Losing the Nobel Prize

A Story of Cosmology, Ambition, and the Perils of Science's Highest Honor

[Amazon Link]

Another book obtained via UNH Library ILL from Tufts. (Fortunately, there aren't a lot of summer readers at Tufts, I guess.) Thanks to all involved. I put the book on my get-at-library list thanks to this post by Philip Greenspun. (Recommended, including comments.)

It's really three books, intertwined: (1) a history of the Nobel Prize, and recommendations for reforms in the nomination and awarding process; (2) a history of astronomical and cosmological research and theorizing, from Galileo up to the present; (3) the author's autobiography, starting with how he got interested in the universe as a boy, detailing his research, and … well, you see the title.

Keating's writing style is punchy and poetic, occasionally very funny. (And often quite flowery, which too often misfires. It's as if he took writing lessons from Carl Sagan.)

The science Keating describes is accessible to the generally science-literate, at least for awhile. But once we get into the details of Keating's own research, a lot of details are glossed over: too much math. Essentially, Keating and his research team were looking for a certain kind of polarization pattern in the 2.7 °K microwave "cosmic background radiation" discovered back in the sixties, caused by primordial gravity waves. This would have confirmed the cosmic inflation hypothesis, meant to describe the post-Big Bang expansion of the universe. (And we're talking very early: between 10-36 and 10-32 seconds after the Bang.)

Keating's own story is interesting, and is a picture of the somewhat sad state of leading-edge physics research: hyper-competitiveness between research groups for funding and publishable results; inter-group backstabbing and politics. Is everyone as obsessed with getting the Nobel as Keating was? At that level, maybe! His odyssey takes him all over the world, most notably the South Pole, with his trusty microwave-sensitive telescope.

One sad note, of which I was not aware: Andrew Lange, a brilliant physicist who was universally liked, chair of the Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy at Caltech, comitted suicide in 2010, asphyxiating himself in a seedy motel room in Pasadena. (And I thought: I wonder if it's the same seedy motel I stayed in when I went back for class reunion? It's not as if there are that many seedy motels in Pasadena.) What does it say about the state of modern-day physics if it takes such a toll on people at its apex?

Keating's recommendations for Nobel reform are not as interesting as the other threads. But (yes) the current rules are archaic and don't reflect either Alfred Nobel's dying wishes or the realities of current-day research. And some people, especially women, have been arguably screwed over. If you'd like a taste of Keating's argument, check out his Wired article. True fact:

When in 1963 Maria Goeppert Mayer became the second woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physics, a newspaper published the story under the headline, “San Diego Housewife Wins Nobel Prize.”

There is some sloppiness that probably could have been fixed with more diligent editing.

Page xvi: "I was reminded of a speech John F. Kennedy gave in 1959, when he said, "When written in Chinese, the word 'crisis' is composed of two characters—one represents danger and one represents opportunity."

Keating was born in 1971, so it's a little odd for him to be "reminded" of a 1959 speech. But let that go.

Kennedy said it, true enough, but a little checking shows it to be a bogus translation. Which kind of diminishes the point Keating's trying to make.

And then on page 42: "Clouds are made of tiny air molecules and much larger water molecules."

By kinetic diameter, an H2O molecule is about 265 picometers (pm) in diameter. "Air molecules" are almost all nitrogen molecules (N2) and oxygen molecules (O2). They're actually slightly bigger than H2O: (364 and 346 pm respectively).

What Keating probably meant to say: clouds are made of tiny air molecules and much larger water droplets. (And the following discussion is correct.)

URLs du Jour

2018-08-15

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 10:28 piles on another problem for the wicked, notes another advantage of righteousness:

    28 The prospect of the righteous is joy,
        but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing.

    You almost—almost—feel sorry for the wicked. So far, just in Proverbs 10, their cravings have been twharted (10:3); their mouths have been both overwhelmed by (10:6) and conceal violence (10:11); their names are rotting (10:7); their earnings are sin and death (10:16); their hearts are of little value (10:20); they'll be overtaken by what they dread (10:24); they are swept away by storms (10:25); and they are doomed to a short life expectancy (10:27).

    Sucks to be them.


  • Possibly related headlines:


  • But with respect to the Newfound Respect for a misguided ideology, Fernando Teson has some thoughts at Bleeding Heart Libertarians: Socialism: What’s in a Word? He notes that it's unclear what they're actually after:

    1. Perhaps by socialism they mean a political system where the state owns the means of production while preserving liberal freedoms. Call it democratic socialism. Democratic socialism offers the best of both worlds: an equal share of all in society’s material output, and the constitutional freedoms that are so central to our lives and that were denied by communism. Critics of democratic socialism have argued, along Friedmanian lines, that it will sooner or later degenerate into communism because in order to secure its ownership of the means of production the state must use intolerable amounts of coercion and thus suppress freedom. On this view, democratic socialism is empirically impossible. Democratic socialists retort that this is just a problem of technical constitutional design and that it should be in principle possible to preserve freedoms in such a system.
    2. Or perhaps by socialism they mean a political system based on robust markets where the state introduces market corrections to provide for the less fortunate, to reduce inequality, and to provide genuine public goods. Call it social democracy. The state actively taxes citizens and intervenes in the economy to provide all these services, but societal wealth derives from capitalist exchanges. Private property, investment, and capitalist profits are protected and encouraged. The usual exemplars are the Scandinavian democracies, Germany, and the like.

    The former is really bad, a misery-inducing failure wherever it's been tried; the latter… well, many of the countries implementing "social democracy" actually outscore the US on economic freedom.

    So would-be "socialists" should make it clear what they're arguing for. Not that I'm holding my breath.


  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson writes on Stephen Miller’s ‘Hypocrisy’. Or, more precisely:

    What does it mean to be a hypocrite in politics?

    Stephen Miller, an adviser to President Donald Trump, has been denounced in the pages of Politico for his “hypocrisy,” by his uncle, no less. Miller, like the president, supports a more restrictive approach to immigration. His uncle, David S. Glosser, insists that this is an instance of “grim historical irony,” proving that all these generations after his Polish-speaking forebear uttered his first words of English, Mr. Glosser doesn’t quite know what “irony” means.

    I sympathize, I'm always getting "irony" wrong myself.

    Williamson notes that the appeal to hypocrisy argument is fallacious. (It's somehow even more fallacious when the hypocrisy is over something that happened decades ago to your ancestors.)

    The charge of hypocrisy is, in this context, only another expression of the ad hominem fallacy. “Never mind your argument, who are you to make that argument?” Miller’s arguments on immigration — and Trump’s, and Krikorian’s, and mine, and yours — are either good arguments or poor ones, productive or unproductive, leading to better policies or to worse ones. Whether those arguments are made by the offspring of Jewish immigrants from Belarus — or their uncles, or the grandsons of Bavaria-born hoteliers, or Armenian Americans, or dam-builders who show up in Texas one day from parts unknown — is irrelevant to the underlying question.

    The main advantage to making an appeal to hypocrisy: it's very easy to find hypocrisy wherever you look.


  • At Reason, Zuri Davis reports the sad news: Massachusetts Mayor Claims Sam Adams Is Profiting Off Trump’s ‘White Nationalist Agenda’.

    Joseph Curtatone, the Democratic mayor of Somerville, Massachusetts, is calling on city residents to boycott the beer company Sam Adams for profiting off President Trump's "white nationalist agenda."

    Boston Business Journal reports that Sam Adams founder Jim Koch and other business executives dined with the president last Wednesday. During dinner, Koch reportedly thanked the president for a tax cut that would greatly help his business compete against foreign brewers. According to the report, Koch told Trump, "The tax reform was a very big deal for all of us, because 85 percent of the beer made in the United States is owned by foreign companies." He added that American beer companies paid 38 percent in taxes while foreign competitors paid 20 percent.

    I will diligently try to offset any politically-motivated decline in Sam Adams consumption.

    But more seriously: Sam Adams was an early Massachusetts anti-tax activist; it's disappointing, but not surprising, that today's Mass-Tories want to trash any reminder of that proud history.


  • And an inspiring story from the Babylon Bee: Modern-Day Job Refuses To Curse God Even After Three Hours Of Spotty Internet.

    Much like Job from the Bible, Stephen Bowen found his faith tested by Satan when calamity struck, giving him extremely unreliable internet for three whole hours one evening.

     It started as he sat down to continue binge-watching Supernatural. The show buffered and buffered but would not load. Plugging and unplugging the modem brought no solace. He had to eat his Hot Pockets in silence, but his faith did not waiver.

    Next, Bowen was suddenly struck with extreme curiosity as to where the abbreviation for pounds comes from, but Google would not load the answer. So he stood there in ignorance, but still he worshiped: “The Lord gives bandwidth, and the Lord takes it away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!”

    I'm not sure I would be as strong as Stephen.

URLs du Jour

2018-08-14

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 10:27 is another promise/warning to the righteous/wicked:

    27 The fear of the Lord adds length to life,
        but the years of the wicked are cut short.

    Morality and mortality only differ by a single letter.

    For all the fear and fuss about life expectancy, you would expect there might be some research to either back up or refute this Proverb. In a few minutes of lazy Googling, though, all I can find is this: Religious people live four years longer than atheists, study finds.

    Religious people live on average four years longer than their agnostic and atheist peers, new research has found.

    The difference between practising worshippers and those who were not part of a religious group could be down to a mix of social support, stress-relieving practices and abstaining from unhealthy habits, the authors suggest.

    Or it could be that God just likes them better.


  • Sometimes I read an article without noticing the author first. For example, while perusing Celebrity Activists Do Not Help at NR, I was thinking: "Gee, this guy writes well and makes a lot of subtle and accurate observations… Oh. It's Kevin D. Williamson."

    Anyway, it's a discourse on actress Michelle Williams' new effort (announced in the gilded pages of Vanity Fair) to address issues of pay inequality for women.

    It is fashionable to talk about “empathy,” which is a literary device, not a virtue or a moral heuristic. Bill Clinton’s famous “I feel your pain” was formulated to serve the interests of a very small demographic, one consisting entirely of Bill Clinton. It is not sufficient for celebrity activists to say that they care about x, y, or z — it is not sufficient for them to genuinely care, either. And it probably does not matter much whether they do. Genuine good will is not something to hold in contempt, even when it comes from silly people who are lecturing the great wide world from behind a wall of Gucci advertisements, but that kind of sentiment is not as useful as we imagine it is. The ability it takes to sell Louis Vuitton products is rare and profitable and, in the wider scheme of things outside of the gilded precincts of Vanity Fair’s stylishly documented interests, of very little consequence.

    Ms. Williams was pretty good at playing a decent human being in The Greatest Showman.


  • We blogged a couple days back about Bret Stephens' apparently differing attitudes about racist tweets from Roseanne Barr ("Fire her!") and Sarah Jeong ("Hire her!"). On his Facebook page, Bret responds. In part:

    He makes some good defensive points. As you don't need me to tell you: make up your own mind.


  • Charles Blahous did the math on Bernie Sanders' socialized medicine scheme. Good intro here: The Fiscal Implausibility of Medicare for All. Excerpt:

    Despite the ["Medicare for All"] name, the legislation would bring nearly all Americans into a national single-payer health insurance system that differs from Medicare in key ways.  It would provide first-dollar coverage of a widened range of healthcare services (including, for example, dental, hearing and vision) while stipulating (with a few exceptions) that “no cost-sharing, including deductibles, coinsurance, copayments, or similar charges, be imposed on an individual.”  Grossly simplifying, instead of Americans paying for their healthcare through a combination of private insurance, other government insurance programs, and out-of-pocket payments as we do now, we would instead send that money to Washington as tax or premium payments, and the federal government would pay for nearly all the health services we use, right from the very first dollar.

    My state's senior senator, Jeanne Shaheen, is one of the co-sponsors of this profligate idiocy. Embarrassing!


  • At Law & Liberty, William Voegeli asks a question to which I have a guilty answer: Do Americans Want to Be Involved in Local Governance?

    Yes, I want to live in the America described in Joel Kotkin’s Liberty Forum essay. Unlike our present sociopolitical order, it would encourage citizens’ robust, meaningful civic engagement by reinvigorating federalism, which was crucial to the pre-Progressive constitutional architecture. This sense of involvement and stewardship did indeed reflect “habits of the heart,” which Tocqueville also described as “the whole moral and intellectual state of the people.”

    But the Jacksonian democracy Tocqueville analyzed in Democracy in America thrived because of a related but distinct force: “self-interest well understood.” In their belief that virtue is, above all, useful, the “inhabitants of the United States almost always know how to combine their own well-being with that of their fellow citizens.” Civic participation flourished at the local level because that venue offered the best chance to do well by doing good, to advance one’s private interests by promoting the public interest conscientiously.

    I'm guilty because I (frankly) have zero interest in my town's governance. Will Voegeli's chiding get me to participate more? Doubtful!


  • A good discussion of big Internet companies' alleged bias in enforcing their "Community Standards" from John Samples at Cato: Alex Jones and the Bigger Questions of Internet Governance.

    Facebook seems to be trying to establish rational-legal authority. It set out Community Standards that guide governing speech. Why should that “basic law” be accepted by users? One answer would be the logic of exchange. When you use Facebook for free, you give them in return data and consent to their basic law. That looks a lot like the tacit consent theory that has troubled social contract arguments for political authority. In any case, Facebook itself sought comments from various groups and individuals – that is, stakeholders - about the Community Standards. The company itself wanted more than a simple exchange.

    But do the Community Standards respect the culture of free speech? Facebook has banned speech that includes “direct attacks on people based on what we call protected characteristics — race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, caste, sex, gender, gender identity, and serious disease or disability.” The speech banned here is often, if loosely, called “hate speech.” Their basic law thus contravenes American free speech legal doctrine. Hate speech is protected by the First Amendment, but not by Facebook.

    I conclude that either Facebook’s standard violates the culture of free speech or it reflects a difference between the culture of free speech (which does not include hate speech) and American First Amendment legal doctrine. If the latter, Facebook’s recognition of the difference will foster a greater gap between culture and law.

    The "hate speech" category (like "racism")—is descriptively simple: who could be in favor of hate? But it's to be implemented as it's been prescriptively defined by Identity Politicians and Social Justice Warriors. I.e., the only hate-speakers are those in opposition to Progressive theology.


  • And something for those of us who remember their Coleridge from high school: Verses Composed Upon Reading A Review From TripAdvisor. Specifically, from a tourist who visited remote Xanadu:

    The Tourist Board of Xanadu
    Did recently impose a fee
    On those who travel far from home
    To visit Kubla’s pleasure dome
    Of $20, 9 – 3

    It's genius.


Last Modified 2018-08-14 11:17 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2018-08-13

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 10:26 has it all: an oral reference, a sluggard reference, and it's kind of obscure what the Proverbialist is talking about:

    26 As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,
        so are sluggards to those who send them.

    Whence are we sending these sluggards? To whom? For what purpose? I get that it's irritating, but why are we sending sluggards anywhere?

    The I Ching is more straightforward on this issue:

    The great prince issues commands,
    Founds states, vests families with fiefs.
    Inferior people should not be employed.


  • Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution has written a book, our Amazon Product du Jour. This got me to pre-order: My preface to Stubborn Attachments, and why this book is especially important.

    One theme of Stubborn Attachments is that economic growth in the wealthier countries has positive spillover effects for poorer individuals around the world.  If you think of the publication of this book as a form of economic growth/gdp enhancement, I want to boost its positive global effects.  I also argue in Stubborn Attachments that we should be more charitable and altruistic at the margin.  That includes me!

    So having written Stubborn Attachments, I now wish to live the book, so to speak.  I am donating the royalties from the book to a man I met in Ethiopia on a factfinding trip earlier this year, I shall call him Yonas [not his real name].

    I'm in. The book will be out in a couple of months.


  • Have you been wondering, like I have, whether academia gets to define 'racism' for the rest of us? Fortunately, at NR, Robert VerBruggen has the answer: Academia Doesn’t Get to Define ‘Racism’ for the Rest of Us.

    A “descriptivist” is someone who studies how language is used. A “prescriptivist” is someone who tells other people how to use language correctly. And while these are often framed as opposing camps, they need not be: A thoughtful descriptivist realizes that strongly established usage patterns should generally be treated as rules by someone who wants to communicate effectively; a thoughtful prescriptivist realizes that the rules emerge from constantly evolving usage patterns.

    There’s a certain strain of prescriptivism, though, that merely seeks to impose rules on other people’s language, often on nothing more than one’s own say-so. Overwhelmingly, these folks are harmless-if-annoying self-appointed “sticklers” who insist, for example, that you must not split infinitives or start sentences with conjunctions. But ill-founded prescriptivism also rears its head with political terms, and we’ve been seeing a bit of that lately from the woke left.

    Some academics who study racial matters use the word “racism” to mean not “dislike of people on the basis of race,” which is how most people use it, but rather something like “prejudice plus power” or what is more clearly called “institutional” or “systemic” racism — meaning, conveniently, that members of minority groups by definition cannot be racist. And as Scott Alexander noted at Slate Star Codex back in 2014, parts of the Left are no longer willing to admit that this is a departure from standard usage by saying something along the lines of, “I suppose a group of black people chasing a white kid down the street waving knives and yelling ‘KILL WHITEY’ qualifies by most people’s definition, but I prefer to idiosyncratically define it my own way, so just remember that when you’re reading stuff I write.”

    For more academic prescriptivism, see University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's classic preferred pronouns page.

    Having just reread 1984, I'm kind of sensitive to efforts to dink the language for political ends.


  • Grace Gottschling reports at Campus Reform: Trump to sign Confucius Institute funding ban. Note: that's the headline, but it is not actually accurate.

    President Trump is about to sign the new National Defense Authorization Act, which will prohibit funding to Chinese-run Confucius Institutes on American campuses.

    Texas Senator Ted Cruz added the key amendment to “The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019,” which also restricts funding to universities that host Confucius Institutes and requires them to provide a public record of any agreements or contracts they have with the program, which has deep ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

    Confucius Institutes are a blight on academia, including the University Near Here. The National Association of Scholars (which supports Cruz's efforts) has a clearer explanation:

    The federal government currently funds Chinese language programs at American colleges and universities, in part through the National Defense Authorization Act. The 2019 authorization bill would require that in order for colleges and universities to access that funding, they must not have a Confucius Institute or must demonstrate that the Confucius Institute and its staff play no role in the federally funded Chinese language program. Colleges receiving those funds would also be required to make publicly available all agreements and contracts related to the Confucius Institute.

    I have no idea whether this impacts UNH or not. We'll see, I guess.


  • Another victim of Friendly Fire in Trump's Trade War, as reported by Slashdot: PC Case Maker CaseLabs Closes Permanently.

    U.S.-based PC case manufacturer, CaseLabs, announced on social media that it is "closing permanently" and will not be able to fill all current orders. "We have been forced into bankruptcy and liquidation," CaseLabs said in a statement. "The tariffs have played a major role raising prices by almost 80 percent (partly due to associated shortages), which cut deeply into our margins. The default of a large account added greatly to the problem... We reached out for a possible deal that would allow us to continue on and persevere through these difficult times, but in the end, it didn't happen."

    Caselabs was not ranked highly among case manufacturers, but still… I wonder how many of the higher-ranked companies do US-based manufacturing?


  • NH Labor News bills itself as a site "Where Labor and Progressive Politics Intersect", so caveat lector; they rang the Google LFOD Alert for this article: Community Activists Deliver Petitions To Governor Sununu To Stop Border Patrol Checkpoints.

    On Thursday, August 9, NextGen New Hampshire joined partner organizations to deliver over 3,600 petition signatures to Governor Sununu, demanding that he call for an end to the arbitrary and intrusive [Customs & Border Protection] checkpoints being held in New Hampshire. NextGen teamed up with the Granite State Organizing Project and the Upper Valley Interfaith Project to deliver the petitions.

    "NextGen New Hampshire" is California billionaire Tom Steyer's group, dedicated to left-wing activism. Familiar to NH TV viewers from his ubiquitous TV ads advocating Trump-impeachment. (More on Steyer's NH efforts here.)

    But LFOD? Ah, there it is:

    Sarah Jane Knoy, Executive Director of the Granite State Organizing Project said, “These unnecessary and ineffective checkpoints violate the spirit of our New Hampshire Motto ‘Live Free or Die’ They serve to terrorize our immigrant neighbors and black and brown people. The checkpoints are a deterrent to anyone who might think about heading up to the Whites for a hike. I know I won’t be going there unless Governor Sununu demands an end to this intrusive abuse of police power.”

    I'm no fan of "your papers please" roadblocks, but I'm somehow tempted to go up to the mountains just to be assured that I won't run into Sarah Jane Knoy.

    Just a data point: the roadblocks turn up a surprising amount of illegality. Are the lefties really opposed to the roadblocks on civil libertarian principles, or is it because they work?

URLs du Jour

2018-08-12

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 10:25 is another recommendation for righteousness:

    25 When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone,
        but the righteous stand firm forever.

    You can get a song out of this, as demonstrated by our Amazon Product du Jour.


  • At NR, Jim Geraghty asks the musical question: Should Alex Jones Be Banned from Social Media?

    A lot of the discussion about this on social media amounts to, “I don’t trust Facebook.” And that’s a reasonable position! Facebook has given a lot of people a lot of reasons to doubt its word and impartiality! None of the people who run these companies are constitutional scholars specializing in First Amendment cases, nor did they ever aspire to be in that role. They set up and joined these companies to make money — and now they’re in the weird position of American Public Discourse Police.

    But right now, Alex Jones is fighting a defamation lawsuit from the parents of a six-year-old killed in the Sandy Hook shooting. The parents’ suit alleges that Jones showed his audience their personal information and maps to addresses associated with the family, leading to years of threats and harassment from Jones followers who claimed the shooting was a hoax. As this Wired article lays out, the ruling may depend on whether the judge and jury think Jones intended for the parents to be harassed.

    I don't trust Facebook. But I don't fancy myself to be in a position to tell them how to run their business.

    I note that it's pretty easy to customize your Facebook settings, though. If you don't want to see stuff that Abhorria Obnoxio-Confoundez posts, you don't have to.

    So I'm not quite sure what the exact problem is that Facebook is trying to solve.


  • People who follow the Books feed on Pun Salad know that I occasionally like to read stuff about the funny old workings of the human brain. But in the "everything you know is wrong" department, of the most popular notions I've seen may be … well, bullshit: Why the Most Important Idea in Behavioral Decision-Making Is a Fallacy.

    Loss aversion, the idea that losses are more psychologically impactful than gains, is widely considered the most important idea of behavioral decision-making and its sister field of behavioral economics. To illustrate the importance loss aversion is accorded, Daniel Kahneman, winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics, wrote in his 2011 best-selling book, Thinking Fast and Slow, that “the concept of loss aversion is certainly the most significant contribution of psychology to behavioral economics.” As another illustration, when Richard Thaler was awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in economics, the phrase “loss aversion” appeared 24 times in the Nobel Committee’s description of his contributions to science.

    I found Kahneman's book very entertaining, although I was skeptical when he turned into the political realm, e.g., "libertarian paternalism", a notion also supported by Thaler.

    Of course, since I'm negative on paternalism, it could be confirmation bias that makes me post this. Caveat lector!


  • LFOD pops up in the oddest places, like the New Hampshire magazine article about transplanted celebrity barber Steven Dillon: Shear-Zen. Among his former clients: Yoko Ono, the late Natasha Richardson. Bullet-pointed excerpts from his interview:

    • I love the people in New Hampshire. I love the “Live Free or Die” consciousness.
    • And no, I don’t run with scissors. It’s still a pretty bad idea.

    It's nice to be loved, Steven. Welcome to NH.


  • At Face2Face Africa, Mildred Europa Taylor invites you to Meet the great warrior woman of Guadeloupe who fought against French troops in 1802 while pregnant.

    Live free or die” were Solitude’s last words when she was executed for her involvement in the 1802 slave rebellion in Guadeloupe.

    Yes, spoiler right up front.


  • And finally, at Autoblog, Greg Rasa would like you to Watch helmet save woman's life as truck runs over her head. And, what the heck, here it is:

    Greg's commentary:

    Normally we'd warn you of the graphic nature of the video above. But instead, we figure it's one everybody should see.

    Wearing a motorcycle helmet makes sense. We all know that except perhaps for some riders where there are no helmet laws whatsoever: Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire (whose state motto leaves out the worst of the possibilities: Live Free or Die — or spend the rest of your life with a traumatic brain injury.)

    "If it saves one life…", in other words.

    I don't know if Greg is in favor of helmets for everyone who drives anything. Or 25 MPH speed limits. (We shouldn't make any cars that go faster than that anyway!)

URLs du Jour

2018-08-11

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 10:24 alleges that in the contest between the wicked and the righteous, … yeah, there's actually no contest:

    24 What the wicked dread will overtake them;
        what the righteous desire will be granted.

    If the Bible were an investment company, however, these sorts of claims would get an immediate sanction by the SEC.


  • Kevin D. Williamson observes at NR: ‘Socialist’ Is the New ‘Libertarian’. First, some general observations on how language is used to cheat in the war of ideas:

    A large part of our political discourse consists of arguing about the meanings of words: Republicans should support the Affordable Care Act, Vox-style lefties argued, because Obamacare is a “conservative” program. (The three most important words in political economy are: “Compared to what?”) “Racist” and “sexist” mean whatever the Left needs them to mean at any given moment, as do “extremist,” “radical,” “risky,”and “reckless.” (The Trump administration has some ideas about fuel-economy standards; what are the odds the New York Times editorial section, that inexhaustible font of clichés, will denounce them as a “reckless scheme”? Approximately 100 percent.) Republican thought leaders, in between the ads for gold coins and doggie vitamins, denounce as “socialist” everything from Hillary Rodham Clinton to the USDA to preschool programs.

    But cut them some slack: The Democrats don’t do much better on “socialist,” the magic word of the moment. Senator Bernie Sanders sometimes calls himself a socialist, and every now and again he hits on a genuinely socialist theme, but his particular blend of yahooistical union-hall nationalism, nostalgic corporatism, and central planning went by a different name back in the 1930s. Most of the young Democrats calling themselves “socialists” do not talk very much about socialist ideas at all, instead being smitten with Northern European welfare states such as Sweden and Denmark, which do things differently than we do here in the United States but which are not socialist in any meaningful sense of that word. Ironically, the rhetorical project of conflating the welfare state with socialism seems to have been as successful on the left as on the right.

    "Yahooistical". I have to steal that word someday. RTWT for Kevin's take on "libertarian". He's a lot more sympathetic toward today's young "socialists" than I am, but that's because he's a nicer person.


  • I liked Bret Stephens a lot when I read him in the WSJ, don't read him that much any more since he moved to the NYT. But the Federalist's Sean Davis notes that he may have developed the asymmetrical attitudes prevalent among his co-workers: New York Times Columnist Can’t Figure Out If Racist Tweets Are A Fireable Offense Or Not.

    New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, an outspoken NeverTrump activist, effusively praised ABC when it fired Roseanne Barr for a single tweet, but when it comes to a mountain of racist tweets over nine years, he says his new colleague Sarah Jeong deserves a whole lot of grace and a second chance. What could possibly explain this blatant double standard?

    Does Sean find the explanation he seeks? As always, RTWT, but (spoiler) there's not much to support a charitable interpretation of Stephens' "rhetorical acrobatics".


  • Via Viking Pundit, our Tweet du Jour:


  • And we hot-embedded this xkcd cartoon a couple days ago:

    [Voting
    Software]

    I thought it was good. Security expert Bruce Schneier deemed it "funny and true". But then I read the comments to Schneier's one-liner and… it turns out there's valid criticism, for example by (another) security expert Robert Graham: That XKCD on voting machine software is wrong. His conclusion:

    The humor of this comic rests on smug superiority. But it's wrong. It's applying a standard (preventing accidents) against a completely different problem (stopping attackers) -- software voting machines are actually better against accidents than the paper machines they replace. It's ignoring the problems, which are often more system and hardware design than software. It ignores the solution, which isn't to fix software bugs, but to provide an independent, auditable paper trail.

    Oooh, ouch. But a very defensible point.


Last Modified 2018-08-12 11:49 AM EDT

URLs du Jour

2018-08-10

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 10:23 is … pretty good, actually:

    23 A fool finds pleasure in wicked schemes,
        but a person of understanding delights in wisdom.

    I can't argue with that. I would be a fool to argue with that.


  • At Reason, Shikha Dalmia profiles Bernie J. Trump: Nationalism and Socialism Are Two Sides of the Same Statist Coin.

    The social justice left and the reactionary right have never been at each other's throats more viciously than today. Antifa warriors and alt-right foot soldiers attack each other at rallies, clash on campuses, and see each other as mortal enemies.

    But the weird thing is that when it comes to issues, their standard bearers, Bernie Sanders and President Trump, have never been closer together.

    Both despise the Koch brothers, for example. Hostile to trade. And wedded to a "system is rigged against the little guy" demagoguery that encourages people to see themselves as pathetic victims. And…


  • Should social media giants be arbiters of appropriate speech. David Harsanyi considers and answers: Social Media Giants Shouldn’t Be Arbiters Of Appropriate Speech.

    Of course sites like Facebook, Apple, and YouTube are free to ban conspiracy mongers like Alex Jones from their platforms. They have a right to dictate the contours of permissible speech on their sites, and to enforce those standards either dutifully or hypocritically or ideologically or using any method they see fit. No one seriously disputes this.

    Then again, Twitter also has a right, as a private entity, to take a stand, and, as the company’s CEO Jack Dorsey explains it, dispassionately allow free exchanges of ideas—even the ugly ones Infowars offers—as long as users don’t break the company’s rules. Yet, here we are, watching a number of journalists—supposed sentinels of free expression—demanding that billionaire CEOs start policing speech that makes them uncomfortable.

    As David notes, once they've gotten rid of the "easy targets" like Infowars, they'll move on to others, and those will be more complex.


  • Kevin D. Williamson writes at National Review on the immigration lawlessness that the left wants: ICE-Breakers

    Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York is a textbook taqiyya Democrat: She presented herself as a moderate when representing a relatively conservative House district and now, after pronouncing herself “ashamed” of her previously moderate positions on issues such as gun rights, she is doing a pretty good impersonation of a left-wing radical, most recently by calling for the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the sister agency to the U.S. Border Patrol charged with overseeing the deportation of illegal aliens, among other duties.

    Abolishing ICE is the Democratic cause du jour, part of the party’s current rush to the left. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the self-described socialist who won a Democratic House primary over party-caucus chairman Joe Crowley in New York in June, ran as much against ICE as she did against President Donald Trump and Representative Crowley. A petition in California calls for the abolition of the agency; Representatives Mark Pocan, Pramila Jayapal, and Adriano Espaillat (Democrats of Wisconsin, Washington, and New York, respectively) have introduced legislation to dissolve it; Representative Yvette D. Clarke (a New York Democrat) denounced the agency as “the Gestapo of the United States of America,” and Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo described ICE as a “rogue agency.” Sean McElwee of Data for Progress, an early and tireless advocate of abolishing the agency, wrote in The Nation: “The call to abolish ICE is, above all, a demand for the Democratic party to begin seriously resisting an unbridled white-supremacist surveillance state that it had a hand in creating.”

    This is not a position that will appeal to Trump voters. Nor is it particularly responsible or honest.


  • At Granite Grok, Steve MacDonald writes on the progressive effort to hijack efforts to alleviate New Hampshire's demographic problems by the Diversocrats: You Can Start by Renaming the “White” Mountains.

    The denizens of the gentrified Portsmouth and Hanover ‘Class’ (and a few wannabes from Keene) are at it again. These easily offended liberals and their minions are getting uppity over local reactions to a fledgling plan to assuage Granite State White Guilt. New Hampshire is Too Damn White™."

    This from people living in places zoned to be unaffordable or inaccessible to those they deem undesirable in private but demand we embrace someplace other than where they live in public. People who are happy to call us racists for pointing out the obvious.

    “Diversity for diversity’s sake doesn’t bring us anything.”

    Steve brings up a point we've made before: while New Hampshire is officially the freest state in the US…

    New Hampshire’s regulatory outlook is not so sunny. Its primary sin is exclusionary zoning. It is generally agreed that the Granite State is one of the four worst states in the country for residential building restrictions. Part of the problem might be the absence of a regulatory taking law. However, the eminent domain law is strong. On labor-market freedom, New Hampshire is below average primarily because of the absence of a right-to-work law and of any exceptions to the workers’ compensation mandate, and it has no state-level minimum wage. A telecom deregulation bill was passed in 2011–12, but the state has not yet adopted statewide video franchising. New Hampshire is above average on occupational freedom solely because the health professions enjoy broad scope of practice; the extent of licensing grew significantly during the 2000s, and the state is now below average on most indicators of licensing extent. Insurance freedom is generally better than average, except for some rate classification prohibitions. The hospital certificate-of-need law was abolished in 2011–12, but only effective in 2016, so we code it as still being in force. Otherwise, the state has steered laudably clear of entry and price regulation. The civil liability system is far above the national average; punitive damages were abolished long ago.

    I strongly suspect that we could attract more business and young people (of whatever skin shade) by fixing these issues.

A Stolen Season

[Amazon Link]

Another book down in my Steve Hamilton catchup reading project. This one from 2006. Mr. Hamilton's website says that I've got eight more to go, but by the time I get there, he'll probably have written more. Paradoxical, Captain Zeno!

This is the seventh book in his series with protagonist Alex McKnight: ex-baseball player, ex-cop, ex-private eye. As always, he just wants to take care of his cabin-rental business in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, but events keep dragging him into a world of criminal violence.

Specifically, Alex and his buddies are coincidentally on hand to witness the crash of a big old boat into a defunct railroad bridge's pilings. This calls for a rescue, ably carried out, but the guys they rescue are obviously less than savory, and there's some discussion afterward: what happened to that big box we had on board with us?

Another complication: Alex's Canadian girlfriend, Natalie. Unlike most Canadian girlfriends, she's real. But after the events of the previous books, she wants to get back to her job, which is Canadian law enforcement. Which (in turn) requires her to go on a dangerous undercover mission in Toronto, attempting to sting a notorious gun-running gang.

Another Dickensian coincidence: the two plot threads are related. It's a funny old world. (Sounds like a spoiler, but it's mentioned on the back of my paperback.)

I admit that Mr. Hamilton presents a plot twist slightly over halfway through that I did not see coming. I did not think he was going to Go There.

Other than that, this is a step down in quality from the previous books in the series. Alex's first-person narration is mopier than usual; also, he insists on ticking off the names of the towns he drives through, the streets he drives by. Nobody cares about U. P. geography that much, Alex!

URLs du Jour

2018-08-09

[Amazon Link]

  • A refreshing change of pace in Proverbs 10:22; namely, no mouth parts are involved:

    22 The blessing of the Lord brings wealth,
        without painful toil for it.

    You may have heard about Prosperity Theology, the notion that "faith, positive speech, and [especially - ps] donations to religious causes will increase one's material wealth." Although some theologians claim that it's "fundamentally flawed". But here the Proverbialist sounds as if he's an adherent.


  • You may have heard folks like Elizabeth Warren bemoan stock buybacks. At NR, David Bahnsen demurs: Stock Buybacks Are Not the Enemy of Prosperity.

    The first step to understanding buybacks is understanding where the cash that funds them comes from. Once that’s done, it may behoove one to understand what buybacks are used for, and what exactly they do to a company’s balance sheet. To complain that buybacks use up money that could be spent on other company expenses is essentially to argue against profits themselves, because buybacks are effected with the cash generated from a company’s profits. Buybacks are not a company expense; they are a use of cash from company profits — from the money that remains after expenses are deducted from revenue. So a company can be criticized for pocketing as profits money that could be spent on expenses such as R&D, or for using its profits to buy back shares rather than paying them out in dividends or saving them for the future. But the positioning of share buybacks as a competitor to other company expenses is ignorant at best, and flat-out dishonest at worst.

    Hostility to stock buybacks are a special case of people (typically, demagogic politicians like E. Warren) griping about business practices with no skin in the game. Liz, quit your cushy Senate gig and start and run (and mind) your own damn business.


  • At Claremont Review of Books, William Voegeli admires Thomas Sowell's Inconvenient Truths. Excerpt, discussing our favorite dictator-coddling tech giant:

    [T]he [thesis that statistical racial/sexual/ethnic disparities are due to invidious discrimination] disregards the benefit of non-discrimination to the non-discriminator. Google’s workforce, for example, is highly unrepresentative of the American population, especially in its technological departments, where 41.1% of the employees are Asian, 21.4% are women, 2.8% are Hispanic, and 1.5% are black. Judging by Google’s stated intentions, these disparities cannot be ascribed to prejudice or callous indifference. One corporate vice president is the company’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. Google boasts that it has made parental benefits gender-neutral and that 84% of its “people managers have taken Unconscious Bias training.” In firing James Damore after his memo about diversity at Google became public, CEO Sundar Pichai said, “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to [their] work is offensive and not OK. It is contrary to our basic values and our Code of Conduct.”

    And yet all this earnestness appears to be having results that are just north of negligible, consistent with Sowell’s deadpan rule that there is “no necessary correlation between what people say and what they do.” The company reports that between 2014 and 2017 the proportion of its tech hires who were women increased from 20.8% to 24.5%. At that rate, women won’t account for half of Google’s tech hires until after 2030, which means it will take many years beyond 2030 for women to constitute half of its tech staff. The proportion of tech hires who are black has soared from 1.9% to 2.0%.

    A number of alternative explanations for Google's workforce disparities [and that of other tech companies] are discussed. But the most likely explanation is: they reflect the talent pool as it is, not as the social engineers wish it might be.


  • Today's candidate for Longest Article Ever is Veronique de Rugy's in Reason: How Trump’s Tariffs Hurt American Businesses and Consumers. OK, it's not that long. But it could be.

    President Trump isn't going to be happy. The U.S. trade deficit expanded in June, at its fastest rate since November 2016. Also, $291 billion was added to that gap in the first six months of 2018, compared with $272 billion in the first half of 2017. And wait until he finds out that in spite of the tariffs he imposed on billions of dollars in imports, those imports grew slightly while exports are going down.

    Not only are Trumpian tariffs an onerous tax on American consumers, they aren't even "working" on Trump's terms.


  • A (frankly) hilarious take on the recent announced changes to the Academy Awards from JVW at Patterico's Pontifications: Hollywood Leftists Throw a Bone to the Yokels in Flyover Country.

    The Motion Picture Academy of America, the folks who bring you the cringeworthy orgy of self-congratulation known as the Academy Awards Ceremony, have announced plans to institute a new “Best Popular Picture” Oscar at some as-of-yet undetermined time down the road. This would of course allow Star Wars: Revenge of the Merchandising Division and Avengers 6: Everybody Gets Rich to win awards that otherwise go to arthouse films with arch titles such as The Nothingness of Everything or Snails: an Unexpected Pansexual Love Story. The creation of a popular picture category is a pretty obvious ploy to address the awards show’s declining television ratings while ignoring the two larger reasons for the decline, namely the penchant of the Hollywood elite to nominate movies that appeal to whatever social justice diktat is in vogue and their obnoxious insistence on hectoring us with their putrid politics from the awards podium. Somehow I still don’t envision the average American movie viewer being willing to sit through three hours of televised drek just for that moment when The Fantastic Four Versus the Justice League: This Time Shit’s for Real collects its statue.

    There was a time when I went out of my way to watch all the movies with "big" nominations: Best Picture, Best Act(or|ess), Best Director, etc. I gave up at some point. Can't imagine why I'd ever want to see, for example, Moonlight.


  • And in case you don't check out xkcd as often as you should:

    [Voting Software]

    Mouseover text: "There are lots of very smart people doing fascinating work on cryptographic voting protocols. We should be funding and encouraging them, and doing all our elections with paper ballots until everyone currently working in that field has retired."

URLs du Jour

2018-08-08

[Amazon Link]

  • For those keeping score: Proverbs 10:21 is the fourth consecutive Proverb that refers to some mouth part.

    21 The lips of the righteous nourish many,
        but fools die for lack of sense.

    Is it me, or do you agree there's something a little weird about that?

    But anyway, our Amazon Product du Jour is all about fools dying for lack of sense. It's one of a series; there's also a website, if you enjoy that type of thing.


  • You might think that Alex Jones is an unhinged loon. You'd be right. But should he be kicked off various media platforms? Well, maybe. But it's important that such kicking, should it occur, be done for well-defined objective reasons. Writing in the prestigious New York Times, David French explains A Better Way to Ban Alex Jones.

    So on Monday, when Apple, Facebook and YouTube acted — in seemingly coordinated fashion — to remove the vast bulk of Mr. Jones’s content from their sites, there’s no cause for worry, right? After all, this was an act of necessary public hygiene. A terrible human being who has no regard for truth or decency is finally getting what he deserves.

    Would that it were that simple.

    There are reasons to be deeply concerned that the tech companies banned Alex Jones. In short, the problem isn’t exactly what they did, it’s why they did it.

    Rather than applying objective standards that resonate with American law and American traditions of respect for free speech and the marketplace of ideas, the companies applied subjective standards that are subject to considerable abuse. Apple said it “does not tolerate hate speech.” Facebook accused Mr. Jones of violating policies against “glorifying violence” or using “dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants.” YouTube accused Mr. Jones of violating policies against “hate speech and harassment.”

    These policies sound good on first reading, but they are extraordinarily vague. We live in times when the slightest deviation from the latest and ever-changing social justice style guide is deemed bigoted and, yes, “dehumanizing.” We live in a world where the Southern Poverty Law Center, a formerly respected civil-rights organization, abuses its past trust to label a host of mainstream organizations (including my former employer, the Alliance Defending Freedom) and individuals as “hate groups,” “white nationalists” or “anti-Muslim extremists,” based sometimes on disagreements about theology or sexual morality or sometimes on outright misreadings and misrepresentations of an individual’s beliefs and views.

    David's idea: use the pretty well-defined legal standards of libel and slander as banning criteria instead of the legally nebulous "hate speech". It's a good idea. But it's so much harder than simply invoking the magic "hate speech" spell. So I assume this idea will go nowhere.


  • At Reason Jacob Sullum notes a different threat to free expression when Gun Control Becomes Speech Control.

    In a recent editorial demanding censorship of legal, unclassified information about firearms, The Washington Post mentioned freedom of speech in passing but immediately dismissed its relevance.

    That's par for the course among gun controllers terrified by the thought of Americans using 3D printers or computerized milling machines to make firearms with the help of software provided by Defense Distributed. People who are convinced that the Austin, Texas, company's computer code will "put carnage a click away" (as the Post put it) tend to overlook the fact that they have moved from regulating guns to regulating speech.

    Last week, when a federal judge in Seattle told Defense Distributed to stop uploading its files, his seven-page temporary restraining order did not address the First Amendment implications at all. But Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson, whom The New York Times tellingly describes as a "professed gun-rights and free-speech advocate," has emphasized the First Amendment angle from the beginning of his legal battle with the State Department over its attempt to suppress gun design files as unapproved munition exports.

    This is (indeed) a fast-breaking story. I've seen reports that Facebook is disallowing people from posting the URL to CodeIsFreeSpeech.com (claiming, falsely, that it's spam). Although there seens to be a "Code is Free Speech" Facebook page, easily accessible.

    This could all change by the time you read this. For better or worse. Probably both.


  • James Freeman uses his "Best of the Web" feature at the online (and maybe paywalled) WSJ to note: We’ll Never Know How Bad the Federal Reserve Is

    Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) still hasn’t persuaded his colleagues to audit the Federal Reserve’s conduct of monetary policy. Perhaps lawmakers could simply agree that the Fed should stop destroying documents.

    Borrowed Time,” a history of Citigroup publishing today and co-authored by your humble correspondent and Vern McKinley, finds that the bank was in many ways healthier and more stable during the century when it was independent than during the roughly 100 years it has been supported by the federal government. But the government has been working hard to prevent such stories from being told.

    Take the early 1990s, when Citi ran into trouble with bad bets on U.S. commercial real estate. To understand exactly what happened, it would be useful to go back and look at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s examination reports from 1991 and 1992. Bank examiners normally put particularly juicy details about what they find in a confidential section that is not shared with the bank, and today this might represent a gold mine for financial historians. Such reports are available going back all the way to the 1860s, and the record lasts into the 1930s. But oddly these examination reports cannot be accessed for later periods due to the Federal Records Act of 1950.

    James notes that it's easier for researchers to examine bank records from 1890 than from 1990. It's enough to make you think they've got something to hide.


  • Helen Raleigh writes at the Federalist about the company whose motto used to be … guess what? Google Refuses To Assist U.S. Military, Bends Over For China’s Communist Censors.

    Should Google change its famous motto “Don’t be evil” to something like “Don’t be evil when it’s convenient, but it’s okay to be evil when it means new markets and more profit?” The question is pertinent, because The Intercept has reported that Google plans to launch a censored version of its search engine in China in the next six to eight months, pending the approval of Chinese regulators.

    China already has one of the world’s worst records on internet freedom. The Chinese government has built a large army of censors to scrub the internet to their liking in real time. Under President Xi Jinping, the Chinese government has further tightened its control over its people’s right to free expression. Chinese censors cast a very wide net of control. Whether it’s The Wall Street Journal site or the image of Winnie the Pooh, whether it’s a serious topic or something funny — anything the government doesn’t like, or any phrase or images even remotely associated to anything the government doesn’t like, is either banned, blocked or simply disappears.

    I'm no fan of government meddling in business, but I wouldn't shed too many tears if the US decided to follow the EU lead and decide that Google owed it a few billion. Or more than a few billion.


  • Jim I. Geraghty, at NR, quotes Elizabeth Warren: Our Justice System Is ‘Racist, All the Way, Front to Back.’.

    “Racist all the way, front to back,” is a really surprising and troubling thing to hear about a system that was, until 18 months ago, effectively headed by Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and before her, Eric Holder, appointed and accountable to the nation’s first African-American president. A system that has 214 African-American federal judges, 125 of Latino or Hispanic heritage, 41 Asian-Americans, and three Native Americans. A system that has at least 400 black prosecutors (although far too few elected ones).  A system where 27 percent of the officers and police personnel are members of minority groups, as of 2013, the most recent year data are available. Do all of these people feel like they are cogs in the “racist all the way, front to back” machine?

    Jim also makes a pretty good comment: "It’s not like Elizabeth Warren ever said or did something cynical about race to get ahead, right?"


  • At NH Journal, Michael Graham chronicles the latest kerfuffle in the race to replace my Congresscritter/Toothache Carol Shea-Porter: Maura Sullivan Makes “State’s Rights” Case for Confederate Monuments.

    The former Obama administration official–and Virginia resident– who was reportedly considered a potential congressional candidate in the Old Dominion before settling in New Hampshire a year ago, gave a surprising answer to a question about monuments and memorials to the Confederacy: She staked out the “state’s rights” position.

    Essentially, that's: let the states and communities that have those monuments decide what to do with them.

    Maura is the Emily's List-approved candidate, guaranteeing her a firehouse of cash from around the nation. Her fundraising dwarfs that of all other candidates, and (as I type) opensecrets.org reports that 96.6% of it is coming from outside NH.

    Whoa, where was I? Unsurprisingly, desperate Democrats running against Maura "seized on" her Confederate comment. Michael quotes one Terence O’Rourke, another Toothache candidate:

    Maura Sullivan sounds like every Neo-Nazi and Southern Revivalist I’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter. This is the same coded language I dealt with as a Counter-Terrorism Prosecutor. As a party, we Democrats can not support her as our candidate.

    This almost makes me feel sorry for Maura. Almost.

URLs du Jour

2018-08-07

[Amazon Link]

  • OK, oral fixation once again on display in Proverbs 10:20:

    20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver,
        but the heart of the wicked is of little value.

    But (more importantly) the Proverbialist lived long before either tongue or heart transplants. My guess is that a wicked heart goes for more than a righteous tongue, these days.


  • Kevin D. Williamson seems to be safely and soundly back at National Review after a brief delusion that the Atlantic would be adult enough to hire an excellent, albeit uncomfortably provocative, writer. He recently wrote on the vicissitudes of capitalism, in the wake of Apple news: Look Upon My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair.

    Apple hit a milestone last week, becoming the first company to achieve a market valuation of $1 trillion. Between the usual anti-capitalist banalitiesOh, inequality! Corporate concentration! The shrinking middle class! The horrifying spectacle of Asian people working in manufacturing jobs! — there have been a few mildly awestruck appreciations of the fact that, not so very long ago, Apple was on the verge of bankruptcy, about 90 days away from running out of cash, according to the late Steve Jobs. Apple was so diminished that there were rumors that it was going to become a small and not especially important division of Sony.

    Microsoft was riding high. Bill Gates was the wealthiest man in the world and a cult figure. Conservatives loved him for boasting that his company had no Washington office (this was before the antitrust lawsuit; Microsoft has staffed up in Washington since that sorry episode) and Republicans, knowing nothing about his politics, dreamed of running him as a presidential candidate. (The Republicans eventually figured out that Gates wasn’t one of them, but never quite got over their superstitious regard for wealthy businessmen.) He camped out on the cover of Time magazine: “Computer Software: The Magic Inside the Machine!” “Bill Gates: My Twelve Rules for Success in the Digital Age!” “The Private World of Bill Gates! Master of the Universe!” Microsoft, the business and tech press assured us, was going to rule the world. Steve Jobs and his cute little computers? Stuff for graphic designers laying out bistro menus in Soho, maybe.

    America Online is calling to Apple, Google, Facebook, … See you soon, fellas!


  • Speaking of the current crop of titans, Roger L. Simon is not a fan: InfoWars and the Rise of the Tech Fascists

    Fascist is a big word not to be bandied about (though it too often is these days), so let me make myself clear. I've spent about ten minutes of my life on InfoWars and think Alex Jones is a boring blowhard of little interest except to those who want to spend their lives worrying about whether there was a second gunman on the Grassy Knoll.

    Nevertheless, the group censorship of Mr. Jones, led by our friends in Cupertino, the makers of the ubiquitous iPhone -- I've had a half-dozen myself and am typing this on a MacBook -- is one of the scarier developments of our time, if not potentially the scariest.

    Apple is one hypocritical organization banning the puny Jones. They -- the first trillion-dollar company -- are the people who are genuflecting to the Chinese, kowtowing (that is definitely the proper word) to Xi Jinping and Co., and making all kinds of accommodations to that totalitarian regime for access to their giant market.

    Ditto for Google. They "bravely" pat themselves on the back for censoring a far-right nutball, while kissing the asses of dictators.


  • At Reason, J.D. Tuccille tells the story that fearmongering pols don't want to hear, let alone acknowledge: Downloadable Gun Designs Are Here To Stay, Whether Politicians Like It Or Not.

    It would be nice if the courts were to acknowledge that sharing the designs for firearms online is just like printing them up and distributing them in a book—that is, an act of free speech protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It would be nice, and it's a point even conceded by at least one of the state attorneys general trying to stop Defense Distributed from sharing such plans online, but the legal nod is hardly necessary. The internet is a nearly perfect medium for distributing information no matter what the law says, which is something that politicians should have learned when they declared war on Napster almost two decades ago without making a dent in file-sharing. Just like shared music and movie files, downloadable gun plans are here to stay.

    It's (very darkly) amusing that left-wingers manage to work up a lather about (a) Trump's imminent dictatorship and (b) prohibiting people from engaging in perfectly legal activities, if those activities involve things that shoot.


  • I really liked Steven Pinker's latest book, Enlightenment Now, although I found him weak when he wandered outside his scientific wheelhouse. At the Federalist, Robert Tracinski has similar feelings: Steven Pinker Shows How To Defend The Enlightenment Without Really Trying. Yes, there's been all sorts of breathtaking improvement in the human condition over the past few centuries. But…

    Can all of this really be ascribed to the Enlightenment? Certainly it can be ascribed to beliefs and ideological goals that were central to the Enlightenment, such as science, markets, commerce, individual rights, and humanistic values. At a number of spots, Pinker also does a good job of showing how the worst relapses in human progress, particularly the catastrophic wars of the twentieth century, were the result of anti-Enlightenment ideas. This is one of the more glaring errors made by critics of the Enlightenment, who blame John Locke and Voltaire for movements spawned by German Romanticism and other variations of the nineteenth-century “Counter-Enlightenment” backlash.

    On what the Enlightenment was and stood for, however, Pinker is at his weakest. He is adamant, and correctly so, that the ideas of the Enlightenment have consequences, and that those consequences have been overwhelmingly good. But if those ideas are so important, you would think he would spend more time fleshing them out.

    But no. If you want a better, more detailed analysis of the roots of the "Miracle", you'll have to do some more reading.


  • And Henry L. Miller at the (perhaps paywalled) WSJ provides some bad news: The Organic Industry Is Lying to You

    Nowhere is this truer than modern food advertising, where dubious health claims and questionable scientific assertions abound. The Food and Drug Administration is supposed to police such deceptive practices, as it sometimes does with ridiculous zeal: Witness the FDA’s warning letter sent to a Massachusetts bakery for including “love” in its ingredient list.

    But when it comes to the $47-billion-a-year organic industry, the FDA gives a complete pass to blatantly false and deceptive advertising claims. Consider the Whole Foods website, which explicitly claims that organic foods are grown “without toxic or persistent pesticides.” In fact, organic farmers rely on synthetic and natural pesticides to grow their crops, just as conventional farmers do, and organic products can contain numerous synthetic as well as natural chemicals. As observed by UC Berkeley biochemist Bruce Ames and his colleagues in 1990, “99.99% (by weight) of the pesticides in the American diet are chemicals that plants produce to defend themselves.”

    Also irritating: differential prohibition of "absence claims". It's illegal to label orange juice as "fat free"—because all orange juice is fat free. But label it "GMO free", and the FDA is fine with it, even though there are no GMO oranges on the market.


  • And a good graphic via GraniteGrok:

    Ever notice how pols will speechify ala "no American should have to choose between paying their rent and going hungry"; you will never hear them say that "no American should have to choose between paying taxes and going hungry."


Last Modified 2018-08-07 3:04 PM EDT

Shots Fired

Stories from Joe Pickett Country

[Amazon Link]

Another bit of progress in my effort to catch up with C. J. Box books. This one came out in 2014, so I'm almost there…

It's a collection of Box's short stories; the subtitle, "Stories from Joe Pickett Country" indicates that not all stories contain Box's most well-known hero. Four out of the ten stories do, but who's counting? Well, I suppose I just did.

Anyway, they're all small-to-medium-sized gems. Let's see:

  1. A story about a tyrannical ranch owner who, when things don't go his way, retaliates against his own employees. Joe implores him, futilely, to be reasonable; that plea doesn't work, but something else does.
  2. A story sorta based on the Springsteen song "Meeting Across the River", but set in Yellowstone instead of Jersey, with Eastern European punks instead of American punks.
  3. A story set in 1835 about two trappers snowbound in a cabin, one slowly being driven insane by the other
  4. A story about Nate Romanowski (with Joe in a cameo role) being pressured by a Saudi prince into providing falcons; that's a problem that Nate solves beautifully.
  5. A story about a fishing expedition in a drift boat that goes either (a) horribly wrong or (b) exactly as planned, depending on your point of view.
  6. A very neat story about a lawyer taken prisoner by a crazed "no-account workingman", based on a decades-old alleged screwing-over of his grandfather. Surprise ending!
  7. A story about Joe's investigation of a very grim scene: a pickup going into a lake in sub-zero weather, a victim who nearly escaped a frozen fate, but didn't.
  8. A story about American Indians hired by Paris Disneyland to provide atmosphere for their Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show (apparently a real thing); it turns out that French ladies are quite smitten with the, um, authenticity. But in one case, everything goes horribly wrong.
  9. A short short story about a young girl going fishin' with her grandpa. Twist ending!
  10. And a story about Joe's response to a "shots fired" report, seeming to implicate an old-time sheep rancher. He finds more than he bargained for.

I'm not much of a short-story reader, but these are great. You can't go wrong with Box.

Political Tribes

Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations

[Amazon Link]

Amy Chua (a lawprof at Yale) got a considerable amount of fame a few years back for writing Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, her memoir of the tough-parenting ethos she imposed/blessed upon her daughters.

Professor Chua was also a supporting player (as mentor) in J. D. Vance's book about his upbringing and educational/professional odyssey, Hillbilly Elegy, which was one of the best books I read last year.

I wasn't that much interested in reading about her mothering techniques, but when I saw that Chua had written this book, my interest was piqued enough to put it on the "get" queue for the University Near Here library. (It wound up coming via ILL from Franklin Pierce University, over in Rindge.)

I wished I liked it better. There are two things going on the book, and they don't mesh together that well.

The first part discusses how (mostly) the United States has botched both its foreign policy and war-fighting strategies in the past by failing to appreciate the "tribal" strains and stresses in other lands. Examples: In Vietnam, we failed to recognize the ethnic hatred of the Vietnamese majority toward the Chinese minority that controlled much of the country's economic activity. In Afghanistan, we (and the Russians) treated the country as if it were a Cold War square to be captured, ignoring the tribal history and conflicts between various major and minor warlords. In Iraq, we minimized the Sunni/Shiite/Kurd rivalries, and assumed all sects could get along peacefully once Democracy was imposed. And in Venezuela, we underestimated the ethnic resentment of darker-skinned natives (who brought, to their eventual regret, Hugo Chávez to power) against the whiter elite.

These explications are fine, as far as they go. You can't have read Thomas Sowell as much as I have and not be aware of how much ethnic, racial, religious, and other cultural differences can drive trends, disparities, and policies. But Chua's arguments seem a little too tidy and perhaps more hindsightful that insightful.

Things go a little more off the rails when Chua turns her gaze to 21st-century America. She calls America a "super-group": an agglomeration of immigrant cultures, religions, races, and ethnicities that (at least until recently) were successfully merged into a chunky melting-pot of American identity. While still marred by racial oppression and religious bigotry, we're still arguably doing better at managing tribalism than any other country.

Or not. Chua has plenty of criticism of current events. She is, as far as I can tell, a moderate political liberal, so she lambastes the wackos and bigots on both sides, but asymmetrically toward the right. There are inexplicable diversions; yes, I've heard of the "Prosperity Gospel", but I'm not quite sure what the point of the discussion in the book is.

And Chua occasionally totally misfires. Her contempt seethes (for example) at my hero Kevin D. Williamson and his famous brutally honest look at lower-class white American communities. Chua doesn't use Williamson's name, and calls his article (incorrectly) an "op-ed". She quotes a few paragraphs, but she seems to think Williamson's awfulness is self-evident, commenting only that "it's hard to imagine [Williamson's] kind of language being applied to any other group." Yeah, fine, Professor; but was he accurate? Engage with the argument, instead of pointing with open-mouthed shock.

URLs du Jour

2018-08-06

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 10:19 is—ugh, again—doing an oral cavity reference. But nevertheless, there's wisdom here:

    19 Sin is not ended by multiplying words,
        but the prudent hold their tongues.

    For a blogger, this is hard advice to take.


  • At National Review, Jack Fowler provides the latest news on Facebook's devotion to free and fair political discussion… as long as you're a Democrat: Heng Gets Facebook Blocked.

    Elizabeth Heng nearly beat incumbent Democratic congressman Jim Costa in California’s open primaries in early June. The 53–47 outcome would have made her the darling of the national political media, had she been a Democrat. She will face Costa again in the general election in November. My colleague Alexandra DeSanctis wrote an excellent piece last month profiling the young, smart, 33-year-old Republican contender.

    So this happened yesterday. Heng’s campaign had tried to place [a] video as an ad on Facebook. It begins with her family’s roots — amidst the horror of Cambodian genocide.

    … and Facebook blocked the video.

    I could be living in a bubble, and am unaware of all the times this happens to Democrats. Or it just might be as it appears: Facebook applies its vague censorship rules asymmetrically against Republicans.


  • At Reason, Steve Chapman reveals Trump’s Lousy Record on Trade.

    The Trump administration has a new agenda: bringing about a new world of free, robust, and unfettered trade. After his July meeting with the head of the European Union, the president was pleased to announce, "We agreed today, first of all, to work together toward zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers and zero subsidies on non-auto industrial goods."

    White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said that Trump "wants to have no tariffs" because "he's a free trader." Yes, he is. And I'm Reese Witherspoon.

    Trump is as far as you can get from a free trader. We know that from a Denali-sized mountain of evidence provided by Trump over his time in politics and business.

    That's a pretty big mountain, or so I've heard.


  • Also on trade, Don Boudreaux provides a Bonus Quotation of the Day from Robert Higgs, objecting to the notion that "equity" demands that US tariffs on Candadian goods be imposed "in response" to Canadian tariffs on US goods:

    If the U.S. government put new or higher tariffs on Canadian goods entering the USA, it would be punishing Americans who want to buy these goods. How would such punishment of Americans create equity to compensate for the punishment the Canadian government is imposing on Canadians who want to buy U.S. products? This matter is not a boxing match between countries. It’s a contest to see which government can punish its own people the most. It’s idiotic — and in no coherent sense is it equitable.

    Call me hopelessly optimistic, but maybe Trump-hatred will cause Democrats to become free traders?


  • Via Ann Althouse, a Tracey Ullman video that shows the old lady can still make me laugh out loud:


  • And an LFOD-alert chuckle is provided by an editorial in the Worcester MA Telegram, protesting the state's inability to plop additional regulations and fines upon the citizenry: Legislature in neutral as mayhem continues. Mayhem, I tellz ya!

    Why is it that two pieces of legislation that we all know will save lives and prevent grievous injuries can’t seem to get through our state Legislature?

    We refer, of course, to the two commonsense bills we’ve previously written about, separately, that were both left to wither away at the end of the legislative session this week: One to require hands-free calling while driving; the other to make the failure to wear a seat belt a primary offense for which you can be stopped.

    Ah, yes. It's for your own good, after all. But where's LFOD?… Ah, there it is:

    Don’t believe any of the bull you might hear about resistance to the nanny-state.

    Massachusetts, after all, is where you can be fined up to $1,000 and imprisoned for up to a year for manufacturing, selling, giving away or even storing or transporting a “novelty lighter” that could appeal to a child under 10. All in the interest of fire prevention. So watch out for anyone lighting a now legal joint – or a cigarette being taxed and regulated to oblivion - with a lighter that looks like a favorite cartoon character or “capable of playing musical notes or displaying flashing lights.”

    You can’t buy fireworks in Massachusetts, or drive without a motorcycle helmet. But just drive over the border into “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire - where you can do both - while yacking on a hand-held cellphone, and you could be nailed by the first cop who sees you.

    The real Mass fear/excuse is "racial profiling": that cops will apply enforcement disproportionately against people of color.

    But you have to appreciate the style of argument: since New Hampshire imposes these regulations, Massachusetts should do so as well. It's as if there's a nanny-state arms race, and Massachusetts can't be left behind!

URLs du Jour

2018-08-05

[Amazon Link]

  • Pun Salad often chastises the Proverbialist for his oral fixation. And so Proverbs 10:18 brings another example of that:

    18 Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips
        and spreads slander is a fool.

    On the other hand, we have to show proper respect; could a millennia-old Proverb be any more relevant to current events?


  • Not to pile onto a point we've made before, but Reason's Jacob Sullum clarifies: What We Talk About When Talk About Russian Meddling. Sullum makes critical distinctions between (1) manipulation of vote counts by breaking into local and state election computer systems; (2) breaking into computer systems used by politicians and parties, revealing confidential (but accurate) information; and (3) …

    The third kind of meddling is the most amorphous, the hardest to stop, and the one that least resembles an act of aggression. As Wray noted yesterday, "There's a clear distinction between, on the one hand, activities that threaten the security and integrity of our election systems, and, on the other hand, the broader threat of influence operations designed to manipulate and influence our voters and their opinions." The FBI director meant that the defenses against these distinct forms of interference are bound to be different, but the two threats are also morally different. While one violates people's rights (by trespassing on and messing with their property), the other may amount to nothing more than political discourse.

    That sort of activity—creating Facebook pages, organizing rallies, running online ads, tweeting commentary—is not ordinarily described as malign or nefarious, and it is indisputably protected by the First Amendment. When Americans do it, we call it participating in democracy. When Russians do it, we call it undermining democracy.

    I repeat myself: The notion that Americans need to be protected from certain pixel-patterns on their screen simply because of who paid to put the pixels up there is basically throwing in the towel on the concept of free people making their own decisions. I.e., democracy.


  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File this week explains: Why Racism Begets More Racism. It's difficult to find a paragraph or two to excerpt, because it's a seamless argument. But I'll do it anyway:

    If all you need to know about Oscar Wilde is that he was a gay dude, just like Richard Simmons or Milo what’s-his-name, you’re a bigot. If Meyer Lansky and Albert Einstein are merely two Jews to you, you’re an anti-Semite. If Margaret Thatcher, Joan of Arc, and Lizzie Borden are just three chicks, you’re a sexist.

    And again, historically, this is mostly a left-wing or liberal (both in the classical and modern senses of the word) insight. But for some bizarre reason, for many people, this idea evaporates like water off a hot skillet when you replace any of these categories with “white” or, very often, “male.”

    Suddenly fancy words and phrases fly like sawdust from a wood chipper: “structures of oppression!” “decontextualized!” “ahistoricized!” etc. It’s all so clever and complicated. The same people who take to the streets at the slightest suggestion that Muslims can be judged by the evil deeds of other Muslims will lecture and harangue you for hours, mob you on Twitter, or condescendingly dismiss you for not understanding that all white people have it coming.

    It's (um…) interesting to see some of my progressive friends make the argument that ("racism"|"sexism") is something only (pale|Y-chromosomed) people can engage in. OK, I get it, you're explicitly tailoring those words so you're able to come out with the results you like.

    You want to deny that (for example) Sarah Jeong's long Twitter history is either "racist" or "sexist". Fine, let's get beyond that; can you deny that they're invidious hate-filled stereotyping based on race and sex?

    I.e., what we used to mean by racism and sexism?


  • A wee bit of good news from Congress, which managed to let a good idea sneak into a lard-filled wasteful defense-spending bill: Trump expected to sign bill blocking money for Chinese Communist propaganda in colleges.

    So-called Confucius Institutes hosted by American colleges and universities have long drawn concern from both lawmakers and academic groups for promoting Chinese Communist propaganda and squelching academic freedom.

    Since few colleges have acted against this source of free and easy money, the U.S. government is playing its own part.

    Under a massive defense authorization bill expected to be signed by President Trump, authorized funding would be blocked from supporting Chinese-language programs at colleges that host the Chinese government-operated institutes. It also blocks funding for programs at Confucius Institutes outside colleges.

    If only they had been Russian, this would have happened a lot sooner. "Tolstoy Institutes"?

    I'll try to keep an eye on what happens to the Confucius Institute at the University Near Here.


  • Bryan Caplan takes issue with a too-common libertarian cliché: he's proudly Pro-Market AND Pro-Business.

    Yes, businesspeople are flawed human beings.  But they are the least-flawed major segment of society.  If any such segment deserves our admiration, gratitude, and sympathy, it is businesspeople.  We should be pro-market and pro-business.

    Why, you ask?  My prima facie case begins with this basic fact: Businesses produce and deliver virtually all of the wonderful, affordable products that we enjoy. Contrary to millennia of economic illiterates, businesses rarely do so by “exploiting” their workers.  Instead, businesses provide gentle but much-needed leadership.  Left to our own economic devices, most of us are virtually useless; we don’t know how to produce much, and we don’t know how to find customers.  Businesspeople solve these problems: They recruit workers, organize them to vastly raise their productivity, then put these products in the hands of customers all over the world.  Yes, they’re largely in it for the money; but – unlike every government on Earth – business rarely puts a gun to your head.  Businesses assemble teams of volunteers to meet the needs of willing consumers – and succeed wildly.

    Um, right. I'm going to have to be more careful about this in the future.


  • And finall, Michael Ramirez on 3-D Gun Hysteria

    3-D Gun Hysteria

    Add-on from the Meme Warfare Center:

    And (heck why not) one more:

    And let me just say it would be so cool if you bought our Amazon Product du Jour via the link above.

URLs du Jour

2018-08-04

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 10:17 shows (I think) a bit of the Proverbialist's mentality:

    17 Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life,
        but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.

    Spoken like a true disciplinarian.

    Not that there's anything wrong with that.

    Until there is.

    By the way, an, um, interesting array of items appears when you search Amazon for "disciplinarian". Today's Product du Jour is pretty far down in the results, because we try to keep things PG-13 here.


  • At Reason, Eric Boehm tells us of a local victim: Trade War Kills a New Hampshire Meadery's Plan to Export 100K Bottles to China.

    Earlier this year, Michael Fairbrother was closing in on a huge deal: a contract to send 100,000 bottles of mead—a wine-adjacent alcoholic beverage made from fermented honey—to a distributor in China.

    Landing the $750,000 contract would have been a game-changer for Moonlight Meadery, the New Hampshire–based business that Fairbrother started in his garage eight years ago. Already recognized as one of the best breweries in the state, it would have opened a huge new market for for its products. It also would have hired at least six new employees and bought new equipment to meet the new obligations, he says.

    Then the trade war came.

    I don't think I've ever consumed mead; what, do I look like Beowulf?

    But that's neither here nor there; this is a too-rare look at Bastiat's "unseen": the things that would have happened for the better, but didn't, thanks to Trump.


  • At Cato, John Samples looks at the recent Facebook takedown of fake-account pages: Facebook, Russia and Americans.

    Set Russia aside for a moment and consider the American part of the story. The deleted pages said things some Americans wanted to hear and supported. Members of Congress might find such speech “divisive” or “disinformation.” Apparently some Americans disagreed: they presumably saw the speech as informative and helpful.

    In the United States, by culture and by law, we have free speech so people can learn about and evaluate politics and much else. The people who saw the deleted pages seemed to have engaged and assessed the material. “It was the truth about our people,” Victor Perez, a construction worker in Salt Lake City said of a deleted page that, the Wall Street Journal reports, “used divisive memes to promote Native American and Hispanic culture.”

    The notion that Americans need to be protected from certain pixel-patterns on their screen simply because of who paid to put the pixels up there is basically throwing in the towel on the concept of free people making their own decisions. I.e., democracy.

    And yet there are only a few wacky libertarians making that point. I don't think this ends well.


  • On a related matter, it's been argued that some Americans should STFU about politics, simply because they're too rich. At Law and Liberty, John O. McGinnis takes that on: How the One Percent Improve Democracy.

    David and Charles Koch have decided to withhold political advertisements from Republican candidates who support Trump’s trade and immigration policies and instead run them for those who want freer trade and a less restrictive immigration policy. Regardless of our views on these issues (I am substantially sympathetic to the Kochs’ position on trade and somewhat so on legal immigration), we should be grateful to them and the other members of the one percent who exercise their constitutional rights broadly to disseminate a wide variety of political views.

    One of the greatest problems of democracy is the danger that the structure of government and politics will entrench certain ideas, thus impeding civic discussion. For instance, the party apparatus naturally lines up behind the view of its President while in office and promotes a party line. But it is important that even within the President’s party that there be competition between different views, because often the opposition for tactical and ideological reasons will not strongly contest some specific views of the President. The Democrats, for instance, are not strongly opposing Trump’s trade policies.

    Bottom line: it's a good thing to see arguments made outside the lines of the dominant political tribes.


  • At PJMedia, the inimitable Jim Treacher notes that We're Now in the 'Conservatives Pounce' Phase of the Plastic Straw Panic. Making another data point in the old story:

    It is a truth universally acknowledged that when conservatives do something dumb, that's the news story, and when liberals do something dumb, conservatives' reaction is the news story. Well, maybe that's not universally acknowledged. But it should be, because that's what always happens. The headline is always "GOP Pounces on Democrat's Sex Scandal," or "Republicans Seize on Antifa's Violent Rioting," or whatever. The reaction is always presented as an overreaction. The designated villains are always wrong, no matter what the designated heroes have done.

    For a recent example of making "pouncing" the news, see this article from the young-adult website Vox about the Sarah Jeong thing: she's "a venerated tech culture journalist with a broad range of expertise", but "the ensuing outcry from right-wing Twitter was both swift and familiar".


  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson has a balanced take on Pope Francis's latest pronouncement on capital punishment: The Bishop and the Executioner.

    It was for me, many years ago when I went to cover the competing rallies outside the prison in Huntsville, Texas, on the evening of an execution. With due respect to Pope Francis, it is obvious to me, as it was similarly obvious to every pope before him who had considered the question, that capital punishment is justified in some circumstances, not only as a practical question but as a moral one. It was equally obvious to me, watching that foaming crowd cheering on the executioner as though it were the fourth quarter with home team ahead by six, that we — We the People — were not equipped to be entirely responsible stewards of that awful power of life and death, and that the exercise of such power did not ennoble us but rather achieved the opposite.

    Interesting and thoughtful take, as is usual from KDW.


  • And a not-the-Onion headline from Mental Floss: Cartons of Almond Breeze Milk Recalled for Possibly Containing Actual Milk. The culprit is good old Harry P. Hood:

    HP Hood, the maker of Almond Breeze almond milk, is recalling more than 145,000 cartons of its vanilla-flavored beverage because the product may contain actual dairy milk, the Daily Herald reports.

    In other news, as reported by Molly Roberts in the WaPo: Big Dairy is going after your almond milk. I smell a plot!


  • And Michael P. Ramirez has been on vacay, but now he's back:

    Division

    Indeed. As always, click through to Mr. Ramirez's website for a glorious uncropped version.

Farmer in the Sky

[Amazon Link]

Whoa. As I type, Amazon's prices for the paperback of Farmer in the Sky is "from $24.57". For that, I'd demand it be read to me in person by Gal Gadot.

Kindle version is just $6.99, though. That's OK. You can also get it as part of a four-novel hardcover anthology "from $6.43", but I assume that's a SF Book Club edition that might be falling apart.

My version cost me a cool 50¢, published 50 years ago. Couldn't find a pic at Amazon, though.

Anyway, one more book down in my "Rereading Heinlein" project. (And thirty-three to go.) It's a surprisingly dark juvenile, originally published in 1950. You can think of it as Little House on a Jovian Moon. The narrator is Bill Lermer, a teenage Californian; he and his father, a widower, decide to apply to be the first massive wave of immigrants to a terraforming-in-process Ganymede.

And it's a darn fine yarn. Bill and his dad have all sorts of crises, adventures, and setbacks. Heinlein skillfully builds his count-the-rivets world using a minimal amount of handwaving magic technology. I think you could—and Heinlein probably did—sketch out a floorplan of the Mayflower, the ship that transports the colonists from Earth orbit to Ganymede orbit. ("And right down here is the magic engine in which mass is converted efficiently to kinetic energy.")

Along the way, Bill grows from a semi-petulant kid into a mature human being. Heinlein does this with show-don't-tell prose. Bill is—literally—a Boy Scout, and gets to implement most, if not all, of the twelve tenets of Boy Scout Law. (Heinlein, of course, would be weak on the "reverent".)

I haven't read the book for fifty years, but it holds up pretty well. For all the advanced space tech, everybody still uses slide rules and wire recorders. There's a final adventure that is kind of a machina ex deum, but I didn't care.

URLs du Jour

2018-08-03

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 10:16 is pretty straightforward. It's the usual good/bad distinction, but the two halves match up well:

    16 The wages of the righteous is life,
        but the earnings of the wicked are sin and death.

    … but we've seen this at least a couple times before; examples here and here.


  • I am a huge fan of Arthur C. Brooks, and he brings his wisdom and humor to the undeserving New York Times: Need a Politics Cleanse? Go Ahead and Treat Yourself.

    What to do? Start with a politics cleanse: For two weeks — maybe over your August vacation — resolve not to read, watch or listen to anything about politics. Don’t discuss politics with anyone. When you find yourself thinking about politics, distract yourself with something else. (I listen to Bach cantatas, but that’s not for everybody.) This is hard to do, of course, but not impossible. You just have to plan ahead and stand firm. Think of it as ideological veganism. On the one hand, your friends will think you’re a little wacky. On the other hand, you’ll feel superior to them.

    Since I'm retired, I'm on vacation 24x7. So I'd need to fix this somewhat. Could I go (for example) two weeks without reading or writing anything political? Hm.


  • The Free Beacon reports on a press release from Arkansas senator Tom Cotton: ‘One Hopes Google Will Put Its Corporate Principles and America First, Ahead of Chinese Cash’.

    "Google said it wouldn’t bow to Beijing’s censorship, and it should stick to its word, especially now that it’s canceled its partnership with our military. Google claims to value freedom and one hopes Google will put its corporate principles and America first, ahead of Chinese cash," Cotton said in a statement.

    I don't think Cotton, as a powerful politician, should tell Google how to conduct its business. But that's a lost cause in today's Senate: every senator thinks they're expert in telling businesses how to conduct their operations.

    That said, however, he's right: Google shouldn't aid China's dictatorship in its efforts to provide only government-approved content to its citizenry.


  • Ann Althouse has some fun with a Drudge headline about proposals to rename Austin, Texas.

    AUSTIN, TX CONSIDERS NAME CHANGE TO SHED LEGACY.

    I think "Shed Legacy" would be a pretty good name for any city. Anne makes the case for Madison, WI. (Madison was another slave-owner, so there's that.)


  • Or we could just get an increasingly dictatorship-fond Internet company to do the dirty work for us, as related in this Slashdot tale: As Google Maps Renames Neighborhoods, Residents Fume.

    For decades, the district south of downtown and alongside San Francisco Bay here was known as either Rincon Hill, South Beach or South of Market. This spring, it was suddenly rebranded on Google Maps to a name few had heard: the East Cut. The peculiar moniker immediately spread digitally, from hotel sites to dating apps to Uber, which all use Google's map data. The name soon spilled over into the physical world, too. Real-estate listings beckoned prospective tenants to the East Cut. And news organizations referred to the vicinity by that term.

    A fuming resident is quoted.


  • We continue to see fallout from the Progressive effort to hijack New Hampshire's demographic woes into service of "diversity". And LFOD is invoked, because it always is: NH Demographics: Diversity A 'Challenge'.

    Governor Chris Sununu recently created an Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion that examine demographics and other issues. Sununu last month approved new laws outlawing gender discrimination and gay conversion therapy.

    "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 at the time.

    No question; and yet it always comes down to classifying people by trivial differences in their DNA.


  • And a Maine TV station got Rudy Giuliani to sit still for a few words while he was endorsing a Congressional candidate for (my) district, NH-01, Eddie Edwards:

    Giuliani says with Edwards’ support for the president, and his “live free or die” values of a conservative, he would be the perfect man for the job.

    “He believes in low taxes, he believes in limited government,” Giuliani said. “He's a supporter of the “America First” agenda of President Trump. He believes that the trade and all the issues that affected America have to be straightened out so that we at least have a level playing field.”

    The "level playing field" is a common misleading metaphor used by protectionists. Eddie might get my vote (I'm still registered Republican) but he'll have to do better than sling tired rhetoric.

URLs du Jour

2018-08-02

[Amazon Link]

  • Is Proverbs 10:15 a trivial truism, or do you see some deeper meanings?

    15 The wealth of the rich is their fortified city,
        but poverty is the ruin of the poor.

    The poor don't have enough money to build their own fortified city? Instead they have to live in ruins?

    As usual, Biblical understanding of economics is suspect.


  • At National Review, editorial intern Karl J. Salzmann muses on Communism, Fascism, and Double Standards. Double standards on view, specifically, in the response to Ms. Ash Sarkar:

    Earlier this month, a British left-wing blogger, Ash Sarkar, received her 15 minutes of fame when she screamed at Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain. Morgan had insisted on deeming Ms. Sarkar a supporter of Barack Obama, to which she responded by yelling, “He’s not my hero . . . I’m literally a Communist!” — a response for which she was praised by left-wing, mostly Internet-based writers all over the world, including in Teen Vogue and Elle, which offered her as a role model for young women.

    Karl quotes the always-sensible Daniel Hannan:

    “At this stage in the article,” Hannan writes, “the columnist traditionally says, ‘Just imagine if she had declared that she was “literally a fascist.”’ But you can’t imagine it, can you?” No, we can’t, and that’s because we have completely demonized Fascism and, socially, taken it out of public discourse — thank God. Yet Fascism’s kissing cousin, the equally evil and equally bloody Communism, remains not only celebrated but also recommended as worthy-of-emulation in Teen Vogue and Elle. And, unlike Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, Ms. Sarkar actually knows something about something, even if it isn’t much: In her Teen Vogue interview, she surprises the interviewer by quoting Marx at length. Often, but not incontrovertibly, Fascism is said to be a right-wing ideology; arguendo, how is it that the evil far-right ideology is thrown out to the everlasting darkness yet the evil far-left ideology exalted? Or, even less drastically, how is it that conservatives are (rightfully) called upon to decry far-right madmen, yet liberals are given the opportunity to laud far-left crazies?

    There's no decent excuse.

    Although I'd quibble with "equally bloody". Every estimate I've seen shows Communism's body count dwarfs Fascism's.


  • The Intercept reports: Google Plans to Launch Censored Search Engine in China, Leaked Documents Reveal.

    Google is planning to launch a censored version of its search engine in China that will blacklist websites and search terms about human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protest, The Intercept can reveal.

    The project – code-named Dragonfly – has been underway since spring of last year, and accelerated following a December 2017 meeting between Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai and a top Chinese government official, according to internal Google documents and people familiar with the plans.

    Related Gizmodo news from earlier this year: Google Removes 'Don't Be Evil' Clause From Its Code of Conduct.


  • At the Federalist, David Harsanyi invites: Let’s Debunk The Misleading Panic Over 3-D Guns. Yes, let's.

    The newest bugaboo of the gun control crowd is the bloodcurdling “3-D printer gun.” Or, as Alyssa Milano, a self-styled expert on these matters, might call it: “downloadable death.” Reporters at CNN ask, “3-D guns: Untraceable, undetectable and unstoppable?” Even President Donald Trump tweeted that “he’s looking into 3-D Plastic Guns being sold to the public. Already spoke to NRA, doesn’t seem to make much sense!”

    It makes plenty of sense.

    First of all, “3-D Plastic Guns” aren’t being sold to the public. Nor are “downloadable firearms” or “ghost guns.” These things don’t exist. Data, code, and information is being sold to the public. There is no magical contraption that creates a new gun on demand. Sorry.

    Harsanyi goes on to show how much of the commentary is fearmongering, based on ignorance of (1) current law; (b) the Constitution; (c) the realities of firearm manufacture.

    Adding to the fearmongering is (once again) my state's junior Senator:

    My ill-tempered response:

    Related link: codeisfreespeech.com. (But can you find it via Google?)


  • Our Google LFOD news alert rang for a letter in the Laconia Daily Sun from Mr. Frank M. Weeks of Gilmanton Iron Works. (Yes, that's a real place, with its own zip code and everything.) Frank's letter entertainingly muses on a hypothetical scenario: N.H. would lose a lot of revenue if college students become residents. But it goes back to the recently passed legislation to tighten up voting requirements:

    An addendum to a prior article concerning an impact of N.H. House Bill 1264 has been suggested by a communication from a state college professor. Recently out-of-state/resident-university/college students were declined the privilege of voting in New Hampshire. Various civic-minded politicians condoned this decision based on residency manipulation, and surely not for surreptitious political reasons. One can only assume that these office holders thoroughly thought through all of the possible monetary ramifications of their beliefs.

    I detect sarcasm. But there's also data:

    At the University of New Hampshire, out-of-state tuition for 2018-2019 is $30,520 and in-state tuition is $15,140. Enrollment is approximately 15,066, of which 54 percent (or 8,135 students) are out-of-state students. At Keene State College, the out-of-state tuition is $20,432 and in-state is $11,468; while 63 percent of the 4,282 students are from out-of-state. At Plymouth State University, the out-of-state tuition is $20,250 and the in-state is $11,580. The student body of 5,050 is 49 percent out-of-state students. The out-of-state tuition for Lakes Region Community College is $14,802, and the in-state is $6,642, but the out-of-state enrollment number is not readily available. It's probably minimal.

    Probably. Frank becomes somewhat incoherent:

    Obviously, the out-of-state tuition is a welcome financial incentive for the state aid to post-secondary public education (which is 50th in the United States, and if Puerto Rico is included, 51st). And student debt here is the third highest in the nation. As is obvious (compared to other New England states), N.H. state aid to public education is not a priority, and out-of-state tuition is needed to adequately fund public post-secondary education. Thus, a reason to accept out-of-state students. Yes, there are those who denigrate the university and colleges for whatever their reasons, but it is difficult to operate on a deficit budget. Then again, $12 billion would be a nice subsidy (What national debt?). Almost like a tariff on out-of-state students!

    I am not sure what "financial incentive for the state aid" could possible mean. And the stream-of-consciousness diversion to $12 billion and tariffs is, well, stupid. But there's also math:

    Utilizing the mathematical equation: [(O-I)X(SXO%)=ET] or (difference between out-of-state and in-state tuition) X (student body enrollment) X (percent of out-of-state students) = (excess tuition income due to out-of-state enrollment): the yearly out-of-state "contribution" to U.N.H. would be $125,116,300; $24,175,908 for KSC; and $20,443,500 for PSU. The overall total would be $169,735,708. Hmm! Quite a "donation" to New Hampshire post-secondary education! Almost like "taxation without representation."

    Sigh. Frank, taxation is mandatory. Going to UNH is voluntary. So, no, it's not like "taxation without representation" at all. It's like "paying tuition".

    Hypothetically, if all of these out-of-state students decided to obtain N.H. drivers' licenses and/or reside in the state for a year, they could then vote as in-state residents and could reap a tremendous savings in tuition, e.g. U.N.H.: $58,280 per student over 4 years. And $35,072 per for KSC; and $33,040 per for PSU. Quite a four year "I was smart!" savings for the individual student!

    Frank shows a charming ignorance of USNH's actual byzantine rules for determining New Hampshire residency. Frank, if you think it's as simple as getting an apartment and a driver's license, the Campus Residency Officer has some very bad news for you. (As in, "Sorry, we expected long ago that people might try that.")

    But where's LFOD? Ah, here it is:

    If such a scenario occurred, it would be interesting to ascertain how the state would compensate for the $169,735,708 loss of revenue. Apparently the fiscally-focused citizens of this state would hope that this scenario would not occur or else the politicians would have to dream up some other excuses for residency requirements, e.g. must be conceived in the state; enrolled at a N.H. public school for all 13 years; and at 18 years of age, a tattoo of "Live Free or Die" inscribed on one's forehead. One can only wonder what 1984 will bring!

    Memo to self: do not send a Letter to the Editor that you think is "clever" without re-reading it the day after, when sober.

URLs du Jour

2018-08-01

[Amazon Link]

  • King Solomon delivers up another wet firecracker in Proverbs 10:14:

    14 The wise store up knowledge,
        but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.

    Oral fixation. Ugh.


  • Jonah Goldberg (at National Review) finds the Bannon vs. the Kochs feud to be aumusing. And who doesn't? Bannon is quoted:

    “We can have a theoretical discussion later, OK? This is why they don’t know what it means to win, OK? We don’t have time to have some theoretical discussion and to have their spokesman come out and say the president is divisive,” Bannon said.

    Among other Goldbergian comments:

    This whole thing is a pas de deux of asininity, because the candle of dumb burns from both ends. Not only is it barmy to think David and Charles Koch would bend to this, it’s even barmier to think that Steve Bannon is the person to lecture anyone about losing elections. I know there are people out there who think Bannon singlehandedly won the election for Trump (pollsters call this demographic “Steve Bannon”). But even if one were willing to entertain that idea, look at his record since. Nearly every goblin, Morlock, and troll that he’s supported in his vaunted war on the establishment has gone down in flames. One of his favorites, Paul Nehlen, revealed himself to be a full-on hater of the Jooooz. The golden nugget in Bannon’s turd parade was Roy Moore, whom Bannon bet on big. It was a power move in which Bannon broke with the president, who fired him on the theory that Bannon was building a movement. The result: He gave Jeff Sessions’s Senate seat to the Democrats. In Alabama.

    I'll probably always despise Steve Bannon for running the post-Breitbart Breitbart into the ground.


  • At Power Line, John Hinderaker comments on the latest Facebookian move: Facebook Removes “Inauthentic” Left-Wing Accounts. Samples of the fake accounts' tendentious blather are provided, so you can see what you almost certainly missed. Example: one of the accounts was listed as a sponsor of an upcoming protest, "No Unite The Right 2 -dc". Here's an embed of that event, from a different (authentic?) account, "Crushing Colonialism":

    Yeah, fine. I'm with John:

    Perhaps I am missing something, but there is such a vast quantity of authentic nonsense on Facebook that the presence of a tiny amount of inauthentic nonsense–whatever that means, exactly–does not strike me as very important.

    [Comment]


  • At Reason, Brian Doherty lists 3 Things People Don't Get About the Homemade Gun Making Story. Just three? Well, that's plenty, because number three is:

    3) The case is as much about free speech as it is about gun rights. Since the case ended via settlement and not a decision, no explicit precedent has been set that these specific computer instructional files count as expression protected under the First Amendment. But that was the core of the legal argument Defense Distributed was making, and is still having to make against all the new authorities trying to restrain it.

    Just kidding. The first two are important too. But that leads me to…


  • Of course our state's junior Senator was outraged and disturbed, and tweeted her outrage and disturbance. I replied:

    I wonder how long it will take for Senator Maggie to follow her true instincts and sponsor legislation to ban all expression that might make it easier to do something illegal?


  • Robert Tracinski (The Federalist) has bad news for people who like to laugh: The Age Of Didacticism Is Out To Kill Comedy.

    I’ve been tracking the growing didacticism of today’s art, the tendency of the mainstream culture’s gatekeepers to subordinate esthetic merit to the imperative of blasting a political message that matches the Left’s orthodoxies. Didacticism has been taking over every form of art, from television to movies to fashion to sculpture to poetry. Now it’s coming for the unlikeliest target of all: comedy.

    Did I hear you say that there’s no way to make comedy didactic, that this is the ultimate contradiction in terms? True enough, which is why the age of didacticism is coming to destroy comedy altogether—and it is openly proclaiming that fact. The latest buzz in the middlebrow media is a stand-up comedy act that The New York Times praises as “comedy-destroying.”

    Yup, chalk me up as a "must-miss" for this at Netflix.

    Streaming Netflix really likes comedy specials, I assume because they're cheaper to get than good movies or scripted series. They also host one of those tedious "news commentary" shows with unfunny Michelle Wolf.

    But if you're casting around Netflix for an hour or so of actual-funny entertainment let me recommend: Mike Birbiglia, John Mulaney, and Iliza Shlesinger. The guys occasionally veer into politics, but that's OK. Iliza can occasionally break into didactic feminism, but that's OK too. Still 95% funny.


Last Modified 2018-08-01 11:32 AM EDT