URLs du Jour

2018-08-31

[Amazon Link]

  • Via Virginia Postrel's Facebook feed, I was led to Josh Bernoff's blog, entertainingly titled Without Bullshit. (Darn, I didn't know you could get domain names like that…) Josh has a well-argued post on Google's perceived bias in search results, Truegle: Building a Google clone that lives up to Trump’s ideals.

    Spoiler alert: yes, searching for news items results in overwhelming leans toward mainstream-media (and hence, left-tiliting) results. Hiawatha Bray (no liberal, even though he writes for the Boston Globe) is quoted:

    But take a close look at Attkisson’s chart [on which the study of liberal vs. conservative news sites is based]. On the left side, you’ll find sites such as The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Bloomberg, and USA Today. On the right side, you’ll find The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, the New York Post, the Drudge Report, National Review, RedState, Breitbart.

    Notice anything? A handful of her right-of-center choices are major news outlets; the rest are niche publications that don’t attract a broad mainstream audience. Even the best-known of them aren’t the highest-ranked sources for news. On the left side of the line, you find the bulk of American mainstream media, sites that are read by tens of millions of us, regardless of our politics.

    I.e., it's not really Google's fault that its search results gravitate left. The algorithms used to rank search results are sensible. To a first approximation:

    • Highly visited sites are ranked higher in search results.
    • Highly linked-to sites are ranked higher in search results.

    And by these objective standards, nearly by definition, the mainstream sites are going to float to the top. (Which brings a metaphor to mind …)

    Josh goes on to imagine "Truegle", a search engine built to Trump's supposed-desires. You wouldn't trust it.

    Josh's book—why not?—is our Amazon Product du Jour.


  • Let's link to one of those MSM sites ourselves, specifically CBS News, where Michael Graham, after hearing about the Maverickocity of John McCain, asks the musical question: Where are the mavericks in the Democratic Party?

    Who is the John McCain of the Democratic Party? The "maverick" who disagrees with his or her party's orthodoxy and is willing to confront it? Is there such a figure?

    Instead, an analysis of Congress by the Lugar Center found that, of the top 10 most bipartisan U.S. senators, just one—Joe Donnelly of Indiana—is a Democrat. Overwhelmingly, most of the "reaching across the aisle" is reaching from the Right.

    Yes, there are a handful of Democrats in red states who occasionally vote with Republicans— Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota come to mind. But they're not "mavericks" bucking their party's ideology. They're just Democrats in Trump Country trying to figure out how Democratic they can be and still get re-elected.

    It's clear that the GOP has to deal with a lot of "mavericks": not just McCain, but Collins, Murkowski, Portman,… The Democrats, not so much.


  • I am (of course) a Red Sox fan, and now I'm even more a J. D. Martinez fan, since one of his "controversial" anti-gun-control Instagrams came to light. David Harsanyi tells the story: J.D. Martinez’s Second Amendment Stance Isn’t ‘Controversial,’ It’s Patriotic.

    Someone recently dug up an old pro-Second Amendment Instagram post by Boston Red Sox star J.D. Martinez, in which the potential Triple Crown winner posted a picture of Adolf Hitler featuring the quote, “To conquer a nation, first disarm it’s [sic] citizens.” Martinez captioned the post, “This is why I always stay strapped! #thetruth.”

    Needless to say, the discovery triggered a torrent of stories about the “controversial” nature of Martinez’s six-year-old post—because, apparently, disagreeing with a Hitlerian sentiment is now a provocative position. Some writers lazily created the impression that Martinez was quoting Hitler admiringly, while the usual suspects said the usual silly things.

    Yeah, Hitler didn't say that.

    And the actual Nazi record on gun control was more nuanced. They only wanted to prohibit "dangerous weapons in the wrong hands."

    Oh, wait, that wasn't Hitler either. That was my state's junior senator, Maggie Hassan.

    Also our senior senator, Jeanne Shaheen.

    And my own CongressCritter/Toothache, Carol Shea-Porter.


  • Democrats are gradually, um, whitewashing various embarrassing reminders of their party's unsavory past. Most recent example, a move to memory-hole segregationist Richard Russell by scratching his name off a Senate office building and putting John McCain up there instead.

    In an article about that proposal, the NYT deemed Russell a "conservative Democrat". At NR, Kevin D. Williamson asks: Was Senator Russell a ‘Conservative’ Democrat?

    The tendency of the modern, morally and politically illiterate progressive is to insist in essence “Racism = Conservatism” and “Anti-Racism = Progressivism.” But that does not stand up to very much scrutiny, either. The Democrat most strongly associated with advancing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, President Johnson, was also a longtime opponent of anti-lynching laws and, when it served him, a cynical exploiter of racial hatred. The backbone of American progressivism, and the bulwark of the New Deal, consisted largely of segregationist Democrats. The Republican most closely associated with opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, conservative Senator Barry Goldwater, was a longtime supporter of earlier, Republican-sponsored civil-rights legislation — and an NAACP member who personally helped fund desegregation litigation in Phoenix out of his own pocket. Bill Buckley wrote some ill-considered columns about racial politics in the 1950s; in the 1960s, he was raking George Wallace (who held office as a Democrat) over the coals for his backward and malicious racial politics. Did Buckley cease being conservative sometime between 1957 and 1968? Of course not. No more than Woodrow Wilson ceased being a progressive when he was screening Birth of a Nation at the White House.

    History isn't a simple matter of assigning white hats and black hats.


  • New Hampshire Watchdog reports that a New index seeks to quantify ‘New Hampshire Advantage’ over neighboring states. The index is offered by the Granite Institute, a "501 (c)3 nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational organization based in Concord." The CEO is J. Scott Moody, and he is quoted:

    “The New Hampshire Advantage is a result of the virtues of political gridlock,” he said. “New Hampshire didn’t do anything special except that it did nothing. … This gridlock is partially a result of New Hampshire's unique political institutions – a 400-member House of Representatives (one for every 3,000 people), a surviving Executive Council (essentially regional governors), and two-year terms for everyone (including the governor). As a result, the will of the people is always on the minds of New Hampshire’s politicians.”

    He also cited the state’s “Live Free or Die” ethos, pointing out that Republicans and Democrats in the state often sign pledges vowing not to enact broad-based tax increases.

    You can read the Index report here. Very nice interactivity.


  • ESPN is trying to edge away from tiresome political slants in covering sports. One result is definitely News You Can Use: The 20 rules for creating an MLB nickname (and what yours would be). Gently editing Rules 1-3:

    Rule 1. If your name starts with a "Mc," your teammates will probably call you Mac.

    Rule 2. If your name is Smith, you're Smitty.

    Rule 3. They will work very hard to call you something other than your name. If the Giants' longtime manager were named Bruce Boch, just like that, B-O-C-H, everybody on the team would call him Bochy. As in, "Bochy had a chance to make a move and score some runs and it worked."

    But his name isn't Bruce Boch. It's Bruce Bochy. So everybody calls him, naturally, Boch. B-O-C-H. "Boch had a chance to make a move and score some runs and it worked." What makes a ballplayer name preferable to your regular name is that it's not your regular name.

    Back in the day, Rule 3 applied to me: I was "Sando". (Not "Sandy", thank goodness.)

The Serpent of Venice

[Amazon Link]

This is a sequel to Fool, Christopher Moore's previous book with protagonist Pocket, the fool in Shakespeare's King Lear. A ribald tale that was, and this book continues in that vein.

Here, Moore mashes up two Shakespearian plays: Othello (a tragedy, or so I'm told) and The Merchant of Venice (allegedly a comedy). But it also brings in a Poe reference ("The Cask of Amontillado"). In fact, that's how the book gets its start: Pocket has been dispatched by his wife, Cordelia, to Venice in order to thwart yet another Crusade on the Holy Land. Unfortunately, Cordelia is also dispatched soon afterwards.

Pocket is grief-stricken. His habits of brutal (but R-rated funny) honesty, as well as his mission, anger some Venetians. And he is lured to a deep dank dungeon on the pretext of Amontillado-sampling. Not having read the Poe story, he is somewhat surprised to find himself being bricked up in a damp cell.

Surely he's doomed? Well, no. See the book title. Somehow he has a fearsome (but inexplicably sexual) monster on his side.

Moore turns some well-known Shakespearian characters around. Shylock is not particularly pleasant, but he's honestly angered by the injustice shown to Jews in medieval times. And Antonio isn't a nice guy, he's one of the plotters against Pocket.

Surprise non-fictional character shows up on page 214. Did not see him coming.

2001: A Space Odyssey

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

Jeez, spoiler alert for the frickin' Blu-ray box. What is the universe coming to?

I saw this movie when it came out, when I was a callow 17-year-old. At the Indian Hills Cinerama theater in Omaha; as the Wikipedia will tell you, the screen was the largest of its type in the United States. And the place is now a parking lot.

Anyway, for the movie's fiftieth anniversary, Christopher Nolan restored the 70mm print for IMAX theaters. OK, I'm sentimental. Mrs. Salad and I trundled up to Saco, Maine on a hot afternoon to blow our tiny minds once again for Stanley Kubrick's deeply confusing masterpiece.

There were, I think, maybe five other people in the huge IMAX auditorium. Not everyone is as sentimental as I am.

I usually put a small plot synopsis in these movie reports, but… OK: Pre-humans. Tapirs. Monolith. Spaceships. Small-talking bureaucrats. Monolith again. Astronauts. Homicidal AI. Monolith once more. Acid trip. Monolith again. And… Star Baby!

There you go.

I guess, as I type, that it's winding up its IMAX run. But if you get the chance, it's a good experience. (Hopefully your theater won't have an errant fly buzzing around the projector.)

URLs du Jour

2018-08-30

[Amazon Link]

  • I saw, and liked, the movie Crazy Rich Asians. But some people saw problems. At NR, Kevin D. Williamson writes on The Exquisite Sensibilities of the Outrage Industry. (Which, come to think of it, would make a pretty good title for a sequel to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. But I digress.)

    Asian-American women put up with an unbelievable amount of stereotype-based nonsense, some of which strikes me as pretty amusing, though it’s probably less amusing to them. (A woman of Taiwanese background once explained to me her first-date protocol for identifying and weeding out men with an Asian fetish. It probably would have been funnier as a movie scene than in real life.) But, in this age of heightened social sensitivity, Asian-American women can also easily end up being social-justice offenders, particularly in the eyes of those with a professional commitment to being offended.

    Nora Lum, better known as her rapping alter ego Awkwafina, is having her turn in the barrel. At issue is a scene in Crazy Rich Asians in which she employs stereotypically African-American pronunciations and mannerisms when giving a friend a you-go-girl pep talk. Lauren Michele Jackson, writing in Vulture, insists that “her persona has veered too close to black aesthetics for comfort. . . . It is not just an interracial matter, revived whenever a white rapper hits the Billboard charts or Nicki Minaj dips into Orientalist aesthetics, but an intra-racial, intercultural, cross-cultural, cross-regional, and diasporic one as well.”

    Read on for Kevin's rebuttal. But I just want to say that Awkwafina is one of the major reasons to go see Crazy Rich Asians. In fact, I was leaning against putting the Oceans 8 DVD in my Netflix queue. But… Awkwafina's in it! So in it goes.

    Kevin's bottom line is one I've used before (and, since this is not NR, I'll unexpurgate it):

    If only there were some easy way to distinguish between the decent and well-intentioned and the callous and hateful. Perhaps we should consider the philosophical maxim of Raylan Givens: “If you get up in the morning and you meet an asshole, you met an asshole. If you meet nothing but assholes all day, you’re the asshole.”

    Social-justice warriors take note.


  • At Reason, Joe Setyon Top Trump Economic Adviser Asserts Right to Regulate Buggy Whips, Google

    The administration hasn't actually offered any specifics regarding how it will address the situation. But in a Fox Business Network interview today, Kevin Hassett, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, defended the idea of regulating Google. His reasoning? The government regulated the 20th century economy, so it shouldn't let the Information Age get in the way of more rules.

    "Well, first, there are independent agencies that look into this all the time," Hassett said on Mornings with Maria, referring to the idea of regulating Google. "And it's our job at the White House, really, to be looking at the 21st century economy, not the 20th century economy, right? Like, so we can't be just really good at buggy whips, we've got to think about what's going on right now."

    We could chuckle and point out that Google has sort of conceded the right of governments to dictate acceptable search results to display to the citizenry. So why should they get all bent out of shape when the USA does the same thing?

    Seriously: Hassett should know better. He probably does know better. Is he saying idiotic things like this just to stay on the Trump plantation?


  • Berin Szóka rebuts opportunistic claims: False Alarm: Verizon’s Fire Department Customer Service Fail Has Nothing to Do with Net Neutrality

    Net neutrality activists are having a field day with last week’s Ars Technica report that Verizon “throttled” the mobile data usage of the Santa Clara County Fire Prevention District (FPD), one of the California counties currently fighting the largest wildfire in the state’s history. Gigi Sohn, who’s led the net neutrality movement for over a decade, claims, in an NBCNews op-ed, that the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules would have prevented Verizon from “restricting” the fire department’s Internet service.

    Sohn and others are ignoring the facts and misconstruing the law to fit their long-standing political agenda. What really happened wasn’t a net neutrality issue: The FPD simply chose a data plan for their mobile command and control unit that was manifestly inappropriate for their needs. The FPD needed a lot of high-speed 4G mobile data — up to 300 GB/month when the device was deployed. (The typical consumer uses ~4 GB/month.) Verizon sold such pay-as-you-go plans to government users, but FPD opted for a much cheaper plan: up to 25 GB at 4G speeds, with slow speeds after that point. The 2015 Open Internet Order is quite explicit that data plans with speed restrictions don’t violate the throttling rule, so long as the company is clear about what users are getting.

    Neither Verizon nor the FPD come off blameless in Szóka's story, but it's a much more balanced story than you'll get from the MSM. Basically: the FPD was asking for trouble when it cheaped out on its data plan.


  • So I don't trust the media. Want to know wny? Well, David Harsanyi will tell you: If You Want To Know Why Conservatives Don’t Trust Media, Watch CNN.

    On July 27, CNN reported that Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, would be willing to tell Special Counsel Robert Mueller that the president knew in advance of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his campaign and a Kremlin-linked lawyer who was allegedly selling dirt on Hillary Clinton. This revelation not only contradicted Trump’s denials, but also Cohen’s testimony to Congress. It was quite the exclusive—the closest we’ve come to ferreting out “collusion” since the last time CNN botched a big scoop.

    The story, bylined by Carl Bernstein, Marshall Cohen, and former Obama administration political appointee Jim Sciutto, cited numerous “sources” with knowledge of the supposed bombshell. The Washington Post, chasing the same story, soon outed Cohen’s lawyer, the preternaturally mendacious Lanny Davis, as the source of the contention.

    Is it true? It appears that CNN really, really, wants it to be true.


  • Good news from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE): Keene State College becomes third institution in New Hampshire to earn FIRE’s coveted ‘green light’ rating

    A third New Hampshire college has honored the state’s motto of “Live Free or Die” by revising all of its speech policies that conflicted with the First Amendment. Today, Keene State College earns the highest rating for free speech from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

    Previous green lights were awarded to Plymouth State and the University Near Here.


  • And Language Log notes that the tributes to John McCain are not always well thought out. An irreplaceable void joins the much-needed gaps.

    “There’s no doubt he’s leaving a void, kind of an irreplaceable void,” Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) said Tuesday.

    The "much needed gaps" reference is explicated here and here. Among the examples:

    When legendary gossip columnist Hedda Hopper asks movie star Gary Cooper about the new star Grace Kelly in 1956 he says that “she fills a much needed gap in motion pictures” [GC]. Misunderstanding is still prevalent.

URLs du Jour

2018-08-29

[Amazon Link]

  • A belated link to the latest G-File from Jonah Goldberg, a look at our weird social political psychology:

    Much of the stuff that liberals hate about conservatives — and vice versa — is driven by similar coalitional dynamics. It helps explain so much of the seeming (and real) hypocrisy of our time. Bill Clinton was the Big Man of his coalition back in the day, and so feminists and other liberals who had spent so much time denouncing sexual harassment abandoned, bent, or suspended their principles in order to defend his behavior. Today is almost a mirror image of those days. Trump is the Big Man of his coalition. His sexual behavior — proven and alleged — is as inconvenient for the virtuecrat and “Character Counts” Right as Bill Clinton’s was for the feminist Left. The people who once defended — even celebrated — Clinton’s sexual escapades are now horrified by Trump’s, and the people once horrified by Clinton’s behavior are now insisting that King Solomon got a lot of tail on the side, too. The people who once hitched their wagons to petty legalisms are now waxing poetic about norms and the spirit of democracy and the people who once espoused commitment to higher authorities and deeper morality over the mere letter of the law are excusing behavior they wouldn’t tolerate from their plumber.

    You won't want to miss the anecdote that ends with "[Greta] Van Susteren refused to ever look me in the eye or speak to me after I wrote that essay."


  • At PJMedia, Tyler O'Neil asks the musical question: Is It a Conspiracy Theory to Suggest Google Is Biased Against Conservatives? Working off a Trumpian Tweet:

    It is, of course, just like Trump to (a) put this as petulantly and self-centeredly as possible, (b) imply imminent and arbitrary coercion against Google.

    On the other hand…

    That 96 percent figure came directly from PJ Media's supervising editor, Paula Bolyard. Using different laptops, she performed multiple Google News searches for the word "Trump," and found pervasive bias in favor of left-leaning news outlets. She also noted that PJ Media's Google traffic decreased after a May 2017 Google algorithm change, and has not recovered.

    While Bolyard admitted her study was far from scientific, she also cited a far more in-depth study performed by SEO company "Can I Rank," which found "that top search results were almost 40% more likely to contain pages with a 'Left' or 'Far Left' slant the they were pages from the right." Tellingly, the study found that "16% of political keywords contained no right-leaning pages at all within the first page of results."

    Certainly, that matches up with my informal impressions when searching for information on an issue: I get a lot of left/progressive links up front, needing to scroll down or go to subsequent result pages to get conservative/libertarian links.

    Maybe the lefties are just better at SEO? I'm skeptical about that.


  • But that brings up the more important issue, as noted by Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek: You Can’t Be Both For and Against Big Government. Don reacts to a comment by Lynnette Hardaway ("Diamond" of "Diamond and Silk") on Lou Dobbs' Fox Business show, on the same subject of Google bias.

    “I am not for big government, but I really do believe that the government should step in and really check this out,” Hardaway told Dobbs in the interview.

    Don:

    Being against big government – really being against it – includes being against violating this rule simply because you think that a private company should treat you better. Anyone without evidence that a private company is violating any contractual agreements with him or her or that that company is violating any commercial norms, but who nevertheless calls on the state to unleash its power against company, is not someone who is really against big government.

    Such a person has no principles.

    And for all of you Trump supporters out there, I’ve a question: Suppose that, say, Pres. H. Clinton or Pres B. Obama had threatened Google as Pres. D. Trump did today. Would you excuse such a threat? If not, why do so many of you excuse this appalling demonstration of authoritarian instincts by Pres. D. Trump?

    This goes back to the original point from Jonah Goldberg above: if your outrage about (either) Trump or Google would be muted if they were part of your political coalition, then you're the problem, pal.


  • And Reason's Jacob Sullum outlines the perfect presidential legal defense against campaign finance law violations: Ignorance Is Trump’s Excuse.

    Donald Trump's critics say his defense of hush payments to women who claim to have had sex with him betrays a misunderstanding of campaign finance law. If so, it is hard to see how the president could have "knowingly and willfully" violated the law, as required for a criminal conviction.

    Mens rea isn't always a solid defense, but it apparently applies to this area of the law. Especially when experts disagree whether Michael Cohen, Trump's ex-lawyer, was really guilty of the charges to which he pled guilty.


  • And, finally, Michael Ramirez comments on a major political party's newfound infatuation with "Democratic Socialism"

    Venezuelaan bolivars and inflated socialism

    I encourage you to click through for the full-size unclipped version. Some of the little details Mr. Ramirez sneaks in are hilarious.

URLs du Jour

2018-08-28

[Amazon Link]

  • David French has an Atlantic article that will make you wonder: What the hell is wrong with these people?: America Soured on My Multiracial Family. David and his wife adopted an Ethiopian orphan in 2010.

    We quickly discovered that if you’re the white parents of an adopted black child, and you’re in the public eye at all, men and women will viciously criticize you for having the audacity to believe that you can raise your kid. At times, the criticism was direct and personal—most of it directed at my wife. It was one thing to face hostile comments on blogs or random tweets. It was another to face angry direct messages and sometimes-tense personal encounters in public. Family and friends were aghast. Look at what the left does and says to loving families, we remarked to one another. Look at what they believe about faithful Christians.

    Then, sometime around the summer of 2015, we began to notice a shift. The attacks on our family came less and less from the left, and increasingly from the so-called alt-right—a vicious movement of Trump-supporting white nationalists who loathe multiracial families. They despise international adoption. They call it “race-cucking your family” or “raising the enemy.” Heaven help you if they find you online, and find us they did. In part because I criticized their movement directly—and in part because I refused to support Donald Trump in 2016—they came after us with a vengeance.

    It's not a pleasant read for those of us who hope for someday getting past America's racial obsessions and dysfunctions.


  • Max McGuire got his book banned at Amazon, and writes at the Federalist about it: If Amazon Can Ban My Best-Selling Gun-Blueprint Book, It Can Ban Anything.

    Today, for a fee, you can purchase some of the most dangerous books known to man on Amazon.com.

    For $3, you can buy Karl Marx’s “Communist Manifesto,” a book that indirectly led to the deaths of upwards of 100 million people worldwide. You can also purchase a copy of the “U.S. Army Improvised Munitions Handbook,” which promises “step-by-step instructions on how to assemble weapons and explosives from common and readily available materials.” Amazon sells hundreds of books teaching readers how to build guns (and the website even sells many of the tools necessary to do it). 

    Seeing this precedent, I uploaded a 3D printable gun file to Amazon … as a book.

    You might, or might not, be surprised at what happened next.

    As I type, there's additional news on that front from the LATimes: Federal judge rules against Trump administration on 3-D gun blueprint case.

    A federal judge on Monday issued a preliminary injunction continuing a prohibition on the Trump administration proposal to make available blueprints for so-called ghost guns, untraceable weapons that can be manufactured on a 3-D printer, California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra said.

    This is, of course, a ridiculous ruling that won't survive the first court that takes the First Amendment seriously. (I hope there is such a court…)

    And that paragraph from the LATimes is even more ridiculous: making it sound as if the hated "Trump Administration" was pushing out the "blueprints" on the White House website, out of its sheer evil perversity.

    For a good primer on the history and issues, see the Electronic Frontier Foundation: Internet Publication of 3D Printing Files About Guns: Facts and What’s at Stake.

    Our Amazon Product du Jour is a "Code is Free Speech" T-shirt, at least until Amazon bans that.


  • And (yes, another) article from David French, this time in NR, on the more general topic: Tech Titans Made Serious Mistakes, and More Censorship Won’t Right the Ship. David outlines the mistakes: a deep misunderstanding of human nature, coupled with equally deep hubris that believes in technocratic "solutions" via algorithms and biased snap decisions.

    The ultimate result of all these flawed premises and all the flawed solutions is exactly the world you see before you today — a world dominated by progressive corporations that engage in a handful of explicit crackdowns and a host of confused, ad hoc, and seemingly arbitrary “mistakes” or unexplained actions that leave no one satisfied and make too many of their users long for market alternatives.

    They were wrong about human virtue. They were too confident in their ability to manage the user experience of hundreds of millions of people while keeping the platform open enough to create a version of the marketplace of ideas. In short, they thought they could do better than the First Amendment, and they failed. A series of choices loom, between a miserable status quo, an alienating authoritarian future, and a more rational but less progressive regime that strikes the same kinds of balances that have benefited American culture for more than two centuries.

    The fundamental viewpoint neutrality of classic First Amendment doctrine is the right refuge for the titans of social media. But is this a lesson they will ever choose to learn?

    One can only hope.

    A well-known quote from the early days of the Internet by John Gilmore: "The Net treats censorship as a defect and routes around it." That was… optimistic.


  • Baylen Linnekin brings the bad news at Reason: The New Farm Bill Is Going To Suck.

    There was hope, thanks to bipartisan support, that Congress would cap farm subsidies (in the form of taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance) paid to many of America's wealthiest farmers. As I lamented earlier this year, those hopes were already on life support. Now, they're dead.

    "An unusual coalition of libertarians, free-marketers[,] and environmentalists hoped this farm bill cycle would be the one to rein in subsidies for wealthy farmers," Politico reported this week. Despite good efforts, the coalition's efforts were for naught.

    I should point out that while my current CongressCritter, Carol Shea-Porter, is generally a toothache, she did manage to vote the right way on an amendment to "to modernize and reform the sugar program by removing barriers to domestic production and implementing market reforms."

    Unfortunately, her vote was dwarfed by a "bipartisan coalition": 278 votes against the amendment (132 Republicans and 146 Democrats), only 137 votes for (96 Republicans, 41 Democrats).

URLs du Jour

2018-08-27

[Amazon Link]

  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson asks the musical question: Why Not Cynthia Nixon? (She's running for NY state governor against the incumbent Andrew Cuomo.)

    Nixon’s platform is, as one might expect, bonkers: a state-based single-payer health-care scheme; universal rent control; abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which she calls a “terrorist organization”; eliminating the use of conventional energy resources in everything from electricity generation to transportation and buildings. Etc.

    She’s a fairly typical celebrity dope, the kind who promises to base her policymaking decisions on fictitious Iroquois proverbs, who knowingly points out that it costs $118,000 a year to incarcerate a prisoner in New York City’s jails but only $21,000 to pay tuition for a full-time student at SUNY, as though the next-most-likely life option for the members of New York City’s criminal population were enrolling in pre-med classes at SUNY Plattsburgh or SUNY Farmingdale, both of which accept fewer than half of all applicants today.

    The fictitious Iroquois proverb is found at Nixon's website: “In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.”

    At the National Association of Scholars website, Peter Wood debunks. ("This wouldn’t be the first time that Native Americans have been credited with an aura of in-tune-with-nature virtuousness that actual Native American societies were entirely innocent of.")

    It did inspire the name of Vermont-based company now owned by corporate behemoth Unilever, however. Enrich their coffers by purchasing our Amazon Product du Jour, and, lo, you will feel virtuous, although probably not as virtuous as Cynthia Nixon.


  • I think it's ghoulish when gun-grabbers use shooting victims as bloody excuses to advocate for their issue. So I'd be hypocritical if I didn't agree with Nick Gillespie at the NYT when the same tactic is used on a different issue: Republicans Are Exploiting the Murder of Mollie Tibbetts.

    Where does the conservative commitment to limited government and individual freedom, always more rhetorical than real, finally go to die?

    One strong candidate is rural America, where Mollie Tibbetts, a 20-year-old student at the University of Iowa, was brutally murdered this summer at the hands, allegedly, of a Mexican immigrant who may be in the country illegally.

    The killing of Ms. Tibbetts, who went missing on July 18 but whose body was found only this week, is an unspeakable tragedy. Her killer should be prosecuted and punished to the fullest extent of the law. Yet many conservatives who have long assailed the government as incompetent at best are now so blinded by xenophobic rage over her murder that they’ve turned into the thing they claim to despise: vociferous boosters of big government.

    The only slight difference is that legislation advocated by (some) Republicans might have caught the perp before he went all murdery. The gun-grabbers routinely advocate for restrictions that would not have prevented the grisly crimes they exploit.


  • Scientific American asks Do People Really Think Earth Might Be Flat?

    “Just 66 percent of millennials firmly believe that the Earth is round,” read the summary from the pollster YouGov. Kids today, right? But it’s not only curmudgeons eager to complain about the younger generation who ought to find the survey of interest. For despite the recent prominence of flat-earthery among musicians and athletes, YouGov’s survey seems to have been the first systematic attempt to assess the American population’s views on the shape of the Earth.

    My first reaction: there exists a fraction of people who give intentionally stupid answers to the stupid questions pollsters ask. I'm not sure why this explanation isn't given more credence.

    My second reaction: And yet some people think democracy is a sacred ideal.

    But then I read the actual question asked in the poll:

    “I have always believed the world is round.”

    Ah.

    You know what? I have not always believed the world is round. I hate to be a stickler for accurate language, but from ages zero to (I'm guessing) four or so, I had no beliefs on that issue whatsoever.

    So I'd have to answer "no" to the question, when phrased that way.

    Also I'd quibble: surely the world's roundness is a matter of fact, not belief.

    I don't see the need for the extra verbiage. If you're truly interested in what a person thinks about our planet's shape, here's the question to ask:

    The world is round.
    True, at least approximately
    False
    I don't know

    I don't know why they don't ask me to write these things for them.


  • Our Google LFOD News Alert rang for a Christina Comben article at a website called "NullTX". ("NullTX's mission is to be the #1 information source when it comes to solving your cryptocurrency problems.") It is a profile of Joël Valenzuela, who "closed his bank account in 2016 and has lived off cryptocurrency ever since." Hardcore! Who Says Man Shall Not Live by Cryptocurrency Alone? And guess where he lives?

    Valenzuela’s story isn’t conventional. Growing up in Mexico in the 1990s, he saw the effects of currency devaluation firsthand. “I was always aware that currency inflation hurts people. When people work all their lives for it and the value diminishes, it’s devastating.” So he set about finding out how to make a more stable currency and moved to New Hampshire in 2013.

    Non-conventional people tend to attract other non-conventional people, and New Hampshire is home to the Free State Project. In fact, “Live Free or Die” isn’t just a bumper sticker. It’s the motto of the state of New Hampshire and you’ll find it on all car license plates here.

    Good for Joël. Read the article for how he navigates a world that believes in fiat currency.


Last Modified 2018-08-27 12:05 PM EST

Capitalism Without Capital

The Rise of the Intangible Economy

[Amazon Link]

Tyler Cowen listed it as one of his best non-fiction books of 2017. Arnold Kling put it on his much shorter list. Those are high recommendations, and so I did that Interlibrary Loan thing with the University Near Here, and it showed up all the way from the University of Connecticut. And…

Well, it turns out those guys are economists, and I'm not. And the authors, Jonathan Haskel and Stian Westlake, get really deep into the economic weeds. As a result, my enjoyment was limited. (But, caveat lector, Bill Gates, also not an economist, recommended it too. So don't necessarily take my word for it.)

The punchy title could have been less punchy. This is a book describing the increasing importance of intangible assets to businesses, and (hence) the overall economy. We're talking software, business methods, patents, designs, etc. As opposed to tangibles: trucks, buildings, blast furnaces, etc.

It should be clear that the intangibles are like capital. They cost money to acquire or develop, they (hopefully) are part of the mix by which the firm makes money. And yet they, in many cases are (literally) not accounted for as capital investments, which can mislead decision-makers both internal and external.

Haskel and Westlake ably list four factors in which intangibles differ from normal capital. In one of their (further) nods to punchy writing, they call them the four S's.

  1. Intangible assets are more likely to be scalable;
  2. their costs are more likely to be sunk;
  3. they are inclined to have spillovers;
  4. and they exhibit synergies with each other.

Dumbed down to my level: scalability means that once you acquire an intangible asset, you can often spread it around to the entire company at little additional cost. (You can't do that with trucks; if you need more trucks… you have to buy more trucks.)

Sunk costs: sometime assets don't work out. Tangible assets are relatively easy to dispose of on the market—someone will always buy your trucks if the price is right. But intangibles are often useless to anyone else, so you have to eat them.

Spillover refers to the difficulty of keeping your intangibles within the firm. Once you've demonstrated that something "works" to make money, people in other companies—your competitors!—will tend to notice and copy, "adapt", or (from your point of view, if not theirs) steal. Either gulp and accept this, or spend some money on lawyers.

Finally, synergies: the authors cite Matt Ridley's concept of innovation: "ideas having sex". Once the firm has a fertile breeding ground of intangibles, they can interact and combine in ways originally unexpected. (Apple, of course, is a prime example.)

All this has capital-I Implications. The inconsistent handling of intangibles vs. tangibles can cause the appearance of stagnation. They might contribute to growing inequality. A country's financial system might not handle them adequately, let alone efficiently. Infrastructure decisions can be misguided (roads and bridges vs. networks and servers). Management practices need adjustment. And government policies will almost certainly need to be dinked, although it's hard to know how to do that correctly. (Duh.)

So, it's good, very in depth. Much of it is accessible to the dilettante (me), but a lot I confess was skimmed over. I learned a lot, and one of the things I learned was: I wouldn't pass a test on the subject.

URLs du Jour

2018-08-26

[Amazon Link]

  • At Reason, Matt Welch and Todd Krainin obituize: John McCain, the Senate's Most Influential Hawk, Is Dead.

    John McCain, the last great active American political figure of the 20th century, has lost his battle with cancer at age 81.

    For both good and ill, McCain helped shape the purpose and application of Washington's considerable power for nearly half a century. Partly because of that mixed track record, his passing leaves as an open question what kind of future that McCain-style politics—with its robust, moralistic interventionism both at home but especially abroad—has in a political party and country that elected his rhetorical tormentor, Donald Trump.

    A balanced treatment. As a politician, McCain had little to offer those of us with libertarian leanings. As a tough patriot, he was unexcelled.


  • Given recent developments, is there anything, well, illegitimate about Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court? Fortunately, David Harsanyi has an answer: There Is Nothing ‘Illegitimate’ About The Brett Kavanaugh Nomination.

    Perhaps one day a court will find that Donald Trump had conspired with his personal lawyer Michael Cohen to pay non-disclosure agreements meant to silence his mistresses. Perhaps one day the House will impeach Trump for breaking those campaign finance laws, and then, maybe the Senate will also remove him from office.

    Those are the mechanisms that have been provided by the Constitution to thwart a president from nominating justices to the Supreme Court. I’m afraid there’s no clause in the document that empowers angst-y liberal pundits and politicians to question the legitimacy of duly confirmed justices.

    Things are getting pretty desperate in the sinestrosphere when (as reported in the Washington Examiner) the New York Times is freedom-of-informationing 911 call records made by, or about, Kavanaugh, his wife, or… well, whatever else you got.

    Did they try this during the Sotomayor or Kagan nominations? That's a rhetorical question, friendo.


  • Jonah Goldberg's column this week compares and contrasts: Trump’s Self-Interest vs. the Public Interest. Jonah looks at the arguments of Rudy Giuliani, who would like President Trump to not have to testify under oath to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Those arguments are weak. But:

    But my point here isn’t really to demonstrate the weaknesses of Giuliani’s legal and political arguments. Nor is it to point out that he zigzags between making legal arguments for political purposes and political arguments disguised as legal ones. Rather, it’s to illuminate the fact that while Giuliani is right to keep Trump from testifying, he’s not making an argument on behalf of the public interest. Like Tom Hagen in The Godfather, Giuliani has a special practice with only one client.

    Giuliani is doing whatever he can to protect that client. Where he draws moral or ethical lines to that end is between him and his conscience. But the rest of us are not obliged to argue like we’re Trump’s legal water-carriers. Refusing to testify might make total sense as a matter of Trump’s personal self-interest — which is Giuliani’s concern — but it is not obvious that such a refusal would be in the public interest. We deserve to know all of the relevant facts. If that makes the president’s job harder, so be it. The Constitution makes every president’s job harder in myriad ways, but we don’t say that we should therefore get rid of the Constitution.

    I'd quibble about the "We deserve to know all of the relevant facts" bit: there's one big relevant fact here, and it's that Trump is a lying, corrupt, bucket of sleaze. We knew that already.

    OK, so maybe additional relevant facts might make that clearer. Is that in the "public interest"? Yeah, maybe.


  • For some reason, this story kind of jumped out at me: Lilly Diabetes pulls sponsorship from Conor Daly because of what his FATHER said 30 years ago.

    The word and thought police have reached brand new levels of crazy. Professional race car driver Conor Daly has lost a sponsorship because his father reportedly uttered a racial slur in the 1980’s. To put this in some perspective, Conor wasn’t born until 1991, yet he is paying for the sins of his father.

    Hm. The way things are going…

    To Pun Son and Daughter: sorry if you get professionally dinged for something I blogged, Facebooked, Tweeted, Usenetted or BIXed.

URLs du Jour

2018-08-25

[Amazon Link]

  • We've been featuring verses from the Book of Proverbs (usually one, sometimes more) here since February of last year. We went through Chapters 9 through 29.

    That was fine fun, hope you enjoyed it, but (as it turns out) the remaining Proverbial chapters (1-8 and 30-31) do not contain the punchy, easy-to-digest one-liners suited to Pun Salad's respectfully snarky comments. (Even Chapter 9 was marginal.)

    So we'll call a close to our commentary on Proverbs. I don't currently have a gimmick to replace it. Maybe someday.

    Bottom line: it's better to be wise and righteous than foolish and wicked. And don't jog. Remember that.


  • Like me, Patterico had multiple disagreements with John McCain over the years, but this isn't the time to rehash that: John McCain Ending Treatment for His Terminal Cancer.

    McCain pissed me off many, many times. But he’s a far better human being than Donald Trump (I’m sorry for the absurdly faint praise, Senator) and he is owed some respect at this point in time for the good aspects of his character. Best of luck to him and his family in facing the tough times just on the horizon.

    I can't say it any better than that.

    Patterico also embeds tweet one in a long Matt Welch thread, and it's worth your attention.


  • At Reason, Bradley Smith writes on Trump’s Campaign Finance Catch-22.

    Increasingly, campaign finance laws now illustrate the classic situation where the government can always get you for something—it's just a question of what they'll get you for.

    In the Cohen case, the prosecutors hung their hat on FECA's definition of "contributions" and "expenditures" as anything spent or contributed "for the purpose of influencing any election." That's a pretty broad definition, and certainly it may have been thought that paying hush money to Trump's old memories would "influence an election." Thus, they argue, payment of the hush money was subject to limits on the size of contributions used to pay, could not include corporate funds, and had to be reported to the FEC.

    But there is another provision in the statute that prohibits a candidate from diverting campaign funds to "personal use." "Personal use," in turn, is defined as any expenditure "used to fulfill any commitment, obligation, or expense of a person that would exist irrespective of the candidate's election campaign." These may not be paid with campaign funds, even if they are intended to influence the election.

    Interesting take. Coincidentally, Bradley Smith is a longtime nemesis of John McCain.


  • Oops. DNC Announces ‘Sophisticated’ Hack Was Actually Just an Unauthorized Security Test.

    After announcing on Tuesday that it detected a ‘sophisticated’ hacking attempt on its servers, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) walked back the claim late Wednesday night once it became clear that the unauthorized activity was actually attributable to a subcontractor running a security test.

    “We, along with the partners who reported the [fake] site, now believe it was built by a third party as part of a simulated phishing test on VoteBuilder,” said DNC chief security officer Bob Lord in a statement.

    As a used-to-be system administrator, I was (at least dimly) aware of the probes and attempted cracks that were mounted against UNH servers all the time. (My catchphrase: "We've never had an undetected breakin.")

    It's really hard, if not impossible, to track down the perpetrators to their physical location, let alone their identities. As this example shows, sometimes you get it wrong.


  • At Cato, Colin Grabow points to, and refutes, A Feeble Defense of the Jones Act. The defense was mounted by the recently-indicted Rep. Duncan Hunter, so that's something.

    Sample Hunter:

    The Jones Act also improves our safety and security. Rather than having unvetted foreign workers sail ships on our inland waterways, the Jones Act mitigates safety risks by ensuring that vessels are operated by U.S. mariners only.

    Grabow rebuttal:

    Pure demagoguery. Foreign mariners already operate in U.S. waters on a daily basis and present no established threat. As a 2011 GAO report noted, overwhelmingly foreign maritime crews already make millions of entries into U.S. ports each year and yet there has never been a reported terrorist attack involving one of these seafarers. What reason is there to think these same foreign mariners would suddenly become a menace if permitted to operate on inland waters?

    Furthermore, Hunter is factually wrong. Foreign mariners are already allowed to work on Jones Act vessels, with the minimum number of American crew set at 75 percent, not 100. As for safety, let’s note that it was a Jones Act ship with an American captain, the Exxon Valdez, that is responsible for one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history.

    Maybe in a Hunterless Congress, we might get rid of the Jones Act.


  • Writing in the New York Post, Rich Lowry has a suggestion that Trump could, but won't, take up: Trump’s best bet to survive: Come clean about the payoffs.

    The American public has a nearly boundless ability to forgive. Wayward politicians have fallen back on it throughout our history, whether it was Alexander Hamilton pouring out his guts over his sordid affair with Maria Reynolds, or John F. Kennedy admitting error in the Bay of Pigs, or Bill Clinton (after a season of extravagant and increasingly tinny denials) ’fessing up to his fling with Monica Lewinsky.

    It is in this spirit that Donald Trump should confess his affairs with Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, admit he wanted to keep them quiet for a variety of reasons (sheer embarrassment, the potential political fallout, and the emotional effect on his wife and youngest son) and apologize to the public for his deception. Then, he should say he’s directing his lawyers to approach the Federal Election Commission to negotiate a large payment for any violation of its rules.

    A continual impeachment effort after that theoretical coming-clean would look small and petulant.

    Good strategy, but it's just not in Trump's DNA.

URLs du Jour

2018-08-24

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs Chapter 9 is kind of a flawed gem. Had I, instead of God, written the Bible, I would have omitted verses 7-12. But verses 1-6, about the House of Wisdom, were wonderful. And today, in Proverbs 9:13-18, the Proverbialist looks at the House of Folly:

    13 Folly is an unruly woman;
        she is simple and knows nothing.
    14 She sits at the door of her house,
        on a seat at the highest point of the city,
    15 calling out to those who pass by,
        who go straight on their way,
    16 “Let all who are simple come to my house!”
        To those who have no sense she says,
    17 “Stolen water is sweet;
        food eaten in secret is delicious!”
    18 But little do they know that the dead are there,
        that her guests are deep in the realm of the dead.

    If you feel like checking out alternative translations, the "Message" is funny and straightforward, none of those "unruly" euphemisms about what's really going on here.


  • At Granite Grok, Steve MacDonald notes a report of The Climate “Theocracy” Consensus in Portsmouth, NH.

    The sort of folks who rant about the coming right-wing theocracy break ideological bread with the fundamentalist-environmental movement which gets us right to the point. The Portsmouth City Council is aflutter over a “climate conference” at which, to their surprise, Bjorn Lomborg would be a participant.

    The result of the reported afluttering is reported in Seacoast Online: Portsmouth rescinds support for climate conference. Which involves taking back a $2500 donation the City Council made to the conference organizers last month.

    As I said in a GG comment, I'm not a fan of governments handing out checks to private conferences. But if they do that sort of thing—and apparently they do—they should do it without viewpoint discrimination.

    The conference website is here. (It costs $250 for a ticket, so since I am ElderlyOnAFixedIncome, I won't be going.) The organizer is pretty respectable: Citizens Count, aka the "Live Free or Die Alliance".

    And Bjorn Lomborg's website is here. Read it and wonder what the Portsmouth City Council is so scared of.


  • At the Free Beacon, Stephen Gutowski reports the latest effort by Huge Internet Companies to protect us from things we shouldn't want to see, hear, or read: Amazon Bans Gun Book.

    The book in question, The Liberator Code Book: An Exercise in Freedom of Speech, contains a stereolithography (.stl) file for 3-D printing of a single-shot handgun.

    Relevant information from Gutowski's article:

    Amazon has long sold a wide range of the world's most controversial books. Hitler's autobiography Mein Kampf is available through multiple listings on the site. Marx and Engles’s Communist Manifesto is also available through multiple listings. Hunter by Andrew Macdonald—the white supremacist manifesto that helped inspire Timothy McVeigh to commit the Oklahoma City bombing—is for sale on the site. The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, the world's most famous anti-Semitic diatribe, is featured for sale in multiple listings.

    Amazon has also long sold a wide range of instruction manuals detailing how to construct improvised weapons. The Anarchist Cookbook is available for sale on the site. The U.S. Army Improvised Munitions Handbook is available for sale. The U.S. Army Special Forces Guide to Unconventional Warfare: Devices and Techniques for Incendiaries is listed for purchase. The U.S. Department of the Army Field Manual on Boobytraps is available on the site as well.

    The company even sells The Los Alamos Primer: The First Lectures on How To Build an Atomic Bomb, which is a collection of previously classified documents detailing how scientists who worked on the first nuclear bomb went about building it.

    Amazon, as is increasingly typical of Huge Internet Companies, claims the book was "violating our content guidelines", although they totally stonewall when asked about specifics.


  • As another signpost on the road to Fahrenheit 451, Slashdot reports on the censorious musings of Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat from Oregon: The Consequences of Indecency.

    In an interview with Recode, Wyden said that platforms should be punished for hosting content that goes against "common decency." "I think what the Alex Jones case shows, we're gonna really be looking at what the consequences are for just leaving common decency in the dust," Wyden told Recode's Kara Swisher. "...What I'm gonna be trying to do in my legislation is to really lay out what the consequences are when somebody who is a bad actor, somebody who really doesn't meet the decency principles that reflect our values, if that bad actor blows by the bounds of common decency, I think you gotta have a way to make sure that stuff is taken down."

    We should know better than to let the government judge standards of "common decency". Comments on the Slashdot article are (somewhat surprisingly) hostile toward Wyden.


  • Enough with the censor stuff for today. At Reason, Clark Neily advises: Trump Might Be a Criminal. But So Is Everyone Else. That's you, pal. And maybe me, but I ain't sayin'.

    The first thing to understand is that there are so many laws, so broadly written, that just about anyone who has earned money, paid taxes, and run a business—or, God forbid, a political campaign—can be credibly accused of multiple criminal violations. Harvey Silverglate's estimate that the average American commits three felonies a day may be high, but his basic point is sound.

    As a result, America's social elite have granted themselves free passes to commit a broad array of nonviolent offenses without fear of prosecution. Those passes are quite valuable, because their holders can do riskier business deals, ignore more tax laws, and take fewer precautions (in the handling of classified materials, for example) than non-holders. While the passes are revocable in theory, they are seldom revoked in practice.

    Until Robert Mueller, revoker of passes, came upon his pale horse. And indictments followed with him.

    We will have more to say on this at a later date, assuming our attorneys are OK with it.


  • And Richard R. Gerken of Meredith NH rang our Google LFOD News Alert with his letter to the editor of the Laconia Daily Sun: Don't need elites to lecture us on what is right & proper.

    My family moved to N.H. in 2001 for the quality of life and low taxes. Prior to moving here, I spent my entire life in NJ, NY, CT and IL. I know first hand how the tax and spend mentality can ruin a state’s economy and degrade the quality of life. N.H. is great because we have concerned citizens and direct input in town and state government. Progressives and Democrats have been pushing for socialism — one size fits all top down government. If you want that move to VT, CA, NY, CT, NJ or IL or maybe study what has occurred in the once prosperous country of Venezuela. “Live Free or Die” reflects freedom and the ability not to be told or lectured on what is right and proper by the elites.

    Although I'm pretty sure that (even) Vermont is not about to become the next Venezuela, Mr. Gerken's point is well-taken, and one can only wish that the Portsmouth City Council might have read it.


  • And (finally) a new edition of Cato's Freedom in the 50 States is available. And—shitshitshit—New Hampshire has dropped to number two in overall freedom.

    Losing. To. Florida. I'm ashamed.

    Anyway, Cato has some suggestions on how to regain our rightful spot:

    • Fiscal: Local governments need to get a handle on school spending and taxes. State government may be able to help by moving town meetings and local elections to coincide with state elections, boosting turnout and diluting the political power of insiders.
    • Regulatory: Review local zoning ordinances, and strike down those that increase the price of new housing beyond that needed to pay for the cost of new infrastructure.
    • Personal: Legalize more forms of private gambling that pay out at a higher ratio than the state lottery and therefore, even for anti-gambling advocates, should be considered less exploitative.

    All good ideas.


Last Modified 2018-08-24 9:42 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2018-08-23

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 9:10-12 continues its advocacy of wisdom…

    10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
        and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
    11 For through wisdom your days will be many,
        and years will be added to your life.
    12 If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you;
        if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.

    … and sideswipes the mocker, one of the Proverbialist's favorite targets. I guess he was mocked when he was a young boy, and he grew up thinking "I'm gonna get those guys someday."


  • Reason's Peter Suderman points out the take-home point of the last few days, for those of us not particularly concerned with fine legal points and political realities: Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort Are a Reminder That Donald Trump Surrounds Himself With Crooks.

    Yesterday's twin news—that Trump organization fixer Michael Cohen had confessed in court to multiple crimes including violating campaign finance law, and that Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort was found guilty on eight counts of bank fraud and other financial crimes—mostly serves to reinforce what we've known, or at least suspected, for awhile now. Trump, the real estate swindler who played a fake businessman on a reality TV show, liked to surround himself with a cast of shady characters. It did not take a psychic to see yesterday's news, or something like it, coming.

    Psychics? Hm…

    John Keilman of the Chicago Tribune asked a bunch of psychics for their predictions about a Trump presidency on January 20, 2017. Susan Rowlen "who does psychic consultations in Oak Brook" has a good take:

    First, the good news.

    The economy will take off under Trump, a real estate tycoon who sees almost everything as negotiable. The stock market will climb, with energy companies, small stocks and precious metals proving to be particularly good investments, she said.

    "The way he approaches it is everything is a deal," she said. "He has a completely different vision than President Obama."

     But that wheeler-dealer sensibility will also get him into trouble, she said. While he will keep more manufacturing jobs inside the U.S., the price of consumer goods will rise as a consequence. Meanwhile, one Cabinet pick after another will flame out — as many as seven will leave their posts within two years, she said.

    "He'll go through people in his Cabinet like we go through underwear," she said.

    Impressive. I believe the current count of flamed-out Cabinet members is five. And that's after 19 months. (I don't know if it's normal, but my underwear lasts much longer than that.)

    For another psychic take on the Trump Administration, see our Amazon Product du Jour. The subtitle is "Twenty Months to a Turning Point for America", and that's … counting on fingers … well, not long from now.

    Reviews are funny: "The predictions are vague, similar to what you could see in your horoscope in the newspaper. Some are obvious like the Trump children having influence in the administration. I consider my purchase three dollars wasted." Dude, what did you expect?


  • But let's not go full Trump Derangement here. Brendan Kirby, writing at Lifezette is cheered: Trump a First Amendment Champion? It’s True. Wha!?

    That fact may come as a surprise, especially for readers who weren’t able to watch Trump’s address. Many voices in the media have been complaining for months that Trump is a wannabe tyrant who regularly “attacks the First Amendment.”

    Speaking to a boisterous crowd at an election rally in West Virginia, the president railed against censorship by social media platforms. But he made clear that he believes the free speech umbrella extends even to outlets that routinely bash him.

    “You know, I’d rather have fake news like CNN,” he said, waving toward the bank of reporters in front of him. “I would rather have fake news — it’s true — than have anybody, including liberals, socialists, anything, than have anybody stopped and censored.”

    Well, good on him.


  • Should we ignore systemic discrimination in China? I know you've been wondering about that. Fortunately, Jonah Goldberg has an answer: We shouldn’t ignore systemic discrimination in China

    In China, there is systemic discrimination against non-Han Chinese. Ethnic minorities — about 10 percent of the Chinese population — are routinely denied access to elite universities and urban job markets in the name of Han supremacy. Under China’s internal-passport system, many non-Han aren’t permitted to even look for work outside of their rural provinces. Tibetan and Uighur citizens are often barred from using Chinese hotels.

    And much more at the link. I wonder if you'd hear about these things under the auspices of UNH's Confucius Institute?


  • At the American Institute for Economic Research, Donald Boudreaux has a broadside against Lizzie Warren's fascistic proposal for corporate governance: The Great Danger of the Stakeholder Mandate.

    Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal that “companies shouldn’t be accountable only to shareholders.” She then outlined her new bill that “would require corporations to answer to employees and other stakeholders as well.”

    She proposes to mandate that “corporate directors … consider the interests of all major corporate stakeholders — not only shareholders — in company decisions.” To help ensure that this mandate is carried out, she wants at least 40 percent of the members of corporate boards to be elected by workers.

    If this mandate is ever enacted, it would radically restructure corporate law, governance, and finance, which is especially frightening because seldom have I encountered so many fallacies packed into so few words as are on display in Sen. Warren’s op-ed.

    Professor Boudreaux outlines a few of her fallacies, but … If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.


  • Bad news at Forbes: The Universe Is Disappearing, And There's Nothing We Can Do To Stop It.

    It's been nearly a century since scientists first theorized that the Universe was expanding, and that the farther away a galaxy was from us, the faster it appears to recede. This isn't because galaxies are physically moving away from us, but rather because the Universe is full of gravitationally-bound objects, and the fabric of space that those objects reside in is expanding.

    But this picture, which held sway from the 1920s onward, has been recently revised. It's been only 20 years since we first realized that this expansion was speeding up, and that as time goes on, individual galaxies will appear to recede away from us faster and faster. In time, they'll become unreachable, even if we journeyed towards them at the speed of light. The Universe is disappearing, and there's nothing we can do about it.

    Yar, in the deepest parts of space there be dark energy, blowing away the very fabric of the cosmos. I advise ye to steer clear.


  • And our Tweet du Jour from old friend Herman Cain:

    Word has it that the Keebler elves have armed themselves against the marauding beasts.


Last Modified 2018-08-23 4:35 PM EST

Crazy Rich Asians

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

Two words: Michelle Yeoh. Even though she plays the sorta-baddie here. How can anyone take their eyes off her when she's onscreen? Can't happen. Extra star for this movie, just because: Michelle Yeoh.

And (besides Ms. Yeoh) the charm of this movie is that everyone's (a) Asian and (b) rich (with associated garishness). (I know they're supposed to be crazy too, but that's pretty mild.) Take away the crazy rich factor, and it's a very formulaic romantic comedy.

Anyway: heroine Rachel is an econ prof (specializing in game theory) at NYU. She and her hunky boyfriend Nick are mutually smitten, so Nick uses the excuse of a friend's wedding in Singapore to invite Rachel over to meet his family as well.

And they are, as my mom used to say, falling-in-the-ditch rich, a little detail that Nick has not disclosed to Rachel. Rachel gets her first clue when they don't get seats on the plane for the flight over: they get a private suite. And the holy-cow-they-are-rich revelations keep on coming.

But the fly in the ointment is Nick's mom, who has different ideas about a proper girl for Nick. She considers Rachel to be a "banana", yellow on the outside, white (specifically: American white) on the inside. And this leads to the inevitable crisis. Which (in turn) leads to … well, if you've seen more than six or so romantic comedies, you won't be surprised how it turns out.

Fortunately, nearly everyone has either an impeccable American or English accent. Unfortunately, and don't get me wrong, there are a lot of characters, we meet them in a very short time, and I had a they-all-kinda-look-alike problem.

And really don't get me wrong, this isn't particularly a racial thing: I have the same issue with some movies where the cast consists of a lot of young and pretty white people.

But (bottom line) a not inconsiderable amount of fun. Mrs. Salad and I attended s Super Bargain Tuesday showing at the Brickyard Square 12 in Epping, a mere $10 for both of us.


Last Modified 2018-08-30 6:30 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2018-08-22

[Amazon Link]

  • In Proverbs 9:7-9 the Proverbialst has advice on how to deal with members of disfavored groups.

    7 Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults;
        whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse.
    8 Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you;
        rebuke the wise and they will love you.
    9 Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still;
        teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.

    In other words, don't bother trying to fix broken people. I wonder what the Proverbialist would have thought about the equivalent wisdom, expressed more metaphorically and amusingly, in our Amazon Product du Jour?


  • Betsy Newmark, a high school teacher down in North Carolina, makes sharp and nearly-always correct observations in her blog, Betsy's Page.

    (We agree on so much that when we disagree, my default assumption is that I'm probably the one who's wrong.)

    And her usual daily article, "Cruising the Web", is (like my "URLs du Jour") a collection of stuff she finds of interest. I like her comments on the legal woes of two of members the President's ex-entourage:

    Is anyone really surprised by any of this? It was clear from the moment his name surfaced as Trump's campaign manager that Paul Manafort was a deeply problematic guy. He had a lot of connections to very bad people so I'm not feeling sorry for him even though it's probably true that he wouldn't have been prosecuted for any of this if he hadn't signed on to the Trump campaign.

    And Michael Cohen seems to have been the very sleaziest of lawyers. And did anyone really believe that Trump hadn't used Cohen to pay off two women he'd slept with? I guess the campaign finance violations will give Democrats a hook to pin "high crimes and misdemeanors" on as they work to impeach him if they gain control of the House. If that is what they end up going after him on, it will seem pretty small beer next to all the rants about treason and collusion with Russia to steal an election that we've been hurting. But Mueller isn't done and he can still work to flip Manafort. Trump supporters who are pooh poohing yesterday's events may just be whistling past the graveyard. I'm just struck how unsurprising I found it all. We knew that Trump's big attraction was his reality-show background and feistiness in fighting back against his enemies. We also knew that he had an immoral history in his relations with women. He bragged about it all the time on Howard Stern. We know he cheated on his other wives. We heard his voice on the Access Hollywood tape. His cheating on Melania right after their son was born doesn't seem like a stretch for his standards of moral turpitude.

    It shouldn't be surprising that corrupt sleazeballs tend to attract corrupt sleazeballs.

    Worse than JFK? LBJ? Nixon? Hillary? Hard to say. I wish Mitt Romney was in his second term.


  • Or I wish Bobby Jindal was in his first term. Or any one of the other N candidates that GOP voters disdained in 2016. Bobby writes in NR about Preventing Single-Payer.

    Republicans’ failure to address health-care costs led to Obamacare, and their failure to act today will result in a single-payer system. Democrats point to the supposedly existential threat of climate change and the nation’s allegedly inhumane immigration system as reasons to give them control of Congress this November. Yet their failure to prioritize these issues and pass legislation when they controlled the White House, the Senate, and the House during Obama’s first two years in office belie their seriousness. Republicans are currently demonstrating a similar hypocrisy by failing to act on their supposed political priorities, including repealing Obamacare and reducing federal spending and borrowing. Even more dangerously, Republican failure to advance significant conservative solutions to the problems voters care about is setting the stage for Democratic overreach.

    Merely enacting temporary tax cuts and repealing some of Obama’s regulations will slow down, but not reverse, the expanding role of government. Reagan was the last Republican president to disrupt the march of progressivism; the Gingrich Congress’s welfare reform was the last significant victory. A majority of voters still prefer effective conservative market-based solutions to their real-world problems, but they will settle for government subsidies and dictates as a second-best solution if Republicans fail to offer an alternative. Republicans’ failure to address rising health-care costs when they were last in the majority led directly to Obamacare, and their failure to act today will result in a single-payer system. It all seems fine now, but remember this moment if and when we get single-payer.

    In addition to his character flaws, Trump is seems profoundly uninterested in formulating and arguing for policy; he'd rather tweet semi-coherently against his perceived enemies of the moment.


  • We could bemoan the sad state of GOP/Democrat affairs. Or, like J.D. Tuccille at Reason, we could say Dear Democrats and Republicans, Please Keep Tearing Down Your Government.

    Anybody expecting respect for the overall government to survive current leadership unscathed is dreaming. And as somebody who considers government little more than a dangerous weapon in the hands of competing tribes of control freaks, all I can say is: More, please.

    I can see downsides. But J.D. has a point.


  • At the Hoover Institute, Richard A. Epstein writes on Elizabeth Warren’s Surreptitious Socialism. Only quibble is with the "surreptitious" adjective. We all know the details by now, let's get to just one of the obvious drawbacks:

    The most obvious problem with Warren’s proposal is that it would likely lead to the largest flight of capital from the United States in history. Foreign investors will see little reason to put their wealth at the mercy of some crusading federal board that can override a company’s board of directors. Current covered American corporations would have powerful incentives to dump assets or relocate overseas. Make no mistake about it, her proposal calls for the outright confiscation of wealth through the nationalization of corporate boards that would be forever beholden to political figures. Surreptitious socialism turns out to be her way of saving capitalism. And for the worst of all reasons.

    Epstein believes that Warren's proposal is also unconstitutional based on the doctrine of unconstitutional conditions. But that seems to be a slim and uncertain reed to hang on.


  • Our Google LFOD News Alert rang for a New York Times article about a candidate to replace my current CongressCritter/Toothache with a full-fledged abscess: Levi Sanders Is Not His Father. He Keeps Telling That to Voters. The reporter, Sydney Ember, does not shy away from an unflattering anecdote:

    LACONIA, N.H. — That Sanders fellow was shouting again.

    Earlier in the evening at a campaign forum here, he had yelled, unprompted, about Medicare for all. During his introductory statement, he had bellowed about dentures.

    Now, as the audience groaned at his attacks on other candidates, he snapped.

    “Excuse me! Excuse me!” he thundered. “I’m here to talk, O.K.?”

    The moderator threatened to turn his microphone off. And then Levi Sanders — the son of the Vermont senator this neighboring state knows well — shouted some more.

    But LFOD? Well, it's the reporter's way of not repeating "New Hampshire":

    “I’m not a clone of my father,” he said in a late-night interview after the forum earlier this month. His shirt was rumpled. He looked weary.

    But with just weeks to go until his primary in the First District, Mr. Sanders, 49, still cannot avoid comparisons to his father, Bernie Sanders. His father, who won the 2016 presidential primary in this Live Free or Die state by 22 points. His father, whose booming, sometimes bellicose style on the stump seems to have rubbed off on his son.

    The article also points to Levi's website, which (as I type) features a background pic of Bernie and Levi, with Bernie prominent on the left side, and (depending on the geometry of your browser window) obscured on the right.

    And—very bad sign here—the "Upcoming Events" list on the page only has events from a couple weeks ago.

URLs du Jour

2018-08-21

[Amazon Link]

  • We haven't done a multi-verse Proverb for a while, but Chapter 9 seems to work better that way. We begin with Proverbs 9:1-6:

    1 Wisdom has built her house;
        she has set up its seven pillars.
    2 She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine;
        she has also set her table.
    3 She has sent out her servants, and she calls
        from the highest point of the city,
    4 “Let all who are simple come to my house!”
        To those who have no sense she says,
    5 “Come, eat my food
        and drink the wine I have mixed.
    6 Leave your simple ways and you will live;
        walk in the way of insight.”

    That's pretty good, right? Very poetic and I love the personification of Wisdom, a gracious hostess welcoming even the simple to drop by and par-tay.

    But that "seven pillars" thing, where have I heard that before? Oh, yeah, it's a famous book, and our Amazon Product du Jour! (Link is to the paperback, but the Kindle version is a low low low $0.99!)

    I am unable via lazy Googling to find a further description the actual seven pillars. The ancients liked things in sevens, though. There's been an effort to label a rock formation at Wadi Rum in Jordan as the "Seven Pillars", but that seems to be "a fabrication, made up in the last few years by marketing executivesA ". I hate those guys.


  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson writes on the future our betters have planned for us deplorables: The Compulsory Society. The jumping-off point is the recent re-attempt to get Jack Phillips of "Masterpiece Cakeshop" to bake a cake celebrating an activist's (probably fictional) "coming out as transgender."

    Liberalism has always struggled to balance the protection of minority rights against majoritarian institutions and — less often appreciated — the protection of individual rights. The American Left has liberated itself from such considerations by abandoning liberalism for identity politics and a might-makes-right ethic. Why compel Jack Phillips to knuckle under? Because you can, and because you hate him. Hate is an inescapable part of tribalism, and hate is now the single most important organizing principle of the American Left.

    T. H. White understood this ethic, which he described as the constitution of an ant colony: “Everything which is not forbidden is compulsory.” To the cranky dissidents such as Jack Phillips, and to the likewise unassimilated nonconformists of our time, we owe a debt of gratitude. If the human ethic survives the ant ethic, it will be in no small part because of them.

    You would think that this sort of thing would have collapsed under the weight of its own ludicrousness by now. Instead, it appears it will continue to be a source of both irritation and amusement.


  • Yet another takedown of Elizabeth Warren's proposal for asserting control over corporations that don't act in accordance with her preferences, from Robert Tracinski at the Federalist: Elizabeth Warren’s ‘Accountable Capitalism’ Is More Proof Of ‘Progressive’ Feudalism.

    This is a “progressive” proposal, but its adherents keep emphasizing that it’s just a return to the past. Warren describes it as “a new bill to help return to the time when American companies and workers did well together,” while a group of academics in support of Warren declares that this will “realign our regime of incorporation with its original purposes.” In a way, they’re right. This is a return to the past, because it resurrects an essentially feudal approach to property rights.

    Corporations were originally a grant of special privileges given by a monarch to reward his loyal supporters. They grew out of the old feudal system of prerogatives and privileges. At the center of that system was the feudal concept of property in which no one but the king owns anything free and clear. All property was held in “tenancy” from the crown, in exchange for services rendered back to the king.

    This is what "progressivism" stands for these days: taking power out of the private sphere, and putting it in the hands of pols, making more and more of us increasingly dependent on the state. In the hope that we'll show our "gratitude" by voting for Democrats.


  • At Reason, K. L. Wong has an if-you-didn't-know piece: Why the New Winnie the Pooh Movie Is Banned in China. Winnie? Why!?

    Rumors of China banning Winnie the Pooh are not new. In July 2017, it was widely reported in the Western media that China had been censoring internet memes in which the endearing bear was compared to the Chinese President Xi Jinping. While some reports do note that these memes carry concealed subversive messages in a particularly sensitive period—the advent of Xi's power grab—one may still have a hard time figuring out just where exactly lies the disguised innocence in the memes which only consist of mere juxtaposed images of Xi and Pooh.

    Examples are not difficult to find. To make sure Pun Salad gets on the Chinese shitlist:


  • At Cato, Marian L. Tupy has presidential advice: Trump Should Warn South Africa on Land Expropriations

    According to press reports, South Africa’s government has begun expropriating privately-owned farmland without financial compensation, thereby ignoring the post-apartheid political settlement, which allows for land redistribution in the country on a “willing buyer, willing seller” basis.

    It took awhile, but South Africa seems to be bumbling down the Road to Serfdom, for the usual reasons: failure of current socialistic policies? Obviously, we need more socialistic policies!


  • And in the "news you can use" department, Mental Floss reveals The U.S. State With the Most Psychopaths Is …

    Quaint, quiet Connecticut—home of the Frisbee and the first speed-limit law—is also apparently home to the most Norman Bates types. A recent study spotted by Quartz ranked each U.S. state by the number of psychopaths who are estimated to be living there, and the results may surprise you.

    Ah, "the results may surprise you." You don't see that kind of old-school clickbait much any more.

    But, guess what, the results did surprise me.

    Following Connecticut, the top five states by psychopathy are California, New Jersey, New York, and Wyoming (New York and Wyoming tied). The least psychopathic state, on the other hand, is wild and wonderful West Virginia.

    New York, OK. I see that. I feel that I'm going a little crazy myself when I visit.

    But tied with Wyoming?! How did that happen?

    Oh, yeah: New Hampshire is #38. Not low enough to brag about, not high enough to make me move to … West Virginia?

Maggie Hassan: Help Us, We're Stupid

[Amazon Link]

Our state's junior senator, Maggie Hassan, is one of the co-sponsors of the Rent Relief Act of 2018; she recently took to the op-ed pages of my local newspaper, Foster's Daily Democrat to advocate for its passage. Let's take a look… ooh, the beginning is not promising:

Too many families are working hard and doing all the right things, yet still find themselves struggling to afford the basics needed to thrive.

Maggie puts herself firmly in favor of hard work and doing all the right things. And families. And thriving. A brave stance!

But on to the topic at hand:

While there are many factors squeezing families’ bottom lines, one challenge that is particularly pronounced in Rockingham County is the shortage of affordable housing.

The numbers are stark. A recent study from the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority showed that the median cost for a two-bedroom apartment has increased 19 percent over the last five years. The average hourly wage a household must earn in our state in order to afford the fair market rent for a two-bedroom rental is the 14th highest in the country. And to afford the median two-bedroom rent in Rockingham County – $1,456 a month – a renter would have to earn $58,200 a year.

You can read the cited report from the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority here. Maggie's other numbers are from a report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), an advocacy group "dedicated solely to achieving socially just public policy that assures people with the lowest incomes in the United States have affordable and decent homes." And you can read that report here. (Preface by Bernie Sanders, in case you were harboring any doubts where the NLIHC lies politically.)

These rising costs, combined with the fact that middle-class wage growth remains stagnant, are leaving hard-working Granite Staters with difficult choices in finding quality housing while remaining economically secure.

Maggie is against people having to make difficult choices. Another bold stance!

Could we get on with it, please?

The lack of affordable housing also has a major impact on our businesses. I have heard from business owners across our state who have said that they face real challenges with hiring and retaining employees because workers are struggling to find housing that they can afford.

Well, gadzooks. Apparently, Maggie faced a difficult choice herself. She could have said to the business owners, "Gee, I guess you'll have to pay higher wages to attract and retain workers, right?"

But I guess she punted on that. Her solution instead is…

To strengthen economic opportunity, it is clear that hard-working families need relief from the rising cost of rent, which is why I have joined with colleagues to introduce the Rent Relief Act of 2018.

Yes, that seems to be the first response: let's get more people dependent on government "solutions".

Under this legislation, those who live in rental housing and pay more than 30 percent of their gross income on rent, including utilities, would be eligible for a refundable tax credit. This assistance would be given on a sliding scale based on income and would phase out at high income levels. Those struggling to afford high rent would qualify for the tax credit by determining the total amount spent yearly on rent, taking into account the family’s annual income, and the federal government’s established fair market rent rates for the area.

OK, that's enough from Maggie. Let's look at some contrary views. It's not all from us right-wing troglodytes. For example:

Adam Davidson is a New Yorker writer. Not exactly a free market fundamentalist. I found that tweet via an article written by Henry Grabar in (of all places) Slate. Among Grabar's criticisms:

The policy would also create some perverse incentives for tenants and landlords alike, potentially driving up rents as landlords seek to maximize government aid. One precedent for this can be found in the Section 8 policy, where the level of federal subsidy does indeed appear to warp local markets. In 2000, HUD raised its funding limit from the 40th percentile of regional rent to the 50th. Instead of opening up new, more expensive neighborhoods to voucher recipients, the policy wound up “artificially inflating rents in some higher-poverty neighborhoods” where voucher recipients are concentrated. In high-cost cities, the Harris plan would be such a fire hose of cash that the effect would likely be to raise rents citywide—with landlords as the primary beneficiaries. You can see how the plan might spiral out of control. Rising rents would boost the region’s Fair Market Rent, triggering more subsidy. And so on.

My major criticism: Maggie is proposing a Federal solution to a problem that is mostly our own fault. I've pointed out the Cato Institute study Freedom in the 50 States before, but it's particularly relevant on this topic. New Hampshire gets very high marks overall, but…

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.

I.e., an artificially restricted housing supply. Of course housing prices will be high here. Again, why should taxpayers in Iowa and Montana save us from our own self-inflicted stupidity?

Also see:

The only bright side is that there's a consensus that the bill is going nowhere. Why was it proposed in the first place? That Slate article linked above has a credible answer:

For Dems, this new focus on the concerns of the base makes a cynical kind of sense. Renters’ costs have abated somewhat since 2016—when this issue played no role in a marathon presidential campaign—but Democrats are newly aware that their Achilles’ heel is voter turnout. Young Americans, left-leaning and vote-shy, are locked out of homeownership by record-high home prices and low incomes, and struggling with rising rents. That is, if they’ve managed to get their own place: A record share live with parents or relatives. A record share also live with friends or strangers. Historically speaking, this is not normal: Nearly half of American renters are cost-burdened today, paying more than 30 percent of their income in rent, up from a quarter in the 1960s. And while the problem is most severe for low-income families, it persists up the wage ladder to include, in the most expensive cities, households making six figures.

In other words: it's boob bait for the Democratic bubbas.

The Force

[Amazon Link]

I'm a Don Winslow fan. One of my reading "projects" has been to catch up reading his novels, and (yay) with this one I finally did it. Now waiting for something new from him.

This book is epic, a tad under 500 pages. It has laudatory blurbs from Steven King ("mesmerizing") and Lee Child ("best cop novel ever written"). Maybe. But it's not my cup of tea, may be yours.

So, no light sabers, although I wonder how many careless Star Wars fans picked it up by mistake. The Force in question is the NYPD, and it's a different bunch from what you'll see on the TV show Blue Bloods. Tom Selleck is not in evidence anywhere. The antihero protagonist is Denny Malone, police detective, and leader of the Manhattan North Special Task Force, a supercop unit charged with dealing with drugs, gangs, guns, etc. in Harlem.

"Antihero" might be putting it mildly. This sounds like a spoiler, but it's not: Denny executes a drug kingpin in cold blood, and his unit rips off $4 million and 20 kilos of high-quality heroin. Unfortunately, one of his cops dies grotesquely when a heroin bag bursts open and spills into his open wounds… yeesh.

That's on pages 15-16.

And that's part of the problem. Neither Denny, nor most in his cop-thug gang, are admirable in the slightest. If a substance can possibly be abused, they do so. They lie, cheat on their wives, behave corruptly as a matter of entitlement. And just about everyone else in the tale is equally corrupt, if not more so. The squad's only virtue is loyalty; but that turns out to be ephemeral as well.

Most of this book shows how things gradually fall apart for Denny and his crew, with an ever-mounting body count. Again a (slight) spoiler, the final line: "All Denny Malone ever wanted was to be was a good cop."

He did a piss-poor job of that.

Ninotchka

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

I saw this movie once before, back when I was a grad student. 'Twas back when Boston's channel 5 showed classic movies on Saturday night, hosted by the late great Frank Avruch, also known as the first nationally syndicated version of Bozo the Clown.

So about 45 years ago, give or take.

It was made in 1939, as World War II loomed. It begins with three Russians coming to Paris in order to sell some jewelry confiscated by the Commies from its previous aristocratic owners. (Stalin's Russia is in desperate need of cash, because starvation and murder aren't cheap.)

But (as it turns out) the aristocrat ("Grand Duchess Swana") is now living in Paris too. The sale immediately gets complex, as Swana's boy-toy Count Leon d'Algout easily "corrupts" the three envoys with all the worldly delights Paris has to offer.

Enter Nina Ivanovna Yakushova, aka Ninotchka, a no-nonsense Moscow enforcer who arrives to see what's going on. And she is played by Greta Lovisa Gustafsson, aka Greta Garbo. She's humorless and grim, and contemptuous of the bourgeois antics of Count Leon, … until, yeah, they fall in love.

The trailer was included on the DVD, and its prominent tagline was "Garbo Laughs!". Apparently that was not something she had done in previous movies. And it's an inside-baseball reference to her first non-silent movie, Anna Christie, which was taglined "Garbo Talks!"

And the movie's not shy about making winking reference to one of her previous movies: "Do you want to be alone?" "No."

Lots of talent involved. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch, and Billy Wilder was one of the writers.

And there are pointed references to current events. Stalinist horrors are occasionally mentioned. ("Hello! Comrade Kasabian? No, I am sorry. He hasn't been with us for six months. He was called back to Russia and was investigated. You can get further details from his widow.") And—this is 1930s Paris, remember—a couple of Nazis greet each other at the train station with a hearty "Heil Hitler!". And it's played for laughs.

Excellent movie. I'll put it on the list to watch again in another 45 years or so…


Last Modified 2018-10-05 1:42 PM EST

URLs du Jour

2018-08-19

[Amazon Link]

  • I can imagine King Solomon finishing up Proverbs Chapter 10, and muttering to himself, "Gee, I really haven't mentioned lips and mouths enough." And so, Proverbs 10:32:

    32 The lips of the righteous know what finds favor,
        but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse.

    Speaking of perversity, the good old King James translation:

    32 The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable: but the mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness.

    That's right, "frowardness". The Google Ngram Viewer shows that the word used to be a lot more popular:

    And I wonder how many of those current uses are just people typoing "forwardness"?

    Let's bring it back! Try to work it into your next conversation around the water cooler. "I'm feeling full of frowardness today."


  • One of the more tedious recent articles at Wired's website is a plug for their "Geek's Guide to the Galaxy" podcast: Owning Guns Is Sort of Like Owning Rattlesnakes

    In his short story “Rattlesnakes and Men,” science fiction author Michael Bishop describes a town where everyone is required by law to own a dangerous rattlesnake. It’s a scenario that he says is no more absurd than how America treats access to guns.

    “We lost our son at Virginia Tech in 2007, in the shootings there,” Bishop says in Episode 322 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “I had been opposed to the laxity of our gun laws for a long, long time, and that just hardened both my wife and me on that particular point.”

    Sympathy is in order, of course. But… come on. Is this "scenario" convincing to anyone not already converted? And doesn't that short story sound just a tad obvious and preachy? It was nominated for a Nebula award, but I'm not sure if that's a mark of quality these days, or simply a nod to CorrectThink.


  • A bit of interesting news from Ars Technica: After Employee Revolt, Google Says It's 'Not Close' To Launching Search In China.

    Google's employees and Google's management are clashing over ethical issues again. Just two months after Google's "Project Maven" military drone project was seemingly resolved, Google's employees are now up in arms over company plans to create censored products for China. The internal protests resulted in the issue being addressed at an all-hands meeting, and we got to learn a bit more about Google's China plans.

    It's an, um, interesting view of corporate ethics. Another view from Bloomberg: Google’s Brin Cops to Plan to Reclaim Lost Decade in China, which revisits the history of Google's 2010 pullout from China:

    Google’s top management committee decided to pull out of China based on a black-and-white view of censorship at the time, according to a former executive. The business implications of leaving were considered, but limiting the flow of information online in any way was considered bad and Google’s involvement in such activities could have damaged its brand in the rest of the world, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing internal company deliberations.

    Oooh, "black-and-white"! Can't have that!

    It would be interesting to see just how Google cooperates with unfree countries around the world, and how much that cooperation aids and abets suppression of each country's citizenry.


  • Speaking of Google, it sent out an LFOD alert for the Keene Sentinel's profile of a local candidate: Ian B. Freeman, NH Senate, District 10. Ian was asked: "Why are you seeking this elected office, and what are the three most-important issues you are focused on addressing if elected?"

    I’m running for office to give the voters of this region a choice that actually supports liberty and live free or die, not big government. My three main issues are: (1.) Ending prohibition of all victimless “crimes” (like cannabis or other drug possession, gambling, prostitution, operating a business without a license, etc). (2.) Making all taxes voluntary, because it’s wrong to threaten violence against peaceful people, which is what taxes are. (3.) Seceding New Hampshire from the United States federal government, an evil organization controlled by power-mad lunatics that extracts unending amounts of wealth and obedience from the people and gives back to them a growing police state and global conflict that puts us all in danger of terrorism. New Hampshire was one of the original colonies to declare independence from Great Britain and it’s time to do it again, peacefully, of course.

    Ian is running (no surprise) on the Libertarian Party ticket. He lists his "occupation" as "Cryptocurrency Evangelist & Talk Show Host". His campaign website is here. He's a little too hardcore for me.


  • Ah, but there's another LFOD-invoking profile at the Sentinel: Judy Aron, NH House, Sullivan District 7. (Occupation: "Self Employed Handcrafted Soap Maker") Judy's response to the same question:

    When State government overtaxes, overspends and overregulates it causes great damage to families, communities, and businesses. That has happened in other states and I don’t want to see that happen here in New Hampshire. Our citizens deserve better! I will work hard to protect our Constitutional rights and for Granite Staters to keep more of their hard earned money! The three most important issues I believe are Taxes, 2nd Amendment Rights and Quality of Life. I will vote against any state income tax or state sales tax proposals. I will vote to preserve 2nd amendment rights, and will not support unconstitutional legislation. I believe our kids deserve a great education geared to their needs. Our pursuit of liberty and our “Live Free or Die” attitudes are what make our State really remarkable and contribute to our ranking as one of the best places to live.

    Judy's campaign website is here. She is looking to replace Jim Grenier, a Republican who's not seeking re-election.


  • And an unexpected LFOD reference from Newsroom Pro, a New Zealand online subscription news service. Opinion writer Liam Hehir rebuts local efforts to reduce the size of the New Zealand Parliament from its current 120 to 100, in the cause of "smaller government". Wait a Kiwi Minute, says Liam: More is more when it comes to MP numbers. And guess where he gets his counter-example:

    […] it certainly doesn’t follow that a large legislature is necessarily accompanied by a large and powerful state. I submit as evidence, as I have before, New Hampshire in the United States.

    With a population of fewer than 1.4 million, the state’s lower house has 400 members. On top of that, it also has a 24-member senate. Politicians are not thin on the ground in the Granite State.

    'Live Free or Die' no nanny-state

    So New Hampshire must be a tax-and-spend, nanny-state dystopia, right?

    Well, not quite. To the libertarian Cato Institute, New Hampshire is the freest state in the union. In fact, it has no income or general sales taxes. The only state that taxes less is Alaska, which is fuelled by oil revenues.

    And it seems to work. New Hampshire has less poverty than any other state, but is also at the top end for the number of millionaires per capita. Overall income levels are high and the state is generally quite prosperous.

    On the personal liberty front, there is much for Seymour to like. New Hampshire is the least religious state and one of the first to legalise gay marriage by legislation. It has a school choice tax credit programme and a medical marijuana law. It’s even resisted making seatbelts compulsory for adults, if you can believe it.

    All this in a jurisdiction that has fewer than 3500 voters per legislator. Smaller government is, it seems, not a precondition of small government.

    I especially like "if you can believe it." Head-spinning, 'tis.


Last Modified 2018-08-19 9:22 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2018-08-18

[Amazon Link]

  • A double dose of oral reference in Proverbs 10:31:

    31 From the mouth of the righteous comes the fruit of wisdom,
        but a perverse tongue will be silenced.

    I have a vision: off in some dingy, depressing cubicle farm, some zealous social media censor has this Proverb embroidered and hung up over her monitor where she can glance at it every so often. She is murmuring to herself: And I get to do the silencing!


  • Up at Granite Grok, Skip looks at a candidate hoping to replace my CongressCritter/Toothache: Maura Sullivan gets dumped by a fellow Marine: “dainty holding an AR-15”

    Democrat candidate for Congress in NH CD-1 Maura Sullivan is lying by omission, IMHO, by making it sound like she was in the thick of things in Fallujah – in the Infantry and using “US Marines” as a buttress from being confronted on it.   Michael Graham from NH Journal goes on Cam & Co to talk about how this Democrat candidate for Congress (and carpetbagger bringing in YUGE amounts of out of state $$$ in doing so) Maura Sullivan is trying conflate the most popular civilian rifle platform with an actual military firearm – KNOWING the difference between the two is vast. Once again, a gun grabber is campaigning on taking away, we who are law-abiding citizens, our legally purchased firearms.

    Maura has (last I checked) a vast funding advantage (nearly all from outside NH contributors) over her primary opponents. She's doubtlessly spent some of that on focus-grouping her message, so I guess this sells with Democrats.

    But just from observing yard signs and LTEs in my local paper, she's got zero grassroots support.

    I was particularly grated by a line in her earlier TV ad, titled "America" (available from WMUR):

    “I didn’t fight in Iraq to let the gun lobby flood our streets with weapons like those I used in the Marines,” Sullivan says, looking directly into the camera.

    It's really amazing how much bullshit you can pack into fewer than two dozen words. Demagoguery, fearmongering, wrapping herself in her wartime service, …

    But just one thing: how much "fighting" did Maura do in Iraq anyway? Skip points out (via the DOD) that she was a logistics/operations officer; that's an important job, no doubt, and (yes) "thank you for your service". But it ain't combat. So when she says she "used" weapons in the Marines, fine, but outside of training and practice?

    Frankly, I doubt it.

    As I said in a comment at Granite Grok: if Maura were a Republican, the media "fact checkers" would be all over this.


  • At the Federalist, Doug Wead seems to have his ducks in a row when he accuses the Googlers: These Screenshots Show How Google Shadowbans Conservative And Pro-Trump Content.

    Almost a year ago, an employee noticed a YouTube video at the top of a “Doug Wead” search and wondered how it got there. It wasn’t related to the date, the view count, or anything else that they could determine. But since it was there, at Google’s omniscient discretion, we decided to do something we had never done before: buy an ad to promote it. That’s when our troubles began.

    Within days, Google blocked my ad and informed my team that we had violated their policies. I called Google. The problem, they explained, was that the video had hate speech.

    It was a Fox Business News video with Trish Regan interviewing me about the Russian collusion investigation. The Google employee could not find the exact offending words, but referred me to various other supervisors up the ladder.

    And things got more opaque from there. I blame our fantasy censor (see Proverbial item above).


  • But it's not just Google! And the targets are not just people appearing on the Fox Business News & Hate Speech Channel. Also at the Federalist: Facebook Gives No Explanation For Censoring Conservative Educational Site PragerU (Bre Payton):

    Facebook appears to be censoring a conservative nonprofit organization by making sure that none of the educational site’s 3 million followers get to see their posts.

    PragerU said internal analytic shows none of their followers saw at least nine posts on their Facebook page — starting Thursday evening, exactly zero of their 3 million followers had seen any of these posts.

    “Our last 9 posts have been completely censored reaching 0 of our 3 million followers,” PragerU’s Will Witt said in a statement. “At least two of our video posts were deleted last night for ‘hate speech’ including a post of our recent video with The Conservative Millennial, Make Men Masculine Again.”

    But … "never mind". The Daily Caller now reports: Facebook Apologizes To PragerU, Restores Banned Videos.

    Facebook on Friday issued an apology to PragerU for “mistakenly” removing several videos and limiting the reach of others.

    “We mistakenly removed these videos and have restored them because they don’t break our standards,” Facebook wrote. “This will reverse any reduction in content distribution you’ve experienced. We’re very sorry and are continuing to look into what happened with your Page.”

    PragerU expresses well-justified skepticism. These "mistakes" only seem to happen in one direction. (Thanks, no doubt to … again, see the Proverb du jour.)


  • Do we have a theme? John Hinderaker at Power Line: How the Left is Outsourcing Censorship of the Internet

    Liberals control every newspaper in America, as far as I know, except the Manchester Union Leader. They control CBS, ABC, NBC and every cable network except Fox News. They control what is left of the news magazines, and pretty much every other magazine, too. Only talk radio and the pesky internet lie outside their grasp, so that is where they seek to impose censorship.

    But they have a problem: the First Amendment. The government can’t suppress conservative speech on the ground that it is “hate speech,” i.e., something that liberals don’t like. That was recently reaffirmed by a 9-0 decision of the Supreme Court.

    So liberals have outsourced censorship of the internet to the tech titans of Silicon Valley.

    It wasn't too long ago that I would have considered such talk to be unhinged paranoia. Not any more. I'm not just skeptical about the even-handedness of GoogleFacebookTwitter; I've gone to pretty much assuming they're looking to marginalize and suppress non-PC speech.


  • At Reason, Jesse Singal notes yet another common usage that will Pretty Soon Now be flagged: Is It Racist to Refer to Space 'Colonization'? He looks at a recent article at The Outline by one Caroline Haskins, titled "The racist language of space exploration". Which (Jesse hastens to say) is not without its interesting points. But:

    Instead of grappling with the political or policy or ideological ramifications of these questions, however, Haskins digs in on the question of how we talk about space. The subhed of Haskins' article claims that "the language of colonialism is infecting outer space, thanks to dominance by rich white businessmen and politicians." Jumping off from Trump's laughable recent comments about a "space force" and some followup comments by Pence, Haskins writes that "Trump is far from the first or only person to use the language of colonization to make a pro-space venture argument. Elon Musk famously describes his plans for a Martian settlement as a 'colony,' and a long lineage of space pundits, politicians, and thinkers invoke the history of colonizers and colonization in order to frame the future of humanity in space."

    OK, fine. Let's get this issue out of the way now, before Muskian forces colonize settle the Red Planet.


  • A new issue of American Consequences is available online, and David Boaz's article, How Government Saps Our Energy, is well worth your attention. On the Solyndra debacle:

    When President Obama took office, with the stock market crashing and unemployment rising, his first order of business was the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which he called stimulus and Tea Partiers called “porkulus.” It was an $800 billion package of federal spending that was supposed to restart the economy and create jobs. Economist Steven Horwitz called it the Democrats’ Patriot Act, an opportunity to enact a whole variety of programs that they had wanted to pass for years but couldn’t get through Congress in the absence of a crisis.

    Clean energy was a big part of the stimulus bill – about $90 billion. A “ginormous” clean energy package, said journalist Michael Grunwald. And as Obama’s factory visit demonstrated, Solyndra was a crown jewel.

    But even massive subsidies couldn't pump any more hot air into a crashing lead balloon. ("Hey, pretty good metaphor there, right?" "You're doing this for free, aren't you.")


  • In case you didn't get enough rebuttal of Senator Lieawatha's daffy scheme yesterday, Walter Olson weighs in at Cato: Sen. Warren’s Confiscatory Corporate Governance Proposals.

    Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has introduced legislation that would radically overhaul corporate governance in America, requiring that the largest (over $1 billion) companies obtain revocable charters from the federal government to do business, instituting rules reminiscent of German-style co-determination under which workers would be entitled to at least 40% representation on boards of directors, placing directors under a fiduciary obligation to serve “stakeholders” as opposed to owners as currently, prohibiting political expenditures by corporations unless approved by at least 75 percent of directors and shareholders, and restricting directors and officers from reselling incentive stock within five years.

    “Let’s be clear, none of these are new ideas,” writes leading corporate governance expert Stephen Bainbridge of UCLA. “They are either academic utopian schemes or failed European governance models. There are very good reasons none of these dusty relics of eons of progressive corporate thought have made it into law.” His series of posts picking it apart in detail begins here.

    I think unions should be required to get approval of 75% of their membership before making political contributions, don't you?

John Wick: Chapter 2

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

In a perfect world, the movie's title would be John Wick 2: Electric Boogaloo. Alas, we do not live in that world.

Netflix thought I'd like this a lot more than I did. It's OK, but eh.

At the end of the last movie, John I-just-wanna-retire-because-I-don't-want-to-be-an-assassin-anymore Wick (Keanu Reeves) has a loose end to tie up from the last movie, getting his sweet car back. This involves killing a lot of people. And mostly destroying the car. But, anyway, he's ready to bury the hatchet after that. And also burying an array of weaponry and gold coins.

But (and there's always one of those) a new bad guy shows up and coerces John into a new job: killing the bad guy's sister so that he can get her seat in some underworld crime organization.

So what ensues is a lot of violence, but we kind of get the point: Wick is the kind of guy who can take on dozens of killers concurrently, leaving them all mostly dead, while just incurring some minor boo-boos himself. I lost track of how many of these mass-carnage set pieces there were. They differ only in their settings (which, truth be told, are decently imagined).

One nice touch: Laurence Fishburne! I think he and Keanu were in some other movies too, right?

Spoiler: the movie ends with John in big trouble with nearly everyone left alive. And, oh yeah, that means John Wick 3: Parabellum. I pre-emptively declare: not going to bother.

Mission: Impossible - Fallout

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

Probably the last of the summer blockbusters we'll get to. We waited for the hoopla to die down some, and it was pretty easy to get our usual seats. (Third row center, baby!)

Ethan Hunt (played by a young actor named Tom Cruise) and his team (minus Jeremy Renner) are back. So is the lunatic evil genius from the previous movie, with a new wicked apocalyptic scheme.

You might understand what's going on better if you remember the previous movie. Unfortunately, I thought the previous movie was pretty forgettable, and hence… I forgot most of the details. Sigh.

The bad guy's plans include mass terror and death, sure. That's standard operating procedure. But they also involve exacting personal revenge on Ethan and his ex-wife. Someone should have told the bad guy that adding needless complications to your nefarious plots can increase chances for failure.

So: masks, deceptions, fights, chases, gunplay, betrayal. The action is not non-stop, but when it starts, it goes on for a long time. It's imaginative and (often) funny. I could joke about how Tom Cruise does his own stunts, as described in many articles out there, but… you know what? I actually consider this kind of awesome.

And yes, it's "good". In the sense that I didn't fall asleep. But there are little "this is a movie" moments. For example, the doomsday McGuffin is weirdly complex, in a way that invites you to think: "yeah, that design kind of dictates exactly how the last scenes are going to play out."

URLs du Jour

2018-08-17

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 10:30 comments on differential geographical mobility between the good guys and bad:

    30 The righteous will never be uprooted,
        but the wicked will not remain in the land.

    I could see that. Once you get a reputation for wickedness, it might be time to move on, to a new place where people don't know you.


  • Matthew Hoy has a tour de force on the recent collective newspaper editorializing objecting to Trump's media, um, criticism: The Wrong Way to Restore Media Credibility

    Today, at the behest of the Boston Globe, more than 350 newspapers, large and small, are publishing editorials taking aim at President Donald Trump’s constant complaining about “Fake News” and the biased news media. This is the wrong way to restore media credibility in the people who already mistrust what reporters are telling them.

    I urge you (more strongly than usual) to click over and RTWT. Especially telling: his collection of Time magazine covers featuring Obama and Trump.


  • On the same topic, our Tweet du Jour from Iowahawk:

    Fact check: true.


  • But also in the news was Elizabeth Warren's latest scheme; you can read her own description in (of all places) the Wall Street Journal here (if you can jump the paywall): Companies Shouldn’t Be Accountable Only to Shareholders.

    Sounds innocuous, right? Wrong! At NR, Kevin D. Williamson analyzes: Elizabeth Warren’s Batty Plan to Nationalize . . . Everything.

    Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has one-upped socialists Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: She proposes to nationalize every major business in the United States of America. If successful, it would constitute the largest seizure of private property in human history.

    Warren’s proposal is dishonestly called the “Accountable Capitalism Act.” Accountable to whom? you might ask. That’s a reasonable question. The answer is — as it always is — accountable to politicians, who desire to put the assets and productivity of private businesses under political discipline for their own selfish ends. It is remarkable that people who are most keenly attuned to the self-interest of CEOs and shareholders and the ways in which that self-interest influences their decisions apparently believe that members of the House, senators, presidents, regulators, Cabinet secretaries, and agency chiefs somehow are liberated from self-interest when they take office through some kind of miracle of transcendence.

    Williamson notes that this is a "go-nowhere" proposal, designed only to woo the lefties in her party for her 2020 Presidential run.

    Also at NR, David French (Elizabeth Warren’s Corporate Reform Bill Is a Terribly-Written Mess) and Charles "Conservatarian Wisdom" Cooke (Elizabeth Warren Is Trying to Have It Both Ways).


  • But let's skip over to Reason and Scott Shackford: Elizabeth Warren Plans To Destroy Capitalism By Pretending To ‘Save’ It. Among many problems:

    Warren even complains in her commentary that "companies are setting themselves up to fail" by funneling earnings to shareholders rather than reinvesting them. Assuming this is true, what does this have to do with her? Let them fail. This is why there is a marketplace. Why keep a poorly managed company alive if it's not creating value and drawing customers?

    But Warren isn't really concerned about businesses failing. She's worried about the ones that succeed despite operating in ways that she doesn't like. What she really wants to is put the federal government in a position of evaluating and approving how companies grow. She wants to substitute the decisions of people who run businesses with the prejudices and preferences of people who think like she does. And she wants to use the courts to enforce her ideas of how corporations should be managed.

    Is the problem with US capitalism really that (as Shackford puts it) "there aren't enough people telling the biggest businesses what to do"? I don't think so.


  • Michael Munger, writing at the American Institute for Economic Research has a new way to look at things: Your Ticket to Capitalism Is Free.

    How much would you pay for a ticket to Walmart?

    That seems like a silly question. You don’t have to pay to get into Walmart. In fact, when you get to the door, you usually get greeted by a nice old person who offers you a cart to use.

    But how much would you pay? That’s the way to think about the value of capitalism, to consumers: What would it be worth to have access to the markets where you can buy the things you want?

    We take things for granted. We shouldn't.


  • I rarely find C-SPAN transcripts funny, but this one is pretty good: Hatch: Dems Are on ‘Fishing Trip’ for Kavanaugh Scandal.

    "Consider the damning evidence already uncovered in these documents: Judge Kavanaugh goes to church on Sunday morning, he appreciates pizza when he’s working late, he thought the last play of a Redskins game was ‘a total disgrace,’" Hatch said. "Mdm. President, if these mundanities aren’t grounds for disqualification, then what is? What more do we have to learn about Judge Kavanaugh before we can see him for what he truly is: Joseph Stalin without the mustache or as one of my colleagues so calmly put it, a man who will ‘pave the pave [sic] to tyranny.’"

    The senator channeled Democrats in facetiously suggesting Kavanaugh's "vanilla ice cream cone" persona may be the greatest ruse.

    "If I could tell the American people one thing today, it would be this: Judge Kavanaugh may seem like the human incarnation of a vanilla ice cream cone. But he’s actually something far more sinister," Hatch said. "Judging by the rhetoric coming from the left, I’m convinced that this minivan-driving carpool dad is actually the second coming of Genghis Khan?"

    There's video at the link. Hatch's delivery needs work. Frequent stumbles, and (yes) he really did say "pave the pave" when he clearly meant to say "pave the path".

    (Although give him a break, he's 84 years old!)

    He is, I'm virtually certain, just reading words some (very clever) staffer wrote for him.

    Still funny, though.


  • I was wondering the other day whether Ted Cruz's amendment to the Defense appropriation bill about Confucius Institutes would have any effect on the University Near Here. Turns out the answer is no, but I had to surf on over to a Chinese newspaper site, the Global Times, to find that out: US defense act has limited impact on Confucius Institute.

    The act only affects universities with a Confucius Institute and Chinese-language programs funded by the US Department of Defense, Wang Yige, a staffer at the Confucius Institute at the University of New Hampshire, told the Global Times via email on Wednesday.

    "There are only about five such universities in the US," Wang said.

    Wang Yige, or as the University calls him, Yige Wang, is not a mere "staffer", he's the Confucius Institute Co-Director. But whatever, I'll take his word for it.

    I should note that the Global Times is an offshoot of the People's Daily, the print organ of the Chinese Communist dictatorship. Entertaining editorial: Rubio reveals McCarthyist tendency of US:

    The University of North Florida announced that it will close a campus branch of the Confucius Institute Wednesday. "After reviewing the classes, activities and events sponsored over the past four years and comparing them with the mission and goals of the university, it was determined that they weren't aligned," the university said in a statement.

    Apparently the decision was made under pressure from US Senator Marco Rubio's repeated warnings this year. Rubio welcomed the decision and urged other Florida universities to follow suit. Cracking down on Confucius Institutes is a typical example of US politics intervening in university education. There are about 110 Confucius Institutes in the US, and about 500 Confucius Classrooms. Almost no students ever criticized the organizations for improper lessons. It has always been the US elites who accuse Confucius Institutes of ideological infiltration or even spying.

    Their conclusion: "Rubio and the Pentagon have showed Chinese people what kind of a country the US really is." Ooh, sick burn.

    According to this Union Leader article from last February, UNH's Confucius Institute will undergo a "thorough review" next year. (This is the only recent local news coverage I've been able to dig up, though.)

URLs du Jour

2018-08-16

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 10:29 is another reminder that it pays to be good, rather than bad:

    29 The way of the Lord is a refuge for the blameless,
        but it is the ruin of those who do evil.

    The Message "translation" of this verse is amusing:

    God is solid backing to a well-lived life, but he calls into question a shabby performance.

    God as movie reviewer. "Paul was just not believable in his role as a decent human being, his singing was execrable, and his dancing was painful to watch. A really shabby performance."


  • Robert Tracinski has additional thoughts at the Federalist about ownership: Trying To ‘Own The Libs’ Is Actually How You Get Owned by Politicians.

    Nikki Haley’s recent comments about the downside of the “own the libs” style of conservative activism — which is heavy on mockery, insults, and other forms of Internet trolling — touched off a certain amount of debate in conservative circles. Some agreed about the folly of pursuing the cheap satisfaction of a caustic putdown over actual persuasion, some thought mockery still has an important role in political debate, and the defenders of “owning the libs” admitted that they don’t believe in political debate anyway, declaring that “this is not about persuasion anymore.” I would ask why they don’t just pack it in and proceed straight to civil war, but it seems unethical to encourage people to get themselves killed doing something stupid.

    I've been tempted to point this out to my progressive Facebook friends, who share things, well, like this:

    The "quote" is conveniently of straw. The hatred and vituperation indicates that neither persuasion nor rational discussion is the goal here.

    So what is the underlying point? Is it virtue-signalling? ("I'm morally superior to conservatives and libertarians, at least the ones I imagine in my head.") Or is it (pointlessly) preaching to the already-converted? Or is it just trolling for the sake of trolling?

    I seriously don't get it, no matter if it's "us" or "them" doing it.

    Tracinski suggests a different and (possibly) more productive way to spend your resources: holding politicians accountable.

    Or if you really want to persuade someone, check our Amazon Product du Jour.


  • Hey, whattya think about the $289 million verdict against Monsanto? I'm pretty much in Ron Bailey's boat: The $289 Million Dollar Verdict Against Monsanto Is Scientifically Outrageous.

    I am truly sorry that DeWayne Johnson is suffering from non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), but years of scientific research has determined that it is exceedingly unlikely, despite the outrageous verdict of a California jury on Friday, that he contracted NHL from using the herbicide glyphosate. Applying the relatively low standard of proof required in California civil courts that a claim is "more likely to be true than not true," the jury awarded Johnson a $289 million judgment including $250 million in punitive damages against Monsanto, the maker of the herbicide.

    This is an injustice. So far every regulatory agency that has assessed the safety of glyphosate has concluded that it is unlikely to be a human carcinogen at doses at which people encounter the herbicide. For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's December, 2017, draft human health risk assessment concluded that "glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans." The agency's assessment additionally found "no other meaningful risks to human health when the product is used according to the pesticide label."

    It's unjust, but also self-defeating. As Phil Greenspun notes, Bayer (Monsanto's owner) has a market cap of $86 billion. At $289 million a pop, it can at most pay off about 300 people before it goes poof. And then what?


  • At NR, Robert VerBruggen has news you can (possibly) use: Stand Your Ground Laws Are More Common Than You Probably Think. In response to:

    Specifically, in many states you can SYG even in the absence of legislation:

    […] the problem with the map is a bit more interesting. It does depict the states that have Stand Your Ground statutes, by and large. (Wyoming, an exception, is a newcomer.) What it leaves out are the states where courts have done away with the duty to retreat themselves, in the course of interpreting and implementing those “standard self-defense law[s].” In my own state of Virginia, for instance, court decisions stretching back more than a century have held that there is no duty to retreat from an assailant, so long as you are not at fault yourself for the confrontation.

    I'm still happy that NH is an outlier up here in the Northeast.


  • At AEI, Jonah Goldberg describes The problem with the left’s attempts to redefine racism. (Just one problem?) The redefinition being that "racism" must be about power: white dudes have it, various intersecting others do not. (Neener.) Jonah objects:

    Even if we were to collectively accept that “racism” means structural oppression by whites, we’d still need a word for hating or degrading people solely on account of their race. Why reinvent the wheel? And why muddle the principle that this is bad?

    I think Jonah means those questions to be rhetorical. But the "whys" are obvious: twisting the language for the purposes of obtaining political goals.


  • At Cato, Vanessa Brown Calder trumpets a bit of good news out of the Trump Administration: Secretary Carson Gets Housing Affordability Right.

    Something promising is happening at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Recent New York Times and Wall Street Journal articles suggest Secretary Ben Carson and his team are impressing on policymaker’s minds that 1) local policymakers have created housing affordability problems and 2) local policymakers can solve those problems.

    According to the Times article, “as city and state officials and members of both parties clamor for the federal government to help, Mr. Carson has privately told aides that he views the shortage of affordable housing as regrettable, but as essentially a local problem."

    You have to translate the NYTese: "clamor for the federal government to help" really means "clamor to the federal government for money".

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST