URLs du Jour

2018-08-07

[Amazon Link]

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


  • And a good graphic via GraniteGrok:

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


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