A Farce to Be Reckoned With

[Amazon Link]

Another "catch up" book: I should have read it sooner after I bought it. (I had the receipt stuck in between the back cover: purchased at the long-defunct Stroudwater Books in Dover, NH on April 5, 1996. Hey, a mere 22 and a half years, give or take!)

It is the concluding entry in the so-called "Millennial Contest" series writtn by Robert Zelazny and Robert Sheckley, now both passed on. I read the previous books (Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming and If at Faust You Don't Succeed) at some point before I kept track of such things. Fortunately, the book is enjoyable as a standalone.

The book is copyright 1995; Zelazny died in June of that year. So who knows what the Sheckley/Zelazny ratio of book content is?

The demonic protagonist of the previous book, Azzie Elbub, is still looking for ways for Evil to triumph over Good. He's in the Renaissance era, and morality plays are all the rage. Hey, Azzie thinks, how about an immorality play? He hires/tempts a cynical playwright with his idea: take some ordinary folk, offer them their dearest wish, which will be granted them despite their lack of heroic effort and manifest character flaws. The real-time, real-life results will be immortalized in the play.

A simple scheme, and it would have worked too, except for those darned kids the intervention of the forces of Good, and a whole lot of unintented consequences that threaten to rip apart the nature of reality.

To be honest, these books are frothy and forgettable (I've already forgotten about the first two), but a lot of fun to read.

URLs du Jour

2018-09-30

[Amazon Link]

  • Reason's Matt Welch writes on Jeff Flake and the Hated—Yet Vital—Libertarian Center.

    It wasn't just elevator-activists Ana Maria Archila and Maria Gallagher who were furious at Jeff Flake Friday morning, after the soon-to-retire Republican senator from Arizona began arguably the craziest day of his tumultuous past two years by announcing that he intended to vote "yes" to confirm embattled Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

    "I wish I could say I am surprised by Jeff Flake," Washington lifer Norman Ornstein tweeted. "Sadly, I am not. Party wins again….He failed the moral test." In blue-checkmark land Flake was a "coward," a "poisonous jellyfish that looks harmless because it has no spine yet still manages to sting you." The clickservative right, meanwhile, rallied temporarily to one of its least favorite senators. "I have plenty of disagreements with @JeffFlake but I am so proud that he is taking a stand and voting yes on Brett Kavanaugh," wrote Candace Owens. "Stay strong!"

    We can (apparently) blame Jeff Flake for another week of This Thing Not Being Over Yet, which is damning enough.

    Advice: do not read the comments to Matt's article; the signal/noise ratio is appallingly low. Unless you'd like to confirm your worst prejudices about the state of American political discourse.


  • But while we're on the Flaky topic: Rich Lowry at National Review moans (accurately) that We All Live in a Yale Residential College Now

    The activists who harangued Jeff Flake in the elevator reminded me of the Yale students who harangued Professor Nicholas Christakis in the notorious Halloween controversy. There was the same faith in angry confrontation as the means to get your way and the same expression of raw, unthinking emotion. As one of the activists said of Flake, “I wanted him to feel my rage.” Clearly, this mode of bullying has escaped the confines of the campus and is now a feature of our national life. Unfortunately, it proved effective — it sounds like the elevator confrontation helped persuade Flake to buckle and demand a delay and further FBI investigation (here’s our editorial on why that’s a mistake, by the way). We will now see many more such incidents, with the real potential of crossing the line into physical violence.

    Good luck on stuffing those evils back into the box, Pandora.


  • There's a new "Five-Dimensional Political Compass" in town, where I learned I am a Objectivist Anarchist Non-Interventionist Traditionalist.

    At least I was when I answered the questions. Some of them are "hard" questions, in the sense that they make you want to say "wait a minute…". Example:

    Terrorist propaganda, incitements to violence or other violent hate speech should NOT be protected free speech

    You are invited to respond with Yes, No, or Maybe. You have no room for legalistic/logical quibbles. For example, IANAL, but I think current law says that "incitements to violence" are only unprotected if that violence is imminent and likely.

    And don't get me started on the confusion exhibited by the term "other violent hate speech". Unless it refers to a guy yelling into a bullhorn with one hand, and firing an AR-15 with the other, I'm not interested.


  • Mrs. Salad and I are consuming Season Five of Silicon Valley. Good news: the driving plot device (apparently) has a real-world counterpart, and Certified Smart Guy Tim Berners-Lee is behind it. Behold the radical new plan to upend the World Wide Web.

    Last week, Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, asked me to come and see a project he has been working on almost as long as the web itself. It’s a crisp autumn day in Boston, where Berners-Lee works out of an office above a boxing gym. After politely offering me a cup of coffee, he leads us into a sparse conference room. At one end of a long table is a battered laptop covered with stickers. Here, on this computer, he is working on a plan to radically alter how all of us live and work on the web.

     “The intent is world domination,” Berners-Lee says with a wry smile. The British-born scientist is known for his dry sense of humor. But in this case, he is not joking.

    I want this, like, yesterday.

    Back in the good old days, I went to see Linus Torvalds speak at the University Near Here. (Our UNH servers were all running DEC ULTRIX at the time.) When asked about his goals for Linux, he said "My goal is simple: world domination."

    And he wasn't wrong. So don't dismiss Berners-Lee as a raving megalomaniac. This could be the real deal.

    Today's Amazon Product du Jour is for those who want to get in on the fun. You're welcome.


  • A Google LFOD alert rang for a Union Leader article: Feds hold another I-93 roadblock as ACLU celebrates 16 petty drug cases being tossed.

    Federal agents Thursday held another roadblock on Interstate 93 in Woodstock as 16 drug cases from a similar operation little more than a year ago were tossed.

    A circuit court judge recently ruled that evidence collected last summer by Woodstock police, who were then cooperating with federal agents, was unconstitutionally obtained and cannot be used at trial.

    But as the American Civil Liberties Union-NH announced Thursday that state prosecutors had dropped the 16 cases, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents were at it again.

    “These checkpoints continue to run contrary to New Hampshire’s ‘live free or die’ spirit,” said Gilles Bissonnette, ACLU-NH’s legal director, in an email Thursday.

    Perhaps we could change the license plates to read "Your Papers, Please".


  • The report from "Ian" at Free Keene describes a setback: After Public Hearing, Keene Councilors Vote 3-1 For Nicotine Prohibition for Under 21s

    Last night a committee of four Keene city councilors met to hear from the people on an awful proposal by a group of busybodies to prohibit the sale and possession of nicotine-related products by people under the age of 21 in Keene.

    Ian's conclusion: "Live free or die, unless you’re in Keene."

    Over here on this side of the state, Dover is already going down that prohibitionist rabbit hole with more on the way.

URLs du Jour

2018-09-29

Darth Yard Sign

  • Today's image du jour inspired by a similar shot at Power Line's Week in Pictures. (By which I mean: I used Google to find something I could probably get away with swiping.)

    Power Line's weekly feature is a guilty pleasure, a lot of tendentious intelligence-insulting content, but also significant laugh-out-loud stuff.


  • So (as Kathleen Parker writes) Senator Lindsey Graham becomes Jiminy Cricket of Senate.

    Never one to shy away from cameras or fall short on quotable one-liners, Graham came out swinging during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings Thursday and Friday. Fearing no consequence, apparently, he railed against his Democratic colleagues with righteous outrage and said what was obviously true.

    I mention that in order to share an observation: I have lefty friends on Facebook who did not shy away from queer-baiting memes to attack Graham in response to his outrage. (Rumors about Graham's sexuality have been around for years.)

    Seems to be a thing in the Anti-Kavanaugh fever swamps. I note that Rosie O'Donnell joined in the "fun" too.

    Note to minorities: progressives will pretend to be your buddies, unless and until you take a stand they dislike. If you leave the plantation, be prepared for poisonous attacks as bad as, maybe worse than, any you've seen from the other side.


  • At the Daily Signal, David Harsanyi says what should be obvious: Defending Kavanaugh Isn’t an Attack on Women.

    As you may know, Brett Kavanaugh has already been found guilty of crimes against leftism, so now we’re just working our way backward from the ideological indictment to the personal one.

    Nothing but a confession of wrongdoing and a surrender will stop Democrats from accusing Kavanaugh of being a sexual predator, despite, to this point, a dearth of evidence, a lack of corroborating witnesses, and increasingly flimsy charges.

    Scooting though the commentary, the most common words that come to mind are "disappointing" and "predictable".


  • But leave it to Virginia Postrel to come up with an interesting point: How Would a Kavanaugh Hearing Play Out in 2054?

    Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford were born too soon. Nothing like this would happen in 2054.

    Today’s high school students leave too much electronic evidence of their behavior and whereabouts. Google tracks their movements. Instagram and Facebook, and their computers, phones, and cloud accounts, preserve their thousands of photos and videos.

    Ooh, good point. Being a geezer, I don't do this much myself, but kids today…


  • The Google LFOD News Alert rang for an NBC News profile of a local pol: Gay Republican Dan Innis says he's changing hearts and minds in the GOP.

    For Innis, New Hampshire represents a unique place where a conservative gay man can be accepted as a representative in state government.

    “We are the ‘Live Free or Die’ state, and we don’t take rights away from people,” Innis said. “The legislature gave couples like me and [once boyfriend, now husband] Doug a right, and the legislature with a Republican veto-proof majority upheld that right.”

    I'm an old-fashioned Lockean, so I would quibble about the "rights" bit; a "right" someone invented a few years ago, isn't really a "right".

    But (on the other hand) the notion of "live free" is arguably to allow people the room to form mutually voluntary relationships that make them happy. So best wishes to Dan and Doug.


  • But folks like Holly Ramer of the Associated Press can be depended upon to "weaponize" LFOD in editorials thinly disguised as news articles. Note the framing in the headline: NH lawmakers reject gun control after mass shootings.

    New Hampshire’s Republican-led Legislature rejected several gun control measures after the mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip last fall and the school shooting in Florida in February, choosing instead to expand a law on where firearms can be carried.

    Alternative wording: "New Hampshire’s Republican-led Legislature refused to be bullied by gun control advocates, who assumed that horrific headlines would panic lawmakers into passing favored new regulations."

    But where's LFOD? Ah, there:

    State Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, a Democrat from Manchester, said he was disappointed but not surprised that the gun control measures failed.

    “We’re the ‘Live Free or Die’ state,” he said. “I think it’s very difficult to get anything done here, now.”

    Well, yeah, Lou. Exactly.


  • And at the end of a long chain of links (don't ask), I found a July article from the official news organ of Travis Air Force Base, out there in California, between San Francisco and Sacramento: Travis developing new hot cup handle design, could save Air Force thousands. Just think how sensible and reasonable this must have sounded to Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman, 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs, the credited author of the article:

    Spending $1,200 on a cup, even one that can heat liquids during flight, may sound a little expensive.

    At Travis Air Force Base, California, home to the largest air mobility wing in the Air Force, work is under-way to develop a solution to replace a plastic handle on a hot cup that allows air crew members to heat liquids on aircraft. Unfortunately, when dropped, the handle breaks easily leading to the expenditure of several thousand dollars to replace the cup as replacement parts are not available.

    In 2016, the 60th Aerial Port Squadron purchased 10 hot cups for $9,630. The price for each cup surged from $693 to $1,220 in 2018 resulting in a total expenditure of $32,000 for 25 cups. That’s a price jump of $527 per cup which leads to some pricey hot water.

    There's a picture. The cup has a plug, which I assume means there's an internal heating element, so it's a bit fancier than the insulated mugs we poor schmoe civilians are forced to use.

    Still, a $9630 mug on which the handle breaks easily?

    I am without words.

URLs du Jour

2018-09-28

[Amazon Link]

Yeesh. Hope things will improve by tomorrow. Fear they will not.

  • As often happens, George F. Will has an accurate observation: In today’s politics, there’s no such thing as rock bottom.

    When John Keats said that autumn is the season of “mists and mellow fruitfulness,” he did not anticipate this American autumn. It resembles the gorier Shakespearean plays in which swords are brandished, people are poisoned and stabbed, almost everyone behaves badly and those who do not are thinking: Things cannot continue like this. Actually, they probably will because this is the first law of contemporary politics: There is no such thing as rock bottom.

    Did I already say "yeesh"? Yes I did.

    This is a mostly-political blog. But the last few days make me want to instead write detailed synopses of the sitcom episodes I watched, and to never post about politics again.


  • Ann Coulter posts on the last remaining acceptable bigotry: No More Mr. White Guy. She easily collects 17 quotes from the media elite disparaging the Pale People of Penis; here's three:

    “They know the optics of 11 white men questioning Dr. Ford … will be so harmful and so damaging to the GOP.” — Areva Martin, CNN legal analyst

    “They understand that you have all of these white men who would be questioning this woman … the optics of it would look terrible.” — Gloria Borger, CNN chief political analyst

    “Women across this nation should be outraged at what these white men senators are doing to this woman.” — Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif.

    Ann asks:

    Can we please, for the love of God, drop the painfully trite, mind-numbing cliché about “white men,” as if somehow their whiteness makes evil even eviler?

    It's a dishonest, illiberal rhetorical cudgel, made acceptable by the fact that nobody is getting called out for it.


  • At The American Conservative, Rod Dreher quotes a reader: Kavanaugh On Flight 93

    I can’t stand Trump. I didn’t vote for him and for the moment don’t plan to in 2020. But where else to turn? What we have learned in the last two weeks is that the left will crush anyone who does not support The Agenda. Our elite institutions will crush The Agenda’s opponents (take it from me – I work in a university, where I have to maintain a careful silence about virtually everything). Do we really think this will stop with Kavanaugh? Do we really think they won’t come for all of us? I have a son – what am I supposed to tell him? “Be romantic and treat women well… but also get a notarized consent contract for every interaction you have.” What kind of world is the left pushing us into? We all act shocked at China’s new “social credit” surveillance system, but does anyone doubt it’s coming our way? Does the left not see that the endpoint of this road is total surveillance and records of all interactions?

    Hey, we have a few years before that will happen. Maybe 12 or so.


  • While our country's politicians are embarrassing themselves on live TV, there's a silver lining: at least they're not … oh, wait they are. Veronique de Rugy reports at Reason: Another Day, Another Terrible Congressional Spending Bill.

    If there's something the government does well, it's spend money. It does it with great fervor, no matter who's in charge of Congress or the White House. And it's made easier these days, thanks to our legislators' collective unwillingness to follow a regular budget process and their carelessness about the fiscal health of this country. Case in point: the $854 billion Senate spending bill making its way to the House this week.

    Considering how large the total spending package is, you'd think it might pay for all discretionary spending (that's the part of the budget that funds transportation, defense, infrastructure, education, and more). But it's only a little more than 65 percent of discretionary spending for 2019. Instead, it covers just one year of defense spending (a Republican priority) and the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education bill (a Democratic one). As for the remaining discretionary spending, it's provided in a smaller bill meant to fund the government through Dec. 7.

    The vote in the Senate was a proudly bipartisan 93-7.

URLs du Jour

2018-09-27

[Amazon Link]

  • At Cafe Hayek, even devout nonpartisan Don Boudreaux is dismayed by The Death of Reason and the Slaying of Civility.

    The noir parade that is the march of at-least-as-yet unsubstantiated accusations that young Brett Kavanaugh serially committed indecent, and even heinous, sexual offenses against women has left me more despondent than I can ever recall being about American liberalism (by which I mean classical liberalism). I simply – and I mean this claim literally – cannot begin to begin to begin to begin to understand why so many of my fellow Americans are oblivious to the dangers of imposing the burden of proof or of persuasion upon the accused.

    That Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing is not a criminal trial is, of course, true. But this fact does nothing whatsoever to change the logic of how civilized, decent, truth-respecting people assess claims of wrongdoing, no matter how paltry or grievous. And this logic has two essential component parts. First, any accuser must have something more than the accusation itself. Second, the accused is presumed innocent of the charge until and unless the accuser makes a reasonable argument that the accusation is true.

    I wonder if Democrats—like my state's senators—will someday look back on their participation in this coordinated smear campaign with shame?


  • I looked at this Free Beacon headline skeptically: Drug ODs Have Grown Exponentially Since 1980s. Exponentially? Really? Because it seems like a lot of non-math types use "exponential" as a synonym for "quick". Let's look:

    The number of drug overdoses has grown exponentially for at least the past 38 years, a new analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data argues.

    More than 70,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2017, once again making drugs the leading cause of non-medical death in the United States. Those overdoses were driven in large part by opioids, especially the synthetic opioid fentanyl and its analogs. The paper, which appeared late last week in the journal Science, attempts to set the current opioid overdose crisis in the context of the long-run trend in drug overdoses in the United States.

    OK, things aren't great OD-wise. But still, exponentially? Let's click through to the Science article and… well, I'll be darned.

    The overall mortality rate for unintentional drug poisonings in the United States grew exponentially from 1979 through 2016.

    OK, if Science uses the word, they probably mean it. Specifically:

    Mortality curves from individual drugs do not show regular or predictable growth patterns. Nonetheless, we observed that the annual sum of all drug overdose mortality rates follows a remarkably smooth mathematical trajectory. Figure 1B plots changes in the total accidental poisoning mortality rate, from all drugs. Note that the total mortality rate per year is less than the sum of the mortality rates reported for individual drugs, owing to listing of more than one drug on the death certificate in many individual cases […] . The total accidental poisoning mortality rate closely tracks along an exponential growth curve defined as annual overall mortality rate in year (y) = 10(a + b*(y – 1978)), where a = –0.038 [confidence interval (CI) = (–0.104, 0.027)] and b = 0.032 [CI = (0.030, 0.034)]. With this exponential growth, the doubling time is approximately 9 years. Of particular interest is the observation that the first half of this long-term smooth exponential growth curve predates the current opioid epidemic.

    That formula provides the "mortality rate per 100K". So, by my calculation. sometime in the year 2135 (give or take), a mere 117 years from now, everybody will die from a drug overdose. Might not be—probably won't be—an opioid, but it will be something.

    You heard it here first.


  • Happy Banned Books Week, everyone! At PJMedia, Robert Spencer points out: Banned Books Week Only Features Leftist Books.

    This week is Banned Books Week, when all over the country, libraries and bookstores feature books that are supposedly being menaced by censors. Of course, the Leftist organizers of Banned Books Week omit all mention of the real censorship threat today, which is coming not from conservatives, but from the Left.

    To be fair, not all of the "banned" books are overtly leftist—To Kill a Mockingbird is on there for goodness' sake—it's just that they don't contain anything that would offend leftist sympathies.

    But, as Spencer points out…

    Muslim Brotherhood-linked Congressman Keith Ellison has demanded that Amazon stop stocking books by people who are blacklisted by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). No one in the Leftist establishment stops to ponder the question of whether or not the SPLC is really a reliable source as to what constitutes a hate group and what doesn’t. If you’re on their list, the Left wants you silenced, and is moving quickly to silence you.
    [Amazon Link]

    Despite Ellison's efforts, you can still get Spencer's SPLC-condemned latest book, The History of Jihad From Muhammad to ISIS, from Amazon (as I type, a best-seller, in fact). A quick check of Worldcat, however, turns up only 52 libraries with a copy.

    The Banned Books website (sponsored by, among others, the American Library Association) says Thirteen Reasons Why is the "most challenged book of 2017". Worldcat says it's available at 3164 libraries.

    Spencer has a point.


  • Have you ever wondered (or even noticed) that the number keys on your phone are backwards from those on your calculator or the numeric keypad on your computer keyboard? Why is that? Via GeekPress, A brief history of the numeric keypad

    Subtle, but puzzling since they serve the same functional goal — input numbers. There’s no logical reason for the inversion if a user operates the interface in the same way. Common sense suggests the reason should be technological constraints. Maybe it’s due to a patent battle between the inventors. Some people may theorize it’s ergonomics.

    With no clear explanation, I knew history and the evolution of these devices would provide the answer. Which device was invented first? Which keypad influenced the other? Most importantly, who invented the keypad in the first place?

    Hint: we can look at Ma Bell, who put those letters by the numbers on a rotary-dial phone.


  • And finally, xkcd brings us Bad Opinions.

    [Bad Opinions]

    "I thought of another bad opinion! I couldn't find anyone who expressed it specifically, but still, the fact that I can so easily imagine it is infuriating! I'm gonna tell everyone about it!"

URLs du Jour

2018-09-26

[Amazon Link]

  • The latest report on the Economic Freedom of the World is available at Cato. And the big news is (emphasis added)…

    Hong Kong and Singapore retain the top two positions with a score of 8.97 and 8.84 out of 10, respectively. The rest of this year’s top scores are New Zealand, Switzerland, Ireland, United States, Georgia, Mauritius, United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada.

    It is worth noting that the United States returned to the top 10 in 2016 after an absence of several years. The rankings of other large economies in this year’s index are Germany (20th), Japan (41st), Italy (54th), France (57th), Mexico (82nd), Russia (87th), India (96th), China (108th), and Brazil (144th). The 10 lowest-rated countries are: Sudan, Guinea-Bissau, Angola, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Syria, Algeria, Argentina, Libya, and lastly Venezuela.

    Before you start cheering, note that (1) the data is from 2016; (2) one of the things they look at is "Freedom to Trade Internationally". So be prepared for the next few years of bad news.


  • Which seques into our Tweet du Jour (unfortunately clipped in Twitter's embed, hope you can get the gist, click through if not):

  • Jim Geraghty of National Review writes on Another Day, Another Unidentified Source. Which is the Kavanaugh stuff, but I found this bit at the end to be perceptive:

    The more time I spend covering politics, the more I’m convinced that a significant chunk of grassroots political activists aren’t really arguing about politics at all. These folks are actually grappling with personal psychological issues and projecting it onto the world of politics. Every problem they had with a parent is projected onto authority figures. Every religious person who ever scolded them or made them feel guilty becomes the embodiment of organized religion and demonstrates its menace. Because they’ve had a bad experience with a member of a minority group, that experience reveals something sinister about every member of that minority group. The cop who wrote them a ticket instead of giving them a warning demonstrates the danger and corruption of law enforcement, the boss who fired them for shoddy work exemplifies the inherent cruelty of the capitalist system, and every frustrating experience they had with an ex-girlfriend demonstrates some defect in all women.

    This is why things get so personal with them so quickly. They cannot distinguish their worldview from themselves, and so if you contradict that worldview, they believe that you have attacked them personally. In their minds, expressing doubt about an accusation of sexual assault means you support rape; scoffing at the need for higher taxes means you’re greedy and want them to endure more financial difficulties; and as a Yale freshman puts it in The Atlantic article linked above, “You can’t devalue a woman’s right to choose and respect women.” Only 31 percent of women believe abortion should be legal in all circumstances — meaning, in the mindset of the student, 69 percent of women do not respect women.

    This is, of course, something that's a lot easier to detect in others than it is to find in ourselves.


  • It won't be any secret to diligent readers that Nick Gillespie (of Reason) and Jonah Goldberg (mostly of National Review) are on my short USP list (Unusually Sagacious Pundits). Nick's interview with Jonah was in a recent issue of Reason, and it's now available on the web: The Tribe of Liberty

    Reason: In Suicide of the West, you talk about "the miracle." Describe what you mean by that.

    Goldberg: When something hugely providential and wonderful happens that you can't explain, we call it a miracle. For 250,000 years, the average human being, everywhere in the world, lived on about $3 a day or less. Then, once and only once in all of human history, it starts to change. There's unbelievable consensus about this from the hard left to the hard right. Everyone sort of agrees on those numbers to one extent or another. When it comes to the question of why it happened, all consensus breaks down.

    But it only happened once, at least in a sustained way. And I think what causes the miracle isn't some specific public policy or anything like that. It's words. It's language. It's the story we tell ourselves about ourselves. This is sort of the Deirdre McCloskey thesis: For thousands of years in Western Europe, innovation was considered a sin, the sin of questioning the established order. Then all of a sudden [you get] this Lockean idea that the fruits of our labors belong to us, that if you can build a better mousetrap, you should reap the rewards of that. And it has this explosive effect that spreads out across the world. It's unnatural.

    If it were natural, if this were how human beings just automatically self-organize into prosperous communities of rule of law and individual autonomy, it would have occurred a little earlier in the evolutionary record than 250,000 years after we split off from Neanderthals.

    Clickbait: Nick asks Jonah, "Are you going to come out as a libertarian right now?"


  • The Google LFOD news alert rang for New Hampshire magazine's article on local preppers. Who are Prepared for Anything. A topic interesting in itself, but the finish from the author, Anders Morley, is kind of unusual for a mainstream "respectable" publication.

    It’s hard to put a finger on what makes New Hampshire distinctive. I once met a Westerner who said it and Maine were the only eastern states he felt comfortable in. Later, I had a summer job that sometimes involved crossing into Massachusetts. As soon as we’d hit the “Live Free or Die” sign at the border coming home, my boss would reflexively release his seatbelt and heave a sigh, as though he’d just sloughed his shackles. These two anecdotes go as far as anything in explaining New Hampshire’s uniqueness.

    Live free or die” began as a revolutionary rallying cry, but on our license plates it sounds like an ultimatum, compelling a question: What are you supposed to do, in a country where freedom is taken for granted, when you’re commanded to “live free?” Clearly, you can’t just bask in it. You have to exercise your freedom. Unbuckling a seatbelt becomes a private declaration of independence. Discharging explosives in a National Forest is another. Could upping the ante on everyday life, raising it to survival, be a third?

    Horace Greeley, who was born in New Hampshire, famously encouraged Americans to “go West and grow up with the country.” But there have always been those who have preferred to stay put and grow up however they damn well please. For such people, there is New Hampshire. “Live free or die” did not become the state motto until 1945. At the time, it was only one among several suggestions. Another was “Pioneers, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.”

    This New England Today article lists the other 1945 candidates for the NH motto:

    • “Strong and Steadfast as Our Granite Hills”
    • "Strong as Our Hills and Firm as Our Granite”

    Yeesh. The best motto won. Either of these last two would have been embarrassing when the Old Man fell down.

The Emperor's New Mind

Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics

[Amazon Link]

Another deep dive into the bookshelves to read something I should have read closer to the time I bought it (circa 1991, in this case). Fortunately, my Book Picker script is (very slowly) making me more disciplined. In this case, there's a certain amount of punishment involved, too, because this book was kind of painful to read.

The author, Roger Penrose has had a long and distinguished career in math and mathematical physics. He hasn't received a Nobel (neither did his occasional more famous collaborator, Stephen Hawking), but he's won pretty much everything else.

This book lays out his contention ("theory" is too strong a word) that human consciousness can not be adequately explained by a computational model; the mind is not simply a computer made of meat. He believes that, deep down, there's some quantum weirdness going on. Hence, no matter how "smart" artifical intelligence might become, it will never adequately model human intelligence.

Or something like that. Penrose seems likeable enough, but he is not a gifted writer. And I'm pretty sure, despite the lavish blurbs on the cover, that very few lay readers outside the rarefied field of mathematical physics have read this all the way through with understanding.

Suggestion, should you attempt it: read the Prologue and Chapter 1, about 29 pages, where he sets up the issues. Then skip ahead to Chapter 10 (about 45 pages) where he provides his interesting takes on the "physics of mind".

His Chapter 10 discussion is contentious, slightly hand-waving, but fun to read. It slightly depends on the intervening ~375 (!) pages, where Penrose lays out (an incomplete list): the Turing-machine theory of computability; lambda calculus; fractals; Gödel's theorem; classical mechanics; special and general relativity; quantum mechanics; statistical mechanics; cosmology; quantum gravity. And a basic discussion of brain physiology.

Let me be clear: if you had a decent understanding of these topics, you would be a very advanced undergraduate, probably graduate, student in computer science. And physics. And mathematics. There's no way you're going to pick this stuff up by reading 375 pages of Penrose prose.

Still, an admirable attempt. I can't (however) help but think it was quickly written to hitch onto Hawking's A Brief History of Time coattails, another book famous for having been bought but not read.

URLs du Jour

2018-09-25

  • I was amused/outraged by this Slashdot story: Alcohol Causes One In 20 Deaths Worldwide, Says WHO. [Says WHO? Says the World Health Organization, that's WHO.] Specifically, the very first sentence:

    Alcohol is responsible for more than 5% of all deaths worldwide or around 3 million a year, new figures have revealed.

    We live in a time when Serious People think (self-refutingly) that free will in human beings is an illusion. But a molecule can be held to be "responsible" for mass murder.

    Today's pic du jour: a hungover young lady fondles one of the usual suspects. "You're responsible for my headache!"


  • David Harsanyi in the Federalist: Democrats Go Full Authoritarian To Stop Brett Kavanaugh.

    Whatever happens to Brett Kavanaugh, Democrats have normalized yet another illiberal position in their pretend crusade to save the Constitution from Donald Trump.

    “Doesn’t Kavanaugh have the same presumption of innocence as anyone else in America?” CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono this past Sunday. “I put his denial in the context of everything that I know about him in terms of how he approaches his cases,” was her unexpectedly honest answer.

    One of the worst effects of Democrat behavior, from my perspective: It has made me feel cheering for the Republicans again. I hate that tribal instinct, but I nevertheless feel it.


  • Fortunately, Jason Brennan (one of the Bleeding Heart Libertarians) reminds us of The Rules of Tribal Politics.

    Democracy is the rule of hooligans, and hooligans demand hooliganism from everyone else. Check Facebook, the news, the English department’s faculty meeting, or Twitter, and you’ll see that modern democracy is characterized by a tribalistic, neo-barbarian* ethics. Here are the rules of the game.

    1. You must take a side immediately.
    2. You must believe what your side says on the flimsiest of evidence.
    3. You must not question what your side says.
    4. You must prove your loyalty by taking ever more extreme versions of your side’s view.
    5. You must never notice hypocrisy on your side, but must find it everywhere on the other side.
    6. If the other side tries to reason with you in good faith, presume their explicit arguments are mere propaganda covering their dark beliefs and evil motives. 
    7. All evidence for your side is to be believed; all evidence against it is to be dismissed.
    8. You must denounce apostates, skeptics, and heretics to your side.
    9. People and cases are not to be judged on their individual merits, but on their membership in our tribe or theirs, and on the usefulness to our tribe of taking a stance one way or another.
    10. Nuanced analysis is forbidden.
    11. Anyone who repeats these 11 rules is to be denounced as a traitor and an apologist for evil.

    I was going to stop quoting after one or two, but…


  • At Reason, J.D. Tuccille writes on Google and Privatized Authoritarianism.

    Tech giants get a lot of well-deserved flack for playing at partisan politics, picking sides in policy disputes, and suppressing speech and ideas that don't fit well with their dominant political ideology—or promoting those that do. Even some of the companies' employees' find the internal culture stifling, such as the Facebook workers who recently derided the social media behemoth for "a political monoculture that's intolerant of different views." But for a glimpse of real danger, consider what happens when Google, the dominant search-engine company, teams up with a regime it apparently finds agreeable, and lends its considerable clout to reinforcing authoritarian rulers' control over their suffering subjects.

    Google left China in 2010 after realizing that there was no end to the demands and intrusions the government would make, no matter how the tech firm tried to comply. But now the company appears willing to do almost anything asked to win access to the vast market. And what's being asked of the company is that it help the government control its people.

    I keep waiting for Sergey Brin to speak up about Google's kowtow to the Chinese dictatorship. I guess I'm lucky that I'm not holding my breath.


  • The Babylon Bee is the bearer of the bad (or, depending on the status of your immortal soul, good) news: God Checks Twitter, Immediately Bumps Up Date For Apocalypse.

    HEAVEN—The Lord of all creation has reportedly bumped up the scheduled date for the consummation of all things after briefly checking Twitter Monday morning and verifying that things are much worse off than they were a year, a month, or even a week ago.

    The timeframe to kick off the end times has been set in stone from eternity past, but the Almighty agreed to push it forward "just a little bit" after staring into the abyss of Twitter this morning.

    I would be getting my affairs in order, but… for what?


  • Yes, Twitter is a cesspool of trolls and ogres. Unlike Sodom and Gomorrah, however, there are occasional tweeted valuable insights, for example our Tweet du Jour.

    I guarantee that parsing that out will make you a better person.


Last Modified 2018-09-25 8:48 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2018-09-24

[Amazon Link]

Hah, didn't I say yesterday that things would be worse today? I claim prescience, although it doesn't extend to Powerball.

  • It's current events time, and the currentest is summarized by Robby Soave at Reason: Brett Kavanaugh Accused of Sexual Misconduct By a Second Woman.

    Another woman who knew Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh three decades ago has come forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct.

    Deborah Ramirez attended Yale University with Brett Kavanaugh. They were both present at a party in a dorm room their freshman year, Ramirez told The New Yorker's Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer. They sat in a circle with other students, consuming alcohol, and Ramirez became extremely drunk. She was "foggy and slurring her words," according to The New Yorker, when a male student exposed himself to her. She pushed him away, touching his penis in the process, she said.

    The eye-catching bit is Robby's sub-headline: "Claim that Kavanaugh exposed himself at a Yale party 35 years ago is less convincing than Ford's alleged rape, but suggests a pattern."

    Suggests a pattern? Let me tell you, readers, the Reason commenters are incandescent. Example:

    So, a second accusation with no evidence to back it up is to be accepted without question? Because I don't see how it could point to a 'pattern of behavior' otherwise. But its nice to know that I'm not part of 'the public' - or whoever you've been hanging around with. Because the rest of us are a little dicey on the whole 'I read it on the internet and it confirms my pre-existing biases, so it must be true' thing you've got going on now.

    We await further developments, in the sense that flood victims await news of tornadoes. Before it's too late, you might want to invest in our Amazon Product du Jour.


  • You may have been wondering why the Left is so consumed with hate. I'm not sure if you need a WSJ subscription to find out Shelby Steele's answer, but give it a try: Why the Left Is Consumed With Hate.

    Even before President Trump’s election, hatred had begun to emerge on the American left—counterintuitively, as an assertion of guilelessness and moral superiority. At the Women’s March in Washington the weekend after Mr. Trump’s inauguration, the pop star Madonna said, “I have thought an awful lot of blowing up the White House.” Here hatred was a vanity, a braggadocio meant to signal her innocence of the sort of evil that, in her mind, the White House represented. (She later said the comment was “taken wildly out of context.”)

    For many on the left a hateful anti-Americanism has become a self-congratulatory lifestyle. “America was never that great,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently said. For radical groups like Black Lives Matter, hatred of America is a theme of identity, a display of racial pride.

    For other leftists, hate is a license. Conservative speakers can be shouted down, even assaulted, on university campuses. Republican officials can be harassed in restaurants, in the street, in front of their homes. Certain leaders of the left—Rep. Maxine Waters comes to mind—are self-appointed practitioners of hate, urging their followers to think of hatred as power itself.

    The Left is dependent on finding Evil American Oppression; that's its sole raison d'être these days. Without finding someone to hate, everyone would realize their irrelevancy.

    (Scapegoating isn't confined to the Left. Just ask D. Trump.)


  • NR's Andrew C. McCarthy is indefatigable in his analysis of the twists and turns of—what are we calling it now, Russiagate? Here he looks at a recent response to an NYT story: Rod Rosenstein’s Resistance. With a classic opener:

    Rod Rosenstein is even a weasel when repudiating his weasel moves.

    It's pretty damning about a guy who, with Jeff Sessions' recusal, is in charge of Robert Mueller's never-ending investigations.


  • You may have heard the story about the arrest of desperate criminal Tammie Hedges, who committed the heinous crime of… giving medical care to pets abandoned in the wake of Hurricane Florence. At Econlib, David Henderson ponders the important question: Without Government Intervention, Who Would Kill Our Pets?

    There are large excerpts from news coverage, but the bottom line is that the pets went from Tammie's no-kill (but unlicensed!) no-kill shelter to a kill shelter, thanks to the crack law enforcement efforts of Wayne County Animal Control. Comments David:

    I don’t know whether the relevant Wayne County Animal Control person hates animals—probably not—but what I think likely is that the Wayne County Animal Control person hates competition.

    Indeed. I hope things work out for the abandoned 17 cats and 10 dogs.


  • Old Usenet buddy Clayton Cramer notes an Interesting Analogy. (Just one paragraph, and I'm Quoting The Whole Thing.)

    My wife pointed out yesterday that white entertainers in the 19th and early 20th centuries wore blackface to make stereotypical fun of blacks in minstrel shows. This is now considered offensive and would likely lead to ferocious criticism. But what is a drag queen but a man engaged in stereotypical female behaviour?

    I'm sure there are contrived "that's different" excuses out there somewhere. But Halloween is coming up, which (almost certainly) means there will be hectoring notices at the University Near Here about various "cultural appropriation" costuming heresies. (Here's one from last year.)

    But will anyone take a forthright stand against sexual appropriation?

URLs du Jour

2018-09-23

[Amazon Link]

  • The Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy is a local think tank focusing on local issues. It believes in "individual freedom and responsibility, limited and accountable government, and an appreciation of the role of the free enterprise system." One minor irritant was its weekly mail, currently being written by Drew Cline. It was routinely informative and insightful and there was no good way to share it.

    Well, good news: they've started putting it on the web, too. (Welcome to 2001, guys!) There's too much to keep up with, but here's a sample, on current efforts to raise NH's minimum wage to $15/hr: The minimum wage is virtue signaling.

    Laws are expressions of moral values. Markets are expressions of economic values (mostly). Even when markets are pushing pay rates higher, people who view the world a certain way find this unacceptable precisely because it does not come from a moral directive.

    For the conspicuously virtuous, everything all the time has to be an expression of moral values. Markets don’t operate that way. They consider tradeoffs, which the conspicuously virtuous rarely do. Everything is black and white, good or bad.

    So even if markets are driving wages higher, society must act collectively to mandate that wages never fall below whatever the virtuous wage floor of the moment is. Refusal to pass such a mandate is considered a society-wide moral failure.

    Or to put it in the contemporary vernacular, minimum wages are virtue signaling.

    And advocates don't particularly care about the people who would lose their jobs (or never be hired in the first place) with an increased minimum wage.


  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File this week is relatively short but also (as usual) insightful: The Zero-Sum Thinking Behind Group Rights. Taking off on this tweet from a semi-famous "comedian":

    I think it's obvious that Whitney Cummings hasn't been scared for six thousand years. Take it, Jonah:

    I find the concept of historic grievances fascinating. There is something very “sticky,” in an evolutionary sense, to the idea of getting payback for the crimes committed against your ancestors. If you find this to be an astonishingly novel insight, here’s a list of history books you should read: all of them.

    The human — never mind the Hebrew — in me can relate to some of this (Damn Jebusites, you haven’t suffered nearly enough!). But a Jew born in, say, 1980 shouldn’t have any hate in his heart for a German born the same year, never mind an Egyptian. A German born four decades after the Holocaust isn’t responsible for the Holocaust any more than an Egyptian today is responsible for Hebrew bondage millennia ago.

    Bottom line: Group rights are dangerous garbage, justifying atrocious and unjust behavior. And for a specific example…


  • Andrew Klavan at the Daily Wire: Due Process Trumps #MeToo.

    So much is disturbing about the Brett Kavanaugh fracas. The cynical political use of a wholly unverifiable charge to tarnish the reputation of an admired and accomplished man is disgusting. The idea that the party that rallied around “Lion of the Senate” Ted Kennedy and alleged rapist Bill Clinton now has the authority to lecture us on how to treat women is galling in its hypocrisy. And, as always, the one-sided and unfair reporting by the mainstream media is not just infuriating but also crippling to our national conversation.

    But for all that, what strikes me as most dangerous about this Democrat-made fiasco is the phenomenon of leftist feminist women using their suddenly sacred feminine sensitivities to try to bully us out of our commitment to due process.

    Or…


  • As Michael Ramirez expresses it pictorially:

    Assault on Justice

    More, and almost certainly worse, tomorrow.

Leonardo da Vinci

[Amazon Link]

I got this book on the recommendation of none other than Bill Gates, who put it on his "5 books worth reading this summer". (And—ha—I finished it yesterday, just a few hours before the Autumnal Equinox.) It's one of those rare occasions where the University Near Here library owns it and it hadn't been checked out until April 2019 by some book-hoarding faculty member.

(Don't get me started… oh, wait, I guess I did start. I'll stop now.)

The book is by Walter Isaacson, previously the author of books on Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein. Isaacson is a polished writer of popular non-fiction, and this reads smoothly. Another factor was my near-total ignorance of the details of Leonardo's life. ("He was… Italian, right?") So just about everything was new and interesting to me. The book is lavishly illustrated with color reproductions of a number of Leonardo's paintings, drawings, and excerpts from his notebooks. There's a lot of analysis and interpretation of Leonardo's works. (And, since I'm totally ignorant about such things, they may even be insightful and correct, what do I know?)

What struck me most was the confluence of factors that made Leonardo into the figure we know today. Okay, fine, he was blessed with a high raw intelligence. But other features of his personality played a vital role as well: his curiosity was turned up to eleven; his powers of patient observation were unmatched; he was an utter perfectionist. (One of the things I didn't know: Mona Lisa is, technically, an unfinished painting; Leonardo worked on it for years, and it was in his possession when he died.)

Leonardo was also gay, people of his time were well aware. Also illegitimate, and who knows what role these factors played in his life trajectory?

Also vital were the time and place: Renaissance Italy. Full of prosperous merchants and rulers who had nothing better to do with their wealth than to patronize artistic and engineering genius. Portraits needed painting, churches needed decorating, armies needed innovative weaponry, … Outside of that environment, Leonardo would have become what? A notary, like his dad?

Also interesting was Leonardo's interactions with other famous folk. He had some dealings with Michaelangelo–they didn't get along. He spent some time in the employ of the notorious Cesare Borgia, a very nasty guy, but that didn't seem to scruple him much. While there, he hung around with Machiavelli, too.

Bottom line: interesting and readable. Somewhat distracting was Isaacson's occasional comparisons of Leonardo with Steve Jobs. (Page 353: "Innovation requires a reality distortion field." Really? I guess, maybe, I wouldn't know.)

URLs du Jour

2018-09-22

[Amazon Link]

  • Bad news: Jonah Goldberg's first draft of Suicide of the West (our Amazon Product du Jour, which you should buy) was too long for the publisher, so he cut out some stuff. Good news (for us): the cut material will be recycled, where possible. Our first example is at Commentary: Socialism Is So Hot Right Now.

    It's very smart, RTWT, here's a sample, on the nailing-jelly-to-a-tree difficulty socialists have in even defining socialism:

    In a piece called “It’s Time to Reclaim ‘Socialism’ from the Dirty-Word Category,” the Washington Post’s Elizabeth Bruenig says, “Clarifying exactly what ‘socialism’ means once and for all likely won’t happen anytime soon.” One common tactic is to point to countries that liberals like and dub them real-world models of socialism. Thus Scandinavian countries with generous social safety nets become the real-world proof that socialism works. Others will just point to government-run programs or institutions—national parks, the VA, whatever—and say “socialism!” (What about Venezuela? “Shut up,” they explain.)

    Corey Robin, in a New York Times op-ed, acknowledges that definitions have always been a burden for American socialists. He notes that the best definition Irving Howe and Lewis Coser, editors of the socialist journal Dissent, could come up with in 1954 was “socialism is the name of our desire.” The “true vision” of socialism, Robin says, is simply “freedom.” Robin objects to the way we must enter the market in order to live—since we need to work if we are to eat. “The socialist argument against capitalism isn’t that it makes us poor,” he writes. “It’s that it makes us unfree.” If you can get past the utopianism—where in the world has it ever been true that most people did not need to work in order to live? How do you create a society where work is optional?—there’s much to admire about the honesty of this definition.

    The primary problem, as Jonah develops, is that socialism is all about the feels, no matter how some socialists prattle on about how scientifically objective they're being.


  • At NR, Michael W. Schwartz has an excellent idea: Censure Dianne Feinstein

    Regardless of the fate of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination, the Senate should censure the ranking Democratic member of the Judiciary Committee, Dianne Feinstein. Her deception and maneuvering, condemned across the political spectrum, seriously interfered with the Senate’s performance of its constitutional duty to review judicial nominations, and unquestionably has brought the Senate into “dishonor and disrepute,” the standard that governs these matters. As a matter of institutional integrity, the Senate cannot let this wrong go unaddressed.

    Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution provides that each House of the Congress may “punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour.” Nine times in American history the Senate has used that power to censure one of its members. Feinstein has richly earned the right to join this inglorious company.

    They did it to Tail Gunner Joe McCarthy, should be a no brainer for Di-Fi.


  • At Reason, Nick Gillespie writes on Partisan Hackery, Supreme Court Confirmations, and the Decline of Public Trust.

    Virtually everyone acknowledges that given the nature of the accusations and the passage of time it may be impossible to ever know the truth of exactly what happened in that Bethesda bedroom so many years ago. Even Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who basically brought the charges to public view, admits as much. People of good faith can disagree about what should come next. But politics, especially in D.C. and especially when it comes to Supreme Court nominations, are rarely conducted in good faith. An astonishing set of statements makes that clear.

    National Review's Ed Whelan comes in for some well-deserved bashing, as does DiFi (if you needed any additional information about her perfidy).


  • Bryan Caplan weighs in on the latest brouhaha concerning a George Mason University econ prof (Robin Hanson). His message to Robin's critics: You Don't Understand Our Culture. A "for starters" list of ten items on which GMU econ culture differs from "mainstream intellectual culture", I especially liked:

    1. Hyperbole is the worst thing in the universe.  Most problems and effects are marginal.  If you’re really certain that X, you should happily bet at 1000:1 odds.

    That goes into our sub-headline rotation.


  • Kai von Fintel at Language Log is amused by some Massachusetts yard signs for the upcoming election: Nurses say yes and no. Examples:

    [nurses say yes!][nurses say no!]

    The linguistical spin:

    Now, inquiring minds might wonder: what is it, do nurses say yes or do they say no?

    The grammatical construction used by the signs is known in linguistics as a “bare plural”. The plural is “bare” in that it doesn’t come with any determiners or quantifiers (such as “most nurses”, “some nurses”, and so on).

    We pretty much stay out of that state, but we do get their TV commercials. A lot of money is being dropped by both sides. Which means, I assume, that a lot of money is riding, one way or 'tother, on the vote's outcome.

    Which brings me to the essential phony dishonesty of the campaign: neither side bothers to say: "Oh, by the way, this is going to mean more money in my pocket."

    Which reminds me of why I'm so unconcerned about Russians buying "fake" political Facebook ads: they couldn't possibly be any less honest than the ones we Americans come up with on our own.


  • I'm old enough to remember when Science was pretty staid, failing to resort to clickbait headlines. Those times are gone, as its website discusses a paper that proposes a "Minimal Turing Test" consisting of… Want to convince someone that you’re human? This one word could do the trick.

    Suppose you and a humanoid robot stood before a judge who planned to kill the nonhuman. What would you say to prove you’re the real deal?

    Researchers asked 1000 online participants to imagine that scenario. Volunteers came up with words like “love,” “mercy,” and “banana”—perhaps thinking that a machine wouldn’t have use for such verbiage. The scientists then paired the most popular words together and asked 2000 online participants to guess which of the two came from a human and which from a robot (even though they both came from humans).

    That's two paragraphs from the magazine's three-paragraph blurb, so you'll have to click over to know what that word is.

    (Of course, now the AIs know that secret word, …)

URLs du Jour

2018-09-21

[Amazon Link]

Boy, this Kavanaugh drama is a giant weather balloon being inflated in the too-small space of punditry: everything else is getting squeezed out.

Worse yet, all the takes are pretty much the same (and pretty much predictable).

So we'll point to a couple of those that seem least tribal, and then scout around for something else of interest… anything else of interest. Please.

  • At Reason, Robby Soave has a balanced take: From 'Believe All Victims' to 'Who Cares If It’s True,' the Brett Kavanaugh Accusation Has Produced Shameful Certainty.

    Right now, no one can say for sure that Brett Kavanaugh is guilty of sexually assaulting Christine Blasey Ford at a house party 35 years ago. But neither should anyone be certain it didn't happen.

    A lot of people nevertheless seem completely convinced, one way or the other. Quite coincidentally, their conviction that Kavanaugh has been slandered, or that Kavanaugh is a sexual predator, seems to line up perfectly with whether they oppose or support Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court. If you like the guy, you know he's innocent, or that it doesn't matter. If you fear he will provide a decisive vote against abortion rights, you know he's guilty. Fence sitters are betraying women everywhere, according to the left, or are letting the Democrats pull off a con, according to the right.

    Upfront, I'll admit I'm in Robby's "he's been slandered" camp. But I'm not "shamefully certain" about that. It's just the way I'd bet. If I were betting. Which I am not.


  • Baseball Crank Dan McLaughlin, at National Review, has a characteristically thoughtful take: In Evaluating Credibility, the Signs Point in Brett Kavanaugh’s Favor.

    It’s always a good idea, in politics, to evaluate accusations against your friends as if they were made against your enemies, and to evaluate accusations against your enemies as if they were made against your friends. That doesn’t mean you never give your friends some benefit of the doubt, but it does mean you should have some general principles and guideposts for making sense of charges and counter-charges that don’t change based on the R or D after the names. Or better still, ask, “How would I evaluate an explosive allegation if I had no dog in the fight?” Try doing that with the allegation by Palo Alto University psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford that Judge Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape her at a high-school party in or about 1982, when Kavanaugh was 17 and Ford was 15.

    There are two unfair and irrational ways to look at this allegation. One, of course, is simply to decide that because you already opposed or supported Kavanaugh, that should determine whether you think the charge is true (or useful). That’s the partisan route, and it treats individuals caught up in political fights as fungible and disposable parts.

    What I think, if you care: it's a similar trajectory to the Rolling Stone "A Rape on Campus" story. A small yarn, told initially to a small circle, meant to garner sympathetic attention. Then expanding into public view, and the fabricator can't back down, may even have talked herself into believing it.

    Just a guess. Could be wrong.


  • At the Atlantic, Bianca Bosker writes on The Nastiest Feud in Science. Woah, that's a high bar to clear! Is it climate change? Something to do with transgenderism?

    Nope. It's dinosaur extinction! The spat pits most paleontologists against a 73-year-old Princeton prof, Gerta Keller. She thinks the dinosaurs were wiped out by volcanic eruptions, while most others think it was an asteroid hitting the Yucatan peninsula.

    While the majority of her peers embraced the Chicxulub asteroid as the cause of the extinction, Keller remained a maligned and, until recently, lonely voice contesting it. She argues that the mass extinction was caused not by a wrong-place-wrong-time asteroid collision but by a series of colossal volcanic eruptions in a part of western India known as the Deccan Traps—a theory that was first proposed in 1978 and then abandoned by all but a small number of scientists. Her research, undertaken with specialists around the world and featured in leading scientific journals, has forced other scientists to take a second look at their data. “Gerta uncovered many things through the years that just don’t sit with the nice, simple impact story that Alvarez put together,” Andrew Kerr, a geochemist at Cardiff University, told me. “She’s made people think about a previously near-uniformly accepted model.”

    Keller’s resistance has put her at the core of one of the most rancorous and longest-running controversies in science. “It’s like the Thirty Years’ War,” says Kirk Johnson, the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Impacters’ case-closed confidence belies decades of vicious infighting, with the two sides trading accusations of slander, sabotage, threats, discrimination, spurious data, and attempts to torpedo careers. “I’ve never come across anything that’s been so acrimonious,” Kerr says. “I’m almost speechless because of it.” Keller keeps a running list of insults that other scientists have hurled at her, either behind her back or to her face. She says she’s been called a “bitch” and “the most dangerous woman in the world,” who “should be stoned and burned at the stake.”

    I am pretty sure there's credible evidence that Brett Kavanaugh killed all the dinosaurs. I'm not willing to testify to that before the Senate Judiciary Committee, however, unless I get assurances of fair and safe treatment.


  • Katherine Timpf points out an unintentionally funny column in the Dartmouth student newspaper by Steven Chun: The Problem with ‘Problematic’

    “Yeah, I can’t believe they did that. It’s so…”

    There’s a pause before it comes, an interminable breath where the speaker contemplates the identification of the issue at hand. Then it gushes forth, bringing relief from weltschmerz.

    “…problematic.”

    That pause is everything. It is the start of a long and difficult process of reckoning with exactly why something about the world is wrong. The word problematic cuts that process short and gives people a way out, easing the burden of identifying exactly what about the state of the word gives people unease.

    Steven's implicit assumption is that every perceived violation of PC rules ("racism, sexism, ableism, twisted power dynamics, ignorance, discrimination, injustice and the intersection of every one of those evils") simply must be broken down and analyzed into its component pieces. Every time, and as soon and completely as possible.

    Like there's a shortage of tedious discussion of "oppressive" language and actions on the Dartmouth campus these days? If Steven's demands were taken at face value, would anybody be talking about anything else at all?

    Anyway, Steven wants more. Humor him, please.


URLs du Jour

2018-09-20

[Amazon Link]

  • The WSJ editorialists write sagely on Politicizing the FBI. Probably paywalled, but an excerpt:

    Under the Constitution, the Senate is the ultimate judge of the fitness of a nominee appointed by the President. In this case Senators must assess whether they think Ms. Ford’s allegations are credible enough to disqualify Judge Kavanaugh. The Senate can’t abdicate that task to the FBI, much less order an executive branch agency to do its own advising and consenting.

    Chairman Chuck Grassley has established a process under which the Senators and their staff can ask the two parties directly about the events, judge their credibility, and then decide how to vote. This is the essence of political accountability.

    Both my state's senators have already announced their plans to vote no on Kavanaugh's confirmation. That doesn't stop them from demanding that the Senate outsource its judgment to the FBI.


  • At NR, David French has a modest proposal: Make Sex Crimes Criminal Again.

    But here’s the strange thing. Even as the culture began to wake up to the sheer scale of the problem, important institutions responded by essentially decriminalizing crime. We took some of the worst crimes in the criminal-justice system — not just rape but also sexual assault — and urged women to avoid the law entirely. From campus to the workplace to the military, institutions constructed parallel tracks of “adjudication” of terrible allegations — imposing consequences without due process while also contributing to a culture of impunity for the worst predators.

    Whether you’re a college student, a young accountant, or a corporal in the Marine Corps, turning to law enforcement has often become the last resort in the process of addressing sexual assault. You can now make confidential reports, start confidential processes, and impose confidential punishments that don’t look much like justice at all.

    Colleges (especially) have not demonstrated that their methods of handling sexual assault work better, in any sense, than those of the legal system.

    And what did we expect? Any "system" involving flawed humans is going to be imperfect and deliver the occasional miscarriage. But, given the choice between (a) a system has been developed over centuries of trial and error, with participants experienced in the details of investigation; and (b) a system imposed top-down with ideological biases and vague and inconsistent procedues, carried out in secret… I know which way I'd bet.


  • Steve MacDonald at Granite Grok notes a Union Leader story: Southern New Hampshire University Wants Campus Groups’ Social Media Passwords.

    The lead in today’s Manchester Union Leader is SNHU requires all clubs to reveal passwords. That sounds Orwellian.

    SNHU says it is to protect the continuity of the communities. There are a number of approved campus groups that have languished since the page administrators have graduated. By collecting the login credentials they can ensure that new admins have access to keep the groups updated. And this sounds reasonable until you get to this bit.

    Oh oh. What's the bit? Well, SNHU spokesdroid Lauren Keane left the door open to using the credentials to "remediate posts that are deemed to contain discriminatory, obscene, unlawful, threatening, harassing, or defamatory language, images, and video."

    Yeah. The College Republicans are (especially) skeptical about SNHU administrators using the shared credentials for censorship/monitoring purposes.

    Commenters at Granite Grok maintain that SNHU routinely engages in blatant viewpoint discrimination when it comes to political groups. I submitted a comment to the effect that such was blatantly unconstitutional, and provided a pointer to the relevant Foundation for Individual Rights in Education page.

    It sounds as if the SNHU Young Republicans are starting to get a clue about this, however. What college administrators are really averse to is bad publicity, like the Union Leader story.


  • At Reason, Veronique "Intrepid" de Rugy summarizes a recent Cato study: State Migration Increasingly Driven by Taxes.

    That new study on Tax Reform and Interstate Migration is from Chris Edwards, a tax expert at the Cato Institute. Using 2016 data from the Internal Revenue Service, he finds that 578,269 people moved, on net, from the 25 highest-tax states to the 25 lowest-tax states. That's a loss of $33 billion in aggregate income for these vacated states. In that year, 24 of the 25 highest-tax states suffered from net out-migration. The only high-tax state that saw in-migration was Maine.

    No matter how one views and dissects the data, Edwards shows that state tax levels and net migration flows are highly correlated. The relationship is even more pronounced with households headed by a person age 65 or older and households with income higher than $200,000. It might not come as a surprise that some of the states both seniors and high earners are leaving are Alaska, Connecticut, California, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The top 12 destinations for these taxpayers are Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Montana, North Carolina, Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Washington.

    The PDF Cato study is here. Low-tax New Hampshire, like Maine, is a slight in-migration state.


  • And (as a one-time data cruncher) I got a chuckle out of xkcd's Curve-Fitting Methods and the Messages They Send:

    [Curve Fitting]

    Mouseover: "Cauchy-Lorentz: "Something alarmingly mathematical is happening, and you should probably pause to Google my name and check what field I originally worked in.""

URLs du Jour

2018-09-19

[Amazon Link]

I've felt a great need to skip over reading any article that mentions … you know … that guy. Or that lady. Or those senators. So for today at least, a K-free zone.

  • Imagine a machine that reliably churns out ever more elaborate justifications for politicians' fiscal irresponsibility. It's fueled by voter gullibility. And Michael Tanner discusses its latest output: Congress Finds a New Excuse to Avoid Balancing America’s Books.

    In April of this year, the Congressional Budget Office warned that we were on track to return to trillion-dollar budget deficits by 2020. That warning turns out to have understated the problem: The latest estimates suggest we will now reach the dubious trillion-dollar milestone this coming fiscal year, and the deficit for the current year is now expected to be close to $900 billion, $222 billion more than last year. Our current $21 trillion national debt will likely top $30 trillion by 2025.

    Democrats were quick to blame last year’s Republican tax cuts for exacerbating the deficit, but tax revenues, fed by increased economic growth, are actually up one percent over this time last year. The real culprit is spending, which increased by 7 percent from last year, the largest year-over-year increase since 2009.

    That's an interesting bunch of numbers, but Tanner's actual target is the latest stupid economic theory: "Modern Monetary Theory". He's not a fan.


  • My local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, is in full moral panic mode this morning over… well, the headline is Stealthy Danger of Teen Vaping. Aieee! (The online version's headline is slightly less alarmist: "Youth 2 Youth targets danger of teen vaping".)

    "Youth 2 Youth" being the local high school organization that earnest upwardly mobile students join to burnish their résumés for their college applications.

    Opening para:

    When the head of the Food and Drug Administration recently called the underage use of e-cigarettes an “epidemic,” it was not breaking news to members of Dover Youth 2 Youth. The local group has long warned fellow students, teachers, administrators and elected officials of that epidemic they see first hand.

    And the rest of the article meekly goes along with the alarmism of the FDA and, of course, The Children.

    Leave it to Reason's Jacob Sullum to bring some facts to the party with respect to the "epidemic": New E-Cigarette Restrictions Could Be Lethal.

    [FDA Chief] Gottlieb is responding to "an epidemic of e-cigarette use among teenagers," which he erroneously equates with an "epidemic of addiction" and even "a whole generation of young people becoming addicted to nicotine." According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), the share of high school students who reported vaping during the previous month peaked at 16 percent in 2015, fell to about 11 percent in 2016 and remained roughly the same last year.

    The percentage of teenagers who vape often enough to become addicted to nicotine is much smaller. In the 2015 NYTS, for example, just 2.5 percent of high school students (16 percent of "current" users) reported vaping on 20 or more days in the previous month, and almost all of them were current or former smokers.

    Today's Amazon Product du Jour is a real-life panic button ("with screaming effect"). If only newspaper reporters and bluenose students would just use this instead…


  • An unusually honest admission, reported by Recode: Twitter is so liberal that its conservative employees ‘don’t feel safe to express their opinions,’ says CEO Jack Dorsey.

    “We have a lot of conservative-leaning folks in the company as well, and to be honest, they don’t feel safe to express their opinions at the company,” Dorsey said. “They do feel silenced by just the general swirl of what they perceive to be the broader percentage of leanings within the company, and I don’t think that’s fair or right.”

    Dorsey also explained why he brought up Twitter’s left-leaning employee bias to begin with.

    “I think it’s more and more important to at least clarify what our own bias leans towards, and just express it,” he added. “I’d rather know what someone biases to rather than try to interpret through their actions.”

    Hey, tell me about it, Jack. I used to work at a local university!


  • And finally, our Google LFOD alert rang for (of all things) an online story from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: From Afghan Refugee To U.S. Political Hopeful.

    "Live free or die" is the official motto of the U.S. state of New Hampshire.

    It's a mantra that resonates deeply with Safiya Wazir, an Afghan refugee who fled Taliban rule in the 1990s, resettled with her family in neighboring Uzbekistan, and is now a U.S. citizen vying to make political history in her adopted state.

    The 27-year-old won the Democratic Party primary for a seat in the state legislature on September 11, and should she defeat Republican Dennis Soucy in the November general election, she would become the first former refugee to hold public office in New Hampshire.

    Safiya defeated fellow Democratic four-term incumbent Dick Patten, who has said he'll vote for Dennis Soucy in November.

    Unfortunately, there's no indication that Safiya is a small-government advocate. She "campaigned for expanded health care and paid parental leave, and fought for more funding for childhood education."

Gilda

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

A deeply weird 1946 movie with Glenn Ford and Rita Hayworth. Netflix's AI thought I would like it slightly better than I did.

Ne'er-do-well smalltime gambler Johnny (Mr. Ford) is about to be mugged and probably killed in an Buenos Aires back alley, when he's saved by tungsten tycoon/casino owner Ballin Mundson (played by George Macready). I don't think a reason was given for Mundson to be on the scene; even less explicable is what happens next: he invites Johnny to his casino, and after some gay repartee, hires him to do some vaguely-described duties.

The relationship between Mundson and Johnny is tense, and it doesn't get any better when Mundson returns from a brief trip with a new wife: Gilda, played by Ms. Hayworth. Gilda and Johnny are hostile toward each other from the get-go, and, as it turns out, there's a very good reason for that… But that's enough plot description.

Let it be said that there's enough dysfunction in the triangular relationship between Johnny, Gilda, and Mundson to send a marriage therapist into a different line of work. Mundson's tungsten machinations turn out to be a source of dangerous intrigue as well. Rita Hayworth sings and dances. Everybody smokes and drinks way too much.

Oh, and the ending is … well, it's damned odd, given all the ominous foreshadowing.

URLs du Jour

2018-09-18

  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson marks the 25th anniversary of the Oslo Peace Accords by offering his solution for the Israeli/Palestinian conflict: The Bob Newhart Peace Plan.

    There’s a Bob Newhart sketch you probably know: A woman walks into a therapist’s office and says that her life is being spoiled because she spends all of her time obsessing over the fearful possibility that she will be buried alive in a box. His advice:

    Stop it!”

    I recommend clicking through to YouTube if you haven't seen it. Anyway, on to KDW's point, and he does have one:

    A peace plan isn’t peace. Peace negotiations aren’t peace. Nobel Peace Prizes aren’t peace, either, though they were handed out after Oslo.

    Peace is peace.

    And war is war: There were 169 Palestinian suicide attacks between 1993 and 2016, targeting shopping malls, bus depots, the streets of downtown Jerusalem. In 2014 alone, there were 4,500 rocket and mortar attacks on Israelis. The Palestinians still proudly celebrate their stunning military victory over a pregnant woman, seven children, and five other civilians eating pizza at the Battle of Sbarro. There is constant violence on the Gaza border, and balloons and kites now are used to deliver incendiary devices into Israeli cities. There are practically no diplomatic relationships between the Israeli government and the Palestinian government, partly because the Palestinians have two competing governments run by two competing terrorist organizations: Fatah in the West bank and Hamas in Gaza. The United States government has announced that it will cease funding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), and an Israeli newspaper reported that the Trump administration, through Jared Kushner and his representative Jason Greenblatt, had offered the Palestinians $5 billion to come to the negotiating table again — a claim Greenblatt denies. President Trump has suggested that he’ll rely on financial leverage to motivated the Palestinians, telling reporters: “I’d say, ‘You’ll get money, but we’re not paying you until we make a deal. If we don’t make a deal, we’re not paying.’”

    Another deal. One cannot fault the administration for trying. What else is there to do?

    If only Secretary of State Bob Newhart were here to offer the Palestinians some sound advice: "Stop it.

    As a longtime Newhart fan, I can only second this motion.


  • At the Federalist, David Harsanyi's article may have the most blindingly obvious headline ever: Democrats Have Made Sure That Brett Kavanaugh Will Never Get A Fair Hearing.

    Without the emergence of new evidence, we will never know if Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation against Brett Kavanaugh is true or not. And there’s nothing Kavanaugh can do or say that will clear his name. If you’re a man, a single uncorroborated account that dates back to 1982 is all your political critics need to accuse you of attempted rape.

    There is also no possible outcome in which Democrats will concede Kavanaugh’s innocence, or even concede that we can’t really know what transpired on that night 36 years ago. Republicans can accede to as many hearings as Democrats demand, and it won’t alter any of the liberal rhetoric or perceptions of partisans. Republicans could put Kavanaugh’s classmates under oath and have them deny that anything inappropriate or criminal occurred that night, and it will not matter. It will not matter if 65 women come forward and attest to Kavanaugh’s sterling character — in fact, for Democrats, it’s merely confirmation that the judge is covering something up. It doesn’t make any difference that, as far as we now know, there’s no pattern of bad behavior from Kavanaugh into adulthood (unlike say, Roy Moore or Bill Clinton).

    Will things get worse, civilized-discourse-wise? I think so. What's to stop it?


  • The Minuteman, Tom Maguire, is (as always) Fair and Balanced: The Kavanaugh Train Wreck.

    Kavanaugh is in line for a lifetime appointment. Given the stature of the position and the seriousness of the charge, if the case against him weighed in at, e.g., 40% probability, that might be reasonable grounds to move him aside.

    ON the other hand, it is deeply troubling to think we will reward Sen. Feinstein for this cheap political stunt, which showed contempt for the confirmation process, her Senate colleagues, and the public. The cost of rewarding terrible behavior ought to be factored into the final assessment. Again, as an example, if there is only a 40% chance that Kavanugh is guilty as charged AND we are rewarding deplorable behavior, maybe we should put him on the court in an attempt to preserve respect for the process. Maybe. Politically challenging, obviously.

    Put it another way - if Sen. Feinstein and Prof. Blasey had come forward in July we would have a bit more confidence that taking them seriously would not undermine our current system. But now? What's next? Will future hearings be six months of shadow boxing with the final punches only thrown after the hearing's end? How is that helpful to an already badly broken system?

    Eesh. A commenter makes an interesting point:

    It seems to me that every picture I have seen of Kavanaugh since this smear broke is a picture intentionally chosen to show him confused, tongue-tied, worried, rattled and befuddled---to show him as a grimacing, unhappy man who should not be believed and does not deserve the benefit of the doubt of being believed.

    I note that the NYT has a "helpful" article from—guess who?—Anita Hill: How to Get the Kavanaugh Hearings Right. Subhed: "The Senate Judiciary Committee has a chance to do better by the country than it did nearly three decades ago."

    Pass. Hard pass.

  • The Free Beacon notes the latest important research being funded by Joe and Jane Taxpayer: Feds Spend $1,009,762 Training ‘Social Justice’ Math Teachers.

    The National Science Foundation is spending over $1 million to train two-dozen "social justice" math teachers in Philadelphia.

    The Drexel University project will promote Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) high school curriculums that are "steeped in the context of social justice."

    I am not holding my breath to hear whether STEM teachers "steeped in the context of social justice" will do a better job than unsteeped teachers. I somehow doubt whether that hypothesis will be rigorously tested.


  • If you Twitter, can I recommend that you follow Titania McGrath? She's consistently delightful. Sample:

    Hypothesis: Iowahawk has a fake account.

Please Stand By

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

IMDB genericizes this as Comedy/Drama, which I guess is accurate enough. Netflix's rating algorithm also thought I'd like it, and it was also accurate.

Wendy, played by Dakota Fanning, is autistic. Although I'm not a doctor, I'd say she's a low-functioning autistic. She lives in a San Francisco group home, where she gets supported by sympathetic Scottie (Toni Collette). Her sister Audrey (Alice Eve) has placed her there, worried about whether her autism might bring harm to infant daughter Ruby.

But Wendy (like many autistics) has an unexpected gift. She's a good writer. And a Trekkie. And when Paramount offers a contest to write a script for the next Star Trek movie, she's all over it like a tribble on quadrotriticale.

Unfortunately, she lets things go right up until the deadline. And due to unforeseen circumstance, she realizes that the script can't reach Paramount via mail on time. And so she sets out on an Unauthorized Autistic Odyssey to Hollywood, where she can drop off the massive script in person.

Needless to say, things don't go smoothly.

A few random thoughts:

  • We don't get the entire plot of Wendy's script, but from the quoted snippets, I would totally go see the Star Trek movie based thereupon.

  • For those of us used to seeing Dakota Fanning back when she was a child actress, … well, she's all grown up now, playing big-girl roles.

  • It would be easy to make a "problematic" movie with autism as a plot device, but it seems to me that Wendy's disability was treated with sympathy and respect. I haven't researched to find if it angered activists, though. Because I don't care.

  • The movie relies on a lictor ex machina, in the person of Patton Oswalt, who just happens to be… nope, that would be a unnecessary spoiler.

In short, a good watchable movie.

URLs du Jour

2018-09-17

  • Justice Don Willett, the guy Trump should have nominated to the Supreme Court, wishes us all a Happy Constitution Day, if You Can Keep It. Serious stuff, which you should read, assuming you can evade the paywall, with a cute story buried in the middle:

    Let me introduce you to a tenacious Texan with a Mensa-level civics IQ named Gregory Watson.

    In 1982 Mr. Watson wrote a paper as a University of Texas sophomore arguing that one of Madison’s proposed amendments to the Constitution was still eligible for ratification. The proposal barred Congress from raising its salary midterm; it set no ratification deadline. Unconvinced, Mr. Watson’s professor awarded him a C.

     Fueled by righteous indignation, Mr. Watson spent the next decade writing letters, bending ears and twisting arms in state capitals from sea to shining sea. And in 1992 the 27th Amendment was ratified—203 years after Congress proposed it.

    Gregory Watson got a bad grade. So he amended the Constitution. All it took was aptitude and attitude. (In 2017 the university officially changed Mr. Watson’s grade from C to A-plus.)

    You know that scene in Annie Hall, where Woody Allen's character debunks some loudmouth pontificating on Marshall McLuhan by dragging in Marshall McLuhan himself as an authority?

    This is much better.


  • Jonah Goldberg's recent G-File brings the bad news: The Government Can’t Love You. Well, bad news to those who thought otherwise.

    Even now, you can hear the growing clamor for the government to take control of Facebook or Google because the libruls there don’t like us. I’m open to sensible regulation, and if more is needed, fine. But if the idea that bringing these businesses under the control of the state — make them utilities! — is merely economically and philosophically blinkered if Republicans are in office, it becomes an incandescent bonfire of insipidity when you realize that one day — perhaps one day soon — progressives will take charge. Thinking that the same people who favor silencing speech, spiking politically incorrect science, and using the government to punish institutions that are non-compliant with the progressive agenda (I’m looking at you wedding-cake bakers, birth-control-eschewing octogenarian nuns, and Catholic adoption agencies) would shirk from using these shiny toys for their own ends is absurd.

    Moreover, as we learned — or should have learned — under Wilson and FDR, when the government “reins in” business, businesses often grab the reins of government. U.S. Steel, AT&T, and other corporate behemoths welcomed regulation precisely because they understood that the government was uniquely equipped to protect them from competition. Cartelized social media wouldn’t become friendlier to conservatives; social media would then have men with badges and guns to enforce their hostility to conservatives.

    Disclaimer: Jonah's post is a rebuttal to a disparaging review (or, as Jonah puts it, a "review") of his book The Suicide of the West. Even if you're uninterested in that debate, Jonah makes good points, as above, that stand on their own.


  • Over at Reason, Nick Gillespie debunks an advocacy piece from a magazine that used to be interested in straight news reporting: Are Teachers Really 'Not Paid for the Work [They] Do'? Time Says Yes, Reality Begs To Differ. The Time piece features Kentucky teacher Hope Brown, who sells blood plasma and works two extra jobs to make ends meet. It is based on a report "from the progressive Economic Policy Institute on what [authors] Sylvia Allegretto and Lawrence Mishel call "the teacher pay penalty" or "the percent by which public school teachers are paid less than comparable workers."

    You can read the study here. Allegretto and Mishel argue that teacher demonstrations and shortages around the country are driven by the fact that educators in K-12 public schools are making less money compared to other college graduates and "professionals" over the past several decades. "The teacher wage penalty was 1.8 percent in 1994, grew to 4.3 percent in 1996, and reached a record 18.7 percent in 2017," they write. According to their analysis, the "penalty" shrinks to 11.1 percent when you add in total compensation.

    Their agenda is straightforward: They think teachers should be paid more, both in absolute terms and relative to other workers with college degrees or professional status. They have amassed a number of statistics from credible sources which show that inflation-adjusted teacher wages have in fact been flat for about the past 20 years.

    I don't agree with Allegretto and Mishel that average teacher pay should be increased and I don't buy into their framework of a teacher "pay penalty." But that's besides the point that the Time story constitutes something akin to journalistic malpractice by suggesting that teachers such as Brown, who are pulling down salaries in the mid-50s, are being forced to sell bodily fluids to make ends meet. Indeed, according to Time's sister publication, Money, the median household income in Kentucky is $45,215, meaning that Brown is making about $10,000 more than half of all other households in the Bluegrass State.

    I like teachers just fine. But there's no reason to pay them above market wages. As long as you have qualified people willing to do the job…

    It also makes me want to do some analysis on the money management strategies of the Hope Brown household. She's making $55K/yr, she's got two other jobs, she's got a working husband, Kentucky has a low cost of living…. You don't need to be Suze Orman to suspect that maybe there's some wastage going on, or some major part of the picture we aren't being told about.


  • The folks running Our World In Data have constructed The map we need if we want to think about how global living conditions are changing. A deceptively simple idea: it adjusts each country's area by the size of its population. A very scaled-down version:

    [World Population Cartogram]

    If you're like me (and you are, aren't you?) your first thought was: "Hey, where's Russia?". Answer: we didn't think it would be that dinky. The cartographers' explanation:

    The area of Russia takes up 11% of the world’s land and the gigantic country borders both Norway and North Korea. But Russia is home to only less than 2% of the world population and is therefore shrunken in this cartogram to the size of Bangladesh, a country that is smaller than Florida.

    Fun and insightful to look at, as are many entries at that site. Check it out.


Last Modified 2018-09-17 1:07 PM EST

URLs du Jour

2018-09-16

[Ziegler Toon]

  • I got a schadenfreudistic chuckle out of a recent LTE in my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat: Write in Wayne Burton for state rep.

    The writer of the letter: Wayne Burton.

    To the Durham and Madbury residents who have expressed deep concern that the heavy student vote in the primary replaced on the general election ballot a 50-year resident with years of civic involvement in this district (me) with a recent UNH graduate who has experienced Durham living on Young Drive while a student, I have a suggestion: write me in and check me off on the general election ballot on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

    There were six candidates on a vote-for-five Democratic primary for the New Hampshire State House Strafford District 6 ballot, and Wayne came in … sixth. And in this district, comprising Madbury, Durham (and hence the University Near Here), the Democrat nominees are shoo-ins. (There'll be only one, doomed, Republican candidate on the district's November ballot.)

    The "recent UNH graduate" to whom Burton refers is Cam Kenney, who obviously out-campaigned Burton, especially among UNH students who still enjoy relatively unimpeded access to the voting booth, no matter where they live when they're not in school.

    Burton's a sore loser, and his grapes are especially sour. He can't come out and say that he's entitled to his seat, but he comes pretty close. How dare that young whippersnapper run against me? Damn kids today… no respect for their elders!

    Our pic du jour is a relevant New Yorker cartoon from the late, great, Jack Ziegler. Click to see a bigger version, or buy a print.


  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson identifies The Marlboro Man’s Best Friend. It's not who you'd think!

    Well… if you've been paying attention, it's exactly who you'd think.

    A couple of Stanford engineers who had been cursed with smoking habits invented what is now the most popular smoking-cessation tool on the market — and the FDA has just declared war on it, because it looks trashy.

    The FDA has ordered five big players in the vaping business — JUUL, Vuse, MarkTen, blu, and Logic — to submit plans for keeping their products out of the hands of minors, giving them 60 days to do so — and threatening to take their products off the market if Washington is not satisfied.

    As KDW notes, the FDA's annoucenment gave tobacco stocks a huge boost. Way to go, FDA!


  • And Baylen Linnekin (at Reason) has more stupid-FDA news: The FDA’s ‘Added Sugar’ Labeling Rule Is Sugar-Coated Nonsense.

    The FDA announced last week that it had decided not to require producers of sugar, honey, or maple syrup to label their products as containing "added sugar," under the agency's ongoing implementation of rules finalized in 2016 under then-Pres. Obama.

    As the FDA explained in its announcement, requiring makers of foods that contain no added sugars to state otherwise could "inadvertently lead consumers to think their pure products, such as a jar of honey or maple syrup, may actually contain added table sugar or corn syrup because there are 'added sugars' listed on the label."

    This goes back to Michelle Obama, who had a bee in her bonnet about "added sugar". The FDA tried, and failed, to make rational-sounding regs out of her sentiments.


  • George F. Will is on record as advocating Republican defeat in November, as penance for its current Trumpish behavior. He looks at a Texan Democrat: In Houston, a Democratic template for national victory in 2020

    Nationally, the Democratic Party, which gave indispensable assistance (”Basket of deplorables”!) to the election of today’s president, seems intent (”Impeach!”; “Abolish ICE!”; “Free stuff!”, “I am Spartacus!”) on a repeat performance. Here, however, in the 7th Congressional District, in what might turn out to be the year’s most instructive House race, Democrats seem serious about winning, and if they do with Lizzie Fletcher, they will have a template for 2020 nationally.

    One of her handouts inexplicably describes her as a “fierce advocate,” as though Americans are experiencing a fierceness deficit and pine for a ferocity infusion. Actually, she speaks with the measured precision of an attorney who has worked at a major law firm (Vinson & Elkins) and who is fluent in the business school patois (”The delta last time was ... “) of her corporate clients. The ginger group Our Revolution, which is a residue of Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, supported a candidate to her left in the seven-candidate primary, perhaps because Fletcher would not genuflect at the requisite altars: She has endorsed neither a single-payer health care system nor Medicare for all nor putting lipstick on socialism, least of all a ban — this is Texas, for Pete’s sake — on off-shore drilling.

    She is running against John Culberson, who (apparently) sold his stake in Innate Immunotherapeutics for 7.35 Australian dollars last year; two weeks later, it was worth less than a nickel. This is the same company about which GOP Rep. Chris Collins was indicted for insider trading. As GFW notes, the optics are not good.

URLs du Jour

2018-09-15

[Amazon Link]

  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson provides advice to Norm Macdonald: saying certain things can make you Unforgiven. Having lost a decent gig at the Atlantic due to mob outrage, Kevin has wisdom born of experience in these matters.

    Macdonald, a comedian, is being run through the gantlet this week after saying something stupid and ugly. He was disinvited from an appearance on The Tonight Show after making sympathetic comments about celebrities accused of sexual misdeeds (Louis CK) and political thoughtcrime (Roseanne Barr), and then, in the course of apologizing, said that one would have to have Down syndrome to doubt the stories of sexual-harassment or assault victims.

    Yeah.

    You can imagine what happened next: A lot of the same nice people who have quietly cheered the eugenic elimination of two-thirds of the Americans with Down syndrome pretended to be very, very offended on behalf of the third who weren’t put to death by their mothers. If Macdonald had been in Denmark, where 98 percent of those with Down syndrome are put to death, his remarks probably would not have occasioned much of a ripple. People with Down syndrome don’t deserve the insult, and Macdonald is right to apologize for it, but people with Down syndrome, like almost everybody else walking the Earth, have bigger problems than Norm Macdonald.

    Kevin's further advice: When you say something stupid, apologize. Then shut up.


  • I've become, God help me, a podcast listener. Even if you aren't, may I recommend episode 60 of Jonah Goldberg's The Remnant: Stray cats and screaming chyrons. His guest is Senator Ben Sasse "(R-Corn)", who's much too funny and smart to be a Senator. He makes me want to move back to Nebraska so I could vote for him.

    Among other pearls of wisdom. the Senator recommends this video from Reason TV, What Should Have Happened at the Brett Kavanaugh Hearings. Which I missed linking to last week, but better late than never:


  • At the New York Times, Kara Swisher writes on The Real Google Censorship Scandal.

    This might be bad form, but I can't help but comment on the pic accompanying Ms. Swisher's article:

    [Kara Swisher, swiped from the NYT, sue me]

    "Does holding my glasses this way make me look smart?" It would not be out of place on a parody site illustrating a fake article by a self-important too-serious fake author.

    But anyway: she dismisses Google's anti-conservative bias as a "canard". Which she finds easy enough to do, because her only source is self-debunking Breitbart News.

    So, what's the "real censorship scandal"?

    I’m talking about the fact that Google is considering re-entering the Chinese market after leaving it with a lot of righteous indignation less than a decade ago. Reports say it might once again offer a range of services, including a censored version of its flagship search engine.

    A Google spokeswoman told me that the controversial effort — code-named Dragonfly — is “exploratory,” and that Google is “not close to launching a search product in China.” What’s most interesting is that much of the outrage about the possibility seems to be coming from Google employees who have registered strong objections, rather than from outside.

    Ms. Swisher would like Sergey Brin, who's previously spoken out against state efforts to quash the free flow of information on the Internet, to opine about this. And he should. What's Google gonna do, make a Damore move and fire him?

    But, really, Kara: you can be concerned about both Google's lefty bias and its kowtowing to Communist dictators. You look smart, I'm sure you can manage it.


  • Among the many commenters on the topic, I liked Ed Morrisey at Hot Air: NYT’s Deeply Unsatisfying “Hey, Our Bad” On Haley Hit Piece.

    Some retractions don’t quite cover the offense, even reasonably complete retreats. Such is the case for the nasty hit piece on UN ambassador Nikki Haley from the New York Times, deconstructed by Allahpundit this morning. He also noted the retraction, but it’s worth revisiting, especially in the sequence of events in which it developed.

    Ed notes that while the original article implicitly bashed Nikki Haley, the "corrected" article, failed to mention the name of the UN Ambassador actually in place when the lavish decorating decisions were made: Samantha Power.

    Also worth reading, at Power Line: Why We Hate the Media, Chapter 12,186.


  • At American Consequences, P. J. O'Rourke writes on his recent bout with the Big C: A pain in the….

    I looked death in the face. All right, I didn’t. I glimpsed him from behind.

    Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer – of a highly treatable kind. I was told I had a 95% chance of survival. Which means that, as a drinking, smoking, saturated-fat-hound, exercise-free 60-year-old male – my chance of survival was actually improved by cancer.

    Also, while cancer isn’t usually ridiculous, I had, of all things, a malignant hemorrhoid. What color bracelet do you wear for that? And where do you wear it? And what’s the fund-raising slogan? Maybe that slogan could be sewn in needlepoint on my embarrassing doughnut rear-end pillow.

    For those of us becoming increasingly aware of mortality, P. J.'s article is full of insight, sharp observation, and (of course) humor.

URLs du Jour

2018-09-14

[Amazon Link]

  • "I'll take 'Very Bad Ideas' for $200, Alex." At NR, Kevin D. Williamson asks about "A Fairness Doctrine for the Internet?"

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions is convening a meeting of state attorneys general to consider whether Facebook, Google, Twitter, and other social-media companies are “intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas.” The honorable gentleman from Alabama should stick to his brief.

    Two quick questions asked and answered. One: Do these companies treat conservatives unfairly? Yes, they do. Two: Is that any business of the attorney general of the United States of America? No, it isn’t.

    RTWT (of course), but the bottom line is: it's "a job for persuaders, not prosecutors." That's you and me, people.

    No matter how much fun it would be to watch Internet honchos squirm and squeal under the boot of the government.

    But for those who prefer to wield the power of the state to compel fairness, there's our Amazon Product du Jour.


  • At Reason, Jacob Sullum reports the news: FDA Threatens to Ban E-Cigarettes If Teenagers Keep Using Them.

    Declaring that "youth use of e-cigarettes is reaching epidemic proportions," the Food and Drug Administration today threatened to remove vaping products from the market unless their manufacturers come up with satisfactory plans to prevent underage consumption. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb acknowledged that the demand conflicts with efforts to promote vaping as a harm-reducing alternative to smoking. "Inevitably what we are going to have to contemplate are actions that may narrow the off-ramp for adults who see e-cigarettes as a viable alternative to combustible tobacco in order to close the on-ramp for kids," he told reporters. "It's an unfortunate tradeoff."

    It's not just an "unfortunate" tradeoff, Jacob points out: it's also a "morally unacceptable and scientifically suspect" tradeoff. Is Gottlieb trying to out-nanny the Democrats? I'm pretty sure that's a game he can't win.


  • At the American Enterprise Institute, Mark J. Perry looks at some good news: Census data released today show continued gains for middle-class Americans and little evidence of rising income inequality. Good for statistics nerds. Here's a tweeted chart that ably debunks a lefty talking point:

    Of course, people will object that inequality increases happened more than 25 years ago. As far as the GINI index goes, that's arguably true.


  • One of the members of my fair state's University System is on the shitlist of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Specifically: FIRE calls on Plymouth State University to rescind faculty punishment over participation in criminal trial.

    This summer, PSU professor emeritus Michael Fischler and adjunct professor Nancy Strapko weighed in on the trial of former Exeter High School guidance counselor Kristie Torbick, who pled guilty to sexually assaulting a 14-year-old student. Fischler send a letter to the court asking for leniency, and Strapko served as a paid expert witness for Torbick.

    This did not sit well with PSU administrators, especially after the trial elicited widespread media coverage>. Due to the controversy surrounding the professors’ participation, PSU refused to rehire Strapko and required Fischler to complete Title IX training as a condition for teaching classes this fall.

    As FIRE notes, these actions are completely out of whack with both the First Amendment and the University System of New Hampshire's stated policy. It's almost as if the PSU admins want the school to embarrass itself.


  • Our Google LFOD alert rang for a news article written by, and about, folks far from New Hampshire. It's the Irish Times writing about Libyans trying to escape the hellhole their country has become: Live free or die trying on the sea’: Limbo in Libya for unregistered refugees.

    On Monday, hundreds of refugees and migrants in Tripoli’s Abu Salim detention centre felt a glimmer of hope.

    After months of waiting to be recognised and registered by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), staff had finally arrived, along with representatives of various other UN agencies, including the World Food Programme and the International Organisation for Migration, which helps migrants from countries deemed safe to return home to.

    “We hope, pray for us, to register,” one Eritrean messaged on WhatsApp, using a phone he has managed to keep hidden.

    Instead, the visiting officials proceeded to stand in front of the detainees and bicker among themselves as to which organisation had been delivering the most aid, according to several people who were there.

    Geez, ineffective bickering UN bureaucrats. Who'd of thunk?

    Libya has kind of dropped off our current-events radar. But this 2016 Foreign Policy article by Micah Zenko is a good overview of the inept, dishonest, and callous policy of the Obama Administration, driven especially by Hillary Clinton.


  • Oh, well, let's have some fun. Orbitz describes the Ultimate US Foodie Road Trip. And, since they offer embed code…



    Spoiler: For my fair state, they recommend the lobster roll at Sanders Fish Market in Portsmouth. (Consumer note: it's not a sitdown place; takeout only.)

    For Iowa, it's Taylor's Maid-Rite in Marshalltown. OK, now I'm hungry. Lobster rolls are fine, but … Google Maps says it's a twenty-hour drive. Hmmm.


Last Modified 2018-09-14 10:38 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2018-09-13

[Amazon Link]

  • In the "Of Course She Did" department today, a report from the Free Beacon: Clinton Spreads ‘Four Pinocchio,’ ‘False’ Claim About Kavanaugh

    Former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton repeated a claim about Brett Kavanaugh that multiple fact-checkers have ruled is false.

    When you are spreading Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt, truth is at best an innocent bystander.

    But, parenthetically, I wonder if Hillary writes her own tweets? We're pretty sure Trump does, right?


  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson writes on The Caste System.

    Progressives conceive of themselves as a caste apart, a special and specialized group of enlightened men and women whose job it is to organize other people’s lives for them, a necessity because those people are too dumb to do it for themselves. And special people must enjoy special exemptions: Bernie Sanders can rail against the rich from his lakeside dacha, and Beto O’Rourke can lambast school-choice programs even though he himself ditched the public schools for the tony Woodberry Forrest boarding school, where tuition currently runs about $56,000 a year — a third more than the median household income in his native El Paso.

    And, of course, Senator Kamala Harris of California can get away with the grossest hypocrisy.

    During Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, she demanded to know whether the judge thought the president could legally politicize the Justice Department, for example by prosecuting his political enemies while going easy on his friends. Senator Harris would know more than a little about that: She wasted a great deal of time and a fair sum of Californians’ tax dollars illegally using her position as attorney general of California to attempt to bully nonprofits into giving up their donors lists. It was a transparent effort to target them for harassment and retaliation. That little jihad ultimately was ruled an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment by the federal courts. Harris and her opposite number in New York State, Eric Schneiderman, did nothing but misuse their offices to harass their political rivals. (Well, in fairness, Schneiderman did take some time to beat women, if The New Yorker is to be believed, and resigned his office after three women accused him of abuse.) She misused her job like that was her job.

    And in a related development…


  • I don't know if this is original with Dave Dix, but:

    This via Instapundit. I would suggest for Ms. Ocasio-Cortez's next photo shoot, she invest in our Amazon Product du Jour (only $12.99!) for better optics.


  • Who is to blame for erosion of democratic norms? Jonah Goldberg has the answer! Obama and Trump both to blame for erosion of democratic norms.

    “It was very disappointing to see President Obama break with the tradition of former presidents and become so political,” Vice President Mike Pence told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace. He was complaining about Obama’s broadside against President Trump.

    Pence has a point. Although it’s not unprecedented, it is disappointing to see a former president attack a sitting president.

    But for Trump’s most reliable defender to invoke tradition — never mind a tradition of presidential decorum — as his lodestar is a very strange thing.

    Hah, you see what Jonah did there? With "lodestar"?


  • A wee bit of amusement, reported by Robby Soave at Reason: ThinkProgress Accuses Facebook of Censorship After Conservative Factchecker Correctly Points Out an Error.

    Ian Millhiser, justice editor at ThinkProgress, is upset that The Weekly Standard—a right-of-center magazine whose editors have been granted the power to formally factcheck articles for Facebook—recently labelled one of his articles "false."

    But the claim made by the article's headline—"Brett Kavanaugh said he would kill Roe v. Wade last week and almost no one noticed"—is at the very least quite misleading.

    OK, that's funny, but the real problem is that Facebook is (as someone once said) doubling down on stupid. Ann Althouse's son, John Cohen, has a good take:

    This is the predictable result of Facebook’s misguided attempt to crack down on the nebulous category of “fake news”: it empowers some people to use their opinions to silence others. Why is Slate acting like the suppression of this ThinkProgress article is a shocking aberration that’s all the Weekly Standard’s fault? Facebook should give up on the inevitably subjective task of policing “fake news,” and simply let us, the users, decide for ourselves what news is credible.

    I'd continue: if you presume that people are too stupid to decide for themselves on credibility issues, you might be right, but you should re-examine your premises/feelings about democracy.


  • Speaking of Ann, she was intrigued by the WaPo headline: Novelist who wrote about ‘How to Murder Your Husband’ charged with murdering her husband. Speaking as a husband myself, I was also interested.

    "In 'The Wrong Husband,' a woman tried to flee an abusive husband by faking her death.'And in '“How to Murder Your Husband' — an essay — [Nancy] Crampton Brophy... describ[ed] five core motives and a number of murder weapons from which she would choose if her character were to kill a husband in a romance novel. She advised against hiring a hit-man to do the dirty work — 'an amazing number of hit men rat you out to the police' — and against hiring a lover. 'Never a good idea.' Poison, not advised either. 'Who wants to hang out with a sick husband?'... '[I]f the murder is supposed to set me free, I certainly don’t want to spend any time in jail.'"

    Amazon's Nancy Brophy page is here. Many of her books seem to feature bare-chested dudes with well-defined muscular structure and facial stubble, so if you're looking for new reading in that genre…


  • I liked this recent xkcd:

    [Social Media Announcement]

    Mouseover is: "Why I'm Moving Most of My Social Activity to Slack, Then Creating a Second Slack to Avoid the People in the First One, Then Giving Up on Social Interaction Completely, Then Going Back to Texting"

URLs du Jour

2018-09-12

[Amazon Link]

  • National Review editors weigh in on The Kavanaugh Smear.

    Brett Kavanaugh acquitted himself ably in his confirmation hearings last week, which is surely one reason that Democrats have resorted to a contemptible attack on him as guilty of federal crimes.

    Democrats are smearing the nominee as a perjurer. There are three main allegations, and each is laughably frivolous.

    Fact check: true. The editorial (and associated links) thoroughly debunk the smears.

    The article doesn't even mention Senator Kamala; perhaps too easy a target? Even the WaPo gives her smear effort its full Four Pinocchios, while (even) Politifact goes for False. I assume Politifact's lefty bias is showing; the same thing attempted by a Republican would get "Pants on Fire".

    Which brings us to our Amazon Product du Jour. Go ahead, buy and wear, guys and/or gals. I dare you.


  • Activist anti-Kavanaugh antics are even starting to wear thin on our neighboring state's senator, Susan Collins. The Hill reports: Collins calls crowdfunding to get her to oppose Kavanaugh a 'bribe'.

    Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) says she is not swayed by crowdfunding aimed at encouraging her to oppose Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, comparing the effort to a "bribe."

    "I consider this quid pro quo fundraising to be the equivalent of an attempt to bribe me to vote against Judge Kavanaugh," Collins told conservative news outlet Newsmax.

    The seat is up for election in 2020. In 2014, she won with 68.5% of the vote.


  • Doesn't it kind of piss you off when businesses that are Constitutionally protected against government meddling turn around and advocate government meddling in other businesses? At Reason Andrea O'Sullivan provides a wise warning: Beware the Press’s Self-Serving Calls to Regulate Social Media.

    In the states and abroad, policymakers and commentators are salivating over the opportunity to regulate social media content. It is easy to understand why governments might want to have more influence on social media platforms. But the legacy media's consistent push for more controls on platforms like Facebook and Twitter has been less scrutinized. There is a reason for this consilience: these policies can ultimately serve as a government-granted privilege that favored media firms use to get an edge over their competition.

    It may sound a little roundabout. It doesn't take a short-sighted partisan to have serious problems with a lot of social media practices. For instance, tech platforms have collaborated, willingly or not, with governments in surveillance and social conditioning campaigns. Then there's the spectral but speculated upon creation of "shadow profiles" that are only discernable through their algorithmic residue.

    But don't be fooled: Some parties who trot out these more reasonable pretexts for enhanced tech scrutiny do so for opportunistic reasons.

    I'm optimistic that most people will see through ulterior motives. Because I love being disappointed and wrong.


  • The New Hampshire legislature is back in session tomorrow to see if it can override Governor Sununu's vetos of earlier-passed legislation. This is (actually) called Veto Day. Two bills especially deserve the death penalty, and Andrew Cline explains why in the Concord Monitor: Sununu was right to veto corporate welfare bills.

    New Hampshire has a booming economy, the fourth-lowest unemployment rate in the country and thousands of job openings. Even in the North Country, employment rates exceed the national average. Berlin has a lower unemployment rate than Worcester, Mass., Charlotte, N.C., or Phoenix, Ariz.

    And yet the state’s biggest political fight this summer is whether legislators should force every Granite Stater to pay higher electricity prices for the purpose of subsidizing a few hundred jobs.

    The subsidies come through Senate Bills 365 and 446. SB 365 would by law force utilities to pay above-market prices for electricity they buy from the state’s few remaining biomass power plants. SB 446 would expand a solar industry subsidy scheme called “net metering,” through which – again – utilities are required to pay above-market rates for power bought from certain favored generators.

    Should be a no-brainer. But it's the NH legislature, so …


  • At Law and Liberty, John O. McGinnis describes: How Bill Gates Fails to Understand International Politics. Longest article ever? Nah, it's pretty short. Here's Bill, quoted from a book review in the NYT:

    The point is that today’s competition among nations — whether on an athletic field or the trading floor — “actually represents an astonishing global agreement.” And that global agreement makes it easier to cooperate as well as compete. Keep this in mind the next time you start to doubt whether we can solve a global problem like climate change.

    Patiently, John explains:

    But forging a global structure for a sports competition or a trading floor is fundamentally different from one to address climate change. The first two are win-win propositions. It is true that some individual athletes triumph and others lose at the Olympics, but all benefit in the short term from the opportunity to participate not only because they might triumph, but because they get valuable exposure. Trading between people of different nations is the classic example of an agreement that expands the pie.

    But a global warming agreement has winners and loser nations. Some nations are net beneficiaries from global warming, others net losers. Nations emit carbon pollution at very different rates. The absence of win-win solutions makes agreement much harder.

    That's not too hard to understand, is it, Bill?


  • This is Pun Salad, so I naturally must draw your attention to a recent Mental Floss article: A Small Colorado Town's Punny Signs Are Receiving National Attention

    Indian Hills, Colorado—population 1280—has become an unlikely tourist attraction thanks to one resident’s penchant for puns.

    As spotted by My Modern Met, the town’s community center changes its roadside sign two or three times a week, and the messages will make you laugh or cringe—or maybe a little of both. “Terrible summer for Humpty Dumpty but he had a great fall,” one sign read. “I was struck by a bottle of of Omega 3 pills. Luckily, my wounds were only super fish oil,” read another.

    Those are … pretty darn good. More samples are pretty easy to find out there, for example, Twitter:

    If you hear moans coming from the direction of Rollinsford, NH, you'll know what I'm up to.

Love Crazy

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

William Powell and Myrna Loy starred in (it says here) fourteen movies together between 1934 and 1947. They had an undeniable chemistry, and the DVD has a trailer that shows that the studio exploited that chemistry in its marketing.

This one is a screwball comedy from 1941, about the midpoint of their collaboration. Bill and Myrna play happily-married couple Steve and Susan, about to celebrate their fourth anniversary when things start going wrong, led off by an unexpected visit from Susan's meddlesome mother. Who is injured in a freak accident. Which sends Steve out of the apartment where he happens to meet an old flame. Who isn't adverse to a bit of extramarital relations, but they wind up in a stalled elevator (manned by—hey, that's Elisha Cook Jr.). Which… well, you get the idea.

After a series of misunderstandings and miscommunications, Susan decides she wants a divorce. Steve's only recourse is to fake insanity (which, given his basic screwball nature, isn't much of a stretch). Because (for some reason) you can't get divorced if your spouse is nuts.

It has a bit of a slapped-together vibe. Like the moviemakers were saying "OK, what should we do today? Hey, how about putting William Powell in drag?"

Everything's funny, though. For some reason, I liked actor/director Jack Carter's repeated line: "The name's Willoughby, Ward Willoughby." For some reason, it gets more amusing every time it's repeated.


Last Modified 2018-09-12 6:57 AM EST

Deadpool 2

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

Let's see… The MPAA rated this R for "strong violence and language throughout, sexual references and brief drug material". That understates it a bit. I waited until Mrs. Salad was out-of-house to watch it.

Mr. Pool, played by Ryan Reynolds, gets a quick comedown from the happily-ever-after ending of Deadpool, when Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) gets seriously killed by (yes) a guy that Deadpool let live in a previous scene. Those guys always come back to get you.

After a gruesome suicide attempt, Deadpool joins up with X-Men member Colossus to perform a goody-two-shoes X-Men-style mission: rescue a misbehaving kid from a mutant re-education center. This is complicated somewhat by Cable (Josh Brolin), a visitor from the future, back to avenge/prevent the deaths of his family at the hands of the future kid. And then…

There's a considerable amount of fighting and imaginative special effects. In addition to the aforementioned violence and language, there's a lot of fourth wall breaking and myriad references to other movies. (Someone should count them.) (Should? Some nerds probably have counted them.)

Not recommended for the easily offended. Or even the uneasily offended.

URLs du Jour

2018-09-11

[Amazon Link]

[A belated entry. I swear I had an article queued up for this date, but it didn't get posted. A sketchy reconstruction, almost certainly incomplete, from my memory and browser history follows.]

  • Jonah Goldberg's G-file from last week was apparently addressed to Senate Judiciary Committee members: None of You Idiots Is Spartacus

    For those of you who don’t know, Cory Booker heroically® (according to his P.R. operation) defied Senate rules and risked expulsion from that chamber in order to release confidential documents that the American people desperately needed to see. The people needed to understand what the dangerous bigot whom Trump nominated to the Court had written in an email about racial profiling while working in the Bush White House after 9/11.

    There were only a couple of problems: The email in question was already cleared for public release (and Booker knew it), and the substance of the email revealed that the Monster Kavanaugh opposed racial profiling. It was as if Cory Booker — once a famous, if choreographed, good Samaritan — saw a mugging, leapt out of his car, tire-iron in hand, to save the day only to stop 20 feet from the assailant in front of some TV cameras, and proceed to smash the makeshift weapon into his own crotch. “I am Spartacus! Ow! I am Spartacus — Ooof!”

    Our Amazon Product du Jour is … self-explanatory.


  • If you can read this, thank a teacher. Or your parents. Or your own good sense at an early age in realizing that literacy was a good skill to acquire.

    But, as Reason's Ronald Bailey suggests, If You Hate Ice Ages, Thank a Farmer.

    University of Virginia climatologist William Ruddiman has spent a good bit of his career studying the Pleistocene cycle of ice ages that began about 2.6 million years ago. Periods of large-scale glaciation and deglaciation are governed by the Milankovitch cycle, in which shifts of the Earth's orbit and its inclination toward the sun change how much sunlight reaches the northern hemipsphere to warm the surface. Based on solely these orbital cycles, global average temperatures of our current interglacial period—the Holcene—should be dropping, with the result that glaciers should now be growing in northern Canada and Siberia. That is not happening. Why?

    Puzzled by these anomalies, Ruddiman hypothesized nearly two decades ago that an increase in greenhouse gases that began about 8,000 years ago was keeping the onset of a new ice age at bay. Specifically, he noted that the atmospheric concentrations of the two chief greenhouse gases carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) were not following the downward trends observed at similar stages in previous interglacial periods. Fuddiman noted that the ice core data showed no case during past ice ages in which carbon dioxide concentrations rose after peaking at the point of maximum deglaciation.

    Yup, not enough greenhouse gas can also be hazardous to your imaginary ideal climate. I'm sure the eco-warriors have taken that into account, right? Because they f'ing love science?


  • I missed this Michael Ramirez cartoon when it came out in April, but it's still appplicable:

    Kamikaze Trump tariff targets

    As always, click through for a big uncropped version.


Last Modified 2018-09-16 6:00 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2018-09-10

[Amazon Link]

  • Kevin D. Williamson writes on the alleged white power hand signal: Not Okay

    […] urban legends can be bad business: In Umberto Eco’s wonderful novel Foucault’s Pendulum, three forlorn editors at a vanity press decide, after suffering through one too many cracked manuscripts claiming to expose occult conspiracy theories, to invent a ridiculous conspiracy theory of their own — and, in the process, they accidentally bring that conspiracy into existence. Something similar (if just about inverted) happened in the real world during a U.S. Navy investigation of gay sailors, back when the Navy was obliged to pretend there were no homosexuals in its ranks. For years, gay men had referred to themselves as “friends of Dorothy,” a discrete way of communicating their sexual tastes. The naval investigators kept hearing that term and concluded that there was somewhere in the world a woman called “Dorothy” who was somehow at the center of a vast network of gay sailors. This was life before Wikipedia.

    A bunch of 4chan idjits pulled a related prank by inventing a rumor that the familiar “okay” gesture — thumb and forefinger forming a circle, the other three fingers extended, suggesting the letters o and k — had been adopted as a white-power signifier, with the three fingers forming a w and the thumb and forefinger suggesting the top part of a p. They made graphics and everything — people are suckers for a neatly presented visual aid. A few media outlets fell for the prank, which, of course, will never die, even though the white-power significance of the okay gesture has been exposed as a witless media confabulation born of a prank. During the Senate confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh, one of his law clerks was accused of making a furtive white-power gesture: “Did Zina Bash Flash a White Supremacist Sign During Kavanaugh Hearing?” Newsweek asked. The usual doofi on social media did the usual thing. Bash is an unlikely white-power thug: She is Mexican on her mother’s side and a descendent of Holocaust survivors on her father’s.

    This even sucked in some reasonable people, like Patterico (who honestly owned up to being gulled). But, as Kevin notes, it's a close race between the alt-right and the MSM in the "Complete Bunch of Twits" competition.

    Today's Amazon Product du Jour is for anyone who wants to avoid doing the wrong thing with their hands. This is why I always keep my hands in my pockets.


  • At Reason, Steve Chapman recounts: Trump Confronts the Enemy Within.

    Deep in the White House, someone is acting to subvert Donald Trump's policies, thwart his desires, and generally sabotage his presidency. No, not the anonymous "senior official" who wrote an op-ed for The New York Times. The name of the person making a relentless effort to keep the president from achieving his goals is well-known: Donald Trump.

    Other presidents have occasionally shot themselves in the foot. Trump's lower limbs are riddled with new bullet holes every day. He campaigned as though he didn't want to win, and he governs—"governs," rather—as though he doesn't want a second term, or maybe even a full first term.

    It would be only a mild surprise to learn that he has been a Democratic mole, scheming incessantly to covertly discredit the Republican Party by making it complicit in his ineptitude and sleaze.

    It would have been so easy for Trump to dial down the loose-cannon crazy once in office. But… you know, character.


  • I was super intrigued by this NYT Tweet:

    If you're like me, your first reaction is: "It doesn't matter."

    But: it's the "we must unlearn" one, from a page called "Mindful Being". The NYT explains, ludicrously how Facebook saved us all from being fooled by deceptive claptrap, but left the earnest claptrap unmolested:

    The Mindful Being page existed for only two months before Facebook removed it, The page mainly focused on innocuous topics like health and well-being, though some of its posts challenged the media and the pharmaceutical industry, suggesting it was laying the groundwork to tread into more controversial content.

    Yeah, fine.

    To use the language of kids today: if you're goaded into foolish thoughts by Facebook pages, that's on you. It doesn't matter who paid to put the pixels up there.


  • When I went to Omaha's Lewis and Clark Junior High School in the 60s, I was first made aware of Rosh Hashanah when I noticed that 75% of my classmates were absent.

    I don't know if Ben Shapiro is skipping school or not, but he has a worthwhile list for the upcoming year: Where I Can Do Better in 5779. Among his resolutions:

    I Have Used Solutions-Talk When Sympathy-Talk Is Demanded. Early on in my marriage, I discovered that a particular type of spousal conversation invariably ended poorly: a conversation in which my wife told me about her problems and I tried to solve them. It turns out that what she really wanted was a sympathetic ear, somebody to simply listen, rather than jumping to solving the problem. Politics, in my view, is all about problem-solving — after all, my slogan is “facts don’t care about your feelings.”

    But the reality is that in the political domain, very often we just want to be heard. Much of President Donald Trump’s support is based on the feeling among his supporters that he hears their concerns, where the cultural left dismisses them; the same is true for many on the left, who feel that conservatives dismiss their worries. While I’m generally annoyed by sympathy-talk in politics, that doesn’t alleviate the necessity to at least engage sympathetically before turning the conversation toward solutions.

    I'm not sure if that insight will help my blogging, but (assuming I remember it) it will definitely help my marriage. ("About time!" — Mrs. Salad.)

A Quiet Place

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

Heard good things about this, and they were all true. It would have been kind of neat to come into the movie knowing nothing about the plot, but (alas) in our world, that is not an option.

In fact, if you haven't seen the movie, and you don't know anything about it, I recommend you stop reading right now. As Will Ferrell parodying James Lipton would say: "Go to a place where movies are rented, sold, or seen and rent, buy or see this movie. It is delightful"

Still here? Well, the Abbott family (John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, some kid actors) is trying to survive an alien invasion; they are apparently the last remnants of humanity. The aliens are blind, but hypersensitive to sound, which means the Abbotts have to be, as Elmer Fudd would say, vewy, vewy, quiet.

They don't always succeed at that. And an early scene details the tragic consequences, and causes everyone to not only be scared, but also guilt-ridden for the rest of the movie.

Acting is first-rate, the filmmakers know how to put the scares in. Ending (however) is non-credible, once you think about it for a few seconds. Mouseover if you're inclined: [Mom and daughter invent an impromptu, but effective, anti-alien sonic weapon! Are you telling me nobody else in the entire world thought of that?].


Last Modified 2018-10-05 1:38 PM EST

URLs du Jour

2018-09-09

[Amazon Link]

  • Being old and unhip, I am only just now starting to listen to podcasts. One of my weeklies is Russ Roberts' EconTalk, which I highly recommend if you have the time and inclination. Russ comes at things from a libertarian perspective, but has an open mind, and treats his guests (and hence his listeners) with respect.

    Anyway, one of his recent episodes was with Yoram Hazony discussing his recent book, The Virtue of Nationalism (today's Amazon Product du Jour). Interesting take, and I've stuck it on my Library-get list.

    If you'd like a taste, here's an article from Prof Harzony at National Review: Liberalism as Imperialism.

    My liberal friends and colleagues do not seem to understand that the advancing liberal construction is a form of imperialism. But to anyone already immersed in the new order, the resemblance is easy to see. Much like the pharaohs and the Babylonian kings, the Roman emperors and the Roman Catholic Church until well into the modern period, as well as the Marxists of the last century, liberals, too, have their grand theory about how they are going to bring peace and economic prosperity to the world by pulling down all the borders and uniting mankind under their own universal rule. Infatuated with the clarity and intellectual rigor of this vision, they disdain the laborious process of consulting with the multitude of nations they believe should embrace their view of what is right. And like other imperialists, they are quick to express disgust, contempt, and anger when their vision of peace and prosperity meets with opposition from those who they are sure would benefit immensely by simply submitting.

    I remember one of my unexpected takeaways from Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of our Nature was that the development of the modern "leviathan" nation-state moderated tribal violence to a fraction of the historical rate. (Yes, even counting the blood-soaked 20th century.) Will subsuming nation-states into sovereignty-eroding "unions" undo that? It will probably be a few months before I read Harzony, but I'll let you know what he says about that.


  • Richard A. Epstein writes on The Intellectual Poverty Of The New Socialists.

    Changes in the language of self-identification give us enormous information about changes in political thought. Consider how the American left labels itself today compared to fifty years ago. Back then, American liberalism stood for the dominance of a mixed economy in which market institutions provided growth: deregulation of the airlines in the 1970s, for example, was no sin. At the same time, the liberal vision promoted political institutions that provided a safety net for Americans in the form of social security, unemployment insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid. The term “progressive” came to the fore recently with the rise of Barack Obama, signaling a rising dissatisfaction with the status quo ante because of the liberal mainstream’s inability to reduce inequalities of wealth and income while empowering marginalized groups like women and minorities. Yet somehow the sought-after progressive utopia never quite emerged in the Obama years. Slow economic growth and rising inequality were combined with tense race relations, exemplified by the high profile 2009 arrest of Henry Louis Gates, and the fatal shootings of Trayvon Martin in 2012, and Michael Brown in 2014.

    These events have put establishment Democrats like Bill and Hillary Clinton on the defensive. Spurred on by that old socialist warhorse, Senator Bernie Sanders, young socialists Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, both rising political stars likely to join Congress next year. These new wave socialists will push the Democratic party further to the left with their constant calls for free and universal healthcare, free college tuition, and guaranteed jobs for all Americans—all paid for in ways yet to be determined.

    Epstein's bottom line: Whether you call it "old" or "new", socialism has no chance at success at "curing" the perceived "failures" of free markets. "You may as well try to cure diabetes by administering extra-large doses of government-subsidized sugar."


  • At Cato, Michael Tanner urges us to Beware the Politics of Fear.

    The poets may say that love is the great motivator, but politicians know it is fear that turns out the vote.

    With the post-Labor Day start of the campaign season upon us, we can look forward to two months of hearing about all the horrors awaiting us if the other guy is elected. Most of this is just standard negative campaigning. Though “my opponent’s economic plan will turn this country into a barren wasteland” may be hyperbolic, it’s largely unobjectionable — and if you are running against someone like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, it could even be true.

    But sometimes negative campaigning can cross a line into something more insidious, something that plays on atavistic emotions and tears at our social fabric. That type of fearmongering needs to be guarded against.

    No, my fellow right-wingers: as horrific as crime and terrorism are, the stats say it's pretty unlikely you'll be a victim. Let alone crime/terrorism perpetrated by illegal immigrants.

    (That's not to say that there aren't good arguments against open borders. Just stop trying to scare us.)

    And: no, left wingers: we're not all going to be killed by assault weapons, health care costs, lack of ISP regulation, or Justice Kavanaugh.

    Thank goodness for the commercial-skip feature on TiVo. I'll be wearing out that button in the next couple months.


  • Speaking of Justice Kavanaugh, Jacob Sullum noted an interesting thing in the confirmation hearings: Dianne Feinstein Wants Brett Kavanaugh to 'Reconcile' His Second Amendment Reasoning With 'Hundreds of School Shootings' That Never Happened.

    Yesterday Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who wrote the federal "assault weapon" ban that expired in 2004 and in recent years has been pushing a new, broader version of that law, asked Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to explain why he concluded that such legislation is unconstitutional. After Kavanaugh recapped his reasoning (more on that in a minute), Feinstein replied, "How do you reconcile what you've just said with the hundreds of school shootings using assault weapons that have taken place in recent history?"

    Feinstein's response was striking for two reasons. First, there have been nothing like "hundreds of school shootings using assault weapons," whether you look at "recent history" or go back half a century. Second, the shootings are irrelevant to the question of whether banning so-called assault weapons is consistent with the Second Amendment.

    I'm old enough to remember when the Left preened itself as the Reality-based community. Good times.


  • And finally, colorful commentary on the Kavanaugh hearings Michael Ramirez:

    Senate Confirmation Tantrum

    Standard Ramirez note: click through for an uncropped full-size version. You won't be sorry.

URLs du Jour

2018-09-08

[Amazon Link]

  • At the invitation of Senator Rand Paul, I went to the Andy Sanborn rally at SNHU in Hookset yesterday. Got to shake the hands of both. If you have a burning need to see the back of my balding head, it's in the first few seconds of the video accompanying the WMUR story (second row, light blue shirt).

    Yeah, looks like Sanborn has my vote on Tuesday.


  • At Quillette, Theodore P. Hill writes: Academic Activists Send a Published Paper Down the Memory Hole.

    In the highly controversial area of human intelligence, the ‘Greater Male Variability Hypothesis’ (GMVH) asserts that there are more idiots and more geniuses among men than among women. Darwin’s research on evolution in the nineteenth century found that, although there are many exceptions for specific traits and species, there is generally more variability in males than in females of the same species throughout the animal kingdom.

    Evidence for this hypothesis is fairly robust and has been reported in species ranging from adders and sockeye salmon to wasps and orangutans, as well as humans. Multiple studies have found that boys and men are over-represented at both the high and low ends of the distributions in categories ranging from birth weight and brain structures and 60-meter dash times to reading and mathematics test scores. There are significantly more men than women, for example, among Nobel laureates, music composers, and chess champions—and also among homeless people, suicide victims, and federal prison inmates.

    Which is all well and good until you actually write a paper on the topic, have it accepted at a journal, and word gets out to the local chapter of People Who Have Nothing Better To Do. You'll never believe won't be surprised at what happens next. RTWT for the sorry story (and, for the math-inclined, a link to the paper People don't want you to read).

    Today's Amazon Product du Jour is "Memory Hole (Jamatar Remix)" by Ubiq. The sample provided at Amazon is catchy!


  • Justified was chock full of great acting, accompanying interesting stories (disclaimer: Season Five, not so much) and inventive action. Nick Searcy was outstanding as Chief Deputy Art Mullen. He's at National Review writing about his new movie: Why I Directed Gosnell.

    Fear is now killing the movie business. This fear of allowing certain viewpoints to be presented is producing predictable, boring films with no danger in them, no truth, no tension, and no drama, and it is driving people away in droves. And that is partly why I chose to direct Gosnell. As we learned in grade school, we have to stop being afraid of bullies.

    This film had to go around Hollywood to make its way to the audience. That is a long and difficult road right now — but the trail has been blazed. Movies such as the recent hit I Can Only Imagine have forged it, and found their audiences. While it might just be a rocky wagon trail now, I can see a day when it is a mighty freeway, bringing films with all viewpoints to the audiences who want to see them.

    You don't expect actors to be good writers, but there you go. (And since I follow Mr. Searcy on Twitter, I expected more hilarious insults. But there you go.)


  • I shared this Reason link with Mrs. Salad (Registered Dietitian, Nutrition Prof Emeritus): Most Nutrition Research Is Bunk. I'm still typing, so far so good. But if this is my last blog post, you'll know what happened.

    Government nutrition advice based on decades of "research" by nutrition epidemiologists has now been shown to be mostly unwarranted scaremongering, writes Stanford University statistician John P.A. Ioannidis, who has been at the forefront of criticizing the misuse and abuse of statistics to justify the publication of shoddy and just plain wrong research in numerous disciplines.

    In his justly famous 2005 PLoS Medicine article, "Why Most Published Research Findings Are False," Ioannidis concluded that "for many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias." As the co-director of the Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford (METRICS) Ioannidis has turned his attention to what passes for nutrition science in a recent analysis, "The Challenge of Reforming Nutritional Epidemiologic Research," in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

    I only believe the studies that tell me to (a) eat what I like and (b) drink too much wine.


  • At Law and Liberty, Benjamin A. Kleinerman writes about Trump and the Norm of Presidential Dignity. He rebuts a op-ed defense of Trump's "norm breaking" by Charles R. Kesler of the Claremont Institute.

    What is striking over the course of American history is how consistent this norm of presidential dignity and unification remained despite other dramatic transformations of the office. Even as the President became more “rhetorical” in the wake of Woodrow Wilson and ever more partisan as the political primary process pushed Presidents in the direction of their more extreme electoral bases, they still aimed at unity and carried themselves with dignity once in office. Although they might, at times, become more aggressively partisan or less aware of the constitutional norms, both the political culture and their own understanding of the office pulled them back from the brink. As Washington hoped, the norms of the office shaped the behavior of its occupants. Without those norms, the national government seems to lose much of its dignity and unity, and, without these, it loses its strength.

    This captain-of-the-ship norm is the one Trump should not be breaking. We as a people almost instinctively, as though it’s part of our constitutional genome, know that. The positive reactions to his first State of the Union address, which was tempered and gracious, indicate how much we want him to act better. We want him to represent all of us at our best. Even those who hate him, I suspect, would prefer it if he just carried himself with more dignity. Many might have supposed he would act on the lesson that was there to be learned from that first State of the Union address: he would enjoy much more political authority if he leveraged the distinctly presidential authority of the office.

    We can only hope things snap back to normal, dignity-wise, after Trump is outta here.


  • Newsbusters reports a big surprise: NBC Discovers Midterm Voters Don’t Care About Trump Tweets, Russia. It's a surprise, that is, to NBC. Not so much to normal people.

    Earlier on Wednesday’s Today show, even Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd admitted that a new tell-all book from Bob Woodward about the Trump White House probably wouldn’t resonate with anyone outside of political and media circles: “Look, I don’t know if outside of Washington this is anything more than, ‘Oh, yeah, it’s just another crazy story involving the Trump White House.’ I don’t know if it penetrates that much outside of our bubbles.”

    It’s nice to see that NBC journalists are at least aware that they live in a bubble. If only the network’s political coverage would actually reflect that self awareness.

    Two things I'm not holding my breath to see: (1) Trump becoming a dignified President; (2) the MSM getting over its anti-Trump obsessions.

URLs du Jour

2018-09-07

[Amazon Link]

  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson asks if we can't just all get along, at least as far as A Golf Truce?

    But presidents are never really off-duty, and though there is much I dislike about our increasingly imperial presidency, I cannot begrudge the holders of that office a little recreation, or a lot. For some people, a little diversion clears the head. Some of the least competent people I ever have worked with were workaholics, single-track mediocrities with no other interests in life. Eisenhower played a lot of golf, and the nation rarely has been bettered [sic] served by its chief executive.

    Also: In the same way that presidents are never really off-duty, many of the people around them are never really off-duty, either. For that reason, the dumb little games partisans play about presidential travel habits are, like criticizing their golf playing, silly and dishonest. “It cost us X million dollars for the president to take that trip!” Every damned week in the Obama years, and much the same in the Trump years. You think those people who are guarding, assisting, doctoring, and advising the president are all off the clock when he’s at the White House? Maintenance and upkeep on Air Force One is what it is — it’s not like they just mothball the thing when it’s not in use. Yes, it costs us a gazillion dollars a day when the president is abroad; it costs us a gazillion dollars a day to maintain the royal presidential household in Washington, too. Apparently, we have grown to like the pomp and circumstance. And so have the people in Washington.

    Good points. To take the extremely cheap shot: people should be thankful that Trump is on vacay or on the links, because that decreases the probability that he's doing something worse.

    With respect to "dumb little games", today's Amazon Product du Jour is one of the dumbest. From the same folks who make "Monopoly".


  • Veronique de Rugy asks, at Reason, Will the Export-Import Bank Rise Again? Geez, I hope not. Interesting fact, though:

    Stopping Ex-Im from making deals above $10 million—due to the lack of quorum—has had the effect of shifting some of the bank's activities toward small businesses. From 2015 through 2017, the portion of the bank's support directed to small businesses increased to 38 percent; the portion directed to minority-owned businesses increased to 6 percent; and the women-owned businesses' share grew to 3 percent. For the first time ever, the small-business allocations of funds are now bigger than Boeing's, which currently benefits from 25 percent as opposed to 40 percent of the bank's handouts. Incidentally, Boeing has still managed to prosper during the last few years despite this cut to its government largesse.

    You'd think Democrats would be delighted about the new small-business focus for the agency, but you'd be wrong. Some are expanding a great amount of energy lobbying for the restoration of GE's and Boeing's perks. Yet to do that, they need more than Reed's confirmation as bank president; they need the confirmation of other members to the board of directors.

    It's a weird time when Bernie Sanders, of all people, is making the most sense about Ex-Im among the Democrats.


  • Bryan Caplan is a master of contrarian wisdom. He notes, at EconLog, that we live in A World of Ingratitude.

    When I started working at George Mason University, Google, Facebook, and Twitter did not exist. Amazon was around, but I’d yet to purchase anything from them. The big news in the book industry was the sudden rise of Borders and Barnes & Noble superstores; if you’d claimed that Amazon was a viable competing book outlet, most people would have just furrowed their brows at your naivete.

    Now the IT giants are household names.  They haven’t just transformed their own industries; they’ve transformed life itself.  When I crave knowledge, I Google.  When I seek consumer products, I Amazon.  When I socialize, I Facebook.  When I market my ideas, I Twitter.  Hundreds of millions of customers around the world can say the same. If you’d described my future back in 1993, I would have laughed at your optimism… and I’m a confirmed optimist!

    Mrs. Salad and I are old enough to just occasionally not take these things for granted. She recently mused about how much easier her doctoral research would be today: word processing instead of typewriters; Google instead of trips to libraries in Boston, Bethesda, and Beltsville.


  • Yes, Google's free and invaluable. And, of course:

    Yeah, there's that.

The Sixth Idea

[Amazon Link]

I continue (on my dear sister's recommendation) in my consumption of the "Monkeewrench" series. The "P. J. Tracy" name stands for a mother/daughter writing team; unfortunately the mom passed away back in 2016, but (apparently) the series will continue with the daughter writing solo.

Although the series is called "Monkeewrench" after the software/hacking company that played a major role in the first book, the fine detectives of the Minneapolis Police Department, Magozzi and Rolseth have really taken over the spotlight in the later books. Monkeewrench's main purpose here is to provide a love interest for Magozzi (Grace) and technological dei ex machina as necessary to move the plot along.

Ah, the plot. It revolves around a decades-old evil US government organization, its origins in the development of the H-bomb, devoted to keeping the lid on a majorly innovative secret weapon: a method to generate destructive electromagnetic pulses at will, knocking out an enemy's electrical infrastructure. And "keeping the lid on" involves murdering anyone who just might be on the verge of blabbing, or finding out, about this. Rough stuff!

This isn't really a spoiler; you get the gist of if in the first few dozen pages.

Unfortunately, the book is below average for the series. It seems heavily padded out to the (no doubt contractually obligated) 350 pages. The plot mover isn't particularly credible, sorry. I have negligible warm feelings toward Our Federal Government, but I'm pretty sure they're not capable of orchestrating this combination of evil ruthlessness and secrecy.

But (anyway) Evilorg.gov makes the fatal mistake of carrying out some homicides in Minneapolis, drawing the attention of our heroes. Dumb move on their part.

The authors seem to think our current nuclear arsenal doesn't contain H-bombs, by the way. Somebody should have checked that for them.

URLs du Jour

2018-09-06

[Amazon Link]

  • At National Review, David French says something kind of profound in his article The Ideological Blindness at the Heart of Media Bias.

    It is consistently interesting to me that mainstream media outlets have somehow convinced themselves of two contradictory things at once: 1) They cannot fairly cover America without a newsroom that more or less looks like America, but 2) they can cover American without a newsroom that thinks like America.

    This simple insight would be a pretty good comeback to those who worship at the altar of type-1 "diversity".


  • At the Volokh Conspiracy, David Bernstein has an explanation as to Why the American Establishment Has Lost Credibility.

    Why? Well consider how the establishment would react if George W. Bush were seated two seats down from David Duke at Willie Nelson's funeral, with Duke given a place of honor. Now consider that Bill Clinton sat two seats away from an equally odious hatemonger, Louis Farrakhan, at Aretha Franklin's funeral. Some Jewish groups expressed dismay, but Clinton acted as if nothing was amiss, as did the rest of the establishment. Former attorney general Eric Holder took a picture next to Farrakhan, and it sure looks posed. But wait, you will say, Farrakhan is black, and because of historical differences in power, black racism and anti-Semitism simply isn't as problematic as white racism as anti-Semitism. That's a fine argument to have in university seminar room. What your average person sees, however, is hypocrisy and double standards. So when the establishment says, "reject Trump, he associates with some dubious characters with dubious connections on the 'alt-right," the establishment makes a fair, if sometimes exaggerated, point. But to the average Trump fan, it sure looks like the establishment is much more concerned with bigotry when it can be connect to conservatives and Trump than when it involves figures who are aligned with left-wing Democratic constituencies.

    Other examples follow. David's bottom line:

    I should emphasize that I agree that Trump has at times promoted bigotry, is a congenital liar, and engages in demeaning and belittling behavior toward his political opponents. Indeed, I think these things are obvious. But much of the country isn't listening when the traditional gatekeepers point this out, and that is, at least in part, the gatekeepers' own fault.

    Too true.


  • James Lileks writes a lot, all of it good, but yesterday's Bleat had something both amusing and insightful, in rebuttal to an article that referred to "undocumented (unprotected) immigrants".

    The term “undocumented” is preferred to illegal, since the latter connotes a stigma, and the former makes it sound as if people who crossed the border without going through the usual channels have every right to be here, but lack the paperwork to prove it. Just as someone who broke into your house would be “unkeyed.”

    Read on for James's reaction to the "unprotected" bit, something (probably) about to become the standard terminology among the herd of independent Progressive minds.


  • This being Pun Salad, we are forced to link to Ephrat Livni's interview with pun-defending James Geary at Quartz: The case for puns as the most elevated display of wit.

    “Despite its bad reputation, punning is, in fact, among the highest displays of wit. Indeed, puns point to the essence of all true wit—the ability to hold in the mind two different ideas about the same thing at the same time,” Geary writes. “And the pun’s primacy is demonstrated by its strategic use in the oldest sacred stories, texts, and myths.”

    Geary claims the Bible contains punning, but no examples are given in the article. I would foresee some translation-based difficulties; funny in Hebrew or Greek, but, sorry, not in English. So my favorite remains:

    Q: What car make did the Apostles drive?

    A: Honda. Because they were all with one Accord.

    There you go.


  • Good news, we have a list of Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest Latest Winners. The "Vile Pun" category winner:

    As Sheriff (and choral conductor) Patrick “Pitch-Perfect” McHenry assessed his perfectly mediocre chorus upon the saloon stage (sopranos that could only sing melody, serviceable altos, screechy tenors, and basses dropping the pitch by more than a quarter step), a wrinkled scowl protruded from under his pristine Stetson and he growled, “I don’t like your tone” at his “okay” chorale.

    We'll be here all week.

URLs du Jour

2018-09-05

[Amazon Link]

  • Does the Internet need a Fairness Doctrine? Boy, to those of us who know what the (thankfully) historical Fairness Doctrine was, the question answers itself. But to you young 'uns out there, peruse Eric Peterson at National Review: The Internet Doesn’t Need a Fairness Doctrine.

    The Fairness Doctrine was first introduced by the Federal Communications Commission in 1949. It required broadcasters “to afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views on issues of public importance.” In other words, if a radio station aired a conservative view, it would have to provide equal time for an opposing liberal view.

    This regulation started as an attempt to make sure both sides of a debate were heard on government-controlled airwaves. But soon after its passage, it became a tool to silence critics and political opponents.

    Presidential administrations from Kennedy to Nixon used the Fairness Doctrine to maximum effect. The administration could use the doctrine to demand equal air time any time one of the president’s policies was criticized. This not only allowed the president nearly endless opportunities to express his viewpoint, but took time away from his opposition. Eventually, wary of the burdensome government demands, many stations simply stopped airing political commentary altogether.

    'Twas George Santayana who said "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Alas, sometimes (as this Big Think article points out): those who do remember the past often repeat it too.


  • I watched the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing circus for a few minutes yesterday, but … come on, life's too short as it is. Reason's Eric Boehm was (probably) paid to do it, and he came away with something of value: Ben Sasse Explains Why the Politicization of the Supreme Court Is a Dangerous Thing.

    After a few minutes of summarizing his views about Kavanaugh—no surprise here, Sasse seems pretty supportive of Kavanaugh's nomination—the senator winds up by asking, rhetorically, why and how choosing a new member of the Supreme Court became such a complete shitshow (my word, not his). The blame, as Sasse explains in his brutally honest stemwinder, does not lie with Kavanaugh or even the unorthodox occupant of the White House.

    "The hysteria around Supreme Court confirmation hearings is coming from the fact that we have a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of the Supreme Court in American life now," says Sasse. "Our political commentary talks about the Supreme Court like they are people wearing red and blue jerseys. That's a really dangerous thing."

    Eric recommends you watch Sasse's entire segment. For your convenience:

    It opens with the senator actually being nice, joking with a Democrat colleague. Rare, and because it's rare, a poignant reminder of what we're missing.


  • At Cafe Hayek, Don Boudreaux is Just Asking. And he's asking a question that he grants is unoriginal, but "warrants repetition". Progressives are fearful that having Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court will enable majorities to whittle away rights (abortion, gay marriage, …) that past Supreme Courts have granted.

    Yet oddly, among all of today’s ideological groups, the one that clamors most loudly and stubbornly for far greater reliance on majoritarian democracy is that of progressives. Progressives trust unrestrained majorities with the power to redistribute income, to mandate paid leave and otherwise to regulate private enterprise in ever-greater detail, and to run K-12 schooling better than profit-seeking businesses and private non-profits would do.

    Why should the same voters who are so parochial and ignorant that they can’t be trusted with the power to collectively govern abortion, school prayer, marriage policy, and other non-economic matters be trusted with even more power than they already possess to collectively govern the distribution of income, the manner in which people trade, the wages that employers pay, and other economic matters?

    Yeah, let's throw gun policy in there too.


  • Glenn Reynolds writes in USA Today: Sen. John McCain's funeral put Washington's vicious political hypocrisy fully on display

    Hypocrisy, they say, is the tribute that vice pays to virtue. If so, then much tribute was paid this weekend.

    I am speaking, of course, of the funeral for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and the concomitant speechifying by politicians and pundits.  And I wasn’t the only one to notice.  As Tim Alberta wrote in Politico: “There are, after all, disparate realities — one inside the holy halls of the National Cathedral, where powerful people mourn the death of civility; and another in the surrounding city, where many of those same powerful people drive nails ever deeper into its coffin. And there is a greater juxtaposition still — this one between the virtue-signaling, convention-worshipping insiders of Washington and the mad-as-hell, burn-it-down voters in the provinces. This might not be Donald Trump’s town, but it’s still his country.”

    When he's right, he's right.


  • The Babylon Bee hits uncomfortably close to home. By which I mean, my home: Man Who Exclusively Buys $13 Velcro Shoes From Walmart Threatens Nike Boycott.

    Local man Peter Willis, who exclusively purchases and wears $13 Velcro-fastened shoes from his local Walmart, recently threatened to boycott Nike over its recent ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick.

    Willis threatened Nike with a boycott, though he never buys Nike products in the first place.

    “I won’t be buying any Nike footwear ever again,” said the man who buys the same pair of $13 Velcro walking shoes from Walmart each and every year. “And if I ever do, by chance, I’ll rip it up and burn it immediately. I’m not joking—I’ll do it! This isn’t in any way an empty threat, Nike!”

    Yeah! Take that, Nike!


  • And a relevant Tweet du Jour:

    There are some great Nike parodies out there. This is just the first one I grabbed.

URLs du Jour

2018-09-04

[Amazon Link]

  • I am still a registered Republican, even though that's pretty nominal these days. I just like voting in primaries. This year, the major GOP candidates vying to run for the US Congressional seat currently held by Toothache Carol Shea-Porter are Eddie Edwards and Andy Sanborn. So in another week, I'll have to decide between those guys, I guess.

    For political wisdom, I usually turn to GraniteGrok. But they have decided to not endorse either candidate in the race, calling the race a "dumpster fire".

    But they have a purity test, and Eddie Edwards flunked it. Grokster Skip writes: “I fully support the Second Amendment!” – no you don’t, Mr. Edwards (Republican candidate for NH CD-1).

    [Edwards] made it clear that he was against allowing teachers and staff being armed, that we had law enforcement to respond to such an active shooter situation and that teachers should not have guns in schools.

    Loyal Readers know that during an interview where there seems to be some sliding, prevarication and deflection, I always return to one of my favorite phrases: “You didn’t answer the question“.  I had to continually follow up on this and so did Grokster Mike who, if anything, is more militant than I on this subject of “shall not be infringed” (again, I believe the NH Constitution’s Article 2A states the case FAR better than the US Constitution’s Second Amendment).  In this, in his own words and reasoning, he would withdraw that Right simply because one is a government worker in that situation even as it is clear that most mass shootings have taken place in gun free zones which most schools are.

    Sanborn has (unlike Edwards) a legislative record which looks pretty good. For example, a 100% score on 2018 Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire Legislative Scorecard. Downside: he keeps getting nagged for allegations of inappropriate comments of allegedly sexual nature.

    So I dunno. Upside: it's not as if I'm going to cast the deciding vote.


  • National Review's Kyle Smith reviews a hagiographic documentary airing on CNN. And it's amusing: RBG’s RBG Is a Rebuke to Today’s Left

    The person who popularized the handle “Notorious RBG,” a young lawyer named Shana Knizhnik who runs a Tumblr site of that title, says that Ruth Bader Ginsburg “embodies the larger-than-life nature of the ‘notorious’ title more and more as she gets older.”

    No. No she does not. Ginsburg is a recessive, stiff, mild-mannered, halting, tight-lipped, mumbly, hunched, personality-challenged law-elf. It would be hard to think of a major public figure to whom the term “larger than life” is less applicable. She is smaller than life, and smaller than her improbable legend, which (the left seems to have forgotten) began as a running joke predicated on the absurdity of treating this graceful little lady in a lace collar as the Supreme Court’s O.G.

    Yes, she's "one of many progressive justices who predictably ignore the voters, the law and the Constitution to implement from the bench whatever progressive policy they prefer." But she was great friends with Nino Scalia, and that's out of step with the lefties who can't seem to avoid dragging politics into their personal relationships.


  • Jack VanNoord at the Chicago Tribune has a funny yarn: My nephew tried to school me on cultural appropriation. It didn't end well.

    They got him. Just as I feared they would.

    My nephew Kyle came to live with us this summer after his freshman year of college. Apparently he’s now a deputized member of the cultural-appropriation police.

    He hadn’t even unpacked his massive bag of dirty laundry when he made a snide comment about the three straw hats hanging in our hallway collected during our years living in Southeast Asia.

    The next day when Kyle and I were backing out of the driveway and I called out “Adios” to my neighbor, Kyle mumbled, “Appropriate much?”

    But then the following Saturday, I overheard Kyle ask my wife if we had any sunscreen he could borrow. “Brenna and I are going kayaking.”

    I poked my head around the corner. “Mmm. Kayaks. You mean that watercraft appropriated from the Inuit people of the Arctic region?”

    As you might guess, this is a game Kyle will not win against his Uncle Jack.


  • Colin Kaepernick (I assume you know the backstory) got a sweet Nike gig, exemplified with:

    David French has a pretty good response:

    I've never bought absurdly overpriced Nikes in my life, and, sorry Colin, that will continue unchanged.

    And football… haven't decided yet. I probably spend way too much time watching the Red Sox, do I want to add three hours/week watching the Patriots?

Podkayne of Mars

[Amazon Link]

Another book down on the Heinlein reading project, and (whoa) 32 to go. Podkayne of Mars came out in 1963, after Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land, and it's another indication of how easily Heinlein could shift tone and topic even within the SF genre.

The first-person (usual) narrator, Podkayne, is neither a tough-as-nails space marine, nor an orphaned Terran raised by Martians. Poddy is an eight-year-old human girl, born and raised by humans on Mars.

Sorry, that's eight Martian years. As she takes pains to point out, you multiply by 1.8808 to get Earth years. By dubious political/legal maneuverings, she and her younger genius/sociopath brother Clark wangle a grand tour of the inhabited planets aboard the luxury spaceliner Tricorn, escorted by Great-uncle Tom.

Well, they get as far as Venus.

I found it pretty enjoyable, and if you're gonna gripe about Mr. Heinlein writing in the voice of a very precocious teenage girl… well, how would you know about how such a girl, raised on a future Mars, might think, act, and say? Hmph.

It's all fun and games until… whoa… about three-quarters of the way through the book, where the dangerous hints previously sprinkled throughout come to a head. The true point of Uncle Tom's journey to Earth is revealed, as are the murderous lengths to which his political opponents will go to thwart him.

Consumer note: I got the "original" version of the book in paperback (retail $0.95, but I got used, marked down to $0.50). Since then, Heinlein's original ending to the book has come to light and it's very different. He was pressured to change the ending at the very last minute; just one page, but a 180° shift in tone. I understand current editions have both endings in place. The book's Wikipedia page has the details, but avoid that if you're spoiler-adverse.

URLs du Jour

2018-09-03

[Amazon Link]

Hey hey hey, happy Labor Day to all you Laborers out there.

  • If there are any levelheaded people at the Atlantic reading Kevin D. Williamson's writings at National Review, I'm pretty sure they're shaking those level heads in regret. Kevin's recent article: The Psalmist and the Sex Doll. In which he goes from analyzing Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" to…

    The Marquis de Sade thought that the old order might be overthrown by a great orgy of dissolution and blasphemy, an organized assault on every accepted value until the achievement of a state of absolute freedom. De Sade and those who follow him hated and hate what marriage was, because they hated and hate the order founded on it. (Even now, what is left of it.) But they genuinely appreciated its power, and believed that if it were to go down, it would go down in flames. He would have been disappointed by the smallness and banality of where we ended up, even if it is more perverse (though generally less violent) than his fantasies, which were almost exclusively limited to the traditional, transgressions and violations sufficiently longstanding to have Old Testament injunctions against them. De Sade dreamt up theatrical acts of depravity, while we have only dreamt up new ways to be alone.

    From the psalmist who discerned in the love of husbands and wives an indication of God’s design to the question of which kind of silicone sex dolls might be unallowable in the marketplace — that is the arc of our history, and of our sorrow.

    As always, the implication in "URLs du Jour" is RTWT. But let me add in this case: really.


  • If you've ever wondered toward where America is moving, Joel Kotkin proposes that America is moving toward an oligarchical socialism. (Orange County Register).

    Where do we go after Trump? This question becomes more pertinent as the soap opera administration seeks its own dramatic demise. Yet before they can seize power from the president and his now subservient party, the Democrats need to agree on what will replace Trumpism.

    Conventional wisdom implies an endless battle between pragmatic, corporate Clintonites on one side, and Democratic socialists of the Bernie brand. Yet this conflict could resolve itself in a new, innovative approach that could be best described as oligarchal socialism.

    Oligarchal socialism allows for the current, ever-growing concentration of wealth and power in a few hands — notably tech and financial moguls — while seeking ways to ameliorate the reality of growing poverty, slowing social mobility and indebtedness. This will be achieved not by breaking up or targeting the oligarchs, which they would fight to the bitter end, but through the massive increase in state taxpayer support.

    Kotkin's scenario is, I hate to say, not unlikely…


  • … which, might make this Anarchist/Minarchist Debate at Reason between the wonderful Katherine Mangu-Ward and the equally awesome Nick Gillespie kinda pointless. Katherine:

    I'm an anarchist because government tends toward ineptitude and consent is extremely important. If you describe yourself as a libertarian, you probably agree with both of those propositions.

    The state is bad at doing things. Quite a lot of things, really. That's a claim most libertarians—and an awful lot of non-libertarians—would find uncontroversial. Everyone agrees governments are frequently annoying (see: the DMV) and often deeply unjust and immoral (see: slavery). These conditions occur because governments are composed of fallible human beings, who want to make a buck/gain the respect of their peers/do the right thing/do the easiest thing/get through the day. They persist because government actors ruthlessly stamp out would-be competitors, using violence and threats of violence, a privilege they reserve for themselves alone.

    And Nick:

    To me, the three saddest words in the English language are "taxation is theft."

    Over the past few years, that slogan has become a shorthand way of announcing oneself as an anarcho-capitalist. It's also an excellent means of alienating people who don't already agree with you. In my experience, the same folks also usually declare that the non-aggression principle (NAP), which holds that any nondefensive use of force is morally illegitimate, should be the whole of the law. Those of us who merely believe in limited government, rather than no government—such sketchy characters as Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, and Ludwig von Mises—are deemed "fake" libertarians.

    Me, I find myself agreeing with whichever one wrote last. Both have excellent points.


  • Let us give Katherine, however, the last word via Twitter, because I love this picture:


  • Don Boudreaux offers another rebuttal of Senator E. Warren's dopey proposals on bringing corporations further under the thumb of the state: Sen. Warren’s Tragedy of the Commons

    Alas, despite Sen. Warren’s intentions, passage of her bill – by giving non-owners of capital a legally enforceable say in how capital is used – would dramatically weaken, rather than strengthen, the accountability of corporate decision-makers. Accountability for using property wisely is destroyed by divorcing decision-making authority over that property from the effects that decisions on how to use that property have on its market value. The certain result would be a precipitous fall in the market value of invested capital and a corresponding drying up of investment.

    If you doubt me, ask yourself what would happen to the market value of your home if the state dramatically dilutes the decision-making authority of every homeowner by giving to all residents of each neighborhood a detailed say in how each home in that neighborhood is used. A majority coalition of your neighbors might decide that your garage will from now on be used as a public storage facility – or that your children must now sleep in the same bedroom as you so that the room that was formerly theirs can serve as guest quarters for neighborhood visitors – or that you may not sell your home because your “stakeholding” neighbors fear that they will dislike whoever might buy it from you.

    We already have too much of that sort of thing. Ironically, often in the name of increasing property values.


  • Back in the day, I enjoyed watching The Cosby Show. And I liked actor Geoffrey Owens in the role of Elvin Tibideaux, boyfriend and then husband to oldest sister Sondra. Anyway, he's been in the news, because he (Geoffrey, not Elvin) is bagging at the Trader Joe's in New Jersey. Giancarlo Sopo at the Federalist and I have the same sentiment: Former ‘Cosby’ Star Geoffrey Owens Deserves Respect For Working At Trader Joe’s.

    Rather than assuming Owens has fallen on hard times, he should be admired for his job at Trader Joe’s. Owens could have easily gone the way of “Celebrity Apprentice,” “Dancing with the Stars,” or a tell-all book of life on the “Cosby” set. Instead, like the millions who clean our offices, fold the clothes we buy, and attend to us from call centers, he is making an honest living.

    We should not presume to know why Owens is pursuing this new role, but it takes courage and humility to go from strutting down Hollywood’s red carpets to bagging meat and produce in Jersey. Few people are more visible in local communities than grocery store workers. Having starred in what was arguably the most successful sitcom in modern history, Owens is easily recognizable, but he isn’t hiding. He’s holding his head up high. This is commendable.

    I have no inclination to investigate further the circumstances of Mr. Owens', but his IMDB page shows that he's been working in show biz right along, with three credited roles this year alone. So I suspect he's doing OK.

    Only criticism: New Jersey?! Geoff, please put in for a transfer to the Newington, NH store. We'd love to have you.

URLs du Jour

2018-09-02

[Amazon Link]

  • At EconLog David Henderson discusses a recent Paul Krugman NYT column and associated tweet. As you might guess from the title, New Hampshire is involved: Live Free and Die?

    Here's an excerpt from the Krugman column:

    The other day I had some fun with the Cato Institute index of economic freedom across states, which finds Florida the freest and New York the least free. (Is it OK for me to write this, comrade commissar?) As I pointed out, freedom Cato-style seems to be associated with, among other things, high infant mortality. Live free and die! (New Hampshire is just behind Florida.)

    Well, first, an obvious point: our state motto is "Live Free Or Die". Who knows if this was a stupid mistake, a Freudian slip, or some effort at being "clever"?

    But it gets worse. The "had some fun" link goes to a Krugman tweet:

    "Clear positive association" implies that the higher a state ranks in freedom, the more likely it is that babies are dying. And the clear implication of Krugman's "live free" snark is that NH is one of the exemplars of this rule.

    But, as recommended in David's post, click over to the CDC's latest Infant Mortality Rates by State page. There, NH has the second lowest infant mortality rate among the states. (You can kind of see this from Krugman's own chart.) Making Krugman's "live free" invocation kind of pointlessly stupid.

    And, perhaps even worse, you might expect from PK's snipe that Florida would have an exceptionally high infant mortality rate. But it doesn't. Among the states, its rank is nearly exactly in the middle. And it's actual rate (6.1) is just a smidgen higher than the US average (5.9).

    And—wait, it gets even worse—David's post points to an even more detailed takedown of Krugman from Robert P. Murphy of the Mises Institute. Who arguably gives Krugman a more serious analysis than he deserves:

    Stepping back, even the scatter plot as a whole, doesn’t really accomplish what Krugman wants. Visually, he is seeing what he wants to see: Krugman thinks it’s clear (especially if you read his tweet about it) that the best-fit line would be upward sloping in the chart. Yet that is largely because of New York and California. If you exclude them from the analysis, the remaining cloud of states looks like it might exhibit a downward slope.

    We don’t need to speculate. I asked Jason Sorens, one of the co-authors on the Cato study, to crunch the numbers. He did it a few different ways. First, he included all of the states, and found that the correlation (specifically, the Pearson coefficient) between infant mortality and “freedom” was 0.20. (Keep in mind that a correlation of 1.00 occurs when two variables are perfectly positively linearly correlated, while 0.00 means they are not at all linearly correlated.) Even here, the correlation wasn’t statistically significant; there was too much variability / not enough data points to be confident in the observed relationship.

    Similar points are made in the replies to PK's tweet.

    Bottom line: when it comes to issues involving freedom, don't trust Paul Krugman to analyze data fairly or accurately.


  • Jonah Goldberg reports in the G-File that he is On the Road Again. He starts from the observation that motivating passions of Donald Trump and John McCain are essentially the same. ("I am honestly not sure what word best describes it: Vanity? Ego? Pride?")

    But that plays out obviously differently:

    McCain’s egoistic passion led him to surrender himself to the faith of his fathers, or a cause larger than himself, as he might put it. Trump’s egoistic passion is dedicated to making himself as large a cause as possible. The irony is that the former’s approach made McCain seem the larger man, while the latter gets smaller by the day.

    I'm not a fan of either man, but I think Jonah's insightful here.


  • At Power Line, John Hinderaker takes a look at the Neil Armstrong movie First Man, which avoids the planting of the American flag on the lunar regolith: Revising History, Moon Landing Edition.

    We all know the biases that underlie Hollywood’s editorial decisions. There is no need to belabor that point here. What bothers me most about this incident is the rewriting of history. When most people watch “First Man,” they will assume that depictions of actual, historic events in the movie are accurate. If there is no flag in the film, it will not occur to them to wonder whether there was a flag in real life. If Armstrong is depicted in the movie as a citizen of the world, it will not occur to them to wonder whether in real life, he was an American patriot.

    We see this transmutation of history in films all the time, often in more brazen forms. Oliver Stone made “JFK,” which depicts the crazed and despicable Jim Garrison as a hero and peddles absurd conspiracy theories about the Kennedy assassination. The movie “Truth” enacts a wholly false account of the Rathergate controversy, and portrays Mary Mapes, who tried to swing a presidential election by publishing smears against President Bush that she had good reason to know were false, as a heroine.

    Hollywood lies, as John asserts, "always lean in the same direction."

URLs du Jour

2018-09-01

[Amazon Link]

Sorry for the late posting (he said as if anyone cared). Lots of stuff happening today, I guess.

  • At the New York Times, Farhad Manjoo assists us: Here’s the Conversation We Really Need to Have About Bias at Google. What's their worst sin, Farhad? Given that Trump's charges are (as usual) overblown and only slightly attached to reality?

    […] whether he knew it or not, Mr. Trump’s false charges crashed into a longstanding set of worries about Google, its biases and its power. When you get beyond the president’s claims, you come upon a set of uncomfortable facts — uncomfortable for Google and for society, because they highlight how in thrall we are to this single company, and how few checks we have against the many unseen ways it is influencing global discourse.

    In particular, a raft of research suggests there is another kind of bias to worry about at Google. The naked partisan bias that Mr. Trump alleges is unlikely to occur, but there is a potential problem for hidden, pervasive and often unintended bias — the sort that led Google to once return links to many pornographic pages for searches for “black girls,” that offered “angry” and “loud” as autocomplete suggestions for the phrase “why are black women so,” or that returned pictures of black people for searches of “gorilla.”

    OK. Unsurprisingly, Google's algorithms work in surprising ways. Amazon, on the other hand, gives plenty of results for angry black women, and—what the heck—one of them is our Product du Jour.


  • Arnold Kling provides Another way to describe the contemporary divide.

    People who believe that they are morally superior vs. those of us who will not acknowledge our moral inferiority.

    Arnold claims to be in a sarcastic mood. Really? Couldn't tell, Arnold.


  • James Lileks loves him some Minnesota State Fair, a yearly tradition. He wonders: What will the State Fair be like in half a century?

    If you go to the Minnesota State Fair in, oh, let’s say 2068, there will be 3-D printers that let you duplicate yourself in butter, which is sprayed on a self-­cooling robotic skeleton.

    You can use this butterganger (as the Germans call it) to hold your place in the line for corn dogs. Buttergangers will not, however, be counted in the fair’s attendance figures unless they become self-aware. Even then, they will have to purchase a ticket and return the next day.

    One thing I miss about the Midwest is state fairs. I know we have fairs up here in New England, but… not the same.


  • Jim Treacher notes new movie news: Neil Armstrong Landed on the Moon and Planted an [REDACTED] Flag.

    Ever notice how much Hollywood* hates America?

    Well, maybe that's overstating the case. "Hate" might be too strong a word for the emotion our moral, ethical, and intellectual betters in Tinseltown feel about the rest of us. It's more of a vague disgust and an unearned sense of superiority, wrapped up in sheepish apologies for daring to live in the greatest country in the history of the world. That's the message they keep sending out to the rest of the planet: "Sorry for being so awesome, everybody. We might be in America, but we're not of America. We're not like the rest of these ignorant rubes. You guys have some really good countries too!" Hell, why do you think Hollywood loves Obama so much? Every time he apologized to another country, they threw another lavish fundraiser for him.

    The new movie First Man, about Neil Armstrong, elides the planting of the American flag on the moon. Need you ask why? Of course you don't.