URLs du Jour

2018-10-31

  • Happy Halloween! (I guess. I hate Halloween.) But here's a day-appropriate, perceptive article from Charles C. W. Cooke, detailing a little-acknowledged truth about American politics: Everyone Wants You to Be Scared. It is based off this tweet from a CNN Droid:

    It is not, of course, untrue that President Trump wants Republican voters to be scared when voting. He does, and how. But — and this is the bit that Cillizza misses — so does every other politician in the United States. “Fear,” it seems, conjugates in much the same way as do “politics” and “divisiveness”: I run on hope, you run on fear; I do what’s right, you do what’s political; If we all agreed with my plan we’d be united; that you want us to agree with yours makes you divisive. And so on.

    Examples abound, should one be clear-eyed enough to see them, and Charles' eyes are clearer than most. Certainly a lot clearer than Cillizza's.


  • [Amazon Link]

    Trump made a particularly dumb move when he threatened to curb birthright citizenship via executive order. Eminently predictable reaction: Fourteenth Amendment, Trump hates the Constitution, aieee, what parts of the Constitution will he try to override next?

    And just about every honest Republican (there are a few) who (correctly) derided Obama's immigration EOs, made because Congress "failed to act", as a travesty must realize that it's equally lousy for Trump to do the same.

    But lost in the shuffle is the actual argument about the relevant language of the Fourteenth Amendment, especially to us original public meaning fans. At the Volokh Conspiracy, Ilya Somin does a fine job of laying out the issues of Birthright Citizenship and the Constitution.

    In a recent interview, President Donald Trump claimed that he can issue an executive order to end birthright citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants born in the United States. The proposed order might also prevent US-born children of foreigners here on temporary visas from getting citizenship. Can Trump legally do that? The short answer is no. The Fourteenth Amendment gives birthright citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants and visa holders, if they are born on US soil. Even if that were not the case, the power to grant citizenship is a congressional power, not an executive one. I have some reservations about the morality and policy of birthright citizenship. But the constitutional issue is clear: Trump does not have the power to end birthright citizenship at all, and certainly not by an executive order issued without congressional authorization.

    Although Ilya makes his position clear, he also provides (and rebuts) arguments for the other side.


  • [Amazon Link]

    This Slashdot article is pretty brutal for Governor Scott Walker, who wants to be re-elected: Wisconsin's $4.1 Billion Foxconn Boondoggle.

    The details of the deal were famously written on the back of a napkin when [Foxconn chairman Terry Gou] and the Republican governor first met: a $3 billion state subsidy in return for Foxconn's $10 billion investment in a Generation 10.5 LCD manufacturing plant that would create 13,000 jobs. [...] But what seemed so simple on a napkin has turned out to be far more complicated and messy in real life. As the size of the subsidy has steadily increased to a jaw-dropping $4.1 billion, Foxconn has repeatedly changed what it plans to do, raising doubts about the number of jobs it will create. Instead of the promised Generation 10.5 plant, Foxconn now says it will build a much smaller Gen 6 plant, which would require one-third of the promised investment, although the company insists it will eventually hit the $10 billion investment target. And instead of a factory of workers building panels for 75-inch TVs, Foxconn executives now say the goal is to build "ecosystem" of buzzwords called "AI 8K+5G" with most of the manufacturing done by robots.

    As Reason noted back in June, another "feature" of crony capitalism was heavily involved: the abuse of eminent domain to transfer residents' property to a private company. We knew that President Trump was a fan, but it's sad to see Republicans like Walker (and also Paul Ryan) as cheerleaders for it as well.


  • [Amazon Link]

    At Forbes, Paul Hsieh notes the perils When Government-Backed 'Nudgers' Go Bad.

    When medical researchers commit academic fraud, patients pay the price. A “star surgeon” at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden performed experimental implantations of synthetic tracheas (windpipes) on sick patients, based on his fraudulent research. Three patients died. Harvard Medical School recently called for the retraction of 31 papers by a former faculty member working with cardiac stem cells, because those papers “included falsified and/or fabricated data.” At least one patient died due to an invasive heart biopsy during a clinical trial based in part on that fraudulent work.

    The latest fraudster is Dr. Brian Wansink, famous ex-Cornell nutrition professor, whose heavily-publicized and self-promoted "research" led to numerous regulatory changes at the Federal level. And now much of that research has been—"never mind"—retracted.


  • [Amazon Link]

    Writing at AIER, Donald J. Boudreaux notes: Say What You Will about Markets, They Give You a Genuine Say. As opposed to, say, the "say" you get at the ballot box:

    Peter Earle eloquently exploded the notion that voting in political elections is an exalted means of self-expression. Few myths are more lethal to liberty than that which equates freedom with majoritarian democracy - and no fallacy does more to fuel this myth than that which declares the essence of freedom to be the right to vote.

    In reality, voting is an extraordinarily skimpy and muted means of giving voice to your individual values, hopes, concerns, and preferences. And the right to vote is certainly no great bulwark to protect your liberty.

    Don goes on to contrast voting with your simple, unglamorous, revealed market preferences, which have a far greater impact than what you'll be doing (or not) next Tuesday.

    (Yes, I'm still voting. But without illusions.)

URLs du Jour

2018-10-30

[Amazon Link]

  • Dan Mitchell has a good compilation of thoughts on state-run lotteries: Government Gambling vs Poor People. Summary:

    I don’t like when politicians mistreat rich people, but I get far more upset when they do things that impose disproportionate costs on poor people. This is one of the reasons I don’t like government flood insurance, Social Security, the Export-Import Bank, the mortgage interest deduction, or the National Endowment for the Arts.

    And lotteries definitely belong on that list as well.

    Indeed they do.

    You won't find a more ardent anti-tax person than me. But I would vastly prefer that the great state of New Hampshire have the guts to get rid of its gambling "games", and make up for it with an income or sales tax, if necessary.

    Maybe someone should buy me the Amazon Product du Jour.


  • At the Library of Economics and Liberty, Thomas Firey gets fired up at Facts, Opinions, and the Pew Research Center’s Pseudoscience.

    Do you remember those grade school exercises where you had to divide a bunch of statements into facts and opinions? The trick to getting an ‘A’ was easy: if a statement could be looked up in a reference book or checked by simple observation—e.g., “Topeka is in Kansas,” “An isosceles triangle has two sides of equal length,” “My sneakers are white,”—you labeled it a fact (even if it was false!); otherwise it was an opinion.

    At the time, I gave the exercises little thought, but they should have bothered me. I certainly considered “Hitler was evil,” “Catherine Bach is beautiful,” “Johnny Carson is funny,” and “The food in the school cafeteria is lousy” to all be facts, though none of them could be checked in reference books. On the other hand, “Elvis is alive and working at a Denny’s in Tucson” could be checked, but that didn’t seem like a fact to me.

    Those grade school exercises never made it to the midwest in the late 50s/early 60s, I guess, or if they did, I don't remember them. But Thomas argues, convincingly, that the fact/opinion dichotomy used back in the day was garbage.

    And (worse) the confusion continues in "research" performed by the Pew (Pew! Pew!) Center, and reported in the Atlantic.

    The article explains that the Pew Research Center’s Journalism & Media unit has been administering its own version of the fact/opinion exercises to adults, then issuing hand-wringing reports on the inability of many test-takers to “correctly” separate the statements.

    I guess it's pointless to take (or write) such tests unless you've had at least an undergraduate course in epistemology.


  • At NR, Pradheep J. Shanker eulogizes Apu Nahasapeemapetilon: PC Kills an Indian Star.

    The PC attack on Apu, the most famous immigrant on The Simpsons, came to a conclusion this week as producers finally admitted that the character was being permanently shelved.

    As I wrote earlier this year in pieces for both National Review and Ricochet, this conclusion was inevitable. We have seen time and again that once political correctness is injected into such an issue, the only solution is to ban the controversial item from the social consciousness altogether. When the Left attacked Brandon Eich, former CEO of tech company Mozilla, for his anti-gay-marriage stances, did they simply want him to tone his opinions down? Or did they want him fired? When a high-schooler last year wore a Chinese-themed dress to prom, did they want a thoughtful discussion about the cultural issues involved, or did they want to shame the girl into oblivion, and to prevent any other white teenage girls from following suit and wearing such ethnically inspired clothing?

    Apu might have been one of the most admirable characters on The Simpsons; his only crime being the nutritionally-dangerous stuff he sold at the Kwikee Mart.

    Is Bumblebee Man next? Doc Hibbard?

    I assume all the white-guy stereotypical characters (piggy Chief Wiggum, Jewish Krusty, evil capitalist Mr. Burns,…) will stick around.


  • At NHInsider, Michael Graham noted something funny about a local campaign website: NH Dem Candidate Wants Granite State Voters To Send Him To…Maryland?.

    Mason Donovan, the Laconia Democrat running for NH Senate District 7, wants you to send him to the state capitol in… Annapolis?

    The scenic background photo on the candidate's front page was easily identified as Not Here. I think it has since been fixed, though.


  • At the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), Brittany Hunter writes on John Taylor Gatto (1935-2018): Remembering America's Most Courageous Teacher.

    After three decades in the classroom, Gatto realized that the public school system was squashing individualism more than it was educating students and preparing them for the real world. To make matters worse, his later research would reveal that this dumbing down was not just by accident, but by design.

    Feeling the education system was beyond repair, Gatto could no longer in good conscience be an active participant. Rather than sending his letter of resignation to his superiors in his school district, he sent a copy of “I Quit, I Think” to the Wall Street Journal, where it was published as an op-ed on July 25, 1991.

    From the op-ed: "If you hear of a job where I don’t have to hurt kids to make a living, let me know."

    I have a couple of Gatto's books on my shelves. Maybe it's time to throw them on the to-be-reread pile.


  • And in a season-appropriate article at the website of the American Institute for Economic Research, Veronique de Rugy describes The Horrifying Cronyism of Sugar Production.

    When people think about Halloween, they think about candy, children in costumes, and scary decorations. I think about all these things too, obviously, but I find myself thinking also about sugar subsidies.

    Halloween is one of the biggest holidays for buying and consuming candy. Americans will spend about $2.7 billion on 600 million pounds of candy for eager trick-or-treaters. That’s $76 annually per American. This sum is much more than we would pay if legislators didn’t give the sugar lobby what it wants the most: federal programs designed to artificially enrich U.S. sugar growers.

    I should mention that my state's otherwise-dreadful Senator Jeanne Shaheen is actually on the side of the good guys in the war against sugar subsidies.


Last Modified 2018-10-31 5:41 AM EST

Minds Make Societies

How Cognition Explains the World Humans Create

[Amazon Link]

Another book I can't quite recall why I put on the get-at-library list. But I did (ILL from Boston College, thanks). And I regret to say, it wasn't for me.

The author, Pascal Boyer, is an anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist, now teaching at Washington U in St. Louis. His goal here is to offer evolution-based explanations for the puzzling behavior of human belings, around the globe and over history.

The main part of the book is organized around various questions. For example:

  • Why are humans so good at cooperating in small groups, but fiercely (and sometimes violently) competitive with humans outside their group?
  • We are pretty good at accumulating information quickly and using it to make good decisions about our future. But also common are various forms of group irrationality: moral panics, investment bubbles, socialism. Why is that?
  • Why is modern religion such a recent development in human history?
  • We like to think that our current traditions and laws involving family life are "natural", based on our human nature. But, given the sweep of history, are they really?
  • We seem to have notions of "fairness" and "trade" built into our brains, but just and prosperous societies have (again) only relatively recently developed. Is that just a big hairy accident, likely doomed to self-destruction?
  • Can we, with our limited intellectual powers, claim to "understand" societies at all? They're devilishly complex!

With regard to the religion one, I found myself asking: if God called Abraham only around 4,000 years ago, what was He up to for the previous 200,000 years of mankind's history? Just not paying attention? How does my local pastor explain that, anyway?

Anyway: These could be fascinating topics. Prof Boyer does his level best to make them dull.

Well, that's unfair. Probably a more accurate way of putting it: he doesn't write down to my level. Sample sentence, plucked at random (page 228):

So the force dynamics that come to mind when we think about power relations, those notions of pushing and pulling, of force and resistance, are only very awkward ways of representing large-scale interactions that are vastly more complex, and indeed too complex for our conscious representations.

Yeah, well, maybe. I got the (probably unfair) idea that Prof Boyer wrote this in French, got someone else to translate it into English.

Anyway: it's one of those "I looked at every page" books. And I learned stuff, but probably missed a lot too.

URLs du Jour

2018-10-29

[Amazon Link]

  • One of the usual suspects, Matt Simon of Wired, has a half-decent article: Carbon Capture Is Messy and Fraught—But Might Be Essential.

    "Fraught", you ask?

    On paper, carbon capture is a simple proposition: Take carbon that we’ve pulled out of the Earth in the form of coal and oil and put into the atmosphere, and pull it out of the atmosphere and put it back in the Earth. It’s like hitting undo on the Industrial Revolution. And scientists can indeed yank CO2 out of thin air, except that the process is expensive, not very efficient, and morally complicated.

    "Morally complicated", you say?

    It's an odd way for the people who claim to "frickin' love science" to put the issue, but they're no longer much pretending to disguise the Bible-thumping damn-the-sinners nature of their secular crusade. (I was going to say "holy crusade" -- but it's more like a "holier-than-thou crusade.")

    Simon's article is actually pretty good, though, if you strip out the tedious moralizing. Unfortunately, he kind of glosses over what I've long seen to be the real problem: if and (almost certainly) when we get global climate engineering technology up to speed, who decides how much and when to deploy it?

    Put another way: if your family occasionally bickers about where to set the thermostat in your house, multiply that bickering by 10 billion or so, and give a lot of the participants dangerous weaponry.


  • At the Washington Beacon, Sonny Bunch writes on Jeff Bezos: King of the Tech Lords. Compared with the Chinese dictatorship-loving, American military-hating Google…

    "If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the US Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble," Bezos said at the Wired 25 conference. "I like this country … this country is a gem. And it's amazing. It's the best place in the world. It's the place where people want to come."

    Now, look: I'd have loved Bezos even if he didn't donate millions to military charities and feel the need to stick up for our armed forces in the face of tech-bro aggression. Amazon has made my life as a consumer better in every conceivable way: anything I want, I can have, and in a minimum of time at a reasonable cost. Amazon delivers happiness one brown box at a time and anyone who denies this is a filthy communist. But Bezos stands out because he manages to improve the world without being forced to by do-gooder lawmakers.

    I really don't link to Sonny Bunch enough. He's a fine American.


  • For another fraught debate, National Review's Madeline Kearns reviews the Baseless, Activist Scholarship on Gender Dysphoria.

    When discussing transgenderism, moral and scientific certitude are too often conflated. This is presumably why activist agendas, strong on assertions and flimsy on evidence, are being promoted by people who really ought to know better. Yes, of course, the rights and feelings of those who experience gender dysphoria, and those who are transgender, should not be trampled on. Yes, obviously, compassion is key. But this includes the right to receive accurate medical information — the right to informed consent.

    Take, for instance, the recent New York Times article by Perri Klass, M.D., in which she “misstated” that youth with gender dysphoria have “triple the rate of suicide.” The Times has since corrected that. And in journalism, which is Klass’s profession in addition to pediatrics, honest mistakes are sometimes made. Nevertheless, her article stands as a textbook example of the tendency in the mainstream media to report on gender dysphoria with pithy slogans, half-truths, and non sequiturs, all presumably justified by the broader cause of making life easier for trans people (and why would you oppose that?).

    Ms. Kearns takes Dr. Klass to class for writing that "Gender identity is a brain thing", and specifically, only a handful of words later, that it's "independent of your body parts".

    And … wait a minute … since when was the brain not a body part? (And I didn't even come close to going to med school.)


  • After many decades in the close-but-not-quite World Series doghouse for the Boston Red Sox, we've been (now) treated to four championships over the past 15 seasons (2004, 2007, 2013, and—yay!—2018).

    But it was arduous. And it's one thing to bail on a post-10pm regular-season game played in Seattle, but you can't really do that with the World Series. At Reason, Steve Chapman claims: World Series Games Don't Have to Take So Long. He's especially down on pitching changes:

    Watching managers take the ball from one pitcher and hand it to another is about as exciting as watching someone buy snacks from a vending machine. Baseball has always been a game in which most of the actual playing time features a lot of people standing around waiting for something to happen. Now each game features a lot of people standing around waiting for the game to resume so they can stand around waiting for something to happen.

    It's as though Major League Baseball, responding to the perception of many people that the game was slow and tedious, decided to address that complaint by making it even...slower...and...more...tedious.

    I know it's heresy, but I've fantasized about a pitch clock: throw the ball within 35 seconds of your previous pitch, or it's an automatic ball.

    And to even things up a bit: no batter-requested timeouts. If you're not ready to swing the bat when the pitch comes, it's just too darn bad. Plan your day better.


  • I've been working through Season 3 of Daredevil on Netflix. It's good! And Titus Techera, writing at the Federalist, agrees with me: ‘Daredevil’ Returns To Fabulous Form In Season 3 On Netflix.

    But he makes an interesting something-I-hadn't-thought-about point.

    As America’s leading chronicler of our orphanhood stories, I’m tempted to say, I told you so! Daredevil, too, has become a story full of orphans, like “Deadpool” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.” I assume this is because these stories, although written for millennials, are written by Gen X-ers, so many of whom actually had to deal with the crisis of divorce the baby boomers brought to America.

    So the story is written from the point of view of rejected or abandoned children, who lash out at themselves and the world, and end up thinking they’re all alone — orphans in a hostile universe. This is a bit melodramatic, but it seems true to what goes on in the heart of such a child.

    If you run through the tangled family histories of your favorite comic book heroes (and villains too)—it's hard to think of any nuclear families in their backstories (other than the actually radioactive kind).

URLs du Jour

2018-10-28

[Amazon Link]

  • Kevin D. Williamson, imitating Steven Pearce, hits one out of the park at National Review: Rage Makes You Stupid. RTWT, of course, but here's a taste:

    What are we supposed to think about political rage?

    Before and after the arrest of Cesar Sayoc, the suspect in the recent string of bombs sent to prominent Democrats and media figures, we were treated to any number of homilies about “rage” and its origins in “toxic” political rhetoric. Many of these homilies were pointed directly or indirectly at President Donald Trump and his immoderate Twitter habits. That political rage is necessarily linked to political violence was assumed, and sometimes asserted, but rarely argued.

    Five minutes before that, rage was all the rage. Rebecca Traister, an editor for New York magazine, has just published a book celebrating the “revolutionary power” of anger, which was celebrated at The Atlantic on 4 October under a headline noting the “seismic power” of “rage.” On 21 September, the Washington Post affirmed that “rage is healthy, rational, and necessary for America.” On Friday, NBC news praised a television show for depicting “anger as righteous and necessary.” Before that, it ran a segment encouraging certain political partisans to “embrace their rage.”

    We looked at Rebecca Traister a couple weeks back and her efforts say that our state's motto, "Live Free or Die" was based in rage. (Gee, rage really does make you stupid.)


  • Eric Raymond writes On the Squirrel Hill shooting.

    To my Jewish friends and followers:

    I’m grieving with you today. I know the neighborhood where Tree of Life synagogue sits – it’s a quiet, well-off, slightly Bohemian ‘burb with a lot of techies living in it.

    I’m not Jewish myself, but I figured out a long time ago that any society which abuses its Jews – or tolerates abuse of them – is in the process of flushing itself down the crapper. The Jews are almost always the first targets of the enemies of civilization, but never the last.

    He goes on to offer his Jewish readers instruction in firearms and defense against shooters. If you're so inclined…


  • Tyler Cowen's Bloomberg column has mostly praise for a report from the White House-based Council of Economic Advisors: The White House Says Socialism Is a Threat. It’s Right.

    You might accuse the council of irrelevance in attacking a creed so antiquated as socialism. But a recent Gallup poll found that Democrats have greater faith in socialism than capitalism. You don’t have to think of those people as card-carrying Maoists to wish them some edification in both history and economics, if only to prevent the opposition to President Donald Trump from falling into its own excesses.

    Nor is an endorsement of actual socialism so far removed from the history of the economics profession. Paul Samuelson, recent Nobel Laureate William Nordhaus and John Kenneth Galbraith, among others, expressed their admiration for the economic growth performance of the Soviet economic system. (The report notes this detail on Page 20.)

    More to the point, by far the longest section in the report covers a specific health-care bill, introduced in both the Senate and House and supported by 141 members of Congress, that has become a centerpiece of debate in the Democratic Party. It is hardly irrelevant.

    Tyler's praise is not unmixed, but, gee, it's kind of a relief to see something out of the White House besides random semi-hinged tweets from President Trump.

    I can't resist echoing Tyler's closing paragraph:

    The truly sad feature of the report is that it is not intended for the president, who probably couldn’t care less about the recommendations of professional economists. That, too, is a dangerous path to socialism.

    Zing!


  • I've never linked to New Left Review content before, but (via Slashdot), their interview with Richard Stallman is illuminating of his mindset: Talking to the Mailman. His attitude toward the "Open Source" movement and a guy we just linked to:

    Open source is an amoral, depoliticized substitute for the free-software movement. It was explicitly started with that intent. It was a reaction campaign, set up in 1998 by Eric Raymond—he’d written ‘The Cathedral and the Bazaar’—and others, to counter the support we were getting for software freedom. When it started, Eric Raymond called me to tell me about this new term and asked if I wanted to use it. I said, I’ll have to think about it. By the next day I had realized it would be a disaster for us. It meant disconnecting free software from the idea that users deserve freedom. So I rejected it.

    Kind of illuminates a point I've made before: Stallman's views are fundamentally fueled by his moral system and his politics, neither being closely held by anyone save a small group of True Believers. (And why did Ayn Rand pop into my head just now?)

    That's not to say that he's wrong, of course. And (geez) he's right about a lot of stuff, too. But I wouldn't pass his implicit ideological/moral purity test.


  • And our Google LFOD Alert rang loudly for a Keene Sentinel article about the NH constitutional amendments up for a vote on November 6: Ballot question would enshrine right to privacy in NH Constitution. The sponsors of the privacy amendment, Reps. Neal Kurk, R-Weare, and Robert “Renny” Cushing, D-Hampton, are interviewed.

    When asked how he thinks voters will react to Question 2 on Election Day if they’ve never seen or heard of it before, Kurk said it should be an intuitive experience.

    “When someone reads this, I would think they would say, ‘Boy, I’m glad somebody did this, because I don’t want the government snooping in my DNA and my information when they have no public purpose in doing so.’ “

    Cushing hopes the amendment will draw support from across the political spectrum because of the “Live Free or Die” ethos of Granite Staters.

    “I’m hopeful. It’s bipartisan because it speaks to the core of who we are in the state of New Hampshire. The right to liberty is the right to be left alone.”

    People have criticized the proposed amendment, alleging "vagueness". Cushing and Kurk say: that's not a bug, it's a feature. (My words, not theirs.)

URLs du Jour

2018-10-27

[Amazon Link]

  • For the record, I gave up on World Series Game 4 after 14 full innings, slightly after 2am this morning. If I'd only stayed awake for another hour and 20 minutes, I could have seen… the Red Sox lose, thanks to a walk-off homer in the 18th inning.


  • I occasionally browse the website of the University Near Here to see what mischief my former employer might be up to. Oooh, here's a new Social Media Policy! Included in the 2018-2019 (PDF) version of Student Rights, Rules, & Responsibilities (page 52). First paragraph is a grabber:

    Students have extensive access to social media. Social media offer a variety of positive experiences and benefits to students, including increased engagement in the community, increased sense of social connection and sense of well-being. They also harbor a number of known risks to students’ privacy, future employment and current well-being. The risks include, but are not limited to: bullying, harassment, defamation and injury to reputation. Those risks arhmunication.

    I've bolded a word which I found to be … problematic.

    This might be fixed at some point; I've sent in a suggested correction, to replace "arhmunication" with the better known term "covfefe".

    But (at least semi-seriously): what does it say when (apparently) nobody can bother to proofread the Very Important Social Media Policy before it's released to the world? If they can't get the relatively simple stuff right, how likely is it to be logically coherent policy?


  • Governing takes a look at the proposed NH constitutional amendment protecting privacy, to be voted up or down on the November ballot: A Right to 'Live Free From Government'? States Are Granting It to Citizens..

    Question 2 aims to protect Granite State residents' privacy rights in the digital age. If approved by voters, the measure would amend the state constitution to say: "An individual's right to live free from governmental intrusion in private or personal information is natural, essential and inherent."

    The goal is to ensure that governments get permission before snooping through citizens’ private social media accounts, internet search histories, emails and text messages.

    The article also reveals why I wasn't able to find out who voted for and against the amendment in the NH House.

    But state Rep. Timothy Smith, a Democrat who declined to reveal how he voted in the House's anonymous vote to pass the amendment, says many of his fellow lawmakers were afraid to oppose it for fear of appearing anti-privacy, and because they didn't expect it to pass. He has "serious reservations" about how it's written.

    I am embarrassed to say that I didn't even know anonymous voting was possible in the NH House.

    But it's ironic (I think) that our legislators apparently think "privacy" extends to you not being able to find out how they voted on privacy matters.


  • I can't quite decide whether this story, by Paula Bolyard at PJMedia is amusing or sad. Both, I guess: Tech Community Outraged after SQLite Founder Adopts Benedictine Code of Conduct.

    The founder of the world's most widely used database engine ignited a firestorm in the tech community after it was revealed that he had posted a code of conduct for users based on the teachings of the Bible and an ancient order of monks founded by Benedict of Nursia.

    You can read it (now renamed "Code of Ethics") here. After it was discovered and publicized among the Social Justice Warrior community, SQLite founder Richard Hipp found himself in a shitstorm familiar to heretics: how dare you promulgate someone else's Code of Conduct?

    One critic advised Hipp to "seek professional help to avoid this kind of behaviour in the future." Yes, in the name of tolerance and diversity, SJWs feel free to speculate on others' supposed mental dysfunction.

    Paula Bolyard's article is strongly recommended, especially to those who might have any lingering doubts that "Social Justice" is about anything other than grabbing the power to bend others to your will.


  • Speaking about bending others to one's will, Andrew Cline (at the Josiah Bartlett Center) writes on Wayfair and the New Hampshire Advantage. Bottom line: the recent Supreme Court decision allowing other states to force New Hampshire businesses to collect their sales taxes is worse than you (probably) thought.

    Wayfair opens the door to cross-border collection of multiple state taxes — personal and corporate income, franchise, gross receipts, etc.

    By eliminating the physical presence standard, Wayfair gives new meaning to the term “the long arm of the law.” Any “nexus” that can arguably connect a business or individual to another state can create a tax liability in that state.

    States are already pursuing this, which has the potential of eroding, if not destroying, the New Hampshire Advantage. People move here to avoid income taxes and shop here to avoid sales taxes. If Wayfair creates a de facto national income and sales tax, New Hampshire loses a major competitive advantage over other New England states.

    It was a remarkably bad 5-4 decision, with an unusual grouping of dissenters: Roberts, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan.


  • And at Reason, Zuri Davis notices a story we've noted here last month: The Air Force Spent Over $300,000 on 391 Special Coffee Mugs.

    If you think you're paying too much for coffee, you've got nothing on the U.S. Air Force, which spent roughly $300,000 just on custom coffee mugs over the course of two years.

    A Fox News report alleges that the Air Force spent an exorbitant amount of money on specialty coffee mugs for the 60th Aerial Port Squadron at Travis Air Force base in California. The metal mugs have the ability to reheat beverages while air refueling tankers are in flight. As cool as the feature sounds, the mug's shape makes it highly susceptible to shattering when dropped...which happens frequently. The cost of a single mug has doubled from $693 in 2016 to $1,280 in 2018. At the time of the report, Project On Government Oversight's Dan Grazier said that the mugs' intended purpose of aiding "the crew's alertness by providing caffeine" could be similarly achieved "with a few cans of Red Bull."

    Yes, once again: your United States Air Force spends $1280 on a coffee mug that easily breaks when dropped.

    For $1280, you'd expect a mug that senses when it has been dropped and deploys Mars landing airbags.


  • And the great John Kass of the Chicago Tribune triggers our Google LFOD alert with Swedish body hacking, a Halloween horror story.

    Socialist Sweden was once beloved by the American left as an enlightened land of high technology, stellar health care and liberal immigration policies. Recently, though, when Swedes decided they had had enough unfettered immigration, they were forgotten by American media.

    But not me. I love the Swedes. One of the best men I know is a Swede. They are a people of great hockey. Their thin pancakes and lingonberries are fantastic, and they have a dry sense of humor. Sweden also gave us the mystery writer Stieg Larsson, author of the “Millennium” series. But sadly, Larsson died of a heart attack, having subsisted, it is said, mostly on strong coffee and processed foods.

    Just to clarify: John's column is about The Ritual, a 2017 British horror film mostly set in Sweden. And self-microchipping. And LFOD comes in here:

    We all have choices to make, and free will is still free will. There was an American subculture that once held to the motto “Live free or die.” But now our motto is “Shut up and take it.”

    Hm. A good alternative motto for those who find LFOD a little too aggressive.

URLs du Jour

2018-10-26

[Amazon Link]

  • Deirdre Nansen McCloskey is on my short list for near-automatic inclusion in these "du Jour" postings. At Reason, she lets you (and me) know Why You Are Not a Conservative.

    I get this all the time: "Oh Deirdre, you're such a conservative." My friends seem to think politics operates exclusively on a left-right spectrum. They therefore suspect me and other self-described "libertarians" of being sneaky versions of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

    In truth, libertarians sit nowhere on the left-right map, which merely captures a dispute about how to use the government's monopoly of violence. The right wants to use violence to support 800 U.S. bases abroad. The left wants to use it to boss poor people around. Libertarians want neither.

    What is the difference between libertarians and conservatives? It is our unique belief in liberty and its spontaneous ordering, in the way that language or art or science is ordered. We see a world ordered by people having a go within a loose framework of honest rewards. Conservatives (and socialists and most people in the middle) believe in top-down order, as in a loving or authoritarian household.

    As someone who coin-flips between describing myself as a libertarian or conservative, Deirdre provides a lot of food for thought. She prefers the term "liberal". And she references Hayek's famous essay "Why I am Not a Conservative", in which he makes a plea for "Whig".

    Hm, a couple more suggestions, and I could go from coin-flipping to die-rolling. Or maybe just refrain from self-pigeonholing.


  • At NR, Jonah Goldberg offers a dire (but seemingly accurate) observation: Logic of the Vendetta Now Guides Our Politics.

    Whether the packages delivered to leading Democrats and liberals turn out to be functioning bombs or dummy devices intended to send a message, the effect is largely the same: American politics is descending further into the logic of the vendetta.

    If you read about famous feuds or intergenerational rivalries — Hatfields vs. McCoys, Israelis vs. Palestinians, etc. — one simple truth makes everything much more complicated: Everybody has a valid point. The Hatfields shout, “Your family shot my uncle!” The McCoys reply, “Well, you folks hanged my father!”

    And they’re both right.

    And they’re both wrong.

    They’re right that the other side did something bad, but they’re wrong that the first bad act justifies the second.

    Someday I will have to go back to my dusty game theory books to discover how this whole tit-for-tat thing plays out. My recollection is: badly. But I could be misremembering.


  • At the Federalist (an extremely apt site for this topic), Mike Nichols and Dan Benson describe How Federal Grants Are Turning State Governments Against Their Own People.

    James Madison had already been buried in his Montpelier grave in 1836 when territorial leaders named the place that would become the capital of Wisconsin after him. But it’s safe to presume the “Father of the Constitution” who advocated for the “numerous and indefinite” powers of state governments would have appreciated the honor — at first.

    It’s less clear — given the massive infusion of federal money into state capitols and the accompanying loss of local control — that he would be all that pleased today. Federal grants-in-aid to state and local governments have grown from just $7 billion in the 1960s to an estimated $728 billion in 2018. Almost a third of the money in many state government budgets now comes directly from Washington, D.C.

    I can attest that, on the ground, incoming Federal cash is widely perceived as "free money".

    For people who want to look at the data, this seems to be the latest and greatest from Pew (Pew! Pew!) Charitable Trusts. (Caveat: There are a lot of other ways to look at the numbers.) For my fellow Granite Staters: New Hampshire seems to be depressingly normal, with 31.9% of its budget coming from DC. This is pretty close to the all-50-states value (32.6%). The numbers range from 43.3% (Mississippi) to 21.1% (Virginia).


  • The Electronic Frontier Foundation sometimes gets things right, other times (very very) wrong. But here's one they're getting right: Corporate Speech Police Are Not the Answer to Online Hate, a rebuttal to Change the Terms ("recommended policies for corporations to adopt and implement to address hateful activities on their platforms").

    Our key concern with the model policy is this: It seeks to deputize a nearly unlimited range of intermediaries—from social media platforms to payment processors to domain name registrars to chat services—to police a huge range of speech. According to these recommendations, if a company helps in any way to make online speech happen, it should monitor that speech and shut it down if it crosses a line.

    This is a profoundly dangerous idea, for several reasons.

    I bet you can think of three or four reasons yourself.


  • A fun site from Merriam-Webster: Time Traveler. Set up to answer the burning question:

    When was a word first used in print? You may be surprised! Enter a date below to see the words first recorded on that year.

    Most people seem to be using it on their birth years. And for myself… whoa, "Murphy's Law". That figures.

URLs du Jour

2018-10-25

[Amazon Link]

  • Our Amazon Product du Jour is brought to you on the recommendation of Dave Barry's blog, where it's claimed that "some of the photos are NSFW", especially if you work at PETA or NOW.


  • I have not made a big deal out of my mild Red Sox fandom. (Since the 1975 World Series, and Pudge Fisk's arm-waving homer in game six, should you care. So I've been through many sucky years with them.)

    Every single member of the organization, all the way down to whoever cuts the outfield grass at Fenway, has my undying gratitude for their stellar season.

    But "Red", at the Surviving Grady blog, pays tribute to someone a little less anonymous. Because, as he says: Everything Alex Cora Touches Turns To Gold.

    Savvy readers of this blog (yes, all eight of you) have heard this rant before. That Alex Cora didn’t just fall off the turnip truck and end up on Lansdowne. The man won a World Series with the Red Sox in 2007 and the Astros in 2017 and he knows a thing or two about the game. He’s a thinker and a schemer, and everything that has transpired thus far in the Red Sox’ season has done so according to his design. For all we know, the stock market may rise and fall on his every whim.

    So I’ve come to the conclusion that second guessing the man is a fool’s errand, despite the fact that second guessing the manager of the Boston Red Sox is the single most popular pastime in New England. Whether you’re an MIT professor or a seasoned gambler who isn’t afraid to try betting on sports to earn a living, you’ll never unlock the riddle wrapped in an enigma that is Alex Cora’s brain.

    I can only hope that Craig Kimbrel's will-he-blow-the-save antics don't land me in the hospital.


  • Back to our usual fare: George Will bemoans Congress’s Theatrical Indignation about Hate Crimes.

    Even though states, unlike the federal government, have police powers, states’ hate crime laws also are problematic on policy grounds. They mandate enhanced punishments for crimes committed as a result of, or at least when accompanied by, particular states of mind that the government disapproves. The law holds us responsible for controlling our minds, which should control our conduct. The law always has had, and should have, the expressive function of stigmatizing particular kinds of conduct. But hate crime laws treat certain actions as especially reprehensible because the persons committing them had odious (although not illegal) frames of mind. Such laws burden juries with the task of detecting an expanding number of impermissible motives for acts already criminalized. And juries must distinguish causation (a particular frame of mind causing an act) from correlation (the person who committed the act happened to have this or that mentality). So, even if the HCPA were not unconstitutional, it would be unwise.

    Crimes are very seldom committed by people with admirable motives. Distinguishing which mental states are especially deserving of extra punishment is moral grandstanding.


  • Speaking of moral grandstanding, Jason Brennan (at Bleeding Heart Libertarians) notes: If You’re Not Continuously Outraged, You Must be a Horrible Person!!! (Yes, three exclamation points. I, for one, am not sure three are adequate.)

    Today on Facebook I read a comment from someone saying he hates America because so many Americans are apathetic about politics and current events. (He didn’t offer any comparative stats about apathy in other countries, so I don’t know how much he also hates Canadians, Mexicans, or the Swiss. Presumably, he despises almost everyone in the world, since very few people are highly engaged.)

    The argument seems to be something like this: Horrible things are happening everyday. If you are either A) unaware of those things or B) aware of them but not outraged by them, then you must be a bad person. After all, good people have the right kind of knowledge and have the right emotional responses to things. The right response to horrible injustice is immense outrage. The right response to tragedy is immense sadness.

    Is it, though? On the contrary, continuous outrage or sadness is often a sign of pathological narcissism.

    For the nth time, I recommend the Elvis Costello mantra:

    I used to be disgusted
    And now, I try to be amused


  • At Reason, Nick Gillespie offers a welcome distinction to binary thinkers: I Don't Hate Trump Because He Is 'the Average American in Exaggerated Form.' I Dislike Him Because of His Policies and Temperament.. (It's a response to a wrongheaded WSJ column from David Gelernter, a guy I usually like.)

    Where were we? Oh yeah, talking about how the politicization of everyday life turns people into monsters. Politics is mostly zero sum, meaning one side wins and the other loses and just has to eat it. From a classical liberal perspective, this is one of the main reasons that politics should be squeezed into as small a corner as possible, reserved for those few things that require forced consensus (courts, law enforcement, taxes, some roads and schools). Most parts of life are more voluntary and open-ended, with exit being a prime option. If you don't like somebody's restaurant or store, you can just go elsewhere. If you don't like the reigning party's tax policy, you still have to pay up.

    It might seem odd for this politics-obsessed blog to say (but it's really not): making "everything about politics" is a dysfunctional mental state.


  • "Politics-based Outrage" is really a theme for us today, no? Jeff Jacoby further discusses those who are Outraged — but only when it's convenient.

    Amid the shockwaves of condemnation that followed the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a number of conservatives have been upset not at the savagery inflicted on the expatriate Saudi dissident and journalist, but at the widespread outrage over his grisly death. Some have openly disparaged Khashoggi, deriding him as an Islamist who supported the Muslim Brotherhood and palled around with Osama bin Laden. Others have mocked his calls for liberal reform as "a cover" for his "real work" of praising terrorists and attacking Israel.

    Their claims are outdated and/or exaggerated. But even if they had merit, why assault the reputation of someone who did nothing to deserve such a horrifying death? Why seek to dampen the infamy of the Saudis' repugnant crime?

    We could all use a little more introspection. Self included, of course.


  • Steven J. Milloy writes at CEI: Vehicle Tailpipe Emissions Are SAFE. Specifically, he thinks the EPA's claims that particulate matter (PM) emissions are particularly (heh) deadly are bunk.

    Indeed, the pre-Trump EPA spent much of the last 25 years building the case that PM (soot and dust) in outdoor air is virtually the most lethal substance known to man. Obama EPA chief Lisa Jackson testified in 2011 to Congress that, “Particulate Matter causes premature deaths. It doesn’t make you sick. It is directly causal to dying sooner than you should.” She pegged the annual death toll due to PM in outdoor air at 570,000 – about 1-in-5 deaths in the U.S. Alleged deaths caused by PM was how the Obama EPA justified all its war-on-coal rules.

    But my new analysis, just published by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, entirely debunks the notion that PM in outdoor air kills anyone at all.

    I have no idea whether Milloy is right, but his claims deserve to be taken seriously. He's got some pretty damning details about the genesis of EPA's PM standards. I'm sure, however, that his claims will be (a) largely ignored and (b) to the extent they are not ignored, be subject to ad hominem attacks.


  • An amusing tweet: Fat Cats in the New Yorker.

    I am a subscriber to Wired, which is, like the New Yorker, a Condé Nast publication (at least for now). And I've noticed a similar disconnect between its ads and its editorial content.

    If President Trump really wanted to be impish, he'd propose exorbitantl high excise taxes on Movado watches, high-end Kohler plumbing fixtures, everything Jimmy Choo sells, Acuras, premium bourbon, …

    (Yes, even premium Bourbon. Let them drink Old Crow.)


  • And, finally, news you (almost certainly) can't use, but is nonetheless of interest: That Trippy Green Code in ‘The Matrix’ Is Just a Bunch of Sushi Recipes.

    Green code in Japanese-inspired symbols trails down a computer screen like digital rain. It tells those who can read it what's happening in The Matrix, a virtual reality.

    Simon Whiteley, creator of The Matrix code, attributes the design to his wife, who's from Japan.

    "I like to tell everybody that The Matrix's code is made out of Japanese sushi recipes," says Whiteley, a production designer from England who's now based at the Animal Logic animation and visual-effects studio in Sydney. He scanned the characters from his wife's Japanese cookbooks. "Without that code, there is no Matrix."

    This explains why I get hungry every time I watch The Matrix.

URLs du Jour

2018-10-24

[Amazon Link]

  • If you're an American woman looking for a Halloween costume that won't get you accused of Cultural Appropriation, check out our Amazon Product du Jour!


  • On a related topic, at the Volokh Conspiracy, Ilya Somin lays out Why Mandatory National Service is Both Unjust and Unconstitutional. (It is based on a presentation Ilya made to an event of the taxpayer-funded National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service.) Taking the "unjust" part first:

    Mandatory national service is not just another policy proposal. It is an idea that undermines one of the fundamental principles of a free society: that people own themselves and their labor. We are not the property of the government, of a majority of the population, or of some employer. Mandatory national service is a frontal attack on that principle, because it is a form of forced labor - literally so. Millions of people would be forced to do jobs required by the government on pain of criminal punishment if they disobey. Under most proposals, they would have to perform this forced labor for months or even years on end.

    We rightly abhor the extensive use of forced labor by authoritarian regimes, such as those of the Nazis and the communists. The same principle applies to democratic governments. The fact that a violation of fundamental human rights may have the support of a majority of the population does not make it just. Wrong does not become right merely because a large number of people support it.

    Apparently mandatory national service is an idea whose heart nobody's managed to put a stake through yet. (See, for example, this USA Today story from last year.)

    Dude, it's the Statue of Liberty, not the Statue of Mandatory National Service.


  • At American Consequences, P. J. O'Rourke reveals Why Kids R Commies.

    What’s the matter with kids today?

    Nothing new. The brats, the squirts, the fuzz-faced mooncalves, the sap-green sweet young things, and the wet-behind-the-ears in general have always been “Punks for Progressives.”

    As soon as kids discover that the world isn’t nice, they want to make it nicer. And wouldn’t a world where everybody shares everything be nice? Aw… Kids are so tender-hearted.

    That's tender-hearted, with your money.


  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson chronicles the latest exploits of The Witches of Bushwick.

    In Brooklyn, there is an occult bookshop called Catland Books. “Catland” is, one imagines, an apt description of the homes of the women who congregate there.

    The operators of the establishment have announced that they are planning to hold a special hex session this weekend to make Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh “suffer.” It is sure to be a popular event.

    Because progressives belong to the Party of Science, they may wish to visit some of their like-minded fellow partisans at Catland Books, where they can also take a few courses: Demonology 101, Plant Magik [sic] 101, or Potions & Tinctures 101, which all are on the current schedule. Everything seems to be 101 — that’s a lot of introductory classes, a lot of foreplay for a master’s course in horsesh**.

    Apparently the NR style guide disallows "horseshit". Why?

    Anyway, KDW calls this, accurately, "the 21st-century progressive version of a cross-burning". Fortunately, our local spook shop doesn't appear to be political at all.


  • You know, for a Harvard prof, Elizabeth Warren seems unconcerned about things like logical coherence. The Washington Free Beacon takes note of her recent claim: I Took DNA Test to Rebuild Public Trust in Government.

    Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) said during a debate with her Republican challenger on Sunday that she took a DNA test to prove her Native American ancestry in order to rebuild public trust in government.

    Journalist Carrie Saldo, the debate moderator, asked Warren why she decided to release the results of her DNA test when she said months ago in an interview that the issue of her ancestry was "settled."

    "One of the things I see now is that confidence in government is at an all time low. I believe one way we try to rebuild confidence is through transparency," Warren said at her second debate in three days against Republican Geoff Diehl. "So I've really made an effort over the past several months."

    I feel much more confidence in government now that… no, wait, I don't.


  • On a somewhat related note, David Harsanyi makes an almost certainly futile effort to call people back from the rhetorical edge: 2018 Is The Most Important Election In The History Of Mankind (This Time We Really Mean It!).

    If you believe a midterm election in a time of relative peace and economic prosperity is the most important in history, or even the most important in your incredibly fortunate lifetime, you’re either oblivious to basic history or you don’t have a single non-partisan synapse firing in your skull. We might ask people to please stop being so melodramatic and conceited, but then, it’s 2018.

    “We have had many important elections, but never one so important as that now approaching,” a New York Times editorial claimed during the 1864 presidential race between Abraham Lincoln and George McClellan, which took place during the Civil War. As others have noted, this probably the last time that the words “most,” “important,” “election,” and “lifetime” should have been stuck together.

    As the Bonzo Dog Doodah Band observed: No Matter Who You Vote For The Government Always Gets In.


  • And (finally) our Google LFOD News Alert sounded for a recent state slogan change: Nebraska’s Hilarious New ‘Not For Everyone’ Slogan Is Brutally Honest.

    Self-awareness is a virtue. And in a country where James Franco is a working professor, and Oreos masquerade as poultry, a little candor is always a good thing. Fortunately, we can take cues from the state of Nebraska, which launched a new, delightfully deadpan slogan this week: “Honestly, it’s not for everyone.”

    I lived in Nebraska for a good chunk of my formative years, love it dearly. But once you've been to the Henry Doorly Zoo, taken in a College World Series game, and … um … seen Chimney Rock, what's left? Just a good place to live.

    I pity John Ricks, the state’s tourism director, who's quoted in the article. LFOD shows up, finally:

    It’s no “Live free or die,” but it’ll do.

URLs du Jour

2018-10-23

[Amazon Link]

  • See if you can tell by the headline of this Economics21 article where Brian Riedl comes down on whether "Republican Policies" are to blame for the entire budget deficit, as Senate Democrats claim: Senate Democrats Absurdly Blame Entire Budget Deficit on “Republican Policies” in New Report.

    This week, the Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee released a ludicrous taxpayer-funded “study” that attempts to prove that the entire budget deficit is the fault of Republicans. The report uses a hyper partisan methodology that essentially rigs the results.

    The study’s argument is as follows: Since 2000, defense spending has risen $205 billion above inflation, and tax cuts have shaved $546 billion from annual tax revenues. Add in $183 billion in resulting interest costs, and you get a $935 billion annual tab that exceeds the current $779 billion budget deficit. Therefore, in the study’s words, “Republican policies caused the 2018 budget deficit.”

    My own reasoning is simpler, and not funded by a dime in taxes:

    1. Republicans control the House, and have done so since 2011.
    2. Republicans control the Senate, and have done so since 2015.
    3. A (nominal) Republican is President, and has been President since 2017.
    4. Not a dime of Federal government "discretionary" spending can occur without the OK of the House and Senate.
    5. Also under the control of the House and Senate (with Presidential approval): "mandatory" spending and taxes.
    6. Therefore, Republican policies (as revealed by the votes of Republican politicians) are responsible for the entire budget deficit.

    Q.E.D., baby.


  • On the same theme, sort of: Ramesh Ponnuru, writing at AEI, tells us What Republicans aren’t telling us in the midterms.

    According to Nancy Pelosi, Republicans in Washington “are setting in motion their plan to destroy the Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security that seniors and families rely on.” She’s distorting comments by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, who actually said that while he would like to see reforms to those programs, they will not happen with Congress and the White House both controlled by Republicans. Republicans aren’t planning to cut Medicare and Social Security.

    The truth is worse: They’re not planning to do much of anything at all.

    The best Republicans can do is to claim that they're … um … not Democrats. Give them points for that, anyway.


  • At Reason, Matthew Harwood points out, like oil and water, Civil Liberties and Socialism Don’t Mix.

    In 1981, the socialist economist and best-selling author Robert Heilbroner took to the pages of the democratic socialist magazine, Dissent, to answer what would seem like a rather academic question, "What is Socialism?" His answer was a raw, honest, and devastating critique of democratic socialism from a man wrestling with his faith. In his essay, Heilbroner—reminiscent of a similar definitional debate today among progressives and socialists—explained that socialism is not a more generous welfare state along Nordic lines. Instead, it is something entirely different, an economic and cultural configuration that suppresses if not eliminates the market economy and the alienating and selfish culture it produces.

    "If tradition cannot, and the market system should not, underpin the socialist order, we are left with some form of command as the necessary means for securing its continuance and adaptation," Heilbroner wrote. "Indeed, that is what planning means. Command by planning need not, of course, be totalitarian. But an aspect of authoritarianism resides inextricably in all planning systems. A plan is meaningless if it is not carried out, or if it can be ignored or defied at will."

    As (I'm pretty sure) Hayek pointed out, scapegoats will be found for the failures of socialist schemes: the dissenters.


  • Andrew Cline, writing for the Josiah Bartlett Center, looks at the speech James Dean gave on his installation as President of the University Near Here. He especially liked that it was based on New Hampshire's motto. Speeches of freedom.

    In an era when college students routinely pressure administrators to silence voices that challenge their own preconceptions, it is notable and praiseworthy that UNH’s new president committed himself in his inaugural speech to upholding freedom of speech and of religion.

    President Dean based most of his speech on FDR’s famous Four Freedoms, which is not the foundation on which we would build any talk about freedom. FDR’s revision of our founding principles was a political ploy to revive a dying New Deal and prepare the country for a more energetic U.S. role in foreign affairs. That it is now treated as the touchstone for discussions about American liberty is unfortunate.

    Nevertheless, President Dean’s speech was encouraging. If we’re all talking about how to secure, protect and advance freedom, those who are passionately dedicated to weakening, diminishing and shrinking it will consistently find themselves at a distinct disadvantage.

    As has been said before: UNH is doing a decent job of talking the free-speech talk. We'll see about the walking the walk bit.


  • For only the second time in Pun Salad history, we link to a Harvard Crimson story: A Bill Forbidding Social Group Sanctions Probably Doesn’t Affect Harvard. One Advocacy Group Wants to Change That..

    When Republicans proposed a December 2017 amendment to a congressional higher education bill that would bar universities from punishing students who join single-gender social groups, the legislation seemed explicitly targeted at Harvard — but it wasn’t quite that simple.

    It was unclear at the time whether the bill, a suggested revision to the Higher Education Act, actually applied to the College. The legislation — titled the PROSPER Act — refers only to “recognized” social groups. But Harvard’s controversial sanctions, which took effect with the Class of 2021, only penalize members of “unrecognized” single-gender social organizations.

    The advocacy group is the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), and (unsurprisingly) they think it's a bad idea for places like Harvard to blacklist students who choose to belong to frowned-upon organizations.


  • Not likely to be the basis of an upcoming episode of Blue Bloods: NYPD boss accused of stuffing her panties in co-worker’s mouth.

    Sgt. Ann Marie Guerra, the second-in-command at the 72nd Precinct Detectives Squad, flipped out on Detective Victor Falcon when he complained about her leaving her underwear all over the unisex locker room, sources said.

    “They are f–king clean!” the 38-year-old married mom of two allegedly roared Oct. 7 — as she shoved a pair of her panties into Falcon’s mouth, a source said.

    Although I would like to see the expression on Tom Selleck's face as Garrett explains the situation to him.

Maggie Hassan: Help Us, We're Stupid

(A Pun Salad Rerun)

[Amazon Link]

[Pun Salad is still in "encore presentation" status. This one isn't very old, from August of this year.]

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

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

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

But on to the topic at hand:

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

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

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

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

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

Could we get on with it, please?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Hampshire’s regulatory outlook is not so sunny. Its primary sin is exclusionary zoning. It is generally agreed that the Granite State is one of the four worst states in the country for residential building restrictions.

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

Also see:

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

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

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

UNH Lecturer Speaks Untruth to the Unpowerful

(A Pun Salad Rerun)

[Pun Salad is in "Greatest Hits" mode for awhile. There's no truth to the rumor that the ninth inning of ALCS Game 4 put me in the hospital with chest pains. Enjoy this ditty from last October.]

This is another post "inspired" by an article in a recent issue of The New Hampshire, the student newspaper at the University Near Here. (If you weren't with us yesterday, the first post is here.)

The article in question is at the bottom of page one, by Jordyn Haime ("Staff Writer"), headlined "Community interprets First Amendment rights". It starts by recapping a recent outrage:

A video of UNH’s Alpha Phi chapter singing the n-word in Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” went viral in September, sparking a campus-wide conversation around First Amendment rights and freedom of speech.

After the video was posted on the “All Eyes on UNH” Facebook page on Sept. 19, Dean of Students Ted Kirkpatrick sent an email to the student body condemning the use of the word and stated that the university was investigating the matter.

We discussed the imbroglio here a few weeks back. The article relates the abrupt about-face regarding the Dean-promised "investigation":

In a follow-up email on Sept. 21, Kirkpatrick corrected that assertion, stating that “this is a matter of common decency, not law,” and that the sorority was not under investigation by the university. The email also included an apology letter from Alpha Phi chapter president, Megan Shields.

“The University of New Hampshire remains fully committed to the First Amendment,” Kirkpatrick wrote.

Cooler heads eventually prevailed, in other words, probably after some panicked legal advice was offered. But it's still grimly amusing that Dean Kirkpatrick's first reaction to students singing a Grammy-winning song was to threaten an "investigation".

But that was weeks ago. Let's move on, because it gets worse:

The First Amendment of the Constitution grants citizens the freedom to exercise religion and free speech. However, no right is absolute, and every right comes with responsibilities, says Kathy Kiely, a UNH lecturer in journalism.

"No right is absolute" is a trite truism. But the limits on Constitution-protected speech are known relatively well. I recommend the First Amendment Library at the website of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), or the First Amendment FAQ at the website of the Newseum Institute.

Beyond that, Kiely is clearly out of her Constutional depth. "Every right comes with responsibilities" is meaningless, vapid claptrap. It's a bromide tossed out exclusively by people who want the power to erode your rights. (I suppose they think the alliteration makes it seem profound. Like "trite truism".)

But Kiely has more, by which I mean "even worse":

“As a journalist, I’ve never felt I have the right to say whatever I want just because I have First Amendment protections,” Kiely said. “The right to speak truth to power doesn’t give us all a license to be ignorant and hurtful.”

Sorry, Ms. Kiely: the First Amendment does grant journalists—and everyone else, for that matter—a legal right to be "ignorant and hurtful". You can say just about any stupid or insulting thing you want in a newspaper, a magazine, on a soapbox in the town square—or, ahem, your blog—and you will not get in legal trouble for it. (Within the well-defined limits mentioned by the references above: libel, kiddy porn, blackmail, etc.)

[Update: I said "grant" above. That's not right. The FA recognizes and protects rights; it does not "grant" them. Sorry.]

It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: I think being "ignorant and hurtful" is a bad idea, and you shouldn't do it. But, simply said, you have the right to be wrong.

As far as "ignorant and hurtful" goes, it seems that Kathy Kiely is (a) pretty ignorant about Constitutional law, and it is (b) sort of hurtful (at least to my sensibilities) that she's in a position to spread her ignorance to UNH students. Her smug reference to "speak[ing] truth to power" is especially galling when she hasn't even got the "speaking truth" part down pat yet.

[Smugness is a theme with Ms. Kiely. Her UNH profile quotes: "My goal as a journalism teacher is very modest — to save civilization as we know it." Eeesh.]

And she keeps going downhill, because it's a slippery slope:

Our system of government also operates on check and balances, Kiely points out, and the 14th Amendment grants that citizens may not be deprived of “life, liberty or property without due process of law.” Hate speech is speech that might deprive others of that right, she says.

If Kiely had been paying attention back in high school, she might have remembered that "checks and balances" refers to the delegation of power among branches of government, not the exercise of rights. And the relevance of the Fourteenth Amendment is actually that it expands the First's "Congress shall make no law" language and extends it to (specifically) public universities. Like UNH.

Kiely either didn't know this, or didn't mention it to the reporter. Which is worse?

But in addition to that illiteracy, Kiely's "hate speech" assertion is simply wrong. As law professor Eugene Volokh has said: There’s no “hate speech” exception to the First Amendment.

“I would just ask the free-speech-at-all-cost advocates to consider how they might feel if it were their life and their liberty in the balance,” Kiely said.

Well, it's all about how you feel, isn't it?

I would just ask Ms. Kiely: what would she think—not "feel"—would be the disadvantages of having UNH administrators hold sway over the academic careers of lowly students who run afoul of the Speech Policers. For extra credit: identify the "power imbalances". And then "speak truth to power".

In Which a Dismissal of "Free Will" is Itself Dismissed

(A Pun Salad Rerun)

[A hopefully short rerun season for Pun Salad begins. This one is from September 2017. Note that I haven't read Sapolsky's book yet. I really should.]

Confession: Mrs. Salad is a member of AARP. It was free, she was (relatively) young and careless at the time, and the only side effect is that we get a lot of mail from them.

AARP once stood for "American Association of Retired Persons", but they dropped that long ago. You could say that AARP no longer stands for anything. Except, of course, keeping the money flowing from taxpayers to elderly beneficiaries of entitlement programs. And also making sure people buy its Medicare supplementary coverage.

But at least their publications occasionally make for interesting reading at the kitchen table. Which is what this post is really about. The August/September issue of AARP The Magazine (presumably named to distinguish it from AARP The Motion Picture) contains an interview with Stanford brain researcher Robert Sapolsky plugging his new book Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst. And this Q-and-A simply leapt out at me:

[No Free Will]

Um. Wait a minute.

I am sure Sapolsky is a nice guy, a smart guy, and a careful researcher. (Well, maybe. Truth be told, I have no idea. It seems like a charitable thing to say though.) But what he says here is just irredeemably stupid and self-contradictory.

It seems obvious that, in opening up the door to free will in matters of shirt choice, it's a logical necessity that the door remains open for other choices too. If you can use free will to choose your shirt, you can also use it to choose how to spend your time and resources, who to marry, which career to pursue, your ethical beliefs, and… well, just about everything important in life.

How Sapolsky can dismiss such things as "uninteresting" is (to understate it significantly) puzzling.

Yes, I understand that his business is neuroendocrinology, and it's true enough that it's "mighty hard to find" free will at that level.

But that's similar to the very old joke:

[The Light is Better here]

Sapolsky's research can't find free will, because it's not where he's "interested" in looking. But the light is better there.

Now, I've placed Sapolsky's book on my things-to-read list—it's very well reviewed—and I will probably get to it someday.

I don't know if it has additional arguments about free will, but if it does, I will carefully consider them. I will weigh them against other things I've read. And then I will decide…

Woops! I will decide? Using what mental facility, exactly?

Exactly.

URLs du Jour

2018-10-19

[Amazon Link]

  • Kevin D. Williamson, at NR, asks and answers: Reluctant Trump Voters? Less So, It Seems. (It is billed as an "NRPLUS member article", so sorry if you can't see it, peons.)

    Imagine that you were someone who had had reservations about Donald Trump in 2016 but still preferred him to Herself, being as you likely are a moderate-leaning voter and not especially ideological, perhaps one who found many things to admire about Barack Obama but who thought that he pushed things too far during his administration, exceeding his mandate and causing instability in the process, and that electing Herself was likely to make things worse rather than better. Maybe there were personal things you found distasteful about the Clintons, such as their dynastic ambitions and their jaw-dropping sense of entitlement to national political power. On the other hand, Republicans want to cut taxes and reform regulations, which are things you probably approve of in general; and they’re less likely to create expensive new entitlements (socializing health care, making college “free,” as though those costs weren’t going to be borne by somebody); and their old-fashioned belief that the law pretty much says what it says and judges should stick with that rather than make stuff up on the fly is more appealing than the alternative. You found it relatively easy to imagine President Trump signing those tax-cut bills and maybe putting a leash on the EPA, and you figured that Mike Pence or somebody would whisper the right names in his ear when it came to judicial appointments. Whatever reservations you may have had about Trump, chances are that, if the above is pretty close to what you were thinking in 2016, then you aren’t terribly disappointed.

    What the Democrats needed, it seemed, was a way to get those Reluctant Trump Voters to turn into Regretful Trump Voters and join up, however temporarily, with Team Donkey.

    From the vantage point of October 2018, I have to wonder: Why on Earth would they?

    The Democrats’ outreach to those Reluctant Trump Voters has been peculiar indeed, e.g. insisting that they must have been motivated by racism, that they are closeted (or out-and-proud) white supremacists, that they hate women, that they are motivated by bigotry against Muslims and revulsion against homosexuals, that they are dumb (so surpassingly stupid that they “vote against their own interests,” as the Democratic mantra goes), that they are one moral degree of separation from Heinrich Himmler, if that, etc.

    I was not just "reluctant", I didn't vote for Trump at all. But otherwise, I'm in Camp Kevin: Democrats aren't giving me any reason to vote for them, though.


  • At Reason, J. J. Rich suggests Congress Needs an Opioid Intervention.

    In an effort to "combat the opioid crisis" in America, Congress is calling for a slate of governmental interventions that have been tried, tested, and shown to cause more harm. In June, the U.S. House of Representatives passed 50 bills, with more to come, that throw billions of dollars at already rich universities, hand responsibility for determining addiction treatment procedures to the federal government, and allow the U.S. attorney general to ban vaguely defined substances, among many other clumsy actions. Too much of the new legislation is grounded in the "overprescription" hypothesis, which blames the current unprecedented rates of overdose on an expansion in the number of opioid prescriptions that began in the 1990s. The consensus around this theory has prompted Congress to further restrict opioid prescription access.

    Judging from the social media posts and campaign ads, pols are proud to point to various pieces of legislation, initiatives, and programs to claim that they've "done something". Usually this involves shoveling money at "professionals" who can (sooner or later) appear in their campaign ads, testifying to their compassion, empathy, wisdom, etc.

    It's a kind of entrepreneurship, I guess: watch for an imminent social crisis, hype it relentlessly, put yourself forward as part of the solution, start applying for grants. Lather, rinse, repeat.


  • At American Consequences, P. J. O'Rourke asks the musical question: What Do Progressives Really Want?.

    Progressive candidates claim to have a platform addressing social and economic issues – a platform to create a more just, fair, and equitable America.

    Which is a nice thought…

    But the Progressive platform is really to create a more political America… to create an America where everything, no matter how intimate and private, is decided by the political process.

    “The Personal Is the Political” has been a leftist slogan for 50 years.

    Why would anyone want that as a slogan? The idea is completely totalitarian. But the completeness, the totalness of the idea – the “inclusiveness,” as Progressives would say – is the point. When politics encompasses not only public life but private life as well, then there’s a lot more politics… politics without end.

    According to Wikipedia, we can blame late 1960s feminists for the slogan.


  • And the Google LFOD alert rang for a very unlikely source, about 10,000 miles from Pun Salad Manor and every other bit of New Hampshire, where "SMH" stands for Sydney Morning HeraldL Sydney Opera House celebrates 45 years as 'Our House'. If you know one thing about Sydney, it's the profile of the Opera House. But did you know…

    For Building Operations Manager, Dean Jakubowski, the graffiti on the concrete segments, and the stories they contain, are some of his favourite secret spots in the building that 10,000 workers of 90 different nationalities helped to construct. There is a cowboy etched in one segment on the western side of the second largest shell that contains the Joan Sutherland Theatre, and another that reads "Live free or die" - the New Hampshire motto in the Green room. And many more names scrawled deep in the shells hidden behind plywood, by the likes of the Brown brothers, builders from Dubbo who moved to Sydney in the 1960s to work at the site.

    Can't imagine how that got there. (I was nowhere near Sydney at the time, and you probably can't prove otherwise.)


  • And (as usual), the Babylon Bee has a scoop: Mafia Requests To No Longer Be Called 'The Mob' Because Of Negative Association With Political Activists.

    At a private event, representatives of various organized crime groups came forward to request that the press stop referring to them as "the Mob" because of the negative connotation of the word thanks to recent political events.

    "When people hear about 'the Mob’,” said Joey "the Ice Pick" Polino, "they now think of people mindlessly screeching about some red versus blue political nonsense. No one even understands what those people want, while we in the Mafia are very clear about what we want: money."

    Because, as Tony Montana (in our Amazon Product du Jour) observed long ago: "In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women."

URLs du Jour

2018-10-18

[Amazon Link]

  • Our Amazon Product du Jour is a book I just happened across, and I'm intrigued by the title. Seems as if God is advertising Himself as the Most Boring Conversationalist Ever.

    "Let me tell you about Malachi, now there was a prophet. But he could also fish. He would drop his hook in the Sea of Galilee, and the carp would be lining up to bite. Malachi preferred the tilapia, though, so he threw a lot of the carp back…"


  • Peter Spiliakos writes at NR on The Calvinball World of Elite White Liberals.

    The legendary comic strip Calvin and Hobbes had a game called “Calvinball.” The rules were nonsensical to the outsider and the players made up them as they went along, to gain tactical advantage. But the point was that the players were alternating in changing the rules.

    In many elite institutions, elite white liberals are used to playing a spoiled-brat version of Calvinball in which only they get to make up the rules. Sometimes the rule is believe the accusers (when the targets are fraternities or Republican nominees). Sometimes — like with Keith Ellison — the rule is pictures or it didn’t happen (sorry, Al Franken). Sometimes colleges need safe spaces, and sometimes armed left-wing militias are an understandable but overenthusiastic response to peaceful, democratic critics.

    The key is the relationship of (mostly white, affluent, privileged) activists to authority. They might be students, junior staffers at media companies, or television producers, but they all know that they are part of the in-group and that authority is looking for a pretext to apply the rules in a partisan manner against the out-group. They know that authority is corrupt, and that rules and procedures will be manipulated or ignored to harass the opposition. These expectations of special treatment don’t just disappear when these people leave their institutional playpens.

    Another Calvinball-like arena are the social media giants, apparently suspending/deleting accounts for violating vague rules, inconsistently applied.


  • Reason's Nancy Rommelmann dissects The Complex, Childish Identity Politics of Elizabeth Warren’s Native Heritage.

    Because it just really could have been, I believe Warren believes herself to be part Native, that she is one of the millions of Americans who have been told they have Native blood (though often don't); who, while wishcasting for identity, alight on Native American because #motherearth and #nicehair and because Natives tend to put up with white people parachuting in for a perceived spiritual hit.

    In my experience, as a 100 percent white person who's spent three decades around Native people—who, also in my experience, usually refer to themselves as American Indians, or simply 'skins—Natives are amazingly tolerant of the wannabes. The woman who comes to Okmulgee, Oklahoma, every year from Germany to visit Grandma for a month but brings with her money and gifts and steaks for the barbecue? She can stay. The little orange-haired girl dancing at the powwow who, when my former brother-in-law asked, "What tribe are you?" answered, "I don't know but Mama knows," forever bequeathed us the "Mamaknows" tribe. My half-Native daughter's classmates who, during the 1997 drought in Los Angeles, suggested she lead them in a rain dance? They were second graders, in thrall to Pocahontas! They danced! And that was fine!

    If we self-mythologize when we're young, most of us (who are not politicians) would be too ashamed, or would not see enough benefit, to keep the lies going. (I stopped telling people the Osmonds were my cousins around age 11, about the time a friend said he stopped talking about his "Aunt Raquel.") We don't need little lies anymore to feel special; we develop identities based on accomplishments, on facts, not feelings.

    Mistaking wishful fantasies for reality? As Nancy says, it's cute and understandable when you're young. But Elizabeth Warren is 69 years old, so…


  • Let's bring in Michael Ramirez:


  • Watching Jeopardy! on live TV on Boston's WBZ TV brings us, unfortunately, bazillions of ads for and against "Question 1" on the Massachusetts ballot in November. Because it's now (apparently) the job of the state to micromanage hospital staffing questions. The WSJ (probably paywalled) weighs in on Bad Bedside Manner in Massachusetts.

    Massachusetts has some of the best medical care in the world, but a ballot measure next month could start its erosion by raising costs and reducing access. The culprit is the Massachusetts Nurses Association.

    Question 1 would limit the number of patients assigned to each registered nurse in state hospitals. For instance, in the pediatric, medical and surgery units a nurse would care for no more than four patients. Patients deemed in non-stable condition in the critical or intensive-care units would have their own dedicated nurse, as would mothers in labor and those under anesthesia.

    The nurses union claims these rigid ratios will improve the quality of hospital care, which is already terrific. Massachusetts’ health care ranks second in the nation, according to the Commonwealth Fund’s 2018 scorecard. The state has some of the world’s great hospitals, including Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s. The state has 122.4 nurses per 10,000 residents, far more than the national average of 89.6.

    Of course this will increase the cost of medical care generally. And the same people pushing for it will gripe in clueless wonder about how things got so expensive.


  • And a wonderful obituary for Rick Stein. begins:

    Rick Stein, 71, of Wilmington was reported missing and presumed dead on September 27, 2018 when investigators say the single-engine plane he was piloting, The Northrop, suddenly lost communication with air traffic control and disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Rehoboth Beach. Philadelphia police confirm Stein had been a patient at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital where he was being treated for a rare form of cancer. Hospital spokesman Walter Heisenberg says doctors from Stein's surgical team went to visit him on rounds when they discovered his room was empty. Security footage shows Stein leaving the building at approximately 3:30 Thursday afternoon, but then the video feed mysteriously cuts off. Authorities say they believe Stein took an Uber to the Philadelphia airport where they assume he somehow gained access to the aircraft.

    "The sea was angry that day," said NTSB lead investigator Greg Fields in a press conference. "We have no idea where Mr. Stein may be, but any hope for a rescue is unlikely."

    Stein's location isn't the only mystery. It seems no one in his life knew his exact occupation.

    His daughter, Alex Walsh of Wilmington appeared shocked by the news. "My dad couldn't even fly a plane. He owned restaurants in Boulder, Colorado and knew every answer on Jeopardy. He did the New York Times crossword in pen. I talked to him that day and he told me he was going out to get some grappa. All he ever wanted was a glass of grappa."

    And it gets worse. By which I mean: much much better. We can only hope that we'll go accompanied by such great humor.

Night Work

[Amazon Link]

Another reading project, catching up with the oeuvre of Steve Hamilton, a fine mystery writer. His previous books were in the Alex McKnight (ex-ballplayer, ex-cop, ex-private eye) series, set in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. This one is a "standalone"; the protagonist/narrator is Joe Trumbell, a probation officer in upstate New York.

Why yes, I did read two mysteries in a row set in upstate New York. Good catch.

Joe is kind of a mopey guy; his fiancée, Laurel, was brutally murdered a couple of years previous. He lives over an old bus station, converted into a boxing gym. He has a huge collection of jazz records. (And, like a lot of jazz fans, he can't stop yammering about jazz.)

He decides to try dating once more, however. And he hits it off with his first blind date, Marlene. But… yes, you saw this coming: Marlene gets brutally murdered too. Joe is understandably upset, but so is the local police force, and the NY staties. And (of course) Joe's a suspect. And the book is written in such a way that I wasn't sure that Joe shouldn't be a suspect; he pretty clearly has Issues.

The book is kind of long and it feels very, very padded. Not only with the jazz stuff, but Joe's seeming obsession with describing every building, every bit of scenery, every bit of room decor… As I've said about other works, I suspect Hamilton's book contract specified a certain number of pages be delivered.

Still, it works well as a thriller, and I certainly sped through it to find out what happened and whodunit.

URLs du Jour

2018-10-17

[Amazon Link]

  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File notes: A Free People Must Be Virtuous. The discussion centers around Patrick Deneen’s book Why Liberalism Failed (which is, why not, our Amazon Product du Jour). Sample:

    Deneen chronicles how individualism was once understood as both the culmination of, and dependent on, virtue. The law was conceived of as a device, a technology, for making the virtuous path easier. But it was always understood that liberty comes with obligations. As the line goes in “America the Beautiful,” Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law.

    This idea, which I write about at length in my book, recognized that the great enemy of virtue and individualism rightly understood is human nature itself. Classical liberalism is very different from classical or pagan libertinism. Adam Smith and John Locke never wrote anything like, “If it feels good, do it.” This is why I placed so much importance in my book on the idea of “God-fearing.” A free society, in which people act as if God is always judging them, will look very different from a free society in which the only god you care about is your own gut.

    Deneen's book sounds challenging, let's see if I get to it.


  • At Reason, J.D. Tuccille reports: Facebook Slams Independent Voices With Latest Political Purge.

    If Facebook is concerned about a growing chorus of accusations that the social media giant suppresses some voices and elevates others in accord with the company's prevailing political biases, that's not obvious in the firm's latest purge of political pages and accounts.

    On Thursday, October 11, Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's Head of Cybersecurity Policy and Oscar Rodriguez, Product Manager, announced the company was shutting down 559 pages and 251 accounts "created to stir up political debate." Allegedly, the targets were guilty of "coordinated inauthentic behavior" intended "to mislead others about who they are, and what they are doing." The targeted pages and accounts included many pages, and their administrators, who have gained popularity by voicing ideas outside the mainstream—including skepticism of violent and intrusive police tactics and support for libertarian ideas.

    Facebook/Twitter rules seem to be vague and applied unevenly. That's their business, but it's a bad way to run a business.


  • David Harsanyi notes something remarkable about the candidate for US Senate running against Ted Cruz. But it's only one thing, and it's … The Only Remarkable Thing About Beto O’Rourke Is How Much The Media Loves Him.

    Despite my best efforts, I know exactly what Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke’s post-punk indie band from the mid-’90s sounds like (not as bad as you’d think!). At the same time, I don’t know much about Senate candidate Josh Hawley, who is 38 years old (meaning, around eight years younger than “rising star” Beto), the attorney general of Missouri, and the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate.

    In fact, Hawley’s name recognition outside of his state is probably negligible. When his name does come up in national political coverage, it’s mostly as a tack-on in pieces accessing opponent Claire McCaskill’s latest face-saving move or a panicky story about voter registration in Missouri. As with most other Americans, I don’t have any idea if Hawley likes to air drum to The Who when he pretends to win a debate. What I do know is that Hawley is slightly leading McCaskill, a two-time incumbent, in the RealClearPolitics poll average in a race that could decide which party controls the Senate.

    The classic Instapunditry applies: Just think of the media as Democrat operatives with bylines.


  • Bill Gates tells us What I loved about Paul Allen. This bit hit home for me:

    In fact, Microsoft would never have happened without Paul. In December 1974, he and I were both living in the Boston area—he was working, and I was going to college. One day he came and got me, insisting that I rush over to a nearby newsstand with him. When we arrived, he showed me the cover of the January issue of Popular Electronics. It featured a new computer called the Altair 8800, which ran on a powerful new chip. Paul looked at me and said: “This is happening without us!” That moment marked the end of my college career and the beginning of our new company, Microsoft. It happened because of Paul.

    In December 1974, I was a freezing physics grad student about 70 miles north of Cambridge, also looking longingly at those clunky, cheap microcomputers. You can see the cover and a blurry few pages of the magazine Bill Gates cites here.

    Relatively cheap, that is. The "can be built for under $400" Altair 8800 was slightly north of $2K in 2018 dollars. Not feasible for a UNH grad student. And you'd have to add at least a teletype (1500 1974-dollars) or CRT terminal onto that… and some kind of mass storage… I see from the Wikipedia page that was probably an audio cassette interface (S-100 bus board $128 kit, $174 assembled).

    But mainly I am bummed that Paul Allen was younger than I am.


  • The ACLU has an LFOD notice: On Election Day, the Voters of New Hampshire Can Protect Their Privacy in the Digital Age.

    “Live free or die.”

    As reflected in its official state motto, no state has unequivocally embraced the principles of liberty and privacy more than the state of New Hampshire. These ideals make up the core of the state’s philosophical DNA. It is therefore surprising that New Hampshire is conspicuously missing from the list of the 10 diverse states that have explicitly enshrined the right to privacy in their constitutions. But on Election Day, Granite State voters will have a chance to remedy that oversight.

    Let's pass on the mindset that had the authors, an ACLU writer and Neal Kurk (a NH state rep from Weare) write "10 diverse states" instead of "10 other states". Should a state right to privacy be enshrined in the NH Constitution? My sample ballot reads:

    “Are you in favor of amending the first part of the constitution by inserting after article 2-a a new article to read as follows:
    [Art.] 2-b. [Right to Privacy.] An individual’s right to live free from governmental intrusion in private or personal information is natural, essential, and inherent.”
    (Passed by the N.H. House 235 Yes 96 No; Passed by State Senate 15 Yes 9 No) CACR 16

    The nine Senate votes against the amendment were all Democrats. (One Dem, Martha Fuller Clark, voted in favor.)

    The House passed the proposed amendment 235-96, but I can't find a party breakdown.

    Seems like a good idea, in other words. But also see Bad ACLU, arguing for Harvard's right to racially discriminate in its admissions:

Some Buried Caesar

[Amazon Link]

I can remember why I put this book on the TBR pile: at some point in the distant past, I came across a list of Roger Zelazny's favorite mystery novels. I resolved to read the ones I hadn't read already.

But that was long ago. I'm pretty sure this was the last book on the list. I can't, however, find that list now. And I don't remember what other books were on it. Ah, well.

I've read a lot of Chandler, Hammett, etc., but I had so far avoided Rex Stout's novels featuring his detective Nero Wolfe. I had picked up some general conceptions, more or less accurate, involving obesity, orchids, reclusiveness, and his dependence on Archie Goodwin for footwork and occasional fisticuffs.

So this book is a little unusual, because Wolfe and Archie are out of New York City, headed up to show Wolfe's prize orchids at the (apparently fictional) "North Atlantic Exposition" in upstate New York. A freak auto accident strands them in the countryside, and while making their way to a nearby farmhouse, they run afoul of a local prize bull, which goes under the name Hickory Caesar Grindon.

Such is the nature of contrived mystery books: the bull is owned by an NYC restaurateur named Pratt, who acquired him under contentious circumstances. Adding to the controversy: Pratt intends to butcher the bull for ths publicity value, outraging the locals and the former owner.

A large bet is made that this won't happen. And soon enough one of the bettors is found gorily dead inside Caesar's corral. But did Caesar do it, or…

This didn't grab me enough to start devouring Nero Wolfe novels, a little too gimmicky. And it's one of those books where they throw the suspects at you all at once, and wish you good luck keeping everyone straight. But the details of its time and place (late 1930s America) are kind of interesting. Archie is a fun narrator, but (unfortunately) some of his prose seems to be dated enough to be incomprehensible to my ears.

The Practicing Stoic

A Philosophical User's Manual

[Amazon Link]

The author was invited to the Volokh Conspiracy recently to plug this book. I was intrigued enough to put in an Interlibrary Loan request for it; and up it came from Brown University, where apparently there aren't a lot of Stoic-curious students. Want to see if you'd be lured in as well? Those posts are here, here, here, here, and here.

I'm pretty sure this will go on my top ten list for this year.

The author, Ward Farnsworth (Dean of The University of Texas School of Law) has done a masterful job of presenting, and advocating for, Stoic philosophy. (My previous exposure: Tom Wolfe's A Man In Full, back in the previous century.)

Farnsworth's method is "progressive", but—whew!—not in a political sense. He starts with foundational building blocks, works upward to more advanced topics that follow from those basics. The text relies heavily on quoted snippets from the biggies: Seneca, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, with a host of "guest speakers": Kant, Montaigne, Samuel Johnson, Adam Smith, et al. This works pretty well: we see things in a logical, topical, order; easier to take than trying to digest each philosopher's thoughts in the order in which he wrote them.

What you'll notice immediately: the Stoics were a lively and observant bunch. Their insights into human nature are revelatory and not at all dated. Yes, Seneca lived 20 centuries ago. Guess what? Humans still behave and think pretty much the same way as they did back then. Their remarks remain trenchant and not without humor. As an example, here's Seneca, from the "Death" chapter:

Does it do any harm to a good man to be smeared by unjust gossip? Then we should not let the same sort of thing do damage to death, either, in our judgment; for death also has a bad reputation, but none of those who malign death have tried it.

Doesn't that tickle your funny bone a little? Worked for me, anyway.

There's a downside of getting such a book at the library. It deserves to be studied and re-read every so often. I didn't find myself agreeing in places, but I may have been reading too superficially.

URLs du Jour

2018-10-16

[Amazon Link]

  • Skip, the original Granite Grokster, has a good catch on the guy angling to become my next CongressCritter/Toothache: Chris Pappas – Spoken like a true Collectivist! He’s not grooving to “Live Free or Die”. He reproduces an article from the Hippo Press (a free throwaway paper distributed in central/southern NH) from 2005, in which Pappas argued for …

    Why should we be proud of our state botto of 'Live Free or Die' if it compels state government to let the absolute freedom of a few compromise the well being of the rest?

    … well, it doesn't really matter what particular policy he's arguing for, does it? Once you buy into the notion that individual rights can, indeed must, be trampled underfoot when some imaginary "common good" is to be imposed by politicians, you've pretty much given the whole game away.

    Pappas's conclusion:

    In New Hampshire, we have transformed the revolutionary catch phrase of General Stark into a pithy political slogan used to defeat good public policies that could help create a freer, more forward-looking state. We should let our politically charged motto slip into the night like the Old Man and pick a new mantra that calls each of us to do better by each other, not just ourselves.

    "Will no one rid me of this turbulent motto?"


  • At Reason, Eric Boehm provides the news: It's Official: 2018 Federal Deficit Largest Since 2012.

    That this latest increase in the deficit happened during a period when Republicans had full control of the federal government reveals that they were never very serious about balancing the budget. Even now, they refuse to recognize the problem. Democrats, meanwhile, are promising to spend even more on entitlements, if and when they return to power.

    According to the Treasury Department press release (which is, of course, full of happy-face spin), between FY2017 and FY2018, government receipts were up by a hair, $3.315 Trillion to 3.329 Trillion, a 0.4% increase. But outlays ballooned from $3.981 Trillion to $4.108 Trillion, up by a solid 3.2%.


  • And yet, as Kevin D. Williamson reminds us: The World Keeps Not Ending.

    We were not supposed to have made it this far.

    George Orwell saw night descending on us in 1984. Orwell was, on paper, a radical, but in his heart he was an old-fashioned English liberal. He dreamed of socialism but feared socialists. He feared them because he knew them. I was in the sixth grade in 1984, but I remember the magazine covers and pundit panels, and the insistence that though we had not arrived at dystopia on Orwell’s schedule, that eternal jackboot was sure to find our face soon enough. Tom Wolfe joked that “the dark night of fascism is always descending in the United States and yet lands only in Europe,” which wasn’t quite right: There’s Saudi Arabia, and China, and Burma . . .

    But not here. And, increasingly, not there, either. As our friends at HumanProgress.Org remind us (to little thanks — nobody is less popular than an optimist) the world has in fact become more democratic and more liberal since 1984, rather than more autocratic and more illiberal. Orwell was the better writer and the more profound thinker, but Aldous Huxley was the better prophet.

    [Amazon Link]
    Fine, but between you and me I found the guy who wrote The End Is Near and It's Going to be Awesome a tad more convincing.


  • John Hinderaker of Power Line expounds on Why Elizabeth Warren’s Lies Are Good For America. Shortest post ever? No!

    Paul and Scott have joined in the general hilarity over Elizabeth Warren’s disclosure that she might be something like 1/1,000 Native American. (Then again, she might not be. There is so little Native American DNA in the database that several Latin American countries, including Mexico, are used as proxies. Warren may have a better claim to being Hispanic than Indian.) It turns out that Warren likely has less Native American blood than the average white American. Not to mention the wag who noted that she has more bourbon in her blood than Warren has Indian. But Warren doggedly sticks to the one-drop rule that her Democratic forbears promulgated in the antebellum South. Good for her!

    Here’s the point: Warren’s defense of her claim to being Native American is good for America. Because if Warren is an Indian, then so are most of the rest of us. And most of us are also African-American or Hispanic. If everyone is an Indian, then no one is an Indian. This logic is fatal to the whole corrupt affirmative action enterprise.

    If you go back far enough (as I've said repeatedly, and tiresomely, in the past) we're all African-American.

    But Senator Warren joins a long line of Democrats pushing for the one-drop rule.


  • But in all the hoopla about Senator Warren, the good news about another prominent pol seems to have been buried. Fortunately, the Babylon Bee noticed: Hillary Clinton Releases DNA Test Results Proving She's Only Half Lizard Person.

    Shortly after Elizabeth Warren released a DNA test that may or may not show that she is 1/1024th Native American, failed presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton showed the results of a recent DNA test that conclusively proved she is only 50% Reptilian.

     The test, conducted by a renowned DNA expert, showed that only 50% of her blood comes from reptilian humanoids from space bent on destroying humanity. Many Washington insiders had claimed she was 100% reptile, but these claims are now known to be a hoax.

    Thank goodness!

URLs du Jour

2018-10-15

[Amazon Link]

  • At NR, Jim Geraghty notices that The Cable-News Crowd Denounces Kanye. Specifically: "the big talking point on cable news was that West was mentally ill."

    They make this accusation now? This is a man who voluntarily signed on to the constant drama circus that is life married to a Kardashian. This is a man whose surname is West — and then chose to name his daughter “North.” This is a man who recorded his debut single with his jaw wired shut after a car accident. This is a man who announced plans to run for president in 2020 back in 2015. This is a man who promoted his sneakers with nude models. This is a man who staged a “fashion show” on Roosevelt Island in New York City where most of the models were wearing translucent outfits and some fainted in the stifling heat.

    This is a man who stormed out of the American Music Awards after he didn’t win in 2004; declared himself the voice of his generation in 2008; declared, “My greatest pain in life is that I will never be able to see myself perform live” in 2009; declared, “I would never want a book’s autograph, I am a proud non-reader of books” in 2009; performed for the authoritarian ruler of Kazakhistan in 2013; declared, “Black people don’t have the same level of connections as Jewish people” in 2013; declared himself “the Steve Jobs of the Internet” in 2013 (wouldn’t the Steve Jobs of the Internet be . . . Steve Jobs?); described himself, “I am Warhol! I am the number one most impactful artist of our generation. I am Shakespeare in the flesh,” in 2013; followed up on his interrupting stunt with Taylor Swift with an aborted attempt to interrupt Beck in 2015; declared, “Everyone is a fashion insider, because it’s illegal to be naked” in 2016; contended that Jay-Z was threatening to kill him in 2016; depicted naked celebrities in a 2016 video; and declared himself “50 per cent more influential than any other human being” in 2016.

    And now the cable-news crowd deems Kanye crazy?

    Come on. Hugging Donald Trump as he’s sitting behind the Resolute Desk doesn’t even crack the top 30 craziest things Kanye West has ever done.

    I watched Saturday Night Live and they were pretty obsessed about it. Continuing their Kanye-obsession from the previous week. The message is pretty clear: Uppity boy, you step off the plantation, you're asking for trouble.


  • At Reason, Steve Chapman notes: With the Saudis, Trump Shows Timidity.

    If a foreign journalist living in America and writing about the Iranian government's noxious policies were murdered by agents of Tehran, the president of the United States would take it as evidence of the need for tough action. Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, however, was a Saudi writing about the Saudi government, which is a U.S. ally.

    After Khashoggi disappeared while visiting Riyadh's consulate in Istanbul, Donald Trump was a portrait in timidity. "We want to find out what happened," he bleated more than a week later. "He went in, and it doesn't look like he came out." What happened is pretty clear. Since Khashoggi entered the building October 2, he has not been seen or heard from.

    Bleated, Steve? Not howled, creaked, screamed, screeched, wailed, …

    Oh well. As far as I can remember, things worked out poorly the last few times we "got tough" with murderous dictators in that general area. Maybe things will work out better this time.


  • Hey, Senator Elizabeth Warren took a DNA test. What does it prove, according to David Harsanyi? Elizabeth Warren’s DNA Test Proves She Was Lying.

    As The Federalist’s Sean Davis points out, according to The New York Times, the average white person in America has nearly double the amount of American Indian DNA (0.18%) as Elizabeth Warren (0.098%), who claims to be Cherokee. […]

    I don’t much care about Warren’s ethnicity, but she is not, in any genuine sense, a racial or ethnic minority. Not in blood. Not in experience. Under her standards, how many Americans would qualify as Native American? Or put it this way: is being 1/1,024th African enough to claim “minority” status in a professional setting? I’m asking for the liberals who believe race-based hiring is an important means of facilitating diversity and ensuring fairness.

    I didn't know about the "average white person", and I'm way too old to see if I'd qualify for racial hiring or admission preferences. Still, those DNA tests sound interesting.


  • A (belated) entry from Jeff Jacoby about the Maine Senator much in the nwes: Collins falsely cries 'bribery!' in crowdfunded political theater. (Note: this was written last month, before confirmation.)

    Two liberal activist groups — Mainers for Accountable Leadership and the Maine People's Alliance — have launched a put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is crowdfunding campaign to pressure Collins into voting no on Kavanaugh. As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 49,500 people had signed up, agreeing in advance to donate nearly $1.4 million to Collins's as-yet-unidentified 2020 Democratic challenger. Nearly all the pledges are for $25 or less, and the donors' names are publicly posted. Their contributions have been made by credit card, with the stipulation that the charge will be processed only if Collins votes in favor of confirmation.

    So far, so normal. What could be more typical of democratic politics, after all, than lobbying elected officials, or working to defeat them if you disapprove of their performance in office?

    Yet to hear Collins and some of her supporters tell it, mobilizing donors to fund a future challenger isn't citizen activism, it's an illegal bribe. Or maybe it's attempted extortion. But in any case they're sure it's something illegal. They want the Justice Department to investigate the crowdfunding as a violation of Title 18, Section 201 of the United States Code, which makes it a crime for anyone to "corruptly" offer "anything of value to any public official" in order "to influence any official act.

    I'm glad Kavanaugh was confirmed, and glad Susan Collins voted to confirm him. But her efforts to quash political spending by her opponents are blatantly at odds with the Constitution she swore to support and defend.


  • The Google LFOD News Alert alerted us to an unexpected source: an interview with Karen Traister in the Nation titled The Politics of Women’s Anger. What's up, Karen?

    [Amazon Link]
    [Interviewer] Jon Wiener: The New York Times page-one headline after Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony read, “A Nominee is Rescued By a Display of Rage.” I wonder if you have any comment on that.

    Rebecca Traister: One of the things I write about in the book [Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger] is the issue of whose rage is taken seriously as politically valid and politically consequential. Of course, I finished writing this book months before the Kavanaugh hearings. I wrote about how the kind of political rage that we take seriously is the rage of powerful white men. Our founding lullaby is the founders’ rage, the anger that undergirded the American Revolution: “Give me liberty, or Give me death!” “Live free or die!

    Yeah, fine, Rebecca. It's exactly the same thing, I'm sure.

    But here's something I did not know: a phrase used at the time was rage militaire, usually translated as "passion for arms". Is there a useful distinction to be made between "rage" and "passion"? I think so, but that's inconvenient to Rebecca's thesis.


  • At his Minneapolis Star-Tribune perch, James Lileks asks the musical question: Does American cheese deserve to die?

    The millennials’ newest victim, according to Bloomberg News, is American cheese. Processed cheese sales have been down for four years. “The product, made famous by the greatest generation, has met its match with millennials demanding nourishment from ingredients that are both recognizable and pronounceable.”

    Those are peculiar criterion. “What’s in this cheese?” “Cyanide, dog hair, chlorine, lark sputum and melted Legos.” “Oh, I know those, and can pronounce them all! I’ll take a pound.”

    They can have my Kraft Singles American Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product 1GSlices when they… well, OK they can have them. I'll just buy more.

URLs du Jour

2018-10-14

[Amazon Link]

  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson looks at the prose stylings of Eric Holthaus: An ‘Ecosocialist’ Heard From. (Ecosocialist being Eric's self-description.)

    Writing on Twitter, Holthaus declares: “If you are wondering what you can do about climate change: The world’s top scientists just gave rigorous backing to systematically dismantle capitalism as a key require to maintaining civilization and a habitable planet. I mean, if you are looking for something to do.”

    That is a nearly perfect specimen of left-wing political writing in 2018: Note the familiar passive-aggressive construction (“If you are wondering . . . I mean, if you are looking for something to do”), the ceremonial invocation of “the world’s top scientists,” the dump-truck approach to meaningless but important-sounding modifiers (“rigorous backing,” “systematically dismantle,” “key requirement”), the assumption that scholarly expertise in one field (climate science) is seamlessly transferable to other fields (macroeconomics), the hectoring hall-monitor tone — I can think of no right-leaning parodist who could do better.

    I've noticed the tendency of Our Lefty Friends to "dump-truck" ever more meaningless words into their prose. My own (imagined) rule: Never say just one thing, if you can possibly think of two or three.

    A further Williamsonian observation: "American progressives in particular are a transparent bunch: Whatever the problem, the answer involves giving more money and power to people who are aligned politically and socially with American progressives."


  • Andrew Cline of the Josiah Bartlett Center shares some bad news for the inhabitants of Pun Salad Manor: Winter is coming (and it’s going to be expensive).

    On Wednesday the U.S. Energy Information Agency released its annual Winter Fuels Outlook. If you heat with propane or natural gas, you’ll be fine. If you heat with oil, you probably should buy more blankets. Or an alpaca.

    The EIA predicted average price changes this winter of -1 percent for propane, 3 percent for electricity, 5 percent for natural gas and 20 percent for home heating oil.

    I hit the themostat for the first time last night, and winced every time I heard the burner fire up, imagining "there's a dollar… there's a dollar…"

    Anyway: blame the ecosocialists, diligently working to prevent efficient pipeline delivery of natural gas.


  • I'm no Trump fan, goodness knows, but the MSM continue to reveal themselves as partisan hacks, willing to grab onto the thinnest out-of-context reeds to do some Trump-trashing. Latest case in point: Trump's comments in Ohio about Robert E. Lee, on the way to praising Ohio native U. S. Grant. Powerline ( (Dumbest Anti-Trump Slur Ever?) and the MinuteMan (We March To War) round up the usual suspects: Soledad O'Brien, the WaPo, the SPLC, and NBC "News".

    As a commenter at the latter site points out: they aren't even trying to tell the truth any more.


  • The University Near Here has a new President, James "Don't Call Me Jimmy" Dean. And the Google LFOD News Alert rang for his Installation Installation Remarks! (Yes, they call it an "installation". Like they're bringing in upgraded software.)

    I wonder if you know these slogans? Heart of Dixie…World Famous Potatoes…America’s Dairyland…Greatest Snow on Earth?

    Until recently, Live Free or Die was, to me, just another charming license plate slogan. But after only a few months in New Hampshire, I am beginning to appreciate its profound resonance among the state’s citizens.

    He continues, excellently, for a while, and I recommend it. For a while. But then:

    But it was in the State of the Union address in 1941, in the foreboding days between the Great Depression and America’s entry into World War II, that President Franklin Roosevelt captured the essence of freedom as many Americans understand it, identifying four essential human freedoms:
    1. Freedom of speech and expression;
    2. Freedom of every person to worship God in his or her own way;
    3. Freedom from want; and
    4. Freedom from fear.

    Well, that was a mere year before he signed Executive Order 9066. President Dean doesn't mention that complication.

    And it gets worse from there. Because, and I am not making this up: "True freedom depends on education". What follows is mostly trite and self-serving.


  • And I rarely put my own tweets here, but I saw this at Powerline's Week in Pictures and found it irresistable:

    Say what you will about George Lucas, he really wrote some good lines, decades ago.

URLs du Jour

2018-10-13

[Amazon Link]

  • One of my lefty Facebook friends was moved to post this Guardian story (from July 2017): Just 100 companies responsible for 71% of global emissions, study says. Those damn capitalist pigs!

    Just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988, according to a new report.

    The Carbon Majors Report (pdf) “pinpoints how a relatively small set of fossil fuel producers may hold the key to systemic change on carbon emissions,” says Pedro Faria, technical director at environmental non-profit CDP, which published the report in collaboration with the Climate Accountability Institute.

    Gosh. But …

    Number one evil corporation on the GHG emitter list? It's "China (Coal)", accounting for 14.32% of that 71%. That's more than three times the GHG emissions from number two on the list.

    Do you consider China to be a "company"? Neither do I.

    And that number two is? Aramco, a state-owned enterprise (Saudi Arabia).

    And number three: Gazprom, majority-owned by … the Russian government.

    And number four: National Iranian Oil Co, another state-owned enterprise.

    Finally, down at number five: ExxonMobil, an actual private company. But further down you see Coal India, Pemex, Petroleos de Venezuela SA,…

    This isn't hard to figure out, but the Guardian actively misleads its readers by blaming "companies" for GHG emissions. Unfortunately, it works, as in the case of my lefty friend. And I might could have responded with our Amazon Product du Jour.


  • Arnold Kling has thoughts related to political tribalism. Is it possible to Love them out of their cult?.

    This approach appeals to me. One of my favorite children’s fables is the one about the sun and the wind competing to get a man to take off his coat. The wind blows hard and cold, but that only makes the man pull his coat tighter. The sun bathes the man in warmth, and he removes his coat. I think there is a lesson there for those involved in political conflicts.

    But I think that there are complicating factors. Most important, I worry that political anger is fueled by emotional needs, not good intentions. The anger comes from internal demons, a sort of bitterness (self-hatred?) that the individual projects outward.

    Suppose that there is a spectrum of personal contentment. At one end of that spectrum there are people who are happy with their lives and comfortable in their skins. They feel gratitude. Many of the conservative and libertarian intellectuals that I regularly follow fit in this category. The folks I know at Reason, at National Review, or in the GMU economics department. At the other end of the spectrum are young men who are so frustrated and angry that they become serial killers.

    The politics of anger falls somewhere in between. At the extremes, it might be close to the serial-killer end of the spectrum.

    I think there's a lot in what Arnold says: to a first handwaving approximation, lefties tend to be more bitter, angry, and humorless. (Even their comedy shows are humorless, a sad state of affairs.)

    On the other hand, that could well be my cognitive bias speaking. I await peer-reviewed research.


  • Jonah Goldberg writes on Nikki Haley’s excellent timing.

    Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley surprised virtually everybody this week when she announced she’d be resigning from her post at the end of the year.

    In doing so, Haley has managed something unique. She leaves the Trump administration with her reputation not merely undiminished but actually enhanced. She’s popular with both pro- and anti-Trump factions on the right, and with shockingly high numbers of independents and Democrats. She has a long list of accomplishments under her belt and no embarrassments or scandals. She is almost certainly the most popular politician in America.

    She's also one of the few Republicans I'd be more or less happy to vote for, given the opportunity.


  • At Reason, Peter Suderman detects… is it irony? I don't have a good handle on irony. Anyway, Peter thinks it's irony, I suppose that's good enough for our porpoises: Donald Trump Defends Medicare, a Socialist Program, from the Threat of Socialism.

    Over the past few months, Donald Trump has staked out an aggressive opposition to "Medicare-for-all," an increasingly popular liberal slogan that has multiple meanings but usually refers to some sort of single-payer health care system.

    This is rather rich coming from a candidate who touted single-payer's virtues during the Republican presidential primaries. But Trump's opposition is not merely ironic. It is self-contradicting. The president's primary argument against Medicare-for-all is that it is a socialist scheme that would ruin Medicare, the nation's largest socialist health care program.

    As noted in the article, Trump's position is not only ironic, it's actively harmful to what's needed: overall reform of the inequitable, unsustainable, US entitlement system.


  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson profiles lovely Sweden: The Rorschach Nation.

    For the American Left, Sweden is the great exemplar of what progressives erroneously call “socialism” or “democratic socialism,” even though the actual facts of life in Sweden’s open and entrepreneurial economy are far from socialistic. They point to Sweden’s robust economy, enviable standard of living, and the general contentedness of its people and conclude that what the United States needs is higher taxes, more social spending, and a larger public sector. Conservatives cannot help but notice that progressives draw precisely the same lesson from . . . everything: that the wisest course of action is to give more money and power to people and institutions politically aligned with progressives.

    For some on the American right, Sweden is a socialist hellhole. The talk-radio ranters and Internet-based rage retailers conclude that Sweden is a socialist hellhole because . . . Sweden must be a socialist hellhole. It has very high taxes, a sprawling welfare state, and public-sector spending that represents an enormous share of GDP. The problem with that analysis is that Swedes don’t seem to believe that they live in a socialist hellhole, and Sweden sure as heck doesn’t look like one. It has its troubles, including worrisome unrest within its poorly assimilated immigrant community, but in the main it is a prosperous, healthy, and happy country.

    Kevin's article is kind of a plug for Johan Norberg's new documentary, Sweden: Lessons for America?. If you're a podcast person, there's a Reason interview here,


  • And Steve Horwitz had a Cafe Hayek quote of the day, and I thought it was good enough to say "me too":


Last Modified 2018-10-13 3:56 PM EST

First Man

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

Bottom line: I expected to like this better.

It is, as you have probably heard, a look at the life of Neil Armstrong, first man to set foot on the lunar surface. It covers, roughly, 8 years (1961-1969) out of his 82-year life (1930-2012). But they were probably the most eventful. It is based on a biography by James R. Hansen (who is a history prof at Auburn, not the same guy as NASA's global warming doomsayer).

Ryan Gosling plays Armstrong as a shut-down, closed-off introvert, only emotionally moved by the 1962 death of his two-year-old daughter from the complications arising from her cancer treatment. Other than that heartbreak, the movie concentrates on Armstrong's and NASA's fumbles and bumbles along the way: a dramatic X-15 flight; the near-fatal Gemini 8; the loss of astronauts See and Bassett in a jet crash; the Apollo 1 fire; the crash of one of the lunar lander trainers where Armstrong had to eject.

In addition, a number of Apollo-naysayers are featured: Kurt Vonnegut bemoaning that the Apollo money could be spent on making New York City liveable; Gil Scot-Heron performing his protest piece "Whitey on the Moon". Sigh.

I've seen the major spaceflight movies; this one is notable for portraying (accurately, as far as I know) the noise and vibration involved in strapping yourself to rockets. Somewhat impressive.

The movie looks so hard at the bad and dangerous stuff, the triumphs are glossed over. The actual moon landing is anticlimactic. Buzz Aldrin comes across as kind of a jerk. Armstrong's wife, Janet, has a major role, mainly being worried about Neil not coming back. A major scene shows a quarrel about whether/how Armstrong should speak to his kids before setting off for the moon.

But the movie makes me want to read the book.

URLs du Jour

2018-10-12

[Amazon Link]

  • I'm sure we'll have a Kavanaugh-free day Real Soon Now, but… not today, friends. At NR, Kevin D. Williamson takes a hard look at what happens After Kavanaugh.

    One can almost admire the brazen, cynical genius behind the Democrats’ smear campaign against Judge Kavanaugh, which is only the logical extension of the similar campaigns they conducted against Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas — and, for that matter, George W. Bush, about whom the Democrats said more or less exactly what they say today about Donald Trump, i.e., that he represented a unique threat to American democracy, a clear and present danger to the republic not seen since . . . the last time there was a Republican president. The Democrats lost this one, and they do care about winning, but this kind of mau-mauing is not only about winning in the particular matter at hand: It is about fear. Even if you don’t win this round, you can encourage would-be participants to sit out future contests — especially if they have families.

    The Democrats’ strategy can be summarized: “Sure, you may win an election. And, sure, you may be an accomplished jurist with a sterling record. But if you come between us and what we want — and what we want is the power to dominate you — then we will slander you as a rapist, and our media friends will see to it that this slander, no matter how obviously false, is the first thing people think about when they think about you, for the rest of your life. You may beat us in an election, but we’ll take it out on your children, and we have the New York Times and the Yale Law School. Enjoy your victory.”

    I have to admit that I view politics like a lot of people view sports, an interesting source of entertainment. There are differences though. Example: sports fans love watching actual games. The closest analog in politics is (I suppose) candidate debates, which I can't stand to watch.

    And, if I have to root for anyone, I have to root for the hapless, hopeless, half-crazy, Libertarians. Might as well be a Cleveland Browns fan.

    I can't bring myself to cheer for Republicans, who talk about their small-government ideals, but never manage to implement them. (Closest NFL analogs: Bills and Vikings)

    But Democrats have given me more than enough reasons, seemingly daily, to cheer against them. I feel about them the same way most non-New Englanders feel about the Patriots. (There's an impressive array of anti-Patriot product at Amazon, but we'll go with something a little more pro for our Product du Jour.)


  • Jacob Sullum notes (at Reason) another Reason why Democrats should not be allowed to have nice things: Hillary Clinton Says Democrats Can't Be Civil Until They're Back in Power. You've probably heard that story, but here's Jacob's conclusion:

    Clinton's idea of civility—the grace that good people with power deign to grant their defeated and benighted opponents—reminds me of Nira Cain-N'Degeocello, the smug Sacha Baron Cohen character who sees his mission as "listening respectfully, without prejudice, to Republicans, with the hope of changing their racist and childish views." But when she says "you cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for," she demonstrates an even more disturbing failure of empathy, since she denies the possibility that people may sincerely disagree with her for what they take to be good reasons and may therefore think she is trying to destroy what they stand for. If civility is out of the question in that situation, peaceful and rational debate is impossible.

    Only quibble with the above: see Kevin D. Williamson arguing against empathy.


  • We've gotten the habit of live-watching the 5pm local news on Manchester's WMUR, which—aieee!—unfortunately means political ads. The Democrat's gubernatorial candidate is Molly Kelly, and her ads savage incumbent Chris Sununu for daring to oppose "paid family and medical leave", a feelgood issue that apparently focus-groups well among those who don't want to be bothered with the details. Unfortunately for Molly, at Inside Sources, Michael Graham looks at the details: Molly Kelly’s “Unsustainable” Attack on the Paid Family Medical Leave Issue. The problem being that the legislation Sununu opposed was "opt-out", which would make the whole thing insolvent.

    (Which, of course, is the idea: eventually, down the road, you have to make it mandatory.)

    Conclusion:

    As it stands, Molly Kelly is attacking Gov. Sununu for not supporting a paid family leave plan that even the researchers who worked with its advocates concede is unsustainable. The failure is built in.

    The obvious solution would be for Kelly to offer her own plan. But that would involve admitting that Sununu made the right decision by killing the plan backed by House Democrats. It appears that Molly Kelly would rather have the political issue than a sustainable solution.


  • And our Google LFOD News Alert rang for an LTE from Rick DeMark of Meredith NH in the Laconia Daily Sun: We have to start taking our country back on November 6.

    November 6, Election Day 2018, can be the day we start taking our country back. We have allowed our community, county delegation, state Legislature, governor’s office, Congress, the presidency and now the Supreme Court to be hijacked by people who don’t care about the plight of working families, don’t care if people have affordable health care, don’t care about sexual assault, don’t care about women’s reproductive rights, don’t care that guns are making our communities dangerous, don’t care that fossil fuels are poisoning our air and destroying our ability to live on this planet, don’t care about public education, don’t care about Social Security, don’t care about discrimination and injustice, and don’t care about the spreading of hate, intolerance and lies.

    The people we have allowed into places of power, the people who don’t care, are members of the so-called Tea Party, the Free-State Project, and now unfortunately many people who were once just mainstream Republicans. These people masquerade using themes of frugalness, school choice, right to life, right to work, right to bear arms, and now putting America first. We have allowed these ploys to deeply divide our neighborhoods and country. They have succeeded in placing two legislative constitutional amendment questions on the N.H. ballot — in the guise of live free or die and taxes are unfair — that if approved will further dismantle the support systems we depend on as a society.

    I can't help but admire the lack of self-reflection necessary to (1) paint vast swaths of your fellow citizens as poisoners who want to see the survivors of such poisoning get sick, impoverished, raped, shot, stupid, and (even) discriminated against; (2) blame them for also "spreading hate, intolerance, and lies". Rick's solution: elect Democrats to save us from certain doom and also hurt feelings. Fine.

    But just a side note on the two proposed constitutional amendments: the first, "Accountability of Magistrates and Officers; Public’s Right to Know" was "Passed by the N.H. House 309 Yes 9 No; Passed by State Senate 22 Yes 2 No"; the second, "Right to Privacy" was less lopsided: "Passed by the N.H. House 235 Yes 96 No; Passed by State Senate 15 Yes 9 No", the nine nays all Democrats.


Last Modified 2018-10-13 5:30 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2018-10-11

[Amazon Link]

  • Jonah Goldberg, at AEI, has some sage advice: If You Think Our Politics Can’t Get Uglier Than the Kavanaugh Fight, Think Again.

    Confirming Brett Kavanaugh was the best outcome at the end of a hellish decision tree that left the country with no ideal option.

    Reasonable people may differ on that. But what seems more obvious: It’s all going to get worse. Because everyone is taking the wrong lessons from the Kavanaugh debacle.

    Well, not everyone, obviously. Not me. Or Jonah. But…

    Let’s start with the president. In an interview Saturday night on Fox News Channel’s “Justice with Judge Jeanine,” President Trump said that he was the one who “evened the playing field” for Kavanaugh when he mocked Christine Blasey Ford at a Mississippi rally the previous week.

    “Well, there were a lot of things happening that weren’t correct, they weren’t true, and there were a lot of things that were left unsaid,” Trump told host Jeanine Pirro. “It was very unfair to the judge. . . . So I evened the playing field. Once I did that, it started to sail through.”

    As Jonah points out, Trump's description at odds with reality. (And Trump has equally delusional counterparts on the other side.)


  • Speaking of viewpoints at odds with reality, Kevin D. Williamson looks at those on the left at NR: Why the Left Won’t Take Up Originalism.

    To win an election is not sufficient — it is much more satisfying to be revealed as one of the chosen by capital-H History, which progressives always are declaring themselves to be on the right side of. (One of the funny consequences of that is that important progressives such as President Wilson and Senator Russell are read out of the progressives’ historical account of their own movement because of the horrible racial views they held.) To win a political victory is one thing — a relatively petty thing — but to have one’s political will and sense of personal identity revealed as a constituent of the foundational bedrock of the nation, blessed by History itself, is a different kind of thing altogether. And that is what the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court threatened to take away from the Left, which is why their campaign against him was conducted with such hysteria. Some conservatives noted that it resembled religious fervor, but it did not resemble that: It was not something like religious fervor but actual religious fervor, the thing itself.

    Which is to say, the Left will not take up originalism because the political process can give progressives only some of what they want. Democracy may provide the policy outcomes they desire, but progressives desire much more than that. They desire domination for its own sake, as a source of pleasure, and that domination grows more desirable the more closely the instrument of domination resembles a religious body: e.g., wise men in black robes interpreting an occult text inscrutable to the uninitiated, who, being profane and outside the clerisy, cannot read between its lines. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in sæcula sæculorum. 

    Amen. (Yes, I had to look it up, good for you if you don't.)


  • Ah, the Google LFOD News Alert rang for a couple items in my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat. First up is an LTE from self-described octogenarian Peter J. Eldredge of Somersworth: Choice — It’s the ’603 way’.

    The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) not long ago decided to remove the option for people with disabilities to freely select to receive their case management (CM) from the same agency that they receive all their other services from. They believe there would be a “conflict of interest” under the present system that has been successfully operating for 40 years or so.

    Peter perceives this as negatively impacting the care of his long-term disabled daughter.

    On the other hand, the rationale behind the new (Obama-era, actually) rule is easy to understand: should the same organization that consumes Medicare/Medicaid cash for services be the same organization that determines what services the patient needs? Um… given the reported levels of Medicaid fraud saying no doesn't sound unreasonable.

    Anyway, where's the LFOD? Ah, here it is:

    New Hampshire is noted for allowing choice in not only these circumstances but in most of everything we undertake. We are the “live free or die” state. What is happening to “freedom of choice”? What is happening to “give me liberty or give me death”? I don’t believe we should allow the federal government to trample all over our hard-earned liberties and rights. Thank you Governor Sununu for taking a firm stand in favor of maintaining NH’s right to make our own decisions that affect NH’s citizens. After all, it’s the “603 way”

    Geez, give me a fiscal break here, Peter. This is like those Tea Partiers who (allegedly) demanded that their representatives "Keep your government hands off my Medicare". You take their money, you play by their rules.


  • The other LFOD-invoking item is an op-ed from Douglas Darrell ("a New Hampshire Community Rights Network board member"): Corporate personhood dilutes NH’s Bill of Rights. A promising beginning:

    All people are born with inalienable rights — the right to practice one’s chosen religion, to exercise free speech, etc. These rights define our personhood and cannot be transferred from person to person; they are inherent. They are also the core of our country’s founding principles and the riveting power behind the phrase “We the People”: each person is created equal and deserves the same human and legal rights.

    But then it all falls apart:

    However, courts have dictated that corporations have the same ‘personhood.’ Their rulings have applied the rights of a single human to the conglomerate of individuals who make up a corporation. In other words, by virtue of individuals in a corporation having inalienable rights, the corporation has these same rights, even though, by definition, inalienable rights aren’t transferable.

    These claimed corporate ‘rights’ were first recognized in 1886′s State of California vs. Southern Pacific Railroad Supreme Court decision. Despite dissenting opinions, presiding Justice Waite stated that corporations “are guaranteed the property right written in the 14th Amendment.” Over the next 30 years, the 14th amendment was used less than 20 times to defend the rights of freed slaves and over 200 times to defend the property rights of corporations.

    This description of "corporate personhood" doesn't survive even a cursory glance at (say) the relevant Wikipedia page. (For example: Douglas ignores the close-to-home case of Dartmouth College v. Woodward.)

    But LFOD?

    Put another way, we don’t live free or die because despite our New Hampshire Bill of Rights declaring the unconstitutionality of it, the reality of New Hampshire residents is that corporations now have equal and even more standing than we do: 1) state preemption disallows citizens from elevating their rights above those of corporate claimed rights; 2) if citizens sue a corporation for harms its project has exacted on their community, the corporation’s project permit is recognized as an individual’s legal property, and corporate ‘personhood’ is allowed to undermine our attempt to collectively exercise individual rights in the municipalities where we live.

    Note the oxymoronic phraseology of "our attempt to collectively exercise individual rights". The bottom-line deal is (as near as I can tell) to strengthen the hand of local politicians to hassle and obstruct companies.


  • Recommended reading for Doug and others is Katherine Mangu-Ward at Reason: Publicly Traded Companies Are Still Private Property.

    The first week of September saw the heads of tech companies hauled to Capitol Hill yet again to explain themselves to a bunch of grumpy senators. Whenever this happens, the hearing inevitably begins with hours of bloviation about "the public interest" before someone raises the idea that social media sites should be treated "like public utilities." Rep. Steve King (R–Iowa) is a big fan of this line of questioning, raising it in the previous go-round with Google in July: "What about converting the large behemoth organizations that we're talking about here into public utilities?"

    The notion that Twitter or Google are as vital to American citizens as water and electricity—and therefore must be subject to a much higher level of government scrutiny and regulation, or perhaps even government ownership—is misbegotten on several fronts. But at the root of the whole debate is a conflation of different definitions of the word public. Sometimes it means "of the state," as in public sector or public school; other times it means "for general use or benefit," as in public square, public accommodation, or the public good. But often it describes something that is clearly private property but just so happens to have members of the general public as shareholders, as in publicly held or publicly traded.

    I'm sure the Town of Rollinsford NH is eagerly awaiting its chance to sue Google/Twitter/Facebook for some hoked-up charge for "harms" exacted on our community. We might shake a few million out of them.


Last Modified 2018-10-13 5:29 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2018-10-10

[Amazon Link]

  • A recent example of the Suicide of the West as revealed in a quick-developing Twitstorm:

    1. Ex-astronaut Scott Kelly makes a point by quoting Winston Churchill;
    2. Numerous lefties freak out at him about Churchill's numerous failures to abide by 21st-century Progressive norms;
    3. Kelly says mea culpa (although, since the Romans kept slaves, who knows how long that phrase will remain unproblematic):

    Ben Shapiro at NR urges Spaceman Kelly: Stop Apologizing for Our History.

    But, of course, we cannot come together as one nation so long as we engage in the foolish exercise of savaging our civilizational history. Good-faith conversations about American history recognize the multifaceted moral nature of human existence: the fact that George Washington was a slaveholder does not render his status as father of the country moot; the fact that Abraham Lincoln spent most of his career advocating for colonization of black Americans in Africa rather than their full integration into American life does not obliterate Lincoln’s role as the Great Emancipator. Human beings are products of their time — and they are capable of holding viewpoints that resonate down through the ages and the prejudices of their own age. Undoubtedly, a century from now, few will look kindly at even the most broadminded Americans’ views on a variety of issues.

    I'd double down on that last thought: a century from now, people will especially be aghast at the views of "the most broadminded Americans" of today.


  • And the latest in Google's kowtow to the Chinese Communist dictators is from the Next Web: (via Slashdot) Google to launch censored Search in China despite denials.

    Google intends to launch a censored version of its Search app for China sometime in the next six to nine months, according to a leaked transcript from a private employee meeting held last month.

    The Intercept’s Ryan Gallagher today reported the company’s Search engine chief, Ben Gomes, held a meeting to congratulate a room full of employees working on the platform, dubbed Project Dragonfly.

    To Google's credit, a Google search for Google China Dragonfly gives plenty of results.


  • On the latest (accurate) characterizations of unhinged screamy protesters as "mobs", Ed Driscoll@Instapundit chronicles the horde of independent media minds pushing back:

    … and more in the same vein. (You would think the propagandists would give up on the "Republicans Seize" thing by now, since it's been lampooned so much.)

    Also cited: a recent CNN interview between anchor Brooke Baldwin, Matt Lewis, and Mary Katherine Ham, as detailed by Joy Pullmann at the Federalist: Hey CNN: Organized Groups Screaming At You In Public Is The Definition Of A Mob.

    Yesterday during a discussion of midterm voters’ motivation levels, CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin cut off commentator Matt Lewis when he said, “I believe it’s the overreaction of the left. When you see people like Ted Cruz getting chased out of restaurants by a mob, when you see — ”

    “Oh, you’re not going to use the mob word here,” Baldwin interjected.

    Are too, replied Matt and Mary Katherine. Good for them.

    Baldwin also deployed another dishonesty:

    “Let me move past the m-word, because I do feel like that’s part of the weaponization of what’s happening now, on the right,” Baldwin said, then pivoted to another topic.

    Accurate language is considered to be "weaponization" when wielded by people you don't like.


  • At Inside Sources, Michael Graham wonders about the contest to become Pun Salad's next CongressCritter: Could the Kavanaugh Controversy Turn NH-01 Into a Toss-Up?.

    The day after Eddie Edwards won the NH-01 GOP primary, people began writing him off. The Cook Political Report moved his race against Democrat Chris Pappas from “Leans Democrat” to “Likely Democrat.”  An ARG poll gave Pappas a 55-33 point advantage over Edwards. The conventional wisdom has been that Edwards might be able to run a good enough campaign to beat Pappas, and maybe he could run one good enough to ‘beat’ Trump (the president’s low poll numbers). But there’s no way he can beat both.

    But now Edwards’ prospects are getting a second look–thanks to Justice Kavanaugh and the ‘Brett Bump.’

    Pappas's ads have started appearing on the local news, and they are standard focus-grouped moral-posturing pablum, full of meaning-free phrases: "an economy that works for everyone", "Congress is tilted in favor of the special interests and big corporations", "universal healthcare" (even for Klingons?), etc. If that works, so much the worse for us. (Pappas issue page here.)

    The GOP candidate, Eddie Edwards, has his issue page here. I find it better, but… I'll probably vote for the Libertarian Party candidate, Dan Belforti.


  • As I've more or less continually noted since this blog's inception, I'm a sucker for state-ranking studies, especially when they come from places like Cato. Their latest: Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors 2018.

    Mediocre news, everyone! Chris Sununu scores a "B", tied with a bunch of other Republicans for 12th place.


Last Modified 2018-10-11 12:53 PM EST

URLs du Jour

2018-10-09

[Amazon Link]

  • At Law and Liberty, Greg Weiner has an interesting idea: Avoiding the Next 50-48 Vote: Disempower the Court. But I really liked the first two paragraphs:

    After the Senate voted 50 to 48 to confirm Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted that she was “not going to sugarcoat anything. We lost a tough fight. And it hurts. What happened today will touch every single person in this country, in some very real & terrible ways. But it’s OK to step back for a minute, take a breath, & lean on the shoulder of someone you love.”

    Oh, please. For those who were awaiting the permission of a U.S. senator to lean on a shoulder, you are authorized to proceed. For the rest of us, yes, let’s take a breath. If a Supreme Court justice whose nominal job is to apply laws to specific cases is touching “every single person in this country, in some very real & terrible ways,” then we have bigger constitutional problems.

    As I type, Election Betting Odds has Senator Warren with an 8.0% probability of being our next US president. Which is way too high for comfort. If she thinks her duty as a mere senator is to direct the shoulder-leanings of the American citizenry, what will she think the Presidency will allow her to do?

    Other people with way-too-high probabilities of winning the Presidency in 2020: Trump, Kamala, Bernie, Pence, Biden, Booker, Gabbard, Gillibrand, Bloomberg, Hillary, Ryan, Oprah, Michelle Obama (!), Kasich, Cuomo, Ivana (really), Cuban, Rubio, Castro, Zuckerberg, Cruz, Kaine, Gowdy.

    Although Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has a 0.5% shot. That might be good. I have no idea.

    I guess I'm really pinning my hopes on "Other". Who has a 17.3% probability of taking office, higher than anyone except… Trump.


  • Whoa, kind of got offtrack there. Anyway, David Harsanyi's Federalist column could be subtitled "Breaking News from 1933". Or 1912. Or, heck, 1861: Democrats Have Become A Dangerous Threat To Our Institutions.

    When modern Democrats talk about prese[r]ving “norms,” traditions,” or even the “Constitution,” they’re really talking about preserving their preferred policies. We know this because “liberals” have shown themselves not only willing to destroy the legitimacy of institutions like the presidency, the Senate ,and Supreme Court to protect those policies, they’re willing to break down basic norms of civility, as well.

    Take the example of Hillary Clinton. In the very first sentence in her new scaremongering essay, which makes the case that America’s “democratic institutions and traditions are under siege,” she attacks our democratic institutions and traditions. “It’s been nearly two years since Donald Trump won enough Electoral College votes to become president of the United States,” the piece begins.

    The intimation, of course, widely shared by the mainstream left, is that Trump isn’t a legitimate president even though he won the election in the exact same way every other president in U.S. history has ever won election. According to our long-held democratic institutions and traditions, you become president through the Electoral College, not the non-existent popular vote.

    Also see: Senator Kamala dismissing Justice Kavanaugh's pocket Constitution as “that book you carry”.


  • NR writer Mairead McArdle notes: Susan Collins Accuses Planned Parenthood of Double Standard on Supreme Court.

    Senator Susan Collins (R., Maine) expressed frustration with Planned Parenthood on Sunday, accusing the group of a double standard when it comes to Supreme Court nominees.

    “I would note that Planned Parenthood opposed three pro-choice justices just because they were nominated by Republican presidents: David Souter, Sandra Day O’Connor and Justice Kennedy,” Collins said, recalling the organization’s opposition to Justice Anthony Kennedy.

    “They said the same thing: Women will die. This is just outrageous.”

    Senator Susan Collins, inexplicably, said she was still in favor of sending tax dollars to Planned Parenthood.


  • Peter Suderman (at Reason) reveals the least surprising news of the year, so far: Trump Isn’t a Self-Made Man. His Wealth Is the Product of Years of Government Subsidies.

    Last week The New York Times released a major investigative report into President Donald Trump's personal finances. The story, which took over a year to produce and relied on a massive trove of confidential documents, describes the accumulation of the Trump family's real estate fortune and the mechanisms that Trump's father, Fred C. Trump, used to pass wealth on to his children, with Trump receiving an outsized share. The story is relevant because the president's refusal to release his tax returns has left the public with few detailed glimpses into his financial dealings.

    The report makes a strong case that Trump's public claims to being wealthy as a result of his business acumen ("I built what I built myself") are a myth created by Trump and abetted by allies in the media.

    The details may be newly-revealed, but the general idea shouldn't be shocking news. Back in June 2015, we quoted Kevin D. Williamson's description of Trump as "the self-made man who started with nothing but a modest portfolio of 27,000 New York City properties acquired by his millionaire slumlord father".


  • Ringing the Google LFOD News alert was this column by Jason Sorens and Will Ruger in the Nashua Telegraph: New study on New Hampshire: Number two in freedom?

    “We’re number two” just doesn’t sound right, does it? New Hampshire placed second in the latest version of [the Cato Institute] study, Freedom in the 50 States, and we’ve gotten some flak for it. So why is the Live Free or Die state not number one?

    Jason and Will break down the good news and bad for NH liberty found in Freedom in the 50 States. (Which, yes I know, I've linked to before.)


Last Modified 2018-10-11 12:52 PM EST

In the Woods

[Amazon Link]

Although I'm not much in the market for adopting new authors into my TBR system, sometimes it just happens. The weekly "editorial roundtable" episodes of the Reason podcast have a segment where the participants reveal which media they've been reading, watching, or playing with recently. And Peter Suderman was effusive in his praise of the "Dublin Murder Squad" series by Tana French. (And, by the way, Peter is not alone: this book won the 2007 Edgar Award for Best First Novel, and much mainstream critical praise was heaped thereon.)

Even better: This first book in the series was available at the UNH Library, so I decided to take a flyer.

The narrator is Rob Ryan; he and his partner, Cassie Maddox, are called to investigate the horrid, sordid murder of a twelve-year-old girl found in the woods of a Dublin suburb. The girl's family is weird. The murder scene is about to be obliterated by a new highway, and archeologists are frantically digging up whatever they artifacts they can find from long-ago inhabitants; the archeologists are weird too. And there's some shady stuff going on with corrupt city officials and crony developers.

But what's really bad is Rob's history: twenty years ago, he and two friends were playing in those very same woods. His friends vanished without a trace; Rob was found, near-catatonic and bloody, unable to remember what happened to them. Could the present day murder have links to that past horror? Yeah, maybe! Rob is already keeping his traumatic past a well-hidden secret from nearly everyone, but (even so) it's a poor choice for him to get enmeshed in the present crime. Unfortunately for Rob, it's just the first of many poor choices.

This is a combination police procedural and psychological thriller, and both parts work well. So, yeah, I'm up for reading more Tana French.

URLs du Jour

2018-10-08

[Amazon Link]

  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown has a long and thoughtful essay at Reason. Sample: Authenticity and Truth in the #MeToo Era.

    Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has been accused of sexual misconduct ranging from flashing to attempted rape. Some of the accusations were the subject of widely televised testimony in the Senate last week. Conventional wisdom now holds that it was Kavanaugh's personal performance during this testimony—not the believable but unprovable allegations of his first accuser, Christine Blasey Ford—that tanked the judge's credibility among the persuadable.

    Those who have been swayed against Kavanaugh cite his vague and sometimes implausible answers about his high school and college life outside of the alleged assaults. They argue—in tweets, essays, explainers—that his shiftiness should serve as a mark against him, even if it's not necessarily evidence that he's guilty of sexual violence. That he may not have lied outright, but his evasive and emotional performance was still potentially disqualifying.

    Whatever more serious things Kavanaugh may or may not be guilty of, his antics inspired suspicion that the perfectionist public persona was but an exquisitely constructed mask. Kavanaugh's credibility crisis isn't about belief (or lack thereof) in any particular set of facts but a perceived absence of authenticity in the nominee overall.

    The perception of phoniness (aka "absence of authenticity") in political candidates has long been a Pun Salad specialty. Elizabeth's essay takes this issue seriously, and, in a daring narrative twist, makes the case for forgiveness.


  • Kevin D. Williamson briefly notes: Kavanaugh Was Pizzagate.

    A thing that has been not entirely appreciated about the Kavanaugh affair: This was the Left’s version of Pizzagate. And the Democrats’ Pizzagate wasn’t carried out by fringe nutters on obscure conspiracy sites: It was carried out by Senate Democrats and leading progressive activists on well-known conspiracy sites such as the New York Times opinion section.

    A fair number of putatively respectable thought-leaders and opinion-makers extended the cover of their reputations over a series of increasingly bizarre and unlikely allegations for which there was essentially no evidence. (Why was there no evidence? The most likely explanation is that the claims were not true; but, of course, conspiracy theorists always take a lack of evidence as evidence of the conspiracy. “That’s just what you’d expect to see!” etc.) Of course, there will be no reckoning for this, because there never is. That’s the nice thing about having your political and cultural allies in charge of institutions such as the New York Times and the Yale Law School.

    Also: the supplemental FBI investigation was obviously slipshod and incomplete, because it didn't produce the Left-desired results. QED.

    (If you're one of the folks who don't get the Pizzagate reference, the Wikipedia entry is here.)


  • The WSJ editorializes on The Political Distortion of Language.

    American political discourse gets worse by the day, a lesson we’ve seen first-hand again this weekend. The Twitter mob on the political left is claiming that our Saturday editorial headline, “Susan Collins Consents,” was intended as a sly “rape joke.”

    Of course, the Lefties (probably) knew about the Constitution's "advice and consent" language. That didn't stop them from writing that the WSJ headline "seems like a rape joke" or a "play on words… with rape".

    With no evidence whatsoever.

    You just want to ask these people… seriously… don't you realize how much of this crap is coming out of your own brain?

    As Michael Ramirez cartooned:


  • But while we were looking at the Kavanaugh circus, Hot Air's Taylor Millard notes: Meanwhile…The Republicans Grew Government…Again.

    President Donald Trump signed into law the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 – a law which regulates everything from airline seat sizes to whether people can make cell phone calls on flights (something Jazz wrote in favor of earlier today). The bill also defined exactly what a Lactation Area is (they can’t be in restrooms) and includes money for studies looking at the design specifics of aircraft oxygen and on allergic reactions on board airlines. There’s also a study on what infrastructure is needed for faster-growing airports because we all know the airports and airlines don’t have enough money to pay for the upgrades (note sarcasm). Let’s also not forget the studies on noise abatement and funding to put these abatements into place. Again, because there’s no way the airlines and airports can pony up the cash (again, sarcasm).

    The entire cost of this behemoth bill? A whopping $22.5B in FY 2018 to almost $76B in FY2023. The debt, just in case anyone cares about it, has gone from $14.434T in January 2017 to $15.757T on October 6, 2018.

    It was the usual Congressional shenanigans: a 1200-page doorstop of a bill, dropped into public view four days before the scheduled vote.


  • Alex Griswold, at the Washington Free Beacon debunks a cute story: No, Secret Russian Agents Probably Aren’t Behind ‘The Last Jedi’ Hate.

    Some people don't like Star Wars: The Last Jedi. This won't come as surprise to many of you: the film currently has a "Rotten" audience score on RottenTomatoes despite good critical reaction, indicating that at least 100,000 people went to site specifically to complain about a Star Wars movie. The Free Beacon‘s in-house critic didn't like the movie. But evidently, the loud and public backlash to the movie was actually a Russian plot!

    The Hollywood Reporter has a shocking piece out today: "‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi' Negative Buzz Amplified by Russian Trolls, Study Finds." The findings spread quickly after being picked up by the Drudge Report: "A Study Says About Half Of ‘The Last Jedi’ Haters Online Were Actually Russian Trolls," reports UpRoxx, Comic Book Resources writes that "Russian Bots May Have Derailed The Last Jedi," Business Insider writes that "A lot of the criticism of ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi' actually came from Russian trolls and bots."

    We previously mentioned this gripping issue here; at the time, I found the "Russian troll" evidence the paper presented to be "very circumstantial and not particularly convincing." Alex's detailed dissection seems to back up that cursory impression.

    Our Amazon Product du Jour offers a Sad Porg, dismayed that he got stuck into a movie series where nobody likes the cute alien creatures. ("Why couldn't I be a tribble? Everybody loves tribbles!")


Last Modified 2018-10-11 12:50 PM EST

URLs du Jour

2018-10-07

[Amazon Link]

  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson has thoughts on Our Robot Overlords..

    Waiting on a taxi at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, I ran into a robot cop.

    Perhaps you’ve seen these latest innovations in law enforcement. The NYPD robot looks like the offspring of a union between R2-D2 and one of those covered trash cans you see in national parks, and it makes an incessant and annoying whirring sound that has nothing to do with the operation of the machine — it is a generated sound effect that some consultant, no doubt highly paid, believed to be high-tech sounding. The robot does a few things: It gets in your way, it provides as prop for tourists to take pictures with, and it contributes to the panopticon of surveillance that now encompasses our public spaces, taking audio and video.

    It is marginally less useful than the average American “public servant,” which is a kind of remarkable negative achievement.

    Marvelous essay,


  • An article in the latest print Reason has made it out into public consumption, worth a read if you're interested in K-12 education, or you (like me) just like to see where your state ranks compared to others. But beware, say the authors, Stan Liebowitz & Matthew L. Kelly, because Everything You Know About State Education Rankings Is Wrong.

    You probably think you know which states have the best and worst education systems in the country. If you regularly dip into rankings such as those published by U.S. News and World Report, you likely believe schools in the Northeast and Upper Midwest are thriving while schools in the Deep South lag. It's an understandable conclusion to draw from those ubiquitous "Best Schools!" lists. It's also wrong.

    The general consensus on education, retold every few news cycles, is that fiscally conservative states are populated by cheapskates. In those necks of the woods, people are too ignorant to vote in favor of helping their illiterate and innumerate children. Intelligent people understand that high taxes and generous pensions for public school teachers are the recipe for an efficient and smoothly functioning education system. If skinflint voters would just lighten up, the story goes, they too could become erudite and sophisticated.

    Click through for the authors' criticism of traditional rankings, and why they prefer their own.

    Spoiler: New Hampshire does pretty well in traditional rankings. For example, number 2 behind Massachusetts at US News. At Reason, the news is … not so rosy.


  • George F. Will's weekend column is absolutely merciless, in that Willsian way: American capitalism descends into a racket.

    The descent of American capitalism into a racket is being greased by professed capitalists in government, in collaboration with professed capitalists in what is called, with decreasing accuracy, the private sector. This is occurring under the auspices of Republicans, and while many Democrats are arguing, with some accuracy but more incoherence, this: The government has become a servant of grasping private interests — and should be much bigger and more interventionist.

    Protectionism — laws and administrative rulings by which government determines the prices and quantities of imported goods and services — is government regulation. So, it is probable that the current administration, which lists deregulation as among its glistening achievements, is producing a substantial net increase in economic regulation.

    Read the whole thing for some depressing/enraging news about the Dixon Ticonderoga pencil company, which I always considered to be the unnamed hero of the classic I, Pencil story. Now…


  • We get the Google LFOD news alert from some mighty unusual places. For example, a plug for our tourism in the Irish Times: A perfect piece of Americana in New Hampshire. The first thing the author notes?

    It’s where they Live Free or Die. In fact, it’s the only US state that doesn’t require adults to wear seat belts.

    That's right, me bonny lass.

URLs du Jour

2018-10-06

[Amazon Link]

  • Gosh, we will really, probably, start winding down these Kavanaugh-related links someday. But Jonah Goldberg's G-File this week talks about The Price of Victory. And that's probably important enough for your attention.

    One of the articles of faith of my personal definition of conservatism is to be deeply distrustful of enthusiasm. Chalk it up to misanthropy or enochlophobia if you like, but whenever crowds — real or figurative — get worked up, I grow suspicious. It’s why I don’t like populism or pep rallies; the worst political sins are almost always accompanied by the cheers of one mob or another.

    That is one of the reasons I have been so appalled by the riot of anti-Kavanaugh hysteria that has spread these last few weeks. But it is also why I have misgivings about the price of victory.

    I believe that confirming Brett Kavanaugh is vital, but I also believe it is the least bad option before us. Herewith, a screed-y walkthrough of my thinking.

    Summary: we're about to enter a new phase of the cultural war. Can I be a conscientious objector?

    Oh, and "enochlophobia"? Look it up, if necessary. (I had to.) And our Amazon Product du Jour may help, and it's only $0.89.


  • A good, relevant, catch from Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, who watched a CNN interview with Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. In which Elena wondered: Will The Supreme Court Have A Middle Any More?.

    JUSTICE KAGAN: Starting with Justice O’Connor and continuing with Justice Kennedy, there has been a person who, er, found the center, who people couldn’t predict in that sort of way. … It’s not so clear that, you know, I think going forward, that sort of middle position — you know, it’s not so clear whether we’ll have it.

    Ed comments:

    And on that note, it’s rather revealing in this clip that Kagan never considers herself for the role of the unpredictable jurist — or Sonia Sotomayor, who’s sitting next to her and never bothers to interject either. Kagan’s argument is that it should always be conservative jurists who go towards Kagan’s wing of the court, and not the other direction. Why should that be the case? Why shouldn’t Kagan take her own advice?

    It’s also amusing that Kagan almost explicitly assigns herself and the other three liberal justices to the roles of predictable jurist in this statement. It’s undeniably true, but one would expect a Supreme Court justice to at least argue that she’s independent. Give Kagan one cheer for honesty, I guess, and a half-cheer to Sotomayor for not objecting to it.

    It's easy to observe that Sotomayor/Kagan/Breyer/Ginsburg rarely, if ever, show the independence of mind necessary to stray off the Predictable Progressive Reservation. It's interesting when one of them essentially admits that, yeah, that's never gonna happen.


  • Just in case you're not particularly plugged into the tech news, this Bloomberg Businessweek story is getting a lot of discussion: The Big Hack: How China Used a Tiny Chip to Infiltrate U.S. Companies. It's about servers manufactured by Supermicro, distributed by a company named Elemental Technologies, some of which…

    Nested on the servers’ motherboards, the testers found a tiny microchip, not much bigger than a grain of rice, that wasn’t part of the boards’ original design. Amazon reported the discovery to U.S. authorities, sending a shudder through the intelligence community. Elemental’s servers could be found in Department of Defense data centers, the CIA’s drone operations, and the onboard networks of Navy warships. And Elemental was just one of hundreds of Supermicro customers.

    The assertion is that this is an operation masterminded via a unit of China's People’s Liberation Army. All sources anonymous, but you would kind of expect that…


  • Reactions are starting to come out, for example from Tech Crunch author Zack Whittaker: Bloomberg’s spy chip story reveals the murky world of national security reporting.

    Naturally, people are skeptical of this “spy chip” story. On one side you have Bloomberg’s decades-long stellar reputation and reporting acumen, a thoroughly researched story citing more than a dozen sources — some inside the government and out — and presenting enough evidence to present a convincing case.

    On the other, the sources are anonymous — likely because the information they shared wasn’t theirs to share or it was classified, putting sources in risk of legal jeopardy. But that makes accountability difficult. No reporter wants to say “a source familiar with the matter” because it weakens the story. It’s the reason reporters will tag names to spokespeople or officials so that it holds the powers accountable for their words. And, the denials from the companies themselves — though transparently published in full by Bloomberg — are not bulletproof in outright rejection of the story’s claims. These statements go through legal counsel and are subject to government regulation. These statements become a counterbalance — turning the story from an evidence-based report into a “he said, she said” situation.

    So there's plenty of room for skepticism. There's also plenty of room to get out the wirecutters and snip your connection to the Internet.


  • But how about another skeptic-feeding article, this one in Buzzfeed from John Paczkowski and Charlie Warzel: Apple Insiders Say Nobody Internally Knows What’s Going On With Bloomberg’s China Hack Story.

    Reached by BuzzFeed News, multiple Apple sources — three of them very senior executives who work on the security and legal teams — said that they are at a loss as to how to explain the allegations. These people described a massive, granular, and siloed investigation into not just the claims made in the story, but into unrelated incidents that might have inspired them.

    “We tried to figure out if there was anything, anything, that transpired that’s even remotely close to this,” a senior Apple security executive told BuzzFeed News. “We found nothing.”

    Of course, the voices that somehow manage to penetrate through the multiple layers of tinfoil around my head are saying: Yeah, that's just what you would expect them to say.


  • And finally, we haven't had a Ramireztoon lately. Here's one (unfortunately clipped, click on through for the big beautiful entire thing) on Trump's Trade War: Apocalypse Now.

    Apocalypse Now

    Back in the day, Vermont Senator George Aiken commented about Vietnam: "Declare victory and go home." I wasn't a fan of surrendering in the face of Communist aggression, but …

    When it comes to the Trade War, however, that's a really good idea.

Cover Girl

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

This 1944 musical comedy stars Gene Kelly and Rita Hayworth. (We got on kind of a Rita Hayworth kick after watching Gilda.) It invites comparison with Singin' in the Rain. And that comparison is: "It's nowhere near as good as Singin' in the Rain." But let me explain:

Mr. Kelly plays Danny, proprietor of a semi-seedy Brooklyn nightspot, featuring vaudeville-style skits and production numbers. Ms. Hayworth is Rusty, one of the chorus girls, and also Danny's sweetheart. Phil Silvers is also in the mix as "Genius", a comic who might have seemed funny in the 1940s.

So Rusty (and the rest of the chorus) notice a ad for a Vanity magazine cover girl. After a series of merry mixups, and the coincidental fling of the magazine's owner with Rusty's grandmother back in the day, she lands the job. And (since she looks just like frickin' Rita Hayworth) she finds herself on the path to glamorous stardom. And wooed by a rich playboy.

Leaving Danny behind? Don't worry, this is a comedy, not A Star is Born.

The script is straight out of Cliché Central. The songs are forgettable. Acting is OK.

But Gene Kelly saves the day when he starts dancing. As usual. And (just like Singin' in the Rain) he makes his dance partners look good too. No spoilers, but there's a number where cinematic trickery is used to give him a very unexpected partner; I'm surprised the technology of 1944 was up to that.


Last Modified 2018-10-11 12:53 PM EST

URLs du Jour

2018-10-05

[Amazon Link]

  • Continuing on a theme we've been hitting a lot in recent days, Kevin D. Williamson wonders if we're on The Road to Waco. Recalling Janet Reno, her railroading of daycare workers accused of Satanic abuse cultism, as well her responsibility for the Branch Davidian standoff with 76 deaths.

    Our public-policy discourse is dominated by members of our elites and hence tends to reflect elite interests and, at times, elite hysterias. A great deal of attention has been paid in recent years to the epidemic of rape on our nation’s college campuses. That epidemic is a fiction — it simply does not exist, and the data suggest that women in college are less likely than women in the general population to be raped. We are not having a national discussion of rape on Indian reservations, in remote communities in Alaska, or in poor urban areas — i.e., in the places where the incidence of rape is in fact elevated. During the Satan-ritual-abuse panic — and at this minute — one of the most likely places for a child to experience sexual abuse is in the home, especially in “blended” families in which minors cohabit with adult men to whom they are not biologically related. Mothers’ live-in boyfriends and stepfathers commit a great deal more sexual abuse than do the nefarious minions of Satan in underground cults.

    But of course the reality — that this world is the mess we make of it — is too painful to accept.

    KDW hopes, as do I, that the current wackiness passes before we get a Waco equivalent.

    Our related Amazon Product du Jour is the album "Abattoir of Slain Deities" by the UK band "Omnipotent Hysteria". Its official genre, which I am not making up, is "Brutal Death Metal". I assume their music would unlistenable to my tender, aging ears, but their song titles are absolutely brilliant. ("Ectopic Contagion Vessels" anyone? How about "Forged in the Embers of Monolithic Devastation"?)


  • Making the local news, fortunately in that crazy state just across the Salmon Falls River: [University of Southern Maine] president says retired professor went ‘rogue’ in offering trip to lobby Collins as college course.

    The University of Southern Maine’s president defended the institution Wednesday night, saying a retired professor acted in a “rogue manner” when she offered students a “pop-up” course and college credit to take a bus to Washington, D.C., with demonstrators planning to urge Sen. Susan Collins to oppose confirming Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

    President Glenn Cummings in a telephone interview denounced the actions of Dr. Susan Feiner, a former professor of economics and women and gender studies, who Cummings said retired from the university on July 1.

    Prof Feiner is quoted: "There is nothing seditious about students taking a bus to Washington, D.C., in a historic moment." Managing to deny a charge that nobody was actually making. Do I see elective office in her future?


  • At EconLog, Bryan Caplan writes on the academic kerfuffle that we've been blogging about the last couple days (here, here), the fake "grievance studies" paper-writing scam, which some call… Sokal 2.0 as Ideological Turing Test. What's that? Bryan explains:

    Mill states it well: “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that.”  If someone can correctly explain a position but continue to disagree with it, that position is less likely to be correct.  And if ability to correctly explain a position leads almost automatically to agreement with it, that position is more likely to be correct.  (See free trade).  It’s not a perfect criterion, of course, especially for highly idiosyncratic views.  But the ability to pass ideological Turing tests – to state opposing views as clearly and persuasively as their proponents – is a genuine symptom of objectivity and wisdom.

    Bryan goes on to observe:

    My idea has inspired multiple actual tests.  But frankly, none of them are in the same league as Sokal 2.0.  Three scholars who held a vast academic genre in low regard nevertheless managed to master the genre’s content and style expertly enough to swiftly publish enough articles [to] earn tenure!   Frankly, if that doesn’t impress you, I don’t know what would.

    But what does that show? Bryan explains, evenhandedly, as is his wont. (I have little doubt myself, but I'm not as good as Bryan.)


  • I can't do better than the Babylon Bee in describing a recent anti-Kavanaugh tweet: Senate On Lockdown After Receiving Credible Threat From Known Killers.

    I doubt that Planned Parenthood will actually try to murder people who are able to defend themselves. That's not in their homicidal skill set.


  • Mental Floss asks and answers the important questions: Why Do Stop Signs Have Eight Sides?.

    When the first official stop sign did appear in Detroit, in 1915, it was small, white, and square, nothing like the red octagon we know today. But in 1923, a branch of Mississippi’s highway department suggested a change—what if a sign’s shape could denote the kind of hazard ahead? The logic was simple: The more sides a sign has, the more dangerous the upcoming stretch of road is.

    Circles (which were considered to have infinite sides) designated the riskiest hazards, like railroad crossings. Octagons denoted the second most perilous hazards, like intersections. Diamonds signaled less-tricky stretches, and rectangles were strictly informational. We still use these parameters today, though no one knows why the nonagon drew the short stick.

    I like that circles were "considered to have infinite sides". Somebody was paying attention in calculus class.


  • And finally, our Google LFOD alert rang for another unlikely source, a LTE in the Suburban, "Quebec's Largest English Weekly Newspaper". (Kind of like: "Tallest Building in Wichita", but anyway). It's from Area Man Brian Echenberg, and he says: No to compulsory voting. Enough laws already!.

    I was intrigued by Mario leclerc’s letter about forcing people to vote. Aren’t we saddled with enough laws, good and bad, to warrant the absence of yet another law? Everything from not smoking in public in Hampstead to laws such as motorcycle helmets to not being able to ride a motorcycle or scooter after Dec 15th to even mandatory winter tires in winter. Many of these laws may be somewhat helpful, but we are being told what we can and can’t do more and more. New Hampshire with their “live free or die” shown on their license plates doesn’t have a mandatory moto helmet law . After all it’s my head to protect or not as I see fit. And we pay enough taxes for health card to cover accident costs. We are being legislated into the ground. In Montreal we can’t even drive over the mountain. But compulsory voting is extreme and I wouldn’t appreciate being told I have to vote.

    Good for you, Brian. Should you want to hop over the border, there are license plates available for your vehicle, made by our local prison inmates. Because, in addition to freedom, we love irony.

URLs du Jour

2018-10-04

[Amazon Link]

  • If you've been wondering whether ‘Why would accusers lie?’ is the right question, Kevin D. Williamson is here to set you straight: ‘Why Would Accusers Lie?’ Is the Wrong Question.

    ‘Why would she lie about something like that?”

    That, approximately, is the go-to question put forward in defense of women who come under scrutiny after coming forward with questionable allegations of sexual assault or other misconduct, as in the current matter of Brett Kavanaugh. It is the wrong question.

    Or, more precisely: It is the wrong question if what we desire to do is to get as near as we can to the truth of the matter at hand. It is an excellent question if your desire is something else, especially misdirection. “Why would she lie?” is a question that obliges us to engage in mind-reading and redirects us from answerable questions to unanswerable ones. As a rhetorical ploy, it is transparent: Engaging the question puts Kavanaugh’s defenders and would-be defenders in a difficult position, and it puts Kavanaugh’s antagonists in an easier position, from which they may point and shriek that their opponents are victimizing an already victimized woman without any dispositive evidence to support their claim. It’s silly and sophomoric — which, unfortunately, means that it is likely to be effective in our current political environment, which is dominated by hysteria, dishonesty, and stupidity.

    But we know, from recent history, that people do lie about such things. Or (sometimes) come to believe that things happened, that didn't.


  • Wired magazine is celebrating its 25th birthday, and I hope this article by its first editor, Louis Rossetto, isn't paywalled: It's Time for Techies to Embrace Militant Optimism Again.

    I went to a dinner party in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a few years ago thrown by a pioneering academic and her connected wife. The assembled group of brilliant young professors and researchers promised a stimulating evening.

    It was anything but. After the opening small talk devolved into the political, the air was full of complaints about inequality and poverty, racism, sexism, fascist Republicans, and how, in general, everything is going to hell. I stifled myself as long as I could, but finally I piped up—that’s not what’s really going on. Have you actually looked at the numbers? For the past 25 years, the world has only been getting better. People are healthier, wealthier, more educated, and living longer, better lives than humans ever have.

    Silence. All eyes on me. Who threw the skunk in the room?

    Then the shitstorm began. Of course, you’re wrong, things are not better, just look around—and it’s all just going to get worse yadda yadda. Shut me right up.

    I usually don't quote this much, but Louis goes on to note something important:

    [P]olitics—which has now come to infect all aspects of our lives—isn’t a rational response to reality. It’s partially about currying social favor with desired cohorts; but, worse, it’s emotional pathology.

    In The Mass Psychology of Fascism, Wilhelm Reich wrote that politics can be the outward manifestation of personal emotional problems. Instead of working on our own issues, some instead work them out on society at large. (Sound familiar?)

    We’re living through a moment when this phenomenon is vivid. The unease among elites of the first world, the palpable emotional distress of our friends, the media’s daily two minutes of hate, the social media flash mobs, the tribalism, the way every aspect of our lives has become political.

    That might seem to be an odd thing to note on a blog that concentrates on current-event politics. It's easy to apply Louis's observation to others, difficult to apply to oneself. That probably means that it's important to see how it applies to oneself.


  • At City Journal, Henry I. Miller wonders if there's some way that we could tell if our politicians are Fit to Serve?

    Perhaps we should ask candidates (and incumbents), including the president and vice president, to volunteer for periodic testing of intelligence, mental status, and psychopathology. After all, we often demand to know whether a candidate has recovered from open-heart surgery, cancer, or strokes, and many states require elderly drivers to get relicensed. Testing could answer speculations about mental fitness, one way or the other.

    I've noted before that politicians are likely to score more than a couple sigmas off the norm on a number of personality traits. Some of that is inevitable, some of that is probably beneficial, but…


  • Ann Althouse reflects on The cruelest anti-Kavanaugh argument yet. Quoting Time magazine:

    Even if Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed as a Supreme Court justice, he will carry scars from the brutal process to get him there.... [A]s he limps over the finish line... the question could soon shift from whether he will be confirmed to what kind of justice he will be.

    Will Kavanaugh... dig in on the far right, radicalized by the experience? Will he swing the other way towards the middle, determined to improve his reputation among women? Or will he be able to move past it entirely?...

    Uh huh. As Instapundit summarizes: "After the way we’ve abused him, he can’t possibly be objective or fair to us."


  • The perpetrators behind the fake-paper hoax I found hilarious yesterday take to Areo magazine to explain their purposes and results: Academic Grievance Studies and the Corruption of Scholarship.

    Something has gone wrong in the university—especially in certain fields within the humanities. Scholarship based less upon finding truth and more upon attending to social grievances has become firmly established, if not fully dominant, within these fields, and their scholars increasingly bully students, administrators, and other departments into adhering to their worldview. This worldview is not scientific, and it is not rigorous. For many, this problem has been growing increasingly obvious, but strong evidence has been lacking. For this reason, the three of us just spent a year working inside the scholarship we see as an intrinsic part of this problem.

    We spent that time writing academic papers and publishing them in respected peer-reviewed journals associated with fields of scholarship loosely known as “cultural studies” or “identity studies” (for example, gender studies) or “critical theory” because it is rooted in that postmodern brand of “theory” which arose in the late sixties. As a result of this work, we have come to call these fields “grievance studies” in shorthand because of their common goal of problematizing aspects of culture in minute detail in order to attempt diagnoses of power imbalances and oppression rooted in identity.

    The complete set of ludicrous papers, with their publication results, is provided. Including "Chapter 12 of Volume 1 of Mein Kampf with fashionable buzzwords switched in".

    But equal time for the party-pooping nay-sayers, in this case James Taylor (but not that James Taylor) at Bleeding Heart Libertarians: Why the “Grievance Studies” Hoax Was Not Unethical. (But it’s not very interesting, either.)

    At best, then, the hoax shows that some poor-quality papers sometimes get published in marginal academic journals, and sometimes (but less frequently) get published in mainstream journals. That’s it. But this isn’t very surprising. After all, while peer-review if often held up as the gold standard of academic gate-keeping we have to keep in mind that low-performing academics have peers too. Just like the “Conceptual Penis” hoax that the same hoaxers made much to-do about last year this hoax thus doesn’t tell us anything at all about the overall quality of the academic subfields targeted.

    I link, you decide.


  • And, finally, yet another gem from Remy and ReasonTV: Banana.


Last Modified 2018-10-04 11:51 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2018-10-03

[Amazon Link]

  • A hilarious (but potentially paywalled, sorry) article from Jillian Kay Melchior: Fake News Comes to Academia.

    The existence of a monthly journal focused on “feminist geography” is a sign of something gone awry in academia. The journal in question—Gender, Place & Culture—published a paper online in May whose author claimed to have spent a year observing canine sexual misconduct in Portland, Ore., parks.

    The author admits that “my own anthropocentric frame” makes it difficult to judge animal consent. Still, the paper claims dog parks are “petri dishes for canine ‘rape culture’ ” and issues “a call for awareness into the different ways dogs are treated on the basis of their gender and queering behaviors, and the chronic and perennial rape emergency dog parks pose to female dogs.”

    Jillian goes on to reveal a widespread project to dupe a number of "grievance studies" journals into accepting hoax articles. Unfortunately now the cat is out of the bag, so …

    Hm, I just got an idea for a good article: "The Cat/Bag Metaphor: Gratuitous Animal Cruelty Considered as Intersectional Tensor of Oppression".


  • John Hinderaker at Power Line notes a report that European Union bureaucrats are looking to Shut Down the Sun!

    Ah, no, that's not their global warming solution. Instead, it refers to the British tabloid paper The Sun. Quoting from the linked article:

    The European Commission has come up with a new way to prevent people backing Brexit – not by winning the argument, but by curbing press freedom. They want to stop the British press encouraging ‘hatred’ of EU leaders and judges, and impose a ‘European approach’ of ‘smart regulation’ to control the views expressed by the tabloids and their supposedly non-smart readers.

    I could see President Kamala Harris floating a similar proposal to muzzle Fox News in (say) 2022.

    I've said this before: when pols describe their proposals as "smart" or "common sense", it's a red flag. If you oppose a "smart" policy, that—automatically—makes you stupid. If you're against "common sense" regulation, you are obviously working in bad faith, and probably in the employ of the evildoers.


  • Slashdot links to a Hollywood Reporter story that (in turn) summarizes an academic paper which purports to show that 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' Negative Buzz Amplified By Russian Trolls, Study Finds.

    Is that clear? Good.

    The paper analyzes in depth the negative online reaction, which is split into three different camps: those with a political agenda, trolls and what ["Media/technology scholar, author and journalist" Morten] Bay calls “real fantagonists,” which he defines as genuine Star Wars fans disappointed in the movie. His findings are fascinating; “Overall, 50.9% of those tweeting negatively [about the movie] was likely politically motivated or not even human,” he writes, noting that only 21.9% of tweets analyzed about the movie had been negative in the first place.

    "A number of these users appear to be Russian trolls," Bay writes of the negative tweets.

    I liked The Last Jedi OK, except it being too grim and too long. And Princess Mary Poppins Leia. I guess that means I'm not a Russian troll, kind of a relief.

    Note: I think the paper's "Russian troll" evidence is very circumstantial and not particularly convincing.


  • Jonah Goldberg writes what could become an evergreen headline: You Idiot Reporters Are Making It Worse. Specifically, said reporters are lending credibility to President Trump's "fake news" charges.

    I’ve spent much of the last couple of years decrying the increasing partisan tribalism of our politics. I’ve earned some strange new respect from liberals (and at times regrettable new enmity from some conservatives) because I’ve been willing to call out my team. A case in point: I don’t like President Trump’s “enemy of the people” rhetoric about the “fake news.” I don’t think it’s true or helpful or presidential. “Enemy of the people” is a totalitarian and authoritarian term of art unfit for our country or our president, and employing it gives license to the press to indulge its worst instincts.

    Which brings us to the current moment. Democratic senators who announced they would never vote for Kavanaugh under any circumstance keep getting asked if the FBI investigation they demanded will be “enough for them.” Enough for what? To still vote no? I’m not criticizing the Democrats themselves — though I obviously could — I’m criticizing the people who interview these senators. Time and again, these journalists interview the Democrats as if they were open-minded about this investigation when in every breath they insist that the investigation will be illegitimate if it doesn’t prove what they want it to prove.

    Yep. Credit Jonah with the strong stomach needed to watch said "journalists"; I've not bothered myself.


  • At the Volokh Conspiracy, David Bernstein asks the musical question: Is [Christine Blasey] Ford's Credibility Undermined by Her Refusal to Produce Her Therapy Records?

    We can't entirely dismiss the notion that this is a "recovered memory." I agree it's unlikely, but we have no way of knowing for sure, given that we know nothing about the therapy, or the therapist.

    In any event, "recovered memory" is a distraction, because while not impossible the much greater danger is that the therapist used a treatment modality, such as hypnosis, that affected Ford's perception of the memory, or engaged in suggestive questioning that doesn't arise to the level of "recovered memory," but skewed the memory. Details of memories from 30 plus years ago are already problematic from a reliability standpoint,* but memories that have been subject to hypnosis and related techniques are especially unreliable. Hypnosis can enhance memory, but it can also both lead the subject to add details to a memory, and to be much more confident that all the details of his memory are accurate.

    I'm leaning toward that likely explanation.


  • And Mental Floss reports the big news of the day: New Hampshire Man Grows 2528-Pound Pumpkin, Setting North American Record.

    Steve Geddes has grown a gourd that will put whatever you pick from your local pumpkin patch this year to shame. As The Boston Globe reports, his pumpkin weighed in at 2528 pounds at the Deerfield Fair in New Hampshire last month, breaking the North American record for largest pumpkin.

    The hefty piece of produce emerged as the clear winner of the fair's pumpkin weigh-off [PDF] when Geddes, of Boscawen, New Hampshire, entered it into the competition at the end of September. After securing the first place ribbon and $6000 in prize money, Geddes learned that his bull-sized pumpkin also held the distinction of being the heaviest grown on the continent, besting record-breaking giants cultivated in previous years in Rhode Island, Wisconsin, and California.

    The Mental Floss writer did not find a way to work in a "Live Free or Die" reference into the article.

URLs du Jour

2018-10-02

[Amazon Link]

  • We continue our panic over "moral panic" with Ashe Schow writing in the Daily Wire: 5 Signs You’re In The Midst Of A Moral Panic.

    Moral panics, or instances of mass hysteria, have occurred throughout history. Two of the most notorious are the Salem Witch Trials of the 1690s and the Satanic Panic of the 1980s and '90s. The panics almost exclusively involve women and children and fears for their safety, especially from sexual abuse.

    We are in the midst of another such panic, but despite the similarities to past episodes, we are still unable to recognize it as such. The current panic has been playing out in the military and on college campuses for nearly a decade, but with the advent of the #MeToo movement, the mass hysteria is creeping into our regular legal system as well. The following are five of the biggest signs that we are experiencing another bout of mass hysteria, this time over sexual assault and harassment.

    Click over for the list, but I assume you won't be too surprised by any of them, if you've been paying attention over the past few weeks. But I found number five ("Pseudo-Scientific Theories About Memory Reign Supreme") especially interesting, given my recent reading about the foibles of our all-too-human brains.


  • At Reason, Nick Gillespie asks the musical question: Why Do We Want To Be Poorer and Less Equal Than We Are?

    Two of the major economics stories Americans tell about ourselves don't seem to be true. Yet we are really enamored with the ideas that income inequality is on the move, separating the wealthy from the rest of us ("we" rarely consider ourselves part of the wealthy), and that the middle class is on the verge of extinction (as Pew found recently, fully 47 percent of people in households making over $100,000 a year consider themselves "middle class").

    Mark J. Perry of the American Enterprise Institute and the University of Michigan (Flint) has compiled Census data that refute these popular claims. "The Gini index measure of income dispersion reveals that there has been no significant trend of rising income inequality' for US household incomes over the last quarter century," he writes. "The Gini index in 1993 was 0.454 and last year it was 0.482, the same as in 2013, and this statistical measure of income inequality has also shown remarkable stability for the last several decades in a narrow range between 0.46 and 0.48."

    We previously blogged about Mark Perry's article; here's another tweet from him blowing up the "middle class is disappearing" story; it is, sorta, but mostly because people are getting too rich to be called middle class:


  • A longish but informative article at The Library of Economics and Liberty from Charles L. Hooper and David R. Henderson: A Cure for Our Health Care Ills: The Supply Side. A great many insights therein, but here's a particular goodie:

    To provide medical services as a doctor, one must be licensed, and to be licensed, one must have completed a four-year undergraduate degree and a four-year medical degree, plus four to six years of residency training. There are only 141 accredited medical schools in the United States, and Congress anchors the number of residency positions to the level of Medicare funding, resulting in 110,000 residency positions currently filled. Want to unlock more residency positions? Talk to Congress. Want to start a new medical school? It would cost an estimated $150 million, due to the necessity of linking medical education with medical research, and would take eight years for the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, under the authority of the U.S. Department of Education, to accredit your school. That’s a daunting prospect. One small bright spot is that, despite these challenges, new medical schools are, in fact, cutting ribbons.

    One thing the advocates of "single payer" tend to gloss over (or handwave away) is that their proposals dictate sharp cutting of incomes for health care professionals.

    So would relaxation of the onerous licensure restrictions on health care provision.

    I wonder which approach would be more popular with doctors, nurses, etc.?


  • A cool article at Mental Floss: The 'Diagrammed Declaration of Independence' Combines U.S. History With Graphic Design.

    The Declaration of Independence is one of the most important documents in our nation's history, but most Americans have probably never sat down and read it from beginning to end. This poster from Pop Chart Lab makes the 242-year-old document a lot less daunting.

    In the Diagrammed Declaration of Independence, the text is broken down section by section. The most important phrases, like "all men are created equal," "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," and "let facts be submitted to a candid world," are highlighted in big, bold lettering. Arrows show how the different ideas in the document connect, and colorful pictographs illustrate various points, like the three branches of government.

    You can buy a print here and Pun Salad does not get a cut if you do.

URLs du Jour

2018-10-01

[Amazon Link]

  • As Jonah Goldberg reports in the recent G-File, when it comes to the Kavanaugh nomination, we're in The Moral-Panic Phase.

    Maybe it’s because I’ve been getting so much grief from left and right for the alleged sin of “both sides-ism” over the last few years, but Thursday (yesterday for me) was both clarifying and cathartic. Oh, don’t get me wrong: It was horrible and possibly tragic for the Court and the country, but it was also oddly — and probably momentarily — liberating, at least for me.

    Because, finally, there was a left–right fight about which I am largely un-conflicted. This wasn’t a brouhaha about Trump or any of the usual stuff. The issue here was that the Democrats and their abettors in the media simply behaved atrociously.

    I'm in agreement. Jonah has many, many examples of the atrocious behavior, so if your blood pressure can stand it, click on over.


  • At Reason, Jacob Sullum can (fortunately) draw a larger lesson out of the morass: Brett Kavanaugh's Illegal Beer Consumption Highlights the Perversity of Drinking Ages.

    Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh mentioned beer 28 times during his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee last Thursday, inviting mockery and semiotic speculation. The reason the subject came up was pretty clear: Christine Blasey Ford, the California research psychologist who says he tried to rape her when they were both in high school, described him as very drunk at the time, and one possible explanation for his seeming sincerity in denying her charge (in addition to the possibility that he is innocent) is that he honestly does not recall the episode because alcohol clouded his memory.

    In response to repetitive questioning on the subject, Kavanaugh said no fewer than 10 times that he has never experienced alcohol-related memory gaps. But the discussion of Kavanaugh's drinking during high school and college ranged beyond that narrow issue, and his responses were by turns defiant, evasive, implausible, and misleading. The tenor of those exchanges was partly due to Kavanaugh's resentment of questions he deemed nosy and irrelevant. But it also reflected the clash between official expectations and the reality of adolescent drinking in America, a contradiction that he and his interlocutors seemed keen to ignore.

    I'm old enough to remember when people pointed out that if you were old enough to get drafted and shot at in Vietnam, just maybe you were old enough to be considered a legal adult for all other purposes: voting, buying sinful substances, etc.

    That was a simple rule. But along the line we got pushed into the idea that 18-21 was a phantom zone of "adult but not really"—we'll trust 'em to do this (e.g., vote) but not that (e.g., have a beer). An incoherent policy based on whim.


  • And finally, our Google LFOD alert rang loudly for the Daily Coffee News ("by Roast Magazine") which took A Look at the Square/SCA Independent Coffee Shop Data Report.

    The latte is the most popular coffee drink in the United States among indie shop consumers, with more than 67 million of them ordered at Square registers over the year, with an average price of $4.16. The cheapest average latte price was found in Idaho ($3.49), which is perhaps not coincidentally the nation’s third largest milk producer. The most expensive latte? You guessed it… North Dakota. An average latte in the Roughrider State will cost you $4.45.

    In 44 U.S. states, the latte is the most common drink. The outliers by drink type are: mocha (Alaska); tea (Hawaii and New Mexico); and a trio of old-school Northeastern states that appreciate the clarity, consistency and speed of a good old fashioned filter drip coffee (Maine, Connecticut and New Hampshire).

    Also, Americans are increasingly customizing their lattes, exceeding two add-ons per order on average. The most complicated drink orders are coming from tea-loving Hawaii, fancy-pants North Dakota and New Hampshire (Live Free or Die!).

    It's full of interesting factoids about what people are ordering. But I especially liked their implication that LFOD means "Live Free By Ordering A Complex Mix Of Ingredients In Your Latte Or Die". That's a new one.