this point – while revealing where the most curse-prone (and thereby honest) people in the US are.

    Spoiler for my fellow Granite Staters: New Hampshire seems to be smack in the middle on both "State Integrity" and "State profanity rate". Dammit!

    I'm not sure where the Lord comes down on trustworthy people who swear a lot. It's a trade-off between Commandments 2 and 8.


  • Investors Business Daily reveals Some Inconvenient Truths About Recycling.

    It has become an article of faith in the U.S. that recycling is a good thing. But evidence is piling up that recycling is a waste of time and money, and a bit of a fraud.

    The New York Times recently reported that, unknown to most families who spend hours separating garbage into little recycling bins, much of the stuff ends up in a landfill anyway.

    John Tierney was all over this back in 1996, also (somewhat surprisingly) in the NYT: Recycling Is Garbage.

    Mandatory recycling programs aren't good for posterity. They offer mainly short-term benefits to a few groups -- politicians, public relations consultants, environmental organizations, waste-handling corporations -- while diverting money from genuine social and environmental problems. Recycling may be the most wasteful activity in modern America: a waste of time and money, a waste of human and natural resources.

    Again: that's from 1996.

    It's an unshakeable tenet of secular religion for some, though. So, like mindless automatons, we'll continue to dutifully dump our cardboard, glass, paper, plastic, and cans into the single-stream dumpster at the transfer station for the foreseeable future.


  • At NRO, Kevin D. Williamson asks the musical question: Can We Talk? The URL reveals the thesis: a bigger threat than "fake news" to our civic discourse is oversimplification. Unsurprisingly, this plays into the hands of progressive activists.

    KDW's launching pad is a recent LATimes column by Nicholas Goldberg pronouncing Fox News "a danger to this country". (All you need to know about Goldberg: "MSNBC" does not appear in his column.)

    Another way of putting this is that the unstated task of cable-news journalism on the Fox/MSNBC model — along with practically all political talk radio, 99.44 percent of social media, and a great deal of inferior writing about politics — is transmuting intellectual complexity into moral simplicity. Even that isn’t quite right: The moral simplicity offered by the “Everybody Who Disagrees with Me Is Hitler” school of analysis is a false simplicity — simplicity for the truly simple, as opposed to what Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. described as “the simplicity on the far side of complexity.”

    Also featured, a quote from Paul Valéry: "Everything simple is false. Everything complex is unusable." And a Sharknado 2 reference. You'll want to read the whole thing.


  • And our Google LFOD alert rang multiple times for stories like this: Gov. Sununu Says Transgender Discrimination Runs Contrary to 'Live Free or Die' Motto.

    Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, signed bills Friday to protect transgender people from discrimination and ban therapies that seek to change the sexual orientation of minors.

    Uh huh. Because nothing says "Live Free or Die" more than banning stuff.

Solo: A Star Wars Story

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

So we managed to see this summer blockbuster-that-wasn't before it vanished from local cinemas. Avast: spoilers there be, below this line. Proceed with caution.

We pick up Han when he's a minor thief under the thumb of crime lord Lady Proxima on the ship-building planet of Corellia. (As you may remember, the Millennium Falcon was described as a "Corellian freighter" in the original movies.) Han has big plans, though: to escape Corellia and Proxima (not necessarily in that order) with his sweetie Qi'ra, get his own ship, become a pilot, and from there, make an honest independent living as a smuggler.

Things go awry. Many things. He worms his way into a band of thieves led by Woody Harrelson, their do-or-die mission to swipe a load of valuable hyperfuel for their employer, Paul Bettany. Things still go awry, and Han keeps getting further behind in his quest for independence.

Things we see: Han meeting Chewbacca; Han meeting Lando; Han (eventually) getting his hands on the Millennium Falcon; Han shooting first. We get additional confirmation of what we knew from past movies: Han likes to think he's an in-it-for-himself scoundrel, but at heart he's like a Chandler private eye: "Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world."

Real spoiler here: no Jabba. Hence there's a big gaping hole that could be (but probably won't be) filled by a second Solo movie, detailing what happens with Han and Qi'ra (now shown to be in thrall to Darth Maul) and Jabba on scenic Tatooine.

URLs du Jour

2018-06-10

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 12:21 is a little too optimistic for my tastes:

    21 No harm overtakes the righteous,
        but the wicked have their fill of trouble.

    Or maybe things worked better, cosmic-justicewise, back in Ancient Israel.


  • One of my left-wing Facebook friends pointed out (with suitable outrage) this Politico article: The 2 words you can’t say in a Democratic ad. Oooh! What could they be?

    Democratic voters want single payer health care. But don’t expect to hear Democratic candidates talk about it — at least not in those words.

    To avoid divisive intraparty fights that drive candidates left — only to be attacked by Republicans for favoring socialized medicine — the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee warned aspirants last year about the political liabilities of endorsing “single payer,” according to sources familiar with the advice. An influential progressive group even urged candidates to discard the often-misunderstood phrase and embrace “Medicare for all” to draw strong connections with the popular seniors’ health program.

    Note that "single payer" was already a euphemism for socialized medicine. But apparently voters caught that, so it's on to a new euphemism, "Medicare for all".

    It's an excellent example of Steven Pinker's euphemism treadmill. Alex Nowrasteh has immigration-based examples here. We've noted how "affirmative action" was treadmilled into "race-sensitive admissions policies" here, and how "gun control" became "gun reform" here.


  • John Podhoretz reviews, hilariously, Paul Schrader's "dreary latest film": Caricature Study.

    The word “masterwork” is being tossed about liberally since the release of a new film called First Reformed, so I felt I had to see it—even though four decades of exposure to the productions of its 71-year-old writer-director, Paul Schrader, have offered me little save savage instruction in the meaning of the phrase “waste of time.”

    Surely, I thought, it couldn’t simply be that First Reformed gained its fan club because it tells a story about a tormented pastor awakening to the threat of global warming. That couldn’t possibly be the only reason.

    It’s not the only reason. There’s also a bad guy based on the Koch brothers. He’s the second-worst polluter in America and the big reveal here is that he gives $85,000 to his local church. Eighty-five thou? Please. A really evil Koch clone would give $50 million. Oh, and there’s also a kid at a Christian fellowship meeting wearing a T-shirt with a cross on it who complains about Muslims. I didn’t see the movie at a critic screening, but I assume the critics who have been raving about this collection of wildly obvious caricatures had to restrain themselves from clapping like audience members at the Samantha Bee show.

    Well, that one goes off the Netflix queue. (But unlike JPod, I kind of liked Rolling Thunder.)


  • At NRO, Andrew McCarthy has a pointed observation about Leak Investigations, Journalists, and Double Standards.

    The media are in a lather over the Justice Department’s grand-jury investigation of contacts between several reporters and a government source — the former Senate Intelligence Committee security director who has been indicted for lying to investigators about his leaks to the press.

    The same media are in a lather over the refusal of the president of the United States, at least thus far, to submit to questioning by the special counsel in the Russia investigation. The president is placing himself “above the law,” they contend, if he rebuffs prosecutors or defies a grand-jury subpoena.

    Whether we’re talking about journalists or presidents, the situation is the same: An investigative demand is made on people whose jobs are so important to the functioning of our self-governing republic that they are given some protection, but not absolute immunity, from the obligation to provide evidence to the grand jury.

    You should beware of journalists who pontificate that "no one should be above the law", while adding, under their breath, "… except us."


  • I will just go ahead and "excerpt" this entire short bit from the WSJ on Academic Groupthink

    Here is a story I heard from a friend, which I will alter slightly to protect the innocent. A prestigious psychology professor signed an open letter in which psychologists condemned belief in innate sex differences. My friend knew that this professor believed such differences existed, and asked him why he signed the letter. He said that he expected everyone else in his department would sign it, so it would look really bad if he didn’t. My friend asked why he expected everyone else in his department to sign it, and he said “Probably for the same reason I did.”

    The original is from Scott Alexander's musings on the "Intellectual Dark Web" at Slate Star Codex: Can Things Be Both Popular And Silenced?


  • Larry Lessig is the semi-famous lawyer who argued and lost (and, to my mind, botched) Eldred v. Ashcroft, the Supreme Court case that upheld the "Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act". At Wired, he notes the a legislative giveaway in progress: Congress' Latest Move to Extend Copyright Protection is Misguided.

    Twenty years later, the fight for term extension has begun anew. Buried in an otherwise harmless act, passed by the House and now being considered in the Senate, this new bill purports to create a new digital performance right—basically the right to control copies of recordings on any digital platform (ever hear of the internet?)—for musical recordings made before 1972. These recordings would now have a new right, protected until 2067, which, for some, means a total term of protection of 144 years. The beneficiaries of this monopoly need do nothing to get the benefit of this gift. They don’t have to make the work available. Nor do they have to register their claims in advance.

    Looking at the (linked) bill, it has "bipartisan support", which, in these days, indicates that the fix may be in. Lessig's description of "misguided" is way too polite; "rent-seeking crony capitalism" is more on-target.

URLs du Jour

2018-06-09

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 12:20 is another … one of those:

    20 Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil,
        but those who promote peace have joy.

    We can confidently assert the contrapositive to that last bit: joyless people do not promote peace. No matter how loudly they insist otherwise.

    As far as deceit goes: as Orwell noted (see our Amazon Product du Jour), it's gone universal since the days of Ancient Israel. (Klingons too?)


  • Maybe you've been asking yourself: Do I get to rewrite the Constitution because I dislike Trump? If so, you'll want to check out David Harsanyi's latest column: You Don’t Get to Rewrite the Constitution Because You Dislike Trump.

    If your contention is that President Donald Trump has the propensity to sound like a bully and an authoritarian, I’m with you. If you’re arguing that Trump’s rhetoric is sometimes coarse and unpresidential, I can’t disagree. I’m often turned off by the aesthetic and tonal quality of his presidency. And, yes, Trump has an unhealthy tendency to push theories that exaggerate and embellish small truths to galvanize his fans for political gain. Those are all legitimate political concerns.

    Yet the ubiquitous claim that Trump acts in a way that uniquely undermines the rule of law is, to this point, simply untrue.

    It would be nice if we had a principled opposition to Trump. There are a few of them. But they're consistently drowned out by the folks who seem determined to prove they're just as divorced from truth and reality as Trump is.


  • Reason's Ron Bailey writes on the latest possible weapon against atmospheric CO2: Sucking Carbon Dioxide from the Air to Produce Gasoline?

    Recycling the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere by turning it back into fuel would help slow the process of global warming. An earlier estimate calculated that direct air capture (DAC) of carbon dioxide would be prohibitively expensive at least $600 per ton. But now Carbon Engineering, located in the British Columbia, has published a detailed engineering and cost analysis of its pilot DAC plant that suggests that its technology can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for $94 to $232 per ton.

    An intriguing effort to turn down the global thermostat. But I've made this point before: two people can fuss about where to set the thermostat. Can you imagine 8 billion people arguing about the same? Especially when we know how "arguments" on that scale are carried out?

    Headline from 2118: "Glaciating Scandanavian Countries Mount Airstrikes on Carbon-Recycling Plants".


  • Mark Jamison, at AEI, shakes his head in bafflement at what some otherwise sensible people are advocating: When did making customers happy become a reason for regulation or breakup? And there's some debunking:

    Before addressing the substance of the arguments, let’s clean up some facts. Google is chosen somewhere between 75 percent and 90 percent of the time worldwide by people using organic search. It doesn’t “drive” those searches. And this is only organic search — apps such as Yelp and Travelocity provide specialized search services. Facebook products are indeed popular, but the 95 percent figure is misleading: According to Pew Research, 35 percent of US teens say they use Snapchat more than any other social media, and 32 percent say they use YouTube more than any other. Facebook and Instagram together are most used by only 25 percent of US teens. So Facebook is, at best, number three in the market. And two companies with a 63 percent market share do not make a duopoly: To constitute a duopoly, they must have 100 percent of the market. Besides, it is unclear that online advertising is a market in the sense used in antitrust legislation.

    Only quibble with Jamison: we aren't really "customers" of Google/Facebook/etc. unless we're giving them money. Their actual customers are the ones paying them for our eyeballs.


  • The Google LFOD alert rang for a Laconia Daily Sun article: Region ready for Motorcycle Week.

    GILFORD — Cynthia Makris summed up the philosophy behind Laconia Motorcycle Week in a welcoming news conference at Gunstock Mountain Resort on Thursday.

    “When we say in Laconia, ‘We ride,’ we mean that from our ‘Live Free or Die’ Yankee attitude, our mutual love of the wind in our faces and the freedom of the open road. This is what has built the legacy of Laconia Motorcycle Week as the oldest rally in the world,” said Makris, whose family owns the Naswa Resort.

    It starts today, in its 95th year.


  • But LFOD also cropped up in a local news story from Seacoast Online: NH Diversity and Inclusion Council releases preliminary report. NH Governor Chris Sununu is quoted:

    “If we really want to be the Live Free or Die State, we must ensure that New Hampshire is a place where every person, regardless of their background, has an equal and full opportunity to pursue their dreams and to make a better life for themselves and their families,” Sununu said in a statement Thursday. “I would like to thank the members of the Council on Diversity and Inclusion for their preliminary report, and I look forward to seeing the results of their future work.”

    If you'd like to read the interim report, it's right here. It's saturated with the usual feelgood rhetoric wrapped around the iron fist of coercion. If I may characterize: We want all people to be treated with respect, except those who disagree with us. In which case, welcome to legal hell, bigot."

    One specific proposal is pretty innocuous: that NH should recognize "Juneteenth", the celebration of the 1865 abolition of slavery in… Texas. But 45 other states officially "recognize" Juneteenth, the council notes, so we should do that too.

    Fine. Another empty symbolic gesture to make people, theoretically, feel better? We can do that.


  • And a cartoon comment on Trump's I-can-pardon-myself stance from Michael Ramirez

    A Flash (sorry, but it's neat) discussion of the original from the Louvre.

URLs du Jour

2018-06-08

[Amazon Link]

  • How many ways does Proverbs 12:19 instantiate standard Proverbialist tropes?

    19 Truthful lips endure forever,
        but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.

    I count four:

    1. Mentions of mouth parts (two!)
    2. Good/bad compare-and-contrast
    3. You come away saying: "That is not an accurate description of today's reality."
    4. … then quickly add: "But President Donald J. Trump should really read this."


  • The good folks at Commie New Hampshire Public Radio are doing (I must admit) a clever Twitter campaign: What is PEAK New Hampshire?

    As part of our "Only in New Hampshire" series, we've compiled some of the best stories about our state. The competition is on to find the thing that most captures the spirit of New Hampshire. Voting for each round will begin at 12 p.m. and run for 23 hours.

    It's a NCAA-style tournament. It appears that (what else) "Live Free or Die" is the number one seed, and it has already won its first round. If you have a Twitter account, and you don't want to let Commies Typical NHPR Listeners govern the contest outcome, you might want to click over.

    By the way, if you live in a state with a wimpier slogan on your license plate—that is, if you live anywhere other than NH—our Amazon Product du Jour is for you. (Pun Salad gets a cut if you click-n-buy.)


  • Hot Air's John Sexton observes the latest from Central America: Nicaraguan Socialist Daniel Ortega Turns Tyrant…Why Does This Keep Happening?

    It’s never a good sign when your socialist President sends his police and unofficial goon squad into the street to start shooting protesters against his regime. We’ve seen this playbook recently in Venezuela under President Nicolas Maduro and now something very similar in Nicaragua where former socialist revolutionary Daniel Ortega seems intent on ruling for life.

    As reported by the Atlantic, the body count is over 120.

    Wikipedia still describes Ortega's Sandinista National Liberation Front as a "democratic socialist" party.

    It also says that the latest election, in 2016, demonstrated "that the application of the Christian, Socialist and Solidarity Model of the Government of Reconciliation and National Unity implemented by the Sandinista National Liberation Front has the support of the immense majority of Nicaraguans."

    On the other hand, the New York Times editorialized that the election was a "farce".

    To answer Hot Air's question, "Why does this keep happening?": see Hayek's The Road to Serfdom, with special attention to Chapter Ten, "Why the Worst Get on Top."


  • Some personal notes, not that they matter: (1) I'm easily amused. (2) I have minimal insight into why I find things to be funny. (3) I still watch Saturday Night Live, but (4) often sit stone-faced during political skits at which the audience laughs uproariously. What's so funny?

    Kevin D. Williamson returns to the pages of National Review with an I-hope-unpaywalled article on the dismal state of "comedy" in 21st Century America: Monkey Hear, Monkey Laugh.

    The great tragedy of George Carlin’s life was that he stopped being funny before he stopped performing comedy. The great tragedy of Samantha Bee’s life is that she stopped before she started.

    KDW goes on to note—with some support from ape-observing science—that laughter can be a signalling of social status; roughly: "I am in agreement with the things this famous celebrity just said in the form and tempo of a joke, even though the actual humor content was less than zero."


  • Megan McArdle provides the news: Saving Social Security and Medicare now seems hopeless.

    The math of fixing our entitlement programs has always been easy, but the politics have always been difficult. The long time horizons over which such problems unfold, and over which solutions are best implemented, are ill-suited to the exigencies of the American political calendar. The political bases of the two major parties want something right now — a gargantuan tax cut, perhaps, or a massive new health-care entitlement that must be paid for by using Medicare payment reforms that could otherwise have shored up the finances of the existing program. Politicians facing a choice between giving the base what it wants, or giving the base higher payroll taxes and later retirement ages just to keep something they already have, unsurprisingly chose the easy path to fiscal meltdown, rather than the rocky road to sanity.

    But if the politics of entitlement reform were bad before, they seem hopeless now. The necessary reforms necessarily have to be bipartisan; any party that tried to force this unpleasant fiscal medicine on the American public by themselves would be committing electoral suicide. Given the bitter rancor gripping the country, it’s hard to see either party agreeing to hold hands and jump together. 

    We've delayed reform so long, that it's a guarantee that whatever happens will be painful. The ugliness of the class-warfare rhetoric is already painful.


  • I say "painful" above in a metaphorical sense. At least I hope so. But to mix metaphorical pain with actual pain, let's check out Jacob Sullum's notes on the latest efforts in the drug war: This Is Your Hand on Opioids: Trump's 'Very Bad Commercials' Rely on Dishonest and Pernicious Scare Tactics.

    Three months ago, Donald Trump promised to spend "a lot of money" on "very, very bad commercials" that would "scare" teenagers away from opioids by depicting "pretty unsavory situations." Today the White House unveiled four of those government-sponsored ads, and they are indeed very, very bad, in the sense that they rely on deceptive tropes and misleading half-truths.

    "The first four ads, which are based on real life, tell the graphic stories of four young adults going to extreme lengths to maintain their prescription opioid addiction," says White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. "These ads show young adults how quickly opioid addiction can occur, and the extreme lengths to which some go to continue use of drugs while in the grips of addiction."

    All four ads feature young people who deliberately injure themselves so they can obtain prescription pain medication. Amy crashes her car into a dumpster, Kyle smashes his hand with a hammer, Chris closes his arm in a door, and Joe drops a car on himself by crawling under it and releasing the jack. "I didn't know they'd be this addictive," each of them says in a voice-over narration. "I didn't know how far I'd go to get more."

    Ouch! But again, falsifying the Proverb 12:19 claim that "a lying tongue lasts only a moment." Government lies about drugs go on for (so far) decades.

URLs du Jour

2018-06-07

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 12:18 returns once again to the Proverbialist's oral fixation:

    18 The words of the reckless pierce like swords,
        but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

    I have to say that the Proverbialist really should have made the reckless tongues pierce like swords. That would have been a gripping mental image.


  • Legal Eagle Richard Epstein has the floor at the WSJ [probably paywalled]: Pardon Me, Said the President to Himself

    President Trump shocked the nation Monday by announcing via Twitter: “I have the absolute right to PARDON myself.” Many of his liberal critics deny he holds this power. But their disdain has led to faulty constitutional analysis. I share the view that any decision by Mr. Trump to pardon himself would spur a political disaster of, well, Trumpian proportions. But that is precisely the point. The powerful check public opinion places on the president reduces the need to conjure a prohibition of self-pardons from the text of the Constitution.

    Epstein argues that the check on presidential self-pardons is public opinion. And also that Congressional "abuse of the impeachment power would pose a far greater risk to our constitutional order than any misuse of the pardon power."


  • Jonah Goldberg is not a legal eagle, but that doesn't stop him from asking: Could Trump Pardon Himself?

    When the Constitution was written, there were only three federal crimes: piracy, counterfeiting, and treason. In that context, the pardon power was an important tool of statecraft. Pardoning is an act of forgiveness, and one can imagine presidential magnanimity might foster social peace in a young nation full of revolutionary hotheads. The first presidential pardon, issued by George Washington, forgave two men of treason during the Whiskey Rebellion.

    Here’s my dilemma (and I cringe to write these words): The Founding Fathers never imagined that the federal government would grow into the behemoth it is today. For good reasons and bad, we’ve set up a vast national legal apparatus with sweeping police powers. The government cannot even give a definitive answer to the question of how many federal crimes there are today. (Recent estimates range from 3,600 to 4,500.)

    Another good argument, which will be ignored by everyone.


  • Back at the (still paywalled, sorry) WSJ, Steven F. Hayward gives us the news: Climate Change Has Run Its Course. Especially telling:

    A good indicator of why climate change as an issue is over can be found early in the text of the Paris Agreement. The “nonbinding” pact declares that climate action must include concern for “gender equality, empowerment of women, and intergenerational equity” as well as “the importance for some of the concept of ‘climate justice.’ ” Another is Sarah Myhre’s address at the most recent meeting of the American Geophysical Union, in which she proclaimed that climate change cannot fully be addressed without also grappling with the misogyny and social injustice that have perpetuated the problem for decades.

    Yes, so much for "science has spoken". The scientists have long since given way to the progressive ideologues, who see "climate change" as a scare-mongering excuse to get the political goodies they wanted all along.

    Bonus quote from Instapundit:

    Well, as I’ve pointed out repeatedly, it also became blindingly obvious that the people who kept telling us it was a crisis weren’t acting like a crisis. They kept their big houses, SUVs full of bodyguards, and private jets. They’re like fervent abolitionists who never got around to freeing their own slaves.

    "Indeed."


  • And back to NRO for another Goldbergian treat: Letting Labels Do Your Thinking. It's part of a dust-up between Jonah and Conrad Black, making comparisons between our times and the McCarthy era, but the lesson is more widely applicable:

    […] I should at least point out that I do not consider myself a “Never Trumper” anymore, having abandoned that label once he was elected. Ben Shapiro classifies me — and himself — as a “Sometimes Trumper” in order to distinguish between the “Never Trumpers,” who oppose Trump in every instance, and what might be called “Always Trumpers,” who do the opposite. I prefer the term “Trump Skeptic” because these other terms are too suggestive of a cult of personality. When I agree with Trump or support his policies, I do not change my opinion about the man himself. And since we’re talking about Tail Gunner Joe, let me use him to illustrate the point: Joseph McCarthy was right that Communism was a dangerous threat, but that didn’t change the fact he was a bullying demagogue.

    Is it true, by the way, that Trump's Secret Service code name is "Loose Cannon"?


  • Via Greg Mankiw: What a Sensible President Sounds Like

    Mister, we could use a man like Ronald Reagan again…


  • And while I have criticized both our state's senators incessantly, even I was dumbfounded at the sheer totalitarian idiocy of Senator Maggie Hassan's recent tweet:

    I can't even imagine what Senator Maggie has in mind for legislation here, but it's impressive that her first knee-jerk instinct is to push people around to get the arbitrary desired outcome she wants.

    My response tweet, which will be ignored:

    Via some Googling: average NBA salary is $6.2 million (2016-17 season). The average WBNA salary seems to be around $75K. Exercise for the reader: how long before WNBA mogul/business mastermind Maggie Hassan goes bankrupt?

URLs du Jour

2018-06-06

[Amazon Link]

  • We've had a good run the past few days, but I regret to say Proverbs 12:17 isn't exactly profound:

    17 An honest witness tells the truth,
        but a false witness tells lies.

    You wouldn't think that would need explanation. But some people are still confused.


  • Ema Gavrilovic writes at the College Fix about last month's hullabaloo at the University Near Here: Professor’s disruption of conservative event may have violated university policy. The event: a talk by Dave Rubin, sponsored by the UNH chapter of Turning Point USA. Local activists attempted to block access to the event, then disrupted it in progress.

    A University of New Hampshire professor who recently gloated about disrupting an event on campus featuring gay conservative personality Dave Rubin may have violated university policy by interfering in the event.

    Joelle Ruby Ryan, a senior lecturer in the Women’s Studies department at the university, was one of the disrupters for Rubin’s lecture, hosted on May 1 this year. Ryan, posting on Twitter shortly after the event, said: “We did something right! Glad we were able to disrupt this man’s hate speech as much as possible. He is nothing but a provocateur and ‘civil discourse’ with him is impossible.”

    We've previously noted that obstructive/disruptive students were in violaton of UNH's Code of Conduct. Eva has dug out language in USNH policy that (arguably) could apply to Joëlle's conduct as well.

    Who knows what will happen? UNH, understandably, keeps disciplinary actions pretty close to its chest.

    Irony Department: Official UNH Spokesmodels were quoted last month as proactively deploring students' choice of Cinco de Mayo costumery. But (as near as I can tell) none have gone on the record to even mildly criticize the thuggish anti-free speech behavior of the activists.


  • We have a point/counterpoint from NRO on the recent Supreme Court decision about cake-baking. First up is Andrew C. McCarthy, who contends: Masterpiece Cakeshop Is a Setback for Liberty

    Professor Steve Vladek is right: The decision is “remarkably narrow.” One cannot help but be struck by the majority’s reticence from the outset: “Whatever the outcome of some future controversy involving facts similar to these, the Commission’s actions here violated the Free Exercise Clause.” Mind you, this is from the pen of Anthony Kennedy, a judicial supremacist who ordinarily interrupts his liberty bender only to scold the People — formerly known as the sovereign — to pipe down and quit grousing once the Robed Nine have spoken.

    On this one, though, Justice Kennedy assures the Left it can grouse away. This ruling, in grudging accommodation of religious conviction, will not necessarily bear on the outcome “of some future controversy involving facts similar to these.”

    On the flip side, we have David French, who writes Against the Masterpiece Cakeshop Killjoys.

    It may well be the case that the next time SCOTUS considers the issue, it will do so with a “cleaner” record and compel creative professionals to use their artistic talents to help celebrate an event they find profane and unholy. But I’m less convinced, and I’m feeling better about the free-speech argument today than I did yesterday. There are six reasons why:

    First, Jack Phillips avoided disaster. As Winston Churchill said, “Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result.” Going into the oral argument, the smart money said that Phillips faced an uphill climb. I talked to multiple constitutional litigators who were desperately afraid of the case. They didn’t like Jack’s case, and — at the very least — they wanted to bring a different challenge at a different time, when Kennedy was off the Court. To turn what was predicted to be a likely loss on the case’s core question into a 7-2 victory upholding free exercise in the face of anti-Christian bigotry is a simply delightful result.

    Click over for David's other five reasons.

    I, for one, wish we lived in a country where the default position was that private capitalist acts between adults were based on mutual consent, and could be accepted or declined "for a good reason, bad reason, or for no reason at all."

    That would leave piles of lawyers and grievance-mongers starving in the streets. But I'm sure there are downsides as well.


  • The Google LFOD news alert rang for Kristin Tate's article in The Hill: Republicans beware: The 'blue wave' is already changing red states.

    Democrats may pick up a significant number of congressional seats in November. Some former solid-red districts may tick a few shades bluer, especially with a wave of GOP retirements.

    Sound apocalyptic? No. It’s simply that demographics are destiny. Waves of left-leaning voters are moving from blue areas like New York, Boston, Chicago and parts of California to red areas like New Hampshire, Texas, North Carolina. The ultimate end result? The voting patterns and policies that ruined Democratic-dominated regions will shift to traditionally Republican areas.

    Domestic migration patterns have sparked significant changes in electoral politics. Bostonians and endearingly-monikered “Massholes” have already changed New Hampshire from blood-red in the Reagan era to part-pink. The “Live Free or Die” state boasts a low cost of living and no income tax, which continues to attract residents from across New England. From July 2016 to July 2017, the rate of population growth in the state increased 60 percent from the previous year. During that year, "the number of people moving in from other states was 4,700 higher" in New Hampshire than the number of people who moved out, the AP reports.

    Some things I didn't know:

    • As revealed in the first link, "masshole" was placed in the Oxford English Dictionary back in 2015. This escaped my notice at the time.
    • I was also unaware that anyone considered it an endearing moniker.
    • I just yesterday bemoaned NH's lackluster population growth, but was unaware of the most recent (one-year) spike in in-migration. For the record: latest Census Bureau stats show NH with a 0.6% bump in population in 2017, the highest in New England.

      But among all states (plus DC), that put us in a solid … twenty-second place.


  • But speaking of those in-migrators: as we've previously mentioned, one of them wants to be my CongressCritter. Maura Sullivan is convered/lampooned at the Free Beacon: Newly Arrived New Hampshire Resident, Dem Candidate to Attend Fundraisers in Illinois.

    Maura Sullivan, an Illinois native turned Washington, D.C. insider who is now running for Congress in New Hampshire, is attending two fundraisers in Illinois over the next few weeks alongside former President Barack Obama's senior strategist David Axelrod and other wealthy donors.

    New Hampshire Public Radio (NHPR) reporter Lauren Chooljian sent out screenshots on Twitter of two invitations to the fundraisers Sullivan, a candidate in the state's 1st Congressional District, would be headlining, noting several of the names listed on the invitations were "familiar" in Illinois politics.

    Unsurprisingly, her campaign has reported that 80% of her contributions came from out-of-state. This will work wonders for our trade deficit with Illinois!


  • The Babylon Bee passes on the news: Fox News Slams Jesus For Never Once Standing During National Anthem.

    In a broadcast Monday evening, several Fox News commentators slammed Jesus Christ for never once having stood for the United States’ national anthem, whether before a sports game or otherwise.

    Well, I'm disappointed. I also heard a rumor that He was Jewish, but I await confirmation on that.

URLs du Jour

2018-06-05

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 12:16 is another bit of good advice…

    16 Fools show their annoyance at once,
        but the prudent overlook an insult.

    This makes two days in a row that our Proverb du Jour seems aimed at President Trump. Can we go for three? Tune back in tomorrow.


  • At Reason, Nick Gillespie notes: New York Spent $15 Million in Taxes To Build Upstate Film Studio. It Just Sold for $1.

    Few investments are more famously fraught with failure than making movies. That extends especially to states and localities that attempt to lure filmmakers to their locales via sexy and economically useless subsidies that end up costing far more than they generate in new business activity and tax revenue. As the Tax Foundation reported in 2012, film subsidy programs generate between 7 cents and 30 cents in return for each dollar spent, guaranteeing a massive loss to taxpayer for every tax credit, rebate, or other handout.

    The latest data point is summed up in the headline: bright promises in 2014 and $15 mil from NY taxpayers turn into $1 in 2018, zero "jobs created", and (almost certainly) no lessons learned.

    As Steve Macdonald notes at Granite Grok, New Hampshire is doing its own thing, equally misguided:

    On May 31st, Gov. Sununu signed into law (along with 41 other bills) SB 564, an act introducing corporate rent seeking for special tax favors in the Granite State.

    No, that’s not the actual title, but that’s what it does. It opens a new door to a new era into which lobbyists may stick their foot and their deep pockets to promote special tax treatment for their benefactors.

    Concord is now no better than Washington, DC.

    The specific beneficiary isn't Hollywood, instead it's "regenerative manufacturing businesses", companies attempting to "grow" organic replacements for malfunctioning body parts. And it's not a direct write-a-check expenditure, it's preferential tax treatment and taking over the student debt of industry employees. But the idea is equally misguided, imagining the state can pick a economic "winner".

    It seems like only last month (because it was) that we cheered today's handout-demander, Dean Kamen, for getting out of "the people’s republic of New York", and moving to New Hampshire because he was allegedly inspired by our "Live Free or Die" motto.

    Sigh.


  • But enough about New York wait I have something else about New York, also from Reason: In New York–Massachusetts Rivalry, Massachusetts Is Winning.

    f the flow of businesses and residents has tended in the direction of Massachusetts in recent years, it is the result of a policy experiment. Massachusetts has a flat state tax of 5.1% on all income, while New York has a graduated state income tax that tops out at 8.82%. Add in the 3.876% New York City income tax rate, and high-earning New York City residents pay an income tax rate more than double what Boston residents do.

    Since Republican Governor George Pataki left office in 2006, New York has elected a series of Democratic governors who have done little to make the state more competitive. In Massachusetts, meanwhile, Republican Governor Charlie Baker, elected in 2014, has followed in the Weld-Romney-Pataki tradition, surviving in a liberal-tending state by blending fiscal conservatism with environmentalism, social liberalism, and winsome geniality.

    What has transpired isn't exactly rocket science. Put a state with a top marginal tax rate of 5.1% right next door to a state with a top marginal tax rate more than double that, and people, and jobs, will flow to the state with the lower tax rate. It's like water flowing downhill.

    A sobering fact: the article notes that MA population is growing faster than NY's; but both NY and MA are growing faster than NH.


  • Philip Greenspun notes the NYT headline Supreme Court Rules Against Gay Couple.

    But the story says that the case is Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. In other words, the happy now-married couple is not part of the litigation so the ruling could not have been either for or against them.

    The NYT apparently changed the inaccurate headline. But note their first instinct was to cast the issue into "oppressor (Supreme Court) vs. oppressed (gay couple)".

    Phil also makes the point I've seen elsewhere:

    Another way to look at this is that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of litigation. Instead of a bright-line rule that would enable everyone to know in advance how a cake situation should be resolved, they suggest a more elaborate process for litigating cake-related disputes. The process has to include judges who, if they are hostile to religious believers, keep this hostility secret and find a neutral-sounding way to stick it to the haters.

    The most likely outcome is the same as we saw with "affirmative action" in college admissions: years of dragged out lawsuits with "progressive" institutions doing their darndest to obfuscate what they're really doing.


  • David Harsanyi also has worthwhile commentary: SCOTUS’s Masterpiece Cakeshop Decision Is A Win — But It’s Also A Warning.

    Although I’ll leave legal parsing to lawyers, the fact is that we still don’t know if a state can compel a baker — or any other small business owner in the service industry, for that matter — to create specialized products that infringe on his sincerely held religious convictions simply because a consumer demands it. The biggest problem, it seems to me, is that legal decisions can be meted out using mind reading that favors the state’s bias over the individual’s belief.

    Appropriate way to resolve this? Return to the standard model of mutually-voluntary trade, except in clear cases of monopoly. Take it away, Richard Epstein.


  • Oh, yeah. President Trump says he can pardon himself. You've seen the resulting freakout; let Charles C. W. Cooke (at NRO) describe What the Freakout over Trump’s Self-Pardon Claim Misses.

    That it would be a disgrace for Trump to take such a step is self-evident. As a matter of elementary political hygiene, voters must always oppose politicians who would separate themselves from the law. But I must confess to fearing that, should Trump elect to go down this road, we will comfort ourselves with the insistence that the cause of the crisis was this president rather than a persistent structural imbalance that has been nine decades in the making. I must confess to worrying, too, that we will respond by damaging the constitutional order in a misguided attempt to save it. There’s not been much reflection to go along with the outrage. This will only matter if we let it.

    Over the course of the last century, Americans have inflated the executive branch to a size and influence that was never imagined by the Founders. This inflation has trained us into some perverse habits, the most pernicious among which is that we now consider the presidency, rather than Congress, as the central player within the federal system, and, in consequence, that we expect any defects within the White House to be fixed by the White House itself. It is said reflexively these days that the three branches of the federal government are “co-equal.” But this, I’m afraid, is badly incorrect — a hangover from the Wilson era, during which the president hoped to make himself the unquestioned leader of the people. The three branches are separate, certainly, and they enjoy discrete powers and functions. But they are not “equal” in any meaningful way. On the contrary: Congress, by design, is far more powerful than are the other two. That matters a great deal.

    If the Trump presidency results in Congress clawing back its rightful Constitutional powers from the Executive, that is not entirely a bad thing.

    Unfortunately, I can see a lot of ways that could go wrong.


  • As an enthusiastic Kevin D. Williamson fanboy, I dug out another article from the Weekly Standard. The "official" headline is The Scientistic Delusion. However the URL indicates that the original may have been something like "The Vehement Sneering of Ezra Klein and How it Echoes Freudianism".

    Sigmund Freud’s reputation has never been lower. The scholar Frederick Crews and the rest of the so-called Freud Bashers have reduced his intellectual position to almost nothing among those who bother about such things. His theories were unscientific, his methods unsound, his evidence at least partially falsified, his ethics monstrous. He mutilated female patients by ordering dangerous and unnecessary surgeries based on pure quackery, e.g., removing part of a woman’s nose in order to treat pain from what was almost certainly an ovarian cyst. Freud thought that the patient bled as a result of sexual frustration. The more obvious explanation is that he was a butcher, and she was (as the case evidence suggests) a hemophiliac. Crews, who set out his findings in a 2017 book, Freud: The Making of an Illusion, speaks for many current Freud scholars in his conclusion that there “is literally nothing to be said, scientifically or therapeutically, to the advantage of the entire Freudian system or any of its component dogmas.”

    KDW notes that "Freudian thought has gone from “established science” to obvious poppycock in a remarkably short period of time." But few people have learned anything from that lesson.

    Studies—and those holy facts and fact-checkers we’re always hearing about—are reliably subordinated to the social and political ethic of the party citing them. Take Vox’s cofounder, Ezra Klein, who writes with precisely the same faintly ridiculous certitude with which André Tridon presented the scientific facts of Freudian psychology. Klein’s hectoring, sneering, “just-the-facts” school of rhetoric is best exemplified by his indefensible claim during the 2009 debate over the grievously misnamed Affordable Care Act that Connecticut senator Joseph Lieberman was “willing to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in order to settle an old electoral score.” Klein had a study to back him—something from the Urban Institute. It didn’t exactly say what he was saying it said, and it certainly did not say that if Congress failed to pass a specific piece of health-insurance legislation that tens of thousands of people would die. Nonetheless: Study proves you have to support my policy preferences or you’re a mass murderer!

    Well, enough excerpting, you should read the whole thing. We've quoted this tweet before:

URLs du Jour

2018-06-04

[Amazon Link]

  • Could someone please send Proverbs 12:15 to President Donald J. Trump?

    15 The way of fools seems right to them,
        but the wise listen to advice.

    Pun Salad Proverbial Analysis: True. Although it's kinda meta: Advice about taking advice. What's next? Advice about taking advice about advice?


  • <voice imitation="professor_farnsworth">Good news, everyone</voice>: the plucky Kevin D. Williamson has been spotted at the Weekly Standard! Will I have to get a subscription? Maybe!

    Anyway, KDW muses on the progressive hellhole that is Portland, Oregon, Beef Supremacy in Portland.

    The world is full of stupid and angry people, and most of them live in Portland.

    Women’s soccer player Jaelene Hinkle, a defender for the North Carolina Courage, was booed by angry Portland women’s soccer fans—and is there any other kind, really?—during a match against the Portland Thorns, after the local mutawwi learned via an interview with The 700 Club (which still exists!) that Hinkle had passed up an opportunity to play with the U.S. women’s team because she was not comfortable wearing a jersey celebrating (roll call!) Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Queer/Questioning (there is some dispute about what the Q stands for; some people insist on LGBTQQ just to cover the bases, but that seems like a lot of Qs, if you ask me) Pride Month.

    Funny and insightful all the way through. (Need an explanation of the article's title? You may need to watch, or rewatch, Idiocracy.)


  • At the WaPo, Megan McArdle explains it to people who almost certainly won't get it: Defending Samantha Bee isn’t principled. It’s tribalism.

    It’s time for us to have yet another one of those great national conversations about oppression and inequality. All Americans, but particularly Feminist Americans, must now stop and ask themselves a pressing question: Under what circumstances is it all right to call Chelsea Clinton a …

    Hmmm, this is a family column, so I’m not going to use that word. Let’s just say it’s a four-letter epithet for the nether lady parts, the last three letters of which are U, N and T. But in deference to the families that read this paper — including mine — we’re going to use something nicer. We’re going to say … er … rhyming’s so cliche … oh, heck, let’s just go with “twinkletoes.”

    Again with the meta: the most interesting thing in the kerfuffle is the shifting rules and moving goalposts that the tribes use to pardon their perceived allies, while savaging their deplorable enemies. Some bright person called it "Calvinball". Who was it, now>…


  • Oh, right, it was Charles C. W. Cooke at NRO Samantha Bee’s Defenders Play Calvinball with the Language. Inspired by this tweet:

    Comments Charlie:

    This is Calvinball. Imagine, if you will, that, say, Sean Hannity or Ann Coulter had called, say, Chelsea Clinton a “c***.” In what universe would the word have been dismissed as merely a “word choice,” divorced from any associated “worldview”? In such a circumstance, we’d be told that the word reflected the speaker’s sexism and misogyny; that it indicted his entire political ideology; that it highlighted the depravity of his audience; and so forth. The New York Times would link the comment to “rape culture” and “toxic masculinity.” College professors would explain that it came deep from the wells of American inequality. MSNBC would write an opera, and broadcast it over three days. The word would become a Weltanschauung in ten seconds flat.

    It helps if you imagine Charlie saying this in an exasperated British accent.

    And check out our Amazon Product du Jour for a quick primer on Calvinball.


  • Econlog's Scott Sumner tells the truth: Neoliberalism is the worst system, except for all the others.

    It's increasingly fashionable for left wing progressives to view free speech advocates as being defenders of a neoliberal system that favors the fortunate. We are told that "there need to be rules to restrict hate speech". The use of passive voice makes it all seem quite simple.

    Less often do progressives say, "The government needs to create and enforce laws against hate speech." Even less often do you hear "Government leaders such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions need to seek out and punish people engaged in hate speech." The Devil is in the details.

    Progressives: never hanging around for the unexpected consequences.


  • Guilty admission: I was once a physics major, and (worse) also interested in the philosophy of science. In the Boston Review, Tim Maudlin offers up a review of two books that (apparently) will tell me: "Paul, everything you learned in college is wrong." The Defeat of Reason.

    [Amazon Link]

    One of the books is The Ashtray by Errol Morris. Wow, I did not know this:

    The subtitle of Errol Morris’s new book is, “Or the Man Who Denied Reality.” That might suggest a biography of Bohr, but the face on the cover is that of Thomas Kuhn. A renowned documentarian known for his dogged pursuit of truth that got one man off death row, Morris had a short-lived stint as Kuhn’s graduate student at Princeton. The cut-glass ashtray of the title was hurled at Morris’s head by Kuhn in a fit of pique. Morris has never forgiven Kuhn. And the ashtray is the least of it. Morris loathed Kuhn’s relativism and abandonment of reason and evidence, and Kuhn loathed Morris back.

    To someone who thought that Kuhn walked on water—hey, it was the 70s—this sounds like it might be a huge guilty pleasure.

    The other book reviewed by Maudlin: What is Real? by Adam Becker. Which slays the Bohr/Schrödinger/Heisenberg "Copenhagen Interpretation" of quantum mechanics, notably opposed by Einstein:

    [Amazon Link]

    But while Einstein won—and would continue to win—all the logical battles, Bohr was decisively winning the propaganda war. The Copenhagen doctrine of the completeness of quantum theory and the inescapability of fundamental chance spread, enforced by Bohr and Heisenberg and the rest of the Copenhagen school. Behind the scenes, the Copenhagenists did not agree with each other, but to the world they presented a unified front. Meanwhile, Einstein and Schrödinger both rejected Bohr, but they also bickered with each other.

    This also sound bitchtastic. Both books go on by get-at-the-library list.


Last Modified 2018-06-07 11:37 AM EST

SPQR

A History of Ancient Rome

[Amazon Link]

I can't remember why or when I put this on my to-read pile, probably a glowing review from some trusted source. The history of Ancient Rome—gee, that sure sounds like something in which I should be interested!

That optimism about my intellectual curiosity turned out to be slightly misplaced. Regrettable. I blame myself, not the author, Mary Beard, who has spent her entire professional scholarly career on this subject. Her book covers Rome from its mythical Romulus/Remus origins (long held to be April 21, 753 BC, around 10:15am local time) up to 380 AD, when Christianity was made the official religion of the Roman Empire. That's about a thousand years, a lot of time to cover, and a lot of people to talk about.

And the book is interesting in a lot of places (just not all places). Random things I picked out:

  • Although Beard does not make a big deal about this, the Romans were apparently the first to figure out and solve the huge logistical problem of maintaining a million people in a relatively small area: moving food and water in, supplying shelter and services to the populace, dealing with (very imperfectly) sanitation and disease. You're left wondering: Why them, why there, why then?

  • But reading Deirdre McCloskey will get you to notice stuff you probably wouldn't have otherwise. Even though the Empire depended on goods flowing more-or-less efficiently from one place to another, there are little clues that the guys who actually made things work (unlike the emperors, senators, poets, playwrights, etc.) were held in contempt. Exhibit One is the character of Trimalchio in Petronius's Satyricon, an "arrogant former slave, who has become quite wealthy by tactics that most would find distasteful." I.e., commerce.

    (I should also point out, as Beard does, that one of Fitzgerald's working titles for The Great Gatsby was Trimalchio in West Egg.)

  • The Roman Empire doesn't seem to have been planned. In the beginning, Rome was just a burg, just like hundreds of others in Italy. Almost by accident, it conquered and dominated its neighbors, and … well, things just seem to have snowballed. Once the imperial game gets started, it proceeds under its own logic: conquering territory and people provides booty and military personnel, which in turn self-justifies moving on to the next rival. Et cetera. (If I may be excused a bit of Latin.)

  • Lots of slavery, of course. Although freeing slaves was relatively common, and once freed, you were a Roman citizen, automatically.

  • It seems the most common method of succession from one Roman ruler to another was assassination, usually by knife. Julius Caesar was not the exception here.

  • Moreover, casual atrocity seems to have been the norm. Repeated tales of slaughtering innocents, women and children included. 'Twas normal behavior back then.

One unfortunate thing about the book: I strongly suspect Prof Beard taught this stuff at her school, and this book is, more or less, her expanded lecture notes. Downside: she expects you have already done a certain amount of assigned reading. So if you haven't picked up the basics from elsewhere, the book can sometimes feel like you've been dropped into a calculus class without taking algebra first.

URLs du Jour

2018-06-03

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 12:14

    14 From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things,
        and the work of their hands brings them reward.

    For the nth time, we observe that the Proverbialist had this obsession about lips. Perverse? No comment. But Pun Salad seconds the verse's advocacy of manual labor. (Includes typing in front of a computer screen, right? Right?)

    But speaking of fruity lips, our Amazon product du jour is Blistex Fruit Smoothies, three packages of three tubes each, for the low, low price of $13.99.


  • A Slashdot story today showcases the moral posturings of our fearless (GNU) project leader: Richard Stallman Asks: Should Big Tech Be Taxed For Hurting Society? He is quoted:

    By arguing about whether to divide up the power that this data gives to businesses, or to regulate the use of it (perhaps nationalizing it), they miss the point that both alternatives destroy our privacy and give the state a perfect basis for repression.

    The danger is to collect that data at all.

    More generally, I think the idea of taxing companies for the magnitude of harm that they do (regardless of whether they broke any rules to do it) is a good one.

    Heh. It's pretty clear, Slashdot Headline Writer, that Stallman isn't "asking". His mind is made up. His positions are predetermined by his moralistic ideology and wacky values, both of which are several sigma removed from those of the mean American citizen.

    That's not to say they're wrong, of course, but this is a democracy: we get the government, and hence the privacy regulations, we deserve.

    But to me, the elephant in the room (i.e., Stallman's brain) is that by far the largest destroyer of our privacy is the Internal Revenue Service, which demands to know (roughly) every detail about our financial dealings with the rest of the world and is remarkably sloppy about keeping things secret.

    Now Stallman wants to toss them even more power. Truly a willful blind eye there.


  • What's so rare as a day in June? A day in June that Pun Salad links to Maureen Dowd: Obama – Just Too Good for Us. Showing that MoDo can be perceptive about her own side, at least when those perceptions are safely out of date:

    Shortly after Donald Trump was elected, Rhodes writes in his new book, “The World as It Is,” Obama asked his aides, “What if we were wrong?”

    But in his next breath, the president made it clear that what he meant was: What if we were wrong in being so right? What if we were too good for these people?

    “Maybe we pushed too far,” the president continued. “Maybe people just want to fall back into their tribe.”

    Relevant question for Barack: did they fall, or did you push them?


  • People are beginning to notice flaws in the ever-evolving narrative of the Russiagate investigation. Specifically: if the genesis of the investigation was "concern" that Trump campaign hirelings and hangers-on were canoodling with the Russkies, why didn't the Obama Administration let Trump know about the potential serious problem? Scott Johnson at Power Line notes the answer from then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper: Clapper: Not His Job.

    Clapper responds with a variation of Freddie Prinze’s Chico and the Man catchphrase that it wasn’t his job. Clapper just reported “to policymakers to make decisions about who do we talk to about it, what do we do about it. The role of the intelligence community is just to glean the information.”

    OK, fine. The only policymaker "above" Clapper in the hierarchy was (tada) President Obama. Did Clapper tell him about the issue? (As they used to say back in the day: What did the President know, and when did he know it?


  • Kevin D. Williamson reports on A Hoover Restoration: specifically, Margaret Hoover is bringing back Firing Line to PBS, previously hosted by William F. Buckley, Jr., for 33 years. Kevin reminisces:

    In the second half of the 20th century, television was almost precisely the opposite of what it is today: The entertainment programming was almost uniformly mindless — BonanzaBewitchedGomer Pyle USMC— but there was an audience for high-quality public-affairs programming. (Not a huge audience.) Now, we have excellent television dramas and endless first-rate documentaries . . . and Sean Hannity, who combines the subtlety of Father Coughlin with the wit and originality of late-period Three’s Company. And that daft malignancy is Solon compared to the social-media gang and the cable-news B-list. Relaunching Firing Line in this environment is bold.

    Well, first: I admit I only watched a few episodes of Buckley's Firing Line. Mea culpa. (I hope WFB would appreciate the Latin.)

    But as near as I can tell, the first episode will be showing up here in the hills later this month. I'll tell TiVo to grab it for me.


  • At Hot Air, John Sexton notes: Inspector General’s Report Isn’t Out Yet, But The Washington Post Is Already Worried Republicans Will Seize On It.

    Whenever some news that is harmful to Democrats becomes a story, someone in the media will publish it under a version of this headline: “Republicans Seize on…”

    For instance, outspoken members of the Democratic party have been pushing Trump’s impeachment for a year. Last month the NY Times published a story headlined, “Republicans Seize on Impeachment for Edge in 2018 Midterms.” There is some news here but the headline could easily have been “Democratic push for impeachment could backfire this fall” but the bad news for Dems gets refocused into a “Republicans Seize…” story instead.

    Those nasty Republicans, always seizing! Also pouncing!


  • It's a day with a "y" in it, so I bet Michael Ramirez has something pithy to communicate cartoonwise:

Off the Grid

(Monkeewrench #6)

[Amazon Link]

My discerning sister pointed me to P. J. Tracy's Monkeewrench series a couple of years back, and here we are already at number six in the series. This one is a pretty good entry. As usual, it follows Minneapolis police detectives Magozzi and Roselth, as well as the super-hackers at the Monkeewrench software firm.

Except one of the Monkeewrenchers, Grace, is sailing (platonically) with ex-FBI agent Smith off the Florida coast. She's relaxed her usual paranoia a bit, but to no avail when a couple of assassins board the boat looking to murder Smith. Grace saves him, but they take this as a signal that they might be in a spot of danger.

Meanwhile, up in Minnesota, a bunch of Native American girls have been abducted from their reservation by Minneapolis Somali criminals. This results in an unusually grisly and unsettling murder. Which results in more carnage carried out by a dying ex-Marine. Wot?

So, it kept my interest even though (as seems usual with successful authors in this genre) it seemed padded out to a contractually-obligated 300 pages.

Given the rather obvious involvement of unsavory Somalis, I kept waiting for one of those 24/Designated Survivor twists where the swarthy immigrants were revealed to be mere puppets of right-wing big-business white guys.

No spoilers, though.

URLs du Jour

2018-06-02

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 12:13 has a surprising relevance to current events:

    13 Evildoers are trapped by their sinful talk,
        and so the innocent escape trouble.

    Trapped, that is, unless you have a cushy "comedy" gig at TBS, ranting unfunny gutter-language insults.


  • At Reason, Ronald Bailey notes Trump's Crony Capitalism: Energy Division.

    Who you gonna call when your business is being outcompeted and you're going bust? The feds, of course. President Donald Trump obliged his cronies in the electric power and coal industries today by ordering the Department of Energy (DOE) to take "immediate steps" to save the companies from going bankrupt. Those immediate steps will result in consumers having to pay higher power bills.

    I think (like even some honest liberals) that nuclear power needs to be part of the energy picture. But this ain't the way, Mr. President.


  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File this week points out: Great Oaks Have Deep Roots. Which refers to Jonah's impressive, late, father-in-law. But Jonah also notes the pop-cultural double standard between (say) Roseanne Barr and Samantha Bee, and observes:

    The key difference is that liberals dominate the commanding heights of the culture. When Tom Friedman heaps praise on an evil and authoritarian regime, it’s seen as a thoughtful exercise in creative thinking and analysis. Joy Ann Reid can be guilty of precisely the kind of rhetoric that serves as proof of bigotry when it comes from conservatives, because she’s on the side of social justice. Ta-Nehisi Coates can write sweeping denunciations of white people — and it’s speaking truth to power or some such. They can get away with it not because their arguments are less radical or their jokes less offensive but because the gatekeeping institutions of our culture are largely on their side.

    Do I find it frustrating? Of course. Does the double standard vex me? Yes, I’m terribly vexed. But here’s the thing: If you’re only willing to hold your principles on the condition that people you hate hold them too, they’re not really principles.

    There, I've boldfaced the important bit.

    At a certain point, you just have to be satisfied with being right about everything, all the time.


  • A totally-unsurprising result from the latest foray into regulatory nirvana: Google Emerges as Early Winner From Europe’s New Data Privacy Law. [Possibly WSJ-paywalled.]

    GDPR, the European Union’s new privacy law, is drawing advertising money toward Google’s online-ad services and away from competitors that are straining to show they’re complying with the sweeping regulation.

    As libertarians have long pointed out (see, for example, this Tim Carney article from 2006): big business loves regulation.


  • Veronique de Rugy's column approaches the same issue from a different angle: Air Travel Protectionists' Wings Clipped by Open Skies Agreements

    Though competition is great for consumers — as they get more and better goods and services for less money — some companies dislike the constant pressure it creates for them to stay ahead. When that's the case, it's no surprise when they call on the government to squash annoying competitors. Case in point: the big three U.S. airlines' attempts to limit the pressure by Persian Gulf carriers on their price and quality. Apparently, flying the friendly sky is all about U.S. airlines making money on the backs of their captive consumers.

    This is one of those (unfortunately too-rare) cases where competition won. So, yay!

URLs du Jour

2018-06-01

[Amazon Link]

  • To (my) modern ears, Proverbs 12:12 doesn't make a lot of sense:

    12 The wicked desire the stronghold of evildoers,
        but the root of the righteous endures.

    I do get that things are supposed to work out better for the righteous than the wicked. I'm just not picking up on the specifics.


  • David Brooks offers (modestly) One Reform to Save America. What's the problem? Our "rigified and ossified" two-party system.

    Partisans’ chief interest is in proving that the other party is despicable — in ramping up fear, hatred and the negative polarization that is the central feature of contemporary American politics.

    The result is that people, especially the young, lose faith in democratic norms altogether. There are over 6,000 breweries in America, but when it comes to our politics, we get to choose between Soviet Refrigerator Factory A and Soviet Refrigerator Factory B.

    Heh. I like that last bit.

    Brooks recommends "multimember districts and ranked-choice voting" for Congressional districts. Which is fine, as far as it goes. But I still prefer my crackpot proposal for (essentially) fractional Congresspeople.


  • Continuing our electoral fairness theme, Jonathan S. Tobin offers The Truth about Gerrymandering at NRO.

    A 1986 Supreme Court ruling banning racial gerrymandering has played a crucial role in Republican victories, but this is generally ignored when liberals bewail the way district boundaries have worked against them. In a New York Times article that might have upset the paper’s liberal readership, former correspondent Clyde Haberman reminded Democrats that even if they win in court in June, the legacy of that 1986 case, Thornburg v. Gingles, will continue to haunt them.

    As Haberman pointed out, the focus on partisanship has obscured the fact that the high court’s opinion that the historic underrepresentation of minorities must be compensated for when drawing districts has had a far greater impact on elections than any computer model. The odd shape of many districts has fueled Democratic resentment about their electoral hard luck, but the impetus for making such districts was a desire to increase the number of black and Hispanic members of Congress, not Republicans.

    The Haberman article is right here. He's right that the current handwaving "fairness" arguments now before the Supreme Court tend to ignore the previous arguments about diluting minority electoral strength that got us here in the first place.


  • I am a longtime Consumer Reports subscriber, even though their politics are stridently, abhorrently, paternalistically, pro-regulation. Their latest issue (July 2018, page 5) advocates for "preserving fuel-economy standards". Specifically, keeping the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards the Obama administration promulgated. An online version of their advocacy is here: Fuel Economy & Clean Cars. This jumped out:

    Americans support strong standardsFuel economy is the number one attribute that vehicle owners would like to see improved in their next vehicle. And 73% of Americans support the government setting and enforcing strong fuel economy standards.

    Uh huh. You know what? This evidence shows that you don't need government-imposed fuel economy standards. If Americans are so overwhelmingly well-disposed toward cars that get 50 mpg, they'll buy them, and reward the savvy automakers that produce them.

    But of course, the Consumer Reports people don't really believe that. The survey result is an example of social desirability bias.

    I would have more respect if Consumer Reports would be honest about where they're coming from. Something like: "We think consumers will make the wrong choices, so we support using coercive state power to make sure those choices are taken off the table."


  • And another automotive item, from David Harsanyi: Why Aren’t Liberals Celebrating Higher Gas Prices? It’s What They Want. (Spoiler: phony populist posturing.)

    With consumer confidence at a 17-year high and economic prospects looking relatively strong, congressional Democrats have taken to grousing about the gas pump as a midterm strategy. “These higher oil prices are translating directly to soaring gas prices,” declared Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, “something we know disproportionately hurts middle- and lower-income people.”

    If this is true, then why have Democrats spent the past two decades advocating for policies that artificially spike fossil fuel prices? If higher energy costs hurt Americans — and thank you, senator, for conceding this point — why have liberals favored increasing gas taxes, inhibiting exploration for fossil fuels (including, in a number of places, banning fracking for less environmentally damaging gas) and capping imports? If higher gas prices disproportionately impact the working class and poor, then why do Democrats push for national schemes designed to create false demand through a fabricated marketplace?

    I eagerly await the D-folks running for Congress in New Hampshire District One to tell us how they're going to give us all cheap gas. They seem to uniformly be pushing "Medicare for All"; maybe "Gasicare for All"?


  • And LFOD news from Manchester Airport: At the airport, nicotine cravings give way to nature's call.

    Manchester-Boston Regional Airport is converting its lone indoor smoking lounge into a potty area for service animals and traveling pets.

    “I just think it’s ironic in the 'Live Free or Die' state it’s the dogs that have more freedom than smokers,” said Connie Townsend, a smoker and dog owner from Wilmington, Mass., traveling through the airport this week.

    There's only so much LFODing you can do in a building with space and security restrictions.


  • Let's welcome (via embedded Tweet from someone else) cartoonist Lisa Benson on the Trumpian trade war: